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Thursday, 31 May 2012

Summer has come, so has Atkin diet!

Last week summer suddenly arrived at Canterbury. but we kept eating our winter food. This resulted in my being a bit fat. So I went on Atkinish diet. It is not strict one. I have two slices of walnut bread in the morning, and a tiny glass of wine at lunch. otherwise, it is quite low in carbohydrate.

We used to eat this. We shaved a good flakes of Parmesan cheese on top.  

Asparagus, Parma ham, boiled egg with Parmesan cheese on top, which is not served yet.
 I eat these now.

Salad of home grown lettuce, tomatoes and cheddar cheese, olives and Lapsung Souchon tea smoked salmon (offer at Waitrose right now!)

Cabbage salad with ginger dressing, Cheddar cheese, olives and Lapsung Souchon tea smoked salmon
Asparagus, Parma ham, olives, sun dried tomatoes and Camembert cheese.
Mike, however, refuses to admit that he needs to do something. He still eats lots of bread and deserts. 

I have already lost what I had gained. I will continue a bit longer to make a slack for ice cream!

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Bird watching at Stodmarsh, previously known as Grove Ferry

Today is a lovely sunny day. You may wonder why I keep talking about the weather everyday. It's because here in UK we seldom have glorious weather! Back home in Japan,  conversation opener is also weather, but it's quite different. More often than not, something like 'Isn't it so hot today?' or 'It's very humid, isn't it?' So if you live somewhere weather is often nice, you would not share this appreciation of the Sun with us. And You are Lucky!

I am going to write about bird watching Mike and I went on Friday. It is often true that you can see much more activities if you go before your breakfast, but we ignore that; we set off after 8:30.
A view from car parking

We used to go to bird watching more often, once a week, at least. After adding Pearl, the whippet, to our family, we stopped going as she used to pine when she was left behind. Luckily she has grown out of it. We start our dog-free trips again.( you don;t want dogs when you want to see birds, even though you love your doggies so much!)

English Nature renamed themselves to NNR (National Nature Reserve)
Among local bird watchers, Grove Ferry is know as 'Grove'. It was one of our haunts.  It is connected to Stodmarsh at the back. But from our house, we could go without crossing busy Canterbury city traffic. Now Grove Ferry is also called Stodmarsh under NNR.

A view from a mound.
In comparison with Stodmarsh, there are definitely less insects, which is a big selling point to me! On this day, we saw Marsh harriers, lots of reed buntings, warblers, tufted ducks, Mute Swans, swifts and swallows. We heard loads of Cetti's warblers, Reed warblers and Sedge warblers. We also enjoy frogs' chorus or competition, too! In the past, we saw bitterns, bearded reedlings, marsh harriers, osprey and many species of wintering waterfowls. 

A view from a hide
If you come to Canterbury for a holiday, and love wildlife, why don't you visit Stodmarsh? It is only about 10 minutes from the City centre. Parking is £1 for the day. There is a picnic area too. 
a path to the river bank
 You can make a short loop walk or go for three hours long loop.
Comfrey is towering the river bank

NNR site - Stodmarsh

NNR site - wildlife at Stodmarsh 

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

New models from kiln - sheep, chameleons and a fat bunny

Hello everyone. It was our first kiln opening day today. Since this is our first firing, everything is new to us. I was calm so that I wouldn't get too disappointed if anythings went wrong, but Mike was a bit like a child waiting for opening presents on Christmas day. Mikes thinks that firing used most of the energy from solar power, so it probably costs us some tens pence. Not bad.

Gladly it was a success. Nothing was exploded.
No causality!
Grogged white stoneware became pale biscuit colour. They look almost good enough to eat. 

Two of chameleons need a rest after being cooked.
We have frequently visited a small field of sheep last summer. There are lots of sheep in UK, although not as many as in NZ. I observed them, and took photos of them. So the images were burnt inside my brain. I digested them and now I am making my own interpretation of sheep. Mike insisted that I should make tufted ones. So one of them has a tuft on the head.

Since last Friday, I spent several hours making models everyday. I have a strong urge to create. I am oblivious to what's going on around me for sevral hours.I could hear MIke talking, but doesn't understand what he says. he still talks though! lol

Monday, 28 May 2012

Our first bisque firing, gorgeous lemon pie and Mike's socks

Hello, everyone. We have had a fabulous long weekend. Last Friday we went to Grove ferry to do birdwatching in the morning. Water looked blue; it is rare for the water there to look that blue! In the afternoon, Mike threw some pots on a wheel, and I made some chameleons. In the early evening, we went to private view for Canterbury Christ Church University Art department graduate show. It was such a fun day!

On both Saturday and Sunday, I was busy making chameleons and sheep. I was on a roll. I could not stop making them. 

I will write about them later in the week, because today I like to tell you about our first real firing. This morning, Mike switched on our kiln at 5:30.

Parts of our ceramics to be bisque fired

Ready for firing.
We are going to open the kiln tomorrow morning. Mike says it is like opening Christmas presents. I thought I would rather unload it in a daylight, as our kiln is in a garage. I hope everyone is safe and there is no casualty. Our fingers and paws crossed!

Mike baked a fabulous lemon meringue pie Sunday morning while I was asleep. So when I finally woke up, our house was filled with lovely lemon smell! Ahhhh! I love the citrus smell! I love a lemon meringue pie! This is my most favourite pie in the world. It goes very well with Darjeeling tea.  
Mike's lemon meringue pie with Pumpkin's egg
Sadly, we can't eat it until it becomes cool. We usually cheat with other types of cakes, but not this one. It MUST be cool.

We had it at lunch time.
I was patient. So, reward was 100 times better. I have already finished all, by the way. LOL I am waiting for the next one to be baked!

At lunch time, Mike came to me with an amused look in his face. ??? He pointed at his socks. He had spent a half day with these unmatched socks. Bless him!

Yes, they are grey, but....


Wednesday, 23 May 2012

An evening at Cafe du Soreil

Hi, everyone. We had two things to celabrate today. First, finally summer has come to Canterbury and UK. Second, today is the last day before my one month break. So we went out for a meal at Cafe du soleil after work.

We both ordered pizzas and beers. I forgot to take photos of them. But I suddenly remembered after I had eaten the first spoonful of desert. lol

Mike had an orange and lemon cheesecake with mango salsa.

I had a dark chocolate almond cake with vanila ice cream on top.

Serivice was great and friendly. We had a stroll along the River Stour after the meal. It doesn't get dark until nine right now. This is one thing I really like about the English summer. 

This morning, when I was hanging laundry, I found something in the pocket of Mike's white shirt. It was this! A cute stamp washed and spinned in the laundry machine was still one piece. It is definitely water proof! Do the Royal Mail accept this? Should I iron it? 

Monday, 21 May 2012

A Bright Southern Star, Tanya Bechara

Hello everyone. Today I would like to introduce a talented Australian ceramic artist Tanya Bechara. I love her works, especially those frogs! They look almost real!

'I love art that can be touched, felt & used which is what draws me to claywork with Australian landscapes, fauna and flora being my inspiration for surface treatment.' (Quote from her Etsy Profile)

Hand made & sculpted Frog Pot / Vase
Copyright: Tanya Bechara

Not only she is talented, but also she is such a friendly person. She is also very generous to share her knowledge and experience with other people. I met her through twitter; she is definitely a bright southern star in twitter.

Tanya's Etsy shop

Tanya's facebook

Sunday, 20 May 2012

An Aftertnon Walk in the Blean Woods

Hi everyone. Today I am going to share the photos of the walk in the Blean woods we had in yesterday afternoon, with you.

'Lying between the cathedral city of Canterbury and the towns of Faversham, Whitstable and Herne Bay, The Blean is one of the largest areas of ancient woodland in England – over 11 square miles.' (Source: http://www.theblean.co.uk/)

I used to take Topaz twice a day to the woods some years ago. But when she started to enjoy herself too much, and forgot to follow me, I had to stop visiting this ancient woods. I saw crow chicks perching on a low brach so that I could touch them if I wanted to, foxes, wood peckers and all sorts of birds.   

Topaz in the Blean woods
We went into the privately owned part of the woods. In UK, there is a strange law; public can roam anywhere if there are footpaths. And believe me, there are loads of ancient footpaths in this country! So I was told to go anywhere I fancy. In Japan, this will be illegal and I would be accused as transgress.   

I love unpaved paths.
Topaz had enjoyed her a free run. She loves chasing squirrels, and quite often disappeared into the woods. But she always comes back.

We could tell how tired she is by the length of her tongue hanging!

We had walked about 30 minutes. Topaz was very tired by then. I felt so good to walk on the soil. We didn't meet anyone.

Mike spotted Nightingale 's song. Our first of the year. We will come back to hear them singing before too long. 

A fern
RSPB Blean wood page

The Blean

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Church fête

Hello everyone. We have had an action packed day today.

Mike saw some bunting in our local church on the way to supermarket this morning. So we decided to have a peek. First, I wondered if this was a part of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.

St. Dunstan Church fête

 Then we realised that it was the church fête.

Our local church
Can you spot an animal in the bush?
All over the church yard, there were cute knitted decorations. Mike and I were excited to find hidden animals in the trees and bushes.

Our favourite is this!

'Look for the snakes!'

This gate leads to church centre. Look at those puppets! They made us smile a lot!

A gate to church yard
A close up on the gate

 Colourful animals were hung over the gravestones. They looked cheerful!

Colourful creations
While I was taking photos, Mike held leads for Topaz and Pearl. They were truly bored. But we gave them a treat this afternoon. We took them to the Blean woods. Topaz' favourite haunt. I will write about it tomorrow.

Woods? Really?!

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia

My working day is over. Our weekend starts one day early. I will quickly prepare fried rice, and we are going to see the film, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, this evening. It is Turkish film, and I am wondering if I would be able to understand some of the language. I had attended Turkish language course in the Ankara University for one term a long time ago. The film was premiered at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival where it was a co-winner of the Grand Prix. Exciting!

One for a girl (me!) and one for a boy (Mike!)

I took Pearl to the University ground this afternoon. They had just mowed the lawn, and it was such nice feeling to walk on it. It was so soft and gentle on the body. I saw a little robin flying in and out of the hedge, too. Although It has been a bit cold this year, but wild life is as busy as usual.

University ground

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

A surprise in the garden.

Hello, everyone! It has been sunny today, here at Canterbury. I took my dogs to longer walks, and found myself relaxed and refreshed. Isn't sunshine lovely? It definitely has a positive effect on me.

I was tidying up the garden, and found our Japanese acer pot has a lanky weed. I pulled it out. Ta-da! It was a hazelnut that was buried by a presumably squirrel. Mike planted it into a little pot. It looks so cute! Don't you think?
Hazel nut seedling appeared from the nut buried by a squirrel.

Our dinner was another asparagus dish. Mike went to a farm shop at lunch time yesterday. We ate them with Parma ham, Parmesan cheese, a boiled egg in an olive oil based sauce yesterday. Today we ran out Parma ham, so I made a sauce with mayonnaise, whole mustard, while wine vinegar and olive oil. Ummm, it was delicious!
Asparagus and boiled egg pasta

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

My new chameleon is ready for firing.

Hello everyone. It has been a chilly day here at Canterbury. We have had thunders and showers. Our radiator is full on. I made chicken casserole. It is a perfect dish for cold days. We had it at lunch. It was yummy and very filling, too.

My simple casserole
I finally finished the Chameleon that I was commissioned. He is quite large; about 30 cm in length at this moment (he will shrink aftre firing by about 12%). Clay becomes very brittle after it becomes bone dry. So I am at most careful when I handle him. I am going to fire him on the side to protect his delicate legs. Next bisque firing will be in two weeks time, I guess. I hope everything goes well. Please cross your fingers and paws for us!

My new chameleon

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Our weekend-Lambs, asparagus, steak Iskandar and a large mushroom

Hello everyone. How was your weekend? We had a busy one as usual. Yesterday we went to see lambs in a field nearby. We took Topaz and Pearl with us. It was a mistake. Pearl seemed so excited to see sheep that we decided it would be wise not to go near them. I took a pair of binoculars, and took photographs. Two lambs were playing, jumping, running and rubbing their fat bodies on the grass. The were very adorable! Their fleece was short and tight. They looked as if they were wearing thick flannel pyjamas.

Two little lambs
A large mushroom -Dia.15cm
On the way to the field, we crossed the University campus. There was a large mushroom. It looked like a bun.
Our summer plants.
We also went to a garden centre. We bought three pots of flowers.

This morning, I worked on my new chameleon, and delivered one of my sculptures, 'A rabbit in a bunny suit' to a wonderful couple, Tracey and William. Their spaniel apparently liked me. I guess she could smell Pearl and Topaz on me. They loved my rabbit, so, of course, I felt great!

We had another asparagus dish at lunchtime. This time, a pasta dish. I tossed cooked pasta with asparagus spears, Parma ham, a boiled egg and Parmesan cheese. Sauce is olive oil, mustard and white wine vinegar. It was heavenly.

Our Japanese acer
We have been admiring the beautiful colour of the Japanese acer that is just outside of our kitchen window. So here is the picture to share with you!

In the afternoon, I have worked more on the chameleon. Mike did, of course, much more! 

After such a busy weekend, I had a power meal at a dinner time. I had sirloin steak Iskandar. When I was in Turkey a long time ago, I used to have this dish quite often. They eat steaks with yogurt on top. Iskandar is Turkish name for Alexander. Yes, it is named after Alexander the Great. Today, I put mushrooms on top, but yogurt at the side to dip. It is very easy to make, and quite refreshing. I found it nice in summer. 


Saturday, 12 May 2012

Our kiln firing on solar power.

Hi everyone! We have done the first firing (element oxidation firing) today. It is empty firing with all kiln furniture in. So now the kiln is prepared for the first use. We started at eight o'clock this morning to maximise the use of our solar power.
Kiln furniture


Once it reached 1050C, the kiln automatically stopped. It seemed simple to use. But I only watched Mike setting a program!

Mike has collected data. So I will report how solar panels powered it later, as I know some people will be interested.


Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Mother's loving parcel arrived.

Hi, everyone. I am typing this on a dinning chair in my office cum studio. My, so called, executive chair is occupied by Pearl. I accepted my junior position and she rules my office!

This is MY chair.
Today a parcel arrived from Japan. My mother sent me two different green tea and rice crackers. The rice crackers have soy sauce based taste with strong leek flavour. The packet says that they were hand baked with leek sauce. I opened one packet (In Japan humidity is very high, so each cracker is packed individually.) and gave 10% to Mike and ate the rest. We both loved it. I asked Mother to send us more of them!

Green tea and rice crackers
I drink green tea everyday. I always love the taste and fragrance of green tea. But I treat them more or less like medicine, since I read that they are antioxidant. The article I read said that the effect was seen at the back of the eyes of drinkers even 24 hours later. I have tried several pre-packed green tea in UK, but they taste stale to me. So I usually ask anyone visiting us from Japan to bring one or two packets for me. At tea time in the morning, I make a cup of strong green tea. That's my routine.

After dinner, I went back to work. Mike turned his cups those he had thrown over the weekend. We use a kick wheel to turn pots because it is easier to centre them and also it is more therapeutic than a electric wheel. But after a while we get a very tired leg, which we put our weight! 

Mike's cups. 'Before' and 'After'

My boss, Pearl, is not pleased to be disturbed whilst sleeping.