Sunday Sevens #25

Wow! These week’s come round quick! It’s that time again! Time for some more Sunday Sevens, devised by Natalie.

Walk 1000 miles: The beginning of the week saw my #walk1000miles badge arrive in the post! I am excited to take it on my future walks.

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My Walk 1000 Miles badge

My total for this week has been 26 miles bringing my overall tally to 277 miles. A culmination of getting off the bus earlier to enjoy the warm sunshine and to look for signs of spring.

Wild Swimming: With the help of David, we put up my Lake District map. We used string as pointers to pictures of the lakes I’ve swam in. Thanks to Sharon from Sunshine and Celandines for the inspiration. Her dog Hugo has a map featuring all his dips, I thought ‘what a great idea, perfect for my wild swims!’ 😀

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My wild swim map

Wildlife: This week I signed up for the Great British Bee Count, an incentive by Friends of the Earth. Much like the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch, it is a survey to track the health of bee populations in the UK. The count this year will be between 19th May to 30th June 2017, just in time for the Wildlife Trust’s 30 Day’s Wild! Will you be joining in?

Earth Hour: Once again David and I participated in WWF’s Earth Hour. For an hour between 8.30pm and 9.30pm on 25th March 2017 we turned off all the lights and used the time to reflect. It made for a very calm hour.

Did you participate in this years Earth Hour?

Afternoon Tea: This weekend it was Mothering Sunday here in the UK and the day before was my Mum’s birthday. To celebrate both, I surprised my Mum with an afternoon tea at Jam.

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Afternoon Tea at Jam, Liverpool

The restaurant was busier than last time I visited with David, you can read my review here. The afternoon tea had some changes. Mum had beef bread rolls and thankfully there was no egg to be seen. The cake selection was a little different too. There were slices of red velvet cake, bakewell tarts and small doughnuts. The scones went down very nicely with cups of Assam tea!

Birdcage-Walk-UseReading: The book I have begun reading this week is Birdcage Walk by Kate Riordan. It is set at the turn of the 20th century and is based on a true crime. However I think the adapted story is a little far fetched but I am over half way through so will persevere to the end.

Have you read any good books lately?

In the kitchen: While I was out with Mum, David was busy in the kitchen baking another cake. This time he made a classic Victoria Sponge, with yummy fresh cream and strawberry jam.

For this Saturday’s dinner I made a Brown Lentil Chili and served it with oven baked tortillas. I adapted the quantities for two people. It makes for a gorgeous, healthy, filling chili. I have made this recipe several times this year.

These have been just a few highlights from my week. How has yours been?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

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Sunday Sevens #24

I thought I’d scrape some pictures together and participate once again in this weeks Sunday Sevens devised by Natalie.

Baking: I ended last week’s Sunday Sevens with a picture of David’s endeavours. I’ll begin this week with another of his creations. It took five hours to make, baking in the oven for 1.5 hours but the result was a bouncy sponge with soft coffee buttercream and chocolate ganache to decorate.

Reading: This week I finished Katherine Webb’s The English Girl. Susanna from Fred the Needle asked if I would review the book, so here’s some of my thoughts. Despite the story not being as strong as Webb’s first two books The Legacy and The Unseen, The English Girl was a far better story than The Night Falling. Webb used the Jebel War of 1958-59 as the backdrop to the novel. It is another of those weaving dual narratives. The two protagonists are Maude Vickary in the 1900’s and Joan Seabrook in the 1950’s. The main theme is adventure, of two women breaking the bonds of society and finding themselves (or losing themselves) to the desert wastes of Oman. I found Joan’s character rather wishy-washy and I wished she would stop faffing about and make a decision. I preferred reading the story of Maude and her adventures of trying to be the first woman/Westerner to cross the Empty Quarter. Her struggle across huge dunes and facing sheer exhaustion was well described. I had my hand to my mouth when she encountered a camel spider (look them up) and shocked at her betrayal, but I won’t spoil the end for you! All in all it wasn’t a bad read. It took me a whole year to read The Night Falling. I read The English Girl in a fraction of that time. If you enjoy Arabian adventures then this novel is for you!

Have you read it? Let me know what you think?

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Walk 1000 miles: I’ve walked 21.4 miles this week, a touch better than last week. While on my daily walk to the bus stop to work, I noticed the central reservation was awash with the golden heads of daffodils. It certainly brought to mind the iconic William Wordsworth poem. ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud.’

Wildlife: On Thursday my eyes spied a small green/brown bird flitting around the yarden. It was the size of a blue tit, but it wasn’t a blue tit. It was a chiffchaff. I only see these birds once a year. They must pass through the city on way to woodland for the summer. I reached for my camcorder but the camera wasn’t charged, so an old video I took in 2013 will just have to do!

Pets: This weekend has been a stressful one! On Saturday I witnessed our new parrot finch, Leaf attacking our other newbie, Gouldian finch, Set! Afterwards, David managed to pick Set up and noticed the damage Leaf had done. His feathers around his head and eyes had been plucked, leaving red skin exposed. Poor Set was scared so much he just sat in David’s hand. We noticed that Set still had his baby mouth. He must only be as young as six months old!

I have read that if there is an aggressor in an aviary, then the only course of action is to take the aggressor away. That was when our problem began. We managed to isolate Leaf and his other parrot friend, Forrest from the aviary, but the only other cage we had was the hospital cage which was where Set was recovering in. Our other cage, the one in which our aviary had begun five years ago was at David’s Mum’s housing their two budgies.

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Leaf and Forrest’s new home

Kindly, David’s Mum and Dad said that we could have our cage back as they had one which could house their budgies until they got a bigger cage. I was so relieved, more so when back at home the two parrot finches explored the cage and were soon housed in it.

Set has recovered from his ordeal and though still looking a little worse for wear he has been reintegrated into the aviary with the more placid finches. Leaf and Forrest are flitting about their new home, they never keep still for long, hence needing a bigger cage to house them.

Who would have guessed such small birds would cause so much distress!

Cooking: For Saturday’s dinner I cooked a three bean quinoa chili. The recipe was very versatile and I substituted a few ingredients to what I had in the store-cupboard. I served it with oven baked tortillas and a crisp glass of white wine. It made for a healthy and filling meal. Definitely one to make again.

Gardening: This Sunday David and I spent some time in the yarden planting our Centurion onions. I snapped some pictures of Stellata magnolia and dwarf rhododendron flowers. The yarden is definitely awakening!

So that was my week. How have you spent yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #16

No sooner had I published Sunday Sevens #15, when more pet news occurred.

It was a lovely start to the week, with bright warm sunshine (much needed if you ask me!) When it is warm I like to sit out in the yarden, I take Artie with me. Being outside gives him more stimulation than being stuck inside the house. However I have created a nature yarden, meaning I have lots of visiting bees and butterflies, lots of stalking opportunities for Artie! While I was digging up my second crop of maris bard potatoes for my vegetarian roast dinner that evening, Artie was sitting amongst the flowers watching the bees.

I acted too slowly. I was busy marvelling at all the potatoes I had grown! From the corner of my eye I saw Artie lunge at a bee who had entered a foxglove. He must have knocked the poor bee down into the foliage as I couldn’t see her. I left Artie sniffing in the undergrowth while gathering my harvest.

On coming back into the yarden, Artie suddenly darted from the greenery, rubbing his paw against his nose. Jumping about like a jack in a box ‘You’ve been stung!’ I cried, scoping him up and taking him into the house. I called for David’s assistance. Then proceeded, a half hour long endurance, of trying to hold Artie down while David tweezed the bee sting from his nose. I got covered in scratches for my endeavour.

Afterwards when Artie was sting-less and enjoyed some cooked chicken, seemingly none the wiser for the upset. I stood shaking like a leaf. My nerves had been shot! ‘Pets are worse than kids!’ David exclaimed while I tried to regain my spirits.

Needless to say Artie is back to his ‘wild’ self again. He is siting in the last rays of the Sunday sunshine.

Have you had a pet who has had a too close encounter with a bee?

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Forgive me for returning to the great British obsession, the weather, but the UK saw its hottest day of the year (so far) on Tuesday! In the NW of England the temperatures soared to a very sweaty 31°c! The Spanish Plume the meteorologists had predicted had finally arrived! Though only for three days! On Tuesday evening as I wrote my post about the numerous animal sculptures that have graced the UK’s cities, David and I sat in the hottest room of the house. Outside the window I watched as the sky darkened as the last rays of the sun dipped beyond the horizon!

During this little snippet of summer, I was out counting the butterflies that visited the yarden, in the Big Butterfly Count. The count runs from 15th July to 7th August 2016! I don’t know whether it is because the alleyway between the houses has become overgrown with wild flowers/weeds but I have seen more butterflies flutter past this year, then any other! Predominantly the most common butterfly has been the small white. There has often been two (I don’t know if it’s the same couple) twirling in their dance of attraction before the male attaches himself to the female! They are a joy to watch!

One evening David and I were giving sugar water to this tired bee when in quick succession a small white and a red admiral fluttered crazily past! I quickly noted my sightings on the phone app before watching the satisfied bee fly off energised!

26842491This week saw me finish my latest book, Sam Baker‘s The Woman Who Raninspired by Anne Bronte’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. At first I struggled to get into the story. It seems to me that many published novelists nowadays are or were journalists. I don’t know whether that is a good thing or not! I persevered and soon the story warmed up. The narrative was atmospheric in its description of the Yorkshire Dales. The characters were a little difficult to understand but you got to like them in the end. The finale, touted as being explosive, ended more like a whimper. I didn’t understand why the main character would act like she did in the face of opposition! Anyway, it was enjoyable. I’ve not read this author before, perhaps I will in future?

Have you read this novel? Any thoughts?

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I was going to end today’s blog with an update on Troy but there hasn’t been much improvement. Then I remembered the lovely selection of bramley apples given to us by one of David’s friends. So I decided to finish with them. I have acquired all the ingredients so next week I shall be busy cooking apple pies, or variants on a theme!

I hope you all have a wonderful week ahead.

Christine x

Sunday Sevens was devised by Natalie at Threads and bobbins.

Sunday Sevens #7

This Sunday Sevens has been rather hard to compile. I only seem to be taking pictures of plants and food recently. Oh. I need to find some excitement in my life!

During breakfast on Sunday, (I have mine snuggled up in bed while listening to Classic FM) David called me downstairs. He had spied a new visitor to the yarden. It only stayed briefly and I didn’t have time to take a picture but I think it was a male Black Cap. He probably just used the yarden as a pit stop on his way to better feeding grounds, much like the Chiffchaff earlier in the year.

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By Tony Hisgett via Wikimedia Commons

David cooked Sunday dinner. He used a curry base and added spices to make a very tasty Rogan Josh.

We attended a family funeral mid week. Funeral services always make me think of this Emily Dickinson poem

I felt a Funeral, in my Brain

I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,
And Mourners to and fro
Kept treading – treading – till it seemed
That Sense was breaking through –

And when they all were seated,
A Service, like a Drum –
Kept beating – beating – till I thought
My mind was going numb –

And then I heard them lift a Box
And creak across my Soul
With those same Boots of Lead, again,
Then Space – began to toll,

As all the Heavens were a Bell,
And Being, but an Ear,
And I, and Silence, some strange Race,
Wrecked, solitary, here –

And then a Plank in Reason, broke,
And I dropped down, and down –
And hit a World, at every plunge,
And Finished knowing – then –

After reading Kate Riordan’s second novel, I bought her first novel the Girl in the Photograph. It was only £2.75, second hand from Ebay. It’s another one of those novels that has parallel narratives.

While passing the University of Liverpool, I caught sight of this very striking statue in the quadrangle!

For Saturday’s meal I cooked a vegetarian bean chilli. However, I made a few adjustments to the original recipe, which you can find here. I just used what I could find in the store cupboard. I swapped borlotti beans for pinto, used red lentils instead of puy and left out the marmite altogether! It made for an inexpensive yet healthy meal, even if it was rather hot with two teaspoons of chilli powder! I thought it was very tasty!

For the final picture, in the past few weeks I have been monitoring a strange plant that has been growing in the yarden. At first I didn’t know what it was but now that it’s budded, I remember planting snake’s head fritillary bulbs a year ago.

Have you had any strange looking plants grow in your garden? Cooked any yummy meals recently?

Christine x

Sunday Sevens was devised by Threads and bobbins.

Sunday Sevens #6…

…although it is a Monday.

4554471I have little excuse. I could have written this post on Saturday night instead of curling up with the last chapters of Kate Riordan’s The Shadow Hour. The novel is one of those that flips between different periods and has two main characters, this time grandmother and granddaughter. The narrative was slow to get going and I felt the protagonists were a little one dimensional but the story soon picked up and was rounded up successfully. I now have a short story to re-read for a Faceboook reading group. Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper, a tale of a woman’s slide into madness! I read it for an Open University course years ago so have fond memories of it.

The past week was plagued with spells of sunshine and showers.

2016-03-30 12.31.13 (2)Thursday turned out to be the best day of the week for me. In the morning my lovely mum dragged me out of the house for a coffee and a tea cake at Costa! Thanks Mum. Then in the afternoon I sat in the yarden for two hours and soaked up the warm spring sunshine. Artie stretched his legs and rolled about the cat mint. The magnolia tree is starting to come back to life. David came home early and surprised me with a big bottle of Philosophy’s Purity cleanser. It was only £5 in the company shop!

For Saturday’s evening meal I made a gorgeous Pearl Barley Risotto with Tomatoes and Spinach. I kept true to the recipe other than using a white onion instead of a red and goats cheese instead of feta. I also used 400ml of passata as it would have been too soggy with the 500ml it stated. I loved it, though David wasn’t so keen. The evening was topped off by drinking a nice glass of shiraz while watching gossamer cirrus clouds grace the sky at sunset.

How did you spend your weekend?

Christine x

Sunday Sevens was devised by Threads and bobbins.

 

People Should Visit these Places More Often!

With David taking the last two days off this week to join me in a nice break from work. We took to visiting some old sights of Liverpool.

I know with being a resident of Liverpool it sounds like I am blowing ‘my’ own city’s trumpet, but there are some good places to visit in Liverpool! Some places you may not even think would be nestled inside an urban conurbation!

One such place is Croxteth Hall and Country Park. It was always a staple place to visit for schools in the region when I was growing up. I remember visiting as a child but couldn’t remember much about the hall! It only cost David and I £14 in total to visit the hall (we were the only ones there!), the walled garden and farm. That’s cheap compared to other country homes!

The Hall itself has about 20 rooms open to the public. I presume that the other 100+ are left for public functions. They do cater for weddings! I was hoping to see a ball room, but the closest to this was the dining room!

Croxteth Hall dining room

Croxteth Hall dining room

David and I spent a leisurely half an hour walking from room to room, looking at the set displays of Kitchen and living quarters of the once residents, the Molyneux family. There was no tour guide or other visitors. It was lovely and peaceful. I had a riot on the elegant stairs. If only I had brought my evening gown!

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I had wanted to visit Croxteth Hall as I had been writing my ‘Jane Austen-esque’ novel… though at present it has gone by the by! However on a glorious ‘heatwave’ day, I thought where better to visit than a stately home with glorious grounds, where we could picnic under a blue sky!

The walled garden was awash with colour! Bees and butterflies milled about lazily and crops of artichoke and fruit graced wooden arches. The farm would appeal to families with small children. They had an array of cattle. David liked the Clydesdale horses.

David and Clydesdale Horse

David and Clydesdale Horse

We enjoyed a happy couple of hours at Croxteth. In the afternoon, David had an idea to take his Mum, Sister and Sister in Law with us to visit Liverpool’s Festival Gardens, made famous in the 1980’s! Now the site has been given over to the people of Liverpool to enjoy as a park! Though when we arrived there were only a handful of cars. Maybe due to the schools not ‘out for summer’ yet?

Bilgen, David’s Sister in Law commented that the park did not look like it was in a city! And it doesn’t with the iconic Japanese Pagodas set against a deep azure sky! Dragonflies skittered over the ponds and a shaded woodland walk was filled with the fluttering of butterfly wings!

I hope the Merseyside people get to enjoy these beautiful places that are on their doorstep! I know I did! 🙂

 

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Interview Nerves.

An extract from ‘After Plato’.

Charlotte stood buttoning up her blouse as her reflection smiled back at her. She shrugged on a grey jacket that matched her knee length skirt. She remembered the lines in the typed letter that she had received. ‘We thank you for your application and would like to invite you to an interview.’ Charlotte had stood frozen to the spot as she read the letter out to Harry after the postman had delivered it a week ago today.

‘Do you think they will like me?’ Charlotte asked, stroking down the creases of her skirt.

‘I don’t see why not, you know your playwrights, you would probably be more useful in the press office than the box,’ Harry replied. He was sitting on the edge of the bed watching Charlotte get ready for her interview at the local theatre.

‘Well it’s a start. I could work up the ranks.’

‘A career woman eh?’ Charlotte giggled as Harry grabbed at her, pulling her onto the bed next to him. He felt her body tremble as she lay in his arms. ‘You don’t have to be nervous. They will adore you, like I do!’

‘Oh Hal, you are sweet,’ Charlotte smiled throwing her arms around his neck and welcoming his soft kisses on her lips, her neck.

‘Just take deep breaths and think what you are going to say before speaking.’

‘I will,’ Charlotte sighed. ‘I’ll think of you when I am in the interview. Your love will carry me through,’ she closed her eyes and held Harry close.

‘Don’t think of me too much or it’ll leave you breathless.’ Charlotte smiled and clung to Harry like he was the sustenance that gave her life meaning.

 

Christine Lucas 2014.

Broken Bones, New Friends and Anniversaries!

I haven’t written a blog in a while.

Life has been mainly about work and life back home, doing lots of cooking and writing the new novel. 🙂

This week saw the eighth anniversary of the first meeting of David and I… time passes so quickly! For our anniversary David bought two Gouldian Finches (males). I named them Spectrum (Purple and yellow chest) and Aura (white and yellow chest). I love them, though Chocolate and Romeo have not accepted them into the new aviary as yet! Time will tell!

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For our dinner we ordered in a Saffron curry. We both had a Shahi, but as David had chicken I had the vegetarian option. We are both very full now.

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I have been doing a lot of treadmill exercises since David and I have moved into the new house. Everyday, for 20-30 minutes I have been sweating buckets! I have been eating healthily, lots of salad and I think I have lost weight. My work trousers have indeed become looser. I do not stand on the scales for fear I will revert back to my obsessive teenage years!! (It is so easily done.) Though having the curry tonight (we have not had one in a while) and a nice glass of wine, I am feeling rather swollen lol, and add to the fact that I will not be able to do too much exercise this week, due to me having dislocated/broken my little toe, I fear I will start to put back the pounds I have lost!

Dislocated/broken your toe? I hear you asking! Well it seemed quite innocuous at the time. I was getting ready for bed on a Sunday, it was almost 12 am! I was preparing myself for the working week ahead and since we have a mattress that likes to shift from time to time, I went to shift it back again. This act was fine and the mattress fitted into place and then I went to walk around the bed to my side and *bang!* my foot caught one of David’s shoes under the bed! I smarted at the impact, bent down and looked at my little toe, it seemed queer, out of place. So my instinctual action was to bend it back into place. It clicked, so hopefully it is in its correct alignment! I did not think much at the time, save for the pain and then ‘popping’ it back into place! I hope I have not done any lasting damage? I complained to David and then went to bed with a red, hot and swollen toe! I wanted more comfort! 😦

Monday came too quickly and I had work all day, I had to go otherwise I would’t get paid! The bruising seemed to get worse as time went on! (Sorry for the not so well manicured toes!)

20140304_162432😦 Sadly and licking my wounds. I tottered to work with a bandaged toe. I have had broken toes before so know what it’s like, but it doesn’t make it any easier when you have to walk 10 minutes to the bus stop, fight your way onto the bus and then more walking to the university buildings the lectures are in!

I have managed two days of going to work with a limp but thankfully Wednesday is my day off and I expect to just rest up! I will probably listen to more Hans Zimmer and try and continue some more novel writing! I have written 27,000 words already but most of it is the plan!! I am excited to progress but there is a lot of research and planning to do for some of the scenes, so it will probably be painstakingly slow!

The Day After a Storm…

…often there is no sign of the tempestuousness that came before.

And today was just like that. The sky was a deep azure and the sun shone brilliantly into my bedroom as I reclined under a cosy duvet listening to Hans Zimmer’s Lasiurus on my day off. I had protected this day off work with all my might. My spirit is in much need of a rest.

Last night I sat curled up on the sofa, brow furrowed with worry as I listened to the wind rush violently down my road. Drafts escaped into the house and rattled the doors and the electric lights flickered on and off. Though I think Liverpool got off lightly compared to other parts of the UK.

Amongst all this wildness I was stuck by the writing bug! It had been over two weeks since I had sat down in front of my laptop with a purpose of continuing my new novel. So guiltily, knowing David was bored I monopolised the computer and wrote from 8-11pm!! I wrote a maximum of 2000 words and finished the epilogue even though I have not actually written the main narrative yet!

So today, if I can pull myself away from listening to music, I may carry this momentum and do some more writing…

First Impressions.

The Pig and Whistle was like any other old English pub, full of dark stained wood, hazy lighting and chintz. A thick bank of cigarette smoke hovered over the regulars’ heads, mostly men, their surprised faces momentarily raised from their pints as two young women walked in with a cold blast of air from the outside.

With full wine glasses in hand and slightly tipsy from the alcohol already consumed, Charlotte and Anne stood propping up the bar giggling like children.

Harry had seen Charlotte first. He had seen her as she walked into the crowded pub, young looking and with a worried expression on her face that she never seemed to shift. Her hair was brown and fell in straight strands down her back, but it was her eyes that struck him the most, beautiful dark eyes that when you looked closer were of light grey. He had been sitting at a table with friends, gaily drinking and laughing at some joke or other, he couldn’t remember what about now. Then he noticed Charlotte and her friend, her unremarkable looking friend, all the more unremarkable for she was standing next to Charlotte! Harry had always mocked people for saying that love at first sight existed, more ‘lust at first sight,’ he thought. He couldn’t see how with one look a person could be totally smitten by another, and then it happened…

In just one look!

Charlotte had raised her eyes from her glass for a brief second; just to take in the room they were in, when her look met that of Harry’s sitting across the room. It seemed that their eyes locked for a moment, both gazing at each other, eyes widening trying to capture the other person. Feeling at first, surprise at being caught looking and then stricken by wonder at why the other was still holding their gaze. Charlotte broke eye contact first, her eyes had relayed something to her brain and then to her heart that made it quicken and hammer against her ribs like it was a wild animal panicking to get out! Harry felt the same, but being bold, he held his gaze transfixed on Charlotte, his eyes dilated with interest. Did he notice her blush when she lowered her eyes? When she shyly raised her eyes towards Harry a second time, it was Harry’s turn to lower his gaze in a nonchalant manner, and so the game continued until Harry couldn’t take any more of this childish teasing.

Anne hadn’t been naïve to the sly looks her friend had been shooting towards the corner of the room, she was interested as to who could have had such a profound effect on Charlotte. She lowered her head looking to seek her confidence when the tone of a man came from behind her, asking if he could buy them both a drink. The two girls stood in shock, this had never happened to them before! The man’s dialect was rich and seductive, unlike the common tongues they could hear all around the pub. He spoke very like a gentleman should; though to Charlotte he looked nothing like one. None of the man’s clothes seemed to correspond with each other; it looked like he had just grabbed the first things he found in the wardrobe and threw them on saying, ‘this’ll do.’ His mop of brown hair was as disjointed as his fashion, his fringe hung down over his forehead and his curls caressed the nape of his neck. To Anne he looked like an artist while Charlotte didn’t know whether she should be jealous of his hair or be attracted to him! ‘I’m Harry!’ he smiled down towards Charlotte, a perfect wide toothy smile that she reflected back.

‘His smile,’ she thought ‘was perfect!’

Harry on the other hand was more appreciative of Charlotte though he was astonished at how small she was in stature. From behind to a casual glance she looked very like a child, however on closer inspection, her womanly curves and ample breasts betrayed her mature figure. She wore a long black dress, ‘quite Goth like’ he thought though her dress sense was infinitely better than his own! He noticed her skin was pale like porcelain and he wondered whether ‘if I touch her, would she break?’ To Harry she resembled a fine English figurine, the ones your grandmother has behind glass cabinets, all standing prettily carrying parasols and with red lips that are set in a pout ready to be kissed. Harry was overwhelmed with a feeling that he wanted to kiss Charlotte more than anything else!

Christine Lucas 2013.