My Mary Berry challenge of 2014

As it has been the Christmas period and things have been hectic, I haven’t done a bake for a week or two and we are still eating Christmas chocolates, cake etc so any bake would be wasted and that is not the intention of the challenge.

I started this challenge in 2013 and initially did one bake a week. It would have taken years if I had continued to stick to that so I upped the amount to two bakes each week where possible to get through the recipes. This has worked well so far and I have now only 61 recipes left so 2015 should be the year I complete this challenge.

My baking skills have definitely improved thanks to Mary’s detailed recipes and I have enjoyed most of it and find there are very few weekends where I don’t want to bake. My store cupboard has never been so full either and I don’t have to check now , I pretty much know if I have every thing I need for a recipe.

I also know which recipes I will definitely make again and which will never see the light of day again!! I loved the doughnuts and will be purchasing a deep fat fryer this year (hint hint hubby) and I have enjoyed making the bread recipes with a few yet to go. I have loved the small cakes and tray bakes but the dobaz torte was one to consign to the never again pile as were the Florentines.

Thankfully the keep and make recipes outweigh the never again ones! If you have been regular readers you will know that I have had a few operations over the course of this challenge and I think “getting back in the baking saddle” has helped my recovery and getting back to normal-what ever that is!

I would like to take the opportunity to thank everyone who visits the blog for their support and love checking to see how many visitors I have had and from which countries. Some days we have a globe trotting community. I try to recognise you all where I can and often put on there how many visitors we have had.

My thoughts are obviously beginning to turn to what to do after the challenge is completed. I will still bake but will not have the pressure of having to do so weekly unless I choose to. My hubby recently blogged about splitting the blog so that he/we can focus on photography and this is also something I love but I need to learn more about the process so will need to do a Photoshop or Lightroom course. I,am a “purist”photographer in that I don’t believe in having to manipulate an image other than sharpening etc . My feeling is that if you have to change bits or take things out then you didn’t take the right image.

Any how. Onwards into 2015.welcome to the last year of the challenge. I hope you enjoy it and please feel free to comment on any blog with thoughts and suggestions. It would be nice to hear from you.

It’s been a funny old year!!!!

Isn’t it funny, we get to every New Year’s Eve and wish each other a happy new year and then say “Let’s hope this year is better than the last….” Well you’ve got 365 days in which to try and ensure that it IS better than the last, but ultimately something has probably happened within the year that makes us say that same sentence year in, year out…. Well in our case, I really do hope that 2015 is better than the last few years!!!

The start of 2014 was thankfully quiet and just like any other, until we got to Easter and Kim having to go in for yet more surgery, but thankfully it was all successful and it’s benefits are slowly being felt.

The summer was pretty uneventful and just enjoyed the many hot days that we had, although some of them were a little too hot for our two long haired German Shepherds who were happy to lay in the lounge in front of two fans blowing at full tilt.

Then we got into Autumn and a visit to my mother-in-law (Kim’s mum) which was hot and I do mean HOT!!! That’s what happens when you end up dropping a freshly boiled kettle and cooking yourself; A whole new meaning to boil in the bag, but thankfully after a visit to a couple of burns units and a month of pain, I have healed incredibly well and didn’t require any skin grafting, thank god.

Before I come to more recent times, I’m sure a few readers have thought how come their blog is called Lullingstone Photography when the majority of posts are about Kim’s baking? Well just like people, a blog grows and develops over time and in fact can end up becoming quite a different entity to what you first envisaged. The same is true for our blog and this year I plan on splitting our blog so that one can concentrate on Kim’s baking and non photographic posts whilst the other is purely about photography. This does mean though that I actually need to get my camera out, dust it off and start shooting more images. If truth be told, I can’t remember the last time I actually pressed the shutter and have spent a good part of the year learning, in depth, Photoshop CC and finally getting to grips with Adobe Lightroom. It’s been a year of learning and the majority of the photographs that I have actually put through post production have been Kim’s work, so I look forward to the next 12 months and actually seeing what I can do.

Now I come to the end of 2014!!! We normally alternate each Christmas between staying at home or going and spending Christmas with Kim’s mum. This year it was the turn of Kim’s mum and so we departed for Somerset on the Tuesday before Christmas. After a very smooth and uneventful run down it was inevitable for us that something was going to happen and it most certainly did when we pulled up outside the house and I couldn’t get out the car!!!! It had nothing to do with mother-in-law jokes or not wanting to be there, but because my back had gone and I just couldn’t move OUCH!!! After taking some pain relief and giving plenty of time for it to work, we had the choice of either leaving me in the car over Christmas or having to call for an ambulance. Even my dear wife agreed that we should opt for the latter!!! LOL. So I get carted off to A&E and given some tablets as apparently falling down a flight of stairs on your back three months earlier can actually bruise your coccyx and there is nothing that can be done about that.

So I’m finally home and in my mother-in-law house and we’re ready to celebrate Christmas…. Yippee!!! HOLD ON, don’t be pleased for us just yet…. So I’ve been home a few hours and our two German Shepherds have been fed and we’re all sitting chatting and watching TV, when our dogs ask to go in the garden to the loo. It’s at this point I realise that my big lad isn’t at all right and behaving very oddly.

He was trying to vomit but producing nothing and his stomach was distended and rock hard. Thankfully Kim and I knew he had all the signs of a Gastric Torsion (GDV) / bloat (click here for information on torsions) and immediately contacted an emergency vet. Eight minutes later and he’s seeing this lovely lady vet, Beth Hayman at Delaware Veterinary Group, who examines him and with ultrasound confirms what we suspected. We will do a separate post about gastric torsions over the next month once I’ve done further research. In short, Beth gets him into theatre and starts emergency surgery. Whilst it was cold and dark outside, Kim and I sat together in the empty waiting room tears a plenty and just praying for him to be ok. After the longest hour of our lives, we got the best news ever… Our hairy hoolie had survived the operation and was, snoring his head off in a recovery crate!!!! Beth Hayman was amazing and kept us updated every step of the way.

Since then we have kept a very close eye on him as one of us has been with him at all times, even throughout the night we take it in turns at utilising our veterinary nursing skills!!! LOL.

So tomorrow is 10 days post-op and so the fun can begin as his usual vet will have the pleasure in removing his sutures which will most definitely be fun…. I wish his usual vet the utmost luck, she’s going to need it!!!!

It’s times like this that we appreciate our friends and family more; Our dogs are most definitely family to us. That being said, that one night at a veterinary practice in Somerset sadly made me realise one thing, how I’m going to feel the day I lose my big lad, how much it’s going to hit me and what on earth am I going to do without him? Thankfully that event has been put back for, what I hope will be, a good few years yet.

We’ve been through a lot over our time together, but we face everything together and our love strengthens and deepens. What’s the old saying about things making one stronger?

Kim will do a separate end of year baking blog shortly as I’m most definitely NOT qualified to do that on her behalf. We are not sure when the next bake will be seeing we are still munching our way through chocolates, Christmas pudding and Christmas cake!!!

We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has visited our blog and read our posts over the past twelve months…. With your help, you have all made 2014 the most successful yet with some 47,000 views…. WOW!!!

We wish you all a VERY Happy and Prosperous New Year and may 2015 be a great year for you all….

Studying Photography

National Certificate for Further EducationI know I have been incredibly quiet on our blog so far this year, but there had been a reason for that….  I had been incredibly busy studying for an NCFE qualification in Photography.  Also you may have noticed that I have been joined by another contributor who has been recently posting on the blog.  It is of course my wife Kim (kimsideas) who has been blogging about her Mary Berry Baking Challenge and I hope everyone has been enjoying reading her postings and just maybe, you have been having a go yourself at baking some of her posts.

So back to my course…. The course started in September 2011 at the Adult Education centre in Brampton Road, Bexleyheath.  After attending each Saturday morning for 3 hours, and quite a lot of homework, I finally completed the course in May 2012 and am very pleased to report that I did in fact manage to pass!!!

Does this mean I’m a better photographer now?  Well to be honest I don’t think that’s for me to say, although I will say that my post production workflow has definitely benefited from the course.

As far as I can tell, the NCFE Photography courses are available in level 1 and level 2 only.  I have completed the level 1 course and was going to start the level 2 course about now, but sadly this will now have to wait till next September now.

So what is NCFE?  Well please visit the following link which explains who NCFE are and how they are recognised –

The course covers all aspects of photography from the functions on your d-SLR camera and how it works, to image framing and composition and then moves onto the final aspect which is post production and photo editing within Adobe Photoshop.

I think some of the students on my course thought this was going to be a simple attend 3 hours a week and not much else.  Nothing could be further from the truth!!!  Not only did you have some projects to shoot, normally submitting 12 images per subject matter, but there was an awful lot of typing up to do by creating notes in an Evidence Folder which would demonstrate not only what you learnt, but also how you learnt it.

The very final stage of the course was the final Portfolio which had to fulfill some quite open subject matters…

I chose “Spirit of the Place” and therefore chose to photograph churches, taking 7 interior images and 7 exterior images.

Although this wasn’t covered in the course, I chose to demonstrate some of the skills I had by creating HDR (High Dynamic Range) images.   This consisted of taking 7 seperately exposed images all in RAW format and then combining them using Photomatix and Photoshop to create a single image.

Even if I say so myself, I think some of the results were absolutely amazing!!!!  Ok it’s fair to say that i spent days on each image to try and make sure it met my perception of being “correct”.  In hindsight, I probably took far too long over the editing.

Feeding Lions in Zimbabwe, Africa – Shane Cleminson – Guest Photographer

I must make it clear before anything else that this IS NOT my image.  I don’t want to be accused of stealing it….  This must be one of the most amazing images of Lions feeding that I’ve ever seen courtesy of professional photographer Shane Cleminson.

Feeding Lions in Zimbabwe, Africa – Shane Cleminson – Guest Photographer.

You can see more of Shane’s lion work at