Not Quite Doing Nothing …

by Margaret Powling-

Alstromeria, bought on Wednesday, now fully open two days later


I was up early this morning.  Not bright-and-early, just early.  Around 5.30 am. It was light, the sun was ‘up’, and while husband was fast asleep I made myself coffee and wandered around the quiet house. I love early mornings.  I don’t need to do anything in particular, I just enjoy the early morning light. 

Our house faces due south, with the main bay window of our sitting room also facing due south, and so in the early morning the sunlight enters the dining room end of our sitting room, the only time of the day when it does enter this part of the room, from the east-facing window.

The brilliant light causes the walls, which are a pale lime-yellow, to glow ..

What a difference between the dining end of the room and the sitting part at this hour of the day. It almost looks as if the room has been painted in two distinctly different shades of paint.  Sadly, this colour – Gervase Yellow – has been discontinued by Farrow and Ball, but I understand that paints that they archive can be mixed to order.  I love this colour as it’s neither lime nor yellow and changes dramatically with the variations of natural light in the room during the day and also looks really lovely at night when the lamps are on.

Yesterday evening, I decided the hall table needed some flowers, so picked these three You’re Beautiful roses …

I really will have to start ‘weeding’ my books!   I need to go through each and every shelf as there are now some books stacked under a console table in the sitting room  and they really need to be on shelves …

These are just some of my interiors/décor books …

Before you ask, the two plates are Spode Imperial, two of four that my late mother had.  I parted with two of them and now I rather wish I hadn’t.  Strangely enough, I didn’t much care for them when my mother bought them.  She had them as plaques on her kitchen wall.  However, when we decorated our sitting/dining room in 2002, I brought them out and placed them on this table and liked them so much against the wall colour that, with the Oriental prints above, there they have remained ever since.  (The table actually opens out to reveal a green baize surface for card games (not that we’ve ever used it thus.)


The morning seemed to disappear in a flash, and as I wasn’t actually doing any cooking for lunch but simply reheating a cottage pie from the freezer, to serve with peas and extra gravy, for lunch for three – husband, myself, and our younger son …



I decided to make a Victoria sponge.  I’d not made one in ages. I’d made fruit cakes and banana bread and rock buns, but nothing as simple nor as lovely as a plain Victoria sandwich.  And rather than filling it with butter cream, or turning it into a coffee and walnut sponge as I sometimes do, or a chocolate sponge with melted dark chocolate on top which sets as ‘icing’, I simply added a little lemon zest to the mixture and then sandwiched the two halves together with delicious lemon curd.  If you haven’t made your own lemon curd, it pays to have a good quality one for this cake. 

I am now going to make a pot of tea and cut us each a slice of cake. 

Victoria Sponge 

The recipe is a very simple one and there are just four ingredients:   weigh 4 large eggs and then using that as your guide (my four large eggs weighed  266grms) weigh the same in caster sugar, margarine, and self-raising flour.  Set the oven to 160C (this is for my fan oven).  Prepare two sandwich tins by greasing them and then lining the bottoms with baking paper ‘circles’.  All ingredients should be at room temperature – don’t use them straight from the fridge.

Now ‘cream’ together the sugar and the margarine.  Add the beaten eggs gradually, with just a little of the flour,  and continue to beat the mixture until all the eggs are combined with the sugar and margarine. Now sift the remaining flour and fold it in, taking care not to beat the mixture – you want to retain the air you have beaten into it, not knock it all out again.

Now divide the mixture between the two prepared tins.  Give them a little shake so that the mixture evens out – I even weigh the two tins with the mixture in to make sure they contain more or less the same amount of mixture.

Now pop them on the centre shelf of your hot oven and bake for 25 minutes, but check them after 20 minutes.  When you remove them from the oven, leave for a minute or two before turning out onto a cooling grid.  When completely cold sandwich with jam, lemon curd, or butter cream.  If you make a lemon sponge as I have done today, add some lemon zest to the creamed butter and sugar.

Before serving, sprinkle the top with caster sugar or, as I have done, icing sugar.  


Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, have a lovely weekend.

Until next time.

Margaret Powling


  1. simpleliving31.blogspot.co.uk

    So “weeding” the books, you are going to get rid of some? As we are limited for space I regularly sell them on Ziffit, it’s free postage as well, then I can get some money to buy some more. Snap I am making the same cake tomorrow, as I have lemons and lemon curd, it makes a nice change from jam, enjoy your weekend Margaret.

    16 . Jun . 2017
    • Margaret Powling

      The books I get rid of are only paperbacks usually, nothing worth selling really, and I take them to my favourite charity shop (the local hospice shop). I’ve not heard of Ziffit, I must check that out.
      The cake is lovely. I’ve put the tin in the fridge, though, as it’s quite hot now and it will keep it fresh. I’ve given a 1/4 of it to our younger son and his partner to have this evening. One of the nicest lemon curds is one from Waitrose, a Sicilian lemon curd but this Tiptree one is lovely, too.

      16 . Jun . 2017
  2. Eloise at thisissixty.blog

    Not being a fan of buttercream, I rarely make filled cakes, preferring just a topping but this looks delicious. I haven’t had any lemon curd for ages so I’m feeling inspired! (Trouble is I am inspired too often to bake cakes and I really can’t afford the calories)!!
    We love a lemon drizzle cake so I’m sure We’d like your lemon curd cake.
    I made toad in the hole this evening but for some reason my batter was very stodgy and only cooked on the top. This has never happened before. Any ideas, Margaret?

    16 . Jun . 2017
    • Margaret Powling

      I’ve always had problems with Toad in the Hole! One of the things I simply never could get right, so now I don’t make it. I love Yorkshire pudding and I like sausages (well, good ones, not those cheap packets of pale pink monstrosities, and we have them only occasionally because they aren’t that good for us, being processed meat, even the good ones) but never was I able to get Toad right! I think the secret is to make sure that the sausages are almost cooked before you add the batter, and that the fat in the tin is really hot and then whack it into a very hot oven – that should prevent the batter being soggy. Perhaps you had too much fat in the tin, and too low a temperature? Just an idea.
      I’m not all that fond of buttercream, either, only if it’s well-flavoured with coffee turning it into a coffee buttercream. And I don’t actually use butter but soft margarine such as Bertolli spread. I think I’m the only person in the world who doesn’t actually like the taste of butter!
      Lemon drizzle cake has a much stronger lemon flavour but I made the Victoria sandwich today as it doesn’t have the drizzle topping which is filled with granulated sugar (about 4 tablespoons to the juice of a lemon.)

      16 . Jun . 2017
  3. Eloise at thisissixty.blog

    You are not alone…..there are two of us. I can’t stand things tasting buttery.
    We eat sausages only very occasionally for the same reason as yourselves so it was very disappointing. I think maybe the oven wasn’t hot enough at the start. Never mind – it’s salad season now anyway and I have some lovely feta cheese to make red onion and feta tarts for tomorrow.

    16 . Jun . 2017
    • Margaret Powling

      What a coincidence that we both dislike butter! When I was a child, before there was soft margarine, I had my bread with just jam or whatever on it, no butter at all.
      Oh, I shall now have to make red onion and feta cheese tarts! They sound nice and I expect they are quite easy to make? Saute the onions, put them in the pastry cases, add the feta and then the egg/cream or egg/milk mix and bake in a hot oven? I love red onion salad, with tomatoes, feta and basil leaves, too. Oh, all this food talk is making me hungry!

      16 . Jun . 2017
  4. Eloise at thisissixty.blog

    It’s dry bread for me every time. Recipe spot on, Margaret!, although I often use Total 0% fat free yogurt in place of cream. It doesn’t really alter the taste but saves on the fat content. Oh yes,red onion, tomatoes, feta and basil leaves are a perfect combination. I always have a basil plant on my kitchen windowsill.

    16 . Jun . 2017
    • Margaret Powling

      Yes, Mr Basil Plant is on my window sill, too, summer and winter! I love basil, I even sprinkle dried basil over tomatoes before I grill them.

      17 . Jun . 2017
  5. Lara

    YOur photos and descriptions of food are always enticing, Margaret ! Your cottage pie lunch looks delicious. I used to make this regularly when I lived alone as it made four servings – I would eat two servings on consecutive nights and freeze the other two for later. I would put tinned peas, carrots and corn in the mince component so as to have plenty of veggies. Your sponge looks like perfection. I’ve always been intimidated by the thought of baking a sponge ! And knowing that portion control isn’t my forte (nor my husband’s) I fear I would eat it all in days. I doubt that gluten free flour would produce the light, fluffy results in any case.

    We enjoyed sausages for dinner last night. Our local butcher makes a range of different types in store but I always buy the traditional beef. With mashed potato (essential), carrots, peas and corn on the cob (or whatever else is on hand), it is one of my husband’s favourite meals. He would enjoy it several times a week I’m sure but we have them only once or twice a month. I agree that the sausages on offer in the supermarket are pale, mass-produced imitations that don’t look fit for human consumption. If I’m going to the trouble of preparing, cooking and cleaning up I want quality ingredients and freshness. I also enjoy being served in the butcher’s store rather than merely selecting what has been laid out under fluorescent lighting in the faceless supermarket. Our butcher always holds the door open for you as you leave his store – a lovely gesture I always appreciate.

    16 . Jun . 2017
    • Margaret Powling

      Your butcher sounds a lovely chap! We have a lovely farm shop close by and sometimes we go there for meat and bacon, all their produce is sourced locally, or at least in our part of the country. Thank you for saying the cottage pie looked delicious. I don’t smooth the potato top, I have it quite rough so that it browns and crisps beautifully. I sometimes put chopped up carrots in it, too. But cottage pie makes for a very nourishing and tasty meal.
      I’ve never worked with gluten-free flour, so would have no idea what a sponge cake would be like made with it, but you could perhaps try adding a little baking powder to help it rise?

      17 . Jun . 2017
  6. Kathy F.

    I visit your blog daily checking to see if you have posted anything. It is such a lovely gorgeous place for me to visit. Please keep on writing – you bring much joy with your beautiful pictures and descriptions of your daily life. Thank you for sharing with us!

    17 . Jun . 2017
    • Margaret Powling

      Thank you so much, Kathy, for those kind words. I’m delighted you enjoy my blog. I sometimes think that two days running of not posting about anything really interesting, just flowers and food, might bore readers, but then, most of our lives are concerned with if not with trivial things – getting up, going to work (if we still work), feeding ourselves and families (if we have any at home) and so forth – then ordinary things, so I’m glad you are enjoying this glimpse into our lives here in Devon.

      17 . Jun . 2017
  7. Elaine

    Another daily visitor here and thought it was about time that I said hello!
    A sponge following this recipe has just come out of the oven and the kitchen smells delicious, have added lemon zest and will sandwich together with curd, not homemade I’m afraid. I thought it was best to get the baking done before the day turns too hot but am lucky as my kitchen faces North so never gets unbearable.
    I love the every day posts just as much as the trips into the Devon countryside and towns, most enjoyable thank you.

    17 . Jun . 2017
    • Margaret Powling

      And hello to you, too, Elaine! How lovely that I have readers even if they don’t always leave a comment. I’m so glad you enjoy my blog posts, even the everyday ones!
      Right now I’m watching the Ceremony of Trooping the Colour which I will be posting about, perhaps later today.
      I hope our sponge turned out well! I must put up some more healthier recipes, all these cakes and I could be accused of adding to the obesity levels in the country, ha ha! But everything in moderation, eh? Man doesn’t live by bread alone … he/she needs a cake every so often!

      17 . Jun . 2017
  8. Elaine

    The cake turned out very well thank you Margaret, very light and moreish. I also added a lemon buttercream as my stepsons are coming over tomorrow to see their Dad so wanted it to be extra special.
    Am a great believer in a little bit of what you fancy does no harm, be it cake, chocolate or a glass of something cold and bubbly! We tend to try for a 80/20 lifestyle, 80% healthy, 20% more treat food, life is for living!

    17 . Jun . 2017
    • Margaret Powling

      How I totally agree about the 80/20 lifestyle! What a very good maxim to live by. And I’m so glad that the cake turned out well. My goodness, I might turn into a Delia or a Nigella yet (I might be more Delia, I don’t pout and ogle the camera as Nigella does!) I do hope your stepsons enjoy the cake, if they don’t, you an always blame “that woman who has a blog!”

      17 . Jun . 2017

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