My December 2022 Newsletter

Hello and welcome to my December Newsletter.  

Well, the weather is certainly looking Christmassy this morning with an inch or so of snow covering the garden. It’s really pretty, but the ground is so slippery! I was looking out of our lounge window a couple of days ago, and watched in amusement, as four young teenage girls came running down the hill and stopped suddenly to skid on the ice. They were having a great time, and I couldn’t help but remember when I used to do that! However, I’m afraid times have changed, and I now pick my way along carefully; worried about falling over! (I have a feeling this might be age-related!).

Last month, I mentioned that my eldest son, Stuart, spent a pleasant morning with me baking three Christmas cakes. He likes cooking and decided it was time he baked his own cake, rather than me making it for him every year.  Anyway, Stuart came again this week to marzipan and ice the cakes with me. Again, we had an enjoyable morning and I think all three cakes look the part, though I have to confess, that on close inspection, his actually looks better than mine! Oh well, perhaps he will make all three next year!

One of my hobbies, which I find less time for these days, is floral art, and of course, this comes into its own at Christmas. I’ve attended a few floral art demonstrations over the years, and this is an arrangement which particularly took my fancy, so I’ve copied it for the last couple of years. I haven’t created this year’s effort yet, as it’s a bit too early, and I want the flowers to last over Christmas, but I thought you might like to see the one I made for last year.

It’s actually quite easy to make, with an oblong tray filled with 2 blocks of oasis positioned side by side. I then insert foliage all around the sides to cover the trays, add the Christmas decorations at the back and finally the fresh flowers. I find if I water it every day it will last for 7 – 10 days.

Old Phrases
As I enjoy reading, and writing my own books, I’m always interested in the origin of words, and I love hearing how phrases that are still in everyday use, came into being. Last month I told you about three sayings I learnt when visiting Beer Caves in East Devon, so I thought I would look at a few more. Here’s one that we are all familiar with.

The Upper Crust
When I tried to find out where this saying came from I found two explanations (and neither may be true).

One meaning is thought to come from feudal times when noblemen gathered for their meals in a castle. The head of the family would sit at the head of a T-shaped table, and the rest would sit in order of diminishing importance away from them. The tradition was to bake a yard-long loaf of bread, and the honour of making the first cut belonged to the person at the head of the table. He or she would make the first cut and keep the upper crust, then pass the rest of the bread down the table in order of rank.

The second meaning of Upper Crust – which personally I prefer – is related to the old method of baking bread. The old ovens were heated by burning logs in them, and then raking out the ashes and putting the bread dough in to bake. Inevitably, the bottom of the loaf was overbaked because it was sitting on the hot oven floor. The upper crust was properly baked and more desirable to eat. Thus, the more appetising upper crust was given to the gentry, whilst the servants ate the lower crust.

My Writing News
If you’re still looking for a Christmas present for someone, one of my books, either as an ebook, or a paperback, might fit the bill. The Hartford Manor Series is set in a Devon village between 1820 and the 1880s.

It’s a family saga which follows the lives of the rich Fellwood family who own Hartford Manor and the poverty-stricken villagers who struggle to put bread on the table. The books can all be read as standalone novels, or as a series. If you would like to find out more about the books you can do so here:

So far, Betsey, the latest book in my Hartford Manor Series has been well received and I’ve had some nice comments from people. (Such a relief!). I’m always grateful for a review on Amazon, however short, (so even one line or just the stars is much appreciated). The more reviews a book has, the more Amazon makes it visible to potential readers, so, if you’ve read and enjoyed the book and can spare five minutes, here is the link:

My Book of the Month

Finding Her Place by Jemima Brigges

The Linmore Series is set in rural Shropshire in 1817. A few months ago I featured Counting The Cost, the second book in the series, as my book of the month. Since then I’ve read all the books in this wonderful series and enjoyed them all. This time I would like to mention Finding her Place (Book 6 of 9 in the Linmore Series). The book continues the story of Nell Walcote, a foundling in search of respectability, and my favourite character in the series. Nell is conscious of her past and has few aspirations for the future. She has fallen for a man far beyond her reach and feels marriage will never be an option for a foundling like herself.

Nell has found her vocation to work as a nurse for Dr James Althorp, a kindly man with Nell’s best interests at heart. Little is known about Nell’s early years, but some folk suspect she is a descendant of an aristocratic family. The only person who knows the secret of Nell’s past is Meg Chapel, a gypsy herbalist who shares her midwifery skills with Nell, and provides her with the means to earn a living. However, Meg is a woman with intriguing family secrets of her own….

This novel is well written with excellent knowledge of the period and a variety of interesting characters. As with all of Jemima Brigge’s books, this one overlaps with the last but provides an insight into the story from another character’s perspective which I find intriguing.

As always, the book has left me wanting more and I can’t wait for book 10 to be published. If any of you are tempted to read this fascinating series it is best to start at the beginning: Jemima Brigges Books

Well, that’s all for now, so thank you for continuing to follow my ramblings. It just remains for me to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I hope you keep safe and enjoy the festive period.


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