Third time’s the charm?

Last year when I was still in the throes of baking, before I was attacked by cystic acne and vicious tummy fat, I attempted to make orange pound cake. I tried this twice, and failed twice before giving up on this, and then giving up on baking altogether.

Still my fondness for baking has been ignited, and will not be completely extinguished so easily. Plus it was bank holiday Monday, and everyone was out enjoying the great outdoors so I figured I ought to commemorate the day as well, and what better way than to revisit an old nemesis? That kids, is how I ended up baking orange pound cake for the third time.

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Outside is open and I am lonely again.

Much has been said about how the lockdown must be a dream for introverts, and I have written about my sheer happiness about not having to leave my house, and not needing an excuse for not having any plans. That has all come to a bittersweet end.

While the world rejoices at the reopening of the great outdoors, I feel the familiar stirring of loneliness and it saddens me. I feel as though I have been enjoying a deep restful sleep and now the alarm has gone off. Already I have been asked by a thousand people what my plans for the bank holiday weekend was, and then asked by a million people what I did over the bank holiday weekend. I have forced to listen to my flatmates as they regaled me with tales of camping, hiking and general merriment. I have had to turn down an invitation to eat out with some of them-my small talk is reserved for the kitchen-and in a panic struggle to come up with a suitable excuse. I have seen my friends post about the fun things they got up to outside. Everyone is banging on about how lovely the weather is, and wanting to know how I will be enjoying it. I have had to revert to my lonely girl phase-smile and say oh I didn’t get up to much, I just chilled. It is depressing.

The one thing about having a national lockdown imposed upon us is that it took away the pressure of socialising and the fear of missing out, Everyone was at home, so I was not abnormal in that sense. It was no longer weird that I didn’t leave my house the whole weekend, and I no longer had to be ashamed at how empty my life was.

Still, in spite of myself I am pleased that outside is open. I know some people must have suffered greatly with having to be cooped indoors all the time, and oh how happy they must be. I wish I shared the sentiment, personally.

I foresee a resurgence of all the loneliness posts, now that outside is open again. I already bought myself a copy of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, and I plan on rereading that. Watch out for the sad girl posts.

You might roll your eyes and ask: why don’t you just go out and make friends? For this I have to refer to one of my favourite quotes from Olivia Laing’s The Lonely City:

“The lonelier a person gets, the less adept they become at navigating social currents. Loneliness grows around them, like mould or fur, a prophylactic that inhibits contact, no matter how badly contact is desired.”

C’est la vie, unfortunately.

To vaccinate or not to vaccinate?

…that is the question. The answer from me is sure why not? I have been asked whether or not I would take the vaccine, and in my usual non-committal what will be will be way, I would say sure, why not. I’m not in a hurry to take it but once it’s available to my age group, I will. Then I received a text from my GP practice saying they were running a Pfizer vaccination clinic the very next day and would I like to register? Suddenly I wasn’t so sure. Once confronted with a real prospect of getting the vaccine, I got cold feet. I am not an anti-vaxxer at all, and I am all for the vaccine, and vaccination in general. I don’t have any strong emotions about it and you will not catch me at a demonstration arguing for or against the vaccine. It’s not that deep for me. Plus a couple of my friends work in the health sector and have been vaccinated with no issues. Still, I don’t really leave my house and I wear my mask everywhere, do I really need to take the vaccine now? Maybe in a year when all of the kinks have been worked out?

I also had doubts as to the legitimacy of the invitation. Why would my GP send a text, rather than a letter? I’m not in the right age group so it seemed dubious. I had also just received a text from “paypal” asking me to click on a link to agree to the new terms and conditions, so perhaps scammers were just busy that day. I ignored the text from the GP and went about my day.

A few days later I received another text with more dates so I went ahead and booked the appointment. What really was the worst that could happen eh? I was not asked to click on a link or enter any personal details, and it was taking place at the hospital not a dodgy location. For added measure, I sent an email to the GP to confirm the legitimacy of the texts and this was verified.

After the initial hesitation, I became strangely super excited to get the vaccine. I eagerly counted down the days, and the hours, and when it was time to head off to the clinic I did so with a skip in my step. Maybe I was just happy to leave my house. I got to the clinic and was given a pamphlet which outlined the vaccine and possible side effects. Then I went in and got the vaccine. I was asked all the necessary questions- any allergies, blood clots, fever symptoms, etc. The injection was over in a few seconds and I didn’t even feel it. The whole process took maybe 25 minutes at most, including the 15 minutes after the vaccination where I had to wait to see if I developed any issues. Of course I didn’t and that was that. All in all, it was a pleasant experience.

On advice of the vaccinator, I got some paracetamol on my way home and took two immediately I got home, and two before bed. Thankfully I did not get any major symptoms. My hands felt a bit cold (first my left, then the right) for a little while, and the spot I got vaccinated in was a bit sore for a couple of days after. Apart from this, I had no issues, and this was pleasing to me.

I’m looking forward to getting the second dose in a few months. One day this will all be over and we will speak of the pandemic in past tense. We will say “remember when we used to wear masks everywhere?” I will miss working from home and I want that to stay.

Lockdown diaries: Hit the road Greggs!

Yesterday I made some sausage rolls and Greggs is shaking in its boots! The CEO is pleading with me not to put them out of business; “Think of all our workers!” s/he cried.  So it is for this reason that I have decided not to open up a sausage roll shop.  

In the spirit of conquering daunting tasks, I decided to make some sausage rolls. I have made them before way back in the day and they were actually quite nice. Plus I had to a ton of flour left over from my mac and cheese and decided might as well make some sausage rolls.

The first step was finding a recipe for sausage rolls and this turned out to be a more infuriating process than I anticipated for a couple of reasons:

  1. Get to the bloody point! My goodness. All I want is the blooming recipe; I don’t care about when you first fell in love with sausages. I don’t care that your grandfather was shot during the war and the only thing that saved him was the puff pastry in his breast pocket which then ignited a family long obsession with sausage rolls. Just give me the recipe. Now I know what you are thinking; errm don’t you do the same thing? You tend to ramble on before getting to the point. In response I say shut up and stop missing the point. If I had a cooking blog I would at the very least include an option to skip the faff and go straight to the recipe.

     2. Does no one make homemade pastry anymoooooorreee? I had my flour, all I         wanted was a recipe that showed me how to turn that into delicious pastry but every single one called for ready made puff pastry. I was losing my mind. I eventually had to google “Sausage rolls from scratch” before I managed to find two  recipes that told me how to do this. I disregarded all of the extra stuff and just focused on the pastry. 

I was blown away that all I needed for the pastry was flour, butter, salt and water. Wild. I hate minced meat and really just eat sausage rolls for the pastry (no kidding I literally scrape out the filling) so I just got a pack of burger beef patties and did not bother to do anything else with them.

I just thought of a genius idea: I could just make pastry with no filling! This will be my next project. 

For now here is the uber simplistic recipe below (recorded here for my benefit). 

Ingredients

Flour (225g or 8oz)
Butter (100g)
Salt (1/3 tb
Water
Beef patty/sausages/marshamallows (whatever you want really).
One egg

Directions

-Add the butter and salt to the flour and mix until it looks scrambled. There was some talk of using a food processor but I obviously do not have one of those. My butter was rock solid so I warmed it a bit in the microwave first. 

-Add some water- a few tablespoons should be fine. Just enough to make it smooth and shape it into a ball. It should not be sticky.

-Wrap the ball in clingfilm and chill- I was quite confused by this. Does this mean chill the dough in the fridge or did the recipe call for me to chill as in relax? Anyway I put the dough in the fridge for 30 minutes (most likely less. I was impatient).

-Prepare the filling- in my case bring out the beef patty and mush it.

-Roll out the pastry to preferred thickness. I must have done something wrong because the texture felt odd. I either did not put in enough water or didn’t let it chill enough. I guess we’ll never know

-Put in the beef and coat the ends of the rolled out pastry with egg. Eggs are a luxury item in this age of coronavirus and I was understandably reluctant to crack open an egg and not use the whole thing. I saved the rest of the egg to be fried in a sauce

-Roll the pastry like sushi and paint the top with egg

-Preheat the oven (probably should have done this sooner) to about 200’oc 

-Put in sausage rolls and leave in for 20-ish minutes

-Devour hungrily. 

I have helpfully included a photo collage of the recipe below. 

 

 

 

Le verdict? They could have been better but what would I know seeing as I only ate the pastry bit and that was satisfactory. It made for a nice snack with a smoothie. It feels so good to be able to cook. 

A bientot!

PS: I just found a pciture of my first ever attempt at sausage rolls over seven years ago. These look a bit better and tasted amazing. Sometimes the first attempt is the best. 

sausage rolls

Gratitude.

In all things, give thanks.

What a messy bitch this year is turning out to be.

It amuses me to think that just three months ago when we were all proclaiming the year twenty twenty as our year, the universe was out there snickering at us, laughing her flat ass off over what she had in store for us.

It really has been one thing after the other: Barely a few days into January and there were already tensions between the USA and Iran. In February Australia was on fire. For March Corona came through like a wrecking ball and shut everything down. Of course the virus has been wreaking havoc much longer than March but everything has gone to hell in a basket in the past few weeks.

I have been working from home for two weeks now, and I’m not going to lie to you, I love it. I do not know how I am going to go back to work when this is all over. As a lifelong introverted loner homebody, I have been social distancing from everyone long before the lockdown. So this is really like normal life for me. Except it isn’t.

To my surprise, the first couple of days were rough. There is a difference between staying at home because you want to and staying at home because you must due to the fact that outside is bad. I was disoriented, moody, sick of work and all the endless catch-ups and updates, and anxious about meeting deadlines. I was also feeling unwell and dizzy. I thought I might have the Coronavirus but it turned out I was just sitting too close to the heater.

My mood has improved drastically since then and I wake up happy. These days would be better were it not for the pungent fear permeating everywhere. Every cough is an assault and every sneeze is regarded with suspicion. I am pretty calm as long as I am in my room, but whenever I venture out into the kitchen and run into one of my flatmates, I am immediately convinced I have the rona. One of my flatmates is a doctor who is doing the Lord’s work by fighting the virus daily on the frontline. He does amazing work and I am terrified that he will get it and pass it on to me.

Still life is good, and I have so much to be thankful for. I have a place to live, and my room even has a study area in front of a window with a reasonably nice view. I have food to eat and water to drink. Though I would rather be with friends and family at this time, I have Netflix and youtube to keep me company. I am healthy. I am happy. I have no children to drive me crazy, literally no serious responsibilities. Life could definitely be worse.

I have managed to be productive by cooking more and I am amazed at how easy cooking actually is. I went panic shopping about three times before the lockdown was announced because I had no idea what to get. The first time I simply got sweets and ingredients for mac and cheese. Then I got some meat and noodles but didn’t get any stir fry vegetables. The third time I had my wits about me and actually bought some food. These past few days have taught me that my fear of cooking is all in the mind. Once I got over the hurdles-figuring out what to cook, shopping for the ingredients, dragging my lazy butt out of bed to cook- it was actually as simple as ABC. Yesterday I actually made some sausage rolls- the pastry only required two ingredients! (four if you count salt and water).

I have also taken up knitting and yesterday I completed my first project- a headband. Again I was amazed at how easy it was. I love taking down these daunting tasks and realising there is really nothing much to them; just follow the instructions. With all my degrees and qualifications I should be able to do just that.

I have also had more catch-ups with family and friends which has been lovely. I have not left my house in over a week and I have had bread and butter every single day. All in all life is good and I am thankful for that.

Today I am warm, fed and happy. I don’t know what tomorrow brings, but today I am thankful and that is enough.