Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Macaroon Monday

Okay. I lied. These were made on Saturday, but I didn’t get a chance to post about them at the time. My eight-year-old has set himself a personal challenge for Cubs to make the perfect macaroon. He’s made batch after batch over the past few weeks using a recipe from Delicious Magazine, and this weekend was going to be the glorious culmination of his learning efforts.

Alas, disaster struck ~ alongside a big lesson for the budding master baker. For some reason that we still don’t quite understand but attribute quite possibly to the use of larger eggs, the first attempt at making macaroons this past Saturday afternoon failed quite miserably. The mixture turned out too runny, was optimistically put in the oven anyway… and burned and bubbled in the most extraordinary fashion. Don’t get me wrong, they tasted all right… but they looked decidedly pre-eaten.

After some debate as to whether the unsavoury looking blobs could be rescued in some capacity, my master baker elected to start over. The recipe was re-read, smaller eggs were being used, and great attention was paid to the consistency of the mixture. We also discussed baking temperatures and decided to turn the oven down by another 20 degrees to about 120 degrees. (I should mention that our oven is on the blink, and cooking temperature is hit and miss at the best of times, so its temperature gauge is but a rough guideline.)

The macaroons took a little longer to bake, but they turned out colourful, un-burned, and super light and fluffy.

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The tasting panel at the evening barbeque agreed: these are the perfect macaroons. So I reckon that’s his challenge accomplished. And the lesson learned? If you’re going to start altering variables (like size of eggs), you have to pay attention to the rest of the recipe too. Admittedly that’s not something that would have occurred to me either, not being a master baker myself. And in his (and my) defence, I don’t think I’ve ever come across a recipe that is quite so sensitive to the effects of size of egg before… but hey, we live and learn.

So, how about it. Will you give the perfect macaroon a go?

Eat your frog…

When in France, do as the French do. Right? So during our recent family holiday to France, we picked up a new eating habit. We stayed with some very good friends and their kids and were quickly absorbed in a very different approach to eating and mealtimes. Astounding, really, how a little cultural and geographic difference can foster so much diversity.

Anyhoo, the aspect that amused and confused us most in equal measures to begin with was the salad course. Obviously, being well conversant with restaurant etiquette, both hubs and I were aware that apparently some people like a salad before their meal. However, salads aren’t normally the kind of starters we’d order, both of us being more of a prawn/paté/bruschetta person. As for the kids… *snortles*

But there we were, being given our greens before every meal apart from breakfast, obviously. The salad course seemed a little alien at first but quickly became an enjoyable habit. And the best thing? The kids ate their salad too. Not all of it, by any stretch of the imagination, but green leaves, tomatoes, raw peppers, cucumber and all manner of other crudités were being consumed by my green-adverse offspring simply because there would be no second course until the first one had been cleared.

The leaning tower of salad... Getting ready for the salad buffet can be entertaining!

The leaning tower of salad… Getting ready for the salad buffet can be entertaining!

The logic is obvious. Everyone sits down to a meal hungry. Faced with a choice of nothing or something green-and-healthy (“eeek!”), “nothing” is infinitely less appealing than “green-and-healthy”. Reluctantly but without complaint, green-and-healthy is being eaten in a kind of communal rite-of-passage before the main event. Everyone eats green stuff, therefore there can be no complaining. Nobody is being singled out. Nobody faces their green demons alone. We’re all in the same green boat.

We call it eating our frog–a novel interpretation, perhaps, on time-honoured advice supposedly first formulated by Mark Twain, but absolutely fitting considering where we picked up the habit. And guess what? We’ve kept it up for weeks and weeks now. Okay, I’d be lying if I claimed I put a salad course on the table every day. Some days are simply too hectic, what with a twenty-minute turnaround between school and music lessons or some such. But most days have a salad course, and the ensuing main meal is so much more relaxed because the kids have already eaten their greens and can actually simply enjoy the rest of their food without parental nagging by way of, “come on, just four more peas.”

Our salad buffet. The rule is: everyone has to eat something out of every bowl except one. Salad dressings are available but optional... each to their own!

A sample salad buffet. The rule is: everyone has to eat something out of every bowl except one. Salad dressings are available but optional… each to their own!

What about the winter, you ask? Good question. I’m sure we’ll stick with the crudités for some time yet; courtesy of global markets, cucumbers, peppers and such like can be bought any time of year. And perhaps I’ll experiment with vegetable bakes and rissoles during the colder winter months. And obviously a good old-fashioned roast lunch will always come with vegetables, salad course or not. But still: we will keep eating our frogs. Long live the salad course!

Over to you. What do you think of eating your frog?

Real Virtuality

Social media receive a lot of criticism for being a whole lot of hot air, for turning teenagers into virtual friendship addicts unable to converse coherently with (let alone relate to) the real human beings around them, and for making us all live life at one level of remove with our sharing fingers always poised to tell the world what we’re doing and thereby somehow validating what we’re doing.

I get that. I can see that there’s a lot of that going on. However, social media also has the power to bring together like-minded people from all over the world and forge real friendships.

Karen proved a willing subject for my younger son's 'Make a Cup of Tea' scouting challenge... and a nice one it was too, she says.

Karen proved a willing subject for my younger son’s ‘Make a Cup of Tea’ scouting challenge… and a nice one it was too, she says.

Take my friend, the lovely Karen Soutar. Karen lives in Scotland. Like  me, Karen likes her rock music, has a bit of a thing of the odd rock star or five, and loves reading romantic fiction (preferably involving rock stars). Karen and I have a lot in common, but we’d never have met if it hadn’t been for Facebook and Twitter. What began as a fledgling virtual connection has turned into something very real indeed, and last weekend saw Karen’s second visit to the Wells residence in Lincolnshire–this time involving an overnight stay.

Mexican feast. Cheers!

Mexican feast. Cheers!

My kids immediately took Karen off on a little nature walk involving frogs and assorted bugs. We frequented the local shops and had ice cream in the park. We cooked a huge Mexican feast and, when the kids were finally in bed, we opened up the lovely bubbly thoughtfully brought along by Karen to settle down for a girlie chat. And my, did we put the world to rights!

Later on, hubs entertained us with a fabulous cocktail concoction (Night over London, I think it was called…), and the evening continued into the wee small hours of the morning (just).

Bubbles! *cheers*

Bubbles for the rock chicks…

Next morning, Karen was introduced to the Wells Family Sunday Breakfast tradition, and then we set off to explore Lincoln together. We got blown away on the wall walk at Lincoln Castle! And all too sudden, this very real visit from a virtual friend drew to a close.

So. Real virtuality, or virtual reality–it can totally work both ways. Thank you for visiting, Karen. We’re now planning our trip to Scotland….

#BookLaunch: Pandora’s Prophecy by @JulieRyan18

#BookLaunch

Social media is a wonderful thing. It’s a place to hang out and make friends, and to meet new authors and their books. It’s my great honour to showcase today the wonderful Julie Ryan with her third release in her Greek Island mystery series. Give it up for Pandora’s Prophecy!

Pandora’s Prophecy

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‘Pandora’s Prophecy’ is the third in the Greek Island mystery series but can be read as a standalone, although some characters from the previous books do make an appearance.

Lisa and Mark are going through a rough patch, Vicky is seventeen and has just discovered that the man she thought was her father really isn’t, Ruth is getting over her husband’s betrayal after nearly twenty-five years of marriage. On the surface they have nothing in common except that they are all staying in the same hotel on a Greek Island. As they each come into contact with the mysterious Pandora, their lives will change forever. Bodies begin to pile up as a serial killer is on the loose who might just be targeting the hotel. The Island’s Police Chief, Christos Pavlides, tries to solve the puzzle but he has problems of his own to resolve. It seems that the local celebrity author is the one who holds the key.

 About Julie

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Julie Ryan was born and brought up in a mining village near Barnsley in South Yorkshire. She graduated with a BA (hons) in French Language and Literature from Hull University. Since then she has lived and worked as a Teacher of English as a Foreign Language in France, Greece, Poland and Thailand. She now lives in rural Gloucestershire with her husband, son and two cats, a rescue cat and a dippy cat with half a tail.  She is so passionate about books that her collection is now threatening to outgrow her house, much to her husband’s annoyance, as she can’t bear to get rid of any! They have been attempting to renovate their home for the last ten years.

She is the author of three novels set in Greece, “Jenna’s Journey”, “Sophia’s Secret” and ‘Pandora’s Prophecy.” She considers Greece to be her spiritual home and visits as often as she can. This series was inspired by her desire to return to Crete although there is a strong pull to revisit the Cyclades too.

 Jenna’s Journey | Sophia’s Secret | Pandora’s Prophecy

Author links

Twitter:  @julieryan18

Facebook:  www.facebook.com/Julieryanauthor

Blog:  www.allthingsbookie.com and www.juliesworldofbooks.blogspot.co.uk

Huge congratulations, Julie, and best of luck with the launch of Pandora’s Prophecy! Peeps, what do you think? Are you intrigued?

#BookLaunch: Grumpies on Board by @CarolEWyer

#BookLaunch

It gives me tremendous pleasure to shout today about an awesome book launch by a wonderful and outstanding author. Give it up for the one and only Carol E Wyer! I had the pleasure of meeting Carol at a book festival not too long ago and to interview her for a radio show, and I’m telling you: Carol is a funny, kind and extraordinary energy ball like no other. This is the woman who eats chocolate-covered grasshoppers (or locusts?) for a book launch. This is the woman who makes eyes at a taxi driver whilst waving an umbrella in the pouring rain outside a hotel. This is the woman who lives with GRUMPY!

Here she goes… Carol E Wyer and Grumpies on Board!

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I live with a genuine Mister Grumpy. He makes Victor Meldrew look like one of the Chuckle Brothers. He is very, very grumpy. Grumpy people do not like holidays. They don’t like too much sun. They don’t like sitting by pools surrounded by families and children and they don’t like getting old.

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I discovered years ago, the only way to drag my grumpy guts away was to offer him an alternative holiday. He needs stimulating and entertaining on holiday. He needs to explore places, be outdoors, learn facts and most of all enjoy new experiences. Guess what? He isn’t the only one who wants to enjoy adventure or active holidays.

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Over 50s are turning their backs on poolside or even rambling holidays or cruises and are seeking challenges while we are still fit and active enough to enjoy them. Many are trying out glamping or gap years, backpacking around Australia or Thailand. We are willing to consider a polar expedition, go on a yodeling holiday, crew a tall ship, climb a mountain, try out bungee jumping in New Zealand, quad biking in Morocco, travel the Extra- Terrestial Highway in the USA on a motorbike, head off for a night in a converted whisky barrel and we might even be interested in Zero Gravity trips into space. We want to grab opportunities and see the world. We want to travel further, more often and stay away for longer.

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Grumpies On Board offers a vast range of holiday possibilities—including staying in a snowball to watch the Northern Lights or learning to become a Ninja—some fascinating trivia, some super jokes (yes, honest) some true anecdotes (sorry Grumpy. I know I should have kept quiet) and comments from Mr and Mrs Grumpy about each holiday choice. It is the best travel guide you will ever have and should make you laugh.

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So, I’d like to off you your own personal invitation to join the Smile High Club and purchase a copy of Grumpies On Board out today.

Why not add something exciting to your ‘book it’ list? After all, we only live once!

Available to order from all bookshops or

Amazon UK | Amazon US | Safkhet Publishing

Grumpies on Board

A “book it” list like no other, with humorous suggestions for extreme active ageing trips and why grumpies should not go snuffle trunting

Fancy a holiday with a difference? Then pack your bags and get ready for some extreme active ageing. Us ‘older’ folk are heading away from the traditional hotel holiday and at last, having fun!

This humorous guide, compiled by Mr and Mrs Grumpy, offers alternatives to the usual holiday—from sensible to outrageous—to suit every grumpy guts.

Learn about Arctic boot camps, ayurvedic retreats, drumming holidays, ice blokarting, motoring experiences, skijorking, tubing, Vespa excursions, voodoo trips and discover why Mr Grumpy will never go truffle hunting again.

With over 300 suggestions of how to get the best out of your vacation and live life to the maximum, this book aims to inspire and entertain.

Well, people, how about it? Go and get your copy of Grumpies on Board now! Happy reading…

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Are you ready?

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MIA, AWOL, Off the Radar—I may be gone some time… but I’ll Be Back!

She’s going to ground, MIA, AWOL, and generally pulling a total disappearing act… This here author is retreating to her study to write her most exciting book yet (during a self-imposed complete social media ban)!

Friends, readers and fellow romance lovers! I’m going away, but in a good cause.

The backend of 2014 was somewhat chaotic for me, and I had to take on a few commitments that took me away from writing. Now I’m somewhat behind on my next book. Actually, scratch that. I’m a lot behind on my next book.

I am nonetheless determined to bring you my next book as soon as I can, and it’s quite possibly my most ambitious one yet. It’s a romantic comedy with a bit of bite. “Seven Years Bad Sex” looks at a toasting superstition gone seriously wrong, and a young married couple’s complete inability to get… romantic. Cue all manner of hilarious and occasionally desperate antics!

To complete this masterpiece, I am taking a leave of absence from social media. Yup, you read that right. Complete and utter radio silence. I’m already shaking with withdrawal symptoms, but it’s got to be done. For the next two to three months, I’m going to use every available minute to write, write, write, until it’s done. I won’t be on Facebook, and I apologise in advance if I miss your birthday or any other significant events. I won’t be on Twitter. I won’t be blogging. I will be well and truly M.I.A.

Please bear with me and forget me not. Writing is paramount to me, and I am so keen to bring you my next book! I’ll be in touch when I surface from my self-imposed ban. In fact, I have an exciting re-entry strategy, and you’ll definitely know when I’m BACK!

In the meantime, you can reach me via the contact page, anytime. Thank you for your support and understanding. See you soon!

 Love

~Nicky