September

September is my favourite month for many, many reasons.

The end of September always makes me a little sad but but I am always looking forward very much to the next one.

It is filled with lovely things for us:-

It is the month we take our main annual holiday

The Shropshire Way

Walking – The Shropshire Way

It is the month of Burghley Horse Trials

Burghley Horse Trial

Burghley Horse Trial – Burghley

It is the month of harvest

Harvest in Northumberland

Harvest – Northumberland

It is the month of Sandringham Game Fair

Horse Boarding - Sandringham Game Fair

Horse Boarding – Sandringham Game Fair

It is a month when we do most of our walking

walking - The Lakes

Walking – The Lakes

It is the month when the best fungi appear.

Fungi - Fly Ageric

Fungi – Fly Ageric

It is the month of Food Festivals across the country. Ludlow being our favourite.

Ludlow Castle

Ludlow Castle

It is the month for Bramble picking & making Jam.

Brambles

Brambles

It is the month of Indian Summers when the heat has left the sun but the cold months are not showing themselves yet.

September Sun - Ford Village

September Sun – Ford Village

It is the month we got our hound and collected him when he was just 8 weeks old.

Max

Max

And it is the month we got married

September Wedding - Rings

September Wedding – Rings


tea total

delicious tea - cute graphics too

delicious tea – cute graphics too

I love tea!

My husband thinks I’m addicted to it.

I don’t want poncey tea, I’m a PG/yorkshire tea girl and I like it made just like builders tea (but without the 4 sugars – half will do as I’m pretending I don’t take sugar!).

I am aware that a cup contains about half the caffeine (50 caffeine points – or whatever they are measured in) as coffee (100) and that I should really be on the green tea wagon with everyone else but the honest answer is that I can’t stand green tea and it is a waste of hot water and a clean mug in my book (quite apart from the fact that I keep trying it, it still goes cold in the mug and gets thrown away!!) so there is little point.

And whilst a score of 450 on the caffeine front is still very much within the safety limits, and means I can have 9 cups per day, no problem. Most days, though, I don’t come anywhere near that

BUT

In the interests of health and also because I am not short sighted enough not to realise that there might just be a green tea/tree hugger tea out there for me, I have been trying a few things.

So…………

I have a number of different boxed tea bags and leaf tea to try and decided to give each tea a score.

Twinings Green Jasmine Tea

I started with this one as I already know that I quick like jasmine tea (as served in good Chinese restaurants). I have discovered that the leaves need to be so few in number or they really only need to see the water for a few seconds before the leaves need to come out.  Otherwise it becomes quite overpowering and has a stewed bitterness to the flavour.

too many leaves and left too long

too many leaves and left too long

Score 5/10

Whittards Hangover Tea Bags 

I don’t buy this tea for hangovers but because it is THE nicest fruit tea on the market bar none. Hard to come by as they seem to run out on a terrifyingly frequent basis so I used to buy about 4 boxes each time I got the chance & have a little supply that will see me through a fair few cups.

I like it because it is fresh, fruity and not too sweet. You can pick out the fruitiness and it feels like a nice clean wholesome flavour. It contains Hibiscus Flower and I think that May well be where the lovely taste comes

AND

The colour is lovely

fruitylicious

fruitylicious

Score 9/10

Twinings Early Grey Tea

Earl Grey has been in the news recently for it’s heart healing properties all thanks to the wonderful Bergamot used to flavour it (smells pretty nice too and I love it in skincare products!). I hated Earl Grey when I first tried it as a teenager but it has become a store cupboard favourite. I think putting Earl Grey in makes this little test a bit of a cheat but I would definitely say it ranks up there with the herbal tea teas for it’s health properties..

Score 9.5/10

M&S Citrus Tea

I always have lemon tea of some kind in my cupboards as a few people who visit seem to drink it so it was quite readily on hand to try.

It’s OK and it is probably done better by others but there is still that slightly grassy taste about it which puts me off. I didn’t have it very strong (having learned my lesson on the Jasmine Tea) and that is definitely an advantage until your palate becomes accustomed.

I might persevere with this one as it’s ok but I do very much like a simple single slice of lemon in hot water. It is also a good way to wake up your liver I believe.

Score 6/10

Sage Tea

It is lovely and much less like drinking grass cuttings than most herb teas. It has such useful and powerful herbal and medicinal properties too that it is worth having in your garden for drinking even if it doesn’t get into your christmas stuffing:- it is cooling in the heat and also reduces menopausal hot flushes to name but a few.

a few tender green leaves in boiled water releases the essential oils

a few tender green leaves in boiled water releases the essential oils

sage is so easy to grow

sage is so easy to grow

Fresh has also got to be better though so this was straight from our garden.

Score 8/10

Mint Tea

Lovely and refreshing even in the heat, mint tea is so simple and easy.  Again, fresh leaves straight from the Garden and into the pot.

Rosemary Tea

Like the mint tea, this has a freshness to it that makes it lovely to drink in the heat (Rosemary is part of the Mint family) and has great healing properties. Known to boost the immune system, it also improves blood circulation, is a great anti-inflammatory and is full of those lovely anti oxidants.

All round a great herb.

What you don’t drink or cook with is also great to use in handmade skincare.

 

Whittards Lemon & Lime Tea

Then of course there is the pretend tea……

The turkish do a wonderful apple tea, the principle of which a lot of the flavoured sugars that dissolve into an instant tea follow.

This Whittards Lemon & Lime Tea has too much sugar for my pallet but it is very refreshing, especially served ice cold.

Whittard's Lemon & Lime Tea Granules

Whittard’s Lemon & Lime Tea Granules

Score 7/10

Builders tea still scores 10/10 compared to all these others but I’m getting there and drink a greater variety than just my PG now.

builder's tea

builder’s tea

The next question is whether it tastes better made in the cup or in the pot? AND should the milk go in first or afterwards?


Go Pro

Max the Go Pro Mule

Max the Go Pro Mule

JC bought a Go Pro Hero 3 + black edition in August 2014 and has been playing with it and buying bits for it ever since. He is officially in love with this little bit of tech heaven and now our friend’s daughter has one (from Santa) so they can be geeks together.

a few adjustments required

a few adjustments required

Geek aside, it is rather sweet to watch them getting over excited about a tiny box of tricks. There are a good few decades separating them.

nothing unusual about having a big black box on your back

nothing unusual about having a big black box on your back

Anyway, in the interest of Go Pro advancement in our household, our terrier Max has been persecuted with a cumbersome harness and a little camera recording his every move on some of our weekend walks.

camera position adjusted to front

camera position adjusted to front

To be fair, Max is completely ok with all of this and just takes it in his stride.

I think the harness is designed for a larger dog and some adaptions will be needed to the straps but they get by and Max seems unaffected by it. On occasion, he does try to bury into a straw stack or some undergrowth and can’t quite seems to understand why his progress is limited.

returning with a little more than just the camera

returning with a little more than just the camera

JC doesn’t have much footage that he has chosen to keep yet but he is persevering and we have some half decent stills so far.

Cool as a cucumber and couldn't care less

Cool as a cucumber and couldn’t care less

Watch this space, our little Go Pro mule might offer some interesting images to show you yet!


Neal French

walking figure

walking figure

We had the greatest of pleasure in accepting an invitation to a private viewing of Neal French’s latest exhibition that took place in Norwich during October of 2014.

pin ups

pin ups

pin ups

pin ups

We have been to his viewings a number of times before so we knew we were in for a treat.

We aren’t fortunate enough to own much of his work yet although we do have four lovely verdigris wall plaques from the early 90s that represent the four seasons and we love them.

His figurative sculptures are, however, what he is best known for and they are completely wonderful.

the shopper

the shopper

the shopper

the shopper

All of the pieces are taken from life studies sketched into his sketch books in prolific numbers or they are inspired from photographs taken while he and his wonderful wife Pam’s have been on their travels.

the gymnast

the gymnast

He regularly has commissions whether they be The Grosvenor Group for a West End installation, a bakery organisation installation of Figures on a roundabout in Spalding, a group of figures outside a village hall or a private piece in someone’s garden.

A lot of the commissions are life size and wonderful for it but it was lovely to browse through these smaller bronze and ceramic figures that formed the most part of this most recent exhibition.

female figure

female figure

female figure

female figure

They are all exquisite, made all the more lovely when you can see the thumb prints from his hand workings before they are cast and captured but also because some of the subjects are known to us.

Having spent a little time with the gentleman himself (who would not be as prolific or as well organised as he is without the endless and terribly important support of the marvellous Mrs French, Pam), the pieces come alive as he accompanies discussions about them with a fascinating back story.

Added to all of this (as if there needed to be more), he is an incredibly lovely, rather interesting and very talented man indeed.

All of his work is fabulous and all fabulous for many different reasons but my favourite from this exhibition is by far Shopper.

Marvellous!

cappuccino

coffee break


olloclip

dandelion clock

dandelion clock

I use an iPhone (5) and I love it.

I use it every day for emails, calls, texts, vibe, whatsapp, FB, instagram, twitter, maps, waze, evernote, pinterest, contacts, calendar….. you name it.

I didn’t think that the camera on the phone could be improved as it such good quality already. the iPhone 6 has probably managed to improve the camera further but until I have an iPhone 6, I will have to wait to see.

But I read somewhere ages and ages ago that there was a little attachable lens was available from a company called Olloclip to use with the phone as an attachment, providing more flexibility and giving you a tool that would truly explore the potential of the smashing lens in this little phone.

As an early christmas present to myself, I ordered the 4-in-1 combo. This provides you with a fish eye, wide angle and 2 strengths of macro lens.

I have a canon 6D that I use all the time and have a variety of different lenses for it. It provides such good quality shots that I use it for serious photography and pictures of my work but I have never really considered the iPhone to be a contender for serious shots.  As good as it is, how could it possibly be used as a serious working camera?

The review were good but my true expectations for what the addition of the olloclip could do to the camera on the iPhone were limited, but the results have been amazing.

It is tiny attachment and a bit fiddly and would be very easy to lose but if you have the time and the patience along with helpful additions to your camera bag such as a gorilla pod and a clip for your phone, you can set it up to get great photos.

It is great fun and the results are very effective.

Olloclip has an instagram account where people share their images using the olloclip and some are truly incredible.

I need some time to get more interesting shots and I have not taken advantage of the wide angle fitting yet but I’m delighted with the macro results

See for yourself……… all taken with the phone hand held without the support or steadiness of a tripod, gorilla pod or surface

Fish Eye

hand held at eye level

at eye level

seated

seated

10x Macro

flower head - hand held

flower head

daisy - hand held

daisy

rotting knot in fallen tree - hand held

rotting knot in fallen tree

15x Macro

drooping flower head

drooping flower head

detail from flower

detail from flower

offset shot of flower - my favourite

offset shot of flower – my favourite

dandelion clock

dandelion clock

dandelion clock

dandelion clock

dandelion clock

dandelion clock

 

 


coffee adventures

it's frothy man

it’s frothy man

After such excitement over our gorgeous new coffee machine, we have had some disappointments.

Our lovely machine blew something inside and was no longer safe to use with water and steam spewing out everywhere.

John Lewis were brilliant about it and because they had no De Longhi stock to replace it and it was dangerous, they refunded us in full and the pretty machine was condemned to the bin, unfortunately.

pixie!

pixie!

We were back to our traditional italian stove top coffee maker for a while and still loving our coffee.

But we missed the frothy milk and the espressos that JC likes. Coffee and hot milk done the old fashioned way just wasn’t hacking it.

traditional stove top coffee maker

traditional stove top coffee maker

After all it is still a bit of a faff using the stove top and a milk pan and even a wonderful morning coffee we can get from our wonderfully seasoned old campaigner hasn’t hacked it really.

We are busy and things need to be as easy as possible really

So!!!!

Having taken full advantage of our lovely friends thorough research, we are now the proud owners of a Nespresso Pixie with aerochino!

And it is wonderful

And it is easy

And there is no mess

And it is cheaper than buying beans and ground.

 

And we have found a fantastic clever devise for storing our pods that can be fixed to the underside of the kitchen wall cupboard. Right on hand but not seen. Marvellous.

pod holder

pod holder

Or mounted on the wall like a piece of art.

wall mounted pod holder

wall mounted pod holder

Finding the flavours that are right for us but it is fun trying and we have had some very helpful tips.

shiney and brilliant

shiney and brilliant

I feel coffee love again!!!


Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red

British Legion

British Legion

We went to the poppy installation at the tower of London today.

waves of red

waves of red

We had wanted to go many weekends before and we bought two of the installation poppies as soon as they were available on line through the British Legion. The thing about today, however, that I liked is that the installation is nearly as finished as it will be when it ends on November 11th at 11am.

a sea

a sea

They were still planting poppies today as we walked along and they are as important as the very first of what is now a huge display.

poppies in a wave over the top

poppies in a wave over the top

It is impressive to see such a big ‘sculpture’ but it is also deeply tragic that this sea of red flowers represents so very many lost lives!

a singing starling

a singing starling

Both JC and I struggled with the selfies and family photo shots that were being taken with the poppies in the background. So many of the people getting their pictures taken in front of it really didn’t seem to grasp the significance of each and every one of the 888,246 poppies and that they represents a life lost; wasted to the wages of war.

A loss that the family of the loved one will never have recovered from!

arching over the bridge

arching over the bridge

We were there for hours walking around the inside of the tower where you see parts of the installation not visible from the public footpaths surrounding the tower and there is a section where the moat space tails off and there are some poppies that are singular and in an open line. That row of solitary poppies really impacted on me, it was very poignant and makes you realise that a lot of the 888,246 not only died but also died alone and in very terrible conditions.

ripples of poppies

ripples of poppies

The entire thing made me feel very emotional and I struggled to keep a check on the tears.

That check became even harder when we got to the WW1 exhibition that shows black and white photos of soldiers training within the grounds of the tower in 1914; then the same photo has a modern day equivalent 2014 person standing where one of the other men had been.

It was deeply moving.

poppies laid on the ground

poppies laid on the ground

I’m pleased that they are to keep the installation a bit longer and I would really like it if they took the poppies away one by one as if reversing the installation so that they flow back to the first poppy and the first loss of life in this great war of wars.

the wind made them sway

the wind made them sway

I would heartily recommend it.

Our future generations need to understand the extent of the devastation.

each one is individually hand formed

each one is individually hand formed

It is a humbling experience that will not leave me.

and each has a different height stalk

and each has a different height stalk

But I am so pleased to have had the chance to see this amazing reminder of so many lost lives.

beautiful

beautiful

Brothers, cousins, sisters, dads, sons, mums, dads, the list goes on.

it's quite overwhelming

it’s quite overwhelming

All serving people who will have been terrified and quite bewildered by the events leading up to their death.

each and every one

each and every one

They thought they’d all be home by Christmas

contrast

contrast

Little did they know.

cascade

cascade (single poppy in a space in the foreground)

And we really must NEVER forget!

endless

endless

tumbling

tumbling

in muddy water (ironically like the trenches)

in muddy water (ironically like the trenches)