Monday, 28 September 2009

Monday 28th Sept - Murder Most Horrid

Yesterday Keith tried to do me in!  "What would you like for tea darling?" he asked scraping himself up off the sofa.  "How kind,  dearest," I replied, "Some lovely salad veg on a plate with a little dollop of very low fat mayo and a little dollup of tomato chutney and a little bit of cheddar would be nice."   

While he was clattering about in the kitchen I bethought me:  "Sweetheart, there's a jar of cornichons and a jar of pickled peppers in the cupboard too."  "Righty-oh," he warbled cheerfully, "Ham?  Bread?  Eggs?"  "Just the veg thanks,"  I called, wishing he would just use his initiative and not keep interrupting Antiques Roadshow.  In due course he served up this delicious looking and beautifully arranged plate of veg.  Now you have to remember I was not wearing my contact lenses by this time.  I happily speared what I thought looked like a cornichon (a titchy little gherkin) and popped it in la bouche.  It was a blinkin' chilli.!!!!  I have a jar of tiny green ones and red ones in brine in the fridge.  He thought they were the gherkins!  I gulped down a bottle of water as if it was going out of fashion.

And what did he do?  Laughed like a flipping drain!  

My new laptop arrived on Thursday and, always game for unwrapping packages, my sister promptly dealt with this!  Gosh it did look posh and I hadn't a clue what to do with it .  I'm waiting for a router to arrive and then I can apparently look forward to updating my blog whilst peering over my knees at the telly!  My next door neighbour knows about these things.  We spent a jolly Saturday afternoon making a set of recovery discs, without which, I was told by the laptop, my life could become very difficult indeed.  Easy peasy, I thought, I've got 5 blank CD's, they'll do.  Wrong!  Ray next door went and fetched the five he had.  Not enough.  Keith flew off (not literally) to Tesco's to buy some more and came back with 100!  In the end we needed 14 discs and this was a computer I haven't even started working with yet!  With any luck I shall make my inaugural blog entry about next Monday.

One thing though - we've got enough blank CD's to last a lifetime!


Saturday, 19 September 2009

Saturday 19th September 2009 - In the Pink!

I forgot to mention..........another gift from Bob-round-the-corner was some Beetroot from his garden.  It's just a little bit messy to deal with but it doesn't take as long to cook as you might think.  Whatever you do, do not cut off the long root or it'll 'bleed'.  Don't peel them or wash them either.  Just shake off the worst of the muck from them, chop off the stalks at the leafy end to leave about 3" length and put them into a large saucepan.  Cover with water and add a smidge of salt.  Bring to the boil and simmer for 30mins to 1 hour, depending on their size.  Here's a clue:  they would have to be quite big to want an hour!

So how do you test them for 'doneness'?  Best not to stick a fork in them.  Put on a pair of rubber gloves (the washing up sort) to protect your fingers from the heat. fish one out with a straining spoon and gently squeeze it.  In a similar way to testing avocados for ripeness, you will be able to tell by the 'give' as you squeeze - be gentle, mind.  Or carefully try and remove a lttle peel.  Beetroots which are done will easily slip their skins.

So, now they're done comes the messy bit.  You have to remove the outer skin and this is easiest to do by removing the remaining leaf stalks - just lop them off with a little disc of the beetroot.   Now slide the skins off - easest done if you let the beetroots cool a bit first. I find they shrink away from the skins a bit this way.  Finally, cut off the root. 

And there you have the fabbest little beetroot you ever did see. 

Do as you like with them now.  Left whole and individually wrapped in cling film they freeze well.  Slice them and almost cover them in malt vinegar (see?  malt vinegar again!),  cut them in cubes, mix with grated horseradish, chopped capers and good mayo and eat with smoked fish.

Me?  I like them with vinegar and I can eat them in vast quantities.  Keith can too, but a cautionary tale:  do not forget that you've been OD-ing on beetroot.  Keith came out of the loo looking very worried the other day, he was peeing pink - HA!  I did try not to laugh!!!!  I did --splutter, splutter.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Friday 18th September - chutney and chunter

Busy, busy, busy, that's what I seem to have been this past week or so.  Well, not busy by most of you's standards but busy by mine because it takes me twice as long to get anything done!

There's been all the form-filling of course for himself's pensions.  I think - I HOPE - I've got that sorted now.  You would think it was Christmas or something with Keith marking the days off to his retirement  in his diary.  I've never known anyone so looking forward to that milestone! 

Then Bob-round-the-corner sent some green tomatoes, some lovely Bramley Apples (cookers) and some runner beans.  I always think the best thing to do with green tomatoes that are a l-o-o-ong way from turning red is to make them into Green Tomato Chutney.      

You need:
1 lb green tomatoes
1 lb onions
1 lb apples (I used Bramley but you could use Granny Smiths.  Sharp anyway)
1 lb brown sugar
1 pint malt vinegar (who says it has no use in the kitchen?)
1/2 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 oz salt

You do:
Cut up veg and fruit small.  Put in a bowl and sprinkle with all the salt (sounds a lot - trust me), cover and leave overnight.

Strain off and discard salty juice.  Put fruit and veg into a large pan, add everything else.  Bring to the boil, stirring, then simmer - uncovered - for about 1 1/2 hours   Stir it occasionally.  When the chutney has got quite thick in consistency it's done.  If it needs more than 1 1/2 hour give it more but keep checking to make sure it doesn't 'catch' on the bottom..

Leave it in the pan to cool and then when it's at room temperature put it into spotlessly clean jars and seal them.  Don't forget the labels.

Of course, you can tuck into this straight away but if you can keep your hands off it, it's best if you leave it a few weeks.

You will only get four 8 oz jars from this amount.  So why are there only 3 in the picture?  Keith couldn't keep his hands off it!  The good news is Bob sent some more tomatoes so I can make more this weekend..

Also last weekend I made my first batch of Plum Bread for this year.  That is every bit as easy as the chutney but chutney doesn't taste so good on its own with a cup of tea..  You do need to have some loaf tins but if you buy the ready made parchment liners from  Lakeland like I do you don't have to mess about lining them!  Preheat oven to Gas 3.  Shelf about centre.

You Need:
4oz margarine or butter (butter's best)
4oz soft dark brown sugar
1 tsp mixed spice
12 oz mixed dried fruit (sultanas, raisins, currants, cherries, peel)
5 fl oz cold tea
8 oz self-raising flour
1 medium sized egg

You Do:
Put the first five ingredients into a large saucepan,  Bring slowly to the boil. stirring.
Turn down heat and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Leave it to cool
Add sifted flour and egg and combine well without beating.
Pour into lined tin and bake for about 1 hr 15 mins
If the top is browning too fast, place on top a piece of greaseproof paper with a hole in the middle (to let out any steam)
Test for doneness by gently inserting a skewer in the centre.  If it comes out clean it's done.  Otherwise give it another 15 mins and check again.

While I'm on about food, I bought these the other day in Tesco (I think ).  They are delicious with a cup of tea for brekky.

What a sorry state our house is in at the moment.  Along with the windows being changed at the end of October, the render on the outside walls has to come off, be replaced and painted.  Even the flowers look incongruous set against it

Oh well, it'll be nice when it's done|


Monday, 14 September 2009

Monday 14 September 2009

I'm going to be bald as a coot before long!  Honestly, if anyone was thinking about retiring, here's a word of advice:  DON'T.  I thought it was a straightforward transition from one condition to the other.  I was wrong. 

Bear this in mind - it's Keith who's retiring, not me.  He goes blissfully off to work while I sort it all out for him.

I never knew you have to apply for your state pension.  Did you know that?  I never did.  But you do.  What happens is they write to you 4 months before, inviting you to apply for your pension.  So the day after the letter arrived I rang them up.

"No no no, " they said, "TWO months dear, TWO."
"But the letter said........"
"Yes but we've changed the rules."
"So why send the letter now, then?"
"We've changed the rules.  Ring at the end of August."

So I did but "I can only discus this with MR Marshall,"  Ahhh-HA, I'd already thought of that and Keith was already waiting to give them permission to deal with me.  So he did, and they did.  But, you see, he could have been anyone, couldn't he?  I might have got the milkman to pop in for a minute, or the window cleaner!  I might have even put on a gruff voice and talked through my hanky.  Anyway, I told them what they wanted to know and they told me how much pension he would get and said a letter called "A Decision on your Claim" would arrive soon.  It did.  Cue the first form to send back.

Then the Inland Revenue sent a big fat letter which, after I'd read it through a few times, seemed to be saying that the Dept Works & Pensions letter had, in fact, told the truth.  Mind you, what it Seemed to be saying was that they would be taking away £22.58 each week.  Heart stopping moment there!

In the same post came a fat letter from a firm Keith was with for a few years a long time ago.  They said they would pay about £1600 a year.  Cue next form to send back.  Their form wanted to know details of all other pensions Keith had, or would have.  In fact they seemed to want to know rather a lot so I rang them to ask what business it was of theirs and that was when I first heard the term "Lifetime Allowance".  It's a government thing said the voice on the phone.  It's a government requirement and all your other pension providers will want this same information.  To this minute I haven't a clue what a "Lifetime Allowance" is but - out with all the paperwork again and away with their form.

Left to his own devices Keith wouldn't have known where to start.  All he wants to know between now and October 26th is how much is going in the bank and when but your guess is as good as mine what other personal information we shall have to divulge and to whom to get it.

Form-filling is a fact of life - we all know that - but for goodness sake WHATEVER HAPPENED TO PLAIN ENGLISH?

"Dear Sir,
This is to inform you that I shall not, after all, be requiring a numbered Swiss bank account.
Your etc.........."

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Thursday 10th September 2009 - from another Fat Girl

Well, I've just been catching up with Marie who has decided to come clean about her weight problem.  Let's tell it like it is - her fatness!  She mentions that I have (willingly, I should add) been her partner in crime on her "Down Down Down" blog, which you can find here

I've been just like Marie - tried every trick in the book to lose weight and, despite seeming to lose loads, ultimately fail by putting it all back on again plus some more.  That's because your average 'diet' has a start date and a stop date and in between you're so concerned with following the diet that you never actually teach your body anything about the life changes you need to make.

Like Marie, I've tried all sorts :  Slimming Magazine, Slimming World, Weightwatchers, calorie counting by myself.  I must say I was horrified to hear she had been on the verge of signing up for a Gastric Band.  Remember this is the very same Marie who buoys us all up every single day with every little word she writes on her blogs, with her wonderful recipes, with her drawings and paintings;  the Marie who exudes a natural joie de vivre through every pore, who has a genuine love and caring for her fellows.  The only person I know who unconditionally 'gives til it hurts', who puts everyone before herself.  THIS Marie, our Marie, has shared with us her inmost feelings and I'm so proud of her.

I haven't actually been to a hypnotherapist; I just don't have the money.  What I have done is invested in a little book by Paul McKenna (yes, he of stage hypnosis fame) called "I Can Make You Thin" which came with a CD to support it.  I must confess to having thought "yeah yeah" and written off the book as a load of mumbo-jumbo before it even came through the door.  I read it though, seeing as I'd paid for it!  Despite myself, I found myself believing what he said and now - no agonising- I am continuing to lose weight and not paying out a fortune every week to do it.  It's not a 'diet', I don't count any calories or points or syns.  I only eat when I feel hungry and I stop when I'm not hungry any more.  Recognising those two points was the only difficut thing.

I wouldn't profess to have all the answers.  Nor, I suspect, would Marie.  What I have got is something I can live with quite happily for life.  Oh, and a trick or two ............

Today, for example, I'm wearing a skirt which was last comfortable about 4 years ago.  It's just not quite fastenable but sitting in my wheelchair it's not going to fall down!  My T-shirt hides the button at the top which I can't do up and it's just tight enough so I think "Hmm, need to lose a few pounds...".  All it does is make me examine my motives for eating...whatever might  be on offer.

Good on you Marie.  Keep it up girl, I'm rooting for you.


Sunday, 6 September 2009

Sunday 6th September 2009

I've been thinking about things we can't get any more.  Some things maybe we can but I haven't seen them for years.

Cheez Whizz used to be a big favourite of mine when I was a kid.  Between 2 slices of fresh white bread - the quickest sandwich ever!  Thickly spread on hot buttered (yes,  buttered ) toast - heavenly.  Then all of a sudden it was gone, sunk without trace.  A few years ago it resurfaced but, as with most things, was not quite how I remembered.  Still, I bought it though, only to find it snatched away again.  Maybe you can still get it but I don't know where.  Supermarkets do have their own brands but to lovers of the real thing these are pale imitations.  BRING BACK CHEEZ WHIZZ.

Mimuther also used to get a product called Frizettes.  They were a powder that you mixed with water to form a batter, then you dropped spoonsful into hot fat to make little fritters.  Oh, wow!  A breakfast fry-up was not complete in our house without them.  Actually we didn't often have fry-ups (or should that be frys-up?) at breakfast time but we did every Thursday tea time.   Thursday was pay day on the steelworks so tea was always a lavish affair with fried bacon, sausages, eggs, baked beans, black pudding (yeuk!), fried bread .....and Frizettes.  Can't you just hear our arteries furring up!  But did we care?  We did notBRING BACK FRIZETTES.

 In continuation of the Thursday pay day celebrations one of us kids was sent down to the shop for 5 assorted cream cakes.  I was always first volunteer for this job!  The reason was that the 'cream' cakes I chose.........weren't.  They used to keep them, uncovered, in the shop window and they contained Confectioners' Cream and I loved it.  I would love it today too if I could get any.  There used to be a bakery in town where you could buy it in bucket-loads but they closed down years ago and now...............!  I do like fresh cream cakes but I love confectioners' cream ones.  BRING BACK CONFECTIONERS' CREAM.

Mimuther was ever a creature of habit,  She has always had certain days for doing certain things, even now.  She didn't go to Church and Sunday morning was devoted to doing the washing.  The roast would be in the oven and there would be heaps of meticulously sorted washing ready for doing.  On Monday she spent the day getting it all dried and ironed - no mean feat when the weather was bad and there were no electric dryers.  So Mondays we would have banana sandwiches for tea.  Tuesdays she usually still had ironing to do and greeting us when we got home from school would be boiled eggs and bread soldiers, thickly buttered.  White Shelled EggsWe always had white shelled eggs.  Brown ones, when they were to be had, cost more but just occasionally there would be the odd brown one among the white.  Mimuther had to have that one because it didn't have a 'proper' shell.  So she said anyway!  It's the white ones that are rare now and all we get are brown.  They don't really taste any different, I think it all depends how the hens are fed or something, but there was something about white eggs that brown ones can't replicate.  BRING BACK WHITE EGGS. 

Finally for now, who can remember Double Diamond beer?  Hands up.  "##...a Double Diamond works wonders, works wonders, works wonders...##" to the tune of "There's a Hole in my Bucket" (very apt when you think of the shape of a beer glass).  It's all Keith used to drink in the 70's.  "Pint of DD please..".  I haven't seen any for years and the poor man is having to make do with Carling.  So for his sake, please BRING BACK DOUBLE DIAMOND .

Keith wishes it to be known that he took this picture from our side door and he thinks the silhouettes against the sky are superb.  There, now you know!  Actually, I think it's quite a good photo too.

Well, the roast is done, veggies almost, roasties just want turning and gravy making and it'll be lunchtime.  Guess whose name is down for those jobs?

See you soon,

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Wednesday 2nd September

I'm in my element here this afternoon.  Playing through the speakers is Disc One of Cliff Richard's Platinum Collection.  I put it on in the first place as a cheer-you-up for a friend I was emailing.  Yes, I know she couldn't really hear it - in fact, I'm not even sure if she likes the delectable Cliff - but I do so I've just put on Disc 2.  "Wind me up and let me go", a very apt start for an afternoon of blogging!

Talking yesterday about starting school got me to thinking about some of the games we used to play, specially in the playground.  One I didn't like much was "Pinch or Punch" and yes, it was painful!  Two kids would join hands   and swoop across the playground to catch some poor unsuspecting in the centre of their linked hands and recite "A pinch or a punch or join in the bunch, or tell us your sweetheart's name, or a penny stamp".  If he had any sense at all the poor victim would say "Join in the bunch" and he would make the circle a bit bigger by joining the other two.  This would go on with an ever increasing circle swooping on more and more kids who hadn't the sense to run for cover!  The game ended when either every kid in the playground was in the circle or the bell went for classes..

Skipping was much in evidence in the 50's.  It must have been for decades before too because my mum was brilliant at it.  She was always so light on her feet.  I on the other hand had no 'bounce' in me so I didn't bother.  Any old length of rope would do or a bit of washing line.  Someone could usually be relied on to have purloined the whole washing line on the way down the garden path in the morning so there would be a girl at each end (boys didn't skip) who were 'turners', a chant was decided upon and any girl who wanted to have a skip formed an orderley queue.  Girls #1 and 2 would start off as the turners turned the rope and everybody chanted "Nanny in the kitchen, Doin' a bit of stitchin', In came a bogey man and pushed nanny OUT" and the next girl in line would jump into the turning rope, shove #1 out and continue . .  Great fun I'm sure..

Girls never minded showing their knickers in those days and there was no such thing as the perv at the school gates so doing handstands against the staff-room wall was quite OK.  Two Ball was another favourite, and a way of putting to good use those tennis balls that would otherwise have joined the racquets in the cupboard under the satairs once Wimbledon fortnight was over.  It was sort of juggling but you 'juggled' your two tennis balls against a wall.

We were quite inventive playing at home too, so the odd  rainy day didn't matter.  Most little boys had a cowboy outfit, including a toy gun which it never occurred to anyone might corrupt them.  here's many a family goldfish bit the dust several times a day during school holidays.  The chair arms became horses which could put Trigger to shame, they could run so fast!.  Lone Ranger masks and silver bullets abounded.

When mum wasn't using the clothes horse, a wooden frame that she would put laundry either to dry on a wet day or to 'air' after ironing, it became a tent when we covered it with an old grey army blanket and we played at camping.  Or it might become a Tepee and be where Tonto lived with Hiawatha (Yep!) until the Lone Ranger would come nodding along on Silver (suspiciously like the yard brush) and off they would go on some errand of mercy.  Poor Tonto always had to take his shoes off before he got on his yard brush  because of course Tonto's horse didn't have shoes.  Oh I am sorry if anyone is finding all this a bit too non-PC,, but it's how it was

The Furniture in our house. being quite old and big lent itself perfectly to being hid behind, under or in as we played hide and seek.  We didn't always play nicely.  There was sbling rivalry along the lines of "I hate our Ken, he won't let me have a go on Silver...".   Mum would put up with this bickering for so long then confiscate the yard brush saying "For goodness sake, it's a white thoroughbred, not a seaside donkey!"  So even she was carried along by it really!

Mothers and Fathers, Dressing Up, Schools, Lady Baby Gypsy Queen, - all good fun and there were many more.  Books and comics to read, things to learn, people to talk to - and no daytime telly or videos or DVD's or computers and not many telephones.  Happy days!

 YAY!  I'm in the right place!

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Tuesday 1st September 2009

Well, so that's that then? !st September and summer's finished. Boo hoo - we hardly had any. In fact as I write this it's chucking it down with rain - clattering away on the conservatory roof so you can hardly hear yourself think.

Our darling little dog, Sally, has always hated the rain. She won't go out for a wee-wee run, not even if it was ever so! She would never go near the conservatory because of the noise but, at almost 16 years old, she can't hear it now so she's quite happy to sit in there. She still won't set paw outside and get wet though! We're getting quite good at DSL (Doggy Sign Language) me and Sal. She knows to sit down when I face her with my index finger in front of me and pointed upwards. She will (usually) follow me if I clap my hands near her face. DSL falls down though if she's asleep and you want her to get out the way. "Mind Sal" used to do the trick but now you have to yell "OI SHIFT" - and I mean yell! My decibel level rivals parade sergeants.

Later this year we are going to have new windows, and not a minute too soon I think. The rep came again today to take a little piece of the render off the outside wall so he could see how far into the wall lthe old frame has been put. What a shock - the gaps are all stuffed with newspaper! No wonder it's so draughty. You can see our bedroom curtains moving sometimes and they are supposed to be sealed unit double-glazed windows. The front door will have a special wheelchair accessible bottom frame. I didn't know there was such a thing!

Yesterday was the last Bank Holiday we get in England until Christmas. Here in North Lincolnshire, like everywhere else, we try to make the most of it and go somewhere or do something. Keith and I were going to go to Epworth Show, which is about the last of the country shows around here. It's mainly agricultural - pigs, cows, sheep, horses, farm machinery and so on - but it's also one of the few shows which still has prize competitions for flowers, vegetables, baking, wine making, jam making. We love wandering around these when the judging is complete to see who's won. It always seems to be the same people every year (perhaps because it's the same people who enter every year), you get to recognise the names. On my "to do" list is now to enter Epworth's Victoria Sandwich Cake competition (under Jam and Jerusalem rules)and see if I might dislodge anyone.

Actually, some of you might have heard of Epworth. It's a small market town famous as the birthplace of brothers John and Charles Wesley, the founders of Methodism. The Wesleys had a huge influence on English 18th century life. John was not only a preacher and writer but was active in many social spheres ranging from prisons to slavery. His brother Charles was the greatest and most prolific of the English hymn writers and many of his 7000 works are still popular today.

I've just been reading Ora's blog "A Little Corner of my World" in which she's telliing us about early school years when her parents wouldn't have had to buy books, pencils, writing paper - anything - because school provided what was needed. That was in America of course, but I don't remember having to take anything of my own to my English school either. You would have your school bag of course but nothing in it but your mid-morning biscuits and a spare pair of knickers if you were inclined to woopsies!

I remember perfectly my first day at school. I was five years old and in the 50's that was the age you started school and Class 1 was known as "The Baby Class". You went there right off from 9am to 3.15pm and no messing about breaking you in gently an hour at a time like they do now.

We sat 2 kids to a table in face-the-front classroom formation. In the middle of each table was a tub containing 2 HUGE fat black wax crayons and an assortment of thinner coloured wax crayons and that was all we wrote with until we got to the top class a couple of years later and progressed to genuine proper lead pencils. Whatever kind of paper teacher deemed appropriate was doled out as needed. Sometimes we did 'tracing' - you know, where you lay a thin sheet of see-through paper over a picture ond draw around it. On those days a couple of kids who could be trusted to come back would be despatched to fetch a couple of toilet rolls from the loo. It was that horrible scratchy Izal stuff, which we also had at home. It was nasty in the bathroom but it made great tracing paper and was indispensible for making beautiful music with a comb and paper.

The baby class and Class 2 had this same face-the-front furniture arrangement. I don't know what Class 3 had because I skipped to Class 4 (must have been clever or something) where the tables were arranged in a kind of square horseshoe around the room. Then the top class. Wow, avante garde or what! We sat on the floor for stories! Not a wax crayon in sight. Desks with lift up lids - this was real school!

Oh, happy days.

Now, I'll see if I can put some photos i my sidebar because I can't make them go anywhere else.