I sit here, fingers poised over the keyboard and wonder where to begin. There are threads, like string theory, all over this story, but I shall endeavor to make a coherent and interesting narrative. Please note this is only a single strand of a greater tapestry, but my purpose is not to overwhelm.
Let’s go back to September 11, 2001. The towers were twin. They came down. We sat in front of our televisions horrified. The Towers. The Pentagon. Flight 93 over Pennsylvania. Our world changed.
Two memories of that time. The first was a man at our church, George, who was busy conning us all, but we hadn’t figured it out yet. He told me of his friend [name escapes me], who was on Flight 93. We grieved with him and prayed for the family. Later I discovered no such name on the flight manifest; George just liked being in the spotlight.
The second was an email I sent to a high school classmate who lived in Maryland and worked in DC. I was concerned for his safety. He sent back an I’m OK, although as I was driving on the ring road, I saw the plane passing over on its way to the Pentagon. It was good he was unscathed. This person had lived across the alley from our family when we first moved to our new city. Later our family bought a house and moved, which put us in different elementary and Jr. High schools, but we went to the same high school. My correspondence with him had started when our 10 year class reunion was held and I was one of the few people at the time who had an email address. Right after the birth of the Internet. Shortly after the demise of the dinosaurs. Yes, I’m that old.
Fast forward a large chunk of time to around 2012 or 13. Lots of water under the bridge. New husband, new address, new job. One of our friends came by to ask our opinion of his research into the 9-11 tragedy. He spoke passionately about how the whole thing was a hoax, an inside job and covered up by higher ups in our government. I like this guy, so we agreed to listen. He came to our house armed with a large box full of books, CD’s and DVD’s. Known for being a prolific talker anyway, he outdid himself on this occasion. He was several hours pointing out documentation and showing pictures. He left thousands of dollars of documentation for us to go through. When he was done, I said 2 things to him to indicate we wouldn’t be seriously pursuing this any further:
“Do you know how vast this conspiracy would have to be, in order to promote this narrative? You would have had to have had complicity from the military, the media, political figures, air traffic control, and people on the ground; it would be too huge for that to be possible.”
“Despite what you say about no plane hitting the Pentagon, I have an eyewitness account from someone I trust who says they saw it.”
And with that we closed his materials, smiled that “knowing” tin foil hat smile, and returned to life as we know it.
Many years ago, it was not uncommon to receive a call from YH (Your Holiness, as I referred to my Pastor). The phone call usually went something like this: “I’m having some people speak tomorrow. Could you talk for about 15 minutes?”
The answer would be, Of course I can talk for 15 minutes. Have you never listened to me? Oh but wait, that wasn’t actually the question, was it? I would be delighted to speak. Do you have a topic? No, he never had a topic. It was always of our own choosing.
I would grab my Bible, spend some time in prayer and construct 15 minutes of hopefully uplifting remarks.
Sunday morning, like the movie, a funny thing happened on my way to the platform. Invariably my prepared remarks got preempted by a tiny tap on the shoulder from the Holy Spirit. Oh, I would realize, ascending the short 2 steps before I was to begin, my thoughts are trite and drivel. They will edify no one and should be discarded immediately. In that brief bit of time, my message would change. Somehow I would manage to not only speak, but finish feeling as if I had indeed delivered a message that was pleasing to God. As I was asked to speak again, I took that as confirmation that at least YH thought someone needed to hear what I had to say.
The most poignant of these was the morning the youth choir director got up during sharing time and asked for prayer for some of the choir members who were anxious, confused and hurt by things in their lives. I believe my remarks that morning were about the importance of prayerfully considering who you were to vote for. As I listened to his request, I was overcome with the knowledge of the message that needed to go out. The encouragement was to realize the resources of heaven that stood by us, on a constant basis, whether in something as mundane as teenage angst or as large as global war. I delivered it with a passion, but afterwards was confused by the lead balloon it appeared to have become. I even had the Pastor’s wife ask me what I had meant to say. Ack!
Looking back, I stand by my message. It was based on one of the most hopeful and helpful verses in all of Scripture, and I dig it out and present it for your Palm Sunday edification, as we celebrate in the isolation of COVID-19 social distancing.
Jesus was welcomed into Jerusalem by cheering crowds, waving palm branches and laying down their cloaks. Less than a week later he would be nailed to the cross. How quickly things can change. Jesus knew what was coming. He had told his disciples. Despite that knowledge, he didn’t say, “I’ll be buggered if I go into Jerusalem because things go south there. I’ll just pop off to Nazareth and see if I can help sand down a chair or two.” Instead, he went to Jerusalem because he knew not only was it God’s will, but also what lay on the other side.
Palm Sunday is followed by Good Friday, which is followed by Easter. So much change in one week. Everything changed in that one week.
I believe that very shortly now, information will be given on a global scale which will cause massive distress and cognitive dissonance. Firmly held beliefs will give way in the face of terrifying revelations, and for most, a period a turmoil will follow.
2 Kings 6:14-17
14 Therefore sent he [the king of Syria] thither horses, and chariots, and a great host: and they came by night, and compassed the city about.
15 And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do?
16 And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.
17 And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.
Verse 16 says, “Fear not…” Did you know that the Bible says, “Fear not” 365 times? That’s one for every day of the year. In this instance Elisha tells us why we should fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.
Elisha gave his servant a miraculous glimpse into the spiritual realm; a behind the scene look at the invisible war. What a blessing for the servant to be reassured in such an verifiable way that the invisible warriors on our side are more than those who fight against us.
Take heart in the following days. They that be with us are more than they that be with them, and when the war is won, what follows will be so much better than we can currently imagine. The world will again change in a very short period of time.
Yesterday, Project Veritas released a video showing a senior executive at Google talking about the company’s directed efforts at interfering with the 2020 election. The country has just lived through 2 1/2 years of supposed Russian Interference, and found that while the charge was without merit, the notion that someone or something would attempt to manipulate our elections was roundly decried as abhorrent.
Today, Project Veritas is reporting that Google, owner of YouTube, has taken down the video exposing their plot. Such actions not only reinforce the belief that directing the election is a company goal, but also indicate they have no remorse or compunction about wielding their mighty techno-arm.
I am just a person who writes about cookies and things I learned as a child, but this one doesn’t get a pass, in my book.
First, let me assuage your fears. This is not a Brexit post, that bitter feud being a recent event. This post addresses actually 2 related and longstanding disputes of a food nature.
Visitors to England, especially those from America, expect a High Tea, as if everyone in English homes hauls out their china, 6 types of cake and displays them on tiered cake dishes on a daily basis.
Yes, you can be pandered to in this manner, but those experiences are fewer than you think, and more geared towards tourists willing to pay huge sums of money for the opportunity to be ostentatious.
Afternoon tea (as opposed to “Tea,” which is the evening meal in many parts of the country), can be nothing more than what Americans would term a Coffee Break, with a pause, a beverage and then back to whatever was needing to be done. More languid observations would include a biscuit [American: cookie], a small cake bought from Tesco or other supermarket or even a quick dash into a small café for same.
Prized amongst those café dashes is the Cream Tea, which refers not to extra fat in the tea itself, but rather to the inclusion of clotted cream to go with warm scones and jam.
“Arthur blinked at the screens and felt he was missing something important. Suddenly he realized what it was.
Which brings us to conflict #1. Where does clotted cream come from? Some things, according to EU rules, need to come from one place. You can’t call sparkling wine “Champagne” unless it originates from that region in France. Stilton cheese must come from Stilton. Glouchestershire, Leicestershire and Wenslydale all must originate in their namesakes. Somehow Cheddar managed to sneak out and have illegitimate children all over the globe, including this writer’s basement. Clotted cream has no designation, no place of origin.
If you ask a denizen of Devon, they will tell you that clotted cream can only be produced by Jersey cows on Devon soil, which is unique in its composition, yielding the finest scone slather known to man. Similarly, the Cornish (spitting distance from the Devonians) claim theirs is the best. Devonians will point out that the facilities in Cornwall to produce clotted cream primarily import their milk from Devonian farmers, and on it goes. I do know that if you walk into a Devonian supermarket, no one is ramming you with their shopping trolley [American: cart] if you select one of the containers of Cornish Clotted Cream. Either way it will be made from raw Jersey cream, and it’s delicious.
Having settled that issue (yes, they haven’t settled it either so who am I to make a definitive statement?), we move on to the actual consumption.
Conflict #2: In which order does one apply jam and cream to the scone? Who gives a flying fig, would be my answer. It all gets mixed together as soon as it passes your lips anyway, but believe me, this is a BIG deal to many. My brother in law is of the opinion it is cream then jam, while his wife opines adamantly he is incorrect. It’s really amusing to watch them bicker and attempt to cajole you to their way of thinking.
If I had to take a stance, I would say clotted cream more resembles butter than whipped cream, so my inclination would be to put it on the scone first. However should you find yourself with warring Windsor subjects, might I suggest an appeasement to both parties: split the scone and put jam first on half and clotted cream first on the other. You’ve offended no one and still be able to enjoy a lovely Cream Tea.
Returning from your holiday and longing for Cream Teas, you have a dilemma. You can buy “Clotted Cream” in a jar. As soon as you open it you will realize it is not the same thing you enjoyed while watching the constant English drizzle moisten the gardens by Buckfast Abbey. Instead, it is a more custardy blob of cream with a shelf life of several months, whereas real clotted cream should be eaten or discarded within the week.
So what is a closet Anglophile to do for their clotted cream? Make it yourself. It is spectacularly easy. The hardest part is getting the cream. Ideally you have grass fed Jersey milk. I am lucky in that regard because we have a dairy which provides us with this. Most American milk comes from Holsteins which have high output, but lower fat content. Keep looking. Jersey or Guernsey will give you the highest fat content. Grass fed, although you may not be able to avoid silage (dried grasses) in the winter. Raw is optimal (you won’t die), although if you just can’t bring yourself to use it, pasteurized will make a moderately successful substitute.
Having secured your cream, you want to put it in a shallow, wide container and heat it over very low heat. I have seen recommendations for putting it in a crockpot on low for 8 hours. I have not tried this, but can tell you that too high a heat will cook your cream rather than clot it.
“Dad was at his desk when I opened the door, doing what all British people do when they’re freaked out: drinking tea.” ― Rachel Hawkins, Demonglass
I have an electric chafing dish which I use to make mine. Pouring the cream into the largest container, I set the heat on very low and let it sit for about 6 hours before checking. The result is akin to the “skin” atop a cooked pudding [British: custard] which did not have plastic adhered to the surface while it cooled.
Using a slotted spoon, skim the “skin” off the top and put it into a clean container. It will be somewhat liquidy; don’t worry. Put the container in the refrigerator and continue gradually heating the rest of the cream. You will probably be able to get at least one more skimming, possibly two, before the remaining liquid is much whiter and more resembling skim milk than cream. After each skimming, you’ll notice that the cooled previous “skins” have become much firmer. This somewhere between butter and soft ice cream is the desired texture. You’re doing great! The milky liquid can be used as milk, or in baking; there is no need to throw it away.
“As far as her mom was concerned, tea fixed everything. Have a cold? Have some tea. Broken bones? There’s a tea for that too. Somewhere in her mother’s pantry, Laurel suspected, was a box of tea that said, ‘In case of Armageddon, steep three to five minutes’.” ― Aprilynne Pike, Illusions
As almost an afterthought, you probably want some scones to put that clotted cream on. For this we turn to the Emperess of English Enticements, Delia Smith, or as Dawn French referred to her in The Vicar of Dibley, “Saint Delia!”
2 1/2 cups (225g) all purpose flour* or self-raising flour
1 1/2 level tablespoons white (golden caster) sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 cup (110ml) milk, plus a little more (if needed)
a little extra flour
* If using all purpose flour sieve the following into the flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
Please be a dear and weigh your flour. It is so much more accurate. Carry on, luv.
Preheat oven to 425F, 220C, Gas mark 7.
Begin by rubbing the butter into the sieved flour quickly, using your fingertips, then stir in the sugar followed by a pinch of salt.
Now, using a knife, mix in the milk little by little, and when it’s all in, flour your hands and knead the mixture to a soft dough (you may find you need just a drop more milk if it feels at all dry). Place the dough on a floured pastry board and with a rolling pin (also floured) lightly roll it out to a thickness of about 3cm. (This thickness is vital. The reason scones don’t rise enough is because they are rolled too thin.)
Then take the pastry cutter and tap it sharply so that it goes straight through the dough – do not twist or the scones will turn out a strange shape! When you have cut as many as you can, knead the remaining dough together again and repeat. Then place the scones on the baking sheet, dust each one with flour and bake near the top of the oven for 12–15 minutes.
When they’re done they will have risen and turned a golden brown. Then transfer them to a wire rack and eat as soon as they are cool enough, spread with butter, jam and clotted cream.
Please note her Holiness puts butter on the bottom and cream on the top. This throws a whole spanner [American: wrench] in the works, doesn’t it?
This is a rant. It is unashamedly a loud complaint. If your fancy doesn’t run towards vitriol today, I suggest a different bat time and a different bat channel.
I wanted to check my bank balance. Not a big deal, right? People do it all the time. I was doing it from my desktop. Not a mobile, tablet, gaming station or through the television. Just a straight up desktop. Open a browser. Type in your user name and password.
And then silence. Not even an error message. It just sat there. … … … … for a long time.
I get that websites need maintenance, so I didn’t worry. I closed the browser, did something else for about 5 minutes and came back. Same result. There was an indicator at the top that they had updated their browser experience and would I like to try it? Oh sure, maybe that will get me in because ALL I WANT TO DO IS CHECK MY BALANCE!
Nope. Same result. OK, new website design, probably working the bugs out, so I wait about an hour. You guessed it. Didn’t work.
Next step – Contact Us. Cool, there is a chat function. I know some of you are thinking, I bet that didn’t work either, but you would be wrong. A window popped up and a person (or AI), who self-identified as Michelle asked how they could help. When I described my problem, Michelle said, “Hmmmm. Maybe try a different browser. We support all major ones like Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer.
“Michelle,” says I, “I am using Edge, the default browser with Windows 10.”
“Oh,” says Michelle, “We’re not compatible with Edge yet.”
Back in the day when George (this is a whole different story) was encouraging me to learn HTML so I could write a website which he had volunteered to do, one of the huge checks before publishing was browser compatibility. The student needed to verify the website was accessible on anyone’s computer before it was any good to either the user or the originating organization. Check ALL browser compatibility before you publish.
Apparently this mantra has been lost.
Whether students are no longer taught this in the US or in the countries where H-1Bs call home, the problem is huge. Yes, big organizations generally still do this. Can you imagine Amazon inserting pop-ups saying, “I see you’re using Safari. To use our system, please download Firefox. Amazon does not work with anything but Firefox”? Yeah, no. That would hit the Bezos bottom line with a resounding thud. Money aside, one of the hallmarks of Amazon is their customer service, hence regardless of your browser, unless you’re still using one from the early 1990’s, you can order anything from a pancake spatula to medieval chain mail using whatever browser floats your boat.
My husband and I refer to “just use a different browser” as the phenomenon of lazy developers who check their gmail on their iPhone. It’s what they do, so of course you do too, right? No, I don’t. It makes me irritable that they feel it is their right to dictate how I use my computing power, so I’m going to be hashtag shaming lazy corporations, and I’m going to name names! For the record, I don’t plan on taking prisoners.
Back to the bank. When we opened the account I asked if there was a Windows Phone app. Friendly bank manager didn’t know and also didn’t call to find out. Nonetheless, we opened the account. No Windows Phone app, and yes, this was before Windows killed off the phone. Sigh. No mobile deposits. It will be the drive down and deposit scenario. We got used to it, until today. What use is a bank that I have to drive down to CHECK MY BALANCE, all because a developer is too lazy to check browser compatability? Actually its usefulness is diminishing by the second.
Yes, I could load a different browser, but if I do so it will be because I see a need, not because you’re too lazy to write for everyone out there in Browser-land. Also of note – it will be a very cold day in a very hot place before I purposely put anything Google on my machine. Yes I realize the irony of WordPress using Google analytics, and me choosing WordPress for this blog. I did not download it to nestle nefariously in amongst my data however.
Is this bank an isolated incident? Nope. Last week I went to reorder my business cards only to have the website have undergone an upgrade, rendering my ability to access my saved designs void or indeed to even start all over. Again, if I would just use Chrome or Firefox, I wouldn’t have any problems, I was told. I had to have a nice man on the phone do my order for me at his end. You begin to wonder, why have a website at all, if this is what a portion of your customers have to do?
For the past year, each time I open a Contact Management email system our neighborhood uses, I am informed that, We see you are using Edge. We recommend using Chrome or Firefox to be able to have access to all the abilities of this site. ARGH. For a year and halfit has said that. Even if they all had a 2 month extended lunch hour, perhaps in a year and a half someone could have gotten around to it. Note – we are cancelling our service with them. I’m sure they’re not quaking in their boots because our $165 will bankrupt them, but if enough people get fed up, it might make an impact.
Because this is ostensibly a food blog, I will post an appropriate recipe here, and begin the list of shame following. Please feel free to add your own to the list of lazy web designers in the comments section.
I can't be bothered, try eating at McDonalds instead
In my childhood, the epitome of fine dining for my parents was a place called Bratten’s Seafood Grotto. Salt Lake being landlocked and overnight delivery an expensive luxury before FedEx, seafood in a nice restaurant was something in which we rarely indulged. The restaurant was far enough from our home to add a layer of distance related mystique to the experience. Cloth tablecloths and napkins, the need to dress in our Sunday best, and the admonition that we behave appropriately all meant that a dinner at Brattens was the pinnacle of our dining experience.
I can’t speak for my sisters, but I hated seafood. It tasted like salt water and had unpleasant squooshy textures. The result was when my parents took us there, I always ordered batter fried shrimp because the coating obliterated the texture, and drowned in tartar sauce, I wouldn’t have to actually taste it. Nothing my parents could say would dissuade me from my standard menu request.
I have written before that my life was always “half a block away.” We lived half a block from a very affluent neighborhood, and the geographical distance was a metaphor for so many aspects of my life.
One of those areas was obviously money. While my “other side of the street” friends had parents who drove them to school, I walked or paid my own bus fare. They bought lots of new back to school clothes every fall. Many of them were given cars when they turned 16, and so on.
As children on the wrong side of the street, we were given an allowance, just so we had money. It was $1/week. It wasn’t a lot, but my parents wanted us to understand the connection between work and income. We had money making opportunities, which were chores with a choice.
Salsa is one of my favourite things to make in the summer months. Salsa is a fantastic condiment, especially when it’s homemade, it’s fresh and bursting with flavors.Salsa is the perfect accompaniment to any summer dish. Salsa is also versatile and can be used for much more than just tortilla chips. This colourful mango and avocado salsa is easy and fun to make! Mango and avocado pairs so well. The combination of mango, avocado, lime, onion, chilli and cilantro, is sweet, spicy and absolutely delicious.Serve this colourful salsa with grilled fish or chicken.This salsa not only works as a topping for tortilla chips, but also as an incredible filling for wraps and tacos, as a substitute for the traditional tomato- based salsa. This salsa can also be served in a salad. My personal favourite is this mango and avocado salsa, served with grilled salmon and quinoa.
No, it’s not a relief. Far from it. Painting echoes toileting inasmuch as the instant you are perched precariously on the ladder, hoping the paint doesn’t splatter on the floor below, the phone rings. Of course as soon as you have descended, put the brush down somewhere other than on top of your pashmina and trotted to the phone, they have hung up. That is if you’re lucky.
This being an election year, should you pick up, the possibility exists that a robotic voice you can totally trust, exhorts you to vote for this or that candidate, for or against a ballot measure or just reminds you that if you don’t share their opinion, you are pond scum. ……. Best to stay on the ladder.
Synchronized Swimming is good training for detail painting.
We have a friend. He has a wife. His wife is a compulsive TV shopper; she likes to shop but doesn’t necessarily ever use her purchases. In some cases, we are the lucky recipients of her impulsive credit card waving. She shops, we enjoy. Everyone is happy.
One of the first things we received from our friend was an electric pressure cooker. It’s an entry level pot – none of the fancy “push one button and forget it” types of things, but a hugely useful device nonetheless. The handle sports a wrapping of purple electrical tape to protect my hands. There is a notch in the handle because the first time I used it, I didn’t secure it properly and, at temperature, it went shooting across the room. A slightly dinged handle was one of the better potential outcomes, and I am grateful.
Last week I did a pulled pork in it, which was widely praised at our neighborhood picnic for its tenderness. Pressure cookers excel at tender, but today I want to extol its virtues on another cooking problem – fresh eggs.
If you buy your eggs at the local Shop till you Drop Emporium, you have your choice of several types of eggs ranging from basic white from the massive chicken farm, to the brown eggs (also from the chicken farm, but they’re brown so you think they’re better) to the “cage free” and organic cage free at top dollar. The one thing all the options have in common is the length of time from hen to store; generally by the time STYD (Shop till you Drop) puts them on their shelf, they are at least 10 days old.
The great news is, eggs last a long time. They are designed to be kept warm for 3 weeks while the mother broods over them, till they hatch the cutest little things you’ve ever seen. Really, they’re adorable. Your 10 day old eggs are quite fine.
Do you know how to test to see if an egg has gone bad? Put it in a bowl of water. If it floats, throw it away. When the egg is laid, there is an air sac formed. As it ages, the sac fills with air and when there is enough air to float, the egg is old.
All this is interesting and delightful reading, you say, but why an electric pressure cooker and eggs?
So the issue is with some fresher store bought eggs, but especially if you’ve sought out local small farm eggs. The shell adheres quite well to the freshly laid protective inner membrane and makes peeling a hard boiled egg a pain in the patoot! For those who enjoy fresh eggs, you probably know not to contemplate a platter of deviled eggs with the whites unscathed by the peeling process. Until now.
Enter the pressure cooker. The difference between the altered atmospheric pressure and simply boiling an egg is that the membrane breaks down in the pressure. I swear to you, your eggs will peel perfectly and evenly every time. Cross my heart and hope to smell like Sulphur.
Place as many eggs as you would like into your pressure cooker. Cover them with cold water.
Place the lid on and set the timer for 5 minutes. The timer begins its countdown when pressure is achieved, so the 5 minutes is cook time under pressure. Depending on how many eggs and the associated amount of water, it can take an additional 5-10 minutes before the timer begins.
As soon as the 5 minutes under pressure have passed, release the pressure by opening the quick release valve. Keep your fingers away because there will be a lot of hot steam coming out quickly. Open the lid and transfer the eggs to an ice water bath to stop the cooking process.
When cool, hit the egg several times against a hard surface to crack the shell, then marvel as the perfect hard boiled egg slides out of its protective casing.