A Beany Book Review: September

Beany here again, with a few of my favourite books! It’s all about the counting this month. I love to count to four and sometimes even five if I’m in the right mood. This month I’m here to tell you about some great counting books and a crazy baby that has an owl in its towel!


Over In The Meadow by Louise Voce

I like animals and I like counting. What’s not to love about this book. I’m not entirely sure about ‘seven’ rhyming with ‘even’,  but mummy says we should brush over that and not worry about it. The Lizards eight climbing all over the gate get me every time.

Conclusion: Great bouncy rhyme to help you count to ten with plenty of friends along the way.

There’s An Owl In My Towel by Julia Donaldson & Rebecca Cobb


Donaldson’s back again with a baby that shares a towel with an owl and a chair with a hare. Rhyming’s always good in a book, it helps the story jog along and this book is on my wave length. There’s no way I’m sharing my towel with an owl and I’m very grateful for the warning this book has provided. I’ll be making sure mummy checks the towel before I get out of the bath in future.

Conclusion: A book describing the folly of sharing with inappropriate guests.

Louie’s Numbers by Yves Got


Louie is a rabbit that cannot get enough of counting. He counts to ten and then back again. The pictures are bright and colourful and my favourite place to read this book is at the bottom of the stairs whilst I’m waiting for my breakfast.

Conclusion: Excellent counting book that provides hours of entertainment when the staff are slow with breakfast.

Beany Book review

What books are you reading at the moment? I’d love to know so don’t forget to let mummy know so she can add them to my library!


Yogurt Flavoured Nostalgia

When I was younger I remember my mum making yogurt. We added honey and fruit and enjoyed natural, fresh yogurt every day.

Beany loves yogurt but the amount of sugar in them concerns me and I harked back to those days of the yogurt maker on the kitchen side at home. I’d see more modern versions of yogurt makers but they used pre-made mixes and they weren’t quite the same. Then I found one that you missed your own ingredients for, under £13 and almost exactly the same as the one my mum used to have!

When it arrived , I couldn’t wait to get going and I made up a batch to see how it went. The recommended quantities in the instruction manual only half filled the yogurt pots but it worked a treat and we’ve been eating yummy homemade yogurt this week, with fruit puree or grapes and a touch of honey. Next time I’ll double the ingredients to fill the pots.

So why not just buy natural yogurt, I hear you ask? Well 500ml of Organic plain natural yogurt is £1.65 . I can make 1 litre of plain natural organic yogurt for £1.50. Of course there’s the cost of the yogurt maker but we all love yogurt in this house so over time it will make us a saving. It’s cut down on the refined sugar we’re eating in shop bought yogurts, it’s super simple to use and it comes with a healthy dose of nostalgia. What’s not to love?

Well, the one thing I don’t love about a new purchase is the packaging! I try to buy second hand but in the case of the yogurt maker, as it’s being used to make our food, I preferred to know what had happened to it. Perhaps that’s just me. The end result was I had a lot of packaging that would potentially end up in landfill. What was I to do with it?

I’m often inspired by Instagram and I have been following Shonagh of @threebusyboys over there. She comes up with some great ideas to entertain her little ones and recently she’s been using colour wheels and season wheels to teach her boys colours and seasons. So, when I looked at the yogurt packaging, what did I see? A colour wheel!


I coloured the bottom of the seven holes that  held the glass pots and Beany helped.


Then I collected bits and pieces from the craft box that corresponded to the colours. This isn’t quite as slick as Shonagh’s creations but Beany just loves it and has had many a happy moment sorting them into the holes. Even better, when she’s done, it all packs away in the box the yogurt maker came in!


Have you got a yogurt maker? I’d love to know what your favourite additions are. Have you made a great toy out of recycled packaging? Don’t forget to let me know below!

We Did It!

The crowdfunder was a success! Thanks to you amazing people, ‘A Deadly Orientation’, the next Blake Hetherington mystery is now a reality!

We need a dancing cat, right?


OK now that’s out the way, what happens next?

I’ve just finished editing the manuscript and I will be sending it to my proof reader and copy editor, Piers Cardon within the next few weeks. The plan is to have the book with the printers by November so it’s printed by December in plenty of time for Christmas. I’ll be sure to update you along the way.

A Deadly Orientation

I am no-longer offering numbered first edition copies or the perks offered exclusively through the crowdfunder but if you would like to order a copy of ‘A Deadly Orientation’, ready for Christmas then please e-mail me through the contact form on the website here.

There’s still lots to do, so I better stop trying to copy the cat and get on with it. Thanks again to everyone who pledged, shared and hosted on their blog. I couldn’t have done it without you!



Bloomin’ Update: Life’s A Beach

The last time I checked in with an update on the garden remodel we were contemplating how we were going to get tonnes and tonnes of sand and top soil into a walled, end terrace garden. With no access via the front or sides of the garden, there was no choice but to go through the garage and it was going to mean multiple deliveries so as to ensure we did not block access to the neighbours garages.

Initially we thought we’d need near fifteen tonnes of soil. We decided to go for a mix of sand and soil putting high quality top soil on top.

A couple of weekends ago saw the first delivery of sand to bulk out the first layer. We found a very helpful company who had a truck capable of delivering 3.5 tonne at a time and could get around the back of the house; not an easy task in a truck.


The delivery went off without a hitch and the sand is now in our garden. The bad news is our garden now looks more like a beach and I am constantly hoovering up sand in the house. The good news is, it looks like we mis-calculated! The garden doesn’t have a uniformly graduating slope, so instead of fifteen tonne we might get away with under ten. One possibly two deliveries of top soil and we’ll be done.


Beany loved helping daddy dig the sand into the wheelbarrow and had a great day in the garden. I think she’s going to be a little disappointed when it’s all finished.



Meanwhile, whilst the garden’s being cleared and levelled I have planted some Calvo Nero  kale in the raised bed and I’ve been busy defending it against an onslaught of cabbage white butterflies. The plants seem to be doing well with careful vigilance and daily butterfly egg removal. I can’t put nets over them where they are, as there’s no way of securing it while the works going on. Something to remember for another year though.


The borders I cleared last month have sprung up with weeds due to some heavy rain showers and sunshine but I have received a delivery of daffodil, allium, tulip and muscari bulbs to plant so I’ll be out there planting them as soon as there is a break in the weather.

The great thing about this latest phase is we are slowly able to see what the garden will eventually look like even if it is taking us much longer than we expected.

I hoped you enjoyed this update and I’ll be back with another one soon.

Have you attempted a garden remodel? What did you learn? Have you got any tips? Don’t forget to let us know in the comments below!


Three Alternatives To Sugar

Over the last few years there has been an increase in awareness around the topic of sugar and with it sugar free diets. Personally I think to cut any food group out entirely is a mistake and whilst we could all cut down on the amount of sugar we eat, avoiding it completely isn’t the answer. The old phrase, ‘everything in moderation’ springs to mind.

In my opinion, the rise in sugar intake is directly proportional to the amount of processed food we eat. Many don’t have the time to make homemade products and as a result we turn to convenience food, often full of sugar and other preservatives.

Becoming a parent and introducing Beany to different foods means I have become even more aware of the sugar content in food. To be clear I’m talking about refined sugar, not fruit sugars.

I make a lot of my own baked products now, especially as Beany is allergic to egg, and I have recently started making my own yogurt too, but that’s a post for another day. Through experimenting with recipes I’ve found some really great sugar alternatives.

Here they are:


Black Strap Molasses:

There have been many claims about the health benefits of Molasses from cancer to acne prevention. I’ll leave you to decide which of these are true or not but what Black Strap Molasses is, is a by-product of raw cane sugar production. It’s less refined than white sugar and is a source of B6, particularly good for us ladies and good for the skin.

Barley Malt:

Once hailed as having many health benefits, Barley Malt was given to young and old as a daily tonic. If you’ve read Winnie The Pooh, you’ll know Roo was given a spoonful a day too.


Kanga feeding Roo Malt Extract in Winnie-The-Pooh

After the war it was given to malnourished children, combined with fish oil and it was the fish oil that had the real benefits.

What makes Barley Malt better for you than sugar now is that it is unrefined ‘simple’ sugar. Some health professionals have warned that a spoonful a day can create a sugar rushed then a slump leading to health problems such as diabetes, but if you use it in cooking or combine it with protein rich food it is better than refined sugar.


Honey has been proven time and time again to be a great energy source full of antioxidants and vitamins. Unfortunately, the bee keeping techniques of larger farms and high the demand for honey can mean no honey is left for the bees to get them through winter and so they are fed sugar-water. This means the honey contains the refined sugar the bees have been feeding on in the winter.

I my opinion, honey is a great alternative to white sugar, however we should look at where the honey comes from and buy local honey that is produced in an organic way that works with the bees, leaving them a good supply of honey to get through the winter.


These are my three favourites and as I said before it’s important to note that these are still sugar and should be eaten in moderation. What makes them better is that all three are not refined like white cane sugar and can provide nutrients as well as that sweet kick we so often crave.

Most importantly, if we want to reduce our sugar intake, we need to look at the processed foods we are eating and identify where the refined sugar content is.

Finally I thought I’d share my flapjack recipe with you. Now a family favourite, it combines two of the above sugar alternatives to make a gooey yummy flapjack.

Nelson’s Flapjack

200g Organic Oats

50g Ground Almonds

100g Dried fruit (I use sultanas and apricots)

75g Black Strap Molasses

25g Local Honey

100g Unsalted Butter

  • Combine the butter, molasses, honey and dried fruit in a pan on the stove on a low heat
  • Once the ingredients have melted, add the oats and almonds
  • Combine well
  • Press into an appropriate sized baking dish
  • cook on 160c (fan) for 20/25 minutes
  • Once out of the oven score into pieces and leave to cool.
  • Once cool cut the flapjack into pieces and enjoy!


And I’m a One Girl Revolution*

It would have been the ‘Queen Of Crime’s’, Agatha Christie’s 126th birthday today.

Here’s a great post from Margot Kinberg celebrating the day with some great examples of Christie’s best work.

Christie was a regular flouter of the ten rules of detective fiction, woman with a brilliant mind, a great sense of humour, weaver of intricate innovative plots and a fantastic writer.

Confessions of a Mystery Novelist...

agatha-christie-575x323As this is posted, it would have been Agatha Christie’s 126th birthday. If you’re kind enough to read this blog even occasionally, you’ll know that I’ve been much inspired by her work, and am a great admirer of it. So my view of her writing is biased. Even so, I think it’s fair to say that her work has had a tremendous influence on writing in general and on crime fiction in particular.

Much has been written about Christie’s skill at plots and plot twists. That’s always been regarded as one of her strongest points as a crime writer. Another of her skills was arguably innovation.

We can look at Christie’s innovation on more than one level, too. On a personal level (that is, with respect to her own writing), she experimented with a wide variety of story structures, plot points and settings. Here are just a few examples:

View original post 958 more words


Creating A Cover

With only a week to go in the crowdfunder for ‘A Deadly Orientation’, I thought it was about time we took a closer look at the creation of the book.

A question I often get asked is who creates my covers? The answer is the lovely Kathryn Ellis-Blanford. Kathryn has created the last three covers for my Blake Hetherington series and she’s here today to talk to us about the process of making a book cover. Over to you Kathryn:

It’s a fact that we often judge a book by its cover and therefore it’s important to get it right!
I’ve worked with several self-publishing authors now, all of whom are looking for something slightly different, and so it’s important to glean as much information as possible from them before putting your own individual ‘stamp’ on it!


Some authors will have more of an idea than others, but this is fine providing you listen and continue to communicate your ideas throughout the process.

D S Nelson is a joy to work with as she has clear ideas about what she’s looking for, is open to suggestions, but always honest in her opinion.

When creating a book cover you need to consider -colour scheme -text -placement -graphics. Ask yourself,  ‘which pictures best represent the story?‘Who is my audience?’ Should pictures be comical and fun or realistic?



I once painted the cover for a WWI story and so it was imperative I got the right plane and the pilot in the correct uniform. Where will the book see itself? What genre is it? If it’s a crime book like D S Nelson’s then getting the right level of sinister is important, but it’s ‘cosy crime’ remember, so not too scary!

Finally, is the cover eye catching? And remember sometimes less is more! A good cover will give the reader a feel for the book before they’ve even opened it!

Digital art is now the method of preference as it provides high resolution images, trackable colour codes and allows layering, making adjustments far easier.

As a freelance artist I have also used my digital drawing skills for portrait commissions through apps such as French Girls and more recently EASYL.

Digital Art is wonderful and offers a whole scope of possibilities, but I continue to work with traditional methods alongside the more technical stuff! When painting I work predominantly in acrylics, they are practical, stay fast and offer a wide range of true and beautiful colours to work with which can be just as easily mixed.

If you would like to see more of my work I welcome you to my website www.krizenakreations.co.uk. You’ll also find me on most other social media as KrizenaKreations.

Thanks Kathryn. A great insight in to how you go about working with authors to create a cover. And thank you for the kind words. I’ll pass that bit about ‘being a joy to work with’ onto my husband next time he’s beta reading for me!

Don’t forget there’s still time to pledge to the crowdfunder and see Kathryn’s cover become a reality on the front of ‘A Deadly Orientation’.




Blake On The World Wide Web

I popped into Blake’s shed on the allotment today with some almond croissants. I wanted to talk to him about his latest case. He wasn’t there. Olea Faba was though and proceeded to lecture me on the vagaries of Blake ‘poking his nose into other people’s business.’ I asked what she could possibly mean by this and she made some reference to Blake’s website.

It turns out Mrs Faba is most put out by the fact that Blake is now a professional PI. I didn’t even realise he had a website, shows how much attention I’ve been paying. I thought it was all a bit of talk, you know, to help his books sell.

The upshot is Mrs Faba wants to report him to the council for running a business from his allotment shed. I thought we’d got over all of this, she was on about it all summer last year. I managed to sweet talk her out of doing it with the promise of a juicy part in the next case. This seemed to play to her ego for the moment. I better let Blake know. The last thing we need is the council poking around his shed!

If you haven’t already checked out Blake’s new website, here it is!


Hetherington's Mystery Millinery







Book Review: The Sittaford Mystery

Year Published (UK) – 1931

Detective – Inspector Narracott

Murder weapons – Sandbag

First Line – ‘Major Burnaby drew on his gum boots, buttoned his overcoat collar round his neck, took from a shelf near the door a hurricane lantern, and cautiously opened the front door of his little bungalow and peered out.’

Denouement – Sittaford House

A Review:

When her fiancé is accused of murder Emily Trefusis is galvanised into action and another of Christie’s practical and strong heroines embarks on an adventure disguising herself as an ingénue to gain help from those around her.

The murder is announced by a spirit from the other side during a séance at Sittaford House on Dartmoor. The perfect setting for a murder mystery.  But who could have done it when all who have motives are accounted for? All accept the unfortunate nephew who finds himself in the wrong place doing exactly the wrong thing.

Thus unravels an  interesting tale that delves into the character’s pasts, present and futures all to discover who dunnit.

To me ‘The Sittaford Mystery’ is a bit of a poor man’s ‘Man In A Brown Suit.’ The ending isn’t as satisfactory as Christie’s usual fare and you can’t help feeling the Emily Trefusis is manipulative and not really that likeable. Perhaps it’s just me but I felt she was never really honest with herself, unless that’s what Christie was trying to show us: a strong character that lacks the ability to follow through.  To say anymore would spoil the ending but I’d be interested to know what others think.

The premise of the séance is a great one and time-honoured. It’s been used as a plot device many times and creates tension between those who believe and those who don’t. As always with Christie the story runs close to defying those ten rules of detective fiction but it is executed in the true Christie style we love.

Not the best Christie I’ve read but a good solid plot with plenty of suspects and a dose of old-fashioned romance.


To follow my  Agatha Christie Challenge and read reviews of previous books, please click here.

Hedgerow Apothecary - Tuppeny Barn and veg plots

Hedgerow Medicine at Tuppenny Barn

Tuppenny Barn is non-profit smallholding, not far away from me, that focuses on sustainability, organic food, community and education. Up until now I have not had the opportunity to visit and when I saw there was a Hedgerow Medicine course earlier this month, I grabbed the opportunity with both hands.

The course is run by Christine of Hedgerow Apothecary and we began by taking a walk around the site. It was typically British weather with blazing sunshine one minute and dark clouds on the horizon the next but we set out hoping to dodge the raindrops and we started in the herb beds.

Hedgerow Apothecary - tuppenny barn

On the way round, as well as teaching us about the uses of the plants, Christine taught us about the folklore behind them as well.

First u[ was the woven willow hedge. There is much myth surrounding the willow. It’s used to make wands and perhaps where the name Wicca for witchcraft comes from. The bark can be chewed to relieve headaches as it contains Salicylic acid a component of aspirin, so there’s science behind it too.

Hedgerow Apothecary - learnign about borage

Borage was used by the Romans for courage and they’d pin it to their chests before going into battle. The flowers are beautiful and can be used to decorate cakes. They are apparently great in your Pimms.

Beautiful Borage

Lavender is used to ward off evil spirits and protects your home from witchcraft. The smell of lavender was particularly important during the plague in the seventeenth century. Lavender has many properties and is great for relaxation. It was often given to women in labour to give them courage. I noted that the men kept the borage to themselves!

Hedgerow Apothecary - Tuppenny Barn Orchard

Next up the orchard and apples contain a natural antihistamine. If you cut them horizontally they contain a star or pentagon. This gave them special meaning and if you could find a branch with buds, leaves and fruit on it, it would be placed with the dead in their coffins to guide them to the underworld.

Hedgerow Apothecary - star in the apple

In the hedgerow, brambles are great for the circulation and we filled up our jars to make bramble vinegar, but be careful because if you pick brambles after Michaelmas day they are soured as the devil came down and urinated on them. They are also known as lawyers as once they get their hooks in they don’t let go. Bramble arches are thought to bring new beginnings and health.


The Elder repels flies and is the home of the witch. You must ask before picking the elder flowers and berries. We stopped here for berries for the Elderberry Rob.

As well as the plants in the hedgerow and orchard the centre have beehives to make their own honey and it’s delicious! Here we learnt a little about bees and how they are kept.

Hedgerow Apothecary - bee hives

Inside the centre we had tea and homemade apple and blackberry cake. Christine talked us through how to make Elderberry Rob and Blackberry vinegar. We had a jar/bottle of each to take home with us.

Resources had been laid out on the table for us to look, with some examples of the plants we had been talking about.  We were able to ask Christine questions about the plants around us and there was plenty of time for a chat and chance to consolidate some of the knowledge.

This was a fantastic morning and I’d highly recommend Tuppenny Barn to anyone able to visit. It’s a wonderful  place with a lovely community feeling. There was so much more Christine taught us and this is only a fraction of what we learnt in the three hours. This could easily have been a full day course. As well as the rob and the vinegar, I also took some honey home which Beany is loving on toast!

Hedgerow Apothecary - swag

When I got home I went straight out and picked more blackberries and elderberries to make vinegar and rob with. It’s great to have the confidence to go out and find these plants and make something with them. The vinegar will be really yummy to dip bread in or on salads, and the Rob is great for colds or hot toddy in the winter. Yum!

You can find out lots more about Tuppenny Barn here and if you’ve visited the centre, I’d love to hear about your experience. Is there a similar place near you? Don’t forget to let us know below!

A quick note: No part of this post is intended as advice. I am not an expert and if you intend to pick herbs and plants  yourself you must be very sure you know what it is. I was once told, ‘there are old foragers and bold foragers but never old, bold foragers’. 

As always with foraging follow the countryside code, do not take the root of the plant, only take what you need, do not strip a plant bare, leave some for the animals and for the plant to grow healthy again next year.