Monday, October 31, 2022

This Week....

I'm reading...

I am kind of reading a few things and then getting distracted by a few other things, which isn't conducive to finishing much.

I did want to read something that I knew I would like so I started and finished Christmas in Bellbird Bay by Maggie Christenson, my first Christmassy read for the year. I was looking for a different Christmas book and so I filtered on that word and apparently I have more than 20 unread books on my Kindle. Given that I probably read 2 or 3 Christmas books a year I have enough to keep me going for at least 8 years!

I also have started reading The Happiest Man in the World by Eddie Jaku which is a book I am really looking forward to reading. We have a public holiday tomorrow so my plan is to take the time in the morning to read it.

I'm watching....

Since getting Max, I find myself suddenly watching dog behaviour shows, such as Cesar Milan. That's a sentence I never thought I would say!


Speaking of Max, we took him to his second class at puppy school but we also went to the beach for the first time which he really enjoyed. He is definitely getting much better with other dogs and he loves the water. He ended up being off the lead for a while too. He will be going to the beach again!

Festive treats...

It's time to start thinking about what I am going to read and watch and eat in the lead up to Christmas. It is going to be a bit different this year as we go away part way through but we will see what we can add to the list.

1. Christmas in Bellbird Bay by Maggie Christensen

Posts from the last week

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

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Weekend Cooking: A Treasure Trove of Cookbooks

Just a quick post from me this week as work has been really full on, and I am going to still be working all weekend

I did, however, want to share a link that I came across this week which I think that some Weekend Cooks might be interested in.

Did you know that there is an archive of over 10000 recipe books to be found over at Internet Archive. Maybe you would like to read Escoffier's A Guide to Modern Cookery, published in 1907. Or perhaps you would like to read Betty Crockers' Cookbook for Girls and Boys from 1975. Or perhaps you are interested in a specific ingredient like mushrooms.  A quick search reveals there are 62 different books about mushrooms available. Some of these are duplicates, but there still should be some variety in there.

Perhaps you are interested in a particular era? There is a cookbook called  Original recipes of good things to eatby Order of the Eastern Star. Logan Square Chapter No. 560 (Chicago, Ill.) published in 1919 which might be of interest. I have a quote that I have been saving for a long time about a WWII cake. I have searched on and off for a recipe but haven't found the one.  There seem to be quite a lot of books on wartime food, going back as far as the civil war, so chances are, I might find what I am looking for there.

There are also some books full of handy hints. For example, maybe I should read A thousand ways to please a husband with Bettina's best recipes published in 1917 to get some more tips for having a happy spouse and therefore a happy house!

In some cases the books are available to read from within the archive. Other times there are links to other organisations, but it does look like there are lots of interesting books to look at when time permits.

I also wanted to give a shout out to Davida from Chocolate Lady's Book Blog who shared the Open Culture link on Facebook! Thanks Davida.


 think this is a fitting place to round out National Caookbook Month. At the beginning of the month I had a vague plan as to what I was going to post about. A new cookbook, a favourite cookbook, an Aussie author. And yet that isn't what I ended up posting about at all. Oh well, there's always next year.

  Weekly meals

Saturday - Steak with mushroom and broccolinI
Sunday -  Steak, baked potato, sweetcorn
Monday - Asian Omelettes with Sticky Pork
Tuesday - Grilled Steak with Cheese open sandwich
Wednesday - Takeaway
Thursday - Zucchine, Parmesan and Tomato Risott
Friday - Chicken Curry and Rice

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, October 27, 2022

Blog Tour: Lilac Skies by Shivani Bansal


Like most readers, I gravitate towards certain genres, certain settings and certain time periods. This doesn't mean to say that my attention can't be gained with something out of the ordinary.

When I saw the blog tour pitch for this book, I was instantaneously interested. At the shallowest level there was the purple on the cover (hello favourite colour). Then there was the blurb. The story starts in 1942 in India and then moves to Kenya. When's the last time you read a book with that combination of settings?

Even though there were no reviews anywhere online and I could find very little about the book other than the blurb, I volunteered anyway.

Sometimes when you take a risk on something different, it pays off. Other times not so much. Unfortunately, for me, it was the latter with this book.

We meet Meena in Punjab in 1942. She is a young girl who lives with her family knowing that she is loved. Yet she seems blissfully unaware and woefully prepared for the fact that it is her fate to be married to a stranger. It is therefore a shock when she is told that within a matter of days she will be married, and that her husband Amir resides in Kenya, and therefore she will be moving there with him.

Once she gets to Kenya, she realises that she will be sharing her home with both her new husband and his domineering and disapproving mother. She is lonely, missing her family, particulary her younger sister Parvathi. But loneliness and isolation are not her only problems. Soon, it becomes clear that her seemingly mild mannered husband has a violent temper 

The only bright spot for Meena is the arrival of her beautiful sister in law, Lakshmi who becomes her closest friend and ally, until suddenly it is determined that Meena and Amir are moving to London. Once again Meena is alone and apart from everyone she knows. Eventually she makes friends with her next door neighbour

Whilst this book touches very briefly on historical events such as the decline of the British Empire both in India and Africa, racial violence and a few other topics, there isn't a lot of focus on time and place. As a historical fiction reader that is something I look for to anchor the story. There is no doubt that Meena's life story was interesting, albeit grim with her life being affected by domestic violence, family rivalries, fertility issues and alcoholism.  Thank goodness for the strong and supportive female friendships which bought some hope and joy to the story.

There are now a handful of reviews on Goodreads, and it seems that I am very much in the minority on this one. And that's okay. It's probably a case of it's not the book, it's me.

If the setting sounds interesting to you, maybe check out other stops on the blog tour to see what others thought.

Rating 2/5

My thanks to Rachel's Random Blog Tours for inviting me to participate in this tour. 

About the book

Lilac Skies

Punjab, India. It's 1942 and Meena is still a girl when her parents tell her she is to be married, in five days, to a total stranger. What's more, he lives in Kenya. A different country, a different continent, thousands of miles away from everything she knows. She doesn't want to marry, but with four brothers and sisters, Meena knows she will be a burden to her parents if she stays. And it isn't her decision to make.

Nairobi, Kenya. Meena's new home is beyond anything she could have imagined. Nairobi is beautiful, but tensions under the colonial British rule run high. She is told she is lucky because her husband Amar is young and handsome, but all is not as it seems within her marriage... Tucked away from the outside world, Meena spends her time by the mango tree dreaming of going home... until she realises the friendships that she forges here are all she can hold onto. Going from girl to woman in a strange land, can Meena find a way to finally make her life her own?

Purchase Link -

About the author

Shivani Bansal has a First Class degree in International Relations and Politics, which has yet to be putto use! She works full time in digital marketing in the charity sector, and also runs a small baking business from home called Sweet Beginnings Bakes. She loves writing story ideas in her Pusheen notebook in her spare time.

Social Media Links–Twitter:

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I have out from the Library right now


Welcome to this week's edition of Top Ten Tuesday which is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week it is a Halloween freebie but i am not really feeling it as a topic, mainly because we don't really do Halloween. We have some friends who have an annual Halloween dress-up party but that has been cancelled this year.

Instead, I have decided to share the books that I have out from the library at the moment. After we moved house I joined my new local library system so now I have two that I can choose from. The old one isn't so far away that I can't visit it as necessary. Often there are different books available in both systems so it works well for me!

The Happiest Man on Earth by Eddie Jaku - Still need to read this one.

Lonely Planet Italy - Research for our trip which is coming up quickly.

Beatrix Bakes by Natalie Paull - Beatrix Bakes was a cult bakery here in Melbourne. It recently closed down

Meshi: A Personal History of Japanese Food by Katherine Tamiko Arguile - This caught my attention as soon as I saw it.

The Art of Cake by Alice Oehr - This looks like such a fun books

In Bibi's Kitchen by Hawa Hassan and Juliet Turshen - I have actually reviewed this already but I am keeping it  a  bit longersothat we can cook a couple more dishes  out of it.

One More Croissant for the Road by Felicity Cloake - This is another book I am planning to read in anticipation of our trip

With Love from Wish & Co by Minnie Darke - I loved the last book from Minnie Darke

The Hidden Beach by Karen Swan  - I am reading this one at the moment!

The Rearranged Life of Oona Lockhart by Margarita Montifore - I have been looking for this book for ages. It is also published under the title Oona Out of Order.

This doesn't include my digital checkouts, and I just got an email to say I have another book to pick up, so lucky I did this today!

Monday, October 24, 2022

This Week


I'm reading

This week was a Karen Swan week. I mentioned that I had started reading The Last Summer last weekend. I finished it and thoroughly enjoyed it. I then requested another book by her and picked up The Hidden Beach. I have read the first part and the set up is very interesting!

I also finished reading Lilac Skies, a review book for later this week. Let's just say sometimes you take a chance on an unusual setting or a book with very few reviews. Sometimes it works. Other times, not so much.

I'm watching

We went to see Mrs Harris Goes to Paris on Wednesday night! This was one of those movies  that I felt myself smiling all the way through, and where words like delightful and charming definitely apply.

 Here's the trailer

On Saturday afternoon I found myself watching an Elvis movie - GI Blues. I don't remember seeing it before and I can't remember the last time I watched one of his movies!

Saturday night we watched the final 6 episodes of Welcome to Wrexham! This was such a fun series to watch. And even though I knew the results before watching it, I was still riding the waves with it Wrexham played their final games! 


We took Max to puppy school for the first time this weekend, or rather to a Basic Manners class. Of course, he was top of the class, but he did make a liar of me. I was introducing him and saying how he is shy around new people and other dogs and then he proceeded to want to interact with all the other dogs!

In theory it should be my son taking him, but I think we might volunteer instead.


Not a lot to tell this week!

Posts from the last week

Vintage Weekend Cooking: Mrs Graham's Cold War Cookbook

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

Saturday, October 22, 2022

Weekend Cooking: Australian Women's Weekly Cookbooks

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that there is a monthly cookbook recipe club run by Jamie Oliver (or his people at least). In the comments to that post a friend mentioned that there is actually an Australian based monthly cookbook club on Facebook which has the interesting name of Lambs' Ears Cookbook Club. The idea is that each month there will be a nominated cookbook that everyone cooks out of and then shares their photos.

This month, it's not so much a single cookbook but rather any book from the Australian Women's Weekly range. This means that there are hundreds and hundreds of cookbooks to choose from.

The Australian Women's Weekly used to be a weekly magazine filled with celebrity news, articles, food and garden and had a profound influence in Australian households including for social issues and the spread of ideas. In 1982 it was changed from a weekly magazine to a monthly edition, filled with all of the same things, just more of it.

One of the most important aspects of the magazine has been the food section. According to Wikipedia, there was a survey done in 1999 which suggested that more than 90% of people bought the magazine for the recipes. It was certainly the reason why I would keep magazines, although I don't think I have bought one of the magazines for 30 years or more. When you do find one, for example in a doctor's waiting room, it is the food section that I turn to most regularly.

A spin-off of the magazines was the cookbooks. The first cook booklet came out in 1948 with the first proper cookbook coming out in the 1970s. All of the recipes are tested in the AWW Test kitchen and it is something that is taken for granted. If cook an AWW recipe then chances are high that it will turn out as expected.

Since that first cookbook in 1970, there have been hundreds and hundreds of cookbooks published as part of the range.  If you need a book for specific cuisines there will be one, for food intolerances, for a specific appliance, for celebrations, for budget busting. Pretty much for everything!

I did buy a lot of these back in the early 90s but I have misplaced them along the way. I do have a few though that I thought I would mention today. I have also posted about some of these before as well.

I'll start with what is possibly the most well known, the Children's Birthday Cake book, which I have posted about here previously.  These are the cakes that everyone wanted to have as a kid. There was a swimming pool cake where the water was blue jelly, trains, numbers, a Dolly Varden cake (where you have a doll with a skirt made of cake.

A couple of years ago, one of our lolly (as in candy) companies brought out a version and I made my then 23 years sold a green flamingo cake!!

The next AWWC book I have on my shelf is simply called Cook. The subtitle is How to Cook Absolutely Everything and it's probably a fair call. It is nearly 700 pages of recipes, tips and tricks, techniques and more. I have made a couple of things out of this book since I bought it at least 10 years ago but flicking through the pages today has made me realise that I need to take a closer look at this book. I have previously shared a recipe for Triple Choc Brownies.

If I had to confess which AWWC cookbooks we cook from the most it would be these two Pressure Cooker and Slow Cooker books. I picked the first one up on a whim from Kmart and there were so many recipes we wanted to cook from it, so I quickly ordered the second one. These books are unusual in that for every recipe there are two variations. One is where the recipe is cooked in a slow cooker and the other where it is cooked in the pressure cooker. So far we have mainly cooked the pressure cooker recipes. We have cooked poached pears, pork ribs, chicken curry and more. 

Our go to recipe out of this book is Steak and Pepper Dumpling Pie, although we never make it with dumplings. We have served it with mash potato, with soda bread, with a pastry lid and turned into an actual pie. We have also served it up to dinner guests and it has gone down a treat. It's just so tasty and versatile.

I do also own a book called Bake but that must still be in a box somewhere as I can't find it on my shelves right now.

I have already requested next month's book from the library so hopefully it comes in time for me to participate in the cookbook club.

  Weekly meals

Saturday - Steak and Pepper casserole, mash, veggies
Sunday -  Pork chops mash, beans and gravu
Monday - Pasta bake with chicken and green veg
Tuesday - Burgers
Wednesday - Out for dinner
Thursday - One pot Honey Soy chicken stir fry
Friday - Out for dinner

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

Friday, October 21, 2022

Vintage Weekend Cooking: Mrs Graham's Cold War Cookbook


I continue my celebration of National Cookbook Month with a vintage Weekend Cooking post. This, however, isn't an actual cookboob, but rather the story uses recipes as spy code!


It's 1946 and the war is over. It's time for everyone to go home and start to heal. And yet, as much as it was the end of the war, it was also the beginning of the Cold War. Germany has been divided into sectors amongst the Allies and the tensions that shaped the world for decades were building. The rebuilding of cities and countries across Europe has to start, rehousing of displaced persons needs to begin, and the search is on for the Nazi's who disappeared into the general population at the end of the war, with the assistance of some of the population who still were believers.

For teacher Edith Graham this is also the chance for a new beginning. She has spent the war at home looking after her mother. Now, she's been recruited by the British Control Commission to go Germany. Her job while she is there is to set up schooling in the ruins that is the city of Lubeck. The city is full of people living in the amongst the rubble, with barely enough food or clothes, scrounging the ruins for an existence with little time for schooling.

But Edith is not only there for the recovery effort. She has also been recruited to provide information to the British government. They are keen to located her former lover Kurt von Stavenow who was a doctor that they believe was involved in the medical "research" during the War. Edith and Kurt were close in the years before the war and she can't believe that the Kurt that she knew could possibly be the same man. After all, she had spent time with him and his aristocratic wife, Elisabeth, in Prussia before the war, and now Edith is tasked with finding either of them.

Von Stavenow is the kind of man that has caught the attention of lots of interested parties. The US and the Russians are both interested in what they can learn from him in the name of science. And even in the British government there are those are that are interested in the same thing. And then there are the parties that want to see people like him face justice for what they did during the war.

With all of these different agendas at play, it's hard for Edith to know who to trust. Everyone wants the information that Edith has collected, not least of all her friend Dori who is still in London. In order to pass information back Edith and Dori come up with a code that is centred around sharing recipes. And then there is Edith's American friend Adeline who pops up with alarming regularity. How is she involved?

In addition to Edith's female friends who all bring interesting voices, there are other characters like her driver Jack, the young refugee Luka who appoints himself as Edith's protector, and her occasional romantic interest Harry. Even within those closest to her, Edith has to question if they have their own agendas.

This book is very unusual. There are plenty of historical novels out there which talk about the female spy experience during war time, but I don't think I have ever read one in this kind of post war setting. The book also had a Cold War thriller feeling where it was hard for Edith to know who in her life she can trust, where there was danger and betrayal at every turn. And the ending. Oh my goodness I did not see that coming.

Celia Rees has written a lot of young adult historical fiction novels, but this is her first for adults. Based on this book I will definitely be looking forward to reading more from her in the future.

Using the idea of recipe as code was a very clever touch. There were plenty of examples of delicious sounding recipes mentioned, but this was also in the immediate aftermath of the war. There were shortages everywhere, and so there were also several recipes that I would be happy to never have to eat.

When I was reading the book I was trying to come up with how I was going to include a recipe for this post. There were a couple of recipes in the book that I have made before and shared on the blog including Lebkuchen (recipe here) and Apfelkuchen (recipe here) but the one that I decided to post is Bienenstich or Beesting Cake. I made it a while ago using this recipe from the Queen website. It's an unusual cake as it is made from brioche dough rather than cake but the combination with the custard was delicious.

Beesting Cake

2 cups (500ml) full cream milk
4 tsp Vanilla Bean Paste
6 large egg yolks (approx. 110g)
½ cup (110g) caster sugar
1/3 cup (50g) corn flour
45g butter, room temperature

½ cup (125ml) lukewarm milk
¼ cup (55g) caster sugar
1 ½ tsp dried yeast
2 cups (300g) plain flour
50g unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp Vanilla Bean Paste
2 large egg yolks
1 large egg

70g unsalted butter
¼ cup (55g) caster sugar
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp thickened cream
1 cup (120g) flaked almonds

For the Custard

1. Place milk, and Vanilla Bean Paste in a large saucepan over a low heat and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and set aside.

2. Combine egg yolks, sugar and corn flour in a large bowl and whisk to form a thick paste. Add a few tablespoons of warm milk mixture to thin out the mixture if necessary.

3. Slowly add half a cup of milk at a time to the egg mixture while whisking. Continue until all the milk has been added. Pour mixture back into saucepan over a low heat and bring to the boil, stirring constantly. Once mixture starts to boil, keep mixing for 1 minute and then remove from the heat and pour into a clean bowl.

4. Place a piece of cling wrap directly over the pastry cream and allow to cool for 30 minutes before whisking through butter. Allow to cool completely, before refrigerating until chilled.

For the Brioche
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with dough hook attachment, combine milk, sugar and yeast and allow to sit until foamy. Add remaining ingredients and mix on low for 1 minute, before increasing the speed and mixing for a further 5 minutes. Place cling over mixer bowl and allow dough to rise for 1 hour or until almost doubled.

2. Grease and line the base and sides of a deep 20cm round cake tin. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured bench and knead for 4 minutes, adding more flour if needed. Press into the base of prepared tin, ensuring dough covers the base of the tin. Allow to rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.

Method - Topping

1. Preheat oven to 180°C (fan forced). Prepare topping at the start of the second rise. Place all ingredients excluding flaked almonds in a medium saucepan over a low to medium heat until butter melts and mixture starts to simmer, cook for 1 minute until slightly thickened, do not brown. Remove from the heat and add flaked almonds, stirring well to combine. Set aside to cool.
2. Spoon almond topping over risen dough, do not worry about spreading the almond mixture as it will flatten out during baking. Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden. Allow to cool for 10 minutes in tin, before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
3. Slice cake in half and spread custard over the base of the cake. Place top half on top of custard.

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Top Ten Tuesday: Kitchen, Bakes and Cakes - Yum!




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

week the theme is Favourite Words.  I thought that I would tie this theme into the fact that it is National Cookbook Month so I have been focussing on cookbooks during this month as part of Weekend Cooking.  I am therefore choosing words like bake, cake, kitchen and associated words as my words!

I recently joined a Facebook group which is a monthly cookbook group. This month they are cooking from any Australian Women's Weekly cookbooks. These are just two of the AWWC cookbooks I have. I posted about the Birthday Cakes one here.

Nadiya Hussein come to prominence as a result of winning Great British Bake Off and has gone from strength to strenght. I have shared recipes from Nadiya Bakes here and from Bake Australia Great here.

Donna Hay is one of Australia's best known celebrity cooks! I have shared several of her recipes over the years. Marian Keyes is a really well known author. She shared how baking helped her with mental health issues. Here's my review.

I currently have Beatrix Bakes out of the library! 

Moving now to the word kitchen because this is where all the bakes and cakes happen! My review of Kitchen Counter Cooking School can be found here.

I just posted about In Bibi's Kitchen a couple of weeks ago, whereas Bill Granger was one of the earliest cooks that I posted about here on my blog!

Monday, October 17, 2022

This week....

I'm reading....

I started reading The Language of Food by Annabel Abbs when we were away at Easter. I read maybe 130 pages, put it down and never picked it up again. Every time I looked at it I thought I really should finish that but it never happened. When I knew I was going to do something for National Cookbook Month it seemed like a good opportunity to finally do so. I had to start from the beginning again but I managed to get it finished and reviewed the book on Saturday.

As a result of reading this book I have borrowed an audiobook from the library called Women in the Kitchen by Anne Willan, which is a book about key female figures in food from the 1600s until now and I have also borrowed an ebook of one of Eliza Acton's cookbooks. Eliza is one of the subjects of The Language of Food.

On Sunday afternoon we were having a chilled afternoon so I was able to read a big chunk of The Last Summer by Karen Swan. Often on the weekend I will tell my husband that I am "going to read my book" which is code for I might read a few pages but most likely I will then fall sleep, but this time I just kept on reading!

I'm watching...

This week we finished watching the first series of Reacher, which we really enjoyed. We will definitely be watching the second series when it comes out.

We also finished watching Shipwreck Hunters Australia. So fascinating hearing the stories of the wrecks that they were searching and seeing all the different aquatic animals they came across.


We have finally, finally sold our old house. When we put the house on the market the real estate agent assured us that we would be able to sell quickly and for a good price. Unfortunately neither of those things happened. We built at the right time, but we were selling the wrong time given that interest rates have risen every month, but it is done now and we are able to move forward.  

Now we can start focussing on things like our holiday plans!!

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