31 May 2014

A Bit about Birds

Never give birds peanuts or dry bread. That advice haunted me for years until I learned that birds have brains and minds of their own. Take the peanut issue: this advice was mainly given at breeding time in case peanuts made the baby birds choke. However, I have noticed that bluetits religiously ignore peanuts, even broken ones, when hunting for food for their young. Instead the parents offer them live food and refrain from eating peanuts until their own mealtime.

Having a nesting box right in front of the kitchen window and feeding stations around the garden I am able to study the habits of our garden birds. Of particular interest are the diverse ways of eating. Most birds will wait their turn to peck at a piece of food. If No.1 bird is already eating, No.2 will keep his distance for a short while before advancing towards it. Voluntarily, No.1 will then walk or fly away. Mr and Mrs Blackbird are different again. If Mr is eating, Mrs will shoo him off (and vice versa) so that she can peck at the same piece of food... yet there is food littered around the lawn. Wouldn’t you think a piece each would be preferable? There is no punch-up, leastways not often. The punch-ups come when the squirrel tries to dominate the area. Usually it’s the magpie who confronts him although he never wins against Sammy Squirrel. One flick of the tail and the magpie scarpers.

Whenever Joe or I poke our heads out the robin calls a greeting (well, it sounds friendly) and keeps it up for the time we’re out there. Last year I was greeted daily by two baby robins who liked to dart after a piece of suet, and this year there are another two who watch and wait for me to appear with the food container. It gives me great pleasure to toss titbits and watch them scurry to gather them up. This year the babies have learned to gather several pieces at a time and I watch as they fill their beaks before flying off.

Ignoring the fact that dry bread lacks suitable nourishment, the crows and jays gather it in like there was no tomorrow. And squirrels, of course. What fascinates me is the way bigger birds take lumps of bread to the birdbath to dunk it in the water before eating it. And they credit birds with having no intelligence ... another case of birds knowing best, methinks. 

29 May 2014

Some more postcards

Although we have been to Germany we didn't buy this postcard there.
Looking back we think we got it in Zurich, Switzerland. According to information obtained from Wikipedia the Cap Polonio was built in 1914 and scrapped in 1935. Altogether it seems she was an unsatisfactory ship. You can read more here
The famous dome in the cathedral in Florence, Italy
This postcard speaks for itself. Switzerland was a wonderful place. 
A Musk Ox, or ovibos moskusen to use it's proper name!
I think we were in Norway when I purchased this postcard
Marsascala, Malta
Port de Pollenca, Mallorca
Jerma Palace is the hotel we stayed in when we were in Marsascala, Malta.
I have posted before about our experience here when we discovered the place was owned by Col. Gadaffi. He was in residence at the time and the hotel was patrolled by heavies.... REAL heavies!  Scary!
Porto Pollensa in Mallorca
Probably bought this in Switzerland along with the other ship postcard.
This, like the other, was painted for the German Australian steamship company
Hotel Puerto Palace, Tenerife
The ornate pulpit at the Cathedral in Amalfi, Italy
Binibeca, Menorca
The Pinto Square in Cadiz, Spain
An aerial view of one of our busiest flyover junctions and a positive nightmare for some drivers
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25 May 2014

The Birthday




The Great Chamber where the birthday dinner was served

How's that for a ceiling!

It was all very splendid and a great time was had by all. 
Here's the menu

Press of confit duck, parsley and pink shallots, red onion marmalade, raspberry jelly

Rump of spring lamb, thyme and garlic fondant potato, fine green beans wrapped in bacon, cumin crushed carrots

Strawberries and Cream, strawberry and tarragon salad,vanilla cream, mini meringue, strawberry gel

Followed by Joe's speech! He was very good and didn't even need a script.

The two young men who waited at table and did the running around were super-efficient, so much so that we are going to make the hotel aware of it.

Some guests brought presents to the Hall, others delivered them to the house.

and at home I ran out of surfaces for a surprising amount of cards. 

Rosanne took on the role of official photographer so I expect lots of pictures to come my way. She and her hubby left early next morning to fly to Rome so the photographs will come later.  

Major presents were from Joe, a new computer and a remote hard drive, plus the lovely Waterford crystal vases seen above. Oddly enough I had another piece off someone else in an amethyst colour but I haven't got round to photographing everything. Jewellery and perfume were among the gifts from son, Jon, and Rosanne as well as other family members... oh and I mustn't forget the surprise birthday cake - pictured above. 

Friends and family seemed to enjoy themselves, there was lots of laughter and not one silent moment. It simply couldn't have been better. Yes, it was a wonderful day ... I was treated like a queen and enjoyed every minute.

22 May 2014

Two day events

It is election time, voting is soon to take place for council members. At the same time we’re asked to vote for a Member of the European Parliament, voting from a list of eleven parties, each with seven candidates, all of different persuasions, some we've never heard of, or indeed their parties. There has been little or no information about any except the main candidates. It should be interesting bearing in mind the general dissatisfaction felt about our top political parties. I have voted already because we have postal votes, a good thing because my mind is cluttered with thoughts about tomorrow’s birthday.

Yes folks, it’s here, well it will be tomorrow. The big day, or rather the BIG birthday will be reported on after the event, with photographs if daughter manages to get some. I can’t believe I have reached this grand age but am enjoying the looks of shock on people’s faces when they hear which birthday it is. Apparently I don’t look much more than seventeen.... yeah and if you believe that, you’ll believe anything. I’m not having a cake ‘cause it would cost too much to decorate with seventeen candles ... anyway, who wants cake when there’s wine to be had? 

Catch y’all later. *raising glass* Cheers!  Or, as they say in Italy 'Buon compleanno'.
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20 May 2014

Postcards of Scenic Sorrento

Found these postcards when I was sorting through a cupboard so I thought I would share them. Scanners are wonderful things!
All the pictures are of Sorrento which, as many of you know, is one of my favourite places. The next picture shows Marina Grande, which is THE most wonderful harbour. Happy hours were spent there watching the fishermen, browsing round the stalls, drinking coffee, having wonderful meals in Italian restaurants, or simply idling the time away.

Marina Grande, the most photographed harbour.
View for Marina Grande from the Bel Air hotel
Looking back at the hotel
Hotel swimming pool
The Bel Air - built into the rock. 
Though they are invisible on this photograph, there are steps and steep winding pathways that lead directly to the sea and then to the Marina ... often used by hotel guests.

I often wish I was there, especially now when 

our daughter and her husband are soon to head that way!
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17 May 2014

Shower time!

A few months back I was recommended to use Olay foaming face wash for my sensitive skin and soon discovered that indeed it was the perfect product. Would you believe it can only be bought in the US, or so I’ve been told by a leading Chemist. True, Amazon did have to get it shipped over. Now the leading Chemist has started to stock the rest of the range, but not the one I want. Why not? Well, the leading Chemist doesn’t know. What I know is that Amazon once again proves its worth. I ordered another two bottles in case the US also decides not to stock it.

Shower time is when I get to work on the beauty regime but this week I had other things to think of. I had never reckoned on sharing my shower time with anybody, or anything, so I'm asking ... have you ever shared a shower with a spider? Well, I can now brag that I have shared my shower with one that looked as if he knew how to move at speed. Mind you, I didn’t know it was
there until half way through the washing process. My shower is one of those that is fixed above the bath, which means I have to climb in the bath to use it, consequently I have to be very careful how I get out. No longer can I vault over the side pretending I’m as lithe as an athlete ... could I ever!

So... I looked at the spider and decided that I wasn’t scared of it. Well, let’s face it, I am very much BIGGER than a silly spider. Yes, I know it can move like a streak of lightening but equally I thought maybe he was paralysed with fear ... which gave me the upper hand, or leg as the case may be. After all I am very much taller than a spider. I stood my ground and carried on showering, while the spider kept absolutely still. I guess the warm water was soothing the poor little thing. Shower over, I climbed out of the bath and only then did I wash the spider down the drain. What I should have done was take his picture for the blog. Oh well, I can’t think of everything. Talking of spiders... remember this?

'Will you walk into my parlour?' said the Spider to the Fly,
''Tis the prettiest parlour that ever did you spy;
The way into my parlour is up a winding stair,
And I have many curious things to show when you are there.'
'Oh no, no,' said the little Fly, 'to ask me is in vain,
For who goes up your winding stair can ne'er come down again.'
'I'm sure you must be weary, dear, with soaring up so high;
Will you rest upon my little bed?' said the Spider to the Fly.
'There are pretty curtains drawn around, the sheets are fine and thin;
And if you like to rest awhile, I'll snugly tuck you in!'
'Oh no, no,' said the little Fly, 'for I've often heard it said,
They never, never wake again, who sleep upon your bed!'
Said the cunning Spider to the Fly, 'Dear friend, what can I do,
To prove the warm affection I've always felt for you?
I have within my pantry good store of all that's nice;
I'm sure you're very welcome--will you please to take a slice?'
'Oh no, no,' said the little Fly, 'kind sir, that cannot be,
I've heard what's in your pantry, and I do not wish to see.'
'Sweet creature,' said the Spider, 'you're witty and you're wise;
How handsome are your gauzy wings, how brilliant are your eyes!
I have a little looking-glass upon my parlour shelf,
If you'll step in a moment, dear, you shall behold yourself.'
'I thank you, gentle sir,' she said, 'for what you're pleased to say,
And bidding you good morning now, I'll call another day.'
The Spider turned him round about, and went into his den,
For well he knew the silly Fly would soon come back again;
So he wove a subtle web, in a little corner sly,
And set his table ready, to dine upon the Fly.
Then he came out to his door again, and merrily did sing:
'Come hither, hither, pretty Fly, with the pearl and silver wing;
Your robes are green and purple--there's a crest upon your head;
Your eyes are like the diamond bright, but mine are dull as lead.'
Alas, alas! how very soon this silly little Fly,
Hearing his wily, flattering words, came slowly flitting by;
With buzzing wings she hung aloft, then near and nearer drew,
Thinking only of her brilliant eyes, and green and purple hue;
Thinking only of her crested head--poor foolish thing! At last,
Up jumped the cunning Spider, and fiercely held her fast.
He dragged her up his winding stair, into his dismal den,
Within his little parlour--but she ne'er came out again!
And now, dear little children who may this story read,
To idle, silly, flattering words, I pray you ne'er give heed:
Unto an evil counselor close heart, and ear, and eye,
And take a lesson from this tale of the Spider and the Fly.
by Mary Howitt
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