Sunday, 30 January 2011

I ♥ U TK Maxx

If there's one shop that can tempt me out of my self-imposed shopping ban it's TK Maxx. I've already explained here about my proclivity to spend on multiples of items and my obsessions with things - sports gear (which has now almost all been sold on eBay - update coming tomorrow); shoes; photo frames; and handbags all are, or have been 'must-haves' in the past. And there is nowhere I like better to buy them than TK Maxx. We're lucky to have a very big branch spread over three storeys in the city where I live.

I was in the city last week doing a mystery shopping job and just couldn't help having a quick skeg at the sale. Oh, the jewel-coloured handbags! Red, all shades of blue, shiny patent leather, animal skins and that delicious real leather smell!

But I have so many handbags that even I know that I shouldn't buy any more. All my favourites have come from TK Maxx - the one I love most of all is lime green woven leather and cost me £100. As you can imagine I get a lot of use out of that one. The handbag gene continues in Red. At 15 she used her birthday money to buy a £100 Betsey Johnson bag from TK Maxx and now it's thrown in her room, unused and unloved.

I also adore photo frames...we have a very big hall, stairs and landing that is covered with family photos. All family life is there, and many generations too. I use Photoshop a lot to repair old photos that have been ripped or faded and it's great to have those memories 'as new'. A lot of my frames come from eBay but just as many are from...yup, you guessed it, TK Maxx. There were some really pretty ones there but I resisted.

What I didn't do was resist temptation entirely...but I did only spend £3 - an absolute miracle for me. I bought a sweet cow money box that displays how much you've put in. Big Man bought me one a couple Christmases ago but as a result of putting coins in the slot too quickly it stopped adding up. I save copper in a cat, fivepenny bits in a fish and now twenty pences in the cow. I also bought a tin of numerals for cutting out pastry or moulding icing. A steal at 30p I thought, but when I got home I realised that 7,8 and 9 are missing. I'll have to work round that ;P! Then for 70p I bought a pack of 12 lacy cupcake wrappers. Red is 21 next Saturday so I shall wrap the homemade cupcakes that'll have 21 on top, cut with my numerals. Not bad eh? My TK Maxx addiction temporarily sated in a way both cheap AND useful.

Might there be hope for me yet?

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Telling Porkies

I had been planning to blog about Toad in the Hole tonight but that will have to wait until I have a new charger for my camera. Instead, after reading a very interesting article in the paper today I thought I'd write about something that really irks me (yes, something else). Water in bacon.

Normally I'm no foodie - to me an egg is an egg; a chicken is a chicken and bread is bread. Unless it's Tesco Value bread in which case it's dampish bog roll. But one thing I am quite discerning about is bacon. Me and Big Man love a bacon and Stilton bagel for Sunday brunch, which is okay because I grill it. But when I'm making a Bacon and Egg Flan and 'brown' (ha ha, as if!) the bacon in a frying pan first I end up almost boiling it in all the water that comes out. What's all that about? I have a couple of cookery books that I use that have recipes from WWII - 'We'll Eat Again'; 'Post War Kitchen'; and 'The Victory Cook Book'. They quite often tell you to fry some bacon and use the fat that comes out of it to fry other stuff in. You couldn't do that nowadays.

So this article, based on Which? findings, was about the amount of water that different stores pump into the bacon that they sell. It said that when the amount is over a certain percentage it should, by law, be listed as an ingredient. In the list given in the paper, Morrisons had both the highest AND the lowest % of added water - their Sizzlers Rindless Unsmoked Back had 13% (!!!!) but their Value Rindless Back only had 3%. Waitrose had the second highest - Essential Unsmoked British Back had 12%. Lidl had the second lowest - their Medalisk has 5% water.
Now, maybe the paper only printed the most extreme examples but it bears out something I discovered last time I made a Bacon and Egg Flan. I had gone to Morrisons with Big Man because he wanted to try some wine his dad Patsy had recommended and I bought some own-brand value bacon ends, just to show willing. You know, the cooking bacon mis-shapes? Well, it was the most delicious bacon I've had in years...thick chunky pieces; not slimy at all like a lot of bacon - quite a dry feel; and when I fried it off, no water came out at all. That was maybe 500g for just over £1. Bargain. I've still got half of it in the freezer, that I am guarding like a miser. All the time I've bought expensive bacon and been disappointed when I could have been spending a pittance at Morrisons and snarfing down delicious non-watery pig. I've been a fool!!!

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

True? If You Say So.....

Anyone who has read my ramblings so far will know that a) I like films, and b) we have a Date Night here once a week where we see a movie, sometimes eat out but always have a little sweet treat to go with it. Tonight it was The King's Speech, the multi-Oscar -nominated Colin Firth film, with Butterkist popcorn. We'd had free tickets to see it right at the start of the year but didn't go for one reason or another and then every time we saw it advertised I kept saying 'Oh, I wish we'd gone to see it when we had the chance'. So this evening we saw it.

This is clearly the Royals as America sees them, despite it being a British film. All cuddly and warm-heartedly egalitarian beneath their stiff upper lips. I can go with it being a true story in as much as King George VI, the Queen Mother (as she became) et al really existed but I'd say that's probably all that's true about it. Some of the scenes between Colin Firth as Bertie, and Geoffrey Rush as his speech therapist were just cringe-making. I'd go so far as to say ludicrous in fact. That's not to say that the performances aren't splendid - they are (despite Helena Bonham-Carter's teeth being far too good for her to really pass as the Queen Mother). It's just that the whole thing is Royalty Lite - Royalty how silly people might like to think they are. Just like us underneath. Well d'oh. For one thing we all know that you can't put a hand on any of them - remember the uproar a few years back when the Prime Minister of Australia, or maybe Canada, put his hand on the Queen's back to usher her along? If they're like that now, what were they like in the 30s?

No, I'm sorry King's Speech. You've disappointed me deeply. Epic fail, as Mr Charming would say. And don't expect too many Oscars....the accents are all wrong.

Monday, 24 January 2011

In Which I Am Shocked To The Core..

Today I had to go to the city centre, on my own, to do a quick mystery shop. The thing about being on your own is that you don't have somebody else yatting in your ear and so as well as people watching you can also people listen. What I heard was NOT very pleasant. Not gory details about folks' lives or stuff like that, but the language. Absolutely dreadful. I feel about 80 just saying it, but all sorts of people were walking along effing and blinding, just in conversation , as naturally as breathing. A lot, but not all, were teenage/20s kinds but some were older. And also, mainly females. Just outside the big shopping centre I stopped to look in a window and I heard a girl's voice say '.....the f****g area has really gone f*****g down since that c*** moved in'. When I looked round she was maybe 23, done up to the nines, clearly lacking any self-awareness, talking to a bloke maybe the same age who was nodding sagely. I heard young mums talking to their babies and toddlers like that and men talking in that way to their wives.
Now, I'm no shrinking violet. I've worked in a lot of pubs; I'm married to an ex-matelot; I've taught teenage boys; and I was born and lived for a good while in a particularly malignant Northern city, so it's not like I don't know what cussing is. But why such an upsurge in it? And why are girls so foul-mouthed? Am I wrong to think that females should be the gentler sex?

I really don't know whether it's a general hardening or coarsening of society. I sure don't know how it can be stopped. But I know I don't *!/?$*!%* like it.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Eat, Drink and Feel Yucky

One of the ways I have of making money is as a Mystery Shopper - or as my mum calls it, 'your spying work'. I've been doing it regularly for about two years now and although it's never gonna make me a millionaire it's steady, can be interesting and keeps my deviousness skills up to scratch. It's ideal work for someone who likes to act.
It isn't always shopping per se - sometimes it's a visit to a travel agency to ask about a holiday, or calling into a bank to check out their customer service. I'd say you're only buying something 50% of the time. One of the companies I work for has a lot of pubs on its books; a specific chain that serves food. Today I went with Big Man and Carb Addict to a local we'd always avoided if truth be told, on account of it looking a bit unwholesome. Carb Addict was distressed because I had told him that we would be going for a pub lunch straight after he'd seen 'Tangled'. What I should have said was 'cinema, HOME, pub lunch'. When Big Man drove home to collect me instead of going to a pub it all kicked off. You have to be so, SO specific with autists - even after 17 years I don't always get it right.

Anyway, we got to the pub and, well it wasn't exactly like the scene in 'An American Werewolf in London' where they go into The Slaughtered Lamb and everyone stops talking, but not much different. The barmaid was friendly enough and I ordered our food and drinks, which seemed pretty cheap. For this job I am only getting reimbursed for the meals, there's no fee for doing the job as such, and because there were three of us the reimbursement won't cover what we spent.
Our food arrived quickly enough and didn't look TOO bad but I'm sorry to say it was just horrible. I had ordered a Bacon and Cheese Burger and the chef blotted his copy book right from the start by leaving the rind on the bacon (eugh, turns my stomach). The burger I think could have been horse meat and the chips were all those little thin, sharp end bits that don't have any potato in them hardly. Big Man chose the Sunday Roast and the beef (I use the term loosely) was the kind of reconstituted meat that's been pressed into a shape then sliced. The giant Yorkshire Pud it was in was soggy and the veggies had come from freezer to plate via the microwave. Carb Addict had Fish and Chips but it's hard to know what he thought seeing as he doesn't talk. He ate it all up but then he's not known for his discerning palate. Nor is Big Man known as a gourmand but even he labelled it 'gopping'. We decided against coffee and dessert and beat it.

We've eaten at other pubs in this chain before (only on mystery shops though) and have liked the food, even though it's the same menu that's served across the chain. It just goes to show the correlation between how a place looks and the ambiance, and what kind of grub they dish up. This pub was a real regulars place, a sports bar really - no women drinkers; lots of footie memorabilia around, and absolutely dire food. Others that are maybe bigger and rely more on passing trade and less on locals seem to take greater care with their food. They have to try harder and I guess the pub today didn't want to try at all. D- I'm afraid.

Friday, 21 January 2011

There Was A Little Girl And She Had A Little Curl.....

.....then she grew into a big girl and gots lots and lots more curls that turned into a mass of frizz whenever the air was a little bit damp. This made the big girl very unhappy.

Then again, she had been unhappy as a little girl with only a little curl. Well, no curl actually.

The unhappy big girl with all the curls hates having curly hair WITH A PASSION. She believes that girls with straight hair who wish for curly hair must need their heads testing. She does, however, appreciate not having thin hair. The curly-haired big girl has very thick hair (described as being like 'tarry rope' by one hairdresser) that takes a long, long time to dry, and to straighten and in fact the curly-haired big girl's right arm is considerably more muscular than the arm that doesn't wield the hair brush when blow-drying.

On the left, rocking the Bettie Page bangs before any of these burlesque girlies, Keshling displays the 'no teeth and beginnings of a camel-toe' look. Thanks Mum. Not that she knocked my teeth out or anything, but she was responsible for the haircut and homemade hot pants. 

Now, the curly-haired knows that there are worse things in the world than having thick, curly hair. There are worse things even than having thick, frizzy hair. But the curly-haired girl didn't have curly hair until she had her first baby, the straight-haired girl known as Red. How is that right? How is that fair? Why did motherhood have to mean 'Goodbye thick, glossy, straight hair....Hello, dry, grey, ball of ringletty frizz'? Little wonder that the curly-haired girl feels duty-bound to spend quite a bit of money on having her troublesome hair dyed, streaked, straightened and teased to within an inch of its life! And oh, the crying and wailing if it rains the following day, or worse still, ON THE WAY HOME FROM THE SALON!!!!!
The curly-haired big girl is sometimes driven to think mean thoughts when she sees young girls with flowing, straight, glossy hair, or young girls who have casually swept their straight, glossy hair into a clip so it looks like a feathery ponytail. In those moments the curly-haired big girl thinks 'You're riding high now lady, but ..cometh the push-chair, cometh the frizz'. And the curly-haired big girl doesn't feel a bit bad. Or horrid.
She gives a secret smile.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Date Night

We decided that one night a week would be a date night where we have a nice dinner, get out a dvd that we haven't watched before (believe me, there are quite a few of those since I Don't Know When To Stop), open a pack of sweets and cuddle up on the sofa. So far we've watched The Departed (great movie) and National Treasure 2 (Nicolas Cage hamming it up as only he can do). Tonight we had free tickets for a preview of 'Morning Glory' so we decided to make an evening of it by using a voucher for Prezzo restaurant, courtesy of MSE.
The food was delicious (the offer was 'buy one main at full price, get the second for £1') and the film was far better than I was expecting it to be. It stars Harrison Ford, Diane Keaton and Rachel McAdams and is set in a breakfast TV studio. It's fun right from the start, there are some real laugh out loud moments and it has a happy ending too. Harrison Ford is finally playing someone his real age and is all the better for it, though I do love him as Indiana Jones too! If you get a chance to see it I promise you'll enjoy it.
I decided that I would see as many free movies as I can this year and so I am seeing one on Sunday morning - 'Barney's Version' and at the same time Big Man is taking Carb Addict to see 'Tangled' at a different cinema. Yes, Carb Addict is a 17 year old chap and yes, 'Tangled' is a girly Disney cartoon based on the fairy story Rapunzel, but there's no accounting for (autistic) taste. I just wonder how he's gonna get on with the 3D glasses!

Monday, 17 January 2011

Sloppy Joes

This is a really tasty recipe that I like to make when I've got some beef mince and bread cakes. Tonight I also made some homemade cheesy nachos.


750g beef mince
1 onion, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped (I use red peppers from a jar, from 99p Stores)
170g tin of tomato puree (get a tin, not a tube, it's cheaper)
250ml water
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1T chili powder
1t each of paprika, cumin, dried oregano and distilled white vinegar
3T brown sugar
1/2t each salt and ground black pepper

In a large frying pan over medium-high heat saute the beef for 5 minutes. Add the onion and red pepper; saute for 5 more minutes or until onion is tender. Drain the fat.
Mix in tomato puree and water, stirring until the puree is dissolved. Stir in garlic, chili powder, paprika, cumin, vinegar, brown sugar, oregano, salt and pepper. Continue to heat for 5 to 10 minutes, or until mixture is thick and stewy.
Split open bread cakes (bread buns, cobs, whatever you call 'em in your neck of the woods) and pile the Sloppy Joe mixture inside. We just have one each and this amount feeds four. Yum yum yum!!!

I also made some cheesy nachos to go with it. Put one pack of Morrisons Value Tortilla Chips onto a baking tray; tip half a jar of salsa over the chips; grate some Cheddar on top. Put into the oven - I have a fan oven that cooks and grills at the same time but really you can just grill them until the cheese is getting all nice and melty. Don't leave them in too long because the chips can burn really quickly.

Most delicious!!!!

OMG, Is That Really Me???

Have you ever had a photograph taken where you look so utterly, totally repulsive that you want to first scream at those closest to you 'Why have you let me walk around with this head on??' then go to the knife drawer and slit your own throat? I had such a photograph taken yesterday.

You might remember that I wrote about the Census job and that I had to send in some ID and a photo. I went to Timpsons, the cobblers, because they now take passport photos. The chap was very chatty but I should have realised something was up when he went quiet and asked if the photos were for a passport. When I said no he told me that he would let me have them for nothing (a saving of £5.99 - yay!) because something was wrong with one of them. One of them!!! He obviously felt sorry for me because I nearly fainted when I saw them. For some reason I look like a cross between Quasimodo in Beauty and the Beast, and Gordon Ramsay post-hair transplant. It looks like somebody has punched me in the face. I mean, I've had some late nights recently but you could fit Posh Spice's luggage in the bags under my eyes. I look completely heinous, just bloated and....yuk. I can't imagine what they'll think at the Census office when they get my photo - probably worried that I'll scare small children and animals.

Big Man, in a rare diplomatic moment said 'you've taken better photos'. And that's the thing, isn't it? One bad photo (or six small ones in this case) can shake your entire perception of yourself. I thought I was a fairly innocuous-looking middle-aged woman with problem hair, who could do to lose a few pounds but who basically scrubs up well. Now I realise that I actually look like someone whose picture appears in Psychiatry manuals above the legend 'Mad Eyed Screamer'. I can't even be happy about saving £6.

This calls for drastic action.

Saturday, 15 January 2011


Browsing in Lidl today I came across an unusual item. A 'Multifunctional Bra'. It got me wondering, what else would you use it for, other than an 'over the shoulder boulder holder' as Big Man so charmingly puts it? Ear warmers? A sling for stones the next time you have to fight a giant? To carry a couple of grapefruit home from the market, thereby reducing plastic bag usage?

When you own a multifunctional bra you are limited only by your imagination!


Do you know what Schadenfreude is?

It's defined as 'a malicious satisfaction obtained from the misfortunes of others'. Did you even know there's a word for that? Would you think badly of me if I told you I had that very feeling yesterday?!

If there's one thing that's guaranteed to get me rolling my eyes and tutting it's people riding bikes on the pavement. And by people I really mean teenage boys and men up to about 35. Because it's never middle-aged women or mothers with a tagalong on the back of their bike. Oh no, it's males who are quite capable of riding on the road but they won't because they want to persecute pedestrians by weaving in and out then speeding up madly. Why do they do it? I suppose these people are just cocking a snook at society - they want to do whatever they like and balls to everyone else. I didn't bring my kids up like that but obviously a lot of parents did. Years ago, when policemen walked the streets, they always pulled people up for riding on the pavement but now, well it's just another thing, like talking on your mobile whilst driving, that's against the law but isn't enforced. Where I live the pavements are pretty wide and there are always big boys riding on them, despite notices up that say it's a pedestrian area and that there is a spot fine of £30 if you are caught. Well, many's the time I've seen PCSOs walking along and they don't stop these idiots which makes the signs, and the fines, a complete waste of time. However, malefactors are not always punished by law..........

Whilst standing at bus stop yesterday a studenty type of chap, about Mr Charming's age came flying along on his bike. The wide pavement was greasy and wet with rain....he lost concentration for a minute....the front wheel skidded...he went crashing to the ground and slid along on his can picture the rest. I had a split second of Schadenfreude...and then Mum-mode took over and I went over to help him up, check he was okay, pick his belongings up and help with his bike.

Not such a mean Keshling after all.

PS. He then got back on his bike and rode off..on the pavement.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Sympathy For The Devil?

Maybe it's because I'm the ma of two lads the same sort of age but I can't help feeling a pang of sympathy for tuition fees protestor Edward Woollard and his mum. Yes, I know what he did was highly dangerous, thoughtless and stupid but come on, two and a half years in prison? He deserves to be punished, that's true, but I do think he's been made an example of. Probably because it's highly unlikely that the police will ever catch any of the ringleaders - the rent-a-mob who will 'protest' against anything and just want to cause chaos.

I've been at gigs where you totally feel at one with the band, the music and everyone around you so I can understand how people can get carried away and do things totally out of character, and maybe that's what happened with this boy. A moment of madness. But the person I really feel for is his mum, who thought she was doing the right thing by making him hand himself in. She looked absolutely shell-shocked as she left the court house. Whatever she and the rest of his family were expecting I can't believe it was that he'd get a 32 month sentence. I don't believe any credit was given for his guilty plea, his age or his previous good behaviour. It just seems wrong to me, that he's been made a scapegoat. I would hope that there might be an appeal against the length of his sentence.

I think I know what kind of person Edward Woollard is. I taught at all-boys secondary school. It wasn't a good experience. A lot of the boys were total gurriers - obnoxious, uncouth, violent, the kind of boys you would expect to read about in the local paper's Court File once they left school. Well, I have read in the paper about two ex-students who ended up in prison - one for a motoring offence where someone was killed; one for an arms and drugs offence. I was shocked to the core that these two boys had ended up in trouble. They were both quiet, polite, good-natured boys who didn't give any trouble. Both were on the periphery of the 'bad lads' gangs....I guess both wanted to be 'gangsta'. They were easily led, weak-willed and silly. I think that's what Edward Woollard is like.

Heaven knows it's hard to bring kids up nowadays, teaching them right from wrong, trying to lead by example. I commend Tania Garwood, his mum, for encouraging Edward to hand himself in to the police. But you have to wonder how she feels about that tonight.

What would YOU do?

Ever Feel Like Giving Yourself A Good Slap?

Well, do ya?

I applied for a job with the Census 2011 people because I want the extra money - I'm planning to take some time off from my regular job to do it in April. I got through the first part, the form filling bit. Then I got through to the telephone interview and that was all fine. So far so good. I got an email shortly afterwards with a conditional offer of work. Hurrah! That was on December 14. This evening I was going through my emails deleting all the old crap when I came across the job offer. I started reading it again because I had seen on MSE that some people had been for their classroom session and I was wondering why I'd heard nothing from the census people. Reading further than the bit that mentioned 'conditional offer' (something I failed to do the first time round) I was aghast to see that I was supposed to send copies of ID and a photo WITHIN A WEEK OF RECEIVING THE EMAIL!!!!!!! The email dated 14 December!!!

There's nothing I can do about it tonight, clearly, so I will have to ring tomorrow and, although I know it's wrong, pretend that I sent the stuff in time and am wondering why I haven't heard anything from them. I know, I know, it's very bad and my tongue will turn black for telling a lie, but I need to get the job and make some extra money. What's more to the point is why do I sabotage myself by not paying attention to things and being such a procrastinator? What is wrong with me that I can't concentrate on things that are really important and that matter? Do I have some kind of inbuilt self-destruct switch? Or is it like Homer Simpson says 'Every time I learn something new something old falls out of my brain'? Am I really that dim? I'm starting to think I probably am.

In which case I need a good slap.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Where I Confess That I Don't Know When To Stop

One of the reasons I started blogging was to have a record of my money-saving / debt-paying journey. It didn't surprise me but it did sadden me when I finally wrote down exactly how much Big Man and I owe. £44,500. A big chunk of it is a personal guarantee Big Man gave when he started a business...the business went bust last year with an overdraft of £17000+ which, with interest is now £18600 and which Big Man is personally liable for. We also have credit card debts that arose when we were trying to keep the business afloat. Although they're in Big Man's name alone I wouldn't be much of a person if I stood by and watched him fall so this year (and I suspect many years to come) is all about income streams. With this in mind I have started eBaying again but this time selling, not buying. Looking for things to sell illustrated how I got to this state...very little money to spare, some months living a real hand-to-mouth existence and always trying to hide how hard-up we really are. Here's just one example of my folly.

A couple of years ago I started running and naturally bought some running shoes and some running tights. And more running tights. Name brand exercise gear. T-shirts just for the gym. Heart rate monitor. Exercise ball. DVDs. Yoga mat and blocks. Hand weights. More running tights. More exercise gear. Do you see the buying habits of an addictive personality emerging? Having read on MSE that January is a good time to sell exercise equipment I decided to look out anything sport-related that I might be able to sell. I found about 25 items of exercise clothing ALONE, half of which are still complete with labels, the rest of which have been worn a couple of times and are in pristine condition. This is what I always do...I get a new hobby or interest and go totally over the top, buying anything and everything that's remotely relevant. And I come from a family of people who do the exact same thing. Then we find a new hobby and all the 'old' stuff is discarded. I no longer run.

Of course I'm going to eBay the exercise gear but what was I thinking of, buying more and more stuff in the first place? I think a kind of mania can come over some people, I'm one for sure, where you just don't know when to stop. If you're looking on eBay (my biggest downfall) and you see things that only cost a few quid it's so easy to buy 3 or 4 or 5 items without factoring in the postage. You just think of the thrill of getting a parcel. And then put it in the cupboard and forget it.

This is going to be the year when all that stops. I have to change my ways because the last thing I want is to still be living like this when I'm 50, 60, 70. I know it's going to take longer than 365 days but every journey starts with a single step (or something like that). Writing this stuff down is my first step.

" My name's Keshling and I'm an addict....."

"The (wo)man who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones"
-William Faulkner

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Adieu My Young Bucko....Howdy Ranchero Pie

Mr Charming went back to uni today which means that it's just me and Big Man Monday to Friday with Carb Addict at the weekends. It wasn't a very willing departure - Mr Charming hasn't been very well and would rather have stayed at home than return to the wilds of Cornwall. He's only just finished his first term and if he already doesn't want to go back it's a bit worrying. Still, he'll be fine when he gets there...that was my mum's answer whenever me or my sister were unwell and wanting a day off school. 'You'll be fine when you get there'. Once you'd made it to school what choice did you have? There was none of this being sent home ill when I was a lass!
This is one of Mr Charming's favourite dinners...I made it for him last night.


500g minced pork
tin of beans
tin of chilli beans in chilli sauce (or a second tin of beans and some chilli powder)
hot sauce to taste
salt and pepper
1 onion, chopped
splash of oil
about 6 medium sized potatoes
grated Cheddar from a piece about 75g

Start by peeling your spuds and boiling in salty water. Whilst they are boiling away gently fry the onion in the oil until it is just see through and softened. Add the minced pork and fry that off until the pinkness has gone. Chop at it as you're frying or it'll stay in big lumps and you don't want that. Then add the tin of beans and the tin of chilli beans (or second tin of beans and chilli powder). Season and add a bit of hot sauce. This is usually by the Tabasco sauce in supermarkets but you can get different types at ethnic stores.
When the potatoes are done drain and then mash them. Add the grated Cheddar to the mashed potato and mix thoroughly. Put the mince into an ovenproof dish and spread the mash on top. Then pop it into your oven until the topping is brown. I've got a fan oven and I use 180C with the grill on at the same time. I'm not sure what the Gas Mark would be or electric oven - sorry!
You can add sweetcorn to the mince if you want but I don't bother. It's delicious without it.

Bon Appetit!!

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Doo Wop

My youngest son, Carb Addict, is 17. He's also a massive Doo Wop fan, which is quite strange for a teenager. But then he's pretty severely autistic so most things about him are strange. Unlike most teens, autistic people don't go through phases - they have lifelong obsessions and Carb Addict has been into Doo Wop for about...oooh, 14 years. Now that's just lovely by me cos I love 50s music too. I'm a 60s baby but my folks were into rock 'n' roll, none of this Beatles malarkey (though I do like a bit of Mersey Beat every now and then). So I grew up on Elvis, Jerry Lee, Little Richard....Patsy Cline was a big favourite of my dad's too. I remember as a kid craving for a pair of boots like she's wearing here.

I was struck this evening as I ironed some of Mr Charming's Slipknot t-shirts ('You cannot kill what you did not create!') by how much music has changed over the years. Yes, singers still sing about love and heartbreak and wanting to be with someone forever but nothing can beat the innocence, tenderness and sheer yearning of some of those oldies. Which is why Carb Addict, Mr Charming and Red were brought up on the sweet sounds of the Golden Age of Rock and Roll. There's something about it, maybe something mysterious and genetic that makes whoever hears it want to tap their foot or get up and jive. Or just listen and think 'I know exactly how that feels'.
So I'm happy to listen along with Carb Addict to 'The Essential Doo Wop Collection'. I can do without him playing the intro of his current favourite 50 times in a row but that's another story. See what you think of 'Mr Sandman'.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Oh, How Times Change!

I have a confession. I am a charity shop addict and I want to stand up and be counted. After a mystery shop this afternoon (that I was forced to abandon half-way through, but that's another, highly embarrassing story) I had a quick skeg in the nearby charity shops. As part of the 'New Frugality' that has hit Keshling Towers I'd made a vague resolution to avoid buying unneccesary items from charity shops but I saw this item and at 25p it was just too good and useful a bargain to pass up.

Sam Costa was a singer back in the day, wartime years I guess, who became a radio presenter on Luxemburg and Radio 2, latterly with a kind of 'Housewives Choice' show. This book is full of hints (587 of 'em) from his listeners. It was published in 1970 and it really shows how times have changed. Some of them are timeless;
340. Gas Burners..Never light the front burners on the gas stove before the back ones, or your sleeve or blouse may catch alight.
279. Carpets..Coffee stains can be removed from carpets by using a solution of sodium bicarbonate in warm water.
Others are slightly less relevant, shall we say;
416. Unwanted Woollens..Unwanted woollen jumpers and cardigans can be cut down for children, providing the cut edges are then crocheted or blanket-stitched.
Hmmmm....and there's this one;
565. Notes for Tradesmen..Notes for tradesmen, kept in an old photo frame hung on the outside wall, will not get wet or blow away. That'll be notes like 'collect my rubbish you lazy sods' would it?
My favourite, and the one which caused Mr Charming some degree of puzzlement, was;
386. Darning Socks..Use an old electric lightbulb for darning socks. 'What's darning?' asked Mr Charming (18 yrs 9 mths). Before too long we'll be saying 'What's an electric bulb?'
Oh, how times change!

PS. I see eBay has a copy of 'Sam Costa's Handy Hints' priced at £6.27....

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Rabbiting On......

One of the schemes I am trying in order to reduce our debts is using up food from the freezer and the store cupboards. I think this was discussed on the MSE Money Saving Old Style forum. I have two freezers - one in the wash house and one in the garage (a freecycled treasure). Whilst rooting through the garage freezer before Christmas I came across a jointed rabbit that had somehow slipped through the dinner net. For the last three years. (The freezer has been cleaned out during that time, just in case you think I'm a total slut - I just kept the rabbit in a perpetual cryogenic state). Anyway, the rabbit looked fine and when I defrosted it it smelled fine...a bit gamey but that's because it's well, game, right? And, dear reader.....we ate it. In a stew with cider, honey and dumplings. It was delish and I, Big Man and Mr Charming are still here to tell the tale! I've always said that 'use by' dates are just a guideline.
In other ways too today was productive. I paid a cheque into the bank which will clear a small overdraft and I can then close the account. One debt down, many to go. I was less successful when I tried to sell a prize I won in a raffle a year or so ago. It's a freshwater pearl and silver necklace that still had a price of £75 on it. I tried Cash Converters and Cash Generator but neither were interested. One said that they would give me £2.99 but to be honest I'd rather give it back to the Red Cross shop that I won it from than skulk off with £3. There's always the car boot once the warmer weather comes and the little animals gambol and caper in the fields...lambs, calves, bunnies....!!

Monday, 3 January 2011

Double Yolk Day

Today, for the first time in over 30 years of cooking meals, I broke open a double yolk egg. And do you know what, I was inordinately made up about it! That wasn't the only good thing that happened today either - I have six listings on eBay and three have bids. Now I've got to be honest here and say that two bids stand at 99p each and one is £1.25....and that the three items together initially cost me £3.98. So technically I'm not in profit yet - there are watchers though so I am ever hopeful. The third good thing is that Big Man finally seems to be warming to the idea of frugality. I have told him that there will be an amount (one that I think is pretty large) for wine in the budget. The problem has been that until now Big Man like me has wanted to be debt-free. Unlike me he hasn't been willing to give anything up. I am hoping that this is going to change from now on. It's not going to be easy but if we're doing it together it might not be quite so hard.


Sunday, 2 January 2011

Cheap Date!

Most people would think that 11:00 on a Sunday morning is an odd time to see a film that doesn't feature talking animals or cartoon baddies. But if you love movies but don't love paying cinema prices it's a great time to see previews. This morning I went with Big Man to a preview of Russell Crowe's latest film, 'The Next Three Days'. We were disappointed with the last one we saw him in, 'Robin Hood' (complete with Irish accent!!) but were really impressed with this latest offering. I knew that it was a remake of a French film, 'Pour Elle' but other than that didn't know what to expect. Well, all I can say is if you get a chance to see it then go! I'm a real drama queen at the cinema...I get so into it, gasping, hiding my face, watching through my fingers. I'm like a cavewoman would have been the first time she saw fire!!! And there were plenty of face-hiding opportunities, especially near the end. It's a great film with a great story and great acting. And best of all it was free! We got tickets from via MSE - if you subscribe to the (I think) Fantastic Freebies thread on the forum you get notified of free previews coming up. You can also join the Showfilmfirst Facebook group too and get notifications. I'm aiming to see as many free films as possible this year. I guess we could have been even more frugal if we'd walked to the cinema but that would've entailed getting up earlier and I'm not quite ready for that yet.....!