Monday, 30 July 2012

Personality Projected on the Printed Page

Human communication is very complex.  It is easy enough to be misunderstood when you are speaking to someone face to face.  In the medium of print, it is impossible to know how others perceive you or take your meaning.

For example,  I have been following a particular blog for several months.  This individual is obviously a very talented cook and writer.  They have a beautifully designed webpage and feature some of the best food bloggers I have ever seen.   Over the past few months, I've been communicating with some of the contributors on Twitter.  I can tell you, I have never met more generous and kind people.   It was all going swimmingly until one day there was an article on cake and all the wheels came flying off.

The author of the blog posted the most venomous comment about cupcakes and those who choose to bake them.  Not just cupcakes, but those 'VILE AMERICAN' cupcakes.  Perhaps I was being too sensitive but I felt each vitriolic word like a slap across the face.  My perception of that blogger radically changed in that instant.  I went from respecting and admiring them to seeing every word they wrote as being arrogant or patronising.

In an instant I had typed an equally fierce comment in reply.  I wrote how unfair their comments were, when many of the blog's faithful supporters were American and all had been so complimentary and kind.  A large portion of this author's success could be attributed to loyal American cupcake bakers.   How DARE ......etc, etc, etc.

Then I read my comment to check it for errors and to make sure I'd made my point.  It was awful, I was ashamed.   I'd spat back with the same viciousness I thought I had perceived from the blogger.  Shame on me.

I deleted the unsent comment.  It wouldn't have changed the blogger's attitude, in fact, my rant would have only reinforced it.  There is another possibility,  maybe I read it wrong.  Perhaps the author had never meant to sound so unkind and disrespectful.  It could be how I read it ....not how it was written.

I began to wonder how the people who read my blogs perceive me.  Debs Dust Bunny is written primarily for my young nieces in the United States, so the content is light hearted and light on verbiage.  The Absent Auntie is more serious and hopefully, more content oriented.   Do I seem vapid, boastful or dour?  Am I just one of those 'VILE AMERICAN' cupcake bakers cluttering up the Internet with trivial tripe?

Well, yes, possibly, but it's not how I intend to come across.  So I've learned a lesson, NEVER respond to a comment in anger.   Try an old acting technique, read the line in a different way.  You will be amazed how it changes the meaning of the words.

Yes, human communication is a VERY complex thing,  even more complicated in text.

Thank you Kate  for being so inspirational and making me think twice!  Visit

Monday, 9 July 2012

Eating Marshmallow Fluff With a Spoon

When I was a little kid I wondered what it would be like to be an adult.  Chronologically, I am very much an adult.  Biologically, I am SO adult!  In my mind, I'm pretty much still a kid!  Thank GOODNESS!

I still love all the things I loved as a kid; furry animals, baking cupcakes and cookies, roller coaster rides, the smell of new books, walking in fresh snow,  playing in the garden..... you know what I mean.    I have all the pleasures of childhood, some of the responsibilities of adulthood and an outrageous amount of personal liberty.  To put it bluntly, I can do ALMOST anything I want!   How great is that?  

So what does one do with this autonomy?  Currently, I am eating Marshmallow Fluff out of the jar with a spoon while surfing the Internet and listening to the morning news program on Radio 4.  Now that is what I call being a grown up!  

Oh dear, think I've eaten a little too much Fluff,  I'm off to make a strong coffee to counteract the sugar overload.  And that children, is what it's like to be an adult!  It's GREAT!

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Life Lessons - Part II

Topic of today's lecture is  MONEY!  Contrary to popular belief, money is not the root of all evil....the LOVE of money is the root of all evil. 

Money is a necessary evil...well, evil may be putting it a bit strongly.  In today's society it is practically impossible to live without it so you have to learn to manage it!  It's not difficult, it's sort of like training a puppy.  You just have to follow some clear, simple commands.
Earn your money:  this usually means getting a job and working for someone else.  It doesn't matter what you do for a living. All work has it's rewards and all honest work gives the worker self-respect and dignity.

Spend your money wisely: when you are an adult paying for living expenses usually takes care of the wise spending part.  But everyone has a weakness; cars, clothes, vacations.  Know the real cost of these luxuries.  How many hours did you have to work to pay for that item?  What was the cost to environment to produce it? Will  you still love it in six months, will you still have it in six months?

Invest in your future:  Money is well spent when you use it to make yourself more financially secure.  Start saving in a pension fund as soon as possible, even if it's a small amount it will be worth it.  Buy a home.  Notice, I said 'home' not 'house'.  Home is the most precious thing you will ever own and the most EXPENSIVE!   Continue your education.  It will improve your job prospects and will give you great satisfaction.  Nothing beats learning something new!  Remember, you are responsible for your future, invest in it. 

Give some money away:   Find a cause you believe in and support it.  You don't have to give a lot of money but do give some.  It's important to share your good fortune.  It's the kind thing to do, it's the generous thing to do and it is the RIGHT thing to do. 

So it's simple!  Earn your money, spend it wisely, invest in your future, and share a bit of your good fortune.  That's the Absent Auntie Guide to Money.

Check out this great origami website!

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Life Lessons - Part I

Ok,  I have been putting this off but I think it's time we had a serious talk.   The purpose of this blog is to share experiences and ideas.  It's for my American nieces and all of you who are kind enough to visit this site.  As your old, absent auntie, I feel I must share with you some of the life lessons I've learned along the way.   You probably won't take any notice of them, but at least I can say I tried.

Life Lesson Number 1 -  Body Image

I have LOTS of experience on this subject.  In the Bridge Jones movie, Bridget says she will always be a little bit fat and her legs will always just come up to here.  I identify with that!  The truth is, there are three basic body shapes:

You are born a certain type and you will always have those characteristics.   It's a fact!  The good thing is that each of these body types has been the IDEAL shape at different times in history.  The bad news is that currently the ideal body shape, as dictated by the fashion industry and popular media, is a form of human being that doesn't often occur in nature.

Most models are extremely tall, extremely thin and in come cases, surgically modified!   The average woman will NEVER look like that.   The point being, those people aren't average, they are the ODD ones in nature.   You are normal...they are, I hate to use this word but I have to, the freaks of nature.  I mean that in the kindest possible way!

So we accept probably aren't going to make millions as a model but we still want to look as fit and healthy as possible, right?   Right....but no weird stuff!   No fasting, no fad diets, no exercising for 10 hours a day....just be reasonable.  Eat well, but have a few treats.  Exercise ...but try to enjoy it.  Learn what clothing is flattering and appropriate for you.  AND are more lovely than you can imagine.  Be kind, listen to people when they talk to you, look them in the eye and really pay attention to them.  If you do those things, I assure you, no one will care that you aren't a super model.... To them you will always be beautiful!

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Mom's 1950 Betty Crocker Cookbook

When I came to live in the UK, I brought very few belongings with me.  I was confined to what I could pack into two large suitcases and one piece of carry on luggage.  For the first few years I didn't think about what I'd left behind. Beginning a new life and making a new home was so exciting.   As time went by and I became more established, I realized there were a few things I wished I had been able to bring with me.  Things that reminded me of my Mom and Dad, things from my childhood home.

 Things like my Mom's well-worn cookbook.  On a whim, I searched on the internet and found I could buy a  new copy of the exact recipe book I remembered from Mom's kitchen.  I had to have it!  When it arrived I was transported back to my early childhood, standing on my little, red, wooden chair to reach to kitchen work surface, helping Mom bake cookies.

I've spent at least two weeks pouring over each page, studying each illustration and photograph.  It's exactly how I remember it.  Now I've started cooking from this book.  I am trying recipes Mom and I never tried before.  It's almost like being that little kid again, learning how to cook and bake for the first time.  Best of all it brings back memories of happy days in the kitchen with Mom.

If you'd like to try a recipe from the '50s, visit Deb's Dust Bunny and learn how to bake Brown Sugar Drops.

Betty Crocker's Illustrated Cookbook is available from Amazon. First printed in 1950, it is a real slice of Americana.  

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Still Life at the Kitchen Sink

It's berry picking time again.   Here is the line up in the kitchen window.  It's amazing how bountiful and generous nature is.  A little water, a little seed, a little time and you get all this!

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

The Good Life - growing your own

I don't really have a vegetable garden, but I manage to grow some strawberries, beans and salad leaves in my tiny back garden.  The beans are a long way off but I've had several lovely salads. Today there were enough ripe berries to make a nice dish of berries and home made yogurt.

They tasted so good.  I know it's because they are picked fresh and ripe. I think knowing that I grew them myself also makes them taste better. Please give strawberries a go.  They are just as happy in a big pot or planter as they are growing in a garden.  Give yogurt making a try, too.  It's so easy!  

Click on this link to get yogurt making instructions.  How to make yogurt!