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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Looking back but thankfully to the future.

Many thanks for all the good wishes coming through by different means including the chap who scurried across a field near Yelvertoft to wish me well. Sorry but I was so taken back to hear you say my name and hope all goes well on Wednesday and Friday I forgot to ask your name.

Sorry not to have blogged lately but we moored a few days near to Crick Marina for transport reasons and the signal both phone and Internet was almost non existent.

Looking back,  and may I just say I feel very fortunate being able to, over the past year or so has been like climbing a very high ladder.  I, can at least look back but my GP- Dr. Lewis- sadly at 50 years of age passed away 2 weeks after referring me to the hospital. Another soul visited by Mr. C back in the 1990`s and having survived then to be taken 23 years later quickly and by complete surprise.
He told me because I asked and he could see that I could handle it that it was almost certainly Cancer and what would be the probable course of treatment. Dr. D. Lewis started his medical life as a surgeon and decided he preferred not to cut people open and became a General Practitioner.
You bastard Mr. C. you can`t win forever.  R.I.P David and thank you.

At this very moment I feel at the top of that ladder having slipped back the odd rung at times and have now just to step off to end the long hard climb. That step will be the final surgery to reverse the  Loop Ileostomy that has been a constant companion for the last 10 months.

Back in October last year the talk was of 3/4 months and the Ileostomy would be reversed. Then came the surgery and the discovery the Catheter would not fit where most of us men wear their post surgery hardware and so the time stretched on till now after another surgery to open up the Uretha track to the bladder. Pretty straightforward, the nurse holds it tight and the surgeon drills down with a Black and Decker driving a 10mm drill bit.while you lay there awake! Ok I`m joking about being awake and the Black and Decker but the Anesthetist said dream of something nice so I`ll leave the nurse`s part in the story.

Wednesday was the pre-op check up that was I learnt requested by the surgeon in July. All the usual stuff ECG, MRSA screening, past medical history and some strange questions like how many pillows do you need at night. If they are thin then 3, thick maybe two although if.......I was tempted but just said with a smile, two. A quick chat with the Pharmacist and away I went clutching a form for my blood test that has to be taken within two days of the admission date.

Friday was the surgeon`s clinic where he explained about the 1 hour surgery that would reverse the Ileostomy. When was the thing most on my mind and it seems it could be two months but asked if I was willing to accept a short notice admission date. Having said yes he proposed that it could be much sooner but all surgery depended on urgency and like mine last year Cancer takes priority and because of it suddenly appearing timing can be disrupted. I need to have a C.T. scan shortly as they want to keep a regular yearly check on what is or preferably NOT going on inside my outer casing.

So once again we find ourselves suspending our cruising and turning back to Watford or at least Cow Roast in anticipation of an early appointment. Our plan all along has been to winter around Llangothlan and the general area including Chester and Nantwich. Looking now that our plans might yet just work out.

On the Wednesday I used the train for the pre-op appointment but on the Friday Jaq and I hired a car to visit family before and after the surgeon`s appointment.
A little 998cc Toyota Aygo was all it needed to whisk us down the motorway and at £24 ($38) plus petrol it was cheaper than two of us on the train. Stupid thing was the fuel guage it read two, lets say notches, and I`m thinking that will get us there.

So off we go and only just 10 miles later just as we turned onto the motorway (freeway) the low fuel alarm started having a meltdown and my notches were no more. Ended up in the next service area paying extortionate prices mostly upset because I finally thought I would get a chance to use my Tesco fuel discount.

Having a moan back at the hire base as it ended up being returned with 3 notches, sounds like a gunslinger story, the manageress gave me a quarter tank credit note for next time. As the car needs to go back with the same amount of fuel in the tank these modern gauges are a pain. I loved the old style guages with clear graduations showing just how near to or from empty your tank is.

The cars tank capacity is 7.7 galls (9.24 US gallons) and with six notches I guessed two should have been around a third of a tank 2.5 galls or being generous lets say 2 galls. Should easily have traveled half of the 160 miles we completed that day.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Norton Junction

Having come up the lock flight from Braunston and gone through the tunnel we decided to have a few days at Norton Junction where the Leicester Arm of the Grand Union starts. Our mooring was just before the last bridge on the main line before the junction. This gave me access to Long Buckby station(35 minutes walk) and a train to my Urology appointment.

As I said before all was well but just the last few days has seen an appointment turn up for this coming Wednesday for a pre-op check up. Strange as I am due to see the surgeon this coming Friday to tell me the results of my Water soluble contrast enema.
If you remember when Mr. C was cut out the damage was sewn up and this test was to see if anything leaked before the sewage pipe was put back as it was. Anyway the Urology surgeon told me all was good.

Today being a holiday I have no way to check/alter appointments but can only assume the Colorectal surgeon has asked for the pre-op so he can on Friday tell me the results of the leak test and add me to the list for the Stoma reversal surgery.
The plan was to hire a car for the Friday appointment and see family at the same time. Now I might jump on a train for the Wednesday pre-op as I no way want to delay my getting on the waiting list for the surgery. Tuesday and a couple of phone calls will decide my best plan.
A view from the mooring.
Norton Junction. Braunston and our mooring are to the left. Leicester arm straight across and to the right the Buckby flight and downhill all the way to London. Coming from Braunston turning up the arm the view is limited by all the overhanging trees. To the right the maintenance depot has gained some extra boats.
Fourteen vessels taking some mooring space from boaters and reducing the canal to single lane in one place. If your counting the Blue ones are motorised and there are a lot like the one in the foreground, towpath side, hidden amongst the Blue tops.
Looking up the arm
and down. Plenty of width to get through but no clear view of anything coming from the right.
Daft place to put a water point
Time to walk around while the water tank fills. This is a genuine Shepherds hut, well the chassis is. It was rebuilt on an original chassis and is just a bit wider than the original. The lady of the house told me it was used for extra sleeping accommodation. The huts were used by Shepherds during lambing season and were towed into the fields by horse or tractor. Link HERE.
The footbridge replaced a swing bridge and all thats left to see is the guide rail.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Drifting along through the counties of England

The carved wooden village sign

One of the village streets
Another day back on the boat heading for another village mooring.
Upper Weedon and Lower Weedon known as Weedon Bec. Bec is a place in Normandy and following the Norman Conquest the manor of Weedon was given to the abbey in Bec hence Weedon Bec. Later Eton College became lords of the manor. More HERE.

Just a few spots of rain but just about the time she hopefully said "I do" the heavens opened for an hour  so not sure about the wedding photos following the service. Perhaps they used the umbrellas. Weedons hidden canal.
A nice bit of thatch on the roof and signs of the 1696 window tax on the upper floor to the left of the door. Perhaps our government might try to re - introduce it after the bedroom tax failed.  I can hear U.S. readers asking so here`s a link.

William dates back to 1931 and is now a camping boat. Twelve bunk beds on board and at a cost of  £200 ($324) per day including skipper seems a cheap camping experience with a difference. Cost that to hire a canal boat that comes without a skipper and his canal knowledge.      

Here comes the Admiral, must tell her to keep away from the top gate.

Now that is what you call leaking gates.

 What it looks like when the gates are holding back the water. This flight of seven locks at Buckby raise the canal by 63 feet and when you get to the top and perhaps are sitting in the new Inn with a pint just be grateful they didn`t build the intended 10 locks back in 1790.

All Saints` church Braunston.

All saints` has stood above Braunston for a thousand years in one form or another this one was built in the mid 1800`s.

The red dome of the windmill is a 20thC addition. The original mill was 80 feet high and had a castellated top. It was built in the early 1800`s to compensate a miller whose mill at the top of Braunston locks was unworkable as the canal came through and took it`s water. The Anchor was a pub attached to the mill at the top of the locks and with the six other pubs in the village it`s easy to see why the boat people loved Braunston.  There was of course a lot more to the village for the working boat people than just the pubs.

Just love this but know nothing about it. Only guess is it is the old timber frame of an old cottage once adjoining this building. Braunston History link
Some neighbours at a mooring along the way.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Three Sisters Basque Chicken Casserole

"My friends are my estate." ~Emily Dickinson
   This is a food post--a really, really yummy, make-your-eyes-light-up-and -your-tummy-happy recipe. You will love this dish so much you won't want to talk--just eat! A bowl of this casserole prompted our nine year old grandson Kiernan to exclaim, "Nanny Jaq you are the world's best cook!"
  Why is the recipe called "Three sisters," and who you may ask, are these women? All three are boaters. Two of the women are North Americans and one is a Brummie.
   Back in 2012 Les and I enjoyed a delicious meal of Chicken Marbella cooked by Canadian Rita Talbot, (NB Maple Knot). If you ever get an invitation to dinner on her boat you are in for a treat! Rita is a skilled cook and like me, she also enjoys tweaking recipes to suit her tastes and those of her husband Scooby who is notorious for his love of hot-Hot-HOT food.
   In 2013 we we enjoyed several delicious dinners fixed by Brummie Jacquie Leek (NB Like Ducks 2 Water). She made a smoked cheese stuffed chicken breast that was to die for and a Basque Chicken Casserole which we really loved. Jacquie is another woman who knows how to tempt one's taste buds. Oooh sister-friends!!
   As you now have surely guessed, I am the third sister. I offer grateful thanks to Rita and Jacquie for introducing me to food flavors I'd never considered before. Rita opened my eyes to the use of Cream Cheese in savory cooking and both women introduced me to the holy duo of Chicken and Chorizo. Hallelujah and blessed be!
   There was something innately nourishing and filling in both recipes. As I very often do, while cooking, I think "What special things can I do make this recipe my own?" I came up with the idea of combining Rita's Chicken Marbella and Jacquie's version of Basque Chicken casserole with some techniques I've picked up over forty five years in various kitchens from my mother's (she was a restaurateur and school cafeteria manager. I once spent an entire summer as her sous chef when she took a job as cook and kitchen manager for the local Girls Scout summer camp for 75 very hungry girls), through various jobs such as kitchen worker for Northwest Airlines Flight kitchens, a pastry chef at a fishing lodge, and eventually running my own catering concern, providing everything from intimate dinners for two, four, or eight diners, to luncheons for 55. So here we go!!

Three Sisters Basque Chicken Casserole (serves four)
Here are the basic ingredients.
150 grams (1/3 of a pound or four small links) of Spanish Chorizo, with cases removed, cut into 1/2 inch thick rounds
2 and 1/2 boneless, skinless Chicken breasts, cut into 1 & 1/2 inch chunks
2 Tablespoon of good olive oil
2 Tablespoons of tomato puree or tomato paste
1 large red pepper, cleaned and sliced into 1 & 1/2 chunks
1 large green pepper, cleaned and sliced into 1 & 1/2 inch chunks
1 large white onion, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch chunks
190 grams (1 cup) of Uncle Ben's Long Grain Rice (cooks in 10 minutes)
500 grams (16 oz.) of Tomato Passata (or diced canned tomatoes run through the blender if you don't like the chunks)
60 ml. (1/4 cup) of Santa Maria yellow peppers, diced (sub JalapeƱos if you want this fiery hot)
250 ml. (1 cup) of water
2 ounces of Marsala wine
150 grams (1/3 of a pound or 5.3 oz.) of Philadelphia Cream Cheese, softened to room temperature
You will need the following powdered spices in varying amounts as the recipe unfolds so get out the spice jars and measuring spoons and follow the recipe closely as we build flavor in layers:
sweet paprika (not hot)
Ancho chile powder (not hot)
Smoked chipotle chili flakes

 1. Cut the chicken breasts up and sprinkle with 2 tsp. paprika, 1 & 1/2 tsp. garlic powder, 1/2 tsp. Ancho chile powder, 1/2 tsp. of ground cumin, 1/4 tsp. salt, and pepper to taste. Toss to coat the chicken chunks and set it aside in a bowl.

2. Clean and slice the green and red bell peppers and onion, setting them aside in one large bowl. 

3. Measure out one cup of long grain rice and set it aside.

4. Remove the Chorizo links from their cases and slice into 1/2 inch rounds. 

5. Preheat the oven to 350F (Gas Mark 4). 

6. In a large saute pan add 1T. of good olive oil and the sliced Chorizo. Cook on medium, allowing the Chorizo to brown lightly on both sides and render most of the grease into the pan. Keep the grease which will add flavor to this dish without--I promise you--making it taste heavy or greasy.

Keep the grease--it's loaded with taste
7. Remove the Chorizo from the saute pan quickly with a slotted spoon and add the seasoned chicken chunks to the rendered Chorizo grease, cooking on medium until the chicken is lightly browned all over. It does not have to be completely cooked through as it will continue cooking in the oven. Quickly remove the chicken from the saute pan with a slotted spoon and set aside with the Chorizo. 

8. Toss the cleaned, sliced bell peppers and onion into the saute pan, adding a drizzle of olive oil if necessary to keep them from sticking and burning. Season with 2 tsp. of paprika, 1 & 1/2 tsp. garlic powder, 1/2 tsp. of Ancho chile powder, a 1/2 tsp. of ground Cumin, and 1/4 tsp. of salt and black pepper to taste. Cook on medium high, stirring frequently until the onions have softened and separated into layers and the peppers have browned slightly.

9. Turn the heat down to medium low and move the vegetables over to one side of the saute pan. Squeeze 2 Tablespoons of tomato puree or add 2 T. of Tomato paste to the cleared area of the pan and stir it for one minute. This will begin to brown the tomato puree or paste and remove the raw taste, giving it depth and flavor. After a minute or two, stir the vegetable into the puree and mix well, coating the vegetables.
Add the tomato puree and brown it for 1 minute.

Throughout this recipe we are working on building flavor layers so don't worry about how much spice we use and don't dump it all in somewhere at once! It will not taste the same. The spices are layered into the dish to cook with specific ingredients which will eventually all marry their flavors together in the end. The other flavor builder is browning the tomato puree or paste. Tomato paste is VERY acidic. Browning the
puree or paste adds depth and will provide a smoky flavor to the dish.
9. Add the chicken and Chorizo back into the pan with any juices and grease. Stir to mix with the vegetables and add one cup of long grain rice, stirring to mix well. Cook for about three minutes. 

10. Add in 1 ounce of Marsala, setting the remaining ounce of the wine aside to use later. Stir well to bring the fond off the bottom of the pan (the browned bits of meat and veg).

What it looks like before it goes into the oven...
11. Add in the carton of Tomato Passata (or can of sieved tomatoes), stirring well to distribute the liquid and the solids throughout the pan. Fill the Passata carton halfway (125 grams) with water and rinse the remainder of the tomato and water into the assembled meat, veg and rice.

and what it looks like after 45 minutes.
12. To the saute pan now add 2 tsp. paprika, 1 tsp. garlic powder, 1/2 tsp. Ancho chili powder, 1/4 tsp. salt and black pepper to taste. Now is the time to add the red chili flakes, if you want this to be spicy and fiery hot. Add the 1/4 cup of diced yellow peppers or jalapeƱos. Mix well and spoon everything into an oven proof covered casserole dish. 

13. Bake for 45 minutes and remove from the oven. Remove the lid and pour in the remaining ounce of Marsala wine. Mix well. Spoon in 150 grams of Cream cheese and mix very well until the cream cheese is completely incorporated into the tomato sauce. Cover and allow to sit for five minutes. Serve with warm crusty, buttered rolls or garlic crostini. and a chilled glass of wine. Salud!
The final product. Mmmm-let's eat!!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

A bit of cooking, electrical, medical and a boat

I think Jaq did mention how thrilled she was with her proper sized cooker. I know it still makes her smile every time she uses it and she always has her head in her personal recipe book.
 As I write this I can smell a Chocolate Cinnamon Espresso cake that just emerged and soon the smell will change to home made bread; a new recipe that Jaq says she will blog. I will say I prefer this softer texture to the Artisan bread.

If you have already glanced at the pictures you probably haven`t got the connection between electrical bits and cooking.

The cooker has a cooling fan that removes excess heat from within the casing of the cooker. it usually only comes on after the grill (broiler) or oven has been on for a long time. This fan is not to be confused with a fan oven which is a different beast altogether.

This cooling fan and the electronic ignition both run on 230v (120v in U.S.) and  this presents no problems on the boat in fact our 3000watt inverter that converts the boats 12volts to 230volts is much to big for this small load.

Following some inquiries on the Internet canal forum a member stated he had the same cooker and the load was about 25watts and a small 150w inverter had run his perfectly. 
Our 3000watt inverter is situated under the stern stairs and is only used when the washing machine or my power tools are in use. My idea was two fold in that running a small inverter would save power and if Jaq had it installed in the kitchen life would be easier for her.
Some time ago I installed  new power cables to feed our two laptops and I allowed in the thickness for any future power needs, glad I did.
So I needed to break into the cables and feed the 150w inverter for the cooker.  Now my usual way would have been Scotchlok like the Blue and Yellow ones in the picture. Push it over the main cable insert your power cable to whatever you are supplying, squeeze the metal pin down and with one on the live and neutral you have power.
 Of course my feed went through a switch and fuse before the 150w inverter.

Now what all this is about is the fact my stock of Scotchlok connectors had over the years dwindled.
Just recently I got a train back to Watford for an appointment with the Urology surgeon who signed me off as being A1, just wish it had been the Stoma reversal surgeon but that, IF they don`t cancel again is on the 29th.

Anyway this all gave me a chance to get the connectors which turned out to be harder than I thought. One place introduced me to the Wago connectors and as my train wouldn`t wait I bought them.

 Up to five cables can be connected in bigger units, just lift the locking lever push in the cable and lock down. I will say though they are not as quick as the Scotchlok that has no need to cut your main cable or cut back the insulation on your extra feed.

I must admit the advances in cable connectors has passed me by with my old stocks being sufficient during my years afloat.

Das Boot, German for the Boat. People name their boat for all sorts of reasons but the problem with this one is it has U238 on the bow. Might be the odd old sailor still around who would not like to be reminded about German submarines. My dad, WW2 navy, would be none to happy if he was still alive. Maybe it`s all for innocent reasons, the naming, but perhaps some thought would have been nice.
I can think of examples of bad boat naming but would rather not stir bad memories so they will stay in my head.

We have the cheese boat, the book boat, the fudge boat etc. etc. I now give you the CD boat although I don`t recommend buying any.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Stoke Breurne and Blisworth Tunnel

Stoke Breurne has changed it`s visitor moorings. As we came up through the lock flight we noticed that even the very bottom past the water point was 2 days, WHY. This is far from the busy tourist/gongoozlers area around the museum and pubs above the top lock.
We moored two locks below the museum area in a 7 day section, was 14 days originally, intending to stay for one night. Three hours later we both decided it just didn`t feel right with signs everywhere that seemed to be saying;  "ok so your here and don`t think about staying to long, also forget any ideas about staying too long in the area in the next month." You got the feeling all these signs had cameras watching you.

Mooring in the zones is free for the published time.  An extended stay charge of £25 (including VAT) per day applies if …
  • you do not move on after the maximum stay time within any one of the zones between Blisworth Tunnel and the welcome sign below the towpath footbridge (bridge 54b).
  • you stay longer than 7 consecutive days between Blisworth Tunnel and the welcome sign below the towpath footbridge (bridge 54b) , or
  • you spend more than 14 days between Blisworth Tunnel and the welcome sign below the towpath footbridge (bridge 54b) during any calendar month
The area is visited daily by visitor mooring rangers, volunteering on behalf of the Canal & River Trust, who record your boat number.  Extended stay charges will be invoiced monthly and recorded on your boat licence account.

 Not being great lovers of busy moorings Jaq took the tiller and we climbed the last two locks and Jaq steered into her first tunnel. Four boats came through towards us and Jaq passed each one perfectly, no scrapes or bangs.
Just a very short piece of video as I had to get back on the stern in case Jaq needed help, turned out I could have sat inside and read the paper. 

Exiting the tunnel on the Blisworth side it was good to see the old Tunnel Hut had been restored. When you click the link above take a look at the links within the site. Scroll to
section on the interior Murals and make sure you read the instructions before clicking the `VIEW` link. Enjoy.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Steam on the cut

We had just arrived at the pub to eat out when before I had a chance to get the camera set to video President and Kildare came into Braunston.
The histories of both can be found HERE, just click about in the top menu bar.

The following morning they pulled out of Braunston Marina heading for Crick.