Secrets of the Buckle: a tale of Grandad's Magic Dust

The third book in the tales of Grandad’s Magic Dust, Secrets of the Buckle, has been published by Nannie RaRa.

In the previous adventure the grandchildren found the Wibble, an imaginary creature made up by Harvey. The Wibble disappeared as they watched leaving behind the stinger.

the buzzard took it
The buzzard took it

While they were searching for the Wibble the grandchildren came across two halves of a buckle. They want to join the two halves together and enlist the help of Great Grandad who explains what they need to do.

They need the stinger from the Wibble to complete their task, but Harvey has lost it – the buzzard took it.

They find the stinger and mend the buckle; but the buckle now has properties they never expected, which leads them onto another adventure.

Secrets of the Buckle is available from Amazon, either as a paperback or an ebook.

Cover of Secrets of the Buckle

All of the tales of Grandad’s Magic Dust can be found on Nannie RaRa’s Amazon author page.


Time to make Christmas cake

It’s time to make a traditional fruit Christmas cake. I have made one with the recipe I have used for years. It is based on the recipe for Christmas cake from the 1972 edition of Good Housekeeping’s Easy-Stages Cook Book.

Christmas Cake


  • 2 lb 2 oz (1 kg) mixed fruit made up of currants, sultanas, raisins, candied peel
  • 6 oz glacé cherries cut into quarters
  • 10 oz plain flour
  • 1/2 level teaspoon mixed spice
  • 1/2 level teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 10 oz butter – spreadable is easier for mixing
  • 10 oz soft brown sugar
  • 6 eggs

Prepare either an 8 inch or a 9 inch cake tin. The 8 inch will give you a taller cake. Grease the bottom and sides of the tin. Line the tin with greaseproof paper and re-grease. Make a band of brown paper round the outside of the tin and a couple of inches above the height of the tin. Tie in place.

Set the oven to 150 C. This can be cooked in an oven with or without a fan. With a fan reduce the temperature to 140 C.

Put the flour and spices in a bowl and mix together. Add the mixed fruit and cherries, and mix up so that the fruit is not lumped together and is covered in the spiced flour. Leave to one side.

mixing the fruit ans spiced flour

In a separate bowl cream together the butter and sugar until the mixture is smooth. Add the eggs one at a time and beat into the mix.

starting to add the fruit and flour mix to the butter, sugar and eggs

Add the flour, spice and fruit, making sure they are well blended. The final mix should easily drop from the spoon when held above the bowl. If it is too stiff add a little milk.

Don’t forget to make a wish as you do the final mixing. Everyone who helped with the cake should make a wish.

cake ready to go into the oven

Put the mix into the prepared cake tin, spreading it round evenly using a knife. Make a dip in the centre.

Put the cake into the bottom of the over for about 4 1/2 hours – mine took 4 hours this time. After two hours put a layer of either brown or greaseproof paper over the top to prevent the cake becoming over-browned. Check it is ready by inserting a fine skewer which should look quite clean as it is pulled out. If you are not sure leave it for an extra twenty minutes.

the cooked cake

When cooked leave the cake to cool in the tin.

You can add brandy to the cake once it has cooled by pricking the cake all over and slowly pouring two or three tablespoons of brandy over the top. This can be done once the cake has cooled or after a couple of weeks. This can be repeated for a richer flavour.

cake stored for Christmas

To store the cake, wrap in greaseproof paper and then either place in an airtight tin or wrap in tinfoil.

The traditional almond paste and icing are added much nearer Christmas.

This year we had three generations making the cake – Nannie, Daughter and Grandson, so there were three Christmas wishes!


Autumn cake with blackberries and apple

What could be nicer than walking in the countryside, picking seasonal fruits, going home and making them into something delicious to eat.

This is what I made using local blackberries and apples from my garden

Blackberry and Apple Cake


  • Eggs – two large or three medium
  • Butter – spreadable is easier for mixing
  • Soft brown sugar
  • Self-raising flour
  • Chopped apples
  • Blackberries

Cooking: 1 ¼ – 1 ½ hours 160C fan oven

6 or 7 inch cake tin, greased and lined with greaseproof paper


Wash approximately 8 oz blackberries – preferably freshly picked – and leave them to drain.

Peel, and chop into small chunks, two medium apples. Put them into a bowl of cold water to prevent them browning.

Weigh, while still in their shells, two large or three medium eggs. This will be the weight you will need of both butter and soft brown sugar.

Put sugar and butter into mixing bowl and beat until smooth and creamy.

Add egg yolks and whites and again mix thoroughly until smooth.

Weigh the flour – it should be the equivalent of the weight of eggs plus a half. For example, if the  eggs weighed 6 oz, weigh out 9 oz flour. (6 + 6/2 = 6 + 3 = 9)

Fold the flour into the mix.

Drain the chopped apples and add them and the blackberries to the cake mix. Stir until all are covered.

Put the complete mix into the lined cake tin and place into the heated oven. Bake for an hour to an hour and a half until a skewer comes out clean. If unsure leave for an extra ten minutes.

Take cake from oven, remove baking tin and leave to cool on wire rack.

Blackberry and apple cake

Eat in slices as a cake or with cream and/or custard as a dessert. Enjoy!


A day in Iceland

After the Arctic Adventures in Greenland our ship headed south to Iceland – a land of green whereas Greenland had been a land of ice.

We saw many whales on the way and as we approached Iceland there were plenty of birds including the national bird of Iceland – the puffin.

Puffins were runnning over the sea and diving down, sometimes only seeing the orange of their feet

We landed in the north west corner of Iceland at  Stykkishólmur. We had a tour of this area of Iceland visiting a cave formed from a lava plume, an extinct volcanic crater and walked along the coast marvelling at the rock formations. All of this was overseen by the Snæfellsjökull glacier. The scenery of mountains, glaciers and lava beds was magnificent.

Here are a few photos to give you a taster of the wonderful day. I want to see more of Iceland.

Landing at Stykkishólmur
The remains of a volcano with its lava all around
Blueberries ready to eat
In the depths of the Vatnshellir Cave with its 200-metre lava tube
The 1948 wreck of the Grimsby trawler Epine on the pebbly beach at Djúpalónssandur
Views from the clifftop walk into the bay at Dritvik
The crater from an extinct volcano
The magnificent Kirkjufell mountain

There is a video on YouTube with more photos of this day in Iceland. You can watch it below:


Arctic Adventures

I recently went on an Arctic Adventure cruising from Longyearbyen in Svalbard to East Greenland National Park and returning via Iceland. What an exciting trip – in the Arctic Circle with continuous daylight for ten days. The weather was perfect – sunny and still with temperatures about 10 – 12 C.

We saw polar bears, whales – fin, minke and humpback – seals, narwhal, musk oxen, little auks, fulmar, Arctic tern, puffins. We went ashore in several places and also out amongst the icebergs in zodiac boats.

Our ship was the hybrid, diesel and electric, eco-friendly Roald Amundsen run by Hurtigruten. The ship was so quiet you could hear the flapping of birds’ wings and their splashes as they ran over the water.

The scenery during the trip was breath-taking. East Greenland National Park is visited by only a handful of people each year and when on shore the only sounds were us. You could stand there and drink in the silence.

We spent days on the expedition without seeing another ship or human being – just wonderful nature.

Below are a few photos I took on the trip.

First view of Svalbard
Leaving Svalbard for Greenland
There was lots of sea ice
The first polar bear. It turned round and looked at us before swimming away.
Icebergs in Myggbukta, North East Greenland
Another polar bear
The trapper’s hut in Myggbukta. We went ashore here.
Some of the delicate Arctic flowers
Seal on the ice floe
Houses in Ittoqqortoormiit
Giant icebergs
Iceberg getting close
Close to the ice in Scoresby Sund
Mountains and glaciers in Ofjord
View from the hill behind Hekla Havn
Leaving Hekla Havn for the open sea
A whale coming close to the ship

You can see more by following the link to the Greenland 2019 video on YouTube or watching it below.

We then went to Iceland, but that is for another time.