Monthly Archives: January 2014

The Unexpected Tale Of The Flypaper

 

Being a fan of quality television and having an intense dislike for most of the reality rubbish that is on these days, I’ve taken to watching old episodes of Tales Of The Unexpected – the show which features dancing silhouettes emerging from flames in its opening credits along with a freakish yet seductive theme tune which has something of a carousel vibe! It was very popular in the 1980s although I didn’t get to see many episodes due to it being on way past my bedtime!

 

But I’m making up for lost time now and really enjoying the episodes. As usual every episode ends with an unexpected twist – and I spend the last ten minutes of every episode trying to suss out the twist. I’m happy to say that I’m usually wrong as I like the element of surprise.

 

However one episode which left me more than just a little surprised is the notorious The Flypaper written  by Elizabeth Taylor (no, not that Elizabeth Taylor!) I have yet to watch every episode of Tales of The Unexpected but I’m sure when I do I won’t find any that is as chilling and disturbing as The Flypaper. It was so creepy it was all I could think about for days.

The story centres around recently orphaned Sylvia Wilkinson who lives with her cold and uncaring old battle-axe of a grandmother. At this particular time, there is a child killer on the loose and Sylvia becomes anxious as she catches glimpses of a middle-aged man who she thinks might be following her. He manages to board her bus one day just as she thinks she has escaped him and starts to harass the timid schoolgirl. Thankfully for Sylvia, a kind and motherly lady witnesses the man’s behaviour and comes to Sylvia’s rescue… but far from being safe, Sylvia’s nightmare has just begun. The viewer can definitely empathise with Sylvia and sense her acute fear; her feelings of powerlessness and the overwhelming feeling of claustrophobia.

The underlying message of the tale is that you can’t trust anyone and really brings home the issue of ‘stranger danger.’ What made the episode even more dark and macabre is that despite it having been made more than 30 years ago, with today’s dangers of stalking, abuse, abduction and child disappearances, it is probably more relevant today than it was back then.

It is such an effective piece of drama that I actually think it might be an idea to show it in schools in order to explain to schoolchildren why they should be careful of people they don’t know. Even though The Flypaper probably didn’t intend to be, it’s quite an educational episode. The only problem is that there’d be a lot of irate mums and dads who’d have to put up with their kids taking refuge in their rooms (just like I used to!)

 

One of the good things about this episode is that it has introduced me to the work of Elizabeth Taylor (the non-Oscar winner!) and I’m interested in reading her novels and short stories. I can’t wait to watch the rest of the episodes… although I know that none of them will be anything like The Flypaper

 

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Hassle-Free Cocktails and Canapes Chez Mrs. D

Entertaining must be my middle name – I LOVE it. I love nothing better than having a crowd of people over, and  dare I say it, I’m well known for my cocktails and canapés. If it were possible, I’d be having cocktail and canapé nights every night. It’s simple but impressive if you’re having a lot of people over although it can require a lot of effort. I tend to make very fruity cocktails so there’s a lot of chopping, crushing and pureeing going on. And canapés, unless you keep them really simple, can be quite fiddly to prepare. Furthermore, when ever I invite people over, it usually tends to be a very last minute thing so I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been running around like a crazy woman trying to get everything ready in time before the doorbell starts ringing. Goodness knows what I’d do if I regularly put on four-course dinner parties!

That’s not to say that the hard work isn’t worth it because when I hear the raucous laughter and non-stop chatter above the already very loud music, see the empty dishes and knocked-over cocktail glasses (accidentally of course) and know that everyone’s having a damn good time, then it’s most definitely worth it.

But there are ways of hosting a great cocktails and canapés night without feeling as though you are in danger of committing murder beforehand. Here are some great tips to hosting the perfect C&C evenings Mrs. D style:

BECOME THE COCKTAIL QUEEN

If like me you are very last minute dot com or you simply dread having unexpected guests, it’s a good idea to make sure you have some stand-by items ready in the fridge or cupboard. There isn’t really much need to stock up on ultra expensive ingredients that you’re probably never going to use again. We all remember the fairy tale about the magic stone soup and it’s true – with limited ingredients and a lot of imagination you can come up with something quite impressive:

  1. I always have at least one bottle of wine, rum or vodka ready to act as the base for a good cocktail so always make sure you have a bottle of something tucked away for ’emergencies’.
  2. Always make sure you’re never out of ice.
  3. You can cheat by using a cocktail mixer pack where all you have to do is add alcohol and serve.
  4. I can’t think of any fruits that can’t be used in a cocktail, either sliced, pureed or muddled and strained so let your fruit bowl be your best friend!
  5. Herbs and spices such as basil, mint, lemongrass and ginger and even chilli can really give your cocktails a much needed kick – just remember not to overdo it!
  6. Cola, lemonade, sparkling water and various types of juices make great mixers.
  7. Never underestimate the importance of the humble lemon (or lime.) The zest and juice can be added to the alcohol; the fruit can be sliced, and the peel can be used for decoration.
  8. When all else fails, cooled sugar syrup + lemon juice + alcohol + ice + soda + lemon slice = inexpensive yet impressive cocktail!
  9. Don’t forget to frost the rims of the glasses with sugar.
  10. If you do have time to prepare, freeze either fruit juice, coffee, cola, tea lemonade etc. to avoid watery cocktails.

Also remember that it’s not all about the alcohol (strange coming from me, I know!) as you may have guests who don’t drink. Where possible simply omit the alcohol in their drinks, substitute it with a flavoured syrup if necessary or top up with more ginger ale, lemonade, soda etc.

THE EASIEST CANAPES EVER

Canapés and antipasti platters are traditionally nibbles served to guests as they arrive and as they are a precursor to a main meal, they tend to be light. However, it’s not uncommon now for people to forgo a sit-down meal in order to serve an array of canapés, especially if they are having a lot of guests or want to keep things informal.

  • So unless you’re planning a party with lots of guests, keep the antipasto fairly simple so you don’t override the the main meal. You could perhaps serve two or three dishes from the list below along with some fruit, nuts and bread.
  • If you’re planning on serving a main meal, then the  antipasto should complement the meal you’re planning.
  • Think about the appearance and fragrance of the food; blending flavors, aromas and colours will create interesting antipasto plates.

We’d all love to do a Delia when it comes to entertaining but let’s face it – we don’t all have time to stuff quail eggs or make pastry from scratch. Neither do we have the patience or finances to track down obscure, expensive  ingredients which can probably only be ordered online. So if you’re pushed for time – or money – cheat! Make the most of your local, supermarket, grocer or deli. And if you’re fortunate enough to live near a farmer’s market, so much the better!

Here’s a list of simple nibbles you could include as part of your canapés:

  • Jarred marinated artichoke hearts
  • Water crackers
  • Various types of cheese
  • Sliced or cherry tomatoes marinated in dressing
  • Olives
  • Cold meat slices
  • Different types of bread
  • Slices or chunks of fresh fruit
  • Jarred roasted peppers
  • Garlic hummus and pita bread
  • Sardines and sweet onions
  • Capers
  • Sweet pickles, chutneys and relishes
  • Cold shrimp
  • Roasted nuts
  • Homemade garlic bread
  • Grilled deli vegetables
  • Marinated fresh mozzarella
  • Anchovies

You could also decide what you’d like to be the key component in your antipasti platter ie. – meat, vegetables, fish etc. and then base other nibbles around them:

Meat:  a selection of natural deli meats – pepperoni, salami and prosciutto etc. — then add mixed olives, brie, deviled eggs, roasted vegetables and crackers.

Vegan: vegetable crudités, marinated olives or olive tapenade, pitta bread, roasted peppers, vegetarian stuffed dolmas and roasted garlic hummus.

 

Seafood:  fish roe, sardines, anchovies, seared fresh tuna and smoked salmon, crackers served with cream cheese, sliced marinated onions and capers.

Fresh Fruit and Nuts: Serve chunks of melon, figs and pomegranate alongside  deli meats, and then add toasted walnuts and roasted, salted pistachios.

Roasted Vegetables with Cheese: roasted veggies e.g. – baby aubergines, beets, bell peppers,courgettes, carrots, tomatoes, asparagus, onions and garlic. (Look for roasted vegetables in the prepared foods section of the store, or simply toss raw veggies with a bit of olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet in a 450°F oven until tender.) Served with tangy cheeses like feta, Gruyère or aged Manchego.

Cheese and More Cheese: Look for out-of-the-ordinary cheeses like Rustica cheese with red peppers or black peppercorns, rosemary coated Manchego, Caciotta cheese with green olives, Gouda with mustard seeds or cumin, drunken goat cheese made with red wine and Sotocenere cheese with truffles and a hint of cinnamon. Then combine them with a few traditional ones like provolone or fresh mozzarella. Serve with crusty bread, olives, deli meats, fruit, crackers, pickles and chutneys.

 

I’ve included an example of a super simple antipasti platter and a quick and easy cocktail. Hardly any fuss at all with easily found ingredients.

ANTIPASTI PLATTER

 

INGREDIENTS:

125g grissini

240g sunblush tomatoes

225g queen green olives

70g Napoli salami

70g Milano salami

70g sliced chorizo

80g Parma ham

METHOD:

Arrange the selection of canapés on a breadboard or platter.

APPLE AND CINNAMON SPARKLE

 

INGREDIENTS:

200ml vodka

300ml sparkling apple drink

1 green apple, sliced

6 cinnamon sticks

METHOD:

  1. Mix vodka and sparkling apple drink.
  2. Pour into martini glasses.
  3. Garnish with a slice of apple and a cinnamon stick.

What could be simpler! Enjoy!

 

2014 Is HERE!!!

 

In the run up to Christmas when we were running ourselves ragged, I knew that Christmas and New Year would be over within the blink of an eye. And I wasn’t wrong! I can’t believe the holidays are over and I return tomorrow. Not that I can complain too much as most people went back to work ages ago. Furthermore I do like my job a lot so it will be cool to head back and hang out with my colleagues and students again. Oh and teach English of course!

I’m sure we’re all wondering what this year will have in store for us. 2013 was a pretty good year for Mr.D and I and I’m hoping we’ll be equally fortunate this year. I don’t really make resolutions because like the vast majority of people I rarely stick to them. However, I have simply made a promise to myself to be happier, healthier, enjoy life more – and get my finances in order! Now that I know I can stick to!

And of course, I’ll be continuing with Chez Mrs. D. Time was very much against me towards the end of last year so I didn’t get to post as much as I would have liked. Furthermore, I wasn’t able to do much with The Better Living Series so that is very much a priority for this year. That and interacting with my followers and fellow bloggers a lot more in order to get to know the people whose work I admire.

I hope everyone’s new year got off to a brilliant start.

 

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