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:
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:

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:

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 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:

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!