Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Homemade Dog Biscuits

Hi, nice to see you again

Whenever I'm in the supermarket I always pick up those free magazines.  You know the ones, recipes and ideas and vouchers to make you spend more money in store.  I tend to flick through and cut out and keep any recipes I think might be worth trying.............and then file them away in a box to be forgotten about.

This is one I found recently but I can't remember which store it came from, sorry.

Homemade Dog Biscuits

It's a recipes using volumes rather than weights and I used this 1/4 cup measure.

Mix 4 measures of wholemeal flour and 1 measure oats in a bowl

In a separate bowl combine 1 measure of Xylytol free peanut butter with 2 measures of hot chicken stock. Xylytol is extremely poisonous to dogs so PLEASE read the label. I used Aldi's peanut butter. We had a roast chicken on Sunday so when I boiled up the carcass to make soup today I used the stock from that.  Don't use a stock cube as they are very salty and dogs shouldn't have salt.

Add the flour and oat mix to the liquid and stir well to make a paste.  I hate peanuts so found it rather unpleasant but Chico was intrigued by the smell and sat on my feet while I was making these.

Roll into little balls

about the diameter of a 20p piece and flatten with your thumb. I got 50 out of this mixture.

Bake in the oven Gas 4 for about 25 minutes and then leave to cool.

Keep in an airtight tin and give in moderation (according to the recipe).

They certainly got the Chico seal of approval which is good as he won't touch shop bought treats.

We're now en-route to Birmingham, via Turner's Garage to fill up with cheap diesel. It's been a strange old day weather-wise alternating between sunshine warm enough to not need a coat, to snow and sleet showers!  Typical April weather, but luckily we managed to get up Audlum Locks without getting wet.

Bye for now, please come back again soon.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Blossom and flowers everywhere - it must be Spring

Hi, nice to see you here again

We left Chester yesterday and shared a couple of the locks with a single-hander on an older boat.  He wanted me to go into the lock first and then came in before I'd got our boat lined up and rammed us at speed. The collision was so hard that he knocked some ornaments off my shelves!  And he took some of our new blacking and gunwale paint off too...................
At Tarvin lock I let him go first but he couldn't even wait until 2 boats had come out of the lock before trying to get his boat in.  Just how he thought he was going to manage it is beyond me and the other 2 boats were NOT amused at all. He was only a short man and needed to stand on a step to try and see out of his pram hood windscreen which was filthy and a bit cluttered so maybe that was the reason he was bumping into the boats.

As soon as we got up the lock I told him we'd decided to moor up for lunch and let him carry on.  I was really glad not to see him waiting for us further on.

Rant over.........

On a lighter note, Spring is certainly making herself visible now. The trees are all in bud or leaf and the scenery has turned much greener that it was when we came down to Chester 3 weeks ago.

There are some lovely gardens along this stretch too.  We really do appreciate all their hard work making their gardens look nice for us and are even more grateful that we don't have to moor the lawn or pull weeds out anymore.

I've never seen a plant like this before. The stems were like a conifer but with pink flowers

The hedgerows have also blossomed while we've been in the city.

and the bluebells are out in force

As it was such a lovely clear sunny day we had good views of Beeston Castle

and nearby Peckforton Castle

We shared locks today with another continuous cruiser and it was lovely to be with someone who knew what they were doing and had consideration for other boaters.  Like us, they slowed right down past moored boats and managed to come alongside in the locks without any banging and pushing.

We pulled in just above Bunbury Staircase and said our farewells to them.  We'd come to visit friends Jill and Allen Pugh who have recently taken moorings here.

When we arrived they were renovating their coracle.

That's all for now, it's time for my Sunday roast.

See you soon

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Recommendations and Thank Yous

Hello again.

This blog is all about thank you's and recommendations.

The first BIG thank you has to go to Pete and Yvette who run Taylors Boat Yard and dry dock.  They made the whole week's experience as easy and pleasant as possible and nothing was too much trouble for them. That includes the time when we locked ourselves out of the dock as we'd forgotten the key and had stayed in the Brewery Tap pub a bit too long. Yvette came to let us in within a couple of minutes of phoning and even stayed for a chat and to recommend more pubs!  I reckon their company motto must be "service with a smile" as that's what we had. We'd definitely recommend them and will use the dry dock again next time, if we're in the right neck of the country.

At 9.00 yesterday Pete opened the gates and we re-floated.

Then it was straight round to the water point to fill up and rinse all the dust off the boat before mooring up in the sunshine to start washing the boat properly and getting it ready for cruising again.

Our second "Thank You" goes to readers Lyn and Bill who came to visit the other day while I was out but came back again yesterday. They brought their beautiful westie Tilly with them and although she's never been on a boat before she very quickly made herself at home.

It was a good job Chico hadn't come back from his holiday yet as he may have been a bit jealous.

Thanks for coming to see us. I hope you continue to enjoy my blog and I really hope you manage to fulfill your dreams and get a narrowboat in the very near future.

Chico came back from his holiday at 2 o'clock and quickly assumed his usual position. I'd put a fresh fleece in his bed so he had no idea that Tilly had tried to move in.

He says a HUGE thank you for his present. He absolutely LOVES them.  That's a big endorsement from the dog who doesn't normally like doggy treats.

The final recommendation and thank you goes to Wynnestay Kennels where Chico spent the week while we were in the dock.  They collected and brought him back and were very punctual both times so we had no waiting around. He came back happy and healthy and not at all smelly and seems to have enjoyed his stay. I've put their details in our log book and would definitely use them.

It's great to be back afloat as the sensations of living on a boat that doesn't move were a bit weird to say the least.  Today we're carrying on cruising.  Happy Days!

Bye for now

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Time for Cake

Welcome back, are you enjoying the sun?  It's beautiful weather here in Chester although it's rather dismal in the dock. You watch, when we get out on Friday the weather will change and it'll persist down!

We're now just killing time until we leave the dock on Friday morning so when I got back from Tesco yesterday I made a cake.  It's the cherry and almond one that I made for David's birthday.  I've never yet met a man who doesn't like this cake and Roger's no exception.  From the day that I made David's he's been asking me to make him one too.

It's an old recipe that I've been making for years. In fact it's so old that I can't remember where the original recipe came from and over the years mine has probably changed a bit. I'll share the current recipe with you now, if you'd like.

Cherry & Almond Cake
8oz butter or marg. (I used Clover because it was on offer in Tesco)
8oz caster sugar (I use normal granulated and wizz it in the processor to make it finer, basically so I don't have to store 2 bags of different white sugar)
8oz SR flour
1 x 200g carton of glace cherries chopped up a bit
1 x 100g packet of ground almonds
4 beaten eggs
1 capful of almond extract
flaked almonds

Pre-heat your oven to Gas 4 (your oven may be hotter or cooler so adjust up or down 1 mark as you think fit)

The first job is to line your cake tin. When I make loaf cakes I use ready made cake tin liners but this round tin is 20cm diameter and I can only find 18cm diameter liners in the Pound shops.  Lining the tin is easy enough with greaseproof paper.  You need to line the base first and then do the sides.

Whisk the fat and sugar together for a couple of minutes until light and fluffy.  If you haven't got a mixer you can do this with a wooden spoon but it'll take a bit longer.

Add the eggs a bit at a time and if the mixture looks like it's splitting add a spoonful of the flour and continue till all the eggs are in. Whisk in a capful of almond extract.  Almond extract is slightly more expensive than almond essence but the flavour is much better and a small bottle lasts ages.

Fold in the flour slowly, mixing well until it's all added.

Fold in the cherries and ground almonds and mix so the cherries are well distributed.

Put 2/3 of the mixture in your tin and spread out so it's level.

Slice some marzipan about the thickness of a pound coin and lay over the cake mix.  I used to make a ball of marzipan and roll it out to the size of the tin, but to be honest this way is much easier and you can't tell the difference when the cake is baked.

Spoon the rest of the cake mix on top and level it off. Sprinkle with flaked almonds and bake in the middle of the over for 1 hour 30 minutes.  I put the tin on a baking sheet so it cooks more evenly.

Check your cake after 1 hour 20 minutes and if it's getting too brown you can cover it with a piece of foil so the almonds don't burn. It's ready when it starts to come away from the sides of the tin and is firm but springy when you press the top. You could also check it with a cake skewer but the marzipan tends to stick to them and gives a false impression that it's not cooked.  Every time I make it it takes a different time to cook.  This time it took 1 hour 45 minutes.

So there you have it; my cherry and almond cake.  Visitors welcome but it won't last long

Bye for now

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Time for a new black bottom

Hello, nice to see you here again.

And a special greeting to the readers who came to visit us in the dry dock today. Sorry I missed you. I was in Tesco stocking up on essentials. Roger also appologises for not being able to chat to you properly. If he'd stopped painting the gunwale he'd have lost the "wet edge".  Hopefully we'll meet again for a proper chat soon.

The boat that had been in the dock before us was refloated and had sailed away by 9am on Saturday

Roger reversed into the dock and we were joined by Stuart and Coral on n.b. Bobyn who were to be our neighbours for the week.

The sluice gate was opened and the boats dropped down onto the bostocks that would support us while we carried out the works.

We thought the boat was in a bad state as it was quire bashed and rusty in places

It was also covered in weed which didn't make it look very pretty

Once the water had drained out of the dock Roger could power wash the hull and see the true extent of the wear and tear.

Considering we haven't blacked the boat for over 3 years and also taking into account the fact that we average over 800 locks and almost 1000 miles a year, the hull was in remarkably good condition. There was hardly any new pitting in the steel which meant that the mill scale had finally finished falling off and there was a considerable amount of blacking still firmly attached from last time we did it.

Our gunwales were in a terrible state as last time we'd used paint which turned out to be faulty and wouldn't dry and harden properly.  Roger wanted to strip it back to bare metal so he applied copious amounts of Nitromors paint stripper but it hardly made any difference. He ended up having to strip back as many layers of paint as possible using the sander. Not ideal and not a perfect result but it was as good as he could get it.

After applying some rust converter, primer and matt black paint the gunwales now look much better.

Actually blacking the boat is a fairly easy job once you've done the power washing and the hull has had time to dry properly.

We always use Comastic.  It's more expensive than other blacking materials but is easier to work with and drying time between coats is much shorter.  That meant that we could do 3 thick coats in 2 days before leaving it to harden properly for 3 days before we go back in the water.  The other advantage of Comastic is that it doesn't dissolve when it comes into contact with diesel, so when you cruise through diesel coated water from somebody's leaking engine your hard work isn't getting washed off.

It's also worth mentioning that we use really good quality rollers.  We used these Harris Powercoat Jumbo 4" masonry rollers which I bought in Wilko (much cheaper than B&Q).  You can get them in 10" but even Roger agrees that they are too heavy to use easily once laden with blacking. Cheaper rollers are available but I've found in the past that they tend to shed fibres and collapse after a while. The pile is also much thicker on these which means that the blacking is easily pushed into all the little pits and scrapes. Between coats you need to wrap the roller in cling film or foil to stop them drying out and we did 3 coats using only 2 rollers for the princely sum of £3.50 - bargain!

Obviously, as we were staying on the boat we still needed to use the drains etc. so we had to shove some pipe in the holes to direct the waste water away from the hull until the blacking had dried and hardened off.

3 coats later and the hull looks lovely again.  Shame most of our hard work won't be seen as it's below the water line.  You can see here the difference between one of our original anodes on the left which is now almost 8 years old and the new ones Roger fitted last November.  It shows that they work as the old one is being corroded away instead of the hull.

If you've got a bow thruster, don't forget to black up the tube

and don't forget the weed hatch either.  They're both places that rust easily.

I've mentioned a few times before that we've got a "Prop-Protector" fitted behind our propeller.  This cuts almost everything that tries to get tangled round the prop and Roger hardly ever has to go down the weed hatch.

You can see in this close up that something really strong has taken a nick out of the blade.  It was probably the cable strippings that we picked up in Birmingham a couple of years ago, nothing would have cut through that!  While it was easily accessible I've sharpened it with a sharpening stone and it's now as sharp as my carving knife so should easily cope with plastic bags etc.

We've still got a bit of touching up to do to the tunnel flashes on the stern but apart from that we're finished and just waiting for the blacking to cure ready for re-floating on Friday.

Chico's been on his holidays while we've been in the dock. He wouldn't have liked all the noise and I doubt we'd have managed getting him on and off the boat easily as access has been via a ladder.  The kennel's will bring him back to us on Friday afternoon and we'll be all set to continue with our cruising.

Hopefully I'll see you back here very soon.

Bye for now