Recipe: Pan Moteado (Mexican-inspired tea bread)

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I always think of tea loaves as a very traditional sort of cake- the kind of thing your great-great grandma would’ve made on a Sunday and rationed out during the week. There’s something quite Victorian about them, and I recently found out that they’re usually associated with Yorkshire. I love them because they’re super easy to make and I’m quite lazy…

This tea bread is inspired by a traditional bara brith, a Welsh tea bread,, but made with a bit of Mexico in mind. Thanks to Bluebird Tea Co.’s Dark Choc Chilli Chai, this has a bit of spice and a richness that I’ve not experienced in any other tea bread. I’ve also added chocolate chips in place of some of the traditional dried fruit; you can play with ratios as you see fit.

As bara brith translates as ‘mottled bread’, I decided to call this ‘pan mateado’- which translates as the same thing in Spanish. It’s a cake that I think represents a lot about me- my Welsh birth, my Yorkshire background and my love of anything Mexican. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

1 mug cold tea

300g self-raising flour

150g caster sugar

100g chocolate chips

50g raisins or other dried fruit

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c and grease and line a loaf tin.
  2. Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl.
  3. Pour the tea into the bowl and mix with the other ingredients until it forms a batter.
  4. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes.
  5. After the 45 minutes, turn the oven off and leave the cake inside for another ten minutes.
  6. Remove cake from oven and cool on a wire rack.

Tea loaves are delicious on their own, or toasted with a bit of butter. Enjoy!

 

 

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September, September

I love September. I love the change in the air as we hurtle towards October; I’ve already started wearing handknitted socks and my new uniform is cord/denim skirts over leggings, paired with men’s jumpers that I’ve had for years. What’s different, of course, is that although I have the ‘back to school’ feeling- especially as D has started school now- for the first time in a decade I haven’t actually gone back. Although it’s weird, I’m not missing it so much. It’s lovely to still be in bed at the time I would usually be walking to meet my lift.

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Hibernating is cool.

I am sort of at a loss, though. I have six hours a day with nothing much to do. As a teacher, every part of my day, from 6.50am to at least 5pm was accounted for and busy, so this has been a bit weird. I am a rubbish housewife, although I DID manage to clean the bathroom the other day, so…

So what have I been doing? Well, I started applying for jobs properly this week and got an interview for the first job I applied for- although it turned out that the hours were never going to work around childcare for D. However, I got some excellent feedback about my interview and CV (which, FYI, I’m using a skills-based template for, which is much better when you’ve been in a job for a long time. You tailor it according to the job spec/skills they’re looking for, which is much more useful for showing employers what you can do. It is more time-consuming than a traditional CV though…) I’m hopeful that something will come along soon, but I was very pleased that I managed to score an interview so soon into my search. It’s just a matter of perservering.

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I am not this happy when I am job hunting.

I have also been exercising more, which I might write about in a future post, and working hard to get my skin into a happy place- it turns out that I have inherited my mum’s tendency to get acne as an adult. I’ll also probably be blogging a bit more, if only to make myself LOOK busier than I actually feel.

But until then…. roll on autumn!

Bronte Project: Visiting the Parsonage

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The Parsonage (and a a rare photo of Benn!)

I’ve been to the Parsonage so many times (it’s one of the things that happens when you grow up in a bookish family in West Yorkshire…) but I never get bored. I was especially interested in the Bronte 200 celebrations, which aim to mark the 200th anniversaries of the births of Charlotte (2016), Branwell (this year), Mr Bronte arriving in Haworth (2018) and the birth of Anne (2019). I was especially keen to visit after we found Anne Bronte’s grave last year.

Of course, when you’re in Yorkshire, you should really start off your lunch with rhubarb gin…

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One thing that was really exciting was that the Parsonage now has the ACTUAL table that the sisters wrote at. It was acquired in 2015 and it was the first time I’d seen it. Imagine- the ACTUAL table that Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall were written on. This was the table the sisters paced round as they discussed their projects. There’s even an E carved into the wood.

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I am aware that this is a rubbish photo. It is actually quite impressive in real life.

Throughout the house, there are costumes from To Walk Invisible, the Sally Wainwright drama that was shown over Christmas. The attention to detal was so amazing- it’s a shame my photography couldn’t do it justice.

This year is all about Branwell, the tragic Bronte brother, who should have been a great success but instead fell from grace. There are dedicated exhibitions: one is a recreation of his bedroom during the last years of his life, which was surprisingy melancholic. Branwell has been painted as a ne’er-do-well, but he was also a bit of an unfortunate soul and the bedroom really reflects this.

There’s also a dedicated area to Branwell’s written work, with new poetry by Simon Armitage. The best bit is seeing stuff in ‘the flesh’ that you’ve only ever seen in books- one of these was the famous Branwell sketch ‘A Parody’, which he drew in a fit of self-pity whilst ill. It was genuinely a bit of a thrill for a Bronte nerd.

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One of the things I was desperate to do was to participate in an art project by artist Clare Twomey, in which visitors to the Parsonage are invited to write a line from Wuthering Heights into a new manuscript. This is because the original, handwritten by Emily Bronte, has been lost. Each participant is asked to write a line from the novel with a pencil (you get to keep the pencil at the end, to encourage you to continue writing.) I was given a line from chapter 27, in which Linton begs Catherine not to leave, or else he’ll die.I was a bit miffed I got a horrible character, but hey ho, that’s the luck of the draw. I wrote VERY carefully, so that a) my writing was legible and b) I didn’t make a mistake. Anyway, I managed it and I’m quite chuffed that my name is in something that’s sort of historical.

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Part of my Haworth tradition is making a pilgrimage to the church where the family are buried (without Anne, who is buried in Scarborough.) Although the Brontes would not have recognised the church as it is now- it was remodelled after Mr Bronte’s death- there is a sense of tranquility and history.

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Note the vase of heather from the moors

It was a lovely day- and to mark it, I HAD to buy something that combined two of my favourite things (there should be more book-based tea blends, IMHO):

21248346_10154868783112267_1111194524416760488_o I’ll report back on the tea ASAP.

Podcasts you should be listening to

Well, that last blogpost was a bit of a mic drop, wasn’t it? I announce I’m leaving a ten year career and then… nothing? Well, I did and I got my P45 yesterday and it’s all official. But I haven’t been sitting doing nothing for the last four-and-a-half weeks! I’ve been VERY BUSY (if you don’t count the time I’ve spent re-watching seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race I’ve done to take my mind off the upcoming nuclear war etc.) For me, being very busy means lots of walking and lots of walking means listening to podcasts. I often discuss my favourites on Twitter and I am often asked about my favourites, so here they are in no particular order…. (This blogpost is not brought to you by anyone at Squarespace/Blue Apron/Audible)

  1. You Must Remember This

YMRT-Clean I’m obsessed with the history of Hollywood, particularly the first half of the 20th century; this podcast is a goldmine of information. Split into seasons, there is definitely something here for you. Each episode is brilliantly researched and wears the learning lightly- it might be detailed, but it’s hugely accessible with a gentle sense of humour: Karina Longworth has a great voice to listen to and her performances of some of Hollywood’s greatest characters are fun. If you’re looking for a way in, I’d recommend the Charles Manson’s Hollywood, MGM or Six Degrees of Joan Crawford seasons, although the Blacklist season feels eerily relevant to today’s politically charged days.

2. All Killa No Filla

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I’ve written about this one before, but it’s the podcast that really started my whole obsession: two female comedians talking about serial killers, whilst going off on tangents about Liam Gallagher and Tebay service station? I’m IN. (I recently spoke about this in a job interview and genuinely said “I don’t think southerners really understand serial killers like northerners do.” I was actually invited back for a second interview despite/because of this.) This one will genuinely make you guffaw- the Fred and Rose West three parter is a bit of a blinder.

3. Lore

Lore_Podcast_logo Lore is great- stories of folklore, hauntings and legends from around the world in episodes that last about half an hour. It’s a real mixed bag of stuff and there is something for everyone (I particularly enjoy the episodes about ghosts and hotels. It’s surprising how many there are…) although at least one has made me wince. This is the one podcast that will lead me to the internet straight afterwards to look up the stories and cases. The good news is that there are books and a TV series planned, which pleases the obsessive twelve-year-old X-Files fan in me. However, I would like to caution you against listening to the episode about Spring Heeled Jack whilst walking to your lift in the dark at 7am on a December morning. It’s creepy.

4. Small Town Murder

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I *promise* I’m not plotting a murder (I realise that two of my choices in this list are somewhat murder-y), but this is my latest binge-listen. Two comedians look at murders committed in small towns across the world (their amazement at how old a British village they look at is genuinely cute) and they discuss the demographics of each place, as well as the circumstances around the crimes they feature. Less meandering than All Killa No Filla, but no less funny, this has been my constant companion in the last three weeks.

As an aside, apparently Maine has a really low crime rate. As anyone who follows me on Twitter knows, I am a rabid Murder, She Wrote fan and I dispute this fact. EVERYONE dies horribly in Cabot Cove. That’s why Jessica has to move to New York.

5. Welcome To Night Vale

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Probably one of the most famous podcasts outside of Serial and This American Life, Welcome to Night Vale is a bit of an acquired taste. I tried listening to it last year and gave up; recently, though I’ve been binge listening. I love how it’s paranormal mixed with magic realism and surreal humour. Also, Cecil’s voice is like honey on toast. This is the podcast I credit with helping me train my brain to follow a story and retain information (I have a mild hearing impairment called auditory processing disorder, which means that I can struggle to connect words straightaway- audiobooks were a no-go for me for a long time, which means that the free Audible books offered at the start of every bloody podcast were moot. Anyway, following this has really helped, so… yay!) I am determined to own a cat called Khoshekh in the next few years and I am very over-invested in the story of the Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives In Your Home.

All hail the glow cloud.

(I would also recommend Alice Isn’t Dead, by the same people. You need to start at the beginning though, FYI.)

6. Very Odd Pod

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Two disclaimers off the bat:

  1. My mate Scott (also known as @GalacticKeegan or @Flying_Inside on Twitter) makes this podcast with his brother, Cal.
  2. I am in an upcoming episode. (Scott finally recognised my inner Judi Dench. And needed someone with a Leeds accent.)

However, it is a very funny and surreal podcast that has had me GENUINELY laughing out loud in the last couple of weeks. It’s also convinced me that my hair may actually be trying to kill me and my loved ones and that the Spice Girls changed the whole of human history. It’s in its early days, but if you want to say you liked something before everyone else did, this might be for you. At least start listening before Scott gets so famous he ends up on Strictly.

I’m always after new recommendations for podcasts (and also noise cancelling headphones), so let me know what you’re listening to here or on Twitter: @wuthering_alice

 

I’m leaving teaching

In just over two weeks, I will be stepping away from a career that has come to define my life- ten years, my identity, hours and hours of work just… gone.

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There are lots of reasons why, some much bigger than me and others that are more personal. You’ll know of the biggies: the workload (and a curriculum that I feel is deeply, deeply flawed and unfair), the pay and pension issues, the funding issues that mean we can’t do everything we need to do in order to make sure that those in our care are happy and healthy individuals who can think independently and creatively in a world that is becoming ever more challenging. Teaching has changed so, so much in the ten years that I’ve been doing it that I honestly can’t understand why people still want to train- and that those who have trained in the last couple of years seem to be told that it’s normal to be overworked, underpaid and to strive for constantly outstanding lessons, otherwise you’re a crap teacher. (I promise you, that last one cannot be done all the time if you want to have anything that resembles a work/life balance.)

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“A work/life balance, you say?”

On a personal level, I’m tired of the commute. I’m lucky enough to get a lift, so I’m not at the mercy of the railways, but it’s still exhausting. I’m tired of having to work when I get home; it’s not cool to be sat on the sofa when your 4 year old gets home and his face drops because you’re marking again and probably will be when he goes to bed. I’m often exhausted (and/or working) on the two days I week I have at home with him. Teaching is a job that never stops. For example, today I’m finding it very hard to not check my email. We are always contactable in a way that I never experienced early in my career. I have to mentally shut myself off from this if I am to get any work/life balance, otherwise I could drive myself mad- and I have done. I am pretty sure that most of the anxiety attacks I have experienced in the last few years have been as a direct result of work. I’m a good, conscientious worker; I hate letting down my colleagues and, most importantly, my students. I also want to be around to take D to school- leaving at 6.50am everyday isn’t the best thing for this.

So I’m going. I resigned in January (on the day of Trump’s inauguration, as it happens.) I’d had a tearful discussion with one of my bosses about it, (although I’d decided the previous May with Benn, in a Pizza Express on our anniversary, as he had picked up that I wasn’t happy and hadn’t been for a while. He asked me what I needed and said that he would support it.) I knew that I needed at least a break, if not something more permanent, otherwise I would be at risk of becoming one of those horrid, bitter and jaded teachers we all remember having. I genuinely adore most of my students and I didn’t want to inflict that on them. I mean, I’m a tired teacher, but I’m not a horrible one. I also knew that moving to a different school wasn’t an option. I just need to be out of a classroom.

Five months have flown by and I have no plans. This is a deliberate choice, for now. I wanted to keep giving my focus to the kids in my classes without worrying about other stuff. I also have the holidays to sort out my CV and interview skills (teaching interviews are unlike any others I have ever had. My last non-teaching interview was in 2005.) I also need some time to unwind and sort my head out; my identity has been so intertwined with my job that it’s going to take some time to sort myself out. I have been asked if I want to do supply/private tuition, to which my initial reaction is:

tumblr_ml2rlfaQC71s5ipdco1_400.gif At least for now. I need to focus on my own kid and getting him settled in school. Also, I really need a break on correcting people’s spelling. Never say never and all that, and I will miss my students, but for now I’m quite happy to leave teaching to other people.

People find it really hard when I tell them I have no plans. I mean, I’m not going to live off Benn (I managed to save a bit- so if you’ve invited me out recently and I’ve said I’m skint, you now know why…), but I am going to take some time to find something new. I have no idea what, yet, but I’m sure something will come up. And yes, I won’t have the holidays, but I will have my evenings and weekends back- 90% of parents cope with holidays, I’m sure we will too. It also means that if Benn’s office does finally get its long threatened move to Croydon, I’ll be around for D. We’ll just be reversing our roles a bit and I’m OK with that. I probably won’t have the same sort of wage, either, but you cut your coat according to your cloth and I’ve coped before- I’ll cope again. Right now, I’m looking forward to reading, writing, listening to music, all without a deadline.

But if you do see any jobs in Brighton, give me a shout, yeah?

Bluebird Tea Co. Summer Teas

Ah, tea! Is it the last thing on your heat-sozzled mind right now? I get you. But I am going to brave your frazzled mind and discuss a few new teas that might just help you right now. Trust me. I own a Batman mug:

Nananananana @bluebirdteaco This year’s summer offerings from Bluebird are super strong and, quite frankly, an utter delight. Behold:

Also excited (as is Fernando the flamingo) about @bluebirdteaco's summer offerings- lots of lovely green teas (which are my go to in the warmer weather) and a zingy rooibos. Yum. #teablog #tea #summer #flamingo Trust me when I say that there is not a dud anywhere to be seen in this collection; they are all lush and I really like that three of the teas are green. I don’t know about you, but I’m not a huge fan of black tea with milk when the heat makes me want to sleep. Green tea (and especially a good sencha base) is refreshing and cleansing- a perfect base for the flavours here. I’m also very pleased that the teas here are sweet without being in your face.

Ginger Beer, the only rooibos tea, is a triumph- albeit a bit of a weird one. On the surface, ginger and lime shouldn’t work in a tea, but they DO. And, even weirder, I’ve tried this with milk in it AND IT WORKS. It’s warming and spicy, but not wintery. I have this pegged as a blend for those, like me, who love spicy autumn and winter drinks but want something a little lighter.

Pineapple Sorbet is a lovely and light tea, very refreshing and I’ve found myself reaching for it frequently when I’ve needed a sweet hit. Real pineapple pieces make this juicy, lemongrass stops it from hurtling into ‘so sweet your teeth sing’ territory. It’s a bit like a fizzy pop flavour, but for discerning grown ups rather than sugar fiend kids.

The two glories in the collection, though, are Summer of Love and One In A Melon, even though these were the two I was wariest of at first.

Not scraps from today's garden, but one of @bluebirdteaco's dreamy new summer teas, 'Summer of Love' #tea Summer of Love is SO PRETTY- even if Benn jokes that it looks like the scraps from a day’s gardening (also, FYI, gardening post coming soon!) I think I was initially wary of the inclusion of bamboo leaves. Would this work? Taste weird? Yes- it works, no- it doesn’t taste weird. It’s a sweet, floral tea which is right up my street and one that is very calming. I love having it first thing in the morning as I listen to the birds in the garden. There’s something very soothing about this tea and I love it very much.

One In A Melon is the tea I drink the most from this collection- and I didn’t think I liked watermelon! It’s literally fun in a tea form: cheerful and cheering, happy and sweet. I love it and have been using it to wean myself off fizzy drinks in the hot weather. I really must have a go at cold brewing it and taking it to work with me. It’s a watermelon flavour that isn’t sickly sweet and even just the smell of it makes me feel happy!

So don’t let the heat stop you from having a good cup of tea, my friends! You’ve no excuse now to give it up.

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*sent for review

 

You should vote

Tomorrow you should vote. I wrote this list on Twitter, but I thought I’d put it here as a handy guide too.

IMG_20170607_094950_381 Vote for kids: for schools, for tuition fees, for the 4 million kids in poverty, for the kids in care, for kids who have little hope under this government.

Vote for the NHS: for the doctors and the nurses and the dentists and the midwives and the health visitors.

Vote for the elderly: for the vulnerable, for the lonely, for the dementia patients, for the poor.

Vote for the disabled, who have been so cruelly treated under this government.

Vote for the environment, for us and our kids- and the kids yet to come.

Vote for women: for those in shelters, for the women in NI who have to travel to access safe and legal abortion, for the WASPI women, for the fight for equal pay.

Vote for your council: for libraries and swimming baths, for Sure Start and day centres, for parks and playgrounds.

Vote for the emergency services.

Vote for infrastructure and the economy, for jobs.

Vote for the workers: for your rights, for those on zero hours contracts, for those paid a pittance, for those denied access to employment tribunals.

Vote so we’re not lumped in with bloody Trump.

Vote.