Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Paris in July: Midnight in Paris

A couple of months ago Midnight in Paris was nominated as the selection for Food 'n Flix and I had every intention of watching it that time, but it didn't happen.

So this weekend I ended up finally watching it again in honour of Paris in July. I have seen this movie quite a few times now.

The first time was on a Friday night when I made an impulsive decision to leave work early and to go to the movies on my way home. I went to my favourite movie theatre, not expecting that I would be one of only three people in the cinema.

I am not really a Woody Allen fan but I do enjoy this movie. It's hard not to enjoy this just for the way that it portrays Paris, both the now and then. When I was watching this today, it surprised me to see some of the actors who played the famous names from the past. I had forgotten that Tom Hiddleston was F Scott Fitzgerald. I also had forgotten that Michael Sheen was in the movie.

I also enjoyed the exploration of the idea that everyone's idea of when the most amazing time to live is different. In the movie, the main character, Gil, thinks that there is no better time in the past or present than 1920's Paris, another character dreams of the Belle Epoque, or the Renaissance.

This is a perfect way to spend Saturday afternoon, and this opening scene, is a perfect way to open the movie.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Things That Make Me Smile

Welcome to this week's edition of Top Ten Tuesday which is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week's theme is Books that Make Me Smile. I am very conscious though, that many of the books that make me smile are the ones that I have already mentioned multiple times, so I was trying to think of other ways to spin this topic.

I did think I was onto a good thing when I thought that I would look for books that I have read that had words like smile in the title. It turns out I have read very few books with this word in the title, or grin, or any words like that. I needed a different tact.

My TTT list today is therefore a list of things that make me happy. So there are two books about music, two about cake, two about books, two about chocolate, and then finally two books with happy in the titles because these are just a few of the things that make me happy. And the fact that a couple of these books are set in Paris is a bonus. I have added a link to reviews where possible.

The Lost Love Song by Minnie Darke (review)

Music and Silence by Rose Tremain

Cake: A Global History by Nicola Humble (review)

Chocolate Cake for Breakfast by Danielle Hawkins (review)

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (review)

The Chocolate Run by Dorothy Koomson

The Chocolate Thief by Laura Florand

Happy Ever After by Nora Roberts

The Garden of Happy Endings by Barbara O'Neal

I did want to cheat and share one more book this week. This is a performance of a children's book that I listened to this week, and it made me smile so many times. It is Taika Waititi and some of his friends reading Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach. It is pure joy to listen to, so here is the first episode.

Monday, July 13, 2020

This week...

I'm reading....

I haven't really been reading that much for the last few weeks. Doing plenty of thinking about books, and blogging about books but not that much actual reading. I did finish The Goldminer's Sister by Alison Stuart which I loved (my review is here) and then I started reading Something to Talk About by Rachael Johns. This book is a follow up to Talk of the Town which was originally published in 2017. I didn't read it until early this year because I knew this book was coming out. This book has been sitting on my bedside table for a couple of months but now that I have started it I have slipped straight back into the town of Walsh.

I'm watching....

We finished watching The Casketeers so now we are looking for a new series to watch. We watched a couple of episodes of Unsolved Mysteries on Friday night but I am not sure if we will continue with that or not.

We did do a virtual movie night with friends. The idea is to choose something cheesy to watch together and then we chat about it, and by chat I mean that we make sarcastic converation! This week we watched The Expendables, which means it meets the criteria. I spent a lot of time googling useless information so I was obviously fully invested.

We did also watch The Old Guard which is a new Netflix movie starring Charlize Theron. The movie is based on a graphic novel by Greg Rucka. who was also involve in the production of the movie. It's actually a pretty good movie, if you can live with a bit of blood and lots of shoot outs. My husband has been comparing it to The Highlander. And the story is tailor made for a sequel!


As I mentioned in my post on Thursday, we have gone back into lockdown as of last week and we will be in it for at least 6 weeks. The numbers of people being confirmed as positive for COVID-19 continue to rise. Our numbers are nowhere near as high as those in other countries but they are the highest numbers we have had since the beginning. One interesting thing is that, for the first time, it has been recommended that we wear masks when we are in situations where we cannot effectively socially distance, so far example on public transport, or in a cab.

Whilst it was almost inevitable that we would go back into lockdown once the numbers started rising, I still feel a little despondent I guess. Or maybe the word is tired. I am tired of watching the news and seeing so few positive stories. I am tired of the media skewing everything to their own agenda. Why tell a story about the good side of people when you can concentrate on the worst of people, both of which are on show at this time. I think our state premier has done a pretty good job in unprecedented circumstances, and yet there are people who constantly criticise what he has or has not done, and yet they don't really offer up sensible alternatives. What I know is that I would not want to be in his shoes. I cannot imagine how much pressure he is under, how many issues he is dealing with on a daily basis. There  are now people who are calling for his resignation, but I can't think how changing leaders right now can possibly be the best thing for the people in this state.


Paris in July: French bookstores

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

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Paris in July: French bookstores

This excerpt comes from Rebecca Raisin's recent release, Aria's Travelling Book Shop which I read a few weeks ago. I have enjoyed a couple of books by this author this year, and this is not the first quote I have shared. I have shared previous posts about an old bookstore in Paris, about a patisserie shop and about that first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower

I love the way that this author talks about food and books. Today, it is all about books, but I may post another quote later in the month as well which is more about food!

"I'm going into town to hunt out all the glorious bibliotheques and bookshops, do you want to join me?" I ask Rosie who holds a cold compress to the back of her neck in an effort to cool down. French libraries are next level, a home for books that more resembles a grand chateua with their rich wooden shelves and antique furniture. So different to the stark libraries back home.
"I'd love to, Aria but I don't feel up to it. I'm sorry!" It's hard seeing Rosie so sick. I want to help her more but don't have the first clue how. Dr Google says lot of rest and relaxation is key, so I figure with us noisy nomads out of her hair she can at least nap in peace.
"Don't be sorry. I'll spend the entire day getting lost in dusty stacks of books so it's probably better you stay here and rest up. "Message me if you need anything. I'll find Wi-Fi in town"
"I will. Enjoy."
I head into Bordeaux in my van, taking in the old town which is so different to Rouen and Blois but equally beautiful. These towns all have their own historical charm and I fall in love with them as I go.  Bordeaux has a plethora of bookshops and libraries and I'm determined to visit as many as I can. The French love their literature, they revere writers and artists so much they're worshipped, even those long dead.
I find a place to park and hear to Librairie Mollat on rue Vital-Charles. According to my guidebook it's the oldest independent bookshop in France and it is also one of the biggest. Inside is a brightly lit, book lover's wonderland and I relish the fact I have plenty of time on my hands to explore.
There's something about French books; they whisper about secret worlds in a language I don't understand but want to try and decipher. My search continues and I find a photographic book about Chateau de la Brede, a gothic castle where famous French philosopher Montesquieu wrote his books. "Ah..." a man in a linen trouser suit appears. "You found it."
"Sorry?" I say and take a look behind me to make sure he's not talking to someone else.
"Have you visited the chateau yet?" He speaks as if we're old friends, and it's quite disarming.
"No, not yet."
"You must." He speaks perfect English with only a slight French inflection. "It's only twenty-five kilometres from here."
"Then I must." And I wonder if it is on Rosie's list of haunted chateaux to avoid. From the photographs inside the book, it definitely gives off that vibe.
He smiles. "You sell books?"
"How did you know?"
"I can sense a like-minded soul."
I give him a wide smile. "I'd have picked it on your too."
"Oui. We know these things." He taps his nose as if it's  a secret  we share. "Ihope you enjoy your timein Bordeauz."
"Merci." I smile as he walks away, charmed by such an interaction.

I am sharing this post as part of Paris in July, hosted by Thyme for Tea and for Sunday Salon hosted by Deb at Readerbuzz

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Weekend Cooking/Paris in July: Cassoulet

I mentioned a few weeks ago that we recently were given a Crockpot pressure cooker/slow cooker  combo thingy, so we have been busy trying new recipes, especially since we bought a very clever Women's Weekly cookbook recently which has both a slow cooker and pressure cooker version of recipes. There are lots of recipes that we want to try in this cookbook as evidenced by all these little bits of paper wedged in the book!

So far we we have tried making a green curry chicken which was in the recipes that came with the gadget. We might keep looking for another recipe. We also tried a roasted carrot and sweet potato soup which wasn't a success either, but the other things we have made were great! They include barbecue pork ribs for 4 July (delicious), pork belly and then this week, in honour of Paris in July, we made cassoulet.

A traditional cassoulet is made in a dish of the same name, and can include confit duck as well as sausages and beans. We didn't have either the traditional dish or confit duck, but instead we used sausages, lamb shoulder,and bacon. Despite not being totally traditional, this was delicious!! It was perfect for a cold winner's night dinner and we will definitely be having it again this winter.

Because the recipe can be done two ways I am going to share images from the book. For every recipe there is a picture of the ingredients required and the finished product and then the two different versions of the recipe. It's very effective as a way to share a recipe.

I am also sharing this post with Paris in July hosted by Thyme for Tea.

    Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. 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. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page.

Friday, July 10, 2020

The Goldminer's Sister by Alison Stuart

In the 1850's gold was discovered in various places in Victoria. People left their homes to try their chances to find gold, to set themselves up for life on the basis of that one big find. And if that big find doesn't come today, then it will come tomorrow, or the day after, or when you move to a new mine. Even today, there are people who spend their lives either fossicking in the hope of finding a nugget, or doing large scale mechanical mining in the wilds of places like Alaska. Gold fever! And when you find that big nugget of gold, or hit that seam of gold inside a mountain, then what else is there but to shout Eureka!!

This book takes place a couple of decades later in the 1870's in a fictional town called Maiden's Creek in the north of Victoria. There is no alluvial gold left, but there is underground mining and if you can hit the right seam, there is money to be made, for the owners and the shareholders, and livings made by the hardworking miners.

Eliza Penrose comes to Australia after receiving a letter from her brother to say that he believed that he was on the verge of discovering something big, and when he does, he will no longer be beholden to his uncle who runs the mine at Maidens Creek. Her brother has struck out on his own, and is starting his own mine which looks very promising.

Her heart is soon to be broken as she realises that far from the chance of a new life, she is once again to suffer a bereavement and she is even more alone than before. Her brother has died, leaving most of his estate to his uncle. There are however things that just don't add up about Will's death and it isn't long before she becomes suspicious.  While Eliza does have some possibilities of working as a teacher, it isn't that easy to break into the tight knit community, especially when there are inbuilt prejudices against women in such roles.

It seems that one of the few people that Eliza can trust is her brother's friend Alec McLeod. Alec is a Scottish mining engineer who is responsible for the day to day running of the mine, ensuring the mine's safety. He and his brother, Ian, had moved to the town after the death of Alec's wife. Like so many others, the gold fields offered them a chance to start anew, leaving the past behind, or at least trying to. But is Alec as trustworthy as he seems, and can they, between them, figure out what is going on at the two mines and in the town?

This book features some of the same secondary characters from The Postmistress which I read and enjoyed a couple of months ago. As always, I do think it is best to read in order, but it is definitely possible to read this as a standalone novel! I do, however, think this is a better book!

The author gives us a really good glimpse into life in a colonial town and the dangers that face miners. Even now, various types of mining disasters still happen in mines around the world, so it is still a dangerous business.

I really enjoyed the secondary storylines including those about Annie and her daughter Charlie who live in a booze shanty on the edge or town. Eliza sees Charlie's academic potential but she is shunned by the other kids, and her mother doesn't see how sending the young girl to school can help change their lives. The thing that the author did so well in relation to Annie, and to a couple of the other secondary characters, is to not rely on obvious characterisations but rather to give these characters nuances. The bad guys weren't all bad. Annie wasn't just a fallen woman, and even the rude teacher who made Eliza's life difficult wasn't without some merit.

So, as a reader who has just a devoured a book that is gold, there is little left to do but shout Eureka! and give this book a grade of 5/5, only my second for the year!

 Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for my review copy of this book.

Goodreads synopsis

Gold is a fever. Will it lead her to love ... or death? A suspenseful romance set on the turbulent goldfields of 1870s Australia, for readers of The Postmistress and The Woman in the Green Dress.
'There are people in this town with the gleam of gold in their eyes and cold steel in their hearts.'
1873. Eliza Penrose arrives in the gold mining town of Maiden's Creek in search of her brother, planning to make a new life for herself. Instead she finds a tragic mystery - and hints of betrayals by those closest to her.
Mining engineer Alec McLeod left Scotland to escape the memory of his dead wife and child. Despite the best efforts of the eligible ladies of Maiden's Creek, Alec is determined never to give his heart again.
As lies and deceit threaten Eliza's life, Alec steps in - although he has problems of his own, as he risks his livelihood and those he holds dear to oppose the dangerous work practices at the Maiden's Creek Mine.
When disaster draws the pieces of the puzzle together, Eliza and Alec must save each other - but is it too late?

Thursday, July 09, 2020

Alphabet 2020: M is for Melbourne

I have lived in Melbourne now for around 19 years. It's a place I love, and I can't really imagine living anywhere else. The city regularly tops the polls for the best place to live in the world for good reason. If you want sport, there is normally plenty on. If you want theatre, then there is a vibrant theatre and music scent. Culture? We've got it. We often say that if you can't find something good to eat in Melbourne then you aren't really trying hard enough.

My husband has lived here for about 10 years, and I remember one of our early conversations where we were talking about why we liked living here and he described it as a living city, and I really like that description. The reality is that there is something for everyone really, whatever you are interested in.

This week, though, has been a tough one for us Melburnians.  As of yesterday we have gone back into lockdown as a result of a second wave of COVID 19.  For us, lockdown means that we can only leave the house for four approved reasons: to work if you can't work from home, for medical treatment, for physical fitness reasons and essential shopping

I know that in comparison to many places around the world, our numbers are miniscule, but by Australian standards our infection numbers have skyrocketed and therefore drastic measures have had to be taken. At the moment we have around 800 active cases, but some of the daily numbers of cases identified are higher than they were at any time during the virus, which is why everyone is concerned.

So what does that mean for us. We have now been working from home for nearly 4 months, and so that will continue now for quite some time. Given that we hadn't gone back into the office after the last lockdown even though that finished a month ago, I can't see us getting back into the building until maybe the end of October but I am thinking later. It is a bit demoralising to be going backwards after we were able to start to go back to normal. I am grateful that we took the opportunity to do some normal things like having brunch and going for a drive in the country while we could  - always following the rules around social distancing and washing our hands.

When we realised that we were going to end up working from home, I wasn't really looking forward to it at all, but it turns out that I have quite enjoyed it. I like not having to do the 90 minute commute each way every day on public transport. I like being able to get up later and I like seeing my husband all day, or at least being able to hear him as we aren't always in the same room.

One of the things that I would never have imagined is the fact that the state borders have closed between the states. Right now, my state is basically isolated with all our adjoining state borders closed to Victorians. Apparently this is the first time that the borders between New South Wales and Victoria has been closed for around 100 years.

One of the interesting things about the way that Australia is dealing with the crisis is that there are no instructions at all to advise us that we should be wearing masks. I know that will shock a lot of people who have very strong opinions about the wearing of masks, but even the medical professionals in my organisation said that it wasn't necessary. I do think it will come soon, but for now, there are very few people wearing masks as we go about our business, when we can.

It is going to be tough over the next six weeks for the people in this city, but hopefully this further period of lockdown will have the necessary effect, and we can get back to enjoying life in this wonderful city!


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