Talk About Cheesecake

Musings, meanderings and meditation for my mind.


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Project Optimism – Let’s get past the Pants

It’s only lunchtime and I feel like today has been a bit up, a bit down.

It started well. The sun was streaming through the windows right into my face. (I’ll be having a word with Mr G about shutting the darn curtains at night!) and I woke up to find some new comments on my post from the lovely Maddie who has been MIA for a bit. She explains why in her post When Blogging Takes a Backseat.

Maddie is right on the other side of the world to me, so I guess she may have been on her way to bed as I was waking up to start the school run. Either way, it meant she was online and responding as I commented back. How amazing is that! Chatting to someone thousands of miles away with such ease. Sometimes the internet just amazes me.

Of course, then we start the ‘get the kids dressed in time for school’ game. By the time we got past Botboy’s morning refusal of the 1st 4 pairs of pants I show him because of their colour, his absolute meltdown at the idea of brushing his teeth and moved on to pulling him out from behind the chair by an ankle so I could reach his face with a flannel, the day was going downhill.

Botboy has a real problem with pants. I bought him some fab, colourful ‘Big Boy’ boxer shorts as a reward when he went fully nappy free. We picked them out together. Superman, Moshi Monsters, Animal – he chose a selection of characters. He was delighted. We got home. He has refused to wear them.

Not even once. 

Pants!
Pants!

Then it’s Sackgirl’s turn. She is getting herself dressed. Very slowly. Seriously, why do kids need to sit on the floor to get dressed. She sits down to go through a drawer to find her school clothes. She sits down while taking off her PJ’s. She sits down while trying to put on her skirt! Surely standing up would make that easier?

Then I discover that, despite last weeks discussion about why wiping snot on the ceiling is not showing respect for her bedroom or our house, she has proceeded to sharpen a pencil during the night. Without using a bin. Because the floor was adequate!

Mood is turning south at this point.

I’ll move past the breakfast debacle. I got the kids to school – then realised that they had both jumped into the cars without coats. “Because it’s sunny, mummy.” Let’s hope they are inside when the huge black cloud in the distance reaches us!

That’s when everything seemed to get really pants.

I do like the use of the word pants as an adjective. It’s so clear in it’s meaning, despite being absolutely unrelated to anything to do with underwear. The Urban Dictionary does clarify that use of pants as an adjective is British for rubbish! While looking that up, I just learnt that in the US it’s a derogatory term to inflict a crushing defeat or crushing criticism on someone. I’m going with the British meaning here – things seemed rubbish, but not crushingly so!

Firstly, a mum at the school gates informed me that a committee with whom I am loosely associated had to settle on some employment matter. This means a financial cost to some parents who, at the beginning, had just been volunteers trying to set up some after school care to help out our kids. I am gutted – they were doing a good thing and it has cost them. The person who has taken the money did not deserve a penny, being, in my mind, at least 90% responsible. Now that is pants.

Then I went to drop Botboy at his nursery, only to find that his usually cheerful carer was in floods of tears over a personal matter. It did put me on a bit of a downer. Not nice to see people we like upset!

And finally I sat back in my car, flipped on the news and heard about another shooting in the US at a Mother’s Day parade. I’m not about to join the debate on guns in the US, I don’t live there, I don’t know enough about it. But I am glad it’s not a way of life here in the UK! There were kids shot. Again.

The daily dog walk with the uncontrollable puppy always cheers me up. It’s warmer now the spring is here, bluebells are out in the wood and fresh air lifts the mood wonderfully.

Bluebells in the wood
Bluebells in the wood

Until 10 minutes after we got home, it lashed down with rain again.

Seriously – this is my view. Not even my rainbow maker will be putting out today!

Lashing down with rain.
Lashing down with rain.

BUT – this is a post about Optimism. So let’s get past the pants and look for the good things.

1. My kids are safe. I know that’s selfish. But when I think about the shootings in the US it makes me hug my kids that much harder. So there was snot on the ceiling and shards of pencil on the floor. Really, that’s not such a big deal!

2. I got to spend my morning walking my puppy through beautiful woodland before coming home to sit in my office. On my own time. Eighteen months ago I would have had to drop the kids at a childminders hours before school started to hit rush hour traffic in order to get to my windowless desk at the bank in time. This is not a bad life!

3. I have not had a call this morning about something personal that has made me break down in tears. If you have, I hope you had someone there to hug you.

No matter how pants (British = rubbish) the day is, somewhere not far away someone else is having a day that is truly more pants (American = crushingly so). Look for the good things around you and share the optimism, people!

This post was written as part of Project Optimism. Other great blogs who take part are WhenCrazyMeetsExhaustion and The Best Life

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White chocolate and Strawberry Cheesecake

You may recognise this cheesecake – it’s the one pictured on my header and it’s truly delicious – definitely currently leading the taste test! I’ve been asked to post the recipe, so here it is.

STARS (out of 5)

Difficulty – ***

Time – ***

Taste – *****

This particular cheesecake is taken from the BBC’s Saturday Kitchen.

It’s marked down slightly on difficulty because although putting the ingredients together is straightforward, cooking it thoroughly make take some practice. The quantities given make a pretty humungous cheesecake which, when following the cooking times, meant that this was firm round the outside but still runny in the centre. Which, I should be clear, did not affect the taste AT ALL (I actually quite liked the contrast, almost like a cheesecake sauce on the cheesecake itself) but did make for problems serving and a really messy presentation.

The 2nd time I made it I reduced the quantities and cooked slightly longer on a lower heat so the insides had time to cook through too.

Timewise, the cheesecake itself is a cinch but the coulis takes ages. But maybe that’s just me – I hate pressing fruit through a sieve!

Tips

  • Chop the chocolate chunks into very small, chip size pieces as these don’t melt so you come across large lumps of chocolate as you eat.
  • If the top browns before the inside is cooked, cover with some silver foil so that it stops colouring but carries on cooking.
  • I added a lot more sugar to the strawberry coulis. Although it remained tart it accompanied the cheesecake beautifully. Don’t worry if you haven’t got a lot – a little goes a long way.
  • Use a ready made sponge base.

 

Ingredients

For the cheesecake
  • 23cm/9in ready-made sponge base
  • 200g/7oz caster sugar
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice only
  • 4 tbsp cornflour
  • 850g/1lb 14oz full-fat cream cheese
  • 3 free-range eggs
  • 1 vanilla pod seeds scraped out (I used a teaspoon of Vanilla Essence)
  • 375ml/13fl oz double cream
  • 250g/9oz strawberries, cut into quarters
  • 150g/5oz white chocolate roughly chopped
For the strawberry sauce
  • 250g/9oz strawberries
  • 1 lemon, juice only
  • 2 tbsp icing sugar, or to taste
To serve
  • 100g/3½oz strawberries

Preparation method

  1. For the cheesecake, preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
  2. Place the sponge base into the bottom of a 23cm/9in springform, loose-based cake tin.
  3. Place the sugar, lemon juice and zest and cornflour into a bowl and whisk together.
  4. Add the cream cheese and beat well. Crack in the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition. Add the vanilla seeds and mix well, then pour in the double cream and whisk until the mixture is smooth. Fold in the strawberries and white chocolate.
  5. Pour the mixture into the cake tin and give the tin a light shake to evenly distribute the mixture.
  6. Wrap the cake tin in a sheet of foil to make it waterproof, then place it into a roasting tin filled to a depth of about 0.5cm/¼in with water. Transfer to the oven and bake for 50 minutes, or until the top is lightly golden-brown and the cheesecake is just set. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin, then keep in the fridge until ready to serve.
  7. For the strawberry sauce, heat a frying pan until hot and place 250g/8oz of the strawberries into the pan. Stir-fry for one minute.
  8. Stir in the lemon juice and icing sugar, to taste.
  9. Pour the mixture into a blender and blend until smooth, then pass through a sieve, pressing with the back of a spoon, to remove all the seeds.
  10. To serve, remove the cheesecake from the fridge, remove from the tin and place a slice onto a serving plate. Top with the sauce and some strawberries.
Wrap the cake tin in a sheet of foil to make it waterproof, then place it into a roasting tin filled to a depth of about 0.5cm/¼in with water.
Wrap the cake tin in a sheet of foil to make it waterproof, then place it into a roasting tin filled to a depth of about 0.5cm/¼in with water.
The finished cheesecake, browned on the top.
The finished cheesecake, browned on the top.
The first slice with a dash of strawberry coulis.
The first slice with a dash of strawberry coulis.

 

 

 

 


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My name is Piper and I have a drinking problem!

I think I may have a drinking problem.

There, I said it.

I have been fighting against this for a few months, maybe even a year or so, but I have come to accept that I have a problem with alcohol.

My problem is …

Gah, it hurts me to write it. Let me just check there is no one about, shut the door, type quietly . . .

The problem is – I don’t really enjoy being drunk anymore.

There. I said it.

Take last night for example. We had our neighbours over. Mr G went out to get supplies – cider, a box of wine (we succumbed to buying boxes rather than bottles when we realised it was so much more fun not knowing where the end was. Drinking bottles is rather like having punctuation in your evening – once you reach the end you feel it’s sensible to stop instead of opening another bottle for just one more).

We settled down with our opening drinks when my friend said that they had had a hell of a week and just wanted to go for it. So I started mixing cocktails – I make a wicked Mudslide! Mr Neighbour is not usually a big spirit drinker but he was necking back cocktails like there was no tomorrow. It must have been a really shitty week for him.

Usually I’m the first one there with my straw ready to mix my spirits. My new favourite is Peach Schnapps and Lilt! What a gorgeous, refreshing, beach inspired cocktail. But last night I just kept thinking about the pile of work waiting for me to do today.

This from the girl who once went drinking till 3 am before turning up for work as a lifeguard at 5 am for a full shift! I knew there was a problem then when I walked into the Leisure Centre and aimed for the staffroom on the right, but ended up in the (closed) cafe on the left! I warn you now, if the lifeguards in your local pool are students, chances are they are standing up purely due to the wall they are holding on to!

Recently though I’ve noticed that when I’ve had a skinful I just don’t sleep that well. I wake up through the night with stomach pains, bloating. My legs cramp, my shoulders ache. It’s as if my entire body spends the whole night’s sleep as tense as possible in anticipation of the smack-me-down headache that’s coming up with the rise of the sun! I just don’t enjoy hangovers anymore.

OK – I know not many people love their hangovers. But it used to be a chance to curl up on the sofa with chocolate, tea and watch movies all day – like a self-induced sick day but with a feeling of accomplishment. A lot of the fun of a hangover was taken away when the kids were born – they just didn’t get that changing nappies and doing feeds at 7 am is not fun with a hangover.

So yeah, I admit it. I have got up today with 3 kids, the neighbours child having crashed out here last night while her parents staggered home. I have put the night’s destruction away, the dishwasher is going,  I have a coffee and I have sat down to work. I feel OK- and I am happy that I had a good night without the hangover in the morning. Clearly there is something wrong with me. I have a drinking problem. I just don’t know what the cure is yet!

(I know what you could be thinking. You might suggest, imply or submit that this is age related. It is not. I warn you. Do not go there!)


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Fear of the Internet

When Sackgirl started school I thought I would be an involved mum and try to be part of the school community! So I went along to a few PTFA meetings. In a dingy local pub one night I was introduced to five women, four of whom were parents at the school and one stern elderly lady who was head of the WI and clearly also ran the whole village.

These ladies were doing a great job of keeping the school full of events and cake stalls. But talk about a clique. This group had been together for a few years and they were not keen on new ideas!  They bemoaned the fact no other parents would help and then dismissed every suggestion I came up with. Especially when I mentioned that their communication was abysmal (tact was leaving the room by then, I was pretty frustrated) and suggested some sort of webpage or facebook group.

You would think I had walked into the local church, stood on the altar and announced we were going to be inviting in the devil. Shock, horror, distaste and a fair few sneers got thrown my way. ‘We don’t need that sort of thing,’ I was told. I gave up.

Roll on 3 years, those ladies all quit en mass for whatever reason and the PTFA was left empty, abandoned. The Christmas Fayre was in jeopardy. It was a crisis. And because I just cannot stop sticking my nose in where I really should back away quietly until I can flee round the nearest corner, because when I see a problem I want to fix it, because I really don’t have enough to do with a full time home working business and two kids – I volunteered.

Three of us did, in fact. You have to have three. A Chair, a Secretary and a Treasurer. I actually took on  Treasurer, because some small shred of sanity did kick in and say ‘You do not have time to be in school every week arranging cake sales and making pancakes with the kids.’

Unfortunately, it was only us three. Other parents, either used to not being wanted by the previous clique or because they just couldn’t be arsed, just didn’t seem interested. So this time I just went ahead without asking. I set up a Facebook group and page for our school PTFA. Then I went to see the Headmistress to explain to her why I thought it was a great idea for communication and to get the other parents involved.

I met more resistance. ‘The parents will slag off the school and complain about us.’ ‘It’s very open to abuse.’ ‘It’s not secure.’ ‘Facebook – I’m not sure.’

Fear!

Fear of the internet, because we all know that it can be used ‘the wrong way’. It’s true that there are some sick, perverted people out there who prey on our children using the internet.

It’s true there have been incidences where kids have bullied each other online, in some cases so extremely that children have ended up emotionally harmed or hurting themselves physically.

There have been incidences, locally, where parents have slated and bullied each other and teachers online, causing emotional harm and distress to other adults. Teachers have resigned, lost their jobs, lost their sense of worth and joy in a career that made them want to work with our children in the first place. That is beyond sad. I wonder sometimes how we humans became so hateful to each other that we want to destroy each others happiness.

All of these issues were cited by the Headmistress as reasons why we should not use the internet for communication. They can be valid points. But I think this is also fear talking. Not fully understanding the tool we are using and so not putting in the safety measures that keep us safe.

To me the internet is a tool. It can be used for great good as well. Charities and fundraisers have found they can spread the word of what they are doing much faster and to a wider audience through use of the internet. Communication is visual, a picture speaks a thousand words.

The internet can be used for education. It has enabled thousands of people who were housebound or friendless to find friends, to leave their homes and meet people, albeit virtually. The internet has changed our lives in so many ways, some bad, for sure. But there can be so many benefits from it as well, we just have to use it in the right way.

As it is, I explained the safety measures we would be using – a secure group, invite only, moderators, guidelines for use, no children – she settled down. The main point I made was that our parents could not be bothered to get involved and come along to meetings, but the majority of them do use Facebook. Putting our information on there delivers it directly to their eyeballs (provided we can get them to sign up) and maybe a few more will decided to offer up ideas and join in. Because frankly, if they didn’t, our PTFA was dead on the water.

Which means no more funds for the school.

Silly me – always mention the money first! After that, she caved much faster.

The fear of the internet remains though. I succumbed myself just recently, suddenly wondering whether it was safe to be putting pictures of my kids on my blog. It’s a sad thing that this wonderful tool can be used so badly some dregs of humanity that it makes us fear to use it at all.

But as it is here to stay, I think it is a vital part of everyone’s education now – how to use the internet safely should be a mandatory lesson in schools and one given to all parents. What do you think?


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Starting the day with a smile

Who ever coined the phrase ‘the terrible two’s’ was wrong. It’s not the two’s that’s bad, ‘ it’s the ‘tantrumming threes’ that wear you down.

Talk about a level seven meltdown, Botboy can screech with the best of them. My morning starts something like this most days –

I’m on a beach, enjoying the sunshine. There is no noise. A waiter comes over, bringing some multi-coloured, umbrella and  confetti emblazoned coconut filled with a delicious, soothing, chilled beverage. A large dark cloud stabs me in the eye and a shooting white light pierces through the cloud into my brain. . .

Botboy pulls back my other eyelid, leans in front of the morning light aimed directly into my unprepared eyeballs and grins. ‘Playstachun’.

‘G’way. Bedtime. Sleeping,’ I grumble.

‘Playstachun, mummy.’

‘NO’ – be warned, this fantasy that we mum’s wake up bright and early and ready to play is a lie perpetuated by tampon adverts.

‘Playstachun, mummy. I want it.’ An edge of demand enters the tone.

‘What time is it? It’s 6 o’clock! NO. No playstation, go back to bed.’

‘S’morning mummy. I want the Playstachun. I want it. Now.’ Decibels are rising, there is a definite screech in the voice.

‘Get in bed with mummy and go to sleep.’ This is my attempt at distraction. Admittedly it is not that enticing or effective when you are a wide awake 3 year old who has scented desperation in the air and is now building to a crescendo, but hey, I am still three quarters asleep and grasping vainly for my cocktail.

Cue explosion. I put my head under the pillows and let the melt down carry on for a while. Sometimes if you ignore them, they go away. Sometimes they don’t.

This particular morning there is a short outlet of noise, followed by silence. I feel a small body climbing over me. Something hard hits me in the head, much like the corner of an iPad. Then there is silence again.

I relax.

The persistent, repetitive ‘bing, bing, bing’ of Sonic the Hedgehog, with music, drums into my eardrum. Over and over and over and over and . . .

You get the picture.

‘Turn the music off’.

‘No. NO, no, no, no, no. Muuuummmmmmyyyyy.’ A long involved whining wail ensues, while I wrench the iPad from his hands and flip it to silent.

This is just the first 15 minutes of my day. We then have the ‘refusal avec screech’ over getting dressed, wearing red instead of blue pants, wearing Mickey over Superman T-shirts. Cleaning the teeth is accomplished by mixing cajoling with threats.

To wash Botboy’s face, I surreptitiously warm up the flannel, sneak up behind him and smother his face while fending off waving arms. Getting him to eat his breakfast requires negotiation over which bowl, spoon and cereal to use.

I am sure this makes me sound like a horrendous mother. I don’t remember Sackgirl being this difficult. I know she used to have tantrums, but Sackgirl was much more organised about them. She would pick her time and place with care – middle of the supermarket aisle, the doorway of a busy shopping centre, the bathroom door while I was trapped on the toilet – and let loose with gusto. If I walked away she would stop, follow me until she had my attention and then resume. It was calculated, which meant she could be reasoned with.

Botboy appears to completely lose emotional control. He is stubborn and determined. There is no reasoning with him. Distractions rarely work. Sometimes the only thing to do is leave him to it. Sometimes I join in, screeching back an stamping my feet in time with his – the noise and release is quite enjoyable and it might surprise him into silence.

This temper began when he was three. We passed the two’s with pretty much no hassle. It seems that as his speech and understanding developed, so did his temper. I wonder whether this is inherited (his grandfather can be a right grumpy bugger!) or the difference between girls and boys.

I hope he grows out of it soon!

 

 

 

 


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The problem with a seesaw

The sun came out today – a beautiful, warm and still day. The first one we have seen for months. Maybe over a year, if my memory of last summer (rain, grey rain) is correct. So I had to take a day off – a benefit of being self-employed!

Of course, a day off for a working mum doesn’t actually mean a day of relaxing. It means a day of catching up on the other jobs that are waiting. Like cleaning out the chicken house.

Yeuch!

Still, I decided next on the list was to put together the seesaw Sackgirl was given for her birthday. Give me a flat pack, a diagram and a tiny allen key and I can put together anything!

I may have spotted a snag . . .

I may have spotted a snag
I may have spotted a snag

Of course, there is one major problem with a seesaw. No matter how well put together . . .

It does take two!
It does take two!

You do need two!

Poor BotBoy was not very pleased with his first try on the new toy. Luckily his sister came home not too long after, so they could test it out properly.

A seesaw is built for two!
A seesaw is built for two!

Did you get any sunshine today? What did you do?

 

 

 


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My Mini Assignment

I wrote this article for my coursework, but I kinda liked it so I thought I would share it with you too. Plus, it’s about my beautiful Mini, Muffin. 

If you are looking for something with a pinch of spice and stylish cut, but still need the practicality of space that suits a family, then the Mini Countryman is the car for you. How do I know? This is the car I chose for my family after a long search!

Unlike it’s smaller Mini cousins, the Countryman has four doors for accessibility. The back seats can slide forwards for a larger boot space, or backwards for more leg room, but in any position there is still plenty of space for two children in-car seats or three children without – great for those with older kids or bringing friends home for tea.

The high ceiling and upright seats at the front allow plenty of elbow room – a definite improvement on the Mini Coupe. Of course, it’s kitted out with plenty of fun additions, which can be customised dependant on whether you chose to upgrade with the packages Mini offer – Salt, Pepper or Chilli.

Okay, some of the extra’s are frivolous, like the changeable colour lighting dependant on your mood. Others, like the centre rail for attaching additional storage, are entirely useful. I chose the centre armrest with storage compartment, great for car park change and spare pens. In addition the glasses case keeps my sunglasses close at hand and safe from sticky finger marks.

The USB adapter means my iPhone charges while running my sat nav or music and the bluetooth phone connectivity makes taking urgent calls on the move easy and safe. Whilst I don’t recommend chatting away on the motorway, the speakers produce a clear sound on slower roads. I do like my gadgets to be built-in and functional.

Of course, the main benefit of the Countryman over the other Mini’s is storage. The boot has plenty of room for shopping, buggies and even a child’s bike or two. If you are interested in the technicalities, the boot offers from 350 – 1170 litres of space. In other words, that’s one family sized tent, camping stove, cooking gear, sleeping bags and clothes for four, all packed in the boot and still leaving room for 2 children and one dog in the back.

Aside from functionality, the selling point for me though was the sense of fun and style all the way through from looks to driveability. Your people carriers might offer more storage compartments and the Chelsea tractor might be beefier all round, but none of them have the looks or individuality of a Mini. While I needed a car that was suitable for a family, I wanted something that was still about me as a person, not just a mum. I feel I have got all that in my Mini Countryman – and more.

Mini bring out new designs all the time – the newest addition to the range, the Mini Paceman, is basically a 2 door Countryman pitched as a sportier version with sloping Coupe roof. Take a look at their Facebook page for regularly updated pictures to compare the two.