The Count has been done…

… for the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch 2016. The numbers spotted this year were not as diverse as in previous years.

The total count for 2016 was:

  • 15 Goldfinches
  • 6 Starlings
  • 16 Pigeons

I suppose those numbers are decent for an urban city garden/yard, but I would have loved a few more species visiting. There were four Crows and the odd Seagull flying overhead but they didn’t make the count!

Sadly no Chiffchaff or Blackbird made an appearance and the Robin and Blue Tits were nowhere to be seen! David did take some nice, colourful pictures of the Starlings and of the squabbling Goldfinches.

Did you take part in the count? How many species of bird did you see?

Christine.

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This Weekend…

… is the RSPB’s 2016 Big Garden Birdwatch. For the past couple of years I have been entering my count in the hope of helping gauge the health of the UK’s wild bird population.

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Once again this year, I will be looking out to my back garden for just one hour and make a tally of the feathered visitors who frequent my bird feeders.

If only the count was last weekend, as I had two very unusual visitors. Among the numerous Goldfinches, Starlings and Pigeons there was a female Blackbird eating invertebrates from the ivy and between the boughs of the Jasmine a Chiffchaff bobbed! The sighting took me by surprise but I was without camera so a video taken of a previous sighting will have to do!

Will you be joining in with the count?

Christine x

Quorn Sausage Frittata

This was a Saturday meal a few weekends back. I’m not much of an egg lover, but it was surprisingly filling! The recipe made four decent sized servings, but we shared it between three! Sadly it’s not vegan.

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Photo by David Evans

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 Quorn Sausages, or any other vegetarian sausage
  • 1-2 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced. (I used a large white onion.)
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 pepper sliced
  • 1 medium potato, peeled, boiled and roughly diced into 1cm cubes (optional)
  • 50g button mushrooms, halved. (I left these out as don’t like mushrooms.)
  • 4 plum or cherry tomatoes, halved. (I used about 10 cherry tomatoes halved and roasted before hand.)
  • 4-6 large eggs
  • 1 tbsp water
  • good pinch paprika (optional)
  • 2-3 tbsp freshly chopped flat leaf parsley (optional)

Method:

1. I oven cooked the sausages for 20 – 25 minutes, at the same time I oven roasted the halved cherry tomatoes for the same time.

2. While the sausages were in the oven I boiled the diced potato on a medium hob for 20 minutes.

3. In a large non-stick frying pan (approx. 26 cm diameter). I fried the onion, garlic and pepper on a medium to low heat, until softened. Then add the cooked sausages which were sliced into chunks.

2. I then added the tomatoes and potato and slowly cooked for a minute. This is where you can add the mushrooms if using.

3. Lightly whisk the eggs, water, paprika and seasoning together in a bowl. Stir in the parsley (optional).

4. Pour the egg mixture into the frying pan and lightly shake the pan to distribute the mixture. Reduce the heat a little and cook the bottom of the frittata for 2-3 minutes until lightly set. We had to cook a little longer due to the amount of eggs we used.

5. Place the pan under a hot grill and finish off the cooking for about 2-3 minutes until the egg mixture is just set.

6. Leave to stand for 1-2 minutes before serving. If liked, dust the top with a little extra paprika.

7. I served with a wilted watercress salad (100g of watercress), with sliced garlic (6 cloves of garlic).

I found the frittata recipe from the Quorn website. I adapted it a little for our preference and so can you!

© 2016 Christine Lucas.

Rhosydd Slate Quarry at Cwmorthin

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Christine at Cwimorthin Quarry, photo by David Evans

Friday, David had planned a day off work. We had intended on visiting the Lake District but the Metoffice‘s weather prediction was as usual, rain…

So after hours of trawling the internet, David discovered an old, abandoned slate mine in North Wales. With the weather forecast looking grim we decided it would add to the desolate atmosphere of the quarry and it’s buildings.

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Rhosydd barracks

So as Friday dawned we prepared for our journey. It took just over two hours to travel from Liverpool, through the Wirral towards Queensferry and onto the A55 towards Conwy. From there we took the winding A470 south towards Betws-y-Coed and then towards Blaenau Ffestiniog and the village of Tanygrisiau, (please don’t ask me to pronounce them!)

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Visiting Tanygrisiau, whose Welsh name means ‘below the steps,’ you can’t help but notice it’s past industry in slate mining. There are many towering ‘mountains’ made of slate in the area. The village, before the industry ended had three major quarries which traded black slate across the world. The village has an exhibition mine, Llechwedd Slate Caverns which hold underground tours.

With all the unseasonal rain we are having here in the UK, Tanygrisiau to me looked like a land of waterfalls. Everywhere you looked there was a raging waterfall booming!

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Cwmorthin Waterfall

We parked the car just before the Cwmorthin Waterfall and it’s viewing platform. There is a gate saying no unauthorised vehicles and to keep to the footpath. A kindly shepherd later on informed David that if we visited again to park our car at the cafe for safety. We photographed the Waterfall first which was through a gate to the left of the main footpath.

Then we followed the waterlogged path along Llyn Cwmorthin towards the ruin of Rhosydd’s Methodist chapel.

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From there we followed the steady incline towards more ruins and past another waterfall.

20160122_133255The mist closed in around us and doggedly we continued to tread on broken rocks and slate towards the top. Luckily for us the rain held off and the only bugbear was the squalling wind. The path seemed to go on and on, but as we took the drop down, the vista opened out and there standing before us, enshrouded in cloud were the skeletal remains of the houses of industry of Rhosydd Quarry.

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The low cloud drifted in on the wind which made visibility poor, though it did indeed add to the desolate mood of the area. The ground was soft underfoot but on a dry summers day I am sure there would be more exploring to do.

Our little walk took us around two hours! I think I held David up somewhat with my lack of walking clothes. However, I persevered and my feet didn’t get too wet. We both look forward to visiting the area again in the future and maybe spend more time searching the ruins.

Have you been on any unusual walks?

Christine x

© 2016. All photographs by Christine Lucas except where mentioned.

2016 Classic FM Hall of Fame.

It’s 20 years since Classic FM started their yearly poll on the nations favourite classical music.

In 2016 I have voted as follows:

My choice for number three: goes to Antonín Dvořák Symphony No 9 (From the New World).

I chose the scherzo as an example of the vibrancy of the piece. Though I do love Leonard Bernstein’s 1962 version with the New York Philharmonic.

Over the past year I have enjoyed listening to the 9th symphony, when it plays on the radio. It makes me want to know more about Dvořák, of his life and his works.

My choice for number two: has got to be Sir Edward Elgar’s Nimrod from his Enigma Variations.

It has always been a piece of music that stops me in my tracks. Whether it be cleaning, cooking or changing the bed sheets, I always have to stop and think, to reflect as the music drifts around me. I chose this piece last year and it reached number three in the chart, so who knows. Maybe we can get Elgar and his Nimrod to number one??

And for my number one, this year: I have picked a Rachaminov, but not his piano concerto number two, (which is divine) and had my vote for previous years! I have decided to go against the grain and vote for his symphony number two! It is only one of a few symphonies that I can listen to in its entirety. The others being Mahler’s 5th, Beethoven’s 5th (you can see a pattern there? – must be something about the 5th symphony!), Sibelius’s 2nd symphony and Dvořák ‘s 9th symphony!

In previous years I have been glued to the radio, listening with bated breath as to which composer achieves the accolade as being the nations favourite. In 2016 I shall worry less about whether Rachmaninov or Vaughn Williams gets to the top spot. I will just be enjoying the countdown over the Easter weekend.

Will you be voting in this years poll? Who will get your vote?

Christine x

Red Lentil, Chickpea & Chilli soup

With having to rein in our expenditure recently, I have been cooking more and more with the ingredients I already have in my store cupboards. Tuesday’s soup turned out better than I had imagined! I found the recipe on the BBC Good Food website, yet changed a few ingredients by adding more fresh produce! The recipe makes up to four good servings.

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Red Lentil, Chickpea and Chilli Soup

Ingredients

  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • One red chilli sliced and de-seeded
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed and sliced
  • 140g red split lentils
  • 850ml vegetable stock or water ( used low salt vegetable stock)
  • 400g can tomato, whole or chopped
  • 400g carton chickpeas rinsed and drained

Method

  • Heat a large saucepan and dry-fry the cumin seeds for 1 min, or until they start to jump around the pan and release their aromas.
  • Add the oil, onion and chilli, and cook for 5 mins. Then add the garlic for another minute.
  • Stir in the lentils, stock and tomatoes, and half the can of chickpeas then bring to the boil. Simmer for 15 mins until the lentils have softened.
  • Whiz the soup with a stick blender or in a food processor until it is a rough purée, pour back into the pan and add the remaining chickpeas. Heat gently, season well and serve with crusty bread.

Saturday just gone, I made a vegetable frittata, but I will leave that recipe for another post.

What food creations have you been trying recently?

Christine x

The Beginning…

This new year has begun in much the same vein as the parting year ended. It sees me re-evaluating my life. (You don’t know how fed up I am of doing that!)

January 2014 saw me working in an ecstatic frenzy! While listening to Hans Zimmer’s Lasiurus, from the Batman Begins film soundtrack, my impassioned imagination took the idea of a historical romance and ran with it. I wrote until the summer. Then I took a job that saw me sitting inanely on a bus for three hours a day, commuting, which killed my soul and subsequently my characters.

Now, with all this wasted time on my hands, it makes me think that maybe 2016 is a year when I should publish a novel? Where I should stop being a lazy writer and work for my living?! Maybe I should not only re-evaluate on the job front but the latest novel to hit the scrapheap? What do you think?


I have been meaning to write a blog post for a while now and yet each time I have planned a post the meal has fallen decidedly flat. Like tonight.

Yesterday, I felt the nervous excitement of finding a recipe I looked forward to making, (I need to get a life) but come this afternoon, I found I had no green lentils and only half a tin of chopped tomatoes. I decided to go ahead with the recipe anyway, which I found in the Asda Good Living magazine. I do like trying out new recipes, so I decided on the Lentil and Chickpea Curry, as I had no spinach.

I used what I had in, meaning half a red onion, half a carrot and half a yellow pepper as well as 100g of red lentils and a can of chickpeas, plus spices. The meal looked and tasted like every other vegetable stew/curry I have ever made. I can’t complain as it was eaten by everyone so it must have been ok?! I served it with brown rice which apparently ages you, according to a report David had recently read. However the health benefits are better than white rice, so a few wrinkles have to be better than being in an early grave?

Ingredients:

  • Olive oil
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves crushed, (also used pepper and carrot… I hate waste)
  • 2tbsp of medium curry powder
  • 400g of chopped tomatoes
  • 400g can of green lentils, drained. (I didn’t have enough so used 100g of red lentils, dried)
  • 400g of chickpeas, drained.
  • Baby spinach (I never had any)
  • salt for seasoning
  • Naan or rice to serve

Method:

  • Heat oil in pan, cook the onion, slowly and then add the garlic.
  • (I added the onion, garlic and pepper together and simmered in a lidded pan until soft)
  • Then add the curry powder and cook for 1 minute
  • (I also added a squirt of tomato paste just to add taste)
  • Add the tomatoes, lentils and chickpeas and simmer for eight minutes, or until thickened.
  • Add the spinach at the last minute to wilt it
  • I also used brown rice which took 25 minutes to cook, adjust cooking times accordingly

The finished recipe if following the above should look like this:

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