17.08

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Ten happy things…plus a few photos of my beautiful little girl enjoying the sunshine last week <3

1. RAIN! I don’t think I’ve ever been so overjoyed by cool, showery summer days before, but after weeks of sweltering heat, it’s just bliss isn’t it? And I’ve tried so hard not to be a moany pregnant woman…but my GOD it’s so much more exhausting hefting around a bump in the heat!!

2. Coffee and bookshop trips with Ottilie <3 She requests a strawberry milkshake every time we go, and we sit together and colour or do stickers and it’s basically the best. I couldn’t love her more.

3. My new diffuser, which is basically my new BFF! I bought it to use for my home birth (fingers crossed!), but it’s so amazing I literally have it on non stop. A combination of ylang ylang and bergamot oils is my current favourite.

4. Starting to pack my birth bag. It’s all beginning to feel so, so real! We’ve also started our hypnobirthing course with the Positive Birth Company this week, and it’s absolutely amazing! It’s giving me such a positive, content feeling about approaching the birth of this baby, and is a lovely way to spend an hour in the evenings with Jason too. I’m recommending it to everyone already!

5. Picking homegrown cucumbers. There are so many on the plants now, and surprisingly the outdoor ones are doing better than the ones in the greenhouse!

6. Courgette fritters, all day long! They’re 100% my favourite thing to eat for dinner right now, and I’ve just cooked up a double batch to fill the freezer with. And with our current courgette harvest rate, I’ll be making a fair few more batches before the summer is over…

7. Heading to bed early in the evenings and reading the book everyone’s talking about right now, ‘This Is Going to hurt’ by Adam Kay! It’s an honest account of the life of a Junior Doctor, and I’ve finished it in record time. The end hit me like a train, but I also laughed more times than I could count whilst reading it. 100% recommend!

8. Taking Ottie to London on the train a couple of weekends, and how much it blew her mind! She’s obsessed with trains and so was in her element the whole journey there and back- we’re taking her to the London Transport Museum for her birthday at the beginning of next month, and I think she’s going to love it!

9. The cleaning product aisle in Waitrose, obsessing over the scents of different fabric softeners, sight of freshly vacuumed carpets…because in case you couldn’t guess, I’m nesting like a lunatic and this is apparently what makes me happy these days!

10. The sweet, ripe greengages I found at the farm shop earlier in the week! They were sickeningly expensive, but worth every delicious penny!

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What’s made you happy this week? :)

 

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13.08

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And just like that, my favourite time of year has arrived!

Despite the berries seeming to be remaining stubbornly red and inedible for weeks up until just recently, the hedgerows all around the farm have suddenly exploded with ripe fruits. We’d been picking odds and ends whilst out with the dogs, purple-tinged handfuls to nibble on whilst we walked, but decided that a proper blackberrying excursion was in order if we were ever to have enough for making the first batch of jam of the season.

So in between Friday’s frequent bouts of thunder and rain, we donned wellies and raincoats, grabbed a few Tupperware boxes, and headed off towards the fields…

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The hedgerows around where we live are so wonderfully abundant, we were rewarded with a kilo of fresh, delicious berries that took us just half an hour or so to pick!

In fact, we must have gathered way more than a kilo, but the smallest member of our team was determined to eat as many berries as she could whilst we picked! She’s discerning about it too, a pro at spotting ‘big juicy ones’ and letting us know if we’d handed her a berry that was a ‘bit sharp’.

But I guess we shouldn’t be surprised- ‘backbees’ was one of the first words she ever said, and she was picking and eating them before she could even walk!

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My Mum always describes Ottilie as being an urchin, and I totally see her point! <3

I think it’s the mess of curls that never seems to be tamed (despite our daily attempts to brush, clip, and ponytail it…), her chin that forever bears the marks of whatever fruit she last ate (the battle to wipe it is a constant struggle!), and the permanent cheeky twinkle in her eye that does it. She’s just like I was as a child- forever slightly scruffy and at her happiest when outside. It makes me so happy to see.

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And it isn’t just Ottilie who loves blackberries, but Ted too!

He picks them from the brambles himself, disregarding the red ones and beelining for any that are plump, dark, and juicy. Isn’t he smart?

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With our boxes and tubs mounded high with berries and a little girl stained purple from face to fingertips, we headed home to get on with making a big batch of fresh blackberry jam!

Recently one of Jason’s Aunts recommended I track down a copy of one of Margeurite Patten’s preserving recipe books, advice I willingly followed not least because Auntie Sue has reputation for making the most delicious jams and chutneys! It’s the most old school book (with imperial measurements which always, always reminds me of cooking with my Grandma!), and a blackberry jam recipe turned out just perfectly for us. We couldn’t wait and tucked into one of the jars the next morning, spreading it thickly onto toast and pancakes at breakfast time. It’s completely and utterly delicious!

And since I’ve already got half a dozen more recipes bookmarked that I want to try, I think we might need to head back out and get picking again soon…

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07.08

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If there’s any one vegetable you can always count on to be plentiful when growing your own, it’s the courgette. Last year I had three plants growing in the tiny garden of our old house, and such a bountiful supply I promised myself that in 2018 I’d cut back to just two plants.

But in reality? I’ve somehow managed to end up with five, yes, FIVE plants of differing varieties, and we’re picking an average of two courgettes a day. Last weekend we picked NINE. It’s madness, madness I tell you!

So what to do with them all? Well, we’re cramming them into just about every savoury recipe going (from risottos and pastas, to fritters and salads), I’ve made batches of pickles and chutneys, but my current favourite way to use these sweet summer squashes up is to bake them into a loaf cake.

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The cake itself is the simplest thing to knock up (even with the help, or hindrance, of a toddler), and is absolutely delicious too.

It doesn’t taste exactly of courgettes, in the way that carrot cake doesn’t taste exactly of carrots, but it does have a certain undefinably ‘green’ flavour that works so well alongside the freshness of berries or some citrus zest. I’ve been topping it off a simple lemon glaze more often than not, but this time, thanks to a distinct lack of lemons available in the house, I had to get creative with a few of the first blackberries of the season instead.

Simply warmed through, crushed, and then mixed with a small mound of icing sugar, it made the most delicious topping for the cake. And oh so seasonal, too!

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The recipe is one I’ve adapted from BBC Good Food, though minimally it must be said. Mainly through laziness (I didn’t have self raising flour first time I made it and so replaced with plain flour and just doubled up the baking powder), and also I’ve removed the sultanas because does anyone really want sultanas in a sponge cake? I think not.

Makes one loaf cake.

Ingredients:
350g courgettes
250g light brown sugar
125ml sunflower oil
3 large eggs
1tsp vanilla extract
Grated zest of 1 lemon
300g plain flour
2tsps baking powder

- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees, and grease and line a loaf tin with parchment paper.

- Grate the courgettes, then put them all into a tea towel and wring out as much of the moisture as you can.

- Add the courgettes to a large bowl, and add in the sugar, oil, eggs, lemon zest (if using), and vanilla extract. Mix together. Tip in the flour and baking powder, mix thoroughly, and then pour the batter into the lined cake tin.

- Bake for 50minutes-1 hour, and then allow to cool slightly before turning out onto a wire rack.

- A simple and delicious glaze can be made by mixing icing sugar into fruit juice (lemon, orange, grapefruit, mashed berries…) until a smooth runny consistency is achieved. Allow the cake to cool completely before icing.

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If you have a go and make it yourself, do tag me in a photo on Instagram! I’d love to know how you get on!

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Posted in CAKE, COUNTRYSIDE LIFE, EATING SEASONALLY, FROM MY HOME TO YOURS, KITCHEN GARDEN, RECIPE, SUMMER

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03.08

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1. That magical moment when Ottie falls asleep in the car, and I get to switch over from The Gruffalo audiobook to a podcast! Current favourites are At Home With by Lily and Anna, and Giovanna Fletcher’s ‘Happy Mum Happy Baby’!

2. Pickling, jamming, and jarring! Getting a bit obsessed over here with seeing my cupboards slowly fill with homegrown, freshly preserved produce for the winter months. Pickled beetroot was my latest venture, and next up I’m planning some courgette chutney!

3. Rain! Sweet, sweet rain! I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to see a storm roll in and the heavens open. Blessed relief for this overheated pregnant Mama!

4. Wednesday playdates with my sister in law and my niece and nephew! Ottilie is obsessed with her cousins, they children play so nicely together (mostly, we only have to wade in and referee the girls every 15 minutes or so ;), and two adults to three children makes everything a million times easier! A couple of weeks ago we put them all in the car, drove around until they all fell asleep, then went to a McDonalds drive through for fries and milkshakes. It was totally amazing…

5. Five sweet, ripe raspberries eaten straight from the canes in the garden. I planted them in the most stupid spot this year and am in the process of putting together new raspberry beds ready for next summer, but the few we’ve had are just delicious! Already excited for next summer’s (hopefully!!) bountiful crop!

6. Being kicked in the ribs, and feeling little tiny fingers tickling behind my hip bones. So weird, so wonderful.

7. Putting together a little stash of lovely gifts ready for Ottilie’s birthday! Can you believe she’ll be 2 in a month’s time?! I’m sure it was only a couple of months ago I was planning her first birthday! I’ve been a bit obsessive about getting everything organised ultra early this year since her birthday is less than a month before my due date, so now I’m done getting sorted for her birthday I’m moving on to Christmas. Not even kidding..

8. Seeing little baby butternut squashes growing on the vines down in the vegetable patch. So very exciting!

9. Beginning our online hypnobirthing course! We’re using The Positive Birth Company’s digital pack, and loving it so far. SO amazing to be able to follow along with it at our own pace, in the comfort of our own living room where I’m hoping to give birth come October.

10. Ottilie-isms: ‘Peel my toast Mummy’ (she wanted the crusts taken off…), ‘I love purple/dinosaurs/chocolate cake/Elsie/(literally anything!), dat my favourite!’, and her current obsession with playing ‘midmife’ and measuring my bump with a tape measure <3

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