Sunday, December 21, 2014

Shortest Day...

Today is the shortest day, and here in Morecambe a very wet, windy and dreary one, but good to know that from now on the days will get longer.   Roll on summer.

Firstly do hope we get some 'proper' winter weather, such as snow that falls in huge flakes.  Haven't seen those for years, most of the snow these days seems to look as though it has been sifted through a sieve and falls like fine powder.

As ever, many thanks for comments.  The most recent have referred to 'A place to call home' and I see that this coming week will be showing the end of the series.  Not sure how it can end as the Jewish nurse has just found out that her husband is still alive and she is leaving for Paris to find him.

Australian drama/films etc always appeal to me.  Although not one to find much enjoyment with 'Skippy the Bush Kangaroo', did enjoy 'The Sullivans', then 'Sons and Daughters', and twice watched the whole series of 'Prisoner Cell Block H'.  Also 'Flying Doctors'. Was a fan of 'Neighbours' until we moved here and couldn't get channel 5 on TV for some months, so stopped watching when it was able to be shown.

Favourite Australian films have been 'Muriel's Wedding', 'Crocodile Dundee', 'Priscilla, Queen of the Desert', 'Walkabout', and several others, names now forgotten.

Sorry I've not been blogging recently. Have been feeling very tired this week, think more due to depression than anything physical.  Just not interested in anything at the moment.  Last Sunday the car was collected, so that was another part of our life chipped away.  At least it has gone to a good owner.

The paperwork is getting on my nerves.  Forms keep being returned because some part hasn't been filled in correctly, one even because it had not been signed, and I know it had been, because my daughter and I were at the office where they asked me to sign it before they gave it to us to post.  But seemingly that page had got lost. So we begin again...!!!
By the beginning of 1915 am hoping most will be sorted and I can make a fresh new start. 

Nearly chucked my mobile phone out the other day, every time I began to do something (like lifting a pan of hot liquid from the hob, the phone would ring (or text).  Three times while I was writing out a short order for Tesco to deliver.  First made me jump and I pressed the wrong key and wiped out all the order, so started again, but when it was delivered discovered I must have hit wrong keys as some products I could swear I hadn't ordered, and the milk that came was whole milk not semi-skimmed as usual.  The statement matched what was sent, so will have to check back and see what I thought I'd ordered and I bet any mistakes would have been mine, not theirs.  Just shows how lack of concentration (and annoying mobile calls) can cause havoc when ordering on-line.

Am beginning to envy those creatures that curl up for the winter and hibernate until the warmer weather arrives in the spring.  Each morning now I have to force myself to get up when I'd much rather stay in bed, like ALL day.  But expect these feelings will pass, this is known to be the lowest time of year anyway for a lot of people, even those with no problems whatsoever.  Longer days and more sunshine can work wonders.   

We have had several days of sunshine, trouble is that at the moment I keep the east-facing sitting room curtains partly closed, mainly to keep in the heat from the radiators, so it is the other rooms in the house that get most of the sun. Even with the sun it is very cold outdoors (not that I go outside), but at least am comfortably warm indoors, and with curtains nearly closed, doors shut, don't need the c/h on all day, so haven't got to the shivery stage yet.

Not expecting to see anyone until Christmas Day, so have (incl today) four days to catch up with what needs to be done, then a few more days to plan my future beginning on January 1st.   By then expect to be back blogging much more regularly.

From comments sent in am discovering I'm not the only one to have an uncertain future, and my thoughts go especially to those who are having their own problems at this time.  You have all given me so much support, so firmly believe that at times like this we are never alone and comforting words mean a lot. 
Just writing to you has made me feel so much better.  A good reason to continue, so I will be back blogging, not sure when, maybe just a few words, but will be soon.  TTFN.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A quick Blog today....

Did mean to write a longer blog today, but it's been a stressful and emotional weekend what with one thing and another, so do not feel much like having a chat.  Sometimes I feel fine, can even go a day without shedding a tear, then something happens and it feels as though the wall I have been building round me is being relentlessly chipped away, and I have to start all over again.  But things are getting better.

Once this year is over it will seem like a different world for me, and maybe a New Year is a good time to start.  Thankfully, the increased meds are making me feel SO much better - at least my heart is thumping normally instead of fluttering around all over the place - and am now sleeping at night. 

Regarding the Australian drama 'A place to call home' (is that its name?), didn't realise it was such a long one, and it seems we are now in series 2.  There are no actors in it I recognise, although the eldest son (about to marry the Jewish nurse) does look a bit familiar.  Funny how all the main actors seem to have no Australian accents at all, they all sound very English.

Despite me not planning to have Christmas this year, still find the Christmas based cookery progs worth watching. It's almost as good as having it without needing to cook it myself (I rarely eat what I cook for others anyway), and am getting very fond of Tom Kerridge who is a lovely cuddly chef, one of those I would love to meet. 

Still look at the 'flyers' that come through the door, also the ads on TV and in mags/supplements, and - as ever - find that we could make many of these ourselves so very much cheaper.

Recently there was some hoo-ha in the news about 'poor people can't cook' (relating to Foodbanks etc), and my thoughts immediately were "there are a lot of wealthy people who can't cook either".  Even I, who like to believe I can make something out of almost nothing, did have quite a job working out enjoyable meals from the very limited selection given out by some of the Foodbanks.  It's amazing the difference one onion, or even an egg could make to a meal. But these are deemed 'fresh' foods and not part of the allocation (at least not on the Trussell Trust food lists I have been given).

It's so silly.  Surely if someone BUYS an onion (or egg) then it is up to the purchaser to use it within its life-span.  Being GIVEN fresh food in an 'allocation' works the same way.  A 'use-by' date could be written on the egg-shell anyway if there is a fear of it being kept too long.  Onions keep for several weeks/months.

Anyway, I've my own 'foodbank' (personal larder, fridge/freezer) to work through at the moment. Shelves are now slowly clearing, leaving many gaps, but also plenty of food left to use. Strange thing is I feel quite guilty when planning to cook myself a 'proper' supper, as this I did only for my Beloved.  The thought of cooking a fish risotto for tonight's meal for ME doesn't feel right, but am sure I will manage to make, eat and enjoy it. 

Yet another day that looks as though we will have plenty of sun.  We have been warned that we will be having cold weather in a few days, maybe snow in the northern parts of the country.  Heard that before.  Snow has been seen on the Lakeland hills, but not a flake settled in Morecambe, although when going to the docs the other day did have a fairly thick layer of hail/sleet fall on me in a matter of seconds while I waited for the taxi.  At least that was easily brushed off.

A busy week again for me, expecting quite a few people to call (occupational therapist etc - but that could be later rather than sooner), and domestic things I need to keep up with.   Am hoping that I'll be blogging again by Thursday,  or Friday (or Saturday/Sunday).  All depends who calls in  - and when.
Certainly by Jan 1st my intention is to make that the first day of the rest of my life and put as much of the past behind me as possible, then I should be back on track with this blog.   There is much I can still do and should do, so plenty to write about I'm sure.  But will keep blogging (even if only a few words) up to the end of this year and then a new Shirley will hopefully appear, until then will continue blooging, maybe not every day, but certainly not before too long. TTFN.

  




Saturday, December 13, 2014

Just a Quickie

It's been a very busy few days so have not had time to relax and write my blog.  Just thought I'd pop in to let you know I'm OK, and hope to blog either later today or tomorrow (or maybe Monday), so much is happening at the moment, and I get tired more rapidly than before.  But things are looking up.

Will reply to comments in my next blog.  So watch this space.  Back sooner rather than later....TTFN.

Monday, December 08, 2014

A new week begins.

Am feeling much better since taking the increased meds.  Also managing to sleep at night.  Had a really long sleep last night, perhaps due to the fact I'd wrapped  round myself a fleecy blanket.  How cosy and warm that was!
In fact decided - at 7.00am (when I woke) to grab an extra hour in bed, and it wasn't until I hear a voice call out 'Shirley' that I checked my bedside clock and it was five minutes short of 9.00am!  Could almost believe the voice came from my B, and perhaps it did, for there was no-one there.  Someone is watching over me, and that gives me a good feeling.

All the rubbish has been put into the respective bins ready for 'him upstairs' to wheel them down the drive to the gate early tomorrow morning (the refuse collectors come alternative weeks, but now I've hardly enough to fill half a bin in that time so it makes things easier all round.

Weather has turned cold with lots of frosts, but think it is warming up a bit again.  Sun still shines most of the day and am wondering if we will be getting a proper winter, or like last year when winter never arrived at all (at least not in Morecambe).

You are all so kind sending in lovely and caring comments, and I feel very guilty not replying to each individually as I used to do, but they are all read and I give silent - if not written - thanks to everyone as I read them through.  When the New Year begins, that will prove to be 'the first year of the rest of my life' and after a bit of tweaking, things will get back to almost normal, and I can begin 'thinking food' again. 

Grief seems to come in stages.  My neighbour - who sadly lost her husband about 18 months ago - said what is now happening to me, also happened to her.   First the really bad times, the dreadful gap that can never be filled, and buckets of tears for the loss.  Now second stage is 'chatting' to my B, but also wagging my finger at him and asking 'why did you leave things in such a mess for me to have to clear up (like the garage roof leaking badly - he was going to do it, but when?).  B could have repaired it himself, but now I have to pay someone to do it.  I have a long list of other things that needed to be done, so tears of misery are now changing to a few stern words when the next crisis hits me.

...Just realised that I hadn't finished writing my blog, other things too precedence, amongst them what seemed to be hours-long telephone conversations with the Pensions dept, DVL dept, and other places in the hope of being allowed a benefit or two (much of the talking was done by my daughter, but I had to fill in details, some of which I had mislaid.  Not surprisingly.  I am snowed under by paperwork that I thought I didn't need anymore, luckily not yet shredded, so more hunting to be done.  It'll will all be sorted eventually, at least the wheels have been set in motion - that should save a week or two.

Tomorrow am expecting a builder to call re the garage roof, so may not have time to blog, hope to be back on Wednesday.  Thursday morning have an appointment with my GP, so it will be Friday (if that) before I blog again.  Have to take each day as it comes at the moment, but fortunately time seems to be moving fast, so I don't have too many hours to dwell on the past as always try to keep myself busy.

All the media (papers, mags, TV...) are full of Christmas cheer, festivities and food.  So many good ideas that I wish I felt like talking about, but sadly this year feels as thought I should turn pages quickly, and switch onto another TV channel although do like to see new ideas that cost very little (or nothing and could be used at any time of the year.  That way it is as though every day is just another normal day of self-sufficiency, and it's not that bad when you get used to it.

Now off to get my lunch - not yet sure what but am sure will be inspired once I open the fridge door and discover what needs using up.   Maybe a meatless Chinese stir-fry, with possibly an omelette on top. 

Today sees the return of an Australian series "A place to call home' (or similar name) on BBC 2 in the afternoons.  It was off for a week due to snooker, but I am hooked on it.  Seems to be set in the early 1950s (so I can remember wearing the style of dresses/hats etc), so perhaps taken back to the past in a country that I wish I could have visited, is a form of comfort for me. 

Also been watching a re-run of Lark Rise to Candleford (3 episodes, back to back) on one of the Freeview channels at the weekends.  Any period drama appeals to me, especially of the more rural type. ;However bleak some of the lives seem then, I still wish I could have experienced them.  People seemed to gain so much more happiness from small things than they do today.   The more 'advanced' we get, the more enjoyment we seem to have lost.
My idea of heaven would be - once dead - we can return to earth again but not necessarily to the future, but anywhere we wish in the past and a life-style of our choosing.

It would be interesting to hear from readers when/where they would like to return if they had a choice. Their favourite era/s.
After having had more than one regression session, it seems that - in the past - I've always been associated with the domestic side, either as a scullery maid - or even a cook (kitchen always played a big part in past lives).  Was once even a nanny.

That's it for today - expect me when you see me.  TTFN.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Not Quite Sure....

As ever, many thanks for your comments.  What with not sleeping am getting a bit confused as to what day it is.

Went to the docs on Monday - it had to be at another surgery miles away, I was so stressed, but the doctor IS lovely, and he has upped some of my meds and have to say I now do feel a lot stronger and am beginning to sleep at night.  Have to see him again next week.
Another medical problem (not related to the heart) has suddenly appeared, so this needs to be looked at, and the doc wanted me to be checked out immediately, but I asked for a few days grace as I just cannot take on any more worry at the moment, and he did understand that I'd had an awful lot on my plate these past few weeks so said if the problem has begun to cured itself by the time I see him next week, may not need to go to hospital.  Just have to wait and see.

Of course the central heating broke down AGAIN!  A different repair man came (very handsome), and he gave it a thorough check, he said he thought it was now OK but (fortunately) it stopped working again while he was still here, so in the end he had to order new parts.  These he brought at 8am this morning and so far it is OK.  Bitterly cold in the bedroom last night though, but it reminded me a lot of my early married life when we had no central heating and the weather was VERY cold.  We had sheets and blankets and quilts then, so this time put large blankets over the duvet, wore a woollen bed jacket (that I pulled over my head to keep my ears warm) and was very comfortable and cosy.

A few minutes ago a local garage collected B's car to get a new MOT (the old one ends on Jan 1st), and if repairs (if any) don't cost too much then it will go to one of the family.  If they decide not to go ahead with it another member of the family will buy it from me or it will be sold to a stranger.  I will be glad when it is gone as I can't bear to keep seeing the car.  Too many memories.

Still the paperwork keeps arriving, but most of it is done and dusted, and this weekend I will be having more visitors so am intending to rest as much as possible until then.  Luckily, with more energy now, and managing to sleep for several hours a night this does make me feel a lot better, so can do quite a few things.  It's when I'm out of the house I get a panic attack.  As I said to the doctor "I feel like a snail that has lost its shell", all I want to do is scamper back home and lock myself in - only then do I feel secure.

Still have to sort out whether the garage roof can be repaired or whether it needs a complete new roof.  I can't open the garage doors as one lock is high on one side, the other down close to the ground and some distance from the other, I need two hands stretched out to open the door so depending on health circs may decide to have an up and over electrical door that works by just pressing a button.  The garage is the only place I can keep Norris.  But one day at a time.

Not sure if I'll be blogging tomorrow - maybe not until Monday, it all depends on what happens.  Each day brings a new challenge, and these take priority.  So expect me when you see me.

Regarding Black Friday, apparently the Monday this week was called 'Cyber Monday' when people spend £££££s buying things via their computers.   At least that saves all the fighting in the shops, but too easy a way to encourage the spend, spend, spend that seems now to rule many lives.

A really heavy frost last night, first one we've seen this autumn, and snow is forecast in the North, don't know how much.  Hope we don't get too much - at least until the car has been moved from the drive (the garage is full of B's tools, work-benches and junk to put the car in there for shelter).

That's is for today, sorry my blogs have been very bitty with not much substance, and very little written about food.  Once I get my health sorted, then I should be able to get back into the normal routine.  Until I'm sure of my future - as I said, have to take each day as it comes, but half the time can't even remember what day it is.  TTFN.





Monday, December 01, 2014

December!!

Unbelievable that it is now December.  It still feels like September as even though all the leaves that do fall have fallen, the sun still shines and it is still fairly warm. 

It's been a tiring few days as although having visitors are lovely, I tend to feel exhausted when they have left (family excepted). 

Am still waiting to speak to my GP re the increased dosage of some of my meds (and removal of another),  he has been absent from the surgery for 2 weeks, and I've had to hang on the phone for half an hour to speak to a receptionist (10 or more calls waiting to be heard first).   Have left a message to ask the doctor to ring me (he won't be in until lunchtime) and as I'm having some unpleasant side effects (expected) from one or more meds, want to try and sort that out too.

Otherwise things are much the same, the central heating broke down AGAIN, but I managed to get it working.  There appears to be a leaking roof in the garage, so that needs repair as there is electricity in there (and Norris).  Other minor repairs need doing (B was intending to do them - eventually!), and things need doing before they get worse, otherwise it becomes more and more expensive.

My main problem at the moment is not being able to sleep. many nights I've just lain awake (but did grab an hour or two earlier when I nodded off in my chair).  Last night I did sleep better, so am hoping from now on things will improve. 

Forgive me for not replying to each comment.  All are read, but at the moment my concentration seems to have left me.  ; The only thing I've noted to write about was Black Friday.  Incredible how so much fuss and fighting has gone on just to buy something that much cheaper that was probably not needed in the first place.   It was pointed out on the news that this 'sales day' is an American invention (the day following Thanksgiving - and for some reason we Brits have now taken to celebrating that day too, probably due to the supermarkets wanting to sell more turkeys, and then persuade us to buy a goose for Christmas), and it crossed my mind that just about every American 'tradition' (if you can call it that), is based on spend, spend, spend, leading to mass hysteria at times.

I ask myself "are there any American 'ideas' that we have adopted that has been worth knowing about?"  (Trick or Treating, Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Burger bars, cup cakes that have more icing than the cake itself....and innumerable sweets and 'cookies' come first to mind.  There must be others. What British traditions have those in the US taken on board?)

Suppose I'm generalising again, but at the moment am inclined these days to notice how much money is often spent on 'unnecessaries'.  Nothing wrong with that as long as later people don't start grumbling (maybe months later) that they don't then have enough to pay the bills.  But we've all been down that road.   Think before we spend.  If we don't, we shouldn't put the blame on other's shoulders.   That's what my mother taught me, and I'm only sorry it took me so long to understand the sense of it.

Think today I'm in a far too critical mood to write anything worth reading.  Once I've got my health sorted (it won't be cured, but should be able to be improved) - then I'll have more energetic be les breathless, and able to do more,  but am certainly better than I was.

Thankfully, most of the paperwork has now been sorted.  Just waiting to hear about benefits (if any), and today learned that this year I will be receiving both B's and my winter fuel payment,  next year it will be adjusted to the correct amount for a single occupant.

Not much else to chat about, my mind still having blanked out much of life, just doing what needs to be done, keep telling myself that things could be so much worse.  Look at what's happening in the rest of the world.  I'm one of the lucky ones. 

Will be back again later this week, maybe tomorrow, maybe not - it all depends on what I have to do, who I have to go and see.  Some health probs still need sorting out, this may mean another hospital visit - who knows?   Take each day as it comes.  Hope to be blogging sooner rather than later, so watch this space.... TTFN.

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 5.am 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.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Why Pay For Our Pleasures?

Although not intending to write my next blog so soon after the last one, something in the newspaper today caught my eye - this relating to what I mentioned yesterday.  Hallow'een.

Now - far be it from me to suggest we deprived our children of all the fun they can get from this day (or maybe evening), but it is the cost of it all that worries me.   Remembering the days when I bought a cheap cloak for my grandson, plus hood and mask, and he then had a lovely time knocking on doors for his 'Trick or Treat', really that didn't cost much at all.  Nor did the small handful of sweets, or a toffee apple, or home-made biscuits, flapjack etc given by residents. Now it is all so different.

What was once just this small celebration for children the paper says 'is turning out to be the biggest party night after New Year's Eve, and until the early 'Noughties' (first decade of this century - making it 10 years ago?) Hallow'een was mainly for children....but the event has now been adopted by adults as a great excuse for a party with an annual rise in demand for costumes, masks, and - of course - party food and drink.

Yet we all enjoy a party, so what's wrong with that?  Nothing if we do-it-ourselves, but reading that Britons are expected to part with £350 MILLION on costumes, treats, and pumpkins etc. took my breath away.    Why do we allow ourselves to be ripped off?

It's estimated that Tesco will sell 2 million pumpkins, (these 25% bigger than usual due to the warm summer), and Asda expected to sell 1.4 million.   I shudder when I read that two-thirds of us (and this does not include you or me) will discard the inside of the pumpkins, creating 18,000 tonnes of unnecessary waste.

The newspaper gives a suggestion of how to make easy soup using pumpkin innards:
Roughly chop the flesh and put into a saucepan with chopped onion and a litre of chicken or vegetable stock.  Simmer until the flesh is really soft (around 30 minutes) then add 3 tablespoons of double cream and whizz with a stick blender to a smooth consistency.  Add more stock if too thick - and more cream if you fancy.
Yes, I expect this will work, but no mention has been given to add seasoning, so suggest we find a slightly tastier recipe in a cook book, or maybe a reader can send one in before Halloween erupts.

Along with a few other Hallow'een essentials are mentions of what we could buy - such as Toffee Apples for 75p each (or 2 for a £1).   Far cheaper to make our own (another estimate expects 450,000 toffee apples will be bought.  Even easier would be to play 'apple-bobbing' where apples are floated in a bowl of water and have to be picked up just with the mouth/teeth.   It's been a good year for apples, and if we have been able to grow our own, or buy the smaller, cheaper apples  (small are easier to 'bite' out of the water), then have fun with these (even though 3.2 million apples expected to be bought for bobbing, do we HAVE to buy?).

Am sure there are many readers of 'a certain age' who can remember the leaner years (pre-1960) when treats were few and far between, and parents used to make decorations, presents, and provide a lot of the food for parties held at that time.  We have only to watch the Christmas episode of 'The Good Life' to realise how much fun can be had even when we have barely a penny to spend. 

Same with Bonfire Night with old clothes stuffed with straw or fabric to make Guy Fawkes.  He would be perched on top of the bonfire, and we would stand around (at a safe distance) with simple fireworks such as Catherine Wheels, sparklers, and letting off a few rockets.  Potatoes would be roasted (in their jackets) in the ashes of the bonfire, gingerbread would be handed round, also 'cinder toffee' (aka honeycomb toffee), and hot drinks there for the asking.  The lovely smell of wood smoke plus the 'gunpowder' odour left by the fireworks all added to the atmosphere.

Nowadays we never see children sitting in the streets with their home-made Guy asking for 'a penny for the Guy', and not that many families have fireworks in their own garden.  Usually there are much larger fireworks for the public to watch and very beautiful they are too.  What I really hate are those fireworks that do nothing much more than explode with a huge bang.  Youngsters love to set these off in the streets, often days before Nov. 5th.  These terrify both the elderly, young children, and most cats and dogs (and other animals).   It's not so bad when expected, for we can prepare for the noise on Nov. 5th, but at other times we are caught unawares - fun for those who set them off, but not for everyone else.  Like most things that used to be very enjoyable and cheap with it, now all our celebrations seem to have been taken over by the manufacturers and gone over the top.  It doesn't matter if the fireworks make too much noise (some people like it that way), it doesn't matter if we stuff ourselves with sugary treats (as long as we always buy them),  it is FAR better to throw a party for adults as well as children, then the wine can flow as well - making even more profits for those whose only interest is in what they can persuade us to buy.

Oh dear, don't I sound like a bitter old lady, trying to prevent people having a good time. Not at all.  All I wish is that we could see what is happening - and continuing to happen (especially in this time of recession when we are all supposed to have less to spend - so why encourage us to throw away our cash?).  Have yet to see a prog. on TV (or articles in the papers and mags) on how to make our own Hallow'een without needing to spend, spend, spend.   Nearly as bad at Christmas, although occasionally we are shown how to make decorations, and maybe cook a few treats. 

My feeling is that now our celebrations have become 'commercial', however good it gets, we have lost the true meaning, and forgotten how to enjoy ourselves in the good old fashioned way.  Perhaps too late to do much about it this Hallow'een, but we still have time to bring back the old-style Christmas and am sure that young children (and even older ones) will enjoy this far more than the one they might expect.  
We could begin by suggesting they make their own Christmas presents instead of buying them (pointing out that this would be far cheaper anyway might make them think it's worth doing).

As always, feel a lot better after having a moan, and hope you don't think I'm turning into Mrs. Scrooge.  The way of the world IS different today, but this doesn't mean we continually have to spend money to enjoy ourselves.  It's the manufacturers that are doing the persuading.   We are not sheep, we don't always have to follow what everyone else seems to want to do.   Be different.  Be unusual.  Eventually you will prove that you can have your cake and eat it too.

That's my blog for today - and apologise if I have offended those who see no reason why they shouldn't have a splurge this Friday.  We are all free to make our own decisions, who is to say mine are the right ones?

When we moved here five years ago, for the first 3 years we had several 'Trick or Treaters' calling, think they enjoyed the home-made muffins, cinder toffee, popcorn and biscuits (no bought sweets then).
The next year, for some reason I hadn't baked, so had bought a large tin of sweets for B to offer to the children when they came to the door.  What did he do - tell the first lad off for taking a handful "you can only take one sweet' B said to him (more left in the tin for B to finish off).  Apparently mutterings at the gate after that, and since then no-one has called again.   We have been black-listed as being mean.
Will be making some biscuits etc this year just in case.  Might be really mean and eat them all myself if no-one calls. B can watch me do it.

That's is for this unplanned blog, but better a blog than none at all.  TTFN.

 .   
Having said that, it was me that really gave B a telling off when the other year he offered an open tin of Quality Street to a 'Trick/Treater' then admonished him for taking a handful.  'You can only have one sweet' he said to the lad.  Now that IS being mean.  I'm not THAT bad.
B admitted that if he allowed the children to help themselves, there would be none left for him.

In previous years we had loads of children call at the door, and I would have a basket full of home-made biscuits, muffins, and popcorn to give out. 

Looking Back....

It was the comment from Kate (in Australia) that gave me food for thought.  The Australian spring heat is causing her parsley to grow past its best.  "Ah", I thought "perfect for making parsley honey".  So I looked up my (personal) recipe index that my son had done for me (not everything remains on the blog due to necessary editing), and the recipe for this was shown as being published in Sept. 1007 and also 3rd May 2007. 

Checking the publications for the Sept 2007 it seems as though the recipe for parsley honey had been deleted, but - as ever - I found plenty of recipes in that month that I was very pleased to rediscover (and had forgotten about).  So it's worth scrolling down just to have a look-see.   For instance, on the 14th Sept 2007 there was a mention of 'egg substitutes' - very useful when you haven't enough eggs when baking (or even no eggs). Not to mention some absolutely gorgeous recipes.  Even made my mouth water.
The month of May 2007 DID have the recipe for parsley honey on the 3rd, as well as other very useful recipes that have tempted/inspired me to make many of them again (and again, and again....).  So it is always worth looking back through the Archives for I feel the oldest ones have the best recipes and also very useful hints and tips.

From the 'flyers' that come through our letterbox  (and also on Tesco's website), it does seem that there are now a lot of Hallow'een type sweets on sale.  Give the manufacturers a reason to prise more money from our purses and they will do their very best to make us feel we are being mean if we don't provide 'the necessary' for the children.

Hallow'een celebrations are now much more common in the UK  than they used to be, and the 'Trick or Treat' knocking on the door is a fairly recent thing - and being my age a lot of things are 'new' that didn't happen when I was younger.  Not that I mind the children calling, but they can often be more than a nuisance and it has got to the point that I now pray for rain so the children will stay. Normally we just carve out a pumpkin (face) and put a candle in it to celebrate the occasion, but of course (thanks to the US) this has gone from strength to strength and maybe some families in the UK do decorate their homes - causing more expense. 
Here in the UK, less than a week later we have Bonfire Night.  Really we don't need both, and if it was me I'd stick to the fireworks and 'penny for the guy'.  Come to think of it, 3 weeks after Hallow'een is the American Thanksgiving'  Then comes Christmas.  Seems there are a lot more reasons to celebrate in the US than here in the UK.
Normally, the only time we decorate our homes is at Christmas.  Long may that continue.

Good to hear Margie that reorganising you pantry you find relaxing. Me too.  It gives me a feeling of security to know I have foods that will help me last through the winter months, without being too clever about the dishes we make.  There is often nothing better than starting the day with a warming bowl of porridge, and later in the day a good bowl of chunky home-made soup to satisfy our appetites. 
It's not always how much we eat, more about what we eat.  Nature has provided us with the right foods for each season of the year, and the root vegetables store so well, these also perfect for stews, casseroles, soups....

A welcome to livecheaperdaybyday  who is another reader from Australia.   Kate says it is 26C in Oz at the moment, and our new 'commenteer' mentions 40C - this probably being the mid-summer heat.  Certainly too hot for us in the UK.   Think 30C is the most I remember it being this last summer and that only in the London area. We are now down into the low teens, and will soon get colder.  By the end of this week it will be November, hard to believe.

Sorry to hear your freezer switches had 'tripped' Cheesepare.  Wonder what caused that?  If the contents were still cool, then probably re-freezing will 'hold' them safely until they are (thoroughly) cooked.  I have read that as long as there are some ice-crystals still in the foods (probably meat/fish) then these are safe to refreeze.  Not sure how it would affect the texture thought.
Yes, it would be good to meet up at the (repaired) Eric Morecambe statue when it has been replaced. Had not heard of any other statues being damaged in this way, but you did mention some had been in Cumbria, so maybe there is one person who is inclined to do damage in this direction.  Let us hope they find out who.

Many years ago a neighbour (in Leeds) used to tell me how she went to the wholesale market to buy sacks of carrots/potatoes/onions etc, as they were so cheap bought this way.  Trouble was, the market was open in the wee small hours (like 4.00am) so that the greengrocers could go and buy their daily produce for their shops.  Wholesalers are the very best place to get the cheapest prices, but expect to buy by the sack or crate. 
If able to share with family, friends or neighbours, then buying almost anything in bulk can make a saving.   This can be done small-scale even in a supermarket.  Buy the largest cauliflower, or white cabbage etc, then share between one or two friends.  Do the same with Bogofs. 

Also when living in Leeds, a friend and I used to use the same supermarket and go shopping together.  We'd see what was on offer, and work out which Bogofs we would share, what fresh produce we both wanted but that we could divide etc, and end up saving ££££s this way.

Although the hour has now gone back Ali, and you sound as though you will not enjoy the first dark evenings, have to say I quite like them.  Certainly it is good to have the day start off a bit lighter, and myself find it cosy to draw the curtains late afternoon - this helping to keep in the heat from the central heating (the one window that isn't double glazed is the large bow window in our sitting room). 
I've still to order from Approved Foods, and whether I will or not remains to be seen - my larder is still overflowing in the 'dry goods' department, as these are the ones I tend to use least.  The other side (and end) of the larder contains all the canned and bottled foods, these used more often.

There is one 'food substitute' that I do use regularly, this being Bisto.  Not the ordinary Bisto, but 'Bisto Best' (stronger and better flavour, I keep both beef and chicken granules), and was very surprised the other day to see a well-known TV chef (forgotten which) using gravy granules in a meal he was making.  So if he can do it, then why should I feel guilty about doing it too?

This week happened to come across a small recipe booklet published by Bisto (many, many years ago). Perhaps this was a coincidence?  Myself like to think it was meant to be, for now I can give a few recipes from this book that will help us get through those first few months of the year when our stocks are running down, and maybe we haven't as much meat to use as we wish.  Less meat, less expense anyway. 

French Onion Soup: serves 4
4 large onions, sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 oz (25g) butter or marg
3 heaped teaspoons Bisto (beef flavour)
1.25 pints (625ml) water
4 slices French bread
3 oz (75g) Cheddar cheese, grated
Fry the onion gently in the butter until soft and beginning to brown, add the garlic towards the end. Mix the Bisto to a smooth cream with a little of the water, then add remaining water and stir this into the onions/garlic.  Simmer for 45 minutes. 
Top the sliced bread with grated cheese and brown under the grill.  Float each slice on an individual bowl of soup before serving.

Second recipe uses a can of corned beef, so - in a way - it is still 'store-cupboard cookery'.  If you have canned cooked chicken, then use this instead of the beef and use the Bisto chicken granules.
Using more of the vegetables, you could then make five or six 'turnovers'.
When wishing to 'mash' corned beef (as for this recipe) then use the tin as stored in the larder (room temp).  When wishing to slice (for sarnies etc), then chill the can before opening, this prevents the meat breaking up when sliced.

Myself feel the 'turnovers' end up more like 'finger food' (in other words a bit small).  So suggest you make them larger - remembering you may then end up with only two.  If you prefer, use short-crust pastry and make them 'Cornish Pasty' shape.    Or - divide the mixture between small pie dishes, cover with pastry and bake as small pies.  You have the filling, you have the pastry, now it's up to you to make and bake in any way you choose.

Savoury Turnovers: makes 4
1 small potato, coarsely grated
1 small carrot, coarsely grated
1 small onion, grated
half oz (15g) butter
1 x 198g (7oz) corned beef, mashed
1 tablespoon Bisto Best Gravy Granules
5 fl oz (150ml) boiling water
1 small pack puff pastry
egg to glaze
Gently fry the vegetables in the butter until softened.  Stir in the corned beef.  Make up the Gravy Granules and pour this over the meat mixture then leave to cool.
Meanwhile, roll out the pastry on a lightly floured board to a 12" (30cm) square.  Cut this into four squares (3"x 3"). Divide the mixture between the squares, dampen the edges and fold over to make a turnover. Seal well  Place on a baking sheet, glaze with egg, and bake for approz 20 minutes at 220C gas 7.

Last recipe today am including as it can make use of smaller amounts of raw or cooked pork or chicken (or even cooked beef/turkey) that are given in this dish.  Just add extra veg to make up the shortfall.  Basically, this is a stir-fry, so using cooked meat means several minutes of fuel saving.  Cooking raw meat means this HAS to be cooked through before being eaten.  Use the Bisto granules that are the correct flavour to go with the meat you have chosen to use.  If you have no meat, then suggest using chicken flavoured granules.

Sweet and Sour Pork (or whatever): serves 4
1 lb (450g) lean pork, cubed (see above)
1 tblsp sunflower oil
1 tblsp plain flour (or cornflour)
3 tsp Bisto (chicken or your choice)
1 x 225g (8oz) can pineapple chunks in syrup
5 fl oz (150ml) water
1 small green pepper, deseeded and sliced
2 tblsp brown sugar
1 tblsp tomato puree
1 tblsp soy sauce
2 tblsp vinegar
Quickly fry the pork in oil, then stir in the flour and the Bisto.  Cook gently for one minute.  Add the pineapple syrup and the water. Bring to the boil, stirring continuously, then stir in all the remaining ingredients.   Cover and simmer gently until the meat is tender (up to 45mins for raw meat, 5 minutes if using cooked meat).  Serve with boiled rice.

Went and had my ultrasound scan this afternoon.  Successful up to a point. Have now to wait and see what the consultant has to say (if more tests needed etc).  Otherwise my pills seem to be working well and I now feel almost back to normal, although still taking it fairly easily (good excuse).
Hoping now to get back to writing more regularly, but am sure you will understand if I take a day off now and again.   Hope to be back blogging tomorrow (if not, then the day after). Hope to see you then.