This is my mothers recipe for Blackberry Jam – use it wisely and enjoy the results!!
Pick the fruits of autumn, aka blackberries. I usually rope in the whole family or some willing and able children. Blackberries like sunshine to produce the ripest berries so go for wide open places where brambles grow freely. If you haven’t a clue where to look just ask someone from the area where is good to go blackberry picking, they might send you on a wild goose chase if they are avid pickers to save all those yummy berries for themselves!!
You will need:
- Cooking apples for the all important Pectin – pectin is naturally found in apples and is used to thicken the jam
- Sugar – you can buy sugar especially for jam making (has pectin added) but it is a lot more expensive than regular sugar and all you need is an apple!
- A deep pot – important as there will be a lot of bubbles and it will get hot so a deep pot like a pressure cooker pot is perfect
- Potato masher to break down the fruit
- Clean jam jars or jars that contained sweet stuff rather than savory stuff (can have an after smell) Make sure these have been sterilised or run them through a hot dishwasher cycle. You can pop them in your deep pot with boiling water to sterilise them – prevents your jam spoiling when stored.
- And of course as many Blackberries as you can pick for FREE!!!
The simple steps:
- Wash your berries well as they can contain some bugs and creepy crawlies
- Weigh your berries and weigh out the exact same amount of sugar
- Peel and core apples – I usually guesstimate the amount of apples needed eg 1kg of berries will need a cooking apple the size of a large fist ( don’t worry about how many apples they all break down anyway and adds to the flavour)
- Put the berries and apples into the pot and simmer on a medium heat, stirring and allowing them to break down. Use a potato masher to give them a good mashing.
- Add the sugar and turn up the heat to full
- Once the mixture has come to full boil, time it from this point for exactly 15minutes, stir often and keep safe as the jam is similar to molten lava! – once the time is up turn off the heat and leave to cool before putting it into jars.
So I get that we all have to have fun. I get that kids and parents too like to have all the latest toys that are all the rage. But, what I don’t get is why nobody seems to care about the environmental impacts all these rubber bands are having and going to have on our planet. Shouldn’t we as parents be teaching a different message to our children?
Don’t get me wrong I am not blaming parents or not against having fun. I blame the people who come up with hair brained ideas that put more strain on the environment and use non renewable materials. I remember as a child using the leftovers of telephone wires to make friendship bracelets or wool, now we are leaning more and more towards rubber and plastics that do so much damage to the environment, animals and yes ourselves.
Take these points for example
- Since the rise of the Loom Band this summer the demand has caused for new rubber plantations to be developed in East Asia. I think the people of East Asia and the world can do without more toxic rubber plantations. Causing loss of habitat for already endangered species, polluting rivers and water sources and creating more hazardous working conditions for people.
- Children are waring loom bands too tight on limbs – needless to say what the problem is here!
- Small pets and wild animals are ingesting the looms causing internal blockages etc etc.
- The looms and all the itty bitty extras ARE NOT RECYCLABLE – in this era can’t we get manufactures to produce toys that are at least recyclable. So the 3million Looms sold worldwide will end up BEING INGESTED by our planet!!
- What impact would ingesting these bands have on a child’s body? I guarantee babies and toddlers are eating these from floors all around the world.
I do love the excitement and enthusiasm these bands have created for an age group of children both male and female to the art of weaving. Weaving is essentially what it is. I could never see a 7/8year old boy starting to crochet a bracelet or even wear it. Wouldn’t it be amazing to teach children a craft form like knitting or crocheting using a renewable material, a skill for life?
I think we find ourselves in the crazy world of impressionism and consumerism. If we could only have a think about what we are being forced to buy, the impact it has on our planet and on our children. Some schools have banned them as poorer children feel totally alienated and vulnerable. I do have a loom band and ironically it is green, as green is my favourite colour. The irony lies in the fact that the loom band is so far removed from being eco friendly and all the things associated with being green!!
A few months ago, I came across a website called Becoming Minimalist and I just had to share it with you all. I instantly fell in love and started practicing – slowly I might add. Possession are funny things they have a great hold over our lives in ways we could never realise – until you try to part with them! I am clearing out my clothes, shoes, toiletries and all the stuff that gets put into boxes to never see the light of day again. I have a plan on doing a car boot sale to flog the lot and not only have a great fun day out, but raise a little donation for one of my favourite charity organisations.
Not only does minimalism promote positivity, increased finances, good health and all other great things. It also hits all the boxes for being more eco/green conscious – you simply consume less stuff!!
So do yourself a big favour and sit back and read why clearing your clutter and owning less stuff can do wonders for your life. I already am finding simply by letting go you create so many more opportunities for yourself and your family.
Children are so amazing they deserve the best environment to learn, play and above all grow. My daughter, Eabha is four years old and is due to graduate from pre-school next Thursday, sniff sniff!! I can’t believe myself that she is this old already, and starting school at the end of August….!
I have been extremely lucky with both experiences relating to Eabha’s needs. And as part of the free ECCE scheme I chose to send Eabha to Smiley Sunflowers Pre-School. As an earth scientist I practice a lot of outdoor nature based activities at home and recognise the enormous, and sometimes overlooked, benefits to child development nature can bring. Outdoor activities would be something I would look for in a well run pre-school, and Smiley Sunflowers are super at getting out and about to experience nature, gardening and the environments around us all.
Art and crafts are another major part in early child development and are quite high on the agenda at Smiley Sunflowers and some of Eabha’s work was pretty cool and we have a super scrap-book to look back on. The teachers are so sweet and so eager to assist in helping the children accomplish any personal goals they might have. The visible bonds shown from all the children towards Shanna, Mary, Erica & Mel makes you smile at the fact that you as a parent have got it right.
When a child is happy it shows and when they smile it makes the first leg of the journey (on the long and sometimes “winding” road of education) a really good one.
Hear is to my little one – Eabha Lewis, you are the bee’s knees and the cats pajamas. And to all of the Smiley Sunflower’s Class of 2014 you were a fab bunch and wish you all the very best. May the wind be always at your back – on that long and winding road of education :)
Above: two rival male Robin’s have a little tete-a-tete and one holds onto a worm! Taken at the children’s play house located at the coffee shop on the grounds of Killruddery.
My husband thinks I am for the birds these days! He may be right but I don’t care – I have discovered that during the month of May the dawn chorus is insane! I recently took part in a down chorus walk on the Killruddery estate in Bray, Co Wicklow and I had forgotten how amazing the chorus is. Years ago when walking home from the night before, I didn’t appreciate the volume and intensity of tiny birds singing their song. On my 4:30am car journey to my destination I was giggling to myself at the numbers of young men walking home – alone!! I parked my car and was glad to see up to 20 other nature enthusiasts, you see I am not the only one for the birds!
But, just think about this for a minute – when we say that a person is “for the birds” we mean this in a negative way. WHY is this negative??? If someone is free and joyous why is this negative?? Birds are amazing creatures and the reason they sing at dawn and dusk I learned, was not only for the obvious reason of attracting a mate, but also to keep their territory and feeding ground in check. They are singing to tell all the other birds – hey its me and I made it safely through the night/day!
May is the best month for the dawn chorus because all of the birds have mated and they are more territorial and migratory birds are arriving back. I can only say getting up at 5am one morning during May is something to do in your life time – It will amaze you! The volume and intensity is something I was awe struck by.
Check out Birdwatch Ireland or your local birdwatch group for gatherings and events. Killruddery are doing another dawn chorus walk on Sunday May 18th at 5am. It is for members only so you will need to check it out here.
On the subject of Killruddery and Birds – there are regular Falconry displays in the gardens in Killruddery and for children and adults with an interest it is well worth the visit. Above is a Lanner Falcon – check out more about this cool bird of prey here, but these birds helped fighter jets and Rolls Royce develop some interesting scientific things and solve some of their problems – they go that fast and have adapted some features (like their nostrils – when diving they don’t pass out from the g-force) features like this have been adapted for RR airplane engines. AMAZING birds.
Work takes up SOOOO much of our daily lives. The 9-5 routine is, for most, the back bone of our lifestyle. It funds our homes & hobbies and allows our brains to go for a daily walk and keep active – for most of us anyway ;)!! So shouldn’t the place of work be inspiring, fresh, healthy and of course GREEN – not only in colour but in the environmental sense too!
Studies have shown that when you introduce green plants into the work space they absorb pollution and any radiation from all those computers, but they also give out OXYGEN – boosting your brian cells!! Just putting some green plants on or near your desk actually has been proven to boost productivity and positivity amongst office staff! If your office isn’t keen on supplying plants than maybe ask if you can bring your own? It doesn’t need to be a tropical rain forest with you hiding within – just one or two green leafy plants will do the job.
Check out if the Office Supply Company you deal with have green alternatives for the items you regularly order. For example Viking Direct offer a large selection of green, eco alternatives down to the Post-it you use on a regular basis. It should be discussed with the person in charge of if some products could be swapped for an eco alternative, it makes a lot of sense.
The office kitchen, if you are lucky to have one, should have a recycling bin to maximise recycling. It is very easy to let recycling slip in the work place, remember it all builds up! Viking direct also offer The Green Sack a plastic refuse sac made from 100% recyclable materials. Use metal cutlery and ceramic cups to save on the HUGE waste generated from the plastic alternative!
For office cleaning try and purchase eco friendly cleaning products such as Lilly’s Eco Clean – Chemical based cleaning products are toxic and bad for everyone, so when cleaning the office it is wise to use products that will not cause harm to anyone.
Light bulbs are a huge cost factor within large offices and should be changed to the most environmentally friendly options. When leaving for the day do the obvious and turn off the lights, and also turning off lights when not needed is something when noticed is not done often within offices.
PC’s – screen savers do not save energy they use almost as much energy as when it is turned on! Use a extension cord to plug in all of your computer devices then switch it off at the mains when not in use.
Printing – set double sided printing as default. Only use paper with a high quantity of recycled content or paper that is certified as sourced using sustainably forested wood. There are lots of paper products to choose from like Xerox recycled supreme paper, made using 75% post consumer waste.
For the ultimate in Green office’s check out TerraCycle for some inspiration – those guys & girls take things to a whole new level!! Post about the revamp of the TerraCycle Jersey office here by Inhabitat.
I often wonder, how much under the commercial pressure pot are we all? Do we all know that purchasing stuff is the back bone to the economy? That manufacturing this stuff causes massive environmental destruction, and more money is spent to boost marketing and package this stuff than is to manufacture it. This is to get us all to feel the need to buy this stuff. OMG what a horrendous cycle!
The reason I am taking about this is I recently went on a family holiday to Spain during the Easter break and I found myself drawn to purchasing new clothing and things before the holiday and during the holiday. Funny I should want to purchase new things when I don’t need anything and the stress getting organised before a vacation is horrendous – well in my opinion it is! A vacation is all about relaxing in the sun or just relaxing, wearing less clothing than ever before, catching up on a good book, and eating the local food. I brought a capsule wardrobe that fitted into a 10 kg suitcase and wore 60% of the items. Predominantly I wore swim ware, shorts, T’s and flip flips and at night it was so easy to get ready with such an uncluttered array of clothing options in my wardrobe. There is something to be said for a capsule wardrobe and living a clutter free life – did you ever hear of my Less Is More Challenge it really gets you thinking of little ways to life a greener less pressurized life – check it out!
When you have children the need to purchase items becomes increasingly pressurized – and companies know this and guess what, they play on this weak point to their advantage. My daughter Eabha (above) is 4, she loves girly things and Disney! We all know when looking back on a childhood it is the time spent not the things played with that sticks out in your mind. Now, I know every now and again there are items that we have fond memories of, but the throw away plastic society we are now bringing our children up in is dangerous and will have disastrous results.
Also one other observation is the amount of waste at the security check points. Plastic bottles and all of the other items not meeting the 50 ml restriction, I need to investigate and ensure that all of this waste is recycled as in some airports it looked a little uncertain as to the final destination of the products!?
All in all, I have learned to relax leading UP TO the holiday, DURING the holiday and stay away from airport extortion, buy your books and food items before you leave. Choose holiday clothing wisely – always remember comfort is key for holidays you want to relax, not deal with blisters and uncomfortable clothing!