Thursday, 31 May 2012

Calzone, Il Moda Keshling

This is my version of Calzone, the mezzaluna-shaped pizza you may have eaten at Bella Pasta (other Italian pizza houses are available!). We love it in this house. My version uses some shortcuts.

Mix together 2 big packs of minced pork (the kind that are two for £6 at Tesco, ie 1.5kg) with salt and crushed black pepper, garlic granules and some oregano (a good shake). From this mix make as many teaspoon sized meatballs as you can - I got about 100 out of it. Put them in the fridge on a greaseproof paper-covered tray for an hour.
Whilst the meatballs are chilling get a big pan and put into it one tin of chopped tomatoes, a quarter of the tin of water, a jar of Aldi Calabrese Pasta Sauce and about 40g of fried onions (eg Danfood Salad Crispies). Heat it to a simmer then throw in about 30 of the wee meatballs (put the rest in the freezer!!) and a piece of chorizo sausage about 4" long, chopped into little bits. I usually buy Dulano Chorizo at Lidl - it's really good for all kinds of Continental sausage. Keep it at a simmer for about 25 minutes and you'll find that the meatballs are done thoroughly and the chorizo has added a lovely smokiness to the whole sauce. Let it cool a little.
Next take two packs of Tesco (or any!) pizza dough mix and make them up as per instructions. Knead well and divide into three (because this amount is for three adults who like their food). Roll each piece into a circle that's a bit bigger than a side plate - your dough shouldn't be too thin. Grease a large baking tray with Fry Light or whatever you have handy and starting from the left put one circle of dough on it (it's a lot easier to make the calzones up on the tray rather than try to move them when they're constructed). Put 1/3 of the meatballs and a bit of the sauce on half of the dough circle and use water to seal shut. Do your next two the same. Cover the tops with egg wash. Cook at about 200º until they look done. Plate up and cover the calzones with any remaining sauce from the pan.


I had to use somebody else's photo when mine didn't
quite work out. But mine truly looked like this!

You can also use any ready-made meatballs - my preferred type are Scan Swedish Meatballs or some that Lidl sell when they have their periodic Scandinavian Specials Week.
This cost me about £5.40 or £1.80 each.....bit more than I usually spend but soooo worth it :)

Monday, 28 May 2012

Otto Gets High

I'm not much of a gardener, being inherently idle. I like loafing around in the sun 'on the back way' as the Northerner in me says but on the whole I can't really be bothered to put any effort in. I can admire a nice garden, of course, and every so often I make a raid on B&Q or Haskins Garden Centre, spend a good few quids on stuff and sometimes I even get round to planting it.
Spurred on this evening by Big Man's jeers of 'you'll never plant it, it'll go the same way as last year's' I went into the garden, accompanied by Otto, and repotted a lavender tree, a lavender bush and two clematis that I bought the other day. Whilst I was out there I uncovered a puny catmint bush from last year. I say bush - it's more the size of one of those little scabby tinfoil-wrapped sprigs of lucky heather that tinkers thrust wheedlingly at you on a Saturday afternoon in the city centre. Otto spotted it and, despite ignoring it all last year, had a good old chew on the leaves.

Otto got high. He's currently sitting outside the back door, staring intently at the garage wall, face about 6" away from it. Typical stoned behaviour I'd say.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Are They For Real?

Freecyclers that is.

I'm in Southampton as you know and I occasionally use Freecycle Southampton to get rid of good quality items we have no more need for, aka 'shizz we don't want'. I have also put a Wanted Post up once for a piano for work which was a complete debacle and ended up costing us a stack of £££ for delivery and almost cost us for removal too until Robbie the Handyman and one of the dementia residents took an axe to it in the garden.

Not our piano - there was nothing left of that....

Today I thought I'd put up a want ad for some audio books for my residents - tapes or CDs, I don't mind. Like I said yesterday, some love stories but can no longer read themselves so I thought we'd try some out. Then I thought I'd put another want ad up for a baby buggy or pram. I bought a couple of dolls from Ikea the other day that Babcia is dressing (also for my residents) and I figured a pram to put them in would be cool. I'm not expecting great things...

I decided, whilst looking at other folks' Offered and Wants, that some people have no shame and are talking the mickey with their wants, and that others are plain weird with their offers. Offered this week are: UPRIGHT HOOVER - seems to blow as well as suck; DENTED CAR DOOR FOR WELDING PRACTICE; LAMINATOR, BROKEN. Wouldn't they all just be better off in a skip? Then there is one person offering 'DENTAL FLOSSERS - open pack of 100, 90 left. Unwrapped but unused'; and also 'TAMPAX APPLICATOR TAMPONS - couldn't get on with them, 18 left'.
Is it me or is that yuck to the max and just totally wrong?? Worst of all, when I looked an hour ago there was a 'tube of cream for cracked nipples with just a bit out of it' but that seems to have mysteriously disappeared. Are these people genuine or have I stumbled upon some kind of coded messages relating to deviant behaviour? Maybe there's a swingers party at 18, Plug Street? Perhaps it's something along the lines of a 'Men Looking For Men' ad Big Man and I stumbled across in the back of the old yellow Free Ads paper years ago - someone looking for a 'BMX boy', whatever one of those might be :S. Inquiring minds want to know.....*
On the flip side, wanters are looking for: AN OLD LAPTOP WITH INTERNET AND A WORKING USB PORT; the same person is after TWO ADULT BIKES; someone wants an AIR CONDITIONER - must be in great condition; a wheel and tyre for a LDV convoy; a Petrol Lawnmower; a hover - 'a cylinder hover with good suction would be great!'; 'WARDROBES WANTED :) We are move in a new house and need wardrobes. Anyone could deliver it for me pls! I'm very happy if its okey!'; and the cryptic 'Stare gates - may boy is barwond now so need stare gats a.s.a.p please help!'. Stare gats I get, but barwond? 
You'd have to wonder how many people get what they ask for when they are looking for high value stuff. I noticed a couple of want ads for Warhammer items (if you don't know what Warhammer is then you can't have a fantasy/Goth/alien-inclined son of a certain age). Mr Charming was mad about it at one stage and even now he's away at uni I still sometimes stand, painfully, on a little twisted creature when I'm putting clean washing in his room. (And sometimes I stand on a Warhammer figure, boom-boom!!!)

Warhammer is kind of like Barbie for boys - you need to buy the little men, then the army of little men, then all the tanks, animals, scenery; paint it's a dos expensive hobby and they can be worth a lot of money, depending on age and rarity and how well they're painted. Mr Charming inherited a stack of original stuff from my brother Jack when he was first starting out and we'd never give any of it away. A friend of Mr Charming's who used to spend so much time at our house that we considered him our fourth son, after Mr Charming, Carb Addict and Otto the cat, recently posted a picture on Facebook of a display he's made of his Warhammer figures and Mr Charming commented that his pal 'could put a deposit on a flat with what that stuff's worth'.

This is what a flat deposit looks like......

So, do you agree that want ad posters on Freecycle are mainly chancers, looking for either high-end stuff to flog, or low-end stuff that's dirt cheap to buy anyway? Are offered ad posters trying to fob their crappy old crap onto unwary saps rather than toting it to the tip themselves (can you tell I'm still bitter about the piano, the details of which I still can't bring myself to go into two months later?) Am I too after 'summat fer nowt' as they say in the North? Do you ever use Freecycle? Ever had anything good from there or successfully palmed off dross onto somebody? Got any audio books you don't want? Just asking.........;P

* whaddya mean, the Lost Boys isn't one of your favourite films, like, ever??!!

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Clever Girl

Today I was talking to a patient in our dementia unit - Heather is her name. She told me that she was born in 1914 but I think I'll have to check up on that. Heather looks like everybody's favourite grandma, all curly white hair, little glasses, pastel twinsets and a whispery voice. We got to talking about what she liked to do before she came to live with us - I asked whether she liked to read and she told me that she used to adore reading and that her mother used to tell her off, saying that she 'always had her nose in a book'. Sadly nowadays, Heather said, she can't really see well enough to read.
As we chatted further Heather told me about her schooldays. She mentioned a lecture that all the students from local (Southampton) schools went to, on the subject of the League of Nations. All of the students from the other schools had little notebooks and pencils to take notes but her Headmistress wouldn't allow that, on the basis that 'if they were note-taking they weren't listening properly' (quite right too). After the lecture all the students from the schools that attended had to write an essay based on the lecture and Heather won the prize for the best essay. She was, by all accounts, a clever girl.
In those days, Heather said, you only got one crack at what she called a scholarship but what I guess was a forerunner to an 11-plus kind of exam (but sat at 13) and on the day she was due to sit it she had an abcess on her head and couldn't go to school. The Headmistress was gutted for Heather, her star pupil.

Needless to say Heather had to leave school along with the others who had failed the exam. There was a careers meeting for each child and the Headmistress had picked out three or four places where Heather could work and still use her brain but Heather's mother said that she should go into service. She went to work at fourteen skivvying at the District Nurses Home in the city, her brain completely wasted.
I was almost in tears as Heather told me this. Her father died when she was 10 weeks old but she had three older brothers and was not only the youngest child but the only girl. I asked why she hadn't been given a chance to carry on with her studies somehow and also why the Headmistress, in her opinion, hadn't gone to see her mother and ask her to give Heather an opportunity for advancement? Heather told me that her mother was a country woman to whom it would never have occurred that her daughter might be bright enough to maybe teach or nurse; also it just wasn't the done thing for a teacher to try to persuade a parent in a different course of action - her mother would have been mortified. I was so upset that I wished I could go back in time and give her mother a good slap, never mind anything else. I also asked Heather whether she felt resentful, as she got older, that her mother had denied her the chance to make something better of herself and she told me that she did of course, but at the time children didn't ever go against their parents - what they said was the law.

It got me thinking about parents nowadays, myself included, who move heaven and earth; spend money on grinds; and ease the path of their kids any way they can to get them what they want, be it a job by pulling strings and calling in favours; or by introducing the perfect conditions for studying, taking them all over the country to view universities, kit out their room in halls and subsidise them to the nth degree (yes, I have done all of those things). We seize on that one tiny spark - a talent for athletics, football, art or algebra - and blow on the tiny ember until it produces something bigger. We nourish their gifts and put all of our efforts into easing their path through life. Sometimes it's because we want our children to have what we had; sometimes it's because we want them to have what we didn't have. As a parent I would have been mortified if a teacher had pointed out that any of my children had an aptitude for something that I had failed to spot (and nurture) myself - would that be interference in the way that an intervention from Heather's Headmistress would have been perceived all those years ago? Do you think that Heather's mother was right?
It's a sad story.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

The Bar That Time Forgot

Whilst on a mini-break in Cornwall last month Big Man, Carb Addict and I ate in The Bar That Time Forgot. I'm not going to say where exactly it was because that wouldn't be fair but if you're a Cornish maid you may well recognise MUST be unique in that part of the world, if not the whole of the UK.
We were initially enticed in by the handwritten signs advertising delicious home cooked food. Plus it was cold, rainy and we were famished after our drive from the South. Also there were others inside eating which is always a good sign in my book. When we got inside we were a little taken aback by the cheerlessness of the place....chilly, damp and staffed by a bevy of  'Prisoner: Cell Block H' lookalikes. You've probably seen the type - one had the chamois leather complexion of the confirmed smoker, with hair of a similar hue; another had the jet black hair and hatchet face of a Mafia wife; and the gang of them ranged themselves in a row in front of the bar like some kind of gender-swap 'Usual Suspects' poster. The bar itself had that genteely-decaying, horse brass-laden, faux-country pub kind of decor that always reminds me of somewhere you'd see in a WWII film - the sort of place where jolly Yank grunts are set upon verbally by a morose, lachrymose Yorkshireman whose friends tell them, "don't tha' lissen to oul' Enoch, 'is Vernon never come back from Dunkirk an 'e's not been't same since". It was only slightly less welcoming than The Slaughtered Lamb but at least people didn't stop talking when we entered....

It became apparent when we read the menu that we weren't in for a fine dining experience. Any eating place that has a section on the menu headed 'Continental Corner' that includes Lasagne (!) and Chicken Curry (!!) is clearly stuck in a time warp....don't they know that curry is officially the national dish of the UK these days? And that lasagne is the go-to ready meal for a whole generation of students, shift-workers and divorced men? The table mats still had the original telephone number on them (Cornwall 2167 or something similar) and the vinegar came in those kind of cut glass mini decanter-type receptacles. It was absolutely, unwittingly vintage. I'd say that there are places in London that spend a fortune trying to get that kind of authenticity.
Sadly the old style vibe didn't extend to the prices. Big Man had steak (which he enjoyed; Carb Addict ate all of his fish and chips but who can say what he thought of the meal - certainly not him; and I had a burger with chips but it was the kind of burger you get in Turkey or somewhere - a compressed meat patty of uncertain origin) and he asked for mayonnaise. When the bill came we were shocked, in an incredulous kinda way, to see we'd been charged 30p for the tablespoon of mayo in a tiny dish they'd sniffily brought us. I suppose if we will ask for these new-fangled condiments what can we expect? The culinary adventure cost us about £32 but on the bright side it was a source of lame jokes ('Some people are going in, let's warn them not to ask for mayo!') every time we passed it for the rest of the holiday.

Have you been there or anywhere like it?

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

In The Doghouse

Oh dear, I seem to be in the doghouse again with Red. The crime this time? It was a beautiful afternoon when I got home at four, followed shortly by the return of Big Man. Red was nowhere to be seen - gone out, according to her dad, without waiting in for the Homeserve man to come and fix our overflowing drain. She often, when she's not working, disappears at about 1pm and we might not see her until the next morning. I said to Big Man, 'let's go into the Forest for a pub meal', just on the spur of the moment and because he loves eating out and we do it rarely he jumped at the chance.
We ended up at The New Forest Hotel (I recommend it highly) and had a lovely meal and a drink. When we arrived home Red was back and on the computer downstairs. No sign of food being cooked for us, even though it was 7pm and she had no idea where we were. We might have been anywhere at all. I suppose I was a bit facetious because I'd had a sniff of the barmaid's apron (I am a total lightweight where drink is concerned), as was Big Man. It transpired that Red had indeed waited for the Homeserve man AND she hadn't left toast in the front room, something Big Man had also accused her of (oops! That was Carb Addict!). When we said we'd been for a pub meal she was furious with us, very insulting (I'm still sniggering as I'm telling you - she got madder and madder the more we laughed and when I asked her if she wanted a Twix instead she went ballistic!) and said we were selfish but in far more colourful language. But I ask you, is it selfish for two adults, parents, to go out for a pub meal and not take their 22 year old daughter, who might have been anywhere in Hampshire, with them? I felt really guilty about it actually. Should I? What would you feel like?
Later on I was reading upstairs when the door knocked and I heard Red answer it. She came upstairs and I asked who'd called but she ignored me and went into her room. Big Man told me it was the pizza delivery man.......

Monday, 7 May 2012

The Policy Of This House... that anyone feeling ill, out of sorts or generally meh goes straight to their bed.
Night night

Sunday, 6 May 2012


In my last post I described my seven hours in A&E with Chester and Barry. Chester came home to us after two days, diagnosis constipation. We kept expecting Barry 'home' for the last couple of days but when I got to work Friday Nadine called me into her office, sat me down and told me that Barry had died. She told me that Barry's brother, Maurice, had asked her to tell me on my own because he knew Barry and I were close.

I'm devastated, and disbelieving....

I can't understand how someone who can be well enough to be able to be discharged can suddenly just die. Barry was a great big bear of a man; a really good appetite (and these are two things that are very rare in care home residents); a good sense of humour; patient; very expressive, despite being unable to speak. Fair enough, this stroke he'd had previously comes with a fairly short life expectancy but he was just so...healthy and full of life. It's a tough time for all of us  - we all loved Barry. His brother and sister-in-law are ultra-supportive and this will destroy Maurice because he's lost his big brother. I'm going to offer to help them clear Barry's room, though it will be sad but I see it as doing him one last service.
Barry was 82 (which is no great age nowadays) and never married. He worked out in the open as a bricklayer for years then when the cold weather got to be too much for him he worked for the NHS here in Southampton, as a delivery man. His passions were ham radio, female singers of the 50s (Jo Stafford was a particular favourite) and old films. He was left unable to speak following his stroke and also couldn't move his right arm or leg. He could say 'yes' and this was his usual answer to any question, though his facial expression usually gave lie to that! It makes me happy to remember that Barry did actual speak, clearly and appropriately to me - once when I came back from two weeks holiday I went into his room to say hello and his face lit up. He said 'hello, how are you?'. I told Maurice about this (he would have LOVED Barry to speak to him one more time) but I was never 100% sure I hadn't imagined it. However the last time the vicar visited I took him along to Barry's room and Barry said, quite clearly, 'how are you?' so I guess he could do it after all.
Barry had a small fridge in his room where he kept his tins of cider (he liked a tipple at night) and he had a constant supply of sweets and chocolates. Because of this his teeth had almost all fallen out or gone bad and twice this year I accompanied him to the hospital to have extractions. Due to his size he needed the maximum amount of anaesthetic but he was so brave....I was the one secretly worrying - my nails left big marks in his hand where I'd been holding it so tight!When I think of Barry I think of Boxer, the brave, strong but ultimately doomed workhorse from Animal Farm.....don't know why. Sometimes I can't help but identify people I meet with characters from books or films. Is that crazy?

I'm glad that the last time I saw Barry, last Saturday at the hospital, I'd given him his dinner, held his hand, kissed him (yes, we do kiss our residents) and as he was being taken to the ward he was smiling and gave me the salute he always gave, in lieu of saying goodbye. Miss you already Barry xx

I'm not sure I can do this job.....