Phoenix Fights

Fighting the FEAR, depression and BDP on a daily basis AND making my own bread. Bring it on 2016….


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MATCHMAKER, MATCHMAKER, BAKE ME A MATCH…

Let him eat cake

I’ve recently been back in touch with a very old friend via Facebook.

I used to be very close to this person, and he knows i have some mental health issues, so I was surprised and bemused when after some general chit chat about how life has been for me of late, to received the following missive:

Hi hon

Read this and thought of you.

Maybe you should try this out as from what I can tell from Facebook, you still make exceedingly good cakes 😉

Jamie x

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/apr/11/i-tried-baking-my-way-to-romance?CMP=share_btn_link

“I tried baking my way to romance”

‘Audrey Shulman was good at baking but less confident talking to men. She decided the way to a man’s heart might be cake – and her whole life changed’

Essentially, in a nutshell, this courageous young lady, desperate for a boyfriend, hit on the idea of using her baking to pull, and committed to baking 50 cakes, and taking them to 50 different LA bars in the hope that the numbers game would pay off and she would happen upon her other half.

Bless her.

Bless Jamie, the old romantic.

Aww, dontcha just love the normal folk who think that the answer to all life’s problems is getting a boyfriend/girlfriend and finding true lurve?

I don’t mean to tease, I honestly don’t.

But seriously.

Do people really think that the bone aching, excoriating loneliness of someone with BDP/depression (or any other alienating condition) who has never, nor will never, ever fit in, and feels like an alien on their own planet can be cured by romance?

To be honest, I am really going through the mill right now in nearly all aspects of my life, group therapy is twanging on my last frayed nerve, so I would not inflict myself on my worst enemy, let alone some poor, hapless bloke.

As for sex, I am no where near trusting enough to allow anyone access to my body.

Also, jiggy jiggy is not a cure all!

My father used to have this rather horrible saying about physical relations, which went along the lines of…

Sex might fill your belly, but it won’t fill his!’

…the old charmer (is it any wonder I’m so fucked up?!), which roughly translated means that sex isn’t everything, and you have to be cautious and practical and not get carried away by chemistry.

In other words, ‘Don’t get knocked up, or you’ll not have a room under this roof young lady, so you better hope that laughing boy has a job y’hear?’.

But believe me, it could only ever be a minor distraction when you have a huge hole at the core of your heart that needs to be filled with some kind of self love and self belief, and it must be healed before you can even consider unleashing yourself upon the males of this world.

But he, Jamie that is, meant well.  it’s not his fault he’s lovely, loved and loved up, as opposed to fucked up.

The twat.

So I replied:

Hi Jay

A) Cute article thanks for thinking of me!

B) Hell, no

This is mainly because:

1. I have very little trust in you penis owners, and have been this way all of my life, but I am however working my way through these issues *

2. In my experience, men do prefer savouries.  In this respect your predilection to pink, iced bakes is unusual.  Anything to tell me there, Twinkle?!

3. I want to be liked for myself and not be some bloke’s cakey come up, thank you v much!

* platonic winkies are fine, so stop tucking it between your legs, you look like Buffalo Bill!

Sista x

That said, as most of you know, I love baking for friends and loved ones once they’ve made a place in my heart.  But this privilege has to be earned!

Ladies, would you go offering your coochie for free in your local pub?  No?

Like it says in the Bible “Do not cast your pearls before swine, lest they gobble them up like starved dogs, burp, then turn back to their 6th pint of swill and ‘Match of the Day’ with nary a backwards glance, the ungrateful b******s”

Or something like that anyway.

I also don’t believe in hunting for a mate.

The proof of the pudding is that this lady did not find true love via ‘cake barring’ (and she’s young and pretty!), but she did meet someone when she was least expecting it.  Oh and she also landed a book deal, which, as David Dickinson might say, was the real deal, as far as I’m concerned. 🙂

David-Dickinson

Finally there are worse things than being single; this credo was fortified and embedded even deeper into my psyche after witnessing my friend’s fiancee (a distinguished Head of Chemistry at a very prestigious college no less) throw a 5 door slamming tantrum that would make a 3 year old blush with shame, ruining her birthday party, and causing everyone to leg it as soon as they’d finished their last drink.

Except for me that is.  I’d had too much to drink to drive home, hence was stuck with the pathetic little fuck for the rest of the evening.

How I held my tongue, i’ll never know.

And you best believe that the next morning at 6.30am I was up and outta there, and 60 minutes later, at home luxuriating in a fragrant moisturising bath, with a nice cuppa, some soothing music and two happy purring kitties, who were very pleased to have their momma back so early.

Seriously.  Is there anything worse than warring couples?  And why do they save their scraps for their single friends to witness? Do they consider it entertainment?

Who needs that shit?  If I’m not getting the benefits of a loving partner, I certainly don’t want to share the down side, so unless your beloved is going to service me, pick me up from the airport after a holiday, take out my trash, take me out Valentines Day, bring me breakfast in bed and paint my ceiling, you can keep the horrible stuff to yourself!

As for sex, Madame Sertraline has all but killed that urge off for me, so when a very cute rugby player half my age tried to come home with me the other day ‘For dinner and “afters”‘, I laughed and gently declined.

Did he honestly think I was going to stuff him?  Sorry, typo, I meant, did he honest think I was going to stuff him with carbs out of gratitude because he’s younger and prettier than me?

Sorry hon.  Even before i was drugged up to the eyeballs, sympathy fucks have never been an aphrodisiac to me.

But one day I’ll be better and maybe the universe will provide a kind, funny, ethical, passionate chap to share the rest of my journey with.

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And you best believe, when he does finally rock up, he certainly won’t starve!

Namaste x


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BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT

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You might remember that business opportunity I was given a week or so ago?

Well I decided to go for it.  Prepped up my little kitchen, went to the cash and carry, spent an entire day baking goodies, bagging up treats and digging out items to decorate our stall and barely took a minute to eat, or more importantly, drink anything, then packed up my car with delicious things, had a bath and a nice glass of red wine to ensure a good night sleep to prepare me for the early start and busy day the next morning.

Unfortunately for me it didn’t quite work out that way.

Most of you know that whilst I’m not a big drinker, I haven’t totally eschewed drinking alcohol on top of my meds, and I generally get away with it.

This night I didn’t.  I can only assume that I was totally dehydrated, as the wine clashed horribly with my medication and I spent the whole night having crazy trippy dreams.

I won’t go into too much detail as I know how boring other people’s dreams tend to be, but I promise you, this was anything but boring. The overlying theme was my being worried about sleeping through my alarm and I kept finding myself in strange landscapes with strange people, trying to find my way home before the alarm went off.  The dream also featured me in various states of undress, insects that stung and laid their eggs on me and when I pulled out the stinger, whole grubs and bugs would ooze out and rapidly be replaced by others, all strung together, Lionel Blair, of all people, kept saying strange things to me, I couldn’t snap the string, I wandered from bus stop to train station, there was a weird keening in the background, and then an eerie cat, who turned out to be a real cat, my Dexter, woke me up glowing fuzzy and green in the dark.  Then I fell asleep again and when I woke up the next time the alarm had gone off and I felt like total dog shit.

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I tried to get out of bed and was nearly sick, and when I closed my eyes again, Lionel was back grinning maniacally saying ‘It’s the schtick.  The SCHTICK’ like a mentalist again, so suffice to say, I didn’t trust myself to drive, let alone work on a market stall, so in the end, I had to let down my friends, and bail.

To say I was devastated was an understatement.

How unlucky can one person get?

I had rung in sick in my last job so many times, that the sense of failure from having to do it for something I genuinely wanted to do for a living came flying back in glorious technicolour.  Plus I had let down my friends, and what the hell was I going to do with all the food?

Then I remembered that later that afternoon I had to go and talk to someone about claiming benefits as my financial situation is getting quite scary, and I thought I maybe I had found meaning in what had happened.

Maybe I wasn’t meant to start trading until after my therapy?

Mind you, if this was a message from God/Buddha/the Universe/Frith, I’d much sooner they’d told me about it before Id wasted shitloads of money, and baked up a storm, but no matter, I’ll take what i can get, I suppose.

So, come 4pm a very wan, shaky moi headed off to the advice centre armed with a load of paperwork, a bottle of water and a banana cake.  If nothing else, someone was going to enjoy the fruits of my labour and as it turned out, my volunteer Nadia was extremely chuffed to receive my RAK thank you gift too.

And whilst it makes sense for me to claim something (I’ve worked and paid taxes since i was 16 so I’m hardly a benefits scrounger) while I’m getting therapy, it was still disheartening to even consider it, so I went home tired, cakeless, and even though I’d made someone’s day, pretty downhearted.

I then received a text reminding me that I was going to see the movie ‘Gravity’ with my friend Adam that night.

In 3d.  Oh God.

The tickets were already bought, plus it was an early birthday present so I had to go, but believe me, I still felt very spaced out (pardon the pun) and probably wouldn’t even need the special glasses.

The movie, it has to be said, was amazing, especially as at times I actually felt like I was in it, with the added disadvantage of being able to empathise whole heartedly with Sandra Bullock’s character’s space sickness, as I probably felt worse than she did.  I also had to close my eyes in parts and flinched as missiles flew past my beleaguered head wishing fervently that I was at home in my bed, but I survived.

Or thought I had, as when i got home, I felt the onset of one of my mega migraine attacks, and couldn’t take drugs as I was scared of tripping again.

And when it kicked in i remember whining pathetically to God ‘You’re just a big bully!  What the fuck did I ever do to you?’

But when the pain got too much, I thought sod it, and took a Migraleve.  What the hell, it was just a mad dream, and the better of two very unpleasant evils.

Except this time the dream was extremely unpleasant.

I was back in an even more hellish version of my previous job were I was trapped in the building, everyone blatantly hated me, everyone was out to get me and my boss presided over and pushed me toward a variety of tortures and humiliations, none of which I could escape from.

Jesus Christ, I left that job 18 MONTHS AGO!  I’m OVER this!  I’ve even forgiven them, well kind of.

Why won’t it go away?

Then at around 3am, just to enhance the experience, my cats decided to play ‘Murder in the dark’.

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Then the scariest thing of all suddenly hit me.

What if all of this is random? What if there is no meaning to any of it?

What if there is no God, or if there is, he/she doesn’t give a shit and we’re all just ants at his/her sandalled feet, seconds away from being trampled on?

Or maybe all of this navel gazing has accelerated all of my bad karma, and 2014 is my Chinese Year of the Vengeful Payback Dragon from HELL?

I fell back into an uneasy, but thankfully dreamless sleep, woke at 10am bruised, sore and absolutely exhausted and staggered out to the kitchen with my sunglasses on to feed the cats and put the kettle on.

Then when I took them off and open the curtains, I realised that the agony had stopped.

And I was grateful.

But as far as figuring everything out, I don’t want to think about anything today.

This is the support I get, God, for taking a leap of faith and trying to get back on my feet? I get sabotaged?

I doubt you exist anyway, I might as well be trying to communicate with El-ahrairah, the Singing Ringing Tree or the Man in the frigging Moon, and if you do exist, you’re a mean, cruel arse and I’m not talking to you.

Right now, all I believe in is the mug in my hand, the cats at my feet and the mattress under my bum.  At least it hasn’t let me down.

Yet.

But at least it’s here and I’m giving it the benefit of the doubt.


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STARTER GAIN

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Yesterday after I got over my little panic attack shit fit, I decided to make some sourdough muffins, and reached into the dark, dank, depths my fridge for my starter.

Having not used it for a good six months, the bakers amongst you will not to surprised to hear that it looked a little grey, with about a centimetre of brackish looking liquid floating on top, so I took the lid off and gave it a sniff.

God, it smelled absolutely rank!  But I know it’s meant to be a bit funky to give the bread that lovely tang, so I give it a quick stir then add equal amounts of flour and water and put it on top of the fridge, where it is usually, for some reason, quite warm and left it overnight.

When I managed to drag my arse out of bed today, I went to have a look at it.

It had barely moved, let alone doubled in size, only one or two bubbles had appeared to break the surface, and it seemed to be separating again.

Hmm.  This isn’t promising….

So I added another tablespoon of flour, an equal amount of water and mixed it all up again.

I then got paranoid about how crusty the plastic tub it was kept in had gotten, so tipped it into a bowl, washed and dried said container, put it back in again and put it close to, but not touching the radiator, and left it there to recover it’s va va voom.

An hour later?

Nada.  

Well maybe it had farted up just a couple more bubbles, sighed and collapsed back down again but it was very hard to say.

I search the internet for advice and inspiration, and surprise, surprise I’d done the wrong thing.

‘The dark liquid is a form of naturally occurring alcohol known as hooch (yes it’s alcoholic, wish I’d known that before I got started….), this is harmless but does need to be poured off and discarded prior to stirring and feeding your starter’

Shit. But the teacher from my bread making course told me to mix it in?

And there, on another bread making forum, it is in black and white:

‘The hooch is perfectly normal, just mix it in….’

Ha!  See! Bloody, scare mongering wankers.

‘…if you culture is too dry, and pour it off it it’s too wet.’

??????

I look at it again.  It stared back moonily, all pallid and lethargic.

Huh, I know how that feels.

I continue to scout around on t’internet and find a remedy equivalent to the kiss of life for stinky glop, so then I halved it, fed it again, then grabbed my phone to set an alarm so I would remember to do it once more before bedtime.

Then….

….I thought ‘Fuck it’.

Maybe like me, it need to get it’s shit together in it’s own good time.

Some things just can’t be rushed.

Let’s hope it doesn’t need 18 frigging months plus, like it’s mother…..

 


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SEEDED PARMESAN OATCAKES RECIPE

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Forgot to buy oatcakes.

Wanted an oatcake.

Made these.

No more Nairns for me!

Super easy and absolutely yummy.  Much shorter (crispier/crunchier) than the bought variety, have a go!

INGREDIENTS

50g butter or olive oil (I like 50/50 because you get some buttery flavour but it’s healthier than all butter)

100g medium oatmeal (if you only have regular, use a hand blender to make it finer)

100g plain flour, plus extra for rolling out

1 tsp baking powder

2 tsp poppy seeds

2 tsp sesame seeds

1-2 tblsp grated parmesan cheese

 

METHOD

  1. Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6.
  2. Melt the butter in a small pan, then allow to cool slightly.  Add oil if you are going 50/50 or just use the oil cold.
  3. Tip all the dry ingredients into a bowl, with 1 tsp sea salt, then pour in the butter/oil. Add 5-7 tbsp boiling water and combine to make a firm dough.
  4. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface, then roll out until about 0.5cm thick. Cut using the cutter of your choice, moisten tops with a little water, then sprinkle with a little more sea salt if you like. then bake for 12-15 mins until golden.
  5. Leave to cool for a few mins, then transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.
  6. Slather with a really good butter, add a bit of cheese and chutney and enjoy.

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1840638/seeded-oatcakes

This is the original recipe I adapt this from, but if you choose to follow this, for Gawd’s sake, DO NOT USE BICARBONATE OF SODA because it leaves a really shitty aftertaste in your mouth! x


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NICE BUNS….

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In the sure and certain knowledge that my mood today was not the best, I decided to do something that always perks me up and that is bake.

I saw this recipe on http://www.northsouthfood.com/paris-buns/ and was curious.  I hadn’t heard of Paris buns, but Miss South’s recipes are usually very good, I had two eggs just begging to be used, and they have malted milk powder in them which cinched it for me.

I didn’t have any of that pretty sugar in the house, so scattered them with Demerara which seems to have disappeared….

Plus mine spread a bit, so to look at, they are a little less Eiffel Tower and more like mini Millennium Domes….

Still looks aren’t everything, and having just had one with a cuppa, I can confirm that they are very nice indeed. 🙂

Plus I too am so over cakes that are 50% buttercream icing which makes me feel ill, so these bad boys are practically virtuous in comparison.

Which means I can probably have another, right?

That said, the next batch I make might be adorned with a malted milk chocolate topping as I do like to experiment 😉

Thank you Miss South you and your buns have managed to cheer me up! x


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EASY RUSTIC GRANARY LOAF RECIPE

I ran out of bread yesterday, not good, so got up early and knocked out a loaf for breakfast!

Since buying a bread maker, and then learning to bake bread without it, it’s a very rare occasion indeed that I actually buy it from a shop nowadays.  Home made bread tastes so much better and a big plus point is that you know exactly what has gone into it.

I like to make white bread with my sourdough culture, but sourdough can be temperamental, and this recipe is pretty much foolproof, delicious and very healthy.

I’ve attached the link to the original recipe, but this is my version and I’ve added pictures so that any new bakers can see what each stage of the process looks like.

Happy baking!

INGREDIENTS

1 dsp malt extract (available in health food shops, but black treacle and molasses also good)

13g dried yeast

350g granary flour

125g strong white flour

100g whole porridge oats

60-80g of small/crushed nuts and seeds of your choice (Waitrose Love Life mixed seeds are good if you don’t use seeds very often)

25ml olive oil

5-8g salt

METHOD

1. Mix the malt extract/treacle/molasses with 350ml warm water, yeast and a dsp of flour.

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2. Stand in a warm place (the bowl, not you….) until the mixture froths up and looks something like this:

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3. Mix together the flours, oats, seeds, nuts and salt  in a new bowl.

4. Add the olive oil to the yeast mixture then pour in with the dry ingredients, combine well then turn out onto a clean counter and knead for a good ten minutes or so until smooth and springy.  The original recipe says add more flour if the dough is wet, but your bread will be a lot lighter if you don’t.

If you don’t know how to knead, the purpose is to stretch the gluten strands, so don’t just thump it, make sure you give it a good workout!  If you hold the dough with one hand and push the rest of it away with the heel of your hand, like so, that will do it.

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5. Pop the dough back in the bowl and leave somewhere warm until double the size.

Before:

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After:

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6. Scrape dough back onto the counter, pat it down, and then do a four corner fold, that is to say if you see it as a clock face, fold in at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock.  Turn it over, shape into a rectangle, and scoop/chop the dough with your hands, till the top is smooth and all raggedy edges are tucked underneath.  Pop into a well oiled 2lb loaf tin (or well floured proving basket) and leave in a warm place until double in size.

Before:

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After:

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7. Heat oven to 200c/fan 180/c Gas Mark 6, then bake for 30 to 40 minutes until well risen and browned.  You can glaze with beaten egg if you like but I don’t bother as it doesn’t make much difference.  Take out of the tin and tap it on the base, if it sound hollow it’s ready.

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8. Let it cool for 10 minutes then cut yourself a couple of slices, butter thickly and enjoy with home made jam, hummus, cheese and chutney or whatever else takes your fancy.

You can leave it for a few hours, then cut it into slices, freeze and then use when required, so that way, you never have to run out of bread again.

Yummy way to start the day!

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/96617/granary-loaf