Friday, March 23, 2012

So What's New?

Not sure what was wrong with me yesterday. Despite my good intentions I felt like doing nothing at all. Extreme exhaustion and to some extent a bit of depression, due I think to 'home-sickness for Leeds' beginning to kick in. It was a gorgeous day and when B returned home after a morning out he encouraged me to get on my scooter. I really didn't want to saying "there's nowhere to go". He replied "go along the prom" (well, been there done that), and I just couldn't find the interest to leave my chair and go outside. Not even into the garden. In the end did virtually nothing after writing my blog, B had lunch out, so he only wanted a bacon sarnie for his supper - this he got himself. I went to bed at nine, did at least sleep well (but had several odd dreams), and still feel tired and missing all my friends in Leeds (and Leicester). If I only had my own car would probably be able to go further afield but it really doesn't make sense to buy a SmartCar (the type I favour, a Fiat Panda would be second choice), it would cost too much to insure, let alone fuel (although both are very economical to run).

Possibly my 'unease' is because B hasn't taken his months holiday this winter (on the Tall Ships) as he had done for the last 20 years or so. I used to cherish this 'me time', and now it seems he is never out of my hair (although he does go out a lot following his own 'hobbies'), so I don't have the sheer pleasure of watching every TV prog I wish, and I still have to prepare most of his meals. I also miss playing bridge, as this I used to do several times a week for the past 20 years or so. Even Gill doesn't visit me five or six times a year as she used to do when we lived in Leeds. We now live further away and she doesn't care for the long drive, so am lucky if she comes twice a year (the last two years only once).
I don't seem to 'have a life' of my own at all now, and there is no reason why I can't start looking for new things to do - I just can't be bothered! Let us hope this is just a blip as normally I tend to feel a lot more positive. Perhaps it is just the end of 'winter blues'.

This means yesterday was just about void of 'deliberate' (or any other type) of 'ways to save'. I could have made a batch of marmalade (thought about it but couldn't be bothered), I should have taken some cuttings from the large geranium (but didn't!), and in the end thought that I'd be letting the side down if I didn't do SOMETHING, so in the end filled a small plastic tub that had contained mushrooms (making four cuts in the base sides for draining), sat that in a shallow plastic container that had once held some DR meatballs (exactly the right size to hold the mushroom tub), and 3/4 filled the tub with some John Innes No 1 compost. Then sowed some 'sweet and spicy' mixed salad leaves seeds, covered with a thin layer of more compost and set it on the conservatory windowsill.
In a way this could be classed as a 'deliberate' saving, for the sowing of seeds was deliberate enough, I would not have done it unless I'd forced myself to find at least one saving that day. Using the mushroom tub and the DR tray also another form of saving, so at least I felt I'd been a good girl. Then went back into the living room to sit down and allow myself another bout of homesickness.

Even telling you about this has felt as though a load has been lifted from my shoulders, so it is true that 'a trouble shared etc...". After a cloudy start to the day, the sun is now breaking through and I MIGHT just take myself down to the local shopping parade to do a bit of window shopping and MAYBE might buy something. We are out of lamb's liver, so that would be a sensible purchase as could do with eating some of that myself as still have the symptoms of anemia and the local pharmacy does not stock iron pills any more according to B. He brought me in some multi-vits plus iron, but already have these and they don't work as well as just iron pills. After two iron pills I am a different woman.

Regarding your composting suggestion Cheesepare, we have very little in the way of composting material to throw away, other than paper (this B takes down to the tip), and again due to my age and the time it takes for a good compost to form, have never really thought it worth starting to make a compost heap.
Other than buying a large bag of 'compost soil' to use for plant containers, plus a smaller bag of dried farmhouse manure, and one small bag of John Innes No 1, have managed with this (plus garden soil) to make this last over three years, reusing it again and again, just topping up with new J.I. when sowing seeds and re-potting. This seems to work very well as everything grows (sometimes too well, but not always fruiting as well as it should - tomatoes for instance), and as we have so many fallen leaves from he chestnut trees in the roads (they blow down our drive in sackfuls), these we also throw these onto the soil where the worms pull them in and they make a sort of 'compost' on the spot so to speak, this soil is then used for filling containers etc.

Most of the 'edible' produce grown in our garden is always in containers. There is very little of our garden that has beds in full sunlight, the only borders we have are north facing and already planted with shrubs that are too pretty to removed. My Beloved is not the least interested in gardening, other than hacking away with a pair of secateurs (and he has ruined loads of shrubs and at least one hazeltree through doing this). So most of the 'gardening' is left to me, and with that thought in mind perhaps this is something I should now take more interest in, I used to love gardening. Maybe will make a start this very day.

Your 'pumpkin spice' flavoured coffee sounds strange Lisa, but almost certainly black coffee made with this could be used to flavour cakes, biscuits and creamy desserts etc, and probably very successfully.
Loved the sound of 'creative' mending/patching/darning. This is the type of TV programme that probably would be enjoyed by all ages.
Not sure what 'Hot Pockets' type pizza means, sounds a bit like a folded hot pizza, or the Italian 'calzone', or even our 'Cornish Pasty'. Think the bundt tin you mentioned is the cake tin that has a hole in the centre, and possibly with a diagonally ridged pattern round the sides. Maybe I've got mixed up with another, but any cake made in a ring-mould looks good and easy to cut into many small slices).

As you say Maryclare, it isn't easy thinking up new ideas to save, not even easy remembering old ways that are not done now (probably because I still do them). Do remember in war-time the ladies used to put all their odd and unladdered stockings (of all shade of brown) into one big pan and boil them up together and they would end up the same shade, thus making several more 'perfect' pairs.
When lipsticks just about ran out, many ladies used to scoop out the remaining bits (similar shades) and melt them together, then pour this into a Vaseline lined lipstick cover and leave it to set (if done in the winter and the lid pushed into the snow it would chill the contents enough for them to slide out and become another 'proper' lipstick.
Another way to use up ends of lipsticks was to get a very tiny flat brush and use this to pick up a bit of lipstick so it could be brushed over the lips. Nowadays they sell lipstick brushes to do the same thing, but with a normal lipstick, not the butt end.

If we have 'tubes' of anything (face cream, toothpaste, tomato puree...) when all that can be squeezed out has been used, then begin folding the bottom end up tightly and sure enough quite a lot more of the contents will be pushed up to the top. Then cut off the top and scrape out the remainder. 'Scraping the barrel' if you like, but 'waste not want not' always does save a few more of those precious pennies.

Another thought come to mind. In Leeds we had a fir tree in our front garden and its little (dead) spine leaves were forever falling off as new growth formed. Collared doves used to nest in the tree, we could see them from our bedroom window, but that's by the by. These dead spines used to be gathered up and given to my bridge partner so he could spread them round his strawberries. Not sure if they contain any chemical that is good for the 'strawbs', but they certainly help to mulch the plants and also keep away slugs. So if anyone grows strawberries, and knows where to find fir tree 'spines', then go gathering. Pick up any pine cones while you are at it - these can make wonderful Christmas decorations (and also make good firelighters - as does dried orange peel).

Although not a fan of using a microwave for baking cakes, there are many that prefer this speedy method, so today am giving a recipe that even I might use - but probably to serve as a hot pudding rather than a cake.
As more time is often spent weighing/preparing ingredients than the actual assembly of such to make whatever it is we wish to make, some of you may remember my tip about pre-weighing cake ingredients into 4 oz/100g bags so they are ready for use. As this cake have the four main ingredients of the same weight, this is perfect for the 'pre-weigh', so if you have followed this tip, then any time you wish you really can make this recipe up AND bake in well under 10 minutes, either ready to eat as a pud, or then left to cool to eat as 'cake' (or eat half as a pud, then leave the rest to cool and eat later).
Please note this recipe is for an 800W microwave oven. If yours has a different wattage, adjust timings. Also use only cookware suitable for the microwave, such as ceramic, glass or plastic.
Speedy Chocolate Cake: serves 8
4 oz (100g) plain chocolate
4 oz (100g) butter
4 oz (100g) soft dark brown sugar
4 oz (100g) self-raising flour
2 tsp cocoa powder, plus extra for dusting
pinch salt
2 eggs, beaten
half tsp vanilla extract
Put the chocolate and butter into a microwavable bowl and cook on full power (High or 100%) for one minute, or until melted. Add the remaining ingredients and mix together thoroughly.
Pour into an 8"/20cm round microwaveable glass dish lined with greaseproof paper and cook on Medium (50% power) for 6 minutes, or until just set. Leave in the container to cool slightly, then dust with a little cocoa powder.
Eat warm as a pudding (great with cream and fresh strawberries), or leave to cool completely then serve as a cake.

Teenage/student fodder is a kind all its own, and however much we try to encourage the eating of 'good food', the youngsters tendency is to go for something quick and easy. But even so we could suggest them trying this (reasonably healthy) version of 'pot noodles', especially if we have measured and laid out the ingredients ready for them to make when they come in after work/play and feel like a snack. As it is ready in 10 minutes after assembly, surely they don't mind waiting a couple or so minutes longer than using a 'convenience' pot-noodle, packed with additives and preservatives and costing them quite a lot. Home-made is far cheaper, especially if Mum provides the makings.
Posh Pot-noodles: serves 1
1 'nest' fine egg or rice noodles
1 spring onion, finely chopped
2 cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 tblsp passata
1 tsp soy sauce
half tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tblsp cooked (canned) sweetcorn
1 tsp sesame oil
Put the first four ingredients into a large mug and pour over enough boiling water to cover, then add the remaining ingredients. Cover and leave to stand for 6 minutes, stirring once after 3 minutes, then when cooled down enough, eat with a spoon.

If we are lucky, then we might just get a very mild Easter with the possibility of having a picnic, or at least 'eating out' in our garden. So the final recipe today is great for either suggestion, or even taking as part of a packed lunch (with a side salad).
The filling is just a suggestion, you could smear the dough with pesto sauce and use cold roasted Mediterranean vegetables as the filling, with or without meat. Or it could be just cheese and pickle. It's your choice.
Stuffed Picnic Loaf: serves 4 - 6
1 x 500g pack white bread mix
7 oz (200g) mozzarella cheese, grated
10 wafer-thin slices ham
1 small red onion, finely chopped
Make up the bread dough as per packet instructions, then roll out on a lightly floured board to an oblong approx 8" x 18" (8 x 45cm). Spread the ham, cheese and onion over the dough, then fold over the long sides and a bit at each end to enclose the filling completely. Shape into a long sausage (to look like a 'baguette') and place on a lightly greased baking sheet, cover loosely and leave in a warm place for about half an hour to rise (it won't rise a lot, but should 'puff up').
Brush the top with a little oil then place in the oven (200C, 400F, gas 6) and bake for 20 - 30 minutes until risen and golden. Allow to cool on the tray until ready to eat - this can either be warm or left until cold. Good served with a tomato pasta-type or pizza-type tomato sauce as a 'dip'.

Suddenly I feel whole lot brighter, all because I know you are out there and I am not 'alone'. Having a 'virtual' friend such as you is something I am very grateful for (with the added advantage you can't butt in when I'm talking!!). Am now fast climbing out of my 'slough of despond' and am sure by tomorrow will have loads of interesting things to tell you about that I will have done (and am intending to start right now). So see you then!