Friday, December 02, 2011

How It Really Is.

Lovely comments to reply to, but before that wish to give a mentionre something I read in the paper yesterday. It puzzled me. When I grew up always believed that 'working class' were 'labourers' who earned a wage. Lower middle class were more the office workers who earned a salary. The upper middle class were the ones who owned the business. The upper-class were wealthy - didn't need to work, probably owned a lot of land (rent from that) and lived in huge houses and inherited much of their wealth.

Today all this 'class' system seems topsy turvy. Many of the 'working class' are now too eager to live on benefits to bother to work at all. The middle class can't find work and according to recent surveys are finding it hard to rub two pennies together with some having to ask for charity to help feed their families. Those 'upper middles' who own small businesses are now having to close due to unable to find the money to keep them going, the wealthy - well, who knows. Having the upkeep/maintenance of their large homes means they too can be 'cash-poor'.

We have of course the 'nouveau riche' - those who are maybe from 'working class' backgrouns but fortunate enough to have make a lot of money through being 'celebrities'. Anyway today, what we used to think of as 'class' is now categoried as 'by income'. Ingnoring the rich, the levels that most concern me 'middle income', 'the lower income' and those at 'the poverty level' (the latter which we had just reached and now well entrenched due to the very much higher fuel prices that take more of our pension).

So when I read yesterday that in 2015 people will not earn more than they did in 2002, I wondered what that would lead to - considering the state of the nation today (on Question Time last night it was said at the moment our (nation's) finances are about equal with the Greeks). The article continued with "by that year (2015) a couple on the median income (B says that means middle income) with two children will have £31,521 of disposable income - £227 worse off than in 2002".

Well, excuse me - doesn't 'disposable income' mean that left over after all bills have been paid? Including food (or even not). If we had that amount left as 'spendos' I'd consider us definitely 'wealthy'. In any case £227 from the full 'disposable' is only a drop in the ocean. So how is it that now those on middle income seem to be getting into more and more debt (and as I said above - having to resort to charity to feed and clothe their offspring?). Do so many 'really' have that much 'disposable income', or is it just 'statistics' that seem to be able to prove anything anyone wants them to.
Maybe today we are just geared to spend, spend, spend. We are even encouraged to do so to help the nation's economics - businesses need our money, we must buy their products. With what I ask?

A welcome to E.G. (with our group hugs). Yes I did watch the Penny-Pinching programme, but not sure it helped. Where did the woman get all her money-off vouchers from? She seemed to have collected hundreds (and don't most have to be used within a limited time?). She did save a lot though, but that's not me.

Another thing that bugged me on the prog. was the man who ate only meat from 'road-kill'. True, we were shown how he found a dead (and headless) pheasant on the road which he put in his car, also a pigeon, AND a squirrel. He said that had saved him (was it) about £25. The only thing that came into my mind was the time he spent driving around looking for free meat to eat, he appeared to do this regularly, and it is rare to find road-kill each trip, so the cost of the fuel used (his car was not small) must have been exceeded that amount.

It did - however - make me think, as - having read that there are a lot of creatures in our gardens that it is legal for us to kill without a licence - the way things are going we all might going down that route. Magpies, pigeons, squirrels and so on are counted as 'pests' so free to be killed if we wish do so. The seven magpies on our fence would have made a gigantic pie. Or am I beginning to sound a bit like Jeremy Clarkson?
Almost certainly I will be taking up fishing from the prom as a 'necessary hobby' next year(no licence needed for catching sea I understand), as I've seen many men there fishing (but oddly no women) near where we live, they seem to catch plenty of flat fish (unfortunately myself prefer 'chunky' fish, but we all have to make sacrifices).

Watched the Amish prog. but didn't find it as interesting as the first, probably because I kept wanting to nod 0ff (I'd knocked this and the above prog forward an hour so I could watch the end of Masterchef). But although a hard life by our standards, a much happier one, and this is coming across to their young English visitors. Hopefully us too.

Another new reader to welcome (with hugs) - Ann. Seems she, like several other readers, have a husband not to be trusted to touch anything. Almost wish he had cut the roof beam down just to see the look on his face (or yours!).

Les and gillibob have both mentioned me having a password for my 'sides' of the comp. Beloved has one for his although I know what it is, so what's the point? Myself have nothing on my 'side' that needs to be kept private. Even my emails am happy for him to read if he wishes to (he doesn't). He had to come on to my side to watch iPlayer as the comp had been set up that way, so perhaps I should have got the page up on the screen before he sat down. My mistake was expecting him to click the right button - which he didn't although told him to follow my directions, you can't mistake the icon for Internet then Chrome on the start list can you? He decided not to go to 'start' (because he didn't think he needed to, so we know what THAT means) for some reason chose to go directly to Chrome and miss out connecting on broadband (via the internet button), and connected via Chrome instead which caused the disruption. Now our comp seems to think we don't want 'Explorer' anymore.

Interesting Les that you should mention B being wasteful re lights etc. When he paid the bills he continually switched every light off except the room he was in, even when our four teenagers were continually moving back and forth between their rooms and the kitchen. When one came through the living room door where he sat, and then went out without closing it fully, he would shout "Door!" after them at the top of his voice (and that's LOUD) to make them come back to shut it. Yet, when he went out he quite often didn't shut the door "because I was coming back again..")

B was not earning enough money to pay all the bills, so we were constantly in debt. We had to sell things to help keep our heads above water. When he lost his job, he couldn't get another - at least not at first, and then only short-term jobs - so when he eventually retired it was a great relief to receive the state pension because it was at least 'guaranteed'. No longer did I worry that he would (again) be out of work. Dole money in those days was minimal.
B wanted me to have the pension paid into my bank, and me then onwards to pay all the bills. This relieve him of the responsiblity (he's never been fond of that), and to his credit he did then get a part-time job as a delivery man for a florist, which brought him in over £100 a week (much more at busy times like Mother's Day, Valentine's Day etc) which was to be kept by him as his pocket money'. I was happy with that as he was then able o keep his very old car on the road, and pay for his (fairly expensive) sailing holidays.

This worked well, other than that now I pay the bills he seems it is OK to walk in or out of a room and leave the door wide open ("well, the central heating is on and the place is warm throughout"), the lights on - especially all night in the kitchen "to prevent burglars", and keep all his 'top-up' plugs (razor, toothbrush, mobile...) in the sockets, unused but still switched on. He knows I can cope within the pension money, and when I put my mind to it manage to save some as well. Not that I give him any of it. It stays in the bank.

Wish we could get sugar sold at a reduced price (as Margie can in Toronto). Doubt this will ever become one of a store's 'loss leaders' in this country.
As you say M, many husbands are selfish. MOST husbands I think. At least we wives are not so repressed as those in many Arab states. We should be thankful for that, but then maybe many quite like it that way. At least they know their place. Once we step out from that to a 'higher level' this can often cause more problems.

Am wondering what British programmes you will be able to watch in the US Lisa? Suppose like many American progs we watch here (mainly 'House', 'Friends' and the many detective progs) they don't show (our life as it really is). Or maybe they do, we are inclined to show our life (even the 'soaps' ) as it is.
If you are able to watch 'Midsomer Murders' then you will have a good idea of what our English villages and countryside can be like ( although every region is different). We have plenty of programmes that travel all over the country where we can see 'the lie of the land' when seen from the air. Also much about our historical roots, farming traditions, regional foods etc, so let's hope some of these come your way. Do let us know what you will be watching.

We too use to make our own crackers (using the cardboard rolls left from loo rolls for the centre), but have found (more recently now the family has grown up) it is worth buying the really cheap ready-made crackers, then carefully opening one end and putting a much more 'useful' gift inside. Even the very expensive crackers can't compete.
A few suggestions for 'cracker gifts' are anything that will fit in/fold and suitable/useful for the person who the 'cracker' is given to: a book of postage stamps; a pack of seeds; a lipstick; a scratch card or Lottery ticket; nail clippers; pair of earrings; packet of sewing needles; cocktail sticks; perfume sample bottle; bottle nail varnish.etc... Readers may be able to give other suggestions.

The mention of lace edging to shelves took me back to the past. My mother did a lot of fine crochet (edgings, curtains etc), B's mother and sister also, we have many linen items with edges crocheted by them (some with their initials worked in).
Many years ago was able to buy (from Lakeland I think) paper 'lace' edging to put around shelves. Suppose it would be possible to fold up strips of white paper fold and cut out patterns that when unfolded would resemble coarse crochet - and be placed along shelf ledges. We can still buy paper 'lace' doilies, so these too could be cut up and used as shelf 'trimmings'.

Your mention Elaine, of converting decimal prices back to ££s is one that many of us 'oldies' probably still do. It certainly does make us think twice before buying something. Who would have ever believed that bread would cost one pound ten shillings a loaf? Not sure what it was in my day, but only pennies. Potatoes were an old penny per lb (a decimal penny is equal to 2.5 old pennies), and I remember in the 60s beer being 11d (not quite 5p) per pint.
Prices of course are relative to a wage earned, in those days, food products had a price set by the manufacturers, every shop had to keep to that price. To keep our custom remember that many stores used to give away things with purchases (think this was mentioned in the Penny Pinching prog, or was it Hairy Bikers?). Some things such as dented tins, broken biscuits etc were allowed to be sold cheaper.

Elaine, you - like many women, including myself - probably watch the 'Grumpy' series on TV. Certainly 'Grumpy Old Men' fits my Beloved to a tee. Myself can related to EVERYTHING said in 'Grumpy Old Women' (and G.O.Men) because it is all so TRUE. It gladdens my heart to know that I'm not alone in my 'grumpiness', and there are thousands (if not millions) out there who share my thoughts on the way life is 'declining' today.

Sorry Cheesepare, the nibbles were packed an taken last night, and I didn't' think of photographing them. Some didn't end up as I wish, so kept those to 'nibble' at home. These mainly the ones made with puff pastry. I always buy puff pastry (as do many 'proper' chefs), and before, this has never risen to my satisfaction, yesterday - for some reason - this new pack rose and rose and rose. I even sliced the 'thickness' in half to 'thin it down' but it still rose and rose and rose and any topping put on was just about obliterated. Despite cutting the pastry into small pieces it ended up far too much pastry and the 'tasty bits' were lost.

What did work was the sausage roll. Well, it started off like that, but the roll was then cut into thin slices, each laid on its side so it ended up as a 'sausage in a circle'. As I had rolled the pastry out without a good 'overlap' after wrapping round the (skinned) sausages, these 'circles' shrank slightly, leaving an open end, then looking like a round bit of sausage wrapped in a horseshoe. So that's what I called them: 'Sausage Horseshoes'.
Other things made were celery sticks filled with smoked goat's cheese (served cut into short lengths), assorted cheeses cut into chunks and speared on cocktails sticks between either green grapes or halved cherry tomatoes.

Wanted to serve smoked salmon, so sliced a mini-bread loaf (made from some granary dough when baking a full-sized loaf). Spread each slice with cream cheese, and topped with smoked salmon. Also sliced cucumber fairly thinly, put a dollop of smoked salmon on the top of each, then folded the cucumber to contain the fish and speared two of these onto a cocktails stick. Gave a sprinkle of black pepper over each and served with lemon wedges.
The mini-loaf was baked in a paper case (bought from Lakeland) these made to either hold 'ready-mades' to be given as gifts, but can also be used for baking. See that Lakeland also sell metal mini-loaf tins, and these small loaves am finding to be most useful. Good to serve with a bowl of soup, or sliced to use as a base for canapes.
We could probably make mini-loaf tins ourselves by moulding several thicknesses of foil into the right shape, or covering stiff card with foil then assembling to make a 'baking tin'.

Another 'nibble' was small picnic 'pork' pies (bought) flavoured with chorizo and red pepper. Cut each into wedges. Tried one piece and just LOVED it.

As there were only a handful of people at the wine-tasting, and the nibbles were to be eaten after and not during the tasting, wasn't too bothered about what went with wine or not. Knew cheese certainly did, so also included a tray of cubes of Lancashire cheese with fingers of my recently made Christmas Cake. Not a lot of that left now, so we will probably eat the rest and I'll make another one.

What else was there? Oh yes, was intending to make Parmesan crisps, but instead - having two flour tortillas that needed using up (left from a fajitas kit), cut these into wedges, placed them on a baking sheet, sprinkling Parmesan over them, then baked in the oven (200C) for about 5 minutes. No longer or they start to burn. This dried out the tortillas and melted the cheese, and after cooling they were wonderfully crisp and tasty.

To make sure there were enough 'nibbles' filled a divided plastic plate with the last of some spag.bol flavoured Pringles, some Ryvita cheese and chive 'bites', and the above Parmesan 'crisps'. Think that was about it.
According to B, almost everything got eaten, and it does help to know that a few 'bites' are left then I know I've made enough. A good rule of thumb when providing 'nibbles' is to allow 8 canapes/bites etc for each person. My daughter had requested not to send too much, so I didn't make as much as intended, but did provide enough.

Regarding 'basics' C.P. Yes do prefer to make my own stock, but not always. Certainly always make chicken stock as cubes tend to be over-salty. Have bought Tesco's beef stock cubes and they are - well - worth the money. Which doesn't say much. Haven't tried their chicken cubes for obvious reasons (make my own).

At the moment am making beef 'stock' by cooking DR's cheaper cuts of meat (on offer of course) in my slow cooker, then - the next day - cooking more meat in the same cooking liquid, so this then becomes very full of flavour. This 'stock' is then frozen, some with meat to serve later, and some in tubs on its own. All of course clearly labelled.

In the old days used to use the concentrated Bovril (still sold in jars), and use a teaspoonful to add flavour to a casserole. This also - when stirred into a cup of very hot water - made a good drink. Almost a beef consomme!
I use Marmite in the same way. Makes a good drink and also can be used instead of meat stock when making a vegetarian casserole. As well as spreading it on toast. My favourite sarnie is now chopped hardboiled egg mixed with a little Marmite (or spread the Marmite on buttered bread and top with egg mayo). An idea given me by my friend Gill.

Do you mean start sowing seeds on Boxing Day, CP or ordering/buying them? Normally, the earliest seeds can be sown (other than winter-growing salad leaves) is February (the time I sow tomato seeds. Indoors of course. But suppose other seeds could be sown, broad beans, sweet peas etc. Much depends upon the weather I suppose.

If I come across a cookbook (new or secondhand) that covers 'economy (or budget) recipes, then I can't wait to read it. Sometimes even buy it. Yet most of the main ingredients use come under 'expensive' as far as I'm concerned. Perhaps I've not yet caught up with the way life is today, and everything has to cost a lot or it isn't worth having.

Here's an example (name only - am not giving the recipe) from a 'book of budget recipes':
Duck Tagine with Clementines
Smoked Salmon and Grapefruit Salad
Asparagus and Parmesan pastries
Mussels steamed with Cider and Bacon
Peppers, Artichokes and Mozzarella Tarts

of course plenty that are cheaper, but none that I consider low enough cost to come under my 'budget banner'. The word 'cheap' can be misleading. 'Cheap' food/meals etc sound second-class, at the paupers level (my level it could be said), but when I use the word it always means 'inexpensive'. 'Cheap' is just easier to type at speed, though having to put it in 'quotes' slows me down a bit as that key sticks (as do one or two others). Can anyone suggest how to 'unstick' them without damaging the key-board. A spray of WD40 perhaps? Les will know.

For B's supper tonight will be making him a 'roast beef' supper. This will be slices of the cooked brisket with its red-wine gravy thickened with a bit of Bisto. Served with Yorkshire pudding, Brussels sprouts, roast potatoes, and - by request - parsnips. Perhaps carrots as well, so I can make my own supper of 'mixed cooked veggies' with beef gravy. Maybe even a bit of meat as well.
As now tend to eat my 'main meal' at lunchtime (this suits my digestion better and also helps me reduce my weight) may change my mind about my own meal. But B's supper is set in stone as far as he is concerned.

Have much kitchen work to do today (like tidying up after yesterday's marathon cook-in), so will leave you (again without a recipe because I got up late. and haven't left myself enough time to include one. My fault for rambling on again. Will I never stop?

Have just checked the date to see when December starts and found it already has. Where does the time go? Only yesterday believed it was not much further than mid-November, so the run-up to Christmas must start today.
Noticed yesterday two Christmas baubles on a kitchen shelf left from last year. All they need is the dust blowing off. With any luck will find more then that's the decorating already done!! Just joking. True the baubles were there, but have plans to make decorations this year, and if they work will photograph them for you.

Hope you will all have some free time tomorrow so that we can all meet up again. If so - see you then.