A Week in Books: Stories to treasure, traditional recipes and seasonal flowers

On a Sunday evening, I like to clear the shelf next to my desk, in preparation for the week ahead. There will always be a pile of books that have accumulated beside me. These will include stories my daughter has brought over for me to read to her and those that I have quickly grabbed to find a quotation, or check an ingredient for a recipe. There might be a seasonal book or two where I have looked up a flower name or gardening wisdom.

I enjoy the moment when I scoop them up and shelve them again, the titles on the spines evoke a diary of the days just passed: A Week in Books.

The Complete Brambly Hedge by Jill Barklem

This week my daughter chose our Brambly Hedge treasury. After reading “A Summer Story” we took the book out into the garden to see which flowers we could spot for ourselves.

The Complete Brambly Hedge: A Summer Story

We live near to hedged fields, so our walks together often seem to leap out of the pages of the Brambly Hedge stories.

The Almanac: A Seasonal Guide to 2020″ by Lia Leendertz

I think of The Almanac as an “outdoors book” to be read in the open air. August’s chapter tells of the luck of finding a traditional Scottish charm:

A rare patch of white heather … historically sold at fairs and tucked into brides’ bouquets

The Almanac: A Seasonal Guide to 2020″ by Lia Leendertz

I happened to be reading by the pebble stream where our white Scottish heather plant is growing, so took a sprig to use as a bookmark.

“The Wood: The Life and Times of Cockshutt Wood” by John Lewis-Stempel

John Lewis-Stempel’s “The Wood” tells of August being:

[T]hat awkward old month at the end of summer, when the majority of plants are past their profuse youthful best

“The Wood: The Life and Times of Cockshutt Wood” by John Lewis-Stempel

It prompted me to gather in samples of those flowers that still remain in mid-August, creating a photographic reminder for winter, of the colours of summer to come.

“Apple: Recipes from the Orchard” by James Rich

A friend kindly dropping off a crate of their surplus apples resulted in this book being happily retrieved from the shelf.

I gave the children reusable stickers and they staked claim to the recipes in the book that they most wanted to try. Toffee apples won. We created our own maple-flavoured versions ( Homemade Maple Toffee Apples ) and then made toffee brittle shards from the leftover syrup to add to warm drinks: Autumn in a mug.

“England’s Heritage Food and Cooking” by Annette Yates

Traditional recipes teach us how to make the best of each season, as they hark back to a time when the majority of people had no choice but to cook with whatever grew in their gardens or was available locally. We have been baking Shrewsbury Cakes, a biscuit recipe from the 1600s. We will also be trying a Kentish Cherry Batter Pudding in the next week.

“The Hobbit: Three Dimensional Book” by JRR Tolkien

On Saturday we discovered a Mirkwood full of spiders under the Fuchsia in our garden. A moment of dramatic tension occurred when a large very real spider crawled into the pages unseen and then dropped out on a thread when we lifted the book up. My little daughter thought that this was an excellent addition to the storytelling, however, I wonder if she will expect this level of realism every time from now on.

In a cave by the little stream, we encountered a strange fisherman. I used a torch to make Bilbo’s little reflective blade glow its warning.

Our tale concluded with us sneaking away safely from a fire breathing Smaug, who had hidden in our pumpkin patch amongst courgette-flower flames.

It is now Sunday evening and time to gather up all of the books and replace them on the shelves, whilst wondering what the next week will bring.

Do you have a favourite book from your childhood that you still treasure?

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The Complete Brambly Hedge: Celebrating forty years of Brambly Hedge with this gorgeous storybook treasury (Brambly Hedge)

Apple: Recipes from the orchard

The Wood: The Life & Times of Cockshutt Wood

England’s Heritage Food and Cooking: A Classic Collection of 160 Traditional Recipes from This Rich and Varied Culinary Landscape, Shown in 750 Beautiful Photographs