Gillian Monks

'Making Fairytales Come True'

Month: February 2021

Inspiration With A Spring In Your Step

Spring In Your Step coverComforting and inspiring – seasonal poems, recipes, craft and gardening projects, celebrations, festivals and bits of history dotted among tales of modern life in Wales and an unusual childhood in 1960’s Lancashire. Read from cover to cover or dip into as the fancy takes you. An uplifting new approach to spring with timeless humour, poignancy and wisdom. Just what is needed to combat late winter blues and the challenges of Covid.

Give yourself – or a loved one – a treat. Perfect for Mother’s Day.

‘Spring In Your Step; Discover and Celebrate the Magic of Springtime’
by Gillian Monks

Buy from Herbary Books

Buy from Amazon



Just A Normal Day

Catkins New Year's DayJust a normal day. What is a ‘normal day’? Especially in this time of the pandemic when even our most mundane days have suddenly been rendered topsy-turvy and inside-out until we wonder if anything will ever be ‘normal’ again.

I began to recognise and appreciate normal days some years ago. One sunny October day I had taken myself for a walk around the lake in our village. I sat on a bench in the sunshine for a while and mused about my day and the family – I had left all our felines curled up in their own sunny patches of garden at home… our dog was happily snooting in the bushes besides me… my husband and son both had gainful employment which they were reasonably happy with… I had a simple evening meal already prepared for us. As far as I knew, no one was sick… no one was upset about anything… there was nothing particularly worrying me… I was looking forward to a nice meal and evening of talk and laughter with my loved ones. Nothing out of the ordinary, you might say.

It was then that I realised just how utterly extraordinary this day was, for days such as these when all is balanced and pleasant and stress-free are actually few and far between. I came to understand how incredibly precious it was to be able to sit in the sun and feel at complete peace. More, how amazingly privileged I was to actually be able to recognise it… to realise my wonderful situation and be able to step back and really observe myself in my life and acknowledge how blessed I was that particular day.

I suspect that we all might experience more incredibly wonderful normal days  than we realise, if we just take a few moments to evaluate what is actually happening and how we are actually feeling within our own small sphere of existence. I enjoyed another such flash of understanding a few days ago. I had been baking all day and was just sitting down around mid-afternoon with a cup of tea, ready to literally put my feet up and enjoy a well-earned break. Suddenly, it dawned upon me what an breathtakingly lovely day it was and how deeply contented and happy I truly felt. My son was out in the garden tinkering with his chainsaw and chopping logs… my husband was pottering about by the garage replacing a hinge on one of the big old wooden doors… all the animals were curled up snoozing in the warmth from the Aga… the clock ticked sonorously… the table lamps cast a warm glow into the shadows… a savoury stew bubbled promisingly in the oven… birds chattered outside the window as they swooped in to eat from our bird feeders… the mountains looked gloriously majestic in their ice and cloud-topped state… earlier we had all been teasing and laughing with each other… how normal everything was – and how utterly precious.

Excitement is all very well, but a great deal of it stems from unexpected events which can also bring shock and trauma. Even the nicest kinds of excitement can be inverted into disappointment as the anticipated pleasure frequently doesn’t live up to our expectations – or leaves us feeling exhausted and burned out.

We live in strangely uncertain times – these Twenty-first Century days of  stultifying regulations and restrictions thrust upon us, curtailing and altering our lives, sometimes almost beyond recognition; when illness, loss and grief can pierce our daily existence at any time without warning, changing it forever.

Therefore, my most heartfelt wish for us all is that we all may enjoy many, many normal days.

Happy Valentine’s Day In Lockdown!

Daffodils at Fron Goch

Picture taken at my local garden centre last year, only weeks before we were all plunged into lockdown – they truly lift the spirits!

One doesn’t have to confine Valentine celebrations to those who are a couple/in a relationship. I have always liked to surprise my friends and family with little (home made) cards and treats at this time of year. It is a chance to also honour love and  friendship in its wider sense. Perhaps this year, while we are mostly in lockdown and with not much chance of fine wining and dining and treats outside the home, it is especially appropriate to remember and contact loved ones we are currently isolated from – and to cheer up those whom we are in close contact with.

To this end, I am planning a little family tea for tomorrow afternoon – Valentine’s day – just for the four of us and our dear friend and neighbour who we have been in a ‘bubble’ with ever since this whole rigmarole began. So my Saturday afternoon has been largely spent in the kitchen.

Well, we all have the best of intentions and we all have ‘one of those days’. This was certainly ‘one of those days’ for me! I have two bottomless heart-shaped cake tins which simply sit on a baking sheet. I planned to make a pink cake and ice it with buttercream and decorate with silver balls. True, I have never tried this before and should probably have looked it up somewhere first, but, hey, what the heck!

My first problem was with the food colouring. It simply didn’t want to turn my cake mixture pink. After using at least a quarter of a bottle of the stuff it had only managed to make the mixture an odd off-orange colour (which happily disappeared when it was baked) so I gave up and tipped the mixture into the baking tin. In cooking, about a fifth of the mixture decided to escape through the tiny slit along the bottom of the tin where it had fractionally warped and puff itself up in all sorts of fantastic – and useless – shapes, rendering the main cake skewed to one side.

Then I thought that I would make my darling husband some hand dipped chocolates…. perhaps I should have quite while I was ahead?

But tomorrow we shall gather around our hearth and our tea table; there will be hot buttered crumpets and chocolate ‘tiffin’ and a lopsided heart-shaped cake filled with home made jam and butter cream and decorated with pink icing and silver cashews. We shall each bring to the table poems, readings, songs or stories which reflect the themes of springtime and love. And we shall make a Valentine garland of loving messages and quotations to hang across our chimney breast, to inspire us and remind us all in days to come of this occasion when we sat together and lovingly listened to and appreciated each other’s company. Hopefully, no one will notice the wonky cake or the wildly formed chocolates!

With our human commonality and mutual connection in mind, I send my love out to all who read this. Let’s celebrate our care, understanding and – yes – love for each other. Let’s all try and spread a little love around our world. Have a very happy Valentine’s Day!



Happy Imbolc/Gwyl Ffraid

PrimrosesGreetings – and very best wishes to you for a truly inspiring and positive celebration of the start of spring! No, not the meteorological beginning to the season, or the official date you will find on the calendar but the time each year which roughly corresponds with what is taking place in the natural world. Take a look outside your door or window – regardless of whether you have snow or frost at present… beneath it all, life is stirring!

Yesterday we went out into the fields and climbed to the top of Caerengan where we gloried in the bleak scene of bleached, lifeless fields and frozen, snowy mountains. As we stood surveying Winter in action, flurries of tiny snowflakes whirled around us. A little sad to leave the raw energy of the landscape, we retreated indoors to hearthside, honey cake baked in honour of the time of year and mugs of warm spiced and honeyed milk – as the Irish name for this festival implies, milk is traditional to mark the early lactating of the first sheep of the season to produce their lambs.

Here we also lit pure white candles… plaited our Brighid’s Crosses from lush green rushes which we had collected along the path home… sang songs… read prose and poetry aloud… followed a journey to Ffraid herself for guidance in this new and challenging year (see my Walking With The Goddess monthly online activities ) and sat around our big dining table to share a hot meal.

Imbolc mountainsThe old song title, ‘What a Difference a Day Makes’ was amply illustrated today. This afternoon the sun was bathing the mountains in golden light beneath a blue sky… birds were singing enthusiastically… and the tightly furled buds and catkins which I was so overjoyed to see at the beginning of January are now beginning to unfold. My snowdrops seem to have disappeared but the little wild primroses bring joy to my heart – that is if the birds will leave them alone; anyone know of a way to discourage our flying friends from tearing these little blooms to bits?

No matter what is happening in the world, the wheel of the year turns… the seasons change, sometimes so quickly that you can almost see it happening before your very eyes. We have reached the beginning of a new growing season – a time of regenerated life and birth, a period of intense stirrings and potential. We have dwelled in the shadow of Cerridwen’s Cauldron since the end of October and born witness to the return of the Sun at Midwinter, now it is time to truly step back out into the growing light. How might you like to celebrate the beginning of spring? How might you mark this singularly wonderful time of hope and new beginnings? Stay positive. Think big.

Rejoice in the fact that we can always rely on the natural world to inspire and heal us… and to be there, doing its thing, no matter what is happening in our human arena. It is constant. We are a part of it. Go out into it – regardless of the weather – and lose yourself, forget yourself…  to actually find yourself. Look around you for all the myriad signs of the warm light days and summer to come.

We are all to entering into a much brighter time – one filled with potential and hope.


Contact Us | Privacy Policy & GDPR |

Copyright © 2018 Gillian Monks.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén