"Fifty sausage rolls", I answered, when Samantha suggested I may wish to help with our eleven year (stateside) anniversary party. She wanted traditional, but not yet offered, to her friends, at one of her (many) parties. After the upheaval of the previous week, I was not sure I could cope with another detour from routine!
I had booked my flights back to England, and the countdown had begun. Despite having a few weeks to prepare, I had already started to work backwards, counting my weekends, and what needed to be done during each one, before my departure. The week before we leave is tax-free weekend, which does not need any explanation. An early morning start will be essential, and so my Saturday routine will be altered. This has been prepared for, mentally, so I foresee only a modicum of panic arising! This past week, and weekend, had been organised but not prepared for mentally! Fifty sausage rolls seemed like an incredibly tall order!
The recipes for rough-puff pastry, and puff pastry vary quite dramatically. I checked my trusty BBC website, and found that the recipe I used to make a batch for the most recent 'Royal Wedding' parties, was not there. I vaguely remember separating the butter into three slabs, but after checking in with my three famous 'no nonsense' cooks, (Delia, Gordon and Jamie,) I was at a loss. There was a slight (ever so slight) chance that I had actually printed the recipe, and an even slighter (ever so slighter) chance that I had stored it away with my books and folders that I created when I was slightly (greater than slightly) more organised, in my days of living in England. The printed recipe was no where to be found! The time I usually have for extra-curricular activities before work on Monday morning, had come to an end, and I left the house feeling as if I had failed.
Tuesday morning started with a greater degree of confidence. I was going to follow a recipe on the BBC website, and if it didn't work, so be it! I made my dough (without butter) and let it chill for half an hour. I then rolled the fat between two pieces of parchment paper, and placed it in the middle of the newly chilled, and rolled dough. After folding it into three, rolling again, and folding again, I placed it back in the fridge to relax. I would pay it no more attention until lunch time, when it should be ready for another round of rolling!
"Can you make a trifle, please", was another phrase that threw me into the middle of next week! Whilst in my prime, I would have said, "Of course; no problem", all I could think of, already being in countdown mode, was that this was something else that needed to be done in stages. However, once a mother, always a mother, and helping my offspring to make a party for our 11th year anniversary was par for the course, and if my daughter wanted a trifle, a trifle my daughter would have. Remembering the masterpiece my mother used to prepare, I thought ahead to to the finishing touches. Criss-cross piped cream and glace cherries with a touch of angelica. It would look beautiful! "NO! I need a Union Jack on the top!" was followed by the ever so polite, "please". The jelly that were now my knees as I almost fell to the floor weeping, could have been used for the base, had it not been metaphoric! A Union Jack in cream? I was sat down and very calmly was told that this would be quite easy. I was not dubbed the 'Dessert Queen' for nothing by my (former and current) English friends and acquaintances in my previous life. Strawberries and blueberries could be used to make the pattern. I breathed a sigh of relief and started to plan for the rest of my week.
As I did not have a nail appointment on Wednesday, I planned to visit Joe on Thursday morning, as our office supply of coffee had dwindled to a few grains in the bottom of the bag, and my reserves from home had already been raided! In my state of turmoil, I had booked an appointment to have my hair cut, also on Thursday, calculating that I could kill two birds with one stone, being on the south side of town. I had to call the salon to confirm that time, as when I booked, the young man answering the phone had told me that the only available time was 11:45am, and then said, "So we will see you at 10:15". The actual time, it transpired, was 11:15, so my 'two birds' plan had been thwarted, as the best time to visit Joe is around 7:30am!
"Can we get the sausage rolls and scotch eggs made on Friday morning", was the straw that broke the proverbial camels back! How was I going to achieve my housework commitments, and manage to satisfy my daughter's whims? (Demands is perhaps not a too stronger word, but I shall remain positive!) Most of those around me know that I go into a tailspin before leaving for a trip, but few understand the severity. The level headed, sensible, prepared for anything (Girl Guides/Scouts motto will forever be etched on my brain) multi-tasking mature woman, becomes a blimp! The reorganisation of my weekday morning routine caused such a disruption, I had to stop and pull myself together with very stern words! Of course, I could forego the heavy housework, for one week, but then I would feel somewhat obliged, (and neither she nor I know why,) to mention this to my mother!
Wednesday morning remained standard. The pastry had been rolled, and 'step 4' had been repeated four times, as instructed. It had been placed in the freezer, as I had made it two days earlier than necessary, and the first stage of the trifle would not have to take place until Friday. The starter for the two loaves I had also promised, had been started and I started to reiterate the manner of the pastry, and relax. The rest of my weekly routine was not disturbed, and I came home at lunchtime to swim, and swam again when I returned from work. Dinner was made each evening, and the sun rose and set!
I completed some Friday morning chores on Thursday, to ensure my Friday morning would be free to help Samantha with her culinary projects. The party on Saturday (of course) had a theme. The food was going to be a mixture of English and American. Two of her friends are married to an Englishmen, and they know that there is more to the Isles than Fish & Chips and Shepherds Pie! The drive to Joe was not hindered by school traffic and after enjoying a wonderful cup of coffee, and collecting my rations for the next week or two, I drove back across the river, to the office. At a quarter to eleven, I left again to travel south, and arrived in good time at the Salon. My hairdresser, Nahn, worked his magic, and I rose from the chair feeling like a new person! With only a smidgen of gold left from the remnants of red, my locks are now totally white! Two women made comments that it was a beautiful colour, and one wanted to know, "What shade do they use. It is amazing!" Nothing better to boost one's ego than to say it is my natural colour! I was rejuvenated and ready, for the moment, to face any challenge. The drive back across the river was uneventful, and instead of returning to the office, I played hooky for a little longer, and went for my midday swim!
Rolling the thawed, and very relaxed pastry after moving furniture and vacuuming the bedroom was easy! The sausage meat was divided, the rolls made, and part of my duty had been completed! Samantha covered hard-boiled eggs with the remainder of the sausage meat, and everything went into my fridge, to be retrieved at the end of the day. We had to leave to get to the office by eight, and I hoped I would be able to return at lunchtime, not only to exercise but also to clean the mess which we did not have time to clear away. Our working day routine has also changed somewhat. With the birth of e-filing law suits, came a change in working patterns. Our workload has been heavier after lunch for the last year, and whereas I used to find I was able to catch up at the end of the day, this event now takes place in the morning. Therefore, I did not feel too bad leaving just before noon to return home. After half an hour in the pool, I returned to my condo, and washed up the many bowls that had been used, and wiped the surfaces to a satisfactory condition. The jelly was made for the trifle, and mixed with the fruit, before being poured over the cake base. It looked very colourful, and as the cake base was red, I had contemplated making the next layer, the custard, blue, but I was concerned this may spoil the consistency.
My daily conversations with my mother had a different twist this week, as we discussed the delicacies being prepared. With my culinary skills having been inherited, her input is always helpful. "How are you going to manage that?" she asked, when I mentioned the Union Jack topping for the trifle. After explaining how easy it would be, I admitted that I had also been horrified at the prospect! She, like me, realised this was not such a daunting task, and I promised I would take pictures. She had the perfect puff pastry recipe, and it was then that I remembered where I had retrieved it last time! I felt the need, (and neither she nor I know why,) to let her know that I had cleaned my kitchen after having left it in such a state!
Saturday morning came around, and the custard was prepared, along with coffee. It was Dana's birthday! Unfortunately, my husband does not like a fuss made on his birthday, unlike myself! However, this year this attribute was a blessing! The up and coming party was also to celebrate his 'big' day, but in a very small way! I knew Samantha would not let it pass with the level of nothingness he desired, and in turn, he respects her need to pamper! After he left for the office, I received a call from Samantha to say she was on her way, and that she had called Dana to offer salutations. He had suggested she drop the dog at the office, giving us a little more freedom. My memory had waned, yet again, and the Union Jack on the trifle did not seem to be correct. I had missed out some 'crosses'. After sending a picture to my daughter, I went in search of a sample. As I opened my laptop, to access the Internet, (ashamed as I was,) I heaved a heavy sigh, looking down at my mouse, as it is bejewelled with the 'flag', Unplugging the object, I took it down to the kitchen and proceeded to decorate the specialty dessert!
We ran in and out of the Dollar Tree, and in and out of Walmart, quicker than usual. I had very cleverly input my shopping list into my phone, using the 'list' app, and very cleverly (or not) left my phone on the kitchen counter top! I was delighted that my memory had been restored to normal specifications (somewhere along the week) and I mentally replayed entering the items on the list, and retrieved them from the shelves. We arrived home at noon, and went to the pool, so that Samantha could enjoy a couple of hours of doing nothing, before going to her home and setting up for the big event!
I spent longer than usual poolside, and returned to find Dana fast asleep, having slept for most of the afternoon! After baking the two loaves of bread, and preparing a potato salad, (which was the final request,) I dressed in my (not so) finery, and we headed north. By the time we arrived, the party was in full swing. "Amazing pastry on those sausage rolls", was the sentence that met me on the way in. As all Samantha's friends commented that they had never had 'anything' like this, and demolished the little tidbits, the comment from the Englishman was the one that made it all worthwhile. The scotch eggs came in a very close second! We explained that this was traditional party food, especially when catering for Yuletide and the likes. In unison, the ex-pats announced, "And everyone says the English can't cook!". Everyone was bemused by the trifle, but very willing to taste. Along with the English offerings were the potato salad, rice and corn salad, burgers, dogs, dips & chips, and some Texas shaped biscuits (cookies) with Union jacks painted on. The cup cakes were set out into a United States of America flag!
We had a very enjoyable evening with my daughter's friends, and spent longer than we had anticipated at her house. Edward had done wonders with the barbecue, and the American effort was delicious! We left, dog in tow, and with a small platter of food, and arrived home at around quarter past eleven!
Suddenly, this morning, there is little to do. I do not have any chores on my list, other than the usual for the ensuing week, and whilst we are going to have to leave home early next Saturday, to complete the final shopping trip before heading across the pond, I am mentally prepared! I anticipate some last minute requests which generally come in after I have announced the 'suitcase is closed', but it is par for the course! I survived two weeks of disruption to my routine, but do not necessarily feel a better person for it! After all, it was nothing that the 'old' me would have had a problem with! However, without these little disruptions, from time to time, I would find it even more difficult to write ............. another story!