Oaty Cherry Crumble – a little thrifty luxury!

Cherry Crumble

During these times of austerity cooking and thrifty recipes, cheap and filling food seems to be the order of the day and luxury foods are well and truly off the menu! Something like a cherry crumble seems somewhat extravagant to say the least. So let me explain to you why this is a luxury you can afford!

One of the benefits of being retired is that there are usually only one or two mouths to feed in the house. With a bit of luck, the kids have flown the nest and are leaving you to enjoy yourselves in peace. So you aren't having to think about eeking out the food to go round a ravenous family! Which means that you can afford to splash out a little every now and again. Not all the time, but once in a while is allowed!

If you are really juggling tight budgets, then a dessert like this is ideal as not only is it gorgeously tasty, but the oaty topping using one of your breakfast porridge oat sachets fills you up too. So you can have a nice light supper, followed by a deliciously indulgent dessert and not feel like you are breaking the bank. One 300g punnet is enough for two tangy, sweet and sharp puddings. Go on – you know you want to!

Oaty Cherry crumble taken and adapted from a recipe on  creamandcrumble.blogspot.com

300g Cherries, pitted
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1 tablespoon cherry jam (or redcurrant/blackcurrant)
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon Chambord or Cherry Brandy/Cassis/fruity liquer of choice!
1 individual sachet instant porridge oats
2 – 3 tablespoons plain flour
2 dessertspoons sugar (preferably brown but whatever you have to hand)
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees centigrade
  2. Butter 2 ramekins
  3. In a small saucepan, place the pitted cherries, jam, water, caster sugar and liquer. Warm through until the jam and sugar have melted, but do not allow to boil.
  4. Divide the cherries between the two ramekins.
  5. In a seperate bowl, place the flour, oats, cinnamon and butter. Rub in until the mix resembles rubbly sand. Mix through the brown sugar, reserving a little to sprinkle over the top.
  6. Divide the crumble mix between the ramekins and tap down. Sprinkle the remaining sugar over the top.
  7. Place on a baking tray and then in the oven, for around 20 minutes, or until the crumble is golden brown and the cherry juices have oozed up around the crumble forming a fruity toffee-like shell around the nubbly flapjack-like crumble topping.
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  9. Remove from oven, allow to cool for five minutes, and serve with a scoop of ice cold ice cream to melt into it, or even better, a quenelle of clotted cream! Sure, the cholesterol content undoes all that good work from the oaty topping, but you know what they say – a little of what you fancy, eh?
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Heart failure – new hope for sufferers?

Heart

Heart

“He has such a big heart!” – it's a saying that we all view as being a positive trait, and certainly it is from an emotional point of view; but living with a physically enlarged heart is far from positive.

Scientists and the medical profession have struggled for some time with managing the issues that enlarged hearts have caused their patients. An enlarged heart causes incredible tiredness as the heart struggles to pump sufficient blood around the body, and is often the result of high blood pressure, Diabetes or dead muscle as the result of a heart attack. All of these factors can be caused or exacerbated by poor diet, and therefore it is imperative to make sure you eat a healthy, balanced diet and get plenty of exercise, at least 30 minutes aerobic exercise 5 times a week. But there are also genetic factors. The gene, osteoglycin (Ogn), has also been linked with enlarged hearts. At the other end of the spectrum, elite footballers and other athletes can also suffer with enlarged hearts. Cameroon midfielder Marc-Vivien Foe died in 2003 and an enlarged heart was implicated as a cause.

Traditionally, doctors and scientists have resorted to diet modification and drug therapy to manage those patients with enlarged hearts, but this week, a trial begins on a revolutionary new intervention that aims to actually reverse enlargement.

Surgeons at Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital and The Royal Liverpool University Hospital will be fitting a device to the vagus nerve in order to electrically stimulate the heart to protect it from the hormone adrenaline.

When the heart enlarges, it loses its ability to pump blood around the body. This causes the blood to pool in the heart and stretches the heart, which in turn aggravates the problem. the bigger the heart gets, the more it stretches, the worse the problem gets. The body, in order to combat this, releases adrenaline into the blood stream in order to make the heart work harder. But this also causes further damage.

The new technique, which uses a device similar to a pacemaker, will in theory protect the heart from the adrenaline surges, allowing the heart to shrink and reversing some of the symptoms of heart failure.

The BBC reported that Dr Jay Wright, a consultant cardiologist at Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital, said although it may never shrink back to the size it was, it would still lead to improvements. “We know the bigger the heart, the worse the symptoms”.

With over 900,000 people affected by heart failure in the UK, this represents a major step forward in the treatment of the condition.

If you suffer from heart failure or other heart problems, or know someone who does,  these sites have some really useful information:

British Heart Foundation

WebMD

NHS UK

Dr Jay Wright, Consultant Cardiologist

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The Merry Widow? Forging a future on your own…

Women Wearing Colorful Bathing Caps

It is a sad fact that as part of a marriage, or any relationship, one of you will die before the other, and it is something that neither party is very keen on acknowledging, let alone plan for, before it's too late. Widowhood at any age is difficult for a whole host of reasons, but for those who are retired, it presents a unique set of issues. The phrase 'We had so many plans…' seems to crop up in every conversation you have. Travelling together, downsizing, taking care of the grandchildren, taking up new hobbies – all of a sudden, you are left with your plans in tatters, and no real feel for what the future holds.

Pat, 69, lost her husband, Peter, 64, four years ago to cancer, and although she has come through the raw grief that follows the passing of a loved one, is still coming to terms with having to create a new future for herself. “Peter had not yet retired but was planning to do so within the next year or two. His illness came as a complete shock – you never think it's going to happen to you, and we spent a long time just coming to terms with dealing with all that cancer entailed. I never gave much thought to what life would be like once he had gone. Maybe I didn't want to.”

Pat had retired from a career in nursing, but decided to continue caring for people by taking a course in Counselling, qualifying and beginning working part-time in a youth outreach centre a few years before Peter passed. I asked her some questions about how she had coped with forging a future after her husband’s death.

Did you find having a post-retirement career a help or a burden in coming to terms with your husband's death?

“Initially, it was hard, particularly given what I do. It was my job to hear people talk about subjects such as death, and I admit I was worried with how I would cope with that aspect. Equally I worried about the days that maybe I didn't want to get out of bed. Maybe it was my training, but I was able to recognise the signs of depression and sought help quickly from my G.P. before it got out of hand. Having the responsibility of having to go in and help people, usually children, who were at the very start of their lives and suffering tremendously was a big spur in helping me get through the days. It gave me a purpose. Having colleagues who cared about me was also tremendously helpful.”

You say you sought help from your GP – can you tell us a bit more about that?

“Initially, as anyone who loses someone they cared for deeply and had spent many years with, it was very hard getting through the day. Although my children were there for me as much as they could be, there were still things that I just had to do myself, including finding the desire to carry on. Some days that was easier than others. I knew fairly quickly that I might need help to get through the initial period, mainly as I wasn't sleeping well. My GP was fantastic and gave me some light sleeping pills, and saw me regularly to keep an eye in how I was doing. I found quite quickly that once I had gotten a chance to sleep, and rest properly, I was gradually more able to cope without the medication. I think I might have found it harder if I hadn't have sought help more quickly. I would advise anyone not to leave things until they are too much to cope with.”

How did you start looking to the future?

“Well, life has this nasty habit of carrying on, doesn't it? I lost my own father when I was 16. It was a different time – nonetheless, my mother became 'The Widow' almost immediately, and was only 45 when he died. I had always said that, if that were to happen to me, I would not just give up the way she did. Besides, Peter would have been furious if I squandered the life he had worked so hard to build for us. I had to live up to my own promise to myself and b) to Peter’s memory. So I have made the effort to go on holiday, but with my children instead, and have kept working, kept going to the gym, and not turned down every invitation, even though at times I have wanted to. I'm still selective about what I attend, but at first the inclination was to hide away from the world and it took effort not to do that. It’s not always been easy, but I have to say I have not lived in misery either. You will laugh again, even if you think you never will.”

Do you think about meeting anyone else?

“Peter was the love of my life. I met him when I was 24, a year before we married, and we were married for 40 years – that’s a long time to be with someone. I cannot imagine wanting to be with anyone else at the moment – I still love Peter. But at the same time, I know he is not coming back, and that’s ok. Equally, I rather suspect that had the shoe been on the other foot, I'm not sure he would have remained single! I don't discount it, but I am wary. Peter left me well cared for financially and I am protective of that. But if I met someone and the time was right, and I felt strongly enough, I wouldn't rule it out; it’s just not top priority right now. But I would absolutely encourage anyone who finds themselves on their own at my stage in life to date again if it’s right for you.”

Dating ettiquette is very different these days – how do you think you might go about it?

“This is where keeping busy, to use the cliché, has come in handy, because I am continuing to meet new people. You never know who might walk through the door! But also, I wouldn't discount some of the dating websites aimed at my age group, or Match.com and eHarmony – I believe you can set age parameters. I think they are a great idea! I sometimes wish they had been around when I was younger – would have saved going through a few frogs before I found my prince!”

What have you found hardest?

“The usual things like holidays, learning to cook for one, taking on running the household finances (though I did a lot of it there were still some things to get used to). Probably having to do things for myself, with no-one to answer to – after 40 years of asking someone else’s opinion, it’s rather strange having to make decisions purely on my own. Sharing the little, boring things is tough too. But I added two new kittens to my cat family last year, and they are very good at listening to me ramble on or shout at the telly! I've found the reaction of some people strange. I would have thought at my time in life, you wouldn't experience the kind of discrimination younger singletons apparently suffer – not being invited to dinner parties in case you make a move on the hostess' husband – it’s surprising how many women think you are husband-hunting! I have found my social circle has become my single and widowed female friends just to avoid those situations. But it’s not all bad being a widow, either!”

No?

“No! Peter hated me reading into the wee small hours at night – now I don't have to worry! I also hated fish, but used to have to cook it for him because he loved it. He was a huge barbershop fan, which I hated, and was in a chorus and a quartet. He sang at least twice a week. Now I don't have to go to barbershop events to give him moral support – believe me, that’s a huge plus! I suppose it's about accentuating the positive. Would I rather go to a barbershop event and have him back? Of course I would. But that’s not going to happen, and I am not about to give up on life. I have a teenage grand-daughter who is about to have her prom and a brand new grandson – imagine if I had given up and never seen my grandson? That would have been two grandparents he had never have known. I feel I owe it to Peter too. Seeing my children and grandchildren live their lives makes me so happy – I see Peter in each of them every day.”

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iPad 3 launch rumours – will RP Club be right again with predictions?

iPad 3 rumours - will RP Club get it right again?

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iPad 2 – must have tech for Silver Surfers

iPad image

iPad imageRumours are rife around the impending launch of the new Apple iPad.  Technology review site TechRadar is awash with details of the possible new specifications sourced from all over the Internet.

It seems that the following are probably true:

- It will have a forward facing camera, essential for video ‘chat’
- A faster processor to speed things up
- There will be a much larger data storage capacity
- The iPad 2 will be lighter to hold

There are many other rumours, but if the above prove true, the iPad 2 could bring the Internet to a whole new generation of older people.

Back in January last year, Gizmondo were reporting that the iPad would be a hit with baby-boomers, but there was in our opinion one fatal flaw – the iPad is too heavy.  Even young users comment on the weight and this can be a problem if you are wanting to use the iPad to read books or while standing or on the go.

The other problem with the original iPad was the lack of a camera for video calling (or web chat) with family and friends.  More than any other section of the community, older parents have the desire and need to both call and see their children – especially if they have moved overseas with work or too far away to visit on a regular basis.

Yes, the Laptop or Desktop PC has offered video calling for years, but trying to cope with the never ending list of things to worry about every time you switch on your computer would be a joke if it were not so critical to keeping it working.  Windows updates, Virus alerts, Firewall issues, Spy-ware, Mal-ware – you need a degree in computer science to even understand why you need this software.

Most older people have a relative they rely on to keep their PC working and to fix or trouble shoot these issues, and are too worried to try anything themselves for fear of messing things up and annoying their ‘IT Support’ relative!

Enter the iPad – as Steve Jobs said ‘it just works!”.  Yes, you may need some help to get it up and running, but then using it is simplicity it’s self.   With intuitive, big, clear, touch screen buttons, impossible to break the software by ‘doing the wrong thing’ , no endless alerts and software to keep updated.  Even the most technophobic people will warm to the iPad within minutes of being shown what it can do.

I have seen older people that have never used a microwave, mobile phone or computer pick up the iPad and learn in minutes how to send emails,  read web pages, even play games for the first time in their life.

With the lighter design and the inclusion of web chat I would think that the biggest question is why would you not want an iPad 2.  Internet, email, video chat, phone, video player, reading book, photo album, magazine, radio, holiday brochure, address book, music player – it is the ‘coffee table book’ that does everything!

As people get older they can become more isolated in society.  Everyone hoped that the internet could help remove that isolation.  With the iPad 2, Apple will provide the vital missing piece of technology that can truly bring the benefits of the internet to everyone.

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Northampton Gran batters 6 jewel robbers with handbag!

Handbag

The story of Northampton’s ‘super-gran’ who drove away six jewel thieves armed only with her handbag has ‘gone viral’ on the world wide web!

Caught on camera, the idea of a 70+ pensioner saving the day is inspirational and has been hailed as ‘true community spirit’. However, should we encourage this kind of intervention?

All was well on this occasion, but had it been a mid twenties guy grabbing the mallet and laying into the robber I suspect we would be locking up the ‘hero’ on charges of ABH.

If the government truly believe that this type of citizen intervention is to be praised it is about time the laws were tipped in favor of the law abiding majority.

Let’s make this the turning point where we stop protecting the criminals and supporting the public, arming them with legal rights and not just a handbag!

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MPs deaf to major public health issue

Hearing test

RNID's Chief Executive, Jackie Ballard, says: “The everyday lives of 4 million people in the UK could benefit from a hearing aid but individuals take 10 years, on average, to address their hearing loss.

We're urging MPs debating the Health and Social Care Bill to ensure hearing loss is recognised as a major public health issue which carries a serious impact on quality of life. It's essential that services for patients with hearing loss are supported by a strong set of Quality Standards, and hearing loss is taken into account when Joint Strategic Needs Assessments are drafted.”

Here at RPClub we were astounded to hear that nearly half of all patients who raised their hearing loss with their doctor were not referred to audiology services.  The RNID go on to say that “Clear, robust guidance is needed for the commissioning of hearing loss services”  and they would  like to see audiology and hearing loss champions sitting within every local authority.

Over 10 % of adults in the UK suffer from hearing Loss and this increases to over  70% of people aged over 70.

Excessive build up of wax inside the ear can cause temporary reduced hearing ability, but many of us will have to face up to the fact we are going deaf!  This can be a very slow and isolating process and many of us try to hide the symptoms and delay seeking help.  The give away signs are loss of sound clarity, inability to focus in a noisy area, difficulty holding conversation in a group, others seem to mumble or you need your radio or TV louder than the rest of your family.

Why does it happen?

There are many factors that can come into play.  Just growing old can a factor, but also exposure to excessive noise, disease, drugs, diving, infection and hereditary conditions. Injuries, for example a perforated eardrums, also cause heating loss.

We hear from the RNID that over  4 million people in the UK may benefit from having a hearing aids fitted, so why do so many people do nothing to get one!

Find out more at Royal National Institute for the Deaf – RNID

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BP announces resuption of share dividend payment – should you care?

Oil Exploration Rig

When BP was forced to pay billions to clean up the spill in the Gulf of Mexico last year, dividend payments were halted to meet this cost. A huge number of the pension schemes in the UK held shares in BP stock, leading to a significant reduction in earnings for many pension funds.

If pension funds are unable to make money from the company shares held, it can impact both the rate of contribution for current employees and also the pensions in payment to retired employees.

Following it's first loss announcement in 18 years, it intends to lay off over 3000 staff and resume payment of dividends to share holders.

The following article from IFA online – tells you what impact the experts think this will have on UK pension plans.
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Investors back BP dividend resumption despite payout drop – IFAonline.

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Budget: So is it good or bad news for pensioners?!

Pound sign

Pound signSo, the chancellor has spoken and the budget has been delivered, but is it actually good news or bad news for the retired population of the UK?  

 

If you were to read the Telegraph they are berating the government and saying pensioners have been hit harder than anyone.  Read the Mail or visit their sister site This is Money and things don't seem so bad.  So who do you believe? 

Well, it is a fact that if you are a single or married couple over 65 and receiving a pension around the £30,000 to £40,000 per year mark, then you are in theory better off by a couple of hundred pounds.  If your pension is less than this, you are no better or worse off, and if it is over, then you start to lose out. 

This handy calculator on the BBC website may help. 

However, none of these figures take into account the huge rise in VAT to 20% – hitting everyone who spends money.  With the increase planned for 4th January 2011, the best advice would be to buy any expensive items such as Cars, TVs, Furniture, etc this year.  

If you are planning any building work to alter or extend remember VAT is normally due on the building materials so it may be wise to bring forward any plans. 

If you get your income from investments and your pension places you below the higher rate tax limit, then there will be no change to the rate of Capital Gains Tax you pay and the tax free limit is unchanged. 

Our view – for most pensioners there are no significant changes to the level on income you get either from pensions or other investments.  However, the VAT  rise will hit everyone next year, so buy any expensive items you plan to get this year rather than next.  We all thought the budget would be much worse, so with that in mind it has not been so bad after all. 

The full budget text is available here
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How do you find the right Care Home?

Lady recieving care from nurse

Lady recieving care from nurseRecenty, a friend of mine needed to make the difficult decision to place their mother into a care home. This is never an easy time for all involved. With emotions high it can be hard to focus on the key issues that need to be addressed.

essay writing serviceI had visited the site www.best-care-home.co.uk in the past and had no hesitation in referring my friend to this site.

Best Care Homes has a fantastic 'Resources' area on the site full of useful information around the Legal and Health considerations, along with an excellent print-out questionnaire that you can take along to the homes you visit to make sure you ask all the right questions.

The site allows you to find quality Care Homes in your local area and provides photos, contact details and often reccomendations from current residents or their family.

www.best-care-home.co.uk

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