Friday, 18 April 2014

Making bread - taking time to plot...

When I am writing I often take a break and nothing makes me relax more than cooking, and especially making bread.
When my children were small for more than a year, between my second and third child, I never bought a loaf of bread. Instead I baked about 3-4 smallish loaves every few days.
I worked out a way to make it fit easily into my routine by starting after tea in the evening putting the ingredients together and kneading the dough and putting it away in a large bowl, in the fridge overnight.

The next morning  I would knock the dough back while the children were having breakfast which only took a few minutes,  and put it away somewhere warm to rise again.  After lunch I kneaded it again and placed it into loaf tins to rise a final time.  After tea was out of the oven I popped the loaves in and they were ready to leave cooling while the children were put to bed.

I even had fun experimenting with different flours, but in the end the most practical for us was a third strong white flour, a third wholemeal and a third berrymeal (which had seeds in it.) This made a delicious loaf that sliced easily and everyone was happy to eat it.

There is something very satisfying about kneading bread and then seeing it rise.  Even more wonderful is that delicious smell of newly baked bread permeating the house.

I find that breadmaking has made its way into my writing every now and then.  It can be an interesting way to occupy a character while something is happening, or a discussion is taking place, the kneading of the bread can be used to highlight the emotional turmoil of the character or spark memories that the smell evokes.

Oe of the other wonderful things about breadmaking is that it has no strict timescape, it can rise for longer or shorter, as time demands, and there are so many variation that it is never boring.

So I am off to check and see if my bread has risen yet and kneading has already given me time to work out a kink in the plot I am working on, so win-win!

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

NZ 3 Off to the farm... There be sheep!

Continuing the blogs about our recent trip to Australia and then New Zealand, where we were lucky enough to be invited to visit friends at their farm, just in time to see them shearing some of their sheep.  
Here they are in the pen waiting their turn. 

I was very impressed with the speed and dexterity of the sheep shearers.

And the quantity of wool they were producing that all had to be swept aside and collected in large canvas sacks that were compressed before being closed.  

This is a tally sheet from 27th Dec 1952! 

Then it was time for a trip around the farm. Those look like Hobbitses hills!

After the farm we headed up to Lake Taupo. 

If you are looking for a way to entertain your kids why not stop at McDonald's and let them look inside their plane.

But I think I prefer the lakeside, and the peace and quiet down at Oruatua

But soon we were heading back to Auckland where the view from our hotel made me a trifle dizzy at times!

We took a ferry trip, and went for walks, and found some quite amazing trees

While we were in Auckland we met up with the lovely Trevor and Diane who were on holiday there, too. They run the Kids Lit Quiz in Newcastle. 
 And we also had a lovely evening and a delicious meal with Wayne Mills, the quiz master himself, who was touching base at home in between his international travels to bring the quiz to even more countries than ever before.  I have no idea where he gets the energy!   Hope to see you all later in the year when the UK heats are on.

Before we knew it time had come to catch our big white bird and take to the skies on the way home.

Friday, 14 March 2014

NZ 2 The arrival of the 'City of Adelaide'

We were on our way to Adelaide when I discovered that an old friend who lives close to us at home was due to sail into the port while we were there.

Rita Brad is a writer from East Lothian in Scotland who had been researching the story of the cutter 'The Carrick' other wise known as 'The City of Adelaide'.  

This is Rita, with Peter Christopher who was director in charge of getting the clipper back to Australia

This old lady of the sea had been in Glasgow but funds were raised to return it to Adelaide.  Rita  travelled on the container ship transporting the cutter, all the way from Rotterdam, across to the USA and then on to Australia.

They had been due in the same day as we arrived there but due to a quite dangerous storm just off Port Hedland Australia, they were delayed.

But thankfully they arrived safely into Adelaide Port.

It was lovely to catch up with Rita and hear all about her amazing journey and also to see the clipper up close.

Sadly it was all too soon time to leave Adelaide and head off to New Zealand, where it was a little cooler!

IN Auckland the skies were blue and the weather was a very pleasant 25-26degrees.  Perfect!  

We went to stay with friends in their lovely house in the north 

 and arrived just in time to help celebrate their little one's second birthday!  She just loves Elmo!

We had a great time there and also went a little further up the coast and had a walk along wide deserted beaches.

After a bit we headed off towards Mount Maunganui, but on the way there I was interested to see this decoration of what could so easily have been just an eyesore!

and then we arrived at Mt Maunganui, sparkling water and beautiful scenery.

Austalia 1 - There and back again.....

It's only been two weeks (OK so a busy- around World Book Day events- 2 weeks) but already it seems as if we've been back for ages!

 Our trip to Australia and New Zealand began as such things often do, with a series of fairly long flights.

We usually like to fly through Singapore, and even if, as this time we don't get out of the airport, it is in my opinion the best airport in the world - not that I've seen quite that many but it would take something to beat Changi Airport.  Last time we were there a chap was playing a grand piano in the middle of a seating area and this time there were these amazing flower displays

 and places where large goldfish swim in tranquil waters. there is even a butterfly enclosure.

 This was a very GREEN leaning tower of Pisa!

The airport also has an outdoor swimming pool on the roof of one of the terminals.

But if you get the chance it is also well worth getting out of the airport and taking a trip into Singapore.

We stopped in Adelaide, South Australia,  first but in what has become a bit of a habit we arrived jsut as they were about to experience their hottest weather for 100 years!!  (We'd had a similar experience last time we visited Melbourne a few years ago!)

Adelaide (what we saw of it when not trying to avoid the heat) was lovely. Wide open streets, some thankfully had overhanging shelter so you can walk about even when ti is so very hot!I loved this small park area with its sculptures.

And the giant cockroach seemed to be quite happy with the temperature, or was that the easy reach of the shops and arcades around it, perhaps?

There are a lot of parks and green areas, and this is the view at dusk,(or was it dawn?) from our cool air-conditioned hotel room. (oops forgot to put it in!!  (Updated now!) 

We met up with the lovely 'catdownunder' a blogger and writer who lives in Adelaide and sweetly kept on apologising for the uncomfortable weather, as if she could have done something to change it!! We had a lovely afternoon chatting under a very large tree in the botanical gardens and on another day she took us to visit the migration Museum and discovered what life was like for the early migrants to South Australia

 We found a lovely little coffee shop where everything was home made and the morning coffee was very good,

 and enjoyed wandering around the old style arcades, too.

I am often amazed by the juxtaposition of the old and the new, the traditional and the modern. Is this sacrilege or beauty? I can't decide!

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Winner of the' Where would you take your Hamish?' Competition

We had a lovely morning on 1st December in Looking Glass Books in Edinburgh, when Sally J Collins and I told Hamish McHaggis stories and drew the winners of the ‘Where would you take your Hamish?’ competition, with the help of our young audience.
looking glass books event
And, of course Hamish came along too!  Here he is with a wee Hamish, and Sally!
sally with Hamish
Lauren Peattie was the lucky winner of the Hamish competition. Her picture was drawn from all the many entries.
Pictured here with Fiona from Longniddry Library, receiving her prize of a cuddly Hamish, a signed book (she chose Hamish McHaggis and the Search fro the Lost Prince)  and other Hamish goodies.
Well done, Lauren!

Miriam Jeavons, from Newington Library in Edinburgh, took Hamish to Fairyland and was runner up winning the Hamish McHaggis Activity and Story Book.
Here are some of the Hamish McHaggis entries…
From Prestonpans Library
Hamish Prestonpans 3Hamish Prestonpans 2

Hamish Prestonpans 4Hamish Prestonpans1
From Longniddry Library
And from Gullane Library


Friday, 8 November 2013

Where would you take your Hamish McHaggis? It's a competition!

Ever since the Hamish McHaggis toy arrived earlier this year I've had some lovely photos sent to me of Hamish with his new friends.  Hamish seems to get everywhere!  

So I decided it would be fun to run a competition with a bag of Hamish goodies as a prize. 


Here are some of the wee Hamish fans and where they take their Hamish!


Little Libby in New Zealand is a great Hamish fan. He goes everywhere with her! 

Libby and Hamish 

When her grandparents came to Scotland this summer they were under strict orders to get another Hamish  for her, just in case he got lost or worn out!

Matthew and Hamish

Little Matthew from West Lothian in Scotland likes to take his Hamish to bed with him, to ensure he has sweet dreams!


Zoe was visiting from Northern Ireland when she was delighted to spot Hamish in Waterstones  window in Princes Street, Edinburgh.

Eilidh with her Hamish

And this is the lovely Eilidh who loves her Hamish so much that when she was going to be a bridesmaid at her auntie's wedding she had to take Hamish along.

  He is looking very smart in this photo with his tartan bowtie!


And doesn't Eilidh look gorgeous in her bridesmaid dress!

Lucy and Alan  - Congratulations!

Hamish decided he just had to get his photo taken with the bride and groom!

Sheonad, Eilidh's mum, has a great blog. Do drop by and have a look.
Eilidh has Spinal Muscular Atrophy and her mum Sheonad is working to raise awareness of the condition.

Poppy with her Hamish in the Woods

 And this is Poppy who loves to go for long walks in the woods with her mummy and daddy, but Hamish often insists on going along, too!

 So where would you take your Hamish?

 The two winners will each get a Hamish cuddly toy,  Hamish goodies including a Hamish McHaggis book which will be dedicated  and signed by both myself and the illustrator Sally J. Collins. 
There will also be some runner up prizes of signed copies of the Hamish McHaggis Activity and Story book.

In conjunction with Looking Glass Books in Edinburgh we are running the competition for young Hamish fans.  All you have to do is download and print out this picture of Hamish

There will be a list of participating libraries on the lookingglassbooks facebook events page    you can also enter the competition by handing in your entry there, The libraries will also will be putting up displays of the entries.

All the information about the competition is also on the poster below
Once you have coloured in Hamish you can decide where you would take him.

Either draw and colour in the background of the picture with where you would take Hamish,  and take a photo of your picture

OR  cut out Hamish and take a photo of him in your favourite place.

Then click on the link below and upload your photo onto the competition page of the website Lookingglassbooks facebook events page   before midnight the closing date of St Andrew's Day - 30th November 2013. Winners will be drawn on Sunday 1st December at a special event in the Looking Glass Books Bookshop, Quartermile, 3 Porters Walk, EH3 9GG  Edinburgh.