Sunday, 5 February 2012

Birds, Chicken Something Soup, Comford Mill, and Feb Facial Hair

Oi! Readers,
Kind of an exciting week.  I expanded my birding knowledge, tried cooking something new (for me), and was blasted with snow.  Read on my wayward son to paraphrase Kansas.

While we were at Ashby Castle I bought a Britain and Europe bird book to identify my garden (back yard) friends.  Not only did it work I also identified a bonus bird, but first we'll look at a couple of pictures before we get onto that confusing bird.

European Magpie.  Large bird and very colourful.

Back of the Magpie.

Woodpigeon.  This guy has not missed many meals.  The picture does not do its size any justice, easily the biggest pigeon/dove family bird I have ever seen.  I threw some stale bread into the back yard and he was my first diner.  It was funny watching him eat the bread.  He would peck twice into a bread chunk then grab the chunk with his beak and toss it up into the air.  He did this every time and one chunk flew over his head onto his back where it stayed for a couple of minutes.  I am sure his mother would have scolded him for playing with his food if she were there.

The bonus find of the book was when I spotted a bird in it that I saw at mom and dad's last summer.  I have never seen that bird before and none of dad's bird books could identify it so it went into that brain archive file to be pulled out later.  Later turned out to be last weekend when I was thumbing through the book to identify the Magpie.  Lo and behold who is looking at me on page 62?  The Lesser Spotted Eagle, that's who.  You can look at it here,  The image stayed with me because it was so different.  To me it was standing on feathered stilts, and it didn't walk around it kind of hopped.  The biggest surprise as I read about it was that its habitat is Eastern Europe.  According to this book it doesn't even come as far west as France.  So how did it get to the UP?  I would love to hear from any readers that have seen one before.

On Tuesday our RR better halves group met at Zizzi's to have lunch and bid adieu to one of the group whose assignment here is ending.  We have expanded to eight members now with an additional member absent so our group is growing which is good.  It was a lot of fun discussing our experiences here and the food was tasty.  Everyone seems to be enjoying the group so we'll keep meeting. 

Aspiring Sous-Chef KK had a great idea for supper one night, home made chicken noodle soup.  Great idea but once you factor in living in England it isn't quite the same.  Chicken - check.  Everything else - let's wing it.  We didn't bring a big soup pot with us so I had to use two medium sized pots.  I couldn't find dumpling noodles in the store so we used farfalle pasta.  I bought the carrots, leak (instead of celery), and chicken broth so I thought I was ready.  I thought it was strange when buying the broth that the picture on the can showed a chicken noodle/rice/vegetable soup instead of just broth but that was the only chicken broth I found so I figured it was just artistic license.  Fast forward to the kitchen and KK is dicing the chicken.  I open the "broth" and find broth, rice, peas, carrots, celery, and potatoes in the can.  Not what I call broth.  KK is bummed because she was in charge of cutting up all the food so her job is done after the chicken.  After I dumped the "broth" into the medium sized pans there is barely enough room left for the noodles and chicken.  Overall a very disappointing meal because it had more of the "soup can" taste instead of "home made" taste.  Next time I will use chicken bullion and make our own broth.  Not sure what to do about the big soup pot issue though.  We don't use it a lot so I am not sure it would be worth buying one for the rest of our stay.  Plus our cupboards are maxed out so I don't know where we would store it.   

On the plus side I am getting more comfortable cooking so I have started branching out the meals.  I made a chicken breast and rice dish that was bland but taught me a few things so I am improving.     

Chicken noodle soup English style. 

The view out of our front patio.  I included it because they are finally starting to clean it up the eyesore.  I learnt from the locals that the builder is a crook and submitted plans to tear down this abandoned building and put up houses which the city approved.  Once the work started it leaked out that the builder was really going to build apartments so they shut down the project.  Not sure how much progress they will get done in the next eighteen months but I was pretty excited to see them doing something.  Yes my days are that exciting.

A Carol Seppanen book entry.  I am still reading Life and Fate but decided to knock out a quick read since L&F is one of those slow, absorbing social commentary books that require you to consider the meaning behind the message.  Kind of like reading a Kafka book only not as depressing, are there any other Kafka readers in my audience?  Anyway, I read Six Graves to Munich by Mario Puzo, a 216 page book written early in Puzo's career and published under the name Mario Cleri.  I polished it off in a couple of nights.  You can tell it was early in his career, the storyline segment transitions weren't smooth and there were a few "aren't we missing a detail here" moments as the story leapt from chapter to chapter.  Interesting storyline overall and a quick read.

This week's "Dan Stine extreme self restraint in the face of surmounting adversity moment of the week" is the weather.  Last week's temperature ended above 40 F but it has dropped since which limits our weekend activity choices.  It doesn't affect me during the week as I have spent it cleaning, running errands, cooking, and planning summer vacations.  I have to admit planning summer vacations is a little daunting at first.  There is just so many choices.  For example we want to go to Croatia while we are here.  But where?  My Croatian history is limited so first I need to learn the areas and towns.  Then I need to research each area/town to decide where we want to go and what we want to do.  Then I need to check prices, availability, reviews, opening days and times, etc.  After that is done it is time to start booking everything.  Then onto the next country.  The whole process is actually a lot of fun but it is much more time consuming than I thought it would be.  Fortunately I am retired so I have a lot of time to put towards it.  I'm not sure how my buddy Steve Frey does it while also working full time.  

On Saturday we went to Comford Mill (  Per Wiki, "Cromford Mill was the first water-powered cotton spinning mill developed by Richard Arkwright in 1771 in Cromford, Derbyshire, England."  It is also part of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Sites ( that are located on the River Derwent.  I read the website and it was mostly indoor, free and open.  Or so I thought.  There were a few shops open (a lot of dirty old garage sale junk) and one exhibit room but overall I was expecting more exhibits.  The first mill was only open during paid tours which is not how I read the website which really bummed me out.  I was looking forward to walking through a 18th century mill but it wasn't to be.  There are a few other heritage sites by Cromford so maybe we'll fit in a mill tour during one of those excursions.         

Information board showing Cromford Mill Village.

Looking down the middle of the village.

This week's Kevin Coleman - not as bitter as I expected, it was okay.  I was not impressed by the dregs in the bottom of the bottle however.   

A Dana Johnson pic - we all had beef lasagna (extra cheesy and greasy) with garlic bread, cole slaw and salad.  Bread and cole slaw were good, salad was salad, and lasagna was typically British.

Canal wharf, hard to see but the river is frozen.  Temp was about 30 F, a little cooler than I would have preferred but I thought we would be indoor most of the time. 

This week's Steve Frey pic - you can see the sheep on the hills which is quite common.  I also thought it was a scenic shot.

St. Mary's Church, completed in 1797.  The history of Europe is starting to sink in.  The clock reads 1839 on it and I thought, "oh, that's nice" not "wow, 1839."  It just seems commonplace now to see buildings from the 17 and 1800's. 

Walking down the trail between the village and the river.

Is it just me or are there peoples faces on this rock?

Up on the hill across the river is Willersley Castle, home of the Arkwrights.  It was built in 1788 and the family lived in it until 1925, now it is a hotel.

The kids at the village gate.

Jim Foster pic - an old school fire pump.  Not sure if this counts as a Jim Foster pic but it does have wheels and is used to put out fires so I counted it.  Jim can correct me if it doesn't qualify.

"The original bell from Arkwright's First Mill of 1771."

Part of the demolished second mill, this is all that remains of the weir.   

Scarthin Rock on the right, First Mill on the right, random building on the left.  The bridge in the middle left of the picture pre-dates the 1771 mill construction per one of the information boards. 

Karl by the Second Mill remains.

I thought the round building was neat looking.  I guess I am easily impressed by non-square shaped buildings.

The find of the week was this half pint Peroni bar glass.  As I mentioned in an earlier post England has the coolest bar glasses.  Most, like this one, are etched with funky designs, brewery established dates, beer logos, swirling banners, fierce animals, or a combination of the above.  I found this in one of the "treasure" stores in Cromford Mill Village.  First and hopefully not last of my collection. 

A disappointing Saturday overall since we went to the mall afterwards to get Kalle her birthday present from Claire's and they didn't have any of the items she wanted.  Just one of those days... <sigh>.

Now that we have passed into February we are onto a new facial hair style.  And this months winner is the friendly mutton chops.  Much better than the unfriendly mutton chops (not actually a style, just funnin' ya).  And since I had the Chuck Norris last month I will have a nice start on the chops.  I was debating naming them the General Burnsides ( since his facial hair style inspired the name sideburns but wasn't sure how many people would recognise our furry faced general.  I'm sure a lot of people would see his picture and say, oh him but not sure how many know him by name only.  My other choice was The Lemmy, named after our favourite Motorhead singer Lemmy Kilmister (  I have Joe Treadeau to thank for introducing me to the hard rocking Lemmy back in high school.  I don't remember where we were going but he kept playing Ace of Spades by Motorhead.  I can't say it made a favourable impression on me but twenty some years later I do remember them so it made some kind of impression.  You can check out the mutton chopped Lemmy with his distinctive microphone stand singing Ace of Spades on YouTube at  If the link doesn't work go to YouTube and type in "ace of spades motorhead" for a musical treat.  Just don't ask me what he saying, all I can make out is "ace of spades."  

And this month's winning name... is The Lemmy!  Not only does it sound cooler I am sure less people have heard of Lemmy Kilmister than General Burnsides so in the name of spreading useless cultural trivia I picked Lemmy.  High school buddy Rabs is the only one I can think of who would know Lemmy off hand but someone else may surprise me with their heavy metal knowledge.  Joe obviously would remember but I don't think he is one of my readers.

Rockin' The Lemmy! 

I am sure the next 24 days will not go by fast enough for Lori.

Sunday was a day of firsts which is sometimes fun and exciting, sometimes painful and humbling.  This day of firsts was none of the above.  Saturday night we had heavy snow which meant Sunday would be our first snow on the ground.  We have had snow before but nothing that stayed so I wasn't sure what to expect.
Looking at the Saturday night snow out the front patio doors.

Looking at the Saturday night snow out the back patio doors.

Looking at the Sunday morning snow out the front patio doors.

Looking at the Saturday night snow out the front patio doors.
We received about 3-4" of snow overnight.  Sorry Dad, I didn't make it out in the morning to measure because my day started with a short (3 hour) game of Monopoly.  We didn't actually finish the game, we just stopped after a while and counted our money since it was a friendly game instead of cutthroat.  I won the game which was another first.  KJ was going to make it cutthroat when he spent all of his money on two hotels but paying ten or fourteen million for landing on a property just didn't feel right for a friendly game between the four of us.  He'll have to save his hotels for when he plays with the Johnson's.  In case you were wondering I made my fortune by owning all four airports which raked in a wallet busting two million per visit. 

After the game and lunch it was time to shovel out of our massive snowfall.  I actually went outside to help push the neighbour's car out and while out there a few neighbours were out shovelling.  I spoke to one of them a little and learned it is extremely rare to get this much snow at once so we had to clear our drive way and the section of our street that allows us to back out of the driveway since the cars don't like the snow.  The BMW's especially dislike the snow which I have heard a lot.  I guess light cars, low horsepower, summer tires and lots of snow is not a good combination - who da thunk it?  And here I am without a shovel.  I started using my boots to clear away the snow and eventually some neighbours shared their shovels.  The kids helped me clear the snow and about 90 minutes later Karl and I were done.  We would have been done sooner but I didn't think to look in the garage for a shovel until much later.  It is one of those short handled narrow blade gardening spades but it will be better using my boots.  Shovelling snow with the neighbours short handled narrow blade gardening spade was another first.  Easily the wimpiest snow shovel I have used. 

Shovelling done.  Time to rest.  Check out the trees to see how long sticks around. 

Next up is the 11:30 PM start Super Bowl.  BBC is broadcasting it live so I will try to watch it all but we are DVRing it just in case I fall alseep or if Karl wants to check it out.  At least I don't have to work tomorrow so if I do watch it all you can bet I'll be power napping tomorrow.  I am sure falling asleep during the Super Bowl will be another first for me.  I just hope the commercials are good.

Thanks for listening,


  1. Jim says it counts. And Grandpa Foster was here so he authenticated that it counts. Your description sealed the deal too. Yay for snow. And yay for KK trying to cook.

  2. heh-heh. Broth = soup here. Fell for that one too. The bouillon cubes work though it's a slight pain. Get you a £5 electric kettle if you don't have one. My other tip is that the canned tomatoes never tasted right until I decided to rinse all the tomato sauce off.

    Looks like you were really fighting off the crowds at the Mill. Too bad it let you down. Jan/Feb bite.

    Nice chops. Hat's cool too. Good job on the blog, as always.

  3. @Tammy - I thought it might but wanted to make sure.

    @Steve - I found the actual broth on my next trip to the store. I am learning the grocery stores over here slowly and painfully.

    The Mill was disappointing. I am done exploring until March unless the weather warms up. Fool me once you know.