Books · Food

In which I made the November Cakes and I’m so pleased with myself I’m telling the internet

Hello!

Do you remember how, a few weeks ago, I spoke about my hopeful plans for November and they included baking an extremely tricky, sticky batch of November Cakes?

WELL I DID IT AND IT TURND OUT OKAY

I was so surprised and also so in doubt I’ll make them again that I took a photo:

plate of cakes with a lot of pooled glaze

Ignore the pools of glaze. You’re meant to roll the dough into a cinnamon swirl shape that the glaze pools in, but I couldn’t because I was using a reusable coffee cup for a rolling pin and the dough wasn’t quite as firm as it should have been so they were more like fairy cakes. The glaze just ran off the cake onto the plate, where it congealed.

Can confirm: just as delicious as if I’d done it properly. Probably. Bonus is that there’s a lot of waiting around while dough rises so I got to read The Scorpio Races at the same time… and sip mint tea from the fancy Scorpio book box I bought back in January. I never really liked mint tea until this blend of mint and… raspberry?

copy of The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater alongside bookmark, teacup and tea tin

I’m keeping the tin so I can search out something similar. Also, yes, I took a photograph of my themed tea with my themed tea tin and my themed bookmark. Today was a strike day at my university, so since my main project this academic year is not to burn out, I thought I’d do the unthinkable and take the day off. Do some yoga, read my favourite standalone novel, use my crockpot to bake some cakes (I don’t have a mixing bowl, but the crockpot did the job I reckon).

It’s so bucolic I want to puke a bit. Although just out of shot is a moderately gross student living room, so it wasn’t totally… what do they call it? Cottagecore. Kitchencore. Cutecore.

Right I’ve got to go and press some November Cakes onto my friends. I made twelve. I have consumed three. Three might be two too many. Either way, see you in December assuming I haven’t snaffled all the cakes and gone into a sugar coma. No ragrets, as they say.

Look after yourselves!

Francesca


Want to support this blog and/or enjoy exclusive access to stories and chatter from me? Join the No. 1 Reader’s Club on Patreon! Alternatively, use the button below for one-off support of as much or as little as you’d like (if you’d prefer, you can use PayPal or Ko-fi). If you’re into fairy tales and/or want a brief respite from reality, you can also buy my bookThe Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes, from most ebook retailers and as a paperback from Amazon. (That link’s an affiliate. Gotta scrape every penny from Bezos, you know?)

Books · Food

November Plans *autumn leaf emoji*

Hello! What are you looking forward to this November? I am pleasantly surprised that I’m actually quite enthusiastic. A few years ago I couldn’t get excited about October or November, because they mean ~ winter is coming ~ but I have recovered from this misconception. Partly because climate change means winter arrives in March, and partly because October and November are brilliant. This month I am planning: to read The Scorpio Races actually in November for the first time ever; make November cakes for the first time ever; start a certain other Maggie Stiefvater book that concludes two other Maggie Stiefvater series I may or may not be procrastinating my reread because I don’t want to say goodbye; go for some walks.

Pretty heavy on the reading, but November is the best time to read because there is nothing else to do except listen to fireworks too far away to see, work on your winter deadlines and talk about how it should probably be colder this time of year.

I am also thinking about shopping for a certain midwinter festival, but that is because my budget is a bit stretched and I need to plan early. WE ARE NOT GOING TO MENTION THE FESTIVAL.

I am going to think about eggnog though. I learnt to make it last year, and it’s top notch. Speaking of food, if you aren’t a Scorpio Races fan (and I shouldn’t be; on paper it has little I enjoy reading but in reality it is a perfect hug of a novel) these are November cakes. I am tentatively planning to have a go at baking some – I haven’t baked anything for months and months, not least anything that requires that many steps. I also don’t own a food processor. Or a rolling pin. Or any ingredients.

I’ll let you know how they go if I do make them, not least because I suspect it will be funny for you guys immediately, and funny for me once I’ve washed flour out of my hair.

Must dash, I told myself today was a day for reading once I’ve worked on those deadlines. Let me know your autumnal plans! Especially if they involve food. We can compare notes…

Look after yourselves,

Francesca


Want to support this blog and/or enjoy exclusive access to stories and chatter from me? Join the No. 1 Reader’s Club on Patreon! Alternatively, use the button below for one-off support of as much or as little as you’d like (if you’d prefer, you can use PayPal or Ko-fi). If you’re into fairy tales and/or want a brief respite from reality, you can also buy my bookThe Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes, from most ebook retailers and as a paperback from Amazon. (That link’s an affiliate. Gotta scrape every penny from Bezos, you know?)

Health · weather

Thoughts on other people’s cold remedies. Also it has been raining

Good morning, if it is still the morning when I post this. The odds of it being this morning when you read it are slim, but maybe you are catching up on your internet based light entertainment on your Monday commute.

If you drive to work, please stop reading.

How are we? Autumn in Uni City has once again proven itself to be, in equal parts: colourful, misty and extremely, noisily, rainy. The sort where your bag won’t dry and then you realise that it was never truly up to the job of keeping your stuff dry in anything one could call weather and now you have to search for another. I usually try to get my clothes and accessories second hand or in a swap these days, but I think I’m going to have to buy a new-new backpack. It’s got to last two more years of my degree at the very least, and it’ll leave the house with me six days a week minimum for, what, forty weeks of the year? And most of those weeks it will be raining.

I kind of feel bad for typing that because this morning’s rain has given way to clear-ish skies and I can hear birds singing, which is almost too bucolic to feel real. I can also hear sirens, though. Cheers England.

Other than getting drenched on my way to work and/or classes, I have been busy trying and failing to shake fresher’s flu. I think I’m on my second or third bout now, unless it’s just one long virus-driven party in my nose. My house is coughing like we’re Marge’s sisters in The Simpsons. It’s not Covid, we’ve checked. Other viruses are available. The one upside is that I can’t rush about too much, so I’m taking things slowly and trying to enjoy the little things in life, like going more than half an hour without sneezing. My favourite cold remedy, sticking your head over a bowl of hot water, is a lot less practical when the only big bowl you own is your crockpot, so I’m mostly taking a lot of too-hot showers and hoping it has the same impact. It does not. I’ve just remembered my nan telling me a story about someone she used to know who had a Lemsip every evening. This wasn’t if they were ill, it was every evening like you might have a herbal tea or a cocoa.

I have so many questions.

Are you permanently buzzed on paracetamol and whatever they put in Lemsip, or does it wear off really quickly and just mean that if you were really ill you’d have to go straight to morphine? Does it have any impact on the health of your gut? I’m remembering that some of you are not from the UK. This is what I am talking about:

Why does the logo include a sword? Is it a metaphor for destroying your cold? The questions pile on…

I ought to go and get my day properly started – I need to go bag shopping! And the rain might hold off for a bit, so I should probably go and enjoy that blue sky while I can see it. Also, I got an email notification that a survey I put online for my stationery business in 2018 has had a new response. I mean, sure, I’ll take a look…

Let me know your cold remedies. I am curious as to whether any of them include knocking back mild painkillers every day whether you need them or not.

Look after yourselves,
Francesca


Want to support this blog and/or enjoy exclusive access to stories and chatter from me? Join the No. 1 Reader’s Club on Patreon! Alternatively, use the button below for one-off support of as much or as little as you’d like (if you’d prefer, you can use PayPal or Ko-fi). If you’re into fairy tales and/or want a brief respite from reality, you can also buy my bookThe Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes, from most ebook retailers and as a paperback from Amazon. (That link’s an affiliate. Gotta scrape every penny from Bezos, you know?)

COFFEE · History & Old Stuff · Holidays · Travel · weather · Zakynthos

In which I am a bit nerdy in museums, talk a lot about coffee and have two autumn equinoxes because one isn’t enough

Hello and happy September! And happy autumn! I adore this time of year, except for a) when it rains literal buckets while you are at the bus stop and b) when you get the dates of the equinox confused. This year I had two equinoxes. Not mad about it.

How has your September been? Mine has been really good actually. On holiday I learnt what a Zombie cocktail is, did actually learn what a paddle board is and how to use one, met some excellent cats and far too many people were nice to me on my birthday. Back in Ye Olde Rain Bucket Country I have mostly been working or waiting for a bus. Or both! I haven’t gotten used to saying ‘King Charles’ yet without immediately following it up with the word ‘spaniel.’ I have also spent approximately 284749 minutes on hold to the doctor, trying to figure out how to finish my degree without two or five organs falling out. Speaking of my degree, can someone please add a few hours onto the day? I’m already doing my uni reading and requiring half an hour to understand one paragraph. I nearly did a creative writing degree. Have I ever told you about that? When I was just thinking, ‘let’s go to uni so adult life goes away for a few years. We’ve done, like, a lot of creative writing already. It won’t be a cake walk but we’ll manage.’ Then I thought, ‘if we’re going to end up in massive debt the degree might as well be extremely hard.’

AND IT IS.

I do have a cafetiere now though. That helps. My flatmates are getting cafetieres too, presumably inspired by how much of a nicer person I am when I’m awake. If I’d been really clever, I’d have taken a photograph of it full of excellent coffee, next to a witchy mug that changes colour when you put hot liquid in it, to show you how fancy I now am. I drank the coffee in order to write this post though, so have instead a photo of a grave marking I saw in a museum in Zante Town:

skull and crossbones grave marker from 1666, in Byzantine Museum of Zakynthos.

Cool huh. I sort of love grave markers and death ritual things. I got to see some Minoan larnakes, which are essentially small coffins, in the Heraklion archaeological museum in Crete when I was there. They’re so intricately decorated and so well made that they are still viewable three thousand-plus years later. We don’t know that much about the Minoan people, but we do know how they looked after their dead. Which I think is quite an important thing to know about a civilisation, because death rituals and practices reflect people’s attitude to life.

Three painted larnakes in the Heraklion Archaeological Museum, Crete.

Getting deep, huh. It’s all the coffee. I’ve got to get ready for Freshers events and also for work, so I will see you in October. I’m going to be a mess, just so you know, when the final Dreamer Trilogy book comes out in a few weeks’ time. I might write about it but more likely I will stare at my ceiling and neglect all other areas of my life for approximately two weeks.

I can’t wait bahaha.

Look after yourselves!

Francesca


Want to support this blog and/or enjoy exclusive access to stories and chatter from me? Join the No. 1 Reader’s Club on Patreon! Alternatively, use the button below for one-off support of as much or as little as you’d like (if you’d prefer, you can use PayPal or Ko-fi). If you’re into fairy tales and/or want a brief respite from reality, you can also buy my bookThe Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes, from most ebook retailers and as a paperback from Amazon. (That link’s an affiliate. Gotta scrape every penny from Bezos, you know?)

Holidays · Travel

Schlupping Off

Hello!

How has August been treating you? I feel like it has been a month of either being so hot I can’t move to leave the house or being rained on so drastically I don’t want to leave the house.

I don’t have too much to catch you up on – most of August has involved travelling, moving, travelling and, just to spice things up, preparing to travel. I sort of love it though, even if it does mean I spend too much time thinking about the logistics of laundry. It’s been a month since I stopped updating ye olde social media accounts and it’s too early to tell if my mental health is SUPREMELY BETTER, but I have finished one book draft and one short story draft. I like to think the two things are related? Or maybe it’s just that I’m either hyper focussed or not remotely paying attention, and August was the former. It’s almost as though all the travelling around has been good for my brain and I should do it ALL THE TIME. Or maybe I just work harder when I know I’m about to have the opportunity to turn off my internet for a week or so… and setting up the fuck off polite autoreply on emails is one of life’s most underrated experiences. It’s even better when you know you’ve ticked off every measly little thing on your schedule.

gif of a dinosaur front flipping onto a boat
Real footage of me learning to paddleboard

I do have boring house stuff to do, so I’ll say bye and will pop back in when I’m back from my holidays. Do people not from Essex say ‘holibobs’?

You should.

Look after yourselves!

Francesca


Want to support this blog and/or enjoy exclusive access to stories and chatter from me? Join the No. 1 Reader’s Club on Patreon! Alternatively, use the button below for one-off support of as much or as little as you’d like (if you’d prefer, you can use PayPal or Ko-fi). If you’re into fairy tales and/or want a brief respite from reality, you can also buy my bookThe Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes, from most ebook retailers and as a paperback from Amazon. (That link’s an affiliate. Gotta scrape every penny from Bezos, you know?)

Animals... · brain chat · History & Old Stuff · Travel

Chilling Out in Crete

Hello and happy it’s-basically-August! How are you?

I’m doing well, cheers for asking. I’ve spent the last month in Crete, making friends with local cats, learning what the accusative case is – well, almost learning – and successfully asking for both wine and orange juice in Greek. Not at the same time, yet.

Tomorrow I am up at stupid o’clock to make my way home, so today I have been trying to figure out where the time went and also trying to figure out how to pack a jug of raki into my case. I’ve think done a better job with the latter than the former, but I suppose I won’t know for sure until I unpack…

I have A TONNE of photos from my trip, but I will be honest that unless you are very into stray animals or Minoan archaeology, they are not that exciting. Thankfully I am into BOTH so here you go:

Otherwise, I am busy writing a Secret Project that will get a code name when I can be bothered to think of one. Magicnovel is too vague. [redacted]novel will give the game away before I’m ready to talk about it. There are other bits and bobs going on – I am moving back to Uni City in a couple of weeks and I’m desperate to do a better job preparing for second year than I did first; some of my favourite people got engaged and I’m so happy I could puke; I had a wee bout of Covid and some other health news I’m mulling over but generally I’m alive and, despite the neighbourhood rooster conspiring to wake me up from the hours of 3am onwards, am feeling all right. I thought I’d better pop in and say hi while it lasts, because air travel and the British rail system will probably remove all my energy and goodwill in the time it takes to say ‘please ensure your bags are safely stowed.’ Does anyone actually enjoy flying? I never really minded it, but on my flight into Crete it occurred to me that the only bit of the process I genuinely like is walking through duty free after you’ve cleared security. That perfume waft says holidays like nothing else. But the rest – air pressure changes, tiny toilet cubicles, constant bloody queues for bloody everything, recycled air – can fuck right off. I’ve been threatening to take the train from the UK to the Mediterranean for a few years now and I think it’s time I start planning it seriously. At first it was a fun idea, because commercial air travel is terrible for the planet and all that, but the more I think about it, the happier I’d be to never get a plane again for a journey that takes less than five hours. If my ears are going to hurt and my brain is going to catastrophise plane crashes, I might as well be leaving Europe. Get a long enough flight that they give you a little toothbrush.

Okay, I do like the little toothbrushes.

Speaking of things I can’t stand these days, I think I might stop updating my business-y social media pages. I’ve not really bothered with it, at varying degrees, for the last year or so. I think I have a big enough data set now to be confident that not using social media to endlessly shout about my work, knowing the algorithm will hide it from anyone who might actually want to see it, makes me happier than using it. I’ll still be here and on Patreon, and I’ll still send my monthly-ish email newsletters because you gus are lovely, but I reckon it’s time to step back from the rest. I won’t delete the accounts, because I do like to pop in sometimes to keep up with my favourite creators and see what people are chatting about. I write YA stories, so I kind of need to know what The Youth are saying. But the ratio of bullshit:pleasant content has gone from 2:8 a few years ago to 8:2 now, and I’m not sure it’s the sort of system that can be changed from the inside.

It’s getting dark and I need to pack a last few things while I can still be bothered, so I will say bye for now. Let me know how your summer is going – or winter, if you’re in the southern hemisphere. I try not to look at stats anymore so I’m not sure if any of you are. I hope so, I love that half the world is making its way through one season while the other half is at a completely different one. I’m tentatively looking forward to autumn back in the UK, because it’s so beautiful and cosy, but at the same time I never want summer to end. If I had the money and energy to learn how physics works, I’d dedicate my life to bottling sunlight. Carry a vial around in the winter. But then, if I had the money to figure out how to bottle sunlight, I’d have the money to piss off on holiday for a bit in January. By train, obviously, and ferry, like in an Agatha Christie novel.

Right, have a good one. Look after yourselves!

Francesca


Want to support this blog and/or enjoy exclusive access to stories and chatter from me? Join the No. 1 Reader’s Club on Patreon! Alternatively, use the button below for one-off support of as much or as little as you’d like (if you’d prefer, you can use PayPal or Ko-fi). If you’re into fairy tales and/or want a brief respite from reality, you can also buy my bookThe Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes, from most ebook retailers and as a paperback from Amazon. (That link’s an affiliate. Gotta scrape every penny from Bezos, you know?)

brain chat · Health

On slowing down, whether you want to or not

I am writing to you from the grass on a little green in town. SUMMER IS HERE. I did realise – after I’d scanned the area carefully and sat down – that I was right next to a fag end, and it might be about to rain, but still. SUMMER. I even brought coffee and sandwiches:

hand holding black travel mug with a tarot design reading 'coffee'
I love this mug! My friend S got it for me for Christmas. Under the hand guard it says ‘tarot readings’

Today I am thinking about slow living, and how I really like it. Sitting on the grass with a sandwich, metaphorically and actually, is not a bad way to spend half an hour. For anyone who doesn’t read The Guardian, slow living is just… taking your time. Less rushing between tasks or jobs or places, more sitting about and collect your thoughts or enjoying the place you’re currently in before going to the next one. It’s the fifteen course meze of lifestyles, not the sausage roll and tea from Greggs while the meter’s running.* I think I’m better at slow living than fast living, a bit because my brain is alwaysmovingreallyquicklyanditgetsoverwhelmingandineedtotakethetimetocalmitdown. A bit because my health takes a lot more work to maintain than I realised a few years ago. If you’re new, hi, I have hypermobility and it causes joint and muscle issues, and IBS (fun fact, hypermobility might cause IBS. The gift that keeps on giving!). Anyway, yeah, physically rushing risks putting out my bad knee or pulling my back, eating quickly gives me a stomachache. I spend a lot of time in Pilates classes doing damage control. I can’t move straight away after eating, which is why I’m staring down pigeons as it begins to threaten to drizzle.

So today I’m reflecting on how I actually quite like having to slow down. I’m good at getting a coffee and reading a book. I’m slow at reading nonfiction, so I take forever to pick my way through set reading. I’m good at sitting round the kitchen table and chatting over dinner. Even when my brain is busy and I’m working on four projects and have eight upcoming deadlines, I’m not too stressed as long as I know I’ve got time in the day to get some fresh air or go and be a human with my friends. Enjoying taking my time is probably why I like the Mediterranean so much. Even though a lot of life has to be quick-quick, there’s no harm in taking your time with other things. Like bureaucracy.

Are you someone else who likes to do things a bit slowly-slowly? Let me know! And, if you’re in the UK or somewhere with an astronomical cost of living, tell me: how do you balance slow living with making a living? I was thinking about time the other day, and how we all have the same 24 hours, and I could in theory work A jobs over B hours and earn C money. But I don’t have the same 24 hours as someone who doesn’t need to exercise religiously, or who doesn’t take hours to read academic journals. I used to think I did, and trying to keep pace made me ill so often that I eventually figured out I can’t keep up with the 60 hour week people. So I actually have D hours in the day into which I have to fit everything that isn’t ‘keeping my body in one piece.’ I can’t really do the health stuff around the uni work or the jobs, because that’s when one of my joints says FRANCESCA, I’M GOING ON STRIKE. And then I am stuck in bed with multiple hot water bottles, some paracetamol and a bad mood. For ages.

I really need to stand up and move around now -I timed it perfectly to finish my coffee and I’m smug – so I will go and walk for a bit, then upload this. Shout if you’re a slow living human! Or a fast living human. Either way, tell me your secrets…

Look after yourselves!

Francesca

*I had not-enough sleep, I can’t tell if the meze/Greggs comparison is the greatest thing I’ve ever written on the stupidest.


Want to support this blog and/or enjoy exclusive access to stories and chatter from me? Join the No. 1 Reader’s Club on Patreon! Alternatively, use the button below for one-off support of as much or as little as you’d like (if you’d prefer, you can use PayPal or Ko-fi). If you’re into fairy tales and/or want a brief respite from reality, you can also buy my bookThe Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes, from most ebook retailers and as a paperback from Amazon. (That link’s an affiliate. Gotta scrape every penny from Bezos, you know?)

Books · brain chat · weather

Rainy afternoon chatter

Hello hello,

Three posts in a week? It is definitely 2011. How’s everyone? I’m sitting in my newly acquired MCR dress* and having a coffee. Today’s a loooong day, because I’m doing an online writing class that starts at 11pm. I’m normally in bed or thinking about bed at eleven, so I feel like I’m doing a very nerdy marathon. I’ve got a small amount of academic reading and one seminar between now and the end of my first year as an undergraduate, so to celebrate I decided to go see MCR again this weekend. I asked about four people to talk me out of the idea and they nearly all talked me into it? Do they want me to come to them in a few months complaining that my savings have disappeared, replaced by, what, good memories? Is this a good time to remind you all that my commissions are open until the end of May… I kid, I kid, this is a no-regrets situation.

Anyway, yeah, this afternoon I am conserving energy and looking forward to my class later. Ironically, my copy of the book I need to reference in tonight’s class is with a friend, so I need to hunt it out on ye olde Kindle and buy it digitally. It doesn’t seem to be available as an ebook from any of the library apps I can think of, and although I requested it as a paperback from my local library, it’s not in yet. Although I’ll always prefer hard copies of books, I fully agree that e-readers have earned their place in the universe of reading tools. I use mine mostly for emergencies, like now, or when I’m travelling and can’t pack 80 paperbacks. I’m going to summer school in a few weeks and I’m already planning which hard copies of books will come with, and which I’ll get for my Kindle. Decisions decisions! Suggestions welcome, I’m always on the lookout for new reads.

I suppose I could go and get that academic reading over with. Maybe have a nap. The weather here is appalling today, although pretty. Britain does look wonderful and lush when it’s raining and misty, doesn’t it? I do resent that I own two separate rain jackets, though. I suppose I could cull my collection but if I’m going to get rained on, I want to do it in a mac that matches my outfit.

gif of a dachshund wearing a raincoat
WHO FILMED ME. (from Giphy)

What are you up to now summer is around the corner? Any plans for the Jubilee? I am going to Southend and drinking prosecco, probably but not necessarily in that order. Might eat a scone. I am assuming scones will manifest themselves in front of me at some point during the bank holiday weekend, it’s basically law.

RIGHT. Academic reading and a nap, here I come.

Look after yourselves,
Francesca

*officially it is a large t-shirt, but when you’re this short you can turn almost anything into a dress with the right attitude.


Want to support this blog and/or enjoy exclusive access to stories and chatter from me? Join the No. 1 Reader’s Club on Patreon! Alternatively, use the button below for one-off support of as much or as little as you’d like (if you’d prefer, you can use PayPal or Ko-fi). If you’re into fairy tales and/or want a brief respite from reality, you can also buy my bookThe Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes, from most ebook retailers and as a paperback from Amazon. (That link’s an affiliate. Gotta scrape every penny from Bezos, you know?)