The beginning of…

…my fortnight off from work did not go to plan! Monday morning dawned forebodingly as I found lying at the bottom of the finch aviary my beloved Romeo!

Romeo

Romeo

There was no indication that he was ill. He was a little quiet and fluffed up on Sunday but by¬†the next day David and I were saying our farewells and burying him under the Pieris Forest Flame. ūüė¶

The aviary did not seem to be the same after his little character had gone. Chocolate his mate was quiet and the other finches seemed to know of his absence.

Come Thursday, David and I took a trip to Clipsley Pets and Aquatics in St. Helens and acquired a new friend for Chocolate, a Bengalese called Fudge and a new member of the finch family, Pi, a Cut-throat.

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On Tuesday, I had the urge to cook something. I think it was to fill the void of sadness that Romeo’s sudden passing had left. So I merged a few recipes I found on-line to make a¬†Curry Spiced Red Lentil Soup.¬†The result was not unpleasant, though it could have done with a bit more of a kick.¬†I fixed the recipe in line with this. If you don’t like spice/heat then reduce.

Ingredients

  • 1 litre of vegetable stock. I used reduced salt
  • 300g of red lentils
  • 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 small red chilli, chopped
  • One potato, peeled and sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • Tin of tomatoes, drained
  • 2 tbsp tomato pur√©e
  • 2 tsp of curry powder, and one tsp each of cumin, turmeric and coriander
  • 100 ml of milk
  • 1-2 tbsps of olive oil
  • Optional: Some cooked basmati rice to serve

Method

  1. In a large saucepan heat the olive oil, then add the garlic, onion and chilli to the pan. Fry over a gentle heat till soft.
  2. Add the potato, tomato, tomato puree and spices to the pan and fry gently for another 5 mins, stirring regularly.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients, stirring well, then pop a lid on the pan and simmer the soup for approx 15 20 mins, or until lentils are soft.
  4. Pour the soup into a blender and blend at high speed till smooth and creamy. Alternatively, blend only half the soup for a chunkier texture.

I served with home-made wholemeal bread rolls.

Curry Spiced Red Lentil Soup

Curry Spiced Red Lentil Soup

At the start of the week the weather had been appalling, but nearing the weekend¬†things started to look up! David had also taken Thursday and Friday off from work, so on Thursday we headed to Yorkshire Sculpture Park and the Tower of London Poppies… but that will do for another blog post!

Autumn Light.

For the past few weeks now I have noticed a change in the light.

Afternoon autumn sun flooding the dining room

Afternoon autumn sun flooding the dining room

The shadows have become longer. The sunlight during the day has become more stark, almost piercing. The seasons are changing without us hardly knowing! Autumn is arriving, creeping silently into summer. The days are becoming shorter. Soon it will be night by 4pm! For now, I am valuing every minute of light. Savouring the last bloom of flowers and the remaining buzz of bees before nature slows down for winter.

Part of me wants to mourn the loss of the light, but autumn brings its own pleasures. Like the frenzied activity at the bird feeders and the Sedum finally flowering after budding for so long!

Bird feeder

Bird feeder

Sedum and Honey Bee

Sedum and Honey Bee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today I have been making ready the house for autumn and the coming winter. The windows got a good clean and the voiles have all been washed. I have also changed the bedroom curtains from the sky blue to the teal in preparation for the darker evenings to come.

Picture from 2013

Picture taken 2013

Come the evening, I was busy in the kitchen making a, Peruvian Quinoa Stew, (serves 3 people).

Ingredients:

  • 15og of quinoa, rinsed well
  • 200 – 250 ml of water
  • 1 onion (white) diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic sliced
  • Olive oil for frying (I use lower fat olive oil)
  • 1 celery rib chopped
  • 1 carrot sliced
  • 1 bell pepper (any colour)
  • Handful of green beans, chopped. You can use any variety of vegetables
  • 200ml of vegetable stock (I used reduced salt)
  • 400g of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons of ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of chilli powder (I used medium)
  • 1 teaspoon of ground coriander
  • half a teaspoon of cayenne pepper (put more in if you like heat)
  • 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
  • Fresh, chopped coriander for garnish, if preferred. (I left out)

Method:

  1. I rinsed the quinoa. Placed it in a small pan with the 200ml – 250ml of water and cooked, over a medium heat, for about 15 minutes or until soft. Then I set aside with a lid on the pot to absorb the remaining water.
  2. While the quinoa cooked, I had a second pan on the hob. I chopped and sautéed the onions, then added the garlic in a little olive oil for about 5 minutes over a low to medium heat. It may have taken a little longer for me as I was busy chopping the other vegetables while the onion cooked.
  3. Then I peeled and sliced the carrot. Washed and chopped the celery. I added both to the cooking onion and garlic and cooked for a further 5 minutes, stirring often so nothing stuck or burnt to the pan. It took longer as I had the hob on a lower heat.
  4. After chopping the bell pepper and green beans, I added them to the pan with the other vegetables and then added the tin of tomatoes, along with the spices (cumin, chilli powder, coriander, cayenne and oregano). I let them blend together for just a few minutes and then poured in the stock. I covered the pan and let simmer for about 15-20 minutes, maybe longer, until the vegetables were tender
  5. After everything had cooked I stirred in the cooked quinoa, warmed it up again, and adjusted the salt to taste.
  6. Add chopped coriander if needed. (I left out)

While the quinoa had cooked and the vegetables were simmering in their covered pan. I stood by the sink and washed the knives and measuring jugs used in the preparation. I gazed out of the window and cherished the bird antics going on before my eyes.

I counted up to 17 Goldfinches at the sunflower and nyger seed feeders. Amongst them were still some babies flapping their wings, begging! Pigeons pecked at the off-casts the Goldfinches threw out and the visiting Dunnock hopped among the vines of the climbing Passion Flower snatching at insects!

I am happy to report that the Sparrows are still visiting in numbers. There were at least five on the feeders and I watched on as three Sparrows had discovered my ground cage feeder and were happily guzzling the dried meal-worms I had left out for the Dunnock. A Sparrow and Starling fought for the right to feast on the fat block sitting in the Laurel bush. The Sparrow won!

The meal finally came together. I must say the spices were rather muted, maybe some more or an added chilli could have helped? It was however a filling and healthy meal, though my mum disliked the quinoa ‘tails’!

Peruvian Quinoa Stew

Peruvian Quinoa Stew

And also:

I have done some more research on quinoa and its ‘tails.’ The seed is from South America and was the staple diet of the Incas. The tails are not tails at all, actually they are the endosperm of the seed. The nutrition or power house for the growing seed, much like the¬†albumin of an egg.¬†According to BBC Good Food, quinoa, is a complete protein, meaning it has all nine amino acids. It is a fantastic wheat free choice and is highly digestible. It has twice the protein content of rice and barley and is¬†also a good source of calcium, magnesium, vitamin E and dietary fibre.

The health benefits speak for itself. I think I’ll be cooking with this¬†little seed a lot more in the future! ūüôā

Have you eaten any good meals with quinoa? I would love to know your thoughts on this super seed!

Christine xx

Dry January – Week Four!

The end is in sight!

I must have been out of my mind when I decided to do Dry January 2015.

January is notoriously the most depressing month of the year. During this month, I have had to fight stress and depression. I then hurt my back and was out for a few days last week and then this Monday I had a death in the family to contend with.

Dee

Dee

I had to say farewell to one of our oldest cats. Dee! She had been with us since 1996 and looked fantastic for her age. Recently Mum had noticed that Dee was having trouble with her balance. I told her to monitor it but by Monday things had gone progressively worse, so much so that Dee could hardly stand up!

Mum and I took her to the vets. We waited ages to be seen in a reception area that was filled with other cat patients. Dee was very vocal and cried to be let out, and when another cat started crying the room was filled with meows!

We were introduced to a kind vet called Sarah, who on seeing Dee (trying to get out of the carry case) said, ‘oh little one, something has happened in your brain!’ We coaxed Dee out of the carrier and she stumbled around the table, with her head constantly shaking and a vacant look to her eyes. The vet subsequently said that Dee could have had a bleed or a tumour ¬†in her brain which explained the loss of motor control. They at present don’t treat brain diseases in animals and with Dee’s age, it was ultimately humane to put her to sleep.

With many of my cats in their twilight years, this ‘last journey’ is becoming more frequent. Mum and I stayed with Dee as we said our goodbyes. The vet informed us that Dee probably didn’t know what was happening. I held Dee in my arms as the vet administered the drug and she quickly drifted away. The vet said that she had given Dee a dose of 500mg but she had gone by 200mg, she was that poorly!

It’s come as a shock actually. Dee was the most healthy looking out of the four that lived with Mum. It has to be a blessing that it was a short illness.

Back to Dry January and there is only three days left! I may have moaned and groaned my way through it, but I was up for the challenge! I knew I had the willpower to go without alcohol for a whole month, but I wanted other people to see that I could achieve this too! You can still donate to my Just Giving page.

Here’s to February and that long awaited glass of wine! ūüėÄ

Christine x

It’s Been a Strange Sort of Day.

David has exhausted himself with crying over Muzzy (the cat), and that has left him very little time for me. ūüė¶

It’s a good job I have a ‘very’ active inner imagination isn’t it?

What has got me through the night has been the promise of writing (though I have not done any! Would you want to write about Victorian asylums after seeing death?), wine and music!! Oh and the odd sexual fantasy… but you all know my ‘one’ weakness! :p

This afternoon, I managed to blank out the sad events that I knew would come from going to the vets later in the¬†evening. (I have done it far too much in the past few years!) I sat in the yard and enjoyed the strong spring sun. It has been such a lovely day in Liverpool. (If I recall my father died on a similar day to this!) I read a chapter of a novel, sipped some ‘not so’ fermented apple juice and chomped on a sliver of melon. The sun was warm! Even though I had sunscreen on, I think I have turned a little pink!! :0

20140424_154955

It was nice sitting in the sun. I noticed that Hover-flies were dancing around¬†my Wallflower and Magnolia, (they are pollinators too, it’s not just bees!)¬†I am so overjoyed that at¬†least I can make something happy!! My planting for wildlife is making a ‘small’ difference!! It has to be better than nothing? Right?

I enjoyed looking at the colours of my flowers. My Scabiosa is blooming with more flower heads. The Aubrieta¬†is glowing with purple flowers¬†and my Aquilegia¬†has been growing daily. Every morning when I roll up the kitchen blind when I awake for breakfast, I have watched the Aquilegia grow higher and higher. Now it has flower buds on it and I can’t wait for them to open. They make such beautiful flowers! I am so happy that this plant is such a vibrant grower. I could not but notice that my Azalea had also blossomed. It’s flowers are not unlike the Rhododendron.

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There is a lot to be thankful for in my life. Though I may complain (often), it could be much worse!

Christine xx

Ariel

Today, 28th March 2014 is the 2nd year anniversary of my father, Graham Connor’s passing at the young age of 62!

Last year I made a video.

I could not top that this year! So with being rather sombre all day the last lines of Sylvia Plath’s Ariel came to me.

Ariel By Sylvia Plath

‘And I Am the arrow,

The dew that flies Suicidal, at one with the drive Into the red

Eye, the cauldron of morning.’

 

I thought this nice picture of a sunrise over the Liverpool skyline reflected Plath’s thoughts…

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