Solstice … The Beautiful Dark!

Black winter Solstice T-shirt depicting the wise fool, fluttering snowflakes and "the beautiful dark..."

Black winter Solstice T-shirt depicting the wise fool, fluttering snowflakes and “the beautiful dark…”

Not quite the usual adjectives applied to the Winter Solstice, but don’t think of the winter dark negatively, but as a time for renewal and regeneration.
My new t-shirt design aims to celebrates this great time of the year with my favourite words of wisdom character the Wise Fool blowing a clarion call for one and all to enjoy the coming Yule by making the most of those long dark nights and cosy evenings by the fire, preferably with a few friends, some good food and foot tapping music!
Before you rush off and take a look though, you might find a few Solstice facts interesting so read on!

About The Winter Solstice
1.  The winter solstice occurs at a specific time which is not necessarily on the 21st December.  In 2015 in occurs on the 22nd December. 

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Soul Cakes For Trick Or Treaters

“Soul! Soul! for an apple or two!
If you have no apples, pears will do.
If you have no pears, money will do.
If you have no money, God bless you!”

This and other variations of the souling song was the fore runner of the trick or treat antics currently practiced at Halloween. The poor children of the parish would go around to their better off neighbours, usually in disguise and sing for the little soul cakes that people made in readiness for their spectral visitors.

The church and other charities would bestow the cakes on the needy often with soul papers containing prayers for the deceased. The beneficiary would be expected to sing rhymes, psalms and hymns before being given the treats which they were told would free a soul from purgatory.

The cakes were distributed on All Souls Day which falls on the 2nd November and unlike the present day Halloween, the custom was contrived by the Christian church in an effort to wipe out the Celtic custom of Samhain which falls on the 31st October. The fact that it only partially succeed is evidenced in the intertwining of and confusion surrounding the two festivals.

The cakes themselves took many forms, some flat and round like biscuits others much thicker and more like buns. Some were spiced and contained fruit others much plainer. All contained milk and eggs.

Whether you feel inclined to rescue a soul from purgatory or not the cakes are quite tasty. Not sure your ghoulish visitors will appreciate a fruit bun instead of a bag of fizzy cola bottles so don’t be surprised if you find yourself in line for a bit of trickery!

Soul Cakes – The Recipe
This recipe makes 14 biscuit type cakes. They can be decorated with icing sugar if you want to go the extra mile.

Ingredients
• 340g plain flour
• 170g sugar
• 170g butter
• 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
• 1/2 tsp ground mixed spice
• 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
• 1 beaten egg
• 2 tsp of white wine vinegar

Method
Preheat the oven to 200C and grease 2 flat baking trays
Thoroughly mix all the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl
Rub in the diced butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
Add in the beaten egg and white wine vinegar and mix with a wooden spoon until a firm dough is made.
Cover and put in the fridge for 20 minutes.
Roll out the dough to about 8 mm thick and cut into rounds with a pastry cutter.
Place on greased baking tray and bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes at 200C until slightly coloured.
Delicious warm or cold!

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Get The Fright Night Challenge T-Shirt!

A bitingly good short story for Halloween! Available for Amazon Kindle & PC

A bitingly good short story for Halloween!
Available for Amazon Kindle & PC

I’m sure most readers of this blog know by now my new Kindle short story, A MATTER OF TASTE has just been published on Amazon which is appropriately Halloween!

To celebrate this momentous occasion I thought it would be fun to run a seasonal quiz. In fact the Fright Night Challenge consists of two quizzes.

How Psychic Are You is a short, fun quiz which asks you to predict which picture has been pre-selected. It is designed to act as a warm up for the more brain bending …

Fangs For The Memory! This quiz is much longer and tests your knowledge of folklore, books, films and your word bending skills by throwing in a few cryptic anagrams!

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Lady Pamela’s Kiss – Ale With A Bite & It’s Free!

Lady Pamela’s Kiss Real Ale brewed in Sue Kendrick’s micro brewery to celebrate the launch of A Matter Of Taste!

Lady Pamela’s Kiss Real Ale brewed in Sue Kendrick’s micro brewery to celebrate the launch of A Matter Of Taste!

You will have to hurry though as this real ale tipple is the latest brew from my micro-brewery and is a definite limited edition!
Just 40 bottles are available which I’m giving away to launch my latest Kindle short story, A Matter Of Taste.
This is being published at Halloween by Amazon and features a rather tasty aristocrat called Lady Pamela, Julian, a young man with a vivid imagination and too much time on his hands, a deserted airport control tower and a mysterious red balloon appearing out of a Halloween storm!
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Folky Pickled Beans

Pickled beans ready in two weeks!

Pickled beans ready in two weeks!

One of the best things about folk clubs is you never quite know what you might pick up during a rousing chorus of John Barley Corn or a top tapping session of Winster Gallop. Granted it might be ‘flu or a dose of the trots or it could be a super recipe for pickled runner beans which is what I came back with from a recent visit to one of our local clubs.
Thanks to Shelagh Bentham of Shepshed storytelling club our huge glut of runner beans are now going into jars instead of turning out in force at every evening meal for the past month!

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Beetroot & Horseraddish Chutney

beetrootchutney

Beetroot & Horseraddish Chutney long gone now, but simply delicious at the time!

I discovered beetroot and horseraddish chutney last year when I stumbled upon a fantastic farm shop just outside Axminster.  I was actually doing a River Cottage, ‘pig in a day’ course, but that’s another story!
The farm shop was in the village where we were staying and had a huge selection of locally made pickles and chutneys including this unusual combination which I can assure you is absolutely delicious!
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The Healing Hand Of Nature

A wonderful display of bluebells growing where once there was pit spoil and desolation

A wonderful display of bluebells growing where once there was pit spoil and desolation

It lies on the edge of the Coleorton valley, 30 acres or so of  woodland surrounding a green hill that can be seen from far away. A quiet and pleasant spot that is just one of several such sites reclaimed from old colliery workings and forming part of the National Forest.
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Conversations With Annie

annieandgrandma2Looking after small children is hard work, but there can be unexpected rewards. My little granddaughter was about three years old when this conversation took place and grandma er … just a bit older than her teeth.

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Kindle Direct Publishing Free Promos Are They Worth It?

amazonFor those that don’t know, Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing platform allows you to join its Select programme which basically means you agree NOT to sell your ebook anywhere else and in return are given the privilege of giving it away FREE for up to five days over a three month period.
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Create Your Own Kindle eBook Cover

coverLOWreghalfsizeYou may have heard the old adage which says you should never a judge a book by its cover, but the publishing world knows that Old Adage is wrong!

Readers do judge books by their covers. Until they dip inside, the cover is the only information they have to go on and if you don’t grab them with an enticing frontage they will quickly move on!

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