A Daffodil for a Dreary Day

So, that’s dark and dreary January over. Thank goodness. February here may still be dreary but at least the days are getting longer in soggy England. February hasn’t gone well so far for us. Only three days old and already three bad things have happened. First, a close family member on my husband’s side has passed on. The next we heard some other bad news which upset us both. And this morning,… click to read more

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Spotlight on Faye Avalon

I was delighted to learn a little while back that fellow writer FAYE AVALON had been signed by Carina Press for their “The Dirty Bits” imprint, and can announce her first story with them was published on 1st January this year.

Sharing His Bride is a short, steamy, erotic romp which, though it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, is proving to be a darn good read.

Faye is an excellent writer of erotica, always hot and spicy, with a great sense of fun and always with lots of romance. For some reason, erotica sells well Stateside but the English reader seems rather coy to enter this realm; I don’t know why, considering how well Fifty Shades of Grey sold and one back in the 1970s called The Story of O.  I believe she is a far writer than these two authors and urge you to give her a try.

A prolific storyteller, Faye Avalon enjoys writing sexy stories about strong men and the savvy women who rock their world. She has had several novels published previously in the erotic genre by Samhain Publishing, among others, as well as writing excellent Shape Shifter novels, the latest being her Beast of Bodmin Moor series published by Evernight Publishing. Beast Untamed, the third in this excellent paranormal series tells of a hot panther shifter who sets his sights on an unsuspecting human female running from her past. You might of heard of the Beast of Bodmin roaming the moors. Faye puts an exciting and unusual take on this legend.

I was more than thrilled to discover the cover of the second book of the series, Beast Denied, has been  nominated in the Paranormal category of the Evernight Readers’ Choice Awards.  (https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/HNL62PL)

 

All Faye’s books are available as ebooks on Amazon, as well as her fabulous Beast series on Nook/Barnes& Noble and Smashwords.

Website: https://fayeavalon.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/faye.avalon.1

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Faye_Avalon

 

Book Junkie

As a writer and avid book reader, I’m often asked who my favourite author is, or whose work influences me the most, or what my favourite book is. All are difficult to answer as I read many genres, many authors, and many books have stayed with me throughout my life. I grew up in a household where books and reading were encouraged at an early age, indeed our mother taught us to read long before we first went to school. She read us exciting bedtime stories, fairytales told German and herself read all kinds of novels. With six of us in the family, the choice and quantity was large and books passed around as we grew older … Read on Over the Backyard Fence.

I’m Back!

Hello Blog Readers

I’m back after a long break despite good intentions earlier this year to blog more frequently. Life has been chaotic in the Domino household since March with many setbacks, medical issues and other matters of which I shan’t bore you about, suffice to say we are now back to normal. I think. Well, as least as normal as it can be here.

Sadly, a brief summer seems to have passed us by and autumn is well and truly on the wind. The leaves are turning and dropping already and most of the garden flowers spent although a few are maintaining a colourful display. To be honest, it’s been looking quite good these past few months thanks to the extra effort put in by the other half now he’s retired. At the moment he’s busy putting up new soffits and guttering around the man-cave before winter exerts another toll upon the tools and man toys.

As for me, I’ve had a few setbacks and disappointments but none that cannot be overcome and move forward from. I’ve even managed to create some artwork this summer and can boast three on public display in a nearby town venue.

I’ve also had a few shocks this summer, the biggest being when one day the other half requested curry and rice for dinner. Curry? Is he serious? Oh, and can I put apple and sultanas in it too? In all of our 42 years together he’s never once asked for a curry, let alone eaten one. He’s always moaned and grumbled and groaned whenever I’ve had one out, even if simply chips with curry sauce! Okay, so who is this man and what have you done with the real Dave? So a mild chicken curry I made. Well, I say made, it was made using a Korma curry sauce curtesy of Aldi. And golly good it was too. And now a regular on the Friday lunch menu. Talking of menus…

As you are probably aware, or not, I am a great lover of Greek food. Greek anything, in fact. And sadly, I haven’t been able to get to Greece now for several years, the past two years with no holiday at all! (Can hear the violins playing already.) I love the dips, especially tzatziki and hummus but those ready-made ones from supermarkets are just not the same. I had a deep craving for hummus one balmy week in June but didn’t dare make one as Dave is allergic to garlic. The smell, the taste and the thought. He goes ape. He can’t stand it. What to do…? How to curb such a want. Dare I attempt to make one?

Yup. I picked up a couple of tins of chickpeas, opened one, read the instructions how to make – easy enough and blitzed away minus the garlic. It tasted bland, it tasted dull, it tasted … of nothing. Then came a lightbulb moment. Now, it might seem obvious to you but it wasn’t to me until that moment. I added a dollop of roasted onion chutney to the mixture and voilà. Wonderful roast onion hummus I could eat until the cows came home, well… until it was all gone, without him moaning and groaning about it. It would have been even better with some garlic, but hey ho, this little beggar can’t have it all ways and this was better than none at all. So here’s the recipe.

1 400g tin of cooked chickpeas – drained and rinsed.
2 teaspoons of tahini
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
3 tablespoons of olive oil
Put all the ingredients into a food processor and whizz to desired consistency.
Then add 1 tablespoon of onion chutney and blitz for a few seconds, add more lemon juice/oil/chutney to taste.

It even freezes well too.

Shame I can’t get Dave to try it. Perhaps one day he’ll surprise me again.

Everything in Threes

Why does everything seem to come in threes? Is it magic number? We have the Three Stooges; plants should be grouped in threes; the Holy Trinity; the three wise men, traffic lights – red, amber, green; clothes, especially for babies: one on, one off and one in the wash; pre-packed meat in supermarkets, chops always seem to be in threes, not one or two or even four …   Click here to read  on 

The Garden In November

2016-10-21-12-08-34Slowly, imperceptibly, Earth has tilted towards winter again, and as the clocks are forced backwards an hour, daylight increasingly less and less, my garden is still proving to be a delight. The start of this month in the UK has been dismal and grey, however, this morning the sun is out and before my backyard is plunged into shadow for the remainder of the day and the year, I ventured outside with the camera to capture the garden’s last flush before tonight’s frost plunges it into hibernation… Read the full story at Over The BackYard Fence.

Astrogem Reading: The Outcome

A little over a year ago, some of you may recall I had a “reading” using an astrogem geomancy prediction by Les Cross for the forthcoming 12 months (2015), which I discussed on another site I contribute to called Over the Backyard Fence. Now we are in 2016, I thought it time to look back at those predictions and see what has happened in my life in comparison.

Semi Precious Gem Stones

The reading was done for several reasons; not that I believe in fortune-telling or horoscopes but for fun, for interest, and for research, particularly for my forthcoming paranormal novel Whitestones, to be released in 2016. I like to investigate all forms in my search for “the truth”, having a fascination with stories of ghosts, hauntings and the paranormal, and have attended several clairvoyance and clairaudience evenings. They are enjoyable but I don’t believe in life after death, at least not until I get an undisputed message from someone who’s passed over, or until I move to the other side and find out for myself. There are several “mediums” I watch with interest who are very well known on TV, such as Sally Morgan and a wonderful American lady who’s over the top in her dress style and presentation but totally absorbing to watch whose name I cannot remember. And I had always wanted to have a one-to-one reading with my favourite, Colin Fry, who sadly passed away last year, so that’s now out of the equation.

Often, we can fit our life or current situation into horoscopes given in the newspapers, believing what we want to be true and dismissing the rest. Many such things can be self-fulfilling. But, then again, my birth sign is Aries and my character is in many ways that of an Aries person, so one does sometimes wonder…  So, back to the predictions and outcomes of the reading given to me.

To think through the issues, don’t just throw time and money at it.  This was very pertinent at the time as I was in the middle of a dilemma with a publishing business venture, unsure of the way forward I should take. I could have easily invested a lot more of my time and money in it but to the detriment of other projects I was involved with and other avenues I wanted to pursue. I did think the issues through carefully, didn’t act on impulse as I am apt to do, and reached my decision. As it turned out, the right one.

If I get the opportunity to work with or teach youngsters, especially with a short journey involved, I should do it.  No opportunity has arisen.

That I will be travelling abroad, not for leisure purposes but to learn or something involved with learning. I travelled abroad twice last year, to Spain and Greece but these were very much holidays, although I have been and still am considering taking a painting holiday abroad.

That there would be a major opportunity to grow my career/public visibility and that I should make myself available when this opportunity arises. Interesting. As you may be aware, as well as being an author, I am also an artist. Late in 2015, resulting from several painting commissions, I was elevated to professional status with a national art society I belong to,  which has given me my own personal website on their site. This also means I can now teach my craft using the society to advertise my services and my paintings, with a resultant sale the first day the site went live! Also, the commissions undertaken have, in turn, led to further commissions being offered. Onwards and upwards!

That I should make myself less available to the female “friend” who calls a lot on my time as she is exceedingly jealous of me and will use any occasion to make mischief or cause trouble – to regard this as a warning. This was so true. In fact, it wasn’t just one “friend” causing me grief, there were two, although I don’t think either realised quite how much of my time and attention they were demanding or the angst they were causing me. One lady I dropped immediately. She was the main reason I was in a dilemma with my business venture. It was a painless extraction, one I should have listened to my intuition at the time before I became involved with her. With the second “friend”, I put a lot of space between myself and her, distancing myself as much as was practical, and although we are still in contact I am very much on my guard. And life is better. Calmer.

Lastly, that I will be asked to for advice on a legal matter concerning a will by a distinguished gentleman and should listen to his advice but be cautious, to follow any intuitive warnings and act on them. Now this really does get the grey matter thinking. Twice during the summer I was approached by a neighbour seeking legal advice on two different matters, neither involving a will, but he does have some very distinguishable looks, certainly someone you would notice. Then, in October, I was called for Jury Service. Was the elderly judge dressed in his red robes and grey wig the distinguished gentleman of the prediction? He certainly gave the jury much legal advice in summing up, asking us to use our intuition but to also be cautious in reaching a decision. And was the “will” in question the free will of the defendant, one that if found guilty he would lose? I’ll leave that for you to decide.

Where Have All the Sparrows Gone?

100_6578So, where have all the sparrows gone? There’s plenty in my garden, a flock of at least thirty. There always have been lots here, mainly because I feed them all year round and they know I chase the cats away. However, if you wonder where all there rest are, I think I’ve found them, some of them anyway.

Rui Monica NerjaThey’re all over in Spain, at least the ones with any sense are, well, in Nerja anyway. I recently holidayed there, in a lovely hotel, the Rui Monica, on the beachfront. The hotel is Y shaped and within its form is an enclosed patio, only accessed from the basement, 3 floors down from ground level. The patio is surrounded by high walls. Growing within are several tall trees including palms, there is a constant supply of water from the dripping air-conditioning units hanging on these walls and, because of its location, is impervious to the many cats, mostly feral, that roam the resort. Thus, a perfect, safe haven for these delightful birds.

It was at dusk, on our first evening at the hotel, we noticed from our balcony, four floors up from the basement and just above the treetops in this area, hundreds and hundreds of sparrows flying in to take roost for the night here. Once they were perched on the various trees, you could not see them, such was the dense leaf cover. For a good half-hour flocks and flocks of them flew in. Once they had all settled, silence ruled.

Until dawn. The cacophony of these little birds was tremendous as they came awake, chatted and chirped to each other before, in twos and threes, they took off to spend the day wherever they spent the day (many stayed around the hotel gardens and outdoor snack bar). We didn’t mind the noise; we enjoyed the spectacle and it ensured during our ten days there we were never late for breakfast or missed the coach on the few day trips out we took.

I had hoped to take a small movie of their dusk decent on my tablet, but after that first evening, we were never there at the right time to capture it. Always a good reason to go back there, of course, as Nerja is lovely.

To read more of my adventures in Nerja, click here

George’s First Steps: Update

It’s been well over 2 years since our little George had his SDR operation in America so I thought it about time I brought you an update on his progress.

For those not aware of the history of this story, George is my nephew’s 7-year-old son who has cerebral palsy and for whom in 2012 a massive fundraising bid took place in order to pay for this life-changing operation (full story at: http://wp.me/p1q0nb-iH  and on Facebook at Georges First Steps). Since that operation life has been so much better for him and his parents: he goes to a normal school, gets… Click here to read on

Watch The Birdie

Whilst my husband would say I’ve wasted most of this morning, it’s his fault — he bought me the bird feeding station. This morning especially, it’s brought me and the birds a lot of pleasure. I am a bird watcher (not a twitcher), I just love watching them. They are fascinating.

This is the first winter I’ve had the station and the amount of birds drawn into the garden has been wonderful. I’ve always fed the birds — they need help in all seasons — and I’ve always had a flock of sparrows here along with a dunnock, blackbird, wren and blue tits year round. Winter always brings in a blackcap or two, the familiar robin, and occasional thrush and redwings depending on how cold the weather is. This season hasn’t been particularly cold, certainly no snow here (thankfully), yet the birdlife is booming.100_6322

This morning I’ve spent over an hour watching two wrens ­whereas normally only see one darting in and out of the shrubbery. This morning they are gorging themselves on insects and grubs they find in the various flower troughs of bulbs and pansies around the koi pond. It’s such a pity the zoom on my camera isn’t good enough to capture them. One of them has been singing his heart out most of the morning, a gloriously loud song from such a tiny bird.

The robin sees off the blackcap but ignores all the other birds, while the blackcap will see off the sparrows, who generally ignore everyone else. Meanwhile, the dunnock will mind his own business and quite happy to rummage about the undergrowth in search of his fill. At first glance he is very much like a sparrow to look at, but has different coloured legs and behaviour and is always on his own. I’ve never seen him feed off the station, but always pecking on the ground beneath it.

Four blue tits are frequently flitting to and from the peanut feeder and occasionally feasting on the crumbs and bits on the plate feeder; three great tits are also flying in every so often to feed.

Then there’s Waggy, a pied wagtail that struts his stuff around the garden as if he owns it, ignoring the other birds but he’s very nervous and will fly off at any sudden noise or movement.

Instead of just one blackbird, there are four males in the garden this year, two in particular are always together. Despite this, they maintain a distance from each other where the food is concerned, one chasing off the other from his favourite feeding spot. So far, all the bulbs poking through— the hyacinths and bluebells, have been left alone by the slugs and snails, although I’m finding lots of empty snails shells. Thank you, blackbirds. I hope you stay during the rest of the year and keep these pesky pests in control. The snails decimated my hostas last summer despite an all out attack by me. Believe me, eggs shells, grit, coffee don’t work!

A short while ago, a noisy flock of seven long-tailed tits flew in, pecked and fed on the feeder and in the shrubbery before flying off again.

Other rare visitors today were a pair of goldfinches who munched at the seed feeder for several minutes before moving on. Beautiful birds which rarely come into the garden. Wished they’d call more often.

I’ve observed some interesting behaviour from the magpies too today. I know they like shiny things and will steal and hoard them but one here this morning has been taking large beakfulls of food (crumbs and bacon rind) and burying it elsewhere in the garden. I’ve watched him drop the food into various holes on the bare veg patch, then pick up a large stone and drop it in the hole before placing a large twig across the hole, like some sort of marker. I never knew they did this, and am interested to see if and when he comes back to claim his treasure. I don’t mind the magpies as they see off the pigeons, of which we are plagued with here.

So, maybe to some it was a wasted few hours when I should have been doing other more productive things but I don’t care, for what is life if for several minutes we cannot stand and stare and enjoy the beauty in nature around us.

Right, off to make coffee and wile away another half-hour watching the birds.

A Touch of Nostalgia Part 3

Recently, my husband and I have gone in for some 1970s’ retro culture. Well, why not. The 1970s were fun times, colourful times, although I drew the line at flared trousers, fringed jackets and jumpsuits (which, according to the fashion slot on Lorraine this week, are all back in fashion). We’ve bought a lava lamp! And we love it. I had one years ago, back in the 1970s when they were all the rage, only to have it broken some years later when someone picked it up, not realising the lamp was in two parts. The glass fell to the floor and broke. I was sad at the time and couldn’t afford to replace it, nor could the culprit find another to take its place, so I hadn’t really thought much more about it in the ensuing years.

100_6773So here sits our new lamp. Slightly different from the original I owned; that had a copper base and cap, and red glass. The new one has a multi-coloured base and a red, blue and green glass, creating bubbles and bits in all colours. As hypnotic as watching flames in a fire, we spend ages watching it work, the shapes and movement reminding me of the background images that used to be played behind performers at all the concerts I went to during the early 1970s – Quo and Queen, Fat Mattress, Renaissance, Fleetwood Mac – the list is endless and full of happy memories.

It got me thinking of other things from the 1970s I loved, and miss. I remembered I used to have a kinetic ball and wire table decoration. It was black wire with golden balls, the base filled with sand. A simple ornament that swayed and moved in the slightest of breezes as you walked past. I can’t remember what happened to mine; probably got broken at some stage and thrown away without a second thought.

ball ornament

Then there was the dark green pottery vase, almost 3 feet high, from which sprouted a mass of tissue paper flowers, the size of dinner plates. Mine were made by a friend. Big, blousy blooms standing nearly as tall as me that matched my red, orange and yellow geometric lounge curtains and similarly coloured psychedelic rug. The “in thing” to decorate the home at that time, along with tall feathery stems of white pampas grass, which eventually dropped their fine dandelion-like hairy seed heads; a right pain to keep clearing up.paperflowers2

There were real houseplants as well – pink busy lizzies with pale green leaves and stems that grew to humongous proportions – every home seemed to have one. And not forgetting the spider plants, and a cactus or two – cuttings from my mother’s lanky monster called Fred. Whilst you can still get spider plants and cacti, the indoor busy lizzie is no more, thanks to being killed off by a virus or mildew, rather like our outdoor ones have been.

cactus

No doubt, I shall suddenly think of other homey things I had around the house, long forgotten or lost. It’s good to remember these things now and again; they bring a sense of continuance and comfort, spark happy, and sometimes sad, memories and who knows, if I search hard enough I might find them again. Thank goodness for the Internet!

What, if anything, do you miss around the home from that era? I’d love to know.

Tip of the Day:  When boiling potatoes, a few drops of olive oil or a small knob of butter will help prevent the saucepan from boiling over.

Painting Outside My Comfort Zone

100_6752As you probably are aware, I like to paint. It’s a wonderful hobby and given me a lot of fulfilment, but also a lot frustration. This is apparent when a painting doesn’t work out quite as envisaged. Or when my husband, my harshest critic, doesn’t like something I’ve created. His opinion of art is that a painting should be photographic in its image, especially when observed up close. Read more Over the Backyard Fence:  http://wp.me/11di9

Romancing the Stones

Along with two friends, I recently attended a Mind, Body & Spirit show that offered everything from scented candles to palmistry, chakra dancing to eyebrow waxing. Perfectly happy with my eyebrows, I went because I’ve always had a longing to have my palm read or a tarot reading, having an interest in the world of spirit (and not just the alcoholic sort!). That frisson of curiosity… read more 

 

October Morning

It’s hard believing October is nearly at an end, that the clocks went back an hour last weekend and that it’s only some eight weeks to Christmas, especially when this morning I found myself sitting in the garden, drinking coffee and enjoying the birds and the sunshine, and most of all the unseasonally warm temperature here at 9 o’clock this morning. Unheard of for this time of year in England! The garden borders are still looking good, with cosmos (I’ve never known it grow so tall – over 5ft) and dahlias, coreopsis and fuchsias still in a profusion of bloom, even a carnation poking its scarlet head through the flowering oestospermums and the rudebekias are still going strong. Not a breath of wind either, which is most unusual for this garden as we’re high up and invariably there’s always a wind blowing.100_6741

With a second cup of coffee in hand, I watched the robin who’s claimed the garden as his home flit from seed feeder to bird bathe to flowerbeds in his busy hunt for food. He’s getting quite tame now, and even before I’ve turned away from filling up bird tray on the stand each morning, he’s there picking out his favourite morsels from the oats, suet and mealworms before the greedy starlings flock in. A quick drink and he’s up in the holly tree chirping his heart out in competition with the two wrens sitting in the ivy – such little birds with loud voices and beautiful songs. Anyone would think it was spring instead of approaching winter. A pleasant two hours spent listening to the birds chattering, the sparrows vying for a place on the perch of the seed feeder.

But two hours was all I could spend there today, not because of the things indoors I had to do but because at this time of year, the sun has left the patio by 10 o’clock, thrusting the garden into shade for the rest of the day. Another week or so and there will be no sun at all in my back garden until March, so I made the most of it before going back inside and sorting the washing, find the vacuum and the duster. I found them, but then couldn’t be arsed to do any housework. Perhaps tomorrow. Perhaps it will be too cold to sit outside. Perhaps it will be cold enough to turn on the central heating, put on an extra layer of clothing and think of the glorious days we’ve had this summer. On the other hand…

A Gardener’s Delight

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We might now be in August, but you certainly wouldn’t believe it with the weather the last few days; there’s a distinct autumnal chill in the air early mornings and not warm enough (for me) to sit outside, but the forecasters say it is only a blip. Meanwhile, thanks to the wonderful invention of photography, I can at least sit back and admire the garden as it’s been these past few months – it’s been glorious!

100_6648It’s been one of our best for colour. Dave and I love colour; not for us the subtle tones and pastels as we love big and bold and bright and the unusual. We happily plant pink and yellow flowers together – they look great and, let’s be honest here, nature doesn’t pick and choose and colour co-ordinate. And the yellow rudbeckia planted next to a pink phlox and overhung with a blue clematis works for me!

100_6599This year we have planted the hanging baskets and pots with begonias, the showy, blousy sort I never used to like but I have been converted. It is a pity the winds and heavy rains of recent days have knocked them about a bit but they should recover. The dahlias, many of which have been grown from last year’s seeds, have not failed us. The bees love them and so do we.

Other plant100_6603100_6456s in pots include pelargoniums (or geraniums as they used to be called), particularly pink ones, and complimented by black pansies. These have proved a lovely foil for many plants and ones we will grow next year.

Also we’ve included lots of white nicotianias in the borders. Not by design, more by luck. These have all germinated from those we grew in planters last year – plants for free and, again, a perfect backdrop to bring the colours of other plants particularly in the shadier parts of the garden.

Best of all has been the wild flowers. A couple of packets of seeds strewn in the bare patches where I have removed unwanted or thug plants and bingo! A plethora of flowers have been growing non-stop for weeks.

100_6356100_6541100_6608Many of these wild flowers I do not recognise, others I’ve not seen for many a year, and I shall let them all set seed and fling themselves around the garden in the hope they will come again next year. Plants such as corn cockles, marigolds, love-in-a-mist (white, pink and various shades of blue), candy tufts and violas, snapdragons (although I know them as bunny rabbits!), cornflowers in blue and pink, poppies and many, many more I do not know and need to find out. I just hope I can buy the same seed mix next year.

The bees and insects have been loving all this although what is missing is the numbers of butterflies seen, way down from last year. Just a few red admirals and painted ladies, the odd comma, spotted wood, a holly blue, and very few cabbage whites – a good thing as it’s meant there’s been few eggs laid on the nasturtiums and thus no caterpillars to destroy the leaves, that’s been left for me to cut back to allow the flowers to be seen. I wonder if the lack of butterflies after last year’s plethora has been caused by the wet spring we had. There must have been lots eggs, chrysalises and caterpillars about. Did most get washed away, drowned or destroyed in the floods and rain?

100_6542On the plus side, I’ve had many birds visiting, thanks in part to the new feeding station, but also I think because of the extra insects thanks to the wild flowers. Apart from my resident sparrow flock, now numbering over 30 that congregate and sleep in my firethorn, along with the usual robin, blackbirds, wren and tits always flitting about, I’ve had goldfinc100_6485hes and chiff chaffs as regular visitors this year.

Yes, it’s been a good summer so far and there’s much still to come. It’ll soon be time to gather stock and decide what add, what to move or to change for next year. I’m hoping the sun will come back soon so I can put my feet up sitting in the shade on the patio, enjoying the sights, smells and sounds of my little patch of heaven.

101 Things to do with Cucumbers…

…well, maybe not 101, but there’s certainly more to this fruit than sliced in a salad. And yes, cucumbers are fruits.

This year, we’ve grown a dwarf variety, two plants which are cropping ridiculously well. If we’d only grown one plant, it would surely have died, as in previous years, but this summer we are awash with them, cropping 5-6 a day. The Bee Gees may have had a Cucumber Castle (how many of you can recall that film, I wonder?) but we have a cucumber mountain!

100_6552

Today’s crop

I’m all for eating 5 a day, but I don’t think that it meant 5 cucumbers! Oh heck, what to do with them all? I’ve given plenty away, and eating the rest as best and as fast I can in the hope that like the cucumber, it will make me tall and thin, and most probably turning green as a result.

My dear English granny would always and only serve cucs thinly sliced and soaking in malt vinegar – not for me. It seems that was the only way the British ate them, apart from sliced into thin, brown bread sandwiches so beloved of the English garden party and tea at the Ritz!

These cucs, as fat as the normal ones but only much shorter, are too big to pickle and preserve like gherkins, so apart from making tons one of my favourite Greek dishes -tzatziki (yogurt, crushed garlic, and cucumber) and adding them to every sandwich and salad, I’m also been happy to use them as a side dish vegetable with a cooked meal. You may wonder if I’ve gone a little mad, but this dish is one eaten often in Germany, and one my mother showed me how to prepare. It’s simple and delicious and goes very well with hot food such as casseroles or steak or chicken (think KFC chicken with coleslaw). It’s especially good with fish dishes and one I always make when serving trout.

Cucumber Salad

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Cucumber Salad

Simply peel cuc and thinly slice, add a finely chopped onion, and toss in mayonnaise. Serve within half-an-hour or the water in the cuc will thin down the mayo too much. If you do want to make this more in advance, slice the cuc, put into a colander, sprinkle with salt, and press down with a heavy weight, ie a brick on a plate, to extract the juice. Then, before adding the other two ingredients, pat the cuc slices dry on a clean tea towel or kitchen paper.

That still leaves me with a mountain to conquer, so yesterday I attempted making cucumber soup. If leek and potato soup can be eaten hot or cold (even if it is renamed vichyssoise), I thought why not give it a go. I love cold soups, gazpacho being a favourite frequently made in the summer. Cuc soup didn’t disappoint. Hot or cold, it was lovely and simple to make. I enjoy making soups as you can use anything and especially useful in using up those bits and pieces lurking in the fridge. As long as you have the basics: potato and onion, you don’t have to fuss with weighing and measuring everything either.

Cucumber Soup

100_6528Using approximately equal volumes of cucumber, potato and onions (spring onions, including the green parts, also work) simply the peel the two veg, chop into chunks then sweat these two in saucepan in a little butter or oil for a few minutes before adding cubed cuc – no need to peel.

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Add  enough water or vegetable stock to cover (I used the water my runner beans were cooked in the previous day – full of goodness and flavour), place lid on saucepan and bring to a gentle boil before turning down heat to a simmer for approx. 10­ to 15 mins or until veg and cuc tender. Then add in some chopped lettuce, such as cos or little gem, and cook for a further 5 mins.

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Add salt and pepper to taste and if you wish, a flurry of chopped fresh parsley. Allow to cool slightly before blitzing with blender until smooth. Serve hot or cold with a swirl of cream or yoghurt. If reheating, do not allow to boil.

This is one I will definitely be making again.

Making a Comeback

SURPRISE! Have you missed me? Where has the time gone? Actually, it’s gone so blooming quickly I can’t believe my last blog post was September 2013. So much has happened and gone on it’s difficult to know where to begin. I won’t bother you too much with details, suffice to say if you really want to catch up with what’s been happening in my world these past months, you are more than welcome to pop your head Over The Backyard Fence and read my monthly missives there.

It’s been a chaotic and difficult time, I have to admit, a few health issues, a major project that I’ve been working on and keeping under wraps, as well as a few problems and incidents plus a major, milestone birthday earlier this year, all of which left me feeling very depleted and down. I’m not by nature a person to succumb to depression but I did hit a low point, only to bounce slowly back. The warm weather now has certainly helped, and as I sit in the garden typing this, I can honestly say, “I’m back!”

Pink FlowersIt’s not been all doom and gloom – my life’s not like that. On the plus side, I’ve sold several paintings and, fingers and paint brushes crossed, hopefully secured a coCreek Cottagemmission for a large landscape, so watch this space. I’ve created a new blog/website for my art, due to go live in the next few weeks, and meanwhile have been working hard finishing a novel or two –  “Finishing”, being the operative word. The past few months have been a time for reflection, evaluation and redefining the path my life is taking and I am now at the point where I am moving forward, taking a different route, and getting back to enjoying life to the full.

You might have noticed I’ve dropped off the radar on Twitter too. I think I got bored with it, plus it takes up sooo much time and nothing achieved or gained. I mean, doesn’t anyone “talk” on Twitter any more? All I see is a constant bombardment of “Buy my book”, or words to that effect. What’s happened to all the jokes and fun and light hearted banter that used to go on? – which was why I joined in the first place. Okay, I’m a writer too and a book person, but I don’t want books, books, books 24/7. The same with Facebook. Okay, most of the changes there are FB’s own doing. They keep changing it, moving things around and, well, ruining what was a good thing. Not much I can do about that.

So, what do I have planned for my blog? A promise (to myself) to blog more often, to get back to writing about the things that are important to me and articles on any subject which I hope will be of interest to my readers. I’ve some recipes to put up, gardening features and, well, back to what it was when I first began.

100_6381I mentioned I’m in my garden. It’s had a bit of sorting out year, with many shrubs pulled out, plants divided and moved and it’s beginning to come into its summer glory thanks to a packet of wild flower seeds costing £1 from Lidl, and scattered all around the garden. I think every seed has come up and with a promise of much more to come. Will certainly buy that again. I haven’t done as much to it as I’d planned though – lousy weather and lousy joints have put 100_6380paid to a lot of that, and the cost of shrubs in the garden centres – extortionate this year! Still, there’s always next and I already have a lot mapped out for spring 2015. I’ve also got a new bird feeder which the birds are loving and I love because it brings them much closer to the patio and means in winter I won’t have to venture across muddy, wet, frozen grass to get to.

Well, that’s about it for now.  Hope you all come back soon.

Talking about Tricia Jones….

tricia jonesOne of the most popular genres in reading matter for women is Contemporary Romance, and one author whose work I always enjoy is multi-published Tricia Jones.If you’ve never read her books, you are missing a real treat, for she writes with flair, style and plenty of dry humour in characters that will hold you captive to the end – by which time you can’t help but want to fall into bed with … click here to read on…9781909734043

Through the Garden Gate

It’s been ages since I last blogged here but life and business have been hectic with little free time despite the virtual holiday I had last month (you can read all about that here!) Summer is now heading towards autumn (boo hoo) but what a glorious one it’s turned out to be here in the UK and the garden has certainly rewarded us with its glory.

To think we went from this:

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to this:

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Last year’s weather was a washout and this year was forecast to be the same yet Mother Nature has a way of recovering and boy, did she! From a superb display of daffodils and stupendous tulips:

100_5817100_5830to being eventually entertained, if about a month late, with the most wonderful array of poppies, peonies and foxgloves leading into a hot, colourful display all round. One foxglove grew to over 6 foot tall.

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pruned foxgloves

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But not everything faired well. The fuchsias haven’t been good, the columbines peaked all at once and were over within a week and my two tall, all-summer-long varieties were blown over in the strong winds we have here. As the plants flourished, so did the snails to decimate my hostas – their leaves are like lace curtains although the flower spikes survived. We aren’t plagued with slugs, thankfully. We have an army of frogs that keeps them in check. The roses have re-bloomed three times now, and we have never had such a glorious or long display of sweet peas. I’m still picking them.

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The rear garden is still dazzling splash of colour with many pots and hanging baskets,

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and the new lilies we found, in red, yellow and white, were exotic but each flower only lasted a day.

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The good weather enabled me to get in the garden more, enjoy my early 7:00 am coffee out there and it’s been wonderful being able to sit outside all day and work whilst enjoying the sights, sounds and perfumes.

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Along with the glorious flowers we have taken much pleasure this year in the wildlife that’s come back to the garden. We came across our first slow worm for many a year, although he nearly got chopped up by the lawnmower!

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Dragonflies have been in abundance, as have the butterflies (read more about the butterflies in Over the Backyard Fence), moths including the fascinating humming bird hawk moth, crickets and bees – I never realised there were so many different sizes and varieties of bumble bees, from tiny “baby” ones to huge fat, long haired ginger ones. Certainly no shortage in my garden.

What we haven’t had this year is the plague of flying ants we normally get in July, nor wasps.

Soon it will be time to put it all to bed and dream of next summer. I’ve great plans for the garden. Much has to come out as it has become crowded, many larger plants need dividing, ie the astilbe and hosta, most of the irises and crocosmia will be thinned out so I can put in a wider variety of perennials and shrubs, and several larger shrubs must come out altogether as they are taking up too much room and creating far too much shade, apart from which they are not the colour they were supposed to be when purchased, but they have served their purpose and given the birds handy perches whilst waiting to feed.

Ooops, spoke too soon. A wasp has just landed in my glass of wine. Oh well, at least he’s died happy and merry. Best go and get rid of him and refill my glass.

So cheers, here’s to a wonderful summer. Thank you, garden, for giving me such a good one this year.

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George’s First Steps: A Special Message

Wanted share this is a special message from George:

Thank you Dr TS Park and Dr Matthew Dobbs for giving me the chance to stand on my feet and be like my friends xxx

Enjoy the video people: www.youtube.com/watch?v=KgXU_sjw7Z8

George has only just learnt to push his walker himself after 6.5 months of hard, hard work so what he will achieve in this next 6 months is too exciting to think about. To think that when he was born his parents found out he had quadriplegic cerebral palsy doctors said he would never walk, talk or know who anyone was…….well hasn’t he proved them wrong!!!

 

GEORGE’S FIRST STEPS: UPDATE

As promised, here is an update on the progress of our little George since his life-changing SDR operation to help him cope with cerebral palsy that took place in America six months ago.

Six months? Yes, it’s really been that long and what a difference to his and his parents lives. He still needs help when using his walker as it is heavy for him, but each day he gets stronger with the physio and exercises that must continue daily. Each day there is improvement, and like all children, he gets his off days but he comes bouncing back. To think, six months ago he couldn’t sit unaided, spent a lot of his time on the floor, shuffling on his stomach to get anyway, and struggled to do the simplest of tasks we take for granted. Not any more. He’s gained so much independence, even having friends from school in to play and taking part in the school nativity play at Christmas; his speech is improving, and his cheekiness and sense of fun is as wonderful as ever, if not more so.

Rather than go on listing his achievements, his proud parents have put together a video which I hope you’ll take a few minutes of day to look at here. I’ve watched it several times and still my eyes fill with tears at what has been made possible by each and every one of you who donated and helped to make this possible. The closing statement on the video says it all…

An Amazing Lady

Many may recall how last year, I set about losing weight in a sponsored slim to help send my little great-nephew, George, to America for a life-changing operation to help him cope with cerebral palsy. The operation was a major success and I will bring you an update on his progress very soon. I managed to lose 2 stones. It wasn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination, particularly as there are many food groups I cannot eat a lot of, and some I have to avoid altogether. I’m still very much overweight. I never used to be, I was a skinny child, as my family can testify; I only had issues with my weight following the birth of my daughter some 40+ years ago. But this post isn’t about me; it’s about someone I wish I had met twelve months ago, if not before.

JUSTINE FORREST (PROMO SHOOT 07.02.2013)

Four years ago she was morbidly obese, barely able to walk a few yards, and experienced many indignities only us big people can. She’s happily married with three lovely children, two of whom have serious medical conditions. It was her love and concern about them that finally persuaded her to do something about her weight once and for all, otherwise she wouldn’t be about much longer to care for them.

So she devised an eating plan, something that was easy to follow, didn’t cost a fortune in expensive or special foods, with recipes which provided nourishing home-cooked meals that all the family can enjoy. And the weight started to fall away. It was only after having lost a considerable amount of weight that Justine could start to exercise, mainly walking the family dog regularly. But what a difference now – Justine now does regular exercise and with her husband runs marathons, fundraising to support the two charities that have helped her in the care of her children, and are running in the London Marathon this April. I certainly will be supporting and sponsoring them.

Justine loves to cook and bake cakes, something that doesn’t help when trying to lose weight. As the weigh fell, her confidence and courage grew, so much so she applied to appear on one of the reality cookery shows on TV, taking part in and going on to win Michael Winner’s Dining Stars in 2010, culminating in cooking a dinner party in Michael Winner’s home for guests Sir Roger Moore and Lady Moore, Andrew Neil, Giorgio Locatelli, Christine Bleakley and Kym Marsh. Wow! This led to several further TV appearances on Harry Hill’s TV Burp and on GMTV.

JUSTINE FORREST (PROMO SHOOT 07.02.2013)

Spurred on by this and praise for her chocolate brownies, Justine set up her own bakery business online (Brownies by Justine Forrest)and supplying outlets and restaurants in her region. Having tasted these brownies, I can assure you they are heaven. My husband’s comment after eating one was, “Tell her she should sell them online, they’re fantastic. Best I’ve ever eaten!”  They are. You simply must try them! Justine now gives regular talks at food shows and on radio and demonstrates regularly – just this week appearing at the Ideal Home Show in London. She also appears regularly at the Wellbeing Farm in her home region.

Justine is so full of enthusiasum for what she does, it rubs off; it certainly has on me, with a JJ Final Cover Smallzest for life she wants to help others in the position she was in. In her own words (no ghost writer for Justine!) she has written an honest, moving and heart-warming account – Justine’s Journey – of how and why she achieved such a weight loss, as well as telling what goes on behind the scenes of a reality TV show. She tells of the many heartbreaking moments in her life, told with such open passion and raw emotion, it made me cry in places, along with many ups and the downs along the way. In the book shares her “Plan”.

Hear why Justine wrote her book

This isn’t just another diet book, it’s a way of life full of tasty, easy to follow recipes, lots of tips and hints, and so full motivation and inspiration it can help anyone achieve a complete change in their life. It’s certainly encouragement enough for me to lose some more weight. If Justine can do it, so can I.

But you know what is even more encouraging in all this, Justine’s Plan allows for cake. Yes, cake! What’s not to like about following her Plan? Give it a try. I’m on it now!
Buy Justine’s Journey (available at all Amazon sites)

Website: www.justineforrest.co.uk

Facebook www.facebook.com/justine.b.forrest

Twitter https://twitter.com/JustineForrest

Introducing Author Gina Rossi and Her New Novel

Gina Rossi 3

Over on ShowCase today, I’m delighted to introduce the lovely Gina Rossi, and talk about her fabulous new novel published recently on Kindle by ThornBerry Publishing. First, a few words from Gina herself.

“Originally from South Africa, I am lucky now to live and write full-time on the French Riviera – not as glamorous as it sounds in the rain-lashed, gale-thrashed month of March.  Read more…

Final Cover LA6R with frame

English Flapjacks

Today, a beautiful sunny morning,  put me in the mood not for spring cleaning but for baking a cake. But what?  Inspiration! Suddenly the thought of flapjacks sprung to mind. Haven’t made them for years. Uses only one pan or bowl, takes minutes to make.  So here goes.

Recipe

100_5768Grease tray bake tin (mine’s 9×13″ but you can use any tin, even two sandwich tins or a small roasting dish). I line the tin to avoid scratching it when I slice the cooked flapjacks.

Oven set to 170C fan or 180C normal/350F or Reg 4.

Into large saucepan melt 6 or 7 tbsp of Golden Syrup   (recipe called for 6 but as it always sticks to the spoon, I add an extra one) and 200g butter (any sort). This could be done in a microwave using large bowl. When butter melted, stir in 340g  porridge oats plus a pinch of salt. Mix well.  This is the basic, standard plain recipe. But you know me, I like to be different. I also stirred in a handful of chocolate chips, 1 tbsp of cocoa powder and 2 tbsp of luxury mixed fruit.

Pour mixture in to tin and spread evenly. Push any exposed fruit into mixture to avoid burning. Pop in oven for 20-25 mins until golden. It will still feel soft when it comes out of oven but it’s supposed to, as it firms up on cooling.

Place tin on cooling rack (I use the metal grid from my grill pan) and cut flapjacks into portions but do not remove from tin. Allow to cool completely before removing. These keep well in an airtight tin, and one (all right, two) mid morning with my coffee (in the garden today!) went down a treat. I have to say, they were delicious!

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Hard luck, Dave, I’ll make you a chocolate cake next week.

Showcase: Simon Hacker

Simon HackerToday on Showcase, I am delighted to introduce fellow Thornberry author Simon Hacker with his recently released debut novel, an exciting thriller set in Scotland.  Polar Nights.

Simon cut his teeth as a cub reporter with the Gloucestershire Gazette but soon sped off at full throttle for a life as a motoring and travel writer, working for the Sunday Times, the Guardian and a broad spread of magazines. Read more…

I Hate Winter!

Garden snow small

January 2013

It’s official. I hate winter. Always have. Always will. I hate always being cold – but I’m that during the summer too, even my husband will tell you I’m the only one he knows who can be  under a tropical sun on a beach in Barbados and still have goosebumps! I hate wearing layers and layers of clothes which, in turn, means there’s far more washing in the winter, and how the hell are you supposed to get it all dry? Thank goodness for the tumble drier. No, I much prefer to feel the sun on my skin, only happy when I can wander about all day in a floaty cotton kaftan, when I’m not hungry all the time, and when don’t have to rush to the loo every five minutes to spend a penny.

Winter Wonderland

Here’s one I did earlier

And pretty as it might look, I absolutely hate snow. We’ve had our fill here yet more is forecast this weekend. The only good thing about snow is that it makes for some nice landscapes to paint.

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By the gate 1 February 2013

So, thank goodness January is over, always the worst month of the year, and we are now into February. On the first of this month, the snow had melted, the sun was out and it was mild, so I took a walk around the country estate garden, to see what  was happening. And joy of joys, the snowdrops were out, as were some crocus. Last year, these were in flower on New Year’s Day, so they are only one month late.

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1 February 2013

The daffodils by the hedge stood a foot high and buds showing that first tinge of yellow. The hellebores were nodding their pretty mauve, red, white and two-tone heads and the primroses were out. The hyacinths were up, as were the first leaves of the bluebells.

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My favourite hellebore in flower 1Feb 2013

In few weeks the forsythia hedge will be blossoming, and I see as I look through the gap between the houses opposite to the wood, the trees are showing hints of green. Yes, spring is definitely edging in. Yippee. And in a few more weeks’ time, hopefully, I can enjoy breakfast and morning coffee in the garden again. Bring it on, I say!

I Believe I Can Fly…

I believe I fly, I believe I can…  Well, I used to be able to fly, without wings, without an aeroplane. Honest! I used to fly around our sitting room back at my childhood home. I’d stand on the back of the settee, hold my arms out and whoosh… I’d be off, gliding around the room at little below ceiling height. And a few years later, I began to fly outside. Free as a bird. Up over the treetops, over the ocean, higher than the mountains.  Weeeeee – it was fun. No, I’m not a bird.

And, no, I’m not mad.

This habit continued for many years. It was a nice feeling. A sense of freedom. Escape. And oh so remember doing it, so I couldn’t have been dreaming. You don’t remember dreams, least not as far back as forty to fifty years, do you? Come on, hands up. Who amongst you can seriously say they can remember their dreams? Okay, may be the odd one or two; perhaps last night’s or that particularly weird one you had last month, after all that turkey and port.  Dreams are normally gone and forgotten by morning.

So, what was it that caused me to be able to fly? Fairy dust, like Rudolf? Magic mushrooms, like the hippies in the Swinging Sixties? Waccy baccy? Well, no, none of these things, although close. And it only occurred to me not so very long ago why I could fly. Why it was real. Why it happened.

You see, I was always a sickly child. Had chronic asthma since a baby and plagued with tonsillitis for years until they were removed, suffered with a grumbling appendix until that was whipped out – I won’t continue the list or else I’ll sound like that loony old biddy next door, always rattling on about aches and pains to Mrs Miggins over the fence.

dreamstimefree_226342Now, where was I? … oh yes, flying.

The secret to being able to perform such acrobatic aerodynamics was that for all those years I was on a cocktail of drugs. On such a mixture of medicines and steroids it’s a wonder I am anywhere near as sane as I am.  Least, I think I’m sane. If you’re reading this you’ll probably be convinced by now I’m not. No, being able to soar like an eagle and flying without wings were certainly not dreams. They were out-and-out hallucinations. Not so much loop-de-loop as loop-de-flipping loopy.

I think it was all the stuff they were giving me to treat the asthma. Back then, back in the 1950s, Ventolin didn’t exist. That didn’t come on the scene until 1968, so goodness knows what they pumped into me. Mine is caused by physical activity, even walking can bring it on. My condition got so bad I readily volunteered to became a willing guinea pig, anxious to try anything to be rid of it. Nothing worked. Never did, never has. If my mother realised at the time that these fanciful excursions around the living room I was enjoying were happening, I know she would have banned any further drug testing on me. And there came a time in the mid 1970s when we did finally call a halt to any more trials.  I still suffer with it, that and several other conditions I have to live with, with but it is controlled. I know my limits, and flying isn’t one of them. The sad thing is, now I know I can’t really fly, I’ve never had that experience again.

A shame really. I would dearly love to fly away from cold, rain and snow sodden England. Now, where would I go, I wonder…?

Great Cover Reveal

Stephanie KeyesToday over on Showcase, I have pleasure in being able to reveal the new cover for Stephanie’s Keyes’s new novel, the second in her Star Child series, The Fallen Stars, along with a great giveaway and a chance to win copies of her novels. Stephanie’s debut novel was a wonderful YA fantasy, receiving great reviews… more

Looking Back at 2012

Well, here we are again, another full year at home since being made redundant two years ago. And what a difference a year has made.

That first year I achieved exceedingly little, spending most of my time feeling guilty and unsettled, uncertain and unsure what to do with my life, knowing I was too old to find a good job again and, thanks to the Government, my pension pushed back even further to when I’m 65, which I’m not, not yet, I’m still in my fifties, all be it late.

So what has happened during 2012? Lots. Mega lots. The year started with my husband having his hip replaced, a long 14-week recovery at home with me wearing my matron’s hat. He’s made a complete and full recovery – a new man! Then there was the birth of another great niece, little Evie, such a cheerful, cute little soul and an absolute delight to her parents and grandparents.

I suppose the biggest change has been that I have set up a small business, working from home dealing with books, editing and publishing and creating book covers. It keeps me busy, and although I’m not showing any profit yet, that will hopefully come in time. I don’t want it too big anyway; my days as the dynamic business woman are long gone – I’ve been down that route before in a past life and much prefer to keep things small. At least for the moment.

What didn’t help was the dreadful, bad blip, when we were defrauded out of almost £10,000 in a car buying scam. Oh, the police and fraud squad were very helpful and supportive but I will never get my money back, the fraud squad deeming it was too little a sum to warrant them spending further resources on. Still, once bitten… and we have moved on from it, can even laugh about it now, at how my husband had been so gullible, and at how I should have done all the checks I normally do before handing over money. What it did mean was that I couldn’t invest more in my new business, unable to do all the advertising I’d intended, but hey ho, that will rectify itself as the business progresses and grows, which it is doing. And more to the point, I’m loving every moment of it.

April saw the publication of my novel, Every Step of the Way, both in paperback and on Kindle, and a booksigning in our local Waterstones. Not sure I would do it again, though. I plan to see at least another published this year, if not two. They are written, complete, it’s now a matter of finding time to work on them, what with the business.

The Bridge (1)In June, I took part in the Loveahappyending.com Summer Audience held in Tetbury, where I hosted two writing workshops and held my first “public” art exhibition, selling two paintings (surprise!). Everyone who came enjoyed the day and hopefully another will be planned. I’ve not done a lot of paintings this year, time is in short supply but I’ve managed a few, including this one, completed over the Christmas break.

view from villaAugust saw me take my last villa holiday with my sisters and our mum, going to Corfu. Mum has decided she won’t come away again due to her age (87 coming up) and the fact that both my sisters have retired (well, one has, the other twin finishes in this July), so our finances will no longer stretch to the expense of hiring a private villa abroad, although us three sisters do hope we will get away again sometime, whether to a hotel or descend upon my brother and sister-in-law in Spain. Who knows? Of course, if we win the lottery, then it’s a different matter … (Hope, Pray, Beg). Of course, nothing can match the beautiful view we had from the villa this year at Kassiopi. Pure Bliss

The King (1)Of course, there was one thing that virtually dominated all of last year­ – that was the massive George’s First Steps campaign to raise funds to send my great nephew to America for a lifechanging operation to treat his cerebral palsy to get him walking. We succeeded, and some, the £55,000 needed surpassed to the sum of £80,000, enough to look after his needs for many years and to allow his parents time now to enjoy life doing normal things a family does now the worry and pressure has gone. The operation was sucessful and George is progressing daily. One highlight this Christmas was George being a king in his school’s nativity play. He loved every moment!

So, all in all, it’s been a good year. A wet one, yes, but a good one nonetheless. Quite how 2013 will pan out is anyone’s guess but I think it’s safe to say I have moved on from the woman I was back at the beginning of 2011.

Christmas, Coffee and Song

Christmas for many is a time of excitement, expectation and merriment, a gathering of families to share and enjoy good food and the exchanging of gifts along with the sanctity and ritual of traditions, be they religious or familial. It is also a time of reflection, remembering those who are no longer with us, and those that cannot be with us for whatever reason.

It is at this time of year when I always miss my father most. He loved everything about Christmas, the pains he took in making our toys when we were little – the wooden forts and dolls houses and prams; all the secrecy, the pleasure he obviously took in finding the right things for us all, and the fun I know he had in putting up all the decorations and dressing the tree on Christmas Eve after us four children had gone to bed. He also took charge of bringing home and cooking the turkey.

One pleasure he took was in taking us all to see the Christmas lights along the Great West Road at Brentford, where we lived. Near to the Gillette factory was Firestone Tyres factory, which had a long, lawned frontage that to us children seemed to go for miles. Every year the factory put up a fantastic display of lights: trees, sleighs and all sorts. It was a magical sight and I continued this evening excursion with my own daughter, much to her delight.

Lights at Firestones. Copyright Clive Warneford

Lights at Firestones. Copyright Clive Warneford

Christmas is for children, the magic for me seeing the pleasure in their smiling faces as they see displays, the decorated tree, and that wonderful moment of pure joy when they rip open their presents.

Each year in late November, Oma, my German grandmother, would send over a parcel of Christmas goodies. These always included Advent calendars, our presents, and lots of foodstuffs that were not available at that time (back in 1950s and 60s) in England: things such as Stollen, Lebkuchen and Lebkuchenherzen (iced gingerbread hearts). She always sent candy canes – something normally associated with the USA. The origin of striped candy canes comes from Germany when these treats made to represent a shepherd’s crook were given out to children when leaving church at Christmas time.

There is one special tradition I now continue although at the time we came across this, it had nothing to do with Christmas but is now the time of year I preserve the memory of my father. One year, my husband treated my parents, my daughter and me to a holiday cruise down the Rhine in Germany. It was Easter time, and an incredibly hot one at that. One of the towns along the river we visited was Rudesheim, where they make Asbach Uralt– a type of brandy, and one of my favourite tipples (when I can get hold of it!). It was here we were introduced to Rudesheimer coffee – a type of “Irish” coffee, with a difference. Dad couldn’t get enough of it, insisting on this whenever we had coffee during that trip. Years later, when he and my mother spent many Christmases with us, I would make Dad his Rudesheimer coffee in memory of that lovely trip together. And each year at Christmas I still make myself one. Okay, maybe two or three over the festive break. I have included the recipe here. Unlike the spirited after-meal coffees we are used to in the UK, this one is served in a large mug, or, as I have, a special cup and saucer bought in Germany for the purpose of. I hope you give it a try.

Meanwhile in a time of reflection and sadness following several sad happenings recently, here is my tribute to the dreadful shootings in America last week:

Wishing everyone an enjoyable, peaceful and safe Christmas.

Introducing Author Nina Milton

Nina 2I am delighted today to welcome over on ShowCase fellow ThornBerry author Nina Milton on this, the launch day of her novel Tough Luck. Nina is no stranger to writing for children. Not only does she hold an MA in creative writing, she works as a tutor and writer for the Open College of the Arts, is a prize-winning short story writer, and the author of several children’s books, including Sweet’n’Sour and Intergalactic Holiday.  …Click HERE to read full article…

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UPDATE – George’s First Steps

Put out the bunting, cue the fanfare – because he’s home. Our little George is home from America, and I am pleased to say everything went well and he will shortly be returning to school.

“Look at the determination on my face! I had a great therapy session with daddy this morning ending with 30 steps…..I am trying :)”

The operations were successful and he is now on his way to a new phase of his life thanks to everyone’s generosity in donating to the fund to send him to the St Louis Children’s Hospital in Missouri for the  operations, generosity that far exceeded the target and thus funds are secured to cover all his therapy and physio etc for the next seven years.

So, what has happened? The operations were to remove the spasticity in his legs and now begins the long, hard work as he learns to walk, step by step. A bit more each day. It’s tough going for him but he’s one determined little boy, as this photo shows. And with determination like that, he will not fail.

The scissoring of George’s legs has completely gone, and he full range of movement in his feet, legs and hips now, which is great. He can move his feet up and down, can side sit, sit up and go into a crab position and even touch his own toes – a first for him. He can stand and take his own weight and has managed to walk thirty steps – something we never thought we’d see. George is going to improve a lot more and everyone is excited to see what he achieves. The surgeon has said that George will walk with the walker and there is a possibility they will be able to get him on sticks when he returns to the States in twelve months’ time. George also sleeps soundly through the night now (well, most nights) and no longer wakes up grouchy because he’s stiff and sore, and his speech is improving.

“Look, Mum, I can touch my toes now!”

Everything is positive and we are really proud of him – he’s been such a brave boy who didn’t complain once during all of this; he’s not lost that infectious smile and laugh.

Thank you so much Dr Park for changing George’s life (and his parents) in such a positive way. Already the changes we see are going to make such a huge difference and we can’t wait to see how much more he achieves.

 

A Blast From the Past

I suppose I was fortunate to grow up always having a television in my life, and although it played a part in my home, it is the radio programmes of my childhood that I remember the most. It was always on, it seemed, and how many reading this now can remember listening to Radio Luxembourg on little transistor radios under the bedcovers? (“That’s Keynsham, spelt K-E-Y-N-S-H-A-M”.) I would also listen to I’m Sorry I’ll Read That Again, when I should have been sleeping. Sundays were filled with Family Favourites followed by the Billy Cotton Band Show, or Much Minding in the Marsh, The Navy Lark, the Goon Show and such. But it was Saturday morning radio that really remains in my head, for then Children’s Favourites with Uncle Mac would be on …“Hello, children, everywhere.”

Children and adults could write in for requests to play the songs so beloved by us kids, songs and music you just don’t hear any more. They were fun, innocent sing-along tunes never to be forgotten such as:                   

Tubby the Tuba
Sparky and His Magic Piano
The Runaway Train
Nellie the Elephant
Peter and the Wolf
The Ugly Duckling
Big Rock Candy Mountain
Three Billy Goats Gruff
Three Little Fishes
Little White Bull
There’s A Hole In My Bucket
I’m A Pink Toothbrush
My Brother
Puff the Magic Dragon
On Top of Spaghetti
Hello Mudda, Hello Fadda
Beep Beep (The Bubblecar Song)
The Happy Wanderer
The Ugly Bug Ball
I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly

Oh, I could go on and on, there are so many classics, so many wonderful childhood memories. How many do you remember and what song was your favourite? Did you used to listen to Uncle Mac? Did you ever write in for a request? I do think it’s such a shame there’s nothing similar for children on the radio nowadays.

If you’ve a moment or a mind to re-live a bit of the 1950s and 1960s, I’ve come across a brilliant website that is a marvellous radio and radio programmes of those times and great for doing a spot of research too! Called Whirligig, do check it out.

Hocus Pocus – Mischief is Afoot

Wow is me. Wow is me.  Oops, wrong book. Double, double toil and trouble. Fire burn and cauldron bubble … Yes, folks it’s that time of year again approaching when witches pick up their broomsticks and the dead rise again. When pumpkins have their insides ripped out and…and…  and kids just wanna have fun!

And so do us writers! Which is why tomorrow a coven or two of us (especially that Janice Horton, whose great idea this was) are stirring up mischief and mayhem to celebrate Halloween with some spellbinding fun, the magic of which will be produced with a list of ingredients to boil up a recipe and spell of our choosing. So, what do I want to make happen. This needs a lot of thinking about…

Wealth and riches?  Yes, that would be nice.

A voice that can sing and charm the angels? Mmmm, even nicer.

A handsome stud who can woo, romance and keep me happy? Nah, already have one of those. (Note, I didn’t say “young”.)

A housekeeper and maid to do all my cleaning and bidding and ironing? Had one before, was good, so a strong possibility

A house in the sun, preferably Greece? Now you’ve got me!

Good health? Wouldn’t we all like that?

Be famous, or infamous, or a bit of both? You’ve got me there again.

Chocolate with zero calories? Oooh, now there’s a thought.

A wine lake, or gin and tonic fountain? Oh… the buzzing of the bees and the cigarette trees, the soda water fountain … Seems like I’ve been on the G&T already.

Heck, it’s so difficult to decide. Needs more thought, and more G&T, and you’ll have to come back tomorrow, same time, same channel, to find out what I conjurer up.

Now, where was I? Oh yes, the shopping list: one ear of bat, three toenail of goat, a big dollop of laughter…

So, what magic spell did I cook up: find out here

The Day Has Come: George’s First Steps

Getting ready for surgery

By the time you read this, our little George will be in theatre undergoing his life-changing SDR surgery at St Louis Hospital, Missouri. He is only there thanks to every single one of you who has donated towards the £55,000 needed to send him and his parents across the Atlantic for this monumentous moment. Not only did we reach target, it was exceeded beyond all hopes to £80,000! This means the continued physio he will need as he grows will be paid for the next seven years and means for the first time in five years, his parents, Nicki and Gary, can sit back, relax and start really enjoying life with their son.

George and his surgeon

George’s surgeon has said George is very stiff in his legs but was pleased to see the movement George was capable of doing. He says surgery will really help George – he will be able to sit on a chair or stool, his scissoring will stop, his left arm will really improve and he will walk with a frame in all environments!!! He will need a wheelchair for distances but should be able to move on to sticks at some point. It’s truly amazing that all this can be achieved considering the prognosis when George was first diagnosed. He’s an amazing fighter, determined, cheeky, happy with an infectious laugh.

The Moto Mont Blanc Climbing Team

None of this would have been possible if it weren’t for the unstinted help people have given, the fundraising events: hair shaving, sky diving, bungee jumping, cake bakes, sponsored slim, mountain-climbing, marathons run, raffles, donations, fun days, picnics and boxing matches, cookery books sold, auctions and bike rides and much, much more to raise these funds.

There’s still a long way for him to go, and will be some weeks before he will be able to fly home and begin his new life. His classmates at school are all waiting for him to return, even the British Airways cabin crew fell in love with him and ensured George and his parents and a good flight and the captain has even put in a request to BA for the team to crew his flight home.

The BA crew and pilot on flight out.

I am sure there will be huge celebration family party in his honour. I sincerely wish we could invite you all along to join in but I know your best wishes are with him.

I will keep you informed of his progress. Again, thank you all for your help. We couldn’t have done it for him without your support.

We love you, George. Good luck!

A full diary of events and sums raised can be found here.

My Next Big Thing

Having been double-tagged recently for the Next Big Thing by Gilli Allan and Joanne Lambert, I couldn’t really refuse, so hang to your hats and settle down to read about what’s simmering on the back burner of creation for Kit Domino.

The game plan is I answer a stack of questions about what I’m currently working on and tag five other friends to take part. The questions are easy to deal with, what isn’t is the sad fact I haven’t got five friends left to tag (Billy No Mates Left, me!) as most, it seems, have been tagged already. But what the heck, I’ll do it anyway. If you want to take part in next week’s bundle feel free. Let me know and I’ll add you as an official tag. Of course, you can just go ahead and tell us about your next big thing anyway. So… here goes mine.

Ten Interview Questions: The Next Big Thing

What is the working title of your book?  I’m currently working on Whitestones. The book is finished and has been for some time but is in the process of being reworked and updated.

Where did the idea come from for the book? The story was inspired from hearing a particular piece of classical music  for the first time. I’m a great lover of classical music but this is not one of those frequently played on radio, but the sort of tune that once you’ve heard it, you can’t help falling in love with it. I came cross it by chance on a complication CD. I thought it so beautiful, so dreamy and romantic I had to use it, even to the point of obtaining the sheet music and teaching myself to play it on the piano, and so plays an integral part to the plot.

What genre does your book fall under? That’s a difficult one to answer. I would class it as a romantic mystery, but because it has paranormal elements it’s been classed (by others) as a paranormal.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? There are four central characters within Whitestones. Keria Knightly would be brilliant Penny, the lead heroine, alongside Anna Friel. The jury’s still out over the male roles but I would love Kevin Costner to play Harry, the lead male, failing that, Patrick Demsey, with George Cloney playing the professor.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? A story of music and love that transcends the barriers of time.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? ThornBerry Publishing will be publishing the ebook, hopefully next year if I can pull my finger out.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? Probably about 12 months. It’s had many rewrites already as it was first drafted many years ago, long before Every Step of the Way.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? There is a touch of Rebecca in the beginning, and think Nicholas Sparks and Barbara Erskine and you would be on the right track, but because Whitestones is cross-genre, and has a story line that is, I have been told by “those in the know”, quite different to anything else around, I can’t think of a single book I could compare it with.

Widden Hill House. Picture courtesy of David Harper

Who or What inspired you to write this book? There were two inspirations. The first, a large mansion in the Cotswolds near Chipping Sodbury where I lived once upon a time (pictured). The other, the fact that I’ve always been fascinated by the unexplained, paranormal events, ghosts and hauntings etc. It was whilst watching a series on TV some years ago that explored many of the locations around Britain that were reportedly haunted, I realised that many of these occurrences had a familiar theme. I began to question what was behind these stories, delving and digging deeper and reaching my own conclusions in seeking to find an explanation. This is explored in Whitestones. 

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? Picture the scene: A lonely house overlooking the Severn valley on a stormy night during the wettest summer in recorded history, Penny alone inside. Cue music – making Penny think she’s left a radio on somewhere in the house. Okay, cut music. … I said CUT MUSIC! Oh, you have? Ah, now that really is a problem because Penny can still hear it. In her head, playing over and over again. Constantly playing, for days at a time, enough to drive her to the brink of insanity and headlong towards a breakdown. And so begins her and Harry’s journey to seek out the source and find answers. What they discover will astound them, and you.

Okay … now over to you.

(Read my recent interviews with Carol E Wyer   and Nicky Wells)

Fellow author at ThornBerry Publishing, Shirley Wright also talks about her Next Big Thing is too! Click here to read

Birthdays Galore

I think I’m going to rename this month Birthtember as in my family, it is nothing but birthdays birthdays birthdays this month. Why so many in September, I wonder, the ninth month of the year. I can only think it must be due to Christmas and New Year celebrations and curling up under the covers to keep warm in the depths of winter and power cuts etc etc.

It’s my daughter’s birthday, both my grandchildren’s, a favourite aunt, our lovely little George’s, both my sisters’ (they’re twins!), both my sisters-in-law’s and several nieces and nephews on my husband’s side, as well as several other friends including my closest. You’d think with so many, I would remember them all – quite the contrary. There’s so many, I forget. In fact, one year I totally forgot my sisters’. Still, I was busy with all the planning going on at the time for my daughter’s wedding, and they have forgiven me.

I’ve set reminders on my computer and electronic calendar and on Moonpig, usually have a pile of cards tucked away in a drawer, but somehow the time slips by and hey ho, another missed date. Still, there’s always next year. Or is there? September was also the month we lost my father and thus this month is always tinged with sadness and fond memories.

I know I should have all my cards written out and ready to send, perhaps even send everyone’s at the beginning of the month, but is that tempting fate a bit? What do you do?

I’m also not a great believer in cards, especially Christmas and other “occasions” like mother’s and father’s day and granny’s etc. A card for everything and everyone. Hatched, matched and dispatched and all else in between. Nor do I worry or get upset if I don’t get cards from people but it is nice to be remembered and I know people do expect them. I have one family member who got quite shirty with my husband and me because we stopped doing Christmas cards.

So, dear friends and family, if any of you are expecting a card and haven’t received one yet from me, I’m sorry, I’ve forgotten/been too busy to remember/been away. Yes, feeble excuses, I know, but it doesn’t mean I love you any less or that I don’t care. It’s because I lead a busy life. I will still raise a glass to you and drink your health, even come to the birthday bash if invited. Remember, it makes any card you do get from me that extra bit  special.

And just to make up for it, here’s a little something from me: click here

Catch my recent interview on Author to Author with Elle Amberley: click here : and find out what inspires me most.

Delve further into my corner of the world on Loveahappyending.com:  click here

Afternoon Delight

Or Has the Sangria Queen Meet Her Match?

It’s only 3 weeks to go before I leave England’s rain sodden shores for sunnier climes for my annual pilgrimage to the sun with my mother and two sisters, plus this year, my sister’s niece is also joining us – one happy band of girls hitting the beaches of Corfu. For our holidays we always rent a villa for a fortnight, our own pool is a must, and we never bother hiring a car. Buses and taxis are much more fun.

Must Have Our 5-A-Day

The first thing we do when we arrive at our destination is to find the local supermarket and stock up with essential supplies. The holiday company always leaves a welcome pack – tea, coffee, bread, bottle of wine, marmalade, butter, cheese, milk  – but our needs expand to more necessities as we are great believers in having our five a day on holiday as the picture right testifies.

Part of our holiday ritual involves an afternoon “sundowner” made by me. I’m the Sangria Queen, an expert, but I need to make a few jugfuls before we go away and perfect my recipe. After 20 years of making this afternoon delight, you’d think I wouldn’t need any practice but the year before last whilst back in Minorca, I met my match on the sangria front. Admittedly, it was in the guise of a local bar owner who added his own lilt on the recipe; but for his one addition, his made it in exactly the same way as taught to me many moons ago by a gorgeous, sweet Spanish bar owner on Majorca.

The secret is to not use cheap plonk or cheap “local” alternatives to the liqueurs. A good drink, like a good meal, deserves the best you can afford. We’ve tried it “on the cheap” and it just doesn’t cut it, certainly not for our discerning and deserving tastebuds. Always use a wine you enjoy drinking. Lousy wine makes lousy sangria. And please… never use the ready-made stuff sold in bottles. Yuck! It will put you off sangria for life.

The biggest problem we always find on holiday is most villas do not have a decent serving jug, let alone a big one. We always end up buying one, normally pottery – you know, the touristy type of thing, flowers, bright colours – that comes home with us. I think this year it is my mother’s turn to have the jug but knowing her, she’ll  decide to leave it at the villa for someone else to enjoy.

So, here goes. Here’s the Recipe:

Cheers: Another Good Day in Paradise

The morning or day/evening before you plan to serve, prepare all your fruit. Proportions and ratios don’t count here – whatever you have to hand in the fruit bowl (we always keep fruit in the fridge on holiday). The only fruits to avoid are bananas and kiwi. So, into the serving jug goes sliced apple, orange, lemon, lime, diced melon, cherries if you can find them, strawberries even. Working to one bottle of wine, on top of the fruit pour over half a wine glass of brandy (good stuff please) and half a glass of Cointreau or Grand Marnier and allow to steep in the fridge until required. When ready to serve, pour in a bottle of red wine, top up with ice cubes and then add lemonade. Taste (cook’s perk) to check there’s enough brandy and Cointreau in it. You probably won’t get much lemonade into the jug so serve extra lemonade to taste separately. Serve with a spoon to eat the luscious fruit at the end.

This can also be made with white wine and/or champagne but we have found we much prefer it the traditional way.

Now for that extra something the bartender in Minorca added: to the fruit he also added a measure of banana liqueur. It made such a difference, so if you’ve got some to hand, do try.

Enjoy, down to the last drop!

More Please

To catch up with my latest news on Slimming for George: click here

Top Tips for Book Signings – A Light Hearted Look

Sunday saw me at my first (and only) book signing at my local Waterstones branch. I chose this one for two reasons: it’s in a humongous shopping mall that’s always busy, plenty of free parking and close to an intersection of two major motorways; and at the moment the store is promoting local authors and you don’t get much more local than me at only 10 minutes’ walk away! The staff were wonderful, so friendly and helpful but it took a great deal of courage for me to go in and ask if I could use the store for my debut! I like to learn something new each day and having gone through the experience, thought I would pass on my top tips, the do’s and the don’ts for book signings.

1) Don’t pick a day when major sporting events are on television. In my case, the Wimbledon final and the British Grand Prix. The first couple of hours were busy, time flew by and books sold. Come 2 o’clock, the store was pretty much deserted.

2) Although very much out of our hands, try to pick a day that you know will be wet. The shopping malls and stores are always much busier at weekends when it’s raining. Or in my case, rain was forecast but they got it wrong again – the afternoon was bright and dry and mild.

3) Wait until all the furore over the latest current best seller has died down or else you won’t get so much as a glance. In my case, the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy at discount was flying off the shelves, stacked at the entrance to the store, thus few ventured deeper into the bowels of the shop where my table was in the fiction section. I should have written a sex novel, even badly, and had a husband who was a PR manager. My book, Every Step of the Way, is set in West London in the locations where I grew up. Guess what? The author of Fifty Shades also comes from West London apparently. From my home town! Perhaps we know each other? I will have to find out… I wonder if her husband would be my PR manager too if I ask.

4) Don’t stagger in with extra copies of your book in case the store run out of stock. Be realistic. I didn’t and I was. I left my extra copies in the boot of the car, just in case some miracle might happen. It didn’t.

5) Do rally the troups, cajole, plead, beg and persuade, or in my case bribe with offers of a free lunch, family and friends to come into the store, preferably all at the same time. This creates a queue at your table and a crowd gathered around you. Great stuff – people are always curious and nosey and want to see what is going on, see what they are missing. Worked a treat. Thank you everyone who came in to say hello, take photos, buy the book. I love you dearly. Family – where the hell were you? Oh yes, I forgot. Most of  mine live 80 or more miles away, some even further afield, abroad. So, dear family in Spain. I am in need of a holiday and some sun. Can you arrange a book signing for me there? P…l…e…a…s…e…

6) Do contact your local paper in advance to tell them, particularly if they have previously covered you writing the book. They love a follow on story. … Except in my case. They didn’t and still haven’t returned my calls or emails. Shame on you.

7) Do approach people in the store with your book, it creates more sales and interest. Oh heck! When the manager told me this, I nearly fainted and backed out. You see, I’m a shy, nervous person who finds it exceedingly difficult to strike up a conversation with a stranger. My mum told me never to talk to strangers and it’s sort of inbred in me. The crowd around the table helped to spark interest. One or two did approach me later. The rest, I plucked up the courage and approached. “Hey, I love  your dress, where did you get it from?” “Are you here to buy anything specific or just browsing?” “Do you read historical fiction?” “Interested in the 1950s?” “Have you read this great book set in London and the West Country?” I felt like a shop assistant, particularly when someone approached me (smile, Kit, here comes another sale…) and asked if I worked there and could I tell them where they could find a book about some Russian or other. A teddy bear was thrown at my feet by a child in a pushchair. A friendly smile from me as I gracefully bent to retrieve and hand back the discarded toy, all the while thinking this is a good way to begin talking to the parent about my book. Well, it would have been if it had been a woman. “No sorry, love, I don’t do books. I’m here with the wife. She’s at the till buying Fifty Shades of Sex or whatever it is. I keep telling her she spends too much on books.” Oh well, foiled again.

8) Don’t drink copious amounts of tea or coffee or gin beforehand to calm the nerves else you’ll need to leave your table at frequent intervals and miss potential sales.  A swift coffee when I arrived and no food passed my lips all morning because I know what my body is like under stress. Too much detail? Okay, I’ll move on.

9) Don’t get your hair stylist to cut your hair a few days before the big day, particularly if they are zealous with the scissors. I looked like Ellie from Ice Age… still, I suppose I am that old. A bit of a relic, or is that wreck?

10) Whatever you do, enjoy yourself. It was a great experience, and as a writer, there was plenty to observe and note mentally. All good research material to use in a book one day. And you never know, I might one day be back there signing another new novel.

Silent Auction for George’s First Steps

Starting today, bidding on our Silent Auction for George’s First Steps (click on link below to open) for full details and instructions how to bid:

GFS Auction Brochure (2)

Autumn on the River: included in auction

Brochure includes instructions on how to bid. Some great items for sale and all for one very worthy cause. Please spread the word and the brochure.

Newsflash: Special Item now up for bidding – a signed Heston Blumenthal ‘The Fat Duck cookbook. Bidding starting at £10.

Click here to catch up with latest news on my Slimming for George Campaign.

Many thanks.

Simon Seahorse – A Fishy Tale

Rifling through my desk drawers the other day in search of an elusive document I needed, I came across a file I had totally forgotten about. Opening its green cover revealed a spiral bound collection of short stories I had written – from a cycling pig to the story behind an oil painting I owned – well over twenty years ago typed on my old Amstrad 9512 (what a great word processor that was!). I had filed them away because I thought these stories were all pretty much rubbish. Looking at them now with a seasoned and trained eye, I’ve come to the conclusion they actually weren’t half bad. One in particular brought back fond memories as it was written as a bedtime story for my granddaughter when she was about two years old. She always asked for it whenever she came to stay.

Called The Adventures of Simon Seahorse, at the time I’d intended to write a collection of stories about this little seahorse, each with a moral. I think having written the first, I came to the conclusion I wasn’t really a child’s story writer and was still trying to find my feet as a writer. This was long before I’d even begun to think of writing whole novels; short stories being a progression from the poetry I’d written.

Reading Simon Seahorse now I can see it is very much in the vain of Finding Nemo but I am glad I hadn’t thrown it away, grateful for advice given to me at a writing course in London to “Never, ever throw away anything you have written. Never delete or erase for it will always come in useful somewhere one day”. I don’t think Simon will ever turn out to be the great adventurer I’d hoped he would be but it was fun writing it at the time and reading it my granddaughter. I wonder if she remembers him?

I’ve included a short extract below and would be interested to hear your opinion of it and ask as I do of my paintings: Hang, slash or burn? Or in this case: Publish, hide away or shred?

THE ADVENTURE OF SIMON SEAHORSE

Simon Seahorse heaved a huge sigh. He was so bored! Every day it was always the same – nothing but eating to do. Now, eating all day was all very well, and yes, there were advantages, of course, but let’s be honest about it, eating all day, day after day, isn’t much fun, especially when it’s always the same – nothing but plankton and seaweed. It was plankton for breakfast, plankton for lunch, and guess what was for tea? Yes, plankton, followed by a nibble of seaweed for pudding.

Simon wanted to have some fun for a change. The trouble was all his brothers and sisters ever wanted to do was eat. All the other little seahorses wanted to do all day was eat. They didn’t want to play and swim and enjoy the ocean. It was all so boring obeying his parents’ orders, for they were the same each day, too!

“Now don’t forget, children,” his Mummy would say. “Eat up all you can so you will go big and strong like Daddy.” “Yes, Mummy, we will,” all the little seahorses would chant in chorus. “Eat up all your greens or your tails will never stay curly,” Daddy Seahorse would add. “We will.” “And don’t forget to keep well away from Garry the Grouper, or he’ll gobble you up for his supper.”

“Okay Mummy, we won’t forget,” all the little seahorses would reply. All except Simon, that is. He would just open and close his mouth, pretending to answer. He wasn’t frightened of Garry the Grouper. He’d never seen him but he’d heard all about the big fat black fish that patrolled the edge of the Sargasso Sea where they all lived. Mean old Garry wouldn’t catch him for breakfast, nor for lunch and especially not for supper.

So today, Simon decided he was going to have some fun instead. He swam alongside all his brothers and sisters, pretending to nibble at the little bits of plankton that drifted by on the current, darting in and out of the seaweed, and when he was sure they were not watching, and keeping one of his little eyes on his mummy and daddy, Simon slipped his tail off the long weed stem he was holding on to, and swam silently away from the group.

He swam and swam, wiggling his tiny pink body over towards the next patch of floating seaweed where he knew his one and only friend, Julie the Jellyfish, lived.

Mummy and Daddy Seahorse didn’t like him being friendly with jellyfish as jellyfish are well‑known to be rather fond of eating young, tender seahorses, or any other little fish for that matter.

But Julie was different. She, too, was bored with floating about all day just trailing her long tentacles in the water hoping to catch a fish or two for her dinner. She would drift over close to where Simon usually hung about, but instead of wanting to eat him, she only  wanted someone to talk to and play with.

Julie was delighted to see Simon swimming her way, although she was very surprised to see him alone today. Normally his parents wouldn’t let him out on his own for he was still very young, and the ocean was a very dangerous place for a little seahorse to be swimming about in all alone. There were lots of big nasty fish about, especially Garry the Grouper, who loved nothing better for breakfast than little lost seahorses, and there were lots of strong currents in the water that could sweep you away great distances so that you became lost, never to find your way back home again!

“Hello, Simon,” said Julie when he finally reached her.

“Hello, Julie,” Simon replied. “Will you play with me today? I’m so fed up with just eating. Let’s go and find some fun.”

“Oh let’s,” Julie said, shaking her long tentacles with excitement. “But are you sure? Does your Mummy and Daddy know where you are?”

“Of course they do,” Simon fibbed. “I’m almost grown up now. I can swim where ever I want to, as long as I’m home before dark!” He was so convincing that Julie believed him.

“All right,” she said. “What shall we do?”

The two friends decided they would swim out further along under the floating seaweed and see what they could find there. Neither of them had been that far before so it was going to be quite an adventure, so off they swam side by side.

As they went, they could see lots of other seahorses clinging onto the weeds by their curly tails and all were busy eating. They saw lots of other jellyfish too. Some small like Julie, others much, much bigger with long trailing tentacles that stretched for yards beneath them.

“You have to be very careful of those long tentacles,” Julie warned Simon. “They sting if you touch them and then they haul you in and gobble you up, so keep well away from them.”

“Oh, don’t worry, Julie, I’ll be careful,” Simon said. “Will your tentacles grow that long, and will you sting if I touch you?”

“I expect I will grow much, much bigger. As big as my Mummy and Daddy, I think. My tentacles already sting like theirs, but because I like you and you are my best friend, I will not sting you. Ever!”

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Don’t forget – you can catch up on my Slimming for George campaign here

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Happy Days

Chatting Over the Backyard Fence recently, the topic of conversation turned to childhood television. This prompted many memories of my own childhood. Although brought up in West London, we were surrounded by many parks and could play outside in the streets, thus we didn’t spend all day indoors watching TV except, of course, when it was raining or too miserable to be outside.

The Witch’s Hat
courtesy of Daily Mail newspaper

Close to where we lived were several children’s recreation grounds (the Rec) where we used to have a lot of fun. Most had Keepers, who used to maintain the equipment and keep us under control. We weren’t hoodlums, just a gang of kids who knew how to enjoy ourselves. We could stand on the swings and often did. The slides were high, scary almost. There were the long playground rocking horses seating at least six children, one behind the other or side-saddle for dares. My favourite was the witch’s hat roundabout. A tall conical ride that used to rock and sway as it went around and around, creaking and swinging until the wooden seat hit the central pillar with a loud clank. Brave kids would stand on the seat, braver ones standing on the bar meant for holding on to whilst seated.

These Recs were always full of children playing together, having fun, letting their hair down without adults fussing, telling us to be careful, to come away and generally spoiling our fun. There were always lots of us, all the local children played together and whilst a bit of bullying or fighting might have gone on, I was never aware or saw any of it. We just all seemed to get on, look out and after each other regardless of age or where in the town we lived.

The Pits as it is today.

Opposite our house was an area of waste ground called the Pits. A haven for wildlife as well as us. Ragwort and wild flowers grew in abundance as did the hawthorn, elderflower and brambles – great for picking to take home to Mum to make into jams. The trees and dense bushes made great hiding places and dens. In the middle of the Pits was a large, deep, steep-sided pit where we used to ride our bikes down, trying to see if we could make it back up the other side. Or we would run down one side, usually ending up on our bums and sliding to the bottom, and having to crawl and scramble on hands and knees back up to the top; scratches and grazes battle scars to be proud of. You had to be careful as either side of the narrow path were tall, spiteful stinging nettles. Ouch!

Alongside the Pits was the town’s centrepiece, Lampton Park, with beautifully manicured grass, colourful flower beds, tennis courts, cricket pitch, mini golf course, football pitch, a bandstand and disused air raid shelter. It boasted a large Sarsen standing stone, found locally when new houses were being built. On sunny days the park was lovely to have a picnic in, to ride around on our bikes and play games of hide and seek in the shrubbery and bushes. My favourite part was the rose garden, a circular sunken area full of sweet-scented roses and a shallow, circular fish pond at its heart. Surrounded by trees, it was a secluded spot in which to sit and reflect. Once I left school, I used to walk through the park most days on my way to work and always enjoyed its peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle going on outside its gates.

Near the main entrance grew a massive rhododendron bush, forming the hub of a turning circle for vehicles. As kids, we used to clamber inside, playing amongst its huge branches as we waited for the ice-cream van to drive in, or shelter in if it rained.

Lampton Park: sadly the roses have gone!

Today, the Pits is a shadow of its former glory, subsumed into Lampton Park, itself changed almost beyond recognition. A few of the flowerbeds are still there, but the rose garden is bare. The park has been turned in to a wide space of just trees and grass and in doing so, has lost much of its childhood beauty and magic.

Newsflash: Book Club Podcast: My book Every Step of the Way got a mention! Yay! http://staffordfm.com/stafford-fm-news/shows/bc-pod-29-apr/

Another Newsflash:  The Art Gallery in Tetbury, UK exhibits 3 of my paintings on its website. I would be so pleased if you would spare a moment to visit the gallery page, click on any or all of my paintings and click the “Like” button and share on Facebook. Why? They are running a competition for all their artists with a very worthwhile prize. Would love to be in with a chance. Thank you and hugs. 

SLIMMING FOR GEORGE

WILL YOU SPONSOR ME TO SLIM FOR GEORGE? YOU COULD WIN A COPY OF MY LATEST NOVEL OR A PAINTING! (SEE BELOW!)

With the fundraising well underway for George’s First Steps to get my great nephew George to the USA for a life-changing SDR operation (read about George), I have been racking my brains as to what I could do to help reach our target of £55,000. I had planned various bucket collections in a large shopping mall close to where I live. This has proved negative, as there is already a huge campaign in the region for a little girl for the self same thing as George.

Thus I have decided to do a sponsored slim, my “SLIMMING FOR GEORGE”. This is over a 3-month period, 5 May to 5 August 2012. I need to do this for George, and for me. For those that don’t know me, I am a very large lady, as those that do can vouch. I never used to be like this. Believe it or not, as a child I was skinny. Really skinny. The sort of child who, if she stepped on a kerb drain, would fall between the grilles. But years of good living, poor health and steroids, and a sedentary lifestyle have led to me being almost twice the woman my husband married (his words though he is inclined to exaggerate) some 30 odd years ago. You don’t get many chances in life to change things. This is my last chance to change me and help change George’s life too. That’s got to be good!

So how will I be doing this? Over the years I’ve tried WeightWatchers, Slimming Worlds, the Cambridge diet, the seefood diet (yes, see food and eat it – joke). I’ve been there, done that, and got the T-shirt a size larger each time for my efforts. Doesn’t leave me much hope, does it? I will be doing this alone, at home, on my own, which makes the task even harder. You see I have so much to lose, and in return, little George has so much to gain – being able to walk.  Which is why am asking if you would sponsor me, even just a small amount, a pound even, it would help. Every pound helps us to reach our target. If you would like to sponsor Slimming For George please email mail@kit-domino.com with how much you would like to contribute, your details so I can add you to the official sponsorship form, and if needed an official  form for your use too. Perhaps you might even want to join me in Slimming for George? Now, that would be really marvellous.

Many of you have already contributed to helping George over the past few years by sponsoring me on our Walks for George each summer – which we are doing again this year – and many of you have this year donated direct to George’s First Steps, for which George and all the family are exceedingly grateful. So I’m not asking you for more, but perhaps you could still help me by asking your friends or family to sponsor me? It’s a big ask, I know, but George is unable to ask for himself so we have to do this for him.

My weight will be officially recorded at the start and finish and as I’m feeling brave, there will be photographic evidence of before and after. Don’t panic, you won’t be seeing me in a bikini, perish the thought. That would put you right off your breakfast! Nor will I be telling what my actual starting weight is; although for a donation to George’s First Steps, I will! (See Competition below) I will also be keeping a Diary on this blog site to track my progress.

Again, if you could sponsor me I will love you forever, and George will love you for even longer. Thank you.

Guess Kit Domino’s Starting Weight Competition

For a donation to George’s First Step, a prize of either a copy of my recently published novel Every Step of the Way (worldwide) or a Kit Domino painting (UK only) will be given to whoever correctly guesses my starting weight, chosen at random. To enter, make a donation to Georges’s First Steps (click here), ensuring to leave your name, then leave a comment below or on my Diary page with your guess weight, again saying who your are and your choice of prize. Note, your comment will not be visible immediately as all comments need to be authorised to avoid spam). If you have already donated and your name appears on the Thank You page (Click here), you are already entitled to enter Guess My Weight. A clue to help you: When I married my husband in 1979, I weighed 9 stone. Good Luck!

The Garden in February

So, it’s the middle of February, and the middle of winter, the spring equinox still some six weeks away. Yet here in the West of England spring has well and truly arrived today. Gone are the chilling winds, the grey leaden sky, the snow,  the sleet and the rain. Today the sun is shining, the central heating off as the temperature rises, and out in the garden flowers are everywhere.

The first to greet any visitor to the house is the front lawn along the driveway – a technicolour mass of white snowdrops that are self-seeding and thus multiplying each year, and crocus popping up everywhere in many shades and hues of blue, violet and yellow, and with the sun out today, the flowers are fully open. Wonderful! I even noticed the first yellow flower, just one mind, on the forsythia hedge. There’s a yellow haze on the hedge which means it will not be long before it, too, bursts into full golden glory.2017-02-17-13-39-55

Out in the rear garden, cyclamen are in flower along with most of the red hued hellebores; the white clumps are still in bud but should be fully open by next weekend. I love hellebores, the flowers last for weeks. I sometimes pick a few flowerheads and float them in a pretty glass dish of water indoors so we can admire the flowers. In the garden, most varieties always have their heads down. I might try a plant in a hanging basket next winter and see how it fairs.

2017-02-17-13-46-12Already some of the daffodils are open too, the majority of which are the small, dwarf types. The stock of these has been building up over several years as I am wont to buy small pots of them in the supermarket each week instead of buying bunches of, as I used to. My sister gave me the idea of buying the potted ones for indoors and then after they have finished flowering, to plant them in the garden for next year. Now why didn’t I think of doing that sooner?

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If the weather forecasters are right, next week here is going to be even more mild and bright so I shall have to get my skates on (no, forget skates, snow’s gone…) garden shoes on and bring the rest of the garden to life. There’s much tidying, pruning, dead stem pulling, general clearing and maintenance to do. Already there are fresh leaf buds on the clematis and honeysuckle, things are moving fast. I shall be popping outside everyday looking to see what else is coming up.

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It’s such a delight hearing the birds singing in the early morning. The dawn chorus always gets me off to a good start knowing the dark days are behind us. And to think, before much longer I shall be able to enjoy coffee and breakfast in the garden again. Yippee!