December Photo Challenge 2018 – Day Twelve

Day Twelve: For today’s photo prompt, that of comfort in a mug, I decided to twist the meaning and plumped for comfort in a glass. I opted to make mulled wine and followed the recipe from Jamie Oliver. Below find the ingredients and method for one bottle of wine.

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Mulled Wine

Spiced and Warming Mulled Wine – Jamie Oliver

Ingredients

  • 1 clementines
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 lime
  • 100 g caster sugar
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • 1 whole nutmeg , for grating (1/3 tea spoon of ground)
  • 1/2 vanilla pod
  • 1 bottle red wine
  • 1 star anise

Method

  1. Peel large sections of peel from the clementines, lemon and lime using a speed-peeler.
  2. Put the sugar in a large saucepan over a medium heat, add the pieces of peel and squeeze in the clementine juice.
  3. Add the cloves, cinnamon stick, bay leaves and about 10 to 12 gratings of nutmeg. Halve the vanilla pod length ways and add to the pan, then stir in just enough red wine to cover the sugar.
  4. Let this simmer until the sugar has completely dissolved into the red wine, then bring to the boil. Keep on a rolling boil for about 4 to 5 minutes, or until you’ve got a beautiful thick syrup. The reason I’m doing this first is to create a wonderful flavour base by really getting the sugar and spices to infuse and blend well with the wine. It’s important to make a syrup base first because it needs to be quite hot, and if you do this with both bottles of wine in there you’ll burn off the alcohol.
  5. When your syrup is ready, turn the heat down to low and add your star anise and the rest of the wine. Gently heat the wine and after around 5 minutes, when it’s warm and delicious, ladle it into heatproof glasses and serve.

It made for a spicy warming drink, but neither David nor my mum liked it. Perhaps I should just keep to red wine in future?

Have you tried making mulled wine?

Thanks for stopping by,

Christine x

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December Photo Challenge 2018

Since I loved blogging every day this year for The Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild. I decided to trawl the internet for photo/blog challenges for December. There were many ideas on Pinterest but none were current. So I decided to create my own from a couple of suggestions I found. Here’s what I came up with.

1. Christmas Tree
2. Advent
3. Snow
4. Christmas tunes
5. Penguin/s
6. Weather
7. Front Door
8. Shopping
9. Pet/s
10. Christmas book
11. Angel
12. Comfort in a mug
13. Christmas Movie
14. Christmas Jumper
15. Hygge
16. Winter Walk/Outdoors
17. Decoration
18. Stocking/s
19. Wrapping
20. Baking treats
21. Winter Solstice
22. Tradition
23. In remembrance
24. Christmas Eve
25. Merry Christmas!
26. Family
27. Gift
28. Grateful for ?
29. This year – a reflection
30. Goals for 2019 (if any)
31. A toast!

After I had compiled my list, I decided to do another online search with a hashtag and found a few current lists on Instagram. The hashtag I used was, #decemberphotochallenge2018, if anyone would like to join me?

Have you ever been interested in blogging for a month? Already have, if so what did you like/dislike about the experience? What suggestions for December would you have chosen for your list?

Thanks for reading and have a happy December!

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #51

It’s Sunday! Time for a quick Sunday Sevens, devised by Natalie at Threads and bobbins.

Mere Sands Wood:

Last Sunday David and I, with Riley tagging along, visited Mere Sands Wood Nature Reserve. We spent a leisurely 4.5 mile walk around the reserve, enjoying the birds singing and the lovely warm weather.

Yarden:

In the yarden I’ve noticed this wildflower growing from the Nestlé seeds I planted last year. I wonder what type of wildflower it is?

Book I am reading:

Suggested by a Facebook pal, I bought the debut novel from Rachel Walkley. Her book The Women of Heachley Hall, based around an old country house is ambling along. The premise; an artist is bequeathed a dilapidated house from a relative. The stipulation is to sell at auction or live in the house for a year and a day. The first person narrative is interrupted by ‘spooky’ incidents but nothing exciting as yet.

5 Day Veggie Challenge:

I’ve registered for Jamie Oliver’s 5 Day Veggie Challenge, which begins this Monday. For a small fee you are sent recipes via email along with tips during the week. I look forward to seeing what recipes are available.

Othello:

On Saturday David and I went to see the Everyman Company’s production of Othello. It was three hours well spent. In this modern day production, with mobile phones used as props, Othello was cast as a woman. Golda Rosheuvel played the character with authority and sensitivity. I found some of the diction a bit hard to follow and was glad that the performance was captioned. The lighting and soundtrack added to the growing tension on stage, where we saw Iago spin a web of lies, turning Othello into a mad beast of jealousy. The final scene where Othello murders Desdemona was a feast for the eyes. The bed was surrounded by mesh curtains which created an intimate scenario, however the murder was awful to witness. The finale, emotionally charged.

In act 4, scene 3, Desdamona sings a song called Willow, which my memory brings up every-time I see a willow tree.

DESDEMONA [Singing]

The poor soul sat sighing by a sycamore tree,

Sing all a green willow:

Her hand on her bosom, her head on her knee,

Sing willow, willow, willow:

The fresh streams ran by her, and murmur’d her moans;

Sing willow, willow, willow;

Her salt tears fell from her, and soften’d the stones; Lay by these:–

Singing Sing willow, willow, willow;

 

Sing all a green willow must be my garland.

Let nobody blame him; his scorn I approve,-

I call’d my love false love; but what said he then?

Sing willow, willow, willow:

If I court moe women, you’ll couch with moe men!

You can read about the origin of the song from the Shakespeare’s Birthplace Trust.

Do you like Shakespeare? Been to any plays recently?

#walk1000miles:

Total miles this week have been 37. Bringing my annual total to 680 miles. 3.6 miles was taken walking Riley around a sunny Sefton Park this morning. 🙂

That was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #49

I love sharing my weekly updates with you in the form of a Sunday Sevens. Thanks to Natalie at Threads and bobbins for creating the series. 🙂

seven wonders of industrial worldBook I’m reading:

Seven Wonders of the Industrial World – Deborah Cadbury.

I’ve picked up a book from my library, (OMG I can say library!) OK, a very small library! :p (David is cringing with the amount of books I am buying!) It’s a book I bought years ago and not had the time to read. So I thought I would read it for my 2018 Year in Books. Deborah Cadbury’s book accompanied the acclaimed 2004 BBC series Seven Wonders of the Industrial World.

I have to admit the series was inspirational. The Industrial Revolution created revolutionary thinkers such as Isambard Kingdom Brunel, whose world changing designs were built by the superhuman navvies who toiled, bled and died creating a modern world! It made me stop and think of how we take for granted these wonderful works of engineering.

Awe-inspiring accounts of the building of the Brooklyn Bridge, (which to me will always be the Roebling Bridge), and of Joseph Bazalgette’s Cholera defying London sewers are among the best episodes of the series. Add wonderful music by the then up and coming Hollywood composer Steve Jablonsky and you have the ingredients for a superb TV series. I was gifted the DVD set for a birthday and the book only adds to the incredible achievement of these men of vision.

Have you seen this TV series, read the book? What are your favorite industrial wonders?

Cooking:

Returning to the mundane, this week I managed to do some cooking. It’s been a while since I cooked a meal from scratch. It may have been for one (as David cooked himself a curry) but I was happy with the result. I followed the recipe from the Quorn site, of Fajitas with Quorn Pieces. I served with warmed tortillas. The meal was filling yet ultimately healthy as the main base was vegetables.

Yarden:

All the sun of last week has made a big difference to the yarden. The potato chits and wildflower seedlings have pushed through the soil and the red campion has started to flower. The only sad demise from this winter was my beautiful Salvia Mystic Spires. It was loved by bees well into the autumn months. I am mourning this beautiful plant and hope to find a replacement in the shops in future.

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#walk1000miles:

My miles this week have been an accumulation of walks with Riley, housework and sessions on the cross trainer. My miles this week has been 30, bringing my annual total to 607 miles.

 

Walking the Dog:

This Sunday David and I got up at the ungodly hour of 5.30am to take a drive to Formby Point for an early morning walk with David’s sister, partner and doggy nephew, Bennie! It was the first time both dogs had met each other. After a good sniff both dogs walked side by side as we took to the sand dunes and walked along the beach. I think they both enjoyed their 3.5 mile walk.

That was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

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:

parcels

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:

sausage casserole

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

Sunday Sevens #35

I don’t think I was meant to write this post. With half a page written, I was adding pictures when I noticed all the text had gone!! 😦 So take two! Here’s a quick recap of my week in a Sunday Sevens devised by Natalie at Threads and bobbins.

#Walk1000miles: I’ll get my abysmal mileage out of the way first. It’s been a lazy week for both walking and exercising. I have just felt so tired! This week I have managed 22 miles. Bringing my annual total to 759 miles.

Foraging: One mile of my weekly total was strolling around Liverpool’s Festival Gardens. David, Riley and I went in search of blackberries! There were tons of brambles! We managed to collect a small bag full but there were loads left to ripen. Do you have any ideas on what I can do with my small haul of blackberries?

Book I am reading: This week I have picked up And the Mountains Echoed, the third novel by Khaled Hosseini. Though written in a different style to his first two books, I am enjoying it so far. It keeps me distracted while on the daily commutte. Have you read this book, what were your impressions?

Wildlife and yarden: This week I noticed a common carder bee enjoying the flowers on the delilah. The wildflowers from the 30 Days Wild pack seem to be growing well! I wonder what flowers will bud? We also pulled up the centurion onions. Some hadn’t developed so we discarded them. Of the few we salvaged, we just have to leave them to dry and then I will try one. We haven’t be at all successful this year with growing our own. What do you suggest we try and grow next year?

sausage casserole

Cooking: This week I have been very busy in the kitchen, cooking and making our meals from scratch. I have come across two vegan blogs (Yup it’s Vegan and Vegan Richa) with some wonderful recipes. I was inspired by The Gourmet Vegan’s recipe of a spicy butter bean and sausage casserole. However I didn’t have any mushrooms or butter beans, so substituted them for peppers and cannellini beans.

Bear-mingham: This weekend David and I drove the two hours from Liverpool to the UK’s second largest city, Birmingham. Our journey took half an hour longer than usual as we found that junction 6 of the M6 was closed at weekends, until September! The diversion was long and the return journey via junction 7 was stressful to navigate. However we did have a nice time once in Birmingham. We visited the city two years ago to see The Big Hoot! This time we visited their sleuth of 100 sun bears! You can read about past trails we’ve visited here. In the two hours we walked the city’s streets, we saw 28 colourful bears. I’ll end the post with a collage of our favourite ones. Which ones are your favourite?

That was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #25

Wow! These week’s come round quick! It’s that time again! Time for some more Sunday Sevens, devised by Natalie.

Walk 1000 miles: The beginning of the week saw my #walk1000miles badge arrive in the post! I am excited to take it on my future walks.

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My Walk 1000 Miles badge

My total for this week has been 26 miles bringing my overall tally to 277 miles. A culmination of getting off the bus earlier to enjoy the warm sunshine and to look for signs of spring.

Wild Swimming: With the help of David, we put up my Lake District map. We used string as pointers to pictures of the lakes I’ve swam in. Thanks to Sharon from Sunshine and Celandines for the inspiration. Her dog Hugo has a map featuring all his dips, I thought ‘what a great idea, perfect for my wild swims!’ 😀

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My wild swim map

Wildlife: This week I signed up for the Great British Bee Count, an incentive by Friends of the Earth. Much like the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch, it is a survey to track the health of bee populations in the UK. The count this year will be between 19th May to 30th June 2017, just in time for the Wildlife Trust’s 30 Day’s Wild! Will you be joining in?

Earth Hour: Once again David and I participated in WWF’s Earth Hour. For an hour between 8.30pm and 9.30pm on 25th March 2017 we turned off all the lights and used the time to reflect. It made for a very calm hour.

Did you participate in this years Earth Hour?

Afternoon Tea: This weekend it was Mothering Sunday here in the UK and the day before was my Mum’s birthday. To celebrate both, I surprised my Mum with an afternoon tea at Jam.

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Afternoon Tea at Jam, Liverpool

The restaurant was busier than last time I visited with David, you can read my review here. The afternoon tea had some changes. Mum had beef bread rolls and thankfully there was no egg to be seen. The cake selection was a little different too. There were slices of red velvet cake, bakewell tarts and small doughnuts. The scones went down very nicely with cups of Assam tea!

Birdcage-Walk-UseReading: The book I have begun reading this week is Birdcage Walk by Kate Riordan. It is set at the turn of the 20th century and is based on a true crime. However I think the adapted story is a little far fetched but I am over half way through so will persevere to the end.

Have you read any good books lately?

In the kitchen: While I was out with Mum, David was busy in the kitchen baking another cake. This time he made a classic Victoria Sponge, with yummy fresh cream and strawberry jam.

For this Saturday’s dinner I made a Brown Lentil Chili and served it with oven baked tortillas. I adapted the quantities for two people. It makes for a gorgeous, healthy, filling chili. I have made this recipe several times this year.

These have been just a few highlights from my week. How has yours been?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #24

I thought I’d scrape some pictures together and participate once again in this weeks Sunday Sevens devised by Natalie.

Baking: I ended last week’s Sunday Sevens with a picture of David’s endeavours. I’ll begin this week with another of his creations. It took five hours to make, baking in the oven for 1.5 hours but the result was a bouncy sponge with soft coffee buttercream and chocolate ganache to decorate.

Reading: This week I finished Katherine Webb’s The English Girl. Susanna from Fred the Needle asked if I would review the book, so here’s some of my thoughts. Despite the story not being as strong as Webb’s first two books The Legacy and The Unseen, The English Girl was a far better story than The Night Falling. Webb used the Jebel War of 1958-59 as the backdrop to the novel. It is another of those weaving dual narratives. The two protagonists are Maude Vickary in the 1900’s and Joan Seabrook in the 1950’s. The main theme is adventure, of two women breaking the bonds of society and finding themselves (or losing themselves) to the desert wastes of Oman. I found Joan’s character rather wishy-washy and I wished she would stop faffing about and make a decision. I preferred reading the story of Maude and her adventures of trying to be the first woman/Westerner to cross the Empty Quarter. Her struggle across huge dunes and facing sheer exhaustion was well described. I had my hand to my mouth when she encountered a camel spider (look them up) and shocked at her betrayal, but I won’t spoil the end for you! All in all it wasn’t a bad read. It took me a whole year to read The Night Falling. I read The English Girl in a fraction of that time. If you enjoy Arabian adventures then this novel is for you!

Have you read it? Let me know what you think?

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Walk 1000 miles: I’ve walked 21.4 miles this week, a touch better than last week. While on my daily walk to the bus stop to work, I noticed the central reservation was awash with the golden heads of daffodils. It certainly brought to mind the iconic William Wordsworth poem. ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud.’

Wildlife: On Thursday my eyes spied a small green/brown bird flitting around the yarden. It was the size of a blue tit, but it wasn’t a blue tit. It was a chiffchaff. I only see these birds once a year. They must pass through the city on way to woodland for the summer. I reached for my camcorder but the camera wasn’t charged, so an old video I took in 2013 will just have to do!

Pets: This weekend has been a stressful one! On Saturday I witnessed our new parrot finch, Leaf attacking our other newbie, Gouldian finch, Set! Afterwards, David managed to pick Set up and noticed the damage Leaf had done. His feathers around his head and eyes had been plucked, leaving red skin exposed. Poor Set was scared so much he just sat in David’s hand. We noticed that Set still had his baby mouth. He must only be as young as six months old!

I have read that if there is an aggressor in an aviary, then the only course of action is to take the aggressor away. That was when our problem began. We managed to isolate Leaf and his other parrot friend, Forrest from the aviary, but the only other cage we had was the hospital cage which was where Set was recovering in. Our other cage, the one in which our aviary had begun five years ago was at David’s Mum’s housing their two budgies.

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Leaf and Forrest’s new home

Kindly, David’s Mum and Dad said that we could have our cage back as they had one which could house their budgies until they got a bigger cage. I was so relieved, more so when back at home the two parrot finches explored the cage and were soon housed in it.

Set has recovered from his ordeal and though still looking a little worse for wear he has been reintegrated into the aviary with the more placid finches. Leaf and Forrest are flitting about their new home, they never keep still for long, hence needing a bigger cage to house them.

Who would have guessed such small birds would cause so much distress!

Cooking: For Saturday’s dinner I cooked a three bean quinoa chili. The recipe was very versatile and I substituted a few ingredients to what I had in the store-cupboard. I served it with oven baked tortillas and a crisp glass of white wine. It made for a healthy and filling meal. Definitely one to make again.

Gardening: This Sunday David and I spent some time in the yarden planting our Centurion onions. I snapped some pictures of Stellata magnolia and dwarf rhododendron flowers. The yarden is definitely awakening!

So that was my week. How have you spent yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #22

It’s been a while since I’ve contributed to the weekly Sunday Sevens, devised by Natalie. This is my first Sunday Seven’s of 2017, I hope you enjoy?!

After a visit to Lady Green Garden Centre, I had a few new plants to place in the yarden. So on Sunday David and I managed to do some tidying and landscaping.

The beginning of the week saw me with a stinker of a head cold. Tuesday was World Scouse Day, so I made a warming vegetarian version, Blind Scouse.

Wednesday was the beginning of our much anticipated little break to the Lake District. Before David and I returned to our B&B for three nights, Hermiston in Braithwaite, we stopped off at Hodge Close Quarry.

Thursday was all about exploring Thirlmere. Unfortunately due to last years storm Desmond, some paths were closed, but that did not stop David and I heading up towards a snowy Raven Crag.

Friday was a cold and cloudy day in the Lake District. As part of our travels we revisited Buttermere, and finally got to see the lone tree!

Saturday was our 11 years anniversary! What better way to celebrate than to walk through Whinlatter Forest and pose for a selfie atop of Seat How?!

Sadly on our return home after three nights away, we found one of our finches, Fudge on the bottom of the cage. His friend Pi was seen sitting on his body, trying to keep him warm. It was news to bring us back home with a bump!

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RIP Fudge

So there you have it, a whistle stop tour of my past week!

Thanks for reading and I hope you have a good week ahead!

Christine x

12 Hours of Day #4

It is thanks once again to the lovely Sharon from Sunshine and Celandines for informing me of this Saturday’s #photoanhour challenge. I don’t use Instagram much, so here’s my photo an hour in blog form.

Photo and Hour – 18th February 2017

8am to 9am:

It always seems that these photo an hour challenges fall on days when I have nothing planned! My Saturday began like every other day, with me getting up to make my breakfast. Granola and black coffee, a perfect start to the day!

9am to 10am:

We visited my mum (next door) and spotted a lone daffodil standing proudly in her back yarden.

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The weekly shop

10am to 12 noon:

Saturday is usually grocery shopping day but once we had unpacked the day’s purchases, David and I headed for the M62 and for garden centres/pet shops around Widnes. One of the garden centres we frequent, White Moss stands opposite the imposing Fiddlers Ferry (coal) power station.

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Fiddlers Ferry Power Station

12 noon to 1pm:

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Clipsley Pets and Aquatics

Sadly we did not find what we were looking for in Widnes, so we drove to pet shops in Warrington, before stopping at Clipsley Pets and Aquatics, in Haydock. We have been visiting Clipsley for the past three years and have bought most of our aviary from them. We visited today with just the intention of looking!

1pm to 2pm:

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Who’s in there?

Travelling home seemed to take ages, more so with excitable new friends sitting in these boxes! 😀

2pm to 4pm: 

After a busy morning, the afternoon was much more relaxing. David and I watched on while our new friends settled into their new home. Welcome to the aviary, Set (Gouldian Finch), Leaf (Blue Faced Parrot Finch) and Paris (Owl Finch). How beautiful are they? After all the sadness of the past few weeks, they have made me so happy! 😀

4pm to 5pm:

With the sun trying to break through the clouds, David and I pottered about the yarden. I re-planted an Euonymus Japonicus which was looking sad at the front of the house.

5pm to 6pm:

After doing some housework and before cooking the evening’s meal, I enjoyed a moment of calm by looking up at the clouds coloured by the setting sun.

6pm to 7:30pm:

This evenings dinner was a one pot stuffed pepper casserole. I just substituted the beef with bulgur wheat and topped David’s off with a chicken breast. It made for a wholesome meal.

7:30pm to 8pm:

I ended my photo an hour challenge by sitting in the living room and watched as the finches paired up and explored their new surroundings.

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Finch aviary

How have you spent your Saturday?

Thanks to Janey and Louisa for setting up the challenge.

Christine x