December Photo Challenge 2018 – Day Twelve

Day Twelve: For today’s photo prompt, that of comfort in a mug, I decided to twist the meaning and plumped for comfort in a glass. I opted to make mulled wine and followed the recipe from Jamie Oliver. Below find the ingredients and method for one bottle of wine.

mulled wine2

Mulled Wine

Spiced and Warming Mulled Wine – Jamie Oliver

Ingredients

  • 1 clementines
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 lime
  • 100 g caster sugar
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • 1 whole nutmeg , for grating (1/3 tea spoon of ground)
  • 1/2 vanilla pod
  • 1 bottle red wine
  • 1 star anise

Method

  1. Peel large sections of peel from the clementines, lemon and lime using a speed-peeler.
  2. Put the sugar in a large saucepan over a medium heat, add the pieces of peel and squeeze in the clementine juice.
  3. Add the cloves, cinnamon stick, bay leaves and about 10 to 12 gratings of nutmeg. Halve the vanilla pod length ways and add to the pan, then stir in just enough red wine to cover the sugar.
  4. Let this simmer until the sugar has completely dissolved into the red wine, then bring to the boil. Keep on a rolling boil for about 4 to 5 minutes, or until you’ve got a beautiful thick syrup. The reason I’m doing this first is to create a wonderful flavour base by really getting the sugar and spices to infuse and blend well with the wine. It’s important to make a syrup base first because it needs to be quite hot, and if you do this with both bottles of wine in there you’ll burn off the alcohol.
  5. When your syrup is ready, turn the heat down to low and add your star anise and the rest of the wine. Gently heat the wine and after around 5 minutes, when it’s warm and delicious, ladle it into heatproof glasses and serve.

It made for a spicy warming drink, but neither David nor my mum liked it. Perhaps I should just keep to red wine in future?

Have you tried making mulled wine?

Thanks for stopping by,

Christine x

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December Photo Challenge 2018 – Day Eleven

knife angelDay Eleven: For today’s photo prompt of angel, I decided to post a picture of The Knife Angel. The recent installation of this eye catching, emotive sculpture by Alfie Bradley can be seen outside the West Door to the Liverpool Anglican Cathedral until 31st January 2019. The 27ft tall sculpture is composed of 100,000 knives collected from amnesties across the UK. ‘The Knife Angel shows solidarity with all affected by knife crime,’ states the cathedral’s website. The sculpture is a very striking piece, the skill is in the art of making the knife blades look like wing feathers. I was very impressed.

Do you like sculpture? What is your favourite piece?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

December Photo Challenge 2018 – Day Nine

riley and santa paws

Riley meeting Santa Paws

Day Nine: Today’s prompt is pets. It’s been a special day for Riley. Today he got to meet the one and only Santa Paws! Merseyside Dogs Home have an annual charity event, Santa Paws is Coming to Town at the Baltic Market. This year we just had to go along and see the event ourselves.

On a bright winters morning, David, Riley and I walked the two miles to the Baltic Market in the old Cains Brewery building. We got there 45 minutes early so wandered around for a bit before queuing up, patiently awaiting the time to meet Santa Paws. We were first in the queue but were soon joined by other like minded people all bringing their pooches to see Santa Paws.

Riley was a little nervous meeting Santa Paws but David managed to snap a few good pictures of both ‘dogs’ together. After our quick meeting we smooched around the stalls of dog treats and accessories on offer from independent traders, before heading the two miles back home.

Santa Paws is Coming to Town is a fantastic way to raise much needed funds fo Merseyside Dogs Home. David, Riley and I have wonderful memories of the day.

Have you done anything festive with your pets?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

 

December Photo Challenge 2018 – Day Eight

shoppingDay Eight: Today’s photo prompt is shopping. David and I took a visit to Liverpool City Centre to shop for further Christmas gifts for the family. I was disappointed in the shops we visited as many didn’t have much in the way of Christmas decorations and there were no Christmas tunes to be heard! We walked 11,000 steps and five miles searching for the perfect gifts.

It’s been a tiring day.

Have you started your Christmas shopping yet?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

December Photo Challenge 2018

Since I loved blogging every day this year for The Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild. I decided to trawl the internet for photo/blog challenges for December. There were many ideas on Pinterest but none were current. So I decided to create my own from a couple of suggestions I found. Here’s what I came up with.

1. Christmas Tree
2. Advent
3. Snow
4. Christmas tunes
5. Penguin/s
6. Weather
7. Front Door
8. Shopping
9. Pet/s
10. Christmas book
11. Angel
12. Comfort in a mug
13. Christmas Movie
14. Christmas Jumper
15. Hygge
16. Winter Walk/Outdoors
17. Decoration
18. Stocking/s
19. Wrapping
20. Baking treats
21. Winter Solstice
22. Tradition
23. In remembrance
24. Christmas Eve
25. Merry Christmas!
26. Family
27. Gift
28. Grateful for ?
29. This year – a reflection
30. Goals for 2019 (if any)
31. A toast!

After I had compiled my list, I decided to do another online search with a hashtag and found a few current lists on Instagram. The hashtag I used was, #decemberphotochallenge2018, if anyone would like to join me?

Have you ever been interested in blogging for a month? Already have, if so what did you like/dislike about the experience? What suggestions for December would you have chosen for your list?

Thanks for reading and have a happy December!

Christine x

My Birthday Swim 2018

For my 42nd birthday next week I want to go for a swim, but I am having trouble choosing the right one. So I need your help in making the decision. Below, find a selection of four swims, two from Snowdonia and two from the Lake District. Which one would you prefer?

Snowdonia:

Llyn Padarn

I attempted to swim in Llyn Padarn for last years birthday but found that it got busy later on in the day. If I was to go back again this year I would go much earlier. Perhaps see the sunrise?

Llyn Idwal

What better than to revisit the place where my wild swimming bug was born. Another one for an early start as the area gets busy. Do you know of any easy walks nearby? We’ve walked the circumference of Idwal and Ogwen in the past.

The Lake District:

Windermere

A perfect autumnal walk to Todd Crag would be a good accompaniment to a dip in iconic Windermere.

Angle Tarn (Langdale)

I first saw this swim/walk on swimmingthelakes, I didn’t know there was more than one Angle Tarn! This tarn is not far from Stickle Tarn which we visited in June. It has a similar look to Stickle.

Which swim would you like to see me do next?

Thanks,

Christine x

Glencoe and Loch Etive

Since holidaying in the town of Fort William our journey to and back home passed the famous Glencoe valley. The Three Sisters need no introduction. Bidean nam Bian as they are also named, create the picturesque and iconic scene which so many travellers have photographed. On our journey home we had to stop off and take a picture of this wondrous mountain range.

glencoe

However before we headed towards the Glencoe valley, we paid a short visit to Glencoe Lochan, some 20 minutes drive from Fort William.

Glencoe Lochan is a man made lochan created by Lord Strathcona in the 1890’s. Lord Strathcona was governor general of Canada before returning to Scotland. He created a landscape planted with North American trees to aid his homesick Canadian wife. However Lord Strathcona’s attempts failed and the couple later emigrated to Canada. Today some people comment that the lochan looks like a miniature Lake Louise in British Columbia.  I had planned on a wild swim here, but on the day the water looked brown and uninviting and there was no easy entrance into the lochan. Sadly I gave this swim up and made my way towards Glencoe and Glen Etive.

glencoe lochan 1

Glencoe Lochan

Glen Etive is some 30 minutes drive along the A82 from Glencoe. The Glen is accessible via a winding single track road with passing places. As we drove deeper into the Glen, a white rapid River Etive surged to our left. In the distance low lying clouds drifted enticingly over the loch. There is a car park to the north end of Loch Etive with some access to the loch-side. On arrival I noticed a distinct salty scent to the air, thus being because Loch Etive is a sea-loch.

loch etive 1

Loch Etive

We made our way to the shoreline and stood on a sandy beach overlooking Loch Etive. Though the entrance looked inviting, I wanted somewhere more secluded. So we headed south towards a small ruined jetty, where once ferries docked. Having found a decent entrance point I began my rigmarole of getting ready for a swim. I don’t know whether it is because I chose poplar viewpoints to access the water but whenever I go for a swim, I always seem to draw a crowd. Loch Etive was no different. While I was fighting the rain and midges whilst trying to strap various accouterments to my person I noticed a man with a dog watching from the jetty, then a young couple joined him. Then to my horror a man with a fishing rod was seen poking his head from the jetty wall. From experience and reading stories from others’ I know that swimmers and fishermen do not mix! I was fearful of confrontation! Thankfully, I kept my distance and the fisherman seemed to go back to his watch.

The entrance to Loch Eive was deceptive. Though the shallows looked rocky, it soon smoothed out into a bed of sand and seaweed. Much like Loch Lomond, I walked out into the water. I really enjoyed the swim in Loch Etive and was in the water for around 15 minutes. Terrence the thermometer clocked 13° but it felt much warmer.

While swimming, the man with the dog walked to the loch-side and stood chatting with David. His dog (a terrier) barked at me, and I wanted him to come swim with me, but he wasn’t that kind of dog. So I swam alone. As time passed the rain grew heavier. Worried for David, I cut short my swim and stumbled back onto land, where I hurried into my Dryrobe® and threw everything into my rucksack. I would get dry and changed in the relative warm confines of the car.

Loch Etive was my final swim in Scotland for 2018. Perhaps I can get up again next year?

Have you swam in a Scottish Loch? Visited Glencoe and the surrounding area?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

12 Hours of Day #10

It is with many thanks to Louise at Ramblings of a Roachling, for informing me of the future dates for #photoanhour on Instagram. I knew there was one planned for when we came back from holidaying in Scotland. So on Saturday 22nd September I logged onto Instagram and noticed other Instagramers posting about #photoanhour. I decided to join in. So here’s what I got up to during my 12 hours of day!

Photo an Hour – 22nd September 2018

8am to 9am:

My Saturday began like any other day, with coffee and granola. However my day could so easily have begun at 6.30am when we were rudely woken up by headbutts from Artie wanting us to get up!!

9am to 10am:

This Saturday we went shopping at Asda for our weekly shop. We haven’t been here for a while, as we have been ordering a delivery online most weeks. It was a shock to the system to be honest! We had become used to our food being delivered every week!

10am to 11am:

Since we missed Artie’s 4th birthday, as we were away in Scotland, we decided to buy him a present of a new scratch post. The other one he had had since he was a kitten and was looking sadly worse for wear!

11am to 12pm:

We took a visit to #purplecarrot for organic Discovery Apples. 😁 As soon as I knew they had them in stock, I was round there at the soonest opportunity! You all know by now my penchant for Discovery Apples! 😀

12pm to 1pm:

We popped in for a visit to David’s family and received cuddles from their Newfoundland Bennie. 😁

1pm to 2pm:

On our way home, we stopped off at Lister Drive Fisheries and bought some finch food for our aviary.

2pm to 3pm: 

Lunch was with a cup of tea and sampling the Discovery Apples I had bought from #purplecarrot. I love the cat ornament David’s mum gave us from her recent holiday.

3pm to 4pm:

I had a date with Henry! A quick clean of the house was much needed!

4pm to 5pm:

I took to chopping lots of vegetables, ready to be roasted for the evening’s dinner. 😊 We were making roasted vegetable parcels. Always a hit in our house!

5pm to 6pm:

While the vegetables were roasting, I set the table. I like a nice, romantically lit dining room.

6pm to 7pm:

Dinner of scrumptious roasted vegetable parcels with salad was mmm… tasty!😁

7pm to 8pm:

I spent the remainder of the evening catching up with composing blog posts.

How did you spend your Saturday?

Thanks to Janey and Louisa for setting up the challenge, and thank you for reading,

Christine x

The Sparrowhawk

Sparrowhawks have featured a few times on my blog. The first was a fleeting visit where I didn’t even have time to pick up my camera. The second visit, last year, was of a male sparrowhawk surveying the area.

The most recent visitation by this enigmatic bird arrived on a dreary August bank holiday Monday. David was just about to do the dishes when he exclaimed, ‘there’s a sparrowhawk on the wall!’

sparrowhawk female

Female Sparrowhawk

For the next half hour or so we both watched on amazed as a female sparrowhawk sat on the wall and devoured her prey, a poor little starling. We had never seen a sparrowhawk with its prey before. It was a bit gruesome and sad for the starling but you have to think with your head and not with your heart on these matters. If there were no small birds for the sparrowhawk to prey upon, then there would be no sparrowhawks either.

Due to their prey being primarily songbirds (they do eat small mammals too), sparrowhawks often come into conflict with birdwatchers. However there is no correlation between a dip in songbirds and predation by sparrowhawks. In the past there have been two studies on the influence of predation and songbird numbers. Both studies noted that there was in fact more of an increase in songbird numbers than an actual negative correlation when predated by sparrowhawks. Sparrowhawks are noted to prey on the old and infirm, creating a survival of the fittest gene pool for songbirds. Sparrowhawks feed mainly on sparrows, tits, finches and starlings, however female sparrowhawks can hunt birds as large as a pigeon. Recent research led me to discover that the sparrowhawk sometimes does not quickly dispatch of it’s prey. Anything bigger than a sparrow will face a lingering death while being eaten, if a vital organ/artery is not punctured. It made for a sobering read.

The sparrowhawk has in the past been subjected to persecution by trophy hunters and in the 1950’s their numbers crashed due to usage of pesticides such as DDT in farming. It was only after DDT was banned and the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981 was passed protecting sparrowhawks, that their numbers increased.

The sparrowhawk is one of the UK’s smallest birds of prey. It is the perfect ambush predator, easily maneuvering in enclosed spaces such as woodland and gardens. However only 1 in 10 hunts result in a meal for the sparrowhawk. Females can be up to 25% larger than males. Sparrowhawks are relatively short lived, their maximum age is around 3 years, but some can live to around seven. They are found all over the UK apart from the Highlands of Scotland. Their eyes change colour with age, starting green and growing more yellow with maturity.

Sparrowhawks are seen as a top predator and their presence indicates that the bird population in an area is healthy. Though it was unpleasant to witness the sparrowhawk with its prey, I was amazed at seeing her in the yarden. Nature after all isn’t sunshine and flowers. I must be doing something right with the feeding of the little birds in order to bring the larger birds to the area.

Have you come close to a sparrowhawk? Seen one with it’s kill? What are your thoughts on UK raptors?

Thanks for reading,

Christine.


Further reading:

Some of the web resources I visited while compiling this blog were:

Springwatch.

Discover Wildlife.

British Bird Lovers.

RSPB.

Living with Birds.

30 Days Wild 2018 – Day Thirty

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_30Day 30: I can’t quite believe that June is almost over! How quick the month has flown. The Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild has been wonderful in focusing the mind to the nature that is all around. Also blogging everyday has been challenging but ultimately enjoyable. Would I do it all again? Probably. There is so much out there to see and learn.

Today’s post, from Lunt Meadows Nature Reserve is a little bit different. I decided to make you all a message via a vlog. I hope you enjoy my celebration of 2018’s 30 Days Wild? Thanks to David for piecing the video together.

During our walk through Lunt Meadows there were so many butterflies, I lost count! Meadow browns, tortoiseshells and red admirals were among the numbers. The highlight for me was seeing avocets hovering and chattering overhead. It looked like they were having a heated argument with some geese!

June 2018 has well and truly been a month to remember and thank you for following me in my wild adventures!

If you have participated in 30 Days Wild this year, what have been your highlights?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x