Tag Archives: lavender

In a Vase on Monday: be present with yoga

“Calming the mind is yoga. Not just standing on the head.” Swami Satchidananda

This week, despite the heat in Manchester, I’ve done quite a bit of gardening in the evenings, when most of our North facing garden is in the shade.  I notice my mood is better if I’ve spent time outdoors, especially pottering around and watering the plants.  I’ve rationalised my plants into bigger pots, pushed together so that I can water everything I need to and bigger pots retain the moisture.  It’s also the first summer I’ve watered shrubs in the garden. It takes me about half an hour to water the pots (with a watering can and water from the water butts).  We have had so little rain here – and the temperatures have been in the high 20s for a couple of months.  Also, I’ve put succulents, sedums and drought tolerant plants in my hanging baskets.  Gardening helps me be mindful – as does yoga.

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7 August 2018 – posy of sweetpeas, lavender and dianthus – with The Book of You and a Be present yoga print

How yoga helps my mind, body and spirit

I’ve been practising yoga, on and off, for about 12 years, starting completely by accident.  A friend of mine had a pal who was learning to be an Iyengar yoga teacher so needed people to practise with.  It was right next to work, straight after work so it seemed a good thing to do. It changed my life.

When I was younger I had poor spacial awareness and was always tripping over, which lead to some hilarious incidents including my Steve (my former partner) pulling me out of a peat bog as I’d sunk up to my knees and was slowly falling face forward into the bog.  Another time I went flying, just as a busload of tourists came round the corner in very rural Ireland.  I was always collecting bruises from bumping into things.

It’s a long time ago, but the first things I noticed doing yoga was that it helped me stretch (especially my hamstrings), helped calm my brain as I was concentrating on breathing and the position of my limbs.  I learnt to do corpse pose (Shavasana) not ‘banana’ pose as my first Yoga teacher Jacky named it.  Yoga isn’t a quick fix – it took me about 6 weeks to see the real benefit. I carried on with Jacky’s classes and then John Aplin for years until my work pattern changed.

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In a Vase on Monday – in the pink with Pimms (and tennis)

This week I’ve been watching a lot of tennis.  It’s definitely part of my summer schedule to watch Wimbledon, I’ve watched it since I was a child.  My Mum loves watching tennis, so I caught the bug from her.  We went to Wimbledon in 1977 when I was 11 – Centre Court tickets. We saw Billy Jean King and Martina, Ile Nastase, a very young John McEnroe. we had a brilliant day. I’d love to go again, need to remember to apply for the ballot 🙂 A friend told me she won ballot tickets for the Ladies Final in 2009, when Serena beat Venus, so it’s worth a go.

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So for today’s vase, I thought I’d do a Wimbledon theme.  There’s always plenty of flowers and plants around the Wimbledon site – and it all looks lovely from what you can see in on the TV/  I picked some dianthus (commonly known as pinks), some  purple perennial wallflower (which is still flowering!), white pelargonium and a different lavender from last week. These colours sum up summer for me – pinks, reds, purples and whites.  My strawberries are over so I couldn’t include them 😦 The plants aren’t looking very happy in the heat even though they’re in the shade.

It is very dry in our garden, as we’ve only had significant rain one evening last week and once in June.  The temperature has been in mid-20s for a couple months now – with no cloud cover.  Our houses aren’t designed for this level of sustained heat.  I have the curtains at the front of the house and I am grateful for once for a north-facing back garden.  I’d been gardening in the shade when I can too. As well as a lot of watering using the watering can – the water butts are full again from last weeks rain so that helps.
The huge moorland fires at Winter Hill, by Bolton and Dovestones, by Oldham are only a few miles from me – the smell of smoke hung across the city centre for a few days two weeks ago.  The firefighters are still dampening down the peat, many footpaths and a few roads are closed.  Grim.

The flowers are displayed in a small jug with roses on, that I bought at Bodnant Garden, a National Trust property, where My Chap and I got engaged in June 2016.  We have picnics often so one of my small hampers is a prop too. I’ve written before about Bodnant, and the jug has appeared before, too:

I don’t have any dainty teacups to put in this shot, as I only have chunky big mugs for tea but I’m sure you get the idea with the mini jug, and the sign is a nod to the scoring in tennis and the small picnic hamper.

Do have a look at Cathy’s post in Rambling in the Garden – she has zinnias this week which I’ve never attempted to grow. Maybe next year.

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Pimms 
I love Pimms – I drink it all year round, usually in pint glasses without fruit just mint and Ice.  Drinking pints of Pimms is my Dad’s fault as he couldn’t be bothered to go back into the kitchen to pour more Pimms when we were sat out enjoying the sunshine in the back garden.  I like the Blackberry and Elderflower Pimms too – it tastes like alcoholic Ribena.  Yoda likes Pimms too 😉  For those that don’t know Pimms was invented in 1823 by James Pimm who owned oyster bars in the City of London.  It’s a gin-based drink and even now the herbs and spices used are a secret recipe.  He went on to invent a number of Cups based on different spirits including No. 6 Cup (vodka),  No 3 Cup (based on Brandy) now available as Winter Pimms.  I drink Winter Pimms too and that’s lovely as a hot drink on a cold, wintery evening.   All the other Cups are phased out at the moment 😦

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Here are some of my favourite Pimm’s recipes in addition to Pimms and lemonade.  My dad used to put borage in our Pimms but mint is fine too.

Pimms and ginger ale

  • 1 part Pimms and 3 parts ginger ale over ice

My Chap particularly likes this one with a quality ginger beer.

Cranberry Pimms 

  • 375ml  Pimm’s No.1 Cup
  • 1litre sparkling lemonade, chilled
  • 200ml cranberry juice
  • 1 sliced lemon as garnish
  • Mint leaves as garnish
  • Redcurrants or fresh berries, as the garnish

yoda collage with pimms

You can see that Yoda has aged a few years in these pictures too…

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Do you have any favourite summer drinks?  We love gin and tonic too. My Chap has a collection of gins.
What do you have planned for the week?

Carpe Diem

love Bec xxx xxx

 

In a Vase on Monday – tea and biscuit recipe (lemon and earl grey)

It was Canada Day last week (1st July). celebrating the foundation of the nation in 1867 – it reminded me to look out a vase my former boss Bonnie gave me a few years ago.  The connection is she is Canadian, and the vase was has a famous Canadian landmark on it.  I have to admit I looked it up, as I’d forgotten it’s called the CN Tower in Toronto (553 metres 1815 feet high). It’s the ninth highest free-standing building in the world.  The vase is abstract and not to scale 😉

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For my vase, I picked lisianthus, lavender and a chive flower.  I am really suprised I’ve managed to keep the lisianthus alive and thriving. But, their common name gives it away prairie gentian, it’s very happy in my front garden.

The Brits reading this blog, will know that temperatures have been over 25 degrees for over 2 months, and only two small rain showers here in Manchester.  The huge moorland fires at Winter Hill near Bolton and at Dovestones, near Oldham are only a few miles away – the acrid smoke smell hung across the city centre for a couple of days.  The firefighters, Mountain Rescue and the Army still dampening down the peat.  Grim.  I’ve been watering the pots and key parts of garden every night – luckily I find watering plants very restful and mindful.  I’d really like some overnight rain though.

Please have a look at Rambling in the Garden hosted by Cathy where people from around the world post their links of the flowers and plants they’ve picked from their gardens.  She has a riot of purple this week – inspiring for me as I love purple plants in the garden.

I think I’ve written a couple of times about Bonnie on my blog. She was a huge mentor in my career, and I often think ‘what would Bonnie do?‘ She has a brain the size of the universe. but is always kind, helpful and supportive to everyone she worked with whatever their role and expertise.  She’s still missed around work; she’s happily retired now, walking the hills of Yorkshire and bird watching.  I mentioned her in this blog:

Tea tasting with Cottonopolis WI – July 2018
We had a great meeting hearing all about tea – and tasting some awesome brews.  Marcy from Parched Tea in Manchester came to speak at our meeting; we do our best to support local business and charities.  As well as selling quality black and green teas, she has developed teas for Manchester central library and the Bronte museum in Haworth.

20180703_192535She even has a kettle that has different temperatures – green teas prefer 70 degrees not 100 degrees unlike black teas, like oolong.

I don’t think I’ve written much about my tea drinking on the blog. I love earl grey, lady greys sunshine greys, Empress grey, in fact, most gunpower teas – all drunk black.  I think you might see a theme here – I’m lactose intolerant (I found out over 30 years ago).  My Chap loves strong builders tea with minimal milk – strong enough to stand a spoon in 😉

Our competition this month was to make something flavoured with tea or coffee. I decided on earl grey biscuits, as they’re simple to make.

Earl Grey and Lemon Biscuits

Here’s the recipe – it’s adapted from an American one so it uses cups – Canadians tend to use cup measurements too.  I adapted it a bit as I couldn’t find the vanilla extract.

Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup (60 grams) caster sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60 grams) demerara sugar
  • 1 cup (220 grams) Butter
  • 2 cups  plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • about 10 drops of lemon juice (either fresh or bottled) or vanilla extract – according to taste.
  • 1tsp water to help bind the dough
  • 2 Earl Grey teabags – finer the leaves the better.

Notes

  • I used M&S Empress Grey as one of my favourites. Bagged tea is finer so it is better than loose tea for the dough mixture. You could grind loose tea in a pestle and mortar.
  • leaving the dough to cool in the fridge will help the tea infuse into the mixture too.

Method – takes about half an hour

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C or 350­°F.
  2. Mix caster sugar and demerara sugar in a large bowl.
  3. Add in flour, salt, and tea leaves.
  4. Continue to mix until a soft dough forms – it will be flaky and lumpy but
  5. Roll dough into a long sausage shape on parchment paper.
  6. Chill in the fridge for about half an hour rolled
  7. Cut into 3cm thick round shapes and place on baking tray.
  8. OR you can roll out about 3cm thick and cut with a round biscuit cutter.
  9. Bake on a parchment paper on a baking tray for 10-12 minutes or until the edges are golden brown.

Amazing – I won! and all the biscuits were eaten – they didn’t look like much but the definitely tasted nice.   There were only three entries though as everyone had been really busy.  Not the best picture as they disappeared so quickly.  I’ll definitely make them again.

biscuits 3Cottonopolis WI meet on the first Tuesday of the month from 730pm at Halle St Michael’s on George Leigh Street, Ancoats Manchester.   Our next meeting is on 7th August when we will be going on a history walk around Ancoats and a quiz.  Visitors always welcome and we’ll have cake.  We’re a friendly bunch.

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Are you doing any baking this week? or is it just TOO hot?  I’ll be spending time in the garden, when I’m not watching the tennis, and watering pots in the evening.  I’m going on a couple of courses this week, so I’ll report back on that soon. 

Carpe Diem

Love Bec xx xx xx

 

My ‘Mindful’ Garden – I’m in the moment

To Dwell is to Garden – Martin Heidegger, (1889-1976) German philosopher

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better. Albert Einstein (1879-1955), Physicist and Nobel Prize winner for General Theory of Relativity

With mindfulness, you can establish yourself in the present in order to touch the wonders of life that are available in that moment – Nhat Hanh (1926 – he’s 91!), Buddhist Monk

For me, Gardening is mindful, being in the moment. It doesn’t have to be me ‘doing’ things, it’s about the scents, the rustle of leaves, the birds, the hum of lawn movers in the distance. For me, when I’m in the garden, I’m in the moment – I find watering, deadheading and weeding relaxing – and planting too. For me, it’s about peace and recharging.

About my garden – it’s small, it’s rubbly soil and north facing; the neighbour’s have huge conifers, which make it even more shady at the end of the garden.

I love it – our small, sanctuary from the hussle and bustle of the world

I’m content in the garden.

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Before I bought my house – Summer 2009

In high summer 2016… some of the conifers on the right have gone now – but those on the left are even bigger 😦

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My garden is a work in progress – like me. I’m 51 – I definitely feel I’m in a new chapter with My Chap (my new husband) holding my hand, metaphorically too. To be fair, he does all the digging and heavy work as I have osteoarthritis. It’s a team effort in the garden.

and there’s always time to eat and relax.

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Many pots planted (and watered), and always Yoda – any season… Yoda (and Star Wars have appeared many times on this blog).

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I love lavender too – it figured very heavily at our wedding in September 2017 (it was our ‘confetti’ too) I have about 20 different plants around the front garden which gets sun all day.

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Lavender and a cabbage white butterfly

Many crocuses and violas too. Always something for the birds too.

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It’s not all purple flowers though – there’s lots of colour around the garden. Orange and yellow life my mood in Spring. I love tulips too.

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Flowers always make people better, happier and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul. Luther Burbank, American Botanist

Meanwhile, you’ll find me in the garden, drinking Earl Grey or a Pimms… you’re welcome to join us if you’re in the area 😉

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What do you do that’s mindful?

Originally, I wrote about what my garden means for me for the April competition at Cottonopolis Women’s Institute. We were asked to suggest our mindful activities, there was a vast range including knitting/crochet, sewing, baking, art or drawing, listening to music, and a few people like me loved walking or being in the great outdoors.

Our speaker in April was Deb Connor – an all-round star who led some mindfulness exercises and stretches. She’s a trained mindfulness teacher, an acupuncturist and is a vegan too.

I’ve been doing mindfulness for a couple of years now – which combined with over 10 years of yoga has really helped my mental wellbeing. I’ll write about this another to

Women’s Institute – Cottonopolis WI

We have such alot of fun at WI meetings, in June we made beauty products from lavender, peppermint and coffee skin scrubs.

Our next meeting on Tuesday 3rd July (730 at St Micheal’s George Leigh Street, Ancoats, Manchester) is tea tasting. I can’t wait.

If you’re local come along…

Let me know in the comments what you do that’s mindful? Do you have a garden? What does it mean to you?

Carpe Diem

love Bec xxx

In a Vase on Monday -A Cold, Snowy, Salford Spring?

‘No Winter lasts forever, no Spring skips its turn’ Hal Borland (1900-1978) American author and naturalist

No one in Britain can have missed the weather the last few weeks, #thebeastfromtheEast, #StormEmma and more snow due this weekend. I hope you don’t mind, but some of this post was written a couple of weeks ago, and the rest today, as another wintery weekend looms. Also I’ve been a bit stuck, very tired and osteo-arthritis aching but I’ve been plodding along. I feel a bit like Spring, stuck around the corner, nearly in reach but not quite. I saw something on twitter today, which made me laugh:

Winter this year, is like a person who leaves the room in a huff, only to come back in ‘and another thing…’ only to leave again… and return…

#theBeastfromthe East brought about 4 inches of snow to Monton, it’s very unusual to have this much, usually it’s about two inches, as it’s very flat around here with many canals. It was THAT cold and icy our local Parkrun (Worsley woods) was cancelled… this never happens as its under trees and very protected compared to most Parkruns. Fortunately my Chap was OK about this, as the air was far too cold for running – you wouldn’t think to look at him that he has asthma 🙂

The wind chill dipped to minus 12 during the night, and minus 8 during the day. I don’t think I’ve ever been so cold in the middle of the city. I’m very used to cold, when I’m up a mountain and layered up. It reminded me of the very cold day in January 2015, when we went to Neuschwanstein, in Bavaria with my Brother and his family, who were visiting from Australia – happy memories 🙂

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A very cold, snowy day in Monton on 4th March 2018
It wasn’t lost on me that 1st March was the start of the meteorological Spring – so I layered up with my thickest, longest waterproof, gloves, hat, scarf and boots and ventured into the garden to see what flowers I could find. I was surprised to find some tête-à-têtes, and some purple perennial wallflower so I quickly picked the flowers, and put them in a vase with some lavender. The vase has appeared in ‘In a Vase on Monday’ many times, I wrapped ‘bee happy’ washi tape around it. The print is part of a series – the Winter print with descriptions of moons has appeared too (Worm Moon, Pink Moon and Flower Moon) at the start of metreological Winter. Butterflies and bees seem a long way off at the moment, but like most things, they’ll be back.

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In a Vase on Monday – love and marriage #teamRebecca

‘You have made a place in my heart where I thought there was no room for anything else. You have made flowers grow where I cultivated dust and stones’. Robert Jordan (1948-2007) author of The Wheel of Time series of fantasy novels

Spring is definitely on its way here in Manchester – I LOVE Spring, it lifts my soul. But,as usual the weather is due to change again, so I’m making the most of the sunshine.

The snowdrops have been flowering for a couple of weeks, dwarf irises, crocuses too. I picked some along with some lavender leaves and flower spikes from last year. The vase is purple recycled glass I bought at the Eden Centre, in Cornwall. It’s appeared many times ‘In a Vase on Monday’.

Do have a look at Rambling in the Garden www.ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/ where bloggers from around the world present their flowers; there’s such amazing diversity and skill. Many thanks to Cathy who hosts IAVOM – she has some stunning iris this week.

20 February 2018 – iris, crocus, snowdrops, lavender in purple glass vase

With my vase I’ve included a print which says some very important words in French, Spanish, Italian German and English 🙂 The Little jar is a wedding favour with a chocolate mousse/pudding. It was luscious. My Chap laughed when I said ‘Oh look another Vase for Monday flowers’ 😉

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20 February 2018 – my vase, sign ‘I love you’ and chocolate mousse jar

It’s been a week full of love for us: it was Valentine’s Day, we always have a relaxed meal at home, unless we’re at a gig 🙂 As ever, My Chap bought me flowers, he does this regularly. I think he likes bouquets nearly as much as I do, but then he does work in the florist industry.

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Adventures around Manchester and beyond…

A very special wedding – My Chap’s nephew Darren and his fiancee Rebecca who awesome people and devoted parents to baby E 🙂 . E enjoyed their day v v much and she had a wand! how excellent is that? Darren and Rebecca got married in a beautiful Georgian Hall, with many snowdrops in the grounds. There was what alot of laughs and fun, there was live music and we danced all night. Their wedding cake was truely amazing and tasted awesome – a chocolate cake with hidden depths 🙂

There was so much love that day, and every day in their relationship, it’s wonderful to see.

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20 February 2018 – wedding flowers , wands and my wedding shoes 🙂

I wore my sparkly purple floral wedding shoes too 🙂 and Rebecca had beautiful wedding flowers #teamRebecca. I’m not putting any other pictures at the moment as they’ve not uploaded many – but their wedding cake was utterly awesome.

Food as an expression of love – We’ve had lovely food this week too – pancakes with blueberry sauce on Shrove Tuesday, made by My Chap. I’ve got no idea how he made the sauce but it was lovely. We a sumptuous Chinese dinner to celebrate the ‘Year of the Dog’ but no photos as we ate it so quickly. My Chap would still love to have a dog but we will have to wait until we are retired…. fingers crossed a cat may be joining us later in the year.

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Here are some crocuses and pansys from our front garden – many more are on their way.

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20 February 2018 -crocuses, primulas and pansies in our front garden

I’m continuing with mindfulness, #savouringHappiness on instragram @becinmonton. Walking for at least an hour each day, weekly yoga too (not quite managing to step it up to daily yoga practise). I’m still very tired, my arthritis aching, but I’m better than I was. And Spring is around the corner…. 🙂

What do you have planned to #savourhappiness this week?

Carpe Diem

Love Bec xx xx xx

lavender in pinkster gin bottle with autumn fruit jam

In a Vase on Monday (not) – luscious lavender and jam at Christmas 

As Rosemary is to the Spirit, so Lavender is to the Soul. Anonymous

Merry Christmas everyone – I’m late to the party as usual for in A Vase on Monday; I’ve been wiped out with flu all week confined to bed, which messed our Christmas plans a bit.

It feels a bit odd writing about lavender at this time of year – it has been a very odd year in many ways – and I don’t just mean the weird weather.  I’ve been back at work over a year, in a new role too, but it takes just about all my energy to do my job and run the basics of life – hence my rather intermittent blogging.  Thank goodness for my Chap who is truly wonderful and takes care of me every day.

Lavender is one of my favourite plants – I adore its scent as well as the flowers.  I have about 15 plants around my sunny, front garden – varieties include Munstead, Hidcote, Vera (White) – They thrive in the fairly rubbly soil.  I’ve got some other lavender in the back garden in pots on the deck – under the conifers that overhang from my neighbour’s garden.  So as you can imagine I was thrilled to find some still flowering in  December – despite the very wet and windy weather we’ve had in Manchester.  I picked these on 23 December 2016.

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In a Vase on Monday – lavender in v small gin bottle with my prize winning Autumn fruit jam

I’ve written about lavender quite a few times on the blog, but I think this is the first time the flowers have appeared in a vase alone.

As usual, I am joining in with Cathy from Rambling in the Garden who hosts this link up – she has a simple, beautiful, vase of snowberries and rosehips – it looks very wintry and festive.  I do love looking at flowers, plants and vases from around the world – it definitely brightens by days – and my mission for next year is to pick, photo and post more often about the plants from my garden – and be more prompt on Mondays even though Cathy says it doesn’t matter if I’m late.

Women’s Institute prize winning jam – yes really
My jam won ‘tastiest jam’ at our  Women’s Institute weekend away in September.  I am staggered still, as it’s only my second attempt at jam and there was ALOT of competition. We had a wonderful time in the Cheshire countryside at a Scout camp at our Big Weekender – do have a look at the photos :-). I was very chuffed to win this badge 🙂

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Autumn fruit jam (blackberry, apple, raspberry, blueberry, red currant) – a prize winning jam


Recipe – Autumn Fruit Jam

I used 900g mixed soft fruit which included:

  • about 300g v tart blackberries from garden
  • two big Braeburn apples – cored, peeled and sliced
  • about 200g blueberries – only about 20 from garden, most were from a well known supermarket 😉
  • about 250g frozen raspberries from the garden
  • handful v v tart red currants from my garden

and 800g  jam sugar (this has more pectin)

Method

  • I put blackberries and apple in first in my maslin pan, added the raspberries and blueberries and topped up with redcurrants.
  • I added the sugar slowly and ensured it melted first, then added a bit more.
  • I simmered and stirred, everything slowly stunned to mush.
  • Keep going til you get a ‘rolling boil’ – the liquid went darker and the bubbles look thicker.
  • To check the jam will set I used the frozen plate method
  • put plate in the freezer – take plate out when ‘rolling boil’ – splodge a blob of jam on the plate – push it to see if jam wrinkles then it’s ready
  • I’ve also got a jam thermometer but i prefer the plate method.
  • My chap ladled the jam into the jars – jam funnel much easier.
  • Jars and lids were washed and ‘cooked’ in oven to sterilise them.
  • pour the jam in when still warm 🙂
  • I’ve made chutney for years but jam is MUCH quicker to do.
lavender in a very small Pinkster gin bottle

lavender in a very small Pinkster gin bottle

lavender in a small pinkster gin bottle

lavender in a small pinkster gin bottle 

If you’re wondering why I picked a Pinkster gin bottle – it’s because it’s flavoured with raspberries 🙂 and these bottles are from gin explorer boxes that come monthly for my Chap from me. It’s a really great way to try out new gins.

The Christmas gin fairy might just have brought a full size bottle too – shame I’m still feeling far too rough to drink anything apart from peppermint tea.  But it’s not all been bad, I’ve been checking out wedding photographers. I’m on the mend slowly, but that’s been the recurring theme of 2016.

I hope you’ve all have a lovely, relaxing Christmas break and that 2017 is a really good year for you.

Carpe Diem

Love Bec xx

 

*I wasn’t asked to write about ‘gin explorer’ and I pay full subscription price for each box.