Friday, February 28, 2014

7 Quick Takes: Cars

1. During my blogging break in October we traded in our family car. We had had our Vauxhall Zafira for seven years and it had nearly reached 100,000 miles. Given that we are both reliant on a car to get to work we decided to take the plunge and trade it in. We ended up with one of these:

2. We decided a while ago that our next car would be a Ford C Max. We had a Ford S Max as a courtesy car a few years ago and loved it, but the S Max is both larger than we need and out of our price range so we thought the smaller C Max would be ideal. Although the Zafira was a seven seater (five fixed seats with two more folding seat at the back) and really we rarely need more than five now, so a smaller car made sense.

3. We test drove a C Max ... and decided it was too small. The back didn't seem to have much more leg room than our little Renault Clio - not ideal for driving teenagers around. We went back to the drawing board and went for the in-between sized car, the Grand C Max. It has the two extra folding seats like the Zafira - though these are simpler to put up and down - and more leg room in the back. It also has sliding rear doors and a folding middle seat which gives the other two back passenger seats more space.

4. The Grand C Max, rather to our surprise, is apparently a cool car! It gets an astonishing number of complimentary comments from Marie's friends. I think it may be the novelty of the sliding doors that does it. The cool effect is also helped by a sound system that allows us not only to play music from our phones via bluetooth, but also to make voice controlled phone calls - tell it to "phone home" and it does. Eat your heart out ET!

5. We stuck with our usual rule of thumb for buying cars and went for nearly new - 3000 miles on the clock reduced the price to £7000 under the list price for a brand new one. Crazy!

6. Helen is still thrilled with her little car, which she bought as soon as she knew she had got a full time job. It is a ten year old Nissan Micra. Judging by the number of old Micras I see on the road they are pretty reliable. She did have to have the starter motor replaced (under warranty) and had to use her breakdown cover for a second time after she left the lights on, but generally it is running well.

7. Another plus for her car is that it is, as she put it, "dirt coloured", which avoids the need to wash it!

Monday, February 24, 2014

This Week: 24th February 2014

The weather ... wet again. I am so over all this rain!

I am wearing ... my comfy snowflake pyjamas.

I am reading ... A Country in the Moon (see previous post!)

I am creating ... a supersoft pink lap blanket for Rose. I succumbed to pester power in the wool shop on Saturday. I only went in for a circular sock needle to replace my nice Knitpro one that Tevye sat on and snapped, and came out with three balls of this James C Brett Flutterby in pale pink. It is only polyester but ridiculously soft.

I am listening ... to Marie getting a shower.

I am watching ... new series of Outnumbered and Call the Midwife. I also watched a short series (documentary) on the Great War which finished last week.

I am enjoying ... having a central heating system that works properly. The house had seemed a bit cold all winter - odd, as it hasn't been cold weather, just wet. Then the boiler stopped working and it turned out there was a blockage in the system that must have been causing it to under perform for some time. It is all fixed now and the temperature is back to normal.

From the learning rooms ... not much to report as last term was half term week.

On the menu ...
Monday: I forgot to defrost anything so we ended up with pasta with a couple of jars of tomato and chilli sauce and breaded chicken steaks sliced on top.
Tuesday: Think I am going to try making pizza with some frozen wholemeal pizza dough I bought to test out. Will have to come up with something else for Tevye who doesn't eat cheese.
Wednesday: Cod in breadcrumbs, green veggies, chips or potato wedges
Thursday: Chicken breasts, roasted veggies
Friday: Maybe vegetarian chilli?
Saturday: Minestrone soup; omelettes
Sunday: Roast chicken

On the calendar ...
Very little on the calendar this week. Marie had a routine hospital check up today (no issues, back again in one year). I am going on a Girls' Night Out with a friend on Saturday. We are planning on cocktails!

A picture from last week ...
My poor attempt at copying a Goldwasser coffee I tried in Gdansk.

The original looked like this. I have no idea how to get the coffee floating on the Goldwasser instead of all mixed together.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Gdansk: Part 1

Tevye and I spent last weekend exploring Gdansk, on the Baltic coast of Poland. His father was born there in 1917 and lived until 1939 in what was then the Free City of Danzig (a post-World War I compromise to avoid incorporating the city in either Germany or Poland). Tevye had been before, in 2007, but went with his nephew as Rose was still tiny and I wasn't able to go. He wanted to visit again with me, so when we found cheap flights we took advantage of our neighbour's Rose-sitting offer and went for two nights. I fell in love with the city, despite rather cold and dull weather for most of the time we were there, and would love to go back. I have quite a few photos to share, so will split the into three or four posts.

This late medieval crane overhanging the river is one of the iconic - though not very pretty! - buildings of Gdansk. Looking up from underneath you can see the two large treadmill wheels that powered it and the hook used to load and unload boats. Our hotel was on the river, just the other side of the crane.

The crane is now part of the Gdansk Maritime Museum next door, which also had buildings on the opposite bank of the river.

Running westwards from the river is Dlugi Targ (which I think means Golden Market), then main square of the old city.

Underneath the building with the tower - now the historical museum - is the Neptune Fountain

And at the far end of the street is the Golden Gate (with no obvious gold that I could see!)

An oddity we stumbled across as we explored was this bridge, where lovers have placed padlocks with their names either written or engraved on them.

Here is a close up ...

Friday, February 21, 2014

Immediate Book Meme

(Oh dear? Where did the last month go?)

I saw this on Faith's blog and I am long overdue a book post.

1. What book are you reading now?

A Country in the Moon - Travels in Search of the Heart of Poland, by Michael Moran. Partly because I am trying to read books set in different European countries - I saw a European Book Challenge somewhere at the beginning of the year, thought "must do that", bought some cheap Kindle books in Amazon's New Year sale, then forgot what the challenge was - and partly because we have just been to Poland (more about that in another post). Moran worked in Poland for a time soon after the fall of the communist regime and the book is part slice of life, part travelogue.

2. What book did you just finish?

Hot Flushes, Cold Science: a History of the Modern Menopause, by Louise Foxcroft. Because I am That Age, and the title therefore caught my eye in the same Amazon sale. The book traced attitudes of both society and the medical community to the menopause and to menopausal and post-menopausal women, and the way in which the menopause became increasingly medicalised and seen as a "disease" which must be treated (and some of those treatments were NOT pleasant - application of leeches to the cervix, anyone?).

3. What do you plan to read next

Horace and Me: Life Lessons from an Ancient Poet, by Harry Eyres. This is a mix of memoir and paean to the Roman poet which I put on my Christmas
wish list after my Car Buddy's enthusiasm for Horace piqued my interest. A proper hard cover book rather than an ebook for a change.

4. What book do you keep meaning to finish?

I can't think of one. If I don't make it through a book at the first attempt, chances are I didn't like it enough to want to go back to it.

5. What book do you keep meaning to start?

The Hunger Games. I feel I ought to read it and so many people (daughters included) recommend it, but somehow I am unsure about it and it never makes it to the top of my list.

6. What is your current reading trend?

I suppose it would be "European" - see number one above. I have two or three more books that would fit that theme sitting in my Kindle "to be read" folder and recently finished a book about life in Venice. Occasional healthy eating and fitness books seem to be sneaking in too.