Sunday Sevens #15

Phew! These past seven days have felt like a long week! I was thankful for the weekend!

TroyDavid and I have been worrying about our owl finch, Troy. He became ill on Sunday last, sitting on the floor twisting his head. The phenomena is called twirling. It is very upsetting to witness. All week I have felt helpless. We have put him on a course of anti-fungal medication in the hope that it is an ear canal infection. Troy seems to rally of a morning but come nighttime he relapses again. We have isolated him, in the hospital cage and will try anti-mite treatment next week. His mate, Tux has joined him in his cage for company. The picture featured is of Troy in good health.

I think I’ll get all the sad news out of the way first! One of the main events on the world stage this week, has been the attack on Bastille Day revellers in Nice. In Liverpool, in a recurrent display, the iconic St Georges Hall was sadly lit up with the colours of the tricolour in solidarity.

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41dd4ZhCx5L._SX310_BO1,204,203,200_I finished the latest book I’ve been reading, Rachel Kelly’s Black Rainbow. I read it for an online book group. It was only 99p, which was a positive. The prose is about the author’s two bouts of depression and how ‘words healed’ her, though I think it was prescription drugs and support by health professionals and her family who contributed to her recovery. I was not enamored with the book. I drew nothing from the narration, indeed halfway through the book the author’s attitude really alienated me and I grew quite hostile! The many interjections of ‘supportive’ poems really didn’t call to me, highlighting that depression is an individual illness. My own mental state may have caused my severe reaction to the book, but on completion, I felt empty, devoid of any feelings, not even relief in finishing the book. Have you read the book? Perhaps you gained more insight than I did.

And now for the good stuff!

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On Friday, David and I attended the Liverpool Playhouseto see the Globe Theatre’s touring production of The Merchant of Venice, starring Jonathan Pryce. I was amazed to have acquired tickets as the play was a sell out! It’s not a play that sits easy with me. I find the antisemitism hard to watch. The Globe’s production relies heavily on the play being classed as one of William Shakespeare’s comedies, as the comic scenes starkly juxtapose the heavy drama. From the outset the play is performed with gusto by the cast. The musicians and ensemble came onto the stage singing and dancing 10 minutes before the billed start. David and I had just found our seats when the music struck up! The actors encouraged audience participation, to the extent that Launcelot (Stefan Adegbola) even dragged up two willing members of the audience to grace the action on stage. It made me think of how very different Shakespeare’s audience was to that of our own modern audience who silently watch voyeuristically from the darkness.

At times I felt I had travelled back in time as the stage design, lighting and costumes all gave the stage a kind of authenticity. There was much gravitas to Jonathan Pryce’s Shylock. I liked the interchanges in Hebrew between his onstage (and off) daughter Jessica, (Phoebe Pryce.) Rachel Pickup’s Portia was another highlight for me, she graced the stage elegantly yet her diction commanded you take note of her character! She had many a wise word to say.

Overall it was an enjoyable two and a half hours. David even treated me to Cheshire Farm ice-cream during the interval, scrumptious!

Saturday, we arose early. I dragged a reluctant David to Sheffield, to tour the streets in search of their herd of colourful elephants. We visited the Crucible where I recited tales of when I visited in 2013 to see my favourite actor, Jonathan FirthWe took in sights such as the Winter Gardens, Cathedral and railway station. We saw 31 of the 58 elephants in the two hours we walked. Below we pose with our favourites!

Have you been to the theatre recently? Seen any interesting art installations?

I hope you have a joyous week ahead. See you next Sunday.

Christine x

Sunday Sevens was devised by Natalie at Threads and bobbins.

A Teeny bit of Pottering About.

Standing firm against the gales of storm Henry, Artie and I ventured out into the back garden while the winter sun shone with the promise of longer, warmer days to come. In fact today was quite mild, dare I jinx it and say the whole season has been wet, windy and mild?!

It may have been just a brief half an hour that we were outside, but it was time well spent. At present I am feeling rather cooped up! So today when I saw the sun shining I knew that I should spend my lazy morning tending to my spring shoots.

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Hellebore

The first thing that catches the eye is the white and purple flashes of Hellebore flower heads. I love Hellebores, or Christmas Roses, they are such good growers and always a welcome colour in the more shaded areas of the garden.

With Goldfinches squeaking at me to leave the garden, so they could have their breakfast of sunflower hearts, I noticed many tips of green shoots breaking through the damp soil! There are a number of tall Tulip bulbs sprouting and I think I have some welcome Snowdrops (they never grew last year), but they seem to be getting eaten by something so I never get to see them bloom!

The Hyacinth has been going strong since Christmas and has a twin growing along side it now!

I managed to replant the sad looking Lavender. I took it from its patio pot and placed it where there is some space in the main garden area. In front of this I also replanted some seedlings of the Poppy seeds I had growing. I hope they take to their new home and flourish!

With all this replanting, I have made space now for five patio pots to be free for when I attempt to grow some vegetables later in the year.

Last year I bought seeds for Spring Onions, Green Beans and Peppers. I have not attempted to grow my own vegetables before so I wonder if any of them will survive?

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Vegetable seeds.

Have you ever attempted to grow your own vegetables? Did you get much harvest? Have any tips?

Christine x

One Wedding and a Sunday!

Saturday dawned brightly. The past week had been rather dreary, energy sapping really! However, the warm, late summer weather arrived just in time for Paul and Gemma’s wedding!

The wedding was to be held at Wainstones Hotel, Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire at 2pm. We headed across country dressed in our finery with David’s cousin Keith.

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The journey from Liverpool would usually take about 2.5 hours, though it took a bit longer due to road works on the M60 and congestion for the Leeds festival!

We stopped off at Wetherby Service Station to refresh, but due to the sheer volume of traffic and the inability of the car parking staff to guide drivers to free parking berths, we were a lot longer at this stopping station than usual. This hold up meant that we would arrive at our destination with just minutes to spare. Thankfully the bride, Gemma was fashionably late and we managed to arrive in time, find our table and be composed for the ceremony!

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The ceremony itself was emotional, and I found it hard to control my tears. I don’t know what it is about wedding ceremonies but they always make me blub…  A candle was lit for those family members not able to attend the celebrations, something if I ever marry, I may adopt.

Once rings and kisses were exchanged the bride and groom headed out to the garden for photographs.

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Before the Wedding Breakfast, came the speech from Gemma’s Father, which was also very emotive! A blend of Elderflower and Prosecco was served for the toast. It was very light and something I could try in the future! Then came the home made meal, something my poor grumbling stomach had hoped for. It had not seen food since 8.30am that morning! I had already banished a migraine with a tablet, thankfully!

The food was served hot and the starter of tomato soup was tasty, I even had David’s bread roll! The main event that I had hoped for, for so long (as usual), sadly fell short of expectations.

I was the only vegetarian at the breakfast and weeks before the wedding I was given a menu of meals to chose from and I (eventually) decided on the Goats Cheese and Sun Blushed Tomato Risotto. I thank the bride Gemma and the wedding team for being so patient with me!

I love goat’s cheese but not in excess. I don’t want to sound like I am complaining. However the meal, was not as I had imagined. I had imagined a risotto with a sun blushed tomato sauce with the goat’s cheese sprinkled on top. The reality was that the goat’s cheese was mixed in with the sauce. It would have been ok, if it was not for the amount of goat’s cheese… a little too much, and it became rather sharp and sour on the tongue!

The pudding also was not as imagined, though if we were a little more aware of restaurant food maybe we would not have been surprised! The profiteroles with white chocolate creme patisserie, was a little too eggy than hoped for! Though we were thoroughly stuffed for it to matter! Other people on our table had roast beef and for pudding creme brulee and they didn’t complain!

After the Wedding Breakfast we ventured outside to enjoy the warm sun, listen to bees busy around a Buddleia and Swifts swoop across the sky!

Christine smelling the flowers

Christine smelling the flowers

Once we ventured back inside, the function room had been rearranged for the evening festivities. We sat at a table that was adjacent to a photo screen and a photographer (Phantom Imaging) with lots of props! They came over to us with a calk board and asked us to write something for Paul and Gemma and to try on their costumes as a test! Our child selves, didn’t have to be asked a second time!

David and Christine

David and Christine

We have a history of dressing up! David dressed up as William Wallace on our Scotland holiday, and I, when we visited Old Sarum, Salisbury also in 2007 had to try on the props! (It seems such a long time ago!)

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Here’s a few picture of us and Keith dressing up with Gemma the bride!

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We also posed for a group shot of David, Keith and myself!

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It was a lot of fun and helped us to enjoy the evening even more! I wouldn’t be the first person on the dance floor but I would to a costume box! 🙂

David got footage of Paul and Gemma cutting the cake and of their first dance together!

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After ten o’ clock we said our farewells and left the gaiety as we headed back home. My poor Artie was missing us!

We had a fun time together and enjoyed being a part of Paul and Gemma’s celebrations!


Come Sunday we were tired and worn, after not getting home ’til after 1am! Then after a broken sleep the household chores beckoned! Poor Artie who doesn’t like Henry the Vaccum cleaner hid under the bed covers!

Artie in bed!

Artie in bed!

I spent lunch with the finches and bold Romeo even sat on my head trying to harvest my hairs for a nest!

Romeo on my head!

Romeo on my head!

Come the evening I watched at Sparrows and Goldfinches visited the sunflower heart feeders and bumblebees/leaf cutter bees enjoyed visiting the Borage.

Bumblebee on Borage

Bumblebee on Borage

I also caught a striking sunset! Red sky at night…. hopefully tomorrow’s weather will bode well?

Red sky at night...

Red sky at night…

Goodnight x

Catch-up!

It’s been a couple of weeks since my last post, so here’s a little catch-up!

Being Lucky!

In July to mark their new season, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra held a week long competition on their Facebook page! I was lucky enough to be chosen for their Thursday competition!! The prize was for two tickets to see Psycho with music performed by the Philharmonic, (ideally on my birthday!), and also two tickets on-board the Ghost Bus run by Shiverpool tours! I have done many ghost walks while holidaying in Edinburgh but not in my own city. So I am very excited to see what the bus tour has to offer! 😀

Culture and Sightseeing!

During one Saturday, David and I took a short visit to Birmingham to see their street art of Owls. The Big Hoot it was called! In total we spotted 33 of the 89 owls on the streets, not bad for a few hours on the trail!

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While walking around the city, we enjoyed the many different types of architecture to be found!

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Last Thursday came the news I had been hoping for, for so long! The Tower of London Poppies were finally embarking on their UK tour! It was beyond my wildest dreams that Liverpool could be one of the first few to be chosen for this unique art installation but that is what exactly happened!

The instillation of Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red by Paul Cummins Ceramics Limited, that was first seen at the Tower of London in 2014, captured the imagination of the nation! The Weeping Window will be coming to Liverpool’s St George’s Hall in November 2015 to January 2016 and the second part of the installation, The Wave will be housed at Yorkshire Sculpture Park this coming September to January 2016! I hope to get the opportunity to photograph both! You cannot imagine how excited I am at seeing them! 😀

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Wildlife:

Last week, our house was a B&B for a poorly pigeon whom we called Jack! David noticed the lethargic bird last Monday and after debate we made a box up for him (and later a cage) and brought him in of a night. He seemed generally fit, apart from green runny poop! The worrying thing was that he could not fly and even though he attempted too, he could not get any height! So for seven days we would leave him out in the garden for the day (Artie was not allowed to go outside!), and of a night he resided in our back bedroom!

Jack the pigeon

Jack the pigeon

We were going to take him to a vets to get checked out but over the weekend he seemed to be getting more strength and confidence.

This Monday while filling up the bird feeders, (we have many Goldfinch and House Sparrow fledglings visiting), Jack took to the air and landed on a nearby shed roof. He was not to be seen come the evening and we hoped that he had found his strength and flown off with some newly made friends!

On Tuesday morning we saw Jack back in the garden, this time eating seed that had fallen from the feeders and integrating with a small flock of fellow pigeons! We hope he continues to visit the garden and hopefully Jack’s story has a happy ending.

The Garden:

At the weekend David and I spent six hours in the garden cleaning, re-potting and planting. I bought a Dahlia from Grosvenor Garden Centre, Chester. I fell in love with the black foliage and the flower heads attract bees! I also bought an Anemone to replace my blighted Michaelmas Daisy and some wall art!

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And finally I’ll end with one last picture. After two months growing from seed, my Borage has finally flowered!

Borage flower

Borage flower

What events are you looking forward to seeing?

Christine x

30 Days Wild… Week Two

As I guessed rightly this week’s nature sightings were not as abundant as last week.

Monday and Tuesday were filled with travelling to and from work and the bit in-between. I am not enjoying work at present, I am feeling rather undervalued and the travelling tires me out. I really need a holiday!

While at home, I did manage to take some pictures of David’s rockery plants!

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Wednesday:

The weather changed for the better and it was a happy return to bright sunshine and warmth. After work, David, Artie and I sat in the back garden for an hour and soaked up the sun. The garden was filled with the sound of bees happily enjoying the ‘wild’ growing Siberian Bellflowers and Cat Mint. Even the small Golden Mint Moth made a glad return.

Siberian Bellflower

While potting some Poppy seedlings into bigger pots I noticed a Small White butterfly flutter by. That is the first butterfly I have seen in my area! We tend not to get too many butterflies with being terraced houses. I look forward to my Buddleia flowering and maybe will get to see more butterflies?

During the evening while calling at my Mum’s I noticed how calm the air was and looked up to wonder at the wispy Cirrus clouds drifting leisurely overhead. I read later from the Met Office website, that Cirrus are high level clouds, some 18,000 to 40,000ft. The name comes from the Latin for lock of hair. The clouds are part of a warm front, though looking at the Met Office’s prediction for the weekend, it looks like the warm spell is going to be (yet again) short lived. 😦

Example of Cirrus

Example of Cirrus taken from science-edu.larc.nasa.gov

At 10pm the results of the vote for Britain’s national bird were announced. It was not really much of a surprise as the gardener’s friend, the Robin took first place with 34% of the vote! The Barn Owl (12%) was second and my favourite the Blackbird (11%) came third. The Blue Tit came in at a lowly 8th position.

Britain’s National Bird results

  • Robin 34% (75,623)
  • Barn owl 12% (26,191)
  • Blackbird 11% (25,369)
  • Wren 9% (19,609)
  • Red kite 6% (14,057)
  • Kingfisher 6% (13,922)
  • Mute swan 6% (13,480)
  • Blue tit 6% (13,123)
  • Hen harrier 5% (12,390)
  • Puffin 5% (10,674)

Thursday:

It was yet another scorcher of a day in the NW of England. I rushed home from work to enjoy my garden. The garden is a bit of a sun trap so as I reclined under the sun’s rays I listened to the Goldfinches visiting my Mum’s garden and I smiled at the comical begging of their young. I have still yet to get good footage of the baby Goldfinches this year, so a clip from a previous year will have to do.

I was grateful to see that the Swallows were in full force today. I watched in awe as they swooped between the rows of houses chasing bees. They were that close you could see the blue sheen on the Swallow’s body. They are beautiful creatures and quickly becoming one of my favourites.

Later, David (who had been snapping pictures of bees) and I enjoyed our dinner al fresco! It was nice to relax with the setting sun and to feel the calmness of evening after a hectic day!

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For dinner I attempted to make a Turmeric and Lentil Soup as seen on Deliciously Ella’s webpage. I followed the recipe to the letter however it will not be a soup I will make again. I think it had too much mixed herbs in the recipe and ended up tasting very earthy. It was much like taking a mouthful of soil! However, I did enjoy the preparation of the cannellini beans and button mushrooms in spices such as turmeric, cumin and mustard seeds.

Turmeric and Lentil Soup

Turmeric and Lentil Soup

You can obtain the recipe and method here: http://deliciouslyella.com/turmeric-and-lentil-soup/?fb_ref=Default

Friday:

The morning started off brightly but the weather soon changed to a dreary, heavy day. Alas there was not much ‘wildness’ going on! Yesterday David brought home from work a play tunnel for Artie. It’s huge but Artie seems to like it! Here he is in his ‘cube’. 🙂

Artie in his play tunnel

Artie in his play tunnel

Saturday:

The rain that the Met Office predicted did not arrive. 😦 I was a bit peeved as I had wanted to (if the weather was fair) taken a drive to Lancashire to follow the Pendle Sculpture Trail, however, the day trip will have to do for another day. I ended up staying at home and after shopping, did some house work before spending two hours in the garden. The weather was overcast but the cloud broke occasionally and the sun briefly would peak through. The temperature was mild and so I planted my Foxglove seedlings into bigger pots (I hope they survive!) while keeping an eye on Artie as he stalked flies and enjoyed the outside space. I am quite blessed that he does not look to climb onto the wall.

Artie smelling the chives!

Artie smelling the chives!

I spent a good time trying to photograph the bees visiting the garden and noticed some Tree and Garden Bumblebees, (there were also many Red Mason Bees!) I also snapped a Cinnabar Moth resting on the Salvia and a Harlequin Ladybird, though they are an invasive species it was fun watching the little fella fly about the garden plants!

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As Artie and I were in the garden for a long time, the poor birds could not come in and taste the seed on offer. We have up to three House Sparrows visiting the feeders, (they have adapted to feed from the hanging feeders), though they were thwarted this afternoon! They sat on the roof and called angrily for me to leave the garden, as too did the numerous charms of Goldfinches! A poor confused baby Goldfinch even landed on the back door and chirruped before spotting me and flying away! Poor thing!

Every now and then the calls of the Swallows filled the air and they would dart acrobatically through the air! At one stage a Magpie swooped past the garden and beneath it the body of a Swallow! It energised me seeing their flight! 🙂

Around 4pm it grew cooler, the wind picked up and so I took myself and Artie back indoors. It was good timing as I had to prepare for the evenings dinner!

I planned to make a Roasted Vegetable and Pearl Barley Risotto. I wanted to make something ‘healthy,’ and pearl barley is a wonder food! It is helpful in lowering cholesterol, protecting against heart disease and diabetes! I couldn’t find one concise recipe for what I had imagined, so I made my own! Once cooked however it needed a few tweaks, which the recipe below has! I at first used sweet potato which in additional to the other ingredients seemed too much, so I have reduced the amounts!

Roasted Vegetables and Pearl Barley Risotto

Roasted Vegetables and Pearl Barley Risotto

Roasted Vegetables and Pearl Barley Risotto

Serves 4.

Risotto:

  • One onion chopped
  • Two cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped
  • 1 chilli, de-seeded and chopped (leave out if you don’t like heat)
  • 250g Pearl barley
  • 1.5 litre of reduced salt vegetable stock
  • Salt and pepper to season

Add the onion, chilli (if using) and garlic into a pan and sauté. (I put in the onion and then chilli and cooked for a couple of minutes before adding the garlic as it tends to burn easily.) Then add the barley and stock in increments until all soaked up! (I put in half a litre at a time until the barley was cooked!) Cooking could take up to 40 minutes so leave plenty of time, no need to rush! Salt and pepper to season.

Once the barley is cooking turn your interest to the vegetables.

Roasted Vegetables:

  • Two peppers (any colour), de-seeded and cut into strips
  • One small carrot, peeled and chopped
  • One small red onion, peeled and chopped
  • Cherry tomatoes halved
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper (leave out if you don’t like heat)
  • Salt to season
  • (You can chose your own type of vegetables to roast, the above is just a suggestion!)

Place the chopped vegetables in a roasting tray, drizzle some olive oil and season with a pinch of salt and cayenne (if using). (I got my hands in and covered the vegetables with the seasoning.)

Then on an oven, 200°/gas mark 6 setting, roast vegetables for 20 – 30 minutes.

Serve barley on a bed of wilted spinach and place the roasted vegetables on top! (I also quickly fried some chopped button mushrooms and added to the roasted vegetable topping.

Enjoy!

Sunday:

Another overcast day. A day that David say’s is a ‘headache’ kind of day! The usual suspects visited the garden feeders today and below is David’s footage of baby Goldfinches being fed by it’s parent!

I wonder what ‘wild’ things I will see or get up to in the following week? Bring on week three!

Good Friday

Phew… what a long day!

On this dreary, rainy morning, David said to me that, ‘I would lie in bed all day listening to the Classic FM’s Hall of Fame countdown’. I did indeed lounge for the first hour of the day. I wanted to hear who was at no. 300. It was Henry Litolff with his Concerto Symphonique No. 4. I snuggled with Artie who suckled, but by 10am I was up and have not stopped since!

Artie suckling

Artie suckling

Firstly I made a start with the laundry and then onto the glass/window cleaning in the house. The dining room table is always the first to get a once over!

I then paused for an hour for a chat and a coffee with Mum. Then after lunch and after David had annoyed me for not eating, I carried on the cleaning. I cleaned the bathroom and bedroom before disinfecting Artie’s cat boxes and the rooms with vinyl floors. While I left David with the vacuuming, (a chore I despise!) I checked on the plants in the garden and refilled the fat balls for the visiting Starlings and Pigeons. The Dwarf Rhododendron is flowering and the Flame of the Forest is living up to its name!

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I then did 20 minutes on the treadmill and really put up a sweat before making a start on the evenings dinner. I cooked Aldi’s Atlantic Side of Salmon with lemon, tarragon and cheese crumb. We had this fish for New Years dinner and it was very filling, so I thought it would be ideal for Good Friday! I served it with Aunt Bessie’s roast potatoes and salad. It was scrumptious!

Atlantic Salmon with lemon, tarragon and cheese crumb

Atlantic Salmon with lemon, tarragon and cheese crumb

Now that the end of the first day of Classic FM’s Hall of Fame draws to a close with Handel’s Xerxes, I am finally relaxing with a toasted hot cross bun (that I was craving yesterday) and a wee dram of whiskey.

Toasted hot cross bun and a dram of whiskey

Toasted hot cross bun and a dram of whiskey

Buonanotte!

Christine xx

Excited..much!

This Saturday has been all about Spring cleaning.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tulip budding

Tulip budding

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

Aquilegia growing! The third year running!

Aquilegia growing! The third year running!

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

Rhododendron budding

Rhododendron budding

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

The Sedum!

The Sedum!

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

Christine x

I’ve got the cooking bug again!!

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

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

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

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

Method:

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

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

Roasted Carrot and Garlic Soup - First Attempt

Roasted Carrot and Garlic Soup – First Attempt

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

I always use the BBC Good Foods, recipe.

Easy White Bread

Ingredients:

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

Method:

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

Dough.. ready for the oven

Dough.. ready for the oven

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

perfect bread

perfect bread

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

Roasted Carrot and Garlic Soup with freshly made bread

Roasted Carrot and Garlic Soup with freshly made bread

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

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

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

Method:

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

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

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

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

Christine x

Christmas 2014!

Christmas 2014 for me started in mid November when I sat writing my Christmas cards while David played console games with his friends in the living room downstairs.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been this excited and really looked forward to Christmas. Perhaps it’s because I am in my own home? Or that I am in a better place, emotionally and mentally? Either way come the 1st December I put up my new (muchly contested) Christmas tree.

Christmas Tree

Christmas Tree

In the weeks following, I busied myself making the obligatory mince pies and Christmas cakes, of which I made 40 individual ones!

Mini Christmas Cakes

Mini Christmas Cakes

Since the middle of December, I’ve been listening to Christmas carols and songs. I remember as a child, listening out for Father Christmas’s float as it passed our road, and of the carol singers who came knocking at our door. It’s a shame they don’t visit any more.

Whilst enjoying the festive music, I made a playlist, with such tracks as:

1.  A Christmas Overture (Hess.)

2. It’s the most wonderful time of the year! (Andy Williams)

3. Sleigh Ride (Anderson)

4. The Snowman Suite (Blake)

5. A Christmas Festival (Anderson)

Artie will be witnessing his first Christmas with us. He has had an Advent calendar with chocolate catnip treats daily and has a stocking full of toys from Santa Paws!

Santa Paws stocking

Santa Paws’s stocking

With Christmas Eve upon us I am more excitable than ever. Christmas day is an anticlimax in contrast to the eve when my child self comes to the fore, all excited and nervous, hoping to hear the pitter patter of Rudolf’s feet on the roof!

Christmas lunch will be a concoction of Quorn roast and vegetables for me and a gammon joint for David.

Merry Christmas!

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Christine, David and Artie! x