The weekend that was…

…the 28th – 29th March 2015.

This weekend couldn’t come quick enough for me as I had a very long week in work, aided by the fact that I was hormonal and tired.

Thankfully Friday came!

On Saturday after doing the usual shopping and cleaning, David and I went to spend the evening with family and friends. It was the third year anniversary of my Father’s passing, so we congregated at Mum’s (next door). We had a curry from our favourite restaurant Saffron and a games night. Although the games part had to be relocated to our house as Mum’s TV wouldn’t accept the PS3 on the HDMI cable! (Go figure!)

From Saffron, I had a Vegetable Karahi, David a Chicken Shahi, Mum her usual Chicken Dupiaza. My brother Stephen and his friend Paul who were not au fait with Indian cuisine had Chicken Tikka Masala and Chicken Korma respectively. The meal went down splendidly!

During part two of the night we played Blur while eating summer fruits gateaux.


Sunday was a day of relaxation. I pottered about the garden in between breaks in the rain and did a weekly check on the status of the plants.

My tulips are growing from strength to strength and I am sure all six will bloom if the wind does not knock them over!!

The Flame of the Forest has bell flowers on it again this year.

Flame of the forest 'bells'

Flame of the forest ‘bells’

I took a picture between the leaves of the Bluebells that I think are growing in my garden and then got excited when I discovered that there was a bud growing! I do hope they manage to grow to fruition!

Bluebell

Bluebell?

On Saturday during our visit to B&M I bought a shrub for £4.99. Euonymus Japonicus Pierrolino Sense. The store had these plants in last year, but I am sure they had flowers on them. This shrub does not. I had hoped for more nectar for the visiting bees, but alas not with this plant!

euonymus japonicus pierrolino

euonymus japonicus pierrolino

I also noted that my Primulas were flowering, however something had been enjoying a spot of light lunch and had munched away most of the leaves. I wonder who that was???

Half eaten Primula

Half eaten Primula

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Excited..much!

This Saturday has been all about Spring cleaning.

While David was off getting his hair cut, I was tackling the voiles and curtains and giving them their much needed freshener.

I had already done the bedroom window last weekend, changing the teal curtains to the sky blue and David had eradicated the growing mould and given it a fresh coat of paint.

As I write all windows have been cleaned inside. David now has to clean the outside with his new squeegee! Hope it works well for him!

Today the weather had been gloriously springlike. This afternoon, I went outside and checked the status of the garden.

1. There are buds on the Magnolia and Acer trees.

2. I discovered the Primula I bought last year, has grown again and has buds on it!

3. The tulips are beginning to grow their flower heads! It’s only a matter of time before they grow to maturity! (My Bluebells look the same, but have a month more to grow! Finger’s crossed they bloom!)

Tulip budding

Tulip budding

4. The Aquilegia has grown in bounds. I am so excited for the third coming of this plant!

Aquilegia growing! The third year running!

Aquilegia growing! The third year running!

5. The flame of the forest and dwarf rhododendron have buds on them!

Rhododendron budding

Rhododendron budding

6. My Sedum has grown for the third year running!

The Sedum!

The Sedum!

It was the Spring Equinox yesterday and this means I am excited for the longer days and brighter nights to come. I look forward with expectation to what flowers in my garden. Will my Tulips and Bluebells grow to fruition? Will the Lily and Orchid bulbs flourish in the Summer. Who knows? Here’s to a warmer future! 😀

Christine x

Eclipse

I had published a compilation video with a short sample of my latest work on Friday but as no one seemed interested in reading it. I have deleted the story. You all will just have to wait until it is published. LOL! 😀

On Friday 20th March 2015 was the day of the partial eclipse seen in the North West of England. We witnessed 90% coverage!

David and I drove over to New Brighton and arrived at 8.30am which was when the eclipse began. There were a few other photographers at the waterfront, with the iconic buildings of Liverpool across the River Mersey. Sadly there was cloud around so every time I took a photograph or tried to zoom into the sun with my camcorder all I got was glare from the clouds.

Liverpool skyline during partial eclipse 2015

Liverpool skyline during partial eclipse 2015

David’s camera caught some pictures of the early eclipse which you can view on his Flickr page: https://www.flickr.com/photos/romeoliverpool/ and we could view the encroaching eclipse through his viewfinder instead of damaging our eyes!

At around 9.30am at the height of the eclipse, a thicker bank of cloud drifted over the sun and we could suddenly see the partial eclipse with the naked eye and I was able to get some footage of the event!

The light turned into a surreal ‘twilight,’ more murky than dusky but the chill in the air was noticeable.

90% partial eclipse light

90% partial eclipse light

We stayed at the riverside until 10am when the cloud just grew thicker. We had planned on taking the first visit of the year to Chester Zoo which we did. Video to follow!

Christine x

I’ve got the cooking bug again!!

Much to the consternation of my poor purse, as cooking can be both cheap and equally expensive!

This weekend I have been busy in the kitchen. With spring slowly ‘springing’ my desire to cook, (though not dampened by winter) has indeed ‘sprouted’ this past weekend, with that old eager feeling of excited anticipation gnawing at me.

On Saturday, and again on Sunday I was busy making ‘Roasted Carrot and Garlic Soup.’ I had many of the ingredients left over hence why I made it again on the Sunday. The recipe says for 4 but I only seemed to make for 3, (depends on how many ladles you dole out!)
The ingredients were:

• 450g of carrots, peeled and chopped
• 2 small potatoes, or a large one (that I used), peeled and chopped
• 1 head/bulb of garlic
• 2 red onions, or a mix of one red and one white (it didn’t change the taste)
• 2-3 celery ribs
• ¼ tsp of cayenne pepper
• 0.7 to 1 litre of vegetable stock.
• Salt and pepper to taste
• Chives chopped to garnish

Method:

When I went to make this recipe I had not read the entire method properly. I thought it was just carrot and garlic soup, not roasted. So it took me longer, about 1 hour from start to finish.

• I peeled and cut the carrots, onions and potato
• Sliced the celery
• In a roasting dish, I put in the carrots, onions and celery with some oil, salt, pepper and the cayenne.
• I then chopped the top off the bulb/head of the garlic to expose the cloves, salt and peppered it and added a touch of oil. I wrapped the head/bulb in tin foil
• I put the roasting dish and wrapped up garlic in the oven 220°/gas mark 7 for 20-30 minutes
• While the vegetables were roasting, in a pan, I put two stock cubes in with 0.7lires of boiling water. I also added the chopped potato to the pan and seasoned it. Use 1 litre of stock to make enough for 4!
• Once the vegetables were roasted I added them, (the carrot, celery, onion) to the pan with the stock and potatoes.
• I then squeezed out the garlic and added that too the pan with the vegetables and stock. I then boiled the pan for 15 minutes or until the vegetables were soft.
• Then pop the mixture into a blender and blend until smooth.
• Warm-up again and serve with a sprinkling of chives or freshly made bread. It made a slightly hot soup, reduce the amount of cayenne if you don’t like heat!

Roasted Carrot and Garlic Soup - First Attempt

Roasted Carrot and Garlic Soup – First Attempt

On Saturday I had bought some bread, but with more time on my hands on the Sunday, I decided to make a loaf of bread.

I always use the BBC Good Foods, recipe.

Easy White Bread

Ingredients:

• 500g of strong white bread flour, plus more for kneading and dusting.
• 2 tsp of salt
• 7g of yeast (fast action)
• 3 tbsp of oil (olive/sunflower/vegetable or your preference). I used sunflower
• 300ml of water. I have mine tepid.

Method:

• In a mixing bowl I measure out the dry ingredients. (I had trouble this Sunday as I only had 400g of strong bread flour, so had to add 100g of plain white flour!)
• I then add the oil and finally the water
• I add the water incrementally and get my hands in to mix the ingredients together
• Once the ingredients come together in some sort of dough, (today was moist; I’ve had others where more water was needed.) Then tip the dough onto a surface with some flour and begin kneading
• I have read recipes were they say knead to 15 to 20 minutes. I think I kneaded for more like 5-10.
• Once the bread has come nicely together and is silky smooth, put in a bowl and leave in a warm place. I left it besides a radiator and left to prove for one hour.
• After the hour, you will discover that the bread has doubled in size (due to carbon dioxide released by the yeast!)
• ‘Knock back’ (I just knead the dough) for 5- 10 minutes, this knocks the air out of the dough, and then return to somewhere warm. I place the dough into a bread tin at this stage and leave for another one hour! You can leave for longer.

Dough.. ready for the oven

Dough.. ready for the oven

• Once ready to put the dough in the oven, use a 200°/gas mark 6 for 25-30 minutes. The aroma of cooked bread is glorious.
• Once cooked, tip the bread onto a rack to cool and then slice accordingly.

perfect bread

perfect bread

Warm bread served with hot cooked soup is delicious and comforting!

Roasted Carrot and Garlic Soup with freshly made bread

Roasted Carrot and Garlic Soup with freshly made bread

On Friday, the beginning of the weekend, after a long week at work, I made some Slimming World Chocolate Brownies, which only had four ingredients.

• 6 eggs (separated.)
• 60g of cocoa powder
• 30g of sweetener. The recipe said 70g of sweetener and another I read said 150g! That is two whole jars! I reduced the sweetener, but with trial and error the right amount can be discerned.
• 1tbs of vanilla essence.

I decided to make these for David’s mother and mine as it was Mothering Sunday in the UK, 15th March 2015.

Method:

• Once all eggs were separated, I whisked the whites to soft fluffy peaks and then left to one side.
• I then added to the yolks, sweetener, vanilla essence and cocoa powder together, adding a touch of water if it went too dry.
• Afterwards, I folded in the fluffy egg whites into the chocolate mixture slowly, so as not to let the air out.
• Once mixed pour into a baking tray lined with baking paper and cook for 25-30 minutes on 180°/gas mark 4.
• I used a cocktail skewer to see if the brownies were cooked. Once clear I tipped onto a tray to cool.
• Once cool I cut into squares. I think it made around 25 brownies and the recipe says only ½ a syn each.

Here’s a link to a YouTube video showing how to make them!

I found the brownies were rather leathery but would be nice with some ice cream or cream, and maybe some fresh fruit. I am not the biggest chocolate fan and only made them for family. I hope they liked them?

So as you can see I have been productive in the kitchen. I look forward to making many more delicious dishes and sharing them with you!

Christine x

Spring Promise.

Today I managed to venture out into the garden! It was warm enough that I could stay outside for over an hour without being frozen to the bone! The garden was in much need of attention. There was a lot of dead material to remove and I wanted to assess the toll winter had on the plants. Sadly the Phlox did not survive the mould blight and I had to dig that up!

I was pleased to find that the Cat Mint which I thought had died was in fact thriving. The Honey Bees will be happy! I cut away the dead branches and exposed the new growth. I also found that my Honeysuckle had lots of new leaves on and that the Hyacinth had flowered.

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I planted some bulbs while David tidied up the Passion Flower, which had grown wildly over winter. I planted Ornamental Lilies, Orchids and Gladioli. I just hope they flower. Talking of bulbs. The most successful of the ones I planted last year seem to be the Bluebells. I have counted 15 in total, though all there are at the moment are leaves.

Bluebells?

Bluebells?

There has been no sign of the snowdrops, maybe next year?

I was worried a little when designing the garden about the shaded side as it gets very little direct sunlight. I needn’t have worried as my Hellebore is blooming with some 10+ heads open/opening!! I also discovered that the Aubrieta was looking very green and the Aquilegia which I thought would not appear again is also sprouting through the soil!

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The plants in the garden still have a lot of growing to do, but I look forward to the lengthening and warmer days to come. I am positive my garden will soon be awash with colour, and that the bees and butterflies will once again enjoy my flowers!!

Fingers crossed!

Christine x