Gillian Monks

'Making Fairytales Come True'

Month: October 2019

Afternoon at Home

A typical late autumn day. Rain is rattling against the windows and the mountains are totally obscured by cloud. It is almost twilight, although only half past three in the afternoon and I have switched all the lights on in the kitchen and living room, including the little coloured fairy lights above my stove.

This picture of the top of my Aga says it all, really. Two different kinds of fungi drying at the back. A basket of rose hips also nearly ready for processing in the dispensary. A tray of hot fruit scones just out of the oven, ready to eat with clotted cream and home made raspberry jam for afternoon tea by the drawing room fire. Classic FM playing softly on the radio in the kitchen… clock ticking loudly… Labradors snoring sonorously.

Ah, the pleasures of being at home and able to snuggle up cosily in peace. My idea of heaven!

The End Of An Era

Gain perspective by climbing higher.

After much consideration, I have decided that this next cycle of Earthwalking weekends will be the last. My energies are now being called to work in other ways.

If you would like to join us on this last cycle of adventure, there are a couple of places still available. The first gathering is being held on the 26th – 27th October at Cae Non on the Llyn Peninsular and I am still offering this first weekend as a ‘taster session’ – no one needs to decide if they wish to commit to the rest of the cycle until they have actually experienced it.

If anyone would like to know more about Earthwalking, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me for more details – more general information can be found on the Earthwalking website: www.earthwalking.co.uk

It is eleven years since I first guided participants along this path and has been as much an amazing journey for me as it seems to have been for everyone else. But as the saying goes, onwards and upwards… here is to making this final cycle an absolute blast!

Add A Little Sweetness…

Luscious golden globes of infinite tangy sweetness!

Ah… back to more normal reality! Seeing both my books published and republished and celebrating that fact has been immensely exciting, but now it is time to turn my attention back to the more usual seasonal tasks for this time in October – and also some domestic activities which should have been seen to much earlier in the year!

For instance, the candying of peel. I usually complete this in the summer when we are enjoying lots of relaxed breakfasts with the doors and windows all thrown wide to the soft mountain breezes or sat in the sunshine in the garden. Then there are copious quantities of grapefruit  and orange peels left over. Rather than simply consigning them to the compost bin, it is far better to preserve them for use later in the autumn and winter.

This is really simple – even though it takes several days to complete. It is a process of boiling the peels in an increasingly sweetened sugar syrup and leaving them to marinade in it for days in between. (For anyone wishing to try this for themselves the recipe is included in ‘Merry Midwinter’.) I can really recommend it!

The crucial point comes at the end of the procedure when the peels are lifted out of their syrupy bath and left to drain on a wire cooling rack and then placed in the bottom oven of the Aga for several hours. The trick is to allow them to dry and set in a gentle heat for just the right amount of time so that they are dry and handleable but still soft and moist. The length of time to achieve this varies from batch to batch, depending on the size of fruit and exactly how hot my ‘cool oven’ is at the time, and no two batches of peel are ever the same.

I did actually candy a batch of grapefruit several weeks ago, but it was right in the middle of the time we were getting ‘The Alternative Advent Calendar’ ready to go to print… and I forget them. Rather than the two or three hours in the coolest part of the oven, I only remembered them twenty-fours after first placing them there to dry out. When I ran to retrieve them, they were a deep brown in colour – otherwise known as burnt – and so rock hard they could have shod a horse! Sadly not one of my finest moments!!! But sometimes these things happen. You either laugh or cry and it is by far better to laugh about it.

I prefer to candy grapefruit peel – which produces lusciously thick sticky slices of decadence – and which adds real luxury and fresh, fruity zest to home made Christmas cakes and puddings. This year I have also candied orange peels too. they give very distinct flavours and both can be sliced and dipped in melted dark chocolate for the ultimate experience with freshly brewed coffee at the end of your Christmas dinner.

Why not try it for yourself? It is really easy to do. One of these days I might even try candying whole small fruits, like clementines, which were my mother’s favourite and which always used to arrive packed in wooden boxes from Fortnum and Mason. I can strongly recommend it. You end up with a far superior product full of gorgeous sweet tangyness rather than the drier, more tasteless bought version.

Oh, and if you have any left over, it is absolutely delicious baked into Hot Cross Buns for Easter. Candied peel made this way will easily keep in an airtight container for at least twelve months.

Be adventurous! Have a go – and make something which will really set your Christmas baking apart this year.

Celebrating With A Book Launch!

What a wonderfully amazing and joyous day! My first proper book launch to

officially birth my second book, ‘The Alternative Advent Calendar’, out into the world. And we had a blast! Even before two o’clock struck, people were pouring through the door as I happily greeted so many friends… new and old. It was so good to have so many very dear people there with me.

And there was lots for them to do while we waited for stragglers – and there were one or two! I had assembled a collection of vintage family advent calendars dating back to the early 1950’s which we put out on display, (more about them another time), and we had both my books, ‘Merry Midwinter’ and ‘The Alternative Advent Calendar’ for sale, as well as a branch full of my speciality fir cone gnomes which make cheekily cute decorations at any time of year.

There was also a table of refreshments: home made chocolate cake and ginger parkin coated in sweet white icing and studded with crystallised ginger; gluten and dairy-free orange cake and fruit flapjack with savoury snacks to nibble on as well. I had made mulled wine and a none-alcoholic fruit punch but as the cinnamon had a very strange gloopy reaction in the fruit punch and I had forgotten a pan in which to heat the mulled wine, that rather narrowed the choice down to tea and coffee for the more discerning… well, you can’t win them all!

All four candles were lit on the advent wreath which I had made for the occasion and I began by welcoming everyone and giving them an update on what has been happening to me in the world of publishing since the beginning of the year. For not only was this a celebration for the launch of my second book but also for Herbary Books who are responsible for publishing it! Jess and Dafydd were there with us and so I officially introduced their new business venture to the world as well.

I went on to talk about the ancient significance of Midwinter celebration and what advent and the advent wreath symbolises and how the advent calendar developed. I mentioned how I came to write ‘The Alternative Advent Calendar’ and we went on to discuss what makes Christmas important to us and how we can bring that into our lives this winter festive season.

I was glad that I had booked the hall for longer than I originally intended. It allowed me to get round and talk to everyone… sign books… and eventually sit down with some of my nearest and dearest for a well-earned cup of tea before beginning to pack everything away.

Once home again, there were six of us for dinner… and a giddy, happy party we made of it. Later, as we settled back with cups of coffee, Jess opened a big tub of chocolates… ‘Celebrations’… what else?!

New Book Published Today!

A very happy moment!

Today is the day!!! The moment I have been waiting for… to hold my latest book in my hands, ready to present it to the wold! ‘The Alternative Advent Calendar’ is an inspiring read which will – hopefully – propel you off into all manner of actions and adventures. Published by Herbary Books, ISBN 978-1-5272-4942-4 and available for £7.99 through bookshops and on Amazon:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Alternative-Advent-Calendar-Secrets-Christmas/dp/1527249425   

Celebration!  Furthermore, for any of you who are in my area, I am holding a book launch on Sunday, 6th October at the Hirael Community Hall, Ambrose Street, Bangor, North Wales at 2.pm. There will be a short talk about my new book, copies will be for sale along with ‘Merry Midwinter’ and there will be home made treats to eat and drink. But the main thing is that I want to celebrate… and everyone is welcome!

Very happy reading – with my love!

Contact Us | Privacy Policy & GDPR |

Copyright © 2018 Gillian Monks.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén