Saturday, 28 May 2016

A Chocolate Tale

I am not a willing cook. Now, I can cook. I can, if I must, make bread, bake a row of pies for the Community Hall dinner, can fruit, stew, fry and roast. But I would rather enjoy someone else’s efforts than spend the time myself chopping, kneading, stirring and watching the oven. My YD is a Cook. She goes shopping with a new recipe book and produces marvels of soup, racks of lamb, marinated fish and divine pastas. She does it for fun. When she wants to. And eats KD when she doesn’t.

A while back the grandkid’s parents sent her to a cooking camp to fill in August days while they were at work. She was, maybe, ten. Or even younger. She learned to make muffins and breakfast breads and cookies. Lots of stuff. She got enthusiasm from the family and lots of praise and kept on baking, upping the ante as time went on. I got a strawberry cake with a glazed top two birthdays ago. Grandpa got an amazing Black Forest concoction. Miss G and her father produce beautiful Bouche Noel cakes, even though her mother refuses to be in the kitchen while this is happening. Miss G scorns mixes.

I have made her birthday cakes for years because she has a nut allergy. “Is this from a mix, Grama?’, she snarkily comments. Okay. She and her entourage are due here this afternoon for her birthday celebration dinner and I, fool that I am, volunteered to make the cake. On request, chocolate with chocolate icing. And I got an eye roll with the request.

Cooling down in the cellar is now a from-scratch chocolate cake with chocolate fudge icing. Recipes from my favourite Laura Secord cookbook. Stuff turns out from these recipes, but they are not simple. The cake required a custard and chocolate mix to be added to a three stage mix of wet and dry ingredients and then that folded into two soft peak whipped egg whites. I will say it rose well. That took me most of last evening, plus scrubbing the stove top. Added this morning was a two icing glaze, fudge in the centre and on the sides (I stupidly took the sugar mix past soft boil and had to thin the mixture and reheat. Sigh) and whipped milk chocolate on top. This last addition is from a can. I have hidden the remnants and the can at the back of the frig.

And now I must go and de-chocolate the kitchen again, plus mop off the floor to keep the ants at bay. This will have occupied my whole morning and I have not even read the paper yet. I have pies to make for the Hall for June 12th. I may buy the damn things. But I hope to have impressed the daughter and grandkid in the interim.

And, there is nothing wrong with cleaning fudgy spoons with your tongue, right? As long as they get washed properly later.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016


I have just been reading a Consumers’ Report on pain management, particularly back and joint pain. The article seems to like NSAIDS a little bit, but is more into exercise, massage and physiotherapy, and what read to me like positive thinking.  Today there was an article in the paper on the proposal to drop the strength of acetaminophen tablets to prevent people wrecking their livers with the ’extra strength’ dose sometimes killing themselves.

Makes me very nervous, all this solicitude for my liver. I have osteoarthritis in my knees, hands and neck. I have a sad squished disc in my lower back. These things hurt! Massage and physiotherapy help, but the first is painful to endure and the second requires daily follow-up with stretches and exercises. Which hurt. My hands hurt when I garden, wash things, carry things. So does my back. After I walk, my back and my knees complain like crazy. My response – acetaminophen. I can’t take NSAIDS because they all excoriate my intestinal track. (I even took part in a drug trial for a coated NSAID that was supposed to help this problem. Nope.) If I am going to move, I need my extra-strength Tylenol and too bad if my liver doesn’t like it. I could die of inaction too.

I wish the medical profession was not so worried about pain medication. I really do. I have seen and heard of far too many cases of opioids and other relief medications being doled out in too small quantities to people who were suffering a lot but not quite ready to die. It is a fine theory that palliative care is a better answer than assisted suicide for end of life care, but there come the damn medicos worrying about addiction and someone else getting hold of the drugs and liver damage and whatever it is that prevents them from really providing robust pain relief. Nor is palliative care consistent or available everywhere. Nor are some doctors qualified to provide it.

At least we do have some things that work. I am appending here a recipe for back pain medication that someone gave to my grandmother and that she saved, making me think someone had a problem that did not respond to willow tea. I wish, though, that I thought we are as far along in this area of medicine as we are in others. My grandmother also had her five babies on the kitchen table and one of them died of jaundice from Rh incompatibility. Here is what she mixed up.

Internal or external use?

We have come a long way, eh?

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Pretty in Pink - with Flowers

Above is a photograph of little Princess Charlotte on her first birthday, all dressed up in a full flowered frock and pale pink sweater, looking sweet and girlish and, so the pundits say, inspiring many mothers to dress their little girls the same way. Another blow struck for stereotyping, alas. It is easy to understand why she would be dressed this way because it is adorable and cute and easily saleable. One can only hope that after the photo shoot was over she was bundled out of the dress and into a pair of her brother’s outgrown overalls and a nice tough jacket and allowed to enjoy herself. Provided, of course, that her brother had play clothes and was ever allowed out of the sailor suit and shorts and ruffles that he was stuffed into for photographs at the same age.

Daughters in Grandma dresses
Please do not misunderstand. I am not against shell pink and ruffles and lacy white tights on little girls.
Granddaughter at play
I (or more likely my mother) have dressed both my daughters and granddaughter in girly garments now and again. And they loved it. For dress up. But most of the time they wore (and still wear) practical garments in which they can move well and that wash and wear well. And for three generations of us, that translates to pants. (Or jeans or dungarees or whatever you want to call them.) Have you ever tried to crawl in a full skirted dress? Let alone wash the windows or walk down a ramp in a high wind? Right. Not easy. Not fun. Not practical.  Tough, practical clothing to put on right after the festive event is over is always my choice. (Um, just looked at myself dressed in my shell pink sweater. But I will change it for a bug shirt shortly.)

There used to be much more of a dress code when I was a young woman. Gloves, hats, stockings even in a Windsor summer, jeans allowed in the library only on Saturdays at my university. I am sure everyone has seen a ‘50’s advertisement for household goods featuring a housewife in a dress and frilly apron wearing a necklace and high heels while she cleans or cooks. Thank goodness no one is stereotyped into dressing like that any more. Men are still caught in the suit for business trap, but women and girls have a lot more freedom. I am daily grateful that my uniform of jeans and shirt or tee with a jacket or sweater when needed, and my old lady short, short hair, is accepted everywhere.

Or is it. Here is a woman who is uncomfortable walking into a woman’s washroom describing how she looks:
“I am female-bodied, but dress in a way that fits my own understanding of my gender identity which, while not male, definitely trends masculine. Dressed down, I wear jeans and oxford shirts with baseball caps. Dressed up, I prefer khakis and dress shirts. Bow ties are my favorite accessories. And my hair is cut short enough that my hairdresser charges me for a “men’s cut” because she doesn’t think I should have to pay more than a man for the same haircut.
Like I said, though, I’m not male. Unlike my trans brothers who have transitioned female-to-male, I have been clear that that was not the right path for me. I’m happy to be “Emily” and to live in my body. How I dress and carry that body, though, is often at stark contrast with what the world expects. It’s been that way since I was a 3-year-old telling my mom that overalls were better than dresses.”

Typical clothes
Except that I would have a scarf rather than a bow tie, she could have been describing me. And a horde of other women.

I have never noticed anyone giving me the glare in a public washroom. I am tall and heavy boned and I have been taken for male over and over through the years (much to my amusement, mostly) but never challenged in a washroom. Am I just oblivious, or is ‘Emily’ seeing shadows where they do not really exist. It is sad that she is uncomfortable.

It is even sadder that people with minds like sewers are trying to make us all overly conscious of who is