Monday, September 26, 2011

Internal Memorandum: Staffing

Following the recent expansion of the team, here's how the Pretty Far West staffing situation stands at the end of September, 2011:


Beatrice, my imaginary assistant, who fields the complaints

The outsourced commentators, who comment on other blogs on my behalf (24/7 bunker-based, meagerly recompensed, quality service)

Speccy the Mascot. She has brought us much good fortune, and it is safe to say that without her benign and alert presence Pretty Far West would not have become the International Juggernaut of Good Taste you see before you today.

Consultant Jar Filling Designer: the redoubtable Jacqueline. Note to HR: Jacqueline has filled jars tirelessly and with unfaltering grace.  Her loss at this stage would be one of cataclysmic proportions. Commission a short opera around this theme.

[how to store leftover paint in Blogtopia]

Senior Sofa Manager and VP of Shelving (non-stipendiary): Paula. To our considerable sadness, the lovely Paula moved to London earlier this year. Since her departure, our sofas have become utterly unmanageable.

Senior Senior Design Consultants. This position has recently been offered on a freelance executive consultancy basis to the Hattatts, glittering socialites, able raconteurs, and the latest darlings of the Blogtopian intellegentsia.  We hope their presence will bring a touch of continental flair to the team.

Junior Senior Design Consultant: Vacancy to be advertised once the Hattatts have taken up their duties.  Conceived as a fetching and carrying support role.

Vice Junior Senior Design Consultant: Lucille has kindly volunteered to take on this responsible and demanding position.

I trust I haven't inadvertently omitted anyone. The role of Queen Mother to the team will shortly be readvertised, due to certain irregularities in the recruitment process last time round.

We had hoped to offer Jane the position of Global Director of Flowers, but I missed her Flowers in the House gig today so now is not a good time.  The matter will be sensitively broached in due course.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Yellow-Framed Talking Point

This image from the new Heart Home online interiors magazine gives me hope.

[image: Heart Home]

It makes me aspire to transform the family Odds & Ends Drawer into something like that yellow-framed picture, incorporating the bicycle lights and cup hooks and theirs of the 27th inst. re mine of the 11th inst. and Scottish Husband's device for starting a fire when one is stranded on a desert island. It would be a Talking Point. A Talking Point sounds so much better than an Odds & Ends Drawer.

One should never, of course, admit in Blogtopia to the existence of an uncurated Odds & Ends Drawer, but now that you find me in full-blown confessional mode, I have a question for you:

Since we took up the carpet, our study floor is bare concrete - not artistic, polished loft-living style concrete, but a mottled dusty grey abomination (undepicted). One day it will be tiled, but it is part of a larger project, tentatively scheduled for the vague future.  I thought I could paint the floor as a stopgap, but no; the internet tells me quite vehemently that tiles will not stick to paint. Can anyone suggest a temporary solution that will make the place look decent without considerable effort? 

Saturday, September 17, 2011

custard fairy cakes

With the autumnal chill, our thoughts turn primevally to custard.  We wonder how fairy cakes would turn out if we were to make them using some custard powder, so we adjust our old reliable recipe accordingly.

They emerge from the oven more buoyant than usual, with an appealing golden colour and a delicate custardy taste. The daughters, always suspicious of New Food, are initially merely Willing To Eat Them but soon, as they familiarise themselves with the unknown, they are telling me that they have been very good and Must Have Another.

  • Preheat the oven to 180-200 degrees.   
  • Measure 50g self-raising flour, 50g custard powder, 100g sugar, 100g butter, and two eggs into a bowl.  If, like me, you don't trust self-raising flour, add a teaspoon of baking powder. Add a little vanilla or rosewater if you wish. 
  • Beat with your electric mixer until light and fluffy. Spoon into little paper cases in a tin, and bake for 10-15 minutes.
  • To make the icing, gently heat a little milk and butter in a saucepan until the butter has melted. Gradually add some of it to icing sugar until you have a spreadable consistency. 
  • Add Smarties, or whatever suits. You may wish to raise your game with crystallized violets.

And now we wonder whether we could abandon the flour entirely and make these with custard powder alone.  Bakers among you, what do you think?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Was Nancy Mitford wrong?

[Hold that pose, Pink Daughter!]
"And yet, when I consider my life, day by day, hour by hour, it seems to be composed of a series of pinpricks. Nannies, cooks, the endless drudgery of housekeeping, the nerve-wracking noise and boring repetive conversation of small children ... their absolute incapacity to amuse themselves, their sudden and terrifying illnesses, Alfred's not infrequent bouts of moodiness, his invariable complaints at meals about the pudding, the way he will always use my toothpaste and always squeeze the tube in the middle."

Thus says Fanny, the fictional narrator of 'The Pursuit of Love' by Nancy Mitford.  Can it really be the case that people lead such lives? It seems so different from my own experience here in Blogtopia, where my imaginary Nannies and Cooks are loyal treasures, toothpaste is packaged in unsqueezeable dispensers, and the children look up from their Improving Books only to ascertain whether their dearest Mamma would like them to recite a little poem.  Mais bien sûr, mes chéries, once I have photographed my artless pie. 

I've heard it said that Queen Elizabeth II of England has a gin and tonic at noon every day. How that must help.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

roast peaches

Allow 1-2 peaches per person. Wash them and cut them up into large chunks.

Place in a casserole dish with a spoonful or two of sugar and a knob of butter.

Put the dish onto a lower shelf of the oven while you are cooking something else. They will be cooked when they have a slightly caramelized colour and are bubbling away in their own syrup. Serve warm or cold, with some nice vanilla ice cream.

(If you like rosemary, add a sprig to the casserole dish and remove it when the peaches are cooked.)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

how to store apples in Blogtopia

Several issues have worried me lately: climate change, of course, and instability in the eurozone and dissatisfaction with my passport photo and whether my breakfast cereal provides me with the essential vitamins and minerals I need to fuel my busy lifestyle and how to provide for myself in my old age and whether I am missing out on the opportunity of a lifetime to buy a standalone egg-scrambler with free toast-warmer, but mostly I have been concerned about the comfort of the apples.

Now that Mags of the Tearful Strawberries has made me this lovely pink apple cosy, all those other problems seem less overwhelming. I will tackle them one at a time. Thank you, dear Mags.  

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Tea with Helen Tilston

"What a kind person that was," said Blue Daughter, lining up the chocolate bugs Helen Tilston had given her in a neat row ready for orderly consumption. "When can we have tea with her again?"  Good question, Blue Daughter. Helen is off on her travels round Ireland and then back home to Canada so it may be a while.

"What can we do about that?" asked Pink Daughter, as she negotiated the exchange of one chocolate shoe for two chocolate bugs. That's the spirit, Pink Daughter.  We don't just sit back and let companionable people go; we get in touch with the Ambassador.

[Helen Tilston and me, with thanks to Helen's husband for the photo]

OK, so Helen has her busy life across the ocean, her career as a well-known artist, her friends and her lovely house there. Nonetheless, in the formal application of the people of Ireland to the Canadian Ambassador to have a congenial fellow Galwaywoman returned to us, we counter any foreign claim to her by mentioning her obvious Irish background: the touch of a Galway accent, her thoughtfulness and lighthearted conversation, her versatile talents and her look of someone who has plenty of smiling done and more to do.  

[self-portrait by Helen Tilston, one of my favourites of her paintings]

We will send along ordnance survey maps in evidence that we too have a decent amount of Plein Air such as would be suitable for painting in. As is the way of the Irish, we will include with our application for her repatriation a small bribe, perhaps 12 dollars, in a plain envelope to show that our intent is serious.  The Ambassador will be able to buy about three packets of Mr Kipling Cakes with that.  We would recommend that he goes for the pink and yellow iced French Fancies, but that's up to him. He may prefer Cherry Bakewells. 
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