December Photo Challenge 2018 – Day Twenty-six

Day Twenty-six: Today’s photo prompt is family.

Christmas-time is about spending time with loved ones. I spent my Christmas Day with David and our parents. I cooked us a meal with lots of vegetables and for the meat-eaters ham and turkey. Afterwards there was cake and a game of Top Trumps courtesy of RSPB crackers.

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Christmas Dinner 2018

How did you spend your Christmas?

All the best,

Christine x

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December Photo Challenge 2018 – Day Twenty-two

chestnutsDay Twenty-Two: Today’s photo prompt is tradition.

In the UK, Chestnuts are predominantly seen as a Christmas food. In Europe the Chestnut is more widely used. In America, Chestnuts were a traditional Christmas food until blight almost wiped out American Chestnut trees in the 1900’s. Chestnuts can be baked, roasted and boiled, and have a spongy, firmness and delicate taste.

Do you like Chestnuts?

Thanks for reading, Christine x

December Photo Challenge 2018 – Day Twenty

Day Twenty: For today’s photo prompt of baking treats, I decided to share a photo of some mince pies I baked for the lead up to Christmas.

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Mince Pies

Have you enjoyed baking any treats for Christmas?

Thanks for stopping by,

Christine x

My Wildlife Moments of 2018

Following on from Sharon at Sunshine and Celandines wonderful post, I decided to once again compile some of my wildlife moments. There have been so many highlights this year, some however I was unable to capture on camera. There was a lone cormorant at Liverpool’s Sefton Park. Angry avocets flew over us on a visit to Lunt Meadows Nature Reserve and we even spotted a bat flitting about Wavertree Playground whilst walking Riley one evening. Below are just a small selection of wildlife moments from 2018 for you to enjoy.

The first wildlife wow of 2018 was in February when I saw a chiffchaff trying to land on a window box. I quickly got my camcorder and managed to film the annual visitor. I only see a chiffchaff once a year. Around late winter, they must make a pit stop in our yarden as they fly to richer pastures. It was a nice visit none the less.

Staying in the yarden. You would think that to see nature in the city is to seek out a local nature reserve or park. However it seems that nature finds a way of being present even in a city yarden. Our little pond which has thrived this year was home to a common frog. He/she managed to eat themselves from being a tadpole to an adult. We were lucky to see the frog even once as they are nocturnal. I wonder if our yarden is still home to this little frog. I do hope so.

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Common Frog

Our flourishing yarden has recently become a hunting ground for a female sparrowhawk. This beautiful specimen of raptor was seen a couple of times unfortunately enjoying her dinner. A poor starling was on the menu one day and a baby goldfinch another.

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Female Sparrowhawk

Our alleyway during the summer was a plant-fest. Sprouting through the cracks of the cobbled stones, wildflowers grew. One huge shrub grew outside our back door. I identified it as a black nightshade.

I had heard of the nightshade plant but never its siblings. Whilst walking to work one day I noticed a bittersweet nightshade, often confused with deadly nightshade.

My favourite colour is blue so when I saw it flashing on butterfly wings I was ecstatic! There were many common blue butterflies fluttering about the meadows at Pennington Flash.

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Common Blue Butterfly

Participation in 2018’s 30 Days Wild by The Wildlife Trusts‘ produced many wonderful wildlife sightings. At Port Sunlight River Park we saw so many six-spot burnet moths that it made up for never seeing them before. We also saw our first linnet and house martin and watched as a kestrel hunted, whilst the air was filled with the calls of skylarks. The area was so rich in wildlife that we will definitely visit again.

During a visit to Brocholes in the hot June weather of 2018, we spied oyster-catchers around the Nook Pool, many spotted orchids blooming and even a shy roe deer hiding in the tall grass!

On our few visits to Lunt Meadows Nature Reserve we spied many Lapwings nesting and greylag geese.

Even after 30 Days Wild I still remained focused on wildlife. On a short visit to Pickering’s Pasture we spotted a stunning wildflower meadow!

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Pickerings Pasture Wildflowers

Over the summer on our jaunts to local nature reserves we spotted numerous dragon flies and damselflies. Below find a small selection of what we saw.

Autumn brought with its smokey chill and vibrant leaves, many mushrooms appearing in nooks and crannies. I managed to spy a shaggy ink cap mushroom whilst walking to work. I’m not a mushroom expert so after a Google search I found that this short lived mushroom is edible.

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Shaggy Ink Cap Mushroom

As the nights grow darker and summer seems just a memory I look forward to seeing colours emerge from the hard winter soil. This crocus field really brought a cheer to an otherwise dull February day.

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Crocus field

What were your wildlife moments this year? Here’s to many more in 2019!

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

‘Time Spent with Cats…’

‘…is never wasted,’ so quoted Sigmund Freud. Being an ailurophile (I had to look the word up), or a lover of cats, I wholly agree!

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For an early birthday celebration, I decided to treat my mum and David to coffee and cake at the recently opened Cat Cafe in Bold Street, Liverpool. I pre-booked our hourly session at the cafe, at £12 per person. This includes unlimited drinks while cakes and pastries were an additional cost.

Our time slot was 10 o’ clock, and even at this time the cafe seemed busy with parties coming and going. To keep the resident cats safe, there are three doors which patrons have to go through. After being booked in, a pass to note down any additional spends given and the dos and the don’ts listed, we were admitted.

The Liverpool branch is on three floors. We perused the decor and the many hiding places for the cats before pondering where to sit. On the first floor there were lots of comfy looking sofas but David chose the ground floor part of the cafe as this was where most of the cat action was happening!

We took our seats close to the kitchen. The choice of table seemed lucrative as I had not long sat down when Rose, a long-haired tortoiseshell came over and made a bee-line for my lap. She happily sat and suckled me for 10 minutes.

We ordered hot drinks and a selection of cakes. Mum had a toasted teacake, I a scone with cream and jam and David chose the cake of the day, which was a large slice of chocolate-orange cake.

Many of the cats as you can imagine were curled up asleep. All was quiet until the food was served and from a towering cat bed two cats emerged. Dobby the Sphynx and Sebastian the Siamese! The hairless Dobby sported a black jumper with orange bobbles to keep him warm while Sebastian cheekily tried his luck pawing at our selection of cakes. It was funny interacting with the cats who all seemed friendly.

We took many photographs and spent a full hour with the cats of Liverpool’s Cat Cafe. I am happy to report we all enjoyed ourselves and would definitely visit again, even if we were scratched and bitten for milk and food! :p

Have you visited a cat cafe? If so what were your impressions?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Apples Galore!

The nights are drawing in, the geese are flying south and there’s a smokey chill in the air. Perfect time for an apple festival!

This weekend (13-14th October 2018) was the annual Apple Festival at Gorse Hill Nature Reserve. The reserve has two orchards with more than 100 fruit trees, including apple, plum and pear. We first went last year, you can read about that visit here. This time we brought our parents along and had such a good time. The festival seems to just get better!

Being eager beavers, we arrived (on the Sunday) just before 11am when the volunteers were all having their huddle and pep talk in the barn. They were very welcoming and guided us through the displays of dessert and cooking apples. On the day there was an opportunity to go on a walk of the heritage orchard, spiralize apples and taste apple leather, a delicious cooked and dried delicacy. It made me think of stewed apples.

In a room adjacent to the barn there was a machine for pulping apples and an apple press. Here they offered apple juice to sample and purchase at £2 a bottle. In future they hope to also make cider from the apples that are left to waste. Sounds a good plan to me :p

Due to this years hot summer many of the heritage varieties had already been harvested, though there were a good number of Discovery Apples available. I promised myself that I would be more adventurous in my purchases this year. So after I had purchased a selection of Discovery and Ellison Orange, I went on to buy, Russets, Sunset, Lady Sudeley and Ribston Pippin. The costing of apples was very cheap (at 4 for a £1) and I wouldn’t have minded paying more.

I also purchased some cooking apple varieties such as the iconic Bramley Seedling, Lord Derby, Arthur Turner and the humongous Mere de Menage. I think I will be eating and cooking apples for the foreseeable future.

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Mere de Menage

I really enjoyed my time spent at the apple festival at Gorse Hill Nature Reserve. I will undoubtedly visit again next year. I believe these heritage orchards are vital in keeping the history of British apple growing alive. It’s just a shame that future generations will mostly only know supermarket bought apples and not the variety, taste and texture of traditional/heritage apples.

What is your favourite apple? Have you visited a local fruit festival?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

12 Hours of Day #7

Thanks to Louise from Ramblings of a Roachling, for giving me the heads up on this weekends #photoanhour on Instagram. It’s been a while since I participated so without further ado, here’s what I got up to during my 12 hours of day!

Photo an Hour – 24th March 2018

8am to 9am:

My Saturday began like many other Saturdays, at 8am. I fed Artie before making breakfast and coffee to ease myself into the morning.

9am to 10am:

We took a weekly trip to the local Asda to do the big shop.

10am to 11am:

Once returned from the supermarket, David and I headed back out towards Speke Retail Park and Dobbies.

11am to 12pm:

It was mum’s birthday on Sunday and as a gift she requested an orchid. There were many to chose from in the shop!

12pm to 1pm:

Back home, we had lunch and I enjoyed a cup of Costa coffee before the hard work of spring cleaning the house beckoned.

1pm to 2pm:

There was no getting away from the spring clean this week. I like to clean the windows in March before the clocks go forwards, which happened to be the Sunday. So I tied my hair up and gritted my teeth. Three hours+ work was ahead!

2pm to 3pm:

As expected, David and I were still working hard at cleaning. I took to cleaning the windows, while David tackled the mold on the walls. The washing machine worked splendidly and cleaned the voiles, curtains and even the settee covers!

3pm to 4pm:

By 3.30pm the bedroom window had freshly washed voiles and the spring/summer curtains were up.

4pm to 5pm:

David, took a breather from cleaning and fed the pigeons. Hoppy, who has visited for the past two years and comes to David when called, enjoyed the food offered.

5pm to 6pm:

While David was cleaning the settees, I turned my hand at making a salad to go with the evenings meal.

6pm to 7pm:

It was nice to finally sit down and enjoy a warm meal. We had pizza. I am sure I had the same dinner last #photoanhour. However this time, dinner was in daylight. The longer days of summer are on their way! Yippie! 🙂

7pm to 8pm:

There wasn’t much time to digest dinner as I remembered that it was the day to clean the finches. *sigh* So I cleaned the Blue-faced Parrot-finches’ cage while David cleaned the aviary.

earth hourThe rest of the evening:

From 8.30 to 9.30 (local time) David and I observed #earthhour. I turned off all the lights, lit a candle and we snuggled together to watch All the Money in the World. We left the candle burning ’til 11pm

Thanks to Janey and Louisa for setting up the challenge.

How did you spend your Saturday?

Thanks for reading, Christine x

12 Hours of Day #5

Sharon from Sunshine and Celandines messaged me on Friday informing me that this Saturday was another Photo an Hour. Though I had nothing planned, I thought it would be good for you to see into an ordinary day of mine. So here goes! 🙂

Photo and Hour – 22nd April 2017

8am to 10am:

Most of my Saturday’s start at 8am. Today was no different. I crawled out of bed sleepy eyed and had breakfast with Artie sitting at the bottom of the bed, with wonderful spring sunshine streaming through the bedroom window.

After breakfast I got dressed and put my ‘face’ on for the day ahead.

10am to 11am:

Saturday is shopping day, so David, mum and I headed towards Asda, or in Liverpool it’s ‘the’ Asda! :p The alarm for the hour sounded when we were heading into the frozen section of the supermarket, so we turned and smiled for the camera! Cheese!!

10 to 11

11am to 1pm:

Since the sun was shining, (though it was cold), David and I decided to take Riley to another local park, Sefton Park. We walked around the boating lake and played fetch on a field full of daisies and dandelions. 🙂

1pm to 2pm:

We arrived home for lunch at 1pm. I sat down with a Tassimo Costa coffee, the last of the hot cross buns and the final chapters of Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See.

2pm to 3pm:

While I took to doing some housework, David started preparing the ingredients for his curry base. He’s cooking Sunday’s dinner, so I left him to it! 😀

3pm to 5pm:

While dinner cooked I pottered about the yarden. I enjoyed listening to the buzz of two bees visiting the lithodora and red campion. Both were hairy-footed flower bee’sthe cream one is a male and the black is a female.

5pm to 7pm:

Saturday’s dinner was a Quorn Sausage and Lentil Cassoulet. I adapted the recipe from Donal Skehan. I used red lentils instead of puy lentils, perhaps I should have used green? Halfway through the meal I gasped, ‘I’ve forgotten to take a photo.’ So I apologise for the half eaten picture of the meal.

6pm’s photo comes courtesy of David. I was upstairs doing something or other. When I came down, David said, ‘there’s a new picture taken for the hour.’ I scrolled through the gallery and there was a picture of Artie, David had taken. Though Artie doesn’t look that enamoured :p

7pm to 8pm:

My last photo of the day. With the sun setting, I pour myself a glass of pinot, David switches his PS4 on. An evening of Classic FM and reading is ahead.

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Evening’s entertainment

Thanks to Janey and Louisa for setting up the challenge.

How did you spend today’s photo an hour?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #24

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Leaf and Forrest’s new home

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Scenes from the Lake District. (Ennerdale Water, Buttermere and Derwent Water.)

A rather uninspiring, grey day dawned for our last, full day in the Lake District. After breakfasting on fruit salad filled with mango and blueberries, David and I headed towards Ennerdale Water.

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Ennerdale Water and Angler’s Crag

Ennerdale Water is only 40 minutes drive from Braithwaite. You may have guessed that the week’s itinerary of lakes have been selected solely because swimming is prohibited, due to them being reservoirs! I just had to put up with walking around them instead! (I can’t wait for the weather to warm up so I can take up my swim/walks again!)

We parked the car at the ample (and free) Bowness Knott car park. We visited this spot on our last break to the Lakes, due to Ennerdale being a dark sky area.

The planned walk was the Smithy Beck Trail. It’s low lying (so easy on creaking joints) and takes in a woodland walk as well as lakeside.

We took the woodland path first, and marveled at the great towering Scots Pine trees. We gasped as we saw fleetingly, a red squirrel and then later on a tree creeper. David wished he had brought his big lens, maybe next time!

The path (which was very muddy), took us to the bridge over Smithy Beck Falls where David and I played Pooh Sticks. There was no clear winner. From there, the path meandered towards the lakeside. We picnicked on a bench overlooking Pillar, Steeple and Scoat Fell.

After lunch we decided to head towards Buttermere (another 40 minute drive) and visit the much photographed lone tree. On our last visit, the permissive path had been closed due to nesting sandpipers!

Instead of finding a free lay-by in which to park the car, we headed to the National Trust car park by the Fish Inn, and paid the steep £3.50 for two hours! I didn’t mind as I see it as giving a little back to the region that has kept us entertained with beautiful vistas, walking and swimming.

We spent a good hour at the lakeside of Buttermere, taking dozens of photographs. However, much like the day before the weather turned blustery and drizzly. Chilled to the bone by the wind that whipped over the lake, David and I headed back to the car.

‘I can’t visit Buttermere without seeing Derwent Water!’ I cried. So David fired up the engine and we headed towards Keswick and the Theatre by the Lake parking. (One day I will see a play at the theatre!)

The journey to Keswick (around 30 minutes) took in the mountain pass, Honister, much to David’s consternation. Touted as one of the best mountain drives in the UK. At it’s summit it climbs to a dizzy 356 metres, with a 1 in 4 gradient. The rugged scenery was impressive and we luckily had the winding road to ourselves, as David crunched the clutch into 1st gear. It was times like this that I wished we had a drone!

In Keswick, we paid the £3.00 for two hours parking and walked towards the lakeside. The weather had made a turn for the worse. Heavy clouds obstructed much of the scenery. We made our way towards Friar’s Crag and took pictures along the way. How different out first visit here in October had been!

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Derwent Water

We decided to call our sightseeing a day and headed back towards our B&B, Hermiston in Braithwaite. On arrival Phil and Helen offered more tea, coffee and cake which we received gratefully. We changed from our mud caked clothes and warmed up before heading back to Keswick for our last meal of the holiday.

We had a table booked at the Lakes Bar and Bistro for 5.30pm. We had looked at the menu online earlier and liked a few of the options. On arrival we were asked to chose any table as the place seemed ‘dead.’ I’ve read that when a restaurant is quiet it could be because the establishment is not very good. A little worry crossed my mind. However the meals we were served, though took about 20-30 minutes to come to the table was enjoyable.

David ordered a chicken, ham and leek pie with vegetables, while I opted for the vegetarian goat’s cheese pizza. The pizza made for a very filling meal. I was stuffed after a few slices! David liked his pie but not the butter coated chips. The service was friendly and the food warming, so there were no complaints from us.

We returned to the B&B to enjoy one last shower and recharge our batteries, before our journey home the next day.

Thanks for reading,

Christine x