Monday, November 30, 2015

Photo Scavenger Hunt - November

November came around so quickly and now it has gone in what seems like the blink of an eye, I haven't been out and about with my camera very much in November so I've struggled a bit to meet all the categories but I have found one or two different ones. Once again I've enjoyed joining in with this month's Photo Scavenger Hunt kindly organised by greenthumb at Made with Love  just click on the link  to find other participants.

A Stranger

We met a stranger walking in the woods.  He had three black Labrador dogs and I threw a ball for one of them as it kept coming to me and dropping the ball at my feet, the dog's name was Winston.  I do have a stranger to thank for handing in my mobile phone when I lost it in the street near the library.  I now have it back, a bit scuffed - I think someone may have trodden on it or kicked it but it still works, I think that the leaves piled on the pavement must have protected it.  There are still some thoughtful and kind people around, thank goodness.

Looking Down

Squirrel on a bird feeder

Pop Culture

VW van used by enthusiasts of Northern Soul which is still very popular around here - photo taken in the car park at Trentham Gardens, Staffordshire.

The Weather

Snow - it stayed for about thirty six hours and then disappeared - scene in our back garden around 10p.m. one Friday a couple of weeks ago.


 A huge fir cone - well not really but a rather finely carved one at Trentham Gardens, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire.


 A sign for the Oak Wood walk on the Trentham Estate, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire.


A small collection of old bottles and containers.  The blue bottle is inscribed 'Mother's Help or Gripe Water.'

Out and About

 Out and about on a walk in the wood on a hill overlooking the lake at Trentham Estate, part of the city of Stoke-on-Trent spread out behind.


 My sun hat on the bookcase.  I put it there for safety a few weeks ago when we cleared the car to have it serviced, it has been there ever since and likely to stay until next summer.


An entrance hole in the front of the bird house on the garage wall.  Didn't see the earwig on the side when the photo was taken;  no doubt it will crawl into the hole.


One duck on a fishing platform at the side of the lake at Trentham Gardens, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire

Whatever you want 

 A lovely little hessian bag full of rich red roses, a gift from friends.

We are off on our travels tomorrow, unfortunately to attend a funeral, so I will catch up with you all when I get back.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Five on Friday

It's Friday so I'm joining in with  Amy at Love Made my Home for this week's Five on Friday.  Click on the link at the bottom of this post to find others who are joining in too.

 We've just got back from visiting the new World of Wedgwood Visitor attraction at nearby Barlaston with some friends.  Just a quick visit as there is still lots of work being done but the main centre is finished, the Museum is open again and the cafe, shop and tea room are open - we had tea and cake which was very nice.

Below are five photos taken of the outside of the complex as you can see it went dark whilst we were inside consuming cake and pots of Earl Grey and putting the world to rights.  Not only did it go dark but the rain came pouring down too as you can see from one of the photos.

plus an extra photo of the deer in the dark

I'll be back over the weekend to catch up with you all and see what your Five on Friday posts are all about.
  Have a lovely weekend everyone.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Stir-up Sunday

What better excuse to stay indoors now that the weather is colder and the snow from Friday evening's downfall is still lingering across the gardens and pavements around here than to enjoy 'stir-up' Sunday.

 Photo taken from our bedroom window on Friday night

above - what was left of the snow on Saturday morning - the grass is green again today but it is still bitterly cold.

Stir-up Sunday is the day when traditionally puddings and cakes are made for the festive season ahead.  We had the ingredients, we had the time and we had the inclination to cook as there is no better way of keeping the chill at bay than cooking and baking in a warm kitchen filled with wonderful spicy, seasonal aromas.

Firstly we made a cake using the well used and trusted recipe from the BeRo book, the hardest part of this processes is lining and preparing the tin and then timing the baking.

 Then we made a pudding which is still steaming on the hob as I type again the recipe was from the BeRo book.  Stir-up Sunday is a tradition that harks back to Victorian times when the whole family would gather to make the Christmas pudding, each stirring and making a wish and at this point coins or charms would be added to the pudding to be found by a lucky family member on Christmas Day. 

I really have to venture out tomorrow as I lost my mobile phone when I visited the library on Friday;  a very kind person handed it in and I'm so grateful for that.  Whoever you are - thank you.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Monday Miscellany

Just a few photos from our quiet, reflective walk through the woods this morning.

This little one flew at the side of us for a short time as we walked down the leaf strewn, muddy path.

 We left him near the holly tree;  it was as if he was reminding us of the season to come. 

This evening as I popped outside to fill up the bird feeders I felt the cold nip my finger tips, yes winter is on its way - I must find my gloves!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Five on Friday

It's Friday so I'm joining in with  Amy at Love Made my Home for this week's Five on Friday.  Click on the link at the bottom of this post to find others who are joining in too.
Just a few of the birds I've spotted this week whilst out and about with my camera.

 1.  A motley assortment of runner ducks in the walled garden at Sugnall, near Eccleshall, Staffordshire.

2. Black Swans on the lake at Trentham Gardens, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire.  They appeared, or at least we first saw them, in the summer and they seem to be staying around.  I'd never seen them on the lake before.

3.  Heron at the side of the lake at Trentham Gardens near the cascade of water that runs down towards the River Trent.

4.  Hens - in the small show gardens at Trentham this pair are called Henry and Barbara.  I don't know what breed of hen they are.

5.  Crow in a tree again at Trentham Gardens

Have a lovely weekend everyone.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Monday Miscellany

Last week was a strange, drifting kind of week with nothing much happening. There were so many things I should have been doing but for some reason I felt disinclined to do anything. We did manage to tidy up the garden a bit, of course since the clear up, the grass areas are covered in leaves again, the top paths near the pond are under water which is a nuisance.  They always are at this time of year and no matter how we try we can't seem to get the drainage right.  The black cat near the bird bath isn't one of ours, he lives across the road but seems to like our garden and is very friendly, he rubs around my legs whilst I'm pegging out the washing and likes to be tickled behind the ears.  Both of our cats are nearly 20 years old and don't go out in the garden as often as they used to.

We did have a lovely walk around Trentham last week, one side of the lake was closed so we walked along one edge and then up around the very top of the gardens.  The autumnal colours were wonderful.

I took the photos below on Bonfire Night (5th November) just as the sun was setting and the light fading.

They were taken about three or four minutes apart.

The change in the colour and texture of the sky in such a short time was amazing.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Soul Cake

Yesterday, whilst Paul was carving a pumpkin and making puree ready for a pumpkin pie, I made some soul cakes.

I was thinking about how times have changed over the last decades especially with the 'trick or treat' visitors but history has a habit of repeating itself and it seems that soul cakes were a forerunner of the requesting of treats at neighbouring doors.

Apparently the Soul Cakes or Souling Cakes were given out, not on All Hallows Eve (31st October) but on All Souls Day (2nd November) which follows All Saints Day on the 1st November.  Children and the poorer people of the town or village would go from door to door singing psalms and saying prayers for the dead.  Each cake eaten was said to represent a soul freed from Purgatory.  This custom dates from the pre-Reformation times of the Middle Ages, when bread was given out in return for prayers and psalms for those you have lost.

I had what lines I could remember of the song running though my head as I baked -
 A soul, a soul a soul cake,
please good missus, a soul cake,
an apple, a pear, a plum or a cherry,
Any good thing to make us merry....&etc

In fact these little morsels aren't really cakes but more the consistency of biscuits.  The ingredients are simply flour, sugar, eggs, wine vinegar, butter and spices.  I wonder how much these ingredients differ from the original recipe?

The recipe I used is one originating on the Cheshire/Welsh borders and I found it here

340gm of plain flour, 170gm each of sugar and butter, 1 beaten egg, 2tsp white wine vinegar and half a teaspoon each of nutmeg, cinnamon and mixed spice.

Set the oven to 200 degrees centigrade (I cooked on 180 degrees as our oven can sometimes burn when too hot)

Mix the flour, sugar and spice together. Slice and dice the butter and rub into the dry ingredients.  Then using a wooden spoon mix in the beaten egg and the wine vinegar.  It makes a stiff dough which should be rested in the fridge for about 20 minutes.  Roll out the dough and cut into rounds, marking the top with a cross cut.  Place on baking trays and cook for 15 - 20 minutes until light golden brown.  Mine were ready after 14 minutes.  I didn't have quite enough plain flour so I added a little bit of self raising to the mix to make the quantity right and I also added a bit more beaten egg (about one and a half) than suggested as the eggs I had, although labelled medium, seemed quite small.

Although the cakes look quite plain they are sweet and spicy and quite tasty.  They also, quite pleasingly, snap into four little pieces for eating purposes.


It would have been nice to give them out at the door but I'm sure they wouldn't have been appreciated so we had a bowl of mini chocolate bars at the ready.

 We had quite a few groups of small children with their parents waiting at the end of the drive and some older children too, all very good humoured and enjoying themselves, every bar went.  We had three girls dressed as clowns knock at the door, when asked why clowns they answered that they had read that some people find clowns quite scary, I can relate to that.  Another boy on his own said 'Trick or Treat' in quite a fed up, monosyllabic voice so Paul said that isn't very scary, lets try again and he shut the door and opened it again, the boy said 'Trick or Treat' in a far more animated way and took his bar.  I had a boy yell out 'Oh, I love Snickers' and then as they left he ran down the drive shouting 'Mum, they have Snickers at that house'.  It seemed like great fun but it is such a far cry from the days of the Soul Cake.