Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Strawberries



So many posts about strawberries just now - and why not? Nothing else shouts "Summer!" quite like these shiny scarlet jewels. Punnets of local strawberries are piled on counters in many of the shops and petrol stations just now, and its a very rare trip that sees me return without one or two of the fragrant packages in my bag.



And so, several times a week I find myself with strawberries draining in the sink. What to do with all this delicious bounty?



Well, you can't really have too many strawberries and cream - probably our favourite way to eat the ripe lucious fruits just now. I like to macerate them in a spoonful of caster sugar and a splash of balsamic vinegar. It really seems to bring out the sweetness even more, and then, smothered with double cream - or perhaps even ice cream, it is truly the taste of summer.



Then, of course, there is strawberry jam. I like to make a few small batches each year - most gets eaten or given away, but keeping a couple of jars to open in the depths of winter is a treat.  I tried a new method of jam making this time, but I need to warn you in advance that it takes 3 days - a small amount of stirring and boiling and lots of leaving covered with a cloth. Anyway, I used 2 kg of berries and 2 kg jam sugar*
Rinse and hull the strawberries, but leave whole
Place berries in a large bowl, and layer up with the sugar.



Cover the bowl with a cloth and leave until next day.
The sugar will have begun to dissolve and the strawberries will have softened.
Empty the contents of the bowl into a preserving pan and heat until the sugar is dissolved.
Turn up the heat and boil hard for 5 minutes
Put the contents back into the bowl, cover and leave for 48 hours.
transfer back to pan and bring back to boil until setting point is reached - about 10-20 minutes.

Keep checking for setting point, as you don't want the fruit to be hard. I usually use the chilled saucer method: drop a dollop onto a chilled plate, wait a minute or two then push to see if it wrinkles. if it does then its ready. Or, if the jam falls off the spoon in large flakes, then it is at setting point.

Leave in the pan for 15 - 20 minutes, to allow the fruit to settle, then pot into warm sterilised jars.



What else is there to say.... just enjoy!

Strawberry and mint ice pop? Go on... it's a lovely day. Take 5 sprigs of mint, 150 g caster sugar, half a lemon and 700 ml water. Bring to the boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Turn down heat, add 500g strawberries and 1/2 teaspoon of citric acid. Simmer until the strawberries are soft. Remove pan from heat, cover with a cloth and leave to cool overnight. Strain the liquor -  push as much of the strawberries through the sieve as you can, but remove the mint and lemon. Freeze in ice lolly moulds, or you can decant into sterilised bottles and keep in the fridge to use for future popsicles, or as a syrup base for drinks, ice cream drizzles or mixed into yogurt.



 Maybe even crush one of your ice pops up and mix with a splash of Bacardi and soda water for a refreshing strawberry mint daiquiri.  Definitely a recommendation, that one.



Or, just maybe, you could eat them straight as they come. 
Hope you are enjoying the season. xxx


*I used jam sugar with added pectin.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Seven Days
















I am moving slowly, happy if I achieve one practical thing each day, whether it is decluttering a drawer, dealing with some paperwork, running an errand or whatever. I am also trying to find one moment of blessing each day - something that brings peace or joy. This week I am grateful for

:: A quiet spot to sit

:: Sparkling fresh herring done in oatmeal with new potatoes

:: Some trashy TV

:: The end of term and goodbye to a special teacher with a beautiful card from the children

:: Colourful flags in the harbour

:: Surprise visitor

:: A candid snap of me, by James, which I quite like.

Wishing you moments of blessing in the seven days ahead.


Saturday, June 20, 2015

Seven Days















Living quietly, enjoying tiny glimpses of sunshine - there may be a summer yet! Good food, a little crafting and some list making - with coffee and salted caramel brownie on the side, and some early morning chess games have featured in my days this week. But then a tumble resulting in a sprained ankle served as a timely reminder that those lists might have been getting a bit too long... and so I am being still - I am just being still- honestly...

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The kindness of others

 
















I have been so deeply touched by the kindness of others towards us during these last few weeks. We have received many gifts, cards and messages. We are truly blessed to have so many thoughtful people in our lives. And flowers - oh the flowers... Friends have called round, bringing love, cake, pizza, jam and sweet smelling oils, and I came home one evening to find my fridge filled with home cooked, freezable meals.My heart is full from this amazing outpouring of love we have received. Thank you all, for every word, gift and deed.

We have been living quietly, one day at a time, as they say. After the funeral, we came down with colds and coughs, not really surprising, but a reminder that after such a busy and stressful time, we have to really slow down and care for ourselves. We dosed ourselves on this delicious remedy, nourished ourselves with proper chicken soup, oh - and  ate more cake (it's the law).

Feeling a little better, and with a long overdue improvement in the weather, I decided to visit John's graveside for the first time. He is buried in a very familiar and beautiful spot, and now I have a real connection with that place. Later I wandered down to the beach with my flask of coffee and new crochet project, and sat listening to the comforting sound of the endless waves crashing on to the shore. Yes -just one day at a time... xx

Thursday, May 28, 2015

In the month of May


My beloved John slipped away last night. Such a peaceful and gentle passing, surrounded by loving family. Our hearts are broken. 

Monday, May 18, 2015

Further along








I almost missed the azalea's short lived blooms, tucked away in the far corner of the garden. My energies have been directed elsewhere - making sure I don't miss a moment of the remaining time we have as a couple - as a family. 

John's condition has deteriorated very quickly over the last couple of weeks. I was managing on my own, then with the help of the District Nurse team and our GP, but as we went along it became clear that he needed full time care. He was admitted to hospital on Friday, where they have been working to get on top of his acute symptoms. We have just been spending time with him, holding his hand, reading out loud and chatting, catching a bit of crochet in the gaps. My step-daughter is here, taking some of the burden, helping with James, folding laundry (much more nearly than I do) and spending precious moments  with her Dad. 
It was good for me to share some time in between hospital visits, with James on his own, snuggling on the sofa, eating ice cream (raspberry magnums) and watching rubbish telly. He is doing ok, he knows where this is going.

And we move on, through these cycles of hope and despair, somehow adapting to each new phase, finding whatever grains of normality we can and holding on - yes, just really holding on.

Tomorrow, John is moving to our local Hospice. Another stage, another leap into uncharted waters.  We don't know for how long, or if he will be well enough to come home at any point - but here we are. He is at peace with this decision and I know we will all be cared for. 
I cannot begin to say how much strength I have gained from the kindness of others; from friends in the community, family, our church family and the genuine and loving comments online.  It helps - it really does. Thank you.  xx

Friday, May 15, 2015

This Moment


Sharing a moment that I want to remember. No words, just a single special image. Joining in with Soulemama for This Moment. Wishing you all a precious  weekend. xx

Monday, May 11, 2015

Weekending





It was a nice weekend, quiet and relaxed. One gorgeous warm day, one almost wintry, James busied himself making the perfect axe, I pottered around in the garden, admiring the tulips that I had forgotten I planted. I sat with John and caught up with some knitting and discussed politics- such a fascinating  time ahead. We had one or two visitors pop in, including friends with their brand new puppy. He was such a cute bundle, but I forgot to take a photo- sorry. And then a glorious sunset to end with. With another frenetic week ahead, it's nice to stop and appreciate those moments of calm. xxx



Saturday, May 9, 2015

In other news...

 

There has been the most amazing result in the Grneral Election. The Scottish National Party took 56 of the 59 Scottish seats. After the disappointment of the Referendum result, this is an incredible outcome. Although it is - and can never be enough to form a government It means there will be a strong voice for Scotland in Westminster, and also for those in the UK who woke up on Friday feeling very upset and disenfranchised at the thought of five more years of austerity cuts. These 56 fine men and women will not be afraid to speak out against the unjust policies planned by the Tories. It's going to be an interesting time. 

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