Monday, April 06, 2020

This week....

I'm reading....

Last week I said I was kind of surprised at how much I was reading. I might have spoken too early as this week I barely read anything!

Late last night I finished My Italian Bulldozer by Alexander McCall Smith but really that's all I have read! I am still reading, and enjoying, The Lost Love Song by Minnie Darke but haven't made any progress on my audiobook at all, mainly because I think it is a bit darker than I need right now.

I'm watching....

We continue to try to take advantage of all the things that are available to us as a result of the current situation. On Friday night, we watched One Man Two Guvnors with James Corden which was streamed by the National Theatre from the UK. It was totally bonkers but so much fun.

We (by which I really mean me) also watched Josephs Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat starring Donny Osmond as part of the series of Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals that are being screened. I am really looking forward to watching Jesus Christ Superstar starring Tim Minchin this weekend.

We (and this time I mean both of us) started rewatching Good Omens over the weekend for no other reason than ...just because. It is so much fun, and just makes us laugh so it's perfect for right now!

Have you done a movie screens with friends yet? On Saturday night we watched Skyscraper starring The Rock. We all pressed play at the same time and the comments were flying thick and fast within the Messenger group. with It isn't necessarily my kind of movie, but it is definitely fun to watch with others. I think we will do it again before this thing is over!


We had to have a rethink over the weekend around our working arrangements. Last week we were set up on the dining room table, but we reorganised the spare room into an office, got some additional screens and some proper office chairs. It is only one day in, but already my eyes are thanking me for making these changes, and it was definitely easier to get up and close the door at the end of the day tonight.

Posts from the last week

Reading Reflections
Alphabet 2020: A
Weekend Cooking: Puff Pastry
Six Degrees of Separation

I've linked this post to It's Monday, what are you reading? as hosted by Book Date

Sunday, April 05, 2020

Six Degrees of Separation: Stasiland to The Arrival

Welcome to this month's edition of Six Degrees of Separation, which is a monthly meme hosted by Kate from Books Are My Favourite and Best.  The idea is to start with a specific book and make a series of links from one book to the next using whatever link you can find and see where you end up after six links. 

Normally when I participate in this my links are somewhat random. It could be locations, author names, titles, etc but this month I am going with a specific theme which is the immigrant experience, with a specific focus on Australian immigration, although I must admit the first couple of links might be a bit tenuous!

This month's starting point is Stasiland by Anna Funder. It's not a book that I have read but I have read All That I Am by the same author. All That I Am explores the story of a young woman who fines herself mixed up in anti-Nazi circles in the late 1930s. When telling the story she is an elderly woman who has lived in Australia for many years.  There's not a lot of detail about her life here though.

The Last of the Bonegilla Girls by Victoria Purman is predominantly set in a post WWII immigration camp in country Victoria. Here immigrants from many different war ravaged European countries are forced to come together as they wait for their new lives in Australia to really start. In the camp, they begin to learn English, the families wait for news of a job before they spread out across the country. The main characters are young women who become lifelong friends despite the fact that there are language and cultural differences.

The Women in Black by Madeleine St John also features immigrant characters  who are trying to make a new life here in Australia and how it was sometimes difficult to be accepted when there were so many cultural differences. This book was made into a movie last year and it is a lovely film. One of my favourite lines is where an Australian woman is meeting an immigrant man for the first time, and she asks him if he speaks English. His response is that he speaks several languages! Watch the trailer below to see it. It makes me smile every time.

Unpolished Gem by Alice Pung - Now a couple of non fiction entries featuring Asian Australians. I read Unpolished Gem a long time ago now. I think it might have been a book club read. I found this one interesting because Alice's family settled in Melbourne which is where I live.

The Happiest Refugee by Anh Do
- Anh Do is arguably one of  the most famous Vietnamese Australians. He is a stand up comedian who has appeared in numerous TV shows, is a successful artist including having a TV show where he paints the portraits of famous Australians as he interviews them. It's one of our favourite shows to watch each week when it was on. He came to Australia on a boat as a very young boy. It was a harrowing journey where his younger brother nearly died, and where the young boys struggled to fit into such a different country. Despite this or maybe because of the struggles Anh became who he is today, and his younger brother was nominated as Young Australian of the Year in 2005. This book tells their story.

The Arrival by Shaun Tan -  My last book is a bit different in that it isn't an Australian immigrant story. It is a book with no words, just amazing art, which tells the story of a man who leaves his country to start a new life. Everything is different, from the food to the language. I know it's a bit presumptuous to quote from my own review but this is what I wrote when I originally read this book twelve years ago:

There are literally no words at all in this book, at least not words that we can recognise. Where there are words on buildings and things they are in a strange symbolic language. The images and the storyline represented are so strong that no words are necessary. The use of elements of fantasy to represent the threat in the old homeland and some of the things that are found in the strange new world are a very strong symbolic reminder to us that for many people who migrate to countries like Australia the things that they find here that are every day to us are sometimes completely foreign to the migrants.

And just because talking about it has made me want to watch the movie again, here is the trailer for Ladies in Black.

The starting point for next month is The Road for Cormac McCarthy - there's a fair chance it will be a long and winding road (to quote The Beatles) through the chain.

Saturday, April 04, 2020

Weekend Cooking: Puff pastry

Is there anything better than crisp, crunchy delicious puff pastry? There are lot of ways to use puff pasty, and today I thought I would share a couple of really simple recipes using shop bought pastry sheets. I have made puff pastry once, and it was delicious, but for these two recipes I am using pre made pastry.

A  handy tip for both of these recipes. Use a pizza cutter to cut your pastry into strips or squares. Super quick and easy.

I guess we should start with the savoury recipe right?

This recipe was one that I saw on an episode of Eat Well for Less, a show that I posted about a couple of weeks ago. This was suggested as an alternative to buying bread sticks.

Cheese Twists

Puff pastry sheets

1 egg, beaten
Grain mustard
Gruyere, or whatever cheese you have to hand, grated
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the over to 200C/400F/Gas mark6 and line a baking sheet with silicone paper.

Brush the pastry with the beaten egg, then with the grain mustard.

Scatter the cheese over the pastry, then season with sea salt and black pepper.

Cut the pastry into strips 1.5cm  wide, then take the end of the strip and twist each strip in opposite directions. Place onto the baking sheet.

Cook in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Serve hot or co

The sweet recipe is one that I found on Facebook and it sounded and tasted really good! I made it a bit harder for myself because I had to make custard from custard powder rather than using store bought pre made.

Puff Pastry Cream Squares

Puff pastry

For the cream filling:
150ml whipped cream
100g custard

1. Cut the puff pastry into squares of equal size.
2. Brush with milk and sprinkle with sugar, then bake at 180°C for 15 minutes.
3. Prepare the whipped cream and blend the custard into it.
4. Let the puff pastry squares cool, then add the cream filling.
5. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

I am also sharing this post with In My Kitchen

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. For more information, see the welcome post.

Friday, April 03, 2020

Alphabet 2020 : A is for (not) Away

I am feeling a little foolish at the moment.

I was intending to join in Blogging A to Z challenge but I obviously did not read the instructions at all. You see the challenge is to post every day through April except Sundays. What I read was every second weeks for the rest of the year - not even close, and it doesn't even add up!

Given how tired I am at the end of every working day I don't have it in me to come up with that many posts in a short period, so instead I am going to do my own alphabet thing. It's not my first go around at this. Years ago I used to do the A to Z of Historical Fiction, which was hosted at Historical Tapestry.

So what I am intending is to post every couple of weeks until I run out of steam, reach the end of the year or the alphabet! There's no theme as such, but there's a fair chance that it will be mostly about books and bakes or whatever else I come up.

For the first post I thought I would start with a post about what we would be doing if the world hadn't gone practically into lockdown. If all the borders of weren't closed and if we weren't all practicing social isolation we would currently be in London, then heading to France, Kuwait and Singapore.

I used to live in London in another life time. but this would have been my first time back in London since 1999. Our intention whilst in London was to visit the British Museum, the Imperial War Museum and just generally soak up the atmosphere.

We were then heading to Stafford to see a friend that I shared a flat when I lived in London. It would have been our first time catching up since either late 1998 to 1999. One of my strong memories of this friend relates to when Princess Di died. I was staying with her that weekend so on when we woke up on that Sunday morning we were shocked and we spent the whole day in our pyjamas just watching the news. Admittedly, it's not a fun memory, and I do have lots of them, but it does mean that every year I think of her.

From there we would have visiting Sheffield because that is where I lived for 4 years and then back down to the town where my husband's daughter lives. It's not too far from Oxford so we would have been visiting there.

Next stop, we were planning to catch the Eurostar train from London to Calais. We were going to be spending time in Northern France with stays in Beauville, Bayeux and near Mont St Michel. The main focus was to be the D day beaches of Normandy with a visit to see the famous tapestry and monastery included.

And then Paris.....oh Paris. I last visited in 1994 and I have been dreaming of visiting again for many, many years. Sigh.....oh Paris. You only need to search the word Paris on my blog to see how long I have been thinking about visiting Paris.

From there we  were going to Kuwait, to visit my brother in law and his family. We haven't seen them since we were in South Africa a couple of years ago, and this would have been the first time I would have seen them since we got married.

Our last stop would have been Singapore. Really we were going to Singapore to hang out at the airport there because there is so much cool stuff to do there but I am sure that I would manage to find time to have a Singapore Sling.

Over the next week or so I am still going to post some of the posts that I had pre-scheduled ready for when I go away. They are already written after all!

The sign post photo that I have included in this post was one that we took when we were at the end of the famous jetty in Busselton in Western Australia. It was New Year's Eve and the world was a very different place. It feels like a different world and yet it is just over 3 month ago.

Once this is all over there will be opportunities to do this trip, or something similar. We have been lucky and got most of the money back that we spent, although we ended up with

So, there is A for (not) Away. Hopefully I will be back next fortnight with a B for something post as opposed to not being for something.

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Reading Reflections: Jan Feb March 2020

I used to do a monthly reading reflection and I think I am going to start doing that again now. I will do it on a monthly basis going forward but for this post I will do all the books so far this year.

I have included the link where I have reviewed the book. It looks a little more impressive than it is because one post was for three books!

Here's what I have read so far  this year and the rating out of 5


The Cedar Cutter by Tea Cooper 4/5 (Australian Author)
Listen to the Wind by Susanne Dunlap 4/5
Devil in Spring by Lisa Kleypas 4/5
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell 4/5
Sixty Summers by Amanda Hampson 3.5/5 (Australian Author)
Water Under the Bridge by Lily Malone 4/5 (Australian Author)
Cafe by the Bridge by Lily Malone 4.5/5 (Australian Author)


Last Bridge Before Home by Lily Malone 4.5/5 (Australian Author)
The Vineyards of Champagne by Juliet Blackwell 4/5
The Little Bookshop on the Seine by Rebecca Raisin 4/5
Hearts on Hold by Charish Reid 4.5/5
With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo 4.5/5


Saint-Germain-des-Pres: Paris's Rebel Quarter by John Baxter 3.5/5 (Australian Author)
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens 4/5 (Audiobook)
Pomegranate Soup by Marsha Mehran 3.5/5
Conspiracy of Lied by Kathryn Gauci 3.5/5 (Australian Author)
When it All Went to Custard by Danielle Hawkins 4.5/5
If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane 4/5
Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare 4.5/5

Monday, March 30, 2020

This week

I'm reading

I am kind of surprised at how much I am managing to read given everything that is going on, especially with Australia gradually descending into lockdown. I don't have my commute time to mess around anymore, and so in theory that should be cutting into my reading time, but it doesn't seem to at the moment.

What I am reading though is more light hearted, fun style reads rather than anything too heavy.

This week I finished reading If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane (not quite the romance I was expecting but still a lot of fun) and Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare which was exactly what I expected and needed!

Currently I am reading The Lost Love Song by Minnie Darke and My Italian Bulldozer by Alexander McCall Smith. I chose to read The Lost Love Song after reading lots of really good reviews of it over the last  couple of months.  I am enjoying it so far, although it did take a turn quite early in the book that I kind of sort of knew was coming but still kind of sort of surprised me.

I decided to read the Alexander McCall Smith in a more roundabout way.  I saw mention of a book called The Second Worst Restaurant in France and thought food and France - that's a book for me. However, I then realised that was the second book in the series and so I needed to find the first book. Luckily I find McCall Smith a very calming read most of the time so it is a good read for when I am awake at 4.30 in the morning.

I am still listening to The Rise of  Magicks by Nora Roberts which probably doesn't qualify as light and fun but I did start this before the world went a bit crazy!

I'm watching

Not only am I getting to read but I am also getting to watch some shows.

If you asked me what I achieved on Sunday my answer would be going food shopping, doing my nails and watching pretty much all of season 4 of Outlander! I had maybe watched 2 episodes previously, but I knocked all the others out on Sunday. Of course, my husband tells me I am an underachiever because there are still 6 episodes of season 5 recorded to watch in due course but I will get to them. And hopefully it won't take me 18 months to do so.

On Friday night we watched the last episode of Star Trek: Picard. Is it too soon to say that I am already looking forward to season 2. There was a couple of slow spots in the series, but overall I thoroughly enjoyed it. In particular, I enjoyed seeing all the old faces returning and really enjoyed the new characters as well.

I have continued to seek out some of the interesting shows that are available as a result of shows and venues being closed down. On Saturday I watched Oklahoma starring Hugh Jackman and Maureen Lippman. This was a first for me, and I have to say, this show was much darker than I expected it to be. While I know a lot of the songs I don't think I have ever actually seen the show or movie before so some of the story line surprised me.

Tonight I watched the 60 minute Cirque du Soleil special. We were meant to go to Cirque du Soleil a couple of weeks ago but it was postponed. Somehow I have never seen one of these shows live so it was a real treat for me to watch this.

The other show that is quickly becoming must watch for me is the Grand Ole Opry. This week the show feature Vince Gill and Amy Grant as well as two of their daughters.


We are how working from home full time and I think that we are getting used to it. It's interesting listening to my husband talk. Most of the time I have no idea what he is talking about but it is lovely to hear him interacting with his colleagues. Of course, he said to me the other day that he has no idea of what I am talking about either, but that I clearly know what I am talking about. I think that is a compliment!

On the weekend just gone, we should have gone to a couple of Melbourne Comedy Festival shows but, alas, it was not to be.

I think this week is going to be a little difficult in some ways because this time tomorrow we should have been sitting at the airport waiting to get on the plane to go to London. Whilst I know that everything is out of our control, it would have been an amazing holiday.

We have been quite lucky. So far we haven't lost too much money with all of our cancellations. Companies like Airbnb were amazing to deal with and gave us our refunds straight away. We have ended up with vouchers to use from the airline and a couple of other places. I think we will still have trouble with one of the hotels and one of the activities, but overall we will end up being okay.

In other not so great news, we found out today that we may need to spend around $3500 on a new  engine for my car. Lots of conversation and no decisions just yet as to what to do. Watch this space.

Posts from the last week

Where There's Music
Weekend Cooking: March  Bakes

I've linked this post to It's Monday, what are you reading? as hosted by Book Date

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Weekend Cooking: March bakes

I got a bit shock the other day. I opened the cupboard where we normally keep flour to find not one but two packets of vanilla cake  mix....what the heck. I haven't made a packet cake mix for years. I am not sure if my husband doubts my ability to keep him in the cake which he has become accustomed or is it something else! He said it was in case we run out of flour, but I think I am going to have to go supervise the shopping from now on!

I have been a bit torn about baking for the last couple of weeks. Yes, we need to keep living as best we can, but should we be limiting cooking to essentials given that we are mostly in shutdown, and the shortages we have seen in things like flour in the shops. I do think that we do need to find enjoyment and pleasure where we can though so every now and again should be okay right?

It almost seems surreal to think that it was only early March when everything was normal and yet here we are in a completely different world.

One of the things that is normal in my workplace is cake cart. Every couple of months, one of the teams in my division is responsible for bringing in cake which we then sell to the rest of the division and the funds raised go towards our Christmas party.

My contribution to the cake cart were Carrot, Walnut and Ginger Cake (which I have posted about before here) and Double Vanilla Custard Tarts. Both got rave reviews, especially the cake!

In addition I made this month's Queen Baking Club recipes. The first was a Sour Cream and Apple slice and the second was Raspberry and Almond Friands.

Let's see how much baking we get done in April!

I am sharing this post with In My Kitchen

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. For more information, see the welcome post.


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