What is Juliet reading now?

Actually, it’s sad-facemore a case of – is Juliet reading now?

Whenever a parent says, ‘Little [insert name, usually a boy’s] won’t read anything!’, they mean that they never see them engrossed in a story.

A teacher’s stock answer is: ‘It doesn’t matter if it’s the back of a cereal packet, or a newspaper article – as long as they are reading something.’

At the moment I feel like one of those young children.

This is a typical day’s reading for me:

  1. Several lists (like this one).
  2. Ingredients on a ready-meal packet, just in case the manufacturer has listed ‘HORSE’ in a fit of transparency.
  3. Free commuter newspapers – Metro, Evening Standard.
  4. Emails, contracts, policies, reports, minutes – in many jobs, the sheer volume of required reading has made the concept of ‘Monday to Friday, 9 to 5’ redundant.

It’s like being on a particularly unpleasant diet. Recently, the nearest I’ve got to the land of make-believe (although some of the business reports I read are pure fiction) is the weighty Miranda Hart autobiography Is It Just Me? that’s been languishing at my bedside since Christmas. (I was using ‘weighty’ to describe the autobiography, by the way, not Miranda herself.)

Like most diets, it doesn’t feed the soul; whereas a novel …

regencyreadingwoman

‘… there seems almost a general wish of decrying the capacity and undervaluing the labour of the novelist, and of slighting the performances which have only genius, wit, and taste to recommend them. “I am no novel–reader — I seldom look into novels — Do not imagine that I often read novels — It is really very well for a novel.” Such is the common cant. “And what are you reading, Miss — ?” “Oh! It is only a novel!” replies the young lady, while she lays down her book with affected indifference, or momentary shame. “It is only Cecilia, or Camilla, or Belinda”; or, in short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in the best–chosen language.’

Those are the words of Jane Austen in Northanger Abbey, surely the most passionate and amusing defence of the novel ever written. And that is why I return time and again to Austen – her ‘genius, wit, and taste’ feed my soul.

How do you feed yours?

Juliet’s Romance Day – Happy 200th Birthday, P&P!

Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle, P&P 1995

Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle, P&P 1995

Next Monday, 28th January 2013, it’ll be exactly 200 years since Pride & Prejudice was first published. Today this book is more popular than ever – an amazing achievement for its author, an English spinster who lived quietly in the Hampshire countryside.

Jane Austen’s shelf life has been far longer than her own (she died in 1817 at the age of 41), and her golden rules for publishing longevity still apply:

1. A catchy title – even if you’re borrowing it from someone else. Austen originally called her novel First Impressions, but two other works had been published with that title by the time hers was accepted for publication. Pride & Prejudice was probably inspired by the final chapter of Fanny Burney’s Evelina, where the phrase appears 3 times in block capitals. Alliteration is not compulsory, but it helps …

2. The power of editing - we know that, following the success of Sense & Sensibility in 1811, Austen ‘lop’t and crop’t’ the novel that she’d written between 1796 and 1797, when she was the same age as its heroine, Elizabeth Bennet. And we’re always being advised to put our writing to one side before editing – although 15 years is taking this a bit far!

3. A heroine you’d like to be – Lizzy Bennet’s self-belief and zest for life, tempered with witty cynicism, sparkle on the page even now. And, from what we know of surviving letters, she seems to have more of the 20-year-old Jane Austen in her than any of the author’s other heroines.

4. A hero you’d like to … [please insert word of your choice] Oh, Mr Darcy! Even BC (Before Colin), he set my pulses racing. Difficult to know why at the start, when he insults our beloved heroine. But then that’s become a bit of a winning formula, hasn’t it?

Any more rules for being a bestseller after 200 years?

Matthew Macfadyen and Keira Knightley, P&P 2005

Matthew Macfadyen and Keira Knightley, P&P 2005

Juliet’s Wednesday Ws – Wine, Women and … Writing

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Tonight it’s the RNA Winter Party, where Wine, Women and Writing will be in full flow. Which got me thinking …

Do you buy it from the supermarket, or at your local specialist (if you have one) at a ‘tasting’ event with a guest speaker? Do you prefer something light and refreshing, or are you a connoisseur of the heavy stuff? And am I talking about wine, or books?

Both. Because writing covers the whole spectrum – from commercially produced, perfectly quaffable enjoyment, to rare vintages which may ultimately prove undrinkable for many of us! And then some wines/books cry out to be consumed with food (Choc Lit, anyone?), while others are best savoured on their own.

Actually, the same probably applies to women, too – and men!how-do-you-buy-books1

Looking forward to seeing you tonight, if you’re going. In the meantime, do your wine preferences match your writing/reading ones?

Juliet on ‘The Way We Live Now’

union-jackThe Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope was published in 1875, and written after he returned to England from abroad and saw his native land through fresh eyes.

Trollope, of course, was talking about timeless human failings – whereas, since we arrived in the US last Thursday, the phrase ‘the way we live now’ has stuck in my mind for very different reasons.stars-and-stripes

Globalisation means that certain things are the same wherever we travel: brands of clothes and consumer goods, hotel chains, customs (it’s Hallowe’en season already) and TV programmes.

We’re in Ohio, staying with my sister and visiting our son who’s at the local university. As I write this, it’s Family Weekend and we’ve been with the parents of Will’s flatmates and other friends. They’re a great bunch of people!

What’s the same as England:

· I made a chocolate-based tray bake, a recipe from my mother, using typically English ingredients which I actually bought here, at the local Meijer store.

· I can watch BBC TV – yes, there’s now a Global iplayer, with a limited selection of programmes so far.

What’s still different:

· We went to a ‘college tailgate’, also known as a ‘party in the parking lot’ – BBQ and picnic activity done from the boot of your car. Not something I’ve seen much of back home.

· Ladies’ restrooms (can’t speak for the Gents) – the ones I’ve been in over here are generally big and clean, with plentiful supplies of soap and towels and plumbing that works. Wow!

halloween_pumpkin_0

What do you like best about being in another country – something you know you can’t find or do back home? At least, not yet …

Juliet – Savaged by a Dead Sheep?

People of a certain age may remember MP Denis Healey’s comment that being criticised by Geoffrey Howe in the House of Commons was ‘like being savaged by a dead sheep’.

dead-sheep3

Well, today I am hoping for a similar experience. While the Olympians parade through London to universal acclaim, I will be doing a work presentation to a group of patient (as in the noun, not the adjective) representatives – introducing them to a new NHS service that is intended to improve their health care.

On the face of it, they sound like a harmless bunch of mainly senior citizens. But I have already been warned to watch out for Mary, ‘the one who looks like a sweet old lady but goes for the jugular’; and Harry, ‘who will eat you alive if he doesn’t like what you’re saying’. So while I would like to think that they will savage me like dead sheep, rather than ravening wolves, I’m not over-confident.

This happy prospect made me think about my talks as a writer. Those audiences are anything but hostile – the worst that can happen is that a sweet old lady (usually in the front row, in full view of the speaker) falls asleep. Many of them share my passion for Jane Austen and give me every encouragement. If it’s a Women’s Institute talk, then I often have to judge a competition – anything from ‘oldest book’ to ‘best rose’ – but it’s hardly high-risk (provided I make a quick getaway afterwards).

Of course, if you put the same gentle people in the arena of the NHS they may well react like Mary and Harry to protect their interests. And who could blame them, when it might literally be a matter of life or death?

Have any of you ever had particular challenges as a speaker – or as a member of the audience?

PS If I don’t survive today’s presentation, it was lovely knowing you …

“… Rabbit …”

easterjulietMore Easter memories from the Choc Lit Authors:-

Juliet – RABBIT LOVE – There have been a number of rabbits in my life, most of them fictional. After having three real ones, courtesy of my children (guess who had to do most of the looking after?), the rabbit I love most is definitely to be found between the covers of a book. I don’t mean Beatrix Potter’s creations, although I do have a soft spot for naughty Peter, Benjamin Bunny, Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail.

Instead, my favourite rabbit books are the Little Grey Rabbit series by Alison Uttley, about a compelling ménage à trois of Little Grey Rabbit, Hare and Squirrel (red variety, of course). LGR was the mother figure with obsessive compulsive disorder (always cleaning and tidying), Hare was the stereotypical bad boy (he stole an Easter egg!) and I can’t remember much about Squirrel. Who’s the love of your rabbit life?

easterlizLiz – Thinking about Easter, the first thing that came to my mind was this – my husband and I decided to spend Easter in Italy one year, and we went to Cortona for the Easter weekend.  In the evening, we strolled into the central piazza and found that people were taking their seats for an opera to be performed on a stage that had been constructed at one end of the piazza.  We bought a ticket and we, too, went and sat in one of the rows of wooden chairs that faced the stage. The opera turned out to be the wonderful Cavalleria Rusticana, by Mascagni, a one act opera set in a 19th century Sicilian village on Easter morning.  I was thrilled as it contains one of my all-time favourite choral pieces, The Easter Hymn.  This is one of the most strirring and most moving pieces of music, and if you don’t know it, you have a treat ahead of you if you decide to listen to it.

Just imagine that Easter evening - sitting beneath a slowly darkening sky that was filling with stars, in a piazza lit solely by the lights from the stage, listening to the voices of the Sicilian villagers, along with the seduced Santuzzi, rise to a crescendo in one of the most beautiful melodies ever written. That was an Easter to remember.

easterhenriHenri - As children my sister and I were often given a painted cardboard egg for Easter. Inside were small sugar-coated or foil-wrapped chocolate eggs, and always a little fluffy chick too. After a while we had quite a collection of chicks, some of them very elaborate with their own nests, and we’d spend Easter playing with the chicks (which all had names), making houses for them out of empty cereal boxes and generally allowing our imagination free rein. My favourite scenario was Chickerella who went to the party in her borrowed feathers, despite the Evil Step-Hen forbidding it. Now, what does that remind me of…?

Jane – We’ve owned many rabbits over the years, most made their escape in a precipitous manner, treating our garden like a prison camp out of which they couldn’t dig their way fast enough.   My son, now nearly eighteen, is repeatedly teased by his sisters about his ‘duelling scar’, where he was actually attacked by a rabbit when he was about four.  So, as you can see, I have an uneasy relationship with the Easter Bunny.  But not so the Easter Hare, the origin for the Easter Bunny stories; despite their being rare elsewhere in the country, here in Yorkshire you can’t go for a run without tripping over half a dozen of the berserk, spring-loaded things.  I have a terrific fondness for them, mad eyes, bonkers boxing matches and all.  However, when it comes to rabbits … only the Rampant kind will ever enter my house again …

A modern little witch

A modern little witch

Christina – In Sweden they have some very strange traditions for Easter, probably of pagan origin, but who knows? My favourite one was dressing up as a witch on what’s called “Skärtorsdagen” (Thursday before Easter) and going out to wish people Happy Easter in the hope they’d give us money or sweets as a reward (almost like Trick-or-Treating for Hallowe’en). My mum would let me borrow one of her skirts so it reached all the way to the ground (anchored by a belt as I was much smaller obviously), then tie a scarf round my head the way old ladies did. I was given a broom to hold, because Swedish witches apparently fly off on their brooms that night to congregate somewhere, and then my dad painted my face. Using watercolours (there were no face paints back then) he gave me horrible wrinkles and transformed me into an ugly crone. The paintbrush tickled as he worked and when the paint dried, my face felt funny, but I loved looking in the mirror afterwards. I was a true work of art! (And getting money or sweeties was of course a bonus).

Once again, HAPPY EASTER from all of us!

(And please come back tomorrow for the unveiling of a new Choc Lit novel …)

Choc Lit Christmas Special – Day 12

choclit-logoxmassmaller3We have reached the final day of our special Christmas blog series and we hope you’ve enjoyed our posts! Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve, and most of us are hoping to have a wonderful celebration of some kind. So we thought we’d end our ‘twelve days of Christmas’ by telling you about some of our most memorable New Year celebrations over the years – some good, some not quite what they were meant to be …

JaneI fell asleep with my face in a trifle once. But, you know, party … Sometimes, when I get a cold, there are still mandarin orange slices …

clxmaschampagneJuliet – 1999, fireworks, and that once-in-a-lifetime feeling – unless you’re a vampire – of being on the brink of a new millennium!

Chris – Being offered a Choc Lit contract in December 2009 was the realisation of an ambition I’d held since I was a little girl. Raising a glass at midnight on the last day of 2009, knowing that in 2010 I would be a published novelist, was a very special moment indeed!

Linda – Very low key really, 31st December 1999. A family meal with lots to eat and drink and a lot of laughs, stopping up until the early hours. It was what happened afterwards that was magical. My son and I were the only ones left standing and just before dawn we decided to walk down to a local cove and sit on the beach to watch the new century’s dawn. It was heart-stoppingly wonderful as the sun peeped up from the horizon. Someone let off fireworks on the headland and my son stripped to his boxers and went for a swim while I paddled in the shallows in a pancake flat sea. No photo, alas … we didn’t stop to think of that in our last minute decision to try and make a dawn of the millennium memory … shame.

Sue – May I have the funniest? I’d just begun a relationship and we went to a club in a hotel for New Year’s Eve. A lot of people in the club were laughing because there were two men in drag in a drunken stupor on a pool table in one of the outer rooms, and everyone was trooping out to look at them. So we went, too. And one of the guys came round from his drunken stupor and said, ‘Hello, Sue!’ It was Tony and Steve, who I’d been to school with. It wasn’t the impression I’d planned on making on my date …

EvonneThe year I fell in love for the first time, of course. I’m a romantic novelist!!

Margaret – I wonder why it seems right and even desirable to do the conga round the street on New Year’s Eve, but not at any other time of year? I used to live in Berkshire before I moved to Devon, and my next door neighbours always had great New Year’s Eve parties. I don’t remember them in any huge detail – I can’t think why – but the conga-round-the-street part sort of sticks in my memory.

KateMy favourite New Year’s Eve was only last year, when I went to Port Isaac in Cornwall with my family. We spent the evening in the pub by the harbour, drank champagne and nibbled canapés by the open fire, then moseyed down to the beach at midnight to drink wine, watch fireworks, and set off Chinese lanterns. And have a little paddle in the sea, of course!

Christina – Can’t remember the year (late 1970s?), but some school friends of mine were house sitting a small four bedroom house and decided to throw a New Year’s Eve party. Approximately 200 of our fellow students turned up … don’t think there was much left of the house or furnishings afterwards!  (Whenever I see the film 10 Things I Hate About You I think about that party!)

Henriette – One New Year’s Eve I spent with some friends in Copenhagen, and after the bells had rung in the new year, the guests trooped outside to set off fireworks, as tradition has it. But everyone in the street did the same and after a while the air was so thick with white smoke, it was like a cordite-scented pea-souper. It took the whole night for it to clear!

We’d love to hear about some of your most memorable New Year’s Eve parties, so before you start to drink champagne and sing Auld Lang Syne, please leave a comment below for a chance to win Christina Courtenay’s novel Highland Storms!

We wish you a very happy, healthy 2012 with lots of time for reading!

Choc Lit Christmas Special – Day 11

choclit-logoxmassmaller2New Year’s Eve is rapidly approaching and it’s time to party! Champagne is usually a must, but we’ll need some party food or canapés to go with it if we are to stay awake until midnight. Here are some recommendations from the Choc Lit authors:-

JulietPut self in car, adding handbag or at least a credit card. Go to nearest supermarket, preferably M&S or Waitrose. Mix with rest of neighbourhood, who have the same idea. Boil gently while choosing a selection of canapés, then freeze when you get to checkout and see total bill. Add several bottles of wine to improve your mood.

Henriette – Steak with sauce béarnaise, served with oven roasted potato wedges and a spicy rocket salad, with a full-bodied red wine to drink and then fizz for later. Can’t beat it, and the diet … well, there’s always next year.

Kate – My favourite party food is sausage rolls. Yes, I don’t eat meat, but almost since day one I’ve been addicted to Linda McCartney’s vegetarian sausage rolls!

Margaret – I always let someone else sort this out. Waitrose does a lovely selection of canapés, dips and desserts!

Evonne – Anything that stays in one piece and does not end up as an inelegant smear down the posh frock gets my vote. Preferably something that can be eaten elegantly and does not leave crumbs around the mouth. I think this is a miracle food, not a canapé.

Chris – Quick, easy, delicious and slightly quirky.  No, not one of our heroes but my canapé recipe. Spread water biscuits (I like the ones with cracked black pepper) with a thin layer of greengage jam, top with blue cheese to taste – I can recommend Carmarthenshire Boksburg Blue!

SueGo to someone else’s house for New Year’s Eve. Seriously. You made all that Rocky Road, didn’t you? And you’ve probably cooked Christmas dinner, Boxing Day dinner, extra bank holiday dinner and a leftover turkey curry lunch for stray family members. Take a bottle of champagne and nobody will care if you haven’t cooked anything. They’ll probably have eaten too much by then, anyway.

clxmascanapeLinda – Not a food at all but a drink – a cocktail … although it will work as a dessert after an Italian meal which would be best served by, or shared with, an Italian … Francesco da Mosto would do it for me – and at least he’d be able to pronounce Sgroppino!

Sgroppino – Put half a shot of vodka, a quarter of a shot of double cream, one and a half shots of Prosecco and 3 scoops of lemon sorbet in a blender, whizz, then serve in a Champagne flute garnished with a lemon twist.

JaneWe don’t do New Year’s parties. We build a huge bonfire in the garden and sit and look at it. Sometimes there are peanuts, but that’s really all I can offer.

Christina – I love savoury canapés, but after a while I need something sweet to finish off with, so this is what I’d suggest – buy small, round shortbread biscuits, place them on a tray and put a tablespoon of whipped cream on each one, then a couple of strawberries, raspberries or blueberries (or one of each?) on top. Makes a small but perfect cream cake!

If you prefer savory, however, take some very dark rye bread, spread with butter and cut into little circles (use a shot glass and just push through the bread, that’s perfect size!), add a thin slice of boiled egg, then a tiny daub of mayonnaise, a little piece of pickled herring (or anchovy if you like those – I don’t!) and a teensy sprig of dill. Makes a lovely mouthful!

So now we’re all set for the party, right? Please come back tomorrow and we’ll tell you more …

Choc Lit Christmas Special – Day 10

Christmas is often the ideal time to take photos, some of which we treasure as they remind us of loved ones and all the good times. Today we thought we’d share some of our favourite photos (both old and new) with you, and we hope you enjoy our “Christmas Album”!

Do you have any special photos you’d like to share with us? Please e-mail a jpeg to Christina at christinacourtenay@googlemail.com and she’ll post a selection here. Don’t forget to add a caption! The photo we like best will win you a copy of Kate Johnson’s brilliant novel The Untied Kingdom – set in an England where Christmas was very different indeed! (Competition ends midnight on New Year’s Eve)

Kate - Here's my Christmas photo, (as I can't find one of myself, although I know there is one of me and my brother standing to attention besides a badly decorated tinsel tree, but I seem to have lost it ...). It's Sugar, one of my birthday kittens, helping me with the gift wrapping!

Kate - Here's my Christmas photo, (as I can't find one of myself, although I know there is one of me and my brother standing to attention besides a badly decorated tinsel tree, but I seem to have lost it ...). It's Sugar, one of my birthday kittens, helping me with the gift wrapping!

Henriette – I always smile when I look at this picture of my sister and myself (it’s me on the left) baking pebernødder, small Danish cookies the size of round licorice allsorts.  The word translates as “pepper nuts”, but today people use cardamom.  Traditionally they’re placed inside cone-shaped Christmas tree decorations, with strict instructions to any children present not to “eat the tree” until we’ve finished singing and dancing around it.

Henriette – I always smile when I look at this picture of my sister and myself (it’s me on the left) baking pebernødder, small Danish cookies the size of round licorice allsorts. The word translates as “pepper nuts”, but today people use cardamom. Traditionally they’re placed inside cone-shaped Christmas tree decorations, with strict instructions to any children present not to “eat the tree” until we’ve finished singing and dancing around it.

Sue - And here’s one with my dad.  I know it was Christmas because I’m wearing two of my presents.

Sue - And here’s one with my dad. I know it was Christmas because I’m wearing two of my presents.

Sue – I know there is a picture of me on the spacehopper, but can’t find it.  So here’s one of me with another hot favourite present – a book.

Sue – I know there is a picture of me on the spacehopper, but can’t find it. So here’s one of me with another hot favourite present – a book.

Linda - They say you know you're getting older when policemen start to look younger ... well, what about when Father Christmas looks like he's still in nappies - as in this picture!  (My grandson - not sure if he's enjoying the experience of his first Christmas Day or not! Say aaaaahhhhh. )

Linda - They say you know you're getting older when policemen start to look younger ... well, what about when Father Christmas looks like he's still in nappies - as in this picture! (My grandson - not sure if he's enjoying the experience of his first Christmas Day or not! Say aaaaahhhhh. )

Chris - Christmas wouldn’t be complete without a brisk walk.  Living on the west Wales coast we’re spoilt for a choice of beautiful locations.  Here’s us on Christmas Day walking at Poppit Sands, Pembs.

Chris - Christmas wouldn’t be complete without a brisk walk. Living on the west Wales coast we’re spoilt for a choice of beautiful locations. Here’s us on Christmas Day walking at Poppit Sands, Pembs.

Linda - And here at Preston in Paignton we have a community tree. Said tree donated by Marldon Christmas Tree Farm and all the decorations made by the little ones at Preston Primary. It always makes me smile because we have a fir and a palm side by side!

Linda - And here at Preston in Paignton we have a community tree. Said tree donated by Marldon Christmas Tree Farm and all the decorations made by the little ones at Preston Primary. It always makes me smile because we have a fir and a palm side by side!

Christina – Here are a couple of photos of me, aged three, as St Lucia – all Swedish girls dress up for this on 13th December each year and although I’m sure I loved the attention at first, I seem to have tired of my crown fairly quickly!

Christina – Here are a couple of photos of me, aged three, as St Lucia – all Swedish girls dress up for this on 13th December each year and although I’m sure I loved the attention at first, I seem to have tired of my crown fairly quickly!

lucia2small1

Liz – Here is a photo of a group of super people - the Oxford Chapter of the RNA, who meet monthly.  It was taken just before Christmas last year and sent to the Cotswold Life magazine.  They'd asked us to remove any trace of Christmas as it was to be featured after Christmas - but the smiles on all faces show, I believe, that the Christmas spirit was very present amongst us!

Liz – Here is a photo of a group of super people - the Oxford Chapter of the RNA, who meet monthly. It was taken just before Christmas last year and sent to the Cotswold Life magazine. They'd asked us to remove any trace of Christmas as it was to be featured after Christmas - but the smiles on all faces show, I believe, that the Christmas spirit was very present amongst us!

Jane - Last Christmas – me and my giant icicle.  Best present since the headcollar!

Jane - Last Christmas – me and my giant icicle. Best present since the headcollar!

Margaret – My daughters and my grandson go for the Traditional Healthy Walk on Christmas Day 2008.

Margaret – My daughters and my grandson go for the Traditional Healthy Walk on Christmas Day 2008.

In 2010, however, Devon looked more like the North Pole – deep and crisp and even, and jolly chilly!

In 2010, however, Devon looked more like the North Pole – deep and crisp and even, and jolly chilly!

Choc Lit Christmas Special – Day 9

choclit-logoxmassmallerYesterday we shared some delicious chocolate food recipes with you, but on a cold day, maybe all you need is a hot drink instead? Well, we might be able to help you with that too! Here are some of our “specials” that will warm you right down to your toes:-

MargaretWhy is it that chocolate and brandy go so well together? I guess we’ll never know, but I’m happy to carry on trying to find out. Some Cadbury’s hot chocolate, whisked into a foam and enhanced with some VSOP certainly keeps out the cold.

Sue – Lots of whisky, a spoon of clear honey, a little hot water. If you have a cold, add a Lemsip. Drink in front of a nice fire over a good book.

Chris – A large measure of Talisker, to be taken by the fire. I’ve had this on the deck of a boat on New Year’s Eve too and it’s equally good there.

Linda – Juice of a lemon, same quantity of brandy, a teaspoon of honey and a pinch of cinnamon in a glass topped up with hot water.  Great if you have a cold.  Even greater on a cold night, wrapped up in bed with a good book!

JaneHalf fill a mug with single cream and half with milk. Add a few squares of good-quality chocolate and microwave gently until the chocolate has melted and the milk is hot. Stir. Top with large marshmallow (must be large, not those prissy little ones) and drink through the resulting sticky mass. Delicious. Unless you have a beard, in which case, leave off the marshmallow …

Henriette – Papa Gyland’s Red Wine Toddy – Fill a mug (or a toddy glass) with red wine to the halfway mark, add the juice of half an orange, then a measure of schnapps or brandy.  Sweeten with sugar to taste, and pour in boiling water.  Stir and serve steaming hot.  If you feel you’re about to come down with a cold, make up my father’s toddy and take yourself to bed immediately.  I promise you, it works.  Probably because no one dares to be ill after that …

clxmashotchocKate – Hot toddy recipes … oh dear I’ve already done mine! Hot chocolate with Baileys in it. It’ll cure whatever’s wrong with you. Including verticality.

LizI’m drinking hot chocolate now.  Recipe: put three heaped teaspoons of Cadbury’s Highlights into a mug, and (if, like me, you have a sweet tooth) either a heaped teaspoon of sugar or two artificial sweeteners.  Add boiling water, and stir.  It’s delicious. That’s the best I can do, I’m afraid!!  I have one mug of my hot chocolate (with sweeteners, not sugar) every afternoon, and I love it.

Christina – And mine is hot chocolate too (non-alcoholic), but a slightly different version. Take one teaspoon of cocoa and six teaspoons of white sugar and stir together in a mug. Add eight to ten teaspoons of double cream (or whipped cream if you have some to hand) and stir this in too. (I would recommend tasting at this point, very decadent!) Pour boiling water over this mixture, stir, and add a little bit of cold full milk to make it instantly drinkable!

Juliet – I’ll stick to wine!

And why not? It definitely keeps you warm! We hope you’re all nice and toasty now!?

What’s your favourite hot drink/toddy?  We’d love some more recipes to add to this collection!  And please come back tomorrow if you’d like to see some of our favourite Christmas photos – plus you’ll have a chance to win another Choc Lit title as well!