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

January

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)

February

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

March

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.

Life

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.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Where there's music


One of the things that I have been enjoying over the last couple of weeks is the way that music has played a part in our new way of life.

It's hard to go past the videos of the Italians and Spanish singing from their homes whilst they are in lockdown. I've been very emotional watching them
.
The other thing that has been cool is that artists and organisations have given us access that we would never otherwise have had.

The first one I saw was when Keith Urban did a 30 minute performance in his warehouse. He was there with only a couple of other people (including Nicole Kidman doing a great line in mum dancing). I have long been a Keith Urban fan so I have actually watched this a couple of times now. He gave us another one this morning my time from his basement.  I hope that we see more!

A funny story about Keith Urban. Last year we travelled to Nashville on our trip to the USA. I knew that I wanted to go to the Grand Ole Opry and as soon as we started planning I looked at the tickets and thought I really must buy tickets to the Opry. Every few weeks I would think the same again. Just before we left on our trip I thought I really must buy tickets to the Opry but I just didn't get to it.

As we were driving into Nashville my now husband pointed out a billboard asking did I know Keith was going to be at the Opry the next night! Ummmm, no I did not. You can bet that the very next thing I did was book tickets! And it was so fantastic to be in that famous place watching one of my absolute favourites play!

That's a very long introduction  to say that one of the other shows that we watched was the livestream from the Grand Ole Opry on Saturday night. It featured Marty Stewart, Vince Gill and Brad Paisley. It was so good to be able to say we've been there and stood in that circle that remains unbroken. And yes, I got a bit emotional then.

I also listened to Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood this morning, and I hear that Robbie Williams has done a live karaoke today. My plan is to watch those tonight!

My husband likes classical music so we also enjoyed watching the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra playing Beethoven's Symphony No.7. We will definitely be watching more of these if they are streamed.

There are so many opportunities to witness performances that just wouldn't normally be available to us in this way.

And I haven't even touched any of the theatre that is being made available from Broadway to London's West End to shows from the Globe Theatre.

Have you watched anything interesting lately?


Monday, March 23, 2020

This week...

I'm reading

What's yellow and dangerous?


Shark infested custard!


This week I have finished reading When It All Went to Custard by Danielle Hawkins which I really enjoyed! I am definitely intending to read more from this author. Rural fiction has been huge in Australia for years. This book is rural, but the difference is that it is set on a sheep farm near a small town in country New Zealand!

Given everything going on in the world at the moment, I am definitely looking for feel good reads. With that in mind I also started reading my first ever book by Mhairi McFarlane,  If I Never Met You. I know a number of bloggers who really love her books, and I love good British humour so I am sure I will like it. I am so far!!


I'm watching

I am also looking to watch feel good TV as well

We watched the first series of Fleabag this week. I wasn't quite sure at first, but it was a lot of fun, and it helps that the episodes are short. I think we will probably watch season two this week.

I  did have to laugh at myself this week. I saw a TV show from Belgium that I though might be fun to watch called Team Chocolate, but I am aware that my husband doesn't like to read subtitles. I was therefore trying to gently introduce the fact that this would be necessary when he asked what language is it in. When I replied Dutch, he looked at me a little oddly. Oh, that's right, he speaks Dutch. No subtitles required!!

Life

Once again, this week is a tale of what we didn't do. We did have plans to go a lecture at the museum which was about their collection of miniatures, but of course this was cancelled.

Also cancelled was our outing to Cirque de Soleil. I have no idea why but I have never actually been to one of their shows so I was super excited to be going, but obviously it wasn't to be this time. I am sure that there will be others.

The big change this week is that we are now practicing social distancing. We are therefore working from home  most days,  and I fully expect that to be extended to be changed to full time shortly.

For the most part I am okay, but I can't quite help but feel a bit anxious about what is going on in the world. I would most likely be okay if I was to get the virus, but there would be a chance that I wouldn't be given that I had pneumonia a couple of years ago and that I am overweight. Fingers crossed that we all manage to stay safe and happy during these uncertain times.


Posts from the last week

Pomegranate Soup by Marsha Mehran
Bookish Quote
Library Loot


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

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Pomegranate Soup by Marsha Mehran

Recently I saw that Deb from Kahakai Kitchen was reading a book for an online book club called Cook the Books, and I straight away thought that it might be a book club that worked for me! I therefore requested the February/March read from the library straight away, which is Pomegranate Soup by Marsha Mehran.

This is a book that I have been aware of for a long time but I hadn't read it before. In fact, I haven't read any of the books that have been selected for this year.

Pomegranate Soup begins with the three Aminpour sisters arriving in a small town in Ireland called Ballinacroagh. Marjan, Bahar and Layla are looking for another new home and are opening a cafe serving their traditional foods in a town that may not be ready for them

The three women escaped from Iran at the start of their revolution in 1979, making their way to Ireland by sneaking over the border into Pakistan, making their way initially to London and then to Ireland.

Marjan has unsurpassed ability with food. Her food can change your mood, and even the direction of your life in some cases. Each day, she and her sisters cook delicious lamb stews, pomegranate soup, bake elephant ears pastries and serve coffee using beautiful samovars, sending the delicious scents of cinnamon and other spices wafting into the main street of the town. Whilst there are those who are willing to accept strangers into their town, especially after tasting their food, there are others who are not.

There was lots to like about this book. I loved all the food content, the descriptions of the way that Marjan in particular nurtured those around her through her food. I liked that there were a number of recipes included in the book, and enjoyed the almost magical realism feel to it, focusing on the power of food to change the way that you are feeling. I guess I would call it magical realism lite for want of a better term.

There were some things that didn't work as well for me. Many of the characters felt almost like caricatures, especially the characters who weren't willing to accept the family, from the nosy busy body neighbour who spied on the women, and the local bar owner who had his own plans for the cafe space.

Overall, it's a readable book, without being amazing.

I am looking forward to reading the next selection of the Cook the Books bookclub which is Hippie Food by Jonathan Kauffman

The idea of the Cook the Books is that you cook something inspired by what you read. I am choosing to share a recipe for Persian Drizzle Cake which I made last year.  The recipe is from Queen.com.au. I chose to top my cake with Turkish Delight Easter eggs  rather than rose petals.

Persian Drizzle Cake


Cake
¾ cup (180ml) milk
Pinch of saffron
150g butter, room temperature
1 cup (220g) caster sugar
3 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 ½ tsp rosewater essence
1 ½ cups (225g) self raising flour
1 tsp ground cardamom
2 tsp lemon zest (approx. ½ lemon)
½ cup (60g) chopped pistachios

Lemon Rose Syrup
⅓ cup (75g) caster sugar
80-90ml lemon juice (juice of 2 lemons)
½ tsp Queen Rosewater Essence

For the cake

Preheat oven to 180°C (fan forced). Grease and line a 20cm round cake tin.

Gently warm milk in the microwave for 40 seconds. Add saffron and allow to infuse while you make the cake.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, vanilla extract and rosewater essence and beat well.

Add flour, cardamom, lemon, pistachios and saffron milk and mix on low until just combined.

Pour into prepared cake tin and bake for 55-60 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.

For the Lemon Rose Syrup

During the last 10 minutes of baking, combine sugar and lemon juice in a small saucepan and heat until sugar has dissolved and mixture has slightly thickened. Add rosewater essence, stirring to incorporate. Straight from the oven, pierce the cake multiple times with a skewer and pour warm syrup over hot cake. Allow to cool for 10 minutes in tin before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Top with rose petals, pistachios and icing sugar before serving.


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.





I am also linking this post up with Foodies Read hosted at Based on a True Story






And also at Novel Food


Friday, March 20, 2020

Bookish Quotes: A good book

I've been reading Conspiracy of Lies by Kathryn Gauci over the last week or so. I will confess that I have met Kathryn a few times because of a shared love of historical fiction author Sharon Kay Penman which is part of the reason I wanted to give her books ago.

This book is a split narrative but predominantly set in WWII and tells the story of a female spy.

For today's Bookish Quote I am sharing a short passage from the latter part of the book. The book below was mentioned another time later in the book but I can't share that part. I like what the author says here about books teaching us things.


"Will we meet again, Fraulein Bouchard?" he asked
"We will, when the war has ended. In the meantime I want you to continue your French lessons. Will you promise me that?"
She gave him a French edition of a book as a keepsake, with a dedication written in French: To Oskar, a student who shows great promise. Your friend and teacher, Fraulein Bouchard.
"One day when you grow up to be a successful you man, you will be able to read this, and when you do, I would like to think you will remember me. It's by a very famous American writer," she told him.
He read the title, trying to formulate the words. "The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. What's it about?"
"It's about a man who loves someone so much he reinvents himself to win her back."
Oskar looked puzzled. He wasn't sure what she meant.
"Oskar, one day you will understand that all good books teach us something. This one is very special. It teaches us that we can be anything we want, but we can't always have who we want."
"And I have something for you." He reached into his pocket and pulled out one of his toy soldiers."It's Frederick the Great. Papa said that even your Napoleon Bonaparte admired him."
Claire was deeply touched. "That's certainly true. I shall treasure it."

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Library Loot: March 18

We worked from home today for the first day. The good news is  I still like my husband. The not so good news is that we had to spend a chunk of time on the phone trying to get our internet up and working again after it died a couple of days ago.

Like so many others  around the world, my local library has closed down in response to the COVID-19 pandemic so who knows when I will be doing my next Library Loot post, unless I start borrowing ebooks and audiobooks. The reality is that I have enough of both of those of my own so I probably don't need to borrow them!

Interestingly when I checked the library catalogue today, all of the books I have out have had their due date extended to 1 May which was unexpected!

Here's what I did borrow this week:



Rosewater and Soda Bread by Marsha Mehran - I finished the first book in this duo a week or so, and I am sufficiently interested to find out what happens next.




The Lost Love Song by Minnie Darke - This is a new release that I had seen a few really good reviews for so I thought I would request it.





Palace of Tears by Julian Leatherdale - This author has a new book out which I have seen a few reviews for. I am not sure why but I was more drawn to his debut rather the new one.



badge-4Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Sharlene from Real Life Reading 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.

Monday, March 16, 2020

This week...

I'm reading

I mentioned last week that I was reading Pomegranate Soup by Marsha Mehran and Conspiracy of Lies by Kathryn Gauci. I finished the first of those and will have a review up over the weekend (shocking I know!) and I am still going with the latter.

I did start listening to The Rise of the Magicks by Nora Roberts this week. This is the third book in the The Chronicles of the One trilogy. The trigger for this book is that there is a virus that sweeps into the world, decimating the population of the world. The Doom, the virus, is much much deadlier than we are seeing in real life, but still.

I also picked up When it All Went to Custard by Danielle Hawkins this week from the library. I have read the first couple of chapters because it was the only book I had with me when we were waiting for our dinner the other night. So far I am enjoying it!

I'm watching

Not much other than the news really. We are still continuing with our series that I have mentioned before. I need to make an effort to find some new things to watch. Any one have any must watch recommendations?

Life

If I thought last weekend was quiet this weekend was even quieter. We did have plans to go to see Robbie Williams in concert but that was cancelled. We have had several events that we had coming up over the next few weeks that have been cancelled.

My husband's son came down for the weekend, so it was good to see him. I guess that makes him my stepson but I don't think of it like that yet!).

The rest of our time is basically being preoccupied with what happens if scenarios, mostly around our holiday. We are supposed to be going to Europe at the end of this month but I think it is 99.95% likely that isn't going to happen now and so we need to start cancelling things with the hope that we get some of our money back. Once things have calmed down a bit we will then be able to make decisions about where and when we do go.

One of the disappointing aspects of cancelling is that I have actually been pretty organised and had quite a few blog posts written and scheduled for the period that we were away. Some of them will still get posted after being edited, but the others may never see light of day now!

I have seen Robbie Williams live before and it was a great show. It's one of those shows where you stand up and dance the whole show! I thought I would share a video below to remind myself of what we didn't get to see.




Posts from the last week


The History of the Future
Weekend Cooking: Eat Well for Less
Library Loot

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

Sunday, March 15, 2020

The history of the future

As a historical fiction reader, there are times when I look at the things that are going on in the world and think this is history in the making, and that this will be the historical fiction of the future. I can't help but think that the start of 2020 has been full of those moments. We've had the catastrophic fires here in Australia, the whole Brexit thing, the whole Megxit thing and now, coronavirus.

It's true that every day is the history of the future, but let's face it, most days are just days. Things happen, but some days are bigger than others.

One of the things that has amazed me over the last week is how the whole world, in effect, has come to a standstill. I really don't think that I ever thought that it would be so easy to stop everything, except if we found ourselves in a war. And yet here we are!

I do find myself  reflecting on all the historical fiction novels that I have read over the years which have been set in times of war or hardship. There are so many novels where the authors tell you about how the characters had to line up for their ration of meat, butter, flour or bread. Not one of them mentioned toilet paper! Maybe there were other items that were difficult to come across that all the authors never thought to mention.

Or maybe, just maybe, our ideas of what are essentials are a little skewed right now. We went to the shops today for our normal weekly shop and it was very entertaining in a mind blowing way. We were having coffee just before going into the supermarket and we started to see people walking out with their prescribed packet of toilet paper. You could see the word spreading. Complete strangers were passing on the word as they walked down the shopping mall....there's toilet paper in Woolies!

Once we were in the store, there were people running to get kitchen towel and toilet paper. Why kitchen towel? I don't understand! As we walked up and down the aisles, it was interesting to see which shelves were empty. Flour, sugar, tinned vegetables were  all things I understood, but why are cracker biscuits and ice cream shelves completely cleared out? I don't understand. Is ice cream an essential now and we missed the memo?

What is clear is that there will be some people out there right now making money. The supermarkets were busier than they are at Christmas so while there may be some bleak months ahead, right now, their sales are going through the roof because people are buying things some of which they may never use.

On a personal level, there have been a few impacts for us in these crazy times.

It is 99.95% likely that we are not going on our trip to Europe, so now we have to see how much of the money we have already paid out can be recovered for flights, accommodation and activities. At the end of the day the money is already gone, so anything we can get back is a bonus.

I do think we may be cramping my son's style a little though. Apparently a friend of his was coming from interstate over Easter which was news to us. Now we'll be home the friend can still come but it might be a slightly different experience than it would otherwise have been.

It is also looking likely that we are going to be working from home at some point in the next couple of weeks, which I am not looking forward to. Aside from the environment where we have no desks, no screen monitors so we will be working off single screen monitors etc, I know that I have a tendency to get distracted by things when I am working from home. Oh, there's a TV show on that I like, or I'll so some washing, or I'll just drop down to the library or I might have a little snooze for 10 minutes, and then suddenly it is the end of the day and I haven't achieved as much as I should have. Ooops.

I should be clear that I have no issue with the instructions to stay home as much as possible. Whilst it is unlikely that I would be terribly affected should I catch the virus, I am more than happy to do my part in order to protect our more vulnerable members of the community. I think the wisest advice I have seen so far in all of this was something along the lines of don't prepare just in case you catch the virus, but prepare just in case you give it to someone else.

In the mean time I will observe the goings on with bemusement and incredulity at how crazy the world is right now. Hopefully, it isn't too long before things go back to normal, and then we will need to count the cost in lives, in livelihoods for those people whose business just don't survive this period of enforced closure, in our health care systems and in so many other ways that we can't even begin to imagine just yet.

Stay safe everyone.


Saturday, March 14, 2020

Weeking Cooking: Eat Well for Less

Recently we have been watching a British TV series called Eat Well for Less. The hosts are TV foodie celebrity Greg Wallace, who hosts the British version of Masterchef, and Chris Balvin who is a greengrocer by trade. The idea is that the hosts watch a family do their grocery shopping and then work out how they can help the family to spend less, eat better, and bust a few food myths along the way. They also talk to dieticians about all sorts of things for example how much sugar is in so called healthy foods, and do taste tests to compare big brands against shops own brands

That might not sound like the most thrilling premise but it is very entertaining. There are plenty of families who are slaves to brands and convenience foods, some families who just don't want to cook, and others that just have some really bad food habits

They look at different ways to save money, most of which are just common sense. It is amusing to watch a family realise that if they cook their own rice rather than microwaving rice sachets it a) isn't difficult and b) is very, very inexpensive.  There was an episode we watched recently where the family would save £7 in each meal just by cooking their own rice.

Another way they encourage families to save money by showing them that there are times when you don't have to always buy the big brands. They do this by putting all the food in the house into plain packaging and then swapping brands for shops own products. Most of the families insist that there is no way that they would not be able to tell when one of their favourites have been swapped, and that they wouldn't like any substitute. It is inevitable that the more that they insist on these things that the more likely that they won't be able to tell or that once they find out they are happy to swap for cheaper choices. Sometimes they won't swap, but a lot of times they will. The other thing that happens is that they don't swap the product and then the family says they don't like their normal favourite brand when they can't tell if it is that one or not.

Along the way the hosts help the families to learn new recipes, most of which are likely to be healthier and more inexpensive than their normal choices.

What watching this show has done has to get me thinking about whether or not there are shopping and eating habits that we have that we could change. Do we buy big name brands unnecessarily? Do we use too much in the way of prepackaged convenience food? I asked my husband these questions. He was initially a bit offended I think because he does all the food shopping in our house but once we got past that it was an interesting conversation. He tells me that we aren't brand slaves, not on everything anyway. Maybe he's not, but I was a bit shocked when he bought home the wrong brand of toothpaste a couple of weeks ago.

A month or so ago I would have been absolutely convinced that you couldn't swap my Coke Zero for another cola, but we have cut back a lot of that since the new year. I had some Coke Zero the other day and I didn't really enjoy it as much as I expected. Perhaps I wouldn't be able to tell the differences? And what about other things. For example, I tend towards brands for things like frozen vegetables, for jam, for margarine on the odd occasion we buy it, definitely for yoghurt. Would we be able to differentiate between the expensive brands of cereals that we buy? We have tried a couple of different brands but should be braver and try a few more brands instead of always just buying the same ones, especially those brands that my son gets through boxes of on a regular basis.

They do some quite interesting recipes. We are thinking about trying recipes like Moroccan Vegetable Stew, cheesy pastry sticks (to replace bread sticks) or Canned Salmon with Couscous and Boiled Eggs.

One of the recipes is for a one pan Roast Chicken that looks really doable and delicious.

Roast Chicken Dinner



300g potatoes, peeled and cut into small chunks, about 3–4cm
2 parsnips, peeled and cut into small batons, about 5 x 2cm
2 tsp vegetable oil
2 boneless chicken breasts (skin on)
½ reduced-salt chicken stock cube
80g broccoli, cut into florets
80g cauliflower, cut into florets
20g chicken gravy granules
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/Gas 6.

2 Put the potatoes and parsnips into a large roasting tray, drizzle with 1 teaspoon of the vegetable oil and season with salt and black pepper.

3 Take a piece of foil about 40cm square and place the chicken breasts, skin-side up, into the centre of it, then pull the foil up around the chicken to create a mini tray.

4 Crumble the stock cube over the chicken, pressing it into the flesh, then pour 200ml of cold water into the bottom of the foil, taking care not to pour it over the chicken and wash off all the stock cube. Scrunch the foil up over the chicken to create a sealed parcel and place on the roasting tray (pushing the veg aside a little to make room for the parcel).

5 Roast in the oven for 15 minutes, then remove from the oven, add the broccoli and cauliflower florets to the tray (on top of the other veg), drizzle with the remaining oil and toss all the veg together. Carefully open up the top of the foil parcel to allow the chicken to colour.

6 Return to the oven and roast for another 15 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are tender.

7 Remove from the oven, put the gravy granules into a heatproof jug, then carefully pour in the hot juices from the chicken parcel and whisk well until smooth and dissolved.

8 Transfer the roasted chicken breasts to serving plates and serve with the roasted veg alongside and the gravy poured over.



Whilst a lot of the recipes are on the basic side, what watching this series has done is get us to ask ourselves questions about how we shop and eat. And that can't be a bad thing really?

When's the last time you asked yourself questions about how you shop and eat?

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.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Library Loot: March 11





Just the one book from the library this week. I got it because I love the title. I am guessing that there isn't going to be a lot about custard in it, but I have already read a couple of chapters and I am enjoying it so far!


badge-4Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Sharlene from Real Life Reading 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.

Monday, March 09, 2020

This Week ....

I read....

My big news this week is that I finally, finally finished listening Where the Crawdads Sing. It has taken a very long time to get through. It's not that it wasn't an enjoyable book, I just haven't had the same amount of listening time that I have previously had. I am trying to get back in the habit of walking from the train station to work, which should help give me more audiobook time but I'm not really sure what I am going to start next.

I also started reading Pomegranate Soup by Marsha Mehran. This  is a choice of the Cook the Books online bookclub which I am intending to read along with this year. I have read a few chapters so far and I am enjoying it. It's very readable. I did have a look at the author's website and was sad to see that she died at a very young age.

I also started reading Conspiracy of Lies by Kathryn Gauci, an Australian author that I have been aware of for a long time but have never read before.

You may know that there is an upcoming Netflix series adaptation of the Bridgerton historical romance series which I am looking forward to. In anticipation, I am listening to a new podcast series called What Would Danbury Do. At this stage they are talking about each of the original books in the series which is a lot of fun, although not necessarily safe for work!


I watched....

Nothing new again

Life...

We've had a quieter week this week. No weekend away, no culture, concerts or anything else! Which doesn't mean that it hasn't been exciting.

We took delivery of a new couch and recliner chairs and a new dining table. I am particularly excited about the new dining table because I have never, ever had a new new dining table. I have been using a hand me down table which I got from my mum 20 years ago, and she got it from a family friend about 20 years before that. There's a fair chance that this dining table is  older than I am. The chairs were orange vinyl and had seen better days!

The chairs include electric recliners including inbuilt USB chargers.Very fandangled. We did resist the temptation to buy the couches with fluoro lighting underneath and in built cupholders. No racing car couches here yet.



In less exciting news, I had a wisdom tooth out on Friday which is the perfect way to start a three day weekend! Okay, not really, but it hasn't been as bad as I expected!! Hopefully it will help resolve the issues that I had  a few weeks ago. Luckily I am still 3/4 wise.

Posts from the last week

Top Ten Tuesday: Titles!
Library Loot
ARA Historical Novel award announcement



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




Sunday, March 08, 2020

Six Degrees of Separation - Wolfe Island to Girl with a Pearl Earring


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. 


The book that we are starting with this month is Wolfe Island by Lucy Treloar, a book that I haven't yet read. I recently realised that  I actually have Salt Creek, this author's first book on my shelf. I was a bit surprised the other day to see that my husband had something against that book. No idea what, but it did appear as though it was being held at electric drill point. It must have paid the ransom though because it is now free to rest on the shelves no longer threatened!

I actually ended up doing two versions of this month's Six Degrees. The other one featured werewolves and dark fantasy but in the end I decided to go with an around the world feel.We start in Canada and end up in the Netherlands, but we do take the long way around.



So my first book is Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney which was a Costa prize winner for a first novel back in 2006. I read it years ago and like it without loving it. This was a book that made me feel cold just reading it. There  was lots of snow.



There was no snow in Christie Watson's Tiny Sunbirds Far Away because it was set in Nigeria. I did love this book, and it also won the Costa prize for a first novel in 2011.



For my next book I am sticking with an African theme and choosing the first book in The Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith which is set in Botswana. As an aside, I still love these early style covers in this series.


Another first book in a series featuring a lady detective is Cocaine Blues by Kerry Greenwood which is set in Melbourne in the 1920s. This features the divine Miss Phryne Fisher and the same applies to these styles of covers!



I chose to look for a link to the colour blue for my next connection which led me to The Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland. In this book we follow a painting of a girl through it's various owners. I've read a number of this authors books over the years and find them fascinating.



My final connection is another book about a girl in a painting is The Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier. As I was preparing this post I was contemplating how hard it would be for the publisher to repackage this book with a completely different cover.

Next month's starting book is Stasiland by Anna Funder and I really have no idea how I am going to get that chain started. Lucky I have a while to think about it!

Saturday, March 07, 2020

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

Since my return to blogging, I have also been trying to get back into the habit of reading and commenting on other blogs in addition to having my own content here. Let's face it, they both take time and effort.

Not all that long ago, I read a review for this book over at All the Books I Can Read and I knew that I had to read it! And a bonus was I knew that my library system has it because we both use the same library system.

With the Fire on High is a young adult novel that deals with some really big issues. Emoni Santiago is a young girl just starting her final year of high school, with all that means. She needs to make choices about what colleges, if any,  to apply for, what her future looks like. For Emoni, that all focuses around two people....her two year old daughter Emma and her Abuela (grandmother) who raised her because her mother died at birth and her father lives in Puerto Rico, visiting once a year, meaning they have a complicated relations. Abuela has stood by her and supported her with Emma. Emoni is therefore concerned with how she can support both herself and Emma and relieve some of the burden from her grandmother, which may well mean foregoing her dreams.

Emma's father is somewhat present in their lives, but at times his presence is a challenge, especially when he thinks that he can have a say in how Emoni lives her life.

Emoni's passion in life is cooking and she has a natural talent for it, and has done from a very young age, something that I wish I had more of.

If  you ask her to tell it, 'Buela starts with the same story.
I was a little older than Babygirl is now and always following 'Buela into the kitchen. I would sit at the kitchen table eating bootleg Cheerios or rice or something I could pick up with my fingers and shove into my mouth while she played El Gran Combo or Celia Cruz or La Lupe loud on her old-school radio, shimmying her hips while stirring a pot. She can't remember what made that day different - if my pops, Julio, had been late in arriving on one of his yearly visits from San Juan, or if it'd been a time she'd gotten reprimanded at work for taking too long on someone's measurements - but this particular day she didn't turn the radio on and she wasn't her usual self at the stove. At one point, she must have  forgotten I was there because she threw the kitchen rag down on the floor an left. She just walked straight out of the kitchen, crossed the living room, opened the front door, and was gone.
We can't agree on what it was that she'd started cooking. She says it was a stew and nothing that would burn quick, but although my own memory is childhood-fuzzy, I remember it being a pot of moro - the rice and beans definitely something that would soak up water. 'Buela says she just stepped out onto the stoop to clear her head, and when she came back  ten minutes later I had pulled the step stool to the stove, had a bunch of spices on the counter, and had my small arm halfway into the pot, stirring.

And then a couple of paragraphs later.

In fact, when 'Buela tasted it (whatever "it" was) she says it was the best thing she'd ever eaten. How it made her whole day better, sweeter. Says a memory of Puerto Rico she  hadn't thought about in years reached out like an island hammock and cradled her close. When she tells the story, it's always a different simile, but sweet like that. All I know is she cried into her plate that night.. And so at the age of four, I learned someone could cry from a happy memory.



Her food evokes emotions and memories in those who are lucky enough to eat it, and for me, as a reader it evoked a big desire to eat the dishes depicted.

Emoni struggles a bit at school, and so she has pretty much talked herself into thinking that college isn't an option for her. She knows that in this last year at school she has to work hard, do her hours in her part time job at Burger Joint, and do her best to look after "Babygirl". She doesn't really have capacity to pick up another class and she really doesn't want to be distracted by the new boy in school.

When her teacher tells her that there is a new culinary arts elective, Emoni really wants to do it but given it includes an overseas trip to Spain it is another thing that might be just out of reach. Emoni really has a great support team around her, from her advisory teacher to her friends and grandmother, and they encourage her to join up. In the class though, she clashes with the teacher, because he needs her to learn that instinct is great but to work in food she also needs to be able to show technique, follow instructions, and food presentation. And then, how on earth is she going to be able to make the overseas trip happen?

From the first page I was drawn in by the writing and by the story and addresses issues such as young love, young parenthood, coming of age, friendship and more. I enjoyed all the food references, as well as the story. Emoni was a young woman who was prepared to work hard to achieve her goals, no matter how challenging the consequences both past and present. I admired her a lot.

I really enjoyed this book!

The author has a new book coming out in May that I really like the sound of too!

Rating 4.5/5

I am connecting this post up to Foodies Read hosted at Based on a True Story

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, March 06, 2020

The ARA Historical Novel Prize



Over the last couple of weeks there has been an announcement of a new prize in the Australian genre writing landscape, and it's a pretty generous one!

Here are some of the details from the Historical Novel Society Australasia website.


The ARA Historical Novel Prize is open to authors who are citizens or residents of Australia or New Zealand. Books published between 1 January 2019 and 30 June 2020 are eligible for entry. Entries may be submitted by authors, publishers or agents. Self-published books are also eligible. Now Australian and New Zealand historical novelists have a chance to be rewarded for excellence in writing, depth of research, and reader appeal.

With the prize being a cool $30000 it's an attractive proposition. I was also glad to see that there are no genre restrictions. As long as the subject of the book is historical then it doesn't matter if it is a kid's book, historical romance, timeslip! Doesn't matter

I am going to be very interested to see what books make the grade for the first award! The inaugural prize will be announced in November.

Wednesday, March 04, 2020

Library Loot: March 4 to 10

Once upon a time I used to quite regularly be reaching the limit of books that you were allowed to borrow, which given that it is 60 items is pretty impressive. I was often juggling return dates to work  out which book is due next, which ones could be extended and which ones could not. I am trying hard to keep my borrowing at a reasonable limit. This week I picked up another three books. I have one to return, which I will need to do over the weekend.



The Wallflower Wager by Tessa Dare - I have previously read the first two books in this series on my Kindle but I still can't bring myself to pay more than $10 for an ebook so I requested this one from the library.





Talk of the Town by Rachael Johns - I can't quite believe that I haven't read this book. Even when I was't reading at all, I was still reading Rachael Johns' books but somehow I missed this one. The follow up book is being released in April so time to read this one!



Eat Well for Less - We've been watching various episodes of this show and I have a Weekend Cooking post pretty much written up, but I still wanted to have a look at the associated recipe book. In the end I had to get this via interlibrary loan.


badge-4Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Sharlene from Real Life Reading 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.

Tuesday, March 03, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Title!



Welcome to this week's edition of Top Ten Tuesday which is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week's theme is "Books with single word titles".

The books I have chosen are a mix of recent reads and long time favourites. 




Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell - I listened to this earlier this year, and enjoyed  it.

Circe by Madeline Miller - This was an audiobook that I listened to last year. Really enjoyed it.

Sylvester by Georgette Heyer - I think I have listened to this book on audio maybe 3 or 4 times. It is narrated by Richard Armitage and the only way to describe it is as aural bliss!




Voyager by Diana Gabaldon - Of all the Outlander books, Voyager is my favourite. It is also easily the shortest title of all of the books. Whilst I don't have a specific review for Voyager, I do have a post talking about my reading of the whole series which was fun to reread tonight!

Overseas by Beatriz Williams - Every time Beatriz Williams puts out a new book, whether it be a solo book or as part of her collaboration with Karen White and Lauren Willig, I think I really, really need to read more of her books.  This is still the only one I have ever read, under this name that is. She also writes under the name of Juliana Gray and I have read a few of those.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi - I read this while on holiday in South Africa a couple of years ago.




Mariana by Susanna Kearsley - Susanna Kearsley is one of my favourite authors. I just get lost in her worlds.

Legacy by Susan Kay - I read this Tudor book when I was all Tudored out and I loved it!

Stardust by Neil Gaiman - Having just been to hear Neil Gaiman speak, it would have been wrong not to include this book.



Bitten by Kelly Armstrong - This is the first book in the Otherworld series. I loved this series featuring all sorts of paranormal creatures. To be fair there are at least four other books in this series alone that are single word titles so plenty to choose from!

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