#10 in the Judging a Photograph Series

Family of Hands photo close up and How to Find Meaning in Mothering Sunday blog on Falcondale Life and Simnel Cake.

Mothering Sunday always falls on the fourth Sunday in Lent. This is your heads up! Half way through, how is your Lent going? If you made a resolution, after a while it becomes hard to follow, and having an event to mark the middle of Lent is a good way to reset and try again. Perhaps you can find a little encouragement too.

The History of Mothering Sunday

You may already know the origin of Mothering Sunday in history. It was the day that congregations of smaller churches within a parish would travel to visit the mother church for a service. Parishes used to be bigger; I had an ancestor who was Vicar of Brighton – i.e. the whole of Brighton. He was based at the mother church and in charge of the smaller churches and clergy around the town.

Is there a Biblical basis for congregations coming together like this? Well the main functions of a church include mission, which is to go out and minister to people who are not part of the church family: To care for them, to provide for and serve them, to love them and to do the sort of things that Jesus did. But this is work and all workers need rest and renewal and that’s a function of worship and fellowship. That means coming together to spend time with God and each other, and this is a key principal of the original Mothering Sunday.

The Idea of Mum

Whether it is your real life experience or not, I think we can all identify with the idea that coming home to Mum should represent a chance to rest in her arms and be renewed by her care. To receive from her food and shelter safely within the home, in recovery mode. Mum is good for us. However you spend Mothering Sunday, and whether you have your Mum or get along with your Mum or not, I hope you can find the things you need to be renewed.

Family of Hands photo close up and How to Find Meaning in Mothering Sunday blog on Falcondale Life

Photo: Family of Hands

I think my picture “Family of Hands” is my best effort to create a photo representing “family”. There are no faces or expressions but hands convey so much by their actions that the meaning is at once very clear. If you take a photo of hands the challenge is to make sure the fingers don’t look like sausages. Don’t get too close. It’s better to step back and use the zoom on your camera. Never shoot a finger close up using a sense of perspective.

I turned the picture monochrome to deal with the different skin tones – one hand was a little red, another yellow. There was red nail varnish too. When I entered it in a monochrome photo competition the judge gave it a Highly Commended I think, or possibly third place, but criticised it for the reverse curl of the man’s thumb. I thought that was a bit mean! I think the man’s thumb makes the lower point of a heart shape. Do you see that shape? Besides, he can’t help the curve of his thumb. However there were certainly better images in the contest. I remember it was the first time ever when lots people came up to me afterwards to say how much they liked my photo, it was encouraging.

What Now?

You might like this blog which I enjoyed reading, about references to self-care in the Bible.

Simnel Cake is traditional fare for Mothering Sunday. I made one ages ago with my daughter when she was just 8. It was easy enough for her to do it almost by herself.  Here’s a link to the excellent BBC recipe which we used.

Simnel cake recipe and How to Find Meaning in Mothering Sunday blog on Falcondale Life

Read the previous blog in this series about judging photos here.
The “Judging a Photo” blog series starts from here.
Read recent blog posts about parenting here.



#9 in the Judging a Photograph Series


Using spot colour without being heavy handed Photography tips on Falcondale Life blog Cycle Race

Spot colour in photo editing is quite a controversial subject. For many people it’s a love or hate thing like Marmite. Normally I fall into the “I hate it” camp but I admit there are times when it works well.

What is Spot Colour?

If you’re wondering what I’m talking about, let me explain! Spot colour – or “colour pop” or “selective colour” – is when most of an image is turned black and white with the exception of a small part. This small part is left in it’s original full colour, and it is emphasised as the focal point of the image.

When Spot Colour Goes Wrong

From this description it’s immediately obvious how this could go wrong. It just doesn’t work when the colour part of the image isn’t important, isn’t the focal point or is too large. The other problem with spot colour is it’s popularity. It’s become quite cheesy. There are many wedding photography disasters out there too, with brides and grooms shown in colour in a monochrome landscape. Monochrome is great for adding drama but you don’t need that it in a low-contrast wedding landscape. It’s rare for spot colour to look good when a whole person is left in colour anyway.

Why I Used Spot Colour

Using spot colour without being heavy handed Photography tips on Falcondale Life blog Cycle Race

So why do I think it works in this photo “Cycle Race”? First of all there was a problem with the original colour photo. I shot this image during the golden hour before sunset and the light was beautiful. However this light was doing it’s beautiful thing on the wrong side of the road! The action was taking place on the right, and the dappled light was distracting on the left.

The second strong, competing feature of the image is the white line in the middle of the road. It’s a fabulous leading line, taking the eye up to the word “SLOW” in the distance. I’ve cropped the image so that the line finishes neatly in the bottom left corner, which always a good place to tie a leading line. This line stands alone as a feature, but I still need you to look at the cyclist.

The third point to note is this hot tip: Photographers love red! This cyclist is wearing red and riding a red bike.  I will be forever grateful for his style-consciousness because there is no better colour for spot colour than red.

Using spot colour without being heavy handed Photography tips on Falcondale Life blog Cycle Race

How I Edited it

There are different ways of editing photos for spot colour but as there was so little in the image that is red, the quickest way was fairly low-tech. Using Lightroom, I desaturated all the colour channels except red. This left a red tinge on the cyclist’s skin which I didn’t want, so in Photoshop I used a desaturating sponge tool just to dab these bits out. It took two minutes.

The final image looks much more balanced than the original. I really think this was the correct edit. If I’m being harsh, the image would have been better if there was some interest in the middle third, and if I had used a better lens as there are quite a few focus and edge abberations. The lens I used is a super cheap 300mm which I can’t afford to replace.

What do you think? Have you ever tried using spot colour or do you hate it? Please do leave a comment, I read every one!

Read the previous blog in this “Judging a Photograph” series here



American Style Cornbread recipe great for using up leftovers Falcondale Life blog

This Cornbread recipe is great for a family dinner and it’s so versatile too. It’s a great way to use up leftovers. Plus it’s a bit unusual because of its American heritage, so it might not be something you’ve had before. I have served it to visitors and it’s been very well received. It looks lovely when it comes to the table all golden in a big pie dish!

The Hairy Bikers’ original recipe for Texan Cornbread was my starting point, and it uses beef mince as the filling. It has a lot of chilli and cheese, which I’ve always swapped out. The version I am showing today is one we use for Meat Free Mondays (which in our house usually falls on a Tuesday!).


150g polenta – that’s the uncooked grains, not the ready-cooked slabs. I buy it in Sainsbury’s as it’s not available in Asda. You can use American yellow cornmeal if you have access to US imports, it’s the same thing.
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
2 eggs
1 carton of buttermilk approx. 300 ml
1 tin of sweetcorn – don’t drain it, use the liquid too. Or cook 150g of sweetcorn from frozen and reserve a tablespoon of the cooking water.
1 teaspoon of sugar (optional)
60g of grated cheddar

American Style Cornbread recipe great for using up leftovers Falcondale Life blog polenta cornmeal


You need around 300g of filling. I am using diced halloumi cheese fried in a tablespoon of fajita seasoning.
Alternative fillings: Mince fried with spicy seasoning, chilli con carne, bolognaise sauce, leftover curry, spicy chicken or diced and spiced-up leftover Sunday roast. Make sure there is not too much runny sauce with your filling.

American Style Cornbread recipe great for using up leftovers Falcondale Life blog spicy fried halloumi


Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius (160 C fan) or gas mark 4. Heat a 23cm (9 inch) pie dish in the oven with a tablespoon of fat such as goose fat, lard or cooking oil.
Mix the polenta, salt and bicarb in a bowl. Using a blender, puree the sweetcorn with its liquid and the sugar. Add the eggs and whisk them up too. Tip this into the dry ingredients with the buttermilk and mix thoroughly.

When the oil in the pie dish is hot, tilt it around until the oil speads out over the base of the dish. Then pour in half the batter. It will bubble up at the edges. Spoon the filling in evenly. Quickly stir the grated cheddar into the remaining batter then pour it over the top.

American Style Cornbread recipe great for using up leftovers Falcondale Life blog

American Style Cornbread recipe great for using up leftovers Falcondale Life blog

American Style Cornbread recipe great for using up leftovers Falcondale Life blog

American Style Cornbread recipe great for using up leftovers Falcondale Life blog

Bake in the oven for 45 to 50 minutes until the cornbread is golden brown. Serve with sweet chilli dipping sauce and some steamed vegetables or refried beans. Makes 4 to 6 servings depending on your side dishes.

American Style Cornbread recipe great for using up leftovers Falcondale Life blog

If you make it, do let me know how you get on in the comments below, or tweet me @falcondalejan

This recipe was adapted from the Hairy Bikers Texan Cornbread recipe which appears in the BBC book “The Hairy Bikers Family Cookbook – Mums Know Best”. It’s the only recipe I think is worth making out of that book, to be honest. I’m sure they have published better books!

I had some cravings for French food recently, read about it here

I collect recipes on this Pinterest board, take a look.


#8 in the Judging a Photograph series

More about when judged a photography competition on Falcondale Life blog

Last week I introduced the 50th anniversary Gold photography competition at the historic Knaresborough Camera Club, which I was lucky enough to judge. Space did not allow me to cover all the things I wanted to show you from that competition last week. So this blog post follows on from last week. Some club members have kindly given me permission to reproduce their pictures. However to begin with here is one of my own, just a snap taken with my phone as I set off for the judging evening. I think this box is as old as the club! It contains all the print entries for the competition and carrying it I felt a bit like the chancellor on budget day.

More about when judged a photography competition on Falcondale Life blog. Knaresborough Camera Club print box

As I explained previously, there are three categories and only one is for prints. There are two further categories of projected (i.e. digital) images: One standard projected category and one “projected plus” for the club members who have a habit of winning or doing very well. This means that photographers of all abilities have a good chance. The club uses a projector in a darkened room to display the images one by one as the judge talks through them.

Panning Photography – Tips

The winner of the Projected category was an exciting shot “Malcolm Campbell’s Legacy” by Richard Bryant. If you’ve ever taken a photography course then sooner or later you will have a go at taking a panning photo. If you never have, do give it a try!

Reduce the shutter speed and hold the camera very steady. (Perhaps try an eighth of a second for your first go). Point the camera at a moving object like a vehicle and track as it goes past you. Make sure the camera doesn’t move up or down, only from side to side. You’ll have to stand fairly far back so you can keep the object in sharp focus within the depth of field. After you have started to move the camera, press the shutter but don’t interrupt the flow of movement. It will all be over in a split second, so keep it smooth. The trick is to keep the vehicle in the same place in the frame, even though you are moving the camera.

This is how Richard Bryant’s panning shot turned out.

Malcolm Campbell's Legacy by Richard Bryant. More about when judged a photography competition on Falcondale Life blog

Whenever I have tried to take a panning shot I have ended up with something very avant garde. Richard’s winning shot is crisp and dramatic. The boat is perfectly frozen in the frame. It looks like it is moving very fast and cuts a real dash on the water with the spray and bright orange lettering. There’s a nice reflection from it and I like the vignette on the image.

The mystery in this photo

Still, it is a very unusual panning shot and I am quite surprised to see how it turned out. If you look at the water you can see that it is a panning shot because all the little dapples of light are horizontal stripes. However take a look at the beads of spray. They are moving and the exposure is relatively long. So why are they perfectly frozen spheres and not blurred? This almost completely baffled me. It’s extraordinary to see such clear evidence of panning photography combined with separate moving objects frozen in the same photo. The two things can barely exist together.

The answer is to do with the angle of travel of the boat. Richard tells me that because it was moving at an angle towards him from a distance, he barely had to pan the camera. His fine motor skills must be very well honed to pan like this! Also I think the droplets of water in the air probably also have some forward movement and the fairly quick shutter speed which Richard is using is just perfectly right to catch them.

Final thanks and wishes

I take awful selfies, it’s really not my style, but I thought I should grab a snap while I was there. I could only fit in a section of the room! Sorry to half the club members for missing you out! Thanks for having me, Knaresborough Camera Club. It really was a tremendous honour and great fun. Congratulations on all the super shots which made it so hard for me to choose. May you go from strength to strength in your next 50 years.

More about when judged a photography competition on Falcondale Life blog

Read the previous blog in this series here

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There’s such a lot going on in my head and in my family and in my life at the moment that I don’t know if I’m coming or going. I used to work with a lady who would say at times like this “I don’t know whether to wash or bake”. A nice expression but those are not literally the issues in my life right now. So for the sake of reflecting and slowing down a little, I’ve decided to blog a list.

What's on my List for Thursday on Falcondale Life blog?

What am I …. Listening to?

I spend quite a bit of time with music radio on in the background or in the car. I listed to BBC radio 6 music mostly, although not really at the weekend when they schedule their more leftfield programmes and (save me!) jazz. The weekday afternoon show with Radcliffe and Maconie is my favourite. However it’s radio 1 that wakes us up in the morning and definitely works best as an alarm clock. The whole pop zoo radio thing is pretty difficult to sleep through. Innit.

What am I …. Eating?

I don’t seem to be able to eat normal bread any more without getting tummy ache. However I don’t think the problem is gluten, I think it’s yeast or some preservative. Asda sell Polish sourdough which tastes like nothing on earth until you toast it, and then it becomes DIVINE. Especially the sunflower loaf. Apparently back in the 17th century I had Polish ancestry and I’d like to think that’s why it suits me but let’s be honest. I’m about as Polish as a tin of Mr Sheen.

What's on my List for Thursday on Falcondale Life blog? yellow rose flower

What am I …. Reading?

Well it’s Lent and I’m reading the book of John in the Bible using daily emails which my church send out. I think really I’m supposed to read entire chunks but the truth is I’m only reading the focus verses. They really shouldn’t give me the option of missing bits out because I totally will. You’ve probably heard this one, John 3 v 16 before: “For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” But do you know what comes next in verse 17? “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world but to save the world through him”. See? If you think God is all about being judge-y and condemning, well nope.

What am I …. Watching?

I struggle to find telly I like ‘cos I’m a dreadful fusspot who doesn’t like the police. Not on the telly, anyway. I have an aversion to detectives and very English murder. And if I see another plot-line based around amnesia I will SCREAM. I tried watching SSGB which is hilariously bad and which ultimately helped me get a good nap on the sofa. It doesn’t match up to the other Nazi dystopia The Man in the High Castle on Amazon. That was almost too dark but I stuck with it because it was just so well done. I’m glad I did because I was riveted. Although as a viewer you have to choose between your favourite Nazis and that messed with my head. I mean, sheesh.

What's on my list for Thursday on Falcondale Life blog - pine trees by the ocean

What am I …. Planning?

2017 is the year we go to the USA for a holiday. We have planned this for about 6 years but quite honestly the planning has mostly been mental, not practical. Our financial planning now looks inadequate thanks to the pound nose-diving. We’re going to see the total eclipse of the sun on 21st August – with luck. If you’ve ever seen one you will know that it’s a pretty overwhelming experience and I haven’t really thought about what happens if my children freak out. We’re going to be in the USA for about 18 days but so far have only booked the flights and three nights in a hotel. We’re going to see relatives and will stay with them for a while but if anyone can give us tips on cheap New York car hire, or things to do in darkest Nebraska I will love you forever. So expensive!

Take a look at my Travel – Wishlist board on Pinterest, or read more about foods I’ve swapped in this post



Cuddle Fairy