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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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