Friday, 27 December 2019

Fairy Tale Friday--Cinderella Pantomime

Hello and welcome to Fairy Tale Friday. Are you sitting comfortably? Good. Then I’ll begin.
From our local panto

Today we look at the Pantomime –that great British Christmas tradition. I have chosen it to follow musicals because a pantomime is an all singing all dancing extravaganza with lots of famous guest stars.

 According to Wikipedia:
A pantomime is a type of musical comedy stage production designed for family entertainment. It was developed in England and is performed throughout the United Kingdom, Ireland and (to a lesser extent) in other English-speaking countries, especially during the Christmas and New Year season. Modern pantomime includes songs, gags, slapstick comedy and dancing. It employs gender-crossing actors and combines topical humour with a story more or less based on a well-known fairy tale, fable or folk tale. Pantomime is a participatory form of theatre, in which the audience is expected to sing along with certain parts of the music and shout out phrases to the performers.
Pantomime has a long theatrical history in Western culture dating back to classical theatre. It developed partly from the 16th century commedia dell'arte tradition of Italy and other European and British stage traditions, such as 17th century masques and music hall. 

I have chosen to talk about the pantomime because Cinderella is one of the most popular stories performed. So what makes a pantomime a pantomime and how does it differ from a conventional play?

Again, thanks to Wikipedia for this information.

Performance conventions

The form has a number of conventions, some of which have changed or weakened a little over the years, and by no means all of which are obligatory.

The leading male juvenile character is traditionally played by a young woman in male garments (such as breeches). Her romantic partner is usually the principal girl, a female ingénue. NOTE: I have actually only seen one panto like this in the nearly sixteen years that we have lived in the UK.

An older woman (the pantomime dame – often the hero's mother) is usually played by a man in drag. NOTE:  This has been true in every panto we have attended, which is why Cinderella is such good fun—you get two men in drag for the price of one as there are two ugly step sisters.

Risqué double entendre, often wringing innuendo out of perfectly innocent phrases. This is, in theory, over the heads of the children in the audience and is for the entertainment of the adults. NOTE: This is true in every show we have seen along with the most terrible, corny jokes that make me laugh like a donkey.

Audience participation, including calls of "He's behind you!" (or "Look behind you!"), and "Oh, yes it is!" and "Oh, no it isn't!" The audience is always encouraged to hiss the villain and "awwwww" the poor victims, such as the rejected dame, who is usually enamoured with one of the male characters. NOTE: This is the best part. You get to shout at the stage!

Music may be original but is more likely to combine well-known tunes with re-written lyrics. At least one "audience participation" song is traditional: one half of the audience may be challenged to sing "their" chorus louder than the other half. Children in the audience may even be invited on stage to sing along with members of the cast.

The animal, played by an actor in "animal skin" or animal costume. It is often a pantomime horse or cow (though could even be a camel if appropriate to the setting), played by two actors in a single costume, one as the head and front legs, the other as the body and back legs.

The good fairy enters from stage right (from the audience's point of view this is on the left) and the villain enters from stage left (right from the point of view of the audience). This convention goes back to the medieval mystery plays, where the right side of the stage symbolised Heaven and the left side symbolised Hell.

A slapstick comedy routine may be performed, often a decorating or baking scene, with humour based on throwing messy substances. Until the 20th century, British pantomimes often concluded with a harlequinade, a free-standing entertainment of slapstick. Since then, the slapstick has been incorporated into the main body of the show.

At some point during the performance, characters including the Dame and the comic will sit on a bench and sing a cheerful song to forget their fears. The thing they fear, often a ghost, appears behind them, but at first the characters ignore the audience's warnings of danger. The characters soon circle the bench, followed by the ghost, as the audience cries "It's behind you!" One by one, the characters see the ghost and run off, until at last the Dame and the ghost come face to face, whereupon the ghost, frightened by the visage of the Dame, runs away. NOTE: Okay, I was wrong. This is the best bit. It does involve shouting at the actors but also some spooky music and jaunty dancing.  

When you watch a pantomime of Cinderella there are some features that appear in almost every show:
   Cinderella lives at Hardup Hall. Her father has died, and she is awaiting her two stepsisters to come and join her at the dilapidated manor house. The house has fallen into disrepair since the death of her father who died leaving debts.
      A servant named Buttons works at Hardup Hall. He is secretly in love with Cinderella, but she sees him only as a friend. When he comes on stage, he shouts, “Hiya kids!” and you have to shout, “Hiya Buttons!” or something similar. At our local panto, he is called JJ Buttons and he shouts, “Wayhey!” and you reply, “JJ!”

·        The prince and his manservant Dandini swap places so he can venture out in the world without being recognised. In it is in this disguise that he meets Cinderella and the stepsisters who think of him as a servant.
The stepsisters wear increasingly outrageous outfits as the show progresses. In every show we ever seen of Cinderella, they have also picked out a poor man on the front row and flirted with him outrageously.

Cinderella being "tested" by the Good Fairy in disguise to see if she is generous and kind and deserving of help. She is. 
Buttons try to cheer Cinders up by dressing her for the ball with a colander on her head for a crown, 14 carrots on a string for a 14 caret necklace and a clothes horse to pull an imaginary coach before she gets transformed by the Good Fairy.

Real ponies are often used in as a "walk on" to pull Cinderella's coach. (I don't like this bit from an animal welfare standpoint) 

The rest is as you would expect—abuse, redemption, a ball and a slipper, a midnight curfew, and a wedding. The cast is also riddled with famous actors taking the lead roles. At our local panto, they are more local famous people, but famous people nonetheless. 

Here are some scenes from a panto version of Cinderella. It was filmed live for TV and is full of famous faces that sadly my American friends will not recognise, but my British ones will. 

This is an introduction to Cinderella, Buttons and the evil stepmother.

Meeting the ugly stepsisters and the real Dandini. 

Cinderella's "test" (in this one the Good Fairy is played by gay icon Julian Clary) and the Prince and Dandini swap places. 

The Prince in disguise meets Cinderella in the woods, the stepsisters wear some ridiculous outfits, and Cinderella thinks she is prevented from going to the ball.

Buttons tries to cheer Cinders up, the good fairy transforms her rags to a ball gown and a real pony appears to pull her coach. 

At the ball Cinderella and the Prince dance, fall in love and kiss and then she runs away at midnight.

Slapstick with the ugly stepsisters which involves hanging wallpaper. 

Trying on the slipper and a marriage proposal.

That's all for this week, stay tuned next week for a gender bending Cinderella. 

Wednesday, 25 December 2019

What We Ate Wednesday for Christmas

Hello lovelies! Happy holidays to you all!
Image result for happy vegan christmas"
This is my 15th year being vegan and it just gets better and better. Knowing that our Christmas meal is cruelty free makes it even more delicious. Some people think they will feel deprived being a vegan because of "what you have to give up" but really you can count on one hand things you DON'T have and then can count to the moon and back all the scrumptious, healthy (and decadent) things you CAN have. It is truly a win-win situation--for the animals, the planet and your health.

Last night on Christmas eve we ate Christmas Soup by The Happy Pear.  This soup with sweet potato, parsnips and chestnuts topped with cranberries really does taste like ChristmasYou can find the recipe in the video below.

This morning we woke up and I made Sinless Sticky Toffee Pudding for breakfast. This recipe has considerably lower fat and sugar than you would find anywhere and bakes up a treat with gluten free flour. You can find the recipe by clicking the link: STICKY TOFFEE PUDDING

Tonight we had a cashew and cranberry nutroast, with a mix of mashed white and sweet potatoes, roasted carrots and parsnips, orange cranberry sauce,  petit pois and lashings of gravy. I bought the nutroast in a "just add water" packet to make life easier. Links below to show you how to make the roasties and the gravy.

Cranberry Sauce
300 g fresh cranberries
1/2 cup water
zest and juice of 1 orange
1/3 cup liquid sweetener of choice (we like it tangy...but if too tart for you add a TB or two more)
Boil until the cranberries pop and break down and it thickens. Let cool.

Mashed Potatoes 
Top tip: boil your taters in vegetable stock then save back some stock when you drain them. Then instead of milk and butter add back some veg stock for the creamiest, most flavorful mash ever!

Tomorrow we will have Chestnut and Mushroom Risotto with Roasted Carrots and Parsnips (see method above). This will use the chestnuts I didn't use in the Christmas Soup and will look something like this:
from last year's Christmas
That's all for What We Ate Christmas....may 2020 be the year that you do something wonderful--GO VEGAN!


Friday, 20 December 2019

Fairy Tale Friday--Into the Woods

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

For the last few weeks we have been looking at musical versions of the classic tale of Cinderella. Today I want to look at the award winning musical Into the Woods with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by James Lapine. This musical intertwines the plot of several fairy tales by both the Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault.
Image result for into the woods play"
 One of the reasons I like this musical so much is that it harkens back to the darker versions of these tales and is sort of the anti-Disney. Which is why it is a shame that Disney produced a live action version because they chopped and changed it and made it just another musical rather than the dark and often quite creepy production that it really is.

I am biased though having loved this musical for a very long time. The original show premiered in 1986 and transferred to Broadway in 1987. I have the "filmed live" version with the Broadway cast on DVD and the performances are top notch. The Broadway run was nominated for ten Tony awards and won three--Best Score, Best Book and Best Actress in a Musical for Joanna Gleason.  When it premiered in the West End it was nominated for seven Olivier Awards and won two--Best Actress in a Musical for Imelda Staunton and Best Director. These last awards are so well deserved. Staunton injects a range of feelings into the role of the Baker's Wife and Gleason really brings out the humour in Lapine's words unlike the po-faced Emily Blunt in the live action film.

But I digress. We are here to talk about Cinderella.

This musical uses many of the elements found in the oldest versions of our classic tale:

1. The King is giving a festival--not just a one night ball--that last for three days.
2.  She is forced to sort lentils from the ashes as an impossible task.
3. Cinderella can talk to birds and they help her in her impossible tasks.(see above)
4. Her mother's grave has a hazel tree on it that was watered with her tears and serves as the magical helper.
5. The slippers are golden and not glass (the glass slipper was an invention of Perrault)
6. Pitch or tar was spread on the steps to keep her from running away.
7. The stepsisters cut off their toes and their heels to try to fit into the shoe.
8. At the wedding, birds fly down and peck out the eyes of the stepsisters.

I have seen this as an outdoor show in Regent's Park and it was delightful. That show was adapted and brought to the US and played in Central Park in New York. The Broadway version is top notch and even the West End version with it's strange stark whiteness of set and costume was better than the Disney film, in my opinion. I had hoped to show you songs from different versions, but I can find no video clips from the West End version.

The first song is from the opening of the show. It is everyone that we will meet in the show and tells of the dreams and wishes of all of fairy tale characters.

Here we have Cinderella at the grave of her mother.

Here we are with Cinderella meeting the Baker's Wife in the woods and talking about her feelings about being at the ball. I would have loved to have found a clip from the Broadway version for this one as Joanna Gleason's performance adds so much warmth and humour to the scene that I feel Emily Blunt is lacking.

Lastly, we have Cinderella stuck on the steps of the palace. I like this version because it's a time freeze where her split second thinking is broken up by a song as time momentarily stops everything around her. You also get to see what it would be like to be stuck in real pitch.

Here we have the Stepmother mutilating the feet of her daughters to fit into the shoe. The Disney film was the only clip I could find which is a shame as they don't show the cutting. The Broadway version does this masterfully with the spirit of Cinderella's mother warning the Prince to "look for the blood within the shoe" as he passes the hazel tree on his horse. 

If you have only seen the Disney adaptation and you want to watch the Broadway production, you can watch it here in its entirety.

That's all for this week. Stay tuned next week as we explore the very British tradition of Pantomime.

Wednesday, 18 December 2019

What We Ate Wednesday--Mexican Bowl

Hello lovelies! I am jumping on the bandwagon of eating stuff in bowls. Not just any bowls, but those nice wide flat bowls where all your food can be side by side and not piled on top of itself, if you know what I mean.

We recently invested in some nice bowls for meals such as this. I thought I would do a Mexican one as my inaugural meal. This was really easy to could add any extras you fancied like guacamole (I can't do this due to my avocado allergy, but for the rest of you go on) or some salad greens with chopped tomatoes.

Mexican was a good choice as it tasted delicious and it looked really pretty all laid out side by side.

This meal has Spanish rice, spicy black beans, sweetcorn with red pepper and lime and cucumber. I just used half a cucumber and fed the rest to the Bronte Snails.

Mexican Bowl
For the Spanish rice:
1 TB red wine vinegar
2 TB tamari or soy sauce
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp oregano
3 TB tomato puree
1 cup easy cook brown rice
 Add your vinegar and soy sauce to a one cup measuring cup and then top up until you have a full cup and add it to your rice pot. Then fill up another cup of water (to make a total of 2 cups liquid) and add that to your rice pot. Add the spices and tomato puree and whisk until the puree is broken up and dissolved. Bring your liquid to the boil then add your brown rice and turn down the heat and let it simmer until all the liquid is absorbed. It will take slightly longer than standard rice as the tomato puree makes the liquid thick. But it will be worth it.

Meanwhile make the black beans:
1 onion, sliced into rainbows
tin of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 TB taco seasoning of your choice (mine is a pre-made mix i buy at Tesco)
juice of half a lemon
Cook your onion in 1/4 cup water or vegetable stock until softened then add your garlic. Add in your beans and spices and lemon juice and cook a few more minutes until heated through. If the rice is still not quite there yet, take it off the heat and then warm it back up again when rice is done.

Side dishes:
1 cup frozen sweetcorn
half a red pepper, diced
1 TB lime juice


Defrost your frozen corn in boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain and add the red pepper and the lime juice. Slice the cucumber into rounds.

Serve all together in a lovely wide bowl if you have one and marvel at how pretty everything looks and then scoff the lot.

Friday, 13 December 2019

Fairy Tale Friday--The Slipper and the Rose

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

Last week we looked at the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical version of Cinderella. This week I want to look at the musical The Slipper and the Rose. This musical was a British film that was produced in 1976 and was selected as the Royal Command Performance motion picture selection for that year. The music was provided by the American duo The Sherman Brothers who were responsible for the songs in such films as Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Charlotte’s Web, The Aristocats and The Jungle Book (except the Bare Necessities which was written by Terry Gilkyson.) They are also responsible for that earworm “It’s a Small World.”

The cast is full of the crème de la crème of (mostly) British actors—Gemma Craven as Cinderella, Richard Chamberlain as the Prince, Michael Hordern, Kenneth More, Edith Evans and Annette Crosby. Several of the songs were nominated for an Academy Award. The Georgian era costumes are stunning. So why did I hate it?

I know I am here merely to report to you, my loyal readers, versions of Cinderella. Having watched countless videos of it on YouTube for research for today’s blog post led me to same conclusion over and over—I found it extremely boring with forgettable songs. There are highlights—Michael Hordern is quite funny as the King but overall, I felt it was dreadful.

So now you must suffer through it too. Here is the plot:

Prince Edward of Euphrania wants to marry for love but is told that he must marry tactically to form an alliance so that his country will be safe from invaders. If he marries someone from a neighbouring country it will prevent war in the future. It is decided there will be a “Bride Finding Ball” so that he can find a match. Richard Chamberlain sulks. His slightly pervy and very camp cousin, however, is delighted. He says, “I realize that I won't have first pick, but that doesn't matter to me because I'm not proud. I'm just desperate."  They sing about women as if they are merely objects or property (which they were in Georgian times, but still) while Dr Kildare rolls his eyes a lot.

Cinderella is tasked with making her stepmother and stepsisters new clothes for the ball out of old ones--a clearly impossible task. A local woman appears and helps Cinderella re-work the old gowns into something more fashionable and reveals she is a Fairy Godmother. She agrees to borrow some magic to help Cinderella's dream come true, but as the magic is borrowed it must be returned by midnight. I appreciated this idea as the arbitrary midnight deadline has always bothered me. I thought the effects in this scene were good, but the song "Suddenly It Happens" sung by Annette Crosby is tuneless and forgettable.

As you would expect in this story, Cinderella and the Prince meet and fall in love at first sight and then sing a forgettable number about their newfound love in their "Secret Kingdom."

Then we have the midnight escape, the lost shoe and all the elements we are familiar with that make this a Cinderella story. This is the part that differs from our traditional tale as we do not have our happy ending just yet. The pair of lovers are reunited and go before the King and Queen. While they are impressed with the strength of their love, duty comes first. A military alliance must be secured as their kingdom is on the brink of war. A tactical marriage has to happen quickly or the fate of Euphrania is at stake. The prince simply cannot marry a commoner like Cinderella. In order to save the kingdom, she bravely allows herself to be exiled. She lies and sends a message that she does not love him ("Tell Him Anything But That I Love Him") so that he will marry the wrong person and save the kingdom. I found this to be the best part as well as the worst part of the film. It was, by far, the best song--the most passionate when all the others had been quite bloodless. But it is also worrying. It is presented like "Isn't she noble for sacrificing her happiness for the greater good" but women often sacrifice and sabotage their happiness for men which is not a good message to be sending. There is also a whiff of "You won't understand all these important tactical things because you are just a girl, but don't worry your pretty little head about it, just give up your dreams."

After being in exile for a bit, she does worry her pretty little head about it and decides that her happiness counts too. With the help of her Fairy Godmother she crashes the wedding wearing a wedding dress and gets to have her happy ending. The country is saved too because the foppish cousin who was happy to have sloppy seconds in the Bride Finding Ball gets to marry the Princess and form a tactical alliance and save the kingdom from war and destruction. So it's a happy ending for everyone (except perhaps the poor Princess used as a pawn by her own father and then just given to another man) but the film portrays that it was love at first sight for her and the cousin, so I guess that excuses it.

That's all for this week. Stay tuned next week for a trip Into the Woods.

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

What We Ate Wednesday--Super Fast Sweet Potato and Coconut Soup

Hello lovelies! I am still coming home really tired from work in need of something fast and nourishing. This is the third recipe I have tried from the cookbook Vegan in 15 and it really does live up to its name.

The trick is to blitz your veg in a food processor into tiny really does help it cook in 15 minutes.

The original recipe called for Thai curry paste....I can't find any without fish sauce and I already had Korma curry paste in my fridge, so I just used that. Her recipe calls for 2 Tablespoons curry paste which I felt was not punchy enough so I made it with 3 Tablespoons. I dunno, maybe Thai is more potent than Korma.  She also ends with a garnish of fresh coriander, but I ain't got time for that as I am avoiding single use plastics as much as I can.

Super Fast Sweet Potato and Coconut Soup
2-3 TB curry paste of choice (I used Korma)
1 onion, roughly quartered
2 medium sweet potatoes, roughly chopped
1 large or 2 small carrots, roughly chopped
400ml tin coconut milk
tin refilled with water
1 tsp vegetable stock powder (or half a stock cube)

1. Heat 2 TB curry paste and 1/4 cup water while you chop your vegetables. Throw your onion in a food processor and blitz then add to pan with curry paste.
2. In your food processor, add the sweet potatoes and carrot and pulse til the size of rice grains. You may have to do this in 2 parts...all of this would not fit in my machine in one go then throw into the pan with the onion and curry paste.
3. Add the tin of coconut milk and refill the tin with water and add to the pan. Add the stock powder/half a stock cube and bring to the boil as quickly as you can.
4. Vigorously simmer for 10 minutes with the lid on then test for doneness. My sweet potato was soft after 10 minutes. Taste and see if you think it needs extra umph. If so add additional TB of curry paste.
4. Remove from heat and quickly blend with an immersion blender. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Another perfect, warm and nutritious meal for after a busy day at work.

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

Look at your life

Hello lovelies! It's my birthday, hoorah!
Image result for happy birthday 50"
I am fifty! Half a century! did that happen?

Some people don't like birthdays. I am not one of those people.
Some people fear getting older. I am not one of those people.

Some people (particularly women) worry about the effects of ageing. I am not one of those women.

Some women fear a milestone birthday because it means they are coming to the end of their fertility and the start of the menopause. I am not one of those women.

I love my birthday because I am so happy to still be here. Every anniversary of my birth is another chance to do good in the world.

I love my birthday because I love getting older. Don't get me wrong, I do not like getting OLD. My joints and chronic pain issues are more and more affected by the cold and damp which is a bit tricky as we live in Wales where it is perpetually cold and damp. But I do love getting older. Every year I am alive is another year that I have been married to the Amazing Spiderman. When I was 27 years old I had to face the idea that I might become a widow as my beloved was not responding to his cancer treatments,but here we are celebrating our 28th Christmas as a married couple. Every year that we get older together is the happiest year of my life.  We are growing older together.

I do understand that it is much harder to be a woman than a man on the ageing front. I get that. A man turns into a silver fox where grey hair is sexy whereas a woman in her thirties is told she is too old to play his love interest in a film. Perhaps I don't fear this as I am lucky to be ageing very slowly. I look basically like I did thirty years ago. If you look closely, there are a few silver hairs and wrinkles at the corners of my eyes. I am not as thin as I was on our wedding day (I was 90 lbs soaking wet) but I am healthier.

We all move through stages of life--maiden, mother and crone. Many of my older friends have alluded to me about the wisdom of the changes that will be coming for me in the next few years. I have to laugh because I am already a crone. I had an emergency hysterectomy ten years ago and so the wisdom phase of my life has already begun.

Birthdays are always a time for reflection. What have I done in the last year that brought Light to the world? What can I do in the upcoming year to make the world better? How can I stand up more effectively for the people and animals who are abused and neglected?

How can I be kinder to myself and judge myself less harshly? How can I love myself as much as I love the world? How can I use my voice to ask for what I need?

None of us know how long we have on this planet. If life is a book, some people only get a few chapters whereas some get a weighty tome. Being fifty years old means that there are more chapters behind me than in front of me. The Cruxshadows' song Birthday says:

So look at your life, who do you want to be before you die? 
Look at your life and what do you want to do.
So look at your life, who do you want to be before you die? 
Look at your life, you haven't got forever.

May this year be one where I learn and grow and help and be wise and surrender what does not bring me peace. 

Friday, 6 December 2019

Fairy Tale Friday--Rodgers and Hammerstein Cinderella

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

 Image result for rodgers and hammerstein cinderella
For the next few weeks we will be looking at musical versions of Cinderella. I want to start with Cinderella by Rodgers and Hammerstein. Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein were the leading contributors to the golden age of musicals. With Rodgers on music and Hammerstein on book and lyrics they are responsible for such musicals as Oklahoma!CarouselSouth PacificThe King and I and The Sound of Music. According to Wikipedia, their shows (and film versions) have won thirty-four Tony Awards, fifteen Academy Awards, two Pulitzer Prizes, and two Grammy Awards.

Their version of Cinderella was actually written for television as a vehicle for Julie Andrews and was broadcast live on CBS on March 31, 1957. It was based very closely on the most familiar version we know-- the French version Cendrillon, ou la Petite Pantoufle de Verre, by Charles Perrault. It was later performed on stage to critical acclaim. 

There were two remakes for television—the first one in 1965 starred Lesley Ann Warren and Stuart Damon (I remember seeing this version on television) and in 1997 a version with a more ethnically diverse cast was made starring Brandy Norwood as Cinderella, Paolo Montalbán as the Prince and Whitney Houston as the Fairy Godmother.  

Interesting fact:  In the summer after my sophomore year of college I did an internship at City Park Players (our local community theatre) and was stage manager for this show.

The first song I would like to share is In My Own Little Corner from the 1997 version starring Brandy. This is a song about how Cinderella copes with her stress through escaping into her imagination. I found it interesting that they changed the lyrics “I’m a slave in Calcutta” to “I’m a thief in Calcutta.”

The next video I want to share is the Leslie Ann Warren version of the Fairy Godmother song Impossible/It's Possible.

The last clip I want to share is the scene at the ball where the Prince and Cinderella fall in love. The song is called Ten Minutes Ago and I am using the Julie Andrews version.

That's all for this week. Stay tuned next week for a slipper and a rose.

Wednesday, 4 December 2019

What We Ate Wednesday--Borlotti Bean Soup with Rice and Kale

Hello lovelies! Working in retail as Christmas approaches is no joke. We are crazy busy at work, it is freezing and by the time I come I home I am frozen, exhausted and ravenous. Not a good combination.

I am trying to develop a series of easy to make, fast and healthy meals (mostly soup) that can be made quickly after work to warm me up and restore my energy. This way I have a bank of recipes for meal planning that I can call on for those nights I work until close.

Luckily, I work in a bookshop. I saw a cookbook called Vegan in 15 by Kate Ford in our cookery section and I knew that was what I was looking for.

This recipe was adapted from her recipe. She used onion, carrot and celery. We don't dig celery so I used 1/4 red pepper. She used orzo pasta, I can't find that gluten free so I just used white rice.

The one thing she does suggest is using a mini chopper or food processor to blitz your veg very small. This really reduces cooking time. I have also taken to preparing as much as I can before have to be at work at 11:30. If that veg can be blitzed ahead of time and stored in the fridge, it is one less step that has to be done at night.

Her other secret is to boil your kettle. Add your stock cube or powder (I use powder) and top up with kettle boiled water to make your stock. This comes to the boil so much faster than adding cold stock to the pot and waiting for it to warm up and boil.

Borlotti Bean Soup with Rice and Kale
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 carrot, roughly chopped
1 stick of celery or 1/4 red pepper, roughly chopped
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 litre water boiled in a kettle plus a stock cube or powder
3 TB tomato puree
1/3 cup (70g) orzo pasta or white rice
tin borlotti beans, drained and rinsed
100g kale
salt and pepper
juice of half a lemon (optional, but nice)

1. Heat your pot with a splash of oil or water and throw all your onion, carrot and celery/pepper in the food processor and blitz until small. Throw this mix in your hot pot with some garlic and cook for a few minutes while your kettle boils.
2. Add everything else but the kale to the pot and bring to the boil. Then reduce heat and put the lid on and simmer for 8 minutes. Throw in your kale and cook for 2 more minutes. By now the kale should be soft and the rice done. Taste for salt and pepper and add the optional lemon juice.
3. Done.

I managed to do it in 20 minutes. I think I can get it down to 15 if I pre-chop the veg and measure out the rice before work. I liked the addition of the wasn't much but it made it more filling, plus it was cooked in the soup pot and not separate so one less pan to wash.

Friday, 29 November 2019

Fairy Tale Friday--Fractured Fairy Tales Cinderella Returns

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

Last week we looked at a version of Cinderella from the Fractured Fairy Tales portion of the The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle. I remember that one very clearly from my childhood, but I was pleasantly surprised to see there was fractured sequel.

Our protagonist (still with her pronounced Jersey accent) is as pretty as a princess, except she isn't a princess. She is merely a commoner. Therefore she is never invited to any of the royal social events.

The fairy godmother (whom you may recall from last week where she was getting people to sell pots and pans) now works for Good Fairy Rentals and offers a "Go to the ball" package. For a mere 100 gold coins Cinderella can get a costume, transportation and entry to the royal ball and for an additional 10 gold coins can marry the prince. This is perfect for Cinderella who hates being a commoner and desires to live in the palace.

In the palace the prince is bemoaning the state of the castle. Upkeep is expensive and the place is falling apart. He wants to stop being a prince and live someplace more common. The only way for him to abdicate is to marry a commoner.

Predictably they meet at the ball--she pretends to be royal as she thinks that is the only way to marry him and he wishes she was a commoner so he could get out of being royalty.

It's like a bizarre version of Gift of the Magi.

She leaves her enormous sized 13 D shoe (it's roomy but comfortable) so he will find it and then come find her, but things do not go as expected.

Plus you get a pun on the word commoner. I do love a pun.

 That's all for this week. Next week we begin to look at musical versions of the story of Cinderella.

Wednesday, 27 November 2019

What We Ate Wednesday--Peanut Butter Freezer Fudge (2 ways)

Hello lovelies! I was scrolling through all the various vegan Facebook pages I am on and this recipe caught my eye. I don't know which page it came from, or who posted it originally as I just did a quick screenshot to capture the recipe. For that I am sorry because I like to give credit where credit is due. The original recipe used Biscoff  spread so  know it wasn't one of the vegan and gluten free Facebook pages I am a part of because as lovey as Biscoff sounds the clue is the name--there are crushed up gluten-y biscuits in there.

But I tried it with peanut butter and it was mmm.

Seriously mmmmmmmm.

It makes in a jiffy out of stuff you probably already have in your kitchen. Then just bung it in the freezer until it hardens and viola! Fudge.

Top tip for my local peeps--you can get inexpensive coconut oil at B&M Bargains.

Peanut Butter Freezer Fudge
2 TB coconut oil
8 TB (half a cup) nut butter
2 TB syrup (maple, agave....I used golden syrup)
1/4 tsp vanilla essence
pinch salt

1.Carefully melt on low--15 seconds in a microwave if you have one, or on low heat on the hob. I do mine on the hob and melt the coconut oil first then add everything else.
2. Scrape the mixture into a small freezer safe container and freeze until solid.
3. Cut into 12 squares. This is really nutrient dense and quite filling so one square will do.
4. Keep stored in the freezer to keep its fudgy texture.

You can also make a darker fudge by subbing 2 TB blackstrap molasses for the syrup. It's good both ways.

This just melts in your mouth and is so good. It can be made in about five minutes plus freezing time and is great for a little pick-me-up.

Friday, 22 November 2019

Fairy Tale Friday--Fractured Fairy Tales

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

For many weeks we have looked at illustrated variations on the tale of Cinderella written primarily for children. For the next few weeks we will look at funny, animated versions of this story before moving into musicals and films. Then it will be the end of our Cinderella saga while I ponder what other fairy tale to explore.

This week we look at an old favourite from my childhood--Fractured Fairy Tales. these absurd little comedy shorts were part of the Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and are charmingly narrated by Edward Everett Horton. I always loved the opening credits with the fairy fighting with the ornery book which keeps threatening to slam on her.

Here we subvert all tropes featured in other Cinderella tales. Cinderella is quite lazy, lying on a chaise lounge, reading a True Romance magazine and carelessly dusting a lamp with a duster held between her toes whilst complaining of how much work she has to do. Meanwhile, her two sisters are hardworking and are "popular and sought after" scrub women in town.

Because this Cinderella always wants something for nothing when her fairy godmother appears she expects a makeover for free. What she gets is a makeover and set of pots and pans she has to flog by midnight in order to keep her flashy gear. There is only one person in the kingdom rich enough to buy all the cookware--the prince.

However, the prince is having problems of his own. His kingdom is bankrupt and he has to pay his creditors by midnight. He has to find a rich heiress to marry by the stroke of twelve.

This leads to an evening of talk about love and saucepans and ends with an unexpected twist.

That's all for this week. Stay tuned next week for another Fractured look at Cinderella.

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

What We Ate Wednesday--Rosemary, Kale and White Bean Soup

Hello lovelies! It's cold here and by the time I get home from work it is dark and all I want is something quick and healthy. Preferably soup.

This is adapted from a recipe I got from the free magazine at Tesco. Their recipe used cannellini beans, but I used haricots, they used fresh rosemary and I used dried and they used pasta and I just made it without because we were out of pasta. The recipe said it would serve 4 and I suppose with addition of pasta it would have, but it served 2 quite well without it.

Rosemary, Kale and White Bean Soup
1 red onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1/2 a red pepper (optional...I used it because I had it) 
6 garlic cloves, crushed
500g carton passata
100g kale
tin of white beans, drained and rinsed
2 tsp dried rosemary
3 cups (750ml) vegetable stock
salt and pepper to taste
juice of half a lemon
optional: 150g soup pasta (I have no idea what this is...but I suppose regular pasta would do...or leave it out like I did)

1. Cook your onion and carrot and optional red pepper in a splash of water. When starting to soften add your garlic and cook a minute or two more.
2. Add everything else except the lemon juice and kale, bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the kale and cook for 5 more minutes stirring every few minutes until the kale has softened and reduced. Add the lemon juice and taste for salt and pepper.
Note: If you are doing the pasta it says to simmer 10 minutes then add the pasta and cook for a further 10 minutes.

This was quick and easy and good on a cold night after a day of being on my feet at work.

Friday, 15 November 2019

Fairy Tale Friday--Cendrillon

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

For the last few weeks we have been looking at picture book versions of the classic tale of Cinderella and I would like to look at one of my favourite versions today. This is the tale of Cendrillon set in the Caribbean. It was written by Robert San Souci who also brought us Cinderella Skeleton and was exquisitely illustrated by Brian Pinkney. These two also collaborated on another fantastic and lesser known fairy tale called The Faithful Friend. This is a well-told tale full of colloquial French which makes it really charming.

This tale is unusual in that it is told from the perspective of the magical helper. Our narrator was raised poor, but her mother left her a wand of mahogany when she was dying. On her deathbed, her mother told her that the wand could transform one object into another, but only for a short time and will only work if the magic is used to help someone you love.

Many years later, our narrator is a poor washer woman who becomes the godmother to a friend's baby. When Cendrillon's mother dies, our washer woman cares for her and loves her as if Cendrillon is her own child. When her father predictably remarries a terrible woman it is our narrator who nurtures our young girl and helps her grow into a resilient young woman.

When a fete is being thrown in honour of a neighbour's son, Cendrillon wants to go but cannot. It is here that our godmother becomes a fairy godmother. She uses the wand of mahogany to transform a breadfruit instead of a pumpkin into a fine carriage and indigenous animals into coachman and horses. Lastly she changes Cendrillon's calico dress into one of blue velvet, with a matching turban and a silk shawl and the obligatory pink embroidered slippers. She uses the magic to dress herself in red and attends the fete as Cendrillon's chaperone.

As predicted at the fete, Paul (who is as handsome and well spoken as a prince but also kind) falls for our heroine and is left with one pink slipper after their midnight curfew chimes.

Interestingly, we have our heroine take to her bed, grieving with a broken heart instead of the prince wasting away. Her sadness comes from the fact that she believes it was only the magic that attracted him to her ad he will not love her for who she really is. When he comes to the door with the slipper, her sister cannot fit into it with her sausage toes. Her godmother tries to use the magic to change her back to glamorous, but Cendrillon prefers that he sees her as she is---poor and barefoot. He says she is more beautiful that she was the night before, proving he is a keeper and they are married and live (as expected) happily ever after.

Now, here is the problem. I cannot find a video of this story that is both well told and that you can see the illustrations. The video where the story is read so beautifully only shows the cover art and the tale which shows the pictures is poorly read and she mispronounces everything including the name Cendrillon. This is terribly grating as you can imagine. So, i have opted to go for the well-told tale, but will link the video with the illustrations below if you want to watch it with the sound down.

Part 1

Part 2

Watch with the sound down to see the illustrations.

That's all for this week. Stay tuned next week as we look at a Fractured Fairy Tale.

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

What We Ate Wednesday--Chilli Sauce Chilli

Hello lovelies! Brrrr! Cold weather is upon us and all I am craving at the end of a damp and chilly day is hot soups and spicy chilli. Chilli defeats chilly! Woohoo!

This recipe is adapted from a recipe card I picked up at a Sainsbury's about 10 years ago. It is one of my favourite meals and you can have it as chilli the first night and turn the leftovers into soup. It also freezes well. I am making some this week for a friend who is having a baby so she can have some food in the freezer for when the baby comes.

It's hearty and nourishing with a real stick to your ribs quality.

Chilli Sauce Chilli
2 onions, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 pepper, diced
plenty of garlic (I do about 6 cloves) 
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp red chilli flakes (or less)

1 tin tomatoes
2 tins black beans, drained and rinsed (or whatever kind of beans you have on hand)
1 tin kidney beans in chilli sauce
1 and 1/4 cup sweetcorn (defrosted if frozen)

50 grams dark chocolate bar chopped into tiny bit (optional, but not optional....this gives it a real rich depth of flavour. If you don't want to use a chocolate bar use 3 TB cocoa powder  but it won't be as nice)  
juice of one lime

1. Cook your onion in a splash of water until softened and then add the garlic, carrots and pepper. Cook for a few more minutes and then add your spices and stir to coat.
2. Add the tin tomatoes, beans, chilli sauce beans and sweet corn. Bring to boil then simmer until the carrots are tender.
3. Add in the chocolate and stir til melted and add the lime juice.
4. Serve over rice.

I save back a little less than half and the next night:
1. put the leftover chilli in a large pot with 4 cups vegetable stock and a small tin of coconut milk (about 3/4 cup?) then heat until bubbling. Add 100g (several big handfuls) kale and cook until kale is softened.

2 meals in one!

Friday, 8 November 2019

Fairy Tale Friday--Cindy Ellen

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

This week we look at a wild west version of Cinderella entitled Cindy Ellen. It was written by Susan Lowell who also wrote the charming The Three Little Javelinas and is illustrated by Jane K Manning. This story is interesting as it is filled with lots of colloquial language and is a nice twist on our traditional tale.   

This tale begins with a rancher who remarried a woman who was "meaner than a rattlesnake" and had two daughters just the same.  The father's daughter Cindy Ellen was "as pretty as a peach" and a good cowgirl, but her new stepmother (who wore the pants in the family) made her do all the hard work like mending the fences, mucking out the corral and tending the cows.

One day an invitation comes from the biggest cattle king in the area to attend his two day event--a wild west rodeo followed by a square dance. Cindy Ellen longs to go as she is a great rider,  but is not allowed by her family. When her step family leaves to go to the rodeo in their frilly shirts and frizzed up hair, Cindy Ellen cries.

This behaviour is not unexpected--many Cinderellas just sit and cry and wait for change to happen to them. However, when her fairy Godmother appears and shoots her golden pistol in the air, she tells Cindy Ellen to stop blubbering and get some gumption. Cindy Ellen does and is rewarded with some new duds which include some golden spurs covered in diamonds. She goes to the rodeo and wins--both the competition and the heart of Joe Prince the cattle king's son. At the square dance the next night they dance until her midnight curfew and when she runs off she loses one of her golden spurs.

Joe Prince travels all over the prairie looking for a girl who can fit the delicate spur over their boot, but everyone's feet are too big. Of course, with her it fits and she can produce the second spur so they "get hitched" and live happily ever after.

That's all for this week. Stay tuned next week for a tale from the Caribbean.

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

What We Ate Wednesday--Stir fry Noodle Bowl with BOSH Black Pepper Sauce

Hello lovelies! How have you been? Me--good, but insanely busy. We have been gearing up for my big book launch for my new book Wounds: New Openings Into Old Stories and I haven't had much time or energy to try new recipes--it's all been tried and true and quick and dirty. You know what I mean?

Last Friday, I finished work at 5:30pm, needed to go home and and eat and be back at work for 6:30 for an evening event. I knew I would need something that could be cooked in under 10 minutes to have to time to get there, eat and get back.  I figured if i did the food prep before work, I would just have to throw it in the pan when I got home.

I did decide to try one new component to the meal--a different sauce. I found this BOSH recipe in their cookbook that I got from the library and thought I would give it a try. I am so glad I did.

If you do the food prep ahead of time this cooks in 10 minutes.

Stir fry Noodle Bowl with BOSH Black Pepper Sauce
1 tin of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
small carrot (or half a big one) cut into matchsticks
half a red pepper, chopped
100g kale--several large handfuls

2 quick cooking noodle nests--ramen noodles would do, I use brown rice noodle nests that cook in 4 minutes

100ml vegetable stock
1 TB cornflour (I used tapioca starch) 
2 TB water
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp coarse ground black pepper
3 TB tamari or soy sauce
2 tsp rice wine vinegar

 1.Boil your kettle.
2. Throw all your veg except kale and chickpeas in a hot pan with 1/4 cup water.
3. When kettle boils pour over your noodle nests and cook for whatever the package time says and then drain.
4. While noodles are cooking and veg are cooking make the sauce in a small bowl or pyrex jug.
5. When noodles are done and draining, add the kale and chickpeas and the sauce to the veg and cook until kale is softened and sauce is thickened. Stir in noodles to mix.
6. Eat.

This will be a firm favourite for future nights when we are tired and busy. The pepper sauce was really tasty--spicy but not too hot if that makes sense.

Thursday, 31 October 2019

Fairy Tale Halloween--Cinderella Skeleton

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

Normally I publish a Fairy Tale post on a Friday, but as today is Halloween I wanted to post a day early.
Image result for cinderella skeleton
This is truly one of my favourite picture books. Cinderella Skeleton was written by the delightful author Robert D San Souci. He was a consultant at Disney Studios and wrote the story for Mulan. He studied folklore and often worked with his brother Daniel who was a children's book illustrator. He is responsible for some of my favourite folk tale retellings--The Talking Eggs and Cendrillon. Both of those are beautifully illustrated by the talented artistic family The Pinkneys with father Jerry Pinkney illustrating The Talking Eggs and son Brian Pinkney illustrating Cendrillon.

This story is perfectly illustrated by David Catrow who was a visual developer for animated films such as Despicable Me and Horton Hears a Who. To be honest, these illustrations *make* the book what it is. It is written in verse and Catrow's perfect illustrations compliment the text.

In this tale Cinderella Skeleton was "foulest in the land" and everything a ghoul should be with her dankish hair, yellow nails and teeth of green. She is forced to do all the work in their mausoleum--hanging cobwebs, arranging dead flowers in vases and putting dust and leaves on the floor. When they are invited to Prince Charnel's Halloween ball she is not allowed to go. What I like here is that she is a plucky heroine with some initiative. She doesn't sit and cry and wait for a fairy godmother to rescue her to make her dreams come true. She marches off without delay to the witch in the woods to ask for help. She is given a funeral wagon made from a jack-o-lantern pulled by nightmares (part horse/part dragon) and a beautiful dress that looks like it made of cobwebs. But the piece de resistance is the dandelion flower growing out of the top of her head like a crown. (See picture above.)

As in many of these stories, our heroine has a midnight curfew. After dancing with Prince Charnel all night she runs away. However, instead of leaving a shoe behind she leaves her whole foot which snaps off when the Prince tries to stop her from departing. This is a hilarious and charming detail that is rendered so well in the illustrations. Our Prince travels the land and every maiden snaps off her foot at the ankle for a chance to be his wife.

Finally, she hops into the room and our lovers are reunited. He says to her the funniest compliment I have ever heard and always want to quote:
"Your gleaming skull and burnished bones,
Your teeth like polished kidney stones...
you make each day a Halloween."

 My only complaint (if there is any) is that there are several spiders featured in the illustrations, none of which are remotely anatomically correct. Not even close. But the rest of the story is delightful.

Stay tuned next week for a Wild West version of this classic tale.

Friday, 25 October 2019

Fairy Tale Friday--The Irish Cinderlad

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

This week we look at another story by Shirley Climo. It's a nice inversion of the traditional Cinderella story as our protagonist is male.

There is not much in the story that indicates that this takes place in Ireland, but it is still an interesting retelling. I would have liked a bit more Irish culture as we had last week in the retelling of the Korean Cinderella.   In many of the female driven stories our heroine does not have a name. It should come as no surprise that this tale names our hero. His name is Becon and he was raised by his mother. His father is a peddler and is often away from home. After his mother died his father comes home from his peddling with a new wife and new sisters who predictably treat him badly.

As in other tales our hero is starved of food and affection and is befriended by a bull who acts as magical helper providing him with food and friendship. He then runs off and shows his bravery by defeating a giant and a dragon who was menacing a princess.  He saves her and then runs away leaving his boot behind.

Now, in the female versions where a glass slipper is involved we are told how small and dainty her foot is and how no one's feet were small enough to fit into the shoe. This tale subverts this by having Becon's feet be really large. The princess says she will only marry  the man who fits the boot. After much searching, they are reunited and married.
That's all for this week. Stay tuned next week for the tale of Cinderella Skeleton.

Wednesday, 23 October 2019

What We Ate Wednesday--Korma Roasted Vegetables

Hello lovelies! I am a big fan of curry paste and it seems to have more depth of flavour that curry powder which can sometimes be chalky. There are lots of varieties of curry paste--we have used balti for years because the first recipe I ever cooked with curry paste suggested that one.

The newest Tesco magazine had lots of really good looking recipes that were vegan or easily adapted. One of the soup recipes called for korma curry paste. I have avoided korma curries when we have been to a restaurant as korma is a creamy curry and so is often filled with dairy, but as it turns out--the paste is vegan. Woohoo! It also has less oil than the balti paste, which is good as we are reducing our oil intake.

The one we buy is Patak's and a jar lasts for about 5 or 6 curries. Korma paste is slightly sweet, contains coconut and is mild. We tried the soup from Tesco magazine using the korma paste first--it was delicious but I didn't get a good picture. Well...I will just have to make it again then won't I? But this one was adapted from a recipe for Super Simple Chicken Curry Traybake. Like I usually do, I substituted chickpeas for chickens (they both start with ch, after all!) and it was a huge hit.

Except I accidentally forgot to put in the chickpeas. Oops. In my defence I was trying to have a video call with my mum at the time. It was still absolutely delicious and will be even more delicious with the addition of chickpeas.

Korma Roasted Vegetables
Preheat your oven to 200C/400F
Add the following to your largest roasting pan:
1 large onion or two smaller, roughly chopped
2 medium sweet potatoes (about 500g?) diced
punnet cherry tomatoes, cut in half
tin of chickpeas, drained and well rinsed (or not if you are talking to your mum on the phone!) 
1.5 TB korma curry paste

For later:
small tin of coconut milk or half a regular tin--around 3/4 cup
brown rice to serve

1. Put all your veg and chickpeas in your big roasting pan and add the curry paste. Stir well to coat all the veg with paste.
2. Roast for 15 minutes, remove from oven and stir. Add the coconut milk and stir again. Roast for an additional 15 minutes.
3. Serve over brown rice.

That's it. Most of it is hands off leaving you time to video call your dear old mum.

Friday, 18 October 2019

Fairy Tale Friday--The Korean Cinderella

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

For the last few weeks we have been looking at picture book versions of Cinderella. This week we look at a version from Korea. It was written by Shirley Climo and exquisitely illustrated by Ruth Heller. 

Shirley Climo has written several different Cinderella variations as well as some lovely books about spiders. We own her Someone Saw a Spider and the delightful Cobweb Christmas which is a tale about how we get tinsel. It's made from spider silk. Didn't you know? 

Harper Collins says of the illustrations:

"it should be noted that all the illustrations—from those depicting Korean rituals to the smallest clothing details—are the result of the illustrator's extensive research and passionate interest in Korean culture."

This tale takes place at a time where "magical creatures were as common as cabbages" and it is these magical creatures who help our protagonist Pear Blossom in her time of need. When her father remarries it is only with Pear Blossom's welfare in mind--he wants her to have a mother and a sister, but the text says her stepsister Peony was "worse than having no sister at all." 

As her father grows older and more feeble, her stepmother and stepsister make her life more miserable. As in many of these tales, our heroine is forced to toil in the kitchen and do dirty work and wear rags.We forget that Cinderella is really Ella of the Cinders and not her actual name. In this story Pear Blossom is called Pig or Little Piglet because of her dirty appearance.  Here she lives under the constant threat of being sold at market or being sent to China if she does not complete the impossible tasks set before her. She is ordered to fill a broken jug with water, collect and polish the grains of rice that have been scattered over a field and weed the rice paddy before she can go to the festival. She is aided by a toad, a flock of sparrows and a large black ox in these tasks.

She does go to the festival but does not have any special shoes or clothes to wear. She is given a basket of fresh fruit from the ox to take as her picnic. In all the other tales it is either at the ball or at church where she is seen and the Prince falls in love with her. Here a young nobleman is passing by on his palanquin being carried to the festival where he frightens Pear Blossom who is shaking a stone from her shoe by the side of the road. She loses her straw sandal and runs away. In the other tales she runs home after losing her shoe, but here she just goes to the festival with one shoe. 

Her stepmother and stepsister Peony find her at the festival eating fresh fruit and accuse of her of stealing it. The magistrate comes and is looking for the woman wearing only one shoe. In other tales they try to hide the heroine so that she might not try on the shoe, but here thinking she being arrested as a thief they gladly point her out to the magistrate in an effort to get her out of the way. This backfires spectacularly when they discover she is being sought so she can marry the rich nobleman. 

It is a satisfying story and we will look at a few more of Shirley Climo's retellings over the next few weeks. 

That's all fr this week. Stay tuned next week for a tale of an Irish Cinderlad. 

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

What We Ate Wednesday--5 Ingredient Snack Balls

Hello lovelies! I do like a little smackerel of something sweet after dinner. We have gone to hilariously titled "Bliss Balls" as our go-to source of sweetness as they are quick and easy to make and more healthy. Plus they are ball shaped. Who doesn't love balls?

The unfortunate problem with balls (especially chocolate balls) is that they look like...well--balls. Dung balls, to be precise. They do not photograph well in my tiny, poorly lit kitchen.

But they taste delicious.

Therefore, I have taken a photo of the ingredients so you can enjoy and not be like "Where's that dung beetle gone?"

Now, the recipe calls for half a cup of peanut butter. Eagle-eyed viewers may spot extra peanut butter in the photo. I got distracted as i was measuring ingredients while training to be a disco queen to achieve my childhood goals of being an artist, an author and a fabulous glitzy dancer. If this should happen to you I recommend the following steps:

1. Swear. Loudly and with intent.
2. Get a bit tearful that you've ruined the recipe and it will require maths to sort it out.
3. Roughly upbraid yourself for being so stupid, then quickly remind yourself to be kind and give yourself a hug.
4. Bung in a bit of extra cocoa powder and liquid sweetener and roll 'em up.
5. Tell everybody they have extra protein because we all know someone is going to ask you "Where do you get your protein?" If they do shove a snack ball in their mouth to shut them up.

This recipe comes from a library book I had called Bliss Bites by Kate Bradley.

You don't even need a food processor...just a bit of elbow grease.

5 Ingredient Snack Balls
In a bowl stir together until combined:

1 cup unsweetened desiccated coconut shreds
1/2 cup peanut butter (or more if you have Dance Fever) 
2.5 TB cocoa powder
2.5 TB liquid sweetener (I used golden syrup)
pinch salt
might need a splash of water or juice if too dry

Roll 'em up. This made 13 for me...but only 12 fit in my container, so what's a Disco Queen to do? Pop it in my mouth and put on my Boogie Shoes.

Friday, 11 October 2019

Fairy Tale Friday--Adelita (Mexico)

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

We are now looking at picture book versions of Cinderella. This week we look at a tale from Mexico entitled Adelita. It was written and illustrated by one of my favourite children's illustrators Tomie dePaola. You may know him because of his Caldecott honour book Strega Nona (Grandma Witch) or his Bill and Pete series about a crocodile and his best friend who is a toothbrush bird. My favourite book of all times by him is The Clown of God. He has written and illustrated many religious books including a beautiful one about the life of Saint Francis of Assisi but the Clown of God always makes me cry with its beauty. I used to read it to my class every year and we would get to a certain page (if you've read it, you know the one) and tears would be streaming down my face. My children would exclaim, "Why are you crying?" and then i would turn the page and we would all be crying--first from sadness and then from wonder.

Adelita is the tale of a young woman in Mexico whose mother dies in childbirth. She is raised with love by the nursemaid Esperanza who also looked after her father when he was a boy. Esperanza, while not magical, functions as the magical helper in this tale.

When her father remarries, her new stepmother and stepsisters are cordial to Adelita, but Esperanza declares them to be cold hearted. She is not wrong. When Adelita's father dies, the stepmother no longer has to pretend. She fires Esperanza and forces Adelita to be a servant.

An invitation arrives to a big fiesta which is a homecoming for the neighbour's son Javier. Adelita remembers Javier from her childhood as they used to play together, although it has been many years since they have seen each other. As you would expect, she is denied the right to go. Here is where Esperanza appears and enacts the role of magical helper. I liked that the kitchen illustration featured a few pumpkins prominently as a nod to the Perrault version  where the pumpkin turns into a coach. But in this version there is no magic dress or transformed objects--Esperanza brings her the key to a trunk that contains a beautiful but plain white dress that had belonged to Adelita's mother which she dresses up with a red shawl embroidered with birds and flowers. Esperanza fixes Adelita's hair with ribbons making her look uncannily like Frida Kahlo and she sets off for the fiesta in a little wooden cart that Esperanza borrowed to get get her there.

It goes on as you would expect and dePaola adds in several winks and nods to the Perrault tale.  When Javier is travelling around looking for his sweetheart, she cunningly hangs the red shawl out of the attic window as a sign that she is there. When he sees her in her home, he remembers their childhood friendship and they are soon married. Esperanza comes to live with them to care for their children.

This is beautifully illustrated and the story is peppered with Spanish.

Stay tuned next week for a tale from Korea.