Day 27: Today is the third Manchester Festival of Nature. This year, due to Covid-19 it has gone virtual! You can check out all the talks and events going on during the day by following their Twitter page, here.
Last year, they had talks on wildflowers and tree identification. So for this post I shall take a quick look at a leaf.
The primary function of a leaf is the manufacture of food for the plant by photosynthesis and the uptake of waters and nutrients.
I’ll get the sad news out of the way before I delve into this post. While I was putting the finishing touches to this blog our blue faced parrot finch, Leaf became ill. He declined pretty quickly and this morning 30th April, we found that he had gained his angel wings. We only had him for four years but he had a lasting impact on the aviary. He will be missed.
April 2021 may have been one of the driest on record but inside our home it was one of the chilliest! Half way through the month our boiler packed up, leaving us without heat and hot water for over two weeks. Finding the right type of boiler for our home was a difficult decision, and not to mention radiators and BTU’s! Thankfully after lots of research we found the right boiler and radiators for our home. I decided to replace four out of the seven radiators we have as some looked old and leaked. It’s amazing how adaptive we are, as we layered up against the chill, but I can now smile and say we have hot running water and warm radiators, much better than boiling a kettle every-time we wanted to wash the dishes!
On a more happier, less stressful note, Easter was a joyous occasion. David and I spent the long weekend by taking long walks with Riley. At the local park we went on an Easter Egg hunt and at Sefton Park we took in the gorgeous daffodil fields.
We’ve not watched any TV shows or films of note this month, but I have started watching the new series of Call the Midwife.
We’ve not had any days out this April, but many of our weekends have been filled with freshening up our décor. The front of the house got a new coat of paint during the Easter weekend and the last week of April we painted the guest room/study and bought new furniture. There’s a few more rooms I want to freshen up in the coming months.
As we are slowly coming out of lochdown my mind naturally turned to days out and holidays. As a ‘take two’ we decided to book again for the Trossach holiday we had planned, but sadly had to cancel last year. Hopefully, ‘fingers crossed’ we will make it to this gorgeous looking cabin for a few days of overdue R&R.
This month I discovered a new yummy recipe. I follow Sunday Brunch on Instagram and one of their posts was of a Moroccan Spiced Sea Bass. The combination of spices, sun dried tomatoes, lentils and chickpeas made for a surprisingly filling meal.
Method, serves 4: 1. Mix a Tbs each of cinnamon, cumin, coriander, smoked paprika, Tsp chilli flakes, Tsp garlic powder, Tsp ginger and a Tsp salt together. 2. Take approx. 1/3 and rub onto 4 x 150g sea bass fillets. 3. Fry the fish 3mins each side in oil, then finish with a knob of butter 4. Gently fry 4 chopped spring onions for 2mins 5. Then add 12 sliced sundried toms, Tin cooked, drained rinsed green lentils, Tin drained, rinsed chick peas and 1 finely diced carrot. 6. Add the 200ml of vegetable stock and the remaining spice mix, simmer 5-6mins 7. Finish with 50g butter and juice and zest of 1 lemon and and handful of chopped parsley
The wildlife highlight of the month was spotting a buzzard resting in a tree in the local park! Sadly I only had my camera phone with me, so it’s a blurry photo of a buzzard!
April has been a mixed bag for David and I, hows your April been? Have you any plans for after lockdown?
Since it’s back to normality after blogging everyday in June for The Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild, I thought I would write a Sunday Sevens.
Last weekend my friend from America visited us again. She is a big fan of Riley so David and I decided to take them both on a morning walk to Formby Beach.
Selfie on the beach
David and Sebastian
Then in the afternoon we visited Liverpool’s Cat Cafe.
The Aviary (part 1):
Set and Leaf
In a previous Sunday Sevens from 2017 (found here), you may recall that I wrote about having to separate an aggressive blue-faced parrot finch from the aviary as he attacked another finch.
In April this year, we decided that two years in the prison cage was enough time for the two blue-faced parrot finches, and so we paroled them to be reintegrated into the aviary.
However, this Tuesday David and I came home from work to murder in the aviary! The victim, poor Lady Gouldian, Set.
We found him with all his feathers plucked from his head and close to death. We put him in the hospital cage in the hope that he would pull through but he succumbed from his ordeal not long after. There was no need for an Agatha Christie detective, we already knew who the culprit was: blue-face parrot finch, Leaf who was seen the previous day chasing Set! It looked like he was back to his aggressive ways! Saddened and angry in equal measure we separated both blue-faced parrots from the aviary and now they reside in the prison cage for life! We buried Set under the Californian lilac, he was only two years old.
Book I am reading:
For the past few weeks I have been reading Kate Morton’s The Clockmaker’s Daughter. I am enjoying the narrative and the colourful cast of characters. Have you read this book? If so what did you think?
The Clockmaker’s Daughter
I hit my #walk1000miles target on 25th June 2019. Since then I have been continuing to clock up my miles in the hope of getting to 2000 miles come the end of the year! My weekly total has been 39, bringing my annual total to 1,073 miles. If you are participating in the challenge, how are you doing?
For the first time since I can recall we have not one, but two herring gull nests around our house. They have made nests on nearby chimney stacks. One nest had three chicks, whereas the other only two. On Friday we noticed that the nest with three chicks only had two. On further inspection David found a grim discovery. One of the chicks had fallen (or been thrown) from the nest. He was stranded on a roof and come Saturday morning his body was no longer there. Sad times.
This weekend, David made some more cupcakes. He made peanut butter ones and some Victoria sponges for me. Yummy!
The Aviary (part 2:)
On a happier note to end with, on Saturday David and I visited a pet shop in Warrington. We were looking for a mate for Star our star finch but they only sold pairs. So we opted for a male black head/purple chest Lady Gouldian. I named him Nero. He is a beauty! He has been trying to catch the eye of our resident female. I hope he is successful.
I find it difficult to ID trees, so I decided to make an attempt at some identification. I pass lots of trees on my route to work, so collected some leaves as I walked.
If you think I may have got these wrong please correct me. Thanks.
Oak: I was ok identifying this native leaf but then I read that there are two types of oak in the UK, English oak and sessile. Possibly this is a sessile oak which prefers the north? Oak trees can grow up to 40m in height and won’t produce acorns until 40 years of age!
Ash: I think this is a compound ash leaf but not 100%. They can live up to 400 years, longer if coppiced.
Sycamore: Again not 100% on this. It could be a maple or guelder rose. Another long lived tree. Fruits are known as samaras, or helicopters in Liverpool. Do you know them by a different name?
Hawthorn: I thought I would finish on an easy one, as I’ve just ordered one from The Woodland Trust. Hawthorns are native and in spring their leaves are edible. They can grow to 15m but are usually used as hedgerows.
These were just a few of the leaves I collected. I think a couple more were from a hazel and silver birch but not certain. I really need to buy a book on tree identification. If you have any suggestions let me know.
Recently, I’ve been itching to write a blog post but I’ve not had any new material. So the next best thing is to compile a Sunday Sevens, devised by Natalie at Threads and bobbins and update you on that I’ve been up to this past week!
I’m still counting my miles. This week I managed to walk 42 miles, bringing my annual total (to date) to 1,265 miles. I also attached my 2018 medal to the framed certificate. You can get your medal from the #walk1000miles shop.
2018 – Certificate and medal
David and I attended a party to celebrate the elopement of my cousin and his wife. They married earlier in the year in Las Vegas, with an Elvis impersonator officiating. The party at Leaf had a Las Vegas theme. There was also a photo booth for the guests to play around with.
Recently I obtained another Beatrix Potter 50 pence. This time it was Benjamin Bunny who I found in my change!
Swim Wild: The Wild Swimming Brothers
Book I Am Reading:
I am currently reading, and enjoying Swim Wild, a book written by the Wild Swimming Brothers, Jack, Calum and Robbie Hudson.
Terracotta Display – Liverpool
The Golden Horse of Maoling
I treated mum to a visit to Liverpool’s World Museum to see the Terracotta Warrior exhibition. I didn’t take that many pictures this time as I had already visited the display in March with David. You can read about that visit here. Mum seemed to enjoy the exhibit and I managed to see the Golden Horse of Maoling, which wasn’t featured in the display when I visited in March.
Another Sparrowhawk Visit:
This Friday, just after evening dinner, I looked out towards the yarden and spied a female sparrowhawk. It was the same female who visited and snacked on a starling not two weeks earlier! You can read more about sparrowhawks here. She was sitting on the roof opposite, watching as all the goldfinches flittered past, wanting their evening meal. In turn, David and I watched her for about an hour. She sat patently, awaiting an easy target. Unfortunately, (for her prey) she did get a kill. This time it was a baby goldfinch. It’s a sad spectacle but also fascinating to witness. This female now knows lots of birds visit the yarden. I wonder if she will visit again in future?
I wasn’t going to do a ‘flavour’ of 2017 post. I have struggled with finding new recipes to try this year. However after looking at pictures on my phone I have come to the conclusion that I have taken enough pictures to warrant a post. So here’s a ‘taste’ of my 2017!
I hope you enjoy!
Roasted Vegetable Parcels
Roasted vegetable parcels have become a staple to our yearly menu. They are full of roasted red onions, peppers and cherry tomatoes. Wrapped up in a toasted tortilla with tomato puree and mozzarella. Served on a bed of salad leaves, they are delicious!
While David made a Victoria sponge, I was enjoying red velvet cakes and cucumber sandwiches. Part of an afternoon tea at Jam Liverpool.
Afternoon Tea at Jam
Another recipe I go back to time and time again is Chungah’s, one pot stuffed pepper casserole. I use bulgur wheat instead of ground beef and add a little bit more water. The result is a delicious, wholesome meal.
One pan stuffed pepper casserole
After a meltdown in the kitchen, David took up the knives and oven gloves and managed to whip up a vegetable masala, with microwaved spicy Bombay potatoes.
A first for David and I in 2017, was attempting to make elder-flower champagne. It may have only stayed fizzy for 30 Days Wild, but it will be something we will attempt to make again next year. It made for a refreshing early summer’s drink. The whole family enjoyed it!
A chippie tea from The Old Keswickian was enjoyable, especially at the lakeside of Derwentwater during our summer visit to Keswick.
Chips by Derwentwater
Three bean quinoa chili
A three bean quinoa chilli (picture above), recipe from oh my veggies, is so filling and makes so may servings. I literally have three bean quinoa chilli for my work lunches, five days a week!! It’s as spicy as you want. I usually put in half a teaspoon of chilli powder! It’s so full of beans and vegetables, it’s become a staple in my repertoire.
During a week off work I treated mum to a rich cream tea at Leaf, Liverpool. It was jummy!
Brown Lentil Chilli
Another staple dinner I go to when I have no idea what to cook is a Brown Lentil Chilli, from Katya on A Little Broken. I serve the meal for two with toasted tortillas.
Spicy bean and sausage casserole
Another recipe I return to is The Vegan Household’s/Gourmet Vegan, spicy butter bean and (vegan) sausage casserole. I use different sausage brands from Asda’s own to Linda McCartney, so not always vegan. However the result is always delicious and very filling!
Unfortunately the only pictures of the little mince pies I made this year were taken as part of the #7dayblackandwhitephotochallenge on Instagram. I used pre-made short crust pastry, but I think I’ll make my own next year.
So there you are, a flavour of my 2017!
Let me know if you have tried any of the recipes featured? Or my post has inspired you to try some of them!
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.
Coffee cake and chocolate ganache
The English Girl
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?
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!
Image from Pinterest
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.
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.
Three bean quinoa chili
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!
I thought I’d participate in this weeks Sunday Sevens devised by Natalie. Here’s some of the things I filled my week with.
Gardening: David and I spent three hours in the yarden yesterday, it was tiring work. I replanted some bulbs and re-potted my honeysuckle into a bigger pot. While David pruned the jasmin and passion flower, I sowed wildflower, poppy and borage seeds for the pollinators come summer. We also planted some maris bard chits in the hope of harvesting (once again) our own grown potatoes. While we worked, the song of a blackbird was a joy to hear.
Reading: This March as part of my continued participation in the Year in Books, I have been reading The English Girl by Katherine Webb. I may not be on course for my 40 books in the year but I am managing at least 1-2 books a month.
The English Girl
David Tennant with Olivia Colman
TV: The third series of Broadchurch has recently started on ITV. David Tennant reprises his role as moody detective, Alec Hardy. It’s made me realise how much I have missed seeing him on the small screen!
Walk 1000 miles: My tally for this past week has been 18 miles, bringing my total from 1st January to 12th March to 230 miles. My miles are mainly made up of city walking and exercise. I’m very much looking forward to long summer walks in the countryside which should boost my final total come December.
Eating out: This week has seen me out and about in Liverpool. On Tuesday I met up with my ‘boss’ for a catch up at Leaf, (you can read the post here,) and then on Thursday after a Dr’s appointment I enjoyed a nice tea-cake and coffee with Mum at Costa.
Where there’s tea, there’s hope.
Mum at Costa
Baking: David has taken over the kitchen! He has been baking cakes! He attempted a lemon drizzle cake, the result was a very moist cake! I added fruit with mine, blueberries being my favourite at the moment. 🙂
Lemon Drizzle Cake
So there you have it, my week in pictures. Did you get up to anything fun? I wish you a good week ahead.
Recently I met up with the lady I work with, Sue and her new guide dog, Kallie for lunch in Liverpool. With both of us not being ‘girls about town’ we were scratching our heads as to where to go for lunch. I know there are a myriad of places to visit but I was after somewhere were you weren’t turfed out after about an hour. Then I recalled an independent tea shop and restaurant in Bold Street, Leaf. I remembered visiting with a student of mine, now friend, years ago. I searched my blog and found that the visit was three years ago! How time flies!!
We visited Leaf at probably the most busiest time of day, 12 noon. The restaurant covers two floors with stages for live bands. The furniture is made up of an eclectic mix of wooden tables, picnic tables, leather sofas, arm chairs and plastic canteen chairs. Drapes cover the walls in a building that was once a tea shop, cinema, then clothes shop.
We were advised by one of the friendly staff that there were more tables upstairs which was less busy at that time. So we hit the button on the lift and made our way to the 1st floor.
At no point was the presence of Kallie an issue. A firm reminder to less welcoming establishments of Guide Dogs for the blind’s Access all Areas campaign.
We chose a table in the corner, where there was lots of natural light coming from the tall art deco styled windows. The first floor felt light and airy. There was a relaxed feel to the place, which I also got the first time I visited. Service was top notch. There were complaints in that area (nor any other for that matter). Our order for drinks and food was taken at the table, though you can opt to order at the bar.
There is a varied choice of lose leaf tea available. Sue chose the English Breakfast Tea and I the Ceylon. We both ordered for lunch the Pepper and Tomato Soup, which we did not have to wait too long for.
Where there’s tea, there’s hope.
Pepper and Tomato Soup
The soup was delicious, warming and of good proportion, it was served with a slice of focaccia bread. It also stayed warm for over half an hour as we took our time chatting and catching up. The Ceylon tea was aromatic and better served with no milk, much like the Darjeeling at Jam.
After about an hour we decided to prolong our stay and ordered a Leaf Cream Tea which consisted of another pot of tea (of your choice) and a scone, with clotted cream and jam. At £5.95 I thought was good value. The pots of tea filled three small cups. In total we had six small cups each! It was a very wet, caffeine filled afternoon!
Leaf Cream Tea
I liked the presentation of the cream tea and the scone was ‘huge’! I went home feeling very full!
In all we spent three and a half hours at leaf and not once did we feel the need to vacate our table. The service was friendly and approachable and the meals were value for money.
I would definitely visit Leaf for lunch again in the future.
Have you had a meal at Leaf? They have restaurants in Liverpool and Manchester. What was your experience like?
It is thanks once again to the lovely Sharon from Sunshine and Celandines for informing me of this Saturday’s #photoanhour challenge. I don’t use Instagram much, so here’s my photo an hour in blog form.
Photo and Hour – 18th February 2017
8am to 9am:
It always seems that these photo an hour challenges fall on days when I have nothing planned! My Saturday began like every other day, with me getting up to make my breakfast. Granola and black coffee, a perfect start to the day!
Granola and coffee for breakfast
9am to 10am:
We visited my mum (next door) and spotted a lone daffodil standing proudly in her back yarden.
The weekly shop
10am to 12 noon:
Saturday is usually grocery shopping day but once we had unpacked the day’s purchases, David and I headed for the M62 and for garden centres/pet shops around Widnes. One of the garden centres we frequent, White Moss stands opposite the imposing Fiddlers Ferry (coal) power station.
Fiddlers Ferry Power Station
12 noon to 1pm:
Clipsley Pets and Aquatics
Sadly we did not find what we were looking for in Widnes, so we drove to pet shops in Warrington, before stopping at Clipsley Pets and Aquatics, in Haydock. We have been visiting Clipsley for the past three years and have bought most of our aviary from them. We visited today with just the intention of looking!
1pm to 2pm:
Who’s in there?
Travelling home seemed to take ages, more so with excitable new friends sitting in these boxes! 😀
2pm to 4pm:
After a busy morning, the afternoon was much more relaxing. David and I watched on while our new friends settled into their new home. Welcome to the aviary, Set (Gouldian Finch), Leaf (Blue Faced Parrot Finch) and Paris (Owl Finch). How beautiful are they? After all the sadness of the past few weeks, they have made me so happy! 😀
Gouldian and Blue Faced Parrot Finch
4pm to 5pm:
With the sun trying to break through the clouds, David and I pottered about the yarden. I re-planted an Euonymus Japonicuswhich was looking sad at the front of the house.
Euonymus Japonicus Pierrolino
5pm to 6pm:
After doing some housework and before cooking the evening’s meal, I enjoyed a moment of calm by looking up at the clouds coloured by the setting sun.
6pm to 7:30pm:
This evenings dinner was a one pot stuffed pepper casserole. I just substituted the beef with bulgur wheat and topped David’s off with a chicken breast. It made for a wholesome meal.
One pan stuffed pepper casserole
7:30pm to 8pm:
I ended my photo an hour challenge by sitting in the living room and watched as the finches paired up and explored their new surroundings.
How have you spent your Saturday?
Thanks to Janey and Louisa for setting up the challenge.