Gillian Monks

'Making Fairytales Come True'

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The Path Leads Onwards!

First draft finished – another manuscript now ready to enter the editing and production process! And yes, it is another book centred around Midwinter and Christmas but is applicable to any time of the year. ‘The Alternative Advent Calendar’ is based on the traditional twenty-four doors, with an extra special door to open of the twenty-fifth of December.

Advent calendars are usually based on giving us something nice to enjoy. This calendar differs in that – far from taking – it is all about what we can give back to the world around us. There is an introductory chapter to explain the origins, aims and development of the advent calendar and also an explanation of the ethos behind Advent itself. This is followed by twenty-five short chapters, each one suggesting a way in which you can make life pleasanter and happier for everything that lives around us – and here I am including animals, plant life and inanimate objects as well as the human element.

Each door will be marked by a large, seasonally illustrated numeral which the reader will ‘open’ by turning the page. There is a simple task or challenge for every day; ideas like giving a hug to people, making someone a hot drink, spending quality time with someone, making people laugh, feeding the local birds, planting seeds, and so on. I also include why these things are important… what real benefit they bring to those around us. Yes, we are mostly aware that it is good to promote such actions… but then we often forget to keep on doing them, especially in the hustle and bustle of the weeks before Christmas when in reality this is just the exact time we should be focusing even more on selfless thought and activities – not less.

But nothing we do, think or say is without its consequences and nothing we participate in is simply one way – there are ultimately the benefits that accrue to the perpetrator as well. Simple kindness can bring immeasurable fulfilment, satisfaction, joy and love. Our interactions with others are always a two-way street.

So, if you want to give yourself or your loved ones an early Christmas present look out for ‘The Alternative Advent Calendar’ which will be available to buy from the beginning of October onward. There is also a final short chapter on how the ideas can be applied to any time of the year – January is a wonderful time to instigate these activities… brighten the cold dark world of post Christmas and cheer everyone (including yourself) by doing so.

This whole idea began as a series of blog posts dashed off in the heat of the moment last December while I was rushing around promoting my first book, ‘Merry Midwinter’. Once Advent had come to a end it seemed such a shame to merely discard the idea, so earlier in the spring I began work on rewriting them and taking the time to truly consider what I wished to convey. The result will soon be in the hands of my editor.

I have also been having long conversations about how I wish to portray the seasonal numerals which will represent the ‘doors’. I finally knocked up some very rough sketches to show everyone what I had in mind. They were warmly received and now – although I am no artist at all – am left with the task of doing the job properly for inclusion in the book. I just hope that it does not also fall to me to execute the cover… words are one thing but lines on paper have a habit of refusing to do what I expect. Come to think of it, so do my words! Ah well, such is life – jolly exciting isn’t it?

Candying Time

Candied Peels 1

Candied halves of grapefruit ready to be dried off.

I have just seen a post on Facebook which informs me that there are only fourteen more Fridays before Christmas. I got my diary out and counted – and it is true! So for all the people who feel that they have loads of time between now and Christmas…. think again!!! Suddenly, fourteen Fridays neither sounds – or feels – very much.

And I already seem to be a bit behind myself – and I am blaming all delays this autumn on my book which is being published in just a couple of weeks time on the 4th October. I have only just finished candying my first batch of fruit peel which I usually get done in July or August. My favourite peel is grapefruit which is thick and luscious when candied. I usually add it to my mixture when I am baking my Christmas and New Year Cakes. It gives a fresh tang to the other fruits and spices. (And I often finish using it up in the Hot Cross Bun dough at Easter which makes the spicy fruit bread an extra-delicious treat.)

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‘Gather Ye Fir Cones While Ye May’

Fir cones

Gathered on one lovely summer’s walk through the Beddgelert Forest

Gazing out of my window this evening it is hard to believe that it is the middle of August and the children are still on their summer holidays. The mountains are completely obscured by cloud – in fact, I can hardly see the other side of the valley – and it is dark, gustily windy and drenchingly wet. Ah, the true British summer has returned to us. Now this is the weather I recognise and understand!

In such circumstances my thoughts turn to autumn and cosy evenings by a blazing fire… and being me, they drift as far as the Midwinter season. No, don’t groan! There are facets throughout the whole year which reflect on our major Winter celebrations; things which it is good to do/collect/gather/make in preparation for that special time, and now – if and when the rain stops! – is no exception.

For it is now that everything in the woods and forests is coming to fruition, and that means things like all the fir cones which feature so prominently in our Winter decorations. But NOW is the time to begin collecting them. Take

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