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A Sunny Saturday

How lovely to awaken to sunshine pouring into our bedroom this morning, and then, not long after I’d made a pot of coffee,  Postie brought a book I’d ordered. It was published in 1988 so is 30 years old, but it’s as interesting and as informative as any similar book written today.

Sadly, many books of this kind are often dismissed as “coffee table books” and I admit some are there simply to look pretty.  But this one is very informative, and sometimes offers a different viewpoint, such as regardless of how attractively a town house might be decorated in country house style, it will never really be like a country house because of the light from the surrounding countryside.

Anyway, I wasn’t able to lounge in bed all morning, much as I’d have liked to!  There were things to do, the breakfast to clear up (husband made porridge and I had that while still in bed), the bed to make, the shower room to clean, and then lunch to prepare.  I decided to make a leek & potato soup, but as the leeks were quite old (how the time flies – I thought I bought them only a week or so ago and I was ashamed of myself for having left them in the fridge for so long – the date on the packet says “best before 28 Jan”!  But once I’d cut away the outer leaves, they were perfectly fine but, obviously, not at their best!)   I cut away the dry outer leaves and sliced the remainder, also three spring onions, a large white onion, and chopped three medium potatoes and lightly sauteed them in a large saucepan.  I then added sufficient boiling water to cover, plus three crumbled vegetable Oxo cubes, salt, pepper, and simmered the soup for 20 minutes.  Then I added a generous dessertspoon of reduced-fat double cream. I then used a stick blender while the soup was still in the saucepan, but didn’t blend it until smooth – we like some texture. I then re-heated it and adjusted the seasoning, and we had this with a baguette and cheese (Wookey Hole Somerset Cheddar and St Agur) and apple juice.

(This quantity of soup gave us sufficient for today’s lunch, and sufficient to freeze for another generous portion each.)

It was sunny all morning and it really lifted our spirits after the long, dark, dull and often wet days we’ve had for the last few months.  Husband decided to wash the car (he’s from a generation who don’t take their cars to a car wash, they do it themselves; he’d think himself both lazy and spendthrift to go to a car wash, but in point of fact, he actually enjoys washing the car – I’m sure he’d not do it otherwise!)

The sunshine poured into our sitting room through the bay window – the room faces south – and I thought how pretty it looked shining on the cut glass bowl and vases.

The daffodils I bought in the pencil stage last week are still looking good on the breakfast table and on the hall table, and I have two other vases of daffodils, at various stages of opening, the bunches which I bought yesterday, and they will eventually replace last week’s, but right now, they ‘live’ on the kitchen table when we’re not using it for meals.

Imagine my delight when, after receiving one book on interiors this morning, another I had ordered several weeks ago also arrived by a later delivery.  This is a brand new book, only published this month.

I have all but one of Ros Byam Shaw’s ‘Perfect’ books and I have liked them all, and I like this one, but somehow, while I can appreciate the individuality (nay, eccentricity!) of the interiors of the featured houses, I can’t say I would like to live in any of them, unlike the rooms in The English Country Room, where I could happily live in many of those!  But it’s a lovely book with Jan Baldwin’s excellent photographs.

After lunch I loaded the dishwasher and tidied the kitchen, and then made a cup of Earl Grey and had just a few tiny Café Noir biscuits and spent the afternoon reading my two new books.

These biscuits are tiny so it’s not the wicked indulgence it might seem! 

I hope you are having a good, relaxing weekend.

Until next time.

About Margaret

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. Had a chuckle reading today & yesterday about your books. I have so many, I’ve given away heaps, but now that I am to be sharing a house with my sister…. I again realise that I have way too many books… (sigh)

    • Margaret Powling

      Does not your sister read, too, Ratnamurti? or perhaps she has a whole collection of books as well! I hope you won’t have to part with too many. Mind you, when I look through my Amazon account, going back years, I see many books I’ve bought and have since parted with … if I had kept all the books I’d bought over the past 30 or 40 years, we’d not be able to get into our house!

  2. I’m having a good weekend now, Margaret, after having cleaned until I was quite tired and then sitting at my computer with a glass of iced tea (with a few frozen blueberries in the glass), reading your wonderful post and just feeling myself relax with the peace and beauty of your words and photos! You have a beautiful weekend yourself!

    • Margaret Powling

      In a way, Bess, there is a degree of calm satisfaction in the tiredness we feel after we have been cleaning and can see we have made a difference to our home environment. And how lovely that iced tea sounds. I’ve never had that. Is it just a tea bag and boiling water which has been allowed to go cold and then chilled with ice cubes? Is it any particular type of tea, such as Earl Grey or Assam? And how lovely that sounds, blueberries added to the glass!
      I’m so delighted that my words and photos have been relaxing for you. I hope you will have a lovely, relaxing Sunday.

      • Hi Margaret! The way I make one serving of iced tea is very simple. First I start a tea concentrate, so I put 3 to 4 ounces of boiling water into a 1 cup measuring cup. Then I just take a Lipton teabag (for 1 serving) and put it in the water to steep about the whole recommended time (5 minutes for me).

        While it steeps I pour about 20 or so frozen wild blueberries in a sturdy 12-14oz glass and add ice cubes to almost the top. When the tea is steeped (it will look very strong), fill the rest of the measuring cup with bottled or tap water (so that it’s the full 1 cup with the tea concentrate). Stir, pour over the ice, add sugar if desired. Sip leisurely :O} and enjoy the blueberries with a spoon when the tea is gone!

        I’ve tried a couple other fruits and so far like the blueberries the best. This is the first year I’ve added any fruit. Here in the middle of the US, the iced tea isn’t fancy, but one can experiment with different teas and add-ins!

        The concentrate keeps the tea from melting the ice, but yes, I assume you could make a regular cup of tea to your usual taste and let it cool first. The Lipton bags I use are orange pekoe and black tea. Around here they make big bottles of “sun tea” in the warm months, but it makes too much for my use. Off to read your latest post!

        • Margaret Powling

          Bess, that sounds absolutely delicious, and I’m now itching to try it. I must copy this down! Thank you so much for taking the trouble to let me know exactly how to make it. I will have a look for orange pekoe and black tea when I go shopping. Not sure whether our supermarket sells Lipson bags, but I’m sure I’ll find something suitable, perhaps a tea by Twinings.

  3. I hand wash my own car, too! It’s good exercise and I do a much better job than a drive-through car wash could ever do.
    And I do enjoy your posts! I check here daily to see what’s up. Thanks for sharing! (Your writing and photographs are marvelous!)

    • Margaret Powling

      Hello, Kathy, and it’s good to know that someone else still washes their own car and yes, it’s good exercise. As well as the drive-through washes, locally we have those places who do a hand-wash, much as you’d give the car yourself. They are very reasonably priced, too, I think, but still husband likes to wash the car himself.
      I’m delighted you enjoy my writing and my photographs, even when I only write about our meals and books … yes, and husband washing our car.

  4. The English Country Home book looks right up my street Margaret, I can feel another purchase coming on! My style is very much country cottage (hence my choice of home ) and I love to get new ideas and inspiration.
    The weather over the last few days has been very springlike with long periods of sunshine, I even took my coat off yesterday whilst working in the garden and it certainly lifts the spirits doesn’t it.
    Your daffodils look very attractive all grouped together on the kitchen table, such cheery little flowers. This week I plumped for tulips, dark red for the dining room and cream, tinged with pink for the lounge.
    We are out to lunch today, a family catch up so no cooking for me, hope you enjoy your Sunday.

    • Margaret Powling

      I have been reading that book (The English Country Room) in bed this morning, Elaine, and I am enjoying it more than the newer book; the advice and information is excellent (well, in my opinion) and the rooms shown are timeless. While the new Ros Byam Shaw book (Perfect English Townhouse) is a wonderful piece of production, i.e. a wide selection of townhouses, differing tastes in interior décor, and the superb interiors’ photography of Jan Balwin (whose own home features in the book), I simply can’t relate to any of the homes shown, none of them look comfortable enough to me. Most are what I call ‘hard edged’ rooms, filled with angular or very bulky furniture, floorboards rather than warm carpets (although some have Oriental rugs); they are places where I couldn’t (nor would I even want to) curl up with a book and a cup of tea. That is the test, isn’t it? Could I curl up in this room and be comfortable? I don’t mean in a kitchen or dining room, but in a sitting room or bedroom. I’m not expressing myself very well, but even the colours in most of the townhouses shown are ‘difficult’ to live with: garish yellows, deep charcoals, even what I think of as ‘washed-out’ linen. And so, if I had to choose from either of these books which would be a keeper, it would be Michael Pick’s 1988 book. And I don’t think it’s because I’m older, either, just that the rooms look much more comfortable – just wait until you get to the chapter on afternoon tea and see the rooms there!
      Oh, how lovely to have a designated dining room. So many homes – or rather, the people in them – have now turned this room into something else, or ‘knocked through’ to a kitchen. While I don’t mind eating our breakfast in the kitchen, I would love to have a dining room. We have a dining area at one end of our long sitting room, with the square arch being the dividing point between the two, but it’s not the same as a dining room – I trust you use it and not just save it for high days and holidays? I love the sound of your cream tulips tinged with pink – not seen any of those yet this year. Now, enjoy your lunch out today.

      • I totally agree with your comments Margaret, some of these rooms look marvellous in situ but how would it feel living in them from day to day. For example, some of those hard looking modern sofas, I always wonder what happens on those days when you are feeling a little poorly and just want to curl up on the cushions?
        Must admit that I do like to have a separate dining room and yes we use it every day as it’s well positioned between the kitchen and the lounge. I would like a slightly larger kitchen with enough space for a small table but it is what it is. The sink looks out onto the garden, a must in my eyes, and it has the working V that I like, that is between the cooker, working surface and the sink. No island for me ☺️

        • Margaret Powling

          I’m delighted that you use your dining room and it’s not just a pretty show-case of a room, Elaine, as so many dining rooms become; almost like the ‘front’ room in old houses, where the back room was always used for just about everything, and then the front room, or parlour, kept for ‘best’. Of course, in the ‘old’ days, pre-central heating, I can understand why this happened: it was another fire to light, another room to keep clean when coal fires were so dirty and smoky. I know, we had them when I was young. But to have a dining room that you use is really heartening to hear. Yes, our sink looks onto the garden, too (small that the garden is, as we live in a close of just 20 houses – but it’s not an unpleasant view, although it is an urban view, if we discount the view of the sea from our sitting room side window!) And yes, the working V, as you say, between cooker, working surface and sink. Another person who doesn’t want an ‘island’, great! I am sure they are just another fashion fad, like festoon blinds in the 1980s.

  5. We live in a very muddy area, so car washing is a fairly major job – oh, so satisfying though. My problem at the moment is that I am feeling those first stirrings of the need to spring clean the whole house, turn out cupboards and deep clean, especially the boot room, which is where the dog and I enter the house after a long walk. I keep remembering your posts on the subject, trying to make it more enjoyable.
    English Country Style is my favourite, so calming and comfortable. Alas! although we have an English house in the country we don’t have the style. Lots of mud, grandchildren and animals though. 😉

    • Margaret Powling

      Yes, those stirrings of spring, just as the birds start to chirrup, I want to clean the house from top to bottom! Indeed, I’ve sent husband on a mission today … as it’s too damp to work in the garden, I’ve asked him to clean windows on the inside (not outside, we have a window cleaner for that), so at least they will be dust free.
      I think having lots of mud and grandchildren and animals well qualifies as country style, Elaine! I’d put them right up there at the top of country style, even ordinary black wellies rather than expensive Hunters and that other make, the name of which escapes me, which are even more expensive. When I used to help out in a lovely antiquarian bookshop in a Dartmoor town several years ago, I found out that in the town there is a country store which sells all kinds of country clothe, and they are not expensive. It is where the local farmers and country folk actually shop, instead of expensive designer ‘country’ wear as advertised weekly in the Daily Telegraph’s Saturday section. I bought my waterproof raincoat from there and husband a waxed jacket, and our wellies. Excellent value and garments that you wouldn’t mind getting wet or muddy!
      Margaret P

  6. I admit that I do invest in very good wellies, Margaret. The kind (Aigle) which are specially cushioned and well insulated, plus they grip my foot well for the long walks I take with the dog. They are expensive, but I regard them as a sound investment, I walk up to six or seven miles a day through some extremely soggy/boggy areas. I do shop during the sales and I am never fussy about the colour, so I get a decent discount. Funnily enough, I am not especially faddy about regular footwear, but then i don’t walk for miles in shoes.

    • Margaret Powling

      I think if you live in the countryside, investing in good wellies might well be essential, Elaine, as you will be using them constantly. Here, in suburbia, I’ve not worn wellies for over 12 years. But as you say, good wellies are a sound investment, especially if you walk as often and as far as you do. As I’ve said before, buy cheap, buy twice. We can get away with cheaper clothes, but good, well-fitting footwear is essential.

  7. I think iced tea is more than just tea, cooled and ice added. Delia Smith did a recipe in her ‘Summer’ collection that she took from an American lady and it involved citrus juices and mint. I’ve a feeling she used strong English breakfast tea. I also wash my car by hand – car washes don’t do such a good job as far as I’m concerned. I have a dining room that is used regularly. My children ( aged 11 and 14 ) have been brought up so that they know proper table manners and what cutlery and glasses to use and in what order. I use vegetable dishes and other serving pieces. I don’t do this every day but I would quite confidently take my children to the Ritz or the Dorchester and I know they would know how to behave and what to do.

    • Margaret Powling

      Hello, Fiona, and thank you for mentioning the Delia recipe for iced tea. Yes, I think I’ve heard that there are other ingredients in it, including mint.
      Oh, that’s wonderful – that you have a dining room that you use, and your children have been taught table manners, and how to use cutlery (i.e. not holding a knife like a pen, for example – it irritates me when people do this, I now it shouldn’t, but it does!) and the order in which the items are used. Not only will they be able to dine anywhere, it will also give them confidence having these skills.

  8. Eloise. (thisissixty.blog)

    Ooooh, I’d forgotten about the existence of Cafe Noir biscuits. They are very nice and now I have a yearning for some! I am sure that I had the book ‘ The English Country Room’ once upon a time, bought for me by my mother-in-law.
    I love the way you have displayed your daffodils in different stages in different containers. I’m going to copy that idea instead of just buying replacements as the old ones are over.
    Yes, sunshine certainly lifts the mood. I’ve worn my sunglasses a couple of times this week when driving and it feels good.

    • Margaret Powling

      The ones I have found in Waitrose are much smaller than they used to be, and they come in a box rather than the usual oblong packet of biscuits, Eloise. But very nice (although very sweet).
      I bought the daffodils before the earlier ones had died (they have now) because I knew that the earlier ones would only last a day or two longer and, in any case, these might be the last of the daffodils available in the supermarkets, they have such a short season (unlike tulips and alstromeria and roses which we seem to be able to buy all year round.)
      How lovely to get the old sunglasses out again!

  9. You are either going to need another bookshelf or do another drop to the charity shop at this rate 😉

    I’m glad you had two days in a row of good weather. It really can change your whole outlook, can’t it. You were cooped up in inside due to the rain and cold whereas I was cooped up in the air conditioning to escape our tropical humidity. Husband and I have driven several hundred kilometres south and are enjoying a change of scenery – and much lower humidity – for several days. I had goosebumps yesterday and it was wonderful !

    I also enjoy washing my car and cleaning the interior. Murphy’s Law dictates that it always rains the day after I’ve washed my car.

    • Margaret Powling

      Yes, Lara, I’m afraid that books arrive in more than they go out! There is a pile now under the side table in the sitting room, and two piles on the dining table behind the sofa. I do need more bookshelves, but have run out of places to put them!
      How lovely to enjoy a change of scenery, and I hope you are enjoying your time in the south. The change will help you recharge your batteries, as we say.
      Yesterday we took the car to a place where there was a lot of mud and so the car, especially the tyres, became very grubby after husband had spent time cleaning it! It always happens; that, or rain, as you say!

  10. There are two types of iced tea in North America.

    Bottled by soft drinks companies an American Sweet Tea (very misnamed in my opinion).

    The bottled drink, ie Nestea brand is flavoured and sweetened and not bad to my taste buds. Sweet Tea, well, that was a disappointing experience. Basically it tasted like cold tea with granulated sugar and a bit of lemon floating in it. Managed the first sip and then moved onto ice water.

    I drink my tea black but Sweet Tea was beyond me..

    Canadians always joke about American Tea. We never order it in restaurants because the water is rarely boiled and is only warm. Must be something to do with the Boston Tea Party!

    • Margaret Powling

      Husband and I drink tea with milk, but only a little as I like my tea quite strong. But it must be made with boiling water. A pity that Americans haven’t got the hang of making tea (it’s not difficult, ha ha!) because it’s such a refreshing drink in either hot or cold weather. Making it with warm water just won’t do, Wondercollie/Linda. But the iced tea you mention that is sweet and gritty sounds like an insult to the art of tea making. We have just changed our tea brand to Tetley and have, at last, found a tea bag (rather than loose tea which is usually infinitely superior for making tea as the loose leaves can move around in the boiling water, resulting in more flavour) that is good quality and makes strong tea. Yes, maybe the Boston Tea Party makes Americans somewhat reluctant to make tea ‘properly’! They don’t know what they’re missing!
      Although we drink Indian tea with milk, I like Earl Grey tea without milk and not even with a slice of lemon as that tends to make it bitter, I think. Earl Grey in summer is a lovely drink. It is the ideal accompaniment to cucumber sandwiches (another English tradition for summer.)

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