Friday, 28 September 2012

And the Winner is...

...Karen at A Quiet Corner! Karen, if you could email me your address, I will pop your goodies in a jiffy bag post haste.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to all of your who entered. I wish I had something to send all of you, but sadly not.  Instead, please join me for a virtual cup of tea and a slice of apple loaf cake (recommend to me by my sister, Katy - recipe found here).

I'm sorry I couldn't reply to the comments on my Giveaway post. I try to reply to comments as much as possible, as I value them enormously, and it feels like I am having a kind of conversation with you all. But I am short on time lately, and find it increasingly hard to reply. But I will try to visit all your blogs instead. If I just had a few more hours in each day... 

It was so fabulous to hear from you all. It was extra special to hear from those who stop by but don't comment (which is fine and dandy!) so I sort of feel like we've said Hi. Hello there! And, to Jenny who asked, I use a Canon DSLR 1000D. We bought it for a total bargain a while back as they were about to release a new and improved model. I mostly use the automatic-no-flash button, but if I have time to play around and am feeling brave, I use it in manual mode. 


Thank you for your lovely comments about our shoe box kitchen . I dithered about whether or not to post it, as I thought people may think it was a slightly ridiculous, but I'm so glad you all "got it". We have entered the competition, and I'm dying to see other entries. I so wish it was my kitchen...that's part of the fun I suppose. dream country bedroom...

Have a wonderful weekend everyone. x

Thursday, 27 September 2012

A Shoebox Kitchen for a Little Mouse

Back in August, while browsing the new Cath Kidston catalogue, I found the most delightful crafty competition. You had to make a room from a shoe box and furnish it with only items from around the house, then send a photograph of it off to the Cath Kidston website.

Well, Bella and I were most excited about this, as I'm sure you can imagine. We started plotting and searching and rummaging. Fabrics were selected, colour schemes dreamt up and the kitchen cupboards were raided. Nothing has a box or lid now. Items were held up and examined for size and suitability, then ruthlessly added to the pile. Tea bags were decanted into jars, stock cubes now rattle about among the jars and tins, we only have eleven silicone muffins cases get the picture. 

Next time John puts his "smart" shoes on, he will be confused and probably quite irritated to find them in the bottom of the wardrobe in a plastic bag. The box was sacrificed for Project Shoe Box Kitchen  (none of my shoe boxes were big enough you see...)

Would you like a little tour? From left to right...

It's is "wallpapered" in some Cath Kidston fabric, and the flooring is striped cotton fabric covered in sticky back plastic.

1. Little scraps of gingham make tea towels stuck to hooks made from pins. The poster on the wall is from a tin of travel stickers bought when I renovated an old suitcase.
2. The table top is made from the back cover of a notebook. I liked the laminated/Formica effect. The place mats are crafting felt and the plates and cakes are all buttons.
3. One of my favourite parts - the lamp shade is made from a silicon muffin case.

4. The stools are made from buttons topped with felt, and the legs are paper straws.
5. The flower pot, made from an empty cotton reel covered in ric rac trim, holds pipe cleaner stems and bead blooms. The drawers are three small match boxes taped together.
6. The sink is a square plastic lid from a bottle of moisturiser, and the taps are picture hooks.
7. The window was cut out with a craft knife, then I tidied up the edges by sticking double sided sticky tape around to make a window frame, then didn't peel off the second layer of tape. The view, torn from a magazine, is very different to the view from my kitchen window! A girl can dream... The roller blind is more gingham fabric wrapped around a straw to create the tube shape of the roll.

8. A brass roman blind ring makes a towel rail, with a felt towel.
9. The plate rack is made from part of the metal spiral from a spiral bound notebook, sticky-taped to some pink card and pinned precariously to the wall. More buttons for plates.
10.  The large range cooker is an empty tea bag box covered in plain white paper. Buttons make hob rings and drawing pins the knobs.

It was very much a joint effort. I did anything involving craft knives, scissors and extra fiddly bits (like unpeeling double sided sticky tape) and Bella did almost everything else herself, requiring some help here and there with holding things in place and fixing things. Bella likes to play with her mice in it, although it's all a bit wobbly. The plate rack had to go as it kept falling off the wall, but otherwise it's all ok.

It was a lot of fun. We are dreaming up shoe box bathrooms, bedrooms and living rooms, in different colours. I'll just need to buy some new shoes first...for the boxes, of course.


Don't forget there is still time to enter my little giveaway, should you so wish. A huge amount of rain fell over our little island this week, causing much misery and stress for many people. Thankfully, we are all ok here - I hope you are warm and dry where you are. 

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Sunshine in a Bowl

Also know as Thai Butternut Squash Soup.

It is so cold and wet and windy today that I really felt like I needed warm, nourishing food with a spicy kick. It is 8°C (46°F) here and it feels more like November than September. I have a cold. It has rained heavily for the last two days and there has been some flooding. Angus's nursery was closed today because they had a huge leak all over the brand new carpet in the play area, such a shame. Fortunately John was off so I left Angus with him while I did my reading sessions at Bella's school. I am enjoying them so much - I will tell you more about them another day.

For the soup you will need:

1 onion
1 butternut squash or pumpkin
1 tbsp Thai red curry paste
2 tbsp red lentils
1 pint chicken stock
1 400ml can of coconut milk
handful of fresh coriander

To make:
  • Peel and chop the onion and soften in some olive oil in a large saucepan or stock pot.
  • Peel, de-seed and dice the squash and add to the onion.
  • Add the tablespoon of Thai curry paste and stir into the vegetables. Cook for a few minutes.
  • Throw in the red lentils, then cover with stock. You want the veg just covered, so that it cooks, but isn't too watery.
  • Boil for 15 minutes then add the coconut milk. 
  • Boil for another 5 or 10 minutes, until you are happy that the squash and lentils are cooked.
  • Puree in a liquidiser or with a hand held blender.
  • Serve with a little chopped coriander on top.

It's quite a thin soup, but I liked it that way. Next time I make it I might add more squash or lentils or less liquid. It has such a sweet, warm kick - it must be the ginger in the Thai curry paste. It did wonders for my head cold, and for my mood.

Sunday, 23 September 2012


Thank you for such a wonderful response to my giveaway, and for an abundance of happy and delightful comments. There is still time to enter, should you so desire!

This weekend has been as busy as the week that preceded it, but none the less enjoyable for it. Yesterday, we visited my good friend Debora in her new house in Sheffield. It was the most perfect autumn day and on the way to her local park we picked brambles and I collected leaves.* The weather has been mostly gorgeous here this last week; crisp, clear days which start off cold but are glorious when you feel the sun's warmth.

Today, while John worked, Bella, Angus and I went into Bradford to buy books among other things. We noticed how the trees are starting to change colour. I said the pattern in my coffee looked like a leaf. Bella disagreed and declared it was clearly a love heart. 

The kids played on the big metal sculpture. We walk past it every time we go to Bradford but today I really noticed that it is actually a leaf.

Then we walked over to the fountains. Despite the fact it was quite chilly, the kids jumped in and around the fountains with the joy and abandon that only small children have. Water! I must splash in it RIGHT NOW! 

Layers of clothes were gradually shed, while I sat there shivering with my camera. It is Curry Week in Bradford and the air was filled with the most wonderful smells from all the street food on sale there. Indian music was playing from some loud speakers and there was a lovely, bustling atmosphere around the fountains.

The last time we came here was that really hot weekend we had at the beginning of September. The water level in fountain area was raised so that it resembled one huge paddling pool. It was full of of children in their swimsuits, shrieking and splashing, generally having a fabulous time. Our kids didn't have their swimming  things, but we paddled for ages and enjoyed the sun. That was only a two weeks ago but it feels like longer. Then it was Summer. Now it is definitely Autumn.


 I used those leaves in my new Autumn blog header - what do you think? The blossom and blue sky I had before was just offensively summery. I like the idea of ushering in each season with a new header, something to reflect what I am seeing around me at the moment.

Friday, 21 September 2012

A Giveaway!

Hello there! Before I forget, thank you all so much for your generous words about my crochet cushion, they made me so happy. You are all lovely. I really do appreciate your support, your friendship and your kindness.

I have finally got around to organising a little Autumn giveaway for you. Some handmade goodies to say thank you for stopping by and reading and, since I have been very fortunate in other blog giveaways, I want to share the crafty love. I should say at this point that I am not a sewing professional. I can't promise that my bag will be lined, my seams straight or my stitching perfect. But they are made by me with love and I hope you like them.

First...a linen shopping bag. Not super-perfect, but the sort that you can shove at the bottom of your handbag for when your are out and about and need a bag for your groceries or library books. I made the handles nice and wide so that it is comfy on your shoulder. Grey linen with oak leaves appliqued on, a pretty bag for this time of year.

Next, a linen tea towel, decorated rather appropriately with jars of jam, as these months are full of jamming, pickling and preserving.

Lastly, a pretty little bookmark (in the same Liberty fabric as the oak leaves and jam jars, you may notice) for cosying up in an arm chair with a good book and a cup of tea, while you switch on the table lamp and watch it get dark outside. (We can dream, can't we?)

The bag and tea towel are my designs, and the bookmark is from Chloe Owen's book All Sewn Up.

To enter all you need to do is become a "follower" of this blog (how I loathe that term - it make me sound like a cult leader) if you aren't already one, and leave me a comment on this post. The giveaway is open to everyone and I will post worldwide. That's it! I will randomly select a winner in one weeks time, on Friday 28 September. 

It has turned cold here and my thoughts are turning to stews and soups. The heating is on and the quilt is back on the bed. Have a lovely weekend everyone.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

A Bumper Year for New Cookery Books

Oh my cupcakes! There are so many gorgeous new cookery books coming out this Autumn. Where do I start?

I am always a sucker for a beautifully packaged book with a pretty title, and this new title from Tessa Kiros looks very tempting. She has the most fascinating heritage; Finnish mother, Greek Cypriot father, raised in South Africa and Britian, and now married to an Italian and living in Italy. I have Apples for Jam and Falling Cloudberries and love them both. A new offering from the magnificent Nigella Lawson...I think I own all of her cookery books and they are all excellent. Her recipes just work. I love the jacket design of the newest title from the kitchens of Leon, and Yotam Ottolenghi - I've never bought any of his books but my recipe scrap book is full of clippings from his article in The Guardian magazine.

What's next on my wish list...two gorgeous big baking books, by Rachel Allen and The Great British Bake Off (which I am loving, by the way - is anyone else watching it?). Nigel Slater's follow up to the beautifully written The Kitchen DiariesThe Kitchen Diaries II is, according to the blurb, a "collection of small kitchen celebrations" - how perfect. And my last choice; I don't know much about the author, Diana Henry, but love the sound of Salt Sugar Smoke, obsessed as I currently am with preserves and stockpiling for the coming colder months.

(John, if you are reading this, start saving please as these are all going on my Christmas list. As is this and this. Thanks. Your loving wife.)


Apologies for my erratic blogging lately. Since Angus started nursery I thought I'd have more time for crafting and blogging, but no, it appears the opposite is true! I have also started volunteering twice a week at Bella's school, helping kids with their reading and so far I am enjoying it enormously. But it does mean less time to craft and less time on the laptop. But I'm sure we'll find a balance soon.

I will be back tomorrow with...A GIVEAWAY!!! It's long overdue. Homemade goodies are being stitched, ironed and photographed.

Monday, 17 September 2012

A Granny Squares Crochet Cushion (Mollie Makes Magazine)

I know, I know, I went on a knitting course on Saturday, and here I am showing you a crochet cushion, but I finished this last night and could not sit on my hands and wait to show you for a moment longer.

This beautifully simple cushion, which I first set eyes on in Mollie Makes magazine back in the Spring, was the first crochet pattern which really caught my eye, which gave me that excited, fluttery, ooh-I-really-want-to-make-that feeling. My learn to crochet course was looming when the magazine arrived on my doorstep, and it became my first crochet project.

I so enjoyed making this cushion. I finally understood what people meant when they talked about yarn being "nice" or "a dream" to work with. After weeks of practicing on cheap acrylic yarn, this Debbie Bliss baby cashmerino was soft, supple, and didn't split. Or squeak.

Piles of squares grew and grew over the summer months. John observed that if I spent as much time crocheting them as I did stacking, arranging and admiring them, then the whole project would have been done in half the time.

In a flash of inspiration, I joined my arranged squares with safety pins. I spent about an hour playing with the squares, aiming for an random effect which of course was not random at all. Pinning the squares together kept them in the right order and stopped me accidentally sewing one on back to front.

You can't tell from the photos, but my tension changed hugely during the making of this cushion. I made the 36 squares for one side during June and July then put them to one side to make a scarf. In August, I picked it up again and made the other 36 squares. Side 1 is about two inches bigger than side 2, but hey ho. It's a forgiving beginner's project.

I used some pretty pink buttons that came free with the magazine to fasten it together.

I'm really pleased with the results. The flashes of charcoal grey match the sofa in the living room and it gives a much needed burst of retro colour.

The facts and figures:
  1. The pattern is from Mollie Makes Magazine, issue number 13 (April).
  2. I used Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino yarn and a 4mm hook. 3 balls of cream (101) and half a ball each of charcoal grey, rose pink, green, mustard yellow, purple, red and a pale grey-blue. Apologies for not keeping the labels.
  3. The cushion pad measures 45cm x 45cm or 18" x 18"
  4. It's very soft.
  5. I like it.

Many thanks for your brilliant suggestions on crafty projects to make for and with little boys. You suggestions of sock animals/puppets, junk modelling cars/robots/trucks, homemade slime and monster softies were brilliant. Some fab short and long term projects there. I will hopefully report back with some results soon.

Also, the knitting course I attended on Saturday, at Baa Ram Ewe wool shop in Leeds, was all that it promised to be. We were shown how to cast on (I know three different ways, now! Three!), knit, purl, increase and decrease, add colour and cast off. We learnt about yarn weights and the importance of making swatches to gauge tension. We were given two balls of gorgeous chunky British wool yarn, size 10mm needles and the pattern for a simple hat. I am determined to complete the project, not because I particularly need another hat, but to learn how to follow a pattern. 

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Two Blackberry and Apple Recipes For You

Well, I am glad that week is over. So busy, so much to-ing and fro-ing from school to nursery to home then back to school again... Lots of highs and lows, walking away from dropping off Angus feeling like the worst mother in the world, and then relief that he is enjoying himself and settling in (despite noisy tears and tantrums when I leave him). There have been many moments over the last five years when I have craved the silence of an empty house, but I found it strange this week. I couldn't settle or relax. I have done a lot of housework and am, frankly, astounded at how much you can achieve in two hours without small people around you. Lots of adjustments for us all. And when the going gets tough, the tough go into the kitchen and turn on Radio 4 and do some cooking.

So, as we move slowly from Summer into Autumn, here are two recipes that make the most of the seasonal fruit available and do rather well for hot and cold days.

This recipe was something of a revelation to me. I caught the last few minutes of a recipe similar to this on Woman's Hour last week and it sounded so good, and so easy, that I had a go. It's like a sorbet but more grainy and the flavours are intensely fruity, sharp and sweet at the same time. Honestly, you have to try it, it is amazing, and I'm not one to brag about my mediocre cooking skills.

  • 300g or 10 oz blackberries
  • 300g or 10 oz peeled, chopped and cored apples (3 large or 4 medium apples will do)
  • a couple of tablespoons of sugar, depending on how sweet your tooth is.
  • single cream

  • Stew the fruit and sugar gently in a pan with a little water until it is reduced to a pulp.
  • Pour the fruit through a sieve into a bowl and let it slowly drip through. I left mine dripping for about half an hour, stirring it and pushing it through the sieve every now and then.
  • The contents of the bowl should have the consistency of a smoothie. Taste to check  it is sweet enough. If you want to add more sugar at this stage, use icing sugar so that it dissolves easily.
  • Pour this into a freezer-proof lidded dish (I used tupperware) so that it is about one inch deep. Discard the fruit pulp left in the sieve.
  • Freeze for a couple of hours until it is very softly frozen. Stir it with a fork so that it changes from one solid lump into a grainy mixture, and then it is ready to serve.
We ate ours with a little single cream, which worked really well with the sharp fruit, but you could use yogurt or creme fraiche, or just eat it on it's own. It did occur to me afterwards that a little alcohol, like Bol's Cassis or Calvados would be very nice in this. Mmm, apple and Calvados granita, that's got me thinking... 

And here is something for the colder nights, when it gets dark early and you want comfort food and lots of custard. I've seen about ten recipes for blackberry and apple crumble in blogland lately, it's obviously a good-un, but what the heck, I've uploaded the photos, so I'll post it anyway.


  • 300 grams or 10 oz blackberries
  • 3 apples, peeled, cored and sliced
  • 170 grams or 6 oz plain flour
  • 140 grams or 5 oz sugar
  • 115 grams or 4 oz butter
  • 60 grams or 2 oz oats
  • Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C/350 degrees F/gas mark 4.
  • Scatter the fruit in the bottom of an oven proof dish. Provided your apples are fairly thinly sliced, there is no need to cook or stew the fruit first.
  • With your fingers or a food processor, mix together the flour, sugar, butter and oats until they resemble breadcrumbs.
  • Sprinkle the crumble mixture on top of the fruit.
  • Bake for around 45 minutes until the fruit is bubbling and the crumble mixture is cooked. 
Serve with custard, cream or ice cream, whatever is your preference. We ate ours with custard, the bright yellow straight-out-of-a-packet kind, and very delicious it was too.

I've always fancied making an apple crisp. I think these are like an American version of a crumble but with more oats so that the topping is like a crispy flapjack, rather than soft and crumbly. If anyone has any advice or recipes, that would be much appreciated.

Have a great weekend - I am going on a knitting course with some friends. I will of course report back! x

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Felt Macarons (Mollie Makes Magazine)

You were all so nice about my dress - thank you. It was a scary moment uploading that photo, but I like to see what my blogging friends look like so it seemed only fair that you know what I look like too. 

But today - back to my crafting comfort zone. How ridiculously cute and pretty are these little macarons? I want to eat all of them. I tried to make macarons a while back and, well...let's just say they didn't look as good as these.

My mission to "make" something from each month's Mollie Makes magazine continues - this one is the felt macarons tutorial from issue number fourteen.

They were a bit of a fiddle. It took about half an hour to make each one, but playing with the colours (sorry, flavours) of each one was enormous fun. I put them in a cardboard takeaway box and wrapped them in ribbon and gave them to Bella and Angus. Bella thinks they are hers and hers alone. Angus knows better and plays with them while she is at school.

It did occur to me that, as well as play food, they would make excellent pin cushions.

John recently accused me of too much girly crafting and it hit a nerve and made me think. Bella loves crafting and gets very involved with what I make, and so I do probably make more things for her. That's true. Angus has neither the language, dexterity or opinions to really get involved. But when Bella was three, she didn't either.

So I was thrilled to see how much Angus loves playing with these toy macarons. We set up a  little tea party and he sat there for ages, pouring tea, feeding his toys. He was a very happy chappie. He is loves the toy shop and kitchen we have, and spends as much time playing with those as Bella. But I do need some ideas for crafting with, and for, three year old boys. Who like cars, dinosaurs and trains. Any suggestions would be most welcome!

While admiring the cuteness of these nicely packaged treats, I started thinking about making things for gifts. I thought that a box containing two macarons, a couple of felt doughnuts and perhaps a felt biscuit or jam tart, wrapped in ribbon with a pretty tag, might be a sweet gift to give a small person for Christmas or birthday. I'd better get stitching. 

Thanks for reading and I hope you are all having a good week. Mine has had it's ups and downs and I'm looking forward to Friday very much. x

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

An Orla Kiely Dress - Before and After

First, thank you so much for all your warm words and kind thoughts about Angus starting nursery. And for sharing your potty training tales - an area of parenting that is hilarious when it is far behind you but tedious when you are in the middle of it. You are all lovely for taking the time to visit and leave comments - it makes my day. And a very big hello to my new followers. You are very welcome and it's lovely to have you here!

Anyway, to today's business. This is not, and never will be, a fashion blog. But I was just so darn happy with the result of something that I really wanted to share it with you. 

I bought the dress below from Uniqlo, part of their new Orla Kiely range (be still my beating heart). I love her designs and use of pattern and colour, and have various wallets, mugs, cushions, towels, lampshades...I could go on. It's embarrassing. But her clothes have always been financially beyond my reach, so I was VERY excited by the Uniqlo range, and ordered this dress.

But when it came, oh, it was not the moment I was hoping for. The words tent-like and maternity spring to mind. But I love the pattern, and the collar and cuff detailing, and the price. So I gave it some thought. I could take it in, but I'm no great shakes on the sewing machine and would probably ruin it. I could cut holes in each side and add a tie-back, but cutting an Orla Kiely dress just felt very wrong.

So, after some pondering and much discussion with my friend Sam over wine, I bought two metres of cream velvet ribbon for the princely sum of £2.58 and made a sash/tie around the waist. I love it. It suits my shape now. I can adjust the ribbon for fat days and thin days and no dress was harmed in the making of this post. And it is the perfect Autumn dress with tights and my favourite brown boots.

(Please excuse the altogether horrid pictures - it was very bright and sunny, my hair was a mess, I am squinting, and felt like a right idiot standing in my back garden making John take a photo of me. But the dress is good.)

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

My Baby

Angus started nursery today. 

I am feeling a little sad. 

It is the beginning of the end of my at-home-with-kids bubble. John was off today and we all went off together at 8.30am. Angus cried a little when we first went in, but then he spotted a few of his friends and wandered off in search of the cars and train track. When we said bye he was quite happy. I cried all the way back to the car. John took me to buy some ribbon for a dress and for a coffee (I'm a cheap date). 

But then, in the coffee shop, we ordered two coffees and didn't have to spend a small fortune on fruit juice and gingerbread men. We sat down and chatted, without interruptions, about where we might go to spend our ten year wedding anniversary next Spring. 

That was nice.


In other exciting news, Angus has made excellent progress in the toilet training department. Pants were purchased. More pants were purchased as five pairs clearly wasn't enough and, for some inexplicable reason, he wont wear his Thomas the Tank Engine ones. A potty chair is now another brightly coloured, ugly plastic item in our house. But I'd rather look at that than have puddles all over the floorboards. We've been attempting this on and off since last Spring and I was starting to think he'd be the only child at nursery not toilet trained. But, in true Angus fashion, he waited until he was good and ready, thank you very much.

The monkey pants below are his absolute favourite pair.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

A Sunny Day in the Dales

In the UK, when we get really good weather in June, July and August, we say "Oh finally! About time too. I hope it lasts. But not for too long because we don't want another hosepipe ban...etc etc". But when we get sunshine in September everyone is grateful. And happy. Because it feels like such a treat, a blessing, to have such gorgeous weather when the schools have gone back and Autumn is approaching. 

The light feels like it has a different quality to it; softer, more mellow, less need for running around with sun hats and suncream. The air smells different. Yesterday I joined a group of friends who were camping for the night in the Yorkshire Dales. Eight adults, six children, one teenager and one baby. I didn't camp because 1. John was working all weekend, 2. we had plans Friday and Saturday night, and 3. we don't own a tent. Bella, Angus and I arrived at lunchtime and had an idyllic few hours with our friends. We picnicked, we played with water rockets and we spent hours paddling and splashing in a beautiful brook. When I left them all in the late afternoon sun, beers in hand, planning their evening barbecue I did think, hmmm - maybe I could be persuaded that  this camping lark is for me after all. 

Do you like camping? I think I could get into it if I had a proper, good tent and comfy mattresses with fitted sheets, and good pillows, and an electric hook-up with a fridge, cooker, (radio?) you know, all the kit. In fact the more a tent resembles an Actual House, the more I like it.

The other thing that struck me is, oh my goodness, the Yorkshire Dales are stunningly beautiful. It took an hour and a half to get to our destination yesterday, but we can get to other parts of the Dales like Skipton in under an hour. Why, when we have this amazing countryside around me, don't we go more? Also, because we are apparently the only family left in the world who does not to own a Sat Nav, I got very lost, going and coming back. But I didn't really mind, because the sun was shining and it was just all very scenic. Now, if I was lost on the one way system in Leeds city centre, that would be a different matter altogether.

What did you do with your weekend? Was it sunny where you are? 

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Blackberries and Apples

Lately we have been picking a lot of blackberries. Last week we picked a couple of pounds of brambles, or wild blackberries, near the sea shore. On the way home from school each day we look for them along the old railway line. I find nappy bags make very handy containers for spontaneous fruit picking.

I find fruit picking so relaxing. It's like therapy. (Or what I imagine the positive benefits of therapy to be. Maybe I mean it's therapeutic.) All I am thinking about is the task in front of me (although the Mummy radar is never fully switched off). Find fruit, squeeze it to test it's ripeness, pick it and add it to the growing pile in the bag or basket. Reach. Pick. Collect. Avoid the sharp bramble thorns. My mind just wanders all over the place and I feel very peaceful and happy. Not ecstatic happy, just quietly content with life. Does fruit picking make you feel like this? Or anything else?

My Grandmother has a wild tangle of proper, cultivated blackberries in her garden, and I picked lots of those while we were staying with my parent's last week. I hadn't really noticed the difference between the two types of fruit, but the blackberries are so much fatter, sweeter and juicier than their more wild equivalent. She also has a large apple tree and let me collect all the fallen fruit. I will give her some of the jam I made with it. A fair exchange.

So this week I have been having a few jam making sessions. Getting a bit bold and having two pans bubbling on the hob at the same time, get me.

I made blackberry and apple jam, one of my all time favourite fruit flavour combinations. These two early Autumn fruits just balance each other perfectly, producing a jam that is not too sweet and full of earthy, subtly spicy flavours. It's heaven. Especially when eaten on a hot, buttered crumpet with a cup of tea.

To make it I used:

1 kilo or 2 lbs blackberries
1 kilo or 2 lbs peeled, cored and chopped apples
2 kilos or 4 lbs sugar

Pour everything into a very large jam pan (or use two pans - or less fruit) and slowly bring to the boil. Blackberries and apples are both naturally very high in pectin so there should be no need to use preserving sugar or jam sugar, or to add powdered pectin. In fact, my batch reached it's setting point pretty quickly so have your saucer in the freezer ready to check for wrinkles, it wont take long. Start checking after only five minutes or so, otherwise you may have jam with the texture of a rubber ball. This amount yielded 8 jars.

As with most jam recipes, the amounts are infinitely variable depending on what you have to hand. So long as you use the same weight in sugar as fruit, you can't go wrong.

Much more time was spent fussing with fabrics and labels in Autumnal shades. Honestly, it's a good thing I can laugh at myself.

I think I have gone off the label idea I used below. As I opened a jar to eat, I realised that once you'd dispensed with the pretty fabric jar topper, ribbon and label, you had nothing to tell you what sort of jam it was. This is why jam labels need to be stuck on to the jar - so you know what you're eating! Duh. Still, they look very pretty. And our jar was gone in two days so we were just about able to remember what sort of jam we were smearing on our toast.