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

Wednesday 18 July 2018


On yet another gorgeous day at the weekend we went for a walk up Latrigg, a small fell in the shadow of Skiddaw, overlooking the lovely town of Keswick in the Northern Lakes. It's easily accessible from the town centre and makes for a delightful gentle climb to be rewarded with some fabulous views from the summit.

The pathway begins in the woods and gradually opens up to reveal views of Bassenthwaite Lake to the North and Derwentwater to the South.

Once at the summit there is a clear view  overlooking Keswick and across Derwentwater towards Catbells and down towards Borrowdale.

It was a beautiful day for a walk, even if everyone was so hungry when we arrived in Keswick, that we ended up eating our lunch in the van rather than at the summit! But there was another reason for our visit.

Four years ago, and with the need to pass some time in the area, I thought it would be a nice idea to walk up Latrigg and have a picnic. Lily was only thirteen months old then and was still used to being in the back carrier. She did walk the final stretch of the path to the top, however, and we found a nice flat patch of grass on which to sit down. Then, while she was happily enjoying her rice cakes and looking at the seemingly tiny town below, I took this photograph. The weather was overcast but I remember it being very warm that day and we spent a good while just enjoying the scenery, pointing out the cars and people down below..

Two years later, and when asked if I would like to go out to lunch to celebrate my birthday, I decided I didn't want to stay inside on such a beautiful day, but that I would very much like to spend some time in Keswick and walk up Latrigg to have a picnic. Being three years old by this time, Lily was well used to going out walking and enjoyed the short climb up through the woods, past the stream, alongside the thick bracken and up towards the summit. I took plenty of photographs on this day, including this one when we sat down for our picnic. By complete coincidence I had taken the picture in the same position as the first one.

It was then that I decided it would be lovely, if possible, to try to take Lily's photograph in the same place every couple of years, and this was the reason for our walk at the weekend.  The photographs really show just how Lily has grown and changed over the last few years.

I really hope we can keep this up as it will provide some lovely memories to look back on. And for anyone wondering, I also have plenty of gorgeous photographs of Lily taken from the front. ☺
J. X

Friday 13 July 2018

Another Week

It's that time of year once again. There is excitement in the air as we look towards the last week of the school year, and as usual I am ready for a break from the routine. Much as I try to make time to relax and unwind at the weekends, there is still nothing quite like not having the need to 'encourage ' a small person to get up and out of the door early every weekday morning, and the idea of those empty days stretched out ahead of us full of opportunity makes me feel very happy indeed. Places to go, things to do and adventures to be had.

The last few weeks have been a gentle slowing down, without the hurried frenzy the end of term often brings with it, so I'm hoping next week will be reasonably calm.  This last week was the school summer production with Lily playing the part of a snowflake, although it was so hot she decided she was melting! She looked very sweet in her white costume and played her part really well.

The days have been consistently hot and sunny, and although it has been lovely and we have been enjoying some shorter walks and days out, the garden is now looking a little worse for wear with much of the lawn being sun scorched. Thankfully the vegetables seem to be fairing a little better with regular evening watering and I have a feeling we are in for a good crop of tomatoes. They seem to be appearing on a daily basis, not bad for our first attempt using an inexpensive packet of seeds.

Our small raised bed contains beetroot, carrots, spring onions, courgettes and beans. What started as a bit of growing fun for Lily is once again providing us with some delicious home grown produce, and I cant wait for the sunflowers to bloom.

Mog has been showing her face more often and has discovered a new favourite place to relax by the back door. It is lovely watching Lily stroking and hugging her. Mog is so good with her and doesn't mind Lily's  fascination with her soft fur. They appear to have a mutual understanding, as is often the way with animals and children.

Last Sunday we went for a walk in the woods, then on through the fields where Lily discovered her very first Geocache all by herself.  Following an afternoon spent relaxing at home we then finished the day with fish and chips down by the sea,  a perfect way to round off the weekend.

This evening I am off out! A rare treat for me. One of the lovely mums from school has arranged an end of the school year meal. I don't often get the opportunity to dress up, made clear by Lily who looked surprised and  said 'Oh, you look pretty mummy!'  I think it means I should really be making a bit more effort on a regular basis. 😄
J. X

Monday 2 July 2018

Early Summer

Thank you so much  everyone for your kind words and responses on my previous post, they are very much appreciated and I feel so grateful for your support and encouragement. I hope I didn't come across as too maudlin, as that really wasn't my intention, and thankfully I am already starting to feel much brighter. A couple of issues have been resolved, much to my relief, and the others are a work in progress. My outlook, therefore, is becoming much more positive. Big sister has moved back home, much to Lily's delight, and life is becoming busy and happy.

The hot weather continues and we carry on making the most of this, especially in the evenings and  on weekends.
Last weekend, and just before the weather really heated up, we went out on the bikes again. Since our last outing Lily was given a much needed new bike for her birthday (it's scary how fast she is growing!) and this one cannot be attached to the back of mine. I was a little worried how she would manage, but she did brilliantly. She is definitely getting the hang of  'keep left!' or 'keep right!' in order to avoid the other track users, and insisted on going the whole distance of twelve miles in order to get an ice cream which (of course!) she didn't really eat but liked the idea of. I love so much that she enjoys going out for a ride.

Spot the sheep.

The following day we walked up to Easedale Tarn near Grasmere. And for anyone who is wondering, no, the girl does not tire easily! Although, it was a hot day and we didn't want to do any steep climbing. The track up to Easedale  is a beautiful walk and a perfect place to head to for a picnic. Quite a few other people thought so too, as thanks to the good weather it was busier than usual up there. Lily and I enjoyed a paddle to cool off but there were a few people who braved the cold in order to go wild swimming in the tarn.

We've been enjoying time in the garden in an evening.The little paddling pool is the perfect way to cool off, and the fabulously bright flamingo swimming costume is getting plenty of wear. Meals are whatever is quick and simple to prepare, much preferring to be outside than stuck in the kitchen. The latest batch of Elderflower cordial is so delicious and refreshing. The perfect summer drink.

The few vegetables we have growing appear to be doing well, even in the heat. We've already tasted the spring onions and lettuce. Sadly, the strawberries have failed again this year. I really don't know what I'm doing wrong. I dug the remains out of the large planter and have replaced them with the tomato plants, which have plenty of flowers on them now, and will hopefully produce some fruit.

This last weekend has been so lovely. We went camping  near Ullswater again and tested out the new tent. We walked around Aira Force where the cool shade of the trees was very welcome, and naturally we had a paddle in the stream. Following a picnic lunch we walked down by the lake. I've never known even the shallow water to feel warm before, that's how hot it's been recently. In the evening we managed another short walk and did some Geocaching. It's a while since we last did any and I sometimes think the adults enjoy it more, although Lily does like the excitement of discovering the little boxes of 'treasure'.

I haven't seen Mog for a few days now, although I'm not worrying as I know she's around somewhere. I think she has found herself somewhere nice and cool to hang out. There are some large trees and long grass to the back of the house and I have a feeling that's where she is. Her food is going down, albeit slowly, and I did hear the catflap at around 5.30 this morning. It would be nice to see her face occasionally, however.

I could easily get used to all of this. It's wonderful to actually feel like it's summer.

J. X