Friday, 6 October 2017

Kind of the Anti-Martha

My husband and daughter came back to the house far too long after they left to quickly go into town and get the few things I needed for the Thanksgiving food tomorrow and Sunday. One of those things was a proper trifle bowl. None to be found. Not one in Walmart or Canadian Tire, and Home Hardware was closed. Once again, I remind you I live in "small town Ontario". No HomeSense, no Costco, no Pier One, no Stokes... the list goes on and on.

Because they felt badly about not being able to locate a trifle bowl, they chose a little something for me. It was a nice little surprise. I LOVE red in the kitchen and I have always loved little jugs and creamers.

Cute, huh? Now, for those of you that have been blogging for a while, you may know that this is a Ree Drummond piece (the Pioneer Woman). She started off with a blog. Yup, just a regular blog, but then it grew and turned into more of a cooking / food blog and then she took off like a house on fire and now she has a whole line of kitchen décor and items. They sell it here at Walmart. People, she started off with a blog.  We all started off with a blog. Do I see myself being able to grow and expand like Ree Drummond? Will I be videoing myself stirring ingredients in a bowl and making suggestions about the perfect place setting?

Well let's just say I'm more of a realist. I'm kind of like the anti-Martha Stewart. In fact, I was really ticked at Martha Stewart for a long time. She just rubbed me the wrong way with her perfection and chickens with blue eggs or green or whatever colour they were, her perfect décor and the way all of her food always worked out perfectly due to the magic of television and magazines. She set women up to be the perfect everything. Just got home from a long day at work and Susie is puking down the front of her shirt and the dog has fleas? No problem, just whip up the perfect meal complete with homemade dessert and relax in your New England paradise. She created an unachievable standard which made women feel inadequate by not being able to reach it.

Here's the thing. My food is not very pretty most of the time. Some of my dishes have chips in them. It wasn't until two years ago that I finally got some decent cutlery instead of the stuff my mother collected in a promotion at the local grocery store. My pie crusts are sometimes purchased frozen in a flat box, and sometimes homemade. The homemade ones often have patches where the crust split, or wasn't quite big enough on one side, so I took some of the extra that got cut off around the outside and used it to make up the difference. I don't LOVE making lunch in the morning at 7:00 a.m. and I sometimes swear at the cat when it "sproings" on the window screen just as I am getting all the ingredients out to make a low calorie bagged salad with pre-cooked chicken strips. I drink a glass of wine on Tuesdays, not waiting for Friday, if Tuesday laid me out flat exhausted because sometimes work sucks. Some of my furniture matches, but not all of it and our livingroom looks like a furniture warehouse or display floor because we are stuck with the mother-in-laws furniture and have no where to put it all and god help us if we ever decide to sell this place because there are so many unfinished bits and the thought of packing up our lives makes me feel ill, not like we are thinking of immediately selling, but we'll have to downsize one day.

So, to go along with this theme of anti-perfection, here are the preparations for the food that will go to "the city" with us to my brother and sister-in-law's house. I offered up dessert. My brother said they already had a pie in the freezer, so I said I would bring something that "wasn't a pie". So naturally, I looked on Pinterest. I have this HORRIBLE habit of experimenting with recipes that I haven't already tried when we have company over, or when I'm taking food somewhere else. It doesn't always go well. You would think I'd learn.

I found a recipe for a pumpkin trifle. Lovely autumnal flavours, but not pie. I also decided to bring something that I had already made once, so would likely be successful: Lunch Lady Brownies. These are also from Pinterest. Not particulary Thanksgiving-y but will go over well, if the aforementioned trifle is a bust.

Here is the reality of going to work all day, staying after work to get a bunch of stuff done, getting home to immediately thaw some hamburger and making a quick spaghetti supper whilst throwing in some laundry of clothes we might want to wear to the family gathering tomorrow. At the same time, husband and son had gathered up a rental car because the insurance company has deemed the "kids' car" a write off after being smashed into in a highschool parking lot by a young lady who perhaps needs more practise driving.

The trifle was described as easy and delicious. I beg to differ with the 'easy' description. First you have to bake a whole separate dessert - a spice cake. It does come from a boxed mix, so that's not terribly bad. Here it is posing in front of my dollar store compost container which gets used every single day and is hideous inside.

Here's my work space part way through the process. Notice the not-quite-a-trifle-bowl. I used to use that as a fruit bowl. It'll have to do. You can see my computer print outs of my recipes I was making tonight. I didn't quite get the reading glasses in the shot. Not being able to see properly anymore is a royal pain in the arse, as my baking consists of putting on the glasses, reading the next step in the recipe, taking the glasses off because they make me kind of nauseous if I'm just looking at the world normally, putting the glasses back on because I forgot what the instructions said to do, shifting the glasses down my nose because it bugs me to keep taking them off, pushing them back into place to read the next instruction, taking them off again because it's like swimming through water every time I have to go to the fridge, putting them on...

After the spice cake is baked, you cut it up and rip it apart and making a layer at the bottom of your not-a-trifle-bowl. In retrospect, that layer was too thick.

The next layer is a combination of pumpkin pie filling mixed with vanilla instant pudding (which I also had to make before hand and chill in the fridge), and a little brown sugar and something else that I can't remember because I'm 51 and a little tired.

Here's the pumpkin filling / pudding mixture in my beautiful and well organized fridge underneath the chilling bowl of "stabilized" whipped cream which meant doing the whipping cream thing until you get soft peaks, then using some dissolved gelatin whilst beating the whipped cream to achieve stiff peaks. (How many steps are we at now?)

Next comes a layer of broken (on purpose) ginger cookies. They are these...

President's Choice English style Gingersnaps which pack a bit of a punch that lingers.

Next comes the whipped cream. Then repeat the whole process again.

Meanwhile, I had already made a pan of brownies (tonight - between making supper and making the multi-step trifle) and then iced them right after they came out of the oven so the icing would melt and flow over the top, to harden again as it sits on my table next to the L.L. Bean catalogue with the Chelsea boots that I really want to order, but the exchange rate from American to Canadian makes them rather expensive but I love the look of them and all the other ones I've seen on line have been more expensive and did I mention I live in small town Ontario and there isn't a decent Chelsea boot within a 200 km radius?

But I digress. I realized I hadn't even taken a picture of the finished trifle product so how do you like this one?

There it is with plastic wrap, all tucked up in our 2nd fridge out in the mudroom, which is perhaps one of the best things in my life. Do you have a second fridge? It makes summer watermelons and beer so much more convenient, and it is indispensable at Christmas (and Thanksgiving and Easter and staff parties ...).

Finally, after hanging my freshly laundered pants and shirt on my lovely newish drying rack, and unloading and reloading the dishwasher, handwashing the big cumbersome stuff, and wiping down the counters, I did this.

Then I sat down and wrote this blog post. Just a regular blog. A trifling blog.


  1. Ha-ha, that made me laugh. Brings back memories of coming home from work and then start baking cakes for the school fete. I tried so hard to be a Martha and it nearly killed me. Great blog.

  2. you are a brave, brave woman. No way in hell I go to that much trouble! At least you finished the project off right. ;)

  3. Sounds a bit like me! I always try and do something more ambitious than I really have time for. All looks scrummy! I like the term mud room. Our room like that is called anything from utility to boot room. Mud room would be such a more apt description. Yes there is a second fridge in there. The present one was thrown out by my brother's neighbour. We kindly gave it a home. It's better than our kitchen one in many ways but has a bizarre habit of freezing food near the bottom. I have tried putting a complaint in to my brother but oddly he won't pass on the message to his neighbour.....

    1. Mud room is just a term for a small room that you enter first before the main part of the house where you can hang your coats, leave your shoes, etc. I love ours because when we added onto our house, we designed this to have lots of closets, too. My kitchen pantry closet it in the mud room as well. It's not a term I made up, just what we Canadians call it, although really, boot room would be the better term for most of the year!!

  4. I need a glass of wine after reading all that!! You sound gloriously normal!! My kind of housewife, except I don't think I'd attempt that trifle. Just too many darn stages. I'm like you as well, making something new for a party and not knowing whether the damn thing will turn out to be edible or not.

    Hope you get those chelsea boots, whatever they are. You sure do dserve them.

    We have recently got a second fridge. Fan-bloody-tastic. All summer one was filled with water and fruit and is still full though I'm not sure of what. Ours is standing 'temporarily ' in the hall. Bet your boots its still there next summer.

    Oh and I actually know who Pioneer Woman is. Her show started on greek tv last week. Far too jolly for me.

    1. Chelsea boots are pull on ankle (short) boots. The ones I want are black leather. Not a high heel, just a nice, classic look. I've only watched a couple of programmes of the Pioneer Woman on tv. I mostly just remember her blog from years ago.

  5. Loved the trifle joke. Can't get enough of them! You have inspired my latest post.

    1. Well, thanks, I'll have to go have a look at your post.

  6. Brilliant, thank you for a peep into your normal day in the kitchen!
    And the bowl is just gorgeous and perfect for trifles and anything else. Have a good time with family

  7. I had to come and read after Tom mentioned your post. The post made me smile all the way through. However, I am now exhausted and going for a lie down.

    1. Normally it's not that a frenetic a pace, but it's a holiday weekend with lots on the agenda. Welcome Rachel, I'm glad you came by!

  8. Your post is why I retired early, I couldn't do it all and decided that work would have to go. You definitely made me smile today.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. I can retire fully in 2021, but who's counting? (I deleted the above comment because I spelled it "whose" and I cringed when I noticed)

  9. This might be one of my favorite posts EVER. We are WAY too much alike! I remember when Martha thatched the front of her cottage with boxwood. OK -- it looked great. But who does that? Who has time? Well, probably not even Martha. I'm sure her "people" did it. Or did the turkey in the puff pastry crust. I have a tough time fitting the turkey in my 1964 oven that I pray won't break before I have to really cook things for people.

    The trifle sounds great. I do Paula Deen's which might be a little easier or maybe it's easier because I take short cuts (like no gelatin in the whipped cream and don't tell -- sometimes even extra creamy cool whip as the whipped cream layer. I think you should put a trifle dish on your Christmas list (along with a link of where to order online!) Yes, I'd be ready for the glass of red, too (and not necessarily on a weekend, either!)

    Wishing you a FABULOUS Thanksgiving weekend! Safe travels.

    1. Paula might be a little bit more down to earth. Who makes turkey in puff pastry???

  10. OMG, are you sure you aren't my sister in disguise?
    Do you live anywhere near Renfrew or Killaloe? You don't need to answer that, I'm just making a reference here: Scott's in Renfrew (and/or Pembroke) and Afelski's in Killaloe (and/or Barrys Bay) have amazing boots! At the main corners in Barry's Bay is a store called "Mad Outfitters". they had GREAT boots when I was in there last too.

  11. My mother collected little pitchers. Cows, pigs, sheep. All gone, now.

  12. I love your post Jenn. :) Your title got me! We were at a bazaar Thursday and I saw a nice big glass trifle dish and it worth the $8??? It was there the last few times, now you've convinced me to snatch it up if I happen to see it next time! Though it's just the two of us...I usually make ours individually in big wine glasses. But Alex said if I make an entire trifle, he'll eat it lol...I think your autumn trifle looks really good! I saw a recipe for a cream-cheese filled pumpkin Bundt cake!! Why must they tempt us???

    Oh how I WISH I had a second fridge!! Well, I guess we kind of do, it's Alex's bar fridge that I commandeered as my cheese cave. But a big second fridge would be awesome!

    Honestly, I feel really fortunate that I don't work, that gives me time to do all the stuff I do. Otherwise I'd be sh*t on toast the moment I came in the door and basically that's what I'd be cooking too lol...Martha is UNREAL. I think she has a team of interns who do most of the work for her, then she does the finishing touches. Ironically, I found THIS BOOK for fifty cents at that same bazaar, funny huh? I read through it and I can't compete!

    I love LL Bean and I wish I could ONLY order from them...but you're right, it's way too expensive, we need a Canadian branch here. I had to look up those Chelsea boots, they're really cute!

    And btw, I drink wine DAILY. No regrets. It's the "joie de vivre" as they say. I have a white wine spritzer before dinner and as I'm preparing it; then after dinner a small glass of red - it really helps the digestion. Why wait until Friday? :)

    I'm making my first turkey on Monday a ten-pounder for only Alex and me...we'll be eating turkey concoctions for weeks I think. I even found fresh cranberries at the I have to find a recipe for fresh cranberry jam, stuffing...that market only sells in bulk, I have five pounds lol...I hope you have a nice Thanksgiving Jenn!

  13. I stumbled upon your blog and it has caused me to lose forty-five minutes of precious (and few) hours of blogging! After reading post after post, I feel I have met my soul sister!

    As for this post, the first thing I was going to say about the trifle was just use a clear bowl. It's about seeing the layers, and you really knocked it out of the ball park with your fruit bowl. This should be your official 'trifle dish'! I like to make them, too. I use pound cake most of the time, and my grocery store usually has them or any other type of cake in the bakery department, unfrosted, so you still have that fresh flavor and you don't have to tell anyone who made it. Your recipe sounds relish! I can bet the pumpkin pie will be passed over for you dessert!

    My niece works as a senior editor for Martha Stewart magazine in New York. I'm dying to go visit and have her take me on a tour. She doesn't say much about her, just a few things that make me laugh (M.S. has a serious goofy side). Martha may have set the bar way too high for most of us, but she did make the bar visible. For so long women who ran the household felt it was sheer drudgery that even a monkey could do. Well-we found out we could multitask and be savvy, smart, creative, and even passionate about our 'craft'. Thanks to all of the successful women who carved this path for us!

    I love to cook and garden much like you do. Sorry to see everything dying and fading everywhere. We have days and days of gloom and rain ahead, and I'm getting tired of it already!

    I'm so glad I found your blog! I look forward to more visits!

    Jane x

    P.S. Just want to say, forget you ever had any fears and dive into the writing. Pull out new notebook or a blank computer screen and start your story. Be fierce!!!

  14. So funny! You deserve that wine! Happy Thanksgiving!

  15. The print outs...the glasses nuisance...HAHAHAHA That is me all the way! LOL I laughed throughout your post. So much fun. And you know what? You sound normal. This is real life. Never mind the Martha Stewart crap.

    We don't have a second fridge but we do have a freezer, which I am very happy about. I cook and bake large portions, and freeze for other days.

    Your trifle looks great! It was a lot of work but the end result is very impressive. Happy Thanksgiving!

  16. This post of yours was better than any one Ms. Famous-for-her-blog-merchantile-lines-of-dishes-etc. ever wrote! If many of us took the time to document our days, as you did so well, it would amaze even our own selves what we somehow accomplish. (And sometimes ask . . . why!?!)

    I have a second (commercial-sized even!) refrigerator that I could not function without! Could. Not.

    Martha Stewart has built her empire 'cause she knows what she's doing. She's a talented, smart lady, no doubt, but also has a staff of hundreds. I must admit my adulation of her slipped a bit when I read a magazine article detailing how she (or was it her gardening staff of hundreds?) planted 700 (yes, it was s-e-v-e-n hundred) peony bushes, all with carefully planned color gradations, on her estate. I mean, the expense, the time, who the heck takes care of 700 peony bushes? Is that a smidge beyond most of our means?

    Anywho, great blog post, Jenn! And Happy Thanksgiving!

  17. Love this post! Cheers to real life!

  18. Great post!
    LLBean is having 20% off with a $10.00 gift card on purchases of $50+.
    I love their stuff but it is pricey.
    Your Trifle looks scrumptious.

  19. Yes, this is life. I love your humour, self-deprecating as it is.
    We had our turkey Saturday. Done, over. My son-in-law did the food. I've been fragile. One son refused to come. The other decided to go be with him. gosh. I've had that kind of week, too.

  20. Funny post - thanks. I've never been a fan of those that make the rest of us look bad. Remember two things about Martha, (1) she has a lot of staff! (2) she went to prison. I would never want to be Ree either, would hate to be filmed - you notice I don't post photos of myself ... I just tell people it's because I'm in the witness protection program for bad hair! I'll say no more .... Mary-Lou =^..^=

  21. Really enjoyed this post and could identify with so many of the things you wrote about. We also do not have a perfect home. Much of our furniture is years old, thankfully none of it belonged to our parents. We also do not have perfect meals and most times I don'[t even know what's for dinner until the same morning. For years, I was never a fan of Ms. Stewart, although I have one of her cookbooks that is more an everyday cookbook (if that's possible" and recently I have found several very useful and not-so-difficult recipes. I think the trifle looked wonderful and the fruit bowl was a great stand-in too. And, a glass of wine was well deserved no matter what the day.

    Finally, hope you and your family enjoyed a Happy Thanksgiving.

  22. I found myself laughing, and nodding in agreement as I read this great post! I am way too unorganized to even remember to get meat out of the freezer to thaw more than 15 minutes before I need it!! I think the trifle looks delicious, and I hope you and your family enjoyed your dinner together!

  23. Thanks everyone! The trifle was actually really good and the flavours all mellowed together because it sat overnight in the fridge. I would recommend it to anyone, but short cuts could definitely be taken. (The lunch lady brownies, the ones I had made before, were a flop! There ya go!) Thanksgiving was very nice with my sister and two brothers and most of their families.

  24. The trifle looks so yummy. Glad you had a great Thanksgiving with all your family.

  25. Hi Jenn.....
    I read this last night, and laughed out loud! Could not get my comment to post.....
    You are an excellent story teller...
    Have a great week....
    Linda :o)

  26. I love this post! Ree Drummond has beaucoup bucks behind her and Martha as millions AND minions. I am not impressed with either. You, on the other hand, are my hero(ine). This is the reality of what we do. I agree - what part of "Easy" related to that trifle?

  27. Your post made me chuckle. I think a lot of us can relate to what you were expressing in your post! The trifle looks so wonderful!