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.

10-to-11

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.

11-to-12

Fiddlers Ferry Power Station

12 noon to 1pm:

12-to-1

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:

1-to-2

Whose 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.

dsc_0557-2

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.

tea

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!

roll

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
tray-2

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.

20160119_173727 (2)

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.

20160228_180422

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.

20160319_180028 (2)

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!

20160402_181303

Pearl Barley Risotto

You can find the original recipe here:

May:

20160507_174555

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:

20160608_133722 (2)

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:

20160725_153515

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:

20160726_171216

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.

20160227_182000

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.

20161015_183319

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.

20160518_173007

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!

20160505_125801

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.

caernarfon-castle

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!

stairs

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!

llyn-cwellyn-2-a

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

20161017_114913

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!

c5c8504b312395fa87fa9fdbdffc04a6

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

Afternoon Tea at Browns – Liverpool

20160908_143323On Thursday I met up with an old ‘boss’, and friend, Sue and her guide dog Cath, for afternoon tea.

All week I had been perusing the British Afternoon Tea Guide for places to ‘lunch’ in Liverpool. With not having afternoon tea before it felt a sort of mine field! At first I booked what I thought was a nice cafe Patisserie Valerie. Then I started to read reviews and recently their customer service has been somewhat lacking. Not wanting to book a place where we’d have a ‘terrible’ experience. I cancelled the booking and went in search again.

browns-bar-brasserieThe last link I clicked on was Browns in Liverpool One. They can be found in many locations across the UK and their website states that the restaurants are housed in historic or listed buildings. Their afternoon tea menu sounded nice and at £12.50 per person. I thought it was reasonable.

I booked ahead, although at 2.30pm they had tables available. We were seated quickly and even Cath was given some space to lie down. The restaurant had a light, airy feel to it, though this played with the acoustics and I found it hard to hear with other background noise. What I did like was the addition of a grand piano near the entrance, though when we were there no one was playing it!

20160908_143319Sue ordered a coffee and I a pot of loose tea which filled approximately four small cups. When being served, Sue was kindly told where the milk jug and sugar was placed on the table, a nice touch by the waiter.

The afternoon tea arrived on a chrome cake stand with three tiers. The bottom had six small buns with soft fillings. The second tier had the cakes and the top had scones with pots of preserve and clotted cream.

The revelation of the afternoon was how gorgeous the red velvet cake was. One slice was not enough!

red-velvetI was looking forward to the scones, but they seemed a little dry. Indeed the whole menu made you want to drink tea by the gallon. Cakes are thirsty business!

If there were any negatives from a pleasant afternoon it was mainly due to personal preference. The tea on offer for me was a little weak, even after an hour it remained bland. They need to address their pot of tea to a cup of coffee ratio. Sue felt like she had been short changed. Luckily I shared my tea with her, even though the pot went cold very quickly.

Overall I’d give Browns a 7/10. The serving time was good, we were made to feel welcome and the afternoon tea wasn’t of poor quality. We even got to take home some uneaten cakes, though they don’t do doggy bags! Maybe we should have chosen the champagne afternoon, then the score would have been a little higher! :p

Sunday Sevens #17

This weeks Sunday Sevens, (devised by Natalie at Threads and bobbins), comes mostly from our home, as David and I have embarked on a major ‘project’. The fortification of the beams that hold up the floors in the dining room, hall and living room. Phase one: so far, as I write this post, very tired and dusty, we have managed to work four days just on the dining room. David is ever the optimist, but I am a bit more realistic. Things never go according to plan, not in a 100+ year old house.

Day one was all about taking the boards up and assessing what work needed doing. Day two was spent in DIY shops, too much time for my liking if you ask me! Work proceeded in fits and starts on day three! Day four we managed, (or more truthfully David) to finish work on the two sagging beams and replaced the floor boards.

Phase two: we have now moved our attention to the floor between the kitchen and the dining room. On taking up the boards David found that the job was bigger than we had hoped! It never seems to end!

You wouldn’t have guessed it but I began the week feeling much more chirpier. I baked an apple pie from the harvest of bramley apples we were given. I still have lots of apples left so when work on the house is done (ha ha), I will make an attempt at making miniature pies.

20160725_153515

In between work, David and I have been catching some fresh air in the yarden. While I enjoyed the flowers, David played at being the bird whisperer. Firstly we found a pigeon, (Blake I named him), sitting scared in a corner of the yarden. David picked him up, and we saw what looked like puncture wounds on his wing. We tried to nurse him but he passed away a few days later.

All week, David has been trying to catch one pigeon that has been seen with string around its foot. On Friday David managed to catch, Hoppy as she’s affectionately named. He gained her trust by hand feeding her and then captured her in a box! (Probably lost her trust then!) She is now resident in our guest room. How long she will stay is anyone’s guess. The thread that is wrapped around her foot has been covered with skin so David has been teasing the fibers daily in the hope of loosening some. Only time will tell.

I on the other hand caught sight of a large white butterfly resting on my buddleia, and my Grow Wild seeds have grown to become plants that have started flowering.

I’ll end on that colourful note.

I wish you all a wonderful week ahead.

Christine x

‘Wild’ in Art!

WARNING! This post will be a COLOUR overload!

I was inspired to write this post after visiting Sheffield’s herd of elephants and writing about it in my Sunday Sevens #15. Mark at worldwarzoogardener1939 commented that Paignton Zoo are doing a trail with rhinos and Marwell Zoo have Zany Zebras gracing the streets of Southampton this summer! I would love to visit them all but 2016 seems to be the busiest year regarding animal street art in the UK! One of the biggest promoters of these events is Wild in Art, check out their website for past and future events.

Over the past eight years David and I have been lucky enough to visit a fair amount of trails, stretching as far north as Aberdeen, to Norwich in the east! My first encounter with these colourful animals was the Manchester Cow Parade in 2004. Since then there has been an explosion of animals gracing the cities and towns of the UK. From lions in Bournemouth to horses in Hamilton. Below is a selection of the trails we have seen. Enjoy!

2008 was the year of Liverpool’s Capital of Culture. During the summer, 120 6ft lambananas graced the city’s streets. I have fond memories of seeking each and every one of them out, there was even one atop Moel Famau in North Wales!

The winter of 2009 saw 135 5ft penguins bring cheer to the cold streets of Liverpool, St Helens and the Wirral. I don’t think they were as successful as the lambananas the previous year, even David seemed jaded in seeing them all. However I managed to capture them all on camera and even a few months after the auction date, acquired one for myself. A hint of madness but our home wouldn’t be the same without Snowy standing sentinel under the stairs!

Staying in the North West, Chester in 2010 had a herd of rhinos career through their streets.

Also in 2010, Skipton found they had a flock of sheep bringing cheer to their town…

..and we visited Newport for the first of their two Super Dragon trails.

2011 saw two very diverse trails. The first was in Congleton where a sleuth of bears had taken up residence.

The second was in Edinburgh, where the city was transformed into a jungle for the summer.

In 2012 it looked like David and I never visited any art trails, though in fairness we did buy our first house!

2013, looked more promising! My appetite was reawakened when I saw some of the Lindt Easter eggs. You can read my post here.

The summer of 2013 saw us visiting a spate of trails. We visited Manchester for the national tour of the Elephant Parade. Read my post here.

We then visited Norwich and Colchester to see both Go Go Gorillas and Stand Tall trails.

2014 saw David and I take a tour to Aberdeen, Scotland to see their pod of dolphins in torrential rain! Read my post here.

2015 saw us returning to Norwich to see their Go Go Dragons trail. I am always impressed with the quality of art from this city! I look forward to seeing what their hares look like in 2017!

Also in 2015 Liverpool had their celebration of ducks which commemorated the history of the city.

While Birmingham witnessed a parliament of owls in their Big Hoot!

As I’ve said previously 2016 will see more trails than ever before. There are pigs in Ipswich, snowdogs in Brighton and Hove and Newcastle and Tyne and Wearand lions in Paisley. That is just to name a few! Sheffield’s herd of elephants are on the streets until 5th October when they will be auctioned off for charity like most of the above. They are a great way of getting the public behind a charitable cause and can raise hundreds of pounds!

Have you seen/followed any animal sculpture trail? What do you think of the initiative? What kind of animal would you like turned into art next?

Christine x