Friday, 28 June 2013

Mid-Summer Bounty

So we've had some spells of sunny weather.  Do I always talk about the weather here?  Invariably it's the first thing I mention, I think.  Today, it's lacklustre and grey out so I thought I'd remind myself of those sunnier days with a look back at the last few weeks.



The roses are blooming with gay abandon.  I adore roses and have planted many in our homes in the last decade.  They're really getting into their stride now.  Here in London, they seem to like the clay soil, and our home is filled with posies with their delicious scent.  One of the better things I've done, is to plant a David Austin Gertrude Jekyll on the front of the cottage.  This is a fabulous rose, I have one here at home, too.  Very easy to care for, it flowers from the base and has a lovely fragrance and the quintessential pink many-petalled blooms.  This one is planted in the tiniest little pocket of broken earth where the front path meets the cottage wall.  It certainly doesn't seem to mind. 


We spent last weekend in the West Country.  We went to a vintage fair at Killerton House in Devon, mixed thoughts on that one.  We managed to dodge the torrential downpours, at least.  On Sunday, we popped via the heritage railway at Midsomer Norton and I was entranced by the 1948 bus in the yard. Sadly, we didn't have time for a ride.


We did manage a ride on the train.  Proper cardboard tickets were in evidence.  Marvellous!


On the way home through the meandering country lanes, I had my eyes peeled for treasure.  A cry of "there's some" saw me veering into a lay-by and pushing out Mr HenHouse to get harvesting!


For 'tis the season for elderflower, don't you know, and we are rather partial to a spot of cordial.  I use a recipe from the WI book of preserving; it's a simple matter of leaving the flowers to steep in a sugar and water solution, along with some lemon zest and juice.  



The Mr has been doing a little harvesting of his own out in the garden.  We never get a lot of strawberries as they take more watering and weeding than we can manage. The few we do get, we are very thrilled with and they taste amazing.


Now that the English strawberries are plentiful and relatively cheap in the shops, it was time to get jamming.  I am an avid jam maker, I love cooking up a brew, like a witch with a big cauldron!  But in the main, the fact is that no other jam will taste anything like homemade.  Strawberry is tricky to set as the fruit lacks pectin.  Rather than boil it for ages, which leads to loss of colour and flavour, I prefer to use jam sugar which has pectin added naturally from apples, and leads to a perfect set in under ten minutes.


Whilst all that boiling was going on, I couldn't resist nipping through the kitchen's French windows and into the garden. The patio is looking really pretty but I must confess to a touch of melancholy that we haven't really had the weather to be sitting out on it enjoying these precious long evenings.



Those roses were begging to be cut and brought indoors, still plenty left on the bushes.



Meanwhile, we women are used to multi-tasking aren't we?  The elderflower cordial was ready for straining through it's muslin jelly bag.  It's a sticky business! 


It's been troubling me recently that I haven't been managing much on the crafting front.  There are only so many hours in the day, I suppose.  One thing I struggle with is balance.  I find that when I start a larger project like a quilt, which is really my true love, I get quite obsessed with it. I like to have long stretches of time to work on such a project, I don't just want to do an odd hour here or there. This does rather mean I feel guilty about other things I feel I should be doing, though, and as such, it's been too long since I've done any quilt making.  I need to be more moderate, reader!  Any tips?

I have been crafting though, how could I not.  I've squirrelled away a few more pretty vintage fabrics recently and have now got into the habit of straight away cutting a hexagon from each before I put them away in my stash (because then I forget which I've already cut and which I haven't).  So I now have a pretty stack ready for a rainy day.


At crafty Wednesday at Stag and Bow, I've been naughtily working on my hand pieced star blocks.  This, you may recall, is usually my holiday project, but now that it is growing, I am enjoying adding to it in my spare time.  I'm rather constrained by having the right types of fabric for fussy cutting and those spots and stripes I favour for the edges.  Constrained by not having enough fabric?  Surely not!


By the way, should you fancy learning the lovely hand sewing craft that is English Paper Piecing, I will be teaching a Saturday morning workshop on the very same at the delightful Stag and Bow on 6th July.  Do pop along to their website for details, a jolly time is ensured; much craft, chat and cake.

Anyway, in the background, the jam (strawberry and elderflower) has been bottled, and the scones, (light and fluffy thanks to Paul Hollywood's recipe), have been baked.


Do you know, I think these are the best I've ever made!  The proof, of course, is in the eating...


Have a super weekend. XXX

P.S. Don't forget that Google Reader shall be no more as of Monday.  In my right hand sidebar, you'll find a button which links to Bloglovin' which is the new reader I and many others seem to be using.  It's a very simple matter of importing your existing reader list, while it's still there, into the new format.  Don't lose your lovely blog list, it will be such a hassle to rebuild a new one after Monday!

P.P.S.  Because a lot of the comments which appear in my in box belong to "no reply bloggers" (ie. those without an email address attached) and so to who I can't reply, I have decided to try replying to comments here on my blog in the comments section.  At the risk of re-opening "comment gate", I am unsure about this to be honest, as I appreciate it means people having to come back here to read yet again.  However, one of my commenters suggested doing this so I'm going to try! Thoughts?

48 comments:

  1. I was wondering what you use your elderflower cordial for? As a syrup/sauce or as a sort of squash...?

    We have some beautiful wild strawberries that look really luscious - but we've found that the lack of sun this spring means that they are, incredibly, absolutely tasteless!! Boohoo...

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    1. Yes, we dilute it with water, it's especially good with sparkling water. That's a shame about the wild strawberries. The weather has a lot to answer for... X

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    1. That's a lovely thing to say, thanks so much. XXX

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  3. I just love David Austin English roses. Don't know if you've ever visited the nursery near Wolverhampton but it's a glorious place to go to, especially in early summer when nearly all the roses are in bloom in the gardens. The tea rooms have very tempting cakes too which you can savour whilst having the near impossible job of deciding what rose or roses to buy. Xx

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    1. Indeed I have but it's a very dangerous thing, as I seem to remember we bought 5 (maybe 6!) roses. It used to be a detour on the way back to my parents but I tend not to drive that way now as I detest the M6 and its traffic nightmares, we usually take the train. Would love to go again one day, though (with a buying embargo!) XXX

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  4. I too love David Austen roses and I've got Gertrude Jeckyll in the back garden although my blooms aren't quite as plentiful as yours. Love Elderflower cordial, gorgeous with sparkling water and ice.
    Jo xx

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    1. HI Jo,
      Hope you and the pugs are well. You know, I can't help thinking the cordial would somehow make a nice cocktail? I think you'd be the girl to ask! X

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  5. I love your roses, they're perfect. And your patio is just outrageous. I spent several minutes just staring at that photo! I wish we had enough rain here to grow really nice potted plants outdoors; it just requires so much thought to go out and water daily. Sometimes I forget. Your jam looks great; I just made strawberry jam for the first time about a month ago and it didn't set very well. I need to do something different. As for tips on your quilting, I can only say that I make my crafting sort of a reward: after I spent X amount of time doing other things, I "reward" myself with some time crocheting or sewing. I don't know if you've tried that but it helps me. :)

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    1. Hi Jennifer,
      The reward is a good idea and something I've done before. Just need to get myself organised again, I suppose and be more strict with how many hours I spend quilting. I highly recommend the jam sugar for strawberry jam. More expensive but worth it. Hope it works for you. X

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  6. I love your patio and all the different plants in pots, which is something we do as well - though I have never tried a lupin, but as I have a few babies that seem to have appeared will use the old jam pan as you have - well, they do say something about imitation being the sincerest form of flattery don't they?

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    1. Hi Maggie,
      I must confess, the lupins are just temporarily parked in the old preserving pan for a bit of a drink. I couldn't resist buying them when I saw them on a market stall but typically, have yet to get round to planting them! However, do feel free to give it a go yourself and plant them up. At least that way, you can keep your eye on the slugs!
      Hen x

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  7. Hi Hen so glad you are back I have missed you. I was talking to my better half the other evening bemoaning the fact that the flowers you buy don't have the gorgeous smells of the home grown ones. I am a hopeless gardener but have always adored roses and their wonderful scent, they are bewitching. Yours look fantastic and I envy you your displays. Love your quilt and would love to catch one of your classes. I have been talking about my own lack of time on my blog and do sympathise with you Hen on this one, sometimes wish I didn't have to sleep to gain extra time, wouldn't that be good or would it???
    Loved your post as always Hen
    Lots of love
    Dorothy
    :-)xxxxxx

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    1. Thanks so much for your comment, Dorothy, it's always nice to hear from you. I feel bad for moaning about my lack of time when I know you have so much more on your plate. I'm a weakling! I just tried to get to your blog but when I clicked on your name, it took me into Google+ or some such thing, which I am not in cahoots with. Is there a way round it or could you please remind me of your blog address so that I may visit directly? Thanks so much. Hen xxx

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  8. Your roses are gorgeous and the scones and cream look yummy. I've not been around much lately so didn't know about the google reader thing!! Could youn please advise me on what I do with my blog, thanks a lot Lucey x

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  9. It was lovely to see you all over the weekend. You've been very busy this week, that cream tea looks yummy!! :) x

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  10. I always find I'm agreeing with you, oohing a lot as well!
    My poor roses got a right battering yesterday, I rescued a few and popped them in a rose bowl.
    Your star quilt is to die for...just dont over do it Hen xxx

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  11. The photos on this blog post are gorgeous! I have just grown my first crop of strawberries and am torn between trying to make jam...or just eating them with a big blob of double cream....?! It's a hard life with these tough decisions!
    My neighbour has elderflowers which drape into our garden...I wonder if I could steal some for a little project?
    Thanks for such inspiring thoughts,
    K x

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  12. Jack and ginger, I love it. Could be my kitty! I think with the home grown ones, I'd just eat them, that way you get the purest taste. Jam has other things added so they're never going to taste just the same, I buy good English ones for jamming which are pretty cheap now (£4 per kilo box in Sainsburys although my mother reliably informs me they are £3.50 in Tesco!) Def go for a bit of elderflower scrumping!

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  13. Now isn't that jelly bag strainer clever! Just made 2 huge batches of agarita jelly (think Texas wild currants) and that strainer would have been quite useful and easier to manage than trying to strain it through an old dish towel. I'll have to look around for one here in 'Merica.

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    1. Texas wild currants sound awesome! I think I bought this jelly bag from Lakeland over here, though I'm sure you'll find something similar in America. x

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  14. I love Killerton House and visited frequently when we lived near. But never attended a vintage fair there. Love that bus! our photos are so lovely, they really evoke summer. (Sure you will be on that patio very soon) I too adore roses and those are the best, as you say. And you are a Domestic Goddess my dear, reading this gave me a sweet tooth, off to eat something gooey and have a nice cool drink.
    Minerva ~

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  15. Gorgeous roses and star blocks! Weather-wise, grey and lackluster sound somewhat enticing for me here on the east coast of the us. We have begun our season of high humidity and temps, not comfortable at all. Ah, the time issue, if only we could stretch our days so we could do all we wish/need.
    Thanks for such a beautiful post, as they always are.
    KathyR

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    1. Thanks Kathy, hope those temperatures are not too off the scale. After a hot weekend, we are back to grey and gloom here. Really depressing in July! X

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  16. Hi there, what stunning photos, I love all your blooms they are so pretty
    Loving your blog x

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  17. As always, your blog is so lovely. Thanks for all your pretties. I am interested to know your strawberry jam recipe. My last batch went really dark because I had to boil it for so long. Strawberries are just coming into season here (in winter) and I will be keen to give jam another try. It seems that most bloggers are recommending bloglines as their new reader. I was using it, but went over to have a look at feedly, and have to say I like it a lot more. it seems much quicker to quickly scroll through when you don't have much time, and is really easy to customise. Might be worth a look at for some of your readers?

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    1. Hi Lindy, the recipe I use is very simple. Just use equal amounts of strawberries to sugar but I do use special jam sugar for strawberry, then there is no problem with it setting and you get superb colour and taste! Add the juice of a lemon for about every lb of fruit, too. X

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  18. I have the same jelly making stainless steel pot you have. I always feel so professional when I make jams/jellies! I see you use a stove with out the gas rings. Does it get hot enough to cook jams/jellies? Must do - I've been thinking about getting one but not sure about using it for preserving. I love, love your pieced star blocks - the fussy cutting is really going to make it heirloom quality. I don't even know if you can see my email when I comment, but I like going back and checking for an answer if there is one, and then everyone can enjoy the answers too!

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    1. Hi Robin, yes I have an induction hob and it is utterly fantastic. It is more responsive than gas or electric, so heats up very fast and cools quickly too, and yes, it can get as hot as you like, it even has a boost function for fast boiling. The best bit - it is so easy to clean. One wipe with a damp e-cloth and you're sorted. I wouldn't go back to a regular hob now. X

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  19. What a lovely sunny post this was today, but you do make me feel very lazy with your making scones and jam and cordial! the hexagons are very very pretty, thank you for the heads up on the google reader thing I knew nothing about it so will try and find out what to do, take care.

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  20. Beautiful roses, Hen. Ours are doing well, its nice to see them growing in the garden but lovely to cut a few and bring inside, especially if the scent is strong. The Gertrude Jekyll looks so pretty on your cottage wall.
    You have been busy with the jam and caordial, have made jam before never made cordial, maybe a project to think about!!! The scones look delicious!!!!!!
    Your star blocks are so pretty.
    Lovely photos as usual
    Linda O xxx

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  21. Hi Ho Hen! A fun post.. your scones look yumm-o! I just put up a post on a new deck gazebo we built and today we hosted my sisters and other family ladies for a BBQ.. hope you have time to pop over. We made strawberry freezer jam.. no cooking! ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

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  22. Making strawberry jam is a craft in itself to get it to set! You will have to visit my garden I have my very own elder tree!! Creamy white flowers just waiting to be turned into cordial. The birds get the berries in the winter from the flowers that cannot be reached.
    Roses are my favourite flowers.
    Julie xxxxxxxx

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  23. Your latest blog has left me a bit woozy. The roses, the strawberries, the jam with little bonnets!, your star quilt with the lovely fabrics, scones... it is all too much of a good thing(s). Love it all.
    Do not feel guilty for what you don't do... think of all you do.
    Janet

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  24. Wow Hen!
    I am such a techie-failure and have been trying to send you a comment for ages to no avail!!! I just wanted to say that I so love reading your blogs especially when you are making jams and elderflower cordial as I have done this week!! Is summer truly here? Dare we hope?!!!!
    Delicious looking scones but I decided on a Victoria Sandwich for my jam!!! Hope you have a lovely summer and thank you again for your deliciousness!!!
    Lotsalove
    Caroline (caromart@live.co.uk)

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    1. Thanks so much Caroline, so glad you were able to comment and that you enjoy my witterings on here! Looks like Summer has deserted us again, really dull here yesterday and today. Pants! X

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  25. Your roses are just lovely and I so miss strawberries. While you complain of the weather, we have awoken to a beautiful sunny Sunday. Although chilly in the house, it will be nice out in the sun, so I am off for a walk and Sunday lunch.

    Enjoy your weekend.

    Julie and Poppy Q
    xxx

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  26. Your flowers are beautiful, I too love roses but I don't have very many in the garden as I find them hard to look after, with greenfly, black spot etc to worry about! Your photographs are amazing and you've been so busy, how do you find the time to do all you do never mind look for more to do! I like getting a reply on the blog, I always go back to have a look again anyway and I always check to see if there's a reply if I leave a comment but I understand you have so many people commenting it might be yet another time consuming job to add to your long list to reply to all individually. I know one or two bloggers who just pop in and answer questions asked in one reply if that helps? I think though, ultimately its your blog you can do whatever you want with it! I love it whatever you decide lol. x

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  27. Well, that's the rose for me! I'm definitely going to look into a DA Gertrude Jekyll. I mentioned on IG not having any roses in our garden. I'd forgotten our little patio one. We've moved rather frequently in the past I've got rather stuck as a container gardener. It does suffer from black fly though. How do you deal with aphids, Hen? I'm getting quite excited about roses in my garden now. How glorious to have homegrown roses in your house.

    Fred likes to make jam. Jam sugar is definitely going into my tesco shopping basket and strawberries, thanks Hen's mum. I'm going to google the WI recipe. I'm re reading Elizabeth Jane Howard's 4 books about the Cazalets family. She wrote them in the 1990's and they are set from 1937-1947 and are incredible evocative of the era. I wonder if you've read them? Jam making and elderflower cordial making I want to do both right now! And scone baking. I love tour strainer. I never seem to have the right stuff!

    I live just by Preston Park station in brighton and a steam train filled up here yesterday. It always brings the neighbours out, often in pj's! I thought of you and mr hh and munch. Forgot to gab my camera though. Mr hh would probably have known the train. Hope munch had a good camp. I'm rambling now. I'm off to google elderflower cordial... I picked some at school the other day. How long does it bloom? Xxx Sarah

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  28. Hi Hen,What a lovely post!!!Wish there was a way to do workshops on the net!!!Love the bus!!!!!Love your little birdie,scones look delicious and your kitchen garden is beautiful!!!Have a great day!!!
    Love
    AMarie

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  29. I love your patio and I bet you're making use of it todays gorgeous weather. a lovely summery post.

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  30. You are so busy and productive! Homemade scones with homemade jam are wonderful. Is that whipped cream on top?

    I love your patio - so cheery and bright!

    I enjoy your blog so much - your photos are beautiful!

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    1. Hi Paula, it is clotted cream on top. Mr HenHouse's family hail from Devon so has very much been brought up on the cream tea! Not so good for the waistline but sooo tasty. X

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  31. Hi Hen, Hope you are well and enjoying some of the wonderful sunshine we've got at the moment. Your jam looks wonderful! I really fancy going to a 'pick your own' with the kids and then get jamming - I love it too! I hope you don't mind but I thought I'd drop you a line to say I've finally gotten round to doing my Carry it Forward! I'm sorry that so long has passed since you sent me your marvellous goodies! Anyway, there are 2 lots of homemade crocheted accessories and some other little bits in each bundle up for grabs. You can pop over if you fancy the chance to win! Thanks again for your wonderful goodies - I'm saving the pot holder for my new kitchen! Happy weekend, J9 x
    http://j9shappiness.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/blogiversary-and-carry-it-forward.html

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  32. Every year I dream of making jam and cordial but never quite get round to it. You've made such a lovely lot there I wish I could pinch a jar as my mouth is watering.
    X

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  33. Dear Hen - I am convinced that the awful Spring has stirred the roses into doing their finest work this summer - yours have put on a sterling show. I think that the elderflowers have been a bit later than usual this year though.
    Lovely colours in your patchwork as always dear
    Best wishes
    Jenny
    PS - Bought any shoes?????

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  34. Hello Hen, been away, catching up with a post I missed for some unaccountable reason- that paper piecing- WOW. Something I've never done, now want to give it a go.

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