Saturday, May 31, 2014

Slam, Bam, Thank You Maam (Duck Style)

The canal is full of baby ducks, geese and swans in all stages of growth from newly born to "teenagers".  They are cute to watch swimming all in a line either down the canal or from side to side.  And believe me, if they realize food is being offered they can definitely put on their go fasters so as not to miss out on the treat!

One would assume, or maybe just I would assume, that mating season was over.  However, that is obviously not the case.

As I was puttering around the boat yesterday being all domestic I looked out the window to see four male ducks who had "trapped" a little female against the wall of the canal.  One male eventually won out and took matters into his own hands, er wings.

I thought he was trying to drown the poor little girl until I realized he was just using her for a one night stand.  But never fear.  That little lady was made of sterner stuff.

Once he was done and she was able to resurface (thank heavens she was good at holding her breath under water), she swam after him down the canal loudly and continuously giving that male a LARGE piece of her mind!

If I was a betting woman, my money is on the male being made to live up to his responsibilities and support his family.  After all, the little female was clearly NOT that kind of a girl.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Super Scrimping

There is a TV show over here titled Super Scrimpers that shows people who have found themselves with too much month at the ed of their money how to stretch that money.  They cover thrift stores, cooking from scratch, mending instead of replacing, shopping in pound stores, etc.

One of their favorite suggestions is to shop the reduced sections at the grocery stores.  As the store gets closer and closer to closing time the prices drop and drop until they are practically giving away the products with that day's date as its expiration or best by date.

You can usually tell where the marked down items are from the crowd of people calmly waiting in the queue for their turn to see what good deals they can find. And, if you are lucky that day and find a few, the check out girl will applaud you with a "Good job with the bargains." as you get ready to pay.

I have found that Tesco and Morrisons seem to have the best mark downs.  Aldi and Asda, in my experience, have very few.  I have heard that Lidyl has good ones but I have only shopped in one so I don't have personal experience there.  Sainesbury and Waitrose have mark downs but there prices are higher to begin with so they have farther to drop before you really get a bargain.  The UK Cooperative Store chain can have good deals but you have to keep your eyes open.  Their first reductions are only by 20 pence or so and, at least to me, that just doesn't cut it.  But later in the process you can find a few deals worth buying.

Here are some actual deals I have picked up in the last few days to restock:

From the Cooperative:
  • Stir Fry Vegies (little corn, pea pods, green beans and carrots packed together) WAS 1.95 NOW 20p
  • Fresh Watercress for salads and sandwiches WAS 1.25 NOW 20p
  • Seedless Green Grapes WAS 2.00 NOW 1.00
  • Lettuce WAS 1.00 NOW 30 p
  • Zucchini WAS 1.85 NOW 37 p
  • Cauliflower Head WAS 1.15 NOW 58 p
  • Whole Wheat bread WAS 1.43 NOW 5p (yep, five!  I can't make it for that)
  • Bananas WAS1.00 NOW 50 p
  • Spreadable Butter WAS 1.89 NOW 47p
Original Price:  13.53                          Reduced Price:  3.67              for a savings of:  9.86

From Morrisons:
  • 1 L of shelf stable milk WAS1.00 NOW 19p
  • Mixed Dried Fruit WAS 1.89 NOW 95p
  • Dried Dates WAS 1.89 NOW 49p
  • Bagels WAS 1.60 NOW 85p
  • Beef Shin for Stewing WAS 4.56 NOW 99p
  • Stewing Meat (pork) WAS 55p NOW 19p (a lady & I split the available containers 3 her 1 me)
  • Pork Mince WAS 2.71 NOW 75p
  • Gorgonzola cheese WAS 1.42 NOW 75p
  • Brie WAS 1.69 NOW 85p
  • Cheddar WAS 2.94 NOW 1.49
  • Cottage Cheese WAS 1.20 NOW 9p (Wow!)
  • Ale and Mustard Cheddar WAS 1.90 NOW 90p
  • Jarlsberg WAS 1.17 NOW 74p
  • Fresh Motzarella WAS 1.09 NOW 54p (went straight into the freezer)

Original Price:   25.61                        Reduced Price:  9.77             for a savings of:  15.84

Now, aren't you glad to discover I am still bargain hunting?  Come on, I know you are. :-)

Monday, May 26, 2014

An Ounce of Prevention

is worth a pound of cure.  That was one of my grandmother's stock sayings.  So, I am going the prevention route.

I have not seen or been dinner for any mosquitoes yet this year.  However, since we have lots of water puddles, etc. for the to grow in and since they seem to love me, a lot, I am hoping to get the jump on them.

The government of Dubai has made available directions for an easy and eco friendly mosquito trap that I have decided to try.  I have made 3 so far: 2 large and 1 small.

 All you do is take a plastic soda bottle and cut it in half. In the bottom half goes a mixture of water and brown sugar that has been heated on the stove so that the sugar melts completely.  Make sure you let it cool before you put it in the plastic bottle or the plastic will warp.  On top of the liquid sprinkle 1/8 tsp of yeast.  Take the top half of the bottle and turn it upside down and insert it into the bottom half of the bottle.  Cover the bottle with something black, an old sock works or the sleeve of an old black sweater (that is what I used).

As to why this should work:
  • mosquitoes like sweet things (sugar and water)
  • they are attracted to the carbon dioxide put off by the yeast
  • they are attracted to the color black
  • they fly in and drown
I put my three traps in out of the way places in the living area, kitchen area and bedroom area.  If you have lots of mosquitoes the traps should be redone every 10 days to 2 weeks.

I am just hoping I don't have to endure the buzzing around my ears this summer that lets me know they are zeroing in for a meal.  Sorry mosquitoes, one of us had to go.

A Memorial Day Feast

Between opening and closing locks, admiring baby ducks and swans, and chatting with dogs and cats that pass by I have been busy being suzy homemaker in preparation for our Memorial Day traditional feast.

I soaked and then pressure cooked some dried pinto beans that I used to make cowboy baked beans.  Mike doesn't like the usual Boston baked beans, too sweet for his taste buds. So I season the beans with cayenne and cumin along with the traditional ketchup and mustard and just a very small touch of molasses.

I have hard boiled some eggs to be used as deviled eggs and in the macaroni salad (once I cook the macaroni which should be soon so it can cool).  I was thinking potato salad but Mike voted for macaroni.  Shall do potato someday soon, though.

Last night I made a batch of my one minute mayo to use in both the eggs and the salad.  The homemade tastes so much better than the jar type I have found here.  And, now that I have discovered a fast and easy way to make it using the immersion blender in favor of a whisk, it is no trouble or bother at all. Just an egg, lemon juice, salt, mustard and oil in a bowl and blend for about a minute.  Ta Da!

I am not a fan of regular coleslaw so I have made an Asian Slaw with a peanut butter dressing.  It smells divine and the little sample I took of the dressing (had to make sure it was OK didn't I?) tasted very promising.

The frozen beef mince and sliced Red Leicester cheddar are on the counter for the burgers.  All I need to do there is mix up a small batch of dough for burger buns.

I have homemade brownies (with extra chocolate chunks added) and fresh strawberries to round out the meal.  Yum!

It is a feast and we will be eating it in bits and pieces all week to complete the side dishes for things on the menu.  An easy week for me. :-)

We wish all of you a fine Memorial Day.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Wild Flowers Are In Bloom

As we have traveled down the canal since our return I have been enjoying all the beautiful wild flowers that we have seen.  Here are some of them for you to also enjoy.  Aren't they beautiful?

Common Mallow - wild flower (aka Cheese Cake in England).
Common Mallow

Common Ragwort (Jacobaea vulgaris) wild flower aka Ragweed.
Corn Chamomile
Cow Parsley
Yellow Flag Iris

Friday, May 23, 2014


We are back in Fradley Junction moored outside the Swan.

Yesterday we were to have moved on down the canal in the direction of Nottingham, Robin Hood and Maid Marian but, since it rained all day, we decided to stay put.  Since I am still victim to jet lag I didn't mind that at all.

The local ducks know that we are back and that the O'Neill buffet is again up and running.  They hear my voice and they come waddling and swimming in the direction of the boat to be in on whatever goodies are about to hit the water.  Even when they are on shore with their heads tucked under their wings and apparently asleep, their radar is still going and they are up and moving at almost my first word.  There is a momma with eleven chicks and they all know,too, where the handouts come from, too.  Mike says I have created a monster but I don't mid.

We had a nice final visit with the grand kids, including grandma racing with John (a sight to behold with my knees :-) ) .  Needless to say, he won every time, although I did my best.  Running is not my forte. 

The airport was the airport.  This time it must have been my turn to look untrustworthy.  I was body scaned, patted down, checked for gunpowder residue and questioned about what I might be trying to sneak through security.  It seems the scan showed something suspicious in the small of my back.  My guess is they were thinking firearm but , being the angel that I am (stop laughing Dad), nothing was found. 

They also had issues with my carry on bag.  The MSM for my arthritis and soy milk powder seemed suspicious to them.  After they were scanned four times, they decided to let them through. My knees, hip and shoulder thank them. :-)

Later, I discovered that the watch I had removed during the above body scan had not been returned to me.  Oh well.  It wasn't a favorite.  Now I will just have to get a new one.  But I do miss knowing what time it is.

Oh yeah, the KABOOM!

As I said earlier, yesterday it rained all day.  At one point it was coming down buckets.  I was standing in the kitchen when I saw a bright flash and immediately heard a loud KABOOM that I swear shook the boat.  From people who were sitting outside the pub we learned that lightening had hit the water only a few yards from our boat.  I hope there were no kids around since the windows were open and I said a bad word, LOUDLY. I am sure it is not one their mothers would like to have added to their vocabularies. :-)

Monday, May 5, 2014

A Visit With John and Emma

We have been enjoying a few days spoiling John and Emma as grandparents are allowed to do. :-)

They went to "school" as normal on Friday but we had fun after school.  Grandma cooked dinner including the requested pork chop for John.  He is a fan of pork right now as well as his fruit.  I had also made a blueberry quick bread that he seemed to enjoy quite a lot. 

When Emma sees others eating she wants to join in.  She is a big fan of sweet potatoes and banana as well as her little "puffs".  They look like cheerios but are made with different foods such as the above.  She is a big fan and quite good at getting them into her mouth.

Emma is a very happy little thing with a smile that would melt your heart.  When she is excited her little legs and arms move all over.  I was thrilled to see that she learned to recognize my voice and would smile when I talked to her.  She loves Mike's beard: a brand new thing for her to figure out. :-)

John is a very active and inquisitive 3 year old whose favorite question is WHY?  I remember when his mom and aunt were at the same stage oh so long ago.  He loves books, riding his bike, playing at the playground and walking Blondie, his dog.  If he doesn't know how to answer a question you ask him (or doesn't want to) his favorite answer these days is "Nothing."

On Saturday he and grandpa went to Home Depot and built a flower planter.  He loved using the hammer and painting the planter once it was all together.  He reminded me of his mom:  very focused and careful to get it done well.  He then  picked out a purple petunia to put in his planter that he and grandpa planted when we got home.

After the building session we all headed to a farmers' market.  John was hungry for snack so grandma, grandpa and aunt Ellen got him apple cider and a part of a chocolate chip cookie.  He was very happy although his mom was not as overjoyed with our choices. :-)

Back at the house John and grandpa fixed the light switch in his room.  John learned how to shut off the electricity so that it could be fixed without the electricity "biting" you.  He was grandpa's big helper.  I am not sure who enjoyed it more so we will just call it a tie.

On Sunday we went to the National Zoo.  He loves the pandas, elephants, bears, tigers and lions:  well basically every animal we had time to see.  I had to smile at his excitement to see the "hangatans".  But they were sleeping and not swinging overhead.  Maybe next time.
This is a picture from the zoo trip.  Emma loves to sit up.  This was the end of the day and John was a little tired so he is having a ride.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Just a Few More Chuckles Heard from God

Well it happened again.  Every time we go through airport security one of us gets pulled aside to have the carry-on luggage searched.  Last time it was me so this time it was Mike's turn.  I don't know what they were looking for but every single item in Mike's backpack was emptied out.  In repacking it Mike could not find one of the boarding passes;s so out came everything, again.  With boarding passes safely in hand, we proceeded to gate 48 of 49. :)

On our way I stopped to get something to nibble on since it was now after 10:00 and my tummy was talking to me in a rather ill tempered tone of voice.  Did you know that the stores in the airport at Heathrow will not sell you ANYTHING if you do not have your boarding pass with you for them to scan?
Nope.  Me neither.  Since my boarding pass was safely in Mike's possession several yards up the concourse by now, no nibbles to calm the hungry beast that was my stomach. Breakfast would have to wait.

The flight, however, made up for any frustrations of the last couple of days. We were given seats in economy plus (translation, a lot more leg room) although our tickets were for plain economy.  Color me smiling (and Mike, too, over the thought of his $200 saved) :)  What a difference it makes over 8 hours if you do not have your knees around your ears trying to peek around your legs to watch to movie on the screen in front of you.  I could get used to economy plus.  Just a warning to you, Mike. :)

When going through customs we had our usual experience.  I cleared without a problem (must be my angelic appearance) but Mike had to go to the bad boys line (Don't have a common Irish name with others of the same on the list of troublemakers governments don't like).  Forty five minutes later, he was cleared as he always is.  It would save everybody a lot of time if they would just note that on the electronic screen that comes up when they scan his passport.  It would also save Mike from having to listen to my low level, not quite audible, grumblings while we wait.

The next part of the routine is to head to Starbucks and buy coffee.  A latte makes everything look better I find.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

God was Laughing

Yesterday's travel to London to be ready for today's morning flight started out so promising.

Believe it or not, we were on top of things and ready to leave without any of the usual last minute rush.

The taxi to Litchfield-Trent Valley train station arrived on time (although the driver must be in training for high speed racing).

The train to London was on time and there was plenty of room for the luggage and seats for us. I even found 1.20 on the seat!

Once we hit London, well things started to unravel.

You see, England was in day two of a 48 hour strike by a transit workers union.  There was no tube from Euston Station to Paddington.  Fine.  We will take a taxi....along with thousands of others forced to do the same.

The roads were a slowly moving river of vehicles, think molasses in January.  As we neared Paddington I watched cab after cab of travelers abandon their cabs and decide to make a run for it in hopes of making their trains.

We did not have a set time reservation so we stayed with Mario II.  That may or may not have been the wise decision.  The queue of taxis to drop of passengers was long and slow and Mario II lost the last of his patience.

I know he decided to exit our queue and join the one that was actually in the unloading zone via a 180 turn and the taking of forced "cuts" into the line.  I cannot give you particulars since I had my eyes closed and was saying a silent but sincere Hail Mary.  Especially the closing words of "now and in the hour of our death."

Obviously, Mario II made it.  The train on which we had tickets to Heathrow, however, did not.  It was a victim of the strike.  It took us awhile to determine this since such information appeared to be a closely guarded secret.

 Mike finally determined that we could take a local train part of the way and then switch to the local bus system for the rest of the trip to the airport where we would, again, transfer to a free shuttle to our hotel.  Let us just say that we were on the local that stopped at every bus stop, and I do mean every stop.  And, the wait for our shuttle was lengthy since traffic was heavy and the number of people waiting was large since, you guessed it, they couldn't get there by tube.

It was interesting to see our shuttle retrace the route of the local bus but, obviously, now going in the other direction.  It turns out we could have gotten off at one of the local stops and been at our hotel at least an hour earlier if only we had known.  :-)

Oh well, a drink, dinner and some rest solved our issues.  We are now bravely going forth again to get the shuttle back to the airport to catch our flight.  If we are late arriving in the US you will understand.

You know the saying, "if you want to hear God laugh tell him YOUR plans"?
Did anyone else hear him chuckling yesterday?