a fond farewell to downton abbey

“All this unbridled joy has given me quite an appetite.” ~ Violet

The soufflés are sinking, the puddings are pouting, the meringues have taken to incessant weeping.

I fear much of our “unbridled joy” is rapidly dissipating — Downton Abbey is ending its 6-year run on PBS with the series finale on March 6!

Only one more episode to go. No! ūüė¶ ūüė¶ ūüė¶

Treated myself to a Crawley family Spode Stafford White cup and saucer just to drown my sorrows.

I’ve been hooked since Season One, Episode 1, only too willing to spend my Sunday evenings with the entire Crawley family at their opulent digs in Yorkshire. Not since the original “Upstairs, Downstairs” (1971-1975) have I been so emotionally invested in the lives of an aristocratic British family and their servants. I find the entire class system fascinating, rooting for those who would dare defy the established social order, sympathetic to characters grappling with changes beyond their control.

Today serving Mrs. Patmore’s Pudding Tea: “This decadent dessert tea has the homemade flavors of vanilla cake drizzled with rich caramel sauce.” Good afternoon tea, a perfect pairing with puddings, scones, and shortbread.

Indeed, when I first started watching Downton, I was instantly reminded of “Upstairs, Downstairs.” The time periods somewhat overlapped, with UD beginning about a decade before the sinking of the Titanic and ending in 1930. Both series revealed interesting aspects of post-Edwardian social life¬†set against significant historical events.¬†Instead of Mrs Patmore there was Mrs Bridges, instead of Daisy, there was kitchen maid Ruby. Bellamy son James marries his secretary Hazel as Crawley daughter Sybil marries chauffeur Tom Branson — both compelling, frowned-upon liaisons championing the triumph of true love over all impediments.

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some yummy oat scones from elliot’s extraordinary cookbook

Though I’m a longtime Christina Bj√∂rk and Lena Anderson fan (they’re the Swedish author and illustrator team who created Linnea in Monet’s Garden and Linnea’s Almanac, among many others), I didn’t know about Elliot’s Extraordinary Cookbook (1990) until just recently.

Why didn’t you tell me? You know how nuts I am about illustrated cookbooks. ūüôā

I snatched up a like-new copy and swooned over every page of this thoroughly charming and delightful book, which is narrated by Linnea’s neighbor Elliot, quite likely the most enthusiastic young cook ever to bake a potato or scramble an egg.

It all begins when Elliot locks himself out of his apartment and meets his neighbor Stella Delight, a kind widow and former ship’s cook who invites him to wait upstairs at her place.

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friday feast: happiness is a may sarton poem and a cream scone

The most valuable thing we can do for the psyche, occasionally, is to let it rest, wander, live in the changing light of a room . . . “ ~ May Sarton


When it’s cold and snowy out, there’s nothing better than treating yourself to a little cream tea.

I like to split a warm scone, spread on some strawberry jam and clotted cream, and sip a nice cup of Yorkshire Gold.

Gone are the winter blues, and I’m quite content to while away the hours reading, writing, thinking. I’m safe and warm in a room I’ve filled with some of my favorite things: a copper teapot, Dickens books from Foyles in London, a dozen antique teddy bears, an English phone booth, an Addams Family “Thing” bank, a kazoo, and a bone china bouquet of violets (one broken).

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shortbread and scones from the unofficial downton abbey cookbook

“Are we going to have tea, or not?” ~ Violet, the Dowager Countess

Yes, we are definitely having tea today, along with a couple of treats from The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook by Emily Ansara Baines (Adams Media, 2012)!

Thank goodness Season 3 is finally underway, as I was suffering from extreme DA withdrawal for the last several months. So thrilled that the always brilliant Dame Maggie Smith won a Golden Globe on Sunday, that Mrs. Hughes is okay, and that the Crawleys don’t have to sell the Abbey after all. I’m also crushing on Thomas after seeing Rob James-Collier on numerous talk shows — his character may be slick-haired surly and restrained, but when he smiles in real life — hubba hubba!

I think he would work at Alphabet Soup, don’t you? (ITV)

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a little smackerel from jeannine atkins

“By-and-by Pooh and Piglet went on again. Christopher Robin was at home by this time,¬†because it was the afternoon, and he was so glad to see them that they stayed there until¬†very nearly tea-time, and then they had a Very Nearly tea, which is one you forget about afterwards, and hurried on to Pooh Corner, so as to see¬†Eeyore before it was too late¬†to have a Proper Tea with Owl.”¬† ~ from THE HOUSE AT POOH CORNER, by A.A. Milne (E.P. Dutton & Co., 1928).¬†

The other morning I was feeling a little odd. 

It was almost eleven and I needed a little smackerel of something.

Just in time, I received this lovely email from author Jeannine Atkins:

Jama, this is my favorite scone recipe, which I doubled and brought into my children’s literature class after reading WINNIE-THE-POOH and feeling like we needed ‘a little something.’ One student said he was happy to ‘walk into class and see two big cookie-like things on the table.’



No tea party would be complete without them. Whether you pronounce it skon to rhyme with John (as in¬†most of the UK), or skoan to rhyme with Joan (as in the U.S.), there’s no denying their appeal.¬†Split them in half while they’re still warm, lay on the¬†butter,¬†strawberry jam, and clotted cream (if you’re lucky),¬†and you’ve¬†got home and heaven in one little cake!

Scones, originally from Scotland,¬†are perfect anytime — breakfast, elevenses, very nearly tea, or proper afternoon tea. Make them plain with cream,¬†milk or buttermilk, add fruit or even chocolate chips — then roll¬†and cut them into little rounds, or pat the dough onto a sheet,¬†and cut in wedges. They can be baked¬†or dropped on a griddle. Your tum-iddle-um will thank you.

When Jeannine’s students walked into the classroom, they probably felt like this:

When you’ve been walking in the wind for miles, and you suddenly go into somebody’s house, and he says, ‘Hello, Pooh, you’re just in time for a little smackerel of something,’ and you are, then it’s what I call a Friendly Day.

Very friendly Jeannine has written quite a few fabulous books herself,¬†the latest of which is Anne Hutchinson’s Way (FSG, 2007).¬†In this¬†historical fiction picture book (illustrated by Michael Dooling),¬†Anne¬†leaves England with her husband and ten children¬†for the Massachusetts Colony, seeking religious freedom.

When she disagrees with the¬†minister’s ways, Anne holds meetings in her own home to preach the gospel herself. Told from her¬†daughter Susanna’s point of view, this inspiring story of¬†a strong woman who believed in the freedom of speech,¬†was recently named¬†a 2008 Amelia Bloomer Project Recommended Title, one of 32 books which¬†encourages girls to be “smart, brave, and proud.”

Jeannine has written several other wonderful books about strong girls and women, such as Aani and the Tree Huggers (Lee and Low, 2000), Girls Who Looked Under Rocks: The Stories of Six Pioneering Naturalists¬†(Dawn, 2000), and¬†How High Can We Climb: The Story of Women Explorers (FSG, 2005). All reflect Jeannine’s love of¬†history, research, and¬†personal interest in feminism.

So, next time you crave a little¬†something, mix up a batch of Jeannine’s scones, pour yourself a cup of your favorite tea (maybe¬†Republic of¬†Tea’s¬†¬†All Day Breakfast¬†or Assam Breakfast¬†), and curl up with one of her books. It’ll get you humming, and¬†may even¬†inspire you to greater things. What could be friendlier?

from Jeannine Atkins

1-1/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, cut in bits
1-1/4 cups mixed dried fruit: chopped apricots, dried cranberries or cherries, and raisins
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 large egg

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease baking sheet. Combine dry ingredients, then cut in butter with pastry blender or two knives until mixture resembles cornmeal. Mix in fruit. Combine cream and egg, then pour into the flour mixture. Stir with a fork just until the dough forms a ball. Pat this into a round and squash about 8 inches wide. Cut about halfway through into twelve wedges and put it on the baking sheet. Bake about twenty minutes until golden.

Visit Jeannine’s Website and Blog¬†for more about her books!