Will O’ the Wisp

Vanessa pointing at Will O the Wisp book

Today I’m joined by blogging author friend extraordinaire, Craig Boyack. He’s here to talk about his wonderful latest novel, Will O’ The Wisp. Well he thinks he’s here to talk about that, but we’ll have to see how that works out. Welcome Craig!

Thanks Vanessa. What did you mean we’ll have to see how that works out?

Don’t worry about that. Now, I thought it would be fun for us to do a little activity while we chat. So, if I say “Book” to you, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind?



But you asked for the first thing that comes to my mind.

I know I did Craig, and you got it wrong. Try again.



Ok Vanessa, well why don’t you tell me what the first thing is to come to my mind when you say “Book”?



Yes baking. Book begins with ‘b’, baking begins with ‘b’. You and I both like baking. So books make you think of baking. See how it all makes sense now?

Well…er…I guess so.

So we’re going to bake some bread rolls while we chat, yay! Come on Craig, let’s get stuck in. You measure out the flour and tell me this – In Will O’ the Wisp, your protagonist Patty Hall is fifteen years old, but what were you doing when you were fifteen?

Patty is about a year older than I was at the time the book is set. I’m also from a small agricultural area, but it was all ranching in my hometown. We used to camp under the stars, and watching satellites was a regular thing. My friends and I were very close, and there are similarities in the story. Patty wasn’t a band geek, but I was.

Ok great, now you measure out the rest of the ingredients and start mixing it all together while you tell us something about yourself that you’ve never mentioned on your blog, and then you can start kneading the dough.

That’s quite a challenge, because I’m pretty open. I’ve discussed medical issues and all kinds of things. As a blogger, I’m always looking for something to post about. I’m going to have to go back in time for this one. In 1990, I was in the desert northwest of Las Vegas. I found a desert bighorn skull and brought it home. I used one horn to make some pretty grips for a Colt six shooter I own. My brother and I worked on them together, and I treasure them.

Gosh! Now come on, I said to start kneading the dough.

Out of interest, which part of making the rolls are you actually doing Vanessa?

It’s not about who does which part, it’s about sharing the experience. Now come on, put some effort in, and then you can leave the dough to rise. While you’re doing that, I’d like you to select three adjectives to describe your book.

Only three? Here we go: suspenseful, magical, and thrilling.

Rather like making these bread rolls with me then. Don’t forget to time the rising of the dough, then it’ll need a second rising after you’ve shaped it into rolls. I always say you can tell a lot about a man by how he shapes his rolls. Also by what he has on his desk, so tell me something you have on your desk that doesn’t really belong on a desk?

I have a live shamrock on my desk. I also have a couple of stress balls, but those probably belong there.

I was going to guess a shamrock and stress balls! I’m very intuitive like that Craig. Now, every story has some kind of moral, so what would you say is the moral of your story?

Me? Write a story with a moral? This is a coming of age story, and it’s a very big part of the story. Patty has to deal with all the issues any teenager has to deal with, plus deal with something that wants to kill her. She isn’t allowed to hide behind her parents and let them deal with her problem. The moral is that nothing good can happen until the hero acts. I know two specific people who could benefit from less analysis of problems and more action, so I’ll stand by that moral.

That’s an excellent moral, exactly what I would expect from a shamrock and stress balls type of guy. Right, I’ve saved the best question till last. This one will take some thinking about, so you can finish off making the rolls and putting them in the oven while you think. I want you to choose one sentence, just one, from Will O’ the Wisp that you think will really pique people’s interest.

Ouch, Vanessa. You said these would be challenging, but I thought it was in a “ha ha, let’s have a drink” kind of way. I pride myself on short direct sentences too. Here you go:

“The tea leaves left the shape of a perfect open book, like someone pushed them that way with a spoon.”

Ooh, intriguing. Let’s have a look at those rolls now…

Vanessa and Craig with bread rolls

Well Craig, seeing as you were such a good bread roll making assistant, I will now let you give us the book blurb and relevant links.

Thank you Vanessa, here goes…

There is something evil up Bergamot Holler, and it’s been targeting the Hall family for generations.

Patty Hall is fifteen years old. She loves stargazing, science fiction, and all things related to space exploration. This leaves her perfectly prepared for the wrong problem.

Patty is afraid her mother will send her to a care facility if she tells her what she’s seen. If she doesn’t figure things out soon, she’s going to join her father in the Hall family cemetery plot.

Patty has to come to grips with her own physical handicap, survive the wilderness, and face an ancient evil all alone if she’s going to survive.

Will O’ the Wisp is suitable for young adults. It involves strong elements of suspense, and is set in the mid 1970s.

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- Buy Will O’ the Wisp here (Rest of the world) http://a-fwd.com/asin-com=B00UQNDT2C

What fun we’ve had today, thanks for coming by Craig.

Thank you Vanessa.

Homophobia and Suicide

Matt and Naz
On 30 July 2014, my (real life) friend Matt lost his partner of 13 years, Naz, to suicide. Two days earlier Naz had emotionally “admitted he was gay” to his family. Naz had felt unable to tell them before that because of their religious beliefs.

Matt was determined to make some good come of this tragedy, and has campaigned tirelessly since then to raise awareness of the devastating human impact caused by religion-based homophobia. He set up the Naz & Matt Foundation, now a registered charity, to provide free support to LGBTQI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Intersex) individuals, their friends and family, to help resolve challenges linked to sexuality or gender identity, particularly where a religion is directing the situation.

Matt is a peaceful campaigner, he is not looking to spread hate, just understanding, love, and acceptance. Matt has appeared on both BBC news and Sky news to talk about the Naz and Matt Foundation, and Naz and Matt’s story was published in The Guardian last Saturday. The least I could do was to give him a platform here to talk about their latest project.

Matt, over to you…

Thank you Vanessa. To highlight the issues to the wider public, and encourage them to take action, we are planning a 130 mile, 8 day sponsored journey from London to Birmingham in April this year. “The Journey to Find Acceptance”, will carry a message of love and acceptance as we travel through each town along the way. The majority of the journey will be walked. We will be filming the journey as we engage with religious communities in each town that we walk through – to gauge public opinion and explore individual attitudes towards acceptance if their own children were to come out as being gay.

Matt with camera strapped on head

Matt trying out his film equipment for the walk

Do you have a plan for the journey Matt?

We have a rough plan, it may change as we finalise the details:

Friday 17th April (evening) – London
Opening Party at Club Kali

Saturday 18th April (meet 10am, 11am start) – London
Start of walk – from West Hampstead Cemetery

Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, 19th-23nd April
The main journey, travelling through Hendon, Watford, Luton, Milton Keynes, Milton Manor (Northamptonshire), Rugby and Coventry

Friday 24th April (evening) – Birmingahm
Closing party at Saathi Night (@Nightingales)

Saturday 25th April (approx 10.30am) – Birmingham
Final walking leg of walk, from the Nightingale Club to Handsworth Cemetery

We will celebrate all the beautiful people who have struggled, and continue to struggle, to find acceptance from their families and the communities they live in. And to remember the life and soul of Naz (Dr Nazim Mahmood) who spent his whole life helping other people.

Matt and Naz on a sunny day

That sounds like quite a journey Matt. How can people help?

There are a few ways people can help:

1) They can join us for any part of the journey, particularly the start in London on 18th April. Please dress fabulous or in drag to make a statement! Like our Facebook page to keep updated on plans for the journey.

2) They can sponsor the journey through JustGiving – follow the ‘Donate’ link on the Naz & Matt Foundation site.

3) They can help spread the word in any way they choose.

Thank you for coming by to tell us about this Matt. I knew Naz to be an incredibly kind, generous, warm-hearted man, and it’s a truly wonderful thing you’re doing here in his memory. I wish you all the luck in the world.

Thank you Vanessa, and thank you for having us here.

Matt and Naz's initials in the sand

Four Things An Introvert has Trouble Dealing With

Introvert hiding in a sweater

I’ll be fine just here, thank you.

Many of us in the land of blog have declared ourselves to be introverts. These are a few of the ways that my own introversion manifests itself in my day-to-day life. Can you relate to any of these?

1) You’re in a small group situation. Finally you’ve not only managed to think of something to say (a feat in itself), but plucked up the courage to actually say it. You wait for a pause, start, and one of the following things happens:

  • Someone else starts talking at the exact same second that you start. You immediately stop talking and berate yourself severely for getting it wrong.
  •  You’re mid sentence and someone else in the group interrupts you. At this stage it’s not so easy for you to stop talking. You’d given yourself the pep talk – Come on, you can do it, just start talking, stop being silly, just do it!, you’d launched into it, and now you’re into the home straight; it actually takes a different kind of confidence to stop at this stage, and you don’t have that, so you just keep going, desperately hoping for a freak lightening storm to arrive and throw the power out.
  • You’re half way through your story when a couple of others in the group start up their own separate conversation. You’re faced with the harsh reality that you just weren’t interesting enough to hold the whole group’s attention (but you knew that anyway). There is now only one person listening to you, and clearly they’re only being polite. All you can do is stare intently at that one person, trying your hardest to act like you were only talking to that one person anyway, whilst racing through as fast as you can to get to the end of what you want to say.
Girl hiding her face in her hands

You can’t see me right?

2) You tell someone that you will email or text them, and they say “Or just give me a call”. Just? Just?! No no no no, emailing is a “just”, texting is a “just”, giving someone a call isn’t anywhere close to being a “just”.

3) Someone is blocking the way that you want to walk. You say “Excuse me”, but horror of horrors, they don’t hear you! You’re pretty convinced however that everyone else in a 5 mile radius DID hear you and they’re all wondering why you don’t just say “Excuse me” again, a bit louder (Ha, as if THAT’S an option). There’s only one thing for it, you must pull out your phone, tap the screen a few times while looking slightly concerned, and make a little “ooh” noise. This indicates that there is something on your phone alerting you to the fact that you no longer need to go in that direction, but instead need to turn back and go in a completely different direction. Keep looking at your phone while you execute the manoeuvre. No one will suspect a thing.

4) You’re in a large group situation, maybe a party, or the dreaded “Refreshments and networking” section of a conference, or as I like to call it, the “Refreshments and stand there awkwardly wondering how soon is too soon to go back and sit in the conference room ready for the next talk” section. You’re pleased that someone you’re reasonably comfortable with is talking to you. And then from nowhere they decide to throw you to the lions by doing one of the following things:

  • They say “Anyway, I’m just going to go and say hi to a couple of people”, and off they go, leaving you standing there wishing you possessed that superpower of being able to just go and say hi to a couple of people. If you’re at a conference, you’re lucky, you will probably have been given some papers, these papers are your new best friend; there is no limit to the number of times they can be read.
  • They say “Come on, I’m going to introduce you to a couple of people.” This has the exact same effect on you as if they’d said, “Come on, I’m going to take all your clothes off you and parade you around naked for a while.”

Introverts unite

Seriously, how do we get through the day?


Image credits:
Girl in sweater –  Nguyen Hung Vu
Girl hiding face – Matthew Loberg
Introverts unite – Kappy V11

Sometimes We’re the 9 and Sometimes We’re the 1

A nine and a one talking

Recently a fellow blogger, who is a writer, commented that 9 out of 10 friends who say they want to read your writing never do. She wasn’t complaining, just acknowledging that that’s how things are. Mostly she wanted to make the point about how much we should value that 1 who does, and we really should.

Whether we are writers or not, we’ve all experienced that same thing in one scenario or other – those 9 out of 10 people who say they will support something we’re doing, and then don’t. It’s natural to feel let down, but actually, if we flip it around and are completely honest with ourselves, we’ve all been that 9 too. Probably many times. Each of us, within our circle of friends, family, friends of friends, colleagues and neighbours, we all know people who play in a band, or act in plays, or compete in sporting events, or sing in bars, or make and sell crafts, or organise fundraising activities, or make films, or recite poetry, or paint, or yes write. The list is endless. We all know many people who each really need those in their circle to step up and actively support them in their endeavours.

When these people tell us about their thing, it really is so easy to say “Well next time you’re doing X, let me know and I’ll come to watch!” or “Hey, I’d love to look at that and give you my opinion when you’ve finished it.” And we mean it at the time, or hopefully we do anyway, but do we follow through on it every single time? Chances are we don’t. We can’t. In our desire to be supportive and encouraging to people we know in their endeavours, we can over-commit ourselves with these promises. The reality is we all have busy lives and we just don’t have the capacity to actively support everyone in our circle, in all of their endeavours, as much as we would like to. Maybe we should think more carefully about our words if we’re not completely sure that we can commit. Maybe it’s better to just say “That’s great, I really hope it goes well”, rather than “That’s great, I’ll try and come along”. We’re not letting them down with the first one.

Many times of course we are actively supportive, we are the 1, and it feels good doesn’t it. We’re pleased to be able to actively support. But we just can’t do it all the time, and that’s what we need to remember when we’re the ones on the other side wanting active participation and support. So as well as greatly valuing the 1 who supports us, we should remember that we’re really all the same. Sometimes we’re the 9 and sometimes we’re the 1.

Just some random musings on a Friday. What do you think? Agree? Disagree?

An SEO Expert Walks into a Bar, Bars, Pub, Tavern…

Cortana and SiriThe SEO joke was told to me by Cortana, it’s not a joke she made up herself, she’s not THAT good, it’s not a new joke either, you may already have heard it in fact.

Before I carry on, I should first say that this post was inspired by one on Susie Lindau’s Wild Ride, she had a quite a scoop, an ACTUAL interview with the ACTUAL real person who provided the voice for the ACTUAL Siri. Oh yes! If you didn’t see it, you must hop on over and read it, but not yet, read my post first, ok?

Well, it got me wondering. There is much fun to be had interacting with Siri or Cortana, but which one of them is funnier? We have both Cortana and Siri in our house so I wanted to find out which one would be funnier if I put them to the test.

I started off by asking Cortana to tell me a joke, and you’ve seen the result of that, so what did Siri come up with when I asked her for a joke?

SIRI: What did one iPhone say to the other…hmm, I used to know this one.

Ok, I’m not sure if it’s a very funny joke that I don’t really get, or if the joke is that Siri can’t remember the joke? Or if she just really can’t remember. I went for another round and asked them each for another joke:

CORTANA: What kind of underwear do clouds wear? Thunderpants.

SIRI: If I told you a joke in my language, I’d have to explain it.

So again, Cortana told an actual joke, whereas Siri didn’t, unless what she said is meant to be funny, in which case, well, humour is in the eye of the beholder, or something like that right?

I tried again, tell me a joke!

CORTANA: Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit, wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.

SIRI: The past, present and future walk into a bar. It was tense.

Well that round goes to Siri. Sorry Cortana but it’s really stretching things to call that a joke. Siri, you gave us a chuckle – I have heard that joke before, but that didn’t stop me chuckling again.

I tried for some more jokes, Siri decided she didn’t want to play anymore and kept saying that she didn’t know any jokes, personally I think she just feels that joke telling is beneath her, she has a point. Cortana was happy to oblige though with a couple more…

CORTANA: What did the zero say to the eight? Nice belt.

CORTANA: The barman says, “We don’t serve time travelers in here.” A time traveler walks into a bar.

Those aren’t bad, but really, I was hoping for more. I then rephrased things, rather than asking for a joke, I said “Tell me something funny.”

CORTANA: What do we want? Time Travel! When do we want it? It’s irrelevant…

SIRI: Siri, get Siri-ous. Ha ha!

Cortana clearly likes time travel humour. Siri, well, I expect she was just being ironic.

Then finally I went in with the ultimate question. I asked Cortana if she was funnier than Siri, and I asked Siri if she was funnier than Cortana…

CORTANA: I suppose the answer’s yes in at least one parallel universe.

SIRI: I’m afraid I can’t answer that.

Sorry Siri, but Cortana’s answer was way better than yours there.

Well there we have it folks. My sophisticated piece of research concludes that overall Cortana wins when it comes to being funnier. Or at least when it comes to being specifically asked to be funny, which is not necessarily the same thing.

Do you use Siri/Cortana or any other similar voice assistant? If so, do you actually use it for useful things, or just for entertainment?

Two Ways I’ve Been a Master Recently, Oh and Some Kittens

A little round-up of three things I’ve done lately (you HAVE been wondering what I’ve been doing lately, right?)…

NUMBER ONE – I graduated from my MA

Vanessa Graduating

Funny story – when my certificate arrived in the post, I saw that it said “Master of Arts in Education”. I then had this conversation with Neil:

ME: Oh, I didn’t know it was Master of Arts that I did.
NEIL: Well what did you think MA stood for then?
ME: I just thought it was the first two letters of Master’s.

Yep, that’s right, I took a whole big qualification without actually knowing what it was I was taking. Fairly typical. But nevermind, I got to graduate at Canterbury Cathedral, and the Archbishop of Canterbury did the welcome address at the start of the ceremony, so it was all rather grand. This was my very first Graduation because we don’t tend to have high school graduation ceremonies over here, and I never completed my first degree, so this was extra exciting for me.

NUMBER TWO – We got some kittens

Our lovely cat Dory sadly died a couple of months ago, and so in January we got a pair of kittens, Freddy and Lola. Aren’t they so cutey wutey fluffy wuffy gorgeous lorgeous? Oh come on, even if you’re not a cat fan, just look!
Kittens called Freddy and Lola

Of course kittens, like babies of most species, pretty much have no sense of danger. Careful as we are, there’s been the odd occasion where, for instance, we’ve been walking down the stairs and accidentally launched a kitten off the end of our foot and watched him fly a little and then tumble down the stairs while we run down after shouting “I’m so sorry I’m so sorry I’m so sorry”. They don’t seem to mind though, they just bounce right back up, instantly forgive us, and carry on chasing a spec of dust or whatever.


Vanessa being interviewed
I was asked by my good friend Mike (hello Mike, you still read my blog right?) to be MC at a regional final for a poetry reciting contest called Poetry by Heart which is for 14-18 year olds. One of the schools taking part had also sent along two students to act as reporters for their school magazine. At the end of the evening they asked if they could interview me (that’s what the picture above is). They asked a series of questions like “How did you get to be the MC for this event?”, “What was it like being the MC for this event?”, “As an MC, how do you think the evening went?” Then they paused and looked at each other, and did this whole “You ask her” “No you ask her” thing, finally one of them plucked up the courage and asked “What is an MC?” Ha! So for anyone else who doesn’t know, an MC (in this context anyway) is Master of Ceremonies, basically being the host, introducing people, stringing it all together, ordering everyone around (well I think that was part of it anyway).

And there we are, see, that’s how I’ve been Master twice. Oh and don’t forget the kittens.

More Stuff I Do That I’m Hoping You Do Too

Following on from Five things I do that I wonder if you do too, and Using my knife as a mirror and seven other quirky things I do, I bring you – More stuff I do that I I’m hoping you do too

1) Have you ever thrown away a food wrapper into a colleague’s bin at work rather than your own because you’re kind of embarrassed about the number of food wrappers already in your bin, and you don’t want the cleaning staff to judge you?

Man denying knowledge of chocolate wrapper

Meme created by Vanessa-Jane Chapman using memegenerator.

2) Do you ever sit and imagine what fun you could have if you were someone’s pet cat or dog, but with the brain you have now? The tricks you could do to impress them, the cute stuff… and similarly, how much fun you could have if you were a baby with an adult brain, do you ever think about that?

3) At least three times per day, do you go to your phone/computer/device with a specific purpose of something you need to do, but instead get distracted by the first thing you see on there, and forget to do the thing you went to do in the first place? Three times a day? Who am I kidding? More like every hour right?

Distracted on computer

Meme created by Vanessa-Jane Chapman using memegenerator.

4) When on public transport, do you ever get up and walk towards the exit, but then realise you’ve made a mistake and it’s not your stop yet. Rather than going back to your seat though, you get off anyway because you would look a fool to go back and sit down right? Far better to have to wait half an hour for the next bus/train, or walk in the dark and rain to get to where you really wanted to get off? At least this way you’re the only one who knows you’re a fool rather than a bunch of strangers you’ll never see again.

5) Do you find yourself questioning everything you’ve ever known about life when you come across someone who doesn’t like either tea or coffee. What, neither? But surely tea? But surely coffee then? No? NEITHER one?!

No Way

Meme created by Vanessa-Jane Chapman using this other memegenerator.

Any things you do that you secretly wonder if everyone else does too?

Fun and Frolics with Food

I wanted to be sure that those of you who don’t follow my Sugarness food blog wouldn’t miss out on seeing the fun I had with this five-minute cooking video I made with my film-making friend, Stacey Morgan, from Morganic Films, and my partner Neil. You’re welcome. Do you think someone will give me my own cookery show after this? They’re bound to, right? RIGHT?!

My Year in 365 Words

Photos of Vanessa's Year 2014
At the start of 2014 I decided to keep a word-a-day journal over the year. It turned out to be quite an interesting exercise. Some days a word naturally presented itself to me, but other days I had to think a bit deeper – either because it was a day where nothing of particular interest happened, or because several things happened and I had to decide which one to pick. Sometimes I tried to find a word that could relate in some way to all the things I wanted to use from that day. Even on days where I did know which one thing I wanted to record, it wasn’t always easy to describe it in one word.

On three similar occasions I broke the one word rule by pushing together three letters and a word to make one word because it was important to me to record those in that way. A few words were used more than once over the year, and I was ok with that; if something was significant more than once, then it was. And as I was typing this up I discovered one day where I had forgotten to write a word at all, and I have recorded that one as “Blank”.

Looking back over them now I can’t remember what quite a few of the words relate to, but nevertheless, seen as a whole, they tell the story of my year in 365 words…

Essay, Hope, Suzanne, Hurt, Voice, Routine, Stereotyping, Panel, Worry, Gender, Conference, Soup, Plan, Octopus, Dentist, Singing, Strategy, Caroline, Cards, Literally, NVivo, Honoured, Theorists, Battered, Bluewater, Confused, Stabbing, Poster, Which, Quantitative, Windy, Extravagance, Putney, Drudge, Coffee, Graze, Reflecting, Meritocracy, Admiral, Swimming, Operations, Surprised, Scuppered, Sleepy, Love, Cost, Booth, Void, Tired, Trimming, Invitations, Dare, David, Filing, Angry, Woburn, Schools, Guy, Lots, Fajitas, Mud, Irritated, Chuffed, Yvonne, One, Sigh, Piercing, Manchester, Hacked, Writing, Deal, Dropped, Duke, Pleased, Productive, Eek, Idiot, Proud, Amazing, Mum, Methadone, Voice, Embassy, Confirming, Strike, Sleepless, Faint, Sofas, Amused, Shortlisting, Stressed, Energy, Continuing, Remote, Psycho, Furniture, Redo, Mike, London, Blue, Emilia, Walking, Grass, Accepted, Struggling, Struggling, Blue, Wondering, Trays, Easter, Facebook, Back, Art, Blackmail, Staff, Masquerade, Delightful, Policy, Parents, Identity, Time, Sarah, Pizza, Stacey, Westwood, Disgruntled, Deadline, Chapman, Changes, Eurovision, Fifteen, Intolerance, Knocked, Disgrace, Preparation, Neon, Luxury, Malfunctions, Arms, Plumbing, Ninja, Pickups, Planning, Anxious, Packing, International, Satisfying, Hectic, Tax, Seven, Relaxing, Back, Overload, Salad, Edward, Dolphin, Dogs, Party, Pam, Unfair, Flowers, Productive, Ruth, Meritocracy, Cancellation, Fondness, Wheat, Pirate, Coastal, Excellent, Refund, Simon, Relaxing, Sue, Pimms, Dresses, Sun, Underachievement, Uncomfortable, Crates, Last, Thankful, Pleased, Face, Delayed, Jamie, Maidstone, Small, Resolving, Appraisal, Progress, Unreasonable, Ale, Torrential, Burgers, Tidying, Hope, Praise, Analysis, Brownies, Bike, Earnest, Dashed, Broadstairs, Apes, Disproportionate, Writing, Horses, Governance, Impression, RIPNaz, Deal, Relieved, Appreciate, Ramsgate, Canterbury, Articulating, Reflections, Slots, Hope, Searching, Squeak, Limbo, Dog, Bronchitis, Rainbow, Healing, Gloomy, Expectant, Unbelievable, Over, Alton, Rita, Water, Back, Washing, Outlet, Quotes, Speakers, Smugglers, Games, Seizure, Enjoying, Washing, Completed, Gag, Absolute, Maps, Jet, Girls, Mount, Intrusive, Nearly, Cocktails, Blank, Pam, Bubble, Planning, Jacqueline, Networks, Birthday, Beagles, Robots, Desk, Orthodontist, Personnel, Happier, Baking, Pondering, Pretzels, Eclairs, Operations, Opticians, Cake, Interviews, Loving, Danish, Factor, Bus, Neil, Lethargic, Dentist, Bagels, Comfortable, Medium, Scrape, Possible, Manage, Oops, Laptop, Rainham, Willow, Score, Berlin, Finalising, Operations, Filming, Exclude, Missing, Mummy, Spread, Dragging, Together, Blood, Pleasant, Jerk, Better, Planning, Promising, Good, Rooms, Fireworks, Cakes, Power, Kicked, Smooth, Communications, Pumpkin, Productive, Figuring, RIPSuzy, Masonic, Works, Bell, Baskets, Disposing, Sad, Game, Zone, Packed, London, Black, Trust, Rolls, RIPDory, Tree, Preparing, Thirteen, Seasonal, Paint, Fluffy, Selfie, Improvement, Mockingjay, Shopping, Manchester, Stollen, Trisha, Coach, Leicester, Balloons, Sixteen, Sneaky, Baileys, Bluewater, Suzanne, Dad, Messing, Christmas, Pride, Sales, Attempting, Wonderland, Indecisive, Bang.

 Wishing you all the best for 2015!

Christmas Countdown Sundries

Vanessa with advent calendar

Photo Credit: Vanessa-Jane Chapman 2014

Let me start by asking you the question on everyone’s lips at this time of year – where do you stand on Brussels sprouts? And I don’t mean literally, like when you accidentally stand on a cooked one on the kitchen floor and it squishes on to the bottom of your foot creating a dangerously slippery surface on your slipper-sole. No, I am of course enquiring as to whether you love ‘em or hate ‘em? There is a genetic reason why some people hate them (Google it), and the Brussels sprouts hating gene is apparently present in about 50% of people, so that explains why this festive veg divides opinions as it does. Let’s see if the 50% split applies here (I’m in the love ‘em half myself) –

Now that you’ve done that, you might like to read a funny post about Brussels sprouts from the ever-entertaining Mike Allegra.

Now that we’ve covered sprouts, let’s cover this poor man with a hot warm towel!

Polar bear plunge

Polar bear plunge Calgary 2013. Photo credit: Sue Slaght

Fancy doing this icy plunge yourself? Beautiful as it looks, I think I’ll leave it to my amazing blogging friend Sue Slaght from Travel Tales of Life. On New Year’s Day, she and her husband Dave are doing a polar plunge into the icy water pictured above. They are taking part in the 6th annual Calgary Ice Breaker Polar Dip  to help raise money for the SA (Servants Anonymous) Foundation  who work to stop human trafficking. Sue explains more here  and her fundraising page is here.  Good luck Sue and Dave!

Right, so I’ve given a shout-out to Mike, and to Sue, now who was the other person I wanted to give a shout-out to? It’s on the tip of my tongue…think, think, think….oh yes! It’s me! Those of you who don’t follow my Sugarness recipe blog, won’t have seen the recipe for these Baileys chocolates I posted a few days ago –

Baileys chocolates

Photo credit: Vanessa-Jane Chapman 2014

I was rather pleased with how they came out, and with the gift boxes I found to pack them up in. There’s still time for you to make them as last-minute gifts, oh yes there is! Click here for recipe. No, no, absolutely no need to thank me, just send cash.

And finally another question – how come you never hear anything about the tenth reindeer ‘Olive’? You know, “Olive the other reindeer, used to laugh and call him names.”

(I know, groan!).

Well, festive wishes to those who want them, and see you in 2015!