Monday, 21 August 2017

Murder Ballad Monday--Molly Bawn (Alison Kraus and the Chieftans)

Hello and welcome to Murder Ballad Monday. Last we looked at a very traditional Irish version of Molly Bawn by the Dubliners. This week, a more ethereal version of this song by Alison Kraus with the Chieftans from the album Down the Old Plank Road: The Nashville Sessions which was released in 2002.
             Image result for swan on a lake         
It is a strange mash-up that begins like the Dubliners’ version and ends like Peter, Paul and Mary’s one.  

You can listen to Alison Kraus and the Chieftans here:

I have included the lyrics below if you’d like to follow along.

Come all ye young fellas
That handle a gun
Beware of night rambling
By the setting of the sun
And beware of an accident
That happened of late
To young Molly Bawn
And sad was her fate

She was going to her uncles
When a shower came on
She went under a green bush
The shower to shun

Her white apron wrapped around her
He took her for a swan
But a hush and sigh
Was his own Molly Bawn

He quickly ran to her
And found she was dead
And there on her bosom
Where he soaked, tears he shed

He ran home to his father
With his gun in his hand
Saying "Father dear father
I have shot Molly Bawn"

Her white apron wrapped around her
He took her for a swan
But a hush and a sigh
'Twas his own Molly Bawn

He roamed near the place
Where his true love was slain
He wept bitter tears
But his cries were in vain
As he look on the lake
A swan glided by
And the sun slowly sank
In the gray of the sky

That’s all for this week. Stay tuned next week for a version entitled Polly Vaughan by Tony Rose.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Reconnecting to the Disconnect

It has been a day.

A day for connection.

A day for reflection.

A day to remind me why I chose compassion over cruelty.

A day that reminded me that for many years I did not.

A day for atonement.

The Carmarthen and Pembrokeshire Vegans spent the afternoon at GREENACRES ANIMAL RESCUE in the freezing Welsh rain. Our tour guide Mikey led us around, showed us the animals and told us their stories. He kindly took this picture of us in one of the rare moments when the rain had stopped.
                          Image may contain: 10 people, people smiling, people standing
There were cats and dogs waiting to be find their forever home. I did not tour their quarters due to my allergies. But i am told that most of the cats that are left are black or black and white because cats with colour are chosen first. A ginger cat would be snatched up in a heartbeat, but a black moggy has to wait to be re-homed.

There were a variety of ducks and chickens, many ex-battery hens. Many with missing feathers, spindly legs and no beaks.

There were alpaca, sheep, horses, ferrets and bunnies and pigs. Beautiful pigs. Enormous pigs that looked you right in the eyes with a cheeky expression and were happy to be scritched behind the ears like a dog.

But I could not take my eyes off of the turkeys.

I have never seen a live turkey before. Only dead ones on a plate. There were three females in one pen and I watched them closely. I saw one who had had her beak burned off with a hot wire to prevent her from pecking other birds who had been closely confined. I saw her difficulty eating grain. It made me want to cry.

In another part of the barn was a gorgeous tom turkey named Mr T who looked like this:
                           Image result for tom turkey
He was magnificent. There is no other word for it. And I felt hot tears of shame welling in my eyes because of the indoctrination I had as a child.


Sometimes people called it Turkey-day.

You didn't just eat some sliced meat on a sandwich at Thanksgiving, you murdered a whole bird and put it as a centrepiece on your table.

I looked forward to Thanksgiving all year because I loved turkey. But I did not love turkeys.

Seriously, turkey was my favourite meat. I never saw the animal, even when it was animal shaped sitting on my grandmother's table. I was blinded by my taste buds.

We got a special kind of turkey every year. A Greenberg Smoked Turkey. They injected the birds with this pepper solution which made them taste *amazing*. They were "grown locally" near my grandmother's house in Tyler, Texas. We always felt like we were doing something good by getting a bird that was local. Not some anonymous bird with dubious origins from the local supermarket freezer, but a Greenberg. I visited their website to see if they were still going. It read:

Greenberg smoked turkey is a treat that is not to be missed, so much so that around 200,000 customers make us part of their holiday season each year. 

200,000. Each year. That's 200,000 lives lost every year.

I ate Greenberg turkey every Thanksgiving and Christmas for 34 years. That is 68 lives that I am personally responsible for taking.

It got me thinking about how we objectify and glorify turkeys in school. I did this all through my school career and I am guilty of doing this as a teacher.

The month of November is all about turkeys. And Pilgrims with buckles on their hats which would NOT have been there (a pet peeve of mine, but that's a tale for another day.)

As teachers we make work fun by doing things like this:
              Image result for turkey math sheets

We all thought turkeys were fun.

And then we do art like this:
Image result for turkey hand print

We all thought turkeys were beautiful.

And finally, we read books like this:

Image result for twas the night before thanksgiving dav pilkey

This fantastic tale is all about a group of kids on a school trip to a farm who find out that that turkeys are going to be killed and stage an act of animal liberation by hiding the turkeys under their coats and take them home and have a vegetarian meal instead with the turkeys as guests.

I read this every year to my class. I read it and we all cheered because no one (and I mean NO ONE) wanted to see those animals die.

Then we all went to the cafeteria and ate this:
    Image result for turkey for thanksgiving

I couldn't see it.

I didn't want to see it.

But now I do.

Seeing those turkeys today made me realise how glad I am that we are vegan. How important it seems to choose compassion.

Many people ask me "Don't you miss meat?" I hold my hand up and admit that I used to LOVE the taste of meat. Especially turkey. Especially Greenberg turkey. But somehow, it stopped being about me and what I wanted. It started being about what is RIGHT and what is FAIR.

For years, there was this disconnect between the lives of sentient beings and my plate. These days, we are connected to life and all the living beings that inhabit this blue-green planet.  All the food we eat is delicious and cruelty free.

Today reminded me of the connection.

I let that turkey nuzzle my hand and I said a 68 apologies to him and his brethren for the lives I wilfully took.

It is good to reconnect with animals to help remind us they are beings in their own right who feel pain as well as joy, just as we do. If you have an animal sanctuary near you, I urge you visit and meet your meat if you are not vegan.

I would also say if you have spare cash and want to do something nice for animals please send some donations to Greenacres which you can do {HERE}

Be veg, go green to save the animals, yourself and the planet.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

What We Ate Wednesday--Breakfast for Dinner

Hello lovelies! We were visited recently by a friend and her lovely granddaughters where we did some baking and then watched the film version of Watership Down. No, we're not crying..(sniff) there's just a bit of dust in our eyes...(sniff)

 We were gifted  with some smoked tofu from our friends (thanks Lizzie and Co!) Some of it was the kind you can eat straight from the package, so we did. but the other sort was quite soft, so we thought...tofu scramble! 

Since we don't really buy tofu these days, when we want to have Breakfast for Dinner we normally do {THIS} but because we had some yummy tofu to use up, we did it this way. If you are soy free then just use the above recipe.

We thought, what goes well with scramble? Cowboy Beans of course! I have talked previously about my feelings about British Baked Beans. That red, runny sauce just doesn't cut it with me. I have to "pimp" my beans. If you are British and grew up with flavourless beans and that is how you like them, then by all means just plunk them in a pan and heat them up. If you are American, then just buy something like Bush's vegetarian baked beans and save you the trouble. But if you are British like us, but need good ole smoky Southern style beans then go {HERE} to learn how.

So what goes with tofu scramble and cowboy beans? I know! GRITS! If you are from the American South you know what I am talking about here. If you are British, you are out of luck I am afraid. You cannot get grits here. Well, you can. If you are lucky enough to have family who take pity on you and pays to send you boxes once a year or fill their suitcase half full with boxes when they visit.

I have got one of those caring families. You probably do not. We ration our grits to make them last, but eventually there comes a time when they run out. *SOB*. When this happens, we substitute frozen hash browns. Nothing wrong with hash brows. you can get 750g for £1 at Tesco.

But they ain't grits.

Anyway, this came together super quick. I made it after work and wasn't at all HANGRY doing it.

Breakfast for Dinner
For the beans:
1 white onion, chopped (divided--3/4 to the beans, 1/4 to the scramble)
tin of baked beans
(optional) BBQ sauce, molasses, liquid smoke (see recipe link above)

for the scramble:
1 packet of soft tofu or the recipe above to make it soy free
onion from above
garlic to taste
6 button mushrooms, sliced
6 sun dried tomatoes, snipped into bits
1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp sea salt flakes
Pepper, to taste

For the Grits or the hash browns:
Make according to package directions.

1. Cook 3/4 of your onion in a TB of water until soft and then add the beans and the pimped fixin's and simmer.
2. Meanwhile, in a drizzle of oil, cook the onion in  a skillet until softened, then throw in the mushrooms and garlic and sun dried tomatoes. When they are softened, crumble in the tofu and add everything else.
3. Keep stirring the scramble to get it coated and cook the tofu. When the tofu is hot, remove and serve.

That's it.

Quick and dirty.

A bit like the American South.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Murder Ballad Monday--Molly Bawn (The Dubliners)

 Hello and welcome to Murder Ballad Monday. This week a version of this folk song entitled Molly Bawn. According to "The Fiddlers companion" website, the title "Molly Bawn" is an Anglicised corruption of the Gaelic "Mailí Bhán," or Fair Mary (Fairhaired Mary, White Haired Mary).
                  Image result for swan under tree
This version is more traditional and is by the Dubliners (as you would expect from them) from their album At It Again from 1968.  We have the explanation of why she had her apron about her (she was hiding under a green bush to avoid a sudden shower of rain) and her ghost does appear, not at Jimmy’s trial, but as her wake. We also have a hint of the mean girl attitude that we saw in the previous version with all the other girls secretly glad she’s dead as she was so beautiful, but as in the previous song—none could hold a candle to her beauty.

Interestingly, Molly is on her way to see her uncle when the tragedy occurs. Usually, the male character (unnamed or called Jim or Jimmy) goes to see his father or his uncle after the shooting, but here is the only version I know where she is visiting an uncle. 
He also goes to see his uncle in this version (there are a lot of uncles in this tale), but it interesting that she does too. It gives her a good reason to be out and about during a storm.

You can listen to the Dubliners version here:

I have included the lyrics below if you’d like to follow along.
Oh come all you young fellows
That follows the gun
Beware of night's rambling
By the setting of the sun
Beware of an accident
As happened of late
To young Molly Bawn
And sad was her fate

She'd been goin' to her uncle's
When a storm it came on
She drew under a green bush
The shower for to shun
With her white apron wrapped around her
He took her for a swan
Took aim and alas
It was his own Molly Bawn

Oh young Jimmy ran homewards
With his gun and his dog
Saying: 'Uncle, oh uncle
I have shot Molly Bawn
I have killed that fair female
The joy of my life
For I'd always intended
That she would be my wife'

Oh young Jimmy rambling
Do not run away
Stay in your old country
Till your trial it comes on
For you'll never be convicted
For the shooting of a swan
Well the night before Molly's funeral
Her ghost it did appear
Saying: 'Uncle, dearest uncle
Oh let young Jimmy run clear'

'It'd been late of an evening
Well he took me for a swan
Took aim and alas
He killed his own Molly Bawn'
Now all the girls of this country
They seem to be glad
Now the flower of Glen Arra
Molly Bawn she lies dead

Get all the girls of this country
And stand them into a row
Molly Bawn would shine among them
Like a mountain of snow

That’s all for this week. Stay tuned next week for a version of Molly Bawn by Alison Kraus and the Chieftans.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

What We Ate Wednesday--One Pot (really and truly) Pasta

Hello lovelies! If you hang around social media long enough, eventually *someone* will be talking about One Pot Pasta. This idea is everywhere! You cook everything in one pot. One pot, people!

I put it to the test to see if this was too good to be true.

It is NOT too good to be true.

It is gorgeous and quick and easy. And did I mention delicious???

Most recipes I saw folks talking about used spaghetti and we just don’t roll that way. 

We like pasta shapes (shells in particular) and didn’t want a recipe that fed a crowd.

There are only two of us. Two’s company and three’s a crowd.

Although technically this recipe could have fed three people. Perhaps that should read Two greedy people are company and three people can sod off so there is more for the greedy pair.

So, I looked on google until I found recipes that fed 2-3 people and used pasta shapes so I would know how much liquid to add to make the ratio correct. Then I ignored their choice of ingredients and used vegan ones I know we like.

I also put it to the timed test. I had been on a video call with my daughter Monjae and we got off the phone late. I had 15 minutes before Spiderman would be home from work. Could I get it together by the time he got home?

Yes, I could!

Amazing One Pot (really and truly) Pasta

In a big pot put the following:
1 chopped onion
Half a chopped pepper
1 small carrot, diced small
3-4 cloves chopped garlic (or to taste)
5 button mushrooms, sliced
6 sun dried tomatoes, snipped into bits
Punnet cherry tomatoes, cut in half (mine cost 69p and was 330g)
Splash of water to keep it from sticking

1.Start to heat the pan with everything in it whilst you boil your kettle.
2. In your kettle boil 2.5 cups water.
3. Add the following to the pot:

2 to 2.5 cups pasta shapes (we used 2 cups)
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
1 tsp salt
½ tsp red pepper flakes
1 crumbled stock cube (I used 2 tsp broth powder plus 1 tsp marmite to make the stock richer tasting)
Glug of olive oil (optional, but good)

4. Pour over the boiling water and bring to the boil. Boil as long as it takes for your pasta to cook (my Gluten Free pasta takes 8 minutes). Make sure you keep stirring so it doesn’t stick.
5. When your pasta is cooked, the sauce will be done. The tomatoes will have burst and made a delicious sauce. Ours seemed a wee bit runny so I added a slurry of 1 TB starch (like corn starch/cornflour to my British peeps) whisked with ¼ cold water. I added this and kept stirring until the sauce thickened slightly.

How long did it take? Probably 15 minutes start to finish.

Was it tasty? Oh yeah. We topped ours with some vegan Parmesan. It was quite saucy (oo-er, Mrs!) so we ate it with a spoon. 

It could easily be doubled if you have more than two greedy people to feed.

This will definitely be in our rotation of meals we need super-duper quick because we have both just gotten in from work and are tired.

We were discussing that you could make variations on a theme. We were thinking of a Mexican version keeping the same veg and cherry tomatoes, but subbing Chili powder for the oregano and basil and adding black beans and sweetcorn and topping with a squeeze of lime juice and a drizzle of cashew cheese sauce.

We shall report back if we give this one a go.

But seriously….one pot…minimal clean up…whole food….real food…nutritious food…cruelty free. Compassion tastes good. 

Monday, 7 August 2017

Murder Ballad Monday--Polly Vaughan (Martha Tilson)

Hello and welcome to Murder Ballad Monday. I continue my journey into various forms of the murder ballad Polly Von.

This version, entitled Polly Vaughan, is sung by English folk-based singer Martha Tilson on her 2006 CD Of Milkmaids and Architects. The only version I could find was of her singing it live in 2008.
                        Image result for swan illustration snow
I like the simplicity of it-- just her voice with a bit of simple percussion-- with parts of it a-cappella. There is a sinister quality to it (almost a slipperiness to it) that harks back to the version by the Oysterband. There is also a bit of a “mean girls” element to it. Polly was so beautiful and every girl in the country was after Jimmy, so they are all glad to see her laid so low, but even in death they pale in comparison to her.

You can listen to it here:

I have included the lyrics below if you would like to follow along.

Then home ran young Jimmy
With his dog and his gun
Crying uncle oh uncle
Have you heard what I've done
I met my own true love
Mistook her for a swan
And now I've shot her and killed her
By the setting of the sun

So out runs Jimmy's uncle
With his locks hanging gray
Crying Jimmy oh dear Jimmy
Don't you run away
Don't leave your own country
Till the trial do come on
Sure they never will hang you
For the shooting of a swan

All the girls of this country
Are glad we know
To see young Polly Vaughan
Brought down so low
And you can take all them cruel girls
And set them in a row
And her beauty would outshine 'em
Like a fountain of snow
And her beauty would outshine 'em
Like a fountain of snow

That’s all for this week, stay tuned next week for a version entitled Molly Bawn. 

Friday, 4 August 2017

Dancing Queen

There is thing about me.

A weird thing.

Maybe it is a weird thing about you too.

I am musical and by that, I mean I have hundreds of CDs and listen to music nearly all the time. I *always* have my i-pod when I am on the go by myself. I like to listen to music while I work, sew, cook. I like to sing along (rather loudly) when I am at home. When there is not music playing, I am making music all on my own. I hum and sing to myself and often don’t know I am doing it until Spiderman points it out. I get this from my dad.

When we lived in the US, I was the sort of mad person you could see sitting behind the wheel of their car singing and possibly dancing to some private music that others could not hear. All they could do was sit at the traffic light and look over at the woman making a spectacle of herself.

Uh huh. That’s me.

When you are ensconced in your car or your home you can sing your heart out and no one can hear you. This does not work when you are wearing an i-pod.

It is considered bad manners to be singing along loudly out in public where everyone can hear you.

Ask me how I know this.

So, I have to work *really* hard to reign it in. I mean *really* hard.

In order to stop myself from singing, I have channel that energy elsewhere.
Which means that I am often dancing when I don’t know it. Out in public.
Certain music has that effect on me. I’m trying hard to just discreetly tap my foot or just drum my hand surreptitiously on my thigh….but suddenly I realise I am like Mary Tyler Moore spinning around all full of wonder in the big city while I throw my beret into the air like I’m going to make it after all.
                               The Mary Tyler Moore Show Intro (Hat Toss) by Jamesviayoutube
This seems to happen all the time. I don’t know I am doing it. It is only when a see stranger hold me at the corner of their eyes and snigger, that I realise I am at it again.

Certain songs have choreography that MUST be done as I listen. Do you know the song Tainted Love by Soft Cell? There is a THUMP THUMP at the end of several lines that is just *begging* for a sort of fist-raised-in defiance-pump to go with it. This has been a long-standing habit with me. I used to pound on the ceiling of my first car in time to the beat as I listened and eventually the light fixture fell off from repeated listening of Soft Cell.

And any song with a bell means I have to shake my booty in time with the chimes. Maria by Blondie springs to mind. There is a lovely BONG BONG BONG on the line Maria, you’ve got to see her (bong bong bong) go insane and out of your mind. She also has this slippery way have making the oo sound like in lines like Fool for love and full of fire that makes me do this slippery hip slide.  Don't even get me started about listening to Shakira.

A few months ago, I was in the queue at Lidl and listening to Love at the Disco  by Tom and Olly and I am not only drumming, but clapping. Listen to it here and you will see what I mean. There is a clapping bit right at the start. It was only when the lady in front of me turned around, did I realise I had done it.

Last month, I was coming out of Tesco listening to the theme from the cartoon Hong Kong Phooey (I have rather eclectic tastes) when I realised I was doing a karate kick. A karate kick with a chop! I only realised it because a group of men were laughing.
I cannot allow myself to listen to the theme from H.R Pufinstuf (off the same CD as Hong Kong Phooey—all Saturday morning cartoons covered by cool punk bands) because there is a bit at the end where they sound like a cheerleader and I find I unexpectedly have invisible pompoms.
Listen here and you’ll see what I mean:

Last Wednesday, I was meeting Spiderman at the library when he got off the bus from work so we could walk home together and I was listening to Why Can’t I be You? By The Cure. I could see him coming down the street towards me and I thought I had it under control, but clearly not because he said, “Why are you bopping up and down like you need to wee?” Some music makes me do a wee-wee dance. FACT.

Yesterday, I was standing in the rain by the green man crossing waiting for a signal to cross while listening to Fight (for your right to party) by The Beastie Boys. Only when a cyclist nearly fell off her bike laughing did I realise I was throwing rapper hand shapes. /oh the shame/

Some songs have a spiral effect on me. They make me want to spin. I don’t realise I am doing it until my bag flies off my shoulder as I pirouette on the pavement. Many songs have this effect on me, but this one in particular has a strong effect on me. It’s a cover of London Calling by The Clash sung by the amazing folk band The Bad Shepherds who folk up this punk song. The urge to spin is especially powerful on the last word of the line London is drowning and I live by the river. It is followed by a compelling violin solo that just increases the likelihood of me spinning like a top.  
Listen and enjoy and see if you don’t want to twirl too.

I have tried to not embarrass myself in public, but clearly, this isn’t working. The only alternative is to not listen to music when I am out and about, but this is just not an option.

I think I will just have to go on being my exuberant self by letting the music sweep me away while pretending not to notice the way other people are laughing. 

Does this ever happen to you?