Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Opening Lines

Welcome to this week's edition of Top Ten Tuesday which is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

That's right! A Top Ten Tuesday two weeks in a row! The theme this week is Opening Lines. Now, I am not the person who remembers opening lines, no matter how cool they are, with the exception of famous lines. In fact, there is only one that I can think of that isn't one of the obvious ones like Tolstoy or Jane Austen.

Given that I can't come up with many off the top of my head, I am going to bring you the opening lines of the books that I am reading at the moment, and then some of my favourite books off of my shelves.

Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn - This is the opening line that I can roughly paraphrase and it is a doozy as an opening to a historical mystery series. It is also an introduction to Nicholas Brisbane.....what a man.

To say that I met Nicholas Brisbane over my husband's dead body is not entirely accurate. Edward, it should be noted, was still twitching upon the floor.

The Railway Girls by Maisie Thomas - This is one of the books that I am reading at the moment. I will have a review of it up on Thursday.

I don't care what war work I do or where I do it - as long as it isn't here.

Palace of Tears by Julian Leatherdale - This is the other book that I am reading at the moment. And by reading I mean have read the first page, but I will be reading more.

The promise of fire was in the air that morning.

The Lost Love Song by Minnie Darke - One of my favourite book this year, so far.  And I really like this as an opening line for this book.

The love song began it's life, not with a fanfare or a crash of cymbals, but instead with a knock  at a door.

Fire Study by Maria V Snyder - This was the last book I finished. It is the third book in the Chronicles of Ixia series which I started many years ago. I read the first two books and then recently reread them, but this was the first time I read this book. I will be reading the next book soon.

"That's pathetic, Yelena," Dax complained. " An all powerful Soulfinder who isn't all powerful. Where's the fun in that?"

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley (also published as Sophia's Secret)- Oh how I love this book. One of very few books that I have reread, and that I would seriously consider rereading again.

It wasn't chance. There wasn't any part of it that happened just by chance.

Into the Wilderness by Sara Donati - The opening line to another long time favourite series. Last year I read the first book in the follow up series to this one and it was again excellent.

Elizabeth Middleton, twenty-nine years old and unmarried, overly educated and excessively rational, knowing right from wrong and fancy from fact, woke in a nest of marten and fox pelts to the sightof an eagle circling overhead, and saw at once that it could not be far to Paradise.

Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth  - Another book that I love hard. I actually mentioned this one in last weeks post too so clearly it is on my mind at the moment

I had always been a great talker and teller of tales.

The Summer Garden by Paullina Simons - I don't love this book as much as the first two in this trilogy, but I do however love the way that this opening line both sets the scene for the book to come but also reflects one of the major scenes in the first book. So clever

Once upon a time, in Stonington, Maine, before sunset, at the end of a hot war and the beginning of a cold one, a young  woman dressed in white, outwardly calm but with trembling hands, sat on a bench by the harbor, eating ice cream.

The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams - I have given you lines from books I am reading, that are favourites, and the best book I have read this year, so I thought I would finish with the opening line from a  a book I want to read

Before the lost word, there was another. It arrived in the Scriptorium in a second-hand envelope, the old address crossed out and Dr Murray, Sunnyside, Oxford, written in its place.

So, do any of those opening lines call to you?

Monday, May 25, 2020

This week....

I'm reading....

Yesterday it was announced that more of our restrictions are going to be partially lifted with effect from 1 June. While we are still going to be working from home for a while longer, we will be able to go out to cafes and have 20 people in our homes amongst other things. We won't mention how stressful I would find it have 20 people here but the thought that we can is good I guess. One of the changes is that libraries will be able to open again. Now I have a pile of library books here to be returned but I do have two that I haven't read yet. So that is why I started reading Palace of Tears by Julian Leatherdale. He is a new to me Australian author who has several books out now, but unfortunately there will be no more as he recently passed away.

I am also about two thirds of the way through The Railway Girls which I talked about last week, and I am about half way through The Good Turn on audiobook as well, which I am enjoying.

I'm watching....

We started watching The Great this weekend. What a crazy bonkers show that is, but it is FUN! And the costumes are amazing! At the beginning of each episode it says "occasionally true" and that is the spirit it should be taken in. The tongue is firmly in cheek most of the time but it is a joy to watch!

The other thing that was a joy to watch this weekend was the One Night Lonely concert which was streamed on Youtube featuring Aussie music legends Powderfinger. This band came to the fore in the late 1990s when I was living overseas. A friend sent me a mix tape (remember those) which featured Powderfinger and other bands like Silverchair but I have to confess I didn't really get Powderfinger until after they had been around for a long time, but once I got them, I really got them. I used to quite regularly just start with an album and work my way through them all while I was working. I never really got Silverchair.

I was lucky enough to go to see Powderfinger perform live on their final tour and it was one of my favourite concert events ever! It was so amazing to see them live, in front of their excited fans. The atmosphere was phenomenal. The only downside to that concert was the fact that as soon as the encore had finished and the lights came up, the stadium played Just Can't Get Enough by Devo. Talk about an unwanted earworm when you just wanted to walk out of the stadium singing some of the songs you heard!! I posted about the concert here.

Anyway, the One Night Lonely thing was great. It was so good to see them performing together and you would never have thought they had been split up for 10 years. They just sounded so good. The only problem with this show - it was only 35 minutes long which was way too short. I ended up watching it on the Saturday night and then watched it again on Sunday night just because I could!

This video is Powderfinger singing These Days in their final concert before they split up.

In life...

Last week was a better week emotionally in working from home land, but it was crazy busy and I know that I am slipping into the bad habit of working later than I should just because I can. And I am also guilty of thinking about just going and doing a few hours over the weekend. I haven't yet been guilty of actually going and doing that but I can see it happening.

We did our second jigsaw this week. I bought it on a whim a few weeks ago when I saw it on Facebook. It actually was not as difficult as we thought it would be. We (and by we I mean me) have bought another 4 jigsaws. Some of them are a couple of months away as they are being sold through Kickstarter but the other one should be here any day now really. And then we still have a couple here to do. I do have to not set them up to do too regularly as my husband still can't walk past the jigsaw without stopping to put pieces in.

Posts from the last week

Weekend Cooking: Cottage Allotment Pie (Jamie Oliver)
Alphabet 2020: H is for Heater
Top Ten Tuesday: Reasons Why I Love Historical Fiction

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

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Weekend Cooking: Allotment Cottage Pie

    We are currently trying to do one meat free dinner every week. We are also watching Jamie Oliver's Keep Cooking and Carry On series which is on at the moment. The idea is that he gives satisfying meal recipes but also along the way gives lots of tips about how you can swap ingredients based on what is available in your pantry (or in the shops back when we were seeing shortages).  For example, in the recipe below, we swapped out dried porcini mushrooms for brown mushrooms and we used Vegemite instead of Marmite. We are, however, such bad Australians that we didn't even have any Vegemite in the cupboard (because it is horrible, horrible stuff) so we had to go and buy some just for this recipe. Oh, and we used dried lentils instead of a can. A lot of the series is actually filmed by his wife in their house rather than the usual slick production values he would have

    So this week's recipe is a meat free cottage pie (link to recipe). It has been quite cool here, so a hearty cottage pie was perfect for a Monday night dinner.

    We have also tried a cauliflower macaroni cheese recipe from the TV show but I don't think that we will make that one again. It was a bit underwhelming. I am earmarking meat free recipes all over the place, but it was only after a few weeks that we realise that one of the favourite recipes we make regularly (Baked Zucchini, Tomato and Parmesan Risotto) is already meat free!

    One of the funny things about this recipe happened a couple of weeks after we first cooked it. My sister and her family came around last weekend and we were talking about the things that we were doing differently food wise during this period of social isolation, and we mentioned making this recipe. My son pipes up and says "oooh that's why it tasted a bit different! " He never realised that there wasn't any meat in it!

    Allotment Cottage Pie

    10 g dried porcini mushrooms
    2 large leeks
    3 carrots
    500 g swede
    500 g celeriac
    olive oil
    3 sprigs of fresh rosemary
    1 teaspoon cumin seeds
    2 kg potatoes
    40 g unsalted butter
    1 splash of semi-skimmed milk
    1 onion
    1 teaspoon Marmite
    3 tablespoons tomato purée
    1 x 400 g tin of green lentils

    In a blender, cover the porcini with 600ml of boiling water.
    Trim, wash and slice the leeks 2cm thick, then scrub the carrots, swede and celeriac and chop to roughly the same size.
    Drizzle 2 tablespoons of oil into a large casserole pan on a medium heat, strip in the rosemary, fry for 
    1 minute to crisp up, then remove to a plate with a slotted spoon.
    Add the cumin seeds and prepped veg to the flavoured oil, season with sea salt and black pepper, and cook for 30 minutes, stirring regularly.
    Meanwhile, peel and roughly chop the potatoes, cook in a pan of boiling salted water for 15 minutes, or until tender, then drain well. Mash with the butter and milk, and season to taste.
    Preheat the oven to 190ºC/375ºF/gas 5.
    Quarter the onion, add to the porcini in the blender along with the Marmite and tomato purée and whiz until smooth.
    Pour into the veg pan and cook for 20 minutes, or until dark and caramelised, stirring regularly and scraping up any sticky bits from the bottom of the pan.
    Tip the lentils (juices and all) into the veg pan, bring to the boil, then season to taste.
    Spoon over the mash, place on a tray, bake for 30 minutes, or until lightly golden and bubbling at the edges, then sprinkle over the crispy rosemary.
    Serve with simple steamed seasonal greens !

    Please note: You may have to refresh the page to see your link on Mr Linky.

    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, May 22, 2020

Alphabet 2020: H is for Heater

I know it's our turn to have winter and the northern hemisphere's turn for summer but brrrr! Winter has arrived with a vengeance. My feet are always freezing and my husband and I had our first ever "discussion" in the middle of the night about who was stealing all of the bed covers (he was....for the record).

I have had issues with my heating for a long time now. It kind of mostly works, except in our bedroom, but it keeps on cutting out and I have to go and reset using the remote control. I can  hear you all thinking why doesn't she just get it fixed.

I did attempt to do that a couple of years ago. I called in the heating guy and he took one look at the gas pipes and said there was an issue with them and so he couldn't fix it until that was resolved. After numerous calls to our gas company over several weeks (in late autumn with no heater) it was finally determined that we needed to replace all the gas pipes in the whole house which cost us about $3000. And the heating still wasn't fixed.

Ironically our cooling stopped working during this summer. The technician took one look at the motor and said it needs to be replaced which was going to cost about ....$3000. You can see why I am a bit reluctant to call a tradie at the moment.

I should say, I know that my idea of cold would probably make lots of you laugh and say that isn't cold but for this warm blooded Aussie it is! This week we had a day when it was only 13 degrees celsius (which is 55 degrees fahrenheit). Brrrrr! I know I wouldn't cope with winter in some other places but it is all about what you are acclimatised to.

I lived in the UK for 5 years and so I know that I can deal with slightly colder (but still not really really really cold). I had mornings where you woke up to that special kind of quietness that comes when it has snowed overnight, and worn layers and layers that you had to strip off every time you entered inside buildings.  The winter after I returned from the UK I didn't actually turn a heater on in the first winter because it just wasn't cold. The second winter after coming back, I had reacclimatised to our weather and it was cold again!

You would think that I have better things to post about than the weather but this is what is on my mind right now. Brrrrrr!!

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Reasons Why I Love Historical Fiction

Welcome to this week's edition of Top Ten Tuesday which is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

I haven't done a Top Ten Tuesday for a while now. I often look at the topic and think I couldn't think of ten things about that topic and then as I see the posts as I check out people's blogs and think well of course I could have!!

This week the topic is Reasons Why I Love......and we can pick our own topic, and I have chosen to post about all things historical fiction - or at least ten things historical fiction. I will admit I did struggle to limit this to just ten.

Jean Plaidy - My love of historical fiction started very early and continues on even now. In early high school I read every Jean Plaidy book that my school library had.She also wrote under a couple of other names including Victoria Holt, Eleanor Burford and more. And with covers like these, why wouldn't you!

Dual timelines - I am a sucker for a dual timelines and there are so many choices for the books. Even if I just want to limit it to Australian authors there are authors like Hannah Richell, Kate Morton but I have to include Canadian author Susanna Kearsley. One of my favourite books ever is The Winter Sea!

Brave knights and powerful men - If you want to read about handsome kings, brave knights, paupers rising through society, poor boys who turn out to be the secret son of some rich and powerful lord, then historical fiction has the stories for you.

Beautiful and powerful women - And for all those handsome brave knights, there has to be the irresistibly beautiful women! who they fall in love with. Many times those women wield huge political power. The books of Susan Holloway Scott introduced us to the mistresses of Charles II, or if you want an old school rollicking adventure try the Angelique books by Sergeann Golon

Fascinating stories based on historical figures - One of the first books I read by Australian author Kate Forsyth was the exceptional Bitter Greens. It's a fairy tale retelling of Rapunzel set in Italy but also featuring Charlotte -Rose Caumont de La Force who wrote the original story that was then adapted by the Grimm brothers. See.... just one example of a fascinating story! Sometimes we think that we know about the historical figure or some times we have never heard of them. Either way can be fascinating.

Well known stories - Sometimes it is possible to read too many books about one subject to the point of not wanting to read it again. For me, I overdosed on Tudor stories years ago, but there are still occasions when I can be tempted into the Tudor world for an exceptional story. An example of this would be Legacy by Susan Kay which was so good. I have also seen people mention that they are started to get a bit of WWII fatigue but I am not there yet, not while there are excellent books like The Nightingale coming out.

Little known stories - For all the well known stories, there are lesser known stories that can be discovered. I had read plenty of historical fiction about the Roman Empire, but I didn't know a lot about the Etruscan civilisation which was located very close to Rome. And then there are the authors who take something that we know about like a famous painting and then add colour and depth to it such as Susan Vreeland's books or a story set against Catherine Medici's reign in France which provides the context of the story in books like The Dark Queen by Susan Carroll.

Stories set against adversity in war - My love of big books set against war started early. I was a teenager when my auntie introduced me to the writing of Noel Barber and I couldn't get enough. i suspect if I was to reread them now they might be a bit problematic but they still have pride of place on my bookshelves.

That fascination continues now - I mentioned people overdosing on WWII fiction, but I can't see that happening for me any time soon. There are so many aspects still to be explored. We could be reading about people in war zones such as All the Light You Cannot See which is set in France but there is also the Pacific theatre of war and also stories about what is happening on the home front such as The Land Girls by Victoria Purman. And that's only talking about WWII. There are so many other conflicts out there where we can read about the triumph of human spirit in the face of adversity!

Big sagas - I love a big book, and there was time where that was actually how I chose which book to buy. If there was a big book and a normal size book I would reach for the big one every time. I also love a series that follows characters through time. There are classic series such as The Morland Dynasty books by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles or new series such as the excellent Seven Sisters series by Lucinda Riley.

As I finish this posts I am looking at the covers thinking I should have  chosen this book or that books. I haven't mentioned some of my very favourite authors or books. There are just so many great options out there!

Monday, May 18, 2020

This week...

I'm reading...

I tend to have around three books on the go at any time. I will be reading a book book, an ebook and an audiobook, and as long as they are all different there is no confusion in my mind.

My paper book at the moment is Fire Study. I started it last week and I am thoroughly enjoying it but I haven't finished it yet. I expect that I will finish it this week.

I did start a new ebook this week. For the first time in years I am participating in a blog tour and so I need to make sure that I get the book read in enough time to write the review. The book is The Railway Girls by Maisie Thomas and I agreed to read it because as much as I love to read about the action in war, I also enjoy reading the at home stories.

I also went back to The Good Turn by Dervla McTiernan. I did start listening to it a few weeks ago but I ended up swapping to The Bookshop on the Shore by Jenny Colgan last week. That was just the palette cleanser I needed and now I am fully invested in The Good Turn.

I'm watching...

Friday night is turning into our comedy night. I think it is partially because by the time Friday comes around I am mentally exhausted. That was certainly the case last Friday night.

At the moment on Prime Video there are ten one hour long comedy specials featuring Australian comedians. We watched the Tom Gleeson special a week ago which was great but on Friday night we watched three featuring Dilruk Jayasinha, Anne Edmonds and Tommy Little. We had seen Dilruk before at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival so I knew that we would enjoy his show. Anne Edmonds show was fine but I wouldn't necessarily rush out to buy tickets to her show in future. The one that surprised us was Tommy Little. Oh my goodness, so, so funny! I was crying laughing. It was the perfect way to spend Friday night.

I have mentioned before that I have been watching the Grand Ole Opry each week while they have been broadcasting during isolation. This week I had even more reason to watch because one of the featured artists was Keith Urban. I have posted before about seeing Keith at the Grand Ole Opry when we were in Nashville last year which was so awesome and I really enjoyed this new performance as well.


How is  it that even though we are barely leaving the house, the weekend still feels super busy. I had good intentions of watching the Outlander finale and starting a new jigsaw on Sunday afternoon but there was just no time.

Part of the reason it felt like that is because our restrictions were lifted slightly this week. We can now have up to five people in our homes, subject to social distancing. Saturday was also my husband's birthday (also known as just another dayin his world) and so the new conditions meant that we were able to have his daughter and her partner over for dinner. We made a big lasagne and finished off with lemon meringue pie. So good!

We also had my sister and her family come around on Sunday afternoon. Maybe part of the reason we felt busy is we were cooking and hosting all weekend. It was so good though to be able to spend time with the people who matter to us.

The government has advised that from 1 June we will be able to start going to cafes and restaurants. I am totally looking forward to the simple pleasure of going out for brunch. I do, however, think that we are going to still be working from work for quite some time still.

Last week was a tough week in working from home world. Really tough. One thing that made me laugh was that we were having a safety moment and I asked my team if they had anything to share. One of the girls suggested that we all buy things online because then you get a package to look forward to.

We got a couple of packages last week, both of which were a surprise to me. One was a pair of shoes that I ordered in January that I had completely given up on. I ordered them because I wanted to wear them on our planned trip to Europe. Not only had they not arrived in time to go away, they arrived after we would have already been home for weeks. I had written to the company complaining a couple of times and I was just about to lodge a claim with Paypal.

Our non stick frying pan lost it's stick along time ago and we had started having vague conversations about buying a new one. What I didn't expect was to open a big box and find an entire new set of  Tefal saucepans and frying pans. Robert did say to me something about it being for me but to be fair he does most of the cooking so it is more a gift for us! It was a lovely surprise and certainly made what had been an otherwise very average Friday much better!

Posts from the last week

Welcome to a New Era of Weekend Cooking
About Weekend Cooking
Alphabet 2020: G is for Grateful
The Postmistress by Alison Stuart

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

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Welcome to a new era of Weekend Cooking

Well.....that escalated quickly. Two weeks ago, I was acknowledging BethFishRead's amazing job at hosting Weekend Cooking for so long and now, here I am hosting for the first time. How did that happen?

All jokes aside, I am excited to be the new host of Weekend Cooking starting from this week

I thought today I would share a few thoughts about my experience of participating in Weekend Cooking has been over the last ten years.

My first post to Weekend Cooking was for a very Australian and New Zealand recipe (it's one of those recipes that we squabble over) - Anzac Biscuits. What I learned in that first post, and have been reminded lots  of times over subsequent years is that ingredients that are commonplace in one country is not necessarily commonplace in another. In the comments for that post are questions like what is golden syrup and what is caster sugar? And I can't tell you how many times I have commented on a post from another participant to say I've never even heard of xxxxx before let alone cooked with it!

Over the years I have shared many recipes. Some times I have shared recipes because I have made them just once. Other times they are aspirational in that I want to make them....one day. Some times I share because I think that other people might be interested but there are lots of times when I share a recipe so that I can find it when I want to cook it again so it is really selfish. For example, not too long ago I shared a recipe for Mexican Chicken and Rice that I really only posted because I was fed up of not being able to find the blue envelope that the recipe was written on the back of!

Those of you who were around many years ago would have followed the cooking exploits of my son. He went through a phase in his pre and early teens of being very interested in cooking. Now, we force him to cook one meal a week but other than that he wouldn't really be that keen. The thing is though he can cook for himself if he has to. The tag that I used at the time was Adventures of a Little Chef which is kind of ironic now given that he is 6'10 tall and spent a couple of years at college in America playing basketball!

Looking back you can also see how my interest in the last few years has turned to baking. I have learned that I can make complicated things and that I really enjoy challenging myself, although it never quite looks exactly as good as I want it too. It could also be that I am my own harshest critic though.

Over the years, I have posted all sorts of other things in Weekend Cooking in addition to recipes. There were posts about foodie movies, TV, books, excerpts, music about food, memorable meals, fancy dinners - anything and everything really, and I don't see that changing any time soon.

I had a period where I just wasn't reading much and therefore I wasn't blogging about books much, but I was still always thinking about and posting things for Weekend Cooking. For a little while there Weekend Cooking was the only thing that kept me blogging. It is also probably the topic that I have the most ideas about when it comes to what to post. I actually have around 4 or 5 posts either fully or partially written sitting in draft waiting for their turn to be posted.

Once again, I want to thank BethFishReads for doing such an amazing job with Weekend Cooking over the years. I have very big shoes to fill and I can only hope that I can post things that are half as interesting as her  posts have been over the years. Thank you also for allowing me to take this on. I will do my best to build on what you have built.

So a couple of things

I am based in Australia and so timezone wise I am from the future (compared to most of you anyway)! My aim will be to have my Weekend Cooking post with the Mr Linky scheduled to post on Saturday morning my time, which is Friday evening in the US. However, please don't feel that you have to amend your own posting times as a result. You can link up whenever you post. I will also make every effort to visit everyone.

I am not planning on making any fundamental changes to the way that Weekend Cooking works at this stage. It is still going to continue as a pretty casual place to share your thoughts around food, cooking, food in movies, books or anything else. We might try a couple of new things at some point but not quite yet.

I hope that if you are an existing participant that you continue to enjoy participating each week, and if you are just thinking about participating for the first time then welcome!

I also wanted to say thanks to Melynda from Scratch Made Foods who put together the button below. Thanks Melynda! I am thinking about doing a complete revamp of my blog in due course, but in the mean time, please feel free to grab the button to use on your posts.

And now, let me see if I can remember how to embed Mr Linky.....

Yes I can!! Let me know what  you think of  Mr Linky with the thumbnail. I like the idea of having a picture accompanying the link but I found it a little bit fiddly to add so I'll be interested to hear what you thought.

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.

Welcome to Weekend Cooking

Weekend Cooking was started at Beth Fish Reads back in October 2009. For more than 10 years like minded bloggers shared their posts each week. I began contributing in May 2010.

Now, I have taken over the reins and I am excited to invite you to share your reviews of cookbooks, food writing, foodie novels, and movies that make you hungry.

Weekend Cooking is a chance to share the food love. On Saturday mornings, I'll publish my post -- perhaps a cookbook review or maybe just some favourite food-related quotes.

At any time during the weekend, if you care to share a similar post, please come on back and hook up with Mr. Linky, so we can read what you have to say. I hope you'll join in when your weekend (or recent) reading or movie watching fits in with the theme. Remember, the definition of Weekend Cooking is free and easy, if you think your post even remotely fits the theme, grab the button and sign in to Mr. Linky.

Thanks to Melynda from Scratch Made Foods for the button below

Former Weekend Cooking buttons

Friday, May 15, 2020

Alphabet 2020: G is for Grateful

A few years ago on Facebook there was a gratefulness challenge that did the rounds. The idea was that for a week you had to mention three things that you were grateful for each day and then nominate your friends to do the same.  I ended up doing it for quite a few weeks because it just felt really good to take a few moments every day to think about what was good about life in general. It was almost liked taking the time to think about the positives in life made it easier to be positive!
I thought today I would mention three things that I am grateful for, particularly given the challenges that the world faces right now.

I changed jobs just over a year ago after having been in the same job for nearly 10 years. Even though the last year has been challenging in so many ways, I am much, much happier than I was. I am now leading a team of ten which presents it's own challenges, we have successfully introduced a new HR system that integrates into our system, I have built new friendships and more. My managers here are constantly expressing that they see a future for me as well as giving me development opportunities that just didn't happen in my last job. Originally I was thinking that I would be wanting to move after two years this time because I have a tendency to get stuck in a job for ten years or so but I don't think that two years will be long enough. I am also glad to work for an organisation that makes a difference to people's lives everyday. 

Working from home has actually been a surprise for me too. I expected to not like it at all, but it's not that bad. I think we will still be working from home for a couple more months at least, so I am grateful that we are able to work from home to reduce risks. I am grateful for my team who do what they need to do in order to ensure that everyone still gets paid. I am lucky that Robert is working from home as well although he is threatening to go to HR because of all the inappropriate touching in the workplace. It will be a struggle to go back to the office really.

This time last year Robert and I were in America. Whilst we were visiting a few different places along the way, we were also going to visit my son in the small town in Kansas where he was playing college basketball. The original plan was that he would be returning to the US in January, but in the end he decided to pursue another opportunity and stay at home. Given how things have unfolded over the last few months I am super grateful that he is at home and that he wasn't living away. Of course, I wish he was doing a bit more, but overall......I'm glad he's here. We do still have Robert's eldest daughter living in the UK, and his family in South Africa and Kuwait, so there are still people to be concerned about in other parts of the world.

It goes without saying that I am super grateful for my husband but I am going to say it anyway, probably more than once. I was on my own for many, many, years and while I wanted to meet someone, I didn't really think that I would meet someone so amazing that I would want to marry, but when I met Robert back in early 2017 it was evident pretty quickly that he was something special. I could write ten, twenty or thirty posts about all the reasons I am grateful for him. Given that I have previously posted about our engagement and wedding in previous posts in this A-Z series, it might already feel that way.

Since he moved in a couple of years ago he has renovated so much of our house, together we have travelled , crossed items off our bucket list, he works hard both at work and around the house (I could get away with doing nothing if I really wanted to), we are very content and happy together, and we are doing big things in our life together. He's super handsome, and amazing and all of those good things. He's a reader and he encourages me to be creative in whatever way I can, which is part of the reason why I have got my reading and blogging mojo back, and also in encouraging me to challenge myself when it comes to baking and cooking. The other thing to be majorly grateful for is that he sees me in a similar way.

As soon as we are allowed to travel we will be travelling more, renovating more, enjoying life together more! 

What are you grateful for today?

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

The Postmistress by Alison Stuart

I have been aware of Melbourne author Alison Stuart for many, many years. In fact, thanks to my trusty reading spreadsheet I know that I acquired two of her earliest books and had them signed in 2009. Now, as I mentioned earlier this week, having a signed copy of a book is no guarantee that I have actually read it. Since then I have intended to read several of her books, including her mysteries set in 1910 colonial Singapore that are published under the name A M Stuart

Fast forward to 2020 and I finally, finally read a book by Alison Stuart (not one of the signed ones). And it was really enjoyable!! I read it because I was approved to read her upcoming book The Goldminer's Sister which features common characters with this book so I wanted to read this one first. Whatever incentive works right?

Adelaide is the young daughter of an English shipping magnate, who, upon having her heart broken, feels that she has no option but to run away to a new life. Fast forward ten years and Adelaide is now well established as the postmistress in the small gold mining town of Maiden's Creek, with her son Danny and her former maidservant, Netty. As far as the town is concerned, Adelaide is a respectable widow who performs the vital task of keeping the isolated town in contact with the outside world. She does, however, have a tendency to skirt the bounds of propriety in the eyes of the decent women of the town by doing things like trying to teach the "dancers" at the local hotel how  to read.

When American Caleb Hunt arrives in town, he too is not quite what he presents himself. A veteran of the American Civil War, he wants to come and find the mining claim that he acquired in a gambling game. What he doesn't have is a lot of experience in gold mining or any equipment after he was double crossed. After he is injured in an incident involving a horse, Adelaide takes him in while he recovers. There is a growing attraction between them, but is there any kind of future when Caleb can't shake his demons or acknowledge what he is trained to be, let alone when Adelaide's past comes back to haunt her.

I really enjoyed the secondary characters in the book, and can see how there are plenty of future stories to be told set in Maiden's Creek. I loved the setting and I enjoyed the towns people. There were a variety of interesting characters from the local "ladies" to the old doctor who is rarely sober but still manages to care for the town, the coach driver who is courting Netty, and frankly has been for quite some time and others.

The author managed to include many issues that would have been associated with life in the bush in the early days of settlement. Things like bushfires, accidents and mining incidents are hard to deal with now with all of our modern communication and technology let alone in the 1870's. I have to say, there were a couple of issues portrayed which felt very, very relevant to 2020 so far.

I have one very, very small criticism and that relates to the villain who I did find to be very black and white. There was little subtleness when it came to his characterisation. If he was going to be evil, he was going to be evil in all of the ways.

The area that Maiden's Creek is set in is not an area that I am particularly familiar with but it is an area that I have wanted to visit for a while now, and that desire has increased since reading this book. I did love that we first met Caleb in Williamstown which is a suburb of Melbourne that I have spent a fair amount of time in. As I was reading the small part of the book set there I could see what it might have looked like (obviously minus the cars and lighting that I am used to seeing).

I am very much looking forward to reading more from this author! And no, I am not going to wait another 10 years to do so.

Rating 4.5/5

 Goodreads synopsis

A stunning historical tale of loss, desire and courage that is full of the terror and the beauty of the Australian bush, for readers of The Thorn Birds, The Naturalist's Daughter and The Widow of Ballarat.
To forge a new life she must first deal with her past...
1871. Adelaide Greaves and her young son have found sanctuary in the Australian town of Maiden's Creek, where she works as a postmistress. The rough Victorian goldmining settlement is a hard place for a woman - especially as the other women in town don't know what to make of her - but through force of will and sheer necessity, Adelaide carves out a role.
But her past is coming to find her, and the embittered and scarred Confederate soldier Caleb Hunt, in town in search of gold and not without a dark past of his own, might be the only one who can help. Can Adelaide trust him? Can she trust anyone?
When death and danger threaten - some from her past, some borne of the Australian bush - she must swallow her pride and turn to Caleb to join her in the fight, a fight she is determined to win...


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