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!

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12 Hours of Day!

I’ve been meaning to do a photo an hour blog for some time, ever since I saw sunshine and celandines post in July. So, I decided to do it for today, 22nd August 2015, though in hindsight I should have chosen a day where I actually did something instead of the usual, same old!

Anyway, I shall endeavour to make some kind of blog out of the pictures I took!

It was an 8am start to the day, as shopping and housework beckoned. This is the stool where I sit and try to make myself pretty each day!

8.00 to 9.00

8.00 to 9.00

From 9.00am to 11am David, myself and my mum went shopping at the nearby supermarket.

10.00 to 11.00

10.00 to 11.00

9.00 to 10.00

9.00 to 10.00

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Around 11am we returned home and unpacked the bags of shopping! Thankfully this week’s shop did not total over ¬£100+ as the past weeks have been!!

11.00 to 12.00

11.00 to 12.00

Lunch time! While David nibbled on his baguette and I sipped at my soup, we let the six finches out of their aviary and laughed as they flew around the living room! Romeo tried to take my hair (again) and make a nest with it!! ūüėÄ

12.00 to 13.00

Weekend lunch is so much more relaxed and longer than work days! The next hour was taken up with drinking coffee!

13.00 to 14.00

13.00 to 14.00

Then the hard work had to begin. I vacuumed the floors and cleaned/disinfected the kitchen/bathroom and bedroom! Poor Henry always shivers in fear when he sees me reaching for him as his nose always falls off when I vacuum!!

14.00 to 15.00

14.00 to 15.00

3pm and after a showery morning, a break in the clouds gave me and Artie the opportunity to step outside into the garden and enjoy some sun, air and listen to the numerous Honey Bees visiting!

15.00 to 16.00

15.00 to 16.00, Anemone flowering

15.00 to 16.00

15.00 to 16.00, can you spy Artie?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From 4pm I made a start on preparing for the evening’s meal. During the week I had decided on making¬†Refried Bean Quesadillas with home-made Guacamole.¬†I turned my attention to¬†the Guacamole first having never made it before.

Ingredients:

  • One red onion, sliced finely
  • One chilli, sliced finely
  • One avocado, halved, stoned and skin removed, then cut into manageable cubes
  • Lime juice, squeeze some juice over the chopped avocado to stop from turning brown
  • Coriander leaves (handful, chopped)
  • One tomato, chopped

Method:

  • Chop all ingredients and then mash with a folk/masher/processor to desired consistency

I followed the instructions to the letter. The result was a fresh ‘salad’ like concoction, though David did not like the taste.

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Refried Bean Quesadillas. 

I found the ingredients only stretched for three people!

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 chilli finely chopped
  • 1 yellow finely pepper chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 400g can pinto or kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 8 flour tortillas
  • 100g cheddar or Gruy√®re, coarsely grated (I only used 50g)
  • A handful coriander leaves
  • 200g tub fresh tomato salsa, plus extra to serve (I didn’t use all the tub)
17.00 to 18.00

17.00 to 18.00, ingredients

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan (I just used a pan), and cook the onion and garlic for 2 mins.
  2. Add the chilli and pepper, and cook for 2 mins.
  3. Then finally add the cumin and cook for 1 min more.
  4. Tip in the beans, paprika and a splash of water. Using a potato masher, break the beans down as they warm through to make a rough purée. Season generously
  5. Spread the refried beans onto 3-4 of the tortillas and scatter over the cheese and coriander.
  6. Spoon over the salsa, then top with the remaining tortillas to make 3-4 sandwiches.
  7. Wipe the frying pan with kitchen paper (or use a frying pan), and return to the heat or heat a griddle pan. Cook each sandwich for 1-2 mins on each side until the tortillas are crisp and golden and the cheese is melting.
  8. Serve warm, cut into wedges, with extra salsa, guacamole and salad.
18.00 to 19.00

18.00 to 19.00 The result!

I enjoyed making the guacamole and refried beans. I could have bought shop brands but thought it would be better to try and make them from scratch myself. The dinner was indeed fresh tasting and filling.

For the last hour for the blog. I looked forward to a BBC Prom, of Mahler’s 6th Symphony. I relaxed for the evening listening to sublime music and enjoyed a few Pinot Grigio’s and a dessert of sliced strawberries with yoghurt!

19.00 to 20.00

19.00 to 20.00

Fin x

One Wedding and a Sunday!

Saturday dawned brightly. The past week had been rather dreary, energy sapping really! However, the warm, late summer weather arrived just in time for Paul and Gemma’s wedding!

The wedding was to be held at Wainstones Hotel, Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire at 2pm. We headed across country dressed in our finery with David’s cousin Keith.

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The journey from Liverpool would usually take about 2.5 hours, though it took a bit longer due to road works on the M60 and congestion for the Leeds festival!

We stopped off at Wetherby Service Station to refresh, but due to the sheer volume of traffic and the inability of the car parking staff to guide drivers to free parking berths, we were a lot longer at this stopping station than usual. This hold up meant that we would arrive at our destination with just minutes to spare. Thankfully the bride, Gemma was fashionably late and we managed to arrive in time, find our table and be composed for the ceremony!

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The ceremony itself was emotional, and I found it hard to control my tears. I don’t know what it is about wedding ceremonies but they always make me blub… ¬†A candle was lit for those family members not able to attend¬†the celebrations, something if I ever marry, I may adopt.

Once rings and kisses were exchanged the bride and groom headed out to the garden for photographs.

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Before the Wedding Breakfast, came the speech from Gemma’s Father, which was also very emotive! A blend of Elderflower and Prosecco was served for the toast. It was very light and something I could try in the future! Then came the home made meal,¬†something my poor grumbling stomach had hoped for. It had not seen food since 8.30am that morning! I had already banished a migraine with a tablet, thankfully!

The food was served hot and the starter of tomato soup was tasty, I even had David’s bread roll! The main event that I had hoped for, for so long (as usual), sadly fell short of expectations.

I was the only vegetarian at the breakfast and weeks before the wedding I was given a menu of meals to chose from and I (eventually) decided on the Goats Cheese and Sun Blushed Tomato Risotto. I thank the bride Gemma and the wedding team for being so patient with me!

I love goat’s cheese but not in excess. I don’t want to sound like I am complaining.¬†However the meal, was not as I had imagined. I had imagined a risotto with a sun blushed tomato sauce with the goat’s cheese sprinkled on top. The reality was that the goat’s cheese was mixed in with the sauce. It would have been ok, if it was not for the amount of goat’s cheese… a little too much, and it became rather sharp and sour on the tongue!

The pudding also was not as imagined, though if we were a little more aware of restaurant food maybe we would not have been surprised! The profiteroles with¬†white chocolate creme patisserie, was a little too¬†eggy than hoped for! Though we were thoroughly stuffed for it to matter! Other people on our table had roast beef and for pudding creme brulee and they didn’t complain!

After the Wedding Breakfast we ventured outside to enjoy the warm sun, listen to bees busy around a Buddleia and Swifts swoop across the sky!

Christine smelling the flowers

Christine smelling the flowers

Once we ventured back inside, the function room had been rearranged for the evening festivities. We sat at a table that was adjacent to a photo screen and a photographer (Phantom Imaging) with lots of props! They came over to us with a calk board and asked us to write something for Paul and Gemma and to try on their costumes as a test! Our child selves,¬†didn’t have to be asked a second time!

David and Christine

David and Christine

We have a history of dressing up! David dressed up as William Wallace on our Scotland holiday, and I, when we visited Old Sarum, Salisbury also in 2007 had to try on the props! (It seems such a long time ago!)

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Here’s a few picture of us and Keith dressing up with Gemma the bride!

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We also posed for a group shot of David, Keith and myself!

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It was a lot of fun and helped us to enjoy the evening even more! I wouldn’t be the first person on the dance floor but I would to a costume box! ūüôā

David got footage of Paul and Gemma cutting the cake and of their first dance together!

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After ten o’ clock we said our farewells and left the gaiety as we headed back home. My poor Artie was missing us!

We had a fun time together and enjoyed being a part of Paul and Gemma’s celebrations!


Come Sunday we were tired and worn, after not getting home ’til after 1am! Then after a broken sleep the household chores beckoned! Poor Artie who doesn’t like Henry the Vaccum cleaner hid under the bed covers!

Artie in bed!

Artie in bed!

I spent lunch with the finches and bold Romeo even sat on my head trying to harvest my hairs for a nest!

Romeo on my head!

Romeo on my head!

Come the evening I watched at Sparrows and Goldfinches visited the sunflower heart feeders and bumblebees/leaf cutter bees enjoyed visiting the Borage.

Bumblebee on Borage

Bumblebee on Borage

I also caught a striking sunset! Red sky at night…. hopefully tomorrow’s weather will bode well?

Red sky at night...

Red sky at night…

Goodnight x

A Lady of Leisure.

Costa treat

Costa treat

Monday was the beginning of my ‘much needed’ week off work. I started it by going for¬†a coffee with my mum! We braved the drizzle and took the bus to Allerton and our favourite Costa! It was a nice indulgent treat but the indulgence didn’t end there! The next day Mum and I went to Liverpool One’s Odeon and went to see Jurassic World! It was an enjoyable romp and it was nice to just switch off for a change! There were some nail biting moments which had mum and I squealing like children! ūüėÄ

I spent the ‘hump’ with Artie who seemed to enjoy the company.

2015-07-14 22.29.24In the garden:

There has been a flurry of activity at the feeders this week. Visiting were lots of baby Starlings all greedily helping themselves to the fat balls. Amongst all the flapping of wings were four House Sparrows, two males and two females. They happily explored the garden. I saw them under the Honeysuckle and at one stage all sitting in the branches of the small Buddleia I have in a pot! However they do not stay still for long and we believe we have more Sparrows visiting than first thought. I am hopeful they will continue to visit the feeders, they have such lovely sweet characters.

There were also the many Goldfinch ‘charms’ visiting. One family must have been successful at rearing their young as they brought about four babies to the feeders. All are welcome! ūüėÄ

I had to dig up my Michaelmas Daisy as the mildew was spreading to other flowers. The vinegar spray did not help I am afraid! Looks like I’ll be heading¬†to Lady Green Garden Centre¬†in the near future!

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The rest of the week:

David had Thursday and Friday off. So on the first day, we went to Trentham Gardens, Stoke on Trent to see their art instillation of fairies, by local artist Robin Wright.¬†We got in for the 2 for 1 offer via Stoke on Trent’s tourist website. Saved us nearly ¬£10! The next four hours was spent walking along the mile long lake, viewing the many art displays in-situ¬†and enjoying¬†their gardens.

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While walking we came across a flash of colour! It was a small part of the lakeside given over to wild flowers. The sight was stunning!

Wild flowers

Wild flowers

One of the attractions at Trentham was their Bare Foot Walk. I had decided the night before that if I had the chance I would try it. So in anticipation I packed with our lunch a small towel to wipe my feet! ūüôā David thought I was mad, but I threw off my shoes and socks and¬†jumped on the wooden stepping stones.

Bare Foot Walk at Trentham Gardens

Bare Foot Walk at Trentham Gardens

The wood was presently warm and comfortable unlike some other surfaces I encountered. Small stones, wood chips and coals were the hardest and most difficult to walk on. I made very slow progress!

The excitement of the day really knocked us out! So come the evening we relaxed and watched Maleficent.

Friday dawned cloudy and cool, We decided to make the most of the day and headed towards Lancashire to see the Pendle Sculpture Trail¬†at Aitken Wood. I don’t know if it was due to still being¬†tired from the day before or the fact that we seemed to get hounded by horrid flies for the two hours we were walking¬†(one even tried to bite me!),¬†I didn’t enjoy the day as much as I thought I would! The weather didn’t play ball either as it was rather windy on the hills and the sun rarely showed!

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The wood was good for wildlife spotting and we bemoaned the fact that we should have brought our ‘bigger’ cameras instead of our phones! We really were not equipped for taking any decent nature sightings. Another visit will be on the cards in the future!

On the walk we spotted:

  1. A Linnet, but not 100% certain.
  2. Tuffted Ducks though again I am not certain. I really wished I’d brought my bird ID book!
  3. Great or Lesser Spotted Woodpecker
  4. Blue, Great and Coal Tits, I recognised them! ūüôā
  5. Goldfinches
  6. Three rabbits
  7. Seven butterflies, two were Red Admirals and two Gatekeepers!
  8. A few moths
  9. A hawk hunting, could have been a Merlin, though not certain! ūüė¶

My identification skills are decent enough for when it comes to garden birds, but when I am faced with birds I don’t see regularly then I find them difficult to ID! I think many more days out in the country are needed to hone my skills!

Saturday¬†turned out at be a busy affair as we had family around for a curry and film night! We ordered from my favourite takeaway, Saffron¬†and the film we snuggled up to watch was The Kingsman, it had it’s funny moments!

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Now Sunday has arrived and I’m feeling blue, work looms gloomily on the horizon! I’ve enjoyed my time off work so much! Maybe too much! It’s been lovely. I have spent time with family and seen and experienced new things. I’ve spent today at¬†home with David and Artie and tried to get my nervous finches to feed from the hand. Two already have the courage, Chocolate (Bengalese) and Rainbow (Gouldian) but poor Romeo (Bengalese) is still hesitant!

Romeo, Rainbow, Chocolate

Romeo, Rainbow, Chocolate

Here’s to the next week off ūüôā

Lonely Hearts Advertisement…

Since Caramel’s passing, poor Chocolate has been on her own. As her species name suggests (society finch) she likes company, so on Saturday David and I drove to¬†Clipsley Pets & Aquatics in Haydock to see if we could get Chocolate a friend.

ChocolateChocolate seeking friend…

We were spoilt for choice as to what species of finch to get. I had my heart on getting a male Society for Chocolate and if there were some available, a pair of Gouldians too. However there was not to be Gouldians bought today.¬†One day I will get them!¬†But I spied a Society male singing and took note of his colourings. I then asked the lady serving if I could buy him and in a flash we had paid ¬£7 for Chocolate’s Romeo! We even came away with some free treats for Riley and the cats!¬†

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Introducing… Romeo!