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All Over For Another Year

Dusk on Boxing Day

It would appear that much of the country is currently either under a thick duvet of snow or is partially flooded.  Meanwhile, here in South Devon there’s not a spec of the white stuff … yet … and we have brilliant sunshine and blue sky.   However, one can’t rule snow out at this time of the year, and when I nipped out to empty the rubbish and recycling items this morning, the cold wind cut  through me like a hot knife through butter.  I think I will be making some soup today, its that kind of weather.

So here we are, post-Christmas.  It’s all over for another year.  I hope you all had as enjoyable a time as we had, both on Christmas Day and on Boxing Day.  Our families were catering this year, so no cooking was required from me although I’d had a request to make bread sauce, which I did.  It seemed strange not cooking at least one meal over the two days, but rather nice in a way, and very relaxing.  But as I was discussing with one daughter-in-law’s mother, like me she also still feels the need to ‘stock up’ on all the Christmas goodies; the habit of catering for the family is long lasting.

We watched Little Women last night and quite frankly I didn’t care that much for it – as with The Miniaturist which followed, pretty settings and pretty costumes do not always result in an excellent production.  In Little Woman I found the younger girls especially were far too modern- and mature-looking; surely Amy was about 12 or 13, if I remember, although it’s a very long time since I read the book,  but she looked like a stroppy 17 year old.  And I couldn’t always tell what Marmee (Emily Watson) said.  The cod-American accent was not good.  Husband wanted to know why they were all “speaking funny”.  He is slightly deaf (wears hearing aids) but can certainly understand a true American accent.  However, he couldn’t tell what Marmee and her girls were saying.

As for The Miniaturist … well, I have read the book and I’m afraid I still can’t make up my mind whether it is brilliant writing or pretentious twaddle.  As with Little Women, when translated to the small (or even the large) screen, wonderful scenery, beautiful silk and satin dresses against a Vermeer-style background (some outdoor scenes looked as if they had been painted by Pieter de Hooch) plus exquisite miniatures made by Kevin Mulvany and Susie Rogers (see their book Magnificent Miniatures, published by Batsford, 2008) do not always end up providing us with a good drama.  After an hour I was getting oh-so-slightly bored, so set the programme to record and we repaired to bed.  I might watch the last hour later today so as to be ready to watch the final part this evening.   But at least the BBC were trying to bring something fresh, something new, to our screens rather than the same old Bronte, Austen or Dickens.

In preparedness for being disappointed with what the television had to offer (we can’t stand all those noisy Christmas specials – “shiny-floor programmes” as Giles from Gogglebox calls them – with the exception of Christmas University Challenge) I bought a jigsaw puzzle.  We have laid this out on our dining table, and husband spent some time sorting out all the straight-edged pieces and the corners, but he’s not progressed much further. I’ve not even tried to do any of it yet.

I thought this might be fun to do. I’m not sure now, as although it’s not advertised as ‘tough’, it is certainly something of a challenge.

We both received lovely presents …

… although my gorgeous leather gloves will have to be exchanged for a larger size. They are Medium, and I’ve never had a problems with Medium-size gloves before, but these are very small indeed, but they are beautiful gloves.  Also, I’ve not photographed a rather elegant Gant shirt husband was given, nor a new soft brush to be used for cleaning the car, you don’t need to see a car brush, do you?  The flowers (above) are part of a bouquet, here are the others …

Once it is less-cold outside, I hope to pop out there for some greenery and put all the flowers, with the greenery, into one vase. They look a little strange in these two vases I think, large heads on slender stalks, not the best look for carnations but very elegant flowers nonetheless.

A request has just been made for soup for lunch, so I will close now and make some pea and mint soup for a late lunch, and then perhaps we will both have a slice of Christmas cake.

Later …

We had pea and mint soup for lunch, plus Cheddar and Stilton Cheese, olives,  small sausage rolls, granary bread, and apple juice …

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. I love your blog Margaret. What is cod-American as you referenced as a way we Americans speak. I’m from Boston and cod is a favorite fish here. Any connection?

    You made me laugh today: you don’t need to see a car brush do you? Actually you elevate the mundane for me and I enjoy all your pictures and commentary.

    • Margaret Powling

      Hello, Donna. “Cod” speak means a put-on accent which the speaker thinks is like the accent he or she is trying to mimic but failing. Such a put-on accent mimicking the Cornish accent would be “Ooh, arr, me ‘andsome!” and few Cornish folk actually speak thus. So cod-America is someone pretending to be American but missing. I am not sure whether the actual fish ever came into it, that is something I would have to investigate. And cod is a favourite fish here, too.
      Glad to have made you laugh! How wonderful “to elevate the mundane”, but sometimes the mundane is what our lives consist of … such as peeling potatoes or washing the car (unless one takes the car to a car wash; that elevates the activity to a small luxury!)

  2. Looks and sounds like a very enjoyable Christmas. We were invited out both days so I fortunately didn’t have to cook either, which felt very strange! We are out for lunch again tomorrow so today I am indulging in a very relaxing day at home as the weather is too cold and miserable to venture out. Hope you are able to exchange the gloves. I love leather gloves, they are elegant and warm and perfect when driving.
    I watched Little Women last night and often couldn’t understand what was being said and I agree the younger girls looked much older than they should have been. Didn’t watch The Miniaturist, it didn’t really appeal., had an early night instead! X

    • Margaret Powling

      How fortunate we both were, Dot, in not having to cook … we went to younger son and his darling partner (whom I refer to as our daughter in law as they’ve been together since school days) and yesterday, Boxing Day, to our elder son and his wife, and each day there were eleven of us and it was lovely. We have also been indulging in a relaxing day at home although I made the pea and mint soup for our lunch.
      Yes, I am sure I will be able to exchange the gloves – I have a gift receipt for that very purpose. I love good leather gloves and am building up quite a collection of different colours.
      I am glad I’m not the only one (and my husband) would had difficulty in understanding what was being said. I sometimes begin to think it’s my hearing, but I doubt that very much. But, sadly, a lot of our consonants are fast disappearing. There’s an advert for the School Report on the News, when children make News programmes. The child who reads the voiceover says “ma’er” for matter, and “impor’an'” for important. And the g at the end of words is also fast disappearing, so that would be “disappearin'” As a lover of our wonderful English language this upsets and annoys me. I know language evolves, but sadly we seem to be subsiding into what will eventually become a language of grunts. Or perhaps that should be grun’s.
      We saw the 2nd half of last night’s The Miniaturist this afternoon and boy, things hot up. Worth watching tonight, I think. A slow burner.

  3. simpleliving31.blogspot.co.uk

    Hello Margaret,
    What a lovely Christmas, a real treat not having to cook.
    What a lovely selection of gifts you received.
    The television has been extremely disappointing, have fun with your jigsaw it should keep you busy for a while.
    It is nice to have some simple food, I have had far too much food so will be going back to simple meals again from tomorrow.
    Stay warm, we woke up to snow again today.

    • Margaret Powling

      Hello, Marlene, and yes, a really lovely Christmas. But it still felt a bit strange not having to produce either a Christmas or a Boxing Day lunch! But I think I can get used to not having to slave over a hot stove!
      Yes, we must get back to ‘proper food again soon, once the sausage rolls, mince pies, chocolates, Christmas cake, Tia Maria and Baileys are finished! I might start with fruit tomorrow for breakfast, but I might indulge husband in scrambled eggs with smoked salmon.
      I’d actually like to see some snow … the last snow we had was 2010 and then it was only for about 24 hours.

  4. We have had snow blizzards on and off all day here in East Anglia Margaret, the only saving grace was that due to the earlier rain it didn’t settle unlike other parts of the country. It’s so cold outside we have hardly left the house all day, my beloved did take the dogs out earlier for a quick walk, bless him. I stayed behind and made some turkey broth, just what was needed for lunch on such a cold day.
    We have Little Women and the Miniaturist recorded, like you I always believed Amy to be a little girl so not sure how they have made her so much older, we will see!

    • Margaret Powling

      Oh, I’m actually a teeny bit jealous, Elaine – I’d like to see a bit of snow, but as the saying goes, be careful what you wish for! Best to remain indoors though, perhaps your dogs could just nip outside to relive themselves, I don’t expect they enjoy going out in the cold, either. Keep warm, turkey broth seemed like an excellent idea. I would’ve made that only we didn’t have a turkey, having had our meals made for us. But we have a gammon, cooked, in the fridge, for sandwiches and chutney.
      I’m glad I’m not alone in thinking that Amy was a little girl. All the ‘girls’ seemed much older than I thought they would be. Aren’t there any good child actors any more who could play these roles?

  5. Amazing how even in a small island, the weather can be so different across the width and breadth of it. Snow would be magical, perhaps it will still come. A good stash of presents there, and no doubt a lovely winding-down of the festivities. Our family (myself and my descendants) have gone down yet another generation with who provides Christmas lunch, so my 50 year old daughter, where we had gathered for years on Christmas Day, had a relaxed Christmas at her younger 29 year old sister’s house. (I think that she was happy to gracefully step aside)

    • Margaret Powling

      Yes, Ratnamurti, we have pockets of weather in these island; Scotland can be under snow, with skiing in the mountains while down here in Devon we can be basking in sunshine and temperatures of double figures. Indeed, closer than Scotland, even Dartmoor, less than 20 miles away, can have snow and we not have a spec of the white stuff.
      My goodness, another generation-but-one for Christmas lunch. I now know I’m old when our sons are middle-aged chaps, but I keep telling myself (and anyone else who will listen!) that I’m too young to be this old! How lovely that your 29 year old daughter hosted Christmas and her older sister was gracious and relaxed about this. I felt it time to hand over the cooking baton to the daughters-in-law, and they made splendid meals which everyone enjoyed.

  6. We woke up to snow again here in Gloucestershire this morning which was a surprise. When we set off to catch the bus to town the snow was melting and turning into very unpleasant slush. We went very carefully and were glad to have our coffees and toasted tea-cakes! Your presents look lovely, Margaret. I still love to open presents and we were very pleased with ours, one of which was a “Downton Abbey” board game which looks fun (one of my all-time favourite programmes). I’m afraid I lost interest in “Little Women” tonight as it seemed a bit depressing and I loved the book as a child. I then found “Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas” which was so interesting. There were such talented people making beautiful things.

    • Margaret Powling

      The snow is creeping south, then, Anne, and so we might have some eventually! However, it’s not pleasant when it turns to slush, it is only pretty when it first falls, and everywhere looks frosted in icing sugar.
      I don’t know the board game Downton Abbey, but that sounds fun! We watched the 2nd part of Little Women only because there was nothing else we wanted to watch, and really, it’s not very good although the Telegraph review yesterday sang its praises – can’t think why – giving it four out of five stars. We also watched the final part of The Miniaturist and we’re still not sure what it was all about and whether it was good or pretentious twaddle. Was it a morality tale or not? We had no idea.

  7. As ‘simpleliving31’ said, I am also back to simple eating again. Oh yes, fresh prawns, sliced ham-off-the-bone, smoked salmon, mounds of cherries, mangoes, chocolates, etc are all well and good but boy was i happy to have a bowl of homemade veggie soup for lunch yesterday (Wednesday 27th) ha ha. I overindulged on Christmas and Boxing Day, of course. I mean, isn’t that the point ? We didn’t do presents this year (as mentioned previously) so yummy foods were our focus. I don’t like to waste food and husband is quite content to eat the same food or ‘reconfigured leftovers’ so some titbits are in our fridge.

    What is bread sauce ??? I have never heard of it.

    I am impressed by your 1000 piece jigsaw. A few days before Christmas I had a medical,appointment and arrived early so investigated one of the nearby op shops (what we Australians call charity shops or goodwill) run by a local Animal Welfare group. I bought myself a 500 piece puzzle for the princely sum of $3 and have been enjoying myself over the past four or five days, doing it in stops and starts. They had several pother puzzles in the store so I may have acquired a new affordable hobby 🙂

    Many years ago I watched the version of ‘Little Women’ with Elizabeth Taylor as Amy (?). Oh gosh she was beautiful. I think it was a daytime movie on the television. I also saw the version with Winona Ryder as Jo (early to mid 90s ?) at the movies with a dear friend. When the scene where Beth falls in the ice and becomes terribly ill (does she die ?), my friend was bawling so loud I handed her several tissues. When we came out of the cinema she told me that she had never read the book so had no idea of what happened. We were both in our late twenties and I was gobsmacked that she hadn’t read the book – I’d naively thought every young girl had 🙂 Mind you, I was to discover that same friend cried at many more movies we went to together whilst I sat there dry eyed. We still laugh about it now 🙂

    Cold weather sounds positively delicious. I am struggling with our daily humidity of over 90%. I went to the hairdressers yesterday and emerged feeling several kilos lighter – he chopped the back of my hair quite short (and thinned out the rest quite a lot). So short, in fact, that he used clippers on my neck, which was a new experience for me. With a professional blow dry I left there feeling quite chic and was hoping to bump into someone for a compliment or two ha ha. I have quite thick hair and it grows quickly but I feel can like I’m wearing a balaclava in this weather. The family dog gets clipped quite short during the summer for his relief and comfort and I’ve thought of doing same to myself. I doubt I’d look as cute as him 😉

    • Margaret Powling

      Bread sauce, Lara, is what some people like with poultry, be it chicken or turkey. It’s a love it or loathe it item, and we love it. As the name suggests it is made from bread, but it’s best made from white bread. I buy a small white loaf (not a sliced loaf) and allow it to go stale for a couple of days. You can’t make bread sauce with fresh bread, there is too much moisture in it. According to how much sauce you require, you put milk into a saucepan and to that you add a peeled onion that has been stuck with about 6 cloves. You bring the milk gently to the boil and then allow it to cool in the pan with the onion to flavour it. You could do this at the beginning of making the meal. Later, you remove the whole onion and discard it, and then you add the bread – you can make it into breadcrumbs in a processor (I don’t have a processor) or just remove the crusts and cut into small cubes. You then add this to the cooled milk and re-heat, beating the bread so that it’s fairly smooth, and then season to taste. It should be not too think or too thin, difficult to describe without you having seen it, it’s not a pouring sauce but it should be a think lumpy sauce either. But with chicken and turkey it’s rather nice.
      I think the 1000 piece jigsaw was a bit ambitious … I think one with 500 pieces would’ve suited us better! Well done on your find in your op shop (op for opportunity, perhaps?)
      Oh, I remember the Wynona Rider version of Little Women, and that was rather good I thought. Wasn’t it Amy who fell through the ice? The one who had burned Jo’s manuscript? Anyway, Beth hasn’t died yet in the story – that’s for tonight, I suspect, a bit weepy ending perhaps! I am find it all rather schmaltzy. I’ve never cried watching a film in a cinema, although I might’ve wept a little at home – the end of 84 Charing Cross Road always makes me weep, when Helen Hanff gets the letter from Marks & Co to say that Frank Doel, with whom she has corresponded for over 20 years, has died. Great that you and your friend can laugh about her tears now.
      I have to have clippers on my neck when my short hair is cut, to remove the stragglers, Lara. It neatens things up. Having short hair must be heaven in your high temperatures.

  8. I’m still watching Little Women although I’m not enjoying it as much as I hoped. It feels a little flat. We put subtitles on last night, which we have to do with increasing numbers of programmes even though others can be heard clearly. One more to go, I’m not a quitter 😉

    Although I cooked on Christmas Day it was just for the two of us so no pressure and it felt much calmer and easier. After all these years of cooking, which is not something I enjoy just something that has to be done, it’s lovely to let someone else take the load. With very few exceptions I don’t mind what somebody cooks for me, as long as they are cooking it!

    Very cold and icy out this morning, I’m not risking going out except in my own back garden because I cleared and salted the path yesterday. My ancient cat is wary about going out the front because there is a snowman about 100 yards away and her failing eyesight is telling her it’s something to worry about.

    Have a good day.

    • Margaret Powling

      Husband and I haven’t been enjoying Little Women, either. It’s just not very well acted, we don’t think. And we had really looked forward to it, something different from the usual Christmas offering of Dickens. It says a lot about the production, though, when people with normal hearing have to resort to the subtitles to understand what is being said. Poor diction once again. They can sound American if they so wish, they can speak reasonably fast, but let’s hear the words clearly!
      I enjoy cooking when I am not having to do lots of other things, too, but it was really lovely not to have to cook Christmas lunch or Boxing Day lunch this year, very relaxing and just what I needed after the awful cold.
      Your poor cat won’t like this weather! I’ll bet it’s out for a quick wee and then back indoors again!

      • My “poor cat” who is 19 and senile sleeps most of the day and gets up 5, 6, 7 times a night for a quick wee and some food. On the night it snowed she only got as far as the doorstep several times until she had to give in and go outside. She refuses to use a tray even though I keep one down for her. When she won’t go out it makes it even more frustrating to be pulled out of your warm bed and stand about for 20 minutes while she faffs about. I know she can’t help it, but still….

        • Margaret Powling

          Oh, your poor old cat, Alison. When ours was really old and his kidneys began to pack up, we had him put to sleep. He would sit on the draining board to be near the water, even though we always put a bowl of water out for him. I hated having to have him put to sleep, but I stayed with him and held him and it was painless and over in seconds, and I mean seconds. I know how you love your old cat, but make sure that you do the right thing, come the end; it’s hard to make such decisions, and you will no doubt be led by what the vet says, but make sure that poor kitty isn’t suffering. Well, I’m sure you won’t allow her to suffer, you love her too much.

          • She was at the vet a couple of months ago (she scratched her eye, which ointment cured) and he just said “enjoy her eccentricities”. He’s not up every night! She’s due for her annual booster next week so I’m sure he will tell us if she’s not fit to carry on, but honestly she seems fitter now than six months ago.

          • Margaret Powling

            If she seems fit, Alison, and you’re prepared to get up for her at night, then that is what you will do until she is, as you say, not fit to carry on. My other’s ginger top went on until he was 21 (but that was very many years ago.) Ours only made it to around 14 or 15.

  9. Eloise. (thisissixty.blog)

    Glad to hear that Christmas was enjoyed, Margaret. I think many women find it difficult to let go of preparing to cook for a family and continue to stock up even when the cooking is being done by someone else.
    Oh how I agree about Little Women. In fact, I didn’t even finish watching the first episode . As for the miniaturist, I thought the book awful and didn’t even bother with the TV adaptation. I thought that Christmas TV was altogether poor this year. Marks & Spencer do leather gloves very well. Coincidentally I took a photograph of mine today, ready for a forthcoming post.
    Lunch looks jolly good. I’ve been cooking too, using up the leftovers. We too have embraced simple eating today. The leftover boxes of chocolates will find their way to the food bank.
    Too tired now, but back to my blog tomorrow.

    • Margaret Powling

      I’m glad I’m not alone in my disappointment with the BBC TV drama of Little Women and also The Miniaturist. I stuck with both of them, saw them through to the end and yesterday’s final part of Little Women was a bit of an improvement on episodes 1 and 2, but only because the action was speeded up, the girls are now grown up, Meg gives birth to twins and Jo meets Prof Bayer (and at the end they are running their Academy for Boys). Of course, we had to endure the long drawn-out death of Beth, which I find mawkish, a little bit like Helen’s death in Jane Eyre, but I acknowledge that both books were written at a time when even minor illnesses developed into killer illnesses, so no doubt this was what life was like for many families at that time.
      As for the Miniaturist, I have drawn the conclusion it is about nastiness, for want of a better word. The nastiness of Johannes in ‘buying’ his child bride, Nella, when he was gay (a cover up for his extra-marital activities); the nastiness of Marin towards Nella; the nastiness of the killing of the dog; the nastiness of the so-called Christian burghers of Amsterdam who put a noose around Johannes neck and tied it to a weight to it so that he would sink in the sea; the nastiness of the miniaturist, leaving the small tokens for Nella (whatever they were supposed to indicate, they weren’t pleasant); the nastiness of Marin’s death after childbirth. Indeed, come to think of it, I can’t think of anything pleasant in this book at all. What are we meant to learn, if anything, from it, I wonder?
      Re gloves, those that are a present are from M&S so I will return them and choose a pair to fit. I love nice gloves!

  10. Forgive me for being a dunce, but what is “Christmas cake”. Is it a particular kind of cake? Or do you make a cake and because it’s Christmas call it Christmas cake? I love the way you describe things and also your forthrightness! “I still can’t make up my mind whether it is brilliant writing or pretentious twaddle.”

    • Margaret Powling

      Christmas cake, Jeannine, is simply a very rich fruit cake made specially for Christmas, one that often has almond paste (or marzipan as some call it) applied to it and then iced (I think you’d say frosted.) Some decorate the rich fruit cake with nuts and fruit and glaze those instead. Some people might, instead, have a chocolate yule log.

  11. I just watched a YouTube video on how to make bread sauce – I guess I could have done this before I asked you but then any others unfamiliar with the dish /condiment wouldn’t have read your answer.

    I suspect it is the type of thing where every family or everyone’s grandmother would have their own little secret twist and swear theirs is the best. . Is is mostly for special occasions ?

    I love learning about customs and practices in other people’s lives 🙂

    ps following Jennifer L. Scott’s recommendation on her ‘The Daily Connoisseur’ blog I watched ‘A Return to Simplicity’ and have found it fascinating. The host, Angi, lives in Virginia USA with her 1.5 yo daughter, 3 yo son, teen stepson and husband. They are 30 mins drive from the shops and rely on their garden, bulk buying, local suppliers of seasonal fruits and her domestic goddess skills for their freshly home cooked dinners each night. Her accent is beautiful. Even though our lives are incredibly different, I have learnt so much and people picked up some good tips. Highly recommended for fellow stickybeaks 🙂

    • Margaret Powling

      I never thought of looking for bread sauce on YouTube! I expect it is made similarly to how I make it, but the main ingredients are bread and milk, or bread and a mixture of milk and cream, with seasonings. The longer you can leave the onion-stuck-with-cloves to infuse the warmed milk, the better.
      I must have a look at Jennifer L Scott’s blog, and see A Return to Simplicity. I have almost given up watching her blog because when I look at her short videos they buffer (is that the right term?) and sometimes stop completely and then the computer page sticks in one position. Love your term “stickybeak” which would be “nosy Parker” over here, although I’m not sure how this term arose. Perhaps someone called Parker who was nosy, i.e. showing rather too much interest in something, pushing your nose in.

  12. Happy Christmas! As always, thank you for sharing. I’m interested to see the version of Little Women when it comes to the U.S. I read the book many times when I was growing up, and the sequels. We visited LM Alcott’s home some years ago. She was a remarkable woman; you might enjoy reading about her more than watching this current series! Christie

    • Margaret Powling

      Yes, I’m aware of L M Alcott’s other books, Christie, and I am aware that at the time of writing the books, the American civil war was either taking place or had just ended, and also that illnesses, such as Beth’s, were common and children and young people often died whereas today they would be successfully treated. I agree, reading about L M Alcott might be much better than watching a 2nd rate TV drama series. Happy New Year, to you, Christie.

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