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!

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

Just a Little Stroll Then..?

With Christmas done and dusted for another year and both having the week off work, David and I decided to travel to North Wales for a day trip.

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Llyn Gwynant at sunset

We returned to Llyn Gwynant and the surrounding area. I found a moderate walk on the National Trust website that overlooked Llyn Dinas.

20161228_111053-2It was a beautiful winters day. The rugged Snowdonian landscape looked like Martian terrain in the golden light.

It was pretty evident that many people had also decided on visiting Snowdonia National Park, rows upon rows of parked cars lined the verges. Luckily we managed to find parking ourselves (outside Caffi Gwynant Café) before we embarked on our walk.

The first part of the walk began on the Watkin Path, deemed by some to be the hardest path towards Snowdon, due to loss of defined path and loose scree near the top.

The walk meanders through ancient oak woodland, before approaching Cwm Llan, with well defined paths that follow the fast flowing Afon Cwm Llan waterfalls.

Somehow we missed a turning, (there weren’t many way-markers,) so we continued along the path in front of us which wound through the valley. We past a commemoration plaque stating the opening of the route in 1892 by the then Prime Minister, William Gladstone, then on towards the old ruins of a slate quarry before the path drew steadily upwards.

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Ruined quarry buildings

By this time we knew we had taken the wrong path, and had walked further than we ought, but as the path was not too steep we decided to keep going.

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David on the path to Snowdon

On our walk we saw many other people traipsing the same path towards Snowdon, and drawing higher, we heard the whooo of a train from the Snowdon Mountain Railway (even though they say on their website that they are closed!) Perhaps it was a phantom train? As the summit of Snowdon came into view, I could see the train station and visitor centre. It was quite exciting being on a walk we had not planned.

At some 800m above sea level, David and I sat down to have lunch. We pondered on how much further it was to the top and would we get there before sunset. We also had to consider our ability. I am not the best walker/climber. So we decided not to aim for the summit but to go to the ridge and see what was on the other side.

We found Llyn Llydaw on the other side, stretching out far below us. I was ecstatic. Llydaw is one of the llyn’s I want to swim in 2017!

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Llyn Llydaw

From the ridge we turned back and started our descent. It took us another good two hours to walk back to the car park. We were both buoyed by the walk, amazed that we had managed to get 3/4 of the way up the tallest mountain in England and Wales. Today however, we are stiff and sore.

Accidentally taking the path towards Snowdon has made me realise that maybe some tarns in the Lake District are not so unachievable as I believed. Roll on spring/summer 2017!

Have you managed to climb Snowdon? If so what path did you chose, apparently there at six paths?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Many Firsts.

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Derwentwater

I did not hold out much hope for the weather over the weekend. The forecast predicted rain and heavy cloud. Yet David and I decided to keep to the plan I had devised anyway. So, the following morning we left the B&B before sunrise and headed towards Keswick. We parked the car at the Theatre by the Lake, and walked towards the lakeside.

A white dawn broke over Derwentwater. From Friar’s Crag we walked towards the National Trust Centenary Stones, though they looked rather underwhelming with the water having receded. From this bay I planned my first swim of the day. At 9am the water was cold and there was no one about save David and I, and the lake! It was magical, and I loved it!

As an early birthday present David had gifted me a waterproof camera (nick-named Wilson (I’ll explain why later!)) which I trialled at Derwentwater.

After my swim of about 10 minutes, with burning hands and numb skin, I attempted to get dry and dressed. With the sun breaking through the clouds we retraced our steps back towards the car before heading into Keswick for our walk towards Walla Crag.

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Derwentwater from Walla Crag

The walk took us through some nice woodland and across a fell. The whole walk took about two hours. Parts of the ascent was steep, muddy and tiring. We touched the peak of Walla Crag at lunch time. I ate my fruit salad, buffeted by a chilling wind, while looking towards a blue Derwentwater below. We couldn’t have asked for better weather!

We arrived back at the car earlier than anticipated. So looking at the map, I chose Bassenthwaite Lake to visit, being only 15 minutes drive from Keswick.

We luckily managed to find free parking alongside the lake. Indeed the lake seemed almost deserted, much like early morning at Derwentwater! With having a spare swim suit in my rucksack (as you do). I made the impromptu decision to go for another swim!

I had intended to have a sunrise swim at Derwentwater and a sunset swim at Loweswater, but Bassenthwaite became my second swim of the day!

I was not in the water for long. I felt cold, probably because I had not fully warmed up from the swim that morning. After a cup of lukewarm coffee, we headed towards Loweswater for sunset. Much like the sunrise, the sunset did not really happen, but we enjoyed a pleasant autumn stroll along the lake, before I donned my bikini and waded out into the cold and very reedy water.

Loweswater was my shortest swim that day, more of a dip. I did not like the reeds catching at my ankles, so I cut short the swim to shiver on the pebbly bank as twilight fell.

14595792_10154199594089200_8827333379966744528_nWe decided to risk driving the 30 minutes to Ennerdale, a designated dark sky area, in the hope that the clouds would break long enough for us to do some star gazing. We arrived tired and hungry around 7pm and waited for the night to darken. There were no other tourists, save us. We stood listening to eerie calls of birds roosting before the sky above became emblazoned with a multitude of stars. There were wisps of cloud but none could detract from the faint ribbon of the Milky Way. I loved gazing up at the sky and feeling the peace of the area. We will definitely have to visit again when the night is more clear, but what David captured is good for his first attempt.

We returned to the B&B exhausted yet feeling accomplished. It had been a tremendous day, though at times it did seem endless! We had achieved many firsts in the 14 hours of travelling! I had amazingly completed three swims/dips in one day! Loweswater and Bassenthwaite were new lakes to us, and it was the first time David had seen the Milky Way.

It will be hard to top such a day!

Have you visited any of the lakes mentioned? What were your memories of them? Have you been star gazing, seen the Milky Way?

Do continue to follow me as I write about my final day in the Lake District.

Thanks for reading,

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

30 Days Wild 2016 – Week Four

o0OhgWNNIt’s been a rather depressing week here in the UK. To escape the dirge from the media I have dived headlong into wildlife and The Wildlife Trusts’s 30 Days Wild. Below is an account of my fourth week, the last full week of June. I have tried to find light within the gloom!

 

Day 22: Wednesday

Sing a rainbowOn the 30 Days Wild Facebook page, someone had created a collage of rainbow colours taken from nature. I thought I’d try one. All pictures are taken from the yarden. Featuring: antirrhinum, honeysuckle, foxglove, jasmine, campanula, erysimum and lithodora.

Day 23: Thursday

This week has been National Insect Week, an initiative to encourage people to learn more about insects. In celebration of this week, I have been putting out insect pitfall traps in the hope of catching sight of the creepy crawlies that make the yarden their home. Unfortunately on both occasions, the traps were empty, probably because they were not the best traps.

Since we have had some fair weather these past few days in the NW of England, I decided to try my hand at a moth light trap. During the day we see many Cinnabar Moths, but I wanted to see what night moths we attract to the yarden. I draped a white sheet over two chairs and positioned a light directly behind and waited for the darkness to deepen.

It was almost 11.30pm when it became dark! I could see many micro moths fluttering but no hawkmoths which I had hoped/wanted to see! As the stars and planets twinkled from the indigo sky, the light trap only attracted one small moth. I think it was a Webbing or Common Clothes Moth!

Though moth sightings were thin on the ground, David and I did manage to have fun in the yarden. David took to photographing the stars and dodgy ‘ghosts,’ while I enjoyed the perfumed scent of the air. Everything feels so calm at night, unlike the madness daylight hours tend to bring.

On clearing up the equipment for the night, as David was in work the following day, a beautiful marbled moth fluttered towards the light. I was half in the house, half out as it danced around the halogen bulb. Sadly we didn’t take a picture, so I don’t know what type of moth it was. I feel I have some unfinished business with moths in the yarden. I hope to maybe fit in another observation session before June is out! Needless to say my dreams were full of moths that night!

Day 24: Friday

The weather this June seems to have conspired against us! Today was another one of those days with sparse sunshine and heavy showers! With having little ‘get up and go,’ I turned to the ‘wild’ cards for inspiration. The card I chose, search for mini wildness, suggested to look for lichens and forests of moss in pavements. So I decided to take a closer look at the liverwort growing in my yarden! (I didn’t know it was liverwort until I started researching it!)

The type of liverwort in the yarden is called Marchantia polymorpha. Apparently they like compacted, wet, acidic soils. Bad luck for my camellia, but the liverwort does look nice as a green base for the plant in its shaded pot. I shall evaluate how the plant is growing and if the liverwort is effecting it in future!

Day 25: Saturday

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I usually make lard cakes for the birds come winter time, but as I did this task for last years 30 Days Wild, I shall replicate it this year too!

I used a block of lard (it’s usually cheap in the supermarkets). I then microwaved it for 3 minutes until it was liquid. Threw in handfuls of mixed seed, (you can use peanuts and fruit also.) I then bulked it up with wholemeal flour. I used the suet holders with paper lined templates and scooped the fat mixture into these. I left to solidify. I shall hang them out tomorrow!

 

Day 26: Sunday

I never thought I was a big technophile but participating in this years, National Unplugging Day, I have discovered I turn to my computer and phone more than I care to. A typical day usually starts around 7am, the alarm on my phone wakes me up! While having breakfast, I scroll through Facebook and look at WordPress. Throughout the working day I communicate with David  via email. I text my mum, even though she lives next door! I use the timer on my phone and playlists on my laptop while I am working out. I also use the timer when I am cooking. I have many books downloaded to my Kindle. I turn to Google whenever I have a question. During 30 Days Wild I have been hooked to my blog feed, looking for new posts from fellow bloggers. I wind down to BBCi and music on YouTube. All day I have Classic FM playing in the background!

So, participating in this initiative is going to be both challenging and enlightening!

1

My unplugged day started at 9.30am. I had asked David when he got up an hour earlier to wake me after 9. I awoke at 9.15am and lay there waiting for my wake-up call. I snoozed and woke up again fifteen minutes later. Still no wake-up call. I was walking down the stairs to make breakfast when David came out of the living room. ‘Oh you’re up!’

‘Yes, where was my wake-up call?’

‘I didn’t know the time,’ meaning he had been busy playing GTA5! I shook my head! I took my breakfast and a hot cup of black coffee back to bed. It was a Sunday after all! While relaxing, I perused the pages of my paperback of Katherine Mansfield short stories. Though I had to fight the urge to reach out and grab my phone!

To counter the boredom I had moved the household chores from Saturday to today. The opposite was done for my session on the treadmill, which I did on Saturday as I use my laptop for motivational music! At 10.30am I climbed out of bed, got dressed and made a start on the cleaning. I dragged Henry around the house and wiped/disinfected surfaces and floors. The whole task took me three hours, with lunch in-between!

I spent the afternoon in the kitchen. I baked bread, which I shaped in the form of butterflies and made a very healthy, (and tasty) pan of blind scouse, (vegetable stew). I got David to take pictures of the finished article! I really missed my phone for taking pictures!

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There wasn’t much opportunity for communing with the wild, as persistent rain arrived in the afternoon. I watched from the kitchen window the birds visiting the freshly filled feeders, of which there were:

  • 2 House Sparrows (males)
  • 2 Goldfinches
  • 1 very disheveled Blue Tit
  • 1 Dunnock
  • 8 Starlings, (1 was a baby)
  • Many Pigeons!

I also saw Tree Bumblebees brave the rain to forage from the campanula flowers.

Come evening, I chatted to David while he cooked his lunches for work that week. All day he had been teasing me about not using technology. At one point he even came down the stairs with the laptop, and said ‘aww but you can’t watch!’ Meany! I then relaxed by reading some more Katherine Mansfield stories while enjoying a nice cold glass of pinot grigio.

10pm arrived. I cheered and ‘wooped!’ I had survived a day without a phone or laptop! (It was hard!) A text off my mum was waiting for me saying, ‘welcome back to the technological world!’ It was an enlightening initiative. One I would repeat. I find that technology is so habit forming! It’s so easy to reach out for that mobile device, have information at your fingertips. I do think that it contributes to a general lack of concentration and an inability to face boredom. I already don’t like phones at the dining table. I may encourage David and I to have technology ‘black-holes,’ times when we don’t use phones or computers, in the future.

Did you participate in the day? How did you fill your time?

Day 27: Monday

I felt a bit jaded today. In the afternoon Artie and I popped out into the yarden, to see how the plants were getting on (the lily and passion flower have flowered at last,) and to listen to wild sounds. It also gave me the opportunity to sip in the wild, I indulged in a cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit.

I closed my eyes (but not for long as Artie was on the prowl) and could hear the wind rushing through the trees. A plane thrummed overhead. Goldfinches twittered, pigeons cooed, and a family of house sparrows, babies begging, flew onto a roof nearby. The yarden was filled with bees buzzing softly and the dunnock shrilled his song loudly!

Day 28: Tuesday

To end this post I took inspiration from the 30 Days Wild app. Of the 101 ‘random acts of wildness’ I chose look up at the clouds. I actually did this activity yesterday as today the NW of England is shrouded with increasing cloud and the threat of further rain!

Of the clouds gracing the evening sky yesterday, I noticed cirrus (fair weather cloud) and cirrocumulus, (could precursor rain). It shows how contradictory British weather can be!

Final thoughts:

I really don’t want to mention the EU referendum, the result made me sick to the stomach! However like many, I will make a comment.

At present the air is thick with depression! I avoid the news the best of times, but my Facebook page is full of doom and gloom. It makes one want to reach for the razor blades! But we have to endure, what else is there? (Those razor blades look inviting). We have survived plagues, famine, wars. We will endure this!

Life probably will be tough, for a while, but we will recover, (we have to). Instead of the constant backbiting, we must forego bad blood and look to a future, a future we can only make good if we work hard, together!

There has to be a life outside of the EU. We had one before, there will be one now. Though many of us did not vote to leave, we have to make the most of this decision. Perhaps we can learn from the EU and build a better Britain, with transparent laws, human/worker rights, wildlife protection and a more uniformed distribution of wealth throughout the kingdom? Perhaps I am dreaming, maybe not with this government! I have not followed any of the hype surrounding the referendum. I have felt disgusted that we have been placed in this position! But the unthinkable has happened and we have to deal with it. Not with a culture of blame but one of acceptance and action.

I don’t know why but the whole farce calls to mind a soliloquy in Hamlet. To be or not to be!

Hamlet:To be, or not to be–that is the question:

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles

And by opposing end them. To die, to sleep–

No more–and by a sleep to say we end

The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks

That flesh is heir to. ‘Tis a consummation

Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep–

To sleep–perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub,

For in that sleep of death what dreams may come

When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,

Must give us pause. There’s the respect

That makes calamity of so long life.

For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,

Th’ oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely

The pangs of despised love, the law’s delay,

The insolence of office, and the spurns

That patient merit of th’ unworthy takes,

When he himself might his quietus make

With a bare bodkin? Who would fardels bear,

To grunt and sweat under a weary life,

But that the dread of something after death,

The undiscovered country, from whose bourn

No traveller returns, puzzles the will,

And makes us rather bear those ills we have

Than fly to others that we know not of?

Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,

And thus the native hue of resolution

Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,

And enterprise of great pitch and moment

With this regard their currents turn awry

And lose the name of action.

Only two more days until the end of June! Come with me as I approach the finale of 30 Days Wild 2016 and see what wonders I find!

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #13

#13, unlucky for some!

Again, I wasn’t going to write a Sunday Sevens post (devised by Threads and bobbins) but I thought ‘what the heck!’ I may as well document my mundane life.

Benedict-in-fur-large_trans++ZgEkZX3M936N5BQK4Va8Rd1_LE3c4DIRmB2hHE4OOWUI have thoroughly enjoyed the recent, second series of the BBC’s adaptations of the Shakespeare history plays. (The Hollow Crown, The War of the Roses.) Culminating in the final film, Richard III. After watching Henry 6th part two with my hands over my face in horror at Benedict Cumberbatch’s sublime performance as Richard, Duke of Gloucester. I eagerly anticipated his performance in Richard III. It was engaging viewing! At first Richard nicely spun a plot to gain the crown but after being crowned king, his mind soon unraveled. He became paranoid and fearful. Quite rightly so, with the future Henry 7th waiting in the wings in France. The film climaxed with Richard’s death at Bosworth.

Mid week, I made a short visit to Liverpool’s Central Library. I came back with my haul of wild swimming books. I also came back with S J Watson’s second novel, Second Life. It wasn’t a particularly nice book to read. I kept thinking that the main protagonist was rather stupid! She kept saying she had too much to lose, her child and husband and yet she continued with a rather violent affair! It wasn’t my cup of tea. I only read it as I had quite enjoyed his first novel, Before I go to Sleep.

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This week happened to be the fourth anniversary of David and I receiving the keys to our house! I was going to celebrate by baking a cake, but I decided it would be cheaper to buy one already made, so I bought a Victoria sponge!

Thursday poured with rain all day! It was a rather gloomy day. I was in the kitchen, making my lunch of curried red lentils when I noticed a male house sparrow on my feeders. I took a closer look and there was a baby sparrow alongside him. The baby looked quite independent, but kept begging for food off the adult. I got my camcorder out and filmed the below.

I’ll finish today’s roundup with a picture from the yarden, of an aquilegia. This plant has grown readily in the yarden for three summers now. Long may it continue to grow!

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‘Take time to be thankful for everything that you have. You can always have more, but you could also have less.’ Mohd Uved

Christine x

The Beginning…

This new year has begun in much the same vein as the parting year ended. It sees me re-evaluating my life. (You don’t know how fed up I am of doing that!)

January 2014 saw me working in an ecstatic frenzy! While listening to Hans Zimmer’s Lasiurus, from the Batman Begins film soundtrack, my impassioned imagination took the idea of a historical romance and ran with it. I wrote until the summer. Then I took a job that saw me sitting inanely on a bus for three hours a day, commuting, which killed my soul and subsequently my characters.

Now, with all this wasted time on my hands, it makes me think that maybe 2016 is a year when I should publish a novel? Where I should stop being a lazy writer and work for my living?! Maybe I should not only re-evaluate on the job front but the latest novel to hit the scrapheap? What do you think?


I have been meaning to write a blog post for a while now and yet each time I have planned a post the meal has fallen decidedly flat. Like tonight.

Yesterday, I felt the nervous excitement of finding a recipe I looked forward to making, (I need to get a life) but come this afternoon, I found I had no green lentils and only half a tin of chopped tomatoes. I decided to go ahead with the recipe anyway, which I found in the Asda Good Living magazine. I do like trying out new recipes, so I decided on the Lentil and Chickpea Curry, as I had no spinach.

I used what I had in, meaning half a red onion, half a carrot and half a yellow pepper as well as 100g of red lentils and a can of chickpeas, plus spices. The meal looked and tasted like every other vegetable stew/curry I have ever made. I can’t complain as it was eaten by everyone so it must have been ok?! I served it with brown rice which apparently ages you, according to a report David had recently read. However the health benefits are better than white rice, so a few wrinkles have to be better than being in an early grave?

Ingredients:

  • Olive oil
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves crushed, (also used pepper and carrot… I hate waste)
  • 2tbsp of medium curry powder
  • 400g of chopped tomatoes
  • 400g can of green lentils, drained. (I didn’t have enough so used 100g of red lentils, dried)
  • 400g of chickpeas, drained.
  • Baby spinach (I never had any)
  • salt for seasoning
  • Naan or rice to serve

Method:

  • Heat oil in pan, cook the onion, slowly and then add the garlic.
  • (I added the onion, garlic and pepper together and simmered in a lidded pan until soft)
  • Then add the curry powder and cook for 1 minute
  • (I also added a squirt of tomato paste just to add taste)
  • Add the tomatoes, lentils and chickpeas and simmer for eight minutes, or until thickened.
  • Add the spinach at the last minute to wilt it
  • I also used brown rice which took 25 minutes to cook, adjust cooking times accordingly

The finished recipe if following the above should look like this:

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Chester Cathedral Falconry and Nature Gardens

Friday was a busy day for David and I.

I don’t want to waste the two weeks I have off work by just staying at home, languishing. So I suggested to David that we spend the day at Chester. Chester is close enough to home yet has places we have yet to visit. Also we had to be back by 7.30 pm for a concert by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic!!

So Chester it was, and we decided to visit Chester Cathedral’s Falconry and Nature Gardens. We arrived at 11 am. The entrance fee was £3 per adult, with the ticket we could enter the site as many times as we wanted throughout the day. We looked around the ‘nature gardens’ and I was not impressed. There was only a small green area designated for picnics which had bee hotels and insect homes around the perimeter and another square where the birds of prey were housed, tethered by jess’s.

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David and I visited during school term time so there was not many people at the centre. During the flight display I counted five couples, David and I included! It was the flight displays that were the highpoint of the visit. The first one was at 12.30 pm so with time to spare David and I visited Chester Cathedral.

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At 12 noon David and I ventured back to Chester Falconry and Nature Garden and had our lunch there, waiting for the 12.30 pm display.

The 12.30 pm display featured an American Black Vulture and a Harris Hawk. I had wanted to see one of the falcons flying but we could not make the 2.30 pm show.

The flight display with Head of Falconry Tommy McNally, was very authoritative and educational. He explained why American Black Vulture’s had no feathers on their heads and how their white legs were a by-product of their own urine, which coats their legs with a sort of antibacterial to keep them clean and free from disease whilst feeding on carrion.

During the performance, we stood in the display field and Tommy asked for a volunteer. A tall, lithe girl volunteered and had to run the length of the field with a chicken head, thus causing the Vulture to run, then fly after her! Tommy said that vultures were lazy birds and this was one way to show them flying!

He then asked for another volunteer and I volunteered David, as I can’t run!! He had a glove put on his left hand and a chicken head placed amongst his fingers. Tommy asked David to run as fast as he could so that the vulture would have to forsake bounding on the ground and flap his wings! David set off with the vulture following his heels. The vulture took flight and soon got the chicken head! David was asked to run back and the vulture was rewarded again with a chicken head!

Frankie the Harris Hawk was next up, and he flew deftly between the heads of the small crowd and also wolfed down a chicken head, much like an owl would!

I find birds of prey highly thrilling and enjoyed my time at Chester Cathedral’s Falconry and Nature Garden’s. It would be a great place to visit during the summer, when in-between shows you can go shopping, have something to eat or visit the river Dee or castle! There is more to see in Chester than meets the eye! A visit to the Roman amphitheatre and the city walls is something that should be on every tourist’s to see list when visiting the area!

A-MA-ZING!!

Can I say that one more time?

AMAZING!!

I’ve been talking about the experience all afternoon and evening! I simply can’t get over it! It’s always only me that sees it! I’ve joked with David that I must be ‘high’ on something! That quinoa last night must have been infected with mould, as this afternoon, after preparing my Sunday dinner, I looked out of the kitchen window to see if there was any bird activity at the feeders and there it was! A Sparrowhawk!

I wish I had my camera to hand as it’s just my word to say that it was in the garden, but there it was attacking whatever was sheltering in the Laurel Bush, probably a Sparrow or Starling!

I gasped in amazement and then it turned its orange eyes towards me before it spread its wings and flew off.

I have seen a Sparrowhawk in the area before, in 2012, the day of my father’s funeral. Today, one was in the garden looking for it’s lunch!

The whole incident happened so fast that I am writing this account so as to remember it!

I have no pictures myself of the Sparrowhawk, so I have had to borrow from Google/YouTube. The below footage is by Brian Ewen.


After some reading I have discovered that if a Sparrowhawk is in your garden then it is a sign of a healthy population of birds/prey. I like to see it as a healthy micro-system. I have put feeders in my garden to encourage small birds like the Blue Tit, Dunnock and Goldfinch. This in turn has encouraged Pigeons and Starlings to visit. This movement and frenzied activity has alerted the next stage of the chain. The predator, like the Sparrowhawk.

The system is very like that of my planting for bees, butterflies and moths. Their presence in the garden has brought the arrival of Swallows to feast on the abundance of insects. It certainly shows that we are all interconnected.

I have read that some people dislike Sparrowhawks being in their neighbourhood. I have to accept that even Sparrowhawks need to feed otherwise they will starve to death.

On the RSPB website it states that Sparrowhawk numbers were heavily in decline due to pesticides used in farming from the 1950’s onwards. Thankfully, numbers seem to be on the increase due to the banning of certain chemicals. The RSPB also states that the predation of Sparrowhawks on songbirds has ‘no or little impact on songbird populations.’ The Wildlife Trust produced a report on the predation of songbirds and concluded that songbird ‘numbers over the last few decades should not be blamed on predation by Sparrowhawks and Magpies.’

In my area there are not just Magpies, but other crows and Seagulls present. Recently, there seems to be a healthy balance of numbers from the smaller birds. I counted at one time, up to, if not exceeding 20 Goldfinches, 10 House Sparrows and over 20 Starlings, mostly fledglings. Pigeon numbers seem to be increasing steadily also.

The presence of predators therefore does seem to indicate that there are a healthy number of smaller birds. Chris Mead from Jacobi Jayne & Company states, ‘numbers of Sparrowhawks are controlled by the numbers of their prey.’ I like to think that since I have been encouraging Goldfinches, House Sparrows and Starlings to my garden that I am creating a healthy ecosystem where there is enough prey numbers for a predator to flourish. Time will tell if the Sparrowhawk will return.

I have been researching the presence of Sparrowhawks in Liverpool, and have come across a number of blogs from 2010 and 2012 stating Sparrowhawk sightings. It’s not uncommon for Sparrowhawks to predate in city gardens. However, I just find it amazing that one appeared in my inner city garden, though more like a yard than a garden!! I am feeling proud that I have made a little oasis in a rather built up area. 🙂


And in other news:

I seemed to have been on a health kick recently. I have been treadmilling, doing squats and abdominal workouts daily. I don’t know whether this is the fact that I have lost an inch around the chest and half an inch from the waist. Either way I think healthy eating has helped.

Lentils are a great source of protein and low in calories. They lower your cholesterol and help maintain blood sugar levels. So, today I made a Vegan, Spicy Lentil Soup. I got the recipe from Cookie and Kate. Though I changed a few quantities and added a potato and green beans.

Ingredients:

  • Splash of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium white onion, chopped
  • 2 celery sticks chopped
  • 1 small potato, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
  • Handful of green beans chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 400g can of diced tomatoes
  • 200g of green lentils
  • 1 litre of vegetable stock, reduced salt. I used two cubes
  •  ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Method:

  1. Warm the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat.
  2. Once the oil is shimmering, add the chopped onion, celery and potato and cook, stirring often, until the onion has softened and is turning translucent, (about 5 minutes.)
  3. Add the garlic, cumin, curry powder and thyme. Cook until fragrant while stirring constantly, (about 30 seconds.)
  4. Pour in the tomatoes, green beans and cook for a few more minutes, stirring often, in order to enhance their flavour.
  5. Pour in the lentils and stock. Add 1/2 a teaspoon of cayenne pepper. Season generously with freshly ground black pepper. Raise heat and bring the mixture to a boil, then partially cover the pot and reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook for 30 minutes, or until the lentils are tender but still hold their shape.
  6. Transfer 450ml of the soup to a blender. Protect your hand from steam with a tea towel placed over the lid and purée the soup until smooth. Pour the puréed soup back into the pan and warm up.
  7. Remove the pan from heat.Taste and season with more salt, pepper. Serve immediately.
Spiced Vegan Lentil Soup

Spiced Vegan Lentil Soup

The soup turned out really well. Though it looked more brown than the original recipe. (It doesn’t look very appetising from the picture, but believe me it was very appetising and healthy). It made four bowls, so have enough for tomorrows dinner. 😀

Have a pleasant week ahead.