Thursday, 26 November 2009

For my American friends

Ah, Thanksgiving. That great American holiday where scattered kinfolk trek back from the four corners of the earth to gather together at the family table and remember, um, remember... the story of Pocohontas?
No, wait, that's not it.
Hang on, don't tell me...

Naturally Thanksgiving is a strictly American tradition, and one of the few USA things that hasn't been exported around the rest of the world.
Until I started blogging all I knew about Thanksgiving I learnt from watching Planes, Trains and Automobiles.
If I didn't visit so many American websites and blogs, Thanksgiving would pass completely beneath my radar.

But I like reading all the enthusiastic Thanksgiving posts about what people are doing what they are planning to cook. And there is something noble and fitting about setting aside a day to remember and be thankful for the first pilgrims, what they endured and the foundations upon which America built her astonishing success.
It's good to look back and be grateful. And it occurs to me that it is not unlike a Passover meal in some respects ( always a plus in my philo semite books)
So this is just a little shout out to my yankee doodle dandies across the pond to say 'Have a good one!'
And if you need any encouragement to relax a little and not to take too seriously the business of making the day fabulous, then take a little negative inspiration from the following example.
I've seen it around the web lately. It originated on this blog and is, I believe, completely authentic, with just name changes ( although the original writer of this piece must surely know by now that her Thanksgiving epistle is famous)

From: Marney

As you all know a fabulous Thanksgiving Dinner does not make itself. I need to ask each of you to help by bringing something to complete the meal. I truly appreciate your offers to assist with the meal preparation.

Now, while I do have quite a sense of humor and joke around all the time, I COULD NOT BE MORE SERIOUS when I am providing you with your Thanksgiving instructions and orders. I am very particular, so please perform your task EXACTLY as I have requested and read your portion very carefully. If I ask you to bring your offering in a container that has a lid, bring your offering in a container WITH A LID, NOT ALUMINUM FOIL! If I ask you to bring a serving spoon for your dish, BRING A SERVING SPOON, NOT A SOUP SPOON! And please do not forget anything.

All food that is to be cooked should already be prepared, bring it hot and ready to serve, warm or room temp. These are your ONLY THREE options. Anything meant to be served cold should, of course, already be cold.

HJB—Dinner wine

The Mike Byron Family
1. Turnips in a casserole with a lid and a serving spoon. Please do not fill the casserole all the way up to the top, it gets too messy. I know this may come as a bit of a surprise to you, but most of us hate turnips so don't feel like you a have to feed an army.
2. Two half gallons of ice cream, one must be VANILLA, I don't care what the other one is. No store brands please. I did see an ad this morning for Hagan Daz Peppermint Bark Ice Cream, yum!! (no pressure here, though).
3. Toppings for the ice cream.
4. A case of bottled water, NOT gallons, any brand is ok.

The Bob Byron Family
1. Green beans or asparagus (not both) in a casserole with a lid and a serving spoon. If you are making the green beans, please prepare FOUR pounds, if you are making asparagus please prepare FIVE pounds. It is up to you how you wish to prepare them, no soupy sauces, no cheese (you know how Mike is), a light sprinkling of toasted nuts, or pancetta, or some EVOO would be a nice way to jazz them up.
2. A case of beer of your choice (I have Coors Light and Corona) or a bottle of clos du bois chardonnay (you will have to let me know which you will bring prior to 11/22).

The Lisa Byron Chesterford Family
1. Lisa as a married woman you are now required to contribute at the adult level. You can bring an hors d’ouvres. A few helpful hints/suggestions. Keep it very light, and non-filling, NO COCKTAIL SAUCE, no beans of any kind. I think your best bet would be a platter of fresh veggies and dip. Not a huge platter mind you (i.e., not the plastic platter from the supermarket).

The Michelle Bobble Family
1. Stuffing in a casserole with a serving spoon. Please make the stuffing sans meat.
2. 2.5-3 qts. of mashed squash in a casserole with a lid and serving spoon
3. Proscuitto pin wheel - please stick to the recipe, no need to bring a plate.
4. A pie knife

The June Davis Family
1. 15 LBS of mashed potatoes in a casserole with a serving spoon. Please do not use the over-size blue serving dish you used last year. Because you are making such a large batch you can do one of two things: put half the mash in a regulation size casserole with lid and put the other half in a plastic container and we can just replenish with that or use two regulation size casserole dishes with lids. Only one serving spoon is needed.
2. A bottle of clos du bois chardonnay

The Amy Misto Family (why do I even bother she will never read this)
1. A pumpkin pie in a pie dish (please use my silver palate recipe) no knife needed.
2. An apple pie in a pie dish, you can use your own recipe, no knife needed.

Looking forward to the 28th!!


Gosh Marney, I'll bet your guests can't wait.

And finally. No Thanksgiving greeting would be complete without a little piece of classic John Candy and Steve Martin. Planes Trains and Automobiles has more quotable quotes than almost any film I know. This particular excerpt has the slack jawed yokel uttering the immortal line " Her first baby... come out sideways. She didn't scream or nothing."
I can't tell you how many times that's been said around here.

For your viewing pleasure:

Monday, 23 November 2009

This was a bit weird.

When I was a student midwife, a photographer working for the BBC's photo library came to the ward looking for people willing to 'model' for her. The ward sister was in no mood to be photographed. I think she was having a 'bad hair' day, or a 'fat' day or something, but she didn't want to turn this photographer away.
So, the job of posing with a baby, posing with a colleague and posing with a new mother pretending to plump up her pillow and laughing carelessly at some fake conversation we were having, fell to yours truly.
I never saw the photos, and I never thought about them again. Until about five years later when someone phoned me all excited having seen me on the news. I was all ears naturally, because it's not every day one gets to be on the telly. But I was totally baffled when she explained that it was a news item about an NHS pay dispute and mine (
mine!) was the chosen image of NHS champion, neat as ninepence in stripes and a petersham belt, selflessly ministering to the patient and generally oozing the sort of goodness that deserves a payrise.
It's not all cake when you're really really ridiculously good looking.

Honestly, it had me going for a while until I remembered having those photos taken.

Then last week a friend who emigrated to the States about 10 years ago sent me an email saying:

"I hope you got paid for this"

That was all she said. She doesn't go in for alot of words. I thought "Huh?". I do wish she wasn't so attached to extreme brevity.

Attached was a news item in the Times online about education. And there, in the body of the article was a picture of this kid, looking positively nerdily neat in his school uniform. Holding a pen and appearing to be paying close attention to the (out of shot) teacher.
He looked like a 'Back To School' advert. All ship shape and bristol fashion.
"What a boffin!" I thought "That kid is just begging to have his tie yanked and his lunch money nicked."
But wait a minute. I recognised that boy, and unless I gave birth 15 years ago to identical twins one of whom was snatched at birth and raised by a family of very neat people, that kid in the picture was my son Dominic. After a boffinaceous makeover, naturally.

Funnily enough, my husband didn't think it was him, just a very neat and tidy boy who looked very similar. Like Uday Hussein's body double.

I was scratching my head, and ready to raise cain with The Times who had
clearly photo shopped my sons head into a school uniform catalogue!

Then Dominic came downstairs, having been persuaded out of his long-hot-reading-a-book-and-relaxing-for-hours bath, by the commotion of a younger brother banging on the door and telling him that he was famous. He was as confused as the rest of us at first. Then the mist cleared.
Turns out it was all legit after all. A few years back a friends photographer husband had asked Dominic to do a few sessions for him and I dimly remember signing a photo library release. We got a nice photo of him all muddied up playing fake rugby in a studio and he got a bit of money.
It seems he modelled lots of other looks too, one of which was the studious tidy boy who brings the teacher an apple and gets duffed up at playtime ( I jest, but Dominic will be reading this so I can't say anything too soppy)
Actually, he was a very cute kid. Still is. Only now that dimpled chin is starting to get a little bristly. How did that happen?

(And what were the chances of my friend In the US coming across that?)

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Eureka! (Finally)

I know, I know. Don't say anything, I feel bad.

Instead of blogging I've been spending a lot of time gazing mistily at this picture of sweetness...and wondering...what the heck her name is!!
Before she was born, we had names sorted, believe it or not.
A boy would have been Peter Patrick or Patrick Peter ( for my late uncle and of course my husband and all the multitudes of Paddys in our family)
For a girl, I was quite determined to call her Edith Benedicta Teresa, for St Teresa Benedicta of the cross
Edith Stein was beautiful and brilliant as well as saintly. And Jewish of course, which is almost as good as being Irish.

I'm really drawn to all the Teresa's. The three carmelite ones and Mother Teresa. So I kind of wanted to work something Teresian in there.
So at first she was Edith. But calling her Edith didn't work. It's rather Teutonic as names go. It doesn't seem to fit with our line up.
Then my uncle Seamus suggested Blathin. You have to hear it said, it sounds prettier than it looks. It means 'little flower' so that would have been a neat association with St Therese.
That was vetoed pretty quickly by the big fellas in the house who just didn't like it at all.

So then we spent a while calling her Marie-Clare. But that's the name of a magazine here, so after a few days she became Mary-Clare. ( She was born on the 13th October, a Fatima date, so we were had been thinking of working Mary or Lucia in there)

My husband had been tossing Aibhlinn around for a while, but I wasn't convinced. It was a name that we had considered before when we were expecting the twins. It's a soft, pretty name.
In Irish the 'bh ' is said as a 'v' ( like 'Siobhan') so the name is said 'Ave lin'.
It means 'longed for child' which is apposite. But I really wanted a saints name so that, like all the others, she could have a feast day. And there isn't a saint Aibhlinn ( or Evelyn which I think is the English equivalent).
Eventually we decided to give her a double barrelled first name and after calling her Mary-Aibhlinn for a bit, we finally settled on Marie-Aibhlinn ( the 'Marie' is said as 'marry' as in Marianne or Marie-louise)
We kept it quiet for a bit though, because having called her Edith and then Mary-Clare, it took a little adjustment to get used to calling her Marie-Aibhlinn.
I didn't want to post her name only to change it again.
So I just laid doggo for a bit while the name grew on me.
Now I just love it. Her name fits her in a way that the others didn't.

And in a fit of name greed, we gave her a double barreled second name too. After all, if long, impossible to remember names are good enough for the crowned heads of Europe, then they are good enough for Her Majesty the Baby.
So now she rejoices in being called Marie-Aibhlinn Teresa Benedicta.
But we'll probably be calling her some silly pet name or other eventually, we always do.

Goodness. I feel like I've blethered on far too long here about the name choosing process, but really, I never imagined it would take this long.
I'm sorry to have left you all in suspenders, but it was bad enough having to tell my parents a new name to call her every few days without having to re announce her name to blogsville too.

Now we have to go and register her.

And as a post script, and for no reason at all other than to please Honor who loves it when she sees photos of herself in one of her many hats ( she wears them indoors and sometimes more than two at a time) here is Honor in a hat: