Monday, 18 September 2017

Murder Ballad Monday--Country Death Song (Violent Femmes)

Hello and welcome to Murder Ballad Monday. For the past several weeks I have explored different versions of the ballad Polly Vonn, but this week I am moving into more contemporary circles.

When you think of rural murder ballads, I bet the last thing you think about is the alternative/punk band the Violent Femmes.  Their first eponymous album was raw and brash with songs like Blister in the Sun. Their second album Hallowed Ground was more reflective and had an almost country music sound in some places. There were also several  Christian songs like Jesus Walking on the Water which caused conflict between band members as lead singer Gordon Gano was a devout Christian and the other members of the band were atheists. This is an album of contrasts because it also contains the song Black Girls which contains the lyrics I dig black girls so much more than the white girls and I dig white boys so much more than the black boys. 
                              Image result for violent femmes hallowed
But what really set this album apart for me was the lead song. When I first bought this album on vinyl back in 1984, I was struck like a thunderbolt to the chest by the first song. It was a murder ballad told in first person by a man driven mad by poverty and hunger who in a moment of madness (a moment of clarity?) pushes his younger daughter down a well and then hangs himself when he realised what he had done. There is this chilling line I pushed with all my might, I pushed with all my love which really encapsulates the claustrophobic feeling of the song.

It is an exquisite portrait of the madness that can come through isolation and poverty. It reminded me of the poem School Lesson Based On Word of Tragic Death of Entire Gillum Family by Robert Penn Warren about the father who murders his family with an ice pick as his children are getting ready for school.

According to Wikipedia, Gordon Gano wrote Country Death Song while still in high school. He wrote it one day in 10th grade study hall after seeing a news article about a murder in 1862 where a father intentionally pushed his daughter down a well and then hanged himself in the barn.

I think what makes it more chilling is that it is a first person account. What also really enhances it is this fan made video. It was made as a final project for an animation class and really captures the eerie feeling of madness that compliments Gordon Gano's distinctive voice.

I have included the lyrics below if you would like follow along, but I suggest watching the video as well.

I had me a wife, I had me some daughters.
I tried so hard, I never knew still waters.
Nothing to eat and nothing to drink.
Nothing for a man to do but sit around and think.
Nothing for a man to do but sit around and think.

Well, I'm a thinkin' and thinkin', till there's nothin' I ain't thunk.
Breathing in the stink, till finally I stunk.
It was at that time, I swear I lost my mind.
I started making plans to kill my own kind.
I started making plans to kill my own kind.

Come little daughter, " I said to the youngest one,
Put your coat on, we'll have some fun.
We'll go out to mountains, the one to explore.
Her face then lit up, I was standing by the door.
Her face then lit up, I was standing by the door.

Come little daughter, I will carry the lanterns.
We'll go out tonight, we'll go to the caverns.
We'll go out tonight, we'll go to the caves.
Kiss your mother goodnight and remember that God saves.
Kiss your mother goodnight and remember that God saves.

I led her to a hole, a deep black well.
I said "make a wish, make sure and not tell then
Close your eyes dear, and count to seven.
You know your papa loves you, good children go to heaven.
You know your papa loves you, good children go to heaven."

I gave her a push, I gave her a shove.
I pushed with all my might, I pushed with all my love.
I through my child into a bottomless pit.
She was screaming as she fell, but I never heard her hit.
She was screaming as she fell, but I never heard her hit.

Gather round boys to this tale that I tell.
You want to know how to take a short trip to hell?
It's guaranteed to get your own place in hell.
Just take your lovely daughter and push her in the well.
Take your lovely daughter and throw her in the well.

Don't speak to me of lovers, with a broken heart.
You want to know what can really tear you apart?
I'm going out to the barn, will I never stop in pain?
I'm going out to the barn, to hang myself in shame.

That's all for this week. Stay tuned next week for a trip to rural Georgia.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

What We Ate Wednesday--Golden Paste and how to use it

Hello Lovelies! Golden Paste is one I have been meaning to write for a while, but having been really busy at work I hadn't had the chance to gather up all the data and compile it and type it.

I've got a bit more free time at the moment so here it is. Hoorah!

So what is Golden Paste? Well, it's a bit of "food as medicine." Basically, it is eating the spice turmeric as a supplement to help with arthritis or joint pain.

Turmeric is the yellow spice that gives curry powder its lovely, vibrant  colour.  Curcumin is the main active ingredient in turmeric and it has powerful anti-inflammatory effects and is a strong anti-oxidant. Studies have shown it might help prevent heart disease and some studies have said that it seems to have an effect on certain types of cancer cells. I don't know much about those claims, but it seems promising. It supposedly helps with digestion by stimulating your liver to produce bile.

I first became interested in this spice in relation to its use with arthritis. In a study of patients with rheumatoid arthritis was even more effective than an anti-inflammatory drug.  Read a bit about that {HERE}

The properties of curcumin are not easily absorbed by the body so here are the things you can do to increase bioavailability:

  1. Combine it with black pepper. The piperine in pepper increases the body's ability to absorb the healing powers of turmeric by 2000%!!! Two-thousand percent, people! 
  2. Add a healthy fat. Turmeric is fat soluble so you need a bit of fat to help the body absorb it.  

Hence, Golden paste. 

Now it will only last a week in the fridge as it is perishable, but as I am always looking for ways to make my life easier so i do a big batch and make a month's worth and freeze it. I use specially designated ice cube trays (no one wants ice that tastes like curry!) and then pop them out and store them in a container. Easy peasy.

I have friends who just swallow the spice in a shot glass of water and have had good success with their joint pain. I am glad for them, but I have absorption issues so I want to maximise my chances. I just throw a cube in my morning smoothie which tastes delicious. I also have a strong gag reflex, so not sure I could just toss some back in shot glass. But to each his own! 

Golden paste:
In a small saucepan mix:
1/2 cup turmeric spice (I buy mine in bulk from an Asian shop)
1 cup water.

Whisk this together and heat over low heat until smooth. Then add:
2-3 TB olive oil
1 tsp coarse ground pepper

Continue to whisk until smooth and glossy.

Let cool and then spoon into ice cube trays. A heaping measuring teaspoon each compartment. This makes 28 cubes for me. Be careful--IT WILL STAIN! So have something handy to wipe up spills that you don't mind being yellow. i use the same tea towel every month.

Freeze 24 hours then pop out (again--be careful of STAINING) and store in a container in your freezer. 

Well Spidergrrl, this seems incredibly easy to make and is good for you. Is there anyone who *shouldn't* eat Golden Paste? 

Well, Spidergrrl, I am glad you asked. (Why am I talking to myself??) 

Yes. You should NOT use turmeric as a supplement if you:
  1. Have gallbladder issues or kidney stones.
  2. Are on any kind of blood clotting drug. Turmeric actually thins your blood, so you don't want to counteract the effects of your meds.  
  3. If you have stomach acid issues and heartburn or GERD.
  4. If you are on a medicine for diabetes as turmeric can lower your blood sugar levels (it is ok to take if you control your diabetes with diet)
  5. If you are pregnant--turmeric can  stimulate the uterus, so it's ok to eat in food just not as a supplement. However, it might help with difficult periods. 
So how can you incorporate it into your diet? 

I throw mine into my morning smoothie (recipe next week!) but some people make Golden Milk. Basically, it is just milk heated with some golden paste, a shake of cinnamon  and ginger and a bit of sweetener to taste. You can obviously do this with non-dairy milk as well.

Or you could make GOLDEN GRANOLA BARS using this recipe. 

I prefer the smoothie as it is less faff than standing in my cold kitchen over the stove at night making another pot to wash. 

But as I said earlier. Each to his own. Or her own. Or their own. I'm gender inclusive. 

But if you are not on the list of people who should avoid turmeric, it might be worth giving it a try. I have noticed definitely positive changes in my digestion (my IBS is much better) as well as joint pain (the pain in my broken coccyx is but a whisper these days.) 

Worth trying. And these days , I would much rather use food as medicine than support Big Pharma, if I can help it. Know what I mean?

Monday, 11 September 2017

Murder Ballad Monday--Molly Bawn by Aoife Murray

Hello and welcome to the last of the versions of the ballad that is number 166 in the Roud Folk Song index. Irish singer Aoife Murray sings this last version and it is beautifully haunting. It follows the pattern of the other versions, but there are clearly a few differences. All of the other songs mention that the man (Jimmy or Willy in one case) was out hunting but this version clearly says Jimmy went out fowling which makes the shooting of a swan even more likely.

Image result for swan swimming

Also, the ghost of the murdered woman has appeared in other version to the man who shot her, at her wake and at her trial, but I am pretty sure this is the only version where she appears to her own father who has clearly been plotting revenge since she died three weeks before. The line says: "Father, dearest father, please don't think to shoot my dear” which harks back to the traditional song The Shooting of His Dear arranged by Benjamin Britten.

I think the strength of this song is the ending where Jimmy declares that he will soon follow her in death. Other versions pay lip service to this saying he cried a fountain of tears, but this one really makes the grief real.

You can listen to it here:

Jimmy went out fowling with his gun in his hand
Fowling all day, as you may understand.
His sweetheart being out walking, he took her for a swan
And he shot his Molly Bawn at the setting of the sun.

Jimmy went home with his gun in his hand
Sad and broken-hearted, as you may understand.
Saying," Father, dearest father, you know what I have done?
I have shot my Molly Bawn at the setting of the sun,

Then up and spoke his father, although his locks were grey,
Saying," Son, dearest son, do you not think of going away.
Stay in this country until your trial is on,
And you never will be hanged at the setting of the sun.

It was in three weeks after, to her father she appeared.
Saying, "Father, dearest father, please don't think to shoot my dear
My white apron being around me, he took me for a swan
And he shot his Molly Bawn at the setting of the sun,

Now Molly, dearest Molly, you're my joy and heart's delight,
And if you had lived, my dear, I'd make of you my wife.
But now, as you are gone to me, I'll sail away and mourn
And soon I will be following you, My own Molly Bawn.

That’s all for this week’s Murder Ballad Monday. Next week we will take a look at murder ballad by the alternative pop group the Violent Femmes.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

What We Ate Wednesday--Chocolate Cherry Overnight Oats

Hello lovelies! I am really jumping on all the trending bandwagons at the moment. First it was Amazing One Pot Pasta and now it is Overnight Oats. 

If you don't know (and seriously...if you have any kind of online presence you will have been bombarded with images of this concept) overnight oats are oats you don't cook. They sit in your fridge over night quietly minding their business and absorbing the liquids you chose so the next day they are ready to eat. Sorta like what the title implies. Overnight oats. Oats you make overnight.

I decided to make chocolate cherry flavour oats. But how could I do this? I found versions that made a chocolate flavour, but how to add the cherries? Would cherries alone be enough to make this have the *wow* factor I was looking for?

At Lidl I discovered a jar of maraschino cherries in syrup for around £1.49. I took it home and drained the cherries (reserving the syrup! Do not neglect this bit!) and laid the cherries in a single layer on a plastic lid and froze them in my freezer. This prevents them from sticking together later. The next day I  scooped up all the cherries and put them in a ziplock bag. and popped them back in the freezer. There were approximately 100 delicious, tart cherries.

I also took the drained syrup (you mustn't forget the drained syrup, oh best beloved!) and froze it in 1/4 cup portions. You could use ice cube trays (indeed I do use ice cube trays for freezing garlic puree and golden paste--recipe coming next week!) but if you can get a hold of one of these babies they really are great. They are a silicone compartmental doodah meant for freezing homemade baby food if you are a yummy mummy. I got mine from a charity shop for £2 and we use it #allthetime. 

(look at me being all kool and down wid da kidz using a hashtag) 

Anyway....I froze the cherry syrup and it made 9 little cubes. 

That may seem like a lot of prep, but really it took 5 minutes, plus freezing overnight and now I have enough for nine--count 'em NINE delicious bowls of chocolate cherry goodness.

At night before I go to sleep, I put the following in a small plastic container with a lid. Feel free to use glass, but I was taking this to work to eat as second breakfast (since I am small and hairy, I must be a Hobbit, right???) so plastic was more sensible.

In your container:
1/2 cup (GF) porridge oats
2 tsp cocoa powder
1 tsp chia seeds (optional--helps absorb the liquid and adds omega, protein and vitamins etc, but it may mean you have to add a splash more milk in the use it or don't)
1 tsp sugar (optional...the syrup is still quite tart so I like a bit of sugar)
1/2 cup plant based  milk of your choice

Give it a big ole stir to mix it all together and add:
1 cube cherry syrup (1/4 cup)
10 frozen cherries

Then pop it in the fridge overnight and when you wake up in the morning--BAM! Breakfast.

Or second breakfast.

 By the morning the cherries are defrosted and the syrup is melted and there is big cherry puddle in your chocolate oats that needs mixing in. It will need a bit of a stir and then you are good to go.

This is *delicious*. Just the right amount of chocolate...a huge flavour burst of cherry. Yum.

I don't seem to have a photo of the end product because I always seem to be eating it when I remember I should have taken a photo.

Once you do the main prep on the cherries, it is easy-peasy to put together. And fairly economical as well as the jar lasts 9 meals.

I am often someone who likes to go against the flow, but sometimes copying everyone else's good idea works too.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Murder Ballad Monday--Polly Vaughn by The Dillards

Hello and welcome to the penultimate version of the Murder Ballad Mondays about the folk ballad Polly Von. This week I am looking at a version by a band called The Dillards from their 1963 album Back Porch Blues.
Image result for swan river bank
This version touches on elements we have seen in other versions. It begins like the Dubliners version with the line “Now come all ye hunters who follow the gun” and several lines are straight out of the Peter, Paul and Mary version such as “And a fountain of tears for his true love he shed. For she'd her apron wrapped about her and he took her for a swan, Oh and alas it was she Polly Vaughn.” It ends with the line comparing Polly to a fountain of snow much like in the Martha Tilson version.  When her ghost appears at the trial everyone, including the judge and the lawyers, mistake her for a swan and so Jimmy’s defence is clear. 

What also sets this one apart is that it is a bluegrass version. You can listen to it here:

Now come all ye hunters who follow the gun
Beware of your shooting at the setting of the sun
For Polly's own true love he shot in the dark
But oh and alas Polly Vaughn was his mark.

For she'd her apron wrapped about her and he took her for a swan
Oh and alas it was she Polly Vaughn

He ran up beside her and saw that it was she
Cried "Polly oh Polly have I killed thee"
He lifted up her head and saw that she was dead
And a fountain of tears for his true love he shed.

For she'd her apron wrapped about her and he took her for a swan
Oh and alas it was she Polly Vaughn

In the middle of the night Polly Vaughn did appear
Cried "Jimmy oh Jimmy you must have no fear;
Just tell them you were hunting when your trial day has come
And you won't be convicted for what you have done.

For I’d my apron wrapped about me and you took me for a swan
Oh and alas it was me Polly Vaughn.”

In the middle of the trial Polly Vaughn did appear
Crying "Uncle oh Uncle Jimmy Randall must go clear"
The lawyers and the judges stood around in a row
In the middle Polly Vaughn like some fountain of snow
For she'd her apron wrapped about her and they took her for a swan

Oh and alas it was she Polly Vaughn
Oh and alas it was she Polly Vaughn

That’s it for this week’s Murder Ballad Monday. Stay tuned next week for the last version of this ballad sung by Irish singer Aoife Murray. 

Thursday, 31 August 2017

The Amazing Backwards Rossetti

Well friends....Rossetti has moulted.

Other spiders do a lot of preparation before hand to let you know a moult is coming.

But not Rossetti.

Other spiders stop eating and seem almost fearful of food so that you have to awkwardly fish a live cricket out of their tank because it is scaring your sweetums.

But not Rossetti.

Other spiders do "spider yoga" for several days where they stretch up against the glass to loosen their carapace.

But not Rossetti.

Other spiders lay a web mat down so they have a soft place to moult. When you see that happening you know they will "do their thang" in a couple of hours.

But not Rossetti.

Other spiders moult on a regular schedule at three months, then six months, then once a year when they reach adulthood.

But not Rossetti.

To be fair, some of that one is her species. She is a Chilean Rose and they don't always follow the once a year schedule.

It's been over three years since her last moult.

And we have no idea how old she is as she is a rescue and she hasn't followed the moulting schedule which helps you to determine the age of a spider.

We just woke up today and she had done it. Just like that. Boom.

Rossetti is our special needs spider.

She seems a bit dyspraxic (like dyslexic only with coordination and movement). As she is stalking her prey (and if you have ever seen a spider hunt, they really stalk like lions) she creeps toward the cricket and then.......pounces in the wrong direction!

Every time.

She also really hates plastic trees.

I mean *really* hates. I didn't even know spiders could have emotions like this. But hers are strong ones.

We put a small plastic tree in her tank. She worked for days to wrap it up in spider silk which pulled all the sticky-out branches flat. then she bulldozed the tree, carried to her hidey (which was like a hollowed out log) and spent two days shoving the tree under the log and then buried the ends of the tree in substrate so she didn't have to look at them. Not like she could really look at them because despite having eight eyes, tarantulas are virtually blind and rely on other senses like touch to get around.

But you know what I mean.

And for the last two years she has had a bit of web hanging off her butt like toilet paper on the bottom of your shoe.

Um...excuse've got something...right there. No other side.....

But we love our little bundle of contradictions.

Well done Rossetti.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

What We Ate Wednesday--Mushroom, Potato and Kale Curry

Hello lovelies. Curry. Delicious curry. The sort of thing you can throw together by cleaning out your fridge and still come up with a delicious meal.

I prefer curry paste to curry powder, but it's all good. We like to buy Pataks Balti Curry Paste which contains:
Water, Rapeseed Oil (20%), Ground Spices (16%) [Cumin (3.5%), Paprika (3.5%), Turmeric, Coriander, Spices, Fennel], Maize Flour, Salt, Acids (Acetic Acid, Citric Acid), Tamarind, Cracked Black Pepper, Garlic Powder (0.5%), Cracked Coriander Seed, Dried Crushed Red Chilli, Black Kalonji Seed, Died Coriander Leaf

This curry was made from stuff we already had:
onions and garlic
kale (could sub spinach but kale rocks our socks)
coconut milk
curry paste

If I had had frozen peas I would thrown them in as well. 

It was really saucy so I would suggest serving it with naan bread so you can sop up the juices. 

Sop being a technical term for soak up all the goodness with yo' bread  if you are from the American South. 

Mushroom, Potato and Kale Curry
You need:
one onion, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, crushed
200g button mushrooms (about 10?) 
2 large white potatoes, diced
125ml (half a cup) vegetable broth
1 tin coconut milk
3 TB curry paste or curry powder
100g kale or spinach (about 4-5 cups) 
squeeze of lemon (I used bottled and it it was fine)

1. Cook the onion in a TB of water until softened then add the garlic and the mushrooms. Cook until mushrooms start to release their water and soften.
2. Add the potato, vegetable broth, coconut milk and curry paste/powder. Bring to the boil and then simmer 25 minutes.
3. Meanwhile prepare your naan bread. If you can't find a vegan or gluten free one, fear not. Use my 5 minute flatbread found {HERE} 
4. When the 25 minutes are done and the naan is hot, then add your spinach or kale and stir and let it wilt. Then add a squeeze of lemon juice to brighten it. I like to twist on several grinds of pepper at this point, but that's just me. 

If you have frozen peas throw them in for the last 5 minutes to defrost. 

All done within a half an hour.

If you have always have curry paste or powder and a tin of coconut milk or a tin of tomatoes, then you can just throw them together with all the veg in your fridge and call it a curry. 

Problem solved. Need to feed more? Serve over rice to extend it. Or a tin of chickpeas. Sorted.