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Monday, 20 July 2015

Easy Elderberry Jam

We have a freezer draw full of these delectable jewels and given the fact that, our redcurrants are ready to harvest, a jam making session was long overdue!  

Elderberry Jam

Ingredients

Elderberries washed but not de-stalked

Sugar

Jam Thermometer

Large Crock pot

Clean Jars

1.  Place the washed jars onto a baking tray and bake at 100C.  Once the oven is up to temperature bake for half an hour to sterilize.

2.  Place the jam lids in a pan of boiling water and boil on a stove top until needed.

3.  Place the washed berries in a crock pot, add a little water to prevent sticking to the base and cook on a medium heat until the berries have softened and burst.

4.  Once the mixture has cooled, place a fine mesh sieve over a mixing bowl and slowly tip the berry mixture into the sieve.  Using the back of a metal spoon press the mixture to release as much juice as possible.

5.  Once the mixture has been strained, place the crock pot onto some weighing scales so that the liquid can be measured as it is tipped in.  The amount of sugar needed is 75% of the liquid weight.

6.  Place the liquid onto the hob and heat slowly.  Whilst the liquid is heating, warm the correct amount of sugar on a low setting in the microwave.  This will make it easier to dissolve.

7.  Once the sugar has warmed, add to the elderberry liquid and turn up the heat to a rolling boil.  Use the thermometer to check the temperature and once 102C has been reached, stir continuously for a period of 8-10 minutes.

8.  Don't worry about skimming off the scum, should any form add a tiny piece of butter at the end of the cooking time and the scum will disperse.

9.  Let the liquid cool for 15 minutes and then tip into the sterilised jars.

Naturally home made jam calls for a home made treat and so when my friend Debbie called on Sunday, we enjoyed a different Sunday Gathering snack and an afternoon tea was the order of the day!  This gal is my stalwart friend and  it was nice to present her with a well deserved gift at the end of her second year at University.




 Even Peter Rabbit joined in the fun!

Thursday, 16 July 2015

From The Margins

 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

James 1 v 12





Some folk write in the margins of time and others live in the margins, whether that be through homelessness, substance abuse, unemployment or disability.  Living in the margins is a hard and often times lonely road which can be made worse by "seeing" others live a charmed existence; one only has to scroll through a Facebook feed or scour a Pinterest board for such evidence.

Living in the margins is an SAS training ground for those willing to accept a challenge and the "green beret" is in fact the crown and eternal prize talked about in the book of James.  We are running the race set out before us and it is a one man competition!  Each track is pertinent to one individual only and so their is little gain in looking left or right or even over your shoulder! It is a case of keep your head down and keep going!

Even if it is impossible to find your tribe within your own physical community, the internet has made the world a smaller place and through careful consideration real friendships can be forged and sustained across the miles.

In an ideal world I would share a cup of tea with my friend Sue after having had an early morning walk in the Australian Bush.  We would chat about self directed learning and she would reassure me not to worry about Benedict and that everything will turn out OK.

With a hop, skip and a very big jump I would land in Houghton, New York State just in time for lunch with my dear friend Eva!  We would chat about life in general and if her husband Peter were home from campus I am sure he would keep us entertained with his sense of humour!  The family Christmas letters are  funnier each year :-)

Of course if I am going to be in New York then I absolutely have to visit my friends in the big apple.  We were fortunate to have Chanda stop with us for a few days last summer and that girl lives, eats and breathes ballet!  I would enjoy observing one of her dance classes, we would have tea at Chocolate Bar and take a walk along the high line admiring the view over the Hudson River.

There is a friend who I have yet to meet who graciously opened her doors and her heart a few years ago in welcoming our daughter Sara to her home in the Scottish Isles.  We might be separated by land and sea but our faith is the tie that binds us.  A light of a candle and an arrow prayer said in the early hours might seem insignificant to some but to those suffering in the margins it is priceless.

Thankfully we are blessed to know a real life home schooling family and what began as a tentative internet connection has blossomed into a sustainable friendship.  Not for nothing is that gal known as sustainable mum.  She has a great love of the outdoors, frugality and growing your own.  Lunchtimes are peppered with food from her back garden and she doesn't quell at the thought of catering for whacky dietary needs!  Our physical abilities might be poles apart but there is never any sense of inadequacy on our part; we love hearing about their wild camping adventures and all things craft related really unites that bond.

Sometimes those on the margins might be the folk you live with day after day.  It is easy to reach out a hand to a stranger but it can be a challenge when it is much closer to home.  This can be especially hard in a caring role where the work done is often unseen and therefore unappreciated in the context of the wider world.  We have only to look at the proposed goverment cuts to ascertain exactly what is of "value" and yet without the input of unpaid carers our society would be socially and financially poorer.

The heart of hospitality is finding people in the margins and bringing them in; what can you do to help someone on the margins today?

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Two Uses For A Failed Home Made Yogurt

Despite following the recipe to the latter including heating the milk correctly and placing in a warmed thermos, when I woke this morning the culture had only thickened slightly and resembled a very thin cream.  It became evident that re heating the mixture was a no-go so the only option was to make a soda bread loaf:

Irish Soda Bread

Pre- Heat the oven to 200C

170 grams gluten free self raising flour

170 grams gluten free plain flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate soda

290 ml/l buttermilk (or in my case the yogurt/milk mix!) 

1. Place the dry ingredients in a bowl.

2. Pour in the liquid and mix thoroughly to form a soft dough.

3. Place on a greased baking sheet in a round and cut a cross across the top, to let the fairies out!

4.  Bake in the centre of the oven for about 30 minutes until golden brown and hollow sounding when tapped.

5.  Leave to cool on a wire rack and serve sliced with butter.

 Thin Yogurt Culture.


 Wet and Dry Ingredients.


 Soft dough before baking.



Yummy Bread.

There was just enough left to make a banana, peanut butter and chia seed smoothie for me:


Breakfast in a glass.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Monday Baking

The day began with porridge, fresh coffee, fluffy drop scones and homemade/homegrown blackcurrant compote:



 Little Miss PJ very pleased with the spread.





 The secret to the fluffy scones was whipped up coconut milk!

After the school run and recycling/shopping trip, I made the sticky ginger cake and lemon and almond muffins whilst tea was bubbling on the stove.




Sticky Ginger Cake

Grease and line a loaf tin.

Preheat the oven to 180c

75 grams unsalted butter

60grams sugar

150grams black treacle

150grams golden syrup

2 medium eggs beaten

225 grams gluten free self raising flour

1 teaspoon of mixed spice

1 teaspoon ground ginger


1. Melt the butter, sugar, treacle and syrup in a saucepan over a low heat until the butter and sugar have dissolved.  Leave to cool a little and then add the beaten eggs.

2.  Add the flour and spice mixture to a baking bowl and make a well in the centre.

3.  Pour in the melted mixture from the pan and stir until to smooth.

4.  Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake in a preheated oven at 180C for about 50 minutes until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.  If the cake is browning to quickly cover it with foil.  Leave to cool in the tin and don't worry if it sinks in the middle.

This cake improves after a couple of days, it will keep in an airtight container for up to a week and freezes well.




 Lemon Curd and Almond Muffins

Makes 12 muffins.

Preheat oven to 180C

225 grams gluten free self raising flour.

50 grams granulated sugar.

1 medium egg

125ml semi skimmed milk.

75 grams unsalted butter.

A few drops of almond essence.

Lemon Curd

1.  Put 12 muffin cases into a muffin tray.

2.  Put the flour and sugar in a bowl and mix thoroughly.

3.  Mix the egg, milk, almond tincture and melted butter together in a jug and pour into the dry ingredients.  Mix lightly and do not over beat otherwise the muffins will be dense instead of light and fluffy.

4.  Fill each case with a heaped teaspoon of the muffin mixture, followed by a teaspoon of lemon curd and then top with a teaspoon of the muffin mixture.

5.  Bake in a preheated oven to 180C for about 30 minutes until golden brown.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

 


 

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Living In Uncertain Times

The Budget was announced this Wednesday and as predicted the sick, disabled, lone parents and families on low incomes are the main target.

  The Government has a responsibility to manage the books but there is so much waste within internal departments that if efficiency were implemented in these areas savings could be made and then there is of course the unnecessary pay rise given to MP's including the PM himself and the ongoing fiddles regarding expenses which cost the nation a sizeable sum!

The effect on us as a family is as yet very unclear.  I have taken an online calculation that indicates nothing will change, apart from the fact that our tax credits will be frozen for the next four years.  However the Universal Credit is being rolled out and when that hits things will change.  My self employed earnings are a pittance.  I have some of my handmade items in a folksy shop but as a result of ongoing debilitating health issues I am unable to promote my goods.  Every time I try to make a step forward with regards to the business we are beset with problems from all sides.  Under the Universal Credit my " business" will be deemed unworkable as I am unable to meet the current minimum wage of £6.40 an hour and so our income will drop significantly.

We are also dealing with the fallout in health issues and once again that has been my reason for being absent here.  I try to work on a policy that if I am unable to make a positive contribution then I would rather remain silent but that is not an honest reflection of where we are as a family. 

I am currently living with an ME/fibromyalgia flare up that has been ongoing since March of this year.  I also had a worrying breast lump scare in amidst all of that and although the lump is benign the stress and worry took its toll.  Everything was exacerbated by trying to remain up beat for certain family members who cannot cope with sickness and so in order to placate them I was not honouring my own feelings and self worth.

Dave too is dealing with an MS deterioration and the children and I sit back and watch helplessly as he trips and stumbles through each day.   Dave has inherited a skewed attitude toward sickness and this  is now beginning to impact on the children.  When he fell and cut his knee yesterday he brushed away Benedict's obvious concern and this left Benedict feeling confused and sad.  I cannot change Dave's attitude toward sickness but I can validate and honour Benedict's feelings of love and concern for his Dad.

I have even battled with the question of continuing to write in this space.  When I first set out  it was to share our journey as a home schooling family but even that has not worked out as hoped!  We have a foot in both camps of school/unschooling and never the twain shall meet!  We have all of the hassles and none of the joys and throw in the age and gender difference between Benedict and Pip and you have a recipe for disaster :-)

However folk who know me say that I am a stalwart, a terrier when it comes to problem solving and most definitely not a quitter.  Therefore expect to see me popping by with the usual family and life updates as well as the odd recipe, web link or bible verse thrown in for good measure! 

I will leave you with a life verse given to me during a quiet time with God:

" The Lord is near, Do not be anxious about anything but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God.  And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy think on these things."

Catch up with you soon x

Monday, 22 June 2015

Surprise!

We had two wonderful sets of surprise visitors today.  First up Sara and Tom called late morning after having taken their petrol mower to the repair shop.  I did not get a shot of them but I did snap a picture of Benedict's  home made sweet potato and celery soup with tomato and garlic croutons:





Later in the day a voice called upstairs, "Hi mum!" It was Kathryn and Mary Grace!!  They stopped for tea and the little ones had great fun in the garden:





Benedict and I also had a productive day we watched a time team production of The Celts and Benedict used his mine craft skills to make a round house and hill fort.  I sat and worked on a shawl whilst watching the programme.  It has been a very long time since we both felt inspired to learn. 

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Father's Day

I sometimes think that a day for parents is a bit over rated and is primarily a chance for the greeting card and gift industry to turn a profit!  That said with a bit of forethought and planning a lovely day can be had without breaking the bank.

Pip made some bookmarks and a star card when she was at school and Benedict remembered that Dave had a liking for iced coffee, so with money in his pocket he walked to our local Starbucks seller for a treat for his dad. Kathryn and Mary Grace had sent a lovely text message and a super cute personalised card.




We managed to speak to both our dads and the cards and chocolate treats were a real hit.  Dave takes his job as a father seriously and managed to remove a bumble bee from the conservatory, it reminded me of the time when my dad completely emptied my bedroom in order to catch a very big spider.  It was either that or me not sleeping in the room that night!!

We have had very changeable weather but the clouds finally rolled away and we ate our lunch on the decking at the bottom end of the garden:



Pip took Timmy doll for a walk in the Maclaren pushchair, we bought it when Benedict was six months old and he turned twelve last week!




Whilst Pip had her fairy day yesterday Benedict had fun with Debbie and her lads, they saw the sponge bob movie, pottered around town (she bought him this Star Wars set) and then they went back to her house for lunch and Lego building.






            Dave's coffee treat.




   Mixed Salad, Croutons, Butter Beans and Chorizo.




                       Mr Man and me.




Doing the dad thing playing swing ball with Pip.  The kids were also great in letting the aged parents rest after lunch and Dad is now having some much deserved workshop time.  A grand day at home.