Sunday Sevens #35

I don’t think I was meant to write this post. With half a page written, I was adding pictures when I noticed all the text had gone!! 😦 So take two! Here’s a quick recap of my week in a Sunday Sevens devised by Natalie at Threads and bobbins.

#Walk1000miles: I’ll get my abysmal mileage out of the way first. It’s been a lazy week for both walking and exercising. I have just felt so tired! This week I have managed 22 miles. Bringing my annual total to 759 miles.

Foraging: One mile of my weekly total was strolling around Liverpool’s Festival Gardens. David, Riley and I went in search of blackberries! There were tons of brambles! We managed to collect a small bag full but there were loads left to ripen. Do you have any ideas on what I can do with my small haul of blackberries?

Book I am reading: This week I have picked up And the Mountains Echoed, the third novel by Khaled Hosseini. Though written in a different style to his first two books, I am enjoying it so far. It keeps me distracted while on the daily commutte. Have you read this book, what were your impressions?

Wildlife and yarden: This week I noticed a common carder bee enjoying the flowers on the delilah. The wildflowers from the 30 Days Wild pack seem to be growing well! I wonder what flowers will bud? We also pulled up the centurion onions. Some hadn’t developed so we discarded them. Of the few we salvaged, we just have to leave them to dry and then I will try one. We haven’t be at all successful this year with growing our own. What do you suggest we try and grow next year?

sausage casserole

Cooking: This week I have been very busy in the kitchen, cooking and making our meals from scratch. I have come across two vegan blogs (Yup it’s Vegan and Vegan Richa) with some wonderful recipes. I was inspired by The Gourmet Vegan’s recipe of a spicy butter bean and sausage casserole. However I didn’t have any mushrooms or butter beans, so substituted them for peppers and cannellini beans.

Bear-mingham: This weekend David and I drove the two hours from Liverpool to the UK’s second largest city, Birmingham. Our journey took half an hour longer than usual as we found that junction 6 of the M6 was closed at weekends, until September! The diversion was long and the return journey via junction 7 was stressful to navigate. However we did have a nice time once in Birmingham. We visited the city two years ago to see The Big Hoot! This time we visited their sleuth of 100 sun bears! You can read about past trails we’ve visited here. In the two hours we walked the city’s streets, we saw 28 colourful bears. I’ll end the post with a collage of our favourite ones. Which ones are your favourite?

That was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

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30 Days Wild 2017 – Week 3

o0OhgWNNWell week three has been a much more enjoyable week. I think the sunshine and 25°+ temperatures have helped raise the mood.

With a bit of forward thinking I was also able to plan my posts and managed to gather enough photographs and subjects to hopefully make the post more informative. Let me know your thoughts.

Day Fifteen: Thursday.

Last year I didn’t have much luck with growing my own vegetables. I tried growing peppers, green beans, spring onions and tomatoes. All perished. The only success of the summer was the maris bard potatoes, and I got two harvests from them!

So this spring I decided to get the same variety in the hope of getting a bumper harvest of gorgeous new-potato-type earlies. However, ‘the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry’. I planted the chits in March/April and waited for the plants to grow and the flowers to appear. This year nothing happened, save the plants in the grow bag yellowed and some died. I watered them during the dry spell and decided on Thursday to rummage in the soil to see if there were any potatoes grown. There were, but they all looked like this!

potatoes

I was so upset! What had happened to my lovely potatoes? After doing some reading online I found there could be a number of reasons my potatoes looked like they had acne.

  1. The spots could be a nematode, or microscopic worm.
  2. There was a lack of moisture in the soil during hot weather.
  3. The spots could be early blight, a fungus spread by rain and hot temperatures.
  4. Probable potato scab which is a bacterium.

I suppose you only learn as a gardener if you make an attempt at growing. Perhaps last years harvest was a fluke? I have centurion onions growing in a bag too. I wonder what they will look like come harvesting?

Have you had a diseased riddled harvest? Let me know your stories.

Day sixteen: Friday.

All week, our female blue-faced parrot finch (Forrest) has been laying tiny white eggs. This got me thinking, how is an egg actually made? So I did a little research.

The egg as we know it is assembled inside out! The yolk comes first and is released via the oviaries. Fertilisation (if applicable) occurs once the yolk is released. The yolk then passes along the oviduct where the albumen and membranes are created. Calcification occurs at the shell gland and this produces the egg shell. Shell production can take up to 20 hours and the whole process lasts around 24 hours!

If you are interested to know more, then follow this link here, and here, and here.

Day Seventeen: Saturday. 

Two of random acts of wildness are: 1. grow borage for bees and 2. take a picture of something blue.

borage

Since 2015, when I began participating in 30 Days Wild, I have grown borage for bees. This year has been no different. I harvested the seeds from last years plants and sowed them this spring. Right on cue for June the new plants have begun flowering. The bees love them and they are also my something blue for 2017!

Day Eighteen: Sunday.

Having never picked our own fruit before I was very excited to try! I found a local farm, Claremont, on the Wirral, who have a pick your own season. So David and I visited this weekend. On arrival we opted for two small punnets and headed towards the field where hundreds of strawberry plants were growing. The farm was very busy with families. We chose our row and began foraging among the strawberry plants. We found big juicy fruit, the smell was delicious!

Having filled our punnets to the brim we took them to the farmer who weighed the harvest and the cost was £6 for the two punnets. I thought it was reasonable, with the guarantee that the fruit is fresh having picked them straight from the plant. We will definitely visit again.

Have you picked your own? What fruit do you prefer?

Day Nineteen: Monday.

Nicky at Too Lazy to Weed wrote a wonderful blog about plant pots for pollinators an initiative by Butterfly Conservation. They offer a planting guide for beginners and ask for participants to log their pots on a map and state what plants you have for pollinators. I have numerous pots and plants for pollinators so it wasn’t difficult to participate in.

Here are a few pictures of some of the plants I have in the yarden for pollinators.

Some pollinator friendly plants are:

  • Hellebore
  • Chives
  • Lavender
  • Honeysuckle
  • Sunflower
  • Michaelmas Daisies

Perhaps you can plant a pot for pollinators and help out our hungry insects?

Day Twenty: Tuesday.

I’ve decided to showcase two bees who have been seen visiting the yarden. 1. the leaf-cutter bee and 2. the honey bee.

Leaf-cutter bee:

  • One of the solitary bees.
  • Nests in cavities.
  • So named due to cutting out leaves to make their ‘cells’ for larvae.
  • On the wing April to August.
  • Feeds on nectar and pollen which they carry on their abdomen.

Honey bee:

  • Are hive bees and live in colonies.
  • A colony can be between 35,000 to 60,000 bees.
  • The hive is structured with a queen, worker bees (females) and drones (males).
  • Prefer simple, open flowers.
  • Carry their pollen in baskets on their hind legs.

Day Twenty-one: Wednesday.

The Summer Solstice. Last year I got up at 4 am and listened to the dawn chorus. This year since having a long day at work, (and I mean a loooong day at work). I decided to look for alternative ways of celebrating the solstice.

Solstice is the Latin for ‘sun seems to stand still.’ Some see the solstice as the beginning of summer, whereas others see it as midsummer. The sun is at its most northerly position (and at winter it’s the most southerly). The solstice occurs due to the tilt of the Earth at 23.5°. In summer the Earth is tilting towards the sun and for the UK the summer solstice means approx. 16 hours of sunlight, the longest day. During the winter solstice the opposite occurs (approx. 8 hours of sunlight), meaning the shortest day.

Thought.co have some good ideas on how to celebrate the summer solstice.

WikiHow suggests doing some sky observations.

I can’t remember where I saw it now, but I read that making a herbal brew was also a way of celebrating the solstice, so I decided on attempting a rosemary tea.

rosemary tea

Rosemary Tea

Rosemary is full of antioxidants (supports the immune system), has vitamins A and C and is helpful in boosting memory. Shakespeare in Hamlet, (act four, scene five,) has Ophelia saying (in her maddened state), ‘there’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance. Pray you, love, remember.’ It can also aid relaxation, ease anxiety and help digestion. So I thought I would give it a try.

Ingredients (makes one small mug):

  • I used two tablespoons of finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves (cut fresh from the yarden).
  • One cup of boiled water or 250ml.
  • Leave to steep for 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Strain and drink.

My thoughts:

I decided to drink the infusion whilst listening to Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, based of the William Shakespeare play. I listened as a muggy day turned to a cooler evening.

The infusion created a green tea. Rosemary is a very aromatic herb and the tea was very florally. I think I preferred the music to the drink.

What is your favorite herbal drink?

Summary:

What a diverse week, week three has been! From failed potato harvests to gorgeous strawberries! I have tried to share new experiences and facts I’ve learned.

What random acts of wildness have you enjoyed doing this week?

A Look Back:

2015: Bees and growing borage.

2016: Wild swimming and birds.

Thanks for dropping by,

Christine x

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.

 

I’ve got the cooking bug again!!

Much to the consternation of my poor purse, as cooking can be both cheap and equally expensive!

This weekend I have been busy in the kitchen. With spring slowly ‘springing’ my desire to cook, (though not dampened by winter) has indeed ‘sprouted’ this past weekend, with that old eager feeling of excited anticipation gnawing at me.

On Saturday, and again on Sunday I was busy making ‘Roasted Carrot and Garlic Soup.’ I had many of the ingredients left over hence why I made it again on the Sunday. The recipe says for 4 but I only seemed to make for 3, (depends on how many ladles you dole out!)
The ingredients were:

• 450g of carrots, peeled and chopped
• 2 small potatoes, or a large one (that I used), peeled and chopped
• 1 head/bulb of garlic
• 2 red onions, or a mix of one red and one white (it didn’t change the taste)
• 2-3 celery ribs
• ¼ tsp of cayenne pepper
• 0.7 to 1 litre of vegetable stock.
• Salt and pepper to taste
• Chives chopped to garnish

Method:

When I went to make this recipe I had not read the entire method properly. I thought it was just carrot and garlic soup, not roasted. So it took me longer, about 1 hour from start to finish.

• I peeled and cut the carrots, onions and potato
• Sliced the celery
• In a roasting dish, I put in the carrots, onions and celery with some oil, salt, pepper and the cayenne.
• I then chopped the top off the bulb/head of the garlic to expose the cloves, salt and peppered it and added a touch of oil. I wrapped the head/bulb in tin foil
• I put the roasting dish and wrapped up garlic in the oven 220°/gas mark 7 for 20-30 minutes
• While the vegetables were roasting, in a pan, I put two stock cubes in with 0.7lires of boiling water. I also added the chopped potato to the pan and seasoned it. Use 1 litre of stock to make enough for 4!
• Once the vegetables were roasted I added them, (the carrot, celery, onion) to the pan with the stock and potatoes.
• I then squeezed out the garlic and added that too the pan with the vegetables and stock. I then boiled the pan for 15 minutes or until the vegetables were soft.
• Then pop the mixture into a blender and blend until smooth.
• Warm-up again and serve with a sprinkling of chives or freshly made bread. It made a slightly hot soup, reduce the amount of cayenne if you don’t like heat!

Roasted Carrot and Garlic Soup - First Attempt

Roasted Carrot and Garlic Soup – First Attempt

On Saturday I had bought some bread, but with more time on my hands on the Sunday, I decided to make a loaf of bread.

I always use the BBC Good Foods, recipe.

Easy White Bread

Ingredients:

• 500g of strong white bread flour, plus more for kneading and dusting.
• 2 tsp of salt
• 7g of yeast (fast action)
• 3 tbsp of oil (olive/sunflower/vegetable or your preference). I used sunflower
• 300ml of water. I have mine tepid.

Method:

• In a mixing bowl I measure out the dry ingredients. (I had trouble this Sunday as I only had 400g of strong bread flour, so had to add 100g of plain white flour!)
• I then add the oil and finally the water
• I add the water incrementally and get my hands in to mix the ingredients together
• Once the ingredients come together in some sort of dough, (today was moist; I’ve had others where more water was needed.) Then tip the dough onto a surface with some flour and begin kneading
• I have read recipes were they say knead to 15 to 20 minutes. I think I kneaded for more like 5-10.
• Once the bread has come nicely together and is silky smooth, put in a bowl and leave in a warm place. I left it besides a radiator and left to prove for one hour.
• After the hour, you will discover that the bread has doubled in size (due to carbon dioxide released by the yeast!)
• ‘Knock back’ (I just knead the dough) for 5- 10 minutes, this knocks the air out of the dough, and then return to somewhere warm. I place the dough into a bread tin at this stage and leave for another one hour! You can leave for longer.

Dough.. ready for the oven

Dough.. ready for the oven

• Once ready to put the dough in the oven, use a 200°/gas mark 6 for 25-30 minutes. The aroma of cooked bread is glorious.
• Once cooked, tip the bread onto a rack to cool and then slice accordingly.

perfect bread

perfect bread

Warm bread served with hot cooked soup is delicious and comforting!

Roasted Carrot and Garlic Soup with freshly made bread

Roasted Carrot and Garlic Soup with freshly made bread

On Friday, the beginning of the weekend, after a long week at work, I made some Slimming World Chocolate Brownies, which only had four ingredients.

• 6 eggs (separated.)
• 60g of cocoa powder
• 30g of sweetener. The recipe said 70g of sweetener and another I read said 150g! That is two whole jars! I reduced the sweetener, but with trial and error the right amount can be discerned.
• 1tbs of vanilla essence.

I decided to make these for David’s mother and mine as it was Mothering Sunday in the UK, 15th March 2015.

Method:

• Once all eggs were separated, I whisked the whites to soft fluffy peaks and then left to one side.
• I then added to the yolks, sweetener, vanilla essence and cocoa powder together, adding a touch of water if it went too dry.
• Afterwards, I folded in the fluffy egg whites into the chocolate mixture slowly, so as not to let the air out.
• Once mixed pour into a baking tray lined with baking paper and cook for 25-30 minutes on 180°/gas mark 4.
• I used a cocktail skewer to see if the brownies were cooked. Once clear I tipped onto a tray to cool.
• Once cool I cut into squares. I think it made around 25 brownies and the recipe says only ½ a syn each.

Here’s a link to a YouTube video showing how to make them!

I found the brownies were rather leathery but would be nice with some ice cream or cream, and maybe some fresh fruit. I am not the biggest chocolate fan and only made them for family. I hope they liked them?

So as you can see I have been productive in the kitchen. I look forward to making many more delicious dishes and sharing them with you!

Christine x

Beautiful!

What a beautiful weekend it has been in the NW of England!

Above us only sky!

The sun has been shining brightly for the past three days! It has been warm as well, with temperatures peaking at 21/22 degrees C. Though it has felt warmer!

Amongst popping out to sun myself, I have been doing the obvious weekend chores like visiting the supermarket and cleaning the house. On Saturday I even accompanied David to the local tip to dispose of the pile of bricks that had come from the demolished shed. They had been lying in the middle of the yard for over a year! I was glad to be rid of them! Since their departure the yard is finally looking more like a place to unwind in the summer months after a long day!

The garden

It has not just been myself enjoying the warm sunny weather, the plants in the garden have all sprouted up and the bees have loved visiting my Scabiosa and today they were seen on my Cat Mint and Honeysuckle!

bee

Saturday, while David was busy pointing the back yard wall. I was listening to Classic FM At the Movies and cooking vegetables for our makeshift Tortilla Pizzas! Friends of ours had posted their pizzas on Facebook earlier in the week which gave me the idea for Saturday’s dinner.

Tortilla Pizza

Ingredients for Tortilla Pizza

  • Pack of tortillas
  • Tomato purée
  • Low fat mozzarella cheese
  • One red onion
  • One red pepper
  • handful of peas and sweetcorn
  • Three cloves of garlic
  • Handful of fresh oregano for sprinkling (I used leaves from the garden!)

Method:

  • Smear tomato purée onto one tortilla, leave space at the edges
  • Crumple the mozzarella on top
  • Then place the vegetables, in any order. You can use meat if you like. David had pepperoni (though not so healthy!)
  • Once complete put in oven 200 degrees or gas mark 6 for around 7 minutes or until starts to burn.
  • Take out, flake oregano on top and cut into sections. Enjoy! 🙂

Sunday, and David got up at 8am to continue to point the back yard wall. I stayed in bed snoozing until 10am! In the afternoon, after sunning myself I prepared a very easy dish for the left over tortillas.

Sweet potato spicy wraps

Ingredients for Spiced Indian Sweet Potato Wraps:

  • 3-4 sweet potatoes, cut into wedges
  • 1 red chilli, cut finely
  • Oil
  • 2 tsp of cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp of garam masala
  • 1 red onion thinly diced
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tsp of sugar
  • Mayonnaise or natural yoghurt
  • Coriander for garnish

Method:

  • Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Toss the sweet potatoes with chilli, 1 tsp oil, cumin seeds, garam masala and plenty of seasoning on a roasting tray. Roast for 25-35 mins, turning wedges halfway, until tender and golden.
  • Meanwhile fry onion in remaining oil for a few mins until partly softened, stir in the lime juice and sugar with some seasoning, then turn off the heat.
  • Warm tortillas  following pack instructions, then assemble by adding a couple of wedges of sweet potato to each, followed by a scattering of onions, a dollop of yoghurt (or mayonnaise) and a small handful of coriander leaves. Roll up and eat.

I enjoyed it, but David didn’t. I gave the rest of the meal to my mum who enjoyed it too! It was spicy but not too spicy! As you may have guessed I am in sweet potato mode of late. Hopefully this week sometime I will be able to make sweet potato and lentil soup!

Who knows what the new week will hold!