Posted in Food

Blue Garlic Mushrooms

Christmas is past and New Year is almost upon us. The fridge no longer loses its contents every time the door is opened. And only the chocolates that nobody wants to eat are left.

The family have headed home, and after a morning getting the house back in order I fancy a light lunch. Blue garlic mushrooms on toast will use up the stilton from the cheese board, and the leftover cream in the fridge.

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Posted in Food

Simple Soup After Rich Xmas Pickings

A small serving of Christmas dinner for a 3 year old quickly amounted to a standard adult plate, inducing a few laughs. Shrinking it down to a less intimidating size was futile, and yet, my grandson sat at the head of the table tucking in enthusiastically.

Over the past couple of days I have consumed: pancakes, buffet, Christmas dinner, tremendous amounts of chocolate and pastries, puddings and desserts, all washed down with an on tap tipple. Lay in bed last night I began to pay the price with a bloated belly and heartburn. Today plain and simple are perfect companions. So I opted to make Leek and Potato Soup.

2 leeks, 4 potatoes, 1 onion and 2 cloves of garlic all chopped into dice and boiled in a pan with a pint of stock and seasoned with ground cumin, coriander, ginger, salt, pepper and nutmeg. After 15-20 minutes of simmering, blend and add a dash of cream. Mmm mmmm mmmmm the perfect homemade soup to calm bloated tummies.

Posted in Arts & Culture

Be Inspired by Spoken Word Poetry

If I Should Have a Daughter by Sarah Kay

I consider myself a prose writer not a poet, but spoken word poetry touches me in a way little else does.

So what is spoken word poetry?

Put simply, it is what it says on the packet: poetry constructed with the sole intention of being spoken. It can of course include written page poetry performed outloud, but there are subtle differences. Both forms concentrate on the aesthetics of word play, but whereas the written form focuses on the aesthetics on the page, the spoken form focuses on phonoaesthetics (the aesthetics of sound). So take a listen to spoken word poetry and you will quickly notice how different the oral language, expression and emotion are portrayed.

I want to create spoken word poetry: where should I start?

  • Before attempting to create spoken word poetry, take the time to watch various performance poets, look online and attend spoken word open mic nights. Scrutinise their poem and the way in which they perform them: look, listen and feel their creation.
  • As with any piece of writing begin with an idea or topic, ideally something you feel strongly about, as you will need to express yourself passionately in your spoken word performance.
  • Brainstorm your idea and jot down, words, phrases, feelings, emotions and sensory associations.
  • Now start to write your poem rich with vivid imagery. Use repetition to exagerate and extend an image. Create a voice and persona that will capture the poems uniqueness. And feel free to use rhyme as an element of entertainment. Remember your poems soul purpose is to be heard not read and use of grammar is a lot less restrictive.
  • Like all forms of writing, your spoken word poem will need editing and proofreading.
  • And finally read your poem out loud. In fact perform your poem throughout the creative process to hear how it sounds, adjusting and experimenting with your performance. Stand with an air of confidence and assertiveness (this will also help with voice projection). Draw your audience in with eye contact. Make use of facial expressions and enunciate to feed your audiences senses.
Posted in News & Views

Pearson Sells Penguin Books to German Bertelsmann

Image by Sue Rickhuss from Pixabay

Pearson is selling Penguin Random House in a decision to focus on educational publishing. Its CEO John Fallon will retire in 2020, once his successor has been found.

Pearson who have owned Penguin Random House since 1970, began a joint venture with the German media group Bertelsmann in 2013. In July 2017 Pearson sold a further 22% to Bertelsmann for $1bn. And has now announced it will be selling its last 25% for £530m.

This means none of the top five English Language book publishers are owned by British companies: Simon & Schuster once owned by Pearson is now part of the US media conglomerate ViacomCBS, German Holtzbrinck owns Macmillian, HarperCollins is part of the US News Corporation. And John Murray was sold in 2002 to the French publishers Hachette.

Penguin was founded in July 1935 by Sir Allen Lane. The idea first occurred to him, while waiting for a train back to London from Exeter St Davids. He had spent the weekend at Agatha Christies, Torquay country home. As he browsed the stalls for something to read, a young Sir Allen was disgusted by the poor selection of novels and magazines. He had a vision of making books readily available, in cheap paperback format.

“I wanted the books to sell at the same price as a packet of cigarettes so that no one could possibly say they couldn’t afford them.”

Sir Allen Lane

Despite much scepticism, three million books were sold during Penguins first year in business. The publishers paperback books cost just sixpence (£1.74 in todays money), oppose to eight shillings (£27.89) for the traditional hardback book.

Sir Allen Lane died in 1970 age 69. Weeks later the publishing house would be sold to Pearson. Now we can only wait and see what the future holds for a legendary British publishing brand.

Posted in Journal, News & Views

Salute the Weight Lossers

Image by Vidmir Raic from Pixabay

We are well into a month hiatus for the weighing scales, Christmas is coming and the pantry is getting full: glazed hams, a growing pile of selection boxes, pastries, cakes and plenty of bubbly boozy tipples.

Sitting in a vest and joggers with strands of grey, shimmering amongst a crocodile clip on the top of my head, my blossoming waistline proves calorie counting these past few months has yielded zero results. The needle on the scale has been fluctuating upwards for some years now, and my lack of vanity has allowed it to take control. But poor health forced me to acknowledge and address my weight gain.

I have fibromyalgia, rheumatoid and osteoarthritis. I suffer daily with chronic pain, particular muscular aches in my legs, and joint pain in my hands, feet, hips and knees. Always supportive of the phrase we all come in different shapes and sizes, I cannot deny my joints will benefit from carrying less weight. Knowing this, and achieving this, are two very different things.

Diets always begin with enthusiasm. The cupboards are emptied of crisps and chocolate, replaced with plenty of fruit and vegetables. I write down everything I eat, and strictly weigh ingredients to achieve portion control, remaining in my daily allowance of 1500 calories. Exercise is difficult for me, but I go for plenty of walks and attempt exercise routines at home. Swimming is supposed to be good for arthritic and chronic pain, but I wont lie I just don’t like it.

All is well for a few days, even a week. After that a few extra goodies land in the shopping basket and into my mouth (left out of the food diary of course). Dieting brings out the sneaky liar in me, if I don’t confess I mustn’t have eaten it. Finally I reach the point where I sit down in an evening, overwhelmed with the reality of what I need to do to succeed. I give a big huff and puff “blow it”. Ten minutes later bacon and sausages are sizzling in the pan, alongside mushrooms and tomatoes, beans in the microwave, egg cracked ready to fry and fat slabs of bread in the toaster. Fry-up supper consumed, the plate mopped clean with bread, I continue to raid the cupboards for chocolate and numerous packets of crisps. The next day I could give myself a strict talk, get back on the band wagon but I don’t, all willpower diminished.

So I salute all the people out there who are losing weight, be proud of your achievement.

Well my Christmas food shop is here and needs unpacking. Will consider my dieting options in January.

Have a happy Christmas everybody.

Posted in Food

Perfected Yorkshire Puddings

Do not laugh at me, but I nearly cried when after purchasing a new oven, my Yorkshire puddings once again flopped. My mix was ready, and my beef dripping heating in a hot oven 425ºFahrenheit/220ºCelsius/Gas Mark 7. I patiently rubbed my hands in glee as they cooked, convinced I would be greeted with an explosion of batter, crisp on the outside, soft on the inside, and filled with air. Instead I was met with stodgy depressed fairy cakes.

Defeated I resigned myself to the fact once again my Christmas dinner would consist of ready made supermarket Yorkshire puddings.

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Posted in Arts & Culture

Creative Writing Competitions 2020 Part 1

Image by DarkWorkX from Pixabay

Christmas shopping is in full swing and 2019 is preparing to bow out to 2020.

A vibrant enthusiasm always lingers in January air and with it the belief we can succeed. Get ahead of the game and prepare for a substantial creative writing year with a full diary of competitions and events. Take a look at this collection and click on the links for competition details. Please feel free to comment and add to the list.


Arundel Festival Theatre Trail Writers Competition –

BBC International Playwriting Competition –

Big Moose Prize –

British Haiku Awards –

Caine Prize for African Writing –

Calibre Essay Prize –

Exeter Novel Prize –

Fish Short Memoir Contest –

Gemini Magazine Poetry Contest – www.gemini

Gulf Coast Writers Association –

Iowa Review Awards –

James Knudsen Prize –

Kay Murphy Prize for Poetry –

Kent and Sussex Poetry Society Open Poetry Competition –

Magma Poetry Competition –

Mogford Prize for Food and Drink Writing –

NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge –

Plough Prize –

Retreat West First Chapter Competition –

San Francisco Writers Conference –

Terry J Cox Poetry Award –

The Roswell Award –

Tony Hillerman Mystery

UK Film Festival Scriptwriting Competitions –


Arc Poem of the Year –

Bumblebee Flash Fiction Competition –

CBC Non Fiction Prize –

Crime Writers Association Margery Allingham Short Story Competition –

Daisy Pettles Writing Contest –

Exeter Writers Short Story Competition –

Flash 500 Short Story Competition –

Hippocrates Prize –

Kathryn A Morton –

Malahat Review Novella Prize –

Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction –

Michael Waters Poetry Prize –

National Flash Fiction Day Microfiction Competition –

Northern Writers Awards –

Omnidawn First/Second Book Poetry Contest –

Snowbound Chapbook Award –

Southampton Review Non Fiction Prize –

Spotlight First Novel Competition –

William Van Dyke Short Story Competition –

Willow Run Poetry Book Award –

Writers Union of Canada Short Prose Competition –


Axe to Grind Flash Fiction –

Bridgend Writers Circle Open Short Story Competition –

Cinnamon Press Poetry Pamphlet Prize –

Jim Baen Memorial Short Story Competition –

New Welsh Writing Awards –

Edna Staebler Personal Essay Contest –

Enizagam Literary Awards –

Fitzcarraldo Editions Essay Prize –

Fourth Genre Steinberg Essay Prize –

Gordon Burn Prize –

International Rubbery Book Award –

Lindesfarne Prize –

Nelligan Prize for Short Fiction –

42 Miles Press Poetry Award –


Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize –

Bath Short Story Award –

Bulwer Lytton Contest –

C Michael Curtis Short Story Book Prize –

Cowles Poetry Book Prize –

Craft Short Fiction Award –

Lorraine Williams Poetry Prize –

Magpie Award for Poetry –

Marsh Hawk Press Poetry Prize –

Momaya Press Competition –

Oberon Poetry Prize –

Omnidawn Broadside Poetry Prize –

Orison Books Poetry and Fiction Prizes –

Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest –


Atlanta Review International Poetry Competition –

Bath Novel Award –

Bristol Short Story Prize –

CBC Poetry Prize –

Eden Mills Writers Festival Literary Contest –

Frome Festival Short Story –

Jeff Sharlet Memorial Award for Veterans –

Leapfrog Press Fiction Contest –

Martin Crawford Awards –

Questions Writing Prize –

Raymond Carver Short Story Prize –

Sows Ear Poetry Review Chapbook Contest –

Stan ad Tom Wick Poetry Prize –

The Hal Prize –

Writers Digest Self Published book Awards –


Boulevard Poetry Contest –

Room Creative Non Fiction Contest –

Short Fiction Prize –

Goi Peace International Essay Contest –

Eyelands International Short Story Competition –

A Midsummer Tale Narrative Writing Contest –

McLlelan Poetry Prize –

James White Award –

I hope this list gets your writing year off to a creative start and I will add to it in the new year as competitions open.

Posted in Art And Craft

Latch Hooking

wobbling precariously on the edge of the bed, I would be chided if Grandma caught me. But the lure of the mysterious cardboard box, weathered, with a whiff of old school jumpers was too strong. Another year or so and I would be tall enough, but I couldn’t wait that long. Teased by a light grip of the corners with outstretched fingers, if I tugged, the unknown contents would come tumbling down, and me upon it.

Later over lunch I casually introduced the box into conversation. Grandma happily pulled out the steps from a cupboard, heaving the box down from its dusty home. The contents surprised me: a half finished rug, masses of 2 inch strands of wool in various colours, and a metal hook attached to a wooden handle.

“A latch hook. Here I will show you how it is used.”

That day my Grandmother taught me how to pull loops of yarn through the stiff woven base. No pattern required, simply follow the colours printed on the canvas. With my newly learned skill I spent the rest of my stay completing the rug: a bunch of flowers. Latch hooking is a hobby I have continued into middle age.

The sunflower in the image is my most recent project and is available to purchase on Etsy – Grey Matters Creations.

History of Latch Hooking

Research suggests Vikings perfected the technique of pulling woollen loops through a woven base material. They would have then introduced the technique to Scotland. Examples of rag rugs can also be found at the Folk Museum in Guernsey, indicating the craft was also practiced off the coast of France.

From 1830 onwards machine produced carpeting became popular amongst the rich. Poor women would collect the scraps of leftover material and create their own floor rugs, to either sell, or carpet their slums. Hook rugs of the period were created on burlap, often used grain bags, as they could be acquired for free. Embroidery and quilting was considered fashionable, where as rug hooking was considered a country craft practiced by the poor.

Latch Hooking for Therapy

Easy to learn, the repetitive process of latch hooking is therapeutic. It can be done alone, or with others. Watching a creation develop is a wonderful feeling. As a rookie I would work one colour at a time, but soon discovered I would be left delving into an inch thick thatch. The simplest way is to work in rows or columns, and the rug quickly develops.

Latch hooling tutorial videos are readily available online, as are latch hook kits. I have decide to next attempt my own patterns to sell, maybe as journal and notepad coverings.

” Give it a try. It is good fun and a great source of achievement.”

Etsy – Grey Matters Creations

Posted in Art And Craft

Pungent Plastic Mayhem

Recycling Ideas Please

If this blog post makes little sense in places, it is because my kitchen is filled with a pungent soup of melted plastic and I am high on toxic fumes.

I was attempting to create suncatchers, by melting plastic beads in muffin trays. Like many areas of my life the project did not work out as planned. The images I had seen resembled perfect stained glass windows, that could be strung with ribbon and made into tags, keyrings or mobiles. As you can see from the photographs above, my attempt is more like a mass of miniature psychedelic spaghetti hoops. It appears the disused fusion beads I was recycling, are not fit for this purpose.

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.

Tony Robbins

I don’t want to expand my plastic footprint, and desperately need ideas to avoid throwing these little discs of plastic away. I considered hanging them on the Christmas tree. Or perhaps poking a large nail through the middle, and using them to store post it notes. Keyrings maybe, but not likely. They are to small to be made into coasters, but perhaps tealight holders.

Comments welcome