Gareth’s Seal

Butterflies - just hanging around

Butterflies – just hanging around

Meerkats - their behind you!

Meerkats – their behind you!

With Mama away for the weekend at her friend and colleague’s wedding Gareth and I decided to put our annual zoo memberships to good use. Today we spent several (in this case five) enjoyable hours in Bristol Zoo looking at pretty much every animal they had to offer.

Gibbon - oh sit down next to me

Gibbon – oh sit down next to me

Otter eating lunch

Otter eating lunch











We learnt a few interesting facts like Otters eat rats, some butterflies live for as long as four weeks and hippo’s like to walk around in circles.

Gareth loves the zoo he adores the animals and literally cannot get enough of them. He was so excited to see that the baby crocodiles we saw lat time have grown and the there are two adult crocodiles in the reptile house. He thought that the sleeping Red Panda’s where very cute and enjoyed watching the Lemurs being feed.  Of course the Meerkats got a visit and he was thrilled to see a butterfly land on me for a moment in the butterfly tent.

We had a lovely cake and a drink in the cafe before looking at all of the dinosaurs that Bristol Zoo are currently installing for another Dino-zoo exhibit. Before handing over to the Penguins via the Monkey walk way where we saw a Bride feeding the Lemur’s as part of her hen party!!

We watched a boy feeding fish to the Penguins as part of a zoo experience and headed into the seal’s area as the birds that live with the Penguins started to flap about a lot. The seal’s weren’t putting on their usual show but they were doing a lot of swimming – yes more then usual – so we went down to the tunnel to watch them.

This is were the real point of my story begins. My big brother saw a seal about to swim over the tunnel and took a snap shoot of it. Click. Easy. One and done. A beautiful photo of a seal silhouetted against the light above it.

Gareth's seal photograph

Gareth’s seal photograph

Perhaps a little annoyed that I had missed the opportunity at such a glorious photograph I tried again and again to get a similar but equally as good picture. And try in did we stood there me taking photographs – Gareth enjoying the seal’s playful swimming for forty, forty five, fifty minutes an hour who knows!!

My final attempt!

My final attempt!

Eighty, yes count ‘em eighty photographs later I managed to get a photo which in my opinion isn’t as good as Gareth’s picture. To spite him telling me over and over that his was a fluke I’m still annoyed that I missed out of the first photo!!

Having walked around the zoo until I was incredibly sleepy – Gareth wasn’t he could have stayed there all day, all year even – we went to the gift shop. Where I brought a cuddly Penguin for the Brownies’ Penguin party this week. Then we headed home for an evening involving Domino’s pizza and a couple of DVD’s. We had a great day as we managed to miss all of the rain thanks to me wanting a seal photo so badly. Below there’s a little gallery of other failed attempts… I’d say enjoy but only half heartedly!





Mothers’ Day

Mothers day today the only day of the year that every Mother in the world kind of gets off… a bit like Santa in versus seeing as he only works one day a year. This was the first Mothers day since Nanny passed away and a few weeks ago Mama told me that she thought it was sad that she would never have to buy a Mothers day card again. So Gareth and I tired to make it a nice day for her.

Mama opening one of my presents.

Mama opening one of my presents.

I brought Mama a teddy bear, a book called the life of Pi and a frame for a picture that Mama brought from our friend Shu in aid of a charity called Livestrong. Gareth brought her a box of chocolates and a film. The three of us went to Wales and visited Nanny and Grampi we put some flowers on their grave before taking some to my cousin Richard’s grave too. We had a cake and a drink in the cafe at Waitrose – Mama joked that Gareth and I took her to all the classy places on Mothers day. To which I responded that we could have taken her to Asda!!!!

On the way home I remembered one Mothers day where I had spent around three weeks before hand trying to grow a plant in my wardrobe so that she wouldn’t find it. Mama is a keen gardener and really wanted – I think it was a Canna lily but Mama thinks it was something else – Canna lily for the garden. I’d somehow gone out and brought a bulb (because I couldn’t afford the actual plant) and a pot. I was in secondary school when I did this so I’m not sure how I’d managed to get the pot and bulb seeing how Mama usually drove me everywhere. Anyway one day I slipped quietly out to the old tack room at the bottom of the garden which Mama used as a potting shed and planted the bulb in some borrowed soil upon one of her broken pots for drainage. Then I took it back to my room where I hide it in my wardrobe I provided it with an artificial light source by hanging a torch from the rail and leaving it on for most of the day. On days that I knew she was working I’d place the pot in the middle of my bedroom floor and open my curtains wide so it could have some natural light. I’d take it into the bathroom when I was having a bath and stand it in the sink so that it could get some water. After weeks of naturing the poor thing with artificial light and the odd half hour in the sink I wrapped it up – yes stupid I know and I can’t remember who I managed it – and presented it too her. I don’t really remember her reaction but I do remember the effort I put into bringing it to something resembling life!!

Anyway back to today when we got home Mama and I watched a few episodes of Don’t tell the Bride before I made dinner – fish with sauted potatoes and veg followed by New York style cheesecake and ice cream – with a little help from Gareth and we all watched Skyfall. As I type this Mama is sleeping off a nice meal and Gareth is washing up while listening to some music which to put it nicely is not my cup of tea. I think that Mama had a nice day in the end. 

The Cat From Number 42.

Lucy lay in the darkness of her neighbour’s kitchen, lying still on the floor because it hurt too much to move. The streetlights from out side bleed into the room, she tried to summon the strength to stand but the pain was too much. Lucy just lay there in a pool of her own blood, just waiting for something. She wasn’t sure what she had been waiting for but she had narrowed it down to either rescue or death. Lucy hoped that her housemate Alice would come looking for her once she got home from work. She groaned with a mixture of pain and despair when she remembered that Alice was in Paris until Friday. Lucy knew she would be dead by then if she wasn’t found soon. She hoped the nosey old woman who lived below her neighbour would have heard the bang and a thud; and then rang the police. As she lay there she wondered how she ended up on her neighbour’s kitchen floor in a pool of her own blood.

She knew how it had started…it all started with a cat. A fuzzy ginger ball of fur meowing outside of her front door at two in the morning she would have ignored it or buried her head under her pillow but she knew that the cat belonged to her neighbour. She knew he was on another business trip and she had agreed to look after his cat when he went away. She wasn’t paid for her efforts but he would bring her back a present, and they were always worth feeding the cat for. Reluctantly Lucy rolled out of bed and shuffled sleepily to the front door, sure enough sitting on the other side of the door looking up at her with big green eyes was the neighbours cat. She picked it up, shut the front door and dropped it on the sofa before heading back to bed. She got a little bit of a shock when she woke up the next morning to find the cat sleeping on her pillow as well. Lucy got up and into the shower before getting dressed for work. She picked up both the cat and her briefcase she decided to drop the cat off at her neighbour’s house on her way to work.

Lucy wasn’t sure what her neighbour, John Brown did for a living but he was away a lot so she had keys to his house so that she could sort his mail, feed the cat and water his plants. The cat, Mouse as he had been named because John though it was funny often meowed outside of her door at night because John had gone on some sort of last minute business trip. She unlocked the door and went inside she picked up the post that still lay on the brown ‘welcome home’ mat. She frowned at the letter that had ended up on top of the pile, the address on it was John’s but it had her name on it. The writing on the grubby white envelope was John’s and it looked like he had been in a hurry. There were also some red marks on the envelope, which looked like dried blood. Lucy used her foot to shut the front door and took Mouse and the post into the kitchen. She let Mouse jump out of his arms and on to the counter and then put down her briefcase and the rest of the post. She opened the envelope inside was a small disc that looked like it had come out of a camera and a message written on a napkin. It had a phone number on it, the rest of the message where instructions. They read – Lucy, I need you to do something for me. Ring this number ask for Smith, he will tell you were to meet him. Deliver the disc to him; don’t tell say a word about the disc to anyone. Stay safe.

Confused Lucy pulled her mobile phone out of her pocket. She was going to ring this ‘Smith’ and find out what was going on. She flipped open her phone and noticed the time, she would have to run or she would miss her train. She crammed both her phone and letter into her pocket along with the mysterious disc, grabbed her keys and briefcase off the side and ran out of the front door.

Back in the kitchen, Lucy summoned all of her strength and reached for her kitchen sink. She gripped the rim, and then with all of the strength she had left she managed to pull her self to her feet. It was either room that had started spinning or her head was swimming, because once she was on her feet she felt suddenly felt really dizzy. Holding on to the sink with one hand and reaching for the phone with the other hand. The pain in her stomach was all most too much to bear as she reached for the phone, her fingers had brushed its smooth surface before her legs give in and she crumpled to the floor. Lying in a new position on her side on the floor of her kitchen she once again considered the events that lead her to her current predicament lying in extreme pain on John Brown’s kitchen floor.

Lucy made it to the station just in time to catch her commuter train from Bristol to Cardiff. She managed to find a seat as hoards of commuters who worked in Bristol exited the train. Now that she was safely seated on the train Lucy had time to reflect on what she new about her neighbour, he had lived across the road from her for a year now. She was suddenly stuck with how little she knew about him. She didn’t know what he did for a living, she had never met any of his friends, and she didn’t know if he had a girlfriend or a boyfriend for that matter. She didn’t know where he was from or what school he went too. She didn’t know anything about his family, were his parents still alive? Did he have any siblings? The more she thought about it the more she realised that she barely knew this man at all. She had dinner with him on a couple of occasions they had spent the whole night talking, but he didn’t really say anything at all. In fact the only real things she knew about him were the fact that he owned a cat, enjoyed jellybeans and was a Monty python fan. She had never felt ill of ease in his company nor had he given her any reason to think that he was something other then the ordinary man that he appeared to be. She pulled the crumpled napkin out of her pocket, some of the writing was mugged and there was a drop of dried blood liquid on it. She wondered if John was bleeding when he had written the note, suddenly she felt very ill of ease. She decided to get off at Newport and double back on herself. She would ring John’s ‘Smith’ and find out what had happened to him.

She threw her coat on the sofa and put her briefcase on the desk that stood in her living as she made her way to the kitchen. She opened the fridge and removed the milk, as she closed it she notices the note that Alice had left for her. It has a picture of the Eiffel tower that had been ripped from magazine glue to the top of it. She had written the note in green felt tip pen, Lucy smiled she often said that Alice was a big kid at heart. The note simply read – In the city of love ‘till Friday… don’t call! Love ya, Al. Lucy continued to make herself a cup of tea as she dialled her works number.

“Hi, Its Lucy” she said when Malcolm answered the phone.

“All right Luce, can’t help but notice your not here,” he said.

“Yeah well, vet’s my neighbour’s cat is really ill. I had to take him to the vet in the middle of the night. Of course then I slept through my alarm and ended up missing my train.” She lied.

“Right” said Malcolm slowly. Lucy suspected that he wasn’t entirely convinced.

“So I am going to work from home today, I have the Daniels account and the Johnson account is on Mr Haines’s desk already.”

“Well… I guess we will see you tomorrow then.”

“Thanks Malcolm.”

She hung up the phone and then dialled the number for this ‘Smith’ character; it was a mobile number so Lucy guessed that he was a friend of John’s. “Hello…?” answered an uncertain voice.

“Hello, my name is Lucy I live across the road from John Brown and he asked me to call you” she said, wondering if she should mention the disc.

“Lucy? You feed his cat don’t you?”

“Err… yes, I was just wondering if John is okay?”

“I can’t answer that, do you have something for me?”

“Yes” Lucy felt ill at ease with this whole thing. No one was giving her enough information. “Is John alive?” she asked trying to push him into answering her.

“I can’t answer that, is it a disc?”

“Yes… look I just want to know if he is alive?”

“Is it for a computer, camera or mobile?” he pushed on ignoring her question.

“Is john alright?”

“Answer the question,” he snapped


“Look you don’t know what your involved in here, it would be best if you just answered the question. I can’t guarantee your safety if you don’t cooperate”

“Are you threatening me?”

“Lucy, can you please just…”

“Camera I think”, she said pulling it out of her coat pocket and examining it once again.

“Have you tried to view the disc at all?”


“Its safest if you don’t. Do you know Bristol well?”


“I want you to meet me outside of the council house at twelve o’clock today. I will be sitting on the bench nearest the cathedral. When I see you I will say it’s a nice day today. I want you to respond with I hear its raining in Hawaii, do you understand.”

“Yes” said Lucy quietly she was feeling increasingly unease with this entire situation.

“Remember don’t talk to anyone, thank you” he hung up the phone.


Lucy paced her living room while she smoking a cigarette to calm her nerves. Ever since ‘Smith’ had told her not to look at the disc she had inched to do so. She should at least know what she was delivering… right? Lucy picked up the disc and took it up stairs to her bedroom. She removed the disc from her camera and replaced it with the one John had sent her. She started to flick through the images that he had taken. They were of some kind of power station… was it a nuclear facility? All of the signs were in a language that she didn’t understand. She heard the slam of a car door in distance, she put the camera down and went into her housemates’ room to see whom it was. A taxi pulled away from one of the houses on the other side of the street. She noticed that the front door of John’s flat was ajar. Quickly she nipped back to her own room and picked up the disc, she pocketed it as she ran down the stairs. With out really looking she ran across the road and into John’s flat. “John?” she called, a large man who was covered in tattoos and smelt strongly of whiskey or vodka stepped out of the living room blocking her exit. She knew she was in trouble now, why hadn’t she just done as she was told? She backs away from him, remembering the back door she turned and made a dash for it. Lucy had made it over the kitchen’s thrash hold before she felt the sharp pain in her back, she remembered feeling the pain before she heard the gun shot. She fell face first onto John’s kitchen floor. The man roughly search her pocket, he find the disc and thanked her in a strong Russian accent. He called to someone that Lucy didn’t see; as she blacked out she heard the front door slam shut.

Lucy smiled to herself through the pain; the oven clock told her it was five thirty. She had been lying on the kitchen floor for most of the afternoon. She started to laugh, maybe it was the lost of blood or the fact that Lucy had just remembered the disc that John had sent her was still in her camera and the Russian who shot her for it had some lovely photographs of her last holiday and her brother’s wedding. The room was growing darker and darker; Lucy knew some how that it wouldn’t be long now before she died. At least she would be with her Grandfather. The front door burst open and a man ran into the kitchen. Lucy could sirens and flashing blue lights filled the hallway, she didn’t recognise the man until he spoke.

“Lucy, don’t worry we are going to get you out of here”… it was ‘Smith’.

Herman the German Friendship cake

A box of friendship

A box of friendship

A little while ago I was given a small box of a sour dough mix its name was Herman the German and he is a friendship cake, he is also delicious!

This is what you’ll need to START your own Herman the German cake – he becomes a friendship cake when you divide him into four and give three away with a set of instructions.

What You Need

Adding the sugar

Adding the sugar

Firstly, make sure you have the following:

  • 5oz plain flour
  • 8oz castor sugar
  • 1 packet of active dry yeast
  • Half a pint of warm milk
  • 2 fl oz. of warm water

What You Do

  1. Dissolve the yeast in warm water for 10 minutes then stir.
  2. Add the flour and sugar then mix thoroughly.
  3. Slowly stir in the warm milk.
  4. Cover the bowl in a clean cloth.
  5. Leave in a cool dry place for 24 hours
  6. Now proceed from day one of the 10 day cycle.

Ok so now you have your starting mix you embark on a ten day journey which will result in three happy friends and a yummy cake… here are the instructions that should be given away with the cake -

Hello, my name is Herman.

I am a sourdough cake. I’m supposed to sit on your worktop for 10 days without a lid on.

You CANNOT put me in the fridge or I will die. If I stop bubbling, I am dead.

Day 1: Put me in a large mixing bowl and cover loosely with a tea towel.

Cover the bowl loosely with a tea towel

Cover the bowl loosely with a tea towel

Day 2 : Stir well
Day 3: Stir well
Day 4: Herman is hungry. Add 1 cup each of plain flour, sugar and milk. Stir well.

Day 5: Stir well
Day 6: Stir well
Day 7: Stir well

Day 8: Stir well

Day 9: Add the same as day 4 and stir well. Divide into 4 equal portions and give away to friends with a copy of these instructions. Keep the fourth portion.

Day 10: Now you are ready to make the cake. Stir well and add the following:

  •  1 cup of sugar (8oz or 225g)
  •  2 cups plain flour (10oz or 300g)
  • half tsp. (teaspoon) salt
  • 2/3 (two thirds) cup of cooking oil (5.3oz or 160ml)
  •   2 eggs
  •  2 tsp. vanilla essence
  •  2 cooking apples cut into chunks

    Adding my chosen variation to the mix

    Adding my chosen variation to the mix

  •  1 cup raisins (7oz or 200g)
  •  2 heaped tsp. cinnamon
  •  2 heaped tsp. baking powder


  • 1⁄4 cup brown sugar
  • 1⁄4 cup melted butter

    Mix everything together and put into a large greased baking tin. Sprinkle with a quarter of a cup of brown sugar and a quarter of a cup of melted butter. Bake for 45 minutes at 170‐ 180C. Test the middle with a clean knife; you may need to cover in tin foil and bake for a further 20 minutes to make sure your Herman is cooked properly in the middle.

    in the oven

    in the oven

    When baked, Herman can be frozen.

There are also quite a few variations on the above recipe each of them as wonderful and yummy as the next but I can personally vouch for the Banana and Chocolate chip version…

Apple, Walnut and Raisin

  • 2 cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped into chunks
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 2 tsps cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

 Apple and Blackcurrant

  • 2 large tbsps blackcurrant conserve
  • 2 cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped into chunks

Banana Chocolate

  • 1 very ripe banana, mashed
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 100g plain chocolate chips or well-chopped chocolate

Lemon Drizzle

  • the grated rind of two lemons
  • use some of the juice to dissolve sugar in to make a syrup
  • once the cake is cooked, poke holes in it with a skewer and pour the syrup over
  • use the remaining juice to make a glace icing with using icing sugar to drizzle over the top

    Finished mix ready for the oven

    Finished mix ready for the oven

Chocolate and Raspberry

  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 100g chopped plain chocolate
  • Substitute 1 cup of flour for about 100g ground almonds
  • Fresh raspberries to press into the batter once it’s in the cake tin / cases

Double Chocolate 

  • 3/4cup butter at room temp,
  • 1 cup white sugar,
  • 1 cup brown sugar,
  • 4 eggs,
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa,
  • 1cup self raising flour,
  • tsp salt,
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract,
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips,
  • 1/3 cup chopped nuts.


  • 150g self-raising flour,
  • 1½ tsp ground ginger,
  • ½ tsp cinnamon,
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate soda,
  • pinch of salt,
  • 125g golden syrup,
  • 60g finely chopped stem ginger,
  • 1 tbsp ginger syrup from stem ginger jar,
  • 2 heaped tbsp sultanas,
  • 75g dark muscovado sugar,
  • 2 eggs,
  • 150 ml milk,
  • 75 ml butter at room temp/softened in microwave.

No matter what mix you choose your Herman will taste great and hopefully make you a few new friends or make old ones friends for life!! :o )



Harry Potter Camp with the Brownies

Snowy Owl (My Mama) with the jelly made in potions class.

Snowy Owl (My Mama) with the jelly made in potions class.

I recently took my Brownie unit on camp to Somermead a guiding lodge and campsite located here in Somerset. Before going on camp we had a Pow wow to find out what theme the Brownies wanted they chose… Harry Potter!! Well as you can imagine there are no Harry Potter badges so at first deciding on activities was a bit difficult. After a lot of thinking I managed to piece together a programme for camp based on their chosen theme… Well no one can say that I don’t like a challenge, I was even able to include some badges!!

We went to camp on Thinking Day weekend so after the sorting ceremony where the talking hat – a recording on my iPad that my brother kindly put together for me – we kicked off with Muggle Studies class. I chose activities based on the classes at Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry during the Muggle Studies class we did the Brownies Tradition badge. Then we had supper and headed to bed thus rounding off an enjoyable Friday night.

After breakfast on the Saturday we proceeded to potions class were the Brownies made fizzy fruity jelly which was to be pudding after lunch on Sunday. They really enjoyed measuring out their own ingredients and loved it when later in the day we added another layer to the jelly. Some of them couldn’t believe that the second layer sat nicely on top of the layer making the jelly two toned.

After the potions class the Brownies went to their care of magical creatures lesson where they created their own magical creature out of clay. We brought Crayola coloured clay for them and I have to say it was brilliant – the colours where really bright and the clay wasn’t messy at all. A little expensive maybe (£19.98 for 2kg) but definitely worth it and we do like to do activities on camp that they don’t usually do in the unit.

Some of the Magical Creatures made by the Brownies

Some of the Magical Creatures made by the Brownies

After some fruit – morning break at camp is always fruit – and a drink we moved on to transfiguration class. Now this was difficult as in the books they use magic to turn a living creature into a object for example Ron Weasley turned his rat into a cup during one lesson (well he tried too). So with the Brownies excepting some real magic we presented them with a sewing kit and they all turned some felt into a owl bean bag. The Brownies were very pleased with the end result even if they were disappointed by the lack of magic – not that they said anything.

After we had lunch the Brownies went on a walk with two of our young leaders and another Guider while the rest of the Guiders stayed behind and set up the Philosopher’s Stone wide game. The stones were a couple of packets of sweets that Mama and I wrapped up in red tissue paper and red plastic. The Brownies had to get past five bases in order to get to look for the stone itself. We had Hagrid’s base where they had to put fluffy the three headed dog to sleep by playing music, Professor Flickwitt’s base were they had to find at many keys as possible by putting together a jumbled up jigsaw of a photo of some keys. Professor Sprout’s Devils Snare was brought to life by our parachute and a creative but confessed young leader who played parachute games with them. McGonagall’s chess set was replaced by a round of Uno and Snape’s potions came in the form of several cups with different smelly things in them and a letter stuck to it. The Brownies has a code sheet with pictures of some of the smells i.e. picture of a lemon and a cup with lemon juice in it, they had to find the smell and write down the letter next to the picture. Once they had completed it they all got the sentence ‘Harry is a Gryffindor’.


Wands made on camp

Then we had free time until dinner and afterwards we made our wands. An activity that the Brownies had been looking forward to all weekend even more then Sunday’s game of Quidditch which went well to spite several Brownies slipping in the mud… which for most of them made the game even better! The wands were very easy to make all you need is a chop stick, a pipe cleaner, double sided sticky tape and glitter glue. Firstly take the chop stick and wrap the double sided sticky tape around the thicker end. Then stick the pipe cleaner to the tape wrapping it around the same way that you wrapped the tape around the chop stick. You will then have the basic wand, which some of the Brownies were quite happy with as it looks like the ones in the films. If you wish to you can then add the ‘magic’ by decorating the wand with glitter glue.

Before bed the Brownies drew a Patrous for Defence against the Dark arts and painted their Mandrake for Herbology. The Mandrake took a lot of thinking about there are sites out there that explain who to make an paper-mache replica of the ones in the second film and other sites which show you how to make a cress head version. However i knew my Brownies would want one that looked like the ones in the film, but wouldn’t want to spend all weekend building up layers of paper-mache and waiting for it to dry. So I brought some ‘paint your own dolls’ from crafty crocodiles which when they arrived were small plain white dolls which look like people. The Brownies then mixed up some brown fabric paint and painted the whole doll brown. We left them to dry over night and the next day after breakfast when they were all dry we drew the wrinkles and the faces on the dolls using fabric pens. Before using double sided sticky tape (one of my favourite craft items) to stick some leafs to its head. Leaving us with as easy to make Mandrake with looked like the one on the film and didn’t take ages to create.

Brown Owl's finished Mandrake

Brown Owl’s finished Mandrake

Other highlights of our Harry Potter camp included a fast and furious game of muggle’s quidditch with was played with out brooms but just as much fun!!

The Brownies completed House Elf duties all weekend such as washing up, helping to cook and making sure the toilets were left tidy which surprisingly they all loved!!

They also earned house points for a special badge (a sleep over badge that i had left over from a previous camp), which helped them all to work as a team and to keep their bedrooms tidy.

All in all it was a great camp which I think was enjoyed by all of the Brownies and some of the leaders too… well I enjoyed it!

World records

This is my first post on my new bloggy type site here goes nothing…

Last night I was watching Graham Norton breaking the Guinness book of record for most questions asked in a chat show. It got Mama and I talking about which world records we could break. It makes me wonder if I could break a world record which one I’d choose! Properly one which involves eating… I know there’s one about eating the most I think it was malteasers or  M’n'M’s in a minute with chop sticks. I think with a bit of practice and I could get there!!!