Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Not Enough Hours in the Day

Just a quick blog this morning as I'm finding the hours fly by, and if I don't take a break now and then will get very tired and probably stressed.  I can do without either.  The rest of the week I'll be entertaining (if that is the word) visitors each day so won't have time to blog.  Haven't even made any biscuits, they'll have to make do with goodness knows what.

Thanks Amber for the link to the heart foundation.  Will take a look when I have a spare minute.  Also interesting to hear from Sairy that she has to avoid spinach as she is on warfarin.  I take a similar med (different name) so perhaps better I don't eat spinach (good excuse).  My stock of this veg is frozen anyway, so no need to use it up until I know I can.
Another pill I take means I'm not allowed grapefruit, a pity as I love it.  Ah well, plenty of other things to eat. 

Think that salt is added to the mixture Hazel when making bread as helps make the other ingredients work properly.  Too much and I think it prevents the yeast working.  Will have to look it up.
As to your mention of devilled kidneys, this is the dish I used to make for my Beloved, he loved them piled on toast.  Certainly smelled good, still not sure I would fancy the flavour of the offal itself.

Thanks also to Juhli (and welcome) for her comment on salt.

Yesterday cooked those pork steaks I'd thawed, firstly removing all the visible fat.   Roughly chopped up several onions and cooking apples and laid the steaks on top, covered with foil then slow-roasted them for several hours.  Turned out beautifully tender and moist.  I ate two with my supper, and have frozen the other six (in pairs) to use later.

Also made a big pan of soup using root veg (carrots, sweet potato, ordinary potato, parsnip, plus celery and onion).  Added some home-made chicken stock, and when ready, instead of mashing/pureeing the veg with the stock, decided to eat some of the veg with the (above) pork, and pour the liquid into a big mug to drink as soup.

The rest of the veg and liquid have today been put into a larger pan with about a dozen plump chicken wings I'd thawed, plus extra veg, and these are now very slowly simmering on the hob to make more stock, give more edible veg, and plenty of chicken flesh.

Tesco's delivery came yesterday and I'd order some 'counter' lamb's liver as it was on offer and then  divided it up into six bags, each containing a large portion then put in the freezer.  Total cost of the liver was £1.91 but with the 80p offer price off this meant it came to only £1.11p (to make six portions). Good thing about liver is there is no waste.

Really intended to buy canned tuna, but decided to buy six cans of sardines as they are so much cheaper than tuna, and one of the 'oily' fish that I'm supposed to eat several times a week.  Although fresh tuna is classed as oily fish, it isn't when canned. I do like sardines, so not really depriving myself.

Bought four packs of Tesco's 20p chicken-flavoured noodles.  I will only need half a pack for my meal, and I never use the chicken sachet anyway when cooking the noodles.  In the past used to add it to water when cooking pasta or making soup for extra flavour, but probably the chicken flavouring is full of salt anyway, so must first check before use.

Must go, still have loads to do before I settle in my chair to nod off (still not sleeping at night).  Then do a few more hours work before I put my feet up for the evening.   Time seems to move too fast the older I get.  But what needs to be done is getting done, and that's all that matters.

As I'll be busy for the rest of the week, I'll be taking a few days off blogging and it will be at least Monday before I return.  By then it will be December.  Doesn't time fly?  TTFN.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Another Day, Another Way...

Time for me to write a short blog before my 'working day' begins, and with many thanks to all who have written in, I will be finding out about the free or almost free transport available for me.

One of the things I will find difficult to do is ask for help.  Because that's just not me, and it was in the very early days of marriage, after moving to our first house with two small children and another due to drop in a very few weeks, that my mother said to me "you need help".  She meant well, and of course she was quite right (B was working away from home at that time), but to me it felt my mother thought I was a failure.  So all I wanted to do was prove her wrong.

It would have been so easy, too easy for me to ask my mother to help me (esp with money), but had I done so then this blog would have never been written.  I wouldn't have HAD to learn how to cook so frugally, make one penny do the work of two, and the lessons learned the hard way have stood the test of time.  Sometimes it is far better to learn how to do-it-yourself rather than allow someone else to take hold of the reins. That's my philosophy anyway.  Doesn't mean that help should be dismissed, and I have allowed (if that's the word) our upstairs neighbour to trundle our wheelie bin and carry the two big plastic boxes full of assorted rubbish, out to the gate once a fortnight.  I can at least fill the bins/boxes myself, and how little rubbish there is now compared to months ago!!
Those brown paper carrier bags that Tesco now deliver some of their groceries in I always keep, and very glad I have some as I can fill them with paper and card, and throw those out to be recycled too.

Well, it wouldn't be the Goode Life if something didn't keep going wrong, and yesterday the central heating cut out again.   I'd felt cold during the day so pressed the 'over-ride' button, but after it had switched back on, it stopped and the red light flashed again.  Decided to try switching it off completely, the resetting it, and it did start and carried on until due to switch off at night.  It began heating again this morning so fingers crossed.   As long as I can keep it working, then I'm not too bothered.  It's such a busy week this week that I don't want to have to hang about waiting for the repair man to try and sort it (again).  Maybe next week if it does it again.

Managed to do quite a bit of work yesterday, hopefully sorting out lots of meat from the four drawer freezer, but found it was mainly boneless pork steaks, so have thawed out all these overnight and cooking them together today, then later decide what to make with them.  A few packs of D.R's lamb's kidneys, B loved these on toast, but not my favourite offal, the flavour too strong, but can't waste them, so will have to come up with some recipe ideas.
Plenty of 'fresh' salmon that we bought from Glasson last year, and quite a lot of 'fresh' soft summer fruits.  I've ordered some frozen chicken fillets (cheapest way to buy these), and unless Boris (the US style fridge/freezer) comes up with beef then looks like it'll be fish or chicken meals for the next few months.  Mind you, that is probably the healthiest way to eat protein.

Will be sorting Boris out today, moving more fish from 'his' drawer to the larger one in the smaller freezer, to give me room for the frozen food I've ordered (and not a lot of that).

Have decided to make a big pan of vegetable soup today to use up some chicken stock, then I can thaw out the many chicken drumsticks I'd frozen, and cook these with veg to make more stock - the chicken flesh can be used in many dishes.
The thought came to me in bed (I have a lot of time to do thinking in bed these days), that it would make things simpler for me if I didn't bother to neatly dice the onions, carrots, celery, potato, parsnips etc that all go into the soup-pot with the stock, but just trim and roughly chop and the let them cook until softened, then can blitz the lot in the food processor to make a smoother soup.   Why didn't I think of that before?  Probably because I like to eat 'chunky' soup where the veggies are 'cheffily' prepared.  But - as B used to say - it all goes down the same way when eaten. 

Yesterday I was refilling the large plastic sweet jar with quick-cook pasta penne, but left with a good handful (or two) that wouldn't fit into the jar, so cooked this for my lunch, adding some basil pesto and grated Parmesan for flavour.    For supper I re-heated a Cottage Pie that I'd made for B, and very good that was too. 
Funny how I've done a complete U-turn when it comes to meals, perhaps for the first time for age I'm cooking a 'proper' meal (or at least reheating one) for ME!  Instead of making do with salad and things.   Must make sure I eat enough fresh (rather than root) veggies though.  Still have plenty in the fridge, and quite an assortment in the freezer.  Must try and make myself like spinach!

It's turned very cold, although have not yet seen signs of frost on the lawn.  Am keeping the curtains in the living room only partly drawn (it's a huge bay window, NOT double-glazed) to help keep in the heat, and I close them completely mid-afternoon as the sun goes down.   No problem keeping warm at the moment.
I've ordered a larger vacuum flask from Tesco as the one I have is quite small, and am intending to use the small one to hold chilled milk, so that I can keep it in the living room with the larger flask full of hot (black) coffee, then make it up as needed.  Or I could keep the large flask full of hot soup.  Have to see what works best.

Must mention the comment from Stephanie.  As I also have the water retention problem (and still have it), have to make sure I cut out salt from my diet.  Am finding the best way to do this is to make/cook everything to be eaten rather than buy it ready-made (or at least check the sodium content on the lable).  My 'heart' book tells me that no-salt substitutes should NOT be used, so myself tend to add 'seasonings' by way of extra pepper, and also celery is said to improve flavour (the veg, not celery salt).
Having said that, I do find adding a pinch of rock/sea salt crystals to a large pan of soup (less than one crystal per portion), really does improve the flavour.  I tell myself that one crystal really can't do THAT much harm as normally our bodies are supposed to to have some salt, now usually over-supplied by manufactured products so we end up having too much.  As long as we take control, then we can avoid salt completely (or almost), according to our needs.

When it comes to low-salt recipes, are their any?  Suppose really we should just read the list of ingredients and then remove any salt that might be listed.  Use unsalted butter instead of salted (if we use butter at all).
Certain (processed) foods ARE high in salt, such as Spam (so no more Spam for me, boo hoo), but also cooked ham, bacon, sausages.  Afraid with me, and not before time, I should start closely reading every label on the jar/can/package.  Unfortunately with many low-fat, low-salt foods, more sugar is included to keep it palatable.  We just can't win.
The only thing to do is make as much as possible ourselves, and avoid eating all the processed foods we can.  It's not as though there is nothing else left to eat.  We are knee deep in wonderful foods that are really healthy to eat, so time for me at least to concentrate only on those. 
Give me time and I'll try and sort out some 'goode food' worth eating.

That's it for today,  will probably be back tomorrow, maybe not Thursday, certainly not Friday (both days have visitors (twice on Friday), and meeting up with more on the Saturday and all day Sunday, so it just might be a few days before I am finding time to sit here for my next chat.  However - if I do have a few minutes to spare, then will do a short blog.  Until then....TTFN.


Monday, November 24, 2014

The Power of Prayer

Day before yesterday it took me all my time to walk across the room, even with my zimmer.   So - as  I said in my blog - I spent half the night asking for someone 'up there' to give me some strength back, just enough to cope with household chores.  

Yesterday I was a new woman.  I had LOADS of energy, still hobbling around, but needing only one stick, and spent over four hours in the kitchen doing loads of things, barely needing to sit down.  Today I still feel small-scale energetic, so will carry on sorting out the kitchen (it needs it!). 

I don't think "Ask, and ye shall be given" is quite the right expectation, but I firmly believe that what we pray for is heard, and then a decision is made 'up there'.  It is - of course - very necessary to always give grateful thanks when our cries are heard and we get a response.  In all honesty, I've had several of these over the last few weeks.

What I'm discovering now is that I'm continuing to cook, but this time just for me.  By this I mean proper cooking (as for B), not just settling for cold meat and salads.  
After sorting out the fridge yesterday decided to cook myself a stir-fry for lunch.  B always used to enjoy cooking these (but never for me), so this was a first.

My meal had less ingredients than usually prepared for B to throw into the pan.  Just a few things that I found.  Sliced up a carrot into matchsticks, par-boiled these in a pan with the last handful of sugar-snap peas, and a quarter of a yellow pepper (also sliced).  Sliced, then fried an onion in the small wok, then threw in the par-cooked veggies, tossed these with a sachet of a chilli and garlic Chinese sauce, and then added a sachet of rice noodles that I'd cooked (took all of one minute) in the water the veggies had been cooked in. 
Have to say it tasted very good, and made a substantial portion (at least for me).  Next time will add some cooked meat (beef/chicken, or prawns).   For supper I had a can of Pea and Ham soup to which I'd added a small can of Heinz baked beans.  That too was tasty.

Am now looking forward to cooking myself some liver, bacon, cabbage with or without potatoes. One of B's favourites, the liver always saved for him.  Always wished I could have some, now I can. Every cloud etc...

A welcome back to Maggie who does highlight the things I'm going through.  I still 'talk' to the chair where my B used to sit (by my chair) when watching TV, just as if he was there.  Yesterday was watching a programme about some old comedy and have to say I even managed a laugh or two - first time for ages.  So life is returning to almost normal.

Lots of post keeps arriving, seems I am now the sole owner of our property.  Good in some ways, but not when repairs have to be made.  Some need doing (one of those things B put off until another day).
B had no company pension Floss, all we had was the State Pension and some savings I'd made, so until the benefits (if any) get sorted - and this we have been told will take several weeks - I have to be very, very careful where the money goes.

Also a letter came inviting me to attend a heart clinic in Lancaster.  One that I will have to postpone (or maybe not attend at all) as it will costs over £20 in taxis and as I said above, money will be so tight that every penny counts, and this clinic is more about managing the condition, I had been given books that explain what to do and what not to do anyway.  My GP should be able to sort the meds out (apparently this can take several months as they have to be continually adjusted) so I'll wait to see him before I decide what to do next.

Thanks so much Cathy for the poem - it was the one I was referring to and one that I'd like read out at my own funeral.

Thanks Les for your words of wisdom.  Hadn't heard of remote switches (but expect they cost a bit), however, do keep the light on under the kitchen unit (all day and night - no windows in there), and the way the rooms are situated, it shines enough light through the glass bedroom door (which I now keep open anyway - saves me fumbling for the door handle), for me to see where I'm going when walking around at night.  I also have a bedside light.   Other table lights in other rooms are situated by the door so can be switched on or off as we enter/leave the rooms.

Am hoping Margie, to sort something out so that I can still visit the Spiritualist Church.  This Thursday, three of the ladies will be visiting me, so maybe something can be arranged.

Thanks also to all the readers who have sent in comments - but not as yet replied to.  At the moment feel I'm coming out of my misery a bit (but am sure I will have the occasional relapse), so am trying to think positive and get my life sorted.  Feeling that much stronger now is certainly making a difference.

Just realised that in one month it will be Christmas Eve, but sadly Christmas is something I'm not even considering this year.  The plan is that my daughter and I will go out for lunch on that day. It would be too painful to celebrate with a meal at home.  This year it has to be just an ordinary day, although I will enjoy all the TV 'specials' I am sure.

That's it for today.  Tomorrow my Tesco order will be delivered and this time it is just about half the cost of what it normally is - and a lot of the order being for non-foods, the actual food expenditure is about a quarter.  Let us hope it stays that way.   Still plenty in the larder and cupboards, and that reminds me - when reaching for the noodles and Chinese sauce (B kept these plus rice, pasta, and other Oriental bits and bobs in this overhead cupboard) quite a few packets fell out, so think I'll empty two small drawers and place all the packets in these for easy access.  Things I rarely use can go into the cupboards.  Another job to be done, but one I will enjoy.  Who knows what I'll find at the back of the shelves (B shoved in all sorts of things - well, so did I if truth be told).

That's it for today, hope to find time to blog tomorrow, keeping busy is taking priority at the moment, but as I still can't sleep, getting up early gives me an extra hour or so to blog, so you'll perhaps end up with too much of me, rather than not enough.  TTFN.


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Another New Day.

Have to say my 'zimmer with hanging basket' is working out to be the best thing I've thought of for ages.  Quite spoiled myself yesterday by using it (just for one trip) to take a thermos full of hot coffee, a tin of fruit, a can opener, a basin and spoon, a carton of fruit juice, a box of cheese biscuits, a small pack of low-fat cheese spread, a butter knife and a bowl of hot Beanfeast Mexican chilli for my lunch all to be partaken throughout the rest of the day/evening in the sitting room.
Did of course walk around during that time, but my culinary 'needs' were catered for, and even though it weighed quite a bit, this seemed to help stabilise the zimmer and it was still very easy to move. 
At the end of the day the basket held all the above (empty where appropriate) plus a few other things as well, so easy to take into the kitchen where I unhooked the basket and put it on the table to be dealt with this morning.

Regarding the trolley Les, not sure if you mean the indoor trolley to carry food around (such as above), but the lady in the office said these were not THAT stable, especially when the wheels had to be lifted up over the edges of rugs etc.   I do have the other sort of trolley, meant for outdoors - it has a seat and a basket, and the intention was to use that in the car.  At the moment I cannot walk far enough for it to be useful to me.  However much my 'zimmer basket' may seem to be just an improvisation, it certainly works, and works well, for me.

We do have quite a few table lights and standard lights in our living room Ali, so if one bulb goes, the others will light my path.  Even the TV gives enough light to see where I'm going.  I also carry a small torch in my apron pocket, and keep this by my bed at night. 
It's just that I've always been so independent that am not used to asking people for help, but I know my neighbours can always be called upon when necessary.  We are so lucky to have good neighbours.

Interesting you mentioned eucalyptus to help sleep Claire.  When I put some neat lavender oil on my night clothes the other evening, to me it smelt more like Vick (eucalyptus) than lavender.  Didn't have such a good night last night, 5.00am before I fell asleep.   Spent most of the night talking (out loud) to whoever/whatever is 'up there' to try and help me through this.  Mainly asking for my heart to gain more strength.  I can't seem to do much of anything at the moment without puffing and blowing and feeling weak.  Am pretty sure a lot of this is caused by stress, so as the days go by and my meds are increased, things should only get better.

Think up to the present time I've been in denial, not thinking about it means it never happened.  Trying to believe that B was just out and about 'doing his own thing', and me alone in the house as it used to be (except at meal times).   Now I'm beginning to realise that I'm really alone, and with no-one to look after (but myself) it is something I'm needing to come to terms with.  Fortunately I'm happy with my own company, always been a bit of a recluse.  Just need to find the incentive to take up a new hobby or something.

Anyway, I'm going to start to make lists again.  Something to make me get up and get on with things.  So today a load of laundry will be done in the washing machine (it works if I keep my eye on it), rubbish will be put out for the upstairs neighbours to take out to the gate for me early Tuesday morning.  The fridge/freezers MUST be sorted (keep putting it off), and a big pan of vegetable soup made so I can re-heat that over the next few days.

Really must send in an order to Tesco, not so much for food other than milk/eggs, but do need plenty of non-foods (B always used to buy these at Morrisons),  and best to build up some stocks of canned foods and 'keeping' vegetables ready for the colder months.   So at least today will be busy.  Life will go on much as normal, it's just the loneliness I have to come to terms with.  Yet, I've never minded that before (when B used to go off for a month on his sailing trips),  this time it is - different. 

Keep feeling, when I'm writing down my thoughts, that I'm making too much of it.  I'm not the only widow in the country,  many/most will have had the same pain and suffering, and many lots worse, so considering the circs, what happened was possibly the best way to go.  Like I said to 'them up there' last night "I must not feel sorry for myself".   

Heard a lovely little verse some weeks ago, this I heard again on 'EastEnders' when Dot Cotton read it over the burial of her son's ashes recently.  It began with 'miss me, but let me go', and it really has the most lovely words.  Perhaps I can find it on the Internet.

Well, that's my rather sad blog for today.  Perhaps next week I'll be in a better frame of mind.  Almost certainly if I can do all the jobs I've set myself today then I should cheer up a bit (more notches on my bedpost).  Probably will write about these tomorrow.  Hope to see you then.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Why Always Me?...

Have to say my hanging basket (on the zimmer frame) is working really well.  As it hangs from a small hook it tends to stay in the right position even when the frame is tilted.  Am so pleased I thought of this way of coping.

Thanks to all those who mentioned the wheels/tray with handles.  Problem with theses (as with the zimmer frame) is lifting up at the edge of rugs etc, and the basket/tray is fixed so food might get spilled.  I do have one of those frames on wheels that have a basket and a seat, meant to take in the car and have not yet used it.
The benefits people (seen yesterday) mentioned a 'walking trolley', but again fixed trays, and the chance of spilling, my zimmer adaptation seems to work so well that I'm sticking with that at the moment.

Have had a couple of good night's sleep for the first time in nearly a month, this due to the scent of lavender.  I found a bottle of lavender oil (very concentrated), so put a few drops on my night clothes so that I could smell it when I lay down at night.  It was so strong think it worked like an anaesthetic! I fell asleep almost at once and slept for hours.
Last night I added a few drops of lavender essence to the last bit of 'sleeptherapy' liquid (Avon) that I had, adding some water as well, then sprayed this on my pillows.  Again slept well.  So that's the obvious answer.  If you can't sleep, the scent of lavender works miracles.

Felt fine yesterday until ready to go out and meet the people to arrange an Attendance Allowance. Then got all stressed again, so felt wobbly.  Took the zimmer frame in the car (minus basket), and that gave me some support. 
When we got to the offices, the person we had to see was on the second floor.  But there was a lift!!!
A really nice lift, very modern, easy to work.  Until we arrived at the second floor and the door wouldn't open.  I have claustrophobia, so ended up leaning over the zimmer frame trying not to panic, while we pressed the panic button, banged on the door etc.

Eventually someone came and managed to unscrew something from the outside and get the door open, said they would mend it while we had our meeting (relief - I couldn't manage the stairs even though they went down, not up).
Outcome of the meeting was that lots was written down that we had to post off to the right department, and (hopefully) we would hear something in a few weeks.  Whether I get an allowance remains to be seen, but we can appeal if not.   Just have to wait and seen.

The lift worked perfectly, and the man who repaired it went down with us just in case it didn't. And of course it didn't.  Again the doors wouldn't open.  With three people stuck in a tiny lift I was again having a panic attack (although trying to hide it) and at one point it seemed the key that would open the door from the outside was being carried by the man on the inside.  But he (thankfully) had left it on his desk, so someone else let us out. 

A real feeling of deja vu with that lift.  Reminded me of the time (mentioned on my blog) when I got stuck in the lift at BBC publications, and I've also been stuck in a very small lift at two different hotels in Morecambe.  Lifts don't like me, much like the electronic blood pressure-taking machines that refuse to work when used on me (but work for everyone else).  Why always me???

All I wanted then to do was to return home.  Gave up the idea of buying new shoes (I'd found an old but respectable pair at the back of the wardrobe, so they will keep me going for a while), just stopped off at the chemist to take in my repeat prescription which I needed even though it was to be updated shortly.  The Allowance people needed to see the prescription so I had to keep it (should have been taken to the chemist three days previously).    Anyway, the chemist will deliver the pills to me so don't have to arrange about fetching them. 

Daughter called in at the local bakery after asking me if there was anything I fancied, and there was. "A chocolate éclair please", was my request.  Of course they didn't have any. They didn't have a cream slice either.  No cream cakes at all.  By then I was getting the  'this is how it's going to be for the rest of my life' feeling. 
Felt better after a mug of coffee and a cheese bap that my daughter made for me.

For supper I made myself a pan of Beanfeast Mexican chilli, adding an onion, a can of chopped tomatoes, more water, and a can of (cheap) red beans.  It made enough for three meals (working out at about 50p each), and one portion was more than satisfactory.   Seem to have lost my appetite, and small helpings are as much as I can manage.

Still haven't sorted out the freezers, and although I have enough food to last for several weeks/months, I really do need to top-up with milk/eggs.    Have a lot of vouchers from Tesco that - including money-points - mean it would be worth stocking up with non-foods as well as the longer-lasting winter veg, I might just send in one order to be delivered next week, then freeze away most of the milk so that it keeps for longer, using dried milk or UHT between times.  Also eggs will keep for quite some weeks in the fridge (normally I keep them at cool room temp).

At the end of next week will have four days of people visiting, so that's something to look forward to, and so until then will take things fairly easy, just pottering around.  Although it is lovely now not to have piles of rubbish to keep clearing up (B used to throw all his papers, wrappers, empty bottles etc on the floor or on the table where he used to sit), once cleared up it now stays clear.  And how I wish things were back to how they used to be. 

Another thing I'm having to get used to is being called a widow.  Sends a shudder down my spine when it is said (or written), and - above all - what really has stunned me is that (as regular readers know) I've always, through life, prepared for contingencies.  B used to say "never worry about things for they probably won't ever happen", and they rarely did, but I felt I needed to be prepared - it gave me a feeling of security.   So I prepared for everything.  Except this.

Both B and I, because of B's (seemingly) excellent health record and recently my poor one, always accepted that it would be me that went first.   B took plenty of exercise, I didn't.  Very recently it seemed I was about to pop my clogs, and I was beginning to sort out my own affairs and work out what was best for B (he wanted to move anyway - somewhere without a garden).  then suddenly Fate made a mistake, for to me it seems 'those above' got the wrong message and took the wrong person.  It should have been me.   But that's life - if you can call it that.  Just have to accept that's my lot and make the best of it.  Which I intend to do.  Even if only finding ways to cope that might sound unusual but seem to work. 

Have to take each day as it comes.  Normally could probably have coped much better, but now I can't even stand on a stool to reach a high cupboard, and changing a light-bulb (in the ceiling) is beyond me.  I can see a time when one after the other, all the lights will fail and I'll be left with one.  And then that goes.  Silly things like that are beginning to haunt me.

Yes, I know I can always ask a neighbour to assist, but you know me - Mrs Independent.  To ask for help in not in my genes.   Paying for help is also not an option, I will need every incoming penny to keep the home running as before.  Thankfully, some bills will reduce, but it will take some months before I can sort out exactly how much 'disposable income' I will have (if any).  I  know I will have enough to pay household bills (which is all that matters) but food isn't included.

As you can see, it IS going to be a challenge, but isn't that what I enjoy?  Already I'm finding new things to write about, almost every day now, so each day begins with 'what else will happen today? Maybe some of it will be good. 

For goodness sake, I'm not the only widow-woman in the nation/world.  Everyone else copes, so why should I find it difficult?  It's just new to me.  Once I've got my teeth into it, taking control, who knows what will happen.   You'll just have to watch this blog to find out. 

Will probably pop in for a quick chat tomorrow (Gill has taken herself off for a few days holiday again so won't be phoning), but definitely be back next week.   Before I go must reply to a few of the many comments sent.

Those M & S reductions sound wonderful jane, well worth 'mobile' people popping in to that store to have a look, then take advantage.

Am going to get the doctor to arrange a visit from the Occupational Therapist (mentioned by Ali), as there are quite a few things I need to help (perching stool, grab handles etc).

Pension credit and benefits we are trying to sort out (mentioned by Sairy and Ann).  Thankfully I have such a small social life (if at all) and used to being on my own, indoors most of the time, I will not feel I'm missing out on what others might normally have done (theatre, meals out, cinema, holidays, social pub nights out etc).  As long as I can afford taxis to get me to the hospital in Lancaster (if needs be), then will probably be able to get free transport from voluntary drivers).

Must re-read Nella Last's books again Kate.  I used to have those three-pans-on-one-hob, and can buy dividers that are similar but fit into one large saucepan (used to use those that were in the pressure cooker for the same purpose). Tend to cook meals in one pan anyway (now as bulk meals, one to eat, 2 to freeze), so that saves fuel.

Have mentioned my basket hanging from my zimmer Jane.  Lined with a towel it can catch any drips if liquid spills, but will now be filling a thermos with hot drinks, putting this into the basket to take into the living room, with an empty mug, then can refill at the table when I need another coffee/hot chocolate.   There are always ways round any problem.

I don't want to get too lazy (even though I enjoy sitting down more than walking around), as I need the exercise.  So filling my basket with food and drink might feel like having a picnic ready and waiting at my side all day, think this is not the right road to travel.   At least have not got to the point when I wake in the morning and feel I want to stay in bed all day.  I'll keep that for when I feel really ill (like with flu, but have had a flu jab, so hopefully not).

That's it for today, hope you all have a good weekend. Keep those comments coming.  Love to all. xx


Thursday, November 20, 2014

More Lessons Learned!!

Seems now that each day I have to find a solution to something that never bothered me before.  For instance, my Beloved used to clear up my plate/s and mug/s that were on the side table by my chair in the living room (accumulated through the day).  True, I ended up washing them up myself, but carrying anything is difficult with a walking stick in one hand, and now - using a zimmer frame (needing both hands). 

Thankfully, my 'kangaroo pouch' (large, deep pocket in my apron) will hold plenty of light-weights, so stuff that full before I go into the kitchen.  Today went and emptied a wicker shopping basket (holding rubbish anyway), and have hung that on a small butcher's hook from the frame of my zimmer.  So now I can put the 'empties' in that and take myself, zimmer, and basket into the kitchen without any problem whatsoever.  I know it works because I've already done it.  That's another notch on my bedpost.

This morning the toaster stopped working properly, well it would, wouldn't it.  Life at the moment is not meant to be easy for me.  Challenges being thrown at me from all directions.  Could use the grill I suppose, but as I've only had the oven on once this last month, am hoping to rely mainly on the microwave, hob, and slow-cooker.  That should save a few £££s of fuel.
Anyway, it was the last two crusts of bread that at least managed to be toasted, and as I'm trying to avoid carbos, not really as much of a problem as it might have been.

Found some unopened seed packets (tomatoes et al) yesterday, bought last year (or was it the year before?).  As you know, in the past I've grown quite a few things on the windowsills, and successfully, but really only to prove that it could be done, rather than for need.   This coming winter I'll be growing some winter salads indoors again, and next year quite a few things (silly me gave away the plastic greenhouse). Have loads of packets of seeds (some still unopened) and probably many will still be viable.

Thing is, having proved in the past that something can work, will stand me in good stead, and a good reason why I firmly believe we should try our hand at as many 'ancient' skills as we can, for who knows when we might need to use them.  If I hadn't 'gardened indoors' in previous years, then I probably wouldn't have thought of trying now.

Am still finding it difficult to sleep, usually managing to drop off around then rising at 7 or 8.  Don't feel tired, so probably do have cat naps during the evening while watching TV.
Last night spent a lot of time thinking of really inexpensive things to make - inspired (a bit) by the current series of Masterchef.  So after reading jane's comment about needing to make frugal meals, am hoping that over the next few weeks I'll be able to come up with some ideas.

My first thought (and the way I would do this) is to first set a price.  Let's say a meal for two for under £1. Or for three for under £1.  Or even four.  It can be done, more easily once we have become aware of how cheap some basic ingredients can be.
Protein IS generally expensive, but for my own meals I tend to rely on eggs.  Free-range eggs can be very expensive.  A tray of 15 or 18 supermarket 'vakue' eggs ARE very cheap, less than 10p each (and please don't write in and say I should encourage people to buy free-range - at this point in my life all I am concerned with is keeping costs down - if I can afford free-range then these will be bought).

With so many comments sent in, I've chosen just a few to reply to, but all have been read, and of course to each I give my thanks.
Am not keen on hot drinks when in bed Granny G.  I'd probably spill them over me, but I do have plenty of water there if I need a liquid intake.  However, I might fill a thermos with coffee or hot chocolate and keep it by my chair in the living room for when the weather gets cold.
A radio is a good idea.  I used to put Radio 4 on each time I worked in the kitchen, but haven't had it on for the past 3 weeks (is it only 3 weeks?  It seems like an eternity).  So think I'll move the radio into the bedroom so I can at least listen to something.  I prefer classical music, but my radio is a cheap digital and it doesn't seem to get all the channels. 

Thanks to Les for his good advice.  Some is already being taken, and tomorrow have to sort out attendance allowance (mentioned by Kate). As you say Angela, it would be wise to claim for as much as possible anyway, they can only say no.
Yesterday had the pack to sort out 'letters of Administration/Probate', so my heart sank - there were pages to fill in.  Luckily my daughter is helping me sort out all the paperwork so I'll bury my head in the sand again and leave her to sort it out.  Should be able to be sorted sooner rather than later.

We had a Booth's Christmas Book pushed through our letterbox Cheesepare.  Some wonderful photos of food that - at least for me under normal circs - I would try to replicate (MUCH cheaper if we do it ourselves). 
Have, in the past, found the Berlingo too large for me to handle (I'm used to small cars like Fiat Pandas/Unos and would have loved one of those SmartCars (looks as thought the back seat has been chopped off).  Even if I could drive the Berlingo, it would be too costly to run.  I've worked it out, and it would be cheaper to take a taxi for the few occasions each month when I have to go out.  Norris will be used more often (but only when the weather is fair).

Margie's comment about snow is making me think ahead.  The weather in her part of Canada has been almost identical to what we have had in the UK, so am wondering if snow is on its way. We could take it as a warning and make sure we have our 'hottie bottles', bed socks, and extra duvets at the ready when needed.

Had notification from British Gas that they will soon be fitting new electricity and gas meters, not necessarily on the same day.  But when they do they will have to cut off the electricity and gas while the work is done, so that means several of our 'timer-clocks' will have to be re-set, and I'm hoping the engineers can do this for me as I certainly can't.  As a 'regular customer' can ask for the latest meters (free) that will show the cost of the fuel at the time of using, so suppose that could prove useful. Or depressing according to what they show.   Wish now I'd had a solid fuel stove fitted in one of our living rooms, so that this could be used to help keep warm (and maybe even food hot, sitting in a pan on the top?).   There's an old telegraph pole that B cut into pieces, intending to use them to line a path that was going round the back of the apple tree.  This would burn well.  If I had somewhere to burn it. 

Even so, only ten days to go before December, and still the weather stays fair, so shouldn't grumble. Other years at this time I've had to have the heating on all day, now it is on only for a few hours twice a day.  Add to that a great deal less oven cooking, not to mention less water being used (laundry, showers etc), also less electricity, so fuel bills should go down anyway.

If it's not going to end up too boring (and please say if it is), I'm going to blog my way through all this new life of mine, for although I've been on my own (since the family went back to their respective homes) for only a week, already learning such a lot.  Hope the findings are interesting and above all useful.

Busy day tomorrow with appointments etc, but hope to blog again some time over the weekend.  See you then.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Each Day a New Day...

As am finding it difficult to sleep at the moment, thought I'd get up early and cheer myself up by reading your comments - for which I thank you as I find them inspiring.

Regarding coping on a lower income (Mandy and Jane), that will be a challenge but as regular readers know, I just LOVE challenges.  Cuts will have to be made (like not having a daily paper - just one on Saturday that includes the TV supplement), and this week I'll find out if I will be eligible for any benefits (made a mistake with the gas discount mentioned yesterday, missed off a nought - but will only get that anyway if my income is low enough). 

Steve and I had thought of desk-top publishing a new book of mine, this we hope to sell (at low cost) through the new web site when it is up and running, but first I have to write it. Thanks to those who suggested the electronic version, and the 'family' publication seems to be the simplest way for me.

Regarding empty jars Alison, for storing that chutney (recipe given yesterday).  When giving as gifts I often use the smallish jars that used to hold Colman's mustard.  So I save all those when empty - good also for lemon curd).  One thing I'm never short of is jars - just hate to throw them away.   Will have to find someone who likes preserves now I don't have anyone to munch through morning toast and marmalade or jam. 

Your mention Hazel, of veggie soup, has inspired me to make a big panful this morning, so that could keep me going for several days and help to use up the veggies in the fridge (and onions and butternut squash and potatoes stored at room temperature.

The hospital visit went better than expected although I feel they were glad to see the back of me as on the way there I ripped off a heel from my shoe and despite being in one of the hosp. wheel chairs, managed to leave black marks on the lovely pale grey carpet where I walked.  Everywhere I went it seemed there was an orderly following me round with a vacuum cleaner.  Well, I like to make my mark!

Had an ECG test, followed by a very lengthy talk with a cardiac specialist - must have talked with him for an hour (or more).  He was so nice, explained everything very clearly.  Fortunately I shouldn't need to return to hospital if I keep taking the pills, but some will need to be increased as my heart is still very weak.  It won't return to full strength but can be improved with the right meds.  Details are being sent to my GP who will take it from there (he is away at the moment, back at the beginning of Dec.).  Was sorry I wouldn't be seeing the specialist again (even though I messed up his carpet) as he was SO nice.  But as it costs £20 in taxi fares to take me to Lancaster hospital (incl. return by taxi), as the local surgery can be easily be reached using my mobility scooter (or taxi if the weather is bad) this will save me money.  Saving money is something I'm going to have to start thinking about.l

Lots of people are worse off than me, so I should count myself fortunate. A roof over my head, central heating (my priority is to keep warm this winter), plenty of food in the larder/fridge/freezer, and all I need is a new pair of shoes!  What have I to be bothered about?  It's not as though I go out and about anyway, so won't have to cut down on social activities.  Still aiming to go to the church if only occasionally.  Just have to take each day as it comes and can't make any real plans until I know how much money I have to play with.   Sounds like a board game, which in a way it may be if I can turn it into one.

Today will be sorting out the freezer drawers/shelves.  Any raw meat I will endeavour to cook in the slow-cooker overnight then turn this into casseroles, spag bol meat sauce, chillis etc.  Seems sensible for me to make up a lot of individual meals so that all I have to do is choose one to reheat each day.

Half of me wishes I could indulge in puddings - like Sticky Toffee Pudding, and Bread Pudding, Trifle etc.... but if I eat those I will gain weight, and losing weight will help take strain from my heart.  Getting thinner for any other reason doesn't matter any more.  I may make one batch of choux pastry as I really fancy a chocolate éclair and as one batch will make six eclairs, then I can freeze the other five (or what the heck - eat them all in one go!!!).

Have lots of packs of assorted flavours of jelly, so think making a couple of these and eating some each day with a banana or other fruit will make a good pud.  It will have to count as part of the fluid intake I must have (not too much or I will retain it, not too little or it will affect my kidneys - these too are not working as well as they should).  A litre and a half of liquid a day is what the specialist recommended, so will have to work out how much that is in mugs.  Don't need to work out/count any liquid that is in salads/fruit etc thank goodness.

The central heating is still working.  The weather still good, if I look hard enough there is plenty happening that I should be pleased about, but am tending to fill my hours being more active (even if just sitting down), as this gives me less time to think.  Feeling sorry for myself is something I intend not to do. Life is a challenge, and when I focus on what can be done rather than not bother to do anything about it have always found that sense of achievement that is far worth having than an easy life.  So let's get on with it!

Could be I'll be blogging much more regularly again, but as I also have several days where I'll have appointments to wheedle extra benefits, there will be missing blogs, so just keep checking this site to see if I've returned.  And please keep those comments coming as they really do cheer me up.  You have all been so kind and your kind thoughts and prayers have definitely helped.  TTFN. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Life's Like That...

Again, many thanks for your comments.  Am just doing a quick blog today as not sure what the outcome will be when I visit the outpatients today.  Could be they want me back in hospital so have to take each day as it comes.

Goes without saying that I'm now having to learn how to cope with emergencies.  There were a couple a few weeks ago, but at that time I wasn't in the mood to even care.  The washing machine got overheated (still not working properly but I can handle it),  'upstairs' got a leak in their bathroom which then dripped down into our kitchen. That was their problem, so they sorted it.

Last Sunday, early evening,  our central heating broke down.  We have a service agreement, but waited until early Monday to phone, and luckily they had a service engineer in our area that morning, so he came and - eventually - sorted it out.  It is working now.    Was pleased that I knew where I had put the service agreement so I had all the details.  That's one notch on my bedpost to prove I am coping.

Due to my age and (now) circumstances, British Gas have put me on their priority list, so if anything goes wrong I can jump the queue.  Also, if my annual income is less than a certain amount (£1610 I think they said) they will also give me quite a large discount off my fuel bills.  Remains to be seen how much pension/benefits I get.  Knowing the benefit system it will probably be weeks before that is sorted out.  'Ernie' (bless him) sent me TWO payments last month.  Every little helps.

Regarding a comment re letting out a room to help increase my income.  We have only one bedroom, and have to say I do like my own space (B being out such a lot I am quite used to being on my own most of the day).  Maybe I can find another source of income - perhaps giving cookery lessons?  Will have to wait and see.   Possibly might start painting again.  At one time used to paint lots of pictures and was able to sell many of them. 
Pity I can't start a little 'corner shop' in my conservatory, selling home-made preserves and baked goods. Too many rules and regs, 'elf and safety etc, to stop me doing that I am sure.  But there is always something I should be able to do, even if only for my own amusement.
Perhaps I could have a 'pop-up' restaurant in our dining room.  With patio doors and a terrace outside, people could enter that way and not need to walk through the other rooms to get to it. 

But first things first.  Get the hospital visit out of the way, then the pension etc. sorted, and - fingers crossed - my health could start to improve and life will seem much brighter.    At least the weather is still lovely, wall to wall blue skies today and not really cold.

Hope to be back with you later this week, but before I go must mention an article in the newspaper that said "Feed the Family this Christmas for £2.66p each" (working on a total of £21.31p to feed eight).  We can only do that if we buy the necessary from several different supermarkets.  If we shopped only in one, the best price for the 'basket' would be £27.83p at Iceland.

However cheap this seems, we have to remember that many items probably lack quality.  The turkey may be cheap but some of the weight may be added water,  Some fruit cakes will be richer than others. It all depends on what we are prepared to put up with.  On the other hand, good news for those on a lower than average income.

Some of the products I wouldn't buy anyway, such as brandy butter (cheapest being £1.49p from Lidl and Aldi) so there is always room to reduce the total price even further.

One recipe for you today as I'm going to make it myself (love onion chutney), and perfect to give as gifts as it will keep for a year unopened, and six weeks when opened - but keep chilled.

Red Onion Chutney: makes 650g
1 lb 12 oz (800g) red onions, finely sliced
2 tblsp olive oil
4 oz (100g) soft brown sugar
4 fl oz (100ml) port
2 tblsp red wine vinegar
1 tblsp red currant jelly
pinch salt
9 oz (250g) cooked beetroot
Put the sliced onions in a pan with the oil and set over lowest heat. giving a stir as it begins to cook. Cover with a sheet of greaseproof (prevents evaporation), then cover pan with a tight fitting lid.
Let the onions cook slowly for about an hour, stirring every 15 minutes to prevent the onions from burning.
Remove lid and paper, add the sugar, raise the heat to medium, the continue to cook, stirring regularly, until the onions are browning (not burning), and all the water from the onions has evaporated.  This takes 15 - 20 mins.
Add the port and vinegar and continue to cook until the liquid has evaporated (a further 8 - 12 mins), then add the redcurrant jelly and salt.  Stir well to combine.  Slice the beetroot into matchsticks and stir these into the onion mixture.
While the chutney is still hot, spoon into warmed sterilised jars.  Cool, seal with airtight lids, and label.  Once sealed they will keep for a year if left unopened, and once opened and kept chilled, for six weeks.

That's it for today. Hope to be back with you sooner rather than later.  Enjoy the good weather while it lasts.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Never Put off until Tomorrow....

Firstly must thank all of you for your wonderful comments/condolences.  Each one has been given silent thanks as they were read.   You have all been so kind.

Am trying to make what has happened, prove to be of some use.  If that sounds odd it is always because I've tried to turn some bad into something that might be worthy of knowing.  One example has this has been paperwork.

As regular readers probably know, my Beloved was not the tidiest of persons.  All his paperwork was thrown on a small table by his chair, and from then onto the floor, later put into bags... fortunately throwing anything away did not occur to him, so we were able to find the papers needed - eventually. 

So the first lesson learnt was that all necessary papers should be filed away together, in date order, so that if/when needed, they can be instantly found.   I was blessed with having our children here to help, I could not have coped on my own, especially as I was feeling quite unwell myself. 
So bear this in mind - if you haven't yet thought of thinking ahead in that department, then worth doing so.  Then - if the unexpected happens - you will already be partly prepared.

The next lesson to be learned (by me) is how to cope on a much reduced state pension.  The council tax will be reduced by 25% (it is high anyway), but the rest of the outgoings will be much the same.  So many cuts will need to be made. 
Thankfully I have plenty of food in store, and had thought of changing to a doorstep delivery of milk, but seeing that would be 56p a pint (at least) it makes sense to buy it from the supermarket at 25p pint. If I have it delivered in the larger containers I can freeze it to use as and when needed.

Life will turn out to be a challenge again, and being me that is something I will enjoy.  However, first I must try and get my health back - at the moment am finding it difficult to do much, needing to be pushed in a wheel chair when going to the many offices in Lancaster to sort out 'the necessary'.

Next Tuesday I have again to go to Lancaster Infirmary (outpatients) to see a specialist about my cardiac problem, this may mean more treatment.  Also trips out later in the week to sort out more paperwork.  All I want to do is just stay at home and take things easy. 

Surprisingly, I am continuing to cook, but this time just for me.  It feels odd, but am quite enjoying the meals I make and hopefully this will help me later to put together recipes just for one instead of the usual 'serves four'.

Steve is setting up the new website for me as I want it up and running as soon as possible (just in case my own health takes a turn for the worse).  Just because I might not be able to continue blogging doesn't mean this site and the new one can't still be active - with readers using recipes from this and posting up the photos of the chosen dishes cooked - with comments as to whether it works, can be improved etc - on the new site.   Details will be given on this site when the new site is ready.

As you can appreciate, my days are still busy with having to go out and about, with visitors also expected, and likely to be so for the next few weeks, but I will try to pop in for a quick blog at least once or twice a week. 

Life at the moment seems to be running on automatic pilot,  and am just taking each day as it comes. 'Interesting' things keep happening; a huge heron flew down and settled on the garage roof the other day, stayed there quite a while looking down at me.  A lovely little robin has just flown down onto the fence close to this window and also sat looking at me.  First time I've seen these birds in our garden since we moved here over 5 years ago.
Other things too have happened, each has made me realise that death is natural but life still goes on (whether here or in the hereafter).  So until my time comes I will try not to put off until tomorrow what should be done today. Maybe learning a few more lessons in the process.

Until my next blog, hope you all have a good weekend and look forward to hearing from you. Will try to be back later this week, if not - very soon after.  Love to all. xxx

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Thank you all for your comments.  The reason why I've been absent is not my own health (although that has not improved much) but that my beloved husband collapsed and died whilst out cycling - a week last Wednesday.  Am having to cope with each day as it comes, and this doesn't include blogging.  But will be back.