Waiting for the Mailman

Waiting for the Mailman

..to arrive with my parcel. And I have been for hours. I’d forgotten just how frustrating that can be.

My wait so far

7 a.m. Got up.  Showered before Gabriel left because, as everyone knows, the moment you decide to take a shower when you’re in the house alone the doorbell goes.

Sods Law.

And I know this from bitter having-to-wait-in experience.

The time when I tripped over the towel and hit my head on the side of the wash basin  only to drag myself to the window and see the delivery man speed off in his van springs to mind.


As does the time when I made myself a cup of tea. As the kettle clicked off so the delivery man rang the bell. Once. As I walked past the front door, ever-vigilant, cup of tea in hand, I saw him through the frosted panes post the ‘called-but-you-weren’t-in’ card. I  opened the door in time to see him running off at speed, seemingly unable to hear my hysterical cries of ‘Wait! I’m in!’  Perhaps he’d exceeded his 1 minute per delivery target time. Or he just wanted to piss the hell out of me. As I watched the delivery van zoom down the road I can safely say he succeeded in doing the latter.


7.30 a.m. Up and ready. Checked outside for signs of van. Coming. Or going. Opened all doors in the house and turned off the radio which Gabriel had left on in the kitchen. All for optimum hearing-the-bell conditions.

9.00 a.m. Decided to load the dishwasher and the washing machine, thinking may as well while temporarily captive.  So much for optimum hearing-the-bell conditions…The whooshing and gurgling of the water pipes  made me beat a hasty retreat to the living room where I remained on guilty look-out for a while. Felt bored and tempted to chance it back in the kitchen to make a cup of tea but the thought of a note with the details of a collection depot in the middle of nowhere which I might have to go to in 48 hours stopped me.

10.00 a.m. I tried to read the Guardian online.  Found a very silly cat quiz  and some even sillier pictures of famous paintings where the key figures have been turned into cats. Really. Funny how, when you tune in to something, you suddenly start noticing them everywhere. The Meowna Lisa…who would have thought it?

A van pulled up outside. Promising. I hovered in the hall waiting for the doorbell to ring. Which it did. I experienced a peak of exhilaration. ‘Would you mind taking this for … next door?’ Followed by a trough of disappointment.



11.00 a.m.  Got bored. Moved to the bedroom. Made the bed. May as well. Caved in and switched on the radio. Heard something ringing. Couldn’t have been the doorbell but I went downstairs to check. Just in case.  No tell-tale ‘we’ve been’ notes on the doormat. Phew! Returned to the bedroom and  fluttered around, picking up socks and other articles of clothing, one at a time, and putting them into the wash basket.

11.30 a.m. Machine noise finished in the kitchen. Was it too early to have lunch? No. Heard that strange not-the-doorbell ring again. What was it?

It took me a while to figure out that it was a What’s App message from Tom, my son who’s not a child any more (although he does a mighty fine impression), informing me that he’s arriving at Bristol airport tomorrow at 5.

Tom: ‘Any chance of a lift?’

Me: ‘Of course.’

Tom: ‘i’m off to london at 8 that eve so will be a pretty quick turnaround – actually don’t  suppose i could ask another favour – would you be able to wash my pink shirt and the blue and white small checked one?’


With the midwife’s words ‘rod for your own back‘ ringing in my ears (and that was when we took our first baby home ) I checked the front door and looked out of the window -all clear – before rushing upstairs to Tom’s room, a maelstrom of emotions and thoughts eddying around in my head.

‘Shouldn’t do it.’

‘Happy to help if I can.’

‘Is it good to make things too easy?’

‘He’s off to his girlfriend’s graduation, don’t want him to turn up looking a mess.’

‘But perhaps I’m not helping her – or him –  by doing his washing for him.’

‘But I have the time.’

‘He should have done this before he went away.’

‘He would do this for me.’

And that final point was the clincher, the one that if it didn’t erase all others, it certainly put them into perspective.

It wasn’t about gender inequality, and it certainly wasn’t all about point-scoring. As for his washing, I don’t ever do it, thus explaining the carpet of clothes on his bedroom floor while he’s staying with us (which makes me feel vaguely hypocritical to mention as I’ve just spent quite some time this morning trying to separate the pants from the shag-pile in my own room). Clearly, he rarely does it either. But that’s up to him. No, it was about helping out someone you love if you can. I love him and, trapped here in my own house with nothing to do but wait, I certainly could.

Now: Still waiting BUT the doorbell has just rung as  I’m putting Tom’s shirts into the washing machine! My wait could soon be over. Need to get Tom’s shirts in first. There. Done. It’s ringing again. For the second time.

‘Mrs Morgan? A delivery for you!’

It’s arrived. And as I close the door I reflect on what a great morning I’ve had.

And on all the jobs I’ll be able to get him to do when he does finally make it back home for a week or two.

Did I say that it wasn’t all about point-scoring? Well, it isn’t. Not completely…

Image result for gender inequality clipart

And as for gender inequality, worry not as I’m looking forward to re-dressing the balance and preparing him for the outside world.

He can do it. And he will!




Just looked out of my window  to see a cat, asleep on the bonnet of my car. IMG_3089[1]

And not just any cat. It was HIM. That cat.  The one that torments the frogs in my pond and poos all over my lawn. We’ve got history DD and me.

I raised my fist to rap sharply on the window to shoo him off.

But then I stopped. And I looked at him. Really looked at him. What was I thinking? He wasn’t pooing on my lawn. He wasn’t doing anything devious or dastardly at all.

He was asleep.

IMG_3088[1]Curled up and  vulnerable, I saw the Devious Defecator in a new light.

My fist relaxed.  A strangely beatific expression came over my face (so it made me look simple, but we won’t dwell on that…), and a sense of serenity flooded my very being.

Gosh! Who needs Mindfulness?


I’m going to have to change his name…


Ever seen the Meeowna Lisa? Nor me, until I stumbled across this very silly (and really very lovely) cat quiz   http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/aug/24/tails-of-the-unexpected-the-craziest-cat-quiz-ever

And what about this?


Surely the purrfect present for a catlover…

(Cats! What’s happening to me?)


Mexican Celebration Cake

Mexican Celebration Cake : Tres Leche(or Leches)

In this, my birthday week, it seems only fair to share a celebration cake recipe so rich that you should have it no more than once a year. Indeed, this recipe should really come with a government health warning.  I found it when trying to decide on what to take to a Mexican food evening and, no matter how hard I tried to find an alternative, all internet roads led me to this.

So, here goes!

Brace yourselves. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. The scariest but probably not-that-surprising truth is that it tastes so delicious that you just want to eat more and more of it. Think White Witch, Turkish Delight and Edmund in ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’…



for the cake

  • 6 3/4 ounces plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 ounces unsalted butter or margarine, room temperature
  • 8 ounces caster sugar
  • 5  eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the glaze:

  • 1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup full-fat milk

For the topping:

  • 2 cups whipped cream
  • 8 ounces caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the cake:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and line a cake tin and set aside.
  • Sift together the plain flour, baking powder and salt in a medium mixing bowl.
  • Using a fork, cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl until fluffy.
  • Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and mix to thoroughly combine.
  • Add the vanilla extract.
  • Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter, sugar and egg mixture.
  • Pour this into the prepared cake tin.
  • Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until the cake is lightly golden.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 30 minutes.
  • Poke the top of the cake all over with a skewer or fork.
  • Allow the cake to cool completely and then prepare the glaze.

For the glaze:

  • Beat together the evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk and the full-fat milk. This makes up the glaze.
  • Pour the glaze over the cake. This needs to be done slowly and I only used half the creamy mixture because a) I didn’t want my cake to turn into mush and b) all that rich, creamy, sugary mixture? Really?

Refrigerate the cake overnight.


  • Place the whipping cream, sugar and vanilla into a bowl and whisk together until mixture becomes thick.

Spread the topping over the cake and allow to chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.IMG_2923[1]

Looks very milk-y.  As ‘tres leches’ means ‘three milks’ that should come as no surprise.  When you tuck into a slice of this cake, the sugary, whipped cream shell seems strangely light when contrasted with the rich, unctuous creaminess of the cake within, a creaminess created by steeping the simple sponge in whole milk, evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk  …

You could try to redeem yourselves, and add colour (and something healthy), by serving it with some raspberries, strawberries and blueberries.

And there you have it – a celebration cake that really is deliciously moist, creamy and sweet. What more could you ask for from a dessert?

Viva Mexico!

Flag of Mexico.svg

NB Don’t consume before you go for a blood sugar test at your local surgery…

The Lion, Cliftonwood, Bristol : where to go for the perfect Sunday Lunch

The Lion, Cliftonwood, Bristol : where to go for the perfect Sunday Lunch

by Isabella Morgan




It was one of those rare weekends when we were all together. Me, Gabriel, and our 3 grown-up sons. And I could tell that I wasn’t going to be able to get away with a bag of kettle chips sat in front of the TV on a Saturday night, or a  ‘Lovely! Here’s a bacon sandwich for you’ on the Sunday morning to celebrate. Oh no. They’d come home. Together. And they’d come home expecting the red-carpet treatment.  Pressure on.

Not that they intended to stay around for long on Saturday evening. No, after filling their boots they all disappeared to the outer reaches of Bristol. Which left us with Sunday.

Sunday lunch.

And so I booked at table at ‘The Lion’,  a lovely, pretty little pub in the heart of what has to be the hilliest area in all of hilly Bristol, Cliftonwood. ‘The Lion’  itself is charming, tastefully decorated and strangely homely with enough bunting to satisfy even the most ardent of bunting enthusiasts.

IMG_2993[1]‘The Lion’ looking uncannily like my home

IMG_2998[1]Duck egg blue, tongue-and-groove, gilt mirrors, bunting, fairylights…

And the welcoming, homely feel just kept on coming at this family-run pub, with an uncle taking our orders, a nephew behind the bar,  a mother bringing out the food…


As for the menu, it offered the perfect Sunday lunch. I’d heard this was the case and I wasn’t disappointed. Just take a look –

IMG_2982[1]‘The Lion’ is oft described as a gastro-pub and so I did worry about what that might mean for ‘Sunday lunch’ as we know it. But, with the exception of a little polenta here and a creamy dauphinoise there, the Sunday lunch had not undergone excessive gastro-fication. I just wanted Sunday lunch. A traditional Sunday lunch. And that’s what I got here.

looking happy with the menu despite being  hung over from the night before
looking happy with the menu despite being hung over from the night before…

And that’s what we ordered. I had the roast beef and yorkshire pudding and it was heavenly. As for the dauphinoise potatoes, they added a good, creamy taste to the meal and worked perfectly, making me think that perhaps we should make them next time we make our own Sunday roast.

We drank, we ate, we talked, we laughed.

We drank and laughed. And ate some more…

As for the puddings. Knickerbocker Glory. What can I say? Even the name’s great. And there was custard with the bakewell!  We were all in Sunday lunch heaven.

As we left, looking forward, sort of, to a long walk back across Bristol to walk off all the food and drink, I started to plan our return visit.

And now I’m on a mission to tell all my friends about it. There’s nothing better than spreading the word about a great place and ‘The Lion’ really is a great place. Can’t wait to go back.


address :19 Church Lane, Bristol, BS8 4TX
telephone number: 07867 796961

website: http://www.thelioncliftonwood.co.uk/

Advisable to book in advance. ‘The Lion’ is not a huge pub but it is very popular.

Get ‘The Lion’ look : make some bunting using multi-coloured tiny polka dot  fabric, paint your walls duck egg blue (Fired Earth paint collection), put up some tongue and groove and paint it off-white, put fresh flowers in a jug on the table, put up a large gilt mirror, string fairy lights generously around the room! Ta dah!

Serves food all week, not just on Sundays!




The Selfie Generation

The Selfie Generation

Some developments are worth keeping abreast of. Others are not.
Like the ‘selfie’, that worldwide phenomenon made possible by the wonder that is the mobile phone.
What is it with taking photos of yourself?  And why is it that, every time I take one, I look like , well, not myself? A selfie with the self taken out. Or, at least, I hope that’s what it shows…
The alternative isn’t worth contemplating. Features out of proportion, double chin, looking older than my years…So, that’s what I sometimes see in the mirror, but I’m sure that I suffer from body dysmorphia! Must be something wrong with the camera on my phone.
So, this morning, imagine the scene…
It’s my birthday,
birthday breakfast in bed
birthday breakfast in bed
Gabriel spent hours baking, icing and making praline. Contrary to it’s rough finish this cake really did taste heavenly. Hold that thought.
So, cake eaten, time to get dressed. I chose my cotton chambray two-piece, made without a pattern! ( I mention this with pride. You may think ‘It shows’ – and indeed it does –  but believe me, this without-a-pattern project is far superior to my other no-pattern attempts…)
As it is my birthday I thought it would be a good idea to record what l look like now for posterity, and possibly for my children (who knows, perhaps one day they will want to look at photos of me when I’m not here. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not planning on going anywhere, but birthdays do make me sentimentally morbid, and, when you do go, you don’t usually have a say in it…).
With Gabriel now at work I resorted to ‘the selfie’. Oh dear.
surely my arms aren't that flappy in real life?
surely my arms aren’t that flappy in real life? Not to mention long?
And my no-pattern two piece, the sewing project of which I’ve been so proud, doesn’t look that good either.
I think of Gabriel’s cake. So, it looked as though a cat had been sick on it ( Gabriel’s words, not mine. I graciously disagreed.) But it did taste so very good. Very, very, very good. Its taste, essence, soul, was beautiful…
See where I’m going with this?
As I look at my selfie, I tell myself the same holds true for me. Probably. Hopefully. Surely my children will remember the inner me, not the superficial, flabby-armed shell.
I manage to delete the worst selfie offenders ( the one here is the best of an ‘I -can’t-bear-to-look-at-them’ bunch). Better to get rid of the evidence, just in case. Hopefully their memories will embellish reality!
And so, the next time I do a selfie I’ll wear long sleeves, slap more make-up on and don sunglasses.
Or, better still,  perhaps I’ll get Gabriel to stand quite a distance away from me and take an ‘impression’ shot.
Lesson learnt on my birthday : I am definitely not part of the selfie generation.
Who says that wisdom doesn’t come with age?




Time to make frocks for other people!  Have thought about doing so for some time but told myself that I wouldn’t do it seriously until the 100th person had asked me.

Well, that 100th request came today.

And so, if you would like to buy a Frock Friday dress, or simply want to express your interest,  please feel free to contact me via e-mail at


and I will get back to you as soon as I can.


I am also offering make-your-own-dress classes where, once you’ve made one dress, you can then boldly go and make an endless numbers of dresses in your favourite materials.


Italian Chocolate Cake

Italian Chocolate Cake

or, to be precise,

Anna’s Italian Chocolate Cake

I have three weeks before the next Proust book group meeting and I’ve only got to read ‘Un Amour de Swann’, the second part of ‘Du côté de chez Swann’. Plenty of time. 

Or so I thought.

Yet I’m not doing it.

I tell myself that it’s because I don’t want to peak too soon. Fat chance…more a case of the more time you have the less you do.

Focus. Focus. I need something to help me focus.

Then it comes to me. Cake! Cake will help. Chocolate cake to be specific. I must make a chocolate cake and fast!

I quickly remember Anna’s Italian chocolate cake recipe. I set about following it like a whirling dervish. 50 minutes later I’m sitting with my feet up, book open at ‘Un Amour de Swann’, a slice of delicious ( and still warm) Italian chocolate cake at my side.

Help or hindrance? I’ll let you know…but it’s a start!

(beats trying to concentrate while listening to the rain hammering down, deluge fashion, on the roof of your tent…)

And if you too need an easy-to-make gooey chocolate cake to help you focus here’s Anna’s recipe –

Anna’s Italian Chocolate Cake



  • 200g dark chocolate
  • 3 eggs
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 125g butter
  • 1 tbsp plain flour


  • Melt the chocolate with the butter in a pan.
  • Separate the eggs.
  • Whisk the egg whites until stiff.
  • Mix the egg yolks, sugar and flour together.
  • Mix all elements together.
  • Spoon into a cake tin and put in a pre-heated oven (170°c) for 25 minutes.
  • Sift icing sugar to finish.

    easy and delicious
    easy and delicious

Politics and Cotton Chambray

Politics and Cotton Chambray

Bought Wednesday

  • 2 metres cotton chambray ( or some looky-likey hybrid)
  • 1  7 inch zip


There was a time when I would spend all weekend reading the Saturday Guardian. Including the ‘clubs’ review. And yes, even the ‘Experience’ section with the often wacko headline (‘The horse I was riding was mauled by a lion.’)!

Bought Saturday

Last Saturday however I walked in to my local newsagent only to find that there were none left. Catastrophe! But hardly surprising given that where I live is a middle-class left-wing enclave where we all think we are free and independent thinkers yet are desperate not to put a Birkenstock-clad foot outside the box. We are decaffeinated, allotment-loving, cycling, prosecco-imbibing, organic-cotton wearing Guardian readers.


And so I nearly walked straight back out in search of my essential weekend reading. I mean, I drink coffee (NOT de-caf), don’t have an allotment and usually buy my veg at the supermarket.  Reading the Guardian was all I had to keep me acceptable. How was I supposed to swat up on articles ready to discuss them later  with our neighbours to prove that I’d bought the right left leaning paper…I mean, how else was I going to be able to fit in?

Besides, I did love spending a few hours reading through the reviews. Never mind not fitting in. Then it occurred to me that I could buy…

  • the Times

The Times pile  sat there, enticingly.

I looked around the shop. Good. No one I knew (other than my friend Katie’s son, Jake, on the till)  to catch me doing what would have been unthinkable only 5 minutes earlier. And later, I could always ply the neighbours with extra Prosecco! Ah yes, Prosecco.  The social lubricant of the Great and the Good of the parish. All I would have to do then is occasionally nod in agreement at their sage words of wisdom. As I handed over the money Jake mumbled something. Usually  I would have smiled and nodded in moronic agreement but as I wasn’t feeling my usual moronic self I said, ‘Sorry Jake. Didn’t quite catch that.’  To which came the repeated, and fractionally clearer, ‘I said that’s the second Times I’ve sold this morning.’


Later that night we had the aforementioned neighbours round. The newspaper had been tidied away. Deliberately. But I’d inadvertently left the magazine out, folded open at the style page featuring a cotton chambray two-piece.

I rapidly topped up their glasses before reaching for the magazine and thrusting the image of the cotton chambray two-piece under their noses.

‘What do you think of my next sewing project?’

‘Times, eh?’ said Anna, ignoring my decoy of a question. ‘Really like Caitlin Moran. Great social conscience … Not fussed on Matthew Parish but he writes well  although I remember the time when… What do you think of …? Thought I was the only one who…’

As Anna waxed lyrical, it was clear who had bought the other copy of the Times that morning.



And so, what was the moral of that tale?

Well the conclusion could reasonably be made that I am a moron who follows convention. And yes, I can see that. BUT, more importantly, it shows that in our desperate desire to belong we sometimes obscure who we really are.

Oh no! I’m not really going to say ‘…above all to thine own self be true’, am I????

Oh well.


It seems that at the moment I am a glass of Prosecco and a cotton chambray two-piece.


A Bloomsbury Dinner Party

“One cannot think well, love well or sleep well if one has not dined well.” (Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own)

How to create order out of the chaos of existence the Bloomsbury way (or, at least one of them…)

Why not take a leaf out of Mrs Ramsay’s book in Virginia Woolf’s ‘To the Lighthouse‘ and throw a Bloomsbury-inspired dinner party?

Here,  Mrs Ramsay attempts to create collective memories by means of the highly crafted moment, or series of moments, that is the dinner party.

The food has been well chosen, the table looks beautiful and the conversation flows due to clever seating arrangements and Mrs Ramsay’s wonderfully generous attention.

A Bloomsbury Dinner Party inspired by Mrs Ramsay in ‘To the Lighthouse’

starter :  soup

But why after all should poor Augustus not ask for another plate of soup?

As the text doesn’t specify a type I’ve chosen Nellie Boxall’s ‘Good Soup’.  As Virginia’s cook, her recipe seems appropriate.

  • 1 leek
  • 1 onion
  • 1/4 small cabbage
  • 2oz butter
  • 1 and 1/2 pounds potatoes
  • 1 pint milk
  • 1 heaped tbs crushed tapioca or sago
  • salt and pepper

Wash and trim the leek and cabbage, slice the onion. Peel and slice the potatoes. Cook in the butter for several minutes. Add 3-4 pints water and simmer for 1 hour. Season well and put through a blender. Reheat and add the milk. Bring back to the boil. Add the tapioca or sago and simmer for a further 10 minutes.

Garnish with a tsp celery seeds or a few leaves of fresh celery.

main course : BOEUF EN DAUBE

It is a French recipe of my grandmother’s.

Boeuf en Daube
adapted from an Elizabeth David  recipe


For the marinade
Olive oil, 1/2 cup
1 onion, sliced
1 carrot, chopped
Celery, 1/2 stalk chopped
4 shallots, chopped
Red wine, 2/3 cup
3 cloves garlic
Parsley, 2 sprigs
Herbs (herbes de Provence) to taste
Salt and black pepper

For the daube
 3 lb beef
Carrots, 1/2 lb chopped
3 cloves garlic
Herbes de Provence & 1 bay leaf
half lb of bacon
handful of pitted black olives
3 tomatoes, peeled and chopped

1. Heat the oil in a  pan. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and shallots. Sweat for 2-3 minutes.

2. Add the remaining marinade ingredients and simmer for 15 – 20 minutes. Cool, then strain the marinade.

3. Arrange the beef in a casserole and add the carrots, garlic, and herbs..

4. Pour the  marinade into the casserole, then add the bacon.

5. Cover the casserole with greaseproof paper and the lid.

6. Cook in an oven (300°F/150°C) for 2 1/2 hours.

7. Add the olives and tomatoes, and cook for an additional 1/2 hour.

8. Remove from the oven. Slice the beef thickly. Cut the bacon into cubes and add to the beef. Serve with a bit of the cooking liquid.

For an alternative recipe click on the link http://www.food.com/recipe/boeuf-en-daube-french-beef-burgundy-in-the-crock-pot-176183

The BOEUF EN DAUBE was a perfect triumph.

 dessert : fruit

  • bananas
  • grapes
  • pears

to create a yellow and purple dish of fruit.

Rose’s arrangement of the grapes and pears, of the horny pink-lined shell, of the bananas, made her think of a trophy fetched from the bottom of the sea, of Neptune’s banquet, of the bunch that hangs with vine leaves over the shoulder of Bacchus (in some picture), among the leopard skins and the torches lolloping red and gold…


As for the beauty of the table and the generous attention lavished on your guests, those details can be all yours!

Image of door

door by Duncan Grant at Charleston

The dining room

         the dining room at Charleston

Oh, and I nearly forgot! The wine! Try a Gigondas  or your favourite French red. Or take at look at Matt Wall’s wine matching blog –  http://www.mattwalls.co.uk/wine-matching-daube-de-boeuf-a-la-provencale/


To see the Virginia Woolf plate in the work by Judy Chicago entitled  ‘Dinner Party’ click on –


to read a review of ‘Life in Squares’ click on –




and for a review of a Bloomsbury cookbook click on –



and for more on Charleston, where Vanessa Bell and family lived after moving out of London click on –