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.
Our wee boy is three! As usual with parenting moments like this, it feels like ages and yet no time at all since he was in an incubator in Royal Glamorgan Hospital having surprised us all by arriving 2 months before his due date. It’s fair to say he hasn’t stopped since, with the fading remains of a black eye appearing in all his birthday pictures as evidence of how he throws himself full tilt at the world (the injury occurred during nap time for goodness’ sake!). This year he had a party at his Granny and Grandpa’s farm, with a tractor and lambs in the field next door, a straw bale fort to play in and just the right amount of sunshine for a lovely day. Despite a nasty bout of tonsillitis during the previous week I somehow managed to pull off the ‘Combine Harvester’ cake I’d been planning so I felt I did my bit, but it was a host of wonderful family and friends who really made his day.
Awww! It’s a cake only a mother could love really isn’t it? We had an unopened tub of sour cream left over from something or other and I remembered that various cake recipes used it. This one is a cinnamon swirl, where you split the plain mixture in two and then add cinnamon and cocoa to one and swirl them together in the tin. The tin was where I went wrong, as I used a silicone loaf ‘tin’ which, it turns out, is just too flexible. As the cake cooked it swelled outwards producing this rather unnattractive shape. It also caught a little on the top when P decided to do his ‘turn the oven up to full when Mummy’s not looking’ routine. Even with a generous shawl of icing it’s not pretty- but it tastes great, and that’s the main thing (or is that like saying ‘good personality’?!). I definitely don’t blame the recipe, which came from this booklet which I rediscovered recently, having saved it from a couple of years ago. Don’t know why I haven’t used it before- the recipes look wonderful, including one for honey and multigrain bread that may be tomorrow’s bake. I’ll probably use a metal loaf tin this time, though…