Monthly Archives: December 2010

Why Is There Never Any Cheese?

I am obsessed with cheese. I have instigated late-night cheese raids in France, Spain, Italy, Cyprus and on both coasts of the US. I was once woken from an ungainly post-club sleep by Lorna, who really just wanted to know whether I was alright, only to assault her with a plaintive: “Why is there never any cheeeeeeese?”

I am therefore sidestepping the traditional meaning and boldly proclaiming myself a global cheese expert. Any cheese will do, I’m not fussy. I’m not keen on the blue stuff, being of the opinion that mould is never a good thing, but I can cope with strong, mild, rubbery, crumbly, soft, hard, sliced, wheeled, covered in holes…. bring it on.

Imagine my glee to discover… SQUEEZY CHEESE. I encountered it on Christmas Eve but, on opening the can, stupidly surmised that the mechanism (which I assumed worked much like an aerosol) was broken and, not wanting to appear any more the daft foreigner than usual, stepped quietly away (towards the bowl of crackers and cheese cubes).

Yesterday, my father-in-law chaperoned us on a trip into the woods to gather pieces for the end table he’s helping me make. Crackers and SQUEEZY CHEESE were on the snack menu and, not yet understanding the dangers of leaving me alone with cheddar, he gave them to us to carry.

There it was again: cheese, trapped in a can, helpless. My heart bled, as I am, after all, the head of Cheese Amnesty. I forged a cunning plan, watched that can carefully, lay in wait for the right time and, just as Hubby lifted it towards his cracker, casually enquired as to how one might liberate its dairy captive.

And the answer is: bend it a bit. Who’d have thought? There are some nuggets of knowledge that enhance one’s life forever, and nothing afterwards is ever quite the same. Patience apparently pays off, because now I know exactly how to make sure that there is never, ever no cheese. I also know how to make artistic doodlings with it. The squeezy can is empty, but I am not.

This post is dedicated to Lorna, who, after experiencing my cheese withdrawal, made sure there was a block of cheddar available every time I set foot in her flat.


Suspicious Dinners

Christmas dinner: prime rib, company potatoes and salad, followed by sour cream and raisin pie.

Tonight’s dinner: the Lord himself only knows.

I am taking my cue from the box, pictured below, that Hubby served some sort of mac and cheese for our evening meal. Not actual mac and cheese: the boxed kind that comes under the heading of “Suspicious Food”, because he had a hankering and felt I ought to share it.

I ate with minimal complaint, and thus believe I should be complimented on my bravery, because it was the sort of colour you suspect would glow in the dark and, once dry, it would almost certainly be an excellent replacement for cement.

Now, there is good food, as evidenced by the delights I was fed for Christmas, and then there is good crappy food, and then there is crap. I am going to tick the middle box in this case because, all visual cues to the contrary, and despite the block of salt they add to it, and despite the little lumps of flavouring that don’t quite mix in and provide intermittent “surprises”, it was actually quite nice.

We’ll see how I feel in a few hours.

Merry Christmas!

I hope you all had wonderful Christmases, and I’m sorry to those of you who never received your Yuletide greeting: I never quite made it to the post office with my cards. I was bad enough at hitting the last day of the post back home; attempting international delivery meant failure was inevitable.

This was my first ever Christmas away from my parents and all the festive traditions I’m used to. I didn’t have to peel sprouts and chop swede on Christmas Eve, I wasn’t woken too early by an excitable brother, there was no turkey, roast potatoes and pigs in blankets, no Christmas pudding with custard you have to wrestle from my father’s desperate hands and no speech from the Queen, watched while munching Quality Street that shouldn’t theoretically have anywhere to go, one’s stomach being crammed to bursting with stuffing and gravy.

Also no crackers. I had no idea they were a tradition peculiar to the UK, but apparently bundling a stupid joke, a paper hat and a small plastic toy that 30% of the time cannot be identified into a cardboard tube is not a worldwide phenomenon.

We did get to open our gifts together, though, which made it all ok. We got up early for a video call, my parents having patiently waited all day to open their presents from us. They had sent over a stocking for each of us, which were duly ripped into. Hubby is particularly thrilled with his Dalek toothbrush and extendable fork, designed for pinching everybody else’s food, while I was delighted with my pig-shaped egg timer and Union Jack bauble and tea towel.

After our own gift-swapping (during which my incredibly thoughtful husband presented me with a copy of The Snowman, the Christmas movie I’ve watched every year since I was 3 years old and was sad to be going without, as well as various other goodies), we trotted over to the main house for yet another unwrapping session with the rest of the family. Fortunately, that shit never gets old.

We did spectacularly – there were too many gifts to list. Some of my favourites included the traditional socks and underwear (I didn’t bring any socks with me and am still living out of my suitcase, so those were a godsend), a Pilates DVD, a handmade wooden hand mirror, a pair of fluffy pants for mooching about the house in and a book from my father-in-law that’s a primer for all the skills a woman might need to live this close to nature. It includes instructions for making willow furniture – he’s taking me out to collect wood to make an end table tomorrow.

This was followed by a delicious family dinner and plenty of fun and games, including a hilarious session on Dance Central (from sis-in-law and family) on our new Kinect (from Mum-in-law and Dad-in-law). Nothing like cramming most of the family in our little living room to watch us shake our booties.

All of this was preceded by the family Christmas Eve, which involved a lot of merrymaking and munching and swapping of gifts. I now possess, among other things, a recipe box from Grandma Rosetta, with which to thieve everyone’s cooking skills, some beautiful homemade baubles from Aunt Mary and a down jacket from Uncle Jim and Aunt Michelle that I haven’t taken off for 3 days. The latters’ sons gave everyone a pocket knife; mine was little, which I believe to be fitting as I am a learner and the most likely to chop my own fingers off.

And that was our Christmas: not anything like the one I’m used to, but a lot of fun. So, what did you get from Santa?

Too Polite?

A package arrived for me this week from my lovely dad. Some say the British are too polite for our own good. I say we are simply well-mannered.

Raccoon Karaoke

Inspiration is a funny old thing. Voila a warped version of the evil raccoon, courtesy of the ever-imaginative Sparky Malarkey.

Fluppets Lied To Me

When I was knee high to a grasshopper, I had a Fluppet in the shape of a raccoon. Regard:

See how adorable that is? Look at its plaintive face and fluffy little body. Imagine the delight that little hand puppet instilled in me when used by one or other of my parents as a tickling tool and/or storytelling device. Literally the cutest stripey little bastard in the world, a raccoon…. OR SO I THOUGHT.

Then I met one… dear Christ. Regard once more:

Ominous, no? Not the same thing at all. Not to mention that an actual raccoon is not a small critter that would fit snugly on a seven-year-old’s hand, but a big bulky bastard that outweighs our dog on something like a two-for-one basis.

Mind you, that’s not the best comparison I’ve ever made, because our dog is a Delicate Flower and two growth stages away from being outweighed by my kitten. For my English compadres, think of a raccoon as a whole new league of badger: fluffy in theory, bad-tempered in person.

The problem is, raccoons tend to come out in pictures like so:

This is not the truth. This picture almost certainly portrays a group of raccoons posing for effect. I’ve been told that a raccon around these parts will lead a dog to water and then hold its head under, and I believe it, because a raccoon, in my newfound experience, is a lot more like this:

I recently had dinner with Hubby’s best friend, along with his girlfriend and family, during which I was told there was a raccoon outside, in a cage, that they’d had to trap because it kept going after the chickens. They were planning to take it far, far away before setting it free.

I asked if I could have a peek, still under the impression it would want to give me a cuddle, and thus destroyed a lifelong belief. They are fluffy, it’s true, but they are also unnecessarily huge, sport claws the length of my fingers and hiss in an unnerving manner when approached.

Not cute, not cute at all. I’m dreading meeting a porcupine, which I’ve always assumed to be about the same size as a hedgehog, but am told is the circumference of a bin lid.

Still not convinced? Regard one last time:

See? Not cute, just bitey.

Haphazard Holidays: Part 2

Ah, love: what is it if not the unwilling capitulation to your significant other’s demands. With one tree looking like we called in a group of toddlers to put it together, I believed I had satisfied Hubby’s need for haphazard. I was wrong.

The tree I cut down with the patient aid of Father-in-Law was to be placed by our front door, for all to see. Being an outside sort of tree, it would bear lights rather than baubles. How can you go wrong with lights? I thought. How indeed.

Hubby had also purchased some big coloured lights last year to celebrate my being there over the holiday season. By the time I arrived, they’d been unplugged in favour of the snowblower, but I appreciated the sentiment. And so, this year, I believed we’d be awash with a colourful, twinkling glow over Christmas.

In hindsight, it might not have been wise to turn my back. My first clue that everything was about to go tits up was that he trotted by with two different strands of lights: one white, one coloured. Not to worry, I thought, we can intertwine them and have a row of one and then a row of the other.

Apparently not. As Hubby plonked lights on bits of branch, I assumed, optimistically, that he was planning to tidy them up later. He was not. We now have third of a tree in white and a third of a tree in colour and a third of a tree sadly bare and the whole shebang would still be propped against the apartment wall if Dad-in-Law had not insisted it be moved under the bower, where it could actually be seen.

Then he broke one of the stands for the big lights, so it’s hanging upside down over the walkway while its neighbours stand tall and, somewhere nearby, the most random tree in the area twinkles gleefully.