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.

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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 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 – Day Six

Day Six: Today’s photo prompt is weather. Today’s weather in Liverpool has been dull and unimpressive. Cue most boring picture alert!

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Clouds over Mab Lane Community Woodland

Yesterday it rained all day and was dark and dingy. The weekend bodes slightly better with sunny spells but breezy.

Hows the weather like where you are?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

December Photo Challenge 2018 – Day Five

snowy

Snowy

Day Five: Today’s prompt is penguin/s. I chose this post because I, myself own my very own 5ft penguin. He’s a work of art. He was one of the 135 penguins that graced the wintry streets of Liverpool, Wirral and St Helens in 2009. Snowy didn’t sell at auction, so I approached Wild in Art with my own offer. It was accepted and I soon became the owner of my very own penguin. Snowy is an indoor penguin as he is coated in fur and sports a very fine top hat and blue scarf. He would also have been fantastic for the photo prompt snowman but I decided to take his photo for today’s prompt. All my family thought I was crazy when I purchased him. However for almost 10 years he has stood sentinel under the stairs, watching life in all its complexity. He is one of the family.

Have you purchased an unusual work of art?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

‘Time Spent with Cats…’

‘…is never wasted,’ so quoted Sigmund Freud. Being an ailurophile (I had to look the word up), or a lover of cats, I wholly agree!

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For an early birthday celebration, I decided to treat my mum and David to coffee and cake at the recently opened Cat Cafe in Bold Street, Liverpool. I pre-booked our hourly session at the cafe, at £12 per person. This includes unlimited drinks while cakes and pastries were an additional cost.

Our time slot was 10 o’ clock, and even at this time the cafe seemed busy with parties coming and going. To keep the resident cats safe, there are three doors which patrons have to go through. After being booked in, a pass to note down any additional spends given and the dos and the don’ts listed, we were admitted.

The Liverpool branch is on three floors. We perused the decor and the many hiding places for the cats before pondering where to sit. On the first floor there were lots of comfy looking sofas but David chose the ground floor part of the cafe as this was where most of the cat action was happening!

We took our seats close to the kitchen. The choice of table seemed lucrative as I had not long sat down when Rose, a long-haired tortoiseshell came over and made a bee-line for my lap. She happily sat and suckled me for 10 minutes.

We ordered hot drinks and a selection of cakes. Mum had a toasted teacake, I a scone with cream and jam and David chose the cake of the day, which was a large slice of chocolate-orange cake.

Many of the cats as you can imagine were curled up asleep. All was quiet until the food was served and from a towering cat bed two cats emerged. Dobby the Sphynx and Sebastian the Siamese! The hairless Dobby sported a black jumper with orange bobbles to keep him warm while Sebastian cheekily tried his luck pawing at our selection of cakes. It was funny interacting with the cats who all seemed friendly.

We took many photographs and spent a full hour with the cats of Liverpool’s Cat Cafe. I am happy to report we all enjoyed ourselves and would definitely visit again, even if we were scratched and bitten for milk and food! :p

Have you visited a cat cafe? If so what were your impressions?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants!

This weekend, the streets of Liverpool have once again been taken over by Royal de Luxe’s giant marionettes. They first visited in 2012 and again in 2014.

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https://redpanda08.wordpress.com/2014/07/30/liverpool-a-city-of-giants/

This time David and I only managed to pop into town to see the ‘uncle’ giant asleep on his raft. The crowds of 2014, were more than topped this time around, which put us off.

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Royal de Luxe

Did you manage to see any of the visits from the giants? What were your impressions?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Christine Lucas

This weekend was a weekend much like David and I used to have before my Father passed. Maybe life is slowly getting back to how it used to be?

It was the weekend of Liverpool’s ‘Sea Odyssey‘ where the streets were given over to the puppetry of French company Royal de Luxe.

On Friday as David was in work all day with a headache, I followed, in anticipation online the progress of the Little Girl Giant as she walked through the city to King’s Dock and the ‘Uncle’, diver coming from the sea to walk the streets towards Stanley Park, Anfield. David being so kind later in the evening took myself, Daniel, his girlfriend Jo and my Mum around the city, to see the sleeping giants.

On Saturday, David and I got up early to head into town before the crowds, so we could get a good spot to see the Little…

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My First Scottish Wild Swim – Loch Lomond

Ever since I started wild swimming, my desire to swim in a Scottish Loch has been like an itch I couldn’t scratch. This September, as an early birthday treat we decided to head to Fort William for a few days in the Highlands.

The journey north from Liverpool passes Loch Lomond and the Trosachs National Park via the A82. The plan for the day was to travel the six hours to Fort William with a stop off at Loch Lomond for my first Scottish wild swim!

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Loch Lomond

Four hours into the journey we stopped at a parking point (near Inverbeg), with views of Loch Lomond. With the amount of preparations I do now, I can’t just have a quick swim. Stripped to my swimsuit, I firstly have to inflate Doughnut and fix it to my waist. Then don my neoprene boots and gloves to protect my extremities. Also, I now have a beanie hat to help keep the heat in. Then I strap Wilson, my waterproof camera to my chest. All this I do before I even head towards the water!

Wrapped in my Dryrobe® I waddled like a penguin towards the shore. The shore I chose to embark on my first Scottish wild swim was of soft shingle, with Ben Lomond on the opposite side. The weather on the day was cloudy, but not too cold. I was prepared for frigid temperatures, but in reality the water temperature was around 14°. I can safely say I’ve swam in colder waters!

With David taking pictures and video on shore. I waded out into the water. I always seem rather nervous before I head into the water. Perhaps it’s because I don’t know what to expect from the water’s bed? Is it going to be blissful soft shingle like Llyn Cwellyn, or rocky as hell and a scramble to get in like Derwentwater? Thankfully my first Scottish wild swim was the former. The shingle beach slopped down in increments and I walked out until the water lapped around my neck.

I thoroughly enjoyed my swim in Loch Lomond. I swam back and forth along the shoreline and even managed to dunk my head for an underwater shot. Much fun was had and I really didn’t want to get out. However we had to travel a further two hours to our accommodation for the three nights stay.


We booked our accommodation via Airbnb. I had never used the website before until my friend Jennifer informed us that her European trip was booked through the website. After doing a search of the Fort William area, one accommodation seemed promising. A self catering apartment overlooking Loch Linnhe called Glenloch View. With much deliberation we decided to book, at £248 for three nights, it was cheaper than the hotels in the region. Check in was via Lock-box, so we never met the proprietor. However on arrival there was a vase with fresh cut flowers and a bag of tasty fudge for us. The ground floor apartment was clean and bright and very new. It had a lobby where boots and wet clothes could be left to dry. The living room/kitchen was open plan and had nice views of Loch Linnhe. The kitchen had an oven, microwave and fridge/freezer, and everything you needed to cook evening meals or even a cake! The double bedroom and bathroom was at the back of the apartment. There was TV with Freeview, a stereo and Internet. The apartment was very comfortable and we did not want to anything. I’ll end this post with a few pictures of the apartment.

Have you stayed in Fort William? Booked via Airbnb? Even swam in a Scottish Loch/Lochan?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #54

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!

#walk1000miles:

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.

Party Time:

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.

Collecting:

Recently I obtained another Beatrix Potter 50 pence. This time it was Benjamin Bunny who I found in my change!

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 Warriors:

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:

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Female Sparrowhawk

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?

So, that was my week, how was yours?

Thanks 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!’

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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.