Tuesday 31 January 2012

Skeletons in the ....

....Garden? We popped back to the Museum garden on Saturday - I wanted to show Ben and thankfully he was just as taken with it as I was! Hurrah! |We had a good old wander around, then went into the museum and had a good old wander about in there too - learned some new stuff about our local area too - quite fascinating finding out about how the town has grown and changed. While we were browsing around the gardens I found this leaf skeleton - how fascinating is that? Just the veins of the leaf structure still there and everything else gone....it feels like a real sign of winter somehow. It seems winter has finally arrived too - it's bitterly cold outside and was even trying to snow when I was out earlier. Hopefully we won't get as much snow and cold weather as we did last year! Robyn

Friday 27 January 2012


we've lived in this town for 9 years now - it's a "New Town" on the side we live - built from the mid 1950's onward to a design by Sir Frederick Gibberd. The area where we live was one of the first areas to be completed, and the town as a whole was designed to incorporate lots of open space - even now around one third of the town is green space, with the Town Park being one of the largest of its type anywhere in the UK. As a result of this, there are lots of places to walk to - just perfect for a lovely crisp sunny winters day like today! Having been stuck indoors while the plumber worked his magic fitting our new shower this morning (New definition of luxury: A piping hot shower, in your OWN bathroom! Hurrah!) I was itching to get out and stretch my legs so after lunch I grabbed my camera and set off. My intention had been to walk through to the Old bit of the town and explore there a but, but prior to that I got a touch distracted.....mostly by the gate above..... Obviously I knew that we HAD a museum. In fact, I think I even went there once, years ago, when it went under the name of the "Mark Hall Cycle Museum" - now it is the Town Museum, and I'm sure is jolly interesting, but I'm not going to be telling you about that I'm afraid as I never even made it in through the doors! I crossed the road right by the gates to the Museum gardens...and the gate was open - I couldn't resist going in for a look...
Have you ever read the book "The Secret Garden"? Well, that was exactly what this felt like! At first, walking through the gate, it seemed like a fairly small, but interesting nonetheless, walled garden, but the more I walked through, the more bits of it I kept finding - there is a rose garden, lots of sculptures dotted around, and even a whole area dedicated to unusual fruits! (Including a Medlar Tree! And Quinces!) Actually, scrub the Secret garden reference - the more I walked about, the more it felt Alice In Wonderland-ish! We sort of knew it was there - this is the daft thing, but in a sort of "Oh yes, that's the Museum gardens" kind of way, rather than actually feeling any great urge to go visit - so if there's somewhere in your area that you feel like that about - go visit it! You never KNOW what you might be missing! You know I mentioned Sculptures? (We have a lot of those - in fact, apparently we are designated as a "Sculpture Town", which is a slightly pretentious way of saying that, when wandering about the town, you might at any second come across a stray Henry Moore, or indeed Rodin's "Eve") I think I also mentioned cycles? Well in the middle of the garden there is a rather sweet little statue of a chap riding a penny farthing....and apparently terrifying a duck at the same time - see....
I'm dragging Ben back there tomorrow - so I can show him what I've found (Yes, me - nobody else has ever been there, obviously, just me. I'm up there with Columbus now...) and we can both rave over the Medlars, plot how to pick the figs, and maybe, just maybe even take a look at the museum! Robyn

Thursday 26 January 2012

Thinking about...

Outside my window...The sky is blue and the sun is shining. Much as I know this weather is just *wrong* for January, it is lovely to see sunshine...

I am thinking...of a lovely friend who has kindly sent a gift which arrived today. Thank you!

I am thankful...that I have found a plumber who can come and fit the new shower, at a time that suits me, and a price I can afford.

In the kitchen...there is washing up waiting to be done. You know what though? Until I have finished here, it can just wait...

I am wearing...Comfy jeans and a warm fleece. Although warmer than it *should* be for the season, it's still a bit nippy.

I am creating...a tidier, less cluttered environment, bit by bit...

I am going...to stay at home for the rest of the day, continuing with tidying, making sure the bathroom is ready for the plumber, and "clearing the decks" a little

I am wondering...What I might photograph next for another blog post.

I am reading..."Fables and Fairytales To Delight All ages" by Manfred Kyber. This was given to me by its Translator just yesterday - how fabulous!

I am hoping...That the weather will stay dry for the weekend

I am looking forward to...The Chinese New Year celebrations in London on Sunday. Kung Hei Fat Choi!

I am learning...More about the subject of poverty, and its affects on people.

Around the house...Just me. it's lovely and quiet

I am pondering...What the word "poverty" means to different people

A favorite quote for today..."Whatever you do, do it with style!" Freddie Mercury

One of my favorite things...My camera. I can't imagine not having one, or two, or many...

A few plans for the rest of the week: Taking a shower instead of having to have a bath!

A peek into my day... I wandered through here on my walk this morning. I usually try to get out for a walk if I'm about the place during the day - and this morning I had an errand to run also. The walk brought me back past here - a lovely bit of mixed woodland (possibly originally the "Spinney" That gave the area its name?)full of shady trees and singing birds...

With thanks to http://thesimplewomansdaybook.blogspot.com/ for the concept and to Jenni for the idea of joining in... Robyn

Monday 23 January 2012

The Future's bright....the future's.......MARMALADE!

I've been enjoying some debate over all things green with some friends over the past few days. it was started by Jenni, with a very sensible and well thought out post over at her A Cheerful Living Adventure blog - she's called it "Conscious Living" and that seems to me to be a sensible way of looking at things, and kind of what we've been doing here for a while now.....

We've been trying for a long while to think harder about what we buy, when we buy it, and how much of it we use. The figures on the average household's food waste each year are terrifying, just terrifying....and pretty much all of that waste is finding its way into landfill sites. We're burying our countryside under giant rubbish dumps, and the situation isn't going to get any better unless people practise what Jenni is talking about and start making conscious decisions about how they live their lives. We only have *so* much space - it seems obvious to me that the more we fill with rubbish, the less we have left to actually inhabit.

All of this has got me thinking through how we have changed our way of living over the last few years, and, to my surprise, it actually seems we're doing quite a bit:

- We buy less meat than we used to, but very rarely buy it from the supermarket
- When we DO buy meat from the supermarket (usually when it's heavily price-reduced) we only buy British, that way we know where the welfare standards fall
- All our eggs are free range. If we can't afford free range, we don't buy eggs at all - end of.
- Same thing for "Adult eggs" - free range chicken all the way
- Products containing eggs - we try to ensure use FR eggs also - we stopped buying Tesco Mayonnaise for a long while, until they gave in and started using FR eggs....
- processed foodstuffs - we buy very few, sausages mainly, but those again are higher welfare
- Fruit and veg - we buy from the farm shop when we can
- when we can't, we try to ensure that the stuff we DO buy is from the UK, preferably East Anglia - who needs potatoes from Kenya for goodness sake, when we grow some fantastic spuds in this country and they are available ALL YEAR ROUND?!
- We save leftovers and try to ensure that as far as possible everything is used up (So the remainder of the pastry for a pie for meals last week became a fruit tart for puddings over the weekend)
- We re-use things where we can - jars, bottles, milk bottles, re-useable shopping bags, newspaper for cleaning windows, microfibre cloths for cleaning rather than the disposable j-cloth style ones, mushroom punnets for growing seeds in...
- rarely using the tumble-dryer, only really for towels and bedding which would take too long to dry on the airers
- we grow as many oddments of veg as can in our little bit of garden
- We don't buy things like pizzas, pies etc - why buy when they can be made for a fraction of the price, and taste SO much better?
- bread comes from the breadmaker, not the supermarket bakery
- we don't buy jam, chutney, or marmalade....same reasons as above, the jars below cost us somewhere about 50p each...we know precisely what is in them, and the contents taste just fantastic!

So, looking at that list, that's pretty good eh? I mean, we're not doing badly at all....the question I guess is where to go from here. Well, I'm trying to walk, or cycle, where I can instead of using the car. We intend to grow edible stuff again this year, and try not to wash clothes unless they need it, rather than from habit. (I must assure you that undies are considered to require washing after one wear regardless!) Heating is turned to a level where the place is comfortable, but not so warm that we're walking around in shorts and t-shirts. I want to rediscover the enjoyment in sitting listening to music, or playing board games, rather than automatically reaching for the TV remote.

There are certainly ares for improvement, I rather suspect Jenni will give me some more food for thought in due course.....!


Thursday 19 January 2012

A Wander at Walton...

Remember that book of Essex walks I mentioned? Well we jumped into the car on Sunday to go and do another one - a bit more distant this time - at Walton on The Naze on the coast.For me this was a bit of a return to childhood as Auntie D & Uncle B used to take me there when I was small - we went to all manner of places along that stretch of coast...

We'd originally intended to do a circuit of about 4 miles - our plan is to build up the distances gradually ahead of going to the Hebrides in late spring. On looking at the book though we realised that the bit we actually wanted to walk was part of an extension taking the total distance to over 6 miles instead.....hmmmmm!

Not far along the coast path we came across this fabulous cheery stripey Beach-hut..

There you go Jenni & Fay - that one is just for you! It really made me smile - how much time and love its owners have put into it, and what a fun place it must be to spend a day - in the summer with the sun shining, or perhaps in the winter with the wind howling round, sat snug inside on your deckchair with a cup of tea...I'd love a beach-hut! Oddly enough not that far from there we decided that a cup of tea was exactly what was required, so we stopped for a sit and a sup...not for long though as there was the rest of the walk waiting for us...

As we got into the first woody bit there were suddenly lots of mushrooms and general fungus around - this was one of the more colourful ones we saw...possibly edible (Larch Bolete?) but then again possibly not. We do sometimes pick 'shrooms for eating, but ONLY when we have a good identification guide with us. Anyway this time round the fungus was safe - we were walking not picking!

For almost the entire route of this walk you have water alongside - initially the sea, then the Stour Estuary, and finally Walton Creek...it also circles round the edge of a Nature Reserve where we were told there were Marsh Harriers - and there were, we saw two females as well as assorted ducks and geese. We also saw Cranes....but not the feathered sort - these are the ones that work loading and unloading the huge container ships at Harwich and Felixstowe. We saw a number of those ships coming and going as well - even on a Sunday the work at the docks doesn't stop. At about that stage we realised that we'd dawdled a bit more than we should have done, and that we only had about another hour and a half of daylight so some stride-lengthening went on...well, until we found something else to look at anyway! One thing well worth looking at was the fabulous sunset...which just got better and better, and just kept stopping us in our tracks! Fortunately (!) the camera battery died just after this final shot was taken....a good thing too as it was just about dark by the time we got back to the car!

I wonder where we'll walk this weekend?!


Thursday 12 January 2012


Work took me into our old stomping ground of Walthamstow briefly this morning, so while I was there, and once I'd done what I was being paid for, I set off to the Market to see what the fruit & veg stalls had to offer. We know the market well - I lived in Walthamstow pretty much all my life until we moved out to Essex in 2003, and Ben & I lived within a short stroll of the market from 1998 - 2003. Our regular saturday morning routine for most of that time involved getting our weeks shopping from there - in between those fruit and veg stalls, Ian, who specialises in salad stuffs and herbs, and the butcher (A fabulous independant butchers - Parsons, who have been there for years) and bakers it was possible to do the majority of it without needing to go near a supermarket. It's one of the few things I miss about living in that area.....

Todays haul was yellow peppers, leeks and lots of garlic, plus two bags of the lovely little cherry tomatoes you see above. Whenever I can get these as a decent price I do so, and then roast them very very slowly with olive oil, Maldon salt, pepper and some dried basil. It turns fairly ordinary imported tomatoes into perfect little bursts of flavour - they can be eaten as they are with pasta, or (our favourite) blitzed down into a roast tomato sauce.

The garlic was also destined for a similar treatment too...

...the method for this was courtesy of Jayne over at Barefoot Kitchen Witch - I've been reading her blog for years now, it's always entertaining and educational too - you learn stuff like the best way to roast garlic! Thanks Jayne! Currently the flat smells glorious - I'm about to go and squeeze the gorgeous squidgy cloves into a bowl ready for pureeing up tomorrow and freezing. I suspect I'm going to go to bed tonight with my fingers smelling quite strongly garlicky!


Wednesday 11 January 2012

The last post...

Another shot from our walk on Sunday...as I mentioned one of the things I was doing while we were out was putting the new camera through its paces, and this seemed like a good subject!

There was a new(er) post box just along from this one - it was an interesting contrast to see the two so close together - it wasn't clear why this one was replaced, the new one is substantially larger but it's not an area that I would think gets particularly high usage. There is no question that the old one, when it had it's front on it, would certainly have been a lot more attractive looking..... I wonder, do the Royal Mail even still fit this old fashioned style wall box any more? A quick look at wikipaedia suggests that yes, they do. In fact, a quick look at wiki on this subject could lead to a long time browsing as there is pages of information....interesting things, postboxes (or pillarboxes, or wall boxes.....they have many names too!)

This was the first subject where the camera disappointed a little....it generally seems to be quite good about judging when to use the flash, and then in turn how much flash power a shot needs, but this time it was adamant that it was GOING to use the flash, and it was GOING to use it on full power. For the shot above, I took charge, manually over-rode the flash, and got a far better result, with it handling shadows and brighter areas well. In spite of that small spat, I'm still impressed!


Sunday 8 January 2012

A new camera! (And a walk!)

I recently replaced my compact camera - it had been playing up for some time, and I came to the conclusion a few months ago that the sensor was failing. In fairness to the little Samsung it was over 4 years old, was only cheap when I bought it, and has been well used - I've had my money's worth! A bit of shopping around lead me to the Panasonic Lumix S3 - capable of 14mp, 4x zoom (but with theoption of reducing pixels and increasing zoom) and with a Leica lens - I decided I really couldn't go wrong. What's more, the one Cameraworld had in stock was red...hmmmm, peculiar colour for a camera, red, but I'll try anything once! 10 second review.....feels lovely to handle, buttons where you expect them - VERY sharp pictures, close-up capability seems good, and it's "intelligent auto" mode even seems to work ok.

A strong desire to test this new toy properly, along with a plan (NOT New Year's resolution - we don't do those) to do more walking and getting out and about and generally exploring, lead us to decide to head off for a walk this afternoon. We've had a book of walks in our local area kicking about here for years. There are 50 walks in the book, and when we got it, we agreed we would try to work our way through them. A quick look in the book last night confirmed we still have....ummm....49 to do, so what better time to start! *grin*. Handily one of them starts from just the end of the road, so there was really no excuse, and off we went!

Lots of berries still on the bushes round here - I guess it's not been cold enough yet for our local birds to start really attacking them. These were particularly eye-catching -

- not a clue what they are... Anyway, a wander on and some incongruously tall trees. Most of our trees local are Native Deciduous - Epping forest in particular has masses of Oaks. These gave every impression of being some kind of pine - VERY tall indeed, with perfectly straight trunks, and lots of cones on the ground beneath....

The walk took in the old part of our town, plus one of the villages which borders on to it. It's strange though - how much more you take in of your surroundings when, rather than just walking, as we would do normally, you're following directions. It's almost as though when the responsibility of where you're going is taken away from your brain it says "Oh, OK then - best start looking at stuff instead!". We've found before as well, it's always worth lifting your eyes to above the normal level - it's amazing what odds and ends you find higher up on buildings...

A worthwhile sentiment in that first one, I think! So, with no further ado, we continued...to the pub! (You can't beat a walk with a pub at the end of it, unless of course it's a walk with tea & cake.....)