Friday, November 09, 2012


An interesting visit to the surgery yesterday.  There was me all ready to apologise when told my 'readings' had all risen.  Well, I had started to eat sweets again, and other 'naughties', in other words fallen by the wayside overall when it came to eating what I shouldn't. 
Surprise, surprise, the diabetic nurse said my b/p was lower, my 'waterworks' OK, and my blood glucose dropped even further so she reduced my diabetic pills down to now one a day (used to take four, then three, and for the last year just two taken after supper).  So there you go - I can eat sweets after all it seems (although she said it wasn't advisable).

My cholesterol readings WERE interesting.  Apparently there are three different types of this in our bodies, two good, one bad.  At least I was comfortable about the bad as I'd been spreading Flora pro-activ on my sarnies/toast over the past year (formerly using butter).  One of the two 'goods' had gone down, the other had risen, but apparently this particular one they wanted to rise (don't ask me why, I've given up trying to understand the reasons behind all this), so they were well pleased. 
BUT when it came to the bad cholesterol, that too had risen (not a lot but it HAD risen), and that really peeved me as Flora Pro-activ is more expensive than butter.  It obviously doesn't reduce cholesterol as it claims to do, unless I am a peculiar case. 
The only thing I can think is that I've probably got too fond of eating sausages!  And streaky bacon (but then I always ate them), so why my bad 'c' has risen I really don't know.  Will have to try harder to keep it down.
At least everything else is fine, so shouldn't really grumble.

For perhaps the first time in years (or maybe ever) our Daily Mail yesterday gave much good reading (maybe more to me than others).  Did not like reading about the shenanigans regarding the American election, and gave silent thanks that our politics are not so 'unpleasant' when it comes to 'what goes on'. 

There was a most interesting full page article about a successful middle-class family who were (today) "as poor as church mice".   Their three children - at a state primary school are 'well turned out' although most of their clothes are 'hand-me-downs'. The writer and husband wear winter clothes bought from charity shops, but it seems that they find it impossible to survive without getting into debt.
They spend £8,000 a year on the mortgage (the writer says they can afford to pay off only the interest, not any of the balance); £4, 500 on utilities - incl energy an the phone; £12,000 on groceries; £2,500 on insurances; £2,500 on council tax; and £3,600 on loan repayments.
Petrol costs £1,800 a year (they have had to borrow £11,000 to by a car as their old one went to the scrapheap); school dinners cost £920 a year for two of their three children (the youngest takes a packed lunch); school trips around £300 a year, and after-school activities (ballet, swimming, football and Brownies) about £1.000 a year.

"As I write this" she says "I'm wearing a shirt, jumper, trousers, two pairs of socks, slippers, a scarf and a fleecy dressing gown, because I work from home and can't afford to have the central heating on during the day.
It comes on in hour-long bursts when the children are around and between times I tell them to put another jumper on.  Nevertheless we spend an astronomical £2,300 per year on fuel bills, which swallows every penny - plus an additional £50 - of our child benefit."

The husband pays £100 a week in train fares just to travel across London to his place of work. And here I am finding it a bit hard to understand how - if he travels by train - why it costs so much in petrol to use the car to (presumably) take the children back and forth to school?

There is not a lot that can be done about the cost of 'utilities', but paying £12,000 a year on 'groceries' - that's £1,000 a month to feed two adults and three small children (aged 10, 8 and 4), and as this breaks down to somewhere between £200 and £250 a week, SURELY this is an area where much money can be saved, if only to keep the home warmer, especially as the mother works from home (three days a week) and has time to spend on cooking economical meals.

Is it me or is it just the way of life today that make everybody seem to spend more than they need to on many things?  An article on the very next page seems to point in this direction as another full page article headed by "Is this the only kitchen gadget you will ever need?"
This was about a kitchen gadget that can do everything from weighing, to chopping, blending, kneading, steaming, grating, whisking, milling, simmering, crushing, juicing - and said to replace more than 30 kitchen appliances in the one unit.

This appliance is called the Thermomix, and it is said that Heston B has nine of them (no doubt our Les will be the first of our readers to add this to his collection), while in France and Spain this is the 'numero uno' wedding list gift, with enough sold in each country to supply every household.

At £885 it certainly is not cheap, and cannot be bought over the counter.  To have one we have to go directly to the company or the demonstrator.

Now, however useful such a product may be, what happens if/when it breaks down?  We then have to go back to the traditional ways of cooking, and what happens if we have few (or even none) of these?  I really don't like relying on just one appliance to see me through from start to finish.

Incidentally, remember the 'sous-vide'.  Knew that someone would come up with a much more sensible 'gadget'.  Seems that we can now buy a thermostatically controlled 'water heater' that we can clip on to the sides of a saucepan and it keeps the water at constant (and as low as we wish) heat.   Not that I would bother to get one, but could be useful I suppose, if you are 'gadget minded'.

A half-page article showed examples of "Gizmos we can't let go", those that have stood the test of time, and although some of them are not now available on sale, these are the Top Ten longest-lasting gadgets that are still in use (but not necessarily in our home). 
Here in order are the Old Gadgets that we can't do without:
1. Digital Alarm Clock (any type will do for me)
2. Breville toasted sandwich maker (we had one, not now)
3. Pocket calculator (yes, we have several)
4. Game Boy (what's that!)
5. Electric carving knife (had one, gave it away)
6. Toaster (very definitely a yes)
7. Bread maker (also a definite yes)
8. Digital watch ( prefer the old types)
9. VCR (have one but it doesn't work)
10. Record player (wish we still had one).

Now the "Devices we can't live without" (and reading this strikes fear into my very bones, for I know I can do without most of them (what you have never had you never miss), and just shows the way that certain 'technology' has become so 'necessary' that these have (and still are) taking all our 'disposable income' and even more.
1. Smartphone (what's wrong with a cheap mobile?)
2. Broadband (suppose that IS essential for some)
3. TV (yes, well that IS one thing I enjoy)
4. Laptop (don't have one, don't want one)
5. Tablet (what's that?)
6. Games console (prefer playing 'real' games)
7. Digital TV player/recorder (would like one)
8 MP3 player (what's that?)
9. E. reader (what's that?)
10. DVD player (isn't that the same as '7'?

Am beginning to feel that I'm no longer living in the 'real' world. Most people now seems to have and want a different and higher standard of living than I've ever been used to, and yet I feel we do live very comfortably.  Of course we cannot afford holidays abroad (although B has had many years of sailing the Tall Ships), and I don't really want to go leave these shores (unless to find out another nation's traditional ways of cooking/eating).
It is true that my days are spent mainly indoors, but then bringing up children there wasn't much time (or money) for anything more 'sociable'.  In later years I found enjoyment playing bridge, and giving my culinary demos and radio chat., but perhaps am lucky being 'an only child' so have always been used to relying on my own company to keep me satisfied. 
My friend Gill is the complete opposite.  She grew up in a large family, and her sisters live within a few miles of her today, as do three of her four married children. Now she lives alone (divorced) she finds she needs to go out every day (from - 6.00pm), visiting family or going out with friends, as when she has to spend just one day alone in her house she gets into the depths of depression.  If she does stay in, most of the time (she tells me) she is on the phone talking to someone.

I have always envied Gill having such a wide social life, and her numerous holidays (she likes to take one a month, maybe a 3 - 4 day coach trip with a friend, sometimes at home, sometimes abroad, or she visits her son who lives some distance away.  She used to visit us 5 times a year when we lived in Leeds, but she has only been here about 3 times since we moved (and now only when B is away - because then she can sleep in his bed, she doesn't like using our futons).  How I wish we had bought an apartment that had two bedrooms then we would be able to have more visitors.  As B has given up sailing the Tall Ships, it is unlikely he will be going away in the near future, and he won't give up his bed for anyone.  I'd give up mine, but then can hardly expect a guest (esp a lady) to share a bedroom with B.

Didn't make that cinder toffee yesterday as planned Jane, but have made it several times before and it is pretty easy to make.  A bag (or box) of this could make a good gift to add to a Christmas Hamper.

There was a mention on the Open University leaflet about 'Open Learn' Janet, this being a sort of 'trial run' to see if any course would like to be taken further.  Think one (or more) of these would be better for me than a degree course.  Not sure if learning can be done always from home as I'm not able to travel, but it seems that contacts can be made through the email etc, so will have a chat to the O.U. and see if there is a suitable course for me to take.
Also noticed that there is a reduced fee if our annual income is under a certain amount (which ours certainly is being under half that shown). Not that matters too much, I'm prepared to pay more if necessary as would get more enjoyment from doing the work than (say) going to the pictures/theatre, or eating out (these ending up costing more no doubt over a year).

Still having some money-vouchers PLUS an extra £13 off if I order by the end of next week, will probably send an on-line order to Tesco to use up this 'free money gift' (some of it will go on delivery charges, but still plenty left over).  There is not too much I really need, and as I need only spend £50 (not incl delivery), to gain the above 'extra', and if there are plenty of offers on things I would normally buy, then it will be worth it.  Can always use this order to stock up for Christmas.

As I said recently, my food budget is very healthy due to eating a lot more 'fresh' and not relying too much on 'stored food',  even though that sounds as though it should end up more expensive, so far it is saving me money.  So supermarkets won;'t be my main source of 'the edibles' any more.

Yesterday B enjoyed his liver, bacon, cabbage and spuds.  Today will be cooking him pork chops with roasted vegetables. 
Have also got several packs of D.R's beef rib trim from the freezer to thaw and then slow-cook overnight in the slow cooker.  Also thawing some beef mince, this will be cooked and added to a Mexican Chilli Beanfeast together with a can of red beans, where together these will make enough for at least four servings (all to be frozen).

Today am intending to make another 'Tarte au Citron' as want to use up some lemons (the pastry is thawing as I write), and also hope to pickle some red cabbage.  So looks like being a fairly busy day for me in the kitchen.  This means I'd better make a start, so will wind up my blog for today (sorry no recipes) and will be back again tomorrow, usual time.  Hope to see you then.