Too Late to Decorate a Christmas Cake??

No, it’s not too late to decorate your Christmas cake AND make it look special … let’s be honest here… I haven’t decorated mine yet. But, here’s one I did earlier.  As in; I decorated the Christmas cake for our WI party.. and posted the result on Facebook.. and have had more than a few queries about how it was done.  Well, it was fairly simple and really didn’t take very long – though some drying time is needed between stages .. and luckily I had taken a few photos as I went (not really enough but I hope it will give you what you need) DSCF0063


Not wanting to teach my grandmother to suck eggs… but I am often amazed how many people do not start themselves off with a nice flat cake, trusting to luck that the top of the cake will be flat enough. You may skip this paragraph if you are a grandmother experienced in sucking eggs. ;)  If you are doing a quintessential snow-scene the rough or rounded top really doesn’t matter. For almost anything else cut the top off the cake to level it up. Turn it upside down and set on the cake board: the base is now the top and will be lovely and flat!  This can be stuck in place with a blob of royal icing or jam  (though the latter not so firm)  Hint: measure up the sides to the point where the rounding starts. At the same level on 4 sides (or corners if you are doing a square cake), slice into the cake. then, keeping the blade level with the table top work round to the next cut… thus joining the cuts up, all at the proper level, when all the side/s have been cut into then slice through the centre. You should now have a cut ‘top’ surface but a level cake – then you turn it over.


I like fondant icing and, though I did once make it, I usually just buy Regal Ice.  I prefer this one for flavour and texture – but you can use the others if you prefer. If you like marzipan, by all means give your cake a layer of that. Certainly at this late stage it is not necessary to prevent colour ‘bleed’ from the cake coming through, so if you do not like marzipan ( as I do not) you do not have to use it!  The following  instructions would apply to marzipan as well as fondant.

Heat a tablespoon of apricot jam in a small container (Microwave until just bubbling would be fine) Brush the warm jam all over the cake top and sides.

On a worktop dusted liberally with CORNFLOUR (not icing sugar) roll out a kilo of fondant icing. I usually thump it about a bit first to make it square rather than rectangular and it also seems to soften it a bit before rolling.

Roll to a minimum thickness of 5mm – 7mm is preferable – thicker than 7 and it’s just too much icing, thinner than 5 gets tricky to lift and smooth.  Keep turning or moving the icing to make sure it isn’t sticking to the worktop at all.

When it is at least 2 inches (5cm) larger than your cake surface-area, lift, using a rolling pin to support the icing , and drape over the cake centrally.

If it is a square cake: gently, with cornflour dusted hands, ease and smooth the icing down over the corners first. This will leave ‘baggy’ bits along the sides, but with gentle easing this bagging can been smoothed away along the sides until they, and the corners, are all smooth.

If it is a round cake: gently, with cornflour dusted hands, ease and smooth the icing down evenly, so the baggy areas are evenly spread. With gentle easing this bagging can been smoothed away leaving the icing even all around the sides. DSCF0049 edge crop

Make sure your hands are well cornflour dusted and ‘polish’ the top and sides with light circular movements. Press down around the base towards the cake-board.

The icing lapping onto the board can be dealt with in a number of ways. It can be trimmed tight to the cake, which leaves an edge that calls out for a piped trim. You can make sure it covers all the board, and smooth it down right out to the edge and trim level with the edge of the board, or you can cut it into shapes, a wavy line is easy, or use a cutter to give a trimmed pattern. On the cake I made for WI I used a small circular cutter* to make lots of small spikes. *flat-ended apple-corer – but I could also have used a icing nozzle – same size)

Take the excess icing and roll it up together again. If you have some gum tragacanth powder then blend in about quarter of a level teaspoon by kneading it well – this will make the icing harden much better.

Making the DECORATIONS {Note: if you are running VERY close to the date, cut off about a quarter of the kilo of icing and make the decorations first .. then cover the cake when they are dry and ready. Keep the rest of the roll-out well wrapped in cling-film and sealed in an airtight bag}

Roll out icing.. thinner than before. You can use a holly cutter (or two) as I did… but if you haven’t got holly cutters you can use a fluted (sweet) pastry cutter (most of us have those – right?)  See HERE for pictures how to make this type of holly leaves in a previous blog. I then like to mark these with a knife – to show centre line and veins – just a few marks – not necessary — but … DSCF0047DSCF0048

Prepare a A4+ piece if card by folding it into a zigzag and cover it with foil or cling-film. I always  have an odd cereal packet folded up in my cupboard :) (hangover from having children – great source of scrap card) .

As you finish each holly leaf drape it over this zigzag – so each one will have a different curved shape when they dry.

Take remaining fondant and colour it red. Roll it out and cut out letters to spell Merry Christmas and Happy New Year…. if you have letter cutters (A really great item to have in your cake decorating armoury!) – if not then  roll into long thin sausages, shape the letters to spell Happy DSCF0052Christmas, leave to dry on a tray which has been covered with cling-film and dusted with cornflour. (my photo shows silver words — but let’s keep this simple eh?)

To make holly berries roll out a long  thin sausage and cut small even sized pieces and roll to make berries – leave to dry on something they won’t roll off of!!!



Make up 1 egg-white’s worth of royal icing (1 egg white beaten with about 200g/8oz sieved icing sugar until thick and glossy)  (or use ready to mix royal icing – about 100g / 4oz) DSCF0051

If you want a candle as I have in the centre wrap its base in a piece of foil.

Put a large blob of icing in the middle of the cake, carefully site the candle in the centre – do not worry if it wobbles at this stage. Add the dried holly leaves starting with smaller ones round the base and culminating with four large ones at the top. This will all help stabilise the candle. Drop some berries onto the wet icing amongst the holly leaves.  Carefully remove the actual candle and leave this arrangement to set.

DSCF0060Mix a little of the icing with a drop of hot water to make a slightly runnier ‘glue’, using a small brush paste the back of the letters and carefully position on the sides of the cake – hold each one a moment to make sure it is holding on. Using the same technique place a holly berry at each spike round the base, then distribute the rest at random but evenly over the remaining space on the top.DSCF0057

Allow all to set then keep covered until the day :) DSCF0066Replace the candle and it is ready to show off.

By the way.. this is not turning into a cooking blog – promise – but if I left this one until next week it might be too late to decorate your cake!


Confession – I have been known to decorate my Christmas cake on Christmas eve :)

Have you decorated your cake yet? Come on – confess!

Do you have a tradition of a specific design year after year or do you vary them?

Do share, you know I love to hear from you!

My Meringue-Snowmen army rides again …

DSCF0041It was our Festivities committee’s BIG EVENT this weekend – it is the one this group was ‘invented’ for … to bring a bit of community spirit and festivity to the heart of the village.. thus a HUGE Christmas tree bedecked with light and a community ‘tree-lighting ceremony’. This is a village event that has grown over the six years it has been running and includes now a ‘lighting’ of the small (planted) tree behind the post-office parking area, the church bells ringing, then the walk to the Hall singing Christmassy songs, where the Hand-bell ringers play and then we have singing of Carols – this year led by the primary school’s brilliant choir. Finally we all get into the warmth of the hall for free mince pies, sausage rolls, juice or mulled cider (wassail) and good fun is had by all……

What has this to do with snowmen … meringue or otherwise?? …. well the mince pies are all home-made and supplied by lots of lovely people including us on the festivities committee. Now I always make my rich shortcrust with egg yolks. Cue meringue –  what else do you use the whites for? However this time I decided to make some mini-mini-pavlova bases as I know I have an event I need to take finger-food along to, and they will do very nicely. I had piped out as many of these as I wanted and still had plenty of meringue mix left and I was suddenly reminded of the mini-snowmen I used to make for the boys to take to their primary school class  party when they were in the infants. (Yes – I know I am mad – as if I didn’t have enough to do :) ) …so I decided to make some of these for the children at the lighting-up event.

However, it was a busy week that also saw me at an event all day Saturday with my books, so I didn’t get them finished in time. After the lighting-up evening I decided to finish them to add to this blog in-case someone out there might  fancy making them too.

Stage one: Make up the meringue mixture as per MY pavlova recipe ( so – 4 egg white – whipped, plus 8 oz of sieved icing sugar – click link for full details – it is an easy and reliable recipe – this would make you two dozen mini-mini-pavlovas and two dozen snowmen)

Stage two: Put in piping bag with large nozzle – I used a very open rose. Grease flat baking trays well. DSCF0004DSCF0003

Stage three: Pipe bodies: Two good squeezes to give a bit of shape. ON a different tray – Pipe heads – one squeeze


size comparison with a 5p piece

Stage four: Cook – 140 oC  or 120 oC  fan oven best for these very tiny items. About half an hour. Check, should have firm base if picked up. turn oven off and allow to cool in oven. Remove (you can store in an air-tight box until you are ready to use them)

Stage five: Make up 1 egg-white’s worth of Royal Icing (or if you have it – mix some instant Royal Icing) (1 egg white = 6-8 oz sieved icing sugar) beat well until smooth and glossy)DSCF0012

Stage six: divide into 5 portions. Leave one white – colour the others blue, red, black and orange (deep yellow)

Stage seven: Make up 4 small greaseproof icing bags. Follow link (or look under Recipes top-bar drop-down) for instructions.


Stage eight: Snip off end of black (little)  and dot in all the buttons ….. then all the eyes.DSCF0026DSCF0029

Stage nine: Snip off end of Orange (little) – add ‘carrot’ noses.DSCF0032

Stage ten: snip off the ends of red and blue – and more from end of Orange. Create scarves on all the bodies.DSCF0031


Stage eleven: using a paint brush or a cocktail stick add smiles – red or black – as you think fit – I can never make up my mind about this bit!DSCF0034

Stage twelve: Using the back of a teaspoon add a little blob of white icing to the base of the head … and stick the head on the body of each snowman.

Stage thirteen: If you have enough icing left give the snowmen a contrasting bobble hat.


meet the motley meringue-snowmen crew

Ah! Memories … the meringue-snowman army on the move …. now I only need to find some small children to eat them :)

Hope you’ve enjoyed seeing these little fellas come to ‘life’ …

Do any of you make special sweet-treats for your family  at Christmas?

Do share – you know I love to hear from you

Incy-wincy and the silver fish who cannot swim

It must be a sign of the unseasonable warm weather we’ve been having in the UK, it’s nearly December and only now are the spiders making their annual autumn invasion of the house. Now you have to understand that our house is a spider’s heaven, having been built in stages from the 1500s onward to the late 1600s it has lots of beams, to make webs between and the ceiling, hundreds of nooks and crannies, nice places to sneak away into to hide, and a housekeeper (me) who, 1, quite likes spiders and doesn’t want to harm them and 2, likes important things to be clean (kitchen, bathroom) but is not overly anxious about a few cobwebs here and there – especially there.

Now when I say I like spiders I have to qualify that with I like some spiders more than others. I am not fond of the very dark short-legged varieties and on the infrequent occasions when they do arrive I arrange their safe and harmless transition to the great outdoors (clear plastic cup and sheet of paper work best for me)

Spiders (arachnophobes look away now – pictures coming up)

tegenaria from the workshop

tegenaria from the workshop

My favourite house spider is the Tegenaria gigantea . (It maybe that the ones in my house are actually Tegenaria saeva which is very similar and found more often here in the SW of England) These are the large beasties with equally large legs and beautifully chevron marked abdomens. If it sat in a dessert-spoon its legs would reach or overlap the edges. It is often spotted as it makes a mad dash across the room, pauses, then runs on! The females are quite long lived and can live a number of years as adults and, as is usual in the spider-world are larger than the males. They make quite small webs (so not too much of a nuisance) We used to have one that lived behind a large larder cupboard, where the cupboard didn’t quite fit tight against the wall (not one of the walls in our house is straight). She would come out in the evenings, sitting boldly at the edge of her small web. The boys used to drop flies they’d swatted into this web during the day for her to find later. After about two years she just disappeared.

The one pictured is fairly small, as they go, and lives in the workshop, high up above the racks that hold the tools etc, for size reference the base of the jar she is sitting in is a good 3″ or 7cm across.

The next and the most prevalent spider in this house is a thin cylindrical bodied, long thin legged variety that I call the cobweb trembler. It makes annoying strandy cobwebs all over the place and hangs in this mess waiting, so while I tolerate these I am not keen on them. If you disturb the cobwebs it trembles violently shaking back and forth over as much as ten centimetres, so that it is hard to catch (if I were a bird or something) If you touch the spider itself it drops, suddenly, to the ground…. and scurries off inefficiently on its spindly legs. DSCF3998

These belong to the Pholcidae and are probably phalangioides but I am not sure. They manage to raise armies of young and so each year, twice a year, I brace myself and armed with the vacuum cleaner, try to remove as many as I can from the building. I often wonder if they survive the vacuum treatment, I hope they do and immediately go and empty the cleaner out on the compost heap (it doesn’t have a bag so the dust and stuff doesn’t get compacted at all) – in the hope that if they have survived the suction and having landed in the body of the cleaner they have curled up and waited until release.

Along with many others I find beauty in the cobweb made by the orb spider and many orb spiders are beautiful in themselves with interesting colours (saw a bright lime green one this past Summer) and patterns. When these decide to make a web across an open window it is with great regret that I destroy the web just to close the window (making sure the spider is safely outside before closing) I really don’t like the thought of hurting them.. maybe growing up with the ‘If you wish to live and thrive, let the spider run alive’ rhyme?

Spiders aren’t the only creepy crawlies that I have a soft spot for. Many, many years ago when at teacher training college I did my biology thesis on Lepisma saccharina (the small primitive insect known as the silverfish) silverfish

A harmless creature (except if they get into old libraries in numbers – they eat the sizing and glues on books) I had always seen them around but could find very little out about them. After eighteen months keeping them, studying their life cycle, behaviour patterns, preferences for diet, humidity, light, temperature conditions and nearly four hundred pages later, which included sheet after sheet of hand-drawn and coloured graphs (pre-computers!), I think I knew more about them that most entomologists back then, but not now . I was particularly curious as to what the ones that live in the bathroom ate, (as the only information available at the time suggested they ate carbohydrates and sugars – not often found in bathrooms) and discovered that among other things, they eat up all the shed scales of skin we leave behind as we dress and undress – so they are actually doing a good job there :) . In fact, if they did not get certain levels of protein from this or moulds then they lost their shine. I was awarded a high grade for my research and hence, in this house, these creatures are always rescued from the bath.

Enough of creepy crawlies for now….. I think these have to go under ‘Other passions’.

Anyone else like spiders and other creepy crawlies?

Do share – you know I love to hear from you


Anyone For Cake? How to….

Well! What a weekend. The first Looe Literary Festival was a tremendous success! Plenty of people turned out and took themselves down to this pretty Cornish town on the sea. PLUS it was extra interesting being ‘out of season’. There was a different vibe – and this weekend it was definitely a Literary vibe!

I was delighted to have my very own one hour Author Event slot arranged for me in The Old Boathouse Cafe, on the quay-side facing the river just before it emerges into the sea. My audience had a few extras, a small free draw AND CAKE. DSCF7593

I propped the cake up on my book stand – and, to my surprise, it wasn’t until I went to cut it that some people realised it was a cake!

So I’m going to give you a ‘how I made it’ here :)  and I hope you like it as much as others enjoyed eating it!


cooked cake

First I printed off a large picture of the book cover and used this as my template, it meant I needed to cook a cake 12″ by (about) 8″. I happen to have a nice cake tin that allows you to vary its size by inserting two interlocking dividers, with the largest at 12″ x 12″ reducing in size down to 1″ x 1″ (Though you’d probably not use it for that!) You can also make 4 cakes at once, each 6″ square. Anyway – I created the right size cake tin size and made a Victoria sandwich mix that I had calculated would fill it. (in this case cracked the 7 eggs into a jug and weighed the total, then used the exact same weight for the flour, sugar and butter) I dolloped about half of this mixture into the tin, then added 250g melted plain chocolate beating well as it was added to the other half of the mixture, then dolloped this in between the  plain mix, finishing it with a swirling motion to smooth it out then baked it at 180 degrees until cooked (about 35 mins) I wrapped it well and froze the cake.

Now to the decorations. First I mixed about half a teaspoon of gum-tragacanth into about 150g ready-made roll-out icing (Regal-Ice) This means the paste will harden. I rolled it out and carefully cut the rectangle out – placing it on a tray covered with a sheet of cling-film dusted with cornflour, covered lightly, to prevent dust, with greaseproof paper.

I re-rolled the remainder and by resting the paper sheet on top and using a cocktail stick to press on the line, marked out the shapes of all the dark rocks in the picture. DSCF7566DSCF7568

I removed the paper and using the cocktail stick drew lines on the rocks to give them texture. I also cut a long narrow rectangle to put the author name on later. All these I also placed on a tray as before and set them all to dry in a warm place.

When these were all dry I mixed food colouring to make the colours I expected to need. I marked out with a pale food-colour pen, the lines for the layers of cliffs in the distance, the sand and the sea. Then I painted these in with the food colours giving the larger areas a water wash before applying the colour as you do for water colours, but otherwise it was a bit like painting by numbers ;) DSCF7583DSCF7586


The rocks were given a dark wash so that the textures still showed through; all this was left to dry. When the ‘paint’ was dry I assembled the pieces and hand-painted the title with a red food colour.

I cut the top of the defrosted cake and trimmed it to the perfect size then turned it upside down onto a cake-board with a little icing spread on it to prevent it slipping. I rolled out another 200g of Regal Ice and cut 4 pieces long enough to cover all the edges then rolled the rest very thinly and covered the top and sides with this thin layer, held in place by a brushing of heated-up jam. DSCF7585

Three out of the four strips were textured to look like pages, the fourth I hand painted to look like the spine of the book.

NOW! The assembly, The cover was stuck on with icing, as were all the edges… and lo! the book should have been finished. Unfortunately I forgot the extra thickness of the cover when I cut the spine…. and had to add a bit to fill in the gap!! So now you know what to look out for if you do the same .. and I will know for next time too :) DSCF7594 Crop

All in all it may have made my author slot a little different … if you were there – do tell… if you were unable to come .. well I hope to get out and about more next year – maybe to a festival near you! DSCF7604 crop

As always I love to hear your thoughts – do leave a comment :)



Radio, Newspaper, Lit Fest – it’s a Thriller!

I’ve had a busy week in the run-up to the new LOOE LITERARY FESTIVAL (13-16th Nov)  with both a piece in the newspaper and a live interview on BBC Radio Cornwall with Tiffany Truscott

When I read about the prospect of a NEW literary festival to be set up in Looe, back in April, I was delighted … as ‘Nothing Ever Happens Here’ is set in Looe, Cornwall AND it had just come out in Paperback. NEHH_Design_Light

This book is set in the early 1990s, and I have put it in the ‘thriller’ genre. Now you may be aware that I find writing to fit one genre very tricky. You see my muse doesn’t like to be formulaic in any way. My muse likes to take something that looks very much like real life and put a twist into it.

Before I realised that this novel was a light thriller (and I’ll come back to the ‘light’ bit) I never knew whether to call it a Romance .. or a Crime novel. Let me explain.

I always thought of it as a bit of a romance novel as we have three romantic threads going on throughout most of the book. Some of these are more intense than others, some of them are teenagers, some are in their thirties, some forties. So you can see that I would think this was a Romance. However, I am assured, that it is a book that men like to read as much as women, that it is not the sort of ‘romance’ that puts certain people off.. that the ‘romance’ seems to be just part of the life of these characters.

Then again, I thought, perhaps it was a Crime novel. It starts off with crimes, and follows a Detective Inspector as he transfers out of the Met down to Plymouth. It follows some of his cases, needless to say, involving Crime. Put this together with the criminal events that affect the other main characters and we have what I thought of as a Crime novel. Yet, if you were a die-hard Crime reader perhaps you would find too much real life getting in the way of first-and-foremost crime and detection.

Now I can tell you it is a Thriller (with Romance and Crime involved)…. And it is a ‘light’ thiller because it does not fit well with the ‘shoot-em-up, improbably car-chase, blood-n-gore, stop the end of the world’ … type of thriller that I think of as ‘American-style’ thrillers.

One of my reviewers put is this way. ‘Love a good ‘English’ thriller’. Now, I thought, that really sums it up. I love a good English Thriller too (Think Robert Goddard) … but if you live in Cornwall .. and write a book set in Cornwall … best not call it ‘English’ ;)   … So ‘light’ Thriller it is.

Here’s my chat with Tiffany Truscott on BBC Radio Cornwall a few days ago – in case you missed it…   (if you are looking at this on the email – click into the title at the top and this will take you to the blog and then you’ll be able to listen in – it’s on youtube and the link doesn’t show up on the email)

If you are local do come to the NEW LIT FEST in LOOE, there is plenty going on both paid for and for free – I’ll be part of the Liskeard Poets – reading in the Poetry Invaders event 11am on Saturday which is a free event.

Then I’d love to meet you at my Author Event on Saturday 15th, 1.30pm in The Old Boathouse Café. I’ll be reading a few excerpts, answering questions about the novels, writing or whatever you ask and doing a book-signing. This is a free event too and there will also be a free draw …. Oh! … and there will be cake ! See you there

Hello! Mr Giant, Can You Hear Me?

megaphone by J Scott via Mary Ann Clarke Scott Wana Creative Commons

Image courtesy J Scott via Mary Ann Clarke Scott – Wana Creative Commons – some rights reserved

This is what I’ve been feeling like this week

Hello! Mr Giant, Can You Hear Me?

It started when I was preparing a tweet. Yep, you can find me there too  @annfoweraker with random tweets about Cornwall, writing, my books, what I’m up to… etc. So, there I was preparing to re-tweet that I had noticed Amazon had discounted one of my novels: £9.50 down to £8.95 and I thought I had better check the offer was still there. Amazon makes or stops discounts as and when they feel like it, with no rhyme or reason I can discern, but as I get the same amount and Amazon are discounting out of the amount of money they make from retailing my book I like to let my readers know when offers are on, so I tweet them.

I quickly went into the page for the book and, lo and behold, the offer was still on… but now, though the actual reduction was the same 55p, Amazon were claiming it was a larger discount than previously. WEIRD!…. then I noticed they were claiming that the RRP was £9.71   - of course the discount would look to be a higher percentage. I went to my other book pages on Amazon – all had the same problem but each one had a different RRP (all more than the correct £9.50) How could this be?

I didn’t tweet – even though there was still a reduction – the fact that there was an error in the quoted Recommended Retail Price, and therefore the percentage reduction Amazon was claiming they were making, seemed dishonest

I noticed that the one closest to being accurate was the one last added to Amazon. This novel was being offered at a 1% discount – down to £9.50… yes – down to the  actual RRP. What on earth was going on?

I worked out that this change had come about after my latest paperback was added to my lists. Now I am used to Amazon taking a few weeks to sort things out when a new book goes on. It seems (I queried this with my distributor the first time it happened) Amazon put books onto their US (.com) site first, the UK ( site picks up the data and puts it on the UK site – but as if it was a book published in the US, giving delivery dates of weeks and translating the price from the US dollar price of the book – which was set as correct when the book was published.

Now, as we all know the dollar, sterling rate fluctuates. So a few weeks down the line the dollar RRP price converted to sterling gives an incorrect sterling RRP.

Usually after a couple of weeks this gets sorted out – the book appears as delivery 1 – 2 DAYS and the price is accurate. This time, however, somehow this glitch had not sorted itself out… and, instead, had infected my other novels. And, as the longer ago a book was published the more inaccurate the conversion will be, the earlier published books had larger discrepancies .

I do not know about you.. but if I bought a book at a discounted price (even of just 1%) and when the book turned up it’s face value was the same as I had paid I would be miffed. (if the discrepancy was more I’d feel proper cheesed off) Who would I blame?  It might be obvious to me to think it is Amazon – but then I deal with Amazon both ends, as it were. I am not just a customer, I also sell my ebooks through Amazon and my publisher distributes through Ingram to Amazon.  I know a little about how it works.

Who would you blame? The publisher? The author? Amazon?

I soon found that there was nothing I could do to point out the glitch to Amazon directly and get it rectified. Hello???

At the moment, after many emails to and fro to Ingram, and their ‘channel specialist’ to Amazon,  Amazon seem to have straightened out two out of the three books .. maybe by the time you read this they’ll all be ok.

Now, all that is left to sort out is how Amazon can say a book is ‘out of stock’ (as they also had for two of mine along with the false ‘discounts’) … when the book is a POD (Print On Demand) as in, you buy it, it is printed same day and posted to you… Ah, Mr Giant … can you hear me??

I really hope this gets sorted out soon as I’m on Radio Cornwall next Friday (7th) and the new Looe Lit Fest on the 15th November, both of which I hope will generate interest in my novels and, like it or not, Amazon is the go-to place for a huge number of book buyers nowadays.

Do you get frustrated when you are trying to deal with organisations so large there seems no proper way to get through to them?

Would you have though the publisher might be the one to blame for the misleading information on Amazon sale page for a book?

Do share your trials and tribulations with the GIANTS – you know I love to hear from you.

Some things are better put off until tomorrow

DSCF7557This blog was the one I meant to write last week … but it didn’t get written as home events took over.. that blog started with watching the first of the new series of  ‘Trust me, I’m a Doctor’ on BBC 2  (not to be confused with Trust me, I’m THE Dr’ as in Dr Who)

This is the second series and I quite enjoy these programmes as I nearly always learn something I didn’t know – and as I try to keep up-to-date with things on the nutritional front I do spend a lot of my time saying to the TV, ‘yes, about time too’, as popular nutrition catches up with what has been going on in science for quite a while.  The programme is headed-up by Michael Mosley (of the ‘5/2 fast diet’) drawn from his previous programmes and ‘fast exercise’ – ditto)

I say I enjoy them.. I do, that is, apart from its ‘bitty’ approach where the team investigate about 4 different lines of scientific health issues at the same time (meaning that we start with one idea – move on to the next and the next .. and then pop back to see how the first is going along , than catch up with the second etc. etc.) At least they do not do the exhaustive re-cap each time… but it is annoying when it really doesn’t have to be. I want to say that I am sure we can cope with quarter of an hour on one health issue at a time… followed by the other three … and I’m sure that if we are watching this type of pr0gramme we will wait through the one that may not be immediately relevant to our own situation to learn something on the way.  (OK .. rant over)

Now you may know, if you’ve been following this blog for a long time, that I managed to lose quite a bit of weight by doing weights exercises, designed by one of my sons, for less than fifteen minutes a day, while continuing to eat in a low carb (not no carb) way(as I had done for years before menopause caused weight-gain)  If I eat pasta, bread,rice or potatoes I eat a limited amount – and I always go for the ‘brown’ wholegrain versions as this gives better nutrition, more fibre and uses more energy to digest.

The nutritional scientist on ‘Trust Me…’ carried out a small on screen test of just 10 people. She knew what she was expecting with the first two trials in her experiment – but she’d also thrown in a third variation she’d not tested before.

Eat pasta and very soon you’ll have an insulin spike in your blood. Now this is natural as pasta is a carbohydrate and that is only a simple digestive step away from being a sugar… and to deal with sugar your body pumps out insulin. Fine so far… only problem is that this spike is followed by a dip in that the insulin is running around your body looking for the sugar to deal with (even after its finished with the stuff you ate). This makes you feel hungry again; gives you the ‘munchies’. It is far better for you if you can keep you insulin stable and low, not such a spike, less of a dip. Keeping your insulin levels steady is key to managing your weight and your long-term health.

The experiment: #1, eat hot freshly cooked pasta – wait –  measure insulin in blood. #2 eat cooked and then cooled pasta – wait – measure insulin in blood #3 eat cooked, cooled and kept until the next day and reheated pasta – wait – measure insulin in blood.

Results: #1 – high insulin spike #2 lower insulin level (but who wants to eat cold pasta anyway?) #3 EVEN lower insulin levels! – and that surprised even the tester. When Michael pointed out that 10 people were not much of a statistical sample, she agreed, but then added … but it was ALL 10 of them!

For the scientific details of the how and why, watch the programme  – on iPlayer for 2 more weeks here: Trust me I’m a Doctor s2 – 1:

or for those of you abroad or reading this blog later-on – on youtube here:

Only problem is – when I do pasta it is usually because I am running out of time and need a fast carb to complete a meal!

However, maybe, I’ll get my act together early enough to cook, cool and reheat my pasta, as, you see … some things ARE better put off until tomorrow :)   

What’s your take on Pasta? Would you eat re-heated pasta if it was better for you?

What is your favourite pasta based meal?

Look forward to hearing from you

So, what does a typical WI member look like? #IamWI


#IamWI   Ann Foweraker (St. Dominick WI)

Let me say from the start – I’ve been a member of the WI since I was 15  – excepting my years at college, and five living in a city – no WI branches allowed in universities or cities back then, as they are  now. (It’s good to see how well they are developing  in these places now and how many young women are joining them!)  This came about because my mum was going off to her WI meeting ON my 15th birthday… and, as that happened to be the age that you were allowed to join our branch of the WI back then .. I went along. (NB for insurance purposes, apparently, the joining age is now 18)

Now the WI (Women’s Institute) has developed an unfortunate image over the years – emphasised by almost every press report and slanted so that we appear to be jam-making fuddy-duddys and of the pearl and cardie-wearing, tory-voting brigade to boot. Even my Aunt thought this (when she moved from a town in Essex to our Cornish village she expressed this view – despite the fact that I, my mum and another Aunt belonged – none of whom fitted that description in any way whatsoever – except the jam-making part).

‘Jam and Jerusalem’, the papers say, in a disparaging way. Well, yes our rousing ‘song’ is Jerusalem, by William Blake, and I find the ‘bring me my bow of burning gold, bring me my arrows of desire,’ quite stirring ;) though we do not sing it at our usual meetings nowadays. And as for Jam making – that was effortful war work. What other war work is disparaged?

In nearly a hundred years of being an organisation, the WI has made a huge difference. Though started to help rural women, for education and support, it has taken up the cause in many aspects of life. Some of these then grew into themselves as separate organisations, which still acknowledge their links to their inspiration and formation. Like the Keep Britain Tidy group… an idea and movement initiated by the WI in 1954 and, though now a national organisation, often the people on the ground in villages doing the organisation will still be from the local WI.

Each year we have a resolution and our National arm campaigns on these resolutions. Not just on that year’s one but on any that we have passed over time. They have our mandate; that is the mandate of 212,000 women, to campaign on these issues. Over the past five years these have included ‘No-more violence against women’ ‘SOS Honeybees’ ‘The need for more Midwives’ ‘Care not Custody – for people with mental health issues’ and ‘Time to Talk – about Organ Donation’. It educates, it campaigns and is listened to.

Yet still the WI is disparaged, though now we are also the ‘calendar girls’ (a doubtful accolade) where some potential members are as wary of being asked to strip off… as much as to run a cake stall (or should that be buns?)

So, when one of our members on the UnOfficial WI FB page, a page for WI members to chat and share (not the Official WI FB page which is more for National WI matters) suggested we each took a photo of ourselves holding a sign with the words I AM WI written on it – I thought this a great idea – for, though you know I like making Jam (in my microwave), I also think I am a typical (but NOT-STEREOTYPICAL) WI member! Active in my own life and in the community, busy and enjoying life to the full.

All of which explains the photo of me and my paddleboard at the top of this blog  :)

Do you belong to the WI?

 If not, what is the image you have of the WI

 Look out for the hashtag #iamwi

My Latest Cover Up …

The saying goes ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’ … but we all do, don’t we? And that goes for real books as much as new people and situations that the saying is really about.

So choosing a new cover for a book is one of the hardest non-writing things I have had to do as an Author. After all, I know the whole story inside the book, all the nuances that I would like to hint at, the twists and turns. A cover is just a snapshot of the idea, but it’s an image that has to do a great deal of work.

I have been reminded that I really can’t ‘tell the story’ through this one image, that it has also has to be ‘eye-catching’, ‘look right at the thumbnail size’ that many (most even?) people see a book as when looking for it (ie online) as well as interesting full size (ie on the shelf), ‘be alluring to pick-up’ to scroll down, or actually turn over, to read the back-blurb, and that has to ‘be informative but raise questions’ to instigate the flick through (or open the see-inside feature)

All this from the cover! No wonder it is so difficult.

Now when I placed my books online, before I even dreamt of paperback, when Amazon’s Kindle publishing was the only avenue open to me and they hadn’t got their ‘cover help’ going at all, I got my eldest son to help create the right (pixel) sized covers. He was only over from Malaysia for a short time and we had to work fast. I had a perfect picture for one of them, Nothing Ever Happenes Here, but the others had to be created.

So create we did …. We decided that as the one picture I was happy with had view through a gap between rocks we’d keep that sort of theme. So for Divining the Line I took a photograph between two standing stones and for Some Kind of Synchrony we took a picture of a skyscraper, reflected it and manipulated the second tower to look as if it were wavering, as if seen through rippled water. Well that was the idea… it never did look quite right and was certainly too clear and clean a picture for the type of book. Time ran out and Some Kind of Synchrony stayed under that cover.

It has now become the latest of my novels to move into paperback. I know I have been lapse with the blogging but I have been totally immersed in the world of Faith, Diane and The Story within Some Kind of Synchrony. Once bonus is that I’ve had the opportunity to finesse the ending. At this time space from my original I was able to choose a better arrangement of words to show what I saw in the end scene. That felt good. Then I had to work with my cover designer to create the cover that would do everything asked of it.

The paperback goes into print this week! I am really excited about this, it feels like a having a new release, that I’ve done the story justice at last by giving it a proper working cover and I hope readers, previously put off by the old cover, will be tempted by the new.

Here is the old one  cover




…… and here is the new!  (looks fuzzy here – just click on it to see it clearly)










I feel we’ve hit the nail on the head … there’s gritty … there’s the element of real life and reflection … there’s a slightly retro feel, there’s … well you tell me! Whether you have read it already or not!

You know I love to hear from you!

A spectacle affair

specs pic

courtesy wikimedia commons

As readers of this blog will know this year has been my big six ohhh! Along with this age come a few bonuses, and one of these is not paying for a few things… no, I’ve not taken to pinching stuff… suddenly I do not pay for prescriptions … and, as a letter from a high-street opticians reminded me, nor for an eye test.

Well I have been thinking that perhaps I ought to get them checked, after all I’ve been using those ‘1.0’ basic glasses (you know, £3 and fold up nicely into a slim tube) for a quite a long time now, for reading at odd times, like when in poor light, or small writing, like that on packaging. Oh, all right then… and for ease of reading speedily … without having to squint! Oh, ok… so what if I do have a set in every room and in both handbags? Just means I do not have to go round looking for them! Anyway, the ‘1.0’ were sometimes not quite doing the trick lately (mainly on product ingredients on food packaging etc) so I thought an eye test a good idea at least.

It’s not as if I haven’t had to wear prescription glasses before. Way back… just after I had my first baby I suddenly noticed that I could no longer read the road signs at a distance easily. Now, prior to giving birth, I had excellent eyesight at all distances. When I went for an eye test the optician told me that the hormonal changes could, in some cases, set the lenses. This mean that my eyes now had a mid range only, and I needed prescription glasses for long distance, and to do fine or very close work (like threading small-eye needles) at least a ‘point-one’ basic pair of glasses.

Strangely, my eyesight kept changing .. back .. perhaps the lenses softened again – I really do not know but after about thirty-five each eye test meant a weaker pair of lenses, until, at about fifty, I no longer required glasses for long distance at all. My long distance is excellent at the moment, however, my close vision became steadily worse, so that the spectacles used for only close work were needed for not-so-close work.. then for reading in poor light … or for reading small writing.

I was glad not to need the long distance glasses any more – didn’t have to keep finding them before driving (or buying a second pair with darkened lenses for bright day driving – and finding them when it was bright!) and didn’t have to fork out the huge prices for the frames. Note, not the lenses. I have no problem with the cost of technical, precision-made, personalised items such as the lenses… I do have a difficulty with frames that cost so much when the £3   frames on the ‘1.0’ have been doing their job quite satisfactorily for many years.

So it was with great delight (not to say surprise) that I received the ‘prescription’ from the optician… my eyes were not as good as they were, true, but a ‘2.0’ cheap pair would be fine!

Luckily both my eyes are almost identical in their requirements. She asked what I had been using so far … and when I admitted to using the off the shelf ‘1.0’, she said that the ‘2.0’ should be fine – with a ‘2.5’ for working on a computer (as in when writing the novels!) . WOW

Now as I was waiting for my optician’s appointment I had been looking at some of the frames available.  As it happened the weekend before my friend had just been showing me some snazzy ‘1.0’ – under a £5 each – that she had just bought. These were at least as nice as some up on the racks costing sixty pounds or more. So with my new ‘prescription’ I ordered a few pairs at ‘2.0’ and one at ‘2.5’. They arrived and are comfortable and attractive. Which begs the question … why do the ones available from the optician have to cost so much? (even before the lenses are added)

Any opticians out there would care to enlighten me?

Any one else want to share an optician story?

You know I love to hear from you!