Friday, 17 August 2018

Fairy Tale Friday--Little Red Riding Hood (The Big Bopper, 1958)

Hello and welcome to Fairy Tale Friday. Are you sitting comfortably? Good. Then I'll begin.

Last week we looked at a rather sensual version of Little Red Riding Hood, this week a slightly sillier version that upon close examination has some darker overtones. .
Image result for the big bopper
Jiles Perry (JP) Richardson is the real name of The Big Bopper. In case you don't know, he was part of "the day the music died" plane crash that killed him, Buddy Holly and Richie Valens. His most famous song was probably Chantilly Lace. We had that song on an album when I was a child and I spent many hours lip-syncing it in front of a mirror due to its conversational lyrics. If I had known this song as a child, I am sure I would have been lip-syncing it too.

This song is a weird hybrid of Red Riding Hood and the Three Pigs. Clearly, they are the same wolf in both tales. The Big Bopper Wolf knows the Three Pigs who "flipped their wigs" when they saw Little Red because she's the "swingin'ist and that's no lie." The wolf is hammering on her door trying to get her to let him come in before Granma comes back. In the absence of a parental figure they can "have a ball" and "shake the shack." And if she won't let him in, he'll blow the house down.

To be honest, he comes across as quite the sex pest.

In 1958 the slight double entendres would have been seen as funny, but these days perhaps not so much. The implied threats of violence, the coercion to let him in while her (grand) parent is out, the not taking no for an answer and the description of how "hot" he finds her don't sit well with me these days.

And yet, as a child i would have loved it.

The lyrics that really struck me were these:

Now let me in now, honey
I just wanna talk to ya
You know you're lonesome in there by yourself
So, put the key in the door
And go tick-a-locka, tick-a-lock
And let me in now, honey

It reminds me very much of the eerie short story WHERE ARE YOU GOING, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN? by Joyce Carol Oates which was made into a film starring Laura Dern called Smooth Talk. Basically, the young woman Connie is just exploring her sexuality and her effect on the opposite sex. She chafes under the strict rules of her house and the comparisons to her good girl older sister. One weekend she is left alone in her house while her family goes to a BBQ and an older man named Arnold Friend comes round and speaks to her through the screen door. Connie is alternately frightened and intrigued by him.Arnold Friend relentlessly pursues her with this same sort of persuasive smooth talk, pressure and threats of violence until he convinces her to leave with him where she will undoubtedly be raped and possibly murdered. (It is said that the character of Arnold Friend is based on serial killer Charles Schmid.)

In the song it it hilarious, but if it happened in real life it would not be so funny. 

Interestingly, I find last week's song more acceptable than this one. I am not sure why. Both feature a predator, clearly hiding his true nature, with only one thing in mind. Last week's version has a real sensual feel (as I said before, it sounds like music you could do a strip tease to.) This week's version has a fun feel that makes you want to dance and join in with the nonsense scat sort refrain of A-bing-bang-biddle-dee-bang, baby let me in. 

Listen to it here:

Stay tuned next week where explore Little Red Riding Hood in animated form.

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

What We Ate Wednesday--Pea and Mint Hummus

Hello lovelies! I am so easily suggestible when it comes to food. Mention something that sounds good and I will be OBSESSED with it until I can make it myself. FACT.

Last week my friend Bexy casually mentioned that she had eaten Pea and Mint Hummus and I was like Get in my belly!  I quizzed her about how it was made and she said it was a storebought one from Aldi. She said it was Lemony, refreshing and VERY green.

That settled it. I was making me some of that spreadable deliciousness.

I did some searches online for recipes...some used all peas, some used a mixture of peas and chickpeas, some used white beans instead of chickpeas but all used fresh mint leaves.

Now, Bexy is a gardener. When I said I didn't have any fresh mint she offered to bring me some in a pot. Then I laughed my head off and said I have yet to be able to keep a mint plant alive which she agreed was very impressive.

It is nigh on impossible to kill mint.

But I have done it.

Multiple times.

I am a mint murderer.

So I decided to use mint sauce. But if you are not a mint murder, then by all means use fresh mint.

I also decided to use white beans (in my case butter beans as they are cheaper than haricot or cannellini) instead of chickpeas as i find they make a creamier hummus without as much oil.

I also decided to use a fresh lemon rather than bottled lemon. Sometimes I interchange them, but I wanted the zest and a pop of extra lemony flavour.

Pea and Mint Hummus

In a food processor blend the following until smooth:

2 cups frozen peas, defrosted in boiling water and rinsed with cold water
1 tin white beans, drained and rinsed SAVE THE LIQUID 
1 clove chopped garlic
zest and juice of one lemon
2 TB tahini (sesame seed paste)
1 TB olive oil
small handful of mint leaves, torn small or 1 TB mint sauce
liquid from the tin of beans as needed

Blend everything really well, stopping to scrape down the sides occasionally. Add the bean liquid a few TB at a time until it is desired consistency. I used 4 TB to get it how I like it.

Spoon into containers. I love salsa jars. They are the perfect size. This makes 2 and a half salsa jars so just about 2.5 cups of hummus.

Did you know you can freeze hummus? You can. Just defrost overnight in the fridge.

I freeze two and put the half filled jar in the fridge.

Making your own hummus is way more economical as you can make a huge batch for pennies compare to those teeny plastic  tubs you get at the supermarket.

I make a lot of different flavoured hummus for my lunch, so will hopefully start to document them and share recipes instead of just stuffing them into my mouth.

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

DIM--Dumass Institute of Movement

Image result for silhouette man jumping

Dumass Institute of Movement

Have you always thought of yourself as clumsy? Do you trip over your own feet several times a day? Do you struggle with co-ordination, balance and movement?

You may suffer from a condition called DYSPRAXIA which is a developmental coordination disorder (DCD) affecting fine and/or gross motor coordination in children and adults. It is believed that one in ten children show symptoms of being dyspraxic.

Dr Ima Dumass, founder of the Dumass Institute of Movement, has a identified a sub category of dyspraxia called DYSPRAXIC OVERESTIMATION where the dyspraxic individuals grossly overestimate their co-ordination abilities causing them to repeatedly injure themselves in absurd ways. Her research shows that one in every five dyspraxic people show signs of Dyspraxic Overestimation. Dr Dumass has devoted her life to this group of poor, deluded individuals.

The Institute works with Dyspraxic Over-estimators to help them be aware of their limitations and not take risks that will lead to injury. Here are just a few of our success stories:

Heather, Wales
Image result for eddie van halen jump
I jumped off a rock in the park while trying to imitate Eddie Van Halen and fell and shattered my coccyx. At the time I was extremely confident that I could pull this move off. Thanks to the Dumass Institute of Movement, I realise that I am not a rock star and never will be.

Rosie-Mai, England
Image result for chariots of fire beach
I was running on a beach with friends. In my mind I was picturing that scene in Chariots of Fire and so I decided I could skip across the sand without a problem until I fell over and my hand went purple. This was the first of many overestimation injuries I received before I found the Institute.

Here at the Institute we teach dyspraxic individuals to ask themselves these crucial questions before attempting a physical task:
1. Can I do this?
2.  Seriously, can I actually do this?
3.If I did do this, is there a way it could go horribly wrong?

Our motto is: If in doubt, don’t attempt it.

The Dumass Institute of Movement has helped countless people lead better lives by helping them to avoid daft injuries while messing about with their friends.

Monday, 13 August 2018



This will be interesting.

It was meant to be a post showing off my new Action Dress™ and ends up being a post that explains why I have been out of action for the last six days.

It wasn't supposed to be *that* kind of action. Sigh....

OK, the first question I kept getting is What in the world is an Action Dress™?

Well, I am glad you asked. Let's just begin with the history of me, shall we?

I have always preferred dresses. I like the freedom of movement they give you. They are cooler in sweltering summers and look great with tights and boots in the depths of winter.

As a child I liked wearing them but only if I wore shorts underneath so boys couldn't see my panties as I flipped on the monkey bars.

Even then I was an aspiring Action Grrrl.

When Spiderman and I spent three months as exchange students in 1990 on the LC/MC programme, I packed three long skirts (a black, a tan and a blue floral) lots of heavy sweaters and coordinating long john bottoms to wear under my dresses for warmth(oatmeal, red and bright blue).  I wore my skirts with either ankle boots or Converse high tops.

It may have not been fashionable, but it was comfortable.

These days as Quaker embracing the Testimony of Simplicity and rejecting sweatshop made clothes that make me spend too long obsessing on my appearance, I opt for a comfortable solid coloured dress with a practical apron in a lovely patterned fabric on top. The apron helps keep my clothes clean and has 2 massive pockets to keep all my bits and bobs (hankies, lip balm, prayer beads, asthma inhaler etc. the important stuff.) Plus I sewed them all myself.

I like these clothes. They suit me. I wear them with trainers (tennis shoes for my American peeps) and I get along just fine. I can wear these dresses anywhere.

Indeed I have. I have worn them to weddings, to funerals, to the theatre, on hikes up a mountain.

Normally, hiking doesn't matter. I just hoick it up slightly  if I need to go uphill. But last month we did a hike to a spectacularly waterfall and i had a little trouble crossing the river walking like an awkward crab over the wet uneven stones. I had a vision of me falling and tearing my thin fabric dress and it got me thinking.

What I needed was an Action Dress™. A dress made of heavy duty fabric. A dress that didn't matter if it got muddy.  A dress for action.

But why not just buy a pair of jeans like a normal person? my mother asked.

Clearly she doesn't know me at all.

Have you not paid attention for the last 48 years????

I hate jeans. All my life I tried to like jeans because jeans were cool and I just hated them. Every pair of jeans I have ever owned felt like they are slicing me in two and giving my vagina a wedgie. (Just try to get *that* image out of your head..mwa ha ha!) These days, since the Horrible Hysterectomy jeans (or any trousers with a zip in front) make my scar hurt like Voldemort is near.

That's why.

I decided I wanted to make an Action Dress™ out of some heavy retro curtain fabric my friend Susie gave me when she cleaned out her loft before she moved away. I wanted to make it like dungarees (overalls to my American peeps) at the top with side slits so no hoicking would be needed for uphill. I could wear action leggings underneath like I wear for exercise to provide a little modesty.

But mainly I wanted to look like someone out of Bananarama.

I am an 80's girl at heart.

So I made a spectacular dress for running, jumping, climbing mountains.

Then I met a lovely vegan named Nicky who offered to take some action shots of me in the dress.

Here is where the INCIDENT happened.

BI (Before Incident) Nicky and I had a delicious meal at The Warren and then toddled over to the park. We were having a good time. I was laughing and messing about on the exercise equipment.

I am pretending to be chased by a T-Rex here.

I am pretending to be Atlas holding up the world here.

Here I am a weathered old salt of a sea captain driving his boat. I love how my hair is spiked up by the wind to look like I am a parrot. It fits with the who sea captain/pirate motif.

I notice I am pulling faces in every picture. I am sure i didn't communicate any of this inner monologue about who my character was with Nicky. She must have wondered what in the world I was doing.

Then Nicky suggested  something.
Her: Why don't we go to the stone circle and have you jump off?
(her inner monologue:  that will make a great action shot.)
Me: Yeah! Let's do it! That will be awesome.
(my inner monologue: Yeah! That sounds fun. I'll make sure to leap really high and wave and pump my arms as i jump off this here shoulder-high rock that is wet from when it rained earlier and land on this grassy slope. What could possibly go wrong?)
(what SHOULD have been my inner monologue: Oh hell no. What are you thinking? You have a bad back? What if you fall? What if you land funny? Do NOT do this!!!)

First, let me say I have done many stupid things in my life. Too many to count. But this--of all the dumbass things I have ever done--ranks in the top ten. Possibly top five.

OK, who am I kidding? Top two.

I gleefully, like a small child, ran up the steps and did an epic leap complete with what was meant to be air guitar and then crashed HARD on the wet  grass right on my coccyx. The impact was so astonishingly painful that I could do nothing but pant and cry.

And swear. I said the F word about a dozen times. I am not proud of this. But it really hurt like f*ck.
Image result for broken coccyx
The impact would have definitely been enough to shatter my coccyx and snap it completely off of my sacrum (see illustration above) had I not already had the pleasure of doing that in 1998 running down our highly polished wooden floors in my sock feet to quickly grab a drink between the commercial break of Law and Order.

So I suppose, lucky for me, it was already broken. Because for the last twenty years i have had chronic back pain and trouble sitting. I KNEW better than to leap off of some high object because LEAPING always results in LANDING and usually that mean landing BADLY.

But, in the excitement of the moment I felt like a kid again and I was having fun and I forgot for a few crucial moments that I have a weak, middle aged body with a broken coccyx.

AI (After Incident) a horrified Nicky (who I think in her wildest dreams never imagined things could go quite so pear shaped) helped me walk home while I sobbed and dry heaved and tried to reassure her I would be fine.

I got upstairs (oh yes...we live in a first floor flat which has 1.5 flights of stairs) and took some codeine and put some ice on my back and cried my little heart out over my stupidity.

My friend Laura (also in the broken coccyx club) bought me some topical pain relief creams like Ibuprofen Gel and left them downstairs for Spiderman to bring up when he got home from work.

It has taken me three days to type this as it involves sitting and my back currently doesn't like sitting.

But someday again it will. I will always have chronic pain. You can't have a broken coccyx without it. But it will get better. I have good days and bad days. This has been a couple of bad days, but after a few months they will be good days again.

But in the future I will resign my actions in my Action Dress™ to running, jumping climbing mountains.

Or maybe just walking. Or standing still. Sigh....

Friday, 10 August 2018

Fairy Tale Friday--Li'l Red Riding Hood (Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs, 1966)

Hello and welcome to Fairy Tale Friday. Are you sitting comfortably? Good. Then I'll begin.

Last week we looked at a version of this tale from the award winning musical Into the Woods, but this week i want to look at the song in popular culture.
Image result for sam the sham little red riding hood
In 1996, Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs (best known perhaps for their song Woolly Bully) had a hit with Li'l Red Riding Hood. It went to number two on the both the US and Canadian charts.

It is based on the version by Charles Perrault, blurring the line between the wolf as carnivore and the wolf as male sexual predator. In a reversal to the traditional tale, the wolf remarks on "what big eyes" and "what full lips" Red has. He declares "what a big heart he has" to her, but as an aside to the audience freely admits he is disguised in a "sheep suit" to lull her into a dropping her guard. The song begins with a howl and ends with him Baaaing like a sheep to conceal his true nature.

There is something deeply sensual about Sam the Sham's voice that makes this song sound raunchy and arousing, like you could do a strip tease to it. There have been many cover versions, but for me none capture that animalistic tone better than this one. If you are interested WIKIPEDIA has a list of other artists that have covered the song and many are available to listen on Youtube. There are punk covers (Bowling for Soup) and an a capella Doo-Wop cover (The Bobs), but for my money, this version beats them all (even the Rolling Stone's version.) There is only one version that comes close and we will look at it in a few weeks as it is tied to a film.

Listen to the Sam the Sham version here:

Stay tuned next week for a musical  version that also includes the Three Little Pigs.

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

What We Ate Wednesday--Roasted Tomatoes with Kale and White Bean Alfredo Sauce Pasta

Hello lovelies! This was a sort of spur of the moment dish we have eaten twice recently. We are lucky enough to have green-fingered friends who gladly give us produce from their garden. Twice last week they gave us some small home grown fresh tomatoes. These were beautiful--a deep red (unlike the anaemic ones you see at the supermarket)  and really juicy. They were all about the size of a small egg. I was trying to decide what to do with them when I dreamed a food dream and woke up knowing exactly what must be done.

They needed to be roasted under the grill in olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

I tend to have a rule NO OVEN UNTIL AUTUMN but I was willing to use the grill as it heats up the kitchen (and consequently me) less.

This was a super quick meal with pasta. I decided that it would go well with sauteed kale and a creamy sauce. I thought my GARLIC ALFREDO SAUCE would be great, but I was looking for a way to make it even cheaper than using cashews and get more protein and fibre into it.

Enter the humble white bean. The first time I used cannelloni beans, but the second time I used butter beans. Both worked equally well as they were a soft, mild white bean.

The result was a thick garlicky sauce (and it was saucy--just the way we like it. Ooo-er, Missus. If you want less sauce than add more pasta) topped with juicy bites of flavourful tomatoes.

 Roasted Tomatoes with Kale and White Bean Alfredo Sauce Pasta
Move your oven rack to the highest place and turn on your grill or broiler. I set my temperature at 220 degrees C/425F.

100g curly kale (about 4-5 cups)
Before you do anything, prepare your kale by de-stemming it and tearing into bite sized pieces.

tomatoes (we used 9-10 egg sized ones, but could equally use less bigger ones or more smaller ones)
Slice in halves or quarters and drizzle with
1 TB olive oil
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
generous salt and pepper
Arrange cut side up in a roasting pan.

For the sauce:
1 onion, diced
4-6 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup  vegetable stock
1 tin white beans, drained and rinsed
1 Tb lemon juice
1/4 cup  nutritional yeast or vegan parmesan
1 cup unsweetened non dairy milk of choice (we did soya milk)
1/2 a tsp salt

pasta (we used 1.5 cups GF pasta for two people)

To get started:
1. While the grill/broiler heats, put the onions in a large pot  with the veggie stock and garlic and cook on med high. Cook until liquid is nearly absorbed, remove from heat and let cool for a minute or so.
2. Add to the blender with the rest of the sauce ingredients and blend until velvety smooth. The onion really thickens it up and add flavour.
3. While the onion and garlic are cooking bring your water to the boil for the pasta.
4. When the pasta water boils, add the pasta and cook according to package directions. When you put the pasta in the boiling water, put your tomatoes under the grill and set timer for 15 minutes. While they cook the tomatoes will collapse, release their juices and intensify in flavour.
5. In the same large pot you cooked the onion, cook the kale with a splash or two of boiling pasta water until cooked down and softened. When tomatoes are nearly done, add the sauce and cook until bubbling. Add the drained pasta and stir to mix with the kale. Top with roasted tomatoes.

This was so lush that I think it will be my Alfredo recipe from now on. And a tin of white beans are cheaper than cashews, so this is a win-win situation.

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Fairy Tale Friday--Hello Little Girl (Into the Woods)

Hello and welcome to Fairy Tale Friday. Are you sitting comfortably? Good. Then I'll begin.

For the last few weeks we have been looking at more modern versions of Little Red Riding Hood. Many of these versions hark back to the sexual nature of the original. The musical Into The Woods written by James Lapine with music by Stephen Sondheim draws its source material from the darker tones of the original Grimm's fairy tales. In the musical, the stepsisters slice off their toes and heel to fit into the glass slipper. The prince only notices when the shoe fills up with blood. Later, Cinderella's friends the birds swoop down and peck out their eyes.
Image result for robert westenberg wolf
notice the enormous phallus
Lapine and Sondheim really did their research about the origins of Little Red Riding Hood. The wolf's song Hello Little Girl is part hunger, part sexual---all appetite. In the original Broadway stage production the wolf wears a huge erect phallus as he sings. It is also interesting to note, that in the stage production the part of the wolf is played by the same man who enacts the role of Prince Charming. This also harks back to the idea that men are bestial in nature and "some wolves are hairy on the inside."

In 2014, there was a Disney remake of Into the Woods. I despise this version because it seems to mute all the darker themes of the source material and cut out the sexual undertones as well as the black comedy that is so clearly evident in the stage version. Not to mention how much I dislike po-faced Emily Blunt as the Baker's Wife. But that's a story for another time.

I have clips to share from  the Broadway production, the London production and the Disney film. I am biased towards the Broadway show. I find the wolf in the London production with his enormous mechanical head with motorised rolling eyes and moving ears too cartoon like (especially when steam comes out of his ears on the line "when you're talking to your meal.")  It seems to miss that deep sexual connection between man and beast and slide over into the ridiculous.  I find Johnny Depp in his "hat with tufty ears" unsatisfying, although I suppose it is an attempt to reflect the connection between man and beast. I just don't like his delivery of the song because he doesn't sing the line "when you're talking to your meal.". Give me a wolf with a big phallus any day.  And by that I mean   I vastly prefer the Robert Westenberg version.

You can watch all three and make your mind up for yourself.

The Broadway version with Robert Westenberg:

The London cast with Clive Carter:

The Disney version with Johnny Depp:
Stay tuned next week where we look at other musical retellings of our tale.