The beginning of…

…my fortnight off from work did not go to plan! Monday morning dawned forebodingly as I found lying at the bottom of the finch aviary my beloved Romeo!

Romeo

Romeo

There was no indication that he was ill. He was a little quiet and fluffed up on Sunday but by¬†the next day David and I were saying our farewells and burying him under the Pieris Forest Flame. ūüė¶

The aviary did not seem to be the same after his little character had gone. Chocolate his mate was quiet and the other finches seemed to know of his absence.

Come Thursday, David and I took a trip to Clipsley Pets and Aquatics in St. Helens and acquired a new friend for Chocolate, a Bengalese called Fudge and a new member of the finch family, Pi, a Cut-throat.

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On Tuesday, I had the urge to cook something. I think it was to fill the void of sadness that Romeo’s sudden passing had left. So I merged a few recipes I found on-line to make a¬†Curry Spiced Red Lentil Soup.¬†The result was not unpleasant, though it could have done with a bit more of a kick.¬†I fixed the recipe in line with this. If you don’t like spice/heat then reduce.

Ingredients

  • 1 litre of vegetable stock. I used reduced salt
  • 300g of red lentils
  • 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 small red chilli, chopped
  • One potato, peeled and sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • Tin of tomatoes, drained
  • 2 tbsp tomato pur√©e
  • 2 tsp of curry powder, and one tsp each of cumin, turmeric and coriander
  • 100 ml of milk
  • 1-2 tbsps of olive oil
  • Optional: Some cooked basmati rice to serve

Method

  1. In a large saucepan heat the olive oil, then add the garlic, onion and chilli to the pan. Fry over a gentle heat till soft.
  2. Add the potato, tomato, tomato puree and spices to the pan and fry gently for another 5 mins, stirring regularly.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients, stirring well, then pop a lid on the pan and simmer the soup for approx 15 20 mins, or until lentils are soft.
  4. Pour the soup into a blender and blend at high speed till smooth and creamy. Alternatively, blend only half the soup for a chunkier texture.

I served with home-made wholemeal bread rolls.

Curry Spiced Red Lentil Soup

Curry Spiced Red Lentil Soup

At the start of the week the weather had been appalling, but nearing the weekend¬†things started to look up! David had also taken Thursday and Friday off from work, so on Thursday we headed to Yorkshire Sculpture Park and the Tower of London Poppies… but that will do for another blog post!

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30 Days Wild…Week Three!

Well it’s half way through The Wildlife Trust‘s 30 Days Wild and I have to admit, I am loving¬†it! The two weeks have gone so fast, though it really has made me look extra hard at the nature in my environ and made me value what’s there.

Monday and Tuesday:

As I made my ‘merry’ way to work I noticed that some wild poppy plants had seeded themselves between the cracks of flag stones in my road. I saw today that they had bloomed! They have huge, crimson heads! They grew in the same place last summer and Mum harvested their seeds. I now have some growing in my garden! ūüôā

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One of the 101 things ‘wild’ to do over the 30 Day’s of June was to plant Borage for bees. Two weeks ago I bought Borage seeds. I had tried looking in garden centres for the actual plant but none had any, so seeds had to do! While watering my garden, I discovered that the Borage seeds I had planted are now starting to grow! The plant seems to be a quick grower, so I have high hopes they will flourish, though perhaps I have one too many growing! :p

Many Borage seedlings

I also noticed tiny seedlings popping through the soil in the other planters where I planted Teasel seeds, I hope some mature! Fingers crossed!

Teasel seedlings

Teasel seedlings

We had another bee visitor to the garden to add to the numerous, Garden, Tree Bumblebees and Red Mason Bees already visiting. It was the first sighting of a Wool Carder Bee. To be honest I have never heard of one, until now! But I am amazed at how much diversity of species is found in just one small garden! My planting for wildlife has really been a great success!

Wool Carder Bee

Wool Carder Bee

I also spotted while in the garden the visiting Swallows. I was honoured to see one had finally settled and sat on a TV aerial! The footage isn’t great, I couldn’t keep my hand from shaking, but you can clearly hear his song!

Wednesday:

R.I.P Pearl

R.I.P Pearl

Today was a grim day weather wise and while I stopped for lunch at work, it also became a dark day emotionally too. I always check my phone during lunch break and today noticed three text messages all from my Mum! I read them in ascending order and my stomach knotted after reading the last. My Mum was home on her own. Pearl, one of the three remaining of the 15 cats we once had, had a turn. It was not totally expected, Pearl had become frail over the passing weeks, she was 17 years old!

I later found out that Pearl was found¬†unconscious and Mum hastily¬†took¬†her to the vets. On arrival the vets checked Pearl out and could have attempted resuscitation. However the decision was made¬†that resuscitating Pearl wouldn’t be beneficial after the vets found that she had a tumour in her stomach and shrunken kidneys. Mum bravely went in to be with Pearl, though Pearl was unconscious and oblivious. Due to Pearl’s¬†lungs shutting down she had a gas mask over her mouth. The vet said that Mum had done the correct thing in bringing Pearl to the vets, as if she had left her at home, she would have died there! Mum said Pearl passed away peacefully. The vets at Adams veterinary Centre were fantastic and cared both for Mum and Pearl. Whenever we have been to Adams vets, we have had immaculate service, it’s just a shame that most of the time we go because one of our cats is ill!

On a lighter note, once David and I were home from our respective employment, after dinner we noticed a lethargic bee sitting on the Cat Mint. I noticed she hadn’t moved for over half an hour! We decided to pop out into the garden and see what was wrong!

As soon as David placed his hand by the bee it sauntered towards him and sat contently on his hand.

Tree Bumblebee on David's hand

Buff Tailed¬†Bumblebee on David’s hand

I rushed inside to make a spoonful of sugar,¬†(as the Disney song goes) and water. With the solution, David placed a droplet before the bee. The bee walked about his hand and then it smelled the sugar. It was almost as if the bee sat up! Her proboscis shot¬†out and she started lapping up the solution. It was indeed fascinating to watch as inside her proboscis it looked like the bee had a little tongue also! After a few droplets of solution the bee seemed to get more energised and she eventually started to fly, a little laboured to start with. David described the bee as flying a circle around us as a ‘thank you’ before she flew over the wall! I hope she was just tired after foraging¬†and that there was nothing more serious, she indeed had a full basket of pollen!

Thursday:

On a mid week shopping spree I bought some lard as I had run out of fat balls and did not know when the next time I could get¬†to B&M. I decided to do another suggestion from the 30 Day’s Wild challenge and make some food for the birds!

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I used a 250g pack of lard (I warmed this up in the microwave for 2 minutes). I sprinkled some bird seed, dried meal-worms, and plain flour into the mix. I then found the mixture was too runny so I added some dried oats and then spooned the concoction into plastic cups (I bought 50 for ¬£1) with string fitted so I could hang them on branches. I also put an A4 piece of paper into a fat ball feeder and spooned the mixture inside to make a fat block! I left them to one side to solidify! Once hardened, I hung in the garden. It didn’t take the Starlings long to notice the new food!

Fat column I made for the birds

Fat cake I made for the birds

In the evening I attempted to watch the setting sun, however the clouds (I couldn’t tell what type even after half an hour trawling through the internet,) were not best placed and all I got was a slight tinge. I will have to keep trying to capture a good sunset!

The setting sun

The setting sun

Friday:

David is becoming a real Dr. Bee-little. Again he saved a bee from being tired and cold! This time after the sugar/water solution did not do wonders, David brought the bee into the house for a warm! It soon revived and David said once he had taken the bee back outside it orientated itself and flew off.

Buff Tailed Bumblebee

Another Buff Tailed Bumblebee

Saturday:

Can I say ‘phew’ what an epic Saturday? I haven’t stopped, nor had time to do any house work! In the morning we spent hours shopping and in the afternoon, after lunch, we visited David’s parent’s and spent a lovely few hours with them! We got home just before 5pm and the rain that had blighted the day had cleared to leave a lovely sunny, and warm afternoon!

I rushed out to sit in the garden for a few minutes before making a start on the evenings dinner.

The Cat Mint was full with bees! I counted at lest seven on it at one time!

The numerous bees have become a food source for the visiting Swallows who I saw swoop over our garden! It was a joy to behold. I really need to get a life. I get excited at such small things of late! ūüėÄ I said to David that to think the Swallows had come all the way from Africa to summer here! What sights they must have seen and to summer vacate in Liverpool!?! We are so blessed to have them here! ūüėÄ

I saw what I thought were Honeybees on the Cat Mint, but apparently they were just tired Mason Bees. Poor little fellas!

Tired Mason Bee

Tired Mason Bee

For dinner I made a Spicy Vegetable and Barley Soup, but it ended up more like a stew than a soup! So I tweaked the recipe for here.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  1.  Tbsp Olive Oil
  2. Cloves Garlic, Minced
  3.  Large Onion, Chopped
  4.  Medium Carrot, Chopped
  5. Pepper de-seeded and chopped
  6. Celery Stalks, Chopped
  7. Leek, Chopped
  8. Chilli de-seeded and chopped
  9. 1L Reduced Salt Vegetable stock
  10. 1 Can Diced Plum Tomatoes
  11. 50g-100g Pearl Barley
  12. Pinch of Cayenne Pepper
  13. Salt and pepper

Method:

  1. Heat the olive oil over a medium heat then add the onion and sauté until the onion is soft (about 3-4 minutes).
  2. Then add the chilli, the Carrots, Celery and Leeks and sauté for another 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Lastly add the garlic and sauté for a minute.
  4. Stir in the vegetable stock, tomatoes and barley.
  5. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and allow to simmer for 30 minutes, stirring the soup occasionally.
  6. Add the cayenne pepper, salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Serve immediately with bread…

The bread I decided to make was a wholemeal Turkish flat bread. However I don’t think it was very flat nor very Turkish, though it was the best thing in the meal!

Wholemeal Turkish Flatbread!

Wholemeal Turkish Flatbread!

Wholemeal Turkish Bread

  1. 500g of wholemeal flour
  2. 1, 7g sachet of dried yeast
  3. 1 tsp sugar
  4. 1 tsp salt
  5. 350ml of warm water
  6. 2 tsp sesame seeds
  7. 1 egg yolk
  8. 1 tbs olive oil

Method:

  1. Combine flour, yeast, sugar and salt in a bowl. Make a well in the centre and then add  the water. Use hands to bring the dough together in the bowl.
  2. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic. Place dough in a bowl and cover with a towel. Set aside place for 1-1 1/2 hours or until the dough has roughly doubled in size.
  3. Preheat oven to 230¬įC.
  4. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and cut in half to make two pides. Flatten slightly with hands. Place each pride on separate pieces of floured, non-stick baking paper/baking tray. Cover with a towel and set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 15 minutes.
  5. With floured hands, stretch each piece of dough into desired shapes. Leave on non-stick baking paper/baking tray. Cover with a towel and set aside again for 10 minutes.
  6. With egg yolk in a bowl. Brush the top of each pide with egg mixture. Use floured fingers to make indentations on top and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  7. Cook pides for 15 minutes or until golden. Cool on a wire rack.

Sunday:

Over the weekend our bird feeders have welcomed:

  1. Pigeons
  2. Blue Tits
  3. Goldfinches
  4. Starlings and their babies
  5. House Sparrows and their young!

Sparrows only visit our feeders for a short period of time before moving to better gardens with more variety! I managed to get footage of both Starling and House Sparrow fledglings. The Starling was eating the fat balls I had bought while the House Sparrow was enjoying a nice bath!

David also saved two bumblebees today! One he found in his rockery being pinched by an insect. He couldn’t identify what it was, though did manage to get¬†the bug off¬†the bee’s leg. David then placed the bee on the Cat Mint and watched as the bee happily started collecting nectar.

Minutes later Artie had caught a bumblebee in his mouth and had taken it through the house, with David and myself following after! David managed to rescue the bee from the jaws of Artie and released it outside where it flew off, lucky to have escaped!

As I said at the beginning of the post I am thoroughly enjoying my 30 Days Wild! I am loving the wildlife that frequent my garden and look forward to week four and many more ‘wild’ sightings! ūüėÄ

Dry January – Week Four!

The end is in sight!

I must have been out of my mind when I decided to do Dry January 2015.

January is notoriously the most depressing month of the year. During this month, I have had to fight stress and depression. I then hurt my back and was out for a few days last week and then this Monday I had a death in the family to contend with.

Dee

Dee

I had to say farewell to one of our oldest cats. Dee! She had been with us since 1996 and looked fantastic for her age. Recently Mum had noticed that Dee was having trouble with her balance. I told her to monitor it but by Monday things had gone progressively worse, so much so that Dee could hardly stand up!

Mum and I took her to the vets. We waited ages to be seen in a reception area that was filled with other cat patients. Dee was very vocal and cried to be let out, and when another cat started crying the room was filled with meows!

We were introduced to a kind vet called Sarah, who on seeing Dee (trying to get out of the carry case) said, ‘oh little one, something has happened in your brain!’ We coaxed Dee out of the carrier and she stumbled around the table, with her head constantly shaking and a vacant look to her eyes. The vet subsequently said that Dee could have had a bleed or a tumour ¬†in her brain which explained the loss of motor control. They at present don’t treat brain diseases in animals and with Dee’s age, it was ultimately humane to put her to sleep.

With many of my cats in their twilight years, this ‘last journey’ is becoming more frequent. Mum and I stayed with Dee as we said our goodbyes. The vet informed us that Dee probably didn’t know what was happening. I held Dee in my arms as the vet administered the drug and she quickly drifted away. The vet said that she had given Dee a dose of 500mg but she had gone by 200mg, she was that poorly!

It’s come as a shock actually. Dee was the most healthy looking out of the four that lived with Mum. It has to be a blessing that it was a short illness.

Back to Dry January and there is only three days left! I may have moaned and groaned my way through it, but I was up for the challenge! I knew I had the willpower to go without alcohol for a whole month, but I wanted other people to see that I could achieve this too! You can still donate to my Just Giving page.

Here’s to February and that long awaited glass of wine! ūüėÄ

Christine x

I hate making hard decisions…

…but¬†sometimes they just have¬†to be made. I had postponed the inevitable for two weeks over Easter as when I broached the subject with David, he fell to pieces!

David has never really known what it is like to be a pet owner and animal lover. I have lived with animals all my life and though the end decision is difficult, it is one that every loving owner must face. You have to put aside your own heartache and the sadness and think of the animal. Are they in pain? Are they suffering?

I think Muzzy was!

RIP 6/2000 to 4/2014

RIP 6/2000 to 4/2014

She had been ailing for some time, had grown thin and her breathing had become¬†erratic. As we don’t see Muzzy every day (my cats live with mum next door as they are too old to move into the new house), seeing Muzzy and her condition startled me! So today I knew I had to put my foot down and say ‘no’ to sentimentality! Enough was enough! ‘The cat comes first!’

We were booked in for 5pm at Adams Vets. We have been there many times before and they have always been kind and considerate. Today was no different.

David after work, drove us through a waterfall of his own tears. Mum and I went in and were given our own room to be with Muzzy before¬†the vet came to see her. The vet was calm and listened to Muzzy’s heart. She said that there was fluid on the lungs and in her tummy, indicative of a failing heart! I had thought as much as we have seen it before in another one of our cats. His name was Jo and his death was horrific! It was something I did not want to see again!

The vet took Muzzy away for a catheter and when she came back, Muzzy was all wrapped up in a green blanket. I stroked Muzzy and kissed her head, whispering ‘she will be at peace soon.’ The vet injected the anaesthetic and in half a minute Muzzy’s head had slumped onto my arm and her chest had stopped rising. Mum was upset and I put on the ‘stiff upper lip’.

Home now and David is asleep on the couch, all the crying has spent his energy. I’ll probably have a cry later after a drink and a shower. I find that in these situations, it is always me that has to be the strong one and my emotions never come out as easily as they should.

I know Muzzy is at peace now, no more struggling for air. I think she has had a good innings with us. She was not a kitten when we got her. I was in another vets with a hamster in the summer of 2000 and someone brought Muzzy into the surgery saying ‘she was a stray and had been crying all day.’ I knew then that she would be part of my family. We asked the vet at the time if we could have her, and after a quick check up. I came home hamster-less but with a new addition to my ever growing cat family. Muzzy was¬†with us for 14 years and I think she had a better life than if she was still a stray!

Love you lots Muzzy! xx