Tuesday, 25 February 2020

Spring Flowers, Spring Cleaning

Half term flew by in a rainy, muddy, but largely happy blur, seemingly over as soon as it started. I don't know where it went, it's not like we did anything or went anywhere in particular. John was working. Bella was away a couple of nights on a school trip to Disneyland Paris (which, no surprise, she loved). Angus had a friend to sleep over. We filled our week with haircuts, dentist appointments, play dates, coffees and catch ups with friends and family - all the things there is never time to do during term time - and of course I did some cleaning. 

Working full time outside the home, I just about manage to keep on top of the most cursory housework during evenings and weekends: things like changing the beds, vacuuming, washing the floors, running a duster over surfaces, doing the bathrooms etc. John does a lot too, along with probably half the cooking, and most of the food shopping. But the school holidays have become my time to do a bit more cleaning. I usually give one day over to it and I don't mind it really, in fact I find the unhurried sorting time quite therapeutic. I make a coffee, put the radio on and do things like scrub the oven, clean the insides of the windows (the window cleaner does the outsides) and all the picture frames/mirrors, sort out cupboards, wash rugs and cushion covers. I always feel better for it. 

We went out when it wasn't raining, and sometimes when it was. Children still need some fresh air and a change of scenery, as do adults.

I'm getting itchy gardening fingers, and want to get out there and start to tidy it up a bit. It's much too cold, wet and muddy right now, but I'm looking forward to some milder, dry days when I can go out there and potter a bit, inspect the plants and pots, see what's dead, what's growing. I bought a cold frame on sale recently, needing somewhere to start off my sweet pea, cosmos and foxglove seeds. All that money I hoped I'd save on not buying plants this spring spent on a cold frame - the irony is not lost on me....

But despite incessant battering from the elements, there is blossom on the cherry tree and it's glorious. 

Having not bought any fresh flowers since probably last September, I have made up for it in recent weeks with daffodils and tulips. I can't help it. They jump into my trolley.

I spent most of last Sunday in the kitchen, baking chocolate and cardamom biscuits, blondies, flapjacks and a marmalade cake. I took nearly all of it into work yesterday because it was my birthday over half term and school tradition dictates that you bring in cake when it's your birthday, a habit I certainly enjoy partaking in. There's nothing better than popping down to the staff room on a rainy morning to get a coffee and find a table filled with cakes, doughnuts and all sorts of treats because it's someone's special day. It's the little things.

By happy coincidence, John was off on my birthday and we had a really lovely, slow family day at home. I got up late, opened presents and cards, did some crochet. 

John baked me an orange and almond cake and my family came round in the afternoon.  He said, do you really need a candle on it? Yes, definitely yes. Later, the four of us went out for a curry which was so delicious and a really nice treat. 

John gave me a beautiful leaf print by Danish artist Monika Petersen which he'd had framed. I love the way the white and gold contrast with the greeny-blue wall.

This cookery book was a nice surprise since we'd been talking about it (we both really like Rachel Khoo's Little Paris Kitchen book) and I hadn't realised that she had this book out - and a TV series too, I think. I haven't cooked from it yet but there are lots of very inspiring and doable ideas inside.

My mum and dad helpfully gave me some new clothes (gifts being exempt from my "no new clothes in 2020" mission) which I'd carefully chosen, sensible things like layers and tops, items I could wear to work under a dress or with jeans at the weekend. They also gave me this beautiful maranta leuconeura Prayer Plant, a houseplant I'd had my eye on for some time. I love the way the leaves move throughout the day, rising and falling, or opening and closing slightly (hence the name I believe, like hands in prayer), but I really adore the pink stripes running down the dark green leaves. Nature so often has the best colour combinations. 

Now we're back at work and getting back into the swing of things again. As it's Shrove Tuesday we'll have pancakes for pudding tonight. I'll make the thin, traditional ones and eat mine with lemon juice and sugar, although I predict Bella and Angus will smother theirs in chocolate spread or golden syrup. Hopefully not both. 


  1. I do the same but never really seem to get over the finish line. It is crazy at the moment because while we build one house the other is falling apart!!! Sometimes you just have to look away! Jo xxxx

  2. Belated Happy Birthday Gillian - how lovely to have had your birthday in half term. We have been watching the little Swedish kitchen - she makes everything look so effortless.

  3. Happy belated birthday! I just love your home decor...so nice! It's great to have some time off when you work full time to catch up on household things. I'm looking forward to spring break here so I can do just that!

  4. Belated Happy Birthday from me, too! How nice that you all had the day off work/school and were able to spend it together.
    Cleaning and other house work is, of course, easier in my case as I live on my own during the week. On the other hand, on weekends I am either away or have O.K. staying, therefore I need to pack all household work into the evenings after work, which can be a bit of a challenge. But fortunately, I enjoy doing it; it feels good and satisfying and balances me well after a day spent at office desks and in meetings.
    Birthday presents - mine is coming up in about 4 weeks, and several people have been asking me what I would like. I don't want or need more "stuff", so I told everyone that anything I can eat, drink or use up in other ways (such as nice scented body lotion) is most welcome.
    Daffies brighten up a room even on the most gloomy day, don't they!

  5. I admire the way you turn cleaning into something enjoyable and therapeutic. That’s a great approach to life, I think!

  6. Happy belated Birthday Gillian. What a wonderful post and such lovely pics. Lovely to have the blossoms out already. We have snow and more snow coming in London, Ontario. But then it is only Februrary (-: Cheers dear lady and thanks again for sharing.

  7. ".Hopefully not both!" LOL, mine would do both no hesitation! Hope you had a fab birthday, how lovely that it landed at half-term! x

  8. Belated happy birthday from me too! Glad the Disneyland trip went well - a good baseline of confidence for future school trips. Always nice to read about someone else cleaning! Once mine were in secondary school and we no longer had au pairs, who also did cleaning, I roped my two in to weekend cleaning, on the basis that it was preparing them for university! Glad I did, as it stood them in good stead at uni and now in working life. Especially since son did an engineering degree and could design a jet engine by the end, I saw no reason why he shouldn't be able to work the washing machine and hoover. And no, I didn't pay them for it - because I wasn't paid for it! That is one beautiful plant that your parents gave you. Thank you for more glimpses of spring. It's snowing heavily here as I write.

  9. What lovely photos of your half term week, Gillian. Yes, spring cleaning can be fun, I love to get on with the things I just skim over in winter when I have less energy. But as I'm now ancient, I find I can't sustain cleaning as long as I used to, so it's either we go for a walk, I do cooking or cleaning, but not all the lot on the same day. Love that plant, the leaves are so beautiful. I think it was Beth Chatto who said buy plants for their leaves, if they have flowers, consider that a bonus. I might be mis-quoting but I think she said something like that. Not bad advice, eh?
    Margaret P

  10. Dear Gillian, I should say that was very heartwarming not only reading your article but also viewing those beautiful pictures you shared. Spring cleaning is not only a must but something that all of us at home look forward to, so as to have some good fun as winters can be quite tiresome. Apart from cleaning the house and tidying up those unwanted things collected at home, putting back winter clothing, me and my husband also look forward to going on some early morning walks and redoing our garden.

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