Death of a Chicken

Fern, chicken, hen, died, dead, RIP, Rhode Rock, Egg Yolk Peritonitis, double yolk
Fern – RIP Beautiful Girl

Death of a Chicken

You wouldn’t believe how attached you can become to a chicken. We’ve had four of the little blighters since March this year and they really have become family pets.  The kids love ’em. We love ’em. And of course, we love the eggs they produce.

Mark, Fern, chicken, hen
Mark with Fern

It all started at dusk one Tuesday evening when we noticed that instead of scratching and pecking the ground, Fern was just stood still, resting on one leg.  Upon inspection, she looked fine: her comb was dark red and upright and her eyes seemed bright, so we put it down to the fact that it was nearly their roosting time and she was tired after a hard day’s pecking.

Fern, chicken, hen, died, dead, RIP, Rhode Rock, Egg Yolk Peritonitis, double yolk
Poorly Fern in Her Makeshift Nest

The following day, we let them out as per normal and watched Fern.  Again, she was more or less motionless: not her usual productive pecking-and-gathering self at all. I had a dental appointment, so Mark opted to take her to the vet. The vet also acknowledged that her comb and bright eyes indicated that she was healthy, however, he gave her a shot in her breast and gave us some antibiotics to put in her water.

Mark made a nest for her next to his desk and he played nursemaid to her whilst I was at work. By the time I returned home at 4pm, she really was no better. She hadn’t eaten anything during the day but had taken some of the antibiotic-supplemented water.  Nonetheless, I was disappointed that she didn’t look more lively.

We made the decision to keep her inside overnight and we made up a nest for her in the kitchen.

It was with some trepidation that we ventured into the kitchen the next morning. “Think positive”, I told Mark. She’s going to be fine. I was soon eating my words, however. Poor Fern had moved out of the nest and was sitting in a pool of liquid faeces and other clear liquid on the kitchen floor. She looked much, much worse than when we’d left her the previous evening.

Mark went to move her into her bed so that we could clean up the mess. As he picked her up, she squawked, vomited clear liquid and died in his arms. It was literally that quick. Poor Mark was beside himself, blaming himself for moving her. Yet we couldn’t have left her in the wet mess and I honestly believe she would have died anyway soon afterwards.

Fern, chicken, hen, died, dead, RIP, Rhode Rock, Egg Yolk Peritonitis, double yolk
Mabel, Doris and Ivy Enjoying a Dust Bath

We had to know what was wrong with her so Mark returned to the vet where he performed a necropsy on her. He identified her cause of death as being Egg Yolk Peritonitis.  This is basically similar to an ectopic preganancy in humans.

In a chicken suffering from Egg Yolk Peritonitis, egg yolks are deposited internally instead of within an egg, and when the hen’s body tries to reabsorb them, the peritoneum can become infected, as egg yolk is a good medium for bacteria to grow.  Once the infection has become established, the infection will cause a widespread peritonitis.

With the benefit of hindsight (and reading copious internet articles), we recalled all the double-yolk eggs we’d had, as well as, more recently, a number of soft-shelled eggs – particularly the one that Fern suddenly laid when she was sat on Seb’s knee one day.

In addition, since Fern’s passing, we have consistently had three eggs from the remaining three hens, every day without fail. We have now realised that it was probably Fern who wasn’t laying consistently.

It’s been a steep learning curve but hopefully we are better armed to deal with any of the chickens becoming ill in the future.  RIP Beautiful Fern. We miss you.

funky, chicken, printable, postcards, free, 66 Thoughts


A while ago, in another blog, I offered these free postcards I’d designed to readers of my blog. Please click the button below to get yours.

Yes Please! I Want Free Funky Chicken Printables!

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Coquille St Jacques with a Truffle and Sauterne Sauce

coquille, st jacques, coquille, truffle, sauternes, cream, sauce, france, french, Good Life, magazine, recipe

Coquille St Jacques with a Truffle and Sauterne Sauce

I love scallops and will always take the opportunity to eat them whenever possible – especially with the roes, which for some reason, many people discard: what an absolute travesty!  Coquille St Jacques is traditionally a dish of scallops in their shells, topped with cheese and grilled until brown.  This is a fantastic twist on that dish with the addition of wine and truffles – although I do cheat and use my ever-faithful Cotswold Gold truffle rapeseed oil (which I’ve blogged about before) instead of actual truffles. You can also use any white wine – as long as it’s sweet!

scallops, shells, roes, coquilles st jacques

The recipe is taken from a magazine I love, The Good Life France, which is available as a paper copy as well as online. It was devised by a Countess, no less: Countess Simonof-Arpels who has a saffron farm in the Dordogne. I wrote about saffron and her farm in a recent blog post you can find here.

It’s a stunning looking dish that is deceptively simple.  You could cook it as a starter when you have friends round or as a special meal for your loved one.

The Recipe

Serves 4


3­-4 large prepared scallops per person
2 shallots
l large wine glass of Sauterne (or any dessert wine )
6-­7 dessertspoons double cream
60 g chopped truffle or a good slug of truffle oil (eg Cotswold Gold)
2 tablespoons butter (not needed if using truffle oil – see above)
Salt and black pepper (or pink peppercorns if you have them)

Wash the scallops well in cold water. Dry with a kitchen towel. Remove the roe and put to one side.

Peel and finely chop shallots. Fry with a little butter (or truffle oil – see above) until golden brown.

Add the wine and let it simmer for 1 minute then add the cream. Reduce by a third over a low heat and leave
until needed.

Take a heavy bottomed frying pan, slice scallops horizontally into 2 thinner discs. Melt the butter or heat the truffle oil and sear the scallops on each side until golden brown. Add the chopped roe then take off the heat.

Add the scallops to the prepared sauce and then add the finely chopped truffle (if using).  Reheat gently for 1­2 minutes.

Season to taste with the salt. Serve sprinkled with a grind or two of the pink peppercorns.

Serve immediately on warm plates.


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Saffron: Learn About the World’s Most Expensive Spice

saffron, crocus, harvest, harvesting, picking, Dordogne, France

Saffron: French Red Gold

Saffron is most definitely one of my favourite spices. The heady aroma as it cooks makes my mouth water.

The crimson threads are harvested from the stigma of the crocus flower. Saffron is the world’s most costly spices by weight – unsurprising as it takes it takes anything from 70,000 to 250,000 handpicked flowers to make just one pound of saffron.

Click on the link below to find out more about how it’s harvested in the French Dordogne in this article taken from The Good Life France Magazine.

saffron, spice, rare, Dordogne, crocus, France

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21 Powerful Pointers for Exam Revision

Exam Revision: Powerful Pointers

So, exam season is upon us: nervous teenagers everywhere have their heads buried in text books, genning up on problematic equations and prepositions.  It’s true that nothing beats hard work when it comes to studying, but by utilising my Exam Revision Powerful Pointers you will be able to guide your brain to retain crucial information much more easily.

My Powerful Pointers cover four key areas:

  • Prepare to Revise
  • Effective Revision
  • Take a Break
  • On Exam Day

Download FREE Mini Guide: 21 Powerful Pointers for Exam Revision



Start Revising Soon Enough

Start Revising Soon Enough 66 ThoughtsThink about it: do actors only rehearse the day before opening night or do athletes only train the day before a competition? It takes time to commit something to memory so revising should begin months, not days before the exam itself.

One of the most powerful techniques you can use is “spaced revision” where you plan ahead and break up your topics into a number of short sessions: research has shown that we learn more effectively when we study in several sessions over a longer period of time, rather than studying repeatedly in a short period of time. It’s also incredibly motivational as you feel like you’re whizzing through each section and it’s no effort to start the next one as they’re so short. Read more about Timetables.

Don’t Put It Off

Don't put it off 66 Thoughts

Delaying … postponing … procrastinating: it’s a common problem that most of us fall prey to at some point.  If you find yourself tidying your desk, googling song lyrics or doing some other “displacement activity”, try doing a 5,4,3,2,1 countdown where you start revising as soon as you hit 1.  You could also decide on a reward for yourself at the end of the revision session to motivate yourself to get through it.  Try these other ideas from the Student Room to help you beat procrastination.

Download FREE Mini Guide: 21 Powerful Pointers for Exam Revision

Find the Right Environment to Revise

The Right Revision Environment 66 ThoughtsThe right environment in which to revise is crucial. It’s best not to sit on your bed as you’re likely to fall asleep, so a desk containing all your revision materials is the best option. If you don’t have a desk in your room, can you claim a quiet spot in your home solely for your revision? This will really help you concentrate and increase your productivity. Try having a plant or flowers in your study area as it could increase productivity by up to 15%!

Revise alone, in a quiet environment, rather than in Costa, or in the lounge with your family. And don’t be tempted to watch YouTube or television whilst revising. Even a radio can be distracting with constant interruptions to the music with adverts and DJ chatter. If you really feel you need some background noise, try a soothing playlist – preferably instrumental – that segues from one track to the next.

Draw Up a Revision Timetable

Revision timetable 66 ThoughtsIt’s never too late to draw up a revision timetable.  It adds structure to your revision and can help you identify which topics you need to focus on.  It also helps boost your motivation and combat exam stress.  Be realistic. There are limits to how much work you can manage to do effectively in one day and regular breaks, eating and exercise are all important factors to incorporate. It’s also important to ensure you get enough sleep.

Include Regular Breaks

Relax - 66 ThoughtsWhen I say regular, I mean every hour, not every 10 minutes! Research indicates that taking breaks during revision gives the brain a higher chance of remembering what you’ve crammed into it. Try 50 minutes on, 10 minutes off.

Move away from your study space to give yourself a change of environment.  Do something entirely different for at least a couple of hours in the evening – anything that will de-stress you, whether it’s watching TV, going to the gym or just going for a walk. See Relax.

Download FREE Mini Guide: 21 Powerful Pointers for Exam Revision

Eat Healthily

Eat healthily 66 ThoughtsTempting as it is to snack on junk food whilst you’re revising, you’ll be doing yourself a huge favour if you eat as healthily as possible to ensure your brain and the rest of your body function optimally.  Remember to eat plenty of fruit and vegetables for vitamins and minerals, carbs for energy and protein for growth and repair.  Omega 3 is recognised as “brain food” and if fish isn’t your jam, then try taking capsules.

Recent research shows that rosemary, turmeric, sage, olive oil, baked beans and dark chocolate improve brain functionality, memory and concentration. Read more here.

Get the Inside Track

Syllabus 66 ThoughtsGet a copy of the exam syllabuses and ensure every part of each one is included in your revision timetable.  Search the net for Examiners’ Reports. These are an invaluable source of information as they quite literally tell you what they want to see on exam papers, as well as examples of what not to do.

Put Away Your Phone

Put Your Phone Away! - 66 ThoughtsPhones are one of the biggest distractions and often a source of procrastination when revising.  A recent study found that even the sight of a phone was enough to reduce a person’s ability to focus.  Out of sight really is out of mind.

Download FREE Mini Guide: 21 Powerful Pointers for Exam Revision


Do Past Papers

Do past exam papers 66 ThoughtsOnce you’ve learned your mind maps and your revision cards, put them away and concentrate on doing past papers so you begin learning how to apply what you’ve revised to the exam papers.

Do as many as you can and do each one at least twice. It will familiarise you with exam format, question style, time pressure and how to retrieve information quickly, which is key to exam success. With each one, trawl through the mark scheme and ensure you understand everything there. This gives you a better idea of how to think through an exam question.

You will also be able to make connections between different areas of the syllabus which is ultra important when it comes to A / A* questions.

Test Yourself (and Others)

Test Yourself 66 ThoughtsRepeated testing works. Fact. Leading memory researchers believe testing yourself is one of the most effective ways to improve your ability to recall information. It engages you with the subject and it’s trickier for your mind to wander. It also helps you check for any gaps in your knowledge.  Start by reading a text book then make flash cards of the critical concepts to test yourself, or do the tests in your revision guides.

After you’ve tested yourself, teach someone else, – parent, sibling, classmate or friend. This requires you to learn and organise your knowledge in a clear and structured manner.  Research shows this aids memory and recall: it is known as “the Protégé Effect”.

Note Making

Don't waste time making notes look pretty - 66 ThoughtsFirstly, make sure you actually make notes, not just read through your books.

Don’t waste time making them look pretty. Include the details you need to learn, but don’t make it a work of art. Limit yourself to 2 or 3 colours so you don’t get carried away colouring things in.

Despite being a popular revision tool, research suggests that highlighters don’t work as they isolate single pieces of information.  People learn and recall information better if they connect it to other pieces of information.

Download FREE Mini Guide: 21 Powerful Pointers for Exam Revision

Study Methods

Use an assortment of study methods - 66 ThoughtsUsing just one approach to revision will make it very dull indeed.  Try watching videos or documentaries (don’t get side-tracked watching YouTube!), listening to podcasts, making mind maps, using visual imagery, making flashcards, posting sticky notes around the house or using different colours for each subject.

Your brain will recall where you were, how you revised for the topic or where the sticky note was located.

Wildcard: Stop Revising Before You’re Finished

Zeigarnik Effect 66 ThoughtsThis is one you may or may not choose to try: it’s called the Zeigarnik Effect. If you never fully finish a task or interrupt it regularly whilst you are in full swing, it makes you nervous and more likely to make an effort to remember what you were doing. It won’t suit everyone but you may want to give it a go!



Meet friends for coffee 66 ThoughtsIf you find yourself getting nervous at the thought of exams, look at them in perspective. Yes, they are important and can help you in achieving your desired future, but not every successful person performed well academically.  If you’ve put in the hard work, you can only do your best on the day.

As well as putting in the effort to revise, it’s essential that you keep time to do things you enjoy.  It may be as simple as meeting friends for a coffee or going for a walk. Don’t be afraid to take your mind completely off the exams for a few hours.


Go for a walk 66 ThoughtsIt’s no secret that exercise improves your mental as well as your physical wellbeing.  Fresh air will reinvigorate you and you’ll be able to focus better afterwards.  Exercise gets the blood flowing which enables more oxygen to reach the brain, helping it to function more efficiently.  In turn, this helps you deal better with stressful situations by reducing anxiety and increasing self-esteem.


Get early nights 66 ThoughtsIt’s tempting when you’ve finished revising to slob out in front of YouTube or Snapchat your friends but be careful about doing this into the early hours.  If you draw up a Revision Timetable you should have a clear plan for revising and relaxing – but also build in bedtime!

Sleep is such an important factor in ensuring our brains are in in tip-top condition for the day ahead.  Aim to have a regular bedtime and stick to it! Read a book to switch off and use soothing music on low volume, timed to go off after a specific time period, to help you drift off to sleep. Ensure the room is dark enough and make sure your mobile phone is not only on silent, but that the backlight is off.

Download FREE Mini Guide: 21 Powerful Pointers for Exam Revision


Relaxed Start to the Day

Eat a healthy breakfast 66 ThoughtsSet your alarm to give you plenty of time to get ready. Have a shower, listen to music and calm yourself.

Everyone knows it’s important to eat breakfast: it gets your metabolism going again after the long overnight fast.  Research has proven that eating a breakfast containing complex carbohydrates helps improve memory and concentration during the morning.  Complex carbs include fruit, vegetables, nuts, beans and wholegrains. Ideally choose a wholegrain cereal with nuts and little sugar, such as muesli or granola. Research has also shown that breakfast-eaters are “less emotionally distressed and have lower levels of perceived stress” compared with those who do not.

Plan Ahead

Allow enough time 66 ThoughtsDouble check the time and place of your exam the night before and plan ahead so that you arrive 10-15 minutes before the start.  Allow for eventualities such as your bus being late, or something else holding you up.

Take a drink and a snack for before and/or during the exam.

Avoid the Stressers

When you get to your exam, think about who makes you feel calm and confident and actively seek them out. Avoid spending the time before your exam surrounded by people who are particularly negative or who stress you out.  It won’t help.

Quiet Reminders

Pause 66 ThoughtsFind somewhere quiet to sit for a few minutes.  Remind yourself of your exam strategy, eg the amount of time you should spend per question, reading each question first, writing five minutes of rough notes before answering a long question, or some other technique you’ve learnt. Pause and take some deep breaths which will lower your heart-rate and reduce tension.  You can also do this in the exam itself if you start panicking.

Wildcard: Take in a Beer Mat

Beer mat for wobbly desks 66 ThoughtsOK, it sounds crazy. What for? There’s nothing worse than working on a wobbly desk.  It will help your nerves and general mental status if you can cure the problem!


Remember to keep exams in perspective. You can only do your best.
Good luck!

Download FREE Mini Guide: 21 Powerful Pointers for Exam Revision
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Music Playlist 1: Sleeptime

Sleeptime Playlist 66 Thoughts

Classical Upbringing

Music has always been a huge part of my life. My parents are/were both musicians: my mother taught music in a school as well as being a piano teacher, and she can play piano, violin and clarinet.  My late father was a church organist and choirmaster, and also a piano tuner (my brother John now runs the piano tuning business and tunes for the Birmingham Symphony Hall, amongst others).  So, I guess it’s in the genes.

True to form, I began learning the piano as a small child and had taken my grade 5 by the age of 10. I also took up the French horn, achieving grade 5 also at the age of 10, and I’ve taught myself to play the clarinet and the trumpet.

Eclectic Taste

But whilst my parents focused solely on classical music, my interest has always been much more eclectic.  One of my earliest memories is of dad bringing home a Chart Hits LP which he “won” free with oil from the local petrol station. I remember putting it on our turntable and pretending to DJ with each of the tracks. My favourite track was Substitute by Clout. Remember them?

My list of likes is incalculable: it includes:

  • 1970s: Devo, Joy Division, Cure, Magazine, Talking Heads, Bryan Ferry
  • 1980s (my era!): Heaven 17, The Jam, Duran Duran, ABC, Police, Dire Straits, Thomas Dolby, Robert Palmer, Bowie, Squeeze, Kate Bush, B52s
  • 1990s: Kasabian, Keane, Teardrop Explodes, Blue Oyster Cult, Level 42, Del Amitri
  • 2000s: Arctic Monkeys, Smoke Fairies

I’m not going any further forward chronologically because these days I seem to listen (and enjoy) practically anything. I listen to BBC 6 Music a great deal and am always following up on new bands I’ve heard there.


Lesser Known Artists

Apart from the popular artists of the last few decades, I also feel bound to mention some lesser known artists I like. These include:

Sarah McLachlan
Paula Cole
Helen Watson
Thomas Lang
kd lang
Milky Chance
Fyfe Dangerfield
Anna Calvi
Cherry Ghost
Bat for Lashes

In all honesty, this list could go on and on but enough’s enough: I need to get to the playlist!

This is the playlist we use to drift off to sleep at night. We shuffle it and put it on very low volume with a timer that switches it off after 30 minutes.

Relax and enjoy!


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