Homemade Cherry Liqueur

The cherry blossom tree is in bloom. Now that spring is here and the sun has decided to make an appearance in Scotland everything is starting to appear again in the garden.

Once the cherries appear (too sour to eat) there’s a race on to share the spoils with the birds. I make a cherry liqueur. Not for drinking straight (unless you are my mum who likes liqueurs) but for pinking up, and sweetening up, the Christmas time champagne.

Four easy steps

Step 1

The prep stage. Pick enough cherries. Pick loads of them to ensure it adds the flavour to the final product. When the birds have got there first I sometimes top mine up with some store bought ones. Then buy a good bottle of vodka, possibly a little brandy (I’m not overly prescriptive about this) and sugar.

Step 2

The container is important. If you have one with those tops that seal down then great. You could always use an alternative though (possibly re-use a protein powder container). It just needs to seal and be strong enough to not explode in the cupboard.

Step 3

Vodka (and a little brandy), sugar, water and the cherries! Easy. Half bottle of the vodka, half a bag of sugar and same part water to the vodka. Take off the stalks, wash the cherries first then shove it all together and stir. Then hide it and every week or so (again not overly prescriptive on this) stir gently. I do this by slowly tipping the container up and down. Then hide again.

Step 4

Wait. Wait a good 4 months. I wait six to ensure it is just in time for the festive season. Then strain the liquid into the nicest bottles you can find and woo! Cherry Liqueur.

If it lasts this long then it is also perfect for the first sunny day of Spring.

Water or Wine: not with food…apparently

My friend mentioned that they were stopping drinking fluids with their meal. I’m not one for fads as I tend to stick to the eat less, move more mantra; but this one kind of made sense to me. The plan – don’t drink 45 minutes before or after food.

This might be hard

Where on earth did she get this idea from? Why do it? Well she heard it, and I have since also heard it, on the Chris Evans breakfast show (radio show on virgin for those not in the UK). So I listened in and he was saying he had started to do this on the basis of an article in one of the daily papers. The idea (my very basic interpretation) is that drinking whilst eating meals can dilute the enzyme things that break down your food. It also means that you only drink in between meals and are less likely to snack. All this, so far, just sounded sensible. It might not be, as it seems to go against all beliefs about meals, but what the hell, I figured I should at least do a bit of research.

My (very limited) research on the topic

This involved only a few google searches but the results seem to agree. There was one that said there would be no impact on enzymes but there were quite a few blogs, bits of research, and advice that said to not drink with food. Times seem to differ and I saw one article saying don’t drink from 30 mins before to 2 hours after but this seemed a little extreme. So I have decided on the 45 before and 45 after rule to try out. The point to note (and one I have largely ignored) is that they usually quote water. I figure this is a good thing but I also figured this didn’t exclude wine. Just to balance out the fact that I am now waiting 45 minutes after my dinner to have….a glass of wine….I have also picked up on the advice of drinking water as soon as I wake in the morning to flush toxins (and generally start the day on a sanctimonious ‘I am healthy’ vibe). To be fair I am also drinking water after breakfast and lunch. I will after most dinners too; but this week I fancied a small glass of wine.

Two days in

It feels ok to wait for that drink. The before rule is easy but it is a little weird for the first 20 minutes after food. I haven’t been eating really healthily (I will try harder next week) but I have lost a couple of pounds. I do expect this to tail off but I think the benefits are wider. Hopefully my stomach is doing its thing without being drowned in wine or fizzy juice. That can only be a good thing. Well I don’t actually know if it is, but I haven’t seen anything to say it is a bad thing. I will keep going (for a bit anyway!) and maybe I will start to figure out some other healthy regimes.

Growing my own vegetables

I started my own vegetable patch a couple of years ago and haven’t looked back since. After the first year of growing things for the excitement (yes really!), I have now got to the point of growing only the things I will definitely eat. Being a picky person with food, this means leaves (salad, rocket, spinach), some spring onions, radishes, carrots, tomatoes and some herbs. Add in a couple of pumpkins (hopefully) and I still have the big bang excitement.

For someone who is not green fingered, at all, I have help in the form of a few keen neighbours. Its a communal garden and all are welcome to do it…me and one neighbour built our own wee slice of veg growing garden. The other keen gardener focuses on his myriad of flowers. A few others just enjoy the wine we usually consume whilst looking productive.

The how to bit

Its pretty easy. I bought a low height thingy (I honestly don’t know what it is called but got it in the garden centre) It fitted well into the little strip I dug out. Its a great alternative to a greenhouse if you aren’t wanting to grow loads of tomatoes. If you do then start off with a cheap construction (see this greenhouse for something not too pricey). A bit plastic but does the job to get started. I would definitely go online for most things but it is worth going along to somewhere like Dobbies (https://www.dobbies.com) to get some garden inspiration. If you live in Edinburgh then I would also definitely recommend Houston House garden centre. It has everything!

I also built two raised beds. They won’t last forever but if you want to avoid spending what seems like extortionate prices then buy some tongue and groove wood and a length of post. Cut that into four (DIY stores will usually do this for you) and start nailing the wood together. Easy peasy. Fill it with that base thing and ta…ra your own raised bed waiting on loads of compost / manure / mud. Paint it first though so it lasts for a wee bit longer. I did mines black. We also painted the fence black. It is a surprising nice colour in the garden as everything else pops against its.

The start up means you won’t save on that packeted salad stuff from Tesco in the first year; but you will year on year.

The planting

Its Scotland and so generally cold. But the sun has been in the sky and the cosh thingy keeps things cosy so I did my planting today. This is the satisfying bit. Just pick your veg and go for it. I did potatoes too last year in a grow bag which was great. I just didn’t eat them all. What I can add to almost everything is rocket and spinach. So today I bought a little more compost; add in a trowel and everything is in and watered.

The waiting

I am now actually excited about the veg to come. There will be a day when I see little green things poking through the soil, then another when they start to get leaves on them. Hopefully the sun stays high and bright. Soon I will be nipping out to cut some leaves for my lunch and having dinner in the garden with the neighbours.

Parking in Edinburgh…The little wins in life.

If you live city centre or anywhere near the centre you will have experienced the joy of buying a permit to park in permit bays. To be fair there are usually plenty where I live but there is a bit of building work going on and so I don’t always get home from work to a convenient parking space. Cue the Russian Roulette style game of how long can I get away with this before the ‘blue meanie’ (parking warden) catches me. If you are visiting Edinburgh (do – its a beautiful place) then this also applies to those drivers parking and paying for their tickets. My advice would be to get the bus / tram / taxi. Its better for the environment :-)! I live here and so need my car.

I won today!

I forgot last night whilst parking that I wasn’t in work this morning. I have a permit displayed sparkingly clear in the window; but I wasn’t in a space. I forgot. I had a glass of wine and this morning lazily decided my bed was the best thing ever. Having leisurely gotten up and sauntered through to the kitchen to make an espresso I opened the curtains and thought…’what a lovely day’. I spotted a car parked outside of a bay and considered how long it would take for that red envelope to be printed and stuck under the windscreen wiper (the fine!). Whilst wondering this my mind wandered to my own car. ‘Fxxx’!! The sudden realisation at 10.54am that I was on a single yellow line dawned on me. The parking restrictions start (here) at 8.30am (at 8am further into the centre if you need to know that). This was a problem in my problem free morning.

With no thought given to my wildly messy hair or the fact that I hadn’t properly dressed yet I pulled on some clothes, zipped up a jacket and ran out! Passing the builders who looked a little bewildered I got to the car and…joy…no ticket. Fist pumping the air (I held back from the winner dance to avoid serious embarrassment) I jumped in and drove the 50 yards to safety. Today they didn’t get me. Today I had a win. Anyone who lives with these parking restrictions will understand the significance of this. It is sometimes the little things, the little wins, that amuse me. I have had some amusing brushes with the blue meanie law (parking) enforcers.

My best examplesT

The absolute best

This one still makes me laugh. I had parked just outside the Royal Edinburgh hospital. This is a hospital for all sorts of mental health issues – from the secure unit to addictions to eating disorders. Nestled in a posh part of town the parking is horrendous. I had a ticket but my appointment with someone in the hospital (not as a patient…as a professional) ran over. So my ticket had run out. When approaching my car I saw the parking warden bloke. Mind overdrive – ‘I can make this, he might not have printed it yet’. So I wildly ran towards him saying (probably moaning incoherently) that my appointment ran over. He looked panicked. He didn’t print out the ticket but said he hoped I was ok and went on his way. It really wasn’t until I was in and starting the engine that it dawned on me what my behaviour might have looked like. I probably scared him…just a little. Win!

A definite contender

This time I had a ticket and it had plenty of time on it. However I didn’t really bother, whilst in a rush, to stick it to the window. So I got a ticket. Instead of paying it or ignoring it (both definite options), I decided to write a letter. My letter detailed my ticket and provided them with photo evidence. I made it amusing and begged for forgiveness to be given to them for not providing me with a sticky enough sticker. I received a lovely reply that basically told me it was my fault. But because I had brightened up their potentially dull day, my ticket was quashed. Win!

The hug

I caught him just in time. If you manage to get to your car before they have tapped some details into their little machine they will probably let you off. So…just like in the movies…this blue meanie got a hug. I am convinced we both felt better about life.

The meaning in all of this

Absolutely nothing. It made me chuckle and it is one of those things in Edinburgh. I have had a few tickets over the years but I don’t really remember the details. I do remember the wins.

Why I keep certain men in my life: why do I keep these men in my life?

I have been chatting to my next likely internet date. This was fine, on messaging, until he phoned. Phoning makes it very real. It was a pleasant enough call and I think this will be, once we set something up, a good date – but it does make me reflect on my inability to get from the dating to the committing (for me that means some sort of actual relationship).

My reflections aren’t based on being wise or even having a Sunday philosophical mood. Its because I got a message from one of the three men in my life this morning and we have been chatting on WhatsApp throughout the day.

The Growler, The Banker and The Perfect Match

These are my three men. They are also named: complicated, complicated and complicated. It was the growler who got in touch today. They all do though at certain times and they all have something that holds me to them and them to me. Attraction, attraction and attraction.

The Growler

I met him around four years ago. He had chat and plenty of it and whilst he wasn’t my usual type (in the looks department) he had me with his dry humour and gruffness. Anyone who has met him has said he feels dangerous (its a sense they get). He isn’t. But he does have that look that makes him feel a little growly (its not an actual word but it is a good description). We dated for a good four months (good for me!) and then he disappeared but reappeared two years later. We dated again. Since then whether he is in Scotland or elsewhere (working in a pretty good job) we have always kept in touch and always got together when he is around. But it is inconsistent and he is currently living elsewhere so there is distance. But he isn’t a distant type of guy and so we regularly chat. He makes me laugh. It is a good thing.

The Banker

I met him around five years ago. Instant attraction and instant connection. He was definitely my type but also not my type – chiselled good looks and always suited in the best his money would buy. Investment bankers, I have found (am sure they aren’t all like this), are difficult. Almost childish in their egotistical need for everything to go their way. We had an amazing time for a year. To be fair, I say amazing time but I mostly mean in the physical sense. Then he moved back to London. We kept in touch (there is a theme with me) but we monumentally fell out. Probably due to his egotistical view of the world and slightly misogynistic tendencies. The banker was given another name for quite a while. A message this past Christmas saying he missed me and was sorry cancelled out the derogatory thoughts. So about once every month he gets in touch. There is distance and he can also be a bit distant. But he makes me laugh and, again, that is a good thing. He is strangely the safest man I keep in my life as he is the least likely man I would date again. Great! I can classify this one as a friend (who flirts a lot when in touch).

The Perfect Match

I give him this title with a clear bit of irony given we are not together; so in reality are not perfect for each other. But when I met him around three years ago now there was an instant attraction and connection which I have never had before and know is unlikely to happen again. Not at all my type but someone who has set me on a path of fancying a few red haired men (the guy off of Billions is a good example). A man who made my stomach feel butterflies. Egotistical and yet not at the same time. Just wrapped up in his own career which has taken him South. He was open about never having been good at or even interested in relationships. But there is some connection there and we keep in touch. This is the guy that I am most comfortable with although strangely he is more inconsistent and less comfortable than the growler. The growler gives me a sense of safety, the perfect match a sense of missing out. Maybe he is the one that got away. So now there is distance but he isn’t a distant guy. He is the worst for me as he is the one that I compare others to most.

A common theme?

Complicated, complicated and complicated. The safe but unsafe, the friend but not a friend and the perfect but imperfect match. I fall in with one, fall out with the other and fell for the third. All three very successful but to the detriment of their personal lives. Or maybe they are successful because they are not cut out for the commitments of a traditional personal life. That might be why they attract me as I am not they type to be settled and bored. The difficulty in all of this? My consistency of communication with these men make comparisons with new ones inevitable. If I were really to reflect on this I would say that this allows me to stay distant from others. I clearly like the distance offered by them. That amusingly makes me complicated. Life is funny that way.

Should I worry?

No! Not at all. Life is complicated. My love life is probably complicated. But it has been varied and it has been great. I could (if I was any good at that type of thing) write a very amusing book on the good ones, the interesting ones and the bloody drastic failure of ones. So call it ongoing research. If I find someone else who is great then that is a bonus (even if it is unlikely to be a final chapter). I’ll try and look forward to this next date in the name of research :-).