A Sense of Place

I love to read books with a strong sense of place, ones in which I can imagine the setting so vividly that it seems real. I think the best books are those which not only describe the physical setting, but engage all the senses to draw the reader into the story. Alluding to the smell, the sounds, the feel of a place, all help to make it come alive. For me, a story with a strong sense of place helps the story to linger in my memory long after I have finished the book.

Laura Ingalls Wilder achieved this beautifully in the Little House books. Her descriptions of the places she and her family lived were so richly detailed with the sounds and smells and feel of her surroundings that it was easy to feel a part of her world. The way she describes the little log house in the big woods of Wisconsin, the enormous, empty prairie, with the great blue sky above it, the small town of De Smet where Laura and Carrie went to school, truly bring the stories to life. I could almost feel the penetrating cold of the blizzards, hear the birdsong and the whispering of the wind through the grasses, see the wildflowers, the fields of Pa’s crops, the furniture inside the little log house.

 

In Don’t Let Me Go by Catherine Ryan Hyde, most of the story takes place in an apartment building. The story revolves around a  young girl, who is neglected by her troubled mother, and who seeks help from the building’s occupants. The lives of the residents become intertwined as they are brought together in their bid to help 10-year-old Grace evade Social Services. The strong sense of place is central to the story not only for Grace, but also for another of the building’s residents, Billy Shine, who is agoraphobic and has not left his apartment in years.

 

 

A tiny island off the west coast of Ireland is the setting for Casting Off by Nicole R. Dickson. Rebecca Moray goes to the island with her young daughter, Rowan, to research a book on Irish knitting and to seek refuge from a painful past. Nicole Dickson has created a strong sense of place as we learn the history of the island and meet the many colourful characters who inhabit it. I think I enjoyed this book so much because it is the sort of place I would love to visit.

 

 

One of my favourite books I have read lately has been Astor Place Vintage by Stephanie Lehmann. The chapters alternate between Amanda, who runs a vintage clothing store in present day New York, and Olive, a young woman in turn-of-the-century New York. When Amanda finds Olive’s journal sewn into a fur muff, she learns what life was like in her own neighbourhood more than a hundred years ago. Throughout the story there is a strong sense of place in both modern day New York and early twentieth century New York. With the wonderful descriptions of the city in both eras, and of the department store in which Olive works, I felt as though I were right there with the characters. Also, I love that there are many old photographs in the book of New York City as it was in Olive’s era.

 

I always try to create a strong sense of place in my own writing. I ask myself What would I see, hear, feel, and smell if I were the character?

Where the Moths DanceIn Where the Moths Dance, much of the story takes place in an old graveyard, surrounded by gum trees, whose gnarly old roots encroach onto the pavement leading up the hill. The graveyard is Jessie’s sanctuary, where she talks to the dead, and can navigate her way around the gravestones in the dark like a night hunter. She finds comfort in the sound of the wind through the gum trees, the cawing of the crows as they fly between the branches overhead, the smell of eucalyptus after it has rained. But Gum Tree Hill Cemetery harbours something more sinister, and when Jessie’s sanctuary is threatened, the graveyard becomes vital in Jessie’s battle to protect those she loves.

 

Scrappy Cupcake AngelsScrappy Cupcake Angels is set in Kerrigan, a small New Zealand town with a gold-mining past. The story revolves around a scrapbooking shop, in a converted Victorian house, down a small lane. As the aroma of coffee swirls tantalisingly through the shop, drifting out the door to lure in passers-by with the temptation of warmth and comfort, Angeline teaches the folk of Kerrigan to embrace their creativity and make beautiful keepsakes. For four women, it is the friendship, and the chance to escape from life’s hassles for a few hours each week, that keeps them coming back to the cosy, little shop, where problems seem to mysteriously sort themselves out.

Autumn Journal Page

I love to pick up fallen leaves when we go for walks with Finn. The autumn leaves are such beautiful colours. There is just something about them that I can’t resist, although I am never quite sure what I will do with them once I get them home. More often than not, they will end up being tossed away again. This year, however, I was determined to use some on a journal page.

Although the leaves were already dry when I collected them, I pressed them under a pile of heavy books for a week to flatten them before I used them.

I painted the background of my journal page with watercolour paints, in autumn shades of golds, reds and orange. Then I glued a photo of Finn onto the page and surrounded it with the leaves. I glued the leaves down, then covered them with a layer of mod podge to protect and preserve them. I used scrapbooking letters to spell out the word Autumn.

Autumn Journal Page

Beneath the Bilobas

One of the parks where we walk Finn has a row of Ginkgo Biloba trees. The soft fruit-like seeds that fall on the ground are very smelly, but the fan-shaped leaves, which turn bright yellow in autumn, are quite beautiful.

Finn

 

 

Ginkgo Biloba leaves

Ginkgo is one of the longest-living tree species in the world and can live for more than a thousand years. Ginkgo extract, usually made from the leaves, has long been used to improve memory and cognition. In recent years there have been several studies carried out on its effectiveness in treating dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, with conflicting results.

Ginkgo Biloba trees

On a cold winter’s day, it is cheering to see the lovely golden carpet of leaves on the ground.

 

Fun at the Beach

We have had amazing weather this autumn. There has been very little rain, and until a couple of days ago, the temperatures have been up in the twenties most days. Last weekend we took Finn to one of our local beaches. He had a wonderful time chasing sticks, digging in the sand, and investigating all the different smells and debris that had washed up onto the beach. He was a little wary of the water, but I’m sure it won’t be too long until he ventures into it.

 

 

 

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Westshore Beach

New Cover for Scrappy Cupcake Angels

My novel, Scrappy Cupcake Angels, has just come out with a new cover. I think the new design has more of a crafty feel and is perfect for the story inside.

Most online retailers are now selling the new edition, but some, such as Amazon, may still have the old cover on their website until they have sold the books they have in stock. It is available as a paperback, hardback, and ebook.

Here is the new cover.

Scrappy Cupcake Angels

 

Amazon.com

Amazon UK

Barnes & Noble

Fishpond (NZ)

Also, I have a new blog, which will be all about the book. It will have recipes and crafts from the story, as well as news on upcoming books in the Wattle Lane series. Click here to take a look. www.wattlelane.wordpress.com

Book Review: An Altered Existence

An Altered Existence

There is something about vintage photos that sparks the imagination, drawing you into a bygone era, imagining what life was like for the subjects, who often looked solemn, dressed in all their finery, posing for the camera. I love to use old family photographs in my heritage scrapbooking and mixed-media art, telling the stories of my ancestors through pictures and journaling.

In An Altered Existence: Fictitious Stories About Faces from the Past, Melody M. Nunez has taken vintage photos, also known as cabinet cards, which she collected from flea markets and antique stores, and created fictional short stories about the people in them.

Each chapter begins with an “altered” photograph, embellished with stitching, buttons, lace, an old key, followed by a story woven around the subject of the photo. The stories range from historical to contemporary fiction and cover a wide range of subjects from family, relationships, and the language of flowers, to ghosts, hoarding, and a man obsessed with time. I love Melody’s style of writing. It is easy to read, with each story an imaginative glimpse into a life that could have been.

Melody is an artist and a writer. Visit her website at www.melodynunez.com to see illustrations from the book, and to view more of her artwork.

 

Peanut Butter Dog Biscuits

Peanut butter dog biscuits

Peanut Butter Dog Biscuits

As someone who loves food and enjoys cooking, I like to know that what I am eating is healthy and is made from good ingredients. I also want the same for our dog. Our puppy, Finn, absolutely loves his food and I want to make sure that he has a good diet that is nutritional, as well as tasty.

I have been trying out different dog food recipes for dog loaf, dog stew, and biscuits, which I have found on the internet and in books. After playing around with several dog biscuit recipes, I have adapted them to come up with one that Finn really loves, and which includes lots of healthy ingredients for him.

This recipe makes about 40 small biscuits. I keep them in the freezer so that they stay fresh, and take out a few each day for his lunch.

1 beaten egg
1 cup vegetable stock
2 cups wholemeal flour
1 cup rolled oats
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon virgin coconut oil
3 Tablespoons peanut butter with no added salt
½ cup chopped parsley
1 Tablespoon nutritional yeast flakes

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Form into small balls and place on greased or paper-lined oven tray. Flatten with the back of a spoon. Bake for 45 minutes at 150ºC.

All gone

More please!

More please!

Book Release: Where the Moths Dance

I am thrilled to announce that Where the Moths Dance is now available on Amazon as both a paperback and an ebook.

Where the Moths Dance

A young adult, paranormal novel about a haunted graveyard, a ghost boy, and a teenage girl who must battle the evil that has invaded her sanctuary.

Amazon.com
Amazon.co.uk

If you enjoy reading the book, then hop on over to my new blog wherethemothsdance.wordpress.com where I will be writing about everything to do with Jessie’s world of moonlight, moths and magic.

Meet Finn

We have a new puppy! His name is Finn and he is 10 weeks old. He is a Jack Russell/Foxy cross and he is very adorable (except for when he’s hanging onto me with his needle-sharp teeth!) He loves to curl up on my lap while I’m working at the computer, and he loves to play with cardboard boxes. We’re all looking forward to when he’s had his final vaccinations so we can start taking him out for walks to run off some of his boundless energy. He starts puppy pre-school tonight. Hopefully he won’t be too naughty!

Finn

Finn

Cover Reveal: Where the Moths Dance

I am excited to reveal the cover for my new book, which will be out in the next few weeks. Where the Moths Dance is a paranormal ghost story, and my first novel for young adults. The design is by Heather McCorkle of McCorkle Creations who, as well as designing fantastic covers, is an author of fantasy novels for young adults and adults.

Where the Moths Dance

This is the full front and back cover, which I am thrilled with!

Where the moths dance

About The Book

Sixteen-year-old Jessie Hale lives in the caretaker’s cottage at the bottom of Gum Tree Hill Cemetery. She feels more comfortable surrounded by the dead than the living, and the graveyard is her sanctuary, a place to escape from her troubled home life and from her mother’s despicable boyfriend, Conrad.

Elliott Rossi has found a way to come back from the dead. He needs to warn Jessie about a demon who can also access the living world and has his new prey firmly in his grasp.

When Jessie learns who has become the demon’s latest victim, she must enlist the help of her friends to battle the evil that has invaded her sanctuary, turning her life upside down and threatening to destroy everything she cares about.

Then there is the small matter of falling in love with a dead boy.

Stay tuned for news of the book’s release!

Wine Country Quilt Show

Every two years, Pukeora Estate in Waipukurau hosts the Wine Country Quilt Show, which attracts visitors from all over the country. As an avid quilter, (although mine are far from being in the same league as the show quilts), I had been looking forward to the show for a while. As usual, I was amazed at the quality and creativeness of the quilts. From traditional to contemporary, there was something for every taste. I can only imagine how many hours of work have gone into making them.

After admiring the many beautiful quilts, and browsing the vendor’s stalls, I returned home with lots of ideas and inspiration, as well as motivation to complete my own bed quilt, which I am about three-quarters of the way through hand quilting.

I hope you enjoy these pictures of a few of my favourite quilts from the show.

"Arum Bouquets" by Anne Yeo

“Arum Bouquets” by Anne Yeo

"Bugs and Blooms" by Shelagh Barber

“Bugs and Blooms” by Shelagh Barber

"Class of 2013" by Wendy Tavendale

“Class of 2013″ by Wendy Tavendale

"Ever After" by Trish Fraser

“Ever After” by Trish Fraser

"Funky Monkeys" by Ros Lusk

“Funky Monkeys” by Ros Lusk

"Growing Up" by Heather Preston

“Growing Up” by Heather Preston

"H.M.S. Endeavour" by Anne Yeo

“H.M.S. Endeavour” by Anne Yeo

"Merry, Merry Snowmen" by Pam Smith

“Merry, Merry Snowmen” by Pam Smith

"Moonglow" by Allie Greenwood

“Moonglow” by Allie Greenwood

"Owl and Pussycat in my Garden" by Lesley O'Rourke

“Owl and Pussycat in my Garden” by Lesley O’Rourke

"Sisters" by Vivienne Franklin

“Sisters” by Vivienne Franklin

"Southern Blue Belle" by Rose Silvester

“Southern Blue Belle” by Rose Silvester

"Sunshine and Shadows" by Pam Ross

“Sunshine and Shadows” by Pam Ross

New Recipe Folder and Great-grandma Jozina’s Shortbread

If you love to cook and you’re anything like me, you probably have piles of recipes tucked away in a drawer, waiting to be tried out. I have manilla folders of recipes cut from magazines and scraps of paper with recipes scribbled down from television cooking shows. Often I’ll go to look for one and spend ages trying to find it. I had a recipe book in which I wrote my favourite recipes, but I filled it up a while ago. Recently, while browsing in a bookshop, I saw a lovely vintage-themed recipe folder that I couldn’t resist.

recipe folder

It has dividers that I can decorate with stickers and embellishments, lined pages for writing in, plain pages for pasting in handwritten recipes given to me by other people, and plastic sleeves for slipping in recipes saved from magazines. I also like that it’s a ring binder style so I can add more pages when I need to.

recipe folder

recipe folder 2

Now I just have to work my way through that big pile of recipes and put the ones that turn out nice into my lovely new recipe folder where I can find them easily.

The handwritten shortbread recipe was given to me by my mother, passed down from my great-grandmother, so the recipe has been around for quite some time. Nice to have with a cup of tea or coffee.

Great-grandma Jozina’s Shortbread

8 oz (225g) butter
4 oz (125g) icing sugar
13 oz (375g) plain flour
1 oz (25g) cornflour

Beat butter and icing sugar to a cream. Add flour and cornflour. Knead well.
Roll out to required thickness (¼ – ½ inch).
Cut into squares or fingers. Prick well with fork to stop rising.
Bake about 20 – 30 minutes at 160ºC (320ºF ) Be careful not to overcook underneath.
Cool on wire tray.

shortbread1

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

As usual, at this time of the year, we have an abundance of zucchini in our garden. I have been cooking them in stir fries and fritters and pizzas, making zucchini slice, and baking zucchini blueberry loaves for the freezer.

Yesterday I made a chocolate zucchini cake, which turned out really nice. Although Nick isn’t a big fan of zucchini, he loved the cake and wouldn’t have even known it had zucchini in it if I hadn’t told him. I used the same recipe as my Red Velvet Beetroot cake, but substituted the beetroot for zucchini, and cooked it a little longer.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

250g peeled and grated zucchini
3 eggs, beaten
1¾ cups raw sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
250ml oil (I used olive oil)
1 cup white flour
1 cup wholemeal flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ cup cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 180º C.
Beat together eggs and sugar. Mix in vanilla, oil, and zucchini until well combined. Add sifted flour, baking powder, and cocoa and mix well. Pour batter into greased or paper-lined cake tin.
Bake for 55 minutes. Spread with frosting when cool.

Chocolate Orange Frosting

60g butter or dairy-free spread
250g icing sugar
1 Tablespoon cocoa
grated zest of 1 orange
2 Tablespoons orange juice

Beat all ingredients together until spreadable consistency. Spread over cake.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

My 2014 Art Journal

At the beginning of this year, I started a new art journal. I’m using a sketchbook that I bought last year—I just love the cover!

journal1

Inside, I created a title page. I painted the background and stamped on random shapes using bubble wrap, corrugated cardboard and a cardboard tube. Then I glued down pictures cut from scrapbook cardstock and cards.

journal2

I journaled my goals for the year—nothing too adventurous, just simple things like gardening, writing and crafts. Oh, and most importantly, adopt a dog! Then, throughout the year, I am going to journal about the things that make me happy, the things that make up my everyday life. It might be places that I visit, things I’ve seen, a book I’ve enjoyed, or flowers that are blooming in my garden.

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journal5

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By the end of the year my journal will be filled with thoughts and imaginings, photographs, drawings, clippings, stickers, and anything else I might want to put in there. It will be like a scrapbook, a way for me to creatively document my year, and at the end of the year I will have a colourful journal of memories.

Hidden Dreams

Over the past few years, I have had several novellas published in My Weekly Pocket Novels, and People’s Friend Pocket Novels, in the UK. Recently, I decided to publish them as eBooks to make them available to a wider readership. The first, Hidden Dreams, is for sale on Amazon, now, as a Kindle eBook. To read more about it, click here.

Hidden Dreams

Our Spring Garden

Spring is my favourite time of the year in the garden, when the flowers are looking pretty, the vegetables are growing nicely, and it’s not too hot for working outside and pottering amongst the plants.

I planted some sunflower seeds from a commemorative tin of Yates seeds that out friend, Erica, gave us, and the first flower is blooming already!

sunflower

We had loads of cinerarias self-seed in our raised vegetable beds this year, and they look so pretty, I couldn’t bring myself to pull them out. So although there has been less room for the veggies, I have enjoyed looking at the lovely flowers over the last couple of months.

cinerarias

I covered the lettuces with netting to stop the birds from eating them all.

lettuces

I hung tin foil from twine to keep the birds away from the silverbeet, which seems to have worked. Although I love having birds in the garden, and encourage them by feeding them, they seem to think that we grow the veggies just for them!

veggie garden

I plant lots of blue flowers to attract the bees. They love the borage, which is also a good companion plant for the strawberries.

veggie garden2

The tomato plants are doing nicely, although the oxalis is growing rampant in the tomato bed at the moment. I don’t like spraying anything, so have to try and keep on top of the weeding.

tomatoes

These dianthus in our front garden have the most beautiful scent.

dianthus

I think the blue lobelia and the yellow pansies look really pretty together.

front garden

This little rock rose (I think that’s what it is) loves growing under the dappled shade of the tree.

front garden2

There is always lots to do in the garden, but our efforts are rewarded with beauty and bounty. There is nothing nicer than looking out onto a pretty garden, and being able to walk outside and pick fresh greens for dinner.

“Just living is not enough,” said the butterfly. “One must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.”
Hans Christian Andersen

butterfly

Award nominations

I would like to take this time to thank the people who have nominated me for blogging awards over the past months. It is nice to know that people are reading my blog, and I appreciate the acknowledgment.

Thanks to Bernice at Realistic Cooking Ideas for Busy People for nominating me for the One Lovely Blog Award. Bernice has a wonderful cooking blog with great recipes that are easy to make, and delicious. I have tried several of Bernice’s recipes and have really enjoyed them. Bernice also writes posts about hiking in New Hampshire with her husband, and shares wonderful photos of her travels.

Thanks to Monique at a reel chick  for the Liebster Award nomination. Monique writes about food, animals, DIY, fashion, travel and, as she says on her ‘About Me’ page, “whatever else tickles my fancy on any given day.”

Thanks to Maxi at Scribbler Maxi’s Musings for the Reality Blog Award nomination. Maxi is a fellow writer who has published both fiction and non-fiction books. She blogs about her writing life, with musings that all writers can relate to. Maxi also has a craft blog at Love, Maxi where she shares her crafts, baking and gardening.

Thanks to Deborah at Container Chronicles for nominating me for the Versatile Blogger Award. Deborah is a fellow quilter and blogs about her quilting projects, as well as her life as a teacher in Taiwan.

My most recent nomination was from Lonnie at The Belmont Rooster, who nominated me for The Liebster Award. Lonnie has a great gardening blog. He writes about plants (of which he has an incredible knowledge) and about life on the farm, which is always entertaining.

I hope you check out all these great blogs.

Now, for The Liebster Award.

Liebster award

First, 5 things about me that you probably didn’t know:

My favourite colour is purple.
I am a Doctor Who fan.
I am a vegetarian.
I left school on the day I turned 15 and completed my education by correspondence.
I have worked as an office junior, a deli assistant, a fibre tester, a data entry operator, an apple picker, a cider bottler, a home help, a despatch worker, and an administration assistant.

These are my answers to Lonnie’s questions:

1) Why did you start blogging?

I started blogging as a way to promote my book, Scrappy Cupcake Angels, but my blog has become more about sharing the things I love and which inspire me to write - crafts, food, gardening, and books.

2) What do you like the most about blogging?

Being able to share and connect with others who have the same interests I do.

3) What inspires you to continue blogging?

Being a part of the blogging community, the encouraging comments, and discovering all the wonderful blogs out there.

4) What is your favorite time of the year?

Spring – when the garden is coming to life with blossom, butterflies, colourful bulbs, wisteria, baby birds…
When the days are warmer, but before it gets too hot.
When I can start planting my veggie garden.

5) What do you look for when deciding to follow a blog?

It would probably have to be a blog about crafts, gardening, cooking, writing, art journals, or books (or organics, owls, ghosts, or dogs…) Actually, it could be about anything! Some blogs just draw me into them and I want to read more!

6) When deciding to start a blog, what made you choose WordPress?

I read an article in Writing Magazine, which explained how to go about setting up a WordPress blog, and I thought I would have a go.

7) How important is it to you for other bloggers to make comments and “Like” your blog?

It is lovely to get feedback on posts and to know that people are actually reading them and liking them. Also, the comments and “Likes” help me to know which subjects people are more interested in.

8) How important is it to you to gain more followers?

It just makes me happy to know that anybody is reading my blog!

9) What do you hope other bloggers gain from your blog?

Ideas and inspiration.

10) Do you think these questions are dumb?

No. I hope you don’t think these answers are dumb!

Now, here are my nominees for The Liebster Award.

Artful Scrapbooking  http://artfulscrapbooking.wordpress.com
The Cottonwood Tree  http://thecottonwoodtree.wordpress.com
Sweet Mabel  http://sweetmabelblog.wordpress.com
Bloodshyft  http://bloodshyft.wordpress.com
An Owl a Day Keeps Burnout Away…right?  http://owladay.wordpress.com

And my questions for the nominees:

1) What was the most memorable thing that happened to you in 2013?
2) Who is your favourite author?
3) Have you ever had a paranormal experience?
4) Where was the best holiday you ever had?
5) What is your favourite food?
6) What country or place would you most like to visit?
7) What is your favourite movie?
8) What new craft/skill would you most like to learn?
9) Are you a cat lover, a dog lover, or both?
10) Who inspires you the most?

Here is a list of guidelines should you wish to accept and pass on the award.

1) Thank the person who nominated you and add a link to their blog.
2) Display the award on your blog.
3) Answer the questions about yourself that were provided by the blogger who nominated you.
4) Provide 5 facts about yourself.
5) Nominate at least 5 bloggers you would like to pass the award on to.
6) Create a list of 10 questions you want your nominees to answer.
7) List a set of rules similar to these on your blog.
8) Inform the bloggers that you have nominated them and profile a link to your post.

Most of all, have fun!

A Steampunk Halloween

When black cats prowl and pumpkins gleam,
May luck be yours this Halloween.
                                               ~Author Unknown

I made this little Halloween book using papers from Graphic 45′s Steampunk Spells, and Olde Curiosity Shoppe collections, as well as embellishments from 7 Gypsies, Graphic 45, Tim Holtz, and various other ephemera.

steampunk halloween

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halloween5

halloween15

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halloween16

halloween10

halloween11

halloween12

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