Thursday, 28 February 2013

Shopping again

Here we go again.

I have ordered a new base for the Remoska, and yes, one or two little tiny things may have slipped into the basket at the same time, but I can't resist Lakeland.  Yesterday was the AF order, but if it carries on the same way then I am not likely to buy much from them soon.  I am stocked.  I have also put up a Mr S order.

It is interesting how things have changed.  I don't get much meat from the supermarket, but I do go to the farm shop.  I don't get much veg, as I have the veg box.  If I am getting branded fizzy pop, it is one of the few things that really is cheaper in Makro.  I am stocked to the eyeballs with dishwasher tablets and they are also usually cheaper when they are on offer at Makro.  There is usually a huge box of soap powder of some type on offer there as well, and next week I will definitely be making my own laundry gloop so I will need a lot less of the commercial stuff.  I am still planning on sticking to Ariel for whites.

I looked at the order that I had put on, and the sad truth hit me.  Only the alcohol was worth getting from there.  Everything else was either cheaper, fresher, better quality or all three from somewhere else.  There is whisky for darling father, rum for OH and gin for me although I will probably get rid of that as it isn't really a necessity.  Then there is some processed fruit stars that bear likes in his lunch box and the ham and bread for his sandwiches.  I can get them from the nearby Nisa without the delivery cost.  There really wasn't much else.  It was up there with the Famous Grouse and cat litter delivery.

I'll let this week stand.  However I think it is time for me to move on to getting a monthly shop rather than a weekly shop.  If I go to Mr S I can get free delivery if I get it delivered midweek and order over £100 (easily done with alcohol).  I may get codes to get free delivery from Mr A or there may be great bargains.  It may be worth me getting a big shop from Mr M instead of a delivery now and again.  

After the last year of problem weather for farmers, and the horse meat scandal, and the whole food chain being prodded, I expect food prices to go haywire.  I don't expect to win.  All I can hope for is to not lose too badly.  

Soggy Moggy

We have stopped feeding Strawberry.  As she is currently quite chunky I don't worry too much, just a bit.  Of course we have to keep her out of the house after her last determined attack on evil cat.

Today I decided I could hang washing out!  I felt so happy at the thought.  However when I picked up my basket of washing I was faced with a ginger and white cat with a determined expression.  I was going out, she wanted to be in.  So I picked up a jug of water and tipped it over her.  Surely that should work.

The dratted animal ran inside the house.  I was chasing her upstairs and down while she dripped water over everything, fortunately bypassing evil cat who was asleep on a pile of duvets.  I finally chased her out with a brush.

I did stop for a cup of gossip with a neighbour and the dratted animal was queuing outside.  I had to dodge the creature on the way in!

Besieged by a Strawberry cat!

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Mayonnaise is on its way

I bought the mayonnaise.  I bought some sweets that bear currently enjoyed.  I bought a few odds and ends.

The thing is, there is less on Approved Food for me at the moment than there has been.  On one had I am more realistic.  On the other hand I am eating better fresh food, so there is less space for packets in the cooking.  Even with the postage the order was still under £42, that is including nearly £15 for the maximum number of mayo ordered and postage.

Having said that we have just had sausage casserole with farm shop sausages and a package of sausage casserole mix straight from AF.

Evil cat finally got me!

I've had plenty of cat scratches in my time.  I was first 'blessed' with a cat on 6 November 1990 and there are times you learn the hard way.

I have come to know and loathe the thin, itchy, sore scratches that meant that the cat in question didn't want to be picked up, thank you so much, not did the creature want to be stroked there, thank you so much.  I have had the network of scratches all over my chest from being used as a combination of cat bed and launching pad.

Malevolent cat managed some serious scratches in her time.  Psychotic cat wasn't too bad, despite his massive talons.  Up until now, however, evil cat hasn't done too much damage.  Normally she would bite and hiss.  The few scratches that bear has picked up along the way have all been hair thin (though some of those type of scratches can really sting).  Even with the untrimmed claws I have just had a bit of a puncture pattern from her habit of climbing up my north face and sleeping across my throat.  However today evil cat scored a serious hit.

I had just had a bath and my legs were bare.  Evil cat jumped down, landed on my leg by accident (blind as a bat), her untrimmed claws sunk in and so for the last ten minutes I have been mopping up running blood.  I am unimpressed.  It has slowed down, obviously, or I wouldn't be typing this, but I have still managed to make a nice pile of blood soaked tissues.

Evil cat is now begging, slowly and creakily, for treats.

Today's dither

Bear is currently extremely fond of ham sandwiches with mayonnaise instead of margarine.  He is having them for breakfast, lunch and supplements when he refuses to eat his dinner.  I am remarkably chilled about this.  I am fairly confident there is less fat in mayo, it certainly spreads thinner and at least the ham is really food.  I have been worrying about his protein intake for bit.  The only thing is that the decent mayonnaise squeezy bottles are a little expensive.  I can and have made home made mayo, but it does taste different to the shop bought stuff.  I really don't want to go down the route of the cheapest mayo, some of them look extremely nasty.

I have just had an email from Approved food.  They have Heinz Mayonnaise in top down squeezy bottles at an extremely inexpensive price.  Mr S has it on sale at £2 for a bottle and the same bottle, with a year left on the expiry date is £1.49 at AF.  

The big question I have is, while I could buy ten of the bottles, save almost the whole of the postage plus pick up any other odds and ends, how long will bear like mayo?  I am reminded of the tomato saga.  When he was tiny he couldn't eat enough of them.  As he grew and we got a bumper crop in the garden, he went off them, now he loves them or possibly not, depending on the direction of the wind.  When bear says that he likes a particular food, OH says that terms and conditions apply.  

I should add that I vaguely humour all this, and do not let him get away with murder.  The same sort of food keeps appearing on his plate and sometimes he eats it and sometimes he doesn't.  I just grit my teeth and carry on.  

So do I put in an order with AF or not?  I think I will check the calorie counter on the back and if it is unexceptional I shall order some.  I quite like lettuce and mayo sandwiches, so that would be a good use for the stuff if the wind changes and bear decides that he only wants cheese with pickle.  

Monday, 25 February 2013

Strawberry's revenge

After I picked bear up from school I started to put a stew on.  I got the meat on the hob, the kettle boiling, the packet of soup ready to tip in and started washing the veggies.  Strawberry knocked at the window (she does seem to knock, actually she's trying to sharpen her claws on the uPVC double glazing).

I ignored her, but in the end I had to go out as the sink had backed up.  Our drain regularly blocks. When it is a bit warmer and the days are longer I will ask Nice Mr Next Door to try a pressure wash to clear the gunk which clogs up the drain.  It's mainly dust and dead leaves.  Until then I poke around with a bamboo pole, as the drain is about six feet below the level of the yard, and I am not going down there!

This was Strawberry's opportunity and she took it - she shot in.  I sighed and after I had got the water in the drain moving again I took the bin out, as I had been putting that job off.  Every time I open the kitchen door I have to fight off Strawberry.

Then I went in and started looking for Strawberry to evict her.  This was not easy.  She played hide and seek in the ironing and bedding piles, went under and over a few chairs and tables and then shot up the stairs to the living room.  Evil cat was in the living room, so I shot up after her.

By the time I caught up Strawberry was growling and in full on fight mode while evil cat was trying to work out what was going on.  I am not sure if evil cat is going deaf as well.  She was inching her way out of her small corner next to the radiator, wondering if there was a nice fight going.  Strawberry was gearing up and she is a chunky cat, and used to standing her ground against the local toms so not an easy pushover.

I really needed a comical theme tune as I chased Strawberry up and down stairs and round and round the kitchen as she hissed, growled, tried to ambush evil cat and eventually evicted her, while at the same time making sure the meat browned but didn't burn, that the hot water and soup mix was added in a timely manner and that nobody got hurt  Bear was brilliant and stood in the right place at the right time so we managed to shepherd a very cross Strawberry out.  I don't think evil cat actually worked out what was going on, but it is always hard to tell with her.

I think I am going to have to stop feeding Strawberry.  It is a shame as she is a pretty cat and has a lovely purr and if evil cat was a few years younger I would let them sort it out.  Evil cat is just too frail now, though, so I can't risk it.  I feel bad because it is cold out and I am sure Strawberry will be with kitten, but I have a duty to evil cat.

I hope it will work out all right

Epic Cat Fail

It's not as funny as some of the stuff on YouTube, but I have just laughed my socks off.

Strawberry appeared at the study window, which is a good eight feet off the ground and takes some work to get there.  She was demanding imperiously that I should let her in.  I wish I could, it is bitter out there, but evil cat would probably not survive any encounter.  Also, Strawberry has always waited until I wasn't around to wallop evil cat, so I daren't risk it.

Strawberry got more and more impatient, more and more imperious, reared up on her rear paws to knock for entrance - and fell off!

I know the plastic garden chair broke her fall because I heard the undignified clatter, so I am confident that she is alright.  She will be washing herself furiously somewhere, getting very cross and pretending it didn't happen.

Evil cat didn't notice anything.  As far as I can see she is almost completely blind now, and completely awkward, and completely frail.  Yesterday she spent the afternoon being gently nudged off my throat.  I would ease her onto the floor, with due care for her old and creaky bones and then realise ten minutes later that she was back.  I lost count of the number of times I removed her.  In her youth there would have been an unceremonious dumping on the floor - or even locking her in the porch out of desperation for peace.  I couldn't do it to her now.

And just when you think she is too old and frail to last another minute, you get the spectacle of her begging from darling father and showing a lot of agility while she is at it, standing on her back paws while hooking a piece of meat from his plate.

I am considering getting the spray gun out again if she carries on.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Bad mother alert

World book day is looming and last year I was unimpressed by the whole, 'dress up as your favourite character' thing.  Especially as I have trying to get bear into The Wombles.  I may have to revisit that.  We are currently working our way through Horrid Henry, I got a set of 30 books for £25 and they were part of his Christmas/birthday stash.

Bear loves Horrid Henry stories.  He races around and cackles as OH reads (OH reads while I listen with bear, then I sing songs while OH makes bear his evening drink).

Is it very wrong of me to suggest that if there is fancy dress bear goes as Horrid Henry.  As it won't mean actually doing anything except put him in non uniform clothes.  I could probably get away with jeans and a shirt.  Possibly make bear's face look a bit dirty and rumple his hair.  Bear loved the idea.

They may not have the world book day fancy dress after all.  But if they do, I will be ready!

Saturday, 23 February 2013

One thing leads to another

I got an email saying that my paypal account had been limited.  I didn't even click on it, it is such a well known scam.

There is a remote chance that my paypal account had been limited.  It's extremely unlikely but it is possible.  I thought that I really should go directly to paypal, sign in there and check.

In an entirely unrelated matter, I had noted that there was a thing called a Buff which is essentially a tube of material that can be worn in all sorts of styles around the head and neck, and some of them look really nice, and I could do with something like that.  They were not desperately expensive, but I did think that I could knit a tube of material without much trouble, it's my type of knitting.  You cast on some stitches, join the round (the difficult bit, but not too bad) then just knit until you run out of yarn.  It is the perfect excuse to use some of that gorgeous sock yarn out there as well.

And I did have a rummage but there was nothing really suitable in my stash.  So for one reason or another I found myself buying some sock yarn on ebay and using paypal which funnily enough wasn't limited.

And I have just realised that I have two paypal accounts, and the email about it being limited was not the one I actually bought the sock yarn on.  I could just go to the site.  But I am feeling particularly fragile and low, and it could be a lot worse.   I could knit two buffs!

btw this is a buff

And this is how it can be worn

And you wouldn't believe some of the images I got when I googled images of buff!

Mine won't be as good.  But it will be fun to make.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Not a good start to the day

It's one of those bitty mornings, where there are a dozen tiny niggles and nothing further forward.

I got the desk and main PC set up for catching up with A Year's Cookery - and couldn't log in.  I could find my blog, but I couldn't actually find the button to allow me to log in!  Finally, after a wasted hour of clicking and searching, I try another machine - and here I am.  If I want to get on with A Year's Cookery, however, I will have to do a lot of wriggling around and rejigging to unplug, replug and generally fiddle so that I have a typing surface and a place to put the book.

I have a book from 1895 which is called A Year's Cookery, and it is a year's worth of recipe plans in the Victorian style and includes a section on 'Things that must not be forgotten'.  I thought I would put the recipes up and perhaps have some attempts at the recipes and comments.  I have quite a few Victorian cookbooks, and they are very entertaining.  I can continue with this now as I have glasses so can actually see the text, which I couldn't before.

Another good read is 10 shillings a head cook book which has menus and recipes to allow someone to cook for a large family plus servants at 10 shillings, or 50p, per person, per week.  Things have changed a little since then.  Oysters are no longer quite so cheap and you can't get the leg of mutton that is the mainstay of many meals.  Ideas on nutrition have also changed.  Those were the days when you boiled meat for 10 minutes per pound or 500g which would leave it very underdone, but boiled carrots for an hour!

I have a hospital appointment today, just a routine thing, so I think I have probably lost the productive bit of the day messing around because by the time I have got ready, got out, waited for ever, come home and recovered, a lot of the day will have gone.

I am sure I can manage something, though.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Sorry about the change

I'm getting to grips with some ideas for the blog.  I'd like to do a section called 'Adventures with a Veg Box' and I'd like to go back to doing the meals from 'A Year's Cookery' now I have glasses and can see the print.  I'm trying to work out how to do this as painlessly as possible.  Meanwhile, while I try and work things out, there may be a few changes in layout.

Things will be back to 'normal' in no time.

Deliveries have come

I can't wait until I have a functional camera, I will be photographing the veg box.

We have a suspect cabbage (probably frost), lovely parsnips and carrots still with the damp earth on them,  a lovely looking cauliflower, broccoli, runner beans, mushrooms, peppers, courgettes and two swedes.

I hope today I do better than yesterday.  Yesterday I found a stuffed chicken half price - £3.25!  I feel so old as I can't believe the price of meat now.  I cooked it, but though I pierced it with a knife and no juices at all came out, and the skin looked extremely well done, it was pink inside.  I suspect additives in the stuffing more than undercooking, but OH definitely did not want to take the risk.  So we had tinned meat.  Interestingly, I am almost out of tinned meat.  Time to restock in a reasonable fashion.

Then I didn't get all the cooking I wanted to do as bear needed hugs.  So we ended up with chips and mushy peas to go with the tinned meat.  sigh.

Tonight it is lamb burgers from the farm shop, so they are probably lamb, with potatoes in some shape and steamed broccoli and beans as it is a shame if we do not use those up super fresh.

There is also a lettuce.  I plan to cook it.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Evil cat is sulking

Evil cat has always had a bad habit of standing to scratch.  She looks like a small terrier when she does that, to a chorus of 'sit down to scratch!'  She really does give the dignity and elegance of cats a bad name.

She just tried to scratch with her hind leg scratching her ear, standing as she was en route to some cat treats, misjudged and fell over.

I laughed like a drain, so she is sitting across my throat again and I am hoping my touch typing survives typing around a very cross tabby.  She will forget very soon though, or rather, she will know she is sulking but can't remember why.  In some cats of nearly nineteen it could be a sign of senility, but not evil cat.  She's always been like this.  If she did go senile we would never notice.  She may have gone senile already.  She can still manage to steal from an unattended plate.

Bear charms the dentist

Bear wasn't entirely sure about the dentist.  He took his rat with him, which is usually a sign that he isn't feeling supremely confident.  We got there in plenty of time, and bear was quite good waiting.  I am working on volume control, but at least the loud comments were silly stuff and not some penetrating and embarrassing observation that young children seem to specialise in.

The dentist seemed happy with bear, and the dental nurse was lovely.  Once bear had an audience, he was fine, and it seems he had ticklish teeth as when the dentist blew air on his teeth he giggled and giggled and giggled.

All is well with bear's teeth.  He has one tooth that is starting to wobble (I am not looking forward to explaining the tooth fairy to bear) and no signs of decay.

The dentist was absolutely lovely, taking all the time to put bear at his ease and not to worry him - although bear often gives the impression of being permanently at ease, knowing what is going on is a great thing.  As it was he strolled out proudly clutching his sticker.

Fingers crossed I will not have to return until August now.

And it's only February

My New Year's resolutions seem to have sunk without trace, but it is possible to keep going back to them.  They were good ideas for a reason, so I just need to keep picking myself up, dusting myself down and keep going.

I still haven't done a stock take of the tins.  Or the packets.  On the other hand, I have less of both as I am being slightly cannier about buying.

I need to watch the pennies, but I am currently cuing up stuff that will cost.  The living room and study have not been decorated since before we moved in in 1994.  They are being decorated, starting next week.  As the two rooms are going to all be in the same colour and style, it is going to be done at the same time.  It will be a logistical nightmare - but done once!  Hopefully I can then ignore it for another twenty years.

So far we are looking at around £250 to decorate the two rooms, plus another £600 for the floors.  That is, we paint the ceilings, strip all the wallpaper, put up a dado rail (to make the papering easier in tall rooms), put up lining paper and paint it and put in two new lights.  The dado rail has cost just under £100 for twenty one metres of wooden dado (including postage).  As it isn't fashionable it was hard to find anything half way decent.  It looks like this...

... or rather, hopefully it will look like this when it arrives.  Then there are two lights at a total of around £60, plus fitting.  We already have a supply of magnolia (paint of choice) and we are not planning on getting expensive lining paper.  

I should add, we are not planning on getting many new accessories.  We already have the curtains and curtain poles, we have appropriate mirrors and pictures, and we have appropriate bits and bobs for ornaments.  Our decorating style is going for less, not more.  However we have ventured a ridiculous amount on two new waste paper baskets.  These ones had better work!

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Casseroled celery

Casseroled celery

1 small onion, 1 lb (500g) washed celery, 2tbs butter, 4tbs vegetable stock.

Mix stock with melted butter.  Put finely chopped onion and celery chopped into 1cm lengths in a microwave safe dish.  Pour over stock and melted butter and cover with lid or pierced clingfilm.  Microwave for 11 1/2 minutes.  Serve.

This is what we would have had if we hadn't found the celery a bit pink stained and fluffy when we came to chop it.  Memo to self - use celery up quicker.

Also, if anyone makes this, can they let me know how it turns out.

Cats continuing

I am considering keeping a bucket of water permanently by the door.

Poor old evil cat, the spirit is willing but she just can't be having it at her time of life.  If she actually had thoughts I'm sure she would wish to be out there, enjoying a good scrap.

Instead she is sitting across me, leaking noxious vapours.

The local cats again

I wish I had a functioning camera.  Evil cat was sitting in the window, glowing slightly from the morning sunshine and looking wise and inscrutable as only a cat can.

Mind you, I spent most of her sunlit meditation out in the garden chasing cats with a broom and feeling like I was in an episode of Tom and Jerry.  The ginger gentleman was going three rounds with Alfie from next door.  He is a smallish tom, tabby, cute and far too young to be attacked by a thug like the ginger gentleman.

My garden is cat central.  Love and war, it all happens here.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Still shopping

I have decided that the best way for me not to spend money is to do my supermarket shopping online.  I love Morrisons, and Morrisons are not online, but I shall have to deal with that the best I can.

The usual pattern was that I would take bear to his piano lesson, then on to Morrisons.  We would use the discounted shopping vouchers to shop with, then OH would drive us home.  However this little trip involved a lot of impulse buys, a spell in the cafe and a Kentucky on the way home, so it wasn't saving us any money - I have worked out that the taxi fare of around £4 plus tip each way together with judicious online shopping is a lot less expensive.  The yellow sticker policy in Morrisons is also a bit disappointing.

We had already started buying our meat from the farmer's shop before all the neighs of alarm about horsemeat, and while I am not yet getting the most out of my veg box, I will.  Tonight's meatballs with mash and mushroom sauce was partly because I needed to use up the lovely mushrooms.  We are already eating a lot better.  I am considering my options on the one and a half heads of celery plus a large celeriac.  The future has soup in it.

This means that coupons are looking less useful as most I have found cannot be used on line.  And I have found that most coupons still do not bring the cost down to the unadorned and shop's own stuff which is what I prefer.  For me, a coupon rarely saves money.  I feel bitterly let down by this but I shall keep scanning for deals as I may.

I hope to start restricting my use of the supermarket shop.  I won't need much in the fruit and veg line, I won't need much meat, I can buy the wherewithal for bear's sandwich box locally, and I can walk to Makro which is not always cheaper but it does include the walk, and not the delivery charge.  If I can restrict to one shop per month then I will be doing something right.

It is a change in the way I cook and shop that is happening slowly and almost unconsciously.  So far, so good.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Not a Sunday Roast

What with all my hypochondria I didn't get anything out of the freezer so we had corned beef hash for tea.  It was very nice as well.

Cook a sufficiency of potatoes for the number of people being served (potatoes are more elastic than tins of corned beef) and mash.  Meanwhile finely chop 'some' onion (I had a huge red onion from the veg box) and soften in small quantity of oil and the fat from the corned beef.  Add diced corned beef to the onion with a large dollop of brown sauce (had run out so had to make do with ketchup) and add mash potato.  I also added two large spoonfuls of onion chutney.  The onion chutney has been hanging around since Christmas and looked like it would hang around for ever so it is getting added to various hashes, stews, curries etc.  

It was all very nice and quite frugal.  It's a shame that I am going to be spending a fortune on a new Remoska pan.  I sort of happened this morning, one of those things that happen when you are half asleep and a jug of water and the Remoska pan ended up bouncing across the kitchen floor getting dented.  OH has failed to get it back to fit the heating lid.  

The bright side of that is that I will have an excuse for a Lakeland order, so I'll have to look through all their catalogues.  I may not order much, but I shall very much enjoy looking!

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Waste paper bins

A while back I mentioned that we had some new wastepaper bins, OH was thrilled, they looked lovely and we were going to base the entire redecoration of the study and living room around it and I spent more on the curtains than I have ever, ever spent on any furniture or soft furnishings in one go.  For the first time since 1994 OH was happy about decorating.  It is a huge step, we are going to decorate.  And we are going to decorate to match the waste paper bins.

OH and I have agreed - we don't like them.  They look pretty enough but they only hold a thimble full, and they have an overhanging lip so any bags placed inside get caught every time you empty them - which is about twice a day because they only hold a thimble full.  So we are going to get rid of them.  We are going to keep them, probably for planters, and we are going to keep the tissue boxes which don't actually fit boxes but if you take the actual tissues out of their cardboard container then they do go in.  And when they get low and stop coming out of the box then you can just open the lids.

They do actually look very nice and I will probably get the matching chest to use for candle storage.  And possibly trunks, because I like the look of them.

So now I am on the trail of the perfect wastepaper bin that will still fit in with the curtains.  It may take some time.  What a great excuse to do window shopping.

Hypochondria happens

I have what bear had last week, and just in time for the half term.  What joy!

On the bright side I shall have opportunities to try and catch up with my knitting.

OH and darling father have both been whirlwinds.  OH's book case is up and he hoovered behind it first and has sorted out all the bits.  Darling father has hacked back the rosemary bush.  I feel a bit second rate.

I have found a recipe for a microwave banana cake and when I have tried it I shall share if it is any good.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Day well spent

Visit to the farm shop - nearly £30, which included lamb chops, sausages, burgers, a few bits of snacks and some bananas.  I am not sure what bananas are doing on a farm shop in Yorkshire, but I needed to pick them up from somewhere and they were there.  I saw a sack of pony carrots, and briefly wondered how they were different from normal carrots.  All in all we had some bits, pieces, odds, ends and five meals worth of meat.

When we got home I had to google how to cook lamb chops, and they turned out fine.  Bear ate all of his, and we had remoska'd sweet potato and parsnip and peas with them.

Then we went to IKEA.  I think we cheated a bit.  We failed to follow the winding path that took us all the way around the store.  Instead we took short cuts to get only what we want.  OH waited in the cafe.  Darling father and I decided within about five minutes of getting to the armchairs which one we would get.  £150 for the armchair, £35 for the bookcase, £15 for the delivery, and a few bits on top.  It could have been a lot worse.

Then darling father had a quick look at the lights, I picked up the garlic crusher I wanted now that we are getting garlic in the veg box, and I also picked up an unplanned egg slicer and a needed but unplanned colander.  OH picked up the code for the bookcase he wanted.  And that was it.

So quite a bit of money was spent, but actually I got quite a bit for it.  And we spent a lot less than we could.    I'll settle for that.

Guessing and hoping

I bought an inexpensive microwave steamer from my friend, ebay.  It has two tiers, is microwave and dishwasher safe and fits nicely into the microwave.  It did a lovely job of steaming the broccoli and runner beans last night.  I was pleasantly surprised.

I was pleasantly surprised because the only instructions with the steamer were, 'steam vegetables in you microwave'.  There were no guidelines, no hints, no estimations of how long the veg would take, not even a generic so many minutes a pound.

They came out lovely, so I am happy.  I will continue to guess.  About ten minutes for a smallish head of broccoli and about half a pound of runner beans, with a generous amount of boiling water in the bottom.  I think it would work with a 'bowl and strainer and clingfilm' combination, with the clingfilm pierced.

I want to use the microwave more as it is smallish amounts of energy for short periods of time, not like a gas hob.  I also want to use the remoska and slow cooker more.  That's a small way of saving the pennies, but worth something.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Nice surprise

I have just stuffed myself with raw peas.  I have such a soft spot for raw peas, and obviously they are only usually on the market for a few months in summer.  Today the veg box arrived and it included a small paper bag with peas in the pod.  I ate the lot in a few minutes and enjoyed every mouthful.  It was only a small paper bag, but very welcome.

OH enjoyed unpacking the box with me.  There is a really gruesome looking celeriac that will be amazing in a stew, crisp celery, a paper bag of mushrooms, parsnips out of the field today, garlic, huge red onions - lots and lots of stuff.

To use up the veggies I can see a lot of soups and stews for the next few weeks, and a lot more veggies on the plate.  In view of this I purchased a microwave steamer to help with the influx of veggies.  It was inexpensive, about £5, and I thought it would also be inexpensive on fuel.

Tonight I plan to steam the fresh runner beans (which look gorgeous) and the broccoli that came in the veg box and serve with potatoes and pork chops (on offer from Mr S).  Tomorrow is looking like broth from the inexpensive bacon joint cooked in the slow cooker with barley and veggies, using up the swede and making the most of the celery.  This will be followed by apple and pear crumble, using up apples and pears, as I think that you need something solid this time of year.  When I serve the bacon there will be sweet potato, from last week, and red onion cooked in the remoska, possibly with the parsnips.  The lovely firm butternut squash will probably become soup.

I have a habit of relying on soups and stews, which bear is currently rejecting (though will probably be keen on them next week) but I need to rethink this, I think, and have more bits of meat with the veggies.  I am not used to cooking just a chop and after some bad experiences, if we have steak I hand over to OH.  Mind you, I think we last had steak in 2010.  It's like being able to cook a souffle but failing completely with fried egg - and yes, I cannot fry an egg and the only reason darling father has boiled eggs is because I have an automatic egg boiler.

I'm loving this challenge, and so are the family!

Feline Valentine

OH covered the night shift last night as something interesting is happening to the internet and he stayed off work to oversee.  So it was him, rather than me, that was woken up first thing by the sound of feline romance.  Strawberry has not been neutered and is therefore a bit of a Strawberry tart, and that does lead to gentleman callers, at least male cat callers.  All the gentleman cats that I know have lost their fluffy dice.  The cats that call around a lady cat in heat do not act like gentlemen.

The ginger gentleman has been sticking quite close to Strawberry recently, but I suspect he stayed in during the snow and has not yet been let out.  So this morning's romance was between Strawberry and a black cat, with sort of straggly long fur and a determined expression.  We have nicknamed him Blackberry and I think he belongs to the funeral parlour at the end of the road.  Having an all black cat at a funeral parlour has a sense of style.

Well there were the songs of feline romance, then as Strawberry was trying to follow bear and I as I took him to the doctor's (much better, actually), and Blackberry tried to stop her, there was a bit of a tiff.

I am expecting more of the same.  Evil cat was done a long time ago and I don't think she misses out, but she is not entirely happy about the who yowling an scrapping business outside her window.  She is sulking next to the radiator with an 'old maid' expression.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Lenten thought

I feel a bit ambushed by Lent.  Actually I feel a bit ambushed by the year so far.  I don't have any ideas or plans for what to give up.  Even if you take away the religious aspect I think it is extremely healthy on a mental and emotional level to show self discipline and self control.

I love medieval history, and in the Middle Ages Lent was a very trying time for the housewife.  There was still the household to be fed.  It was a time of year when there wasn't that much to go round as you were eating up last year's harvest and it was probably fine but you had to keep an eye on things.  And then for forty days you had to juggle a list of what you could and couldn't eat.  Housewives were advised to order in their salted fish well in advance as the price rose when it got to Lent itself.  The nobles were also ordering in vast quantities of almonds and currants but the average housewife was looking at forty days of salt fish, no eggs, no milk, no cheese and no butter.  Fresh greens were very thin on the ground.  It must have been a challenge.

If you look at the household books and accounts that survive from that time, the richest used almonds and ground them, soaked them in water and then pressed them to extract almond milk.  They used spices, wine and a lot of ingenuity, and it still must have been a challenge.  Those lower down the social scale must have been unimpressed by forty days of cheap salt fish that needed to be seriously soaked before eating.

Fortunately or otherwise, the housewife would have been facing this on a smaller scale throughout the year - meat and any meat products was not to be eaten on Wednesday, Friday or Saturday.

It does beg the question how much this had to do with religion.  I get the impression that a large amount of time and energy was put into devising the rules, and then a much greater amount of time and energy was immediately applied looking for loopholes.  Barnacle geese were 'fish' at the table as they were supposed to hatch from barnacles, as were porpoise and seal, and beaver's tails, but not the rest of the beaver.  I think it says a lot more about man than God.

As ever, I shall try and find something to do for Lent, an active sacrifice (started late) and I shall see what I can think of for self discipline. In the Middle Ages, fasting (or eating less) for your physical health didn't count, only fasting for faith.  I shall think about the faith.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

I made pancakes!!!

It wasn't the posh pancakes, but Welsh pancakes which look more like Scotch pancakes or pikelets, and are sweetened.  I did them on my griddle and I had no problems whatsoever.  The smoke alarm stayed firmly off.  I should have more faith in myself.  The recipe I used is here

The instructions in full are:


  • 2 oz/ 55g butter
  • 15 fl oz/ 450 ml warm buttermilk
  • 10 oz/ 275g all purpose/plain flour
  • 3 oz/ 75g sugar
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp vinegar
  • 2 eggs, well beaten


  • Stir the butter into the warmed buttermilk until melted. Gradually pour the milk and butter into the flour and beat well. Leave the mixture to stand (for a few hours if possible)for at least 30 minutes.
  • Stir the sugar, bicarbonate of soda, salt and vinegar into the beaten eggs. Pour this mixture into the flour and milk mixture and beat well to form a smooth batter.
  • Heavily grease a griddle or hot-stone and heat. Drop the batter, a tablespoon at a time onto the heated griddle and bake over a moderate heat until golden brown on both sides, then keep warm. Continue until all the batter is used up.
Spread butter on each pancake and eat while warm. 

I used UHT skimmed milk instead of buttermilk, and baking powder instead of the bicarbonate of soda as I didn't have any bicarbonate of soda in.  I also used the white vinegar that I use for laundry softener, so it just goes to show.  I made loads, and we are all stuffed.  OH had lemon juice on his, bear had both chocolate and strawberry sauce and I just had them as is.  I think they could end up a bit greasy if buttered, but I can imagine they would be quite nice if you like buttery stuff.

I hadn't used my griddle for such a long time, but now I have dug it out and remembered how much I enjoy using it I shall have to start using it more.  It is a really nice griddle, heavy duty, non stick and from Lakeland.

Tomorrow is looking like fish souffle for tea.  I have a recipe from the BBC website.  If it works, I will share.

Jaws theme

You know when there is something awful hanging over your head and you know it's getting nearer and nearer and you can hear the 'Jaws' theme tune in your head?

I promised to make pancakes tonight.  Last year we had frozen pancakes and I thought it was wonderful.  This year I will be more courageous.  However I have a long, long history of setting off the smoke alarm with anything batter related.

I am going to try and dig out a pancake recipe (let's face it, it's an easy recipe in theory) and brace.  I do not do this sort of thing well.

Also considering making Welsh pancakes, which I have made in the past successfully and are a little different, raised with yeast.  I've lost the recipe but I'll have a look on the internet and see what I can find.

Bear knows what he likes

OH brought bear home some sushi.  As any information on what bear is suffering from is far too much information for anyone who may be eating but bland food is a good idea, I was uncertain.  However bear dug in.

His verdict - he likes the soy sauce.

Restricting salt intake - epic fail.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Evil cat is creaky

Evil cat's favourite place to sleep on me is across my throat, even when I am sitting at a desk.  Today she is too creaky to get there and had to make do with my lap, and she was clear she found it very inadequate.

I worry about her, watching her stiffly climb stairs, limp across the room, struggle onto a chair.  On the other hand she is still enjoying life.  As bear didn't get to school his pack lunch is on the sofa and evil cat is happily stealing all the ham out of the sandwiches.  I suspect she is also looking forward to being loudly sick and then watching me scrabble to clean it up with smug satisfaction.

Plans gone awry - again

Bear is poorly.  He has dire rear and is pale and tired.  He is just about exhausted, I couldn't send him in to school.

So all the plans for today have gone west.  The ironing will not get finished.  I will not be clearing under the kitchen table.  But I will have lots and lots of cuddles and that is great.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

I made a souffle!!!!

I made a souffle and it worked!  I got the recipe from here  which is a site called, which I think is based in North America.  They refer to 4 tablespoons of butter, and so I weighed 4 tablespoons of flour which was also needed and found that they came in at 1.6 oz, so I weighed the same for butter as well.

So it worked, it rose, it tasted lovely, and all the men enjoyed it.  Of course there was a problem - it was a bit smaller than I thought it might be.  We all had a morsel.  It was a very pleasant morsel, but only a small one.  I don't feel hugely confident just scaling up the quantities, so I shall look for another souffle recipe as bear has requested a souffle next week as well.

I have no idea what I did right.

Also next time I will include a substantial salad with it.  And I will be a bit more confident with the seasonings.  I am getting better at the cooking and I am enjoying it.  Friday we had scouse, Saturday dinner was soup from cooking the brisket slowly in the slow cooker with lots of veggies, followed by apple crumble (apples from fruit box that comes with veg box).  Today souffle then later it will be cold meat, mash, broccoli (veg box) and stir fried cabbage (veg box again) and gravy.  Tomorrow is looking remarkably stir fried shaped with any remains of the brisket.  I wonder how long this will last.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Cooking and the history of it

I think everyone is sort of aware of the idea of 'peasant cooking' such as cockaleekie or pot au feu - food that is easily available and cheap.  The sort of foods that warm you in winter and stick to the ribs so that you have the fuel to go out and do the work in the fields.  Most of the ideas have been prettied up for restaurants at some point or other, but the basic bones are cheap and filling with what is available locally.

So what is the urban equivalent?  I seem to have started a few ideas off with scouse, and then you have the stovies and the lancashire hot pot (amazing stuff if done well, and usually a safe bet for a pub lunch, and often urban).  All have in common that they are easy to make, use odds and ends, use potatoes and onions which are easily carried and stored for the urban shopper, all are cooked with the first efforts at the beginning and then left until ready to dish so that the cook can get on with other stuff.  

I suppose you have the local delicacies in cities in the same way that you have in the countryside.  Some countryside areas have fruit and vegetable specialities or particular types of cheese.  In the city you have things like jellied eel for London, or scouse for Liverpool where the local surrounding area can send in certain types of food that are cheap and good.  

I suspect that the modern equivalent to peasant cooking is findus lasagne.  One thing that is nice, though, is the exchange of tasty and inexpensive recipes over the internet, so all the good, inexpensive, city based, fuel conscious recipes can be shared.  That is definitely a good thing.  

Bear has made me proud

Despite there being plenty of cakes and biscuits available, bear has insisted that he wants a healthy snack, thank you.

I am so proud of him.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Scouse - a Liverpool stew

I did not grow up in Liverpool, and while I have relatives living in Liverpool now, in the past the family have been linked to Liverpool but not from there.  I did grow up surrounded by displaced Liverpudlians, however, and actually scouse, the meal, is known all over the North West.  The Wikipedia entry is here and I didn't find anything to argue with.

Scouse is a stew that is best known as a Liverpool dish, very close to Lancashire hot pot.  The origin is using cheap meat, cooked slowly on the top of the stove, usually with potatoes which were very easy to get hold of in the North West and which stored okay on ships.  It is easy to cook in an old fashioned galley because it is cooked on the top of the stove and could use salted or pickled meat with the potatoes and onions.  The Wikipedia entry refers to a possible Baltic connection, and I have heard that in the past.  It is the industrialised, seaport, melting pot of Liverpool version of peasant cooking - warm, cheap and fills you up.  It isn't as cheap as it was with the cost of cooking on the stove, but a slow cooker does the job just as well.

As you are a veggie I would suggest that you throw in a selection of root vegetables to hand, some onion or variation on the onion theme like leeks, a good handful of barley and then make sure that you have plenty of floury potato to mush down.

My understanding of scouse is that you need really floury potatoes and they go in at the start, unlike most stews, so that they go to mush and thicken up the stew.  As far as I can tell, there are plenty of variations on the theme.  I would say for me that it had to have onion, lamb, potatoes and long cooking to count.  Today's version also has carrots, parsnip and a large amount of swede as the veg box contained a swede as heavy as evil cat.

Edited to add - I used to love turkey scouse, my mother used to make it on 27 December, using the last of the turkey (she wouldn't keep it longer than three days after cooking) with all the veggies still in the veg rack. It tasted wonderful and was certainly not what would normally be called scouse.

Scary shopping

I stopped at a very reasonably priced old fashioned butchers and bought some diced lamb.  I really fancied an old fashioned scouse tonight.  Recipes for scouse vary, some insist on beef, others with lamb and if it is made without meat it is lobscouse or blind scouse.  To go with the meat some recipes insist on only potatoes and onions, others include carrots.  They used to sell bundles of potherbs or the veggies for scouse on the market when I was little.  I am going with the spirit of scouse - whatever meat is to hand and whatever veggies to make the meat stretch. I shall be digging into yesterday's veg box.

My mother always used to do scouse with scrag end of lamb.  I haven't seen any in the shops around here, I have moved across the Pennines since I first ate scouse.  Even in this day and age, different food is available in different regions, even in somewhere so mechanised and urbanised as the UK.  As it was, the diced lamb was extortionate, and I will cook it nice and slowly with lots of veggies and the potatoes going to mush and thickening it all up.

I am really going to have to work on this as meat is getting so expensive.  I do pick a chicken, but any time I try and use a chicken carcass to make stock it tastes foul.  I do try and eke out stews and soups with lots of veggies and pulses.  I have good quality sausages and burgers from the farm shop and serve smaller portions with lots of nice side veggies.  I am going to have to have more veggie dishes.  Unfortunately darling father tends to head to the takeaway when faced with veggie food.  I can add more eggs to our diet, but they are no longer inexpensive, and I would rather pay extra for free range.  Cheese would be a great addition to the diet.  Unfortunately it makes me sick, makes OH feel ill and bear is just outright refusing it. Darling father doesn't mind, so that is something.

So I will brown the lamb, add lots of potato cut small so that it goes to mush, onion, carrots, parsnip and a lamb stock cube.  I shall serve stir fried cabbage as a side.  In this weather, it is exactly what we need!

Thursday, 7 February 2013

This horsemeat business

So there has been all this huge amount of news about horsemeat in beef burgers, and horsemeat in ready made lasagne, and to be honest I have just been extremely grateful that it is actual meat and not anything worse.  I don't like the idea that I don't know what I am eating, and I am very grateful that the food inspectors found the horsemeat.

I have been buying a lot of my meat from a local farm shop recently which does its own butchery.  It has not been particularly less expensive but I have had infinitely more taste and quality for my pennies.  I would rather pay for really good sausages than roughly the same for inferior steak.  The only meat I have really been picking up from the supermarket has been the very inexpensive frozen ready to cook mince from Asda which has been quite low in fat and water and has tasted great in my chillis and sauces.  I went to order some from Asda to go with the cat litter that evil cat prefers and the inexpensive whiskey for darling father.  The mince has been taken from the shelves.

We may have been eating Dobbin.

So what on earth do I do with the two packets of perfectly edible, nothing probably wrong with it, won't make us ill, extremely tasty, low fat and water when cooked mince I still have in the freezer?

Actually I have just found a really nice recipe for mince with veggies that need using up from the veg box and scrambled eggs.  I shall consult the men on what they feel about it.  It will be interesting to see exactly how they see it.

Still going round in circles

Last night I couldn't find any of bear's clean sweaters and ended up washing and drying school uniform in the small hours.  On the whole the trend in the house is away from chaos, but washing school jumpers and bunging them in the dryer in the small hours is a low point that I haven't seen for a while.

On the bright side, and there is always a bright side, I got a load of ironing done while I was waiting for the washer to work through.

 I really do need to get to grips with housewifery.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Poor Bear

Bear is having a bad time.  He fell down the stairs at his uncle's house.  He was standing on the toilet and he fell off that and I had kittens at the thought of what he could do to himself falling in a bathroom.  So far nothing more than bruises and cuddles from mum.  Last night I heard a crash, sat bolt upright, dashed upstairs - and bear had fallen out of bed.  The poor lad was sitting on the floor looking around and not seeing anything as he was obviously trying to work out what had happened.  So I coaxed him into bed, cuddled him and kissed him and tucked him in.  I don't think he woke up in the whole time.

I was still awake when he called me two hours later because a pain in his ankle had woken him up.

Hopefully that is bear's share of bumps and bruises for a while.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Getting used to things

I am now on a 'new to me' laptop and I miss my mouse!!!!!  Sorry for the exclamation marks, there, but I really am at least five exclamation marks stressed by no mouse.  I also am finding the keyboard layout a bit of a trial.  When you use backspace as much as I do, and it moves, you are challenged.

The other interesting thing is watching the shortcuts on my toolbar grow.  Obviously I have BBC news and hotmail.  I have a few fragments to show I am trying to be a proper author and put up interesting things on facebook and twitter.  I don't actually have much to say that is worth putting on facebook and twitter but I am at least making a token effort.  There is the Amazon self publishing home page, and Smashwords (I love Smashwords) and Goodreads.  I have Wikipedia up there, as I am always looking for information - like how to make a mickey finn and whether I could get the ingredients on ebay.

But speaking of ebay, it is the shopping that is spreading slowly but surely along the toolbar. All those lovely links to cut price shopping.  I am considering hiding those as I am doing far too much shopping as it is.


Bear told me last night that he needed a box for school today, that had had tea in it.  Or something.  I sighed, mentally went through what I needed - and completely forgot about it this morning as I overslept and then bear couldn't find his shoes, which were where I said they were.

I just realised this and I was about to call school and see if they wanted me to drop something off.  Then I noticed that it was snowing.  Hmmm.  I am sure bear will be fine.  If bear isn't fine he will tell me all about it tonight.  I am confident I will not be the only mum who has forgotten.

I really wish that I had had a little more notice.  I am going to have to get more on the ball with this sort of thing as I know it isn't going to get much better.

It is a training day tomorrow, and I am glad.  Bear is very tired at the moment, and I cannot get him to sleep later.  Bear's lie in ends at 7am.  Tomorrow I look forward to bear teaching me all about minecraft.  Again.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Daily Dither

Really, I'm just typing out loud, but any suggestions would be welcome...

I accidentally published a book.  It may or may not have sold some copies in places other than Amazon.  If I do not find out some details soon I may explode, but that's a different dither.  I really couldn't use Wannabe Sybil as a name on the book, and my own name that I have in my boring real life is no good (trust me!) so I picked a name at random and came up with the name Lyssa Medana.  I then carefully set up a blog and a twitter account in the name Lyssa Medana, because I thought I ought to.

Apparently I ought to write an entertaining blog as Lyssa Medana.  But all my entertaining words come here, because Wannabe Sybil is where I feel comfortable.  Besides, Lyssa Medana is an author and probably blonde.  Wannabe Sybil is a failed housewife and going grey.

It would make sense to shut down the Lyssa Medana blog and have this as the blog linked at Amazon and Smashwords.  It's not as if anyone looking for Lyssa wouldn't find Sybil.  However I am a bit worried about this.  On the one hand I feel safe here.  I have had such wonderful support and kindness from people reading this.  There is no real reason why that should change, but I am afraid that those who have been reading this blog for years would find it less welcoming because there are bound to be more references to the writing stuff and I am not sure how interesting it would be.  I mean, how interesting is a dither about a comma?

Actually, I'm really scared about letting the whole scary business of writing a book and people I don't know reading it into big parts of my life, and this blog is a big part.  And I know how silly that is as there are so many people out there who are lovely and I will be really glad to meet them on here.  I am not sure what to do.  OH will be able to help me out on this and I am very grateful.

Further cat wars

I had been worrying about Strawberry all day.  She has a very dense, outdoor coat and is obviously clued up about where to kip when the weather is hard, but I didn't see her this morning and I worried.

I did see the ginger gentleman, though.  I heard some sounds of warfare and went out as Nice Mr Next Door tried to separate the ginger gentleman and the black tom from down the road.  I saw bits of ginger fur literally flying away from them, and I suspect that there was just as much black fur that I didn't see due to it being a dark background, as the black tom cat was coming a distinct second.

The ginger gentleman had been very wary of me recently as I had chased him off when he attacked Strawberry, but he was gracious enough to yowl his head off to me this afternoon to get me to ring the bell for the flat for him.  Unfortunately they were out.

I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw Strawberry in the kitchen window, so I put some food down for her, and pretended not to notice the ginger gentleman skulking away - he had been about to pounce on Strawberry but I didn't have the energy to chase him.  Actually, in this weather, I'm not surprised there is war.  Cats always go a little crazier when it is windy.

Evil cat saw me feeding Strawberry and immediately went creakily into attack position.  I still can't bring Strawberry in.  Poor old cat.

Bear has been good

I write a lot about bear being naughty, or mischievous or challenging.  I would just like to say that bear has been lovely all weekend.  He has been polite, cheerful, calm and has eaten almost all he has had in front of him. He has been a pleasure to be with. 

This morning he got himself washed and dressed and has gone to school in a sunny mood.  I am utterly impressed.  Tonight we will have homework, but that's okay.  I know bear is up to it. 

Friday, 1 February 2013

More cat wars

The ginger gentleman has spent most of the afternoon chasing Strawberry with menaces and now probably won't let me ring the doorbell for him as I had to chase him to stop murder being done. 

In fact, as I was making dinner (the veg box is being thoroughly used) Strawberry was begging at the kitchen window with the ginger gentleman lurking with intent behind her.  OH went out to try and work out what was going on, Strawberry got some treats and the ginger gentleman fled. 

Spring is in the air. 

Cats at War

I heard that the ginger gentleman has been beating up the black tom further down the street.  Then he yowled at me until I buzzed the flats to let him in.  He is not making friends.  Then a bit later as I was emptying the dehumidifier out of the top window apparently I caught Strawberry.

This was unfortunate in more ways than one.  The first unfortunate thing is that once again I had missed feeding Strawberry and she is always so grateful.  I am not used to gratitude from a cat.  The second unfortunate thing was that Strawberry shot out with damp fur.  The third unfortunate thing was the release of next door's young tabby tom who had been apparently trapped in a corner.  He returned the favour and chased Strawberry under a car so that Nice Mr Next Door had to rescue her while I shouted directions out of the window.  Between the two cats they were coming out with some truly dreadful language, threats and curses.

Evil cat slept through it.