I tell myself each year to write off December, because this is the one month of the year when I am completely swept up in family events. And each year without fail, I try to balance family with writing and end up in a tizz.

BTW. Watch out! You never know who might be packing your last-minute shopping this year…

I am hereby officially writing off the rest of December for any form of activity that isn’t connected to gift wrapping, tree decorating, theatre, not once but twice, and endless cooking and baking.

Meanwhile, the dauntless Mr S has provided…yes, you’ve guessed it:


So I have no excuse not to defrost, pre-cook, shop, or whever else the heck I’m supposed to be doing in order to cater for family staying over on different dates, all of whom have healthy appetites.

Now, I know you’re probably thinking where Mr S is concerned: ‘cheeky b***er’. And yes, I occasionally think that too, but as he makes me laugh more than he makes me angry, I’m just leaving him to get on with his annual spreadsheet, because, 1) it keeps him out of my kitchen, and 2) it wouldn’t be Christnas without it.

Do I consult it? What do you think? ?

Hope your Christmas preparations are going well❣️?❣️

From my hearth to yours, all the warmest wishes of the season,

Susan xx


Remind me never to promise pics from a party ever again!

It was fabulous – but hardly time to draw breath, let alone pause to frame up a nice juicy pic 🙂

And the Mince Pie Slayer was in the house – a fact I should have taken heed of. I have one child, who shall remain nameless, who should never be allowed within a mile of a kitchen – but as that child’s intentions are always good, suffice it to say that I barely blinked, mainly because Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas if I didn’t leave something in the Aga to be charred to ashes, so I have no room to talk. It’s obviously a family flaw. And I had a spare stash of mince pies hidden away, so no harm done. My guests feasted, music played, and there was just enough snow in the garden for the children to build a snowman. It was just a  great party, and I can see Mincepies and Mayhem becoming an annual event.

Hope your festive activities are full of fun and laughter,

Much love to all,

Susan xx


Proper Preparation Prevents P+++ Poor Performance

Getting the house party ready is fun but tiring as chairs that haven’t seen the light of day since we lived in a cottage have to be carted down from the loft. With their authentic horsehair seats they’ll be going straight back on Monday! We’re too used to what might be modern rubbish to some, but is a heck of a lot more comfortable than these beauties!

I have discovered a fab brass cleaner (restrain your cheers) Called Quickshine Brass Bath – you literally soak your pieces for 5 minutes and that’s your brass cleaning done. I only have a couple of brass pieces that I kept for sentimental reasons – most notably the pestle and mortar which was used to signify Almonds and Raisins, the sweet and the bitterness of life…

Well, I’d better get on as there is baking and cooking to do, but I will try and post some more pics as i go along – and not of brass cleaner, I promise❣️

Have a wonderful weekend everyone,

Love to you all, Susan xx

Food, glorious food

Having my favourite meal tonight – chicken in orange and tarragon sauce.

So easy – lightly cook through raw chicken pieces and a finely chopped onion – by lightly, I still mean thoroughly, but not brown – I fry the chicken and onion in a little olive oil and chilli oil mixed to give it a kick. I know we’re not supposed to fry this or butter that, but to hell with it, I like my food to taste good and rich and yummy.

Then I add finely chopped fresh or dried tarragon, chicken stock and orange juice. Great if you have real chicken stock hanging around in the freezer or fridge, but if you don’t, just use a couple of stock cubes – don’t make the stock too watery – in fact, make it strong, and then make up to the recommended amount with orange juice.

Fresh chopped tarragon at the end – and if I forget to toss my raw chicken in seasoned flour to begin with (which i’ve done tonight) I just stick in some thickening granules at the end. No fuss. Then, you can either add some cream, or creme fresh, or even natural yoghurt if you’re feeling particularly virtuous – but be sure to thicken before you add any of these or your sauce will separate. Or you can eat without any additions, which is even more virtuous!

But how much virtue can you take? Let’s have some indulgent Butternut Squash soup.

I’m not sure if it’s called Butternut Squash in every part of the world, so here’s a pic…

Again, I use a mix of chilli oil and olive oil as i like things spicy (you think?)

So… peel (I know some chefs say you don’t need to peel, but i think that makes the soup gritty however long I bake the squash for.

Peel and remove the seeds and goo from the centre. Slice and place on a baking tray with 2 sliced onions. Drizzle with oil (and honey if you like a sweet soup, but be sparing as both the onion and squash are naturally sweet). Bake in a really slow oven until you know that your whizz-banger won’t explode if you try to mulch the pieces down. I don’t know how long – I’ve never timed it – just make sure it doesn’t brown or you will discolour your soup. Quite a time is my best guide ? Maybe an hour — cover if it threatens to brown before it’s soft.

Then whizz bang the pieces of squash and onion with your stock and add coconut milk – season to taste, and hey presto!

I can’t tell you how much stock, either – i’d say to taste – just so the soup is a little bit thick without being gunky – and not watery, that’s for sure.

I love homemade food, and believe me, mine is all trial and error. It wouldn’t be Christmas here without something left to turn to cinders in the AGA – but if 90% turns out yummy, that’s good enough for me.

Love to you all, and happy eating! My mouth is watering just reading this, so I’m off to check my chicken is still simmering away contentedly on the stove (not sure my vegetarian son would agree – but i’ll make sure he has something equally special to eat on Christmas Day ?)

Susan xx

Dolphin and GOT

OK I’ll admit it. I am totally addicted to Game of Thrones. But…how can anyone watch four series in a week? I’m really not quite sure. Shhh…Please don’t tell a soul – I wouldn’t like my editor to find out!!!

I’m going to post some fabulous Dolphin pics taken in one of my all-time favourite places, Florida, where I was lucky enough to stay for a month one year not so long ago.

These are in answer to a request from Melissa, who lives in Florida. Please don’t be shy – if you have any topics you would like me to feature I’m always happy to try to oblige 🙂

We were just so lucky to see these wonderful animals in the wild, and to spend time in beautiful Florida in February, which must be one of the best months to visit this fascinating State. Here’s to the next time! And thanks as always to my readers for being you, and for living in such truly amazing places xx

Love to you all,


First job

The BBC is discussing ‘first jobs’ this morning. Mine was in a cotton mill at the age of fourteen, where, together with my friend from the local Girls’ grammar school, we plunged into a world of widespread illiteracy, unbelievably long hours for those old enough to work them, and unremitting noise. To say it was an eye-opener would be massively understating the case. There are a lot of things I could say, but maybe I’ll put them in a book one day.

I was put in charge of a ‘line’ of workers, simply because I could read and write and add up, and the only other person who could do this had been moved to another position while I was employed during the school holidays.

I learned a great deal during this time – not least to worship the arrival of the tea trolley with its mugs of strong brew and custard buns with lemon-or at least, bright yellow icing on top!

And, most importantly, i learned the freedom that earning money brought me. My mother, who worked harder than anyone should have to, to support me and her elderly mother, had very little in the way of luxury items, so I saved up my money to buy her the dressing gown I believe she deserved. In day-glo pink with appliquéd flowers, it had caught my eye on the High Street right away, and it was a nerve-wracking wait through the summer holidays to see if it would still be in the shop when I had sufficient money to buy it. My mother, who was always stylish in her clothes, received this paean to all that is garish as if it had been designed by Chanel, and indeed wore its nylon magnificence until it dropped in shreds from her back.

Yes. I learned a lot of lessons during my first job, none of which I would swop for all the money and ease in the world.

Note to self: Show those you love how much you adore them each and every day of your life. Sometimes it’s the little things that mean the most – little things and Day-Glo dressing gowns, of course 🙂

My love to you all

Susan xx

On your marks, get set…GO!

It’s December! Yippee!!!!!!!!

Let’s go, um, crackers this year – or in my case, more crackers than usual ?,  and put it all out there, whilst sticking to the tinsel rule that there is no such thing as too much at this time of year.  ❣️?❣️

These don’t count as Christmas trees, as they’re basically glorified twigs (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!)


The outdoor Nordstrom is up and waiting for its lights and decorations – not quite Trafalgar Square size, but ten foot high is tall enough for me

Four more trees to go – 2 tiny – and two, um, very conservatively sized – at least, that’s my line for Mr S ?

Meanwhile… Love an inglenook

Rudolf arrived, and has declared himself ready for his annual pummelling and flinging and cuddling…

I never forget that for many of us, Christmas is a poignant time. Mr Frog was my last Christmas present from my mother, and now he watches over everything I do all through the year, ready to supervise, scold if necessary, and bring a smile to our faces, as my mother would have done.

Thinking about you, all my friends out there, who are also remembering someone irreplaceable as the holiday season approaches.

Love to you all,Susan xx





Naughty naughty

Yep. That’s right. I haven’t posted my December updates on the SS web site yet. And I got up this morning to find the sky hadn’t fallen in.

I consider myself disciplined. I work office hours. But if I were employed I would take time off to visit the dentist/doctor/for family reasons/because I’m not too feeling too well, or simply because I want a day off, and take it as an unpaid holiday.

An author with deadlines and responsibilities must sometimes do these things too. Don’t stress about it. Do what you have to do and then make up the work.

When I first arrived all starry-eyed at the Royal College of Music, I remember an older student telling me, ‘just wait until you have to make a living out of your music – you won’t love it so much then!’

He was both right and wrong. I did learn to compete, to speak up, and improve beyond anything I imagined possible, through working like stink and maintaining discipline- which also meant keeping my ear to the ground at all times as I pursued the hunt for opportunity – (head on floor great position for singing, I’m sure you’ll agree ?)

My passion for music – both making it and listening to it, has never faded, nor has my love for writing. But if I stressed about it all the time and put myself under unnecessary pressure, I could see a time when I might think: ‘Why am I doing this?’

I never want to reach that point, and neither should you. So, chill out – and if you do take a day off, enjoy it to the full. I promise you will return refreshed to your writing.

My love to you all,

Susan xx