Easter Hols have started here so we’re down by the coast for a few days. Spring is in the air and we’re trying to spend as much time outdoors as possible.
As a builder, I’m pretty tuned into the seasons as I work outdoors so much. One of the best things about writing my recipe book, B.I.Y. Bake It Yourself, was that I wrote it over the winter so was locked in my warm kitchen tasting loads of cakes. It was a hell of a lot more pleasant than digging foundations in the snow! If you’ve got some Easter baking planned, I’d really recommend the Simnel cake recipe from my book (my version pictured above), especially as my book is under £9 on Amazon at the moment. I’ll be making one or two of these next week. I’ve also got a really easy cranberry and orange hot cross bun recipe that I make with the kids on the BBC Good Food website, if you’re getting in the Easter spirit.
We always try to get away in the UK for Easter, which I’ve blogged about before: Wales last year and the Norfolk Broads two years back. Spring is my favourite season; it gives me such hope for the year ahead and I don’t mind a bit of rain when you get lovely blossom and green grass in return. We’re huge fans of the author and illustrator Shirley Hughes in our house. For my blog readers outside the UK, I don’t think there’s a children’s author who better captures the simple details of life over here. If you’d like a taste of that, I’d really recommend Dogger, but all her books are beautiful. We’ve just got her book Out & About for our youngest daughter, which the illustration above is taken from.
As if we weren’t feeling Spring-like enough, we’re quite excited this week as my Dad is planning to get some rabbits as a birthday present for our eldest daughter. We had a little bunny visitor this week (above, with Daughter #2) and so the kids, my Dad and I have been working on my wife Sarah to persuade her it’s a good idea. She grew up without pets so talking her into our cat and dog took some time, but I think we’re winning her over on the rabbits. All my love for nature and the outdoors comes from my Dad, who’s also my business partner. Ever since I can remember my Dad’s bred animals. When I was little it was canaries, zebra finches, koi carp and mice. The first fish I ever caught when I was eight has gone on to pollute some of his koi carp blood lines and we dug out his enormous pond when I was 16. We share so many memories to do with our love of animals.
These days, Dad’s passion is his chickens. He’s bred them in his back garden to produce all different coloured eggs and after the Bake Off, my ‘éclair stair’ took up residence in his chicken house (above). He’s now busy designing an epic rabbit house, we’re calling it Rabbitopolis, that he and I will be building in my garden ahead of getting a few pet bunnies soon.
Despite living in London, our kids spend a big part of their lives outdoors in the countryside. What a lot of people don’t realise is that nearly half of London is green space – it really isn’t the urban sprawl people picture. I took my daughters to Trent Park in the London Borough of Enfield last week (pictured above) to play among the daffodils. I also used to volunteer for the London Wildlife Trust and in my Biodiversity & Conservation degree, I specialised in forest management in urban and suburban areas – a really interesting area of study and so important for air quality in cities. For a guide on wild places to visit in London, see here.
I know I tend to bang on about how great London is all the time, but I really am proud to be from this city. I love London’s diversity; I love that my daughters’ friends and their families come from all over the world – it gives them a really global understanding from a young age. I love that London has some of the oldest buildings in the UK, like the White Tower or the Roman wall of the City of London. But London is also building brand new buildings all the time and giving old buildings new purposes. For me, as a fourth generation builder in North London, I get enormous pride from renovating properties that were built by my Great-Grandad and his contemporaries.
The only thing I’d change about London is that every time I visit the seaside, like this weekend, I wish London was by the sea. Having driven through the South Downs today, I’ve been a bit bowled over by how beautiful an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty actually is! For now I’m off to enjoy it for a few more days, including a day trip to Butlin’s with the kids tomorrow. Before I sign off, a quick poll for you. Ever since my STIHL Timbersports weekend I’ve been growing a beard, which the eagle-eyed among you may have spotted in the picture at the top of this blog post. What do you think? Beard or no beard?
I look forward to your thoughts! Until next weekend, Happy Baking!