But every now and then I just have to stop, take a deep breath and do a proper tidy up. Not the sort of tidy up that happens the day before visitors arrive where things get put into cupboards out of sight and then forgotten. No, a proper, throwing things out, organising and rearranging sort of tidy up. It is six weeks until the beginning of the summer holidays and this is how long I have given myself to sort the house out. So at the weekend the allotment was given just 2 hours of attention on Saturday afternoon and the rest of the time was spent indoors sorting. Well, actually, I did take off about an hour on Sunday to make a batch of rhubarb and elderflower jam...
Rhubarb & Elder Flower Jam
Makes 1 jar
1lb (454g) rhubarb
1 oz (25g) elder flowers
1 lemon, rind and juice
NB: Every pound of rhubarb requires 1 lb (454g) sugar, 1 lemon and 1 oz (25g) elder flowers.
Chop the rhubarb into inch long sections. Mix all the ingredients together in an non-metallic bowl, cover and leave to stand overnight. Decant the mixture into a preserving pan and bring to the boil. Simmer for a few minutes, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar, and cook until the rhubarb is pulpy. Bring to a vigorous boil until the setting point is reached. Ladle into warmed jars and seal immediately.
Whilst I was picking elderflowers for the jam I picked a few more and put them in my freezer. For the last two years I have wanted to make gooseberry and elderflower jam but have failed to manage it. The first year I somehow missed the elderflowers and the second year the elderflowers I froze for the job were still in my freezer when I stupidly accidentally turned my freezer off before going on holiday! This year I am determined.
Although there is a certain satisfaction to be gained from cleaning and tidying it generally makes me grumpy. I do like the smell of a freshly cleaned bathroom and there is something pleasing about a dust-free surface but I would rather be doing something else. So come Monday I was feeling a little cheesed off. By Tuesday afternoon I was desperate to get out into the garden again so after school I took the girls round to the allotment with me. There is something special about this time of year - the strawberry and mangetout season I call it. As the girls raced around looking for ripe strawberries I picked a bagful of mangetout. When the girls had had their fill there were still enough strawberries to bring a handful home to start a collection in the freezer. Eventually I'll gather enough in this way to make some jam. We had half the mangetout with dinner. I just love being able to cook a large portion of mangetout without forking out £1 on them and knowing that there will be the same amount ready to pick again in 3 days.
As always when we came in from the allotment I checked my answering phone for messages and was more than somewhat surprised to hear a message from a lady from the British Writers Awards 2010 telling me I needed to ring her urgently. That got my heart fluttering as I had only read the day before that this was to be the day they announced the finalists in the non-fiction category, to which I had entered 4 of my books. You can imagine my excitement when later that evening I read an email telling me that I was indeed one of the 6 finalists for the non-fiction award for my "Preserves" book. It was one of those emails you read over and over again just to check there hasn't been some sort of mistake. So now I have been invited to attend the gala black-tie awards evening at the O2 in London on 15th July! How exciting is that? But how pleasing too to have a book that is considered so good that it should be short-listed for such a thing!
So I started the week feeling a little grumpy and ended it feeling elated and to top it all the cherries are ripening too!