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I’m Addicted To…

Having previously admitted to being a book junkie, I also have another addiction, so thought it time I ‘fessed up. It started out innocently. Something I thought I’d try, and as it was free saw no harm in dipping in once a week, but this soon turned into daily indulgences, sometimes several times a day.

It certainly isn’t snow I’m addicted to

 Click here to find out.

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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

 

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 

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.

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.

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…

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:

Garden snow small

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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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.

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