Christmas at the Satin Bowerbird Inn is a fairly relaxed affair. We do a big lunch with a multitude of aperitifs followed by roasted meats and salads, then a range of desserts. This year, I made a different glaze for the ham. I still used my usual chilli-plum glaze as a base, but I added some honey, and a combination of dijon and wholegrain mustards to cut the sweetness. It worked well.
Most of the other things I cooked: roast beef, roast pork with crackling, roast pumpkin and spinach salad with caramelised walnuts, can all be found on recipe sites. Two of the desserts were unique to me.
I took a Milky Bar Cheesecake recipe and, instead of making it in the ice-cube trays as recommended, I made it in a small square slice pan then added a cherry jelly (tinned cherries, caster sugar, gelatine) on top. A few crushed pistachios sprinkled over it before serving and it's our very own Christmas cheesecake, cut into squares. So creamy and delicious.
The other recipe I adapted was my last-minute chocolate truffles:
1 can condensed milk
1-1/2 packets Cadbury melts (I used a mix of dark and milk chocolate melts. I didn't measure the 1/2 packet - it was left over from a previous recipe so I simply emptied the packet into the saucepan)
a nob of butter (I didn't weigh it but it was probably around 50g)
1 packet Arnotts Scotch Finger biscuits finely crushed.
Put the first three ingredients into a saucepan (no need for a double boiler - we want it to crystalise a little) over medium-low heat until it's all melted and smooth. Add the biscuits. I would normally shape them into balls at this point but I didn't have time this year so I sprinkled the base of a square slice pan with sifted cocoa, added the mixture, sprinkled the top with sifted cocoa then chilled for an hour. I use baking paper in all my pans and make sure I overlap the edges so I can lift the slice out onto a board for easy cutting.
Meanwhile, my sisters and I are still trying to work out how we're supposed to be making everything work between us. It's not all smooth sailing, that's for sure. Read our stories in Tangled up in Blue, available now.
My writing plan for 2020 worked really well until about mid-March when Covid-19 became the only topic of conversation with everyone I know. That's when I discovered - or rediscovered - that I don't work very well at home.
Instead of being able to go out and sit in a library or a cafe and work uninterrupted for several hours, I'm at home with all the things I've been avoiding for the last several months. I'm still avoiding all those things. It's just that being at home puts those things in the front of my head. I can't avoid looking at my desk which has several piles of papers and books more than a foot deep. I can't avoid noticing the storages boxes of painting equipment I've left open on my office floor because I might need them for the next project.
Just the thought of having to sort through every single piece of paper is enough to do my head in.
It means I've run away into my head, but not in a productive way. I'm reading. Mostly I'm reading romance, and most of that is MM romance. I've also just begun a biography on a Deputy US Marshall from the 1890s. A fascinating life and a very tough man.
All this means my writing projects are going nowhere quickly.
Morrison & Mackenzie (1930s historical romance): I've created a scene map to check the structure as it isn't working the way it should. That's it. All I need to do is put all the scenes up on my plotting wall and work out where the dips are so I can plan what needs to go there but it hasn't happened yet.
Tangled up in Blue anthology: This is moving forward slowly, mainly because the other authors are relying on me. One of the authors has just completed a continuity check and now we all have lists of things to fix. I'll get that done over the next week. We've also been talking about the cover and working out what we want.
The murder mystery: haven't looked at it. Instead I've been working (intermittently) on another fantasy story, one I started years ago but put aside because it wasn't working. When I picked it up again it was obvious why it wasn't working. I had too many POV characters and I was switching between adult POV and child POV. I've decided to write it as a YA fantasy and remove the adult POV completely. Already it's working better and I've identified missing scenes at the beginning that are needed for the child's POV but were irrelevant from the adult's.
Now Easter is over and my back is beginning to settle, I'm hoping to do more work on these projects. For right now, sending a couple of emails and doing this blog has used up my sitting time for the morning.
Seeing different things can be inspiring. I have so many story ideas from my holidays. Last week, I was in Melbourne, the week before, it was Canberra. This weekend I’m almost at the other end of the country, in Maryborough, visiting family. Tomorrow we’re going on a cruise up the Mary River, including a commentary on the history of the river and the town. I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve enjoyed going to places and seeing things I haven’t seen on previous visits.
During my time in Canberra, I discovered that the paint on the road and the guideposts were different colours to everywhere else so you could see them through the snow. I saw so much gold in the Versailles Exhibition that I came away dazed. In Melbourne, I learned that the free tram system in the centre of town was a fantastic way to rest weary feet after five hours walking, and at the same time learn something of the history of the city. I learned a lot about Melbourne's attitudes, particularly to things like street art. I saw the Banksy Exhibition and remember again what it is about graffiti art that I love. The irreverence is one of those things.
So far in Maryborough, I’ve been introduced to the concept of converting the alphabet to sounds and reading books through music. I think I’ll write a story where one of the primary methods of communication is through music where the instrumental songs speak to you. If you can identify the sounds, you can ‘read’ the story. I suppose it would be a little like Braille but without the touch. Would the people have an aversion to touch or would they have very few sensory receptors?
I have to stop there. If I keep pondering and asking questions, I’ll begin research and have another story idea before I finish the sequel to Warrior Pledge. I only have one and a half chapters left to write, so I can’t stop yet.
E E Montgomery
About writing, life, and random thoughts.
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