Talk About Cheesecake

Musings, meanderings and meditation for my mind.


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Doompocalypse Redux – DP Challenge

I liked the title, so I stole it.

So the weekly word press challenge is to write about the three most determined changes I want to make to my life and promise sincerely to do each and every one before the world explodes into a cloud of life ending debris in three months time. (A fictional end to the world, in case you were mid heart attack. I do not have foreknowledge or a freaky ancient calendar or mystical abilities.)

I would question here whether, knowing I had three months in which to complete these determined resolutions, I would choose the same three (what is it with that number today) as I would if the world were not ending.

Let’s see – scenario 1. The world is ending in three months.

Resolution 1 – Grab the kids, kidnap the hubbie, spend every moment together doing something fun. Play.

Resolution 2 – Research new recipes, experiment with fabulous new foods, test out tastes never previously explored. Eat.

Resolution 3 – Explore, visit new places, do new activities. Experience.

 

Of course, realistically if the world was ending most everyone would be doing the same. Quitting work, being with their families. Shops would run out of food in days as people panicked and stockpiled. Chaos would ensue. Still, that was not the point of the challenge. I digress.

 

Scenario 2 – Reality. My three resolutions for this year.

Resolution 1 – Play with the kids. Spend time with them playing and concentrate more on their school work. Time with children is more important than a clean house. I will have to control my OCD.

Resolution 2 – Cook proper healthy family meals instead of rushing something last minute. Try new recipes. Get my son eating something other than peas and cereal.

Resolution 3 – Finish my course, get on with my career. Find a path.

 

Not so far off the mark then. World ending or not, it seems family and food are top of my priorities this year.


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The Ultimate Desire.

I have been pondering over this week’s writing challenge for a couple of days, whilst I tried to decide where to begin. After all, surely if I had one wish I would have to make it a great one. Something life changing or awe inspiring. Something so big it could impact on the globe.

World peace.

No, that doesn’t feel like me. I mean, sure, world peace would be amazing. It would benefit millions of people, not just those in our own military who are out there risking their lives, separated from their families. Not just the families of the military, small children growing up without their parents. But it would be amazing for those families living in war torn countries, for women living in fear every day of being attacked. I wonder how women living in those conditions manage to find food for their children or put clothes on their bodies.

Which brings me to . . .

Ending world hunger.

Now that would be a wish worth making. I am in awe of the people who live in poverty stricken, famine ridden countries. Mothers who walk miles every day to obtain a bucket of dirty water to try to keep their starving children alive, who fight every day to find just one mouthful of rice to fill their empty bellies. We take so much for granted and I am often disgusted by the greed and waste of our society today.

I wish that I were able to make that wish, but I am too selfish for that.

So something more personal then.

Would I want to be a millionaire? If I won the lottery and had all the money I could ever need, what would I do with it?

I could buy the best house ever for my parents and send my kids to great schools. I could finish all the renovations on our own home and add a pool. Indoor. With steam room. I wouldn’t have to work, so would I have more time to be with my kids. Would being uber rich satisfy me?

Of course I don’t need oodles of dosh to spend more time with my kids. But somehow between working, cooking, keeping the house habitable and washing clothes, it seems so difficult to find time to play games and be silly, to have fun. So I am constantly feeling the guilt of not being the best mum I could be or should be. Perhaps I wish I were a super mum.

Constantly feeling like I am lacking in being a great mum is just one of the failures that batter at my confidence every day. I fail at being a world renowned success in my career. I suspect that this may partly be because I still don’t know, at 34, what the career of my choice would be. What do I want to do with my life? Should I wish I were a success?

I fail at being the best friend ever because I am blunt and impatient and feel it is incumbent on me to point out the ridiculousness of my friends actions and not just accept that it is their life choice to make without my judgement. I fail at being a perfect wife because I can be grumpy and snarl for no reason. Should I wish I were perfect? How dull!

Or beautiful? A perfect figure without lumps from over indulgence. Pert boobs, no longer pulled down by childbearing. Thighs that could crack nuts (I don’t know why I would want to do this, but I hear it’s the thigh to have). Legs that go on and on. Long silky hair, less frizzy and uncontrollable. Do I wish I were a stunner? Not really. That’s not my dream, although a few tune up’s here and there would be acceptable.

Would I like to fix mistakes from my past? To go back and change the actions that, although long ago, can leave me feeling shame and embarrassment even now. Or to ‘know then what I know now’ and do it better this time?  I wish I were a teenager again? Shudder. Definitely not.

I wish I were more  . . .  imaginative? So that I could be an amazing writer, an award winning novelist. More caring? More patient? More daring? Stronger? Braver? Maybe I just wish I were more!

Can one wish make all our dreams come true? Can we change one thing about ourselves and improve everything in one go? In today’s consumer driven culture of always wanting more, what is the ultimate desire?

I think . . .

I wish I were . . . 

Content!

 

 

Written for the DPchallenge!


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Are weddings a child free zone?

While planning my own wedding at the start of the year I joined an online forum for brides (and grooms) to be. There were debates about wedding etiquette. There were discussions over who should lead the procession down the aisle. There were panics over centerpieces and rants about the rudeness of not replying promptly to invitations or the ingratitude of a bridesmaid in not appearing desperately interested in every aspect of the table layout.

One constant topic that continuously roused strong opinions though was whether children should be allowed at the wedding.

Family Occasions

There are of course two extreme viewpoints. On the one hand are those who say that children are the life and soul and heart of a wedding. Weddings are family occasions and children are a large part of that.

The family wedding ensures that children are catered for in every way. There are pretty little flower girls and page boys in the procession. There are gift boxes for the children on the tables, with games and toys and presents and sweets.  Some brides plan activities that place the children at the centre of attention. One friend of mine had a balloon race for the children, another had a children’s entertainer.

Of course these ideas are dual purpose. They ensure the children play a part in the day whilst also making sure they are kept occupied. A bored child is a disruptive one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Adult Affair

On the other hand some brides who do not want sticky fingers on their expensive dress, or screaming throughout their speeches. The couple who ban children from their wedding face some criticism from others. But are they wrong to do so?

For a start, consider the cost. At even half the adult price, every child is an added expense, especially when you consider they most likely won’t even eat the food.

And add up the bodies. When the venue of your dreams limits your numbers, every child you have to allow is another adult friend you can’t invite.

You can guarantee that one of the little tykes will spill drink on your train, drop a fragile present or knock down the cake. They cry during the ceremony, run about during dinner and throw up during the disco.

Kids are expensive and a risk for the bride and groom to consider. I understand that they may want to exclude them.

However, before making a final decision, there are other considerations. The ‘child free’ bride will tell parents that this is a chance for them to have an adult only night. The parent will respond that finding a sitter for a full day affair is expensive enough. Not to mention that they have to be able to get home to that sitter, a bit problematic for parents who travel a long distance to attend the wedding.

Consider also the flower girls. The bride may want her best friends daughter to follow her up the aisle throwing petals. But now there is one lonely and bored child at the wedding. What’s worse, she is not a ‘family child’! What’s this, your friend can bring her child but your own nephews and cousins are not allowed.

OK, allow family children. Only the children who form part of the bride’s life. Not Uncle Arthur’s second wife’s granddaughter who the bride has never met. Only, where do you draw the line? The possibility of starting a family feud is looming closer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Happy Medium

At my wedding I aimed for a happy medium. Of course I invited children. My own kids were bridesmaid and pageboy. It was as much their day as ours, their parents. Well, almost. Close friends and family with children were allowed to bring them, but I did limit my extended family to the one generation, thankfully cutting the numbers of cousins on one side from seventeen down to two. They were keen to agree, having to pay for their own upcoming wedding very soon.

The children had their own table, hosted by my daughter who was very pleased with her position as head of the table.  And during the speeches I had a baby sitter arranged who hustled the children out, thereby avoiding the running and screaming during the adult parts. Off they went to their own room, set aside with paper, stickers and other non-staining entertainments.

I made it clear to all my friends, as politely as possible, that whilst I had a sitter for my own children to allow us, the bride and groom, to relax, I was not responsible for the care of the other children. Bring them they could, but they were to keep them under control. As far as I am aware no one took offense. The kids had a great time moving between their own chill out room and the adult’s disco and to be honest I barely noticed them all day.

Are weddings adult only occasions?

I don’t believe there is a right or wrong answer to this question. If a bride and groom chose to exclude children, well it is their day. Surely they have the right to choose. Unfortunately it seems that when you are planning a wedding your every decision becomes a matter for public discussion. Family, friends and colleagues all have an opinion and someone will be offended in the end.

Written for the Weekly Writing Challenge, DPchallenge. Yes, I already wrote one for this week’s subject matter, but I really had more to say, so I went for it again. 


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DPchallenge – I blame the parents!

As my mother once said at a christening when asked if she wanted to hold the baby of the moment, I don’t really like children except for my own.

Gasp. Shock. Am I allowed to say that, if I am a mother?

Well, perhaps my feelings are not as stringent as that. I do like children that are fun and friendly, that can talk without being precocious and play without destruction.

Children should be approached like unknown animals! Treat them with respect and get to know their quirks before you scare them into pee’ing on the carpet or biting your hand.

Don’t poke the animals. They bite.

I’m only kidding. Well, maybe.

Children are people with personalities, feelings, worries and learned behaviours, just like adults. Learned behaviours are often taught by observation so, as a generalisation, should we assume that badly behaved children have learnt such behaviour from their parents?

A child cannot be expected to instinctively know how to act politely at a dining table or to walk calmly and quietly in a museum. They do not understand that they should give up their seat on a bus for the elderly or turn off their mobile in a theatre. Manners and consideration for others are taught through example and explanation. I think that we often forget that, whilst complaining about the way children behave ‘today’ and resenting them for the noise they make.

Does this mean I think children should be allowed to go everywhere an adult can go? No, I don’t.

Take a restaurant, for example. I spend the day with my children and when I go out in the evening for a meal with my husband, that is adult time. That is when I want to enjoy his company without being interrupted by the ‘cuteness’ of the small child flicking their peas at me from another table or being unable to hear the conversation due to the screeching of an over tired or over stimulated baby.

However that doesn’t mean children should not be allowed out to a restaurant after dark. But there are intimate restaurants where I would expect only grown ups to be and family orientated places I would not book if I didn’t expect to hear children. Although I still believe the adult with that child should be exerting some control over them and setting the example of the behaviour they want to see. A child climbing on the table or thumping the back of your chair whilst you sip your red wine is one that is being allowed to by a grown up.

Or consider a museum. The function of a museum is surely to educate and therefore great places for children to visit. Of course they should be there; but not rampaging about the halls disturbing others. Not, mind you, that I agree that you should whisper in such hallowed halls. Talking is allowed, bellowing is not.

Please do not climb on the displays!

Common sense in parenting?

In many cases I think the key is not whether children should be allowed in an adult-orientated place but that, if a place is adult-orientated, is it firstly suitable for children and secondly, has the child been taught the appropriate behaviour for such a place?

Common sense should surely prevail. Children should go to films made for children, not the movies specified for adults full of violence or terror. Go for a pub lunch, but take them home before the evening drinkers arrive for a saturday night session! You cannot expect other adults to mute their language or ribald jokes because you have brought a child into their evening, yet nor should you want your child exposed to adult themes.

Of course there are venues that are not suitable for children due to the nature of the place – friday night in the town centre for example. There are plays on at the theatre that were not made for children to hear – the Vagina Monologues are a good case (I saw it recently, but that’s another post).

But there are also places that are down to the discretion of the parent. A father should be able to judge if their child is ready to display the appropriate behaviour in an expensive restaurant at lunchtime. A mother has to make her own decision as to whether her child is of the right age to attend a beauty salon.

I do ‘blame the parents’.

Or rather, I do believe the parent is nominally responsible for their child. Of course children have so many outside influences on them, from teachers, school friends, television, films and magazines. But the main and constant factor in their life is their parents (or responsible adult).

The parent demonstrates from their own example how to behave at the dining table at home. I know, from our own mistakes in this! We spent the first few years of my daughter’s life without a family table to sit down together at and teaching her table manners has been a hard slog as we sought to instill them from a late start.

Family dinner time teaches table manners

You could argue that you cannot ‘practice’ behaving quietly in a museum. But I would disagree. Start with the weekly trip to the supermarket. My kids began by learning that they were to walk with me and not disappear at top speed down the aisles. I have a particularly strong memory of re-capturing my daughter aged 3 and carrying her kicking and screaming while I marched out, red faced and no doubt watched by a large tutting audience. But you know what, she now knows to walk calmly and not sprint off when pre-warned of what is expected of her. I have no concerns about taking her to other public places.

And after all that . . .

No, children should not be in adult-orientated places. But defining what is an adult-orientated place could be difficult except for the most obvious few. So perhaps it would be better to say that when in a place that is aimed mainly at adults the child should be able to behave in a non-intrusive manner. And don’t expect the adults to adjust their behaviour because you brought your precious bundle of joy into their child free time.

Written for the DP Challenge. Weekly Writing Challenge. 


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The most unpopular colour is the most tasty

Ask someone what their favourite colour is and you will invariably hear of deep sexy red or fresh natural green. Maybe  a refreshing cool blue or a pretty young pink!

Very few people tell you they like the colour brown. It’s not a choice for most people’s living room or a seductive mood swinging choice for a bedroom. Brown is the colour of earth. It’s reliable, sturdy. It promotes feelings of security, wholesomeness and order.

Brown is not fun or vibrant. We don’t buy bland brown decorations for Christmas. Very few people choose a brown car. Watch a young child learn their colours and they focus on bright primary colours first.

So I ask you – what is one of the warmest, friendliest, tastiest colours there is? Did you say brown? I bet you didn’t.  

And you are so wrong! 

 

Rich, deep brown is the colour of dark, smooth chocolate, firm in the hand and flowing like a thick blanket down the throat.

Warm, earthy brown is the colour of hot chocolate, smothered in twirling white cream and dotted with marshmallows, comforting on a snowy day in front of a roaring log fire.

Light, golden brown is the colour of freshly baked cake, crisp on the outside, light and moist in the middle.

Fresh baked bread

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And don’t forget the various middling shades.

The crunchy brown of a farmhouse loaf, warm from the oven and smeared in butter.

Divine sausages, browned in the oven and served with mash and onion gravy.

Succulent steak, panfried in sea salt and pepper.

Tender roast beef, with yorkshire puddings and lashings of horseradish sauce.

My personal favourite, a crunchy biscuit base rising to a dense chocolate cheesecake.

 

Now you are thinking in the right direction, what’s your favourite brown?

Wedding cake

Rich dark and succulent, my chocolate wedding cheesecake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written for the DPchallenge – and now I am so hungry, I may just have to go and search my kitchen cupboards to see what other browns I can find. All in the name of research, of course.


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The one I no longer have

I wrote this for the Weekly Writing Challenge – A Few of My Favourite Things. It did not end with the thing I expected or in the way I expected. Off to find a tissue! 

Do you remember those days when summer holidays were long, hot and hazy? When we were children and we just accepted what we were told without thinking about the ramifications of it?

I would go to stay at my nan’s house for a few days every summer. She lived about half an hour’s drive from our home, so my dad would take me on his way to work. We would walk up the path to her bungalow early in the morning and when she opened the door the smell of her house would hit me straight away. Looking back it must have been mainly the odour of cigarettes, but I don’t remember it being foul, just distinct, with the addition of her face powder, a thick pale powder in a deep, dark blue round tub.

After my father left we would go into her little kitchen where she would make us each a cup of tea. This followed a precise procedure that I was taught as I got older. Three teabags in the sterling silver tea pot (one for the pot, one per person). Fill it up with hot water. Add a dash of hot water to the thin bone china cup and give it a swirl, to heat up the cup. Stir the tea pot and then pour the tea out, first a dribble in the sink (I still don’t know why, but apparently that first pour of the tea is just not as good as the rest) and then finally into the cup, pouring of course from a height and with a flick of the wrist at the end. Add milk and sugar as required, one for nan, two for me.

Nan would clean her teeth, a fascinating process for any child to watch since she would give them a good scrubbing with her toothbrush and rinse them out under the tap before popping them back into her mouth. Then  the day’s activities would begin. This might involve a trip to town on the bus, where I would be displayed to all the other regular travellers as ‘This is my Mary’s daughter you know. Hasn’t she got beautiful hair?’, a cue for lots of little old ladies to pat me on the head and feel my long, thick tangles.

On other days nan might spend the morning cleaning the doorstep or scrubbing the windows. Whilst she was working away on keeping up appearances for the neighbours, I would be investigating the spare room in her two bed bungalow. There was no bed in here, just a dining table and chairs and a sideboard or two.

I don’t recall what was on them, presumably pictures and personal items from her married life before my grandfather died, in the same way that I don’t recall the table and chairs ever being used. But in the sideboard there were photo albums that I was allowed to look through.

 

When that lost it’s appeal, I would climb out of the spare room window pretending to be a spy and sneak around to the back of the bungalow to the long thin garden, referred to as nan’s field, where she would be pruning her roses. There was an old, rusty hand roller leaning into the hedgerow about halfway up that I would try and pull up and down a bit. At lunchtime we would go in through the back door, past the large coal bunker that some sooty men would come and fill with a couple of sacks every few months, for a sandwich.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the evening I would crawl down into my sleeping bag on the sofa, nan would settle down in her armchair and turn on Eastenders. Then she would open a roll of chocolate eclairs, lay them out in a row along the arm of her chair and munch her way through them one by one, apart from the one that I would be allowed.

As I started to doze while watching her big old TV that stood on its own four wooden legs I would take note as always of the two horses that stood on top. One was a big, rather cheap, heavy carthorse that I have a vague idea my nan once told me she didn’t really like but was given to her by someone close by ‘because she liked horses’ so she had to keep it, possibly some younger cousin of mine.

The other was a beautiful, delicate figurine of a race horse, brown with white socks and a white blaze on it’s nose. My nan loved this horse, I was only allowed to touch it under supervision and it was made clear that when she died this would be given to my mother. Why, I have no idea, as my mother hates horses, but has it she does. It has pride of place on a table out of reach of her own grandchildren, where my brother’s and I look at it and know that it is our nan’s horse.    

However, that horse is not the item I think of when I remember my nan. Nor is it the gold watch that she wore every day and always told me, ‘One day, this will be yours’. As a child I never really understood that when that day came, my nan would no longer be with us. It was drummed into me over years of visits that the horse would go to my mum and the watch to me. Other possessions were identified and their future owners made clear, over and over again. But the idea that my nan would be gone never occurred to me.

Now, when I think back to my nan, when I hold her gold watch and touch the brown racehorse, there is one other item that means so much more to me. One item that she wore every day. On one of our trips to town on the bus, I dragged my nan into the local church hall where they were having some sort of fair or sale. We went from stall to stall until we found an octagonal locket, gold coloured but definitely not gold in metal, on a long chain made in the same material. On the front of the locket was an enamelled picture of a brown horse’s head on a white background. I can’t recall now whether I tried to buy it for my nan, or just watched as she fell in love with it for herself. She wore it every day after that and kept a picture of my grandfather inside it.

The locket itself was cheap. It had no financial value. But I remember it whenever I think of her. And when ‘one day’ came and my mother returned from sorting out nan’s house with her brothers, carrying horse and gold watch, I asked where that locket was. But sadly, my mother had not known how much that meant to me and had passed it, along with the other costume jewellery, to my younger cousins.

So these were a few of my favourite things, that each hold so many memories of my beloved nan. But the main one is the one I don’t have anymore, and haven’t seen for the last eighteen years. Miss you nan.