Catching The Torch

Trials by Fire in Hostessing, Motherhood, Life


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Downton Abbey Review,  Episode 4

Okay, Julian Fellowes.   My hopes that the rape plot-line would be treated in a manner respectful of a horrible crime have been fulfilled.  We all suspected that Mrs. Hughes would eventually tell Mr. Bates, and so she did.  She even respected Anna’s wish that the identity of her attacker remain unknown.  The scene in which Mr. Bates tells Anna he knows is absolutely perfect.  Shaking with anger, he tells her that Mrs. Hughes has told him what happened, when and where.  Anna reacts with anger as well, that her “secret” and her “shame” has been found out.  Very quickly, Bates makes it clear that his rage is caused by the fact that she was violated and attacked in such a brutal way.  “Why do you talk of shame?” he asks her, tears in his eyes.  “I do not accept that there is any shame in this.”  When she says that she fears she is “spoiled for him,”  he ftakes her face into his hands and says “You are not spoiled!  You are made higher to me, and holier because of the suffering you have been put through.  You are my wife.  And I have never loved you more…”

When this whole horrible rape storyline began, I was furious that such a crime against women would be exploited for entertainment value.  I anticipated an entire season of angst between Mr. and Mrs. Bates, a pregnancy, dripping with drama.  But in the space of four episodes, the show has explored Anna’s fear, isolation, loss of self-respect, loss of self-worth, and her willingness to sacrifice everything to keep what she feels as shame from hurting those she loves.  Thankfully, they allowed Anna a confidant in Mrs. Hughes, and made that confidant brave enough to help Anna by keeping check on her health and telling her support system about the crime committed against her.  The writers allowed Anna’s husband the absolutely perfect reaction: refusing to accept that there is shame or dirtiness in Anna because she was attacked, crying of anger not at her, but because she had to suffer, and assuring her that what she has gone through has not made her weak, less, or dirty, but stronger, higher, and holier.

There are still holes to poke in the way this was dealt with.  Is it perfect that everyone is focused on how another man (Bates) will react Anna’s rape?  Can something be said about how Bates as a man intimidates Mrs. Hughes to get the information.  Does it suck that Anna has to defend her attacker to save Bates’ neck?  Would it be great if someone had gone to the police with this?  No, yes, yes, and yes.  But this is after all a TV show, and I am very relieved that my fears of exploitation have been assuaged.

And as this is a TV show, let’s move onto the fluff and fun!

One of the new “couples” on this show that I absolutely love are Dr. Clarkston and Isobel Crawley.  No, they are not actually together, but the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it scene in Isobel’s drawing room was a perfect representation of an old married couple.  She was admitting that she did not feel accepted by the family, he was trying to reassure her.  She continued whining, and he responded with the perfect Husband Eye-Roll.  She then sighs and flop on the couch.  The only thing missing was her saying “I’m fine.”

The other new “couple” is Isobel and the Dowager.  Finally, FINALLY in this episode we get some zingers from the Dowager!  She’s been pretty tame all season, but in this episode everything she says is hilarious.  The blossoming kinship between these two former enemies is both funny and heartwarming.  Each scene between these formidable actresses is sparking with fire, humor, and talent. “Wars were waged with less fervor.”

At last, we see some the downstairs staff venturing into the working-class world outside of the Abbey.  In this episode, the kitchen girls help prepare Alfred to take a test for admittance to a culinary course in London.  “Is there anything I should know about London?” asks Steady Freddy.  “There’s a great deal, dearie,” answers Mrs. Patmore, shaking her head.  It’s adorable to see everyone from love-struck Daisy to stoic Carson encouraging this Alfred’s effort.  Spoiler – he doesn’t pass his test, but thank goodness because we will be treated to more cutie Daisy trying to win her man.

(Speaking of Steady Freddy, the Ivy/Jimmy exchange when she chastises Jimmy both for making fun of Alfred and not having any ambition is further proof that the Love Rectangle is the reincarnation of Carson’s Past.)

New-fangled gadgets and new-fangled people show up downstairs in the form of a refrigerator, sewing machine, and shady ladies maid.  At least this one is tied to already-evil Thomas and not trying to find the evil in sweet Tom.  After drooling over her American orange juice and declaring her undying love for a brand-new employee, Lady Grantham marches downstairs to bully Mrs. Patmore about the refrigerator.  When questioned about her unwillingness to accept any modern inventions, the wonderful cook confesses, “I would like to be rid of me corset.”  Love. Her.

Moving upstairs, Mary has tons of suitors and suitors who are bringing suitors!!  And the cutest purple top in the world!  AND, she’s snarking at Edith again!  Vintage Mary is back!!! After blotting a tear for Lord Crazy Boringham’s engagement announcement, she practically runs into the arms of her old beau Evelyn Napier.  I’ll say this for Evelyn: he has a much classier way of acknowledging Matthew’s death than her last suitor.  May we only hope that Mary doesn’t Pamuk Evelyn again when he brings his new buddy to the house next week.

Oh Edith.  Your man has gone AWOL and you’re sneaking off to the doctor’s office after your one-night stand.  Please please allot more time to this melodrama.  I can’t wait.

Also upstairs, we see the adorable children!  Mary doles out an extra ten minutes of her extraordinarily busy day to spend with her son, and looks to Tom for reassurance that the children are happy.  Whew.

Speaking of Tom… Tom, please don’t leave.  No one wants you to go.  Even Robert loves you, as evidenced by his confession that he will genuinely miss you and little Sybie.  Robert looked so much like Henry Higgins leaning on the mantlepiece and admitting in his staid English way that he cared, that I wanted him to break into song:

to the tune of “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face”

I’ve grown accustomed to his face,

He almost makes the day begin.

I’ve grown accustomed to his brogue, it’s becoming rather vogue.

The tails he wears to show he cares

Are second nature to me now.

Like breathing out and breathing in.

I was serenely aristocratic and content before we met.

Surely I could always be that way again, and yet.

I’ve grown accustomed to his rants, accustomed to his hats,

Accustomed to his face.

I’m very grateful he’s a plebeian and so easy to forget

Rather like a habit one can always break and yet

I’ve grown accustomed to the trace of the Irish in the air,

Accustomed to his face.

At the family luncheon, Lord Grantham stated “If we don’t respect the past, we’ll find it harder to build the future.”  This line seemed like the thesis for this episode.  Although TV shows must always move forward as art reflects life, watching Episode 4 reminded me of what I love about Downton Abbey.  We had lots of juicy zingers from the Dowager, fabulous clothes, suspense, heartache, romance, scenery, and the drama of family.  Even the luncheon scene was representative of respecting the past to build the future: we’ve never seen the family dining alone for this meal, but the repartee and feel of the scene brought us back to the heart of Downton.

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Make What You Love – Lunch for the Masses

Make What You Love - Lunch for the Masses

We just finished breakfast and we’re cooking again??  Yes, friends.  It’s lunch time.

For some reason, when I have guests, lunch seems to catch me off guard.  I’m so busy de-thawing my pastries and planning dinners suited to everyone’s tastes that I forget my guests need to eat a midday meal.  Also, I feel like I haven’t even gotten the breakfast mess cleared up before it’s 11:30 and people (my children) are starting to get hangry.

Lunch exists within people’s unique daily routine.  It’s a meal to eat what you like, catered exclusively to your tastes and diet.  It may be one of the only breaks in your day, or at the very least, a prelude to a break.   Some people eat at their desks, some eat with co-workers.  Some eat in the company of their favorite novel. Nearly no one in our day and age takes lunch as a sit-down meal with family.  Personally, I like to eat at around 2:00 p.m. by myself because as a stay-at-home-parent of toddlers, I find it vital to my humanity to have one meal that I am not supervising and/or wearing.    Considering all of this, planning lunch for a crowd is oddly challenging.

The answer to this challenge is to make what you love.  (And make it ahead of time.)  It will be impossible to cater to everyone’s normal lunchtime routine, and they are at your house to visit you, so present them with a little bit of yourself!  (No cannibalism necessary…)  Personally, my favorite lunches are mess salads and leftovers.  Because it’s pretty weird to serve your guests last week’s casserole, today I present Grandma’s Mac & Cheese and Thai Chicken Salad for a Crowd.  Bonus no-cook “recipe” is the Ploughman’s Lunch, American style

Another thing to remember about lunch is that everyone enjoys a little downtime afterwards (including you).  It’s been a lot of togetherness and people (including you) will very much appreciate some time to do their thing.  Pass out the WiFi password, point people to your magazines and books, hand over the remote, make sure there are blankets for those who want to rest their eyes, and let everyone go to their corners for an hour or two (including you).

Grandma’s Mac and Cheese

My Grandma is an amazing woman – strong, generous, comforting, and wonderful.  She would give her life for every family member and skin the hide off of anyone who crossed them.  The vast belief she has in those she loves, and the quiet expectation that they will be the best version of themselves has been encouragement beyond measure, and has shaped who I am.  I can only hope I have inherited the iron backbone, limitless love, shrewd smarts, and capacity for kindness that are the hallmarks of the Young women.

It is only appropriate that this wholly comforting, stick-to-your-belly, no-nonsense, wonderful recipe is handed down from her.

Grandma’s Mac & Cheese

Serves 6-8

~Can be prepped before: Prep time: 20 minutes  Bake time: 50 minutes  Total time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb shredded sharp cheddar cheese*
  • 4 TBS butter
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup milk
  • Ketchup – a couple of squirts
  • 1 small box of macaroni noodles
  • 4 slices of bread, buttered on both sides and cubed

Method:

Preheat oven to 325*

Put first 4 ingredients into a medium saucepan and cook over medium low heat until cheese is melted and sauce is pretty smooth.  Stir often**

While the cheese sauce is melting, bring water to a boil in a large saucepan and cook noodles according to package directions.  Do not overcook as they will continue to cook in the oven.  Drain and set aside.

Pour noodles into a casserole dish.  Stir in cheese sauce, arrange croutons over top.  Bake uncovered for 50-60 minutes***

Goes beautifully with a big fresh salad and baked sausage

Baked Sausage:

Ingredients:

  • Smoked Sausage (1/4 lb per guest)
  • BBQ Sauce

Method:

Cut up sausage.  Put in oven-safe dish.  Pour BBQ sauce over top.  Bake in oven with Mac & Cheese

*Do not, I repeat do NOT try to substitute mild cheddar or low-fat cheese in this recipe.  It will bake into a disgusting, gum-like consistency.  I know, I know… butter, full-fat cheese… I watch what I eat too.  Take a nice scoop of this real-deal Mac & Cheese and fill the rest of your plate with salad.  It’s worth it and one scoop does not contain all the butter.  It’s okay.

**Seriously, low heat and stirring is the key.  So many times I cooked it too long/too high and the oil separated from the cheese.  If that happens, whisk it back in.  You do need the fat for the cheese to bake properly.  See above.

***You can prep this up to 4 days before serving.  Don’t bake it.  Take it out of the fridge while you’re making breakfast and put it in the oven an hour before lunch.

Thai Chicken Salad

Serves 6-8

Total Time: 20 minutes (35 minutes extra if you are cooking chicken beforehand)

Ingredients:

For Salad

  • 4 chicken breasts, cooked and sliced*
  • 1 cup cucumber, chopped
  • 1/4 cup mint
  • 1 cup mango, chopped
  • 1 red chili pepper
  • 1/2 cup spanish peanuts, regular peanuts or slivered almonds
  • 1 bag broccoli slaw
  • 2 small bok choy OR 2 heads romaine lettuce, chopped into small strips

For Sauce

  • 1 tsp fish sauce**
  • Juice from 2 limes (or 2 TBS lime juice)
  • 1 TBS honey
  • 2 TBS peanut butter
  • 2 TBS soy sauce
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • 2 TBS Olive Oil

Egg Rolls

  • Your favorite frozen egg rolls.  I like Tei Pei Vegetable Egg Rolls

Method:

If you are serving egg rolls, turn on oven and bake according to package directions (they will take about 20 minutes)

Mix all sauce ingredients in a large bowl.  Experiment with taste.  Add water or oil if you think you need more dressing.  Heat in microwave just before serving.  Serve in a syrup pitcher, gravy boat, or salad dressing bottle

Mix lettuce, bok choy, slaw, and mint*** and put in a large salad bowl.  Put all other ingredients in little bowls with spoons.  Serve salad-bar style (This way, if people don’t care for a certain ingredients, they can skip them.  You can put out your other bottled dressings as well.)

*Up to 4 days ahead, prepare chicken breasts.  Put chicken breasts in a 8 x 8 glass dish.  Sprinkle with ginger, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.  Pour a little bit (1/4-1/2 cup) of chicken broth on bottom of dish.  Bake uncovered in a 350* oven for 35 minutes.  Cut one to check for doneness (no pink).  To serve, cut into thin slices and arrange in circles on a salad plate.  Place some cherry tomatoes, grapes, cucumber slices or something in the middle since a plate of cold beige meat can look pretty gross.  OR, buy a rotisserie chicken and shred it.

** “Katy, I don’t have fish sauce.  I don’t even know what it is.”  I didn’t either.  You’ll find it in the Asian section of your grocery store.  Pick up a bottle, as well as a bottle of Sriracha chili sauce and you’ll never have buy one of those little stir-fry spice packets again.

*** “Crap!  I forgot the mint!!”  It’s fine.  I have too and the salad still tastes great.  The mint just adds a depth of flavor and cools off the spices.  Try to remember the lime juice though if that’s not a staple in your fridge.

Ploughman’s Lunch, American Style

Traditionally, Ploughman’s Lunch was a term for an English midday snack consisting of cheese, bread, and chutney.  Meat was soon added as were boiled eggs and pickled onions.

What we’re about to do is more of a deli spread, but “Ploughman’s Lunch” sounds so much more fun.

Ingredients:

  • Lunchmeat: 1/4 lb per person per lunch*
  • Bread: 1 loaf per lunch per 6 people
  • Sliced cheese
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Hot house tomatoes
  • Other sandwich toppings you love
  • Condiments (pickles, mayo, mustard, chutney, etc.)
  • Chips
  • Sliced stone fruit (apples, peaches, etc.)

Method:

Arrange meat and cheese on a plate.   If you’re concerned with making it look pretty, fold slices of meat in half and arrange in a semi-circle, folded edge out.  Arrange cheese similarly, no folding.  Rule of thumb: in home decor, neutral colors look good.  In food decor, neutral colors (brown, beige, cream) look gross.  Always add a pop of color (in this case, yellow and orange cheeses) to a plate of beige food.

Slice tomatoes and lettuce and place on a plate.  If you’re getting fancy, salt and pepper your tomatoes.

Set out bread, toaster.  Set out condiments.

Put out chips (in bowl if you want) and fruit on plate.

Invite everyone to help themselves.

*I cut cost corners whenever I can.  One of the only times I buy the pricey stuff is when it comes to lunchmeat.  I really like Boarshead at my grocers deli counter.  At about $1.50 more per pound than the store brands, it actually doesn’t cost that much more and is soooooo much better.  No slime, no weirdness, great flavor.

If you don’t know what to buy for your crowd, stick to basics and variety:  Smoked ham, smoked turkey, and a third wildcard (salami, roast something, spicy something – ask for a recommendation)  Same goes with cheeses (Mild white, mild yellow, and wildcard (Swiss, Pepperjack)

See!  You’ve done it!  You’ve served lunch and gotten to eat something you love!  Now go take your much deserved siesta before we return for Dinner.

What is your favorite everyday lunch?  What would you eat for lunch if you could have anything?


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Ploughman’s Lunch, American Style

Ploughman's Lunch, American Style

Traditionally, Ploughman’s Lunch was a term for an English midday snack consisting of cheese, bread, and chutney.  Meat was soon added as were boiled eggs and pickled onions.

What we’re about to do is more of a deli spread, but “Ploughman’s Lunch” sounds so much more fun.

Ingredients:

  • Lunchmeat: 1/4 lb per person per lunch*
  • Bread: 1 loaf per lunch per 6 people
  • Sliced cheese
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Hot house tomatoes
  • Other sandwich toppings you love
  • Condiments (pickles, mayo, mustard, chutney, etc.)
  • Chips
  • Sliced stone fruit (apples, peaches, etc.)

Method:

Arrange meat and cheese on a plate.   If you’re concerned with making it look pretty, fold slices of meat in half and arrange in a semi-circle, folded edge out.  Arrange cheese similarly, no folding.  Rule of thumb: in home decor, neutral colors look good.  In food decor, neutral colors (brown, beige, cream) look gross.  Always add a pop of color (in this case, yellow and orange cheeses) to a plate of beige food.

Slice tomatoes and lettuce and place on a plate.  If you’re getting fancy, salt and pepper your tomatoes.

Set out bread, toaster.  Set out condiments.

Put out chips (in bowl if you want) and fruit on plate.

Invite everyone to help themselves.

*I cut cost corners whenever I can.  One of the only times I buy the pricey stuff is when it comes to lunchmeat.  I really like Boarshead at my grocers deli counter.  At about $1.50 more per pound than the store brands, it actually doesn’t cost that much more and is soooooo much better.  No slime, no weirdness, great flavor.

If you don’t know what to buy for your crowd, stick to basics and variety:  Smoked ham, smoked turkey, and a third wildcard (salami, roast something, spicy something – ask for a recommendation)  Same goes with cheeses (Mild white, mild yellow, and wildcard (Swiss, Pepperjack)

For more lunch ideas, see Make What You Love: Lunch for the Masses


1 Comment

Grandma’s Mac and Cheese

Grandma's Mac & Cheese

My Grandma is an amazing woman – strong, generous, comforting, and wonderful.  She would give her life for every family member and skin the hide off of anyone who crossed them.  The vast belief she has in those she loves, and the quiet expectation that they will be the best version of themselves has been encouragement beyond measure, and has shaped who I am.  I can only hope I have inherited the iron backbone, limitless love, shrewd smarts, and capacity for kindness that are the hallmarks of the Young women.

It is only appropriate that this wholly comforting, stick-to-your-belly, no-nonsense, wonderful recipe is handed down from her.

Grandma’s Mac & Cheese

Serves 6-8

~Can be prepped before: Prep time: 20 minutes  Bake time: 50 minutes  Total time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb shredded sharp cheddar cheese*
  • 4 TBS butter
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup milk
  • Ketchup – a couple of squirts
  • 1 small box of macaroni noodles
  • 4 slices of bread, buttered on both sides and cubed

Method:

Preheat oven to 325*

Put first 4 ingredients into a medium saucepan and cook over medium low heat until cheese is melted and sauce is pretty smooth.  Stir often**

While the cheese sauce is melting, bring water to a boil in a large saucepan and cook noodles according to package directions.  Do not overcook as they will continue to cook in the oven.  Drain and set aside.

Pour noodles into a casserole dish.  Stir in cheese sauce, arrange croutons over top.  Bake uncovered for 50-60 minutes**

Goes beautifully with a big fresh salad and baked sausage

Baked Sausage:

Ingredients:

  • Smoked Sausage (1/4 lb per guest)
  • BBQ Sauce

Method:

Cut up sausage.  Put in oven-safe dish.  Pour BBQ sauce over top.  Bake in oven with Mac & Cheese

*Do not, I repeat do NOT try to substitute mild cheddar or low-fat cheese in this recipe.  It will bake into a disgusting, gum-like consistency.  I know, I know… butter, full-fat cheese… I watch what I eat too.  Take a nice scoop of this real-deal Mac & Cheese and fill the rest of your plate with salad.  It’s worth it and one scoop does not contain all the butter.  It’s okay.

**Seriously, low heat and stirring is the key.  So many times I cooked it too long/too high and the oil separated from the cheese.  If that happens, whisk it back in.  You do need the fat for the cheese to bake properly.  See above.

***You can prep this up to 4 days before serving.  Don’t bake it.  Take it out of the fridge while you’re making breakfast and put it in the oven an hour before lunch.

For more lunch ideas, see Make What You Love – Lunch for the Masses


4 Comments

Thai Chicken Salad

Thai Chicken Salad

Serves 6-8

Total Time: 20 minutes (35 minutes extra if you are cooking chicken beforehand)

Ingredients:

For Salad

  • 4 chicken breasts, cooked and sliced*
  • 1 cup cucumber, chopped
  • 1/4 cup mint
  • 1 cup mango, chopped
  • 1 red chili pepper
  • 1/2 cup spanish peanuts, regular peanuts or slivered almonds
  • 1 bag broccoli slaw
  • 2 small bok choy OR 2 heads romaine lettuce, chopped into small strips

For Sauce

  • 1 tsp fish sauce**
  • Juice from 2 limes (or 2 TBS lime juice)
  • 1 TBS honey
  • 2 TBS peanut butter
  • 2 TBS soy sauce
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • 2 TBS Olive Oil

Egg Rolls

  • Your favorite frozen egg rolls.  I like Tei Pei Vegetable Egg Rolls

Method:

If you are serving egg rolls, turn on oven and bake according to package directions (they will take about 20 minutes)

Mix all sauce ingredients in a large bowl.  Experiment with taste.  Add water or oil if you think you need more dressing.  Heat in microwave just before serving.  Serve in a syrup pitcher, gravy boat, or salad dressing bottle

Mix lettuce, bok choy, slaw, and mint*** and put in a large salad bowl.  Put all other ingredients in little bowls with spoons.  Serve salad-bar style (This way, if people don’t care for a certain ingredients, they can skip them.  You can put out your other bottled dressings as well.)

*Up to 4 days ahead, prepare chicken breasts.  Put chicken breasts in a 8 x 8 glass dish.  Sprinkle with ginger, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.  Pour a little bit (1/4-1/2 cup) of chicken broth on bottom of dish.  Bake uncovered in a 350* oven for 35 minutes.  Cut one to check for doneness (no pink).  To serve, cut into thin slices and arrange in circles on a salad plate.  Place some cherry tomatoes, grapes, cucumber slices or something in the middle since a plate of cold beige meat can look pretty gross.  OR, buy a rotisserie chicken and shred it.

** “Katy, I don’t have fish sauce.  I don’t even know what it is.”  I didn’t either.  You’ll find it in the Asian section of your grocery store.  Pick up a bottle, as well as a bottle of Sriracha chili sauce and you’ll never have buy one of those little stir-fry spice packets again.

*** “Crap!  I forgot the mint!!”  It’s fine.  I have too and the salad still tastes great.  The mint just adds a depth of flavor and cools off the spices.  Try to remember the lime juice though if that’s not a staple in your fridge.

For more lunch ideas see Make What You Love – Lunch for the Masses


2 Comments

Downton Abbey Review, Episode 3

Downton Abbey Review Episode 3

Ok, Downton.  I’m a little less angry with you after last week.  I think sensitive subject matters are being handled well and the acting is superb.  I’m looking at you, Penelope Wilton, and your heartbreakingly internal portrayal of grief.  Thomas is just hilarious in this episode and some minimal justice is being served.  Let’s begin with what this series is really all about, shall we?

The Love Stories

Mary:

Who else is glad that Mary gave Lord Boringham the heave-ho?  Even if she was in love with him, she was sort of obligated to say no to the Worst Marriage Proposal Imaginable:  “I mean, he was a nice chap, but he’s dead and I’m alive.”  Additionally, his whole “I followed you.  You’re in my brain”  vibe is quite creepy.  Mary is right to steer clear: he might secretly want to enjoy her brain with a nice Chianti…  Keep Matthew in your brain, Mary, and concentrate on the rain, the hills, and the sheep.

The Below-Stairs Love Rectangle: 

I finally get it.  Jimmy/Ivy/Alfred are acting out the Mr. Carson/Alice/Mr. Grigg love story.  Spoiler alert (that I am making up): Jimmy is going to sweep Ivy away to a life of debts and infidelity and she is going to regret not choosing Steady Freddy.  Alfred will channel his grumpiness into his career and become a respected chef, holding a place of authority in a big house, just like Carson.  And have we completely forgotten that Daisy is heiress to a farm and a chunk of cash?  Mrs. Patmore better learn to use that mixer because she’s about to lose her help.

Rose and Everybody: 

Rose, please date the singer.  Let’s have a True Class Trumps Racial Prejudice plot-line.  Side note: Mr. Ross, why are you singing like that?  I don’t get it.

Edith and Mr. Gregson:

Edith.  Your man is shady.  Also, get home before the maids get up.  Also, did you read that document you just signed?  This plot is about to get scandalous in the best way. (Also, I LOVE your bejeweled headband.  Please burn the orange Hammer Pants jumpsuit)

The Parents

Cora and Robert:

Still clueless.  Let’s begin with Cora.  Does this woman mourn anything other than the loss of a ladies maid?  I’m loving her fashion this season though – her blouses are fabulous.  And Robert is still fighting to pay the taxes his way for no other reason, seemly, than he wants it his way.  Bravo to Mary for calmly sticking to her guns: “You always said we were the caretakers of Downton, not the owners.  Let’s take care of it.”  Matthew would be proud.

Mrs. Hughes and Mr. Carson:

The true parental figures of the entire household are of course Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes.  Mrs. Hughes laying the smack-down on Edna was fantastic.  I loved that she called her out on her so-called “seduction” of Tom by getting him completely drunk.  However, the line about laying Edna down and stripping her for a forced medical examination provided a sad look at how women’s bodies were (are?) devalued by society. Feel free to discuss in the comments.

I adored the scene of Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes having a nightcap together at the end of the day.  Sneaky sneaky, giving Mr. Carson an “expensive” framed portrait of his childhood love to keep on his desk.  It will also serve as a daily reminder of his kindhearted good friend, Mrs. Hughes.  As it is with most parents, their reverie is interrupted when one of their “children” need them and we come to…

Anna

Well, I must say, I have hopes that the rape plot-line will be handled well if Anna’s conversation with Mrs. Hughes in any indication.  “It’s not your fault,” “We must go to the police” “You were attacked by an evil man” “No man should…get away with it.”  Thank you, writers.  Now please please follow through.  And with Mrs. Hughes‘ new role as President of the Meddling in Other People’s Affairs Society, I have a feeling there actually may be justice for all. I think putting Anna in situations where she has to face her attacker over and over again in daily life (the breakfast table, the prospect of him visiting again) is very real. Joanne Froggart as Anna gives an incredible performance not just with the stodgy lines she’s given, but every look, shudder, and vocal quaver.   Twirling and pulling at her wedding ring as she confesses that she feels “dirty” and “not good enough for Mr. Bates after what’s happened” was extremely effective.  The strain of this crime on their marriage is heartbreaking, and I hope the writers decide to bring us all through it without any broken hearts or broken necks.

Let’s discuss!


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Jazzed-Up Box Muffins

Jazzed-Up Box Muffins

Blueberry deliciousness

For the times when you want an economical, easy, home-baked breakfast

Prep time: 15 minutes  Cook time: 20 minutes  Total time: 35 minutes

I like Krusteaz Wild Blueberry Muffins, about $3.50 for a box – 11 muffin yield.  Jazz these up with these 3 tricks:

  1. Toss out the canned blueberries that come with the box and substitute a package (or 1 cup) of fresh or frozen blueberries.
  2.  Line cupcake tins with fabulous cupcake liners.  You can find these in the baking aisle for the same price as the pastel cupcake liners we all know and love.  ($0.99 at my Kroger)
  3.  Add a crumble topping:
  •        1 cup all-purpose flour
  •        3 TBS brown sugar
  •        2 TBS granulated sugar
  •        1 tsp baking powder
  •        Pinch of salt
  •        6 TBS butter, melted.

Lightly mix ingredients in a bowl until you have achieved pea-size crumbles.  Top muffins before they are put in oven and bake according to box directions.

For more ideas, read: Some Like it Hot: Breakfast Solutions