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In Inside

Preserving Jam

Hold a jar of homemade jam or jelly up to the sunlight and it’s like looking through a beautiful stained glass window. A little pot of love right there. There’s something so satisfying about the whole jam making process; from using up a glut of berries, to creating a perfect blob of jelly to spread on toast to sharing jars of the good stuff with friends, through to the taste of summer fruit on a dark winters morning. I didn’t make any jam last year as we just weren’t eating it. Then I felt the urge again and it seems I’m not alone. There was …

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In Outside

Conkers

Maybe I am imagining it, but did conkers used to be bigger? Perhaps it is just that I have grown, but even in my daughter’s small hands there are no Goliaths in our selection of shiny brown nuts from our local horse chestnut tree.

Conkers are the very essence of autumn. They signal that blackberry picking is over and it’s time to embrace burnished amber leaves, pumpkins, colder nights and warming fires. They ignite memories of childhood and conker games. They are often our first forged connection with nature, they are instantly recognisable and have a special place in our collective consciousness.

Yet …

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In Outside

No Gooseberry Fool

I take little pleasure in gathering gooseberries; they are a devil to pick. The low green bush is full of fierce thorns that protrude at every angle. The gooseberries themselves are a bit icky themselves, slightly softly hairy, dangling in pairs like bollocks,  swollen almost taut but with some softness so that you can’t help but give each one a little squeeze as you pick. Hold them up to the sun and they are almost translucent, you can see their insides, their veins and their small seeds which is both magical and disturbing. The bitter sourness of an uncooked gooseberry should therefore be of little …

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In Inside

Small room, big trouble

To misquote Swifty, I knew it was trouble the moment I walked in to the toilet, and to sort of  quote Pulp,  it had ‘woodchip on the wall.’

After a prolonged hiatus on getting the inside of our house finished I am on a mission to get most of the downstairs completed by Christmas. When I say ‘I am on a mission’ it is actually me doing as much of the work as I can, paying only for the skills I don’t have or need an expert, like the electrics, but otherwise saving the money where we can to get the house fully renovated.  I …

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In Outside

M.I.A

And all of a sudden May is here. The trees are unfurling their fresh foliage, the veg patch needs tending, the bluebells are nearly over and the evenings are long. April felt like it was missing in action. Disappearing before my eyes like the early morning mist. I hope this isn’t an indication of how quickly the rest of the year is going to vanish.

April was a month of surprises. As the first month of spring we are used to expecting the showers, but the glorious sunshine of Easter seduced us into thinking it might even be summer already. Deer bounded in and out …

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In Outside

Things I see on the school run: March

Big, gawky and angular, I am not sure what it is I am seeing. A matte mottled brown and tan back, with hints of grey, copper and blonde. More colour with richness and depth than one would think, and a pinch of dark fur accentuating a white tip underneath. Both of us taken by surprise, I slow and it quickens. I assume it is a small dog and quickly scan the fields and laneside for its human companion. It follows the verge, preferring to lollop on the tarmac than on the grass and celandines. Then it reaches a break in the hedgerow and an open …

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In Wellness

Mix a pancake

Stir a pancake, Pop it in a pan. Fry a pancake, toss a pancake, catch it if you can.

When I was little I never understood the ‘Don’t forget the pancake on Jif Lemon Day’ advert. It was extremely clever advertising to establish their product, essentially processed lemon juice, as synonymous with Pancake Day, but I didn’t understand it because we never ever ever had lemon juice (fresh or processed) on our pancakes.

Growing up, pancakes were firmly reserved for Shrove Tuesday (usually after an afternoon spent watching Shrovetide Football in town, but that’s a whole other story). It simply never occurred to me to eat them …

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In Wellness

Dear St Valentine

Dear St Valentine

I’m sorry to do this today of all days, but I’m breaking up with you. It’s not me. It’s you. It’s just too much.

You had no idea what you started back in the early in 290s AD;  the pyramids of chocolate boxes in hues of pink, cerise and blush, cakes covered in rich fuscia buttercream adorned with hearts and butterflies, bottles of champagne waiting for ice, forests of roses, single stem or half a dozen with their deep velvet red petals, and row upon row of bright glittery cards in their shiny unrecycleable cellophane.

To be fair, I’m not sure you …

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In Inside

The art of slow decorating

Prising open the encrusted paint lid, I get my wooden stirrer (one tip already covered in dry paint from a previous project) and carefully submerge it, all the way to the bottom of the tin where I can feel a thick layer of sediment. In steady slow circular motions the chalk, china clay, titanium dioxide and pigments come together once more turning through the tones of grey to resemble one of the fifty shades with which I have painted our house. I delicately pour it like double cream onto a pudding into my painters tray and carefully climb the step ladder.

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In Wellness

2019 – full of promise

We have waved goodbye to 2018 and stepped across the threshold into a brand new shiny year. Welcome 2019.  New Year is usually a time for reflection on the past year and looking ahead (as the name January, derived from Janus the two faced God suggests), setting out where we’d like to be at the end of another 365 days. To be honest, I’m still trying to work out what 2019 should and will mean for me. But I know that my starting point is to focus on my comfort zone.

Or more accurately escaping my comfort zone, that sweet sticky trap in which we …

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