Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Lazy Days of Summer

Don't know about you (younger folk) but it is taking me all my time to stagger around at the moment, due to the heat.  At least am blaming the heat for my painful knees, for the last few days I can barely move.  Getting up from the bed or a chair is becoming extremely difficult.   I'll be seeing the diabetic nurse this Thursday, so she'll probably refer me to the doctor - that means a four week wait before he has a 'window' in his appointment book.

Last night the humidity gauge read 73% at bedtime, and the room temp was 71F, so ended up having a very restless night and dreams verging more on nightmares. 
Despite my good intentions, I decided not to go to the church this afternoon.  The chairs there are very uncomfortable, and also difficult to rise from them, it was sweltering hot again, and although the church room is fairly cool, just couldn't face sitting for nearly 2 hours trying to disguise my pain.  Am I giving up too easily?  Have discovered (today) that if I use two sticks to walk around the house and garden, this makes it much less painful even though I do look a bit like a giraffe. 

Ended up mainly sitting in the kitchen sorting it out, planning B's supper (he first chose liver and bacon with all the trimmings but due to the heat decided against that and ended up with corned beef (chilled for easy slicing) with beetroot, the remains of the quiche, and crispy salad leaves.  Made myself a tomato sandwich (two actually) as although I know I shouldn't eat carbos, it was Weight Watchers bread (made me feel more virtuous), and it was just what I fancied.   Tomato sarnies always taste much nicer when eaten out of doors, don't know why.

Had to give all the container plants a good watering, as although it had rained during the night a few days earlier, the heat had dried most of the soil (at least on the surface) so I thought they could do with a good drink.  B fills the watering cans and the buckets from the water butt and we also have an outside tap.  I like to have these filled last thing at night so by the time they are used the water has warmed up then the plants enjoy it more.  It's only us humans that like a really cold drink on a very hot day.

We had a couple of rose bushes (suitable for patio growing) as gifts for our anniversary.  One has just started to bloom with several more buds ready to open up.  A called 'Love Never Dies' (how apt!) it is a wonderful shade of yellowish apricot with the edges of the petals changing to a lovely bronze as they open.   When we lived in Leicester the garden was full of roses, and we planted several when we lived in Leeds, but in Morecambe there were no roses in the garden at all.  We do have several hydrangeas (different shades of pink to red, and some lace-caps),  also two huge Rose of Sharon bushes that have just finished flowering.  So am very pleased to have roses again, and will be planting a climbing or rambler rose to partly cover the fence at the back of the garden now that B has cut down a huge bush that was there.   This gives me another milestone to aim for - live long enough to see the roses grow and enjoy a summer of their blossom.  Two - three summers (hopefully even more) if lucky enough. 

Wish now I'd planted summer fruiting raspberries some four years ago.  At the time thought I wouldn't live long enough for them to throw up more canes and provide plenty of fruit (at least three years after planting), but of course we've now been here 5 years and I'm regretting not thinking ahead enough.  Funny how - when we get old(er) - we don't plan for the future with so much enthusiasm.  It's just that I'd hate to spend money on making the garden look good and provide plenty of soft fruits when someone else would end up enjoying it all.  Call me mean and miserly if you like. 

However, I do intend getting rid of our kitchen carpet and having a new floor laid, either tiles, vinyl or lino.  Having a cream fitted carpet in the kitchen really does not work, especially as B always comes in the back door, and never removes his shoes, even when it has been pouring with rain.  By the time he has reached the living room (where he sits down and removes his shoes) all the much has been trodden into the carpet, and despite constant hovering/brushing, the carpet is turning a dingy shage of pale coffee - with patches of goodness knows what.  B kicking over a 3 litre bottle of sunflower oil (silly me had put it under the kitchen table at the side of a cabinet) knocking the top of as he did it, and not even noticing he had, hasn't helped, although I did manage to soak it up with the aid of several weeks of newspapers with weights put on top.  Took about six weeks to soak it all up.

One thing I've been enjoying is drinking chilled fruit juices.  From a carton (several different flavours) that I've been keeping in the fridge.  Trouble is - reading the nutritional details (wish I hadn't) noticed they are very high in sugar.  Just as well I didn't start drinking them until I'd had my blood test.  At the moment got past caring.  If I ate only what I am supposed to (low GI carbos) my life would be a misery, I wouldn't lose weight, and any enjoyment of eating 'naughties' will have been taken from me.  Think it's worth knocking a few months/years off my life if I could spend the time left eating what I wish.   Perhaps I should imagine I was back in World War II and making do with the rationed food.  At that time we weren't meant to enjoy what we were eating, just eat what we were given and be thankful.

How easily today we take things for granted.  In the early part of last century many houses had no running water, it had to be pumped up from a well.  Certainly no hot water, not even baths.  The loos usually outside (next to the coal-place).  Washing was either boiled in a copper, or by hand in the sink, and wrung out by hand or put through a mangle (I used to help my mum mangle the bed linen and towels). 
No TV, although we did have a radio, but even that took several minutes to 'warm up' after it was switched on, and the reception wasn't very good.  We had a gramophone, so could play records, but that too had to be wound up by hand, often running down before the record was finished.
Ovens were temperamental, recipes didn't give temperatures, just either 'cool', 'medium' or 'hot' and we needed a lot of practice and had several under and over-baked dishes before we learned the  difference.

So I try to remember to give thanks for what we now have, even if some of the technology has gone a bit too far, burrowing into lives like maggots into rotting flesh (here I mean those 'social sites' that seem to cause more problems than pleasure, and take so much of our time that we could be using in better ways).

Am not against all social sites (not that I read any) as many am sure do give useful information.  It's the personal 'time-wasters' where people seem keen to keep showing 'selfies' and let people know they are just popping out to buy fish and chips or about to wash their hair that I cannot understand. Is anyone at all interested?  Maybe as a 'chat' between friends, but not giving this information to all the world and his wife.  But them I'm not young any more.  Maybe if I was?  Who knows?

Recently I've been reading a book written by an American lady who I believe was a well-known cook in the 20th century.  She made some interesting observations in that depending upon what side of the fence we lived, meals were different.  Those who could afford to would serve only the best quality ingredients and take a lot of care in cooking and presenting them.  On the other side of the fence, where the grass is not so green, people would use cheaper foods and even resort to using left-overs to make other meals. 
A recipe was given for a 'coffee granita', cheap enough anyway whichever side of the fence we live, but the wealthier ones would throw away the coffee grounds, while the poorer ones would dry them and use them to stuff pincushions. 

A book like that makes me wonder if my cost-cutting-cookery is accepted by all, or only those whose purses look anorexic.  When we can afford to eat well (as we can now in the Goode kitchen, but only due to years of learning how to cut costs when it matters), do we still bother to reduce our food budget, or just buy what we want to eat, and not bother too much about the cost.  
When I send in my on-line order I do fill the virtual shopping basket with foods that have tempted me, but the next day I scroll down the list and remove most of them.  What I aim to do is have a fixed amount to spend, and if I find I've spent more, then remove one or two items (even if needed, can manage without them until the next order).   Quite honestly, what I should do is use up ALL the foods I have in store before I even think about restocking.  Just topping up with a few 'fresh' (eggs, milk....) each week.   But do I?  No.  Still can't quite go that far although I do give it a good try at least twice a year (am having a purge at the moment).

As most of us are finding these summer days too hot to even think about cooking a 'proper' meal (like meat and two veg), here is a meatless dish to be served hot, but with a refreshing crisp green salad with tomatoes.  As it uses seasonal veggies, thought this is the perfect time of year to make this.
Myself would use canned chopped tomatoes and/or passata instead of using fresh tomatoes because it saves time and is also less expensive.

Summer Lasagne: serves 4
1 x 400g pack egg lasagne
1 aubergine
6 courgettes
6 tblsp sunflower oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
1.5lbs (750g) ripe tomatoes, pureed
salt and pepper
4 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
2 tblsp plain flour
2 oz (50g) butter
3 oz (75g) grated hard cheese
Wash and dry the aubergines and courgettes, then slice them lengthways without peeling.  Place the aubergines in a sieve or colander and sprinkle with salt, leaving them for an hour to draw out any bitterness, then rinse and dry.
Heat half the oil in a frying pan and fry the aubergines and courgettes until golden, turning them several times as they cook.
In a separate pan add the remaining oil and fry the garlic for one minute, then add the tomatoes with seasoning to taste. Cover pan and leave to simmer for half an hour, then stir in the parsley.
Meanwhile, cook the lasagne as per packet instructions, then drain and lay out on a clean tea towel. Place a layer of lasagne in a buttered ovenproof dish, then top with a layer of the fried veg. Cover with a few tablespoons of the tomato sauce. Repeat layers until all the ingredients have been used up.
Melt half the butter in a saucepan and stir in the flour.  Cook for a couple of minutes before slowing stirring in the milk.  Bring to the boil then reduce heat and simmer for five or so minutes until thickened.  Stir in half the cheese and pour this sauce over the prepared lasagne. Dot with remaining butter, and sprinkle over the rest of the cheese.  Bake for half an hour at 170C, gas 3.  Serve with a crisp green salad and tomatoes. 

As I've finished blogging before midnight, it could be that today's blog ends up on the same page as yesterdays, but am sure you will scroll down to make sure you haven't missed any previous postings.  Not that I've been writing much of interest anyway.  Afraid my life is very boring. Maybe will perk up once it gets cooler. All I want to do is sleep.  I can understand how - in the hotter countries - people usually have a siesta in the afternoons.  How very sensible.

B tells me that Morecambe was one of the hottest places in the country (either yesterday or the previous day). Let us hope it brings in more tourists, and for the sake of schoolchildren and their families, let us hope the good weather stays for a week or two longer with just a break now and then to allow a bit of rain to clear the air and water the gardens.

So that's it for today.  Should be back again tomorrow (if I can find something to write about). TTFN.