Thursday, September 20, 2012

Missing Who?

So my eldest daughter started University this week, which is surprising really as she is only seven years old.  Well in my head she is anyway.  I can still see her in her bridesmaid dress when me and the Mrs got married, she really was seven then and in a part of my brain she’s kind of stuck there - forever innocent, immune to the charms of alcohol and late nights.  I have a picture of that moment that sits facing me every time I sit at the breakfast bar in the kitchen, which is every day, but in the 10 years odd that it’s been on the wall I don’t think I’ve looked at it until this week.  Sure I’ve seen it before, smiled at it, ahh isn’t she cute at it, but I never really looked at it until she left.
I have to be honest, I didn’t really think her starting Uni would impact on me too much.  Sure I knew I would worry about her, anyone that can slice through a tendon in their finger getting ice cream out of a tub needs to be worried about (she was using a carving knife…I know), but I wasn’t prepared for the feeling of helplessness that would accompany the worry.  She is 280 miles away, I can’t just run upstairs and make things right for her.  I can’t make sure she’s getting enough sleep, enough food, enough anything. 
She’s her own woman now and I have to let go.
But it’s more than just letting go, it’s about changing my whole mindset.  How do you bring up a child who’s an adult?  When a toddler is starting to walk you child-proof the house – you make sure all sharp corners are rounded, you make sure there is nothing they can pull down on themselves, you make sure the electrical sockets are covered.  But how do you child-proof a University?  I can’t make sure she’s doing her course-work, I can’t vet the tattooed half-wit she met in the Student Union, I can’t even make sure that she drinks JD instead of Vodka so people know she’s drunk and not stupid.
I’ve prepared her the best that I can, I’ve taught her to cook (kind of), I’ve taught her to do her washing (but not how to hang it up so you don’t have to iron it) and I’ve taught her how to take verbal abuse (then dish it back in spades).  I tried to teach her how to keep a bedroom tidy, but failed.  I tried to teach her that all men are bad news, another failure.  I tried to teach her to look after her money but who am I kidding, I failed that one myself and still do.
I’m missing her.
I know, it’s crazy.  How can you miss someone that gets up at the crack of noon on a regular basis?  How can you miss someone who steals all your bandwidth with the constant downloading of Christ knows what?  How can you miss constantly answering the door to the postman who has another five packages from eBay, all addressed to her? 
But I do. 
Every time I drive home from the morning school run I wonder if I’m going to be greeted by the blaring music that indicates she’s up as I open the door – and every time I open the door to silence I’m surprised and then I remember, she’s not here anymore.  Every time I go to have a shower and there’s still hot water left, I’m puzzled - and then I remember, she’s not here to use it all anymore.
I miss her rants about something being ‘un-realistic’ in an episode of Futurama and her missing the irony of that statement.  I miss watching her and Kaede watching Doctor Who.  I just miss.
I am happy for her, I really am.  It was us that insisted that she would get a better University experience if she wasn’t living at home and it wasn’t just because a small part of me was looking forward to getting the big bathroom back.  I genuinely believe that this will be the making of her, this will shape her future, mould her into the awesome woman that I know she is.  I’m just not ready to share her with the world yet.  It doesn’t help when I read Facebook entries like ‘Going to Wet & Wild UV Foam Party, 21.00 to 03.00’.  Then again it’s my fault for reading it, I may have to un-friend her.
I’m having to learn a new way of communicating with her (mostly by text of course), a non-judgemental, you’re a big girl now type way.  I find that if I ignore my first reaction, pause for a 10-count and then reply, it seems to work.  As I’m writing this she’s just text me to say that she’s going surfing today in Newquay.  Naturally, it being mid-September an’ all, I felt obliged to tell her to not run around with wet hair or she’ll catch her death.  I can just imagine the face she pulled when she read that.
I’m slowly getting used it though, my heart seems to be mending though there’s still a hole there that will only be filled when she comes back at Christmas.  And I’m sure that when she does, dragging a suitcase of washing to be done, all will be well again and I can go back to moaning about the lack of bandwidth, water and silence.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Philips Avance Grill

This is a sponsored post brought to you, in part, by those clever people at Philips.  They have recently launched a product perfect for our English Summers… an indoor Barbeque.  So when they asked me if I would like to try one out the Avance Grill, I took one look at my rain-filled, rusty BBQ, sitting forlornly in the garden and jumped at the chance.  I come from a family that frequently BBQ’s standing under an umbrella, in fact my Dad cooks T-bone steaks on the BBQ every New Years Eve, desperately trying to ignore the cold and wet – so I’ll be one up on them from the start.

I have to admit that I was quite intrigued at the idea of BBQing indoors and I reconciled myself with the fact that the kitchen needed decorating anyway, so any smoke related accident would be fine.

Once the unit turned up I soon realised I would have nothing to worry about.  In essence the Indoor BBQ is part griddle, part hotplate.  It has a small pot built into it that you can fill with woodchips (that come supplied), so as you cook your meat the woodchips slowly burn and release hickory scented smoke.  It has a removable glass lid so you can see what’s going on, whilst trapping in the smoke.  They recommend that you place the BBQ on a board underneath your cooker hood and I had switched on my extractor to full whack in anticipation of bilious amounts of smoke, but again it proved an unnecessary worry as the small amount of smoke that did escape was easily dispersed on the lowest setting.
At the back on the grill there is also a reservoir which can be filled with water or wine and herbs which then creates a hot steam that not only adds flavour, but keeps the meat you’re cooking nice and tender. 
They also supply an easy-to-follow recipe book with fish, poultry, meat, veggie and fruit sections and I picked myself out a couple to try out:
Smoke-grilled rib eye with a black pepper rub grilled red and green peppers.
Smokey maple syrup glazed duck breast, grilled crostini.
As a committed carnivore I started with the rib eye steak.  I loaded up the pot with woodchips, filled the reservoir with water and thyme then turned the grill on. 
Every time I opened the lid to turn the steak I got a lovely whiff of smoke and herbs and the steaks seemed to be cooking nice and evenly.  The recipe said to cook the meat for 18 minutes in total, but I cooked it for a little bit less as I prefer it a bit rarer (and to be honest the smell was making me hungry).  I hastily made up a salad as I let the meat rest and then tucked in.
Man the steaks tasted honest-to-god good.  The smoke and the thyme had mixed well together and the steak had stayed nice and juicy, not the easiest thing to achieve when cooking them outdoors.  Recipe one was a winner.
The following night was duck night, not a meat I had cooked before as I had always been worried about over/under cooking – I wasn’t holding out much hope and the Mrs had the Chinese delivery menu handy.
Again I filled the pot with woodchips, but this time I filled the reservoir with red wine.  The menu called for the duck to be cooked for 16 minutes and again, every time I opened the lid to turn the duck I got hit with an aroma bomb.  I then glazed the duck and kept turning it for a couple of minutes before taking it off the grill and letting it rest.

Another hit.  The duck was the right side of pink, full of flavour and something I would definitely cook again.  Unfortunately due to a glass or three of wine being consumed, I forgot to take any finished photos so you’ll just have to take my word for it.
So far I had cooked two semi-expensive cuts of meat, so I decided to test the grill with some ropey old pork chops to see if it was the quality of meat I was impressed with, or the grill itself.  I filled the pot with some whole Szechuan peppers, and the reservoir with water and some sliced ginger. 

I cooked the chops for about 8 minutes and at the end of that time they were cooked through, succulent and the hint of ginger and Szechuan really added to the taste.
At the front of the grill there is a removable drip tray that catches all the unwanted grease and the grill is non-stick and comes apart easily, which all adds up to an easy cleaning experience (something I was dreading to be honest).
All in all I have been very happy with the Avance Grill and I can see myself using it on a regular basis, including taking it with us to Center Parcs this October.  It’s easy to use, easy to clean, cooks beautifully and really adds a smokey flavour to your food.  This will definitely not be going into the gadget graveyard that is my cupboard under the stairs.
Many thanks to Philips and Samantha at Ketchum Pleon for supplying me with the Avance Grill for testing.  Homebase and Argos are stocking the Avance Grill and it’s priced at £120 (RRP).