Thursday, May 09, 2013

How Times Change!

My life suddenly has become 'busy', in that I seem to have definite 'things to do' almost every day that I wouldn't normally be doing, mostly to do with cooking, but less on the domestic side and more to do with others.  Nothing I hadn't already done years ago, but having had at least a decade of not doing it any more, felt that I'd be taking on a bit too much (at my age).  However, it seems to have got my adrenalin active again, and - at least today - feel so bright eyed and bushy-tailed that I feel I could cope with a great deal more.  It's good to have something worth doing again.

Thanks for comments, and good to see new names appearing, so a welcome to Pam, who seems to remember me from the past (bet there aren't now many left who do).
Also a welcome to cheap jersey who sounds as though she lives in America. It would be good to hear which state as we now have several readers who live in the US.

One more new name (just love it when I get comments from new readers) this being Diana, who mentions the additional cost of those Hen and Stag parties that now are often held abroad and last for at least a weekend. I'd completely forgotten about those.  It could be that paying far too much attention (not to mention expense) to the wedding and all that goes with it, could be one of the reasons why, once wed and responsibilites kick in, the youngsters can't hack it.  The honeymoon doesn't last forever.  Real life then takes over.  Both boring and stressful, didn't expect that. Let's get a divorce...

More than one comment mentioned starting life away from home (Diana's daughter going to Uni for example) with everyone seemingly wanting everything  'new'.  Speaking as an old lady, in my day it was normal for parents to give some of their (now) unwanted furniture, cutlery etc,  to help start a new home, and wedding presents (like 25 toasters!) helped in the culinary department.  Often it was only a new bed that needed to be bought, and not often always that. How grateful we were as the more given, the less money we needed to spend.  As was mentioned in a comment, the 'bottom drawer' was often started in late teens, and - of course -weddings were so very much simpler, often with the wedding dress and cake made by the mother, the flowers paid for by the groom, and the reception often held in a church hall with the 'catering' provided by family and friends.  Very few people wanted to pay out a lot of money for the celebrations for money was precious, and preferred given as a gift so that it could help to buy what was needed or even saved for a rainy day.

Good to hear TravellingNinjas that you 'make do and mend', and also buy from charity shops. It has to be said that there can be far better quality of almost everything sold in a charity shop than in many of the high-street stores.  Anyone handy with a needle can easily alter a 'designer-label' garment (bought at very low cost) to make it fit.

A reminder to readers that March 19th (think this is a Sunday) is 'World Baking Day'. So do hope that at least some readers will 'join in'.
Baking (certainly cakes) seems to be very fashionable at the moment, and good in that it has got many people starting to cook for perhaps the first time.   Just hope that this inspires them to cook savoury dishes as well and from then move away from buying the 'readies' and making more (or all) home-cooked meals.

Of course the manufacturers have been quick to join the band-wagon.  Where as once upon a time all we had to decorate our cakes was 'hundreds and thousands', or maybe silver 'dragees', now there are hundreds of different decorations on sale, not to mention colours, spray-on 'glitter', and a multitude of food flavourings and colours.  At least, even forking out for these, it is still possible to make at home what would cost a lot more money to buy.  We just have to remember that like being given a gift, it is not all about the 'wrapping', it is the contents that we hope to like (and the flavour when it comes to food).

At the moment am getting up early to watch Food Network as there are several back-to-back programmes dealing with the making and decorating of cup-bakes and wedding cakes. Some are incredible, but few I believe would be acceptable for us 'Brits'.  We tend to be more traditional, and myself am sad that we've allowed ourselves to move away from wedding cakes iced with royal icing, to those that are now covered with the softer sugar fondant (which I find very sweet and sickly).  Over here we used to (and maybe still do) have the layers of wedding cake kept separate by standing each on plaster pillars.  In the US they seem to stack one cake on top of another.  Also their cakes seem always to be made of sponge cake, whereas we normally expect a wedding cake to be a heavy fruit cake.  But maybe I'm just old fashioned.  Nothing wrong with following a new style if that's what is preferred.

One thing I've noticed with just about every cake decorating company in the US Food Network progs is that many cake decorators are Oriental, they are often given the more detailed tasks to do, so perhaps it's a natural ability. Certainly in Japan the presentation of all food they serve is way and above anything we would normally aspire to.  Perhaps a skill learned when young and passed on generation to generation.

Coming back to the thought of 'having to cope'.  This may be very depressing for some, but very agreeable to others.  Perhaps it is all to do with attitude.  Myself have found that I gain far more pleasure when doing something that has given me a sense of achievement, than when able to afford not to have to do myself'  Being able to afford to always buy what I want I would find very depressing as it would leave me with nothing to 'work for'. 
There are times I feel that I'd just love to move into a run-down small cottage (with a garden -overgrown with weeds), having just enough money to pay the rent and rates, and with very few £££s left over, then get on with it.  Common sense tells me that I'd need to be about 50 years younger than I am now, and in good health.

Today, all I am left with are fantasies.  Often, when I go to bed and can't sleep (having forgotten to spray my pillow with lavender), I 'return' to my fantasy where I am helping someone bring a derelict cottage back to life.  So far I haven't moved far from the kitchen (what a surprise!), but have now scrubbed the very dirty floor tiles and revealed their colour.  Have cleaned the old range (that took some time I can tell you), cleaned the windows to reveal an overgrown but still pretty rose bush hanging across the panes, scrubbed the Belfast type sink and bleached it back to whiteness.  Even found an old oak table in another room again scrubbed the unpolished top, and thrown over a gingham cloth.  At the moment am 'making' gingham curtains to match, and an outside shed has provided me with some fuel for the range, so occasionally, when I 'go back' there, there will be a kettle boiling on the range. 

Sometimes am beginning to feel that my life has been so dull lately, I just HAVE to have a 'fantasy' life ready to move into.  Maybe now that more 'real life' is giving me a push, my little cottage will have to stay as it is.  Let the fire go out, let the windows get grubby again.  I can always go back.

Today is definitely going to be busy, both morning (cake baking) and this afternoon (hope to go shopping).  Tomorrow I have an early appt. at the surgery, and may - instead - choose to do the shopping after that, instead of today.  If that happens, then probably I won't be writing a blog tomorrow.  Even I won't know until later.
At least, now doing more things should be able to 'chat about' life outside the Goode kitchen, as this month is an especially busy one for me.  It's surprising how suddenly something can happen that IS worth writing about.  Inspiration is needed for - over the past years  - I've probably given all my hints, tips and cost-cutting recipes, and feel I'm letting readers down when I don't come up with something new.  But of course, there is always something different to chat about (or at least for new readers) just as long as I keep aware to what is going on around me.  Let us hope I don't disappoint.

Maybe it is the manufacturers who now make life so easy for us that we don't need to make or do almost anything ourselves any more, or maybe it is us who were stupid enough to allow them to take away any need for old skills.  Yet, having it all now 'so easy', why is it we have become more stressed? 

Many would say it is the need to work hard to get the money to be able to afford the luxury of not having to do anything very much. Being able to buy what we want does not have much to do with money earned, only on how many credit cards we can obtain (and who cares about all that money then owed, as long as just the interest is paid....!).
Yet - today - work is not as hard as it used to be.  In 'my day' (here I go again) we would work longer hours per week (my working week was 8.30am - 6-00pm weekdays, and 9.00am - noon on a Saturday).  In my parent's time people were paid only when they worked, there was no 'sick pay', and in some instances no holiday pay either.  People saved up to cover illness, and for holidays.
Yet we all seemed quite happy with our lot.  Certainly happier overall, with perhaps good reason for in those days there was always something to look forward to (or work for), it could be holidays, or it could be the one evening out during a week (other than on a Saturday night). It could be the first strawberries of the season. 
One of our 'delights' was a chest of drawers (we still have it) that we bought with all those sixpences put in a jar that had been saved over the past few years, and still we save. B puts all his coppers and the tiny silver coins (are these 5ps?) in a large plastic Bertie Basset money box.  Bertie gets very heavy when he is full, but the contents - being small change - don't add up to much, however - "a penny saved is a penny earned" and you only need 100 to make a £1 (MUCH easier than pre-decimal days when we needed 240 pence to make a £1).
Me - I save all my loose change (the larger coins, I give the small ones to B), and use these for paying Norma the Hair, and also the window cleaner etc.  In a way it is as much fun saving this money then 'seeing'  it build up than it is to actually going out and spending the spare cash in our pockets/purses.

Don't know why I often get so stroppy about life today, as many people would think that the amazing technology we now have is just wonderful.  Certainly I give grateful thanks every time I use the washing machine (having brought up four children - who all wore terry nappies with muslin liners when they were tiny - and all laundry having to be washed and wrung out by hand this took days not hours).  I also find having a fridge and especially a freezer REALLY useful.
On the other hand feel that youngsters now seem unable to go through a day without having a mobile clamped to their ear, or listening to something (presumably that thing stuck in their ear with a wire leading down to their waist is some sort of radio).  When they have spare time, their means of communicating to others is spending hours on the comp (or perhaps using one of those very expensive mobile phones or 'tablets'), 'chatting' to everyone who is interested (and who are?) by way of Twitter and Facebook.   In 'my day' it was elderly ladies who sat in windows peeping through lace curtains to watch if anything 'interesting' was happening close to home.  Nowaday it seems that everyone wants to let everyone know what they are doing throughout the day. Even if just having a bath! 

Another thing that is really beginning to trouble me are the many alleged sexual abuse cases that keep coming out of the woodwork. All of course dealing with people who are celebrities.  There must be millions of cases of long-ago sexual abuse that are not going to be dealt with because the abusers are not well known so not 'interesting' enough for the media. 
Believe me, in my day (memories again), going to the cinema alone was always a nightmare as a man would always choose to come and sit by me and push his hand up my skirt. Other times I've had my bottom pinched, being forcibly kissed by 'older men', even driven off into the country (about 15 miles from home) by a man who I knew quite well, but then found he had 'other ideas and wouldn't say no'' causing me to leap out of the car and run out of sight, then having to walk all the way home.  Yet I said nothing much to anyone.  To us it was 'the way men were and we just had to watch out for ourselves'.
Incidentally, my method of attack (at the cinema) was to either pull out my hat pin (we wore hats in those days) and hold this ready to stick into the exploring hand, or light a cigarette and hold the red-hot end over the said hand.  The men would then rapidly moved away.   Today, of course, had I stuck the pin in a hand or stubbed the cigarette out on it, it would be me that would accused of assault.

Many of these 'abuse' cases may not be much more than the above, and as they all seem to have happened in the '60s and '70's, men were still the same, but the girls themselves suddenly had seemed to 'flower'.  Blouses cut low, skirts cut high, to a man this was almost an open invitation. Also, sad to say, girls seemed to want to look much older than they were, and I doubt that many men would ask to see a birth certificate to make sure a girl was 16.  The way I see it, if we dress to attract a man, then we shouldn't start complaining when the men are attracted.  Male hormones are a great deal more difficult to control than a females.
I've experience myself of meeting a girl who had met a local lad via the internet.  She told me she was 17 (and pleased when I said she looked older), and much later it turned out she was only 13!  Even I couldn't believe it (neither could the boy), but it was true.

There is a world of difference between 'fondling' a girl (or boy for that matter) than 'going the whole way', and this would presumably often be with the consent of the young person.  Rape is a different matter entirely, and although any sexual abuse shows a great lack of respect, feel that dragging up the past is of little use, and in any case if the person abused felt so strongly why weren't arrests made at that time?  If there is no proof. but only 'word of mouth', there should never be any names given out until the facts are fully proved.  Myself cannot believe that some of the celebs named recently have done anything very harmful at all.  Just larking about when younger, and maybe not even that. 
It is true that some men have done a lot of bad things, even when first denying it, but if this is the way the investigations are going, then don't leave it with the celebs, arrest all those who have been past abusers.   Perhaps I should provide a list, only have a feeling I've probably outlived all of them.

Dearie me, am I having a moan or not?  Time for a recipe, and one that makes use of left-over puff pastry.  The main tip with puff pastry scraps is not to scrunch them together (as we would with short-crust), but to always place the scraps one on top of the other so the pastry (already 'layered') rises fairly evenly. 
The following recipe makes heart-shaped spiced pastry 'cakes' that are called 'Palmiers', but the pastry could also be rolled up (like a Swiss Roll), to be then sliced.  'Palmiers' look that little bit more interesting.
Savoury versions of these can be made by omitting the sugar and spice, and instead spreading the pastry with pesto sauce, an olive 'tapenade', or maybe chopped roasted bell peppers and cream cheese.  Anything 'savoury' that can be spread fairly evenly is worth experimenting with.

Palmiers: makes 32
1 x 227g pack (8 oz) puff pastry
2 oz (50g) demerara sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
Roll out the pastry to 12" x 10" (30 x 25cm) and trim edges neatly before cutting into 2 rectangles each 6" x 10" (15 x 25cm).   Brush the pastry lightly with water then sprinkle each with a quarter of of sugar and spice.  Fold the long sides to meet in the centre and flatten slightly. Brush again with water and sprinkle each with the remaining sugar and spice.  Again fold the pastry in half lengthways, pressing down lightly.  Cut each length into 16 pieces and put each slice, cut side down onto a wetted baking sheet. Flatten the slices lightly with a palette knife or rolling pin, and open out to a heart shape. Bake at 220C, 425F, gas 7 for 10 minutes, then turn them over and cook for a further 3 minutes.  Cool on a cake airer.
When cold, these can be frozen.  Place in freezer bags, excluding as much air as possible, then freeze for up to 6 months.  Thaw for 30 minutes at room temperature or can be 'refreshed' in oven (200C etc) for a couple of minutes.  

That has to be it for today as need to complete as much as possible of other culinary activities planned for today.  Depending upon how things turn out, it might be I'll not be writing my blog tomorrow (returning on Saturday), or just might manage to grab an hour to reply to comments.  All I can suggest is 'watch this space'.  TTFN.