Friday, 31 December 2010

2010 - Christmas Round Up and Goals

I was supposed to blog about Christmas Day and Boxing Day, and just run out of time.  I haven't really had much time to write, with both kids and hubby at home, I can't sneak off like I want to into my study.

The boys' faces were perfect pictures on Christmas Day opening their stockings.  Kieran especially as he's really coming into an age where he understands it.

We have my dad over for Christmas Day and it's always a relaxing day.  We put on one of the kids DVD's they got from Santa for some quiet time, and caught a little of The One Ronnie, but otherwise we don't really put the TV on.  Who wants to watch Eastenders and Corry claptrap?  They are the most depressing story lines ever and how many wives can Ian Beale have?  Or kids for that matter?  I know it's for some, but it certainly isn't for me.  Since I have found writing, I don't find time for TV - not much that is great to watch.  (We have recorded Doctor Who though!)

Boxing Day was spent with hubby's family.  They all came over early and we had a lovely day with them - and the boys got MORE presents!  And we still had snow on the ground by this point.  But Monday the thaw came and our snow is completely gone now.

My Christmas cake is a success!  Still half of it left though - it's a very big cake!

Tuesday we went to my mum's as the snow had thawed, and yes, more presents!  Before the big event, Mum had provided me with a crate of 'stocking' presents, which I put under the tree from Santa - to be 'tree' presents.  I'm still handing them out now.  Christmas is certainly not over in this household.

Yesterday we went to the panto in town to see Cinderella.  We always go to Weston, rather than Bristol, because we still get a great production and I believe if we don't support locally, we'll lose our theatre.  This year my dad came with us as he wasn't required to look after Kieran, as he came for the first time and thoroughly enjoyed it.  He was mesmerised by the whole thing.  Ben was really getting involved and it was another fun panto.  "Oh, yes it was!"

I love going to the panto at Christmas, it brings fond childhood memories back as my dad always used to take us.  It would round off Christmas just nicely, and I want my kids to have those special memories too. 

So today is the last day of 2010.  What will 2011 bring?  I've been writing for four years now, and I've been studying the Writer's Bureau Comprehensive Writing Course over a year, as I think I signed up in the summer/autumn of 2009.  I've put a page on my blog to show my writing sucesses.  At the moment, there are only three and these were unpaid - I did win a Leapster 2 for my Tip Of The Month.  Hoping to add more to this list in 2011.

I'm going to try and set myself some realistic goals.  I can't say I want to publish a novel - I have no control over that, however I do have control over submitting my first novel to publishers in 2011.  I want to try and sell or enter more short story competitions and submit more articles to magazines.  So my general goal is to submit more work! 

Although I would like to attempt to read 40 books again this year, I may have to split my reading time between books and magazines (as suggested by my tutor), to help with the 'submitting more articles' goal.  So I will set myself the 40 target but not beat myself up if I don't get there.  The target really helped me to pick up books and read them.  In another blog, I'll list the books I've read this year.

Happy New Year to everyone!  May life be happy, though there maybe waves to ride - we know there will be ups and downs, and let's hope 2011 is a year for making some dreams come true.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Day 24 - Only One More Sleep

Today I've made the trifles (I put them in single sundae dishes rather than one big bowl), more jellies (orange with mandarin pieces, and did those in seperate dishes too), and boiled the gammon.

I had to go and do my three hour shift at work this afternoon.  I wore my jeans, Jelly Bean wellies, and a red blouse, plus fairy wings and doddle boppers (as my halo was broken) - oh and a bit of tinsel.  I actually enjoyed work today.  Lots of Christmas cheer and well wishes, though I missed the carol singing at the church this year.  They cut it short as it was so cold and icy outside, and sounds like there weren't as many as usual attending, but hubby did take the boys.

Before bed, the boys set out the carrots for the reindeer, mince pies (mummy's home made ones) and a glass of sherry.  They each took their stockings up and put it in their room.  So cute.  I can't wait to see their faces in the morning. 

Tonight, hubby and I are planning to watch a film if we get time (Avatar as that's what we've got with our film club).  That's why this blog is going to be quick!  Then, when the kids are defniitely asleep, we'll be dragging the toys out of the loft, filling the stockings, a couple of last things to wrap, then BED!

Because, we are no doubt going to be woken at the crack of dawn tomorrow.  Hopefully they'll sleep till seven, but if it's six, and they see their stockings full, they aren't going to go back to bed, however much we try and tell them too.

I just pray it's not five o'clock!

We have my dad coming over for Christmas Day (as I can't bear the thought of him being on his own - and he really is easy to entertain), but otherwise it's just the four of us.  Boxing Day will be busy with Hubby's family - they're coming for the whole day this year, and it will be nice, even though I bet it flies by.  I'm looking forward to playing some games, and maybe even a game of cards. 

Merry Christmas everyone and a happy New Year to you all!

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Day 23 - Thawing Out

Across the fields
I was so eager and organised yesterday, today I wasn't really sure what to do with myself.  I did make fizzy jelly, a la Sainsbury's Magazine suggestion, using strawberry jelly and sparkling wine.  I am now drinking the rest of said sparkling wine.

Boys! Not sure how zoom works.
This morning I downloaded my photos from my phone to do yesterday's blog, and remembered that I'd taken a couple of photos of the boys while walking to my friends on Tuesday.  I'd forgotten the camera, and so used my phone as it is a Sony Ericson Cybershot phone of sorts - they're supposed to be good yet, sometimes I'm not so sure of the quality.  Most of my cake photos are from the phone - but they don't move, so they usually come out okay.

Anyway, here are photos of out back - there's a footpath that runs the outside of the housing estates and is a quick way to get to some of the places without the hassle of cars, so I can let the boys run and not worry about them.

It was lovely out there, still very snowy, especially across the untouched fields.  We could hear the roar of the M5 in the distance - which is basically across those fields. 

I told them to stand still - my camera phone doesn't like movement
I also found photos I'd taken going to work on the Sunday.  It was just so picturesque but not sure if my phone really did it justice.  But this is the main road near us that I have to walk to go to work.  I wish I'd taken it Saturday morning, it was even more untouched.  But we've got new street lamps along this road and it's so much brighter, and with the snow it felt like daylight. I don't walk that way, but the park is there, and it all just looked lovely.

Today, the temperature has been slightly milder so some of the snow has started melting.  But I still think we'll have a white blanket for Christmas day, and that will be the first time in my lifetime, that I can remember, having snow on the ground Christmas Day.

Our road joining the main road Sunday 19 December
My son asked will it be a white Christmas.  Technically, I think to class as a white Christmas it has to snow on Christmas day.  But we will have snow.

So now I'm starting to stress a little. Got to remember to take the turkey out, etc. I've jobs to do tomorrow and it's going to be so exciting.

Day 22 - Bake Me A Cake

(Sorry this is a bit late - last night I was so engrossed in writing a chapter - over 2,000 words written -  I didn't realise the time!)

Before baking!
Yesterday I was very busy indeed.  I made 24 mince pies (not sure where Nigella got 36 from, unless my pastry is a bit thick and my stars are bigger), 12 cupcakes and iced a Yule log.

I had all good intentions of making the mince pies with the kids, but I'm not the best with my patience and I've been considerably worse lately - and it's not even PMT time!  Nigella said to split the pastry, so I did one batch without the kids (as they'd sloped off), cling filming the other and sticking it in the fridge.  Then, once ready to roll the next lot of pastry I called the boys.

Luckily, Ben had decided to be engrossed in whatever he was doing and only Kieran came.  Yet, that was still stressful because he just wanted to dump the cutter in the middle of the pastry.  He did let me position it, then he cut - eventually.  But he soon got bored and went off to play.  (I'm such a terrible mummy).

Afterwards! 24 made in total, though a few had to be tested!
My dad - the Godsend - turned up at twelve thirty to take them out.  I hadn't even given them lunch.  So after a quick lunch, they wrapped up warm and headed out with Grandad for the bus into town.  They apparently walked the seafront to see the beach covered in snow and caught a double decker home!

I was able to bake and ice the cakes, and start on the Yule log before the return of the monsters.

I only had half a box of royal icing left, thanks to Mr Tesco's not allowing me to order any more.  I couldn't find it on their website for love nor money, and kept forgetting to buy some when out.  Anyway, I had some left over fondant icing from Ben's cake so after some manipulation, it got back to it's pliable form, adding a bit of colour, and I was able to roll it out and cut it.  Did the same to decorate the Yule Log.  
Ran out of royal icing, so coloured some fondant icing
Yule Log for the boys!

Gosh, looking at this blog, you'd think I was a baker, not a writer.  I enjoy baking, when I have the time and can get on with it (on my own).  I'm not very good at trying to bake with the boys sometimes.  For some reason then, my kitchen feels very small.  It's alright if I only have the one, but when two of them crowd over me, I don't have room to swing a cat.  And then they want to lick everything, even if I've not finished with it yet, including the knife I've cut the butter with! 

But this time of year, I'm particularly in the mood to cook.

Baking does get me away from my PC, which is sometimes a good thing.  I do suffer with RSI, and I'm feeling it this morning, having sat at my PC all night last night, bashing away a chapter.  But it was getting exciting!

So far I have failed with any more reading.  But I have made my target of forty books this year!

I now have so much food made that I'm not going to make my Rocky Road yet.  Decided we have loads of stuff here to eat - and depending on the weather no one may turn up to eat it!  If my mum does come to me Tuesday, rather than us go to them, then Monday I might make it.  Otherwise I'll make some for New Years or something.  I am thinking I'll send Dad home on Christmas day with some home made mince pies.  In fact, I might go and see if I can dig out a box...

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Day 20 & 21 - Now Starting To Worry

Yesterday evening hubby and I cracked on and got all of the boys' Christmas presents wrapped - hurrah!  I think I was in the mood, as I'd quickly done all of my dad's and said, lets do the boys so its out of the way.  And yes, I can relax now.

Yesterday I shovelled the snow (we had another good inch) off the driveway - well cleared where hubby wanted to park his car - plus the path to our house.  I used my table salt and the salt from the water system to keep it clean.  The salt from the system is big lumps/pellets, so was out smashing them with a mallet.  Nice.

Today we walked in the snow to drop off presents, and collect some.  A friend and I do each other's kids, and she's house bound as her little girl has chicken pox.  I bribed the boys with the walk, saying we'd go to Mc Donalds.  We walked home and I put on Santa Claus The Movie to get us all Christmassy.  Kieran fell asleep, (that walk really zonked him out) but Ben loved watching it.

In my mood to stay organised, tonight, while the boys were eating their tea, I started looking up the recipes of bits and pieces I want to make.  Lord knows if it will all get eaten but these are the things I need to do.

Make:
1) Mince pies (Nigella Christmas) - probably tomorrow - so we can just start eating them!  Thought this would be fun with the boys, yet I feel my stress levels already rising at just the thought.  If only they sold patience in pills?
2) Rocky Road (Nigella Christmas) - probably Thursday as I've got some ingredients being delivered Wednesday by Mr. Tesco's - if he doesn't cancel on me.
3) Yule log - Thursday too... as I have small swiss roll, just need to make some chocolate butter icing.  But want it to be as fresh as possible, but Christmas Eve I have to go to work.   This cake is for the boys to enjoy!
4) Cup cakes - probably tomorrow as they can be eaten as and when.  I just got some nice edible Christmas decorations and thought they'd go well on the cakes.  Boys can eat these too.
5) Trifle - ready for Boxing Day, so will have to make Christmas Eve.  I cheat and use the box one, (I'd love one day to make the fresh one as in Nigella's book) and make individual trifles. Might actually make four in the desert dishes I've got.  Usually use my knickerbocker glasses and make six.
6) Champagne jelly - just seen it in Sainsbury's Magazine and it looks lush! But wondering whether to make my usual orange jelly with mandarin segments, too, because that's my father-in-law's favourite. I am gutted though - seen shot glasses in TK Maxx loads and thought I'd never use them, but this suggests serving in shot glasses! Ho hum!

I made my brandy butter yesterday morning, so that's in the fridge ready and waiting Christmas Day for my Christmas pudding.  Have struck it off my to do list.

Tonight I have to hide in my study as hubby is likely to want to wrap all of my Christmas presents... so writing for me tonight.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Day 19 - Oh Christmas Tree

With flash off, so you can see the lights, even outside the house and in the window!
As promised yesterday in my blog, here are photographs of my Christmas tree. 

I am feeling pretty pooped today, and still think the lounge needs a few more decorations.  But too tired, and my thumbs just don't have the power to get the drawing pins into the ceiling.  May have to direct hubby to do some more later.

But I thought I would share photos of my Christmas tree, that I chose, (and always then worry that hubby will not like it).  He's rather fussy, and being an engineer, sees faults to the millimetre.  Yes, even in Christmas trees!  It's just easier for me to get the tree on a day when it's quiet, and my dad can put it in his pick-up, to take it home for me. It's a nice narrow one this year, so sits in the corner beautifully, and means the sofa can stay pretty much where it is.

Flash on! And standing in my dining room so that you can see the ceiling decos!
The bookcase in the picture (with flash on) doesn't live there, but we have to move it around, so that the CD cabinet can fit along the wall... as usually its home is where the Christmas tree is.

Haven't done anything else remotely Christmassy as I've been in work this morning (hence my exhaustion). Hubby shovelled the driveway and path, so that he can go to work tomorrow (and get the car off the driveway - we've got a bit of a slope!) while I took a power nap, so hopefully I can do some writing tonight.

I still have presents to wrap, and mince pies, brandy butter and a yule log to make.  But those will have to be closer to Christmas - except the present wrapping, but I'll see if my dad can take the boys out while I do those.

Looking forward to a lay in tomorrow, if the boys will let me.  As we still have snow, I'll concentrate on housework, maybe go for a walk in the snow, but generally intend to have a relaxing day. 

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Day 18 - Deck The Halls With Bells Of Holly

This will be a quick blog as I'm tired, and really need to go to bed soon - early start again tomorrow.

Walked to work in my fab wellies in the two foot of snow - no wait! I mean, five to six inches of snow (we got another one or two in the night - but not two foot as some one told me was predicted).  This is the most snow I've ever known to have in Weston.  We just don't get it. 

Then, once home spent the afternoon getting the Christmas tree in (pictures tomorrow now, too zonked to download them etc) and the decorations up and out. 

I was brought up with a house that used to be crammed with decorations.  Seriously, you could hardly see the ceiling.  My dad would hang about a hundred balloons.  He would only decorate the dining room and the lounge, but it was an old bungalow with a picture rail, so was perfect for pinning those old fashioned paper decorations - the ones that you twist.  I still have them - will never part with them, though we don't put them up now.  But with this in mind, I do like to make sure my house is decorated.  We make a difference. 

I've been round some peoples houses and it's really hard to tell if they actually have any trimmings up.  Anyway, I'll try to take some photos.  These days, we have lights outside up.  It wasn't so much the thing back when I was a kid.  I do wonder if the film 'Home Alone' brought the lighting up of houses over here.  That film is rather old, so maybe the American's have been doing it a lot longer than us.  If I've been out with the boys coming back from one of their clubs, now the evenings are dark, we're looking at all the houses with lights on.  I must be a right pain for the person behind me, as I'm driving so slowly!

Not that I'm driving at the moment.  My car is sat on the driveway covered in snow, and that's how it is staying. Well, until the snow melts.

Oh and today I did try to make a snowman with the boys, but believe it or not, it's the wrong type of snow.  It's gone really fine, and just wouldn't compact, even though there is loads of it!

Next week I am looking forward to making mince pies (never done it before) with the boys (if my patience stays intact).  Need to also make my brandy butter and I've bought a small Swiss roll that I'm going to turn into a Yule log for the boys, as they won't be keen on Christmas cake.  And my cake might send you over the limit with just one slice, the amount of brandy and sherry in it - so probably not wise for them to eat it.  They'll probably only want the icing and marzipan anyway. 

Had carol singers at my door tonight.  Five teenagers, obviously just being playing in the snow, as they're gloves are covered, singing We Wish You A Merry Christmas.  No song sheets, nothing.  Yes, they've knocked on my door, expecting what?  I asked if they were collecting for charity - they were not.  I love Christmas, there isn't a bah humbug in sight.  However, I don't like teenagers begging on my doorstep.  Trick or treaters at Halloween - fine.  Supposedly carol singers that can only sing the first line of We Wish You A Merry Christmas - no!  Realistically, what am I supposed to give them.  Will a pound stretch around all five of them? They're a bit old for Freddo Frogs.

Does anyone else get this?  How do you deal with them? 

Anyway, no writing done today, though I've had an idea for The Wedding Favour, which may get changed to One Good Turn.  And no reading either.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Day 17 - Jelly Bean Boots

It SNOWED! Oh, yes, not the smidgen of a layer we got a couple of weeks ago.  Oh, no, a good inch is out there now, actually maybe two!  And we have more to come (though I will believe that when I see it!).

I have nowhere to go in my car, so I'm quite happy to say bring it on! I can walk to work and the snow lights up the road with the street lamps, so it won't feel dark tomorrow morning. (It didn't feel dark walking home tonight.)  My dad said that the beach was surreal, covered in snow. I'd love to go down there, but the buses aren't running, and I'm not risking my car.  The back roads are like ice rinks.

The only thing is the panic buying - we're (the shop I work at) out of bread! Admittedly, if deliveries don't get through, then there could be a shortage of bread now... (as everyone has bought it) but I bet if they all actually checked in their cupboards, they could survive a couple of days.  It'll be gone by Monday (probably) and our shop is open EVERY DAY!  They will not shut - believe me!

This morning, Ben went to school and Kieran had his preschool Christmas party.  The school said that the kids could be collected at 1.30pm, though the school would remain open for those children that couldn't be collected.  Not sure if they did this because it was the last day of term before Christmas anyway, but I collected him then.

I was busy with Kieran's preschool's party, so haven't really got anything else done.  Kieran was in a bit of a mood while at the party.  He goes all funny when I'm there.  Luckily, he snapped out of it to join in some of the party fun .

My brand new jelly bean wellies got their first outing today. So glad I bought them now.  And I was worried they were a bit wacky, but I've seen loads of people come into the shop with funky wellyboots!

This weekend we should finally get our Christmas tree up and the rest of the decorations done.  Unfortunately I do have work this weekend, so it's going to be tough for time (might not get much writing done this weekend).  Plus the kids were supposed to be going to their Great Aunt's so hubby and I could wrap their presents, I mean, help Santa.  But with the snow that might not happen.

Watch this space.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Day 16 - Iced The Cake!

Okay - the moment we've all been waiting for!  Yes, today, I iced my Christmas cake.

The End Product

I haven't really stopped today, and the cake took longer than anticipated, so I didn't get to wrap any presents.  The icing was a bit runny when I put it onto the cake (newbie error, I'll know for next time!).  I should have added more icing sugar.  Anyway, what felt like an hour (probably was an hour) I was forking it, or using my palette knife, or even the back of a teaspoon to accomplish the masterpiece you now see before you.

It started out like this...
I had some royal icing left over, so I made some more cupcakes (Nigella Christmas style) and iced them, decorating them with silver balls or mini smarties.  I have managed, with the help of my dad, to get some decorations up today, too.  I've been so busy.  Hubby is out on a works do, so I've just had to get on with it, taking Ben swimming.  Dad looked after Kieran for me (and pumped up some more balloons for the Christmas decorations).  He's even offered to take them out next week on the bus (they love a bus ride - cheap to entertain my two!) so that I can get some more 'work' done.  Or at least get another run in before the Christmas festivities commence.

Last day at school tomorrow.  Bring on the snow!  I've got nowhere to go in the car.  I don't mind the snow if all I need do is walk somewhere and leave the car behind.  Actually it's rather nice.  Apparently we're going to get some this time - I'll believe it when it happens though.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Day 15 - Early Christmas Present To Me

Kieran and Josh
I've had a very busy day today.  My three hours of freedom were well spent getting myself organised, and even going for a run.  Thought I'd better get one in before Christmas.  Not sure if I'll be able to next week, as both the boys will be off school/preschool. I had a pleasant surprise on the bathroom scales this morning, and it motivated me to burn some more calories - that's all I can say!

Forgot to take gloves out with me though - gosh, it's cold out there.  By the two mile mark my hands had warmed up.

I went to collect Kieran at midday, and we sat in the church (where he goes to preschool) while he ate his packed lunch, because half past twelve we had to catch a coach to Sanders Garden Centre, where we saw Santa again!  I just couldn't see us getting home and lunched, and back out the door for twelve thirty!  I know my limits. 

I do wonder if the kids think, "He doesn't look like the Santa I saw (for Kieran) Sunday..." I have tried to say that they are not always the real Santa, though it's hard to tell.  Although Santa is magical, he's not that magical - he can't be in two places at once, so he has helpers this time of the year.

Unfortunately, I can't post a picture of Kieran with Santa.  For one, he never looked at the camera for me, or wouldn't stand with Santa for a photo, and so the pictures I do have contain other children (and the back of Kieran's head).  And they're all a bit hot on posting kids on the net lately, so don't wish to upset any parents.  However, this is Josh (and I got his mum's permission) with Kieran.  They get on really nicely, it's so cute. 

When I got home the postman had been, and there in my hallway was a parcel for me.  Yes, my book, Bedded By The Greek Billionaire had arrived from Kate Walker.  She's even signed it, and I got a pen too, celebrating her 25 years of writing.  A Christmas present come early!  Think I might try to read this next, too.  I was looking for a book to read.

Day 14 - The Elves Are About

In my three hours yesterday, I worked my socks off.  Housework, wrapping presents... to the point I feel I can almost relax.  Still have stuff to do, but I should be done with the things I need to do before the kids break up.

Anyway, yesterday evening, too busy writing - Sophie is just about to meet Adam's mother, and Adam is going to find his lie may not be worth it, when his mum falls in love with her, thinking she's her future daughter-in-law - and creating an Elf Yourself I didn't get a chance to update my blog up to Christmas.

But here it is - my Christmas card to you all - The Morgan Elves.

I'll be back later with Day 15.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Day 12 & 13 - Ho, Ho, Ho!

Catching up today with my blog, as I ended up having a brainstorming session with my 'Betas' last night, and just had to write my story, novel, book, whatever - feels a bit weird calling it a novel/book yet... But I just had to write it up.


Yesterday, we went to see Santa.  It was a special day, with Nanny Chris, Grandad Alan and Grandad Ron joining us.  We travelled on a steam train from Bishops Lydeard, where the kids got chocolate treats and a carton of juice, and the adults got mince pies and sherry.  (We definitely got the best deal!)

Professor Popcorn was the entertainer who travels along the train to keep the kids occupied - he's jolly good fun, even if we've seen his jokes before.  Actually, that makes it funnier, as we played along better for him and had a good heckle giggle.  

Our Train - Santa Special - About to couple up and take us back.
The journey is only to Crowcombe Heathfield, which is usually the first stop if you do the steam train rides generally, but I think they travel a bit slower to give us a good train journey.  The station's waiting room has a lovely coal fire to warm up by. 

We arrived at Bishops Lydeard early, to watch the trains come and go - the boys are never bored!  Kieran went extremely shy with Santa and wouldn't stand near him, but Ben was happy to chat and pose for the camera.

Ben's Footplate Crew Induction
Ben and Kieran even got to stand on the footplate and warm up by its fire!

Kieran and Daddy, "It's toastie up here."

Before...
Arriving back at Bishops Lydeard, Ben really wanted to stand on the bridge that goes over the line and get 'hit' by the steam - having seen it happen to other people on the bridge when we'd arrived.  And Grandad Ron is always game for funny antics.  We only had a five minute wait for the train to head off on its next Santa Special (we'd already been standing around watching the train fill up with water etc.)  So the boys (this includes Grandad and Daddy) stood, waiting for the train, and its steam to engulf them.

After!
The day before I had helped the boys write their Santa's List, and I realised how manipulative we are in doing this.  We sort of put the 'toys' into the boys mouths of what they want.  Admittedly, we had asked them a while ago, (I'd made the mistake of showing them the Argos catalogue) and I'd started a list - which we could then work off.  Then, actually writing the list, and knowing what we had already bought them, we encouraged them to put these toys down.  Ben was determined to put a Darth Vader Helmet on his list - but he's not getting one!  They're forty quid, and to be honest, I can see the novelty wearing off very quickly and not really having a lot of play value.  (We did say that this list is to give Santa ideas - he can't get them everything off the list!)  They both are getting Lightsabers - yes I may regret this!  Ben's will be red, and Kieran's blue.  We made sure the specific colours went onto the list, too... to make Santa look extra good.

Today (my blog does say Day 13 too) I wrapped cocktail sausages in streaky bacon, putting them in a dish ready, and froze them.  My sausages went out of date early, and was going to have to freeze them, so decided to have them all ready for Christmas day would be the easiest thing.  I've had to sacrifice my run today.  I'm starting to panic, and stress, deciding that in my three hours of no kids (Kieran at preschool) I had to get some present wrapping done - which I did.  Plus I have put up my card holders, and the fibre optics Christmas tree and light up snowman are now in the lounge window  I was extremely busy this morning, and failed to actually get around to the housework.  That's tomorrow's job.

So much to do... so little time...

Now I must get back to my story... the plot has thickened, and I've got a really good idea for the Hero's mum. I've been worried that this story didn't quite have enough of something, but wasn't sure what.  But yesterday, was like a Eureka moment.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Book Review: Love Writing by Sue Moorcroft

Love Writing: How to Make Money Writing Romantic or Erotic FictionLove Writing: How to Make Money Writing Romantic or Erotic Fiction by Sue Moorcroft

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This really was an interesting and fun book to read.  Actually, I'm dying to read one of Sue Moorcroft's (fiction) books now, as her 'voice' was wonderful in this and so funny.  Gotta be the first writing advice book I've chuckled through (except maybe 'How NOT To Write A Novel' by Sandra Newman & Howard Mittelmark).



"We're not mad. We're inhabited." p93 Love that line.



I also chuckled (rather loudly) at her confession about Viggo Mortenson.  Makes me a young girl, because I was soooo looking at Orlando Bloom :D (p8) - though, how old is Lord Of The Rings now... maybe I should watch again, and it will be Viggo who catches my eye as the hero?  Anyway, I digress....



For every wannabe (romance) writer this should be on your bookshelf.  It's filled with really useful information, from writing a synopsis to a cover letter, and it's realistic.  This book does not gloss over that there will be hard work ahead of you.  But then, we all knew that, right?



This book also contains advice from other novelists, publishers and agents.  Helps with some jargon that we writers may come across - I don't want to write a 'wallbanger'.  But know now the 'slush pile' isn't so bad.



I found Love Writing thought provoking, inspiring and easy to follow, with some great (albeit daunting) advice about agents and publishers, and self-promoting.



I give this book a big fat five star phwoarr!



View all my reviews

This takes me to my forty books for the year - whooo hooo! 

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Day 11: Shop Till You Drop, Then Party

This morning I was out early and wandering around Tesco's casually, buying my Christmas food shopping.  I was not impressed that I couldn't by my turkey crown (so much less hassle than a turkey - we were impressed last year), so called hubby (what would we do without the modern technology of the mobile phone?  How did we manage before?) as he was in Sainsbury's picking me up something else Tesco's had failed me on, and they had LOADS.  So he got one there.

I did £250 worth of shopping today.  That included food for Boxing Day, and over Christmas generally, some booze (for making my mulled cider), wrapping paper, crackers, presents for teachers, and some presents for my nan.  With my staff discount deducted, plus my staff vouchers, and Tesco vouchers, and my nan kindly gave me Tesco stamps as my Christmas present (thank you, Nan), my final bill was just over £80.  My kind of shopping!


I was in there for two hours.  There is a maximum two hour parking limit in their car park, as it's free, and everyone uses it to go into town - hence why I had to go early, to guarantee getting parked.  I hope I don't get a letter in the post, I'll be telling them to check their CCTV! Yes, I was in there shopping for that long. 

I will now not set foot in that shop until the New Year.  My on-line shop is already booked for Wednesday 22 December - the 23rd and 24th were already full!

The other Christmassy thing I did today was write my Christmas cards.  Last year I didn't send out so many, and was thinking of doing the same this year.  But I'd over done it on the stamps and thought what the heck.  Admittedly, I did get a bit tighter on who I sent one out to.  I've decided to cut down my Christmas card list.  I sent out just under 50 cards - well, I haven't posted them yet, but they're stamped and ready to go! 

Then, this evening we went out to Ben's football club's Christmas party - it was held at the pub around the corner, so we could walk.  We were only there two and half hours.  Having two young boys used to routine, they were ready for bed at half past eight. But walking there, and home, we made the most at looking at all the pretty lights on the houses.  On one close, practically every house had lights, and it looked lovely.

The party had a disco.  Remembering this is a football club party, therefore the majority of the kids are boys, one thing I did observe was, at first the younger ones were doing their sort of dancing.  (So cute.)  Then, the bigger ones started mucking around, and I think they didn't have parents there to keep an eye on them, so were out of control in places.  I thought, whereas if they were all girls, whatever age, they would have been dancing, making up little routines to the songs.  However, the boys were, yes, that's right, play fighting.

On an additional note, Ben made Trainer of The Week today, and his coach gave a lovely speech (apparently - I wasn't there, I was doing the shopping) about how he's the most improved over the season.  Well done, Ben.

Tomorrow we're off to see Santa, travelling via steam train.  Can't wait!

Friday, 10 December 2010

Day 10 - I've Won A Greek Billionaire!


I've been posting on Kate Walker's blog when I can, answering her questions about Christmas and stuff, as she's running a daily competition.  To enter you just have to comment on her blog.

Yesterday, I answered her question, telling her about a favourite romance I'd read this year.   (I'd said Jane Eyre... and to pick a Mills and Boon favourite, Her Desert Dream by Liz Fielding).  And today I won!  (I do love how the winners are chosen - by her cat!  Thank you, Sid for picking me.)

My prize - Bedded By A Greek Billionaire by Kate Walker - sounds like my kind of Mills and Boon read.

So learning I'd won the book set me up nicely this morning!  I was chuffed to bits.  I never win anything.

The only other Christmassy thing I did do was a bit of shopping while I waited for the car to have its MOT.  It passed! Phew!

Boys only have one week left of school/preschool... next week I need to get some wrapping done, and these Christmas cards written.  Tomorrow I'm going shopping... I must get up early.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Day 8 & 9 - Sprinkle On Some Sugar

Yesterday, I went with Kieran and his preschool to watch the children in Reception of Castlebatch School do their Christmas performance.  The difference between St Marks and Castlebatch is obvious.  St Marks is a church run school and so we saw a proper nativity.  Joseph, Mary and even the donkey.  With Castlebatch, they sung about Jesus being born in Bethlehem, but it also covered songs celebrating Christmas and what it's about.  It was just as wonderful to watch, amazing that children of four and five years of age can remember so many songs.  The preschoolers sat there, good as gold, mesmerised too.  So cute all of it.

Kieran will be doing a Christmas "concert" next Friday, just before his Christmas party.  I have a slight feeling one of the songs is Christmas Pudding.  I just love how he sings, "sprinkle on the sugar, sprinkle on the sugar." 

Apricot jammed up!
Today, I managed to marzipan my Christmas cake!  Firstly, I met my dad in the morning for a coffee in Druckers, a café in the Sovereign Centre, in town.  He goes there so regularly, when they see him coming, they make his cappuccino!  He chooses the same table, too, which gives us a great view of the new pier.

I finished off a bit of Christmas shopping I needed to do, and by the time I'd filled the car up with petrol and put it through the car wash, (the car was so dirty my lights came on with the auto sensors!) I needed to collect Kieran.

So after we'd had lunch, I rolled up my sleeves, put on my pinnie (apron) and started rolling out the marzipan.  There was no way one block of 500g was going to cover my 23cm Christmas cake.  Dashed around to Tesco's, dragging poor old Kieran along (why is it illegal to leave kids home alone, I mean! He would have been fine watching 'Show Me Show Me' - I am joking!), grabbed another block of marzipan and dashed back home.  Hurrah! Rolled it all out together and it covered my cake nicely.  Panic over. Phew!

Marzipanned up!  Wait till you see me iced.
Now I need to find the time to write my Christmas cards... which I haven't decided how many I'm going to write, or not, yet, but I did buy 50 Christmassy second class stamps yesterday.  Hmmm....  Last year I cut down how many I sent, spreading good will wishes over the internet - much more environmentally friendly and cheaper!

I also need to find time to wrap the presents I've got for family, ideally before the boys break up from school/preschool.  It will be just easier if I don't have 'helpers' and I worry it takes away the magic of Christmas, and wonder if they'll start to question Santa. (Hubby and I usually wrap all of the boys presents one night, while they stay over at Nanny's.  Then we have no fear of them coming down stairs and catching us wrapping their toys!  Not that they usually come down stairs, but it would be Sod's Law...)

Yeah, I've got one week.  Oh joy!

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Day 7 - It's Cold Outside

Wow! So cold in fact, I got my hat out today, to walk to my friends for a coffee and a chat.  My ears were much warmer but I had to really pull it down.  I think I want one of those cute hats that come down past your ears.  They might look silly but I imagine they are very practical - and warm!  We can do warm. We don't do cold.

It has been trying to snow today, either that, or the frost was falling from the trees. And sad as I am, I took a photograph of our pond (now wishing I'd taken one with my phone, it would be easier to share) which is frozen in places, and has great chunky icicles hanging from the bush at the back, where the fountain is hitting it.  I even buttered some bread and put that out for the birds.  It's on my list to purchase some peanuts for them.  I won't complain though, I think I'd rather it cold and crisp like this, reminding me it's winter, than it raining and miserable.

This week seems to be filling up with stuff to do and I'm starting to wonder when I'm going to get the chance to marzipan my Christmas cake. 

My friend gave me her Christmas card - that's another thing I need to do, write cards.  Still not sure if I'm going to do what I did last year, and limit what I send out and just put a message to those I see on Facebook etc.  She also gave me some books to read - classics!  They'll be included in next year's to-read pile. 

Nothing really Christmassy achieved today, though a couple of presents arrived from Amazon.  I shop so much more online now that I have two kids.  So much easier.  My shopping is nearly all done, then I will have to try and do some wrapping up - especially while the kids are still at school/preschool.  Okay - that's next weeks job then!

Trying to pull my finger out with my writing, and phoned Tesco Magazine and Sainsbury's Magazine today to get contact names.  Emailed off an outline to each, for different articles.  Tonight has been spent researching magazines and their guidelines for short stories.  I have three that haven't got anywhere, so now need to think where else to try them.  Some may need fattening up, or even trimming down, to suit the word count requirements, and I need to make sure they are suitable in content.

I really want to become a 'published' writer... that would be a fantastic Christmas present from Santa! 

Monday, 6 December 2010

Day 6 - Blog Up To Christmas

I thought I had nothing Christmassy to report today, but as I stood in the shower (that's where I get all my good ideas from and do all my brainstorming - must be the water on my brain!) I realised that I did do something this morning that was Christmas related.

I helped out at Kieran's preschool because they needed more adults to accompany the children, one adult to two children at least, but some only had one child to look after - like me!  The small trip out entailed catching the bus (a double decker) all the way round to St Marks School - yes not even a mile away I doubt - but possibly quicker than trying to get twenty preschoolers to walk there.

We all piled onto the top deck of course, Kieran and I got front seats - which we then had to get off two minutes later.  I bet the other passengers were cursing us.

The little ones watched the Reception class of St Marks School perform the dress rehearsal of their nativity play - so that's two I've seen this year!

Kieran actually sat as good as gold, cuddled up to me.  I'm not sure if he knew what to make of it all - it was rather crowded. 

Then, we all got the bus back - yes, interesting with twenty-odd preschoolers and their teachers and mothers.  We filled the returning bus because it was a small one.  Typical.

We have another trip over to Castlebatch School on Wednesday - to see another nativity play by their Reception classes! That one won't be such a military operation, as we only have to cross the road.  Phew!

Day 5 - Late Blog - Still Birthday Celebrations

This is for yesterday: Day 5 of Blogging Up To Christmas.

We did manage to arrive at my Mum's save and sound, and equally return that way.  The morning was interesting.  With the rain we'd had Saturday, the sliding doors on our lovely Mazda 5 had frozen shut.  We had to put the boys from the front, climbing through the gap.

Luckily, my eldest can do up his belt, but my youngest still needs buckling in.  We got to mum's and the doors opened fine.  We totally forgot that night though - and yes, you've guessed it, they were frozen again.

The day was all good fun, and I believe made Katie's day.  She starts her next lot of intensive Leukaemia treatment today (Monday) and that can make her feel pretty poorly.  Katie had made piñata's for each of the boys, and they had great fun smashing the hell out of them.  Slightly worrying actually, Kieran has rather a good swing on him, and really did hit his piñata hard! We all had to stand back and it was a good job we had decided to hang them from Mum's washing line in the garden.

Before The Whacking Begins!
Ben opened more presents, we all played a couple of games of Frustration, that turned more like into Tension!  Katie, Darren and Sarah becoming rather competitive I might add!

As usual, Mum served up a yummy dinner, Ben and Katie (and even Kieran) got to blow out some candles on a Smartie cake.  And then, it was sadly time to come home, nicely stuffed and exhausted.

Now we have the birthday's out of the way, I can start concentrating on Christmas... this week I want to marzipan the Christmas cake.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Day 4 - My Son's Nativity - Six Years On

I looked up 'nativity' in the dictionary: 1) (the Nativity) the birth of Jesus. 2) (formal) a person's birth. 

It was my son's 6th birthday today!  In the morning, as anticipated, we were woken early, and unwrapping presents by 7.30am (we did encourage him to 'play' in his bedroom for half an hour).  Family came over, and more opening of presents was required - obviously my son did not complain.  We had a spot of lunch (pizzas and nibbles) and a bit of playing with the new toys, then we headed out for Ben's party at three o'clock.  We were going bowling. 

Ten children in all - two lanes, split it teams of five.  It was fun, but a bit stressful looking after other people's kids - especially when you think how heavy those balls are!  (I was so worried about squashed fingers, or toes).  Some are a bit more demanding than others.  I really did need to keep my cool (I'm not known to be the most patient person to walk the earth) - but it is easier with other people's kids, and remembering to just go with the flow.

Sometimes that's what stresses me out.  I worry - about everything!  Best to sometimes sit back and just let it go the way it's supposed to.  Take my time.

End result!
Ben loved his cake!  He particularly liked Darth Vader holding a candle as a lightsaber.  (Although I got him out of the packet to find him broken - luckily I was able to make do!).  I will have to share 'this' photo another time.   

Just out of the oven! Chocolate - yum!
The cupcakes also went down a storm.  I promised you pictures, so here they are.  Later, once I've managed to download some of the party pics from the camera, I'll share a picture of the birthday.  Today, you'll have to make do with pictures of the cake - which I am rather proud of.  This is what I have been working on Thursday and Friday, leading up to today.  I've kept it simple, deciding less is more.  I could have put extras on it and totally ruined it.  Everything went without a hitch, so I didn't want to push my luck.  But just getting this cake out of the oven, icing it, and putting the cake topper on.  When it was done, I just felt so good that I'd achieved this.  I know I could have bought a fancier cake in a supermarket, or made by a 'cake lady', but there was just something about this and making it myself that made me feel happier.  And I think Ben appreciated it just as much that I'd put the effort in for him.

Star Wars Cakes!

I made cup cakes following a Nigella recipe, and oh my they do taste yum without even icing on.  I put one of these into the goodie bags at the end of the party - I thought it would be easier than cutting the cake.  Which means, I haven't cut the cake yet - I still don't know what it tastes like.  (Must change that very soon).

To quote a friend quoting Yoda; 'Delicious it looks.'
Both Ben and Kieran had to have one with Yoda on.  And you're wondering about my comments in the last paragraph aren't you.  Well, how I know why the cup cakes taste so good... because I did have a bit of a cake-malfunction.  I used a recipe out of Nigella Christmas, and doubled it - as I wanted 24.  I trayed them up in to cake cases, then read Nigella's instruction about putting cases in a muffin tin.  I thought, surely not - they're fairy cakes - I even checked another recipe and they too used the same ingredient quantities. 

I stuck one tray of 12 in the oven and they were spilling out over the case practically.  There would be no room for royal icing as the picture showed in the book.  So there I was, scraping the contents out of the cake cases, and putting them into my muffin cases in my muffin tin.  The result is above.  12 perfect cup cakes.  I only needed 12 really - so the other 12 have been gobbled up leading up to today and I didn't bother icing them because they tasted so yum!

Well, that's it.  Another birthday down and I feel absolutely shattered.  Not quite sure how much writing I'll get done tonight.  Next week I can think about marzipanning my Christmas cake.  Hoping it stays mild tonight and tomorrow, so we can make a trip to my mum's.  No, the present opening hasn't finished yet.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Day 3 - We Have Birthday's Too

Bumper Car Katie on the Pier - Kieran is there somewhere!
Can't quite concentrate on Christmas yet.  Today is Katie's birthday - my little sister has turned twenty-three!

And tomorrow will be Ben's, who said this morning, "I'm so excited I'll be six tomorrow."  Bless. 

So today, I have spent icing his birthday cake and putting on the cake topper.  Photos to follow tomorrow!

I did do something Christmassy this afternoon - I went to choose our Christmas tree, with the help of my dad.  It's our little tradition now - all of three years running.  He comes along with his pick-up and takes it home for me.  Not sure yet when we're going to put our decorations up - we have busy weekends ahead of us, but I don't like to put them up until after Ben's birthday, letting his cards be up at least a week.  I remember as a kid, my dad wouldn't put ours up till about a week before Christmas, but now we usually do something around two weeks before.  

Saying that, Hubby is about to put the outside lights up on the house.  We like those up early.  They take a bit to put up, so it's good to have those up to make it worth all the while. 

Happy birthday, Katie!

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Day 2 - The Nativity Play

Day 2 of blogging up to Christmas and I watched my son's second nativity play. 

Unfortunately I am not allowed to post pictures, (the world has gone mad about posting pictures of children) but you know it's nearly Christmas when you watch your child's Christmas performance.

Ben's play was The Lucky Owls.  I suppose when you have 60 kids, (2 classes of 30 children) you need to adapt the story some how.  Ben was a bat.  And a very good one too, if I do say so myself.  Yes, okay I am biased.

It was about two owls, cold at night, trying to find somewhere to sleep, and witnessing the birth of baby Jesus.  So cute!

Lovely performance, and great to watch the little ones.  You can tell they're getting that bit bigger (although only 5 and 6 years old) because they were a bit louder with their singing, did more of the actions to the songs and remembered their short lines better.

Secretly hoping one day he gets to be Joseph, or a shepherd, or even a king!

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Blog Up To Christmas - Day 1

First Christmas cake (Xmas 2008)
I've been following Mila's Daydreams and although she has taken her photos down (because unfortunately people were using them without her permission) she is still blogging.  She's decided to do a photo - countdown calendar.


I try to include photo's in my blogs, (because that keeps blogs interesting and not a block of text!) however, because I want to be a writer, rather than a photographer, I thought I would still do this, but more by writing. (Though will try to take the odd photo!  Or find something Christmassy to post).

So this is my Christmas Countdown Calendar equivalent.

Day 1:  Today, Nanny provided the boys with their chocolate advent calendars.  Thankfully, I have convinced my mother that she does not have to do the same, because 1) I was running out of where to put them, 2) that would be FOUR calendars to open a day, plus the one we have, which is a reusable one I fill with chocolatey treats and 3) my kids would be eating way too much chocolate!

Anyway, my mother-in-law still does it (even through my grumbling) and I was at least very pleased to see that they were Thortons chocolate advent calendars.  1) because it's better chocolate than some of the crap that is in those other ones, and 2) if the boys don't eat all their tea, (when they will get to open this calendar) - Mummy's going to have it!  I particularly like this second point!

So they'll get to do my one in the morning - as it's quicker.  (I can't add opening calendars into the tight school run schedule - I'm already stressed enough as it is).  And then Nanny's one after tea/dinner for their after tea treat.

My son's birthday is the 4th December - this weekend will be busy.  But next week my aim is to marzipan my Christmas cake!  Oh, the photos I can share with you there!

The photo provided was my first ever Christmas cake... however it was one of those boxes, where you just add the eggs.  I marzepanned and iced it though!  And decorated it!  This year I've properly made one from Nigella's Christmas. And I want to use royal icing!

I was looking through this recipe book today... looking for all the nice things I'd like to make.

So day 1 - calendars started.  Only 24 sleeps till Christmas!

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Book Review: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Jane EyreJane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I picked this book up (not this actual cover shown... I have an American print dated 1971 - it's 2 years older than me!) for 85p at Minehead Train Station, on a steam train day out with my kids.

I had decided that I needed to read more classics, and there was Jane Eyre (I also picked up Gulliver's Travels).

I thought it would be hard to get into, the language heavy and stilted, however instead I found myself gripped.  I was so wrong.  It was so easy to read, the long passages of description, or dialogue engaging. 

The first ten chapters are of her life as a child, these were extremely powerful, but as soon as Mr Rochester hit the page I didn't want to put this book down.  Like Jane's, my emotions were up and down.

I do find it interesting that Mr Rochester is frequently regarded as ugly, something a modern day romance couldn't easily do, yet, you never see him as ugly, you see him through Jane's eyes, and know instantly that he loves her.  I loved his devilish tricks, his moodiness and Jane's strength to match him.

Truly wonderful story, taking us back into a time that we can only imagine.  Where people were truly poor or rich.

The characters were easily distinguished, from Mr Rochester to St John.  I never tired of reading this book.  Such a powerful romance.

I'm off to find more classics!



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This has taken my book read total to 39! Only one more to go and I've reached my 40.  I can do that in a month, right?

Monday, 29 November 2010

Writing Ways

I am currently reading Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë and loving it.  Deciding that I needed to read more classic material, I picked it up in October, at Minehead Station, when out with the boys on our steam train trip.  It cost me 85p.  Being a 'classic,' I thought I would find the language and style heavy on the eye, but in fact I've found it gripping and easy to read - even her descriptions and long scripts.

Obviously it is of a different style to that you would find in a contemporary romance today, but the emotion and feelings are still within its pages.  I've been close to tears reading this book - it's been pulling at my emotions.

The book is an American print, and has an introduction by David Stryker.  In this introduction it quotes Elizabeth Gaskell, Charlotte Brontë's acquaintance and biographer:

"She would wait patiently searching for the right term, until it presented itself to her... She never wrote  down  a sentence until she clearly understood what she wanted to say, had deliberately chosen the words, and arranged them n their right order."

The original manuscript presented to the publisher had in places a sentence scored out but rarely a word or emotion.  You get the impression that Brontë would sit long and hard, thinking before she wrote her words.

I wonder if this was a writer's way, before the age of computers, and even typewriters.  They had to sit and deliberate which sentence would go next, how to structure that sentence, paragraph, dialogue in their heads, before writing/typing away (I'm considering the old typewriters here too!).  Nowadays it is easy to just sit at our PCs, laptops and just punch away at the keyboard - I know that's what I do!  Editing has now become key to a clever writer.

In fact writing advice I've read says, you can't edit a blank page!

I tend to just write what's in my head, and use the good old delete/backspace button if I don't like it.  Even cut and paste if I decide a paragraph needs moving.  I tend to write a sentence out and then play with it, to make sure it makes sense and says what I want it to say (although sometimes I still fail).

Before this time, writing could have been tedious to someone like me.  I know that others maybe more articulate in how they write.  I know that some have to perfect a chapter before they move on to the next - whereas I as I like to get to the end of my story, (Nano taught me that in 2006) and then think about the editing.  I am a poor planner in parts.  I have to know an ending, so that I know where I am heading with my story, but I do tend to just go with the flow.  Usually an idea will strike and that will be my next step forward when I come to writing, and I will note ideas as they come.  But I tend to do my scene moving around and planning on the screen as they come to me.

Did writers, back in the likes of Brontë's day have to be better planners?  Have we got it easier now with our modern technology?

Saturday, 27 November 2010

In The Mood For Christmas Now

Over a year ago, I was bursting at the seams.  I'd booked us a mid-week holiday in Center Parcs for a very nice price.  Just shows how time flies, because we've now been and gone on that holiday, and we had lots of fun.  It was Winter Wonderland theme, and therefore very Christmassy.  Every cabin had a wreath hanging outside its door, footpaths and areas were decorated with pretty, white fairy lights.  The Plaza was especially picturesque. 

Outside The Plaza
On the Monday when we arrived, we hired bikes, and Ben had his own, while Kieran had a seat behind Daddy.  Bikes are a good way to get around in Center Parcs but in places it is hilly.  It's geared up for the bikes, with bike parks dotted all over the place.  Ben, on a bigger bike than he is used to, cycled really well (Grandad Ron would have approved!).  He was nervous about going down hill, but Ben being Ben was very cautious (I can see Kieran in years to come crashing at every turn as he whizzes down the hills - our not so cautious son) and I think he was afraid he might not be able to stop himself. 

We managed to go swimming practically every day - well, Daddy took Ben late on Thursday, while I put Kieran to bed (and told him Daddy and Ben had just gone for a walk, not daring to mention the S word).  We'd done the Spa that afternoon, while the boys had enjoyed the Merry Berry Ball - Kieran winning 'Pass The Parcel'.  He refused to have his picture taken afterwards - he was so tired.  But we caught him on film anyway - albeit a bit grumpy.  He just can't resist having his face painted!

Our very own Rudolf.
Our woodland lodge was wonderfully equipped - it had a dishwasher! I know it's a bit home from home, but a dishwasher means I'm not the one standing there doing the washing up.  It meant I could sit and relax in the morning after breakfast, with a cup of coffee, and watch our neighbours, Mr Robin and Mr Squirrel.  In fact, we saw three squirrels at one time trying to get on to the brick BBQ that was outside our patio doors.  I'd put some peanuts out there (obviously not salted!) and they were beavering away (or squirrelling away I suppose) the nuts, and we'd see them bury them and come back for more.  Sometimes he'd bury locally, or he'd run off down a route and be back after five or ten minutes.  I could have sat there all day watching the little fellow.  (Next time, I'm taking my bird and squirrel food with me - not paying Center Parc prices - and my little garden bird book).

We were extremely lucky with the weather - although cold (it was the middle of November) we had great frosty, dry weather.  Clear skies - we needed our sunglasses more here, than in the Isle of Wight in August.  The rain kept away, so it enabled us to be out and about during the day and the early evening. With a couple of layers on we were lovely and comfortable, and the promise of a log fire in the evening, to make us extra toasty.


How many nuts can I carry?
All I can say is, Center Parcs is a great place for the family.  There is plenty to do; some you have to pay for, some for free.  Ben wanted to do things like the paint balling, but we had to tell him there were a lot of things he couldn't do because he wasn't old enough.  If your sports or adventure minded, this is a place for you.  It is a bit pricey but if you take plenty of food and drink with you, you can afford to treat yourself to the odd coffee (as there are Starbucks!) or a visit to The Pancake House - that was a naughty lunch we had!  It's just a good idea to go armed with snacks for the kids.  Some of the activities are reasonable, some again, expensive. It all depends on how expensive you want to make the holiday.  I was extremely conscious that it was our third holiday this year, and it was meant to be done on the cheap!
Santa's Woodland Workshop by night

What I particularly like is that the car gets left behind in the car park, so with a (nearly) six year old on a bike, you had little fear of him getting hurt - unless he falls into a ditch just outside our lodge, trying to race Daddy! Ah-hem!

You can hire the bikes or bring your own, but afterwards when we returned ours, we were allowed to keep our bike locks - which pleased Ben as he wanted to buy one (for his new bike that he's getting for his birthday).


The kids thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Initially they were wondering where the beach was - they associate holiday with the sea!  They loved all the swimming and cycling, and gradually we wore them out.  They kept getting up at the crack of dawn - not helped by sharing a room, they are real chatterboxes - but Friday morning, it was Sod's Law we had to wake them up!

Anyway, we've come back refreshed and revitalised... and ready for Christmas.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Book Review: Kate Walker's 12 Point Guide To Writing Romance

12-Point Guide to Writing Romance (Studymates Writers Guides)12-Point Guide to Writing Romance by Kate Walker

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This will live on my bookshelf.  There are exercises that I really would like to attempt and is definitely good to have as a reference.  I did do one of the exercises, but should have done more.  Definitely good to treat this as an workbook, too.

I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to write for Mills and Boon Harlequin because it really is aimed at them.  It gives a lot of detail about the specific lines and what they require.  I'm not really sure if I'm Mills and Boon material (or voice), however, I still found it useful for writing romance in general.  Definitely worth a read.

At the back, the last chapter is really writing advice from old and new Mills and Boon authors.  Liz Fielding is there! From these authors, the general consensus is you can't edit a blank page... so write, write, write!  The other piece of advice they raised was read, read, read.  Research is also key, so read the lines, genre you want to write for. 

So you'll be seeing a lot of chick-lit in my reading pile next year.



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It's Copyrighting Day

Apparently it is Copyrighting Day and as a new writer, these things are important (and confusing at the best of times).  My writing buddy from Mills and Boon competition, Sally Quilford has blogged much better than I could about plagiarism and how to avoid it, etc. so I thought it was best to spread the word by sharing her blog post: Copyrighting - Copy Writing.

She offers some great advice.  Some is common sense, but to some new writers (like me) who maybe a little naive we need reminders, and some of the advice you might be thinking... gosh, didn't think of that.

Please read!

Thursday, 18 November 2010

A Day Out On A Steam Train

With my new haircut, my friends on Facebook wanted to see my new image.  It wasn't all that new, just a bit blonder really as I had a full head of highlights done this time around.  Can't afford it, but it has to be done, right?

In my vanity, with a bit of make-up on, I've stretched my arm out and taken these photos (which I hate) and downloaded them onto my PC.  I decided to download all of the pictures from the camera (usually this is hubby's job; he stores them on his laptop and backs them up etc.) as it's just easier sometimes. 

I was pleasantly surprised to see photos from half term and I really liked these photos of my dad (Grandad Ron) with the boys.  We'd done our trip from Bishops Lydeard to Minehead on the steam train.  And on the way back we stopped at Watchet.  It breaks up the journey and we get to go on two trains.  The boys really wanted to go on 'Daisy' the diesel.  They name them from Thomas The Tank Engine - it's cute.

The boys are quite happy to have their lunch (we pack a picnic) on Minehead station.  Gosh! Don't even think about suggesting moving away from the steam trains!

Not sure if my dad was really that fussed about having his photo taken, but I took it anyway.

As to the photos of me!  Well, you'll have to check out my Facebook profile!  Although I am thinking of doing something funky with it in Photoshop and making a profile picture - it's on my list to do.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Slow Cooker Writing

Today I got to try out my crock pot!  This morning, I put it on the hob, and did the recipe as I would do, only not bothering to cook the meat through... just browning it a little and breaking up the mince.  Once all the ingredients were nicely mixed I put it onto the slow cooker part and cooked on low. 

This afternoon, once I'd picked my son up from school I had an hour to just relax, get bits and pieces done, but not stress about the dinner.  It was lovely.

All day I had to resist the urge to lift up the lid - though I did later on to give it all a bit of a stir.  And because there is no light, I wasn't sure if it was on at first.  But being new, I got that new burning kind of smell but later the lamb curry was wafting through my house.  Yum!

Came in from 'Stars In Training', switched the slow cooker to warm, cooked the rice - and dinner was ready.  Actually handy, as I could serve mine and the kids tea up and leave hubby's until he got in.

In other news:  Been trying to finish Kate Walker's 12 Point Guide (so that it's another book down for the year!) and catch up on my reading (after being ill over the weekend I've been slacking).  The back bit is advice from other writers.  Funny how their ideas can stem from all sorts.  As I read I'm thinking, yes, that's me too!  They all say keep writing and persevere.

Tonight I am hoping I've finished my 6th Assignment.  I hope so (it's been quite painful!).  Will let it rest tonight and look again tomorrow, but then I will send it off and not tackle Assignment 7 until January 2011.  That way I'll be allowed the rest of the year (basically December) to work on my novel that I started for Mills and Boon.  It's working title is The Wedding Favour, though I'm not overly sure whether to keep it or not.  I like it... but not sure about the 'wedding' part.  But writing advice I was reading tonight says to write the draft to the end and that's what I want to do.  Then I'll print it off and go through it and see where it needs fattening up, fleshing out and where to get some emotion into it.  I'm still worried my conflict is a bit weak.   Does the hero have enough of a reason not to pursue?  Is it realistic his reasons?

But I've decided I'd like to see this story finished by the summer and at a level I'm happy with, I might be able think about submitting it to publishers or something... all seems too scary to really think about it.  But it's the only way I'm going to get on this bandwagon.

Also need to send off another short story to another competition somewhere, so that is likely to be December's job too. No rest for a writer... even an unpublished one.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

All I Need - Another Recipe Book!

Crock Pot!
This is either really sad, or a sure sign that I've run out of things to write about, or as most of you may know, I'm a bit nuts. 

Yes, I'm going to ramble on about my slow cooker that now has a place in my kitchen.  Tiny bit of reorganising and we got it in there.  It's near an electrical point, easy to just pull out, add my ingredients and leave it sat there.

For those of you who may have set foot in my kitchen, yes, it is a lovely large size.  However, when hubby and I were looking at the house to buy, we were so enamoured with its size, we forgot to really look at it more deeply.  It desperately needs refurbishing.  It's the original kitchen to the house, so probably over 20 years old now and well, cupboards are falling off hinges.  But a kitchen this size, which needs completely ripping out, will cost us so much money - and will be a big job.  I keep think I'll get these things when I get my new kitchen, but I might not get a 'new' kitchen for another ten years yet (gosh, I hope it's not that long!). 


The reason for the slow cooker is that I realised I needed to make more use of my time.  And sometimes, like on Wednesdays, I have more time in the morning, than I do in the afternoon with all the running around.  Might even enable me to write more if I put my time to better use.  (I'm hoping for some time management miracle!)  I intend to try and use my crock pot at least once a week.


So now I need a recipe book, and I'd said after last Christmas I don't want any more!  Can you have too many recipe books?  I always say that if you get at least one recipe out of a book, then it's worth keeping.

I use my Tana Ramsay Real Family Food, and my Jamie Oliver Ministry of Food all the time - they're my kitchen bibles.  Jamie has given me a good basic stew recipe which I play around with - so that can go in the crock pot.  And the good thing is, this can sauté on the hob first.  That's why I bought it!  It can even go in the oven, if I really need it to.

I do a lamb curry in Tana's book which is GORGEOUS and can probably do that in the slow cooker.  Plus I've heard spag bol, chilli...  But I welcome all hints and tips in using my little slow cooker!  Any recipes! 

Oh and I could even do my Delia's beef in cider (another GREAT dish).

Can't wait till next week when I get to use it - Wednesday - Lamb curry on the meal plan.

So now I've managed to make room for my slow cooker, I need to find some space for a bread maker....  Why wait for this new kitchen - huh?