Friday, March 30, 2012

Can It Get Better?

Apologies for late start due mainly to me not going to bed until 4.00am this morning (so late rising).
It has not been a good day in many respects. Although the sun was shining and I took my lunch out to eat on the 'family bench', there was a chill breeze so after doing only one crossword and after lunch was eaten took myself back indoors. Thing got (sort of) worse.

My Beloved had taken himself off to Morrison's to buy himself more lemonade. It would make sense to bring home a dozen or so 2 lt bottles at a time, but then he wouldn't be able to go and saunter round the supermarket so often - this seeming to be one thing he enjoys doing.
B returned very grumpy. He had been unable to turn off into the Morrison's complex as the road leading there from the main road was blocked with traffic queuing up to get petrol from Morrison's petrol station. Much of the main road itself was also full of traffic that had joined the end of the queue and this 'gridlock' (which curled round a roundabout) had blocked the main road traffic, even the buses couldn't get through. B says people were leaning out of car windows shouting at each other, and why the sudden rush to get petrol I don't know for we won't be having a strike (it at all) until at least after Easter (they have to give a week's notice and so far have not had their ACAS meeting to try and resolve the problems). By then any fuel topped up yesterday will have gone and the queues will then start all over again.

Our government seems to have no idea on how to run this country in the best way possible. When we had the last election and coalition we all hoped things would improve, but each day we hear about more and more 'elf and safety (stupid) restrictions, and (apart from the possible fuel strike) the latest talking point is putting VAT on hot meat pies. Tax free when bought cold, but pay an extra 20% of bought hot. It would be SO easy for a store to avoid this tax by selling only cold pies at one end of the counter and paying for them then and then, with a 'free' heat of pie offered (by microwave) so by the time the customers have got to the other end of the counter they have the pies heated for them.
There is some sense I suppose in the VAT for all hot food bought at take-aways are VAT rated, this is for stores (such as supermarkets - and do they ever sell hot food to take-away?) are able to avoid said tax.

They say food is tax free, but this is not strictly true. For instance plain digestive biscuits are VAT free, but this tax is placed on digestives when chocolate coated. So we can save the tax by buying plain biscuits and spreading the back of each with melted chocolate ourselves. This does work out cheaper - I've done it myself.

Earlier this week Beloved had gone to our daughter's to take her to the shops and he was very late back due to part of Lancaster being closed off. Police cars everywhere. It turned out a mortar bomb had been found - and that meant the loop road through Lancaster was not all accessible, so meant a way had to be found back to Morecambe (not easy).
There was no mention of the bomb on the local (TV) news, and the following day my daughter (who lives in Lancaster close to town centre) said the police were still everywhere with a helicopter hovering overhead. Still nothing on the news that day or yesterday. Managed to discover (this morning) - via the Internet - that there had been a mortar bomb found in an attic in an empty home but had been detonated (so safe), the following police presence (and 'copter') was due to an armed raid on the Post Office (or was it a bank?) where the raider ran off and was being hunted.

Good news, bad news in some ways I suppose, but still felt fed up with the mass panic that car drivers seem to be having (re the possible tanker driver's strike). Many fuel stations ran out of a week's fuel in two days and having to wait five more days before another delivery is due. This has meant any sales they get in their little 'shop', will also be affected as people only want to buy fuel and nothing else, and if their shop is closed for a few days....!
Morrison's too would have been affected as many people who wished to shop their yesterday would turn away when they realise they couldn't reach the store due to the petrol queues.

During yesterday evening did at least enjoy watching the first half of the Hairy Biker's 'Bakeation'. The amazing variety of breads baked in Germany (and just managed to see the start of the gateau bit) made me wish to holiday there myself - like now!

Later watched a programme about China and have to say they put us to shame with their attitude to work. Almost certainly work TOO hard as 12 hours a day, seven days a week with just three days off for Chinese New Year is pushing it a bit. And they don't get paid that well. But that is there culture and this is proving to turn them into a nation that will far outstrip any others. As the British Empire was once great (and now no longer), soon the USA will be in a decline (if not already) and China will be the master power.

There was an earlier programme on about a colony of bees in Africa. Bees too seem 'programmed' to work constantly. Not quite sure how each young bee knows whether it is a 'worker', 'drone' or 'housekeeper' bee, but whatever task they are genetically programmed to do, they do it constantly from the moment of birth until their death, with their queen bee having master control of the hive. When I watched the programme about China could see this being almost a mirror image of 'hive mentality. But it works.

If only the workers in our country could take on some of these 'work ethics', maybe the recession we have now would be soon over. We managed to bring our country out of the depths immediately the war was over, purely by everyone pulling together and building up our industry again. Why can't we do it now.
During the evening also watched the weekly political 'panel' answering questions from the audience. Did at least learn that the tanker driver's strike was about safety, no mention of their wages being increased (but this was part of their 'deal' mentioned previously). According to B less than 50% of the driver's want to strike, and it is the unions that are calling them all out, so it remains to see whether the power lies with the drivers or the union.

Our government isn't helping. Suggesting we fill jerry cans with petrol and keep them in our garage 'just in case' will almost certainly go against 'elf and safety'. No-one is supposed to keep even a small can of petrol in case of spillage/fire etc. Makes sense.

All the country has to do if we get a strike is to stop travelling in cars. Maybe stop travelling at all if buses are not available. Sit at home and wait for the nation to grind to a halt. When empty shelves appear in shops and domestic stores run low will the lorry driver's wives put up with that, will the driver's themselves feel the pinch when there is no beer able to be delivered to the pubs? Sometimes the best thing to do is let strikes carry on and do nothing. This may sound silly, but (as a mother) do know that ignoring (bad or not) behaviour - trying to force a reaction, can usually bring the offending offspring crawling back with their tail between their legs when they find what they do affects their own life-style.
But maybe this is too easy a remedy. At least I'm not running the country (but how often I do wish I were!).

After the doom and gloom on the politics programme, decided to stay up and watch the repeat of 'Orbit' not having seen this first time round (my daughter said it was a wonderful programme and 'must see'). At least this lifted me from 'ground-level' and all global civilisation and all it's global problems and warfare, and made me see how insignificant we are, not just individually, but everyone. Whether we are here or not, the world still continues in it's own magnificent way, and if we can only realise that perhaps this Earth is the Paradise we all seek and stop trying to ruin it with pollution et al, or invent destructive bombs, tear down forests, and do everything we can to disturb the balance of nature, instead becoming its 'caretakers' to just keep it 'tidy' (although it is perfectly capable of doing this itself), then perhaps we (as creatures of this planet) would end up far happier.
You can see it doesn't take much for me to start spouting forth about how our country (or even world) should be run. And probably none of it makes any sense at all.

But yet - one more thing I MUST mention (and little to do with work - other than this is the latest 'invention' for a way for "poor people" to save money by using less fuel). Save money? That's a laugh, for you need to spend £35 to buy this new 'fuel-less cooker' and many readers (who have read this column a year or so back) will remember me suggesting how to make almost exactly the same thing 'for free' by using a polystyrene box, filling it with polystyrene beads (or broken bits of polystyrene, in which a pre-heated to boiling point casserole can be placed. A cover of the beads, a lid on top and it will be the 21st century version of the old 'hay-box' form of cookery.
So we now see the "Wonderbag" on sale. This being a round pumpkin shape cushion, with a place in the middle to fit the cooking pot, the cushions (base and sides) being filled with recycled polystyrene beads (good use for an old 'bean bag'). A thick cushion filled with the same beads would then be placed on top once the pot is comfortably settled, and then left for many, many hours to cook very, very slowly.

You won't believe this, but 5 million of these Wonderbags have been ordered for South Africa, and a couple of global companies are aiming to get 100 million of these bags into our homes by 2015!!!
The laughable thing is that as the bag itself is not (currently) recyclable due to the beads in it, people who have already bought one are complaining the fabric 'clashes with their soft furnishings' (are they expecting to do the slow-cooking in their living room?). So one of the companies has been advised to bring out a bag in Cath Kidston material 'to appeal to British families' (what's wrong with supplying an assortment of loose covers to choose from that can be removed and washed when necessary?).
The article says there is already a limited-edition spotty design on the website for £70.

Between you and me, if this article had been published on April 1st would have believed it to be an April Fool joke. But seems it is true. Haven't looked at the website, but if any readers are interested is given as the site to search for more about it.

All I can say is - there are people (Les maybe?) who might be willing to try out this 'new' form of cooking, but as it is SO simple to make something similar ourselves, then perhaps we should move in that direction and keep our money in our purse. For 'research purposes' am going to make a square 'poly..' box from one of D.R's, fill it with the broken bits of the polystyrene boxes that some bedding plants were growing in when bought) and then pop in a pot of boiling water, cover with more granules and lid, and check the temperature 12 hours later. Whether it works or not you will be told.

Now my replies to your comments....
Am so pleased you were delighted with your delivery from Approved Foods Jane. Am sure you will find you will be able to get together with friends/family and make regular orders. 'Togetherness' when shopping/ordering means that if any of you only want a few things, then you (personally) don't have to order extra (that you may not really need) just to make paying the delivery charge worth it.
Much the same 'sharing' can also save money when both use the same product on 'bogof'. If needing it anyway, the free one can be given away or exchanged with a different one (or 'sold' at half-price - which it really is). Myself used to do this often when shopping with a friend. We would share 'bogofs', but also divide up vegetables in half (such as cauliflower, white cabbage, packs of carrots/onions/mushrooms etc) when this way worked out cheaper than buying smaller amounts, separately.

As some readers share the same name, am not sure if Lynda is a new 'commenteer' or not, but welcome anyway (or welcome back). Am always pleased to hear from readers who live in America as their way of life (and cooking) can be sometimes quite different to ours in the UK. Hope you find the fabric you like at that Amish shop, myself would love to visit an Amish community.

Also envy Lisa (also lives in the US) who this weekend is 'thrift shopping'. This is always fun to do and some amazing finds can be made that cost very little. Let us know what you buy.
A thought occurred to me - instead of seeking fabric that is exactly the pattern you wish for, have you thought of painting your own design on fabric There are many fabric paints and pencils that can be used to paint/draw on fabric (I use old sheets) and once ironed this 'sets' the the paint, and the fabric should then be able to be washed successfully without losing the pattern.
If you have old fabric that can be used, then it is much cheaper to buy the paints than buy new (or even second-hand) patterned fabric, and you can make your own 'bespoke' designs for what you wish knowing that no-one else has anything similar.

Recently a reader mentioned how she loved chestnuts - and able to collect sweet chestnuts each year from trees in her local park. Sorry I cannot remember the name of this reader, but as I've come across a vegetarian 'sausage' recipe made using chestnuts (in this instance pre-cooked vacuum packed - but canned would do, or cook your own), though it might be worth showing.

For ease, these sausages are made in a large batch (too fiddly to make a few at a time) as they freeze well. They are also said to 'behave better' in the pan if cooked whilst still frozen.
Chestnut Sausages: makes 30
1 x 400g (14oz) pack pre-cooked chestnuts (see above)
9 oz (250g) firm tofu, mashed
1 onion, grated
2 tsp sage, very finely chopped
1 tsp thyme leaves, very finely chopped
4 oz (100g) vegetarian Cheddar, grated
1 tblsp soy sauce
juice of half a lemon
half tsp chilli powder
1 egg, beaten
8 oz (225g) fresh breadcrumbs
butter and/or oil for frying
Put the chestnuts in a food processor and blitz until fine crumbs. Tip into a bowl with the tofu, onion, herbs, cheese, soy, lemon juice and chilli. Mix well until thoroughly combined. Add enough breadcrumbs to make a firm consistency, then form into sausage shapes. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet, cover with more paper to prevent them touching each other, and open freeze for at least 2 hours until solid. Then store in lidded containers.
To cook, melt a little butter or oil (or some of each) in a frying pan and cook the frozen sausages for 5 - 7 minutes, turning the sausages from time to time so they are brown all over and hot throughout.
Serve in any way you like to eat your sausages, whether vegetarian or otherwise.

Final recipe today is for an interesting coleslaw. Myself make coleslaw with grated carrot, onion and white cabbage, bound with a slightly diluted mayo with seasoning to taste. Quite pleasant in its own way, but this recipe is much tastier. The amounts of ingredients used are really up to the cook, and - as ever - suggest we use what we have and balance other ingredients accordingly.
Spicy Coleslaw: serves 6 as a 'side dish'
half a white cabbage, very finely shredded
1 red onion, grated
2 large carrots, grated
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped (opt)
1 tblsp wholegrain (or Dijon) mustard
1 tblsp sweet chilli sauce
salt and pepper to taste
Put all the ingredients together in one large bowl and mix together. How easy is that?

Due to late start must really get this published for it will soon be lunch-time. No sun today as clouds have gathered. The temperature has also dropped, but we've been lucky with the weather this past few days so mustn't grumble. Doubt we will have any rain, but hope other parts of the country (that need it) will be lucky enough to get some. It's come to something when us Brits feel we are fortunate when we get rain (and lots of it). Seems whatever nature throws at us we are never satisfied.

Please join me tomorrow and I look forward to meeting you then. Enjoy your day - it will soon be the weekend, and the weekend after it will be Easter!