Sunday, 12 August 2018

On the Beach

If there's one thing that really makes the Summer for me then it's time spent at the beach. Long, lazy days, the warmth of the sun, and a gentle sea breeze. The soft scent of sun cream, sand between my toes, the time to relax and unwind.
At this time of year we spend a lot of our time at the beach. Our bag and picnic rug are always at the ready for a sunny day, and fortunately we have enjoyed so many of those recently. Just a picnic to throw together, grab the bucket and spade and we are out of the door.

There is something so soothing that comes from sitting on the sand, watching the waves and breathing in the salty sea air. And Lily is happy to while away her time pootling about on the beach, making sandcastles, collecting shells and poking around in rock pools. Some days we make sandcastles and sometimes sandpizzas with shells, pebbles and seaweed as toppings.
A paddle in the sea and jumping over the waves as they lap against the shore usually means getting more wet than originally intended but we soon dry off in the hot sun.

As the day comes to a close the air is cooler, the heat of the sun on our skin is replaced by our sweatshirts and we return home with salty skin, windswept hair, and sandy toes, but more importantly, happy memories of another Summer day.
J. X

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Summertime Bliss

Our Summer break is now in full swing and with this week having been a little less busy than the first, life has taken on a slower pace and I have finally managed to stop and catch my breath. 

Although the mornings are delightfully unhurried, especially if we have no set plans, my day still begins with a little face asking 'what are we going to do today?' and staring at me in anticipation.  No pressure then.

I am always grateful, therefore, that I find we are able to gain such enjoyment in simple pleasures. There is usually something to keep us occupied, whether at home or a short journey away. The beautiful sunny weather and being able to spend most of our days outside has been to our advantage. 

Our garden has been the setting for bubble blowing and cartwheel practise and Lily has decided the swing can also double as a climbing frame (I find it easier not to look at this point)! The lawn is still looking a bit worse for wear thanks to the dry weather and the raised bed is becoming more sparse as time goes on, with the vegetables gradually being put to good use. We are still waiting for the tomatoes to ripen and the last remaining sunflower to open up, but I am just so relieved they have all survived the blustery winds we've been having this week.

We've enjoyed  picnics, trips to the park and the woods, kite flying and a day spent at the beach. I find a sea breeze is the perfect way to keep cool during the hottest days, and for me it isn't Summer until I feel the sand between my toes and I've been in the water. The toffee fudge ice-cream I had was pretty delicious too!  

We really have been spoiled with warm days, sunshine and blue sky this year. It has felt like a proper Summer. And even though I am seeing the blackberries begin to ripen and the nights are  becoming darker just that little bit earlier, I really hope it lasts for a while longer.

Thursday, 26 July 2018

Raspberry Jam

We are now half way through the first week of our Summer break and  I'm really appreciating this opportunity to wind down and relax. The weather is still being good to us and already we have enjoyed some trips to the park, a picnic, a woodland walk and a visit to some very beautiful gardens. I'm sure that having a constant (and very enthusiastic) companion by my side for the next six weeks is going be a little exhausting at times but I'm determined to make the most of this precious time together. Not having to rush around each morning has become more than agreeable and I am quite happy to indulge myself knowing life will be hectic enough again once September arrives.

At the end of last week, and just before school finished for the Summer, I managed to get out and collect some raspberries.  I wasn't sure whether there would be many around this year with the weather having been so dry, but I didn't need to be worried as there were plenty on offer.  I always know when raspberry season is upon us, as our walks take longer than usual with Lily stopping constantly to  eat this delicious and sweet little fruit. And of course, half the joy is in having picked them herself.

I set aside some time straight after work, and took myself off to a  lovely and quiet spot where I had noticed some raspberries earlier in the week whilst out for a run. Far too hot to wear my long sleeved top, I ended the afternoon a little more scratched and sore than when I started, mainly thanks to my determination to get the best raspberries, but it was still worth it for the boxes of fruit I took home with me.

And the reason for all my efforts? Delicious raspberry jam. Following last year's failed strawberry crop and the need to actually purchase some for my jam making, this year I was determined to use completely fresh, hand picked (by myself) fruit. And I really much prefer raspberry jam anyway.

I managed to gather a little over 2kg of fruit and made my jam in two lots as I don't have a pan large enough to do it all in one batch. Altogether it made over ten jars of jam. 
For each batch you will need...

Just over 1kg of raspberries (I used 1.1kg. If you use 1kg then I suggest you use a little less sugar)
1kg bag of granulated sugar
8g pectin
Juice of one lemon
Knob of butter

Put the washed raspberries in a large pan and heat gently, stirring all the while until the fruit softens, the juices are released, and it turns this amazing glossy red colour.
Add the sugar, pectin and lemon juice, then simmer gently until the sugar is dissolved.

Add a knob of butter and bring to a rolling boil for around five minutes. Do the saucer test and boil slightly longer if necessary. 
(I found five minutes was perfect)

Being careful not to splash yourself, pour into sterilised jars and cover.

Spread it on hot buttery toast and  enjoy.
This is a really simple and delicious recipe with just the right amount of set.
J. X