Friday, October 29, 2021

Blog Tour: Flora's Travelling Christmas Shop by Rebecca Raisin

I noticed this week that Christmas ads have started on TV here. Normally I would be horrified that they have started before the end of October. The only thing is that, this year at least, my indignation would be misplaced because I have already read a Christmas book! I know....I am surprised too!



Flora is a bit of a disaster. She can’t keep a job, and she falls in love too easily with men who then turn out not to appreciate her uniqueness. 



One thing about Flora is that she loves Christmas. Maybe I should have says LOVES instead of loves! When she is fired from her dream job in a Christmas shop, breaks up with her boyfriend and is told that she needs to find somewhere else to live, it is clear something needs to change. Her best friend Lyvvie comes up with the idea that, really, what Flora needs is a job where she is her own boss! Then she can’t get fired. What would be the ideal business for someone who loves every little thing about Christmas? A shop of course. And where would be the best place for this shop? Lapland!! And if it is a shop in a van then she has somewhere to live too. It's the perfect solution.



Before Flora can sing Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, she finds herself the owner of a van in Lapland, with a Christmas stock supplier lined up and a place at a market! It's not all smooth sailing though. The first van that she looked at was a bomb, but luckily she finds another which is perfect for the job. Well, almost. The van breaks down on the way to the market site. Flora, who is dressed in a Christmas onesie, is assisted by a passing stranger who helps her get back on the road. It is only when she gets to the market that she finds out that Connor is the manager of the market site, and therefore someone that Flora needs to stay on the good side of.

 



It's a steep learning curve in van life and business for Flora. There are rules and safety regulations that have to be adhered to, new friends to be made, as well as rival's for Connor's attention. 



Connor is the festive antithesis of Flora. He's a bit of a drifter, moving from one place to the next whenever the mood strikes. As much as Flora loves Christmas, Connor does not. He doesn't like the commercialism and consumerism, the waste, the plastic. Any of it. Can Flora convince him that Christmas isn't all bad?




I have read several books by Rebecca Raisin now, including other van life books, which are connected in that they are about van life, but there is otherwise very little connection. I love the way that she writes about food, books, about place and, yes, about Christmas. I also loved the way that Raisin is happy to poke fun at the story. For example, Lyvvie is chasing her own dream in the US, but she never misses an opportunity to encourage Flora to live her best Hallmark movie life, which is a lot of fun. The gorgeous hero, the big misunderstanding, the grand gestures - all the tropes are here.



I loved the Lapland setting. I can't imagine I will ever end up in Lapland, but I would love to see the Northern Lights one day. And there was a scene involving a sleigh ride through the snow that bought back memories of my trip to Austria back in the early 1990's when I got to do the same thing. If I remember correctly it was an excursion when we visited Innsbruck. I will say that if I ever do make it to Stockholm, I do want to stay in the hotel that was described in the book, which is a hotel set up inside of a jumbo jet. I told my husband that this is where we would stay and he is up for it!



On a scale of Flora to Connor, I am on the Connor end of the loving Christmas scale, but I think that I am slowly but surely sliding more towards Flora's end. Last year I watched more Christmas movies than I ever had before, and now I have started reading Christmas novels in September and I have a couple more to read too! Maybe in 5 years time I too will be obsessed with Christmas.




Rating 4/5



Thanks to Rachel's Random Resources and Netgalley



About the book


‘Tis the season for mulled wine, mince pies, and magic under the mistletoe…


Flora loves Christmas more than anything else in the world, so she’s gutted when her Scrooge-alike boss fires her from Deck the Halls Christmas emporium. But now she finally has a chance to follow her dreams – and what better place to start than the home of Christmas?


Before she can say ‘sleigh bells’, Flora’s on her way to Lapland in a campervan-cum-Christmas-shop. She can’t wait to spend her days drinking hot chocolate and taking reindeer-drawn carriage rides, but something Flora didn’t expect was meeting Connor, a Norse god of a man who makes her heart flutter and snowflakes swirl in her stomach. There’s just one problem: Connor hates Christmas.


Can Flora convince Connor of the joys of Christmas – and will she find a festive romance along the way?





Purchase Links



Amazon US: https://amzn.to/3gtWYSS


Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/3ycZ6UM


Amazon AUS: https://amzn.to/3sHpYLx




About the Author



Rebecca Raisin is a true bibliophile. This love of books morphed into the desire to write them. She's been widely published in short story anthologies, and in fiction magazines. And now she is focusing on writing romance.


Rebecca aims to write characters you can see yourself being friends with. People with big hearts who care about relationships and believe in true love.



Social Media Links –


https://www.facebook.com/RebeccaRaisinAuthor


www.twitter.com/jaxandwillsmum

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Music A to Z: V

 



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....

V


Well, this is a first, at least since I started this feature. When I first decided I was going to do this, I set up all the draft posts and when I thought of something I would make a note in the draft. This week is the first time when I opened the draft and there was nothing there!! Luckily during the week I thought of a couple of songs

Venus by Bananarama - A few years ago now I bought some cheap (comparitively anyway) last minute tickets to a concert featuring Bananarama, Wang Chung and Chantoozies. I thought it would be a bit of fun, but it was so much fun, reliving the 80s.



Vogue by Madonna - Ah Madonna. I love her old stuff, which for me is anything prior to this song. I can only think of one song since then that I really liked.



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

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Top Ten Tuesday: RIP XVI wrap up

 


Welcome to this week's edition of Top Ten Tuesday which is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week's is a Halloween freebie, so I have decided to do a round up of all the things that I did for RIPXVI, which ends on Halloween.

For those who don't know, RIP stands for Readers Imbibing Peril which has been going for 16 years, which is an eternity in blogging terms! It's a chance to dip into anything that might be Mystery, Suspense,Thriller, Dark Fantasy, Gothic, Horror or Supernatural.


Here is what I have read and watched this year for RIPXVI.





I read....



The Black Swan of Paris by Karen Robards - I didn't intentially read this for RIPXVI but it certainly fit the criteria!



The Sundial by Shirley Jackson  - This is was the group read. I haven't finished it yet, but I will.



I watched....



What We Do in the Shadows - perfect Friday night viewing. We still need to finish the first season.





Squid Game  - Finished this series.



Birds of Prey: Harley Quinn - This was a bit of fun to watch.



Attack on Titan  - This an anime series that we were watching with my son. The final episodes start to be release in January next year.



Shaun of the Dead - This is one of those movies that I always stop and watch if I see it on when I am flicking through the channels.



I also did a Music A-Z post about spooky songs.



I've already started thinking about some ideas for next year!

Monday, October 25, 2021

This Week...


 I'm reading...



Not a lot of progress on the reading front this week. I had to stop listening to Susanna Kearsley (The Winter Sea) while I was reading Susanna Kearsley (The Vanished Days). In fact, I didn't read much at all this week. 



I can't really settle on an audiobook at the moment. I did start listening to another one this week which was the new autobiography by one of the Masterchef hosts, Jock Zonfrillo. He also narrates the book so I am getting to listen to him tell his own story with his fabulous Scottish accent. I am hoping that this will catch my attention, especially seeing as I don't often read non fiction.



I'm watching...



On Friday night we watched Wonder Woman 1984. I was underwhelmed, which is disappointing seeing as the first movie was really good.



Other than that, my main weekend viewing was Historical Novel Society Australasia Conference. The schedule was two full days jam packed with session about historical fiction of all kinds. I didn't get to watch as much as I would have like, but luckily the panels and interviews are all available for the next three months as part of the conference price, so I can watch them at my own leisure. There were also some chat salons which was an opportunity to talk to authors talk about a specific topic. These were not recorded which is a shame. I did see the one hosted by Kate Quinn, author of The Rose Code amongst other things,where she was talking to lots of other authors about WWII. So interesting. Here she is with Kate Forsyth in the earlier conversation.



I have been to a couple of other HNSA conferences and whilst online is in no way the same as being in the same room, there are also some advantages of being at home. When you are on location, you can't put a load of washing on between sessions, or watch the first session while having a cup of tea in bed, or dash to have a shower etc between sessions. Yes, I did all of these things.



Life



After 262 days of lockdown on and off since March 2020, Melbourne celebrated Freedom Day on Friday. Our last lockdown started in mid July and was supposed to be a short, sharp lockdown. It last more than 3 months.



There were lots of people who went out and partied, but to be honest, the thought of Freedom Day was pretty anxiety inducing for me. I am sure we will get out and about a bit more over the coming weeks, but this week it was all about seeing family. 



On Saturday night we went to my sister;s for a games night which was a lot of fun. We played two games. The first was called Codename and the other Stupid Deaths. If I had to pick one, I would choose Codename. On Sunday we went to see my husband's/our daughter's new house which she moved into a couple of weeks ago.  The last time we went to see it, it was at the frame stage. Now it's finished! Won't be long before our house starts getting built.



Posts from the last week



Top Ten Tuesday: Back to the 80s

Music A-Z: U

Bookish Quotes: Wise Words

Weekend Cooking: When Life Gives You Lemons





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

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Weekend Cooking: When Life Give You Lemons

We are all familiar with the old saying about when life gives you lemons make lemonade but I am here to suggest that there are so many other options. In fact, I think I have only attempted to make lemonade once, because to me, 



I have had this post in mind for quite some time because when I look out at my garden there is a tree with a profusion of lemons on it. We weren't always sure that would be the case, because a few years ago now we did a very, very hard prune. There were quite a few occasions where we stood on the deck and looked at the stump and contemplated whether we had gone too hard. Here is the evidence:







I do love lemon as a flavour. It is up there with chocolate as a favourite. Another favourite is white chocolate and raspberry, but that, and other flavours, aren't as accessible to me as chocolate and lemon are.  



Over the years I have made a lot of different lemon flavoured treats




Lemon Syrup Cakes - This is a firm favourite in our house, and I have made them many, many times, most recently a couple of weeks ago. 



Lemon Thins  - I have made these once, but I do often think about making them again.



Lemon delicious - Last year I went through a phase of making self saucing puddings, so it was only natural that I made a lemon version.



Lemon Crunch Cake  - I made this Hawaiian cake after reading about it in the Lost Pearl by Emily Madden.



Lemon Mousse Cake - I have made this a couple of times, but I have also used the mousse that is one of the components of this cake.


Lemon tart - I've made this a couple of times. Most recently I added meringue kisses to the top to make a fancy lemon meringue pie



Lemon meringue pie-  I have also made the more traditional version of lemon meringue pie.



There are more, but I think the above represent how much we enjoy lemon in our house.



Today, I am sharing the recipe for the Lemon Angel Food Cake, which is a Mary Berry recipe. I have made this before, and ended up giving part of the cake away before I tasted it, which I realised as soon as we did taste it, because it was so light and airy and so delicious.



I am making it again today to take to a family dinner tonight, our first opportunity to come together as a family since July since our lockdown has finally been removed. There are still some restrictions for those who are not double vaxxed.



Last time I made this, I used the lemon curd to make a delicious lemon mousse, and I will be doing the same again today. What I don't include is passionfruit as this is a flavour that I do not like.



Lemon Angel Food Cake - Mary Berry 


For the cake


125g/4½oz plain flour
300g/10½oz caster sugar
10 large free-range egg whites
2 large lemons, grated zest only
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp cream of tartar
½ tsp salt

For the lemon curd (this recipe makes more lemon curd than you need)

10 large free-range egg yolks
400g/14oz caster sugar
4 large lemons, juice only (approximately 200ml/7fl oz)
2 large lemons, grated zest only
175g/6oz unsalted butter, cubed
2 passion fruit

For the topping
300ml/10fl oz whipping cream
½ tsp vanilla extract




Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 (fan 160C) and arrange an oven shelf in the bottom third of the oven. Sift the flour and 100g/3½oz of the caster sugar together in a bowl and set aside.


Whisk the egg whites in a large bowl with an electric hand whisk or mixer on a high speed for one minute until frothy. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, cream of tartar and salt and continue whisking for 2-3 minutes, or until soft peaks form when the whisk is removed from the bowl. Increase the speed and add the remaining 200g/7oz of caster sugar, one tablespoon at a time to form firm, but not stiff peaks.


Sprinkle over one-third of the flour mixture and fold gently to combine. Repeat with the remaining two-thirds of the flour mixture folding gently to keep as much air in the mixture as possible.


Transfer the batter to a 25cm/10in angel food cake pan. Gently run a knife through the centre of the batter to remove any pockets of air. Cook for 45-50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.


Remove from the oven and immediately turn upside down onto the tin’s cooling legs, or place over the neck of a wine bottle. Leave to cool for at least one hour.


Run a knife around the inner and outer edges of cake to remove it from the pan. Invert onto a plate. Carefully use a palette knife to separate the cake from the base of the pan. Leave to cool on a wire rack.


For the lemon curd, mix the egg yolks, sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest together in a large pan. Cook over a low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, making sure to stir the sides and base of the pan. Cook for 5-7 minutes, or until the mixture coats the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter. Pass through a sieve into a large jug. Fill two 350g/12oz glass jars with the lemon curd and seal with lids. Cover the remaining curd with cling film and leave to cool.


For the topping, whisk the cream and vanilla extract in a bowl until soft peaks form when the whisk is removed. Spoon the topping over the angel food cake and, using a palette knife, coat the top and sides of the cake, smoothing as you go.


Cut the passion fruit in half and scoop out the seeds. Stir the passion fruit into the reserved, cooled lemon curd and drizzle over the angel food cake before serving. You may want to use just one of the jars of lemon curd to serve with the cake and save the other to eat separately.


Weekly Meals

Saturday - Pork chops with potatoe and cauliflower bake


Sunday - Roast beef rolls with gravy


Monday - Zucchini, tomato risotto


Tuesday - Lasagne


Wednesday  - Pork Nachos


Thursday - Chicken kebabs, baked potato, salad


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, October 22, 2021

Bookish Quotes: Wise words


Last year, I read and LOVED, or should I say LOVED The Heirloom Garden by Viola Shipman. It was a soothing, feel good read, so I did know it was only a matter of time before I read my next Shipman book, and I have to say The Summer Cottage didn't disappoint. I now have two more of his books here to read in the next couple of weeks. Actually, as I write this intro it is early Saturday afternoon, and I don't have any real plans for the rest of the day (thank you lockdown!) so maybe I will read one of them this afternoon. What a good idea.



Anyway, I often share quotes from books about food and books. or other things that catch my eye. Today, I am sharing a passage from The Summer Cottage. 


The one thing that you need to know about this passage is that Darryl is a mooseheadhung on the wall.






My parents were voracious readers, and they made me one, as well. My mother loved fiction - from literary to commercial, even pulpy paperbacks - when my father adored non-fiction, especially historical or political biographies. The towering bookcases cover the entire wall around Darryl and the fireplace, my mom's books on the left, my father's on the right. My father always removed the dust jacket to the books he read. He would take the shiny jacket off, fold them and place them in a trunk he kept in the attic.




"This is the way a book is meant to look, Adie Lou," my father would tell me every time he started a new book, holding the hardcover as adoringly as he held Evan when he was a baby. "Unadorned, without all the commercial rigmarole. Nothing but the author's own words. In the old days, the cover would have been leather or linen." He would stop and turn the book over in his hands, before taking a seat next to the fireplace, Darryl reading over his shoulder. "Hard shell. Flexible, sturdy spine. And inside filled with stunning beauty and wisdom. Just like the best pople, Adie Lou."



I stare at the high-back chair and can still see the impression of my father's body in it.




Frank scans the right side of the bookcase for a few seconds, before plucking a hardcover as if it were calling to him.




"Your dad loaned this to me a long time ago, when I was taking over the business from my dad," Frank says. "A biography of Winston Churchill. Your dad admired him greatly." Frank smiles and begins to flip through the biography, which I notice is underlined and highlighted, sticky notes jutting everywhere.




"Ah," Frank says. "Right here. Can I read you this?"



I nod, my back still pressed against the Cottage Rules sign.



"Success is not final, failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts."




I smile. "That sounds just like my dad," I say.




Thursday, October 21, 2021

Music A to Z: U



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....

U



Kingston Town by UB40 - UB40 is my husband's absolutely favourite band and this is his favourite song by his favourite band. We went to see one version of the band (because there are two both claiming to be the UB40) and it was so much fun. 

Beautiful Day by U2 - This is another one of his favourite songs, but I love it too. This song was also part of our wedding ceremony.

As Days Go By by Keith Urban - I know I used Keith for K too, but what can I say. Actually what I can say is that I am a bit disappointed. I have tickets for his current tour and it was supposed to be here in December 2021. It has now been postponed until December 2022. Only problem is....we are starting to think about a possible trip to Europe in December 2022 so we might not be here for it!!!


OMG by Usher - Years ago a group of friends did a girls night dinner and this song got played numerous times. A lot!


What U songs or artists do you have? Share in the comments.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Top Ten Tuesday: Back to the 80's with The Clover Girls by Viola Shipman


Welcome to this week's edition of Top Ten Tuesday which is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week's theme is Online Resources for Book Lovers (what websites, podcasts, apps, etc. do you use that make your reading life better?)



I'm not really feeling this week's topic. What I am feeling is the love for The Clover Girls by Viola Shipman. I fell in love with Viola Shipman's writing last year when I read The Heirloom Garden. Over the last month, I have read two more of his books, The Summer Cottage and now The Clover Girls, which I read in a day on Saturday. I can't remember the last time when I read a book from start to finish in a day!


Shipman's books are so soothing and so easy to read, and full of lovely moments. The story starts with three former friends all receiving a letter from Emily. The four women met as girls at Camp Birchwood and promised to be friends forever, but it didn't take long for Elizabeth, Veronica and Eva to fall apart in a spectacular way. Emily has always been the link between them, but when she dies she asks them to spend one week at their former campground and see if they can find their way back to each other.


The idea of a summer camp feels like a very American thing to me, and so while I don't necessary have memories associated with this kind of camp experience, what I did love was all the 80s references! These women would all be pretty close to my age and so their memories bought back lots of my own memories. I don't think I got all the references, for example to the foods that are mentioned, but I did get a lot of them!


Here's a selection of just some of the 80s references from the book!


John Hughes movies - Pretty in Pink, TheBreakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and that's just for starters.


The clothes - Not so much the clothes that I wore, but the clothes that were in fashion. We were never really allowed to wear fashionable clothes. Here I am rocking pink satin. This is the dress I wore to school formal, I think maybe in 1986ish. I have distinct memories of a bright yellow tube skirt that was knee length with a oversize spotty shirt and a big black belt at one point!


Flowers in The Attic
- I wasnt allowed to read it, but it really was the book that everyone at school was reading.


Makeup  - I had mastered the art of pink and blue eyeshadow with blue mascara. I am not sure I have ever mastered eye shadow since.  My favourite lipstick was a similar pink to the dress but it had an opalescence to it. A few years ago I find some nail polish that was similar. Maybe I should do my nails for the first time in 2 years.



Girls Just Want to Have Fun - What a song! The book mentioned the song, but then there was the movie! It was one of my sister's favourite movies and it used to be played over and over and over in our house. It had a really great cast too - Sarah Jessica Parker, Helen Hunt, and more!


And then...there is the music!!




Walk Like an Egyptian by The Bangles - Didn't we all want to Walk Like an Egyptian?




Manic Monday by The Bangles - I know that it is Tuesday, but it definitely qualifies as a manic Tuesday in my work life right now! It wasn't intentional to have two songs by the same band!



Girls on Film by Duran Duran - I wasn't the biggest fan back in the day, but Duran Duran are very 80s. I did hear today that they are releasing a new album very soon which is interesting.



Karma Chameleon by Culture Club - I didn't love Boy George back in the day, but I do sing along now!


Walking on Sunshine by Katrina and the Waves 
- This is one of those songs that just makes me feel happy! So now I am going to share it with you all!!




I think I need to get back to the 2020s now!

Monday, October 18, 2021

This Week I...


I'm reading...



In my post last week I said that my reading week would be better, and it was!!! To be fair, the improvement is mainly because I reverted to an old favourite author, and a new favourite author.



I made really good progress on the audiobook of The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley this week, which is unusual. I am generally struggling to find capacity to listen to audiobooks which is a problem seeing as I have quite a few downloaded and quite a few credits! I also made a bit of progress on her new book, The Vanished Days, although I did get a bit distracted  by....



Viola Shipman. I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I had picked up The Clover Girls from the library and I have a review copy of his next book. I was a bit antsy on Saturday when I saw The Clover Girls sitting on my bookshelf, and it screamed my name very loud! And I ended up reading the whole book in a day. I can't remember the last time I did that. Needless to say I enjoyed it.



I'm watching...



This week we watched the final episodes of Squid Games. What a head spin that show was! It's not my ordinary fare, but it was definitely compelling, interesting, mortifying and so much.


I also finished Parisian Agency. I don't normally watch many shows about high end real estate, but I really loved this. Maybe it was the fact that it is high end real estate in Paris which is why I loved it so much. I also think it is because of the family who features in the series. I loved how the whole family interacted with each other, although I think that they may be kidding themselves about being an "ordinary" family. I may have also cried a few times. There better be a second season. I need to know what happens with Martin and Eve!



Life



This was another stuck at home weekend, but it looks like it will be our last! Hooray! 



They have announced that our restrictions are easing from late this week. Not bad for a short, sharp lockdown that was supposed to be for 6 days...back in July. It is all a bit odd though. We are being released when our numbers are higher than they have been since the beginning of the pandemic. I know that the fact that so many people are double vaxxed is the main reason, but plenty of people who are double vaxxed are still getting COVID. Anyway.... 



I am very much looking forward to being able to catch up with family this weekend. The weekend after we will go and see friends and other things.





Posts from the last week



Top Ten Tuesday: My Favourite Settings

Music A-Z: T

Weekend Cooking: National Cookbook Month





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

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Weekend Cooking: National Cook Book Month

Did you know that October is National Cookbook month? Or at least it is in the US, and I am jumping on the band wagon. I stumbled across it recently when it wsa mentioned by Wendy from A Day in the Life of the Farm.

I thought that this week I would share my latest cookbook acquisitions over the last few months.





Air Fryer/Air Fryer Healthy

We recently acquired an Air Fryer which is exciting, but then we realised that we didn't have the first clue what to make in it, except for fried chicken. So based on some recommendations from an air fryer group on Facebook we rushed out and bought these two books. Ask me how many recipes we have made out of these books? That's right. None!!  We have been using it to cook our working-from-home lunches during the week, but we do need to explore more. I did attempt to do a medley of roast vegetables, which were really inedible. 

If you have any favourite air fryer recipes I would love to hear about them!






Keto BBQ by Myron Mixon - Back in May, I was lucky enough to win a copy of this book when BethFishReads did a giveaway. Now that we are coming into BBQ season, we have had a look through. My husband is very keen to try some of the spice rubs.





Time to Eat by Nadiya Hussain - After doing a joint review of Nadiya Hussain's Nadiya Bakes back in August, I knew that I was going to have to buy moreof her cookbooks. There are a number of recipes that I know I want to try. I also think that I might buy another one of her books soon.




Chocolate by Kirsten Tiballs

Kristen Tiballs is a very success chocolate and patisserie chef based here in Melbourne. She has appeared on Masterchef Australia many times, and won internations awards. I have borrowed this one from the library to see what I can find to try to make, or techniques to learn or just to look at the amazing looking baking all the way through it!

I have already put a holding post in place for the end of September next year, and maybe I will ask all of you to share about favourite, new, or old cookbooks!

Weekend Meals

Saturday - 
Sunday -  Pulled Pork
Monday - Pumpkin, Coconut & Chickpea Curry with Curry Leaf Tarka & Naan
Tuesday - Grilled Spiced Lanb with Cucumber & Tomato Salad & Bombay Potatoes
Wednesday- Southern Indian Roasted Chicken with Indian Slaw, Dill Rice & Toasted Almonds
Wednesday - Pumpkin, Coconut & Chickpea Curry with Curry Leaf Tarka & Naan
Thursday - Fried chicken
Friday - Pub meal at home






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, October 15, 2021

Music A to Z: T



Welcome to this week's edition of my Music A to Z feature. Each week on Thursday, (oops a day late this week), 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....

T



This is Me from the Greatest Showman soundtrack - As I have mentioned previously I have a tendency to keep the same song as a rington for years, until suddenly, I feel the need to change it. We went to see this movie and I changed it that same day. And then I kept it for about 3 years. This version is from before the making of the movie had even been approved!!




Teardrops by Womack and Womack- This is one of those songs where I couldn't tell you any other song that the artist does, but I do love this one, and I can't help but singalong...at the top of my voice. It turns out that I thought the song was called Footsteps on the Dancefloor so nearly put it on the F post.



Sing by Travis - I have always loved songs with a bit of banjo in them. I think it is the country music background.  I went through a phase a few years ago of listening to this band a lot.



Back for Good by Take That - I have a new appreciation for Gary Barlow, and by extension Take That, as a result of the Crooner Sessions that he hosted during lockdown. They were so much fun. This is my favourite song by Take That.




Do you have any T songs or artists? Feel free to share in the comments.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Top Ten Tuesday: Favourite Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Welcome to this week's edition of Top Ten Tuesday which is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week's theme is Favourite Settings



So, in no particular order, here are some of my favourite settings





WWII - The Tolstoy Estate by Steven Conte - I know that there is a lot of talk out there about people being over WWII as a time period, but I still love it, mainly because there is so much variety. You could read about Europe, America, Australia, Japan, about someone on the frontlines or the people left behind or so much more. This book is set in Russia, features a German main character and was one of my favourite books of last year. (review)



WWI - The Desert Nurse by Pamela Hart - Actually,  I do enjoy books set against any big conflicts, so I do enjoy it when I read a good book with a WWI setting. I must find some more.




Bookshops/Libraries  - The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan - There's something very comforting about reading books about books, whether it is characters who love to read or work in bookshops or whatever.



Cafe/Bakery/Restaurants -  Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe by Heather Webber - The heat in the kitchen (both due to the cooking and between the people who work there on occasion), the sense of community, the delicious sounding food! What's not to love.






Scotland - The Vanished Days by Susanna Kearsley - I love both historical and contemporary books set in Scotland. It is a place that keeps calling my name.




Paris - The Black Swan of  Paris by Karen Robards - Speaking of places that call my name. One day I will get back there. The most recent book I read set in Paris was this one.




Russia - Tsarina by Ellen Alpsten - I don't read them as much as I should be I do love a good book set in Russia.



Africa - Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi - I have long loved a book set in Africa. I chose this book to spotlight because it is a book that was set in Africa (at least at the beginning) and I read it while I was in Africa





Melbourne - Earthly Delights by Kerry Greenwood - I love it when you get to read a book where you recognise the landmarks and places that are mentioned in a book.



Rural settings - Snowy Mountains Daughter by Alissa Callen - I do love a good rural romance setting. There are so many great books out there. Whole series set in small country towns where you get to know the whole community.



And what's better than one of these settings? When you manage to combine two or more. Bookshop cafe in Scotland...I'm there. Although I am not sure all the combinations would work.



What are your favourite settings?







Monday, October 11, 2021

This Week ....

 I'm Reading



The truth is I'm not reading much at all. I started reading The Vanishing Days by Susanna Kearsley and only got a couple of pages in. I thought about reading something else, but didn't. I need to read the next four chapters in The Sundial, but haven't quite made it there yet.



I was listening to The Winter Sea, and I was listening to The Bear and the Nightingale, but didn't get very far with either of them.



And I need to start thinking about my book club choice. I did think vaguely about listening to The Midnight Library, but I should probably have started a few months ago if I intend to finish it.



Next week will be a better reading week.



I'm Watching



We have now watched all the available episodes of Ted Lasso and I am sad. I am not sure if Robert is up for it or not but we might need to watch them all again. We have already watched the first season twice, so I might be able to convince him. Or I might not.



We also watched a couple more episodes of Squid Game. We will watch it to the end in due course.



I did start watching another Korean series which has a totally different feeling to it. As in, it could not be more different to Squid Game if it tries. It is a series called Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha. Basically it is about a big city dentist who moves to a small country town right on the ocean. So far it's very cute.



Last night I started watching a show called The Parisian Agency on Netflix. It is a reality TV show that focusses on a family that sells high-end real estate. The parents work with their three sons, and they are all super close but also pretty vocal with each other. The houses they look at are pretty amazing, even if their buyers aren't that impressed,  so I might watch a bit more of that because, you know, Paris.  



We also watched the first episode of Celebrity Masterchef Australia. It was so good to be back in the Masterchef kitchen!



Life



Nothing much to add here either. We are still in lockdown. Robert's daughter moved into her newly built house this weekend. We haven't been able to see the house since the framing stage. We are hoping to get some more freedoms soon and get to go and see her new house, and them, but we will see.



Whilst I am definitely ready for lockdown to be over, and I am ready to be able to do things on the weekends, I am not sure that I am ready to do things with vast crowds of people. I know that is contradictory, but to be honest, that pretty much reflects my mind right now. Over it all, but not ready to take the risk of leaving the house except for very specific reasons.



Posts from the last week




Music A-Z: S






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

Saturday, October 09, 2021

Weekend Cooking: The Last of the Apple Blossom by Mary-Lou Stephens


Recently my friend has started a new bookclub. It is something we have tried to do for a while now, but it never worked out, so this time she put a call out on Meet-Up and has bought together a group of people who share a desire to read but are otherwise a group of strangers. Well, other than the two of us who already know each other.



I was really keen to have this be a read-on-a-theme bookclub rather than nominating a specific book to read, although we may also do that on occasion. The theme for this time was Spring and I chose to read The Last of the Apple Blossom by Mary-Lou Stephens because blossoms mean spring right? It was a book that I already had on my ereader as a review copy and it also counts for Weekend Cooking - it's a triple whammy!



The story opens on 7 February 1967, a day known as Black Tuesday in Tasmania. On that day, there were horrific bushfires in and around Hobart and many people were killed, injured or made homeless. 



I count myself very lucky to have never been too close to a bushfire. The closest was a few years ago when there was a grass fire a couple of suburbs away and we were instructed to evacuate. As an Australian, every summer we dread the days when the news headlines start with stories of bushfires raging, of the volunteer fire fighters risking their own lives to try and save the homes and towns of others, of heartbreaking stories of homes lost or even worse, lives. Whilst I haven't personally been affected, I know people who know people who have lost it all. And we have all smelt the smoky air as it drifts across the country, felt the gloom descend and the pride that we feel in those people on the front line who give so much of themselves to help others.



The first few pages of this book were gripping as the author took us into the face of these horrendous fires in Hobart. The fear and the panic, the desperate need to get back to your family, and the heartbreaking moment when you realise that you have lost significant parts of your livelihood or heritage, and, even worse, members of your family. It was so well written, I could feel the tension, fear and the heat.




Our main character is Catherine Turner, a young teacher who grew up on her family's apple orchard in the Huon Valley. As the fires spread Catherine makes is charged with supervising the children who can't get back to their families due to the fires closing in. As soon as she is able, she makes the somewhat reckless, actually make that very reckless, decision to try to get home to her family's orchard. The roads are closed, and she and her friend are told not to proceed, but they do and in doing so they place themselves in the path of danger.



When she does get home, it is to scenes of utter devestation all through the valley. Fire is fickle. It can destroy great swathes of land and yet some structures will remain standing. For the Turners, they pay the ultimate price. Their main house is gone, and their young son/brother is dead. Fortunately a cottage remains for them to live in while they start to rebuild their lives. Catherine's father has always been of the opinion that the land is no place for a girl so the orchard was always going to go to Peter, despite the fact that he wanted to be a vet and Catherine wants to be an orchardist. Catherine's mother has been devestated by the loss of her son and withdraws into herself.




What follows is a history of the apple industry in Tasmania, since that fateful day and some of the key events of the late 1960's through to now through the lens of Catherine and her friends and family's lives.  Tasmania is known as the Apple Isle but the apple industry has been decimated over the last 50 years thanks to the fires, to changes in the export markets and increasing transport costs. These changes resulted in schemes from the government to pay people to rip out their trees, and families moving away to find a new life off the land. On the positive side there are the introduction of more efficient farming techniques and the introduction of organic farming methods.



Catherine's closest friend is Annie who is married to Dave Pearson. On the day of the fire, she is at home with her kids, plus young Charlie who is the son of Dave's friend Mark. Annie has five sons and a much wanted newborn baby girl. Annie grew up in an affluent family in Hobart, but she was disowned when she married Dave. Mark is living on their property with Charlie seeking an escape from his life in Melbourne, although Annie would like him to be gone. 



As Catherine gets to know the shy Charlie, she also begins to get to know Mark, but there are many impediments, not least of all the fact that he is married to the absent Lara. Catherine faces many challenges to keep her family legacy, whilst still having to deal with the ongoing trauma that is the legacy of the fires and her brother's death.



This is the author's debut novel, and it is a strong debut. I enjoyed learning about the history of the apple industry and the lives of characters. Some of storyline was a bit unlikely, but it was definitely readable.



It should come as no surprise that there were lots of mentions of food, most of which were apple recipes. I wanted to make something apple-y, but I wasn't sure what until Mae shared a poem about apple pie a couple of weeks ago. I have also been thinking that I needed to try and make a "proper pie" which sent me off on a search for recipes.  



Mae had mentioned having cheese with her apple pie, which is a new flavour combination to me and, in the end, I took that idea and twisted it a little and made a cheddar cheese flavoured pie crust, filled with apples and topped with a streusel which apparently. Apparently this style of pie (without the cheddar) is called a Dutch Apple Pie. 



I took bits and pieces and inspiration from various recipes and put them all together, but predominantly it was based on this recipe from Olive and Mango. I didn't use the nuts in the streusel because we have a nut allergy in our house (my son is allergic to tree nuts) so I looked around at various other streusel recipes until I decided to use rolled oats in my streusel.




And the verdict? I enjoyed the flavour combination, but it got mixed reviews in my house. Robert said that he would like it to be made again but with just a plain crust and my son wouldn't even try it! So overall, I would use that recipe for the apples again, but it would be a different pastry and an adapted streusel.



I am linking this post up with the Australian Women Writers ChallengeHistorical Fiction Reading Challenge and Foodies Read.




Weekly Meals



Saturday - 
Sunday -  Fancy Dinner
Monday - Pork Chops, mash, mushroom sauce, broccoli
Tuesday - 
Wednesday - Spaghetti Bolognaise
Thursday - Fajitas
Friday - Take away


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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