Thursday, 28 July 2016

Summer Food & Sunshine

We've had lots of lovely warm sunny weather as have many of you no doubt. Yesterday was the first rain we'd had in almost three weeks so it was much needed and gave me a break from watering the garden. It was a bit of a shock to don the rain coat to walk the dog yesterday morning, but Barry relished the rain as much as we did!

With all this warm weather we have been enjoying plenty of salads and BBQs. The novelty of a BBQ has and probably never will wear off for me, I just find them so fun and it's something we both get involved in (I do all the prep, marinating meat etc. while Jack does caveman duties and mans the BBQ).

The man in his natural habitat, providing for others

As well as creating homemade dishes, it has also been nice to get out in the sunshine and visit Millets Farm where you can pick your own fruit and veg. We recently went and picked a punnet of raspberries and a punnet of strawberries and they were delicious. They also have a fantastic Butchers there and do an array of ready-marinated fresh meat for the BBQ, I love their smoky BBQ ribs!

Raspberry picking at Millets Farm Centre

We've had friends over for BBQs and it's been lovely being able to sit in the garden all evening, eat outside, have a cocktail or two. Our friend even made a tasty fruit salad for dessert the other week

I like to make my own kebabs; these were chicken kebabs that I marinated in Nandos sauce! Homemade Nandos is tasty!

Homemade Potato Salad with chives from the garden

We've had lots of colourful salads each day at work

Now as I stare out of the window the rain clouds have just passed us and the sun is trying to break through again just in time for Barry's afternoon walkies. He's been fine in the warm weather, he's got a makeshift paddling pool in the garden that he enjoys splashing in when it's been really hot and we've been delaying his daytime walks to after 9pm when the temperature has been much cooler, as he doesn't seem to understand when he's hot and still runs around like a loon!

Our back garden view last week - Those blue skies! I wonder when they'll cut the wheat, it looks almost ready and they've already harvested all of the Barley in the neighbouring fields

Finally, I have two very happy Mediterranean tortoises who have been enjoying our 'Mediterranean' weather in the UK!

Let's hope the warm weather returns in the coming days and we continue to have a nice summer mix of sunshine, cloud and warm weather! With the odd bit of rain to keep the plants happy and the water butts replenished.

Have a lovely weekend everyone, just in case I don't manage to write another blog post for a couple of days!

Em x

Jack's Birthday

I've been terrible at blogging recently and I can't believe how quickly the year is passing! I'm going to get back into the swing of things now that jury service has finished.

It was Jack's birthday on Tuesday; I'd already given him his birthday presents a couple of weeks before as they were too big and too heavy to wrap (a huge metal toolbox/cabinet on wheels and a telescopic ladder, both of which he had asked for), but I did take him out for dinner on Tuesday and we decided to go somewhere different and so headed towards Oxfordshire and the Thames to go for dinner by the river. We had a nice dinner in The Swan at Streatley, before having a little stroll by the river to walk some food off. It was a nice hotel/restaurant in a lovely setting and Streatley and Goring are very picturesque, with lots of big expensive river-fronted houses.

After our meal we headed home and our friends popped over for a slice of birthday cake and a game of Shuffleboard. Has anyone else played it? It's a seriously addictive Dutch game where you push wooden discs down a table to try and get them through holes at the bottom for varying points (probably a terrible description of how to play the game)! I bought us a beautiful handmade beech Shuffleboard and we've enjoyed having a game each evening. I'll try and get a photo of it next time we play it.

Birthday Boy!

I spent all of Monday afternoon baking Jack a birthday cake, along with over 100 sausage rolls for him to take into work with him, as requested by his work colleagues who love my homemade sausage rolls. The cake was hard work but it's possibly one of my best cakes to date when I look back and compare it with the previous birthday cakes I've made Jack over the past nine years. It's a 4-layer chocolate 'drip' cake; the layers were sandwiched together with whipped cream, then the cake was covered with buttercream icing and a chocolate ganache drizzled over the top. I then made some chocolate shards (Hotel Chocolat eat your heart out!) and decorated the top of the cake with these and various other chocolate goodies. Jack was amazed with it and I'm pleased to say it tasted great, though too sickly sweet for me so I only managed about half a slice! I made Jack take the rest of the cake to work the next day to get rid of it - we're both trying to be really healthy before we go to America next month! I've included a couple of photos of the cake below, hopefully I'll get a recipe up soon for you all!

Making the chocolate shards was fun!

Em x

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Wildflower Meadow

It's been a while since my last post, apologies. I'm on jury service this week so despite all the waiting around I've just not had much time in between driving to Newbury to then get the train to Reading. I was picked for a case yesterday though, so there isn't so much waiting around. I'm finding the experience very interesting so far. That's all I'll say as you're not allowed to discuss anything!

I've discovered a new foothpath that I hadn't noticed before despite walking past it many times; once over the stile you're into the most beautiful wildflower meadow and I've really enjoyed going up there with Barry over the last week. It's so pretty especially on these sunny evenings and it's full of wildflowers, butterflies and bees.

I took my camera along the other day to try and get a few of the butterflies - Barry is a pain in the backside though and every time I crouched down quietly to try and photograph the butterflies he'd come bumbling along as if to say "whatcha doing Mum?!" and the butterflies would disperse quite quickly. Eventually he got side-tracked running through the long grass on the hunt for rabbits so I managed to get a few snaps.

Pyramidial Orchid I believe?


I'll be back with more blog posts soon...

Em x

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Blackbird Nest Update; They've Fledged!

If you read my blog regularly (thank you to those who do, I love you!), you'll have seen multiple posts about the feathered babies in my garden. I got quite attached to them, to the point where Jack told me I'd be sleeping in the shed if he came home to find I'd 'rescued' one and brought it in the house. Alas I didn't need to as the parents have been fab and all babies are doing well.

They fledged on Tuesday and I only knew this when I came face to face with one of their little grumpy beaked faces sat on the outer foot-ledge of the conservatory staring in at me as I read a book! Barry cries quietly at the door to go out and 'play' with these speedy little things but I've had a stern word with and told him "no". He understands "be nice" anyway as I said it to him various times when he was a much younger pup and took an interest in my shelled babies, Squirt and Lola. He now knows not to think about touching them and if you read my last post you'll know he's now scared of them anyway haha!

Anyway, the baby Blackbirds may have fledged but they're not the most intelligent of birds. I think three have now left the safety of our garden but one still remains and he seems to like exploring the whole garden. I've found him sat on the broom, sat on the tortoise's house, amongst the blackcurrant plant and perched on my rhubarb. Yesterday the little fiend must have run into the shed while I had the door open as I was cutting the grass. I put the mower away without knowing, but when I put the tortoises outside earlier I could hear a lot of tweeting and could see Mr Blackbird with a beak full of worms hopping around the shed roof. When I opened the shed door there was little baby blackbird sat on a box of lawn seed on the shed windowsill! So he spent a night in the shed, but I carefully caught him and put him back outside and told him to stay away from Jack when he sees the bird poop EVERYWHERE in the shed!

The parents are still busy feeding them but hopefully they'll successfully fly off very soon :-)

Em x

Monday, 4 July 2016

Sunny Weekend & Funny Tortoises

It looks like the sun has returned for July and let's hope we get a lot of nice sunny days now. I've marginally got my hay fever under better control now thanks to steroids, which I'm not thrilled about being on but the GP and I have exhausted every other option so this is a last resort to try and get it under control. It's the worst it's ever been for the last two years :-( Does anyone else suffer with it really badly? I take tablets, eye drops and nasal spray daily, go to bed with a flannel over my face most nights - Jack's even bought a special pollen mesh to fit on the windows! I've suffered for over twenty years and it shows no signs of being outgrown in my immune system. I've tried local honey, all sorts! Failing that I'll need a gas mask and boiler suit!

I have been able to get outside and enjoy the garden in brief spells anyway and both the front and back garden are looking colourful at the moment. The Borage is flowering and the bees seem to spend their time going backwards and forwards between them and the Lavender. We've had some nice walks out with Barry too exploring a few new routes. I found a pretty meadow nearby with a track running all the way around the edge where the public footpath runs through. Barry likes disappearing off in the long grass in search of rabbits. He then comes home totally worn out and hops straight into his favourite chair in the conservatory and has a snooze!

My brother and his girlfriend have gone on holiday for two weeks so we're looking after Jenna's Horsfield Tortoise named Terry. Terry is a Russian tortoise so quite different in his markings to my two Hermanns tortoises (Mediterranean Tortoises), but nonetheless he's just as cute. He's a real character anyway and anyone who thinks tortoises are slow boring pets are very much mistaken! It's not advised to mix different species of tortoises together due to different parasites they may be carrying or if they were to accidently mate, but I thought a quick meet and greet between the 'cousins' as we call them wouldn't hurt as ours are all healthy animals. I also thought it would make for a funny photo of all the cousins together so I sat all three tortoises on the lawn and made Barry lie down next to them. Terry's usually a very shy tortoise and hides away a lot, not like my two that love a tickle under their chin. I quickly took the photo and seconds later Terry tried to bite Barry, making Barry yelp and run away. Terry then proceeded to chase Barry around the lawn (yes, you read that right, a tortoise chasing a dog) before then switching to chasing Squirt (my biggest tortoise) and biting her back leg and refusing to let go. I managed to peel him off and banished him back to the old wire run we used for my two before we built their permanent run, what a little hooligan! Barry (aka Wimp Dog) can add tortoises to his list of everything he's scared of and Squirt and Lola aren't interested in meeting Terry again! I then went inside for all of five minutes, came back out to find Terry missing from his run - he'd managed to pull the chicken wire away from the frame and luckily I found him hiding under the nearby Rosemary plant. I put him back in a safer run and told him to behave and then relayed the story to Jack. Jack's witty response to me was "it's because he's an only child" which had me in stitches and made Jenna and my parents laugh when I called them later that day! What an eventful ten minutes that turned out to be! That's the first and definitely the last time that they all meet each other!

Barry keeping a very wary eye on the tortoises, seconds before Terry tried to taste him!

We had Jack's parents and Grandparents visit yesterday which was lovely. Barry took a shine to Barbara and insisted that she play tug of war with him and his chicken leg toy! We had a nice roast in the pub in the afternoon before they all headed home again. Barbara had very kindly put together a lovely food basket for Jack and I, full of tasty goodies! I love the basket too, very handy for yarn and other crafty bits (Jack's already moaning about the fact that there's craft baskets everywhere in our house!).

Barry and Barbara

Lovely food basket from Jack's Grandparents, Barbara and Brian

We've got a quiet week this week other than work, which will be busy for me as I'm on Jury Service next week. I have to say I'm really looking forward to it and think it will be quite interesting. I've been warned that it's a lot of sitting and waiting but that sounds perfect to me - I might finally be able to catch up on some reading as the books 'to read' pile is growing. I hope I can take some crochet too if it's allowed.

Can't resist sharing this photo of Jack and Barry snoozing on Friday evening, I must have worn them both out on our dog walk earlier that afternoon!

Have a good week everyone!

Em x

Blackbirds Nest Update 04/07/2016

The babies are growing well and jostling around a lot in the nest as they're so big now; they keep pushing the smallest from the nest poor thing. I know it's nature and these things happen but I have rescued him a couple of times and popped him back on the nest as the tortoises come straight over to investigate who's fallen into their run and Barry follows quickly behind at the sound of the tweets, so I speedily pick him up (wearing gloves so he doesn't smell too much of me) and pop him back on the nest where he's safer. Mum and Dad don't seem bothered by me doing this, moments later they fly in with food for them all as if to say "thanks for baby sitting". I'm petrified some horrible cat will get them and they're so close to being able to fledge now, come on little babies, the quicker you can fly the safer you'll be! They're about 10 days old and I believe they fledge at around 14 days so not long now...

Photo from Friday

Photo from yesterday