Saturday, February 29, 2020

Weeking Cooking: February Bakes

I decided recently that I would share my baking on a monthly basis rather than doing all individual posts, or the gigantic wrap up post that I did last time. The plan is that on the last Saturday of each month I will share something about what I have made in the last month. This morning I did have the thought though that I should have done something about it being a leap year. Oh well, next time!

First though, I thought I would share the last couple of Bake It Boxes that I made. The monster cake was really the October kit but I only got to make it in January. Inside it is a marbled vanilla cake and it was delicious.

I ended up taking this next cake, the Giant Donut, to work for one of my team member's birthdays. Inside it is a brown sugar cake and the frosting has cream cheese in it. Yummo!

I still have two boxes here to make at some point which I will do eventually. I am, however, a bit devo because it appears that there might not be any more new ones to do. There wasn't one announced in January or February and now I am waiting to see if there is going to be a new one for March or not. If there are not going to be any more I have to find new ways to challenge myself. Watch this space.

I have posted before about the Queen Baking Club and this month I completed both challenges. The first one was for Best Ever Choc Chip Cookies, which were delicious and then three ingredient scones with jam and cream. Both recipes were winners!

Stay tuned for more baking next month.

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, February 26, 2020

Bookish quotes: The Lending Room in the Little Bookshop on the Seine

Back in the blogging days I used to randomly do a feature called Bookish Quotes whenever I came across a quote that capture my attention about writing, books or bookshops in a book. I thought I would start doing them again now as well.

This quote comes from The Little Bookshop on the Seine by Rebecca Raisin which I recently read. There were so many quotes about books and food in this book it was hard to limit the choice to just one. So, this is a longish one, but hopefully you will enjoy reading the passage as much as I did.

If I thought that I could find this place in Paris I would totally try to find it! I do intend to at least take a peak in Shakespeare and Sons whilst we are there soon.

Oceane smiled. "And next, we have the lending library." She led me through an archway, where someone had scrawled in thick, black permanent marker 'This way to paradise'.
The lending library was ripe with the thick stench of old tomes and the lemony scent of new novels. Their fragrances mingled together in the space, almost like a perfume, a heady combination of past and present.
Sophie's bookshop was so alive it hummed, dust motes danced, and I had to fight the urge to flop on a chair, and snatch up the nearest book.
An antique grandfather clock stood to one side of the room, its chimes long since stopped, the golden hands paused on the witching hour. "Who runs the lending library?" I asked.
Oceane leant against the wall. "Bertie, Francois, and Philippe. They organize their shifts between them, and keep track of the loans. You don't need to do anything for it. Sophie's pretty lax about the whole process. There's index cards, and stamps, it's very old school. The lending library is hallowed - it's been available for locals since the doors opened here back in the twenties. During the Great Depression, no one could afford much of anything, especially books, so strangers found their way here, and knew they could take whatever they wished. They became members, friends and weren't faceless or nameless any more."
"This history practically seeps through the walls." I was in awe of the shop, it had presence, almost like it was a character unto itself. "Do you ever wonder who sat here a century ago, and rummaged through these boxes of books?"
Her eyes grew bright. "Of course. I imagine people back then stopped past with rumbling bellies, their lives grim because of the depression, until they found their way here, and they could forget their troubles, escaping into the pages of a good book, a warm drink in hand. What could be better than that? Sophie's grandfather opened the store. When he first started, he only used the front parlor, but as time went by his reputation spread, he grew more successful and expanded into other rooms, eventually buying the apartments above. He never changed his principles....everyone was welcome here whether they had money or not. It was popular among American writers back then, a meeting place for literary itinerants."
"I get goosebumps, thinking about the stories they could've told. Do you think when they finally settled, back on home soil, they remembered their time here fondly?"
"Oui," she said, crossing her arms against the chill in the room. "A lot of them were young. Travelling after the war or just because they were free, who knows? And when it was time to move,or go back to reality, they always had this place in their heart. Sophie has a thick folder of correspondence, letters sent over decades, people thanking them for their hospitality, some dedicating the books they wrote here to Sophie's grandfather. Others saying they searched their whole lives for  the simple happiness Paris provided, but never found it again. Over a bottle of two of vin rouge, I read each and every one of them. I've told her she should publish epic love story of people and place."
"That would be an amazing book..." Taking in the room, I thought of the people who once inhabited this space; I pictured the scene in black and white, like an old photograph. "The room has a sense of timelessness to it." As if time truly stopped, just like the grandfather clock. And those people long since gone from this world had found the place just as it was now, a sanctuary for word lovers.
"The store has a rich and famous history. It's why people come here and don't want to leave." Oceane spoke in reverent tones, gazing wistfully around. The rooms were weathered, the furniture battered, the store's once former glory dimmed, faded like late afternoon sunlight through a dusty window, which made it one of the most beautiful places I had ever seen.
"Why would you want to leave?" I said. It was like a grand old dame, this shop. Once haughty, now a reflection of it's past, and all that happened here..
She laughed and surveyed me. "Your face is flushed like you've fallen in love too."
I promptly closed my mouth,and scraped back my hair. "How could you not? It's like nothing I've ever seen before...almost like their ghosts are still here, those readers. Maybe that's why the sign says 'this way to paradise'?
Her gaze softened once more. "Like heaven? Well why not?" Soft laughter burbled out of her. "If I died and had to choose a place to spend eternity, it would be here."

Monday, February 24, 2020

This week....

This week's This Week post comes from the deck of a lovely hotel room in Hepburn Springs which is a couple of hours outside Melbourne. I can hear all sorts of birds and insects as I sit here and write this which is lovely. I can hear birds at home, but these ones are different!  It's also a very pleasant way to start a Monday morning. Much nicer than being at work.

Yesterday afternoon, not long after we arrived there was a visitor on the lawn just outside the room.

I'm reading....

I am giving my Paris/France based reads a temporary break this week, and have started a couple of books. The first was With the Fire on High which I picked up from the library last week. I am only a couple of chapters in but I already love the writing style. Unfortunately I forgot to bring it with me so won't be making any progress on it for a couple more days.

I did, however, bring my Kindle with me so I started reading Hearts On Hold by Charish Reid. This is a steamy interracial romance featuring a college professor (her) and a sexy librarian (him). It's a lot of fun, and perfect for reading on a relaxing weekend away!

I'm watching....

Last year when To All The Boys I Loved Before we were absolutely charmed by the movie, despite the fact that we are both well and truly outside the target demographic. The hotel we are staying at has Netflix so we watched the follow up movie To All the Boys 2: PS I Still Love You. It wasn't quite as charming as the first one, but I still enjoyed it.

We have a number of series that we are still working our way through. We are about half way through The Stranger on Netflix and have one episode to go in the first season of The Marvelous Mrs Maisel. We are also watching each new episode of Picard as it comes out. I can live with the weekly release of episodes, but this is one series I wouldn't mind binge watching.

In life...

It's been a busy week. As I have mentioned we are away this weekend, so we are getting in some good chill time and some good food. There is a small town not far from here that we like to visit to eat vanilla slices so we stopped there on the way up, wandered up and down the main street, visited a country market (lots of local food, but also a fair bit of trash and treasure style junk) and then went all out and cheese and baguette for dinner before relaxing in the spa with champagne or more precisely Blanc de blanc sparkling wine. Living the dream!

Whilst eating our vanilla slice (yum) we started putting a plan together as to what we will be doing with the front garden this year. We need another parking space for a car, and the garden that is there now is a bit overgrown, so we are thinking about how to modernise it and create a car space at the same time. This is in addition to renovating two bathrooms this year as well.

We went to see Queen and Adam Lambert on Thursday night! What a show, what an experience, what a voice! I saw them about 5 years ago and they were just as fabulous this time with the added bonus that our seats looked straight at the stage, whereas last time I more heard them rather than saw them as I was sitting next to the stage, almost to the point where I felt like I was practically behind the stage.

I love that Adam Lambert doesn't try to be Freddie Mercury. Yes, he is fronting Queen, but he does it his own way, and it works. He plays up to the crowd and the cameras and the setl ist is full of the songs that we all know and love.

Must confess that we struggled getting up on Friday night. Going out on a school night was absolutely worth it, but we were tired the next day!

In other news, a few weeks ago I mentioned that the husband was reconfiguring our walk in robe, and it is pretty much done now. Below are before and afters. He's so clever. The after includes slide out shoe shelves, which were made because before there was always shoes everywhere in a very small space, but I am not sure if it also means that we (or more precisely me) have to limit the number of shoes that we/I buy. It's not like I am Imelda Marcos, but I do have a few pairs that I have bought and never actually wear!

Posts from the last week

Library Loot 

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

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Weekend Cooking: Beef Stroganoff

We've made several of British chef Tom Kerridge's recipes now. His last few series have been about how create healthy meals that should help you lose weight as part of a balanced diet. What we like about the ones that we have made so far is that they are very tasty. For example, the recipe for "fried" chicken (which I posted here) is a regular part of our meal planning now

Recently we were rewatching some of series and we saw a recipe for Beef Stroganoff that we thought that we would try. In the end we didn't quite make it as written as we didn't add in the cornichones or gherkins. What we did have was still delicious.

The husband does already have his go to recipe for stroganoff but he did say that he would use the technique that is described for the meat in his version going forward because it was very tender.

Beef Stroganoff

½ tbsp light olive oil
1 large onion, finely sliced
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 beef stock cube
2 tsp sweet smoked paprika
1 tbsp tomato purée
400g tin beef consommé (we used a beef broth)
150g/5½oz chestnut mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 rump steaks (175g/6oz each), visible fat trimmed
olive oil spray
60g/2¼oz cornichons or small gherkins, sliced
75ml/2½fl oz half-fat crème fraîche
2 tbsp finely chopped flatleaf parsley
2 tbsp roughly chopped chervil or parsley
2 tbsp dried onion flakes
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
160g/5¾oz basmati rice, freshly cooked (to serve)

Heat the light olive oil in a large frying pan over a low–medium heat. Add the onion and cook gently for 10 minutes, or until softened and starting to caramelise.

Stir in the garlic and cook gently for 2 minutes. Crumble in the stock cube and stir in the paprika and tomato purée. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the beef consommé, mushrooms and mustard. Bring to the boil then lower the heat and simmer for 10–15 minutes, or until the volume of liquid has reduced by half.

Meanwhile, place a griddle pan over a high heat. Bash the steaks between two sheets of cling film, until about 5mm/¼in thick. Spray each side with six sprays of oil and season with salt and pepper. When the griddle is smoking hot, add the steaks and cook for 1 minute on each side. Remove and set aside to rest.

Once the sauce has reduced, remove from the heat and stir through the cornichons, crème fraîche, and most of the parsley and chervil (reserving some for garnishing). Stir in the juices from the resting meat and check the seasoning. Cut the meat into thick slices and stir into the sauce.

Mix together the dried onion flakes and reserved chopped parsley and chervil. Serve the stroganoff sprinkled with the onion and herb mix, with the rice on the side, if you like.

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, February 19, 2020

Library Loot: 19 to 26 February

A very long time ago, I used to co-host the Library Loot meme, originally with Eva from A Striped Armchair and then with Claire from The Captive Reader, but obviously once I stopped reading as much, I therefore didn't borrow books from the library. This week though I stepped through the hallowed doors, paid some of my outstanding fines, and borrowed some books! 

Here's what I got:

Pomegranate Soup by Marsha Mehran - Not too long ago I saw Deb from Kahakai Kitchen  mention that she participates in an online book club called Cook the Books which sounds like something I might enjoy. The description is a bimonthly book club/blog event that focuses on a different food centric book each round. This is the next choice that has just been announced.

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo - Bree from All the Books I Can Read recently raved about this book so I thought I would request it!

Ambulance Girls Under Fire by Deborah Burrows - I read the first book in this trilogy a couple of years ago.

I don't know how often I will be borrowing from the library but I will do a Library Loot post when I do so.

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, February 17, 2020

This week....

I'm reading....

This week I started reading The Little Bookshop on the Seine by Rebecca Raisin which, as you may have guessed, is about a bookshop in Paris. So far, it's a fun read, and there are numerous quotes about books, bookshops and Paris that have already caught my attention. This is the first of a trilogy set in Paris, with the other two being The Little Antique Shop Under the Eiffel Tower and The Little Perfume Shop off the Champs-Elysee. It is,however, connected to a different trilogy by the same author and, as someone who prefers to read in order, I do feel as though I have walked in part way through Sarah's story.

I have been contemplating what these types of books are called, whether they have a sub genre or category of their own because there does seem to be a lot of them. Generally, they are the story of an outsider moving to a place, or someone who is coming back to the town they grew up in but feels like an outsider, and the locations are always made to seem so desirable, whether it be a major tourist destination like Paris or a remote Scottish island, they often have a cartoony cover, usually feature an unlikely romance and they are always described a feel good or something similar.

When I look back at my reading history I can see a few different examples. I've read a couple of different books by Jenny Colgan which would fall into this category of book. Welcome to Rosie Hopkin's Sweet Shop of Dreams and Christmas at Rosie Hopkin's Sweetshop are both set in a small village in England and The Cafe by the Sea, The Endless Beach and Christmas on the Island set in the islands at the north of Scotland. I've also read Nina George's The Little Paris Bookshop and The Little French Bistro. I;m sure that there are others that I have read too.

It also doesn't take much searching to find other examples. Want to find a book of this kind set in Provence, Verona, Italian mountains, Greek Islands, small town USA, Copenhagen, Croatia all you have to do is look.....the list of possibilities is endless!

Have you read any really good examples of this kind of book?

I'm watching....

We started watching The Stranger this week. It is a British thriller that stars Richard Armitage, Dervla Kirwan and Jennifer Saunders and it is based on a  Harlan Coben book. We've watched the first couple of episodes and so far so good.

A few years ago, I was pretty obsessed with Richard Armitage, but I wasn't alone. It's hard to believe that it has been 10 years since Kristie J from Ramblings on Romance was leading the Great North and South crusade, and since then I have rewatched the series many times, watched The Hobbit movies, listened to audiobooks that he narrates (because that voice is just aural bliss) and every Christmas I try to rewatch the final two episodes of The Vicar of Dibley, just because...well...Richard!

We also started watching the Ken Burns documentary about country music called Country Music. I've long been a little bit country and a little bit rock and roll, and visiting Nashville last year was a bucket list item for me! I would love to go back again one day!

In life...

I traumatised myself last week!

I have a spreadsheet that I have been maintaining since 2004 which lists all the books I have read including date finished, author, and the ratings I gave amongst other things. At one point, I even recorded every book that I acquired so it was an accurate reflection of my TBR pile. I stopped doing that a while ago, but it still is my go to resource if I want to check up on something I have read over the last 15 years. I have it in Google sheets because it meant that I could update the details wherever or whenever although that is a bit harder now as my current employer has blocked all access to Google documents/spreadsheets along with any thing else where you can share files with external parties.

For this week's Top Ten Tuesday post the theme was "Love Freebie" and so I decided I would look for any titles that included some variation on the word love. So the obvious first step is to put a filter on to find any words that include the letters  "lov". So far, so good.

Where I ran into trouble, was having completed that step I accidentally dragged one title down the list, so suddenly I had around 40 books that also had the title of The Virgin's Lover by multiple different authors, instead of just one, and unfortunately, my panicked undo, undo, undo resulted in only limited corrections.

After completely freaking out about having ruined something that I have been maintaining for so long, I spent the next two nights trawling through my blog, author websites and Goodreads to try and rebuild the list. I think it is right now, or maybe I should say I hope it is.'

On Friday it was Valentine's Day. One of the things that still surprises me about my husband is that right from our first Valentine's Day he has been keen to go out for dinner on the day. We are not supposed to do presents, although he doesn't necessarily stick with that. In previous years we have gone into the city and had dinner along the riverfront. This year we decided to do something a little different, and went for a Sunset Safari at the local open range zoo. As part of the package you got to go on a "safari" tour, have an African inspired dinner and then there was a drumming and dancing show.

Apart from the fact that it was very wet, we had a good night, although I think he struggled with the safari idea a bit because he grew up in South Africa and so has been on safari more times than he can remember so this was like safari lite. For a lot of people though this is as close as they will get and it was quite fun.

I enjoyed our outing, and it bought back memories of when we went out into the Pilanesberg Nature Reserve when we went to South Africa a couple of years ago. I can't wait to go back again!

Posts from the last week

Top 10 Tuesday - Love books (traumatising!)
Review of Chalk Hill trilogy by Lily Malone
Weekend Cooking: Beef and Vegetable Red Curry

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

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Weekend Cooking: Beef and Vegetable Red Curry

Sometimes, despite your best laid plans, things just don't quite go right, and this was the case a couple of weeks ago when we had a plan to try a new recipe which was going to be a Beef and Vegetable Rendang Curry. However, when you realise that you have forgotten to add the rendang curry paste to the shopping list, and then you do an emergency dash to the shop around the corner but they don't have any, you have to improvise.

Now improvisation isn't really my strong point. I am a recipe follower, a weigher of ingredients, I am most definitely not someone who can look in the cupboard and voila....something magical appears. My husband is much better than I am though.

Once he got home from the unsuccessful emergency dash we decided that instead of using rendang and a couple of other ingredients we would use the rest of the red curry paste that we already here in the fridge.

So this recipe is inspired by the Beef and Vegetable Rendang Curry from the Symply Too Good to be True (book 7), and using the techniques in those books, particularly in relation to the use of evaporated milk and coconut essence instead of coconut milk to reduce the calories.

Beef and Vegetable Red Curry

300g potatoes
Cooking spray
500g rump steak cut into bit-size pieces
1 tspn crushed garlic
1 onion, cut in quarters then sliced
2 cups small broccoli florets
1 cup red capsicum diced
1/2 cup water
20 snow peas
3 tbspn red curry paste
1 tbspn cornflour
1 tspn coconut essence
1 x 375 can evaporated light milk

Peel and chop potatoes into bite size pieces. Parboil in a little water in microwave for 5 minutes. Drain and leave to one side.

In a large non-stick frypan that has been coated with cooking spray, place dice rump and garlic into pan and toss together until meat has browned. Remove and leave to one side.

Re-coat pan with cooking spray then add onion, broccoli and capsicum with 1/4 cup water and cook 3 minutes. Add snow peas and potato with the extra 1/4 cup of water and cook 2-3 minutes or until vegetables are almost cooked.

Add curry paste and fold through the vegetables are almost cooked.

Add the meat back to pan.

Combine cornflour with coconut essence and evaporated milk, then add to pan, ,stirring continuously until just boiled. Do not overboil sauce, as the milk may separate. When boiled, take off heat and serve.

If you were going to be making the original rendang recipe you would add 3 tablespoons of rendang curry paste and then 2 tablespoons of kecap manis and 2 teaspoons of reduced salt soy sauce.

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, February 12, 2020

The Chalk Hill trilogy by Lily Malone

Recently I got an email telling me that the second book in the Chalk Hill series was on sale so I thought why not, especially seeing as I already had the first book on my Kindle, albeit unread.

When I was deciding what to read next, I decided it was time to actually read the first book, what I didn't realise is that it was apparently time to read all three books in the trilogy in succession.

Water Under the Bridge

Ella Davenport has just moved to the small town of Chalk Hill with her son Sam. She needs a new start, having recently separated from her husband. Not only is she moving to a new town, she is also trying to get her new career as a real estate agent off the ground.

Ella used to be almost kind of famous.  Many years before she was a rising swimming star, so close to going to the Beijing Olympics, until circumstances and scandal put an end to her swimming dream. She married her swim coach and together they were an advertisers dream, but now that part of her life is over. She has a new look and has changed her name back so that she can start her new life without any hangover from her previous life. And Chalk Hill is the perfect place. Not a swimming pool in site!

Her first listing to sell is a beautiful old home overlooking the Chalk Hill bridge. She needs this sale for her confidence, to establish her place in the family owned real estate agency she is working in, and for some income.  If only the seller would return her calls.

Jake Honeychurch really does not want to sell his late grandmother's house but his brother Abe most definitely does want to sell. Jake knows that Abe is in some kind of money trouble, but he has no idea what kind, so he has priced the property so high that no one will want to buy the place while he figures out what is going on. He also is sabotaging the open house viewings much to Ella's frustration.

I enjoyed the interactions between Jake and Ella and felt that they were a good match. Jake was also good with Ella's 10 year old son Sam who was struggling with all the changes in his life, and especially missing Erik, his mum's former swim coach/husband.

I have to say, I loved Erik, the one armed German swim coach who had been, and continued to be, Ella's' best friend and biggest supporter.

This was a fun, easy read filled with interesting characters and a fictional town that would be lovely to visit.

The Cafe by the Bridge

The second book in the trilogy is where we finally found out more about Abe's big secret. He has been scammed by a con woman and it has cost him everything. He has had to sell his successful restaurants and move back to the home town he left many years ago because he felt like he never really fitted in.

When Taylor Woods rolls into town, she is there for one reason and one reason alone - to find Abel Honeychurch. Her brother Will has been scammed by the same woman, and is now not doing well at all emotionally or financially. But how can Abe help someone else when he can't even help himself.

It feels a bit strange to say that I enjoyed Abe's story seeing as he had suffered so much at the hands of the scammer, but he's trying very hard to build his for now life. It's not where he necessarily wants to be, but it is where he needs to be for now. He's trying to build up a cafe in his grandmother's house, so there are plenty of food related passages that had me licking my lips.

Taylor was a little bit harder for me. She was a psychologist, specialising in children's psychology, but there were times in this story where she skirted the line ethically. She found out details about Amanda, the scammer, by using her dog to tempt Amanda's young daughter to talk to her so she was basically stalking people in order to get what she needed. I get that she wanted to help her brother to recover but she was a bit of a bull in the china shop and there were times when she was dismissive of Abe's feelings in her quest.

Having said that, she was good for Abe in lots of ways. She recognised his depression and encouraged him to ask for help, both in relation to what happened and also in relation to his somewhat estranged relationship with his father.

Last Bridge Before Home

Whilst I very much enjoyed the first two books in the series, I would say that it was the final book in the trilogy that really had me on the edge of my seat.

Jaydah Tully and Braxton (Brix) Honeychurch have been circling around each other for years and there is a very strong attraction between them..Brix has long been willing to make it public between them but Jaydah has always resisted for reasons he could never really understand mainly because Jaydah has never given him any reasons. They had to remain a secret, despite the fact that everyone can see that there is something between them.

Brix has come back to town because his family needs him,  but when it turns out that Jaydah needs him more he is immediately there for her. Little can he know just how much his life is going to change, because with Jaydah he doesn't only get her. Her mother and sister come as part of the whole package deal. Jaydah is absolutely determined to get all of the Tully women out from under the roof of the family home, which is a bit difficult because no one in town knows that her sister even exists.

The secrets that people keep are a theme in these books. Even in a small town, where everyone appears to know everyone else's business, it is possible for people to keep their deepest secrets if they really need to. Even within a seemingly close family, there are secrets that are suddenly revealed, sometimes in the worst of times.

Jaydah is a strong character, who does whatever she can to protect her mother and sister, often at her own expense, and it is she that comes up with the escape plan and who puts the wheels in motion. Brix is also a fantastic character. He is a one woman man. He loves Jaydah, and once he finds out about Jaydah's home life, he wants to immediately spring to defend her but after the initial shock, he does respect that this needs to be done Jaydah's way. And when she springs her second surprise on him, he takes it all in his stride.

It is not unusual for romance authors to use the canvas of their books to examine the relationships between the characters, but also to look at bigger issues. In this book, it is the issues of domestic violence and the rights of people with mental disability. As such, it is darker than the other two books, but it is so well done.There were times when I was reading this book where my stomach was roiling as I read the page, knowing that of course everything was going to work out (this is a romance after all) but worried about how difficult the journey was going to be for all involved. The relief when the characters situation change was palpable for me, almost as though I could finally release my long held in breath.

I have read four books by Lily Malone now, and I definitely intend to read the remaining books in her backlist, as well a keeping an eye out for what comes next from her.

As I mentioned previously, we actually visited the area that this book was set in a couple of months ago, which helped me imagine the area in a vague sense. Reading these books also made me want to go back. We were only down in the south west of Western Australia for a few days, and there is still plenty to see and do in the area.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Love-ly

Welcome to this week's edition of Top Ten Tuesday which is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week's theme is "Love freebie" which means it can be almost anything.

I can't remember who, but someone I know was talking recently about the number of books that they had on the shelves with the word love in the title, so I thought I would have a look at my trusty spreadsheet and see what my list would look like if I did the same. This has ended up being far more traumatic exercise than it should have been as I accidentally copied a title down the whole list and now I have to try to recreate my spreadsheet for those entries which is not as easy as it sounds. I have been maintaining this spreadsheet for 15 years so the fact that I have messed it up is very annoying, or  maybe the correct word is upsetting.

Anyway.....To be honest, I'm a little surprised that there are only around 60 books with some variation of the word love (be it love, lovers, loving etc), especially seeing as my spreadsheet goes back to 2004 (or it did) and I am a romance reader from way back.

I thought then that my list today would be books with a variation of love in the title, but that aren't from the romance genre that I gave a rating of 4 or more out of 5.

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez - I first read GGM thanks to the Oprah Book Club back in the day when she had the forums on her website and her choice was One Hundred Years of Solitude - a very long time ago! Then I went through and read a lot of his other books including both of these titles. (Review here)

Of Love and Other Demons by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Peony in Love by Lisa See- I read this book more than 10 years ago. Recently I read Lisa See's latest book The Island of Sea Women and I still really enjoy her writing.

Friends, Lovers, Chocolate by Alexander McCall Smith - This is part of the long running Isabel Dalhousie series by this prolific author! (Review here)

The Sonnet Lover by Carol Goodman - It's been years since I read this author, but I have noticed that she does have a new book out soon.

The Food of Love by Anthony Capella - This author has kind of disappeared completely, or at least I can't find any evidence that he is still writing which is a shame as I enjoyed his writing. (Review here)

The Love Knot by Elizabeth Chadwick - Elizabeth Chadwick has long been a favourite author. I really need to get back to her books as I am a bit behind.

Last Letter From Your Lover by Jojo Moyes - This is an author who has just grown and grown in popularity over the years

Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes. by Elizabeth Bard - A book about Paris. Who knew I would manage to sneak one of those in! (Review here)

Love and Romanpunk by Tansy Rayner Roberts - This was such a fabulous short story collection from Aussie author. It was part of a bigger collection which featured all female Australian authors (review here)

The Restaurant of Love Regained by Ito Ogawa - a bonus book because this was one that I had forgotten about completely until I started putting this list together! I really enjoyed this book as you can see by my review here. Also a bonus because I only had 9 books on my list last week so that averages itself out right?

Monday, February 10, 2020

This week...

I'm reading...

I finally started reading a book set in France, which I expected to do a couple of weeks ago but then I got distracted by other books.

The only issue is the book I am reading is The Vineyards of Champagne and after reading a few chapters I have already had a look to see where the Champagne reason is to see if it was doable to visit there during our week in France. It's not at all, but I guess that just means that I need to start planning our next trip to France!

Over the years that I haven't really been blogging about books, or even reading books I had stopped receiving any review books which I am totally okay with. Much better to send them to someone who will actually review them, but every now and again I receive one out of the blue which is a nice treat. This week I received Fiona Lowe's  latest book, Just an Ordinary Family, which sounds really good.

Don't fall of your chair but, despite what I said earlier, I actually wrote a book review this week. Actually I wrote review for all three books in a trilogy, so I guess technically it was thee reviews!

I'm watching...

Great British Bake Off is back! Thank goodness! A food show about food where the people act like decent human beings. We are now watching the tenth series.  I think I have been watching the show since series two (I even posted about series three six years ago) but I have seen all ten series, and I am always happy to watch whichever season is on whenever it is on. But it's not only Great British Bake Off that I am addicted to. We also watch The Great Australian Bake Off with Matt Moran and Australian cooking legend Maggie Beer and last year we watched The Great Kiwi Bake Off too.

Last week I mentioned that My Kitchen Rules was back but the jury was out as to whether we would keep watching or not. My comment about Bake Off being a food show about food is probably in direct comparison to MKR where the food is the secondary part of the show these days. The main part of the shows seems to be manufactured drama between the contestants, between the judges, manufactured dating drama etc. I guess what I am saying is that it will be a bit of surprise if we make it through the whole series! Bring on Masterchef I say.

Speaking of food related viewing, I rewatched The Hundred Foot Journey this week. What a lovely movie it is. I first posted about this movie several years ago and it definitely hasn't lost its charm!


I've had a toothache all week which has been then causing headaches. I went to the dentist and he was surprised that I still have my bottom wisdom teeth. About 25 years ago I had an episode with my wisdom teeth and the dentist said that I may need to have them out but that was two weeks before I was leaving to move to the UK so I didn't end up doing anything about it. The next time they played up was seven years later and it was two weeks before I was moving from Adelaide to Melbourne so I didn't do anything then either. I am not planning to move so no idea why they are playing up now.

We went to the ordination of a friend who is becoming a deacon/minister of the Anglican church. It was a much more formal church service than I have been to for a long time. One of the interesting things was that they made a couple of small changes due to the Coronavirus crisis. The first was that they said during the part where you turn around and greet the people around you that you should only say hello rather than shake hands with everyone and they made some changes to communion.

We finally finished booking all of our accommodation for our trip. I love planning a trip, the things you are going to be doing, the sites, the anticipation of going on holiday! I do not, however, enjoy the finding accommodation part of planning, and this time I found the Paris particularly hard. Because there are going to be three  of us for that part of the trip, we needed to ensure that there was privacy, and then there's which part of Paris to stay in, how to stay within the arbitrary budget my husband has in mind (which I possibly would have been a bit more generous with). I can't even actually remember which arrondisement we are going to be staying in! Let's just say I'm glad that this part of the planning is done now! Back to the fun stuff now. And yes, I know, it's a nice problem to have!

Posts from the last week

Top Ten Tuesday - Books from my TBR that I hope will be 5 star reads
Statues and Silos - interesting sights from home and abroad
Weekend Cooking - Lots of baked goods.

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

Saturday, February 08, 2020

Weekend Cooking: Queen Baking Club

In addition to my baking adventures with Bakeitbox, I have been a member of the Queen Baking Club on Facebook pretty much since it began. This group sets a fortnightly challenge  for it's  members to attempt, and it is another good way to challenge yourself to step outside your normal cooking comfort zone.

A while ago I posted about the challenges I had made by that time.

Since then I have made the following challenges, some more successfully than others. This is the challenge list so far:

1. Classic Queen Vanilla Slice - Joined just after the first challenge so didn't make this one.
2. Banana Caramel Upside Down Cake - posted recipe here
3. Coconut Rough Magic Cake - see the photo here
4. Mermaid Cupcakes - didn't make this one
5. Chocolate Sour Cream Bundt Cake - see the photo here (so good)
6. Creamy Gingernut Cheesecake - see the photo here (made this one a couple of times now!)
7. Strawberries  and Cream Sheet Cake - see the photo here
8. Oozing Eyeball Marshmallow Slice - see the photo here  (and yes, this was for Halloween)
9. Skeleton Gingerbread - didn't make this one.

And now some with pics

10. Easy Vanilla Bean Fudge
11. Baklava Slice - have made this several times and it is always a hit. See the photo here
12. Eton Mess Passionfruit Cheesecake - our Christmas dessert in 2018
13. Chocolate Salami/Soft Chocolate Gingerbread Biscuits - I didn't make the salami but I did make the Gingerbread biscuits (you can see the recipe here).  I have now made this several times.

14. Red Velvet Cheesecake Trifle - love red velvet cake, cheesecake and trifle but  it didn't work for me all together.
15 Classic Queen Vanilla Slice (with a Twist) - I can't remember what the actual twist was. My twist was I made my own rough puff pastry, which I was pretty proud of.

16. Honey Jumbles -based on classic Aussie biscuits. I had never tried them before but after making these I bought a packet. The homemade ones were much better!
17. Raspberry and White Chocolate Pound Cake

18. Gluten Free Fudge Cookies - a big hit with my friends, both those who can tolerate gluten and those who can't
19. Persian Drizzle Cake

20. Rich Chocolate Mud Cake -  I thought I made this one but maybe not.
21. Maple Butter Date Loaf - so good!
22. Vanilla Bean Glazed Hot Cross Bun - didn't make these. Had tried and failed to master hot cross buns around the same time.
23. Vanilla Custard Magic Cake - didn't make this one as I had made a Bakeitbox previously for a similar recipe.
24. Strawberry Cookie Dough Cupcakes - didn't make this one
25. Classic Red Velvet Cake - made the cupcake version of this

26. Pumpkin Pecan Pie Muffins - didn't make this one
27. Vanilla Bean Snickerdoodles - so good!
28. Best Ever Chocolate Cake

29. Double Vanilla  Portuguese Tarts  - possibly my favourite thing to have made so far.
30. Gluten and Dairy Free Brownies - didn't make this one
31. Cinnamon Doughnut Baby Cakes - pretty much mini doughnuts

32. Citrus Syrup Cake - I don't think I made this one as I already have a favourite syrup cake recipe
33. Vanilla, Ricotta and Almond Cake with Poached Fruit - didn't make this one
34. Dark Choc Peanut Cookies
35. Perfect Banana Cake

36. Rainbow Buttercream Cupcakes - mine aren't  exactly rainbow, but I was taking them to work for a pre wedding celebration and the bride's colour was teal.
37. Soft Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies - a repeat but well worth it given how delicious they are
38. Peppermint Oreo Fudge/Festive Gingerbread Fudge - didn't make either of these ones
39. Christmas Tree Sugar Cookies - didn't make this one
40. Tim Tam Fudge - didn't make this one either
41. Iced Vovo Cupcakes - inspired by a classic Australian biscuit these are raspberry and coconut cupcakes

And now we are up to date!

Are there any of these recipes that catch your eye? Have you joined this kind of group with regular challenges? How do you challenge yourself to try new things?

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


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