Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

Despite my attempts at changing the font, on checking back they all came up the same, so why do I get the choice if blogger don't accept the change? Can anyone give advice re how to change the font when typing out a 'blogger.com' page?

The fruit cake made a couple of days ago is now down to just a quarter of its original size. B just loves it, and have to say as I also ate a slice yesterday (and only because it is necessary for me to do this for how can I tell you if what I make really is good or not) have to say I am not surprised he keeps going back for more.

Also yesterday made another (and larger) batch of popcorn, adding a bit more of the Thai sweet chilli sauce, butter and sugar to give it more flavour and B ate a huge bag of that as well (I also ate some but there is a big bagful left that B will no doubt eat today). All this on top of a chilli con carne with green salad, avocado, and tortilla chips as his 'main meal' of the day (supper time).
B is really enjoying my 'use it up' days but then he usually does for his meals and snacks actually seem to improve.

The chicken livers defrosting in the fridge were still frozen in the centre of the pack, so have left them until today to turn into pate. So - as the sun was shining, and only a very light breeze, toddled off to the Crescent (shopping area) with Norris for half an hour or so. Had an enjoyable time. First drew out a bit of money from the cashpoint, then spent some of it (well, what is money for if not to spend) at the florists where I bought some geranium plants for my garden tubs (delivered later that afternoon). Crossed back over to the main row of shops as I noticed a new(ish) charity shop had opened (so parked outside and went in to take a look). Some really lovely bric-a-brac there and shelves and shelves of books. Asked if they had any cookbooks and they had only a very few, but did buy a couple (Indian desserts and another on Indian curries), and whilst 'browsing' noticed a lady looking through a rack of clothes hanging nearby. She pulled out several 'tops' and I have to say they looked absolutely gorgeous, VERY expensive they would be when bought new, not sure of the price the charity shop were selling them for, but am sure that all would be well worth the money.

Nowadays charity shops seem to sell only perfect and very good quality second-hand goods. Many years ago they sold just about anything, tattered or not. So obviously now charity shops are the very best place to go to first when seeking new clothes, pottery, vases, pictures, books....

Went into the pharmacy to buy a new book - this all about Bare (where we live), written and published by the lady pharmacist. Bare was originally a hamlet, and mentioned in the Domesday Book (I love a bit of 'history' and finding out I actually was living on ground trod by people centuries ago pleased me no end). Given the status of a village in 1750 Bare has virtually kept its village 'atmosphere' despite now being a suburb of Morecambe (we even have our own - albeit unofficial - Lord Mayor).

From an old map shown in the book, we can see where we lived looked as though it was where there used to be an orchard. Is the very old apple tree in our back garden originally one of those trees? The trunk is extremely thick, and it seems to have had many large branches removed from time to time.

There is a comment in the book that I think is worth giving. This about the way of life at that time... the Census of 1881 being mentioned.
..."There were two shopkeepers, both described as grocers. In an old photograph of one of the shops has a huge bunch of bananas hanging in the doorway.
They were really 'dry' not 'green' grocers, selling sugar, salt, flour, tea, tobacco, and snuff.
Green groceries were unnecessary. Villagers grew their own, kept pigs in their cottage gardens and did their own butchering."

That is - of course - the way it used to be in most villages. No 'greengrocers'. Not that there are many around today, the supermarkets having taken over most of that trade (as they have done with fish, we are lucky if we can still find local butchers and bakers). People seem so much more self-sufficient in the old days, probably because they had no other choice, but it does seem today that we now leave everybody else to make what we want and then all we need is the money to pay for it all. Perhaps 'going out to work' (maybe just sitting in front of a computer) is a great deal easier than grafting indoors and outdoors growing, sewing, baking, repairing.... but not nearly so satisfying I would think.

Perhaps working hard (as in the old days) meant hours of labour then all everyone wanted to do was return home, eat a good meal then fall asleep to awake early to start another working day. No wonder free time was precious, and the few holidays (or even one day off a year) was enjoyed so much more than any free time we have today. Seems that now we tend to be so bored with having too much free time we have to compete either in dangerous sports, or take drugs.... anything to bring back that feeling of pleasure (gained by making the most of that precious free time) that our ancestors almost certainly enjoyed and now we seem to have lost forever. When we have too much of anything, then it is taken for granted.

In the 50's and 60's of last century (doesn't that sound a long time ago?) there was the threat of nuclear warfare. People then realised what they could lose (like civilisation as we know it today) and began to enjoy every minute of their spare time, even so many took drugs to just to push this very real threat out of their minds. Youngsters today don't know what it is like to wonder if next week could be your very last (or even next day). If war broke out we had only four minutes to find safe shelter, and there was nowhere safe unless you had a deep underground shelter with thick concrete (and pref. lead-lined) walls to escape to.

At that time I'd joined the Civil Defence, mainly because I wanted to protect my family, out three (at that time) very small children. I learned a lot - things like lining the internal walls of a living room with kitchen foil - dull side of the foil facing the room (so the shiny side would reflect back the atomic rays!!) - then making a shelter in the room (maybe a tent or something) where we would have to stay until we heard it was safe to venture out. This could mean staying there some weeks, and quite honestly impossible when you think of the bodily functions that have to be dealt with.

A letter in our newspaper reminded me of the above. It gave a list of foods that we - at that time - should keep in store. Useful for any global catastrophe, always supposing we are able to stay with the food or take enough with us if we have to make a run for it. Nevertheless it has solid sense behind the nourishment, so I am repeating what was advised - although not sure I agree with the bread or potatoes for they are not likely to keep for long. Perhaps Ryvita and 'instant' mash or canned spuds would be better. As 'fresh' water was expected to be stored in large tanks for use (rain water could be radioactive), this could be used to dehydrate some foods.

This is the list, my 'added extras' shown in brackets:
"Tinned foods:
Meat: corned beef, stewed steak, boiled beef, carrots and dumplings, meat and vegetables, steak and kidney pudding, veal and ham, (Spam!!) and cooked pork sausages.
Vegetables: baked beans, carrots, peas, beans (new potatoes, onions).
Fish: Herrings, sardines, pilchards (tuna, mackerel, salmon).

Spaghetti in tomato sauce, fruit and fruit juices, condensed milk, baby foods, cocoa, boiled sweets (chocolate bars, nuts).

Wrapped or bottled foods:
Meat or yeast extract, margarine or butter, (olive oil), sugar, jam, marmalade or honey, tea or coffee, dried fruits, biscuits, orange or lemon powder, bread wrapped, potatoes in bags. (Bottled water, UHT milk, dried milk powder, dried eggs),
For protection against fallout, all food and water must be kept wrapped or covered.

Returning to life today, well obviously - if ignoring the cost - we've never had it so good. Life now is a great deal easier and many more varieties of food on sale than ever before, but still we grumble.
Did not see the full news last night, but did see a tractor driving through a field of mud and a mention that probably the potato crops would be ruined this year due to the floods etc. Very late last night saw a weather report that said the Midlands had more heavy rain (and more forecast for today) so am almost feeling guilty that Morecambe seems to be having 'normal' summer weather for the moment. Today has started quite pleasantly, skies a bit overcast but with expectation of sun later this morning. This will give me a change to put my geraniums into the various tubs and hanging baskets and hope that they will brighten up the garden somewhat.

Quite a few days ago now mentioned the baby seagull that had fallen out of the nest tucked between chimney pots. Since then it has been stuck on the roof, and we have seen the mother gull feed it quite often. There is another chick still in the nest, and both are now growing rapidly. Am so sorry for the little one trapped on the roof for it cannot yet fly, and so has to sit it out during heavy rain and some quite severe winds. Luckily it has not been too cold, and when the sun is out the chick spreads out its wings and soaks up the warmth.
A couple of days ago I saw it spread its wings and try to 'fly-hop' up towards the ridge tiles. And we can see the flight feathers now, so shortly it should soon be able to fly properly. Am amazed it has managed to live as it was only a small bundle of fluff when it fell out of the nest, and now it looks much more like a gull with strong, long legs and long beak, and now a lot of feathers. Shows how strong the life-force can be.

Many readers must be a bit mystified if they read back some old postings (well any that blogger haven't removed due to lack of space). At one time I seemed always to be concerned about the cost of food and always spending as little as possible (but with ways to buy what was needed within our budget). So keeping my purse strings tightly knotted, how can I manage to build up the huge stock of food that we now have. Considering we moved here almost exactly three years ago with very little more than a couple or so jars of home-made jam and one or two packs of flour, the rest of my 'supplies' have been bought since then, but always the cost kept within my budget (which is low anyway).

Suppose it is partly buying ONLY when the foods I use are reduced in price, on offer, or a Bogof, and paying full price when I have no other option, and avoiding this if there is another food sold more cheaply that could be used n its place.

As mentioned several times, I tend to send in an on-line grocery order only once a month, the food then has to last that length of time, and at least half of it much longer (these being put into my 'stores'), meaning that with each order my stores grow larger. I could of course order less and not keep building up stocks, but - having a wide variety of foods that can be stored and used later - once stocks are built up, then it is extremely easy to padlock that purse and just use up what I've got - and usually enough there to keep us going for a good six months (allowing for a top of milk, eggs, fresh veg etc - and after one or two months of no expense at all, then £10 a week would be more than enough for these).

The old days of shopping everyday for food for that night's supper have now gone. Maybe it is still a good idea, but the 'here today and gone tomorrow' approach does not sit comfortably on my shoulders. I need food in store to feel secure, but also it gives me a much wider choice of dishes I can make, and with far less wastage.

Of course, having a freezer is probably the best thing for me since sliced bread (and a washing machine), because most of those last little bits of food can be frozen to use later. It hasn't quite got to the point of me counting out how many peas to serve in a portion, but I'm just about doing that when it comes to using those small frozen cooked prawns. B would not miss half a dozen of those in the meals I make using them, and saving six each time, well - this eventually adds up to one more serving! Like a miser counting his pennies, I am now count my sprouts. True.

Today must make an 'extended' white loaf. Then, using the slicer, 'thick-cut' the large loaf for toasting sliced, and the small one into thinner ones for sarnies.
Not sure what supper will be tonight, but really must make a rhubarb and apple crumble (or pie). Hope to make a pork pie as well, and really should pop more corn (so that B has plenty to snack on - am so pleased I discovered the popping corn in the larder, hidden under a pack of yam flour, and still have to find a recipe to use this).

As I have plenty of porridge oats might also make some Flapjack. Having plenty of 'nibbles' that B can help himself too makes him a happy bunny, and this make life much more pleasant for me, so my 'use it up' challenge has more than a financial benefit.
Although most animals 'eat to live' am sure there must be some plants that the herbivores enjoy more than others, and some carnivores find some animals taste better than others, or is it only us humans who are so obsessed about what we want to eat?

Yesterday was watching a programme about a farmer in Ireland who was wanting to improve his business. His surplus apples, when turned into apple pies seemed to prove successful (but too much pastry and not enough apples it was said), but I could not believe that bottles of some of their spring water was to be 'enhanced' by adding meat flavourings as a treat for dogs.
A trail 'tasting' was given to several dogs, none of which seemed to even like it (and not even the Labrador, and anyone who keeps labs know they will eat/drink almost anything). Even so, the idea was taken up 'because owners like to treat their pets', so it could be profit making. Even if the pets don't like what they have been bought?

Just shows what fools we can be when it comes to our beloved pets. In my day cats were fed on fish heads, dogs on horsemeat and tripe. Now the supermarket shelves have more varieties of canned pet foods than we humans have (and often more expensive). Trouble is - pets DO seem to be like humans, once they've tried eating something they like, then they won't go back to eating something that they used to always eat but was not quite so nice (but was cheaper). We are our own worst enemies when it comes to treating our pets, children - and husband. They then expect treats all the time. Perhaps best if we never started.

A few minutes ago had yet another phone call, cold calling the Mortgage Protection Plan, everyone seems to be getting these calls and we can do nothing about it. Have taken now to not replacing the receiver once the recorded call has finished. This usually keeps their line open and prevents them making another call until the receiver has been replaced - or so it is said. I will replace it when I have finished using the comp.

Mentioning the possibility of a potato shortage this winter due to the excessive rainfall makes me wonder if I should stock up with more canned spuds, instant mash, or is there time to plant a few sprouting spuds in a garden sack to grow my own. Was going to plant many earlier this year but - as usual - never got around to doing it. Now I could kick myself.

Not that we won't be able to buy potatoes, many sold in supermarkets are imported from other countries, but any shortages here normally puts the price up, just because.
Anyway, do we really NEED to eat potatoes? Once upon a time they were (with wheat) our 'staple food'. Since then we have become used to eating other carbohydrates, rice, pasta, quinoa, couscous, that we really could manage perfectly well without spuds. Other countries do. For that matter, what carbos did we eat before potatoes were discovered in (was it) South America?

Funny how the threat of a shortage makes us feel a shudder of fear (well it does with me), even though we have plenty of other ways we can have what we need (be it food, fuel...). Perhaps sunshine is the one thing we can't replace, although half an hour under a sun-ray lamp might give a glimmer of light in that dark tunnel of stormy weather we seem to have at the moment. At least the sun IS still in the sky. We just need to find a way to get rid of the clouds (and then start complaining because we then have a drought and a hose-pipe ban).

Did any of you watch the programme last night about the people who are now over 100 years of age? How lovely it was to see them have such an active way of life, if not all physically (although most were mobile) at least young at heart and happy with it. Made me feel that I could have many years left before I pop my clogs, and even if not, might as well make the best use of my time.
There was one lady there who was born in 1908! Another 'centurion' who walked everywhere (easily and without a stick), who swam every morning, and looked as though she had another 20 years in front of her before she 'got old'. It does seem that regular exercise helps (and am clinging on to the fact that as I got a lot of that when younger, playing tennis every day when the weather was good, horseriding, and miles and miles of walking for the sheer pleasure of it) that 'set me' up for a longer life.

Genetics also help. People who live longer usually had parents who did the same, and their siblings also. Genes are not on my side. My grandmother died when she was 25 or so (with consumption), my grandfather when he was 49 (hear trouble), my dad when he was 69 (heart), and my mother (79) with a pulmonary embolism when she was in hospital with a broken hip, although she probably would have lived much longer had she not fallen. Who can tell?

On B's side genetics don't favour him either. It was cancer or heart problems ended the life of his parents and all his five siblings. He was the baby of the family, but unlike the rest he has not had any of their health problems. But then B was the only one never to smoke, so perhaps that has something to do with it. Also, like one of the very elderly ladies in the above mentioned prog. he never lets himself gets stressed. 'Go with the flow' is I think the expression, and much the best way to be. Just wish I could be like that.

The other day we had a delivery, and the van-driver was very 'up himself', he must have spent 15 minutes before he left telling me about how 'laid back' he was about money. He had - apparently - just had a final demand for money, and had phoned back to say he couldn't pay it because he didn't have the funds. "Why worry?" he said to me "you can't pay what you don't have". He then said his wife was the worrier, always concerned about paying bills on time, and telling him off when he bought something when he couldn't afford it. "Money is for spending" he said "if I want something I'll buy it". "The bills can wait".

Have to say this made me feel very sorry for his wife. She was doing the worrying for both of them. Is that fair? Having had a bit of that myself would have preferred it if I too could be 'laid back' enough to let B sort past problems - which of course he would never do "as someone else will do that for him" (the someone being me). Even so, B does have the right approach if he is wishing for a longer life. From now on I'll be 'going with the flow'. Worry about things only if they happen, and leave B to pick up any pieces. Or will I? Old habits die hard, and security is something I need and keeping control sometimes seems the only way to keep myself feeling secure.

Enough of my ramblings, they are of no interest to anyone, I just 'talk' for the sake of it. Perhaps I should start writing novels then can really let myself go.

We have a new name to add to our list of 'commenteers', so welcome and group hugs to Willow.
In reply to her query can say that we can make Chicken Kievs (using fresh chicken) and - after flouring, egg and crumbing (double dip for a firmer crust), these can be frozen. Do defrost before cooking as although bought frozen Kievs can be cooked from frozen, these are more often than not made with 'preformed' chicken which gives a thinner 'flesh' than when using fresh chicken, in any case safer to cook the home-prepared when thawed to make sure it is thoroughly cooked through (it doesn't matter if the butter filling is still frozen).

Do hope you like the Spam Margie. Am sure it is not to everyone's tastes, but the fact it is still being sold (and eaten) after the introduction to this country during World War II (some 70 years ago) must mean something. Many people like to dip sliced Spam in batter and fry it to eat hot. My friend Gill loves eating it this way, but myself have never tried this, using slicing it to eat in sarnies, or cut into chunks to eat with salads. Even writing about it has now made me want to dash into the kitchen and open another tin and demolish the contents in seconds! What am I like?

As ever Lisa you have been so busy harvesting some veggies, doing a lot of baking, and also laundry. Good to hear that your son had a pleasant time at summer camp. Although it is only films (and some books) that give us an idea of summer camps, it seems that these camps are a normal thing for young folk to attend during the long summer school holidays. We don't have these here, or at least not many of them although I believe there are some (usually expensive) that children can go to. A pity because they would keep children off the streets or stuck in front of computers as seems to happen these days.
We have quite a number of 'amusement parks' for children (but nothing as fancy as Disneyland, the nearest Disney is in Paris), but as the children need an adult chaperone and the entrance fees for adults/parents is very expensive (children pay less), unfortunately beyond the means of many during this time of recession.

Anyone who has a car and the money for petrol should be able to have a good family day out when the weather is good, there is nowhere further than 60 miles from the coast in England, although a beach may not always be accessible. Picnics are always fun, and often some farms are open to the public for children to enjoy (at low cost). Many places also are 'rural museums' in that wandering around it is like being taken back to a life lived centuries ago.
Readers who have been to Beamish Museum (is that in Durham or Yorkshire?) will know how fascinating that is, and well worth the money for you can spend all day there visiting farms, old fashioned shops, dairies where cheese is made, in and out of Victorian style houses (dentists, doctors, printers etc), even into coal miners cottages and garden and walking down into a coal mine. Lots more to see as well.
Not only adults but children love to see how life was lived in past times, and there are several of these 'working museums' around the country.

Good heavens, is that the time (must now replace receiver back on phone)? Should perhaps eat 'brunch' before starting today's 'cook in', but before that must put the bread mix into the machine to start the dough. Maybe will be able to cook something worth photographing, if so tomorrow you can see the end result. Will you still be interested enough to find out. Hope so. See you then.