Monday, October 26, 2009

Downright Silly Time

I quite like Daylight Savings Time but really, it is SO Victorian.

"I know" says some bright spark (George Vernon Hudson - a New Zealander but a Victorian, none-the-less) "We Victorians need more daylight in winter to do our extremely very useful inventing and to work children at the mills longer. We've invented electricity, we own the known world and so now we're going to CHANGE TIME!!"

"Yeah, sod the farmers, parents of small children and anyone who lives outside of the British Empire, we're going to fuck with you all... and while we're at it we're going to drive on the wrong side of the road too - ha ha ha!!! Try conquering us NOW you morons, we're going to be sleeping in today and we're going to be REALLY WELL RESTED. Unless, of course, we have three-year-olds, or cats, or dogs, or, say, a barn full of cows who still think that time is a constant and will now be up SUPER EARLY!!!! Bwah hahaha!!"

OK, so DST may have had its uses but really, I think we're done now. There's enough electric light that we are never really in the dark and it only gives us extra morning light for a few weeks. For this small mercy it messes with our internal clocks and puts a spanner in the works for anyone who works internationally or has family overseas.

Not only that, but the DST world can't even agree on when to put the clocks back - so while the clocks are back in the UK, Canada and the US haven't quite decided yet. AND, and and and... if you look at the map on Wikipedia here, you can see that over half the countries who started using DST have actually seen the light and stopped. I particularly love the fact that bits of Canada have just opted out, making it a particular nightmare for Canadians.

Down with DST! OK. Yes I've been up since 6. You can tell, can't you?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Sparx' killer Pumpkin Pie recipe

OK, here are the pies that caused all the trouble, below!

I cannot take full responsibility for this recipe, however I have messed with it over the years to make it mine because, quite frankly, I hated pumpkin pie until this came along.

Firstly - pastry. Now, this is definitively NOT my recipe, I found it here and it is the best sweet-pie crust I've ever had. Seriously, you could make this into biscuits it's so good.

450 to 500 gms flour
50gms custard powder
250 gms butter
250 gms caster sugar
2 eggs

Next, the magic pie filling:

1 cup cooked pumpkin
2 eggs
1 cup condensed milk (a medium tin)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 apple, grated
lemon zest (half a lemon)
1 tablespoon brandy (or a teaspoon of vanilla essence for kids)
Raisins or dried fruit

Preheat oven to about 200 celcius, whatever that is in fahrenheit.

I normally dice the pumpkin quite small and put it to boil, then I cheat and whiz the pastry in a mixer and put it in the fridge. The pastry mix is really sticky, don't expect to be able to use a rolling pin.

Once the pumpkin is cooked I then also cheat and put it into the mixer (drained) with the milk, sugar, eggs and brandy - otherwise you have to mash it by hand, beat the eggs and then hand mix it all. Grate the apple, zest the lemon and stir that in by hand - squeeze some lemon juice in as well but not too much.

Then, crucially, take the spoon that you used to empty the condensed milk tin and lick it clean. These calories do not count!

Take a muffin tray and grease it up then roll the pastry by hand into small golf balls and press them into the moulds to make the crusts. Cook them for about 5 minutes until there's a bit of a hard skin on them. Cook them too long and they puff up or go brown which you don't want.

Spoon the raisins or fruit into each shell and then add the pumpkin mix and cook for about 10 minutes, or until it's risen and slightly brown on top.

I then sieve some sugar and cinnamon over the top and let them cool.

These pies are what won the pie-off at the nursery, below...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The pies of Brixton

On Tuesday evening I picked the spud up from nursery to be presented with a letter informing us that today, two days later, we needed to ship him off dressed in his national costume and porting some sort of comestible representing his heritage. Heritage? Two days? Hello?

He's half French and half Canadian so while I tried to work out the food (maple-leaf croissants? pate de foie-moose?) the Frog helpfully suggested we head down to the market for a garlic necklace and a baguette.

The upshot was that this morning we packed him off in jeans and a cowboy shirt (I'm sure we could have made less effort but I'm not quite sure how) and this evening I went to pick him up laden with three dozen pumpkin pies I made last night.

There was a proper celebration going when we arrived - easily 100 people, many in bright costumes, a steel band, an entire lamb roasting on a spit and a table laden with international food. The spud was with his mates dancing with abandon to the music; it was frankly incredible, I couldn't quite believe it was a nursery. It was 100% Brixton, anyway and another reason I love this little patch of London so much.

I stood by the food table (as one does) primping my pies when along comes this amazing woman in full Caribbean gear porting inch-long red nails who takes one look at the sign and says 'Pumpkin pies! Can you imagine how awful they must taste?!'.

I was absolutely delighted - a woman not afraid to tell it like she sees it! I immediately wracked her with guilt. 'I made those pies' I said as she recoiled. 'And now' I added, 'you've insulted me so I'm going to make you eat one!'. We were smiling... but you know, I was deadly serious.

She gingerly put one on her plate and started off 'Oh no' I waded in, 'I'm not seeing one go to waste, you have to eat it right here'. And, bless her, she did. Halfway through the first bite she stopped, asked me what was on the top (cinnamon sugar) and she said 'these are amazing!'. To prove it, she took two more for her family and about three minutes later I saw her take a couple more.

Ten minutes later, all three dozen pies were gone.

I think the spud might have enjoyed himself nearly as much as I did. Tonight we took a metal mixing bowl and a spoon into the bath, half-filled it with water and swirled it about while he bashed it about the gills making steel band sounds.

I've had worse days.


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Birthday Card Boogie

Normally Canada Post is rubbish. Actually that should read 'historically', as life in Canada means accepting that it takes a week for a letter to cross town. In fact, we used to get some sort of grim amusement out of the fact that sending a letter to my Gran in Victoria took about the same time as a letter to someone just down the road.

Birthday and Christmas presents from Canada therefore are expected arrive at fairly random times. Combine this with the recent Royal Mail postal strikes and it is no surprise that Charlie's birthday presents from Uncle Hoto & Auntie Shelley arrived only yesterday.

The presents were great. The card, however, rocks - although not as much as my future Billy Elliot here...

Where does he GET those grooving moves?


Sunday, October 11, 2009

My right hand...

Charlie loves puppets. I have saved many a cranky afternoon with the aid of his Monkey puppet - and in fact, many a cranky morning, evening and bedtime.

Recently however while Monkey was taking a sabbatical at the bottom of the toy box, I was forced by necessity into emergency measures and, basically, Monkey made an appearance without his clothes on. Just my hand, talking, pointing, laughing and making snapping movements at my son's tickly bits. He loved it.

He loved it so much that he's demanding my hand by its own name these days. Sometimes in fact, if I am in another room, he will request the presence of my hand rather than me.

Sadly, the name my son has given to this hand is 'Snatch'. Sometimes he calls it 'snap' but normally, that's my son standing in the middle of the playground shouting 'I WANT SNATCH!!!!'.

A few years ahead of his time, my boy...