This & That: December 15, 2023
Friday December 15, 2023

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I recently learned of this book from a posting on Nigel Slater’s IG account as he is one of the 100 writers that is included in The Dinner Table that is an “anthology from award-winning writers Kate Young and Ella Risbridger who present you with their ultimate fantasy dinner party. Here you’ll find over 100 authors, cooks and poets, from Laurie Colwin, Salman Rushdie and Jack Underwood, to Rachel Roddy, Audre Lorde and Nigella Lawson. The individual pieces in The Dinner Table each have something to say to their neighbours on either side; just like a real-life dinner party, the collection is designed to flow from one topic to the next. You’ll discover old friends as well as new, discussing eggs, bread, fridge-raid suppers, wedding feasts and much, much more.” Now this sounds like a lovely book to read a little here and there as relaxing begins to commence in the coming days.

Included on one of the many “Best Books of 2023” lists I have read over the past couple of days (be sure to stop by the last week of the year to discover TSLL’s favorite books of 2023) is the second mystery in a series of three (the third is to come out in June 2024) from Claudia Gray. The Late Mrs. Willoughby centers around two young amateur sleuths, Miss Juliet Tinley and Mr. Jonathan Darcy who are drawn together again, this time to solve the mystery of the death of Mr. Willoughby’s new wife, whom he married for her fortune, dying horribly at a party meant to welcome the new bride to the town of Devonshire. Let the sleuthing begin!

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Winter most especially calls for candles situated about the home, and Liberty London’s Stately Bouquet candle includes notes of blackberries, musk, and cashmere woods. Made of a soy coconut vegan wax blend, this understated, yet elegant candle would be a beautiful scent to add to the home any time of year.

Just recently a TSLL reader brought to my attention the critically acclaimed and multi-award winning British cookbook author Diana Henry. How I didn’t know her until now, I have no excuse, but now that I do, I am most interested in picking up her cookbooks. Diana Henry has many to choose from and as the reader shared, she holds Nigel Slater as one of her ardent fans, noted by the fact that he wrote the foreword to her re-issued cookbook – Roasted Figs, Sugar Snow: Food to warm the soul. Released in the states just this past October, the cookbook is now revisited, revised, and refreshed nearly 20 years after its first publication, with a new foreword by Nigel Slater and seven new recipes. Full of comforting delights from cold-weather climates, it features recipes gathered from Diana’s travels to Scandinavia, the French and Italian Alps, Scotland, Ireland, and New England. This is irresistible food you’ll cook over and over again.” Have a look at many of the recipes here.

Recently reviewed and praised in The Financial Times, Stuffed by Pen Volger was chosen as The Sunday Times’ Book of the Year for Food & Drink (2023) tells the fascinating history of the people, the ideas and the dishes that have fed – and starved – the nation. “Stuffed tells the stories of the food and drink at the centre of social upheavals from prehistory to the present: the medieval inns boosted by the plague; the Enclosures that finished off the celebratory roast goose; the Victorian chemist searching for unadulterated mustard; the post-war supermarkets luring customers with strawberries. Drawing on cookbooks, literature and social records, Pen Vogler reveals how these turning points have led to today’s extremes of plenty and want: roast beef and food banks; allotment-fresh vegetables and ultra-processed fillers.” I must say, as a lover of food as well as British history, this looks to be an intriguing read.

If you are looking for laidback food that is packed with flavor, be sure to pick up British cookbook author and caterer Sophie Godwin’s Sundays. “Sundays are special. Yes, sometimes we might feel like we’re slowly dying because of the night before, yet even then, there’s joy to be had in the ravenous hunger, copious carbs, and the legitimacy of binge-watching a TV show, especially if the weather is dreary. Other times, Sunday is about sharing, feasting with friends, BBQing, leisurely long lunches or brunches because it’s the one day of the week when mealtimes are flexible. Or perhaps it’s a Sunday reset, the self-love of a bath, book, and a big plate of greens.” And this taco, a new take on a classic to be enjoyed for breakfast looks surprisingly delectable.

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TSLL has many Vera fans in its company, and finally, after 12 seasons (the 13th will premiere in early 2024), the show is sharing its first ever Christmas special. Airing in the states on BritBox on the 20th and on iTV on December 26th, DCI Vera Stanhope (played by Brenda Blethyn) is the creation of numerous books written by Ann Cleeves with Stanhope at the helm to solve the many cases, and the Christmas special is one more, albeit more festive focused, to enjoy.

Cutter Brooks Bamboo Lamp Base (dark oak), two sizes

In the links shared at the bottom of today’s post, you can take a tour of a festive guest cottage in the Cotswolds designed and decorated by Amanda Brooks, and in the photo tour you will see this lamp. As soon as I saw it, I took note, and wanted to share. It is just the base that is linked, but you can shop all of their fabric lampshades here.

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Described as a joy-filled and fun film, Timothée Chalamet stars as Willy Wonka alongside an impressive supportive cast – Hugh Grant, Sally Hawkins and Rowan Atkinson. Oh! And Matt Lucas from the GBBO as well as Oscar award winner Olivia Colman. I think this will be a film to watch with a just about any company you have visiting or are visiting this holiday season and leave you walking away with a smile on your face. Look for it in theaters today and check out the trailer below.

Being released on December 19th and full of 60 recipes written in approachable language and detailed directions, “Sylvie Gruber helps you learn the ins and outs of French pastry on bite-sized canvases. By shrinking the scale of these delightful baked goods, you get more practice at the foundational techniques to make expert level delicacies. These little tarts, cakes and cookies are faster to make and easy to share―perfect for any beginner baker.

“Sylvie’s easy-to-follow instructions and troubleshooting tips make mastering base recipes like Pâte Sablée, Crème Pâtissière and Pâte à Choux a cinch. Try your hand at favorite bakes like Sablés Bretons, Tigrés Financiers or Mini Cherry Clafoutis that are a perfect pick- me-up or addition to an afternoon tea. Wow your friends with decadent, yet deceptively simple, desserts like Mini Vanilla Éclaires, White Chocolate and Lime Madeleines and Coconut Crémes Brûlées.”

I want to thank a TSLL reader and member for bringing this cookbook to my attention! A great resource for bakers exploring the French patisserie classics.

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While released in November, I just last weekend read a review of Anka Muhlstein’s new biography on Camille Pissarro, the French Impressionist painter who along with Monet and many other painters of this style were breaking the rules with each stroke, but also trying to learn even more about their craft well into their life journey. Pissarro’s unique backstory often makes a bit of a mystery, and while he was well-connected with the Impressionist leading figures, himself being one of the founders of the Impressionist movement, “he felt a persistent sense of being set apart, different, and hard to classify. Settled in France from the age of twenty-five but born in the Caribbean, he was not French and what is more he was Jewish. Although a resolute atheist who never interjected political or religious messages in his art, he was fully aware of the consequences of his lineage. Drawing on Pissarro’s considerable body of work and a vast collection of letters that show his unrestrained thoughts, Anka Muhlstein offers a nuanced, intimate portrait of the artist whose independent spirit fostered an environment of freedom and autonomy.”

Have you watched the Holiday episodes of the GBBO on Netflix yet? Well, if you haven’t, I have to share (without giving any spoilers) that the New Year’s episode in which 2018 alum Manon Lagrève is one of the four return bakers, is phenomenal. The bakes from each of the bakers are brilliant and each deserves to win – a tough call, but I think the judges got it right. It was lovely to see Manon Lagrève back in the tent as I enjoyed her incorporation of the French touch in each of her recipes, and this go-round her bakes were even better than the original series. Her new, and first of what I hope are many, cookbook Et Voilà was released back in the spring and is worth checking out. This Tartes Fines aux Figues alone is reason enough to do so and looks like a wonderful holiday dessert.

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High quality basics for chic layering and a sale not to miss. There are many more essentials I would scoop up, but this one is a classic that can be worn for years and always look great.

Let me wake up and wrap myself in this cashmere robe. It just looks like luxurious comfort.

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The sales continue, and if you are on the hunt for a classic, yet fun cocktail dress for the holidays, this one may fit the bill. Wrap an oversized blazer or cardigan on top, maybe tall boots or pack the heels and slip them on when you arrive, and enjoy dancing as the ball drops to welcome the new year.

A classic. Slightly oversized, part of a suit ensemble if you’d like to purchase the whole hog, I love this fit with the slightly pinched waist, but still oversized in its other lines.

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Yet another brand to shop for quality basics and essentials, and they are having a wonderful sale! Check out their trenches and winter coats to save nicely on quality, well designed outerwear.

This ivory wool-cashmere cardigan is calling my name, and I can just imagine wearing an ivory silk camisole underneath, paired with slim jeans and pulling over the cardigan to do just about anything (or nothing) this holiday season, and it’s on sale!

Offering classic style with a touch of panache. London’s Fold is having their end of season sale, and while I have picked three items below to spotlight, be sure to shop their entire sale. Many dresses, tops and coats to explore, and at great prices.


Last weekend we found more snow and took our first snow shoeing excursion, and while this snow is no more as we received an abundance of rainfall the next day, the snow will no doubt return, and when it does, we will be at the mountain having fun and exploring as Nelle absolutely loves to do (note the snow on her nose ☺️🙃🐾❤️).


Fresh snow and a bit of blue sky peeking through.

I want to thank everyone who stopped by last week to share their comments on the upcoming changes that will be taking place here soon on TSLL. Thank you for your kind words, reasons for regularly stopping by to read and enjoy TSLL and why you chose to be a member. I cannot thank you enough for taking the time to write all that you shared. Speaking of those changes, you still have time to consider becoming a BASIC Member at the low price of $2.50/month before it increases to $4.50/month on January 4th, and look for the paywall to be limited to two free posts beginning next week. Explore all the options for Basic and TOP Tier here.

And I am super excited to be sitting down to film the first lesson of TSLL’s soon to be released Contentment Master Class online video course! Having compiled all of the research and content over the past year which was gleaned and found over the past 14 years, the filming will begin! I will keep you updated on the progress as it comes together, but look for it become available mid-2024.

What are you up to this weekend? Perhaps for some, college/university students are returning home, schools have wrapped up to head to their holiday break or maybe you are anticipating a quiet holiday weekend to tend to final details on your list before the big Christmas weekend in one week’s time. Whatever the weekend has in store, I hope you have a delicious and festive time, and thank you for stopping by today. Norman and Nelle and I will be partaking in our annual Christmas stocking shopping trip to the pet store where they tell me what they want Santa to bring them ;), and I think a driving tour to see some of the neighborhoods and their light displays may be a fun way to spend one evening making sure to pack some chocolat chaud in a thermos paired with nibbles while we pokey along and gawk. 🙂

Until Monday, bonne journée !

~The second season of Magpie Murders, which will be called Moonflower Murders paralleling the title of the book by Anthony Horowitz, has finished filming, and I have a feeling we will see it next fall on PBS Masterpiece (I will definitely let you know when it premieres). Learn more here, and if you haven’t read Moonflower Murders, you will whiz right through it – a wonderfully fun and creative caper of a read.

~Tips on enjoying the holidays as an HSP introvert. [Introvert, Dear]

~A festive home tour in the Cotswolds of a former piggery turned charming guest cottage [House & Garden UK]

~If you are looking for beautiful inspiration for decorating with fresh plants and foliage this holiday season, check out these 31 decorating tips found in English country homes. [House & Garden UK]

~Discover the hiking route in France voted hikers’ favorite [Connexion]

~And for some wreath inspiration this holiday season, these each are stylish ones to adorn your front door [H & G UK]

~This will surprise no one, and especially fellow introverts here at TSLL 🙂 – How the Hygge Philosophy is Right for Introverts [Introvert, Dear]

~5 simple habits and routines for good mental health and reduced stress [Pick the Brain]

~Cecilia Jourdan, founder of Hello French and friend of TSLL joined Lindsey Tramuta on her podcast The New Paris to talk about language building and learning

~This TEDTalk about how searching for love might be an unconscious escaping ourselves will definitely cause some pondering on the topic of how “love is sold to us as the ultimate solution to ourselves” and how (and where) to truly living a love-filled and fulfilling life.

~33 Daily Habits Practiced by Successful entrepreneurs []

~You may remember that Cher’s Christmas album was included in this year’s TSLL’s Annual Holiday Gift Guide, and now you can watch her on stage and watch the audience as they listen at Rockefeller Palace where she performs one of my favorite tracks from the album. And here is an interview with her where she shares how it came together and why it took her so long to create her first holiday album.


~~Please note: TSLL is supported by you, readers who take the time to stop by (merci!), peruse and sometimes welcome into your life mentioned and recommended finds. Affiliate links are present in today’s post and may earn commissions for TSLL when you purchase. View TSLL’s full Privacy Policy here.

12 thoughts on “This & That: December 15, 2023

  1. Happy & Healthy Holidays!
    I can’t wait to receive a couple of the French Cookbooks you mentioned! Baking & cooking for pleasure (instead of always in a hurry & out of pure necessity) is definitely on my 2024 To-Do List. These books sounds wonderful. Thank you for the suggestions.

    I’ve been “saving up” (time wise) to watch the latest season of ‘The GBBO’ on Netflix. Now that all of the decorating, shopping, wrapping & shipping is done…I’m diving in this weekend and can’t wait!

    1. Scarlett,

      Thank you for stopping by! And don’t the cookbooks look like fun reads (as well as delectable recipes!:)). Have a wonderful time watching GBBO – quite the humorous bunch this year. 🙂 And enjoy the festive activities of the holidays. 🙂

  2. My very favorite Diana Henry cookbook is How to Eat a Peach. Her writing is wonderfully evocative and the photos are timeless and beautiful. Cheers Shannon.

    1. Sally,

      I appreciate you sharing your favorite! Sounds like a cookbook style right up my alley to enjoy for reading comfort and enjoyment as well as cooking inspiration. ☺️ Have a wonderful weekend!

  3. Shannon, what a lovely T&T, full of discoveries and presents perfect for the festive season.❄️Gorgeous pictures of the pups in the snow; oh my Sylvia Gruber’s cookbook is just what I have been looking for, thank you!; fabulous articles to savor–love the Hygge one!!(Such a conundrum–I operate quite easily in social situations, am very good at putting people at ease, have no problem with ad-lib, off the cuff situations–but ye gods do I need, require, have created my separate regenerating spaces spaces, my hyggerkogs and can so identify with all characteristics mentioned…Introvert masquerading as Extrovert? Extrovert with major Introvert tendencies??). I adore House & Garden UK. I think this is the year I get the subscription. And golly. Cher. Incredible entertainer and person. Love to you and the puppers! xx

  4. Shannon, I’m looking forward to dipping in to the articles over the weekend. There is still prep to be done for next weekend but we’re about there. I think I might make some mince pies to enjoy. Thank you for our lovely weekend reading. X

  5. Shannon, I so love this and that. You never disappoint with the best curated list of things to read, watch and the shopping suggestions are always excellent. There’s no way that I could ever come across many of these things on my own so I really appreciate you drawing them to my attention and I’m sure the other readers do as well. It’s my petite pleasure!!

    Wishing you a great weekend

    1. Nanci,

      Thank you very much for your comment! xo I appreciate your feedback and will continue to do my best to discover and share with readers here on the blog what I think would be enjoyed, appreciated and savored. 🙂 Your kind words mean more than you know. Have a most wonderful weekend as well.

  6. A great T & T, as usual! 🙂

    My favourites: Wonka and your kids on the snow, with their winter jackets. How sweet they are!

    On candles: I heard good things about Auden Lueur, an US brand. I am curious to try but they do not ship internationally.

    I wish you – and everyone – a great weekend on this run up to Christmas. For my part, I am done and ready to enjoy it all, minus a few baking sessions that still will happen (which are also enjoyable, of course).

    Greeting from a very cold Leipzig – but no snow.


  7. It is Sunday afternoon, and I have finally had an opportunity to stop by for This & That while enjoying a hot cuppa and A Simply Luxurious Holiday Playlist. It has been a full weekend with holiday and retirement (hubby’s) parties, as well as, a graduation from nursing school (“fiance-in-law’s) and subsequent celebration. Somehow I still had the time to begin the preparations for the holiday meal with the Pear, Parsnip, and Chestnut Soup and Duchess Potatoes prepped and in the freezer awaiting the finishing steps, the first steaming of the Christmas Pudding, and preparing a batch of the delicious gingerbread recipe you shared. I gave some as a hostess gift, and have been enjoying the rest with a nice cup of tea. I also found a moment to watch Sister Boniface’s Christmas Special. The week ahead looks about the same with more holiday parties, volunteering, and celebrating. Busy…but fulfilling and fun.

    Hope you all are enjoying your holidays.


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