Category Archives: Pure Joy

Wonderful Waxwings at Weston-super-Mare, Somerset

This morning while I sat huddled under the duvet,  drinking my tea in bed, contemplating the incredibly thrilling prospects for the day I saw a tweet by Paul Bowerman, a local birding expert, that made my little heart jump and I leapt out of bed, flung on many layers of clothes and begged Brian to come with me to Winterstoke Road to see 24 waxwings in a tree at Easy Fit. Brian found one of his big cameras and off we went. Winterstoke Road is in Bristol, about twenty minutes drive from where we live.

When we got there we drove up and down and there was no Easy Fit. I got my phone out and googled and found there was an Easy Fit in Winterstoke Road in Weston Super Mare, about 12 miles away.

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I looked again at the tweet and realised that the birder’s home patch was in fact Weston Super Mare and even though he comes up to Bristol, well you see which way my thoughts went. LIttle tears of hopelessness came to my eyes. I have been waiting and hoping for another waxwing sighting since I missed seeing the ones in West Shrubbery before Christmas. They have been all over the country but none near enough to get to in a sensible time span.

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 “Oh, come on then!” he said, and we were off, speeding down the road to Weston Super Mare.  We drove behind this lovely AA vehicle part of the way, great number plate!

First Glimpse Of the Waxwings

First Glimpse Of the Waxwings

We found the Easy Fit garage and we found the waxwings just where they had said they were!  Brian and I have a thing about birds, we don’t do much birding these days on account of the excitable poodles who have a tendency to bark and chase things, so our birding is more or less on hold, but I do miss it and I do love the excitement of seeing something just a little bit different from time to time.

Suspen... se !!

Suspen… se !!

We last saw waxwings in Bristol a long long time ago, when Brian still took photos on film. They appear every so many years in large numbers in the UK. They come from Scandinavia  and delight many people with their presence and their oh so pretty plumage. To find out more about them click on the link in this paragraph which will take you to the RSPB site.

Feeding Waxwings Brian Kent

Feeding Waxwings

Today was grey and overcast but as we got near the garage we could see them sitting in a tall tree. I squeaked and bounced on my seat!  There were 24 beautiful, red wingtipped, quiffed little birds, unspooked by the traffic rumbling past and perfectly content with their current home near an excellent food supply. They were flying from their tall tree to the other side of the parking lot where there were berry filled bushes, picking a couple and then flying back to the tall tree to sit, rock in the breeze, digest and poo from a great height.

 While we were there we met a great guy called James O’Connell, ornithologist, freelance film maker and passionate birder, making a film for the local news for tonight. He recognised Brian from when Brian used to go birding much more often down on the Somerset Levels. He has also been filming at Steart on the coast near Hinkley Point, where they are making a huge new saltmarsh reserve for wild birds. Here is a link to his new film Steart ‘The Flood’ on You Tube and we will be heading out to Steart again soon one of these days to see how it is all progressing.

Waxwing eating Berries

Waxwings eating berries

Here are some of Brian’s photos of the ‘Easy Fit’ Waxwings. Aren’t they lovely?  Brian is one of the kindest people I know, he put his morning on hold to go out there with me. I could have driven there, but I wouldn’t have managed the photos as you need a decent lens and a good camera to capture these speedy little birds in such poor light. Thank you darling!

Fabulous Flying Waxwings

Fabulous Flying Waxwings

PS

(James O’Connell was taking some footage for the local early evening BBC news on 22nd Feb, if you switch on you might see the waxwings, if they run the story) and if you are near Weston Super Mare, the waxwings might still be there this weekend, so dust off your binoculars and go and see…. 

Twitter Tagliatelle Tutorial – almost as good as being in someone else’s kitchen

Tagliatelle making

For the full Tweety Conversation pulled together by Lynne using Storify click here :  Twitter Tagliatelle Tutorial

My abbreviated version with mainly Carla’s tweets and photos  – loads quicker or if you have a slow connection – click here) of the tutorial on Twitter that Carla gave us yesterday on making pasta with the Imperia pasta machine. I was given this wonderful gadget as a birthday present last year by my lovely sister and this was its first outing. I had borrowed one last year from Mitch who lives in Bristol but there was something lacking in our technique the one time we tried and we felt a bit out of our depth, so when Carla, expert chef,  (in Rome) offered to teach me yesterday, I jumped at the chance!

The Imperia

I could write it all out here as a post but that doesn’t give the feeling of the fun of doing this yesterday and this way you get to see all Carla’s wonderfully detailed photos and read her instructions. She is a fantastic tutor and I feel really confident now that I can do this again!

Freshly cut tagliatelle

Lynne, who tweets as @josordoni, another Twitter friend of Gibassier fame, has kindly spent some time to make the Storify story. I had a try at using Storify, but left out my own tweets.  Lynne joined in and made the noodles by hand, an act of great determination!

I served the tagliatelle with chestnut mushrooms, onion, parsley, and a sauce of Charvroux goats cheese and some Serrano ham

I served the tagliatelle with chestnut mushrooms, onion, parsley, and a sauce of Charvroux goats cheese and some Serrano ham

So thank you Carla and thank you Lynne so very much for the company and the joy of sharing.  You are both such kind and generous friends and I wonder daily at this world where one can be friends with people who one has never met in person and have such fun.

Have a lovely weekend!

Zeb Eats Tagliatelle and Dreams of Carla

My pasta was made with

  • 3 eggs weighing about 140g unshelled
  • 150 g of 00 Italian flour
  • 150g of Semonlina Rimacinata flour (the finely milled durum wheat, which has a fine slightly gritty feel)
  • 1 tbsp of water
  • and a lot of love from Carla

 

Bread and Dukka

This is one of my favourite months, I vividly remember going back to school each September and the hum of activity after the long quiet days of August, so September always feels like the starting point, one of the moments when you kick off from the side of the pool, extending your arms hopefully into the future, thinking that this will be the perfect glide, no water up the nose, just a smooth and here-in-the-now rush of sensation and rightness.

Zeb Bakes spelt and rye sourdough

So September I embrace you, I love the light you bring into the kitchen in the morning, conveniently illuminating the bread board so I can take photos to show you.; the warm days and the cool nights, the changing colours, ripening fruits, making small plans to see friends, thinking about bigger plans. I love the possibilities of this time of year, not tied to any calendar festivities, the pressures of Christmas and Easter, the demands of holiday seasons.

I have made some glorious bread from my favourite flour from Stanway Mill in Gloucestershire, (I am going to write a little post about the mill next) combined with French spelt from the Moulin de Cotentin in Normandy, which was a gift from my Dad.

I also keep making the Dan Lepard BBQ semolina buns (above) for my neighbour to take to her mother, who is still enjoying home made sandwiches filled with garden tomatoes and other goodness.

The formula for the loaf is the Weekly Sourdough, using the spelt for the additional flour part. This time I mixed the dough in the evening and left the whole lot in the fridge overnight, shaped it when it was cold in the morning and left it to rise before baking. Dough is remarkably flexible. Brian baked these off and did the slashing so they look a bit different from usual.

Zeb Bakes Bread and makes DukkaI also made some dukka from the recipe in Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s book  River Cottage Everyday. You can find it and some of his recipes that go with it here in this old Guardian article of his online – (see how I make it easy for you!)

Dukka (or duqqa) is a dry Egyptian mix of coarsely ground toasted hazelnuts, toasted sesame, coriander and cumin seeds, salt, chili and torn up fresh mint leaves. There are recipes for this traditional blend all over the net. Here is another one by Nikki Duffy, which is very similar and there are variations using pumpkin seeds and other nuts if you have a quick google.

Anyway I have become addicted and have been eating it with bread and  good olive oil, sprinkled on my salads and over fried eggs. If you are trying to eat less sugar, this is a good thing to replace jams and preserves with on your breakfast table.

Does September give you that push off from the side of the pool feeling, is it a month of good associations for you too?

Hestercombe 18th C Landscape Garden

Blog friends, have I taken you to Hestercombe before?

Hestercombe is a very special place in that there are three different gardens here : the 18th Century Landscape Garden with all the water dashing through it and small temples and follies, the Edwardian Garden designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and Gertrude Jekyll  and the Formal Victorian Terrace and Shrubberies. The Landscape Garden has been the subject of a major restoration project,  and was opened to the public for the first time in 125 years in 1997. Continue reading

Bless the Plants that Grow through The Cracks

Years ago,  I used to play the guitar, not very well I may add, and in those pre internet days, one went to a music shop and bought music to play in books. I had a book from something called the Newport Folk Festival and it was full of unfamiliar songs from over the Atlantic, a mix of folk and protest songs that were new to me.  Continue reading