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March 2012

Shooting squirrels (but not with a gun!)
squirrel collage

My poor husband! When he suggested a holiday to the Maldives after his return from Afghanistan, I told him that no, I’d much rather go to Nova Scotia… in low season. Likewise when he proposed a spa day as a Valentines gift, I said I’d rather spend a morning photographing squirrels in the Cairngorm mountains. I like to think I’m different, but sometimes I think he thinks I’m just difficult. Tropical beaches and massages are what we are supposed to like surely? But after 5 years of marriage he should know that the problem is, I can’t do sitting still very well!

Red squirrels in the Cairngorns 1
Red squirrels in the Cairngorns 2

So he conceeded and last week I had my Valentines treat – a morning spent with another man… and lots of squirrels – Ha!

I think like most people I can count the number of times I have seen a red squirrel on one hand, and it’s always been at a distance, but all that changed last week…

Red squirrels in the Cairngorns 7

Scottish wildlife photographer Neil McIntryre has created a spot in the woods near his home that the squirrels now recognise as a feeding station and he offers people the chance to spend a morning photographing them under his tuition. I have to say that after 4 and a half months being pretty tied to the house, even the opportunity to spend a couple of hours in the woods in the sunshine and peace and quiet, was a real treat!

A lovely spring morning spent photographing red squirrels in the Cairngorms...

The squirrels weren’t tame, but were confident enough to come closer than normal, and there was nothing to scare them off. Neil also does a full day wildlife photography workshop, and I’m quite tempted to go back and continue building my photograph collection. The variation of wildlife in our part of the world is quite wonderful.

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Chocolate Philadelphia cupcakes

Chocolate Philadelphia cupcakes

by Clare Mansell
Philadelphia cupcakes (take 2)

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to review some of the newly launched Philadelphia with Cadburys chocolate. As well as being great on bagels, I have discovered that chocolate philly is great both in and on cakes. If you fancy trying it, feel free to use my recipe, and I’ll let you into a little secret, this recipe is just my normal cupcake mix (handed down from my mum) with approximately the same quantity of Philadelphia added to the mix as you use of flour/sugar/butter and the addition of a tablespoon of milk to loosen the mix.

Philadelphia cupcakes (take 2)

Of course arguably as this recipe works perfectly well without the Philadelphia added there is an argument that says we don’t really need the Philadelphia in it, so those of you watching your waistline may just want to try it as a topping!

Chocolate Philly cupcakes (makes 12)

5.5oz plain flour
0.5oz cocoa
6oz margarine or spreadable butter
6oz brown sugar
3 eggs
4 teaspoons of baking powder
2 tubs of chocolate philly (one for in the cake, one for on the cake!)
1 tablespoon of milk

Method : Combine all the ingredients (reserving one tub of chocolate philly for the topping) and mix well with a hand whisk. Divide between 12 cupcake cases (or more if you don’t want the muffin top mine have!) and cook in the oven at 170c for 30 minutes.

One note, I am cooking in a dubious military oven with questionable temperatures! You may find your cupcakes cook quicker, if in doubt, after 15 minutes use a finger to check the top is firm and a skewer inserted in the middle of the cake should come out clean. If you timings vary please post a comment for others!

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Theo at 6 months…

Theo at 6 months…

by Clare Mansell
Theo - Feb 26th

Theo’s half-year milestone has crept up on me and I nearly let it slip by without a few photos. If truth be told this last bit of Jim’s deployment is really dragging, and as I’ve had problems with my sewing machine, I’ve had less to do and therefore am getting less (of everything) done! That old thing about giving a job to a busy person is so true!

But anyway, a quick progress report on the boy!

Six months old and although he’s performing marvelous floor gymnastics, rolling his way this way and that (and frequently waking me in the night when he traps himself in an awkward position) he is still no closer to sitting up. I momentarily thought it might be a conspiracy designed to get me to buy a Bumbo but realised that of course, it’s not that at all, he’s just saving all the big developments for when his daddy comes home!

Panasonic Lumix LX5 test

He’s making good progress with weaning and although he has things he definitely likes more than others, he has yet to refuse anything he’s been offered – he just likes food generally! He’s inability to sit up is buying me a bit of time with painting his high chair too. This is one of those classic projects-you-wish-you-hadn’t-started things. I’ve been doing it on and off since Christmas and have largely lost my momentum now because Jim made a rash promise to me about finishing it when he came home… as if there won’t be enough other things to do! So wipe-clean PVC beanbag it is at the moment!

It’s not all that surprising really, but I cannot believe how much Theo has changed since Jim went away 4 months ago. In a lot of ways their reunion will feel more like their first meeting, because Theo has only really developed his personality in the last few weeks, I can’t wait… for so many reasons.

Anyway, that is all for now, I have deliberately not mentioned Jim’s return date, because with all things military we have to be a bit vague with details, but it is this month, and once he’s back, we have two holidays to look forward to in Scotland and Canada, but more on those nearer the time.

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