I wonder if it is really happening, I mean the reopening, the easing off and lifting of Covid-19 rules. I can’t believe we are nearly there, though slowly, in tiny steps, back to normality. I am aware that I need to learn again how to approach people, not to side-step when they cross my way. This scares me a bit as if I have become anti-social. But there are still some unexpected hurdles such as the Indian variant or other variants that might pop up and slow even more the normalisation, or even bring us back to partial isolation.
In a hopeful mood, I have recently booked a room in a Travelodge to visit my sons in the north and purchased cinema tickets online. I am also planning to visit exhibitions in London as museums are reopening; they are exciting prospectives that I hope are really going to happen. But in the past months I learned that you cannot trust the government promises just because they cannot predict exactly what the variants will be and how the contagion will increase or decrease in the coming weeks. Vaccinations seem to be the right solution (I had my two doses), but it is not definitive. Unexpected changes to the rules might be implemented at the last minute, bewildering turn arounds that are frustrating and leave you empty. A terrible sensation.
In the meantime, to have some distraction of sorts, I am preparing veg trugs for my smallgarden pots, though the plants are all still inside as it has been chilly at night in May. I hope to visit Longacres Garden centre near Bagshot soon to buy all the things I need, such as compost and new plants and get ready for my summer harvest. I will concentrate on tomatoes, herbs, courgettes and lettuce this year as last summer they produced abundantly. We had gorgeous salads which tasted so good. Two of my trugs were devoted to flowers last year, so colourful and bright I felt delighted every time I looked at them. I also had several big pots with daisies, roses and cyclamens. Longacres has so many choices and varieties of plants as well as aisles with clothes, books and toys for children, art and craft things, garden furniture, kitchen tools and a deli shop with food from all over the world. I found some clever funny toys for my granddaughter Violetta, who is starting to grab and chew things. We see her on video calls at the weekends and realise how much she is changing and developing from one week to the other. She is so sociable and her face is so expressive, she seems to speak through her eyes. We are longing to see her in June and have a bit of family time all together.
For my artwork, I am painting flowers now, mainly tulips. I sold one of my winter drawings on the Woking Art Society online gallery and am preparing for summer by experimenting with different media. I am also carrying on with my embroidery inspired by Atwood’s words but also by Sylvia Plath’s and Primo Levi’s quotes. Here is the link to an article on Margaret Atwood’s work I wrote which was published in the Canada-UK foundation’s Friday Files with the picture of one of my embroideries: https://mailchi.mp/canadaukfoundation.org/the-friday-files-may-21
Writing absorbs me more than ever, mainly reviews of interesting collections I picked up from poetry readings. I usually review books I like or that are commissioned by online magazines. I enjoy this work so much as I learn more and more about poetry and how to put my ideas together. I am also working on an academic article on The Testaments, the last published novel by Margaret Atwood. I would like to submit it to a journal and I will read a shorter version of it at the Accute conference I am going to follow online at the end of May. My PhD is done, the thesis is completed (you can download it from my website here: https://www.carlascaranod.co.uk/?Examples_Of_My_Work ), I only hope I will have the opportunity to carry on with my research in the future.
Working from home, I have more time for tidying up. During the pandemic and after my daughter Irene’s return from Japan before Christmas, I filled the spare room with boxes of her discarded things she sorted out after her arrival. Besides, I already had some clothes my mother had left behind after spending some time with me after my father’s death. Then I put on weight so I had to discard a great amount of clothes as well. At the end of the process I had about twenty boxes to deliver to charity shops. It was a liberation not only because it made space in drawers and in the wardrobe but also because it was a way to acknowledge and accept that my body has changed and old clothes don’t fit, leave size 10-12 and embrace 14-16, a transformation that I am enjoying.
I have attended inspiring poetry workshops recently with Tears in the Fence and Second Light. The material and exercises were fantastic and I loved the opportunity to have a conversation with fellow poets and receive feedbacks. I especially enjoyed David Caddy’s workshop on etymology, that is, how the origin of words and sounds work in unison in a poem. Great examples were from poems by Seamus Heaney and G.M. Hopkins. The Second Light workshops were spread in three days and I booked all of them as I didn’t need to commute to London but could easily follow them from home. The theme was recovery, with the starting point from Emily Dickinson: “I lost a world the other day / Has anyone found?” It was all so engrossing; I could learn so much and draft a good number of poems.
Along with the theme of spring and summer time, I am crocheting colourful flowers and butterflies for new wreaths that I am giving as presents to my mum and to friends. Last but not least, I am browsing online for recipes of new dishes that I adapt to my family’s taste, just to have a change. Here are a few examples:
Spaghetti with meatballs and tomato sauce (Lady and the tramp style)
You need: a bottle of passata, 250 g of minced beef meat, one clove of garlic, salt and pepper, some Italian pepperoncino, parsley, one tbsp of grated parmigiano, two eggs, four tbsp of breadcrumbs, extra virgin olive oil and 300 g of spaghetti.
Prepare the meatballs mixing the minced meat with the eggs, parmigiano, breadcrumbs, parsley finely cut, salt and pepper. Make small meatballs and cook them in the passata adding olive oil, salt, pepper, some peperoncino and a clove of garlic. Let it simmer for about two hours. Cook the spaghetti and season them with the meatball tomato sauce and serve with grated parmigiano.
Potato bake with crème fraîche
For the pastry you need: 250 g of self-raising flour, two eggs, 50 g of melted butter.
For the filling you need: 300 g of crème fraîche, 2-3 big potatoes, extra virgin olive oil, salt, rosemary and oregano, some grated mozzarella.
Prepare the pastry mixing all the ingredients and chill it for half an hour. Roll it out and line a greased oven tray. Wash and cut the potatoes in thin slices, then season them in a bowl with olive oil, salt, oregano and rosemary. Spread the crème fraîche on the bottom and set the potatoes with slices on top. Sprinkle with some grated mozzarella and bake for 45 minutes at 180 C.
For the cake you need: 150 g of ground pistachio kernels, 250 g of plain flour, 200 g of sugar, two eggs, half a glass of milk, one and a half tsp of baking powder, one tsp of bicarbonate of soda, grated zest of one lemon, three tbsp of olive oil, two eggs.
For the filling you need: 250 g of ricotta, 80 g of dark chocolate, 80 g of sugar.
Prepare the filling by mixing all the ingredients and chill it for one hour. Prepare the cake beating the eggs with the sugar. Add the olive oil, the flour and the ground pistachio kernels. Finally mix the milk with the baking powder and the bicarbonate of soda and add it to the mixture too. Bake the cake in a greased tin at 180 C for 45 minutes. When it is cool cut the cake in half and wet it with some milk and water, or liquor if you wish. Spread the ricotta mixture on one half and cover it with the other half. Finally dust the top with icing sugar.
This is a Peter Parker recipe I made simpler, that is, with less layers, and changed using different kinds of fillings instead of just one (which was with macha powder in the original).
For the pancakes you need: four eggs, 100 ml of milk, 80 g of sugar, 120 g of plain flour, 50 g of melted butter, some vegetable oil to fry.
Prepare the pancakes beating the eggs with the sugar then add the other ingredients. Cook about 15-20 pancakes and let them cool.
Here are three options for the fillings:
- 1. 250g of ricotta, 100g of ground dark chocolate, three tbsp of sugar. Mix all the ingredients and chill it for an hour. Some cocoa powder to dust the top.
- 2. 300 g of whipping cream, 250 g of mixed berries, two tbsp of sugar. Whip the cream with the sugar and blend most of the berries (keep some of them to decorate the top). Add the berry juice to the cream and mix.
- 3. 250 g of mascarpone, two eggs, two tbsp of sugar; 80 g of ground white chocolate to decorate the top. Whisk the yolk of the eggs with the sugar, add the mascarpone and the egg whites whipped until stiff.
When you have all the ingredients ready prepare the cakes alternating one layer of pancake and one layer of filling. I made about 6-7 layers for each cake. Finally decorate the top.
More recipes on next blog post. And now let’s get ready for the Eurovision Song Contest grand final!