Hello and welcome to my Little Willow blog, well welcome to those who might stumble across it anyway as I have yet to give this address to anyone :) I thought I might try and see how I get along with just writing in it first. It's all a lot of random stuff, but hey, hopefully there'll be something interesting for people

Thursday, 30 September 2010


I sat down to watch Castle last night on the channel Alibi and episode 2 of season 2 (Double Down) was showing. Now normally, me watching Castle with my mum would be nothing of note - but then again neither is what I'm actually going to say - but I had to say I really enjoyed it. As a normal Castle episode I enjoyed it, but my favourite parts of this episode were the conversations about grammar, spelling and punctuation. Now, that may sound extremely sad, and you would be right about that, but grammar, spelling and punctuation are some of my favourite and worst things, depending on how they're used.

It's one of those frustrating nit-picking faults that people have. Bad grammar, and the rest, is something which I tend to pick up on and often feel the need to bring up. However, now that I'm writing about it, I do feel a huge pressure to ensure everything is correct on this page and I just know something will slip through - so I apologise in advance and welcome all the comments :-)

But anyway, it made me smile that it was brought up in the show, which I suppose shouldn't be very surprising considering the main character is a writer!
Anyway that was all, I apologise for wasting your time...

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Baking Review - Fast Apple Muffins

Yes guys and gals, you heard it (well read it) - a baking review! I'm branching out - who knows what could be up for review next!

Anyway this is an old recipe which I "borrowed" from Mel at work and photocopied - it was on a cookery card - very old fashioned yet somehow retro cool. Mel had made these and brought them in for our office to try and they were soooo nice so I really wanted to have the recipe which she happened to have on her (convenient wasn't it?). So below is the recipe and preparation followed by my thoughts on how mine turned out, plus other real life people's opinion on it. For the future I will take photographs :) And as you can see I have updated this blog with pictures from my second batch!

For 16 muffins (which for me turned out to be more like 11)

175g (6oz) plain flour
100g (4oz) caster sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
50g (2oz) butter
1 egg
75ml (3 fl oz) milk
1 cooking apple, peeled, cored and chopped
2 pieces stem ginger, chopped
40g (1 1/2 oz) walnuts, chopped

Variations to the above:
Omit stem ginger and add a few chopped dates or raisins instead. Use soft light brown sugar rather than caster. Add a finely grated orange or lemon peel.

I personally swapped out the stem ginger for raisins and omitted the walnuts altogether, but kept everything else the same.


1. Heat oven to 200C (400F/Gas 6). Grease 15-16 deep bun tins (or just use cake cases). In a bowl mix together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Rub in butter finely until mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

2. In another bowl, beat together egg and milk. Add to dry ingredients in bowl and mix together. Stir in apple, ginger (or raisins) and walnuts (or not).

3 Spoon mixture into prepared bun tins. Cook in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until lightly golden, well risen and cooked through. Remove from the tins and cool on wire racks. Serve warm or cold.

Good served with: These are delicious served on their own (mmm yes they are), but for a special treat, cut in half anf sandwich together with butter or cream cheese.

Calories per muffin: 125
Can be frozen for up to 1 month (not sure if that's the muffins themselves or the mixture - I'm assuming the muffins).

So after making these muffins (and using my new muffin baking tray - yes very exciting I hear you say), 6 were gone within an hour so I think they may well have been a success! Usually I make chocolate cupcakes or vanilla ones, both with lots of yummy frosting on the top. These muffins however didn't need frosting I don't think, they had a more savoury feel to them with the fruit in and I don't think frosting would have complemented it very well. I can understand possibly going with their suggestion of cutting it in half like a scone and putting butter or cream cheese frosting in the middle, that would actually make more sense, but I think I will continue to eat them without anything added.

So based on all that I would definitely recommend anyone to make them :-)

Friday, 24 September 2010

Book review - The Brentford Triangle

This book is September's Science Fiction and Fantasy book club book of the month and was written by Robert Rankin.

Now one of the many conventions I have been to over the years had Robert Rankin as a guest and I went along the the Q&A session he did and I have to say he was the funniest guy I have ever seen, he had the whole audience in stitches and if I could buy a DVD of that talk I so would as unfortunately over time, my memory of what was said and done has faded :-(

So anyway, after this convention I went out and bought one of his books - I can't even remember the title now, but it was quite disappointing as it didn't have the same flair as he did in person. But I stuck it out and thought it was ok and I did buy another book, which I don't think I managed to finish as I just wasn't enjoying it, so I wasn't really looking forward to reading this book to be honest.

The Brentford Triangle is technically book 2 in a trilogy but it doesn't appear necessary to read book 1 in order to understand book 2, and I found this to be true. The backcover synopsis is:

'Omally groaned. "It is the end of mankind as we know it. I should never have got up so early today" and all over Brentford electrical appliances were beginning to fail...'
Could it be that Pooley and Omally, whilst engaged on a round of allotment golf, mistook laser-operated gravitational landing beams for the malignant work of Brentford Council?
Does the Captain Laser Alien Attack machine in the bar of the Swan possess more sinister force than its magnetic appeal for youths with green hair?
Is Brentford the first base in an alien onslaught on planet Earth?

Despite the novel being only 240 pages long, it did take me a little while to get through as I wasn't finding it the most engaging book, even though I was desperate to finish it early so I could read one of my own books from the ever growing pile of 'waiting to be read books'. To put things in perspective, it took me 12 days to read those 240 pages, but the current book I am now reading (The Passage by Justin Cronin) has taken me 5 days to read 269 pages - and the day isn't over yet.

I like the tongue in cheek way that Rankin writes his novels, but it all gets a bit samey and too much for a full length novel. I feel he tries too hard to make his characters feel normal and everyday-like. I actually found it a little confusing that he called one character Neville and one Norman, I did at times forget which one was which.

Overall I didn't think too much of it and I haven't even gone in to any details of the book as I can't be bothered going through the story as it just wasn't that great. Although the book did include aliens and strange happenings, I didn't feel it was overly science fiction-y or fantasy, but not sure what I would class it as.

I'd give this book 4 out of 10

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Film Review - Grown Ups

Right, it's actually been a week since I saw this film, so bear with me while my memory tries to catch up - so much has happened since sleep.

The above film follows 5 childhood friends who are reunited at the funeral of their once beloved basketball coach. It is a heartwarming film about life, love and learning new things about yourself.

The film stars Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade, Rob Schneider as the 5 friends and Salma Hayek, Maria Bello, Maya Rudolph and Joyce Van Patten play their wives.

For the funeral, Adam Sandler's character, Lenny, has paid out for a lake house for them all to stay in. All the friends, wives and kids have their own eccentricities, from Lenny's children not knowing what a CRT Television was and are so spoiled that they text their nanny when they want something. Eric's 4 year old is still being breast fed. Rob has a thing for the older woman, shown plainly in his choice of wife. Marcus is free and single, but completely immature and Kurt is a house husband constantly demeaned by his mother in law.

This time away from their normal lives allows them to have fun and remember what it was like to be young. The family's have their ups and downs and finally reach breaking point near the end of the film, with a lovely happy resolution to end with.

I enjoyed the film, it was easy to watch, with no thinking necessary and sometimes it's nice to just sit back and relax and have a good laugh. There are many funny moments to be had with lots of silly fun. Probably one of Adam Sandler's better films.

6 out of 10

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Assignment 4 - The results

Hello again

I got my feedback for assignment 4 and got another Grade B - I use the word another not in a bad way, just purely in a descriptive way as it is another B - I now have 3 B's, but I'm happy with that, a B is good :-)

I do feel I got better feedback for this assignment, or rather more constructive feedback and here it is verbatim:

(1) Letter to Easy Living
If this was just the straightforward ‘pat on the back’ type letter it first appears to be, it would probably go into a very large pile, since most magazines get many more of this type than they can actually use. However, you’ve also used the letter to refer back to a previously published article – and this creates the very feedback and response that letters pages need for their life blood.
(1) Letter to Sainsbury’s Magazine
Much the same comments go for this letter – although you are also making the point that their policies have helped you as an individual, so you are personalising the comment. This might encourage other readers/customers to write similar letters – thus continuing that process of feedback etc.

(3) Letter to Writing Magazine
The fact that this was printed as the star letter says it all, really – doesn’t it? This is the way to write letters that get printed. Now all you have to do is to concentrate your efforts where cash or prizes are offered in exchange.
(4) Article for Prima magazine
You’ve done your research well here, identifying a specific magazine, its main core of interest and typical readership. Using this information, you have been able to produce an article which is directly geared to those criteria.
I’m often dubious about these ‘do-it-yourself’ craft articles, since many of them either end up looking cheap and tacky, totally impractical or are so fiddly and time-consuming that no-one is ever going to bother trying them out. Here however, you’ve come up with a reasonably simple method of making an attractive-looking, practical gift which would probably be appreciated by many new mums. The step by step photographs are a definite bonus – but you’re probably right about shooting them again with a plain background.

It all sounds very positive, I just need to sort out those photo's for the article and get it sent off and hopefully it'll be a first acceptance! One can only hope - for if there's no optimism, it'll show in the writing and it'll never get accepted. So having hope is good, but also a good dollop of realism helps, so I'm always hopeful an article will get published but I don't 'expect' it. Perhaps if I had received my prize from my star letter I'd be able to find more markets to write for :-p I've won a prize and I want it now lol - how very selfish of me lol.
Anyway, onwards and upwards to assignment 5 - after this I'll be halfway through the non-fiction section and that much close to getting to the fiction bit! keep going, keep plodding on, I'll get there in the end. nd to my surprise I've actually already started on an idea for this assignment, so maybe there won't be a moaning blog looking for inspiration. I just have to find the right angle...

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

DVD Review - The Strangers


My first DVD review! Ooooh. I was invited around to my friend Sian's house to watch this as she wasn't sure if she'd be too creeped out to watch it alone :-)

The film stars Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman and very few other people. It's mostly filmed on the one location - a secluded house and the surrounding wooded area. It is apparently 'inspired by a true story'.

Kristen and James arrive home at 4am to the secluded house (always a necessity for a horror movie), after having attended a friend's wedding. Both are upset and emotional after having a disagreement about their relationship. James calls his friend, leaving a message, asking to be picked up later in the morning.

Soon though they hear a loud knock on the door and open it to find a young woman just standing there, who eventually asks for someone who doesn't live there. They send her away but as must be done in a creepy film, she hangs around staring at the house. The chills and menacing further increase throughout the film by the masked terrorisers.

The film isn't quite what I expected but there were a few good jumps. It was quite an odd film I think, but I did like it overall, but I can also see why some people may find it a little boring. There isn't an awful lot of action. I probably wouldn't class it as a horror film, maybe more of a chiller.

I liked the end of the film and found the reasoning behind their attack very interesting...but you'll have to watch it for yourself to find out...

I'd give this film a 5.5 out of 10

Friday, 10 September 2010

Sent it in

Yay, another assignment done and dusted! woo! It took ages for it to actually get through though cos the email is about 11MB!! This is due to having pictures as part of the article, which will very much help but I'll need to find a way to make them smaller. I managed to do that a little bit by just hitting the compress pictures button in Word but they need to be smaller again i think but without actually losing the quality - so if anyone can help with that, I'll be very grateful.
I've already recruited one very kind friend, Mel, to a slightly different cause and I've asked her to remove the backgrounds from the nappy cake because at the moment you can see my bedroom floor on some and out the kitchen window (and you can see the washing! lol) on others. Mel assures me this is easy and should get it done in super quick time - go Mel. But so I could just get my assingment handed in, I've sent my tutor the unedited ones - with the explanation that I'm currently editing them lol :)

Anyway I really should get straight onto assignment 5 as I need to pick up the speed a bit as the course does have a limited life and granted it's a 4 year life but i'm already almost a year through and only completed 4 assignments so that's not the best really.

Anyway I'll be back on to say how I got on...wish me luck!!

Film Review - Dinner for Schmucks

I went to see this film last night which starred Steve Carell as Barry and Paul Rudd as Tim.
The basic premise is that Tim is looking to get a promotion within the company he works for and looks like it could happen but first he has to attend a 'dinner for winners' event at his boss' house. It's explained to Tim that they each must bring along an idiot as a guest and there is a trophy for the best idiot. This doesn't really sit well with Tim but he agrees for the sake of his to find an idiot though.

And he literally crashes into one when he knocks over Barry, who had bent down to save a dead mouse. Barry is one of those people that you hope you'll never know and by the end of this 10 minute meeting, he is showing Tim an album of all his dead mice diorama projects. You can almost see the lightbulb light up above Tim's head - he's found his idiot.

However, things go from bad to worse in their short and turbulent relationship from the moment of meeting, to finally going to the dinner, only the following evening - who knew so much could happen in one day? Incidents range from Barry getting the wrong night for dinner to him mistaking Tim's girlfriend, Julia, for a one night stand, Darla, Tim had had before he even met Julia, to inviting the psychotic, obsessed Darla to a very important client meeting and asking her to pose as Julia.

I personally found the film funny and it kept me smiling throughout. Yes it's silly fun and won't appeal to everyone, but it does also have a few sad moments and overall I felt it was an endearing movie. May I say I never want a friend like Barry.

I'll give the film a...oooh I'm not really sure actually...erm...6.5 out of 10

Friday, 3 September 2010

Success for my brother too :)

My brother Stephen has been writing children's stories about the adventures of Harold the Platypus and his friends. Harold is a very "real" teddy bear platypus and Stephen's inspiration was drawn from him.

He has written a few different stories - from memory - Harold and the Mermaid, Harold on safari, a Christmas one and Harold in Space is currently under construction. The stories are very sweet and I think, made even more endearing by the fact that they are filled with drawings done by children.

Now Mandy, his wife and 'agent' has been sending his books far and widfe to publishers and self publishing companies. Now there has been no word from a lot these places as of yet - especially those sent to America and Australia, but they have signed a contract with self publishing company Authorhouse, who will help them to sell these books and they will even be on Amazon in a couple of month's time, just in time for the Christmas rush! :-) So this is a very exciting time for both Stephen and Mandy and I wish them every success with it.

I know Mandy has also contacted Phoenix Yard publishers, a contact I provided after having read a blog post from Maureen, so thank you very much for that and they hope to hear something soon.
Good luck for the future and may it be Harold-shaped

A mini success!

Yay! One of the reader's letters I have done for my Assignment 4 has been published, and not only that, it was the Star Letter too!

I didn't know until my copy of the Writing Magazine landed on my doorstep today and I opened it and had a quick glance at the letters, not really expecting anything, but there my name was! Got such a great rush seeing my name in print :) I know it's only a reader's letter and people who aren't even attempting to become a writer can get a letter published, but I'm very pleased anyway - and it's in the Writing Magazine and the only people who will read that are trying to become writers so I'm happy it was in that magazine.

Plus, I also won a prize as it was the star letter which is a copy of the 2010 Writer's Market - ok so not a cash prize, but I don't care, I won something and the whole point of it anyway was about the writing. Also, the book is actually quite expensive and will hopefully aid me in getting more things published :)

Yay, I'm very happy, woo!