Monday, August 30, 2021

This Week I ...

I'm reading...

I am on a bit of a roll at the moment with new to me authors that I have enjoyed and will definitely read more. Over the last couple of weeks I have read Heather Webb, Lucy Parker and this week it was Natasha Lester. Now, as someone who reads a lot of historical fiction, and a lot of Australian authors, it is a bit crazy that I haven't read Natasha Lester before now. Now I have, and now I need to read more.

My dilemna is what to read next. I could read another book by one of these three authors, or I could read a review book, or I could take a look at what other books I have here that I haven't read the author before and see if my streak will continue or not.

In the end, I decided to start The Fish Wife by Miranda Riwoe because last week I listened to a podcast with her which is part of a series being released by Historical Novel Society Australasia in the lead up to their conference which is happening in October. I really should buy my tickets

I'm Watching....

We are now all caught up on Attack on Titan,  the anime series we have been watching with my son. The next episodes aren't released until January (or March) next year, so I don't expect to see him too often before then! It's been nice to have him out of his room for a few weeks at least.

We also watched Shaun of the Dead over the weekend. This is one of those movies where if we are channel surfing and we happen to see this we will watch it.

Both of these shows count for RIP. Now I need to ensure that I read something for the challenge too.


Not a lot to tell here. Another week of lockdown is probably all I need to say.

Music A-Z: N

Weekend Cooking: What I Baked in August

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

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Weekend Cooking: What I Baked in August

It's the last Saturday of the month and that means it is time to share what I have baked during the month of August.

It has actually been a busy baking month this month, and I have a very long list of things I want to try making so it might well be in September too. It's not like I dont have the time given that we have been in lockdown for a few weeks now, and I think it is unlikely that those restrictions  will be lifted this week either.

Mini Jam Tarts  - I made these specifically to be able to include a photo in my post about the book The Jam Queens which I shared a few weeks ago. I have shared the recipe for these previously here.

Lemon Angel Food Cake - When watching the Great Canadian Baking Show, one of the bakes that caught my eye was an Orange Chiffon Cake. I went and bought the specific tin and everything but then I realised I have a profusion of lemons on my tree at the moment so instead I made Lemon Angel Food Cake. It was oh my goodness level of delicious. I did make a bit of a mistake though, if that is the right word. When I decided to make the cake I decided that I was going to send some of it around to my sister's house, which I was more than happy to do, as they had been ordered to isolate due to a positive case at my nephew's school. One bite of the cake though, we realised that it ws so light, so fluffy and so delicious that we should have kept it for ourselves! Oh well, I have the tin so I can make it again at some point. Luckily, they enjoyed it too!

Lemon Mousse - In the recipe for the cake it suggests you can buy lemon curd, but I decided to make my own which I then used as part of the topping for the cake. I did, however, have quite a bit leftover, so I decided to make individual pots of lemon mousse! So good.

Filo Cream Parcels - I have watched Nadiya Hussain's Netflix series Nadiya Bakes a couple of times now. One of the first things I decided to make out of the book when I read it was the Filo Cream Parcels. I shared the recipe for this last week as part of the joint review I did with BethFish Reads.

Japanese Jiggle Cheesecake - I first heard of this recipe on Great British Bake Off and have had it on my list to make ever since then.  Again, light, fluffy and jiggly. I think now I need to have a cheesecake month where I can decide whether I like this, the Basque Cheesecake I made a few months ago or a New York style baked cheesecake. 

Weekly Meals

Saturday - 
Sunday - Bangers and Mash Pie
Monday - Chicken Burrito Bowls
Tuesday - Beef Stroganoff
Wednesday - Green Curry Chicken Pie
Thursday - Steak, Baked Potato and Vegetables
Friday - 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

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Music A to Z: N

Welcome to this week's edition of my Music A to Z feature. Each week on Thursday, I am going to share a song where either the song or the artist name begins with the letter for that week. This week, the letter is....


No One is to Blame by Howard Jones - I am starting with one of my all time favourite songs. I am not sure what it is that makes it so good. It just is!

The Riddle by Nik Kershaw - From the same era as the last song, this is one of my husband's all time favourite songs.

Not  Ready to Make Nice by Dixie Chicks - This song comes under the category of songs to sing when you are in a rebellious mood, or even just a bad mood. It is strong and angry and very cathartic to shout along to.

Do you have a favourite N song? Share in the comments!

Monday, August 23, 2021

This Week I...

I'm reading

I finished reading Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe by Heather Webb this week and I thoroughly enjoyed it! It reminded me a lot of Sarah Addison Allen's books with a really easy reading style, a touch of magical realism, delicious food and so much more. I have another book from this author on my Kindle which I will be reading soon, and I have plans for a Weekend Cooking post about this one. 

I then started reading Battle Royale by New Zealand author Lucy Parker as several people I know have been waiting impatiently for this book. I clearly haven't been paying attention as this is my first Lucy Parker book but I already know it will not be my last. I am enjoying it a lot. The premise is that two rival bakers can't stand each other, but then they become judges on a Great British Bake Off style TV baking show. If I had more Weekend Cooking slots this would also make a good post too.

Finally, I went for a walk this week, and so it seemed like a good chance to start a new audio book. I have been meaning to read Katherine Arden's The Bear and the Nightingale for the longest time. I am not sure how much listening time I will have so this could be a mistake, but we'll see right.

I'm Watching...

We continue to watch Attack on Titan with my son, but other than that we also finally watched the first season of Ted Lasso. What a great show! We thoroughly enjoyed it, and I can't wait to watch the second series.


We did have a first meeting of a brand new bookclub on the weekend. The plan originally would have been to meet in person but given that are still in strict lockdown that wasn't possible so it had to be on Zoom. My friend and I have been talking about starting a book group for the longest time but we couldn't convince many of our real life friends so other than the fact that we know each other, everyone else is going to be a stranger.  I know someone who is a member of a read-on-a-theme bookclub and I really like the sound of it. I was therefore pleased when the other members who attended agreed that they are happy with this. Our first theme is Spring, and I already have several ideas for books that might fit that theme.

I was excited to see that Readers Imbibing Peril (RIP) is back this year. This is the 16th year it has been on which is quite amazing when you think about it. Once again this year the focus is on social media rather than blogging, but there will be some fun events

What is RIP? It's a chance to dip into anything that might be Mystery, Suspense,Thriller, Dark Fantasy, Gothic, Horror or Supernatural and is time to fit in with Fall in the Northern hemisphere and ends at Halloween. This year, in addition to activity on Instagram, Twitter etc, there is also a Discord group and there is going to be a group read of The Sundial by Shirley Jackson, who I have never read. It should be fine. Check out more details on Instagram 

Posts from last week

Music A-Z: M

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

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Weekend Cooking: Nadiya Bakes by Nadiya Hussain

I am very excited this week to be sharing a collaborative post I have done with BethFishReads. Recently we discovered that we both had acquired the latest cookbook from British cook Nadiya Hussain which is called Nadiya Bakes.

BethFishReads was the original, longstanding host of Weekend Cooking and I was honoured to take over the hosting duties just over a year. I am glad that I have managed to keep Weekend Cooking alive so far! I do still feel like I have had big shoes to fill.

I have shared the recipe for Chocolate Caramel Flan from this book previously. It is a recipe that wows everyone that eats it, and was our dessert for our family Christmas last year. I filled the middle of the flan with fresh berries which looked very festive!

I have the first half of the post here, and the second half can be found at BethFishReads blog here. My thoughts are in purple and hersare in black.

M: I first came across British cook Nadiya Hussain in the sixth season of baking Great British Bake Off. Since winning that show, she has gone on to have several TV shows. How familiar were you with Nadiya Hussain?

B: I first learned of Nadiya when I watched her in the Great British Bake Off. And because I (and the world) followed her journey under the tent, I feel like I know her. I haven’t seen very many of her television appearances here in the United States--only the ones that have been available through Netflix.

I have, however, followed her career from afar. She wrote several cookbooks before Nadiya Bakes, all of which I have checked out of the library. I’ve gone on to buy most of them to add to my permanent collection. Did you know she also wrote a memoir, a novel, and a children’s book? I haven’t read any of them, but I’ve added her memoir to my wish list.

M: Nadiya comes from a Bangladeshi background and she loves to mix up more traditional recipes with flavours from Bangladesh and the surrounding countries. She also loves exploring other cultures. Did you enjoy this aspect of the book?

B: I’ve always been a fan of well-done culinary mashups, and I think Nadiya is one of the best at this. For example, the way she added chiles to the cranberry brioche and her version of traditional Eastern European rugelach that incorporates harissa.

I am impressed with the variety of flavors she includes in this book, for example, let’s just take a few recipes from her “No-Bake Bakes” chapter: we have a Bengali-spiced blueberry cake, a tarragon flavored charlotte, chocolate rice cereal treats, a tea version of tiramisu, a vegan mousse, and a virgin mojito. So within just a few pages, we have traveled around the world and have had both fancy and casual treats.

M: You have made a couple of dishes from the book including Baked Ratatouille. How did you find that recipe? What other recipes are you thinking about trying?

One of my favorite things about this cookbook is learning new techniques that I can use in my everyday cooking and her Baked Ratatouille is an excellent example. First, let me explain how this recipe is different from traditional ratatouille, which is made almost like a stew, slowly simmering on the stove top; it’s brimming with late summer vegetables and is vegetarian.

Nadiya turns this classic dish into a more hearty meal by adding ground lamb, thinly slicing the vegetables (the expected tomatoes, eggplant, and zucchini) and layering them in a baking dish, and then topping with fresh mozzarella. The ratatouille is then baked for an hour, and the results are wonderful.

The new trick I learned was to *bake* the ground meat with the tomato puree directly in the baking pan before adding the vegetables. Once the meat is cooked through, you layer on the other ingredients. This not only saved me from washing a saute pan but allowed the lamb to make a bottom “crust” for the dish. I’m going to experiment with this method to make other riffs on this dish (a lasagna-type bake? a layered enchilada?). I will make this dish again and again--we loved it, and the leftovers heated up beautifully.

M: I have a healthier version of lasagne from British chef Tom Kerridge on my blog that uses this technique!!

I, of course, have a million bread and sweet recipes marked to try: cinnamon swirl bread, berry hot cross buns, and pecan pie empanadas are just three. Among the savory bakes on my list are the chicken and brie pithivier, onion pretzels, and the peach-baked salmon.

B: Which recipe do you have on your want to try list that will push you to try something new (a new skill, a new ingredient …)

M: I have tried several recipes so far from this book, and in many ways they have all pushed me to try something new. The first recipe that I made was actually several months before I bought the book when I made the Chocolate Caramel Flan which I was a little intimidated by but it was such a fun bake. You start with a cake base, then pour a custard on top and when you take it out of the oven, the custard has formed a firm layer and the cake is at the top. This is what we had as our Christmas dessert last year, with the whole in the middle filled with lots of berries.

The recipe that I tried a few weeks ago was actually only one of the elements in a recipe. I have wanted to try making honeycomb for a long time. When someone makes it on shows like Masterchef everyone always talks about how tricky it is so I took the instructions on how to make honeycomb from the recipe called Honeycomb Rolls. The technique itself wasn’t too difficult, although I do need to have another go as mine was a bit bitter as I went a bit far with the caramel.

I also am keen to try the Chicken, Brie, Cranberry and Pink Peppercorn Pithivier. In the TV series she talks about how it is simple to make, but I think  it will take a bit of patience to make it, which isn’t always my strong point!

I probably shouldn’t start naming individual recipes as there are a lot that I want to try eventually. It's a sign of a good cookbook that it hasn't yet made it onto the shelf. I keep on looking through it thinking I want to make that and that and that!

Head over to BethFishReads to read the second part of our conversation

I thought I would share the recipe for Filo Cream Squares, which is Nadiya's version of a Znoud El Sit, a Middle Eastern dessert. I made this for my husband because he likes Lebanese food as his ex comes from this background and so he has eaten a lot of it over the years.

Filo Cream Parcels

For the cream filling:

1.2 litres double cream
120g ground rice or rice flour
100g caster sugar
1 orange, zest only (save the juice for the syrup)

For the filo casing:

270g pack of filo pastry
100g ghee or butter, melted
For the syrup:
200g caster sugar
juice of 1 orange, adding extra water to make up to 200ml
1 tsp orange blossom water
3 cardamom pods, seeds removed and crushed
A small pinch of saffron strands

For decoration:

50g pistachios, finely chopped

Prep time: 30 minutes, plus cooling and soaking. Cook time: 40 minutes.

Add the cream to a fairly deep saucepan on a high heat. As soon as it comes to the boil, turn down to a medium heat and keep stirring for about 10 minutes until it has reduced and thickened to make it richer.

Lower the heat, pour in your ground rice and whisk for 2–3 minutes until it really begins to thicken up. As soon as it starts to thicken and come away from the sides, take off the heat, add the sugar and orange zest and mix through. Pour onto a flat plate, smooth out and leave to cool as much as possible.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/gas 6 and have two large baking trays with sides at the ready.

Cut the pile of rectangular filo sheets down the middle into 14 squares. Lay them out and dollop an equal amount of the cooled cream mixture into the centre of each (if you want to be exact, it’s about 85g each).

Take a square, fold one side over, then the next, then the next and then the next, working your way round until you have encased the mound into a neat square, roughly 7cm. Repeat with the remaining squares.

Generously brush the base of the trays with the ghee, add the squares seam-side down and brush the tops with more ghee. Pop into the oven for 15–20 minutes to really crisp up the pastry.

Meanwhile, make the syrup by mixing the sugar, orange juice and water, orange blossom water, cardamom and saffron in a small pan. Give it a stir and, as soon as it comes to the boil, reduce the heat to low and leave for 10 minutes to thicken slightly.

As soon as the pastries are cooked and golden, pop them onto a serving dish and pour the syrup all over to soak into the filo. Leave to soak for 30 minutes.

These can be eaten as they are or are also delicious served chilled, which lets them firm up a little. Sprinkle on a tiny bit of pistachio just before serving.

Best eaten on the day they are made but will keep in the fridge for up to 24 hours.

Weekly Meals

Saturday - Baked Ratatouille
Sunday - More  Baked Ratatouille
Monday - Chicken parmigiana with mash potato and vegies
Tuesday - Zucchini, tomato parmesan and chorizo zucchini
Wednesday - Spanish Tuna Pasta Bake
Thursday - Mexican Chicken and Rice
Friday - 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

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Music A to Z: M

Welcome to this week's edition of my Music A to Z feature. Each week on Thursday, I am going to share a song where either the song or the artist name begins with the letter for that week. This week, the letter is....


Moves Like Jagger by Maroon 5 -  I think I must have exhausted all the songs that used to be my ringtone. I had this one for so long that it still makes me check my phone if I hear the chorus!

Blue Sky Mine by Midnight Oil - The first ever CD my husband ever bought was by Midnight Oil. It was therefore amazing when we got to see them live in concert a couple of years ago.

Classic by MKTO - I love this song. Not really sure why. In fact, I love their whole first album, but I have no idea about anything else that they have done!

What are you favouritte M songs?

Monday, August 16, 2021

This Week I....

I'm Reading

I finished reading The Space Between Worlds over the weekend and I thoroughly enjoyed it. As I mentioned last week sci fi isn't my normal genre, but I have read 4 sci fi books over the last couple of months and I still have a couple more on my stack.

I then started reading Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe by Heather Webber for the Cook the Books bookclub. I read one book as part of this bookclub last year, and I intended to read more, but for whatever reason I lost track. Now, I am all set for at least the next three selections.  As for this book, I was hooked from page 2. The story so far reminds me a bit of Sarah Addison Allen's story with their magical realism elements and lot of baking! I am looking forward to reading more.

I'm Watching

My son is now 22 years old and when he isn't at work or basketball he is basically in his room. We don't really see him much except for when dinner is ready. So when he asked if we wanted to watch anime series Attack on Titan we said yes, never expecting that we would end up watching it over several nights last week. I think we have 3 or 4 episodes left to go in the first series, and we will keep watching if it means that it will keep him outside of his room for a while!


Today we have been told that we will remain in lockdown until at least 2 September, and that the restrictions will be even tighter from tonight. The curfew that was in place this time last year has been reinstated, thanks mostly to those individuals within society that can't abide by the rules.We saw it for ourselves yesterday when we went for a walk to a local park and there were lots of people there standing around chatting in big groups whereas you are supposed to only be leaving home for exercise or a couple of other reasons.  It sound crazy that restrictions are tightening given that we are still only having 20 or so cases a day here in Victoria, but we will do what we have to and stay at home. 

We do have another trip planned to go to Canberra in mid September, but it is looking unlikely that we are going to get to go there which I think will be our fourth cancelled trip. We have pretty much gotten to the point that there is no much point in actually planning anything. When restrictions ease we will just make the decision to go somewhere and then go within a couple of days.

Posts from last week

Music A-Z: L

Weekend Cooking: Coffee Cream Cake

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

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Weekend Cooking: Coffee Cream Cake

When I posted What I Baked in July post a couple of weeks ago There were lots of comments about the coffee cream cake that I made.

As I mentioned in that post, we were watching one of the Bake Offs and the bakers were asked to make something that was coffee flavoured, and Robert started reminiscing about a coffee cream cake that his grandmother used to always have and so I went and found a recipe that sounded similar and made it for him. He was very happy with it and said it came very close to what he remembered. I even heard him talking to his parents about it and how it bought back memories of his grandmother. 

It's a pretty retro cake, but it did taste delicious, even for me who is more of an occasional coffee drinker rather than a coffee addict. I did reduce the coffee a fraction in the cake recipe.

That has made me think about the things I remember about my grandparents, and the foods I associate with my memories of them. I have posted a few times about things I remember about my cheeky grandfather. He always had licorice allsorts in a bowl next to his chair, and a packet of Kool Mints in the car. He was definitely a meat and three veg kind of guy, to the point that he didn't particularly like chicken, so would only ever eat the chicken wings. I do, however, have a memory of having a lot of family in their dining room having a big feast of KFC which at the time was the height of luxury for me.

I do also remember a story that I heard about him and my grandmother. The story goes that she used to regularly make steak and kidney pie. After 20 years apparently he finally gathered the courage to tell her that he didn't really like it. 

I also think of them on the odd occasion when I have a cappuccino. When my grandfather was in his 70s or 80s he developed a taste for cappuccino that I don't remember before that, and so they used to head off to the Kmart cafe and he would eat the froth off the top and we would all pretend to be horrified!  And that would happen every time! It makes me feel emotional thinking about this today.

As for my grandmother, she was apparently a very good cook (which is impressive given that most of her life she had to cook on a wood stove), but unfortunately my strongest memory of her cooking related to cooking dog food.  She also used to breed Australian Silky Terriers quite successfully, and we used to have to help her clean out the dog kennels at the end of each day. It was a horrible job but we all used to do it. She used to cook up big batches of dog meat so it was either cooking away on the stove or was sitting there waiting to be used. It had a certain kind of smell and occasionally my mother cooks savoury mince that smells just like it, and I struggle to eat it!

Anyway, before I got distracted by those memories, I thought I would share the recipe for the Coffee Cream Cake, seeing as so many people were interested in it. The recipe said to make it in a tube tin but I didn't have one of those at the time (I do now!)  so I just made a round cake.

I found this recipe at RecipeLand. I made it pretty much as stated although we don't have any coffee flavoured liqueur or whole coffee beans so I didn't use either of those. I was also quite surprised to see chocolate at the end of the recipe. I didn't use that either!

The other thing that I just realised when I am posting this is that this recipe is a variation on the chiffon/angel food cake that I made last weekend, given that it does call for the tube tin and for the cake to be cooled in the tin but inverted. This is me connecting the dots! 

Coffee Cream Cake


5 large eggs room temperature
1 cup sugar
½ teaspoon instant coffee powder 
3 tablespoons water, boiling
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder


2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons sugar
¼ cup coffee very strong
2 tablespoons liqueur coffee flavor, such as kahlua 
walnuts chopped, toasted 
coffee beans, whole

Preheat oven to 350℉ (180℃).

Separate eggs.

Combine egg yolks and 1 cup sugar in large bowl and beat until thick and lemon colored, about 5 minutes.

Dissolve coffee powder in boiling water. Blend in vanilla and dissolved coffee powder.

Combine flour and baking powder and blend into batter. 

Beat egg whites until stiff. 

Fold into batter. Turn into ungreased 10-inch tube pan.

Bake 30 minutes. Invert onto rack and let stand until completely cool.

For the frosting, whip cream with 2 tablespoons sugar until soft peaks form. Add cold coffee and liqueur and beat until stiff.

Slice cake crosswise into thirds. (I only did halves!)

Use about ⅓ of cream frosting to fill layers and remainder to frost entire cake (save some frosting and pipe rosettes over top for garnish, if desired).

Chill until whipped cream is slightly firm. Press nuts onto sides of cake and arrange coffee beans atop rosettes, if desired.

Chill 4 hours before serving.

Weekly Meals

Saturday - 
Sunday - Pork and cabbages steaks
Monday - steak baked potatoes
Tuesday - Sausages mash gravy
Wednesday - Spag bol
Thursday - Honey Chicken
Friday - 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, August 13, 2021

Joint Review: The Dressmakers of Yarrandarrah Prison by Meredith Jaffe

Some days I feel a bit sorry for Bree from All the Books I Can Read. She just has to mention that she is reading the same book as me or that I have read recently and enjoyed,  and next thing you know we are doing a joint review together. It's been a year or so since we did the last one, so it is about time I guess!!

This time, Bree has the first half of the discussion and I have the second half here. So, go on, go and read the first half and then come back here for the second half. I'll wait.....

Right, so, you're back! Yay!!

My thoughts are in purple and Bree's are in black.


I think Derek feared rejection and getting outside his comfort zone. He writes faithfully to his daughter regularly, has done for five years, but has never heard back. She’s never been to visit him. Derek’s daughter was quite young when he went to jail, about 16 and I think his downfall affected her life considerably. Derek struggles to make the decision to make her the dress because I think that if his daughter rejects it, rejects him, then he has to confront the idea full on that their relationship is over.

The idea about prisons and their purpose is a really interesting one. I know a lot of people get up in arms when you talk about things prisoners are allowed access to, such as television, etc. But the reasons people are there are wide and varied and if you don’t give them the chance to educate themselves or further that education, to build skills and develop healthy habits, what chance do they have of getting employment or not sliding back into previous habits when released? Doc is incredibly creepy but when the prison library is threatened, he does have a point. Libraries provide education and recreational opportunities and surely bored prisoners are more dangerous than engaged and occupied prisoners!

I really enjoyed the prison sewing group - there was something really sweet about imagining these men sewing cushions and quilts and learning new and more intricate sewing skills and imagining the idea of making this wedding dress. I thought Joey was a standout character and I also quite enjoyed Sean and I love the idea that this is based on a thing that actually exists. I have to admit, I did quite a bit of googling after I finished this and looked at the Fine Cell Work website - there’s a lot of stuff for sale! As someone who cannot sew to save her life, I admired the work done. They even offer the chance to commission something bespoke, which I thought was fantastic.

Did you find it easy to “picture” the dress the men made?

M: I had read somewhere that the book cover was a good representation of the dress so I kept that in mind as I was reading. And that in itself was enough to blow me away as I am not a sewer either. I mean, I learnt when I was young, but misplaced my sewing machine about 20 years ago and haven’t really missed it since!

Joey was definitely a standout character for me. His spirit and joy balanced against his harrowing story was a pleasure to read. I like to think that I can imagine exactly where Joey is in his life right now. I think that one of the real skills that the author exhibited is telling us enough about each prisoner's story without losing track of the fact that these men are in prison for a reason.

We’ve talked a lot about the prisoners but there were other layers to the story. We got insights into Debbie’s life and how her parents dysfunctional relationship as well as small town politics and more!

It really is a complete, well rounded story.

B: Yes, I agree that the author was able to convincingly portray these men as complex and although they all came together to accomplish this wonderful thing, they were all still in prison for a variety of reasons ranging from white collar crime to arson to straight up multiple murders. But even a prisoner who would never be released had a role to play in educating others and making sure they left prison more literate than when they arrived.

I really did love everything about this book. The whole story was just so engaging and had me hooked from the very start. I loved the way it played out and like you, enjoyed the glimpses we got into the lives of other characters, including the prison guard and also the volunteer who teaches the sewing (I can’t believe I forgot to mention them before now!).

Highly recommend this one. It’s a 5 star read for me. How about you?

M:I feel like there’s actually quite a few things we haven’t touched on yet! Goes back to my point at the beginning about gushing! It’s a 5/5 from me too!

About the book:

Can a wedding dress save a bunch of hardened crims? The Full Monty meets Orange is the New Black in a poignantly comic story about a men's prison sewing circle.

Derek's daughter Debbie is getting married. He's desperate to be there, but he's banged up in Yarrandarrah Correctional Centre for embezzling funds from the golf club, and, thanks to his ex-wife, Lorraine, he hasn't spoken to Debbie in years. He wants to make a grand gesture - to show her how much he loves her. But what?

Inspiration strikes while he's embroidering a cushion at his weekly prison sewing circle - he'll make her a wedding dress. His fellow stitchers rally around and soon this motley gang of crims is immersed in a joyous whirl of silks, satins and covered buttons.

But as time runs out and tensions rise both inside and outside the prison, the wedding dress project takes on greater significance. With lives at stake, Derek feels his chance to reconcile with Debbie is slipping through his fingers ...

A funny, dark and moving novel about finding humanity, friendship and redemption in unexpected places.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Music A to Z: L

Welcome to this week's edition of my Music A to Z feature. Each week on Thursday, I am going to share a song where either the song or the artist name begins with the letter for that week. This week, the letter is....


Love Generation by Bob Sinclar - This week I am going to start with a couple of my previous ringtones. This was probably one of the first ones that actually bought to put on my phone. 

Little Lion Man by Mumford & Sons - Another former ringtone. I had this one when I started my last job and whenever it rang I would jump to answer it before we got to the sweary bits because one of my co workers was quite rigid in his religious beliefs. He was, however, also very annoying, so there were some days where I wasn't quite so quick off the mark! :-)

Steal My Sunshine by Len - I have no idea why I love this song, but I do! I can't name a single other song by this band but it doesn't matter does it?

Love Train by The O'Jays- This is one of those songs that as soon as I hear it I can't help but think of a particular movie. In this case, it is The Martian. And if I am flicking through the channels and see that The Martian is on, then I will stop and watch it, no matter where it is up to. Every time.

Bulletproof by La Roux - Another song that I love whenever I hear it but that I can't tell you another song that the band sings.

Do you have any L songs? Share them in the comments.

Monday, August 09, 2021

This Week I....

 I'm reading

Recently some reader friends have been raving about The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson. It took me a couple of months before I decided that I would take the leap and add this to my TBR list on Goodreads. And it would probably taken me a while to get to it, except I happened to go to the library to return a book last week, and I walked past the new release shelf and this book was in it! Seemed like I just had  to borrow it right?

Science fiction isn't my normal read, but every now and again I will read a book and wonder why I don't read more. So far this year I have read several of the Murderbot books and now this one. I am on track to read more sci fi than I have in years!

I'm watching

Friday night we binge watched British comedian Jack Whitehall's series Travels With My Father. The idea is that Jack and his 70-something year old daddy will strengthen their bond by travelling together through Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. 

There's no doubt that it is scripted, but to be honest, I laughed so much, I didn't mind. We will definitely be watching more.

By the end of two weeks of the Olympics, I finally had my husband on board to watch a few events. I managed to catch some of the diving, cycling and track and field events. And now, we wait 3 years for the next ones!

I did also start watching The Voice last night. I watched a couple of seasons religiously years ago with my son but I lost interest a while ago. This year though Keith Urban is back as a judge (along with Guy Sebastian, Rita Ora and Jessica Mauboy) and so I am back as a viewer. However, the husband isn't interested and we only have one TV so we will see how much I get to watch.


What a topsy turvy world we live in. We are back in lockdown again, and it's getting hard to keep up. On July 10 we were at the art gallery and out for dinner in a busy city restaurant. By July 15 we were in lockdown for 2 weeks. Last weekend we were out and were able to catch up with the kids. On Wednesday this week we had 0 cases in our state, and Thursday we were back in lockdown. At this stage it is only for a couple more days but I do expect that might be extended, particularly since the Delta variant is now in a couple of schools, including the one that my son used to go to.

Posts from last week

Music A-Z: K

Weekend Cooking: Life Lessons in Jam Making

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

Sunday, August 08, 2021

Six Degrees of Separation: From Postcards from the Edge to Queen of the Road

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.

This month the starting point is Postcards from the Edge by Carrie Fisher. I actually had a number of different ideas about how to start this chain, from using the names Carrie or Fisher to something about postcards or stars, but in the end I have gone in another direction. Carrie Fisher's most famous role is undoubtedly that of Princess Leia in Star Wars, and so my chain this month is about princesses and queens. 

Another famous movie princess is Princess Buttercup from The Princess Bride by William Goldman. As I was preparing this post I searched for some key words on my blog and found that I participated in a readalong for this book more than 10 years ago which I had completely forgotten about.

Whereas I intended to go to a fantasy book about a queen, now I find myself wondering about other readalongs that I have participated in, but wait, I think I can get this back on track.  Many of the readalongs I have participated in over the years have been for blog events such Once Upon a Time that Carl from Stainless Steel Droppings used to host which was about reading fantasy, myth, folklore and fairy tale.

Now it's a generalisation but if we work on the basis that fantasy is a genre that starts with the words "once upon a time" and the fact my next book, Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner is a fantasy novel which is part of a great series there's my link. There was a really long gap between books 4 and 5 in this series, and I still haven't read the latest books.

Speaking of series where there has been a big gap between books and I still haven't read the final book, my next choice is Queen of the Darkness by Anne Bishop. This is the third book in the Black Jewels series and looking back at my review, I loved it!

In my mind, if The Princess Bride is fantasy light, then Queen of Attolia is fantasy medium whereas the Black Jewel books are pretty dark fantasy. I therefore need to dial it back a little so my next queen book is more magical realism style of fantasy.  I have enjoyed a lot of Sarah Addison Allen's books, and The Sugar Queen ties in nicely with my next book.

I reviewed The Jam Queens by Australian author Josephine Moon yesterday. You definitely need sugar of some kind to make jam right?

My final choice is by another Australian author, Tricia Stringer, with one her earlier books, Queen of the Road. This book is about a female truck driver who finds love and was one of the earliest rural romance novels I read

This month we started with a princess and then graduated to fantasy queens and ending up with two Australian authors.

Where has your string taken you this month?

Next month we start with Second Place by Rachel Cusk.

Saturday, August 07, 2021

Weekend Cooking: Life Lessons in Jam Making

Australian author Josephine Moon has several books where the titles suggest that they would work well for a Weekend Cooking post (The Cakemakers Wish, The Chocolate Promise, The Beekeepers Secret), and she also shares a number of recipes on her website. Despite this, I hadn't read any of her books.  When her latest book, The Jam Queens, came out earlier this year, I was determined that this was the one that I was going to read, so I pre-ordered it on Audible. The only problem with that strategy is that I just can't  seem to find any time to listen to audiobooks right now. I was enjoying what I did get to listen to, but it was taking a long time to get through the book. In the end, I decided to swap to a library book. I was glad to finish reading it as I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Agatha lives in a small town near Adelaide where she runs a cafe. Ever since she became a single parent at a very young age, or maybe even before, she has had a difficult relationship with her mother Valeria. Her great aunt Myrtle was her saviour when she was a teenager and they continue to have a close relationship. Now, that child, Holly,  is a teacher who lives in the US, but who is home for a holiday.

Each of the women has their own struggles and fears. For Aggie, she has issues with the building her cafe is in and she has a very important decision to make in relation to eggs that she currently has frozen after unsuccessful IVF cycles with her former partner Gideon. Valeria is keeping an important secret from her whole family, Myrtle is concerned about what is happening with her best friend and life long travelling companion, Dolce, and Holly just doesn't seem to be herself at the moment.

The four women agree to go on a trip on the iconic Ghan train which travels from Darwin to Adelaide to celebrate Valeria's 70th birthday. Along the way they visit some amazing places like Uluru and Coober Pedy and experience the magic of the outback.  Secrets are revealed, decisions are made, relationships are formed, and adventures are had, and ultimately, lives are changed - not necessarily in that order.

I loved the travel and food parts of this book. We have talked about doing the Ghan journey, and this book made me want to experience it for myself. Reading the section where one of the characters does a day excursion to Uluru brought back memories of when we visited Uluru earlier this year, and enjoyed an amazing dinner out under the outback skies. They also visited Coober Pedy, which is a town that I have long had on my bucket list. It is famous for being an opal mining town where people live in underground caves. Sounds like an amazing place.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and now I do need to go back and read some of Josephine Moon's other books!

The reason that the book is called The Jam Queens is that Aggie, Valeria and Myrtle all make prize winning jams. Each year, one of the women nominates that they will be the person to enter the competition at the Royal Adelaide Show each year so that they don't compete against each other, and that there is a greater chance that they will win each year. There are a number of flavours mentioned in the book. The one that I would really like to try was peach, raspberry and champagne jam. There was also a couple of interesting suggestions for ways to use jam including making a jamtini (recipe here) or making a hot chocolate, then adding a dash of Baileys with a spoonful of jam! Not something I had heard of before.

I have only made a couple of small batches of jam for specific recipes including for Jam Drops and Mini Strawberry tarts. I have also made delicious lemon curd before too. This book did have me contemplating whether I might have a go at making more. I don't have jars etc, but I would only be making small batches I am sure. I did make the Mini Strawberry Tarts again last weekend or should I say Strawberry and Blueberry Tarts.

The word jam is another example of one of those words where there are different words for similar things around the world. When I was growing up, if we bought a jar of fruit conserve I imagined that it has more fruit than a jar of jam, and in my mind jelly (as in what is used in peanut butter and jelly sandwiches) has even less bits of fruit in it.

I thought I would share one of the many sections of the book that I found myself bookmarking as shareable!

This is Valeria remembering a particular moment with her daughter.

As the heat from the dryer began to warm her legs, she cast her mind back to a day when her daughter was probably around ten years old. Agatha was sitting in the kitchen, watching her gingerbread biscuits bake in the oven, the heat radiating into the room, while outside winter cold had set in, the trees bowing in the wind and tossing branches to the ground.

Valeria has her bottled jams lined up on the wooden benchtop and was comparing the information she had written on sticky notes that were placed on top of each with regard to the visual appearance of the contents. She was attempting to decide which jams from which batches were the ones to enter in the show. Every batch came out a little differently, and once they were bottled it wasn't as easy to assess them. But the jam had to be bottled immediately, and once the lid was on she couldn't open it again to test. She only had her notes to go on.

"Hmm," she murmured, pulling out a jar and bringing it to the front of the line. "This one, I think." She pulled out another. Bending down so the jars were at eye level, she studied them. The one on the left was slightly darker in colour, which wasn't necessarily a problem, but the strawberry seeds had clumped in a few spots, and an uneven distribution would go against her. She consulted the notes she'd written. Really good jam, rich flavour, perfect amount of lemon. She clicked her tongue and compared it to the jar on the right, which had a lovelier visual appearance, but for which her notes said, Good jam, but maybe not a champion?

"What's the matter?" Agatha asked, swivelling sideways in her chair and swinging a leg about.

"Sit up straight, sweetheart," Valeria said automatically.

Agatha did as she was told but rolled her eyes slightly.

"No eyerolls," she reminded her daughter. It was becoming a habit, one she didn't want to see continue. Agatha sucked on her cheeks instead.

"This jam," Valeria said, pointing to the one on her left, "tastes the best but isn't as pretty as this one," she said, pointing to the other.

Agatha screwed up her nose. "Why does it matter what it looks like? You only eat and it gets all mixed up in your belly." She pushed her long hair out of her face, irritated by it.

"A perfect jam needs to be perfect in every way - how it looks, how it tastes, it can't be too firm or too runny, it can't be overcooked or burnt, the jar must pop perfectly when its opened, the label must be positioned exactly, the poured quantity must be within millimetres of the required distance from the top, there should be no splatter of jam, it should smell fresh and fruity. It should not be too sweet or too sour, and it absolutely must not have any jam setter in it."

Agatha widened her eyes. "Who cares about all that?"

"We do," Valeria said, gravely. "Because we value standards and excellence. The competition assessment criteria are there to uphold a respect for quality that is so lacking these days. These competitions are the eye in the storm in a decaying society."


"If we don't strive to be the best, if we let everything go, if we don't care, then where does it stop?"

Agatha stared at her blankly, pulling up her knees so that her feet were resting on the chair, and wrapping her arms around her legs.

"You must always do your best," Valeria said, and she saw this as one of her greatest teaching moments. Through the power of jam competition, she could teach her daughter to never give up, to constantly strive for better, to lose and win gracefully, to keep going no matter how stiff the competition or how high the odds to win, to respect authority, to follow the rules.

"They should teach this at school," she said, absent-mindedly.


"How to make jam," Valeria said, returning to her notes. "There are so many life lessons in jam making."

Weekly Meals

Saturday - Butter chicken, broccoli, rice, roti

Sunday- Scrambled Eggs on toast

Monday- Pork Stir Fry


Wednesday  - Chicken Enchilada

Thursday- Nasi Goreng

Friday - 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


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