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Still Getting There

We did what we hope will be the last of the shopping yesterday morning.  But first, to the Co-op where I had been saving my membership ‘rewards’.   As this amount of money was a freebie, I thought it would be nice to pass this on, and so husband and I went in and gathered together items for the local food bank and paid for them with the ‘rewards’.

We then took the items with us to put into the Waitrose food bank container which, I’m happy to say, had an overflow container as customers have been so very generous.  I hate the fact that in this day and age we require food banks, but while there is a need, we will support them.

Waitrose was busy but not over-crowded and it certainly wasn’t noisy.  That is one benefit of shopping there.  I do think a lot of people have the impression that it’s a very expensive place to shop.  Well, much depends on the items you buy.  Any supermarket is expensive if you choose the most expensive items.   We bought our usually weekly shopping plus some wine, our contribution to the Christmas Day Lunch at elder son and daughter-in-law’s home, and a couple of presents, and so all the shopping is now done.

We took our ‘free’ coffee and sandwich to Ilsham Valley again, and parked the car so that we had a view of the sea.  When we arrived the sun put in a brief appearance …

I said to husband that perhaps next time he might park beyond the lamp post, so that I needn’t have it on my photo!  (I took this through the windscreen or our car.)  Of course, I could crop the photo, but I thought you should see exactly our view from where we were sitting in the car.

And then the clouds rolled in again …

I took this photo as we drove towards Meadfoot beach

And this was the view as we approached the beach, with the sky darkening every second.

We then went home, I put the food away, tidying the larder cupboard as I did this, and then cleaned out the fridge and put the fridge-food away.  And then I asked husband if he would kindly clean out the freezer, i.e. removing the drawers and scraping off the build-up of ice.  So that was his next job.  I then put the drawers back, tidying the freezer food as I went, and getting rid of some items which had lurked at the back too long (not many, as I try and keep a check on such things, but now and again you find something which has been there for a year or more.)

This morning I prepared the ingredients for making the Christmas cake.  Yes, I know.  Late again.  But I’ve baked the cake a couple of days before Christmas in the past and it’s been perfectly OK, indeed, it’s been lovely and moist, and never bitter.  I know a lot of people anoint their Christmas cake with various types of alcohol once it’s been baked, but I don’t do this. I don’t like raw alcohol in a cake, but I do mix Napoleon brandy into the cake before it’s baked, and it tastes wonderful.

Here, the fruit has  been weighed and mixed with a portion of the flour, the butter and sugar (Muscovado) is ready for ‘creaming’ and the eggs and brandy are there, too.  But I wasn’t able to mix the cake until later in the day as husband had an appointment at our local Health & Well Being Centre (formerly our local cottage hospital) for his annual retinopathy (eye screening).  As I needed to drive him home – he’s not permitted to drive after having had drops in his eyes – I left mixing and baking the cake until we returned home.

Of course, driving husband isn’t my occupation-of-choice. I’d rather herd cats.  He likes to drive himself and when I drive him, well, he tends to drive me up the wall.  “Why did you change gear?”  “You were too close to that car!”  “You pulled away in 2nd, you should’ve been in 1st …” and so forth.  I told him any more remarks of that kind and he gets out and walks.  Of course, I then stalled the engine and we both had a good laugh!  I told him he was lucky that he had a wife who could drive, several of our neighbours (female, and at least one male) do not drive.  I told him he was a very lucky fellow!

On the way home I called at our local shop for our newspaper, and then I saw boxes of After Eight mints on the shelf.  Well, the shelf is minus a box now …

“What have you bought those for?  You have already bought a box of Quality Street …” says he, as if we still have sweet rationing in this country.  To which I just thumbed my nose.  “Anyone else would need a stiff drink after driving you up from the town; thank your lucky stars I’m only going to tuck into After Eights!” say I.

I tell you, it’s a right comedy show here, I’m sure neighbours – if they can hear us – think we’re having dreadful arguments, when it’s all done in fun (well, most of the time.)

On the photo above you will also see hyacinths. I bought these in Waitrose as I’d not seen any in the garden centre.  They are white ones and husband transferred them for me into this blue bowl rather than keeping them in their cardboard container (I notice that fewer plastic containers are being used, which is a good thing.)  I love blue and green together, so here is a photo with blue and lots of green.

And finally, to my latest read …

I’ve read the first 50 pages and am absolutely loving this and can’t wait to read more this evening.  But before then, I must go and gaze into the fridge for inspiration regarding our supper.  Perhaps it will be chicken curry this evening, there’s the carcase of a roast chicken in the fridge just waiting to be used.

I’ve now removed the Christmas cake from the oven, it only takes 1 and a 1/2 hours to bake and it’s looking good so far.  Tomorrow, I will make the almond paste (which many people now refer to as marzipan) and put that on the cake and, after it has dried overnight, I will ice the cake on Sunday with royal icing.  Well, that’s the plan …

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. Margaret, I am always impressed by your mastery in the kitchen. And your quick wit! I never drive either of my 2 daughters. One is 50, the other 30, and they act as if I am such a bad driver that I will kill them whilst driving. So stressful. With similar comments to your husband’s at your driving. I get so nervous! Yep, I wish I had your wit.

    • fMargaret Powling

      Yes, it does tend to make a driver nervous if the passenger keeps wittering on, Ratnamurti, especially if you are driving reasonably well, within the speed limit, and taking due care and attention. I much prefer driving on my own to having husband next to me, as no doubt you do rather than having your daughters in the car with you! But thank you for mentioning my wit, I am sure you are a very bright and witty person yourself, Ratnamurti.

  2. Oh Margaret you made me laugh. I’ve had a tear-inducing day (terrible diagnosis of mental illness of someone very close and dear to me) but we’re going to settle down now to catch up with the Grizzly Bears and then watch Lucy Worsley. I have a cup of green tea and a square of almond and orange chocolate to look forward to. Make that two squares – it’s nearly Christmas!

    • Margaret Powling

      Glad to have made you laugh, Sarah! But I’m so very sorry that someone who is close to you has been diagnosed with mental illness. I do hope that they now have good medical help, We started to watch the Victoria & Albert Wedding prog with Lucy Worsley but I had been watching TV this evening since 7.00 pm with the hour-long programme about the King’s College Choir and then Mastermind, and by almost 9 pm, I’d really had sufficient television for one evening, so will watch Victoria & Albert on catch up, possibly over the weekend. Oh, I do like the sound of your almond and orange chocolate (is that a bar of Lindt? I have their caramel and sea salt which I love, but only 2 squares per night.)

  3. Beautiful view of Ilsham! And hilarious comments about the lamp post etc. Loved the comment about “gazing into the refrigerator” for where cometh our inspiration! I’ve had days like that too.

    Margaret, I wish you a merry Christmas and thank you for letting me peak into your little homey world!

    • Margaret Powling

      Hello, Donna, and yes, it’s a lovely view of Ilsham, looking towards the sea (which looks like a lake there as you can’t see it’s actually a bay.)
      After gazing into the fridge I cooked some chipolata sausages, bacon grilled tomatoes an fried some large mushrooms and had that with chutney and granary bread. It was nice and easy and very tasty. Then some melon I’d cut up yesterday with small pieces of stem ginger and the last of the vanilla ice cream, just to finish if off, as you do.
      And merry Christmas to you, too, Donna, I hope you will have a lovely day, as indeed I wish all the readers of my blog.

  4. Well Margaret I hope the cake tastes good. I made a couple several weeks ago and I’m one of those alcohol lacers plus alcohol added into the mix too, so it’s all a bit boozy by the time I get to icing it etc. Whatever, lets hope our efforts turn out well. I am sending my better half out to do battle with the Christmas food orders, tomorrow and on Christmas Eve, he has a list for one place and an order for the other, if we did it together we wouldn’t get to see Christmas I fear. I have been out carolling round our village tonight, a good turn out of volunteer singers, some musical instruments and by the time we got to the last port of call in the pub things were getting happy and bright.
    I am now going to try a late evening Cortado sherry from Waitrose, a sore singing throat is my excuse. Have a good night, a merry Christmas to you and yours and all your readers too.

    • Margaret Powling

      Yes, let’s hope our efforts are appreciated, Heather, on the baking front! I’ve suggested, from time to time, I try a different recipe but that brings howls of protest, they like my Christmas cake just the way it is! That is very organized to have two lists, one for today and one for Christmas Eve. I will visit our little local Co-op just for a few things, but now we take a back seat, so to speak, I don’t need to stock up in quite the same way as once I did. How lovely to go out carolling with the village. That is one thing that doesn’t happen in suburbia, and to have some musical instruments, too, that will be great fun. We watched the TV prog last night about the history of the 100 years of the Nine Lessons & Carols from King’s, and that was really interesting.
      I’ve not heard of Cortado sherry; I’ve not bought any sherry this year, husband isn’t keen but I like a dry sherry well chilled, or a cream sherry at room temperature (but a quality one, not an old-ladies one that’s kept in the cupboard for years and brought out on high days and holidays). Merry Christmas to you and all the family, Heather and thank you for your comment contributions throughout the year.

  5. Good on you for donating your extra food items to those in need. With the abundance of food in the shops and advertising everywhere it’s easy to forget that not everyone has plenty at Christmas….. It’s far too hot here for me to contemplate using the oven so no homemade Christmas cake for us. I saw some for sale at one of the franchise bakeries (Bakers Delight) and they looked quite appealing but I decided against it – they were quite large and neither husband nor I are good with portion control ! I could bake one in the middle of winter when it’s nice to have the oven going – our own little Christmas in July ha ha. I bought a box of Walkers shortbread when we did the grocery shop this morning. I love shortbread, especially with a cup of tea, so thought that would be a nice treat for us. I doubt they’ll last until Tuesday, though 😉

    • Margaret Powling

      What a good idea to buy a Christmas cake when it’s so hot, Lara. I know I’d do exactly the same. Indeed, I’ve not baked mince pies. I ceased doing this years ago because while they were very good, we just didn’t really need an excess of pastry as well as the Christmas Lunch and the Christmas cake and all the other things we’ve always eaten at Christmas – marshmallows, sugared almonds, tangerines, nuts, and best of all Turkish Delight (which I still buy.) Oh yes, and shortbread, which my mother used to make specially but which I now buy. It’s lovely with a cup of tea, isn’t it?

  6. So lovely of you to give your ‘free’ food to the food bank. We took our huge office collection to ours the other day and they were so grateful. Cake looks good. No one eats it here so I am making a chocolate one!

    • Margaret Powling

      Hello, Jane, and lovely to hear from you! I thought it was the right thing to do because we’d been given this money in the Co-op, it wasn’t something I was having to rely upon; it wasn’t a huge amount, a little over £30, but it bought some nice things for the food bank – I don’t believe in always buying ‘bargain basement’ items, either; it’s bad enough to have to rely on food banks without the insult of the cheapest stuff, too, regardless of whether the nourishment is exactly the same. It just seems to add insult to injury to me, so I bought some Christmas things and pet food and baby food, too. When we got to Waitrose, the food bank container even had an overflow container, and that was full, it was wonderful to see that so many customers were responding to the need to help those less fortunate than themselves.
      I hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas, Jane, and a happy Shoestring New Year.

  7. Thanks for the book recommendation. I have written it down. I enjoyed the description of you driving and your husband questioning your every move. I finally got my husband to stop or almost stop doing that! I really had to be firm with him – over and over and over. It’s not that I was doing anything wrong, it’s just that it wasn’t his way (which, in his mind, is the right way) – I never parked in the right spot, why didn’t I go a different way because it’s shorter, etc. I was going to say that it seems to be a man thing to do that – drive when they’re not driving. BUT, my mom is the same way. I’ve had to be firm with her over and over as well. I guess it’s a personality thing!

    • Margaret Powling

      I do think this back seat driving is a man thing mainly, Jeannine. But if we dare to say anything about a missed gear or something, or a stalled engine at a junction, they get more cross with you for even daring to mention it. I know when my husband is in the wrong and he knows he’s in the wrong because he shouts that he’s right, ha ha! I think that is a man thing, too. We admit it when we’re wrong, they make out they’re not.
      I haven’t done as much as I’d set out to do today – I think that is an age thing! I used to whip through the housework and so forth, and then do the nice things such as the flowers and just prettifying the rooms, but now I’m lucky if I get through the basics without having to sit down and have a cup of tea!

  8. I’m another one who feeds the Christmas cake with alcohol – whisky this year, it depends on what is in the cupboard. We get given whisky every year and rarely drink so that’s normally what I use it for. We also get Malibu which we both hate and struggle to find someone willing to take it! I’ve just got rid of last year’s bottle and there will another one along any day. If it was my relative I’d speak up but it’s my husband’s and he won’t do it.

    We’ve tried not to buy too many treats this year because we’re out on Christmas Day although we have family over on Friday so if there are leftovers I expect I’ll be “forced” to clear them up…..

    • Margaret

      Hello, Alison, and I think I’m perhaps the only person who doesn’t feed the Christmas cake with alcohol. I think this used to be done as a mans of preserving a cake when it was made quite early, when fruit was available. Fruit is now available all year round and therefore we don’t actually need to bake our cakes so early. I’ve never made the cake earlier than the end of November and often much later, as I have done this year. I don’t hold with the ‘maturing’ aspect of the cake, I think this is mythology but that’s my view and I’m sticking to it, ha ha! But as long as a cake tastes good, it doesn’t matter when it was made or whether alcohol has been added before baking or after.
      How funny that you are given whisky and Malibu each year and dislike both. Ditto a large bottle of brandy we have in the cupboard, also a present some years ago and which comes out once a year to add two tablespoons to the cake and I also make a white brandy sauce for Christmas pudding, but after that, it’s back to the back of the cupboard for the bottle!
      Not surprisingly, although we are at our elder son’s and daughter in law’s for Christmas Lunch, our larder freezer and fridge are full, but as you say, fewer treats this year (for us, just a box of Turkish Delight and the ubiquitous tin of Quality Street – I actually buy them for the pretty coloured wrappers which look pretty in a dish, I’m not actually that fond of them although I somehow manage to force them down!)

  9. We find a few things in common, don’t we Margaret! I also have to do the retinopathy run, and I put the alcohol in my cake before cooking, and I love the smell of hyacinths!
    What a kind and generous thing to do to use your rewards to help the food bank. We always have collections of unwanted chocolate and biscuits after Christmas both at the gym and at Slimming World and they all make their way to the food bank. Although essentials are much needed, it’s nice to think that the recipients can also have a treat item. Earlier this year our local foodbank sent out a call for basic toiletries and a box was soon filled up at the gym.

    • Margaret

      Yes, it’s even nicer to give than to receive much of the time, Eloise, and I often put toiletries into the food bank container, or things that don’t need cooking (so many are in B&B accommodation and don’t have anywhere to cook meals) such as tinned sardines or salmon. We always put something in each week, we’re so used to this now that it’s just part of our shopping list, the Christmas stuff was because, as I say, I had that bonus of some money in the Co-op. They also need pet food, and sanitary items (which can be expensive for people who are in financial need.)
      So I’m not the only one who puts the alcohol into the cake prior to cooking! Yay! And hyacinths are lovely but I think my favourite flower scent, though, apart from roses, are freesias, and their fragrance lasts and doesn’t go off.

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