Preparing

 

So far, November has been a month of preparing for the months ahead. The Swallows have left for the warmer climate of Africa and flocks of migrating Geese have been passing high up in the sky.  Beth and I love watching these birds fly in their perfect formation, and I like to pretend they are waving their wings to say hello to us.  A friend has been given some pheasant and game birds, and I’m hoping we can use their feathers for some crafts. Is that maybe a little morbid? I’m not sure.

Have you ever watched the BBC’s “The Great British Year”? If not I’d really recommend it.  We don’t have a TV so I’m usually a bit late in finding out about these things but I’m glad I discovered it. It gives you an insight into what different animals and plants endure in the cycle of one year, and it’s my kind of television.

On the subject of the BBC, Graham and I have started a bit of a silly Sunday night habit.  When the kids are settling for the night we put on radio 6 and we tweet the presenter so he will read out what we have said.  This Sunday’s show was asking what was the first record you bought and we wrote in mine was Mr Blobby. It was read out but the song was never played.  I just can’t imagine why!

Graham and I have started planning our Christmas gifts.  We try to make everyone’s gifts and this year I think we have a clear idea of what we want to do.  Beth is getting a new bike, and a few bits we know she’d like, but everything else is being hand made.  Arthur is too little to care but I know I want to make him something special since it is his first Christmas. So far Graham has bottled spicy winter ale, and at a friend’s house last weekend we made Delia Smith’s Spiced Picked Pears. It smells like Christmas in a jar and I can’t wait to eat our pears with some cold meats.  My Dad and his partner will be getting some with a nice cheese and wine for their gift, if I don’t steal it first! I have to hold off making peppermint bark because I eat it all before anyone gets their present.

A friend brought this dark chocolate mince meat for us to try out and It really is tasty.  I made it on Saturday but I added pistachio nuts and extra cranberries. Although, it has three apples in it so I don’t know how long it will last but I’d like to make it again.

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Jam, pickles and chutney

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My word! It has been a week of picking, cleaning, boiling, sterilizing, and canning.   The fruit and vegetables growing in our garden are slowly plodding along. We’ve had a few tomatoes, the odd bell pepper, and strawberries, but our leeks, onions, beetroots and garlic wont be ready to enjoy for another while.  So last weekend we raided Graham’s Parent’s green house and came home with a few fat cucumbers, tons of tomatoes, several turnips, and one Arthur-sized marrow.

The tomatoes were quickly turned into pasta sauce and put in the freezer, the turnips went into soup, and the cucumbers were sliced, salted and pickled.  Next year I’d really like to make some dill pickles.  Martha Stuart recipe looks lovely.

On Sunday morning walk we found a large clutch of wild raspberries and picked as many as we could carry.  Beth was very keen to help with the picking but couldn’t resist her share.  Nevertheless what did manage to come home was washed and turned into raspberry and ginger jam.  I didn’t follow a recipe as such, I just boiled the raspberries then after two minuets added a cup of caster sugar and three grated chunks of stem ginger.  It seemed to work out fine since the fruit had been picked only hours before and it isn’t too sweet.  I’m not sure what the difference in America is between Jam and Jelly but in the UK Jelly is something you eat with ice cream at a birthday party.  Jam you spread on toast or put in your oatmeal.

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And finally! In the buzz of canning on Monday a friend and I each picked 1.5kg of wild Brambles.  Which turned into Spicy blackberry chutney.  Sorry for the AWFUL picture quality! The jars have been labeled and will be given to friends and family for Christmas gifts.

Now what to do with that huge marrow……….?

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Elderberry syrup for sick children

Yup!  Summer is on its way in Scotland.  This means rain, warm to windy cold chills, and runny noses.  Scotland is wild, beautiful and unpredictable, and so is it weather.  This spring time cold we are fighting here is stubbornly going nowhere.  Graham and I are surviving but poor Arthur is at the receiving end of snotty nose kisses and the odd cough in his face from his adoring big sister.  She really is a dotting mother hen to this sweet little baby boy.

When we were sick as children my mother used her doctorate in botany to make us her elderberry syrup.  Elderberries are rich in antioxidants, potassium, and vitamin C, and this syrup has honey in it for its bacteria killing properties.  Oh, and it is very yummy!  My Mum also made rose hip jam but that’s for another blog.

So here is her recipe

(This is for anyone over the age to one due to the honey)

Take 1 cup fresh or 1/2 cup dried Elderberries and add 3/4 cups of water to a sauce pan.  Bring to the boil then allow to simmer for about 30 mins until the berries have softened.  Mash to get out all the goodness and then sieve the mixture.  Leave to cool then stir in 1 cup of high quality honey.  Take one table spoonful up to every two hours or even as a syrup on pancakes etc.  Stores in the fridge for up to about 3 months.

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New year resolutions

I never like to make a New Years resolution that I know I won’t keep. Too many years have been wasted on empty promises and so this year my New Years resolution is to keep New Years resolutions. Yes it might seem pretty lame, but my friend has given up much for lent and he has stuck to it since.

So the changes I want to get my teeth into this year are all small things that won’t make a dramatic difference but will make a positive impact on my wellbeing. The first one is I have decided this year I am going to curb my wasteful spending on food. Honestly, nothing excites me more than buying over priced delicious food, the more unnecessary the more thrilling it is to me. And another one is to get into baking. I am a competent cook but a really inpatient baker. Paired together my family will save money and I can still enjoy a pleasure I’ll never give up – cake!

I found this recipe for spiced honey cookies on Martha Stewart’s page but added double the ginger because we all love a good more spice in our cookies in this house. These are really delicious and easy to make. And don’t be mislead by the 6hr prep time, most of it is down to the time it takes for the icing to fully set and we skipped that step.

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A very helpful toddler is another vital ingredient.

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We decorated ours with shop bought icing and, um, ate them before I could photograph any.

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