Wednesday 25 August 2010

The Great Food Scrap Challenge

Ohmigod just been watching the BBC’s Great British Waste Menu all about the food we waste. It is something very close to my heart as I am a useless chef but a great scrap cook. I’d like to say it’s because I am an organised and talented person but actually it’s because I am a lazy forgetful housewife who hates shopping. The number of times I just run out of food is depressing and all that’s left are the copious quantities of overgrown courgettes from the garden and eggs from the chickens plus veg and fruit of dubious origin in the back of the fridge. I kid you not but we’ve survived on just that for a whole week until the kids begged me for meat, we then killed a chicken…
The programme was great but the thoughts I took away from it were scary and I found it difficult to get my head round it. It’s all very well saying that £10bn of food is wasted every year in this country or that that families throw out 8.3 million tonnes of food waste annually. When the figures are so big it gets difficult to grasp.
The average British Household throws away £680 worth of food each year. I wanted to know what that meant so I asked Dear Charlie, who is good at numbers, in that he can work it out quicker than me (I would have got there in the end but I might not have been able to do this post for a few days…).
Now if you tack on the fact that that money is from your taxed income it actually equates to closer to £850 of your salary if you are a normal taxpayer. The average family income is some £21,500 a year. The amount of food the average family wastes equates to 4 per cent of their annual salary. Just think if you didn’t waste any food at all then you’d have an immediate “pay rise” of 4 per cent and how chuffed would you feel about that in the current economic climate!
The thing is although I loved the programme I can see why people waste food and I think it’s down to these three things:
1. People are time poor or at least feel it: how many mothers, for it is usually them, also have to hold down full time jobs? Grief! When do they get the time to shop let alone cook?
2. People don’t know how to cook, let alone shop for food: Home economics though taught in schools to a varying degree doesn’t give our children the wherewith all to understand even the basics. It is often considered a joke by pupils or something that only the ‘thickos’ do. What is so scary is that it is so crucial for everyone. And skills and recipes for frugal cooking are being lost. We are in fact losing sight of what food is really all about. To appreciate it you really do have to reconnect with the processes from growing to killing. Perhaps then we would not be so fussy about what it looks like!
3. Labelling is downright confusing. With all the media hype about food poisoning, complicated best before, use by and sell by dates it’s no wonder people just say stuff it better safe than sorry…

So I’d thought I’d share some of my top tips to stop the old wastage and save a few pennies…
1. Do a meal planner every week!
2. Forget labels and taste/smell your food to see if it’s off.
3. Use your freezer so if you have food you haven’t eaten in your fridge and it may go off pop in to freeze! Don’t forget to label your food for the freezer or you land up like me going for a lucky dip which although exciting doesn’t necessarily make you popular with the kids when you serve them garlic chicken and pears….instead of fish fingers and chips!
Here’s a couple of great websites to check out and inspire too…

Thursday 19 August 2010

Bringing up boys: They never grow up!

There’s this thing right where they say something to you and your heart just goes to your mouth and all you want to do is protect them from the hard knocks of growing up. You’ve forgotten how hurtful it is, all those disappointments which in themselves are nothing much to a grown up but to a little boy, well they must be soul destroying.
We were in the car going to a friends house, a friend with three fantatstic boys who in the past have always been happy to indulge my two, but it’s been a while since we were there over a year and now well now these boys are very grown up.
The Boy: Mum how old is E?
Me: Oooh I think he’s 11 now darling.
The Boy, wonderingly: T and H are older than that aren’t they?
Me not too comfortable where this one is going: Yes they are.
The Boy: H is two years older than E and T is older than H.?
This was suspiciously sounding like one of those math problems where the words made it more difficult than if the sum was actually written down.
Me, suspiciously: Yeeesss….
The Boy: So H is 13, he’s a teenager.
I was going to answer but I was in two minds if I should just say yes H was 13 or whether I should congratulate The Boy on his mental arithmetic when he carried on.
The Boy: Bog Boy, you know we shouldn’t expect the big boys to play with us you know. We aren’t very big.
Bog Boy just gazed round eyed at his big brother and I just carried on driving eyes firmly fixed to the road ahead but mind spinning away.
I felt I should counteract this statement by saying of course H, T and E would play with them but then I couldn’t actually be sure that they would. I mean why should they? There is four years between my eldest and E and 10 years between T and Bog Boy. Huge gaps and of course Teenagers well, they are a different breed altogether…
We parked and tentatively opened the gate and walked up to the house. All of us waiting in trepidation fo rhte rebuff that would surely happen…
But you know apart for an initial awkwardness they were all soon playing Wii and then basketball and then as the evening wore on any protestation of sophistication was totally forgotten and they were all hurtling down hills in go carts, squabbling and fighting and just being – I do love boys, you know they never grow up!

Tuesday 17 August 2010

Schadenfreude terrier style...

Don't you believe that butter wouldn't melt in his mouth!
Never, ever think you've got your terrier taped, even if he is 11 years old. And never, ever even think that perhaps your terrier is better behaved than anyone else's.
Today, minding my own business or not as the case maybe, I perused the blogosphere and came across The Miracle courtesy of Asbo Jack, Exmoor Jane's wonderful JRT doing exactly what JRTs are supoposed to do - surprise you, lull you into a false sense of security and then do exactly what it is they've been wanting to do all day - pick a fight with somone larger than they are. Classic small dog syndrome. I laughed safe in the knowlegde that that sort of thing doesn't happen to me anymore on the basis that the JRT ( Jack Russel Terrier) in our house is permanently grounded and only taken on walks or runs when there is little chance of him meeting anyone at all let alone another dog. This can be facilitated by either walking said dog in the middle of the night or else at 5am in the morning.
Back to today and my slighly, dare I say it superior feeling about my JRT Tigger. No that sort of thing would never happen to me...but pride does come before fall and I have fallen hard. Just as I was writing my witty little comment ( I can dream people, I can dream and I can also expand the truth a little too) I heard a cacophony of barking, the postman had arrived. Every day we go through the same ritual. Post van drives up drive, Tigger goes bonkers and looks a little like Krull as he squashes his head against the kitchen window trying to bite the poor postman. We all laugh and indulge his little whims safe in the knowledge that he cannot get out. Sometimes I have noted the postman teases the dog a bit by deliberatley slowing his pace and waving the post about - bad move. Tigger has a long and ferocious memory even if he cannot see all that well anymore.
Everything should have been all right, the postman should have slotted post through the door into the wire cage and returned to the van, got in and driven away.
But today, Bog Boy decided he'd help Mummy who was workign upstairs. He opened the door...
Tigger got out! I only saw it from the corner of my eye as my office window overlooks the back door. There was a horrendous barking and growling. The whippets took up the challenge and shot downstairs too woofing, I shot after them, didn't bother to put on shoes. There was shouting asnd growling and what seemed to my ears like somthing being dragged over the gravel - Oh please God! NO!! Not the Postman!!!
I bolted out the door slamming it shut on three demented whippets who then bounced up and down barking more ferociously than ever trying to get a better look out the glass panels on the back door.
It was a horrible sight, schadenfreude always is, with the Postman ineffectually batting at the terrier who kept leaping up at him trying to get a better purchase on the his shorts. I saw the dog make contact and the postman whizz him round all four feet off the ground. As he turned I lunged at the dog, grabbing him and in the process nearly pulling the poor Postman's shorts off. I have never had to apologise more profusley and so fast. Mortification was NOT the word. I HATE Jack Russels, I really do!
Needless to say Tigger went back into the house well satisfied with the day's work while Bog Boy round eyed handed me today's post. "Can we do that again tomorrow?"

Thursday 12 August 2010

A Fat Cat

A Fat Cat: Alice 2010
Fat Cat has never really moved about much, so it wasn't all that surprising that on Saturday morning she did not move. What was surprising is that the only time the Fat Cat ever deigned to move was when it involved food, so all things being equal she should have moved on Saturday morning to eat her food.
But perhaps she was eating.
Just not here on earth.
Fat Cat was born immovable, I'd like to say she was Sphynx-like but she never had that gravitas or mystery.
When I first saw her as a kitten in 1996 she was sitting with her front paws curled beneath her close to a radiator. In the whole twenty minute visitation she refused to move. Her litter sister Agatha was moving everywhere in fact she skittered around the corner with all her fur on end and has been skittering ever since. Fat Cat whose name was Slack Alice never skittered, she padded. In fact if she padded far she would have to lie down for a rest before she'd gone more than 20 yards.
She was a considered cat and I loved her for it because as well as being a Fat Cat she was also a Lap Cat. I loved having her sit there while I watched TV, feeling her throbbing purr beneath my hands as I stroked her. I'm going to miss that terribly.
She and her sister were bought by me for my 30th Birthday. I felt that as I was now officially over the hill and boyfriendless I might as well embrace my forthcomoing spinsterhood with good grace and get some cats to complete the picture.
Unfortunately my cheque bounced and after their breeder tracked me down to my work abode and harangued me on the street for fleecing her, it was my boss who actually paid for them. He stumped up the £300 quid and I paid him back in installements with interest. I called them the most expensive pussies in London and that's saying something as I worked just off Soho.
Fat Cat certainly pushed hard on her requisite nine lives. getting stuck under floor boards, eating a ball of wool (luckily I saw the end and was able to pull it from her mouth, I kid you not! I was stunned by how much she ate and how it all came out . Needless to say I used the episode as an excuse not to learn how to knit...). Then there was the time she got outside, now I know cats  should always go outside but Alice was an urban cat and not used to grass. She much preferred concrete or tarmac. When we moved to the countryside she took a stroll outside and just thought it was awful beating a hasty retreat indoors. Even though I always left doors and windows open she never went outside if she could help it. But  one day she felt brave and decided to follow the path outside the front door, down to the gate, along the drive until she got to the middle of the road where finding a nice sunny spot she lay down for a sunbathe and dust bath. We found her rolling around quite unpreturbed by the traffic slowly passing her by. She was quite relieved to see me and proceeded to miaow at me with great feeling. I think that was the most active I ever saw her. I also think she felt that the whole episode only confirmed what she already knew, the great outdoors is vastly overated!

Slack Alice aka Fat Cat
June 1 1996 - August 7 2010

Wednesday 11 August 2010

What;'s the worst that can happen?

Imagine the worst thing that can happen when you are asked to look after a friend’s pets while they go away on holiday, and then double it.
My best mate J has had the most terrible time recently. You see we went away for two weeks and left him in charge of the house, the dogs, the chickens and the cats.
Now J has done this loads of times, and in the past has had some near misses. Like the time when I phoned him up to say Hi and check up on the builders who were busy converting the attic and putting on a new roof. At the end of the conversation I casually asked how he was doing with the cats.
“Oh they’re fine,” he said cheerfully before asking after my holiday and when we were coming home etc.
Little did I realise that as I was speaking to him on the phone, he and the builders were desperately trying to locate my Siamese cats from between the floor joists where they had managed to get stuck. Everyone could hear them but just could not locate them. The hunt involved taking up the newly laid carpet and ripping up floorboards in several rooms. Needless to say when we got home there was no evidence that anything untoward had ever happened at all and it wasn’t until a few years later that J confessed over a particularly boozy supper.
Over the years poor J has dealt with the would be kamikaze cats, the toothbrush eating whippet, the subterranean Jack Russell and builders en-masse: 15 of them to be exact and never once did he forget their individual tea and coffee orders. By the way he also had to run his own workshop to make a living.
However, this time I think he took the biscuit.
For as well as agreeing to keep an eye on the EBJ (the wickedest whippet it the world) and be of assistance when she was to be mated, (I know, I ask a lot, but there is only a small window of opportunity on this and as luck would have it the whole thing sort of landed up on J’s plate, he said he didn’t mind as long as he didn’t have to get hands on or anything!) he also had to look after my elderly Siamese cats, Agatha and Alice aka Fat Cat.
Having acted as Dog Pimp and got through that ordeal J was on the last few hours of his watch and nothing untoward had happened. It should have been a coast all the way home so to speak.
He knew we would be back after lunch and then he could finally go home and relax.
So that morning he bounces down the stairs, lets the dogs out, puts the food out for the cats, does he chickens comes in for a cup of tea, lifts the small cat, Agatha, onto the table so she can eat in peace away from teh dogs, notices the Fat Cat has not moved, goes over to lift her onto the table for breakfast and then realizes that something is very, very, wrong.
The Fat Cat is always the first to demand food, the Fat Cat is called Fat Cat because that is what she is and to be a Fat Cat means you are particularly food orientated. Missing breakfast is NOT an option, not when you have a reputation at stake.
As soon as J touched Fat Cat there was not a shadow of a doubt what had happened. She had died peacefully in her sleep curled up on a chair.
For J the event must have been the worst nightmare ever.
I mean only a few hours…
Now what would you do?
Option 1) ‘Fess up and as well as having Dog Pimp on your CV add Cat Killer
Option 2) Pretend you hadn’t noticed and leave said cat to be “discovered”
Well J is my friend and I would not have blamed him for going for Option 2 but he didn’t and although I was very sad about FAt Cat, and I will post about her later, I couldn’t help but see the funny side. Poor J. I think that really is the worst thing that can happen on your watch!

Tuesday 10 August 2010

The Choice...

Sometimes when you have been away it seems like forever and the return to reality is surreal. It takes a while to get grounded again or should I say ground down? I don’t think I will though for far too much has happened.
I’ve been worriting as they say round here, about me, about my life and about how I am not quite satisfied with it. About the lonliness and the lovelessness. And I’ve had a while to think and  to talk with the important people in my life – my family.
I was ready to leave, pack up and just go, run away if you like and do something, anything else. I wanted to stop being a wife, a mother and try to regain being me but when the crunch came, even though I had the tacit support of my parents and sister; I could not do it.
The bonds of love were too strong, even for me.
The love I have for my boys was obvious, although probably not always to them and then there was the love I have for my husband. I thought it had all gone, dried up as dust. I thought: what was the point?
But I was so, so wrong.
There was something there and it was worth fighting for. We talked. Well initially we fought. I swore I would go and I packed up and got everything in the car. I walked down to the beach to give him the key of the Caravan and without turning back for  a last look at him and the boys walked the quarter of a mile back to the car and it dawned on me, as I sat in there, ready to drive off, that this really was IT.
I stalled.
I called my sister.
I asked for her support. Not to take sides but just to be there. And in not so many words I asked what I should do. She didn’t tell me but she did spell out my options.
Leave, stay or talk it through.
I said what was the point in talking it through again, nothing would change. She was silent at the other end of the line and it dawned on me: I was facing the biggest choice in my life. A decision that only I could take. Nothing would be lost at this stage by talking it through except some pride on my behalf. And let’s be honest what’s a bit of pride in the great context of the irrevocable decision I was about to take.
A little more time.
One more try.
So I swallowed my pride, I raised my chin and sighed; “Here I go again.”
They found me waiting in the car, the boys were thrilled I was still there, my husband a tad more wary but perhaps relieved as well.
And we talked.
I was still going to leave. I needed time on my own. Time without him.
He said he’d go, if that was what I wanted.
No, I’d go. He got to see the children so little, it would not be fair if he went.
And I didn’t want him to go. I wanted him to understand.
Wanted everything to stop and when I restarted it all, for everything to be right again.
We talked. And talked. About everything and nothing.
We slept.
We got up and talked some more.
The Boy said: Which one of you is leaving?
We looked at each other, gauging each other, weighing up the enormity of the plea. And it was my decision.
None of us I said.

Go on you know you want to...


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