Saturday, November 30, 2013

Haggis, Chappit Neeps and Tatties

Today is St. Andrew's Day and since St. Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland it is a day of feasting and celebration.  The traditional menu for the St. Andrew's feast is Haggis, Chappit Neeps and Tatties and a dram.  Translated: haggis, mashed rutabaga and mashed potatoes with a shot (or three) of Scotch.

Now, I like to try regional foods and celebrate any holiday (heck I once threw a party to celebrate Millard Filmore's birthday) BUT traditional haggis is definitely not on my list of foods I must try before I die.  Do you know what is in traditional haggis?  (For the squeamish and weak of stomach move on to the next paragraph now.  I am warning you.)  Traditional haggis is made with what the Scots call lambs lights and we call lamb lungs.  Yep, you read that right.  The things in our chest that allow us to breath. And nope, I am not eating those.

I was pleased to find a blog that posted a recipe for Vegetarian Haggis (Mortgage Free in Three).  And since the lady is a Scot I figured it was traditional enough to count.  So, I will be making haggis for dinner tonight along with the Neeps and Tatties.  And, just to be traditional of course, a dram or so of Scotch.

Here's to Scotland and St. Andrew.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Overeating Holiday

I have just finished my over night rising homemade cinnamon rolls that we will enjoy for breakfast tomorrow so my prep is complete.

Tomorrow will be a day of consciously remembering all we have to be grateful for in our lives: family, friends, health, economic resources, pets, good memories, etc.  The list is endless and often overlooked in the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

As some of you know, when the girls were in highschool we hosted an exchange student from Thailand.  Quite often American customs, holidays, expressions and more were confusing for her to understand.  She had only been with us a few months when Thanksgiving came around and, as is a family custom going back generations, the table was literally groaning with all the food we put out for the great meal.

Afterwards she did say that she found it interesting that Americans have a holiday built around overeating. :)

So let's make sure we all do our part to celebrate in the traditional American style.  Oh, and you might want to check out where the antacids are.  Just saying.

I Spent WHAT!

273.80 pounds sterling or about $438.00 dollars! for food in the month of November (it is not officially over but I am closing the month before my heart gives out).  YIKES!

OK, how did that happen? 

1.  At the beginning of the month we took a trip to an American Air Force Commissary at RAF Croughton where I stocked up on some things that I hadn't found here yet or that were cheaper there.  I think I went a little crazy there buying over 100 pounds sterling of items! WOW

But we now have squirreled away some lasagna noodles, some macaroni, maraschino cherries (some were used in Grandma's Christmas Cake), corn meal, dates (for holiday baking), raisins (for holiday baking), cranberry sauce, figs (for holiday baking), pepperoni, and some on sale pork loan, chuck roast, hamburger and pork belly (for more bacon).

2.  We have also been lucky enough to have been cruising in places where we can moor and walk to a larger and less expensive grocery store rather than depend on the little canal side shops which are wonderful but, as you would expect, pricy.  I have also discovered that if you go in late afternoon or early evening they are discounting items from the deli and butcher counter.  These tended to call my name rather a little too often it seems.

From the deli I have found ham ( a lot), roast beef, pate, and sliced corned beef.
For cheese, I saved on red Leicester, Gloucester, brie, bleu cheese, feta cheese. Jarlsberg and Stilton.
From the butcher I scored a nice (although small) beef roast for Christmas, my little Chicken for Thanksgiving, some pork tenderloin medallions for New Year's Day and minced lamb .

And, in the take away section Tesco sells already made Starbucks skinny lattes that I can bring home and enjoy at my leisure. For those of you familiar with my addiction you KNOW I have been overdoing those big time.

I guess nothing makes me overspend the budget better than a good reduced price deal. :)

But now it HAS to stop for awhile.  My little freezer is so crammed that I am not sure you could squeeze another slice of reduced price ham into it. :)
I may not be able to control my bargain loving self but I will listen to the reality of NO MORE SPACE, at least until I use some things up and create more space.  :)
Once the stockpiling bug has bit you the disease never goes away I guess.

But, here's a thought, with the weather getting colder maybe I could turn part of the bow into a walk in cooler for cheeses, lattes and such.  What do you think?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

TODAY was Tuesday, TOMORROW is Wednesday

Now why didn't I know that earlier? :)

I spent the day thinking today was Wednesday and Tomorrow was Thanksgiving.  Ergo, I did a full day of Thanksgiving prep work so that I would be all ready for what I thought was tomorrow.

My crust-less "pie" is done.
My stuffing is ready to go into the oven when I roast the chicken.
My vegetable casserole is done.
My mash is done.
The base for the gravy is ready.
The apple/raisin/bleu cheese slaw is done.

Only roasting the turkey and stuffing remains and the making of the gravy as well as the re-heating of casserole and mash.

Only problem, I am a day too early. :)

Guess there is no excuse for not doing the laundry tomorrow, huh.  But give me time and I am sure I can find one. :)

2 Degrees Celcius

I am not sure what that is in "normal" degrees besides darn cold but that's close enough for me.  That was our INDOOR temp when I got up this morning.  You can bet my first task was to build up the fire and get some heat into the joint. :)  I am getting rather proficient at this task.  Practice makes perfect I guess.  Well it is now an hour later and we are up to 9 degrees inside, simply tropical. :)

The canal had a thin skim of ice on it this morning and when other boats pass it breaks up the ice and makes it sound like you are inside a martini glass that is being "stirred, not shaken".  It's a neat sensation.

Frost can be seen on the field next to the canal but it will soon be gone because the sun is shining down from beautiful blue skies.  It may be a chilly day  ( the high is projected to be 3) but it will be beautiful.

Today I am cooking a butternut squash to use to make my "pumpkin" pie for tomorrow.  I also have to get our little chicken out to defrost.  No self respecting non anorexic turkey would fit into my tiny oven.  But, we would drown in the leftovers of a turkey so it all works out. :)

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Stir Up Sunday

 The Traditional British Christmas Pudding, often called a plum pudding although there are no plums, fresh or dried, in the pudding. Serving adorned with a sprig of holly is traditional.
Today is last Sunday of the church year, the Sunday before the start of Advent, and Stir-Up Sunday.

Stir-up Sunday is the traditional day for everyone in the family to take a turn at stirring the Christmas pudding and making a wish.
Christmas puddings were always made at home and they were made a month before Christmas so the flavours had plenty of time to develop before Christmas.

The name 'Stir Up Sunday' comes from the opening words of the prayer for the day in the Book of Common Prayer of 1549 and later. 
The originally prayer has been adapted into more modern language and is now the Church of England's prayer after communion for Stir Up Sunday: 

"Stir-up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people;
that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works,
may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

A Christmas pudding is traditionally made with 13 ingredients to represent Christ and His Disciples.
A proper Christmas pudding is always stirred from East to West in honour of the three Wise Men who visited the baby Jesus.
Every member of the family must give the pudding a stir and make a secret wish.
A coin was traditionally added to the ingredients and cooked in the pudding. It was supposedly to bring wealth to whoever found it on their plate on Christmas Day. The traditional coin was an old silver sixpence or threepenny bit.
Other traditional additions to the pudding included a ring, to foretell a marriage, and a thimble for a lucky life.
I will be making my Grandmother Young's Christmas Scotch Cake.  I had not known about the traditional 13 ingredients until today but when I checked her recipe- you guessed it-13 ingredients! Normally Grandma baked her Christmas pudding in loaf pans in the oven.  This year, in honor of being in England, I will do it the traditional way and steam it for 4-6 hours.

I will also be making and steaming a Fig Pudding that comes from Mike's family.  He remembers his Grandmother O'Neill making it.  Years later his Aunt Evelyn and I tweaked the recipe somewhat to make it better for your cholesterol count.  I plan on making Aunt E's version unless the need for tradition overtakes me at the last minute. :)  BTW it only has 10 ingredients.

I have not included either recipe so as to save space and not bore you too much. :)  If you are interested just let me know and I will share.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Lunch at Gongoozlers Rest

At Braunston Marina  the Gongoozlers Rest Cafe can be found, directly off the tow path on the Grand Union Canal outside the 'Stop House', just under the bridge.


It is a 12 seat narrow boat cafĂ© conversion of a 41 foot long narrow boat.  The kitchen part is found in the taller section at the back of the boat. We went there for lunch and had some basic but excellent food.  I had a bacon butty and Mike had a sausage butty.  A butty is a sandwich on a crusty roll or baguette.  The bread was crusty and warm and the bacon (their style, not ours) was generous and very flavorful.  I would go there again in a heartbeat but unfortunately we are now heading in the opposite direction.  Oh well, a good memory and new places to find. :)

And a Gongoozler is a person who enjoys standing and watching (without actively participating in) an a person who enjoys watching activity on the canals

Mapping Out Our Future

We have finished with our "shake down" cruising in the area nearest to where we bought the boat and we are now ready to spread our wings and begin exploring more of England. Below is a map showing where we will now be heading off to see.  We will be take a short portion of the Oxford Canal until it intersects with the Coventry Canal and then on to Coventry. After that the plan is to somewhat retrace our rout and head towards Fradley Junction with stops along the way to explore Tamworth, Atherstone, etc.  A side trip up the Ashby Canal and back down may also be on the agenda.  We are making this up as we go along, one of the beauties of retirement.


The map below shows the area of our shakedown cruising in the area around Rugby, Braunston and Napton.  Today we are in Rugby for some charity shop purchases (another blanket, etc. ) and then we will head north on the Oxford Canal towards Coventry. 

Hope this gives you some idea of where we have been, are, and will be.  Either that or I have totally muddied the waters and you have no idea at all. :)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Food Prices of the Past and Present

  The chart to the right shows how food costs haven risen in the UK in recent years on most items.
Since 1999 prices have, overall, doubled.  People here are really feeling the pressure of these higher prices along with electricity rates that rose by 10% this fall, a new tax that just went into effect and the general economic downtrend of the last five years.

More people are eating a generally vegetarian diet to cut costs.  Many people talk of heating their homes for only 1 hour in the morning and 1 hour in the evening.  Extra layers and hats indoors have become popular.

But, despite all this the people just keep finding a way to go on with a smile on their faces.  The smile may be wearing thin but it is still there.  They keep looking for ways to make a pence go farther:  new recipes, different places to shop, growing their own, eating less, knitting hand warmers to wear inside, making sweaters and neck scarves.  The list goes on.

People in the US are doing the same and often for very similar reasons.  But there is something about the human spirit.  It is so resilient.  People just keep going, doing their best, and waiting for a brighter tomorrow.

Makes you proud, doesn't it.

A New Picture Window for the Boat

If you look at the picture below you can see the large opening in the side of our boat that opens into the kitchen area.  It was designed as another entry/exit point as well as a way to get fresh air into the boat.  It is traditionally wide open to the elements except when closed by the "shutter" doors.  At some point in her history a removable screen was made for this "window".

Well, I am a needer of light.  This time of year it is in short supply.  So, to take max advantage of what is available Mike got a sheet of plexiglass and cut it to fit the screen insert.  Now, I have a large picture window in my kitchen area and more light in our little home.  Wonderful.

The excerpt below is from a blog I read "Mortgage Free in Three" written by a woman in Scotland.  I agree with the opinions expressed.

I have come to the conclusion that my down mood and CBA attitude is down to the sudden drop in light levels – I have really noticed it during the last couple of weeks ………….. even the days are dreary and gloomy. Pretty much matching my mood.

The new "window" with the added light should help.  :)

Saturday, November 16, 2013

A Day on the Canal

I am surprised at how many flocks of sheep we see as we cruise down the canal.  There are woolies everywhere. And the boats don't disturb them at all.
No sign of man for miles.  Just lush green fields and trees.  You can't help but relax.

Sometimes you see signs of civilization but only in the distance.  And what you do see is still quite pleasing to the eye.
Wonder why this little woolie is all alone?  Maybe his friends are over on the other side of that rise.
Occasionally there are tunnels to go through like the one whose opening you see ahead.  It is sobering to think of the time and effort that went into building these about 200 years ago.
This is the inside of the tunnel.  Not much clearance to the sides or overhead.  Before boats had motors the crew used to lie on the top of the boat and "walk" the boat through with their feet.  I can only imagine how long that took.
Here's the boat about to exit a lock.  I am on shore opening the gates, one side at a time.
I love these bridges built to carry traffic over the canals.  Quite often they frame a gorgeous view.
Some of the ducks we share the canal with.  They are quite "talkative".
This larger bridge is at a canal intersection where you can turn and head in a new direction.
And here is the signpost at the same intersection, opposite the bridge.  Each arm of the sign has the name of a city on it so you know which way to turn.
It was a sunny day so these boaters were doing laundry and taking advantage of the sun to generate some solar power.  Almost all the boats, our included, have solar panels.
This is an ornate bridge at one of the canal intersections.  The two side bridges are metal and are the originals ones.  They have aged well.
The canal is also home to many swans.  They have figured out that boaters are good for a handout so they come right over expecting to be fed.
That's my "Grizzly Adams" getting ready to do some chores.
Periodically along the canal are places like this where you can fill your water tank for free, get rid of your trash and empty the cassette from the toilet.  Important places.

For When Only Chocolate Will Help

Cindy, this is posted for you in your time of need. :)

WARNING:  I am not responsible for any negative effects on waistlines or hips.

Better Than The Box Brownies Recipe

This is perfect for boxed brownie lovers — the dense, moist and fudgy texture is not all that different from what you can expect from the boxed mixes. It get’s better, too. This recipe makes richer, more flavorful brownies — without any fuss. They are one-bowl and come together in minutes. There’s also a good chance you already have the ingredients on hand.

Forget Melting Chocolate, Make Cocoa Brownies

The recipe is slightly adapted from Alice Medrich’s Cocoa Brownies found in many of her cookbooks.
Medrich is a genius when it comes to chocolate. Search “brownie recipes” on Google and you’ll see that many recipes call for chocolate that’s melted into butter, then mixed with sugar, eggs and flour. (Not that they aren’t delicious, too).
This recipe is different — and smart.
Fudgy Brownies
Instead of using chocolate, Medrich calls for cocoa powder. In removing the chocolate (as well as the fat and sugar that goes along with it), she was able to fine-tune the brownies so that the middles were softer and moist and the tops were shiny and candy-like. The recipe is pure gold.
Fudgy Brownies

Fudgy Brownies Recipe

We love these rich and chocolaty brownies with dense, fudgy middles and crinkly tops. They are one-bowl and come together in minutes. There’s also a good chance you already have all the ingredients on hand. Feel free to use either natural or Dutch-processed cocoa powder for these. Both work well and will taste slightly different. If you get a chance, try both and see which is your favorite.
Created By:
Yield: 16 brownies
  • 10 tablespoons (145 g) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups (250 g) granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (65 g) unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
  • 1/4 rounded teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, cold
  • 1/2 cup (70 g) all-purpose flour (we use Gold Medal unbleached all-purpose flour)
  • 2/3 cup (75 g) chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
  1. Position an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and heat to 325 degrees F (163 C). Line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch (20cm) square baking pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides. (This helps when removing the baked brownies from the pan, once cooled).
  2. Add enough water to a medium saucepan so that it is 1 to 2 inches deep. Heat water until barely simmering. Combine butter, sugar, cocoa powder and the salt in a medium heat-safe bowl. Rest bowl over simmering water (if the bottom of the bowl touches the water, remove a little water).
  3. Stir mixture occasionally until the butter has melted and mixture is quite warm. Don’t worry if it looks gritty, it will become smooth once you add the eggs and flour.
  4. Remove the bowl from heat and set aside for 3 to 5 minutes until it is only warm, not hot.Cocoa-Brownie-Recipe-Step-1
  5. Stir in vanilla with a wooden spoon or spatula. Then, add eggs, one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one.Cocoa-Brownie-Recipe-Step-2
  6. When the batter looks thick, shiny and well blended, add the flour and stir until fully incorporated, then beat with the wooden spoon or spatula for 40 to 50 strokes. (The batter will be quite thick). Stir in nuts, if using. Spread evenly in lined pan.Cocoa-Brownie-Recipe-Step-3
  7. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick can be inserted into the center and come out almost clean (you want it to be a little moist with batter). Note: Some have found they need to bake an extra 10 minutes, so keep an eye on the doneness of the brownies and use the toothpick test as your guide.
  8. Cool completely then remove from pan. For the cleanest lines when cutting, place into freezer for 20 to 30 minutes to firm up. Cut into 16 squares.

NOTE:  I used the micro instead of a double boiler for one of the first steps.  I also just greased the pan instead of lining with parchment paper which I don't have.

I have been searching for a non cake homemade brownie recipe for a long time and this one is the best I have found. 

Very rich so cut into small squares.

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Volume Has Been Lowered

Today Mike and I heard a raised voice as one workman tried to talk with his coworker who was a distance away.  It shocked us both.  Why?  Because it was the FIRST raised voice of any sort we have heard here.  Anywhere.  Now, I am sure that voices are raised here.  But they are not something heard often.

We have been in stores, in pubs, in restaurants, on city streets and all the voices we have heard have been on the quiet side.  Kids are not running helter skelter and verbally communicating at full volume.  Parents have not been reprimanding their children at the tops of their voice.

Goups in pubs sit and enjoy their pints and talk normally, if not quietly, with each other.  The loudest thing you might hear is their laughter, unless of course, there is a game of football or cricket on the pub's telly and the home team is winning.  Then the cheers WILL ring out.

You can sit in places or walk the aisles of the stores and not have to listen to the "private" cell phone conversations of total strangers.

There is a word for this besides refreshing.  It is civilized.

Third Time is a Charm, Again

Culinary magic has again been the need of the day here on the boat.  The little frig only has room for so many leftovers and then they must become makeovers to clear the space.

A few days ago I took some leftover mushu veggies, some leftover peas and corn, some unused pasta sauce and chopped tomato and combined them to make a veggie soup that I used the immersion blender to make smooth.  With some homemade croutons that used to be garlic cheese toast we has lunch.

I had made some cauliflower with cheese sauce earlier and I used the immersion blender to smooth it out and then thinned it out with some canned ale to make a pseudo beer and cheese soup.  The leftover of that soup were transformed into mac and cheese for dinner.  As always a great comfort food on a cool evening.

For dinner one night I had made kedigree, an Anglo-Indian rice, curry and smoked fish dish that was served for breakfast during Victorian and Edwardian days. I under did the curry so I was able to take the leftovers and turn them into a pseudo paella with some added turmeric (one of the ingredients in curry), peas, chicken, ham and homemade sausage.  It was quite good if I do say so myself.

Last night I took the last of the tomato soup and used it to make a pizza that I topped with some leftover homemade gnocchi pieces, spinach Alfredo sauce made to go with the gnocchi originally, mushrooms, leeks pepperoni and a combo of mozzarella and feta cheese.  Anything tastes good on a pizza. :)

Now, time to restock the freezer for the next round of third time's a charm.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

7 Locks in One Hour and Still Kicking, Timex Has Nothing On Me!

On Sunday we did a flight of seven locks in just about an hour.  I opened and closed all seven of those locks, front and back "doors".  I was proud to have been able to do this.

But, as I was taught, pride goeth before the fall.  Yesterday we did a flight of 6 locks.  These locks were a horse of a different color.  We are currently on the Grand Union canal.  This canal links Birmingham, Leicester and Nottingham with London.  It was a major trade thoroughfare.  It is also the one with the widest canals and locks.  Because they are the widest locks, the "doors" are also the heaviest.  And boy are they heavy.  They need to be to withstand the pressure of the added water in the canal.  Think in terms of 2000 pounds!

I managed the first couple by myself but it was heavy labor.  For the other four Mike had to tie the boat once it was inside the lock or once it was through the lock and then come and help me with the opening and closing.  Thank heavens he did or I would have run out of strength and steam before the last of the locks.  As it was, I was elated once we had finished our 6th lock.  Really elated.

My body was not so happy.  Opening and closing puts a lot of strain on knees, arms, shoulders and back.  All of them were telling me of their unhappiness in no uncertain terms. :)

But, this morning (although I worried) I am able to walk without stiffness and the pain level is very minor.  I guess the old girl still has some life in her after all.  That's one for our side.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Ding Dinners

Meals heated in microwave, either pre-made from the store or meals you made and put in your own freezer to pull out later. When the micro dings you have dinner. :) Ergo, ding dinners.

Utterly scrummy food is utterly scrumptious food and NOT utterly crummy food.

When you are skint you are without funds of any sort.

Pulses are our legumes and their legumes include fresh beans, peas and peanuts.  Got that?
the term ‘pulse’ to describe crops harvested for their dry grains, such as lentils or chickpeas. They suggest the term ‘legume’ includes these dry grains, as well as fresh peas, beans and crops mainly grown for oil extraction, such as soya beans and peanuts. - See more at:
the term ‘pulse’ to describe crops harvested for their dry grains, such as lentils or chickpeas. They suggest the term ‘legume’ includes these dry grains, as well as fresh peas, beans and crops mainly grown for oil extraction, such as soya beans and peanuts. - See more at:
the term ‘pulse’ to describe crops harvested for their dry grains, such as lentils or chickpeas. They suggest the term ‘legume’ includes these dry grains, as well as fresh peas, beans and crops mainly grown for oil extraction, such as soya beans and peanuts. - See more at:
the term ‘pulse’ to describe crops harvested for their dry grains, such as lentils or chickpeas. They suggest the term ‘legume’ includes these dry grains, as well as fresh peas, beans and crops mainly grown for oil extraction, such as soya beans and peanuts. - See more at:
the term ‘pulse’ to describe crops harvested for their dry grains, such as lentils or chickpeas. They suggest the term ‘legume’ includes these dry grains, as well as fresh peas, beans and crops mainly grown for oil extraction, such as soya beans and peanuts. - See more at:
the term ‘pulse’ to describe crops harvested for their dry grains, such as lentils or chickpeas. They suggest the term ‘legume’ includes these dry grains, as well as fresh peas, beans and crops mainly grown for oil extraction, such as soya beans and peanuts. - See more at:

Tinned food = canned food

Toilet rolls = toilet paper

Marmite is a favorite spread on bread of many.  It is nutritional yeast.  It is definitely an aquired taste.

Sugar is either granulated, caster, icing or brown.
Caster sugar is very fine granulated sugar that can be sprinkled using a castor (a holder like a salt and pepper shaker.)
Icing sugar=confectioner sugar

Eggs are found in the stores just sitting on a regular shelf like other groceries.

Trainers are tennis shoes.

the term ‘pulse’ to describe crops harvested for their dry grains, such as lentils or chickpeas. They suggest the term ‘legume’ includes these dry grains, as well as fresh peas, beans and crops mainly grown for oil extraction, such as soya beans and peanuts. - See more at:

Sunday, November 10, 2013

A Free Tour of Crick (Remember, you might get what you paid for. :)

Our boat has been mored on the Leicester Branch of the Grand Union Canal for a few days.  The closest village is Crick and Mike and I have been exploring it during our daily (unless pouring) walk.  (We walk 1-1 /2 hours a day.  Aren't you impressed?  I sure as heck am. :)

Now Crick is just a typical English village but boy is it beautiful, full of history, and the building!  Well, look at the wonderful buildings:

Besides these buildings, all that remains is a local road named Monastery Lane.

Above is the Crick church.  I was unable to discover how old it is but by looking at the stone, it is old.  I am talking hundreds and hundreds of years.  They have added on to it but that part is just too normal to take a picture of.

This was the village's old primary school built in the mid 1800's and used until after WWII.  This type of school was then seen everywhere in England and was the backbone of the education system for the working man's children.  They were two room schools.  One room housed the very young children up through age 7 or 8.  The second room housed the older children up through age 14 when most left the formal education system and started in their field of chosen employment.  Now villages have primary schools for the young and then the children are bused to schools that either prepare them to enter college or prepare them to enter the work force.

Many private homes as well as the former monastery are still thatched. Thatch used to be the roofing of the working class but now, due to lack of skilled craftsmen, it is the roofing of the rich (or those on England's equivalent of the historical registry.  I hope they never disappear completely because for me, they are an integral part of Britain.

Another traditional part of England is the public footpath.  If history shows that a path has traditionally been a public path from point A to point B, although you might own the actual property the path is on you can not restrict the public from the use of that path.  Above is the gate to such a path. If you look in the background you can see a fence that is very high and very solid (no peeking through this fence).  Apparently the current owner and resident of an over the top McMansion is not in favor of the common man viewing his or her private space.  Now, on the left side of the path is a group of nice houses that take it in their stride that their fellow village residents will be walking through their backyards on a regular basis and that is exactly what we did.

Although this was very hard to get a picture that does it justice, the three sides of this U shaped building are, of course joined.  This used to be the stable block of a local prosperous person.  It is now been converted into the home of a local prosperous person.  Beautiful with all that old stone.

These pics show how, over time, new buildings have been attached to existing buildings and they didn't need to match.  For me, that is part of their charm.
And this, this is their local pub (one of 3).  British individuals take their locals seriously.  It is like belong to a social club.

And villages like this are ALL OVER Britain.  This is not unique.  Wonderful!

The tour is over.  You may exit via the back of the bus. :)

Saturday, November 9, 2013


As I mentioned in the previous post, yesterday was a day for baking.  I ended up making a loaf of soda bread (that we gave as a gift to the couple who have been very helpful to us), a batch of flour tortillas, and a batch of English muffins.

As I was going about doing all of this I realized that there were a few details about baking in England that you might (or might not) enjoy learning.

First, in baking the use of lard or suet is the norm.  They are readily available and they are specified in recipes.  Some recipes even go as far as to tell you NOT to use shortening or oil. :)  Lard is sold in the dairy case right by the butter in similar packages.  The suet is with the baking supplies and comes in granular form.  All GOOD steak and whatever pies and Yorkshire puddings (as well as countless others) are made using suet.

Determining the amount of flour, etc. to use in a recipe is done by weight and not by cupfuls.  For example, you might be told to use 500 grams of flour or 100 grams of sugar.  That is when a kitchen scale becomes necessary.  It might seem odd to us but it is common in Europe and chefs say it is much more precise and leads to better results, but you can't prove that by me.   Oh, liquids are added by amount, such as 350 ml of water.

Now, back to 375=190=5.  The temps for a recipe can be given in one of three forms.  375 F=190C=5gas.  You will rarely see F here but the other two are very common.  In case you are wondering, our small oven uses the gas form going from 1/2 up to 8.  Four to five is moderate heat and 8 is REALLY hot.

That is our lesson for today.  Class dismissed. :)

Friday, November 8, 2013

Michael Takes on the Solid Fuel Stove

England had a cold snap overnight.  It went down to 5 celcius or about 41 in our degrees.  The boat was "nippy" (about 50) when I got up at 7:30 this morning.  It is now 9:45 and Michael is still trying to convince the solid fuel stove to keep a fire alive.  Time for longjohns.

You see, the stove burns coal.  It burns a hard low smoke coal.  That coal is reluctant to catch.  Once you get a fire going it will burn for a long time and the nice coals help the new coal catch.  The fly in that ointment is getting the original fire to burn and stay burning.

We knew we had coal in the storage compartments left by the previous owners.  What we did not know (and apparently the former owners did not know) was the fact that the plastic bag the coal was in had holes. The coal had gotten very wet with all of the rainy days England is famous for since the storage compartment is not water tight and is open to the elements. 

Let me clue you, wet coal does not burn.  Hence a trip (by foot) to buy some new and dry coal.  But we still have not met with resounding success as far as a coal fire is concerned.  We (Mike) get it started and it looks nice but it doesn't keep going, at least not yet.  But I live in hope.

  It is still 50 in here so plan B is about to go into effect:  turn on the oven and make soda bread and anything else I can think of to keep the oven going and some heat flowing into our little home.  Blue nails are only fashionable when they come from polish and not from lack of circulation. :)

Thursday, November 7, 2013

A Belated Happy Guy Fawkes Day

 On the night of November 5, 1605 the now immortalized Guy Fawkes, a member of a plot to blow up the House of Lords, was arrested while guarding the explosives the plotters had but in place beneath that hallowed chamber. 
In celebration, bonfires were lit all around London and later the Observance of 5th November Act marked the anniversary as a public day of celebration for the failure of the plot (the Act was later repealed in 1859).
Now, Guy Fawkes Day is a social celebration and commemoration with bonfires and fireworks across the length and breadth of England, and even along the usually serene and quiet canal paths.  Small campfires are often seen as people sit around and visit but on this night fireworks are also to be heard.
And, as with all celebrations of this sort, the leftover fireworks can be heard for a few nights after the actual day.  It's always hard to admit a good party is over. :)

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A sealing wax, cabbages and kings day

Groceries in October ran us 187.92 pounds sterling or about $300. I will call that a win since the cupboards and frig and freezer are well stocked now.  It will be interesting to see what November brings.  I sure won't be buying extra turkeys to put in the freezer like usual.  I couldn't get it into the freezer let alone into the oven. :)

  When facing a difficult situation, besides making a cup of tea, the expression is that it is time to put on your Big Girl Knickers.  And, it goes without saying, to knuckle down and get the job done, no excuses.  I love it!

I don't know how many of you shop at TJ Maxx but over here they are TK Maxx.  And no, I have no idea why.

I had to find a new formula for my homemade laundry detergent over here since borax is nowhere to be found.  I did some searching online and came up with a mixture of washing soda (washing crystals here), baking soda, Epsom salts and regular salt.  I tried it out during my laundry marathon and it did very well.  No complaints.

I did find it an adjustment to discover that to buy Epsom salts you have to ask the pharmacist.  And, it comes in small bottles of about a cup each.  Again, I don't know why.

Diesel here is 134.9 pence per liter or about 5.60 pounds sterling per gallon which works out to about $8.96 per gallon. WOW, our US prices don't look so bad now. :)  We are going to set a monthly budget for diesel and when that is spent we stop traveling until the next month.  And yes, fuel along the canal is higher than the car prices I quoted for you above.  Aren't we lucky. :)

Name brand vs Off brand:  To buy a two liters of Coke or Pepsi is about 1.79 pounds sterling or $2.87.  To buy the off brand (and the same brand is sold everywhere) is 17 pence or 27 cents!  Now that is one substantial difference.  And since I have tried the off brand I can tell you that the basic difference is the name on the bottle.

Monday, November 4, 2013

An Irish Washer Woman

I did laundry for the first time on the boat this weekend.  It was quite a different experience from what I was used to.  It took me back to the days of helping Grandma use the wringer washer in  the cellar (FYI cellars have dirt floors, basements have concrete) when I was a kid.  It is a little more advanced, but the same principles apply.

My little two tub washer sits inside the shower when in use.  The tub on the left does the washing.  The tub on the right spins the excess water out of the clothes prior to hanging them up to dry (and it really does a good job.)

First, we run an extension cord from the plug down the hall to the bathroom to plug herself in.  Then you fill the washer side with water using the shower or the sink and a small hose.  After adding A LITTLE detergent you then put in 1.5 kg of clothing (3pounds) and turn the knob to allow the washer to agitate for 15 minutes (on some clothing this step is repeated to give a full 30 minutes of agitation).  You then adjust the hose and drain the wash water from the bin.  When done, you readjust the hose and fill the washer again and agitate again to rinse.  Repeat the draining step.  Now, take items from the washer and put into the right side bin and spin out the water for 5 minutes per load (it takes two to three spinning loads per washing load.)  You can now hang those clothes to dry on the temporary drying racks set up all over.  Repeat as necessary.

It does a good job.  It is energy efficient.  It it practical on a small boat.  It is NOT fast.  I guess you can't have it all.  :)

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Making Bacon at Home

This morning I have started a new culinary experiment.  I am attempting to make bacon myself.  Yesterday I purchased a pound of pork belly for about $1.50.  I have removed the rink (skin) and it is now bubbling on the stove with some dried black beans on their way to being soup.

The meat was then placed into a ziploc bag and covered by a mixture of salt, brown sugar, pepper, and molassas (maple syrup could have been used but I don't have any).  All the extra air was pushed out of the bag so that the meat was easily immersed in the "brine".  I double bagged it for insurance against leaks and placed it in the frig.  I now need to turn it and massage the brine into the meat every day for the next 5-7 days.  Once it has brined long enough I rinse the meat, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate or freeze until we want to eat it.

No, it does not need to be smoked, although it could be.  Most bacon you buy in the store isn't smoked either.  They just use chemicals to give it the smokey flavor.  Everything I have read says the bacon will taste great without smoking and since we have modern refrigeration it doesn't have to be smoked to preserve it.  I will let you know what I think of the results in a week or so.

I see bacon and eggs in my future.  Or a bacon sandwich. Or both. :)

Friday, November 1, 2013

Beef cooked in Ale

was on the menu.  I used half of my sale purchased stewing beef along with some of our foraged mushrooms, onions and garlic to cook it and made a wonderful gravy.  This was served with mashed turnips and carrots (surprisingly good) and fried cabbage with crab apples and onions.  Pudding (dessert) was crab apple crisp.

What were we celebrating?  Our first night on the boat!

We are still finding homes for a few things, hence the lack of pics until things look neater, if ever. :)
We had our first fire in the solid fuel stove (still working out its kinks) since the hard storm over the weekend has cooled things off.
We are also listening to the music CDs we brought as we work.  Very homey.

So far we have not run out of room to put things which I count as a blessing.

Today we are heading into Rugby to look into a water filtering system since I am squeamish about drinking water that sits in a tank where things have been known to grow.  It will cost but much less than all the bottled water we would otherwise need. :)

I also need a dish drainer, dish pan, garbage bags, etc.

Rugby also has some grocery stores I haven't visited that I would like to: Sainsburys, Lidl and Morrisons.  I am trying to determine where I would best like to shop and who has the best offers (sales) and reduced racks.
So far, all I have determined is that Aldi is not my choice over here.  A very disorganized set up with a poor selection and prices that can be matched or beat elsewhere.  There US stores are much better.

We are having some minor work done on the boat (capping off a diesel line, etc.) and once that is done we will be setting out to explore England.  It's moving closer and closer.