Thursday, July 24, 2014

Counting our Blessings...

They say that we in Britain talk about nothing but our weather.  And this is true.  Whatever weather we have, there always seems something wrong with it.  Either too wet or too dry, too windy or two foggy, too hot or too cold.  This year it seems like we are having a summer like we used to have decades ago (at least in my lifetime), generally this happens about once every eleven years, something to do with sunspots they say.  But, as always, after a few weeks of delightfully warm weather (even hotter than Hawaii!!!), all we wish for now is cooler days and even some rain. 

The good thing about this year is that - for once - we have had no hosepipe bans due to not having any real drought, due to having enough rainfall during the fairly mild winter to keep the ground fairly dry below the topsoil at least, for the rest of this year.  We should be glad of that.  Pleased also that we ARE having a lovely hot summer that the forecasters say will last well into August.  We have another high pressure area moving towards the western side of Britain, this bringing more sunshine, slightly lower temperatures,  with the possibility of a few showers.  Perfect in fact.

So I must stop moaning about the heat and be glad to have a summer at all.  Another milestone in fact as I'd decided that at my age it was probably unlikely that we'd have another good summer before I pop my clogs.  So am making the most of the sun while it shines.  I've never been so brown.

It is the night hours that are worst, humidity was less last night, but temperatures higher.  Am getting used to it.   Some good comments came in regarding how we can help to cool ourselves down.   Margie mentioned wet flannels on forehead and necks, and I do remember being able to cool myself down rapidly by running the cold water from the tap over my wrists.  The opposite works during winter - keep wrists, feet, and neck warm and then the whole body stays warm.  So in the hot weather, keep wrists, feet and neck cool, and we then feel much more comfortable.

If any reader has one of those oil (?) filled sleeves that can be kept in the freezer, then slipped over wine bottles to chill the wine (takes only a few minutes),  then slipping them over the wrists works the same way, but more rapidly.  I used to take one with me when I went to play bridge (in a very club room) to cool at least one hand (at a time) between playing each hand of cards.

Doubt very much that people in this country drape mosquito nets over their bed, but this is not a bad idea when the weather is hot. Not just to keep away the midges, but to wring it out in water first.  As the water evaporates, this reduces the temperature under the nets where we would be lying.  If the net ends were able to be hung in water, then they would continually soak up more to replace what has evaporated. 

One very hot summer I was catering for a Golden Wedding Anniversary, the meal was to be served in the garden, and then later indoors.  I'd been in the small kitchen ALL day, absolutely sweltering, and so as I'd taken clean clothes to change into, I put these into the deep freeze to chill thoroughly, so when I wore them, for at least a short time, I felt very cool and refreshed. Jane mentioned cooling sheets in the freezer the same way.  Good idea.

One lovely thing about an English summer is that we do get daylight until 10.30pm, and often longer if there are no clouds in the sky, and some nights it never seems to get very dark at all.  Perhaps this is because we live on the western side of the country, so dusk is about an hour later than on the furthest eastern side, and in Co. Mayo (Ireland) where our daughter lives, it is an hour later that when we lived in Leeds.  So their summers night begins about midnight.

Wise words Barbara.  Of course we should always eat the right foods so that we have a healthier and longer life.  In fact I've now been eating sensibly for the last five years, and feel so much better for it.  When I do stray (very rarely) although I enjoy the food at the time, never feel so good afterwards. 
We are fortunate that there are so many lovely foods that we can eat, that we have no reason to feel we are depriving ourselves when we don't (or can't) eat those we shouldn't.   The worst things we can do is think "I can't have this, that or the other....", and instead think positively and "oh joy, I CAN have this, and this, and this, and this, and that.....". 

Almost beginning to envy you Mary (Perth, Australia) as you are now experiencing your winter. I will try and enjoy ours when it arrives (if it ever does). 
The problem with our home is that we have very few windows that open.  Those that do are small, what we call 'storm windows' or 'transoms', little ones at the top, and being double glazed these only open a few inches.  In our old home in Leeds, the lower windows would also open, and keeping the room doors open we could have fresh, if not cool, air flowing through the house.  Here the hot air seems to get in and stay in.  If we open the back door the flies come into the kitchen and I keep it shut as otherwise B is constantly using a fly spray to get rid of them.  I ask him not to in case it gets on any uncovered food, and when he does use the spray to cover any food, and just give one squirt, but he never believes that will work and seems to use up nearly half a can at a time, squirt, squirt, squirt... following one fly from room to room as it desperately tries to get away from him.  So I end up breathing it in too.  It's a wonder I haven't ended up on the floor breathing my last gasp.

Not sure whether I'd like iced coffee Pam, but do know I enjoy iced tea.  Especially green tea, so think tomorrow (as it is now after midnight I mean today) will make a jug full.  Sparkling water with lime does sound very refreshing, but sparkling water is expensive, so will 'borrow' some of B's diet lemonade, chill that and add some lime juice.  Never thought of diluting the fruit juice. It doesn't seem very strongly flavoured anyway - it is fresh juice, not the concentrated squash.
Am drinking a lot of water at the moment, so will put a jug of that into the fridge as well, and make some ice-cubes using fresh lemon or lime juice so that I can add these to the water.
All I seem to want to do this weather is drink a lot of liquids.  Food hardly crosses my mind, other than sorting out B's supper (he had chicken stir-fry this evening).

Some houses do have ceiling fans to help cool the air, and believe these can be reversed for winter use so they blow down the warmer air that has risen to ceiling height.  Portable fans are the best, but B doesn't like them on in the bedroom once he has gone to bed, whereas I can happily sleep all night with the cool air blowing on me - the ones we have barely make any noise at all.  Wish we were back in Leeds where we had enough spare bedrooms so that we could each have our own and I could then have the fan on whenever I wished.  Here we have only one bedroom.  Nowhere for family or friends to sleep, although Gill is (just about) happy to sleep on the double-sized futon as long as it has extra padding/mattress to give a comfortable sleep.  When she stays we usually have to leave the futon laid out as a bed all day (takes ages to put away), and as that is in the living room then pray we don't have any visitors (other than family) as they would have to pass through there to get to any other rooms (dining room, kitchen, bathroom....) even the conservatory is only reached through the end of the kitchen, although that is close to the back door.   It is so hot in there in the afternoons it is like an oven.  I must check the temperature, I bet it is close to 100C and probably more.  More than a sous-vide.  Wonder if I could slow-cook things by just leaving them standing on the conservatory table for a few hours in full sun.

Yesterday, despite my good intentions, decided I would send an order to Tesco as I could get free delivery and plenty of money-off with unused vouchers.  So I wrote down what I wanted  on the back of an envelope, then put it in my apron pocket.  Later I sat down, clicked on the website and began to order, first fishing in my pocket for the list.  It had disappeared.  I got everything out of my pocket, but it wasn't there.  So switched off the site, deciding to think about it again.
This morning I went to get a pencil from my apron pocket and it came out clipped to the list!  Yet I KNOW it wasn't there when I first looked.  Decided then 'the powers' (above) were letting me know I shouldn't be ordering, in fact needn't be ordering.  And of course they were quite right.  So am now listening to what I've been 'told' and make do with what I already have.

So often things like that have happened before, and have always led me to doing something that would normally have never crossed my mind.  I wouldn't be sitting here writing my blog if there hadn't been some unusual happening nearly 50 years ago (and since then have kept walking the same path).  It is so, so easy to miss opportunities if we are not given a push by what I call a 'guardian angel'.   Maybe we are all here to serve some sort of purpose, and often do need something (or someone) to point us in the right direction.  After that it's up to us I suppose. 

Just one recipe to finish.  A really nice one as either a 'nibble' when watching TV, or to serve at a buffet party (or even at a barbecue, along with the salads).  Normally I'm not fond of olives, but this way they really do taste good, and attractive when sliced in half (like fairy Scotch eggs but without any sausagemeat or eggs)

Olives in Jackets: makes 50
5 oz (150g) plain flour
4 oz (100g) butter, coarsely chopped
3 oz (75g) finely grated Parmesan cheese
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tblsp water
50 small stuffed olives
Sift the flour into a bowl and rub in the butter, then stir in the cheese and oregano, adding just enough water to form a soft dough.  Cover and chill for half an hour.
Drain olives on kitchen paper, patting them as dry as possible.  Roll out the pastry between sheets of baking parchment or clingfilm to about half an ince (3mm) thick.  Cut out 4cm rounds, topping each with an olive, then folding the pastry round to completely enclose it.  Cover each olive the same way (roll out and use pastry trimmings), then place each about 1cm apart on greased baking trays.  Cover and chill for 30 minutes then bake at 180C, gas 4 for about 20 minutes or until golden.  Leave to cool before eating.

Didn't go out with Norris to the shops (now there's a surprise!), as decided to keep my money in my purse.  Found some spare wool so able to practice a bit more crocheting.  Anyway, that sort of craft will keep me occupied more in the cooler months, just holding the wool/yarn helps to keep my hands warm and my fingers supple (as does typing) so unlikely to get arthritic knuckles. 

Off to the surgery tomorrow, with hopefully no dramatic change in my b.p. cholesterol, blood sugar levels despite the several days of anniversary feasting.  At least I have a good excuse if they have risen. 
Hope the weather cools down a bit for everyone, but still stays fair so that everyone gets a chance to enjoy our unusually good summer.  It may be the last of this type for several years.  At least we don't now have to fly to the Med to bask in the sun.  We now have even warmer temperatures here.  Better weather, good food, what more so we want?  Me, I'm counting my blessings for once.  Not taking any of it for granted.  That way I'll enjoy it all the more.  TTFN.