I bought the tiny Christmas tree for our Christmas cake in a shop that sells items for doll’s houses


A little while ago I said I’d post an idiot-proof Christmas cake recipe.  This is the cake I make every year and have done since it appeared (c1968) in a weekly series called Cordon Bleu Cookery Course.  It was an expensive way of gathering together a recipe library and I soon ceased buying this weekly magazine and eventually parted with all but this single issue with the Christmas cake recipe. So here it is.

You will need an 8″ tin.   I prepare the tin by first  greasing it and then lining it with a double thickness of baking parchment.  If you’re not au fait with lining a round tin, then measure around the circumference and then cut a double thickness of paper to that length.  Fold over the long sides of this double thickness baking parchment by a couple of inches, and then snip along the length with scissors every so often up to the fold.  This way you can then splay out the paper in the bottom of the tin and it will wrap around the sides easily.  Two layers of baking parchment in the bottom of the tin, too. 

Now set your oven at 350F, Mark 4 gas, or if like me you have an electric fan assisted oven, 160C.

Ingredients (I will use Imperial measurements, as this is how the recipe is written)

 8 oz plain flour

pinch of salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 nutmeg, grated

1 lb sultanas

12 oz raisins

8 oz glace cherries (rinsed, dried and halved)

4 oz almonds (I buy them in their skins and blanch them in boiling water and remove the skins before chopping )

2 oz candied peel (shredded)

6 oz butter

grated rind of 1/2 lemon or orange (I use lemon)

6 oz dark brown sugar (Muscovado)

4 eggs (beaten)

2 tablespoons of brandy (or sherry or 1 tablespoon orange juice; brandy is definitely the better option)


Sift the flour with the salt and the spices into a bowl.  Now divide this flour mixture into three portions. Mix one portion with the prepared fruit, almonds and peel.

In a separate bowl (a large one) beat the butter until soft, add the lemon (or orange) rind and sugar and continue beating until soft.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each one, then using a metal spoon fold in the second portion of flour.  Now mix in the fruit and the remaining flour, brandy (or sherry or orange juice.)

Turn the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the top of the cake. Dip your fingers into some warm water and moisten the surface lightly.  This can be done with a pastry brush but great care must be taken as there should only be a film of water on the mixture.  In baking, the small quantity of steam from the water prevents the crust of the cake from becoming hard during the long cooking.

Put the cake in the middle of the pre-set oven and bake for about 2 hours.  After 1 hour reduce the heat of the oven to 325F, Mar 3 gas or 150C (fan assisted oven) and cover the top with a double thickness of baking parchment.

Test the cake after 2 hours cooking by sticking a skewer into the centre. If it comes out clean the cake is done.  Allow the cake to cool in the tin, standing the tin on a baking rack.  Then turn out and leave until cold.

Wrap the cake in baking parchment or foil and store in an airtight container for up to three weeks before decorating. 

I will give you the almond paste and icing recipes another time. Meanwhile, this really is an idiot-proof recipe.  Also, it does not require ‘feeding’ with alcohol of anykind after baking.  A lot of people douse their cakes with brandy or whisky, but raw alcohol isn’t pleasant in a cake. What you want is the flavour without the raw sprit, and this cake is rich enough without any further additions, believe me.

Right. What are you waiting for?  Ready, get set. Bake!










One of the joys of living in our area is that we are spoilt for choices when it comes to places where we might enjoy a walk, especially once the tourists (for the most part) have ceased arriving in the Bay for their summer holidays.  I would say, though, that as the Bay is more or less dependent upon summer visitors, we welcome them, they bring much needed revenue into our towns and villages, but sometimes when the roads are crowded and parking is almost impossible, we do breathe a sigh of relief once September arrives, the children return to school, and we have the area to ourselves again.

A favourite walk is from Preston sea front (not Preston Lancashire, I might add, but Preston, Torbay) where, once a row of beach huts have been removed for the winter, parking is again permitted where they stood. At low tide there are rock pools to investigate or just the expanse of Torbay to admire.


This area is lovely both when the tide is in or out, or when calm or rough seas prevail.  imgp0013-001

When the sea is rough, this is a popular beach for surfers and body boarders and all manner of water sports.



imgp0011-001And, of course, once the dog-ban-on-Torbay’s-beaches is lifted at the end of the summer season, this beach is very popular with dog walkers.



The promenade at Preston is only a few hundred yards long and then, when the tide is out, we are able to walk on the beach underneath the low cliff upon which is built the Redcliffe Hotel.  This was once a gentleman’s residence and now, as with a lot of large historic houses, is an hotel.


Once past the Redcliffe Hotel, Paignton’s pier comes into view.imgp3877John R PIke, a local historian says in his book on Paignton, that “The promenade pier was an essential part of the seaside holiday scene in the 19th century,”  and Paignton’s historic pier opened in 1879.

imgp5059The sea front has many kiosks from which to buy ices and snacks in summer, but obviously they are closed in the autumn and winter months.  Not long after passing the pier the next landmark is the Shoreline Café. This was part of what was, in the early  1960s, the ‘beach side’ of the then Paignton Festival Theatre. Sadly, the building – purpose built as a theatre in which were held many wonderful orchestral concerts, seaside shows, and choral society events – closed some years ago and it  is now a Vue multiplex cinema.)

dsc_4018Of course, this photo was taken in summer,  but it’s a lovely place for hot chocolate on a cold autumn or winter’s day.

Leaving Shoreline café, we approach Paignton Harbour.


The colonnaded building on the right is the Paignton Club, a purpose-built club for gentlemen which opened in 1885, built in the classical style.  Close by are some pretty thatched cottages before you walk under the carriageway of the Harbour Light restaurant and the harbour is in view.

imgp0116Along this walk are markers which show how far people have walked, and the journey from Preston to the harbour and return to our car is approximately two miles.  And all on the level.  For more hilly walks, there are plenty of those in our very hilly county of Devon!



It’s the time of year when I enjoy re-reading favourite books but to kick start this short post I must mention a novel I am reading for the first time and which I am enjoying enormously:  Judith Lennox’s One Last Dance.  I have read several of this writer’s books and this one is right up there, in my opinion, with the best of them.  It is, as always, about families, lies, deciets, betrayals and, of course, love.   As the blurb says … “As the 20th century draws to a close, Esme Reddaway knows that she must discover the truth.  A truth that began during the First World War when Devlin Reddaway fell passionately in love with Esme’s elder sister, Camilla, and promised to rebuild his ancestral home, Rosindell, for her.”

I really must not write more of the blurb as it gives far too much of the story away, I just hope that this taster will be sufficient to whet your appetite for a really lose-yourself-in novel, starting in 1917 and ending in 1974.  I have been particularly fascinated with this novel because it is set near Kingswear, just along the coast from where we live, and the house in the book, Rosindell, sounds to be very much based on a house in these parts, Coleton Fishacre. So much of the description of the Rosindell – apart from the Tudor core of the building which Coleton Fishacre doesn’t have – could be this very house, with the tidal swimming pool, the building of the house in the shape of a Y, the loggia off the dining room (even the dining room having a blue marble table top), the tiles in the children’s bathroom (but in the gentlemen’s bathroom in Coleton Fishacre) showing motor cars and yachts, and the setting in a valley with all the exotic plants and trees.  This is truly a lovely autumn romantic read.



Next,  to an old favourite, Bernard Levin’s Enthusiams.



First published in 1983, this is one of my favourite books of the late Times journalist.  This book is simply all the things he enjoys from the paintings of Rembrandt to the walking.  He starts by saying:

“We live in a querulous age; more, we live in an age in which it is argued that to be happy is frivolous, and expecting to be happy positively childish.  to be passionate in a cause provokes widespread embarrassment, and to be passionate in appreciation of the good things of life, especially the non-material good things, is to count on the one hand stern denunciation as an irresponsible hedonist, and to set off on the other the squealing and tettering of those whose mottos is ‘Surtout, Messieurs, point de zele.'”




A writer few people will have heard of today is Cecil Roberts.  He was born in 1892 and died in 1976.  After working in Fleet Street for a while, he returned to Nottingham (the place of his birth) and became Editor of the Nottingham Journal, at 28 the youngest Editor of a morning newspaper in Britain.  He moved to his beloved Pilgrim Cottage in the early 1930s from where he wrote novels and books describing his walks from the cottage in South Oxfordshire, Gone Rustic, Gone Rambling, and Gone Afield.

The book I have been re-reading is  And So to Bath, published in 1940, at the height of World War II, but anything less war-like I have yet to read.  It is the story of a journey by motor car from London to Bath, and of course long before motorways criss-crossed the country.   London to Bath was not, and is not, a long journey and would, even then, have taken only a few hours, but Roberts decides to investigate the history of the places along its route.  Roberts describes an age which is past, but it is our recent past, just out of sight.  Sometimes alone, sometimes in the company of Rudolph, a young Austrian friend (who may be fact or fiction, who knows?) he gives a vivid account of such places as the house which once stood where now the Royal Albert Hall stands, i.e. Gore House.

I wonder what you are reading or, indeed, re-reading this autumn?








ladybird-books-001    imgp2641

It was one of those “What to Look for in Autumn” days. I borrow this phrase unashamedly from one of my favourite Ladybird children’s books.  It has been a gentle autumn day, no breeze to speak of, no rain, a little early morning mist in the valleys which cleared by 11 o’clock. 

We decided – having worked yesterday (all the usual things, housekeeping, my writing, cooking) – that today, if fine, we would have a walk in a local country park.  It’s only a few miles from our home, easy to reach, and the parking is inexpensive:  50p for up to 2 hours.  There is a children’s play park, if you are taking children, and in summer a snack bar for drinks and ices.  As it is half-term the play park was very busy and it was lovely to see children ‘letting off steam’ as our parents used to say, rather than bent double over electronic gizmos. 


The park, with lake, was once a quarry but quarrying ceased in 1965 and since then it has been transformed into the lovely countryside park we see today.   It is possible to walk around the lake, at strolling pace, in about half an hour, but there are longer woodland walks if you wish to venture off the main path – ideal if you have a dog that requires a good bit of exercise.

We just love this country park for a quiet stroll, to feel the crunch of leaves underfoot in autumn (stout shoes or boots required, but the path isn’t a difficult one, there are no steps to navigate around the lake.)  Best of all are the lovely views of the lake through the trees.


While the colours can’t possibly rival those of New England (although I’ve never been there, I do know that the maples are stunning in the fall/autumn) the English autumn colours are gentle on the eyes,  very soothing.  I always feel so much better, physically and mentally, after such a walk.



A fallen tree looking quite sculptural

As we returned to the car park we decided to pop along to what we refer to as our ‘local’, a lovely sea front hotel, and have lunch.  Don’t think we’re ones for flashing the cash because we’re not, we are very economical when it comes to eating out:  we order a beef club sandwich which comes with a dressed side salad and a few chips, and we simply ask for a spare plate and share one round between us, plus a half pint of bitter ale for me, and a half pint of lager and lime for my husband.  A whole round each would be just too much for us to eat at lunchtime, especially after a cooked breakfast.  Portions, generally speaking, are too large these days, adding to the country’s obesity outbreak; we enjoyed sharing our lunch, it was just sufficient without making us feel stuffed.

Have you a favourite autumn walk?  We are spoilt for choice in our part of the world, with both sea and inland walks to enjoy, living as we do in the only English county with two moors and two coastlines.





It might come as something of a surprise when I admit I quite enjoy housework.  But I don’t think of it as housework, more housekeeping.  Yes, it is work insofar as it requires effort to keep a home looking clean and tidy and welcoming, but if we do not go out to work, say if we are at home with young children or are, as I am, retired, then we spend a great deal of time in our homes and so why should we not try and make it as nice as possible?

This doesn’t mean I am house proud in the old-fashioned sense of being fussy about every spec of dust on the furniture, or straightening the sofa the moment someone has stood up.  It means that I try and keep it clean and tidy.  I don’t have a particular system and I don’t have days in which I do certain tasks, I’m not that organized, but after 52 years of keeping house a system has sort-of evolved.

My love of housekeeping started as a child.  I was brought up in my parents’ newsagent’s shop in a small village on the outskirts of Torquay, South Devon (UK).  The shop and its stock was of paramount importance, it was our livelihood, and so our little room where we ate our meals behind the shop was always piled high with goods, as was the hall.  Therefore, and as an only child, my bedroom became my refuge from all the boxes and cartons, next week’s magazines, the Christmas books and games which arrived mid-October.  I would arrange and re-arrange my room to my heart’s content. I loved my kidney-shaped dressing table upon which I collected an array of scent bottles; a cupboard which my parents had converted into a book cupboard for me, and my wardrobe where I kept my clothes in neat order.  And, as I lived in a newsagent’s shop, I had free run of all the lovely homemaking magazines which no doubt influenced me – especially the ones at the upper-end of the market, Homes & Gardens and House & Garden.

Some years ago, when helping out in a friend’s antiquarian/2nd hand bookshop I came across a small book.  House into Home by Elizabeth Kendall was published in 1962 and while today it is something of a period piece, this was the kind of book being published around the time my husband and I married.  It is a delightful evocation of those times when central heating was still a luxury and such things as microwaves were still to be invented.  The book is illustrated by a young David Gentleman and re-reading it always makes me want to get out the Dyson and the Pledge.


In more recent years, Rachel Simhon who, at the time was Editor of the Daily Telegraph’s Weekend section, wrote a weekly column on housework and this culminated in her publishing a book on the subject, which is an excellent reference book.


House into Home so captivated my imagination that I began to collect books on housekeeping, and now I have quite a selection, ancient and modern.



One thing which has, if not transformed my way of doing the housework, prevented me from wasting time and energy going to and fro, collecting cleaning cloths and products, has been my Housekeeper’s Box.  It contains all that I need on a daily basis, fits neatly into a kitchen cupboard, and I just cart it around with me when doing the housework.

dsc_0004 It has a tray in the top for small items, and underneath I keep spare cleaning clothes, silver cleaner, a toothbrush for awkward crevices in the bathroom, and so forth.  Of course, we have other cleaning products, items used not as often, and these live  under the sink in the kitchen, but my Houskeeper’s Box makes the housekeeping work just that little bit more organized and if anyone comes to the house while I’m in the middle of housework, the box contains all the cleaning things and they are not therefore scattered around the house, looking unsightly.

I wonder how you feel about housework in general, or if like me you find pleasure in making your home clean and attractive?  Perhaps you resent the time spent on cleaning and polishing when you’re rather be reading a book or walking the dog? Perhaps, though, like me, you feel you are worth a clean and tidy home, a carpet or hard floor that is dust-bunny and crumb-free, a table top that doesn’t have cup ‘rings’, and a bed that is fresh and sweet-smelling?



Several readers have asked for the recipes of this easy-to-make fruit cake, so here it is!

It is a Stork margarine advert recipe which was published in a magazine in 1971 and I’ve been making it ever since.

It is an all-in-one recipe so all you will need are scales for weighing the ingredients, a mixing bowl and a cake tin, plus a sieve through which to sieve the flour and spices, and a wooden spoon to mix the ingredients.

I might surprise you here when I say I’ve never used a wooden spoon in my life for mixing cake ingredients. My mother showed me how to make a cake using my hand, literally, as one might rub in pastry, but holding the mixing bowl with my left hand and mixing the ingredients with my right (well-washed beforehand, of course.)  This way you can feel the ingredients and know when the mixture is ‘right’ for the tin.  I’ve yet to hear of anyone else making cakes in this way so if you’ve ever made a make literally with your hand, I’d love to hear from you.

Ingredients (imperial measurements)

4oz margarine

4oz caster sugar

2 large free range eggs

1/4 pint milk less 2 tablespoons

12oz mixed fruit (I use sultanas and glace cherries.  Cherries should be rinsed, dried and halved)

8oz self-raising flour and 1 level teaspoon of mixed spice, sieved together (I use cinnamon and freshly grated nutmeg)

Walnut halves with which to decorate the top of the cake


Heat the oven:  325F or 160C (fan assisted oven) or gas No 3.

Place all the ingredients (except the walnut halves) in a mixing bowl and beat with a wooden spoon.  Place into a prepared 2lb loaf tin or round cake tin.  I grease a round tin and then line with baking parchment, or if using a loaf tin, I line with a loaf tin parchment liner.

Place the walnut halves on top of the cake and bake on the middle shelf of the oven for approximately one and a quarter to one and a half hours.  My oven is a Neff circotherm (fan oven) and it took just one hour, but much depends on each individual’s oven how long it will take to bake.

If the cake it baking too quickly and the top is looking ‘done’ while the rest of the cake isn’t cooked, put a circle of baking parchment on the top of the cake.

When ‘done’ test with the cake a skewer. If the skewer comes out clean, the cake is baked.

Cool in the tin on a wire tray.  Remove from tin only when cold.

I will give you the Christmas cake recipe in good time to bake it before Christmas!



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Even I, who so loves spring, have become enamoured of the colours of autumn.  They have been glorious here in South Devon and, above,  is one of my favourite small parks not far from where I live.

As I speak, a beef-in-beer casserole is simmering in the oven (complete with herby dumplings) and, rather unseasonal but very tasty, there is a lemon tart for dessert.  Husband has gone to help younger son with a few ‘jobs around the house’, i.e. hanging a mirror and some pictures, and will be back shortly.  Yes, son is able to do these jobs on his own but the mirror is a heavy one and he’s a particular sort of chap and wants it ‘right’, i.e. not skew-whiff.

Meanwhile, I’ve been attending to a few jobs, although jobs is the wrong word for something pleasurable, such as faffing with flowers and making the home cosy for autumn.




As the casserole simmers, I have placed a cosy rug on the main sofa – there is nothing nicer than a soft rug to wrap around the legs for an afternoon read (or snooze.)  And on the subject of autumn re-reading, which I posted about recently, I have taken down from the shelf another old favourite – but I shan’t go into that now because it is something I wish to write about another time.

The flowers are in autumn colours although those on the mantelpiece are, I think, more a spring colour, being lavender.  But Michaelmas daisies are such an autumn flower, I just had to have them there.  I have exchanged the pair of tall glass candlesticks which are usually on the mantelpiece for a pair of spelter figures – again, inherited pieces from my mother, and she found them in the basement of the hotel she and my fathter bought in the early 1960s; they are not valuable pieces – they are definitely not bronze – but because of their patina, are in keeping with the autumn range of colours.


An autumn Sunday afternoon would be incomplete without a slice of cake, and fruit cake always goes down well with a cup of tea.  The only dark, rich fruit cake I make is a Christmas cake – I’ve used the same recipe since it was published in a part-work series, The Cordon Bleu Cookery series in the late 1960s, and believe me, it’s totally idiot-proof, the best Christmas cake ever, rich and moist.  My ‘everyday’ fruit cake (below)  is from a 1971 recipe from an advert for Stork margarine. It’s an all-in-one recipe, so you simply weigh all the various ingredients, put them into the mixing bowl together, give them a good mix, pop the mixture into a cake tin and bake. Nothing could be more simple.  Again, an idiot-proof recipe.


Now to attend to that casserole  …



I don’t know about you, but in autumn, that season of mists, etc, etc, I have a tendency not to seek out new books but to return to old favourites.  Such a book – or in this case, books, as I love the series of four – is What to Look for in Autumn, a Ladybird Nature book although my very favourite illustration from this series is actually from the What to Look for in Winter:

“The evening flight of starlings is a most wonderful sight, and one that should always tempt us to linger and watch as the light fades and the air becomes colder. They take a long time to settle down for the night, since smaller flocks of late arrivals come to find places among the already heavily laden branches.”

When I was a child, the murmuration of starlings was a regular sight at this time of the year.  What a truly evocative image this is, one of the many gorgeous illustrations in this series by the wildlife artist Charles Tunnicliffe, a wildlife artist (1901-1979).  I particularly like the pink sky against which are the skeletal branches of the trees with their reflections in the water below.  Romantic, yes, but I have seen the sky and the trees exactly like this on a certain country road in the South Hams of Devon.


dsc_4419Another favourite book which I always look forward to re-reading at this time of the year is A Country Life by Sir Roy Strong.  Together, Sir Roy and his late wife, the designer Julia Trevelyan Oman, created one of the most magnificent new gardens of the 20th century at their home, The Laskett, in Herefordshire.  This book is a collection of short essays that Sir Roy originally wrote for Country Life magazine, essays about his garden, the countryside, cooking,  the music of Elgar, his Maine Coon cats, tablescapes, and … well, so much more.  The book is sectioned into the seasons, and I love best of all the one which begins the Winter section but, as with the Ladybird books above, we’re not yet into winter and the Autumn section begins just as evocatively:

“Autumn is the orchard.  Apple trees epitomizing centuries of cultivation, will if we are lucky be bent down with fruit.  From ‘Pitmaston Pineapple’ to ‘Lord Lambourne’ it must all be gathered in, either to be stored for later use, or to feed the apple steamer.  I think, too, of the pretty fruit of the crabs, ‘Golden Hornet’ and ‘John Downie’ above all, and of the claret leaves of the liquidamber and the vines clambering up the house and garden temple. There’s the second flush of roses, the Michaelmas daisies, autumn crocus and cyclamen, and then it is all over. The berries and hips  of the Viburnum opulus, the pyracanthas and rugosas have been taken by the birds before we have had time to enjoy them.”



My third choice of autumn reading might surprise you.  The Lyttelton Hart-Davis Letters were originally published in six hardback volumes in the 1970s but I have the paperbacks (two volumes per book).  They are the letters, as the title suggests, of publisher Rupert Hart-Davis and the *Hon. George William Lyttelton, 2nd son of the fifth Lord Lyttelton (who later became the eighth Viscount Cobbham.)  George was Rupert’s house master when Rupert was at Eton and in 1955, by which time George was then an elderly gentleman and Rupert middle-aged, the two were fellow guests at a dinner party.  George complained that nobody ever wrote to him – remember, this was in the days before the internet – and Rupert took up the challenge.

“I’ll write to you, George.”

“When will you start?”

“Next weekend.”

“Right.  I’ll answer in the middle of the week.”

And such was the origin of the correspondence, which continued unbroken until George died in 1962.  What can I say other than this is a truly delightful correspondence of two urbane gentleman in the middle of the 20th century.  It is truly one of my very favourite collections of letters.

*George was the father of jazz musician, Humphrey Lyttelton

What are you reading this autumn?



isabel-avon-mill-13th-oct-20161-002Our friends have recently returned home after staying with us for three days. We all had a lovely time and as they live inland, their request was to pop down right away to see the sea!  And so, after collecting them from the station we first went to a hotel on the sea front (one we visit regularly) for coffee and sandwiches and then we had a stroll by the sea. The tide was in and the wind had whipped up the water, so that it was like frothy coffee all along the edge.

The next day, after we had all had a good night’s sleep and a tasty breakfast, we drove our friends to the Avon Mill Garden Centre (photos above) in the South Hams. This is our favourite garden centre, with beautifully healthy plants and also some clothing outlets and a small art gallery.  I bought a sliver-plated photo frame; I’d been meaning to search for one for our grandson’s photo from last Christmas and found the ideal size.  Chatting with one of the employees, we were informed that the person in charge of the displays was very keen on autumn and not as keen on Hallowe’en, so pumpkins and witches and so forth were not in evidence but lovely autumnal displays were – apples and garlands of berries, pine cones and old garden tools (not that the latter are particularly autumnal, but they look good when propped against the wooden barrels.)

As we had enjoyed a good breakfast we only had coffee and flapjack in the very nice café at this garden centre.

We then drove from Avon Mill to Kingsbridge and then around the coast to Slapton Ley. This is a fresh water lake which is separated from the sea by a shingle spit of land.  slapton-and-avon-mill3

(These photos were taken at various times over the past few years, but not on the day of our visit last week.)

The next day was a bit blustery with showers now and again.  We drove around Torquay Harbour to show our friends the harbour bridge/sluice, which enables sea water to be kept in the inner harbour at all times.


(again, a photo taken on another occasion.)

From the harbour we made our way to the lovely hotel where, three weeks ago, our elder son and his fiancée were married.  This hotel was originally built as the South Devon holiday home for the Romanovs, the Russian royal family and it has wonderful views across the Bay.


(photos taken last March when my husband and I enjoyed afternoon tea on Mothering Sunday)

Again, as we’d all enjoyed a good breakfast, we only had coffee and toasted tea cakes or scones and jam.  We then drove our friends around the coast to Shaldon, and across the River Teign via the Shaldon Bridge and then home again.


(Shaldon Bridge, again taken on another occasion)

Our friends departed the next day but we arrived at the station with about 20 minutes to spare so we stolled in the park directly opposite the station. The autumn colours were beautiful, a lovely lasting view of their brief visit to South Devon.


We hope our friends had an enjoyable visit – that their beds were comfy, and the food was tasty.  I was glad that I had prepared several meals in advance – lasagne, chicken casserole, and sausage, leek and cider casserole – after days out the last thing I wanted to do was to start preparing  meals from scratch.


Our dining table ready for the evening meals (the posy of flowers on the table, from our friends; the flowers on the bookshelves from our son and daughter-in-law for our wedding anniversary.)

All in all, we had a lovely time.



Bed sitting room


I enjoy preparing for guests.  We have a bed sitting room (above) in which there is a sofa bed which can be made into a bed (obviously) but, even though this was an expensive purchase some years ago, it is not comfortable as a bed. We even bought a mattress topper and that didn’t make it soft enough, so added some duvets under that, and still we could feel the bed frame, and so, not wishing for our guests to be uncomfortable, borrowed a very inexpensive inflatable bed from our son.  This is very easy to use.  It folds down and is quite compact and then when required, you simply plug into the mains electricity supply and switch on, whereby it inflates. To deflate you simply switch on and turn the dial to deflate.  Great eh?


Bed sitting room with inflatable bed

It might look a little squashed-in in this photo, but believe me there’s still plenty of room within the room.  And our guest room as a single bed, too:  dsc_0170

Some of you might have seen this photo in one of my earlier posts, but it shows the wardrobe that my husband constructed in what has become our guest room.  This is a lovely, cosy room for guests, the bathroom next door serving both rooms: dsc_0173


This room is decorated with the same wisteria design wallpaper as the bedrooms.  The suite is c1985 and is old-fashioned by modern standards but we’re reluctant to replace a perfectly good suite with a white one when this is only used occasionally.

In each bedroom there is everything I think our guests will require – I have treated the rooms as I would expect to find a quality B&B, with a tray for tea/coffee and bottled water:


This ensures that our guests will be able to make drinks should they wake during the night or want early morning tea before we are up.  I will provide them with fresh milk in a flask but I’ve also put UHT milk in sachets for them.


Beside each bed, a posy of flowers, bottle of water and a lavender pillow mist.  In the drawer of the bedside table (chest of drawers), a hairdryer.

The beds have electric mattress covers so if the nights turn chilly, the beds can be warmed at the flick of a switch.  There is a TV in the bed sitting room and a radio in the guest bedroom.  Behind each bedroom door, a freshly-laundered cotton robe. The wardrobes have ‘bar’ hangers for skirts (and for coats) and satin hangers for dresses and blouses.  There are also boxes of tissues in each room and cotton wool pads, a waste paper basket, tin of biscuits, dish of mints, and spare toothbrushes and toothpaste.  It’s fun to make rooms welcoming for guests.

The ground floor shower room (which our guests might care to use) also has a posy of flowers which adds a bit of colour to this tiny room:


Today I have been preparing food so that if we go out each day I won’t have to start cooking meals from scratch, but simply pop a casserole or a lasagne in the oven to re-heat and make a salad.  Which reminds me … I now have a cake to bake!

In our sitting/dining room, we usually have the dining table ‘down’ and arranged as a sofa table as when we are on our own we eat in the kitchen.  We have the proper dining chairs but these have been re-distributed as our study chairs and our kitchen chairs, and so instead we use two pairs of chairs, both inherited pieces.


Dining end of our sitting/dining room (the chairs covered in red velour were recently inherited and require re-upholstering to be more in keeping with the softer colours in our room)


Dining table being used as sofa table

And so the house is clean and tidy (it’s not always thus!) the rooms are ready, food has been prepared, and all we want now is some fine weather. But even if it rains, which seems highly likely, we can still enjoy the company of our guests and even take them to one of the many visitor attractions in our area, maybe Bygones, a Victorian life museum, and then have afternoon tea in one of the many hotels in the Bay.

Do you enjoy having guests to stay?  How do you make their rooms as welcoming as possible?