Thursday, December 30, 2010

Songs I wish I had heard before

It's not too late for festive songs is it? Neil Gaiman tweeted about this song so because I am a such a follower I clicked on the link, listened to it, and then clicked on the link several more times! Then I went on a bit of a Youtube odyssey as I listened to more songs from Tim Minchin. I am not normally a musician/comedian type of girl, but I have enjoyed quite a few of the songs

No snow, no open fire, no sleighs - white wine in the sun. Sounds festive at least to me!

The main reason for posting it here now though is so I can find it again when I want to listen to it next year!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Library Loot: December 29 to January 4

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!

Last library loot for the year, and I expect that tonight was the last visit to the library for the year. My loot this week is heavy on the romance! It's funny how it happens that you end up getting all one kind of book even though you request them all at various times!

Here's my loot for this week.

Midnight Kiss anthology - I requested this so I can read the Robyn Carr novella in it. There's every chance that I won't even read the other two stories.

A Hellion in her Bed by Sabrina Jeffries - The next book in the Hellions of Halstead Hall series.

Happy Ever After by Nora Roberts - The fourth and final book in the Bride Quartet.

Trouble Maker by Janet Evanovich and Alex Evanovich - I am not sure why I requested this one, but I guess I just can't help myself.

Share your loot by leaving your link in Mr Linky!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Teaser Tuesday: Season of Storms by Susanna Kearsley

I couldn't finish the year without reading another book by one of my favourite authors, Susanna Kearsley, so this week's teaser is from page 51 of Season of Storms:

This morning had challenged me on all three fronts - our flight had been rough, and when we'd landed at the Marco Polo airport we had transferred to an overcrowded, overheated bus that had carried us over the causeway to Venice, and when the bus had let us off I'd had to drag my heavy suitcases for what had seemed miles, up and over the little arched bridges that were, I imagined - at times when you weren't hauling suitcases - quite picturesque, but whose endless stone steps had at the time been sheer torture. I'd felt like the porter at Rupert's club, like poor Sisyphus endlessly rolling his boulder uphill, labouring up to the summit of each bridge only to find there was one more beyond that to climb...down and up, down and the heat and the crowds it was hell.
Teaser Tuesday is hosted by Miz B at Should Be Reading. Head on over to find out all about it, and how to join in!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Mailbox Monday - December acquisitions

This is the last Mailbox Monday for the month and the year, and December was a pretty good month in terms of acquisitions. Just out of interest, I looked at my spreadsheet to see how many books I acquired this year, and was a little shocked to see that it was a total of 127 books, but I have only read 35 of them! I blame my library. I really need to read some of the books that I have sitting on my shelves.

Here are the books that I received during December:

A Brief History of Montmoray by Michelle Cooper - I received this book as a gift when I appeared on the local radio station talking about book blogging! It was a lovely surprise, especially as it is a book I hadn't heard of before and it does appear to be right up my reading alley.

The Last Dragon Slayer by Jasper Fforde - At the end of last month I went to Perth, and so had a little time to browse the shelves at the airport. I was VERY surprised to see a new Jasper Fforde book out as I don't recall having heard anything about it! After I got home, I was at the bookstore and I couldn't help but buy it!

Outside In by Maria V Snyder - Netgalley is a very dangerous place to hang out! I got a number of books from there this month including this one. I really need to read the prequel, Inside Out, sooner rather than later so I can get to this one!

The Crimson Rooms by Katharine McMahon - Got this one for review.

Emma, Mansfield Park, Sense and Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion all by Jane Austen - Because one day I am actually going to read some Jane Austen. I feel it is something that I am lacking in my reading at the moment.

Wild Man Creek and Promise Canyon by Robyn Carr - I have been obsessed with this series over the last month or so. These are the newest two books which will be released next year, and I got these from Netgalley.

Like Clockwork by Bonnie Dee - I wanted to get hold of some more steampunk and this was on Netgalley so I snapped it up.

His for the Holidays anthology - Another Netgalley find, which I got because I have enjoyed the Josh Lanyon books that I have read before.

That Holiday Feeling anthology - I got this book for one reason, and one reason only! There was a novella from the Virgin River series in it, and so I had to download it so I could read it.

Angel's Peak by Robyn Carr - This was the next book in the series after the novella in the previous anthology, and my library didn't have it! No way could I wait for an Inter Library Loan to come though so I downloaded it, and then read it that night. This series has caused me quite a few hours of lost sleep recently.

Sheltering Hearts by Robyn Carr - Another novella, this one was fortunately available as a free download from the Harlequin site.

Tiny Sunbirds, Far Away by Christie Watson- Another Netgalley book. I have a literary soft spot for Nigerian literature, and whilst this one is not by a Nigerian author, it's protagonist is, so as soon as I saw it, I had to have it.

A Creed in Stone Creek by Linda Lael Miller - I have only read one of Linda Lael Miller's historical western romances before, and I meant to read more, so this was my chance (another Netgalley book!)

Mailbox Monday was originally hosted at The Printed Page, but now it is going on tour so for December it is being hosted at Let Them Read Books. Head over there to share your links, or to see what everyone else has posted about this week.

Boxing Day 2010

I am not sure how it is in other places, but we are pretty lucky here in that in addition to the actual day of Christmas Day we always get a public holiday for Boxing Day as well, and if those days happen to fall on the weekend, then we get substitute public holidays for Christmas Day and Boxing Day, and then again for New Year's Day. What does that mean? It means that by taking 2 days of holiday leave, I actually have to work 1 day in 10!

Now before you think that perhaps that means lots of reading time, it doesn't often work out that way for me. Most times when I have vacation time I get less reading time than usual, let alone when I have houseguests etc.

Take yesterday for example. I got up in the morning, cooked lasagne for dinner in my new large lasagne dish, watched a bit of cricket (the Boxing Day test at the MCG is a strong Australian sporting tradition) and then went into the city to see Hairspray, which was awesome! Here's the Australian cast of Hairspray when they appeared on Hey Hey It's Saturday.

I read on the train for a few minutes but not all that long as I was chatting to my brother, and that was it for reading time really.

After we got home, had the dinner which I prepared earlier, watched a few Top Gear episodes (that show always makes me laugh and they had a marathon on yesterday), and then watched Going Postal, based on the book by Terry Pratchett, and I thoroughly enjoyed it! I am going to have to see if I can find Hogfather and watch that again too! Last time it was on TV I started to watch it, but kept on falling asleep!

Hairspray + Going Postal = good Boxing Day!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Weekend Cooking: Christmas 2010

The Setting - outside under the patio

The starter - There would be a lot of explaining to do if it was anything other than prawn cocktail:

The main course - Three different types of roast meat, plus ham and vegies

It's hard to not be too greedy, even though you know that there is more coming!

Pudding: This is the recipe that I shared for last week's Virtual Advent Tour stop, except made into one big pudding instead of small ones, serve with custard and cream

Santa's helper distributes the gifts. There is a belt for the jacket, but it was thought it was more useful to actually hold the trousers up.

Christmas cake, followed by a swim for the kids

Dinner is sandwiches made from leftovers, except for the boy who has Neapolitan ice cream

And then are still more snacks to come! My favourites are the mini puddings. I bought a few of them home, so can snack on them over the next few days, or tomorrow at least!

Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and 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, fabulous quotations, photographs.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Library Loot: December 22 to 28

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!

I am sure that like me the books that you are borrowing from your library right now are due back in 2011! It was a bit of shock when it first happened a couple of weeks ago. How on earth can we be that close to next year already? But we are!

Here's my loot for this week, all of which are due back next year. All of them except the one I have already returned that is! Be sure to head on over to Captive Reader to share your Library Loot for this week.

Angel's Peak by Robyn Carr - My inhalation of the Virgin River series by Robyn Carr continues. I borrowed this, read the book that night, and then returned it a couple of days later.

Away with the Fairies by Kerry Greenwood - I am not sure how many times I have borrowed this book and returned it unread, but it's quite a few! In fact it is so many that I actually haven't read a book in this series all year! Need to fix that next year.

Walkabout - next book in the Outback series that I have been reading with the Sweeping Sagas group at Goodreads. Had to get this one through ILL so will have to read this one relatively soon.

The Mischief of the Mistletoe by Lauren Willig - the next book in the Pink Carnation series. It would be nice to read this in the next week or so but I can't really see that happening.

Moonlight Road by Robyn Carr - I went to the library tonight, so there is every chance I will start this one tonight, although I don't think I will finish it tonight like I did with the last book.

Unholy Magic by Stacia Kane - I am going to read this book for one reason, and one reason only - Terrible. I am hoping that I warm up to the main female character a bit more in this book.

Down the Way by Angus & Julia Stone - At this year's ARIAs (which are the Australian Recording Industry awards), Angus and Julia Stone were the big winner's, coming away with several different awards. Time to see what the fuss is about!

Here is a video of them singing one of their bigger hits, Big Jet Plane

Merry Christmas to all the Library Looter's out there. Thanks for your support this year, and happy borrowing!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Teaser Tuesday: Cake: A Global History by Nicola Humble

After having missed Teaser Tuesday last week for the first time in months, I am back with some festive teasers from my first (and most likely only) non fiction read of the year.

I have chosen a couple of teasers, both relating to Christmas cakes, from Cake: A Global History by Nicola Humble. This is part of a series of called The Edible Series where each book focuses on a particular type of food. In addition to this one about Cake, there are others about Pie, Cheese, Chocolate etc. I am definitely planning to try and read more because it was a fun little read. I am planning to do a Weekend Cooking post about this book in the next few weeks!

My first teaser comes from pages 19:

By the Middle Ages, porridge existed in many forms, one of which was an enriched version in which the oats or wheat were accompanied by dried fruits, suet, butter, honey and spices. This luxurious mixture had a celebratory function, and was often served Christmas. This 'plum porridge' ('plum' being the generic medieval term for dried fruits) eventually became so stiff with ingredients that it was more solid than liquid. It was at this stage that cooks began to boil it in a cloth, developing the glossy, round plum pudding that was later to play so central a role in the Victorian Christmas.

and then from page 77:

The Twelfth Cake was replaced by (some would say mutated into) the Christmas cake - still a rich fruit cake with almond and royal icing, but no longer bearing those symbolic figures.

The British Christmas cake, like many of our most treasured rituals of the season, is not, therefore, very old at all. It has, though, acquired a notable presence as a symbolically necessary component of the festivities.

Merry Christmas to my fellow Teaser Tuesday-ers!

Teaser Tuesday is hosted by Miz B at Should Be Reading. Head on over to find out all about it, and how to join in!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Currently Reading: The Distant Hours by Kate Morton

I read Kate Morton's last two books a couple of years ago, and so it feels like I have been waiting quite a while to read The Distant Hours! I knew I wanted to read it before I saw this trailer, but after I saw it, I wanted the book much, much more! Such a clever trailer, and it definitely plays up the gothic angle of the book!

And yes, I have posted it on my blog before, but it is so good it is worth posting again:

As an interesting counter, this is the Australian trailer for the book. Whilst it is much more...unexciting... than the other trailer, it does tell you more about what the book is about, and you hear Kate Morton talking about how the book came to her!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Weekend Cooking: Dinner at Fifteen Melbourne

I had the great fortune last weekend to go to dinner at Fifteen Melbourne.

The Fifteen concept was originally started in the UK by Jamie Oliver. The idea was to bring in groups of underprivileged youngsters, and to train them up to become professional restaurant staff. That concept still continues today as part of the Fifteen Foundation.

Fifteen Melbourne opened here approximately four years ago, under the guidance of  Jamie Oliver's friend, Toby Puttock, who I would classify as a semi celebrity chef here. He does get on TV quite regularly but as far as I know he doesn't have his own show anywhere. Ever since the restaurant opened we have been meaning to go. One of my friends had been designated organiser, but she really wasn't going to do it, so in the end, one of us (yes me!) just picked a date and rang up and booked!

For our main course, I chose Pan-seared yellow fin tuna with green beans, baby vine tomatoes, rosemary, sardines and crispy battered zucchini flowers which was really very nice. Unfortunately we didn't think about taking photos until the dessert came out. Have to remember to do this a bit more regularly! My main reason for choosing this dish is that I never, ever cook tuna at home except for Tuna Mornay using canned tuna which isn't exactly the same, and also because zucchini flowers get mentioned quite regularly in cook books, but I don't think they are something I would ever go out of my way to cook either. It was very nice! Other options that my friends chose were Pan-fried whole flounder with capers, parsley, lemon and Fifteen’s olive oil and Lamb ‘cut of the day’ with spring vegetable sott’ olio and an anchovy and rosemary dressing (the cut of the day  was shoulder).

For the sides we had Radicchio salad with pine nuts, honey and balsamic dressing, Mixed greens, garlic, lemon and olive oil and Duck fat potatoes. Now I have heard on cooking shows loads of times about how you should cook your potatoes in duck fat, and I never really expected that it would make that much difference, but we had to order a second serving of the potatoes because they were oh so good and all five of us wanted more!

And then dessert. Oh my goodness was my dessert good. My friends liked theirs as well, which were Honey and praline semifreddo with hot chocolate sauce and Chocolate ice-cream and grappa cherries, although I did think the presentation was a bit boring, particularly on the chocolate ice cream which just came in a glass bowl, but of the three different desserts that I tasted, the waitress was correct in suggesting that the Prosecco poached peach with mint ice cream and frosted almonds was her favourite dessert because the peach was amazing and the mint ice cream was divine!

I have poached pears before myself, and having had this dessert last week, I am very keen to try and find the recipe that I cooked a few years ago which was poached pears served with mascarpone. Expect to see that as a weekend cooking post at some point in the future.

Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and 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, fabulous quotations, photographs.

Friday, December 17, 2010

2010 Virtual Advent Tour: Christmas Puddings

Today it is my turn to post as part of the 2010 Virtual Advent Tour. This is a tour that I co host with Kelly from The Written World, where the participants share some aspect of their holiday celebrations!

Today other stops on the tour include Ana @ things mean a lot, Chris @ Stuff as Dreams are Made on and Boof @ The Book Whisperer. To find links to some of the other amazing posts we have had so far during the tour, then click here to visit the Virtual Advent Tour blog.

I was struggling a little bit to think of something to post about this year. I've talked about so many things over the five years that we have been running the tour! And then it came to me, I would share my sister's recipe for Christmas Pudding.

My sister started making these puddings years ago, and they are a real hit with everyone who gets one! Part of the reason why I thought about posting about them is that today was the last day for kids who attend government schools here in Victoria for this school year. For the past few years, I have been giving these to each of my son's teachers as the end of year gift, and to the people who worked in his before and after school care program. When he changed school at the beginning of Term 4 this year, when the carers in the program were saying goodbye to us, one of them commented "Does this mean we won't get a Christmas pudding this year?", they looked forward to them so much each year!

On Christmas Day itself, she will make a big pudding that we will share together, served warm with ice cream, custard and cream! Yum!

Oh and in case you are wondering, yes, she does know that I am sharing her recipe! She has made so many of these now (it wouldn't be surprising if she made 100 or more each year) that she was able to tell me the instructions without even referring to her recipe book!

Christmas Puddings (makes 12 small puddings)

750g mixed fruit
200g macadamia nuts
Zest of 1 lemon, grated
150g self raising flour
125g chopped apricot pieces
125g breadcrumbs
3 large eggs
Bottle of stout
Cup of brandy (optional)
Tspn ground nutmeg

Combine dry ingredients (mixed fruit, nuts, lemon zest, apricot pieces, breadcrumbs) in a large mixing bowl.

In a separate bowl, beat eggs, and then add the stout and mix to combine.

Add egg and stout mixture to the dry ingredients and mix to combine thoroughly. Then add brandy, mix and then leave to stand overnight.

Grease 12 ramekins and then fill with pudding mixture to just under the lip of the ramekin.

Cut circles of baking paper so that they cover the top of the pudding on the inside of the ramekin, and then cover the top of the ramekin with a larger piece of foil and tie off with string.

Place the filled ramekins in a large deep sided baking tray, and fill the tray with water until it is approximated three quarters of the way up the side of the ramekins. On your lowest heat setting on your cooktop, simmer for 5 hours, continually topping up the water to the same level.

Remove from the heat. Once cooled, tip puddings onto a wire cooling try. Wrap in cling film, and then wrap in calico with a Christmassy ribbon tied around and hand out as gifts to lucky recipients!

In order to reheat, place in microwave for just over 1 minute!


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Library Loot: December 15 to 21

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!

I have a confession to make. I *may* have told my librarian a little fib when I went to the library this week.

My library has a limit of 60 items out at a time, which you really would think would be enough but apparently not! You see I had the maximum amount of books out, with only 2 to return but 4 to pick up. When I took the books back I kind of intended to only pick up 2 and then I would pick the other 2 up later, but the problem was that I couldn't decide which 2 to leave behind. I therefore thought I would try my luck and see what happened.

I got up to the counter and the librarian scanned the first two items, and then she scanned the third item and it came up with the warning that I had reached the maximum, to which I replied that I had just returned a couple of items, knowing full well that they must have already been scanned in.

Tell me, which of these books would you have left behind:

The Distant Hours by Kate Morton - It feels as though we have been waiting ages for this latest book from Kate Morton! Looking forward to reading it.

Dash and Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan - It's a little bit amusing that I know exactly who read this book before me! Bree from All the Books I Can Read happened to mention that she was reading this book from our local library, and I realised that I was next in line for the book! We haven't met yet, but I am sure it won't be too long before we do, seeing as we live so close!

Temptation Ridge by Robyn Carr - I am inhaling this series at the moment. I start the next book and just keep reading until I finish it, and then request the book after that! I have already read this one, and I am pretty sure that you will see another book from this series in my loot next week too!

Anna by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles - There's a bit of a sad story associated with this book. I actually started reading it a few weeks ago, but it got to due date, and I couldn't extend anymore,and I still had a couple of hundred pages to go. I did however have a plan, and it was a good one. I would return the book first thing in the morning, then request it again once I got to work and then I would be able to pick it up either that day or the next and I could just keep reading. The only problem is that they put the book into mending once it was returned. I still requested it, but then they removed both this book, and the other two books in the trilogy from the catalogue, so I had to request this one through interlibrary loan, and I will have to do the same for the rest of the books in the trilogy as well!

What loot did you get from the library this week?