Long since gone but never Forgotten

I was digging through some old photographs the other day (yes the old type ones, printed on photo paper), and I came across a group of my pets who have long since romped over the Rainbow Bridge. Despite the utter pain and despair when I lost them, looking at their photographs now never fails to make me smile, as I remember the wonderful times we had together.

We adopted Lucky from our next-door neighbor Thanksgiving of 1995, he was the only survivor of a litter that had suffered a bad reaction to their first shots.  I kept him alive.  I knew he would be mine one day. Here he is in January of 1996.


Dweebe was a magnificent beast.  She was part Chow and part German Shepard but when we first got her (from a man at the Gas Station my husband worked at) she was just a ball of fluff.


Sox was adopted from Carolina Animal Protection Society when she was just a pup.  We rescued Buddy from our previous next-door neighbors who were neglecting him terribly.  (Buddy is the Spaniel)


Fuzzbutt also came from CAPS.  Lari and her brother Curly were the result of rescuing a bob tailed kitten (who we discovered was a lot older than she looked and pregnant) from the same Gas Station that Dweebe came from.


John Cole of Balloon Juice has recently been reminded of losing his beloved Tunch, as his image graces the front of the Pets of Balloon Juice Calendar.   But he, like we all do eventually, has adopted another cat, and is currently singing the praises of his cat Steve.   Please visit the link below if you would like to purchase a calendar, all proceeds go to an animal rescue organization.


I think all of us pet lovers know, we may replace a beloved pet once we have lost them, but it never diminishes the love we held in our hearts for them.


House Hunters

I have been watching a lot of House Hunters over the holidays, due to the fact that I ran out of shows on demand that I would normally watch during a very long weekend of time out of the office.  I have also been visiting some blogs that dedicate themselves to House Hunters and found them to be hilarious.  Some of the quotes that come up time and time again are “open concept” “granite countertops” “closet space” and “master suite” have now got to the point that they are comical.

One of my favorite blogs, which has not been updated for a while, is


It condenses the entire HGTV House Hunters theme into one nugget of deliciousness. It also reminds me that people with a budget of $100,000 should not be expecting granite countertops and stainless steel appliances.

The best part is though when you then go on to “Love it or List It” where a couple who has bought a house no longer want to live there.  (One of them usually).  Usually the designer opens up the walls and the ceilings and discovers that in order to create the “open space” that the previous home owner has knocked down load bearing walls and the entire house in on the verge of collapse.  This whole “open concept” thing means that homeowners are smashing down load bearing walls without any idea that they are compromising their entire house.

The greatest thing about House Hunters and all of their ilk though is that people have such high expectations.  They dismiss a house because it doesn’t happen to have a powder room on the ground floor, despite the fact that I meets all of their other expectations.  Let us not forget that the majority of them will more than likely be in foreclosure proceedings a year out.

HGTV has lost the garden part of it, but it is no less entertaining.

Coming in from the cold

It is cold in North Carolina right now, colder than I am happy to allow Cadbury, my elderly outside cat to stay outside.  Generally, when she is too cold she will come in of her own accord, but on Thursday I decided over her head, that it was too cold for her to be out there, and I scooped her up and deposited her on the bookcase where she is wont to sleep when she is in the house.   She quickly snuggled down and curled into a ball and went to sleep until it was time for dinner, at which point she merrily joined the other cats in the kitchen for her dinner.  Despite being hissed at from some of the other cats, she stood her ground and ate her dinner before returning to her spot on top of the bookcase, where I should add, she would always hang out with her Mum Alpha.

She has been in the house ever since, snuggling up in various places, including on my lap for a short time, but she is warm, and safe, and that is all that matters.   Sometimes you have to overrule a cat’s stubborn nature and do the right thing.


The one thing I love about Lancaster is the history.  It is truly an ancient town, the castle was begun by William shortly after 1066, you can actually point out that part of the castle (the Norman keep) thanks to its very ancient stones. SONY DSC

But the town actually goes back longer than that to the time of the Romans.  During my childhood a Roman settlement was found (which resulted in a building development being moved due to preservation efforts).  SONY DSC

When they wanted to use a piece of land than this plaque is placed upon to build a DSS building and parking lot the local council not only considered how the building would serve the public but they considered how the building would look, from the view over the river with the castle and the priory church on the skyline.  They decided, correctly in my view, that a cinder block monstrosity could not be built that would destroy that iconic skyline, and so the builders brought in old stone from other projects, and not only did they face the building with old stone, they built the parking lot with arrow slits in it, in order to blend with the rest of the architecture.  SONY DSC

Similarly when a grocery store wanted to relocate down town instead of building a big box monstrosity they built the grocery store inside a historic fruit and vegetable warehouse.  In a similar fashion there is a movie theatre built inside of an iconic cooperative store shell.  There is a wonderful history of preserving the buildings of the past while enabling new businesses to thrive within their shells.  Hell even the railway station looks like it has been there for centuries


This station is two minutes from my Mum’s house.  It was so nice going home on leave when I was in the Navy.


Other than spending time with my family, one of the main things I was looking forward to while in Lancaster was shopping.  Lancaster is a very walking friendly city, couple that with the fact that my Mum’s house, where we were staying, is no more than a ten minute walk to the City center and it makes for wonderful shopping opportunities.  SAMSUNG

To begin with we still have local shops, and while the market is closed down we still have local butcher’s shops and fish mongers.  SAMSUNG


In addition the grocery stores are different.  While we certainly have our big box stores, such as Asda (now owned by Wal Mart) on the outskirts of town, in the City we have a very quaint Sainsbury’s which is located in an old fruit and vegetable warehouse down by the river.


Inside of course is a sight to behold (for someone like me who has not seen it for a long time.  At the deli of the grocery stores I am now used to in the US the cheese counter consists of five varieties, well six if you count take it or leave it.  In England you get five different varieties of one type of cheese mild, sharp, strong,  mature, for the usual suspects of Cheddar, Double Gloustershire, Stilton, Chesire, etc.    In the case of Lancashire and Wenslydale Cheeses you also get the option of creamy or crumbly.  A cursory count of the labels shows that Sainsbury’s sells at least 70 different types of cheese.  You have to admit that is quite impressive.


The most wonderful sight to behold though was the bacon section. SAMSUNG


Yes that is three cases full of bacon.  I do not have to explain this to my English readers but perhaps a primer on British bacon v. US bacon is in order here (strangely enough they were having the same discussion over at the Guardian EnglishtoEnglish site recently).  In Europe when a pig is slaughtered it is handled in one of two ways.  Either the whole pig is cured and turned into bacon or the whole pig is used as pork.  In the US only the pork bellies are cured and turned into bacon (which we call streaky in the UK).  As the whole pig is cured into bacon in Europe it means that every cut of pork that you can get in the US can be had as bacon in Europe.  Therefore as you can see in the above photographs you can get bacon joints, bacon chops, bacon steaks (known as Gammon),  back bacon (the most common bacon served in the UK which looks like a very thinly sliced pork chop) , neck bacon, etc .  In addition to that once the pig has been turned into bacon it is then smoked or not.  So in addition to all of the cuts of bacon that are available they are also available in a smoked or un-smoked version.  (See versions of cheese above).  Ham is a large bacon leg joint that will be slow roasted and turned into Home Roasted Ham.


As you can imagine it all results in an absolutely dizzying array of options when it comes to bacon.  Truth be told not many people buy streaky bacon because it has so much fat in it, and we all know how the world feels about fat.

It occurs to me, Americans are all about choice, they have an abiding desire to be able to choose what to eat, what to buy etc., and yet for some reason they are entirely happy for American food producers restricting their ability to experience anything other than “the norm” i.e., streaky bacon.  By steadfastly refusing to turn any part of the pig other than the bellies into bacon they are limiting American’s ability to enjoy one of the best meals on the planet, Gammon steak, chips (fries) and peas.   By steadfastly refusing to make any cheese other than Cheddar they are restricting Americans ability to experience what is the truly the caviar of cheeses, Lancashire, when it comes to toasted cheese sandwiches.

When I visit a UK supermarket I am truly dazzled by the choices that are given the UK consumer compared to those given the US consumer.  As a resident of the US for 20+ years isn’t that really un American?

Saturday Market

Traditionally Lancaster has a street market on Saturdays and Wednesdays.  In the old days (my time) it would generally be a veggie market stalls on Market Street with a variety of produce sellers hawking vegetables all day long.  These days it is more of an eclectic mix of food stalls, Indian, Chinese, French Bread, smoked fish, you name it, but there are still the veggie stalls selling their wares for bargain basement prices.

When I think back to the old days of the street market I remember how my sister and I would take a couple of bags down town and hang around waiting for the vendors to pack up shop for the day.  They would carefully pack up their boxes of produce and toss aside anything that they did not want to cart home for the day.  The odd Onion, a Cucumber that would not make it to the next week, a couple of potatoes that they thought were below their standards.  Nancy and I would stand there and wait for the vendors to leave and pounce before the garbage trucks arrived and fill our bags with all sorts of  vegetables.  We would very proudly carry our haul of veggies back to our Mum who would use them to feed us for the following week.

Similarly, Nancy and I would stalk the coal truck that delivered coal to all of the cellars in the neighborhood.  Our streets were very high hills, and the coal truck would have to turn around at the top of the hills.  Invariably the trucks would shed coal when they made the turn at the top of the hill.  Nancy and I  would take bags up at the turning points and collect the coal that the trucks shed and proudly take it back to our Mum, that little bit of coal that we collected could keep us warm for a week until the next paycheck came in.

Damn this sounds like a dreadful life but Nancy and I actually enjoyed doing this stuff.

In our own little way we were recycling long before recycling was actually in style and I am proud of that.  When I was home it actually crossed my mind to wait for the veggie stalls to close down for the day and see what they left behind for the garbage trucks, I was actually curious to see what I could harvest from the leftovers.  Having said that I am sure that there are a boat load of “freegans” waiting to pounce on the left over veggies, because that is such a thriving movement both in the UK and the US right now, I would bet that I would be battling a boat load of students from Lancaster University who are thriving on the “freegan” lifestyle.
Who could of known it, my sister and I were “freegans” forty years before it was a movement.

Doggie Hoodies

I have to take a moment and step back from my posts about my visit home to post this.  Thanksgiving Weekend has been quite chilly for us, and this morning I decided that I would risk the broken bones and eaten faces and put Judy and Cueball’s hoodies on Flossie and Skeeter.   After a struggle Flossie let me put her hoodie on and then decided (in her own mind of course) that she had put on her coat and therefore SHE WAS GOING SOMEWHERE, at which point she sat in front of the door because she had put on her coat and therefore SHE WAS GOING SOMEWHERE.  After a while she realized the coat was for her warmth and not for a trip and decided to go with it.  Skeeter was more of an issue, the hoodie had been bought for Cueball when he was just a pup, and obviously was not going to fit Skeeter.  A quick snip of the scissors and hey presto, it fit.


After this picture was taken they then went down into the swampy area of the yard and rolled around in the mud until the hoodies were black.  I cannot believe I am now going to have to do my dogs’ laundry.