There’s an invisible element of love worked into handmade items created for family or friends. Perhaps you can only really understand that if you’ve ever made such an item. All the thoughts and hopes you have in the hours you spend on it, the devotion and patience you put in when the pattern gets dull or something has to be ripped out and reworked, I’m convinced it somehow works its way into the fibres. Maybe that’s what makes certain handmade items- like the blanket in the picture above- last so long; used, loved and handed on.
The ‘season’ section of the children’s magnetic calendar says ‘Spring’. I write this with sunshine streaming through the window. However, as anyone who ventured outside during the Easter weekend will know, Spring really hasn’t sprung very enthusiastically yet. Undaunted, we nevertheless managed a family weekend of Easter fun. This included a Friday morning walk up Orrest Head above Windermere- a little longer than anticipated for those with littler legs and the iciest wind you can imagine when we got to the top, but the residual patches of snow were thoroughly enjoyed by certain members of the party and the views were spectacular.
With that chilly air still fresh in our minds, if not on our faces, I spent much of the weekend preparing ways to keep warm, as well as the all-important food, for the Easter Egg hunt we had planned on the Monday. The venue was a beautiful little patch of woodland recently bought by a friend’s mum about half an hour’s drive from us and the plan was to meet for egg hunting, food and a fire for as long as we could take the weather.
While our boy runs hot, my little girl takes after me and really feels the cold. I had layered her up with as many clothes as possible without her losing the ability to bend her limbs, but she nevertheless punctuated her forays around the woods looking for eggs, waving bubble wands, throwing dry leaves about and shouting with spells spent by the fire, wrapped in the Grandma blanket. This had been thrown into the car as an automatic reaction, just as it has been for picnics, beach and camping trips so many times before. Not just with the current configuration of the family either, because the ‘Grandma’ who made this simple, stash busting crochet blanket forty, maybe fifty or more years ago wasn’t my children’s Grandma, or even mine, but my mother’s. So technically M should call it the ‘Great-Great-Grandma Blanket’. I know how much love and thought and hope for endurance goes into making items like this, but nevertheless it’s hard to imagine Great Grandma saw her blanket still being in more or less daily use all this time later.
Yes, the wind blew cold and M wasn’t the only one seeking the comfort of the fire and the blanket. But we hunted eggs and we feasted- on barbecued sausages, homemade flatbreads, irresistable Cambodian Wedding Day dip (from River Cottage Veg Everyday), grilled courguettes in minted Greek yogurt, maple syrup popcorn (based on this recipe from Soulemama), Simnel Cake and toasted marshmallows. As we drove home, deliciously tired and scented with woodsmoke, the views included the snow-capped splendour of the Lake District peaks touched by decidedly Spring-like sunshine.
It’s been a week of ups and downs. The ups have included some fairly unexpected opportunities to go back to my previous incarnation as a writer. This will bring in some welcome money and is so far proving to be very enjoyable, as I’m remembering what I enjoyed about producing copy to order. The downs, well it was one big down really as I failed to get a job doing what I love- teaching. I am trying to be philosophical, however, and see that these two opposing kinds of fortune are both pointing to me spending a bit more time immersed in family life, rather than being pulled back to the outside world just at the moment.
With that in mind I wanted to share this family moment from today- P’s first ride on Daddy’s bike. Despite my mummy-wobbles about it, I’ve given in to the idea of a ‘jumpseat’- a little saddle with a safety strap, attached to the top tube of C’s bike, so that P can hold the handlebars and ride with him. I agreed to it for several reasons: I trust C’s experience and safety riding bikes; I know that P will love it and that it will open a new world of possibilities for going out and about with P in the saddle and M in the buggy; it will help P’s development as a cyclist himself; we bought a new and better fitting helmet for P’s rapidly growing bonce.
Guess what? He loved it. We went for a ride/walk at Rampside, marred only by the filthy habits of some irresponsible dog owners who don’t pick up after themselves.
After that it was home for a spot of cake decorating- tomorrow is not only Mother’s Day but also my mother-in-law’s birthday so some whipped cream cheese icing and edible gold stars (I know! How fabulous!) were in order to finish off the lemon sponge P and I made yesterday. Just got to work out how to transport it to her now…
I know everyone says this, but I don’t really ‘do’ New Year’s Resolutions. However, this year, we have decided to try and reduce our reliance on supermarket shopping. It’s for a lot of reasons, including environmental and political ones, which I may or may not expand on at another time.
There’ll be more on how we’re trying to do this later in the week, but basically it’s a quiet revolution because most of the measures are things we’ve done before over the last few years, on and off. So it’s a question of trying to do them all at the same time.
Home-baking is obviously already a regular fixture in our house, but nonetheless we’d slipped into buying quite a lot of ready-made stuff recently, including bread, breadsticks (P’s snack of choice) and M’s weaning baby-mush (known as ‘goo’ in our house).
This week is the ‘start as we mean to go on’ week, so therefore I duly made bread and used some leftover pizza dough and a little pesto (not homemade, I admit!) to make some breadsticks. I then cooked up two carrots, an apple and four tinned prunes to make some goo. Carrots take forever to cook, so I went off and built Duplo houses with P….and burned the goo. Believe me, burned carrot, apple and prune does not smell nice. Nor is it easy to remove from pans.
However, if I gave up that easily I might as well just go to Tesco right now, so I had another attempt and made sure I stayed by the stove this time. An initial whizz with the handheld mixer followed by blending in the liquidiser and we finally had a good approximation of one of M’s favourite bought ‘goo in a pouch’ numbers. What’s more she ate it. So far so goo(d).
Nobody said motherhood was easy, and with P being very ‘two’ at the moment I’m living proof. With my nemesis day, Wednesday, looming, I was determined that we’d survive without too many tantrums. So a domestic morning of singing and playing instruments, drawing on big sheets of lining paper, cleaning the kitchen and hanging out washing was in order.
I also made bread. Didn’t have time to knead it myself, so it was a breadmaker job for the proving process, finished off in the oven. Even without the soothing rhythm of kneading, just the smell and sight of new bread in the house is enough to give me a sense of wellbeing. Meanwhile, just before naptime, the delivery of a present for M (three apple trees and a pear tree- what a lovely idea!) provided P with his own therapy in the form of bubblewrap. He happily jumped, squished, stomped and popped as we wrapped up a morning that was more or less tantrum free. Hooray!
More poetic types than I could, and no doubt have, waxed lyrical about the simple beauty of eggs. This particular egg is beautiful to us though, as it came from our own lovely Penelope and was rather unexpected.
Poor Penelope has not had the easiest time in the last year or so. Her life partner and leader of the pack Beyonce passed away last Spring and due to the uncertainty of our housing situation, we’ve yet to replace her (soon though, we hope). Then she had to cope with not one, but two changes of location, ending up some 300 miles or so from where she began her egg-laying career. At three and a half, she’s not exactly elderly in chicken terms, but after a fairly sparse and unreliable egg-laying season last summer we had quite accepted that she would be pet rather than provider in future.
We were delighted then, when with total seasonal appropriateness on Easter weekend, she began to lay again! So far we’ve had four perfect pale brown and freckly eggs in four days and I can’t tell you how nice it was to make P’s lunch using just about the freshest egg possible. The yolk was a dazzling yellow. Maybe Penelope likes the new food we’ve got her, or maybe she’s appreciating the end of the long, cold winter as much as we are. Whatever the reason, it’s amazing how homely it feels to have eggs from the garden, not to mention giving a great excuse for cakes, meringues, custard, mayonnaise, lemond curd etc. etc!