Time for a Slate Clock and this week’s FWT? results

A few weeks ago I realised that one topic I had not blogged about specifically was slate-craft!  Which is strange, as it is an activity I do A LOT !

Most of you will know that this blog is also linked to the website  AnnMade.co.uk (and to the Facebook page of the same name).  Now I write whenever I can, but creating handcrafted slate-ware is my ‘day job’.   It’s a small business that I have built up from nothing over the past 5 years and AnnMade slate-ware has a good name amongst top chefs and restaurateurs as well as individuals from all over the UK and even as far afield as the USA, Holland, Eire and Australia.

My carefully hand polished and food-safe olive-oil conditioned Slate Plates were specifically asked for by Michelin starred Chef Richard Corrigan for his show on Channel 4, ‘Cookery School’, and they have been used multiple times on The Great British Menu, both in the heats and at a banquet. These and specialist shaped or sized bespoke slate cheeseboards or plates have been made for many chefs and hotels including Marcus Waverly at the Berkley. You may have guessed, I’m quite proud of my little business.

However, I also make a lot of other products for both home and garden, some of which are one-off items, sometimes made from reclaimed slates from Cornwall, notably the famous Delabole slate. This slate weathers well and after a couple of hundred years shows beautiful patterns and markings caused by inclusions of minerals like iron pyrites (fools gold)

While I was busy making a new slate ‘natural sun’ clock using a piece of reclaimed Delabole I decided to take photos as I went along to show you the process and get at least one specific blog into that topic!

Now ‘natural sun’ is just my name for this particular design that I created, where the hours are marked by slots in the slate creating a sun-ray effect to the edge, and each one is unique as each slate is different.

Hope you found this guide to making this type of slate clock interesting.  And talking of time – there is still just time to enter my great Draw to Win a Kindle (or 1 of 4 other prizes) Just click on the link to get all the details, and if you have already signed up make sure you tell everyone you know about it, so they can have a chance too. Only 147 places left!

Finally, for my great cheerleaders who are encouraging me in my quest to lose weight through resistance weights exercises carried out at home and taking less than 15 mins a day (want to know more? click here) .. the results for this week are in. Now you will recall that last week I lost 2 pounds (and was very pleasantly surprised at this stage) well, this week there was no change on the weight front. So still at 10st 1 lb and still tantalisingly close to that 10st goal!  However, the inches moved a little – both measurements, relaxed and pulled in tight were down a quarter of an inch. Considering that the pulled in tight measurement didn’t move last week I am happy with this.

What do you think of the process of making this design of clock?  Do you work in a similar craft?  I just love to hear from you folks!




‘Apeeling’ gadgets and a Cake called Herman

There – now look what I have gone and done – I usually hate that, when to catch your attention words are spelled incorrectly! Krazy Kards, Kwik Fit etc …  grrr – how is any child expected to learn how to spell? Whew.. what another rant already? Enough – today I just have to tell you about my new apple peeler / corer / slicer. Though you don’t have to do all three, there is the option just to core and slice or just to peel.

I had first seen these at a WI night where we had a local producer of chutneys and mustards come to give us a talk on how his business got started and how he makes all his products. One of the gadgets he brought along to show us how he made his preparation easier was an apple peeler/ corer/ slicer: a modernised version of a Victorian invention. I was fascinated!

Wind forward about 8 months to a TV programme fronted by Stephen Fry on the 100 best gadgets. I came in when they had got down to the top 20 or so.. and there is was. ‘Ha!’ I cried ‘See that – that’s what I was telling you about from WI.’  I told the husband, ‘Absolutely brilliant, I’d love one of those!’ and then forgot all about it.

Until the other week when it arrived. ‘Not very romantic,’ he said, ‘but I guessed you’d like it.’

.. oh and I do!

(sorry that  the video is a bit wobbly – I was holding camera in my left hand whilst turning the handle with my right! Also – it ran out of memory just before I showed the spiral apple cut! (there’s some excellent vids made by others on youtube if you want to look esp. a great one by an Oz firm called Ezi)  As it was a gift I know I shouldn’t have checked up .. but I see you can buy them from around £15 on Amazon or £10 on ebay.

Bonny enjoying the 'spaghetti' peelings


After you have finished you have this metres-long peel and the core. Now Bonny the Dog loves apples (she helps herself to windfalls from the orchard in the Autumn) and she hoovers these peelings up like spaghetti. And even better, unlike so many kitchen gadgets, it is so easy to clean, taking very little time! Now, that is impressive – and so it has been used by one or other of the household everyday, sometimes more than once a day, since it has arrived, especially as my elderly parents don’t like eating the peel anymore and do like their apple in slices.

Peeler with ceramic blade

So, I called this appealing gadgets – and that’s because I have also recently bought a simple peeler. Until now I have been a ‘sharp knife’ sort of kitchen demon. Never really seen the need for peelers. Always found the sort with the slot up the blade took too much off and were harder work than a simple knife. Then, first, the handle on my favourite peeling knife broke – irreparable. Then I bought a replacement – well, when I say replacement, I couldn’t get one quite the same so I got one that was about the same size and looked like the handle would be comfortable. It wasn’t. I bought another (more expensive) knife. The blade does not seem to be fine enough and is hard to peel with. Yes, I ‘invested’ in another. The ‘ergonomic’ ridge, digs into my finger and makes lengthy peeling sessions uncomfortable! So when on a pre-Christmas peeling session, my Aunt brought with her a different type of simple peeler I  tried it out. It was wonderful! And it is this type I have just bought, lightweight and with a sharp ceramic blade, it’s a whiz even with our wriggly home-grown veg as well as this neat looking carrot I used for the pic.



Herman - the Friendship Cake

So where does Herman come in to this? Herman (the friendship cake) is a sourdough yeast based cake that you are given as a starter by a friend and then add flour, sugar and milk to at certain stages to make it ‘grow’, when it has quadrupled in size you divide it into 4 and give away (with the recipe sheet) the other three portions and make yourself the cake. This version required 2 cooking apples, chopped. Of course I used the apple peeler, corer, slicer and then just chopped each apple down into smaller chunks – easy!!

And it’s a yummy cake too! So, what with all the apples and Herman, how is the weight going I hear you ask? (That’s if you are one of the followers of the saga of the Fat Woman Thinning, whereby I am trying to lose weight, post menopause, through a weights exercise programme that my #3 son has worked out for me, designed to burn fat not build muscle and to take minimal time (less than 15 mins a day). If you want the details you’ll have to go up to the FWT? drop-downs from the top bar where you’ll find most of the information and the ‘losing weight’ blogs where you’ll find the rest.)

OH? The results.. sorry, were you waiting.. ok then.. yeah ..2 pounds down this week!! (Yes, I know – wow…!)  waist measurements – relaxed – down a quarter of an inch, pulled-in tight – the same. Comments on this on week 20.

Once last thing that I think might appeal to you or your friends and family – my Win a Kindle Draw (or  1 of 4 other prizes including a slate cheeseboard from AnnMade and ecopies of my Novels) which anyone can enter with just a sign-up to this blog – though there are extra entries also available. As soon as one thousand people have entered the draw will be made. As of today there are only 198 places left – so don’t miss out – don’t let your friends and family miss out – it’s worth a go! Click HERE for full details

What’s your favourite kitchen gadget? Or do you have a cupboard full of those that take longer to clean than they save in time? Love to hear your stories….



Writing from What You Know – and FWT? Results!

Before we get into the headline act, a quick catch up for Fat Woman Thinning? my 52 week odyssey to lose weight after the menopause using a quick resistance weights programme.  The results are in for last week…. (here you may enter one of those awful pauses that, on TV, they seem to think creates tension and excitement – but really just annoys (or is this only me?) It was good to see on BBC Young Musician of the Year that they did no such thing and announced the winner immediately after the saying ‘the winner is  🙂  Ok, rant over

  Now, results: another one pound down! Half an inch off relaxed waist measurement, but no change on the pulled-in tight measurement. Am I pleased – Yes, I am!  More thoughts and details on the FWT? drop down for week 19.

Kindle to Win

And secondly, my Win a Kindle Draw (or 1 of 4 other prizes) is hotting up.. there are now only 225 places left – so make sure you have yours and make sure everyone you know has heard of it so they have a chance to enter too! It’s free and very easy to enter, just an email sign-up to this blog gets you in, more details from the link http://annfoweraker.com/2012/your-chance-to-win-a-kindle/

Writing from What You Know

As you will know I also write novels, and occasionally I get asked for tips from new writers or those thinking of writing so now and again I do a post on writing.  Now, one of the things you are most frequently told as a new writer is to ‘write from what you know’.

Now, I always thought this to be a strange thing to suggest –  after all most of what the average person, let alone the average author, knows is probably pretty ordinary and dull.

However, after writing for many years, I think I now have a better understanding of this stricture and for any budding writers I’ll share this little insight. It’s all to do with using things, places, feelings, you already know within your story so you do not have to re-invent the wheel world. (Yes, even when you are inventing new worlds – some of the most famous, Tolkien for example, use ancient stories, lore and familiar scenery to develop their new worlds)

Let’s just look at one of my novels as an example: In Nothing Ever Happens here, my main female character, Jo,  is a teacher (This is obviously writing from what I knew – having been a teacher)

She works in a school in London, a primary school. Using my memory I can see, feel, taste even, the primary school in the Fulham road where I did my very first teaching practice. ( again – drawing on something I knew)

What else is there in Nothing Ever Happens Here that comes from what I knew? Certainly not the violence and the drugs smuggling – not personally, but like anyone, particularly any author, I read a lot and I read reports of criminal acts as part of my research.

Once my Jo and her son are down in Cornwall I don’t have to invent the scenery, I take it from what is there – what I know – and the scenery and the lay of the land does play quite a big part in this story. Especially the smugglers’ caves, the secluded coves and the countryside.

On her holiday (to escape their troubles in London) Jo stays at a chalet on a small farm which has goats, chickens and geese, all of which we have kept on our own smallholding and Rick, my other main protagonist, works out of the main police station in Plymouth, a city where I used to live and frequently visit.

Having all this important background material and central locations already in my head frees up my imagination so that I can pursue the rest of the story, seeing it happen like watching a film, getting the words down to describe my personal movie to you the reader, hoping to recreate what I see and hear … which, in this case, became the novel ‘Nothing Ever Happens Here’ …. an ironic title that heads-up a story, which you may have guessed, is anything but ordinary and dull.

Are you a new writer  … or thinking you’d like to write one day? What things, that you have been told about how to write a novel, just confuse you, which are useful and what hints would help you? Do share and let me know, I love to hear your comments!


Chick News & Nature Notes for April


Late again, I know (supposed to post this at the end of each month) – so here we go! Lichen with fruiting bodies Can’t resist starting with this out-of-this-world alien-like lichen in full fruiting body form! Wonderful. Please click on the picture to appreciate it in full size!

Next up is those pretty and delicate flowers of this season , the second year in a row where they have been prolific in the hedges around here – I give you the violets!


As pretty as these are, everyone knows a violet when they see one, but what about a hairy woodrush. Large patches of these have appeared , not only in the orchard, but also on a damp area of the front lawn. Small, delicate and interesting in shape.

Hairy WoodRush


Spotted in amongst the daffodils – a hen pheasant. She went on to lay a clutch of eggs amongst the daffodil stalks in the orchard, not too clever in an area where a labradoodle roams. She’s moved on to a wooded area nearby now

Hen phesant amongst daffodils

And, I know it’s not wild, but above these daffodils is the magnolia, casting its beautiful light.

A quick catch-up on the goat kids.. oh yes — they are still feeding ….

Cute or What?

Our Light Sussex Cockerel

And here’s the chicks’ Daddy (well of some of the chicks now hatched) handsome fellow, isn’t he?


some of the chicks in the brooder








And here’s some of the chicks, a total of 31 only this year – lots were not fertile at all.

So great to share some of the nature notes from around our little corner of Cornwall and our smallholding. And so great to share the wonderful Free Draw to Win a Kindle or one of four other prizes including an AnnMade slate cheeseboard and ecopies of my three novels. If you’ve already entered (if not – why not – it only takes a sign-up to this blog) please share the good news and let all your friends and family know so they can enter too.  And good luck to you all – a lucky five people out of just one thousand must win something but there’s only 269 places left as I write, so hurry.

Do you like taking photographs of nature – what was your favourite picture of? I love to hear all your comments.


Turning Eggs, Sweet Cicely and the Hungry Questions

For the past twenty days I have been turning eggs.

eggs being collected - turned each day

To be more accurate, I have been turning eggs for at least ten days more than this, as they require turning once a day even while you are collecting them to put in the incubator, but these twenty days are the ones that count as the eggs incubate.

Incubator - eggs on view through window




We lay them out on trays of sawdust, marked with a O on one side and a X on the other with an arrow on one egg per tray to remind me which way to turn them*.  Over twenty years ago we bought a large, second-hand paraffin powered 100 egg incubator. This old beast has been temperamentally incubating our eggs each year ever since.

eggs in the incubator tray - thermometer held at top of egg level

Modern, and expensive, incubators automatically turn eggs for you, each of our eggs has to be turned over, morning one way 180 degrees, evening back the other way the same, gently by hand, rotated not flipped. *(Though this is to prevent the yolk from settling on one side of the egg it’s not a good idea to keep rotating in the same direction as this can create a ‘spiralling’ effect on the contents)

Though there are about 80 eggs in the incubator they are not all from our own flock, which we have reduced to just seven laying hens, as the maximum premium collection time is just 10 days and they don’t lay quite that many! So a number of the eggs are from a friend’s flock of mixed hens giving a wide range of shell colour (and eventually, we hope, chickens)

And that is it – not counting your chickens until they have hatched! One thing you learn in doing your own incubation of eggs is that the number you get out bears little resemblance to the number of eggs put in. So, we wait to see …


Rhubarb and fronds of Sweet Cicely

Another harbinger of spring for me is eating the first rhubarb of the year – slender, tender stalks of fresh rhubarb sweetened by laying a few fronds of Sweet Cicely over them as they cook.   If you have never come across this amazing natural sweetener then be prepared to be amazed, I was! A friend at the market gave me a couple of uninspiring looking roots, which I planted and which took (I am not green fingered, so this was a bonus) and grew these delicate cow-parsley-like fronds. A few of which, laid across rhubarb or cooking apples, will lend them such a sweetness that no added sugar is necessary! You just lift the fronds off after cooking and dispose of them (into your compost bin of course).

Now for the Hungry Questions  – then a little goat-kid video about it …

If you have been following my Fat Woman Thinning? posts you’ll know I’ve said you shouldn’t go hungry between meals – I know – counter intuitive isn’t it.. I mean, what diet ever said you shouldn’t feel hungry. (BTW if you are following the results from last week are on the FWT? drop-down – 1lb down!)

Anyway, I’ve been thinking how you know when you are hungry.

Fact is half (or more) of the times that you think you are feeling hungry; you are actually thirsty. Doing the resistance weights course you are advised to make sure you drink plenty of water anyway – it helps metabolise the fat your body is burning. And I have said I always drink a glass of water about 10 minutes before I eat a meal, it cuts out the ‘thirst’ part of ‘feeling hungry’ and perhaps helps you feel full earlier so you don’t tend to overeat. So, first stop when feeling ‘hungry’ is to check you are not thirsty. (NB. it is possible to over-do the water – be sensible about it)

Then there is the ‘bored’ sense of feeling hungry. Yes, if you are bored sometimes your brain suggests that you might feel peckish … So, if this is the case you need to ask yourself – do I feel hungry just because I am feeling bored? And if answer is ‘yes’ then go and do something well away from the temptation. (difficult, I know, if you have to be working in the kitchen) My main ‘bored’ time for ‘feeling hungry’ is often while I am occupied – with doing the boring work of cleaning, but now I recognise the signs I can easily fight them and will have my ‘safe munchie’ (safe for me – as one is usually enough) of a cube of plain chocolate and a brazil nut with some hot water and milk to drive away that hungry feeling.

Ok, so you are not thirsty and you are not bored, and there is pudding on offer after your meal. Do you eat it? Are you still hungry or is it just ‘habit’. Do you ‘always’ have a dessert?  Now, I love a dessert – especially with fruit – and cream oh and sometimes meringue too! So, if it is just habit but you don’t want to cut out your lovely puds then pop it away for an in-between meals snack. No, you wouldn’t want to do this everyday with a high carb pud – but a plain yoghurt or stewed fruit (with sweet cicely) would be great.

Lastly there is the ‘am I hungry or am I just tired’ question. Yes, feeling tired can trigger a feeling that you are hungry, that you need a ‘quick-fix’ and you will crave the sweet high carb foods. Ok, so you may not be able to take a ‘power-nap’ (ten minute shut-eye) but if you can this may sort the problem. Otherwise resort to the drink and your safe munchie solution, combined with doing something that occupies your mind happily and you may get through until you can get enough sleep not to feel tired.

I guess these two might be hungry! They nearly have lift-off!

and maybe you might just be hungry too, look it’s lunch time already!

But before you go and eat – have you entered my great Draw to win a Kindle or 1 of 4 other great prizes, including ecopies of my three novels … and if you have, have you made sure all your friends and family have entered.. there’s only 398  places left so don’t delay click here for all the details.
And as always – I love to read your comments on whatever part of the blog interestes you!


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