Plums, Miss Lister and Elizabeth Gaskell

Look at this small haul of beauties. Picked these from one of my plum trees this year. A plum tree – one of two – which was ‘cut back’ more than a decade ago by my late husband who had no clue what he was doing. It’s taken them all this time to recover. And I think tree number two has not produced any fruit. Anyway, I’ve picked this lot and hope to get some more. Need to take the step ladders out to get up to the higher branches, but I’ll do that tomorrow. This is a start.

And what do I plan to do with them? Make plum jam again. Last year, my friend Jane gave myself and our other friend, Tracy, a huge amount of plums from the trees in her sister’s garden. I made them into jam and it was delicious. I couldn’t get enough of it. So am hoping for more plums from that source again (if that’s okay, Jane!) and will add them to my small haul. Will share the results once the jam is made.

So, how are you this week? Fine and dandy I hope?? Hopefully, if you’ve been reading this blog you’ll know that I’ve finally finished editing my latest in the Nina Esposito series. The Jacobite’s Share is the sequel to Dusting Down Alcudi and is set in Perthshire, Scotland. It features our favourite archaeologist and treasure hunter, Nina, her sexy beau, Jay and a whole host of other great characters. There’s an ancient castle, attempted murder and a whole lot more. I am aiming to get the book out early next year, so watch this space!

What else has been going on?

Finally finished the above book. It was really interesting and Anne’s personality shone right through it. However, I was a bit sad that it ended before she met Ann Walker, whom she went abroad with. Would love to read those diaries especially as the TV series is based on her later life with Ann. Still it gives a lovely glimpse into her life in Georgian England and all the manners and expectations someone of her class had.

She lived most of her life in Halifax, which is just over ten miles away from Haworth, home of the Brontes. It is unlikely they ever met. I believe the Brontes would have been too far down in terms of class for Miss Lister, who was keenly aware of whom she should be consorting with.

The Brontes did not print their first book until 1846 (a book of poems by all three), which is some six years after she died. And then Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey came out the following year catapulting these young women to literary stardom. It saddens me that Anne Lister never got to read these amazing books and I would have loved to have read what she thought of them. She was a keen reader and was keen to learn at every opportunity.

Anne Lister.

Anne Lister died at the age of 49 in what is now the modern country of Georgia, with her ‘wife’ Ann Walker at her side. Her body was brought back to Halifax in April 1841 where it was interred within the church.

I feel quite sad that I have finished it now. Oh well, on to my next book which will be Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell, who did know the Brontes. Charlotte Bronte was a particular friend of hers. Elizabeth also knew Charles Dickens. Anyway, having enjoyed the TV adaptation of it, I cannot wait to start the book.

So, what else have I been up to? Well, I’ve been forging ahead with setting up my small PR and social media marketing business and hopefully have more jobs coming up. My OU course starts soon, but I’m going to get a head start on it by beginning this week (cannot wait!). I am in the process of writing another stand alone book about the havoc a genie wreaks on an unsuspecting young man. I have a murder book to edit and a young adult book to go over again.

On top of that, I’m busy trying to get the garden in order. The weather has been dry enough and cool enough for me to work on it. However, as I have a back that hurts at every opportunity, I have decided the best way to tackle the garden is by doing a bit every day. And it’s been quite enjoyable except for the fact that Millie keeps trying to escape into the neighbour’s garden due to a hole in the fence made by some stupid young guys cutting down some branches for me. Humph.They knocked some slats off and didn’t even tell me. I only found out about the hole when I heard Millie’s plaintive yelp coming from my neighbour’s garden. Being a small, quick dog she was impossible to catch. We got her eventually. Sigh. Won’t be getting those guys in to do the branches again.

Right, I am going to finish up here and wish you all adieu until next time.

Dawn xxx

Book launch, China Mieville and the Marvellous Mrs Maisel

Hello everyone, how are you all? Hope you are well. Welcome to the new subscribers who have joined up since Christmas. Hope you enjoy my posts. Can’t promise scintillating conversation as my life is pretty mundane most of the time, but I’ll do my best to entertain you and the folk who have been subscribers for a while. Hello to you all too!

Right, onwards and upwards. Firstly, I’m just letting you know I am officially launching Everything She Wants next month. I’d like to do something online… like a question and answer session or something like that. Would that be something you guys would be interested in? I could do a live session. Fill in your comments below and if enough of you want it, I’ll do it. I’m just worried that if I set something up on, say Facebook, no one will want to chat to me and I’ll sit there like Billy No Mates, drinking my tea and feeling sorry for myself! 😉 I may even have to bribe a few friends to come on just to make me feel better. 😀

So, what have you all been doing over the past week? I have been very busy getting back into writing. I am just going through the agonies of editing the sequel to Dusting Down Alcudia. I say “agonies” because this is part of the process that I don’t like. It’s hard work and I always think the book is rubbish. Then there will be at least another three edits before I pluck up the courage to send the manuscript to my editor. Then, for a number of days, I will wait, chewing my fingernails with anxiety, whilst awaiting his verdict. Actually, the sequel isn’t too bad, but needs a bit of work on it. What I am editing is the rough story. That’s how I write. I get down the rough story and then go back and edit and re-edit it until I can look at it no more (all my author friends know exactly what I mean here). Eventually, I get a book I can be proud to publish.

I have also been getting back to proper, made-from-scratch cooking. After Ian died, my ability to cook seemed to fly out of the window. I always find my cooking suffers if my mood isn’t good so it’s not surprising that I: a) haven’t felt like cooking, b) didn’t cook much (ie properly) in the first year after he died – we lived on bung-in-the-oven stuff and takeaways (hey, at least my weans were fed! We’re all still alive thanks to that!), and c) tried to get back to my cooking last year, but failed a lot… I think I was still trying to get back on my feet properly. That’s what happens when a loved one died, especially your soul mate. The rug is completely pulled from under you and you spend a helluva long time trying to get back to some sort of normal self. Anyway, I am wittering on again. The point of this post is that I felt like making pizza the other night. So, I made pizza, with a recipe courtesy of my mum (for the base) and the pizzas I made were delicious. Here is proof of how professional they looked (this one is mine):

Can I just say – it was delicious and I thoroughly enjoyed every bite. I feel happier now I have made something good (like I used to). Next up, tonight we are having home-made burgers. Will let you know how I get on.

Talking of cooking, I recently bought a half price panini grill from Aldi (love that shop) so me and the boy have been happily making toasted sandwiches in it – not paninis. That will change tomorrow, for I plan to make my own panini rolls using a recipe from the excellent Mortgage Free in Three blog (once it is back up and running properly). If it’s not, I may need to contact Elaine who runs the blog and ask her for the aforementioned recipe. No matter, I will make my boy a proper panini tomorrow. No doubt, he’ll just want cheese as the filling, but that’s okay. That’s my favourite filling too!

The book I am reading just now is Perdido Street Station by China Mieville, which is an odd, but enjoyable urban fantasy, sci-fi, Steampunk novel.

Will let you know how I get on with it, but so far so good. I’m only at the beginning of it, but enjoying it so far.

Oh my God, but I have wasted a helluva lot of hours watching my latest obsession. The Marvellous Mrs Maisel is fab. I love it. If you have Prime, I would really recommend you watch this. It’s about a 1950s New York housewife who decides to become a stand-up comedian. It’s really funny. Her family are nuts, she’s nuts and it’s just all round great entertainment. Unfortunately, because I have been binge watching both series, I have now finished them. I am now bereft. Thank God I have today’s Outlander (also Prime) to watch tonight.

Okay, I am going to finish up here, but I will be back again with you soon… promise! In the meantime, here’s another wee bite from series 2 of Mrs Maisel:

You are welcome! Til next time,

Dawn xxx

Reading and Watching Some Great Movies

I didn’t write last week because we didn’t do anything that would have made a good post. We did, however, go and see my friend’s daughter play the violin as part of a concert by a local contemporary choir. She’s only 12 and looked tiny up there on her own doing her solo, but she was fantastic. Definitely a future Nicola Benedetti in the making!! The choir were great too. It was a good night. Except for the kids who were sad they didn’t win anything in the raffle.

This week it’s been a case of working and cleaning up two incredibly messy children and their equally messy dogs. I spent today gutting my house and it’s a mess again. Sigh. Not to worry.

Books I’ve been reading: just finished Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (fab name, but surely a made up one!) as I love the film. It was so good I ordered the sequals: Hollow City and Library of Souls. The girl, however,  has put a bagsy on both books so, being a kind and benevolent mother, I have agreed she can read them first. Okay, so I am not sure a good person that this doesn’t annoy me slightly because I really really want to read them, but I am trying to be an adult about it. She’s a fast reader, so I should have both in my sweaty mitts soon.

Finally got round to watching Trolls with the kids. It was a nice wee film and the kids loved it. Also watched Ice Age 5 which was fab…we are big Ice Age fans in this house. We also watched another one, I have forgotten which it was…am such a sieve head at times!! Last weekend, when the kids were still in bed I also got into We’re the Millers. I didn’t expect to like it, but was bored, all my recorded programmes were watched and I couldn’t face watching one of those weekend food programmes, so I had a look on Amazon Prime and picked up this film. It was hilarious, but not one for the family to watch. Ian would have enjoyed it. It’s about a small time drug dealer who goes to Mexico to pick up his dealer’s small package. He decides to recruit a stripper, a homeless girl and his neighbour’s teenage son to go with him so the border cops will think he’s just a family man. Anyway, I’ll not spoil the story, but I’d recommend the film. It’s rude in places and the spider bite part was just… Anyway, it was good and I was glad the kids love to spend their weekend mornings in their beds! Definitely not a film for delicate minds!

Reading my blog over the past few weeks all you would think is that all I do is read and watch films! To be truthful that does take up a lot of my time. Now I’m a single mum it’s difficult (and expensive) to go out at night without the kids. I’m a home bird anyway, a major book lover and a movie buff, so I’m more than happy to spend my time at home with the kids (if it’s an age appropriate film or tv programme) or without (while they’re upstairs).

Anyway, I am going to finish up here. It’s after nine and I’m going to take my current book Pomfret Towers by Angela Thirkell. It’s a gentle wee book set in the 20s or 30s about a girl who finds romance during a weekend at a big house. I’m enjoying it. It’s not dead exciting, but it’s quite gripping in its own soft way! Til next time.

Dawn xx

Trying to get more veggies into ’em!

So, new year, new start and part of that for me is to get more vegetables into hubby and the kids. Last year was very much a non year healthy eating wise – because of hubby being sick and hospital visits and trying to keep everything going, it was very much a case of getting something on to the table whether that was made from scratch, made from a packet or bought at a takeaway.  Now that we’re coming out the end of that cycle of cancer treatments (yipeee! fingers crossed that’ll be it), I fully intend to get back to cooking from scratch for nearly every meal.

However, I am already hitting resistance, not just from the kids, but hubby too. I made really lovely meatballs and pasta last night from Jo Pratt’s In the Mood for Healthy Food  and everyone moaned about them. To be fair to hubby, the chemo has affected how he tastes and enjoys food. Sigh.

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Am currently making root veg falafels from the same book and when I told him what we were having, hubby screwed up his face at them. I told him to try them and see if he likes them before deciding he didn’t like them. Honestly, it sometimes feels like I have three kids instead of just two!!

Anyway, that’s enough of moaning, how are you all? Hope you are well. What’s this weather been like lately? Got up this morning and the whole place was under ice. Spent about ten minutes de-icing the car this morning before I could take the kids to school. Was really chilly. Finally it’s beginning to feel the way winter should. It has been worringly too mild for too long.

This week I’ve been back at work and started to eat and be more healthy (see last post). I haven’t touched wine or coca cola since we last spoke and intend to keep that going. Have finally finished my Christmas chocolates (well most of it…two chocolate oranges and a large bar of chocolate) so chocolate is the next thing to be reduced and chucked out. I want to get into the habit of eating only home-made biscuits and cakes because 1) I know what’s in them; 2) they are fresh; and 3) they are more filling so I won’t need to eat much of them to feel satisfied. It’s all in the masterplan!! Hee hee! Am also on the downward slope to cutting out snacking in between meals. I’ve decided to do this slowly so that I don’t crave (and give into) rubbish. Next, I’m upping my exercise starting this weekend…back to yoga first (hopefully that will sort out my back which still twinges from time to time).

On the writing side of things, I cleared out my study (it was a dumping ground for Christmas pressies and rubbish) and I aim to start back at writing. I’ve got a project to launch, which I aim to do at the end of this month, and am going to get back into a book I’ve half written. It’s aimed at young adults. I’ve been finding it really difficult to write, but I think that may have been partly because of the horrible year we had last year and partly because I just wasn’t getting my head down to get on with it!! I have no excuses this year and only myself to blame if I don’t finish the book.

Jings that’s a lot of intentions I have!

Ref the falafals…the root veg was taking it’s time cooking, so we had home-made lentil soup instead (made yesterday). We’ll have the falafals tomorrow and I’ll let you know how we get on. The kids will be able to try them so no doubt that will be another moan. Talking of lentil soup, the recipe is delicious. Here it is if you want to have a go making it for yourself…

Home-made Lentil Soup (serves 4-6)

half a turnip (swede to anyone who is not Scottish)

one potato

five carrots

one onion

four ham stock cube

Two large handfuls of red lentils (minimum 100g – I like to put loads in, I like the soup thick)

Two litres of water

Method – grate or chop all the vegetables and place with the stock cubes, water and lentils in a pot. Heat up to boiling point. Turn down so that it’s simmering and simmer for at least half an hour or until the soup is done. Serve with a side of bread/rolls and butter. Yummmm!!

Right enough of all this food talk. I will say adieu for now. Til next time!

Dawn xxx