Monday, March 31, 2014

Dear Diary

Note:  Where we parked last night had no internet signal.  So yesterday's post was done in work and then posted once we got a signal today.

My day began to the song of the birds.  A much nicer thing to wake up to than an alarm clock, I must say.

For breakfast, after the coffee, I made: a Greek omelet for Mike and a Spanish one for me.

After the dishes were done, I did two loads of laundry.  I have discovered that two loads hung to dry works well as it does not take over the living room and dining room areas of the boat.

Then there were the locks to do for today’s journey.  We traveled just over 9 miles today and did 17 locks.  That is a lot of opening and closing and a pretty hefty walk for the day.  My knees were complaining loudly by the end but I just told them it would make them stronger. :-)

It was a gorgeous day.  A shirt sleeves only day.  And as I walked I got to see lots of little lambs playing in the fields and nursing at momma’s every ready milk bar. :-)  I also saw bunnies, birds, dogs, cats, and water fowl.

I did not see many females amongst the ducks and geese, although the males were about.  I am assuming that means the females are sitting on their nests now.  We should have babies in the near future. Can’t wait.

At one lock there was a stall with local eggs: on the honor system to pay.  I have discovered I love these locally produced eggs.  Soooo much better than the ones in the store even if those are marked free range.  They just aren’t the same.

We pulled over partway for lunch and watched the little lambs some more.  We also enjoyed the pastoral views.  Looking at the scene you literally would not be able to tell what century it is.  Lovely.  Lunch was cobbled together from cheese, crackers, fruit and salad.  Nothing fancy but it did the job.

At the last lock of the day I had a nice conversation with the lady who lives alongside the canal.  She had home baked goodies for sale, but I resisted temptation.  

We were discussing my buying some local eggs at a previous lock and she said they usually have eggs but this winter a fox got her “girls”.  They have replaced them with hens from a commercial producer that had outlived their usefulness commercially.  Now, they will have a second lease on life, really be free range, and will produce just lovely for the lady and her family, but no extra eggs yet. 

We finished the last lock just after 7.  As Mike was tying up I went below to do the lunch dishes and get a start on dinner (chili spaghetti using leftover chili).  

I was going to make some bread since we are out but I ran out of ambition.  Oh well, tomorrow is another day.

All in all a productive, enjoyable and beautiful British Mother’s Day.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Happy Mother's Day

Today in the UK they are celebrating Mother's Day. 

Yesterday I saw hordes of men and children out buying flowers (cut and plants), chocolates, and items from the charity shops in preparation for today's celebration.  It appears British men aren't any better at thinking ahead than American men.  The day before is plenty soon enough. :-)

Since we are not British Mike decided he gets a pass on today. (Phew!)  No need to stress him twice, is there.  :-) 

Today is also the day that the UK springs ahead.  All clocks are put ahead one hour.

 I find that ironic.  Celebrate Mom's Day by taking away an hour of the time she gets to celebrate! 

Oh well, for those who have to still do the work on this day at least they get to work an hour less.  Must look on the bright side.  :-)

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Parable of the Loaves and Fishes

Think back to Sunday School when you were a child.  Remember how Jesus fed the multitude bread and fish and the supply did not run out?

Now, if you changed it to Loaves and Beans you are talking my language.

I have cooked dry beans literally for decades.  When Mike and I were in grad school with our two young daughters we developed quite a few frugal habits that have just stuck with us.  Using dry beans is one of them.  As I have been told by family members, this and other frugal actions might save me a couple dollars a year. :)  Old habits die hard.

Well, back to the beans.  I ALWAYS try to cut down on the amount I put in to soak so that we won't be overrun by beans.

I ALWAYS fail.

Last night was no exception.

I put some pinto beans to soak so that I could make a meatless taco soup for lunch today (it's a Friday in Lent, don't ya know).  

This morning when I checked I swear I had enough beans to make soup for a soup kitchen!  Somebody must sneak in and add more beans when I am not looking.  Really, they must.

So now I have to figure out what to do with all those beans: 
  • taco soup for lunch
  • taco pizza
  • bean burittos
  • bean and cheese tostados
  • bean burgers
It could be a very beany week.

P.S. Mike just said their is supposed to be a pub along today's route that has great fish and chips and he wants to stop there.  I never turn down a meal I don't have to cook or clean up after.  (Let's face it, I never turn down a meal.  Period. )

But I wonder, is he worried about all the beans and his culinary future?  Poor guy.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

My Kingdom for a Cart

Walking everyplace you want or need to get to is good exercise.  On nice days it is enjoyable and relaxing.  Most of the time I love it.  But, those other times...

Today was shopping and restocking day before we leave civilization behind us again and head out into the beautiful but very rural English countryside to do the second half of "the ring."

We were in need of a fair amount of provisions, as you know if you read yesterday's blog.  Plus, it was also decided that our stock of adult evening libations needed to be restocked, too.

I am sure all of you that do the shopping for your family (most of you, probably) know how heavy milk, bleach, washing up liquid, canned foods, vegetables, flour, sugar, etc. can be once you get them packed into the bags and ready to take home.

And, remember the adult libations?  Mike found a great deal on Bombay Blue Sapphire Gin at one pound over what he pays for his normal Gordon's gin.  So instead of one bottle to get home we had two.

The result, two enormously heavy cloth bags and two fairly normally heavy bags.  Two each.  No problem, right?

But, add to all of this the fact that the Morrisons had to be at least 500 miles from the boat (or it sure felt like that once we started home).  I felt like a very old pack mule that was loaded beyond her capabilities.

Now here is the interesting part:  we have a two wheeled cart that was purchased so that we could more easily transport heavy loads back to the boat.  However, it only helps when you use it.  To use it you must take it with you.  And Mike has decided recently that he would rather not take it.  So, we didn't have it with us.

My prayer is that after listening to me mumble under my breath and sigh and maybe even moan now and then, Mike will decide that taking the cart in the future will be the wisest thing to do.  He will if his survival instinct is still strong. :-)

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A Swan Convention

Today, on the outskirts of town, we passed a convention of swans.

About 36 of them.

We have never seen any where near this number together before.

I have no idea why, especially since this is mating season and most should be going about two by two unless they are under four years old (when they don't yet mate.)

No matter the reason, it was a wonderful sight to see.

Spring ReDo

 I have redecorated the living and dining room areas for spring and summer.  The dark blue cushions and curtains of the winter just didn't do it.
I went for light and bright.....and inexpensive.
Those of you that know me know I am into inexpensive.
 I love how it worked out.  It is so much brighter.  I love brighter.

And guess how much my inexpensive re-do of cushions, pillows and curtains cost?

Fifteen pound sterling or about $23.00.

So, what do you think?

Off To The Shops

We have made it to Middlewitch, approximately half way through the 4 County Ring. 

While I am pleased about that milestone, I am even more pleased that Middlewitch is big enough to have shops for me to buy groceries.  It has been over a week and we are getting down there.

I need: eggs, milk, butter, fresh fruit, fresh vegies, canned fruit, canned veg, olive oil, garlic, cheese, paper towels, washing up liquid, juice, peanut butter, mince (whether it be beef or turkey or chicken I am not particular at this point), sugar, self rising flour, and I am sure other things I am not remembering right now.  I even have to restock our dry milk fall back for when we are out of milk.  Yep, we had to break into that, too.

Luckily I have a 10 pound sterling voucher off a 40 pound shop at Morrisons.  I don't think hitting the 40 pounds will be a problem. :-)

After I dutifully do my grocery shop I will head off to the charity shops in town.  I am looking for some videos and maybe some books. 

Who knows what else might call my name. 

Ten in Two

That is 10 locks in 2 miles!

Each lock means the opening and closing of four paddles to let water in and then out again.
Each lock also means the opening and closing of the gates to let the boat in and then out again.

That all takes time.  Lots of time.

Translation, that was the sum total of what we accomplished in a day.

Since it was sunny and not raining it was an enjoyable day full of healthy exercise and fresh air.  I slept well.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Fancy Roads!

One of the communities we passed recently was Stoke on Trent.  It is the pottery center of England, manufacturing fine china by makers such as Royal Doulton, Royal Albert, Minton, to name but a few.

There is even a factory store where they give you direct from the manufacturer prices.  Mike and I went there and looked at all the beautiful china and crystal. 

Waterford crystal is in the factory store here, although it is manufactured in Ireland, because
"Waterford Wedgwood Royal Doulton." are now part of one big family being administered by the same company.  Sell one, sell them all.

It is mind boggling to look at crystal bowls that cost over $10,000!  Woe be unto the poor pet or child that knocks that off the table and breaks it.  They might as well leave home then and there with plans to emigrate  to Australia or such. :-) 
To the right is my pick for the perfect gift for an individual with discriminating taste in Scotch and in china.  A Wedgwood decanter for his or her single malt scotch.  If Glenfiddich is not their brand I will volunteer to take the scotch off their hands and they can refill it with the brand of their choice.  (Such sacrifices I make so that people have the perfect gift. :-) )  

On the way into Stoke on Trent, in the town of Barlaston is the factory where Wedgewood is made.  They give factory tours and have a museum.  Mike did the tour and came back with lots of interesting tid bits.  

The one that I found fascinating is that pieces of Wedgewood that break when fired or that are flawed are ground up and used as part of the mixture making up the roads of this part of England!  Who knew!

I will never look at a road in the same way again.