2017 – A Year in Insects

This post was inspired by reading Grantham Ecology’s post 2017 in Bees. I haven’t seen as many bees this year, so I thought I would post about the other insects I have seen in 2017 too. I hope you enjoy!

I am forever learning about the inhabitants of my yarden. This year I discovered a new insect, it was enjoying the lavender I had planted. It was a spittlebug, or frog hopper, (also known as cuckoo spit). They are identified as garden pests but this little fella didn’t seem to be doing much harm.

I was also excited to see my first seven spotted ladybird this summer. After I saw one I saw a few enjoying the aphids in the yarden.

On our travels David and I saw lots of blue damselflies but none were more striking (not to mention huge), than the golden ringed dragonfly.

I do love spotting butterflies but have not been as successful in photographing them. However the beautiful comma butterfly stayed still enough for me to snap a picture.

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Comma butterfly

We did manage to capture the cycle of caterpillar to chrysalis and then to an adult. Unfortunately our large white butterfly didn’t have a long life as it came out of it’s chrysalis with a deformity.

Though bees weren’t in number in my yarden in 2017 there was quite a lot of diversity in species. I photographed eight different species, from early sightings of tree bumblebees to the spectacular hairy-footed flower bee. Honey bee sightings were down this year but the number of common carder bees were up. They were active right up until the end of October! I’ll end this post with a collage of some of the bees that have visited my yarden in 2017.

Here’s hoping there’ll be more visitors in 2018!

Have a very happy new year!

Christine x

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2017 – A Year in Food (and Drink!)

I wasn’t going to do a ‘flavour’ of 2017 post. I have struggled with finding new recipes to try this year. However after looking at pictures on my phone I have come to the conclusion that I have taken enough pictures to warrant a post. So here’s a ‘taste’ of my 2017!

I hope you enjoy!

January:

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Roasted Vegetable Parcels

Roasted vegetable parcels have become a staple to our yearly menu. They are full of roasted red onions, peppers and cherry tomatoes. Wrapped up in a toasted tortilla with tomato puree and mozzarella. Served on a bed of salad leaves, they are delicious!

February:

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Blind Scouse

28th February 2017 was World Scouse Day. The celebration of all things Scouse was in it’s fifth year! I celebrated by making a blind scouse.

March: 

While David made a Victoria sponge, I was enjoying red velvet cakes and cucumber sandwiches. Part of an afternoon tea at Jam Liverpool.

April:

Another recipe I go back to time and time again is Chungah’s, one pot stuffed pepper casserole. I use bulgur wheat instead of ground beef and add a little bit more water. The result is a delicious, wholesome meal.

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One pan stuffed pepper casserole

May:

After a meltdown in the kitchen, David took up the knives and oven gloves and managed to whip up a vegetable masala, with microwaved spicy Bombay potatoes.

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Vegetable Masala

June:

A first for David and I in 2017, was attempting to make elder-flower champagne. It may have only stayed fizzy for 30 Days Wild, but it will be something we will attempt to make again next year. It made for a refreshing early summer’s drink. The whole family enjoyed it!

July:

A chippie tea from The Old Keswickian was enjoyable, especially at the lakeside of Derwentwater during our summer visit to Keswick.

August:

A three bean quinoa chilli  (picture above), recipe from oh my veggies, is so filling and makes so may servings. I literally have three bean quinoa chilli for my work lunches, five days a week!! It’s as spicy as you want. I usually put in half a teaspoon of chilli powder! It’s so full of beans and vegetables, it’s become a staple in my repertoire.

September:

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During a week off work I treated mum to a rich cream tea at Leaf, Liverpool. It was jummy!

October:

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Brown Lentil Chilli

Another staple dinner I go to when I have no idea what to cook is a Brown Lentil Chilli, from Katya on A Little Broken. I serve the meal for two with toasted tortillas.

November:

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Spicy bean and sausage casserole

Another recipe I return to is The Vegan Household’s/Gourmet Vegan, spicy butter bean and (vegan) sausage casserole. I use different sausage brands from Asda’s own to Linda McCartney, so not always vegan. However the result is always delicious and very filling!

December: 

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Mince Pies

Unfortunately the only pictures of the little mince pies I made this year were taken as part of the #7dayblackandwhitephotochallenge on Instagram. I used pre-made short crust pastry, but I think I’ll make my own next year.

So there you are, a flavour of my 2017!

Let me know if you have tried any of the recipes featured? Or my post has inspired you to try some of them!

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

A Year in Photos – 2017

Phew! What a year!

I think 2017 has been a wonderful year for David and I! What an adventure 2017 has truly been! I will think back at all the wonderful places and sights we have seen and feel blessed we were able to share them together! Here’s my twelve pictures that sum up our 2017!

January:

2017 started with an eight mile walk around Coniston. We took a detour to visit Banishead Quarry.

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Banishead Quarry

February:

Not everything was plain sailing in 2017. We suffered five deaths in our aviary. Poor Tarn, a Blue Faced Parrot Finch was one of the hardest to bare.

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Tarn

March:

I treated mum to a special birthday afternoon tea at Liverpool’s Jam restaurant.

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April:

Riley enjoyed many walks with David and I in 2017. None more so than at the beach!

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Which way should we go?

May:

I embarked on my first wild swim of the season! Crummock Water, was choppy, chilly but exhilarating!

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Swimming in Crummock Water

June:

June was all about The Wildlife Trust’s 30 Days Wild. Part of the month long celebration we took a trip to Claremont Farm on the Wirral to pick our own strawberries!

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Strawberry picking

July: 

July was a fun filled month. We went wildlife spotting at Mere Sand’s Wood, took a visit to Birmingham’s Big Sleuth and had a two nights stay in the Lakes. A ten mile walk around Beda Fell and Angle Tarn Pikes was exhausting!

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Angle Tarn

August:

Following in much the same vein as July, August seen many more days out. Partaking in my my first Welsh wild swim was simply outstanding!

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Swimming in Llyn Cwellyn

September:

The dawn of autumn saw David and I head towards Morecambe and Leighton Moss RSPB Nature Reserve in search of more wildlife.

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Grey Heron

October:

I surprised myself by completing the #walk1000miles challenge some two months earlier than expected. I completed on the 8th October 2017. 1000 miles + has been walked to date!

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Walk 1000 miles medal!

November:

The only highlight of this dark, dreary month was a theatre visit to The Liverpool Empire to see the 10th Anniversary of War Horse.

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December:

December is again undoubtedly all about Christmas. This year David and I played host to family for Christmas dinner. I have to admit it’s been a very tiring month! Here’s to a more relaxing start to 2018!

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Merry Christmas

I wish you all good health and happiness for the new year ahead! Let’s make 2018 a year to remember!

Thanks for your continued support,

Christine xx

A Year in Books – October to December

I can’t quite believe that this year is almost at an end. Where has the time gone? At the beginning of the year I quoted I wanted to read 40 books before the end of 2017, unfortunately I have only managed to read 35! Not a bad attempt! Thanks to Laura at Circle of Pine Trees for creating the challenge. Hopefully the challenge will continue into 2018! I will keep my target at 40 books to be read in 2018! Do you fancy joining in?

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The Diary of Anne Frank – Anne Frank

I’ve seen films and TV productions of the diary, but I have never read the book until this year. The diary is painfully poignant due to the foreknowledge of what happened to Anne and her family and friends who resided in the annex. Only her father survived the holocaust and made it his life’s work to educate people on the horrors of ethnic cleansing. Anne from the pages seems a voracious girl; her humour, angst and love leaps from the pages, overshadowed by the real fear of being discovered. The diary has made me want to visit Amsterdam and the Anne Frank House in future. What were your thoughts on the book? Have you been to Amsterdam?

An Inspector Calls – JB Priestley

I took a leaf from Liesel, The Book Thief in obtaining this book. I didn’t exactly steal it, but I did find it on the pavement as I stood waiting for a bus to work. I did a double take, wondering whether to rescue the book or leave it where it lay, its pages crumpled and sprawled in the mud. I decided to rescue the book and took it home with me. I had already watched the recent BBC adaptation of this play in 2015 with David Thewlis in the leading role, so I knew the synopsis of the play. An inspector interrupts a dinner party to investigate a girl’s suicide, and implicates each of the party-makers in her death. It’s a very supernatural play, full of foreboding of war. I enjoyed reading the play very much.

A Kestrel for a Knave – Barry Hines

I reviewed this painfully sad novel in my Sunday Sevens #37.

The Hiding Places – Katherine Webb

I do enjoy Katherine Webb’s books, though they are not of the caliber of other writers of similar vein. I almost forgot the plot to this story when reviewing it and I only read it a month ago! The story centres around a rural town in Wiltshire, recovering from the effects of The Great War. The plot focuses on three women. Irene has escaped a scandal in London by marrying the local paper mill owner, she meets Pudding, who is a girl groom for Irene’s new family and then there’s Clemmie who is a mute from a farming family. When Irene’s husband Alistair is murdered, she and Pudding endeavour to find out the truth behind his ghastly killing. Though I enjoyed the story of a murder most foul. The ending did confuse me, I wasn’t sure who I was reading about!

Jane Austen at Home – Lucy Worsley

In the bicentenary year of Jane Austen’s death I felt it quite apt that I managed to read Lucy Worsley’s biography. I don’t know what I was expecting from the book, but I had hoped Lucy’s humour from her TV programmes would shine through the narrative. It didn’t. Jane Austen to me still seemed a veiled character and Lucy’s narrative tried too hard to be academic, which it wasn’t. It was easy enough to read but it would make me think twice to read any more of Lucy Worsley’s works.

Persuasion – Jane Austen

Something from Lucy Worsley’s biography must had stayed with me as I decided to dig out my old copy of Jane Austen’s Persuasion. Her last published novel. However I wish I hadn’t. Though I managed to read it within a week, I found it hard going. It made me aware of how much literature and novel writing has developed and changed since the 1800’s! For the better I say! Persuasion is all about second chances, something Jane Austen in her own life never had. It wasn’t what I would call a romantic novel and the actually falling in love of the two protagonists seemed to happen off page. It affirmed my suspicion. Jane Austen is not my favourite novelist.

At the Water’s Edge – Sara Gruen

I loved Sara Gruen’s previous books, Water for Elephants and Ape House and I equally enjoyed At the Water’s Edge. Three Americans, used to the high life try to out run the second world war by travelling to Drumnadrochit, Scotland in search of the Loch Ness Monster, but ultimately the tale is about awakenings and second chances. I couldn’t put the book down!

Parliament of Rooks – Karen Perkins

I don’t really know what I was expecting when I bought this eBook. I knew it was set in Brontë country but other than that I didn’t know the story. I’m seventeen chapters in and it seems to be shaping up to be a ghost story/romance. It’s written well and is keeping my interest though a bit slow going. Have you read this book? What were your thoughts?

I’m always open to recommendations, so if you have read a book you have enjoyed and think I would like it too, then do let me know.

Will you be joining in next year’s challenge?

Thanks for following my year in books 2017. Here’s to many more good reads in 2018!

Christine x

A Christmas Recital

progammeFriday, 15th December I treated my mum and I to a Christmas Recital at the parish church, St Bridget’s. Tickets were £5 per person. The performance was by local soprano Gussie Knopov, accompanied by pianist Per Nielsen. I think the appeal of the evening was due to following Wirral soprano Charlotte Hoather’s blog and also wanting to support local events.

The performance was at 7.30pm. We wrapped up warmly from the cold, with fairy lights flashing from darkened windows, we walked along damp roads towards St Bridget’s. The church was busy with people when we walked in.

Soprano, Gussie Knopov, a former member of the Liverpool Philharmonic Youth Choir, has trained in Manchester and Edinburgh. In 2016 she started her undergraduate studies at the London, Trinity Laban Conservatoire.

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Gussie Knopov and Per Nielsen

Gussie was accompanied by Per Nielsen, who from his Linkedin page has an impressive CV of working at Archbishop Blanch and Liverpool Hope University. His credits also include studio recordings for National Danish Radio and Radio Three.

The programme featured songs from the stage, among them were My Fair Lady and Jesus Christ Superstar, interjected with Christmas carols such as Ding Dong Merrily on High and Oh Holy Night. I found Gussie’s diction was clearer on the more classical pieces, (showing her training in action), such as the two Schumann love songs and her rendition of Bizet’s Habanera which she chose to do as an encore.

The programme also featured Per Nielsen’s masterful skill on the keyboard. One highlight was his solo performance of Debussy’s The Snow is Dancing from The Children’s Corner. Through Nielsen’s retelling you could imagine snowflakes dancing in the air.

The interval was a bit longer than the 20 minutes billed, but there was refreshments of wine, cordial and cake to make the wait all that more sweeter.

The event was better than I had anticipated and the caliber of both performers was outstanding. Nielsen’s experience was glistening and Gussie has a bright further ahead! All the best to them both!

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Gussie Knopov and Per Nielsen

I’ve not attended events locally before but I would definitely look out for more in future.

Have you attended a similar event?

Thanks for reading,

Merry Christmas!

Christine x

My Wildlife Moments of 2017

It’s with much thanks to the lovely Sharon at Sunshine and Celandines that I’ve complied this post. Sharon wrote about all her wonderful wildlife moments of 2017 and there were many! Which made me think of all the wildlife moments I have seen this year. So without further ado, here’s my wildlife moments of 2017! Enjoy!

Undoubtedly the highlight of the year has to be the sparrowhawk visit. He may have only stayed in the yarden for about 10 minutes but those 10 minutes were ultimately thrilling! There’s nothing like a close encounter with a raptor to make you feel exhilarated! Here’s the video of him again surveying the area.

Another beautiful bird we saw this year was the great crested grebe at Mere Sands Wood Nature Reserve near Ormskirk.

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Great Crested Grebe

During our time at Mere Sands Wood we also saw many toads crossing our paths and I learned a new wildflower, self-heal. Looks similar to french lavender.

A walk along the famous Rannerdale bluebells was a peaceful way to spend a Sunday.

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Bluebells at Rannnerdale

At Lunt Meadows Nature Reserve near Crosby, we spotted our first large skipper.

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Large Skipper

Summer’s fruits were abundant at Claremont Farm on the Wirral. David and I spent a wonderful time foraging the sweetest, juiciest strawberries.

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I love summer due to the fact that the swallows come back from their epic journey from South Africa. I loved watching them swoop effortlessly through the air, turning somersaults after insects on the wing.

Our elder-flower champagne, though didn’t stay fizzy for long, was all homemade. I enjoyed foraging and identifying the elders for their flowers.

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Elderflowers

During a visit to Formby Beach with Riley and David we witnessed a spectacular starling murmuration. Not the best picture but I wanted to include it as a wildlife highlight. 🙂

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On our many visits to the Lake District this year, David and I saw many dragonflies. None more magnificent than this golden ringed dragonfly! He was a beast!

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Golden Ringed Dragonfly

Also in the Lake District on a walk around Blea Tarn, I spotted a summer visitor in the shape of a pied flycatcher (well I think it was?) Another poor picture from my phone as David didn’t have his camera at the ready.

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I’ve shared many wild swims with small fish this year. Those at Brother’s Water really liked the silt I dredged up when I entered the lake.

A visit to an apple festival at local nature reserve Gorse Hill was educational. I didn’t know there were so many varieties of British heritage apples. Will definitely have to visit again next autumn!

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On our visit to Leighton Moss RSPB Nature Reserve we were lucky to see this field vole skittering among the reeds in the riverbed.

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Field Vole

No list of wildlife moments would be complete without my favourite garden bird featuring. It has to be the dunnock. We are very fortunate to have this little fellow gracing our yarden. He is a ground feeder so easy prey for stalking cats. I constantly watch him when he visits!

What wildlife moments have you experienced this year? Here’s to many more in 2018!

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

SUPERCLEAN™ – But What Does it Mean?

* This post comes courtesy of Haith’s – Bird Food Specialists since 1937. If you want top quality bird seed and feeders from a British family run business, then Haith’s has all the products your garden birds need!*

So, you’ve decided to start feeding the birds visiting your outdoor space, (be it a garden, yard or balcony), and that’s a good thing. But there’s so many different types of bird food that you don’t know where to begin!

There’s seed for finches, soft food for robins, peanuts for tits and suet for starlings! The choice can make your head spin!

But did you also know there’s different qualities of food too? There’s the cheap supermarket bought versions which are full of dust and germinate once fallen on soil.

Then there’s SUPERCLEAN™!

Haith’s kindly offered me some of their Premium Wild Bird Food to sample. Or more importantly my visiting garden birds to sample! They sent me a bag of SUPERCLEANseed and another bag of uncleaned seed. You can tell the difference straight away from the pictures taken by David below. The uncleaned seed had pieces of wood, dust and seed husks whereas the SUPERCLEAN™ looked polished and wholesome. Which seed would you prefer too feed your birds?

 

Why do Haith’s SUPERCLEAN™ their foods? 

The reason Haith’s SUPERCLEAN™ their seed is due to studies by Professor John E Cooper DTVM FRCPath FSB CIBiol FRCVS, who found that birds who ate abrasive materials easily damaged their respiratory tracts. This damage in turn leads to increased vulnerability to illness and disease.

Haith’s kindly asked me to help spread their message about SUPERCLEANand the importance of feeding good quality seed to wild birds. The below info-gram is helpful in explaining their process.

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And if all that isn’t enough they have birder and conservationist extraordinaire Bill Oddie explaining the process.

And how did the SUPERCLEANseed fare? On a freezing winter’s day, with snow forecast, the wild birds needed all the high energy seed they could get. I filmed many goldfinches on the feeders and a very cheeky pigeon helping himself to the seed on offer from the Multifeeder!!

If you would like to see the variety of bird foods from Haith’s follow this link: https://www.haiths.com

What are your opinions on bird seed?

Thanks for reading?

Christine x