Virus All Access

We just about kicked the tenacious norovirus out, in time to welcome croup. Yes, DD (aged nearly ten) has a bout of the croup. The barking cough. The one sound that used to chill my blood because it guaranteed a Friday night trip to the emergency room, with a child wheezing herself to cyanosis alongside drunk teenagers and hobos, and once, a man with a broken bottle sticking out of his skull. True story.

This time round, Husband did the doctor visit and the pharmacist trip and I went to work. Work keeps me sane. They had a grand ole day watching Trump and Extreme Couponing. (I think I got the better end of the deal, frankly speaking.)

After over 36 hours house-bound, cabin fever set in. She determined that cheesecake and a visit to the jewellery section at the V&A were going to make her feel much, much better. So off we went. Three establishments were rejected for their visually inferior cheesecake before we finally purchased a slice. I then got a bite-by-bite critique. The child has been spoiled, gastronomically-speaking. She knows her food.

vandaartThings looked up once we got inside the V&A. I love the V&A. Apart from the stunning artefacts inside, the building itself is gorgeous. There is a beautiful courtyard in the middle, a perfect place to cool your feet in the fountain every summer, after having a slice or two of almond & cherry tart from the pop-up coffee cart.

DD and I took a quick turn about the fashion section – there is a glorious cherry-red vintage Dior evening ensemble that we drool over every time we’re there. It’s very reminiscent of his Bar suit from the late 40s – tiny waist, flounces of fabric in the skirt. Screamingly feminine (yet unwearable by 97% of the female population. Typical high fashion.)

We moseyed on to the jewellery section and tried not to raise any alarms this time by shouting out, “This one, let’s take this one!” every time we saw something we liked (most of the gallery). We showed admirable restraint when viewing the Londonderry jewels (so many diamonds) and puzzled over the lockets & brooches of hair (not our style) – and we even took turns at the computer designing our own rings.

So a lovely afternoon all round, possibly aided by the petite cherub’s hacking, emphysematous cough clearing a safe ten-foot radius everywhere. Good times.

How has your weekend been? Any fun germs you’re battling? If you’re looking for some Parisian-inspired short fiction, do read ‘The Abbesses of Montmartre‘, inspired by a prompt from yours truly.

ID, please…

It was another frigid day at work. The heating was off for the second day in a row, and we all looked like a bunch of vagrants, layered in whatever we had brought with us and other random bits lying around the office (blanket samples! tea towels!). It’s a good thing there wasn’t a hot water bottle in the sample pile or there might have been a bloodbath!

Having belatedly remembered on the way home that it was my one-year anniversary as a blogger – but more on this later, don’t get distracted – I decided a celebratory/survival bottle of wine was in order.

I brought my purchase up to the single manned till (don’t get me started on self-service checkouts)….and then this happened….

IMAG0406Checkout Lady: (scanning bottle) Could I see some ID, please?

Me: … … 

Checkout Lady: I need to see some ID or I can’t sell you this bottle.

Me: … …

Checkout Lady: Listen, the law says if you look under 25, I have to ask for ID. It’s the law!

Me: (almost sobbing) You think I look younger than 25?!

For you new followers (Hi!), you may not know this, but I’m almost 38. And I was looking pretty sad today. So even though she was probably lying, I didn’t care!! 

I GOT CARDED. BOO-YA, as the young ‘uns say.

And happy anniversary to me. More on this later. I’m too busy looking young & irresponsible right now.

 

24 December

I struggled with the title. I really couldn’t think of a good one to encapsulate everything I wanted to write about.

I’m typing on my phone. Ah, the wonders of modern technology and ubiquitous free WiFi. My husband snores indelicately next to me and DD is sitting on her bed watching The Big Bang theory, also courtesy of free and fast WiFi. We are tuckered out after sightseeing for most of today and a big, late lunch. Belgium, like most of Europe, does its main feasting session on the 24th evening. So come 6pm, it’s pot noodles and some questionable clementines. I jest. The pizza place is open. We’ll be fine.

DD is miffed that we forgot to bring gifts with us, even though we’d opened most of ours already (in London). Enter caustic mother who reminds her kindly that there will be children getting zilch. This season brings out a lovely colour in me.

I get frustrated by the guilt hemming me in from every quarter, exhorting me to do more, give more. Brussels has been a good antidote. Everything seems to be running as normal. No last minute crazed shoppers. No panic buying. Just lots of glühwein and waffles at the markets. Perhaps I’m just a tourist looking in, and there are hordes of people looking for the last minute Belgian equivalent of cranberry sauce or gravy granules. But the general vibe seems to be quite relaxed. (Yes, I’m wilfully ignoring the many armed guards I’ve seen patrolling the streets. I’d like to think their visibility might deter any potential stupidity).

I’ve digressed, haven’t I? I wanted to talk about gifts. The gifts which don’t come wrapped. Like time, and laughter. Focus on the people you want to focus on. Let the other stuff go. When you give a gift, let that go, too. You can’t control the emotions of the receiver, just focus on your emotions when you bought the gift. When you wrapped it. DD gave a homeless man a clementine from her stash the other day. She wasn’t expecting anything in return. She just let the clementine go.

I wish I could be more like that. Just let the clementine go. Not expect things in return. Not base my peace of mind on someone else’s approval or acceptance of my gifts. Whatever they may be.

I’m going to end this by wishing you a happy supermoon tomorrow night, wherever you may be. I hope you enjoy most of the people, most of the food and most of the gifts. Hey, I’m realistic.

Joyeux Noël from Brussels!

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Thursday Thanks

IMAG0381-EFFECTS

Today, I am so grateful I got to walk through central London with DD, taking time to admire the architecture, like the beautiful Royal Courts of Justice, and just soak up some pre-Yuletide atmosphere. 

This is officially the last day of calm before the storm of holiday mania and panic buying; the UK has embraced Black Friday with fervour, even though Thanksgiving isn’t a holiday here. I am also grateful for online shopping which enabled me to do almost all of my holiday shopping, so that I can look forward to a wonderful and relaxed Thanksgiving/birthday celebration for Husband this weekend. 

I’m thankful for many things, but this year, most especially for the incredible blogging community which has welcomed and supported me over the last ten months. Happy Thanksgiving, y’all. You’ve kept a girl relatively sane.

Now…if you only got to keep one Thanksgiving food for every Thanksgiving to come, what would it be? 

Winter Squash Soup

Remember I said there would be adjusting of recipes? Well, here’s a Jamie Oliver recipe I’ve reworked for my laziness, I mean, busy life!

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NOTES:

Regardless of the type of squash you use, to get the best quality, select ones that are blemish- and bruise-free, with an intact stem and heavy feeling for their size. You could also use kabocha (nutty, earthy) or harlequin squash (sweet) for this recipe. I usually use sweet white onions, but red onions add a nice flavour, too.

INGREDIENTS:

  • Olive oil or chilli oil
  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 stick celery, trimmed and chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped (I used garlic paste out of a tube)
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary, leaves picked (I used dried)
  • ½ – 1 fresh red chilli, to taste, deseeded and finely chopped (depends on personal taste)
  • Sea salt
  • Black pepper
  • 1 kg butternut squash, halved, deseeded and cut into chunks
  • 1 litre chicken or vegetable stock

METHOD:

Put a very large saucepan on a medium heat and pour in some olive or chilli oil. Heat gently so it’s not smoking! Put in your onion, celery, carrot, garlic, rosemary, chilli and a good pinch of salt and pepper. If I’m using garlic paste, I put it in last, so it doesn’t burn, and mixes well with the veggies.

Cook gently for about 10 minutes until the vegetables are soft. Add the squash and the stock to the pan, bring to the boil and simmer for about half an hour. I stick a lid on my pot, it seems to work better this way.

When the squash is soft and cooked through, whiz the soup with a hand blender or pour it into a liquidizer and pulse until you have a smooth purée (this is the only way my daughter will eat it). Most importantly, remember to taste and season it again, if needed.

I like a little sprinkle of cayenne pepper on the top, or sometimes a dollop of crème fraiche. My daughter loves a bit of grated Parmesan and croutons.

Enjoy!