The Spires of June and one last chance

One Last Chance .. to enter my Win a Kindle Draw – where there are now only 39  places left before this draw is called. If you’ve not entered, or know someone who hasn’t,  then just go to Win a Kindle for all the details – do share with anyone who you know who would like a chance – before they all go! ALL GONE!!

It looks as if this June is going into the records as the wettest ever in the UK – however, nature takes it all in its stride – some things suffer and some things do better.  Umbillifers and ferns and the ubiquitous and insidious bracken seem to be thriving – all working to hide the most recent flush of hedgerow flowers.

 The Spires of June are the lovely-to-look-at foxgloves, Digitalis pupurea. Lovely – but both highly poisonous and a very important medication. In some unfortunate cases, foxglove leaves  have been mistaken for comfrey leaves (which are a similar shape and texture before the flowers appear) and made into a ‘tea’ –  with deadly consequences.  Digitalin is used to treat heart conditions and has been for centuries, described in medical literature as early as 1785.  Dioxigenin, found solely in the leaves and flowers of foxgloves, is a steroid used as a molecular probe to detect DNA and RNA.

In June these bedeck our hedgerows, large enough to stand proud from all the other foliage, especially in a June like this has been.

A much humbler, and perhaps overlooked, spire of June is the flower-spike of the Wall Pennywort (or Navel-wort or Penny-Pies).

pennywort - early June
pennywort late June

The names for this plant are so descriptive – the round, penny shaped leaves have a central dimple – like a belly-button and are edible. You can see where each local name for Umbilicus rupestris comes from. Many people do not even associate the white flower spikes with the flat round leaves noticed much early in the year as the leaves seem to shrink when the spikes reach their maximum.

What else do I have for you for June, well a catch-up on the chicks – hatched in mid-May – might be an idea.  A real mixed bunch!

 

 

 

 

And a cutie shot of one of the little billy goats enjoying the long grass. nom-nom  The whole herd seem to be swimming as they wade through the long grass in the field – grass which has grown like crazy due to the extra wet, yet warm, June.  

And finally – a photograph of one of our garden plants in flower – it produces fruit for us each year – though you might not expect to see one growing and fruiting so well in the UK.  Any idea what it could be?    Post your answers in the comments – the first correct one will get an copy of  my novel ‘Some Kind of Synchrony’ (in pdf format)  Want to know what Some Kind of Synchrony is about – click this LINK to read the blurb and the first 3 chapters.  Answer at the end of the month.

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed catching up with nature in our little corner of Cornwall. What has June been like where you are?  There have certainly been some sets of extreme weather in all sorts of places this year. Do tell – I love to hear from you!

 

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Could Your Plate Be Making You Fat?

Hey, so first up – it seems that this past week wasn’t one of those where the places on my Win a Kindle Draw flew – true there are only – yes ONLY 48  places left – but there they are – still up for grabs by anyone who likes to sign-up for this blog.  So, still a chance to tell any friends or family – share the link – they’ll thank you if they win, just go to Win a Kindle for all the details.

I’ve hit the title this week with Could Your Plate Be Making You Fat?     WHAT?!?   

Bear with me…..

I’m still on the ‘watching what I eat’ kick this week, I know – again – yes, I do blog about other topics, honest,  but the programme I told you about  last week (The Men Who Made Us Fat) gave me another angle to think about this week too.  And By The Way – last week’s programme is now available on YouTube (for my US readers who can’t see iplayer – well worth watching – link HERE)  (For my FWT? cheerleaders: I’m maintaining the new weight with only one set of reps of each day’s exercise and eating as before)

This week they were thinking about The Men Who Made Us Fat by super-sizing  meals.  I learnt something – I always thought McDonalds were the initiators of this insidious scheme – seems they just spread the idea better and further – it started with popcorn.  iplayer version here for another 9 days  Youtube episode 2 part 1 here – the others will come up then

If you are watching what you eat you’d not get suckered into the ‘would you like to super-size that’ ploy (always supposing you were in such an establishment in the first place) however, I discovered something that may cause you to up your portion size without meaning to, without really thinking about it.

new design plain plate 27.5cm

I recently bought some new dining plates – just a few plain white ones to make up numbers a bit – my set is over 20 years old and has suffered some casualties and the design is long gone being available.   The new plates weren’t anything special in size – same as most of the rest in the shop. Basic, standard white dinner-size plates – or so I thought until I tried to put them in the cupboard with the others.  They were an inch larger.

summerfields plate 25.5 cm inner 17.5 cm

Not only that, these new plates were of a different design to my original ones – flat with a gently turned up rim around the outer edge – which seems to be the current poplular style. My summerfields design plates have a central flat place with a raised decorated flat rim at an inch and a half wide round the edge – so the flat / food area is basically a 7 inch diameter circle. The new plates, being flat almost out to the edge offer a flat / food surface of at least 10 and a half inch diameter.

That’s a whopping  50 % more space on your plate that looks like it ought to have food on it.

Another TV programme. Britain’s Secret Eaters (honest – I really don’t watch much TV – and not of this kind, it’s formulaic and one of those that treat the audience as if it has the attention span of a gnat – repeating itself constantly… enough of that rant .. won’t be watching them all, needless to say)  Briefly, the premise of the programme is that the participants are vastly overweight but do not understand why, as they all believe they eat sensibly, healthily and not too much – some even think they do not eat enough!  They then allow cameras to be placed in their main rooms to monitor their eating habits. What they didn’t know was that the programme makers would also set private investigators to trail them and get all the info on what they ate outside the home too.  As you can imagine these people actually pack away vast quantities of food that they didn’t even think about -ok! Ok !  now we come to my point. We also see them eating what would be considered a healthy balanced home-cooked meal. Except it is on one of those large style dinner plates and it is FULL. Edge to edge.  When it comes to it, eating too much of any food – not matter how healthy, will result in putting on weight.

We eat* with our eyes before we eat with our mouths, so they say. (or *serve up food)  Our mind can tell us whether we’re going to feel full and satisfied as much as our stomach. So if a standard meal would look a bit paltry on a large plate, the temptation might be to put a bit more on it … to super-size it.

Am I right – might the right amount of food look ‘too little’ on an extra large plate? Could a plate help to make you fat…. or a different plate help to make you slimmer?

Any experiences to relate? Any thoughts on my theory? I’d love to hear from you!

 

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Coincidences, Reality and a true Potty story

How many of you experience coincidences in your life – and how often?  So what do I mean by a coincidence.  Well, it might be like my parents travelling to Australia – then taking a round Australia road-trip with my aunt and uncle,who live there, and meeting a girl from the next village to ours in Cornwall, UK.  It wasn’t just the meeting, but they actually had to have talked to the girl, and recognising a British accent, ask where she was from to realise the coincidence – to go half way round the world to meet someone who would nortmally live so close.

Or when you just decide to phone someone and the phone rings – it’s them!  Or you and your friend both buy the same gift for a third friend?  Or you get lost in a strange town, stop the car to ask someone  the way and that person happens to be someone you went to college with over ten years ago!

OK, so now, hands up if you’ve ever been struck by a coincidence .. yeah .. and if you have, I bet it’s not been the only one!

If you haven’t you probably are not tuned in to them, but somehow, once you notice them, you seem to encounter more 🙂

I’ve written previously on Inspiration for my novel Some Kind of Synchrony of how a couple of things brewed themselves into a plot.  (A friend mentioning a way she and another whiled away the miles by making up and telling each other episodes in a Mills and Boon type story, being one of them)

The other ingredient in the plot was something that happened to me.  I’d written my first novel almost by accident.  Yeah – I know – how do you do that eh?  Well, the answer to that is ‘potty’! 🙂

First take a time everyday when you can’t do much else but sit by and wait.  I’m risking a lot telling you this – one of my sons may never speak to me again 😉   This ‘time’ that I had was sitting waiting for my youngest son to ‘perform’ on his potty during that crucial potty-training stage!  Now, you just can’t wander off when this is in progress (not if you know what is good for you) and you can’t be in a hurry (your tension will trasmit itself to the child in question and a great pile of anxiety can build up about the whole process) no, you just have to be patient and this little guy would rather sit there and play with a couple of toys while his body thought about what it was doing / going to do, and this could take quite a while each morning. (He always prefered play to the serious business of life – and still does!)

So I’m sitting there and a story that had been playing itself quite a bit was running, (in my head – it’s as if I’m watching a movie somewhere just up and right of my eyeline – where you often ‘look’ inside your head for memories) so grabbing an old note book I decided to start writing it down.

Before long Eventually (these things take time – both of them) I had filled three notebooks and the little lad had passed that crucial stage and knew what he was about.  I was encouraged to take some time out to type it up on the computer and to my amazement found I had a 80,000 word novel. I was blinded by the – to me- amazing fact that I had written so much – that the story hung together – that I had written some parts ‘so poetically’ – that the few friends and family I showed it to were encouraging.  I proudly sent it off to publishers and agents!  Huh! (blush to think about it now)

Like I said – I had written it almost by accident – once I got into the craft of writing a bit more I realised that this was my ‘apprentice piece’ – and apart from friends and family (perhaps not even those) I should have consigned it to the back of a drawer rather than sending it off and, taking my lessons, moved forward to a better crafted novel.  This ‘book’ does indeed reside in the back of a drawer – and though there are good sections, though the plot still hangs together it was definitely not worth sending it off in the state it was in – and as for the wonderfully poetical parts – that’s where the phrase ‘you must kill your darlings’ comes from – they, most definitely, should have had the chop!

As I wrote that first story I hooked many of my characters to people I knew (some just casually) and stole from them their description or their personality.  Over the following year I noticed a few little coincidences.  Things that I had made happen to these characters did happen to the real people.  When I examine it in detail it was only one or two things, nothing bad or harmful – and some quite logical in their progression – but coincidences all the same.  This was the other germ of inspiration for Some Kind of Synchrony, which I didn’t write for another twelve years or so.

Another of the ‘words of wisdom’ handed down to new writers (along with ‘write from what you know)  is  ‘do not rely on coincidences for your plot to work out’  – well, not always put in those terms – but that’s the gist. (good blog post from The Ediors Blog on this HERE)  Readers, understandably, feel cheated when, to get out of an awkward plot situation, some kind of coincidence provides the opportunity of escape . So, to base a whole novel on coincidences was a bit of a risk in itself.  However, once you know and understand  the rules,  it is possible to take a definitive decision to break them to achieve a wholly different effect.

And this is what I did in writing

Some Kind of Synchrony

How would you feel if you made up a thriller, pinning the characters on some of your friends, in which people got really hurt, even died, only to find later that spookily similar stuff started to happen to just those people … and what if one of those was someone you loved?  First 3 chapters of Some Kind of Synchrony can be read Free by going to this link. (as a PDF file)  or you can download  the shorter Amazon sample for Kindle here

For FWT? cheerleaders – I am still at the 10st and am taking a few weeks to stabilise at this new weight. It’s been helter-skelter down, 28 lbs in 22 weeks, and I am adjusting to this new me and feeling great! Having been away and unable to update daily the weeks 23 and 24 are blank but I shall resume my daily record as of next Monday. Thank you all for your great support so far!

For everyone waiting for my  Win a Kindle (or one of 4 other prizes)   draw – we are really on the last countdown.. as of today there are only 89 places left – so if there’s someone you haven’t told here is possibly your last chance. Forward this blog to your friends and family – hopefully they’ll enjoy the eclectic mix to be found here – something for everyone – from baking to body-boarding, nature to novels, local history to losing weight – and anything else that the catches my interest along the way.

What is the most amazing coincidence you have experienced in your life? I absolutely love to hear from you!

 

 

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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!

 

 

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‘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….

 

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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!

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Handbag-Fat, Resistance Weights and Zebra Cakes

So, two items caught my eye in the press this week that  I’d like to pass on in case you missed them.

The first was the headline ‘Is Your Handbag Making You Fat?

My larger handbag

Ok, so I’m thinking of the odd bar of chocolate or bag of sweets secreted in your handbag for ‘emergencies’ that arrive on all too frequent a basis. (Who, me? Ever?)

But it seems that the renowned cosmetic surgeon (Shudder – is this is just me – can’t bear the thought of going under a knife for cosmetic reasons but can cope with the idea for medical…)  Dr Michael Prager had noticed a correlation between fat distribution and the side his clients carried their large handbags. He noticed these things due to the measurements and pictures he took prior to cosmetic reductions. (shudder)

The fat was more heavily distributed on the side that carried the hefty bag.

Now, if I ever get my photos from Fat Woman Thinning? up onto my blog (I’ll do it when I’m sure they will stay on the blog and not appear all over the place at random) it would be noticeable that the Fat on my upper hips is not distributed evenly.

Having said that – my fat has the unfortunate propensity to settle in ‘lumps’ rather than a smooth covering. Way, way back, in the dark ages when I was at college my room mate was a lovely girl who weighed quite a bit more than I did at that time* but really didn’t look it as her layer of fat was smooth and even all over, whereas what fat I did have then sat in lumpy areas looking like .. well .. fat. (*a lot less than I am at the moment and a weight I’m aiming at)

Bonny checks I haven't forgotten anything

So, back to the photos, yes, one hip definitely has a noticeably larger love-handle lump of fat sitting on it than the other, and I’ve often wondered why and how to get rid of it, and YES it is the side I carry my large, very full and heavy handbag. The good doctor was backed up by Postural expert, Ivana Daniell, who claimed that the imbalance caused by toting the heavy handbag built skeletal and muscle imbalance that affected fat distribution.

All I know is that I am going to do two things. 1, even-up the handbag carrying (swapping shoulders if I have to take my larger (this way I don’t forget  anything) handbag with me) and 2, trying to take my smaller ‘back-pack’ type handbag at other times as this is worn on both shoulders evenly.

The second headline (a sub) was ‘Lift Weights for Brain Boost’

 This is more like it, I thought, as you may know from my Fat Woman Thinning? blogs I am Not Dieting but I am following a quick resistance weights programme (less than 15 mins a day)

The gist of this article was that lifting weights as resistance training not only builds and maintain muscle-mass and strength as we grow older but also helps to  prevent cognitive decline.

The same article also advocated Vitamin D to help prevent memory loss and as you’ll know Vitamin D is generated in our bodies through being in the sunshine – however, Eggs are one of the few foods that provide vitamin D – and you know how much I like to advocate an egg for breakfast (3 cheers for Eggs) And, talking of that – the same article pointed out that Cereals were really the worst way to start the day – and that a protein based breakfast would be more healthy for the brain.

Enough! I know you are all really waiting for the ZEBRA CAKE.

Winning Zebra cakes at our WI group meeting

This was set as the competition for our WI group meeting held this week. Here’s a lovely photo of the three winners.  No, none of them was mine, despite being the one who re-engineered the recipe to be UK friendly (and imperial measure friendly) and to fit an 8inch tin (where all the other recipes are for a 9inch – most people asked had 8inch tins)

The ingredients are really simple and probably in your cupboards now – however, the method is the most unusual I have tried.

Ingredients for 8″ Zebra Cake – a fairly dense, moist sponge cake with concentric circles on tops and vertical ‘zebra’ stripes inside:

3 Eggs

155g    / 5 ¼  oz  caster sugar

150ml  / 5 fl oz   whole milk

150ml  / 5 fl oz   vegetable oil (any – your choice)

2 tsp vanilla essence

180g  /    6 ¼  oz Self Raising flour (sieved)

1 level tablespoon Cocoa powder        }

scant ½ level teaspoon baking powder  } sieved together

a little extra milk – if required (about a tablespoon)

For the full recipe WITH METHOD click here to go to Recipes drop down for  Zebra Cake

 So a very mixed bag this blog post (get it) , and I shall finish with another plug for the great Win a Kindle (or one of 4 other great prizes) DRAW that I’m running here on this blog . Just an email-sign-up gets you an entry in this draw, where only one thousand are allowed to enter, and there’s only 429 places left. As soon as 1000 are signed up to this varied blog we call the draw! Free and easy to enter just click HERE for all the information, then I’m sure you’ll want to share it with everyone you know to give them a chance too!

Is your everyday / favourite handbag giant sized  and over-weight – do you think it makes a difference?

Or have you ever made a Zebra Cake using one of the other recipes out there on the Internet (they are widely varied) if so, how did you get on?

Love to hear from you!

 

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Divining an Inspiration

A captured-spring well

Google ‘divining’ and you’ll land in a vehement discussion as to whether it is real and true or just luck and trickery. There seems to be a big divide between those who believe and those who don’t.  I shall nail my colours to the mast. I believe.

Many years ago, after the spring that feeds our water supply reduced to just a trickle, we invested in having a borehole drilled.

Now I am under no illusion that Cornwall, and particularly this part, is a dry area. I know that there are many springs around – it is something that I have done a small historical study on, the domestic captured-spring wells of the parish. Like this one – where the spring has been boxed in by slate slabs (making a dipping pool of about 10 inches deep) with a little stone ‘house’ built over it and even (once) doors to keep out blowing debris and animals.

However, we contacted a guy who later became well known, with a short series on BBC TV, Donovan Wilkins, known as Don the Diviner. His business (based at Chacewater – true!) was borehole drilling and his promise was that when the drilling was made it should produce the amount of water he had predicted or you didn’t pay. Not just water – but the right amount of water.

A hazel Divining or dowsing rod

They came. They being Don and his wife Margaret and he looked around the small paddocks and strode around divining rod in hand, marking a few likely spots. His wife watched. After a while she suggested he try ‘over there on the other side of that gate’. Pointing at the gate to the strip that then led to the big field. So over there they went and within minutes he started sticking rods in all around. Soon he’d marked many lines of underground water and the place where they crossed. He told us how deep they would drill and the quantity of water in gallons per second. (I learned much later, from another renowned dowser, that Margaret was considered as good a diviner, if not better than, Don)

He then offered to show us all how to divine for water. Most of our family had ‘it’ to some extent or other, and #1 son, then aged about 7, was particularly good. Even after relinquishing the rod he seemed to still be able to sense the lines of water underground and described it to me like lights inside his head moving round until they met.

The borehole was drilled and the water found in just the abundance that was promised and an experience was locked into my head. Over time I read up about divining and found that water wasn’t the only thing that diviners could sense.

It was this, of course, that I drew upon when creating my novel Divining the Line, the handsome Cornish water diviner is following a line that isn’t water. It leads him to a nondescript estate in the southeast, a meeting with a woman and a near fatal beating. The woman is at a turning point in her life and ready to follow her own line of discovery that leads them both back down to Cornwall. What comes from this is a story of family, love and loss.  Divining the Line brings the ordinary and the extraordinary together into everyday life. Read reviews here

Of course in such a novel there has to be Divining – and here are two excerpts from DIVINING THE LINE  involving divining for water… firstly from page one….

Perran Lovering stood in the centre of a circle of white steel spears, marking the lines, and thrust a red spike into the earth between his feet. ‘Right,’ he said ‘that’s it.’

            He smiled and looked round the garden, it was about the best place they could have found, close enough to the road to make access easy and far enough away from the old Cornish farmhouse to be discreet.

‘Would you like to try? I’ll show you how,’ he offered, and held out the vee-shaped hazel stick to the owners.  

The wife blushed but held out her hand. As she took hold of the stick she tried to remember how he’d held it, but couldn’t as she had been keener on watching this handsome young man go about his work, than the work itself.

‘Like this,’ he said warmly. He laid out her hand flat, soft white palm upwards, and placed one arm of the dark rod upon it, its end passing just under her thumb, the lead up to the vee crossing her small finger. ‘Okay, now the same with the other hand. Right. Now grip it.’

She did, finding her wrists twisted inwards at an unnatural angle. 

He looked at her, made sure he had her attention. ‘Now pull the rods so that your wrists come straight.’

She followed his instructions feeling warm with embarrassment.

‘Got it?’

She nodded. 

……………………….

And then from chapter 8

Back in his room he began to work in earnest. He marked the boundary of the first property as far as was known, he shaded in the ‘impossible’ sites, where farm buildings were, ponds, woodland, and other impediments to the machinery  reaching the sites. He took up the pendulum, letting it swing and twist in his fingers. He thought, water once more filled his mind, the pendulum was brought to swing over the site, eyes open he followed its guiding lines, watched as the swing slowed to a stand-still and became a gentle twisting motion. He fixed his eyes upon the point, let the crystal rest, marked the place with the pencil. He breathed as if he’d held his breath. The site chosen by the pendulum was clear of any of the known obstructions. The lines on the map suggested the ground was reasonably level, that is, level for Cornwall. He picked up the pendulum once more, allowed it to find the spot again, then turned his mind inwards seeking knowledge of the depth that the water ran at, and the quantity that coursed through the place selected. Using imperial measurements he sunk his mind by feet, ‘felt’ a major flow at eighty foot, but went on down, finding the best at a hundred and twenty. He next thought of quality and tasted sweet water in his mouth and was satisfied with that. Finally he needed to fix the quantity, the pendulum answered the numbers as he thought them, settling on eight hundred gallons an hour or thereabouts. All this he noted down and when finished shook himself as if suddenly feeling a chill, his innermost mind shivered from exposure.

Divining the Line and my other Novels (Nothing Ever Happens Here and Some Kind of Synchrony) are all available from annmade books and from Amazon

Or you could Win  a copy ….  as of today there are just over 400 places left in the draw I am holding for one lucky person to Win a Kindle – with runner up prizes of a Nero Slate cheeseboard and ecopies of each of my novels – including Divining the Line. To enter you only need to email sign up to this blog (see box above left) Click HERE to get all the details of when and how the draw will be made, how to get extra entries and why you’ll want to tell all your friends about it!

 By the way, for this week FWT? cheerleaders – results for week 16 are now on the drop-down from FWT? button!

Have you ever had experience of water divining or dowsing? Do you believe in it or think it is just hocus-pocus? I’d love to hear from you on this subject!

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Daffodils, daffodils and not dieting

Nature Notes for March (very late – sorry – please see last blog for my excuses) and Week 15 FWT?

Our parish hedgerows look stunning at this time of year, and behind their beauty lies a small bit of local history. As you drive around you will notice many of the Cornish hedgerows festooned with daffodils, ranging along the tops, dotted amongst the twiggery, pouring down the sides.  So many, you would be forgiven for thinking it were some free-for-all Britain in bloom affair, but the truth lies in the War Effort.

Many, many years ago, in the early nineteen hundreds, a St. Dominick man, sending other produce ‘up the line’ to London, picked and bunched some wild daffodils that grew here. The Tamar Valley has a micro-climate and produced early strawberries and cherries, and the daffodils were early ones too. They found a ready market in London and soon everyone was growing daffodils as they became a profitable crop. This was very much a market garden parish and not only were whole fields set aside for growing daffs (and a factory set up to treat the bulbs against disease) but most people with a bit of land would grow a few rows and band together with others to send boxes of daffodils off to market.

Now, come the War and Dig for Victory, all the arable land had to be turned over to food production. The daffs had to come out of the fields, and as they were cleared they often got thrown up onto the hedges, and there many thrived, and seeded and grew until now many of our hedgerows look like the photograph (above top) in spring with daffodils in abundance.

As for those homes with a ‘bit of land’ a large garden or an orchard, well the daffodils from those rows are still there – developed into great swathes – like this one that covers most of our orchard (above).

I took the camera round the orchard on one day and took pictures of the daffodils that were in bloom that day. I have to say that many were still in tight bud and would not show for another week or two so this is not the complete range that grow here – but you can see the variety we have.

The Dog loves to cool off by lying in the daffodils  (though it makes a mess of them!)

So my much belated March Nature Notes consist this year of daffodils, daffodils and more daffodils.

The Not Dieting part of this blog is the Fat Woman Thinning? report for week 15, and I can claim yet another one pound loss and half an inch off the waist measurements.  So now at 10st 5lbs. This is much steadier loss than I expected, especially as my weight gets further from the 12st starting point. If you are a late-comer to Fat Woman Thinning and wonder what it’s all about you can look at the FWT? dropdowns from the top bar where it will tell you the why and the how of my losing weight without dieting.

And looking at Bonny (The Dog) in the daffodils – she is very pleased her video has brought more people to enter the fabulous Draw I am holding on my blog here. You only have to sign-up to my blog to enter, though if you are on Facebook or Twitter you can have extra entries – what’s more, as soon as just one thousand people enter, the draw gets made.  And what can you win? Well, first prize is a KINDLE,(Yes a Kindle!) then there’s a Nero Slate Cheeseboard, and then ecopies of my Novels: –  Divining the Line, Nothing Ever Happens Here and Some Kind of Synchrony. If you haven’t entered yet – just click here for all the details, and if you have, don’t forget to spread the word – your friends and family deserve to know about this great free draw!

Does your area put on a particularly wonderful natural show at any time of the year? If so I’d love to hear about it – or any of your comments.

 

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Canine-take-over – Bonny’s blog

Ann’s Blog BONNY’S BLOG    

Wo Wo.. (tail wagging)  Hello (smiles)

Don’t tell my pack-lady but finding the lap-top unattended I’ve grabbed the chance to stage a take-over to warn you about a video that my pack-lady’s pups made of me over the weekend!

I mean, there I was being exercised entertained as usual by my pack-lady, you know, my favourite game where she throws these rings for me, I’ve got five of them, love to gather them all up and gallop back with them to insist she does it all again.

She’s not bad at it, has a knack to make them whiz along the ground – I like to chase them like that! (It seems chasing these is ok, pack-lady doesn’t like it when I chase rabbits the same way – especially when I catch them!) But enough of that! Oh I was having fun, even though her pups were standing round getting in the way! Usually they are great fun, giving me lots of fuss and games, but that afternoon they weren’t playing with me.

Later I heard lots of laughing and music and sneaked my paws onto pup-twos lap, then worked my way up to see the screen pup-three was working on. There I was, catching my rings, as usual, but now a figure of fun for everyone.  Just look at what they did!!!

I appeal to you… don’t laugh at me .. I just love doing this, chasing and catching up my rings! (appealing look – waggles eyebrows)

I asked my pack-lady about the video – she said it was just a bit of Cornish fun… and she wanted people to find her blog  If that’s all it is I guess I don’t mind, after all my pack-lady likes to play and my motto in life is ‘play with me!’ 

What do you think??

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