Tuesday 24 February 2015

I love Spring it is so full of promise! As I write now the sun is shining, beckoning me outside -but those bitter winds are still rather chilly so I will need to wrap up warm should I succumb to the invitation!

I have already started to sow my seeds, its probably far too early for some things so I am trying really hard not to get too carried away. The Great Big Allotment Challenge definitely got me in the mood. I know the programme isn't to everyones tastes but I loved meeting the contestants - just ordinary folk like you and me. I also loved finding out which varieties they grow, I particularly liked Rob's selection as he likes to grow heritage varieties. I try to grow these too- its very satisfying growing varieties that have been growing for years and to help save them from being lost never to be seen again. I hope to let you know more about the seeds I have chosen to grow in further posts.

Another reason I enjoyed the show was seeing the plots in the lovely weather we had last year. I definitely am feeling the need for sunshine and warmth - My greenhouse is going to be the best place for me just now- I love feeling the warm sun on my back as I sow and plant in there.

So back to the seeds I have sown some leeks - My usual Musselburgh and Bleu de solaise which is blue leafed variety that turns more violet leaved after a frost! and apparently is quite hardy. These should be pretty, perhaps I should plant some near the house to give added interest in the garden over the winter. The Musselburgh have already started to show their heads but the latter were sown a week later so no show there yet!

 In the greenhouse I have sown broad beans and peas in my usual loo rolls in pots( filled with compost) and also have sown some mangetout.

For broad beans I have gone for Bunyards exhibition, and peas- Meteor and Onward both dwarf type varieties growing to about 18 inch- 2 ft tall and for Mangetout Norli which is another  dwarf variety which will grow to about 2 ft tall.  I have grown the Norli as I found these on a reduced counter last year and have no experience of them - so these will be a bit of a surprise!

I was very excited to  receive some seeds yesterday in the post  from one of my favourite companies 'The Real Seed Catalogue - and in there were some very early dwarf peas called Oskar which I really need to get planted this week.  These promise to be a very early variety  and I will need  plant further varieties afterwards in order to have a continual production of peas this year.

I'm not sure if you have watched the  aforementioned programme but Sandra, one of the contestants said she hadn't had much luck previously with peas and that has been my experience to date so here goes lets hope for a bumper crop this year!
In my next post I hope to update you on the peppers I have chosen to grow so happy gardening until then!

Tuesday 30 December 2014

Life as been busy for us at home - I've been working longish hours and have had long journeys to work. Our young people continue to keep us busy- having four children very close together has often meant lots of attention needed all at the same time and I had in my foolishness thought that the times when they were young were going to be the hardest!! I had no idea what was in store for us.

Start of the 2014 preparations- onion and garlic bedLast year despite my best efforts, my trips down to the allotment were few and far between.
You've guessed right - one of the plans for this year is to spend more time down there. I really find it very therapeutic to be there - away from home, work and back to the simple things in life. Children, work, life will just have to wait - I need my 'Me ' time and the allotment so fills this need.
Over the Christmas holidays, hubby and I had planned to get to grips with the allotment and make it ours again as opposed to the wild wilderness it has become.
I'm rather ashamed at how bad it was!
 So over the last couple of days we have both been down digging sometimes together and sometimes separately and how lovely it was too. One of children asked recently what were we going to do when they had all left home- ' as you don't have a lot in common!'. Well how wrong they are - and we are trying hard to spend more time together - and the allotment is a great place to start! Just as long as we don't get like other allotment couples - some of which can be heard bickering away very loudly at times! 

This is my neighbours plot - we think he works overnight on it - it always looks good!We divide our work Mr H is in charge of structures layout and buildings and general up keep .We agree on what we are growing and I am responsible for sowing  and planting. It seems to work well for us !
 So lots of digging being done - the soil is lovely now after years of  applying manure and lots of digging. Even after all the rain we have had, it's an absolute delight - its dark, crumbly  and lovely .
When we first started it was full of stones, rocks and flints! It's just the weeds we need to keep on top off and that's an on going battle. Even after a couple of days digging things have improved so much. 

It was a very cold and frosty start yesterday!It was soo cold after yesterdays digging I was inspired to make some "new" wellie socks from old woollen jumpers destined for the charity shop ( sorry charity shop- I have sent you other things !!!) . There are lots of sites giving instructions and I had to look at them all for inspiration. Beware some sites offer instructions for leg warmers instead of socks! It was my toes that were cold not my legs!!
Tubular socks made from woollen jumper sleevesEventually I went for the tubular ski sock idea, using the sleeves and the ribbed cuff as the sock top. I tried the sleeve on inside out and pinned the garment so that it fitted around the leg, ankle, around the foot and toe area. I have made two pairs a shorter pair and a longer pair and  I am so hoping I don't have cold feet next time I go digging. I was on a roll and I had  previously thought about upcycling mittens  so whilst the jumper was there and the machine primed I also made these:

Mittens made from up-cycled woollen jumper sleevesSo hopefully no cold hands either!
 I am already starting to plan what I will grow and watching Nigel Slater on his new years day cooking programme ( I do enjoy watching his programmes ) he has further inspired me to get planning. So onto the Internet I go! I love looking for new seed packets  and  deciding what I will grow so that's what I'm up to  for the next few days ! I'm so glad to be back and have missed talking to you  and catching up with old friends! Looking forward to seeing what 2014 brings !!

Wednesday 25 June 2014

I love this time of year - the evenings are long - planting is still going on.  There is in the in terminal battle with the weeds, warm sunny weather, lovely sunsets , the birds are chirpy and all feels at one with world.  As you may guess this is my most favourite season - produce is starting to drift in - lettuces are doing well this year, strawberries and raspberries too.  We have had the odd picking of a pale yellow mangetout pea too!All of this keeps me sane whilst juggling a working life and family. There us nothing more satisfying than sowing planting and harvesting - it's what I dream of in the dark winter months - hoping planning and anticipating spring when the process starts again. I am getting ahead of myself I need to enjoy the present - the colours starting to develop and the smells and of course the tastes of fresh produce. It is so rewarding and relaxing to enjoy the moment - I hope you stop and enjoy your moments too ! I would love to hear what moments you enjoy too!

Monday 13 May 2013

It seems to have a been a little while since I last posted. I have had a busy month at work and slap bang right in the middle of the lovely warm sunny weather I was hit by the vomiting and diarrhoea virus. This then swept like lightening through the rest of the family and has taken us all a little while to fully recover.

Our sunny days here in Hampshire were glorious and as you can see involved flower picking _ even though it was a dandelion and our lovely cat posed beautifully and patiently for us. We could almost see the thought bubbles above his head-"Lets hope this will be quick -I  need to flop in the sun somewhere and catch the rays" Its amazing how much he will put up with for certain members of the family.

Daisy flowers were made into chains and ankles were decorated

 Some people - much against their Mummy's advice turned a little pink in the sunshine.

 And then the sunshine disappeared and my thoughts turned to cooking and a batch of plum chutney was prepared and made

 Daughter made some coffee cupcakes:
 The preserving obsession  has begun to bite again and a batch of apple and chilli jam just had to be made:
 This mouli device was a present from my sister some years ago. I wasn't very sure of it at first as I have a blender as well as a hand blender-I'm ashamed to say that I had even thought of getting rid of it but this has been so useful especially when making apple puree  and most of all when making my apple and chilli jam!

 I've been busy making more preserves but more about that later.

I still looking for my new chickens and have made a definite decision to get bantams . I'm just searching now about possible sources and hope to update you in due course. There seems  to be a shortage of them and apparently they are in very high demand this year!

 I'm sorry this is a short and sweet post but with the youngsters coming and going at home, time is short! Hoping to get back to you soon.............................

Sunday 21 April 2013

 I have been so fed up with  the damp grey dark days! I began to think that Spring would never come and that some how we would be jettisoned straight into a brief Summer before heading for the end of the year again. I do hope that this will not be the case.

Last week we made a visit to Southsea  near Portsmouth- some of us to shop at Gunwarf ( a retail outlet ) and some of us to catch some fresh air. As you can see the weather was cold and grey and we are still wearing t winter coats.

Its lovely seeing everyone letting go and we have such fun skimming stones- its  something childlike and just plain good fun.

See how grey the day was!

In sharp contrast, yesterday was glorious and I spent an afternoon down by the sea in Bournemouth. There was almost a continental feel for the day. Its funny how a little bit of sunshine can raise spirits and how  magically everyone is transformed from their winter clothed selves into their Summer persona. How amazing is that little bit of sunshine! I even enjoyed a cup of tea sitting outside a coffee shop in the sunshine and just enjoyed watching the world go by.

I am sure Spring is finally here- evidence from my garden backs this up:

 Today I finally got the greenhouse ready ! No seeds sown yet - I am way behind but hoping to catch up this week.

 The primulas are flowering:
 The tete-a-tetes are still blooming - they were such a great buy in December. I planted the bulbs which had just started to grow in my hanging basket outside my kitchen window. They have been such a joy to  watch grow and flower.

 The sunglasses came out today:
 Someone even did a bit of revision in the garden:
 After they had a little rest!

 The pear tree is starting to burst into leaf:

 The forsythia is well and truly blooming:
 There was even some blue sky
 I know it must be spring as we've been trimming the hedges
 My elder daughter did some weeding!
 The bulb hyacinths are in bloom
 Such a pretty shade of blue!
  The japonica bush is in full  flower

 And the heather is also a mass of flower- amazing as we are on chalk and they tend to like acid soil!

 This I took to remind me that I really need to plant more daffodils for next year
 Even the daisies in the grass were smiling:

And  last but not least I know its Spring as Mr H used the lawnmower AND the shredder!

Spring has finally sprung!

Monday 15 April 2013

Having started my new job recently- it was difficult to take time off this Easter. I did ask but it was  too short notice for cover to be arranged so I worked - I didn't really mind as I can have time off later. My hours do mean that I do get to spend some daytime at home with the youngsters - so we can still get out and about and the youngsters have time away from me too!- much to their relief.Hence I haven't done much crafting but I did make a throw for the back of the sofa
 Our cat spends a lot of time sitting on the back of the sofa sunbathing and watching the world go by!
 The back of the sofa is starting to wear and I thought I had better make a throw for the cat to sit on-

 I made it using lots of scraps I had in the cupboard. I tried to choose mainly nautical type colours as the summer is coming and I love red cream and blue!
 I patch worked the squares and then backed the patchwork piece with a cream and navy boat pattern

 The cat has given his seal of approval but is not very fond of having his photo taken - he has a resigned look on his face!

 He has used  this quite a lot - so hopefully the sofa may last a little longer

We did get a bit of a surprise yesterday when we heard rumbling in the chimney in the living room. We were confused as the weather outside was still and sunny. The rumbling was accompanied by soot coming down the chimney and eventually a bird appeared.

 Our feathered friend was equally as shocked as ourselves. Daughter squealed and flapped around and the cat was delighted to have a play thing and immediately went into hunting mode. We eventually managed to separate the cat from the bird and then encouraged the bird to fly towards an open window. The bird escaped and flew up onto the roof of a neighbours house to recover.

 Even after we cleared up the mess the cat kept prowling around looking for his prey!
Needless to say I think he has forgotten about it today - I think it was too much excitement in one day for an ageing cat!

Friday 05 April 2013

One of my favourite things to do at Easter is to bake. In fact I do love to bake at any time. It fills a Mother's need to provide, care, nurture, and feed your children- in return the empty plate implies happy  satiated customers- a win win situation in my book! This is my stash of biscuit cutters. I have collected these over many years ( see I have always liked baking!) and even include some of my Mother's old cutters that she didn't want some years ago. There are a decent number of Christmas cutters amongst stash I do have  some Easter type ones too! I particularly love metal cutters ( we do have some plastic ones  which I am not fond of and I am trying to replace these with the metal ones when I find suitable alternatives)
 I haven't made Easter biscuits in a while  but I did some research - ( how I love the internet!) and used this recipe- Easter biscuits - the Mary Berry way. I liked this recipe because it included cinnamon and mixed spice and it was a mix that could be divided into two lots to make iced biscuits and ones with currants in. I didn't have any currants in the house so we made some iced ones and the some plain with caster sugar sprinkled on the top as they came out of the oven.

I had the cat and the rabbit cutters already. The girls and I treated our selves to two new cutters on a trip into Canterbury recently and the chick was one of our purchases! Isn't she cute?
 Half the mixture made quite a lot of biscuits-
 I love seeing them all cut out ready for their turn in the oven!
 The second cutter we bought was this happy dahlia - sun type cutter- It makes me smile and  makes me feel that summer is on its way - ( judging by the recent weather I think we maybe skipping Spring and head straight into the next season!)

 Second batch already to go!
 See - half the mix makes  a good number of biscuits!
 Already for icing:
 There was a little time between baking and icing and some were devoured before they were completed -this is all we have left for now!
 Younger daughter iced these - I just love the butterflies all jostling for the nectar!
 So we choose some pretty plates from my collection- Ones that reminded us of Spring and Easter!

 Daughter also baked and iced some cupcakes yesterday.
 Is your mouth watering yet?

 Already for tea time tonight!

Hoping your week is bringing you lots of lovely Easter treats to eat ...................

Monday 01 April 2013

 Happy Easter! Its been a strange one this year. My daughter is still at Uni and isn't back until later in the week. My elder son went out to watch the touring cars with friends. Younger daughter worked in a local cafe which left Mr H, myself and younger son who said he had too much college work to do.
 So we have delayed the traditional Easter Egg Hunt until later in the week when we are all back together again.
 Mr H and I took advantage of escaping to our local National Trust place _ Hinton Ampner
 It was a grey old day though- it had started off with blue skies and plenty of promise!
 the vegetable garden looks ready for the new season!

 The daffodils were trying bravely to bloom!
 I just love the shape of the aged and gnarled espaliered ( I think as opposed to cordonned) fruit trees
 The forsythia is on the verge of flowering - just waiting for a warmer day
 This garden is king of hidden vistas - surprising you at every turn
 Some happier daffodils!

 The topiary was cut and standing to attention!

This little rabbit keeps appearing every where - telling me its time for tea !

It was a shame it was so grey - I took this about 2.15 pm

 Thses were the plant of the week Primula crescendo- very cheery - just a little tooo bright for me. I prefer softer yellows but they did add a lovely splash of colour
 There was a fun easter egg hunt going on with plenty of happy excited children chasing around!

 I just love these gates!

 I think these maybe  Chionodoxa  - aren't they pretty!

 Another vista with an obelisk at the very far end - you can just see if you squint a little!)
 View from the ha-ha away from the house
 View back up to the house from the ha-ha
 I spy another egg!
 and another child hunting an egg!
 and a lovely ginger cat bird hunting!
 I think he has spotted the blackbird ahead!

 The sheep were baa-ing away
 I so love these wire chairs and table _ they would look lovely on my little patio by the back door!
Hope you enjoyed the tour and you had a lovely day - We're celebrating all week - I read on someones blog that Easter wasn't just for one day - and for us it certainly isn't - have a great week !

Friday 29 March 2013

My daughter and I just sooooo love porridge in the morning. Porridge and oats are so good for you. Porridge is rich in fibre which is good for bowel function  ( including soluble fibre which is also good for helping reducing cholesterol levels) and is rich in vitamins and minerals. It is also classified as a low glycaemic food which means that it releases sugars slowly  and so keeps you satiated longer.

My new job means that some mornings I am at work ridiculously early and so need to have my breakfast there. I have tried eating before setting off but I end up ravenously hungry all day. I have since realised that sticking to normal eating patterns is the best way forward.

I have tried taking the little sachets of quick cook flavoured porridges ( and my what a selection there is of them, a lot  are very sweet and some taste very artificial) but I started to think that I would be better off making my own mixes and taking them to work.

 I had a quick look to see what there is on the internet and I found quite a lot of interesting posts about precisely this.  Having read this article  How to make perfect porridge from The Guardian I decided to opt for pin head or steel cut Irish oatmeal as it seems to give better flavour and texture.

Once in the supermarket it was quite difficult to see which oats were going to be the ones I wanted as most of the boxes didn't have transparent windows.  In the end I went for The Oatmeal made by Rude Health  which is a mixture of pinhead and medium grade oatmeal. I'm hoping this will give a creamy porridge with some texture.
 Today I thought I would prepare a no cook overnight porridge oats and having looked online, this is what I did:
1 cup of pinhead/ medium oatmeal
2 cups of milk
A sprinkle of cinnamon
A sprinkle of ginger
A teaspoon of runny honey
Some chopped dates

I placed all the ingredients in my new microwaveable mug which has a handy clip-on ( no spill so far) lid and will leave it  overnight. Hopefully the oatmeal  will absorb some of the liquid and will soften to a slightly chewy texture- I do hope so as it will be my breakfast tomorrow. All I need to do  now is to remember to pick it up in the morning. I will take some extra granola and raisins to sprinkle on top just before serving.

If all else fails and it is still sloppy in the morning I will  probably microwave it for a couple of minutes- to turn it into a hot porridge.

Later this weekend I will have a go at using the oatmeal to make a proper hot porridge and I will let you know how it goes!!

Thursday 28 March 2013

Parents night comes round far to quickly for my liking. Having two now at university  does allow us some relief . However we do still have two at home and although they are at college we are called- no-"invited in" to see the tutors when there is " cause for concern".
My Spanish Exercise book circa 1974- in the days when covered books with wallpaper remnants!

We even used real ink!

 We also wasted nothing - this book is full of spanish, and in the spaces : Richard 11 notes, Silas Marner notes and even  genetics for biology !

 I think my fear or dread of this most tortuous of nights dates back far into my past - where comments were often- Miss O ( my maiden name) could do better......... It would help if Miss O concentrated and didn't gaze out of the window............or even if she brought in her homework...........
I positively detested those evenings- I did so hate disappointing my parents.

These days I still hate them but now from the view point from the other side of the fence.  How often I have attended all happy faced and smiley wondering what wonderful things my precious child has done only to hear that history is sort of repeating itself! In fact if a teacher reports something wonderful or is glowing about my child ( and this does happen despite my previous comments) I positively fill up with tears as I become immensely proud. It is an evening of roller coaster emotions.

A  hand drawn map of where we were going to meet on a trip- no sat nav then !
 Does the term "Parents Night " give you nightmares or did you or  have you  had better experiences ?

Also French!

 For my part this is one evening after which a large glass of something cool white and made from fermented grape is called for! and I am off to find my glass and the fridge!

Monday 25 March 2013

I started a new job at the end of February and I am still settling in. It means longer days  at work  and more time at home. Its the early starts that I'm still getting used to - I am slowly getting to trust the alarm clock to wake me up in time to get to work. I am having to be firm with myself not to check the clock every hour!
I have found the last month pretty tiring - not only due to the long days but there is also the initial adrenaline rush and the subsequent  dip in energy. Other members of staff also started at the same time - most of these hadn't worked in this environment before and so there was a lot of learning going on. Needless to say we are all settling in nicely  and with the days getting longer - getting up shouldn't be a problem!

I have also made trips to see the young people in University - one to Coventry and one to Canterbury. Both trips are do able in about 2 hours each way.   I just point my little car in the right direction and off she goes!
We also have had some bad news in the family, my uncle died ( My Dad's  brother)  It was lovely (obviously sad) in that both my sisters and I and my Mum and Dad attended. I hadn't seen my cousins in about 20 odd years and it really hit me that this was an end of an era. It was quite apparent that we were no longer young twenty somethings despite how we may feel like  inside. It was a good do and my Uncle had a good send off. My funereal antenna must have been working on overtime because everything this week on T.V and radio seem to  have alluded to funerals and dying.

On a happier note I did however manage a trip down to the poor old allotment. I say poor - because every time I plan to spend some time there either the weather or another event puts a stop to my trip!. On Thursday - the weather forecast wasn't looking good. I desperately needed to get out in the fresh air and so I took a chance. The raspberries didn't do well last year. They were choked out with couch grass  and very neglected. I managed to clear the whole bed of the grass and just finished in time for lunch and rain!
Started- all that grass has to go!
Getting there! The middle area of the raspberries is looking very depleted and so I think I will try replanting some of the new outer growths there- after I have dug in some good well rotted compost and manure. I am mightily relieved that I have managed to clear the area. Hopefully we will have better rasps this year!
At long last finished
My next task is to sort the strawberry beds - these are also blighted by the encroaching couch grass. I think I will lift the strawberry plants out, remove the grass and the roots, add manure and compost ,  use weed suppressing membrane and replant the strawberry plants through it. Hopefully I will be able to cover this with straw or bark chipping. A job for over the Easter weekend I think.

 Hoping the weather isn't too bad where you are and fingers crossed that this week brings warmer weather.........

Wednesday 06 March 2013

You may have heard of the Watercress line. This is a steam railway line which is run by volunteers. In its hay day the steam trains carried Watercress from the local farms up to London or as it probably was then - "the Big Smoke".

The train line at one point went from Winchester across country to the market town of Alton. Nowadays the trainline ends at Alresford. The trainline from Alresford to Winchester disappeared a number of years ago and is gradually being repurposed as time goes by.

This week end gone was one of their Steam gala events. People come far and wide to attend and wonder at the steam and the engines from a bygone era.

 We have a lot of fun memories of these trains. When the children were little we lived right next door to the train line

 The children were able to watch the trains from the back bedroom window and inevitably my son as a young child became a train lover.

 The steam line provided him with many years of voluntary work and gave him valuable experience as a teenager. He worked on the platforms, helped in the signal box, helped restore and even clean out the trains. Many a time he came home black with soot from head to toe!

It was this experience that sent him down the engineering route as a career.

 The teashop on the platform provided us with many an hour of entertainment when the children were small. We could sit at the tables outside and sip tea and juice and watch the hustle and bustle in the warm sunshine.

The tearooms had that damp old fashioned smell which reminded me of Lake District holidays when I was a child - but thats another story!

The Watercress line have lots of events all year round- so if you are close by why don't you pop in and take a look!

P.s Apologies for the quality of the photos- I took them on my phone which I recently dropped- hence the poor quality.

Saturday 02 March 2013

Some time ago - early in 2012 in fact - I booked the window in our local library- for a small rental fee . It was after Christmas - in those dark and grey days when I thought why not? And to be truthful I had totally forgotten about it until the middle of February this year when someone mentioned half term.   There was that awful moment when I suddenly remembered that rash booking and I panicked thinking I had nothing to put in the window! I needn't of worried- once I started looking I had more than I thought to display!
 The end of the two weeks is nearly up and I have been delighted to see the number of people who have  stopped to take a look!
 I have been decanting again - this time Mirabelle plum brandy! I made it two summers ago using the beautiful small little yellow plums and a not very expensive brandy. It wasn't quite ready last summer - it was still a little harsh but my how smooth it is now- with lovely plummy/prune y undertones.

Delicious!- Mr H is not so fond of it - plenty more for me I say.

I think he had made a decision not to like it before he even tasted it. He is not really a fruit liker so I should't have been surprised when he pronounced his verdict.

Its still very chilly here but quite sunny this afternoon. Tomorrow is also looking good so I am looking forward to making a long awaited trip to the allotment to catch up on some digging and perhaps a little plum brandy when I return! Hoping you manage to catch some fresh air too..........

Wednesday 27 February 2013

I had hoped to post pictures from my spring garden to cheer us all up. I don't know about where you are but its bitterly cold here in Hampshire and oh so grey! The sun did shine for alittle bit this afternoon which was cheering.

Every timed a I tried to upload a picture I was told the server rejected it! I'm not really sure what that means - only that you can only have a few pictures today ! and not necessarily the ones I wanted to post, just the ones I could!
  And finally our cat - enjoying the view from the window!
 and looking resigned- not really enjoying having his photo taken today!

Monday 25 February 2013

Ever since I can remember I have been interested in using natural ingredients to make potions for the skin and hair. Ask my Dad- he'll tell you about all  the oatmeal and lavender bags I made when I was a teenager. I'd hang them off the taps in the bath so that the water ran through them releasing the oaty perfumed milk into the bath. Unfortunately he didn't share my enthusiasm for natural homemade beauty products.

The other day my hairdresser lamented the dryness of my hair and suggested a mashed  avocado hair balm and the light began to glow and I remembered how much I loved using fresh natural ingredients. I positively ran home to search on internet to see what I could find and  guess what I found  this 5-hair-conditioners-you-can-make-at-home. This post had a number of easy ( well 5) to make natural recipes for hair conditioners. The avocado recipe sounded interesting!

I popped off into town to buy some avocados - I ate one half for lunch ( they are packed full of vitamins including the  vitamin B's , monounsaturated fats (good for lowering cholesterol), lutein (good for eyes and skin) and much more)  so that I get the benefit internally.

 Then later on  I will mash the other half with olive oil and some essential oils- probably lavender ( for calming and relaxing), and then coat my damp hair with it, cover with  a cheap shower hat ( I use the freebie ones from hotels) and wrap in a warm towel and leave for at least 20mins - probably longer, several hours if I can manage it.

Half for lunch and half for my hair!

If I was clever I would leave it on overnight but I'm not sure Mr H would be very  keen on waking up  next to a woman covered in avocado and essential oils and wrapped in a shower hat, so I think a couple of hours during the day  (when the family are not around- so there are no funny jokes ) will suffice!

 Then another day I  might try the coconut oil recipe as I think have a 500g pot lurking in the back of the cupboard - I just have to find it..........

Sunday 24 February 2013

Another busy week has passed in the H household with visits to daughter in Canterbury and today I'm off to visit  my son in Coventry! I can't believe they have gone to to places both approximately two hours away from home and both beginning with C. Inevitably as  busy mum  I get them confused( ie son and daughter are in the opposite city!) but as long as go to the right place to visit then things are ok!
This is a very quick post and hope to catch up with you in a day or so... and I leave you with this war time poster- 

This makes me smile and it makes my offspring want to keep some!  .........

Friday 15 February 2013

The sun has finally come out and it feels like spring is on its way.

Its been a funny old week with alight dusting of snow one day. The primroses were smiling bravely!

I finally got round to making a batch of marmalade:

My daughter made some peanut butter cookies_ yummy

 I made some chocoltae chip fairy cakes...
 I do miss the chickens- I had to buy eggs!
 and Daughter made a second set of cookies
 and they have all gone- time to make some more munchies I think!

Sunday 10 February 2013

It's unusual for Mr H and I to be in the study working together! Coffee and Muse playing - I could get used to this!

The last few weeks have been full of poorly offspring and it looks like we are not out of the woods yet with younger son succumbing this weekend.  Some times I think it would be so much better if it all happened close together and then it would be all over and done with! but then I remember the times when they were little and ill at the same time - exhausting.
I am relishing the time I am having with them and being able to look after them- all though I'm not sure that my patient nurse persona could carry on for ever!

I have been busy - I've made some pickled onions with some some shallots I had in the fridge - funnily enough  it was Janie's post  ( from The Hedge Comber) about the beef and shallots that reminded me about the ones in the fridge.  I had wanted to pickle them before Christmas but just had run out of time!.

So how did I make them? I took the unpeeled onions and popped them in a heatproof dish and covered them with boiling water for one minute. I then strained them and poured cold water over them to cool them. This makes it easier to peel. I top and tailed each one with a pair of kitchen scissors . Peeled them popped each onion into a large china bowl and covered them with table salt. The bowl was then covered, placed into a cool place and left overnight.

 The next day -the salt was rinsed off with cold water. I sterilised my jar ( I used a kilner jar) by putting it into the dishwasher first and then into a hot oven - about 140  degrees Centigrade for 15mins. The rubber ring had been removed before hand and was sterilised by placing in simmering water for ten minutes or so.
 Once the jar was cool - the onions were packed into the jar
 and the topped up with a ready prepared pickling vinegar.

The jar was sealed  and then left for a couple of weeks to mature!

Et voila - homemade pickled onions!

 Would you like the opportunity of winning free advertising space for your blog? Janie at The Hedge Combers is offering just that. The blog must be a foodie one or one about country living- so why not pop over have a look and let her know why you want to be considered. I have entered just to set the ball rolling- I know there are some fantastic blogs out there! So what are you waiting for!

Janie's blog is a lovely blog about life on the farm with her ducks, foraging and cooking with lots of lovely photos. She has just completed a mammoth 24 hour blog with lots of giveaways recipes and posts- so do take a look you won't regret it!!!

Monday 28 January 2013

With being housebound due to the snow most of last week, my preserving instincts started to rise again. It does become a bit of an obsession with me and one that sometimes I do have to control. I think it must be a deep rooted urge to store ( a bit like a squirrel) and to nurture and provide for my family.

This morning there were three punnets of raspberries looking at me when I opened the fridge at breakfast time ( the other punnet was eaten last night for tea and delicious it was too!)
and being very mindful of the recent report about throwing away and wasting food I though I had better do something with them promptly.

Working out the quantity of  sugar needed!I resorted to my trusty cook book - the internet!. Actually I often spend hours perusing my cookbooks and the recipes I have collected over the years but today I thought I would see what the world wide web had to offer:

I loved Leda's story about her father who kept her potted gifts for something special- this is such a lovely story and actually struck a note with me. In my early days of preserving I found it difficult to disturb and open my jars and loved having a full cupboard. Now I would rather they were opened and enjoyed as I know there are more recipes to try and I need more space to make more!
I love my French copper jam pan!
I love recipes that have a bit of history to them or at least an anecdote and so I thought I would share these posts with you. In fact I used a combination of  recipes from Very Berry handmade's Aunt Kath's recipe and Sofya's recipe .  Sofya is from USSR but is now living in Winconsin America. You can find Sofya's recipe here

So how did I get on:

Well firstly I didn't read the recipe properly - I should of heated the raspberries in the pan on the hob whilst the sugar heated in the oven- thats what happens when you try to rush things- I don't think it made to much of a difference. Although I would choose to heat the raspberries next time. Also I used jam sugar -which has pectin added and I did get a good set. Sometimes I like a runnier jam.
The raspberries as you can see were not the dark sweet juicy ones of summer/ autumn and so inevitably the taste isn't quite up to the jams of the later season. Finally I didn't wait for the jam to cool for a few minutes before bottling- as you can see the jars on the left of the pictures - the fruit has floated to the top where as a few minutes later the fruit remained evenly through out the jam!  All in all I  achieved what I set out to do and I have a lovely jam to have with my tea today!

Next time I  want to try this raspberry and jalopeno jam - it sounds very intriguing!

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