Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Strange Week

I have been working on an Art Deco type painting for our new posh Art Deco bathroom.

I have got this far.
It is hard to see in the photo but the panther is metallic gold as are the edges of the moon and twiddly bits.
I have more ideas and will continue with it today.
The thing with Art Deco is that everything is stylized and not taken from nature.
This is difficult for me.  I would find it far easier to portray a lifelike panther, tree and moon than trying to figure out how to stylize them.
Anyway, I have got this far and I have enjoyed myself.  I intend to continue in a mad fashion.  I have collected sparkles, rhinestones and sequins.  I shall have some fun this week putting them on the painting and, hopefully, finish it off.
It is my picture and I can have sparkles if I want.
I will show it again when it is done.

This is Sally.
Sally Wally Doodle.
She is the funniest cat.  She has wrecked the curtains behind her but I don't care.
She makes us laugh.

She lies in this cat tree with her back foot in her mouth, chewing her toes.
None of the others have ever done this.   She squeaks and snorts.  She is so sweet.
This time last year Lollipop was very ill.  She died in May aged just 6.
We didn't know then that this little monster would come along and help us get over poor Lollipop's departure.

I went swimming with my old mate yesterday.  I didn't go last week as I was a bit poorly.  I don't know what it was but all my joints & muscles hurt and I felt pants.
I do love my mate but sometimes she is a bit fierce.
I was telling her about the new car and she started lecturing me on how we should have bought an American car.  Every time I tried to explain why we bought the car we have, she just kept talking over me.
She told me there were very good American cars and as the country is in so much debt, we should have bought one.
Eventually, I managed to squeak out that it wasn't my place to solve America's debt, or Britain's debt come to that.
Philip drives over 140 miles every day getting to work and he had to have the best car, that suits his needs, that we can afford.
The one we got is the most suitable for the money.  Blimey he did enough research on it.
Plus, all the idealism in the world counts for nothing when you are on a limited budget and must do the best you can with what you have.
Of course if we had 'loads 'a' money' we would be happy to buy American, British whatever.
But, reality is that most of us haven't.  If America wants us to buy their cars then they need to be as good as, if not better than the others.
When I told Philip, he said that his main reason for discounting the American cars within our budget, was their mileage.
The best he could find was about 25 miles to the gallon.  That is pants when you consider how far he drives every day.

It all ended amicably....well it did for her...but I hate these incidents.  It upset me all day and all evening.  I was thinking about it when I woke up this morning too.
I purposely avoid any political talk with her as we are poles apart and she gets very heated about it all.  I really try to steer the conversation away if I think it is heading in that direction but she really doesn't seem to understand and still tries to engage me in this sort of conversation.
Now I see we can't talk about buying things, religion and politics........we shall have to hum to each other in future I think.  Words cause problems.
It is such a shame because she is a lovely, kind person in every other way and I would hate to lose her friendship.
She seems to be able to just switch off and forget it.  I wish I could but sadly I can't.  I have always hated any conflict or unpleasantness.  It makes me feel awful.
I doubt I will change much now.

Monday, April 21, 2014

New Wheels

2014 Motor Trend SUV of the Year: Subaru Forester
Get Smart: Fuel-Efficient, Capable, and Fun to Drive

We chose a car.
This one....a Subaru Forester.

After test driving 6 vehicles and being subjected to so much sales talk, we went back to the first dealership and settled for this one.
I have to admit it is a very nice ride and has an amazing safety record.  It also has rave reviews.
The guy who sold it to us was very nice and very genuine.  He didn't even try any hard sell nonsense.
He just let us drive it and make up our own minds.
Well, it was more Philip's mind really as I keep quiet most of the time as he has the long journey to do in it every day.
I did speak up once though when the seat of one of the cars we tested really hurt my back.  I felt bad for saying something but he said I was right to speak up as he car pools with a friend to and from work every day and this friend has a really bad back. He would never have been able to sit in that seat for that long journey.
We pick the car up tomorrow.
We test drove a car from the same Toyota dealership as we got our current broken car from.
After telling us what great customers we had been (we have had every service done and always at the dealership) they then wouldn't offer us anything on it.
They have already charged us $850 for trying to find out what is wrong with it.  Charged Philip $350 for a new battery that he now can't use and they won't take it back.
He has since told the sales manager at Toyota how disappointed we are with that dealership and we shall not be using them again.
I bet they are heartbroken............yeah right.

I did have a giggle in dealership where we bought this new car though.   Our salesman had told us a couple of times that they have an English guy working there.
Whilst we were finalising the paperwork he called this guy over to introduce us.
Oh my goodness.
This is what he looked like............exactly..........

                                                                Arthur Daley
This guy even had the camel coat.  I couldn't believe it.  If ever anyone said....'show a picture of a car salesman' this is what you would get.
He came over and said hello etc....but I was quite put out that the only one who looked like this, out of all the salesmen, was English.

On another note.
This was our weather this time last week.

It was snowing and way below freezing.
For the last two days it has been very warm, sunny and around 22C.
Hopefully, this means Winter is out of the way and we are heading for Summer. I think we have probably skipped Spring altogether.
I would love to see some buds on the trees and some flowers too now.

It seems one of our squirrels "Ginger Eric", so named for his reddish ginger coloured fur, has been busy.

There have been many little 'Ginger Erics' at the bird feeder over the last couple of days.
He has certainly been productive even without a proper Spring.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Poxy car

A picture of Looby Loo looking pretty - just to cheer me up.

The car.........sigh.
Well, they think they know what is wrong with it and it would cost around $8,000 to put it right.
They cannot guarantee that this will even work.
Oh....and they are charging us $800 just for looking at it.

So, the car is not worth throwing this sort of money at.  Philip has to drive to Chicago and back ever day, 140 miles round trip.  He must have a reliable car.  He must also have a car that can deal with Wisconsin winters.  
So, this week we have been looking at new cars.
We can't really get a used car as you can never be sure of what you are getting and we can't afford to have more car trouble.
Cars here are awfully expensive.  Even used cars cost a fortune.  Donna has remarked on it several times.   The petrol may be cheap but the poxy cars are not.
For us to get a mid size, reliable cross over, which will cope with our weather, we are looking at..........wait for it..........at least...........$26,000.

But, we have little choice.  We have been out the last two evenings looking at cars.  I don't say much about any of them as Philip is going to be the one doing all that driving every day.
But, out of the two test drives we have done there is little to choose between them.
We are doing another this evening and then we will probably make a decision on Saturday.
He has already sorted out financing but we could have done without a big loan payment every month.
That's squished any holiday plans we might have had.  It is a good job we didn't book anything.
Oh....and they won't give us anything for our car.
It has been suggested we donate it to charity and then we will get some money back on our taxes next year.
We bought that car new in 2006 and it has had every service etc since.
One another note.

I have finished my last assignment for the archaeology course.
It has to be in by next Wednesday and we will have to wait a week or two to find out our results.
As much as I have complained a bit - I have actually enjoyed it.
It took me a while to get into the habit of studying, listening to lectures, taking notes, tests and actually doing assignments, but it got easier as I went along.
The pot above is mine.
I bought it years ago at a jumble sale in England.  I am pretty sure it is just something a student has made as part of an exam requirement.
But, I have often wondered about it.
I would like to send my course professor a photo of it and ask her opinion - but I dare not.  I expect she gets lots of people doing stuff like that and it would be too much of a cheek.
But what if it was worth something?
Of course I know it isn't going to be but with all the money we have to lay out soon I would hate to think I had 'treasure in the attic' I didn't know about.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Weekend....."What's a weekend?"

Firstly.  Thank you Gary for the extra Birthday pressie.
I did have to ask Philip what it was though.  I knew it was rude but did not know it was also a wine bottle stopper.
I shall look forward to wowing the crowds at River Rhythms with my naughty device in the Summer.
"Ooooooerrrrrrr Matron!"

The weekend started badly.
I met Philip outside and we set off to Panera (lovely cafe) to have a sandwich and coffee before we went for a mooch around the shops.
That was the plan anyway.
A few minutes up the road the car shuddered as if it had run over something.
We looked, nope nothing in the road.  It did it again....then it kept doing it until we had to pull over.
After a few more failed attempts at actually moving along, it was suggested (by me!!!) that as the car is a hybrid, couldn't we just get back home on electric power?
It seemed we could and we did.  We did have to go at around 3 miles an hour because every time he tried to go faster than that it tried to engage the petrol engine and we started jolting around again.
As we were travelling at such a sedate pace (Oh Philip was laughing), it made me feel like I was in a procession, so I took the opportunity of performing my 'Royal Wave' at passers by.
There were many passers by too.
I don't know how Philip stands me at times.  I had great fun doing this....always look on the bright side...and did remind him that it could have been way worse.
He had just driven 70 miles back from Chicago.  The car could have conked out en route but it didn't.
We were only a few minutes from home when it did.

Once we got home it died totally.  Philip had to arrange to have it towed to the garage to find out what it wrong.
They didn't even get to look at it on Saturday, so it is being investigated this morning (Monday).
We had to rent a car.
More expense.
We got a Subaru Outback.  It is rather nice.  4 wheel drive etc.  I like that you sit a bit higher up.
That is always a good thing when you are vertically challenged like me.

Today it is cold again, with rain/snow showers.  That's nice.
I am hoping to go swimming with my friend June in a minute.  We haven't been for a while because of the weather.

I keep wondering what is wrong with the car.......and also wondering how much it will cost?

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Not dinosaurs.

I am still plodding on with the archaeology course.
I will admit I have found it very interesting and have a whole new perception on what an archaeologist actually does.
The essay this week required a visit to a museum.
There were other options but this was the one that was most readily available to me.

As Philip had mostly recovered from his 'arse leprosy' we set off on Sunday.
We haven't visited the Milwaukee Public Museum for years and previous visits have generally included Lauren.
This means that there was a set pattern.
The first stop was always the dinosaurs, followed by the live butterfly exhibit (once there was a special exhibit of huge, ugly bugs....she loved those) , the undersea life exhibit, African animals, a bite of lunch and then a peruse of the gift shop.

This visit would be different.  I had to look for all things archaeological and then pick something I could write an essay on that would be relevant to this weeks theme.
Are you with me so far?

I found this amazing exhibit.
It was all about how Milwaukee had changed from 1,000 years ago.
There was loads of information about the archaeological digs and the diorama really brought it to life.
Why had we never noticed this before?
I will tell you why.
It is because this exhibit is midway between the dinosaurs and the poxy butterflies that's why.
We have never been allowed to pause here long enough before to really take in what this was all about.
It was exactly what I was looking for.  Now just to hope this is what the archaeology course is looking for.

I have one more week to do before this course finishes.
Sometimes it has been a bit stressy but mostly I have enjoyed it.
I know one thing though.........I would never want to be an archaeologist.

On another note.
I took 6 blankets I had knitted, into our local animal shelter on Saturday.
This is for an organisation called "Comfort for Critters".
The idea is that each animal, usually cat or dog, is given their own personal handmade blanket, knitted by volunteers like myself.
This blanket stays with the animal through any cages moves etc and is then sent home with them when they are adopted.
The idea being that having something they have become attached to is a comfort to them during a stressful time.
I had to smile yesterday, as having started on the next round of blankets, I found my hand hurting.
On inspection I discovered I have a blister.
I wonder.....does this mean I am an "Extreme Knitter".....how 'rad' is that !!!

They do still say 'rad' right?

Friday, April 4, 2014

Bathrooms, poop and ducks.......

 This is the BEFORE picture.
I know it doesn't look too bad but it was old.   The bath leaked, the floor tiles were cracked and the shelves were impossible to get clean.

I knew I wanted something a little different.  Certainly not the beige and browns that seem to be the fashion of the moment.

Here is the totally finished bathroom.

I totally love it.
Everything has been replaced....absolutely everything.
Marty has already sent some neighbours in to see it as they were thinking about asking him to spruce up their bathroom too.

Of course we are fortunate that we have another bathroom upstairs (the one in the picture is downstairs) so we had somewhere else to "go" so to speak.
So what did Philip do when we were limited to one 'convenience'?
He got the 'up-chucks and the squits' ....that is what he did.
With two 'ablutions huts' managing the 'back door trots' is quite easy.  There is always somewhere for the person without 'Deli Belly' to go.
But, because one of our 'throne rooms' was out of action it meant there was sometimes a queue for the remaining 'thunder box'.
It was a bit of a nightmare (especially for poor Philip) and he did have a couple of days off work.
He still isn't quite right in the 'doodie department' but is vastly better than he was.
I am sure he won't mind me 'sharing' with you.

On another note.....

Donald and Daisy, our ducks are back.
I saw little Looby Loo at the window, snarling for all she was worth.  Then I heard the quacking and being super intelligent I figured out there were ducks in the garden.
I love it when they show up safe and sound in the Spring .....ha ha....did I say Spring....I am such a comedienne.
Anyway, it is good to have them back.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Ancient Roman Grub

My archaeology course assignment this week called for ancient grub....finding out about it, cooking it, eating it and saying what we thought of it.

I researched ancient Roman food, drink and recipes.  I will admit that much of what I found appeared unappetizing.
I decided that if I was going to the trouble of cooking a dish, then it might just as well be something we would eat.
Ancient Romans did like to chow down on doormice.  Of course being a vegetarian myself and also not having seen many packets of doormice in the freezer of the supermarket, I gave these a miss.

I then found this sweet cheesecake called Libum.
Sweet cheesecake - now that sounds bloody good.  The original recipe called for large quantities of ingredients and did not seem suitable but I was fortunate in that there was a 'modern' version of the recipe available as well.

Ancient Roman Libum Recipe
"Libum to be made as follows: 2 pounds cheese well crushed in a mortar; when it is well crushed, add in 1 pound bread-wheat flour or, if you want it to be lighter, just 1/2 a pound, to be mixed with the cheese. Add one egg and mix all together well. Make a loaf of this, with the leaves under it, and cook slowly in a hot fire under a brick."
This would be way too much for us so I decided to go with this updated version.

Modern Roman Libum Recipe (serves 4)
"1 cup plain, all purpose flour
8 ounces ricotta cheese
1 egg, beaten
bay leaves
1/2 cup clear honey

Sift the flour into a bowl. Beat the cheese until it's soft and stir it into the flour along with the egg. Form a soft dough and divide into 4. Mold each one into a bun and place them on a greased baking tray with a fresh bay leaf underneath. Heat the oven to 425° F. Cover the cakes with your brick and bake for 35-40 minutes until golden-brown. Warm the honey and place the warm cakes in it so that they absorb it. Allow to stand 30 minutes before serving."

I was somewhat concerned about the "brick", but found out that it was an earthenware cover called a testo.   I decided that a casserole dish would have to serve as a "brick".

After shopping I assembled the ingredients.  I was expecting to have to substitute dry bay leaves for fresh ones, but was pleasantly surprised to find fresh ones in the supermarket.


I mixed the  ricotta with the egg and then added it to the flour.

The measurements in the recipe were perfect as it did form a soft dough.

I then formed the dough into 4 balls, like buns.  I was rather surprised at how light the dough seemed.  I had expected it to be denser and heavy.


Now they were on their bay leaves and ready for the oven. Pretty I thought.


Here they are ready to go in, covered by my "brick" (casserole dish).


This is what they looked like after being cooked.  They were now soaking in the honey.


We were asked to seek out beverages too.
 Having looked for them I came up with Posca.
There doesn't seem to be a definite recipe for it but it was something the soldiers and lower classes drank.  It called for red wine vinegar and water. Some versions suggested that honey was added.  This sounded a bit better than just vinegar and water so I went with that.
I didn't have red wine vinegar but some sources said any vinegar would do and I happened to have some white wine vinegar so I used that.
It was suggested to use one spoonful of vinegar to two spoonfuls of honey and top up with water.
I was not expecting this to taste good at all.


The finished articles.  The libum after it had soaked for 30 minutes in the honey and the posca.

The libum was bloody awful.  The dough, which had appeared light, cooked up heavy and solid. I thought the honey would soak in and make it moist.  I don't know whether this is a result of my poor ancient Roman cooking skills or if the ancient Romans liked very dense cakes.   I could not taste the ricotta at all, which surprised me.
The posca, which I expected to be awful, was actually quite a nice refreshing drink.
The libum finished up as possum fodder.
I was not surprised to find it uneaten this morning.
I bet that possum was calling me some names last night. Perhaps I should have tried harder to find some doormice that needed using up.