Thursday, 14 December 2017

My #festivefeeling deck the halls

There are few festive traditions that get my heart thumping in quite the same way as 'decking the halls' and I'm not just talking about decorating my own home. An evening car journey from the beginning of December onwards is always a treat as it gives ample opportunity to admire how other folk like to dress their homes and gardens and a Christmas shopping trip is never complete without taking time-out to admire what the fine city of Norwich has to offer.

As far as I'm concerned decent decking has to cater for all ages and I'm going straight to my number one all time favourite decorating idea as displayed in the stunning Victorian Royal Arcade in Norwich this year.

The Royal Arcade, Norwich
Isn't it amazing? Every letter looks as though it has been hand written and they're all winging their way to Santa or one of his reindeer. A slight breeze from either end of the arcade ensures they all move gently. Simply spectacular! I really can't think of a commercial display I have loved more.

The Tunnel of Light, Norwich
Mind you, the spectacular Tunnel of Light, which is back in the city again this year gives the Arcade a run for its money. The colourful light display is truly mesmerising as you can see from our transfixed faces... 

How are you, deer?
Now, I'm not sure everyone in our house would agree with this, but for me Christmas just isn't Christmas without a warm and welcoming touch of kitsch. I have a growing collection of these fabulous fawns, the latest of which is completely covered in pick glitter. I know! I also have some deer vintage wall decorations courtesy of the local vintage shop Junk and Gems and my goal is to one year very soon have enough of these little 'deers' to decorate an entire tree! Just don't tell the family!

However you choose to deck your halls I wish you all a very merry Christmas and if you have a particular favourite decoration of your own or one in your local town do please share in the comments below or on social media using the hashtag #festivefeeling

H x

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Sleigh Rides and Silver Bells Blog Tour

The Sleigh Rides and Silver Bells Blog Tour kicks off today folks! Keep your eyes peeled for chapter extracts, interviews and absolutely gorgeous giveaways in the run up to Christmas!

Monday, 11 December 2017

Welcoming Rosie Hendry

Today I am absolutely delighted to welcome my good friend and fellow RNA Norfolk Chapter member, Rosie Hendry to the blog. Rosie has written a stunning debut novel, The East End Angels which has undoubtedly been my favourite read of 2017. It is an absolute joy, but I'll let her tell you all about it and the inspiration behind it...

What do you think of if you’re asked about what sort of jobs women did in the Second World War? Land girls, WAAFs, WRENS, nurses, munitions workers? Did you consider the women who drove ambulances out in the middle of air raids to rescue people? They seem to have been forgotten in history and yet they played a vital role and did a really tough job having to deal with the casualties of bombing. So when I thought about who I wanted to write about, the women of the London Auxiliary Ambulance Service were perfect. Not much had been written about them in fiction, they were in the thick of the Blitz and have a rich vein of potential story telling material.
It was important to get the background of the stories factually correct and weave those facts about what it was like working as an ambulance driver into the story, from the details of everyday work like scrubbing out the ambulances to the fact that crew members called each other by nicknames. Diaries, letters and oral histories from the archives of the Imperial War Museum gave me an insight into their world and threw up gems of incidents, ones that wouldn’t make the history books but which were very much part of their lives, things like having stirrup pump water fights or writing their own ambulance station magazines and these have inspired my ideas.
East End Angels” focuses on the lives of three women - Winnie, Frankie and Bella -who are thrown together at Ambulance Station 75, a short raven’s flight from the Tower of London. Coming from very different  social backgrounds and family lives, they have to cope with the challenges of rescuing casualties as the bombs rain down during the Blitz. 

Buy the book...

Available in paperback 14th December from Asda, Tesco and Amazon 

All about Rosie...

Rosie Hendry lives by the sea in Norfolk with her husband, two children, chickens and a snake. She's worked in a variety of jobs from fruit picking, waitressing, teaching and as a research scientist but has always loving reading and writing. Starting off writing short stories for women's magazines, her stories have gradually become longer as her children have grown bigger.

Listening to her father's tales of life during the Second World War sparked Rosie's interest in this period and she's especially intrigued by how womens' lives changed during the war years.

When she's not working, Rosie enjoys walking along the beach, reading and is grateful for the fact that her husband is a much better cook than her.

 Twitter @hendry_rosie
 Facebook rosie.hendry.94

Thursday, 7 December 2017

My #festivefeeling easy-bakes

Today I'm sharing my festive easy-bakes with you. All I ask is that you don't tell the world just how easy they are to make. We want to impress without the stress, but we don't want folk thinking no effort has been made, do we?
When the calendar turns to December 1st up goes the cry for a continuous flow of two particular eats in our house – sausage rolls and mince pies. The production line (aka me), is then in operation until around December 22nd when I pack up the rolling pin and parchment and stuff the family full of Quality Street and Yule log to ensure a bit of balance. The marathon baking stint might sound impressive but I promise you there’s no stress involved in keeping up with demand.

For the sausage rolls you will need -

One pack of pre-made puff pastry (at room temperature)
The very best sausage meat you can source
1 beaten free range egg
Pepper, a variety of dried herbs or dried chilli flakes (or any other dried addition you fancy)
Ma Larkin style apron
Classic fm belting out carols, or depending on mood/taste Smooth Xmas belting out Wham
One glass of fizz, mulled wine or similar as reward for hard work

What you need to do with it all - 

Roll out the pastry on a floured board and cut into 2 wide strips
Arrange sausage meat along centre and brush pastry with egg wash
Sprinkle liberally with pepper, herbs etc. alternatively leave plain
Roll to create two long sausage shapes, brush with more egg wash and sprinkle top with any flavourings you have used to help identification when baked
Cut to required lengths
Bake for 10 mins at 220 and a further 20-25 mins at 180 until golden and crisp
Finally, top up your glass again, you’ve worked hard after all!

It couldn't be simpler and the mince pies are every bit as easy to make!

For the mince pies you will need - 

One pack of pre-made short crust pastry (at room temperature)
A ready made jar of mincemeat
1 beaten free range egg
A star shaped pastry cutter for that festive flourish (optional)
Ma Larkin style apron
Classic fm belting out carols, or depending on mood/taste Smooth Xmas belting out Wham
One glass of fizz, mulled wine or similar as reward for hard work

What you need to do with it all - 

Roll out the pastry on a floured board and using a cutter, cut out circles large enough to fill the size of your baking tray
place a pastry circle into each hole
Spoon in one not too heaped spoonful of mincemeat
Cut out the pie tops from the remaining pastry. If using a circle make slightly smaller than the base
Brush the pastry base edges with egg before adding the top to ensure a good seal and then apply egg wash over the whole top for a lovely glaze
Bake for 20-25 mins at 180 until golden 
Finally, top up your glass again, you’ve worked hard after all!

So there you have it! Whether you have the time (or the inclination) to bake from scratch this holiday or like me you opt to take the easier option, I wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year! Don't forget to tell me your favourite bakes below and on social media using the hashtag #festivefeeling

Heidi x

Monday, 4 December 2017

A brand new book!

Today I am absolutely delighted to be able to share with you the title and blurb of my brand new novel which will be published in Summer 2018.

Sunshine and Sweet Peas in Nightingale Square takes us away from Wynbridge, but there are still connections to the town and a visit or two throughout the course of the book.

Here's a little taster of what it's all about...

Kate is on the run from her almost-divorced husband who is determined to have her back, and she has found the perfect place to hide... a little cottage on Nightingale Square in Norwich, far away from her old life in London. But the residents of Nightingale Square don't take no for an answer, and Kate soon finds herself pulled into a friendship with Lisa, her bossy but lovely new neighbour.

Within a matter of days Kate is landed with the job of campaigning the council to turn the green into a community garden, meanwhile all the residents of Nightingale Square are horrified to discover that the Victorian mansion house on the other side of the square has been bought by developers. But when all hope is lost, the arrival of a handsome stranger is sure to turn things around!

Links to Amazon



I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the lovely folk who live in Nightingale Square. They are all determined not to let Kate hide away and between them make up a wonderful close knit community in the very heart of the city. I hope you are looking forward to meeting them!

H x

Thursday, 30 November 2017

My #festivefeeling go-to reads

My TBR pile is positively groaning from October onwards. Not only do I have wonderful authors and publishers now sending me wonderful Christmas themed books to read and talk about on social media, I also have the bookshop and online shelves calling me with all manner of sparkly loveliness in the form of glittering covers and tempting titles.

However, there is always, always room on the teetering pile for my three go-to festive reads! Christmas simply wouldn't be Christmas without visiting these three titles and I would love to know if you have any books you re-visit during this most magical time of year and if they are the same as mine! Do let me know here or on social media using the hashtag #festivefeeling

A Christmas Carol
Charles Dickens

I've lost track of the number of years I've been visiting Mr Scrooge and willing him to get his act together before anything ghastly befalls dear Tiny Tim. Not only do I love the story which is a poignant reminder for us to do good throughout the whole year, but especially during this increasingly materialistic season, but I'm also in love with the actual story-telling. There are at least two occasions when Dickens speaks directly to us and I can imagine that he is indeed standing right by my side as I am reading. What a thrill, even if I do end up with goose bumps! I'm going to be heading to the cinema this weekend to watch The Man Who Invented Christmas which looks great fun. Fingers crossed it will enhance my enjoyment of this fabulous festive tale.

Village Christmas
Miss Read

I was in my early twenties when I was first introduced to the gentle tales of village and country life from Miss Read by my Nan. She had a huge pile of ancient penguin editions and I devoured one after the after and have ever since carried around a list of titles I am missing should I happen to find some in a second-hand store or charity shop. Village Christmas is a tiny book with a massive heart and makes the perfect travel companion in the run up to the big day!

The Night Before Christmas
Clement C Moore

Truth be told, I gave this book to my husband in the run up to Christmas years ago, but as a family joke rather than anything else. He's a huge fan of Clark Griswold and I thought it would be fun to stick a Santa hat on my dear hearts head and have him recite the tale to us as Clark does to his family in the film, however, the plan backfired. My husband did read the book, with feeling, and we all sat transfixed to listen and we have done every Christmas Eve since and so, another Swain festive family tradition was somewhat unexpectedly born!

I hope you have enjoyed reading all about my go-to festive reads. Do remember to let me know if you have any and if you get in touch via social media use the hashtag #festivefeeling to keep the chat going!

H x

Cranking up the #festivefeeling

Can you believe it? Tonight is the night the advent calendars are unwrapped which means that tomorrow is December 1st! Where has the year gone? It seems like only yesterday that I was enjoying the warm welcome Mince Pies and Mistletoe had received and yet, here I am, 12 months on, with two more paperbacks added to the pile, including another festive cracker!

However, when I flip the calendar over tonight and start thinking about dragging the decorations out of the loft, there'll be more than writing on my mind, believe it or not, and I thought it would be nice to share some of those thoughts with you guys.

So, between now and Christmas, every Friday I'll be uploading something festive here on the blog to celebrate the season! This is what I have in mind...

December 1st  -

My go-to festive reads

December 8th  -

My easy-cheat festive bakes
(just don't tell Dorothy from Wynthorpe Hall that I cheat with the pastry)!

December 15th -

Decking the halls 

December 22nd -

Celebrating the Solstice

I hope you will have to time to join in the fun and share some of your traditions with me in the comments box and on social media. I'm going to use the hashtag #festivefriday on Twitter so please, look out for my tweets!

H x