Friday, 27 April 2012

Tadpoles Progress - 9 weeks

Just a little update on how the tadpoles (Poles) are doing...
They are roughly 9 weeks old, Ive had them for 8 weeks and they were born roughly a week or two before that, so that's roughly how old they are!
They've doubled in size since I last documented them for the blog, but I'm still waiting for the legs to start growing, which hopefully isn't long now.....
They have fully formed mouths and you can see in some of the pictures their little eyes are more obvious. They are still eating fish food, but I've also been collecting little dead insects and slugs and leaving a few out for them to try too.
Just in case you were wandering, the little thing at the start of his tail unfortunately isn't a leg, that's his erm, bodily waste.. I always get excited thinking they're legs, but they disappear again and I realise I was mistaken.
At this age they still have gills, and their lungs for breathing outside the water are pretty poor, so they still have to remain in the water until the lungs are fully developed. I only took this chap out for a few seconds to photograph, then he was put straight back into the water.
Tadpoles like to eat algae and plants, but they also like to use the pond plants to cling onto and rest on. Eventually when their legs start to develop I will have to include slanting rocks and more plants so they can start to climb out of the water, which I'm really excited for!
I like the curly plant here, it reminds me a bit of lamb's lettuce.
I think their skin is so pretty. It's lightly transparent and at different angles you can see some of their insides developing. I especially like the almost golden speckles they have on their skin at the moment.
This picture is just to highlight the difference in size between the tadpoles. Although they were all laid at the same time, some tadpoles hatch and develop faster than others, I guess that's the same with humans and other animals too, but it's fascinating to watch it through a first hand account! They live in the same conditions, eat the same food etc, yet some are significantly larger and stronger.
This guy has a very beady eye.
They are still eating fish food flakes, and getting through a heck of a lot too! I will keep you updated with their progress :)

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Watercress soup and ploughmans lunch

This recipe is my Grandma's and I've been eating it for years! It so easy to make, and pretty cheap to make too! It tastes creamy but doesn't actually have any cream in, so it makes me feel a little healthier which is always nice...
Scott and I had this soup for lunch today, with a sort of ploughman's platter. We are little piggy's I know, but we both both try to make all meal times special and enjoy creating new and old concoctions for breakfast, lunch and tea (and the naughty snacks in between).

1 onion
1 potato
butter 1oz
1 packet of watercress, (roughly a handful and a half)
milk 1/2 pint
vegetable or chicken stock 1/2 pint
salt& pepper
Optional - Cream to drizzle on top.

Chop the onion and potato. Melt the butter in a saucepan and saute the onion until transparent. Add your potato and watercress, milk and stock. Bring to the boil, then reduce your heat, cover and leave to simmer for 20 minutes. Allow to cool slightly, then blend in small batches in a blender/liquidiser. Return to the pan and season to taste.
To serve: You could add a drizzle of cream, but to be honest, it's already delicious and creamy enough.
I don't think I really need to explain this one, but the basics are that a ploughman's is a yummy lunch time dish with fresh bread and butter, a selection of cheeses and chutneys, with a little salad. I added some salami and ham because I was being greedy in Morrison's and couldn't resist them. Just cut everything into your desired sizes and display them prettily on a plate, and that's it!We had herby onion ciabatta, and a poppy seed roll which was really and fresh.
I don't usually round the corners of my pictures, but I thought I'd give it a go to see how they looked. What do you think?
Here were just a few cheeses that I picked up on the way home from college. The Brie was lovely, very mild which is how I like it, and the red Leicester was good too. I wasn't keen one the Green waxy one though, as the texture was a bit fatty, and the herby onion flavour wasn't very strong, so it just tasted a bit like plain cheddar. The snowdonia Cheese version however is amazing, but just a little out of my price limit for a Wednesday lunchtime!  But overall, a lovely lunch :)

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Chocolate tiffin cake

Chocolate tiffin is my go-to cake of choice when I'm out. Sometimes I fancy a brownie or a Victoria sponge, but generally I tend to edge towards a tiffin. I think it's because I am such a chocolate monster, that I sometimes get bored with all the sponge in cake. My friend Cecily, and boyfriend Scott think I'm quite irritating when I eat all the icing and filling of a cake but leave the sponge. I don't know about you, but to me that's the best bit! Tiffin however doesn't have sponge, especially not dry sponge, as it consists of a biscuit base, soaked in butter and syrup and flavoured with cocoa powder - YUM.
Sometimes it can have big chunks of biscuit, or can be finely crushed, sometimes it has nuts, cherries and dried fruit, and sometimes it's plain. But it HAS to have a lovely thick layer of milk (preferably milk, but dark will do) chocolate on top!
Recipe adapted from This page

110g (4 oz) butter
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons golden syrup
4 teaspoons cocoa
225g (8 oz) digestive biscuits, crushed (some fine and some chunky)
1 handful of raisins , and or glacier cherries, dates etc
225g (8 oz) milk chocolate
1. Melt the butter and syrup in a saucepan. Careful not to burn the butter. Now add the cocoa powder and sugar.
2. Crush the digestive biscuits. You can do this by hand or in a food processor. I place the biscuits into a freezer bag and use a rolling pin to crush them, which is good as it finely crushes some parts and leaves some good chunks too.
3. Now add  your biscuits and handful of fruit/nuts to your wet mixture. Give them all a good mix so the dry ingredients are all covered.
4. Pour mixture into a Swiss roll size tin and press down. Melt the chocolate and pour over the mixture in the tin.  Refrigerate for roughly and hour or until ready to serve.
 I like mine with a cup of tea. It doesn't really need anything with it as it's so delicious and rich as it is.
  This is also a lovely little plate I found in a box of things my mum had bought at an antiques fair last week. The colours of the flowers are really cool, and I like that their not just pinks and daintily coloured. The maroon works well with the dark green, and really sets off the cake !
 This cake doesn't last very long in our house! My mum is also a big tiffin fan, and my dad and Scott just like cake generally, so they regularly enjoy eating the concoctions I find myself making.

Drink sampling with the family

Sampling is so much fun, and it's interesting to see the difference in people tastes. I tend to like anything with elderflower, ginger, raspberry or apple, whereas my grandma prefers citrus flavours, and my mum prefers beetroot and tomato juices.

carrot and apple, beetroot juice, pear, cherry and apple, elderflower, cox's apple, lemon , summer berries, raspberry
I personally liked the pear ! It was refreshing yet still had a lovely sweetness to it. The carrot and apple was really not to my taste! I think that was batting for the healthier side, rather than flavour! The apples and elderflowers were good, and the tomato juice had a spicy kick to it. There were a few other flavours not listed here, like tomato juice, orange, ginger beer etc. The tasting panel consists of my mum, dad, grandma, Scott and I, which is a good balance of old and young, male and female and we came to a decision of our favourite 5 flavours!
I can't wait for the tearoom to open, it's been so exciting helping making all sorts of decisions from interiors and props to food and drinks. We've all put so much time and effort into making sure the little attention to details are just right.
I think the jewel tone colours are beautiful, and I feel inspired to mix a couple of my own drinks after tasting these! What are your favourite flavours to drink?

Friday, 20 April 2012

Art project - Jelly insects

As some of you may know, I'm currently doing an art foundation course in Wrexham, and I'm about to embark on my final major project which I'm very excited about. I don't usually blog about my art work so much, but I particularly like these jelly insects I made as part of my last project. I used plain gelatin for the most part, and added some green food dye to one set. I wouldn't consider myself a photographer, but photography is a way I can show many of the day to day things I either find interesting or create. But as someone who just takes pictures for fun, I was quite pleased with the results! The jelly reminds me of a sort of foetus, like the insect are being born.
They have a fragile quality to them, and the gelatin is reminiscent of a block of ice, preserving the insects over a long period of time.
This one in particular looks to me like a fossil.
The green dye looks quite good here as it adds a bit more contrast, but generally I think the clear gelatin is more effective as it
doesn't detract from the way the light refracts the insect inside.

I personally like art that has a scientific visual to it, such as Damien Hirst's work including his shark in the tank. Also Candy Jernagen's documentation of everyday life and surrounding's. It brings to attention the beauty and interest in everyday life, and makes you stop to notice the tiny details. My work used to be a lot more decorative and lack, well, substance I guess, but if Ive learnt anything this year, its that it can be a lot more fascinating and motivating to try something a little more meaningful and take a swing towards a science investigation style of art.

Shortbread samples

Over the last few weeks I've been lucky enough to help test some samples for the new tearoom my parents are opening in the near future. Ive tried everything from fruit presses, scones, brownies, shortbread etc, and it's been wonderful! I particularly like the fruit cordials and presses, as I have a bit of a love affair with anything made with elderflower, and I found the brand that makes the perfect bottle! I will post more about this once everything has been finalised, but until then I will leave you with a few images from this week's samples....
Here are some delicious shortbread I had for lunch yesterday. They were crumbly and delicious, but after consuming too many I decided to 'jazz' them up a bit and added clotted cream, raspberries and a sprig of mint. The combination is so yummy, and really transforms them into a delicious treat or even a small dessert!

I had them with a glass of cold full fat milk, because let's face it, life's too short to bother with skimmed milk, especially to drink on it's own.
I have a bit of a t'hing' for paper straws, especially the red and white kind, and when they came in the post the other day I was so excited! They make whatever your drinking feel that bit more interesting and special!
Here is Scott sampling a lightly sparkling plum presse. The colour was so pretty, but we both agrees it needed a bit more 'oomf' as it wasn't as plum-y as we had hoped.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012


Panzanella is a traditional Italian dish, made from left over bread and juicy tomato's. I first discovered it on Jamie Oliver's '30 minute meals' programme, which if you haven't watched, I recommend you do as it's full of delicious recipes that can be made in 30 minutes for family dinners etc. But back to Panzanella, it's yummy and pretty cheap to make. There are many variations, but the basics are torn stale bread, tomatoes and a tasty olive oil based dressing.

Panzanella for one
(adapted from Jamie Oliver's recipe)
3-4 large tomatoes.
Vine tomatoes have the most flavour, and that is essential for this dish! If possible try to avoid buying salad tomatoes as they have little flavour! I chose red, orange and yellow ones from Morrison's in Wrexham.
A stale baguette or ciabatta torn into golf ball sized pieces (I used pumpkin seed bread as it was what we had in the bread bin)
handful basil leaves, torn
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
a pinch of sugar
1 garlic clove
3 anchovy fillets, sliced into 2 long halves

Preheat the oven to gas mark 7-8.
 1. Tear your bread into small chunks, and place in a baking tray. Crush the clove of garlic over the bread, and drizzle with a little olive oil. Now toast them in the oven for roughly 10 minutes.
2. Take them out of the oven and place into a large bowl. Now chop your tomato's into chunks and mix them together with the bread. You can add you basil leaves here too. Don't worry if your heavy handed, it's useful as it means the juices from the tomatoes will run into the bread.
3. Mix together your balsamic, olive oil and pinch of sugar. Add some salt & pepper to taste, and pour over your bread and tomato's.

4. chop the anchovies into small pieces and scatter over the dish. Give it all another good mix, and there you have it!
Garnish with a few more basil leaves.

It's a lovely dish to have, and you can add anything else that you fancy too it, from chopped shallots, capers, torn mozzerella etc! Scott and I enjoyed this with some elderflower cordial, and followed it up with a cheeky raspberry donut!

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Moroccan Mint Tea

Moroccan Mint Tea is something I've been meaning to try recently. I love tea, I drink tea too much, but it's always English builders tea. I really wish I liked green tea, herbal tea etc, but I just don't. I need a ridiculous amount of sugar for me to like it, and a lot of the time I'm too impatient for it to become drinking temperature. But mint tea has for a long time, been very enticing ( too much time spent watching food programs and being influenced easily), and this weekend I gave it a go, and it was very tasty.

What you will need:
Tea pot -
Teacup/ Tainted glass tumbler
  • 10 fresh mint sprigs, plus some for garnish
  • 2 green tea teabags, or three teaspoons green leaf tea
  • 3 tablespoons sugar, or more to taste
  • 4 cups water
Place all your mint, teabags and sugar into your teapot. Boil your water and pour into the teapot (about 4 cups).
Leave to brew for three minutes, then strain your tea, and its ready to pour.
I added another mint sprig to add some colour.

My verdict : Tasty as an occasional treat, but for general purposes I will stick to builders tea!
Scott's verdict : Again, quite nice, but can't beat English breakfast tea!

Monday, 9 April 2012

David Shrigley 'Brain Activity' exhibition

As I said in my London post, I went to an exhibiton of David Shrigley's work called 'Brain activity' and I loved it! I'm usually more into decorative art and a sculpture girl, but he had some incredibly humorous drawings that really made me laugh and changed my opinion on drawing and illustration. 
The gallery was at the 'Southbank Centre' which is a lovely gallery that I first went to last summer when Tracey Emin had an exhibition (FYI - I really like Tracey Emin).

David's drawing's/illustrations are simple yet really tap into everyday thoughts and situations, and provoke a smile and a giggle which is something that I look for in artwork. He manages to bring to light the humour of everyday life in a simple and easily readable way.

I'm not the best at explaining myself, I mean well but it never comes across to others the way I'm thinking it in my head. So if you're interested in a much more interesting and educated description of his exhibition,  I suggest you read this - Article on David Shrigley exhibition.

David had a range of drawings and illustrations, photography, sculpture and paining.  I liked these two photographs, as again they amuse me in that way that makes your lips curl at the side when you look at them.

Many people argue 'what is art' and sometimes I do question what some artists do. But my idea is that if someone is trying to express and idea, opinion or thought, they can do so in whatever media or way they like, and that is art. Yes this painting above doesn't look technically impressive, but the simplistic qualities and colours choices, anchored by the wording really please me. It's just making you stop and think about things that you wouldn't usually consider as art or interesting - such as a bird eating a worm. 
I even brought the book this time. I don't usually, (as much as I would love to) as they can be pricey, but it's always lovely to have the memories and inspiration in your hand that you can look over at other times.

The above picutres are all from google images, as I always feel awkward taking pictures in galleries!!

Blue Planet Aquarium Day

On Saturday Scott and I went to the Blue Planet Aquarium in Cheshire Oaks! It was a really lovely day out, a little expensive, but very interesting! It's really hard to take photo's in the aquarium due to the terrible lighting, but I gave it a go and here are a few pictures of what we saw and got up too!
Shark's are awesome. Pretty scary, but incredible animals! I love this guy's beady little eyes, and his mega fang teeth!
Scott was quite impressed with the sharks too ;) I really like this picture! The coral is pretty, Scott is being... well Scott! And the glistening blue water is lovely.

Sting Rays have the cutest little faces! We got to pet some little rays in the petting area (my favourite surprise surprise) they're skin is very coarse but their little noses are lovely and bob out of the water.

I was really happy to see the crocodile! Can you spot his beady eyes below? It was interesting to see his head on the surface, then look below the tank where the water had refracted his body. He was floated perfectly still for 30 minutes!

Fish, sharks, rays, crocodiles, lobsters, and even snakes, spiders and FROGS! This pleased me greatly. Here are two very chunky looking fellas (toads).

I've always had a thing for frogs, especially the blue ones. My grandad took me to the museum in Manchester when I was younger to see the poisonous blue frogs, and I had the poster, along with the Titanic film poster on my bedroom walls for years. They always remind me of him and I love finding them in museums and zoo's.
They had some very small frogs that were incredibly quick at jumping, and a bit of a pain to photograph, but they were beautiful.
Seabear wanted to come... Scott took a few snaps before we left, and this one made me giggle.
They fed the clown fish (nemo fish) when we were by them so they were all fanatically trying to eat the shrimpy white blobs that you can see at the top of the picture.

The yellow and blue colours work so lovely together.

This is the bottom and feet of a duck that was on top of the trout tank. I liked that they included the ducks as part of the display.

Scott likes to read each sign and information card meticulously, whereas I like to dash round quickly to see as much as possible as fast as possible! So this was one of the few pictures I managed to pry him away from the information.
 I really dislike the shops in Cheshire Oaks, I don't think I've ever bought anything from there other than food, however, the Cadbury Factory shop is awesome. And they sell Snapple which I had when I was in America, and it's delicious!

I fell in love with this little fella! He was an inflatable 'Bath predator' and was made of a Matt plastic-y material, SO COOL!! But he was £12 so we had to leave him behind, but one day, I will have a bath predator.