Friday, 12 September 2014

A good day

Wednesday was a good day:

* Little G's first morning at 'big school'. He was so happy trotting off, not giving me a backward glance. His brother was very proud of him in his new school uniform! My baby boy all grown up.

* a wonderfully clean house and pile of freshly ironed clothes after my cleaner had been. I am sooooo enjoying having a cleaner again!

* had this little lot was delivered, ready to make a chunky blanket for snuggling under in front of the telly, inspired by Kate's blanket at Just Pootling

* I am loving the beautiful September we have been having. Wednesday was a particularly lovely day - just a few puffs of white clouds. I sat in the garden in the evening sun at about 6.30pm. Baby E was asleep in her pram on the patio, Little G was chilling in front of the telly while his big brother was at football training. I actually read some of the weekend papers for 10mins, basking in the warm sun before it went down behind the trees.

* Baby E was a dream baby on Wednesday. Having done an enormous, leaking, complete-change-of-clothes-required nappy in the morning, she was super-happy and chilled out the rest of the day. She gave her first proper chuckle - one of those heart-melting, bubbly, belly chuckles that babies do which make you want to laugh along with them. Thankfully it was in response to Daddy being silly but I was also stood right next to them. So much nicer for us both to witness it, and for it to be caused by Daddy, as he misses so much of the good stuff when he is at work all day.

* leftover apple & blackberry crumble, eaten cold, whilst watching the Great British Bake Off - delicious! Followed by some crochet in front of GBBO. Most evenings are filled with a cycle of feeding and rocking Baby E to sleep, but she was so chilled yesterday that she dozed or sat happily in her bouncy chair all evening, so it was a rare treat indeed for me!

Yesterday? Not such a good day....but I'll say no more about that!

Have a lovely weekend!

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Spots (and a few stripes!)

I think I have a slight obsession with spots - red with white spots to be precise! It all started with my table cloth in our old house and has progressed from there...

And these were all in the kitchen (even the nail file!)! 

Not even Baby E has managed to escape!!

Wednesday, 27 August 2014


So it's almost the end of August and the end of the summer holidays. It has been a rather surreal summer for me due to the arrival of baby E in mid-June (she's now 10weeks old!), swiftly followed by Mr W breaking his wrist. That first few weeks were hard, but Mr W has basically had the whole summer off as sick leave, only returning to work this week!! Although he has been very limited in what he could do (he couldn't pick the baby up or change her nappy) and was in a lot of pain, it has been so much help having someone around to get the boys a drink, put a DVD on for them, kick a football around in the garden etc while I'm feeding the baby (which I have been spending a LOT of time doing!) We have also had lots of family days out as E is much more settled when we are out and about as she sleeps in the car or pram. We have realised we have some fantastic friends too, who have been dropping meals and cakes round for us!

2 months old already!

And now suddenly summer feels like it has gone. Bank Holiday Monday was abysmal and we ended up turning the Aga on and lighting up the wood burner in the evening as the house felt so cold and damp. It was W's 7th birthday on Monday too, so it was a shame that the weather wasn't better. He enjoyed it anyway though, as we had some friends over and had a little tea party.

Happy 7th Birthday to my big boy!

I usually like the changing of the seasons, and look forward to Autumn - darker nights, lighting the fire, casseroles and soups, picking blackberries, crumbles, chutney & jelly making, and the return to routine that school brings. But this year Autumn seems to have landed rather suddenly, although the weather forecast I have just watched promises some warmer weather next week... I shouldn't complain too much though, as we have had another lovely summer this year really. I guess I feel like summer passed me by a little in my sleep-deprived fog!

I'm looking forward to getting back to normality (or developing a new normality with a baby in the house) once the boys are back in school. Little G will be starting in reception class in September (although only a few mornings and afternoons initially to settle in). Thankfully I have managed to find a cleaner to help me out - a friend recommended her to me and so far she has been fantastic. She practically spring cleans the house every week - it's never been so clean! And she does all the ironing too! We've also got the gardener mowing the lawns while Mr W is recovering, so the house and garden have never looked so good!

Here are a few pics of my summer:

Sprinkler fun in the garden

A day trip to Hunstanton

One of our favourite places - Lyveden New Bield

Little G having a go at archery at Mary Arden's Farm, Stratford Upon Avon

The man-made beach at Rutland Water

Blackberries picked from our garden

Beautiful Pembrokeshire

Fun on the beach with cousins

Finally getting a bit of crochet time - i have been having severe withdrawal symptoms since E arrived!

Ooey gooey chocolate fudge cake

Beach selfie with my little darling!

Saturday, 19 July 2014

We're Jammin'

I have a serious "thing" for jam making. Well, not just jam really, but all preserves, chutneys, pickles, jellies, curds & flavoured spirits. We inherited a couple of clumps of rhubarb, a very old apple tree and two crab apple trees when we moved to this house, which as resulted in an expanded repertoire of jarred produce as I hate to even see windfalls go to waste (great for using as the base for savoury jellies).

A few weeks ago, little G and I headed off to our local PYO farm to get some strawberries. They don't seem to last very long at the farm, so I thought we'd better pick some sooner rather than later, before baby arrived. 

The freshly picked strawberries were delicious - warm from the sun, sweet and juicy.

As soon as we got home, I got down to the business of turning them into jam. I was convinced that I had pinned on Pinterest a recipe for strawberry and Prosecco jam, but when I looked for it, it turned out to be for rhubarb & Prosecco jelly! A bit of googling found me a guideline recipe for Strawberry Champagne Preserve, which I have altered to suit what I wanted to make. So here it it:

Strawberry & Prosecco Jam

800g strawberries, hulled and roughly chopped
1kg bag of jam sugar (I am big believer in jam sugar as it guarantees a set & is very quick & easy - it has the pectin already added)
200ml Prosecco
Knob of butter
Couple of saucers/plates in the freezer
Jars with screw top lids

1. Wash your empty jars & lids in hot soapy water, rinse and place upside down on a tray in a low oven to sterilise
2. Put prepared strawberries into a large saucepan & crush with a potato masher. If you prefer a smooth jam, use a hand blender to puree.

3. Add sugar and heat over a low to moderate heat, stirring continuously until the sugar has dissolved. Do not allow to boil yet.

4. Add butter and stir in the Prosecco (the butter helps disperse the foam/froth)
5. Bring to the boil over a higher heat, stirring continuously until a rapid, rolling boil that can't be stirred down is achieved

6. Leave to boil for 6 mins
7. Remove from heat. Pour small spoonful onto your plate from the freezer & leave in fridge for 1 min. Push finger through the jam - if it wrinkles and leaves a clean path through the jam, your jam has reached setting point. If it is still too runny, bring jam back to the boil for a further 2 mins & then repeat testing process with a second plate from the freezer. (Sorry, I forgot to take a picture of this step, which would have been useful to see!)
7. When it has reached setting point pour jam into hot jars and screw on the lids. If you have lots of frothy foam that hasn't been dispersed by the butter, you can skim off with a slotted spoon & discard before potting (or eat spread on a bit of bread!), as it spoils the clarity of the jam once potted.

My batch made 3 large jars and 3 small ones.

The jam was super delicious and a beautiful colour. I think it makes a huge difference to the favour if you make the jam as soon after picking the fruit as possible. In previous years I have made jam from fruit that is past its best, and it really loses its flavour and colour.

As I had so many requests from friends to try some, I decided to make a second batch the next day with the remaining strawberries. Unfortunately, Mr W had drunk most of the Prosecco whilst watching the football so I decided to use Rosé wine instead. I added the juice of half a lemon too, as I was worried the jam would be too sweet using Rosé. It turned out EVEN MORE DELICIOUS than the Prosecco version!!

So there we have it. A super-easy, super-delicious jam. 

If you've never tried jam making, give it a go. There is a misconception that it is tricky, that you need special equipment like thermometers and pectin and that it takes hours of standing over boiling jam waiting for it to reach setting point. But I've found that if you use jam sugar, it is pretty foolproof and very quick. For basic jams, you can't go far wrong by following the recipe on the jam sugar bag!

Start saving your empty jam jars!

Thursday, 17 July 2014

A new arrival

Tuesday 17th June 2014 was a momentous day for our family - Eliza Clementine Rose arrived at 8.14pm.

Yes, it's a girl! I was so convinced it would be another boy, that I was rather shell-shocked for the first day or so! I have a daughter!!

And a big girl she is too! 10lb 7oz (only half an ounce lighter than her brother!). This was despite all the midwives assuring us that she would be between 8 and 9lbs at the most! I certainly cook them big, and she was only 3 days late (compared to 9 days and 11 days late for her brothers). Just as well she made an appearance when she did, otherwise who knows how much bigger she would have got!

The labour was rather different to how I expected, although the midwife had warned me that 3rd babies tend be a little different. It was all rather stop start, especially once we got to hospital, but we got there in the end. It was another hypnobirth with no pain relief other than paracetamol! Hypnobirthing really works for me, as it is my natural inclination to turn inwards, and focus on my breathing and shut off from everything around me. The midwives were fantastic, and we were very impressed with the level of care generally (this was our 4th different maternity unit over the years, and by far the best!)

Her big brothers were not overly impressed when they heard the news, as they did so want another brother. But I can report that they are both rather smitten with her now!

So I doubt I will be blogging very much in the next few weeks, as I don't want to bore everyone to tears with baby stuff! Needless to say, I've been getting very little sleep for the last 2 weeks, but things are slowly improving. So much harder now that I have school runs to do!

Update: I didn't get around to posting this post, as Mr W smashed his wrist (his left one, and he is left-handed!) in a quad-biking accident on a work team-building day! He spent a weekend in hospital having surgery to pin his wrist back together. Eliza was only 2.5 weeks old at the time (she's now 4 weeks old), so the last couple of weeks have been rather stressful and tiring for me. Unfortunately, Mr W was supposed to be taking his paternity leave this week and in a couple of weeks time, but instead is on sick leave. So much for me having a rest while he looked after everything! He's trying his best to help, but is very limited with one hand, and still in lots of pain. I'm trying to find a reliable cleaner who can help with ironing too, and need to get the gardener to mow the lawns too.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Simple Pleasures...

* Afternoon tea for two at a beautiful country house hotel with my best friend - no husbands or children in sight! Bliss!
Rushton Hall

* A jug of flowers on my stair windowsill that I pass & admire multiple times a day - scented stocks and peonies. Can't wait for the peonies to open into all their glory.

* More embellished baby items - crocheted edge muslins this time!

* Strawberry picking with little G. Last year they were grown up high, at his eye level, so very easy to pick. Wasn't expecting to be crawling around my hands & knees to pick them this time, due to my enormous belly! They were so delicious though, so worth the effort - can't beat a British strawberry, freshly picked, warm from the sun...

* A big slab (for it was most definitely not a piece!) of raspberry & coconut cake for me & a smarties cookie for little G in the cafe at the strawberry farm after a hard half hour of picking 

* A big bowl of freshly picked strawberries & cream later on...

* a spot of Jam making - Strawberry & Prosecco Jam - totally delicious!

* Hot jam scraped from the empty pan on crusty white bread - on a par with licking the whisk & bowl after making a cake!

I'm planning rhubarb & prosecco jam later (if Mr W didn't finish off the open bottle of prosecco while watching the football last nighy!) as I spotted some rhubarb stalks ready for harvesting in the garden yesterday. I thought our rhubarb had had it this year, but it seems to be putting on a last spurt!

* Thank goodness for my (ever-growing!) collection of birkos in this warm weather. Putting on socks and shoes has become rather an ordeal of late, so my trusty birkos are getting plenty of wear. I think I may be slightly addicted though, as I now realise that I have pink, red, lilac, brown, black & bronze ones!! I only wear these threes pairs regularly though, as they are so much prettier than the other pairs.

* A big frothy cappuccino. I discovered some instant cappuccino sachets which are pretty delicious for instant. I treat myself to one every couple of days when the boys are both at school & nursery - a peaceful half hour.

* I do so love this mug. I spotted it in an antiques/junk shop but it was brand new. My eldest son is called William and we call him Willie quite often. When he was a baby, Mr W would come in from work calling "where's my little Willie?"!!! So when I saw this, I just had to get it!

* My biscuit tin - a mini replica of our Aga. So cute!

* Lemonade ice lollies from the ice cream van in the park after school. Got to keep myself cool while the boys play! Loving all things lemon flavoured at the moment especially still-lemonade - so refreshing!

* Looking forward to a child-free weekend at home with Mr W. The boys are going to our friends' for the weekend which they have been counting down the days to! Tomorrow is baby D-Day, and it would be very convenient if baby decided to make an appearance sometime over the weekend when the boys are already accommodated elsewhere. Not sure baby is aware of the schedule though...

Have a lovely weekend!