Apple Pie

6 hours, 1 block of butter, 12 Granny Smith apples and voila: an autumn appropriate apple pie.

I’m sorry to say it, but this had a soggy bottom. I should have blind baked the base, but following the guidance of numerous different methods that said not to bother and bake it on a pizza stone, I went against my instincts.

It was a mistake, one I sorely regret.

I’ve been bitten by trusting my instincts before, only to regret it and wish I’d just followed the recipe. This time around, I followed the recipe and wish I’d gone with my gut.

It’s been a difficult couple of weeks, for reasons over and above soggy bottomed apple pies, so I’ve struggled to find something to write about here (hence numerous pie updates).

Hopefully, something will spring to mind soon. Though with the lockdown crashing relentlessly on, I’m not optimistic.

It doesn’t even feel like Autumn

I can’t believe October is nearly over. I don’t feel like I’ve even really got everything out of my favourite month of the year yet and it’s nearly done.

I guess the pandemapocalypse isn’t helping. At this point, I think more and more of us are starting to feel jaded and flat out fed up. Some of us possibly even experiencing depression for the first time. Somehow all the things that normally bring some amount of enjoyment suddenly hold no interest.

Given that I barely seem to even step out of my house these days, one season just seems to merge with the next and this year the general autumnal loveliness has passed me by and I’ve not indulged in all my usual cosy activities.

Usually, at this time of year, I’m watching back to back cosy films set in the autumn (and, incidentally, the 90s), reading Nora Ephron, relishing the crisp golden loveliness everywhere and… I dunno… something about pumpkins.

Also horror films.

Also films about Halloween.

Basically, any film that has some connection to this type of year – I will watch it. That includes some those terrible made-for-tv type films that are appearing on Netflix at the moment (I’m talking about you, Falling Inn Love).

After last week’s post (and not much deliberation) I can officially confirm that I’ve started watching Twin Peaks and I already love it / can’t believe it took me 30 years to get around to it. That, too, is excellent autumnal viewing, and I’ll probably add it to the list to rewatch year on year. It’s also causing me to think obsessively about cherry pie.

Normally, I’m positively willing the summer to be over so I can start wearing jumpers and making pies and… eating them… but, I don’t know, I can feel the season passing me by.

It’s not even as though the pandemic really impacts anything I would normally do at this time of year – given that most of these things are all indoor solo projects.

Maybe it’s just thrown things out of balance? There are so few options to do much of anything outside of the house at the moment that every day has become an indoors day. One day runs into the next until we hit this point where all time feels like one, long, unrelenting indoors day.

As a hardcore introvert, that’s not an unappealing idea, but in reality even I’m finding that I need something to balance it out.

But I’m not going to get down on Autumn (you know, as well as everything else). It’s not over yet and there’s still a week left of the best month in the year.

At this point, we’re all just doing our best to make it through. I’ve been listening to the WTF with Marc Maron podcast over the past few weeks (a mere ten years after everyone else) and honestly, that’s been a life raft for my mental state. It makes me feel less alone. It breaks up destructive thought patterns it prompts me to think about something else for a couple of hours.

And it reminds me that we’re all just chugging away and everyone has to just do their thing – whatever that thing is – to get through this long, unrelenting, shitstorm.

So you never know, I might make (and eat) a pie before the week is out.

Should I watch Twin Peaks?

This is (probably) a rhetorical question because as I’ve mentioned before, no one reads this thing (and I’m kind of okay with that), but I’ve been thinking about this lately as the pandemapocalypse rages on and I’m likely entering a phase of ceaseless uninterrupted TV watching.

Twin Peaks was one of those iconic 90s things that, for some reason, completely passed me by.

I’ve watched a lot of things that reference Twin Peaks or were inspired by it, but seeing as I haven’t watched it, I’m none the wiser.

So if I like things that were inspired by Twin Peaks, perhaps I will like Twin Peaks?

But that doesn’t necessarily follow. It’s kind of like if you’re really good friends with someone and then they’re really good friends with someone else, theoretically you should really like them too. Except you meet them and they turn out to be a complete knob and it makes you wonder why your friend likes this person in the first place.

I also wonder if I’ve missed the boat. Is it too late? Is it one of those things you had to see at the time in order to love it forever and if you didn’t, well, it’s just tough.

Damn my past self and my endless Nickelodeon-watching ways.

A real guilty pleasure

I recently discovered that I have a guilty pleasure I didn’t know about. I think I must have felt so ashamed about it that I didn’t want to acknowledge it.

But there’s no denying that it’s there. It’s been there for a long time and I’ve buried it deep.

I think that’s what has made it stronger.

It’s not that I have some sudden urge to share it now, I’ve never told anyone about it before, and I’m not sure how I feel about writing it here on this pretty anonymous blog no one reads.

But I have nothing else to write about this week.

Usually, when people share a guilty pleasure, there’s a chance that someone else might share it – or at least understand where they’re coming from.

I’m pretty certain that isn’t the case here.

Because my guilty pleasure is this:

I’m so ashamed.

Even looking at that screenshot makes me want to fold in on myself.

Yes. It’s the song ‘Fairgound’ by Simply Red.

What I am telling you right now is that I get certain amount of enjoyment from listening to a song by Simply Red – no-one’s favourite British MOR act from the mid-90s.

Just to be clear, I do not have this song on any media. I have never streamed this song on Spotify. I have never made the deliberate decision to listen to Fairground by Simply Red – other than to embed it for this blog post (and honestly, I’m not even feeling so great about that right now).

What I’m saying is that if this song was to come on the radio while I was driving, I wouldn’t change the station. If it came on while I was in a shop, I would probably stay in that shop and pretend, both to myself and other people, that I was merely browsing.

If I was in the car with someone and they changed the radio station when Fairground came on, I wouldn’t say ‘oh leave it on, I like it’. If I was with someone else and it came on in a shop, I would not say to that person ‘can we stay and pretend to browse until the end of this song?’

I would just leave and feel disappointed that I didn’t listen to Fairground while also hating myself for wanting to secretly listen to it in the first place.

When no one is around to judge me, and the universe presents me with the opportunity to listen to Fairground by Simply Red, I take it.

And it’s not even because I think it’s a great song. I think it’s because it reminds me of my childhood, when my family would pile in the car every autumn and head to Blackpool Pleasure Beach.

You should know that this was not typical of my family. We weren’t really a ‘family-fun’ bunch. My parents didn’t really go in for wholesome family-based activities. We weren’t brave, thrill-seeking adrenaline junkies either. But once a year, we would go to this kind of gritty theme park and ride the old wooden coasters and watch other people go on the bigger attractions while queuing for the dull and clunky ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ ride.

At night, we would leave the park and walk a whopping five miles of the Blackpool illuminations before eventually heading home.

I loved going, and not just for the rides. I loved that it was biting cold and the air smelled like doughnuts and fried food. I loved being in the park at dusk and seeing the sparkling neon coaster lights brighten as the daylight faded.

I loved walking the illuminations with my family, eating candy floss while my cousin repeatedly smacked me on the head with some giant inflatable my aunt and uncle bought her from a street vendor.

I even loved heading home in the dark and nodding off in the back of my dad’s car. In fact, I think my mum would pack our pyjamas to travel home in, knowing we would crash out from all the sugar and excitement and five miles of walking.

It was a pretty different park back then. And yet it’s also kind of exactly the same.

What I mean is that a lot of the old, old rides, such as the wooden coasters and older amusements are still there exactly as there were (including clunky mechanical Alice) even though a lot of the park has changed to accommodate bigger, newer rides.

In 1994, one such bigger, newer ride was The Pepsi Max Big One. Back then it was the tallest, steepest roller coaster in the world. True to form, no one in my family so much as contemplated going on it.

Nonetheless, we’d take time between riding the wooden coasters (which looked like miniature railways by comparison) to stand and watch The Big One roar through the sky and say things like ‘I wouldn’t go on that if you paid me a million pounds’ to one another.

The song Fairground by Simply Red came out around the same time that year and both the park and The Big One feature heavily in the music video. It pretty much became synonymous with our trips to Blackpool – you couldn’t go far without hearing that song once every hour.

Maybe I don’t really like the song, just the memories it brings back. Unfortunately, it also brings back thoughts of Mick Hucknall dancing in a silk shirt and glimpses of his diamond snaggle-tooth (see above video).

I guess, at this time of year, as the weather turns colder, and my grief-stricken mind keeps digging up memories from happier times, I find I’m often thinking about our family trips to Blackpool.

And then this song pops into my head and I have to stop myself from accidentally humming it in case someone asks ‘Are you singing a Simply Red song?’

And that fills me with a sense of shame that runs far deeper than most guilty pleasures.

The Worst Interview…

Polite warning: This blog post contains the F-word – several times…!

Last week, I was watching an episode of a TV show, during which a character recalled being delayed at a job interview. In the flashback, he boldly asked if the interviewers could try and keep to time as he had several more interviews to attend that day.

As anyone who’s ever been interviewed knows, the unwritten rule is that you’re at the mercy of the interviewer, regardless of their own poor etiquette.

It reminded me of an interview I had a few years ago where the behaviour of those in charge made me realise, within moments of arriving, that I no longer wanted the job.

The position was for a copywriter at a small but expanding group of health-centric eateries.

At this point, I was under the illusion that working in marketing was a great way to get a regular income for being creative (it isn’t).

I arrived early for my interview but this coincided with the exact moment the owner erupted into a furious rage upon reading a social media review about a customer’s breakfast containing pieces of eggshell.

Standing behind his desk, red faced and sweating, he bellowed at the staff while tightly clutching the receiver of his desk phone – as if he were strangling whoever was on the other end.

“THIS ISN’T A FUCKING MARKETING ISSUE IT’S A FUCKING OPERATIONS ISSUE” he screamed.

“WHO FUCKING SENT THESE EGGS OUT? WHICH FUCKING IDIOT LET THESE EGGS LEAVE THE KITCHEN WITH SHELLS IN THEM?”

I stood at the office doorway frozen, staring, while also telling myself to stop staring.

I can’t remember what was said, but the rage spiral continued for the next ten minutes.

At that point, there was absolutely nothing stopping me from leaving. I didn’t even really have to explain myself, I could have just left.

I cannot give a legitimate reason for why I stayed. I definitely didn’t want the job, so there really wasn’t any point in staying for the interview.

But for whatever reason, I did stay. The interview went ahead, during which, I was told numerous things about the job that only solidified my feelings of definitely not wanting to get it.

My responses started off polite, and declined to one word answers. It was the least amount of effort I’ve ever put into anything.

The rage outpouring seemed to go completely unacknowledged, by anyone, even the staff, who stood motionless in the madness. Everyone seemed accepting of it.

Most hiring businesses behave as though they have the upper hand, which is why they don’t worry about keeping their interviewees waiting, or not acknowledging receipt of applications, or even telling you that your interview was not successful.

In my case, despite everything I had just encountered, the owners still behaved as though I should really want to work there. Maybe my staying for the interview gave the wrong impression? Looking back, I wish that I hadn’t felt weirdly obligated to stay and brave enough to leave.

I’m currently on the brink of redundancy, and as the economy starts going down the toilet, I know it’s only a matter of time before I’ll be back in the (possibly virtual) interview waiting room, nervous and wearing an outfit reserved for job interviews and funerals all the while thinking of examples from ‘a time I went above and beyond what was required of my role’.

I don’t know that I’ll ever have the confidence to ask interviewers to hurry up but I hope that if I’m ever in a situation where someone is screaming their face off about eggshells (or something equally trivial), that I will leave.

In case you were wondering, I didn’t get offered the job.

The average size of a walnut

I love food. I like eating it, I like making it. It’s fair to say that I’ve followed my fair share over the years.

And yet, in the past week, I have used two different recipes that referenced ‘the size of a walnut’ as a means of measurement.

Both times left me stumped.

I just can’t think, even now, how large a walnut actually is.

And I’m assuming that we’re talking about a whole walnut and not a shelled one?

I know how large a shelled walnut is, but for whatever reason not a whole one.

All I can think about are chestnuts – maybe because it’s autumn, maybe it’s because I played conkers as a kid and can remember the size, shape and weight of a chestnut, but either way, this isn’t helping with my walnut problem.

Clearly, walnuts have been long established in the culinary world as a size reference point, but the other day when I was supposed to be portioning walnut-sized cookies, not knowing how big a walnut is left me with more of a pine cone situation on my hands.

I really should just find out the size of walnuts and then the problem will be solved.

But all I keep thinking is: ‘Why a walnut? Why not a chestnut or a pine cone or a small baby hedgehog?’

Maybe it was just decided, years ago, that the walnut was the perfect size for which to measure any and all food items that need to be ball-shaped? And at that time, did everyone agree that it was universally understood how large a walnut is?

Or maybe it’s just me. Maybe I just need more walnuts in my life.

Five (and a bit) things that might help with stress, anxiety, depression, and grief

I started writing this on Friday afternoon, but as my inner critic is living its best life right now, it’s taken me this long to edit/re-write/re-edit and fill with gifs. If you’re reading this now, I guess I eventually just got fed up and hit ‘Publish’. If you’re not, I must have got fed up and hit ‘Trash’. If it’s the former, I’m sorry for typos etc. I’ll fix later.

Earlier this week (when I had nothing write about) I was feeling optimistic about coming through the other side of my recent depressive wave.

Given that I’ve spent the first six hours of today beating myself up about everything – from the way I made my morning coffee to having the audacity to go outside while wearing a hat – I don’t think that is the case.

Anyway, I decided to try and wrangle something vaguely constructive out of the day, and so here are my personal five(ish) things that (sometimes) help me get through a bad patch.

I feel like I should add some kind of disclaimer here and say that I’m not an expert in matters of the mind – not even my own – and I’m definitely not suggesting any of these as cures for… well, anything. But when my mood hits a downward turn, these things can help to make an unbearable day slightly more bearable.

Watch a film you love

There’s something comforting about watching stuff I’ve seen a million times before. Often, I will watch things I watched when I was younger or that bring back happy memories.

I used to watch 90s romcoms with my mum when I lived at home, and watching them whenever I’m low or ruminating about how unfair it is that she is gone, I’ll watch You’ve Got Mail or When Harry Met Sally and in that moment, I feel like we’re together again.

Watch something funny

This is kind of an extension to the above, but I have a collection of smash-glass-incase-of-emergency funny stuff to binge-watch when my mood drops below freezing.

Community or Parks and Recreation are my emergency funnies and I don’t feel guilty about watching them over and over.

Do yoga

I’m sorry to include this because it’s cliche by now, but practicing yoga (somewhat) regularly, has been helpful for me in numerous ways.

Before the pandemapocalypse, I had summoned the confidence to join a yoga studio and actually go, in person, to yoga classes where there were… other people.

I felt pretty out of my depth, but I wasn’t there to master difficult poses, my goal was to focus on breathing and maintain the posture.

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One hour of focus was welcome relief from endlessly analysing the events of the last few months and worrying about how I was going to live the rest of my life without my mum.

When I’m low, or my mind is running in circles, or I just don’t know what to do with myself, practicing yoga helps me to slow down, collect my thoughts and refocus.

Bake some bread

And now for something less cliche.

Baking is fun but temperamental (as any episode of GBBO can verify). It’s also messy, creates a lot of washing up and if it goes wrong, it will make me feel a lot worse.

Despite all that, the simple yet complex process of making bread is oddly soothing.

Other than kneading (a great way to vent frustration, btw), there isn’t too much to do – most of the time-consuming process is spent waiting around for the dough to do its own thing.

Starting with a handful of raw ingredients in the morning, and ending up with a homemade (albeit mishappen) loaf at the end of the day is weirdly satisfying, even if it wouldn’t meet the approval of old steely-eyes Paul Hollywood.

Also, nothing beats the smell of freshly baked bread.

Also, CARBS!

Erm…

This one’s going to sound a little… ‘woo woo’ so I mention it cautiously (I don’t know why, my stats suggest that absolutely no one reads this stuff anyway).

Something I’ve started doing when I need to get out of my head is a tarot reading.

Pre-pandemapocalypse, I had been taking counselling skills class. At the beginning of each session, we had to choose an object (like a shell or a picture) without really thinking about it. We then had to explain why we had picked that particular item and often, the reason was something we weren’t even conscious of.

I think tarot does a similar thing. Doing a tarot reading helps me get out of my own head and think about my current situation from a different perspective.

It’s not fortune telling, it’s something else.

IDK. It just helps.

Go for a walk

Okay, let’s finish with something a little more standard. Going for a walk also always features on these types of lists. A lot of the time it’s about ‘getting out into nature’ and that has a place too, but let’s face it, getting out into nature isn’t always practical, particularly at the moment.

Earlier, when I was crying into my morning cup of coffee, I put on my shoes (and, as mentioned earlier, a questionable hat) and went for a walk.

When I left my house, I was flooded with tears and felt like everything was stupid and pointless, including the walk and not to mention my hat.

I only went out for twenty minutes, and wandered through a housing estate (hardly getting in touch with Mother Nature) and after a while the mind fog had started to subside.

It helped. It hasn’t eradicated all horrible feelings from my mind, but I’ve stopped circling the drain of negativity and wondering if I suit hats.

CONCLUSION!

So, there’s my list. It’s by no means exhaustive, they’re just some of my personal go-to tools. As I said in the intro, I’m not suggesting that any of these things are cures – more coping strategies that help me through a bad patch.

Sometimes a bad day is a bad day and nothing helps. It’s taken me a really long time to accept that sometimes nothing helps, to be okay with that, and not make myself feel worse by beating myself up about it.

I hope, if I ever got around to posting this, and you ever got around to reading it that some/any of this was helpful – even if you only enjoyed my choice of gifs.

This is that post (v.2)

I woke up this morning and realised I hadn’t written a post since last week, and this violated the terms and conditions I’d agreed with myself if I started another blog.

I’ve already done a ‘this is a post about nothing’ type post, and now this makes two of them.

The truth is, I’ve got nothing. Normally I have something rattling around in my head that I’ll eventually tap out, but today I really have absolutely nothing.

It’s probably because of the depressive wave hitting that I talked about last week. All I’ve really done in the past week is play more Stardew Valley and indulge in marathon viewings of Come Dine With Me.

For the moment, I’m not regretting it too much even though I’m an adult and should be doing something much more constructive with my time. But honestly, playing Stardew Valley has turned into a pretty top notch coping mechanism.

Maybe it’s because it’s so wholesome and charming, or maybe it’s because catching a rare fish or levelling up in foraging gives me a sense of accomplishment that’s lacking elsewhere in life at the moment.

I hope it lasts. But that’s the thing with coping strategies, sometimes they work a charm and other times less so.

Perhaps, when I’ve actually thought about it and I’m through the other side of this depressive slump, I’ll write about some of my own strategies for riding a depressive/anxiety-fuelled/stress-riddled/grief wave.

In the meantime, I’ll share this video from Pushing Up Roses, who’s excellent YT videos inspired me to dig out my old games (which, I still haven’t got running, btw), and throw half my life into Stardew Valley.