Monday, July 28, 2014

Hardly Time for A Chat....

Just popping in to reply to comments.  Sorry no proper blog today, but we are busy during the day and out most of the evening.  Tomorrow will need to bake for B (more bread requested) also will be going to the church meeting on the Tuesday afternoon, so - unusually for me - I find I don't have to much time on my hands to sit and blog.   Should manage to 'drop in and have a chat' sometimes tomorrow evening.

Thanks Julie for the correct name to that programme that always makes me laugh.  As readers must have noticed, I'm always getting names wrong.

Good to hear from you again Cheesepare.  There is a large Booth's in Carnforth, but only a wee one in Torrisholme (close to Bare).  I've only been in the latter one once.
Lovely idea of yours to meet up, and I see that Eileen is up for it too.  Where we meet will probably be within Norris capabilities (he is too large to fit in the car), and as I am a fair-weather scooterist, we need to fix a day when the weather forecast is right.  Otherwise we could meet in a local café and B could drive me there. 
First I need to see the doc to get something sorted about my knees, at the moment it is almost impossible for me to go anywhere (I've even avoided the church meetings for that reason) as it is SO painful, not just walking, but even worse when getting up out of seats.   I want to enjoy our meeting, not just keep squeaking.   By September hope things will have much improved, and often the weather settles down to several days of good weather (aka Indian summer).  If I do find myself still almost housebound, no reason why we couldn't meet up at our house and we can have a barbecue in the garden.  If you got the train to Bare, we could meet you at the station (only 100yards from where wel live).

Pleased you enjoyed Middleton Sands gillibob.  I've seen several people having barbecues there, and when the tide is out the sands seem endless - and firm!  Perfect for horse-riding so do hope Kathryn manages to get there with Dolly.

I will sort out my 'media moments' Margie.  I've tried the 'cut and paste' onto the blog, but that doesn't seem to work (not sure why), so may have to rewrite them.  They will appear, but almost certainly won't put them on the blog this week (there are quite a few of them - I think I've done over 30 TV progs (not counting repeats), and including other things associated with (publishing the books) in almost every case something went wrong - I can laugh about it now, but not at the time.  I'll give each one separately so there will be something to look forward to (if you like that sort of thing).

And that has to be it for today,  I've just got to get on or I won't be ready to tart myself up to meet our guests and take them to the Barbar Elephant.  I just LOVE their curries.  

It rained again during the night, but today is mainly blue sky and fluffy white clouds. Cooled down quite a bit, so had a much sounder sleep last night.  Probably will sleep well tonight (once I've digested my meal - we are eating early thank goodness).  Hope you all enjoy your day.  TTFN.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Having a Laugh!

There is nothing like having a good laugh to make us feel better, and this morning was having a good giggle as I listened to a Radio 4 game show this morning (is it called Having a Laugh?).  Jack Dee is now the host, and it is that 'oldie' that has 'Mornington Crescent' in it.  Think is the team of comedians that have the humour I like, it is a long running show (years not minutes, and must listen to it more often, this mornings have put me in a good mood for the rest of the day.

It has turned much cooler now thank goodness, and when I decided to go and sit on the bench and have a cup of coffee, discovered it was spotting with rain when I stepped from the back door.  But this was the end of a shower, not the start, so I still went out and sat down, part of the bench was fairly dry (who cares anyway).  Warm (but not mega-hot) when the sun was out, and a cool breeze when covered by clouds, but sunny between times.  I'll go and have another sit later if it stays dry.

Beloved is out driving the safety boat this morning, as good sailing weather and the tide is right, so thought I'd write my blog now so that I can catch the sun when it does reappear.  Nothing much else to do - I've tidied the kitchen, loaded the machine and washed the laundry (have to put this on airers as our deeds forbid any washing to be hung out to dry on Sundays. 

Not before time I decided to repot the avocado 'tree' that I grew from a stone, must be at least two - if not three - years old by now.  It was in a small pot that I'd stood in a larger one (to save it topping over as it is nearly 2ft tall), and was forever drying out.  When I lifted the small pot from the large saw the roots had grown through the bottom of the small pot and up to surround the space between the pots.  Had to cut the inner plastic plant pot so that I could release the plant, and in the end decided to cut away the mass of roots as there were lots more wrapped around inside.  In fact, all roots and hardly any soil, so I carefully untangled many of the roots and then stood the plant in a much larger pot on a bed of fairly loose soil, tucking more soil around the sides, then pressing it in firmly.  Gave it a good watering with some plant food, and am hoping it will continue to thrive.   Not that it is an attractive plant, maybe I should have pinched the top out last year so that it would throw out side shoots.  Suppose I could try that now.  It's not the end of the world if it dies on me, I only did it to prove that the stone would grow (I'd gown them before anyway).

The lemon tree that I grew from a pip has just about died on me, and my fault for I forgot to water it last week (needed watering nearly every day), and most of the leaves have now dropped off.  Again not an attractive plant although I did prune the top and it did throw out side shoots, but it has massive thorns, and more than once I've pricked myself badly when moving the pot.  I'll put it outdoors and it may start to shoot again.   In any case, I have to make sure I have room now in the conservatory to overwinter the geraniums (aka pelargoniums) that have been blooming profusely in the garden.  Gill brought me a dozen new ones, and the ones overwintered (that I should have cut back but didn't) are also flowering, so as they begin flowering early indoors, they will make a good show when put into the containers next year (along with more lobelia, the 'hero' of the display at the moment, lots and lots of lovely blue 'froth' around most of the containers, other plants in the centre).

When I sat in the garden yesterday I thought it looked as good as any park, almost worth an 'open garden' for people to wander in and enjoy.  Still work to be done, and want to plant a climbing rose to spread across the tall fence at the back of then now almost completed patio (this now has wide, shallow steps leading from the patio, up close to the fence and will work round the big apple tree - B is planning to build a seat round that - leading onto the lawn).  A side border next year will also have some flowering shrubs and tubs - being north facing will need to choose the right plants for this.

Almost can't wait until the autumn when I can start potting up spring bulbs.  Unfortunately this should be done before the summer bedding plants need removing, so will buy new pots so that at least the daffs can go in, and then the tulips (that can be planted up to the end of the year) can use this years bedding containers.   Next year I want the garden to be full of flowers to enjoy (just in case it is my last year - I'm at that age when life no longer seems endless).

Just one comment, this from Cheesepare who I was thinking about yesterday because I noticed the name come up when I was checking out one of my earliest blogs (was that in 2006/7?).  The reader who has stayed with me since the start so was hoping I'd not lost.

In reply, my way of boiling eggs (by this I mean HARD boiled) is to put them in cold water, bring to the simmer (not a rolling boil, more like a 'burp', and let them cook for just 6 minutes, or 7 if large but no longer.  Then I tip them into the sink (using a small 'strainer' sink at the side of a larger one) and run cold water over them until cool enough to handle (but still very warm).  Then I remove and tap each shell on the side of a metal basin, crushing the shells slightly as well (but gently so as not to break the whites).  To shell I use the 'Jamie tip', pushing the tip of a teaspoon under the shell, but it must also go under the membrane, then easing this round the egg until that half slide off, then remove the base in the same way.  As each egg is done it is put in a bowl of cold water, then when all eggs are done they are put in fresh cold water and then will keep in the fridge for a few days (change the water each day).  This seems to prevent that green colour that - after a few hours - can cover the yolk where it hits the white, this happens usually when the eggs have been boiled for a longer, sometimes recommended - time of 10 minutes.  I've always found 6 minutes simmering cooks the yolks firmly with the whites not ending up too 'rubbery'.

My Beloved hardly ever bothers to go cycling now, and certainly wouldn't during the hot weather - he prefers to drive the car as it has air conditioning!  The good thing about Morecambe is that it does have a lot of cycle lanes along the main roads, and the five-mile long prom uis often used by cyclists, with no danger of any traffic (other that 'wrinklies' like me on their scooters, and pram buggies etc). Plus pedestrians, more of these at the west end than our end where there are virtually none. There is also a cycle lane that (I think) starts at the back of one of the supermarkets (could be Morrisons?) and continues for miles, from Morecambe through Lancaster and along the canal right to Glasson Dock. Again not close to traffic.  Am sure this will be marked on maps of this area.
There are canal trips to and from Barton Grange, so I suppose it might be possible to cycle to B.G, then return by narrow boat or vice versa (as long as they let you put the bike on the top of the boat).

There may be more comments sent before the day ends, and if so will reply to these in my next blog. It's not yet 3.00pm but the sun had come out again and I have the urge to go and sit in the garden.  I'm not feeling in the mood for a late-night blog, at least not today.  All I want to do is topple into bed and get a good night's sleep - and this usually about   Probably due to all the pain-killers I'm taking at the moment.  Have to limit myself to these, but they don't do much for my energy levels.

Meals again not given priority.  As I now have to avoid drinking 'fresh' fruit juice (from a carton), decided to use those I have left (orange and pineapple) to make jellies (I don't have any pineapple flavoured jelly, although used to be able to buy them, but not seen any for some time) so instead yesterday used an orange jelly, melting it first in the m.wave with juice from a can of fruit cocktail, and when dissolved, made it up to the pint with the chilled orange juice.  Crumbled up a couple of trifle sponges, mixed these with the fruit cocktail then stirred in the jelly.  Made a big bowlful that B can help himself to - naturally pouring double cream on top of each dishful.

In my fridge I have a punnet of cranberries, bought just before last Christmas in case I wanted to make cranberry sauce for the turkey.  As it happened we had our Christmas meal at our daughters, so the cranberries were never used.  Apparently they have a very long shelf life (and I do mean 'very') and it would probably make sense for me to make the sauce now and freeze it ready for December.
However, have discovered a recipe that uses dried cranberries, and see no reason why the 'fresh' (if you can call them that) could not be used instead.  Or any other fruit of a similar kind.
The addition of spirit (brandy in this instance) helps to prevent the dessert getting rock-hard (as so often happens with home-made ice-cream).  If you prefer you could use 1 tblsp of orange flavoured liqueur (Cointreau?), or a neutral flavoured spirit such as Vodka.  

This dessert has far fewer calories than regular ice-cream and is a very refreshing dessert when served in the hot weather we've been having lately (and hope to still have more).

Cranberry Yogurt Iced Dessert: serves 6
4 oz (100g) dried cranberries
5 fl oz (150ml) water
grated zest and juice of 1 orange
18 fl oz (500ml) Greek yogurt
2 oz (50g) caster sugar
5 fl oz (150ml) double cream
3 tblsp brandy
Put the cranberries with the water and orange zest and juice, into a pan, then bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for half an hour or until the cranberries are very soft.  Remove from heat and leave to cool completely.  Even better chill before completing the recipe.
Beat together the yogurt, sugar and cream until the sugar has partially dissolved, then stir in the brandy and pour the mixture into a freezer-proof container.  Freeze for 3 hours until thickend, then stir in the cranberry mixture, making sure it is well distributed.
Return to the freezer and freeze until solid, then remove to the fridge for about 20 minutes before serving.  Use within 2 months of making.

Didn't go to the church yesterday evening, felt too exhausted (due only to the heat, I hardly did any work) and took myself off to bed early for one.  Felt all the better for it.  Doing the same tonight. 
Tomorrow will be 'eating out' with friends, so may be too late to blog when we return.  Will aim to reply to any comments sent in between now and late afternoon tomorrow, so that at least I can give something to read.  Who knows, we might have a massive thunderstorm worth comment on.  Have to wait and see.  TTFN.


Friday, July 25, 2014

If You Can't Stand the Heat....

"If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen" as the saying goes.  Certainly our kitchen is one of the warmer rooms at the moment, as it is open one end - leading directly into the extension (that I grandly call 'the conservatory', from mid-day the heat comes from there.  Worse when the oven is on (so try not to bake at the moment).

Despite me leaving the patio door in here open from early morning, the room heated up (due to that window facing south), so would probably have been better left closed.  Now it is dark, the room has cooled down again, so am enjoying sitting by the partly open door as my fingers rattle over the keyboard.

As you know I have been enjoying sitting in the garden most days, but due to the heat (it seems to get hotter each day), this morning decided to go and have my morning coffee on the garden bench at 8.00am.  Certainly was a bit cooler, but as the sun had already risen above roof height, that end of the garden was not in the shade, and very soon I was too warm and had to go back indoors.

Whether it is me, or I've just never noticed before, but the sun seemed to be nearly overhead this morning rather than over to the south as it normally is, however, by noon it was back where it was supposed to be.  I was beginning to wonder if the earth had started to wobble. 

Goes without saying that B and I are hardly eating anything - at least nothing cooked.  We are getting our own 'meals' while it is hot, I'm mainly making do with a sarnie (naughty), and lots of cooling drinks of water. 

Pleased you got a chance to see Morecambe with looking its best gillibob when you were in the area recently.  It's not often we get a good view across the Bay, it is so often shrouded in mist, but for the past week it has been a wonderful sight.

Can recommend drinking beetroot juice if you want to lower your b.p Margie.  It is sold in bottles or cartons (like fresh fruit juice), and just a small glass will lower b.p for several hours.  Suppose eating cooked (or grated raw) beetroot would have the same effect.
As both you and Sarina have found my early (media) days interesting, I am hoping to find several 'media moments' I wrote for this blog, probably over five years ago.  I remember deleting them when I needed to edit the postings to allow the recipes to remain, but I think I still have them in one of the files.  If I can find how to 'cut and paste' then can run through them all again.   That is if you wish to read them.  They certainly show how nothing is quite as simple and easy as it seems when we actually see the finish on our TV screens.  Maybe I was just unlucky, for nothing, absolutely NOTHING went right every time I was filmed.   Still don't know why I continued as it really wasn't enjoyable at all.

Did once buy some blue eggs (Tesco) and think the hens that lay these are called Anconas (may be wrong).  Expected them to be a deeper blue, they looked almost white, but once the shell was broken the inside was a lovely pale blue. 
As you say Sairy, it could well be hens that eat a lot of 'greens' that have richer coloured yolks, as when B and I once went to Oban, for a week on a sailing boat (I was so seasick I prefer not to remember the trip), the skipper's wife kept hens (they lived on a small island close to Mull and the mainland), and the yolks were a deep yellow, more an orange colour.  This, she said, was because she gave them seaweed to eat.

Am really hoping the weather does cool down this weekend (as forecast), as despite my enjoyment of the wonderful sunny summer, I've had just about enough.  At least the humidity seems to have dropped a bit, but the temperature seems to keep rising, although not as hot as in the south-east (London area usually the hottest). 
At the moment I feel I should stay awake at night to do the housework and any baking during the cool hours, then as soon as the sun rises have a day-long 'siesta', until nightfall.  It probably wouldn't word as it isn't easy to get a good night's sleep anyway at the moment, so bound to be worse during the day.
Am tempted to work through tonight, but already feel exhausted even though I've done very little, so had better go to bed and try for a deeper sleep than am getting at the moment.

An interesting bit in the paper today about children and vegetables.  Apparently (and understandably) children don't like to eat any food when told 'eating it is good for you'.  How many times my mother used to say that and I knew then I wouldn't like the taste (but still had to eat them).
If we really want children to eat something 'healthy', the best way is to serve it in a dish but tell them they shouldn't really have any until they are older as "it is what grown-ups eat, but if they are very good and behave themselves,  maybe next time they can have a bit as a treat"  This always seemed to work.  I wonder why.

Because of the weather, food is generally the last thing on my mind during the day (or even night), but I've discovered a recipe that can turn a soft cheese - such as ricotta - into something that resembles a firmer cheese in that it can - after baking and cooling - be sliced, laid on crispbreads to be eaten (rather than being spread).

Ricotta is a slightly lumpy creamy cheese, a finer version of cottage cheese.  If we freeze tubs of cottage cheese, the curds break up when thawed and can be mixed together ending up very similar to ricotta.  So if I see any cottage cheese reduced I buy it and put it straight in the freezer to use later in both sweet and savoury dishes.

The flavour of this dish can be improved by adding a few tablespoons of chopped pancetta or black olives to the mixture before baking.   The end result is a bit like a firm quiche.
Herby Baked Ricotta: serves 8
2.2lbs (1kg) ricotta cheese
2 tblsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tblsp finely chopped garlic chives
1 tblsp finely grated lemon zest
Put all the ingredients into a large bowl and mix well together.  Spoon into a base-lined 8" (20cm) round cake tin.  Bake, uncovered, for about an hour in a moderate oven (180C, gas 4 or slightly less) until lightly browned and firm to the touch.  Leave to cool in the tin before turning out, serve thinly sliced.

That's it for this Friday, and - as usual - I will taking Saturday off, so no blog tomorrow.  Normally I bake on Saturdays, but somehow doubt I will be this weekend.  May go to the church for the evening meeting - that is the day a medium will be there to 'make contact'.  Nothing on TV at the moment as the Commonwealth Games have precedence. We seemed to have had weeks of sport on TV, the 'three-a-day' football matches, Wimbledon fortnight overlapping, the English start of the Tour de France, then the golf, now the Games.  They should have a channel just for sport, and let us - less interested mortals - have useful progs to watch, like cooking, sewing, gardening...!!!  An if we don't like those, there is always Downton Abbey and Benidorm.

Yesterday I watched another episode of  'Little House on the Prairie' and have to say it really made me feel good.  The story wasn't good - the Ingalls family were returning home and got caught in a blizzard and Charles nearly died while out trying to find food.  Rescued by an Indian chief who was being hunted by a sheriff.  All ended well of course, but the sound of the gales, and seeing all that snow and ice really made me feel wonderfully cool.   Similar to watching programmes about deserts and hot countries in winter while we are huddled up trying to keep warm.  Amazing how our minds can make us believe things are different to how they really are.

Nearly midnight, so I'll take my leave of you, and hope to return sometime on Sunday.  Next week will be a busy one for me as we will have guests (not staying, but with us for some time) and will be out and about with them during the early part of the week, so when it comes to blogging, it may have to be 'expect me when you see me'.  The sooner the better, as chatting to you all I find helps me wind down. 
Having now wound down to nearly a standstill, really have to go.  Enjoy the weekend. TTFN.


Thursday, July 24, 2014

More to Life than Moaning....

One thing about going to the health centre is that afterwards B usually wants to go for 'a bit of a drive'. Today was no different.

The good news is that my results had come through, and despite my lapse from walking the straight path of diabetic dedication (all those anniversary celebratory meals recently), my results were either the same as previously, or slightly better.  The nurse was well pleased, and if they are the same at my next check (due end of December), from then on I need have only an annual check instead of one every six months.
My blood pressure was less than six months ago - and while I was in the surgery B took his blood pressure using a machine fixed to the wall in the waiting area and he said his b.p was higher than mine.  Not sure how those machines work, think B said all he had to do was stick his hand inside it and then it fed out a bit of paper showing his b.p.  Next time I go I will use it and see if it read the same as when taken 'properly' in the surgery a few moments previously.

I've also booked an appointment to see the doctor about my painful knees, but he is on holiday at the moment, so it will be about 3 weeks before I get to see him.  I could see a different doctor, but I like the one I'm registered with (very good 'bedside manner') so worth the wait.

After the above, B drove us to Red Bank Farm, a working farm that has a lovely restaurant in on of the barns.  B had a toasted tea-cake and a cup of coffee, and I had some cheese and red onion sarnies with coleslaw and a salad.  That was to be my 'brunch' (the grandfather clock there chimed 11.00am as we were about to leave.

As on the way there we passed a gate that said 'fresh free-range eggs for sale', asked B to call in on the return home, and as he drove through their gate we met the farmer who was taking a box of half a dozen eggs he to put in a box outside the gate (think people help themselves and trusted to leave the money).  So we paid him for the ones he had.  Six lovely eggs, two very large, two large, and two medium, five were different shades of brown, one was speckled brown, and - yippee - one was white.  It is YEARS since I've been able to buy white eggs.   Considering the average size of the eggs (large), the freshness, and the price being £1.50 for the six, this was much cheaper that the supermarket free-range which - of course - are not nearly as fresh.  So worth buying from there again (not much further than Morrisons in the other direction).

Am hoping that at least a couple of the eggs will have really rich coloured yolks, but the two smallest ones that B had for his supper (fried eggs, sausages and chips), had pale yolks.  I am going to check each egg before use in the hope I can find ones with yolks of the colour I like.  Not sure if it is the breed of hen that determines the yolk colour, or what they are fed on.  Can anyone tell me?

The view across the Bay was stunning, we could see Grange over Sands very clearly, and also the Lakeland hills behind.  Not a cloud in the sky until we reached home - and boy, it was HOT!  A few small wisps of cloud appeared as I sat in the garden, and due to the heat I couldn't stay there for very long. Never thought I'd say that. 

When I came in this room to check my email, write my blog, very nearly decided not too. The room was so hot and airless, but I remembered where the patio door keys might be, and luckily they were still there, so I opened one door and now am sitting with a cool breeze wafting through. What a difference it is making. 
Last night had to throw the duvet off the bed and just lie on the bed with nothing covering me.  The humidity had reduced slightly but the night temperature had risen to 75C.   Forecast is cooler/fresher air over the weekend, with the possibility of a few showers.  Believe Devon and Cornwall had raid today, and some thunderstorms.

As we drove home along the seafront, cars were parked nose to tail almost the whole side of the road by the prom.  All free parking, and there are not many seaside resorts that allow that.  Closer to town there are wider car-parks overlooking the sea where parking is charged, but about three miles of free roadside parking makes coming to Morecambe worthwhile.

Now that I have a clean bill of health (so to speak),  am going to try and enjoy life and stop moaning about things.  Do I moan?  Sometimes I feel that is all I do.  Having painful knees does make me a bit irritable, but as they hurt the most only when I get up (from the bed, chairs, in and out of the car etc), with between times not hurting at all, should count myself lucky.

Regarding flies Kathryn, hair spray is also fairly expensive, and smelly, so don't think I'd use any of those, however suddenly remembered how I used to make 'sticky stuff (fly paper)' that worked well, so hunted up the recipe on this site and very pleased to see it is still there.  So anyone interested in making fly paper, check August 2007, and it comes up almost at once - on the 29th (after a few recipes about making different types of bread).   As ever, I scrolled right down the whole of that month and there really are some very good recipes (that I had forgotten about), worth making, including some different ways to make mayo and salad cream without using eggs.  Also some alternative ways to make tasty summer salads.

Fifty years ago Pam was the time I had run out of money and was forced to make just about everything from scratch, using the few ingredients I did have in my larder (just basic ones like flour, sugar....).  Never know to this day why I decided to write down everything I made, and cost out every last little ounce (or even a pinch of...), also writing these down, but I did.  I even worked out the price (per ounce or metric equivalent) and wrote it on each packet for future reference.   There was no real need to do this, but something made me.

About a month later the local newspaper had a competition to find out if readers could feed a family of four on £15 a week (not difficult in those days), and again felt compelled to enter, so was able to use the above details and write a list of ingredients that would need to be bought to last a week, and it came to just over £10!
This won me the competition, and the editor said they'd never seen such detailed costing before.

This then led me to begin working out what I could make myself instead of buying (soft cheese, yogurt, cream, hard cheese - all from the cream (aka 'top of the milk) from the bottles left each day by the milkman.  I then suggested to a self-sufficiency mag that I'd read when visiting Gill, that it would be good if they could print something to suit people who lived in the suburbs, as not everyone kept a goat, or had an allotment etc.  So they asked me to write an article in return for six months free subscription to their mag.
This I did (after using up a ream of paper as in those days I really had no idea how to write but it was another 'compulsion' almost as though someone was pulling my strings), so after cobbling something together that I felt was dreadful but was published, it was this article the BBC researchers read that led them to asking me to do my first TV (as a housewife who could make party food for 20p a head!). Thing was I agreed to do it thinking it was for radio, and it wasn't until too late that I was told it was to be filmed for TV (a series called 'Indoors, Outdoors'), if I had know that I would never have agreed, I'm hopeless in front of the camera (at least was at the beginning, later I improved).

None of this would have happened if I had just cooked the meals and made what I could from what I had for that one month (after that B gave me housekeeping again), it was writing it all down that set me on the road to a life of constant cost-cutting and all the media attention that followed I didn't really enjoy, but went along with it.  There was no real need for me to continue being thrifty, but it seemed to make sense, and it gave me the feeling that that this could be my 'reason to be' (and think we all need to feel that) so carry on I did,  and do hope I'm not making myself sound more than I really am which is only 'just a housewife' who has the unfortunate habit of now not being able to stop 'chatting' about all ways to save money.

It is after 10.00pm and must put the light on as outside has turned into almost night.  Problem with having the patio doors open is that I now hear sounds that the double-glazing kept out.  Although enjoying hearing the sound of the small (two carriage) shuttle train from Morecambe to Lancaster that crosses the end of our road (where the station is), am not enjoying the intermittent sound of a burglar (or car) alarm that keeps making a noise.   No, no, that's pretty close to a moan, so must stop that.  Think nice thoughts (anyway it has stopped for a moment).

Went and sat in the larder this afternoon, lots of gaps on the shelves,  but am being firm with myself and not ordering replacements.  Have only 3 cans of baked beans left, but this weather don't really feel like eating them anyway.  Neither do I feel like making myself hot tomato soup for lunch, so those 3 cans of plum tomatoes will last for a while. 
The good thing about hot weather is that most of the time we don't feel like eating much at all, so what nicer way to save money.

On a high shelf there are quite a few small bottles that for some reason I seem to have lost interest in, don't even know what they hold, so tomorrow will get them all down and put them in a basket to keep on the kitchen table to remind me to use them.  Other people might throw them out, but so far haven't yet trained myself to go that far.  If I've bought (or been given) something edible, that it is going to be used, even if I have to invent a new way of using it.   More about this when I get around to doing so.

No recipes today - the thought of cooking or even preparing food this weather is not something most of us wish to do.  With me it is just salads, salads, salads, more a matter of chopping iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, courgettes, bell peppers, and anything else that can be added.  Then squirt it all with low fat salad cream, give it a toss and eat it.  Quite often I don't even want to be bothered to do that, making do with liquids (coffee or water, I've given up the fruit juice due to high sugar content).

However much I'm enjoying this lovely hot summer, deep down I'm almost wishing it was autumn with cooler weather and the chance to make and serve warming casseroles again.  And I'm not starting to have a moan, just thinking of the different delights that each season brings to the table, and able to have them to look forward to.  If we can avoid bad storms, hurricanes and severe flooding, then there is no lovelier place to live than in Great Britain.

So that's it for today (still Thursday as I write).  Returning late evening tomorrow, and then - as usual - will be taking Saturday off.  But who knows, if something interesting happens, I could write two blogs in one day.  So watch this space!  TTFN.

Counting our Blessings...

They say that we in Britain talk about nothing but our weather.  And this is true.  Whatever weather we have, there always seems something wrong with it.  Either too wet or too dry, too windy or two foggy, too hot or too cold.  This year it seems like we are having a summer like we used to have decades ago (at least in my lifetime), generally this happens about once every eleven years, something to do with sunspots they say.  But, as always, after a few weeks of delightfully warm weather (even hotter than Hawaii!!!), all we wish for now is cooler days and even some rain. 

The good thing about this year is that - for once - we have had no hosepipe bans due to not having any real drought, due to having enough rainfall during the fairly mild winter to keep the ground fairly dry below the topsoil at least, for the rest of this year.  We should be glad of that.  Pleased also that we ARE having a lovely hot summer that the forecasters say will last well into August.  We have another high pressure area moving towards the western side of Britain, this bringing more sunshine, slightly lower temperatures,  with the possibility of a few showers.  Perfect in fact.

So I must stop moaning about the heat and be glad to have a summer at all.  Another milestone in fact as I'd decided that at my age it was probably unlikely that we'd have another good summer before I pop my clogs.  So am making the most of the sun while it shines.  I've never been so brown.

It is the night hours that are worst, humidity was less last night, but temperatures higher.  Am getting used to it.   Some good comments came in regarding how we can help to cool ourselves down.   Margie mentioned wet flannels on forehead and necks, and I do remember being able to cool myself down rapidly by running the cold water from the tap over my wrists.  The opposite works during winter - keep wrists, feet, and neck warm and then the whole body stays warm.  So in the hot weather, keep wrists, feet and neck cool, and we then feel much more comfortable.

If any reader has one of those oil (?) filled sleeves that can be kept in the freezer, then slipped over wine bottles to chill the wine (takes only a few minutes),  then slipping them over the wrists works the same way, but more rapidly.  I used to take one with me when I went to play bridge (in a very club room) to cool at least one hand (at a time) between playing each hand of cards.

Doubt very much that people in this country drape mosquito nets over their bed, but this is not a bad idea when the weather is hot. Not just to keep away the midges, but to wring it out in water first.  As the water evaporates, this reduces the temperature under the nets where we would be lying.  If the net ends were able to be hung in water, then they would continually soak up more to replace what has evaporated. 

One very hot summer I was catering for a Golden Wedding Anniversary, the meal was to be served in the garden, and then later indoors.  I'd been in the small kitchen ALL day, absolutely sweltering, and so as I'd taken clean clothes to change into, I put these into the deep freeze to chill thoroughly, so when I wore them, for at least a short time, I felt very cool and refreshed. Jane mentioned cooling sheets in the freezer the same way.  Good idea.

One lovely thing about an English summer is that we do get daylight until 10.30pm, and often longer if there are no clouds in the sky, and some nights it never seems to get very dark at all.  Perhaps this is because we live on the western side of the country, so dusk is about an hour later than on the furthest eastern side, and in Co. Mayo (Ireland) where our daughter lives, it is an hour later that when we lived in Leeds.  So their summers night begins about midnight.

Wise words Barbara.  Of course we should always eat the right foods so that we have a healthier and longer life.  In fact I've now been eating sensibly for the last five years, and feel so much better for it.  When I do stray (very rarely) although I enjoy the food at the time, never feel so good afterwards. 
We are fortunate that there are so many lovely foods that we can eat, that we have no reason to feel we are depriving ourselves when we don't (or can't) eat those we shouldn't.   The worst things we can do is think "I can't have this, that or the other....", and instead think positively and "oh joy, I CAN have this, and this, and this, and this, and that.....". 

Almost beginning to envy you Mary (Perth, Australia) as you are now experiencing your winter. I will try and enjoy ours when it arrives (if it ever does). 
The problem with our home is that we have very few windows that open.  Those that do are small, what we call 'storm windows' or 'transoms', little ones at the top, and being double glazed these only open a few inches.  In our old home in Leeds, the lower windows would also open, and keeping the room doors open we could have fresh, if not cool, air flowing through the house.  Here the hot air seems to get in and stay in.  If we open the back door the flies come into the kitchen and I keep it shut as otherwise B is constantly using a fly spray to get rid of them.  I ask him not to in case it gets on any uncovered food, and when he does use the spray to cover any food, and just give one squirt, but he never believes that will work and seems to use up nearly half a can at a time, squirt, squirt, squirt... following one fly from room to room as it desperately tries to get away from him.  So I end up breathing it in too.  It's a wonder I haven't ended up on the floor breathing my last gasp.

Not sure whether I'd like iced coffee Pam, but do know I enjoy iced tea.  Especially green tea, so think tomorrow (as it is now after midnight I mean today) will make a jug full.  Sparkling water with lime does sound very refreshing, but sparkling water is expensive, so will 'borrow' some of B's diet lemonade, chill that and add some lime juice.  Never thought of diluting the fruit juice. It doesn't seem very strongly flavoured anyway - it is fresh juice, not the concentrated squash.
Am drinking a lot of water at the moment, so will put a jug of that into the fridge as well, and make some ice-cubes using fresh lemon or lime juice so that I can add these to the water.
All I seem to want to do this weather is drink a lot of liquids.  Food hardly crosses my mind, other than sorting out B's supper (he had chicken stir-fry this evening).

Some houses do have ceiling fans to help cool the air, and believe these can be reversed for winter use so they blow down the warmer air that has risen to ceiling height.  Portable fans are the best, but B doesn't like them on in the bedroom once he has gone to bed, whereas I can happily sleep all night with the cool air blowing on me - the ones we have barely make any noise at all.  Wish we were back in Leeds where we had enough spare bedrooms so that we could each have our own and I could then have the fan on whenever I wished.  Here we have only one bedroom.  Nowhere for family or friends to sleep, although Gill is (just about) happy to sleep on the double-sized futon as long as it has extra padding/mattress to give a comfortable sleep.  When she stays we usually have to leave the futon laid out as a bed all day (takes ages to put away), and as that is in the living room then pray we don't have any visitors (other than family) as they would have to pass through there to get to any other rooms (dining room, kitchen, bathroom....) even the conservatory is only reached through the end of the kitchen, although that is close to the back door.   It is so hot in there in the afternoons it is like an oven.  I must check the temperature, I bet it is close to 100C and probably more.  More than a sous-vide.  Wonder if I could slow-cook things by just leaving them standing on the conservatory table for a few hours in full sun.

Yesterday, despite my good intentions, decided I would send an order to Tesco as I could get free delivery and plenty of money-off with unused vouchers.  So I wrote down what I wanted  on the back of an envelope, then put it in my apron pocket.  Later I sat down, clicked on the website and began to order, first fishing in my pocket for the list.  It had disappeared.  I got everything out of my pocket, but it wasn't there.  So switched off the site, deciding to think about it again.
This morning I went to get a pencil from my apron pocket and it came out clipped to the list!  Yet I KNOW it wasn't there when I first looked.  Decided then 'the powers' (above) were letting me know I shouldn't be ordering, in fact needn't be ordering.  And of course they were quite right.  So am now listening to what I've been 'told' and make do with what I already have.

So often things like that have happened before, and have always led me to doing something that would normally have never crossed my mind.  I wouldn't be sitting here writing my blog if there hadn't been some unusual happening nearly 50 years ago (and since then have kept walking the same path).  It is so, so easy to miss opportunities if we are not given a push by what I call a 'guardian angel'.   Maybe we are all here to serve some sort of purpose, and often do need something (or someone) to point us in the right direction.  After that it's up to us I suppose. 

Just one recipe to finish.  A really nice one as either a 'nibble' when watching TV, or to serve at a buffet party (or even at a barbecue, along with the salads).  Normally I'm not fond of olives, but this way they really do taste good, and attractive when sliced in half (like fairy Scotch eggs but without any sausagemeat or eggs)

Olives in Jackets: makes 50
5 oz (150g) plain flour
4 oz (100g) butter, coarsely chopped
3 oz (75g) finely grated Parmesan cheese
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tblsp water
50 small stuffed olives
Sift the flour into a bowl and rub in the butter, then stir in the cheese and oregano, adding just enough water to form a soft dough.  Cover and chill for half an hour.
Drain olives on kitchen paper, patting them as dry as possible.  Roll out the pastry between sheets of baking parchment or clingfilm to about half an ince (3mm) thick.  Cut out 4cm rounds, topping each with an olive, then folding the pastry round to completely enclose it.  Cover each olive the same way (roll out and use pastry trimmings), then place each about 1cm apart on greased baking trays.  Cover and chill for 30 minutes then bake at 180C, gas 4 for about 20 minutes or until golden.  Leave to cool before eating.

Didn't go out with Norris to the shops (now there's a surprise!), as decided to keep my money in my purse.  Found some spare wool so able to practice a bit more crocheting.  Anyway, that sort of craft will keep me occupied more in the cooler months, just holding the wool/yarn helps to keep my hands warm and my fingers supple (as does typing) so unlikely to get arthritic knuckles. 

Off to the surgery tomorrow, with hopefully no dramatic change in my b.p. cholesterol, blood sugar levels despite the several days of anniversary feasting.  At least I have a good excuse if they have risen. 
Hope the weather cools down a bit for everyone, but still stays fair so that everyone gets a chance to enjoy our unusually good summer.  It may be the last of this type for several years.  At least we don't now have to fly to the Med to bask in the sun.  We now have even warmer temperatures here.  Better weather, good food, what more so we want?  Me, I'm counting my blessings for once.  Not taking any of it for granted.  That way I'll enjoy it all the more.  TTFN.   

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Lazy Days of Summer

Don't know about you (younger folk) but it is taking me all my time to stagger around at the moment, due to the heat.  At least am blaming the heat for my painful knees, for the last few days I can barely move.  Getting up from the bed or a chair is becoming extremely difficult.   I'll be seeing the diabetic nurse this Thursday, so she'll probably refer me to the doctor - that means a four week wait before he has a 'window' in his appointment book.

Last night the humidity gauge read 73% at bedtime, and the room temp was 71F, so ended up having a very restless night and dreams verging more on nightmares. 
Despite my good intentions, I decided not to go to the church this afternoon.  The chairs there are very uncomfortable, and also difficult to rise from them, it was sweltering hot again, and although the church room is fairly cool, just couldn't face sitting for nearly 2 hours trying to disguise my pain.  Am I giving up too easily?  Have discovered (today) that if I use two sticks to walk around the house and garden, this makes it much less painful even though I do look a bit like a giraffe. 

Ended up mainly sitting in the kitchen sorting it out, planning B's supper (he first chose liver and bacon with all the trimmings but due to the heat decided against that and ended up with corned beef (chilled for easy slicing) with beetroot, the remains of the quiche, and crispy salad leaves.  Made myself a tomato sandwich (two actually) as although I know I shouldn't eat carbos, it was Weight Watchers bread (made me feel more virtuous), and it was just what I fancied.   Tomato sarnies always taste much nicer when eaten out of doors, don't know why.

Had to give all the container plants a good watering, as although it had rained during the night a few days earlier, the heat had dried most of the soil (at least on the surface) so I thought they could do with a good drink.  B fills the watering cans and the buckets from the water butt and we also have an outside tap.  I like to have these filled last thing at night so by the time they are used the water has warmed up then the plants enjoy it more.  It's only us humans that like a really cold drink on a very hot day.

We had a couple of rose bushes (suitable for patio growing) as gifts for our anniversary.  One has just started to bloom with several more buds ready to open up.  A called 'Love Never Dies' (how apt!) it is a wonderful shade of yellowish apricot with the edges of the petals changing to a lovely bronze as they open.   When we lived in Leicester the garden was full of roses, and we planted several when we lived in Leeds, but in Morecambe there were no roses in the garden at all.  We do have several hydrangeas (different shades of pink to red, and some lace-caps),  also two huge Rose of Sharon bushes that have just finished flowering.  So am very pleased to have roses again, and will be planting a climbing or rambler rose to partly cover the fence at the back of the garden now that B has cut down a huge bush that was there.   This gives me another milestone to aim for - live long enough to see the roses grow and enjoy a summer of their blossom.  Two - three summers (hopefully even more) if lucky enough. 

Wish now I'd planted summer fruiting raspberries some four years ago.  At the time thought I wouldn't live long enough for them to throw up more canes and provide plenty of fruit (at least three years after planting), but of course we've now been here 5 years and I'm regretting not thinking ahead enough.  Funny how - when we get old(er) - we don't plan for the future with so much enthusiasm.  It's just that I'd hate to spend money on making the garden look good and provide plenty of soft fruits when someone else would end up enjoying it all.  Call me mean and miserly if you like. 

However, I do intend getting rid of our kitchen carpet and having a new floor laid, either tiles, vinyl or lino.  Having a cream fitted carpet in the kitchen really does not work, especially as B always comes in the back door, and never removes his shoes, even when it has been pouring with rain.  By the time he has reached the living room (where he sits down and removes his shoes) all the much has been trodden into the carpet, and despite constant hovering/brushing, the carpet is turning a dingy shage of pale coffee - with patches of goodness knows what.  B kicking over a 3 litre bottle of sunflower oil (silly me had put it under the kitchen table at the side of a cabinet) knocking the top of as he did it, and not even noticing he had, hasn't helped, although I did manage to soak it up with the aid of several weeks of newspapers with weights put on top.  Took about six weeks to soak it all up.

One thing I've been enjoying is drinking chilled fruit juices.  From a carton (several different flavours) that I've been keeping in the fridge.  Trouble is - reading the nutritional details (wish I hadn't) noticed they are very high in sugar.  Just as well I didn't start drinking them until I'd had my blood test.  At the moment got past caring.  If I ate only what I am supposed to (low GI carbos) my life would be a misery, I wouldn't lose weight, and any enjoyment of eating 'naughties' will have been taken from me.  Think it's worth knocking a few months/years off my life if I could spend the time left eating what I wish.   Perhaps I should imagine I was back in World War II and making do with the rationed food.  At that time we weren't meant to enjoy what we were eating, just eat what we were given and be thankful.

How easily today we take things for granted.  In the early part of last century many houses had no running water, it had to be pumped up from a well.  Certainly no hot water, not even baths.  The loos usually outside (next to the coal-place).  Washing was either boiled in a copper, or by hand in the sink, and wrung out by hand or put through a mangle (I used to help my mum mangle the bed linen and towels). 
No TV, although we did have a radio, but even that took several minutes to 'warm up' after it was switched on, and the reception wasn't very good.  We had a gramophone, so could play records, but that too had to be wound up by hand, often running down before the record was finished.
Ovens were temperamental, recipes didn't give temperatures, just either 'cool', 'medium' or 'hot' and we needed a lot of practice and had several under and over-baked dishes before we learned the  difference.

So I try to remember to give thanks for what we now have, even if some of the technology has gone a bit too far, burrowing into lives like maggots into rotting flesh (here I mean those 'social sites' that seem to cause more problems than pleasure, and take so much of our time that we could be using in better ways).

Am not against all social sites (not that I read any) as many am sure do give useful information.  It's the personal 'time-wasters' where people seem keen to keep showing 'selfies' and let people know they are just popping out to buy fish and chips or about to wash their hair that I cannot understand. Is anyone at all interested?  Maybe as a 'chat' between friends, but not giving this information to all the world and his wife.  But them I'm not young any more.  Maybe if I was?  Who knows?

Recently I've been reading a book written by an American lady who I believe was a well-known cook in the 20th century.  She made some interesting observations in that depending upon what side of the fence we lived, meals were different.  Those who could afford to would serve only the best quality ingredients and take a lot of care in cooking and presenting them.  On the other side of the fence, where the grass is not so green, people would use cheaper foods and even resort to using left-overs to make other meals. 
A recipe was given for a 'coffee granita', cheap enough anyway whichever side of the fence we live, but the wealthier ones would throw away the coffee grounds, while the poorer ones would dry them and use them to stuff pincushions. 

A book like that makes me wonder if my cost-cutting-cookery is accepted by all, or only those whose purses look anorexic.  When we can afford to eat well (as we can now in the Goode kitchen, but only due to years of learning how to cut costs when it matters), do we still bother to reduce our food budget, or just buy what we want to eat, and not bother too much about the cost.  
When I send in my on-line order I do fill the virtual shopping basket with foods that have tempted me, but the next day I scroll down the list and remove most of them.  What I aim to do is have a fixed amount to spend, and if I find I've spent more, then remove one or two items (even if needed, can manage without them until the next order).   Quite honestly, what I should do is use up ALL the foods I have in store before I even think about restocking.  Just topping up with a few 'fresh' (eggs, milk....) each week.   But do I?  No.  Still can't quite go that far although I do give it a good try at least twice a year (am having a purge at the moment).

As most of us are finding these summer days too hot to even think about cooking a 'proper' meal (like meat and two veg), here is a meatless dish to be served hot, but with a refreshing crisp green salad with tomatoes.  As it uses seasonal veggies, thought this is the perfect time of year to make this.
Myself would use canned chopped tomatoes and/or passata instead of using fresh tomatoes because it saves time and is also less expensive.

Summer Lasagne: serves 4
1 x 400g pack egg lasagne
1 aubergine
6 courgettes
6 tblsp sunflower oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
1.5lbs (750g) ripe tomatoes, pureed
salt and pepper
4 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
2 tblsp plain flour
2 oz (50g) butter
3 oz (75g) grated hard cheese
Wash and dry the aubergines and courgettes, then slice them lengthways without peeling.  Place the aubergines in a sieve or colander and sprinkle with salt, leaving them for an hour to draw out any bitterness, then rinse and dry.
Heat half the oil in a frying pan and fry the aubergines and courgettes until golden, turning them several times as they cook.
In a separate pan add the remaining oil and fry the garlic for one minute, then add the tomatoes with seasoning to taste. Cover pan and leave to simmer for half an hour, then stir in the parsley.
Meanwhile, cook the lasagne as per packet instructions, then drain and lay out on a clean tea towel. Place a layer of lasagne in a buttered ovenproof dish, then top with a layer of the fried veg. Cover with a few tablespoons of the tomato sauce. Repeat layers until all the ingredients have been used up.
Melt half the butter in a saucepan and stir in the flour.  Cook for a couple of minutes before slowing stirring in the milk.  Bring to the boil then reduce heat and simmer for five or so minutes until thickened.  Stir in half the cheese and pour this sauce over the prepared lasagne. Dot with remaining butter, and sprinkle over the rest of the cheese.  Bake for half an hour at 170C, gas 3.  Serve with a crisp green salad and tomatoes. 

As I've finished blogging before midnight, it could be that today's blog ends up on the same page as yesterdays, but am sure you will scroll down to make sure you haven't missed any previous postings.  Not that I've been writing much of interest anyway.  Afraid my life is very boring. Maybe will perk up once it gets cooler. All I want to do is sleep.  I can understand how - in the hotter countries - people usually have a siesta in the afternoons.  How very sensible.

B tells me that Morecambe was one of the hottest places in the country (either yesterday or the previous day). Let us hope it brings in more tourists, and for the sake of schoolchildren and their families, let us hope the good weather stays for a week or two longer with just a break now and then to allow a bit of rain to clear the air and water the gardens.

So that's it for today.  Should be back again tomorrow (if I can find something to write about). TTFN.   

Monday, July 21, 2014

Still Sweltering...

By the time I went to bed last night the humidity had risen up to 68% and by morning was 71%, the same as the temperature in Fahrenheit.  Haven't checked the humidity/temp tonight, and it does seem a bit cooler, but still too warm for me to have a good night's sleep.  Do envy Margie (Toronto) who has similar temperatures/humidity in Canada that we are having at the moment, but with the advantage of air conditioning in her home.  Maybe some newer properties have this here, but have yet to know of any.  Perhaps our English climate hardly needs it.   
We do have portable fans we can take from room to room and switch on as and when necessary, but so far haven't bothered.  With dry heat the fans can cool us down, but they don't seem to make much difference to the humidity levels.  Suppose living close to the sea the air has always more moisture than inland.  The reason why salt always clogs up the salt cellars, and adding grains of rice doesn't work when we use big crystals of salt (sea or rock salt), as these have to be ground down. and we don't want added ground rice with it.

At least now that the school holidays have started do hope the weather keeps fairly warm and dry to allow plenty of trips into the countryside or the coast.  It is said that we are no more than 60 miles from the coast in England, but that is 'as the crow flies' and by road it could be twice that to reach an accessible beach.  But if we lived in a large continent such as North America, 60 or so miles is almost like having the sea at the bottom of the garden.  Well, if it was Southfork (of 'Dallas' fame) it might be so.

There is a lovely stretch of beach Kathryn, fairly close to Morecambe called Middleton Sands.  The sand is very firm when the tide is out (and it does go out a long way), and we often see horses being ridden there, also learner drivers sometimes practice driving around the sands.  There are several riding stables close by, so always horses there.
The disadvantage is the road down to the beach is mostly a country lane, fairly narrow, and a bit winding at the end.  I haven't seen horse boxes/trailers there, so if you are thinking about going it might be worth doing a reccy first.  Possibly you could park further up the road and then ride Dolly the rest of the way (a hundred or so yards).

Quite agree with you janeyd and julee about the way children pester dogs.  Yes sometimes it's the owners that are at fault for taking dogs out during the hottest part of the day, especially to parks full of children. My neighbour - who I mentioned re meeting up with a 'touchy' dog in the park - said the poor dog was panting, and while the owner sat with a cold drink, the dog was given nothing.  No wonder it snarled and bared its teeth at my friend when she sat down at the same table.  Expect all it wanted to do was lie in the shade.  Its very thick fluffy coat probably didn't help.  Having a good clipping would have cooled the dog down, but from what was said the owner spent hours grooming the dog so its coat would look wonderful. 
We all love our pets, but sometimes don't realise that what suits us often doesn't suit them.  Did anyone watch that programme about people who kept monkeys as pets - often as baby substitutes? The poor little things, dressed in nappies and given all the wrong foods so they ended up with diabetes and worse.  Some had to have their teeth removed to prevent them biting their owners and the owners children.

Sairy mentioned using old T-shirts (cut up to use when crocheting).  I've used these before, cut into strips to make rag rugs, although never got around to making a large rug, just several cushion covers, in fact not even covers, just lay them on kitchen chairs to sit on.  They have lasted many years and come up like new when laundered in the washing machine.
Tights I have used, cut into strips, as plant ties as mentioned, but also these are good for storing home-grown onions, just pop an onion down each leg, then twist or tie above it, then add another one, tie again, and so on until the legs are full, then hang them up in a dry place (shed or garage) for winter use.

Today did more cooking, another quiche, some ginger-flavoured Fork biscuits for B as he said he'd eaten all the cheese biscuits I made so wanted something else to nibble.  Then made him his favourite Fish Risotto for his supper.  He had the last of the trifle for 'afters', and then some quiche, finishing with biscuits, but I see he still has a few of those left.   
Also had to make more bread, one large and one small loaf, this time a blend of white bread mix with half a pack of wholemeal bread mix.  That should keep him going for a couple or so more days. 

Was intending to go to the 'circle' meeting at the spiritualist church tomorrow, but if the weather is as hot and humid as today, may give it a miss.  The weather at the moment is making me feel so exhausted, and this afternoon I couldn't have faced going anywhere, despite my intention to pop down to the shops with Norris.  I really did want to go, but just couldn't leave the cool of the living room (hardly cool, but at least out of the sun being east-facing).

As it is just a couple of minutes short of midnight (doesn't time fly), am not giving recipes today as hoping to rise early so I can get a lot of work done before the day warms up too much.  Then maybe I will feel able to go to the church in the afternoon.  Whether I do or not I will let you know in my next blog, written about this time Tuesday evening.  Hope to see you then.  TTFN.


Sunday, July 20, 2014

Mad Dogs and Englishmen....

Some readers may remember that song:  'Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noonday sun... and when my neighbour came for coffee on Friday she said she had been to the local park where she met a lady who had large and beautiful white fluffy dog with her, but was warned not to go near it as it 'didn't like strangers'.  Neighbour wondered why it wasn't muzzled, especially as there were so many children running around, and the fluffy coat of the dog would attract them.

When I was small and the summers were normally hot (as is this one), remember hearing on the wireless (as it was called then), a warning that all dogs should be muzzled when taken out as the heat affected them and made them very 'snappy'.  Really good common sense, so why isn't this given as instruction to people with dogs today?  We can't blame dogs for getting stroppy when hot weather makes them ill-tempered, as it so often does with us humans.

Yesterday I felt really 'off'.  Hot weather I can stand, even very hot as it has been lately, but only dry heat.  High humidity and I feel exhausted.  It was high yesterday and when like that I find difficulty in breathing (not enough oxygen in the air?) and when I went to bed the humidity reading in the bedroom was 73%!  B said it was higher during the day.  Just checked it a few minutes ago - before I sat down to write - and thankfully it has gone down to 68%.   Temperature still high though.  In the 70's. 

You can guess that yesterday's planned baking ended up with me not doing much cooking. At least managed to grate a lot of cheese (taking care this time to not include part of my thumb knuckle), and then made a four-cheese quiche, and lots of cheese biscuits for B.  He ate half the biccies last night, the rest this evening. 

Also sorted out my veggies and decided to cook all the 'value' carrots I had in the fridge (the organic delivery included a big bunch of freshly picked young carrots that I will use later this week), and so chopped the 'oldies' into chunks and boiled them until tender.  Some I ate yesterday, the rest I will eat tomorrow with some going into B's stir-fry.
Also make a big bowl of trifle for B:  Trifle sponges soaked in lemon jelly, then when set topped with a can of fruit cocktail (the juice from the can helping to make up the jelly),  Then covered these with the remaining jelly. 
Meanwhile I'd made a pint of custard, and when that was cold used half to top the trifle.  Asked B to serve his portion and then add double cream - saved opening a new tub of cream - hoping he would use up the one already opened before he began another.  More than once I've gone into the fridge and found two tubs of cream that he had started, and once he had three on the go. Don't ask me why he does this.  He just does.

Another fairly dry day today, and think it did rain during the night as the leaves on the bushed in the front garden were sparkling with drops of water.  Later I went to sit in the garden where it was quite breezy, but obviously much windier at cloud level as they were whizzing past.  Didn't get much strong sunshine due to clouds, but noticed that by the time they had passed over our house they had almost disappeared and if I had sat in the front garden would probably have been in full sun. 

Didn't feel like eating, so ended drinking a litre carton of chilled tropical fruit juice during the evening.  B didn't feel like eating either, but managed to get himself some boiled eggs and 'soldiers'. Then eating a good helping of the trifle yesterday, and the last of the cheese biscuits.  When he does feel like eating you can imagine how much he can wolf down.

As the weather forecast tells us it is set fair for the next few days, and warm with it, I will almost certainly go out with Norris tomorrow as I want to go to the local shops and buy more wool to practice my crocheting.  A thank you to Sairy for her comment re this, and I will shortly be taking a look at the link she sent.  Feel that I will become as addicted to crochet as I am to having a 'chilli kick' each day, and my plan is to crochet covers for each of the cushions in our living room.  Then may even make myself another 'throw' to keep me warm in winter, either in bed or when sitting in my chair.

As I sat outdoors, being me, my mind wandering as usual, thought about crochet and wondered if I cut spare material I have, diagonally, into very narrow strips, then pulled these tight, they would roll up into a sort of string and I could use this for crocheting.  Maybe could cut plastic bags into narrow strips and do the same thing to make mats for the bathroom (or bags)!!  Even wondered if it was possible to crochet cooked spaghetti.  What a sad lady I am turning into. 

As you can imagine, food has not been top priority on my mind this week.  Has it been with anybody's?  All we want to do is laze around and drink plenty of liquids.  A salad with cold meats is about as far as we get when it comes to making a meal.    However I will try to come up with some tasty nibbles that we might like to try making when the weather gets cooler.

Courgettes are in season at the moment and as B doesn't like them as a vegetable in their own right am hunting out ways to use them, so here is one way to use them that I know I will enjoy and am sure my Beloved will also. 
As usual I suggest we omit what we don't have (in other words don't go out and buy them) such as the sesame seeds and the chilli (I would add a dash of chilli sauce or dry paprika when mixing).  As we don't like the flavour of fresh coriander I'd probably use parsley.   Fresh breadcrumbs are used when preparing the balls, and dried breadcrumbs for coating, but for the latter we could use finely crushed savoury biscuits, cornflakes, or potato crisps.
If you prefer to shallow fry in a little oil, you could flatten the balls to make small 'cakes' and fry these until browned on one side, then turn to brown the other.

Lentil Balls with Tomato:  serves 4
7 oz (200g) red lentils, cooked until tender
2 tblsp olive oil
2 courgettes, coarsely grated
1 small onion, grated or finely chopped
1 small red chilli, finely chopped (see above)
3 oz (75g) stale breadcrumbs
1 oz (25g) toasted sesame seeds (opt)
1 tblsp chopped fresh coriander (see above)
1 - 2 oz (25g -50g) dried breadcrumbs (see above)
oil for frying
5 tomatoes, quartered
1 clove garlic, crushed
Strain the lentils well after cooking, pressing out as much liquid as possible.  Meanwhile heat half the olive oil in a large frying pan and stir-fry the courgettes, onion and chilli until just soft.  Remove from pan using a slotted spoon, and set the pan aside to use again.
Put the lentils in a bowl with the courgette mixture, stale breadcrumbs, seeds, and coriander, and mix well to combine.  Roll teaspoons of the mixture into balls, then toss these in the dried breadcrumbs.
Heat about an inch of oil in a deep frying pan and fry the balls - in batches - turning them often, until browned on all sides, then drain on kitchen paper.
Using the first frying pan add the remaining olive oil and stir-fry the tomato and garlic for a couple of minutes, then return the lentil balls to this pan, and stir until heated through. Remove from heat and serve with a crisp green salad and a herby dressing.

Fennel is also seasonal and I have several bulbs in my fridge (courtesy of Riverford). They have fronds growing from the tops that can be used, so will definitely be making these fritters.  Probably serve them with fish (fennel and fish go well together).
Fennel Fritters: makes 16
1 tblsp finely chopped fennel fronds
1 or 2 fennel bulbs (approx. 1lb total) finely chopped
3 spring onions, finely chopped
1 carrot (approx. 3oz/75g) finely grated
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 oz (75g) ricotta cheese
2 oz (50g) plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
oil for frying
Mix together all the ingredients (except oil).  Put enough oil for shallow frying into a large frying pan, and when hot, fry heaped tablespoons of the mixture until golden brown on both sides and heated through.  Flatten slightly during cooking, turning once, then drain on kitchen paper.  Serve with mixed salad leaves or what you will.

Here is a recipe from the Riverford collection (they send recipes with each delivery).  This is one of their top seasonal favourites, making a tray-bake that cuts into 10 - 15 squares, and a great way to use up a glut of courgettes.
Because the recipe gives only metric measurements, difficult to convert to imperial (120g is more than 4 oz, less than 5oz etc), this time I giving only the metric.  However have worked out the baking tin measures 8" x 10", and if cooking by gas it will be at regulo 5. 
Chocolate and Courgette Tray-bake: 
120g softened butter
125ml sunflower oil
100g caster sugar
200g soft brown sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten
130ml milk
350g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
4 tblsp cocoa powder
450g courgettes, peeled and grated
1 tsp vanilla extract
Put the butter, oil, caster and brown sugar into a bowl and beat until light and fluffy. Gradually whisk in the eggs and then the milk.
Sift the flour, baking powder, and cocoa together, then fold them into the above mixture, finally adding the courgettes and vanilla.  Spoon into a lined 20 x 25cm baking tin, and bake at 190C for 35-40 mins, until a skewer inserted comes out clean.  Cool in the tin for a few minutes, but cut into squares while still warm.

While I'm at it, might as well include a recipe that children will love, despite it being made with a veggie (just don't tell them).  Use either peeled fresh or pre-cooked beetroot.  Good news is that once made it can also be frozen.
Maroon Fool: serves 6
1.5lb (675g) raw or cooked beetroot, coarsely grated
grated zest and juice of 1 orange
1 large cooking apple, peeled and grated
knob of butter
3 tblsp honey
half pint (300ml) custard, cooled
Put the grated beetroot into a saucepan with the orange rind and juice and simmer for 30 minutes.
Stir in the apple, butter, and honey, and simmer for a further half hour, then put into a blender or food processor and blitz until a puree.   Pour into a bowl and chill before stirring in the custard.
To serve, spoon into individual serving dishes.  To freeze, put puree into a polybox leaving a 1cm headspace, cover and label. Use within 3 months.  Thaw overnight in the fridge, then serve as above.
For a special treat serve topped with a dollop of cream, and sweet biscuits.

Finished before midnight for once and enjoying the cooler air - this room has no windows that will open.  We do have patio doors but B has mislaid the key!!  As the patio doors face south, and the two other windows (one either side of the fireplace) face west, this room can get very warm during the summer (but also keeps warm during the winter even though it has no central heating radiators, just a gas fire that we rarely use).

Speaking to Gill this morning, she tells me it was raining hard, and also pelted down yesterday.  Had thunderstorms too.  So here in Morecambe we have got off lightly.  But then we usually do.  Possibly it is the way the Bay is situated, the bad weather seems to split when it approaches, some going further south (Manchester) and some further north (Lake district).  Not surprised that Morecambe is said to have the most hours of sun in the country.  Having said that, suppose we will now have high winds, lots of rain, then heavy frosts and snow during the winter.  Nature likes to let us know whose the boss!

Do hope you all managed to have a good summers weekend despite any adverse weather you may be having in your area.  Comments have been few (understandably during summer weekends) but do hope to have more come in over this next week.  It's the only way I know you are there!  That I know is being silly and selfish, lots of people read loads of blogs and never send a comment at all.  So why should I be so lucky? 

Now off to my bed to a cooler room for once.  Probably able to lie under the duvet instead of on top of it, or half under and half out.   Never have really taken to duvets, my feet get tangled up in the cover (that always seems too loose).  Much prefer the old way of making beds - cool strong white cotton sheets, freshly ironed, with - in summer - a light 'counterpane' over the top, and in winter, one or two blankets, then topped with a quilt.  And a mum to always come and tuck me in (we can never tuck ourselves in, and that is such a pity).  Those were the days.  However bad they really could be at times, always remembered as the best of days.  TTFN.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Craving for a Casserole.

A fairly cool night last night, waking to an even cooler day.  Very overcast but not depressingly so. A sudden flash of lightening and 5 seconds later the rumble of thunder (storm then 5 miles away) - and that was all we had.  Don't think it even rained.  Very shortly after the clouds rolled away and we had some sun for a while, but far too windy to sit outside for our Friday coffee.   Clouds returned and the forecast is rain and storms but not necessarily where we live. 

There have been severe storms and rain in several parts of the country, and Alison has had temperatures of 32C with heavy rain, causing high humidity.  Think however much we love to have sunny days, we all feel we could do with a change.   I'm fed up of eating salads, and B doesn't want to eat proper meals when he is warm (he has been working outside a lot this week laying slabs in the garden, and also at the 'shed' at the sailing club).

Am envious of Kate who is now experiencing the Australian winter.  I really am looking forward to much cooler days and can cook warming stews and casseroles (similar but stews cooked on the hob, casseroles in the oven).
Her suggestion that my tiredness may be due to the activities during the early part of this month is probably right.  Not just winding down, more like switching off.   I did feel better this morning, but after doing the laundry, then chatting to my neighbour for nearly 3 hours, all I wanted to do was sit down and put my feet up - and continue my crochet.   I am getting addicted to this new craft.  However, this evening I came to the end of the ball of wool that Gill left for me, so now I'll either have to pull it all back and start again, or go and buy more wool (think the latter, so I can now start on crocheting a throw).

Although I've not been to many countries, certainly noticed that in Denmark nearly everyone spoke English, the same in the Netherlands.  The German language is fairly similar to English, and although I wouldn't be able to understand it when spoken, I can sometimes translate bits of it.  They also could speak some English.
In France no-one seemed to want to speak English, though they did appreciate us trying to speak French, and when we did they did ease up a bit to help communicating.
In Tunisia they spoke Arabic, although the waiters in the hotel spoke English.  Many Tunisians could speak French (the road signs were in both Arabic and French) as the country was once occupied by the French, and did find in a few shops my school-girl French got the message across. 

Not sure what the weather is like outside at the moment, but indoors it seems very humid, so am hoping that it will cool down a bit before I go to bed (in about a couple of hours).  B is still out at the social club, so no doubt I'll be kept awake by his constant puffing, singing, talking, and groaning that he always does in his sleep (for hours) when he's had a night out.   If I can get to bed first and get to sleep then I can probably sleep through it.

Adding cheese to a white sauce turns it into 'sauce mornay', so here is a recipe to use this.  As it uses mainly storecupboard ingredients a useful dish to make..  We could of course make the cheese sauce from a packet, but if so add more grated cheese for that extra flavour. With the recipe given, milk could be used instead of cream, cream gives extra richness and a good way to use up cream we may have left in the fridge.
This dish can be made up ready to bake a day ahead as long as it is kept covered, in the fridge. Allow to come to room temperature before baking, then as it is being baked from cold instead of when using the warm filling, add extra cooking time to make sure it is heated through.

The recipe is enough for 2 servings (or even 3), and certainly when baked in ramekin dishes would serve 4 - 6 as a starter at a dinner party.

Tuna Mornay: serves 2
1 oz (25g) butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1 rib celery, trimmed and finely chopped
1 tblsp plain flour
6 fl oz (175ml) milk
5 fl oz (150ml) xream
3 oz (50g) grated Cheddar cheese
1 x 130g can sweetcorn kernels, drained
1 x 185g can tuna, drained
1 oz (25g) stale breadcrumbs
Melt the butter in a saucepan and gently fry the onion and celery, stirring constantly, for about 3 minutes or until softened, then stir in the flour, cook for a further minute, then gradually blend in the milk and cream. Raise the heat, continuing to stir until the mixture boils and thickens.  Remove heat and stir in two-thirds of the cheese, then when this is beginning to melt, fold in the the sweetcorn and flaked tuna.
Spoon into two x 1 pint ovenproof dishes.  Mix the breadcrumbs with the remaining cheese and sprinkle this on top.  Bake at 180C, gas 4 for about 15 minutes or until heated through.

It might be that we choose not to make the above recipe as we don't have the smaller sized cans of main ingredients.   So here is a recipe to serve four that uses larger sized cans, but when cooking for two, and halving the ingredients, then we would be left with enough sweetcorn and tuna to make the above recipe

Tuna and Sweetcorn Burgers: serves 4
3 oz (75g) white bread, crumbed
1 x 198g can sweetcorn, drained
2 x 185g cans tuna, drained
1 oz (25g) grated Cheddar cheese
3 spring onions, or 1 shallot, finely chopped
salt and pepper
1 egg, beaten
2 tblsp sunflower oil
wholemeal buns/baps, and salad/salsa
Put the breadcrumbs into a bowl.  Put half the sweetcorn into a food processor and whizz until finely chopped, than add this to the bread with the remaining whole corn kernels, the flaked tuna, cheese, onion and seasoning.  Mix well together, adding the egg, bit by bit (you may not need it all) until the mixture is sticky enough to hold together and can be shaped into four even-sized burgers.
Heat the oil in a frying pan, the fry the burgers until golden on each side, and heated through. Tuck into the split buns/baps with lettuce and a dollop of salsa.

Although Goulash might be considered a warming winter meal, this meatless version eats well during cooler summer days.  Meatless because I've used canned chickpeas in place of the much more expensive beef steak.  Why?  Simple answer is because this works out much cheaper.  However, for those who would still like the flavour of beef, am using  beef stock (either home-made or using a cube).

Speedy Goulash: serves 4
1 tblsp sunflower oil
8 oz (225g) chestnut mushrooms, quartered
2 tsp paprika pepper
1 lb (450g) potatoes, peeled/cut into small chunks
1 pint (600ml) hot beef stock (see above)
1 x 400g can chickpeas, drained/rinsed
1 x 500g jar/carton passata
handful chopped parsley
natural yogurt for serving
Heat the oil in a pan and fry the mushrooms for a couple of minutes, then sprinkle over the paprika and fry for a further minute.  Add the potatoes, stock and passata.  Stir, bring to the boil, then cover and reduce heat.  Simmer for 15 minutes or until the potatoes are just tender, then add the chickpeas.  When heated through, stir in the parsley and serve in individual dishes with a swirl of yogurt on top.

It's bang on midnight as I type these words, B still not returned, so am taking the opportunity to get to bed and hope to be asleep by the time he has decided to retire (he usually sits and reads a it before he comes to bed). As usual I won't be blogging tomorrow (always busy baking on a Saturday) but return sometime on Sunday for another chat (maybe during the day then I can return to day-time blogging mext week rather than back to late at night). 

Hope you all have a good weekend and manage to enjoy the good and hot weather between the showers and storms.  We need sunlight on our skin to build up our vitamin D to see us through the winter. Think I've gained enough to see me through 2 winters.   Keep those comments coming....TTFN.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Just a Few Words...

Short blog tonight.  Feel so tired I could fall asleep in front of the comp, my brain has closed down, all I want to do is go to bed, so maybe for the first time, blogging is something I really don't feel like doing at this very moment.

At least can spend a few minutes replying to comments. .
Don't think the man of the house buying the weekend roast meat is a Northern thing Jane, my dad used to do the same when we lived in the Midlands.  He would also do the carving - with a proper carving knife and fork, the fork having a 'thingy' on the back that would lift up to protect the other hand from being cut with the knife as the meat was being sliced. 
We also had Shepherd's Pie - this would be on a Tuesday when lamb was the weekend joint. It would be Cottage Pie if it had been beef.  Monday (always washing day) was sliced cold roast meat with jacket potatoes and a seasonal veg.

There is some similarity in the French/Italian language but German is very different, so are the Swiss bi-lingual or tri-lingual Anna?  It's not as though Switzerland is a large country, so to use three different languages must make things difficult.

Expect you will be very busy during the school holidays Granny G, but do hope you find time to drop us a line even if just a couple of times during the six week period.  The one good thing about a rainy day in the school holidays is that we get a chance to teach children how to cook. 
Today began cloudy but very soon cleared up and we had a lot more sun.  I didn't get a chance to sit out until mid-afternoon and it was very VERY hot.  Think I sat too long in the sun and that is what is making me feel tired now.

At least the rain we had has made the flowering plants in all the containers/pots look absolutely wonderful.  Never seen such a large amount of blossom.  Even the trailing lobelia has bulked up, and B said how lovely it looked (and its not like him to notice much in the garden other than 'something large' he wants to get at with the secateurs or chop down completely).

More food news in the paper today, this time is 'it's OK to eat saturated fats' (or something like that), and how carbos are not that good for us.  I have kept the article to take to show the diabetic nurse next week - she is of the 'old school' - just eat low GI carbos and not a lot else.  That doesn't work for me.

Have another 'thunder headache' come on, and as the weather forecast shows  quite a few storms moving up the country, maybe one is heading our way.  Yet, looking at the weather map at the end of the TV news, it could be Morecambe is again likely to stay fairly dry.   Night-time temperature is in the high teens,  daytime reaching high 20's, and even  30C and above further south.   Not that unusual, I remember it being very hot when I was young - it's in recent years the summers have been wetter, windier, and have less sunshine and heat.  Younger folk think that is normal and now is not, but it is the other way round.

The age the earth is, no weather is 'normal', like most things it has its highs and lows.  If we had another Ice Age, suppose that could be 'normal' in the great scheme of things.  Considering we've only been keeping weather records for just over a century (or maybe two?) who knows what is due to happen next?  Whatever it is it will have happened all before, even if not in our lifetime.

Because I felt exhausted I reheated some rice and curry for B's supper that had been brought home (and immediately frozen) in the 'doggy bags' when we had our anniversary meal.  Plenty of rice (packed in three cartons, I used only one today), and not a lot of curry, so I cooked more onions, added some diced bell pepper and carrots, slung in some peas and the small amount of lamb curry - together these made a decent sized serving. 
Did I eat anything?  Can't even remember.  Oh yes, had some cheese and oat biscuits and now I wish I hadn't as the carbos have made me feel even more sleepy.  Maybe concentrating on doing crochet hasn't helped - I've nearly used up the ball of wool/yarn that Gill left for me, and my 'hooking' has ended up looking like a large round mat of different types of stitches.  Quite proud of it.  Will probably unwind it when I get to the end and start all over again, this time making it square.

 Forgive me if I now leave you and take to my bed, hoping to rise bright-eyed and bushy-tailed tomorrow so that I can write a proper blog for you on Friday before I take Saturday off. TTFN.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Keeping it Simple

When I was a youngster meals were eaten not necessarily to be enjoyed.  Readers old enough will remember the over-cooked vegetables, soggy cabbage, and stewed prunes 'to keep us regular'.   In those days we 'ate to live' not as today 'live to eat'.  

Sometimes I think we spend far too much time thinking about what meal to cook next.  I certainly seem to do (but usually for B, I just serve myself what needs using up), and it was a comment from a new reader called Kevpembs - to whom we give a welcome - who mentioned that chefs today seem to play around with the food too much.  I agree.  Mary Berry is the only cook who says it as it is.  Her baking is simple yet delicious, and really there is no reason to go beyond that.

The problem with cookery progs publications is that the cooks/writers have now run out of ideas.  All they can do is just give yet another version of a tried and tested recipe, or 'deconstruct' a traditional one.  In desperation they turn to 'crushing' potatoes and peas instead of mashing them, and serving 'pulled meat' (shredding it to bits) instead of serving it in slices. 

Don't get me wrong, I'm not against dishes from other countries for where would we be today without a curry, stir-fry, or pasta dish to whet our appetites?  I'm thankful that spicy sauces/ketchups etc are now commonplace for where would I be without my daily 'kick' of chilli?  Sometimes though we can have too much of a good thing, and going back to dishes our mothers (or in your case probably great-grandmothers!!!) used to make in the early 20th century will probably both sooth our stomachs and plump up our purses, for none of them would have been expensive then to make, and hopefully not always now.

Before I offer some recipes, must first reply to comments - quite a few have arrived during the last 24 hours for which I thank you. 

Yes Jane, the duck confit did come from Donald Russell, and the veggies from Riverford.  B said the duck had LOADS of meat on it.  He was well pleased.
Moving away from food for the moment, the lavender talcum I chose from the raffle table yesterday was used this morning.  A brand new tub, sold at Marks and Spencer and still sealed.  I was well pleased - until I used it.  It seemed to have virtually no scent of lavender at all.  I read the label:  Made In Thailand it said. Perhaps the lavender over doesn't smell as strongly as the English.  Was surprised that M & S didn't stock products that used English lavender - we have plenty of it.
I decided to use my favourite instead as I just love the smell of that - Johnson's Baby Talcum Powder.

Agree we should all support our local butcher (so why do I buy meat from D.R?  Because it is even better quality and no dearer when on offer).  Between times I do buy meat from our local shop, and am able to get plenty of free bones, fat (for dripping) etc, and chicken carcases (usually free because I sometimes take them a big bunch of rosemary that they share out to customers when they buy lamb).

Thanks to Julia and Anna who mentioned shopping across borders (Switzerland/Germany etc).  It was today (on a quiz prog) that I heard a question about how many languages were spoken in Switzerland, I thought it was 3 (French, German, Italian) but didn't know about the Romansch. Is that similar to Austrian, or is Austrian the same as German?  (my knowledge of that area is based mainly on The Sound of Music).

Although I haven't now got a crystal ball Pam, I found all I had to do was put it on a table in front of me, on a plain dark cloth so it didn't pick up any reflections, and then just gaze into it.  After a very few minutes it was as though I was looking at a moving picture, like a tiny TV screen set inside, and so I just used to say what I saw.  This always seemed to match something in the life of the person who was sitting close to me, but in this life, nothing to do with those who had 'passed on'. 

Like most things, once I've done something fairly satisfactory, I move on to try something new.  Also got quite good at reading tea-leaves at the bottom of cups (can't do that with tea-bags of course), and am extremely good at dowsing (not necessarily 'picking' up water, usually metal pipes etc that would be underground.

Haven't yet tried out my new camera.  It has a rechargeable battery (my old one used ordinary bought batteries), so I have first to do the recharging.  Then there is a disc to put in the comp that presumably tells me what else I can do with the camera.  Am waiting until I have a few hours to sort it out (wish things weren't so difficult to understand).
At the moment all my spare time is spent sitting and practicing how to crochet.  Can't say I could follow a pattern, but as I now know a couple of so different stitches, am going round and round (and round and round) making different patterns, and the circle is getting ever larger.  I can even crochet while I watch (or rather listen to) TV, certainly when the adverts are on.  Am really getting hooked on it (excuse the pun).

I'd never heard that about the pleats in a chef's hat showing how many different ways to cook a egg Granny G.  What happens if he learns a new way, does he have to refold and iron his hat to make an extra pleat?
While the south of England has been having very hot weather, today - here in Morecambe - it has been relatively chilly.  Overcast all day and a considerable amount of rain this afternoon.  This evening it was dark by 9.00pm, due mainly to clouds, but the nights are drawing in of course.

Tomorrow the weather is said to be even hotter in the south, Midlands and the east - 30C plus!  Very, very humid, and the chance of some severe thunderstorms.  We in the north west should get it slightly cooler.
The mention of eggs 'frying on the pavement' brought back memories of when my dad fried an egg on one of the paving stones in our garden when I was young.  It must have been very hot then.  He also showed me how to make a fire using a magnifying glass and some dried grass.  I found that very useful when role-playing Girl Guides in the garden (my mother would not let me join a proper pack as they were connected with the church and she didn't want anything to do with churches.  "Women go to church only to show off their new hats" she would say.

Earlier this evening I had a real 'thunder headache'.  It has eased off a bit, but this weekend I expect we will get storms, maybe even some sooner.  Do hope so, it feels as though I have a ton of bricks sitting on top of my head.

Went to the health centre this morning to have my blood checked (won't find out the result until next week).  Mentioned our wedding anniversary to the nurse and she said she couldn't believe it, said I looked so much younger than the age she knew I was.  Have to say that when I do see other ladies (70 years and in the 80's - like me) many do seem to look 'old'.  One good thing about being overweight is that we don't get many wrinkles on our faces, so suppose that helps to keep the years at bay.
Us 'older folk' all agree that our minds don't age, we still feel 35 - 40 whatever age our bodies have grown to.  Just wish the younger folk would realise that.  Our daughter is older than I feel (in my mind), but she treats B and myself as though we are really old. 
Can't blame her, when I was in my teens, anyone over the age of 40 seemed really REALLY old. And don't I wish I was 40 now!

The other week B brought in some 'mix and match' pork pies from Morrison's.  Apparently they did several flavours, and these were sold five to a pack (customers choice).  B brought home some pork, apple and cheese pies, and these are really lovely.  Much larger than the other flavours, so better value.  M's got wise to this, and now sell only the small ones as 'mix and match', the pork/apple/cheese sold four to a pack (£1.29).  I love 'em, so am going to try and make my own.

Here is a recipe for a porky pie that could easily be adapted.  I'd just omit the ham and use more apple and grated cheese, mixing this into the sausagement rather than place in layers..  Skinned sausages can be used instead of sausagemeat.  Have found that it is just as good made using short pastry, so you can use either.
Similar to a 'fidget pie', this is a variation on that traditional English picnic pie.

Picnic Pie: serves 6
1 x 500g block puff pastry
6 oz (175g) pork sausagemeat
1 - 2 apples, peeled, cored and grated
1 onion, grated
1 tblsp thyme leaves
8 thick slices cooked ham
2 tblsp Dijon mustard
1 egg, beaten - for glazing
Cut two-thirds of the pastry off the block, then roll this out and use to line a buttered 8"/20cm springform tin (or a deep loose-based cake tin).  Leave a good amount of excess pastry hanging over the sides of the tin.  Roll out the remaining pastry to a circle to fit the top of the tin.
Make the filling by mixing together the sausagemeat, apple, onion and thyme.   Line the base with a third of the ham, then spread over a third of the mustard, followed by a third of the sausagement mixture. Press it down firmly then repeat the layers, finishing with the sausagemeat.  Level the surface then put the pastry lid on top and brush with egg.  Fold the excess pastry back to cover the sides of the lid, pressing gently to seal, then trim to neaten.  Brush again with egg and make a hole in the centre.
Bake at 190C, gas 5 for 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted through the centre comes out very hot.
Leave to cool in the tin for 20 minutes before releasing the sides of the tin, then place - still on its base - onto a cake airer and leave until cold.
Serve cut into wedges and serve with salad and pickles.  If you wish you can remove it from its base, wrap tightly in foil and freeze it for a couple or so months.

Next recipe is a tastier version of one my mother used to make.  Having watched many American cookery progs on the Food Network (esp. the 'three D's'),  'Mac and Cheese' seems very much a favourite dish in the US, whereas here it is not considered very special.

When we used a variety of cheeses we also add more flavour than if just using a mild Cheddar.  Although bacon is not included in this version, have found adding some crispy crumbled bacon really gives this meal a lift.
As it is not a million miles away from Cauliflower Cheese, why not include some cooked cauliflower with the macaroni before adding the sauce?

Macaroni with Three Cheese Sauce: serves 4
11 oz (375g) macaroni (or pasta penne)
half pint (300ml) cream
3 fl oz (80ml) vegetable stock
5 oz (150g) grated mozzarella cheese
3 oz (75g) grated Stilton or other blue cheese
3 oz (75g) grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
1 tblsp chopped fresh chives
freshly ground black pepper
Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until just tender, then drain.  Meanwhile make the sauce by heating the cream with the stock until hot.  Remove from heat, add the mozzarella and blue cheese, but only HALF the Parmesan.  Stir until melted, then fold in the mustard and herbs.  Season with the pepper, then mix this into the pasta.
Pour into a 2.5ltr ovenproof dish and top with remaining Parmesan. Bake at 180C, gas 4 for 20 minutes or until browned.

In the old days, chutney was always made at home, so why don't we start making it ourselves again. Here is a very easy recipe that uses ingredients in our larder that we can vary according to what dried fruits we have.  The recipe suggests:  dried apricots, dates, figs, peaches, prunes, sultanas....all cut into evenly sized pieces.

Storecupbaord Chutney:  makes about 5lbs
1lb 7oz (675g) mixed dried fruits (see above)
3 lb  (1.3kg) cooking apples, peeled, cored, chopped
1 lb (450g) onions, chopped
1 lb 7oz (675g) light brown soft sugar
3 - 5 cloves garlic, crushed
2 oz (50g) fresh root ginger, finely chopped
2 - 4 chillies, crushed
1.5 pints (850ml) cider vinegar
Put everything into a large pan and bring to the boil, stirring as it does so.  Then reduce heat and simmer until thick, stirring regularly - this takes about 45 minutes and  thick enough so a wooden spoon should leave a path across the base of the pan when it is dragged across.
Spoon into warm sterilised jars and seal with vinegar-proof (rubber lined or plastic) lids.  Label and store for at least 6 weeks before using to allow the flavour to mature. 
This chutney can be stored for up to a year, but once opened keep in the fridge and eat within 3 - 4 weeks.

That's it for today, see I'm already into Thursday, so looks like I'm back to writing late at night again.  Hope to get back to afternoon chatting again after my usual weekend break.  But that will be then, this is now, so expect me back sometime late tomorrow evening.  Hope you managed to avoid most of the storms that are forecast.  TTFN.