A very boozy fun pudding which is so easy it’s stupid.
I have no idea of the origin of this but have been making it for what seems like forever so probably got the idea from my mother or grandmother. It’s different and reasonably spectacular. Yours might be better looking than mine… (It will depend on your time/patience.) It is only suitable for adults or teenagers who are physically big enough to cope with alcohol. I can’t imagine doing it without alcohol though I suspect cranberry juice might make an alternative if you’re teetotal or catering for children.
Take a packet of digestive biscuits and crush them. I put them in a plastic bag and use a rolling pin. Don’t worry if you don’t create uniform crumbs. Now put them in a bowl and pour on port – maybe two wine glasses full. Stir, cover and leave to soak.
A few hours later, turn the mess out onto the plate you intend to serve the thing on and shape it into a hedgehog shape i.e. domed with a flatter pointed bit at one end for the nose.
Cover the dome with whipped cream, leaving it messy and peaked for prickles. Grate dark chocolate onto the cream to look like the tips of the prickles. Use chocolate buttons for the eyes and nostrils.
Eat in fairly small quantities. I did it for Boxing Day. Grandchild, who is 14 and adult-sized, didn’t like it because they said it sort of burnt their throat… Everybody else was very happy.
This little fellow really was in our garden, minus the hat, which of course I added… He or she was there again yesterday.
You might remember that two years ago I posted my favourite seasonal songs – one a day throughout December. Well, they’re all still available on a Spotify playlist – look for Jay Mountney and my Christmas playlist or just click on the link. https://open.spotify.com/playlist/5lFmYh4kYaA1O3VQq6oVRx
I should perhaps warn some of you that there are very few carols. If, like me, you listen to Classic FM (because the car and kitchen radios are tuned to that and I’m lazy) we hear lots of carols anyway. Most of my favourite stuff concerns things like the winter solstice or maybe humour like wanting a hippopotamus. Another warning is that it takes over three hours to play the whole list. But anyway, if you forgot to save any of your own favourites last time, you can find them again!
I wish you all a really happy holiday season, whatever you celebrate. Our big celebration is actually Meanwhile, relax and enjoy yourselves!
Directed by Martha Tilston, this is a feel-good film about a romance set in Cornwall. Martha is also the lead actor, and the singer. There is an album of the same name featuring all the songs from the film. I only came across it all because my husband met Martha and some of her friends on a business trip to Cornwall and came home determined I should watch. I did, and I enjoyed the experience very much. Martha is, of course, a performer (she tours as a singer) but she is not primarily an actor and perhaps as a result the character in the story comes across as very real and fresh, not at all glamourised for the screen. The plot is quirky, with moments of extreme humour and others of pathos. There’s a happy ending, and there are morals to be learnt from what happens to Tally, Martha’s character. Tally starts as ‘a crazy cleaner in wellies’ living in a van and ends up in a much better or at least more comfortable place. Leo, the romance interest, is equally fascinating and also has a lot to learn and to gain. The Cornish coastal scenery is lovely, and to watch at this time of year transports you to summer and a gentle pace of life.
I would recommend this highly. You can rent or buy the film from YouTube. We bought the YouTube copy so that we can watch again and perhaps show other family members. It deserves wider distribution and I promised to blog about it. So here you are! My film of the month.
Desperately trying to read the menu in the dimly lit but gorgeous restaurant where we went for my husband’s birthday. Fortunately we all had our phones with flashlights!!
New and old authors all together this time. No fanfiction.
Familiar authors – a clutch of highly recommended books this month.
The Crofton Chronicles by Rebecca Cohen***** I had already read The Actor and the Earl but borrowed the box set from KU to get the two sequels, Duty to the Crown, and Forever Hold his Peace. I became totally immersed in the Tudor world, finding faint echoes of Twelfth Night (theatre and cross dressing) and Hunt’s The Bisley Boy (cross dressing and secrecy), and absolutely loving Anthony and Sebastian all over again. The author’s research is impeccable, and I am really looking forward to The Love and the Anger. If you enjoy historical novels with a smattering of crime and a heavy dose of romance, you won’t be disappointed.
Sleeping Dogs by AL Lester**** Nice, well written ff short story with a focus on local myths and legends.
Three’s Company by Kristian Parker**** Another trip to an English village. Perfectly recreated and I felt I was back in a similar place where I grew up (also in Yorkshire). The romance is lovely but never overwhelms the other events in the lives of the three main characters who have to deal with family problems and in Andrew’s case a vengeful ex. Very satisfying.
Upside Down by NR Walker**** Delightful romance with a lot of humour, some interesting minor characters, a couple of fighting fish and a cactus called Spike. This was a great introduction to the world of asexuals. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Hidden Blade by Kaje Harper**** I had never realised but it appears I really really like novels about rock stars and members of bands. Not just this and others in the current Rocktoberfest mm romance collection but others by various authors such as Jackie Keswick and NR Walker. There is something very satisfying about seeing ‘stars’ from different angles – the public persona and the private individual – and following the varying levels of technical support needed to bring music into our lives. This book was no exception and I loved it. I really felt for Cam/Blade and his inability to socialise or appear in public. A great story and although I don’t imagine there’s a sequel, somewhere in my head and heart there’s a fan of this imagined group hoping Hellsbane and Blade will go from strength to strength! I have the rest of the Rocktoberfest books on my KU list and will get to them soon.
Life is good and other lies by Sophia Soames**** An excellent novel. The slow character development is fascinating and the location is brought vividly to life. Two gay couples and their children holiday in Sweden. Everybody has problems, major or minor. I’m sure all readers of every gender will be able to relate to one or other of the characters. The holiday begins to create solutions, and there is a sequel, ten years later, due soon. That promises to be interesting, too. I found the progression rather slow at times but think that was because I was, for various reasons not related to the story anxious to finish the book. I still think some scenes could do with slightly tighter writing but overall this was a magical book.
Reasonable Doubt by Gregory Ashe**** A great addition to the series. The couple, for they are now a couple, have doubts and concerns about their relationship that are brilliantly expressed. The murder case is fascinating though I have to say I guessed one of the pillars of the solution quite early. Some exciting moments and some gruesome ones. Some sad ones, too. Altogether satisfying.
Agents of the Truth by Jackson Marsh**** Superb mystery for the Larkspur academy alumni. I love the way Marsh weaves real historical figures into the story. A slight quibble: this one assumed some familiarity with the previous Clearwater series and although things were well explained this led to rather too many recounts of past events, needed, both for the reader and the main characters, but slightly irritating. The story also relies heavily on the immediately previous book in the series. I was amused by a typo, not in the text but in the author’s notes, which had 1922 printed as 1822 which would have made the discovery of Tutankamen’s tomb happen before Howard Carter was born…
Not such a good selection this month!
Seeds of Love. *** A romance collection with numerous authors sold to benefit Ukrainians in need. As with all collections of this kind the contents are mixed. Some were lovely and others didn’t appeal to me at all. There were both mm and mf stories and I found equally enjoyable and less than enjoyable offerings in both genres. I’ve been dipping in and reading it over a few months and can’t recall the titles of the ones I loved so they weren’t all that special! I skimmed quite a few of the ones I didn’t love. Worth buying because of the charity angle, so if you want to give for Ukraine, get it, but remember not all the stories will speak to you!
Holy Island by LJ Ross**. Crime story set on Lindisfarne, which I know quite well. Some head hopping which was irritating, and some odd vocabulary choices (e.g. since when did Christmas lights give a scene ‘levity’??) The plot was not exactly believable. Very gruesome with loving attention to nasty details, a detective who didn’t appeal to me, and an ending in the epilogue that suggested the resolution was not as neat and tidy as it seemed, thus paving the way for the next in the series which I won’t be reading.
Grim Undertakings by Whit McClendon abandoned. For me, where magic is concerned, less is more. This was no doubt exciting, but both hero and heroine reminded me of the Marty Stus and Mary Sues of poorer fanfiction, with far too many unlikely talents, ready to save the world via a lot of gore. Not my magic.
Birthday flowers received in October; they lasted well into November with some judicious culling.
Umbrella Academy.Season 1 ***** Hooked. Amazing adaptation of a comic by one of the My Chemical Romance band. I’ll be watching the other seasons, too.
Heartstopper Season 1***** Delightful story line. I liked this a lot better than Everyone’s Talking About Jamie even though the latter was based on fact and this was fiction. The Jamie film was slightly pretentious, with a lot of unnecessary glamour and ideas of being a musical despite the very pedestrian song offerings. Heartstopper had music, but simply chosen to reflect the events. I’m looking forward to Season 2.
The Tape***** A film set in Cornwall, made by and acted in by people my husband knows. I’m supposed to be writing a separate post about it but meanwhile, find it on YouTube and watch!
I started watching The Rings of Power. It’s very pretty eye candy. Pity about the plot and script. I may watch another episode if bored…
However, I seem to have a watch list that’s getting as unwieldy as my tbr list (again) so I think The Rings of Power will have to wait quite a while!
It’s a 25k novella about a fae/human mm romance, very loosely inspired by the story of Rip Van Winkle but with a HEA ending celebrated at New Year. It’s a stand-alone and not related to any of my other fantasy books. Kit accidentally passes through a portal and almost as accidentally falls in love with Rianthe. Can they stay together? And can they overcome multiple problems including illness, time constraints, and adjusting to new cultures?
It’s currently in docx format but I’m working on a mobi version and hopefully a pdf, so if docx is a problem for you, message me! (It’s hosted on my WordPress blog here and you’re welcome to visit that at https://jaymountney.com/ and explore the rest of my free stuff. )
I forgot to photograph the one I made so have some lasagne sheets…
Just squeezing this in at the end of November before all the Christmas cooking starts, though if you like Christmas cakes and puddings I imagine you’re already elbow deep! (I don’t, so I’m not.)
I’m not sure where I found this – I’m a bit of a magpie when it comes to recipes. Anyway, I tried it with a couple of tweaks, and it was yummy so here you are! I suppose you could sprinkle cheese on it at table, to conform with the original Italian dish, but we didn’t think it needed it.
Start with your usual basic mince recipe – whatever you’d do for e.g. spaghetti bolognese. Use lamb mince if you can, and add tomatoes and onion. The original recipe suggested carrots but I’d run out. Season with salt, pepper, garlic and herbs to taste. I’m not giving quantities because you know your family size and appetites. I used about 250 grammes of mince, a tine of tomatoes, and an onion.
Try not to get too much liquid because this is for lasagne. When it’s ready, add some kind of thinly sliced veg – the original recipe suggested kale but I hadn’t any so I used cabbage. Then add chopped dates and a big handful of sultanas. Let the veg and fruit soften in the hot sauce. Season with harissa paste, or with chili flakes. I use those jars of harissa (easier than making my own and I’m lazy) and have found they keep better if you put oil over the contents once opened and store in the coldest part of the fridge.
Make white sauce. You can play around with bechamel from scratch, use a jar of lasagne sauce, or do what I did and make some fairly thick white sauce from a jar of granules. I made about 250 ml and might make slightly more another time.
You can get all this lot ready and each bit will be quite happy till the other ingredients are prepared. If the mince or the sauce cool, it won’t matter as they’ll reheat in the oven. So you don’t have to juggle to have everything ready at once.
Layer your ingredients: sauce then lasagne sheets, then mince, until you have a final sauce layer. The dish I like using is one sheet long and one and a half wide so I have to split sheets to make it work.
Cover this with breadcrumbs. The best for the job are the sort you make yourself from stale bread. If I’m making e.g. bread sauce or summer pudding and remove the crusts I chop these and freeze them. Then when I need breadcrumbs I thaw them, let them sit in the open to go nicely stale for a day, and blitz them in a food processor. They work much better than the very fine ones you can buy. If you have any left over, store in an airtight jar in a cupboard and use on e.g. fish.
Put the dish, uncovered, in the oven (180C) for about 35 minutes, then serve with salad.
The combination of added fruit and hot harissa, plus the novelty of crumbs instead of cheese makes this a totally new way to experience lasagne. I can recommend it!
Who knew it could get so complicated? I accidentally created two Spotify accounts. Don’t even ask (mostly because I have no idea). Anyway, the one that shares the email I use for Amazon is not the one that has the carefully curated playlists. Of course it isn’t. Apparently I can’t merge them (even though one has no playlists whatsoever) because I don’t have Premium on either… And I can’t chsnge the email on either profile because the site recognises me enough to stop me… ‘That email is already taken,’ it tells me, as if I didn’t know. However, I can sign into Spotify on the Smart TV via the Amazon Firestick and then sign into Spotify using the Amazon email (Amazon won’t let me use the other with a similar nannyish response) but use the Spotify password, not the Amazon one. At that point I should be able to ‘follow’ myself (!) and see (and hopefully play) all my playlists. Both emails feed into the same inbox so goodness knows why all the secrecy, privacy, etc. is considered necessary. I also had to change the password for the Spotify account that shares the Amazon email because Chrome creates and saves my passwords so I had no clue what it was and of course it wouldn’t helpfully fill it in for me on the television. I’m sure there must be easier ways to organise life, the universe and everything. I have to say the Spotify help desk person was actually helpful and gave rapid replies to my rather garbled requests.
At least they didn’t want two factor authentication. Since this usually needs the ability to receive a texted code in a timely manner I am seriously discriminated against. As are others who live in mobile black spots. There was talk of sending codes to the landline but ours has Call Guardian to prevent constant hoax/scam/ad calls and Call Guardian rejects all automated calls. Guess how they send text codes…
I saved up things of this kind that needed addressing till I went to the Lake District in September. Most were fine except registering online for my GP’s surgery which became an insoluble mystery and remains so. If I am ill I will have to get up and try phoning on the landline before 8.a.m. (Mobile black spot means I can’t phone from bed.) It will be luck of the draw whether I get an appointment or advice, even by landline.
Since my success with at least two sites in September, Amazon have asked for an update on my tax exemption, with, of course, two factor authentication. I’ve been trying to make either head or tail of information about authentication apps for my laptop and will have to try one though there are dire warnings that they can be ‘glitchy’. Otherwise, I suppose I can visit my daughter, complete with laptop and mobile and do it all there. Also two pairs of glasses, one for computer and the other for whatever text they send me… And a lot of patience.
Google keep telling me to strengthen my passwords and that weak passwords are what makes this two factor stuff essential. Since Google choose and store my passwords and I haven’t a clue what they are, this seems to be venturing into uncharted realms of magic and imagination. And since quite a few sites don’t recognise the Google saved passwords life gets even more complicated.
I have just given my printer to my husband, whose own printer died. Mine refused to print more than about ten pages although the ink cartridge was supposed to be good for 400. It also agreed to copy or scan provided it could email me the copy or scan. But it refused to accept any of my email addresses. So it was a waste of space and husband is welcome to it. I have warned him.
Our Firestick keeps being what I suppose they might call ‘glitchy’. This is our second stick because the first simply died (and no, it wasn’t the battery). So we try for various TV shows and get strange messages or weird streaming problems.
It makes me half wish I was back in the days when I had just a landline phone, a TV and maybe a video recorder. Oh, and a photocopier at work. In case you were wondering, my smartphone is wonderful – invaluable when out of our road, and fine at home when connected to wi-fi. So I communicate with people mostly via email, whatsapp, Google chat, Messenger, etc. I am not at all isolated. Until it comes to identifying myself!!
The Rule of Three by Kristian Parker****Enjoyable story about a threesome in a country village. I didn’t quite believe the ‘villain’ (one protagonist’s sister) but I liked the portrayal of village life. I will certainly read the rest of the trilogy. There are no truly dramatic events but the book works well as comfort reading.
Stone Wings by Jenn Burke**** Shifters, including gargoyle shifters, turf wars and a curse that must be broken. An exciting first story in this mm paranormal romance series and I will definitely read the next which is due out in January.
Ghosted by Jess Whitecroft**** I chose this for a Halloween read and thoroughly enjoyed it. Desanges is a mixed race wannabe spiritual medium from New Orleans with a lot of tricks up his sleeve. Jason is a reluctant exorcist from Wisconsin with a difficult past, living a ‘prepper’ lifestyle in the countryside. They meet when called in to use their professional skills in a haunted house. There are genuinely scary moments and almost as many hilarious ones. The plot twists and turns and had me on the edge of my seat till the very end. Actually, I finished it on November 1st over breakfast but thought it was more appropriate to review it with the rest of October’s offerings. Try it next Halloween – or any time really!
Tricks with Cats and Dogs by Mere Rain*** Quite a nice story, suitably creepy for Halloween season, but it was very short and could well have been expanded with more character development. The concept was good but it almost read like a very long blurb. Further information would inevitably be spoilers but it does involve shifters and mm romance.
The Beatrix Stubbs Boxset 1 by JJ Marsh. After lengthy flashbacks the reader knew who committed the murders (and that they were murders, not suicides), how, where, when and probably why. The international team set up as a task force to investigate was not very interesting and the lead detective (Beatrice Stubbs) was, after a few chapters, unappealing to me.
Where the Silent Screams are Loudest by John Pye. Poorly written crime story by an ex-police officer. Sadly, I had actually bought this. Only £1.99 but still… somehow I don’t mind so much when a new author borrowed on KU doesn’t appeal. It read like a policeman’s court reporting, and there was quite a bit of less than stellar vocabulary usage. An ex detective ought to know how to use a dictionary or thesaurus. And no, they weren’t typos.
Nothing dire, though I was disappointed in the last book. I love well written crime stories by authors such as Ian Rankin and Val McDermid, even when they haven’t any romance or paranormal elements. But there’s a lot of very uninspiring work in the genre, often highly praised by people in the relevant social media groups. And of course I have to at least give it a try!
In our current climate of increasing poverty, abuse in care homes, and problems accessing medical help, I was reminded of a story I wrote for a prompt in a writers’ group some years ago. So I dusted it off and edited it. I thought about submitting it to a zine I contribute to but it’s very sad and dark so I don’t think they’d like it. I don’t suppose you’ll ‘like‘ it, but I think it sums up some of the issues faced by today’s youth. Consider it my political rant of the week…
In the interests of readability the punctuation and spelling are not perfect for the narrator’s speech patterns, but should give a ‘flavour’. Non-Brit readers might have problems though. In order to present the dialect in some kind of sensible fashion I had to replace smart quotes with straight ones and that was quite a learning curve… If I’ve missed anything, let me know!
Johnny and Me, or Money can’t buy me love.
Warning. This is on a very dark theme with no HEA. 900 words
Us ‘angin’ round Piccadilly ain’t never bin much fun. Not when what yer really there for ain’t the company so much as the possible company if yer take me meanin’. Sometimes I pretend I’m on one of them slave blocks in the olden days – Romans or somefin’ – couldn’ a bin much worse, could it? An’ the buyers. Jeez! Talk about the dirty mac brigade. Still, they pay well, and if yer lucky it’s down the nearest alley, a quick suck or fuck, an’ money in yer pocket. Course, if yer ain’t lucky, it could be a knife, but us lot try not to fink about that, cos we’re trying to make a livin’ ‘ere, see? An’ it doesn’ do to get too scared or depressed about it, like. Puts the punters off if yer ain’t mostly smilin’.
Johnny an’ me run off togevver from the ‘ome, didn’ we? Bin ‘ere ever since. Not much fun, like I said, but plenty of punters. Good at avoidin’ the Social – can smell ’em a mile off. An’ arter wot ol’ ‘ammond did, well, we wasn’ going back not nohow. If I gotta get fucked by a creepy old man I’d sooner be paid for it, wouldn’ I? Offerin’ special privileges don’ really cut it, know what I mean? Johnny thought the same. We usually thought the same – ever since we was nippers an’ new to the ‘ome at the same time. Course, since I turned sixteen they probly couldn’ take me back anyroad, but no sense courtin’ trouble; it finds yer soon enough as they say. An’ Johnny was a year younger than me anyway so still at risk.
We did start to make a livin’, I supppose. Enough to doss down in this squat one of the uvvers found, an’ get enough to eat to get by. Though Johnny got awful thin lately and kept ever’body awake with ‘is coughin’, nights. Wanted to ‘old ‘im and make it better, didn’ I? Or mebbe keep ‘im warm. Okay, just warm, right? Though I’d’ve liked … But when I tried ‘e said ‘e couldn’ breave and ‘e didn’ like bein’ ‘eld – reminded ‘im of the guys in the alleyways, some’ow. So I just listened an’ wished.
Last Saturday I tried to kiss ‘im; just ‘cos I really, really care, yer know? An’ even too thin, well, ‘e were always sort of gorgeous an’ I always got well ‘ard when we touched, even by accident. But ‘e turned ‘is ‘ead away and wiped ‘is mouth.
One day …. Dreams… Always did get in trouble for daydreamin’, specially at school.
But I wished I could make enough to take ‘im on ‘oliday somewhere, fer a real rest. Somewhere nice, wiv clean sheets an coffee any time wivout ‘avin’ to count ‘ow much change yer got. Only there was never enough to be worth savin’, an if there ‘ad of bin it’d all ‘ave ‘ad to go on drugs an’ such. I don’ mean drugs like drugs. That ain’t never bin me scene, nor Johnny’s neiver. I mean cough medicine an’ maybe tissues or them sweets wiv runny stuff in the middle. Only I ‘ated it that ‘e ‘ad to wipe ‘is nose an’ mouth on ‘is sleeve. An’ I wished I could buy ‘im somefin’ nice to wear, nothin’ fancy, just… nice. Maybe one of them warm sweaters off the market.
Then one night there was this feller an’ ‘e goes can ‘e take me back to ‘is hotel for the whole night. The whole night! If ‘e’d said ‘is place, I might’ve thought twice. But a hotel. Seemed safe. An’ it was; ‘e only ‘urt me a little bit, just by bein’ impatient an’ wantin’ it often an’ kind of twistin’ me arms, like. I didn’ care much; I knew ‘e’d pay well ‘an if I was good ‘e might be back fer more.
So I walked out wiv me ‘ead in the clouds an’ me pockets full of money. Not just money, eiver; I ‘ad them little packets of coffee an’ sugar yer get in hotel rooms. Johnny were going to be so freakin’ pleased! We could go away fer a couple of days. For real! I looked in an ‘oliday shop where they book coaches and that; there were trips advertised to the south coast, travel an’ accommodation all in. Brighton. I could afford it. It would ‘elp. Sea air ‘ad to ‘elp, didn’ it? An’ it’d be better than savin’ it; a kind of investment, really.
I was singin’ a tune when I got to the squat, somefin’ I’d ‘eard on somebody’s phone on the steps round the statue. Catchy, even though it annoyed me at times. But then I saw ‘im and ‘e were quite still. There were a smear of blood on ‘is face; ‘is beautiful face. I went to wipe it away fer ‘im, then it dawned.
I phoned the Social. At least that way ‘e’d get a proper burial. Then I scarpered, like. No sense gettin’ caught; knew ‘e wouldn’ ‘ave wanted that. An’ now I can’t go back there, cos they’ll look fer me an’ make some sort of trouble, make no mistake. An’ there’s an ‘undred quid burning a ruddy great ‘ole in me pocket. No idea what to spend it on, not now, but I know it can’t buy me love.