Weddings are about – everlasting love, the happy union of twin souls, and – cake?

What do weddings mean to most of us?

That’s in addition to the ceremony, the public affirmation of love and devotion, the joining of two people and hopefully two families forever?

Well – as I was researching The Wedding Diary, I realised most weddings also mean: gorgeous dresses, gorgeous shoes, fantastic nail-art, amazing table decorations, astonishing hairstyles, lots of polyester (especially among the over-fifties), hugely unsuitable hats, hyper-critical grannies, shiny black BMWs and – cake.

You can’t have a wedding without a wedding cake, so here’s one to get the party started.

Where do your stories start? Most writers get asked this question, and there’s no easy answer. Stories often seem to come out of nowhere, but in the case of The Wedding Diary I owe a great debt of gratitude to my local writers’ group, Exeter Writers, who got the ball rolling in a discussion about writing and weddings and winning, which all came together in The Wedding Diary. It’s about a girl who wins a fabulous luxury wedding. But there are a few problems, not least of them a missing bridegroom.

Last Saturday, Exeter Writers had a little private party to celebrate the publication The Wedding Diary. I took in a batch of cupcakes, which amazingly all got eaten. Who would have thought it?

But I kept one back for Choc Lit.

“Run …”

easterchickEaster is here and as with all holidays, it often seems to entail a lot of running around – buying eggs, preparing special food and perhaps going on egg hunts. So the Choc Lit authors thought we’d take time out to share some of our favourite Easter memories with you.

Happy Easter everyone!

Margaret – Easter was the time for egg-and-spoon races at my children’s infant school.  Okay, that was fine, I always enjoyed catching up on the gossip as the kids raced up and down the playing field trying (and usually failing) not to drop their eggs. But then, as the grand finale of the day, there’d be the mothers’ race.  I had to go in for it. Otherwise my children would have been shamed.  My children were shamed anyway, because I always came last.  These days, they both run marathons.  Obviously, they don’t take after me!

eastersueSue - As we were an army family, much of my childhood was spent in Germany, Cyprus and Malta, but we did have an English Easter when I was nearly four. My parents took my brothers and me to stay with my Yorkshire grandparents, apparently determined to visit every single one of Mum’s relatives. The advantage of this plan was that the haul of Easter eggs was incredible! Smarties, Flakes, Dolly Mixtures, Milky Way, an egg in a mug and one in an egg cup … In chocolate heaven, I gave every scrumptious one of them the same enthusiastic welcome. And, who knows? Maybe that was the onset of my chocoholism …

LindaEaster for me always conjures up Easter Sunday and going to church in clothes that came from a shop! Let me explain …my mother was a gifted dressmaker who sewed (or knitted) all my clothes – from knickers to winter coats with pockets and fancy collars. Easter was a very busy time for her as - in the 50′s which is where this memory comes from – she was always up to her eyeballs in wedding dresses and the first of the dozens of summer frocks she made. Our sitting-room picture rail used to be hung, not with pictures but with the most wonderful clothes shrouded in old sheets. So ….no time to make anything for me at Easter. If punching the air with delight had been ‘the thing’ then, I would have. My most favourite Easter outfit was a fine wool suit – how grown up was that aged 8 years! – with a pleated skirt and a little box jacket a la Coco Chanel. The material was a very pale pink check and I had a darker pink felt pillbox hat to go with it. And white cotton socks that came from a shop – not the itchy hand-knitted things I had to wear all winter. Gosh … such sartorial memories … excuse me, there are a few days left and I’m off to buy something new ...

easterchrisChris – The Easter holiday, when my daughters were very small, saw the latest batch of hand-made cards brought home from school and lovingly presented to Mummy and Daddy.  But what to do with all those cards without hurting little feelings?  Answer, put them in a box in the loft and rediscover them years later along with home-made books such as ‘Mother Hen Lub Her Chick’ and ‘Brown Hen goes Clack Clack’.  Here’s wishing you all a Happy Easter with a vintage card from me and my girls!’

EvonneEaster memories – my grandmother was very big on celebrating Bank Holidays in what she considered appropriate fashion – and for spring and summer, that meant a trip to the beach. At Easter the weather was a really mixed bag, which could involve playing on the sand with bucket and spade, gloves and gritted teeth, as the wind howled round.

When I was very small I wouldn’t eat the shells of the chocolate eggs. I wasn’t very into chocolate at all, in fact. I’ve made up for it since. My mother blames me for her subsequent addiction to chocolate egg shells!

To be continued tomorrow …

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!

Choc Lit Christmas Special – Day 8

choclit-logoxmassmaller1♫ “On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love brought to me – a chocolate recipe!”

We’ve all eaten our fill of turkey with all the trimmings (especially sprouts in the case of Jane and Christina) and we’re in the mood for something different – sweet rather than savoury. And what could be better than chocolate? As we’re all choco-holics, we’ve put together some of our favourite recipes involving chocolate (and a few heroes courtesy of Sue) to share and we hope you’ll find something here to tempt you – bon appétit!

Viggo Mortensen

Viggo Mortensen

SueSue’s Rocky Road – Ask Viggo Mortensen to crush a packet of dark chocolate Hob Nobs and tip them into a large bowl for you. Daniel Craig can add a packet of small marshmallows. Give Jenson Button a large slab of Cadbury’s Bourneville chocolate to melt slowly over a pan of boiling water. You can stir in a couple of tablespoons of golden syrup. Let Jenson put his hand over yours to stir, because that chocolate can be heavy stuff. Take one Colin Farrell and ask him to stir the chocolate/syrup into the Hob Nobs and marshmallows. As Robert Downey Jnr isn’t busy, he can grease a baking tray. In fact, he can probably afford to buy you one of those silicon ones that doesn’t take much washing up. If Jared Leto will pour the mixture into the tray and smooth it, let him lick the spoon. To cool your consequent hot flush, put the tray into the fridge for a few hours until set. Mark the slab into squares with a sharp knife. Then eat it. Don’t share it with anyone. It’s yours. (Oh. You can share it with me, if you want.)

Kate – This is what we actually have for dessert on Christmas Day (after all of us confessed that we’re not really that excited about Christmas pudding). You whip together single and double cream, and layer that alternately with a mixture of drinking chocolate powder, instant coffee granules, Demerara sugar, and breadcrumbs. It sounds bizarre but it’s delicious!

HenrietteEasy Chocolate and Orange Cake(Ingredients) 4.5oz/125g self-raising flour, 1 tab golden syrup, half an oz/12g cocoa, 1 teasp baking powder, 4oz/100g soft margarine, 3oz/75g caster sugar, 2 eggs, 2oz/50g grated or chopped plain chocolate or chocolate chips, grated rind and juice of 1 orange (about 4 tab).  (Method) Line and grease a 7inch/18cm round cake tin.  Set the oven at 160°C or Gas Mark 3 (less for fan-assisted ovens), making sure the oven shelf is above centre.  Mix all the ingredients together (baking powder last) and put the mixture in the cake tin, levelling the top.  Bake for 45 minutes until springy to the touch and shrunken away from the sides.  Leave to cool, then serve plain or iced with chocolate glacé icing and either orange/brown Smarties, white chocolate buttons or miniature Easter eggs (for Easter only).  Add

Jenson Button

Jenson Button

Chocolate Glacé Icing – Dissolve 2 teasp cocoa with 2 teasp boiling water, then mix in enough icing sugar (about 4 tab) to make a thick but spreadable icing.  Imagine being in the kitchen with Heston Blumenthal when making this yummy cake!

ChristinaChocolate Mousse (Warning – seriously calorific!!) Melt 150grams of dark cooking chocolate in a bain Marie. Mix in 3 egg yolks, one at a time and whisk briefly with an electric whisk. Whip 300ml of double cream in a separate bowl until fairly hard, then add the chocolate mixture. Portion out into pretty glasses and leave in the fridge for a couple of hours.

Margaret – A Christmas tradition when my children were little (that is, not more interested in lurking in their malodorous pits or on street corners learning to smoke than being indoors with Mum and Dad) was making Millionaire’s Shortbread – Cheat’s Version. This is how you do it. Open a packet of shortbread biscuits. Melt some fudge in a saucepan. Melt some milk (or, if you want a more sophisticated product, plain) chocolate in a basin over hot water. Spread melted fudge over shortbread. Allow it to set again – a minute or two. Spread melted chocolate over fudge. Fail to wait until completely set before eating greedily. As for a millionaire to help eat it and get chocolate and fudge all over his chin – what about George Clooney, he must be worth a few dollars?

George Clooney

George Clooney

Chris – An easy chocolate recipe that’s fruity (so extra good for you!) and made for sharing - Chocolate Fondue with Fruit(Ingredients) 8 ounces good quality dark chocolate, 3 fl.oz whipping cream, 3 tablespoons Penderyn Welsh whisky (in honour of my latest hero, Gethin – but you can adapt this to suit your hero!), selection of fruit cut into bite-sized pieces. (Method) Melt the chocolate and whipping cream in the microwave on medium for 2 to 3 minutes or in a saucepan on the stove at medium low heat. Blend until smooth. Stir in the whisky. If you don’t want to use liqueur, just use an extra 3 tablespoons of the cream. Transfer the mixture to a fondue pot and keep warm. Serve with fruit platter.

LindaChocolate BrowniesI know there are as many chocolate brownie recipes as there are Americans but this one always works for me. (Ingredients) 400 g of very dark chocolate, 325 g of unsalted butter, 6 whole eggs plus one yolk, 300 g golden caster sugar, 50 g cocoa powder (Green & Black’s is best!), 50 g plain flour. (Method) Heat oven to 180c/fan 160c/gas4. Butter and base-line a 20 cm swuare baking tin with baking parchment. Gently melt dark chocolate and butter together in a bowl over hot water until smoothe then cool a little. Whisk eggs, yolks and caster sugar together until pale. Fold the melted chocolate into the the eggs. Sieve cocoa powder with the flour and then fold everything together unti it is evenly mixed. Pour into prepared tin and bake for 20 minutes until slightly risen at the edges. Allow to cook completely in the tin. Cut into 12 and indulge yourself – you should have a thin, crisp crust and a rich, gooey centre. I think pricking it while warm and drizzling a table-spoon of brandy over – for adults only – works well!

JaneTake one large bar of any kind of chocolate. Add a large dash of peace and quiet, a big bed (electric blanket optional), and a gorgeous, smouldering hot man. Send the man to make you a cup of tea. Eat the chocolate.

LizA super Devil’s Food Cake recipe, luscious, it literally melts in your mouth and leaves you wanting more. Yummy. Links up with description of loads of heroes – the reference to Devil in the title of the cake connects to the idea of a bad boy, and what woman doesn’t like a bad boy – the idea, at least; not too sure about the reality! (Ingredients) 7oz (200g) self-raising flour, 10oz (275g) castor sugar, 1 and a quarter level teasps. bicarbonate of soda, 1 level teasp. salt, 2oz (50g) cocoa powder, 4oz (125g) butter, 8fl.oz. (225ml) milk, 2 large eggs, 1 teasp. vanilla essence, grated plain chocolate (optional – for decoration). (Method) Preheat oven 180c (non fan oven), 160c (fan oven), 350F, Gas 4. Grease and line 2 x 20cm (8”) sandwich tins, the paper allowing for a depth of 2cm (5”), or square tins, depending upon the shape you want. (I grease the paper as well as the tin.) Beat the butter till fluffy. Add the flour, sugar, bicarb, salt and cocoa powder. Add milk. Beat for 2 mins, or longer, if you wish. Stir in eggs and vanilla. Beat well again. Divide mixture Divide into the lined tins. Bake 40 mins, until firm. If you think the top is browning too quickly, put a piece of greaseproof paper on the top before the end of the cooking time. Allow the cakes to cool in the tin for 10 mins, then turn on to a rack to finish cooling. When cool, sandwich with icing and cover with icing. Chocolate Icing – 6oz sieved icing sugar, 2oz cocoa butter, 3oz butter, 4 tablesps. Water, 4oz castor sugar. Sift icing sugar and cocoa powder into a mixing bowl. Measure butter, water and castor sugar into a saucepan. Stir over low heat until butter has melted and sugar dissolved, then bring just to the boil. Pour into the centre of sifted icing sugar and cocoa powder. Mix to a smooth icing. Allow to cool until it is thick enough to spread. Sandwich and cover cake with icing. Leave to get firm.

Now as we don’t think we’ll have to try very hard to persuade you to make one of these chocolate delights, what could be better than a copy of Juliet Archer’s lovely novel Persuade Me to go with whatever you’ve made? Simply leave a comment telling us about your favourite chocolate dish or recipe, and you could be our winner! (Competition ends midnight on New Year’s Eve)

Choc Lit Christmas Special – Day 7

clxmaswreath Today we would just like to wish you all

a very HAPPY CHRISTMAS!!!

clxmastree1

We hope you have a wonderful day and if, by any chance, Santa should happen to bring you a Kindle or other e-reader, perhaps you’d like to download one of our novels to read over the holidays? Just click on the titles below for the Kindle links or go to http://www.choc-lit.co.uk/ for links to all other types of e-books.

The Importance of Being Emma – Juliet Archer

Starting Over – Sue Moorcroft

Turning the Tide – Christine Stovell

All That Mullarkey – Sue Moorcroftclxmasreddecs1

Trade Winds – Christina Courtenay

The Silver Locket – Margaret James

Please Don’t Stop the Music – Jane Lovering

Want to Know aclxmashenristree Secret? – Sue Moorcroft

The Untied Kingdom – Kate Johnson

The Golden Chain – Margaret James

The Scarlet Kimono – Christina Courtenay

Love & Freedom – Sue Moorcroft

Persuade Me – Juliet Archer

Highland Storms – Christina Courtenay

Star Struck – Jane Lovering

Please come back tomorrow when we’ll be talking about chocolate (another subject close to our hearts :) and giving away one more Choc Lit novel!


Choc Lit Christmas Special – Day 6

choclit-logoxmassmallerAt last we come to our favourite topic – the top ten heroes we’d like to find in our Christmas stockings tomorrow! Well, actually, we’ve added a couple of extra ones as (a) there are eleven of us and (b) we couldn’t possibly ask Juliet to choose between the two Mr Darcy’s. We’re pretty sure you won’t object to some bonus ones, are we right?

Without further ado, here they are – enjoy!

Matthew McConaughey

Matthew McConaughey

Henriette – My stocking hero for this Christmas has to be the American actor Matthew McConaughey, star of films such as The Wedding Planner, Sahara and A Time to Kill.  I just lurve his heavy Texas drawl and his habit of taking his shirt off.  The guy has a chest to die for.

Darcy No.1 - Colin Firth

Darcy No.1 - Colin Firth

Juliet – Definitely a Darcy, in any shape or form! Either of these will do nicely.

Darcy No.2 - Matthew Macfadyen

Darcy No.2 - Matthew Macfadyen

Richard Armitage

Richard Armitage

Kate – I’ve asked for Richard Armitage for Christmas for three years now and still don’t have him. It’s very disappointing.

James McAvoy

James McAvoy

Margaret – I’d like James McAvoy. I’ll let you have him back soon, Mrs McAvoy, I promise. Of course I’m not keeping my fingers firmly crossed behind my back, what a suspicious mind you have!

Anthony Calf

Anthony Calf

Evonne -  This was a very difficult choice, but in the end I opted for Anthony Calf – one of my many favourite actors. He has a lovely smile.

Colin Farrel

Colin Farrel

SueColin Farrell!

Harrison Ford

Harrison Ford

ChrisI’d like Harrison Ford, circa 1985, for that amazing scene in the film Witness when he and the heroine Kelly McGillis dance to Sam Cooke’s ‘Wonderful World’. There’s nothing explicit, the hero and heroine barely touch, but the looks they exchange just sizzle with longing. (YouTube link here)

Gregory Peck

Gregory Peck

Linda – Gregory Peck, to add a bit of style and class to my life – he was sublime in Roman Holiday!

David Mitchell

David Mitchell

JaneDavid Mitchell – gorgeous eyes!

Ryan Gosling

Ryan Gosling

Liz – I give in – I know that someone else will have bagged the gorgeous Richard Armitage, so I shall go for a second choice – Ryan Gosling, after seeing The Ides of March.  You could not take your eyes off him – not even when George Clooney was around, and that’s quite something!

Jared Leto

Jared Leto

Christina – Jared Leto. Sorry to be so predictable, but I really don’t think anyone else even comes close!

So there you have it, our favourite heroes for this year – hope you agreed with our choices? If not, who would you pick? Send us your suggestions and the one we agree with the most will win a copy of Sue Moorcroft’s Love & Freedom, which features a drop-dead gorgeous guy who’d probably beat all of the above if only he was real! (competition ends at midnight on New Year’s Eve).


Choc Lit Christmas Special – Day 5

choclit-logoxmassmallerChristmas wouldn’t feel so special without all the extra sparkle we add to our homes each year – the lights, the tinsel and the candles. And whether we’re decorating the tree or the rest of our house for the festive season (or like some people, the entire outside of the house plus the garden!), we all have special decorations we treasure for one reason or another. Here is a selection from us:-

Juliet – When my daughter was born, my mother-in-law gave us a big bauble where we could add her name and the year. (No. 21 on the list of things you can have personalised for Baby!) There was also space to add a second name and year, which we did for our son three Christmases later.

Henriette's Peace Dove

Henriette's Peace Dove

Henriette – My favourite tree decoration is made by capiz shell by craftsmen in the Philippines, and it’s either a Peace Dove or perhaps a symbol of the Holy spirit, I’m not sure.  I love the simple beauty of it and the reminder of what Christmas is truly about.

KateI bought a glittery butterfly for the top of the tree last year. In the Christmas market they had a display tree totally covered with them, in all different colours: it looked like something Tim Burton would have. It was fabulous!

Margaret's big bauble

Margaret's big bauble

Margaret – Christmas isn’t Christmas without a tree covered in as much tinsel and other tasteless trash as it can possibly hold. I’m not a fan of tastefully colour-themed trees – all white, or all silver, or a minimalist few twigs hung with one or two exquisite baubles. I like there to be as much clashing colour as possible, and as for the baubles – as big and brash and bright as possible, please!

EvonneThis year, I coveted some beautiful decorations shaped as birds in the gift shop at the Birmingham Art Gallery.

Sue – A Christmas tree made out of dough and painted green, by one of my children. It’s probably past its “eat by” date, by now …

Jane's bauble (unchewed version)

Jane's bauble (unchewed version)

JaneNow here is where I have a problem. We have mice. (Bear with me here). Every year I swear I’ll find somewhere to keep the decorations where they don’t get chewed, and every year they go back into the same cupboard, and every year (afterwards, obviously) I triumphantly bring out decorations which now resemble doilies or, in the case of the salt-dough ones the children made in playgroup, are just a piece of string with a sad lump of something unidentifiable on the end. So every other year we buy completely new decorations. It doesn’t pay to get too attached to anything in this house. Some of those mice are really big … But if I had any, they’d look like this. Only, due to mice, they’d probably all say ‘Mer Histma’.

Liz – I can’t yet photograph these decorations as we’ve eaten the ones I made in previous years, and I’ve not yet made this year’s decorations.  I don’t make them too early as I fear that I might eat them well before Christmas arrives if I do.  They are a Polish decoration – chocolates which look like snowflakes all over the tree.  I was shown by a Polish friend how to make them.

You take a wrapped chocolate, wrap it in a piece of white tissue, which you’ve cut to size and so that it has a small fringe at each end, then you wrap the tissue around the chocolate, with the fringe at each end.  Tie a piece of cotton in the crease at each end so that the fringe sticks out a little.  It looks like a small white rounded Christmas cracker.  Put all over the tree, they are very effective.

Christina's mini fans

Christina's mini fans

Christina – my favourite tree decorations are five miniature Japanese fans which my mother bought for me when we lived in Tokyo. I love them because they’re so pretty and because they remind me of some of the best times of my life as well as many happy Christmases.

Chris – Unfortunately I don’t have a picture of it, but my youngest niece, who’s not known for her craft skills, presented my mum with a lovely figure she’d made for her tree. It was a sad little person with one leg twice as long as the other, gigantic feet and a missing eye. I’m afraid we all took one look at it and collapsed with laughter.

Linda's Fairy

Linda's Fairy

Linda – The fairy on my tree. The little doll was bought – naked – at a Christmas fair, one in a box of about 50 one of the parents had brought into my children’s junior school to raise funds. I say, one but really there are two, and they alternate on top of the tree. My children – then aged eight and five – helped me dress the dolls and would be outraged if I chose something else to top the tree! I have to say they are a testament to the glue I used to stick the tinsel and rick-rack on! And here is model one, on top of this year’s tree.

Which is your favourite Christmas decoration and why? The best comment will win you a copy of Star Struck, Jane Lovering’s latest novel, which is almost pretty enough to hang on your tree! (competition ends at midnight on Christmas Day)