Monday, 29 May 2017

Murder Ballad Monday-- The Little Bone (Switzerland)

Welcome to part 6 of Murder Story Monday. This week I am looking at another version of The Singing Bone from Switzerland. This is an unusual version in that the bone does not speak/sing, but bleeds in order to reveal the guilty party. Apparently, it was widely believed in medieval Europe that a murdered corpse (or any of its parts) would bleed in the presence of the murderer.

We see this idea in William Shakespeare's The Tragedy of King Richard III, act 1, scene 2 where Lady Anne is speaking to Richard, Duke of Gloucester, who has murdered her husband King Henry VI .

O, gentlemen, see, see! dead Henry's wounds
Open their congeal'd mouths and bleed afresh.
Blush, blush, thou lump of foul deformity;
For 'tis thy presence that exhales this blood
From cold and empty veins, where no blood swells;
Thy deed, inhuman and unnatural,
Provokes this deluge most unnatural.

I could not find a version that featured a bleeding bone in any of my fairy tale collections, so this story is unique to me. If anyone else knows of a fairy tale/folk tale that features a bleeding bone, please let me know. 

This story  was also collected and retold by Swiss folklorist Otto Sutermeister in his 1873 book Kinder- und Hausmärchen aus der Schweiz. (Children and Domestic Fairy Tales from Switzerland)

This version came from here.
                                 Image result for tibia fibula graphic fairy

The Little Bone
Many years ago, a wicked man lived in a pasture hut. Like other herdsmen, he spent the summer there with his cattle. He was quick tempered and arrogant. He had a poor servant boy, whom he tormented in every possible way with hard work, rough words, and cruel blows. One day he gave the boy a task to do which beyond his strength. He was then overcome by such anger that he grabbed the boy and thrust his head into a a kettle of milk that was being boiled in order to separate it. Thus the boy died, and the herdsman threw his body into a mountain creek. Back at home he said, "The stupid boy must have been carried away by a rockslide. He went off to milk the goats, but never came back."

Many years passed, and the boys' bones hung unavenged on a cliffy bank of the mountain creek. From time to time a particularly strong rush of water would pick up one of the little bones, play with it for a while, and then leave it lying on a remote bank.

Once it happened that there was a fair in the valley. Everyone was making merry. The wicked herdsman, drugged by the wine, music, and dance, had lost all humility and good sense, and was reveling in his sinfulness. It was too hot for him inside, so he went out to the creek, which, swollen by a heavy, warm rain, was rushing by much stronger than usual. He kneeled down and took off his hat to scoop up some water. He drank the water that had run into his hat, but at the bottom he found a small white bone. He stuck it onto his hat and returned to the hall.

Suddenly the little bone began to bleed; and now everyone knew what had happened to the boy. The festivities were quickly brought to a close, and the evildoer was taken forthwith to the place of execution.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

What We Ate Wednesday--Caldo Verde

Hello lovelies!Summer is definitely approaching. We had a glorious day hiking in the hot sun in Pembrokeshire on Sunday (as my slightly sunburned nose will attest the sun was out in full force), but evenings are still on the cool side here. I am trying squeeze in as much soup as I can before it gets too hot to enjoy it. For my American peeps, it may be too hot for soup for you now (although you have the benefit of air-con, so maybe you can still soup things up a bit.)

I loves me some soup. Particularly this soup with its mix of garlicky broth, potatoes and kale. In fact, some people call it Portuguese Potato and Kale Soup, but I prefer Caldo Verde as it makes me sound more sophisticated.

One of my favourite bands Jonny and the Baptists even have a song about soup. This is from the Soup (reprise):
A melting pot that's good for the soul.
Multiculturalism in a bowl.
You don't need to chew unless you have a roll.
Soup is all you need!

That pretty much sums up my feelings about this soup. 

I have a recipe for Caldo Verde in no less than three cookbooks, but this is the one I come back to time and time again. It is adapted my well thumbed copy of Vegan on the Cheap by Robin Robertson. Affectionately known as Cheap-Ass Vegan in our house. Her recipe calls for half a cup "smoky tempeh bits" (a recipe from earlier in her cookbook.) For years, instead of faffing about making smoky tempeh bits to put in this soup, we  just used half a packet of smoked tofu and called it a day.  These days smoked tofu is out of our budget (nearly £4 a packet) so i just add mushrooms for "meatiness"and some liquid smoke for that smoky yum factor. It is just as good as my original substitution, but more budget friendly.

I like to serve this with cornbread. As Chris Rock says: Cornbread. Ain't nothing wrong with that.

Caldo Verde

You need:
1 large onion, diced
2 carrots, diced 
6 cloves garlic, crushed
1-2 cups button mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp mixed herbs
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp salt
1.5 lbs russet potatoes, cut into cubes
7 and 1/4 cups strong vegetable broth (I use 6 tsp homemade broth powder, 1 tsp marmite and a good splash tamari soy sauce)
1.5 cups cooked white beans (like navy or haricot), drained and rinsed
4-6 cups chopped kale. (for us, 100g--half a bag)
2 tsp liquid smoke

If use use premade stock then just bung it in at the right time. If you are like me and use a powder, add the powder as you add the herbs and stir to coat. Then add your boiling water, marmite and a splash of tamari soy sauce. 

To make it:
1. In a really large pot, saute your onion in a splash of oil or 1/4 cup water until softening. Add the garlic and cook about a minute longer. 
2. Add in your herbs and salt (and powder if you make yours like I do.)  Stir to coat then add your carrots,mushrooms, potatoes and 7 and 1/4 cups boiling water (or stock if yours is premade) and bring to the boil. Boil then simmer for 20 minutes until potatoes are done.
3. Add in the beans and the kale and raise the heat on the soup a bit until the kale is softened and wilted to your liking. 
4. Add in your liquid smoke. 

This makes a huge amount and we eat it over two days. Both times with cornbread. It makes about six servings. 

It is really delicious and definitely keeps the vampires at bay. It is also cheap as potatoes and kale are fairly inexpensive. Don't go for the fancy Tuscan or Dinosaur kale...just the cheap, hearty curly kale. 

And to finish off--more wisdom from Jonny and the Baptists:

It's a meal you drink, a drink you eat.
A hearty, sloppy soupy treat.
You don't need teeth, you don't need friends.
Soup is all you need! 

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Murder Ballad Monday--The Dead Girl's Bone (Switzerland)

Hello and welcome to Murder Story Monday. For the next two weeks I will be looking at versions of the Singing Bone from Switzerland that were collected and retold by Swiss folklorist Otto Sutermeister in his 1873 book Kinder- und Hausmärchen aus der Schweiz. (Children and Domestic Fairy Tales from Switzerland)

This version has some similarities to the ballad The Little Maple Tree and the fairy tale The Griffin from Italy as well as the German version of The Singing Bone collected by the Brothers Grimm where siblings set out to complete a task, one is successful and then is killed and the other attempts to take the credit. 

In this variation, the murdered girl's bone is turned into a flute by a shepherd boy. 
This version came from here.

Image result for singing bone illustration
The Dead Girl's Bone
Once there was a king who died. His wife and two children, a girl and a boy, were still alive. Then one day they asked the mother which of them should someday become king. She said to them, "Dear children, go out into the woods together and look for a certain flower. The first one of you to find it will someday become king."

So the two set forth together, and while searching in the woods they separated, and the girl was the first one to find the flower. She thought she would wait for her brother, so she put the flower in her hand, closed it in God's name, and lay down in the shade.

Then the boy came to her. He had not found the flower, but when he saw it in his sister's hand, a terrible thought came to him: "I will murder my sister, take the flower home with me, and then I will become king."

That is what he thought, and that is what he did. He killed her and buried her in the woods, covering with earth so that no one would know what had happened.

Many years later a shepherd boy who was there tending his sheep found one of the girl's bones lying on the ground. He made a few holes in it like a flute, and blew into it. Then the bone began to sing ever so sadly and told the entire story how the girl had been killed by her brother. To hear the song would bring tears to your eyes.

One day a knight came by where the boy was playing the flute. He bought the flute and played it wherever he went in the land. Finally the old queen heard the knight and became very sad. She had her son removed from the throne, and she mourned for the rest of her life.

That's it for this week's Murder Story Monday. Stay tuned next week where I examine another version from Switzerland entitled The Little Bone.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

What We Ate Wednesday-Balsamic Potatoes, Apple and Kale

Hello lovelies! This week is not so much a recipe, but a "clean out the larder" sort of meal. However, this does not mean that it is not crazy delicious (because it is) it just means there aren't a great deal of measurements.

You see, one week sweet potatoes had been on sale so we bought some. The next week rolled around and when the new sale began, white potatoes were on sale. So this recipe uses the end of the sweet potatoes and the start of the white potatoes. Ya dig?

I also had 100g (about 4 cups) of curly kale left that wasn't designated to go in another recipe, so I invented this meal to use up what we had.

Isn't that gorgeous? It made enough for 2 bowls, but if you are feeling a crowd I would suggest adding a tin of chickpeas and serving it over rice to stretch it a bit more.

Balsamic Potatoes, Apple and Kale
Preheat your oven to 180C/350F. Normally I roast at 200C/400F but you need a slightly lower temperature and longer cooking time so the apples don't turn to mush.

In your biggest roasting pan put all your chopped veg.
I used:
2 small to medium sweet potatoes (mine were about the size of a man's "naughty bits" if you know what I mean)
1 red onion, chopped
half a red pepper, chopped
2 gala apples,  cored and chopped
about 6 small potatoes, chopped (mine ranged between the size of a walnut to an egg)

So by now my pan was full, so I added:
1.5 TB tamari (or soy sauce)
3 TB balsamic vinegar
lots of shakes of dried rosemary
pinch of salt and pepper

Roast for 20 minutes, stir and roast for 20 more minutes.

Right before the veg are done then work on the kale. You need about 100g (4 cups or thereabouts). Make sure your kale is de-stemmed and torn into bite size pieces. Heat your biggest pot and add the kale and cook it with a splash of water until it turns bright green and reduces slightly. Then add:

a good "glug" of tamari or soy sauce
a good "drizzle" of toasted sesame oil
A good squeeze (2 times around the pot) of golden syrup or agave or maple syrup. If you don't have a squeezy bottle, then just drizzle 2 times round the pot from a spoon.

Stir to coat the kale. This makes The. Best. Kale. Ever. and is our favourite way to eat it. Then mix all the roasted veg with the kale and serve. As I said, you could add some chickpeas and rice to make this go further.

Definitely try this at home.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Murder Ballad Monday--The Griffin (Italy)

Hello and welcome to part four of Murder Story Monday. Today I will be looking at a version of The Singing Bones from Italy. 

This version bears some resemblance to other tales such as the Grimm's versions of The Griffin/Three Golden Hairs from the Devil in that someone is on a quest to steal the golden feather (or hair) in order to gain something important or heal someone. 

Jim Henson's The Storyteller does a version of this quest story called The Luck Child that features the golden feather of the griffin.

The griffin feather/quest story is expanded in this version. Three sons are sent on a quest to find the griffin's golden feather in order to save their father's sight.  When the youngest brother finds the golden feather, his brothers kill him and take the glory for themselves. As in Child ballad 10 and ATU 780, the bones of the wronged person sing/play music. 

Today's story is entitled The Griffin from Italian Popular Tales by Thomas Frederick Crane.
This version comes from here.

                     Image result for griffin  fairy tale

The Griffin
There was once a king who had three sons. His eyes were diseased, and he called in a physician who said that to cure them he needed a feather of the griffin. Then the kind said to his sons, "He who finds this feather for me shall have my crown."

The sons set out in search of it.

The youngest met an old man, who asked him what he was doing. He replied, "Papa is ill. To cure him a feather of the griffin in necessary. And papa has said that whoever finds the feather shall have his crown."

The old man said, "Well, here is some corn. When you reach a certain place, put it in your hat. The griffin will come and eat it. Seize him, pull out a feather, and carry it to papa."

The youth did so, and for fear that someone should steal it from him, he put it into his shoe, and started all joyful to carry it to his father. On his way he met his brothers, who asked him if he had found the feather. He said, "No," but his brothers did not believe him, and wanted to search him. They looked everywhere, but did not find it. Finally they looked in his shoe and got it. Then they killed the youngest brother and buried him, and took the feather to their father, saying that they had found it. The king healed his eyes with it.

A shepherd one day, while feeding his sheep, saw that his dog was always digging in the same place, and went to see what it was, and found a bone. He put it into his mouth, and saw that it sounded and said, "Shepherd, keep me in your mouth, hold me tight, and do not let me go! For a feather of the griffin, my brother has played the traitor, my brother has played the traitor."

One day the shepherd, with his whistle in his mouth, was passing by the king's palace, and the king heard him, and called him to see what it was. the shepherd told him the story, and how he had found it. The king put it to his mouth, and the whistle said, "Papa! Papa! Keep me in your mouth, hold me tight, and do not let me go. For a feather of the griffin, my brother has played the traitor, my brother has played the traitor."

Then the king put it in the mouth of the brother who had killed the youngest, and the whistle said, "Brother! Brother! Keep me in you mouth, hold me fast, and do not let me go. For a feather of the griffin, you have played the traitor, you have played the traitor."

Then the king understood the story and had his two sons put to death. And thus they killed their brother and afterwards were killed themselves.

Stay tuned next week for a version of the Singing Bone from Switzerland.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

What We Ate Wednesday--Hawaiian Cowboy Beans with Chutney Mushrooms

Hello lovelies! Sweet potatoes were on sale this week so there were several sweet potato dishes on the menu. I had one good sized one left and was deciding what to do with it so I went to recipe index (yes I have a recipe index, organised by major ingredients) and saw this recipe. We haven't had it in ages and so I was glad to have it again because it is delicious and uses many things that I always have on hand like curry paste and mango chutney.

It would be a great recipe for "jacket potatoes" if you cooked the sweet potatoes whole and in their skins, but I only had one tatws so I cubed it and roasted it that way.

It would also undoubtedly taste *amazing* with fresh pineapple, but my budget doesn't extend to that so I used tinned pineapple and you know what? It was FINE.

Now, I will be the first to admit that this is probably extremely inauthentic. Just because you add pineapple to something does NOT automatically make it Hawaiian. But that is what I call these, so that is what they will be. Call them whatever you like, just make them as they are a delicious meal using a cheap tin of baked beans.

If I was baking the potatoes in their jackets, I would put the pineapple in with the baked beans, but as I had cubed the sweet potato I just roasted the pineapple in the oven. I might go back to putting it with the beans next time.

Hawaiian Cowboy Beans with Chutney Mushrooms
Preheat your oven to 200C/400F.
If you are baking potatoes in their jackets they will need to bake longer so allow extra time for that. Here is how to do it with cubed sweet potato.

For the oven:
1 large or 2 smaller sweet potatoes, cubed
half a pepper, diced (red would have looked nicer, but all i had was yellow)
Tin of pineapple in juice not syrup (mine was in rings, so I drained it --save the juice--and chopped the rings)
1 TB oil
salt and pepper, to taste
1. Coat everything in oil and roast for 15 minutes, stir, roast 15 more. 


For the beans:
note about the beans: if you are British and using those flavourless red sauce beans, then add a big ole squidge BBQ sauce and 1 TB molasses. If you are using American beans with a decent sauce, then just use the beans)
1 white onion, sliced into thin rainbows
1 TB chopped or grated ginger root
1/2 to 1 tsp red pepper flakes (or to taste)
1 tin baked beans
2 TB pineapple juice (from the tin)
1. cook the onion in a splash of oil until softening and starting to brown then add the ginger and the red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant.
2. Add the beans (and the BBQ sauce and molasses if using) and the pineapple juice and simmer until the sweet potatoes are done. 

In another smaller pan, cook 8-10 sliced button mushrooms. While they are cooking make the sauce.

The sauce:
1 heaping tsp curry paste (we like Balti)
1 heaping TB mango chutney 
1-2 TB water or pineapple juice,  to thin
When the mushrooms are to your liking, then add the sauce and heat until the sauce bubbles. 

Serve the Hawaiian Beans and the Chutney Mushrooms over your Roasted Sweet Potato, Pepper and Pineapple.

You can just drink any remaining pineapple juice or if you are DIY inclined, you can save back a a few TB of the pineapple juice and mix with some bicarbonate of soda and make a nice alpha hydroxy acid scrub and exfoliate your face. I am sure that fresh pineapple would be even more amazing, but my skin looked brighter and felt softer afterwards, so tinned works too. 


Sunday, 7 May 2017

Murder Ballad Monday--Under the Green Old Oak-Tree (Antigua)

Hello and welcome to Murder Story Monday as I follow on from my research about Child Ballad 10 (The Twa Sisters) and explore the prose versions of bones that sing or tell of their fate to extract their revenge.

This week a tale in dialect from Antigua entitled  Under the Green Oak Tree. 
It was collected by  John H. Johnson in "Folk-Lore from Antigua, British West Indies,"  in The Journal of American Folk-Lore, vol. 34 (1921), Johnson's source was George W. Edwards, 50 years old, a native of Greenbay, Antigua.

This one bears some resemblance to the Hungarian version of Child ballad 10 entitled The Little Maple Tree that I discussed here in that the body of the girl was hidden in a tree and a bone was made into a musical instrument. The motif of the body parts being made into an instrument (in Child Ballad 10 most often a harp or fiddle, but in ATU 780 it is often a flute) is a common one in both song and story. 

This version comes from here
                                   Image result for the  singing bones
Under the Green Old Oak-Tree

Dis a nice little story. Der woman had two chil'ren. One was a boy, an' der oder was a girl. De fader a dese chil'ren die. Moder decide to marry again. She marry to anoder man. Each day dese chil'ren did go to de mountain to get flowers. Dey went on dis day. Girl had a better bucket den what de broder got. Dey comin' wid de flowers.

On his way home, de boy stop wid de gal. He t'inkin' some evil plan. Want dis bucket which was his sister. She would not consent to gi' him dis bucket. He t'ink it best to kill der sister. He kill de sister. He kill dis girl near to a big oak-tree. An' he hide her dere.

After he kill her, he go home. Can't give no account a he sister. Dey all went to search for de girl, but none can find her.

Der broder stay home. Month gone. Shepherd-boy dat is comin' down de mountain meet a big bone like a flute. He pick dis bone under dat same tree. He took up de bone an' play. Comin' home wid de flock, he play on de bone. It play a sweet tune:

My broder has killed me in de woods, an' den he buryth me.
My broder has killed me in de woods, an' den he buryth me
Under de green ol' oak-tree, an' den he buryth me.

Dat's all it could play. It play sweet, you know. Comin' home, all dat hear dis tune beg de boy for a play on it. He give dem a play. Now he way down de mountain. Mos' to where de moder is livin'. He meet de moder. She ask him for a play. He give her a play. As quick as she play, t'ing say:

My dear moder, my dear moder, it my dead bone you play.
My dear moder, my dear moder, it my dead bone you play.

She drop an' faint, but never die. All de people was lookin' for de girl. Dis broder meet de boy. He ask him for a play. Take de bone an' start. T'ing say:

My broder, it is you dat has killed me.
My broder, it is you dat has killed me.

An' dere he faints an' dies. Dat is de end a da green ol' oak-tree.

Stay tuned next week for a version of The Singing Bones from Italy. 

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

What We Ate Wednesday--Saucy Mushrooms and Kale with Roasted Sweet Vegetables

Hello Lovelies! Last week I talked about what I made with the 19p carrots and parsnips I got at Lidl on their Easter holiday sale. Last week I made savoury lentils and roasted sweet vegetables, but this week it's Saucy Mushrooms and Kale with Roasted Sweet Vegetables. The veg stays the same (because why mess with perfection?) but the main bit changes. I use mushrooms here as they are dead cheap and are a good source of, Folate, Iron, Zinc, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Potassium, Copper and Selenium just to name a few. Plus they are a wicked source of Vitamin D. But, if you are of the allergic persuasion like my friend Michelle, then you can substitute chickpeas for the mushrooms.

Saucy Mushrooms and Kale with Roasted Sweet Vegetables
Note: this sauce is based on one from Dreena Burton's cookbook Plant Powered Families. She uses it as a coating for making kale chips, but i don't have a dehydrator or the patience to do it in the oven, so we just use it as a sauce.

The sauce:
6 TB Nutritional yeast flakes
1 TB tahini
1 TB lemon juice
2 tsp tamari of soy sauce
1 tsp liquid sweetener (like agave, maple syrup or golden syrup)
1/4 tsp (smoked) sea salt
2 TB water to thin

To make the sweet vegetables;
1.Heat your oven to 220C/425F and preheat your pan. 
Slice your parsnips and carrots into baton shapes and place them in a large bowl. 
3. Then add 1 Tablespoon of oil, salt and pepper to taste.
4. When the oven is hot, remove the pan and pour pour veg into the hot pan (hear that sizzle!) and roast in a hot oven until brown and caramelised (30 minutes stirring half way) and then drizzle on a tablespoon of maple syrup or other liquid sweetener and cook for 2 minutes longer. Don’t overcrowd the pan or they’ll steam and not brown. I use 2-3 parsnips and 2 carrots. 

Meanwhile, do the rest. You need:
1 onion, diced
half a pepper, diced
12 button mushrooms, diced
2-3 cloves of crushed garlic
100g curly kale (4 cups or thereabouts we use half of a 200g bag), destemmed and torn into bits
1. Cook the onion and garlic in a splash of oil.
2. Add the mushrooms and pepper and cook until the mushrooms release their water.
3. Add the kale and cook until reduced and bright green (add a splash of water if needed) and then add the sauce and stir to coat.
4. When the sauce is hot,serve over brown rice with the roasted sweet vegetables.

It is a good combination of sweet and savoury. It is certainly a way to make kale more appealing for those who might be reluctant to try the leafy green stuff. I am sure this would have won me over as a child and I was a pretty hardcore veggie hater.

Which is only funny now as I am a veggie lovin', tree huggin' activist.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Murder Ballad Monday--The Singing Bones (French Louisiana)

Hello and welcome to the next part of Murder Story Monday. Last week I introduced the idea of the ATU classification system for folk tales and the first prose version of The Singing Bones that follows the same theme as Child ballad 10, The Twa Sisters.

This week our version of the story hails from my homeland. Not just America, but specifically Louisiana. This version was collected by Alcée Fortier in the book Louisiana Folk-Tales in French Dialect and English Translation  in 1895,  Fortier's source for the tale was "an old negress, 77 Esplanade Avenue [New Orleans]."

This version bears more than a passing resemblance to the Grimm's fairy tale The Juniper Tree. 
In that tale, the stepmother kills her stepson and feeds the boy to his father in the form of a stew. Little Sister Marlene saw the fate of her brother and refused to eat the stew, but instead carried the bones and buried them beneath the Juniper tree. The boy was reborn in the form of bird who sang a pretty song which said:

My mother, she killed me,
My father, he ate me,
My sister Marlene,
Gathered all my bones,
Tied them in a silken scarf,
Laid them beneath the juniper tree,
Tweet, tweet, what a beautiful bird am I.

The bird sang his song to the goldsmith, the shoemaker and the miller who gave him a gold chain, a pair of red shoes and a millstone. He gave the gold chain the the father, the red shoes to his sister and dropped the millstone on his wicked stepmother. (I always loved this tale, but struggled to believe that a tiny bird could carry a millstone round his neck like a collar. But I suppose he was an enchanted bird.)

If you'd like to read a version of the Juniper Tree then please go here.

Here is this week's version of the Singing Bones.

                              Image result for bones pen and ink hand graphics fairy

This version comes from here.

The Singing Bones
French Louisiana

Once upon a time there lived a man and a woman who had twenty-five children. They were very poor. The man was good, the woman was bad. Every day when the husband returned from his work the wife served his dinner, but always meat without bones.

"How is it that this meat has no bones?"
"Because bones are heavy, and meat is cheaper without bones. They give us more for the money."
The husband ate, and said nothing.
"How is it you don't eat meat?"
"You forget that I have no teeth. How do you expect me to eat meat without teeth?"
"That is true," said the husband, and he said nothing more, because he was afraid to grieve his wife, who was as wicked as she was ugly.

When one has twenty-five children one cannot think of them all the time, and one does not see if one or two are missing. One day, after his dinner, the husband asked for his children. When they were by him he counted them, and found only fifteen. He asked his wife where were the ten others. She answered that they were at their grandmother's, and every day she would send one more for them to get a change of air. That was true, every day there was one that was missing.
One day the husband was at the threshold of his house, in front of a large stone which was there. He was thinking of his children, and he wanted to go and get them at their grandmother's, when he heard voices that were saying:

Our mother killed us,
Our father ate us.
We are not in a coffin,
We are not in the cemetery.

At first he did not understand what that meant, but he raised the stone and saw a great quantity of bones, which began to sing again. He then understood that it was the bones of his children, whom his wife had killed, and whom he had eaten. Then he was so angry that he killed his wife, buried his children's bones in the cemetery, and stayed alone at his house.
From that time he never ate meat, because he believed it would always be his children that he would eat. 

That's all for this weeks Murder Story Monday. Stay tuned next week for a version of The Singing Bones from Antigua. 

Friday, 28 April 2017

Being Elsa

This post is not a pretty one because I am about to expose some of my worst qualities.

No one likes to think they are flawed, but we all are. No one is perfect. We all struggle. We all have our own personal demons. We all "wrestle with an angel until the breaking of the day."

The things I like best about myself  are my exuberance for living and my generous nature. I am often so happy that I am actually dancing down the street. I laugh openly and loudly and everywhere I go, I have a wonderful time. I love to do things for others, I get enormous pleasure baking, making cards, doing sewing repairs and sharing the love. You need something done? If I am capable of doing it, it is done. Need something I have? You can have mine. What can I give here instead of What can I get here is my motto.
                                 Image result for heart with barbed wire
But there is dark side that lurks in my heart that is full of anger and bitterness.

If holding grudges were an Olympic sport..I *just* might win a medal. Not the gold...but definitely the silver or bronze.

And that really shames me.

Because I am such a passionate and dramatic person, I can't seem to simply *retell* a story..I have to *relive* it. So just telling Spiderman a story of something that happened where I felt hurt means that I feel hurt all over again.

I am a sensitive soul, and I have always subscribed the philosophy:

Hurt me once, shame on you.
Hurt me twice, shame on me. 

Which sounds like I am releasing the person and the letting go of the pain they caused, but clearly I am not. Just ask me about the time that my grandmother stole my play-doh when I was three and smashed up my elephant and made a kangaroo and liked it so much she decided to KEEP IT...well, you can see I'm still not quite over that one 44 years later. 

So what has triggered this bout of self reflection?

This year is my 30th high school reunion.

Yeah, I am old.

And because a Face Book page has been set up so everyone can discuss the reunion, I have had several unexpected friend requests.

These have been from people who really did a great job of trying to make me feel small and insignificant back in high school. They seemed offended by my zest for life and bizarre fashion sense and made it their mission to belittle me with hurtful words or withering glances and now they wanted to be my friend.

I was troubled by this (to say the least).

My first reaction was a foolish prideful one that went something like this:
Yes, of course I would be delighted to be your friend and give you a window into my life. You once spread rumours that I should be voted Most Likely to Commit Suicide by the age of 25 (and insinuated that I aught to go ahead and do it to decrease the surplus population). You will see that I am really happy and blissfully in love with my best friend. We have lived in two different countries in the UK and are incredibly successful. Ha ha! You are stuck at a job (that I hope) you hate back in po-dunk Louisiana while I am swanning around Europe. Suck on that!! 
                                                     Image result for blow a  raspberry
I wasn't proud of that reaction, either.

I thought about the times that I had also made someone else's life unpleasant. I am ashamed to say, I can think of several. I have tried over the years to make amends for the wrong I have done others. Perhaps these people have regrets as well. I have grown up a lot and become a better person in the last 30 years, perhaps they have too.

Or perhaps they haven't.

The wise Sufi poet Rumi says:
Spotting faults in others is easy
and rehashing them, even easier,
but recognising your own faults
is real mastery.

The Bible says something similar:
Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but fail to notice the beam in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’’ while there is still a beam in your own eye? You hypocrite! First take the beam out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Matthew 7:3-5

If I really wanted to release negative thoughts and feelings once and for all, I was going to have to dig deeper into myself. Because who is being hurt by holding on to feelings of anger and bitterness? ME, that's who. Not them. ME.

                                    Image result for anger is a hot coal

My new morning routine includes positive affirmations, circuit training and prayers all at the same time in an effort to feed two birds with one loaf  (the proverb formerly known as kill two birds with one stone) and has proved to be enormously effective in strengthening my body, mind and spirit. I spent several days sweating it out with God, pouring my heart out to Him. Then throughout the day I would listen and hear what He wanted me to do. 

This is what we have come up this:

1. I do not have to accept their friend request. 
2. I do have to pray for them 
(But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless those that curse you, do good to those that hate you, and pray for those who speak evil about you, and persecute you; Matthew 5:44)
3. I do have to spend time every day sending them love and positive thoughts. I must wish for them everything that I desire for myself e.g love, health, a home, nutritious food, friends etc. I have to do do this until my heart is no longer on fire with anger and bitterness. 

Only if I do these things will I be able to be Elsa and be able to

                                     Image result for elsa let it go
          So here I am on day four of "letting it go." It feels pretty good. I feel like early Quaker Robert Barclay who said:

I found the evil in me weakening and the good raised up.         

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

What We Ate Wednesday--Savoury Lentils and Roasted Sweet Vegetables

Hello Lovelies! It's recently been Easter which means our favourite discount supermarket Lidl had carrots and parsnips on sale at holiday prices.A 1kg bag of carrots and a 500g bag of parsnips were on sale for 19p each. 19p, people! So of course we stocked up. The sale lasts for a week, so we bought some at the start and then went back the last day of the sale and picked up some for the next week's meals. Needless to say, we've had a lot of roasted parsnips and carrots. But I don't mind. They are healthy and nutritious. I have written about my love for the humble parsnip here. A 500g bag  contains 4-5 parsnips so I cook half for one meal and half for another.

Because the vegetables are sweet, it is nice to have a slightly savoury contrast with the lentils. This is really not so much of a recipe, as just throwing stuff together. But I'll do my best to explain it. Also, the lentils cooks a HUGE amount so we had some the day before mixed with sun dried tomatoes and kale over brown rice. I just heated up the lentils the next day for this meal, but am including the cooking directions below. The lentil recipe s based on one from Dreena Burton's fabulous cookbook Eat, Drink and Be Vegan. 

Savoury Lentils and Roasted Sweet Vegetables
To cook the lentils:
1 cup puy lentils, rinsed and picked over for stones
2.5 cups strong broth (I used 3 tsp broth powder and 1 tsp marmite)
1 tsp rosemary
1 tsp mixed herbs
1 tsp liquid smoke
3-4 cloves or crushed garlic

Bring it to the boil, simmer until the lentils are as soft as you like.

To make the sweet vegetables;
1.Heat your oven to 220C/425F and preheat your pan. 
Slice your parsnips and carrots into baton shapes and place them in a large bowl. 
3. Then add 1 Tablespoon of oil, salt and pepper to taste.
4. When the oven is hot, remove the pan and pour pour veg into the hot pan (hear that sizzle!) and roast in a hot oven until brown and caramelised (30 minutes stirring half way) and then drizzle on a tablespoon of maple syrup or other liquid sweetener and cook for 2 minutes longer. Don’t overcrowd the pan or they’ll steam and not brown. I use 2-3 parsnips and 2 carrots. 

Meanwhile, while your sweet veg is cooking, saute the following in another pan:
1 diced onion
6-7 diced button mushrooms
1 green pepper, diced
When that is cooked, then add your lentils and their cooking liquid.
Serve the savoury lentils, sweet roasted vegetables over brown rice.

That's it. it goes pretty quickly if you cooked your lentils the day before.

Next week, what else you can eat with roasted parsnips and carrots.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Murder Ballad Monday--The Singing Bone

Hello and welcome to Murder Ballad Monday, or perhaps I should say welcome to Murder Story Monday as for the next few weeks I want to continue with the theme that was explored in the ballad The Twa Sisters, but in prose form as opposed to lyrical form.

Whereas 305 traditional ballads were collected and categorised by Francis James Child (hence the name "Child Ballads") in the late 19th century, fairy tales and folk tales are classified under the Aarne-Thompson-Uther Tale Type Classification (ATU).

Antti Aarne was a Finnish folklorist and began the classification system used today to categorise folk tales. He first published his classification system in 1910. In 1920, Stith Thompson translated Aarne's work and expanded it making the Aarne-Thompson Classification. In 1961, Thompson published an updated version of Aarne's catalogue and created the AT Number System. The AT Number system was updated and expanded in 2004 by Hans-Jörg Uther where it became known as the ATU Classification System. 

The type of folk tale I am interested in for the purposes of this blog is ATU 780, also known as The Truth Comes to Light.

In both the ballad and the prose versions, the bones of the wronged person speak up and "the truth comes to light."  In the ballad version, it is always one sister who kills another, but it many of the folk tale versions it is brother killing brother. 

The folk tale I would like to begin with today is one that I remember from my childhood. It is a story by the Brothers Grimm entitled The Singing Bone. Author and illustrator extraordinaire Shaun Tan has created sculptures for many major and minor Grimm's tales in his book The Singing Bones.                                           Singing bone

The Singing Bone was originally published in the Grimm's Kinder- und Hausmärchen (Children's and Household Tales) in 1812. Here is a copy of the Grimm's Fairy Tale The Singing Bones courtesy of

The Singing Bone
Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

A wild boar was wreaking havoc throughout the country. No one dared venture into the forest where it ran about. With its tusks it ripped to pieces anyone who was bold enough to pursue it and attempt to kill it. Then the king proclaimed that anyone who could kill the boar would receive his daughter for a wife.

There were three brothers in the kingdom. The oldest was sly and clever; the second was of ordinary intelligence; but the third and youngest was innocent and slow witted. They wanted to win the princess, so they set forth to seek out the wild boar and kill it.

The two oldest ones went together, while the youngest one went by himself. When he entered the woods an old man approached him. He was holding a black lance in his hand, and said to him, "Take this lance and fearlessly attack the boar with it, and you will kill it." And that is what happened. He struck the boar with the lance, and it fell dead to the earth. Then he lifted it onto his shoulder, and cheerfully set off toward home.

On the way he came to a house where his brothers were making merry and drinking wine. When they saw him with the boar on his back, they called to him, "Come in and have a drink with us. You must be tired." The innocent simpleton, not thinking about any danger, went inside and told them how he had killed the boar with the black lance, and rejoiced in his good fortune. That evening they returned home together. The two oldest ones plotted to kill their brother. They let him walk ahead of them, and when they came to a bridge just outside the city, they attacked him, striking him dead. They buried him beneath the bridge. Then the oldest one took the boar, carried it to the king, claimed that he had killed it, and received the princess for a wife.

Many years passed, but it was not to remain hidden. One day a shepherd was crossing the bridge when he saw a little bone beneath him in the sand. It was so pure and snow-white that he wanted it to make a mouthpiece from, so he climbed down and picked it up. Afterward he made a mouthpiece from it for his horn, and when he put it to his lips to play, the little bone began to sing by itself:

Oh, dear shepherd
You are blowing on my bone.
My brothers struck me dead,
And buried me beneath the bridge,
To get the wild boar
For the daughter of the king.

The shepherd took the horn to the king, and once again it sang the same words. After hearing this, the king had his people dig under the bridge, and they soon uncovered the skeleton. The two wicked brothers confessed their crime and were thrown into the water. The murdered brother's bones were laid to rest in a beautiful grave in the churchyard.

That's all for week one of Murder Story Monday. Stay tuned next week for a version of the Singing Bone from French Louisiana. 

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

What We Ate Wednesday--"Hoisin" Noodle Bowl

Hello lovelies! We're back with another noodle bowl idea. We sure do eat a lot of these! They are easy to prepare, full of veggies and delicious sauces. What's not to love?

Previously I have written about Cheating stir fry noodle bowl which is quick and Singapore noodles which is equally delicious, but takes more time to make. Todays "Hoisin" Noodle Bowl is somewhere in between. This is mainly due to how long it takes you to destem and tear up the kale. After that, it's a piece of cake.

Why have I put "hoisin" in inverted commas, you ask? Well shop bought hoisin sauce in a jar has wheat in it  and this a Gluten Free version. Plus that's what Oh My Veggies calls it. I adapted my sauce from her recipe for Asian lettuce wraps that are meant to be like PF Changs. You can read her version here.

I adapted my version to what I had on hand. I don't use miso paste as it is expensive and has to be refrigerated, but I know that miso gives you that umami taste so I substituted my old friend Engevita nutritional yeast as nooch has the same umami quality. I also don't have rice wine vinegar so I just left it out.

I pride myself on having cheap and nutritious meals. This is one of them. If wheat is not an issue, it can be made even cheaper by using Ramen noodles (not the spice packet, just the noodles). They were a staple of my diet when I was at Uni because they were like 4 for $1. I have to remind myself that I haven't been a poor student in 25 years and I have no idea what they cost these days, but I would bet still cheap. I use rice noodle nests as they are gluten free. I can get 5 noodle nests for £1.49. I bet Ramen noodles would be even cheaper.

Hoisin Noodle Bowl
Make the sauce:
1/4 cup tamari or soy sauce
2 TB peanut butter
1 TB nutritional yeast flakes
1 TB liquid sweetener (agave, maple syrup or golden syrup) 
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
2-3 cloves crushed garlic
1 TB finely shopped ginger root
1 tsp sriracha hot sauce

For the rest:
100g curly kale (4 cups or thereabouts? It's half a bag for us) destemmed and torn into bite size bits
1 onion, chopped
half a pepper, diced
half a large carrot cut into matchsticks
1 tin water chestnuts, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup peanuts
2 noodle nests. 

1.Cook the onion, pepper and carrot until soft and add the kale. Cook the kale (adding a splash of water if needed) until reduced and bright green.
2. Meanwhile, boil your kettle. Tear up your noodle nests into smaller pieces to prevent shlurping and put them in a pot. Pour over boiling water and cook according to package directions. For me that's 3 minutes, then drain. 
3. Add the noodles, the sauce, the water chestnuts to the pot and heat until the sauce is bubbling.
4. Garnish with peanuts. 

You will note that there are no water chestnuts in the photo because I was running my mouth trying to tell Spiderman an amusing story about my day and I forgot them. So the recipe is fine without them, but better with them. Perhaps you are more talented than I am and can tell amusing stories and follow a recipe at the same time. Perhaps not. 

No matter which way you try it, you will find it good. 

Monday, 17 April 2017

Murder Ballad Monday--Cruel Sister (fabric art)

Hello and welcome to part 21 of Murder Ballad Monday. After finding 20 different versions of the ballad the Twa Sisters, I was inspired to create my one version of this ballad in fabric collage.

The idea came to me in the dreamtime (as so many of my ideas do) and so I woke up and sketched out the first four "pages" of the ballad. I wasn't sure how it was going to work. Would it be a quilt? Would it be a book? Time would tell.  I decided to look through my stash of fabric and bits and bobs and see what ideas inspired me.

I took a trip to our local craft shop Community Crafts.  This little shop has been in business for 40 years, and they always have the things I need. I spoke to the friendly ladies who work there, and they helped me find some special fabric to resemble water as well as some other speciality notions.

In the end, I decided to turn it into a book as it was more practical for storage. Also, it is a story so a book format seemed appropriate. I decided to add a caption for each panel. The caption was a line or a couplet from the ballad. I did not choose just one source material, I simply used the best line from several sources.

It took me several months to complete it, but it was worth it. It is a combination of hand sewing and machine sewing and I think it is gorgeous (if I do say so myself!) I am supremely proud of it.

You can click on any picture to enlarge it, if you want to see it in more detail.

the cover

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I am so pleased with it. I feel I was able to capture their facial expressions and I used a variety of textures in the fabrics (which really doesn't show up in the photos, but trust me they are there). I felt like Holman Hunt-- Victorian painter and founding member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood --who liked to have a large catalogue printed with every painting detailing the symbolism of every colour choice and minute detail. I really did think about each colour, each fabric, each texture and was about to create a catalogue to go with my booklet, but felt it was a bit of overkill. But I could go on (at length!) if you ask me about it. Spiderman would advise you not to do so to save your sanity. 

But that is the end of my reflections on the ballad the Twa Sisters. For the next ten weeks I will be looking at variations, not in music, but in story form of this theme. I will be looking at traditional/fairy tales from around the world with the theme The Singing Bones.