Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Pre-supper Chat

Not my usual time to blog, but as I've just returned from the church meeting, and B's supper is already to re-heat in the oven and get a crusty top (Cottage Pie), thought I'd write now so that I could go to bed early if I wished.  With footie on TV tonight, this room won't be free until after 10.00pm.

Got up early this morning so managed to work through quite a lot, in fact had 'cleared my desk' (in other words done all on my list) by 11.00am, so decided to sit and do some knitting, with the TV on so that I could part watch/listen to first The Waltons, followed by 'Little House....'   then half a hour of BBC news.  Pleased to discover that I'd managed to knit a whole square (for my throw) in that time (first putting 40 stitches on the needle, not sure how many rows, then casted off).  Tonight, after my own supper (salad with seasticks - or shall I have hummous and crudités?) then might manage to knit and/or crochet another couple of squares.  Think already have made nearly 30 squares so soon be time for me to lay them out to make an interesting pattern and find out if I need more of a certain colour before finally crocheting/stitching them all together.

My Beloved is helping his upholstery friend occasionally, and I've asked for any offcuts of foam that he may have so that I can cut them up into little pieces to stuff my cushions.  These have been promised to me, so that means very shortly hope to have at least six knitted cushion covers to scatter onto the two couches. 

Am sure you are right Jane, as my back pain could be caused by different posture, not so much caused by my knee, but the fact I've lost about a stone over the past few weeks, and in the past have found this tends to change my balance slightly.  The aches and pains are not too bad, just an occasional twinge.

In the past my mother always used to send me to the butchers/grocers to buy Wiltshire cured back bacon, number 4.  The number was the thinness of the slices as in those days the sides of bacon were always hung on hooks in the shops, brought down and then placed on the slicer to be cut to the width the customer wanted.  The flavour (and smell when cooking) was absolutely gorgeous and although I have - several times - bought Wiltshire bacon (pre-sliced and packed), it is nothing like I remember.

It's a small world.  There is Anna, now living in France, who remembers well Berkswell, Warwick Castle, and the ice-cream sold in Henley-in-Arden.  Too much of a difference in our ages no doubt for our paths to have crossed, but it is good to know that people recognise places I talk about.

One place I don't think I've yet mentioned is where my parents often used to take me on picnics when I was small (pre-war).  It was a place called Yarningale Common, and all I remember was there were quite a few trees, bushes and scrubs, with clearances where we would sit on the ground to have our picnic.  Can't say it was my most favourite place, and expect now it has been built over.  Not even sure where it is/was.  Anyone know?

As you know, each time I make bread (using a 500g bread mix) I always add half as much weight again (250g) using strong plain bread flour.  Plus half as much water again, although I tend to use half milk, half water and to save me working out exactly how much more liquid I need, find that 500ml is exactly the right amount.

The dough is made in my bread machine, and after the 45 minutes (when the dough is ready and risten) I remove it from the pan and remove one third - the two-thirds I place in a greased and floured loaf tin, slightly larger than the standard 2lb loaf tin.  The remaining dough I make into small rolls.

However, this extra dough can also make pizza bases, so I could make several rolls and still have enough dough left to make one medium sized pizza.  Here is a recipe worth making when we have the spare dough (freeze it and make it later if you wish.

As always, alter the toppings to suit what you wish to use (get rid of in other words), and use this recipe as a guide.  Myself prefer to first fry the onion slightly then scatter this on top of the tomato puree mixture before adding the tuna, etc.  Also omit the rocket because usually I have none.
Tuna, Olive & Rocket Pizza: serves 2
Enough bread dough to make a pizza base
2 tblsp tomato puree
2 tblsp water
salt and pepper
1 x 185g can tuna in oil, drained (reserve oil)
1 tblsp capers
1 x 125g ball mozzarella
10 black olives, pitted and halved
1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
small handful rocket
Mix together the tomato puree, water, seasoning to taste, and the oil from the canned tuna.  Then roll out the dough on a floured board to make two fairly thin pizzas base (or one large thicker if that is your preference), then place the bases on an oiled baking tray.
Spread the dough with the tomato puree mixture, then top with flaked tuna, capers, cheese and the olives.  Bake at 240C, gas 9 for 10 - 15 minutes.  Serve scattered with the onion and the rocket.

We often see 'onion marmalade' suggested as an accompaniment to a pork (or other) dish. Not a true marmalade as we know it, and one that is normally made to be eaten within a day or two, not stored in jars in the larder.  As this relish would eat well with cheese, thought it worth given the recipe.  We can alter the flavour by using red onions instead of white, a different sugar, and maybe balsamic vinegar.  So worth having a play. 

Onion Marmalade: serves 4
1 lb (450g) onions, peeled and thinly sliced
1 oz (25g) butter
3 oz (75g) light muscovado sugar
4 fl oz (100ml) red wine vinegar
Put the onions and butter into a pan and fry gently for 10 minutes until softened and lightly browned. Stir in the sugar and vinegar.  Cook for approx. half an hour, stirring constantly, until the onions are slightly caramelised and very soft, and most of the liquid has evaporated.  Serve warm with roast pork, or cold with cheese.

Ten people at the meeting this afternoon, but nothing very interesting happened. Each week we have a raffle (we each bring a small gift), and as often it is packets of sweets or biscuits, I always bring one back for B to munch while he watched TV.  Unfortunately, my number was called last, so by the time I got to the table there was only a very tiny teapot, a small ceramic jar with china roses stuck on it, and a tube of foot balm.  None of these of any interest to either B or myself, so came away with nothing, so this evening he will have to make do with an after supper snack of cheese, biscuits, grapes.  That should be enough, he is having Cottage Pie and Apple Pie (with cream) for his main meal. 

Thinking about the way restaurants charge what to some of us are ginormous prices for dishes on their menu, suppose it is not that much different to paying hundreds (and that's the lower end of the price range) for shoes, handbags, and designer clothes.   Thing is, almost everything we do pay a lot for we can at least use again (and again, and again).  Once we have eaten a meal - that's it. Same, I suppose goes for a bottle of wine.

The bonus of home-cooked food - at least for the cook - is that the pleasure comes from creating something, and most people who do crafts are not interested in what they make, it is the MAKING  that brings the enjoyment, then put it aside and make something else, then something else.....
When we cook we don't have the meals left lying around, they get eaten, so it's even better - we can continually make, bake, and create.  This may seem a chore to some, certainly not to me - and most of my readers am sure feel the same. 

An interesting programme last night about the differences between men and woman.  Just about proved there were differences (monkeys proved this when given certain toys to play with - the makes interested only in things that had wheels, and the females in the dolls). Certainly men seem to see things more in black and white, while women see the many shades of grey (and I'm not thinking 50) between.  Also all the women seemed to be more creative, and enjoyed being so.  Not that men aren't creative, but on balance there definitely is a difference and almost certainly naturally built-in so that the genders complement each other.

Anyway, supper time so I'll take my leave.  Not sure what time I'll be blogging tomorrow, but should be back.  Weather still good, although France has not fared so well - they have had a LOT of rain in a very short time.  Just as long as it doesn't come our way.    Already looking forward to tomorrow's chat - so see you then.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Nostalgia Time....

Cannot believe how busy life is, every moment seems accounted for.  If not in the kitchen, then in another room sorting things, with some time spent in my 'sit-up-and-beg' chair watching TV (or listening to it), keeping my hands occupied with knitting cushion covers and crocheting squares to make a throw to keep me warm during the winter months.   Almost relieved to come in here now and sit down to relax and have a chat.

The 'Taste of Britain' prog the other day was a mite disappointing as the only bit of Berkswell we saw was a brewery and a farm where they made cheese.  However, the surrounding countryside looked unspoiled, and it was lovely to see Warwick Castle (where I had spent many happy hours when we lived in that area - during war-time).  My main delight, and I have to say it unlocked a memory that I had forgotten about since war began (1939) was the ice-cream shop in Henley in Arden where my parents used to take me occasionally because it was the best ice-cream in the area (probably still is today).  Seeing the shop and the buildings surrounding it brought it all back.  It was as if I was there again.

Berkswell was still haunting me, so I typed in 'Berkswell, Warwickshire' on Google Earth, and it brought up the area, with the name in two places as though there is now an upper and lower Berkswell.  When we over-night slept there it was a very tiny village. 
Closer look showed that the area had been built up with more modern property, and it wasn't easy to find where we used to stay, but I was determined, and decided to centre my search around the church as churches usually were the focal point of a village.   There was a little orange 'church' symbol on the map, on the northern part of Berkswell, and a closer view showed a road leading to it from the main road, passing by a small village green en route to the church (think the village road was called Church Lane).

Then clicked onto the little man to slide him down to the right-hand side of the green to get 'street view', and then it did look very familiar.  Was able to move the camera view to the right to see the building where I discovered I'd 'parked' right outside the village store - this being the little shop where we slept each night during the Coventry raids.  I nearly wept when I saw it.  It hadn't changed a bit, other than it looked a bit cleaner/whiter.  There are two little windows above the shop (that had, at that time, one long room over that was normally used as a store-room), and it was behind those windows I used to stand as a little girl and look across the green to the old houses that are still there now.  Truly a very old English village that doesn't seem to have changed for perhaps centuries - at least that part.  So if anyone wants to take a look, follow the directions above. 

Am having to gird my loins (if you will excuse the expression) ready for a busy weekend.  Next Monday will the church Harvest Supper.  Won't be going to that but have offered to make quiches for the buffet, and also cook fresh bread rolls to serve with the soup. Today was told the numbers are expected to be about 40.  Can cope with that easily, but it will need planning and a bit of organising so that I can deal with it.  Quiches are always best made several hours (or a day) before serving as this gives them time for the filling to settle (fresh quiches can sometimes be a bit 'spongy'.  The bases are always blind-baked (then brushed with beaten egg while still warm to fill in any cracks - returned to the oven until set, then left to get cold).  Can make these early Sunday.  Then bake the quiches later in the day/evening. 
Bread rolls will be baked during the day - in batches as will be making both brown and white.   Delivery will be late afternoon (they eat at 6.15pm), and will be told when someone will have opened the building to start laying the tables etc.
The next day (Tuesday) it will be my day/week to supply cake for the Wednesday afternoon 'tea and biscuits (incl. coffee and cake). 

That means this week I need to really clear the (kitchen) decks and make sure I have all the ingredients needed by Saturday (they have asked me to use free-range eggs, so B can get me some from M'sons, and I'll need at least 3 pints of double cream as well!!!).  I do have enough cheese, and short pastry in the freezer.  Plenty of bread mixes (both brown and white), so not a lot to get concerned over.

Your area of Canada seems to be having the same weather as we are having Margie.  Down south, particularly in the London area, we have been told the temperature will rise up to 23C, however it does cool down in the evenings, and some areas are getting a few autumn mists and fogs early morning.
Liked the sound of your sardines on toast Margie. That's how B likes to eat them.  Myself tend to mash them with a little vinegar and have them in sarnies.   As you say, simple is often best.

As you say Jane, restaurant food can be pricey and home-made is often as good, if not better.  Not sure about all readers, but myself enjoy eating out ONLY because someone else has done the cooking, so it is a treat. However, I always work out how much it would cost me to make what I've chosen from the menu, and - of course - it would always be cheaper.  But then we don't just pay for the food, it is the 'overheads' that add to the cost, including the skills of the chef.  As well as the ambience of the place and attentive waiters (here I'm thinking about quality/top restaurants).

In all honesty, there are places where the food is top quality, beautifully served, but not a lot of it, and remember around the time that 'nouvelle cuisine' came in,  B and I dined out in Harrogate where the portions were so small that after we had left the restaurant we went and bought fish and chips to satisfy our hunger.

Regarding the lack of fat on bacon, not sure about back bacon, but B and I prefer smoked streaky bacon, and - dare I say it - Tesco's cheapest streaky bacon has quite a bit of fat, with the rashers thin enough to crisp up beautifully.  We fry it over low heat to get the fat running free before we raise the heat slightly to crisp it up.  Have tried the more expensive 'dry-cured', and the different brands, but none taste as good or give out as much fat as the one mentioned above.    Readers am sure will have their own favourite cuts/brands.

It isn't that difficult to make our own un-smoked bacon.  Just buy a chunk of belly pork (if you want fat, choose a piece that has the most - and get the butcher to remove any bones).  Then 'cure' it with salt (details of 'how to' can be found on the internet).  I did try once, but forgot about the bones, so couldn't slice it on my slicing machine, so the 'rashers' ended up quite thick and not the right shape anyway, so I ended up using it as 'pancetta' (the little chunks of bacon fried and added to various dishes).  In any case we much prefer smoked bacon, and also smoked gammon (I do cook smoked gammon to then slice into ham).

Double crust fruit tarts, especially at this time of year, do make good eating, far preferable to cake. Not sure that I'm over-fond of cake anyway, prefer savouries, although offer me an éclair and I'd wolf it down.  In my opinion a gateau is more a dessert than a cake (such as Black Forest Gateau), and if I had a favourite plain cake it would be Lemon Drizzle, or gingerbread.

Incidentally, a tart always has a pastry base, but the filling is uncovered.  When it has a pastry lid (then called double-crust) it becomes a pie.   A quiches is a savoury tart.  Lemon Meringue Pie is really a 'tart'.  Treacle tart IS a tart. 
'Tarte Tatin' looks like a pie as the filling is covered with pastry, but as it is always served upside down, it then becomes a true tart.  But who cares?  Let's enjoy what we eat rather than bother about what it is called.

Those energy bars you have made sound good Alison.  We are told today that eating chocolate with high cocoa solid content (72% or over - I have some 85%) is good for us.  So maybe adding a little grated dark chocolate to the bars would make a change, or melt the choc and spread a little of the base of each bar. 
It is the oats in energy bars/flapjack that is also good for us, I sometimes add desiccated coconut when making these, also chopped non-soak apricots/dates/prunes....
Home-made toffee, yum-yum!  Was it golden toffee made, or treacle toffee?   People sometimes get mixed up between syrup and treacle, and in some recipes they could mean the same.  Myself always put golden syrup and/or black treacle when used in my recipes to show the difference.

There are very few store-cupboard foods that are still packed in the original style containers.  Bovril remains the same, Colman's dry mustard also.  Golden syrup and black treacle still in those iconic tins that don't seem to have changed since I was small.  When empty I wash the tins and use them to store pencils and things, the larger sizes I use to hold small plant pots. 
Have to admit I now often buy Tesco's own syrup as it is cheaper than the well-known brand. But that's life.

Am pleased that Downton Abbey is back on TV, especially as it is now set in the mid twenties (there was a mention of it being 1924 in the recent episode).  My mother would have been 22 then, and I can imagine her wearing some of the dress styles as worn by the younger members of the Grantham family. 
Today is the date of my father's birth, he being born in 1896 (died in 1973),. and have to say that these last few days have been very nostalgic for me, what with Downton reminding me of my mother in her youth, and Berkswell the war years. 

To the young generation of today, the 1920's would seem like distant history, to me it is as if I only just missed being there.   My dad remembered the first cars, the early flights of airplanes,  probably early radio, and my mother used to talk about 'silent movies'.  Electric gadgets were few and far between, as were cars.  Fridges only appeared in middle-class homes in the 50's, also TV (and that had a very small picture in black and white).  

In a way, count myself as very fortunate in that I've been able to live - and remember - times when people had very little compared to today, and realise just how much has happened in my own life-time.  If I include my dad's life, probably the first planes were bi-planes and flew very slowly (he used to fly these in World War I), and now we have sent rockets to the moon, men have walked on the moon, rockets sent and landed on Mars.....  Atom bombs, and nuclear bombs. Too much, too quickly, too soon.  Shouldn't we first learn to walk before we can run?

Just about midnight, so must toddle off to bed.  Cooking tomorrow morning (prepping B's supper etc) as will be off to the 'circle' meeting in the afternoon. Hope to be able to grab an hour to write my blog later that evening.  Finding time to fit everything in is becoming a bit of a problem.  But as I said before, am enjoying still being able to do things after many months of almost crippled with arthritis. The pain in my knee has just about gone, as have all the twinges that I had in my joints, just a slight stiffness in my knees after sitting too long, this wears off when moving around..  Muscle pain in my back at the moment probably due to lifting something heavy (that usually sets it off).  Without the bad back I would feel like a new woman, someone about 20 (maybe 30) years younger.  So can't grumble.

October starts this week (Wednesday?), so we will soon be putting the clocks back.  Then planning for Hallow'een, then the count-down to Christmas (with Guy Fawkes/Bonfire night in between for those who bother with it).   Enjoy the good weather while we have it.  TTFN.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Not Enough Hours....

Such a lot to do at the moment, so am hoping that you won't mind if I take a couple of days off (incl. today's blog), and return to you early next week.  Otherwise I won't catch up.  Early night needed as have to be at the surgery when it opens tomorrow (Sat.) morning for my flu jab.  Usually no reaction so no reason to slow me down.   Blame nature's bounty this autumn for keeping me busy (as well as knitting and crochet - have already knitted six cushion covers and nearly finished crocheting squares for a 'throw', but the more squares I do the more of me it will cover). 

Thanks for comments and will reply to these and any others that arrive over the weekend when I return on Monday.  With weather still set fair and around the 20C (warmer down south), want to take advantage of the good weather outdoors if I can (planting daffodil bulbs).

Even though I enjoy so much writing to you all, even more hearing from YOU, at the moment really feel I do need this short break to catch my breath, and know you will understand.  Hope you all have a lovely weekend.   TTFN.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Better to be Busy then Bored..

Just a quick blog as it is very late.  Too busy to blog earlier today, and am now very tired.  But happy with my lot.  Better to be busy than bored.

Just one comment sent in - this from Les.  Didn't say that statins were bad for us Les, but they don't suit everyone.  Doc warned B that if he had bad side effects after being described them he must stop taking them - and this did happen.  Other people too have had to stop because statins don't suit them.  Same can be said of many pills, I've had to stop taking one type of blood pressure pill because this was the one that caused the bad allergy I've written about previously, and I recently had to stop taking the pills prescribed as pain killers because these too had very bed side effects. 

There are several illnesses where people should take statins, the dietician just wanted me to take them to reduce high cholesterol.  I said I'd prefer to see if natural remedies worked, and after six months it proved they had (eating more foods that lowered cholesterol, taking lecithin etc...).

It's been another fair weather day after yesterday's rain.  Still loads of apples on the tree, now much more visible as they are changing colour from leaf-matching green to rosy red on one side, and these have grown quite large, like Bramleys.  A different variety but they are cookers and with any luck, plucked straight from the tree (using an apple picker), a good chance they will keep for several months.  The fallings, even those that fell on the soft grass beneath the tree, will be slightly bruised, these I'm having to cook/freeze before they rot. 

B had his favourite supper tonight, this being liver, bacon, potatoes, and cabbage.  Sounds boring but it is very tasty due to the bacon fat (the cabbage first shredded, steamed, then tossed in the bacon fat - small potatoes halved, cooked and then added to the pan at the side of the liver so these too get coated in pan juices. 

However much I would love to cook restaurant quality meals for B, he is happiest when eating what I call 'normal' foods, nothing fancy, just a good plateful (having a large appetite he has his meals served on a meat platter), so it is basically 'farmhouse fare' that is served up in the Goode kitchen at the moment.  As long as it smells good, looks good, and tastes good, then that's all that really matters.

Sometimes I think we get carried away by the many cookery progs to be seen on TV.  Everything looks wonderful, and perhaps makes our own efforts looks pitiful, but this could be the cause of over-spending when it comes to trying to follow what the chefs/cooks demonstrate.  Rarely do they use inexpensive ingredients.

Today I read a recipe to serve one person, said to be for the budget-conscious.  It was a type of casserole that used a 7oz (200g) piece of steak, this being twice as much meat (protein) as nutritionally we really need.  

Looking forward to tomorrow to watch Brian Turner and Janet Street-Porter in Warwickshire.  Am hoping Berkswell hasn't changed that much since we stayed there, but bet it has.  Just about everywhere has.   Move with the times people say, but I bet many readers wish things could have remained how they used to be when they were young.

A really busy week this week.  Am tempted to take a rest from blogging until Sunday. If I can find time to drop in for my daily chat tomorrow will do so,, but if I don't appear you will know why.  Friday also busy but hope to pop in later that evening (B then out at his social and not hogging the comp or TV in this room).  Up early Saturday for our flu jabs.

Next week must start potting up the daffodil bulbs and trimming the geraniums before bringing these into the conservatory to flower through the winter.  

We at now at the equinox, and officially the first day of Autumn, although this season seems to have already started.  Dawn and dusk are at the same time of day (or should be if we were in GMT - dusk is one hour later).  Clocks should go back soon.  Weather still warm, and getting slightly warmer at the weekend, but now quite cool at night, also autumn mists in some areas in the early morning. 

Nearly midnight, am nodding off as I write, next week hope to have got on top of things and then  able to write a more interesting blog.  Stick with me - I'll get there in the end.  ~TTFN~

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Quick Catch Up...

Just back from the church 'circle', only seven of us there.  We had half an hour of 'clairvoyance' and was very pleased that I had a 'voice' telling me 'ask Margaret about Terence'.  When I asked (in my mind) 'why?', the reply was, to find out if she is still thinking about me'.

When we were all asked if we had received any messages (or whatever) I said the above, and there was a Margaret in the group, and - believe it or not - her husband's name was Terence (I didn't know that), and he is still alive, currently on holiday in New Zealand, but probably asleep as the time the message came through.  Margaret was about to get in touch with him via Skype (or whatever that is), but hadn't recently.  So it did make sense.

The trip to the haunted Winter Gardens tomorrow has been postponed.  My neighbour couldn't come on that day anyway, so we planned it for the following week.  When I got to the meeting, the man who is a volunteer at the W.G's, and who was to give us a guided tour, said he wouldn't be there tomorrow anyway as the place was booked that week by an organization giving a video show or something about Morecambe.  So that all fitted in quite well.  Will leave me time to make more marmalade tomorrow morning.

As B is having cold meats and salad for his supper, and quite able to plate that up by himself (I suppose - well he knows where the meat is, and the salads, the rest is up to him), thought I'd grab the spare time to write my blog, then I can have an early night.

It rained today!!!!  B said did I need him to turn the car round so I could quickly reach the passenger seat without getting too wet, I said not to bother, and by the time I walked through the back door to the car the rain had stopped.
We drove into the street and the heavens opened and it poured down, but by the time we got to the church it had stopped (I knew it would, I asked it to), and when I left it was beginning to dry up, but still very cloudy, and as the gardens can do with more rain, am quite pleased.  Believe it will clear up again by the weekend and still remain fairly warm (late teens and into the 20'sC in the London area).
Next week it will be October.  Less than 100 days to Christmas I read somewhere.  Am in no hurry.

The recipe today is unusual in that having heard of curried fish but have never eaten any (just doesn't seem to go together), am pleased to find a recipe that serves fish with curried lentils.  So if we wish we could leave out the fish and serve ourselves a larger amount of lentils.  At least the fish is separate so the flavour doesn't get lost in the spices.

Fish with Curried Lentils: serves 4
1 lime, cut into quarters
3 tblsp sunflower oil
1 onion, chopped
1 tblsp curry powder (mild to medium)
1 tblsp tomato puree
7 fl.oz (200ml) water
1 x 400g can green or brown lentils, drained
2 tblsp mango chutney,
4 x 5oz (150g) white fish fillets
salt and pepper
naan bread or chapatis for serving
Finely chop one of the lime quarters, including the skin.  Heat 2 tblsp of the oil in a medium frying pan and fry the onion for about 5 mins or until softened.  Stir in the curry powder and fry for a further minute, then add the tomato puree and the water, then stir in the lentils, chutney and the chopped lime.  Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes until thickened.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in another frying pan. Season the fish with salt and pepper and then fry for 5 minutes, turning halfway, until golden and cooked through.
Add a squeeze of lime to the fish, also to the lentils, then serve together (lentils at the side of the fish) with naan bread or chapatis.

Thanks to buttercup and Les for their comments.  My diabetic nurse kept trying to persuade me to take statins (to reduce cholesterol) but I refused as I've heard conflicting reports and preferred not to.

Sorry you've had to keep returning to hospital Les, do hope you are improving.  Envy you your wet room, our shower is very tiny and I am large, only just fit in.  Wish I could use the bath, but it is huge and very deep, even B won't use it as once in very difficult to get out, even the strong man he is.  Me with my mobility problems, no chance.  I don't fancy a 'bath-lift'.
In the past I would lie in a really warm bath for a long, long time being very good at hooking the plug chain between toes on one foot, and turning on the hot tap with the other, so letting the colder water out and topping up with hot.  Could stay in there for hours only got very wrinkly if in too long.  Bubble baths are best for keeping in the heat, the bubbles insulating and preventing the hot water cooling down too quickly.  Me having a long bubbly soak, with a book and a glass of wine - those were the days! 

Probably be blogging again this time tomorrow, see no reason why not.  Hope you can join me then. TTFN.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Not Enough Hours...

Finding difficulty in finding time to write a blog these days.  Don't think I've worked so hard for many years  (like ten?).  Combination of things causing my activity I suppose.  Freedom from the severe pain in my knee.  Seeming to have loads of energy, perhaps supplied by the supplements taken for the arthritis?  Good weather helps, everything seems better in the sunshine, and have to say that having learned to crochet, as well as returning to knitting after many years, fills all the 'free' time I have left.  The rest taken up with coping with preserving (bottling, cooking, freezing...) the abundance of soft fruits that keep coming in - apples and some blackberries from the garden, more blackberries growing wild, bags (and bags) of plums given by friends....

Add to that the food cooking for various organizations, or for charity.  Four lots in one week - so you can see how busy I am.  Not of course busy by normal standards,  happy though that I can still cope with doing it as a 'geriatric', and only because most of the work is done sitting down.  If I had to stand up writing this blog there wouldn't be one.

Two things to mention, one is that on Thursday afternoon in the Taste of Britain, BBC 1, 3.45pm, it covers Warwickshire, with a mention of Berkswell.  This is/was a small village north of Coventry, and after the main Blitz, when the bombs were dropped each night for seemingly weeks, and many incendiaries landed in our streets, my parents decided to rent a room in Berkswell, over the village shop, so that we could all sleep in our (camp) beds, instead of spending each night sitting huddled in the shelter.  We would leave at 5.30 each evening, returning about 9.00am the next morning.

It was Christmas Eve in Berkswell when I was so worried that Father Christmas wouldn't know where I was, but - bless him - he filled the stocking that had been hung at the end of my camp bed, but mercenary me couldn't wait to get back home in the morning to find out if he thought I was someone else, so he'd also left some pressies hung on the end of my proper bed.  And very disappointed I was that he hadn't.

Berkswell, at that time (early 1940's) was, as I remember, just a village green with a few cottages built around it, and the one village shop.  Now I expect it will be much larger.  Perhaps the village shop is still there, maybe it will be on the TV prog.

Second thing I wanted to give a mention to was the beef dripping.  If you remember I added some clarified beef dripping (sold in supermarkets) to the pan to extend the real dripping.  When the silverside was cooked, I drained off all the fat into small pots, but as there was still quite a bit of fat still tied onto the top of the joint, this I removed, put it into the shallow lid of the roasting dish, and continued to render it down.  This filled another small pot. 

Asked B to try both to see if there was much difference, and he said the flavour was much the same but the 'real' dripping was much softer.  B has already used up all the 'real' on toast, and half of one of the other pots of the 'mixed'.

Today made B a beef 'casserole' for his supper, I call it that although it was cooked (more like heated through) on the hob.
What I did was melt a chunk of the 'mixed' dripping in a frying pan and used this to fry some chopped onions, then added quite a few halved small chestnut mushrooms that needed using up.  A few of these were removed for me to add to my salad, and I tasted one while it was still hot.  White mushrooms tend to soak up fat, but chestnut mushrooms stay firmer.  Being already brownish in colour, as they cooked they got darker and really looked a bit like meat.  They tasted like meat, thanks to the beef dripping, so that's mixture of 'real' and clarified beef dripping is something I'll be making again for culinary use as it's a good way to make mushrooms (and anything else) taste really 'meaty'.  Perfect for Strogonoffs.

As always, thanks for your comments.  Wish Mary Whitehouse was still alive, she made a lot of sense, and as you say T.Mills, reviews and reports in the press so often get twisted.   So often the headlines are carefully worded to catch our eye and think they say something else such as:  'Vicar raps...'  This I've seen many times, my mind always seeming to want to adding an 'e' between the 'p' and 's'.  Not even because I want to, it just does.

Can  understand how busy you are jane, sometimes wonder why we do it.  Must be the squirrel instinct in our genes as it is something that generations of rural cooks have been doing for centuries. They knew it was sensible to take advantage of nature's bounty, not having any shops that provided the same, and although we could buy the fruits in supermarkets, at least home-grown and the wild are 'free', worth putting that in big print.  FREE.  Also fresher than any in the shops, and those of us that have freezers can hold them at that level to thaw and eat through the winter months.

This is one reason why I'm so busy this week (and probably for the next few weeks), my 'storing for the winter' instinct is very strong.   Wish the 'spring cleaning' instinct - also strong' - could be carried out with so much vigour.  But I'm not perfect.

Not heard, buttercup, of that historical novel where - in the 1900's - the maid took down her tights. Was the books returned to the library because of the inaccuracy?  Or because the tights were taken down for - lets say - romps?  Think 'Lady Chatterley's Lover' was once on the banned list.  Doubt that any books would be banned now.  Mores the pity.

Have to say that after reading "50 Shades...." am sorely tempted to write a steamy cookbook.  Could call it 'Crude Food'.  Perfectly normal recipes but with a bit more description in the method.  Love to give an example but this blog would probably be stopped because it was 'pornographic'.   Don't let me stop anyone writing something similar, it would be bound to be a best-seller.

Just a couple of recipes today as I have to allow time to lay out all the necessary for an early start to marmalade making tomorrow morning.  If I stay up too late than wake too late, and as I do my best work early in the day it makes sense to stop blogging late and night and try and write earlier.
Not sure what time tomorrow as I'll be at the church in the afternoon, but hope to grab an hour either after I return or during the evening.
Same on Wednesday as I'm hoping to visit the haunted Winter Gardens during that afternoon, and goodness knows what might happen there.  In a way hope something does, then I'll have something interesting to tell you - which makes a change.

Have chosen these two recipes as they are seasonal and although slightly different, you may like to improvise and do a bit of mixing and matching.
With the first recipe, if you don't have butternut, you could instead use marrow or courgette (or a mixture).
Second recipe is similar to piccalilli.

Butternut Pickle: makes about 5lb
4 lb (1.80g) butternut squash (see above)
1 lb (450g) cooking apples, peeled and chopped
2 large onions, chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
5 fl oz (140ml) sunflower oil
3" (8cm) piece root ginger, peeled and grated
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tsp garam masala (curry powder)
half tsp chilli powder
5 oz (150g) stoned dates, chopped
8 oz (225g) dark brown sugar
3/4 pt (425ml) distilled malt vinegar
Peel and dice the vegetables, sprinkle with salt and leave to stand for one hour.  Rinse off the salt and drain well before putting into a large saucepan with remaining ingredients.  Stir well, then bring to the boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 1 - 1 1/2 hours, stirring frequently until thick and pulpy and a wooden spoon dragged across the base of the saucepan leaves a path.
Pot up in warm, sterilised jars, seal with vinegar-proof lids.  Keep 2 weeks before eating.

Courgette and Sweetcorn Chutney: makes 3lb
2 lb (900g) courgettes, finely sliced
3 fresh corn on the cob, kernels removed
1 lb (450g) onions, diced
2 red bell peppers, seeded and thinly sliced
8 oz (225g) tiny florets of cauliflower
2 tsp mustard powder
8 oz (225g) Demerara sugar
19 fl.oz (540ml) distilled malt vinegar
half tsp turmeric
6 whole cloves
1 tblsp cornflour
Sprinkle the courgettes liberally with salt and leave to stand for 2 hours, then rinse well and drain.
Place all the vegetables in a large saucepan and add all the remaining ingredients except the flour and 4 fl.oz (115ml) of the vinegar.
Stir the veggies as you bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 1.1/2 hours, stirring frequently.
Blend the cornflour with the reserved vinegar, stir this into the pan, and bring back to the boil, then continue stirring for 2 minutes as it thickens.  Pot up as above recipe.  Will keep for 6 months.

Really must love you and leave you,  but have to say am thoroughly enjoying my busy life, was afraid those days were past me, but not so.  Will enjoy being active while I can.  TTFN


Saturday, September 20, 2014

Never Believe What We Read?

This morning am almost crippled with back pain. Used to get this many years ago, and fairly regularly, but now not had it for several years.  In those days was told to lie flat (preferably on the floor), sometimes for days, until the pain went away.  Now they say we should move around as much as possible and not rest.   So as I've now managed to get up from my chair into another one, hope to be able to spend a little time chatting before the pain hits me again.

Referring to the Anonymous comment about my mention of all the 'social' technology being used on one causing computers to lose their broadband connections,  this is the reason given in the newspaper the following day.  Readers will remember me saying that my computer didn't work either, and not for many hours (or was it more than a day?) before it started again (without any intervention of mine).  Can understand why some computers might have local problems with interference, but for computers over all regions and I believe not just in this country, having 'crashed', the reason given by the press makes sense.  Don't blame me for any misinformation, I'm just the messenger.

As to 'Fifty Shades of Grey'....  it didn't take more than the first page for me to realise it wouldn't make good reading. Not the content, the way it was written - like a bad Mills and Boon. With any other book I would not have bothered to read more, but knowing there was 'more', then flicked over the pages to discover any hot spots' (and there were quite a few). Apart from the first, didn't really each through as I found them becoming more and more disgusting, verging on the pornographic (not that I'd know much about that).  All I can say is that it would appeal to some, and mainly men I suspect. 
Am not a prude, and have enjoyed reading 'Fanny Hill' (think that was once banned), but that was well written, and certainly not with the extremes as in the above book.  Maybe today girls/women enjoy reading books such as 'Fifty....', but cannot for a moment understand why they feel the need. Something wrong with society if this is the case.  Does that make me a hypocrite because I felt I should find out what all the fuss is about? With me I put it down to research. 

Certainly would not suggest anyone should read Fifty Shades... and sad that it made such an impact (due to the content) that it led to so many people WANTING to read it that it was a best seller, leading to more books in that series.  Cannot believe that it would possible for a film to be made of the book.  Similar films am sure can be found in sex-shops (and maybe where the author found the inspiration?).

Having only had the book a couple of days, it has left me with such a bad taste in my mouth that I asked B to return it to the library a.s.a.p. Didn't even want it lying around for the two weeks until he takes the library books back and gets more.  I feel the same about the book as though it was a rotting, maggot-ridden dead rat lying on the table.

A welcome to Kitty, who - along with several readers - has requested my opinion of 'Fifty Shades...' (given above).

Apologies to Jane (and everyone) as I gave the wrong amount re the beef.  It was 50 slices I got not 70 (plus two bags of 'matchsticks' of beef (for stir-fries) plus a bag of tiny slices (good for sarnies), and a further bag of scraps for making meat paste.  The smaller amounts, fitted together would probably have formed a further 20 slices anyway.  Not that far out. 
As the silverside was rolled, and a good weight, it formed quite a long joint, so the width/depth was  slightly smaller than a usual beef roasting joint, but of course longer, so the reason why it gave more slices.  Depending on thickness of carving, I would serve either three, four or five slices per portion.  Five of the very thin ones was about right for B.   

Thanks to all readers who sent comments.  Have to say Margie, we in the UK (other than Scotland) are very relieved that the Scottish vote was 'No' to separation.  But it was very close.  It is said that the main 'No' vote came from mainly women who (naturally) were more concerned with the financial effect the separation could have on Scotland.  When the supermarkets said that food prices would rise in Scotland if the vote was 'Yes' might well have been the tipping point.  

Scots who live outside Scotland (even if still in the UK) were not eligible to vote, so as there are quite a number of other nationalities living in Scotland (English, Asian....), presumably these would have been eligible, and one would assume they would vote 'No', diluting the 'true Scottish' majority vote that I am sure would have been 'Yes'.  But who I am to make assumptions? It seems (from comments) I do get my facts wrong.  Passing on what I read, and what I hear on the news, adding a little of my own thoughts occasionally, if just how things seem to me, but isn't it good that we can share what we think/believe to be right/wrong? Life would be boring if we didn't have differences.  Just as long as we beg to differ, and not cause offence.

Myself believe that in many instances we should take a pinch of salt with what we read. Certainly when it comes to celebrities, the press seem to make up a great deal of what they write. I've given interviews in the past and even at my level, what was written was not always what I said.  The press are extremely clever at putting two and two together to make five, and when taken out of context can almost prove that the opposite happened to what really did.

Enough about media manipulation.  Back to a safer subject such as food.  Even then there is always the danger of the 'U' turn, and we hear that butter is now better for us than (some) margarine.  Sugar we know is bad for us (not denying that), and there could be a tax on sugar (and its products) so as sugar has an almost indefinite shelf-life (when properly stored), will buy some 5kg bags (works out a bit cheaper than the smaller bags) to store for preserve making and baking, for the next few years at least.  So maybe the press does give some useful news.  On the other hand there may be no tax on sugar, another food may be found to be more 'dangerous' so we have to avoid that - having read the other day that artificial sweeteners could do us more harm than sugar - where do we go from there?

First recipe today has an unusual combination of ingredients that give a really delicious result.  Seasonal too (although we could use frozen fruit/veg). Intended as a side dish, after making it can be frozen to enjoy later.
Remove the peel from the lemon, avoiding the pith.  Using the peel in strips/pieces is to add flavour, using zest would do the same but not then able to be removed. 
Wrap the peeled lemon tightly in cling-film and place in the fridge, then it should keep without going mouldy for at least a week.  Or freeze the lemon, or just its juice).

Pears and Beans in a piquant glaze: serves 6
3 cooking pears, peeled, cored, sliced
half pint (300ml) hot chicken stock
1 small lemon, peel only used *see above)
12 oz (350g) string beans, cut into chunks
4 rashers unsmoked streaky bacon, diced
2 tblsp soft light brown sugar
1 tblsp tarragon vinegar
Put the pears in the hot chicken stock and lemon rind, bring to the simmer and poach for 5 minutes.  Add the beans, bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 5 minutes, then drain, reserving 3 tblsp of the stock.
Dry-fry the bacon until crispy and the fat flows, then remove bacon and drain on kitchen paper.  To the  fat remaining in the pan, add the sugar and the vinegar and stir until the sugar has dissolved, add reserved stock, then bring to a fast boil and cook until reduced to a syrupy consistency.  Reduce heat to low, then gently stir in the pears and beans, until coated with the glaze.   Sprinkle the bacon on top.  Then ready to serve.
To freeze: cool and freeze in foil containers, seal/label. Use within 3 months.  Thaw at room temperature for 4 hours, then bake at 180C, gas 4 for 15 - 20 minutes.

Final recipe today is a harvest loaf - not the more normal wheat-sheaf shaped bread, but this time a sweet version, not a million miles away from carrot cake.
Due to the moist ingredients, when well wrapped, this 'tea-bread' will keep well for several days. Serve sliced and buttered.

Sweet Harvest Loaf: serves 6 - 8
3 eggs
6 fl oz (175ml) sunflower oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 oz (175g) carrots, coarsely grated
5 oz (150g) desiccated coconut
6 oz (175g) cooking apples, peeled/cored/grated
4 oz (100g) walnuts, chopped
4 fl oz (100ml) runny honey
6 oz (175g) raisins or sultanas
7 oz (200g) self-raising brown flour, sifter
3 oz (75g) porridge oats
1 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
little grated nutmeg (to taste)
Beat together the eggs, oil, vanilla, then fold in the carrots, coconut, apples, walnuts, honey and dried fruit.
Gently stir in the remaining ingredients.  Spoon into a greased 2lb/900g loaf tin and bake at 180C, gas 4 for one hour - one and a quarter hours, until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
Cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a cake airer to cool completely.   Serve sliced and buttered.
If intending to keep for a few days, wrap in foil.  To freeze: when cold, closely wrap in foil, seal and label.  Use within 6 months.  Thaw at room temperature for 4 - 5 hours.

Now need to try and hobble into the kitchen where I need to bake bread, write a short list of things needed that B can take to M'sons when he goes for his Health Lottery ticket, then hopefully will find that moving around a bit will help to ease my back. 
Almost certainly will be taking tomorrow off from blogging (instead of today), so expect me back Monday.  If my back has recovered in time, it could be a busy week ahead for me.  Sunday/Monday baking for the church coffee morning, marmalade for MacMillan Nurses Charity day, out on Tuesday to the church 'circle', out on Wednesday to 'ghost hunt',  Friday coffee morning and also hair appt., Saturday flu jab, and in between fitting in the usual household chores, cooking, blogging....  Almost hoping the comp will crash just to give me breathing space.

Until Sunday, hope you all have a pleasant weekend. Weather uncertain, some of us may have rain (we need it), but said to improve again later next week although tending to be cooler, esp. at night.
We've had a good run of perfect weather (at least Morecambe has), so can't complain when the weather returns to 'normal'.  Should be back Monday. TTFN


Friday, September 19, 2014

Late Friday evening....

Had planned my day to the minute, leaving a couple of hours to write my blog this afternoon as soon as Norma the Hair had left.  What did I find?  The computer wouldn't connect up with Broadband (again!).  Apparently this is now happening to some connections due to too many people using their comps/tablets/iPods and all things that use the same lines of connection - it cannot cope with them all.

It's only now the computer is back working - thought I'd better check - and as I was up late last night watching much of the Scottish election, my plan was to go to bed early (but the repeats of 'dinner ladies' was too good to miss, so forgive me if I catch up with your comments tomorrow.  I don't normally blog on Saturdays, but as I've missed today, will be back tomorrow, then probably take Sunday off.

It could be this Broadband problem will happen again (it has happened several times) - if a day (or even two) goes by when there is no expected blog, you will know the reason why. However, there are always the Archives to work through - especially the months of each year that are same as the one we are in, remembering that this year crops can be up to a month early.

I have read part of 50 Shades....  in my next blog I will let you know what I think.  TTFN.  

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Smell of Success...

Yesterday cooked the silverside in a lidded roasting tin that had a lid (gift from my neighbour who is down-sizing and no longer uses it).  Inside the tin was a grid, and the silverside rested on that, with the fat covering the top.   Decided to cook it at a fairly low temperate (140C) and after 4 hours took its temperature and it was 150deg (rare), so turned the oven down to 50C, and left in in for a further hour while I cooked B's supper.  By then the temperature was 160deg, and that was 'medium' (well-done would have been 170deg). 

Removed the meat from the tin and poured off all the dripping - quite a goodly amount due to the extra clarified beef dripping I'd added.  That was covered, cooled and chilled and have yet to check this, but waiting until I have further rendered down the fat that I've removed from the top of the joint, knowing there is quite a bit more dripping I can get from it.

The meat was chilled in the fridge overnight and this morning I sliced it using my electric slicer.  My goodness what a lot of slices I got!! Some slices were very thin (others medium and a few thicker - according to the meals/snacks they are used for).  At least 70 slices in total PLUS three bags of small 'batons' (cut from the end chunk of the joint) that will be used in stir-fries,  AND about a quarter of a pint of tiny scraps that was left on the paper (where the slices of meat fell from the machine) including scraps caught in the machine itself.  These will be made into beef paste. 

The weight of the joint - once cooked and before slicing g - was 2.5kg.  After checking the Tesco website and averaging the price of pre-packed sliced cooked beef,  it would cost me at least £50 to buy the same amount (the price of  potted beef spread was 85p per 100g).
Just goes to show that cooking a large joint of beef (pork, or lamb....) even if only once a year, can save us a LOT of money.  The slicing machine would pay for itself after slicing two joints.

Slice beef freezes very well, have found it worth buying the largest affordable joint we as then B can have roast beef regularly throughout the year (takes only minutes to re-heat in gravy). Instead of using freezer bags (I don't have a vacuum sealer), have found that wrapping closely in thin (cheaper) kitchen foil removes almost all the air.  I write on the bag of each pack of slices whether it is thin, medium, thick, or 'bits'. 
Wrapping fresh salmon in foil before freezing also works well and when unwrapped/thawed it as good as 'fresh'.

Because the kitchen was full of the glorious aroma of roasting beef yesterday (and still hanging around) B has requested the full Monty for his supper - Roast beef, gravy, Brussel sprouts, roast potatoes, Yorkshire pudding.... Not sure if I have sprouts in the freezer, but the green string beans will be fine.  Perhaps should also cook carrots.  Who wants such a heavy meal on such a lovely day?  You can guess who.

Have to say it is usually the smell of certain foods being prepared/cooked that gets our mouths watering.  Who doesn't love the smell of bacon frying, maybe even fried onions, certainly bread that has just been baked, also cakes such as gingerbread....  and of course - roasting meat, especially beef.
Have readers any other likes/dislikes when it comes to the smell of certain foods?

Many cakes do keep fairly well in tins Jane. Am thinking of the moister ones such as Lemon Drizzle, but of course the longer keeping ones such as gingerbread, flapjack, and parkin that need several day to 'mature' before cutting, come first to mind.

Myself find that layers of sponge cake freeze very well (when properly wrapped), and as these thaw out quite rapidly, two (or more) can quickly be filled with jam (also whipped cream if you have it), to serve within - say - half an hour of removing from freezer.
A complete jam-filled Victoria sponge cake will freeze perfectly, but will take longer to thaw than single sponge layers, and useful to know that unfilled sponge cakes (like bread) are one of the few foods that can be frozen, thawed, and then re-frozen.  When first filled with jam/cream, this can be frozen, but once thawed not refrozen (because of the cream).

When freezing a larger cake, always worth partly freezing, then slicing it  (easier to slice when nearly frozen, especially if filled with cream). Separate each slice with baking parchment, before re-assembling and returning to the freezer, then easy to remove one slice if that is all you need (allow about 15 mins for it to thaw, longer if the room is cold).

The richer the cake, especially when containing fruit, the longer it will keep, but it is worth having a go at baking the following that contains fruit (dates, apple) and said to keep for up to a week.  These 'up to' dates rarely mean 'use-by', more as a guide, so am sure this one would keep well (especially if kept chilled) for longer.  In any case, this cake can be frozen (un-iced) if you wish.
If you haven't fresh ginger, use stem ginger, or crystallised ginger, shredded as small as you can - OR use a teaspoon (or two) of ground ginger.

Squidgy Lemon and Ginger cake: serves 12
7 oz (200g) dates, stoned
7 oz (200g) butter, diced
11 oz (300g) dark muscovado sugar
2 eggs
2 oz (50g) grated fresh ginger
grated zest of 1 lemon
7 oz (200g) self-raising flour
1 Bramley apple (9oz/250g) peeled
2 oz (50g) white chocolate
1 tsp candied lemon peel or cryst.ginger, chopped
Put dates in a bowl and cover with boiling water.  Heat the butter in a small pan until melted, then stir in the sugar.  Cool slightly then beat in the eggs. Stir in the ginger, and lemon zest.
Drain the dates and chop them finely, add these to the date/egg mixture, then stir in the flour. Chop the peeled apple finely then add this to the mixture.
Spoon mixture into a greased and lined 8"/20cm round cake tin.  Put the tin on a baking sheet (this prevents the base browning too much) then bake for 1hr.15mins at 160C, gas 3 until well risen. A skewer stuck into the cake will probably have a few moist crumbs sticking to it.  That's how it should be.  Leave to cool in the tin.   When cold,  remove from tin, and peel of the parchment. Wrap well, and it will keep for up to a week.  If wishing to freeze do this before decorating with the chocolate.
Melt the chocolate in a bowl over just simmering water.  Then remove cake from the tin, remove the parchment, and drizzle the chocolate over the cake, scattering the top with the candied peel/ginger if using.

Will see if I can find other recipe for cakes that will keep well in a tin (other than the heavy fruit ones), so watch this space.

As you can see, this is another mid-afternoon blog.  Seems to be working best for me as am able to get a lot more work done in the morning and also after blogging.  Gives me time for knitting/crochet during the evening, and if nothing worth watching on TV - off to bed by 10.00am (often before B - and that doesn't happen often).

It has been another beautiful day, although it does seem that some parts of the country have had some rain and a few thunderstorms here and there.  We - as always, here in Morecambe - have been more fortunate.

Tomorrow we should get the result of the Scottish vote and who knows whether the 'Yes' or 'No' will win. Am hoping the majority choose to stay in the UK more for their financial security than any other reason.

Call me daft if you like, but in the end asked B to get me '50 Shades of Grey' from the library.  They didn't have it in at the time, but today they did and so this morning B went and fetched it. Just wanted to know what all the fuss is about. Will let you know what I think about it when I've read it.  Could be I won't want to read more than the first chapter - but who knows?  Even an 81 year-old lady might enjoy a bit of raunchy reading (that's what I believe the book consists of, on nearly every page)
As am a fast reader, could be by tomorrow I'll have finished reading and be able to give you my opinion (who cares anyway?). 

Must be the new pills (supplements), seem to be 'feeling my oats' as the saying goes. A couple of weeks ago I felt very, very old,  now I feel much the same as when I was thirty (well perhaps 35). Must enjoy it while I can.

However much the book is calling me, really have to go and start preparing B's supper (and dessert - want to use up the oddments of fresh fruit that need using, in a 'fruit salad'), then the evening is my own to do what I like with (watching TV, finishing knitting another cushion cover, maybe a bit of crochet, then reading, reading, reading.....could be it will be after midnight before I go to bed. And what did I say about going to bed early?  The road to hell is paved with good intentions. TTFN

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Happy Days!

Looks like mid-afternoon is turning out to be the best time for me to write my blog (apart from Tuesday's when I'm out then).
The meeting yesterday (church 'Circle) was very enjoyable.  Apart from the usual chatting about anything 'spiritual' that had happened to each of us (not everyone), there was new face (at least to me). Turned out this gentleman did voluntary work at the Winter Gardens in Morecambe (this building included in the list of the most haunted places in Britain?).  Speaking to him after the meeting he told me that he would show me round the building, and that he and a friend had done some filming inside the building and they had captured a 'spirit' running along a balcony, also a bright blue globe that suddenly appeared and whizzed past them, that was also seen on the film including the 'whoosh' sound it made.

For some reason I mentioned that my husband, although not interested in anything spiritual, said that it is well known that sailors, alone in boats in dangerous sailing conditions, have always felt there is someone 'else' sitting in the boat with them and this really helped them.
Turned out the W.G.volunteer had just joined the Morecambe sailing club, and had actually met B at their Friday social evening, so as B was parked in the church drive, was able to stop and have a chat with him. 
As I asked if I could bring someone with me when I had this 'private' guided tour round the Winter Gardens .  So watch this space and maybe this time next week we'll have been and there will be something interesting (or not) to tell you.

As well as the normal 'circle' meeting, I've arranged to bake cakes on alternate weeks for the Wednesday meeting (that begins with tea, coffee, cakes and biscuits).  My tray-bakes always stay fresh for a day or two, so I can bake on Tuesday morning, take to the meeting that afternoon, and they can stay in the church kitchen (wrapped!!) ready for the next day.  If I make gingerbread, then could make it on Sunday as it improves with several days keeping before being eaten.  All the cakes I make can be frozen, so if any left over they will be able to be kept for another day.

Even my knee was behaving itself,  I needed to use only one stick to walk down the church drive, and once in the room hardly felt I needed the stick at all.  After sitting for nearly a couple of hours, have to stay it stiffened up a bit, but not nearly as bad as it was a couple of weeks ago.
As the doc said it could take 2 days to 2 weeks for me to feel the benefit of the injection, and the two weeks is up tomorrow, expect that how the knee feels now is about as good as it can get - but am happy with that.

Unusually for me have felt more bright-eyed and bushy tailed than for weeks.  Often this 'feel-good' feeling comes a couple of days before I succumb, to a cold (maybe my body charging itself up to deal with it), or it may just be I was due for a bit of good luck.

This morning - another LOVELY day, went out with Norris and bought more wool (chunky and double-knitting), plus 4mm needles to suit the thinner wool, two stitch counters to fit on the needles, a wool needle for the sewing up, and am now (as they say in the US) 'good to go'.  Actually I've already started knitting another cushion cover, but have reluctantly laid that down so that I could chat to you, and then prepare B's supper (fish risotto).

While on the parade met my neighbour (the one I have coffee with on a Friday) asked her if she'd like to come with me to have a tour of the Winter Gardens.  She was thrilled, so that's sorted.  She was going in a different direction to me so we parted company, but as I needed to buy some silverside at the butchers, and he asked me to return in 10 minutes, I did a scoot round the block and then sat outside his shop until he had the meat ready for me, during which time my neighbour, on her way hack, caught up with me and we ended up returning home together,  it was not easy for me to keep Norris's speed down to walking pace,  I am used to scooting along (faster than I should - and even faster on the prom when there are very few people there.  Our end of the prom being often empty of people, they tend to congregate towards the west (town) end. 

Requested extra fat from the butcher to place over the silverside so that I can make beef dripping for B (that always cheers him up), but when I got home found there was not as much fat as hoped (I wanted LOADS) so added a bit of clarified beef dripping to the roasting pan in the bope that this would take up the beefy flavour and end up pretty much like the 'proper' beef dripping.  If it doesn't work to B's satisfaction, then I can always use the fat for roasting potatoes etc.

Thanks to Stephanie for the comment.  Not sure if the other comment from Anonymous was also from Stephanie (she mentioned she had made a mistake with the first).
Don't think our household building insurance covers legal advice, but will check.  Think we can sort it without heading in that direction, although the other advice - Citizen's Advice Bureau - is one worth keeping in mind.

It is true that the trees are fast changing colour, and a lot earlier than normal.  Sometimes it can be late October/early November before leaf-fall, but usually late when we have had a wet summer.
This year just about everything from flowers to fruit have been several weeks early.  It could be the very mild winter that caused this, and with the trees (these did seem to produce new leaves about the right time), it could be the very dry summer that has thrown the tree 'clocks' out.
Being old enough to have ancient memories of how our English weather used to conform, even able to plan picnics a week or two ahead, and choose the right time of year to go on holiday and avoid the rain, then following this 'tradition', we could be about to face a severe winter.  Nowadays we can't guarantee any weather anymore, although have to say, Morecambe seems to have its own weather, and usually a great deal better than the rest of the country.   When we moved here we were told we didn't have many frosts and rarely, if ever, got any snow.  Of course then we had two winters with quite a bit of snow (which I thoroughly enjoyed), since then - just frosts, rain, a few gales, and last winter barely one frost.  Even geraniums, left in pots in the garden by mistake, kept alive during last winter and have continued to bloom.

Perhaps if you brought the spinning wheel out of hibernation Stephanie, you might get inspired to use it again.  Sheep's fleece is so cheap (buy directly from a farmer) that if you do a lot of knitting and crochet, you will end up quids in.  Myself found spinning very relaxing, as with all craft work even those that take a fair amount of concentration.  Could be the sense of achievement when something is finished that gives an added bonus.

Have to say one of my major faults, (and yes I do have feet of clay - with as many feet as a centipede) is not finishing off properly.  In the past have been known to fasten my skirts with a nappy-pin rather than make a button-hole, or stitch on a hook and eye.  However, did improve. 
When my daughter-in-law did embroidery, she did it so neatly that you couldn't tell the back from the front, and I admired this so much.  With me I tend to like to get a job done as quickly as possible, preferably without cutting corners, but maybe I could take a little more care.  Am I the same when it comes to cooking?  No - this I really try to do correctly, as perfectly as possible.

When it comes to cooking, maybe I do take too much trouble with the appearance and maybe the subtleties of flavour.  When I use ground pepper, I always use white pepper when the food cooked is a light colour (such as white sauce - black pepper would show up as dark specks), and also have several different types of salt - rock salt, sea-salt, and pink salt (from the Himalayas), salt from Wales, and at least a couple more different ones.  Have yet to find out who sells kosher salt - recommended by several chefs.

Was making myself a tomato sarnie today (with some low-fat mayo spread on the bread instead of butter).  At one time used to put the sliced tomatoes on the bread, then season with pepper before topping with the second slice.  Now, once the bread has had its 'spread' (butter, mayo, marg etc), I then ahake/grind the pepper onto the bread - this way I can see the pepper is evenly distributed - before topping with tomato (or whatever filling I might be using that needs seasoning).  If I wish to add a little salt, then add this in the same way.

Time now for me to check to see if the beef is ready, then begin preparing B's supper (measure out all the ingredients: butter, chopped onion, Arborio rice, white wine, and poaching the fish - meanwhile heating up chicken stock, then just sit by the hob, adding ingredients in the above order, continually stirring (or almost continually - sometimes I am tempted to take a swig of wine, why should B have it all?).  After 25 minutes it would be ready, but have to allow 30 mins (turn out the heat, cover the pan and leave to stand for 5 minutes more) as B likes his rice slightly over-cooked. 

Have a feeling that if B ate in a Michelin 3-starred restaurant very little of the meal would be to his satisfaction.  For him there would be no enough seasoning, meat too rare, ALL vegetables would have been undercooked, and when it came to desserts (that he would like) the portions would be too small - and not enough cream!!
Thankfully I know exactly how B likes his food and try very hard to make it perfect (by his standard, not mine) so as it is nearly 5.00 really have to make a move. Back again tomorrow, can't say what time, probably mid-afternoon. TTFN.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

\Keeping it Short amd Sweet

Another early blog today as am at the computer anyway dealing with the continuing claim for the blogged sewage pipes OUTSIDE our boundary wall.  Seems we have to pay a further £88 for a detailed copy of the sewer network - and this from the Council.  So why can't the council's solicitor just ask for a copy herself from them?

Anyway, this is causing B so much stress and during last night  I discovered him sitting in the living room in the wee small hours (he had previously gone to bed and was in bed when I retired), worrying about it all.  So I'm taking now taking it over and he can forget about it.  I don't let things like that worry me, I just dig my toes in and hopefully give THEM cause to worry.

This afternoon I'll be going to the church 'Circle' meeting (think by then I will need the relaxation it gives me), so will have less time to do things this morning, there is a footie match on TV this evening that B will want to watch (in this room), and myself prefer to have an early night rather than wait until very late evening before I blog.  

Many thanks Sarina for the info on bottling pears in syrup.  Know just what you mean about lids 'popping',  after a jamming session I love to hear each lid 'pop' as they cool down. 
Also thanks to Hazel - her comment came in as I am writing so was able to check my email to read it, enabling me to give a reply.  Worth looking through old books to find how to preserve lots of things.  In the US, in the old days - I believe a lot of preserving was done in cans, but nowadays bottles are used, but still called 'canning'. 

Sorry it's a short blog, but am sure you will appreciate time is not on my side today.  Should be back to normal tomorrow, but not sure what time I will be blogging (have to say I prefer an early blog rather than a late one - then I can go to bed early.  TTFN


Monday, September 15, 2014

Finding Time...

Another early start to my blog, so apologies to readers who may not yet have read yesterday's blog.  Worth checking to make sure you haven't missed it.  Not that I suppose there was anything written worth reading (I seem to have lost my blog mojo at the moment - if I knew what a mojo was).  Will try to do better today.

Reason why I'm able to write at just after midday is that "Little House...." that I normally watch at this time I've discovered is a repeat of the one shown on Saturday's so as already seen that one, I have a free hour, or even longer if I chose to miss the one-o'clock TV news which is usually depressing anyway.

Gave my container plants a good watering yesterday, and blow me - this morning woke to find out it has been raining during the night.  Nothing heavy and possibly the foliage in some containers would have prevented much rain getting soaked in.
It's obvious, after rain, how much the plants seem to perk up, and expect this is due to the dust that could have settled on the leaves has then been washed off.  Leave need to breathe, and perhaps we forget we should give these a wash as well as watering the roots.

An interesting bit in the newspaper today how the Chinese government is so concerned with the way children are getting more and more attached to 'the electronics' (computers, tablets, iPads, and mobiles), have now set up a large number of what I call 'boot camps' for a sort of 'detoxing', to wean them away from using these products.  Think the same thing ought to happen in the Western world as if this 'social media' continues it will cause more problems than pleasure (well, that's what my crystal ball is showing).

As this is an early blog, only a couple of comments to reply to, and apologies to those who send any in later today hoping for a reply.  These I will answer tomorrow.

Loved reading your comment Sarina, proof positive that a little knowledge of a great many things is not - as the saying goes - a dangerous thing (unless we dabble in electronics and chemicals), but can get us through life very comfortably and at low cost.
Could you please let me know how you preserve those pears, we have only a few pears on our pear tree and they are not very large, also rather hard.  More use to me if preserved than waiting for them to ripen one at a time.

The wide-screen TV that we have in this room has a flat screen Margie, and personally I prefer to watch the smaller, old-fashioned TV that we have in our living room even though not all the picture is able to be shown (we lose a bit at each side).   We don't have any means of recording TV progs although I suppose we could watch some on the various iPlayers via the comp.  Am not fond of doing that, don't know why.  Perhaps I prefer to watch in comfort, snuggled up in my chair under one or more of my 'throws'.

Our weather remains warm, and I believe will be getting warmer later this week, but in the shade, and also during the night, it certainly is cooler.   The leaves are fast changing colour and many falling from the trees, so we have to constantly sweep our drive due to the many horse-chestnut trees that line our road.  Not too bad at the moment as there has been no wind to blow the leaves around, and once enough have fallen (to be followed by more), the council send a little street sweeper up and down the road and men fills bags with the leaves to keep the pavement clear.  This could be because - if there is rain - the leaves would get slippery and residents (many of the elderly) could slip and fall, break a leg/hip and then sue the council.

Noticed three very ripe bananas in my veggie basket (still in a bag), B had bought in some more bananas and placed them on top, so I mussed seeing the older ones until too late.  However, they will be used as today I intend making the following cake.  The icing is basically a 'ganache', and omit the banana chips if we have none.  Myself would probably omit the icing as I KNOW B will pour cream over it anyway. 
This cake will freeze, preferably un-iced although I have frozen ganache (on its own) and it causes no problems once thawed.

Chocolate and Banana Cake:  serves 8 - 10
6 oz (175g) caster sugar
6 oz (175g) self-raising flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
4 tblsp cocoa powder
4 oz (100g) chocolate chips/chunks
6 oz (175g) very ripe bananas (peeled weight)
3 eggs
4 fl.oz sunflower oil
2 fl.oz. milk
4 oz (100g) milk chocolate
4 fl oz (100ml) soured cream
handful dried banana chips, chopped
Mix the sugar, flour, bicarb, cocoa, and chocolate in a bowl.  Using another bowl, mash the bananas, then stir in one whole egg, and 2 yolks (reserving the 2 whites). Add the oil and milk.
Beat the egg whites until stiff then quickly fold the wet banana mixture into the dry (flour, etc) mix, followed by a quarter of the beaten whites to slacken the mixture.  Finally, gently fold in the remaining whites
Spoon/scrape into a greased and fully lined 2lb loaf tin (allowing the baking parchment to come about an inch above the top of the sides. Bake at 160C, gas 3 for 1hr 10 minutes or slightly longer until a skewer comes out clean   Cool in the tin, placing this on a wire rack.
To make the icing, melt the chocolate and cream together in a heatproof bowl over a pan of barely simmering water.  When the chocolate has softened, stir with a spoon until combined, then chill in the fridge until spreadable.  Remove cake from tin, swirl the icing over the top and scatter over the chopped banana chips.

Here is a gorgeous recipe using pears.  Have chosen this because the ingredients sound sort of luxurious, so this could be worth serving to guests as well as just family fare.  We don't all have spiced fruit-flavoured tea-bags, if not use an ordinary tea-bag lightly brewed preferably in a pint (600ml) of diluted apple juice (in place of the water) and add a pinch of cinnamon.
A bit late to do this now, but if you grow redcurrants, then always pick some in 'the bunch' and freeze them this way.  When thawed these can then draped onto or beside a suitable dessert as an edible and very attractive garnish.

Poached Pears in Spiced Tea: serves 4
2 oz (50g) caster sugar
1 tblsp runny honey
1 tblsp redcurrant jelly (or cranberry jelly)
2 spiced fruit tea-bags (apple and cinnamon?)
1 pint (600nl) water
4 firm pears, peeled/halved and core removed
handful fresh cranberries or redcurrants
yogurt or crème fraiche for serving
Put the sugar, honey, jelly and tea-bags in a pan with the water and bring to the boil.  Stir to dissolve the sugar, then add the pear halves.  Cover, reduce heat to a low simmer and poachfor 12 - 15 minutes until the pears are just tender - test with a skewer, cocktail stick or tip of a knife.
Using a slotted spoon, remove pears and place in a dish. Turn up the heat under the pan, throw in the cranberries or redcurrants and boil for a few minutes until syrupy. Discard the tea-bags and serve the pears with the warm syrup poured over.  Serve withy yogurt, crème fraiche.

This is a variation of Apple Crumble. Useful in that we can cut down quite a bit of the prep - as no need to first peel the apples.

Baked Stuffed Apples with Crumble: serves 6
6 large eating apples or medium Bramley's
2 oz (50g) sultanas
1 tsp cinnamon
3 oz (75g) butter, chilled
4 fl oz (100ml) cider or apple juice
3 tblsp plain flour
4 tblsp Demerara sugar
2 oz (50g) hazelnuts, walnuts, or almonds
custard for serving
Remover the apple cores (using an apple corer), then make a slit around the middle of each apple using a sharp knife - just deep enough to cut through the peel This stops the skin splitting when the apples are baked, then place the apples into a baking tin of a size where they fit snugly.
Toss together the sultanas with the cinnamon and push these into the holes where the cores were, adding a small knob of butter to each (save the rest of the butter).
Pour the cider (or apple juice) round the apples and bake at 200C, gas 6 for 30 minutes or until the skin is loose.
Meanwhile, put the flour, sugar and nuts into a food processor and pulse together until the nuts are coarsely chopped (if you have no processor then chop nuts by hand and mix everything together in a bowl).  Add the remaining butter and whizz (or rub in) until end result is like coarse breadcrumbs.
After the half-hour of cooking, carefully slide off the top half of skin from each apple and sprinkle with the crumble mix, pressing it onto each apple.  Bake for a further 30 minutes.  Serve with custard.

Final recipe today is a fruit loaf, not a million miles away from the Welsh 'Bara Brith', and am including this as a way to use complementary flavoured spiced fruit tea-bags that we may have (was given several once, didn't like them as tea but PERFECT for flavouring cakes - so use when a recipe uses a normal tea-bag, as in the recipe below).  This will freeze, so could be cut to eat half now, and freeze the rest for later.
Use all white flour or a mixture of whole-meal and white, and instead of using dried cranberries, we could use any dried fruits such as blueberries, cherries, dates...

Welsh Fruit Loaf:  serves 12
14 oz (400g) mixed fruit
1 x 75g bag dried cranberries (see above)
1 mug (8fl oz) hot strong black tea (see above)
4 oz (100g) butter
2 heaped tblsp orange marmalade
2 eggs, beaten
1 lb (450g) self-raising flour (see above)
6 oz (175g) light soft brown sugar
1 tsp each ground cinnamon and ginger
4 tblsp milk
Mix together the fruit and cranberries in a large bowl, then pour the hot tea over.  Cover with cling film and leave to soak overnight.
Next day, melt the butter and marmalade together in a pan, then leave to cool for 5 minutes.  Beat in the eggs.  Drain excess liquid from the fruit.
Mix the flour, sugar and spices together, stir in the fruit and butter/marm/egg mix, also adding the milk, and mix until well combined.  The mixture should drop softly from the spoon, if too firm mix in a little more milk.
Spoon into a greased and base-lined 2lb/900g loaf tin, and bake at 180C, gas 4 for one hour to one and a half hours - until dark golden and a skewer comes out clean.   Cover loosely with foil (shiny side up) if the loaf darkens too much before the centre is cooked.   Cool completely in the tin before turning out.

Am now discovering the secret of getting through all the work that seems to keep piling up is to make time for them.  Perhaps finding the time is the hardest part, but if I'm firm with myself and allow no more than two hours to write a blog (pref less) the work will (eventually) get done.

Off now to make my lunch, then back to 'the culinaries' again. B requests Kedgeree for supper, so need to hard-boil some eggs, the rest is simple enough. 
Hope you all have a good day.  TTFN.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Jack of All Trades....

When I was younger, the saying "Jack of All Trades and Master of None" meant you had a slight knowledge of all sorts of things, but not enough to make anything good enough to sell. 

Decades later it seems that a lot of things sold (other than food and even sometimes that can be included, especially when processed) is not top quality.  In the past, businesses used to pride themselves on giving good service, materials lasted for years (often generations - I'm still using sheets that have the World War II utility label!
Old furniture too can last, yet today everything made (probably deliberately) falls to bits within ten years.  Unless made by genuine craftsmen and then sold at a price few of us can afford.

Nowadays, we 'domestics' have the edge.  It is true we are mainly 'Jack (and Jills) of all trades), in that many of us can knit, sew, crochet, and - of course - can cook, and it was only yesterday, when I'd finished knitting my fifth square, that B looked at them all, admired them and said "Amazing! You could sell these - for about £3 each?  Had to point out that the yarn for each cost over half that, and as it would take a whole day to knit a square, leaving little time for anything else - it would have to be priced a lot more than that and "so why people buy covers and even whole cushions as they would be cheaper".
Incidentally, those who knit will appreciate that plain, purl and moss-stitches, can make lovely patterns when knitted in a certain order.  Using these as they are the only ones I remember other than cable - this I will be trying later.

Myself believe that being able to manage many of the domestic skills at amateur level is even better than being a master at just one.  A professional dressmaker might turn out wonderful clothes, but if no good at cooking is not much use around the house - unless of course we need a new outfit every few weeks. 

I've been feeling very much a Jill over the past few days.  Not only have I just got back to normality after my 'hobblies' and pill-confusion, but I've had to catch up on what chores I have not been doing, and this weekend had the cooking for the social club to deal with. Not to mention the knitting that has led me to discovering that just listening to TV soaps et al is almost as good as watching, so can do the two at the same time.

Then - of course - it is now autumn, and nature really has provided us with a bounty this  year.  In the club compound (where the boats are kept) there is a huge blackberry bush, and it seems that none of the sailors (mainly men) are not interested in the berries, so I ask B to bring me the ripe berries each time he is there (usually every day as he does a bit of voluntary DIY for the club).  It is not as though I NEED all the berries, but you know me, if there is something free that can be eaten and used, who am I to leave it to go to waste, although I suppose the birds might eat them.  There will always be plenty left for them as the bush is both very high and very wide, B cannot reach all.

Our apple tree is still dropping apples,  and still quite a number on the tree itself, so what do I do with all these? Process and freeze is the answer, so now - over the next few days - need to really sort out the freezer/s and find room.  Or else buy another freezer?

It makes sense not to store food too long in the freezer anyway as the running costs eat away at any savings that can be made.  Best thing to do is use what I have to bulk cook meals for the winter (spag bol meat sauce, chilli con carne, curries, samosas (to go with), casseroles, steak and kidney pies, meatballs, fish-cakes, lots of chicken stock.....then to those (when I have room) puddings such as Sticky Toffee Pudding, fruit pies, Ginger Cake, Black Forest Gateau, Cheesecakes, Baked Alaska, certainly Chocolate Fondants, and then start working our way through them.  It is so much easier (and quicker) to reheat a meal (or at least cook something on the hob using meat that has already been cooked before freezing).

Sorry I didn't have time to blog yesterday,  was so tired that I went to bed early (B was out at the social club) and this morning it was after 10.00am before I got up - mainly because I was having a lot of dreams, and I always enjoy these and didn't want to stop.

Today I have more cooking to do, a load of laundry (that will have to be dried on the airer as our deeds forbid us hanging out washing in the garden on a Sunday), and no it can't wait until tomorrow as B got blackberry juice on his cream trousers, and told me he had put all the trousers in the water when sponging just that bit, so if I leave them any longer without properly laundering they will begin to smell a bit 'stuffy'.

Have also to water all the containers in the garden - we haven't had a proper drop of rain for what now seems like weeks, and although a little has been forecast, this in only parts of the country, can't wait for it any longer.  Then - when back indoors - have to carry on cooking and doing as much as need to be done.   B is complaining that bought bread is turning mouldy before he finishes the loaf (and he only bought one little one last week to save me baking), he replaced it with another but from tomorrow I'll be baking bread again, so looks like I'm going to need to make lists for each day to make sure I do most of what needs to be done, otherwise I'll forget.

Haven't yet found that apple-recipe book, but will take another look today and hope that by next week I'll be able to give some useful but different recipes using this fruit. 

Will leave you today with a suggestion we choose one of the diets that Les has sent in.  My favourite (because it works) is the protein and veggie one.  Having said that no doubt I'll be making myself a sarnie with the last of the W.Watcher's bread.  The other day wrote about the calorie content of this compared to other breads, and although it is actually more per 100g than 'ordinary' bread, think the reason that each slice is so low in calories (50g), it is not just because it is light (contains more air), but also that the slices are very much thinner than the normal 'medium' sliced. 
At one time we could buy bread as thin-sliced, medium-sliced, or thick.  We now seem to be able to buy it only as 'medium', 'thick' (sometimes called 'toasting'), and now even 'extra thick' (for those who like thick toast).

Thin-cut sliced bread used to have 24 slices in the loaf, plus - I think - two crusts.  The medium today is 20 slices and not sure if this included the crusts or not.  Having less slices to make our sarnies means we then have to buy more bread so to the manufacturers it makes sense to stop selling the thin-sliced.
You would laugh at me, as when I have only the two crusts left in the bag of W.W. Danish, as they are then thicker than the slices, very carefully slices these in half horizontally to give me two more slices, and also two small thin crusts that are thin enough - when filled - to eat as another sarnie.  Could of course toast the crusts as is, but just getting those extra slices to make extra sarnies makes me feel smug. 

It's now mid-day, and if I don't start now I'll never get going.  If enough can be done today, then will be able to find time to blog tomorrow - probably late in the evening, but am trying to fit everything in so that I can go to bed early, these late nights are not a good idea.
Hope you are all having a good weekend.  From the lack of comments am sure you are all out BlackBerrying or enjoying the good weather while it lasts.  TTFN.