Sunday, 23 April 2017

Food, Food, Food

My life seems to be revolving around food.  First of all bear brought home a dratted food diary.  Then this evening the idea of meals went out of the window - not for the first time.

We'd had such a relaxed Sunday afternoon.  We were hanging out in the study, all of us on devices, all of us sharing and talking.  I had my knitting on the go as I watched a tv show and also bear playing his new game.  DH was comfortably sprawled and reading.  The room was sunny and the atmosphere was relaxed.  The awful moment when I had to get up and sort out dinner was almost upon me.  I had planned to do potato bourgeouise and sausages.  Or possibly sweet potatoes and sausages.  Except none of us was particularly hungary.  None of us could face a proper meal.

I didn't have anything in the cupboards for a snack meal.  I've been trying to run them down.  The freezer is treated with caution anyway and the fridge was looking bare.  Between the stuff that we can all eat and that we all like, we have a very narrow range.  All local shops were shut.  What was worse, all inspiration had vanished.  I keep thinking of all the things I could have tried but that's now.  This afternoon I was as inspired as a blank page.

In the end bear had the last tin of tomato soup, DH had chorizo omelette (which bear and I had already had for lunch) and I had a tinned meal that I had stashed a while ago and that was fortunately just within date.  It was uninspiring.  It was definitely not the leisurely Sunday browsing that we all wanted.

Tomorrow's task - research lunch/snack dishes that can be made from easily stored items so that we can always have a snack dinner on hand.  Of course it can't contain corned beef (DH), contain gluten (me), sweetcorn (bear at the moment but terms and conditions apply and his preferences may change without notice), cooked fish (DH), cheese (me), bacon (bear again, and t&cs apply again), etc etc etc.  Challenge unethusiastically accepted.

Also, cold has settled into awful gunked up snuffles and I am utterly fed up.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

New Maths Tutor

Bear's former maths tutor has moved countries and is being awesome elsewhere.  This meant a search for the new tutor.

Maths tutors must be a tough breed to keep slogging on, pushing string uphill as they try and coax an unwilling pupil through the intricacies of multiplying fractions.  They need patience, persistence and the skill of presenting information in many different ways to encourage a reluctant child to engage with the GCSE Maths that will be vital to their future.  I'm sure not all situations are like that, but the very nice maths tutor seemed surprised that bear was looking forward to seeing him.

The new tutor seems utterly awesome.  He arrived prepared to see how well bear was dealing with his work at school and then gently encourage bear to do better.  That flew out of the window around ten minutes in.  By the end they were bonding over converting decimals to fractions and back.  From what I can gather, they were working significantly ahead of bear's expected level and having fun.  I'm going to make sure I get nice biscuits in for him.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Meal Planning Gets Worse

Bear has brought home a sheet of paper.  The school want the kids to keep a food diary for a week.  Bear had filled in today's breakfast already, and put that he had had dry cereal and a glass of milk for breakfast.  He really didn't.  He had a cereal bar.  It could be worse.  I've sent him to school after a breakfast of custard before now as I really, really believe that it is wrong to go to school on an empty stomach and I've been desperate to get anything into him.

Tonight I told him to put down frittata for dinner.  DH and bear actually got fish and chips from the takeaway as I had completely failed at cooking, but I thought I wasn't putting that.  I am now going to have to work out healthy meals for the week, darn it to heck.  I'll do at least one souffle and tell bear to lie about his snacks.

To be fair, there's a net of easy peel citrus downstairs which bear will devour in an afternoon if allowed, and there are things like bananas and cucumber for cucumber sticks, etc etc but I know that this is the week where I need to be sensible.  I don't want to be sensible.  I have a raging cold and want to live on ready meals and takeaways.

I don't like posting too much about bear's health and I try and avoid posting stuff that will be too embarrassing later on for him, but there have been all sorts of issues over the last six months and bear has become very peculiar about food.  He's been  quite well for the last month or so, but when I managed to get hold of gluten free chicken nuggets I was grateful because there was some protein in there and he would eat them.  We've done our best, but it's more of a challenge than I feel ready for.

I'll treat it as an exercise in Creativity.  Unicorn burgers, anyone?

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Bear has a Steering Wheel

Somehow, I'm not sure how, bear persuaded us to buy him one of the cheaper plug in steering wheels for the driving games.  It's got pedals, for heaven's sake!  I suggested that it came out of bear's hoarded pocket money, but DH was happy we funded it.  Sigh.

It arrived and bear set it up.  I am now officially one of those old ladies who needs their son to show them how the remote control on the tv works.  To be honest, I'm quite happy to delegate that part of life.  It's bear's toy so he can sort it.  Though I'm not sure whether a nearly life sized steering wheel with a gear stick, indicator and pedals counts as a toy or an accessory.

I've been looking at meal planning again.  It hasn't worked before.  Partly because I swear there is something wrong with me and the moment I decide to do something I seem to run to do the opposite.  However the meal planners I've seen all start with proper recipes.  There doesn't seem to be room for the 'absolutely on the floor tonight so it's frozen sausages, frozen hash browns and frozen peas' type evenings.  Also, when bear it eating, terms and conditions apply.  Last night he suddenly decided that he didn't like sweetcorn.  I nearly cried.  We didn't have it when father was here, because he didn't like it and DH and I love it.  Sigh.  Theoretically tonight we are having frozen gluten free chicken nuggets that I got in for those 'on the floor' type evenings but the chicken that I was planning wasn't delivered by Tesco with sweet potatoes peeled, cut into chunks, stirred up in oil and possibly sage, microwaved for twenty minutes and put in a medium oven for ten (I love my combination microwave).  With frozen peas.  That is, if the sweet potatoes are still fit.

There are two ways the meal plans fail.  The first is because I don't have the energy for the fancy meal I've planned.  The second is because something vital wasn't delivered, or isn't fit, like the sweet potatoes being found to be mushy and yeurk.  All the articles on meal plans seem so assured and confident, where nothing ever goes wrong and they can always find the grater.

I think I will put the idea of meal planning on the back burner until I've done an audit of the cupboards and got a decent freezer.  That may take some time, especially if we keep buying bear steering wheels.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Just Passing Through

There's not that much to blog about.  It's been wonderfully, marvellously, splendidly uneventful here.

Bear is back at school.  It may be the first day of summer term, but it's very chilly.  He did remember to bring out his PE kit after school, though, and it wasn't too bad.  It is washing as I type.  He's almost done his homework as well.  Poor bear, it's his least favourite type of homework - lots of very easy stuff.

Today has been a fail day but tomorrow I need to get moving.  On Saturday the new tutor is likely to visit (old and awesome tutor has moved countries) and on Monday an engineer needs access to all the radiators.  All the radiators have junk in front of them.  It's going to be hectic.

At least it will keep me away from YouTube as I have seen an awesome blanket that is knitted in three strands of yarn on huge needles.  I do not need to knit this.  I have enough throws to kit out a department store.  But, but but it is awesome and interesting and I completely wouldn't get bored six inchess in - honest!  The linky is here.


Thursday, 13 April 2017

A Lull

It's been so action packed that a quiet day seems out of place.  I'm full of cold with a rotten sore throat so I have done nothing significant.

One thing I did do was make shepherd's pie with turkey mince.  I like the turkey mince because it is low fat, high protein and very inexpensive.  On the other hand, I suspect what I save on mince I spend on stock cubes.  Actually it only wanted a stock cube and a pinch of sage (with the usual carrot, onion and a few spare mushrooms), and bear and DH loved it.  I will see how it goes.  For comparison, the turkey mince was £2 for 500g and the lean beef mince was £4 for 500g, so I think it's worth experimenting.

I've actually paid out for a frozen shoulder of lamb joint for Easter Sunday.  I am not keen on lamb but bear and DH adore it and it's traditional - and hideously expensive.  Poor DH is feeling very poorly with the cold so the least I can do is cook the lamb slowly in the slow cooker wrapped in foil with rosemary and garlic.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Laugh or Cry

I try and see the funny side of life.  There's usually something.  Today was a toughie.

The computers went off, along with everything on the electrical circuit that includes power sockets.  That meant no washing machine, no dryer, no computer, no tv, etc etc etc.  I am so used to letting bear amuse himself on the computer and he was supposed to be having a pal around to play computer games.  We rescheduled that pal and we played yahtzee and hung out for six hours until the electrician that DH arranged turned up.  I had checked the (new) circuit board and one of the switches was down.  I tried pushing it up and it wouldn't stick.  I mean, I really pushed and held it.  The sparky pressed it up and everything came back on.  That cost £123.80.

Then when DH got home he called out the AA because his car had started to lose power.  It had more or less limped home for the last mile.  Apparently there was a thingy with the onboard computer which they reset.  That didn't cost us as it is covered by the significant payments we make every month to the AA.  It is obviously worth it as I don't know a tyre from a steering wheel and DH isn't really mechanical, but it's another payment.  DH is potentially, theoretically, possibly, perhaps at some date thinking about lease cars.  Please let it not be soon.  Also the insurance comes out in a lump sum this month and I winced when I heard it.

Then when I was hanging out with bear and took out my knitting I found I had made a dreadful mistake.  I had just got past a part where you put some stitches on a holder, cast off, do some shaping, cast back on and rejoing the stitches on the holder.  I suppose I had since done around three rows of 135 stitches.  I've rejoined it twisted.  I'm going to have to go back over around 400 stitches and with all the increasing and decreasing I don't dare just frog it back.

On the bright side (and there always is one) when I met my pal at the weekend we exchanged gifts.  She finally got her housewarming after over a year.  I got a birthday present that may be last year's or possibly next year's or perhaps the year before last's, but we gave up keeping count a long time ago, we just enjoy the friendship.  This meant I got a lovely Woodwick candle to burn whenever I like, even if it's just me.  Also I found the fridge was not on the same circuit which meant that the groceries delivered this morning stayed cold.  Also, it's made me convinced that I need to try and work out about re-wiring and all sorts of other bits.

Also, we had some sunshine and it was great hanging out with bear.

Monday, 10 April 2017

YouTube is my Friend

Actually, I think YouTube and eBay are just encouraging each other to lead me in bad ways.

Somehow, and I'm not sure how, I ended up watching knitting videos on YouTube.  I had been sticking quite closely to medieval monasticism and dinosaurs, which are a lot safer.  Today I went along dangerous paths.

The first thing that caught my eye was the ten stitch blanket patterns.  These are patterns where you cast on ten stitches and then knit short rows and turn corners and pick up stitches from the side you already knitted so that you end up with a blanket having only had ten stitches on your needles for most of the time.  A link to one is here.  It's definitely beyond my patience level, and possibly my skill level, but does look awesome.  I could absolutely make one for a friend who has impeccable taste and a home in the countryside that appears to lack throws.  I had a quick look on eBay for suitable yarn before I came to my senses.

From there I ended up on some interesting dishcloths here.  They are knitted with long and short rows in two colours and finished using Kitchener stitch which is a way of joining knitting named after the WWI general, Lord Kitchener, who apparently knitted, or at least had a knitting stitch named after him.  I am not sure about dishcloths.  I prefer to use a sponge which I quickly wear to rags and then throw but while they may be environmentally unsound, they are inexpensive.  I checked.  You can get some good 100% cotton yarn which would be ideal for the cloths on eBay for very reasonable amounts, especially if you are not sticking to the two colours that the pattern showed, but I'm not going there.  I have a stash of the sponges which will last me for months (a good deal from Approved Food).

Then I found myself looking at a knitting pattern for a scrubbie knitted out of tulle, here.  This intrigued me (of course).  I am sort of tempted.  I have half a dozen plastic scrubbies in the drawer after scoring a good deal at Approved Food and I haven't used them up yet.  They appear to be almost indestructible.  By the time I have got to the end of them I will have probably forgotten about the idea of knitting a scrubber out of tulle.  Just in case, I checked eBay and there are some very inexpensive rolls of tulle on there.  I managed not to buy any, but it was touch and go.

I think I should stick to dinosaur videos.

Friday, 7 April 2017

Darn it to Heck!

I bought bear some pumps for school as they were incredibly inexpensive and came with the grocery order.  I looked around for bear's gym bag.  He has an Angry Birds backpack which holds his games kit.  The school insist that the kit is kept at school during term time but when the holidays come round bear should have brought home a tshirt, jogging bottoms, shorts, trainers, probably pumps (he loses them and never tells me) and a hoodie.

He didn't bring them home.

Fortunately bear is 10 and not a fourteen year old lad playing energetic rugby in the mud.  I should be able to just wash the kit and it will be fine.  The back pack will probably need a good wipe out and air (it's not washable) but it's fixable - this time.  I'm not looking forward to getting it.

Bear had a pal around to play.  It was wonderful.  There was peace, quiet and minecraft.  I sat in the corner and relaxed.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Uncle is Poorly.

Uncle has been taken back into hospital.  He's had a tummy upset and the combination of dementia, diabetes and warfarin mean that it gets out of control quite quickly.  He should be back in the care home tomorrow.  I told the ward that I really miss him, and it's true.  The uncle who was such a rock when we were small isn't there.

I pootled around aimlessly and ended up making potato and ham souffle (sort of) for dinner.  I got the recipe out of a book called Traditonal Farmhouse Fare which I picked up for pennies from Matalan.  Apparently it's a collection of recipes from Farmers Weekly and it isn't the usual stuff but has some really good and interesting recipes.  The recipe, submitted by Helen Clark instructed that you peel and boil two large potatoes.  I only had very small ones, so I did half a dozen.  They then had to be beaten to a cream with an ounce of butter (tsp of oil here) and three egg yolks using an electric beater.  Then you stirred in 8oz (200g) of finely chopped cooked ham (I only had 100g so I ended up adding 'some' chopped mushrooms which needed using up) and parsley then folding in three egg whites beaten to stiff peaks.  Cook for 25 to 30 minutes at 180C, 350F, Gas 4.

It worked.  I think I would have liked the souffle a little firmer and would have cooked it longer, but it definitely rose and was lovely and fluffy.  The men very much inhaled it and I have had to promise that I will do it again.

I mentioned that I was considering the whole Save Money Good Food cookbook and bear looked at me sceptically.  'You never use cookbooks.'  I pointed out that the souffle had come from a cookbook and he shut up.  I take comfort in small mercies.

I found the book on Amazon here and if you are looking for a general cookbook that isn't just the same old same old then I really recommend it.

Typical!

After writing about how much cooking I'm doing, we had a takeaway tonight, or at least, bear and DH did.  I'll start again tomorrow

In fact today was a vaguely fail day.  I got a little washing done, suffered from bear who was BORED and generally achieved little.  I suggested a few things that bear could do - sort through his drawer, tidy his desk, sort out some pencils etc and he utterly rejected them, he decided he was better being BORED.  Instead he belted up and down the street on his scooter and set all the neighbours' dogs off.

I'm off to bed with the hope that I get more done tomorrow.




Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Accidentally Cooking

Just for once, just one time, I'd like to have something in my life that I had planned to do and actually did as planned.

I rely heavily on takeaways.  It isn't good.  I got into the habit when I was feeding father, DH and bear who didn't like the same food.  One would eat beef but not lamb, one would eat lamb but not pork, one adored sweetcorn, another loathed it etc etc etc.  The safe meals were prepared, crumbed chicken, Indian takeaway, Chinese takeaway or fish and chips.  Father used to adore his takeaways.

Then father went and I stopped being able to eat gluten, so it cut down some of the takeaways, but we were still having far too many.  Then suddenly - we weren't.  I have no idea why.  We haven't had a takeaway for the last month.  It is unprecedented.  Some of the meals are fancier than others.  We have had (relatively healthy) tinned sauce with pasta, but also chicken breasts baked in foil with potato bourgeoise.  Tonight it was fish fingers, but it could be a chili, a nice fresh pasta, shepherd's pie or smoked haddock.  I don't know where it's come from.  DH is loving the food, bear is happy, I'm enjoying the food but I have no idea why I'm suddenly cooking.

Tonight I watched the programme on ITV called Save Money: Good Food.  It seems like a version of Eat Well for Less, but slanted slightly differently.  The recipes that they prepared don't seem to be available on the website or facebook, but there is an expensive cookbook.  The food looked good, though perhaps not what I would eat.  I'll watch the rest of the series and point bear in its direction (he's been binge watching junior masterchef) for his opinion.  I'm interested in the extra tips about storing food, use by dates and working hard to eliminate waste.  I was interested that they used up the thick broccoli stems by grating them into another dish.  Those sort of ideas are worth watching.

There's a low lying grumble about food prices going up.  Even before Brexit there were issues about soil degradation, climate change and food security, and I suspect that over the next few years there will be a lot of encouragement from the government about making the most of food.  I wouldn't be at all surprised if we got a Ministry of Food again.  What is surprising me is that I may be ready if it comes.

Monday, 3 April 2017

The Holidays

It is the Easter holidays here, and today was the first day.  I survived it.

Bear was unimpressed.  He has been complaining bitterly that he was too tired for school.  Now he is equally venomous about being bored.  So far he has run up and down the street (we've lost yet another football), slouched in front of the Xbox and PC and messed around with the sticker books.  I've let him.

We do not have a programme of what to do or not do.  This is perhaps just as well as I have a nasty sore throat and very achy joints.  We have a short walk to the greengrocer planned for tomorrow.  It will use up an hour of the day by the time we have walked there, walked back and grumbled around the shop.

One small ray of light is that we have finally signed bear up for Mathletics.  Apparently Mathletics makes maths fun and is usually used in school.  However there is an 'in the home' option which we have chosen.  Bear thinks it is awesome, amazing, great, wonderful, etc etc etc.  Someone understands the mindset of small bears.  If you complete various games or tests then you get the virtual equivalent of a gold star.  Most young children will go for the gold star with gusto.  Bear has already done sums about the best way to get them.  He is raring to go.  This enthusiasm may last, and if it does then it is incredibly good for him and encouraging his interests.  Even if he only keeps going for a little while it is bound to boost his ability to some degree.  And it should keep him interested for at least some part of every day over the holidays.

I'd be a lot more enthusiastic if I wasn't faced with the awful fear that he may ask me how to work the numbers.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

New Neighbours

The house next door, where Nice Mr Next Door used to live, has been empty for almost exactly two years.  Before that, the family of Nice Mr Next Door lived there for around fifteen years, and were great neighbours.  I can't say enough good about them.

I was worried that they would not like us when they first moved in because we had to shut off their water on the first day they were there.  I was mortified and took a lot of bottled water around, there was nothing I could do.  We had been left high and dry by some bathroom fitters.  Fifteen years later I was heartbroken when they moved out, though I really understood why they did.

Now we have new neighbours.  They seem very pleasant, they are very quiet and we haven't had to shut off their water.  What has happened could be considered worse.  Bear, after utterly rejecting all connection with the concept of piano playing and driving me to the utter ends of my resources when it comes to practising, has found a piece he liked.  He's had a lot of fun with Donna e Mobile and a song that's apparently to do with canaries, but yesterday his piano teacher (who is an absolute star) brought what I suspect is a simplified version of Hall of the Mountain King, part of the Peer Gynt Suite.

Bear loves it.  He is a very happy bear.  He can't stop humming it.  Since he got the sheet music in his paws yesterday around 9.15am he hasn't stopped practising.  I honestly believe that in the last day and a bit he has done more practice than the rest of the year so far.  It isn't an electric piano.  There isn't a volume control or headphones.  Our neighbours at the back are definitely hearing bear attacking Hall of the Mountain King with energy, determination and almost accuracy.  I'm hoping that the new neighbours aren't suffering too much.  The piano is against the outside wall.  The sound of bear's attempts have to cross the study, the living room and their kitchen before it gets to their living room.

I hope that they are the forgiving type.