Friday, September 28, 2012

How I don't make it work

It appears that the dreaded shrinks, i.e. empty nest syndrome is not just the loss of my baby to school, but the loss of me. The Who Am Me thing is rather getting in the way as I now have...

an overbearing pressure to: Get.A.Job.

This makes me feel incompetent - I haven't had a proper job in over eight years. My last job was freelancing in Barcelona - as long as I made enough dough to cover my rent, which was minimal, buy a few bottles of vino tinto, crackers, garlic, olive oil - life was sweet.

Falling pregnant with twins in Barca sent my life spinning, unhinged, in a very different direction...I have barely looked up since, until this week. But, woooaahh, the view is extremely different.

The pernicious 21st century idea that women, and men, can have it all, is, quite frankly: a load of bollocks. This anxiety inducing mirage pedalled by the media, consumerism and, quite probably, our own insecure ego is a total pain in the arse - isn't it?

Everyone feels the same, surely, yet don't we all push on with this corrupt illusion of trying to outdo each other.

Will jelly-making and washing socks be enough to withstand the outside pressure I wonder...

Yet, yet, YET. YES. There is the answer: it is outside pressure and I am allowing it to invade my psyche. Who actually expects me to achieve all this STUFF? The beautiful house, the handsome husband, the mind-blowing sex-life, the contented, socially-adept children, the fabulous career and socially keeping up.

Who expects it?


And therein lies my problem.

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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Black me up baby

Blackberrying is a great way to keep la offspring entertained on a warm autumnal Sunday afternoon, grab yourself a basket – if your feeling twee, or a plastic box/bag if your not – jump on your bikes and get the troops into this fine crispy, sunny weather of September.

Children adore picking blackberries – not only do they get to stuff their faces with sweet, black bejeweled treats they also unite with their family to collect goodies for everyone to enjoy. It’s a win win situation.

Once home the possibilities of what to do with your glut of free hedgerow booty are enormous – the one tip is to act fast – (blackberries don’t keep, but they do freeze like a dream).

Apple and Blackberry crumble anyone? With a fat blob of golden clotted cream, or a scoop of indulgent vanilla ice-cream to melt over it? How about throwing them into a blender with bananas, natural yogurt, a squirt of honey, a splash of milk or soya and some ice – whizz it up, serve in tall glasses with a straw and feel, utterly, virtuous.

For my family though, the ultimate result with these juicy babies is to make blackberry and apple jelly. An Autumnal delight of sweet, translucent scarlet, that has seen me this week constantly dashing to the bakers to buy bread so that I, well, we – ahem – can continue to hoover it up without actually having to resort to sticking a spoon in the jar and sucking on that, which, believe me, I have been pushed to do on several occasions.

This jam is without doubt the best jam in town, bar raspberry – just. It is incredibly easy to make and the taste captures the warmth and sweetness of these very English fruits. The one thing I would advise when making preserves is to make sure you have enough of that elusive ingredient…time.

Jelly is slightly more long-winded than jam – but it is worth it – and for children, and many adults too, the lack of seeds and actual fruit pulp makes this much more family-friendly.

Apple & Blackberry Jelly

A kilo of apples, roughly chopped
A kilo of blackberries
A kilo-ish of preserving sugar


Roughly chop your apples, the fresher the better, but fallen fruit is fine.  Throw them into your jam pan along with the berries and about 1.2litres of water. If you haven’t got enough berries – change the weights and make up the slack with more apples. This has been a bad year for berries and apples alike what with all that endless rain.

Gently simmer until the fruit is soft and squishy – about 20 minutes. Get your jelly-bag ready, the stand set-up. Very gently and slowly spoon the hot fruit mush into the jelly-bag – making sure you have a bowl or jug underneath to catch the juice. (I have on several occasions gone too fast with this and the bag has literally exploded sending boiling hot fruit all over the ceilings and walls – so be warned, go slowly and maybe add a few extra pegs to keep your bag attached safely to its stand.)

Leave the juice to collect over-night. Try to refrain from squeezing the fruit as it makes the liquid cloudy and you will loose that beautiful translucent scarlet look that makes this particular recipe stunning.
Measure the juice – depending on the quality of the fruit you should have just over a litre – hopefully 1.2 litres. For each 500ml-600ml of juice use about 450 or 500g of sugar.

Put the crimson liquid into the pan. Bring it gently to the boil – when it begins to get hot throw in the sugar and stir until the sugar has melted. Turn up the heat and boil hard for about 10 minutes – test the jelly for setting point using a saucer (store it in the freezer) if the jelly wrinkles when you push it on the cold plate – it is ready. Remove the jelly from the hob and fill up your hot sterilised jars immediately.

(I find the best way to sterilise jars is to wash them in hot soapy water then allow them to dry out completely in a warm oven. Take the hot jars out of the oven as you need to use each one and screw on the lid as quickly as you can.)

Et Voila! Your family-created beautiful apple and blackberry jelly. Bon Appetit!

As seen on Crumbs.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Empty Nest NIghtmare

Last week my baby began her first day of school.

My life just, stopped...briefly, as I adjust to a new beginning, one in which a small person is not next to me in the market, holding my hand down a busy street, calling for me, singing with me, needing me, only me.

And now it is...only me. 

My loss feels great, I feel emancipated, yet I feel lost and unregulated. Like my anchor has been loosened and cut and I've been left to drift. While my progeny - go on - up in their life. They progress through the system at a dizzying rate leaving me behind far, far behind. 

They are calling me occasionally from the top of their tree - far below I stand, underneath the many branches, the hundreds of leaves, looking for them as they climb higher and higher, faster and faster. Until at last all I can hear is a distant shout.

They don't need me like they used to. I'll never cradle their baby heads in my arms, or help them dress, sing them soft lullabies, stroke the soft down on their heads. Those days are, without doubt, becoming historical. 

My past, their heritage. 

Their future lies clear and free. Mine lies quieter, emptier. Distinctly emptier.

The tears keep flowing over a week later. In consultation with a girlfriend she suggests I wallow in my grief, write some poetry (see below), watch a heart-rendering film and generally indulge! Allow the feeling of bereavement to be part of my life in order to let it pass. 

Having done this and still feeling bereft I consult my sister, who also happens to be a fantastic homeopath - see here. She suggests I take Pulsatilla 200, which I duly take, and followed by a long cycle-ride in the countryside I begin to feel less bloody miserable.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

An ode to Boo my Boo

That night.
Before this, her socks were laid out.
Folded, and set upon the pile of an unworn future.

I was waiting for the sun to rise and flout
Her new dawn.
In the pitt of my belly, a caressing stab of nausea.

She rose, from her bed, her heavenly smile
and full-fat cheeks bright...
With Excitement.
She finally joins the great fight.

Her new round shoes sit; leather polished, clean and tight,
Stare up at us, waiting, taunting my heart in their new smite.

Sweet are the plaits that adorn her face,
The pack that clings to her back.

And this race,
That we're in.
To enter the system,
Of which there is no escape...

In my mind,
And in truth.

The road that we all travel begins over again.

And today it is my own that will walk it.

Not me.


Bittersweet is this moment that scratches my heart,

And leaves me behind to heal.