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CQ’S WTF CV19 LOCKDOWN TALES FROM THE COOKIE KITCHEN.

CV19 LOCKDOWN WEEK 2. 

Deadlines know no lockdown.  Here I am still running against the clock.

Saturday 21 March – Friday 27 March  (Writing this Friday morning.)

As I said last week we are doing the  “arse-in-the-butter” form of lockdown where I am living.  I cannot and will not complain for a second.  Yes it is serious. No it is not like in so  many other countries.  Our government tells us every day we cannot let up for a second in the way that we have to live out lives right now. Money will start to be paid out next week for those suffering loss of income.  Our shop falls into that category.   Social distancing has been in full swing for the last two weeks and and starting to show some positive results maybe, the predictions and cases matching what was suggested at the beginning. There are idiots.  There are corona parties.  But it is at this point a very small percentage. Some people are as dumb as wallpaper.

My husband went out and bought me hair clippers last Saturday.  Yes, that is an essential item.  I have been planning the hair buzz for the last couple of days, and am about to do it.  Today, 28 March at 18:30 CET live on Instagram.  Drop in since you will all be at home anyway.  Of course I am terrified, but the fear of my hair being too long outweighs it.

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It was five years ago this week that Vero launched the two Rozys in Milan.  Memories came up in my FB feed.  (One of the terrible side effects of the lockdown is that I have reopened my FB page.).

Tara brought to my attention that David Goggins was gonna do a 60 minute live-on-social -media workout on Monday.  We did it together.   It was hardcore to say the least.  Squats, lunges, jumping jacks, sit ups, push ups.  10 second breaks if you needed one.  It took me two days to recover properly.  We are going to do it again tomorrow.   After we had finished the workout, we chatted briefly about David Goggins.  Tara told me how inspirational his book was and that I should read it.  Yesterday when I came home from a run, I found a copy of the book in my letter box.  Tara had a copy sent to me.  I cried, really.  It changed my whole day and cheered my soul.  Love in the times of Corona.  That kindness will remain with me forever.  I had to put the book down to write this post.

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I made cookies during the week to share with the supermarket ladies and friends..  Baking makes feel I have some sort of control.

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My mother kept journals for the last twenty-five years of her life.  Each year’s journal has a large envelope that is full of the postcards, magazine and newspaper cuttings, letters, birthdays cards along with it.  I have about fifteen years of the journals here in my home and the other ten years or so are still in the UK.  I brought the suitcase that I keep them in up from the basement and am starting to re-read them.   She wrote them all exactly how  she spoke, and it is a great joy.  It is particularly interesting to see that she wrote every single haircut she got down.  Sometimes with a little drawing of the new cut, and always commenting as to whether Jane or whoever had done a good job or not.  Those who know me will find that hilarious and haunting!

IMG_2773Some of Mum´s journals.  

I started to run this week.  Have not run in twenty years.  And I am smugly satisfied that I have not peed myself yet.

The UK is now on lockdown, and about time, and Boris J is immersing himself in his Churchill wanna-be role.  The country pulling together in that oh-so-British way.  I would expect nothing less.  I hope it is not too little, too late.  Having talked with people in NYC via Zoom, I just cannot imagine how terrifyingly bad it is there.

LOCKDOWN PERFUMES OF WEEK 2. 

I am still wearing perfume.  L’Artisan Passage d’Enfer.  Neela Vermeire Mohur.  Hermès Musc Pallida Oil layered with Cèdre Sambac.  Chanel Boy.  Chanel N°19 Pafum and Lutens Iris Silver Mist in the evenings.

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I have never been bored in my life, and I am not bored now.   My main concern is do I buzz my hair 20mm or 15mm?

Yes of course I know how bloody serious this all is.  It is a pandemic.  I am not stupid.

How has your week been?

“It’s the end of the world as we know it (time I had some time alone),  It’s the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine (time I had some time alone)”.   REM. 

CQ.    

There were around a thousand deaths in Italy over the last twenty-four hours, and nearly as many in Spain.  I dare not look at NYC. I have Italian friends who will have to lockdown even longer.  My heart breaks.

 

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CQ’S WTF CV19 LOCKDOWN TALES FROM THE COOKIE KITCHEN.

CV19 LOCKDOWN.

 

The world over now we are all in some sort of lockdown.  Not just me.  I am a pretty up beat person, and have a very dark sense of humour.  I also have an extreme panic disorder.  Balancing them all is a skill I am having to learn.  And rather quickly.

I have no idea how these posts will be laid out, or how they will progress, which is fine since no one had a bloody clue about anything right now.

I live in a wealthy area, which includes a lake and mountains.  That does not mean I am rich.  What it does mean is that I can only comment on what is happening here in my vicinity.   ABR has readers from all over the world and I wanna know what is happening where you live.

I have been in permanent freak-out mode over the snail’s pace that both the UK and the USA have been moving at.  I see that thing are finally shutting down and people are being told to keep to the social distancing rules.  That means at least two meters away from each other.  And no you cannot go for a picnic, or a burger, or down the pub.  Nor to your friend’s house for coffee.  Absolutely NOT.

After mumbling to ourselves about how awful it was in China, but so far away, and then seeing it moving closer to home in Milan, (but spending more time wondering if the perfume show would be cancelled or not) we find ourselves in lockdown.

AUSTRIA.  Monday March 16th.

All the shops are closed.  Our business too.  Supermarkets, pet stores, banks, chemists, and the post are still up and running.  Otherwise it is deader than a dodo.  As many firms as possible have switched to home office.   Some of the counties are in quarantine. We are not yet.  We can go out and walk, ride bikes, or run.  We have to be alone or with people that we live with.   I was very touched when I walked  down a side street to the supermarket and ahead of me were two young boys playing football.  When they saw me approaching, they grabbed the ball and ran way up off of the road to get at least twenty meters out of my way.

I am as terrified of getting no hair cut as I am of the virus.  Already planning a buzz.  It has only just begun and the the sun is shining,  everyone is upbeat, this could be fun.

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Tuesday 17th – Friday 20th

Wearing black latex gloves to go shopping obviously.  Can’t be doing the white ones.  I was slightly worried about my in-laws, 81 and nearly 88.  But when I called them they had been biking, preparing their potato patch for planting, and had made bread.  I don’t know what is happening in the cities, but it seems the lockdown is mostly working.  There will always be those who think it does not apply to them. We have a 34 year old prime minister, and him and his cronies, which also include a lot of women, are doing a great job.

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My good friend left a chunk of fresh Parmesan outside the shop for me to collect.  Social distancing of about 4km. I see no reason to drop my cheese standards.   Supermarkets are full, and open normal hours.  Very quiet though.  People going out of their way to avoid each other.  Excellent.  Went for a bike ride with aforementioned good friend.  We kept at least two meters between us the whole way and sat on each end of along bench to talk.  Obedience is second nature to us.  LMAO.

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I brought weights and a bar home from the gym.  However weird this shit gets I will train most days.  I ride my bike for cardio and might start to run.  Probably not though,  I hate running.

It is Friday as I write this.  I can hardly bear to hear the figures of the deaths in so many countries.  Our lockdown was extended for nearly another month today.  Goal being 13th of April.  Somehow I doubt it.  It is a f***ing pandemic and I wonder what part of that people do not get?  But they will.

LOCKDOWN PERFUMES OF WEEK 1. 

I was in no mood to wear any of my more regular scents, and found beauty in some of the less frequently worn of my collection.

Amouage UBAR.  Amouage Opus III.  Serge Lutens Tubereuse Criminelle.  Neela Vermeire Mohur EdP and Trayee.

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Share your thoughts , good and bad, positive and negative, and of course the perfumes you find yourself reaching for.  Many things unite us, but none more so than our fragrances.

Don´t stand so, don´t stand so, don’t stand so close to me.   STING. 

CQ

 

 

 

 

 

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Strange Tales from the Cookie Kitchen.

“When they kick at your front door, How you gonna come?  With your hands on your head or on the trigger of your gun?”  Guns of Brixton.  The Clash.  

This Tale takes place in the spring of 1990;  at our apartment in Amsterdam, just off of the Leidsestraat and but a two minute walk from the Leidseplein.   You couldn’t live more centrally.  It was my favourite apartment ever.

The apartment was on the first floor, and the flat door opened straight into one huge room.  There was a smaller room for storage and wardrobe, and a bathroom.  The stairs up from the main door were wooden and very narrow.

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Our apartment was one of these seen here.

 

It was around ten thirty in the evening.  Chris and I were sat around watching TV with a huge, as in a brick, of Afghan hashish on the table,  the room full of the fragrant smoke.  There was suddenly a bang downstairs and the sound people running up the stairs, past our flat, and up the next two flights of stairs.  There was a bit of a party animal who lived above us and we wondered if there was a connection.   We were extremely stoned, and tuned to every single movement.

 

We could hear them coming back down the stairs, yelling and hammering on doors along the way.   We were totally stoned and everything was going in a kind of slow motion, our senses were on high alert.  As they reached our landing, Chris got up with the intention of  quietly opening our door to peek through it.

In what was precision timing, Chris cracked the door open at exactly the same moment as there was an almighty loud thump on it.

A guy in plain clothes, screaming “Police” came flying in through the door with his gun pointed straight at us, another with a weapon standing in the doorway, and several more backup outside.  He kicked open the door to the smaller room, and the door to the bathroom.  All the while with his gun at the ready.  This happened at extremely high speed.   I sat there staring.

As the cop started to leave, we asked them what they were doing.  He replied that they were looking for some people.  Chris continued by asking what they had done, to which the cop who had been standing at the door replied, “a lot.”   And they left.

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A Smoking Gun. Roy Lichtenstein. 1968.

 

All the action, from coming in the door downstairs to leaving the building again, took less than ten minutes.  There were six guys and they were loud.  We found out the next day that there had been a robbery at the post office in one of the main markets in Amsterdam, not far from our place.   They had been told that the perpetrators were holed up in our building.

Sheesh.

CQ.              

            

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Strange Tales from the Cookie Kitchen.

“I traced my steps back through the night, Back through the day all the way to the light, Boats full of cargo ready to unload, Arms of the cranes all ready to hold —– And struck a match and watched it burn against the night —–”  The Weather Prophets.  I Almost Prayed.  

Before raves became commercially viable, and controlled, and the psychedelic entertainment laid on, they were underground, uncontrolled, and word-of-mouth.

One such rave was organized by a bunch of revelers, deep in the woods some eighteen kilometers outside of Amsterdam, 1987.   Our whole scene was going, and we knew most of them would be tripping.  Obviously.  Chris and I told everyone that we would not be going.   We hatched ourselves a cunning plan.  We were gonna dress up and disguise ourselves and mingle in with the dancing crowd.  And at an the right moment whip off our masks.

Chris had a Frankenstein mask, a rubber one which you pulled onto your head.  And I had a huge white afro-wig with built in earrings.  And sunglasses.

Around eight on the night of the party we put everything int a small rucksack, got onto our bikes and headed out.  No acid for us of course, we needed to keep our heads clear. This had taken some serious planning.  So we took an ecstasy instead.  It did take a couple of hours to find the spot, but we eventually did, and if memory serves me correctly, and I have correlated, we did have to carry our bikes through a field full of sheep (not to be confused with the Welsh sheep of a previous Strange Tale) which bordered the woodland.  We hid our bikes in amongst the trees, masked ourselves up, took another ecstasy, and slipped into the in full-swing rave.

iI you are high on LSD or mushrooms, everything is distorted, and there are a wide variety of effects.  Mostly visual, but with other senses altered as well.  It is lengthy process, somewhere between eight and twelve hours.  And because you know that things continually move round and change shape you kind of just accept things for what they appear to be in your head, albeit that you know it is not real.   (Unless you have no idea what you are doing and think it IS all real and have no carer with you, then you might have a bit of a wobbler, and have no business taking it.)  So seeing us in our masks would not have phased anyone, we would just have been incorporated into their trip.  Yes, even Frankenstein.  Because even if you wonder for a second who the Frankenstein person was, that thought is gone before you have finished thinking it.

We joined the colourful bunch of hippies and punks turned ravers, and started to dance around, and with, several of our good friends.  Tripping makes your pupils huge, and you could see how high everyone was.  Except us, because we had only taken ecstasy and obviously had everything under total control.   So we took another one.  Music blasting out.

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Ecstasy is different to acid, and you are hyper-aware of what you are doing.  With just a look at one another we took our masks off in unison.  A moment of stunned silence enveloped us all,  the music seemingly disappearing.  Everything in slow motion —- “Chris/Val , is that you?  Is that you?  Really?  Is that you, is that you, is that you?.”   There were no irises, only pupils turned silver from the reflected light, as their eyes came out on stalks.   The dancing Frankenstein and woman with the white hair and sunglasses faded into the trip remnants and now we were just there, as though we always had been. Which was true anyway.   It became a legend.

As the dawn appeared, and the chill-out began, we took our bikes, and put on our masks again so that no one would see our faces as we rode back into Amsterdam.   We were totally trashed and the drug had worn off and the only way back was to take one more. We could see now, and avoided the sheep field.  Trusting the speedy effect would be enough for us to pedal the eighteen kilometers.  Frankenstein and a woman in a white wig pedaling like mad through the Dutch countryside.

We stopped at the corner shop at the end of our road to grab some bread and milk.  It was early morning.  Chris walked into the shop, bought and paid for everything in his Frankenstein mask, and no one batted an eyelid.  That is Amsterdam.

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Val, circa 1987

We learned something interesting that morning once we got home and sat down, from having taken rather a lot of MDMA.   It does cause hallucinations too, but unlike acid they don’t move.  There was a netting that completely covered our hands and arms, and it was made up of thousands of tiny hexagons, each firing tiny darts of light.  The hexagonal effect must be something to do with the chemical formula.   Not only do the hallucinations not move, you can pick them up and hand them to another person, who sees exactly the same thing as you.   “Hey, wanna hold this hallucination?”  Wild.  Not recommended for anyone under the age of 99.

This Strange Tale might be a total figment of my imagination.

CQ of APJ.                                                     

 

 

 

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Strange Tales from the Cookie Kitchen.

“Look up here, I’m in heaven I’ve got scars that can’t be seen, I`ve got drama, can’t be stolen, Everybody knows me now.  LAZARUS.  David Bowie.       

THE UNSTERBLICHE (THE IMMORTAL) SISTER WALLNER.  1923 – 2011.          

 

I first met Sister Wallner after the birth of my son, 1993.   She came to visit me in the hospital with a homemade applesauce, which she had put into a glass jar that had previously been filled with  pickled garlic.  “Sister” because she was a member of the same church as I was, where everyone is called/or can be called “brother” and “sister”.  Although I became very good friends with both her and her family, I never called her anything other than Sister Wallner.

At the end of WWII Sister Wallner walked back from from Greece to Austria, through Yugoslavia.  Yes, walked.  We do know that it was extremely traumatic, and she carried the scars throughout her life.  It did not kill her though.

In 2003 Sister Wallner had two hip replacements within a very short time of one another, and was sent to the rehabilitation centre to recover and to start physiotherapy.  She was told under no circumstances could she leave leave the hospital grounds.  Unfortunately the people in charge had no idea that you couldn’t tell her what to do.  She shot off one evening, as fast as she could on two sticks, and indeed did walk out of the hospital, onto the pavement, and then decided to cross the road, on a curve.  The Audi A3 was going way too fast, and she should not have been there.

Her daughter, (the infamous Doctor Fox, my eternal partner-in-crime, but that’s a Strange Tale for another day) and son-in-law received a phone call, informing them that Sister Wallner/mother/mother-in-law was lying in the intensive care unit and things were not looking good.  They lived about a 45 minute drive away, and so called us to go straight up to the hospital, and they would meet us there.   We were and still are only a five minute drive away.

Sister Wallner was unconscious, green skin, black and blue eyes like you have never seen, a massive cut on her head; I thought that my husband was gonna pass out when he saw her, as he too turned the same shade of green.  For the first time I offered a prayer for her well-being, little knowing that I would find myself doing the same thing many years later.  It did not kill her though.

As she became older she began to have various strange episodes and was at times extremely difficult, and Dr. Fox and I cared for her Mum in different ways. Together we moved her from her home of many years, into a smaller apartment.   Dr Fox and her family had moved into the area several years earlier to be closer to her mother.   Around 2008 Sister Wallner’s health, both physical and mental, started to go downhill.

THE TWILIGHT ZONE. 

I had just come out of the supermarket and was loading the car, when I got a call from Dr.  Fox.  “My Mom has just slumped over, and is dying, and if you wanna see her you had better get your ass down here quick.”  I was there so fast, like in two minutes.  Parked the car, and ran upstairs.  It was 11:00.

I ran in through the  door the same time as Dr S arrived.  Now let’s be clear, this was not a doctor that was coming to rescue Sister Wallner, no.  This was the  doctor dude from the council who had come to reevaluate her level of care, to increase the level of financial aid she was receiving.  Which was why Dr Fox was there in the first place.

Sister Wallner was a Grinchy shade of green, not breathing, and had her eyes been open, she would have been staring vacantly.  It was not the first time that Dr Fox and I had been confronted with a dying person – unlike the doctor apparently, who took a quick pulse check, started sweating profusely, and started walking circles in the kitchen. Dr Fox and I were holding her slumped Mom between us.  We told the guy to go home.  He did mumble something about maybe calling an ambulance, but we sent him packing,  telling  him we would deal with the situation ourselves.

Between us, we carried the ever-so-slightly-stiffening, and bloody heavy,  Sister Wallner into her living room and laid her on the sofa.  Once again I offered a prayer, asking that she be taken in peace.  Dr Fox called her husband and said her mom had just died.  I called my husband and said Sister Wallner just died.  Dr Fox called meals-on-wheels and said Frau Wallner had died and would not be needing her Mittagessen.  We sat at her mother’s side.

Suddenly Sister Wallner took an almighty great big breath, and started to sit up.  “I’m hungry, where’s lunch?”

We called our husbands and said it was false alarm.   They were not surprised,  a bit weird yeah, but then you really have to know our two families to understand where things are on the weird scale.  The tipping point for us was when Dr Fox called the meals-on-wheels back and told them that Sister Wallner had not in fact turned-up-her-toes, and that she would like her lunch delivered, preferably as soon as possible, and we started to laugh, albeit tinged with hysterics.   And this did not kill her.

As sure as little apples grow on trees, this happened.

After this episode we were fortunate to be given a place in the Altersheim (Old Folks’ Home) here for Sister Wallner.  She had no idea that she was going into one.  Dr Fox organized it all and waited there, as I went to pick Sister Wallner up from outside her apartment, having lied to her about going out for tea, to get her to come out and wait for me.  Basically a kidnapping.  I took her to the home, and she was not a happy camper.  But after a relatively short period of time, she  settled down, and lost a lot of her stubbornness and her need to fight so many battles.  She softened after having had such an incredibly difficult life, and began to have some peace.

Of course she did die.  Because no one is immortal.  It was the 24th of November 2011.  My birthday.  Dr Fox was on her way over to me to celebrate it, when she got the call from the Old Folk’s Home. “Your mother has been taken into hospital and you need to hurry if you want to see her before she passes away.” Been there, done that, she thought. She called me and said “My Mom is dying again and if you wanna see her, meet me at the hospital.”  We hurried, but this time we were too late.

CQ of APJ

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Dr Fox and I have talked about this experience we had together many times over the years.  Recently Dr Fox`s daughter, a medic, said it would seem that this might have been what is known as the Lazarus Syndrome, so rare that not fifty cases have been recorded.    The spontaneous return of a normal heartbeat after failed attempts of resuscitation. Except no one tried to resuscitate her.  Why would you?  She was the Unsterbliche Sister Wallner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Recipes from the Cookie Kitchen – Even Better Than the Real Thing Vegan Fudgy Brownies

I sell more vegan brownies than I do the Classic Fudgy Brownies,  That is not because they are better, but because they are more hip.   Do not underestimate them though. They are just as good, and some say even better than the real thing.

As with the Fudgy Brownie recipe, this too is the exact recipe I use in my business. Follow the recipe to the letter.  Do not attempt to tweak it.  I did already.  These are as fudgy as brownies should be.  No cake-like brownies on my watch.

INGREDIENTS

Attention.  You will need a food processor or a blender.

90 grammes of SILKEN tofu.  I prefer what you get in the Asian stores, but you can buy it wherever so long as it is the silken kind.

1/2 cup of oil.  (about 120 ml)  I use rapeseed oil, but sunflower or peanut is fine. A tasteless oil is best.

1/4 cup non-dairy milk (about 60 ml)  Oat, soy, almond ….  Whatever.

1 cup of sugar (half soft brown and half white if you want)

1 cup of flour — about 160 grammes (I often use half spelt, and half wheat.  All spelt is too much!)

1/2 cup of the absolute best cocoa powder you can afford.  I use Valrhona.

2 teaspoons of vanilla

1 level tablespoon cornstarch.

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

METHOD – as ever, read this through several times before you start.

Line your 8 inch square brownie tin with greaseproof paper/baking parchment/backpapier – whatever you call it.

Have a mixing bowl ready for the brownie batter.

Preheat the oven to 325°f or 162°c (Well, 160°c is fine!)

As with all recipes, put the ingredients out and in front of you.  Double check.  It is the only way to prepare to bake.

Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, cornstarch and salt into a bowl.  Put it on the side.

Have the sugar ready of course.

Put the tofu, the nondairy milk, and the oil into a food blender/food processor.  Put it on high speed and whip the crap out of it, it will become smooth, and fairly thick and creamy.   Scrape the sides down as necessary.

Put this tofu mixture into the mixing bowl, add the sugar, and whisk with fervent zeal. Add the vanilla and stir in.

Add your flour mixture,  ideally sift it in, but you don’t have to.  Fold it into the wet ingredients, until it becomes smooth.  You need to maybe use a bit of oomph, it will be pretty thick.

Put the batter into the pan.  You can push it down and into the corners with the back of a spoon.  It will be too thick to spread out on its own.  It will spread out a little during baking so you don’t have to get too manic about spreading it out precisely.

I put pecan nuts on the top because they are so delicious and have a great crunch.  That is optional though and you do not have to do that.

Bake them for about 30 minutes.  Do not overbake.  You will see when they are set it is pretty obvious.

Let them cool.  Eat.  If there are any left over you can keep them in the fridge or just covered.  Depends if you like cold brownies or not.

CQ.  

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The above photos are all pics from me doubling the mass.  Just so you know.

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Recipes from the Cookie Kitchen. Classic Fudgy Brownies.

I have had this need to feed people since quite a young age.  I could analyze this, go to a therapist, or do yoga.  But I decided just to accept it and make money out of it instead. We have had a year now  of Strange Tales from the Cookie Kitchen and there are more to come. But today I want to share some of the recipes that contributed to me to becoming the Cookie Queen.

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Brownies are of course named for their colour, and they have been around since the late 1890s.  They are really an American speciality.  And as much as we like to complain about a lot of American foods, their home baked goods are fantastic.  I have after all had a business based around them for more than twenty years.   Brownies are divided into two basic categories; cake-like and fudge-like.  You can skip the cake-like, there is only one kind of brownie, and that is a fudgy one.

This recipe is exactly the one that I use for my customers.  If you do what it says you will have perfect brownies.  (It may surprise you the number of people who tell me that their stuff does not turn out like mine.  And when I question them closer it is always because they did not follow the bloody instructions. “Oh I did not have an 8″square pan, so I used a casserole dish instead.”  FFS.

INGREDIENTS.    

100 grammes of unsweetened chocolate MELTED.  (You only need about 90 but have to allow for tasting or something remaining in the bowl, so use 100 to start.). Use the absolute best quality as this is not Rumplelstiltskin, crap chocolate does not turn into gold.)

4 ounces of softened butter (112g).

1 cup of brown sugar (the soft moist kind). If you cannot get it use white, it is not as good.

1tsp vanilla extract

2 eggs at room temperature

2/3 cup of flour (about 85g)

Good pinch of salt (added to the flour)

170 grammes of chopped chocolate.  (I use about 2/3 milk and 1/3 white but whatever … )

Line your 8 inch square brownie pan with greaseproof paper/baking parchment/backpapier – whatever you call it.

METHOD – read this through several times before starting!

Preheat the oven to 350°f or 170°c.

Get everything ready and in front of you.  Always.  it is the only way to work and to avoid making mistakes.

Now then, I melt my chocolate, which I have cut into very small pieces, in a microwave. Yes, I know you are not supposed to.  Melt it slowly and on a LOW wattage.  Open the door every 20 seconds and give it a stir until it is all beautifully liquid.  Make sure the bowl you use is totally clean and dry before putting the chocolate into it and melting it.

Beat the butter and the sugar together with an electric hand mixer, or Kitchen Aid, or with a wooden spoon if you have nothing else.  Add the warmish melted chocolate to it. (Not boiling hot of course, otherwise it will melt the lot!) Add the vanilla.  Beat it all together, but no need to beat it to death.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each one.  Add the flour and salt.  You can fold it in with a spatula, or slowly blend with the machine.  And then add and fold in your chopped chocolate chunks.  Turn the batter into your lined pan, and level the surface.

Put into your PREHEATED oven.  Mine take about 28 minutes to bake but this time could vary with different ovens,  I cook with a fan oven. I would say between 25 and 30 mins max.   You can see if they are done by the way the top will look kind of shiny and dry. Don’t be scared to open the oven and put a toothpick into the middle of them and see if it comes out with crumbs or dripping batter.  Gooey crumbs are ideal.

Take them out.  Let them cool.   I then take them out of the pan, and carefully take the paper off, reline the pan with waxed paper or whatever, and put the brownies back in.  I then keep them there until they have been eaten.  Unless I am selling them, obviously, Then they get packed.

And remember a brownie is not a cake.  Very rich.  Adjust size accordingly.  You know how to tell the difference when looking at recipes?  A fudgy brownie will always have more sugar in it than flour.

CQ

I forgot to take a picture of adding the chocolate chinks, but I think you can imagine it huh?

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Strange Tales from the Cookie Kitchen*

“Watch TV go goggle-eyed, See a horror movie get petrified, Go dye your hair use peroxide, Smoke a spliff and get red eyed ….. From the dance floor I can see, Decadent society, And that’s bad, so bad ……  Attitudes of some would say, I got money, I’m okay, and that’s bad, so bad ….. These are the things that drive me crazy, These are the things that make me bad …..”  BAD. Big Audio Dynamite. 

Even though I was at times pretty heavily into the drug scene, (to say the least), I still had my standards.  A line I would not go below.  Never use needles, never go without, nor leave the house without, a red lipstick, and always have a good hair cut.  To credit my vanity with saving my life is not an understatement.  Self-respect is everything, and I saw many people lose theirs.  And most of them are dead now.   But this is a fun Strange Tale so….

Mick Jones.  Co-founder and songwriter, co-lead vocalist and lead guitarist of The Clash until 1983.  In 1984 he formed Big Audio Dynamite with Don Letts.   Favourite lyricist. Favourite bands.  (I saw The Clash a number of times.)

BAD

AMSTERDAM 1985

I never went anywhere without my red lipstick. In the early days of my relationship with Chris, he would ask why that was such a thing.  It was always perfect and reapplied as often as necessary.   I would answer the same each time: “You just never know, one day I just might bump into Mick Jones.”

AMSTERDAM JULY 1987.  LIPSTICK AND POP HEROES.

I worked at the Melkweg in Amsterdam.  It was and still is a famous music venue, and cultural centre.  It used to be a milk factory, hence the name.  It had a music hall, theatre, restaurant, cinema, and tea house.  It was in the tea house that you could legally buy hash and weed.   I saw bands too numerous to mention there.  One of the more memorable gigs was The Ramones who played a three night stint; I still have some of their monogrammed guitar picks.

melkweg

One summer night we were in the Paradiso, (also a music venue, a converted former church) watching the Hoodoo Gurus, when half way through the gig a colleague of mine from the Melkweg, tapped me on the shoulder and yelled into my ear.  He said that the boss of the Melkweg wanted me to come over and look after an English band who were visiting.  I had absolutely no intention of leaving the gig, but of course asked him who it was.  “Big Audio Dynamite,” he replied. I  kid you not.   I yelled at Chris that I was going over to the club because Mick Jones was waiting for me.  I touched up my lipstick and legged it.

paradiso

Chris stayed until the end of the gig at the Paradiso and then came to join me.  We hung out with them for the rest of the evening, which included helping them to sort out some of their uhm, needs.  We met up again for breakfast the next morning.  Don’t ask. What happened in Amsterdam, stayed in Amsterdam.  B.A.D. were touring with U2 as their opening act, and had a couple of days off,  which explained their presence in the city.  We got tickets for the gig in Rotterdam.  Very cool.

Of course we did not become friends, but when we were in Boston, 1989, B.A.D. played The Channel Club on three nights, and guest listed us.  That was Big Audio Dynamite at their height and three of the best gigs I have ever been to.  And then again in 1990, at the Paradiso,  back to where it all started with that tap on the shoulder.  We went along to that and spent time with them afterwards, taking them some Afgahni Black (superior hash) and it rendered them comatose.  No stamina, those Brits.

Never underestimate the powers of a red lipstick.

red lipstick

I don’t wear red lipstick at the moment.  I prefer to wear an extremely high shine clear lipgloss, amusingly called Crystal, and a lot of dark blue and black eye make up.  Both together would be too much.   But I still don’t leave the house without it in my bag.  Just in case.

val hair

Val

“So when you reach the bottom line, The only thing to do is climb, Pick yourself up off the floor, Anything you want is yours.”  The Bottom Line.  Big Audio Dynamite.       

CQ of APJ      

*Parts of this Strange Tale first appeared on Australian Perfume Junkies in 2015.

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Strange Tales from the Cookie Kitchen

“I said mama we’re all crayzee now.”  SLADE. 

 

In fairness to Mum, she never turned up to visit me unannounced.  Once in a blue moon she would ask to drop by and I would spend a week cleaning up, hiding a million things, including the fact that my boyfriend was living with me.  And sometimes a number of other strange people at any given time, most of them with aliases.  (Pedro and Budgie? Yeah, I’m talking about you.)

I said never, it would be more correct to say once, she did.  It was early evening and a group of us were hanging out, smoking and listening to music.  We were expecting another couple of friends, and had not yet been busted, so were not as paranoid as we would be in the future.

There was a knock at the door.  I got up and went to open it.  Mum was standing there.  I panicked, surely turned white, said wait a minute and slammed the door.  Right in her face.

“Clean all this shit up!” I yelled at everyone “and hide”.  You have never seen a bunch of stoners move so fast.  I could hear loud banging on the front door.  Bang, bang, bang, CRASH.

door

Mum, and those who knew her will surely remember this, wore a ring on every finger, on some she had two.  I particularly remember a bishop’s ring on her pointer, with a stone the size of an small egg in it, and a half sovereign mounted in a setting that had the ring standing about half a cm above the finger that she wore it on.  The other eight, were bits and bobs.  Yes, eight, her thumbs had rings too.

We had an old door with a stained-glass window in it.  Mum’s thumping on the door smashed two pieces of the glass out, and she seized the moment.  Putting her fist straight through the gaps, she opened the door from the inside.

She walked into the empty living room, windows open, music playing and a still warm bong in the middle of the table.  My boyfriend sat on the sofa sketching on his drawing block, a picture of innocence.

Now that I am a mother myself, I can only imagine that she was as scared as me.  How on earth could I have know that at the time?  I told her that I was so surprised to see her, and so ashamed at how messy my flat was, that I could only think of keeping her out until I could tidy it up.  She asked me what the pipe thing was, and I explained it was from the guy next door who smoked Turkish tobacco.  Luckily I did not have to come up with a reason for the five people hiding in the bedroom, clutching rolling papers and album covers.  She did not find them.

Mum was a fireball.  The kindest person you could meet,  but also (seemingly) the scariest.  She stuck to her religious values so fiercely it felt like she was not able to accept things that fell outside of that zone.  I know now of course that it was her way of protecting and forgiving  herself from her own past;  falling pregnant with me out of wedlock, being adopted and not finding out about it until she was about to marry my father, a severe nervous breakdown when she was just 25 ….

 

val baby

Val with her mother

For many years after the fist through the window episode I thought I had successfully gotten away with hiding my life from my mother, and that she was in a way naive. Maybe she was, I don’t know.  She never asked, and I never told her.

It was those fierce religious values that gave me a foundation strong enough to save my life.

CQ of APJ

 

This was the same apartment that I had my first bust in, as told in my first Strange Tales. You would think I would quite simply have just not ever opened the door.  But you live and learn.  As we moved onto other flats, we started to have coded rings (no pun intended) and knocks.  One learns.

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Strange Tales from the Cookie Kitchen

“You get under my skin, I don’t find it irritating, You always play to win, But I won’t need rehabilitating, oh no, I think I’m on another world with you, with you, I’m on another planet with you.”  Another Girl, Another Planet.  The Only Ones.  

 

Pete and Christine were a couple.  They were also junkies.  They loved each other, in the codependent way that heroin addicts do.  Christine worked the streets at night to earn the money.  Although I never used needles, end of the seventies, early eighties, if you smoked weed you inevitably came into contact with a harder scene.  Each evening she would paint her face heavily with make up, sometimes with shaking hands, pull on a low top, a short skirt, scuffed heels and leave the house to stand on a street corner, probably hoping to make it back with cash and in one piece.  I never asked.

The two had been together long enough that each set of parents knew each other.   Out of the blue I was handed a wedding invitation.  The parents had gotten together and come up with a plan to save their kids.  They talked with them and said if they gave up drugs, and got married, they would give them six thousand pounds to start a new life with.   I have no doubt whatsoever that Pete and Christine believed that they could give up anything for such an offer, and in turn would have persuaded their folks of the same.   There is nothing as convincing or believable as a junkie who is about to give up and get their life together, they will have you believing black is white.   Whether or not any of Christine’s family knew that she was a prostitute, I don’t know.

It was a registry office marriage.  Pete in borrowed suit, and Christine in a long-sleeved white satin dress, chosen to cover the needle marks on her arms.    There was a mix of guests, from their parents and relatives, to their friends and neighbours.  Those who knew could see that the couple were shaky from lack of drugs, and those who didn’t would have assumed shaky from nervousness.   Despite this there was still an air of happy anticipation and the registry was signed.

 

wedding

 

We went off to a local hall of some sort, where the reception had been booked.   There was a buffet out on tables, and someone playing the music.   Christine disappeared at some point and was gone for a while, but not quite long enough for everyone to notice.

Having slipped off for a hit, she returned heavily stoned,  a few drops of blood along the long arm of her satin dress.

“Golden brown, finer temptress …… never a frown with golden brown.”  The Stranglers.  

CQ of APJ

 

This is the first Strange Tales that I have felt a need to add something to after the Tale.  I have never forgotten the feeling I had when I saw this junkie-bride return to her reception.  It broke my heart and the scar has never quite healed.  I left their reception and I know that they moved into another place.  I doubt that there was any kind of happy end to the story;  but perhaps Christine was able to quit her street work.   As I have said before I am thankful for the religious teachings I was brought up with, and the strong foundation that it laid.  It prevented me from going too deep into a dark scene, so that a story like this did not become mine.  As a parent now I can only imagine the desperation that their parents had, willing to do anything to rescue their children. Nearly forty years on, Christine will sometimes appear in my dreams.  I hope that she got out of the scene and found happiness.

 

 

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