Category Archives: Winter

Ten Places I Found Joy This Winter

The cold months hold some real treasures –
here’s how and where I found joy this winter…

Ten Places I Found Joy This Winter - The Last Krystallos

It doesn’t matter what the weather, I spied a meadow through a gate swathed in fog and it made the most beautiful picture. The Elan Valley was cold and crisp when Bekah and I visited and the walk was stunning. A simple dog walk through local roads and fields conjure up joy especially when you’re wrapped up warm. The girls and I went up to Brechfa Forest to do a photoshoot for Cait’s art, the mist and rain offered a haunting vista through the woods.

Misty Meadow - Pen y Bont Elan Valley - Local Dog Walking - Brechfa Forest - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Vince and I escaped to London for a weekend, it rained, but The Phantom of The Opera made it memorable along with the sights and sounds of the city. Seeing the Shard disappear up into fog was beautiful. The seagulls perching atop George IV’s head and horse in Trafalgar Square were highly amusing as the statue itself had anti-bird spikes about the plinth, didn’t bother the birds, George’s head will do just fine!

Lisa and Vince Tower Bridge - Shard City of London - George IV Trafalgar Sq - Phantom of the Opera - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I mentioned being wrapped up warm. Winter is cold, and my Scottish fingerless gloves were invaluable during the cold. My Stargazer pyjamas, I don’t think I’ve ever owned nightwear up ‘til now, but I love these! My grey scarf was a must this season, and I got Dr Martens, Cherry Red Arcadia for Christmas and matched them up with this cute burgundy tulle skirt to feel especially good!

Scottish Gloves - Stargazer - Grey Scarf - Cherry Red Arcadia Dr Martens - Burgundy Tulle - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Those fingerless gloves helped keep my fingers typing during my edits, even if Raven wanted attention instead. Writing and reading brings me great joy and tapping away at the keyboard during winter months is one of my favourite things. I redrew my maps and sketched for my new work in progress The Seren Stone.

Raven interrupting edits - research - A Symphony of Dragons - Maps and Edits - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

The best thing is getting out in the cold is for a Hot Chocolate and weekdays means my kids joining me at Pethau Da in Carmarthen.

Pethau Da Hot Chocolate - Bekah and Lisa, Dan, Cait and Lisa

© Lisa Shambrook

The other thing I spent a lot of winter doing was painting, some are secret projects, but I treated myself to some gorgeous art this Christmas from Tahina Morrison and J Edward Neill’s Hither The Wind and Amanda Makepeace’s Winter Raven. My children bought Vince and I the best anniversary gift with a print of the constellations on our wedding day. The stars are my thing!

Art - Hither the Wind - Winter Raven - Constellations - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Crystals and stars are my happy place. Peridot gems have been part of my research for The Seren Stone Chronicles, as are both smoky and clear quartz, I’ve been learning much about crystal therapy and using stones within my writing. The bracelet brought me great joy when Vince bought the Trollbead Wishful Sky set. It came along with one of my favourite quotes: I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the dark…

Peridot - Smoky Quartz - Clear Quartz - Trollbeads - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Our pets give us huge joy, Roxy will flip to her back and ask for a belly rub which just melts us, Raven curls up and purrs like a motorbike, and Misty had us all in hysterics when I took my new Docs out their box and she jumped in. When I tried to reclaim the box you can clearly see her warning to just walk away…

Roxy - Raven - Misty - Roxy - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Then nature gives us the most spectacular displays. In December we had a Super Blue Blood Moon and as it shone over the River Towy, I stood totally entranced. It snowed, briefly in Carmarthen, but much more the country over, and just crunching in the little snow we had brought me joy! Snowdrops have just begun to nod their stunning heads, and chasing rainbows has always brought glorious moments.

Super Blue Blood Moon River Towy - Rainbow - Snow - Snowdrops - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Lastly, there are moments of joy in unexpected places. Discovering baby reindeer in town at Christmas, finding Jack Frost’s handiwork on your car windscreen when you get up, holding a baby dragon in an acorn cup… and the beauty in things that aren’t always beautiful, the rainbows of colour in an oil spill on the pavement.

Reindeer - Jack Frost - Baby Dragon - Oil Rainbow - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

These are the things I notice,
simple and, sometimes, small things that bring me great joy.

Loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night - Sarah Williams - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Where did you find joy this winter?  

Snow Feathers…

I adore watching cotton-wool snowflakes drop from the sky,
coating the land in white and trees in icing sugar frosting.

Snow Feathers title for The Last Krystallos blog post

It’s been snowing, just a bit…

Where I live in West Wales it doesn’t snow as much as other parts of Wales, but when it does I love it.

I came across this post on Twitter and thought it was beautiful! I love the Welsh language, I sadly, don’t speak much of it, but I love its lyrical prose and beauty.

Snow Feathers… such a gorgeous way to describe snowfall…

Frost swirls like feathers and a small white feather - the last krystallos blogpost

© Lisa Shambrook

It matched beautifully with a scene in my book Beneath the Rainbow:

(Freya has passed away – not a spoiler it happens in the first sentence of the novel – and her little sister Jasmine, and her best friend Meg, and Meg’s friend Steph, are visiting Freya’s neighbours Daisy and Donald. Donald, playing a joke on the girls, throws a bunch of white feathers out into the yard and they are excitedly trying to catch them…)

‘Daisy laughed as she stood in the doorway watching her husband and three little girls chasing feathers that whirled and danced around the yard. “You’ll never catch them!” she chuckled.

“Got one!” shouted Steph and punched her hand in the air to wave her white trophy. Daisy nodded and Steph presented it to her then raced off after another.

The wind played havoc, lifting the feathers and dropping them, and spinning them and spiralling them around the girls’ legs, happy with every squeal as a feather evaded the hand that grabbed at it. Hair flew about their faces and whipped up a little vortex in the centre of the patio. The delighted players converged and a rugby scrum formed as they created a barrier to keep the wind out.

Little hands snatched and they began to gather up the rogue feathers.

They’d collected most of them when the wind turned bitter and moments later the remaining white feathers were joined by huge, fat snowflakes.

The girls’ screamed with glee and the feathers were forgotten as they lifted their red faces up toward the sky.

Donald cradled an armful of feathers and took them inside then he stood by the door with his wife. “Little Freya should be among them now,” he said with a wry smile.

She nodded, both unaware of the unseen figure twirling alongside Jasmine, Meg and Steph.

Freya danced and frolicked in the snowfall, and dressed in white, decorated with a million tiny, silver snowflakes, and fur-lined, white boots, she was a sight they could not behold.

She moved as gracefully and as invisible as the wind, but she was there, dancing her heart out, face tilted trying to absorb the flakes that fell around her.

“I love snow!” shouted Steph.

“And me!” added Jasmine.

The three girls grabbed hands and began to dance in a circle. The snow began to lay and a circle of footprints emerged.

“Oh, would you look at them!” Olivia and Rachel appeared at the wall, summoned by the raucous noise, and gazed over into the yard.

“Mummy!” called Jasmine, “Look at me!”

Rachel nodded and grinned at the sight before her.

“Mummy,” Jasmine shouted again, “get Feya, it snowing!”

Rachel’s smile did not falter, but Olivia squeezed her shoulder.

Daisy and Donald shared a glance and sent a sympathetic smile across the wall.

“Mummy!” Jasmine jumped, delighted in the footprints she left, and she jumped again making her way towards the wall. “Mummy, look…feetpint.”

Olivia lifted her hands and gave a quick clap. “C’mon girls, you’re messing up the beautiful snow in the yard, come over this side and leave some fresh ‘feetprints’ over here!”

Jasmine rushed to say goodbye to her neighbours then jumped all the way to her own back door, with Steph and Meg following her little footprints.

They continued to enjoy the snow until their noses were red and cold and their fingers likewise, and then Olivia called them in to enjoy mugs of hot chocolate and biscuits.

Outside, Freya danced alone unaware of the cold, or the slush and squashed snowdrops at her feet.’

tiny snowflake beginning to melt

© Lisa Shambrook

What do you love about snow?

Beneath the Rainbow Lisa Shambrook BHC Press cover revealBeneath the Rainbow

“It’s those silly dreams that keep us alive.”

Freya won’t let anything stand in her way. Not even death. Freya’s family are left to fulfil her dreams, but as time runs out final yearned for wishes remain lost. Only Freya can help as precious life hangs in the balance.

Forest Fox – Christmas Cake 2017

Padding softly through the snowy woodland
the Forest Fox searches for somewhere safe and cosy to sleep…
and he becomes this year’s Christmas cake theme.

Forest Fox Christmas Cake 2017 - The Last Krystallos - Lisa Shambrook - title

I decorated my cake with some of my favourite things: woodland animals, acorns, snow, autumn/winter leaves, and trees.

Forest Fox Sleepy Christmas Cake 2017 - The Last Krystallos - Lisa Shambrook

© Lisa Shambrook

I relate to the aloneness of foxes (not loneliness), so right now it is the most appropriate creature to decorate my cake. I did not want to think about people. I wanted the trees, the scents and colors, the shifting shadows of the wood, which spoke a language I understood. I wished I could simply disappear in it, live like a bird or a fox through the winter, and leave the things I had glimpsed to resolve themselves without me.’ ― Patricia A. McKillip, Winter Rose.

 

Forest Fox Trio - The Last Krystallos - Lisa Shambrook 2017

© Lisa Shambrook

I covered the cake with smooth fondant icing, concealing a mound that my fox can find shelter beneath. I made chocolate fondant logs (sadly, the chocolate fondant I found is not vegan, so is the only bit Bekah won’t be able to eat!) and a tree trunk, and filled it with fondant snowballs, sugar snowflakes, and silver and pearl sugar balls. He sleeps on a bed of winter fallen oak leaves. Acorns and holly leaves are strewn across the den and paw prints show you how he got there!

Forest Fox Acorns Christmas Cake 2017 - The Last Krystallos - Lisa Shambrook

© Lisa Shambrook

I mentioned in my last post that the cake is vegan. I used dairy-free margarine/butter (vegetable or sunflower oil based spread) and instead of eggs I used chickpea water. This worked really well. The chickpea water (aquafaba – bean water) has a strong smell of beans, so I added a few drops of vanilla essence as I whisked it. 3 tablespoons of chickpea water replaces one egg, and needs to be whisked for a few minutes until foamy then added as you would each egg. The resultant cake is lovely. The smell of beans fades with baking and the cake is firm and looks no different to an ordinary Christmas cake. Smells gorgeous while baking and tastes no different!

Next time I make a sponge cake for my vegan daughter, I will definitely be using chickpea water.

Forest Fox Woodland Christmas Cake 2017 - The Last Krystallos - Lisa Shambrook

© Lisa Shambrook

CaptureSo, when it came to guessing how I’d decorate my cake many people looked back at my love of dragons and thought a variety of dragons could adorn my cake for a second year, but not so. Nobody except almost my husband guessed this one. If he’d switched his guess of squirrel with fox he’d have got it outright! My daughter, Cait, did guess woodland animals… But without a correct answer online I put all the names of those who’ve made a guess into a Random Name Selector and Julia came up as the winner! Julia, you’ll be getting a signed copy of A Symphony of Dragons!

Forest Fox Christmas Cake 2017 - The Last Krystallos - Lisa Shambrook

© Lisa Shambrook

Christmas is only a few days away – and I wish you all the joy it can bring!

Enjoy your Christmas Cake!

Christmas Cake and Competitions – Win A Symphony of Dragons

This is the time of the year we start to think of cakes and Christmas decorations.
Today I’ll be making our cake – and considering my decorating plans!

Christmas Cake and Competition 2017 - The Last Krystallos

I’ve always used the same recipe, tried and tested, but when my daughter became vegan over a year ago, I tried to make it with an egg supplement powder, so she wouldn’t miss out. The cake was still delicious, but it was very crumbly. This year, I’m going to try using chickpea water as an egg replacement. 3 tablespoons of drained chickpea water is the equivalent to one egg, lightly whip to a foamy texture for baking. I’ll let you know how well that works.

It was a great pleasure to have my Melting Snowmen Christmas Cake included in DotComGiftShop’s blog post How to Decorate your Christmas Cake. My Melting Snowmen was one of my favourite cakes to decorate…here are the other Christmas cakes I’ve already decorated over the last few years.

Which is your favourite?

Favourite Christmas Cakes - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

So, as it’s Christmas, and gift giving is fun, and we’ve done this before… here’s a little competition.

Next week I’ll be decorating this year’s cake. The design is planned, drawn up, and sealed away. We have this competition in my family. I keep the cake under wraps and my husband and children guess how I’ve decorated it, then they discover who’s right with the unveiling.

Symphony_of_Dragons_Lisa_ShambrookI will send a paperback copy of A Symphony of Dragons to the reader who correctly guesses the design that will appear on top of my Christmas Cake this year!

(In the event of more than one correct guess, I will put names in the proverbial hat and draw one winner.)

Leave your guesses below in comments, or on my Facebook Author Page.
No guesses on my personal FB share will be counted as we’re not allowed to promote competitions on personal pages.
Be sure to comment your guess here or on my FB Author Page. I’ll add a final comment here to add FB guesses, so it remains transparent.

I don’t give clues, much to my children’s chagrin, but I haven’t repeated a design yet, so maybe that is a clue!

What will be on my Christmas Cake this year?

How are you decorating your cake?

What was your favourite Christmas Cake ever? 

Vegan Christmas Cake Recipe - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Winter Woollies – Feeling Cosy

When Winter arrives and Jack Frost’s delicate graffiti embellishes our mornings,
and we begin to breathe dragon smoke as we leave the house –
it’s time to wrap up warm and dig out our woolly hats, scarves, and gloves!
I love Winter’s chill…

Winter Woollies - Feeling Cosy - The Last Krystallos

I’m not a Summer Babe, I’m an Autumn/Winter Squirrel…I prefer hunting out my warm, cosy woollies to wandering around in next-to-nothing in the heat of summer! When I get too hot I get irritable and depressed, there’s nothing more to take off, and I hide from the sun, but in the winter I blossom. And the best thing is when it gets too cold I can layer up, curl up beneath a duvet or soft fleece, and venture out wrapped up warm in a hat, gloves, and scarf.

I need a separate closet for winter sweaters and jumpers! My go-to mild winter hat has pussy-cat ears and I love it. Then, when it’s colder, I move to my brown hat with a fluffy bobble – I stole this hat from Bekah *gazes innocently* I steal lots from Bekah…

Woollies - Cat Hat - Furry - Squirrel Hot Choc

© Lisa Shambrook

My leather jacket, Joe Browns, is a must, my trademark look, and for years I adorned it with a green scarf, and the cutest black leather gloves. My gloves are now a good age and sadly wearing out, but I love the little Victorian style buttons, I need to search TKMaxx again!

Mirror Selfie - Hat Scarf - Pine - Leather Button Gloves

© Lisa Shambrook

When the colours I wore switched up, I searched for a red scarf to match my green one, and ebay came up with the goods. The furry hood hat came from River Island some years ago and was a birthday gift. I love the tassels so much.

Reindeer - Leather - Furry Hood - Red Scarf

© Lisa Shambrook

Let the storm rage on. The cold never bothered me anyway. Even at home I’d rather cosy up beneath a soft fleece, and wear fingerless gloves to type, than turn the heating on for one! I adore the pair I bought up in the Scottish Highlands at the Balnakeil Craft Village in Durness.

Natural Gloves - Frost - Furry Top - Gloves Woollies

© Lisa Shambrook

What are your favourite pieces for staying warm as Winter’s chill gets nippy?
Your favourite hat or scarf, or do you love your gloves?

Jack Frost - Lisa Shambrook - The Last Krystallos.jpg

© Lisa Shambrook

Stepping softly, he shivered as he wandered the urban streets,
his dancing fingers furtively composing a silent masterpiece.
He performed his second trick of the night and vanished with the first rays of day,
exposing his intricate works of art.
All the glass of the town lay beneath a delicate lattice,
a coating of glorious filigree workmanship…
all signed, sealed, and delivered by Jack Frost himself.

(Lisa Shambrook – Clandestine – Five Sentence Fiction – January 2012)