Friday, November 12, 2010

Quite a Busy Day!!!

Take one day off writing my blog and enough things happen to fill two blogs! Beginning with the British weather, where we seemed to get everything all in one day.
After two gorgeous days on Monday and Wednesday (apparently it snowed for all of five minutes on Tuesday, but wasn't looking out of the window at that time), yesterday began VERY windy and very wet. We were a bit delayed due to the morning rush hour of traffic, so set off a bit late. As we got further into the countryside, some of the roads were flooded at the sides, and at the Glasson turnoff the road was closed, so we had to turn back and find an alternative route. Even the main roads were partially flooded and as the large lorries drove past in the other direction, their wheels sprayed water over our car - it was just like being on the sea front with the sea dashing over the prom (as I remember it used to do in Sheringham). Strange family that we are, we really enjoyed this 'spraying'. 'Hurray' we shouted as each time it happened.

As we approached Barton Grange, the HUGE wind turbine (mentioned in an earlier blog) seemed much closer to the road and much lower than it was previously (when the top of it seemed to disappear into the clouds), so either it has been moved, or lowered, but it certainly didn't seem as terrifying as before.

As we drove into the car park, the rain stopped and we were able to get into the garden centre without being soaked. An umbrella would have been no use, it would have blown inside out in seconds. Unfortunately two ladies had a few minutes before, taken the two scooters they have, and so I had to resort to being pushed around in a wheel chair. Not even one that I could guide myself. Probably best this happened for it was the first time I have really appreciated the way that I can get around and about on Norris and go freely where I wish (within limitations), not just be 'wheeled around'.

Don't get me wrong, my daughter was wonderful in the care she took of me, it was the odd times where she suddenly left me in an aisle while she and B nipped off to look at something else that gave me the feeling of being completely dependent on them, or maybe a feeling of a taste of things to come. There were so many things I wished to look at, or go back to look at, and this can be done if using a scooter, but not in a wheelchair. But never one to sit and sulk, did managed to move slowly forward using my walking stick like a pole and 'punt' myself forward inch by inch. Unfortunately couldn't turn corners.
Nevertheless it was a most enjoyable day other than the moment when we went to the cafeteria and my daughter about to pay for the cakes, then asked B where her handbag was and he said he had left it in the trolley, parked in the 'trolley creche' outside the door. She went to get it and came back to say her bag had been taken!

Needless to say B and 'Gos' went off to tell security etc, and do what's necessary while I was left in the wheel chair parked by the wonderful cake counter where I was too worried to even look at the luscious gateaux. After a while two of the staff came up to me to say the bag had been found. It had been removed by a security person who had been concerned it had been left there, and they said they could see I was worried, and they brought the bag to me, and think that someone had told Gos and B for they returned then. They told us that was all the years that the Garden Centre had been opened, hardly anything had ever been taken (presumably from the trolleys) and it was also good to know their security is so tight. They said if they ever find anything that has been left, it is put into their safe, and if they don't hear within a week, then then look inside to see if there is an address they can contact.

While we were there, the Centre had a two-minutes silence at 11.00am, where the main lights were switched off and staff and customers stood (or sat) silently in remembrance of those lost at war. This was in itself quite moving. Then the lights came back on again and the silence disappeared. Let us hope all stores did this.
At one time, even the traffic in the streets, and also pedestrians would stop for two minutes at this time on this day each year, but think this doesn't now happen. Certainly not the traffic. Suppose as long as there are wars, there will always be the service at the Cenotaph. Last year there were three men there who were soldiers in World War I. Believe that two have died this year, and maybe the third.

But back to the delights of the 21st century. At Barton Grange the Christmas display was wonderful. Even before we reached this the first part (the inner foyer) was full of the most beautiful arrangements, truly an interior designers Aladdin's Cave (probably the arrangements were made by interior designers). Buying some Christmas decorations would have been lovely, but am still hoping to make most of my own (all I need is a can of gold spray and some gold and silver glitter) , and as we have nowhere to store anything anymore now that we don't have a loft (the one here belongs to upstairs) probably best to keep things small or at least will pack flat neatly so they can be stored on top of the wardrobe.

Had a lovely bowl of pea and ham soup with croutons AND a bread roll and butter for lunch at B.Grange, followed by a big wedge of Lemon Meringue Pie. Drove back in glorious sunshine, the clouds had rolled away and there was a lot of sun and blue sky, felt almost like Spring had sprung. Yet we noticed for about half a mile a little snow had been blown just at one side of the road, under the hedges. Then - as we approached Lancaster - the clouds came back and it began raining again.
We drove down to the front before returning home, the rain by then having stopped, and blue sky in patches with the sun breaking through, but with the wind blowing so fiercely it caused the sea to bash against the rocks under the prom and almost break over the railings. And that wasn't even high tide! For almost the first time, the Bay looked like 'proper' sea, you know - with real waves like baby surf instead of a flat trickle in and a flat trickle out. Just loved watching it.

As we backed into our drive, the heavens opened again and it POURED down, so heavily that we had to sit in the car and wait for it to stop, which it did within five minutes (as it does), so we were able to get into the kitchen without getting wet before it started again.
(The wind got worse during the evening, our daughter phoned to ask us to check our garden, as her (plastic) greenhouse and contents had been blown down her (very sheltered) garden, as well as a heavy iron garden chair. Beloved checked our garden and things still seemed to be as they should be).

Even after having lunch at B.Grange, decided I would like a cuppa soup when we returned home (being that it was a cold day), and put a couple of slices of bread in the toaster to eat with it. The water had boiled so poured this into my mug, and made B his coffee, then heard a big bang, and discovered the toaster had stopped working. Couldn't lift the toast out, so went in and told B the toaster had blown up and left him to sort it. He came back into the living room to tell me all the (ring-main) electricity was off in the house (not the lights), and eventually discovered the main fuse had tripped. He was able to switch it back to normal.

Beloved discovered something in the toaster that looked like a bit of plastic - burnt on one side - and thought this must have caused the short circuit, but where this came from we had no idea, but had obviously cause a short circuit. To me it looked like a back tooth from the bottom of a denture, but we haven't lost any teeth at all dentures or otherwise, so it will remain a mystery. My only thought is it might have been wedged into a slice of bread, and not noticed when I took it from the packet. If it had been, and discovered before toasting, could have really hauled the supermarket over the coals over that. Maybe the bakery itself might have provided us with free bread for a year just to keep quiet.
Surprisingly the toaster is still working. Can never understand about 'the electrics'. Would have expected the fuse in the socket to have blown (which it hadn't) and the toaster to have gone kaput (which it hadn't), all that did happen was the main fuse tripped.

Now back to finances again. Despite my wish not to part with money for food at Barton Grange Farm shop, in the end did spend £10 (that's this weeks budget blown then!) on a duck breast and small pork pie for B, and a block of Parmesan and some oval shallots for me. So many other foods I would love to have bought, but had no room in the fridge/freezer for them, and anyway had confined myself to spending no more than £10 a week (but when does the week start? Better be each Tuesday when my groceries were delivered). There is always time to go to B.Grange again before Christmas I tell myself.

However, there was one item worth writing about at the above Centre - all three of us noticed it separately - this being a jar of preserve we saw on the shelf called 'Traffic Jam'. What a wonderful name. Holding the jar to the light the jam could be seen to be in three different coloured layers, green (gooseberry) jam at the bottom, amber (apricot) in the middle, and red (strawberry) at the top. Can't remember the exact price - but somewhere under £3. It crossed my mind that if any reader has made similar coloured jams, they could separately reheat a jar of each to boiling (purely to re-sterilise it once it had breathed in the air), then bottle up again in three jars, layering as above. Would make a great and very different gift for that Christmas hamper.

This morning woke with a very swollen face again, so my allergy has flared up (as expected because it seems to happen with regularity, and it was only on Wednesday that I said to B "Am due for my hamster cheeks again this week". This time am quite pleased as have an appointment with the practice nurse this morning to check my BP, and this is the first time I have been able to see anyone at the surgery while my face was in 'full bloom'. My face is swollen on both sides, cheeks and lips, and I look dreadful. Maybe now something can be done to find out why. Still feel it is the combination of pills that are doing it. Hope it stays swollen till late morning - the time of my appointment.

Yesterday (while preparing supper) checked on the Value carrots bought and they are exceedingly good quality, a 2 kg pack costing 85p (as said before, had bought two packs not realising they were that large). Counted the carrots in one of the packs and there were 20 - ranging from huge to not so huge, but none of them small.

Another purchase that was worth having was a Value Pack of chicken portions. Yes, I know not free-range, but Miserly is my middle name. Weight given as 2 kg on the pack but on weighing this turned out to have an extra 4 oz for the pack price which was £2.79p. We should always remember that the packs will never give less than the weight shown, sometimes more. This also applies to whole chickens that are sometimes sold at a set weight for a whole batch. Some are bound to be slightly heavier than others.

Anyway, the chicken joints had been bought as an alternative way to make chicken stock as already had plenty of chicken breasts in the freezer. The 2kg pack consisted of 14 chicken drumsticks and 6 chicken thighs - 20 portions in total (works out at around 14p each). This does seem good value when needing to feed a family and economise at the same time There will be plenty of flesh to take from the bones after using half a dozen joints to make stock, enough to make a proper meal in its own right, with enough left over to add to soup.

As a person who usually decides the main meal of the day on the day itself, am beginning to feel that it would make things much easier for me if a week's meals were planned at the start of each week, using only foods already in store.
Having food to hand makes a lot of difference to the cost of a meal, for if planning a week's meals BEFORE shopping for the ingredients, this could make meals much more expensive, unless we allow ourselves to be very flexible. It doesn't make financial sense deciding to have chops on Tuesday, when pork mince works out cheaper that week, or maybe not even pork mince if lamb's liver is even cheaper. We don't always have to buy the cheapest, but at least have a good look round to see if there is something cheaper we could buy instead.
By all means we can serve a meal made with meat, but when cost-cutting, the we should be guided more by price than a recipe.

Another way of saving - if chops are what we want to eat regardless of the price - is to not eat meat every day (if that is what we normally do) , and try alternating with a vegetarian main course. We need not deny ourselves animal protein (if that is what we feel we need) if we make a savoury dish that contains cheese and/or eggs, or a pudding that is made with eggs and milk.

Having myself bought nearly all foods at the lowest possible price, and these now stored away in the larder, fridge, freezer, kitchen cupboards, onion basket, potato bag etc., don't need to be concerned with the cost of a meal at all, just use what is there, as long as it lasts, and serving a good enough variety to keep Beloved happy. To make this more fun can 'role play' both grocer and customer, 'buying from myself' if I wish. This is often worth doing in any case, as it is a way to find out how much a meal will cost to make, and if not working to a set budget (like my £10 a week at the moment), we can pay ourselves real money for what we 'buy' to put into a piggy bank to later replace what has been used at hopefully at an even lower price than before.
There are times when kitchen accounting seems very similar to buying Euros when we read the paper to find out when the price exchange works best for us.
Suppose there is nothing to stop us doing this anyway. Buy Euros when the price is right, then exchange them back when we would get more £££s back than it cost us to buy them. Might suggest this idea to B. He is always up for making a bit of extra cash if he can.

Back to shopping for food and there savings we can make depending upon how we go about it. Much depends upon how an individual prefers to shop. Once a week, once a month, or only when necessary. It does seem that the more we can keep in store the easier it is to make extra beyond what is expected. This is because food will 'stretch' more easily when we have more to play with, especially when meals are planned ahead to make the most of what we use (egg yolks in one dish, egg whites in another. Breadcrumbs in one dish, crusts in another. Vegetable trimmings to make stocks and soups...etc.etc.).

Along with our black wheelie bin (for proper rubbish), we have a green wheelie bin (for garden waste), two black boxes with different coloured lids (for recyclable paper, bottles, cans, some plastic, cardboard etc and we can never work out what goes into which box so B sorts then takes the lot to the tip,), we have now been given a small grey plastic square bucket (with lid) to keep in the kitchen into which we must now put all our food waste, and had to smile when read the list of what goes into the box, for as we don't have 'left-over meals' to be scraped into the bin, or 'leftover' cooked or raw vegetables, or even egg-shells (these are crushed as a slug deterrent), no coffee grounds (we drink instant) and rarely a tea-bag, that leaves only bones to bin. Once the bin has been lined with newspaper or special disposable bags (these we may have to buy), the food is then to be wrapped up in the lining and put into the green bin. To be removed at collection by the refuse men and put elsewhere no doubt.

It is getting past a joke. We have to make quite sure all the right things go into the right bins or the bin-men won't empty them, some people even get fined if they get it wrong. People who have no front gardens sometimes have to wheel their bins through the house to get them put onto the street, and even this has to be at the right time. Put out a day too early could mean a fine.
Some streets are lined with nothing but waste bins and sacks of all colours, and what a mess THAT looks. Bring back the days when a dustbin took everything, and the refuse collectors walked down the drive to collect it, AND put it back. Why today can't they let refuse people sort all waste out at the depot? Seems that most of the time they are sorting it out on the street anyway taking only what should be there, the rest put back in the bins for us to sort out again.

This country is becoming far too much like George Orwell's book 1984. We can't do this, we can't do that, we mustn't say this, we shouldn't say that... At least we are still allowed to eat what we want, but for how long? Read yesterday something about 'fat' tax, at first I thought this meant anyone overweight would be taxed, but think it meant all foods containing over a certain amount of fat would have extra tax slapped on, so it would then cost us more. Perhaps that is what is already happening in America, for LizBeth is saying that butter is rapidly increasing in price. If butter can still be bought at a lower price, it is worth freezing. Unsalted keeps longer in the freezer than salted, but have myself have kept salted butter in the freezer for 6 months and it still seems perfect. Semi-skimmed milk will also freeze well (but not full cream milk).

Maybe worth giving this tip again, but have found that although reconstituted dried milk does taste different to fresh milk and not much liked, half and half of each, mixed together and put back either into a milk bottle or jug (or milk carton) looks - and tastes - like 'the real thing', and the family never notices. This reduces the cost of milk but we end up with virtually the same.

Also read the other day that doorstep deliveries of milk are going up by 3p (a pint?) and with the supermarkets selling it so much cheaper, and often reduced (my supermarket semi-skimmed worked out at 31p pint this week) can see doorstep deliveries soon becoming a thing of the past. Once all the milkmen have gone, probably we will then see the supermarket prices charging a lot more.

Checked the price of butter on my delivery statement Jo, and it did give it as 50p, so it must have been on offer on that day. Some offers seem to go from mid-week to mid-week rather than weekend to weekend. Was sure at the time of ordering that it was shown at 98p (still cheaper than Lurpak), so maybe an offer had just begun the day of delivery, for if I had known it would be that cheap would have bought a lot more and frozen some away. Tesco are good in that they notify (on the on-line order) if a promotion has been missed (even a BOGOF so we don't miss a freebie), and when it comes to lower price changes (offers), suggest the delivery date be changed to take advantage of these, but they don't mention forthcoming promotions, and at least it seems we pay only the lower price if we happen to have chosen a delivery day where the offer begins.

Watched Nigella last night, nodded off half-way through. Wish she didn't simper so much. Hugh F.W. is much more interesting. Think I managed to stay awake for most of his prog. Not sure about Hairy Bikers. When amateur cooks become involved in a programme this doesn't have the same appeal. Still feel that Jamie Oliver is my favourite at the moment.

The Edwardian Farm looks as though it is going to be worth watching, especially as this time it is set on the borders of Devon and Cornwall, at Morwellian Cove (think that is the right name) where we have visited. Think there was a type of 'living museum' going on there, with local shops and people dressed in Victorian costume.
Am so pleased the original 'team' are still together, as am particularly taken with Peter Ginn, who I think is the best thing since sliced bread. Apart from the fact Peter (in my eyes) is SO goodlooking, just love the way he walks with a sort of sideways swing to his step.

As it is now 7.15am (got up early this morning due to my face... and needing to take an antihistamine), see it is now just getting light and it does seem the fences around the garden seem to have withstood the gales. It was unbelieveably windy last night, said to be 80mph over the Irish Sea. Also a fair amount of snow has fallen over the Pennines, and across the bay we can see snow on the top of the Lakeland hills. This is early for winter, although we used to say if it snowed on or near the 19th November (in Leeds) then this would mean a lot more snow during the winter. Or did it mean no more snow during the winter? Can never remember. Have to see what this winter brings.

One good thing - unearthed a high-necked long sleeved back sweater from my wardrobe and wore it yesterday, and being pure lambswool it was lovely and warm, only needed my new cream poncho (bought at half price) over it, with a matching cream scarf (that I've had for years) and felt quite 'with it' yesterday. The sweater itself was 'free' being from a pile of (seemingly and hopefully unworn) clothes given to Beloved by a lady whose husband had died. Dare say a lot of clothes in charity shops come from a deceased's wardrobe, and can't say this really bothers me. Am just very grateful for the warmth this sweater (or 'jumper' as we used to call them) gives me.

All I want now is to buy a 'snood' that will wrap around my neck - to go up over my head if needs be - and also some sort of hat. Then Norris and I can scoot off hither and thither during the cold (but dry) winter days and get some fresh air. Very fresh air if yesterday is anything to go by.

Hope you enjoy your trip to Barton Grange tomorrow Eileen and look forward to hearing from you soon, with the hope that we can meet up sometime, perhaps next week/weekend.

Returning to culinary thoughts, my saffron crocus are now starting to bloom (indoors) and have managed to harvest the red saffron 'strands' from the centre of each flower that appears. If all bulbs eventually flower, should have managed to collect enough saffron this year to make it worth while buying the bulbs in the first place.

Exactly 9.00am and have now completed my blog for today, at a time when I might normally be starting. So that has allowed me a few extra hours to do things with. Starting with the kitchen. The table needs clearing again. Hope you find time to pop in and 'have a chat' sometime today. Looking forward to hearing from you.
In the meantime, hope you are coping with the atrocious weather, and that the worst has now passed you by.
Enjoy your day, and remember - tomorrow is the weekend again, a time to relax (or at least do something nice).