Wild October – Week Four + Three Days!

20161022_075401-2It’s the finale of my Wild October!

Though the weather did not play ball towards the end of the week, I packed as much autumn into the days as I could! This dramatic sunrise was a precursor to what was planned!

Phew, what a week it’s been!

Since our membership for Chester Zoo ran out on the 29th of this month, David and I headed back to say farewell to the red pandas! I snapped the colours of autumn as we took the lazyboat ride in Islands and even some painted dogs got in on the action!

This week the garden was visited by this gorgeous looking robin. Also while walking to get the bus to work, I captured some lovely autumnal sunlight through the trees.

Thursday and Friday was our much awaited short break to the Lake District! For months I have been dreaming and planning two jam packed days! Thursday dawned oppressive and overcast yet we made the most of the day and visited Grizedale Forest.

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Friday turned out to be a perfect day! We took in a white dawn at the shores of Derwentwater and later on the sun put in a show bringing all the autumnal colours to life!

14875907_10154199400664200_679149005_oIn the evening we headed towards Loweswater in the hope of chatching a sunset and ended up playing with more leaves!

There will be subsequent blog posts with more detailed information and pictures re: the lakes holiday coming soon!

Our last day in the lakes was spent around Aira Force and Ullswater!

Rather aptly, I have an autumn birthday, clebrated on the 30th. This year I turned 40! (I still don’t know whether I am happy about that fact or not!) I shared the day with all the people I hold dear in this world, and celebrated by making a video, screaming and splashing about in Derwentwater (as you do)!

Diwali, the Hindu ‘festival of light’, this year was also on the 30th, so I lit a candle or two in honour of the festival.

And finally, the 31st October, renowned throughout the western world as being All Hallows Eve, or Halloween! It is the day when the veil between the living and the dead is at its thinnest.

I celebrated it by dressing up as the devil!

So, that was my Wild October. How did you celebrate yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

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My Love for the Red Panda.

‘Panda’ from the Nepalese, nigalya ponya meaning bamboo footed.

23666_10150140661800271_1831177_nThe red panda was the first ‘panda’ to be know to the West as early as the 1800’s! In 1825 Frenchman Frederic Cuvier published an account describing the red panda and named the species, Ailurus fulgens fulgens, or shining cat.

By the 1840’s English naturalist Brain Houghton Hodgson had written a detailed study on the red panda or ‘Wah’. Focusing on habitat and diet.

It was not until 1869 that the giant panda was identified. However to distinguish the species, the first panda was renamed the lesser panda.

39755_425944215911_56676235911_4773054_7286609_nIt’s been eight years since I saw my first red panda, having been oblivious to their existence until then. For me it was love-at-first-sight! They seem to be a number of animals all rolled into one, which has caused countless debates as to what family or classification of animal the red panda truly is.

Are they bear-cats? They are cat sized (always a plus in my book) and rather bear-like, though they are not part of the ursidae family.

They bark like a dog: There is little published evidence but the red panda is highly susceptible to diseases like canine distemper.

Their vocalisations sound similar to birds:

A living fossil: Recent DNA studies have concluded that the red panda is in its own family of the Ailuridae, being part of the super-family the Musteloidea, (weasels, skunks and raccoons).

The only similarity with giant pandas is their diet (bamboo) and the false thumb, an elongated wrist bone that acts like a sixth digit. It helps with holding food and climbing, especially head first!

Red pandas are found largely in temperate, deciduous forests, from Nepal to China and Myanmar. There are two subspecies, Ailurus fulgens fulgens and Ailurus fulgens styani. Their red fur, one of the densest of all mammals (for insulation), is perfect camouflage during autumn.

Due to living in Himalayan regions, red pandas prefer cooler days. Winter is the best time to find them active.

Although they have a penchant for bamboo, eating up to 45% of their body weight a day, red pandas are classed as carnivores. They eat fruit, insects, eggs and small birds.

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Feeding Red Pandas at Paradise Wildlife Park

Red pandas have a slow metabolism due to being unable to digest bamboo properly, hence being rather sedentary. I’ve noticed many zoo guests just walk past red panda enclosures because they have been asleep up a tree. In most cases you need to visit several times in the hope of catching one awake. Being a crepuscular animal doesn’t help either as they are more active at dawn and dusk.

They are solitary animals, only coming together for mating. The female is only receptive one day a year. The breeding season is usually January to April with birth around June/July. The litter usually consists of one to four cubs, but usually two.

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Photo by David Evans

In 2010 I was honoured to witness Chester Zoo’s female red panda, Lushui move her cub, Lily from nest to nest. They do this to avoid predators. Cubs come out of the nest from around three months, and stay with their mothers for about a year before finding their own territory. Their lifespan in captivity can reach 15 years.

However beautiful red pandas are, they are classified as endangered by the IUCN. The main threats to them are deforestation, hunting, poaching and illegal trade. In China there is a traditional custom dating back to around the 13th century where red panda pelts are given to newlyweds as a sign of ‘good luck’. Red pandas are also predated upon by snow leopards and martens.

Conservation: Exact numbers of red pandas in Asia are relatively unknown, estimates say up to 10,000 adults. There is a worldwide effort to protect the red panda and its habitat. In many of the countries where the red panda is found, their habitat has been designated areas of protection, though these areas are hard to police. The Red Panda Network liaise with ‘forest guardians’ to educate and highlight the need to conserve red panda habitat. They are also working directly with the creators of the Panchthar-Ilam-Singhalila (PIS corridor), which will be the first Red Panda Protected Forest.

In captivity there are two long term initiatives for breeding, the Red Panda Species Survival Programme (SSP) and the European Endangered Species Programme (EES) which offers a ‘stud book’ of potential mates.

Popular culture: There have been a number of depictions of red pandas on many platforms over the years. Another name for the red panda is the Fire Fox. Mozilla use this name for their web browser, though their logo is ambiguous.

Cinema: In 2008 DreamWorks released Kung Fu Panda with Shifu, being a lose representation of a red panda! A year earlier an animated Barbie film, the Island Princess had a red panda as a friendly aide.

In 2013 Pocket Gems released a game called Animal Adventure with a red panda as one of the main characters.

14115498_10153971399038869_7066728288936528819_oThe future…is still uncertain.

At the time of writing, the WWF have announced that the giant panda’s status has improved from endangered to vulnerable. Hopefully the red panda being under the ‘umbrella’ of conservational efforts for the giant panda, will start to feel the effects of these protection methods soon?

 

And finally: Sadly, earlier this year, the Red Panda Network announced that poaching of the red panda had increased in 2016! Their annual International Red Panda Day (17th September 2016) will focus on anti-poaching initiatives.

The road ahead may still be long but there is hope for the future of the red panda. Conservation efforts are starting to produce results for not only the giant panda but tigers also, why not for the red panda? They have so much going for them. To me they are sweet, endearing animals, they are all superstars, none other than Ming Ming!

Thanks for reading.

Christine x


Further reading:

Angela Glatston: Red Panda: Biology and Conservation of the First Panda.

Whence the Red Panda? Flynn JJ, Nedbal MA, Dragoo JW, Honeycutt RL.

http://redpandanetwork.org/red_panda/about-the-red-panda/

http://animals.sandiegozoo.org/animals/red-panda

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_panda

If you have been inspired by what you have read, then why not continue the message? You can join in with this years International Red Panda Day at your local animal park/zoo.

30 Days Wild 2016 – Week Three

o0OhgWNNI can’t quite believe how fast this June is going, too quickly for my liking! Unlike last years 30 Days Wild, I am trying to look beyond the yarden. Taking more days out in the country for long scenic walks and wild swims.

Here’s a summary of week three!

Day 15: Wednesday

The third week of The Wildlife Trust’s 30 Days Wild dawned with a migraine. So I forsook the treadmill and spent a lazy day of watching ‘wild’ webcams. I particularly enjoyed watching the Derby Cathedral peregrines. It had four, close to fledgling peregrine chicks in a nest that had lots of pigeon kill! I also tried to spot the puffins on the Teaching Through Nature website. David had chosen this ‘wild’ card and it was perfect for the type of day it became. I frequently tune into the RSPB’s Lodge webcam to watch garden birds visit the feeders. Today when I logged on, two grey squirrels and a great spotted woodpecker hung off the feeders. It cheered me up!

RSPB webcam 2

Day 16: Thursday

20160618-181526I wasn’t feeling very wild today. It was a staying under the bed covers kind of day. So I thought I would ID a plant that was growing in my yarden. I used the Pl@nt.Net app, but the programme was having trouble identifying the leaves. I said to David ‘I’m sure I’ve seen the buds before,’ but on what plant I could not remember! Then I realised! The flower buds are very like borage, though the leaves look very different. I grew borage for the bees last year as one of my 30 Days Wild and it looks like some have seeded themselves! I am not complaining though, they’ll be more food for the bees! 🙂 And I suppose it ticks off another wild task without me even trying! 🙂

Day 17: Friday

Today was a special day. It was a day I got to go wild swimming again!! The weather may have been much grottier than my first time in Derwentwater, but it was a much special day. I got to swim in the waters of my favourite lake, Buttermere! 🙂

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After walking three hours alongside Crummock Water and then back towards Buttermere, I finally submerged my weary body under the cool, clear waters of the lake, with Fleetwith Pike as the glorious backdrop.

Find the written article here.

Day 18: Saturday

Today was busy with shopping and visiting family, so I didn’t have much time to do anything ‘wild’. In the evening, I decided to try my hand at identification, with little result. I began by looking at Google images in the hope of identifying the owner of this feather I found at Crummock Water the day before. Then I turned to the Forest Xplorer app by the Forestry Commission to discover what type of tree I had hugged.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I am useless at identification. After a good few hours searching, I stopped feeling frustrated, with still no answers! I really need to improve my skills, perhaps I should take a course in the future?

Day 19: Sunday

Today’s ‘wild’ card was, keep an eye out for newborns. Once again I had set my camcorder at the kitchen window overlooking the bird feeders. During the hours recording, it captured a baby Goldfinch visiting the feeders with two adults!

Day 20: Monday

Happy Summer Solstice or Litha. I don’t think I have sat up and watched the Longest Day of the year dawn, if I have in the past it was unintentionally! For one of my 30 Days Wild this year, I wanted to wake up with the city dawn chorus. I decided it would be a perfect way to celebrate the solstice too.

Sunrise was at 4.42am. I crawled out of bed blurry eyed an hour before. I left David in the thrall of Morpheus. With a hot drink in hand, notepad and pen, camcorder and phone, I sat in the guest bedroom with the window open wide and listened to the soft breeze for any birdsong.

It was faint, ethereal almost in the gloaming, but there was the sound of sweet birdsong. I think if I lived closer to a park the volume would have been louder. I tried to record the sound, which I have mixed in a video below.

I found it difficult to identify the birdsong. I had expected to hear a blackbird’s call but I think the predominant song was that of a robin. (I heard the blackbird before I returned to bed.)

Half an hour before the dawn, I saw herring gulls circling in the sky. These birds get up early! Members of the tit family were also calling and flying between the houses at this time.

It was after sunrise, when the birds came to the yarden, that I captured the loudest of the birdsong. It seemed that the lighter the day became the louder the sounds! 5am seemed to be the best time! Goldfinches came to the yarden in charms. I saw a crow fly over the roof. Mr. Dunnock sang so loudly he almost deafened me! Pigeons visited the feeders and magpies cackled somewhere in the near distance. Also at this time a tree bumblebee was heard and seen buzzing loudly around the campanula, bell flowers. If that was not enough for my small yarden oasis, a black cat walked along the wall crying. It jumped into the yarden and went for a long, quenching drink from our pond before jumping back on the wall and walking out of sight!

The sunrise was less eventful than the dawn chorus. The day broke grey and uninspiring. I retired to bed, to a fitful snooze after 5.30am.

Day 21: Tuesday

David went back to work today, so I spent the day looking over the pictures we took during out visit to Chester Zoo on Monday. I know I am cheating a little here and its not totally nature or indeed wild but the weather in the morning could have been described as wild so its going into my 30 Days blog.

Chester Zoo do have an initiative called Act for Wildlife. They have conservation projects not only around the world but in the UK too.

We spent a good three hours dodging the showers. We spent over half an hour watching the Aye-aye (Madagascan Lemur), he is so cute, and marveling at the new dinosaurs collection. We both liked Utahraptor with his feathers!

Summary:

This week has been quite a diverse one! Like last years 30 Days Wild, I am loving every moment! I am continuing to read and enjoy other blogs and I am learning along the way.

With only one more full week left of June, I hope you will continue to follow me as I discover more wildness in my life.

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #10

One word springs to mind when I think back to this past week and that is… SUNSHINE! Most of the UK has been blessed with unseasonably warm weather. I am not complaining, I have been enjoying most of the weather by sitting out in the yarden with Artie. We have spent many a long afternoon, dining al fresco and soaking up the rays! Artie looks like he has recovered from his little tumble down the stairs on Sunday!

The beginning of the week saw David and I heading off to wander around the red squirrel walk at Formby Point. Come the end of the week we had ventured to Chester Zoo to see the new Aye-aye exhibit (which was the highlight of the day for me!) Of course no visit to Chester Zoo would be complete without visiting Islands and going on their Lazy Boat Ride (another firm favourite of mine!)

On Friday we welcomed guests to no. 49! Joining us at our dining table was David’s brother, sister-in-law and nephew. David served his signature Rogan Josh for the adults. All had a good time, there was not even a morsel of rice left!

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This Sunday, David and I spent a good part of the afternoon, cutting, grooming and washing the family dog, border collie, Riley. Here he is just after his bath!

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How have you been spending your weekend? Enjoying the sun (if you have had it!)?

Have a good week ahead,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens was devised by Threads and bobbins.

Looking Back, and Ahead.

Among the highlights of the year for me, was seeing Cunard’s Three Queens wow Liverpool, visiting the Tower of London Poppies at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, and of course seeing Jonathan Firth in a starring role in Gaslight, in Northampton. GoGoDragons in Norwich was the only night away from home, yet we enjoyed many days out and even renewed our membership at Chester Zoo whose Islands were outstanding!

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The musical highlight of 2015 has been a new appreciation of Dvorak’s 9th symphony, ‘The New World.’

Looking ahead, there are many art installations to see in 2016, and days out structured around them. Among them are:

  • The Herd of Sheffield, where more than 40 sculptures of elephants will grace the city’s streets the summer of 2016
  • The Big Read: Birmingham. Like the book benches seen in London in 2014, these new creations will be seen during the summer of 2016.
  • #PoppiesTour is coming to Caernarfon Castle in the autumn of 2016

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For many more street art installations follow the link to Wild in Art. Perhaps you will go to see one of the other exhibitions listed?

Chiefly, the event I am most eager to see is Hans Zimmer’s concert at the Barclaycard Arena, Birmingham this coming April. The tickets are booked (though cost a small fortune) and the car parking is paid for. I simply can’t wait! It should be a fantastic night of music! My expectations are already sky high!!

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Though the run up to Christmas this year was not plain sailing, and there will be more worrying times ahead, I don’t want to dwell on the sadness but keep a hold of the positives. Christmas was spent with friends and loved ones and the New Year will be spent in a similar vein.

All that is left is for me to wish you good health and happiness for 2016!

© 2015 Christine Lucas.

‘Tyger, tyger burning bright’.

The title of this blog is a line from a William Blake poem, The Tyger. It came into my mind when David and I last visited Chester Zoo‘s Islands. This time, we did go in search of tigers, Sumatran Tigers in fact. It has been a joy to follow each stage of Islands as they open to the public. After visiting Panay, Sumba and Papua in phase one, it was then the turn of Monsoon Forest a few months later, and now Sumatra is finally open with the introduction of the tigers to their new enclosure.

Sumatra at Chester Zoo Islands

Sumatra at Chester Zoo Islands

It was my birthday on Friday, 30th October, so David and I ventured forth to Chester Zoo in the drizzle. However once we arrived at the zoo, the sun started to fracture the grey clouds. As we ventured towards Islands and reclined on the Lazy Boat Ride (which I love!), the sun’s rays shone, unseasonally warm upon us.

The downside to the tiger enclosure however, was that the glass windows that feature in the outside part of their home, was full of frost and condensation. Perhaps it will be a forthcoming issue for the zoo in winter months? Fellow guests commented about this to the keepers, though I don’t know of how they can combat it. We have been to other zoos that have also had condensation on the windows. I think this is a universal problem for most zoos. It did make for poor viewing of the tigers who were sat on a rock right opposite the frosted window!

However, it was not just the tiger enclosure that suffered from condensation, the new orang-utan enclosure (yet to be occupied,) also had issues with this.

We ventured around Islands twice in the hope that the condensation would lessen as the day warmed up, but alas it didn’t.

The army of volunteers that populate Islands needs a mention, they offer a friendly, helpful and informative service and they make the Islands experience even more fulfilling.

We visited Monsoon Forest twice on our tour of Islands, the Sunda Gharial is an enclosure that is always busy, (I’ve still not got a good picture of them). There are more free flying birds introduced into the tropical forest and looking over the canopy of plants really gave the impression of being in a forest.

Monsoon Forest

Monsoon Forest

Part of Monsoon Forest is the Tripa Forest Research Station. I’ve commented on this before but I really love the authentic feel to the place.

Tripa Forest Research Station

Tripa Forest Research Station

During our visit to Chester Zoo we purchased a joint yearly membership, at £135. This means unlimited visits and special days when family and friends can come along with members and pay half price admission. Then there is the 10% discount in shops at the zoo and one visit a year to a number of zoos in the scheme, including Twycross Zoo and Highland Wildlife Park! I am so happy we have the membership again. We can visit Islands whenever we have a free weekend. It will be nice to see Islands evolve throughout the seasons. 😀

I’ll end by sharing the William Blake poem.

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare sieze the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art.
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

Monsoon Forest at Chester Zoo

Monsoon Forest, the largest indoor zoo exhibit in the UK is finally open!

Monsoon Forest

Monsoon Forest

David and I decided to use what time we had left of our Chester Zoo membership, and take a day trip to see how the new exhibit had taken shape.

Monsoon Forest is part of the bigger project, Islands, at Chester Zoo and I have reviewed our preview visit here: https://redpanda08.wordpress.com/2015/07/12/islands-at-chester-zoo/.

After walking through the islands of Panay and the mysterious Papua with it’s Cassowary’s and mist.

We finally reached Sumba with it’s Lazy Boat Ride. I personally love this ride, it is so tranquil and today was no exception. While the zoo filled up with guests we sat in a boat and relaxed in the quietude of the river ride.

We saw the Visayan Warty Pigs and later on the Banteng, both enclosures look lovely!

After disembarking the boat we made our way to Bali where we watched doves and Javan Sparrows flit about freely. It made me comment that Islands is almost like a zoo within a zoo! There are many facets of Islands yet to be discovered.

Finally, it was onto Monsoon Forest! The biome is temperature controlled and the first area we entered was Tripa Forest Research Station which has views of the Orang-utan’s enclosure for when they are finally settled.

Tripa Forest Research Station

Tripa Forest Research Station

The research station was well designed and very authentic feeling. I loved the display of research papers amongst actual exhibits for the smaller insects/animals in the zoo’s collection.

Exhibit with spiders and leeches etc..

Exhibit with spiders and leeches etc..

Then it was into the rainforest itself, where apparently it rains sometimes! There were no birds free flying but there will be in time!

Monsoon Forest

Monsoon Forest

As like any other exhibit you see the animals when they want to be seen, and today the Rhinoceros Hornbill was sitting on it’s perch but the Sulawesi Macaques were fast asleep high up in their enclosure. The Sumatran Tigers have been relocated to islands but are acclimatising to their new surroundings. It will be wonderful to see them in their huge new home when it is open to the public.

There have been many pictures of the new exhibit, the Sunda Gharial crocodile but all David and I saw was the head of the animal, it’s huge body and tail was submerged under water!

We spent a good hour in Islands, this our second visit. It is an exhibit that can be visited again and again and something new would be witnessed each time. The new venture for Chester Zoo can only go from strength to strength. Also with this new land being available it is opening up more space within the zoo to bring in more species. The Sun Bear is an excellent example which will be housed in the old tiger enclosure. Something to look forward to in the future. 🙂


Today was also The Red Panda Network’s International Red Panda Day!

I celebrated it at the Red Panda enclosure of Chester Zoo, while waiting and failing to see the two baby Red Pandas. Maybe next time?

International Red Panda Day

International Red Panda Day

Later on while leaving the zoo and perusing their gift shop, David and I came across Roxie the Charlie Bear Red Panda, and I just had to have her for my ever growing collection of Red Pandas!

Roxie the Charlie Bear Red Panda

Roxie the Charlie Bear Red Panda

Happy International Red Panda Day!!

Christine xx

Micro – Actions!

This past week I have embarked on the You with Jamie Oliver app. It’s all about positive changes you can do, one little step at a time. You are set daily/weekly challenges. Previous one’s I have had were, ‘the best part of the day‘, ‘what makes you happy‘, and ‘think positive.‘ You take a picture to symbolise the topic. One was to show ‘beauty around you.’ So I took a picture of a Passion Flower.

Honey Bee and Passion Flower

Honey Bee and Passion Flower

This past week however I have found it rather difficult to be positive, what with the boiler being serviced and a leaking pump found! It made us £300 the poorer, though come the winter we will hopefully be toasty!

This weekend has been fun. We had planned on going to Chester Zoo before our membership ran out, but the weather was dodgy so we spent the weekend at home.

It was Saturday after 4.30pm which I really enjoyed. With the radio cranked up as Classic FM’s Saturday Night at the Movies, celebrated Hans Zimmer’s music. I embarked on chopping vegetables and cooking the evening dinner. I used and adapted Jools Oliver’s Wholesome Vegetable and Bean Soup. My volumes are to serve three people.

Ingredients:

  • 1 carrot
  • 1 onion
  • 1 large leek
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 sprig of fresh rosemary
  • olive oil
  • 1 x 400 g tin of borlotti or cannellini beans. (I used borlotti beans)
  • 1 litre low salt vegetable
  • Hand full of barley
  • 35 g baby spinach or kale (I used kale)
  • 150 g frozen peas/ green beans. (I just used a handful of peas and 75g of green beans)
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Method:

  • Start by preparing the base of your soup. Peel, roughly chop the carrot and potato, trim, wash and roughly chop the leek. Peel and very finely slice the garlic, chop the onion and then pick and finely chop the rosemary.
  • Heat a lug of oil in a large pan on a medium heat, then add the rosemary. Fry for a few minutes, then add the chopped carrot, leek, onion and garlic. Cook gently for around 15 minutes, or until soft, stirring regularly, with the lid on.
  • Add the beans (drained), chopped potato (small,) and a hand full of barley. Then finally add the stock. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer for 30 minutes – add a little more stock or water if you think it needs it. (Leave the lid on.)
  • Finally, add the spinach or kale and chopped green beans/peas, and cook for a further 10 minutes, or until the greens are cooked but still vibrant green. (Keep the lid on.) Have a taste and season, if needed, then tuck in.
  • Serve with bread… I was requested to make Focaccia.
Wholesome Vegetable and Bean Soup

Wholesome Vegetable and Bean Soup

The recipe for Focaccia was taken from an Asda seasonal brochure.

Ingredients:

  • 250g of Strong White Bread Flour
  • 1 level tsp salt
  • 7g of easy bake yeast
  • 2tbsp of reduced fat olive oil
  • On red onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • Chopped sprigs of fresh oregano, (I used some from the garden!)

Method:

  • Mix the flour, salt and yeast in a bowl
  • Pour in the oil and used 15ml of tepid water, mix the ingredients together to form a soft dough
  • Turn the dough onto a floured surface and begin to need, adding more flour until the dough is of a smooth texture.
  • Place the dough in a bowl and put somewhere warm for 45 minutes, until doubled in size.
  • While the dough is proving, chop and fly the red onion and garlic. Leave to one side once cooked.
  • Chop some oregano and leave to one side
  • Once the dough has risen, knock back and then flatten into required shape.
  • With your finger press small indentations into the top of the dough and then sprinkle the onion, garlic and oregano on top.
  • Put in a pre warmed oven at gas mark 6/200° and cook for 30-35 minutes, until golden.
  • Remove from oven, and serve.
Focaccia

Focaccia

Sunday was a lovely early Autumn day. The sun shone and David and I spent over three hours in the garden, cleaning and pruning. I planted some of my bulbs, of Aliums and Snake Heads for the coming spring. Fingers crossed they grow!

Artie enjoyed spending time in the garden and in between terrorising the bumblebees and honey bees, he relaxed taking in the sun.

Artie

Artie

We still have many birds visiting the feeders, and not an hour goes by that numerous Goldfinches are seen feasting on the Sunflower/Nyger seeds.

How many Goldfinches can you See?

How many Goldfinches can you See?

Dinner this Sunday evening was a vegetarian roast. I boiled kale, peas, sweetcorn and green beans in a pan while in the oven Quorn Turkey style slices were cooking alongside Aunt Bessie’s Herb and Garlic roast potatoes. I made some sage and onion stuffing and mixed up some vegetarian gravy. Finally I microwaved some mushy peas for David!

Beautiful, tasty roast dinner

Beautiful, tasty roast dinner

Now I am nursing a headache before the working week ahead. How have you spent your weekend?

Christine xx

Islands at Chester Zoo

On Saturday David and I headed towards Chester Zoo for our pre-booked members preview of their new ‘most ambitious’ development, Islands.

Chester Zoo. Islands

Chester Zoo. Islands

The premise of the new enclosures, of six South East Asian Islands, is for them to be an immersive exhibition where the visitor is to be the ‘intrepid explorer!’ The project has taken over five years and cost in the region of £40 million! It is the ‘biggest’ development in the history of UK zoos! It opens to the public on the 13th July 2015 but I think that is slightly premature as there are still building works going on, a few of the Islands are not completed and only the Visayan Warty Pigs are in their enclosures. The Sumatran Tigers and Orang-utan’s have yet to be relocated!

I thought that the opportunity for members to see the new development before it opens to the public was a nice gesture on behalf of the zoo. It was an opportunity I jumped at, though I was a little trepid on finding out that not all of the animals were in their enclosures and that the Biome – Monsoon Forest was not open.

Our allocated time was 11am. With ticket in hand David and I headed for the queue at the entrance of the new development. There was an excited buzz in the air from the other zoo guests.

The adventure begins!

The adventure begins!

The sun shone down and I regretted bringing my jacket and not having sun screen on! The Islands that are open to the public in this first phase are: Panay, Bali, Papua, Sumba and Sulawesi as well as the Lazy Boat Ride. 😀

The first Island you encounter on your exhibition, is Panay with its white Coral Sands! It is based on a real island in the Philippines.

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The vegetation changes as you enter Bali.

Bali

Bali

The Island of Sumba is where you catch the Lazy River Boat Ride. It can be a very long wait on busy days, but we only queued for about 5-10 minutes! They despatch two boats at a time each carrying up to 17 explorers! David and I hopped into one and enjoyed the leisurely cruise. For me it was the most enjoyable part of the experience! It will be even better once the project is complete and the animals are happy in their new homes! For now we enjoyed the warmth of the sun, drifted past the Visayan Warty Pigs and watched as the new enclosures and exhibits were being developed.

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Our preview lasted just over half an hour. Some people stopped off at Sulawesi and lunched at Manado Town. I was really energised by the experience and look forward to visiting again once the project is fully completed. It will be a shame that by that time our membership will have run out by then!


Afterwards we had lunch at the Red Pandas, two of whom came out for bamboo.

Male Red Panda

Male Red Panda

We went to visit the Giant Otters but because there were too many people at the enclosure we decided to leave them for another day. I haven’t been to the zoo for a while and forgot how busy of a summer it can get!

We enjoyed seeing lots of baby’s. One was of a Spectacled Owl chick who was bigger than its parents and Red Breasted Geese chicks. We also saw the recent Giraffe calf and the Onager foals. The pictures below were taken by David!

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Even the two baby Asian Elephants were kidding about in the mud!

I always love going to Chester Zoo, even if we only stay a few hours we always get to see something new! I will be sad when our membership runs out, perhaps I can bend David’s arm and renew again soon? :p

My Week Off.

The week commencing 20th April was taken as annual leave, and the sun smiled happily as I embarked on my week off work.

Monday:

I did some weeding in the garden and watched Artie sniff and hunt for flies. I then replanted (in bigger pots) seedlings I had growing of poppy and other seedlings which I later found out were coriander. (Looks like I didn’t need to buy the one from Lady Green!)

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After working in the garden I then sat and relaxed with my Kindle and soaked up some sun while it lasted.

For dinner I made a vegetarian sausage casserole with lots of vegetables. It tasted very herby!

Vegi sausage casserole

Vegi sausage casserole

Tuesday:

First thing this morning I booked ‘our’ place on the Chester Zoo member’s event, of seeing ‘Islands‘ before it officially opens to the public. (Well I hope the booking has gone through!) There are some perks to being a member after all! 🙂

Mum and I had intended on taking a trip to the Maritime Museum but I felt a little unwell, so we decided on visiting my brother Stephen and to see my nephew Aaron.

Back home, in the afternoon I spent a little more time sunbathing in the garden and enjoyed a strawberry and Bliss desert, swilled down with a small measure of whisky. It didn’t seem as hot in the sun as yesterday and I grew cold quickly as well as feeling tired.

Bliss and Strawberries

Bliss and Strawberries

For dinner, I had bought some Jersey Royals (potatoes) so had them with smoked salmon and salad… gorgeous!

Wednesday:

A lazy day today. I sat in the garden and watched Artie chase flies. I noticed that a Blue Tit was happily gathering moss from nearby gardens and flying to a bush in another. I thought that Blue Tits only nested in boxes or crevices but after doing some research I found that their nests are cup sized and can be anywhere! I also found out that the females are the only ones that make the nests, so it was a Mrs Blue Tit who I saw!

For dinner I made a spaghetti bolognese with Quorn Swedish style meatballs. I even used freshly cut oregano from the garden! It is always a very satisfying dinner.

spaghetti bolognese and Quorn Swedish style meatballs

spaghetti bolognese and Quorn Swedish style meatballs

Thursday:

While it was St George’s Day, William Shakespeare’s birthday and World Book Day, I did very little indeed. I did the usual sweated for 20 minutes on the treadmill, had a coffee and chat with mum before having lunch.

In the afternoon Artie and I spent a few hours sunning ourselves and listened to the visiting Goldfinches and Blue Tits in the nearby trees while Classic FM played on the radio. I discovered that the seedlings I transplanted on Monday, the poppies had withered but the coriander was still looking strong!

For dinner while David had a pizza, I made do with Quorn bacon, beans, egg and chips.

Quorn bacon, eggs, beans and chips

Quorn bacon, eggs, beans and chips

In the evening as the setting sun washed everything golden, I sat listening to my favourite performance of Mahler’s 6th Symphony, the andante.

Friday:

Was the last of the ‘good’ weather of the week. It has been simply splendid to have such lovely summery weather for the week off work!

David had taken a day off work and so we headed the 1.5 hours towards Wakefield to Yorkshire Sculpture Park.  We arrived after 10.30 am and paid the £8 for all day car-parking. We then spent the next five hours walking the fields that were filled with sculptures of bronze, stone, wood, all kinds of materials. We walked literally miles, my poor feet ached!

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The sculpture park is amongst the grounds of Bretton Hall Country Park which has nature trails as well as art instillations. We took a leisurely walk around the Upper Lake and spent some time amongst a Bluebell wood and old Victorian ruins.

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With gloomy looking clouds encroaching, David and I headed back to Liverpool, tired but having thoroughly enjoyed our day out in Yorkshire!

I am already planning the next day out!

The weekend came and went too quickly and it was time for me to head back to work. It has been slow for me to get back into the old routine but a long Bank Holiday weekend is near which sustains me!