Saturday, February 27, 2021

Weekend Cooking: What I Baked in February

After a very slow month in January where I only baked one thing, this month has a more normal look about it. It seems about the right pace to bake one thing each weekend, although this month I missed one weekend.

Here's what I baked in February

Chocolate Mousse Cake  - I posted about this here and it was so delicious! This is one that we will definitely be making again.

Pinata sugar cookies - These were our Valentine's Day treat. I know they probably should be red but this is somewhat close to my husband's favourite colour, and it matches the colour scheme of the fancy sprinkles I bought during lockdown and still hadn't used yet. The fortnightly challenge for the Queen Baking Club (on Facebook) was for making sugar cookies. I decided to use the Queen recipe to recreate a concept I learnt from Bake it Box. So what makes these cookie Pinata cookies? There's a little place in the middle where you can put sprinkles and maybe a little note, as you can see below

Lemon Tart with meringue kisses - I was "inspired" to make this when I saw an image that was promoting a new Australian TV series called Aftertaste. That was a very professional looking tart with perfectly placed meringue kisses. Mine is a lot more rustic but it was delicious and I was happy with the taste. Making the meringue kisses was a good way to use up the egg whites that were left over from the tart. I used a Donna Hay recipe which I have shared before.

Have you baked this month?

Weekly meals:

Saturday: Family barbecue
Sunday:  Family barbecue leftovers
Tuesday: Barramundi with coconut rice
Wednesday: Out for dinner
Thursday: Out for dinner
Friday:  Jerk Chicken with Grilled Pineapple Salad

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.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Snowy Mountains Daughter by Alissa Callen

Recently on Twitter, Wendy from The Super Librarian made an observation about attempting to buy a Kindle book only to have Amazon tell you that you already own it. My response was that always prompts me to think I really should read that book, which is the same thing I will think when I try to buy the book again in 6 months. Alissa Callen is one of those authors for me. I own several of her books, and I have tried to buy them again several times, and yet, I have never actually read one.  Based on this book, what a mistake that is!

When I heard that her latest book, Snowy Mountains Daughter, is the first in a series, I was determined to get in right from the beginning of the series, and boy, I am glad I did. In addition to the central story, which I will get to in a minute, we have been introduced to many of the characters who will form the central stories in coming books. There's a lot to look forward to.

Clancy Parker was born and bred in Bundilla. Whilst her adventurous (and accident prone) brother is off adventuring in the UK, Clancy has no desire to leave her home. Besides, she has a farm to look after including fields full of peonies to harvest, as long as the weather holds out. She has good friends, she loves the landscape and the lifestyle. Her life is complete. Well, except for the fact that the one man she has ever wanted is distant, both emotionally and physically.

Heath MacBride left town ten years previously after a savage fight with his father, who basically told him to never come back, and especially to leave Clancy Parker along.  He has, however, returned to Bundilla to complete a commission in the town he grew up in. He is going to paint the town's water tower, and then he is going to leave town. It's a good plan. If only there wasn't clearly something not quite right with his parents, and then there is his irresistible pull towards Clancy. If he can keep his feelings under control and not show her any glimpse of how he feels then he can be on his way to the next artistic commission. His father made it clear that he can't be both a farmer and an artist and so there can be no future here.

As Clancy and Heath danced around each other, I find myself hoping that they would just have a conversation, so I was definitely cheering when they finally started to be honest with themselves and each other. Heath did seem particularly reticent emotionally, which I get given his background. 

One of the key "characters" in the book is Bundy, the kelpie dog that goes wherever he wants in the town, spending a day or two with one person then wandering off to spend another day or two with someone else as he sees fit and even interacting with some of the kids as a kind of therapy dog. He isn't the only animal to come to life on the pages too.

I really loved that Heath was coming home to paint the water tower. We have a real penchant for painted silos/water towers, and have shared several photos over the years of examples of this type of art. We have travelled all over Victoria looking for them. I think that we have 5 or so left to visit, which we will at some point. Here are a couple more examples or click on this link to see lots of my favourites

At some point we will go and take a closer look at the one that is only 10 minutes from home.

The descriptions of the scenery also bought back memories of our recent trip to the Australian Alps. Whilst the fictional town of Bundilla is set in the Snowy Mountains in New South Wales, and we stayed on the Victorian side (because we weren't allowed to cross the border), I could see the mountains, and the landscape, and the occasional historic hut which is used by hikers for overnight stays.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and will be looking forward to the next books in the series. And in the mean time I can go back and read some of those otherbooks that I have sitting on my Kindle

Rating 4.5/5

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Weekend Cooking: Smoky Sticky Pork Ribs

Whenever I read a book I always mark passages about food, books, Christmas or Paris which might then make it to be posted one day. Books don't have to be particularly foodie to have passages about food. Or particularly bookie to have passages about books. Or particularly Parissy to have passages about Paris, although generally they at least have to be partially set in Paris for that to happen.

Last week I read Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston, which is a romance about what happens if the First Son of the United States happened to fall in love with a prince from Britain. It was a very entertaining read. There were a couple of passages that stood out, both of which related to both food, but also the time before the main character's parents got divorced.

Here's one of those passages:

Oscar may be the cook of the family, but Alex's mom was the one who grilled. It didn't always track in Pemberton Heights - his Mexican dad in the house diligently soaking a tres leches while his blond mom stood out in the yard flipping burgers - but it worked. Alex determinedly picked up the best from both of them, and now he's the only one here who can handle racks of ribs while Oscar does the rest.

The kitchen of the lake house faces from the water, always smelling like citrus and salt and herbs, and his dad keeps it stocked with plum tomatoes and clay-soft avocados when they're visiting. He's standing in fron of the big open windows now, three racks of ribs spread out on pans on the counter in front of him. His dad is at the sink, shucking ears of corn and humming along to an old Chente record.

Brown sugar. Smoked paprika. Onion powder. Chili powder. Garlic powder. Cayenne pepper. Salt. Pepper. More brown sugar. Alex measures each one out with his hands and dumps them into the bowl.

And then a bit later

They eat later that evening, big piles of elotes, pork tamales with salsa verde, a clay pot of frijoles charros, ribs. Henry gamely piles his plate with some of each and eyeballs it as if waiting for it to reveal its secrets to him, and Alex realises Henry has never eaten barbecue with his hands before.

Alex demonstrates and watches with poorly concealed glee as Henry gingerly picks up a rib with his fingertips and considers his approach, cheering as Henry dives in face-first and rips a hunk of meat off with his teeth. He chews proudly, a huge smear of barbecue sauce across his upper lip and the tip of his nose.

That last line is why ribs are something that I generally wouldn't order in a restaurant.

It just so happens that a couple of our kids are coming for dinner tonight and we are going to have barbecue, but not this kind of barbecue.

I have posted before about the differences in language and meaning which occurs between English speaking countries.

If my understanding is correct, then in some parts of the US what is described above is definitely barbecue whereas my definition of barbecue is more along the lines of grilling. To me to grill something is to put it under the grill section in the oven, which I think in the US would be called broiling. Fortunately we don't call anything broiling as far as I know! Of course, in our house, there is also a difference between a barbecue and a braai (the South African version of barbecue). Whilst the tools and equipment are similar, there are some differences between what you cook. Even just thinking about the braai we had when we were there has my mouth watering at the thought of really thick cut bacon being braaied - something I haven't had here. I have, however, had normal thickness bacon cooked on the barbie with eggs for breakfast. Anyway, I digress.

Last year we were given a slow cooker/pressure cooker combo which has been one of most successful gadget acquisitions. We have used it a quite a lot, which is good compared to those gadgets that you have to buy and then they sit in the cupboard unused. One of the recipes that we have cooked quite a lot is one for pork ribs. It  comes from a book that we picked up quite randmoly but which we really enjoy cooking from. It gives you the recipes for cooking something either in the slow cooker or in the pressure cooker so you can decide which method suits you onthe day you are going to make it. So handy.

The actual recipe in the book includes a Cheesy Coleslaw, which we haven't yet made from scratch. Last time my son made this recipe we bought a pre-packaged coleslaw mix but he still added in the cheese. What a revelation that was!

Smoky Sticky Pork Ribs

2kg (4lb) American-style pork ribs

1 1/4 cups (310ml) water

3 cloves garlic crushed

1 cup (280g) barbecue sauce

1/4 cup (60ml) lemon juice

1/4 cup (55g) firmly packed brown sugar

2 teaspoons sweet smoked paprika

1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

Cut pork ribs into pieces that will fit into the pieces that will fit into the pressure cooker.

Combine ribs and the water in a 6 litre (24 - cup) pressure cooker: secure lid. Bring cooker to high pressure. Reduce heat to stabilise pressure; cook for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Preheat grill (broiler)

Release pressure using the quick release method; remove lid. Drain ribs; combine with barbecue mixture. Place ribs, in a single layer, on oiled wire rack over large shallow baking dish filled with 1cm (1/2 inch) water. Grill ribs about 8 minutes or until browned, turning halfway through cooking time, basting with remaining barbecue mixture.

Weekly meals:

Sunday:  Fancy Valentine's dinner
Monday: Pork chops, mashed potato, broccoli and carrot.
Tuesday: Mince fajitas
Thursday: Family dinner
Friday:  Bread rolls, chicken, coleslaw

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.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Top Ten Tuesday: New Orleans or bust!


Welcome to this week's edition of Top Ten Tuesday which is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week's theme is Purple, Green and Gold in honour of Mardi Gras which is today.

Whilst I am pretty sure I can do purple, green  and gold books pretty easily, but I thought I would twist it the topic a little bit. The last time I visited the US we visited New Orleans. Because we aren't going anywhere any time soon, I thought I would revisit some places that we have visited over the last few years on our US holidays, a couple with books associated!

The main reason for starting our 2018 trip in New Orleans was to catch up with some friends who I originally met through Sara Donati's author forum. Her book, Queen of Swords, was set against the background of the Battle of New Orleans. We were able to visit a few of the places she visited when researching for the book which was fun.

Other books I have read set in New Orleans include the Sherrilyn Kenyon series. I used to read these books a lot but I can't remember the last time I read a  paranormal romance.Back in the day, I didn't read a lot of contemporary romance but did read a bit of paranormal romance. Now it's the other way around.

During our visit to New Orleans we did visit one of the famous cemeteries where the books referenced included Interview with a Vampire, and A Confederacy of Dunces got a mention too during our time there. I haven't read either of these though.

In 2017 we visited New York. Of course there are tons of books set in New York, but I thought I would focus on two historical novels. One of these is from the follow up series to the Into the Wilderness series about the next generations. It was such a good read. 

The other series that I wanted to mention was Beverly Swerling's Old New York series which is set in the early days of colonisation.

Of course, there are many, many contemporary novels set in New York too. The latest one I read was The Prenup by Lauren Layne which was so much fun and then there is the futuristic New York as portrayed in the J D Robb In Death series.

The reason why we visited the US both in 2017 and 2019 is that my son was at college playing basketball in a place called Concordia in Kansas. Whilst I am sure that there aren't many books set in the town, there is a museum called the National Orphan Train Complex, which tells the story of the orphans who were taken from the East Coast to the midwest. The town is filled with statues telling stories of the children who rode the train. This book, The Orphan Train wasn't set in the town but the connection to the story that the museum is trying to preserve is obvious

Of course it's hard to talk about Kansas without thinking about The Wizard of Oz!

Other places that we visited on those two trips to see my son included Wichita, Tuscon, Nashville, Memphis, Tulsa, and Kansas City (twice) .

We also went on a Carribean cruise that docked in Honduras (where we officially got engaged), Belize and Mexico so in honour of that I am posting one of the James Michener  books I used to read back in the 80s and 90s.

Monday, February 15, 2021

This week....

I'm reading....

Last week I finished reading The Winemaker''s Wife by Kristin Harmel which I did enjoy. It is set in the region around Reims in France, which is where champagne is made. I have read books before which talked about how the caves were used in both world wars, which didn't make this book any less interesting! I will definitely read more from this author.

I also started and finished reading Red White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston which I loved. It is a book that I have been aware of for quite some time, and I listened to the author speak as part of Melbourne Writers Festival last year. What finally prompted me to pick the book up and actually read it was a Goodreads recommendation for Valentine's Day about 52 Most Popular Romances in the last 3 years and this was the first book on the list.

I am going to start the new series by Aliss Callen which begins with Snowy Mountains Daughter. I own a number of Alissa Callen books from her previous series which currently has 7 books in it but I haven't read any of them. I am therefore choosing to get in right from the first book for this series!

I'm watching...

I have so many things to watch on my list but for whatever reason we just don't seem to be actually watching much. 

We did start watching Wandavision. The first couple of episodes didn't make a lot of sense, but now that we have watched all the available episodes it is all coming together, and it is all very Marvel universe. I guess now we wait for each new episode like everyone else.


Well, we are back in strict lockdown again. In theory it is for 5 days so due to finish on Wednesday but I wouldn't be at all surprised if it is extended. 

I was tested for the first time yesterday and fortunately the result came back as negative in less than 24 hours. I have a head cold that seems to be moving to my chest and so because of the similarity in symptoms I thought it was a good idea to get tested. The other reason is that I wanted to be able to go and see a doctor should I need to. A few years ago I had a bout of pneumonia so I am also a bit cautious about chest infections.

If lockdown is extended it will have another impact for us. My lovely Granny died at the age of 100 last week. We already knew that we wouldn't be able to go over to Perth for the funeral because you can't get into Perth without doing a 2 week self isolation, but with our current lockdown you can't even do that. We will therefore be watching the funeral online. I am hoping that we will be able to watch with my sister and her family, but we will see what happens. If the lockdown is extended we won't be able to watch it together.

My grandmother, Olive, was born in London in 1920, but lived the majority of her life in Perth. When I think about her life, I can't help but think of the changes that she saw. She sailed to Australia (twice, once on her own), she lived on small farms for the majority of her life, saw the introduction of television and the internet and so much more.  We moved away from Perth when I was 10 so lived apart for a long time, but my grandparents always did everything they could to stay connected to us, which I will always be grateful for. For many years she could remember everyone's birthdays (from grandchildren to great grandchildren of whch there are many) and what she couldn't remember was always in the little book by her chair.

Over the years she worked hard, including for years as a housecleaner, but she also bred prize winning Australian Silky Terrier dogs. She knitted and crocheted for charities until she was in her late 80s/early 90s. She loved The Wind in the Willows book and adaptations. My grandfather died 9 years ago at the age of 103 after more than 65 years of marriage, so it is nice to think of her being reunited with him now.

I know that I have been very lucky to be nearly 50 years of age and to have only just lost the last of my grandparents. My parents are also both still alive. If I mention the fact that Granny's mother died at the age of 104 then that suggests that we are a long lived bunch, although I don't think I will be continuing that.

Speaking of lucky, we were able to have a nice dinner for Valentine's Day. It just looked a bit different than we expeected. Originally we were planning to go to dinner at a local winery but obviously once the lockdown was announced that plan went out the window. Instead, we ordered a steak meal from a French restaurant near the city which we just had to finish off and then we sat on the deck for dinner. It was a lovely meal and now I am thinking that we need to actually visit that restaurant.

Posts from the last week

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

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Weekend Cooking: Around the World with Atlas Masterclass - Episode 3

Before I start I wanted to apologise for last week. I didn't realise the Mr Linky hadn't embedded properly in my post until late on Sunday my time which means people couldn't add in their links. I will do better today!

Last year we discovered the Atlas mealkits which I have posted about a couple of times before (here and here). We haven't been ordereing them quite as often as we had been, but when we do we are still enjoying them.

Since the last time I posted we have done five more boxes - France, America, Argentina and this week China along with a favourites box. That's covering a fair amount of the world without actually leaving home. 

Favourites Box

This is when the company puts together a selection of dishes in one box. The main reason for choosing this dish was the Eggplant Moussaka which ironically was our least favourite. I am still on the lookout for a really good moussaka. One day I will find it!

Patatas Bravas, Chicken, Potatoes and Chorizo

    Eggplant Moussaka

Porchetta, Fennel, Radicchio and Orange Salad


 Thyme Roasted Chicked, lentils and goats cheese salad

Steak Frites, Cafe de Paris butter, asparagus


We also had a Tuna Nicoise Salad which I didn't take a photo of.

Our favourite of these was the Steak and Frites. The Cafe de Paris butter was delicious, and the meat that comes in these boxes is always really good quality.

USA - Thanksgiving box

The three meals in this box were: 

Thanksgiving chicken dinner with all the trimming

Including apple pie!

Baked beans, corn cakes, peach and ricotta salad

Beef Burger on a potato bun with fries


The burger sauce on this was amazing! So much so that we had normal burgers a couple of days later just so that we could make sure that we used it all. We didn't want to throw out a drop if we could avoid it!


Chicken a la Plancha with pasta

Potato and Mozzarella Tortilla  (we may have added extra mozzarella)

We also had Beef Skewers with Radish and Orange Salad. The biggest surprise of this was the radish. I could have sworn that I didn't like radish, but it didn't taste anything like I thought it did, and it was delicious with the orange.


Char Sui Pork Baos - so delicious!

Da Pan Ji Chicken with Noodles

Tonight we will be having Shitake Dumplings, Sichuan Vinegar Sauce.

Where will be going next? I am not really sure, but it will be somewhere.

Weekly meals

Saturday: Out for dinner
Sunday: Toasted Sandwiches
Wednesday: Pork Char Sui Bao Buns
Thursday: Da Pan Ji Chicken with Noodles
Friday: Grilled cheese on toast

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.

Monday, February 08, 2021

This Week I .....

 I'm reading....

I am not really sure how it happened but I have joined a lot of bookclub type groups on Facebook. On one of them there has been one book mentioned quite a few times that caught my attention. I can't remember if it was a reading choice or something butafter seeing it mentioned over and over I decided to read it myself. Who says peer pressure ends when you are a grown up? And what is that book? The Winemaker's Wife by Kristin Harmel. She is an author I have heard of before, but I haven't read her before. So far, I am very much enjoying the book and I can definitely see myself reading more of her books...after I have finished this one of course.

I am about half way through listening to The Sun Sister by Lucinda Riley, but I do have a few drives to work coming up so I should be able to make a bit of a dent in it over the next couple of weeks.

I'm watching....

I started watching The Watch last week, mainly because nothing else caught my attention, and I am pretty sure it wasn't worth the effort. It is supposed to be an adaptation of Terry Pratchett's Watch books, which are part of the Discworld series, but it's missing something, maybe the humour or the heart or something.

I think this week we might start WandaVision and see how that goes. I have also got episodes of Us, Discovery of Watches and an Australian show called The End to get to too. 

Is anyone watching anything good at the moment?


I was home alone over the weekend. My husband had to drive up to Queensland with his son and so in theory I had the house to myself. That is the longest we have been apart since he moved in, so I had to try very hard not to mope too much. 

On Saturday night I joined some friends at a free Melbourny Symphony Orchestra event. It was reallly interesting. A couple of years ago there would have been about 12000 people at this event, all sitting on blankets in the park, crowded together. Of course,in this new world we had to watch in a COVID safe way, so we all had a pod seated a maximum of 6 people, you could order food from food trucks that you then went and picked up at a nominated time. It was all very efficient and very civilised, and a perfect way to spend a very balmy summer night.

I also managed to track down my first uoouoo. What is a uoouoo you ask? They are a series of painted sculptures that are scattered around the city to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Royal Children's Hospital. I do intend to find at least some more over the coming few weeks.

Posts from the last week

Weekend Cooking: Chocolate Mousse Cake

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

Sunday, February 07, 2021

Six Degrees of Separation: From Redhead by the Side of the Road to One Hundred Years of Solitude

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 missed last months Six Degrees which was a shame, but I am back this month with a list that contains at least one tenuous link! See if you can spot it.

The starting point this month is Redhead by the Side of the Road by Anne Tyler, an author who I have  never read, although I am sure I should have! I did think about doing books with red in the title but I have a feeling I have done that before, if not in Six Degrees, definitely in a Top Ten Tuesday post, so I took a different direction.

The Secret of the Mansion by Julie Campbell (Trixie Belden mysteries book 1) - My first thought related to the word redhead and that kind of inevitably lead to me to think about my first red headed book crush - Jim from the Trixie Belden books!

Voyager by Diana Gabaldon - Jim was not my only red headed literary crush. There was also James Alexander Malcolm Mackenzie Fraser from the Outlander series. This book, the third in the main series, is probably my favourite. Maybe it is something about a variation of the name James, and not the redhead, but I don't think so.

The Red Scarf/Under a Blood Red Sky by Kate Furnivall - When I checked my handy dandy spreadsheet which list the books I have read since  2004, the author directly above Diana Gabaldon alphabetically is Kate Furnival. I kept on thinking about the red scarf as the link too. This book is set in 1930s Russia, specifically in a Siberian prison camp.

The Tolstoy Estate by Steven Conte - Also set in Russia, but this time during WWII, this was one of my favourite books from last year

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy - An obvious connection here, from a book where most of the action takes place at Tolstoy's house  to a book written by the man.

One Hundred  Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez- I originally read Anna Karenina as part of Oprah's Book Club back in the 90s.  This was the first book that I ever  read with the book club! I am not sure I would've read either without my fellow readers and the fun that we had in the forums. I am still online friends with a lot of those people now!

Did you spot the very tenuous link?

Next month the starting point is Phosphorence by Julia Baird, which is going to be interesting to find a connection to. Better get my thinking cap on early for that one!


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