Tag Archives: #AtoZChallenge

#AtoZChallenge – J is for Jigsaw Puzzles

Jigsaw Puzzles

Real or virtual, there’s nothing like spending a winter’s day with a good, challenging jigsaw puzzle.

Growing up there were always jigsaw puzzles in the house – square ones, rectangular ones, and even round ones! The cuts ranged from 500 pieces to 1000s. The method was always the same, find the outside pieces first then begin to fill in the centre.

We always had a piece of plywood to put the puzzles together on and when we stopped because it was time to get a meal on the table, the loose pieces would be put back in the box (well maybe not all of them) and the board would get slipped under the couch or bed or some other out of the way place until it was time to work on it again.

The beauty of virtual puzzles is, you don’t have to pack them up and put them away. They’re on your computer.

This puzzle of Edinburgh Castle from the Jigzone website, it shown at its default 48 piece cut, but you can go up to 247 piece triangles, if you feel up to the challenge.

Click to Mix and Solve

Jigzone allows you to embed jigsaw puzzles into your website or blog, but from what I’ve been able to determine, you can’t save your work-in-progress for another time.

That’s the advantage that thejigsawpuzzles.com has. Here you can save your puzzles, and expand the window to full-screen. This puzzle is cut into 250 pieces but if you don’t like the small window it’s in, you can click on the button on the bottom right and go full screen.

» More free online jigsaw puzzles at TheJigsawPuzzles.com

No matter which site you prefer to use, you’ll enjoy the selection of jigsaw puzzles, and the degrees of difficulty they provide.

#AtoZChallenge – I is for Ice


 ice ice block

Whether you like your ice cubed, shaved or chopped, creating a chip off the old block *groan*, frozen water is very versatile. You can use it in various forms to keep your drinks cold, place bottles of champagne in it to chill…


It can be real or artificial and you can skate on it – figure skating, speed skating, hockey or even just a struggle to stay on your feet.

 ice skating

But here’s ICE that runs on rails. The European INTER-CITY EXPRESS high-speed trains. Imagine whizzing over the rails at a speed in excess of 200 km/h!


#AtoZChallenge – H is for Haggis


The Haggis
The “Guest of Honour”

How to make haggis…


Set of sheep’s heart, lungs and liver (cleaned by a butcher)
One beef bung (intestine) or sheep’s stomach
3 cups finely chopped suet
One cup medium ground oatmeal
Two medium onions, finely chopped
One cup beef stock
One teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
One teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon mace

Trim off any excess fat and sinew from the sheep’s offal (heart, lungs and liver) Place in a large pan, cover with water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for an hour or possibly longer to ensure that they are all tender. Drain and cool.

Finely chop the meat (or put through a meat grinder) and combine with the suet, oatmeal, finely chopped onions, beef stock, salt, pepper, nutmeg and mace in a large bowl. Make sure the ingredients are mixed well. Stuff the meat and spices mixture into the beef bung which should be over half full. Then press out the air and tie the open ends tightly with string. Make sure that you leave room for the mixture to expand or else it may burst while cooking. If it looks as though it may do that, prick with a sharp needle to reduce the pressure.

Haggis is traditionally served at Burns’ Suppers along with champit tatties and bashit neeps (mashed potatoes and turnips).


#AtoZChallenge – G is for Gastrocnemius muscle

Gastrocnemius muscle

Never heard of it before? I’d never heard of it’s proper name until this past Saturday when I spent between three and four hours in the emergency department of the local hospital.

You’ll know the muscle I’m talking about when I say charley horse . Yup, your calf muscle. How many times have you woken in the night with one of these, then struggle to untangle yourself from the blankets to stand and get your calf muscle against something cold to help relieve the cramp? Usually, the following day there’s a bit of discomfort in the area of the leg where your nocturnal cramp struck your Gastrocnemius muscle and it soon goes away.

But what if the damage is worse than just a leg cramp? What if you tear that muscle? I can vouch for what happens as I experienced such an event early Saturday morning.

I was walking down the stairs into my kitchen, en route to the back door to let the dog in from doing his business (about 6:00). Well mid-stride, I was struck by a charley horse in my leg but in the midst of descending the stairs (and had a bit of momentum -aka head of steam – built up) wasn’t able to stop. I continued and as soon as my foot hit the stair tread, the searing pain sliced through my leg with a pop and that was me, no longer able to put any weight on my foot.

Not realizing the severity of my injury, I hobbled back to the front room and made myself comfy on the couch with my leg elevated and waited for someone else to get up. I spent a few hours with my leg resting on an ice pack but when it wasn’t getting any better, my husband had our son drive us to the emergency department.

So, after a short examination following a shorter than expected wait, it was determined that I had torn my Gastrocnemius muscle.

Prognosis: it will heal – in time. How much time? 3-4 weeks. Try not to use the leg – aka crutches, Tylenol or Advil for the pain.

Under normal circumstances, 3-4 weeks would be fine. Just not right now. But I’ll save that for another #AtoZChallenge post.

#AtoZChallenge – F is for Fudge


This was a “festive season only” staple in our house when I was growing up. My mum made chocolate fudge (recipe below) and brown sugar candy. Both were mouth-wateringly delicious but I think the best thing of all was getting to eat what remained on the spoon and on the sides of the pot after it was made.

By Simon Cousins (originally posted to Flickr as Quick Fudge) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Carnation 5 minute Fudge

2/3 cup Carnation Milk
1 2/3 cups sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups marshmallows
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped nuts

Mix milk, sugar and salt in a saucepan over low heat. Heat to boiling then cook 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the marshmallows, chocolate chips, vanilla extract and chopped nuts. Stir 1-2 minutes or until the marshmallows melt. Pour into a buttered 9-inch square pan.

You can find more fudge recipes here.

#AtoZChallenge – E is for Extraterrestrial


See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

For years, we’ve been led to believe in ‘little green men from Mars’ and lifeforms from other planets. But what if there really is something to these claims? The movie industry taken advantage of this and have made films to both entertain and frighten us to death.

E.T. was probably the best known of all the extraterrestrials to hit the big screen. Another loveable alien in the movies is Paul who hit the screen in 2011.

And The War of the Worlds on radio back in 1938, narrated and directed by Orson Welles. It caused quite the stir back then. More recently, Jeff Wayne set the program to music. It was serialized on the radio while my husband and I were on holiday in England in 2005. We were so enthralled by it, that before we flew home we purchased the CDs.

Here’s a portion of Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds.

So is there life out there on other planets? What do you think?

#AtoZChallenge – D is for Dumpsie Bite

Dumpsie Bite

Some of you may know them as “roly poly” but my grandmother always called them dumpsie bite and the name stuck. She made hers out of leftover pie crust because in her time, nothing ever went to waste. My mother followed in her tradition, as did I.

There is always a bit of crust left over after it’s been put in the pie pan and trimmed, so why waste it?

How to make a dumpsie bite…

Combine the leftover bits of pie crust then roll out flat. Depending on how much crust you have, is how big your dumpsie bite will be.

Spread butter evenly over the rolled out crust.

Sprinkle brown sugar over that.

dumpsie bite
Photo courtesy of everydaysisters.blogspot.com

Roll it up jelly roll fashion.

dumpsie bite
Photo courtesy of everydaysisters.blogspot.com

Seal the ends and put the dumpsie bite in a pie plate – bending it if necessary to get it to fit.

Bake it in the oven along with your pie and you’ve got a tasty treat to have with a glass of milk.

Check out more recipes at everydaysisters.blogspot.com.


#AtoZChallenge – C is for (The) CONSEQUENCES COLLECTION

“If you could see the consequences – would you?”

consequences cover 3 croppedSpecial thank you to Madliz Coles whose kind permission made it possible to use her evocative photograph as the cover image for my collection.


The Consequences Collection is an eclectic compilation of twelve stories ranging from non-fiction through creative non-fiction to pure fiction, in prose and poetry.

The story of a Scottish Home Child is based on fact and told from the child’s point of view; The Mystery Woman of Kinettles is a non-fiction article on the appearance and subsequent disappearance of a woman’s body near the Wellington County House of Industry (Poor House) in 1879 Southwestern Ontario.

Some of these stories are lighter than others, and some might even beg you to leave the lights on.

Excerpt from the cover story Consequences: But before I get into that, this was written during the one and only storefront writing contest held in Brockville. We all wrote to the same prompt (I think we were thirteen in number) and it was amazing the different ways our stories went.

Splat! The mail landed on the ceramic tile floor of the foyer. Usually, the noise was followed by the snap of the mail slot door closing. Today it wasn’t.

Something must have stuck in it. Sylvia put her coffee down on the counter and walked to the front door. A large white envelope remained suspended in the door. She pulled it the rest of the way through. The flap snapped shut and even though she was used to hearing the metallic sound, it startled her.

She’d expected a letter from her solicitor regarding her divorce from Bill but it wasn’t there. However, that one in particular had piqued her curiosity. Emblazoned on the top left corner was an official-looking crest. The addressee’s name and address were correct. It was her. Why would this person or agency be sending her a letter? She’d never heard of them before.

Sylvia turned the envelope over and worked her thumb under the flap. Those self-sticking envelopes are a bugger, she thought as she tried to rip it open. Finally, she gave up and tore down the side and yanked the contents out.

She skimmed over the letter but it didn’t make any sense so placed it on the small table by the door. It could be dealt with later. In the meantime, she looked at the rest of her mail. Nothing else untoward – just the electric bill, gas bill, and the usual assortment of junk – mail. She dropped them on top of the letter and returned to the kitchen.

The coffee she’d poured earlier had gone cold. She dumped it down the sink and turned the water on to rinse it away before getting a fresh one.

Drawn by some inexplicable force, Sylvia went back to the foyer and collected the letter and the mangled envelope. She returned to the kitchen, flipped on the radio and sat down at her small table. Why had she opened it in the first place? She should have just binned it. That’s what she usually did with unsolicited mail. But there was something strangely familiar about it. The addressee information was on a computer printed label so there was no clue there. The sororities from University had crests or emblems to differentiate one from another. She wracked her brain trying to remember what they looked like. It had been over thirty years since she’d attended. Sylvia never belonged to a sorority because she thought the girls who did were snooty and stuck-up.

She’d call her friend, Laurie and tell her about the letter. They’d been friends since childhood, attended the same elementary and secondary schools and even the same University. She could tell her anything, couldn’t she?

I’m almost Janet Jackson but not quite… but my ‘almost’ reveal was purely accidental. That’s what happens when you sit on the tail of your corset and try to skooch higher up the rock.

Where to buy The Consequences Collection:











#AtoZChallenge – B is for Bagpipes



Some people relate the skirl of the pipes to that of a cat (or a roomful) yowling after having its/their tails squashed under the rocker of a rocking chair. Not me. I love the sound. Maybe it’s just my Scottish heritage and its importance to me.

Shhh… don’t tell anyone but I have my own set of bagpipes and took piping lessons. Fortunately, for the neighbours my pipes are languishing in their box in the basement where the conditions keep them from drying out. I have to admit never being able to get the squeeze the bag, blow in the mouthpiece coordination down.

Did you know that the bagpipes have their own holiday? July 27 is Bagpipe Appreciation Day.

Have you heard of the Red Hot Chilli Pipers? I bet most of you haven’t. You can check them out here.

And here they are on YouTube performing their cover of Avicii’s Wake me Up among other tunes. Enjoy.


#AtoZChallenge – A is for A SHADOW IN THE PAST


a debut novel by Melanie Robertson-King – aka moi.

A Shadow in the Past by Melanie Robertson-King
Cover created by Aidana WillowRaven

When a contemporary teen is transported back through time to the Victorian era, she becomes A Shadow in the Past…

Nineteen-year-old Sarah Shand finds herself thrust back into the past. There she struggles to keep her real identity from a society that finds her comments and ideas strange and her speech and actions forward, unlike Victorian women. When Sarah verbally confronts confining social practices, including arranged marriages; powerful enemies commit her to a lunatic asylum. After falling in love with the handsome Laird of Weetshill, Robert Robertson, she must decide whether to find her way back to her own time or to remain in the past with him.

A Shadow in the Past is available as a paperback from Amazon, Chapters, and local bricks ‘n mortar bookstores.

If you’d prefer to buy it as an ebook, all you have to do is click on the logo of your choice to download it. The link for all the amazon domains is the same, you just have to change the .co.uk to your own.

So what are you waiting for? It’s your opportunity to get a great read in print or ebook format!