Friday, April 30, 2021

Tuning up for Music A-Z


Last year during the extended lockdown period, a friend of mine did a daily post on Facebook where we would start at the letter A and we would share a song where either the title or the artist begin with the letter A, and then the next day the letter would be B and so on and so on.

At the time, I thought this might be a bit fun to do on the blog, so I set up 26 posts in draft, and started making notes for each letter, and then......nothing.

I have thought about starting doing the A-Z a few times, but now, I have decided that May is the time! Assuming I post every week on a Thursday, I should be finished by November!

To give you a few examples, you may be aware that I am big fan of Keith Urban, and a couple of my favourite songs are Days Gone By and Parallel Lines. You therefore might see these song mentioned in the week when I am focussing on the letter K or U or D or P!

Each week there will be 3 or 4 songs that I share. The songs maybe from a favourite artist or song. It could be from a concert I have been to in the past, or an artist I would love to see in concert, or maybe even a song or artist that I really don't like and I want to understand why everyone else does. Or just a random memory.

The idea is just to have a bit of fun for a little while!

If you want to join in please feel free to do so in the comments, or on your blog if you like! 

My first actual post will be next Thursday! So to give you a taste, I bring you Thursday by Jess Glynne. I remember the music station announcing Jess Glynne as an upcoming star. I really like her voice so there may be at least one more song by her in the next few months!

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Weekend Cooking: What I Baked in April

And just llike that it is the end of April! The month seems to have gone very quickly, maybe because we were away for a week of it!

Here's what I baked in April:

Carrot, Walnut and Ginger Cake - This is one of our all time favourite cakes. I was thinking about making something chocolatey for Easter, but we ended up deciding that the Easter Bunny would be happy with a carrot cake right. You can see the recipe for this one here.

Upside Down Pineapple Cake - I have made a bit of a foolhardy decision which is that I am going to make something inspired by each episode of Great British Bake Off this season. Originally the idea was to do the technical bake but on week 3 I decided that might be too hard, so now it is just something from each episode. The challenge on week 1 was to make individual upside down pineapple cake, but I didn't have individual ramekins so I made one big cake using a Nigella Lawson recipe. It wasn't as pretty as hers because I didn't have the right size tin and I think our pineappple rings might be bigger than those in the UK but it was delicious and easy enough to make.

Irish Soda Bread - this is another GBBO inspired bake. The weather is getting colder here, so last weekend we made a Beef and Pepper Stew in the pressure cooker that the recipe says to serve with dumplings. We have done it with dumplings previously, and another time with a pastry lid, but this time we served it with freshly baked soda bread! This is bread that is super quick and easy to make so I think we will do this again.

Spicy Apple and Ginger Self Saucing Pudding - We had friends around for dinner last weekend. we served up this Pork and Fennel recipe and then for dessert we had one of our favourite desserts from last winter. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a photo but everyone enjoyed it.

Weekly Menu

Saturday: Crispy Skin Pork Belly with Caramelised Apples
Sunday: Beef and Pepper Stew with soda bread
Monday: Zucchini Parmesan and Tomato Risotto
Tuesday: Spag Bol
Wednesday: Pork Nachos
Thursday: Takeaway
Friday: Leftovers from lunch!

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, April 21, 2021

Lettters from Berlin by Tania Blanchard

I actually read this book last year, and wrote this review then as well, but just never posted it! So better late than never!

Also, be sure to check out the guest post that Tania shared which you can find here


I have been aware of Australian author Tania Blanchard for a few years now, but this, her third book, is the first I have actually read which is an oversight on my part, and one I intend to rectify.

The books opens with an Australian woman, Ingrid, sitting with her pregnant daughter to open a packet of letters from her biological mother and telling the story of her family in Germany in WWII. The reason I mention this is that you could think that this is a dual timeline novel, travelling back and forward in time, but really it is not. The current day is only the beginning and then the end so, in effect, frames the actual story rather than being part of the story. It also almost reflects how the author's family learnt the actual story of their own family. 

Susie Gottman has been raised by her godparents, Onkel Georg and Tante Elya, since the death of her parents and brother in a car accident.  She has grown up on the family estate, Gut Birkenhof, just outside of Berlin.

Georg and Elya have what is now deemed to be a mixed marriage, in that Elya is a Russian Jewish woman, which isn't a good thing to be in Nazi Germany. Whilst new mixed marriages are illegal, existing marriages provide some protection to Jewish people and Georg is doing everything he can to protect his wife and son, Leo, who is classified as a mischling. Georg is basically landed gentry, and he uses his position to cultivate relationships with powerful Nazi's in order to provide protection to his family. This doesn't necessarily go down well with the neighbours, who are suspicious both of this situation and the fact that Elya is Jewish.

When Susie moves to Berlin and becomes a nurse, close family friend Julius offers to take Susie under his wing which gives her access to information that she can pass through to the resistance. But Julius has his own agenda when it comes to Susie and is not afraid of a bit of emotional blackmail to get what he wants. Meanwhile, Susie is dealing with the feelings that she has for Leo.

As the war continues, the Russian's are approaching Berlin, and the intensity of life in Nazi Germany increases, along with the distrust between friends and neighbours. The threat to Susie's loved ones increases, and even high ranking German officials begin to turn on each other.

I enjoyed reading about the German resistance in this book. I have read so many books over the years which featured French resistance and Polish resistance, but I don't think that I have read many about German resistance. In fact, I have read several books this year where the German story is being told. 

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the review copy.

Goodreads summary

From the bestselling author of The Girl from Munich and Suitcase of Dreams comes an unforgettable tale of love, courage and betrayal inspired by a true story

Berlin, 1943

As the Allied forces edge closer, the Third Reich tightens its grip on its people. For eighteen-year-old Susanna Göttmann, this means her beloved adopted family including the man she loves, Leo, are at risk. His mother – Susie’s godmother – is forced to register as a Jew and wear the Star of David, bearing the resentment of the village she has always called home.

Desperate to protect them any way she can, Susie accepts the help of an influential Nazi officer. It means she must abandon any hope of a future with Leo and enter the terrifying world of the Nazi elite.

But all is not lost as her newfound position offers more than she could have hoped for … With critical intelligence at her fingertips, Susie seizes a dangerous opportunity to help the resistance.

The decisions she makes could change the course of the war, but what will they mean for her family and her future?

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Top Ten Tuesday: Cartoon Covers



Welcome to this week's edition of Top Ten Tuesday which is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week's theme is Colorful Book Covers. I feel like I did this theme not too long ago, so I am twisting it a bit to be Cartoon-ish Covers.  They should be somewhat colourful by nature shouldn't they? 

Sweetheart by Sarah Mayberry - This book is part of four connected series of books set in the World of True North. All of the books set in the Busy Bean cafe have this style of cover.

Flying the Nest by Rachael Johns - Love the yellow of this cover!

You Were Made for me by Jenna Guillaume - If you fancy some Aussie YA this might be a good choice for you.

Rosie's Travelling Tea Shop by Rebecca Raisin - I enjoy the way Raisin writes about books and food (and Paris, although this one isn't set there)

If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane - I must read more by this author.

Beach Read by Emily Henry  - I am very much looking forward to reading this author's next book!

The Switch by Beth O'Leary - another author with an upcoming book that I am excited about!

Welcome to Rosie Hopkin's Sweet Shop of Dreams by Jenny Colgan - This was the first Jenny Colgan book I read but it wasn't the last. I still have plenty more of her backlist to get through.

The New Beginnings Coffee Club by Samantha Tonge - I randomly read this book about 18 months ago and I really enjoyed it! I need to read more from her.

Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett - I couldn't do a TTT about cartoon covers without including at least one Pratchett cover!

Monday, April 19, 2021

This week....

I'm reading....

This week I am back to my WWII reading place. Over the weekend I started The Warsaw Orphan by Kelly Rimmer which is out next week. She is an author who I have meant to read before now. I am only in the early stages of the book but I am already asking myself why oh why haven't I read her before!

I am still limping along with my audiobook of The Sun Sister by Lucinda Riley. I think I have maybe around 3 hours left. It's not that I am not enjoying it, I am, but it has been a real struggle finding the time. And in the mean time I am building up lots of Audible credits in my future! There's every chance I will finish this book just as the last book in the series is released in May.

When we were at brunch on Saturday one of my friends surprised me with a book!  She has bought 4 blind-date-with-a-book packages from her local bookstore, and the idea is that once the four people involved have each read our book we will swap until the four of us have read them all. It was a lovely surprise and I am looking forward to participating. The book I got was a new to me author, so it will be good to see how it is!

I'm watching....

I recently discovered that we can watch season 4 of The Casketeers. I have mentioned before how much we enjoy watching this show. It is funny and moving, and great feel good TV.


We have also been waiting patiently to watch season 6 of Friday Night Dinners, especially followingthe death of Paul Ritter a few weeks ago. We watched all six episodes yesterday and we laughed a lot. I have no idea if they knew he was sick when they filmed that last season, but it felt like it ended at a good point if there aren't going to be any more.

And in good news, the new series of Masterchef Australia starts tonight! Yay!


We had a busy weekend. We were out for brunch both days, and then we had friends over for dinner.

We did manage to score tickets to see all of the uoouoos on display all in one location. Well, 99 of the 100! It was so fun to getto see them. We even got to speak to a couple of the artists which was fascinating. You can see some of the others we tracked down around the city over the last couple of months here or on Instagram!

My husband named Robert with the uoouoo named Robert

Posts from the last week

Blog Tour: Secrets of the Railway Girls/Railway Girls in Love
Weekend Cooking: Lemon Poppyseed Bundt Cake

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

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Weekend Cooking: Lemon Poppyseed Bundt cake

On the odd occasion that I get the opportunity, I will buy a muffin for breakfast. While I like blueberry muffins, and raspberry and white chocolate muffins,really, my favourite is orange poppyseed. The reality is though, that it is a very specific type I like. Ideally it has to have a cream cheese topping. the problem with buying muffins from the shops though is that sometimes they are a bit dry, or a bit too moist, but when you get one that is just right....perfection. Funnily enough, the best ones locally are available at the local petrol station (or gas station).

While I have tried to make orange poppyseed cake, but it has been a long time! I did think that I still had poppyseed in the cupboard but I must have thrown it them out because I couldn't find them. Poppyseed is one of these ingredients that I buy for very specific recipes, and then never use it for anything else. 

I guess the key to avoiding that kind of waste, is to find a recipe that you like so much, that you can make it several time, therefore not wasting so much.

Recently in a Facebook group, someone posted what they said was a family favourite, so I grabbed a snip of it so I could try it.. Unfortunately I haven't been able to find who shared the recipe again, but I thank them for it.  I did also love the opportunity to pull out the bundt tin which in my opinion I don't get to use often enough.

The recipe was quite easy to do and it was very tasty, so I do have every intention that I will make it again before this lot of poppyseeds have to be thrown away! Next time I will remember to try and take a photo of a slice of the cake!

Lemon Poppyseed Bundt Cake

250 grams pure butter
I cup castor sugar
4 eggs.
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup poppy seeds
1/3 cup lemon juice
The lemon zest of a whole lemon
1 teaspoon pure vanilla essence
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups self raising flour.

Cream butter amd sugar
Add eggs one at a time. Mix well
Add milk, lemon juice and vanilla essence
Add poppyseeds and lemon zest
Then add flour and baking slowly .
Bake in the oven at 180 c for 40 minutes
Decorate with icing sugar and lemon zest.

Weekly Menu

Saturday: Leftover pizza
Monday: Out for dinner
Tuesday: Peri Peri Checken with mashed sweet potato
Wednesday: Boerwors with chakalaka sauch and bobotie rice
Thursday: Chargrilled stake with guacamole, salsa and tortillas
Friday: Out for dinner.

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, April 16, 2021

Blog Tour: Secrets of the Railway Girls and Railway Girls in Love by Maisie Thomas

Last year I read and reviewed the first book in the Railway Girls series by Maisie Thomas. Today, I am meant to be reviewing the third book, The Railway Girls in Love, as part of a blog tour. I can see the cogs turning, saying but what about the second book? Well, I am going to cheat and talk about both books.

This book commences just prior to Christmas 1940, a time when Manchester was suffering under ongoing air raids by German bombers.

Dot is busy being devoted wife to the Reg (who quite frankly doesn't deserve her), mother in law to Pammy and Sheila who are on their own whilst their husbands are away fighting, and grandmother to the ever mischievous Jimmy and pretty Jenny. Dot cooks, cleans, works full time on the railways and provides a listening ear and sage advice to the younger railway girls who she befriended when she started working.  But don't think that Dot is a saint. She knows that she has a tendency to jump to conclusions, to be a perfectionst when it comes to her housewife duties, can be a bit impatient with Reg, but she always has her family's best interests at heart.

Joan is still living at home with her Gran and her beautiful sister Letitia. The girls have both always know that Letitia has been their Gran's favourite, but they are the only family that they have given that their mother ran away with her 'fancy man' and their saintly father had died of a broken heart. Luckily, her boyfriend Bob's family, the Hubble's have taken her into their hearts. Joan is an all round good person, someone most people would like if they had a chance to meet her.

Mabel is finally coming out of her shell, helped by her own cheeky blighter boyfriend Harry Knatchbull. She's happy living in Manchester, and doing hard physical work on the railway line, even though that she has been bought up to be a lady. She would be safer at home with her parents, but Mabel has let guilt over past events to stay away.

As a reader, we know that in 1940 the war still has a long way to go, the characters aren't to know that there will still be several more years of war to come. They, in turn, display hope that the war will be over soon and their loved ones will be home safe and sound, to self doubt (for example when Dot wonders if she is selfish to still have her grandchildren at home rather than evacuating them to the country) and to despair as they lose people around them or their homes.

One of the key storylines in the book relates to Dot trying to uncover the truth about a possible theft from a secret food store. She enlists her friends to assist her, including lovely, friendly Mr Thirkle. At first, I wasn't sure about this storyline but it did make sense as the book went along.

Whilst the women prove their competence at their jobs time and time again, there are still plenty of people who don't like them doing men's work, and the women are often held to a higher standard of behaviour than their male co-workers might otherwise have been!

One of the main focuses of Secrets of the Railway Girls is the description of the Christmas Blitz which took place in Manchester in late 1940. The descriptions of the bombings and of people being affected in small and large ways, were extremely vivid and is one of the main strengths of this book!

Moving onto The Railway Girls in Love, we learn more about the girls as they deal with the events from the early years of the war. Dot, Joan and Mable are still the main focus of this book, but the various secondary characters come more and more to the fore. I especially loved that poor Lizzie's mum plays such a key role, along with claustrophobic Mrs Grayson who we met in the last book.

Dot still has a tendency to get involved in things that might not be her business, but when it affects the people she loves, she can't help herself. She also has grown her friendships within the group, particularly with posh Cordelia. Before the war, the closest that Dot would have come to meeting Cordelia would be if she worked for her as a cleaner or something similar, but in this new world where everyone is performing new roles they are fast friends, often combining to become a formidable pair as they support their friends.

For Joan, this book is the one where she finds out the truth of who she really is, and what happened in her family's tragic past. It also includes showdowns with her gran where they confront the secrets and lies from the past and have to try to build a new relationship, if that is even possible. Joan is the first to admit that she hasn't always made the right decisions, but she realises what it is that she wants from life.

Mabel is also coming to terms with the events of the past that have shaped her, and we finally find out the whole story about the death of the sister of her heart, Althea. This is the story that has been teased right from the beginning of the first book in the series, so it was good to finally know what it was that she felt so guilty about. Mabel is happy with her boyfriend Harry, so it is uncomfortable when an old boyfriend turns up, forcing her to confront those events. 

I love the detail that the author includes that makes the characters come alive and become people that we can relate to. For example, I couldn't help but think of us now with the following quote. When I watch something on TV now where people are hugging and kissing, I can't help but think social distancing??? in my mind!

...."She says she's sorry she can't offer you the Bentley, but her store of petrol has almost run out, so she'll be relying on applying for coupons from now on. Between ourselves, she's been on the receiving end of some criticism for using the Bentley."

"It's understandable," said Cordelia. "It's become such a large part of our thinking these days. My neighbour was called away unexpectedly and she asked me to look after her children for the evening. She said all I needed to do was read them a chapter from The Wind in the Willows. It turned out to be the part where Mr Toad drives around. Young Lucy asked where he'd got the petrol coupons and her brother said he must have got them off the black market."

"They played "Bye Bye Blackbird" on the wireless the other day," said Alison, "and I was singing along, but when it got to the bit about "light the light", I found myself thinking: what about the blackout."

As I read this book, I found myself completely invested in the friendship between all of the women, despite their differences in status, age and background. This was particularly true as we reached the end of Railway Girls in Love, where they all came together as one in support of one of their own.

I was also struck by the resilience the people of Manchester had to display as they try to go about their everyday lives. Incendiary bombs falling as you try to get home from work? Find a nearby cellar to wait it out. Your house bombed out, find a new place to live with the help of your friends, church hall flooded when there is a big event coming up, find another location. Of course, these events are stressful but with humour, resilience and the help of your friends anything can be achieved.

I have already seen that there is going to be another Railway Girls book in September. Whilst I still think that there is a lot of story still for Mabel, Dot and Joan, I am hoping that we will get to know some of the other women better too. I particularly think that there is much more to Colette's story than we have been privy to so far.

I have enjoyed all three books in this series, particularly these last two. I am already looking forward to reading it. This is one series that should be read in order, so start with The Railway Girls

Rating 4/5 for both books

Thanks to Netgalley and Random House UK for the review copy.

Be sure to check out other stops on the blog tour to see what other's thought of this book!

Monday, April 12, 2021

This Week ....

 I'm reading....

I finally picked up the fourth book in the Granite Springs series by Maggie Christensen. I read the first three books in the series in quick succession earlier this year but despite my best intentions I hadn't yet got to the next book. The Life She Finds was actually really good.  I am really enjoying these more mature romances set in country Australia.

I have now started Railway Girls in Love by Maisie Thomas, which is the third book in the Railway Girls series, and the review for this one will be up later this week. I read the second book last week and enjoyed it.

I'm watching...

We haven't really started anything new. We are all caught up on both Great British Bake Off and the associated Extra Slice. I have decided to try and make the technical challenge from each episode. More precisely I had decided to do this until I got to the third episode and saw what the technical challenge was, after which I decided to just make something. 

We are also up to date with The Arrow and the Winter Soldier which is good, although if I had to pick between that and Wandavision, I would pick Wandavision every time.

We are also excited that Anh's Brush with Fame is back on too. We really enjoy the conversations that Anh has with various celebrities while he paints their portrait. Definitely falls under the definition of fee good TV.


Actually not a lot going on this week.After being away last week we had a quiet weekend, but we are in preparation phase for the next home reno project. We'll see how that goes.

Posts from the last week

Top Ten Tuesday: Watery Books
Weekend Cooking: Sounds of Silence Dinner

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

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Weekend Cooking: Sounds of Silence dinner at Uluru

Last week we fulfilled a dream of mine and visited Uluru in the red centre of Australia! It is a place that I have wanted to visit for years. We were supposed to go in September of last year, know.....Covid happened.

It was such an amazing place to visit, and I could write for ages about the experience,  but today I wanted to focus on the food side of the trip. Whilst shows like Masterchef have contestants regularly using native ingredients, I wouldn't suggest that it isn't really that mainstream yet. I think I have tried a cheesecake before that featured native ingredients, but I didn't really enjoy it, so I was a bit concerned that I wasn't going to like anything, but, in the end, I needn't have been concerned.

On our first full days at the resort we did a lot of the free activities, one of which was about bush food. Whilst the area around Uluru is full of shrubs and low trees, we were assured that there was plenty of food about, if you know what you are looking for. It was also important to know about different varieties because they may have very different properties even though they are part of the same family. For example, there was a type of leaf called senna that you could eat, but there was a very close relative called chocolate senna that is a laxative so you don't want to eat at the wrong time! In addition, the guide talked about honey ants, witchety grub, bush tomatoes, desert plums and so much more. It was very interesting! 

At the end of that talk we all got to taste Wattleseed Shortbread which was delicious. It is a minimal amount of wattleseed that is added into the recipe - just enough to give it a distinctive taste. I have shared the recipe below.

The highlight of our trip was the Sounds of Silence dinner. What a night. It started with sparkling wine and canapes as the sun set, with views of both Uluru and Kata-juta in the distance. During dinner there was a didgeridoo being played and then there was a talk about the stars. Given that there is so little light pollution out there, the amount of stars you can see in the sky is amazing compared to in the city.

I am guessing that the little boxes containing the canapes are to keep the event COVID friendly rather than having someone walking around offering up platters.

We then had a starter of bush tomato soup, which didn't taste dissimilar to normal tomato soup but maybe a little sweeter.

There we moved onto a buffet dinner. I can't remember what all the different meats were, but the coleslaw type salad that you can see in the photo included shredded crocodile in it, which was actually very nice. You could do something similar with chicken or fish quite easily. The fish was delicious as were the lamb cutlets, and I am really going to have to play around with roasting cauliflower because that was delicious too!

The dessert was also buffet and all of them were delicious and all had at least some native flavourings in them too, ranging from bite sized (two bits at most!)  brownies, to cheesecake, crumble tarts and pudding with custard

The people at our table included an older couple who ended up not living too far from us, an older lady, and then one young English couple and one young American who had both been working in Australia for a couple of years and were making sure to see as much of the country as they could. The wine flowed freely, as did the conversation. 

It was a magic night!

Wattleseed Shortbread

200g unsalted butter, softened

90g icing sugar

1 egg yolk

250g plain flour

2g baking powder.

5g wattleseed

Preheat oven 1t 190C (374f)

Lightly cream the soft butter and sugar

Mix in the egg yolk

Fold in the flour, baking powder and wattleseed

Roll into small balls

Bake for 15-18 minutes until golden brown, then cool on a wire rack.

Weekly Meals

Saturday: Airport dinner where there was very little open!
Sunday: Seafood Chowder Pie
Monday: Takeaway
Tuesday: Garlic Lamp Rump with Capsicum and Walnut dip and fattoush
Wednesday: Pineapple and chicken kebabs with rice
Thursday: Pork Vindaloo with rice and salad
Friday: Pizza (family dinner)

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, April 06, 2021

Top Ten Tuesday: Watery books


Welcome to this week's edition of Top Ten Tuesday which is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week's theme is Books I’d Gladly Throw Into the Ocean which was submitted by Beauty & Her Books. While I could name some books that have annoyed me, I am twisting the theme this week to be books with a water theme.

Light Between Oceans by M L Stedman

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Sea Glass by Maria V Snyder - Must get back to this series this year!

The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley - Never miss an opportunity to mention this book.

The Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen - I think I heard that SAA is working on a new book, which is exciting!

The Lake House by Kate Morton

Lake in the Clouds by Sarah Donati - Not my favourite in this series, but still a good read!

The Lake of Dead Languages by Carol Goodman

Bila Yarrudhanggalangdhuray by Anita Heiss - This is a book that doesn't come out until next month but I read it last week and really enjoyed it. The title translates to River of Dreams