2015 Photo a Day Set 12

Finally – back up to date!

So… this past week I’ve finally managed a photograph every day again – yay!.  They’re not in order but sort of suit this other arrangement.

This first photograph really should have the exposure increased to brighten it up but it really wasn’t that spectacular a day and I wanted to remember it how it was.  It’s not much but this is the first time I’ve made it round this triangular field and seen this view since last August.  It was a great feeling although I did overdo it a little and paid for it later in the week.

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Next up is a random green leafed plant that has been in the garden for the last couple of years and it flowered!  I just had to take a photograph of the blossom.  Two days later, the sun was out and I spotted the first green shoots on the clematis.

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When the sun was out and the dog just wanted to be outside in the garden all afternoon so she obliged to sit for a quick photo.

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The above photo shows the grass before we attempted to “improve it”.  200l of soil improver and a lot of grass seed and currently it looks like a bit of a mess …. but hopefully, just hopefully we’ll have some new green grass soon and a lawn that looks a bit less patchy.  Fingers crossed.Day-81

The last two are the last produce from the allotment.  Daffs (yes, yet another daffodil photograph) and some rhubarb and ginger jam which tastes delicious if I do say so myself!  These are also my favourite images of the week – the vibrant colours just pop out to me.

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Hopefully next Sunday will be back to normal with images once a week.

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2015 Photo a Day Set 11

I cannot believe how quickly March is passing.  We’re rapidly approaching 1/4 of the way through 2015.

This is another week of 6 images as I missed Monday as I was still recovering after visiting Edinburgh.

Tuesday I still wasn’t for leaving the house so thought it would be nice to capture the flowers in the pot on my doorstep.  I can’t remember what they are, the yellow ones are primroses but the purple ones I just cannot remember.   They are brightening the front door until my tulips come out.

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The following day was grey and miserable.  I’d had to go to Oxford and then to the office when I really just wanted another day working from home and the image below just matched my mood.  Grey and bleugh.

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So … to cheer myself up I took an early Easter photograph.  These are from my parents and there is one for each of the boys, myself and my husband.  The youngest and I have a bet on to see if we can persuade his dad to eat his bunny this year.  We ate last Easter’s for him in January (just to make sure the chocolate didn’t go off).

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This is an iphone image … we have quite a number of swans locally.  Whenever I take my Fuji down to the river, they are in one of the other areas (the Itchen near Winchester has any number of routes through the Winnall Moors and they just seem to know to avoid even my long lens).  Not a great image but I was determined to get something from them.Day-72

Saturday was actually a little bit of a sad day.  With my M.E. as it is right now, I can’t really dig and much as I find the allotment a hugely satisfying and relaxing place to be, not being able to turn over the soil, start planting, weed properly etc is not great and the plot will become a source of stress as the weeds take over.   We’d worked really hard last year to get rid of a lot of the horrible deep rooted weeds and the thought of letting them take hold again was rather unwelcome.  I’d contacted the site convenor and arranged that it was time to hand back the key and allow someone else to take the plot forward and I hope that in a year or two I can start again.  So … up we went to clear out our oh so funky stripy shed and came away with the first of our forced rhubarb, some purple sprouting broccoli and lots of leeks.  The pinks of the rhubarb were stunning and just called out to be photographed.  The black is actually from our worktop – I’m actually quite pleased with this.

Day-73 And then finally – taken on my phone, not by me (my first guest photographer) and the first actual proper Sunday photograph of me (but not really a Sunday selfie).  It’s not a photograph I’m particularly comfortable with if I’m being honest, I don’t really like photographs of me, especially with no makeup and my hair not done but I wanted to show my boys the fabulous slipper socks (which I’ve worn all week) and my wonderful new scarf (and they picked a colour I didn’t already have).  There’s also a blue trowel in there – the youngest made that for me at school.  It’s the first time I’ve been made anything and it is soooooo cool.  I’m very touched by their thoughtfulness – a fantastic (step)mothers day gift.

Day-74Look – nearly up to date one more post to go!

2015 Photo a Day Set 10

This was a better week in terms that I managed 6 photographs – progress!

Monday – it was a beautiful sunny day down by the river.  It must be getting warmer as the dog was straight in the water.  Really nice to have a lovely sunny day and a nice opportunity to photograph scenery.

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Then of course – more flowers … there may well be some in each set.  I just love how you pick them (or bring them home from the shop) all closed up and green and 48 hours later they are a riot of yellow.  Focussing on them however is a little bit of a challenge when using overhead lights at night … I need to try a higher iso and slightly lower fstop to get the depth of field I want.

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Wednesday was a bit of a day.  For someone with M.E. going up to London to give a customer demonstration, dashing off at lunchtime to get home, pick up my bags and get to Scotland is a little bit much.  In fact a lot a bit much.  Yay for the Edinburgh Airport staff who help you with a wheelchair!  I should have photographed them but my camera did not appear all day.

The crocuses the next day in Edinburgh were just beautiful.  What I really needed to do was hop a fence and get down to ground level to get the image the way I wanted but I was not about to risk that so this will have to suffice.  Much more impressive than the measly 2 which have appeared from the many that were planted in my garden.

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This next shot was taken just outside Glasgow on the low level line on my way back to Edinburgh after Friday meetings in Glasgow – some of the brickwork construction on the railway is amazing and I’m sure underappreciated.   Unfortunately they were past before I could work out how to minimise the reflection from the window and the brighter lights inside the carriage but I captured what I could.
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Then it is time for a ta-da photograph. I had threatened lots of images of this in-progress.  I do have them but actually had other, hopefully more varied images to put up here (although the flower theme is definitely recurring).  This picture also sneakily hides the fact that I’m one button short as I can’t count and only took 4 to Edinburgh!

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And finally, this was the recipient of the Easter cardie but she just didn’t want her photograph taken that day – every other image I managed was of her retreating back!Day-67

2015 Photo a Day Set 9

This week didn’t quite go to plan.  Only four days out of 7. Ah well – you win some you lose some but at least we’re now almost at March and I’m catching up.

This is just going to be a short summary of the images rather than a lengthy post I think.

Monday – I completely missed.

Tuesday – I was given hyacinth bulbs by my MIL and typical me, I forgot to bring them out in time from the dark warm place they were germinating.  Cue some very pale leaves but stunning flowers.

Wednesday – it was my first big day of back to back meetings in London with one of my colleagues (I’m supposed to be building up to full time by June) and in the taxi back to Waterloo station the traffic was at a standstill thanks to roadworks outside here …. so I took the time to take some pics.

Thursday – we have a soak-away / pond in our closest field … I just liked the reflections.

Friday – I just like bracket fungii, it’s funky.

Saturday / Sunday were mostly write-off’s in terms of me just needing to rest so no images at all.

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Castles are not built in a day

This involves just a little duplication from my last post in terms of pictures but actually this is all about cake.  In particular, the cake the 12 year old wanted to make for his medieval castle project.  It took the teachers 3 days to eat and he was copied (in terms of them making a cake) by four others in his class so it must have made quite an impression.

I’m absolutely delighted he came up with this idea and did most of the work himself.  He had to make a medieval castle.  Apparently a motte and bailey castle was just a bit boring so it had to be a stone keep which had a central tall keep with tower and then the smaller walls round the edge.   Paper mache, building out of wood, using stones, fimo, clay, nothing else would do – he enjoys baking, wanted to make a cake and worked out how to create one.

A shopping list was created, we visited the local cake shop (they make lovely decorated cakes and very kindly sell various bits of icing and other decorations), the local cookery shop (as my largest cake tin was just not large enough), the supermarket and by this point we couldn’t see the work surfaces.

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We’ve been baking together now for a few years so for this stage, all I had to do was sit and read my book – it was great!

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18 eggs,
1kg flour,
1 kg caster sugar
1.5kg butter
150g bournville powder (sounds so unimpressive)
2kg icing sugar
2.5kg fondant (shop bought but home coloured)

went into making a 10″ square deep vanilla sponge cake (standard victoria sponge recipe but multiplied quite a bit) and a 20×14″ or so shallow traybake chocolate cake (Mary Berry’s chocolate fudge cake cake recipe – we didn’t do the ganache), a huge amount of butter icing and of course, the fondant icing which needed to be made grey rather than white.

First and foremost it was stacking 3/4 of the 10″ cake (we kept one quarter to taste just to check we were not poisoning the school) and covering with butter icing and then grey icing.

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I’m not hugely confident at wrapping cakes that are taller than they are wide in one sheet of fondant at the best of times, let alone when guiding someone else to do it so we wrapped the sides then stuck the top on and it worked well.  Unfortunately I’ve missed a picture opportunity here.

Next it was making the outside walls and small turrets which involved cutting the chocolate cake into strips, covering ourselves in chocolate butter icing and everything else. At this point, there was chocolate icing everywhere and I was not risking my camera.Castle Cake-3

Finally that meant it was time to start the fun bits … making a flag, a biscuit door, icing turrets (you know, the uppy downy bits on a castle wall) on every possible surface and drawing windows onto the cake.

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I’m particularly impressed with how he dealt with the cracks in the back from the fondant wrapping of the large cake – green food colouring and they become deliberate moss coloured cracks (it’s a medieval castle that has survived until today).

Castle Cake-6Finally, after one day planning, one day to shop and make the cakes and one day to put it all together and decorate …. the Ta-Da moment.

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Bye Bye Allotment. Hello Container Garden

The stripy shed is no more.

Well…. the stripy shed is still there but as I mentioned in a previous photo a day post, it’s just no longer my plot at the allotment and is now hopefully in someone else’s custody.  I did leave the paint so I hope they maintain it in all its stripy gloriousness.

Allotment 2013:2014 - 35The reasoning behind this is that even thought it is only a half plot, when you can’t dig and thanks to needing to work (and work need you to build up to full time again) you can only really spend half an hour on a Saturday and Sunday there as work is all you have energy for during the week, it’s not enough.  It had taken weeks just to clear out the raspberries (and that’s only pruning the flowering shoots from last year) and for my husband to turn over just under half the plot.  It wasn’t working and with growing season starting we took the decision that we should hand it back for someone else to take on the plot this year.

Rather than dwelling in misery about no longer having the allotment, or how the 12x6m size of the garden which currently accommodates the lawn, our giant shed, the patio for a table and chairs and one raised bed (for flowers) really does not have space for veg, I’ve been planning.  There’s a second patio space (actually it’s half a car parking space but the huge shed sits on the other half) and it can take a couple of smallish 1 x 0.5 m raised beds with liner bags (to protect the stones) sort of like the image below.  We also have a selection of pots, a couple of deep bags for potato/carrot and I will just need to get inventive.

I also have my potting half of the shed … now of course I don’t have a photograph of it full of tomato and chilli plants from last summer but instead I have an image from during construction (DH designed and built it and he wouldn’t let me paint it funky colours so it’s a sensible brown shed).  This was him removing the protective cover from our perspex type roof which covers half the shed before we put  glass in all the windows (they were designed to take the panes from our old greenhouse) – hopefully having a 6 foot man in the image gives some idea of scale.  It takes 4 full growbags so plenty of opportunity to cultivate seedlings and grow in there as well.

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My DH is fairly handy at DIY.  I used to do everything I needed around the house, including fitting a kitchen in the dim and distant past (and am still better at wallpapering than him) but he is good at all practical things and a whiz at woodwork (see shed above) and we always get the RollsRoyce of solutions.  This got me thinking (as I was googling growing veg in small spaces) and we have a wall … it’s a very sunny and warm wall as it is completely south facing and I’ve been looking to try and cover it up a little to stop it radiating too much heat baking the grass nearby.  It is just screaming for a raised bed at the bottom to cover up part of the wall.

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(The grass has just been treated – we added new lawn compost on the many many bare patches and seed yesterday and I’m currently hoping that it actually grows and that this year my DH does not cut the new grass 2 weeks after it’s sown and rips all the new shoots out).

Then … (I really should not be allowed time to look at things like this), I spotted this:

How cool is that.   However … it’s not really what I wanted for this wall (but one day I will make a garden out of rain pipes).  Anyway – that got me thinking considering pots as an alternative solution to one big(ish) bed.

They are pretty and really colourful but would dry out too quickly in the heat of the sun against a brick wall in the summer.  So then, it was onto exploring wooden container type constructions which will give a larger soil volume and more growing area:

I’m now at the idea of having a larger and deeper raised bed at ground level and then a series of six  containers meandering up the wall so have brought in the DH as chief builder.  We’re still debating having uniform sizes or varied sizes, a regular or random pattern and if we should actually consider making more to drift up the wall above where the table and chairs will sit when we bring them out again.  I’d quite like to paint the boxes nice colours (aka colourful plant pots) but apparently I’m not allowed (I may just attack one night with a paint brush when everyone is asleep).

Over Easter while I’m safely away in Scotland thanks to a combination of seeing friends, family and work, my DH has made a start on three of the smaller containers – they’re not on the wall yet and we’ll wait till I’m back and the larger raised bed is installed before we put them on the wall …. watch this space for progress!

2015 Photo a Day Set 8

I’m catching up … look – another post already (actually this was written immediately following set 7 and scheduled … feeling rather pleased with that).

I’m realising I quite like photographing flowers – not necessarily very good at it yet but they’re pretty and cheerful and colourful.  This one is from a pot of narcissi we were given at the hotel in Lulworth over the weekend.  Daff’s and narcissi are so cheerful and spring like, making me think of the sunny days to come.

Day-47Next … my first missed day.  I don’t remember what happened but there are a few missed days in Feb / March.  Probably being away for the weekend then being back at work was just a little much and I was tired but actually it doesn’t really matter – I’m enjoying playing withe the camera.

Wednesday was out with the dog – this is one of the local fields I used to walk round – It’s triangular and quite funky but since August I’ve not made it right round – I just do the length of the short side twice.  This day – it was my first down vest walk of the year.  It was sunny and warm and not windy and I didn’t need a full coat so needed marked in some way and a photograph worked well.

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The next morning, this was the sunrise.  My husband was away so I was doing the morning walk and it was just lovely.  I am debating playing with the light levels a little to bring it up.

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And then on Friday my husband returned and look what he brought me!

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Now … the next two images will form the basis of a blog post on their own.  Incredibly impressed (even now a month later when I’m writing this) by the 12 year old.  History at school just doesn’t excite him – he’s into science which makes me happy.  His history project was to make a medieval castle out of anything he wanted …. he chose cake as he enjoys baking and it was his way of making a project interesting and enjoyable.  Two days of researching, designing, baking and decorating and one monster cake (the biggest I’d ever made and I made my wedding cake) was done.

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2015 Photo a Day Set 7

Well this is a bit late isn’t it.  Here I am writing about February and it’s late March.  You know sometimes how live just gets in the way – well it’s been a little like that.  I have been taking images almost every day but posting about them was just a little much.  Finally, it’s time to start catching up.

Looking back – I am learning more about the camera but there are a few images which are just a bit dark.  I could alter them lots in lightroom but I prefer to remind myself right now of what not to do!

Monday 9th I had a good dog walk, slightly further than I’d made it in a while and there was no wildlife, just nothing until this little fellow alighted on a branch.  Focus issues definitely but he was so bright and chirpy and colourful that he’s staying.

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This is one of the slightly dark images – I will get a flash one day probably.  This was the start of an Easter cardie I was knitting.  Kids clothes (especially when stocking stitch) are so nice and quick cause they’re small.  This was my first proper attempt at colour work – quite pleased with how the yoke looks.  You will see this again (and again) as the project progresses.Day-41 Next I was struggling a little with getting out but the local scots pine is huge and majestic so I thought it would be good to focus on trying to capture the sheer scale of him.  I failed miserably at that but loved the patterns in the bark.  It was getting dark so higher iso and f2 on the lens … very shallow depth of field but it sort of works.Day-42 Thursday was a photograph of my christmas cactus (it’s a cutting of my mum’s and must be about 15 years old).  It’s still flowering now in the middle of March.

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The next three are all from the same location – we had a (step)child free weekend so excitedly booked a lovely hotel down at Lulworth Cove in Dorset.   Then we realised it was actually Valentines weekend.  Unintentionally romantic.  The three images are a plaster of paris type mould of a shell in the hotel room, looking along the beach from Durdle Door to the Bat Cave and the entrance to Lulworth Cove.  I had to remember to change from my usual lowish apertures (as I seem to focus towards macro) and get used to f11/f16 again for scenery – the first few images were useless!

If you’ve never been it’s well worth a visit – stunning scenery, great food at that hotel (we will be back again), it’s really dog friendly which is fabby for us and watching the light change minute by minute is fantastic.   Day-44 Day-45 Day-46Right – just going to post this and will catch up hopefully quickly ……