Sunday, 30 August 2009

The County Show

Today we ventured forth to the local county show, celebrating it's 160th year, one can only imagine how it has changed since the very first one (it is certainly a lot more commercialised now, £2 for a coffee at some stands-what cheek!) but very pleased to see a lot of traditional arts and crafts being displayed, promoted and encouraged from willow weaving to wood-turning.

GS loved the Dancing Digger display, Punch & Judy, and the animals on show, whilst Mr G.T made the most of the sweetie stands & admired the tractors!

I became inspired by some of the beautiful craft stalls there to maybe build up some items of my own to show in the future, it would definitely be a giggle to have a stall somewhere for the day, I am sure my family would help, I'll have to look in to it.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Reminiscing and despair

This is the beautiful view over Derbyshire from the platform of the hotel where Mr G.T & I had our wedding reception 3 and a bit years ago. It's the first time strangely we have returned to it since that day and it was to celebrate my Grandma's 80th birthday last weekend with a family meal. I loved returning, it was such a special day and it naturally has a place in my heart for that reason, but it is also just such a breathtaking view, and a beautiful place. Another happy couple were celebrating their special day that night, and it made me want to do it all over again in a silly way, one of those days you'd like to relive again given the chance.

We went to our first car boot Sunday and Mr G.T was suitably impressed, he bought more things than I did (I merely got a lb of delicious plums! but they are oh so amazing....look!)

Despite the fun moments of the weekend I am sat here now feeling quite exhausted; physically because it's been a hectic day at work and looks set to be as equally busy tomorrow, but also emotionally as certain family members are driving me to despair with their attitudes and behaviour. I love my family, but try as hard as I can they annoy me at times. If only I could try and change their ways a little, make them appreciate what they have instead of always complaining about things and seeing themselves as hard done by, try and get them to open up and be close to me a bit more rather than being brusque and rude, it isn't hard to try and see things from other people's point of view, yet some seem to really struggle and only have a 1-sided view that they refuse to shift from. It's tiring and I am at the point of despair really, not knowing what to do. I desperately want them to be happy, and to enjoy all we can together, but on each rejection and day of sniping & moaning from them I wonder what it is I can try to do to make things better. I think after all I have been through this year alone I'd have more than enough reason to be introvert and moody, but i am not, I try to reach out to them still. It hurts quite a bit.

I nearly forgot to mention my crafting, I haven't started the bunting yet as I thought i'd do a few mini-projects to perfect my sewing before i tackled something for GS's room, but I am pleased to say I have made a couple of fabric drink mats that suit our living room colours beautifully, i'm still in dire need of skills but am perfecting them slowly but surely, every project will be a lesson in how to improve and what I can try better next time.

Here's one of the mats

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Delicious Blackberries on the Hill!

The fields behind our house have been overflowing this year with luscious ripe purple blackberries, so we have spent many hours already up to our elbows in thorns collecting the rich harvest and yesterday it paid off as we made 12 jars of blackberry jam mmmm delicious!
It's my first ever jam, and under the supervision of GN it was touch and go for ages whether we were going to get to the setting point or not but hurrah we made it!
I think most of these we will give away to friends and family, but the next batch we are hoping to make a bit nearer xmas and put them in hampers & tea sets for presents (with a batch of homemade biscuits or scones, some clotted cream maybe and a pack of tea!)
Here is our bounty

I have to admit, so many bloggers make jams and pickles and make it look very easy but it always seemed so daunting to me, all that fruit, all that sugar, and a "setting point" gaaaah but I am pleased to say that despite my hesitation it is actually well worth giving a try!
Here is the recipe we followed for anyone out there who hasn't already and fancies giving jam-making a try;

4lb fruit (we used blackberries obviously but it could be strawberries, damsons, cranberries etc)
3 pints water
4lb sugar
a knob of butter
1 lemon
10-12 jam jars depending on size

Wash the fruit and destalk/stone if necessary, you could also use frozen fruit you had prepared earlier.

Using a heavy based large saucepan pop in the fruit, add the water and bring to the boil, then turn down slightly if necessary to simmer for about 45 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat completely, add the sugar and juice of the lemon and stir until completely dissolved, then add the butter and allow to melt.

Turn up the heat again to boil rapidly for 15-20 minutes, although ours took a bit longer to reach setting point. Keep a close eye on the jam so it doesn't catch at the bottom of the pan and burn, an occasional stir should stop this happening.

Whilst the fruit is boiling, pop the jam jars and lids upside down in the oven for 10-15 minutes on 150 degrees c (300f/ gas mark 2) and then once they have had enough time keep them turned upside down on to a clean tea towel/cloth until ready to avoid contamination.

It may seem trivial but it is really important to sterilise the jars and keep them as air tight as possible at all times as the warm fruit and conditions are ripe for bacterial growth which can be quite a nasty unwanted side effect from such a delicious treat! Akternatively you could boil the jars or use sterilising tablets.

Once your jam has been boiling for 10-15 minutes start testing for the setting point. This is easier than it sounds, and involves putting a little teaspoon of the jam on to a plate and then popping it in to the fridge for a few minutes to cool, if when you check on it the jam has started to solidify (has a skin that wrinkles when you prod it rather than liquidy) if it isn't quite set yet keep boiling and try again in a minute or so.

Once you are happy setting point has been reached then remove from the heat and leave to stand for 15 minutes, then carefully spoon in to the jars carefully (i know, i'm a nag, but hot jam is very painful if it contacts skin and burns easily!) then once each jar is full to the neck then seal with the airtight lids immediately and leave to set.

The jam usually keeps for 5-6 months if stored correctly.

Happy jamming!!

Monday, 17 August 2009

Birthday Celebrations

My GS turned 2 yesterday so the week has been busy to say the least. We decided to get him a wooden playhouse for the garden which he adores, and we celebrated yesterday with a trip to the Zoo and a picnic. His interest in animals and nature is growing, he loves to name animals, imitate them and watch with keen interest what they do, so the Zoo was a natural place for us to take him and it didn't disapoint.

I was especially impressed by the way the Zoo highlighted global issues surrounding each animal, particularly levels of extinction, habit destruction and illegal meat/product trades. It's far from their natural environment, but for some species preservation in zoos are their only chance for survival and, hopefully one day, a return to levels of population in their natural habitats. I still find myself on a steep learning curve about the level of destruction in this world, both local and global. It's hard to know where to start on making things better, small steps that have a big impact along the way I guess, if only there was something quicker and more effective we could all do to make a huge difference.
As my son turns only two I think back to the day I gave birth, how quickly those 2 years have passed, and also forward to what future lies ahead for him.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

It's been awhile...

I took a break from blogging this week as little GS came down with the Swine Flu (well "suspected", they don't confirm cases anymore in the UK) pleased to say after a week of quarantine and some anti-virals and he is now right as rain, just a tad grumpy at the whole affair and choosing to be particularly Toddler-ish, such is his prerogative!
To cheer him up we put our tent up on the garden Thursday and he's revelled in it, I remember my parents doing this in our back garden when I was growing up in the summer holidays and it provided hours of entertainment; somehow eating your dinner/playing board games/reading a book/telling stories is made so much more interesting when done in a tent. GS found particular delight in using the front porch section as a drive through garage for his ride-on Quad bike, and equally enjoyed it when it rained and we sheltered in it together drinking tea (me) & juice (him) listening to the rain pattering down. It has encouraged Mr GT and I that we should get a bigger, more family friendly tent and go off for a camping holiday next year, maybe trying it out just the 2 of us on a test run weekend first, I am hoping we get on well with it, I love the idea of being away from it all, enjoying the outdoors and surviving on just the basics while having the best fun ever, I feel it will bring out the best in us, well that's the hope anyway, stay tuned to see if that bright idea works!

Back on track "craft-wise" today though, I nipped in to my local habersdashery on my lunch hour from work (yes, i have to work some Saturday's, i know- it should be against the law, but it pays the bills) and had a half hour of total excitement fumbling through the off-cut bins, caressing the rolls of fabrics, checking out all the cute buttons and oohing at lovely threads, in the end I was quite reserved and bought half a metre of lovely soft cream fabric, a few off-cuts and some blue cotton tape I need to make GS some bunting for his bedroom. I'm too tired tonight though to start anything (i think tiredness would equal mistakes) so I'll tackle it with gusto tomorrow. The Library has been busy today, busy for most of the summer holidays so far in fact with the children coming in very keen to participate in our Summer Reading Scheme and parents overjoyed at the fact their children suddenly love the library and books (and are quiet when reading them through the miserable rainy August days we've had so far) even if it is after being seduced by incentives of stickers, puzzle boards and magic pens as prizes!