Sunday Sevens #19

It’s been a while since I participated in Sunday Sevens, devised by Natalie at Threads and bobbins. I wanted to do one this week as I have some pet news a few of you have been waiting to hear.

20161012_103756Coming down for breakfast one morning, I poked my head into the living room where the finches are housed. I did a double take as sitting next to his partner Tux, in the hospital cage (she visits him), was Troy!

For the past week we have been giving him sliced, fresh garlic in the hope that his ear/balance issues were bacterial (they were not fungal). I was astounded at his transformation! Troy’s head still slightly twitches but he has become more upright. We will continue giving garlic in the hope the infection clears.

National Curry Week:

I’ve been spending a lot of time cooking this week. To celebrate one of Britain’s favourite cuisines, I thought I would cook some meals with a curry theme.

I attempted another recipe for a chana masala, but the meal wasn’t much of a success. One success however was my attempt at an Indian samosa casserole. It was filling, healthy (apart from the pastry) and even David enjoyed it!

the-lost-symbolWhat I am reading: At the moment I am trying to get through Dan Brown’s book, The Lost Symbol. I’ve been reading it since August. It’s pretty hard going. I got through Inferno after a second try as it’s been made into a Ron Howard/Tom Hanks film. So I thought I would give this novel a second try too, being also a Prof. Langdon book. I’ve got 100 pages left, so hopefully if I sit down and focus I can finish it soon! It’s got a pretty lackluster plot-line though. Once again I feel I am being given a history lecture. I wouldn’t recommend it. Have you read it? What were your thoughts?

Days out: The beginning of the week saw me going in search of autumn for Wild October. David and I visited Liverpool’s Festival Gardens.

For the very first time, we visited the Toxteth Reservoir, to see Rita McBride‘s Portal (2016). The instillation was part of the city wide art festival, Biennial.

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David’s picture of Portal (2016)

Have you managed to get out and about this week? Are you participating in Sunday Sevens?

Christine x

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Sunday Sevens #1

I have wanted to try another blog challenge (after my 12 hours of Day), for a while now and recently Sunshine and Celandines posted a list of some inspiring challenges to do! So I thought today, I would give Sunday Sevens a try!

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At the moment I’m feeling ‘pumped!’ Seeing the late winter sunshine this morning has given me a much needed boost to my mood. I awoke on a lazy Sunday to bright blue skies!

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Winter sky

On Monday I cooked my Mum’s favourite meal from my repertoire. Quorn Swedish Meatballs and Spaghetti! The recipe is pretty straightforward and does for 3-4 people.

  • 10897834_10155104847620271_8473106121928313571_nCook 140g of spaghetti (for 2 people) or 280g (for 4)
  • In a pan fry 1 white onion (chopped) and 2 garlic cloves (crushed and chopped)
  • When the onion is soft add a jar of Dolmio sauce for meatballs (or any tomato based sauce), 1 tbsp of brown sauce and handful of frozen peas
  • Crumble one low salt vegetable stock cube and add a bag of Quorn Swedish Meatballs, (or other vegetarian equivalent)
  • Cook for 15 minutes on medium heat, stir occasionally. Serve on bed of spaghetti.

Tuesday was the Christian celebration of light, Candlemas. Once again, Sunshine and Celandines wrote a lovely blog post on the subject. I find it fascinating that most religions of the world have some kind of festival of light! Apparently Snowdrops are also called Candlemas Bells and symbolise the ending of winter. My perusal of the garden at the weekend brought the wondrous sight that I have Snowdrops growing!

On Friday I met up with a work colleague I had not seen in almost three years! We caught up over a Costa coffee and buttered toasted teacakes! 20160205_112255

At the start of 2016, I suggested to David that he should cook at least one meal every month, to give me a bit of a break! Saturday’s have become the day when we try cooking something different. So this Saturday he planned the evening meal.

Last month David made a curry, and again this February he decided to make another one. He is determined to find a recipe that tastes like our favourite take-away, Saffron! For almost three hours he took over the kitchen! The curry turned out to be one of David’s best! He served it with rice, and sides of naan and vegetable samosas!

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David’s Pasanda 

While David sweated in the kitchen, I sat with Artie and relaxed while listening to John William’s soundtracks on Classic FM!

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Artie

Have you undertaken any blog challenges?

Christine x

Quorn Sausage Frittata

This was a Saturday meal a few weekends back. I’m not much of an egg lover, but it was surprisingly filling! The recipe made four decent sized servings, but we shared it between three! Sadly it’s not vegan.

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Photo by David Evans

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 Quorn Sausages, or any other vegetarian sausage
  • 1-2 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced. (I used a large white onion.)
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 pepper sliced
  • 1 medium potato, peeled, boiled and roughly diced into 1cm cubes (optional)
  • 50g button mushrooms, halved. (I left these out as don’t like mushrooms.)
  • 4 plum or cherry tomatoes, halved. (I used about 10 cherry tomatoes halved and roasted before hand.)
  • 4-6 large eggs
  • 1 tbsp water
  • good pinch paprika (optional)
  • 2-3 tbsp freshly chopped flat leaf parsley (optional)

Method:

1. I oven cooked the sausages for 20 – 25 minutes, at the same time I oven roasted the halved cherry tomatoes for the same time.

2. While the sausages were in the oven I boiled the diced potato on a medium hob for 20 minutes.

3. In a large non-stick frying pan (approx. 26 cm diameter). I fried the onion, garlic and pepper on a medium to low heat, until softened. Then add the cooked sausages which were sliced into chunks.

2. I then added the tomatoes and potato and slowly cooked for a minute. This is where you can add the mushrooms if using.

3. Lightly whisk the eggs, water, paprika and seasoning together in a bowl. Stir in the parsley (optional).

4. Pour the egg mixture into the frying pan and lightly shake the pan to distribute the mixture. Reduce the heat a little and cook the bottom of the frittata for 2-3 minutes until lightly set. We had to cook a little longer due to the amount of eggs we used.

5. Place the pan under a hot grill and finish off the cooking for about 2-3 minutes until the egg mixture is just set.

6. Leave to stand for 1-2 minutes before serving. If liked, dust the top with a little extra paprika.

7. I served with a wilted watercress salad (100g of watercress), with sliced garlic (6 cloves of garlic).

I found the frittata recipe from the Quorn website. I adapted it a little for our preference and so can you!

© 2016 Christine Lucas.

The Beginning…

This new year has begun in much the same vein as the parting year ended. It sees me re-evaluating my life. (You don’t know how fed up I am of doing that!)

January 2014 saw me working in an ecstatic frenzy! While listening to Hans Zimmer’s Lasiurus, from the Batman Begins film soundtrack, my impassioned imagination took the idea of a historical romance and ran with it. I wrote until the summer. Then I took a job that saw me sitting inanely on a bus for three hours a day, commuting, which killed my soul and subsequently my characters.

Now, with all this wasted time on my hands, it makes me think that maybe 2016 is a year when I should publish a novel? Where I should stop being a lazy writer and work for my living?! Maybe I should not only re-evaluate on the job front but the latest novel to hit the scrapheap? What do you think?


I have been meaning to write a blog post for a while now and yet each time I have planned a post the meal has fallen decidedly flat. Like tonight.

Yesterday, I felt the nervous excitement of finding a recipe I looked forward to making, (I need to get a life) but come this afternoon, I found I had no green lentils and only half a tin of chopped tomatoes. I decided to go ahead with the recipe anyway, which I found in the Asda Good Living magazine. I do like trying out new recipes, so I decided on the Lentil and Chickpea Curry, as I had no spinach.

I used what I had in, meaning half a red onion, half a carrot and half a yellow pepper as well as 100g of red lentils and a can of chickpeas, plus spices. The meal looked and tasted like every other vegetable stew/curry I have ever made. I can’t complain as it was eaten by everyone so it must have been ok?! I served it with brown rice which apparently ages you, according to a report David had recently read. However the health benefits are better than white rice, so a few wrinkles have to be better than being in an early grave?

Ingredients:

  • Olive oil
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves crushed, (also used pepper and carrot… I hate waste)
  • 2tbsp of medium curry powder
  • 400g of chopped tomatoes
  • 400g can of green lentils, drained. (I didn’t have enough so used 100g of red lentils, dried)
  • 400g of chickpeas, drained.
  • Baby spinach (I never had any)
  • salt for seasoning
  • Naan or rice to serve

Method:

  • Heat oil in pan, cook the onion, slowly and then add the garlic.
  • (I added the onion, garlic and pepper together and simmered in a lidded pan until soft)
  • Then add the curry powder and cook for 1 minute
  • (I also added a squirt of tomato paste just to add taste)
  • Add the tomatoes, lentils and chickpeas and simmer for eight minutes, or until thickened.
  • Add the spinach at the last minute to wilt it
  • I also used brown rice which took 25 minutes to cook, adjust cooking times accordingly

The finished recipe if following the above should look like this:

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Micro – Actions!

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

Honey Bee and Passion Flower

Honey Bee and Passion Flower

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

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

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

Ingredients:

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

Method:

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

Wholesome Vegetable and Bean Soup

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

Ingredients:

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

Method:

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

Focaccia

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

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

Artie

Artie

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

How many Goldfinches can you See?

How many Goldfinches can you See?

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

Beautiful, tasty roast dinner

Beautiful, tasty roast dinner

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

Christine xx

A-MA-ZING!!

Can I say that one more time?

AMAZING!!

I’ve been talking about the experience all afternoon and evening! I simply can’t get over it! It’s always only me that sees it! I’ve joked with David that I must be ‘high’ on something! That quinoa last night must have been infected with mould, as this afternoon, after preparing my Sunday dinner, I looked out of the kitchen window to see if there was any bird activity at the feeders and there it was! A Sparrowhawk!

I wish I had my camera to hand as it’s just my word to say that it was in the garden, but there it was attacking whatever was sheltering in the Laurel Bush, probably a Sparrow or Starling!

I gasped in amazement and then it turned its orange eyes towards me before it spread its wings and flew off.

I have seen a Sparrowhawk in the area before, in 2012, the day of my father’s funeral. Today, one was in the garden looking for it’s lunch!

The whole incident happened so fast that I am writing this account so as to remember it!

I have no pictures myself of the Sparrowhawk, so I have had to borrow from Google/YouTube. The below footage is by Brian Ewen.


After some reading I have discovered that if a Sparrowhawk is in your garden then it is a sign of a healthy population of birds/prey. I like to see it as a healthy micro-system. I have put feeders in my garden to encourage small birds like the Blue Tit, Dunnock and Goldfinch. This in turn has encouraged Pigeons and Starlings to visit. This movement and frenzied activity has alerted the next stage of the chain. The predator, like the Sparrowhawk.

The system is very like that of my planting for bees, butterflies and moths. Their presence in the garden has brought the arrival of Swallows to feast on the abundance of insects. It certainly shows that we are all interconnected.

I have read that some people dislike Sparrowhawks being in their neighbourhood. I have to accept that even Sparrowhawks need to feed otherwise they will starve to death.

On the RSPB website it states that Sparrowhawk numbers were heavily in decline due to pesticides used in farming from the 1950’s onwards. Thankfully, numbers seem to be on the increase due to the banning of certain chemicals. The RSPB also states that the predation of Sparrowhawks on songbirds has ‘no or little impact on songbird populations.’ The Wildlife Trust produced a report on the predation of songbirds and concluded that songbird ‘numbers over the last few decades should not be blamed on predation by Sparrowhawks and Magpies.’

In my area there are not just Magpies, but other crows and Seagulls present. Recently, there seems to be a healthy balance of numbers from the smaller birds. I counted at one time, up to, if not exceeding 20 Goldfinches, 10 House Sparrows and over 20 Starlings, mostly fledglings. Pigeon numbers seem to be increasing steadily also.

The presence of predators therefore does seem to indicate that there are a healthy number of smaller birds. Chris Mead from Jacobi Jayne & Company states, ‘numbers of Sparrowhawks are controlled by the numbers of their prey.’ I like to think that since I have been encouraging Goldfinches, House Sparrows and Starlings to my garden that I am creating a healthy ecosystem where there is enough prey numbers for a predator to flourish. Time will tell if the Sparrowhawk will return.

I have been researching the presence of Sparrowhawks in Liverpool, and have come across a number of blogs from 2010 and 2012 stating Sparrowhawk sightings. It’s not uncommon for Sparrowhawks to predate in city gardens. However, I just find it amazing that one appeared in my inner city garden, though more like a yard than a garden!! I am feeling proud that I have made a little oasis in a rather built up area. 🙂


And in other news:

I seemed to have been on a health kick recently. I have been treadmilling, doing squats and abdominal workouts daily. I don’t know whether this is the fact that I have lost an inch around the chest and half an inch from the waist. Either way I think healthy eating has helped.

Lentils are a great source of protein and low in calories. They lower your cholesterol and help maintain blood sugar levels. So, today I made a Vegan, Spicy Lentil Soup. I got the recipe from Cookie and Kate. Though I changed a few quantities and added a potato and green beans.

Ingredients:

  • Splash of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium white onion, chopped
  • 2 celery sticks chopped
  • 1 small potato, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
  • Handful of green beans chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 400g can of diced tomatoes
  • 200g of green lentils
  • 1 litre of vegetable stock, reduced salt. I used two cubes
  •  ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Method:

  1. Warm the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat.
  2. Once the oil is shimmering, add the chopped onion, celery and potato and cook, stirring often, until the onion has softened and is turning translucent, (about 5 minutes.)
  3. Add the garlic, cumin, curry powder and thyme. Cook until fragrant while stirring constantly, (about 30 seconds.)
  4. Pour in the tomatoes, green beans and cook for a few more minutes, stirring often, in order to enhance their flavour.
  5. Pour in the lentils and stock. Add 1/2 a teaspoon of cayenne pepper. Season generously with freshly ground black pepper. Raise heat and bring the mixture to a boil, then partially cover the pot and reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook for 30 minutes, or until the lentils are tender but still hold their shape.
  6. Transfer 450ml of the soup to a blender. Protect your hand from steam with a tea towel placed over the lid and purée the soup until smooth. Pour the puréed soup back into the pan and warm up.
  7. Remove the pan from heat.Taste and season with more salt, pepper. Serve immediately.
Spiced Vegan Lentil Soup

Spiced Vegan Lentil Soup

The soup turned out really well. Though it looked more brown than the original recipe. (It doesn’t look very appetising from the picture, but believe me it was very appetising and healthy). It made four bowls, so have enough for tomorrows dinner. 😀

Have a pleasant week ahead.

 

Autumn Light.

For the past few weeks now I have noticed a change in the light.

Afternoon autumn sun flooding the dining room

Afternoon autumn sun flooding the dining room

The shadows have become longer. The sunlight during the day has become more stark, almost piercing. The seasons are changing without us hardly knowing! Autumn is arriving, creeping silently into summer. The days are becoming shorter. Soon it will be night by 4pm! For now, I am valuing every minute of light. Savouring the last bloom of flowers and the remaining buzz of bees before nature slows down for winter.

Part of me wants to mourn the loss of the light, but autumn brings its own pleasures. Like the frenzied activity at the bird feeders and the Sedum finally flowering after budding for so long!

Bird feeder

Bird feeder

Sedum and Honey Bee

Sedum and Honey Bee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today I have been making ready the house for autumn and the coming winter. The windows got a good clean and the voiles have all been washed. I have also changed the bedroom curtains from the sky blue to the teal in preparation for the darker evenings to come.

Picture from 2013

Picture taken 2013

Come the evening, I was busy in the kitchen making a, Peruvian Quinoa Stew(serves 3 people).

Ingredients:

  • 15og of quinoa, rinsed well
  • 200 – 250 ml of water
  • 1 onion (white) diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic sliced
  • Olive oil for frying (I use lower fat olive oil)
  • 1 celery rib chopped
  • 1 carrot sliced
  • 1 bell pepper (any colour)
  • Handful of green beans, chopped. You can use any variety of vegetables
  • 200ml of vegetable stock (I used reduced salt)
  • 400g of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons of ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of chilli powder (I used medium)
  • 1 teaspoon of ground coriander
  • half a teaspoon of cayenne pepper (put more in if you like heat)
  • 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
  • Fresh, chopped coriander for garnish, if preferred. (I left out)

Method:

  1. I rinsed the quinoa. Placed it in a small pan with the 200ml – 250ml of water and cooked, over a medium heat, for about 15 minutes or until soft. Then I set aside with a lid on the pot to absorb the remaining water.
  2. While the quinoa cooked, I had a second pan on the hob. I chopped and sautéed the onions, then added the garlic in a little olive oil for about 5 minutes over a low to medium heat. It may have taken a little longer for me as I was busy chopping the other vegetables while the onion cooked.
  3. Then I peeled and sliced the carrot. Washed and chopped the celery. I added both to the cooking onion and garlic and cooked for a further 5 minutes, stirring often so nothing stuck or burnt to the pan. It took longer as I had the hob on a lower heat.
  4. After chopping the bell pepper and green beans, I added them to the pan with the other vegetables and then added the tin of tomatoes, along with the spices (cumin, chilli powder, coriander, cayenne and oregano). I let them blend together for just a few minutes and then poured in the stock. I covered the pan and let simmer for about 15-20 minutes, maybe longer, until the vegetables were tender
  5. After everything had cooked I stirred in the cooked quinoa, warmed it up again, and adjusted the salt to taste.
  6. Add chopped coriander if needed. (I left out)

While the quinoa had cooked and the vegetables were simmering in their covered pan. I stood by the sink and washed the knives and measuring jugs used in the preparation. I gazed out of the window and cherished the bird antics going on before my eyes.

I counted up to 17 Goldfinches at the sunflower and nyger seed feeders. Amongst them were still some babies flapping their wings, begging! Pigeons pecked at the off-casts the Goldfinches threw out and the visiting Dunnock hopped among the vines of the climbing Passion Flower snatching at insects!

I am happy to report that the Sparrows are still visiting in numbers. There were at least five on the feeders and I watched on as three Sparrows had discovered my ground cage feeder and were happily guzzling the dried meal-worms I had left out for the Dunnock. A Sparrow and Starling fought for the right to feast on the fat block sitting in the Laurel bush. The Sparrow won!

The meal finally came together. I must say the spices were rather muted, maybe some more or an added chilli could have helped? It was however a filling and healthy meal, though my mum disliked the quinoa ‘tails’!

Peruvian Quinoa Stew

Peruvian Quinoa Stew

And also:

I have done some more research on quinoa and its ‘tails.’ The seed is from South America and was the staple diet of the Incas. The tails are not tails at all, actually they are the endosperm of the seed. The nutrition or power house for the growing seed, much like the albumin of an egg. According to BBC Good Food, quinoa, is a complete protein, meaning it has all nine amino acids. It is a fantastic wheat free choice and is highly digestible. It has twice the protein content of rice and barley and is also a good source of calcium, magnesium, vitamin E and dietary fibre.

The health benefits speak for itself. I think I’ll be cooking with this little seed a lot more in the future! 🙂

Have you eaten any good meals with quinoa? I would love to know your thoughts on this super seed!

Christine xx

12 Hours of Day!

I’ve been meaning to do a photo an hour blog for some time, ever since I saw sunshine and celandines post in July. So, I decided to do it for today, 22nd August 2015, though in hindsight I should have chosen a day where I actually did something instead of the usual, same old!

Anyway, I shall endeavour to make some kind of blog out of the pictures I took!

It was an 8am start to the day, as shopping and housework beckoned. This is the stool where I sit and try to make myself pretty each day!

8.00 to 9.00

8.00 to 9.00

From 9.00am to 11am David, myself and my mum went shopping at the nearby supermarket.

10.00 to 11.00

10.00 to 11.00

9.00 to 10.00

9.00 to 10.00

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Around 11am we returned home and unpacked the bags of shopping! Thankfully this week’s shop did not total over £100+ as the past weeks have been!!

11.00 to 12.00

11.00 to 12.00

Lunch time! While David nibbled on his baguette and I sipped at my soup, we let the six finches out of their aviary and laughed as they flew around the living room! Romeo tried to take my hair (again) and make a nest with it!! 😀

12.00 to 13.00

Weekend lunch is so much more relaxed and longer than work days! The next hour was taken up with drinking coffee!

13.00 to 14.00

13.00 to 14.00

Then the hard work had to begin. I vacuumed the floors and cleaned/disinfected the kitchen/bathroom and bedroom! Poor Henry always shivers in fear when he sees me reaching for him as his nose always falls off when I vacuum!!

14.00 to 15.00

14.00 to 15.00

3pm and after a showery morning, a break in the clouds gave me and Artie the opportunity to step outside into the garden and enjoy some sun, air and listen to the numerous Honey Bees visiting!

15.00 to 16.00

15.00 to 16.00, Anemone flowering

15.00 to 16.00

15.00 to 16.00, can you spy Artie?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From 4pm I made a start on preparing for the evening’s meal. During the week I had decided on making Refried Bean Quesadillas with home-made Guacamole. I turned my attention to the Guacamole first having never made it before.

Ingredients:

  • One red onion, sliced finely
  • One chilli, sliced finely
  • One avocado, halved, stoned and skin removed, then cut into manageable cubes
  • Lime juice, squeeze some juice over the chopped avocado to stop from turning brown
  • Coriander leaves (handful, chopped)
  • One tomato, chopped

Method:

  • Chop all ingredients and then mash with a folk/masher/processor to desired consistency

I followed the instructions to the letter. The result was a fresh ‘salad’ like concoction, though David did not like the taste.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Refried Bean Quesadillas. 

I found the ingredients only stretched for three people!

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 chilli finely chopped
  • 1 yellow finely pepper chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 400g can pinto or kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 8 flour tortillas
  • 100g cheddar or Gruyère, coarsely grated (I only used 50g)
  • A handful coriander leaves
  • 200g tub fresh tomato salsa, plus extra to serve (I didn’t use all the tub)
17.00 to 18.00

17.00 to 18.00, ingredients

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan (I just used a pan), and cook the onion and garlic for 2 mins.
  2. Add the chilli and pepper, and cook for 2 mins.
  3. Then finally add the cumin and cook for 1 min more.
  4. Tip in the beans, paprika and a splash of water. Using a potato masher, break the beans down as they warm through to make a rough purée. Season generously
  5. Spread the refried beans onto 3-4 of the tortillas and scatter over the cheese and coriander.
  6. Spoon over the salsa, then top with the remaining tortillas to make 3-4 sandwiches.
  7. Wipe the frying pan with kitchen paper (or use a frying pan), and return to the heat or heat a griddle pan. Cook each sandwich for 1-2 mins on each side until the tortillas are crisp and golden and the cheese is melting.
  8. Serve warm, cut into wedges, with extra salsa, guacamole and salad.
18.00 to 19.00

18.00 to 19.00 The result!

I enjoyed making the guacamole and refried beans. I could have bought shop brands but thought it would be better to try and make them from scratch myself. The dinner was indeed fresh tasting and filling.

For the last hour for the blog. I looked forward to a BBC Prom, of Mahler’s 6th Symphony. I relaxed for the evening listening to sublime music and enjoyed a few Pinot Grigio’s and a dessert of sliced strawberries with yoghurt!

19.00 to 20.00

19.00 to 20.00

Fin x

30 Days Wild…Week Four.

As I embark on the last week of The Wildlife Trust‘s 30 Days Wild, it becomes important more than ever, to continue to value and respect the wildlife that is around us.

Monday:

I find it difficult to enjoy nature while I am out and about going to work. However today I snapped a picture of a flower that was gracing the gates of my employment. I did a quick Google search and found that it was a Rosa canina, or Dog Rose which is a deciduous shrub.

White heart shaped petal flower

White heart shaped petal flower

Tuesday:

James Horner

James Horner

Though not nature orientated, I woke up this morning to the sad news that composer James Horner had died in an aeronautics accident. I admired Horner’s music well before Hans Zimmer’s. My first CD of his, was his stunning American Civil War soundtrack to the film Glory!


The weather turned out to be half decent today. In the afternoon I managed to sit out and potter about my garden. The Passion Flower has grown ‘madly’ again and has hundreds (maybe an exaggeration) of buds on it! There are also purple flowers on the Hebe!

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Wednesday:

I decided to follow a suggestion from the 101 ‘wild’ things to do which was to watch a nature webcam. Years ago I used to visit a websi from a farm in Yorkshire, called Marlfield. The website is called Lambwatch. (It’s best viewed on IE.) I checked it out today and found that they not only have one webcam pointed at a field, which during spring is filled with lambs, but have three others! One of which was a webcam in a Swallows nest. Knowing I love Swallows I spent a good hour watching the brood of about 4 growing baby Swallows.

I wonder if the visiting Swallows near me will also be feeding a brood of similar size? I shall have to wait until they fledge, it was mind July last year! I shall keep my eyes towards the sky!

Thursday: – Norwich… ‘a fine city!’ (Indeed!)

Thursday was the beginning of our night away to Norwich to see the Go Go Dragons street art exhibition! Mum kindly looked after Artie while we were gone the night.

It was not the first time we have gone on a hunt for dragons. The first was in 2010 in Newport!

Newport dragon 2010

Newport dragon 2010

We set off on the M62 around 9am. I didn’t see much nature along the motorways, save for a few silhouettes of Buzzards and Kestrels hunting and along the A11 there was a field full of purple and white foxgloves!

We got to Norwich by 1.30pm and spent the next two hours walking around the city streets. The weather was very humid and come the evening the sun shone through heavy laden clouds.

We first visited Norwich two years ago when we popped in, on our way to Colchester, to see their Go Go Gorillas trail.

Go Go Gorilla - Optimus Prime

Go Go Gorilla – Optimus Prime

I was impressed by the artistic talent, so much so that come news that dragons were going to grace the city’s streets I had to pay them a visit!

The dragons I think even surpassed the gorillas! Here are just a few from the first day!

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With tired feet we made our way to the B&B for the night. We stayed at the same B&B, 175 Newmarket Road, and incidentally the same room as two years ago!

175 Newmarket Road, Norwich

175 Newmarket Road, Norwich

For the evening’s meal we went to The Merchant’s of Spice, curry house north of the River Wensum. David ordered Chicken Tikka Pasanda, which was flavoursome while I had the Vegetable Karahi which was filled with peppers, green beans and new potatoes. The naan was nice though was drizzled with a lot of butter! The atmosphere of the restaurant was luxurious and the ambient music was not overpowering. The service was efficient and they cleaned unused plates and cutlery swiftly. At the end of the meal we were once again handed orange soaked hot towels to wipe our hands, always a plus in my book! 😀

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Friday:

We had breakfast early on Friday so we could leave the B&B and head into Norwich before 9am! While we were packing I noticed a colourful Jay amongst the tree canopy around the house. It moved too quickly for me to get a picture so one of David’s taken on a day trip to Yorkshire Wildlife Park will have to do!

Jay

Jay

I must comment that Norwich has fully embraced planting for wildlife and on most of their roundabouts and along the sides of dual carriageways there is an abundance of wild flowers!

We spent the next four hours walking the city’s streets with map in hand! The positive of following a trail map is that you get to see parts of the city you wouldn’t necessarily see! There are some lovely churches and narrow tudor-esque streets in Norwich. However the north of the city is a bit derelict, like many towns. We found ourselves in a part of the city that was covered in graffiti! We did not feel safe! So we hurried back south towards the river.

We saw 31 dragons on the Thursday and the Friday we saw a total of 32! So we saw 63 out of the 84 dragons on the streets, though we did see several more but could not take photos!

Here are some of my favourite dragons from Friday’s hunt!

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Even though we never got to see the whole 84 dragons, I found following the trail map more satisfying than going to see them all in one place which we did last year when we went to Aberdeen to see ‘all’ the dolphins!

Wild Dolphins

Wild Dolphins

Here’s a selection of some of the art work found on the dragons and of David and myself posing with our favourites! 😀

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After lunch at around 1.30pm we said goodbye to Norwich and set off on our journey home, and what a ‘long’ journey home it turned out to be! Instead of the 4.5 hours it should have took us, our journey lasted over 7 hours! Arriving home around 9pm!

There was news of the M6 being shut around junction 16 and then the A14 was at a snails pace. There was nothing to do but to try and stay cheery, listen to the radio and try to keep hydrated and well fed. We took regular breaks. We tried to get the sat-nav to navigate around the blocked part of the M6 but it wanted us to go further afield into Wales, so we decided to see what was in store for us on the motorway!

We paid the £5.50 to go on the M6 toll and the first junction was at a stand still. I thought that it was a waste of money but once we past the first junction it was smooth travelling until the M6 toll merged into the M6. Then the travelling was in fits and starts, so much so that I got a migraine with the stress. I thought we would never get home and my phone decided to die! We stopped off at Keele Services and had a fast food dinner! It was not what I had planned. I had planned something more healthy, after the curry the night before, but there was nothing to be done. So a Burger King it was. I had a vegi wrap while David had a chicken sandwich and chips. I also had a Costa coffee which, with the Zomig I had taken, helped ease the migraine!

For the next two hours, though fuelled, we continued on our slow journey home. To break the monotony David said I should take some pictures of the Cheshire countryside.

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On our arrival home, we were welcomed by a familiar sight. Artie looking out of the window at us!

Artie welcoming us home

Artie welcoming us home

Saturday:

Back home to ‘normality!’ I found that the Passion Flower had started to bloom! There was one sitting proud for all to see! I look forward to many more budding!

Passion Flower

Passion Flower

For Saturday’s dinner I made a healthy Roasted Pepper and Bean soup.

Ingredients:

  1. Two pointed peppers sliced in half
  2. One red onion sliced in quarters
  3. Two garlic cloves
  4. One chilli chopped
  5. 500ml of reduced vegetable stock
  6. Tin of choppd tomatoes
  7. Tin of cannellini beans
  8. Pepper to season
  9. Serve with wholemeal bread

Method:

  1. Put peppers, onion and garlic on a roasting tin and roast for 20 mins on oven 200°/gas mark 6
  2. Chop the chilli
  3. In pan put in stock, chilli, tomatoes, and beans and warm to simmering
  4. Once skin is blackened on peppers take out of oven, strip and chop
  5. Return chopped, peppers, onion and garlic into pan
  6. Season with pepper
  7. Cook for 20 minutes

I served the soup with Wholemeal granary bread that I had made and David had shaped into dogs!

Red Pepper and Bean Soup with Dog shaped Wholemeal bread

Roasted Pepper and Bean Soup with Dog shaped Wholemeal bread

Sunday:

I spent today’s lunch with our finches. We let them fly around the living room at weekends. Here’s a selfie I took with Chocolate our Bengalese Finch, she was getting very close to me!

Chocolate and Christine

Chocolate and Christine

More webcams! This time from Paradise Park in Cornwall. They are streaming a webcam from their Red Panda den. Their female panda has had cubs. You can view the webcam here: http://paradisepark.org.uk/events-and-news/webcams/

I think I am going to have to attempt to separate the Borage seedlings either today or sometime during next week! Look how much they have grown in a month!

Borage seedlings

Borage seedlings

There are only two more day’s of June and 30 Days Wild, but I will continue to admire the nature that is around me in the coming weeks/months. Will the Borage and Teasel seedlings bloom? How many Passion Flowers will I get? Will I see any fledgling Swallows? Only time will tell!

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! 😀