Monday, July 22, 2013

Will it Work?

Am back, but for how long?  Steve came up this weekend and spent hours sorting out the comp. bless him, but it now seems worse than ever! (the typing 'froze' at this point but now back again). It took me 40 minutes before I could get the comp to get to this page.

At least it does seem I can now get my blog published, and believe me - after all this time I really had decided to stop writing it altogether. It was amazing how 'free' I felt each morning, 'free' to do what I want, what was needed to be done, instead of sitting here writing my usual chat.  In a way it felt very much like I was on holiday, and with the weather being so gorgeous I was able to give all my container plants an early morning watering, then do a little culinary work in the kitchen before going back outdoors and sitting in the sun (not in the shade - I love the heat), getting browner and browner. 

Today I have come back down to earth and have a 'heavy heart' again now I see the comp is holding me back from spewing out my thoughts, and I don't like feeling like that.  However, there is hope on the horizon.  Steve says he has a spare comp that I can have (old but faster than this), and will bring it up here in a few weeks time, so I'll blog as long as I can on this one. 

However, due to continuing problem of the long wait each morning before the comp decided to allow me in, and the pleasure I felt not having to write each day, I will probably take a day off blogging now and again to allow me to take up other activities that have suddenly appeared on my doorstep over the past couple of weeks.

The barbecue went well, although the evening was a bit chilly due to a sea breeze, but it didn't seem to bother many, as most were neighbours they just went home and fetched a cardigan.   Eileen tried to help me sort out the comp and showed me how to sign out from this blog (something that the blog site had prevented me from doing in the ordinary way when it wouldn't accept my typing).

I'd also like to thank Eileen for posting up the occasional comment to let you know the situation at this end.  Thanks also to those who sent in comments, but as there were many and none seemed to need a reply, hope that for once I'll not mention each by name.  Believe there might have been one or two new names that I should welcome, but like this page, my email page also seems slow to come back to life and there are many comments there that I still have not read.

The barbecue held not only neighbours but also some of their friends they had invited, and I've now been given invitations to one or two coffee mornings.  I've also been out on Norris more than once, and there is a new 'wool and craft' shop about to open on our local shopping parade, so I'm beginning to feel 'born again'.  Out there is a life I'm hoping to find more about, and so - for once - if I get an invitation, or have a need for an early start to my day, then feel a selfish streak in me coming out. On days like that my blog will be the last thing on my mind.

The good weather is another reason to be outside as much as possible.  It really must have been scorching hot down south as even up here, with a gentle sea breeze it has been 88F in the shade and at least 130F in full sun.  Think that was the temp I took on a day that wasn't the hottest!

The nights have not been too bad, last night much cooler, but the previous two I had to put a fan on in the bedroom to allow me to get some sleep. Switched it off a few hours later when I woke - slightly chilly - but thankfully not too humid.   This may change as the forecast is for thunderstorms and heavy rain over the country from the middle of the week onwards, but said to be even hotter before then - expected to be 98F in the London area.   So now I know what it feels like to live in Texas Pam!  And envy you.  As I said, I just love this heat (as long as it is not humid with it).

Back to chatting about food.   Did any reader (in this country) watch the programme about cooking on a budget?  Three top chefs (James Martin, Angela Hartnett, and Richard Corrigan) each went and lived with a family to cook meals for them using the family food budget. 
Can't say I was over impressed by the programme, as it was obvious that the chefs were not used to shopping in supermarkets anyway and what they cooked was probably beyond the average normally-never-cook-anyway person.  They were able to prove (at the end of the prog when they cooked a 'frugal banquet' for many celebs) that a meal could be made for £1 a head.  But then readers of this blog could make a meal for even less!!

Two very important messages came across in this programme.  One said by James Martin (who was mentoring an older man who lived alone), that it helps to save money when we can build up a small store-cupboard so there is always something else we can add to the fresh food we buy (like rice, pasta etc), and 'the knowledge' that goes with cooking.   Richard Corrigan said that between them (the three cooks) they had sixty years of cooking experience - which I have to say is almost the same amount of cooking experience I've had all by myself.  And it's this knowledge that helps make the most of our money, and they are pushing for more education on budgeting and cooking.  How I agree, there are so many people out there who just have no idea how to cook.

Haven't myself done much cooking over the past few weeks, it's been too hot to eat (any easy way to lose weight).  Did manage to gather most of the redcurrants from the one bush that we have.  A huge crop that took me ages to sprig.  Discovered that if I held a sprig from the end that was attached to the branch, then pulled it through a fork, the currants would drop off 'clean', but not so easily.  Held by the bottome end of the sprig, then run through the fork the currants dropped off very easily, but left a tiny stalk at the end of each currant.  So some I did the slow and 'clean' way, the others the 'fast' way as these would be used to make recurrant jelly where it doesn't matter if the stalks (or even the sprigs) are left attached as only the juice runs through muslin.
Some of the most attractive sprigs were left with currants attached so they could be used to garnish desserts later.  All now frozen (and while I think of it, rubbing frozen currants with the hands will rub off any stalks anyway).

Have loads of medium sized tomatoes on my Tumbler, now placed in the greenhouse and gathering several each day.  They have very thin skins so delightful to eat and easy to slice. Still not the great flavour I remember from days long past, but does anything taste as good as it used to?

Made some Madelines a couple of weeks ago, using a special shell-shaped tin.  Had two different recipes (similar but not the same by ingredient weights or method of making ), so tried one.  Far too much mixture, so ended up making 12 Madelines, and the remainder of the batter I put into a Victoria Sandwich tin to bake as 'a cake'.  Worked well, but the Madelines slightly browner than I hoped for.  Very good light texture and flavour.
Last week I made another batch using the second recipe and this seemed to work out better. Still far too much batter for the tin, so again used half and left the rest in the basin until the first batch was cooked, then after removing the Madelines from the tin, spooned in the rest of the cake batter - just enough for another dozen - and baked.  No noticeable difference between the two batches, so was pleased that the mixture hadn't 'flopped' as it waited to be cooked.

Old cookbooks show Madelines as sand-castle shaped 'towers' of cake, that - when cooked - are coated with jam and rolled in dessicated coconut, with a halved glace cherry placed on top.  Today's 'Madelines' are alway the shell-shaped ones, and to my mind, much nicer.  They can be easten as-is or dusted with icing sugar, or (seen on the Anna Olsen show), the rounded ends dipped in chocolate or in chocolate and then coconut. 

Have I mentioned that we have three baby seagulls living on the roof of the house at the back?  Am sure I must have done.  Last year there was just one baby gull that had fallen from its nest having to brave the huge amount of rain we had during the summer last year, and it flew for the first time on the 20th July.  The three babies (now 'grown up') keep testing their wings, flying short distances along the roof, so should be leaving any day now.  We will miss them.   They may have already gone, the apple tree is preventing me seeing most of the roof from where I sit at the moment.

One good thing about this long hot summer (well 2 - 3 weeks is a long time in this country for any sort of continuing weather), is that all the rain we had last year has kept the reservoirs filled and so far no need for any hose-pipe ban.  Just as well as I'd got fed up of carrying very heavy watering cans around the garden, in fact I used to fill empty milk cartons with water (the ones that hold 4 pints) using these to water, but each container needed at least 2 pints, some took the whole 4 pints, so this meant many more trips to the water butt.  Beloved has now fitted the hosepipe to the outside tap, and this has helped me water the lot far more easily.  It has a strong jet and I can stand in one place and just guide the water up and into each container.  Suddenly realised yesterday we are on a water meter, so perhaps better I stick to using saved rain water in butts and buckets (we still have some of this water left), and not use 'tap water'.   Wish I could say all the exercise is doing me good (which I suppose it is), but carrying the heavy watering cans has certainly made my joints ache, especially my knees and back.  At least it gives me an excuse to sit down between trips.

What we need is a new computer.  It really is the only way to get rid of all the gremlins.  But am hoping that the one Steve can let us use will be at least faster than this will less problems.  I'd like to be able to afford a new comp. but the day of the barbecue, when hoovering the carpets, the Hoover gave up the ghost.  Well it was over 50 years old!  We had to resort to using the stiff yard broom to sweep the carpets.  And it worked well!

Also I gave Steve's partner my old sewing machine.  This also about 50 years old but an excellent Singer that did embroidery and had all sorts of different 'feet' to do ruffles, pleats, etc.  But far too large and heavy for me to even pick up and put onto a table.  I only need a bog standard machine that is light and easy to use, so want to get one of those, and so pleased I could get rid of my old one.  We tried it out and it still works so as long as someone can make use of it I'm happy getting rid of it.

B wants me to choose a vacuum cleaner that will also double up as a carpet cleaner (washer of carpets), as our cream carpets are in bad need of a deep clean in parts.  This will prove expensive (of course it will be me that pays for it), and what with the vacuum and the sewing machine, both of which are truly 'needed', I doubt that a new comp will ever take priority.  All I can say is that I'll try to keep blogging as long as this (or the one Steve provides) will allow me.

Steve has at least done something that will allow him to reach this computer from a distance, having now 'tied' ours up to the one he has at his own home, so should any major problems arise, he can - hopefully - sort it out without having to come here.   I'm not bothering him with the problems that this comp still has, as he has done all he can with it.   Am still not able to get pictures from my camera onto this comp any more.  Hopefully will be able to with the replacement comp. but at least can now put up photoes I already have.  At least it worked when I did a test.

All I'm hoping for is that today's blog does get published, then maybe I'll be able to get myself back on track and find more things to write about.  You don't know how close I was to stopping writing my blog altogether.  Felt I just didn't need this continuing 'hassle'. 

Although done very little over the past couple or so weeks since I last 'had a chat', at least nothing worth writing out other than already said (above), am looking forward to hearing news from regular (and not so regular) readers, as have missed you. 

One query that I keep forgetting to ask, is to American/Canadian readers.  Pam may have more understanding of the difference as she would have used both types of flour, being that she originally lived in England.
What I would like to know is the difference between the America 'all purpose' flour, and their 'cake and pastry' flour?  Is the latter the same as our plain flour?  They don't seem to use self-raising flour anyway.  I was once told that the US all-purpose flour was similar to a blend of our plain flour with strong (bread) flour. 

Watching Man v Food (accidentally) learned that in the US 'conch' shellfish are called 'conk' (we pronounce it as 'consh'). In England, a 'conk' is another name for 'nose', like "what a big conk he has".

Yesterday was mainly cloudy, the first day without any proper sun.  Today has dawned with blue skies again, but now slightly hazy, so still sunny but hopefully not so hot.  I intend spending as much of the day outdoors as possible, so will leave you now (the comp keeps 'freezing' again so glad to leave it as it is making me feel depressed again).  Do hope this does get published, and that you can bear with me for a few more weeks while I fight an almost losing battle to blog as often as possible.  Hope to be back each day, and if not every day (I might take a day off now and again if 'other things' tempt me away from the house), at least pretty regularly.   Should be back again tomorrow.  Finger crossed. TTFN.