Another fabulous blog link-up is taking place over on Mummiafelice’s blog, White Lily Green, where bloggers are being invited to share their hand-made creations. I haven’t made anything this week, but as I was looking around the house for ‘here’s one I made earlier’ I saw these papier mache heads for Punch and Judy glove puppets that Mr G made with our son when he was little.
Today is both International Women’s Day and Pancake Tuesday, which has prompted me to write about a very special lady who made me the very best pancakes, my aunty Ba.
My aunty got her nickname from one or other of my siblings who tried to say her name in baby talk and it came out Ba, and stuck. It was an appropriate name for us as babies though, as my aunty lived with us, so ma, da, and ba will have been our first words.
We all shared a room with Ba when we were little, and she would tell us stories every night, ‘true’ stories of fairies in Tipperary where she spent a lot of her youth, of banshees and will o’the wisps, which kept us in rapt attention for hours. She read to us in the day too, lots of illustrated books of poems and stories. My favourite was a poem about a lost doll ‘I once had a sweet little doll, dears, The prettiest doll in the world …’ and the book of ‘Little Black Sambo’, now of course not considered politically correct. My favourite story was at the back of the Little Black Sambo book and was about ‘Kettlehead’ – a little girl who played with fire and got her head burnt off and replaced with a tin kettle until Santa left her a broken doll’s head which she stuck on with glue from her mother’s writing table. Bizarre! I have never seen a copy of the story in print since, but have found it online here.
But on to pancakes. For a while every Tuesday was Pancake Tuesday. Ba worked a half-day Tuesday and in the afternoon would make me pancakes as I only was the only one not at school. Unlike now, I didn’t eat a huge variety of foods when I was little, so if there was something I liked that was relatively healthy I was encouraged to eat lots of it – mashed potatoes and pancakes were my staple diet! Ba made the best pancakes, thick and wholesome, with never a lump, and served with caster sugar and squeezy Jif lemon juice! Ba taught me how to make pancakes, how to beat the batter to incorporate lots of air, and to leave the mixture stand, overnight preferably, but at least for a few hours before using.
Ba moved out when I was about seven, to live with her uncle, my grand-uncle Neddy, who had had a series of heart-attacks and needed a live-in companion. I was heart broken, and wrote every day. I would look forward to my holidays when I would go down and stay with Ba and Neddy, in Neddy’s little cottage by Loch Derg on the River Shannon, and the first thing Ba would do would be to make some pancakes. Heaven.
After Uncle Neddy died, Ba kept on the cottage and still lives there today with the amazing garden she planted from scratch. I continued to visit every holiday, and I remember those times as some of the happiest in my life. Ba taught me (as she did all my siblings) to swim in the very depths of Loch Derg, while she rowed away slowly alongside. On my solo visits to Ba, she continued to tell me stories, less fantastical but more true stories of our ancestors, the lives of the saints, social and political history. Ba taught me to garden, starting off with a little corner of my own that I could landscape how I liked, and giving me jobs around the garden – I remember hours spent deadheading hebe’s and picking nasturtium seeds, but never remember being bored. We fished in the lake most days, and sat by the fire of an evening with chocolate and books and television or radio, or with Ba sewing outfits for my Mary Quant Daisy doll. Happy days.
I never remember a cross word from Ba, who always seemed to love me just as I was, even when I would rock up as a teenager all in black with nose pierced and boyfriend-she-had-never-met in tow (and probably a bad attitude too – me, not the boyfriend, who was lovely). Moving to England was the start of me becoming a terrible niece, never visiting or writing as often as I should, for which I am very ashamed. But I wanted to get this down in words as a small tribute to my aunty Ba, who very much shaped me as a person. I think of Ba all the time, but especially on Pancake Tuesday.
I make my pancakes slightly thinner now, but do not forget to incorporate lots of air and let the batter stand. I have passed the love of pancakes on to my daughter Pearl, who is now the Pancake Princess, but as long as Ba is alive, she will always be the Pancake Queen.
FAB – First Aid Beauty, hot off the streets of the USA, and a global bestselling beauty range, is now available for the first time in the UK. I’ve been testing some of their products, which I have been really impressed with, and am delighted to be able to share with you in a FAB giveaway here on Molly and the Princess.
The FAB travel kit (above) contains First Aid Beauty Face Cleanser (28.3g), First Aid Beauty Daily Face Cream (30ml), First Aid Beauty Gentle Body Wash (56.7 g) and First Aid BeautyBody Moisturizer (56.7 g) – mini sizes of essential products, which are all also available in large sizes. The kit accompanied me on my holiday to Prague, so I had plenty of time to test it thoroughly.
At first I wasn’t a huge fan of what the press release calls ‘covetable, apothecary-chic packaging’, thinking it a bit too drug-store, masculine and more suitable to a US rather than UK audience, but I have grown to like it since testing the products. It suits their no-nonsense, hard-working nature.
All FAB products are is dermatologist recommended, and free of harsh chemicals and known allergens, including parabens, phthalates, alcohol, fragrances and artificial dyes, and so are suitable for the needs of sensitive skin. My skin is normal/dry, not too sensitive, but I really felt the ‘goodness’ of the products, and loved their textures. They all did ‘exactly want they said on the
tin packaging’ and I was genuinely pleased with the results.
I also tested FAB’s full-sized 5 in 1 Eye Cream Age Delay and 5 in 1 Restore Cream Age Delay, both of which were – I’m sorry, but there’s only one word that keeps coming to mind – fab! But to really make sure the products were suitable for sensitive skin, I enlisted the help of my very glamourous, but extremely sensitive-skinned, friend Sam. Sam said:
I was impressed with this moisturiser, as it was really light and
soaked right into my skin without making it greasy or sticky which some
others I have tried can do. I didn’t have any problems after using it!
No red patches or itching, so I would recommend it to anyone with
sensitive skin! And it smells lovely too!
High praised indeed.
But why not try try and see for yourself what you think? The entire FAB range launches tomorrow in Boots stores nationwide and www.boots.com (but there is a growing waiting list). Or, you could be one of the first to get your hands on these must-have products by entering my giveaway. Here’s what you have to do to be in with a chance of winning:
• Be subscribed to Molly and the Princess
• ‘Like’ the First Aid Beauty – FAB – Facebook page here
• Leave me a comment below saying you have done the two steps above and would like to be entered.
Do feel free to share with your friends on Facebook and Twitter also.
There will be five winners: the main winner will receive a Travel Essentials Kit and a 5-in-1 Eye Cream and four runners up will each receive a 5-in-1 Eye Cream.
I will pick winners at random on 22 March. Open to entrants with a UK postal address only. You will need to stay subscribed for the duration of the giveaway, and I will contact the winners by email to arrange prizes to be sent out. Good luck everyone!
Thank you to FAB’s PR company for sending me the products to review and running the giveaway.
I have been amazed at the wonderful second-hand finds shared on Missielizzie’s Magpie Monday today, which only made my disappointment greater when my lunch-time visit to my local charity shop yielded nothing so fantastic. I came away having spent the princely sum of 50p, but with something I really needed – a pair of tights!
I didn’t have anything to co-ordinate with a jacket that my sister passed on to me, and these were just the ticket. Not the find of the century, but good enough for me! But do check out the treasures that were to be had by the other Magpies by clicking Missie Lizzie’s button below.
The cover of How I Cook by Skye Gyngell, with its Martha Stewartesque collection of mis-matched antique silverware, told me straight away that this would be a cookbook for someone with a lifestyle very different to my own…
‘In the summer, when the weather is warm enough, I’ll drag a table into the garden, fill a vase full of flowers and a jug full of home-made cordial. I find odd plates and glasses charming in this setting. Often I’ll scatter a few cushions here and there to suggest that life has slowed down – for a little while, at least.’
– How to Cook, ‘Sunday Lunch’
I’d like to imagine myself like Skye Gyngell, picking my home-grown herbs and vegetables, rustling up something very delicious but effortless, then relaxing with friends in the afternoon sun.
The book is divided into meal types: Breakfast, Sunday Lunch, Alfresco Eating etc.,
It’s all very English, lashings of strawberry and rhubarb cordial and slow-roasted belly pork. For a vegetarian, there isn’t much beyond the vegetable accompaniments or the desserts.
This afternoon, with a sprained left hand and the weather not congenial to ‘alfresco eating’, I made Skye’s ‘Gooey Chocolate and Raisin Biscuits’.
Whether it was the lack of my left-hand, or the fact that my baking powder was a little beyond its best-before date, I have a feeling the biscuits did not turn out exactly as Skye’s will have done. That said, they were delicious, and Mr G rephrased Skye’s line ‘You’ll find it difficult to eat just one…’ to ‘Two just won’t be enough…’ as he reached for his third. After dinner they were enjoyed with ice-cream for dessert, with still enough left to see us through a few elevenses.
There are many recipes in this book I will return to, and I am definitely bookmarking ‘Raspberries preserved in brandy’ to use the glut of raspberries my allotment produces. I like Skye’s idea of adding them to Prosecco to serve as an aperitif. Now I just need the garden, home-made cordial, and scattered cushions …
How I Cook is published by Quadrille, RRP £25, thank you to Quadrille for sending me a review copy.