Mice, Men and Molasses Cookies

Today’s blog is posting itself while I’m away from my desk, hopefully travelling along the Rhine, glass of wine in one hand and a vegan snack (or two) in the other. I’ll be taking a novel or two on my journey with me, along with a selection of informative writing / publishing guides which I’ve put onto my i-pad. I’m not intending to work while I’m away, but you never know. It’s best to take some serious reading material with me, just in case. Or, as sometimes happens, to give me something to read if I happen to hate the novels in my backpack.

I belong to a couple of book clubs, one of which I make it to every time and one of which I seem to miss more often than not due to circumstances beyond my control. I find this very annoying when I’ve slogged my way to the end of a book I hate, such as “Outlander”. It was a huge relief when the book finally ended – had it been a movie I would have watched it on fast-forward, but unfortunately my book’s pages would only turn  as fast as my fingers could manipulate them, which wasn’t as fast as I would have liked. I speed-read a few chapters, but even so I felt as if it couldn’t end soon enough. I’ve also recently endured “To Kill a Mockingbird” (hated it), “The Elegance of the Hedgehog” (my choice, and I hated it), and “Body Surfing” (hated that one too!). On a more positive note, my book clubs have led me to delights such as “The Lace Reader”, “The Guernsey Potato Peel Pie Society” and “The Lace Makers of Glenmara”. I was even introduced to “Anne of Green Gables”, which wasn’t part of my British childhood. We had a laugh discussing it after one of our members realised she’d got a copy of the book intended for grade 4 kids instead of the full version. It had a lot of good pictures in it 🙂

So why would I read a book I hate? Well, to be honest, it’s partly to avoid eye-rolling and lectures from my fellow book-club ladies in the small group I attend. I can get away with missing out chunks of a novel if it’s a big group, but when there’s only four of us we really all need to read the book in order to have a good discussion. Although, admittedly, at our last meeting the discussion was very brief and went along the lines of “Who chose this book? What on earth were you thinking?” We’d just finished reading “Of Mice and Men”, and we all hated it with a passion. Dead puppies, dead women, a friend shooting his fellow traveler in the back of the head….this book had it all! Yes, I know it’s a classic, much loved by English teachers everywhere, but it wasn’t exactly an uplifting story. I finished it the day before the meeting and felt so……..soiled…….as a result that I had to bake cookies. As in, I HAD to bake cookies. No choice. And when they were baked, I ate 4 of them fresh out of the oven. I hope this doesn’t become a habit! I’ve seen the book club lists for the next few months, and there are a couple of potential cookie-bake-novels on the list. I can only hope that “Remarkable Creatures”, which I’ve chosen for October when my mom will be visiting from the UK, doesn’t turn out to be one of them, or I’ll have a bit of apologizing to do…. along with some baking 🙂

If you’re in the middle of a book you don’t like, promise yourself that you’ll bake a batch of these cookies when you get to the end. It will make it so much more enjoyable.

 Ginger Farthings

This is my mother’s recipe, and it must have been around for quite a while. Farthings were legal British currency from 1707 until 1960 and were worth one quarter of a penny.

  • ¾ cup vegan margarine, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Vegan replacement for 1 egg (I used 1 tbsp ground flax mixed with 3 tbsp water and left for 15 minutes)
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • 2 cups flour (use 1 cup wholewheat and 1 cup unbleached white if you prefer)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • extra sugar for coating

Heat the oven to 325’F / 160’C / Gas Mark 3

In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until light and creamy then beat in the egg and molasses. Sift the flour, baking soda and ginger together then add to the butter mixture. Beat until smooth. Take teaspoons of the soft dough and shape into balls. Roll them in sugar and place on a non-stick baking sheet 3” apart. Bake for 10 -12 minutes or until golden brown with a cracked surface. Cool on a wire rack.

GINGERFARTHINGS (Copy)

Karen 🙂

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The Write Stuff: Authors are Awesome!

For those of you who are expecting a blog about vegan stuff, this one might come as a bit of a surprise. Please say “Hello” to my alter-ego…..the writer! I’m still planning on posting vegany blogs once or twice a week, but Tuesdays (or maybe Wednesdays) will be allocated to  “The Write Stuff” in the hope that it will help me to work on my novel and travel books from time to time.

I really admire people who write books. “The Magus” (I’m still not sure how to pronounce it!!!) by John Fowles is one of the  books on my “awesome” list, although “Daniel Martin” by the same author bored me to tears. “The Lord of the Rings”, despite the really, really tedious parts, is incredible.  “The Mists of Avalon” by Marion Zimmer Bradleand is good from start to finish, while the equally lengthy tomes “The Map of Time”  by Felix J. Palma and “The Night Circus” by Erin Morgenstern seem to go a bit mad near the end.  I’m awestruck by writers who can create a novel of that length, and get it published. Back in the days before self-publishing, when a writer had few alternatives besides approaching publishers to get his or her book out there into the world, it was much harder to become an author than it is today. How many fabulous manuscripts were lost to us because a publisher didn’t like them? How many great writers threw down their pens in despair and gave up trying to catch the attention of a publishing house? How things have changed.

The advent of self-publishing has been a mixed blessing as far as I can see. Writers can become self-published authors almost at the flick of a switch. Or, in some cases, the cock of a head. There’s a fabulous review written by “David” on Amazon about a particular book, saying “He cocked his head. One time, this is used three times on the same page. If he cocked his head anymore, it would snap off.”

E-books allow readers to sample books for free before deciding whether or not to purchase them. Box sets can be bought for just a couple of bucks, showcasing the works of a number of authors. Anyone and everyone can see their manuscript in print if that’s what they desire, and there are more and more books being released every day. This is a good thing, but it’s also a bad thing. I’ve read some excellent self-published e-books, but I’ve also read seemingly endless piles of absolute and utter crap. I want to phone the author and scream “Get an editor! Use spellchecker! For fuck’s sake learn where to put your apostrophes!” OMG – it drives me mad. There have been some books which my hubby took away from me after hearing one rant too many. “Wasabi doesn’t burn your chest – it comes down your nose!” “There are six apostrophes in this paragraph alone, and none of them should be there!” “I’ve just read a sentence which went on for eight lines! Eight lines! How can that happen?” Most of these books have been deleted (had they been paperbacks I might have shredded them before tossing them into a fire) but I’ve kept a few “really special” ones for when I need encouragement in my writing endeavors. I open them up, read a few pages and tell myself “If this person can put his / her work out there for the world to see, so can I.” Then I close my i-pad, return to my desk, kick a cat or two off my chair and continue where I left off. If I need further encouragement I go to Amazon, read the one-star reviews for “50 Shades of Grey”, laugh myself stupid and start writing.

Despite my innumerable encounters with written diarrhea, I’m still in awe of novel writers. To be able to construct a story from beginning to end, even if they start writing in the middle and work in both directions until it’s finished, is an incredible achievement deserving cries of “Bravo! Bravo!” But it shouldn’t end there. Beta readers and editors are essential ingredients for dishing up a “good” book. I look forward to the day when my novel takes its first steps from being my baby towards adulthood under the loving care of somebody else. It’s not going to happen any day soon, especially since my lead character seems reluctant to follow the path I’ve laid out for her, but someday. Someday. I have to start focusing on my novel instead of stop procrastinating by writing blogs, cooking up tasty dishes and working on my next cookbook.

My eldest son gave me a great gift recently. It’s “The Writing Life” by “Annie Dillard”, published way back in 1989, and it’s proving to be a real eye-opener for me as I expand my writing boundaries beyond cookbooks and blogs. I’m still fairly close to the start of the book, because I have to keep putting it down and thinking about the points Annie makes in each chapter. I have to admit that I don’t like what I’m reading, but I’ve plowed my way through enough nose-bleedingly bad novels to know that the advice I’m seeing in this book is worth taking. I’m not particularly concerned about my spelling, grammar and sentence structure (although perhaps I should be?), even if some of them might be a tad long. After starting to read “The Writing Life”, however, I’m worried that the bits of my novel which I consider to be my crowning achievements will have to be deleted. That my favourite plot points will prove to be my weakest links. That by the time I reach the end of my novel the beginning will no longer make sense. That my characters may stray so far from the intended path that I’ll have no hope of ever getting them back on track. That I’ll never have the courage to say “This is utter shite, but will you please read it and give me some advice?” to my editor of a son. And that he’ll bill me by the hour….. and all this before I’ve even reached page 15 in her book! By the time I get to the end I may never write again lol.

I truly believe that writers (if not necessarily their finished work) are AWESOME. I hope that one day someone will read a novel written by yours truly and, at the very least say “It’s not very good, but at least she got it written. Bravo! Bravo!”

Karen 🙂

If you would like to follow my blog (and I really hope you will), look for the small “Follow” icon in the bottom right hand corner of your screen. Or in the toolbar at the top. It’s going to be around somewhere! Click on follow, add your email address, and all my pontifications will appear in your email, without you having to put in any effort at all. You can, of course, unsubscribe at any time.

If you would like to follow my blog (and I really hope you will), look for the small “Follow” icon in the bottom right hand corner of your screen. Or in the toolbar at the top. It’s going to be around somewhere! Click on follow, add your email address, and all my pontifications will appear in your email, without you having to put in any effort at all. You can, of course, unsubscribe at any time.