24th & 25th December 2017

On Christmas Eve we had my Dad to dinner and I cooked our Christmas lunch: a very large roast chicken with all the usual trimmings, followed by Christmas pudding. Rather than making an iced Christmas cake this year I thought I would try Mary Berry’s recipe for Tunis Cake: a lemon and almond sponge topped with a chocolate ganache and decorated. I was very pleased with the result, although I dread to think how many calories Chris and I consumed eating it over the following few days.

Tunis Cake

Anyway, we had a very nice dinner and I took Dad home again in the late afternoon. And so onto Christmas day. We think it was most probably Teddy’s first proper Christmas as we suspect that he was a travellers dog (not house trained, frightened of people (especially men), frightened of big sticks and people shouting, but very dog friendly). I had explained about Santa Paws before the big day (I know, I know!) and he seemed to enjoy himself.

Here he is with Chris.

Teddy and Chris

Kissy, kissy time…

Kissy kissy time

Wearing Max’s old reindeer antlers


And with me.

Teddy is enjoying his first proper Christmas

I Hope you all had a nice time over the festive period.

A nice birthday

Sunday 7th February 2016

Today was my birthday. We won’t mention how old I am. The morning started with present opening, which Max had to help with.

Max helps me open my presents

One of the presents I had asked Chris for was a monopod for the camera. Chris hadn’t wrapped it as the box was so big. I was a bit confused as I knew the size the monopod was supposed to be, and, sure enough, when I’d opened the box and removed all of the bubble pack, this is what I found.

A big box for a little object

After that I had to get up and cook dinner as I had invited Dad and Pat to lunch. When they arrived, however, it allowed me to play with my off-camera flash cable.

Dad and Pat

We had roast lamb and pork for lunch, followed by sherry trifle, and then, later in the afternoon, I produced my Birthday cake, which I’d made on Friday and decorated yesterday. It’s another lemon drizzle cake, with lemon curd and lemon buttercream filling, covered in icing. It wasn’t decorated quite as well as I would have liked, but it tasted nice.

My birthday cake

Although my birthday was quite busy, I had a nice day. After Dad and Pat had left I was glad to sit down and have a rest though.

A year ago today

My cousin, Linda, and her daughter, Lucy came to stay. We went shopping and had lunch out and then walked around Creekmoor Ponds when we got home.

Linda and Lucy

The Christmas Cake

Saturday 19th December 2015

Well, I say ‘the’ Christmas cake, but I have actually ended up making 5 cakes this year. I made three of the Christmas wine cakes (fruit soaked in sherry and lovely and moist) that I normally make: one for my Dad and two for us as I always wish we had another when we finish the first. And then Chris asked for a Dundee cake, so I make one of those. And then I spotted a recipe on the Waitrose site for a chocolate fruit cake with chocolate marzipan and fondant icing which involves quite a bit of Ameretto in it’s making. So I thought I’d give it a go.

I made the cake a couple of weeks ago, but today I made the marzipan and then decorated the cake.

This year's Christmas Cake

It took me longer than I expected. And I thought I had the fondant icing lovely and smooth, but I must have dented it doing the decorations. Oh well, never mind. Let’s hope it tastes good.

A year ago today

It was a lovely sunny day and we went down to the River Stour at Cowgrove. This was the view across the fields. Across the fields at Cowgrove

Happy 60th Birthday Chris

Wednesday 18th November 2015

My husband Chris was 60 years old today. That’s pretty scary. I don’t like the thought of us getting old. But, I wasn’t going to let that spoil the day. So we woke up and had presents (we’d gone out yesterday evening and bought his main present: a new office chair, which will hopefully arrive in a couple of weeks time.

It had been extremely windy overnight, but nonetheless I chose to take Max down to Lake Pier at Hamworthy. Sometimes after high winds you find all sorts of interesting things washed ashore (like boats!). Today I questioned the wisdom of my choice as I got out of the car as I was nearly blown away. Not only that, but there was nothing interesting on the beach at all.

But what we did have was a mixture of stormy skies and blue sky, which made for some good photos. This one was taken from the beach looking back to Lake Pier.

Lake Pier As we were in Poole Harbour the waves weren’t very big, but they were quite foamy, and Max was a very happy boy playing in the sea. Happy Dog

As ever, once we left the beach and walked up to the cliff top the wind subsided. I know that seems the wrong way round, but it’s always the same here. I think it’s where the wind whips across the open expanse of Poole Harbour.

Anyway, we walked around the cliff top, and then went to Ham Common Lake, where Max had a nice swim, before heading back to the beach and the wind, which was playing havoc with Max’s ears.

Max's ears were getting blown about by the wind We walked back along the beach to Lake Pier. Lake Pier

And then we walked down onto the short stretch of beach between the pier and the marine base. There was a young guy taking photos down there, all kitted out with his tripod. Walking the dogs I don’t get to carry a tripod with me (I have too much else to carry!), so I just have to content myself with hand-held photos. I didn’t think this one was too bad though.

Boat After that we came home and had lunch. And then I embarked on my next project: a birthday cake for Chris. I roughly followed the recipe that Nadiya, the winner of this year’s Great British Bake Off used in the final. So it’s a lemon drizzle cake, filled with lemon curd and lemon butter cream and covered in fondant icing (which I’ve never used before). I was quite pleased with the result. Chris' birthday cake

And it tastes good too!

In the evening we had an Indian take-away, a bottle of Champagne, and we watched The Apprentice. So all in all I think it was quite a good birthday for Chris.

A year ago today

Obviously it was Chris’ birthday, and we went out to a local pub for lunch.
The birthday boy pulling a silly face

A birthday lunch

Sunday 14th September 2014

Today was the day of Jezebel’s birthday lunch. I invited Dad over. It was a bit strange, as today is also Pat’s birthday, but as she is now living with her son and has family staying locally I assumed that they would take her out to lunch. So it was just me, Chris, Dad, Jez and Max today. As we had not had cakes on Friday I made Jez’s birthday cakes today. I tried out a new recipe for Strawberries and Cream cupcakes. The cakes have diced fresh strawberries in them, and are then decorated with a vanilla cream cheese icing.

Strawberry & cream cupcakes

They were a big success: really scrummy. I will be making those again!

After lunch Dad and I took the dogs around Creekmoor Ponds for a walk.

Creekmoor Ponds

Max is still limping badly at anything other than walking pace, so I have increased his Metacam dose a bit (on the vet’s advice we were giving him less than he can take for his weight).

I may not be finding many fungi on the heaths, but they seem to be thriving around the Ponds. I found these by the side of the path, but have not managed to identify them yet but I’m pretty certain they are of the Amanita family again and so poisonous. The Birch Bracket Fungi are also growing out of control this year, and there were some lovely specimens like this one.

Birch Bracket Fungus

Dad went home late afternoon, and I packed him off with cakes and leftovers. Then I had a bath and settled down to an evening of TV.

A year ago today

We went for a walk on Upton Heath.

View across Upton Heath

Time for some Macro photography in the garden

Wednesday 30th July 2014

But first we had to go on our morning walk. As it was another fairly hot, sunny day we headed to the River Stour at Cowgrove. Jez seems to have got into the habit of coming on morning walks again, so she came along too.

This is a view along the river where we play.

River Stour at Cowgrove

And here is Jez in the water. The river has dropped about 3 inches since last week and Jez is struggling to find water deep enough to wet her back.

The river is so shallow now Jez can't find water deep enough to cover her shoulders

As we walked on round the path I spotted this lovely little wild orchid.

Wild Orchid

And then it was back to Eye Bridge and the car park. But not before I took this photo looking down river from Eye Bridge.

River Stour from Eye Bridge

When we got home I busied myself making some sausage rolls for lunch.

Making suasage rolls for lunch

And then in the afternoon I took the EOS 6D out into the garden with my 10mm lens fitted to try my hand at macro photography again. As usual the oregano was the best spot for visiting insects. There was this little Mint Month.

Mint Moth on Oregano

And this hoverfly (Eristalis tenax).

Hoverfly (Eristalis tenax) on Oregano

And, of course, the bees.

Bee feasting on Oregano

I had my biggest surprise over the other side of the garden, though, where I spotted a Banded Hoverfly. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen one before. They are the UK’s largest hoverfly at around 2cm long.

Belted Hoverfly

I was pleased with today’s results. I am still having problems with the focus, but my experiments a few months ago with depth of field seem to have paid off.

A year ago today

It was pretty wet. Max and I went to Upton Country Park.

A change in the weather


Sunday 16th March 2014

Yes, that’s what I was doing this morning. I tried our a new recipe for an apple cake, which also includes hazlenuts and a caramel topping. I’m really pleased with the results – I’ll certainly be making this one again.

Apple Cake

Baking could almost apply to what the weather was up to today. It got up to 16C and was a most beautiful day. When I wasn’t baking I was busy tidying up out in the back garden, and can now get at the pond filter and clarifier once more. In the afternoon I took Jez and Max to Canford Heath. I wasn’t sure Jez was going to come. She seemed totally exhausted this morning and didn’t even come out in the garden with me. So I was surprised when she walked to the front door as I went to take Max out in the afternoon.  It was a very slow walk though, with Jez keep stopping to sit down every few hundred yards. And she insisted on a long walk route, so in the end we were out for 2 hours. Not that I minded in the warm sunshine.

In places there in still some water for Max.

Max finds some water

Whereas in others the water is all gone.

Gone, Gone, the water's all gone

You can see what a nice day it was by this photo of Jez and Max at the crossroads on the top of the heath.

At the crossroads

I even saw my first peacock butterfly of the year.

First Peacock butterfly I've seen this year

As we were leaving the stream to head back to the car we met a young dog we know (a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever) and walked back with him and his owner. From that point on Jez seemed to perk up a bit, and even wanted to chase a cone for a bit. When we got home she suddenly came back to life and wanted to play ball in the garden, and then was playing with Max. So whatever was wrong it appears to have passed, thank goodness.

On this day a year ago

The weather was quite a bit different – rain clouds over Upton Heath.

Rain clouds over the Heath

Dad’s birthday lunch

Sunday 2nd March 2014

I know today wasn’t his birthday, but it was the day I had invited him and Pat to lunch to celebrate his birthday. I did a lot of the prep. yesterday, so didn’t have too much extra to do today.

I made the pastry, and then made the steak and kidney pie (Dad’s favourite and something he doesn’t get at home). This is the pie awaiting crimping and an egg wash before going into the oven.

Steak & Kidney Pie awaiting crimping & egg wash

And this is the pie after dinner – not much left over!

Well there's not much of that left!

For dessert we had lemon meringue pie (biscuit base to avoid a pastry overload).

Lemon Meringue Pie

And finally, to go with a cup of tea in the afternoon, a victoria sandwich cake.

Victoria Sandwich Cake

And, as I gave Dad and Pat some to take home, there’s not much of that left either.

All in all it was a very nice lunch, which is more than could be said about the weather as from mid-day onwards it rained. At least Dad managed to leave and get home before the deluge at about 6pm.

From this day 2013

Creekmoor Ponds looking lovely in the sunshine.

Creekmoor Ponds

A misty start to the day

Monday 20th January 2014

The temperature had dropped to around freezing overnight, so this morning it was quite misty when we went for our walk. Being a Monday, Jez came too and we all went over to Upton Heath.

A misty morning on Upton Heath

It wasn’t all mist and cold though. The sun was out and where the mist had cleared it was lovely.

Reflected power

On our way round we met the Exmoor Ponies.

Exmoor Pony

Of course, Jez had to go and say “Hello”.

Making friends

Just after I took that photo I tried taking some video – until she got a bit too close to the pony’s hind legs, that is.

We have been watching Sport Relief Bake Off over the past few days, and in the last one they had to make Eccles Cakes as their Technical Challenge. I love Eccles Cakes, and have no problem making Rough Puff Pastry (which I’ve been making since I was about 7 years old). So this afternoon I looked up the recipe and had a go.

Here are the ‘cakes’ about to go in the oven.

Making Eccles Cakes

And… Ta! Da!

My first ever Eccles Cakes

They may not have been particularly uniform, but they were very tasty, and crisp and flaky with no soggy bottoms! The recipe is a Paul Hollywood one and can be found here.

Twelfth Night, or is it?

Sunday 5th January 2014

My Mum always used to say that Twelfth Night is 6th January, and that is what I have always believed. That’s the date I take my last Christmas decorations down. But a lot of people say Twelfth Night is on 5th January. I had to turn to Wiki to find out what there is such confusion. Apparently it all depends on when you start counting. If you say Christmas night (25th December) is the 1st night, then 5th January becomes the 12th Night. But if you say 26th December (the day after Christmas day) is the 1st Night, then 6th December is 12th Night. And the reason? Well apparently it all depends on whether or not you are still living in the Middle Ages, when they used to count days from Sundown, making 25th December the 1st night after Christmas night. Since we now count our days from midnight, I feel vindicated in my belief that 12th Night is on 6th January.

That said, I had Dad and Pat over to what I called a Twelfth Night dinner today. I had bought a very nice rib of beef before Christmas, which I put in the freezer with a view to them coming to lunch on New Year’s Day. In the end, though, they preferred to come today.

Here they are with Max, whose spotted an opportunity to snuggle up on the sofa with them (leaving nowhere for me to sit!).

Max snuggles up between Dad and Pat

Lunch is served.

Twelth Night lunch

Have you spotted that Yorkshire Pudding on Chris’ plate? He likes a plate sized Yorshire Pud, and I have to say this one was particularly magnificent.

My Yorkshire Pudding has risen well

And yes – he ate all of that, along with about 5 roast potatoes. As for the rest of lunch, well the inspriation for the veg came from the chef Tom Kerridge’s Christmas show: brussel sprout tops, and carrots braised with star anise. The were both really nice, as was that rib of beef.

There is one other topic I wanted to raise. As of today I have posted photos from every day for the past 367 days on this blog. I was aiming to do it for a year, which I’ve managed. I have to say, though, there are days when I find it hard going. They are days when it’s dull and grey and we’re walking in the same old places. I’ve said before I’m very conscious that this blog is getting repetitive. So my plan now is not to get too fussed if I don’t have photos from a day, or even from a few days. I want to try and go for quality rather than quantity. That, I am sure, will be easier said than done though. I’ve got into the habit of snapping and sharing. So if you don’t mind, that’s what I will do. There will still be lots of photos – they just might not cover every day.

If any of you have very strong feelings about this though, please let me know.