Preparing for Autumn

If I am to live a simple, low stress, slower and more contented life with so many people depending on me I have learned that I must be intentional, in many ways but particularly in preparing and planning for the future. One of the biggest things I’ve learned is that plans (I love a good list)must be brief, easy to put in place and also must equate to action (I love a good bit of procrastination too lol) or things get very stressful, trying to fulfil all those dreams and obligations at the last minute. At this time of year when one can, this year at least, sense the first whisperings of the changing of the season in the air, my heart begins to feel the call to prepare for the coming cold, I long for full cupboards and freezers, no doubt some leftover trace in my blood, from the days when preparing and storing for winter was a necessity, although I sometimes wonder if I’m alone in this?

So anyway in order to live an intentional life with less last minute chaos I do a few things to prepare in advance for the coming season during the one that comes before it, I am currently preparing for autumn in various ways, some of which are included in the list below along with some that I’m adding in this year and some suggestions that you might enjoy as well.

  • Buy new wellies, waterproof jackets and umbrellas for everyone as needed, and give those not being replaced a good clean, replacing worn insoles etc.
  • Knit a new cardigan or jumper for everyone in your family, I prefer to use a more lightweight wool in autumnal coppers and moss tones, for this time of year as they’re pretty timeless and good for layering over short sleeves, should an Indian summer pleasantly surprise us.
  • Preserve the harvest – it becomes possible to serve up a large and varied selection of those most delectable of comfort foods, the autumn dessert, on even the most meagre of budgets by freezing or otherwise preserving those summer fruits necessary while they are in season, either from you garden, foraging, a local farm shop or market. When the summer sun makes pastry making a trial, and the prospect of putting a pie in the oven for an hour reminiscent more of Dante’s Inferno than Little Women, its comforting to know that it doesn’t matter because those peaches, and blackcurrants will still be there, safely stowed in your freezer to cheer a dreary November evening.
  • Check and restock your spice rack – warming spices for chilli, soups, stews and desserts (along with all your dried herbs) should be used up by their best before date, as they lose a lot of their flavour and health benefits when they get old. If you grow some herbs in your garden or on your windowsill you might like to have a go at drying and storing them yourself during the summer, as commercially produced non-organic ones can be very high in pesticide residues.
  • I like to stock up the pantry with ‘fresh’ dried fruits and things like treacle, syrups, brown sugar, chocolate chips, cocoa, and also freshen up the jars of baking mixes I make to speed up my time in the kitchen. If you’re anything like me then when it’s chilly and you’re just craving a warm freshly baked gingerbread man, the thought of going to the shop to buy golden syrup may be all it takes to put you off the whole endeavour. The less steps between me and delicious biscuity goodness the better I say!
  • During the summer I like to make ice-cream. the challenge is to also make enough to get us through the year ahead. I don’t know about you but churning ice-cream just doesn’t feel right by the time the nights start drawing in and the leaves begin turning (though oddly I have no opposition to eating it lol, but preferably next to a slice of hot cherry pie, yummy!) So I try to make enough, in a variety of flavours, to get us through to the following year. I say I try … I’ve never managed it yet … oddly enough the more ice-cream there is, the more everybody wants to eat it.
  • If, like me, you have little girls, then sewing them a new long sleeved blouse, dress or nightdress ready for autumn is a lot of fun, very satisfying and super budget friendly if you have a good local drapers to source your fabric at a reasonable price. Also there are some good simple patterns available for pyjamas for boys or girls, because what says hello autumn like a new pair of brushed cotton, blue, dinosaur patterned pj’s?
  • Plant some seedlings ready for your autumn/winter vegetable garden. If you want autumn crops of Brussels sprouts, autumn (and winter or spring) cabbages, autumn cauliflowers, winter radishes, kale and onions then you need to planting them at the appropriate times during the summer, to be planted out once the seeds have sprouted and as the summer veg makes way for them.
  • Towards the end of summer, I like to clean up all the radiators, inside, outside and behind, and make sure they are bled before they are put to use. I’d definitely recommend purchasing a radiator brush to get into all the nooks and crannies.
  • I also love candle-making and candles really come into their own in the autumn, I love to mix up autumnal scents with essential oils, mix them with the melted beeswax and make up little jar candles, the bonus being they also make excellent gifts, the beeswax burns nice and slowly so it lasts a lot longer than other kinds and neither the wax nor the oils give off any nasty toxic chemicals that can be found in other forms of wax, or perfume oils, or indeed the scented candles you can buy. In fact the essential oils may even positively impact your health and well-being, what’s not to love? I also make sure I’m well stocked with tapers for my candlesticks and tea lights for around the house use.
  • This year I’ll also being using essential oils in my new vaporiser for immune support and comforting scents, so I’ve stocked up my supplies this summer to make sure the right blend is available at a moments notice.
  • If you like to knit, crochet or quilt then why not make an autumnal themed throw for snuggling under on the patio when the the leaves begin to fall.
  • I restock the medicine cabinet with vitamins, essential oil blends and remedies, herbal teas, infant (and adult) paracetamol, and cold remedies in good time for the inevitable arrival of those autumn sniffles.
  • I like to get all our pets their annual checkups at the vets, its always a good idea to check their chips are still reading correctly, their vaccinations are all up to date and they’re in tip top condition before the longer nights make things a little more difficult.
  • For a bit of fun, or to brush up your knitting skills, why not try knitting yourself a new tea cosy? Tea and Cosy in the same sentence, that’s what it’s all about!
  • I take out my girls autumn/winter clothing in the next size up, mend, wash, and iron it ready for use, and gift anything that we won’t need or that I’ve realised is too used, now that I’ve seen it with a fresh pair of eyes.
  • I like to start collecting items for the harvest festival donations, we’re not able to contribute financially to all of the charities that we would like but adding a few non-perishables to our shopping trolley each week through the summer makes for a nice easy way to make a difference in our local community.

I’d love to hear from you in the comments if you have anything to add or things that your family does to prepare for autumn. I will be posting an update very soon on how we’ve got on with that summer bucket list and all the fun things we’ve been up to this summer. Have a great week.

Summer 2019 Bucket List

So now that we’ve pretty much broken up for the summer, I’ve been dreaming up ways to spend our lazy hazy days to get the most enjoyment out of them, as I don’t know about you but it always feels like I blink and it’s September already. So here’s a list of all the lovely things I’ve got planned for this summer:

  • Make cute little cotton nightdresses for the 3 little misses.
  • Make citronella beeswax candles, with the girls to keep the bugs away on summer evenings on the patio.
  • Pick strawberries and make jam (we do this every year), I’m hoping to entice Hollie into the kitchen with me to pass on my jam-making skills before she becomes so mature and grown up that making strawberry jam with Mamma isn’t more of a punishment (I fear I may be too late) .
  • Bottle peaches for pies and ice-cream, yummy!
  • Pick gooseberries and make fools. You know I think they call them fools because you’re a fool if you don’t love them lol.
  • I love me a good book, and my ‘want to read’ list is as long as my grocery receipt, but here are my top 3 for this summer. 1: ‘Summer: An Anthology For The Changing Seasons’ – Edited by M. Harrison. I have literally devoured the other three of these anthologies, everything you love about the season, in a million of the best words. I can’t wait to get my nose into this one, just as soon as ‘the boy’ returns my kindle lol. 2: ‘Nella Last’s War’ – edited by R. Broad and S. Fleming. This one is a recommendation I’ve been given, it’s a collection of diary entries, written by a housewife, throughout WW2, and it apparently contains tons of sweet little housewifey notes that give a real insight into vintage homemaking, so that’s me in, lol. 3. ‘A Perfect Cornish Summer’ by Phillipa Ashley, cos who doesn’t need a little Cornish romance in their lives, right?
  • Buy some perfectly ripe, round fuzzy apricots and make enough jam to coat all my iced cakes (and non-too-few slices of toast) for the next 12 months.
  • Spend a day filling the freezer with as many ice-pops and yoghurt lollies as the blender can tolerate, there’s such a thing as emergency lollies don’t ya know?!
  • Make buckets and buckets of strawberry ice-cream (it’s my fave).
  • While away a lazy hour or two making daisy chains with the 3 little misses.
  • Visit one new national trust garden per week, gotta make the most of that christmas present membership (and fill up that reward card to get my free coffee haha).
  • Pack up some flasks and blankets and go star-gazing on a clear night, nothing teaches the awesomeness of creation quite like billions of stars in a midnight sky now does it?
  • Let the kids practice their map reading on a few walks in the countryside, they will know their horses from their cows (ahem …. mentioning no names … Aimee*cough*).
  • Visit the seaside, at least for the day, hopefully longer. Build the most enormous sandcastle anyone has every seen; dig the biggest hole; paddle in the sea, or swim for those of us brave enough lol; eat Fish and Chips and huge drippy ice-creams, the whole 9-yards.
  • Toast Marshmallows over a campfire, or more likely over the incinerator in the back garden hehe.
  • Have a water fight, balloons, guns, whatever we can find. Bagsy the hose-pipe.
  • Host a BBQ. A summer must at the Jaggard residence, complete with bunting, burgers and booze.
  • Make some pavement chalks for the kids to create magnificent works of art on the driveway.
  • Laze on the grass and do some cloud watching with the little misses, slip in some learning about the water cycle and cloud types hehe.
  • Purse willing, visit the zoo or safari park. Days out like this can get pretty expensive with a big family so I’ll be watching out for discount vouchers like a hawk.
  • Make Lemonade.
  • Put the kids bikes in the back of the car and take them somewhere where they can really practice their peddling.
  • Feed the ducks.
  • Pick wild blackberries, hopefully we’ll get enough to freeze for pies and crumbles later in the year.
  • Have a movie marathon day, Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings, who will win? Very probably Toy Story lol.
  • Visit an art gallery, might make this a Mummy/Daughter ‘date’ with Hollie as the little misses just don’t ‘get’ art galleries, but then again neither does the Mister, lol.
  • Create a Spa Day at home. Face masks, foot baths, manicures, all that jazz,
  • Go to the cinema to see The Lion King. They have air conditioning in the cinema, when I start to feel like the wicked witch of the west, you can bet I’m picking up a bucket of home-made salted toffee popcorn and heading straight to the flicks.
  • Go on a romantic picnic for two with the Mister. Prosecco and tiny nibbles the kids would complain about? sign me up!
  • Teach Rowan to back-stitch and get the girls sewing lavender pouches, in fine white cotton. They’ve gotta earn those Martha Merit Badges somehow!
  • Pick blackcurrants and make syrup for fruit cordials and ice-cream.
  • Have a build your own sundae dessert night, can anyone spot a theme developing? haha!
  • Take the whole family on a picnic and play rounders, we should have enough players, right? lol
  • Make gazpacho, never made this before, always good to try something new.
  • Serve surprise frappe’s and ice-cream soda, just cos.
  • Spend an afternoon at the baths, cooling off.
  • Serve a summery afternoon tea, complete with salmon and cucumber sandwiches, and scones with jam and cream.
  • Have our own tennis tournament, I think I’d look very fetching in a white skirt and cap don’t you? Hahahahaha!
  • Spend a rainy day teaching the children card games, we’ve gotta have something to do when they bring the grandkids to visit me at the nursing home!
  • Read ‘The Railway Children’ aloud, a chapter a day, so if they ever happen to pick it up as adults, this summer will come wafting back to them in the pages.
  • Go for woodland walks and help the children learn to identify a few new types of trees, and make sketches in their nature journals. Well if you’re going to have a tree in your name you should know a bit about them.
  • Listen to ‘Summer’ by Vivaldi, and other summer themed music pieces, get the children to sketch what they hear.
  • Visit a pond with water lilies and/or reeds and sketch them.
  • Make soft-serve ice-cream and make up a sprinkles bar.
  • Practice my fancy braiding skills, if I can get one of them to sit still long enough.
  • Finally (you can all sigh in relief now I’ve no doubt) make a start on knitting those autumn cardigans.

So that’s the list, I think I’ll be pretty well pleased if we get even half that done. Here’s to a fun packed summer. Thanks for reading, I’d love to hear about your own bucket list ideas for this summer in the comments section.

Cronk Pie

I’m writing a recipe book for my 5 girls, Jack too if he wants one. Over the last two years I’ve asked my female relatives for their kitchen memories from childhood, what did they eat growing up, how was it made, was there anything funny? Both my grandmother’s were typical 40’s/50’s housewives, learning about their lives from their daughters has been so interesting, how hard they worked, and the effort and love that is remembered fondly gives me hope that one day my own children will look back on a childhood full of sweetness, hearty meals and comfort too.

Most of the recipes I’ve had to guess at or ‘borrow’ from elsewhere, as no one can remember specifics, but not Cronk Pie! My grandmother Sylvia’s recipe (I never got to meet her). It’s a simple jam tart filled with custard, set and eaten cold. Why is it called Cronk Pie? Nobody knows!

I hope my girls get to treasure these books (If I ever manage to finish them). Who knows maybe they’ll end up a family heirloom, kept as a window into a long forgotten past.

Cronk Pie

  • 80z self-raising flour
  • 2oz lard
  • 2oz margerine (I used butter, cannot bring myself to use marg lol)
  • 4tbsp jam (any)
  • 1 pint custard, birds is fine

First make the pastry by rubbing together the fats and flour, add a splash of water and bring it together to form a dough. Cover with cling film and chill for 30 minutes. Roll out and line a medium, shallow pie dish with the pastry, pricking all over with a fork. Dollop the jam onto the pastry and spread out. Bake in a 180 degree oven for 15 – 20 minutes. Meanwhile make the custard. When the pastry is baked through, pull it out of the oven, allow the jam to cool until reset, pour in the cooled custard, and refrigerate until set.