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. 

Monday, 28 August 2017

Murder Ballad Monday--Polly Vaughan by Tony Rose

Hello and welcome to Murder Ballad Monday. I am continuing to explore different versions of the Irish folk song Polly Vaughan classified as number 166 in the Roud Folk song index. This version is entitled Polly Vaughan and was sung by Tony Rose in 1976 on his album On Banks of Green Willow.
Image result for swan
This version is unusual in that the hunter is named Willy as he is always referred to as Jimmy or Jimmy Randall or by no name in the other versions. This one is also unusual in that his father seems to be indicating he will bring money to the trial (a hundred bright guineas) to help his son go free. Is this a bribe? Or just settling fine? Who knows. Thankfully, Polly’s ghost appears to say it was an accident, so Willy’s dad can save his money.

You can listen to this version here:

One midsummer's evening, the sun being gone down,
Young Polly went walking by the side of a pond.
She sat under the shady trees, the showers for to shun,
With her apron wrapped around her, as white as a swan.

Young Willy went hunting with his dog and his gun,
Young Willy went hunting as the evening came on.
Down among those green rushes, as the evening came on,
He shot his own true love in the room of a swan.

And when he'd seen what he'd done away he did run
Crying, “Father, dear father, do you see what I've done?
Down among those green rushes, as the evening came on,
I shot my own true love in the room of a swan.”

“Stay at home, dear Willy, till your trial do come on,
That you may not be banished to some far land.
On the day of your trial your father will appear
With a hundred bright guineas if that will you clear.”

On the day of the trial young Polly did appear,
Crying, “People, oh people, let Willy go clear,
Down among those green rushes, as the evening came on,
He shot his own true love in the room of a swan.”

That’s all for this week’s Murder Ballad Monday. Stay tuned for another look at this ballad when I look at a bluegrass version by the Dillards. 

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

What We Ate Wednesday--Roasted Parsnips, Carrots, and Chickpeas with Kale

Hello lovelies. This week’s meal was a “clean out the fridge” meal which was so gorgeous, it deserves a blogpost.

I looked in my fridge. I had parsnips and carrots and kale. I had chickpeas. I had brown rice. I had one tiny onion and a sorry half of a green pepper. I could do something with that.

I often roast parsnips and carrots and I often roast chickpeas, so I figured why not roast them together?

I decided to combine how I roast both of these and do my standard sautéed kale and serve it over rice.

This totally worked.

Roasted Parsnips, Carrots, and Chickpeas with Kale

Preheat your oven to 220C/ 425F and put your roasting tin in the oven to heat up.

In a bowl combine:
2 large or 4 small parsnips, cut into strips
1 large or 2 small carrots, cut into strips
1 tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 TB oil
1 TB tamari or soy sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
1 TB liquid sweetener like maple syrup, agave or golden syrup (don’t add this yet!)

1. When the oven is preheated, take your hot pan out and add the above into it. It will sizzle! Turn the heat down to 200C/400F and put back in the hot oven for 20 minutes.

On the hob:

When the countdown on your timer is about 5 minutes then sauté the following in a large pan in a splash of water or oil.

1 onion, sliced into rainbows
Half a pepper, chopped

2. When the timer beeps, stir and put back in the oven for 5 minutes. When the timer beeps again, take out the roasting tin and add your TB liquid sweetener and put it back in the hot oven for 5 more minutes.

3.Add 100g of kale (destemmed and torn up)—about 4-5 cups to the pan on the hob and cook with a splash of water until reduced and bright green. Then add:

A good glug of tamari or soy sauce
1 drizzle of toasted sesame oil
A good squidge of liquid sweetener like golden syrup

(I realise these measurements are imprecise, but that is how I do it.)

Serve the greens with the roasted veg (which are soft and caramelised) and the roasted chickpeas (which are crunchy) over brown rice.

 I use easy cook brown rice. I started boiling my water first, so that I put the roasting tin in the oven when the rice started to cook so they would come out round the same time.  Make sense?

This was super healthy and super delicious. It made enough for 4 servings or two greedy people servings. 

The Sad Story With The Happy Ending

Once upon a time, in a land far away there lived a man and a woman. They lived in a funny house that was pink on the outside and much bigger than it appeared on the inside. They called it the TARDIS house.

They lived in that big house, just the two of them for many years. The lady, who was a teacher, spent all day with small children. They were not able to have children of their own so she spent her days being mother to the munchkins in her class. Her life was good. Sometimes she was sad, but all she had to do was look into the face of her 30 bright-eyed first graders and she was happy again.

One day, a little girl came into their lives. She was one of the lady’s favourite students and she needed a home. She lived with the man and the woman for a year and it was a good year. The lady was a mother. The little girl had parents who loved her. They were hoping to adopt the little girl and give her the forever home she deserved.

But it was not to be.

For reasons too complicated to explain, the adoption could not go through and the little girl had to be sent back to live with her family.

The lady was devastated. The man was sad. The little girl was heartbroken.

The lady lost touch with the little girl and never knew what had happened to her. Was she happy? Were they treating her well? Was she loved? Did she remember the man and woman who had loved her so much?

The woman was so sad inside that she tucked away her sadness and rarely spoke about her daughter. It hurt too much to remember.  It was too complicated to explain how it all fell apart, but she thought of her daughter every day. She prayed that she was OK and that she would remember the lady with love.

Years went by and the man and woman decided to leave their past behind and move far, far away. The sailed the ocean to their new home and made a life for themselves on distant shores.

But still, sometimes, the woman was woken up at night with thoughts of her little girl. “Does she hate me because we had to give her back?” she wondered. “Does she know that it was not our choice?”
              Image may contain: 1 person, selfie, close-up and indoor
Recently, the little girl (who was all grown up) found the lady and they are a family again. They never forgot each other. They never stopped loving each other.

Through the miracle of modern technology, they “skype” and talk to each other and try to make sense of the past and catch up on the missing years.

The woman cries when she thinks of all the birthdays and milestones she missed. She cries when she hears the life that her daughter had-- which is not the life that she (or any child) deserves. She cries when she thinks of the life they could have given her. She laughs when she sees her grandbabies.
Yes…the woman went from childless to mother and grandmother all in one go.

It is overwhelming but wonderful.

It does not matter what is the colour of their skin, but what is in their heart.

It does not matter if they are blood kin or not. Family is who loves you and supports you unconditionally.

They are a family.

I love you my baby girl, Monjae.

Welcome home. 

Monday, 21 August 2017

Murder Ballad Monday--Molly Bawn (Alison Kraus and the Chieftans)

Hello and welcome to Murder Ballad Monday. Last we looked at a very traditional Irish version of Molly Bawn by the Dubliners. This week, a more ethereal version of this song by Alison Kraus with the Chieftans from the album Down the Old Plank Road: The Nashville Sessions which was released in 2002.
             Image result for swan on a lake         
It is a strange mash-up that begins like the Dubliners’ version and ends like Peter, Paul and Mary’s one.  

You can listen to Alison Kraus and the Chieftans here:

I have included the lyrics below if you’d like to follow along.

Come all ye young fellas
That handle a gun
Beware of night rambling
By the setting of the sun
And beware of an accident
That happened of late
To young Molly Bawn
And sad was her fate

She was going to her uncles
When a shower came on
She went under a green bush
The shower to shun

Her white apron wrapped around her
He took her for a swan
But a hush and sigh
Was his own Molly Bawn

He quickly ran to her
And found she was dead
And there on her bosom
Where he soaked, tears he shed

He ran home to his father
With his gun in his hand
Saying "Father dear father
I have shot Molly Bawn"

Her white apron wrapped around her
He took her for a swan
But a hush and a sigh
'Twas his own Molly Bawn

He roamed near the place
Where his true love was slain
He wept bitter tears
But his cries were in vain
As he look on the lake
A swan glided by
And the sun slowly sank
In the gray of the sky

That’s all for this week. Stay tuned next week for a version entitled Polly Vaughan by Tony Rose.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Reconnecting to the Disconnect

It has been a day.

A day for connection.

A day for reflection.

A day to remind me why I chose compassion over cruelty.

A day that reminded me that for many years I did not.

A day for atonement.

The Carmarthen and Pembrokeshire Vegans spent the afternoon at GREENACRES ANIMAL RESCUE in the freezing Welsh rain. Our tour guide Mikey led us around, showed us the animals and told us their stories. He kindly took this picture of us in one of the rare moments when the rain had stopped.
                          Image may contain: 10 people, people smiling, people standing
There were cats and dogs waiting to be find their forever home. I did not tour their quarters due to my allergies. But i am told that most of the cats that are left are black or black and white because cats with colour are chosen first. A ginger cat would be snatched up in a heartbeat, but a black moggy has to wait to be re-homed.

There were a variety of ducks and chickens, many ex-battery hens. Many with missing feathers, spindly legs and no beaks.

There were alpaca, sheep, horses, ferrets and bunnies and pigs. Beautiful pigs. Enormous pigs that looked you right in the eyes with a cheeky expression and were happy to be scritched behind the ears like a dog.

But I could not take my eyes off of the turkeys.

I have never seen a live turkey before. Only dead ones on a plate. There were three females in one pen and I watched them closely. I saw one who had had her beak burned off with a hot wire to prevent her from pecking other birds who had been closely confined. I saw her difficulty eating grain. It made me want to cry.

In another part of the barn was a gorgeous tom turkey named Mr T who looked like this:
                           Image result for tom turkey
He was magnificent. There is no other word for it. And I felt hot tears of shame welling in my eyes because of the indoctrination I had as a child.


Sometimes people called it Turkey-day.

You didn't just eat some sliced meat on a sandwich at Thanksgiving, you murdered a whole bird and put it as a centrepiece on your table.

I looked forward to Thanksgiving all year because I loved turkey. But I did not love turkeys.

Seriously, turkey was my favourite meat. I never saw the animal, even when it was animal shaped sitting on my grandmother's table. I was blinded by my taste buds.

We got a special kind of turkey every year. A Greenberg Smoked Turkey. They injected the birds with this pepper solution which made them taste *amazing*. They were "grown locally" near my grandmother's house in Tyler, Texas. We always felt like we were doing something good by getting a bird that was local. Not some anonymous bird with dubious origins from the local supermarket freezer, but a Greenberg. I visited their website to see if they were still going. It read:

Greenberg smoked turkey is a treat that is not to be missed, so much so that around 200,000 customers make us part of their holiday season each year. 

200,000. Each year. That's 200,000 lives lost every year.

I ate Greenberg turkey every Thanksgiving and Christmas for 34 years. That is 68 lives that I am personally responsible for taking.

It got me thinking about how we objectify and glorify turkeys in school. I did this all through my school career and I am guilty of doing this as a teacher.

The month of November is all about turkeys. And Pilgrims with buckles on their hats which would NOT have been there (a pet peeve of mine, but that's a tale for another day.)

As teachers we make work fun by doing things like this:
              Image result for turkey math sheets

We all thought turkeys were fun.

And then we do art like this:
Image result for turkey hand print

We all thought turkeys were beautiful.

And finally, we read books like this:

Image result for twas the night before thanksgiving dav pilkey

This fantastic tale is all about a group of kids on a school trip to a farm who find out that that turkeys are going to be killed and stage an act of animal liberation by hiding the turkeys under their coats and take them home and have a vegetarian meal instead with the turkeys as guests.

I read this every year to my class. I read it and we all cheered because no one (and I mean NO ONE) wanted to see those animals die.

Then we all went to the cafeteria and ate this:
    Image result for turkey for thanksgiving

I couldn't see it.

I didn't want to see it.

But now I do.

Seeing those turkeys today made me realise how glad I am that we are vegan. How important it seems to choose compassion.

Many people ask me "Don't you miss meat?" I hold my hand up and admit that I used to LOVE the taste of meat. Especially turkey. Especially Greenberg turkey. But somehow, it stopped being about me and what I wanted. It started being about what is RIGHT and what is FAIR.

For years, there was this disconnect between the lives of sentient beings and my plate. These days, we are connected to life and all the living beings that inhabit this blue-green planet.  All the food we eat is delicious and cruelty free.

Today reminded me of the connection.

I let that turkey nuzzle my hand and I said a 68 apologies to him and his brethren for the lives I wilfully took.

It is good to reconnect with animals to help remind us they are beings in their own right who feel pain as well as joy, just as we do. If you have an animal sanctuary near you, I urge you visit and meet your meat if you are not vegan.

I would also say if you have spare cash and want to do something nice for animals please send some donations to Greenacres which you can do {HERE}

Be veg, go green to save the animals, yourself and the planet.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

What We Ate Wednesday--Breakfast for Dinner

Hello lovelies! We were visited recently by a friend and her lovely granddaughters where we did some baking and then watched the film version of Watership Down. No, we're not crying..(sniff) there's just a bit of dust in our eyes...(sniff)

 We were gifted  with some smoked tofu from our friends (thanks Lizzie and Co!) Some of it was the kind you can eat straight from the package, so we did. but the other sort was quite soft, so we thought...tofu scramble! 

Since we don't really buy tofu these days, when we want to have Breakfast for Dinner we normally do {THIS} but because we had some yummy tofu to use up, we did it this way. If you are soy free then just use the above recipe.

We thought, what goes well with scramble? Cowboy Beans of course! I have talked previously about my feelings about British Baked Beans. That red, runny sauce just doesn't cut it with me. I have to "pimp" my beans. If you are British and grew up with flavourless beans and that is how you like them, then by all means just plunk them in a pan and heat them up. If you are American, then just buy something like Bush's vegetarian baked beans and save you the trouble. But if you are British like us, but need good ole smoky Southern style beans then go {HERE} to learn how.

So what goes with tofu scramble and cowboy beans? I know! GRITS! If you are from the American South you know what I am talking about here. If you are British, you are out of luck I am afraid. You cannot get grits here. Well, you can. If you are lucky enough to have family who take pity on you and pays to send you boxes once a year or fill their suitcase half full with boxes when they visit.

I have got one of those caring families. You probably do not. We ration our grits to make them last, but eventually there comes a time when they run out. *SOB*. When this happens, we substitute frozen hash browns. Nothing wrong with hash brows. you can get 750g for £1 at Tesco.

But they ain't grits.

Anyway, this came together super quick. I made it after work and wasn't at all HANGRY doing it.

Breakfast for Dinner
For the beans:
1 white onion, chopped (divided--3/4 to the beans, 1/4 to the scramble)
tin of baked beans
(optional) BBQ sauce, molasses, liquid smoke (see recipe link above)

for the scramble:
1 packet of soft tofu or the recipe above to make it soy free
onion from above
garlic to taste
6 button mushrooms, sliced
6 sun dried tomatoes, snipped into bits
1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp sea salt flakes
Pepper, to taste

For the Grits or the hash browns:
Make according to package directions.

1. Cook 3/4 of your onion in a TB of water until soft and then add the beans and the pimped fixin's and simmer.
2. Meanwhile, in a drizzle of oil, cook the onion in  a skillet until softened, then throw in the mushrooms and garlic and sun dried tomatoes. When they are softened, crumble in the tofu and add everything else.
3. Keep stirring the scramble to get it coated and cook the tofu. When the tofu is hot, remove and serve.

That's it.

Quick and dirty.

A bit like the American South.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Murder Ballad Monday--Molly Bawn (The Dubliners)

 Hello and welcome to Murder Ballad Monday. This week a version of this folk song entitled Molly Bawn. According to "The Fiddlers companion" website, the title "Molly Bawn" is an Anglicised corruption of the Gaelic "Mailí Bhán," or Fair Mary (Fairhaired Mary, White Haired Mary).
                  Image result for swan under tree
This version is more traditional and is by the Dubliners (as you would expect from them) from their album At It Again from 1968.  We have the explanation of why she had her apron about her (she was hiding under a green bush to avoid a sudden shower of rain) and her ghost does appear, not at Jimmy’s trial, but as her wake. We also have a hint of the mean girl attitude that we saw in the previous version with all the other girls secretly glad she’s dead as she was so beautiful, but as in the previous song—none could hold a candle to her beauty.

Interestingly, Molly is on her way to see her uncle when the tragedy occurs. Usually, the male character (unnamed or called Jim or Jimmy) goes to see his father or his uncle after the shooting, but here is the only version I know where she is visiting an uncle. 
He also goes to see his uncle in this version (there are a lot of uncles in this tale), but it interesting that she does too. It gives her a good reason to be out and about during a storm.

You can listen to the Dubliners version here:

I have included the lyrics below if you’d like to follow along.
Oh come all you young fellows
That follows the gun
Beware of night's rambling
By the setting of the sun
Beware of an accident
As happened of late
To young Molly Bawn
And sad was her fate

She'd been goin' to her uncle's
When a storm it came on
She drew under a green bush
The shower for to shun
With her white apron wrapped around her
He took her for a swan
Took aim and alas
It was his own Molly Bawn

Oh young Jimmy ran homewards
With his gun and his dog
Saying: 'Uncle, oh uncle
I have shot Molly Bawn
I have killed that fair female
The joy of my life
For I'd always intended
That she would be my wife'

Oh young Jimmy rambling
Do not run away
Stay in your old country
Till your trial it comes on
For you'll never be convicted
For the shooting of a swan
Well the night before Molly's funeral
Her ghost it did appear
Saying: 'Uncle, dearest uncle
Oh let young Jimmy run clear'

'It'd been late of an evening
Well he took me for a swan
Took aim and alas
He killed his own Molly Bawn'
Now all the girls of this country
They seem to be glad
Now the flower of Glen Arra
Molly Bawn she lies dead

Get all the girls of this country
And stand them into a row
Molly Bawn would shine among them
Like a mountain of snow

That’s all for this week. Stay tuned next week for a version of Molly Bawn by Alison Kraus and the Chieftans.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

What We Ate Wednesday--One Pot (really and truly) Pasta

Hello lovelies! If you hang around social media long enough, eventually *someone* will be talking about One Pot Pasta. This idea is everywhere! You cook everything in one pot. One pot, people!

I put it to the test to see if this was too good to be true.

It is NOT too good to be true.

It is gorgeous and quick and easy. And did I mention delicious???

Most recipes I saw folks talking about used spaghetti and we just don’t roll that way. 

We like pasta shapes (shells in particular) and didn’t want a recipe that fed a crowd.

There are only two of us. Two’s company and three’s a crowd.

Although technically this recipe could have fed three people. Perhaps that should read Two greedy people are company and three people can sod off so there is more for the greedy pair.

So, I looked on google until I found recipes that fed 2-3 people and used pasta shapes so I would know how much liquid to add to make the ratio correct. Then I ignored their choice of ingredients and used vegan ones I know we like.

I also put it to the timed test. I had been on a video call with my daughter Monjae and we got off the phone late. I had 15 minutes before Spiderman would be home from work. Could I get it together by the time he got home?

Yes, I could!

Amazing One Pot (really and truly) Pasta

In a big pot put the following:
1 chopped onion
Half a chopped pepper
1 small carrot, diced small
3-4 cloves chopped garlic (or to taste)
5 button mushrooms, sliced
6 sun dried tomatoes, snipped into bits
Punnet cherry tomatoes, cut in half (mine cost 69p and was 330g)
Splash of water to keep it from sticking

1.Start to heat the pan with everything in it whilst you boil your kettle.
2. In your kettle boil 2.5 cups water.
3. Add the following to the pot:

2 to 2.5 cups pasta shapes (we used 2 cups)
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
1 tsp salt
½ tsp red pepper flakes
1 crumbled stock cube (I used 2 tsp broth powder plus 1 tsp marmite to make the stock richer tasting)
Glug of olive oil (optional, but good)

4. Pour over the boiling water and bring to the boil. Boil as long as it takes for your pasta to cook (my Gluten Free pasta takes 8 minutes). Make sure you keep stirring so it doesn’t stick.
5. When your pasta is cooked, the sauce will be done. The tomatoes will have burst and made a delicious sauce. Ours seemed a wee bit runny so I added a slurry of 1 TB starch (like corn starch/cornflour to my British peeps) whisked with ¼ cold water. I added this and kept stirring until the sauce thickened slightly.

How long did it take? Probably 15 minutes start to finish.

Was it tasty? Oh yeah. We topped ours with some vegan Parmesan. It was quite saucy (oo-er, Mrs!) so we ate it with a spoon. 

It could easily be doubled if you have more than two greedy people to feed.

This will definitely be in our rotation of meals we need super-duper quick because we have both just gotten in from work and are tired.

We were discussing that you could make variations on a theme. We were thinking of a Mexican version keeping the same veg and cherry tomatoes, but subbing Chili powder for the oregano and basil and adding black beans and sweetcorn and topping with a squeeze of lime juice and a drizzle of cashew cheese sauce.

We shall report back if we give this one a go.

But seriously….one pot…minimal clean up…whole food….real food…nutritious food…cruelty free. Compassion tastes good.