Saturday, December 03, 2011

Time Wasting...

Late start today due to me starting to wash the laundry and then discovering the machine was sticking again. After a spray of WD40 recently it still stuck on the first cycle, but after me moving the dial round (it works like a clock) to the next, then the next, it then carried on all by itself for the next hour, but stuck on 'spin'. Today it stuck on everything, so had to sit with it for the hour. Have just switched the spin cycle off, draped some of the washing over the racks on radiators and now free to have my morning 'chat'.

Thank you Les for your very astute comment re 'we didn't have it green then'. You really MUST send it to a newspaper or magazine (even a TV programme un 'being green') because everyone should take note of what you said.

Know what you mean gillibob about B and myself having individual settings on the comp. This is how it normally is, it was just because I 'allowed' B onto my 'side' and he - as he often does with anything I have - 'tampered' with my settings that caused the problem. In future won't let him on to my side again.
Steve would be able to sort all this out rapidly Les, but he lives the other side of the country and visits us rarely - and when last here (fairly recently) the current problem had not happened. No doubt I'll eventually get around to sorting it out for myself. At the moment, via other 'settings' can still get onto my blogsite, and also the Internet, but not through my main site.

A welcome and group hugs to Willow. As you say, the Penny Pinching programme was not very useful, but believe there will be other programmes relating to 'consumer saving' in the near future. If I find details in advance will give the date/time on this site.

Re our 'old money' and our decimal currency Lisa. Les (thank you) has given his version, but am including mine as I'd already written my reply to you in my notebook before I got to his comment.
Starting with my earliest memories, we had 240 pence to the £1. We also had smaller coins, a halfpenny ('hay-penny') and a farthing (4 farthings to a penny). Moving up from the penny we had 'thruppeny bits' (worth three pence), a sixpence (worth six pennies, sometimes called a 'tanner'), a shilling (12 pence, called 'a bob'), a two shilling piece (called a 'florin'), and a 'half crown' (worth two shillings and sixpence - written as 2/6.) We also had 'ten shilling notes', £1 notes, £5 notes, £10 notes and higher amounts, but the above was the normal currency for the working man (who probably never got paid more than £5 anyway in his wage packet at that time).
Over time we lost the farthing and the 'thrupenny bit', not even sure if we later lost the halfpenny, but when we went decimal in 1971 things really changed. We still had the 'penny' but no longer written as a 'd', it now was 'new pence' and now a 'p' was put next to the amount. There were only 100 'pees' to the £1 (each new penny then worth 2.5d in old money). This - of course - meant that although something still sounded cheap (say 1 pee) it was more than twice what it sounded like, and when changing 'old prices' to 'new' these were usually rounded UP, rarely - if ever - so everything ended up slightly dearer than before.

We lost our 10/- note, and now have a 50p piece to take its place. We then lost our £1 notes and have small thick pound coins instead. We also have £2 coins.
Our old 'shilling' is now a 5p piece (much the same in appearance to the old shilling), the 'florin' has been taken over by a 10p piece. We still have the bronze 1p pieces and small 'silver' coins that are worth what? I can't remember, they usually end up in a money-box where B puts all the small change.
We still have £5 notes and £10 notes and also £20 notes, and probably others worth more, but the ones mentioned are the only ones I come into contact with.

It's fairly easy to mentally 'convert' back into 'old money' when shopping, and probably wise to do so, for so many foods that were cheap in 'my day' are now horrendously expensive. Although I buy cheap eggs (8p each when I buy a tray of 15), the 'free-range' are around 25p each (now working out as four for a £1), and free-range 'organic' can be over 30p each (approx 3 for a £1).
Baking potatoes that used to be 1 (old) penny (1d) per lb (usually 2 or 3 large potatoes to the lb) now work out to at AT LEAST 10p for each potato (this would be 2/- EACH in old money).

The US currency interests me (a bit). Like our 'decimal currency' the US dollar is also divided into 100 individual coins (these I think are called cents). Then there are nickels (?) and dimes (?) and think there are still dollar 'notes' (greenbacks?). Enlighten me Lisa, I may have got it wrong.

Still with Lisa. Do hope you get to watch Midsomer Murders. It's a very gentle detective series that really represents our rural way of life. Most of the interiors 'scenes' in most series today are always filmed in real houses, hardly even in film/studio 'sets'. Many people here put their homes on a 'list' in the hope that the film companies will use them - even if only for an outdoor shot. Often we may see someone in a series drive up to a house, then knock on the door and never even enter the property, but the owner of the house is paid for letting them use it. We were paid quite well for allowing our kitchen to be used in The Goode Kitchen cookery series. Next door were paid for letting the BBC park their outside broadcast vans in the road outside their house.

When I like a series I also watch the repeats. Many times. But then tend to view the 'background' more, perhaps hoping to find something that 'continuity' have got wrong. Have to say that 'Rosemary and Thyme' get their seasons quite out of order. The women walk through a patch of daffodils growing in an allotment, open a greenhouse door and 'hey presto' it is full of tall tomatoplants laden with very ripe tomatoes. In a later shot in the same episode they will be in a garden where the hydrangeas are in full bloom, then almost immediately afterwards walk through a wood full of bluebells!

A welcome and hugs to Kay, another new reader who I hope (as with all new readers) will stay and join our happy clan of cost-cutters.
Myself also enjoy Foyle's War and watched it last night on ITV3 catching the end of Poirot (another great favourite - this episode being part-filmed in Morecambe at The Midland Hotel -although think the interior shots were 'sets' not filmed in the hotel, although if I remember Poiret did come down the (real) magnificent spiral staircase there. Noticed that it was filmed in MCMXC (think this means 1990) so not sure whether the hotel was still used as a hotel then, or had been closed but possibly not yet 'derelict'. Do know it was empty for many years before being recently refurbished and re-opened.

Corned beef hash makes a good meal E.G. especially with diced cooked beetroot added (then called 'Red Flannel Hash'.
Pleased you noted how the woman on the 'penny pinching' programme seemed to be interested only in branded foods. Over the years have bought the occasional 'own-brand' and in many cases found these to be just as good (but far cheaper) than the equivalent 'branded', and have stayed with the cheaper. We have always been led to believe that 'own-brand' is (almost) second-class, but this is not so.
We like Tesco's Value butter just as much as Lurpak, Tesco's sardines as good as (if not better) than the much more expensive branded. Even Tesco's baked beans taste good (although perhaps too much sauce).

Thinking about foods sold in the US. When we visited our daughter she pleaded for us to bring some Marmite, tea leaves, Smarties, bars of Cadbury's chocolate, and Heinz Salad Cream for her as they were either unobtainable in the US or far too expensive. There are a few 'English' shops that import the above I believe (and tea-pots, another request by our daughter), but transport and other charges put the price over the heads of most people.

Have seen a recent advert on our TV for 'Yorkshire Tea', this now specially blended for a certain state in America where the water there is very hard. What interest that has to us I don't know, and myself feel it really won't taste as good as it could, whatever the blend - having drunk what 'tea' when we were in the US.
When at a diner, and asking for a glass of water, it smelt like swimming baths and tasted strongly of chlorine. Heaven help tea made with that. In any case it soes seem the American way to make tea is to put some hot water into a mug (sometimes more warm than hot), then drop a tea-bag into it. Let it cool slightly, remove the bag, add milk if you wish, then drink.

There is only one way to make a good cup of tea, the water needs to be freshly boiled, the tea-pot preheated with boiling water, emptied and then a teaspoon of tealeaves per person and 'one for the pot' put into the warm pot and freshly boiled water poured over. Lid on (preferably a tea-cosy put over to keep the pot warm) and then left for a few minutes for the tea to 'brew'. It should then be poured out through a tea-strainer into a china tea-cup. Some people put milk into the cup first, but it is always best to add milk last as then the amount can be judged. Some people like weak tea, others like it stronger.
Or is that now old-fashioned? More often than not today we seem to have tea made by putting a tea-bag in a mug and pouring boiling water over (at least it is boiling) again letting it 'brew' for a minute or two before removing the bag and adding the milk and any sweetening required. This way really doesn't taste as good.

Real tea buffs will drink different tea at different times of the day. Myself prefer 'English Breakfast' tea in the morning and Earl Grey at tea-time (no milk but with a slice of lemon), although this is more 'preference' than actuality these days. Now tend to drink 'green tea' made with a tea-bag (no milk, one sweetener). Supposed to raise the metabolism, and it certainly does give me a 'lift' when tired.

Not much of interest happened yesterday, but a few new 'trials' worked well. The cooked brisket (after overnight in the fridge) sliced well, but being 'rolled' and tied, rather than one thick piece, tended to break up into smaller slices when carved. It was amazingly tender, just melted in the mouth. Smaller slices were not a problem, although was left with quite a large amount of broken bits (more like 'shreds') that have now been boxed up and frozen as these can be used to make either: Cottage Pie; Chilli con Carne; Spag Bol Meat Sauce; or even blended with butter and spices to make Meat Paste.

Instead of the planned 'roast beef supper with all the trimmings' yesterday, changed my mind and made a beef casserole, and - as I was boiling down the rich stock to reduce - decided to cook the sliced carrots in this stock, and when they were cooked to 'al dente' removed them and cooked some parsnips also in the stock. These then took up some of the beefy flavour and the stock also gained more flavour.
About half an hour before serving supper, put some cauliflower florets (that needed using up) into the microwave to steam, and fried a sliced onion and some mushrooms on the hob. To the onions/mushrooms then added some of the stock, plus a bit of Bisto Best beef granules to help thicken the 'gravy', topped this with the cooked carrots and parsnips, covered these with slices of brisket, and let it simmer.
When the cauli was cooked, put a large potato in the microwave to cook as a 'jacket', then made up some Mild Cream Pepper Sauce (from a packet - half a packet actually), stirred the cooked cauli into that, then plated up the meal.

Incidentally, having a number of mushrooms that were almost past their best (so needed using up), removed the stalks and peeled them, then placed them on a cake airer and into a VERY low oven (50C) to let them dry out. Which they eventually did. The mushrooms originally covered the wire rack, but after drying had shrunk to tiny pieces. But at least they were dry and are now in an air-tight jar to be stored to use at a later date.

Earlier had whipped up some double cream until really thick, then removed the top from eight puff pastry not-quite-vol-au-vents that hadn't worked. Pesto being only on the top layer.
Split the left-over 'chunks' of pastry in half, then spread each with (home-made) strawberry jam, and sandwiched them together with a thick layer of the whipped cream, so the 'golden' side of the pastry (the bottoms) stayed on top (and bottom).
Just the right size for a 'mouthful', which meant no crumbs (which would have happened if the 'vanilla slices' had been the normal size).
Beloved really loved his meal last night. That always pleases me.

My main meal was at lunch time, and cannot remember what I had. Did treat myself to two Magnum Minis after B had left for his 'social' that evening. Didn't tell him I had bought a box of six as wanted them all to myself. He buys himself huge tubs of ice-cream and never offers me any, so felt I wasn't being too selfish. I might JUST let him have the last coffee liqueur one (I prefer the limoncello one myself) as by then the rest will have been eaten - by ME!!

Looks like being a lovely day - after a rainy start. It is still cold, but has been colder. This time last year we were ankle deep in snow, so suppose we are fortunate. They say it has been the warmest November for AGES (perhaps since records began - which is not THAT long ago). The last of the leaves have fallen from our apple tree during the recent gales. Not even sure I dare mention we had a tornado (Wales and in the North-west) last week as those in the US would laugh. Our tornado overturned a few caravans, a tree or two uprooted, and it also removed a few tiles from roofs, and a chimney stack collapsed and the bricks nearly fell on someone. One person was even blown off her feet. And that was about it. Not quite in the same league as the American tornados, but to us it was (probably) scary, certainly 'bad' enough to make the news.

Was it Les who said the UK is not a country? Have I made a fatal error and led readers to believe it was? Supposed the United Kingdom (aka) UK, is much the same as the 'British Isles' composed of the 'countries' of Scotland, Wales, England, and Northern Ireland (Ulster), Don't think this includes the Isle of Man as it has its own government and currency, but think most of us tend to think of Britain (including I.O.M) as the UK and a composite 'country'. We could go further and consider ourselves to be 'European', but we tend to leave that title to the other countries all locked together on the continent. We like to feel (and remain) above all that. Well, at least I hope we do.

Recipe following makes good use of small amounts of either raw (or cooked) minced meat. This version uses beef, but the dish would also 'eat well' if pork/ham was used instead. Once we have the meat, the remaining ingredients are from our 'stores', so easy enough to make. Even without using meat (and adding more of the rest) this meal could help fill corners of our 'tums'. Once made it can be frozen, so am giving the amount needed to serve 8, so that half can be eaten the rest frozen to eat another day. If you prefer, use a stock cube (flavour to go with meat used) and boiling water instead of the stock.
Beefy Bean Hotpot: serves 8
1 tblsp sunflower oil
1lb 8 oz (675g) minced beef (see above)
approx 2 pints (1.2 litrs) boiling beef stock (see above)
2 large onions, cut into wedges
1 lb (450g) carrots, thickly sliced
2 lbs (1kg) potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
2 x 400g baked beans
Worcestershire sauce or Tasbasco
chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper
If using raw minced meat, first fry this in the oil until browned, then add the vegetables, mixing together well, then pour enough stock over to cover. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat, give another stir then cover pan and leave to simmer for about 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
If using cooked meat, first fry the vegetables, then add the stock and continue above, adding the cooked minced meat about 5 minutes before the end of the cooking time.
Whichever way you choose, once the veggies are cooked, then add the baked beans and either Worcestershire sauce or - if you like it spicier' - add Tabasco - the amount used 'to taste'. Stir well and heath through. Taste, and - if you feel it needs it - add salt and pepper. Serve sprinkled with fresh parsley.

Next recipe is a meatless main course. Again with beans but this time 'flageolet' instead of baked beans. But almost any type of dried (then cooked ) bean could be used. Cream cheese (Philly type) - very slightly diluted with milk - could be used instead of the cream fraiche.
Bean Crumble: serves 4
1 tblsp olive or sunflower oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 - 3 cloves garlic (to taste), crushed
3 x 400g cans flageolet beans (see above)
5 tblsp creme fraiche
2 tsp dried mixed herbs
salt and pepper
5 oz (150g) fresh breadcrumbs
3 oz (75g) Cheddar cheese, grated
Fry the onion in the oil over low-to medium heat for about 5 minutes until softened, then stir in the garlic and fry for a further minute. Drain and rinse the beans then add them to the pan with the dried herbs and creme fraiche. Add seasoning to taste, the stir and cook until heated through. Pour into a heated, shallow ovenproof dish.
Mix together the breadcrumbs and the cheese, then scatter these over the top of the bean mixture. Pop under a hot grill and cook until the top is crispy and golden. Take the dish to the table for serving. Good eaten with a crisp green salad.

Because of my 'laundry delay' am running late, so will now sign off. Strange weather at the moment, on the south side of our garden we have nothing but blue sky to be seen, on the north side nothing but cloud, with the wind coming from the west, we must be on 'the edge' when it comes to rain, and so it could either rain or stay dry. For once - maybe our garden will have a 'dry side' and a 'wet side'.

Enjoy your weekend. Think perhaps I should write my Christmas cards today/tomorrow and get them sent off before we have a mail strike or something. Hope you will be able to join me again tomorrow. Enjoy your day.