2015 in review

I just came across the email from WordPress with their “Annual Report” for 2015.  Yep, I know it’s a bit late, but one thing is clear….

2015 was the busiest and had the largest number of views we’ve ever had!!!  Of course those stats wouldn’t even exist if it wasn’t for those who have visited and read our blog posts and so both Kim and I would like to say a HUGE thank you to you all.

Now that Kim has completed her Mary Berry baking challenge, we really don’t know yet in which direction our blog will take in 2016, but we would both like to do a lot more photography and share our experiences and images with you.

Kim is planning on writing a couple of articles about “women’s issues”, more specifically gynaecological problems so for your ladies out there, please keep an eye out for those…

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

Madison Square Garden can seat 20,000 people for a concert. This blog was viewed about 63,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Madison Square Garden, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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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….

Week One Hundred & Four- Mary Berry’s Tiny Fruit Cakes & Victorian Christmas Cake

Week 104 and this week was a feat of organisation -for my annual Christmas cake bake fest! I dipped into Mary Berry‘s Baking Bible and found the final two christmas type cake recipes and I started on Friday night weighing out all the fruit and soaking it in various alcohols including brandy and port!

On Saturday morning, I took the two hairy hoolies to the park while the ground was still frosty so I didn’t bring them back too wet and  muddy and then rolled up my sleeves and set off. In the kitchen I have an old CD player and my Cd of choice for baking for the last few months has been Robbie Wiliams “swing both ways” and this week was no exception. I just love this CD and find myself dancing and singing while baking, much to the amusement of the hairy hoolies and my hubby! Any how, back to the bake. I started with Mary Berry’s tiny fruit cakes, and made 4 x the amount Mary states in her recipe as each year I make christmas cakes as gifts. Once the fruit had been soaked, Mary asks you to put all the rest of the ingredients in and mix it all together.

Mary Berry's tiny fruit cakes

Mary suggests you use small cake tins or used baked bean tins but as I already had something in mind, I used two silicone moulds to put the cake mix in …but can’t tell you much more at the moment as they will become presents but I will take pictures and reveal all after Christmas.

Kim's tiny fruit cakes

The second recipe I used was Mary Berry’s Victorian Christmas Cake which again was an all in one recipe and I used 2 small spring form cake tins instead of the one larger one that Mary suggests. The difference with this recipe is that it involves pineapple in the cake which is unusual. This recipe made four small cakes …and again, sorry but photos to follow after christmas!

Mary Berry's Victorian Christmas Cake

We had to phone the chief tester to inform him that there was no bake this week for testing, the reaction was hilarious!

sulking

I have watched this year’s “I’m a Celebrity, get me out of here” avidly. It’s my guilty pleasure and great fun to watch. I must say that I was pleased that Jake and Foggy were the final two and I didn’t mind who won  as I was pleased for them both! I don’t  watch the X Factor so I didn’t know who Jake was but he came across as a lovely guy who was very thoughtful. I had heard of Carl Fogerty and he was more patient than I imagined.

I also had time this weekend between batches of cake making to put up  my christmas decorations. Our tree is always decorated with ornaments that we have collected over the time hubby and I have been together and we always buy a new one each year. This year it was a mini rolling pin to celebrate my ongoing baking challenge! On my mantelpiece I always have a little nativity scene which is a little set given to me one christmas by my mum and dad and it came from Woolworths way before it closed when you could get some amazing things all under one roof! For a while now, I had wanted a stable for my nativity figures but every one I found was either way too big or way too expensive so I decided to make one myself….. I don’t think I did too bad a job!

Kim's stableinterior stable viewbasic stable viewside stable viewStable viewKim's stable

A BIG Thank You!!!

We set this blog site up back in September 2011 as a way to keep in touch with family and friends on a trip touring the Canadian Rockies.  It also enabled us to keep a diary of our entire trip.

Well the blog has moved on a little since then, especially when Kim decided to start baking using the Mary Berry Baking Bible.  I suggested to Kim that she blog about her baking experiences and share the ups and downs with others and that is precisely what she’s done and because of Kim’s baking challenge, I can say that our blog has reached a milestone:

We have broken the 20,000 visitor mark today!!!

So Kim and I would like to say a BIG thank you to everyone that now follows our blog and to all those that have visited.  We hope that you have enjoyed reading the postings and hopefully,  you may even have found some of them useful….

What’s next?  Well for the time being, Kim will be continuing with her baking challenge and I intend to start posting photography and wildlife entries now that the winter is drawing in.

We both look forward to your continued support in reading our postings over the next 12 months.

Thank you

Lewis & Kim Brown :0)

P.S.  You may even find that we will try and re-design and improve the layout of our site over the coming months, although as neither of us are web developers this could prove interesting.

Tis the Season to be Jolly !!!!

So where do we start about the last 12 months?

It’s certainly been an interesting time.  Lewis had every intention of posting far more blogs about photography, but since completing his photography qualification he hasn’t actually taken that many photographs.  This MUST change for 2013!!!

Kim sat and watched The Great British Bake Off, oh god what a mistake that was!!!  After watching a few episodes, Kim thought it would be an excellent idea to buy Mary Berry’s baking bible and then choose one recipie a week.  Well what’s the point in setting yourself a challenge if nobody knows about it? This is where Lewis came up with the idea that Kim should blog about her baking experiences and share it with those who were interested and wished to read or follow the blog.  Hence Kim’s account on WordPress was created…….

Has it been a success?  Well we certainly think so and we would both like to thank our new followers, not forgetting our existing ones, this year and hope that this blog has bought some interesting reading as well as enjoyment.

So what about Lewis?  Well in January he required surgery on his right shoulder and even now it’s still not fully resolved.  It was such a re-assurance when the Consultant said to him “oh it can take up to 18 months for a shoulder to fully heal….”   Oh cheers, thanks for telling me after the surgery!!!! :0)

Due to having a lack of function in his arm, Lewis hasn’t really done much, but hopes to be far more active in 2013.  Lewis hopes without a doubt that not only will he be able to take plenty of beauitful images, but that people may even wish to purchase the images created by Lullingstone Photography, better known as Lewis & Kim….

So what else has happened?  Oh yes, we nearly forgot.  Lewis’ parents decided to downsize from what had been his childhood home and so where do they move to?  Well of course it has to be next door to us!!!!

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “You can’t choose your parents….”,  well guess what, you can’t choose where they live either !!!!   LOL  :0)

Joking apart after a 16 week re-development project, we both hope they have many happy years in their new home, although we’re still waiting for them to actually move in……

Then of course we have the Olympics and Paralympics!!!  WOW is basically all one can say about that.  Whether you like sport or not, no one can deny that we have had the most incredible year of sport.  The achievements of our various sports men and women in their respective disciplines has been absolutely incredible.  The Olympics seemed to be over in a heartbeat which is something we can’t say about the build up to it.  How many years did we have the media bombarding us with Olympic gems?  Far too long would have been the answer.

BUT….. then the Paralympics Opening ceremony began and slowly people were amazed at how a legless man could run, or how someone with one leg could actually ride a bicycle and STILL whip the butts of your average able bodied person!!!  Sure there were plenty of jokes going around; Some were tasteless and some were just down right hilarious…    On that note, we really have to praise the Australian Adam Hills who presented the programme “The Last Leg” which was incredibly funny.  One can only applaud Channel 4 for allowing such a programme that really did break down barriers between disabled and abled body.  We would urge anyone who missed it to try and download it.  It must be on the Internet somewhere :0)

So the whole of the UK were in awe of the competitors and for very good reason.  They were ALL truly inspirational, whether they were winners or losers…  In our eyes, they were ALL WINNERS !!!!

Generally speaking it has actually been a rather quiet year, until we got to December.  Kim had been having some pain and so goes to see the GP. After some investigations, she finds herself with a rapid referral to the hospital and told that surgery is needed…..

So we’re waiting for a date for surgery on the NHS….  Well that’s likely to be a few months then right?  WRONG !!!!

A letter came through from the hospital a few days ago and the date is…….  Yep, it’s New Year’s Eve!!!!  We certainly won’t forget this year in a hurry.

This obviously means that Kim’s baking blog is going to suffer a hiatus for a few weeks whilst she fully recovers.  We both hope that 2013 brings a better year for the both of us in many different ways……

Bailey & Michka - Christmas 2012There are two things that keep us relaxed and relieve any stress and those of course are our two hairy hooligans Bailey and Michka.  It’s wonderful to say that they have both managed to stay in good health.  Without a doubt they will provide Kim with plenty of comfort and love when she comes out of hospital in the New Year…. :0)

We wish you all a very joyous and Happy Christmas and hope that you have a prosperous New Year.  We hope that 2013 is good to you all and is even better than 2012.

Lewis, Kim, Bailey & Michka  :0)

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 – http://www.ncfe.org.uk/AboutNCFE.aspx

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 http://appletreestudiosblog.com/2012/01/20/our-favorite-lion-photos/