Saturday, December 26, 2020

Weeking Cooking: What I Baked in December

I am already at that time between Christmas and New Year where you are not really 100% sure what day of the week it is!  Normally it takes a lot longer to get to that point but it has been a strange week all round. I went and got my hair cut on Monday with my current hairdresser as she is moving her business to the other side of the city. Whilst I could drive more than an hour each way it also doesn't make sense to drive past hundreds of hairdresser to get there. I also have always, always gone on Saturday so it is really odd to have gone on Monday afternoon. I also went into the office to work for only the second time since mid-March, and then worked very late a couple of nights so was absolutely exhausted by the time I got to Christmas 

We went to my sister's for Christmas lunch which was lovely as usual. For all that it is summer here, it was actually quite cool yesterday with a high of 18C/64F. It was warm enough to wear a nice top with jeans, but definitely not hot enough for the pool. We were lucky enough to be able to have my entire family there as the borders to South Australia are opened so my mum was able to come over as was my brother, his partner and their almost 2 year old son who was, of course, the centre of attention.

We always have quite a traditional Christmas lunch - we always start with prawns with home made cocktail sauce (which is a 3-2-1 ratio of cream, tomato sauce and worcestershire sauce with a touch of cayenne powder). Then the roast dinner and vegies with ham and turkey, and then Christmas pudding and trifle, which this year was made by my 13 year old nephew.

Anyway, it's the  last Saturday in December, and so this is my normal weeek to share what I made in December, although I think I have shared everything already!

For my team at work I made a couple of little treats for when we had our first face to face meetings since mid March. We ended up splitting the team into two groups rather than coming together as one team. I made them Rocky Road Clusters and also Soft Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies, which are always a bit hit. I posted about making the first batch a couple of weeks ago because apparently I coouldn't follow a recipe properly, but when I made the second batch, I managed to actually remember all the ingredients!

My recipe for Rocky Road Clusters can be found here and the Gingerbread Cookies are here.  I highly recommend the recipe for the cookies. I have made these for the last 3 years and they are delicious.

The only other thing that I made this month was the Chocolate Caramel Flan which I made for our family dinner with my husband's kids. This is the recipe that I made a few weeks ago but to make it festive we filled the hole in the cake with fresh berries.

I need to find some new things to make now! Not sure where I am going to get my inspiration from but it will come from somewhere I am sure.

Weekly dinners:

Saturday - Family dinner (Spicy chicken wings, roast beef fillet with peppercorn, glazed ham, roast vegies etc)

Sunday - Left overs

Monday- Beef and noodles stir fry

Tuesday - Pork ribs with baked potato and coleslaw

Wednesday - Spaghetti Bolognaise

Thursday - Prawns with 3 different types of butter sauce

Friday - Nothing - way too full from lunch still

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Weekend Cooking: Gravy Day (with White Wine)

I am a couple of days early with this because Gravy Day isn't until Monday really, but for my Weekend Cooking post this week I wanted to share a couple of songs about Christmas. Why is December 21 called Gravy Day? Well, listen to the words of the first song and you will find out!

This year is certainly going to be a very unusual Christmas for many people,with many unable to travel to celebrate with family and friends as they usually would. This first song is about a family who are unable to be together for a different reason.

Paul Kelly, who wrote and performed this song is an Australian music legend, and he is definitely a storyteller. Many of his songs tell stories, which I love.

As you know, I am in Australia, so for us Christmas often means hot weather and sunshine, rather than the more traditional cold weather and snow that is generally portrayed as being Christmassy. This song, by Australian comedian/musician Tim Minchin is now one of my favourite songs. I was going to say something about it being new, but the reality is that it has been out for more than 10 years now. Whilst we will most likely have a traditional lunch, no matter how hot it is, the reality is that at least part of our day might be spent outside, drinking white wine in the sun, or maybe a nice sparkling rose. We'll see.

To all of you who are celebrating this week, I wish you a very safe and happy Christmas! And if you are celebrating your own faith's holidays, I wish you all peace and as much joy as possible at the end of this very strange year. 

And I thank each of you for your continued support of Weekend Cooking!

Weekly Meals

Saturday: Burgers 
Tuesday: Steak, egg and chips

Wednesday: Butter Chicken Pizza
Thursday: Mexican Chicken and Rice
Friday: Pizza (takeaway)

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Christmas Quote: A German Christmas

Years ago when I livedin the I went to a European Christmas market. I remember being amazed by some of the gingerbread houses. I also totally agree that chocolate is always a good idea.

I also found this quote poignant because, with the benefit of hindsight, we know what was coming for all of Europe.

Schloss Siege, Christmas 1934

The household was awake early on Christmas Eve at Schloss Siegel. Isabelle hated to think waht timethe servants must have begun their day.. When she walked into the dining room for breakfast, she was greeted with one of theloveliest sights of her life. On the giant mahogany table was an entire village of gingerbread houses studded with brightly coloured sweets. Thick strands of holly and ivy wound around gorgeous silver platters of food. 

Isabelle had lain awake a great deal of the previous night, her mind a swirl of thoughts about German politics. Max. Nazism. Did he really believe in Hiter's policies? Or was he just trying to do what was best for his country? What would she do if he were to become irrevocably involved - in all aspects of it?

Now she moved forward to the stack of plates on the sideboard. The family's Christmas porcelain was decorated with exotic red and green patterns, swirling flowers, and dancing red ribbons. He shoulder brushed against the armof Max's valet, Hans. He apologized in German and stood aside for her to pass..  But Isabelle insisted that he go first. He nodded, his blue eyes failling to the floor as he moved on.

This was one of the days of the year on which the servants were given special privileges. The household staff were chatting informally with the family and other guuests and had all been given a personal gift, along with a box of gingerbread and a bag of sweets and chocolates. The atmosphere was convivial, even relaxed; it was as if the normal formalities of the house had flown awy, if only for a few hours.

"You have to try one of these." Max appeared behind Isabelle and handed her a plate of chocolate, exquisitely decorated and formed into tiny handmade wreaths, perfec tlittle Christmas stockings, even miniature Christmas gifts, complete with a bow. Isabelle took this and held it for a moment.

"It seems a little indulgent for breakfast." She smiled.

"How so?" Virginia said, sweeping into the conversationn in a green silk dress that hugged her perfect figure close. "Chocolate is always a good idea."
Isabelle chuckled and popped the delicacy into her mouth. She took Max's hand and led him across the room, toward the double doors that opened into the small dining room.

"You know, I  think this is my favourite thing in the entire house," she said, leaning in toward a tiny triptych on the small sideboard. The decorated panels illustrated the Christmas story, and the triptych was lit by a single candle in front of it.

"Wait until you see the church later today," Max said. He leaned down and kiss her on the cheek, the backs of his fingers lingering on her face for a moment.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Virtual Advent Tour 2020 - Where's Elvis?

Back in 2006 Kailana from The Written World and I had the idea to start a Virtual Advent Tour where we toured around the blogosphere as participants shared stories, songs, memories and more about Christmas. We continued to host up until 2013 when we handed the baton over to Sprite Writes and she has been hosting since 2014

For the longest time the Advent Tour was one of the ways I helpedget myself into a festive mood because it was a time of the year that I did struggle with, so I am super pleased to see that the tour lives on!

I thought for my advent post this year I would share something that I have been doing for a while now and that is buying Christmas ornaments when I travel. For a long time I used to buy one special ornament each year. Usually it would be a more expensive, more fragile ornament with a glittery inscription of the year on it, but a few years ago this morphed into being ornaments that we had bought from places we had visited on our travels.

This year I should have been able to share ornaments from London and Paris at the very least but our trip was cancelled and we haven't really been able to travel anywhere to buy new ornaments!  So instead, I am sharing last years with you.

In May last year  we travelled to the US, arriving in New Orleans, then we went on a Carribean cruise (where we got engaged) and then we drove from New Orleans to Nashville, and then onto Kansas City via Tuscon and a small town called Concordia where my son was playing college basketball. It was an amazing trip.

Along the way we gained several Christmas ornaments, which are going to grace our new tree. This year is actually the first year that we have put up a tree since Robert moved in. The last couple of years we haven't quite managed it because we were going on holidays so we decided not too.

So these are just some of the ornaments that will be gracing our tree this year

This is our New Orleans one, the classic fleur de lys. Only problem is that when I went to hang it on your new Christmas tree this year, I realised that the only way to hang it is upside down which didnt really work properly.

Next up - Nashville. I really enjoyed Nashville and would love to go back again at some point. Maybe not right now with the US COVID situation, but some time.

The next one comes from Graceland in Memphis. We actually bought two ornaments in Memphis. The only problem is that we have lost Elvis! Maybe I should say Elvis has left the building? Actually I am pretty sure he is still in the building but we really don't know where! And now, I am going to need to find him, no matter how much effort it take because he would look great on our tree! He's purple, with a big cape and, from memory, gold accents!

We did acutally acquire another ornament last year when one of my friends visited from New Zealand.

Here's  hoping that next year we will have some new additions to the tree from places we have visited. Maybewe will need to collect some Australian ornaments.

Thank you for visiting my post for this year's Virtual Advent Tour. Special thanks to Sprite Writes for keeping the tradition alive.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Christmas Quotes: Christmas 1941

Earlier this year I did a Top Ten Tuesday post about books that have been on my shelf for a very long time. Doing that post prompted me to actually read the book and now I am sharing a Christmas Quote from it!

This is an excerpt from a letter written to the writer's childhood friend who is serving in Europe while the writer is at her home in a seaside town in Devon

In the afternoon I went to see Lady B, who wouldn't let me into her room because of germs. So I went back home, lit the fire in the drawing-room, did the black-out all over the house annd sat down with my knitting. At six o'clock there was a lot of scuffling and scrunching on the path outside, and some children began singing carols. We get a lot of carols here, most of them squeaked hurriedly through the letter-box, but these were real carols, sung by a lot of children with a grown-up in charge.
'God Rest Your Merrie Gentlemen', they sang in their clear, sweet voices, and very nearly in tune. After that, we had 'Once in Royal David's City', and 'No-well, No-well'. A very small child came in with the collecting-box, and deeply moved by their performance, I gave, as they say, generously. When Charles came home he found me sitting in the dark, blowing my nose.
"You're not getting a cold, are you?" he said, rather crossly, as he switching on the lights. "Hullo!" he said, rather crossly, as he switched on the lights. "Hullo!" he said, peering at me closely, "what's going on here?"
"It was the carols," I muttered.
"But carols oughtn't to make you sad."
"Well, these did. There is so little, so very little peach and good will in the world just now, Charles."
Charles patted me kindly on the shoulder. "Not the international sort, perhaps. Plenty of individual good will," he said. "And now, go and put that cottage pie in the oven, I'm hungry."

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Weekend Cooking: Sticking to the recipe

Do you have weeks when sticking to the recipe is just harder than it should be, even if it is something that you make regulary? We had that this week, not once but twice.

I was lucky enough to meet up with half my team this week, and so I thought I would make a little treat for them. Good plan. I even played it safe and made things that I have made before.

The first thing I made was Rocky Road Clusters which I managed to get right, but to be honest it would be a big problem if I did mess it up because there are only three ingredients!

The second thing that I made was Soft Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies - another recipe I have made multiple times in past and they have been big hits, even being labelled as the favourite thing I had ever taken into work at my last job.

Now admittedly,  I did start making them after a very busy day in a very busy week in a very busy couple of months at work, and we had had people come for dinner, so I was probably a bit too tired to actually bake but bake I did.

And it wasn't until later that night as I was going to bed, I realised that I had forgotten to put the sugar in to the cookies. I remembered to grind the cloves, but no brown sugar at all! Now my husband assured me that it still tasted good but I did feel as though I needed to give the recipients a warning, just in case.

As if that wasn't bad enough, the next day we had a friend coming for dinner.  She is gluten intolerant so we wanted to find something that was easy to do after work that she could eat. In the end we decided that we would make one of favourite recipes - Baked Zucchini, Tomato and Parmesan Risotto.  This recipe is one that we have even used as a basis to make other baked risotto's using the principles of the recipe, such as doing bacon and mushroom baked risotto.

Given how often we make it, you would think that we wouldn't bugger it up, but somehow we used vegetable stock instead  of chicken stock but that wasn't too big a deal. It still tasted delicious, and my friend asked for the recipe. What might have been a problem was something that we only realised when we were laying in bed and my husband said to forgot the tomatoes! I mean, they are even in the title of the recipe!

I am meeting up with the other half of my team this week so I will have another go at making both of these recipes, but maybe we will just keep it a bit simple!

Are you making edible gifts this year? What are some of your favourite things to make?

Weekly dinners:

Sunday: Cheese on toast
Tuesday: Chicken kebabs wth baked potato and coleslaw

Wednesday: Very cheesey mac and cheese
Thursday: Zucchini and parmesan risotto
Friday: Pizza (takeaway)

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page.

Friday, December 11, 2020

Christmas Quotes: Christmas in Paris

This quote comes from The Little Bookshop on the Seine by Rebecca Raisin which I read earlier this year. I love the way that this author writes about Paris, books and food.

I have removed a couple of words from this quote so as not to spoil a couple of plot points from the book.

Oceane held my arm as we walked rapidly. Sow dusted the bare trees on the Left Bank, and our breathing quickened as we picked up the pace to keep warm. "You're never too old for Santa," I admonished her.
My life was a hell of a lot brighter now that the whole issue with xxxxxxx was sorted out; the shop was a much happier place with a set roster, and sales targets that were achievable. Each dawn, I was up early, stealing time to languish in the quiet and read before my day started in earnest. There was space now to go Christmas crazy. I had been desperate to drag Oceane to see the man in red, pestering her for a week now. Finally, finally, she said yes.
She clucked her tongue. "Santa's village is for enfants," she said, though I could tell by her smile she wasn't being truthful, and was just as excited as me to see the spectacle.
We arrived at Boulevard Saint-Germaine, sparkling fairy lights pulsing along each side of the street, brightening up the dark evening, and bringing the magic of Christmas to the fore.
Stalls were set up, selling everything from hot chocolate and crepes, to more robust French cuisine that made my mouth water. Roasted chestnuts enriched the air. There was a stage with a manger and we stopped to ogle it. French Christmas carols played from unseen speakers, and it was a moment of pure bliss.The French did do Christmas as brazenly as Americans! On a small podium Santa sat proudly on an oversized red chair, listening to children a they delivered their wish-lists. I pushed Ocean into the queue,ignoring her cries of non, non, non.
"Don't be such a spoilsport. I want a photo with Santa, and you're going to tell him what you want for Christmas."
She rolled her eyes dramatically."I'll never live this down," she groaned while I laughed.
Santa's eyes lit up when Oceane perched on his lap. She sat stiffly, pretending to be mortified before speaking quickly to him, and it took me a full minute to untangle her words. Something about a man she loved,who didn't know she existed... I couldn't fathom any man not noticing Oceane. She was striking, and vivacious, and very hard to miss. When the photographer nodded to me, I sat on Santa's other knee and grinned like a fool knowing this picture would be displayed on my mantel-piece back home, and I'd remember the scent of freshly baked crepes, the snow tickling my face, the laughter, and the shiny faces of the people here.
Once our photo was printed we were each handed a candy cane, just like back home. I thanked them profusely before we moved on, coming to a stall selling gingerbread. I gasped when I saw some in the shape of an Eiffel Tower, and knew I had to buy one for each of the girls back home. It was too perfect a present to pass up. I just hoped they'd survive in the mail.
"You're such a tourist," Oceane said, but her tone was mellow, and she forgave my foibles what with it being Christmas and all.
We giggled, fetching cups of warm vin rouge and sipping while we drank in the Christmas spectacle, all with the Eiffel Tower shining in the background. Could I really leave all of this? My beautiful new friends, my life on the Seine...It was becoming more than just a place I loved, it was almost becoming a home. There was just one thing I was missing...and my heart ached for him.
We wandered out of the market and into an avenue coming face to face with a Christmas carousel. Reindeers moved slowly up and down, making their way around in a never ending circle. "We have to go on there!" I said.
Oceane scoffed. "Enfants!"
It was true, there were only children clutching the wide-eyed reindeers, but still, that didn't put me off.
I paid for two tickets and waved them at Oceane. "Don't offend Rudolph," I said, enjoying teasing here. She rolled her eyes, and tipped her vin rouge back. "Fine. Only for you," she said with a shake of her head, laughter spilling out of her.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Christmas quotes: The Christmas Miracle

When I read this book earlier this year, I learnt a number of things about champagne making, and about people living in the champagne caves during WWI. 

In this quote a soldier is to his marriane  (which translates to godmother) but in this case were people who wrote to soldiers in the trenches, even though they had never met.

Here is an excerpt from one of his letters in January 1915 telling a story that is quite well known now, but still moving

I hope you will not think badly of me when I tell you that despite the dreadfulness that fills my daily existence, there are moments of strange and glorious beauty. I seize upon them eagerly: a startlingly clear night, the stars twinkling and beckoning with their immaculate shine, untouched by the terror  of bullets and shells, safe even from the poison gases.
A violent bombardment that leaves everyone shaken, yet somehow, miraculously, alive.
Or the Christmas Eve miracle - have you heard of it?
Truthfully, I don't know whether or not to believe sit actually happened, but I choose to. It is too wonderful a story not to. It was told to us by a medic who claimed he witnessed it firsthand.
This is the way he told the story:
Those of us who live in the trenches are at times only a few meters - or less - from the enemy ensconced  in their own pits. When it is quiet, we sometimes speak to one another, or even barter for small items such as cigarettes. We are young men trying to stay alive, and when the enemy shows his human face, we are reminded that we used to be neighbors, relatives, fellow farmers, and merchants.
So, on Christmas Eve, while in his trench, a British soldier began to sing "Silent Night," his sonorous voice filling the quiet void. You many know, my dear marraine, that this is a song originally written in German. Other soldiers joined in, and when they finished, the Germans answered in kind,singing "Stille Nacht" in the original German. From then on the singing continued, and as darkness fell, candles were lit along the line. Some say there were even some gifts exchanged, and an informal cease-fire allowed each side to collect their dead from No Man's Land in peace.
So, there  you have it. A brief break in the fighting, in recognition of our shared humanity. I imagine the officers in charge wouldn't like the idea  of us seeing such humanity in our foes.
And when the night was over, the slaughter recommenced.

Tuesday, December 08, 2020

Alphabet 2020 - X is for Christmas

I know, I know. I really don't like it when Christmas is abbreviated to Xmas but I also need an X word so that I can get this Alphabet 2020 completed this year and not have it drag into next year.

I do have another alphabet type thing for next year, but my intention is to actually have a theme for next year, all about music, which should make it easier to stay on track.

For years, I have been saving quotes from books and sharing them in the lead up to Christmas. I started doing this back when I was hosting the Virtual Advent Tour and it was something that I just continued. When I came back to blogging I deleted more than a dozen Christmas quotes that were sitting in draft.

I have again been collecting quote again this year and I plan to share a couple of quotes each week over the next few weeks!

Speaking of the Virtual Advent Tour, I was super excited to see that Sprite Writes still hosts the tour each year. You can find the details for this year's tour here. I have signed up to post on December 17 and at this point in time I have absolutely no idea what I am going to post but I still have just over a week to come up with something! Actually, I may have just had an idea!

Sunday, December 06, 2020

Six Degrees of Separation: Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret to Her Fearful Symmetry

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.  I am also linking this post up with The Sunday Salon, hosted by Deb at Readerbuzz.

I was very excited when this month's starting book was announced as being Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume because, well, I am a Margaret. I remember being thrilled when I read this book as a teenager because there just weren't many girls my age with the name Margaret.

Given that I am Margaret, I have decided to start with the fact that this is all about me and then stick with those kind of his, hers, them, us kind of words.

Belong to Me by Marisa de los Santos - I read and loved this book more than 10 years ago and even now just looking at the cover still makes me smile. 

It Had to be You by Susan Elizabeth Philips - Funny story. Last month I said about I must, I must increase my bust, and this is the book I thought of, well for obvious reasons. I decided very early on not  to go down that route, but then when I was looking for a You book that I hadn't already been used, this is one of the titles that came up so I guess it was meant to be.

The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar - I read this for my old book club about 9 years ago. I rated it really highly but I don't think I remember a lot about it!

When We Were Mermaids by Barbara O'Neal
- This is one that I read last year so I do remember!

When Christ and His Saints Slept by Sharon Kay Penman - It has been way too long since I read a SKPl novel. I am about 3 behind so I don't really have any excuses, especially because I love her books when I read them

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger - My preference for only using books I have read often leads to old books making an appearance. I read this book so long ago I wasn't even on Goodreads at the time!

Next year's (!!!) first book is Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell

Saturday, December 05, 2020

Weekend Cooking: Peppermint Crisp Tart


You would think by looking at my What I Baked posts that making desserts would by something that only I do in our house, but it isn't the case.

My husband does a really great creme brulee (which will be even better since we bought a new blow torch a few week ago) and he also has a couple of South African desserts that we make on occasion. It just so happens that we are taking one of those, Peppermint Crisp Tart,  to a friends for dinner tonight so it seemed like the perfect chance to share the recipe here. I had shared another, Pineapple Fridge Tart, a couple of years ago.

Peppermint Crisp Tart

1 pack tennis biscuits

1 tin caramel condensed milk

500 ml cream

Peppermint crisp chocolate bars

Place a layer of tennis biscuits in your serving dish.

Whip cream until thick (but not as far as soft peaks) and then add the caramel and whip until well combined.

Crush the peppermint crisp.

Add half the cream mixture then sprinkle with half the peppermint crisp.

Add another layer of tennis biscuits, then the remaining cream mixture and the remainder of peppermint crisp.

Refrigerate until set.

If you can't get tennis biscuits, the best way I could describe them is that they are sweet biscuits, maybe most like a digestive style biscuit in the UK or a graham cracker in the US. The main difference is that tennis biscuits have a fair bit of coconut in them, so whatever biscuits you use it is best if they have a bit of texture and flavour to them. I have seen a suggestion online that you can substitute Nice biscuits here in Australia too.

And if you can't get peppermint crisp, I am thinking you could make peppermint bark by melting chocolate and spreading it in a thin layer and then sprinkling crushed peppermint candy canes across the chocolate. Refrigerate until the chocolate is set, and then crush it up to us in the tart.When I suggested this to my husband, he was like...sure you could tart it up that way (pun intended).

Peppermint bark is a super easy thing to make as a gift during the holidays as well.

Weekly dinners:

Saturday: American style Thanksgiving dinner
Sunday: Party pies, cheese balls, crumbed prawns, spring rolls
Monday: Bacon and mushroom baked risotto
Tuesday: Pork Nachos
Wednesday: Twice cooked pork shoulder (delivered meal)
Thursday: Spaghetti Bolognese
Friday: Barbecued pork chops, mash and vegetables

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page.

Thursday, December 03, 2020

Bookish Quotes: On literature

This quote comes from The Tolstoy Estate by Steven Conte, a book I read a couple of months ago and absolutely loved. It will definitely be on my list of favourite books this year. There were lots of passages I enjoyed in this book, but I liked these two passages so I thought I would share them in the hope that others will be inspired to pick up the book.

Firstly, a short passage about reading War and Peace as a distraction.

One distraction was reading, and in spare moments and at at night he took to lying in his bedroll and blankets, engrossing himself in War and Peace. As usual he found it consoling. Whatever  the fate of individuals might be, Tolstoy seemed to say, the rhythms of life would remain the same. The young would be foolish, hopeful and  wild, would fall in love, and out of it, become sadder, ,maybe wise. Some would meet their deaths sooner than others, yet there would come a day when everyone engaged in the struggles of their age would without exception die, bequeathing the world they had mode to those strangers, their children, who would struggle to change it again.

In the second passage, the two main characters, Paul and Katerina are discussing his work as a surgeon:

"And yet for all that you love it, don't you? I could tell from watching you work on Irina."

"It was a rather special operation."

"Perhaps, but that's not what I was seeing. Irina could have been anyone, I thought: one of yours, one of ours, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin - it would have been the same. You were so absorbed, so immersed in what you were doing. Here is a man in his element, I thought, doing what he loves and doing it well." with mock severity she added, "At least I hope you were doing it well.

"I do enjoy it," he said, "though I can hardly claim credit for that, can I? Especially lately. a war for the likes of me is a bonanza.

"You monster."

"War is filthy, of course. It hurts and it hardens. But the fact is that for surgeons it's also an opportunity. Every month we're making medical advances: honing old techniques, inventing new ones, even upending a dogma or two."

"You're a seeker after truth."

"Is that irony I detect?".

"Yes, but go on."

"Truth be told, professional satisfaction is the least of it, because as well as seeking truth I'm also revelling in mystery. I delve into people, and you've just seen how strange, how wondrous that can be. What I'm trying to express," he said, "earnestly..."

"No matter, go on."

" that surgery is more of an art than a science. There's an imprecision to it - a fuzziness, if you will -that's maddening but also compelling."

Katerina said, "Well, I confess I envy you. To apply a Marxist analysis, it's hard to image a worker less alienated from his labour."

"But I envy you!" Bauer said. "All right, my work is important.For the individual it's vital. But the body is transient, we all know that. It's stuff. You writers, you forge culture - and culture is eternal.Or as good as."

She pulled a sour expression."Well, firstly, I'm no longer a writer. Secondly, I fear you're exaggerating literature's influence on the world."

"You more or less told Metz that Lev Tolstoy was going to win the war for you."

"I was trying to provoke him. If literature exerts any influence at all it's subtle and slow. Possibly not even beneficial, at least not always."

"I believe it is beneficial," he said. "And enduring. Even the worst of it survives its author, and the best outlives the language it's composed in . I can't imagine what it must be like to be you and know that in fifty, one hundred, two hundred years there will be someone, somewhere reading your books.

Are you tempted? I hope so because I really loved this book!

Wednesday, December 02, 2020

Blog Tour: The Smallest Man by Frances Quinn

I am supposed to be posting a review of The Smallest Man by Frances Quinn. Unfortunately I haven't been able to read it as work has really been getting in the way of reading and blogging at the moment. I am totally exhausted at the end of each day so until a couple of days ago. Now I am less than exhausted but a long way from 

My apologies to Anne from Random Things Tours. I will read the book as soon as I can, and review it!
You can check out all the other people who have done much better than I have done by visiting others on the blog tour.


The smallest man. The biggest heart. The mightiest story. A compelling story, perfect for fans of The Doll  Factory and The Familiars.

Nat Davy longs to grow tall and strong and be like other boys, but at the age of ten, he’s confronted with the truth; he’s different, and the day when the stares and whispers stop is never going to come.

Narrowly escaping life in a freak show, he’s plucked from his family and presented as a gift to the new young queen of England – a human pet to add to her menagerie of dogs and monkeys. But when Nat realises she’s as lost and lonely as he is, the two misfits begin an unlikely friendship – one that takes him on an unforgettable journey, as England slides into the civil war that will tear it apart and ultimately lead the people to kill their king.

Inspired by a true story, and spanning two decades that changed England for ever, The Smallest Man is narrated by an irrepressible hero with his own unique perspective on life. His story is about being different, but not letting it hold you back. About being brave enough to take a chance, even if the odds aren’t good. And about how, when everything else is falling apart, true friendship holds people together.


Frances Quinn read English at King’s College, Cambridge, and is a journalist and copywriter. She has written for magazines including Prima, Good Housekeeping, She, Woman’s Weekly and Ideal Home. She lives in Brighton with her husband and who Tonkinese cats. The Smallest Man is her first novel. 


Twitter @franquinn

Tuesday, December 01, 2020

Historical Fiction Reading Challenge 2021 sign up post

Welcome to the new home of the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge for 2021! I am super excited to be hosting this challenge this year. Amy has set a high standard for me to maintain over the last few years! You are welcome if you are have been participated before or if it is your first time!

The Historical Fiction Reading Challenge has been around for many years in one form or another and we used to host at Historical Tapestry, so it  feels like full circle to be hosting once again!

Reading Challenge details

Each month, a new post dedicated to the HF Challenge will be created where you can add the links for the books you have read. To participate, you only have to follow the rules:

Everyone can participate! If you don't have a blog you can post a link to your review if it's posted on Goodreads, Facebook, or Amazon, or you can add your book title and thoughts in the comment section if you wish.

Add the link(s) of your review(s) including your name and book title to the Mister Linky we’ll be adding to our monthly post (please use the direct URL that will guide us directly to your review)
Any sub-genre of historical fiction is accepted (Historical Romance, Historical Mystery, Historical Fantasy, Young Adult, History/Non-Fiction, etc.)

During the following 12 months you can choose one of the different reading levels:

20th Century Reader - 2 books
Victorian Reader - 5 books
Renaissance Reader - 10 books
Medieval - 15 books
Ancient History - 25 books
Prehistoric - 50+ books

To join the challenge you only need to make a post about it, add your link in Mr. Linky below or just leave a link to your blog if you are not yet ready to post about it yet. If you don't have a blog you can just leave a comment for this post saying that you are joining, and link to your Facebook, Goodreads or other social media page where you will be sharing your reviews.

Don't forget to use the challenge hashtag #histficreadingchallenge, and grab your challenge badge here:

Special thanks to Amy for creating the badge for this year's challenge.

If you have any questions or suggestions let me know!

Are you excited about joining the challenge? What level of the challenge are you aiming for?

About Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

The Historical Fiction Reading Challenge has been around for many years in one form or another. 

I believe that the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge started at a blog called Reading, Writing and Ranting since at least 2008 before it was taken over by The Royal Reviews which is when I started participating!

In 2011, I started co-hosting at Historical Tapestry until Amy from Passages to the Past took over in 2015 and has been doing a stellar job ever since.

Now, I am proud to be hosting the challenge again since 2021, and I can't wait to see all the books that  you read and share as part of the challenge.

How the challenge works

Each month, a new post dedicated to the HF Challenge will be created where you can add the links for the books you have read. 

Everyone can participate! If you don't have a blog you can post a link to your review if it's posted on Goodreads, Facebook, or Amazon, or you can add your book title and thoughts in the comment section if you wish.

To participate, you only have to follow the rules:

Add the link(s) of your review(s) including your name and book title to the Mister Linky we’ll be adding to our monthly post (please use the direct URL that will guide us directly to your review)
Any sub-genre of historical fiction is accepted (Historical Romance, Historical Mystery, Historical Fantasy, Young Adult, History/Non-Fiction, etc.)

During the following 12 months you can choose one of the different reading levels:

20th Century Reader - 2 books
Victorian Reader - 5 books
Renaissance Reader - 10 books
Medieval - 15 books
Ancient History - 25 books
Prehistoric - 50+ books

Sign up for the 2021 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge here!

Don't forget to use the challenge hashtag #histficreadingchallenge

Previous challenge buttons