Sunday, September 27

This "feed" lark........

Just a very short post.And no, this isn't about food or feeding someone, but about that other sort of computery bloggy sort of feed, often preceded by the initials RSS. The reason for this post is not to explain what "feed" is (I can't!!) but to say that I knew my "follow by email" gadget wasn't working. 

As a result I spent ages delving deep into the depths of the internet/the computer/my blog settings/my brain trying to work out why it wasn't. I had windows open all across the screen, flitting from one to the other, trying to sort it out and get it to work. And I have! I tested it out by subscribing to my own blog - which means that now I will know when I have published a new post because I will get an email to tell me so!! 

So if you are one of the hundreds er well ok one or two oh all right then ONE (if I read my feedburner stats correctly!) who had signed up to follow me by email, then hopefully you will now get those emails! 

I still have to sort out adding (and making sure it works) an "RSS feed" gadget (which I understand is important. Is it.........?). 

As my son-in-law would say, "Happy days!"

Off to get the tea now.


Thursday, September 24

Elderberry syrup, how to make it and what to do with it.

Because the process of setting up this blog involved so many hours spent sat in front of the computer (not my favourite occupation)   I was a little afraid that writing the thing would also involve too much time spent in front of this screen, and that actually doing the things I wanted to blog about would take a back seat. Which if it proved true would be a bit ridiculous....

But I think that having a blog could perhaps have the opposite effect in a way (am I making myself clear?). It did on Sunday anyway. My daughter (the pregnant one, who has already commented that there isn't enough about her on this blog!!) and her husband were coming round for a visit and so after washing up in the evening (we eat early so it was still light) I decided I had time to squeeze in some elderberry picking before they came if I got move on. It didn't take long - fifteen minutes or so to walk across the fields to the spot where I knew there were plenty, thirty minutes or so picking, and back home to find said daughter and son-in-law had arrived early. She came with a tin of her home made cakes of which we partook, with tea/coffee.  [There, I've written a bit more about you, daughter.]

This is the recipe I use:

I'd advise taking a pair of scissors when you go to get elderberries - cutting the stalks off is easier than trying to twist them off.

1 Use a fork to remove the elderberries from the stalks. Don't worry about removing every little bit of stalk as the bits will just stay in the jelly bag later.
2 Place the berries in a large saucepan or stockpot with enough water to cover them.
3 Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes.
4 Strain the mixture through a muslin or jelly bag. When it seems to have stopped dripping squeeze the bag and you will get quite a bit more juice out.
5 For each pint of juice you get, add 1 lb of granulated sugar.
6 Slowly dissolve the sugar, then boil for 10 minutes.
7 Let it cool slightly , then pour into sterilised bottles. Use ones that have a plastic seal.

I got my bottles free by asking a local pub/restaurant to save their screw top bottles for me, which they kindly did. They are 500 ml water bottles. As lots of places serve water in individual bottles these days (ridiculously wasteful) there are plenty of places that would probably happily save them for you. 

So, on to the making......and apologies for using both imperial and metric measurements. Am I the only person who does this?

  I picked about half a carrier bagful of elderberry stalks, and the next day I forked them off the stems.

I had 1.8 kg. Then I put them into the largest of my two stockpots, with enough water to cover them. While they were simmering I did my usual rigging up of my jelly/straining bag on this upturned stool, and carefully ladled the elderberries in once they were ready. You can probably see how I dripped the mixture onto the table.....and it does stain if you don't wipe it up quickly!                                                                                                                                                                        

How to rig up a stand for your jelly bag if you haven't got a "proper" one. Why spend money on a proper one though when an upturned stool will do?

I ended up with 4 pts and 4 fl ozs of juice, to which I added 3 lbs 2 ozs of sugar.

And when it was ready I poured it into sterilised bottles, using my invaluable juice funnel - something I didn't have when I first made this syrup but which makes the job so much easier. I have just found out that there is one you can get with a removable strainer. That would be even more advantageous.

It has a very high hmmmm... factor, particularly when taken poured over lemon cheesecake, my dead easy recipe for which came off the side of a tin of Carnation condensed milk and which you can probably get off their website.

This is a rather badly designed post in terms of getting text and pics to wrap round each other nicely. I hope that by the time I do my next post I will have learnt how to do it better. And I've got to add a "Preserving" tab at the top of the page.

Now get out there and pick some elderberries..... After the first frost I will tell you about making rose hip syrup, which is equally delicious.

Oh, and I would just like to add, in case my husband reads this (unlikely) that while waiting for photos to upload I did some hoovering and rinsed out the mops I'd used for washing AND polishing the elderberry-juice stained kitchen floor.....

Bye for now


Thursday, September 17


Hello! A bit of an introduction....

First and foremost, please read the About Me page! And here's an explanation of the blog title. When my children were young one of the books I used to love to read to them was  Quentin Blake's "Mrs Armitage on Wheels", and Mrs Armitage's phrase "What this bike needs is......" - e.g. "somewhere to wash your hands" - frequently comes to mind. Mrs Armitage is clearly a "necessity is the mother of invention" sort of person, and so am I, so I felt the title to be rather appropriate to what this blog is about, which is.....

Basically the stuff I sew, the jams, chutneys and syrups that I make, and the bike rides that I go on. Plus probably quite a bit about frugality. From this first post you can see that these are sometimes connected.

I can't quite believe I've actually got this blog up and running, after several weeks of trying to work out just how to do it......I think part of the problem has been that I'm the sort of person who reads instructions for everything before I finally dive in, for fear of breaking something, and the same seems to have applied to me in setting up this blog.

Everyone seem to say that it's easy - "Do this and this and then write your first post!" Eh? What about this, this, this, this and that? Design, where to put page titles (tabs? is that what they are?), privacy, gadgets, rearranging the layout. It's driven me potty and I have oft wanted to throw not just one brick but a whole hod full of the things at the computer in the process.

I'm still working things out, and still wanting to throw bricks at the computer, but I thought that if I dithered any longer before going live then I just never would! So if anything is up the creek please let me know (I just hope the comments section works....!)

Well now, as regards this bike bar bag, the story behind it is that I went on my longest ride (55 miles) so far back in August. I had the route planned and had printed off mini sections of map. Usually when I go out I get off the bike and consult the map which I keep behind me in my panniers, along with my glasses, but I wanted somewhere more to hand, where I could get to glasses and map, and primary snack, easily. The day before the ride I was thinking "What this bike needs is somewhere to put my map and glasses, and a snack, which I can get to easily without getting off the bike!"

I couldn't afford the ideal - a bar bag with map cover. But then I remembered the musette bags (see below) that I had received from the bike clothing company Vulpine when I had ordered stuff from them (usually only in their sale...) which I had always looked at and thought "Hmmmmm - what could I make these into? So this bar bag was born! It proved invaluable on the ride (as did the padded boy shorts I had ordered from Vulpine beforehand) and I have kept it on the bike since then. No good in rain though as it's not waterproof. I like the fact that the bright green colour shows up well too.

Musette bag 

I decided to send a pic of the bag to Vulpine, and on my return I had a reply from them saying it was "genius!" and asking me if I would send them some instructions for making it. This pushed me to making a new improved version (the one you see is Mark 3) and taking photographs along the way so I could do a proper tutorial. I think I am supposed to say here that I am not in the pay of Vulpine! I just like their products. I hope it is clear - I have checked and double checked it but if anything is wrong or unclear please let me know in the comments.

PDF of How to convert musette bag to bicycle bar bag.

Back soon hopefully......but not so soon you'll get sick of me!