Hobby

Apart from when a Hobby has just left a tree I have never managed to catch it mid flight. If you think terns are difficult with their looping flight pattern or oyster catchers seem a bit quick, they have nothing on a hobby’s turn of speed.

I was minding my own business when a hobby decided to do a spot of fly catching and after watching him for a second I realised he might, just might, come out at a certain angle of a pool and sure enough he did. Almost crashing into the reeds he turned, regained controlled and was off, all in a split second.

Fishy Suppers.

After what seems an eon I have finally made it back down to the nature reserve to sit in a hide for most of the day, fingers crossed in search of Kingfishers..  And for the first time ever in my kingfisher search in that particular hide I was rewarded.  Next a tern flew by, dipped into the pool for just a nano second and flew off with their own supper. Perfect day I’d say. 

Staying Put.

Hubby and I have always thought that the house we bought would be a temporary home and we would move again within a few years, this was twenty five years ago.  Instead the beauty and size of its rooms charmed even if its small back garden did not and slowly we just settled into it.  But still we  held fast for a move.

For the last few years we have been house hunting, from exploring all local areas to coastal towns and cotswold villages and after another extensive search yesterday I finally realised that we would need to put a considerable chunk into the pot to buy our dream home and for not that much benefit.  When your considering spending  a considerable sum just so that one can have a detached home that is a little nearer the town, one has to question one’s sanity. We live in a beautiful spot, a lime and oak tree lined avenue with fresh air and countryside on our doorstep, good links to a spa town, our county town, 2  big city’s and other historical towns, and only an hour out of London,  what’s not to love.

At long last I feel settled, we’ve made new plans that feel right for us and hubby is feeling the change of mood too. It’s all good.  Now you’ll have to excuse me I’ve got to go and knock a nail in the wall to hang a piece of art that was bought a few months ago, new holes in walls are fine now  and plan my courtyard garden, because  we are staying put.

 

Cake is in the house – Flapjacks.

I was having a lovely few moments flicking through Martha Collison wonderful book on baking called Twist making mental notes about cakes I would like to try but don’t at that precise moment have all the ingredients to bake them with, when Flapjacks hit me square between the eyes. ( Although I am getting much better at the buying of the ingredients,  now I make a mental note and then place the cookery book that is involved in the execution of that weeks cake on the table by the laptop so when I do the weekly online shop, I can flick to the page and order the ingredients, it works like a charm. No more trudging around a supermarket racking one’s brain thinking ‘what was that item I needed?’)  Oooh Flapjacks, those buttery, crunchy yet soft and chewy,  sweet and sticky treats, what is not to love. I’ve been making flapjacks for nearly 50 years, firstly at my mother’s aprons strings, then in school cookery classes,  next in various lodgings during cold winter nights and onto feeding hungry boys during summer holidays, although then they would barely last the day, but not recently and they only take four ingredients. Butter, brown sugar, golden syrup and oats. Weighing all the ingredients to Martha’s recipe, mine being long since forgotten,I melted the butter together with the golden syrup and sugar until all the sugars were dissolved. mixed the gloopy buttery syrup into the oats.then poured it into a lined baking tray and flattening it evenly with the back of a metal spoon and popped it in a hot 180 c oven for 15 minutes. let it rest for 5 minutes when it came out the oven and then cut it into squares and left it to carry on cooling in the pan.  When they were cool, I broke them up and popped them in a cake tub. Reserving a sweet treat to have with a well deserved cup of tea.

I really liked Martha’s recipe, the flapjacks were luscious compared to my old recipe which had probably came about from maximising the amount of oats to sugar and butter ratio, Martha’s flapjack was sweeter and richer and much more delicious, they are definitely on the to do again list.  

 

Book review; My Grandmother Sends her regards & apologises.

I recently joined a book club, I used to read avidly but sometimes I stop reading as I don’t find an author that I gel with and then I get lost when I look around a bookshop and just don’t know in what direction to go. So I thought I would join a book club and allow others, more knowledgable than I to guide me and so far it has been one of the best decisions I’ve made.

The book this month was My Grandmother Sends her Regards & Apologises by Fredrik Backman. 

Book description

‘Granny has been telling fairy tales for as long as Elsa can remember. In the beginning they were only to make Elsa go to sleep, and to get her to practise granny’s secret language, and a little because granny is just about as nutty as a granny should be. But lately the stories have another dimension as well. Something Elsa can’t quite put her finger on…’

Elsa is seven years old and different. Her grandmother is seventy-seven years old and crazy. Standing-on-the-balcony-firing-paintball-guns-at-men-who-want-to-talk-about-Jesus-crazy. She is also Elsa’s best, and only, friend. At night Elsa runs to her grandmother’s stories, to the Land of Almost-Awake and the Kingdom of Miamas. There, everybody is different and nobody needs to be normal.

So when Elsa’s grandmother dies and leaves behind a series of letters apologizing to people she has hurt, it marks the beginning of Elsa’s greatest adventure. Her grandmother’s letters lead her to an apartment building full of drunks, monsters, attack dogs, and totally ordinary old crones-but also to the truth about fairytales and kingdoms and a grandmother like no other.

My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises is told with the same comic accuracy and beating heart as Fredrik Backman’s bestselling debut novel, A Man Called Ove. It is a story about life and death and one of the most important human rights: the right to be different. Seven-year-old Elsa does.

Some might call Elsa’s granny ‘eccentric’, or even ‘crazy’. Elsa calls her a superhero. And granny’s stories, of knights and princesses and dragons and castles, are her superpower. Because, as Elsa is starting to learn, heroes and villains don’t always exist in imaginary kingdoms; they could live just down the hallway.

As Christmas draws near, even the best superhero grandmothers may have one or two things they’d like to apologise for. And, in the process, Elsa can have some breath-taking adventures of her own . . .

About the Author

Fredrik Backman is a Swedish blogger, columnist and author. His debut novel A MAN CALLED OVE was a number 1 bestseller across Scandinavia, has sold over one million copies worldwide, was a Richard & Judy summer read in the UK and an instant New York Times paperback bestseller, and has been made into an acclaimed film. Fredrik’s subsequent novels, MY GRANDMOTHER SENDS HER REGARDS AND APOLOGISES and BRITT-MARIE WAS HERE, also went straight to number 1 in Sweden on publication.

My own review is ‘oh wow’ the lightness of language as it weaves the story with such tender tiny details is delightful.  You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, your heart will stop as you speed read to find out what happens next, and you’ll linger over the buttery biscuit crumbs and smell of strong coffee.  It truly is a beautiful book, I’ve gone out and bought the next book in the series Britt-Marie today and will start with a Man called Ove as soon as I have finished that.

 

Leamington Peace Festival.

I remember planning my timetable and scraping together my pocket money to catch the bus there and back into Leamington and being very excited about marching down The Parade in the summer of ’78 as we  stopped traffic to support CND to protest against the nuclear bomb and then went onto the first festival in the pump room garden then called the Leamington Festival.  It was lovely, there were talks and a few stalls and it was just a good vibe, small but very friendly.  I can remember my mother squealing with horror when I told her I had been on my first march, but then I was just 12 – shades of things to come about being an independent butterfly.

Since then I have always tried to get to the Leamington Peace Festival, it has always been a lovely day, padding around whilst listening to the beat of the music, talking to like minded souls and enjoying the tastiest of treats while gazing at the lovely stalls containing the brightest of fabrics, what is not to love.

A few snaps, I stopped snapping and immersed myself in the moment.

Enjoy. 

 

Light.

As with all hobbies they become so much more than the sum of their parts and so photography has become for me. I’ve always enjoyed detailed work, having a personality that will automatically lean to the obsessive when learning something new, detailed work comes quite easily to me from learning CAD for drawing complex circuit boards, to more leisurely pursuits such as knitting or sewing, although tailoring hand sewn tiny stitches at 4.00 a.m. for a deadline could hardly be considered leisurely!  I think I just love the learning.

And so it has been with photography. Firstly learning what all the buttons do takes quite some time, and even now I know there are a few tools deep in the camera menu that I need to dust off and play with.  But putting the camera to one side for the moment, the greatest joy that photography has given to me is being able to look at the world in a new and most playful way.  It literally makes my imagination spin when I see things that I know just 6 years ago would probably have passed me by.

It often takes my breath away to see the changing  colour of light, that until a few years ago I hadn’t really noticed before. Photographers talk about the golden hour, and boy can it be golden, so I thought I would show you a couple of snaps taken moments apart, unedited in raw. Hobby sitting on a branch.

Moments later. Hobby sitting on a branch bathed in golden evening rays.

Spectacular isn’t it.

After this we have the blue hour, which can be just beautiful.

There are writers that will go into great detail about the whys and wherefores, I just wanted to share these images that illustrate the golden hour so beautifully.

Cake is in the house – Delia’s Sticky Prune and Date Cake.

Or should I say it will be in my Dad’s house on Father’s day. The last two Father’s Day I have sent my Dad a very nice cake through Fortnum and Mason, and he has enjoyed them very much.  The unwrapping of a Fortnum and Mason box which included tea fit for a King and let us not forget a Queen along with a delicious marmalade dundee cake with a gold greeting card inscribed with a personal message had never happened before in mandycharlie’s  parents home so you can imagine just how tickled pink he was by that idea.  So the next year on Father’s day I repeated it, and he was just as enchanted.  This year I am home so I can make my own – although I am not sure if he will be just a little bit sad about that idea, I’ll have to send him a random box of F & M’s finest cake during the year if he is.

But what to choose to bake him?  As soon as I saw Delia’s Sticky Prune and Date Cake  I knew it was the one, the combination of a goodly amount of four fruits, prunes, dates, currants and sultanas warmed with condensed milk and butter and then with the addition of a generous scoop of marmalade in the mix and also having a thick coating of sticky orangey marmalade on the top, what was not to love.

Firstly weigh all the fruits, butter and condensed milk and warm; don’t you just love the flat scales we have these days where we can pop whichever pan or bowl we are using and weigh straight into it. Next warm up and then let gently simmer for three minutes not a second more, stirring nearly all of the time to prevent it catching on the bottom. It turns into this glorious  burnished toffee sticky concoction. Then let it cool for half an hour which is vitally important.  The raising agent in this cake is bicarbonate of soda and this works by releasing gas as it warms up, through heat. So if you mix the dry ingredients into a warm hot sticky mess the cake rise will happen while you are still mixing it in the bowl and not as you want it baking in the oven.

Bake it for nearly two hours on a low light.

Soon you will have this. I burnished it with thick cut orange marmalade and packed it in I hope a pretty way. I’ll include a box of my favourite tea and a hand made card with gold lettering..

And hopefully he will even cut me a slice.

 

Sad news on the barn owls.

We went to watch the barn owls last week as we do nearly every night and overnight the behaviour had changed. I recognised it instantly, others thought we might be seeing the same two birds. She didn’t come out to greet him and then she came out late and started to hunt, and we didn’t see him at all, although you can never be sure with barn owls. A week later we are all pretty sure that the male barn owl is no more. It happened the night after those wonderful images of where he does a fly around to show off his catch to her, he is so obviously in love, so I am rather upset about it really., tears spring to my eyes when I think about it, I’d rather fallen a little in love with him myself at that point, having seen his deeply abiding love for her.

Research suggests that barn owls are life long partners, so its unlikely that he has gone off with some floozy, much more likely that he has been hit by a car or some other kind of accident as he would have been concentrating on the job in hand.

We know they have ringed these owlets and there are four, so it is very much fingers crossed to see if she has the stamina and luck to finish raising them.

I do hope so.

But she is working hard, she hunts presumably for herself before dusk to feed herself and then starts bringing the food in for the owlets when dusk falls, presumably when they wake up.  We noticed last night that she is quartering nearer to the box, where I hope she finds enough voles and mice as it will help with her stamina as the chicks continue to grow and demand more and more food.

A few photos from last night.