Apr 082014

Now that school has broken up for the Easter holidays, the house is filled once again with a busy, noisy, mess of children. We are glorying in the relaxed mornings, some of us (not me, for the record!) staying in pyjamas all day long. I am watching with pleasure the relationships between the boys, always evolving, particularly now that the littlest one is crawling and can spot a piece of Lego from the other side of the room. His brothers are very patient with him, lavishing him with encouragement, even as they build a barricade of sofa cushions to protect themselves.

Blogging and writing work must be laid aside, ready to be resumed once routine returns. In the meantime, we shall be: decorating our osterbaum; baking biscuits; making trips to the park; meeting up with oldest friends; walking in the woods; making wild garlic pesto; reading library books; visiting museums; getting our craft on; visiting family and, of course, hunting for chocolate eggs.

See you on the other side…



 April 8, 2014  family life 8 Responses »
Apr 032014

the year in books april

Another month passed, many more pages turned. I’m glad that the momentum of #theyearinbooks has continued and that you are still joining in with me. As ever, I’ve loved reading your posts (and extending my ‘to read’ list!). The time for curling up beside the fire with a novel has passed, and it’s almost the weather for throwing a book into my bag, and heading out to find a spot in the fresh air to sit down and turn its pages. Perhaps we could record some of the places in which we find ourselves reading this spring and summer, via the #theyearinbooks hashtag over on Instagram, or pinned to the Pinterest board? I’d love to see where you settle in the sunshine with your books!

My first book for March was Kate Atkinson’s Life after Life. Oh, how I loved this book! An amazing concept, cleverly constructed and beautifully executed. I can’t remember the last book that I enjoyed so much. ‘What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right?’ reads the blurb, and the book explores fate, chance and destiny. It has a unique structure, non-linear, repetitive, and yet endlessly fresh. Characters are revisited and developed throughout the novel. When I finished it, I had the urge to pick it back up and immediately start again at the beginning, so absorbed was I in Ursula and her world. Magnificent.

I also read  The Snow Child, appreciating the way in which its isolated, frozen setting was so central to the book as a whole. I loved the magical realism and the fairytale that was interwoven with the narrative. I should probably have chosen this one for January, though, as the ice at its core didn’t quite sit with the emerging spring sunshine!

For April, I’ve chosen to branch out from fiction, selecting the gorgeous Letters of Note book, which I have been dying to get my hands on ever since discovering the Twitter account of the same name. Looking forward to May, I’ve earmarked a fascinating-looking book that was given to me last year by a good friend: A Little History of the World by Ernst Gombrich.

So, let’s get on with the April link up. Here’s a reminder of how it all works:

The aim is to read (at least) a book a month during 2014. At the start of the month, we blog the book that we are planning to read in the month ahead. If we feel inspired to, we could also write a little about the previous month’s book. Not a review, as such, just some thoughts: a recommendation (or otherwise!) for others who might be thinking of reading it. It’s not a traditional book club, so we don’t have to all read the same book. This is just about trying to ensure that we make space for reading in our busy lives, and hopefully a way to discover more lovely books (and lovely bibliophiles).

If you would prefer to share your book choices over on Instagram, that would also be great, please use the hashtag #theyearinbooks so that we can find your posts. The same hashtag is also active on Twitter. There is a Year in Books Pinterest board, so do let me know in the comments if you would like me to add you as a pinner. There’s also a Goodreads group for this project, and you are welcome to join, whether or not you have a blog of your own. If you would like to add a badge to your blog, you can grab the code over in the sidebar. (A few people have asked me how to do this. If you have a Blogger blog, you may find this tutorial helpful.)

I am compiling a reading list of book suggestions which people have left in the comments here, or via Instagram. Please feel free to continue to recommend books in this way and I will add them to the list.

It doesn’t matter whether or not you have linked up before- everyone is welcome and it’s never too late to get involved. I would be grateful if you could link back to here in your post. Do add your link below – click on the blue button at the bottom of the post.

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 April 3, 2014  the year in books Tagged with: , , ,  18 Responses »
Apr 022014

hobbs house-3

hobbs house

hobbs house-4

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hobbs house-6

hobbs house-14

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hobbs house-11

Making bread has always been my achilles heel in the kitchen. When it comes to cakes, I am pretty confident that I know what I’m doing, and my bakes usually turn out well, aside from the occasional disaster when I get distracted, take the kids to the playground and forget to take the cake out the oven (oops!). Bread seems so much more mysterious- the quantities of yeast, the temperatures, the timings, the consistency of the dough…I have never managed to master even the simplest of loaves. This year, however, all that is about to change, thanks to the #52loavesproject and to Hobbs House.

If you follow me on Instagram, or on Twitter, you will have seen a steady stream of home-baked loaves appearing in my feed since the beginning of the year. In January, my friend Lou, and her partner Dan had the brilliant idea of starting a bread-making project. The idea was to bake a loaf a week and to share it via Instagram- they called it the #52loavesproject. It was exactly the nudge that I needed, and I started experimenting with making bread…with very mixed success!

Luckily for me, Tom Herbert, of Hobbs House (and Fabulous Baker Boys fame!) discovered the #52loavesproject, and he invited some of the participants to a bread making masterclass at the Hobbs House Cookery School.

It was absolutely the loveliest way to spend a Monday morning. The Cookery School, above the Hobbs House bakery in Chipping Sodbury, is a gorgeous building, perfectly styled, and furnished with the equipment shelves of any baker’s dreams! Tom shared with us the baking knowledge of five generations, which has been handed down through the Herbert family, and he even entrusted to each of us a small pot of the family sourdough starter, which is almost sixty years old (and which I am treating with the utmost care, in the fear that I might inadvertently kill it!) We learned how to make a basic white loaf, and how to practice and perfect our recipe, making it our own. We also baked soda bread, pitta bread, and a batch of sour cherry and dark chocolate hot cross buns (yum!). Tom was a fount of baking knowledge and passion, sharing his skills and giving us all manner of tips including how not to be a flour floozy, and what place shower caps have in a baker’s kit!

I came home starry-eyed and brimming with enthusiasm, clutching my red Hobbs House dough-scraper and a flour-spattered notebook full of hastily scribbled wisdom. My sourdough starter has been fed, and housed in its own little Kilner jar, and I am planning to attempt a sourdough loaf with an overnight rise ready for Saturday’s breakfast. If you’d like to see my progress, and that of my fellow bakers, search for #52loavesproject on Instagram and Twitter. To find out more about the bread making courses with Tom, have a look at the Hobbs House Cookery School website. I honestly can’t recommend them highly enough, and being able to bake bread for my family is a life skill which I can use, develop, enjoy, and hopefully pass on to my boys. If you fancy your own red dough scraper or sourdough starter, you can buy them (plus all manner of baking equipment) from the online shop.

A huge thank you to Lou and Dan for starting the project, to Emma Bradshaw, who got us all together, and to everyone at Hobbs House, who made us incredibly welcome and sent us home after a wonderful morning with a spring in our steps and a passion for bread-making.

{ My fellow #52loavesproject bakers are:

Lou and Dan, Emma, Carolyn, Emma, Natalie, Jack and Ruby}

Mar 312014

patchwork march 14

Oh March, you have been an unexpectedly pleasant month! Last March was gloomy, with winter hanging on by its frosty claws. This year, March has been all blue skies and billowy blossom. I find it so much easier to feel bright and positive in the spring sunshine.

In my kitchen, sleeves have been rolled up, apron springs tied and my nose frequently dusted with flour. I’ve baked a chocolate fudge cake for a special birthday and a batch of rhubarb shortbread for some friends dear to my heart. I made my favourite rhubarb and orange cake, a chocolate and banana bread and a few too many batches of these wickedly addictive three-ingredient peanut butter cookies. Baking bread for the #52loavesproject has remained a weekly routine, and I’ve been experimenting with loaves and plaits (with mixed success!)

The garden has been dotted with clumps of primroses, and as well as being the crowning glory of my Primavera Crown, a few blooms also graced my kitchen table in a tiny blue glass bottle. I even experimented with crystallising the smallest of the flowers, which has left me keen to try the same with violets and, later in the year, rose petals.

Perhaps my favourite days of the entire year are the fleeting ones when the pink magnolia tree in our garden comes into bloom. Last year, I had to wait until April, but this year, studying the branches daily, the silvery buds loosened their grip and the pink petals emerged until the whole tree was covered in feathery blooms. On the school run, my favourite cherry tree has also put on a beautiful display, which lifts my spirits each time I pass it.

Having been blessed with the first warm weekends of the year, we have been out rambling, seeking signs of spring, which have appeared in abundance. The boys returned from yesterday’s walk with a quarz crystal, a magpie feather, and a sun-kissed pinkness in their cheeks.

Once again, I’ve been looking back, to last March’s patchwork, and to the month ahead, with a Pinterest board for April:

April on Pinterest

 March 31, 2014  monthly patchworks 5 Responses »