Driving Home for Christmas

Driving Home for Christmas

It’s finally December, so let’s crack out the Christmas tunes, festive baking and wintery reads!

In memory of one of our beloved and dearly missed authors, Emma Hannigan, Bookends HQ thought it was only best to honour her memory by celebrating all-things-Christmas with Emma.

 

Why not try Emma’s delicious Christmas biscuits?

“These divine shortbread biscuits make wonderful edible gifts. I have had more appreciation for a pretty tin of these than any expensive purchases and they’re so quick to make. I give the old fashioned ounce measurement also as it makes it so easy to recall (2, 4, 6)”

You can download the recipe here: Christmas biscuits PDF.

xmas biscuits

Or listen to Emma’s very own Driving Home for Christmas playlist!

You can find the playlist here: Driving Home for Christmas Tunes.

Driving Home for Christmas

Watch Emma talk about her novel, Driving Home for Christmas, to get into the festive spirit

You can watch Emma here: Emma Hannigan introduces her novel DRIVING HOME FOR CHRISTMAS

And better yet, why not snuggle up with one of Emma’s festive feel-good books?

Driving Home for Christmas book cover     the Heart of winter cover

Driving Home for Christmas is now only 99p on Kindle!

 

 

Saying yes to that special dress!

Saying yes to that special dress!

Wedding season is well and truly upon us and Emma Hannigan’s gorgeous novel The Wedding Promise publishes this Thursday! Set in the beautiful Spanish countryside this is a heartwarming from the bestselling author and we’re delighted to share this lovely piece from Emma on how to pick that all important wedding dress!

‘Cian and I were married nineteen years on 4 June! In many ways it seems like a lifetime but in others, it’s a blink of an eye. We have two wonderful teenagers to show for our time together so I guess there’s no getting away from the facts!

I still remember the fun and excitement that surrounded the wedding-dress shopping. As you may be aware I have an ‘A’ grade in shopping. I am a self-confessed shopaholic and I love nothing more than getting something new. Put it this way – I will never be the richest person in the graveyard. I believe in earning my own money and spending it! Why save for a rainy day – although if we’re going with that notion, it rains most days in Ireland, so I’m covered! Once the bills are paid, what’s the point in leaving money to sit and fester?

Since online shopping has exploded into our lives, I am a thousand times worse. There is literally no stopping me… Ouch!

When Cian and I got engaged on New Years Eve of 1997/98 we decided we weren’t going to have a long gap until the wedding. So we booked our venue at a lovely hotel that overlooks rolling hills and has wonderful views of our home county of Wicklow.  I had five months to do absolutely everything. Cian wasn’t and never will be good at shopping. We went on one trip together early on in our relationship and agreed to never do so again. I’m certain that has been a major factor in our marital bliss.

To say that Mum and I (I get my shopping skills from Mum) were thrilled at the prospect of purchasing a wedding dress is putting it mildly. We were possessed with delight. We began in earnest as soon as the shops reopened after the Christmas festivities. Our balloons of enchantment were deflated slightly however, when many of the bridal stores laughed at us when we said we needed the dress in five months: ‘Girls come to us a year and half or two years ahead of their big day. Five months is impossible. The dresses need to be ordered and fitted.’

Two of the shops I made appointments for didn’t even allow us to look when I told them our wedding date! Suddenly, what was meant to be the most fun and fabulous dress of my life was becoming a humungous problem. How could the shoppers of all shoppers fail at buying a wedding gown? The shame of it…

Dad, being the king of practicality, decided we needed to go to London. Being a spoilt princess (and only daughter) he whisked Mum and I off to the fabulousness of London. We’d made appointments in three stores. The first two had some stunning dresses but the prices were eye watering. Even though I was being treated to the dress by my parents, I simply couldn’t justify spending thousands of pounds on something I would wear for one day. But quite apart from that, none of them were really working for me. I’m five foot four and at the time I was very slight. Two children later and a current diet of steroids and chemotherapy mean I probably wouldn’t get my big toe into my dress today!

The last store I had an appointment for was Harrods. Dad had made the booking as he had a wonderful romantic idea that I would get my dress there. As a family we always visit London for a weekend before Christmas, to take in a show, and the lights and general atmosphere. Needless to say we always look in Harrods too. It’s gorgeous at any time of the year, but particularly magical at Christmas, I’m sure you’ll agree. On this day, I was feeling a little deflated by the time we walked through the main doors of the iconic store. There wasn’t one dress in the previous shops that had stood out, nor could I stomach the prices, as I said. I was convinced that Harrods would be well out of my price range, but went along with the appointment to please Dad. Not to mention having the experience of being in their bridal hall!

When we arrived, the lady took my name and welcomed us graciously. It was incredibly busy which surprised me slightly. ‘I presume you are aware that today is a special sale day?’ she said as a throwaway comment.

‘No, I had no idea,’ I said. ‘We flew from Ireland for a night and this store was on our list. What does this mean?’

‘We’re selling off samples and some gowns from a previous season to make space for new stock.’

Now I was interested!  She invited us to look around and said she’d be back to assist us and, should we not find anything I liked, she would make some suggestions.

One dress drew my eye the second we walked in. It was a pretty lace-topped one with a full skirt in a skin-flattering tone. Mum spotted it too. We nodded and smiled. We looked through the rails and although each and every dress was wonderful, I knew I wanted to try the one on the mannequin. The assistant set about taking it off and I also chose another three dresses to try. Each of the three dresses were fine. But as usual they were too big, or too long or needed a lot of adjustment. I was assured the adjustments could be done. We were thinking of ways we could make them work, by adding beaded belts or OTT head pieces, or by taking some fabric from the bottom and so on…

Eventually the one we’d spotted on the mannequin was brought in. I tried it on, Mum zipped it up and I knew. I had that feeling so many other girls had told me about. It fit like a glove and it literally didn’t even need the hem to be adjusted. They put on a simple hair band with cream roses and a plain long veil and that was it. Subtly I tried to find the price tag as I was in the changing room. But it was missing. Nervously, I asked. Then came the best news of all. It was a sample, it was half price, and because it was such a small size there was a further reduction! The veil had been in the window at some point, so that was down to bargain-basement prices too. I walked away with my dress in a Harrods bag for the price of a pair of shoes in some of the stores we’d been to!

I knew the price couldn’t totally determine the choice of my dress, but little did the lady know that day, that I would’ve agreed to sell my house to get it! I loved everything about it and it looked as if it had been made for me. It didn’t swamp me, it was a classic design and hand on heart, I would wear it again right now… if only I could squeeze into it!

The one and only time I’ve tried it on since our wedding day, I was five months pregnant with our son. I sat and cried until Mum found me and told me in no uncertain terms that I was being ridiculous. I know I’m certainly not in the right shape to try it again now, but telling you the story has given me a longing to wear it, even if just around the house! I’ll wait until the steroids and chemotherapy stop, I’ll get walking at a marching pace again, and who knows, maybe I’ll get to post a photo of me fitting into it again. Don’t hold your breath now, but I would dearly love to waft around in it once more! Oh to be the weight of a flea again…’

The Wedding Promise is out on Thursday but if you can’t wait that long you can download the eBook here!

 

It wouldn't be Christmas without…

It wouldn't be Christmas without…

Five days to go people – this is not a drill!

Emma Hannigan, author of The Perfect Gift 

It wouldn’t be Christmas without present doubt! Each year I decide I’m going to be ultra-organised. Mid November I make my list. I buy for all the names listed, wrap them lovingly and then the real problems start. I look at one and decide it’s not enough. Then I spot another and fear although it was expensive, it’s small and possibly looks cheap.

So I go for it and make a mad dash for the shops – by this time Christmas will be dangerously near – and more or less start over. Because once you’ve bought something else for one person you need to do it for everyone else! Is it just me? Does anyone else suffer with present doubt?

Merry Christmas one and all. I’m off to the shops to buy more!

Chrissie Manby, author of A Fairy Tale for Christmas 

Pretending I’m in the video for Christmas Wrapping by The Waitresses. In the privacy of my own kitchen, of course.

Mike Gayle, author of The Hope Family Calendar 

Mince pies. Once I start on them I find it impossible to stop…warmed in the oven…a dollop of double cream…*drools*

Stella Newman, author of Seven Steps to Happiness

It wouldn’t be Christmas without…Booze, and lots of it.  Call me Scrooge but I’m one of those rare mega grouches who’d prefer to wave a wand on December 1st, then wake up on January 1st when the whole festive shebang is over.

Santa has yet to give me that wand – so instead I’ll look forward to Champagne on Christmas morning, then a lot of red wine to accompany my mum’s fifteen course meal, then a reasonable sized glass of Baileys with my mince pies – just because I’ve drunk all the brandy butter – and in the evening maybe some single malt whisky with my dad while we watch It’s A Wonderful Life.  Actually maybe Christmas isn’t quite so bad after all…

In case you missed it…

More Bookends authors share their Christmas traditions 

Emma Hannigan reveals her Christmas biscuits recipe 

Sarah Knight gives us a lesson in how not to give a f**k this Christmas 

Emma Hannigan's Christmas Biscuits

Emma Hannigan's Christmas Biscuits

We love a sweet treat at Bookends HQ and we’ve got a recipe for some delicious Christmas Biscuits thanks to Emma Hannigan. Get baking this weekend and give some biscuit bundles to your friends for Christmas…or just keep them for yourself!

Download the Christmas Biscuits recipe and if you need a festive read why not read Driving Home for Christmas, the perfect winter warmer this Christmas.

If you liked this, why not try Emma’s recipe for Gingerbread Cake

Or,

Find out what some of our authors want for Christmas

 

Emma Hannigan's Gingerbread Cake

Emma Hannigan's Gingerbread Cake

As it’s the 1st December we’re starting to get Christmassy here at Bookends HQ. To kick things off we’ve got a wonderful recipe for a delicious Gingerbread Cake from author Emma Hannigan.

‘This recipe is one of my all time favourites. I’m a chocoholic so it takes a really delicious treat to entice me toward an alternative flavour. But I have to admit I’d be hard pressed to choose between a slice of this and a slice of dense chocolate cake!

The warm spicy aroma that fills the house as this bakes personifies Christmas for me. This gingerbread can be made in tiny individual loaves if you have those tins or in a flat tray and cut into fingers.’

Gingerbread Cake

Download the recipe for Gingerbread Cake and enjoy with a cup of tea and the perfect Christmas read, Driving Home For Christmas.

 

What sisterhood means to me – Emma Hannigan

What sisterhood means to me – Emma Hannigan

With Mother’s Day just a week away and sisterhood week coming to a close, we couldn’t say it better than Emma Hannigan. Long live strong women relationships.

Over the years, as I’ve taken on one of the hardest, yet undoubtedly rewarding roles in life, I’ve turned to the females in my world. I’m talking about sisterhood during motherhood. From the moment my son was born, sixteen years ago, followed by my daughter some eighteen months later, I was starkly aware of the fact that I knew absolutely nothing!

Babies don’t come with an instruction manual. Nor (sadly) do toddlers or teenagers! But there’s always been an incredible network there, all of who are ready, willing and able to help out. Whether it’s shared advice or a knowing smile and a sympathetic hug, I know for a fact I’d be lost without my sisterhood.

Going way back, I distinctly remember gingerly entering a variety of church halls with a wriggling toddler in my arms. I had a kind of out of body experience as I wondered how I’d come to be this person who attended morning sessions where I sat in a circle with strangers holding a mini tambourine and singing nursery rhymes.

Up until that moment, I’d only ever sung in the car while alone. Even the shower would’ve been too public in case my husband or a visitor might hear me murdering a favourite song. Yet, here I was, booming out raucous versions of The Wheels on the Bus without an ounce of shyness or remorse.

The women I met at those sessions welcomed me in and after several minutes in their company, I knew we all felt the same way. None of them neck-jerked and stared at me in a horrified manner when I sang either. They were too busy utilising their percussion instruments and channelling their inner Adele.

When the children went to school, I met a whole new nest of sisters. These women are still my go-to girls for everything from hormonal outbursts (both mine and the teenagers’) to how we should broach discos, parties and social events (all for the teenagers, as I am now a taxi service.)

I don’t think I’d cope with motherhood if I didn’t have my Mum and my girlfriends. There are new challenges all the time and I’m so pleased that I can vent and reach out.

I adore being a mum. I see it as my greatest gift and my most special privilege. But I am always aware of the ladies who are constantly jogging alongside me. Women are amazing and I am proud to be one. Long live sisterhood and the strong wise and incredibly capable ladies who belong to her.

Sisterhood, I salute you.

 

Emma’s new novel THE PERFECT GIFT is available now in ebook.

Liked this? Why not catch up on…

Emma’s quick fire Q&A

Sarah Duguid’s round up of her favourite portrayals of sisterhood – Part 1

Emma Hannigan reimagines her wedding at Christmas

Emma Hannigan reimagines her wedding at Christmas

I got married seventeen and a half years ago. Hubby and I got engaged on New Year’s Eve, and managed to organise a wedding and dash up the aisle less than six months later. We never got around to being stressed about it, nor did we hit brick walls of panic on the lead up to our nuptials. But, of course, I did dip my toe into the whole world of weddings and the massive industry that surrounds it. I have no regrets about our day or, thankfully, about the man I married. We’ve had plenty of bumps along the road as life has thrown plenty at us, but we’re still as strong as ever.

In a recent interview, I was pushed to think of something I would change if I had my wedding all over again. On our day, the sun shone (yes, we were utterly blessed as Irish weather normally isn’t so compliant), everyone had a ball and we celebrated until the wee hours. But I’ve often pondered about how it might have been if the rain had poured down and the winds had howled. So I guess if I had to do it all again, I’d eliminate the small amount of stress regarding weather that I had leading up to the big day by having my wedding at Christmas time! Instead of hoping for sun we would all look forward to, and expect, cold and blustery days.

Anyone who knows me will confirm that I adore Christmas. I can’t get enough of the twinkling lights, decorations, wreaths, trees, roaring fires and cosy togetherness this time of year brings. So how romantic and divine would it be to have a wedding at Christmas?

Okay, I can hear rumbles from the bah-humbug brigade saying it’s a selfish time of year to hold nuptials. After all, people have enough expense at that time of year. But turn that notion on its head, and think of it in a positive way. It would bring family together. People who mightn’t come home every Christmas would have the extra excuse of being there. Everyone has a Christmassy outfit, so here’s an opportunity to wear it again! Or, if you’re a total shopaholic like me, it’s a fine reason to go and buy a new glittery dress.

Also, the menu would be sorted so easily – who doesn’t love turkey and ham with all the trimmings? As for expensive wedding favours on the table, forget them and go for Christmas crackers! I can’t think of a better way of breaking the ice and getting everyone telling jokes.

As a Christmassy bride, I would also ensure I get to wear a white cape with fur around the hood as I happily channel my inner Snow Queen… I’m getting very excited at the thought of all this. I’m off to convince my God-daughter to have her upcoming wedding at Christmas. Failing that, my hubby had better watch out. I never said I wasn’t open to a renewal of vows ceremony, now, did I?

Emma’s novel THE HEART OF WINTER is available now in paperback and ebook.

Liked this? Why not read…

…about why Emma loves the colder months

 

Why Emma Hannigan loves the heart of winter PLUS her favourite crumble recipe

Why Emma Hannigan loves the heart of winter PLUS her favourite crumble recipe

The cooler weather and onset of winter doesn’t need to be something we dread, author Emma Hannigan shares her reasons for why she loves this time of year, along with her mouthwatering apple and pear crumble recipe.  

‘As an awesome array of russet leaves litter the ground and trees look as if they’ve shed their summer clothing, I always have a little gleeful moment. While I love bright evenings and the warm glow of sunshine, I am a massive fan of all things winter. There’s nothing quite like sitting in front of my log burner in pyjamas with fluffy socks, with a mug of something warm. But it almost seems rude to have a gorgeous cup of hot chocolate or a cheeky glass of mulled wine without something delicious to accompany it.

I was raised in a home where the smells of fresh baking signalled an evening of togetherness. So while my teenagers are probably mildly allergic to large doses of my company currently, I am smug in the knowledge that I can buy their time and fleeting affection with baked goods! I know it’s called “cupboard love” but hey, I’ll take it.

When the wind is howling and rain is pelting against the windows, I adore the cosiness of warm desserts. I have a sweet tooth like nobody I know. I would happily live on chocolate and when we dine out, my eyes are always drawn to the dessert menu first! I don’t eat crisps or nuts or other savoury treats, and I beat myself up and down the local swimming pool solely so I can indulge in sweet treats at the weekends. I try to behave during the week… Can you see how I’m attempting to justify my baking habit?!

Now that the weather dictates it, (see, I’m passing the blame again), I am fully invested in all things warm. If I haven’t had a busy day of dropping and collecting from various sporting events followed by a plethora of other “Mum’s Taxi” services, I’ll use Saturday afternoon to make something more complicated. But I’m never disappointed by a fruit crumble. I can lie to myself and pretend it’s one of my five a day too… The only rule is that there are no rules when it comes to crumbles. Use whatever fruits you enjoy, while avoiding anything too wet, such as pineapple or melon. They simply don’t work. But anything from apples, pears, blackberries or indeed frozen berries, (available all year from most supermarkets), to plums work deliciously.  I prefer to use brown sugar as it creates a richer syrup when amalgamated with the natural fruit juices. But castor or granulated sugar work too.

If you’re looking for an extra bit of zing, add half the grated rind of a lime or grapefruit. I’m limited with flavours due to fussy eaters, but I’m hoping their palates will expand with gentle coaxing! Crumbles freeze perfectly too. Either raw or cooked, they can be kept on ice until required, and popped into the oven to waft homely and comforting aromas around the house.

Even if you don’t consider yourself a candidate for the next series of Bake Off, I promise you’ll be able to produce a yummy crumble. Who knows, maybe you’ll be rewarded with some animated conversation from your loved ones for your efforts?

This winter, I hope you are cosy, comfy and surrounded by positive people who are delighted to share time and tastes with you.’

Apple and pear crumble

Ingredients      

For the crumble topping:

  • 150 g plain flour
  • 150 g jumbo oat flakes
  • 50 g flaked almonds
  • 175 g light brown sugar
  • 200 g cold butter (cut into cubes)

For the filling:

(These ingredients can be changed if you prefer berries)

  • 500 g or approx. 5 pears (peeled, cored and sliced)
  • 500 g apples or approx 5 apples (peeled, cored and sliced)
  • 60 g brown sugar

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 190 °C (375 °F/Gas 5).
  • Put the flour, oat flakes, flaked almonds, brown sugar and butter in a large bowl. Using your fingertips, rub all of the ingredients together until it resembles chunky breadcrumbs. A little texture makes for a tastier topping.
  • In a large baking dish, toss the sliced apples and pears in the sugar until coated.
  • Sprinkle the crumble mix on top, ensuring all the fruit is generously covered.
  • Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes, or until the crumble topping is golden brown, and the fruit is soft and bubbling beneath.
  • Serve with softly whipped cream or warm pouring custard!

 

Celebrate the magic of winter with the paperback release of Emma’s book, THE HEART OF WINTER in paperback, available to buy on Amazon here.

Liked this? Why not try…

This delicious free recipe from The Clandestine Cake Club

Introducing A SUMMER WITH FRIENDS – Free E-book Sampler

Introducing A SUMMER WITH FRIENDS – Free E-book Sampler

Today, Headline publishes this gorgeous sampler of first chapters from some of the brightest and most talented women’s fiction authors around. So if you’ve been dithering over what to read next, here’s an opportunity to dip your toe in before you buy!

We asked one of our editors Sherise Hobbs to tell us more about this brand new collection of  first chapters, available now to download for free:

“I love the chance to dip into the latest novels from my favourite authors. And SUMMER WITH FRIENDS is a delicious treat of a read.

The collection sweeps you away to glorious Cornwall, sun-kissed Italy and the beautiful Rocky Mountains with chapters from Emylia Hall, Jo Thomas and Jill Shalvis. It invites you to discover captivating secrets shared by Sheila O’Flanagan, Harriet Evans and Emma Hannigan. Adele Parks and Tasmina Perry offer a tantalising glimpse into the mysteries of the past, and Jill Mansell and Kathryn Hughes take you on an unforgettable journey of the heart. Stella Newman and Louise Lee inject an irresistible dose of fun and romance. In fact, this whole collection will leave you with a smile on your face and the warmth of summer in your heart — whatever the weather!”

Download SUMMER WITH FRIENDS here. Let us know on social which chapter caught your attention first.

Liked this? Why not get to know these authors a bit better? Try our quick fire Q&A with Emma Hannigan, or find out about the books on Emylia Halls bedside table.

Quick-fire Q&A with Emma Hannigan

Quick-fire Q&A with Emma Hannigan

My dream holiday destination…

St Lucia — I’ve been there twice, the second time on honeymoon. I’d love to take our children there someday.

If I were to be stranded on a desert island, my one luxury item would be…

Sunscreen! I have typically Gaelic skin (white tinged with blue). Without protection I’d fry in minutes!

The first album I ever bought…

My first record was a 12″ picture disc of New Order’s song Blue Monday — I wish I had it now because it’s probably worth a fortune!

The book I’ve read the most times…

CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY  by Roald Dahl. I still want a golden ticket…

The item I have more of than anything else…

Shoes and clothes, and yet I still find I have nothing to wear when I’m going out. Better buy some more…

The thing I could never give up…

Laughing — it’s balm for the soul.

The book (by another author) that I wish I had written…

50 SHADES OF GREY  — not for the content and I’ve never actually read it. But purely because I’d be minted by now… Ah imagine how many pairs of shoes I could buy…

The one piece of advice I would give my teenage self…

Do things that scare you — they’re the things that teach you the most.

If I could play the starring role in any film…

Baby in Dirty Dancing. I’ve performed the dance on stage but sadly it wasn’t with Patrick Swayze!

The sportsperson I find most inspiring…

Katie Taylor, gold medal boxer. Her determination and courage knows no boundaries and she’s the most gentle girl I know!

 

 

Emma’s latest novel THE SECRETS WE SHARE is available to buy now. Follow Emma on Twitter.