Northern Mummy

General thoughts and wittering about all sorts of things


on March 18, 2013

The Bookworm and I have been ill this last week with a kind of not-quite-flu thing.  She’s had 6 days off school and is hoping to go back tomorrow.  I’ve had 5 days off school-run duty (and today was able to go by car which made it easier) and am beginning to feel my usual self again (although I’m writing this, pyjama-clad, from the comfort of my own bed, and not just because it’s so ridiculously cold today…)

So this post is a somewhat haphazard collection of seasonal items which have crossed my befuddled mind over the past week, during a bout of seriously unseasonal weather.

I can’t say I didn’t have fair warning. On 23rd March (a date commonly considered to be the first day of Spring) in 1993 I attended a day of interviews at the University of Durham.  After a morning in the School of Modern European Languages I decided to head out in search of lunch with some of my fellow interviewees, and we emerged onto New Elvet to find that it was snowing.  Thankfully we were to discover that one had practically only to trip over outside the department to land in one of the 5 nearby pubs, so we didn’t suffer much on the way to seek food, but it did make me question what I was doing there.  Briefly, anyway.  By the time I stepped onto the train home I knew I had fallen in love with it all –  the buildings, the bridges, the river and everything else, and that no amount of inclement weather would stop me from returning. So that was that and, of course, falling in love in a different way (but also in Durham) has meant that the North East is my permanent home 20 years (almost to the day) after that interview (goodness, I am old!).  Although the weather is still as bad: every time we start to think Spring has sprung – not needing to wear gloves or maybe even to zip our coats quite so high, a glimpse of a daffodil bud beginning to open, the first hint of growth on the trees – another blast of Arctic wind brings in snow, hail and what the weather forecasters like to call “wintry showers”.  A couple of years ago we did actually have snow during the Easter holidays, and I remember a plan for an Easter egg hunt with friends at Wallington hastily shelved in favour of an indoor get-together.  And these weather-related issues have spread further south as well, now, so maybe I wouldn’t have been any better off choosing to settle elsewhere.

Lavender biscuits

Lavender biscuits

Despite it all, we do our best to turn a blind eye and pretend that it’s Spring, and when I recovered sufficiently to think about a gift for the 3 very kind people who brought the Butterfly home from school on various days last week, I thought of lavender biscuits.  Some people think of lavender as a more Summery ingredient, but to me the colour and the fresh, flowery flavour embodies Spring and all its energy and life.

I use Mary Berry’s recipe for lavender biscuits, which are a kind of shortbread cookie, made from butter into which the lavender flowers and leaves have been beaten quite hard to release the flavour, caster sugar and flour. The mixture is shaped into long cylinders which are then rolled in Demerara sugar, chilled and sliced into rounds before baking.  Mine never look like the ones in my book, partly because the cylinders develop a flat bottom during their chilling time and partly because, even after chilling, the mixture still seems quite crumbly and will fall apart during slicing, leaving me to reconstruct the approximate round shape, often with a lot of the Demerara coating on the inside. Nevertheless, they taste delicious and, if you’re not proud about appearance, are very simple to make. Even if you look out of the window afterwards and think that a tray of mince pies would have been more appropriate!

My Easter tree (the basket was made by the Bookworm from a kit from Poundland, which is a great place to go for cheap Easter crafty items, should you require them!)

My Easter tree.  The basket to the left was made by the Bookworm, using a kit from Poundland, which is a great place to go for cheap Easter crafty items, should you require them!

Of course, the predominant Spring festival, especially for Christians, is Easter.  As I’ve said before, it strikes me as strange that even in church circles a lot more is made of Christmas than of Easter, when Easter is the Big Deal, the one without which Christianity wouldn’t have started.  I do try to put an emphasis on Easter –  I send a few cards although they tend to be expensive and often a little dowdy looking so it usually turns out not to be many, and we give gifts (usually non-chocolate) to the girls and to our nieces, nephews and godchildren.  This year I have found some lovely ideas on Dotcomgiftshop with an Easter/Springtime feel, such as this night light and these lolly makers.  And despite the whiny articles I’ve seen online about commercialism and inappropriateness (one of them claiming that Easter is a sad festival and therefore no cause for celebration!), I think the idea of Easter decorations is quite nice and this morning I’ve created an Easter tree again for this year.

We’ll also be using the Resurrection Eggs again to count down to Easter, starting on Wednesday. It’s a great way to remember the Easter narrative from the Bible, bit by bit, and if you want to do it too you still have a little time to get ready!  Tip: If you’re in the UK, ASDA are selling colourful plastic eggs in packs of 12. I felt smugly pleased today to be so organised in time (mainly because we didn’t get any of the Playmobil out of them last year so there was hardly anything to do) but I’m now having difficulty getting tiny chocolate eggs to go inside them. I feel very strongly about buying Fairtrade or other ethically sourced products whenever possible and chocolate is one of those items which it isn’t hard to get. But how confusing! – even the brands who display the Fairtrade mark on their products don’t do so across the board. So I can have a Fairtrade bar of Dairy Milk but not a Creme Egg. I can get a Fairtrade Kitkat but not a Kitkat Chunky. And when it comes to the tiniest eggs there was not a one on the shelves of my local ASDA today which claimed to provide any kind of ethical benefit, which is sadly telling, I feel, about the laws of supply and demand, and the priorities of most shoppers when it comes to balancing cost with concern for others.  If you’re buying Easter chocolate this year, please think carefully about what you’re buying and make the effort, if at all possible, to buy some that’s from a known source where the producers are treated humanely and paid a fair price.  It doesn’t have to have the Fairtrade mark – other companies have their own programmes to ensure the welfare and wellbeing of their producers, such as Hotel Chocolat’s Engaged Ethics policy.  But bear in mind that if you don’t know the origins of the chocolate you’re buying, you can’t be sure of the treatment people have had to undergo to get it to you.

**UK readers, please let me know if you come across any suitable little eggs!  I need the tiniest kind – Mini Egg size, but preferably wrapped as the eggs have to go in alongside other items which might make them less suitable for eating! **

Thankful for…

  • The friends who have been so kind and encouraging during our illness, with everything from practical help to uplifting texts and emails
  • The chance to rest and recuperate
  • The Butterfly’s cheery, sunny personality being out on top to lift our spirits through so much of last week
  • The opportunity to introduce the Bookworm to some of my favourite films while we were at home together
  • The blessing of Susan‘s housework planner over the past few weeks, which has meant the house has been ticking over this week even when I lacked the energy to do anything

2 responses to “Seasonal/Unseasonal

  1. Fiona says:

    I THINK that all the Co-Op’s chocolate is fairly traded and you can get bags of little foil-wrapped ones (pink, yellow and blue) – a possible visit next Saturday morning during piano, if that’s not too close to Easter Sunday? Lovely post! xxx

    • northmum says:

      Thank you – that was EXACTLY what I was looking for, but unfortunately by Saturday we’ll be on egg 11 of 12, so it will be a little late by then! I have to confess to compromising my standards somewhat and buying from ASDA after all, as I exhausted all the shops within walking distance to no avail. Next year I’ll organise further in advance!

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