Friday, January 30, 2015

Weekend Coming Up

No sooner had I written my last blog when I discovered another batch of comments had arrived in my email while I was writing, so although I thanked only one (Ray was it?) for reminding me of sago, there were several more I discovered later.  Please believe me, I do eventually read all comments, it's just that these last few months I've not replied to each as I always hoped to do.

It's not been a good week for me.  I now think I've got gout!  Something anyway that is causing me pain in both my big toe and the arch of my foot.   Have had it before and it never last too long - on the way out now - but it confined me to bed (or bedroom for ease) for the last few days.  If it isn't one thing it is another!!!

Am still finding it incredibly difficult to come to terms with what has happened over the last six months (beginning with the steroid arthritis jab that worked brilliantly).  It is now 3 months and 2 days since my B passed away, and although sometimes it seems like yesterday, other times it seems a lot longer. 

Yesterday the Occupational Therapist came, able to get me quite a few things to help my mobility etc, but I've been told to remove all rugs from the house to prevent me tripping/falling.  Most of these rugs were placed to keep our pale cream carpets clean, and the majority are of great sentimental value.  It will seem even less like home if they are not there.  Am thinking about using this dining room (where I write on the comp) as a living room, just pushing the dining table over against a wall to leave plenty of floor space in the centre of the rooms (they are large rooms), and bringing a couple or so easy chairs in from the living room to sit and watch B's TV - this being larger than the one I normally watch in the other room.

Because I was busy, loads of people calling in, and my foot etc, I haven't been watching any TV for over a week.  Missed even my favourite soaps, Benidorm, Birds of a Feather etc.  In the end did ask for my radio to be brought in from the kitchen to the bedroom to keep me company.   Think I could almost manage without TV, but would need the radio.

Have cancelled the daily newspapers from the end of this month (tomorrow) just having the Mail on Saturday that comes with an excellent TV supplement/mag.   Getting rid of all the old newspapers has been a real problem (B used to take them to the tip), so the less waste paper the better it will be for me.

Did watch TV last night because there looked to be a good programme with Greg Wallace about reducing a families food bill, and have to say the prog was EXCELLENT.  Well worth watching on iPlayer if you haven't yet seen it. 
What was proved (more by taste testing foods where the manufacturers names had been removed) was that cheaper brands were often preferred, and what made me smile was that the man of the house didn't like the jam he was given (he thought it was a cheaper substitute) even though it was the normal brand he always bought for himself as he liked it best.  Just shows how our mind plays tricks.

The aim was to save £40 a week from their normally excessive food bill, and at the end of the week £74 had been saved.  Has to be said that they did have a lot of foods stored in their cupboards (made me feel guilty because I also store quite a lot but am now working through them), believe that added up to over £1,000s worth.  Perhaps I should work out how much my stores come to.

A few days/weeks ago there was a short comment from Frugal Queen re foods she remembered, one being brawn, the other 'hamlet'.  Think she meant to write 'haslet'.   My mother was very fond of haslet, also faggots.

With 'hamlet' making me smile, this then led my brain to try and work out other Shakespeare plays that could be almost 'foodie' such as:
Romeo and Jellyette
Taming of the Stew
Midsummer Night's Cream
Merchant of Venison
...anyone think of any others?

Cheesepare's query re grey scrambled eggs.  Don't know why they discolour unless it is that they are cooked in the microwave (we always cook ours in a pan on the hob).  It could be pepper, and myself prefer to use white ground pepper instead of black to avoid the black speckles in the cooked eggs.  

Once upon a time (at least in my youth) we seemed only to have ground white pepper and fine table salt to shake over our food.  Then black peppercorns appeared, these to be freshly ground in a special mill over the food when ready to season.   
Salt is now more likely to be large crystals (again to be ground) either sea salt or rock salt, and I have several different kinds, most of them slightly coloured from grey to pink to brown to white.  So if the eggs change colour before any seasoning is added, then it could be the way they are cooked.  Doubt it would be the eggs themselves.
Normally I just break the eggs in a bowl, pour them in a pan with a little milk (or cream) and then cook them very slowly over low heat.  Omit butter (this can go on toast).  Believe the professional way to make scrambled eggs (and the best way - I've tried it - but it does take time), is to pour the beaten eggs into a bowl, place this over a pan of hot water and cook/beat until the eggs are lightly scrambled and very creamy.

Not sure how the rest of the country has fared (esp CP in Millom who normally gets the snow).  Yesterday noticed it had begun to snow mid-afternoon, visible-sized flakes so was hoping to sit an watch it settle, but of course it didn't.  Lasted about half an hour, nothing worth seeing really, and today it is lovely and sunny,  wall to wall blue skies.  Expect it is cold outdoors, but then I'm not venturing past the back door except to throw the rubbish bags into the bins (these outside the door) and that can wait.

Not a lot of rubbish to throw out these days.  I seemed to have completely lost my appetite, and when I do eat nothing seems to have any flavour.  Even Marmite!!!!  Maybe my pills are causing this.  All I want to do is drink fluids, especially water.  Even coffee has lost its taste.   Luckily though I did eat something yesterday that I enjoyed (almond croissant that I heated in the m/w), so perhaps this has been a short term thing and I can soon get back to the pleasure of eating again. 

Steve says he has found the photo I want put up on this blog, and he will do this a.s.a.p.  Maybe he has already done it.  If not it will be soon (will keep reminding him as his 'soon' is not the same as mine).

Now that I'm managing to get back on track (but for how long?) am hoping to write regularly, but as I'm finding out, one day I'm fine, other days I'm feeling really low, so just have to take each day as it comes.  Writing does help to cheer me up - so must do more.   

With the weekend coming up,  in this country at least we need to make sure we keep warm, don't venture out unless you have to, and remember - all those larder stores we've been building up these last months are there for the eating, not 'decoration' as Greg Wallace put it. Makes sense.  TTFN.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Back Again for a Chat

For almost the last eight years I've written my blog every day give or take a day or two off for Christmas etc.  Now, all of a sudden, with more time on my hands - as I thought - I find blogging is now not the first thing I do, with usually so much more to deal with that it doesn't get done at all.

For this I apologise, but am sure you understand that the last 3 months (4 - 5 if you include my arthritis and heart failure), have filled my life with more than I could handle.  No sooner does one thing happen and then begin to get better, another falls into my lap, and so it continues.  But I am coping and this is something I'm happy about for my one wish is not to be surrounded by 'carers' but to keep as independent as possible and never, EVER end up as 'a burden' to my family.

It is amazing how what seems like a difficulty can be sorted when thought is given to it.   I've got very good at lifting my right leg onto my high bed, followed by my left leg.  Previously I used to have to drag myself on holding onto the metal bedhead, but now all I need to do is sit on the side, turn my walking stick upside down, put my right foot into the handle-hook (using it as a stirrup) and then pull up the stick and do the same with my other leg. Easy peasy.

All of a sudden the various societies have suddenly realised I need some of their supports, so they have contacted me.  Nothing runs smoothly,  they left one important contraption at the wrong door (patio door instead of back door) but luckily phoned me to see if it had arrived, so that was sorted - at least until I went to use it and found the most useful piece they had forgotten to include, so that meant another delivery....!!!!  Anyway it was sorted.  More to come this week, don't know which day, they will phone me.  Deliveries could be between 9 - 12 or 12 - 6 so this limits me a bit when it comes to other commitments (blogging etc).  
Thursday at 9.00am the Occupational Therapist will be calling (about time!!), so hopefully I'll be able to get the necessary grab handles fitted by the steps leading from the outer doors.   Plus a few other bits and bobs.

Should be visiting the health centre to see the Diabetic nurse this coming Monday, but if the weather is bad (snow forecast) may have to postpone it as I've twisted my foot somehow (this has happened several time over my adult lifetime, it always gets better) and can only walk a few yards with sticks, a few more yards with the help of my walking frame.  OK around the house, but no good at the health centre as there are long passages to travel down and that is after crossing the large waiting room. The nurse has all the results of the tests, so maybe able to talk over the phone, or she could visit me.

Thank you for your comments, and thank to Eileen for letting you know I have been busy these last few days.  Am still busy but determined to grab a few minutes to let you know I am still here.

Was very interested in your son's budgeting plans Ray.  Wonder which he will choose, or he may do all of them. Let me know how he gets on.  Even using Jack Monroe's pricings, he could still lower the costs as she sometimes pays more for her products than I do.  On the other hand she makes some really cheap 'eats'.  Doesn't matter where we get our ideas from, all we hope to do is make the most of the little we have and for the lowest cost.

For days I've been trying to remember the grain similar to tapioca, and so thanks to Jane Hurd, I now know it is Sago, and yes, I do remember Rice Cremola.   Are any of these three products still on sale, and if so where? Have eaten a tapioca pudding-dessert a couple or so years ago at a Thai restaurant in Lancaster, served with fruit (can't remember which fruit) and I really enjoyed it.

Well, it seems we are due for some snow if the forecast is correct, probably from Thursday onwards. The Eastern states in the USA were forecast a blizzard with all transport to keep off the roads other than the essentials.  Turned out the snowfall wasn't as bad as expected - at least in N.York city, although the rest of that state might have had more, but with people and children staying away from work/school, they had a fun day today playing in the snow. 

As I've still lost my appetite, at least not wanting to eat very much when I do make something for myself, I've now managed to lose over a stone in less than 2 weeks. so feeling much lighter.  This means I've still got plenty of food in the fridge, freezers, and the larder, so no need for me to stock up. Even got plenty of UHT milk (as well as 4 pints of fresh semi-skimmed), plus bottles of orange and lemon squash, not to mention tap water (I drink mainly tap water these days). Also 18 eggs, so any adverse weather doesn't worry me. 

Not sure when I'll be blogging again this week due to the several 'callers' and equipment expected, also have laid out my paints and canvas boards ready to start painting again, and once I make a start nothing, absolutely NOTHING is allowed to interrupt me.  So once the day's callers have been and gone, I will start painting, thermos of coffee at my side.  Blogs will have to wait. 

But who knows - the muse may not strike and I will be left twiddling my fingers.  So maybe there will be a blog or two sooner than expected.  
However - Steve, who has just discovered an email I sent to him re a photo I wanted him to put on this blog (just to show you what I looked like a long time ago), has written to email me a copy to see if it is picture I meant.  It is, and so hope he will publish it as a 'fill-in' between my blogs.  Suppose you could call it a 'selfie' of B and me', 'selfies being the fashion these days I believe. So why not?  Just ignore the fact that there is over 60 years between that and any taken now.  Still feel much as I did then.  Doesn't time fly?

Hope you all manage to keep warm as the weather turns colder.  I'll be blogging again, not sure what day, but promise I will do so when I find time (I go to bed early when it is cold).  TTFN.


Sunday, January 18, 2015

Sunday Thoughts

Wasn't intending to blog today, but after reading comments (they arrive with my normal email) on foods that are now not sold in supermarkets, am inspired to send in my own thoughts.

Doubt very much Granny G that I ever have eaten rabbit.  Many people kept rabbits in wartime, not as pets, but to supplement the diet (meat being very scarce).  B's parents used to keep rabbits, bit white ones I believe, so he had learned to enjoy eating this meat. 
I've noticed several chefs now including rabbit (and goat) in their recipes, so perhaps both will soon become a popular meat (and by doing so become more expensive). 

Do remember, as Ray mentioned, that frozen rabbit from China used to be on sale in the supermarkets, this seemed to be sold in chunks, so I would buy some and cook it in a casserole for my Beloved, still not eating any myself.  Since then he had occasionally mentioned he'd like to eat rabbit again.  I did ask the butcher if he had any, but he had only whole wild (and skinned) rabbit that he'd shot himself), and I really didn't fancy having to bother with chopping up the carcase and dealing with all those bones.

Alison mentioned grapes being bought only when ill.  My memories are of grapes that at that time (in the 60s, they all contained seeds/pips which put me off as the grapes either had to be cut in half and the seeds first removed, or eaten whole and the pips spat out.  Now most grapes it seems are seedless.  I always like the green ones and keep them in the fridge as they are lovely when chilled.

Used to make my own brawn from half a pig's head (a whole head cost 25p), but first would get the butcher to chop up the head for me prior to cooking it.  The cooked meat would always be in chunks, set in its own jelly, so the mousse you mentioned Alison would be 'speciality of the chef', and am sure would be nicer than brawn as we know it.

You have a long list of food memories Jane, but I remember each and every one.  'Quick-cook' dried peas can still be bought, these are more tender than the larger marrowfat used for making mushy peas, and I've found both type will grow into pea-shoots when a dried pea from the packet is planted into moist soil.  A few dried peas from the pack are never missed, but do grow into a lot of shoots, these can be picked as an addition to a salad (as happens today in the better restaurants), or left to grow on to flower and produce peas that can be eaten.

Yogurt too is a fairly new addition to the shopping basket, also muesli.  My B always insisted that a trifle had to have glace cherries, flaked almonds, and strips of angelica studding the cream on top, or it wasn't a proper trifle.  One year I planted an angelica and was able to candy the stem - this lasted me for ages.  So worth doing.

A lot of the food flavourings were called 'essence' in those days.  Today some are much improved and called 'extract', so always go for the latter.  More expensive, but we can use less.    At one time I used to have banana essence and rum essence, now I tend to stick with vanilla (from Madagascar) and Almond extracts, also vanilla paste.

Was it tapioca pudding we used to call 'frog spawn'?  Am sure there was another grain cooked in the same way that looked similar but can't remember its name (begins with a 'C'?).  On the tip of my tongue.  Anyone know what I mean?
When a child used to eat Corn Flakes as a breakfast cereal, also (I think) Rice Crispies, and another that I didn't like so much called 'Puffed Wheat'.  It was always porridge in the colder weather.

As to making meringues with fluffy centres.  Your suggestion of cornflour/vinegar (as when making meringues for Pavlova) is probably the best way to achieve this.  Or just cook the meringues for slightly less time, and if small, turning off the oven after the first half hour and let them finish cooking in the residual heat (do not open the oven door).  Test one, and if not firm enough, continue cooking at low heat for 15 minutes, then keep testing until as wished. 
Meringues will continue to dry out if placed in an airing cupboard or anywhere warm enough, as all they have to do is dry out rather than cook.  Making with Italian meringue (adding boiling sugar syrup to the beaten whites rather than just sugar) gives a firmer, more marshmallow texture to the centre.

Other foods that were unheard of in the 60's (at least by me) and now regularly bought (not necessarily by me) are 'quark', fromage frais, crème fraiche, pesto, salsas, curry sauces specified by name (jalfrezi, rogan josh, dopiaza, etc....).  Wild rice, udon noodles, quinoa.... the list goes on.
When it comes to fruit and veg, possibly aubergines, courgettes (all we had was marrow then), chilli peppers, sugar-snap peas/mangetout, mangoes, passion fruit......

We can buy almost anything now, but is that a good thing?  Myself feel we are spoilt for choice and it is with some relief I return to cook books that give just traditional English recipes.  Few ingredients that we should all be familiar with, still available (sadly more expensive), easy to make and the end result should have wonderful flavour.   What more do we want? 

Having asked that question, it would be good to know your thoughts.  Do you prefer traditional food, if so why (ease of making, flavour etc), or prefer to try dishes from all over the world?  Perhaps best of both worlds is the answer.
At the moment, prefer to make a meal for myself that does not need a recipe book to tell me what to do.  Perhaps familiarity gives me comfort at the moment, or maybe I'm just too lazy to be bothered.  Yet making something for someone else, I WOULD be bothered.  Just got to get used to it being only me, and am finding that hard at the moment.   Home is like a meal that is missing a vital ingredient, and it doesn't 'taste' right.

Big flakes of snow suddenly falling from the sky.  Let us hope they continue and begin to settle.  Hope to blog again tomorrow, if not, it will be soon.  Hearing from you and able to reply certainly lifts my spirits, so will try and blog more often, so watch this space....TTFN.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Saturday again!

The days seem to fly by at the moment, perhaps because I've still not managed to get into a routine of what I should be doing - and do it!  When I sit down (which is often) I tend to nod off.  Did that yesterday, and woke to discover I'd overcooked my pizza in the oven by half-an-hour.   Fortunately I'd put a lot on top of the crust so was able to scrape off the burnt cheese and remove the hard base and the bit in between was still edible. 

Never did get to buy new shoes.  The weather changed from bad to worse and after a night of what I thought was snow (turned out to be gravel-like hail) decided it was too cold for me to want to venture out, and Friday was not one of my good days, felt tired from the start.   At least British Gas sent a man to deal with the 'broken' electrics (my water/drains/gas/electrics are all covered in their repair contract), and turned out it was just fuse wire that needed replacing.  So now the lights work.  I've to have new copper bits fitted to earth everything ('lecs to boiler etc), and while I'm at it will have a new fuse box that has no wires to break.  These will be fitted at my convenience  (I have to move the beds etc for the man to fit the new connections along the skirting board behind the beds, so will put that off for a week at least), no urgency.  

Am still losing weight, at least 1lb a day, by tomorrow should have lost 12lb since I started taking the increased meds a week ago yesterday.  Certainly sleep a lot better, and these cold mornings I just don't want to get out of my warm bed.

Snowed a bit yesterday, not enough to settle, more bad weather forecast over this weekend although we may miss most of it - as we usually do.  Am planning to take this next week 'off', by this I mean just pleasing myself what I do (usually not a lot anyway), and eating more protein to help me gain a bit more strength.    One of my new resolutions is if I get one thing out, then I must put at least TWO things away.

I clicked on that link to the Guardian Margie, and found it interesting.  Even though it reads as though some things have disappeared from our baskets, most are still there.  Corned beef for example.  It may be called 'charcuterie' in the listings, but a lot of it is still bought.  Also Chicken Kievs.    Never remember wild rabbit (canned?) being on sale (other than for pet food).

'New foods' (new to me in recent years but seemingly bought regularly now by younger folk - also by me) are things like hummous, dips, sushi, tropical fruits.  Meat now includes ostrich, kangaroo, squirrel...  fish from warmer waters.  Most foods that we think of as 'lost' are still around - even war-time Spam has become popular again.

The other day I had treated myself to Walker's Pork Pie (sharing it with my daughter). That particular pie has been eaten in our family even before I was born, so very pleased to find that Tesco sell it (as 'counter pie') being that it originated in Leicester (family firm).  Still tastes as good.
With the pie I quartered a large tomato.  Don't know where that was grown but it had no flavour whatsoever, so ended up leaving a wedge in a little dish.  Two-three days later decided to throw it away and noticed it looked a bit black where the flesh touched the inner section of seeds.  Also looked as though it had tiny maggots in it.  But no!!!  The visible seeds had all started to sprout, the seeds themselves had darkened, with a white shoot growing up out of each (flat against the tomato that had been next to the container), and at the top a tiny folded-over green leaf about to open up.  With care I was able to remove one or two of these sprouting seeds, and although I didn't use them, am sure - if carefully placed in a pot of soil - they would grow into tomato plants.

So - all you budding gardeners - worth quartering a tomato and leaving it in a warm room, then seeing what happens.  We normally sow tomato seeds in February, so this way would get the toms growing a month ahead of their usual time and give more crops as the months go by.  If we have bought fresh tomatoes that have a good flavour, then worth growing from these instead of relying on packets of seeds.

It was only the other day that I thought I'd got over my miseries and felt a lot stronger, but it does seem I'm still going to get good days and bad days and will never know until the day arrives.  Yesterday was not good, today probably will feel a bit better, hope tomorrow will be smiling again.  Still early days yet, not yet 3 months, so shouldn't expect too much.  Have to take each day as it comes.  At least my heart seems to be improving. think the tiredness is due more to depression, I just can't seem to find something positive to do - beyond the normal call of duty.  A challenge is what I need, and so far haven't found one.  Yet!

It would be interesting to hear from readers what their shopping basket now contains - compared to several decades ago.  What 'new' foods do they prefer, and what older ones do they now not bother to buy/eat?  Myself feel the older we are the more likely we are to get stuck in a rut and not bother much to change - after all, traditional foods always have been tasty, but perhaps take too long to cook in this day and age of fast foods.

As I've got 4 very ripe bananas, think today I'll bake a banana loaf (the recipe needs VERY ripe fruit) and it will freeze..  It will be the first time I've baked (a cake) since late October.  The oven has been on only 3 times since then (twice for pizzas).  I'm getting to be a hob-top cook (with the occasional use of a slow-cooker). Don't suppose I'll ever need to roast a joint again although might cook a whole chicken (not that I need to, but would enjoy the flavour).  If I'm not careful I'll be talking myself into a gloomy mood (again).   Time to toddle off into the kitchen and think about cooking a proper meal for my supper today. 

Not sure if I'll be blogging tomorrow (Sunday), but should be back early next week.  Hope you are able to stick with me for these few months until I get myself back on track.  TTFN. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Tuesday Chat

Regarding suggestions of sharing a meal with my neighbour.  Have thought about it, but my friendly neighbour is very picky about her food, also (this happens a lot) it is very difficult to get people to come and eat a meal because they always seem to feel obliged to ask me back and - as I can't climb stairs and they usually don't wish to cook 'for a cook' if you know what I mean - this means they prefer to take me out for a meal in return and then the cost of that lies heavy on my conscious. 

We used to get around this problem by inviting quite a few neighbours, at least once a year, usually for a barbecue in the garden, this they seemed to be able to cope with without a return invitation, and maybe I will do that again, trouble is it was always B who did the cooking on the Barbie.  I do love cooking for people, but at the moment feel enjoyment comes more from sitting down and having food brought to me (for a change).

Am now losing at least 1lb a day (water mainly), so the increased meds are working well.  Makes me feel so much better.  However, have had a couple of almost sleepless nights since Saturday, don't know why.  Sprinkled a bit of lavender oil over my pillow in the wee small hours of this morning and that seemed to work, so I did get a few hours sleep, but then up early and ready to sit at the comp and blog.

Am finding one or two advantages of living alone, but of course would go back to the old ways if I had the chance.  One thing was the problem of our very narrow galley kitchen (it widens out at one end), and when I wish to check contents of the freezer/s and fridge, need to sit in front of it moving out most of the foods, wiping it down and then putting it back.   The only way I can do this easily is to put the food on a trolley, and when that is by my side there is no room for anyone else to move up and down the kitchen.  Now there is no one else to do this the trolley - when cleared - can be pushed back up against the back door leaving room for the fridge doors to open easily.

When Tesco deliver I can move the trolley back towards the fridge and put the bags of food on trolley shelves, then - when the frozen and chilled have been put away - the remainder- still in bags - can be pushed down the length of the kitchen, round the table, up the other side and into the larder.  Now it will be so much easier for me.  Every they say.

Have not yet decided what type of 'fire' I will be purchasing (if any).  First I have to clear the space, then move the furniture into other rooms, giving some to St. John's Hospice where they sell it to get funds, however do hope to get the fire soon while it is still'winter, then I will gain more pleasure from sitting and looking at it. 

These past few days I've been watching TV programmes about gardening, and it is inspiring me to fill the borders with lots of colour and particularly flowers that have plenty of perfume.   Then, if we get a good summer again (it was good here in Morecambe last year) I can sit outside and enjoy the warmth, maybe with a plate of home-made scones, home-made jam, and clotted cream by my side, plus a pot of tea (or why not a glass of wine?).  There is something to be said for spoiling myself.  B certainly has always been given more than his share, I'll just be catching up a bit.

It's a month since I sent my last order to Tesco, so am writing another to be delivered tomorrow. Like last time, at least half the order will be non-foods, and of course the total cost will also be much lower than it used to be.  There is still plenty of food in store in the Goode kitchen, mainly bought for B (and not always what I prefer to eat myself), but am sure I will manage to work my way through it. 

At the moment tend to crave fresh fruit and veggies, plus fruit juices.  Have gone off eating protein, but know I should have some, so do eat some fish (esp. oily fish), eggs, and chicken.  Fond also of cheese, however have lost my appetite for most foods, and even served on a smaller plate or dish, find it too much.  That's not like me, but it should be if I want to reduce my weight, so will see if I can keep to smaller portions. 

As most of my days are now sorting out what can be thrown/given away, there is not much foodie chat to write about. Hope you don't mind and am sure I will soon become more interested again.  I do watch many of the cookery progs, particularly fond of the new afternoon series with James Martin (in his own kitchen).

Will sign off now.  Tomorrow should be a Tesco delivery, Thursday will be out with my daughter as need to buy new shoes, but will try to fit in another blog before this week is over.  So watch this space. TTFN.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Sunday Ramblings...

Suddenly my life seems to have taken a new turn.  Am sure it is the increased meds as my heart already feels so much stronger, I feel happier, and looking forward now to a future.  The old me is almost back.

Turned out it wasn't new meters that were fitted, but 'smart meters', in that these were not obligatory (at this time), but however, am SO impressed.  Can't say I understand everything that happens, but have ended up with a sort of small screen that when touched can slide things around (a bit like these modern smart phones I suppose), and I can read exactly how much it costs when switching on the electric kettle.  We checked the oven at 200C, and it showed 50p.  Ovens controlled by thermostats do switch on and off, so it will be interesting to see how much the overall charge would be when I next roast a chicken.  It could well prove to be cheaper to buy a ready-roasted chicken from the supermarket than cook one.
Also want to find out how much it will cost to cook a casserole (lower heat) in the oven, and then cook the same on the gas hob.   No doubt Les will have already done that (he is a fount of knowledge when it comes to costs/temperatures etc), but want to prove it for myself.]

A few things came to light, some lead piping has to be removed and replaced with copper (new regs), and also need some work on the fuse box.  Our Gas service contract also covers water/drains, gas AND electricity, so am having them come to see if they can sort it (or at least find out what needs to be done then get someone else if it works out cheaper).  Seems to make sense to get the house in full working order in case I wish to move.  Give a prospective owner a reason to lower the price and they want it reduced by thousands even if the repairs would cost only hundreds. 

By the way, I have been allowed an Attendance Allowance, so that means I will now be able to afford the occasional taxi (to take me to the spiritualist church again) as well as other venues.  Nothing like a few more pennies in my pocket to cheer me up!!

Another thing I'm going to do - and this is pure luxury - is to have an electric log-effect fire fitted in our living room, in the Art Deco-style ingle.  I'll hardly ever need to use any heat that can be blown into the room from the fire, just have the flame-effect flickering.   Not that expensive to fit if directly into the wall, although I may decide to have it fitted into a fireplace surround.   A lot less trouble to deal with than a real log stove, but will still give the feeling of heat and the pleasure of what seems to be a 'real' fire is worth paying a few pence a week (running costs).

Thanks for your comments. Was very impressed with your 'extended' vegetable soup Jane.  Just shows how we can turn one dish into several different meals.

Regarding sharing a meal with my neighbour.  We have discussed this and the problem is that she lives in a first floor apartment and I could never manage her stairs.  She does come and have coffee with me every week, and am hoping to have a small dinner party for a few neighbours now and again that I am sure she will come to. Think I mentioned she is selling her flat and moving to Shropshire, soon as possibly, but this could be months, both the flat above our and her flat (priced much the same) are lovely and worth a lot more than the asking price, but no-one seems interested.  Viewers always seem to want a garden as well, and we are the ones that own a garden and not prepared to sell any of it. 
As far as B and I was concerned, we were happy to let any new owners 'upstairs' do some gardening if they wished, or just sit in it now and again, but this freedom would not necessarily still be given by any new owners of our apartment should it then later be sold.

Anyway, one of my plans this year is to re 'landscape' the small garden we have and have wider herbaceous borders and hopefully some plants and shrubs that will flower all year round.  All being well should have a busy year ahead of me.  At least now I can dig up and discard that awful rhubarb that B always hoped would grow thick stems (the stems are not much thicker than ballpoint pens). Plant a rose there instead.   Hurry up spring, can't wait to get started.

Meanwhile, will keep a check on the running costs of fuel, and will be interested to find out how much it costs to do a load of laundry in the washing machine (not counting the detergent).  Have run out of fabric softener, so am now going to make my own using water, vinegar, hair conditioner, and will let you know if that works and - of course - is cheaper than the manufactured softeners.

Was not intending to write today, so that's all you are getting.  Might be back tomorrow if I can find time between doing all the interesting things that now keep occurring to me to do.  Maybe I will get the occasional low day (after all it is still less than 3 months since the shock-wave hit me), but am definitely improving and feeling more like the me that was, now more inclined to start thinking about myself (for the first time) and mean to find some pleasure from life without feeling guilty about it. It'll feel strange for a start, but bet I'll get used to it sooner rather than later.  TTFN. 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Weekend Starts Here

Normally don't blog on a Saturday, but up early so thought I'd check my email/comments, and you are all so kind keeping in touch it has inspired me to write a few words today. Later this morning the gas men come to fit the smart meters to the gas and electricity, this means both power will be off for up to 3 hours, so comp will be out of action.  Must remember to fill hot water bottles and thermos flasks, keeping the c.h. on until they arrive so the house will have warmed up.

Went to the docs on Thursday, he said my heart was back to normal (beating), also my blood pressure down.  I said I still felt my heart needed strengthening to enable me to cope with my daily activities and he was going to double up one of my meds anyway and said these would sort it out, then the heart would be strong enough to get rid of the water retention.   After one day on these extra pills I really do feel a lot better (and 3 lbs lighter!!!).   Don't have to see the doc again, but can phone him if I have any probs.  Bit sad about that as I'd taken a real fancy to him and was hoping to have a regular check-up (like once every 3 weeks?).  He's ever so nice, worth being ill for.

Quick reply to a few comments.  Can't really afford to run a car Cheesepare, even though one of those SmartCars are very appealing.  It would be pure luxury for me, and I'd probably find it cheaper to use taxis than run a car considering the amount of time I'd be out and about. Id decided to cancel my driving licence this year (it is due for renewal shortly), and maybe get a passport instead so that I could treat myself to a visit to our daughter's in Ireland now and again. 

This year I intend concentrating on the garden, widening and curving some of the borders so they catch more sun and are more attractive to look at when in flower (at the moment one is so narrow it has only a small lilac tree at one end and an Acer the other. I see the lilac tree already is showing buds at the top of each of its stems, does that mean early flowering/early spring? 

Regarding growing lemon trees from pips (a query from C.P), I wash these as soon as squeezed from a ripe lemon, the push one pip into a small (yogurt size) pot of warm soil, covering with the soil and also putting into a plastic bag or covered with half a plastic lemonade bottle (mini-greenhouse), THEN placing this on a shelf above a central heating radiator to keep it warm (or anywhere else warm).   In a few weeks a shoot should appear, the plastic bag opened to allow fresh air in, and of course the soil kept moist with warm water, but still kept in the warmth, but given more light.

My pips grew to a good height, with pale green leaves and huge thorns (about 2" long) up the stem, between the leaves.  Another branch grew from low down, and eventually I pinched out the top and then another stem grew from the side.  However, it wasn't particularly attractive, and I understand it takes anything from 6 to 10 years before it will flower and bear fruit (maybe needs another for pollination), so when I forgot to water it and most of the lower leaves fell off, I threw it out.

If I wanted a lemon tree that bears fruit I would buy one already in flower/fruit, and just grew the pip to see if it would grow. Which it did.  Wasn't much use otherwise.

Regarding pets.  Still not sure what to do about that.  Have to see how far my health improves before I make any major decision.  At the moment am planning to do quite a bit of refurbishing around the house, maybe even manage to make an extra bedroom in our conservatory (for me), so that I can have guests to stay, and who knows - may even then be able to offer cookery courses for anyone who has a week-end to spare and are interested enough. 

Regarding my meals.  Was talking to my neighbour yesterday (she lost her husband nearly 2 years ago), and she initially felt as I do now - a guilty feeling when cooking a nice meal just for herself.  Both of us were so used to putting our husbands first, they got all the treats, and so thinking about ourselves now causes us to have guilt feelings.  My neighbour says she has got over this now, so does buy treats for herself, I've got to reach that level, and will not find it easy munching a cream slice knowing that it is what my B would have loved to have been given (and - it has to be said - often was, while I denied it to myself). \But, as has been said, I must eat properly and well to enable my health to improve.  After 60 years of caring for B and family, perhaps it is time to start caring for myself.  Just hard to get out of the habit of coming second (or last). 

After going to the surgery on Thursday we drove round to a pizza parlour as I really fancied one, and have to say, just eating it I felt very naughty, a bit guilty (but not a lot), and really enjoyed the thrill of having something I hadn't had for years.  Anyone else would think a pizza was a normal meal.   Maybe it was having it made for me that gave me half the pleasure.

Very windy last night, and believe the weather it turning colder, maybe snow in our area (almost certainly in the Lake District), so this afternoon (gas men coming between noon and 5), seems we will have to snuggle up with hot water bottles and play canasta with the help of candle light.   I could put a pan of soup on the hob to heat before noon, then when the power is turned off, keep it hot by standing it over six tea-lights (small candles) as these give off enough heat to boil water.  Soup is more warming than a cup of tea/coffee.

Anyway, that's my blog for today, may blog tomorrow, but probably not - more likely my next will be on Monday.  Have nothing planned for 2 weeks, so have time to sit down and relax although do have to arrange a meeting with the occupational therapist here one day soon.  Also need some new shoes (have only one pair of summer shoes, the heels fell off my winter ones), so must get daughter to drive me to a shoe shop.  Find it not easy walking at the best of times, so my shoes really have to be comfortable.  Ordering by mail order has never worked.  Always need to send them back.

Hope you enjoy your weekend, whatever the weather.  TTFN.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Another week almost Over

Can't believe it is already Thursday.  Once upon a time I used to write a blog EVERY day, now I seem to have to remember to write one.  Probably because - at the moment - there is not much to write about, other than my own miseries, and who want's to hear about them?

At least I am sleeping much better.  Feel slightly less depressed, but early days yet (less than three months) so no doubt I'll still have good and bad days.  Can't get interested in food though, seem to have completely lost my appetite. 

Made a big bowl of porridge yesterday, ate some for 'brunch', and that seemed enough for the rest of the day although I 'forced' myself to eat some Heinz 5 beans for supper.   More porridge for breakfast this morning, then might have a proper supper this evening as my daughter will be here (after taking me to the surgery), maybe will suggest a take-way, I still don't feel like cooking !!!

However, am enjoying watching James Martin's afternoon cookery show where he cooks his favourite foods in his kitchen. As many readers have commented, eating protein does give more energy (J.Martin uses a lot), so really must start sorting out and using what is in the freezer).

Many comment also about a choice of pet.  Seems cats would be the obvious solution, trouble is I'm a dog person, but after watching a couple of programmes about buying and raising puppies (on TV this week) think they would be far too much trouble.  I can't remember our Labrador puppy ever being as naughty as the ones shown.  Maybe we were lucky. 
Getting her house-trained was the important bit, she very soon learned to squat on paper if she wanted a pee, trouble was any paper would do, and she once waddled her tiny body the whole length of our through-lounge to squat on an exercise book that my daughter (who was lying on the floor at the time), had been painting a map.  All the colours ran together.  Why we didn't stop the puppy I don't know, we just watched with open mouths then shrieks of laughter (at least we laughed, our daughter didn't).

Wood-burning stoves (and hens) also seem to bring extra work, and probably this is something I can't deal with - at least at the moment.   I wouldn't buy hens until March anyway, so will have to wait and see whether there is any improvement in my health.   It's all wishful thinking and am sure something will turn up to keep me occupied that doesn't need too much labour.  Perhaps I should start writing a novel!

Thanks again Cheesepare for the book.  It really is interesting.  As your name/address was included (in case of return), I took the liberty of trying to see where you lived (via Google earth), but not very successfully.  Got the right area, but there were several houses it could have been.  However, it looks a lovely little 'hamlet'.

Don't know if I mentioned recently - when tidying up - I found our huge AA atlas of the US and Canada.   Managed to find all the places mentioned and visited in 'Little House.....' including Walnut Grove, but I bet they have all changed in appearance since then.  Was pleased not to miss yesterday's episode where Laura Ingalls was given a temporary job as a teacher, and two weeks later on her sixteenth birthday Almonzo Wilder (her future husband) suddenly realised she wasn't a little girl any more.  Think the series ran for at least 10 years, so just over half-way through by now I should think.

Very noticeable in some states is the way the main roads run in straight lines, giving the appearance of very large square of oblong fields.  Even the towns seems to have straight streets.   Here in GB the only straight roads are the old Roman ones - and not a lot of those.  Have a feeling I've mentioned this before, so ignore if I have.

Am not very interested in world affairs at the moment, but hearing that the price of oil has dropped, and the low prices in euro-land for just about everything makes me wonder if our food prices will drop further.  With the store-wars here almost certainly they will, but this would be due to the lower fuel prices (less paid for commercial delivery costs from warehouse to store), leaving the profits on food to remain the same - with the stores making us believe the lower prices are reduced by them for our benefit.

Am busy the rest of this week, so it will be Sunday (probably Monday) before I return to blog. It all depends on what time I have, or if anyone wishes to meet up with me (I still have people from various organizations to call at the house, but don't know when), and whether I have a good day or a bad day.  So much I want to do, need to do, yet most of the time I just can't be bothered.  Things can only get better.  Hope so anyway. 

Almost spring in the air today.  The frosts have gone and the day temperature is in double figures for the moment.  We had quite a bit of rain yesterday. Mainly blue sky at the moment with a light breeze. I hardly notice the weather as most of the time our living room curtains are three-quarters drawn (to keep in the heat) but I would love to wake to see a white world with big flakes of snow floating down.  Still time for that.

A few more weeks and I hope to be back to near normal, or at least have more energy, then maybe find my thoughts back to writing about food, saving money etc, etc, etc.  The world I'm living in at the moment I was completely unprepared for, and it's taking me ages to come to terms with it, or even understand it.  It's like learning to walk again, taking baby steps and collapsing now and again while I do so.  Strange feeling, but am coming to terms with it, and each day feel that little bit better.

Hope you all have a good weekend, and many thanks for all those lovely comments you are sending me.  Really appreciate them, they do cheer me up. Sorry am not replying to each individually as I normally would but all are read.   Back again soon.  TTFN. 

Monday, January 05, 2015

Catch Up

Meant to blog yesterday, but another sleepless night plus a feeling of deep depression caused me to curl up in my chair and feel as though I didn't want to do anything at all.   Thankfully, last night I did sleep almost through, so feel much better.  At the moment, with me, it's swings and roundabouts, I never know how I'm going to feel until the day dawns.  Today feels as though it will be a good day.

Many thanks for all the comments sent.  I keep asking the doctor if I'm anaemic, he says 'No', but am sure they don't check everything when they do a blood test.  He says my kidneys are OK (so that's something I suppose).  Am seeing him on Thursday so will see if he can do something about my tiredness and depression, although this is probably normal considering what has happened over the last two-three months.

Earlier this morning put the rubbish out for my neighbour to wheel/lift down the drive to the gate for me. Seems to be loads of empty cans (at least 14 - that's one a day, they empty THAT container once a fortnight).  Mainly soups, chopped tomatoes, mixed beans.  Perhaps I need to eat more protein. 

Recently I have been buying vegetarian sausages, and find the Tesco Lincolnshire (flavoured) ones very good.  But they are not meat, and it does seem I do need meat to avoid feeling tired.  Must thaw out some lamb's liver for my supper tonight OR I could cook myself a lamb shank and have that with petit pois and a few small potatoes.
Still feel guilty about eating all these 'goodies' that I used to buy and cook only for my Beloved, it will seem strange cooking these for myself, but they are in the freezer and there is no-one now to cook them for.   Should also make some bread as not eaten 'real' bread for weeks, although I've been thinking of stuffing some frozen/thawed pitta bread with grated cheese, then heating these through in a dry frying pan, ending up like a quesadilla I suppose.  Did see a mention in a mag of using naan bread for the base of a home-made pizza, so that is something else I can try.

One thing I'm craving for is sweets.  Normally Christmas is the time when I do allow myself some chocolate or fudge, this year sweets were the last thing on my mind.  There are times when I think I might just as well eat what I want, especially what I enjoy most, and ignore being diabetic.  Normally doesn't seem to matter much anyway.  Is it worth living a few years longer and missing out on all the lovely food?  Or open a box of delights, gorge my way through them, and die happy a lot sooner?

However much a solid fuel stove would cheer me up, readers are probably right when they say they are hard work - clearing out the ash, and especially filling up the coal scuttle and log baskets.  This is something I always used to do when we lived in Leeds (and had a working, open fire), but I was younger then. 
We do have a gas fire fitted in this room (dining room/study), and this is the only room that still has a working chimney (lined for the gas fire).  It is fitted with a handsome Gillow walnut (I think) mantelpiece with marble inset and front, and a proper fire would look lovely crackling away in it, but then it would make sense to turn this room into a living room, and the living room into either a bedroom or a dining room (it is big enough for both).  At the moment I can't be bothered, but do feel like making a lot of alterations to the internal décor of our property as I've wanted to do this since we moved here (B didn't want changes) and now I can.  Well, as much as I can afford.

Now there is no-one to say I can't, am very tempted to keep hens (or at least bantams).  Have to wait and see if my health improves before I make a final choice.  Really do need some sort of 'pet' to be able to talk to.

Bantams lay small eggs, and there was something in the paper this weekend about Jamie Oliver and using small eggs (laid by pullets).  He says these are never sold because customers always want the medium or large eggs.  If we cook 'properly' then we should always use eggs by weight, not size, so it doesn't matter if they are small (pullets eggs or bantams).  Jamie also says these smaller 'first lays' (by pullets) have a much better flavour than when the hens are older and lay normal sized eggs.

During war-time, when my parents kept a few chickens - grown from day-old chicks - the first eggs laid were 'soft-shelled'.  Do remember later there used to be quite a few with double yolks, and at least once a triple-yolked egg.  The hens were Rhode Island Reds, lovely big brown birds.  Mum used to store surplus summer eggs in big metal 'buckets' of isinglass (waterglass) to use through the winter months when the birds laid fewer eggs.

During most of my life I've had a pet to care for (often more than one), and would so much like another now, mainly to keep me company I suppose.  Dogs are my favourite, but do need exercising, and as my preference would be a Labrador, then a small, yappy dog, would not be my ideal.  It would still need exercising.  Our (local) daughter really hates cats, so doubt she would ever visit me if I got one, and anyway, not that fond of them myself although a perfect pet for a housebound person.

Anyone got any suggestions as to the pet suitable for me?  It needs to be able to communicate back when I talk to it, and certainly have found guinea pigs (cavies) can do that. They are also very friendly little souls.  Rabbits, gerbils, hamsters, fish tanks, tortoises, tarantulas, snakes (maybe a big snake would make a good burglar deterrent), caged birds....none really appeal to me.  I want something to cuddle and one where a small garden would provide room for daily exercise (with the occasional walk at the side of a mobility scooter).  Or am I doomed to living alone? 

In the distant past, before TV, radio and the like,  people who lived alone always had some sort of 'company', even if only a loudly ticking grandfather clock.  Almost certainly a cat, and a canary in a cage hanging in the window, singing its little heart out.  The only living thing that seems to want to infiltrate my space are slugs that - for some reason - seem to enjoy slithering across our carpets leaving slimy trails.  We never found out where they entered and where they left.  If they moved a bit faster I might consider training them to jump through hoops.

If I had my time again, I'd try cross-breeding Labradors with the smaller gun-dogs (beagles etc), in the hope of introducing miniature Labs.  There are other large breeds than now have been bred to give smaller versions (poodles, sheepdogs....) so why not Labradors?  These are such loving and gentle dogs, that when small-scale would be perfect for older people to care for.

Anyway, that's my chat for today. At least better than nothing, although at the moment I cannot promise writing much of interest, or even write every day.  But will try.  It is always lovely to have your comments to read, and so keep them coming.

Weather here mainly frosty, but above freezing at the moment.  On the news it seems that South Australia has big forest fires, and around this time expect to hear that Canada is covered in a layer of snow.  Has that happened yet?  Don't watch much news at the moment, and try to go to bed earlier rather than later in the hope I do fall asleep. Nostalgia time yesterday when I watched 'Bambi', last time I saw that was when I was a child.  Couldn't remember much of what happened, so the ending was a bit of a surprise.  but that's what life/nature is all about.

Not sure whether I'll be blogging tomorrow, we'll just have to wait and see.  TTFN.

Friday, January 02, 2015

\New Year has Begun

Am so sorry I've not been blogging of late.  It's been a difficult time of year and although I hoped that on January 1st I'd feel ready to start my new life, unfortunately it was one of my 'bad days'. They come and go.

Seeing or speaking to the doctor regularly (who ups my pills or removes some as necessary) the good news is my health is improving, but I often feel extremely tired and this could be due to depression.  Have to force myself to get out of bed in the mornings.   It can only get better.

Over the Christmas period managed to occupy myself by watching TV (of course!!) and there I was fortunate as there were 6 of my favourite films being reshown.  Also plenty of TV comedy shows and dramas.  The good thing about repeats is that they take me back to times past when things were 'normal' and so it felt much the same as I watch now. 

We went out to Barbar elephant for our Christmas lunch and the place was packed.  Seems that people now don't want to bother cooking a traditional meal.  We had crackers and background music of Christmas songs, otherwise it was a set meal (various choices) of starters, curry, side dishes etc. In a way a treat for us as neither my daughter nor myself had to do any cooking.

The one thing I'm finding about my life at the moment is that it is far too 'busy'. Next week I have to see the doctor on Thursday for more tests) , a visitor Friday, new gas/elec meters fitted Saturday (that means the supply will be cut off for at least an hour and clocks need to be reset) and also make appointments for the occupational therapist to call, and maybe also someone from the heart clinic.  When will it all stop?  I like my own space, time to do things when I want to do them, not have to find free time at others convenience. Should be grateful I suppose that people care, am just not used to it.

Every time my daughter visits she texts to see if I want anything, and always I say no.  I still have loads of food in store.  Can't say I'm doing anything interesting with it.  Yesterday decided to cook a small cauliflower with a few mushrooms and have that with some curry sauce poured over (cauli and curry do go well together).  From what is thrown into the recycling bins it seems I'm living out of cans at the moment, either soups or mixed beans, sardines/tuna and chopped tomatoes.  Haven't eaten any bread for weeks.  Seem to have lost my appetite for almost everything, sadly not lost any lbs due mainly to still having a prob with water retention.

This is the time of year when I normally would be using up all my stock of food before I buy more, so am hoping that readers are continuing my tradition.  It really does help to save a lot of money, and also makes us think a bit harder about how to put different ingredients together.  This year I'll be using up my stores in much the same way, but not giving so much thought.  'Must do better' as teachers tend to write at the bottom of school reports.

On the good side, the days are now slowly getting longer, and although we have had some severe frosts, and last night was very windy (still is), we have missed snow that has fallen on parts of the country over the past few weeks.  It would be nice to see a bit of snow, but we'll probably miss it, Morecambe usually does.

Had a really lovely Christmas present this year - a wooden casket with drawers, full of oil paints, acrylic paints, watercolours, brushes, palette.....the lot.  So will now be taking up an old hobby and start painting again.  Me (being me) took it one step further.  The casket came in a big and very strong cardboard box, EXACTLY the right size to stuff with folded up newspapers, then seal and cover with fabric to make an extra stool (or side table to place by a couch).  Never let it be said I throw away anything that can turn into something else.

Am thinking (only thinking at the moment) of buying one of those multi-fuel (coal, wood, everything else) iron stoves that are popular these days.  If it was fitted in the living room - this is our coldest room that does have a now-covered fireplace (chimney removed), it could be used to burn all sorts of 'rubbish', including dry prunings, chicken bones, waste cardboard...???  Maybe even the type that has a round lid on the top that can be removed and a kettle put to boil on it.  The room I'm in now has a working fireplace (with chimney) but this is fitted with a very old gas fire, hardly ever used.  Good place for a stove? 

Do know that at least a couple of readers have similar type stoves.  Are they expensive to buy?  Can they burn almost anything? Do they save fuel costs (central heating etc)? They seem to give out a lot more heat than just burning fuel in an ordinary grate.

Have completely lost the plot when it comes to days of the week.  Keep thinking it is Monday today, but believe it is Friday.  With any luck I will find time to blog tomorrow - if not prob. Sunday, or certainly Monday (unless visitors as mentioned above turn up in which case take each day as it comes.

Time for me now to go and tidy the kitchen (it needs it!!!), and before I leave, must thank everyone who sent in comments (too many to reply to individually, but all have been read). Do hope you all had a lovely Christmas, New Year - and don't forget Twelfth Night (Jan 5th) the traditional end of the holiday (before the calendar got changed - I'm learning a lot about traditions and different dates thanks to Cheesepare's gift.  Wonderful book, it'll take me a year to read through it!!

Sitting down, writing to you all again has lifted my spirits immensely, so am sure, from now on, if I can blog more often, things will fast improve.  It is helping to now be in a new year, tucking away as many sad memories of the past year as I can, remembering only the good ones.   TTFN/.