Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Climbing the Mountains

When the Leeds and Liverpool Canal was built the builders, luckily, decided to parallel the path of the River Aire which was itself too mercurial in character to be part of the waterways system.  The result,, for us is a green, wooded and picturesque route through the Aire Valley to enjoy cruising along.  You are in the midst of the industrial area of Yorkshire and yet the canal is very pastoral.

The next big form of transport to go through this same area, the railroad, had other ideas.  No leisurely meandering for them.  They blasted their way from one side to the other of an area called The Nosegay, creating the long Thackley Railway Tunnel .  Their goal, the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.  Yep, but not nearly as pretty.

And now, in the age of the automobile, the recently created Airedale relief road took no notice of the canal when planning its route.  This resulted in the literal need to move a section of the canal several hundred feet to accommodate the new road.  The almighty car must not be stopped, now must it.

What the future will bring only the future knows.

As I said earlier, this used to be a very highly industrialized area. At one time there was a thriving Kirkstall Brewery  that used the canal to get its kegs of beer to market.  The brewery building has now been converted to housing for Leeds University students.  Tell me what student or parent would not appreciate the irony in that. 

Further along are the romantic ruins of Kirkstall Abbey where Cistercian monks used to work and worship.  But then, once again, along came Henry VIII and the Abbey was no more.  But the beautiful ruins are still a wonderful sight to behold.

A former textile mill along the canal has been turned into lovely canal side housing with newer units built up around it that blend well with the 1896 former mill.  High end, historic housing with a view.

Eventually you enter the village of Saltaire, a purpose built residential village created by Sir Titus Salt  in the 19th century to house his mill workers.  The village is still a wonderful and picturesque place thanks to the imaginative reuse of former industrial buildings for restaurants, pubs, residential and commercial purposes.  Way to go.

At Bingley, which we will be going through next, there is a rise of 5 connected and large locks (built in 1774!) that move the boat 60 feet up into the Pennines.  Before that were 3 locks we went through that rise you 30 feet and before that a double lock that takes you up18 feet and one lock that rises you 10 feet.  So, in the 5 miles between Saltair and Bingley you rise a total of almost 120 feet!  You have to find that at least somewhat impressive.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

We Have Ice ...Inside

Yep, it's that cold. 

When we got up this morning our thermometer showed 0 Celsius inside and -3 in the krach.

The windows had ice on the inside and there were tiny icicles hanging from the tops of the windows, also inside.

We got the stove super hot super quick and huddled around cups of coffee and tea until the windows began to thaw and things felt a little warmer.

It reminded me of the Little House books where Laura and Mary would make pictures with Ma's thimble in the frost on the windows.  It is much more enjoyable to read about it than to be in that kind of cold, just in case you are curious.

But still no snow for our part of England.  :-(

Saturday, December 27, 2014

MIA :-(

The snow, while falling in other places in the UK, did not fall here.  It would have been nice to have had a little white stuff to celebrate the holidays but it was not to be.

We have had, however, some cold nights here.  Today it was almost freezing INSIDE the boat when it was time to get up this morning.  I tell you, it takes a lot of resolve to get out of a warm bed in those conditions.  It also helps to not think about it before you do it.  And, since my brain is normally not engaged before my first cup of coffee I manage to get my feet onto the very cold floor before I ask myself what the HECK I am doing. :-)

We have remained at Apperly Bridge Marina since our return from Wales due to the heavy winds.  We watched one boat make attempt to leave and be blown up against the wall where it remained until the wind finally decided to calm down just enough so it could return to its mooring.  Mike and I, upon reflection, decided not to fight mother nature.  We took it as a sign that we were supposed to holiday here.

Today, however, if all goes as planned, we will be continuing on our journey and heading toward Skipton.  I have 16 locks and some swing bridges to man handle so think of me, please.  The part that will probably suffer the most are my poor feet.  They do so hate the cold.  It might require a glass of hot mulled wine to aid the thawing at the end of the day.  What do you think?

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas

The days here have been very windy and cool/cold but no snow for our Christmas.  However, I just heard on the radio that 4 inches is forecast for tomorrow which is Boxing Day.  If so, I will enjoy it.  I miss the snow at holiday time.  After that it can go away until next year. :-) 

I have been busy making munchies which we enjoyed yesterday.  It is a family tradition to eat all kinds of favorite appetizers on Christmas Eve. We have done it since the girls were small and it just wouldn't be the same without them.This year we did the usual shrimp and cream cheese, cheese ball, and Meg's cheesy things as well as some pate and potato skins.  Plenty left over to get us through to dinner and some will probably end up in the freezer for later in the new year.

For dinner we will be having roast beef  and figgy pudding in memory of Aunt Evelyn. Veg, 24 hour fruit salad and mashed potatoes along with my grandmother's Christmas bread will round out the menu.  Again, the leftovers will be many but traditions mean too much to ignore.

We will be listening to Christmas carols and the Queen's speech later today, sipping some O'Neill's Famous Egg Nog and probably watching a movie later.

Heartfelt wishes for a Very Merry Christmas to all of you.

Monday, December 22, 2014

His Home Was Where His Heart Was

We are currently parked in a marina.  We came here almost two weeks ago in anticipation of leaving the boat for our holiday in Wales.

Boaters are friendly people.  We quickly met the couple to the right of us who live year round on their boat in the marina and commute to work from here. ( Boat living is more financially feasible than owning a home here.  The prices for even a small  non detached home can be quite high.)  On the left side we met the daughter and grandson of the boat owner, an older gentleman of about 85.  He has lived on his boat for at least 40 years!

The older gentleman has contracted pneumonia but he wanted to remain on his boat.  It was where he was most comfortable and at peace with life.  His family agreed to his wishes and visited him to check up on things several times a day.

Yesterday, when we returned from Wales, we talked with both the daughter and the grandson and the gentleman seemed to be holding his own, basically.

Sometime during the night he went home to God.

Our thoughts, prayers and sympathy are with those who are left behind to grieve and miss him being part of their lives. 

However, how wonderful that he was able to have his last wish of passing where he had lived.  May we all be as lucky. 


Saturday, December 20, 2014

A Prayer for the Stressed (Not that anyone is right now:-)

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I cannot accept,
And the wisdom to hide the bodies of those I had to kill today because they got on my nerves.

And also, help me to be careful of the toes I step on today
As they may be connected to the feet I may have to kiss tomorrow.

Help me always to give 100% at work....
12% on Monday
23% on Tuesday
40% on Wednesday
20% on Thursday
And 5% on Friday

And help me to remember...
When I'm having a bad day and it seems that people are trying to wind me up it takes
     42 muscles to frown,
     28 muscles to smile
     and only 4 to extend my arm and smack someone in the mouth.
 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Leeds to St. David's in Wales

Mike's birthday is Saturday.  As an early birthday present we have spent this week at St. David's in Wales.  It is a wonderful place to visit and a popular tourist area in the summer since it is surrounded by beautiful shoreline, puffins, waves for surfing, islands to explore and beaches to walk.  Since it is the off season some of these are not available to us, like surfing in the cold, but it has still been wonderful!
 
We took the train from Leeds to Swansea and then rented a car to finish the trip here.  The countryside is beautiful with lush green fields, small cottages and sheep, sheep and more sheep.  Oh, and the roads are very narrow, very. (Check out the sign below concerning oncoming traffic. :-)  The signs are printed in both Welsh and English which is interesting.


We saw our first ever trucks spreading salt on the roads in anticipation of the roads freezing that night.  I just can't imagine driving those curvy, hilly, narrow roads when they are icy.  Luckily we were safely at our destination before anything froze.



As it got dark we drove past a lot more houses with lights and trees, inside and out, than we had seen before.  The lights and decorations, both in the homes and villages are very simple and hark back to when I was a kid fifty years ago.  I loved this vibe of a simpler time and found that it really did increase my Christmas spirit.  I love the feel of a simpler, slower, less commercial season. 

As we neared St. David's we passed through a small coastal village right on the shore and it grabbed me by the heart strings immediately.  I. LOVED. IT.  I would love to have stopped and stayed right there but we had to move on.  We have, however, returned there to walk the shoreline and soak in the peace and calm.

We are staying in a little self-catering flat here in St. David's that overlooks one of the two main streets and is in easy walking distance of shops and sights.  The buildings here are mainly built using the local stone which is green, red, yellow and the usual brown and black.  They are quite striking and it is easy to imagine people making their homes in them for hundreds of years.  They have that "I have been here forever" feel.

 

The town is centered around the cathedral.  The original was built by St. David about 1500 years ago.  St. David, the patron saint of Wales, is buried in the cathedral.  It has been enlarged and rebuilt over the centuries and is a wonderful building but also one built on a more human scale than many other cathedrals.  You can actually imagine people worshiping there or slipping in to say a personal prayer in times of great joy or sadness.


Next to the cathedral is the ruins of the former Bishop's Palace from which a succession of bishops oversaw their ecclesiastical see.  The people who oversee the ruins have done a wonderful job of giving you a sense of what the spaces would have looked like and been used for without overdoing it.  We really enjoyed seeing both spaces and we loved talking with the lady who was in the small shop at the ruins.  She really knew her stuff and gave us a good feel for the place.  She was a special treat to talk with.


A wonderful week and a fitting birthday celebration.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Gale Force Winds and Wood Blewits

For the last couple of days we have been having gale force winds and rain.  But then, all of a sudden the sun comes out for a few minutes.  However, don't get used to it because usually within just a few minutes the wind and the rain is back.  Facing that, I have spent most of my time in the boat being domestic:  cooking, crocheting and laundry.  I enjoy two out of the three so that isn't too bad.

Yesterday, during one of the sunny periods, I took a cloth bag and went to harvest some mushrooms I had spied on one of my walks.  I had done some online research after said walk and I was 99% sure I had correctly identified them as wood blewits which are quite common in England, in season now, and are excellent to eat.

However, after picking them I made one last check to make sure I had identified them correctly.  I did a spore print.  If they were wood blewits their spore print would be very light pink to light beige.  If they were the look alike that we don't want to eat, the spore print would be brown.

Upon checking this morning, we had a light pink/beige spore print.  Yeah!  So I have spent time today cleaning them and dry frying them in preparation to freezing them.  I see some stroganoff in our future and some other wonderful recipes yet to be decided.

I am also making some double chocolate chip cookies that are smelling wonderful and calling my name.  Sorry to run and eat but a girl has to do what a girl has to do. :-)


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Glistening shards of "Glass" and Figgy Pudding

When I went out at 8:30 this morning to take my walk the puddles on the canal path were iced over.  I realized just how frozen they were once a car had gone through them and thrown the broken ice pieces onto the path like so many pieces of broken glass.  They shimmered and sparkled in the light and were at least 1/4 inch thick.  Beautiful.

I walked past several narrow boats moored along the path and one had a full size, decorated Christmas tree set up in the stern.  It was a true decoration of the season.  The inflated Homer Simpson as Father Christmas that stood beside it, not so much.  But to each his own.

There was another boat that had strung Christmas lights all along the windows of the boat on the outside.  The lights were off by the time I walked by but I bet they look cheerful in the dark.  Maybe I will have to make a special effort to take a walk this evening to admire them.  

Along the walk I picked a couple of sprays of red berries from the hedgerow to bring back to the boat and use as part of our Christmas decorations.  I have them in the same vase as my swan feathers and they look a treat together.  A nice spot of color.

While out walking I shared some "conversations" with the local dogs (one of which was very talkative), horses, swans, ducks and geese.  It is such a peaceful part of the day shared with these beautiful creatures.  I did wonder, however, what the water fowl thought of the temp of the canal water this morning.  A little nippy I would think.

And now, on the the making and steaming of Mike's Grandmother's figgy pudding, updated to make it healthier by his wonderful Aunt Evelyn.  One of those traditions of Christmas you can't do without.


Monday, December 8, 2014

Bread Sponge

I have a problem. 

Through a lack of planning or because of poor memory (or both), I now find myself with a small amount of yeast and a too long period of time before I can buy my usual one pound package of yeast. 

So, I have started a starter.  (Confusing isn't it.) 

And today, I am attempting to make bread using said starter. 

To do so you must use the starter, water and flour to create a sponge.  This can take a minimum of   8hours and up to 24 hours (quick baking of bread is a non starter here). 

Then you add salt, sugar, flour and oil and make the usual dough.  Now it sits for about 2 hours to double.

Then, you form the loaves and bake them for close to one hour.

Add it up, that is a minimum of  11-12 hours.

So, start in the AM and bake in the PM.  EXCEPT.....

The starter I fed last night and sat out (it is normally kept in the frig) to wake up and begin to work again, well it thought it was still in the frig.  (Yep, once the stove goes out the boat can get that cold.)

Consequently, I had to take said starter, re feed it some, and sit it by the solid fuel stove this morning so that I could wake it up and have a hope of making bread today.  It made me a little later than ideal to start that 11-12 hour process.

So think of me as I sit here rather later into the night than usual and wait for my bread to finish.

But I am sure it will make great toast tomorrow morning. :-)

Sunday, December 7, 2014

4 Ingredients & 5 Minutes=Fudge

Since I was young I have always loved peanut butter fudge.  My Aunt Bobbie made the best peanut butter fudge. The. Best.

Every Thanksgiving and Christmas her wonderful fudge was there.  In my mind, peanut butter fudge has to be there at Christmas.

I have Aunt Bobbie's recipe.  I do NOT have her skill. 

Consequently, I have tried many fudge recipes over the years.  Some have worked, such as the one using marshmallow cream, but today I tried another recipe just because it looked too simple and easy to really work.  Boy was I wrong.

2 cups of powdered sugar, 1/4 cup milk (I used dried), 3/4 cup peanut butter, 1 tsp vanilla is all you need

Mix the sugar and milk together.  Bring the mixture to a full boil and then boil for 2.5 minutes

Remove from heat and add the peanut butter and vanilla and mix well

Pour into a greased dish (I had to use a small loaf pan since my choices here are very limited)

The mixture did not stick to the bottom of the pan.
It has set up.
The scrapings from the pan were delicious.

Win. Win. Win.

Financials

Well year one is officially behind us.  The numbers have all been recorded and added up.  And, for any of you who might be considering possibly doing something like this and wonder what your budget might look like, here are our numbers for that first year.  Remember, this is how we have lived here.  You will live differently and therefore some of the numbers, if not all of them, will be different for you.

Boat Purchase: £47,000  We wanted one ready to go.  If you don't mind a project or two you can find one cheaper.  Ours is 57 feet long and will, therefore, fit in every lock.  If you go much larger than 60 feet some locks are too small to handle you.  If we maintain the boat well we should get a hefty part of the purchase price (ideally almost all, but I like to dream) when we sell it back.

Boat Survey:  £430  This is done by a professional when you buy the boat.  He checks all the systems to make sure everything is safe to use and working appropriately.  He will also tell you what you need to do maintenance wise in the near term and longer term.  If you stay with him while he does the survey you can also learn a great deal of valuable information about your boat and how to maintain it.

Boat Items: £560.46   This is the cost of the items we needed to equip the boat when we first bought it such as dishes, sheets, pillows, etc.  It also reflects other items purchased since then to replace items that have broken (that happens when the boat occasionally kisses the wall of a lock) or items we later discovered would be nice to have like a small pressure cooker, hot water bottles and wicker baskets for keeping paperwork, craft items, etc. under control, a Brita water pitcher.

Household Items:  £676.72    Think chemicals for our toilet, laundry and dish detergent, soap and shampoo, cleaning products, replacement kitchen towels, scrubbers and washrags, toilet and face tissues, foil and plastic food storage bags,etc.

Groceries:  £2049.53  Remember, we eat most of our meals here on the boat and that is what this figure covers.  It does not cover meals eaten off the boat.  Also remember that I cook from scratch and make a lot of things that others (sane people I have been told :-) buy.  I also love to scope out the reduced to sell racks whenever I hit the store and buy a lot of items this way.  So, this is REALLY a very subjective and ballpark figure.

Phone/Hot Spot:  £444.95  One of the very first things we did here was to buy a GPS and then a phone.  When on the boat it acts as our internet hot spot so that we have connectivity and I can thrill or bore all of you with my ramblings. :-)  The monthly top up fee that gets us unlimited connectivity time is £20. 

Boat Insurance:  £194.37 per year  We carry a policy that covers damage to our boat and damage done by our boat.  We have a separate renter's policy that covers the items on the boat.

Boat License:  £870 per year   This allows you to cruise the waterways.  The length of your boat is a factor in the cost of the license.  This license helps provide the money to maintain the waterways and it gives you access to the water points to fill your water tank, the elsen buildings to empty your toilet cassettes, shower and laundry facilities, trash disposal, recycling containers, etc. 

Boat Maintenance: £1323.02  A substantial portion of this amount covered the cost of having the boat re blackened in the spring.  This is a process that is done every two to 3 years to help protect the boat against rust.  Novice boaters such as we are should probably opt for every two years since the boat tends to be subjected to more scrapes and bumps than those driven by more seasoned boaters.  On even the newest of boats oil needs to be changed, things need to be greased, batteries need to be maintained, etc.  Plan on it.

Propane: £105  Our stove top and oven run off propane.  The more you cook on the boat the more propane you will go through.  It is about £25 to £30 per container, at least where we have purchased it.

Diesel:  £1191.36   The diesel powers the engine.  It gets you down the waterways.  It also provides you with heat if you do not use a solid fuel stove and with electricity.

Coal and Kindling:  £216.14  When we bought the boat it came with several bags of coal for the solid fuel stove and then we had to begin purchasing our own.  Initially, we also purchased some kindling for helping to start the fires.  We burnt almost exclusively coal the first year when we weren't using the engine to keep us warm.  Now, we gather kindling and larger dead-fall limbs and use them to burn in the stove.  Our use of the engine to heat is mainly confined to heating the bathroom before showers.  :-)

Now, if you add in the more personal expenses that would vary widely from person to person such as travel, drinks, clothes, gifts, meds, etc.  this past year cost us £22,000.  And remember, we traveled A LOT.

NOT BAD!




Rodley, Newlay and Kirkstall

For the last couple of days we have been moored at Rodley on the Leeds and Liverpool.  It is a charming small village with very friendly people and dogs.  But, we almost didn't get here except for the kindness and physical strength of two nice gentlemen. 

I needed to move a swing bridge out of the way so that Mike could move the boat past.  Usually swing bridges are no big problem.  Most are pedestrian bridges and therefore smaller and lighter weight.  Bridges designed to take vehicles are usually an open weave metal type (you know what I mean, right) and therefore heavier but still no big problem.  This bridge, however, was a whole other animal!

It was a vehicle bridge with its steel frame, filled with what felt like concrete, and then capped with metal.  It literally weighed at least a ton!  I pushed.  I shoved.  I muttered.  I pushed some more.  I muttered some stronger words. And, just when I was about to give up and tell Mike we really didn't want to go anywhere did we, help arrived.

Two very nice (and the fact that they were nice looking didn't hurt either) men who work for the local council saw my plight, pulled their vehicle over, and came and manhandled the bridge out of the way and then back into its original position for me.  It was WONDERFUL!  They were even nice enough to tell me they found the bridge heavy going, too.  (I think that is called a little white lie to be kind as is totally acceptable.)

I have found, many times, that the people over here are very nice about helping.  And always with a smile.  Gotta love it.

I am glad we made it to Rodley since the night before we had moored (after dark) at Kirkstall.  Unbeknown  to us, we had moored right next to a large university dorm.  I can attest that students really do stay up all night, at least some of them.  We could hear them talking and laughing all night.  Nothing wrong with that, just disturbing for us oldies. :-)

We had also moored at Newlay but because they were doing work on the canal path only mountain goats could make the climb up to the town and the local pub.  As you might expect, our stay there was short.  I am no mountain goat.  Not one bit.

While here in Rodley we have talked with many people out walking their dogs, feeding the ducks, perambulating their young ones.  One lady Mike met yesterday was out with her two toddlers in their pram.  They are trying to sell their house and when it is being shown she and the kids head out for long walks.  The movement and the fresh air soon do their magic and the little ones nap.  Mom then heads to the local pub for a hot drink until she can head home again.  Resourceful woman.

There is also a black swan here.  We saw him on our first evening walk but didn't have our camera.  Since then he has been elusive.  We were told by one nice lady that his mate winters on a nearby nature reserve so maybe he has gone there for a visit.  If we catch sight of him before we leave here I will get a pic and post it.  Keep your fingers crossed.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Roasted Chestnuts

Hands up all of you who have read any Dickens. 

Remember the roasted chestnut vendors? 

The idea of buying a warm little bag of these traditional British treats has always appealed.  Well, cross that one off my bucket list!

Yep, there are still chestnut vendors.  They are still scooped out and sold in little bags that help keep your hands warm as you munch.  And, they actually taste good.  I was a little worried about that last one but their flavor is a little sweetish and a lot moreish.

Mike and I shared a bag a couple of nights ago and we both agreed that this was a treat that we would enjoy repeating.  So, our eyes are peeled for those lovely little carts and their delightful treats that are wonderful to enjoy as day turns into dusk and then dark.

Score one for British tradition.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Love Me Some Charity Shops

 The charity shops here are like thrift stores in the U.S. but there are differences.

In the states you mainly see large Salvation Army and Good Will thrift stores with only a few smaller ones, if any.

Here, the charity shops are much smaller and there is a larger variety of them to browse.

 Most are of regular store front size (boutique size and not Marks and Spencer size).  There are often six or more conveniently located near each other on one of the city's shopping streets.  They are not located in strange more industrial areas where rents are lower as they often are in the U.S.

The charities they support are quite varied.  For example one shop might be raising funds for Air Ambulance, another for Age UK, or cancer, or heart disease,or autism, or cat rescue, or prevention of cruelty to animals, or a local charity dear to the hearts of the town's residents.  You get the idea. They run the gamete of worthy causes.

As you would expect, larger cities may have quite a few shops to browse.  But, I have also found two or three in what I would consider small villages.  They are abundant.

The staff of the shops, across the board, are very friendly and nice and we usually end up chatting once I open my mouth and speak and they realize I am not a native.  It is also nice to see shoppers, virtual strangers to each other often, helping each other to find just the perfect coat or sweater or whatever.  It always helps to have that unbiased second opinion.

What you will find and how much you will pay differs widely from shop to shop and town to town.  I have found some shops (some of my favorites) where EVERYTHING in the shop is £1!  Now there is a place for retail therapy with out a lot of guilt.  Others seem to go a little too far in the other direction and their prices quickly convince me to move on.  But, since there is always another shop just around the corner or just around the bend of the canal path, moving on is no hardship.

Every shopping trip is like a treasure hunt.  Will I find another pair of Clark shoes, never worn, for £5?  Is their another pair of Bass leather ankle boots out there for £6?  Will they have more yarn or buttons for me to craft with?  How about movies or music to enjoy?  One never knows and that is often one of the best parts.



store front small
friendly staff
varied charities
treasure hunts
£5 bass leather ankle boots

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Going West to Beatles Territory


 The last mechanized lock of the Aire and Calder Navigations is now behind us.  It is back to getting ourselves through the locks using human muscles.  I will miss the ease of the mechanized locks, as will my arthritic shoulders. 

And it appears that the mechanized locks did not want to see us go either.  We entered the lock as planned but then the lock would not allow us to exit.  Instead, we saw a lighted FAULT light.  A couple of hours later, after help from Canal and River Trust, we were able to raise the water level, open the gates and leave the lock.  Whew!  For awhile there we seemed destined to age in place. :-)

 See that blue line on the map of the UK below?  That is the Leeds and Liverpool Canal that will start traveling on this Tuesday (we have to book our way through some locks).  We will be moving from east to west (right to left) towards the Atlantic.  Yep, we are fairly far north during the darkest time of the year making our daylight hours even shorter.  Not good planning but nothing to do about it now. :-)
 The below map shows you the canal on a bit more standard map.





And, above, is a simpler look at the canal's path.  

The canal is 127¼ miles long and it links the north west seaport of Liverpool with the Aire and Calder Navigation at Leeds, forming a through route between the Irish Sea and the North Sea.

We will be leaving Leeds and heading towards the market town of Skipton.  Then, we will travel through remote and gorgeous countryside as we ascend towards what is known as the "backbone of England" or the Pennines.  And, then the final stretch through beautiful moorlands towards Liverpool and the Lancashire plain.  I will be opening and closing a fair share of locks to accomplish this upwards and downwards route but the countryside should make it all worthwhile.

















Expected and Exotic Animals along the Canal

As I walked from one lock to the next a few days ago I surveyed the countryside and was rewarded by the view of two twin cats sitting in identical positions on fence post uprights and surveying me as I surveyed them.  They were black with white sparkling shirt fronts and seemed very content with their lot in life.

In the field beyond their fence were four horses wearing their winter blankets and placidly chomping grass.  Not a care in the world.

And, I was lucky enough to make friends with a friendly black curly haired dog of international parentage.  I had the muddy footprints on my jeans to prove it.  The owner was apologetic but to me what is a little mud between friends.  Very much worth the price.

I didn't have the camera with me so I have no pics to share of my four footed friends.  However, Mike did have a camera and he took pics of some different animals we found along that same stretch of canal.

First, was the donkey we found at a lock.  This donkey was not at work pulling a boat and looked quite happy with his time of rest and relaxation.



Across the canal was a proud and regal parent surveying the world while protecting the baby deer who is wise enough to not venture far until all is safe.


Down the canal, almost hidden in the woods, was a creature not usually seen in these parts, a magnificent elephant.  Nearby, perhaps they journeyed together from darkest Africa, was a gorilla.  The gorilla was shy and since we could only get a picture of his nether regions from our boat we did not record him for posterity.


And, finally, just a little further on was this long necked giraffe calmly standing in someone's back garden surveying the strange world around it.

And who says there's nothing new to be found these days.  You just have to keep an eagle eye out. :-)

And, All Around the Town, Too

We took these pictures of the lights decorating the streets of Leeds yesterday on our way home after our afternoon out.  Yes, you heard that right, our AFTERNOON out.  These pics were taken just after 4:00 pm.  It is pitch black dark here by 4:30 and we have about 3 weeks to go before the shortest day of the year and the least amount of daylight! 






Below, thanks to the wonder of a very slowed down shutter speed, are clearer pictures to show you more of the beautiful details.





And, below, are some of the inside decorations appearing in the shopping arcades around Leeds.





I just love this time of year and all the lights!  It does the soul good.
 

Friday, November 28, 2014

It's Beginning to Look a lot Like Christmas, All Around the Boat

Christmas decorations are coming out and going up bo here on the boat and on the streets of England's towns and villages.

As anyone who has known me through a holiday season knows, I love Christmas and Christmas decorations.  Last year I kept things here on the boat very simple and minimal.  This year, while I am not going crazy by any means, I will be doing a little bit more to make the boat reflect the seasonal spirit.

First, at the local pound store I have purchased some snowflake window cling decorations and have applied them to our windows.  Immediately things felt more like Christmas.  At the same store I also got some battery powered strings of led lights that I put up by the windows in our living area.  I love little white fairy lights at Christmas.  I also bought some battery operated votives that will be all around the boat during the holidays in place of the candles I have had at my windows for past Christmases. 

Today Mike will dig out the pine cones I gathered this fall and the silver ornaments from last year and they will be put out to add to the mood, as will our tiny manger scene. Our tree will be a small green one I crocheted  and "hung" with button ornaments.  That will hang on one side of the door to the bow area where it can be seen from almost any part of the boat.

I am excited to see what the finished product looks like.  Hopefully it will be clear that we who live on this boat believe in Christmas, Santa, Elves, and the wonder of the birth of Jesus.

Gobbled, Gobbled


Yesterday's Thanksgiving Feast was delicious if I can pat myself on the back for a minute.  Most of it, except the turkey, had to be cooked on Tuesday and Wednesday and reheated on the day since our oven is at max capacity with an  8 by 12 pan on its only shelf. :-) Actually, that wasn't a bad thing since it made the actual day very stress free.

Since it was just another day here in Leeds Mike and I took a stroll around the town, had lunch out, and did a little shopping in a pound store for Christmas decorations for the boat.  It was a wonderful and relaxing day and I didn't even over indulge on the feast of goodies!

We had beer brined turkey (a new recipe I tried and the breast was very moist), butternut squash pie, baked root veg, homemade cornbread and homemade sausage dressing, gravy and 30 minute dinner rolls.  The trickiest part was filling the pie shell and then baking it until it was set enough not to slosh out of the pie if both Mike and I stood on the same side of the boat.  :-)  Something you usually don't have to consider when baking a pie on terra firma.

Today the carcass and skin from the turkey has been turned into broth and the bones are cooling and then will be picked of any remaining little bits of meat that can be used in soup.  I am thinking white turkey chili but may stay traditional and make turkey noodle soup.  Ah, the suspense!

 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving And Why We Should Give Thanks

In London their is a spot called Speakers Corner where people can literally step up on their soap box and give a "speech" about any subject of concern or interest to them.  I am now going to step up onto my own soap box for just a few moments.  Please bear with me.

In the U.K. the cost of living has gone up 28% in the last few years BUT the average earnings have gone up by  only 9%. Public sector wages are even worse and have risen by only 1%. 

The final effect is that people are dealing with an average cut in buying power of 19% or more.  That is HARD for most budgets to absorb and impossible for many.
 
The news might say that the economy is getting better but in truth, every one in the UK has got poorer over the last five years. 


Half a million people in the U.K. are using food banks.  And to put that into perspective, unlike in the U.S. where access to community food banks is fairly easy, here you have to "qualify" and have the correct referral.

A more sobering trend that food banks are finding happening more and more is that people are bringing back such staple foods as pasta, rice, oatmeal, etc. because they can't cook them.  Their utilities have been shut off.  Basically their food comes in a can and they eat it cold.

A recently released governmental statistic said that millions of people in the U.K. are less than a month away from living on benefits if they lost their job.  

And, like lots of other places these days, finding a replacement job will be difficult, often very difficult.

Tightening their belts has become a national past time in Britain.  Once can only wonder how many parents are going hungry so that their children can eat.  Or, how many are living in COLD houses without any heat so that the money can be used to buy food.   

So, when you look at your Thanksgiving table and enjoy the feast with family and friends, please take a moment to REALLY be grateful for what is before you.  We are blessed.

I will now step down from my soap box.

Children in this country are leaving their homes of a morning and going to school hungry. Parents aren’t eating for days in order to give their children food. - See more at: http://www.athriftymrs.com/2014/07/what-is-in-a-food-parcel-from-a-food-bank.html#sthash.KDk4Rb3v.dpuf
Children in this country are leaving their homes of a morning and going to school hungry. Parents aren’t eating for days in order to give their children food. - See more at: http://www.athriftymrs.com/2014/07/what-is-in-a-food-parcel-from-a-food-bank.html#sthash.KDk4Rb3v.dpuf


In 2013/2014 there were 13 million people living below the poverty line right here in the United Kingdom and 913,138 people (330,205 children) were fed by food banks. - See more at: http://www.athriftymrs.com/2014/07/what-is-in-a-food-parcel-from-a-food-bank.html#sthash.KDk4Rb3v.dpuf
 


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Hide and Seek

We have been playing that favorite childhood game with our internet signal since we returned to England.  We were usually told by our computers that we were connected, but they lied.  The little green circles would go around and around as if a connection would be made any time.  But, you could grow very old waiting for that connection.  Clicking through to a site via a link was impossible.  Searches for information you might want to find went nowhere.

And then, just when you were ready to never try again:  it decided to actually take you where you were asking to go.  But... once your guard was down and you were happily thinking all was well again...it was gone again.

The result, a distinct decline in my ability to blog here.

Let me explain. 

To write a post I must first be able to click through and get the "form" for writing such a post.  Sometimes I could do that and often I could not.

Then, once I had written the post, I needed to be able to save it.  And, you guessed it, quite often I was unable to do so.

Once a post is saved, if that is possible, you can then click to publish.  THAT, it turned out, was a very random occurrence.

Hence, my less than consistent blogging pattern.  Regular service will resume when the technology gods smile upon me.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Repositioning as a Way to Travel

Our last trip back to the U.S. was via a repositioning cruise that left from England and sailed to Fort Lauderdale as it's final port.  The point of these cruises is to take ships from an area that will not need them to an area that will need them.  Not many people take cruises around Europe and the Baltic in the winter.  But, they do love to take cruises in the warmer Carribbean area. 

The number of ports of call on repositioning cruises is minimal, ours was scheduled to stop at Lisbon, Bermuda and the Bahamas before finishing in Fort Lauderdale.  The cost of these cruises is lower than the usual expected cost of two week cruises.  As you might expect, this fact appeals to many individuals.
Crew got some time off at each port to explore but many just used this time to sleep. Their work schedules are grueling.

Shore Excursions:  usually more expensive than what you can book locally.  Some excursions can be booked ahead of time but others can book while in port.  But, the boat will wait for you if the tour comes back late.

Because of the extended time of the cruise, it was not surprising to find that the majority of the passengers on the ship were in our age group or older.  The younger individuals were there in small numbers but they were there to some extent.

To make sure we did not literally "miss the boat" we traveled down to the port of departure in the south of England by train the day before.  It was a wise decision since we were delayed by maintenance being done on the rails and the need to take a bus from one train station to another to get around the maintenance area.
We also faced a distinct "challenge" in connecting with a taxi to take us from our final train station to our hotel.  And to make it even more fun, it was pouring down rain the entire time we waited. 

At the hotel we stayed in the night before we boarded the boat we met a young couple (in the bar and who could blame them) who had taken a cruise for their honeymoon, US to England.  They were waiting at the hotel for the boat to dock so that they could retrieve their luggage.  Yep, they missed the boat and it departed without them at their last port of call.  I know now that what they say about leaving without you is not an idle threat.

Shore Excursions available from the ship are usually more expensive than what you can book locally.  Some independent excursions can be booked ahead of  the time of sale and others can be booked while in port.  These are usually less expensive and are what we have always used.  But, if you book the excursions through the boat, it will wait for you if the tour comes back late. Our solution, have a reliable watch, keep track of the time and give yourself a margin for error.  We have never been left behind yet.  (Knock on wood.)
 

Ponta Delgarda, Azores:  Since we couldn't go into Lisbon, Portugal because of weather, a last minute arrangement was made for us to dock in Ponta Delgarda, Azores, located about 800 miles off the coast of Portugal.  It was a lovely island with gorgeous buildings.  We loved walking around the island and looking at everything.


During our uninterrupted days at see, I enjoyed going to talks about the Crown Jewels of England, the kings and queens of England through the ages, prisoners in the tower,coronation rituals,etc. They were given by a gentleman whose actually life time career was to work in the Tower of London where the Crown Jewels are kept.  Since I love all things England, these were very enjoyable for me.

Mike enjoyed talks about the Bermuda Triangle, the movement of the "plates" of the Earth's crust, Atlantis, submarines, etc.   We learned a few new things and it was not at all painful.

Our two weeks had 3 Formal Nights.  In past days, formal dress was expected.  But now, cocktail dresses, formal pantsuits (if there is such a thing), and even what one would call casual dress were all seen in the dining rooms those evenings.  Just keep in mind that portraits will be taken of you on those evenings and dress yourself accordingly.



We bought, before we got onto the boat, the 14 day soda pack, a bottle of Jameson, and a bottle of Jim Beam.  While iced tea, coffee, some juices, etc. are available free of charge, things like cola are not.  Hence, our soda pack.  Since the Special of the Day (Alcoholic) was two for $10.50 or $5.25 each with other drinks higher, the non alcoholic special of the day $6.00 each, and the daily coffee available for purchase at $8.50 each we felt having a drink in our cabin each night was the smarter way to go.

Our ship arrived at Nassau,Bahamas just after it had been "visited" by its second hurricane in a week or so. Tarps were seen on roofs that had been damaged and "Hurricane Discounts" were widely advertised.  Unfortunately, it also rained almost non stop while we were there.   But what we did see looked quite nice and I hope to return some day when the weather is less wet.

Usually, you put your luggage out by your door the night before you dock.  But, since we had to catch a train and we did not have the time to go through the normal process.  So, we took our own luggage off the ship and through through customs and, made the train.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

UNCLE! I Give Up!

I admit defeat.  I am unable to get the comments part to work on this blog. (This comes as no surprise to those who are familiar with my great track record with technology of all sorts. :-)

So, if you would like to comment, and I would LOVE to hear from you and find out what you think, please send an email to my specially set up new email account just for your comments:  sandyinengland@gmail.com.

Hope to talk with some of you soon.

PS:  If you have a comment about a past blog or two that you have been dying to share, please feel free now.  I am still interested.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Don't You Just Hate It?

Mike and I have been reading about the early onset winter being endured by so many of our family and friends.

We really don't know what to say.

I had really hoped that mother nature would be merciful but it seems not. (Should I mention global warming here?)

For those in Erie, Buffalo (poor Mary Francis), Rochester and surrounding, we are with you in spirit.

But, in actuality, our temp today was near 50 with no rain.  Don't you just hate us?  Yep, I would too.

Wish It Was My Idea

For those that know me this will come as NO surprise, I like to make homemade gifts but I lack the essential talent to do so. :)

One of the things I have always thought would be neat was to make or remake candles so that they could be recycled/upcycled.  However, I was never successful since my wicks never did well.  They leaned, listed, and just didn't do what they were supposed to do.

Hence my excitement in reading a blog recently that suggested using a simple birthday candle as your wick.  Attach it to your container (obviously not too tall, everything has a down side) with melted wax.  Once secure, add additional hot wax, a BIT at a time, so as not to undo the initial anchorage of the birthday candle, until the container to hold your candle is full.

What a simple but brilliant idea!  Wish it was my idea.

I've Still Got It

Tonight's dinner will be meatball subs.  The meatballs are part beef, part TVP and lots of spices.  The "spaghetti sauce" is actually the remaining portion of the ministrone soup eaten earlier this week that I had previously blended into a sauce consistancy.

Another portion of the above created sauce was used last night as the base for homemade pizza that was served with popcorn.  It was moreish, as the Brits say.

The first part of the sauce I had used, on a night I was less than inspired to cook, to make a one pan pasta dish that was served with homemade Italian styled baking powder biscuits.  I had read the recipe for the biscuits on the internet but it used biscuits you can buy in a can.  Me, I made mine from scratch.  They are definitely a do again.


The minestrone soup was itself a remake of an Italian dish that had been served earlier in the week on top of couscous.  Mike said he quite enjoyed it so would Imake it again? BUT......
It was in fact a remake of a previous beef dish with onions and peppers that I found in the freezer.  I have no clear memory of how I made it so repeating it is obviously a no go. 

Five meals (plus 5 lunches) from one container of freezer leftovers, a can of diced tomatoes, a chopped onion, some garlic, some spices and cooked dry garbanza beans, plus one quarter pound of beef used tonight.  I will call that a win to avoid food waste, minimize meat consumption, keep food costs in line and still enjoy the meals made.

Yep, I've still got it!


Sunday, October 12, 2014

WOO HOO!

Just a short note so that I can let everyone know that we are now on the train heading towards where we will meet the ship tomorrow. 

And...we are traveling in First Class comfort!  We have been served complimentary coffee and later, if we so desire, we can ask for sandwiches, crisps, cookies or blueberry muffins.

We also have a very comfortable seat with plenty of leg room and a table to make our dining even more comfortable.

One could get used to traveling like this and it would not take long at all.

For those of you that are wondering, no Mike is not getting senile and booking first class and who cares about the cost.  Hardly.  Actually, due to a special deal, traveling first class was actually cheaper than traveling our normal class. 

Let us hope for more specials in our future.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

All Our Bags Are Packed

The boat is moored at a marina in Lemonroyd. 

Our luggage is lined up, bulging and heavy, and ready to go. 

Tomorrow we take a train from Leeds to where we meet the ship on Monday. 

And then we are off on our two week repositioning cruise with stops in Lisbon and a couple of ports in the Caribbean.  Our final destination is Florida. 

There we will leave the boat and take a train to DC to visit the kids and grands. :-)

We will also be making visits to Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York to see friends, family and doctors so that they will renew prescriptions (so picky ;-). 

I expect to be  back posting regularly in about 5 1/2 to 6 weeks.  I know I will not have internet access on the ship but may have in a cafe here or there.  If so, will try to make a quick post.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Spiders Hate Horse Chestnuts

They are called conkers her in the UK but Americans know them as horse chestnuts.  And, it appears to be widely known over here that spiders do not like them.  So, if you pick some up off the ground and take them home and disperse them around your house, magically no more pesky spiders and spider webs!

I first heard about conkers and spiders when I was walking along the canal and came upon an older (probably around my age come to think of it) couple picking them up off the ground.  Now I like them, too and usually pick up a few shiny ones, put them in my jacket pocket and completely forget about them until much later when they are all shriveled.  Then I throw them out.

But this nice lady told me that she actually had a purpose for them:  to ward off spiders.  She said she did this every year and she swore it worked.  I must admit I was, at best, skeptical.

But then I read a blog about them.  The woman's mother in law always placed a conker on the window sill in each room to stop the spiders from living in her house.  The blogger was also skeptical and for years just filed the information away as a good old wives' tale.

And then came this fall.  She has been waging a losing battle with the hordes of spiders that have moved into her house and seem to like the neighborhood so much that they invited their friends to live there, too. She was desperate.  So out came the old wives' tale.


She took the three conkers that she had picked up when out on a walk and dispersed them around the house.  Just 3, remember.  And no, that was not enough for one in every room.  But they did the trick.

She reported that there are now no more spiders in her house!

Well, spiders seem to love boats, too.  But, I don't like spiders.  The only spider I have ever felt close to was fictional, could spell words in her web, and was named Charlotte.

So, excuse me while I get some conkers and spread them around the boat.  Spiders, you have just been evicted.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Wellies, Wood Fire and Wet Weather: God Laughing.

Yep, that pretty much describes my day.

The paths can (are) muddy so on with the wellies I have not worn since last early spring.
The are is damp and cool (cold) so we have had a wood fire going all day to make us comfortable and to soothe old joints (mine).
And the weather, well that has been wet, by and large.  It rains, it stops, it rains again, it stops again, you get the picture.

Well, about 2:30 I decided that since we were out of butter, eggs, bread, and four to make bread with, that a trip to the store would probably be smart.  Yeah, right.

So I headed out with my wellies and vest on.  I got to town OK (town is now Castleford, BTW).  However, after making my purchases ( of the above including the flour and some custard donuts that just happened to jump into my cart without my knowing it), I headed home as it began to sprinkle.

Not bad.  What could be called a soft day.  However, it did not stay soft.

Slowly but surely God turned up the faucet until it was really and truly a rainstorm.  The dripping off your hair and nose, can't see out of your glasses rain storm.

But hey, this is England.  Rain is to be expected.  Roll with it, right?

So, once home I dried off, but on some warm jammies, and got comfortable for the evening.

And, I swear the rain stopped as I god dried off and it has not rained since.  Does anyone else hear God laughing?

Where Can You Find Teens at Night? (A Journey of 1000 Miles)

If the beer cans are any indication, they appear to favor hanging out along canals and river locks.  Walk along the paths and you do not have to go far to find cozy little indentations in the hedges and the litter of beer cans and crisp packaging.

I understand the teenage need for private spaces out of sight of eyes that always seem judgmental.  I can even reach far back into the recesses of my mind and remember feeling that way myself.

But, what I can not understand is leaving all the garbage behind.  First, it clearly gives you away.  Anybody who looks knows what is going on here and could come back some evening and confront you.  Second, that cozy little indentation can't be all that comfortable when it is full of garbage.  And third, one reads that the younger people are very concerned about what mankind is doing to the environment.  Well, here is an example of environmental harm close to home that need not happen.

Keep a plastic bag of some sort in a pocket.  Collect all the refuse from your get together in the  bag and either put it in a handy refuse container or sit it somewhere where others can dispose of it properly.  That will be much easier than them having  to hunt around in the hedge rows and pick up after you.  I promise they will think much kinder thoughts while disposing of a neat bag of refuse than they would think if they had to pick up said refuse piece by piece.

The same can be said for all the garbage that ends up in the canals.  Using a garbage bag or a refuse bin would be neater, more environmentally friendly and leave the canals looking much more attractive.  A floating garbage heap is not a pretty sight.

How do you make the world a better place?  One positive action at a time.  So, when out walking the canals I am going to take a plastic bag with me and pick up the refuse along the way and dispose of it properly.  It's a small step but that's how one makes a journey of a thousand miles:  one small step at a time.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Can Food Live On Forever?

How Long can one meal last?  This one seems to never be all eaten and a thing of the past.  Enough.

About a week and a half ago, before the rains of October set in, I made a pasta dinner with fresh tomato, sweet peppers, onion and cheese sprinkled on top.  It was dressed in a very simple homemade Italian.

As I have been known to do, a million times or so, I made too much.  The amount of pasta seemed fine.  The vegetable mix looked great.  When I put them together I swear something weird happened and the amount I had multiplied.  Let's call it an act of nature. (Then it is not. my. fault.)

So, we ate it for dinner that night and lunch the next day.  And the leftovers still looked like they could feed a few hungry teenagers. 

So, we went with using the leftovers in minestrone soup and I added some garbanzo beans and chopped tomatoes and adjusted the seasonings.  It was good and we had it for dinner and lunch.  And it still was not gone so into the freezer it went while I hunted for inspiration.

Today it came out of the freezer and was pureed by my immersion blender into a tomato type sauce.  It will be the base for tonight's churizo and cheese pizza. 

No worries now.  Pizza always gets eaten between dinner and lunch.  Always.

The saga is over.  Finally.

Monday, October 6, 2014

What a Difference a Day Makes

Yesterday was a gorgeous autumn day:  full of sun, warm, no rain, just enough of a breeze.  Perfect.

We took advantage of the day by traveling a little further on our voyage to the Leeds and Liverpool.  The fields are so green, the cows and sheep and horses look so "pastorally contented" (can I say that?  who cares, it's my blog so I will anyway).   Off on the horizon, at the end of the fields and meadows, you can see the church towers, the stone and brick houses, the rows of mature and stately trees. Idyllic. There won't be many more days like that. 

To make the day even better, we skyped with John and Emma (and Meg and Ash).  It was breakfast time for them and lunchtime for us.  Once John got over his shyness we had a great conversation.  He told us about his visit to 'Mommy's grandpa' and the animals they saw.  He was all excited about the visit to the pumpkin patch for later in the day and his plans to bring home a small pumpkin for Emma and a BIG pumpkin for himself. And we learned about his latest interest, dinosaurs.  Emma was just busy toddling around, playing in cupboards and smiling and giggling at everything.  She really enjoyed when mom would pick her up and stand by John's chair (where he was busy eating half of mom's bagel).  Emma loves to take that opportunity to give John kisses in his hair.  When I commented to John that Emma loves her big brother he nonchalantly answered 'Yeah.' Great kids.  Lucky grandparents.

After our conversation Mike and I went out to Sunday lunch!  He had a cheeseburger and chips and I had potato skins (not nearly as stuffed or as greasy over here so I don't have to feel as guilty).

We moored for the night at a beautiful section that makes you feel you have literally stepped off the world and left all that hustle and bustle behind, at least for awhile.  Very calm and serene (I have always loved the word serene.  Princess Grace was 'Her Serene Highness'.  I always thought that was a great title to have.)

That was yesterday. 
Now we have today and it is a horse of a different color.

The breeze is now a strong wind.  The sun is gone and the rain is pelting the boat.  It is damp and very, very cool with a high today expected to reach only 10 celcius.  Today we will stay inside and take care of projects and chores and try to stay dry and warm.  The wood is burning in the stove and just seeing the flames helps you feel warmer.  It's a placebo effect but I'll still take it.

And, as Orphan Annie said, the sun will come out tomorrow.