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Rising to the Challenge

Reader Eloise has suggested – tongue-in-cheek, I’m sure! – that I write two posts a day.  And so I’m rising to the challenge even though today has been a very ordinary day in the Powling household.

I will start with our back garden:  the summer flowers, sadly, are almost over.  It won’t be long now before I start looking in the autumn bulb catalogue although I do my best to put this off for as long as possible for it feels as if I’m bringing autumn closer when we’re still at the height of summer.  Well, an English summer which consists of a few hours of sunshine occasionally, a heatwave for a few days even less frequently, but more often than not grey skies and heavy downpours.  At least all the rain in the past couple of weeks has done the grass good:  during a summer of sunshine, by the end of July the grass has been desiccated to a pale corn gold. Not this year.

This morning consisted of making the bed, making breakfast, loading the dishwasher and washing machine, hanging out washing, and then going to the local pharmacy for husband’s monthly prescriptive medications.  Then back home to make chicken curry for lunch.

So, simply housekeeping tasks, nothing too onerous.  Younger son arrived (to do some work with elder son; they have a business together) with Barry-the-dog, whom some of you might remember from an earlier post, when Barry had his own Guest Post.  I asked him if he’d like to say a few words today, but he pretended not to hear (photo below).

“Does she ever stop talking?”

Here he can be seen snoozing on the back of one of our sofas.  I was prepared for his arrival – I put an old woollen throw over this sofa as it had new covers – at enormous expense – last year, but Barry doesn’t know this even though I explained that doggy claws and fine fabrics aren’t a happy partnership.

One good thing about the internet and internet banking in particular is that we seldom now receive a bill in the post.  This doesn’t mean we don’t have bills, but it means that instead of manila envelopes falling with regularity, instead it’s usually nicer things dropping onto the doormat. Today, it was the latest copy of The English Home magazine and a book I ordered for husband – he was saying he had nothing to read, and that in a house with roughly 2,000 – 3,000 books at a rough estimate.  He enjoys technical books and science books and occasionally a biography, but his reading is not as wide-ranging as mine.  He reads, like a lot of men, “for information” but he did enjoy two books recently:  Catherine Bailey’s Black Diamonds and The Secret Rooms (which I also read, they are excellent.)  And so, when my cousin mentioned a book which she thought sounded interesting (and similar to these two books in some ways) I ordered it for him:

I was a little dismayed by the first line, though:  “It was a dark, windy winter evening a few days before Christmas 1879 …”  It rather reminds me of the old jokey line which is so often poked fun at, “It was a dark and stormy night …”  Surely, it can only get better? I have to say I’m not totally enamoured of books which say things like, “and she put on her warm coat” if the writer of a non-fiction book wasn’t actually there to witness this.  As I say, it can only get better.  Can’t it?

How lovely to have a new magazine to read, and so this afternoon I sat and looked at this new issue, with a cup of tea and a slice of almond sponge (made a couple of days ago …  I make single layer almond cakes; this means we eat fewer calories, but still have a nice tasty slice!

I hadn’t realized how appropriate the photo above is: a slice of cake on a feature on the home of cookery guru, Rose Prince!  I hope she won’t mind her lovely home being overshadowed by my humble almond sponge.

Later in the morning there was another delivery, this time a bar of soap from Bronnley.  A couple of week’s ago I received an order from Bronnley of three soaps, Freesia, a lemon soap (shown here next to a real lemon, just for fun) and a small guest soap, the RHS rose soap.

Unfortunately, the bar of Freesia soap didn’t smell nice at all.  It was as if the fragrance hadn’t been added, the soap simply smelt oily, and so I thought I’d mention it to Bronnley.  I wasn’t complaining; after all, it’s only a bar of soap and mistakes can happen, but I thought that perhaps they might like to know.  I was therefore both surprised and delighted when, this morning, a replacement bar of soap arrived courtesy of Bronnley.   And it smells lovely.  Nothing like freesias, I might add, but pleasant nonetheless!

And so, the afternoon is almost over, it’s nearly time for supper (close to 6 pm here in the UK as I write this.) It will be a light supper – not quite sure what yet, I will examine the contents of the fridge shortly – as we had porridge for breakfast and then chicken curry, as I mentioned, for lunch, plus tea and almond cake about 4 pm.  Perhaps boiled eggs and ‘soldiers’, with some fruit to follow.

As I sit here and turn to my right, I have a view through the patio doors of our small back garden.

The flowers are looking a little tired now, there are weeds which need removing, but at the back of the garden – and I thought the snails had ‘done’ for them – we have some dark rose pink hollyhocks which have just come into flower.

And just before younger son put on his lead to take him home, Barry found a patch of delicious warm sunshine on the hall carpet (the pattern of the window in the front door being reproduced on the carpet by the sunshine.)

I have mentioned to Barry that he won’t be allowed to walk on the carpet (only joking!) as on Thursday the hall, stairs and landing carpet is being professionally cleaned.  I told him he’d need four tiny slippers to put on when he comes in.  He wasn’t impressed by such silly remarks.

I hope you have had a pleasant day, with nice post, tasty food, and a good book to read.  If you have been working, then I hope you will have a relaxing evening.

Until next time.


About Margaret Powling

Margaret Powling
Margaret’s main interests are her husband and family, her friends, her home, her garden, writing, literature, architecture, décor, social history, photography, historic houses and gardens, and towns, villages and the countryside. She writes about the things she enjoys: flowers, scent, fine soap, monthly style magazines, and other such small indulgences, such as afternoon tea or simply enjoying her summerhouse with a book. She invites you to enjoy this virtual visit to South Devon, England.

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  1. Eloise. (thisissixty.blog)

    Tongue in cheek? Certainly not! And now you have raised our expectation…haha.
    Ordinary days are vastly underrated. I love them.
    What a fabulously rich colour the hollyhock is, I don’t see many about but my aunt had lots in her garden; never a red one though. Your garden still looks very colourful even though the summer flowers will be starting to fade. Summer is so short-lived. The older I get, the more warm sunshine I crave.
    I love Barry’s patch of light. My retriever was the same -she could find the slimmest sliver of sun-warm carpet and settle down for a snooze.
    Hmmm, I wonder whether the book will improve. I used to be in book group and some of the recommendations were atrocious, not just in terms of storytelling but in their entire structure.

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Yes, Barry is a real son-worshipper. He managed to find a tiny patch in our bedroom until I shooed him out. As for he book, I have my doubts. One that starts so badly – well, badly to me – is unlikely to improve, but I mustn’t malign it without reading it.
      Yes, I love ordinary days, as you say, they are underrated. I remember a friend, always with a suitable quip, saying “boring is good!” In other words, we don’t need excitement.

  2. that’s impressive: two in one day!! Living on my own, I soon realised that some things just don’t work out the same as when my youngest was at home. For instance, lovely soaps now last me forever. I now have a stockpile of soaps that I’ve been gifted. I grew vegetables until I started feeling like The Little Red Hen toiling away whilst others reaped the rewards. So now I only grow a few. My cottage is very tiny, so there is no room to store books (sob!) nor magazines. Funny little changes but all added up made for a big change. But the biggest change was food…soon I didn’t want to cook for just one, and when I realised one day that toast actually was not a meal…. some changes were in order. So I love to see other people’s ‘menus’ for ideas.

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      I don’t think I will be writing two posts every day, Ratnamurti, but now and then, perhaps. Your cottage sounds lovely even if it is too small to house books and magazines, but there are benefits to a smaller home. It’s less expensive to maintain, and not as much cleaning is involved. It must be difficult at first, changing from cooking for a family and then cooking for one, and no, a slice of toast isn’t a meal, so I hope you can pick up some ideas here – casseroles can be portioned out into containers and popped into the freezer, even if you bake a cake, you could cut it into quarters and freeze them separately. And soup freezes very well. And some soups are so quick and easy to make, such as pea soup (with our without mint) or watercress soup, when watercress is in season.

      • Would you believe that I have watercress growing? Soup coming up, methinks. Thanks for this reply… yes, time to organise oneself regarding food

        • Margaret Powling
          Margaret Powling

          Well done on growing watercress! Watercress makes a lovely soup. I saute a large chopped onion, add a peeled and chopped potato, then the watercress, stock to cover (I use vegetable stock) and just before the soup is ready (i.e. onions and potatoes soft), I add some milk or cream, then blend in the saucepan with the hand-held blender. Tasty soup quickly made.

          • yum, thanks for the recipe

          • Margaret Powling
            Margaret Powling

            I think you must be referring to the almond cake recipe, Ratnamurti? Just equal quantities of fat, eggs, flour and sugar, but as I say, substitute half the quantity of flour for ground almonds. Then when cool, water icing and (icing sugar mixed just with water, not egg white as in royal icing) and then flaked almond scattered on top. Easy and delicious.

  3. I’m so pleased that Barry has featured again and the photo of him on the couch is adorable. Mind you, I wouldn’t say anything like that in front of my cat as whilst she adores humans, she is very anti-dog (and also anti-cat !).

    I’m very impressed by your two posts in one day but don’t worry, I don’t expect it to continue. When I read Eloise’s comment suggesting same my first thought was ‘oh no ! Now I’ll eat TWICE as much’ as your photos of food are always so beautiful and your descriptions also. I was silly the other day whilst shopping and bought a small packet of Walkers shortbread biscuits. Now I’m not supposed to eat anything that’s not gluten free so why I bought a packet of them I have no idea. Well the next day I was settled in bed with my iPad and a cup of tea in my favourite China cup when I remembered the biscuits and of course one led to two which then led to three….. I know I can’t do portion control ha ha.

    In response to Ratnamurti’s comment about cooking for one, I lived alone for four years – with the occasional family visitors and house guests – and used the first year or so having fun cooking things that I wanted to eat without having to please anyone else and it was fun. I explored vegetarian cooking and knew that any disasters would be kept a secret ha ha. I often made casseroles, pastas, soups, cottage pie, etc to serve four portions. I would eat one portion when freshly made, keep one portion for the following evening and freeze the remaining two for lunch or dinner at a later date. At the time I was working in an office of about 40 people and there were three of us who lived alone (or in share houses). We three would take turns cooking and bringing in the spoils to share with the other two – it guaranteed a variety and made coming to work more fun. As we know, it’s easy to get bored with your own repertoire! There are now many recipes for one (or two) accessible via the internet for inspiration. It’s so important to nourish your body with good, nutritious, fresh food and to eat mindfully – not when watching tv or scrolling through your phone. Good for your digestion, your waistline and your soul :))

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      I thought you would enjoy seeing Barry again. He is a dear little dog … well, until he sees a cat pass by the window!
      Oh, Walker’s shortbread biscuits are lovely. My late mother used to make shortbread and I have on occasion made it, but as I don’t have a food mixer of processor (all my baking is done by hand) I would find making the paste for the shortbread very difficult now as it’s a case of blending butter with flour and cornflower, and the paste is very stiff and hard to work by hand.
      What a good idea for you single women in the office to share your food like that! But you are quite right, we need fresh, good food. Good food is one of the joys of life, is it not? And it needn’t be complicated food, faffed around with as many chefs faff around with food. A simple meal is often the best meal.

  4. simpleliving31.blogspot.co.uk

    Good luck with your two posts a day, I am sure you can do it though. I can almost smell the lemon soap.
    Lovely to see sweet little Barry again.

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      That was just a one-off twice-in-a-day posts, Marlene, just for fun! But that isn’t to say I won’t do it again in the future!

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