WELCOME TO THIS SPECIAL BLOG HOP POST! If you can get past the food, I hope you enjoy my Muse’s reflections on this subject!

Gingerbread Cake with Orange Icing


For the cake

For the orange

Preparation method

Line a 23cm/9in square cake tin at least 4cm/1½in deep with baking

Preheat the oven to 160C/325F/Gas 3.

Place the butter, sugar, golden syrup and black treacle into a pan and
heat gently until the mixture has melted evenly. Set aside to cool slightly.

Sift the flours, ground ginger and stem ginger into a large mixing bowl
and mix gently. Pour the cooled butter mixture into the flour. Add the eggs and
milk and beat with a wooden spoon until well combined.

Pour the cake batter into the tin and level the surface with a palette
knife or the back of a spoon. Bake for 50 minutes, or until the cake has risen
and is golden-brown and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Set
aside to cool slightly in the tin, then transfer the cake to a wire rack and
set aside to cool completely.

Meanwhile, for the orange icing, sift the icing sugar into a bowl. Add
about two tablespoons of the orange juice and mix to a smooth paste. Add more
orange juice, as necessary, until you get a smooth icing of the consistency you

Pour the icing over the cooled cake and spread lightly, allowing it to
ooze over the edges. Sprinkle over chopped orange zest and put the cake aside until the icing has set.

(courtesy of


Innocent young
patrician, Anniana, is to be unwilling pawn in a game of power that will see
her wed to the decadent new emperor, Titus, unless she can escape Rome with her
only protector, a violent Norse giant. He must get her to Pompeii before
Salvia, her diabolical mother, discovers her escape. But when Pompeii is
destroyed by Vesuvius and Salvia sends assassins to track her down, it becomes
a chase across the empire to keep her freedom.

Vali has every reason
to hate Salvia, who used him as a sex slave years before. Now he must keep her
daughter safe, not only from hired killers and the many dangers of the journey,
but from the biggest threat of all – himself, because a damaged barbarian is no
fitting mate for an innocent noble of Imperial Rome.

Ninia, Anniana’s
handmaiden, is sent to find her mistress. Her only desire is to save her friend
from the barbaric Norseman. But when she’s ship-wrecked with Braxus, ex-
gladiator and pirate, she unexpectedly discovers a chance for real happiness
for herself. The only problem – the man she’s starting to love is in league
with the enemy.

This is an epic
journey across the breadth of the early Imperial Roman Empire in search of
freedom, respect and love.


This post is part of a Blog Hop. I’ve only ever done one
before, and I’m not sure what to expect. So let’s see where my Muse
takes me on this topic.

For me, the meaning of the word Home has changed a great deal
over the years. Home used to be the place where I ‘had’ to go, even though I
might prefer to be elsewhere. Home had a lot of negative connotations attached
to it – duty; responsibility; isolation; loneliness; mixed
in with a painful kind of love.

I remember many adult
Christmases that typified those feelings. The crazy compromises over whose
place you had to drive to, in the sweltering heat, for Christmas Dinner this
year. Was it my husband’s family’s turn or was it mine? Then there was the
mine-field of familial antagonism. Who was going to make the first crack and
who would get insulted and sulk?

I still cringe remembering
one year at my place when I had thrown a short tunic on over my swimmers (we
had a pool) and my brother-in-law thought it was funny to pull the bottom of it
up to display my fat thighs for the video camera. That particular video did the
rounds for many years, always eliciting much chortling at my expense. Then
there was the time my grandmother’s jaw locked and we had to rush her to
Emergency and my mother considered it a stunt designed to get attention and so
she sulked over our spoiled Christmas, and then sulked some more. Then
there was the time…

I think I’ve made my
point. When both my parents died, first dad with prostate cancer and then mum
with breast cancer; Christmas
became a lot less complicated. There was only my husband’s family to placate
and they were a cheerier bunch than my lot. So we’d pack up the kids and drive
hundreds of miles to go there for the holidays.

Then my marriage broke
up and so my ex took the kids ‘Home for the Holidays’ and I spent Christmas alone.
The first few years were odd. I kept expecting to feel bad about being alone at
Christmas. But what I felt was relief. No one to answer to, no stress. I could
do what I liked when I liked. I looked around at the people I passed on the
street and I was the relaxed and happy one. They were the stressed out messes
over Christmas.

I started spending
Christmas with friends in a wonderful quirky version of the celebration. My friends were Reiki Healers and I
remember one rather amazing Christmas Day at my place when it was so hot the
air con couldn’t keep up with the heat, so
we set up the massage table in front of the open fridge and did healing on each
other there.

Then my elder son died.
He was born on Christmas Eve, (and that year I got to opt out of the Christmas
Day debacle, thankfully). After Chris’ death Christmas took on a darker hue.
Instead of enjoying my ‘alone time’ it became the time when my grief would come
up and grab me by the throat. So when I moved to England, 12,000
miles from my Aussie ‘Home’ I had to find ways to get through the Holiday
Season without too much maudlin self-pity and grief.

One year, I bought the
full series of Buffy the Vampire Slayer to
occupy my time. I’d watched part of the first season when it came out in the
90s but had lost interest quickly. I still don’t quite know how I ended up
buying it, but once I started watching I was enthralled, particularly when
Spike the Vampire became the love interest for Buffy. By the time he sacrifices
himself for the good of humanity, (well Sunnydale anyway,) I was bawling my
eyes out. I didn’t stop crying for days. By that time I’d started to see the
deeper meaning in it for me. Spike was a lot like my son Chris, a tortured soul
who wanted to be better than he was, and my grief for Spike was really another
way to grieve for my son. So much for avoidance.

Then I found the answer
to Christmas. I was working on a spiritual board game at the time, and on
Christmas Day I was making little graphics of pebbles and placing them on a
labyrinth I was creating. I’m talking thousands of these little pebbles all
placed individually into their place on the larger graphic. I paused some time
during the day and stared out at the frosty scene outside, (no hot Christmases
for me anymore, thank heavens,) and I realised I was truly happy. Blissfully
happy. I realised that when I tapped into my creativity I was tapping into the
God Within. When I was there, nothing else mattered. I was Home.

So ‘Home’ for me is not
a place or people anymore. It isn’t duty or responsibility or even love,
painful or otherwise. Home is connecting with my Muse, my Higher Self, my God
Within. When I do that, usually while I’m madly writing a story that has to be
told, I’m Home. Do I still get lonely or sad at Holidays? Sure I do. I miss all
the people I have loved, for better or for worse, during my life. But if I tap
into that Energy that can loosely be called Love, then I am in a place of
perfect acceptance, perfect peace and I feel Joy.

However you find your
true Home, I hope you’re there for the Holidays.

x Nhys

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