Sunday Sevens #23

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 WebbI may not be on course for my 40 books in the year but I am managing at least 1-2 books a month.

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.

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. 🙂

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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.

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

‘Ladies that Lunch’ at Leaf – Liverpool.

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!!

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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.

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!

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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?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Scenes from the Lake District. (Hodge Close and Hermiston Guest House).

The post holiday blues have hit fiercely! We were only gone for three nights, yet getting back to ‘normality’ seems hard to accept. I’ve had a little cry and now looking ahead to all the good things I have planned for the year! Seeing Hans Zimmer again this summer at the Liverpool Echo Arena, has to be one of the highlights!

Time is a strange anomaly. I spent the better half of two months planning walks and sightseeing for our second short break to the Lake District. I blink and now it’s gone! Our three night break passed by so quickly but as Sharon from Sunshine and Celandines said, we ‘certainly fitted a lot in’! 😀

David and I left Liverpool an hour later than planned, due to getting things ready for my mum to stop by twice daily to check on Artie and the finches. I thank her for doing that. I think Artie enjoyed the company. 🙂

Once on the M62 and M6 it took just two hours to get to our first destination, that of Hodge Close Quarry. We arrived at 1pm, just in time for packed lunch! Dodging the showers, we spent the rest of our time walking around the quarry, taking pictures. I don’t think David was impressed as he never got his camera out!

At 3pm we decided to head towards our B&B for three nights, Hermiston in Braithwaite, only 5-10 minutes drive from Keswick. You can read about our first visit to Hermiston, here.

On arrival at 4pm we were greeted by Phil and Helen who welcomed us back warmly with hugs and handshakes. It was lovely to see them again. Phil even carried my very heavy suitcase up to our room for the duration of the break, Skiddaw. It was the same room we stayed in last year. It looked a lot different this time around as they had been renovating, there were even new bathrooms fitted!

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Skiddaw

As customary we were offered tea, coffee and cake in the guest lounge and spent a good half hour catching up with Phil and Helen. David enjoyed the homemade lemon cake by Helen and we even perused the many books on walks, photography and cooking on the book shelf. The guest lounge has everything you need, comfy sofas, a warming wood burning stove and even board games.

Our room was comfortable and warm. The view from the window of the Skiddaw mountain range showed the peaks in their winter garb. The room was freshly painted with luxurious feature wallpaper, new bedroom furniture, art deco bedside lamps and USB plug sockets (very handy for charging phones)! There was a fresh new carpet smell every-time we entered the room.

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View from Skiddaw room

The bathrooms were lovely! Double headed showers and the wall tiles were just gorgeous! We did not want for nothing! There was complimentary coffee/tea, hot chocolate and a kettle in the room, along with a fridge in the hall with fresh milk, much better than that UHT stuff!

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Middle Ruddings Inn and Restaurant

We booked ahead for our evening meal at Middle Ruddings, just 5 minutes walk down the road from Hermiston. The family run hotel and restaurant gets very busy with locals and is dog friendly too. David and I had a table booked for 6pm!

The service was informal, we were offered homemade bread while we waited for our meal. David took the bread with bits of bacon in it. We did not wait too long for our order, around 20 minutes. I liked the general knowledge cards at every table.

David ordered the Oven roast cod fillet and chorizo with a plate of homemade chips and vegetables. I chose the Vegetarian Casserole, which had haricot beans, chickpeas and tomatoes served with basmati rice and came with mash potato. The meal sounded nice, however it turned out to be quite bland. I had high hopes for this meal and was left feeling deflated, it tasted more of stock and basmati than anything else.

I was also gutted that the crumble pudding of the day was not apple or rhubarb, it was banoffee. We paid the bill and returned for a hot shower and relax at Hermiston. We went to bed early, ready for a long day of walking ahead.

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

12 Hours of Day #4

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!

9am to 10am:

We visited my mum (next door) and spotted a lone daffodil standing proudly in her back yarden.

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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.

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Fiddlers Ferry Power Station

12 noon to 1pm:

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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:

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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! 😀

4pm to 5pm:

With the sun trying to break through the clouds, David and I pottered about the yarden. I re-planted an Euonymus Japonicus which was looking sad at the front of the house.

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.

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.

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Finch aviary

How have you spent your Saturday?

Thanks to Janey and Louisa for setting up the challenge.

Christine x

Afternoon Tea at Jam – Liverpool

It was a dismal February day, with leaden grey clouds and a chilling north wind. To brighten the mood, I made an advanced booking at local restaurant and bar, Jam. It was thanks to my friend Kelly who gifted me a voucher for afternoon tea, that we visited this restaurant. We had not been before.

Our table was booked for 12.15pm. On arrival, the maître d’ was expecting us and showed David and I to our table with a view of the busy street beyond.

The restaurant is small but well designed. It gave a luxurious vibe without being pretentious. I had had second thoughts about booking for a Saturday at lunch time as I thought the place would be heaving. Thankfully it was not. There were other people enjoying afternoon tea and a party celebrating a baby shower but that was it. I suppose it would be busier of an evening.

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Darjeeling Tea

We sat down with the drinks menu and had a choice from over 20+ teas. I chose the Darjeeling (floral, much better without milk) and David had the afternoon blend (which he thought was quite strong). The drinks came in teapots, enough for three cups, and small metal pails for the milk. We were asked later on if we needed hot water top ups for our teapots.

The maître d’ asked for any dietary requirements. I ordered the vegetarian afternoon tea. I was happy as I thought the choice of afternoon tea would be limited with the voucher but it wasn’t. My sandwiches were a little different to David’s when the cake trays arrived, one for each of us! I’ll list the choice of sandwiches and cakes below.

The only other afternoon tea I can make a comparison with is my trip to Browns last year. Though Jam’s price was a little higher for two people, I found the quality was much better! You certainly got more for your money!

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Vegetarian Afternoon Tea

Vegetarian Afternoon Tea:

  • Cucumber and cream cheese roll
  • Fried onion and pepper roll
  • Tomato and hallumi roll
  • Grated cheese roll

(All the cakes were homemade.)

  • Sponge cake
  • Nutty chocolate brownie
  • Trifle
  • Fudge
  • Homemade scone (it was still warm) with clotted cream and homemade jam

Afternoon Tea:

  • Ham roll
  • Smoked salmon roll
  • Egg roll
  • Cucumber and cream cheese roll
  • The cakes and scone was the same as above
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Afternoon Tea at Jam

The homemade fudge was sweet and rich, though I couldn’t eat too much of it. David enjoyed the chocolate brownies, indeed, he ate mine too! He said they were moist and nutty. The trifle was smooth and the mixture of cream and custard was delicious! The jam was a little tart but it didn’t detract from the gorgeous fluffy and fruity scones!

Service was good and they even did doggie bags! Our left overs came all wrapped up in silver foil with a handle!

Overall, I enjoyed the afternoon tea experience at Jam. I was even happier that I got the vegetarian option! David enjoyed the cakes but said the choice of sandwiches were not to his liking.

I’ll rate this afternoon tea an 8/10!

Do you enjoy afternoon teas? What are your experiences of them?

Thanks for reading,

Christine (and David!) x

2016 – A Year in Food.

With New Year drawing closer, it got me thinking what posts I should do as a round up of the year! One idea was ‘a year in food,’ to post 12 pictures that give a flavour of 2016! I have followed many recipes this year and prepared hundreds of dishes, (some successful, others not!), so I thought I would do a little summary.

I hope you enjoy!

January:

 At the start of the New Year I was determined to make meals that were filling, yet healthy and with produce that help reduce cholesterol. So one of the meals I made was a Red Lentil, Chickpea and Chilli soup.

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Red Lentil, Chickpea and Chilli Soup

Lentils are a good source of fiber, help with stabilising blood sugars and promote heart health.

You can find the original recipe here.

February:

The 28th of February was Global Scouse Day! Scouse is the signature dish of the city of Liverpool, usually made with meat. I prefer this vegetarian version with butter-beans called Blind Scouse.

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Blind Scouse

You can find the original recipe here:

March:

One recipe I have returned to time and time again this year has been this One Pan Mexican Quinoa. It is healthy, filling and can be used with either quinoa or brown rice. It’s a very versatile dish. I see me making this for many years to come.

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One Pan Mexican Quinoa

You can find the original recipe here: 

April:

This Pearl Barley Risotto with a crumbling of goats cheese would have been nice if it wasn’t for the very off putting buttery taste. I may attempt the recipe again, but leave out the butter!

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Pearl Barley Risotto

You can find the original recipe here:

May:

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Vegetable and Quorn Sausage Frittata

I am not a big lover of eggs, but this 4-6 egg Vegetable and Quorn Sausage Frittata was surprisingly filling and enjoyable.

June:

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Sea Turtle loaves

As I participated in The Wildlife Trust’s 30 Days Wild. I decided to get creative in the kitchen and made some mini loaves in the shape of Sea Turtles.

You can find the original recipe here:

July:

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Bramley Apple Pie

One of David’s friends kindly gifted us a load of Bramley apples. For weeks after I was baking and eating apple pies! They were yummy though!

The recipe I used was one by the Hairy Bikers.

August:

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Vegetable Tagine

I got the recipe for this Vegetable Tagine from a free Asda booklet. It makes a tasty dish with lots of different textures. For David, I complete it by topping it with a chicken breast, while for myself, I chop up a Quorn chicken style fillet for added protein.

September: 

A meal we don’t make too often and we should as it’s yummy, are these Spicy Mexican Bean Burgers. The recipe can be changed for any type of beans found in your store-cupboard. I serve with mounds of fresh salad.

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Spicy Mexican Bean Burger

October: 

I am not a big fan of pastry, however I decided to try this Indian Samosa Casserole. I like Indian spices so that was a plus. It served 3 to 4 people generously. I will definitely be trying the recipe again.

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Indian Samosa Caserole

You can find the original recipe here:

November:

Another dish I have made quite a few times this year is this Quinoa and Bean Soup. The original recipe called for white beans but I just used whatever beans I found in the store-cupboard! I have cooked a lot with quinoa this year due to its many health benefits.

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Quinoa and Bean Soup

December:

For the final meal, I thought I would choose the wonderful Curried Red Lentils. I have been cooking this easy peasy dish since the summer. I even make a big batch of them and take them to work. They are scrumptious, keep me fueled all afternoon and are healthy! I even throw in a teaspoon of turmeric just for its cancer busting properties!

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Curried Red Lentils

You can find the original recipe here:

So there you have it, a flavour of my 2016!

Let me know if you have tried any of the recipes featured? Or my post has inspired you to try some of them!

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

#PoppiesTour – Caernarfon Castle.

If you have seen my previous posts about the poppies at Yorkshire Sculpture Park and Liverpool, you will know that I am trying to see them as they visit various places around the UK!

Sadly we never made the journey to see The Wave at Lincoln Castle, but I made sure we booked free tickets to see the Weeping Window at Caernarfon Castle! The event was hotly anticipated and we managed to get a time slot on the penultimate day the poppies were being displayed. All other Saturday’s had been booked up! So on the 19th November, David and I headed for the A55 and Caernarfon.

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Caernarfon Castle

Caernarfon Castle has always been on my list of places to visit. Seeing the poppies and the castle together was a perfect combination. Then add the free entrance to the castle whilst the poppies were at Caernarfon and it made for a fantastic day!

The castle was already bustling with people when we arrived at 11am. (Having parked the car for £4 at the harbour carpark). I have a feeling the castle has never been so popular as it has been since the poppies arrived! I now understand why you had to book a time slot to visit. The narrow staircases going up and down the towers were treacherous. It was bad enough climbing single file but when faced with people wanting to go past you on a narrow stone staircase, things grew a little scary! Thankfully we were only stuck on a tower’s staircase once, and I came away with a slightly grazed hand!

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Stairway

The poppies were as I remembered them. Their emblematic hue made people pause, silently in awe. We took hundreds of pictures of the poppies and below are a selection of the best!

Once we had seen the poppies, we made the most of the free entry and explored the castle. We walked along curtain walls, took in the views from the towers and even managed to dress up at the Welch Fusiliers Museum.

We spent a good two – three hours at the castle and I would recommend a visit if in the area.


From Caernarfon we headed home via two llyns (lakes). I was on the lookout for prospective swims for next year and two I had in mind, fitted the bill!

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Llyn Cwellyn

The first was Llyn Cwellyn, actually a reservoir. Sadly there wasn’t much of a walk along the lakeside and we were only at the lake for about an hour. (Having paid £2.50 parking fee for four hours!) To make the llyn wheelchair accessable there is a wooden walkway but sadly, there was only one actual ‘beach’ in which to enter the water.

However the water was crystal clear and the shingle floor looked an easy entrance into the llyn that seemed to deepen quickly. David and I were the only people at the llyn, (while others headed for highs such as Snowden). The area was so peaceful, the sun sitting low on the horizon, gave me a sudden wave of nostalgia. Wast Water came to mind. I wish I had brought my swimming costume with me and braved the cold!!

Afterwards, we headed towards Llyn Gwynant. Looking for parking places we passed Llyn Dinas which also looks a lovely place to swim!

We parked alongside Llyn Gwynant and headed for the shore. I got Terence (turtle thermometer) out and measured a very chilly 7°c!

Both llyns have got me super excited for next year. Spring/Summer 2017 can’t come quick enough!

Have you visited North Wales/Snowdonia? What are your favourite llyns?

Christine x

Wild October – Week Three

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Virginia Creeper

This week I have been out and about a little bit more than in previous weeks. While going for a coffee with mum, doing some temporary note-taking work and meeting up with a friend for lunch, I kept one eye looking for signs of autumn.

Slowly but surely Liverpool is becoming enveloped by autumnal colours. I took a leisurely walk around the University of Liverpool campus and visited Abercromby Square. Though still looking verdant, the tree tops are slowly turning golden. I also came across a Barbara Hepworth sculpture and one by Hubert Dalwood.

Since I have been getting up before the sunrise this week, I have seen some lovely skies.

Though the days (and especially the mornings) have that bitter chill to the air, there are still plenty of honey bees visiting the salvia.

On Thursday I met a friend in town. As I was standing waiting for the bus, a robin sat atop a gravestone in the nearby cemetery and sang to me sweetly. I just wish I had taken a photo of him, his presence filled my heart with gladness.

My friend and I took in a visit of the World Museum, which boasts a planetarium among its many assets. This got me thinking of the northern hemisphere’s night sky in autumn.

On a clear night looking north most people can identify the Plough, (Ursa Major), which points to the pole star, Polaris.

Looking south, the square of Pegasus is deemed the main autumn constellation. However, for me, the most autumn constellation is Orion to the east.

October is also the time of year for the Orionids, the remnants of Halley’s Comet. This meteor shower ranges between 16th – 26th of the month, peaking on the 21st.

And finally, I have found some informative resources on the Forestry Commission website. Follow the link for activity packs, mindfulness poems and an interactive map, showing the changing colours of various forests in the UK.

I’ll end this week with a recording of Tchaikovsky’s Autumn Song. Have you been following the changing seasons? What, if anything do you like about this time of year?

Christine x

Wild October – Week Two.

14581436_10154127912644200_6189808715109695428_nThis week has all been about fun with leaves!

At the weekend, I made a special effort to get out of the house. I dragged David and my mum along with me as I went in search of autumn!

We visited Liverpool’s Festival Gardens which I blogged about in June for 30 Day’s Wild. We took a leisurely walk around the Japanese and Chinese gardens before entering the woodland walk. I looked for signs of autumn, collected fallen leaves, fir cones, sycamore seeds and other seasonal detritus. I even relived my childhood by kicking leaves and blowing dandelion docks.

Back home, I arranged all that I had collected on a makeshift nature table. I was able to ID a few leaves. Maple, oak, birch and beech but I could not ID all, maybe you can do better?

dsc_0105-2While wondering what to do with my harvest, I was enjoying the writings of two fellow bloggers. Nicky at Too Lazy to Weed, writes about the nature in her garden and has many fascinating insights into moths and hedgehogs. Emma on her Discovery Hub, blogs and vlogs many facts about wildlife. Check them both out for more information!

During the week. I utilised the leaves I had collected to a) make a crown and b) make animal collages, though I have not got much artistry talent.

You may have wondered why the leaves change colour at all? Here’s a useful inforgram to explain things, better than I could!

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I thought the touching Shakespeare sonnet, 73 was in keeping with this theme.

That time of year thou may’st in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day,
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by-and-by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire
Consum’d with that which it was nourish’d by.
This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

So, as the nights are drawing in and the cold air makes me want to hibernate, I will end the post with Vivaldi’s Autumn, from his Four Seasons. Enjoy!

What, if anything are you enjoying about autumn?

Christine x