Steampunk fiction, reviews and interviews

Posts tagged “recipes

Frost Fair: Collin’s memoirs part 2…

Thankyou, friends, for joining me this morning on board the Harlequin Ladybird, do pull up a cat.. er, sorry, I mean a cushion… and make yourselves comfortable as I, Collin The Octopus, read to you all from my marvellous journal of extremely exciting adventures… a-hem…

February, 1823…

Good morning ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Max and Collin’s splendiferously sparkling and frostabulously frozen parlour located in the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster!

True, some have called it a frigid place of cold hearts and frosty welcomes but we consider that uch people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.

You find us this morning, warming our tentacles beside an imaginary fire after an enterprising and entertaining morning at the fabulous frost fair which is being held on our beloved river Lune.

Our psychotic scarecrow landlord, Montmorency, woke us before dawn with the business end of his walking cane and demanded that we head out into the frozen darkness and not return until we had enough money to pay for this month’s rent. The fact that we only just paid for the last month seems to have escaped the rogue and so I perched upon Max’s shoulder and we set off towards the river.

There were already traders setting up stalls on the ice but none of them took favourably to our offers  of  assistance (it seems that Queen Vic’s recent  amendments to equality in employment law do not extend to an Octopus and a Tea Fiend) So we settled ourselves on the bank instead and watched the sun rise over the frosted spires of the sail barges which had collapsed crazily into the ice sheets and lay mired liked the skeletons of stranded beasts from some fantastical caffeine-fuelled nightmare.

Things picked up once the punters arrived. After some initial competition from a woman hawking root beer (For a Very Quite Gentleman, Max can be terribly clumsy when glass bottles are around) we managed to sell twenty bottles of lemonade (and drink many more) without being lynched by the barge folk for selling without paying the trading fees.

We decided that that was quite enough hard shirking for one morning and spent the rest of the time mooching around the stalls, watching the jugglers and fire eaters and, most impressively to me, the ice skaters. Having lived under the sea all my life, I never imagined this curious form entertainment and I am determined, soon, to beg, borrow or steal enough pairs of ice skates to attempt the thing myself.

Now here we are back in the parlour, our landlord briefly appeased, our cats greedily devouring the last of the skimmed milk ration, and all desperately in need of a reviving spot of elevenses and some soothing music to tap our tentacles to. Unfortunately our absconding butler has not seen fit to deliver the goods this morning (perhaps she thinks it’s a holiday? ‘Though what a werewolf would find to do at a frost fair we have no idea…) but not to worry because we managed to run into our lovely Mrs Baker on the way back and she has set us up with a packet of genuine Frost Fair Souvenir Gingerbread which, knowing Mrs B, will be crammed full of illegal sugar…mmm…

And, by happy chance, Max’s constant pocket companion ‘The Whole Duty Of A Woman (or an infalliable guide to the fair sex) – 1737’ (A birthday gift from a devoted family member I think) has an excellent recipe for … OWCH! …Well, really! You know, for a Very Quiet Gentleman, Max, you  can be excessively violent devoid of a sense of humour… do learn to take a joke, please!

I was going to say, before I was so rudely interrupted by a flying teapot, that this is a recipe for ginger bread biscuits, rather than the cake which we are enjoying now but it is nonetheless share-worthy, I think…

“To Make Gingerbread…

Take a pound and a half of London Treacle, two eggs beaten, half a pound of sugar, one ounce of ginger, beaten and sifted, of cloves, mace and nutmeg, all together, half an ounce beaten very fine, coriander seeds and caraway seeds of each half an ounce, Two punds of butter melted; mix all these together, with as much flour a will knead it into a pretty stiff paste, then roll it out and cut it into what Form you please; bake it in a Quick Oven on Tin-plates; A little time will bake it.”

 

 

Oh I do miss our dear Mrs Baker very much indeed! And yes, I’m sorry to say that Max is no less violent and humourless when it comes to ‘taking a joke’ these days as he was then… fortunately he has decided not to join us for these little readings, although I can’t think why he would deny himself such a pleasure, hedonism notoriously being his chief virtue…

If you are out on the ice today, do tread with care won’t you? Unless you have ice skates in which case throw yourself gracelessly with wild abandon! And until we meet again please, remain always

Utterly Yourself


Elevenses: Showing The (green) Love

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen I hope you are all feeling the love this morning? The time is of course eleven o clock and we are ravenously eleven o clockish and remorselessly revved up with romance so let us see at once what our gorgeous werewolf butler has cooked up for us this morning…

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Absinthe ‘Show The Love’ hearts… but these devilish delights are more than just a romantic gesture from a woman with the brains and demeanour of a rabid dog; we are offering them here today to show our support for the Show The Love Campaign  …

“Hand made hearts can move worlds. Make, wear and share your green heart. It’s a beautiful way to begin a conversation about the things we love that climate change threatens, and the clean energy choices we must make to protect our world. Hand-crafting a heart is a moment to share with a loved one, with family, with friends, with your community – and beyond via #showthelove. See the amazing hearts others are already creating.  “

 

Sustainable energy is just as important to us here in The New World as it is to you in your dimension – from cream-powered landships to GORGON energy generators, we are doing our bit to help the environment.

If you’d like to get involved in this festive environmental endeavour there are several ways you can find out more…

Check out some of the fantastic blog posts from ‘Queen Of Green Hearts’ Nimue Brown who has her finger on the pulse where all things green and hearty are concerned:

https://druidlife.wordpress.com/2018/02/03/climate-change-show-the-love/

Visit the official website and get some hearty inspiration for making your own beautiful green heart talking pieces:

http://fortheloveof.org.uk/

And if you’d like to make Klapka’s lovely absinthe green heart fondants,   here’s the recipe:

500g icing sugar, 1 beaten egg white, 1 tsp green food colour, 1 tsp absinthe (or any flavouring you like)
Mix it all together then knead it into a soft dough and roll it out, cut out your hearts and sprinkle or drizzle them with your choice of toppings. Leave for a short while in a cool place to firm up then serve.

 

 

We wish you a very splendid afternoon and do feel free to leave a link to your own #sharethelove green heart projects in the comments section…


Elevenses: Frosty Fayre

Good morning ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Max and Collin’s splendiferously sparkling and frostabulously frozen parlour located in the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster!

True, some have called it a frigid place of cold hearts and frosty welcomes but we consider that uch people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.

You find us this morning, warming our tentacles beside an imaginary fire after an enterprising and entertaining morning at the fabulous frost fair which is being held on our beloved river Lune.

Our psychotic scarecrow landlord, Montmorency, woke us before dawn with the business end of his walking cane and demanded that we head out into the frozen darkness and not return until we had enough money to pay for this month’s rent. The fact that we only just paid for the last month seems to have escaped the rogue and so I perched upon Max’s shoulder and we set off towards the river.

There were already traders setting up stalls on the ice but none of them took favourably to our offers  of  assistance (it seems that Queen Vic’s recent  amendments to equality in employment law do not extend to an Octopus and a Tea Fiend) So we settled ourselves on the bank instead and watched the sun rise over the frosted spires of the sail barges which had collapsed crazily into the ice sheets and lay mired liked the skeletons of stranded beasts from some fantastical caffeine-fuelled nightmare.

Things picked up once the punters arrived. After some initial competition from a woman hawking root beer (For a Very Quite Gentleman, Max can be terribly clumsy when glass bottles are around) we managed to sell twenty bottles of lemonade (and drink many more) without being lynched by the barge folk for selling without paying the trading fees.

We decided that that was quite enough hard shirking for one morning and spent the rest of the time mooching around the stalls, watching the jugglers and fire eaters and, most impressively to me, the ice skaters. Having lived under the sea all my life, I never imagined this curious form entertainment and I am determined, soon, to beg, borrow or steal enough pairs of ice skates to attempt the thing myself.

Now here we are back in the parlour, our landlord briefly appeased, our cats greedily devouring the last of the skimmed milk ration, and all desperately in need of a reviving spot of elevenses and some soothing music to tap our tentacles to. Unfortunately our absconding butler has not seen fit to deliver the goods this morning (perhaps she thinks it’s a holiday? ‘Though what a werewolf would find to do at a frost fair we have no idea…) but not to worry because we managed to run into our lovely Mrs Baker on the way back and she has set us up with a packet of genuine Frost Fair Souvenir Gingerbread which, knowing Mrs B, will be crammed full of illegal sugar…mmm…

And, by happy chance, Max’s constant pocket companion ‘The Whole Duty Of A Woman (or an infalliable guide to the fair sex) – 1737’ (A birthday gift from a devoted family member I think) has an excellent recipe for … OWCH! …Well, really! You know, for a Very Quiet Gentleman, Max, you  can be excessively violent devoid of a sense of humour…

I was going to say, before I was so rudely interrupted by a flying teapot, that this is a recipe for ginger bread biscuits, rather than the cake which we are enjoying now but it is nonetheless share-worthy, I think…

“To Make Gingerbread…

Take a pound and a half of London Treacle, two eggs beaten, half a pound of sugar, one ounce of ginger, beaten and sifted, of cloves, mace and nutmeg, all together, half an ounce beaten very fine, coriander seeds and caraway seeds of each half an ounce, Two punds of butter melted; mix all these together, with as much flour a will knead it into a pretty stiff paste, then roll it out and cut it into what Form you please; bake it in a Quick Oven on Tin-plates; A little time will bake it.”

 

And now we’d better tune in our Tesla radio and have some soothing sounds to placate my beastly savage companion… drink your tea Max and calm yourself down, it is not becoming for a Very Quiet Gentleman to sulk like that…

 

Ah, much better, that was Smith and Burrows if you were not aware of the before they are rather marvellous. We wish you a very pleasant afternoon, filled with with warmest and spiciest of delights, and we will see you back on Monday for some more splendid steampunk fiction and excellent tea. So, until then, please be always,

Utterly Yourself

 

 

 

 

 


Morning Cuppa: Spoon Duelling for beginners

Good morning Ladie and Gentlemen and welcome to Max and Collin’s splendiferously spoontastic parlour located within the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster, Mor Ire.

True some have called it an unfulfilling place of half baked fancies, bad eggs and drastic measures, but we consider that such people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.

This morning you find us about to engage in the noble art of the festive spoon duel. We understand that in your dimension you settle your disputes by duelling with tea but, frankly, we find it hard to understand the mechanics of such a thing – do you hurl the tea at eachother? Or are the cups somehow used as foils?

Here  in the New World we settle our disputes with a series of Parlour Affairs, one of which is spoon duelling (or Spuelling if you are feeling lazy). Spoon duel challenges are usually reserved for the Wizmas period.

In case you are not familiar with the art and history of the spoon duel let us enlighten you:

Spoon duelling began during the Ancient Egyptian era and was reserved for religious ceremonies in honour of The Goddess. Ornate spoons made of wood, flint and ivory were carved with hieroglyphs pertaining to tea, cake and magic.

Archaeological evidence suggests that it was in Ancient Greece that spoon duelling moved from being a religious ritual to an event used by the upper classes to settle disputes in a sophisticated fashion. Silver and bronze spoons were used during this period and spoons in the British Museum can still be seen which bear the scars of spoon duelling.

By 1259 CE (Cakeless Era), spoons had become a symbol of power. Royal monarchs were anointed with a special spoon to mark their coronations. The wealthy displayed the many battle-mangled weapons of their defeated opponents while the peasants were left spoonless to slurp soup with their bare hands and stir their tea with their burnt and blistered fingers.

Discontent began to stir the soul of the general populous and The Great Spoon Uprising of the Renaissance period lead to greater equality in cutlery which in turn lead to a greater diversity in spoon design. In joyous celebration of the noble spoon, artisans sprang up in every town, flooding the market with an array of spoons for every occasion.

Soon  there were Caviar spoons (made of mother of pearl), Dessert spoons, Tea spoons, Fruit spoons, Runcibles (Max’s favoured weapon), Iced tea spoons, Jolly Long Spoons, Demitasse spoons, Chinese spoons, Bouillon spoons, Parfait spoons, Rattail spoons, Salt spoons, Seal-top spoons, Bar spoons, Caddy spoons, Slotted spoon, Mote spoons, Mustard spoons, Cheese scoop spoons… not to mention the cochlear ritual and anointing spoons, ear spoons, nose spoons and new born spoons (for ladling out babies)…

By the time Queen Vic came to the throne The Good Folk were screaming for regulation and one of the first papers to pass through parliament was the Standardisation Of Kitchen Utensils Act which introduced the standard issue spoons, tea cups and other tableware permitted for use today.

Obviously underground artisans linked to the Arts and Crafts Movement have sprung up across the scattered isles to produce illegal cutlery of the most impractical and extravagant artistic merit …

Hm? Sorry? Oh yes, Max says I should stop the history lesson and get on with the thing… you know for a Very Quiet Gentleman Max does interrupt an awful lot…

So, the noble art of spoon duelling :

Each competitor sits opposite the other at a tea table. (Historically, spoon duelling was a standing affair and opponents would attempt to crack eachother over the top of the head with a battle cry of ‘bad egg!’. After hats became fashionable the aim then became to knock the opponents’ headwear to the ground. This type of spoon duelling was outlawed by King George in 1721 CE. Of course there are those who claim to have revived it in some sort of secret- society- boys- club- thing… but we’re not sure we believe them…)

A point (or hit) is scored when one competitor taps the centre knuckle of their opponents’ spoon-hand with the back of their spoon. Three hits are needed to win the duel.

A hit is established thus; each spoon is moistened (traditionally with cold water but some vulgar persons lick their spoon and spiteful ones have been known to stir their scalding tea) and then dipped into coloured chalk. The chalk mark left on the back of the hand makes it easier for adjudicators to judge whether or not a hit is legitimate.

The spoon hand or wrist must remain in contact with the table at all times and the other hand may be placed behind the back, on the hip or above the head as preferred but never upon the table, knee or chair.

 The winner takes the spoon of the defeated competitor as a trophy and many people choose to display their hard won spoons upon their hats, waistcoats, parasols, bed posts and parlour walls. 

So we will soon be packing our runcibles into their leather holsters and heading into town to witness, and hopefully take part in, some festive sport. But before we do that we must tighten the belts on our dressing gowns, pour ourselves a morning cuppa and see what our little dust sucking friends have been up to in the night…

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Hm, Gnii fishing eh? I’m not terribly fond of fishing now, having done so very much of it in the sunken city of Hull. Fish – delicious, but the getting of them? I would much rather visit the local monger rather than run the dispiriting odds of catching other ocean debris., the things you humans throw into the ocean sets my tentacles shuddering. Anyway… let us forget all that and dip our tentacles into  our seasonally spicy tea which should give us plenty of zest for the morning is this superb ginger rooibos from craftteacompany… 

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Splendid, and now we must button up tight and head out into the cold dark alley ways of Lancaster and find ourselves a shady little tavern where we can lay a few bets on a spoon wrestling match (it’s similar to the duelling but for Ladies only and so there are less rules, more name calling, eye gouging, spork scratching, hair tangling etc and it all gets a little rougher and therefore more interesting, especially when the wigs come off…)

We wish you an utterly ineffable morning chockablock with spoonfulls of fun and we invite you back to join us for elevenses tomorrow so, until then

please be always

Utterly yourself

 

 

 


Soup Of The Day: Loli Phabay!

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Hello! Mrs Albert Baker here, otherwise known as The Last Witch Of Pendle. Obviously there is no Pendle any more, since The Chronic Agronauts utterly destroyed it with treacle and sprats, but I’ve set myself up quite nicely here in Lancaster, running this little soup kitchen for the street urchins. There certainly are a lot of them and I’m always looking for helping hands to cook up and serve something delicious!

Now then, my dears, you may have heard of our new government health scheme here in Ire, whereby the Wizards are dumping barrels full of ‘perfectly imperfect’ fruit on the street corners of areas of social and economic deprivation, such as ours, and indicating that consuming these rat-and-fly-magnets would be beneficial to the poor street urchins’ health.

Subsiding on purple seaweed and government-issued tinned tomato soup is the best our poor Lancastrian urchins can hope for in life, so I thought I would pep up these maggot-ridden and sadly rather rancid ‘gifts’ by turning them into the traditional Rromani autumnal treat ‘Loli Phabay’ – or as most of you may know it ‘Toffee Apples.’

“Loli Phabay” translates to English as ‘Red Apple’ and during the early 1900s, (and perhaps even before) Rromani street sellers could be found throughout the autumn and winter with baskets and barrows full of these sticky toffee covered apples on sticks. The cry of “Loli Phabay!” (which is pronounced ‘Lol – ee – pab – eye’ ) soon turned to ‘Loli Pub’ and is where we get the term ‘Lolly Pop’ for the round red candy treats on sticks which look so similar.

Back in those days cinnamon was used to colour the candy mixture red. History doesn’t tell us for certain who invented the toffee apple, or precisely when – I suspect it was some ‘historically insignificant’ mother or baker in her kitchen, or by her cooking fire and we will never know her name – but William W. Kolb, a New York candy maker, was certainly selling red candy apples in 1908.

I am going to use red food colouring to colour my apple candy and, if you’d like to join me, here is Penny’s family recipe which I will be using…

  1. Pour half a large bag of sugar into a medium saucepan with enough water to cover it.
  2. Stir over a gentle heat until the sugar is dissolved.
  3. Add a little bottle of glycerine and bring to a rapid boil. Put a glass of water in the fridge or freezer.
  4. Continue to boil rapidly until a tsp of the mixture dropped into the cold water forms brittle strands that crack easily. (This will take a very long while and you must be extremely careful as burns from the boiling sugar can be extremely serious.)
  5. When the toffee has reached this ‘hard crack’ stage, turn off the heat and allow it to cool for a moment before stirring in 1-4 tsp of liquid red food colour.
  6. Insert wooden skewers (or inverted dessert spoons if you have no skewers to hand) into each apple and dip them into the toffee, being very careful not to burn yourself on the hot toffee. Transfer the apples to a cold plate or tray and pour more toffee over the top to coat them.
  7. Allow the Loli Phabay to cool completely and harden before you serve them!
  8. Be sure to instruct your little urchins NOT to use the apples as missiles to terrorise innocent Octopi and their Very Quiet Gentlemen Friends once they have nibbled all the candy off.

 

And if you’d like to add a more modern twist to your apples you can try dipping them in chopped nuts or sugar strands before they harden, using green or black food colouring or even edible glitter, or coating them in melted chocolate instead… (yes, that is a spoon, they are much safer than skewers if your urchins are very little!)

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Enjoy your autumnal celebrations,whatever shape or form they take,

Blessings on your brew my dears!

 

Andro verdan drukos nane
Man pirani shukar nane
Loli phabay precinava
Hop, hop, hop
Jekvash tuke, jekvash mange
Hop, hop, hop.

 


Elevenses: More lemonade than you can shake your top hat at

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen I hope you are all feeling extremely eleven o clockish because the time is, of course, eleven o clock and we are brim full of fizz here in the parlour! So please, pull up a crate and a cushion, kick your tentacles up on the table and let us lavish you with an extravagant list of extraordinary lemonade-based liquid refreshments.

But first, a little ‘heads up’ because our schedule is about to change somewhat, as summer creeps in and our evil, machinating landlord cracks the whip over our heads and Max and I are forced out onto the streets to sell this illegal lemonade and make enough money to pay the rent. This means that for the next few weeks, the parlour doors will be closed… hm? What’s that? Well yes I know it is only made of sack cloth but it is still technically a door… anyway, fear not! Because although the parlour will only be hosting a few disgruntled cats over the summer, we will still be around and you will still be kept up to date on our adventures (more of that tomorrow when I visit Mrs Baker in her soup kitchen). For now I hope it will suffice to say that we will be posting once weekly over the summer instead of thrice weekly until September when the lemonade season comes to a close.

But today the sun is shining and here we all are so, allow me to pour you something delicious…

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We wish you all an utterly refreshing afternoon and I will see you tomorrow because I will be helping Mrs Baker in her lovely soup kitchen so until then please, be always

Utterly yourself


Morning Cuppa: Lightning Wolves and Lemonade

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome…pant…back…pant…to… oh I give up! This parched heat is not conducive to the comfort of us aquatic aboriginals, my tentacles are so dry they are beginning to crack and Max is being un-necessarily Machiavellian with the lemonade.

Still, at least we now have an enormous stash of bottles to sell and today and tomorrow we will therefore be sharing some amazing lemonade recipes for you to try yourselves, but first, let us find something splendid to read… like this…

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Lightning Wolves is the second book in the Clockwork Legion series and you can read our review of the first book here. The second book follows the same key characters that we fell in love with from the first book , former sheriff Ramon and Persian healer / animal-empath Fatemeh, as they strive against the invading powers both of their own world, and others.

The Russians are still invading America and although some ground has been won with the help of the mechanical owls, parts of America are still under threat. Meanwhile, the influence of the mysterious alien entity Legion, continues to loom…

The plot is as gripping, complex and intense as the first book and we meet some new characters – mysterious samurai, wise old women and ex-bounty hunters – who carry on the welcome diversity and depth established in the first novel, this is a welcome refreshment from the ‘white-washing’ or stereotyped ‘tokenism’ of some novels in the genre.

Overall, this was another  fantastic steampunk read for serious fans of the genre, filled with all the re-worked history, science-fiction, magic and fast-paced adventure you could wish for, we heartily recommend Clockwork Legion and can’t wait to find out what is going to happen in the next book.

But until then, you were promised lemonade and here it is… (just click on each picture to take you to the recipe)

ELECTRIC LEMONADE

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MANGO LEMONADE

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ELDERFLOWER AND FROZEN BERRY LEMONADE

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MIDDLE EASTERN MINT LEMONADE

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There now, hopefully that has quenched your thirst on this sweltering summer’s day… pity me that my tight ar…er… fisted gentleman friend will not allow this poor octopus so much as a drip to wet his whistle. Pff.

We wish you a very moist and refreshing morning filled with zest and without any pitch in sight, and we will be back tomorrow with some news, some forward planning and lashings more luscious lemonade so, until then, please be always

Utterly Yourself.


Soup of the day: With Jennings and Jennings Paranormal Investigators

Hello! Mrs Albert Baker here, otherwise known as The Last Witch Of Pendle. Obviously there is no Pendle any more, since The Chronic Agronauts utterly destroyed it with treacle and sprats, but Ive set myself up quite nicely here in Lancaster, running this little soup kitchen for the street urchins. There certainly are a lot of them and Im always looking for helping hands to cook up and serve something delicious!

I am extremely happy this morning to welcome my dear friends, the paranormal investigators Sir John and Marie Jennings… Good morning to you both, thank you so much for coming to help me in my soup kitc… Sir John? Over here… Marie, my dear, are you sure he can see with those goggles on? Whatever are they for?

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Sir John: These are my ectoscopic goggles that allow me to see any spectral energy so as I look around the room…GOOD GOD WHAT IS THAT!

Marie: I think you are looking at the cat, mon cher…if you take the googles off…

Sir John: Ah yes, ahem, yes I’ve seen this before where feline energy can be mistaken for, er, ghostly energy. Perfectly normal.

Mrs Baker: Oh dear yes, I’m so sorry about the cats, they are after my illicit cream stores, you know. Well, why don’t you both have a seat here by the window. How was your journey here from your own dimension? I hope you were not delayed by any spectral presences en route?

Sir John: It was relatively uneventful. We made use of my brother Saul’s cabinet to travel here through time from 1901. He was, I’m afraid to say, a bit of a crank, believing in some pseudo scientific hogwash he called Quantum Physick. Most bizarre, with strange parallel worlds and waves behaving like particles. He built this device to travel to these parallel worlds, and it seems to work as it’s brought us here. Hopefully we can return, it’s the first time we’ve used it.

The only real trouble we had was when we were stuck in some hellish box, travelling in random directions with strange, dishevelled muttering creatures. What was that thing called Marie.

Marie: I think it was Southern Rail.

Mrs Baker: Oh dear me yes, I have heard your trains are as bad as our Skyway Rails, for future visits might I  recommend the number nine bus, some have found the driver both adventurous and persuadable if bribed with sufficient tiffin. Now then, I shall put the kettle on, have you brought some soup with you today to share with the orphans?

Marie: I brought a recipe that our maid Miss Henderson suggested for Courgette and Milk Soup. She said it is from the “Mysterious and Exotic East”.

Sir John: I think she means Walthamstow.

Mrs Baker: Oh!

Marie: Here is her note…

Mrs Baker: Thankyou my dear, let me see now, she writes… “Dear Mrs Baker, please find below my recipe for Corset and Milk Soup. Take a pound of corsets…”  CORSETS?!

Sir John: we think she means courgettes

Mrs Baker: Oh! I see!…...and cook in a bit of water until soft but not too long or the taste will cook out. Mix them up – I use a device Sir John has made for me called a Vegetofruit Blending Device. It’s quite quick and only moderately dangerous. Put aside and then heat a tablespoon of butter and when that’s melted take off the heat and add tablespoon of flour. When that is like a paste, add half a pint of milk and stir until it thickens a little. Then add the corsets and some ground Kew men…

 

Marie: “cumin”

Mrs Baker: Oh yes of course!  …and season with salt and pepper. Finally serve in bowls with some Sumac powder sprinkled on top. The soup is mild in flavour and the dark purple colour of the Sumac is a lovely complement to the pale green of the corsets.”

Sir John: Funnily enough she got the name for Sumac powder right. It’s a fascinating spice, rumoured to give anyone that prepares it correctly a five octave singing voice. I’m not sure that’s true but our previous maid, Mrs Flitwick, did once mistake it for cocoa and she made a very high pitched noise.

 

Mrs Baker: Well it certainly sounds delicious, I wouldn’t worry about the Sumac, the orphans are quite hardy round here you know. So, I will just pop the cauldron onto the fire, there. Now while that is simmering away why don’t you tell us all a little more about the work you do, paranormal investigation sounds most fascinating!

Sir John: Well it all started in Paris, where we met. I was working away at various theories of how to detect paranormal activity. Marie was my willing companion, assisting where she could. Eventually we married and moved to London and set ourselves up as Paranormal Investigators. It was a little easier as my French isn’t terribly good and I was concerned it may be difficult to communicate with francophone fiends.

Mrs Baker: What a wonderful story, I do like a good romantic tale! And I have heard that you employ some very specialist inventions to help with this work, have you brought some along to show the orphans?

Sir John: This is my Thanatograph. It’s allows us to hear the spectral voices of any phantasm. It’s quite subtle, if there are any such entities present we may hear a faint human-like voice when the machine starts. Now I’ve set it up, let’s all be very quiet and see what happens.

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Mrs Baker: Is it supposed to do that?

Sir John: Actually no. It’s quite unusual for it to fly around the room like that.

Mrs Baker: Oh, silly me! I’m afraid we are directly above the underground library and so our resident ghost, Perilous Wight, may be setting it off?

Sir John: Ah I see! Let me see if I can catch it. Oooof!

Marie: Mon cher, are you alright!

Sir John: Yes I think so. I don’t chew much on that side of my face anyway. Let me put it away before it causes any real damage.

Mrs Baker: I’m so sorry about that, I hope it will be alright. Well, these machines are all very technical and exciting,  but Marie, my dear, (and while Sir John is occupied putting that device away)  I cannot help but sense something of the mystical about your aura, I have a feeling that perhaps you do not need such devices to see these ghostly goings on?

Marie: Well, why I sometimes ‘ave some, shall we say, intuition into what may be going on… I’m not sure what you mean or where you have ‘eard this…

Mrs Baker: Oh my dear, I’m so sorry, I did not mean to alarm you or to be rude! Magic is forbidden in this dimension of course, but there are those of us who still practise it in secret where we can and I cannot help but sense that you have, shall we say, the ‘gift of intuition’ when it comes to the paranormal?

Marie: Ah, I see. Well, yes, it is true that I can sometimes offer … more help than is obvious. I like to keep that to myself. Oh look, Sir John is back.

Mrs Baker: Oh marvellous, and that is the kettle singing, can I offer you both some tea? How do you like it?

Sir John: Plenty of milk, three sugars, not too strong.

Mrs Baker: Oh dear, I’m afraid that is almost the last of the sugar, I shall have to visit the smugglers again.

Marie: Black, please. No sugar.

Mrs Baker: There you are. Now I know you have had many adventures but would you like to tell the orphans a little about your most recent or exciting one?

Sir John: Yes we have recently been relating our vacation in Sunnyport in our journal. It started out as a holiday and quickly became a terrifying nightmare. And that was before anything supernatural happened.

Mrs Baker: It all sounds so very exciting! And I hear that Paul Michael and Josephine Pichette have compiled some of your adventures into a book?

Sir John: Yes, indeed. It’s a collection of our first four investigations: a haunting, a strange case of a mesmerised young heiress, a fiendish killer in London, and a theft of some magical artefacts. It’s called, rather appropriately Jennings and Jennings Paranormal Investigators Casebook One. It’s apparently available in South America?

Marie: Amazon, mon cher.

Sir John: Ah, yes.

casebook one cover copy medium

 

Mrs Baker: Splendid! And where else can we read about your adventures?

Sir John: Well our journal regularly publishes details of our adventures and other interesting tidbits. Mr Michael and Mme Pichette are kind enough to update it twice weekly. They are also on, is it Twitbook, Marie?

Marie: That’s Twitter and Facebook.

https://thebenthictimes.com

https://www.facebook.com/thebenthictimes

https://twitter.com/thebenthictimes

 

Mrs Baker: Splendid! And will there be more books in the future?

Sir John: Yes indeed, Mr Michael and Mme Pichette are, I believe, chronicling our recent trip to Paris in a book they are calling The Paris Awakening. You may have read about the aftermath of that trip in the papers. It made the front page.

Marie: I don’t think Mrs Baker gets Le Monde here, and not from 1900, especially.

Mrs Baker: No indeed, the year here is 1840… and besides which, the only paper I get the is Tiffindependent…

Sir John: Well I believe it was in The Times as well…page 27. Underneath an advert for a mechanical carpet cleaner.

Mrs Baker Well perhaps I can use my soup-scrying techniques to locate a copy. Ah but that soup certainly smells the ticket doesn’t it? Thank you so much for coming to help out in the kitchen today, my dears, it’s been wonderful to chat with you but now those little urchins must be ravenous so shall we start dishing it up?

Sir John: Yes, let’s! Thank you so much for having us to visit. I’m terribly sorry about the scorch marks from the Cryptozoetropometer. I can pay to have that cleaned.

Cryptozoetropometer.jpg

 

Marie: Yes thank you Mrs Baker, it’s been nice to meet a fellow…cook.

Mrs Baker: Indeed! Thankyou all of you for joining us in the soup kitchen today, I hope you will come back again next week and until then

Blessings on your brew my dears!


Elevenses: A brief history of lemonade

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen! I hope you are all feeling extremely eleven o clockish because the time is, of course, eleven o clock and we are armed to the tentacles with refreshments so, step right in, carefully avoiding the empty glass bottles, mountains of yellow fruit, scatterings of sugar crystals, and the slightly sticky gentleman jibbering to himself in the corner, and take a seat on an upturned lemonade crate while I regale you with the results of my diligent research on the fascinating history of Lemonade ….

 

Lemons originated in India and it wasn’t until the twelfth century that they got bored and migrated (astutely procuring a ride in the baskets and barrels of hot-footing humans) to Egypt and the Mediterranean. The Persian poet and traveller Nasir-I-Khushraw provides us with the first written evidence that a heady and addictive mixture of sugar, lemon juice and water (known as qatarzimat) was being guzzled apace by the locals of these regions but it is safe to assume that this convivial combination had been enjoyed for many years in Asia before his observations were made.

By the thirteenth century qatarzimat was well established and market records from Cairo show the crowds just couldn’t get enough of it and in Mongolia the lushes  were swigging it laced with plenty moonshine (well, it must have beaten the alternative drink of the day… horse milk…)

But why is lemonade so addictive?

Well, the scientists tell us that the secret is not so much in the sugar as in the lemons themselves! The sourness of this innocent little yellow fruit grenade stimulates saliva production – an effect which lasts for long after the lemonade has been consumed. The brain then comes to associate the lemonade with the quenching of thirst and so craves it, particularly when the we are a little dehydrated (which for us tea fiends is of course most of the time).

But I digress… by the 1600s limonadiers were selling the stuff on the streets of France with huge dispensers strapped to their backs and of course it wasn’t then long before the Brits caught on to the lucrativity of the lemon.

When thousands of Europeans flocked over to America in the 1800s, the lemons saw their chance to make world-domination complete and lemonade swiftly became the choice drink of the gold miners due to its astounding ability to combat scurvy (did you know the humble lemon has more vitamin c than your average orange? Yep, you thought pirates were guzzling rum during their Golden Age? Wrong, they were glugging lemonade…. with rum in it ….)

But alas Lemonade Lucy (First Lady Lucy Hayes) and her Lemonade Brigade prohibitionists’ persistent pontificating on the virtues of lemonade vs the evils of alcohol lead to some bad press for our beloved beverage and today it is widely considered a drink for infants, invalids and the faint of heart.

 

So there you have it, a brief history of the rise and fall of the Lemonade Empire as it occurred in your dimension. Next week I shall be holding forth on how Lemonade came to be an addictive and highly illegal substance here in out beloved Isles Of Ire and furnishing you with some fabulous recipes for making your own. Would you like to see some photographs of antiquated lemonade vendors before you go? Please excuse the stickiness at the edges…

Lemonade-seller-Thessalonika

Lemonade vendor in Selanik,  Ottoman empire, pre-1890

Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-2004-0701-502,_Berlin,_Limonadenverkäufer.jpg

German lemonade vendor 1931

lemonade teapot.jpg

Charles W. Hamill Silver-Plated Lemonade Pitcher, Baltimore, Maryland.

Now then, perhaps I can tempt you with a bottle of the good stuff as we kick our tentacles up and tune in the spirit radio to something splendid…

 

 

Not one for the prohibitionists then! We wish you a delightful afternoon and invite you back to join us in the parlour again soon. Until then, please be always

Utterly Yourself.

 

 


Elevenses: Flowery Fayre

“AND THAT, COLLIN, IS WHY I NEVER SHOULD, NEVER DO, AND NEVER SHALL AGAIN WEAR DRESSES IN PUBLIC!  … oh, I think that’s the door, would you get it? I need to wash the seaweed out of my hair…”

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, is it really that time already? Well do please come in and pull up a crate of lemonade to sit on. Please excuse my irate friend, and the superfluous amounts of cake… what’s that? No amount of cake can ever be considered superfluous? Well you could well be right! Our lovely werewolf butler Klapka has utterly outdone herself using up the last of the bounty from our deflowering exploits last week and I have to say that cake is perhaps a safer use for them than magical-cure-alls ; although Max does seem to have made enough cash to meet the rent this month he certainly doesn’t appear happy about this method of monetary acquisition.

But where are my manners? Please, help yourself to some fabulously floral fayre (click each picture to visit the recipe) …

flowercake1

SAMSUNG CSC

flower biscuits

 

And of course we mustn’t forget some music to accompany us as we tuck in to these delightful treats…

We wish you all a delinquently delicious afternoon where all your deflowering endeavours pay off and no amount of social or financial pressure forces you into or out of a dress. Mrs Baker will be in her soup kitchen tomorrow but I’m afraid we will not be at home next week as we are visiting your dimension for the delights of the London Comic Con, but we will be back again the week after so, until then, please be always

Utterly Yourself.


Soup Of The Day: With Mythpunk Author Amy Kuivalainen

Hello! Mrs Albert Baker here, otherwise known as The Last Witch Of Pendle. Obviously there is no Pendle any more, since The Chronic Agronauts utterly destroyed it with treacle and sprats, but I’ve set myself up quite nicely here in Lancaster, running this little soup kitchen for the street urchins. There certainly are a lot of them and I’m always looking for helping hands to cook up and serve something delicious!

Helping me this morning is author Amy Kuivalainen! Good morning Amy, thank you so much for coming to help me in my soup kitchen today! Can I take your parasol?

Absolutely, but do be careful…it bites. Lovely to be here with you today.

Oh! My goodness, what a disturbingly sentient promenadial accessory – although I imagine it comes in extremely useful! How was your journey here from your own dimension? I hope you were not waylaid by any skywaymen or vampires en route?

The journey was long and only one minor altercation with a storm demon over the South Atlantic. It’s their breeding season and it makes them surly. The trick is to shoot a projectile of cayenne, gunpowder and myrrh into the clouds. It’s enough for them to think twice about getting lovesick over the dirigible.   

Indeed! I’m sorry to hear you had difficulties but what an ingenious deterrent, I must write that recipe down myself, it may come in handy against the Landlord. Ah, marvellous, I see you have brought some soup with you today to share with the orphans?

I have bought a soup with me today. It’s called ‘Lohikeitto’ and it’s a soup from the northern lands of Karelia where night hags and magicians still roam. Its very easy to make and salmon is a staple in the colder Nordic countries:

  • Tbsp Butter (you can use Olive Oil as an alternative)
  • 1 Brown or Yellow Onion, finely chopped
  • 4-5 Potatoes (buy a firm variety as they need to retain their shape through cooking)
  • 25 litres Fish Stock
  • 1/2 kg Fresh Salmon Fillet, cubed
  • 100-200 ml Cream (or Milk, if you prefer a thinner soup)
  • 1 cup Fresh Dill, finely chopped
  • 5 pieces Bay Leaf
  • Dash of sea salt
  • Dash of pepper
  • Dash of Allspice

Finnish Salmon Soup (Lohikeitto) – Instructions

Fresh Dill (Tilli)

  • Cut the potatoes roughly into 1-inch cubes, and keep in water to prevent discolouration
  • In a large saucepan, simmer the chopped onions in the butter over medium heat until soft
  • Add peeled and diced potatoes and then enough water to just cover the potatoes. Turn up the heat to high, cover the saucepan with a lid, bring to a boil and cook the potatoes until they are just soft, adjusting the heat down as necessary
  • Add the cubed salmon to the pot and cook until it is mostly opaque (this will take about 5 minutes, if that). Do not stir the soup so as not to break up the salmon
  • If you want to keep the Salmon cubes looking like cubes, once the salmon is cooked, remove from the soup and set aside
  • Add the fish stock and cream, along with a sprinkling of salt and pepper to taste, with just a dash of Allspice. Cook for 5-10 minutes.
  • If you prefer a thicker soup, as I do, add cornstarch slurry (mix 1 Tablespoon of cornstarch and 1 Tablespoon of water, stir to dissolve the cornstarch) to the soup and simmer until the soup has thickened
  • Take off the heat and stir in the fresh dill
  • (If you removed the salmon cubes, transfer the cooked salmon into individual bowls and ladle the soup over
  • If you want to add a touch of artistry to the presentation, place a small sprig of  dill on top of the contents of each bowl

Serve with rye bread and butter

(Recipe from Alternate Finland)

Thankyou! What a marvellous recipe! Now while that is simmering away nicely, why don’t you tell me a little more about your books, I see you have brought some along with you to show the orphans?

I have indeed! I have brought my Firebird Fairytales a few of my others with me. In my travels it always is a good idea to carry a few just to hand out when you get talking to people. There is also my newest story Wylt – a gothic tale that ties in with Arthurian legends in unexpected ways.

 

Marvellous! I confess to having already fallen in love with your Firebird series, I very much enjoyed the way you wove the ancient mythologies into your plot. Have you always had a passion for folklore and myth?

I have always enjoyed the dark and mysterious fairy tales and mythologies. There is something so primal about them, like they say proudly, “We have seen the earth move and change and humans will come and go and still we will be here to outlast you.” Finnish folklore and mythology are my special passion, a rich body of stories I hope to do more with in the coming years. I do love the Arthurian and Celtic legends and am thoroughly enjoying weaving these into modern tales.

You know I struggle to get these young  street urchins to listen to and remember the old tales, I do try but they don’t seem to be able to relate to my old yarns about The Goddess, do you think it is important that we continue to develop new versions and twists to our old mythological stories?

Stories change, are retold, adapted and meddled within each generation like one continuous Chinese whisper. It’s important, I believe, to keep this tradition alive. Mythology endures because it hits a part of your heart and soul and mind that isn’t always awake. It’s a way of expressing the big truths that continue to plague mankind and attempt to find some form of illumination. In a time when truth is so important I think there is a great resurgence of these stories happening. People try and go back to find the answers their ancestors always knew. Mythology doesn’t belong to one group of people but are, like kindness, a universal currency.

Now I saw Max and Collin reading your excellent steampunk short story ‘women in men’s waistcoats’ , would you like to tell us a little more about that?

Women in Mens Waistcoats came about when I saw a publishers advertiser for steampunk vampire cross over stories. The publishers didn’t survive but the story did. We don’t have many steampunk stories based in Australia so I wanted to create an alternate Victorian Sydney and see what I could dredge up. It was a tricky piece of work in the research department but well worth it.

And will there be any more adventures for the vampire slaying Sisters?

The second instalment is called ‘Guns in Garters’ but it hasn’t been written yet. It’s still rolling about in the back of my brain palace but Agnes Broadshield will return and I can guarantee her final showdown with her nemesis will be epic. 

And do you have any other new releases planned this year?

I do have a few kicking about. Eastern Gods, an epic fantasy story, is currently available for nomination on Kindle Scout that will hopefully be released in the next few months. I have some Wyrd and Wonderful short stories as well that will be seeing the light of day.

Well that does sound like some lovely things to look forward to! And where else can we find your writing?

All of my writing can be found with the wonderful chaps over at Amazon. They are also available worldwide so any one interested can find them. I do journal some of my adventures on my blog as well if people are interested in what I am up to and what will be coming out soon.

Well thank you so much for coming to help out in the soup kitchen today, my dear, it’s been wonderful to chat with you! I must say that soup smells delicious. I think it must be about ready and the little urchins have their rosy noses pushed up against the glass in anticipation so shall we start dishing it up?

Thank you so much for having me, it’s been splendid having a chat. If any of the urchins or anyone else wish to get a hold of me they can find me lurking around the corners of social media, and please tell them to check out a preview of Eastern Gods here, it’s a cracking adventure.

 

Marvellous! Well thankyou all so much for joining us in the soup kitchen today, I hope you will join me again next week and until then,

Blessings on your brew my dears!


Soup of the day: With Alexander James Adams

Hello! Mrs Albert Baker here, otherwise known as The Last Witch Of Pendle. Obviously there is no Pendle any more, since those dreadful land pirates , The Chronic Agronauts, utterly destroyed it with treacle and sprats, but I’ve set myself up quite nicely here in Lancaster, running this little soup kitchen for the street urchins. There certainly are a lot of them and I’m always looking for helping hands to cook up and serve something delicious! 

 

Now I am extremely honoured this morning because Faerie Tale Minstrel, Alexander James Adams has very kindly agreed to help me dish up some soup for our poor unfortunate orphans here in Lancaster. Good morning Alexander! Can I take your hat and coat? This is supposed to be spring but nobody has told the weatherman as usual!

 

AJA

Oh, and who is this you have brought with you?

While not always visible except to such discerning folk as yourself, my Lady, my feline familiar Bartholomew Dragon Master is always with me since he became a ruler of the Sun.  When he ascended from this realm in 2015 during Samhain, he made it known to me to have his name inscribed on my neck where he liked to rest his paw when sleeping and the ink used was to be infused with his ashes so now he is a part of me and I of him.

 

Oh what a touching tale! Well you are both most welcome. Have a seat here by the fire and I will put the kettle on, and here of course is a saucer of cream for Bartholomew. Now do tell me, how was your journey here from your own dimension?

Wonderous and unthreatened.  That is not always the case when traveling, but you gave very safe directions so I was able to avoid the Unseelie Court and Their kind. They like to invite me to Their parties, but I try to have other things to do so as not to be tempted so often to do mischief with Them.

Oh dear me yes, there are many who delight in leading the unwary traveller astray! But of course you must be quite used to time and space travel by now; from Victorian, Medieval and Renaissance times on earth to the realms of Fairyland, your music speaks of a most exciting and adventurous life! Are there still more stories to tell?

Yes. I have been to many magical places, not the least of which was the Land of Fae Itself where I was abducted to by the Fae at the time of my birth. A changling took my place bearing the name of Heather Alexander and she dwelt among the Mortals for forty years or so enchanting folk with her magical music.  Then she got bored and returned home, where upon I saw my chance, challenged the Queen of Faeries in a dual of fiddles, won my freedom and came here to the realm of Man. I plan on traveling to more and more magical realms to collect new songs and stories.  The lands of Steampunk,  furry talking animals who walk upright like humans, and even the Realm of Aegis, a new world of high adventure and canticles where I bear the name of Everon the XIII, a false immortal bard who battles for the Light of the World:

Canticles Productions – www.matthewmorrese.com

Goodness it all sounds so exciting! And certainly puts my own meagre adventures to shame! But it is so kind of you to brave the trip to our blighted Isle Of Ire to come and help me out this morning in my humble little kitchen , tell me have you brought some soup along to share with the orphans?

 

I brought my favourite! As a musician and sometimes empty pocketed, I have learned to make the most of what I have and can save for a hard time ahead. I call it Boiled Bone Soup.  I use the frozen bones from various dinners previous, reboil them til I can strip every little bit of meat from them, toss out the bones, add rice, cloves, cinnamon, brown sugar and nutmeg to taste, plus any vegetables I have around.  If I’m really lucky, I‘ll have a little port or red wine to add. Stir and cook until it’s all soft and warm and serve with fresh homemade bread. The next day, it will be almost solid and becomes a casserole until it’s all gone, but it’s so good, that doesn’t take too long at all.

Oh how delicious! Let us take out my largest cauldron then and make a double batch so we have plenty for tomorrow as well. Now while that is simmering away nicely, why don’t you tell us about your exciting new Steampunk project?

It will be a huge event.  A kind of Cirque du Soleil presentation with musicians, elaborate settings and four to five “Mechanical Technicians” to run “Hypnotica’s Magical Mind Machine”.  It is a form of stage hypnotism themed in a setting of Steampunk and done by music and singing rather spoken suggestions.  It won’t be just simple entertaining parlour tricks and making folk do silly things either. Everywhere they “travel” in the machine will give them an experience that will give them a sense of accomplishment and fun.  I want to make sure that everyone who comes, whether they volunteer for hypnosis or not, are transformed and empowered by the show.  Hypnotism does work much like real magic.  It is a way of allowing your brain to accept a specific suggestion and then believing it to be real.  If done with proper intent and respect, it can change the way a person thinks and behaves for the rest of their life. When folk see the Magical Mind Machine, they will learn that with the power of their own minds, they can change life for the better.  That’s good magic, right there.

That certainly sounds like a marvellous thing to look forward to! When do you hope it will be released?

The musical album should be out by the end of summer this year.  The show itself will take a little more time, but we hope to see a version of it come out next year. The producer himself, Mark Maverick, is a Manchester man, so we hope to have the show in London in the first year, if possible.

Oh how exciting! Now I know you’re rather a legend in the folk / filk arena but this new project isn’t your first Steampunk album is it?

Not entirely. I released a faerietale/steampunk combination album in 2014 called Summer Steam.  It combines the 5 songs of Summer Releases from that year and 4 songs called Clockwork Collection all bundled to make a 9 song album.

I have heard it playing on Max and Collin’s spirit radio, it really is marvellous! But tell me my dear, what first sparked your interest in Steampunk in particular? Was it the tea?

Indeed, the tea is exceptional, but I really love the old ways of air travel like with dirigibles and hot air balloons.  They seem so much more connected to the air and the magic of flight. Also, it is a genre where the gentlemen can have as much fun with clothing as the ladies and I’ve always enjoyed accessorizing!

Oh indeed! You know I think you would get on very well with our dear Captain of The Chronic Agronauts, he shares both those views entirely! But, I do find it very curious that so many people who have their roots in folk eventually find themselves drawn towards Steampunk, do you think there may be some intrinsic link between the two?

Perhaps.  While Steampunk does involve the machinery and innovations of Man, it works so much more intimately with Nature and the land, leaving a much lighter footprint, so to speak, which the Folk culture tends to favour.  If we had been smarter and more respectful of our world when we first started inventing, perhaps we would have become more like the world Steampunk represents.

Now there’s an interesting thought indeed… Ah, now the kettle is boiled, what is your hot beverage of choice, my dear, and how do you take it?

Hmm…I think some hot chocolate with a twist of brandy would be good, if you please.

Splendid, there you are. I’m afraid I cannot indulge in the brandy myself though, it’s my husband Albert who is the drinker. Now while we are waiting for your new release, where can we see you performing this year?

I will be traveling to the Renaissance period for the month of May performing for the Queen in Castleton, Muskogee, Oklahoma and then just popping in and out of many realms and times as I am invited to do for the rest of the year.

www.okcastle.com

Most of the friends that gather here can actually see me bi-monthly if they wish through the magic of a service called Concert Window.

https://www.concertwindow.com/alexanderjamesadams

I try to perform an online concert  from my home every other month and I ask my friends via the Book of Faces for their favourite dates and times during a given weekend.  If those gathered here contact me through the Book of Faces under my full name of Alexander James Adams, I will be happy to arrange a time where this side of the pond will be more awake to attend.

Oh that is splendid news indeed! I know many of us here were thrilled to see you perform a few years ago when you visited the UK as part of Tricky Pixie, do you have any future plans to pay the UK another visit?

If I get an invitation and some help with the travel, I would jump at a chance.  The Steampunk CD will bring me to Scotland to mix and master it with my good friend Fox Amoore so perchance this summer I will schedule a gig there and possibly elsewhere if I get information and the schedule to make it happen. If any one of your friends can help, please contact me at ryuuaja@aol.com and let’s talk!

That sounds promising indeed! And for those of us who are trapped in another dimension entirely and cannot make it out to your live performances, where can we purchase recordings of your marvellous music?

Through my web page:

www.faerietaleminstrel.com

or direct download through Bandcamp:

https://alexanderjamesadams1.bandcamp.com

They can also get access to music, videos and art that no one else can if they wish to join my Patreon subscription:

https://www.patreon.com/AlexanderJamesAdams

It starts at 1 dollar US currency per month but it will be helping to pay the monthly fee on my live-in Pro Tools Studio which I hope to have built by the end of this summer so I can make even more music and magic than before.

Splendid! Now I know that the little street urchins were hoping you might play a song for them before we eat?

This being May and still a little chilly, I recommend a “Good Beltaine Fire”!

https://alexanderjamesadams1.bandcamp.com/track/good-beltaine-fire

Oh marvellous! Well thank you so much for coming to help out in the soup kitchen today, Alexander, it’s been delightful chatting with you and I hope you will come back and see us again sometime. Now I must say that soup smells delicious. I think it must be about ready so shall we start dishing it up?

Please, and thank you so much for inviting me today! May your soups always be fulfilling to the soul!

Thankyou all of you for joining us today, I hope you will come back again next week and until then,

Blessings on your brew my dears!

Oh and before I go I must take a moment to apologise for the absence of Max and Collin this week, apparently their participation in the de-flowering festival has resulted in their home-made-steam-powered-wagonette crashing into a farmer’s barn and setting the whole thing on fire. They are now walking home, keeping to the woods and ditches to avoid said irate farmer, and should hopefully be back in the parlour next week – in my opinion it serves them right for fraternising with wayward cultists but, you know how it is, boys will be boys…

 


Soup Of The Day: With Citadel Costumes

Hello! Mrs Albert Baker here, otherwise known as The Last Witch Of Pendle. Obviously there is no Pendle any more, since The Chronic Agronauts utterly destroyed it with treacle and sprats, but I’ve set myself up quite nicely here in Lancaster, running this little soup kitchen for the street urchins. There certainly are a lot of them and I’m always looking for helping hands to cook up and serve something delicious!

Helping me this morning is Sara, creator of the marvellous larp and steampunk clothing at Citadel Costumes. Good morning Sara, thank you so much for coming to help me in my soup kitchen today! Tell me, have you brought along some soup to share with us?

Yes, I have my favourite homemade tomato and red pepper soup. I made it by softening a large, diced brown onion in a knob of butter. When soft, add two diced red bell peppers and several different types of sliced fresh tomatoes. My favourites are vine tomatoes and baby plums, but you can use any you like. Then add enough vegetable stock to cover the ingredients, a little salt and pepper and simmer until the tomatoes have turned into a pulp. Whilst you are waiting for that to happen put two sweet pointed peppers on a baking tray, and drizzle in a little oil, pop them in the oven at about 200 degrees, and roast them until soft and the skin is slightly blackened, drop them whole into the soup and remove from the heat. Once the soup is cooled, blend it in the pan until smooth… you can add a little single cream or natural yoghurt to make it creamier if you wish

Mmm, it smells delicious, I’m sure the little urchins will enjoy it immensely. Now while that is simmering away nicely, why don’t we take a look at some of your lovely hats and costumes, I see you have you brought some along to show us today!

You certainly have a wide range of costumes, what inspires or influences you when you sit down to create a new costume?

It depends really, if it’s a costume from my own imagination, it can be something as simple as seeing an image or texture, I then start to think about how to translate that into fabric, which then develops into a whole character costume…If it’s for a client, generally I build on key aspects of their brief, and add my own creative spin to it. I love a challenge, so I always try to add something to the design, which will push me outside my comfort zone. Whether that’s a challenging pattern cut, or a difficult dye job, I think it adds something special to the piece, a kind of exclusivity if you will.

 Splendid! Do you usually have a particular character or setting in mind when you create each one?

Not always, but sometimes a whole costume will pop into my head; I’ll think “Sea Elf” and the whole thing will be there in colour and texture with accessories!  Other times I’ll get inspired by a fabric, like Chinese Brocade and a kimono with a bustle will pop into my head! I’ll start to make the piece and a character will form around it, I’ll begin to visualise other aspects of the costume, the accessories, hairstyle, mannerisms etc.

(this must sound mad! Hehe)

No, no my dear, that does not sound mad at all, unless, as they say, ‘We’re all mad around here’ … but tell me,  do you take part in live action role play yourself?

Yes, I’ve only been involved in it for a couple of years, but it’s an amazing hobby. I’ve always been a bit of a daydreamer and I love dressing up. The role play was challenging for me, I felt rather awkward the first few events I went to, but throwing yourself into the game and the character you’re portraying is the best way forward. It’s pure escapism for me, a way to get away from work/life stress and although I come home from events exhausted, in a way, I always feel recharged too

It sounds marvellous! You have a lovely range of costumes in your shop but if a customer wanted something special do you take custom orders?

Yes I’m happy to take commissions, I find some of my best work comes from other peoples briefs, even though I’m quite whimsical, I like having guidelines too, it helps me focus!

Oh lovely! Now I know I am just longing to get one of your lovely hats! Tell me, where can we find your work displayed, featured or for sale?

Currently, I only have my Etsy store for online purchases, you can find that here:

https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/CitadelCostumes

I’m also on Facebook, where you can see what I’ve been up to, recent makes, upcoming trading events etc, that’s here:

https://www.facebook.com/citadelcostumes

And, if any of our discerning Steampunk friends attended The Chepstow Steampunk market, in south wales on the 22nd of april I was there too and may be again in the future.

Now that is a curious thing as I think some friends of ours were there as well! Now then, as the kettle is singing, the all important question, on which the fate of the world may hang…  which is the brew that inspires you more when you are creating, coffee or tea?

Oooh both really!,  a good cup of coffee, with milk, is what gets me going in a morning, and a nice cup of tea in the afternoon to pick me up when I’m flagging!

Splendid, here you are then a nice cup of tea to usher in the afternoon!

Well thank you so much for coming to help out in the soup kitchen today, Sara, it’s been wonderful to chat with you and I must say that soup smells delicious. I think it must be about ready and the little urchins have their rosy noses pushed up against the glass in anticipation so shall we start dishing it up?

By all means

 

Lovely, thankyou all for joining us in the soup kitchen today, and I will see you again next week with another splendid steampunk guest,

Blessings on your brew my dears!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Elevenses: Spies and Tarts

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen I hope you are all feeling extremely eleven o clockish because the time is of course eleven o clock and we have some audaciously awesome elevenses to share with you all, but whilst our lovely werewolf butler Klapka is dishing it up, let me take a moment to inform you of some developments in our subletting cushion enterprise… this note was delivered to Max on the corner of Baker’s Row at midnight…

Dear sirs

Hmmm… what sort of a gentleman requires manacles? Perhaps we would do better not to enquire… in fact perhaps we should endeavour to be out when he calls… mind you, manacles would come in useful around here, Montmorency certainly needs locking up, and Klapka too has her off days… ah well, best not to berate the cook before we have eaten eh? Let us see what she has cooked up for us this morning…

 

 

 

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This gorgeous rhubarb tart is the brain child of Allie at Baking A Moment click on the picture to see her lovely recipe and bake this amazing spring time treat for yourself…or have your butler make one for you…

Now then all we need to do is tune the Spirit Radio in to some delightful steampunk music to while away the morning…

 

Ah,steampunk spies by Derek Fiechter We wish you a delightfully unfettered afternoon and until we see you again, please be always,

Utterly Yourself


Elevenses: The Clockwork Collection

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen I hope you are all feeling extremely eleven o clockish because the time is of course eleven o clock and our lovely werewolf butler is simply straining at the leash to batter down our parlour door and assault our table with her culinary creations…

Oh dear Goddess just look at these jammie dodger bites from Katie Cakes they remind us partly of Dr Who (Tardis destruct button?) and partly of Alice in wonderland! Click on the picture to go to Katie’s recipe.

jammie dodger

 

But just before we fill our faces with these divine treats, let us tune in our spirit radio and find some awesome audios to usher in the afternoon…

The Clockwork Collection – Alexander James Adams

Splendid! We wish you a truly scrumptious afternoon filled with tasty treats and until we see you again please, be always,

Utterly Yourself


Elevenses: Utterly Hopeless Music

 

Good morning ladies and gentlemen I hope we are all feeling extremely eleven o clockish because it is of course time for elevenses and our tentacles are all of a tremble with excitement because we have received a very wonderful present from our dear friend Mrs Nimue Brown …

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Obviously she was aware of my recent ordeal at the mercy of that psychotic scarecrow and sent me this stunning portrait to cheer me up, I just adore the colours and details, especially the little spoon tucked into my top hat, it has absolutely made my day! And because we are hopelessly besotted with Mrs Brown’s gloriously gothic island of Hopeless Maine, let us tune in our spirit radio to listen to some of their glorious filk music right here….

Utterly Hopeless Music

And to accompany it I see our lovely werewolf butler, Klapka , has brought us something mouth-wateringly sumptuous this morning.. lavender honey cake from the wonderful kitchen of sprinkles for breakfast, this looks absolutely divine and you can find the recipe by clicking on the picture link.

lavender

Now there is nothing left to do except wish you all a most delicious afternoon filled with all your favourite fancies and we hope you will join mrs baker in her soup kitchen tomorrow when she will be joined by steampunk creator, Kaydance Heggarty, so until we see you again please be always

utterly yourself

 

 


Elevenses: Mad March Hats

Good morning ladies and gentlemen I hope we are all feeling extremely eleven o clockish because the time is, of course, eleven o clock and we are ferociously armed to the back teeth with tiffin but, before we launch our assault upon our stomachs, let us take a moment to perform our sacred tea ceremony for the month of march…

March was invented by The Powers That Tea, so that all honest tea fiends might have one sacred month in the year when we can inflict massive amounts of joy and jubilation upon the rest of humanity and try to convert them to our divine cause.

The Sacred Tea for March is ALL TEA.

Ceremonial Garb:  The Mad Top Hat

The Scared Ritual for the first of March is as follows:

The Chant:

 

There is only one leaf, and its name is ‘all leaves’

            There is only one kettle, and its name is ‘all steams’

            There is only one pot, and its name is ‘all pots’

            There is only one cup, and its name is ‘all cups’

            There is only one brew, and its name is ‘all brews’

The Oath:

I solemnly swear to accept the gift of the month of March as a month for spreading mischievous amounts of joy and tea-inspired jollity to those around me. I will honour the Powers That Tea by drinking All Tea with respect and acknowledging that tea is a divine gift to all, not to be hoarded or monopolised by one group of greedy guzzlers. As a mark of this vow I will wear my Mad Top Hat every day during the month of March.

 

There, now that we have the formalities out of the way we can indulge our true motive which is of course to get all punked up in fabulous hats! So we have scoured the aether far and wide for the best Milliners available and here is a selection of the delights we have found…

Maison Decantern

The Hatz Meow

Black Pin

Lucy Steampunk

Liver and Monk

Rose Lace Pearl

 

And right on queue here comes our delightful werewolf butler with this amazing top hat cake tutorial from Bake King… because there’s no batter way to celebrate the month of madness that with a mad hat cake!

 

And finally all we need is some awesomely audacious audios to usher in the afternoon, so lets tune in our spirit radio and see if we can find sort something hattish …oh here we are, here’s a fantastic tune for any Potter fans out there…

 

We wish you a marvellously mad afternoon filled with as many millinery delights as you desire and until we see you again please, be always,

Utterly Yourself

 

 


Soup of The Day: With Margaret McGaffey Fisk

 

Hello! Mrs Albert Baker here, otherwise known as The Last Witch Of Pendle. Obviously there is no Pendle any more, since The Chronic Agronauts utterly destroyed it with treacle and sprats, but I’ve set myself up quite nicely here in Lancaster, running this little soup kitchen for the street urchins. There certainly are a lot of them and I’m always looking for helping hands to cook up and serve something delicious!

 

Helping me this morning is storyteller Margaret McGaffey Fisk, author of The Steamship Chronicles.

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Good morning Margaret, thankyou so much for coming to help me in my soup kitchen today! Do let me take your coat my dear and…oh! What an adorable mechanical puppy you have with you!

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Hopefully he can scare off that dreadful clockwork cat that keeps sniffing about; it is a dreadful piece of gutter-wizardry! There, I have set him a little dish of oil on the rug. Now then, is that the lovely soup you have brought to share with us?

Yes! I was raised on a hearty pea soup myself. I think it would be wonderful to line urchin bellies especially if you have some butter crackers around that managed to avoid the recent soaking.

I certainly do, here we are…

I called on my mother for the exact recipe. I just hope I brought enough for everyone. Good thing dried peas can survive almost anything.

Christmas Eve Split Pea Soup

 

2 quarts boiling water

1 lb. split peas

1 medium carrot

1 stalk celery

1 white onion (optional)

 

Seasoning: 1 Bay leaf, 1/8 tsp Thyme, 1/8 tsp Savory, Salt & pepper.

 

Wash and quarter celery and carrot. Rinse split peas in cold water, drain and add with other veggies to boiling water. Season to taste. Boil moderately fast for 1-1/2 hours. More water may be added if necessary. Stir occasionally to prevent scorching. Take out bay leaf and blend until smooth.

 

P.S. My mother often puts in a cup of red wine for cooking. Also, when serving, she sometimes adds milk (and I always do ;)). The ham-flavored recipe just adds a ham shank or ham bone (rinsed) and added first to the boiling water. Then continue as above.

 

Mmm, it smells delicious, I’m sure the little urchins will enjoy it immensely. Now while that is simmering away nicely, why don’t you have a seat here by the fire. I hope your journey was a good one, although I imagine you are quite used to travelling by now, like me you seem to have done rather a lot of it!

I had quite an exciting journey on the way over here, but then I always have fun travelling whether it’s down familiar paths or somewhere brand new. It’s all in the perspective. You never know when you’ll see a wild animal, bird, or even just some unexpected structure to tickle your fancy.

That is so very true! You certainly seem to have lived in some very exciting places, has that influenced your writing do you think?

Not a bit 😉 unless you consider the frequent forays into desert and Middle Eastern imagery, the prevalence of social and cultural clashes, and philosophies uncommon to American traditions. In other words, quite a lot. On an amusing side note, the greatest culture clash I personally experienced was my return to the United States both because the diplomatic community has guides to your new cultures and because I was believed to be native when, beyond visits to family, I hadn’t lived stateside since I was three or four.

You’ve written plenty of historical fiction but what started your interest in steampunk?

Both my grandfathers were tinkerers (at least that’s how I remember them), and I spent many a visit with my mom’s father in his basement workshop. As a reader, I’ve always been drawn to the mad scientist type of story starting with Jules Verne and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Long before I’d heard the term, I loved steampunk, even playing with dismantled travel clocks myself.

However, I never thought to write in the genre until a very special young woman introduced herself and explained her story. My characters come to me rather than the other way round, so even had I thought to write steampunk, I would have floundered until Samantha showed up. How could I turn down a tale rife with social and economic change, and unjust laws to boot? This was the little sister in Safe Haven, by the way. I didn’t meet Lily until later.

Their world and personal circumstances offer the perfect conjunction of a grand adventure or two with questions to encourage thought about how we define people and treat difference. I don’t seek to make a statement with my writing, but I’m definitely drawn to stories that both entertain and have something interesting to say.

I have read the prequel book in the Steamship chronicles, Safe Haven, and very much enjoyed it. It is a gripping and highly original steampunk adventure that centres around the lives of Lily and Henry as they struggle against the prejudices which place Lily’s sister in danger. Would you like to tell us a little more about it?

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Well, though Safe Haven is the prequel to The Steamship Chronicles and was written first, it came into being after Sam showed up demanding her story be told. I saw a call for short novellas that were steampunk romances and I thought I had nothing. After dismissing the idea, Sam pointed out she didn’t come from nowhere and would I like to meet her sister? That didn’t work out as well as I’d hoped because their story, when held to a tight word count, missed too much of the meat. A few years later, I went back and fleshed out the society until the novel, a mix of romance and adventure, was born.

I’ll admit to having a soft spot for Henry, a crusader born to what he thought to be the wrong age and the wrong social status. Little did he know he would stumble upon a duty every bit as important as his grandfather’s efforts to hide those suffering from religious persecution. I would never have thought the older sister and guardian of a Natural (a small group of talented people able to talk to and transform machines—for those new to The Steamship Chronicles) would be drawn to a police officer, and had Henry been a normal man, I doubt she would have been. He might not have any supernatural abilities, but he’s a very special person who believes everyone has the right to be happy, regardless of class or circumstance.

And do the other books in the series continue this storyline, or do we move on to new characters within the same world?

The answer to this is yes … to both. There is an eight-year gap between the prequel and the series, giving Sam time to grow from a precocious child to an equally intense young woman. As is true of any good romance, Lily and Henry end up together, sharing the welcome task of protecting Lily’s little sister. But when it’s no longer possible, they send Sam off to the safe haven Lily and Sam had been working toward in the prequel. The first three books in the series focus on Sam’s journey in search of a place where she can be accepted for who she is. This introduces a whole cast of new characters, including Nathaniel Bowden. He is a cabin boy determined to learn all he can about sailing and steamships so he can captain a ship of his own someday. I have always loved the sea, and Nat is the embodiment of that joy. Lily and Henry remain in England, while Sam sets off for unknown lands. They are present only in the beginning of Secrets, but the second volume of three books (only Life and Law has been released as of yet and I’m currently writing the third) follow Henry’s attempts to end the persecution of all Naturals in England now that he won’t risk Sam’s safety doing so. As you might guess, they discover more than just legal hurdles oppose them, making their path a full adventure in its own right, peopled by some familiar and some new faces. I’ll even note, while Henry’s policing days are far behind him, his former team has an important role to play in this second volume as well.

Is the series finished or will there be more?

The series will ultimately be composed of three volumes and somewhere between seven and nine books. Only the first volume is complete, and the second just begun, so the series is not over quite yet. I also have some other stories in mind that are set in the same world with some character crossover for when this one is finished. I’m having far too much fun to walk away, and I hope my readers feel the same.

And do you have any new projects, appearances or releases in the coming months?

I’m on the verge of releasing the third in my Seeds Among the Stars series. While far future science fiction rather than steampunk, some of the same themes make an appearance there, and it’s definitely an adventure though of a very different sort. The main character in the first book fights her way out of the lowest class on a low-tech colony, not always making the right decisions, but determined and with a good heart. She shares the leading role in the later books with Deluth, who is ship-bred and has little experience with colony life.

The fifth Steamship Chronicles should also be out later this year, continuing Lily and Henry’s story as they leave the English shores for the Continent in search of Sam, among other goals.

Finally, if you enjoyed the sweet romance in Safe Haven, the fourth in my Regency sweet romance series, Uncommon Lords and Ladies will be released this year as well.

For those in (or visiting) the San Francisco Bay Area, California, I will be a panelist at BayCon 2017 over Memorial Day weekend, a convention focused on all things science fiction and fantasy: http://baycon.org/bcwp/.

Oh splendid, that sounds like lots to look forward to! And where can we find your books for sale?

I go where the readers are so you can find my books at the main online stores: Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, etc. If you’re a paper aficionado, all book-length works are available in paper both online and by order in your favorite bookstores. You can find links to many options on my website, which lists the anthologies and short stories I have out as well: http://margaretmcgaffeyfisk.com/publications/.

For those intrigued about The Steamship Chronicles, you should know Secrets (the first in that series) is free in eBook at all the main online stores.

Splendid! And now the all important question, upon which the fate of the universe may hinge – the kettle is singing so, what is your favourite hot brew and how do you take it?

I have to name just one? If so, it must be a traditional Masala chai, spiced and steeped very dark with cream, just one more influence of my vagabond childhood. Sacrilege, I know, because properly done, it’s steeped all day in the spices and tea leaves. I can’t remember which of the first volume books, but one of them has a tiny joke about the differences between tea steeping across cultures.

Oh I completely agree with you about the Masala Chai my dear! Well thankyou so much for coming to help out in the soup kitchen today, Margaret, it’s been wonderful to chat with you and I must say that soup smells delicious. I think it must be about ready and the little urchins have their rosy noses pushed up against the glass in anticipation so shall we start dishing it up?

Absolutely. Mustn’t keep hungry bellies empty. I do so hope you will answer the question of “please, [Miss], can I have some more?” with a full soup bowl and a smile.

But of course! Besides the seaweed they scavenge from the shoreline, this soup is the only sustenance the poor darlings have.

Thank you for having me. It’s been a delight, and always grand to enjoy a thick soup with eager company. If you’d like to explore any of my worlds a little more or just say “hi”, feel free to drop in at my website, http://margaretmcgaffeyfisk.com/ . I’m always happy to see new faces.

Wonderful, well thankyou once again Margaret for helping me today, I hope you will all join me again next week when Mr Ichabod Temperance and Miss Persephone Plumtartt will be joining me to help dish up some tasty soup so, until then,

Blessings on your brew my dears!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Soup of the day: With Elen Sentier

 

Hello! Mrs Albert Baker here, otherwise known as The Last Witch Of Pendle. Obviously there is no Pendle any more, since The Chronic Agronauts utterly destroyed it with treacle and sprats, but I’ve set myself up quite nicely here in Lancaster, running this little soup kitchen for the street urchins. There certainly are a lot of them and I’m always looking for helping hands to cook up and serve something delicious!

Helping me this morning is author and Awenydd (or Spirit-Keeper) Elen Sentier. Good morning Elen, thank you so much for coming to help me in my soup kitchen today! Can I offer you a cup of tea?

Lapsang Souchong, please, straight, no milk. Unless you happen to have Bruichladdich single malt ???

I’m afraid I don’t touch alcohol Elen, it’s my husband Albert who is the drinker. Now here is your tea  my dear…

Thankyou Mrs Baker, I wonder if we’re related? My aunt was Ida Baker who kept the sacred well in the village on the edge of Exmoor where I grew up; it was in the wall between her garden and ours, still there and still revered. She was a darling, and so was her magical gardener-husband, Uncle Perce, she gave me seedy cake and strawberries when I got in trouble at home when I was a wee kiddie J, and Uncle Perce taught me about talking with plants and bees.

They both sound marvellous Elen, you know I do think it’s possible we could be connected in some way, although I have never been to Exmore I’m afraid, it was my Mother’s job to guard Pendle before me, and I had never set foot outside it until the pirates came and kidnapped me…

BTW, I’m really sorry to hear about the treacle (and the sprats!). Just down the road from me is, I think, the only pub in the country called The Treacle Mine. Wish they could have done that with you, a much better idea z|a.

Oh we do have treacle mines at Sabden and Chobham, but you’re right it was a dreadful waste of confectionary, I do wish they had used some of the dreadful ‘standard issue tinned soup’ the government forces upon us all instead…

Oh yes, the soup for the orphans! … well, goodness me, there’s so many. When it’s the season, I just love tomato soup and it’s so simple to do. You need a good wallop of ripe tomatoes, the ones with that fabulous smell, a big bunch of fresh basil, and you can either use olive oil or good butter, butter gives it an extra sweetness. You need a good, heavy-bottomed pot to make it in.

Chop the basil really fine so all its scented oils are released. Chop the tomatoes small, and heat up the oil or butter, not boiling but good and hot. Take the pot off the heat, put half the chopped basil into it and swish it about to scent up the oil/butter, then add all the tomatoes and put back on the heat. Don’t have the heat up high or you’ll burn rather than cook. Keep stirring the mix as this helps the flavours to seep through. When the tomatoes look/taste/feel ready take the pot off the heat and allow it to sit for at at least an hour to steep further. 

When you want to eat, heat up the pot again but don’t boil, keep stirring and watching, as soon as it’s ready pour it into heated bowls and Bob’s your uncle J. I like to eat it with some fresh sourdough bread and good unsalted butter, and maybe a bit of grated cheese … Yummmm !

Oh how delicious, there is nothing better than good homemade tomato soup (it knocks the socks of the tinned variety every time!) Now while that is simmering away nicely, why don’t you have a seat here by the fire. I hope your journey to our dimension was a good one?

Not too bad at all, got a bit bumpy flying over the M6, the turbulence there can be frightful, damned near fell off me broom and the cat got sick! But we’re all fine now, that cuppa you gave me sorted things.

Oh dear, the poor cat, I’m glad he is feeling better now though. Elen it is so lovely to meet another woman who deals in spiritual matters, here in Ire it is absolutely forbidden and I have to do all my work in secret which is a dreadful strain. Now why don’t I put the kettle on and you can tell me a little more about the work that you do ?

Another cuppa would go down grand, and the cat would love a saucer of milk now, says his stomach can handle it. We, he and me, don’t have quite the same problems you seem to have up here, not down in the Welsh Marches. It’s a lovely twilight land, between two countries and between two worlds, where the Faer folk are very happy to come and play with me and the students. I always have some students to pass on the work to, the old ways, and it’s such a lovely spot for writing too.

It sounds wonderful. I have had the very great pleasure of reading some of your books, including your newest release;  Merlin – past and future Wizard, oh is that a copy you have with you there?

Yes, indeed, would you like it? I thought you might so I brought one along. Hmm … Merlin … well he and I’ve been friends all my life. Dad it was who introduced us, Dad’d known him too, when I was nought but a baby, and I began to find out about him through the stories. Where I live now is one of the places he was born and lived, we have our own Merlin-story but here we call him Dyfrig (you say it Duvrigg) which means water-baby because of how he got born.

 

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I had heard a little about this Merlin figure from your world and thought him to be a fascinating mythical character but your book goes beyond these myths to show us a Merlin who we can engage with within the context of our daily lives doesn’t it?

Well yes, he’s not an academic construct and certainly doesn’t fit into those boxes. He really does want to get known again, to make friends with as many people as want to know him because he really can, and will, help us through this enormous crisis the Earth is going through.

He wants to know people – when they want to know him. He comes as a friend, an older and more experienced friend who has walked the path far longer than any of us humans. But he comes as a guide not someone who expects either worship or rule-book following. He works with each of us in ways we can do best. All we need to do is ask him. I say “all” but I do know how hard that can be, because we’re no longer encouraged to believe and work with our intuition, nor are we taught how to know it from our personal wants and desires. That’s part of what we learn with Merlin.

 It seems that Merlin is a figure who can guide and influence us no matter what age we are living in but are the old stories as important as the new?

Yes, indeed. Merlin is just what the book-title says – the once and future wizard. He has been with us here on Earth since time out of mind, and he will be as long as the Earth still orbits the Sun. And, it seems to me from my lifelong experience with him, that he was around in the universe long before the Earth was formed and will be still after she’s gone. That makes him always here, always available to help … whenever we ask. And the old stories are still as important as the new. Our old ways are what I call “and/and” rather than “either/or”, they’re inclusive not exclusive. We are our personal selves and, at the same time, we are our spirit selves, the two are not exclusive, they happen at the same time – we call it walking between worlds.

Everyone’s spirit-life is always evolving. Nothing is ever set in tablets of stone, it’s always growing and adapting to where and when we are at this instant, so new stories are needed to fit with who we are now. But the old stories still fit too – if you read them properly and don’t try to dumb them down into whatever your “normal-box” is. Stories are one of the very basic ways humans learn and pass on wisdom to each other, and always have. Recent research has shown that our stories – the ones they’ve worked with – go back at least to the Bronze Age, that’s maybe 5,000 years ago! The old stories show us how to be, how to behave, how things really are, and how to relate with otherworld, as well as how to travel there. But we, and our stories, are as riddling and contrary as Zen, if not more so. To get the point, understand them, you need to spend time with the stories learning how to feel into them rather than trying to translate them into what you already know. After all, what’s the point of doing that? !!!

Throughout the book this dynamic, engaging (at times quite seductive) spirit of Merlin urges us to take up that liminal space between past and present and truly live ‘in the moment’… that is a very big challenge isn’t it, especially with all the pressures and insecurities of modern life?

Chuckle! Yes, he can be very seductive! That way of living, engaging all the time with the liminal, is very challenging for many modern folk. We’re so heavily caught up in the shibboleths of how we should be, according to the adverts on TV, politics, political correctness and all that crap! And it’s so scary for most people to dare to break out. This is the first hurdle my students have to get themselves over, and they do it too but it can be like ripping your skin off, like a snake shedding its skin. And getting used to the fact (yes, fact!) that otherworld completely permeates your everyday world is a huge step, but it does, and the students discover this for themselves with my help. That’s really important too, I do Merlin’s job in little, at my own small level, because I’ve walked the path a bit longer than my students. You always need that, someone you can really get on with who’s been doing it longer than you. That’s what being apprentice is about.

 

The Merlin I felt as I read your book, Elen, seemed to be firmly planted in the modern man-made world, but at the same time you show us his continuing rootedness in nature and the history of the land, do you think it is important that Merlin is able to straddle these, sometimes so opposing, spaces?

Oh yes, he’s the threshold, the doorway, the place between that connects us across the worlds. And he’s in the here-n-now with us just as much as in the “past”. An example – he called one of my students on her mobile phone last autumn on the workshop! LOL, it was hairy for her but she got it, worked with it and grew herself enormously as a result. And it made me smile. We too often want to get into the cutesy fantasy-stuff rather than reality, and Merlin’s all about reality. He’s in every particle of our Earth’s body as well as being with us in our everyday modern world – and/and again. Try this ancient picture of the goddess/god, it’s on a gold brooch from the La Teine culture …

lady-lord

Do you get it? The one head is the other but turned upside-down! And/and yet again J. One interpretation of this is Vivien and Merlin as lady and lord, the pairs of opposites which make the whole. We’ve forgotten that. We’re taught to think that things are “opposing” when in reality they’re two sides of one coin. We need to change this attitude and Merlin will help us with that. Being a threshold is how he does it. Come to me he says, step through me, now look back and I’m still here but different, the same but different. It’s a bit like light which is both particles and waves at the same time!

Your book was such an enlightening read, Elen, and I really feel I could pick your brains all day about this subject but I know you must be off soon, you have a talk to prepare for in London is that correct?

I do indeed. I’m doing an illustrated talk for Earthstars Sacred Space, at Steiner House in London on 24th Feb, and need to get on it J. It’s about Merlin and his relevance for us today too. If you want to come here’s the link https://www.facebook.com/events/1839244072988715/

 

Oh marvellous, I shall certainly try to come along, even if I cannot do the dimension hop in person I will try to tune in with Max and Collin’s Spirit Radio, it picks up most things from your world. Well thank you so much for coming to help out in the soup kitchen today, Elen, it’s been wonderful to chat with you and I must say that soup smells delicious. I think it must be about ready and the little urchins have their rosy noses pushed up against the glass in anticipation so shall we start dishing it up?

Yummm! Let me give you a hand …

Wonderful, thankyou. I hope you will all join me in the kitchen next week when Steampunk author Liz Hennessy will be dropping in to give me a hand and talk about her book Grogory’s Gadget. Until then,

Blessings on your brew my dears!


Elevenses: The Language Of Flowers

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen I hope you are feeling extremely eleven o clockwise because the time is indeed eleven o clock so please, Hang up your top hat of imposing mental prowess, fold down your pugnacious parasol and pull up a chair (or lemonade crate)

 

This morning our lovely werewolf butler has been out picking flowers for us… hm? Oh no, no, no don’t worry, nothing like that… we need them for the revolution. Sorry? War of the roses? Oh I see, you are trying to be amusing! Oh well done, yes…hm… but seriously now, please, these flowers which Max is diligently dismantling over there are going to play a vital role in overthrowing the queen and taking our first tentative steps towards world domination…. Hm? Oh yes, sorry, you’re right of course I did mean world liberation. Liberation from the tea time tyranny of Wiz.

 

You may be aware that Max and his fellow revolutionaries communicate with each other using coded poetry books and an unnecessarily complicated language of stamps? Well now we are attempting to incorporate Floriography (the language of flowers) as well. If you are plotting a revolution, you may wish to consider using this marvellous coding method yourself and so here, for your convenience, are some commonly used flowers and their traditional Victorian meanings to get you started…

Yellow Marquerile – I come soon

Canterbury Bell  – Your letter was received

Iris – I sent a message

Red Fuchia – I like your taste

Pinks – Yes

Wild Rose – Pleasure and pain

Poppy – I am not free

White rose – I cannot

But goodness, all this flower arranging tires one’s tentacles to the extreme, let us break for a while and see if Klapka has not been too busy flower picking to to make us something delicious for our elevenses… mmm, lemon and lavender tea cookies! They are her own recipe, and here it is…

Lemon and Lavender Tea Cookies

150g plain flower

100g butter or margarine

50g caster sugar

1 lemon zest finely grated

1 tsp hot earl grey tea

1 tsp lavender flowers

Mix all ingredients together to form a soft dough, adding a little more flour or tea as needed. Roll into a sausage shape, wrap in cling film and chill for 1 – 24 hours. Slice into cookie rounds (each about the thickness of a pound coin) and bake on a greased tray on gas 4 for about 10mins until pale gold. Leave to cool down and firm up then serve with a cup of jasmine or lady grey tea.

Delicious! And now there is nothing left to do but find some soothing music to tap our tentacles to as we nom …

 

Marvellous, we hope you have a very lovely afternoon and we invite you back to join us for our morning cuppa on Monday, until then please be always

Utterly Yourself


Soup of the day: With Darq ‘the doll with a blog’

Oh my goodness! Um…Greetings my dears! Do please excuse me…if you could just avert your eyes for a moment, I am just changing back into my usual attire…

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Wizmas is a very dangerous time to be a witch. That’s  why I have had to put on my false moustache and toupee and pretend to be my non-existent husband, Albert, to avoid awkward questions!

Nevertheless, to celebrate the fact that Wizmas is now over we’re cooking up a secret feast for all the little orphans here in the soup kitchen. Helping me this afternoon is a lady of extraordinarily adventurous inclination and impeccable fashion sense…

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My guest has a most unusual name—Darq. No last name, but she’s a titled lady on her homeworld. Those titles are—

– Princess of the Misted Moon
– Warrior-Huntress of the Mayahi Dyn
– First Daughter of Pyhanni of the White Grasses
– Granddaughter of Zukaltay of the Octal-Ute Dyn, and an esteemed Naren (a chieftain)

Darq is also the twenty-fourth daughter of the late (deceased) statesman of the Chimalli Ishi Nation. His name was Gidwi. Definitely Darq is a lady not of our world but of the Wysotti nation, a matriarchal planet in a distant solar system. Darq is also a much-decorated Wysotti starfighter pilot, the heroine of her homeworld, and it is her avatar who is my guest today! Please welcome— Darq, the doll with a blog!

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Hello Darq, it is so marvellous to have you here in Lancaster today, have you brought some cake to share?

Hello, Mrs. Baker, and yes, I’ve brought you my Fruity Cake.

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Fruit Cake? Oh, my dear, no, surely not fruit cake!

(Darq chuckles.) No, no. Fruity Cake. It’s nothing like that atrocious stuff you Earth people make at Christmas and Wizmas, which is only good for use as a fighter plane’s stop-block. Here, look at the recipe and you’ll see.

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Darq’s Fruity Cake
by Author Catherine E. McLean @2012   http://www.CatherineEmclean.com

4 eggs
1 stick of butter (softened)
one 14.5 oz can of Delmonte “no sugar added very cherry fruit mix” – not drained
one 8 oz. can of pineapple tidbits, drained
3/4 cup chopped nuts (pecans preferred)
1 carrot cake mix (cake can be made from scratch)

Into a bowl, pour in the cake mix, then add all the other ingredients and beat until well blended. Pour into a greased bundt pan or bundt mold. Bake at 350 degrees for approx. 45-55 minutes (or until knife comes out clean). If using a 9×13 cake pan, bake for approx. 30-40 minutes.
Serve warm with ice cream or pudding.
May be cooled and coated with confectioner’s sugar (powdered sugar) or Cream Cheese Frosting with a fresh fruit topper (mandarin oranges, sliced strawberries, blueberries, etc.)

Oh, yes, I see. Simple, quick . . . sweet . . . fruity . . . Shall we make some for the orphans?

(Darq chuckles again.) Yes. The MIBs said you liked to cook with your guests, so I brought my apron.

Lovely, now while that bakes, let’s sit and have a spot of tea. Do you have a favourite blend my dear?

I do. It’s called Xaaykop.
Xaaykop? I’m afraid I’ve never heard of it…

It’s from my home world. As a friendship gift, I brought you some.

 

Oh, my, such a lovely tea chest! Thankyou!

The artificial flowers on top of the chest are just like the real ones on my planet. Like the leaves, when the seed pods ripen, they are so dark a green they appear black. You grind and brew the tea like any regular Earth tea…

But? I hear a but.

I have to warn you, the longer you brew it, the higher the caffeine content.

Yes we do have to be careful, caffeine is strictly rationed here in The New World! Although, I have never been one to abide by rules and dictates so, how long do you like yours brewed my dear?

Until it’s darkest mahogany, and I take it with six sugars.

Hot, highly caffeinated, and sweet?

(Darq nods.) Some say the caffeine at that darkness has a kick is as powerful as a Ky starfighter at full throttle.

Well, I’ll have to take your word for that since I’ve never ridden in any starship. Now, my dear, as we have a little time while that is brewing, you can tell me about your home planet. Is it similar to ours?


In many ways. It’s what you humans call a Class M Planet. Thankfully, it’s still orbiting its sun-star.

I heard rumours of some type of doomsday curse your people were under.

That’s right. One of my ancient ancestors visited Earth and destroyed the Mayans. For that we Wysotti were cursed so that when the five thousandth year of the Mayan calendar ended, our planet and all its people were to be annihilated.

But you’re here. Alive and all is well.

And the tale of how that came to be can be found in the novel JEWELS OF THE SKY, by author Catherine E. McLean.

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http://www.catherineemclean.com/jewels-of-the-sky.html

And what of these mysterious men in black you mentioned earlier? They’re not Wizards are they?

No. But the weapons the Men In Black have, and the alien beings they monitor, well, sometimes the technology and science seems like magic. If you are able to peer into the future, their story is accurately portrayed in the movies, which are titled Men In Black.

My, my, you lead such an interesting and exciting life. Can you tell us a little about your latest adventure?

(Darq laughs.) I’m now a doll with a blog, who is also considered a fashionista! And before you ask, the premise of my being on Earth is to act as an ambassador at large for my homeworld. My very first outing on your planet had me traveling to a cave in Mexico to be interviewed by Father Dragon (a very old Fire Dragon) who’s elves were quite the video crew.

In other words, I stay with the JEWELS OF THE SKY author, and periodically I go to events, like parties.

Parties! I’ve heard about some of those parties. Particularly this October’s Halloween party at Dracula’s Castle.

(Darq nods.) Yes, that was fun, particularly my steampunk costume. But, Mrs. Baker, parties are actually social events where more diplomacy goes on than one realizes. Yet, there are also dangers. One is that I cannot make headlines. And the paparazzi are a constant threat, so I’m always accompanied by a team of Men In Black who whisk me to exotic and clandestine locations.

Lancaster can be a dangerous place, too, what with the flesh-eating Liver Birds Lord Ashton employs.

Liver Birds!?

Yes, they keep the streets free of what the Tea Time Lords would call ‘vagrants’. If you are travelling home late tonight or planning to visit Peril again in his Lovely Library, I hope you have brought something to protect yourself with?

(Darq grins, and then, from her apron pocket, produces a small pistol)

 

Mrs. Baker, meet the Noisy Cricket.

That tiny thing? Oh, no, my dear, that will never, never do!

Don’t let the size fool you. This weapon has more power, and one helluva mule-kick when fired, than The Jackhammer, a tri-barrel plasma gun, which is a staple in the MIB arsenal. The Jackhammer is a type of raygun. So is this Noisy Cricket.

 Oh, yes, well, a raygun! Of course, Max has something similar which seems to work perfectly well. Yes, that should certainly put pay to any nocturnal attackers, be they Liver Birds, Lemonade Dealers, or Skywaymen! I now have no fears of you reaching the Skyway station in safety. More tea, my dear?

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Now then,  moving on to more pleasant things, I greatly admire those wonderful outfits you’re photographed in at your blog. Do you have any favourites?

If you asked me that before Halloween, I would have unequivocally said my top pick was the witch Evenora emerald green dress. Followed by Catherine’s favorite, the white and silver 1920’s Erte gown.

But now? Some other outfit is now your favourite?

Yes. The Steampunk Halloween Costume I wore in October.

And, my dear, I hear you have a bit of a passion for shoes as well?

(Darq laughs.) You could say I’m a shoeaholic!

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That is certainly an impressive collection my dear! You must drop by and see Max and Collin while you are in town. Max can show you the infamous ‘spot of bother boots’ and Collin will be so envious of your shoe collection as, of course, tentacles do not lend themselves readily to footwear!

So, the MIB have told me!

Ah, I believe it is time for the cake to come out…


 

There now, that’s the cake ready, we’ll just let that cool.

(Darq looks at her hat’s timepiece, then at Mrs. B.) The hour grows late. I can’t stay but a quarter of an hour more or the MIBs will come pounding on your door to get me. The time portal doesn’t stay open forever.

So true. Well, my dear, thank you so much for helping me prepare this wonderful Fruity Cake for the orphans and for the tea and chat. As soon as the cake cools, I’ll slice it up and serve it to the orphans.

And don’t forget the ice cream.

Ice Cream, my dear? What Ice Cream?

(Darq grins.) The barrel of vanilla ice cream that I brought and which the Men In Black, with Collin and Max’s help, were hefting into your cold cellar so the ice cream wouldn’t melt. Not that it would melt with the frigid night air, but we couldn’t let a barrel just set on your doorstep, now could we?

No indeed! If The Good Folk of Her Majesty’s Revenue thought I was serving Ice Cream they’d have my head! I..oh, wait, what is that?

(There comes the sound of the door knocker rapping and a voice calls “Good Folk on patrol Mrs B, thought you’d like to know!”)

Oh, dear me . . . Darq, you had better fly and I must hide all this evidence! But my dear, you surely cannot run in that skirt!

Never fear, Mrs. Baker, I came prepared for all contingencies, including ninja stars disguised as gears on my sleeve cuff and daggers sheathed in the key-holders on my unmentionables.(Darq hugs Mrs. Baker.)

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Thank you so much for inviting me to cook for the orphans. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit.

It is I who thank you for stopping by, Darq. And I look forward to seeing your Valentine’s Day outfit and reading your blog, we must certainly do this again some time, but now farewell and blessings on your brew my dear!

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Oh my goodness, I must quickly hide all this sugar…and the tea! Do please excuse me my dears, and do please join me here next week when Captain Piper and her trade ship The Mischief will be dropping in to help me with the soup kitchen.

Blessings on your brew my dears!

 

A note from Penny…  All of the amazing photographs, dolls clothes and accessories used in this blog post were put together by Catherine E Mclean, I use them here with her kind permission.

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http://www.Catherineemclean.com

Mrs Bakers script was written by myself and Darq’s speach by Catherine. I have never interviewed  a doll before! Thankyou Catherine for a heartily enjoyable and amusing experience! 


Elevenses: Frosty Fayre

Good morning ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Max and Collin’s splendiferously sparkling and frostabulously frozen parlour located in the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster!

True, some have called it a frigid place of cold hearts and frosty welcomes but we consider that uch people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.

You find us this morning, warming our tentacles beside an imaginary fire after an enterprising and entertaining morning at the fabulous frost fair which is being held on our beloved river Lune.

Our psychotic scarecrow landlord, Montmorency, woke us before dawn with the business end of his walking cane and demanded that we head out into the frozen darkness and not return until we had enough money to pay for this month’s rent. The fact that we only just paid for the last month seems to have escaped the rogue and so I perched upon Max’s shoulder and we set off towards the river.

There were already traders setting up stalls on the ice but none of them took favourably to our offers  of  assistance (it seems that Queen Vic’s recent  amendments to equality in employment law do not extend to an Octopus and a Tea Fiend) So we settled ourselves on the bank instead and watched the sun rise over the frosted spires of the sail barges which had collapsed crazily into the ice sheets and lay mired liked the skeletons of stranded beasts from some fantastical caffeine-fuelled nightmare.

Things picked up once the punters arrived. After some initial competition from a woman hawking root beer (For a Very Quite Gentleman, Max can be terribly clumsy when glass bottles are around) we managed to sell twenty bottles of lemonade (and drink many more) without being lynched by the barge folk for selling without paying the trading fees.

We decided that that was quite enough hard shirking for one morning and spent the rest of the time mooching around the stalls, watching the jugglers and fire eaters and, most impressively to me, the ice skaters. Having lived under the sea all my life, I never imagined this curious form entertainment and I am determined, soon, to beg, borrow or steal enough pairs of ice skates to attempt the thing myself.

Now here we are back in the parlour, our landlord briefly appeased, our cats greedily devouring the last of the skimmed milk ration, and all desperately in need of a reviving spot of elevenses and some soothing music to tap our tentacles to. Unfortunately our absconding butler has not seen fit to deliver the goods this morning (perhaps she thinks it’s a holiday? ‘Though what a werewolf would find to do at a frost fair we have no idea…) but not to worry because we managed to run into our lovely Mrs Baker on the way back and she has set us up with a packet of genuine Frost Fair Souvenir Gingerbread which, knowing Mrs B, will be crammed full of illegal sugar…mmm…

And, by happy chance, Max’s constant pocket companion ‘The Whole Duty Of A Woman (or an infalliable guide to the fair sex) – 1737’ (A birthday gift from a devoted family member I think) has an excellent recipe for … OWCH! …Well, really! You know, for a Very Quiet Gentleman, Max, you  can be excessively violent devoid of a sense of humour…

I was going to say, before I was so rudely interrupted by a flying teapot, that this is a recipe for ginger bread biscuits, rather than the cake which we are enjoying now but it is nonetheless share-worthy, I think…

“To Make Gingerbread…

Take a pound and a half of London Treacle, two eggs beaten, half a pound of sugar, one ounce of ginger, beaten and sifted, of cloves, mace and nutmeg, all together, half an ounce beaten very fine, coriander seeds and caraway seeds of each half an ounce, Two punds of butter melted; mix all these together, with as much flour a will knead it into a pretty stiff paste, then roll it out and cut it into what Form you please; bake it in a Quick Oven on Tin-plates; A little time will bake it.”

 

And now we’d better tune in our Tesla radio and have some soothing sounds to placate my beastly savage companion… drink your tea Max and calm yourself down, it is not becoming for a Very Quiet Gentleman to sulk like that…

 

Ah, much better, that was Smith and Burrows if you were not aware of the before they are rather marvellous. We wish you a very pleasant afternoon, filled with with warmest and spiciest of delights, and we will see you back on Thursday for something rather special. So, until then, please be always,

Utterly Yourself

 

 

 

 

 


Soup of the day: Whovian knits and Wild mushroom soup

Good morning! Albert Baker here, did you want some soup? You did? Well that’s fortunate isn’t it as this is a soup kitchen and… hic…and today I’m serving up some delicious Polish Wild Mushroom Soup from Ren Behan, click on the picture to see the rercipe…

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and while that is simmering away I shall just pull out my knitting bag and do a spot of crochet.  Today I am going to share with you a treasure trove of Whovian delights from Terry Matz at In The Loop Knitting

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Right now, I must get on and serve this soup, see you again next week I expect, goodness me this Wizmas is dragging on isn’t it? Good day….hic…


Soup Of The Day:Butternut goats cheese and crochet death star

Good morning! Albert Baker here, did you want some soup? You did? Well that’s fortunate isn’t it as this is a soup kitchen and… hic…and today I’m serving up some mouthwatering Moroccan butternut and goats cheese soup from Half Baked Harvest..

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and while that is simmering away I shall just pull out my knitting bag and do a spot of crochet.  Today I am going to try this marvellous Death Star cushion from Popsdemilk

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Right now, I must get on and serve this soup, see you again next week I expect, good day….hic…