Saturday, 15 April 2017

The Batbattenburg: My Take on the Classic Cake

Sugar-free, gluten-free Coffee Walnut Battenburg Cake with xylitol and cassava flour

     I've been experimenting with xylitol and cassava flour to make our desserts sugar-free and gluten-free, and I'm happy to report that, for the most part, they've succeeded!

     My mom discovered cassava flour, and I decided to experiment with it because it's a light, refined texture and is supposed to work as an almost one-for-one substitute for all-purpose white flour. It has also been reported to absorb more moisture than all-purpose flour, so some sources recommend reducing the amount slightly (my guess for the reason that it absorbs more liquid is because it is even finer than regular flour).

Morning Pep xylitol and Anthony's Premium Cassava Flour
The two ingredients that have made healthy desserts possible!
Both available from
     My latest experiment with these two ingredients is Mary Berry's Coffee and Walnut Battenburg Cake, and the verdict from the family is favorable so far! Which means that we have another sugar- and wheat-free dessert that everyone likes! A total win in my book.

     I based my cake on the recipe from the Great British Bake Off How to Bake cookbook, and I referenced a marzipan recipe online (because, as usual, the recipe for the cake expects you to be able to find marzipan pre-made in the store – unfortunately, I live in the U.S.).

I didn't have to change much in either recipe. But be sure to read the rest of the post to see what I did change, so you can avoid my mistakes...
  1.  Cream together using a wooden spoon:
    • 100g unsalted butter
    • 90g xylitol
    • 2 large eggs at room temperature
    • 90g cassava flour
    • 1 1/3 teaspoon baking powder
    • 50g almond flour
  2. Divide the batter in half. To one half add:
    • few drops of vanilla extract
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons milk
  3. To the other half add:
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons coffee granules (I used instant coffee) mixed with 1 1/2 teaspoons milk
    • 25g chopped walnuts
  4. Make a fold in the center of a piece of parchment paper, put it in an 8-inch square cake pan, then add the vanilla-flavored batter to one half and the coffee/walnut flavored batter to the other. 
  5. Spread with a knife, then bake for about 35 minutes (cover lightly with foil if the cakes begin to brown). Remove both cakes from the pan after a few minutes of letting them cool.
  6. For icing, mix together:
    • 100g powdered xylitol, sifted
    • 40g softened butter
    • 1/2 teaspoon coffee granules in 1 1/2 teaspoons milk

The two different batters divided by the parchment paper.
The two different batters divided by the parchment paper.
Flavoring for the vanilla batter.
Flavoring for the vanilla batter.

Flavoring for coffee walnut batter.
Flavoring for coffee walnut batter.
My rather flat cakes
My rather flat cakes...
      I had to increase the baking powder from 1/2 teaspoon to 1 1/3 teaspoon. (I know there is no such thing as 1/3 teaspoon, so I'd just do a heaping 1/4 teaspoon.) ;) The recipe calls for self-raising flour and baking powder, but I was naïve and just followed the recipe without considering the implications. My cake didn't rise at all, and I am pretty sure a lack of baking powder is the reason why.

So I made a little graphic for future recipes that call for self-raising (also called self-rising) flour:

Emergency self-raising flour recipe for substitue flours.

     Even with the non-rising disaster, it still tasted good! And I was able to construct it so that it didn't look as if it had been sat on. The instructions have you cut each flavor in half, then stack them to look like a chessboard. So to compensate for the lack of height, I cut mine into thirds! It was still on the small side, but it at least resembled the traditional square shape.

The marzipan recipe I used is:
  • 2 1/2 oz./5 tablespoons blanched and ground almonds (almond flour would work, too, it just wouldn't look as smooth)
  • 3 1/2 oz./7 tablespoons powdered xylitol (to get it to the fine consistency just pop it in a Ninja blender or food processor and pulse it a few times in 5 second bursts)
  • 2 teaspoons water
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  1. Sift the almonds and xylitol together.
  2. Add the water and extract, mix with your hands until it comes together. (You may need to add a little water.)
  3. Roll it into a log shape, wrap in plastic wrap, then refrigerate for about 1 hour.
  4. Roll out the marzipan between two sheets of parchment paper.
  5. To wrap around the cake, remove one piece of the parchment paper from the rolled out marzipan, then take the other and roll up the cake (making sure to press the marzipan well onto the cake before carefully removing the parchment paper).
     Ét vóila! You can now enjoy a delicious and practically-good-for-you dessert! It's perfect with tea or coffee, for birthdays and holidays, or just whenever you'd like!

Sugar-free, gluten-free Coffee Walnut Battenburg Cake with xylitol and cassava flour

Sugar-free, gluten-free Coffee Walnut Battenburg Cake with xylitol and cassava flour

Sugar-free, gluten-free Coffee Walnut Battenburg Cake with xylitol and cassava flour

© Anna Morton 2017

Monday, 10 April 2017

Fiction that changes you? Yes, please!

"I cannot continue live as if these things were complete fiction."

     It's been a long time since I've found a book series that I could really be emotionally invested in - you know, the kind that you have a hard time putting down, and must finish even though you have other things you should be doing? I think the last time that happened might have been when I read The Lord of the Rings trilogy over 15 years ago. I think I read The Two Towers in a day.

     I say so not to boast but to make a point: at long last I have discovered a series that is thrilling again! I actually read over 100 pages in one sitting, and I haven't done that since... I can't even remember when!

     Not only that, but the characters and what happens to them now means so much to me. (Even more than what happens to my favorite Downton Abbey characters, which is saying something.) Everything and everyone in this book became so real that I could hardly wait to read another page before knowing what would become of them. The fact that it happened in a real time and place made them almost too real. I don't know how many times I cried.

     Now shall I tell you what book it is? I suppose I've kept you in suspense for long enough...

Vienna Prelude     This book – so poignant, so thrilling, so though-provoking – drum roll, please – is Vienna Prelude.

     And the title just captures the story perfectly.

     The author is Bodie Thoene, and this book is the first of her series that covers events in Europe during World War II. It begins in Berlin, right at the heart of Germany, then moves to Vienna, Austria in 1936. The story follows the young violinist Elisa Lindheim, whose mother is German and father is Jewish. With that information alone you can tell that the author is setting you up for a doozy of a story!

     I had no idea what went on in Austria in 1936-38, but, boy, I do now.

     Of course one aspect that I love is traveling to Europe as I made my way through the pages. Vienna sounds like a particularly magical place, especially at Christmas, and I began to understand Elisa's love for this historic city, with music and coffee houses around every corner.

Vienna Prelude

"...through Elisa's eyes we see it all as someone whose world seems to be falling apart around her..."

     The scenes are not often described, but when they are it is through the eyes of characters, which brings an immediacy to the action and keeps the story moving. There is a lot of switching between the points-of-view of several characters – sometimes even minor characters – but it's easy to follow and it also adds to the urgent pace of the story.

     Besides Elisa, we see a lot through the eyes of John Murphy, usually known as just Murphy – a young but jaded, tired, truth-seeking American journalist on assignment in Berlin who gets tangled up in Elisa's story. From his point of view we see things as strangers learning to understand the people and events in Europe. By contrast, through Elisa's eyes we see it all as someone whose world seems to be falling apart around her – even her new romance that had begun so hopefully.

Vienna Prelude    
     Because even in the midst of the elegant, historic Vienna, filled with luxurious coffee houses, decadent pastries, ancient cathedrals, and the magnificent music of Mozart and Strauss, the darkness and hatred of the Nazis can find its way to the lives of anyone. There is a lurking sense throughout the story that this city of light and music is about to be engulfed in the shadow, that Austria will be swallowed up in Hitler's Reich if no one will stand for its freedom.

     Of course the shadow falls first on the Jews, in Germany and then in Austria, and what results from that in Elisa's life and the lives of those around her is heart-wrenching – the more so because we know that things like this really happened. People were really forced from their homes, searched by Nazi officers on trains as they tried to escape to a safer life in another country, and faced arrest or even death for helping those who Hitler deemed less than human.


For this reason I find that, unlike most fiction I read, I cannot forget the events of this story and the way they effected peoples' lives – I cannot continue live as if these things were complete fiction. As never before it brought to life the fact that persecution is a real thing and happens to real people – and it is evil.

"It gives us a picture – a well painted picture by a talented artist – of how people faced an overwhelming darkness..."
     It is impossible to read this book and not to learn compassion for a people who were attacked simply for being Jews – or even just for helping Jews! Friends were lost, families broken apart, homes were stolen, and lives were changed forever. Thoene uses her writing skills to bring these people to life in a powerful way. She can make you care about them.

Vienna Prelude
     Most people would categorize this as a Christian novel, and they would be right, in part – it is one of a series called The Zion Covenant. But to see it as nothing more would be to miss the historic and human power of this story. It gives us a picture – a well painted picture by a talented artist – of how people faced an overwhelming darkness and still found the hope and strength to show love. When they are drowning in hopelessness and there is nowhere left to look, they look up, remembering that God is there.

     Being a Christian myself, it strengthened my faith in God's faithfulness. I couldn't help but ask myself, "What if it had been me? What would I do if my life and everything I loved seemed to be slipping away?"

     That, for me, is fiction worth reading.

     Historical – Thrilling plot – Believable characters – Romantic settings – Unpredictable love story – Ability to make me think – My one complaint is: I can't stop reading it!

Vienna Prelude

© Anna Morton 2017

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

My new favorite Irish song!

     It's by the High Kings, of course, and I dare you to listen to it just once. I may or may not have listened to it at least 20 times over the past two days...

     'Phil the Fluther's Ball' (or Fluter, depending on your source) is sadly not a song included on any of their albums, which would explain why I had somehow overlooked it until now. I must have heard it at least once before, because they perform it during their original recorded concert that is based on their first album that came out way back in 2007. But how I was not immediately captivated by this foot-tapping song, I'll never know.

     To my great excitement, Brian Dunphy (one of the High Kings, if you didn't know already) did record this song on a solo album Timeless, and it sounds almost identical. It is missing the magical blend that the four of them have together, but it is still a cracking song that is hard to stop listening to!

     And now, for your listening pleasure, I present the High Kings performing 'Phil the Fluther's Ball':

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

In Dublin's Fair City: Ireland Day 2

Ireland Trip 2014 Day Two

"You never know when you're going to meet eleven people on the street and have a tea party."

The view for breakfast!
The view for breakfast!
    Today I woke up to - you guessed it - a cloudy, drizzly sky. But as anyone who knows me will tell you, cold and rain are my preferred sort of weather, so I was pleased. I mean, to be honest, I would actually be disappointed if it wasn't rainy in Ireland. 

     To make the day even better, Lauren had the day off, and we spent the afternoon wandering around the paths of Phoenix Park. It's an unexpected 3 square miles of green in the west of the city, and there are all sorts of surprises hidden in those grounds!

Just one of the scenic routes of Phoenix Park.
Just one of the scenic routes of Phoenix Park.
A drizzly day at Phoenix Park with my umbrella.

     We walked past some lovely flower beds that looked especially bright on such a grey day, and as we went on we also came across a race, an enormous monument to the Duke of Wellington, a herd of deer, countless trees, and miles of paths.

It's an amazing park:
  • It's home to the Dublin Zoo
  • It's 351 years old
  • It's the largest in Europe
And, as Lauren and I could tell you, it is a very nice place for a walk, even in November. In warmer weather (I suppose even Dublin has dry pleasant weather sometimes) it would be the perfect place for a picnic!

Flowers even in November! A cheerful sight.

The striking Wellington Monument: an icon of Phoenix Park.
The striking Wellington Monument: an icon of Phoenix Park.
Looking at the top of the monmument.
Craning our necks to take in the monument from top to bottom. It's rather tall...

Lauren and I with Wellington! :)

     The Wellington Monument has a bronze relief on each side that is actually made from French cannons used at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815! They depict some of his famous battles.

Strolling along the paths of Phoenix Park.
One of the enchanting paths criss-crossing the park.
A herd of deer in Phoenix Park!
And there they were!

Enjoying our coffee and hot chocolate in the Phoenix Park Tea Rooms.

     I think we were just as surprised to see the herd of deer as they were to see us. They were magnificent! That was along a lovely trail near the American Ambassador's Residence, which we were not expecting to see right in the middle of a public park. But there it was!

     As we made our way out on the main road (Chesterfield Avenue) we stopped at the Phoenix Park Tea Rooms for some much needed warm liquid. It only really rained on our way out, so happily we didn't need to dry off while we drank our hot chocolate and coffee. But it rained again while we were walking to find a bus after lunch, and that is what finally soaked my poor shoes.

      (Note to potential travelers: make sure your shoes are actually waterproof before you go on your trip. Otherwise, you might have to wait three days for them to dry... like I did. That Dublin air is damp.)

"I would never say no something that contains the words Irish and breakfast..."
Chesterfield Avenue, the main drag through Phoenix Park

Sharing our delicious Irish breakfast sandwich at the Meeting House Square in Dublin.
     Before heading back to the apartment for a night of games, Lauren and I stopped by the Saturday market in Meeting House Square. This is where I tasted my first cronut – but more on that later. Then two of us decided to split an Irish breakfast roll! I would never say no something that contains the words Irish and breakfast, which are two of my favorite kinds of food.

     Then a bunch of friends from the University College Dublin intern program and from Lauren's church family came over and we played games for 6 hours, including the uproarious Fishbowl. 

     (For those of you who have never played this hilarious game, it consists of two teams playing three rounds: #1 is when each person on the team tries to get their teammates to guess as many words as possible that have been written out on little bits of paper put in a bowl, #2 is the same, except that they can only use one word, and #3 is the same again, except that you can't say anything and have to act it out.)

     We had a few rather hilarious conversations, and one of my favorite remarks of the night was from Eoin. It is too amusing not to share, so I'll quote it for you. He told us he thought it would be a good idea to carry eleven tea bags in his pocket because, "You never know when you're going to meet eleven people on the street and have a tea party." 😂 (Now, in my opinion, that's being prepared!)

     Once Lauren and I had the apartment pretty much to ourselves, we had dinner and began catching her up on Downton Abbey – she hadn't seen season 4 yet. It was quite a lovely way to end the day!

© Anna Morton 2017

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

The Rocky Road to Dublin: Ireland Day 1

Ireland trip 2014
      A couple of years ago I took a very low-budget trip to Ireland and had the adventure of a lifetime! It was about as low-budget as possible, thanks to my old friend Lauren who invited me to stay with her while she was working as an intern at Dublin City College for a few months – she was even able to help me get a cheaper flight because her dad works with United Airlines!

     The other things that made it such a low-budget trip were 1) we walked nearly everywhere, and 2) almost always shopped in grocery stores for our meals. It's amazing how much of Dublin can be seen on foot! I had not expected it to be so manageable, but I was able to walk from the Grand Canal all the way up to the Dublin Writer's Museum in one afternoon, which are on opposite sides of the city.

My backpack ready for Ireland!     It worked out for me to take the trip in November. One might – quite correctly – guess that it is rather a cold time of year to visit this damp, chilly country. But even in November, Ireland has its own particular charms.

     It was windy, rainy, damp and cold, and without warm clothes I would have been rather miserable, but those same elements are all a part of the Ireland experience, and make every cup of tea and coffee that much more enjoyable! 

     I will never fly standby again, if I can avoid it – at least by myself. It involves too much waiting around and wondering if your name will be called or if you'll have to wait until the next day for the next flight. This would be much more tolerable if there were friends waiting with you. So I would recommend to have travel companions if you choose to fly standby.

     That being said, I did make it on my designated flight, and got to sit next to two very kind older gentlemen. It was an overnight flight, so after the few hours of sleep I was able to snatch we arrived in Dublin. I got a lovely sunrise view of Ireland's west coast!

Watching the sun rise over Ireland.
Watching the sun rise over Ireland.
Definitely a perk of overnight flights.

     It was early afternoon by the time I got out of the airport and hopped on a bus going into the city to meet Lauren. I only brought my new 20x16 rolling suitcase and a small backpack because I like to travel very light, and this came in handy when Lauren and I walked back to her apartment from the bus stop.

      Being that I hadn't had lunch yet, we went straight back out again. It felt like we walked all over Dublin! But really it was mostly shopping on Grafton street... And Lauren surprised me by taking me to a play in the top of Bewley's Oriental Cafe! It was part of my graduation present from her. It was a one-man show about mid-twentieth century Dublin, and it included a delicious discounted lunch of soup with bread.

The picturesque Victorian Bewley's Cafe!
The picturesque Victorian Bewley's Cafe!

Lauren spoiling me at Bewley's
Lauren spoiling me. :)

      We went down to the next floor to have some dessert: an enormous berry scone with coffee and tea. There was something quite Victorian about Bewley's, with all of the dark polished wood and potted palm plants. It has been around since 1840, so that's probably why.

The atmospheric interior of Bewley's.
The atmospheric interior of Bewley's. Including the counter where you can buy tea and scones to bring home!
Soup and bread at Bewley's  
Everywhere we went in Ireland I saw enormous scones!
Everywhere we went in Ireland I saw enormous scones!
I'd say these are proper scones.

     Then we went to the Little Museum of Dublin, and had a very entertaining guide who told us some stories about Dublin's history. Admission is 8 Euros for most visitors, 6 Euros for students. The museum was filled with mementos from Dublin, lots of them from before and during the Easter Rising in 1916 and Irish Independence in 1921, then going all the way up to U2 memorabilia.

The elegant Georgian facade of the Little Museum of Dublin in the daylight.
The elegant Georgian facade of the Little Museum of Dublin in the daylight.

The elegant Georgian facade of the Little Museum of Dublin at night
That delightful green door at night.

A recreation of a room from The Irish Times in the Little Museum of Dublin

     The Museum is right across from St Stephen's Green, so we took a walk through the park there and found the bridge! To me this bridge is famous for appearing in Leap Year with Amy Adams and Matthew Goode... ;) But it is certainly beautiful in its own right! During the Museum tour we were told that during the 1916 Rising, members of the ICA (Irish Citizen Army) dug trenches in the Green. The park was so beautiful, that it was hard to imagine such a traumatic struggle taking place there.

Standing on the bridge in St Stephen's Green

      Then we went on to do a little more shopping in Grafton Street. It's almost impossible not to be drawn to this spot because you go out of the arched gate in the corner of the Green straight onto Grafton Street. It's a pedestrian only area, and it's always filled with people, which gives it quite a festive vibe at nearly any time of day! There are several chain clothing stores, a Marks & Spencer clothing and grocery store, restaurants, and Bewley's Oriental Cafe and Butler's Hot Chocolate. Definitely irresistible to this traveler.

I loved Grafton Street!
I loved Grafton Street! It's a bit tourist-y, but not in a commercial way. It's just popular.

     Then we had dinner at the International Cafe that Lauren's church puts on for students. That was great fun! Everyone was friendly and easy to talk to. Many if them are foreign students practicing their English, but there were these two Irish guys who were absolutely hilarious!! The proverbial Irish "gift of gab" is totally an accurate stereotype. There is definitely a higher percentage of witty Irish people than in any other group of people I've encountered.

     Then it was time to trek back through Dublin's unique blend of Georgian and modern buildings to the apartment so I could crash. :) Lauren shared the apartment with two very thoughtful flatmates. One of them even slept on the couch so I could have a bed! It was a spacious apartment for being practically in the middle of the city, and had a pleasant view from the balcony doors. It is located in the southeast part of the main city, sort of between Merrion Square and the Grand Canal Dock Train, and it seems like a fairly decent part of town. During the day I'd feel safe walking around by myself, and it still feels pretty safe if I'm walking with Lauren at night.

On the way back to the apartment.
On the way back to the apartment.
The apartment itself

"It is a very pleasant room!"
Elizabeth Bennet

Can't have an Irish kitchen without an electric kettle...

     Today it was cold!! Windy and cold, but also was sunny. Definitely my kind of weather, although I shall be on the lookout for a warmer coat and some winter accessories to keep out that chilly wind that blows into every crevice that isn't bundled up. That starts to feel distinctly uncomfortable when you're spending hours a day walking in the outdoors. My black raincoat would be sufficient in a California November, but then our winters always were deplorable. Thankfully, Dublin should have a few thrift stores! And, shopping happens to be one of my favorite things to do when I'm traveling.

 Tomorrow: Phoenix Park and tea with the girls!

Thanks for reading!

© Anna Morton 2017

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Lingering in Chawton: Our Last Day

| The incomparable Chawton House Library. |
| The incomparable Chawton House Library. |

England 2015 Trip Journal
Wednesday, April 14

The view from our window.
The view from our window.
     Now at last I am writing of our final full day on this memorable trip. We spent it in one of the places – perhaps the place – we love most: Chawton (which includes the Alton Secondhand Books store, of course). Our early start turned into leaving at 11:00, but we still had ample time to soak it all in. Chawton was our first port of call, and as we drove there I tried to imprint on my memory the look of the cheerful green fields and woods all around us with the sun shining, and the prospect of being on our way to a place we love so much while some Jane Austen music played in the car.

     We spent some time really looking in the Jane Austen's House Museum shop and at their used book table for souvenirs. I found another magazine that I could give as a gift, Mom found a book for me on language in Jane's books and a mug, and some postcards and a teaspoon she picked out for souvenirs.

The utterly pleasant main street of Chawton, with Jane Austen's House Museum on one side and Cassandra's cup on the other.
The utterly pleasant main street of Chawton, with Jane Austen's House Museum on one side and Cassandra's cup on the other.

Jane Austen's House Museum glowing in the spring sunshine!
Jane Austen's House Museum glowing in the spring sunshine!

A sunny day in the Jane Austen's House Museum garden.

     A good lunch was then in order– at Cassandra's Cup, of course. It is pleasantly relaxing to go in a place long before they are scheduled to close and when it is full of fellow customers enjoying themselves like you are. We each got the toasted ham and cheese sandwich with a cup of bacon and lentil soup, which was quite filling, even after I had saved one half of my sandwich by stashing it in my purse wrapped in a napkin. We decided to forego tea (shocking, I know) and share a dessert: a rhubarb crumble with custard, which we enjoyed immensely. There was a poster of of teacup designs from 1785-1820 that we were looking at, pointing out our favorites to each other, and noticing how many of them looked as if they could be contemporary. (We are easily amused when it comes to tea...)

Cassandra's Cup, newly painted green.
Cassandra's Cup, newly painted green.

A delicious toasted ham and cheese sandwich.
A delicious toasted ham and cheese sandwich.

     Then it was time to leave our traditional table by the window in the front room of Cassandra's Cup to walk just down the road to the grounds of Chawton House. On our way, a man getting out of his van asked us if we knew where Chawton House Library was. It was surprising enough that he was right there on the road and didn't know, but we were rather amazed when he told us that he lived only 10 miles from there and had never been to the house before!

     We saw at least a dozen lambs in the field to the right as we walked up the drive! One of them had gotten out, who we found among the daffodils. We got pretty close to him, but he squeezed back under the fence when Mom tried to pet him.

     It felt so exciting to be back as we walked through the open gate up to the door, like we were old friends coming for a visit. The two ladies volunteering inside the house were the most cheerful people we'd met on this trip so far. They were just so happy and seemed so pleased to give us our tickets and let us know that the kitchen was open if we'd like to pop in for some tea after touring the gardens. I had half-hoped to see Jeremy Knight again, and I thought it would have been nice to have his company as we walked around the grounds, but he was nowhere to be seen. There didn't seem to be scheduled tours anymore, unlike last time when you had to book a place before you could even go inside. Now you simply walk up – which I admit I do prefer.

Chawton House itself! In Jane's day, the walls were covered in white stucco.
Chawton House itself! In Jane's day, the walls were covered in white stucco.

     What a warm, pleasant day it was! The warmest day of the year, BBC told us. And warm enough to make walking in the shade comfortable. There were scores of yellow primroses blooming inside and outside the walled garden. Jane's brother Edward Austen-Knight began building this part of the garden while Jane was still at Chawton. He re-designed all of the gardens, and I could just imagine Jane and Cassandra visiting him, telling him how well they liked his improvements.

Edward Austen's walled garden, filled with apple trees, strawberries and vegetables.
Edward Austen's walled garden, filled with apple trees, strawberries and vegetables.

A mysterious gate in Edward Austen's walled garden

Enjoying a sunny day in Chawton garden!
     We walked around the little wilderness to the lime walk, then turned into the wilderness to explore its criss-crossing paths. All of the trees were practically bare, but the ground was carpeted by little purple flowers and soft green grass. I wanted to just spread a blanket on the ground and sit there for hours – thinking, writing and having the odd cup of tea.

    But I couldn't do that, at least not today, so we decided we might as well go. Although not without peeking in the gift shop, and even though we didn't buy anything, we looked at some more Jane Austen books that were quite interesting, such as a recipe collection of the Knight family.

"A prettyish little widerness..."
"A prettyish little widerness..."

Jane loved to walk in this little wilderness – and so did we!
Jane loved to walk in this little wilderness – and so did we!

Jane also loved to walk to Chawton House – and so do we!

A back view of Chawton House.
A back view of Chawton House.

     Our last view was of a tranquil house, with no one but ourselves to enjoy it. In fact during the whole of our visit we only saw five other people visiting. I just wanted to linger at every place we passed on our way out: the front of the house, the gate, the entrance to St. Nicholas's church, the gravel walk, the daffodils, the lambs, the trees, the stone wall – I did not want to leave them, and could hardly bear the thought of them all continuing on without me being there to see it. So I it was impossible not to gaze back at the House for as long as I could as we drove away.

Lingering one last time at Chawton House...
Lingering one last time at Chawton House...

     When I think of England – every place we went – I feel such a longing to see it all continuing on. Including even the regular everyday places like Costa Coffee, Sainsbury's, and Boots drugstore (because my sunburn that I had accidentally acquired at Lyme the day before was being uncomfortably troublesome, meaning I required aloe vera), our last three stops in Alton.

   We decided to have some coffee at Costa instead of doing more shopping in the charity shops, so we grabbed a brownie from Caffé Nero – those utterly delicious Belgian chocolate ones – a mocha from Costa, and a copy of The Times, and sat outside the Alton Costa shop by the little stream. We  enjoyed reading about the general election and the Conservative Party manifesto out in the pleasant evening air when we were joined by a duck surrounded by ducklings as they were swimming along in the water.

The most delicious brownie in the world.
The most delicious brownie in the world.

This little family joined us for coffee.
This little family joined us for coffee.

Our view: the old mill in Alton.
Our view: the old mill in Alton.
Love this place.

     Then it was time to pop across the road to Sainsbury's for some travel snacks like nuts, cheese, lunch meat, grapes, and chocolate, of course. We told the cashier where we were from, and she welcomed us, then after we mentioned that we'd been there for six weeks already told us she hoped we'd enjoyed ourselves. Another example of English friendliness. :) We put some more gas in the car, and had the unusual experience of going through the car wash there at Sainsbury's. We also wanted to vacuum it out, but the vacuums were broken at two different stations. I won't say too much about packing. Only that it was a bit impressive to me that I could get all our new books in my bags, and that as a consequence, my suitcase was as heavy as a rock.


     The next morning we got off to Gatwick airport smoothly. After dropping off the car we even had time to stop in the Caffé Nero upstairs before going through security – to grab one last mocha to toast our unforgettable time in this incomparable country!

Caffe Nero in Gatwick Airport

England, it's been grand!

© Anna Morton 2017