Margaret Powling

We started our day with a fairly leisurely breakfast …fresh fruit (strawberries, raspberries, grapes and bananas sliced with a few slivers of stem ginger), followed by grilled bacon and tomatoes on toast, and then toast and marmalade.

After breakfast I did a few housekeeping tasks – the usual things such as making the bed, generally tidying up, and getting the washing machine and dishwasher in action.  It has been a dry, windy day, if a little dull to start with, and the fine weather has dried two machine loads of washing, all of which have been ironed.  I also tackled the laundry basket and so all the ironing has been done; not one single item have I left, so our wardrobes are now filled with clean clothes at the start of the week, and the airing cupboard with clean bed linen, tablecloths and towels.

 

I would love to have a laundry room, a place where lived the washing machine and tumble dryer, where there were cupboards where I could keep all the bedroom, bathroom, and table linen (sheets, pillow cases and duvet covers all matched up for beds, and tied with blue ribbon of course!), with the ironing board with an un-scorched cover, a steam iron, lavender water to spray on the laundry before ironing, lavender bags to put among the linen … but instead I have to choose between ironing in the kitchen or in the dining area of our sitting room.  I usually do the ironing in the kitchen, and husband usually chooses to iron in the dining area.  As he’d been ironing the bed linen for me, I continued in the dining area and completed the job, all the fiddly things – the jeans, chinos, T-shirts, button-down collar shirts (his) and so forth.  Yes, I iron T-shirts.  I even like to see the tea towels ironed. Fussy, aren’t I?

As we breakfasted late, lunch was even later.  I had a chicken that needed roasting and rather than having a roast vegetables with it, and gravy and stuffing, i.e. the usual English ‘Sunday Lunch’, I did baked potatoes (some call them jacket potatoes, but potatoes baked in the oven in their skins), spinach (as husband loves spinach, and it needed using up) and cauliflower and leek cheese, as I thought the cheese sauce would be a change from gravy, and it was all very nice.  And I made an extra cauliflower & leek cheese so we can have that with crusty bread tomorrow for lunch or supper.  I don’t plan too far in advance because I find we mightn’t want what might’ve been designated for Thursday if, like so many more organized souls, I was preparing the week’s menu on a Sunday. 

Preparing cauliflower and leek cheese

And to help our lunch ‘go down nicely’ we shared a bottle of …

This is a delicious ginger beer, quite zingy!

All very ordinary tasks – preparing and cooking breakfast, doing the ironing, making lunch – but all was very peaceful in our Close:  the sun eventually put in an appearance, husband busied himself tidying the garage and then did some gardening, indeed, it was all most convivial.  I do enjoy ordinary tasks like these when I’m not being hurried, pushed for time because there is perhaps an appointment looming, or someone calling, or we need to be somewhere in another half an hour.  I didn’t feel rushed, and while this was a Bank Holiday when a lot of people would be going out, I was happy to be at home.

Yesterday we went to our little grandson’s 4th birthday party.  His birthday isn’t until Wednesday, 31st May, but to make it easier for our daughter-in-law’s family who always come down to Devon for the little chap’s birthday (some of them are still of working age so will be returning to work immediately after the Bank Holiday) the party was held yesterday. 

Our daughter-in-law put on a wonderful spread, and made a gorgeous ‘pirate’ cake for our grandson.  This was the party for all the relatives and next weekend our grandson is sharing a party with his little friend who is also four this month, and that will be at his friend’s house.  For the party I made a lemon sponge cake …

and next to it here you can see his presents wrapped up.  We bought him some junior Lego. We have also bought him clothes and, recently, a lovely new bed, but as he can’t exactly play with a new coat and a new bed, he can play with the Lego!

Our daughter-in-law’s mother came down from Cambridgeshire and the kind woman always brings me a bunch of flowers and this time they are all in shades of pink and white.

Also, yesterday, when our younger son and his partner attended the party and parked their little dog (Barry, who once did a guest post here on my blog!) in our kitchen for the duration (dogs and parties don’t mix all that well!) they left me a lovely bunch of flowers, too, a thank you for having taken her parents out while she and our younger son were away on holiday.  It was a pleasure to take her parents out as they are lovely people, but it was also nice to receive such a pretty bunch of flowers.  They are in such bright. cheerful colours that I have put them in the kitchen as they echo the colours in the selection of fruit in the fruit bowl.

In due course I might re-arrange these two bunches of flowers, perhaps cut them down and have them displayed more posy-fashion. Anyway, for now they look pretty in these two jugs.

And so, it’s been an uneventful day.  While the politicians continue with their respective General Election campaigns, and people return home if, unlike us, they have been away for the Bank Holiday, we have been enjoying our home and our garden.  And, of course, each other’s company.  

I hope you have enjoyed your weekend.

Until next time.

 

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         Pyracantha in bloom at the front of our house yesterday morning

Life has been fairly busy these past two days, but in a nice way. 

Yesterday morning I met a friend for coffee in our favourite seafront hotel (yet again!) and the weather was so glorious we were able to sit outside on the veranda and enjoy the sunshine with our latte (for me) and decaff tea (for my friend.)  We chatted and enjoyed taking time out from our usual routines. What can be nicer than sharing time like this with a friend? 

When I returned home husband and I decided to drive over to the toy department of Newton Abbot’s major retailer, Austins.  This is family-owned and -managed business, one that has been a staple of this town for generations, and indeed, it has several premises in the town, not just one large department store, so that you may go to various locations (all within fifty yards of one other) for furniture & carpets; men’s wear, luggage and toys; homewares and soft furnishings; and in the main store, women’s fashions, shoes and handbags, and beauty. 

The toy department is large and at first, a bit overwhelming, with so many colourful boxes, the contents of which any little girl or boy would love.  Once we had chosen some items for our grandson’s birthday, we moved into the men’s department and chose a lovely shirt for our younger son’s birthday, which is the day before grandson’s birthday.  (Note to self:  make a pavlova early tomorrow morning for the birthday party.)

St Leonard’s Tower, Newton Abbot (once part of a church) and close by you can just see the menswear department of Austins with, next to it, the toy department (far right of this photograph.)

When we returned home, husband cut the grass in the back garden (I refer to it as “grass”, it’s not nearly smart enough to call it “lawn”!) and I potted up the cosmos, heliotrope, violas, white geraniums and some lobelia.  I still have a few pots to attend to, but at least I’ve made a start. The garden isn’t tidy at the moment – the rain of the past few weeks has caused weeds to proliferate – but it will be done, all in good time. 

Once all the pots have been planted, I will move them around the garden where I think they will look their best. 

This morning I noticed that the alstromeria I bought a while ago had fully opene and were putting on a wonderful show in rich purple and deep red.  These are not colours I usually choose for our sitting room, but I have to admit they look lovely with the cranberry glass decanters and jug close by.

Today, the weather had turned quite dull and windy and therefore soup for lunch was called for.  I once again made one of our favourites, leek and potato and we had this with flatbreads, cheeses, apples, tomatoes, and hummus.

I had actually had quite a busy morning.  Husband went to see his brother (who is now unable to drive because of poor eyesight) and take him to one of our local garden centres and while husband was away I thought I’d attend to a few jobs.  It’s strange how I move more quickly around the house when I’m on my own!  Here are the tasks I completed …
1. Made the bed (the bed linen didn’t need changing today, it was done on Thursday; however, I changed the pillow cases as I do these more often, not because they are soiled but I just like fresh pillow cases more often than once a week.)
2.  Answered the door to the *Postie, a very nice woman from Leicestershire, and we had a little chat.
3. Put on the first ‘fast’ wash for items which needed just a little freshening.
4. Hung out the washing to dry.
5. Put on a 2nd washing machine load  (a hot wash for cottons).
6. Loaded the dishwasher.
7. Wiped down the worktops and windowsill.
8. Swept the kitchen floor.
9. Swept the path outside the back door –  it was covered with ‘catkins’ from the walnut tree and if you tread on these and then walk them into the house, they stain anything with which they come into contact.
10. Washed out a flower vase (a cut glass one that won’t go into the dishwasher).

11.  Plumped the sofas in the sitting room, generally made the room tidy (although it wasn’t exactly untidy.)
12. Put the re-cycling stuff into the recycling boxes outside.

13. Washed the basin and loo in the  shower room and put out fresh towels.
14. Made leek and potato soup (clearing up the chopping board and knife and so forth as I worked) and laid the table for lunch.

None of the jobs was onerous but by the time I’d done them all, about an hour and ten minutes (oh, and I’d showered, washed my hair, made up, and dressed before I started – I like to look presentable even if doing housekeeping tasks) husband had returned and was ready for a cup of coffee.

*Postie brought me this book (secondhand but in good condition) …

I have no idea why publishers assume that a woman who looks rather like a racy 21st century  pop star is an ideal way of portraying a woman in 17th century England?  Still, I can overlook the bodice-ripper appearance of this cover because I have heard good things of this book.  I read about it in the non-fiction book on butterflies, Rainbow Dust, and although this work by Fiona Mountain is fiction, I understand it has been very carefully researched. 

It looked as if it might rain today and so I brought in two fully-open roses from the garden and put them in tiny cut glass ‘salts’ I have which I sometimes use for tea lights (although candles aren’t my favourite things; I think of them as fire hazards and only tend to use candles during power cuts). 

And so this afternoon, after this morning’s activities, I’ve had a lazy time. Once we’d had lunch and I filled the dishwasher yet again and brought in the second line of washing and folded it ready for ironing (husband has done the bed linen for me) I laid down on the sofa and went to sleep for a couple of hours.  How luxurious to be able to sleep in the afternoon; I woke to see husband switching on the television to watch the FA Cup Final. 

I then made us some salmon and cucumber club sandwiches for our supper, neither of us feeling over-hungry …

And we then finished off the very last portion of fruit cake I had made last weekend (Note to self:  make another cake as well as the pavolva!)  And while husband watched football, I took a pile (these are just some of them) of old magazines to look at while sitting on the sofa, with a cup of tea and a small apple.

Whatever you have been doing – gardening, walking, housekeeping, amusing children or grandchildren – or even if you are away and are reading this away from home, I hope you have a lovely Bank Holiday weekend (Bank Holiday here in the UK). 

Until next time.

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Today must surely have been the sunniest and warmest so far this spring.  Wall to wall blueness against which the emerging leaves on our walnut tree look delightful, a coppery-pink, the colour of a Cox’s Orange Pippin apple. 

But before I go further I need to make two apologies. First, I promised I would post my Quiche Lorraine recipe and I’ve not yet done that, but I need to check measurements before I post that (for the quantities of flour and fat for the pastry cases, and the size of the tins), but I’ve not forgotten this and I will post it before long.

Second, I omitted one item from My Favourite Things, which I wrote about a few posts ago, and I would now like to rectify that by telling you about it now and then I will move on to today’s topic, A Blue Sky Day.

This  – above – is one of my favourite things.  It is an autograph album which belonged to my late mother-in-law. She was a true Victorian, born in 1890.  I’ve not seen an autograph album in a shop in years, so perhaps they are no longer available?  But for those who haven’t ever seen one, they are small albums in which friends and relations are invited to contribute something so that you end with a whole book of drawings, poems and messages as personal keepsakes.  In this album a former boyfriend of my mother-in-law had executed the most delightful drawings of yachts and warships.  I have no idea who he was and the miniature, intricate drawings are merely signed with his initials ARC and dated 1914, perhaps right at the outbreak of WW1 when my mother-in-law would have been 24 years old.   Here are just a few pages from this lovely book. The larger book also belonged to my mother-in-law and this has one or two very pretty watercolours.

Right, on to today.

Up early, and breakfast in the garden …

This was a very quick breakfast, not a leisurely one, as we both wanted to get on with work in the garden, but even so we had bacon and tomatoes and toast, and a platter of mixed fruit and mugs of tea. Yes, I know!  I prefer cups and saucers but all were in the dishwasher, so mugs it was. But they are pretty bone china ones.

Husband then started emptying garden pots for me while I made a quick visit to our local garden centre. I chose all my usual plants for the pots – heliotrope, white geraniums, cosmos, dark blue lobelia, white lobelia, verbena, and violas.  Also some dahlias, actually not my favourite (I think of them as the blowsy barmaids of the plant world with the exception of one I love, the brilliant Bishop of Llandaf) but I thought that if all my purple, pink and white don’t cut the mustard, then there will be a splash of late autumn colour with dahlias.  Well, so I hope.

We have about 15 pots to fill, so I might be popping along to the garden centre again before too long, but I will get this lot planted first and then see how many pots are left. 

And when I returned from the garden centre, which is just a short drive away, a book had arrived …

I think this might be my kind of thing.  Well, I hope so.

And now I must make supper.  Our dear neighbour brought us fish last night, freshly caught (he is a sea angler). The fish was swimming yesterday afternoon and it was on a plate and with me a couple of hours later, all nicely prepared ready for cooking.  We will have that with new potatoes and sprouting broccoli. 

And all day long the sun has shone.  We enjoyed an easy lunch of crusty rolls filled with Cheddar cheese and, to drink, elderflower cordial topped up with Badoit mineral water.  It has been a truly lovely day. 

Our walnut tree, looking up through the branches from my seat in the garden

I hope you have also had a good day and if you are in the UK, that you will have a lovely Bank Holiday weekend.

Until next time.

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At last the sun has shone brightly today. Indeed, it has been the perfect spring day.  We had booked a table at our favourite seafront hotel and were on our way to collect our friends, but realized that we were about twenty minutes too early and so parked our can close to this park (above) and had a stroll before returning to our car. 

The chestnut trees looked lovely, and it was hot in the bright sunshine and cool under the leaves, a perfect park, indeed, for a picnic.  It’s not overly large, but what it lacks in area, it certainly makes up for in beauty.

Once we had collected our friends – this was a birthday treat for them – husband drove us along the coast road from their home to the hotel where we had booked afternoon tea. 

En route we passed Babbacombe Bay and Oddicombe Beach (below).  I didn’t take any of the following photos today as I was in the back seat of the car, but I will choose photos from other occasions to show you our route. From Babbacombe on through Wellswood …

This photo (above) was taken in autumn, but this is the main road from Wellswood to Torquay harbour.  But today husband took us on a detour along Ilsham Valley (here below, seen from above the valley). 

The road meanders through the left hand side of the valley and down to Meadfoot beach, but before then husband drove us around Ilsham Marine Drive where the rich had lovely multi-million pound homes with magnificent sea views.  Here there are glimpses of Thatcher Rock …

 

The area above was given in a person’s Will to the people of the Borough, so that it would never be built on.  How lovely to have this green space facing Thatcher Rock (and no, you can’t land on this rock, it is a nature reserve but there are no safe landing places.)  It always reminds me of Kirrin Island in Enid Blyton’s Famous Five stories.

Along this stretch of coast there is another area where fishing takes place – Hope’s Nose – and you might just be able to see fishermen on the very end of the rocks.

From here husband drove us down to Torquay harbour. The clock tower, a famous meeting place … “I’ll meet you by the clock tower by the harbour …” is what we used to say when we were young and meeting friends …

and along by the harbour …

and on past the sea front towards Paignton …

Paignton would be behind me as this is the view (above) towards Torquay, but the road here is the road between the two Torbay towns.

And so we arrived at the hotel on the sea front …

This photo was taken in winter, on a dull, chilly day, but at least it shows you all of the frontage of this lovely hotel. 

When we arrived we found that a table had been made ready for us in the window in the conservatory, laid with white table cloth and white napery (not paper napkins, but lovely glazed cotton ones.)

Our waiter presented us with menu cards from which we could choose our sandwiches and we chose –

for me:  smoked salmon and cream cheese;

for husband:  roast beef and horseradish sauce;

for one friend:  prawn with marie rose dressing;

for our other friend:  ham and cheese.

While we were deciding on the various fillings and whether to have white, brown or granary bread, and which scones to have (plain or fruit) our waiter brought pots of tea and milk, and we chatted and made our decisions.

Yes, there was quite a wait (about 20 minutes) before the meal was served but this was because the sandwiches were being freshly made and it also gave us time to enjoy the luxury of sitting and simply chatting with friends whilst enjoy cups of tea.  We weren’t in any hurry.

And then our waiter brought along two cake stands, with all the lovely food …

Delicious sandwiches, light scones with jam and clotted cream (the jam and cream decorated with strawberries) and lemon and chocolate cakes, with little treats as well, such as tiny choux pastry eclairs and pear and apricot pastries.  We were also served fresh pots of tea once the food was served. 

Indeed, it was the perfect afternoon tea on a perfect sunny day with two lovely friends. What more could we ask for?

Until next time.

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I am cheating very slightly here because I didn’t take this photograph today.  However, I took it at the beginning of June, 2015 and although our garden isn’t quite as tidy as this at the moment – we have yet to remove the tulips, now over, from the pots and mow the grass which is more meadow than lawn – I wanted to show you this because this is where I planned to be today:  in the back garden, to sit in one of those green ‘gravity’ chairs (I think this is how they were advertised when I bought them.)   I don’t think they are the prettiest of chairs but they do allow us to either sit and read or to lie back and doze.  I actually prefer our wooden steamer chairs but we have yet to find new cushions for those, most are very thin and we’d feel the wooden slats through them. Anyway, this is what I planned to do, i.e. sit outside.

Instead, I cooked breakfast for husband and myself.  “Cooked” is perhaps over egging it (oh, very droll, Margaret!) as it was merely porridge for him and a brioche with jam for me after we’d had prunes.  Then I cleared up the kitchen, loaded the dishwasher, made our bed, and then decided to change the bed linen in the guest room as I’ve used that bed two or three times in the past few months and although it has only been two or three times, when either my husband or I were restless, I thought it time to change the bed linen.

The guest room which I’ve shown before, but just to remind you what a cosy room in the eaves this is

Then I removed all the vases of flowers from the sitting room and bedroom and hall to the kitchen, removed any dead flowers, washed the vases and re-filled with clean water before putting the flowers back – fresh clean water really does extend the life of flowers.

Flowers in the kitchen waiting for fresh water

For a few minutes the kitchen resembled a florist’s shop before I re-distributed the flowers to their places.

Yesterday, I baked two Quiche Lorraine. Or should that be two quiches Lorraine?  I’ve not made these in years but the recipe is easy.  I don’t use commercial flan cases but make my own short crust pastry ones using plain flour and Bertolli (olive spread.)  I have, on occasion, baked the pastry cases ‘blind’ as all these TV chefs tell us, but then I thought to myself, “If I had a baker’s shop and I was producing hundreds of this kind of thing every day, I’d not faff with ‘blind’ baking, would I?”  I’d use good quality tins (mine are from Lakeland) so that the heat is evenly distributed, and a very hot oven in which to bake them, so that the pastry would be cooked quickly before there is any chance of the contents making a soggy bottom.

So that is what I did.  I made the pastry, allowed it to ‘rest’ in the fridge for half an hour, then rolled it out until it was very thinly, greased two loose-bottomed flan tins and lined them with the pastry.  I had already prepared the onions (finely chopped and sautéed), whipped the eggs (six eggs for these two quiches) with a little milk (as I didn’t have any cream), sautéed small pieces of bacon (I used smoked), and grated the cheese (Gruyere) so all I had to do was quickly assemble these ingredients in the  two flans and whack them into a hot oven, around 200C (fan oven) for 30 minutes.  The result is what you see above as they emerged from the oven, and while we ate most of one yesterday for our lunch with baked beans and a mixed salad (with homemade mustard dressing) there was sufficient left for today’s lunch. The second one is in the freezer for another day.

However, I thought we’d need more than a slice of left-over quiche for lunch and so I made mushroom soup.   It looks very dark, but it is not ‘cream’ of mushroom soup as I was sans-cream, but plain mushroom soup using Portobello mushrooms, one large onion, and two medium potatoes, all sautéed, then vegetable stock added to cover and then the whole lot allowed to simmer for 20 minutes and then, after a handful of parsley had been added, blitzed with my hand-held blender.  Lunch was ready, with some mini baguettes that I warmed in the oven.

I still had not managed to get into the garden.

Then I loaded the dishwasher, hung out the laundry on the line,  brought in some I’d hung out earlier, and popped the neat pile into the laundry basket for ironing later.

Eventually, around about 3 pm I made it to the garden.  Of course, I then wanted a cup of tea, so back into the kitchen.  Then, of course, I had forgotten my glasses so I couldn’t read the paper or my book.  Eventually, just as I settled with my tea, my book, the paper, my glasses, the gentle breeze turned into a chilly wind and I came inside.

So much for my lazy day, ha ha!

Until next time. 

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It  might surprise you to see a collection of ephemera as one of my favourite things.  Not books, nor flowers, nor jewellery (I’ve never been one for jewellery, apart from my wedding ring and engagement ring), but some old receipts.  But these date back to the 1890s, some to 1897 when my maternal grandparents were married.  I have the receipt for their “carriage and pair”  taking them to the church.  Also dog licences as, until recent times, one had to have a dog licence if one owned a dog.  Also a collection of car tax discs from the 1920s and 1930s.  They wouldn’t mean anything to anyone else, but they are part of my history and I just love to see them. One of them is a list of things from a hardware store, items with which my grandmother and grandfather set up their first home,  buckets and brooms and so forth. 

For a non-smoker- I have never smoked –  this might seem an odd choice, for it is a smoker’s companion set.  My late Uncle (my mother’s eldest brother) served in the East Lancashire Regiment in WW1.  When he returned from France – wounded and gassed but still alive – he brought with him a brass smoker’s set.  My uncle’s platoon had been in a village where the local inhabitants were starving and so the English Tommies shared their meagre rations with them.  The villagers then hauled up from the well (where they had hidden their most precious things for safe keeping) some of their treasures and, in gratitude, presented something to each Tommy.  This smoker’s set, wonky and a little dented but which, like my uncle, survived the battlefields and the trenches, is now one of my most precious possessions. 

My father never had much of a family.  His father emigrated to Canada and his mother, who was set to join him with their two children, a boy (my father) and his sister, decided not to go for some reason.  According to my mother, for my father never spoke of his family, my paternal grandmother then had to rely on the help of her brother-in-law who, I understand was a cruel person, and so my father left home as soon as he could, enlisting as a boy recruit in the early days of the Royal Air Force (possibly then the Royal Flying Corps).  Eventually, he was posted to India and I have his photo albums from when he was stationed there in the days of the British Raj. 

He had met my mother on one of his long leaves, and brought back for her a pair of Indian slippers which I used to wear as a child (my mother had tiny feet).  This would’ve been prior to their marriage in1940 because he never returned to India once war had been declared in 1939.  Along with the photos of his flying days on the North West Frontier, in planes which looked more like the ‘kites’ that the chaps referred to them as,  these are very treasured possessions. 

My mother’s family had always been ‘collectors’, never anything expensive or terribly grand as they were an ordinary working class family in an industrial town in Lancashire.  My bachelor uncle was perhaps the biggest collector, and among his things which I eventually inherited (via my late mother) is this breakfast set, also known as a bachelor’s set.  It is in what is known as chintzware by Grimwade, and dates from the 1930s.  I don’t think such items were ever meant to be used but were designed more as cabinet pieces, simply for putting behind glass as a decorative object.

In the 1990s my mother and I would often visit a lovely antiquarian/2nd hand bookshop  (an added incentive was a lovely tea room next door.)  Sadly, both are long gone, the internet having no doubt had some reason for the closure of the bookshop. 

On one such trip my mother found a portfolio of architect’s prints, and as the portfolio was incomplete it was priced very reasonably, and she bought it.  The architect was Richard Goulburn Lovell (1861-1937) and the rooms are evocative of that era, of gardens with arbours, tea on the lawn, tennis and cocktail parties and dressing for dinner, an age we now only catch enticing glimpses of in television dramas.  One of these days I think I might have some of the prints professionally framed and hang them in our sitting room (buying some frames from the internet just won’t do these lovely prints justice; there is nothing like having pictures professionally mounted and framed, a skill in itself.)

No matter how often I have tried to photograph this little pig, the result has never been as good as the pig is in reality.  My mother bought him for me many Christmases ago; it is by Royal Copenhagen and he is a delight from whichever angle you see him.  It is a fine example of animal sculpture and I love it.  It is the complete opposite of another piece of ceramic which again demonstrates the exquisite artistry involved in make flowers in porcelain.

It has no pottery ‘mark’, but would’ve been referred to as ‘Dresden China’ in Victorian/Edwardian times.  How it has survived so many house moves from when it was made in perhaps the mid-1850s to today is a miracle in itself, and I just love it, even though such things are no longer fashionable  – it’s all William Moorcroft and Clarice Cliff these days which, in my opinion, can’t hold a candle to items such as this (even though they are useless, quite frankly,  but they were, as I say of the bachelor’s set, cabinet pieces, made simply to be appreciated for their beauty.)

Here, above, is just a selection of some of my favourite things.  But the list wouldn’t be complete without my precious Lorna Hill ballet books, would it?

These are not the originals I had in the 1950s, but copies I have managed to find in later years, but still with their original art work. 

I wonder what are your favourite things?

Until next time.

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I am kick-starting this post with a photo of our large Collins & Hayes sofa for no other reason that I love it.  They don’t make this style now, it was from their Romantic range and it was the Keats (after the poet, I suppose) and I’ve yet to see a sofa I like better.  It is quite large and once the back cushions are removed, it can be made into a single bed. This wasn’t the manufacturer’s intention, I’m sure, but it’s very comfortable, made up with sheet and duvet.   

The seats now need re-filling with high density foam (the back cushions are feather) but overall, it’s in very good condition when I say it’s 32 years old this year.  We bought it when we moved here in 1985 and for the upholstery we then chose a very pretty material in pale pinks, creams, greys and pastel blues in a clamshell design, the edges of the cushions piped in soft blue-grey (and our the pelmets for our curtains also edges in the same fabric.  

In 2002 we re-decorated our sitting and had our sofa reupholstered by an excellent company in the material you see above: Colefax & Fowler’s Byron weave.  Sadly, the seats are once again showing signs of wear, but like wrinkles on a face, this is inevitable with long usage. 

Our ‘other’ sofa we bought ten years ago.  It was made by Multiyork and is a knole-style in a design called Lavenham.  We had new covers made for it last year.

The two styles complement each other, and both fabric designs, although in different weights of material, in different colours and by different manufacturers, have a similar trellis design.  While I like this sofa, I don’t love it as I do our original one.  I have shown these sofas before on various posts but am showing the side view today, just for a change.

I have shown this photo before, it was taken last year on the afternoon that husband put the new covers on this sofa.  The company would send someone to fit them for us but we thought we could do that, but believe me, it took three hours to get it right.  However, we’re delighted with the result.

So what have I been doing?

Yesterday was a busy day.  We first went to see our younger son, delivering and collecting business things for his and our elder son’s business, and then we called at a supermarket and bought a pretty gerbera plant to add to the present I was taking to a friend for her birthday.  We called to see our friend and her husband on the way home and we have invited them to afternoon tea at our local favourite hotel next week, a treat for her birthday. 

I also bought more flowers for ourselves.  Really, I have overspent on flowers this month, but I’d rather cut back on other things. Indeed, considering the dire programmes on television (well, dire to me; some people might enjoy programmes such as Gogglebox and Dr Who and all those ghastly reality shows, but I’ve yet to find anyone who does) I’m considering cancelling my long-standing order each week for Radio Times.  That would buy another bunch of flowers, wouldn’t it?

These are the flowers I bought yesterday. The stocks smell wonderful, I love their clove scent, different from the scent of pinks and sweet Williams, but still with that hint of clove.

The stocks are now in the sitting room …

and the roses are in our bedroom …

These need re-arranging as they are attempting to point to one side; I shall have to have words with them and tell them to stand up straight! It looks as if those on the left and those on the right aren’t speaking to one another!

The roses that had been in our bedroom have opened out and are rather too bright a pink for my liking for the bedroom, and so I’ve cut these down and they are now in the hearth in the sitting room …

As well as loving our large sofa, I actually love our fireplace.  When our home was being built, the builder was constructing fireplaces which were of brick or stone, in a crazy-paving style, very cottagey.  These were popular at the time but I didn’t like them then and I certainly wouldn’t like them now.  As we’d been inside other new homes – just for a look-see – and we’d seen these Minsterstone fireplaces, we said we could like one of those.  We had to pay extra for it, of course, but all these years later we still think it looks good. Indeed, I believe that this style is still being made.   We also insisted on having a proper chimney and not just a flue for the gas fires that the builder was installing, and we then chose to have a living-flame gas fire in the hearth.  The effect is realistic, instant, and no coal dust to breathe. 

Last Monday, you may recall from an earlier post, I bought some alstromeria and these have now opened out beautifully …

Again, a bit of re-arranging might be required here, as there are two colours of flowers, but it looks as if all the red ones have grouped themselves together – again, they will need talking to and told to circulate, as people do at parties.  OK, I have flights of fancy …

When we had left our friends yesterday we decided to have a sandwich lunch in our favourite seafront hotel, our ‘local’ as we refer to it …

It really is very inexpensive here (well, inexpensive to us, these things are all relaltive, aren’t they?) and so we decided to have a round of club sandwiches (beef) each.  This is the only time we have chips which, along with a side salad, come with the sandwiches (and the salad has a lovely French mustard dressing.)  There is also a choice of crisps or chips and we had a bowl of each so we could share, and also a choice of bread for the sandwiches, white, brown or granary, plus whether you want the crusts removing or not.  We have them removed as it reduces the volume of bread we then consume.  They also serve peanuts and olives with the drinks at no extra fee. I tell you, worth going for a nice snack lunch.

Today, Saturday, two books arrived. Sadly, one of them, Taxidermy, had been damaged in the post, but this wasn’t the fault of Amazon; the cardboard packet had been dampened in the rain and the corner of the book had created a hole and thus the book had rubbed against something.  As I need this simply for research for an article I will be shortly writing, it really is too much of a hassle to return it, it wasn’t an expensive book, but it is still annoying for it is a very attractive book.

I have cropped this photo as much as I can to remove the signs of damage. 

Also in the post something quite out of my comfort zone …

This is an Icelandic crime novel. I have never watched any of the Nordic crime series on TV nor read any of the books on which they have been based,  but I read about this writer Yrsa Sigurdardottir – she is a civil  engineer by day and writes her crime novels in her spare time. As you do – and it rather appealed to me.  I have no idea whether I will enjoy it, only time and reading will tell. 

This morning we were up early and after doing some housekeeping – made the bed, cleaned the shower room, generally tidied up – I cooked a late breakfast. I say “cooked” but “prepared” might be a more correct word – fresh fruit followed by a boiled egg with toast. 

It was a nice way to start the day. Since then, husband has been very kind and tackled a job that sorely needed tackling:  de-icing the deep freeze in the kitchen.  How can I allow it to become so thick with ice?  It’s like I’m starting my own mini-Ice Age.

Right now, there is a gammon joint roasting in the oven, the housekeeping has been done, and we can relax. Sadly, the weather isn’t allowing us to do any gardening and so this afternoon I will be doing some reading and some writing research.

I hope you are having a good weekend, perhaps gardening, perhaps doing housekeeping, perhaps just relaxing on a sofa. Whatever you are doing, I hope you are enjoying yourself.

Until next time.

 

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Thatcher Rock, Torquay

After two days spent indoors because of heavy rain – and this isn’t a complaint; rain is vitally necessary to replenish the reservoirs and water the land and gardens, making England a green and pleasant land – we drove over to Torquay where, first of all, husband had a haircut and I popped into the charity shop to deposit some books and magazines.  I am  always amazed at the ingenuity of the staff who decorate this shop so beautifully, and today was no exception.   One of the windows was empty but the theme was to be travel because waiting to go into the window was a tailor’s dummy with a ‘dress’ made from maps. 

How clever is that?

Once husband had been dealt with in the barber’s we returned to our car and drove to Ilsham Valley, a pleasant green area of the Borough and which leads to Meadfoot Sea Road and Meadfoot Beach.

Ilsham Valley

I took the above photo 2 yeas ago but it looked much like this today, bluebells still in bloom and wild garlic also. 

Approaching the sea front, we noticed lovely pink and red Devon Pride (Valerian) and wild roses in bloom.

And then the sea hove into view  …

Meadfoot Beach (under water, of course!)

From Meadfoot Sea Road, we walked to the cafe end of the beach and had a mug of tea.

After our tea we made our way back along the road to our car. 

On the headland is the block of flats called Kilmorie.  

This block of flats (apartments to those outside the UK) was built in 1961 in the building boom of that era.  The advertising brochure at the time described “luxury flats to the highest Continental standards overlooking Torquay’s Mediterranean-like coastline.”  Everything Continental was then the very height of chic!

Above Meadfood is the headland known as Daddyhole Plain, a wonderful vantage point from which to see yachts in the Bay or aerial displays when the Red Arrows visit Torbay in the summer. 

The view from Daddyhole Plain

This is the view across Torbay to Berry Head, near Brixham.

Close to Daddyhole Plain is the Headland Hotel where our elder son and our daughter in law were married last September. 

When I was a teenager, in the summer school holidays I would deliver newspapers to this hotel (then called the Overmead) with  my father (from our newsagent’s shop) when it belonged to the Workers’ Educational Association.  We supplied many of the hotels in the Bay with newspapers, driving around in his Austin van.  I had no idea then that this hotel had been originally built for the Russian Royal Family, the Romanovs, who used it as a holiday home and, in 1890, then known as Villa Syracuse, it became a convalescent home for soldier and sailors from the Boer War.  It later became an hotel but in 1939, for the duration of WW2, it was bought to house the offices and staff of the Prudential Assurance Company, evacuated from London.  It returned to life as a hotel after the war, changing it’s name several times from Carlton Hotel, to Highmead, to Overmead and is now The Headland Hotel and a lovely place not only for weddings, but also just morning coffee, lunch, or afternoon tea. 

Until next  time.

 

 

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I met a dear friend for lunch today in China Blue, Totnes, a favourite place for coffee or lunch.  it is a pottery, café, gift shop and hairdresser.  I chose a jacket potato with side salad and it was very tasty.  We hadn’t met for a while  and so had lots to talk about and then we had a wander around the shop and I chose a present for another friend whose birthday is this week.  There is so much to see, one is spoilt for choice. As soon as you think you’ve made up your mind, something else catches your eyes!

 

 or here …

On the way home I popped into the supermarket and bought flowers.  Husband wasn’t with me and so I indulged myself more than had he put a steadying hand on my wallet!  But if given the choice between a couple of bottles of fairly ordinary plonk and five bunches of flowers, the flowers always win, it’s no contest …

White roses always look lovely in any room, I think, and so one bunch has gone into the sitting room and one into the kitchen …

and from the other side of the table …

and in the kitchen …

As well as white roses in the sitting room, a vase of alstromeria (the colour will emerge when they eventually open) …

and for my bedside table, some tulips …

Again, these should look prettier when they open.

Some apricot roses I bought on Friday were really not in the best of health and already they are dropping, but I cut them down and placed them in the fireplace …

As today is rainy – and that is not a complaint as we do need rain – these flowers have brought a breath of spring into our home.   How fortunate we are to have both friends and flowers. 

Until next time.

 

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Well, that is hardly something that could be said of me … lost for words, indeed!  Perhaps some would be happy if, now and again, I was lost indeed for words!

The above book arrived yesterday and I had a quick read of the first pages while in bed enjoying my early morning coffee.  Already I think I’m in for a treat; I love the voice that the author has given the main character in this first person narrative.  What with my non-fiction book, Rainbow Dust …

 

 I now look forward to my bedtime reading, half the time on fiction, half the time on non-fiction. 

* * * * *

Apropos of the small Sutherland table above, here I am, below, aged about four, standing against it in the family home in Lancashire, c1948 …

My parents gave us the table when we married, just one of the many items we have inherited.  The little dog on the table  was made out of white leather.  The photo was taken by my Uncle Tom who was a professional photographer. 

* * * * *

So what have I been doing today?  Cleaning and cooking.  Indeed, it has been a very ordinary Saturday, but one I’ve found enjoyable. 

The day was kick-started by husband making porridge for our breakfast.  He has a limited repertoire of meals, but making porridge is one of them and he is now so well-practiced in this particular meal that his porridge is just as Goldilocks would’ve liked, neither too thick nor too runny, too hot nor too cold. 

He then ironed the duvet covers which I’d left in the laundry basket which he said he’d iron as he knows, bless him, that holding up the covers and straightening them and placing them on the ironing board causes pain in my arms, shoulders and hands as I have arthritis.  I can cope with the smaller items but large things are, well a bit of a pain.  And then, instead of putting them in the airing cupboard and getting another set out for our bed, I thought we might as well put them straight on the bed (no, they weren’t damp.) 

I love clean bed linen and so I stripped the bed and loaded the washing machine, and together we made up the bed with the clean linen.  I love white bed linen as I’ve mentioned before. Some might think it clinical but I think it looks clean and fresh.  First the ‘bottom’ sheet …

Here I had shaken it out over the mattress topper … and next, the duvets. We have single ones on a double bed, we have found this much better than using a king-size double duvet which makes changing the cover very difficult when your arms ache. Well, difficult even if your arms don’t ache!

Next the bed cover (cream Portuguese cotton from The White Company years ago) …

With under-pillows under the cover and top-pillows on top of the cover.  These are my scalloped edge ones in white from Sophie Conran. 

Finally, just for a bit of colour, the cushions …

Of course, once I’d made the bed I decided that a few other jobs needed doing.  These would normally have been done before I made the bed (incidentally, we pulled the bed out last weekend, plus the bedside chests of drawers, and cleaned underneath, so please don’t think I’m skimped on the housekeeping today!) but they only involved the vacuum, some household spray and a damp cloth. 

I vacuumed the bedside chests of drawers and then, with a well-wrong out cloth, wiped the surfaces.  I moved my dressing chest and vacuumed under that, and vacuumed the top and wiped it clean before replacing the scent bottles and lamp.

Then I thought, “It’s almost a year since we decorated this room, I wonder whether husband would very much mind helping clean the top of the wardrobe …?”  This required a step ladder and the long nozzle on the vacuum, but 15 minutes later and the job was done (photo shows just two of the five wardrobe doors; the area that was cleaned is behind the plinth on top of the wardrobes.)

While he had the step ladder handy, he also vacuumed the curtain rail and the coving.  It wasn’t what you would describe as ‘dirty but it has certainly freshened the room.  By the time I’d wiped down the windowsill and skirting boards, and husband had vacuumed the carpet, the room was pristine (well, as pristine as we will get it!  He took down the pictures last weekend when he moved the bed, and cleaned behind them so they had already been dealt with.) 

All I had to do then was place a vase of roses on the dressing chest and give the room a spray with my rose petal room spray.

By the time all this was done, it was time for lunch.  There was some home-made  tomato and courgette soup in the fridge (made yesterday) so we had that with jalapeno bread, olives, cheeses and chutneys.  I would normally have decanted the chutneys into small dishes, but there was only a little left in the jars, so we finished those off directly from the jars. I know it might seem a bit prissy not to want the jars on the table, but I just don’t like seeing commercial jars on the lunch table.

This afternoon we spent some time in the garden. It turned quite sunny, I hung out washing – hey, this is getting too boring for words; who wants to know about washing! – and then elder son, daughter in law and grandson came over, the little fellow riding his tiny bicycle (with stabilizers.)  He stayed with us for about an hour while Mummy and Daddy went home to do some chores (fortunately they live only 50 yards away) and little fellow stayed with us, helping Granddad in the garden and then sitting with me in the summerhouse where we had a nice chat and he had orange juice and oat biscuits which he dunked in his juice.   I explained to him that Granddad had built the summerhouse before he was born, and that his Daddy had helped put the roof on, and that I had photos of all this on my computer, so he wanted to see the photos.  So in we came and we had a look at those.  His Daddy called for him a bit later, and off he trundled (Grandson, I mean!) on his bicycle. 

I then came indoors and decided to make a nut roast.  Although I posted the recipe some time ago I’d not baked this for some time and as I had all the ingredients to hand, it was quickly prepared and into the oven. We had it for our supper with tiny new potatoes (not much larger than marbles) and a small green salad with mayo.

 

I have now cut the rest of the nut roast in half and put one portion in the freezer and the ‘other’ portion into the fridge for supper tomorrow.  We love nut roast hot or cold; when cold it’s like a rough pate.

I was delighted to see, just as the tulips have gone over, that roses are coming out and there are large buds on the peony. 

Gertrude Jekyll rose

You’re Beautiful rose

There is a lot of work to do in the garden, even in a garden as tiny as ours; weeding, cutting back shrubs, removing tulips from the pots and replanting with cosmos and putting antirrhinums in the border, but it will be done, all in good time. 

This has been a something-and-nothing post, has it not?  Books I’m reading, housekeeping in our bedroom, enjoying an easy lunch, making a nut roast, being with our grandson, and noticing changes in the garden.  But this is the kind of easy, non-eventful day I really enjoy.  Just ordinary things happening. 

Until next time. 

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