A Year in Photos – 2016

Sharon from the wonderful Sunshine and Celandines suggested the topic for today’s post. I already do a yearly video compilation (watch out for that in the new year), but I thought I would post 12 pictures (or video) that give an impression of the year 2016!

So here goes!

January: 

The year began with a little trip to North Wales. On a cold, drizzly day David and I visited Rhosydd Slate Quarry at Cwmorthin. The weather made the scenery even more atmospheric! Who knows how many ghosts wander the rugged, unforgiving slate scattered landscape?

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Rhosydd Slate Quarry, Cwmorthin

February:

On another of David’s days off work, we visited the Lake District and took a leisurely stroll along Derwentwater. Little did we know, we would visit the shores of Derwentwater several times in 2016! I had discovered a new hobby!

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Derwentwater

March:

With spring just around the corner, March was all about the yarden! I busied myself with planting free packets of seeds that I’d requested from Grow Wild, a Kew Gardens initiative!

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April:

The much anticipated Hans Zimmer concert in Birmingham came and went in a blink of an eye! A good time was had by all that night! Hans himself introduced film classics such as Pirates of the Caribbean, Inception and The Dark Knight trilogy.

May:

In May, David and I returned to the shores of Derwentwater. This time I bravely stripped to my swim suit and slipped over rocky stones to embark on my first ever wild swim! It would be the beginning of many swims undertaken in 2016 in scenery that is nothing but inspiring!

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Facing Blencathra

June:

For the second year running I took part in The Wildlife Trusts, 30 Days Wild. This year I packed even more wild into June. We built a pond, harvested our first crop of maris bard potatoes, grew borage for bees, and I even went without technology for a day!

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Maris Bard Potatoes

July:

In July, David and I took a day trip to Sheffield to see their herd of colourful elephants.

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August:

The year wasn’t all fun days out and wild swimming! There was lots of hard work to be done on the house. With detritus clogging up the space under the hallway and sagging/rotten beams found under the dinning room, the long summer days were filled with the sawing of wood and hours of reconstruction.

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Dining room floor

September:

At Browns Liverpool, I partook in my first, but very rich afternoon tea. The red velvet cake was delicious but the whole afternoon was a sugar overload!

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Afternoon Tea, Browns, Liverpool

October:

Autumn became centre stage in all its colourful glory as I participated in Wild October! I watched a garden spider spin its web, relived childhood by kicking fallen leaves, turned 40 and holidayed in the Lake District.

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November:

The iconic Weeping Window from the Tower of London poppies came to Caernarfon Castle, just in time for Armistice. The poppies are touring the UK, thanks to 14-18 Now, and are a fitting memorial to the fallen.

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The Weeping Window at Caernarfon Castle

December:

tree

Christmas Tree

December is all about Christmas and spending time with family. My little 3ft Christmas tree, adorned with birds and polar bears always goes up on the 1st. Artie once again had an Advent calendar to count the days to Christmas, and this year I managed to get a Christmas wreath for the front door!

So there you have it, my 2016 in pictures!

For some this year has been a harsh year, but for David and I there have been more happy times than sad. Indeed we have made many wonderful memories out of new experiences this year.

I wish you all good health and happiness for 2017! Let’s make it a year to remember!

Thanks for reading,

Christine xx

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A Lady of Leisure.

Costa treat

Costa treat

Monday was the beginning of my ‘much needed’ week off work. I started it by going for a coffee with my mum! We braved the drizzle and took the bus to Allerton and our favourite Costa! It was a nice indulgent treat but the indulgence didn’t end there! The next day Mum and I went to Liverpool One’s Odeon and went to see Jurassic World! It was an enjoyable romp and it was nice to just switch off for a change! There were some nail biting moments which had mum and I squealing like children! 😀

I spent the ‘hump’ with Artie who seemed to enjoy the company.

2015-07-14 22.29.24In the garden:

There has been a flurry of activity at the feeders this week. Visiting were lots of baby Starlings all greedily helping themselves to the fat balls. Amongst all the flapping of wings were four House Sparrows, two males and two females. They happily explored the garden. I saw them under the Honeysuckle and at one stage all sitting in the branches of the small Buddleia I have in a pot! However they do not stay still for long and we believe we have more Sparrows visiting than first thought. I am hopeful they will continue to visit the feeders, they have such lovely sweet characters.

There were also the many Goldfinch ‘charms’ visiting. One family must have been successful at rearing their young as they brought about four babies to the feeders. All are welcome! 😀

I had to dig up my Michaelmas Daisy as the mildew was spreading to other flowers. The vinegar spray did not help I am afraid! Looks like I’ll be heading to Lady Green Garden Centre in the near future!

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The rest of the week:

David had Thursday and Friday off. So on the first day, we went to Trentham Gardens, Stoke on Trent to see their art instillation of fairies, by local artist Robin Wright. We got in for the 2 for 1 offer via Stoke on Trent’s tourist website. Saved us nearly £10! The next four hours was spent walking along the mile long lake, viewing the many art displays in-situ and enjoying their gardens.

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While walking we came across a flash of colour! It was a small part of the lakeside given over to wild flowers. The sight was stunning!

Wild flowers

Wild flowers

One of the attractions at Trentham was their Bare Foot Walk. I had decided the night before that if I had the chance I would try it. So in anticipation I packed with our lunch a small towel to wipe my feet! 🙂 David thought I was mad, but I threw off my shoes and socks and jumped on the wooden stepping stones.

Bare Foot Walk at Trentham Gardens

Bare Foot Walk at Trentham Gardens

The wood was presently warm and comfortable unlike some other surfaces I encountered. Small stones, wood chips and coals were the hardest and most difficult to walk on. I made very slow progress!

The excitement of the day really knocked us out! So come the evening we relaxed and watched Maleficent.

Friday dawned cloudy and cool, We decided to make the most of the day and headed towards Lancashire to see the Pendle Sculpture Trail at Aitken Wood. I don’t know if it was due to still being tired from the day before or the fact that we seemed to get hounded by horrid flies for the two hours we were walking (one even tried to bite me!), I didn’t enjoy the day as much as I thought I would! The weather didn’t play ball either as it was rather windy on the hills and the sun rarely showed!

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The wood was good for wildlife spotting and we bemoaned the fact that we should have brought our ‘bigger’ cameras instead of our phones! We really were not equipped for taking any decent nature sightings. Another visit will be on the cards in the future!

On the walk we spotted:

  1. A Linnet, but not 100% certain.
  2. Tuffted Ducks though again I am not certain. I really wished I’d brought my bird ID book!
  3. Great or Lesser Spotted Woodpecker
  4. Blue, Great and Coal Tits, I recognised them! 🙂
  5. Goldfinches
  6. Three rabbits
  7. Seven butterflies, two were Red Admirals and two Gatekeepers!
  8. A few moths
  9. A hawk hunting, could have been a Merlin, though not certain! 😦

My identification skills are decent enough for when it comes to garden birds, but when I am faced with birds I don’t see regularly then I find them difficult to ID! I think many more days out in the country are needed to hone my skills!

Saturday turned out at be a busy affair as we had family around for a curry and film night! We ordered from my favourite takeaway, Saffron and the film we snuggled up to watch was The Kingsman, it had it’s funny moments!

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Now Sunday has arrived and I’m feeling blue, work looms gloomily on the horizon! I’ve enjoyed my time off work so much! Maybe too much! It’s been lovely. I have spent time with family and seen and experienced new things. I’ve spent today at home with David and Artie and tried to get my nervous finches to feed from the hand. Two already have the courage, Chocolate (Bengalese) and Rainbow (Gouldian) but poor Romeo (Bengalese) is still hesitant!

Romeo, Rainbow, Chocolate

Romeo, Rainbow, Chocolate

Here’s to the next week off 🙂

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! 🙂

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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! 😀 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! 😀

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°C.
  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! 😀

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

The weekend that was…

…the 28th – 29th March 2015.

This weekend couldn’t come quick enough for me as I had a very long week in work, aided by the fact that I was hormonal and tired.

Thankfully Friday came!

On Saturday after doing the usual shopping and cleaning, David and I went to spend the evening with family and friends. It was the third year anniversary of my Father’s passing, so we congregated at Mum’s (next door). We had a curry from our favourite restaurant Saffron and a games night. Although the games part had to be relocated to our house as Mum’s TV wouldn’t accept the PS3 on the HDMI cable! (Go figure!)

From Saffron, I had a Vegetable Karahi, David a Chicken Shahi, Mum her usual Chicken Dupiaza. My brother Stephen and his friend Paul who were not au fait with Indian cuisine had Chicken Tikka Masala and Chicken Korma respectively. The meal went down splendidly!

During part two of the night we played Blur while eating summer fruits gateaux.


Sunday was a day of relaxation. I pottered about the garden in between breaks in the rain and did a weekly check on the status of the plants.

My tulips are growing from strength to strength and I am sure all six will bloom if the wind does not knock them over!!

The Flame of the Forest has bell flowers on it again this year.

Flame of the forest 'bells'

Flame of the forest ‘bells’

I took a picture between the leaves of the Bluebells that I think are growing in my garden and then got excited when I discovered that there was a bud growing! I do hope they manage to grow to fruition!

Bluebell

Bluebell?

On Saturday during our visit to B&M I bought a shrub for £4.99. Euonymus Japonicus Pierrolino Sense. The store had these plants in last year, but I am sure they had flowers on them. This shrub does not. I had hoped for more nectar for the visiting bees, but alas not with this plant!

euonymus japonicus pierrolino

euonymus japonicus pierrolino

I also noted that my Primulas were flowering, however something had been enjoying a spot of light lunch and had munched away most of the leaves. I wonder who that was???

Half eaten Primula

Half eaten Primula

Happy Easter…everyone!

I was looking forward to sending the long four day Easter break with David. I had hoped we would spend the time together, having fun. It was not meant to be.

The Friday started off ok, visiting family and doling out the simnel cakes I had made for everyone. I even sat out in the yard and enjoyed the warm spring sun with a glass of wine and Classic FM’s ‘Hall of Fame‘ playing in the background! 😀

 

 

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However the rest of the weekend was mired with worry over the living room fireplace, where David was trying to put his TV on the breast. He drilled in four holes for the bracket and found that behind was hollow with bricks falling down!! It did not help matters that I was snapping like a crocodile due to ‘that time of the month’ slowly approaching!

Sunday, Easter Day was a cloudy affair, though I noticed in my garden that things were slowly coming back to life! My Aubrieta, which I thought was dying has sprung into purple flowers and my lovely Magnolia tree is budding with small white flowers. 🙂

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Small wonders!

The stare of the Leopard.

Day Three:

Sunday was a much more relaxed kind of day. After getting up too early on a Sunday morning (7.30) for 8am breakfast which was nice, granola and coffee. David and I headed to Banham Zoo only 30 minutes drive from the B&B. We arrived at 10am and spent the next five hours there, walking the pathways looking at the Amur Tiger, Sri Lankan Leopard, Red Panda and taking in yet another flying display! The highlight of the day was catching a Mongoose with its baby! So cute!

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After 3pm we left the zoo, I with two cuddly Red Pandas in tow. 🙂

For the evening meal we went to a local pub, Brewers fayre, which was like a Wetherspoon’s to me. The place was buzzing with people enjoying the carvery and kids screaming!! What joy!! David had yet another curry while I after requesting a vegetable lasagna ended up happy with a chilli bean and rice, my favourite! Nice! 😀 We even had dessert of chocolate and strawberry sundaes 🙂 You can imagine which one David had? 🙂

Now after 10pm, we are relaxing with cups of tea after a nice bath. We are getting ready for bed… sleep tight.

Something BIG is approaching!!

Sunday… while David was working on the house.

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I alongside my mum, sat in the yard listening to Hans Zimmer music, soaking up vitamin D from the sun and having a nice glass of chardonnay. We have had two days of lovely sunny weather for the May bank holiday, but it all goes downhill tomorrow with rain and gales forecast 😦 

Afterwards with skin glowing from the sunshine, I cooked a vegetarian Mexican Chilli with rice and wraps. I fried a large white onion, two garlic cloves, a pepper and added tinned tomatoes and soya chilli from Asda. After the pan started to boil I added a tin of cannellini beans to the mix and cooked for 15 minutes. I finally added the boiled rice and warmed up the wraps, spooning some of the mixture inside. I served with a nice glass of white wine. Salad would be a good choice too. 

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Yesterday I was in a foul mood, even going to see the Walking with Dinosaurs spectacular at the Echo Arena did not cheer me up! Watch this space for more video from the show!

Here’s a short sample!

And another…