Happy 2014 – and a gift for You…

As I write it is already New Year’s Eve … 2014 is almost upon us.  Along with just about every blogger I know I can’t help but glance back over the year. As an Author it has been a interesting year – with, at last, finishing The Angel Bug and getting it published! This meant that I had to get out there and do what I find difficult – blowing my own trumpet –  and get myself radio interviews and pieces in the local papers.

Then there was the next step of working with Pendown Publishing to get The Angel Bug released as a paperback – this was a whole new learning curve.

In the future we plan to publish each of the other full length novels as paperbacks too – as this has taught me how many people like to own the solid copy – even if they have already bought and read the ebook!!!

So lots to look forward to on the Author front and,  as time and the blog will reveal, also on the home front too…..

THANK YOU ALL for sticking with me and the blog all through 2013! It’s good to know that I am not just writing words into the ether! It has been great to read your comments, to get to know some of you a little better, to explore the things that trigger a memory or ring a bell with people from all over the world.

So as a New Year gift to you, my readers, I’m offering you an ecopy of Some Kind of Synchrony  cover

Just contact me via the contact-ann on annmade.co.uk (you just need to make sure you enter your email address really carefully – so that I have it accurately – and in the message say which version you need for your ereader – mobi for kindles, epub for most of the others, or pdf – if you are going to read on a computer)  That’s it – just ask for your free new year present before the 14th Jan – and I will email it to you – though, of course, when you’ve read it, I’d love a review posted on amazon!!

Here’s wishing You All a Happy, Prosperous and Peaceful 2014 filled with joy and plenty of time to read.


Happy Christmas

Just what we all need for Christmas …………..

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Our rather retro tree – and dog

…. a  Christmas Tree



….. a Chrismas Cake ….

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Based on the idea from last week’s blog,  our  Christmas Cake ….





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# 4 son – unexpectedly arrived home after 2 years away in far east – joy!








…… and a Nice Surprise !!!!




Hope you all have a very Happy Christmas.


Thank you all so much for following my blog, for commenting when you feel moved to do so and for sharing and tweeting when you like something you find here.  Also a big thank you to all of you who have supported my writing in any way.  See you in the New Year – Ann


Did you miss me? Sorry – I was decorating this cake…

yes… I missed my post date …!  What was I thinking doing?

Well I sat down ready to write and then I had one of those moments when you realise that you haven’t done something that MUST be done… and there is no other time to do it than right NOW!

Yes – it was Tuesday evening and the WI Christmas cake had to be ready for Wednesday evening… and I was out at the market all Wednesday morning and out again with my OH in the afternoon. Could I do both, blog and decorate the cake? I looked at the time, thought I might but that the cake must come first (sorry) and set about the decorations. DSCF7339 wi cake

It’s not as if I had totally forgotten about this, a few days previously I had made and dried a lot of icing holly leaves and the lettering for the decorations, but there was still the covering, the other decoration bits and the assembly to do.  It all had to be last minute as it was to be a sponge cake ( by request) , and I’d made this and frozen it a week before. I had even remembered in the morning to take it out of the freezer to thaw gently … just somewhere during the day I had forgotten it again (worrying, or what?).

Now I do have a range of holly cutters, but you do not have to have specialist cutters to create this effect – should you wish to – substituting Happy Christmas for the name of our WI, of course 🙂  Holly leaves of three different sizes can be made using just one ‘sweet’ pastry cutter ( the ones with the wavy edges)

Colour some ready-to-roll icing green (I find Regal Ice the best for taste and texture) This is easiest done using powder cake colours rather than the liquid ones – but you can use the liquid if you can’t get hold of the powder – you may just have to knead in a little corn flour to take away the stickiness.

If you have gum tragacanth then blend in a sprinkling to ensure a hard set to your icing leaves. They will firm up as they dry anyway – but gum tragacanth will make sure they are hard.

Roll out your coloured icing on a work surface dusted with corn-flour. This is MUCH better than icing sugar! Use a medium cutter and cut as many circles as you can fit out of the icing. Depending on the size of the holly leaves you want, cut 4, 3 or 2 holly leaves from each circle by cutting on an edge. See photos.


These can then be enhanced using the back of a knife to mark the rib and veins of the leaf. DSCF7347

Cover a baking sheet with a piece of cling film and dust with corn flour, place the leaves on this and leave somewhere warm to dry. If you want wavy leaves fold or screw up paper of aluminium foil and lay the cling film over this and the leaves on top – leaves will lie on the uneven surface and mould themselves to the shape – resulting in wavy leaves when dry. DSCF7348

If you’ve never used roll-out icing before may I say just four things. 1, Use the base of the cake as the top, and brush warm apricot jam all over the surface. 2, Roll out icing on corn flour – and make sure it isn’t too thin, then lift the sheet using a rolling pin as support and drape over the cake, overlapping the cake out to the edge of the board. 3, Gently press / smooth the corners first (if square cake) then ease the sides down without creases. (If round cake make sure the icing it evenly ‘draped’ around the cake and ease down from the top all round, to form smooth sides.) 4, ‘Polish’ with palm of hand dusted in corn flour, gently and smoothly, then trim off excess.

To attach the holly leaves and letters just moisten the back with water (I use a dedicated paintbrush) and press lightly down – if on side of the cake hold for a moment to make sure it doesn’t slide. To create the 3 dimension effect of holly leaves sticking up, make a small hole in the icing with a cocktail stick, moisten the end section of a piece of holly and press it in, smoothing the icing over the ‘stem’.DSCF7338 wi cake holly crop[

Many, many years a go I bought a set of letters for cutting out of icing – a most excellent and ever useful buy!DSCF7357  However, if you do not have these you can roll out the icing into a long thin sausage ( all that DSCF7358plasticine or play-dough rolling skills come in handy) and use this to ‘write’ a script Merry Christmas on to the top of the cake. Lie it on dry, then when in the right place lift, moisten top of cake and place down in the right place.

Lastly, some white holly leaves cut from the trimmings, mark them up and use to fill in between the green, and a few red berries, made by colouring some of those trimmings red, roll into a thin sausage, cut a small piece, roll on palm of hand and add with the dampened brush tip onto the right place.

So there it is – our WI Christmas cake… and, perhaps, an idea for you – simply done with little in the way of special decoration equipment. Alas, the blog didn’t get written that night … and so this is the new blog post – hope you liked it!

Have you made and decorated your Christmas cake yet?? (Mine is made… but not yet decorated)

Do you find yourself ‘double-booking’ your time?

Do share – you know I love to hear from you


Weird Fruit

Have you ever eaten a Medlar?

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A plate of Medlars

I ate my first about six years ago … and then last year we planted a Medlar tree. This year we have fruit.

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Medlar – papery skin peeled off
Medlar – cut in half – puree squashed, one seed removed – top right,

It is a weird fruit! It is a member of the rose family despite having the look of an apple about it, albeit with a rather large ‘flower end’ which has in medieval times given it the slang name of ‘open-arse’ .  To me it has associations with Elizabethan England though it is not a native tree and has been cultivated since Roman times. But it is not its appearance that is strange – this is a fruit that has to be ‘bletted’ a word from the French which means ‘softened’ and to do this it has to start to decay –  rather like some cheeses, it goes soft through maturation. Once soft the acidic pale fruit turns a rich brown and becomes paste-like.  Once the outer papery layer is peeled off it can be eaten, tasting like thick apple puree which has been flavoured with spices, perhaps cloves and cinnamon. They do have hard ‘pips’ or seeds’ within them too.

The second weird fruit we have just harvested is a rather late planting of Physalis peruviana or the Cape Gooseberry. DSCF7336 (2)This is the first time we have grown these in over thirty years. A friend gave us these plants, the first lot we grew in the first greenhouse we owned when we lived in Plymouth. Back then no-one had  seen them before – they were truly exotic … today they seem to adorn almost every dessert we have when we eat out* (* not that we eat out often – but these are always there)  However, there is something still a little magical about the golden ball of tart sweetness hidden within the delicate papery lantern.

The third fruit we have been harvesting is another ‘gooseberry’ the Chinese Gooseberry (see how I linked those last two) or as it is more commonly known – the Kiwi Fruit. ‘Well, they are not strange or weird’ I hear you say. DSCF7329 (2)Though I always think they are a little weird as fruit goes … the strange thing is that our crop is grown in Cornwall UK .. and our few plants, as in some other years, yielded 657 kiwi fruits! These we stand in egg trays in a cool vermin-proof shed, and bring one tray indoors at a time to ripen an soften ready to eat … they last us well into spring.

One unusual fruit that we have tried to grow but have not had any success with is the black Mulberry. Where I grew up we had an enormous and very ancient mulberry tree.  Quite possibly one of those planted in the 17 century when they were imported and planted in the hope of rearing silk worms to make silk on them. Unfotunately someone was misinformed, as the silk worms prefer the White Mulberry. I loved that fruit and really wanted to grow one here, but all types of propagation and buying of stock resulted in failure. To me, the taste of the mulberry is the taste of my childhood.

Have you ever eaten a medlar, nicely bletted?  What did you think it tasted of?

Do certain fruits bring back memories for you

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

By the way … ‘The Angel Bug’  is now available in Paperback from AMAZON  all over the world, and to order from all good bookshops, everywhere.


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