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An Article

This article just popped up in my Writers Digest feed — I wrote it some time back and had no idea when it would be published. Turns out it’s today!

It’s been edited — I sent in 9 tips, so they’ve broken them up a bit to make 11 tips.

And they added to the headings, and FWIW I would NEVER say:  Use humor—if it comes natural. ( It should be naturally, I mutter…)

Still, I’m delighted to have it published.  Thank you Writers Digest.



I made mushrooms on toast for breakfast this morning. Perfect for a chilly winter morning. They weren’t very fancy — just sliced mushrooms (from the supermarket) cooked in a little bit of butter, with a little finely chopped onion,  a sliver of minced garlic, fresh thyme and some pepper. I often add bacon and maybe a dash of Worcestershire sauce, but it’s more or less the end of the fridge and I had no bacon. But it was yummy.

When I was a little kid (up to the age of around 7) my family and I used to go mushrooming a lot. I adored the hunt for the mushrooms, but I never wanted to eat the cooked ones — I used to think of it as a black mess. Wild mushrooms are much stronger than the commercial ones I buy now.

But these days I’ve been reluctant to go mushrooming because just about everyone I know says it’s dangerous, and some mushrooms will kill you. I know that, and I feel reasonably confident that I know the safe ones, but I was only small when I used to go hunting them with the family, and I get rattled by the warnings and so don’t go. It’s a shame, I think. Maybe I’ll sign up for a foraging course when the season for that comes around.

I do think some people overreact. I once scattered spent mushroom compost over my front garden to enrich the soil, and was thrilled when some time later, mushrooms started popping up. I knew they were safe, the compost having come from commercial mushroom farms, and I was looking forward to the morning when they were big enough to pick and cook  for breakfast. But some “helpful” person must have decided they were dangerous, because they came into my yard and kicked the mushrooms to bits! So annoying!

So for me, now it’s commercially grown mushrooms.  I’ve bought bags of seeded (spored?) mushroom compost to grow my own, and they were great fun, and very satisfying to grow, but that was in the days when there were four of us in the house, and we could deal with the multitude of mushrooms we ended up with. But now I think of it, after I do my shopping tomorrow, I might make mushroom soup. I used an Elizabeth David recipe that thickens the soup with bread. It’s delicious and very easy. From her book, French Provincial Cooking, my copy of which is very battered and well-loved. I often use chicken stock cubes rather than proper stock, and whizz it in a blender, which is much quicker. It’s still yummy.

Baby Plants

We interrupt this endless promotion of my new book to give you a little break while you pause to admire the progress of  my baby plants.

Before I moved, had a watermelon peperomia (Peperomia argyreia), and, when a couple of the leaves got knocked off, I decided to try propagating them. I popped two whole leaves in some potting mix and, having looked up propagation methods on line,  tried cutting one leaf in half and potting that as well, all in the same pot. I really didn’t expect most of them to work.

Above was the pot just before I moved. I was thrilled with those new baby shoots.

These are the plantlets today,. They’ve been happily growing on my windowsill and the babies are now bursting out of the pot. Aren’t they  gorgeous? I’m going to have to pot them on soon, but I don’t have any small empty pots, which means, oh dear, I’ll have to go shopping at the plant nursery, and I probably won’t be able to resist buying another plant — but those are the risks.
Yes, I’m brave like that. 

And while we’re having a plant moment, here’s the cyclamen I bought a while back. It’s been flowering for months now and is such a bright, happy splash of color. Having colorful flowers through winter is such a blessing.