Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Weight Loss Resolution? How About Cream of Chicken & Mushroom Soup for less than 200 calories

Unbeknownst to some of his readers, Ian Hall (Author) is more than just a pretty face, a sexy accent and a ready pen...he is also a kitchen legend. From time to time you will find recipes here on the blog, but we promise he is still writing away in the meantime...

There’s nothing better on a cold winter’s day than a bowl of chicken soup; it’s the ultimate comfort food. If you're sick, have the flu, or just feel like a bowl, it hits the spot.

But when it looks thick, and tastes creamy that’s even better. Prepare to dip your bread, dunk your croutons, crumble your crackers.

But what about your New Year's weight loss resolution? Let's be honest, "lose weight" has to be on 90% of the lists made by intrepid souls each year. What if I told you that all this big bowl of goodness could be under 200 calories? Ah, now that would make a difference!

“But how can you make a “creamy” soup for less than 200 calories?” I hear you ask. Read on, my friend…

Chicken and Mushroom Soup ("Cream" of Mushroom)


  • 2 pints water
  • 2 Knorr chicken stock cubes
  • 1 medium onion
  • ½ lb mushrooms 
  •  ½ lb skinless chicken breast
  • ½ lb celery
  •  ¼ cauliflower

Seasoning suggestions; coriander, pepper, curry powder.

Cooking Instructions (pretty easy;-):

  • Boil water, add stock cubes. 
  • Stir till dissolved. 
  • Add chopped onions, cauliflower and celery. 
  • Boil for 60 mins. (This is to mush the original ingredients, and negate the sharp tang of the celery) Be careful about the mix sticking to the bottom of pan.
  • Liquidize  this mix to almost a puree. (This is to mimic the ‘cream’ of mushroom idea. No actual cream here, but we have a thick stock base.)
  • Add chopped chicken (preferably pre-cooked, leftovers, whatever) and chopped mushrooms. Boil gently for 60 mins. 

This makes a nice “creamy” soup. The celery, onion, and cauliflower are basically calorie/carb free.

Recipe makes 4 bowls of soup, at less than 200 calories each bowl.

Weight Watchers, my wife did the calculations and tells me the soup is only 3 Points Plus per serving!

This recipe was taken from the books below... both available at Amazon, and wherever good eBooks are sold.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

A Scottish Burn's Night to Remember: Gorebridge Primary School 1971

Robert Burns: Address to a Haggis
On 25th January in Scotland and all over the world, people raise a glass of the "water of life" and say a toast to Robert Burns. Born on this day in 1759, Burns was a  Scottish poet, song collector, romancer and favorite son. His works are celebrated from Edinburgh to Edmonton, from Selkirk to Shanghai. At traditional Burns Supper or Burns Night events we lift our glasses, play our bagpipes, listen to the Haggis being addressed, and eat, sing, recite and be merry.

For a Scottish school boy or girl, performing your first assigned Burns poem at a proper Burns Night is like crossing the Rubicon, everyone remembers their own...

Gorebridge Primary School, January 25th, 1971. I was twelve years old.

Contestants from our school (Stobhill Primary, a smaller school from ‘up the hill’) were invited to the larger Primary school in the village for Burns Night. It seemed like we’d practiced our poems for ages, but it may just have been the few weeks since starting again after New Year. If truth were to be told, we knew some of the boys from Cub Scouts, but in the larger, older school, we felt distinctively out of our league. I mean, they even had printed programs of the order of events. So posh.

I recall the echoing corridors, hallways and rooms, brick built, much older than our ‘new’ school. I remember reciting my poem on the stage, getting it flawless, and getting off as fast as my gangly legs would carry me. I remember Sandy Allan trying a bit of Tam O’ Shanter, Burn’s epic ghostly tale, and being prompted when he paused, hundreds of parents mouthing the next line for him. And I remember being presented with my coveted Burns Anthology Book prize, duly marked with the date and place. But one recollection of the night lies far deeper.

At the traditional meal, we sat patiently at our large trestle tables waiting on the arrival of haggis, neeps, and tatties, the fare of champions. I had looked around for my usual addition of tomato ketchup or broon sauce, but realized early on that I was going to have to eat them ‘unseasoned’ for a change.

So, there we were, a hundred kids, black trousers/skirts, white shirts/blouses, waiting for our food. Then I heard the familiar sound of the bagpipes being played, and in he marched, full highland regalia, feathers and tassels, probably from Borthwick Pipe Band, I can’t remember, but Archie Pinkman used to live just a few yards from the school, so it was probably him. Anyway, in he marched, taking the long way, round the outside of the room, followed by two boys, one carrying a huge haggis in its skin, one walking with a knife in his hand. They all stopped at the stage, and we waited until the bagpiper had finished, and duly applauded.

Then Jock Devlin started the address to the haggis… we knew it was him, it said so on our programs. Jock was kinda famous in our village, he swam for the Scottish swimming team. (People knew him by his own name, not his parents'...at that time I was still firmly “Andrew Hall’s son”). Jock's address to our national dish began just as impressively...

"Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face, Great chieftain o' the pudding-race!"

We all knew it a little bit, but Jock marched through the verses flawlessly. I was very impressed. Now, in verse three, he started the dramatics…

"His knife see rustic Labour dight,"

And he raised the silver knife high above the platter, smiling, ready for the downward strike…

"An' cut you up wi' ready sleight,"

And with gusto Jock stabbed at the huge steaming bag of goodness… To everyone’s surprise the knife cut through the outer skin like butter, cut through the body of the haggis, and went right through the large china plate that held it. The boy holding the plate could do nothing else but let it all crash to the floor… smashing pieces of plate and haggis onto the linoleum tiled floor.

We all gasped… the sound reverberated round the room...
Then silence, then giggles, then the cacophony of uncontrolled laughter from a hundred twelve-year-olds. Jock, ever the hero, joined in the mirth.

I can hear it as if it were yesterday. I honestly cannot remember if Jock ever finished the poem, but it became a highlight of conversation for many years. I became firm friends with Jock in High school, and miss him now.

A Burns Night to remember, right enough.

Burns Night Extras~

I recorded my own, not quite as eventful reading of Address to a Haggis in full Braid Scots (yes, its an ACCENT;-) here:

You can read the full text of the poem and learn more about Burns and his legacy at the most excellent Robert Burns Country: The Official Robert Burns Site 

Read more tales of a Scottish rural upbringing here...
Tales of a life just south of Edinburgh, Scotland.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Caledonii: Birth of a Celtic Nation. Druid and Iceni (Prequel)

Click here for the 99c book on Kindle...

With my Caledonii (Roman invasion of Scotland) novella series now standing at 5 books, I wanted to do a free story for the many hundreds of fans now reading the saga.
So I looked in Caledonii 1, and a wee story popped right out at me... a Scottish druid is sent southwards into Brigante territory (modern Northumberland/Cumberland) to bring two of the King Venutius's sons north to safety.
I planned 2000 words, but you know me. 10,000 words later, a tale of betrayal, druid magic, and adventure had found its way onto my pages.
And it fit my original idea perfectly; a 10,000 word prequel to the Caledonii: Birth of a Celtic Nation series. It stands on it's own, but it also gets you into the era, the characters, the timeframe.
It's called Druid & Iceni.
Picture the scene...
It is 69AD, and the Romans have been lords of the southern part of Britain for over twenty years. Knowing their eyes are forever northward, the Brigante King Venutius decides to send two of his young sons north to safety.
Sewell, a druid from the Votadini clan (modern East Lothian), is sent on the mission to locate the boys, then get them safe to his homeland in the Caledonii nation.
It is a dangerous journey through hostile lands, and there are many who would stand in his way. Venutius has many enemies, ans they would pay Roman gold for the boys.
To preserve the Brigante bloodline, Sewell cannot fail.

The cover above is the link to the kindle version on Amazon of Druid & Iceni. It's 99c right now, but we'll soon turn the screws on Amazon and get it down to free for you.
However, for other formats, it's available FREE here, on Smashwords...


The full series is available in eBooks everywhere;
Caledonii: Birth of a Celtic Nation. 1. The Great Gather
Caledonii: Birth of a Celtic Nation. 2. The Druid's Plan
Caledonii: Birth of a Celtic Nation. 3. The Coming of Age
Caledonii: Birth of a Celtic Nation. 4. The Romans Invade
Caledonii: Birth of a Celtic Nation. 5. Druid's Work

Friday, November 7, 2014

Thunderbirds, Space 1999, Stingray, Captain Scarlet: The Definitive Top Ten Gerry Anderson Shows

If you grew up in the UK in the 60’s or 70’s, you could not fail to get caught up in the World of Gerry Anderson at some point or other.
F.A.B. Thunderbirds Are GO!

Born in 1929, Gerry was an English TV producer, with a huge imagination and equally expansive dreams. He began in the late 50’s with puppet oriented children’s television, gave us science fiction icons like Thunderbirds, Space 1999, and ended a generation later in 1983 with a science fiction classic; Terrahawks.
Children of all ages have their own particular TV favorite, and below I have listed the top ten.
In reverse order, I have taken into consideration, viewing length, formats, countries reached, and spin off value. I hope among my top ten you will find your favorite.
Four Feather Falls 1957
Number 10. Four Feather Falls (1957)… is Gerry’s Kansas adventure, a puppet western ala Wagon Train. After experimenting with The Adventures of Twizzle, and Torchy the Battery Boy, Gerry produced thirty-nine 13 min episodes of Four Feather Falls, but despite some clips being re-shown, the series was never repeated.
Supercar 1960
Number 9. Supercar (1960)… Gerry’s next venture lasted 2 series, with thirty-nine 25 min episodes, and was first to use the word Supermarionation (Anderson’s patented puppet technology). It spawned a four week run of comics in the USA, where the TV series was syndicated.
Joe 90 1968
Number 8. Joe 90 (1968)… Following the failure of the second Thunderbirds feature film, Joe 90 lasted just 30 episodes. And although it was a favorite of mine (age 10) it would prove to be the last string puppet series made by Anderson to reach television. The idea of downloading a new skill-set to accomplish undercover work has been copied many times since.
Terrahawks 1983
Number 7. Terrahawks (1983)… was Anderson’s final hurrah. In thirty-nine 25 min episodes, done in the Henson style of hand puppetry, the series was most popular in Japan. It was one of the first television shows to be made into a computer game. I am ashamed to say I never watched it. By then I was 34, and wrongly considered myself way too old for Gerry Anderson’s puppets.
Fireball XL5 1962
Number 6. Fireball XL5 (1962)… Following Supercar’s USA success, Fireball XL5 actually ran on official NBC format in the children’s hours from 1963 to 65. Thirty-five 25 min episodes were made, and it carried onto comic and book formats. I had a foot-long plastic Fireball XL5 spacecraft which I threw up into the air, watching it float back to earth in a flimsy polythene parachute.
Stingray 1963
Number 5. Stingray (1963)… Thirty-nine 25 min episodes were produced of this fantastic undersea adventure. Although colour television was still seven years in the future, Stingray was the first British Children’s TV series to be entirely filmed in colour. It was syndicated in the USA, and shown in 7 countries. It had a regular spot on the Century 21 comic.
George Sewell and Gabriella Drake 1969
Number 4. UFO (1969)… This was the first of Anderson’s real life dramas to be produced. Twenty five 50 min episodes were made, but despite huge popularity in the UK it never got a second series. The scripts for season two were re-written into the plot for Space 1999. Like the puppet series Captain Scarlet, it used sexy females in short skirts, every young man at the time would remember the purple hair and curves of both Wanda Ventham and Gabriella Drake.
Lieutenant Green, Captain Blue, and Captain Scarlet 1967

Number 3. Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons (1967)… Thirty two 25 min episodes were made of this ‘darker’ space series, dealing with death, vengeance and inter-planetary war. It was shown in 40 countries inc USA, and a 2005 animated series. The immortal Captain Scarlet was the epitome of cool, and the sexy female pilots, unshaven baddie Captain Black, and grumpy Colonel White completed the cast. I had all the matchbox die-cast metal cars. "Spectrum is Green!"
The main cast Space 1999 1975

Number 2. Space 1999 (1975)… Two series of forty-eight 50 minute episodes were made, networked in both the USA and in Canada, starring Martin Landau and Barbara Bain, straight from their success in Mission Impossible. International stars galore flocked for parts in the episodes, and many old faces crop up, even in small bit-parts.
The king of them all: Thunderbirds 1974

Number 1. Thunderbirds (1974)… The International Rescue juggernaut lasted 2 series, ran thirty-two long 50 min episodes, was broadcast in 30 countries, spawned two Supermarionation feature films, and a 2004 film based on the series. The Thunderbirds accessories caused Christmas shopping frenzies to find ‘Tracy Island’, and kids to buy plastic and metal toys by the million. Gerry’s wife, Sylvia, produced the voice for Lady Penelope, and who can forget the craggy voice of her driver/butler, Parker. I think every kid in our street had one Thunderbirds toy. Who can forget the complicated launch sequences from Tracy Island: Thunderbird One blasting off from under the swimming pool, and the palm trees folding backwards to allow Thunderbird Two to reach it's launch ramp.
And of course, the playgrounds rang to the sounds of “F.A.B. Thunderbirds Are Go!”

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Brand New: Vampires Don’t Cry: A Mother’s Curse

Our latest vampire novel is a slight change in direction for us. Rather than being set in modern times like the rest of the Vampires Don't Cry series, A Mother’s Curse spans a century of struggle from 1859 to the early 1960’s. It is written in our usual two voiced style, following the adventures of two beautiful young vampires, Valérie and Theresa.
Valérie, Florence, Italy 1859: As her mother undergoes the violent transformation from human to vampire on the cold wet cobbles of a Florence alley, baby Valérie is ripped from her mother’s stomach. With this cruel beginning, the childhood of Valérie Berthier was never going to be easy. Unable to comprehend her own uniqueness, she spends her infancy in violent confusion before being institutionalized into an asylum as a young child. She matures under questionable medical supervision, only to break free in her late teens. It would take a strong spirit to tame her wildness, and Amos Blanche, a power hungry vampire is a perfect fit for the job. They form an alliance, an uneasy partnership that lasts eighty years.
Theresa, small town New Jersey, 1958. Theresa (Finch) Scholes is a typical teenager in her first year at college. There is little extraordinary until she’s turned by the local bad boyvampire, recruited into Amos's ranks. Amos has work for Theresa, and soon her life is taking the most unexpected turns. She’s befriended by Valérie, who helps her adjust to her new species, but as they are drawn into Amos’s power struggles, they have no idea of what fate has in store.
Valérie and Theresa receive specialized training, but will it be enough to survive the vampire conspiracy that surrounds them?
Born into vampire life, Valérie is unique and seen by some as “the most important person on the planet”, and although she sees herself as normal, unknown to her, she is feared and venerated by some of the elusive Council of Elders.
We think we’ve woven a great story, and hope to continue the story into a trilogy. The clicky link cover above will take you to our Amazon page where you can read the first few chapters for free. We hope you enjoy.
Details at;

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Modern Zombie: Just How Un-dead Are They?

Well, of course there are more opinions than we have aficionados; everyone seems to have their own interpretation of the properties of the modern zombie.
Movement… In some films of the George Romero type, the un-dead are simply shufflers, hardly capable of more than a mile an hour. They can move faster as they close in on flesh, but they’re hardly a problem if you have some form of enclosed transport. In others like 28 Days/Weeks Later, and World War Z, the rage-consumed populace run like sprinters, their strength and rage making it impossible for the survivors to outrun them.
Intelligence… This runs the gamut from totally stupid to having the ability to play video games (Sean of the Dead). If their ability to learn is transferred from their original human selves, we would assume that given enough time they would eventually gain some form of intelligence.
Physiology... Okay, they’re un-dead, but what does that word actually mean to their physical makeup? Do they still have some form of internal physiological system? Do they breathe? Do they have hearts that pump blood round their bodies? Does their hair continue to grow? Their nails?
All the above leave the zombie world an easy place to write in, the parameters are wide, the possibilities endless. In this world, we place our newest offering: The Zombie Safe Sex Guide: Mating and Dating in a Post-Apocalyptic World.
The Zombie Bible has been around for a year or so, teaching all forward-thinking humans to prepare to survive the holocaust/apocalypse AS A ZOMBIE.
Yes, you heard me… as a Zombie.

And we’ve had a few laughs on the way. But now, by popular demand, we’ve re-visited its dusty pages and breathed some new life into its hallowed tomes. We’ve inserted The Zombie Safe Sex Guide between the covers, and credited our shuffling colleagues with the sense of sexual passion. With chapters on dressing, hairstyles, oral sex, with the emphasis on safety, and acronyms galore, we think we’ve given you zombies out there a chance to get your jollies in a tortured and twisted world.
Available on Amazon now, and on eBooks everywhere else pretty soon.
catch up with all my outpourings here...

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Two Nazareth Stories a Decade Apart, and my Contribution to Rock History: The Long Black Veil

These Nazareth albums were a common sight in Greenhall High School corridors.

Two Nazareth Stories… in two separate continents… a decade apart…
Nazareth are a Scottish rock band from Dunfermline, usually associated with the worldwide hit Love Hurts, from their 1975 album, Hair of the Dog. I remember their albums as a teenager at Greenhall High School, just ten miles south of Edinburgh (maybe 25 miles from Dunfermline)… they were our real local band, no matter what Bay City Rollers fans said. Their version of Joni Mitchell's This Flight Tonight is still one of my favorite songs, and My White Bicycle is a superb rock song. I still remember the album covers, swapping bootleg cassette recordings… Razamanaz, Loud and Proud… man, those were the days.
Years later, in the early nineties, Nazareth played a Community Centre in Cowdenbeath, just ten miles from their home base, and I went along. I looked forward to hearing their hits, but I did have a hidden agenda… A few months earlier, BBC had done a cool local history series on various Scottish towns, and Nazareth had performed a version of The Long Black Veil in the closing credits… in the show they sang A-Capella, with only drums as their accompaniment, each band member beating some kind of rhythm, with a four or five part harmony. I waited through the first half of the concert, then they had a break… we all went to the makeshift bar. To our surprise, the band also joined the fans, drinking their beers, standing in a small circle, being ignored by most of the audience, most being far too star-struck to intrude into their circle.
Not me. “I’m going to ask them where I can get a recording of it…” I said to my first wife, who, to her credit, tried to hold me back. But it was too late; I was off, weaving through the groups, my target? The band.
Nazareth, Long Black Veil; A very bad still from the BBC credits

“Hey guys” I said quite nervously, I mean, they were Nazareth, but to my surprise I was welcomed into the circle with smiles and chinks of our glasses. “I have a question.”
“What’s up, man?” Dan McCafferty croaked at me.
“You guys sang on a BBC documentary.”
“Yes we did!” the band enthused. “Long Black Veil” they chorused.
I knew I was close to my goal. “So what album is it on?” I asked. Well… that threw the cat in with the pigeons… they couldn’t decide, they suggested various albums, then shook their heads, amicably arguing amongst themselves. McCafferty muttered to himself, scratching his chin. “I don’t think we’ve ever recorded it.” He finally said. “Do you want us to play it tonight?”
Well, what could I say? I nodded enthusiastically. They asked my name, and I shook their hands, gave my thanks, and left them to their beers. In their second half, after a heavy rock song, they all kinda drifted off their instruments, and shuffled to a line on the stage. One by one they picked up drums, some unscrewing them from the drummer’s kit.
“We’re going to do a request.” Dan said, “One we’ve never done on stage before.” The crowd cheered. I stood in awe, hoping that they’d go through with it. “This is The Long Black Veil.” They began a slow dirge beat, then as Dan McCaffrey stood to the microphone, he said… “This one’s for Ian.” I felt chuffed, and stood in the audience smiling throughout the performance.
The crowd loved it.
Nazareth; a more modern version of the band.

I next bumped into Nazareth in America early in the next millennium.
The local radio station in Topeka, Kansas, announced their concert in a kinda seedy part of Kansas City, and the race was on.
“Let’s go.” My second wife, Karla, said, looking to wind down after finishing a long day at work, “It’ll be fun. They’re your countrymen.” I have to be honest, I’d been drinking through the Saturday afternoon, so I couldn’t drive. I nodded my consent, although I didn’t relish the alcohol-free hour drive from Topeka to KC. But I nodded, and got in the car… I mean what else does a good husband do?
Well, we’d left it pretty late, and it was dark when we got into the area of the bar in question. Karla seemed to have an inherent idea of where she was going, and eventually, we pulled into a packed parking lot, just as the band got out of their large bus. “We’re going to be late!” I yelled, but no matter what we did, no matter what route we took, threading through the cars, we couldn’t beat the band to the door. I walked in right behind Dan McCaffrey, and the doorman put up his hand at my attempted entrance.
“There’s a cover charge!” he shouted.
“Thank God we’re not late.” I said, out of breath from our run across the parking lot. “I just traveled five thousand miles to see these guys!” I joked. “They’re from my home town!” To our surprise, the last man from the band turned round, hearing my accent.
“Where are you from?” he said in heavily accented Scots. I swear it was Dan McCaffrey, but like I said, I had been drinking. “Fife!” I shouted, laughing at the irony of the situation. “They’re with the band!” the musician said, waving us inside, challenging the doorman to take money from us. Heck, my accent had got me another freebie.
Well, they didn’t play Long Black Veil in the seedy bar in eastern Kansas City, but we had fun. We’d gotten in free, and my notoriety had increased a notch.
Today, as I wrote this story, I looked up Long Black Veil, and found Wikipedia’s listing…
“A version by Scottish rock band Nazareth was never released on an album, but is played at live concerts.”
My contribution to Rock History….
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