by Penny Blake

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The spoon whisperers

Come and join me on the utterly ineffable island of Hopeless, Maine, my favourite holiday destination…

The Hopeless Vendetta

We require cutlery; we require a spoon smith. This is not something we like to acknowledge of course. We like to think that our spoon’s cradle of life is the cutlery drawer and beyond its mundane journey from there to our breakfast table no one likes to ponder where the spoon goes or why it suddenly ceases to be a part of our lives any longer. The spoon has gone to sleep, we tell the children, it has moved on to pastures new, to the great spoon caddy in the sky… but inwardly we shudder when our hand gropes the naked crevice of the empty wooden slot where the spoons once lived and when we hear the creak, creak, creaking of the spoon smith’s cart, after dark, we crack open the kitchen door just a chink and whisper ‘yes, dammit, yes we need spoons, for the love of life be…

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Our Steampunk Summer Reading List…

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen! Well, our boys may be out pounding the streets in the hopes of making ends meet but, in their quieter moments, you can be sure they’ll be kicking their tentacles up on some Tiffin Den table and trying to drown their sorrows in a good book. Here (in no particular order) is their “(mostly) steampunk summer reading list” and they will be posting reviews again starting from September… HAPPY HEAT WAVE EVERYBODY! 😀  – Penny

The Clockwork Fairy Kingdom by Leah Cutter

For The Love of Temperance (Ichabod Temperance 4) by Ichabod Temperance 

Dead Magic (Ingenious Mechanical devices 4) by Kara Jorgensen

Six Gun Snow White by Catherynne M Valente 

Threats (Steamship Chronicles 2) by Margaet McGaffey Fisk

Amster Damned (Timeflight Chronicles 1) by Nils Nisse Visser 

My White Dahlia (The Floral Romances 1) by C M Blakcwood

Golden Seal (Garoul Series 1) by Gill McKnight

Ashes of the firebird (Firebird Fairytales 2) by Amy Kuivalainen

The Brazen Shark (Clockwork Legion 3) by David Lee Summers

Clockwork Fairies by Cat Rambo  

Anne Bonnie 3 by Tim Yates

 

And what about you? Have you got a stack of excellent fiction to tide you through the torrential sunshine? Any recommendations that you feel I should add to this splendid stack? (Shameless self promotion is actively encouraged in the comments section…)

 

Big Boisterous Blessings on all your summer shenanigans,

Penny  🙂

 

 

 

Soup of the day: With Collin the Octopus

Hello! Mrs Albert Baker here, otherwise known as The Last Witch Of Pendle. Obviously there is no Pendle any more, since The Chronic Agronauts utterly destroyed it with treacle and sprats, but Ive set myself up quite nicely here in Lancaster, running this little soup kitchen for the street urchins. There certainly are a lot of them and Im always looking for helping hands to cook up and serve something delicious!

I am extremely happy this morning to welcome my dear friend Collin the Octopus who has made the long trek out of bed, down the stairs and across the street to my little kitchen to tell you all about something rather exciting that he will be taking part in this summer. Good morning Collin!

Good morning Mrs Baker, thankyou so much for letting me come and help in the soup kitchen today.

That’s quite alright my dear, your tentacles are extremely helpful when chopping up the vegetables. But while our lovely soup is simmering away why don’t you tell us all what you are going to be up to over the next few weeks – aside from selling lemonade that is!

Yes of course! This summer I am going to be travelling the globe, visiting some of my fabulous friends and having tea with them in order to raise awareness for the charity RMH at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital. It’s a Free Home Away From Home for the families of children staying in Alder Hey Children’s Hospital. It costs the charity £25 for one family to stay for one night in this facility and without it many families would not be able to visit their ill children every day.

That sounds like a very god cause Collin, but why have you chosen that charity in particular?

Well, when Penny’s  daughter was diagnosed with a life threatening condition the only place she could be treated was Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool – many miles away from her own home. The family  were paying over a hundred pounds each day in taxi fares trying to visit her and arrange childcare for their other children.

Thankfully they were assessed as being eligible for free accommodation at RMH in the grounds of the hospital. This meant that they could all stay on site and so their daughter had her whole family around her and both parents could be with her during her scans and operation knowing that the other children were safe and cared for nearby by their grandmother.

Fortunately Penny’s daughter made a full recovery and was soon able to continue her care at home, I can only imagine how much more vital the free facilities at RMH become when a child requires long term admission or has an illness which is terminal.

Indeed! And if your story has inspired some of us here to make a donation to support this worthy cause, how can we do that?

Well, you can donate by visiting my Just Giving page right here…

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/teawithcollin

No amount is too small… or indeed too large! Donating through JustGiving is simple, fast and totally secure. Your details are safe with JustGiving – they’ll never sell them on or send unwanted emails. Once you donate, they’ll send your money directly to the charity. So it’s the most efficient way to donate – saving time and cutting costs for the charity.

Marvellous! Well I hope you enjoy your working holiday Collin, will you send us a postcard?

Of course! I will be posting photographs of all my RMH At Alder Hey Tea Parties right here on the blog  throughout the month of August, along with updates of how much money has been raised.

Splendid, well I hope you have a marvellous time Collin and I hope that, if our little blog here has entertained or aided you in any way over the last few months you will consider making a donation to this very worthy cause. Now then, let us start dishing up some soup!

The soup kitchen will be closed now for the summer, as all the poor dear urchins will be out on the streets selling lemonade for that monster Montmornecy, but I will see you all again in september and don’t forget, if you would like to come and visit me in the soup kitchen do drop me an email at ladywiththewyvern@gmail.com and we can arrange something for the autumn.

Until then, blessings on your brew my dears!

Elevenses: More lemonade than you can shake your top hat at

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen I hope you are all feeling extremely eleven o clockish because the time is, of course, eleven o clock and we are brim full of fizz here in the parlour! So please, pull up a crate and a cushion, kick your tentacles up on the table and let us lavish you with an extravagant list of extraordinary lemonade-based liquid refreshments.

But first, a little ‘heads up’ because our schedule is about to change somewhat, as summer creeps in and our evil, machinating landlord cracks the whip over our heads and Max and I are forced out onto the streets to sell this illegal lemonade and make enough money to pay the rent. This means that for the next few weeks, the parlour doors will be closed… hm? What’s that? Well yes I know it is only made of sack cloth but it is still technically a door… anyway, fear not! Because although the parlour will only be hosting a few disgruntled cats over the summer, we will still be around and you will still be kept up to date on our adventures (more of that tomorrow when I visit Mrs Baker in her soup kitchen). For now I hope it will suffice to say that we will be posting once weekly over the summer instead of thrice weekly until September when the lemonade season comes to a close.

But today the sun is shining and here we all are so, allow me to pour you something delicious…

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We wish you all an utterly refreshing afternoon and I will see you tomorrow because I will be helping Mrs Baker in her lovely soup kitchen so until then please, be always

Utterly yourself

Morning Cuppa: Lightning Wolves and Lemonade

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome…pant…back…pant…to… oh I give up! This parched heat is not conducive to the comfort of us aquatic aboriginals, my tentacles are so dry they are beginning to crack and Max is being un-necessarily Machiavellian with the lemonade.

Still, at least we now have an enormous stash of bottles to sell and today and tomorrow we will therefore be sharing some amazing lemonade recipes for you to try yourselves, but first, let us find something splendid to read… like this…

Lightning Wolves Cover 333x500.jpg

Lightning Wolves is the second book in the Clockwork Legion series and you can read our review of the first book here. The second book follows the same key characters that we fell in love with from the first book , former sheriff Ramon and Persian healer / animal-empath Fatemeh, as they strive against the invading powers both of their own world, and others.

The Russians are still invading America and although some ground has been won with the help of the mechanical owls, parts of America are still under threat. Meanwhile, the influence of the mysterious alien entity Legion, continues to loom…

The plot is as gripping, complex and intense as the first book and we meet some new characters – mysterious samurai, wise old women and ex-bounty hunters – who carry on the welcome diversity and depth established in the first novel, this is a welcome refreshment from the ‘white-washing’ or stereotyped ‘tokenism’ of some novels in the genre.

Overall, this was another  fantastic steampunk read for serious fans of the genre, filled with all the re-worked history, science-fiction, magic and fast-paced adventure you could wish for, we heartily recommend Clockwork Legion and can’t wait to find out what is going to happen in the next book.

But until then, you were promised lemonade and here it is… (just click on each picture to take you to the recipe)

ELECTRIC LEMONADE

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MANGO LEMONADE

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ELDERFLOWER AND FROZEN BERRY LEMONADE

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MIDDLE EASTERN MINT LEMONADE

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There now, hopefully that has quenched your thirst on this sweltering summer’s day… pity me that my tight ar…er… fisted gentleman friend will not allow this poor octopus so much as a drip to wet his whistle. Pff.

We wish you a very moist and refreshing morning filled with zest and without any pitch in sight, and we will be back tomorrow with some news, some forward planning and lashings more luscious lemonade so, until then, please be always

Utterly Yourself.

Soup of the day: With Jennings and Jennings Paranormal Investigators

Hello! Mrs Albert Baker here, otherwise known as The Last Witch Of Pendle. Obviously there is no Pendle any more, since The Chronic Agronauts utterly destroyed it with treacle and sprats, but Ive set myself up quite nicely here in Lancaster, running this little soup kitchen for the street urchins. There certainly are a lot of them and Im always looking for helping hands to cook up and serve something delicious!

I am extremely happy this morning to welcome my dear friends, the paranormal investigators Sir John and Marie Jennings… Good morning to you both, thank you so much for coming to help me in my soup kitc… Sir John? Over here… Marie, my dear, are you sure he can see with those goggles on? Whatever are they for?

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Sir John: These are my ectoscopic goggles that allow me to see any spectral energy so as I look around the room…GOOD GOD WHAT IS THAT!

Marie: I think you are looking at the cat, mon cher…if you take the googles off…

Sir John: Ah yes, ahem, yes I’ve seen this before where feline energy can be mistaken for, er, ghostly energy. Perfectly normal.

Mrs Baker: Oh dear yes, I’m so sorry about the cats, they are after my illicit cream stores, you know. Well, why don’t you both have a seat here by the window. How was your journey here from your own dimension? I hope you were not delayed by any spectral presences en route?

Sir John: It was relatively uneventful. We made use of my brother Saul’s cabinet to travel here through time from 1901. He was, I’m afraid to say, a bit of a crank, believing in some pseudo scientific hogwash he called Quantum Physick. Most bizarre, with strange parallel worlds and waves behaving like particles. He built this device to travel to these parallel worlds, and it seems to work as it’s brought us here. Hopefully we can return, it’s the first time we’ve used it.

The only real trouble we had was when we were stuck in some hellish box, travelling in random directions with strange, dishevelled muttering creatures. What was that thing called Marie.

Marie: I think it was Southern Rail.

Mrs Baker: Oh dear me yes, I have heard your trains are as bad as our Skyway Rails, for future visits might I  recommend the number nine bus, some have found the driver both adventurous and persuadable if bribed with sufficient tiffin. Now then, I shall put the kettle on, have you brought some soup with you today to share with the orphans?

Marie: I brought a recipe that our maid Miss Henderson suggested for Courgette and Milk Soup. She said it is from the “Mysterious and Exotic East”.

Sir John: I think she means Walthamstow.

Mrs Baker: Oh!

Marie: Here is her note…

Mrs Baker: Thankyou my dear, let me see now, she writes… “Dear Mrs Baker, please find below my recipe for Corset and Milk Soup. Take a pound of corsets…”  CORSETS?!

Sir John: we think she means courgettes

Mrs Baker: Oh! I see!…...and cook in a bit of water until soft but not too long or the taste will cook out. Mix them up – I use a device Sir John has made for me called a Vegetofruit Blending Device. It’s quite quick and only moderately dangerous. Put aside and then heat a tablespoon of butter and when that’s melted take off the heat and add tablespoon of flour. When that is like a paste, add half a pint of milk and stir until it thickens a little. Then add the corsets and some ground Kew men…

 

Marie: “cumin”

Mrs Baker: Oh yes of course!  …and season with salt and pepper. Finally serve in bowls with some Sumac powder sprinkled on top. The soup is mild in flavour and the dark purple colour of the Sumac is a lovely complement to the pale green of the corsets.”

Sir John: Funnily enough she got the name for Sumac powder right. It’s a fascinating spice, rumoured to give anyone that prepares it correctly a five octave singing voice. I’m not sure that’s true but our previous maid, Mrs Flitwick, did once mistake it for cocoa and she made a very high pitched noise.

 

Mrs Baker: Well it certainly sounds delicious, I wouldn’t worry about the Sumac, the orphans are quite hardy round here you know. So, I will just pop the cauldron onto the fire, there. Now while that is simmering away why don’t you tell us all a little more about the work you do, paranormal investigation sounds most fascinating!

Sir John: Well it all started in Paris, where we met. I was working away at various theories of how to detect paranormal activity. Marie was my willing companion, assisting where she could. Eventually we married and moved to London and set ourselves up as Paranormal Investigators. It was a little easier as my French isn’t terribly good and I was concerned it may be difficult to communicate with francophone fiends.

Mrs Baker: What a wonderful story, I do like a good romantic tale! And I have heard that you employ some very specialist inventions to help with this work, have you brought some along to show the orphans?

Sir John: This is my Thanatograph. It’s allows us to hear the spectral voices of any phantasm. It’s quite subtle, if there are any such entities present we may hear a faint human-like voice when the machine starts. Now I’ve set it up, let’s all be very quiet and see what happens.

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Mrs Baker: Is it supposed to do that?

Sir John: Actually no. It’s quite unusual for it to fly around the room like that.

Mrs Baker: Oh, silly me! I’m afraid we are directly above the underground library and so our resident ghost, Perilous Wight, may be setting it off?

Sir John: Ah I see! Let me see if I can catch it. Oooof!

Marie: Mon cher, are you alright!

Sir John: Yes I think so. I don’t chew much on that side of my face anyway. Let me put it away before it causes any real damage.

Mrs Baker: I’m so sorry about that, I hope it will be alright. Well, these machines are all very technical and exciting,  but Marie, my dear, (and while Sir John is occupied putting that device away)  I cannot help but sense something of the mystical about your aura, I have a feeling that perhaps you do not need such devices to see these ghostly goings on?

Marie: Well, why I sometimes ‘ave some, shall we say, intuition into what may be going on… I’m not sure what you mean or where you have ‘eard this…

Mrs Baker: Oh my dear, I’m so sorry, I did not mean to alarm you or to be rude! Magic is forbidden in this dimension of course, but there are those of us who still practise it in secret where we can and I cannot help but sense that you have, shall we say, the ‘gift of intuition’ when it comes to the paranormal?

Marie: Ah, I see. Well, yes, it is true that I can sometimes offer … more help than is obvious. I like to keep that to myself. Oh look, Sir John is back.

Mrs Baker: Oh marvellous, and that is the kettle singing, can I offer you both some tea? How do you like it?

Sir John: Plenty of milk, three sugars, not too strong.

Mrs Baker: Oh dear, I’m afraid that is almost the last of the sugar, I shall have to visit the smugglers again.

Marie: Black, please. No sugar.

Mrs Baker: There you are. Now I know you have had many adventures but would you like to tell the orphans a little about your most recent or exciting one?

Sir John: Yes we have recently been relating our vacation in Sunnyport in our journal. It started out as a holiday and quickly became a terrifying nightmare. And that was before anything supernatural happened.

Mrs Baker: It all sounds so very exciting! And I hear that Paul Michael and Josephine Pichette have compiled some of your adventures into a book?

Sir John: Yes, indeed. It’s a collection of our first four investigations: a haunting, a strange case of a mesmerised young heiress, a fiendish killer in London, and a theft of some magical artefacts. It’s called, rather appropriately Jennings and Jennings Paranormal Investigators Casebook One. It’s apparently available in South America?

Marie: Amazon, mon cher.

Sir John: Ah, yes.

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Mrs Baker: Splendid! And where else can we read about your adventures?

Sir John: Well our journal regularly publishes details of our adventures and other interesting tidbits. Mr Michael and Mme Pichette are kind enough to update it twice weekly. They are also on, is it Twitbook, Marie?

Marie: That’s Twitter and Facebook.

https://thebenthictimes.com

https://www.facebook.com/thebenthictimes

https://twitter.com/thebenthictimes

 

Mrs Baker: Splendid! And will there be more books in the future?

Sir John: Yes indeed, Mr Michael and Mme Pichette are, I believe, chronicling our recent trip to Paris in a book they are calling The Paris Awakening. You may have read about the aftermath of that trip in the papers. It made the front page.

Marie: I don’t think Mrs Baker gets Le Monde here, and not from 1900, especially.

Mrs Baker: No indeed, the year here is 1840… and besides which, the only paper I get the is Tiffindependent…

Sir John: Well I believe it was in The Times as well…page 27. Underneath an advert for a mechanical carpet cleaner.

Mrs Baker Well perhaps I can use my soup-scrying techniques to locate a copy. Ah but that soup certainly smells the ticket doesn’t it? Thank you so much for coming to help out in the kitchen today, my dears, it’s been wonderful to chat with you but now those little urchins must be ravenous so shall we start dishing it up?

Sir John: Yes, let’s! Thank you so much for having us to visit. I’m terribly sorry about the scorch marks from the Cryptozoetropometer. I can pay to have that cleaned.

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Marie: Yes thank you Mrs Baker, it’s been nice to meet a fellow…cook.

Mrs Baker: Indeed! Thankyou all of you for joining us in the soup kitchen today, I hope you will come back again next week and until then

Blessings on your brew my dears!

Morning Cuppa: Jennings and Jennings Paranormal Investigators

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Max and Collin’s luxuriously libatious and rigorously refreshing parlour located within the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster.

True some have called it a refuge for Yellowists, where the company are all sour and full of bitterness and where the refreshments leave a nasty taste in One’s mouth, but we consider that such unadventurous individuals are not used to adding birds eye chillies to their morning Lady Grey … it is an acquired taste and one we discovered, quite by accident, in the depths of the Jentacular Jungle…

But I digress! Please, come in, step around the mountains of discarded lemon husks and… no, no don’t worry that is only sugar syrup, I’m afraid that making lemonade is an extremely messy business but you know these tentacles come in very handy and as you can see we have quite a mountain of bottles filled now and ready to sell.

But it is rather exhausting work so, I think it is time to kick our tentacles up on the table, pop on a brew of Lemon Meringue Tea from Post Tea  and open a marvellous book, like this one…

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“Jennings and Jennings, Paranormal Investigators, available for hire in the Home Counties. Are you plagued by supernatural goings on or troubled by fantastical events? We can help, using the most modern scientific advances, to rid you of even the most ancient of terrors. 3 pence an hour, double on Sunday.”

We have been gleefully following the adventures of Sir John and Marie Jennings via the online journal The Benthic Times  for quite some time now so when we heard they were publishing their first casebook we simply had to get our tentacles on it at once!

This collection of four Steampunk Paranormal Mysteries stands out as something particularly special. The mysteries are real, intense and engaging – from ghostly apparitions to machinating mesmerists and ghastly fiends to mysterious missing treasures, there is an enthralling mixture of Victorian folklore and imagination brought together in each carefully crafted adventure.

In beautiful balance to this serious backbone, the over-enthusiastic Sir John, brandishing his alarming home made detecting devices, is called in to solve each case. Thankfully, his compassionate and competent wife, Marie, is usually able to use her ‘intuition’ to keep them on the right track and the resolutions are always both satisfying and surprising.

Fans of Mark Hodder are bound to appreciate this delightful mix of paranormal mystery and comedic Steampunk, and we certainly can’t wait for the next casebook to be released.

We wish you all a very marvellous morning filled with sweetness and spice in equal measure, and until we see you again,

please, be always

Utterly Yourself

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