The most wonderful time of the year..

Well, it has been quite a long time since I last made a blog post. I have been quite busy over the last few months decorating my mothers house, and that alongside a busy couple of months at work meant that this blog has been left .. so I am sorry for that. 

That being said, I am coming back to the world of blogging at a lot of peoples favourite time of year – Christmas! 

I always like to use this period as a great excuse to get my DIY on! I often make gifts, spend my evenings baking festive goodies, or making decorations, and this year is no different! 

At the current moment in time, I am typing this with the lovely smell of Christmas cake cooking in the oven. I have never made one before, and actually don’t particularly like Christmas cake to eat, but there is nothing more enjoyable then trying something new! 

Hopefully it comes out well, and I will try and get some pictures of it when its out (I am rubbish and didn’t take any of it while I was making the mix) 

For now – I want to wish you all a lovely December, and whatever you do over Christmas, have a great time! 

Post Plastic Free July

Post Plastic Free July


July is over, and what a month it was! I have never known England to be so hot for so long! My garden flourished (even though the grass turned golden) and my family started getting together to go on bicycle rides at the weekends – including my 2 year old neice who would shout encouragements and sing her favourite song at the moment (right now its Frere Jacques).

But the weather couldn’t last forever and with the start of August the rain returned, the grass and some of the less heat resilient plants are recovering, the green beans are providing me with mountains of beans and the tomatoes are providing me with abundance of glorious ruby fruits.

I also did something that I have been wanting to do for years! I went strawberry picking! It was great fun, and you can take your own containers which is great.

I actually went back a couple of times, and also picked cherries, blackcurrents and raspberries. It is a perfect way to spend a couple of hours when the weather is good! The kids love it, and you only pay for what you pick – so it doesn’t have to cost a lot (although it is easy to get carried away)

At the beginning of July, I set myself the task of trying to go plastic free – which was mainly concentrating on single use plastics, and non recyclable plastics. Before I started I did a little research to find alternative product options and get an idea of areas I might have issues, you can read my introduction here.

Right from the start, there were a few items I struggled with! Pasta and rice being the main culprit! I did a lot of investigations into places I could go to buy these items, and I found plenty of plastic free shops – unfortunately, the closest was over an hour away for me which logistically wasn’t a good option. Instead I tried to reduce how often I had pasta on the menu and in the case of rice, I swapped out the boil in the bag variety back to the loose grain. I was still not able to completely remove plastic but I plan to continue researching possible solutions, including maybe ordering in from bulk stores.

I also had problems when buying meat, although Morrisons (my closest supermarket) have started advertising that they are reducing their plastic, I often found they only had things on the shelf – pre wrapped – or their staff was unsure on the exact guidelines they had to follow, one colleague even opening mocked people who didnt want to use plastic, and stated there was ‘no point and it was a waste of time’ – despite the fact I was infact asking to use my own container at that point. I came across the same issue when trying to purchase produce. Morrisons certainly has the right idea, I just think it is still very early days for them. Farmers markets were great – but when working 9-5 monday to friday, they weren’t the easiest to get to, and when caught off guard or lack of preperation meant that I often had to make do with supermarket produce.

I had better luck away from the supermarket and fresh foods; making the move to soapnuts, a shampoo bar and a soap bar instead of the single use products I was previously using.

My experience with soapnuts are; Clothes arn’t smelling as floral, however I have read that you can add a few drops of things like lavender essense to improve this. One thing i love about them is that once they have stopped being useful for washing, I can add them to my compost bin / veg patch!

My shampoo bar: One thing I am really pleased with since making this change is that unlike when using liquid shampoo, I now don’t feel the need to use conditioner! Before I would have to spend hours carefully brushing my hair if conditioner hadn’t been used, having curly/wavy hair I assumed this would always be the case but was pleasently suprised when I tried the shampoo bar sans conditioner bar I had no problems at all! The one I bought was from LUSH, but now that I have been converted I am planning on looking around for other providers to see what other options are available.

Bar soap: Similar to my assumptions with the shampoo bar, I have always assumed that a bar of soap would dry my skin out, and be a real pain to use, but when thinking more about the soap I wanted, and not just buying the first one I saw I found a lovely natural soap in a TK Max. I’ve never been a big fan of this store, where i have often felt pretty claustrophobic when looking at clothes but when I wondered over to the beauty section (avoiding the clothes rails completely) I have have a treasure trove of products, and hidden among them are often a lot of natural based products, often in glass or paper instead of plastic!

Not all beauty changes were as successful. When I bought the shampoo bar, I also invested in a deohdrent bar, but after using it for a couple of days, I have to admit I was defeated and went and bought my good old faithful branded one. It could be that I just didnt get on with that specific bar, and I am deturmind to give it another go. It might be worth me trying another version as well, either way, I wont give up.

Something I was determind not to do when starting this plasticless adventure was that I wasn’t going to just instantly go out and buy all plastic free (which could be a big chunk of money if bought all at once) My idea was to wait until something ran out, and then when the time came, I would replace it with a more eco friendly version. This is the case of my razor – for years I have bought packs of disposible (the creme de la creme of plastic wastage, I know) and they would last me a long time. But at last I am down to my last one, so the time has come to look at replacing it. I have been looking at the safety razor, doing a bit of research and also keeping an eye out of the cost of them. I think it will be my next investment, so I will let you know how I do.

All in all, the main thing that ‘plastic free July’ did for me was it helped open my eyes to just how much single use plastic is used in todays world, I have removed my consumer tinted glasses off and am making active steps to reduce my plastic use going forward. Changes are happening, one thing at a time. I want to live my life caring for my planet as much as I can. There is only this one after all.

If you have any advise regarding anything Ive mentioned here please feel free to message me, or comment below. I would love to hear about your own experiences and discoveries.

Thanks for reading!

Making your garden into a little homely paradise

Your garden is more than an extra bit of land at the back of your house. It’s an extension of your home. You should treat it in the same way as any other room in your house (the only difference is that it’s outside). It should be a space that you enjoy seeing from the kitchen or bedroom window. You should be able to draw the curtains and smile at the outdoor world that faces you rather than sighing heavily and trying to avoid looking at it. Below are a couple of ideas to help you to make your garden into your little homely paradise.

Picture Source

Start gardening
And I’m talking about more than just mowing the lawn here. You should aim to turn your garden into more than a patch of grass, your garden should express a little of who you are. It’s time to put on your gardening gloves and turn your outside space into your very own living, thriving natural paradise. You can start by pruning  back any bushes or weeds that have grown out of control. Something as simple as clearing back the borders can make a massive difference. As with any other room in your house, the key to keeping your outdoor space tidy is to maintain it regularly. Don’t let it become messy and unwelcoming.

You could start growing some flowers, plants, and perhaps even vegetables in your garden, this can be as big a small a space as you like – remembering that it needs a little upkeep. If you have never had a garden before I would suggest starting with a small patch to begin with, then expanding that if you enjoy it. Flowers are a great way to add some colour and life, there are a vast number of varieties available including sun worshipers or shade lovers. You will soon get into the routine of regularly visiting your garden to take care of it. Starting some garden projects is a great way to get you into the habit of maintaining your outdoor space. You just need to find something that’ll make you interested in your garden again. When you tend to your garden, you’ll be rewarded with a welcoming, peaceful natural space in return.

Picture Source

Fix up the patio
If you have a patio, tidy it up! Having a nice clear patio will encourage you to use it more.  A cosy little patio area provides a place to relax with your family and friends on warm days and evenings during summer. It is also a great place to grow containers, which can be great for flowers and even veg. Like most things, to ensure your patio stays looking nice, its worth keeping it looking its best. There are a number of products out there available for this, but one you could consider getting is brick acid. You use it to clean down your patio every so often and keep it looking brand new.

Create some focal points
Most rooms in your house have focal points, such as a fireplace or a fancy coffee table, your kitchen might have a granite countertop. Focal points can really tie a room together and guide the eye to show the space in the best possible way. Your garden is no different, sometimes a good focal point can make a real difference. You should create a center piece that gives character and personality to the space. Water features  are a great way to create a natural looking center piece, and you don’t have to spend a fortune on a pool or a water fountain; you could create a small pond, even if you dont want to dig one out, you could simulate one by using a large plant pot and using this instead. Some lights are also a great way to create atmosphere and a nice aesthetic in your garden at night. The key is to create some focal points that serve as a cherry on top of an already-fantastic garden.

Whatever you choose to do, remember that your garden can be whatever you want it to be, it can reflect a calm space, or a memory of somewhere you once visited – anything is possible.

I am going plastic free for July – could you?

I am going plastic free for July – could you?

This year I have been experimenting a lot with making my own food instead of blindly buying it from a store. One example was when I made my own jam and clotted cream for mothers day. Following along a similar thought I have also been looking into ways to create a more environment friendly garden, mainly by encouraging bees by concentrating on flowers that are bee friendly (I will write a post about this at some point).  The most recent changes I have made is volunteering for a local organisation to clear local beaches, it only takes a couple of hours out of your day, and can feel really rewarding!

This has all led me to my current thought; how much waste is my household producing, and how easy would it be to cut out one use plastic in todays world?

The reality is that there is a lot of things being sold to the general public, that we accept without evening questioning. Deforestation due to the palm oil industry, and over use of plastic packaging is just two things that are really starting to gain a voice.  But I am not here to lecture! So I will say no more.. it is just something that I am interested in learning more about.

While researching the idea of reducing unnecessary waste , I have stumbled across a number of companies and stores that I had never realised existed until now. The more I look the more i realise, this is a growing industry – and it is one I really want to get behind!

I have become an ambassador for SandCloud – a beachtowel and clothing company based in America that have made it their mission to #savethefishies. It was through looking into this that I decided to start volunteering, it is all well and good supporting something in America, but I wanted to help something closer to home as well!

taken from @oysterworldwide (Instagram)

I have also seen that like most movements, there is something called ‘Plastic Free July‘ A campaign to encourage people to try and go plastic free for one month! Who doesn’t like a challenge! I have a couple of days to prepare, and now i’m looking into going plastic free I am really starting to struggle to find things in supermarkets that would qualify! So I have been trying to find places local that I can look into shopping at.

To begin with, I have made a list of things that I use on a weekly basis that I would need to find an alternative for. See below;

  • Milk
  • Rubbish bins
  • Fruit and Veg
  • Meat
  • Bread
  • Lunch boxes / Sandwich Bags
  • Shampoo / Conditioner / Body wash
  • Cotton Buds
  • Deodorant
  • Razors
  • Washing up liquid
  • Washing detergent / fabric softener

Once I have worked out things that I use regularly, my next step is to find an alternative to that. Either re using something I already own (such as containers and reusable plastic) or by seeing if there is a more eco friendly version that I can swap to.

I have already decided to swap shop bought milk, with the milkmans’ glass bottle equivalent, and after looking at them for years, I am finally going to try solid shampoo, conditioner and deodorant bars.

The things I am not so sure about is things like our razors, washing detergent and Meat – the last being due to most butchers and delis wrapping items in a thin plastic for “hygiene reasons”.

All in all I am really looking forward to this, I’m sure it will be more challenging then I realise, but I am going to be really interested in discovering all the alternatives out there – WISH ME LUCK!

Thats all from me for now, I will keep you updated on how I do!

If you are interested in going plastic free, below are some of the websites I have found along my educational travels:

Guide to living a plastic free life



Zero Waste living UK

6 Plastic Free Alternatives for shampoo and conditioner

Anything But Plastic

There Fill Pantry

The Bulk Market

How to build a Garden Fire Pit

Pic Credit

It is well known that the summers here in the UK are often short, but if you enjoy sitting outside well into the evenings a perfect way to keep warm is to have a fire pit – which creates a cosy atmosphere while keeping warm. You could always buy a chiminea, which is a type of freestanding chimney, but these can deteriorate fairly quickly (depending on the style, and how much you pay for it). Fire pits can be a real investment, and can last for years and is a great way to add year-round focus to your garden.

You don’t need to be a builder, there are a vast amount of designs that are easy enough to build this blog has fire pit designs with lots of different styles. Regardless of what design you choose, some points you need to remember while building you fire pit are : leave small gaps between your bricks/stones and try to make the pit somewhere between 50 – 100cm diameter for a good sizes, safe fire.

Now that bits out the way, here is how to make a simple brick fire pit :

What Will You Need?

  • Enough bricks to build your pit. For a simple square pit, you will need 28 bricks per layer and around 4 layers, depending on your design, if you want a buried fire pit you may want to do more layers.
  • Gravel
  • A spade
  • Firewood (click here is great for finding local firewood around the UK)
  • A bucket of water or sand, safety first and all that

Where to Build a Fire Pit

Now, it might be obvious to say this but fire is incredibly hot and destructive, you need to take this into account when you choose where to put the fire pit. There shouldn’t be any over hanging branches or bushes nearby that can potentially catch alight. 

Something else to consider when deciding where to build this fire pit is what seating (if any) you plan on having around the pit – you don’t want to build it and then discover there isn’t enough room to sit. You could always use some creativity with your seating – i mention some good ideas here.

It might be worth laying out the chairs before you start building the pit, to check  how much room you have, and if you would be a comfortable distance from the fire, being too close would make it too warm. Thinking about it at this stage, will make the whole process alot easier!

Building the Fire Pit

This simple design is from a wickes design, you can watch the video below to see the step by step instructions on how to build it:

Now you have you pit – how about a fire

Fire building is considered something of an art form, but the basic idea is to start with some sort of kindling. This is  to make the flame catch. Once you have a flame you should start to build up the layers slowly. Then add larger logs once the fire is established, when it comes to building a good fire, the teepee shape is usually successful.

Disclaimer: You must ALWAYS Keep an eye on your fire, and never let your fire get out of control. If you do feel that your fire is getting out of control, put sand over the fiercest parts to calm it down or over the whole thing to extinguish it.

Never leave a fire that is still glowing, use water or sand to make sure that all the flames are gone and have no chance of reigniting.


Now that you have your fire pit ready, its time to toast your success! Get some friends over, open a bottle of wine and talk and laugh the night away! 

If you have great ways to improve your gardens that you want to share, comment or message me! I would love to hear from you!

Easily Liven Up Your Garden In Time For Summer

If you are anything like me, you are probably starting to get a serious hankering to start some little garden projects again now that spring is now finally here. You have likely already begun planting out some of your seedlings and preparing the soil for the coming seasons.

However, you might also want to think about what you can do to make your garden a bit more interesting, and a bit more original to look at. As it happens, there are always plenty of things you can do on this front, and that is worth remembering if you ever find yourself at a loss as to what you should be doing to make your garden more of a lively and interesting place. In this article, I am going to look at some of the best ways to make your garden more lively in time for summer. 

Pictue Credit

Bordering Wildflowers

If you have a couple of beds which you would like to decorate in some way, a good way to do so is to get a seed mix of assorted wildflowers and scatter those around the edges. You can even get some fast-growing ones which will guarantee to bloom within forty days, so if you are in need of some fast flowers that could be the ideal way to go. Having some bordering wildflowers will immediately add a great deal of colour to your garden, especially if you use a mixed pack. What’s more, you will be providing much needed food for our bees, something that I am keen to encourage as much as possible – It’s good for them, and good for your garden.


If you are looking for some decoration not on your beds, but just dotted around your garden, then you might want to think about finding some sculptures. At one point, people might have chosen the classic gnome, these days there is a massive variety of options available to you. It’s up to you – whether you want a gnome, a collection of frog sculptures, or even a single large statement piece in the centre of your garden. Using a feature piece such as a this is a great way of bringing a little extra something to your garden, it can provide a focal point can help bring a theme to the space or just provide some enjoyment. 

Picture Credit

Vegetable Patch

More and more people are growing their own veg these days (hands up to all you grow your own folk), and this really is a great way to reduce produce costs, while also providing you with a hobby that allows you to get outside – the allotment community is always growing! If you are able to grow your own veg, you will find that you spend a lot less at the supermarket and the produce you do grow, will taste so much better.

Growing vegetables is simple: you don’t always need a dedicated vegetable patch I have seen people grow tomatoes between their rose bushes, or cucumbers in containers by their back door, all you need is well-draining soil and a nice sunny spot (depending on what you want to grow). You can even purchase starter plants which removes the need to grow from seed.

As well as being useful and tasty, many vegetables produce beautiful flowers – providing you with a lovely splash of colour. I really would recommend growing your own to anyone looking for a rewarding project this year.

Picture Credit

Bold Statement Flowers

Finally, a brilliant way to really liven up your garden would be to add some bright and bold flowers. A great example of this is the sunflower, which is truly one of the gardener’s best friends for the way in which it grows fast, strong and has such a well-known distinctive and beautiful flower. Bees love sunflowers, they provide brilliant colour to the garden, and once the season is over you can use the seeds either for recipes, a snack or if you have hens, the heads are a great treat for them! 

Could you ask for anything better??

I hope you get some inspiration for your garden, and enjoy the beautiful weather!

What Your Garden is Missing

Your garden is your own little mini haven in the outside world. It’s a place you can sit back and relax under the sun, with the gentle breeze on your skin, and plenty of bees busy pollinating a nearby flower bed. But have you done as much as you can to make the most of your outside space?

You’ve laid down the base, and got a good green lawn, you’ve built yourself a little deck, with plenty of your own style and influences on it, now it’s time to do something with the rest of your garden. There are so many ways to introduce little hints of beauty, colour, and some natural fun you could introduce into your outdoor space, so while the weather is fine it’s the perfect time to implement them! Here are a couple of ideas you could try depending on the size of your garden;

Image from Pexels


Some Cute Critters!

Something I feel quite strongly about, is that we need to do more to help protect the local wildlife. Animals are what make a garden a lovely experience to sit out in, I love a garden with birds chirping in the trees or bees buzzing around somewhere close by, maybe a frog quietly croaking from a small pond. It sounds so picturesque, doesn’t it? Well, this fantasy is so achievable for your very own garden! Simply by putting up some bird feeders and houses under the trees you can encourage more birds, planting bee friendly flowers and introducing bee/bug hotels around is also a great way to encourage some of the smaller inhabitants.

For those of you with a lot more available space, or those who perhaps have livestock you could give the stable the ultimate upgrade with a designer building from Vale Stables.

Regardless of  how big your garden is, there are always ways you can encourage more animals to your garden to really bring it to life. It’s not just plants that thrive in these environments, so make your garden as creature friendly as possible; you’re helping their world, and in turn improving yours!

Some Good Seating!

If you don’t have a bench in your garden, you’re really missing a trick. Without seating, there’s only the ground to park on, and that can mean a wet and muddy bum and often dirty clothes when you stand back up, and in the party season, that’s not something you want to show off to your friends.

You don’t need to fork out a lot of money for traditional seating, a great way to compliment your garden is to use something natural. For example, you could take a tree stump you’ve got left over after clearing that tree from the back of the garden and turn it into a stool. Alternatively, you could use an old log and create a lovely rock garden. Or you could hang up a hammock between the trees (if you have them), and have a nice shady area to relax in when the temperature gets too much for you.

Your garden is something you can do a lot with, and not all of it needs to cost you money! You’ve still got plenty of time to make sure it’s the perfect for having your friends and family over for barbecues this summer.

Whatever little projects you plan on starting, I hope you enjoy yourself!

Build Your Own Budget-Friendly Decking

Now that the weather is [finally] starting to warm up, if your anything like me, you are going to want to spend more time out in your garden, and what better way then to sit out on a DIY decking!

Decks are great for enjoying the summer sunshine, relaxing with family, and even entertaining guests. As the bridge between your indoor and outdoor life, they are a great way to extend the liveable areas of your home and increasing the value of your property, no matter the size of your garden.

If you’ve always dreamed of having your very own deck, the good news is that building one is possible with enough guidance – even on a budget!

Below are some steps to build your own outdoor sanctuary. So keep scrolling!

Image credit: Thomas J. Story

Step 1: Create your decking plan

Good planning and plenty of research is important to make the most of your available resources and avoid costly mistakes. Study the layout of your garden and where you would get the most from the decking.  Something important to consider is what the primary use will be for the decking – Will it be a hub for your thriving garden herbs, a centre for al fresco dining, a place to simply soak up some sun, or a combination of the three? What you plan on using it for can help decide where you should build it.

You can use decking to enhance your garden as a whole, too. Wood Magazine explains that even the most difficult problems like steep slopes and unsightly views can be easily solved through smart decking.

Image credit: Anthony Tieuli

Decisions like these will guide you when figuring out the size, shape, and layout of your project. Of course, smaller decks will be less expensive to build than larger ones, as is ground-level decking compared to raised or multi-level decking. (It might be worth noting now, that depending on your area and the size of the decking you will be building, you might need to look up your local laws and see whether you need to obtain any building permits)

Step 2: Lay down the foundations

Image credit: This Old House

Decks need a bottom supporting structure to ensure that the boards don’t touch the ground, which is especially necessary in our notoriously wet English climate. This is comprised of rim joists or beams, ledgers, and interior joists. A good foundation also ensures that the structural integrity of your deck will be strong enough for years of family use. I know that all sounds complicated, but with a little research anything is possible – and google is an amazing resource!

Image credit: David Carmack

To start, The Spruce recommends using stakes and a string to outline the shape. Using a shovel remove any grass and weeds within the area and level out the ground. If building next to the house – remove the trim and sliding where the ledger board will go.

As shown in the picture on the right, you cover the exposed sheathing with waterproof membrane to keep moisture out, and then install your ledger boards. These will anchor your deck to your existing house. Cut each joist to the right size you need and screw them together to build your frame. These will provide a level surface for your deck planks.


Step 3: Install decking boards

When it comes to the decking boards themselves, remember to choose carefully depending on how much you’re willing to spend not just during your construction, but also later on for maintenance. Decking boards and kits listed on Screwfix come in a variety of materials and finishes to suit every type of budget. A really popular type is composite boards, which are engineered from wood fibres and plastic that don’t stain or fade for up to 25 years. They’re typically low maintenance but can be a little more expensive initially. On the other hand, wood decking can be less pricey but will weather over time and have higher maintenance costs.

deck and garden of Chris and Mary Beddow
Kailua, Oahu, Hawaii

Image credit: Art Gray

Once the frame and foundations are in place, cut your decking boards.

Methow Valley Cabin

These will be placed perpendicular to the frame using galvanised screws. Depending on the planks you buy, you may need to sand them down to get rid of splinters and rough edges.

An important step that you shouldn’t skip is to varnish your timber to protect your deck from rain and the sun’s heat. It will increase the life expectancy of the wood, and reduce your maintenance costs.

Step 4: Make it liveable

Image credit: Dominique Vorillon

The last step to building your deck is to make it comfortable for you and your family. Sunset Magazine suggests incorporating lighting, fencing, and railing to match your house’s style and suit your needs. You can also choose to add some shade by adding awnings or even training climbers to add shade through a pergola or trellis. Dress up your deck with furnishings, container plants, and even a hammock or two for the warm summer days ahead.

Image credit: Van Chaplin

Are you looking to add more to your backgarden?Maybe you’re thinking of adding a greenhouse and want to makeit yourself?

Check out my guide to building your own greenhouse. Where i provide a step by step review of how I am making it!

Alternatively, if you want to have a little project in the kitchen and enjoy the sweeter things in life, how about making homemade jam?


What ever you’re in the mood for making, have fun and enjoy the coming warm weather!

much love,

Mothers Day gift summary

Mothers Day gift summary

Well, I have to say my homemade gift ended up more homemade than I originally planned!

For those of you who read my blog, with remember that my original plan was to make homemade cream tea (you can read it here) – making the Jam and the scones but planning on buying clotted cream – thinking that it was a big old complicated process. Boy, was I wrong!!

The only things you need to make homemade clotted cream is:

  • double cream (pasterurised, but not ultra pasterurised)
  • A glass dish that is oven friendly – I used 900ml of double cream and it filled the dish by 1.5-2cm bare this in mind when selecting your dish
  • an oven
  • clingfilm
  • a fridge
  • 24 hours! – not kidding, you need this much time!

The instructions are even easier then the list of ingredients.

    1. Preheat your oven to 80C. Pour your cream into the glass dish, making sure that the dish is deep enough to hold it, you want the cream to at least fill 1.5 cm of the dish, but I wouldn’t use one so small that the cream is more than an inch deep.
    2. Leave the cream in the oven for 12 hours! (I did this over night)
    3. Once the time is up, carefully remove for the oven. The cream will have a skin on it and might have a slight smell – but this is ok. Leave it to cool to room temperature. (This is when I made my scones)
    4. Once cooled, cover over with clingfilm and place in fridge. Leave for 12 hours
    5. Its done!

    Once my cream was done, I portioned it off into some glass jars, ready to serve with the still warm scones and the selection of jams I made during the week! Could you imagine a better way to spend your sunday?

  1. I would love to hear back from anyone else who has made their food gifts, and what they made. Just leave a comment below.

Mothers Day Special – Homemade Jam

Mothers Day Special – Homemade Jam

With mothers day just around the corner, I wanted to make the decision of what I would like to give my mother this year.

It was from her that I gained the love of homemade gifts, She has always instilled in my sister and I that money isnt everything, and sometimes its the effort that has gone into the gift that means more than the price tag.

With that in mind, I wanted to come up with something that is both something I know she would enjoy, and something that I could make for her at home. In the past few years I have often opted for experiences, giving the gift of memories with her family rather than something she could keep, but this year I wanted to try something a little different.

My mother LOVES cream tea – although she doesnt drink tea, so its more commonly substituted for a nice coffee. I have previously gifted her an afternoon tea with myself for some quality Mother/Daughter bonding but I thought I would go one step further this year, and actually make her a homemade cream tea.

The idea is to present her with:
– Homemade scones
– Homemade Jam (3 flavours: Strawberry, Raspberry and Blackcurrent)
– A nice tea/coffee cup
– and some shop bought clotted cream

I have a week and a half to get everything sorted, so I made a start last night with my first ever attempt of Strawberry Jam!

I followed the recipe for this from the side of the jam sugar I bought from the local supermarket. Which I halved, so i wouldnt end up with a mountain of jam I couldn’t store anywhere.

Here is the original recipe I followed:
– 800g Strawberries / raspberries
– 1KG Jam Sugar
– 1 Knob of butter
– sterilized jars

It seemed simple enough, so I cracked on with my fingers crossed I wouldn’t be left with a strawberry gooey mess at the end.

The first stage was to wash and cut the strawberries before putting them into a large saucepan. From here you need to start crushing the strawberries – using a potato masher works great! Depending on how many fruit lumps you like in your jam is going to depend on how much you crush your fruit, I kinda went for half crushed.

This was also the stage where I washed my jars, with soapy water and stuck them in a large saucepan, and covered them with water. The pan needs to be pretty large, as you need to have your jars raised off the bottom of the pan. I used my pressure cooker (without the lid) which worked great, it gave me plenty of room and there is a stand and tray that comes with it which allows me to have the jars raised off the bottom. I boiled mine for 15 minutes, and then turned the hob off. leaving the jars in the boiling water until a couple of minutes before I needed them.

Next, I added the sugar. The recipe says 1KG to 800G of fruit, but I halved this, so I added 500G of the sugar (as i was using 400G of strawberries). I gave it a little mix round, allowing the sugar and the fruit juice to combine a little before I put the hob on a low temperature and started stirring it all together. The instructions tell you to continuously stir it and not to let it boil until all the sugar had dissolved. This didn’t take too long, a maximum of about 3-5 minutes.

Something I wasn’t expecting to add into jam, but is needed at this point (according to the recipe at least) is a knob of butter! Continue stirring until it is completely melted and then slowly start increasing the temperature until the jam is boiling, and stirring doesn’t stop the bubbles. Allow it to boil for 4 minutes –  i continued to stir intermittently at this point, just to stop it sticking or burning on the bottom.

Once the four minutes is up, some people suggest testing the jam is ready by putting a bit on a previously frozen plate and test if it ripples.. but I didn’t bother with this bit (for one thing the recipe didn’t call for it) I turned off the hob and let it sit for a minute while i sorted my jars out.

I was only using 2 jars, as I plan on giving my mum 2 strawberry, 2 raspberry and (after some sneaky recon) 2 blackcurrant. So I didn’t want to fill my supply of jars up with strawberry – their not cheap! This did leave me with quite a bit spare, but I have an old pickle jar which I sterilized with boiling water and was planning on using over the next few days.

Once I safely removed the 2 jars from the pan, I sat them down on a clean tea towel, upside down to drain out. After a minute I moved them onto the draining board and poured in the jam ( I had poured the jam from the pan to a measuring jug to make it easier to dispense into the jars).

Leaving a cm gap at the top of the jar, and cleaning away any dribbles I popped the lid on, and screwed it up – not super tight, but tight enough.

One thing I did notice, which i am going to have to work on, is that once it was all cooled I was still able to push the lid (where you can test if a jar has been opened or not) I am hoping this wont effect the quality of the jam, and that it will last.

All in all though, I am pretty pleased with my first attempt! I will definitely be doing this again with any fruit I grown during the summer.. although now I know just how much sugar and butter is in it, I may not spread it so thickly on my toast!

EDIT: I have since made the raspberry jam as well, it has come out a lot less runny then the strawberry, and I must say, after trying them both – I think the raspberry is a firm favourite!

I have really enjoyed making it, and it was the perfect little project to do while the snow was coming down! We had a fair amount – though not as much as other people from what I hear!

I would really love to hear other peoples experiences of making jam, is there an unusual combination you tried? Or if anyone has any tips for me please feel free to comment!