Friday 5 April 2024

Books, flowers and bread.

Hello! It's trying so hard to be spring here. The clocks have gone forward, the days are longer, the garden is starting to wake up but it is still cold and grey. It's been a wet start to spring so far, and work has been intense this last month. However, it is now the Easter holidays and surely it will finally warm up?

The months of March got off to a flying start with a weekend away by the sea to celebrate my friend Katie's birthday. A group of us in a house with music, games, cocktails, a big walk on the West Witterings - lovely.

This was swiftly followed by Mothers Day. I chose my own present and was delighted with my choices; a new book, some chocolate (the fancy stuff that the kids and John won't steal) and some beautiful paper flowers from favourite shop Winter's Moon.

The children made me cards. I appreciated the contrast between Bella's card - calm, stylish, controlled......

....and Angus's. He bought the card and I very much enjoyed the message. Even if Mother's Day is "merely a corporate exploitation of the proletariat by the bourgeoisie."

Books are bringing me much joy at the moment. I completely rediscovered a love of reading during lockdown and it has remained. I have just finished Piglet, below, and have also been listening to None of This is True by Lisa Jewell. Both very different, both excellent.

The bedside table pile continues to teeter. There are novels that I may read a chapter of each night or, if I am between books, I have a few non-fiction books and magazines which I read instead. 

Books aside, life has been full little everyday niceties like new nails in spring colours. 

Sleeping dogs.

The first cut of the grass this year, and a whippet very excited to be out in the garden, sniffing everyone and barking at the neighbour's dogs. 

I feel like I have mostly eaten hot cross buns and bread, which is very much not a problem.

And the odd roast dinner cooked by John. This was roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. We had lamb with dauphinoise potatoes on Easter Sunday - it was delicious. I spent all day gardening while John cooked - we were both happy with this arrangement. 

I have exciting news on the sourdough front. I threw away my last starter some months ago as it had flies in it. I was fed up with loaves not rising well ( I don't think I looked after my starter enough) and just enjoyed baking regular loaves of bread instead. 

However, my clever niece, Eleanor, is a very confident cook (and gardener too actually) and she decided to make her own starter. She had lots so gave me a jar of the bubbliest, liveliest starter you've ever seen. 

Look how it grew after I fed it!

As soon as I got my loaf out of the fridge, after its overnight prove, I was excited. 

Look at that. Beautiful.

We are always walking. Everywhere is so muddy at the moment so we are sticking to places with paths, or the beach. 

This means we're often going to places which are busy. I miss our off the beaten track walks, across fields and through woods, but it's just too boggy everywhere. We need a couple of weeks of sunny weather so everything can dry out a bit.

Easter snuck up on me a bit this year. Suddenly it was end of term and Good Friday so I got the little box of Easter decorations out of the loft (it's really just a few wooden eggs) and found my pussy willow branches. 

It's the same thing I do every year but I like it. I also hung my egg garland. I made this so many years ago, pre blogging I think, certainly when he children were really small. If I were to make it now I would choose wool felt over the acrylic fabric I bought in Hobbycraft, I would choose softer, more muted colours rather than these brights, and I would not have covered them in buttons. But they are part of my Easter decorating and I am fond of them.

This little Easter corner of the mantel made me happy. Flowers, vases and pots I've collected from here and there (an antique shop in Petworth, a department store in Paris, a vintage shop on holiday in Rye), the colours, the toy car, a sweet card from a girl in my class - just a little corner of spring joy.

Decorating aside, the best part about Easter for me is always the cooking. Like Christmas it's about tradition and ritual, of course, and a lot of nostalgia, but I always appreciate the way it seems to mark the end of winter cooking and a shift into lighter, brighter food.

Emboldened by my recent sourdough success, I thought I would attempt sourdough hot cross buns. I have had mixed success with homemade buns in the past, and some recipes have been so complicated and fussy that you were tending to them all day long. However, I tried this one and it was brilliant. Easy to follow and I liked to way you could make the buns then leave them to prove overnight in the fridge, then just put them in the oven the next morning. They were the lightest, fluffiest hot cross buns I have made. Next time, however, I would increase the spice and zest for extra flavour.

Bella and I made cornflake nests. It was a lovely way to spend an hour with my girl.

And then we lemon tart. Possibly the best thing I have ever made. I have peaked, culinarily speaking.

I am not a confident pastry maker and usually buy it ready rolled. However, we were all going to my parents' for a big Easter family get-together and I was bringing a dessert, so wanted to make an effort. I chose lemon tart because lemon always feels like an Easter flavour to me, I don't know why, and it's one of my favourite puddings. 

I followed this recipe to the absolute letter and my pastry rolled out without a single tear. I got it into the tart tin without wanting to throw it out of the window. 

I blind baked it, filled it, baked it again, and it was really delicious. Lemony, creamy, crisp.

I doubt I'll ever be able to replicate it.

And now we are almost half way through the Easter holidays. We are at home this year, pottering, doing DIY, gardening. John is off next week. I have a lot of school work to do, of course. The weather has been very mixed all week, sun one minute, torrential rain the next, but it's lovely to be at home so much, to spend time with the kids, to spend time in the kitchen and garden, to read, crochet. It's nice to have time to pause and appreciate spring. 


  1. Lovely post as always! Easter is my absolute favourite, so I loved reading about what you've been up to. So impressed with the sourdough and your lemon tart looked incredible. Hope you enjoy the rest of your time off :)

  2. what a lovely post you have shared with us gillian. thanks for bringing us along in your life. happy belated easter and happy spring dear lady.

  3. Thank you Gillian for sharing your photos and activities, I am always a bit too excited to view a new post, I hope you enjoy the rest of your Easter break.

  4. Lemon tart is delicious and your other Easter baking looks wonderful too. Great result with the sourdough bread. I love both Bella and Angus's Mothers Day cards. So precious.

  5. Beautiful pictures as always. The bread looks perfect - what an achievement! Enjoy the rest of the holidays!

  6. Honestly! Your blogs get better and better! The sheer beauty of them! That might sound dramatic but it’s true. I’m trying to maneuver my way through some very bleak life issues at the moment (my husband had a Defibrillator/Pacemaker implant surgery yesterday)
    So I can tell you, your blogging makes me, stop, blink, and realize that the little details
    Bring the sunshine back to our everyday. Moving with the seasons, the flowers, pictures,
    Books, recipes, these small things are needed in bleak times. The world is a mess, life is heartbreaking sometimes, but ritual of filling a loved vase, lighting a candle and eating something you took time to bake, decorating even a little is very necessary to combat the gloom that can creep into life. I needed your vlog this morning. I’m going out to look for spring and I’m going to bring it home. Let the world be gloomy, my home and mind doesn’t have to be.Thank you.

  7. I agree with all the above comments. You have a real gift, Gillian, at writing and photography and many creative pursuits that truly inspire! Your blogs are a delight to read, thank you. The way you notice and celebrate the passing seasons is very joyful.


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