Monday, December 04, 2023

Festive Treats - October


It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas!!

And that means it is time to start reading Christmas books and watch Christmas movies and whatever else I can come up with!

Here's what I have done so far!

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. In the Greek Midwinter by Mandy Baggot

2. The Christmas Love Letters by Sue Moorcroft

3. The Christmas Movie Review (Instagram)

4.  The Christmas Club (movie)

5. Ex-Mas (movie)

Historical Fiction Reading Challenge 2024 Sign Up


Welcome to the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge for 2024! I am super excited to be hosting this challenge again this year. You are welcome to join if you are have participated before or if it is your first time!

Reading Challenge details

Each month, a new post dedicated to the HF Challenge will be created where you can add the links for the books you have read. To participate, you only have to follow the rules:

Everyone can participate! If you don't have a blog you can post a link to your review if it's posted on Goodreads, Facebook, or Amazon, or you can add your book title and thoughts in the comment section if you wish.

Add the link(s) of your review(s) including your name and book title to the Mister Linky we’ll be adding to the monthly post (please use the direct URL that will guide us directly to your review)
Any sub-genre of historical fiction is accepted (Historical Romance, Historical Mystery, Historical Fantasy, Young Adult, History/Non-Fiction, etc.)

During the following 12 months you can choose one of the different reading levels:

20th Century Reader - 2 books
Victorian Reader - 5 books
Renaissance Reader - 10 books
Medieval - 15 books
Ancient History - 25 books
Prehistoric - 50+ books

To join the challenge you only need to make a post about it, add your link in Mr. Linky below or just leave a link to your blog if you are not yet ready to post about it yet. If you don't have a blog you can just leave a comment for this post saying that you are joining, and link to your Facebook, Goodreads or other social media page where you will be sharing your reviews.

Don't forget to use the challenge hashtag #histficreadingchallenge, join in on the Facebook page, and grab your challenge badge here:

I look forward to having you join us in reading some great Historical Fiction during 2024!

Sunday, December 03, 2023

Six Degrees of Separation: Kitchen Confidential to The Burning Island



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's starting point is 

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain.

I am going to go with my first thought and see where that leads us, so my first pick is Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto.

I am planning to participate in Japanese Literature Challenge which is hosted at Dolce Bellezza so whenever I go to a bookstore I am looking for books that I might read. One of the ones that caught my attention in the City Lights bookstore in San Francisco was Days at the Marisaki Bookshop by Satoshi Yagisawa. If anyoone has any recommendatons of books to read for the challenge I am taking suggestions.

Recently I read another book set in a  bookstore that was originally published in a different language which was the Door to Door Bookstore which was originally published in German.

The most obvious jump from here is to another book about a bookstore, but instead I am focusing on the word door. I am also jumping to another genre and selecting the YA book Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

One of the characters in Lola is named Cricket, so my next choice is The Rules of Backyard Cricket by Jock Serong. I read this book for my old book club and didn't mind it, but to be honest his later books are more appealing to me.

I am therefore choosing his book, The Burning Island, which won the 2021 ARA Prize for Historical Fiction.

Next month's starting point will be Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

Saturday, December 02, 2023

Weekend Cooking: What I Baked (In My Kitchen) in November

The first Saturday of the month is when I share all the things that I baked in the previous month. There really a lot of baking done this month as I have been busy doing things like going to concerts and the like.

The first thing I did make was apple turnovers which I posted about last week. My husband did mention them again this week so I am sure that there is a chance that I might make them again.

The other thing that I made was not quite a success. I am half contemplating trying to make at least one recipe from each episode. I was aiming to make the Great British Bakeoff Chocolate Cake so bought a gigantic punnet of raspberries from Costco last week so I really needed to use them. 

Here's what I was aiming for:

And this is what I ended up with.

The recipe is a chocolate fudge cake covered in a chocolate ganache and then covered with raspberries. When I made the cake, it unfortunately collapsed in the middle so I decided to improvise. So the middle was filled with raspberries and cream to fill in the in the layers. The top is covered in cream and topped with raspberries.

Other than that I don't really have anything new in my kitchen. We do, however, have new creatures in our house. My husband's daughters have moved in for a few months, and one of them has a dog who has moved in too! This dog is beautiful but she is a bit of a terror. So far, she's eaten all the plants both inside and outside, toilet rolls, dug holes in the garden, eaten my son's X Box controller (by far the biggest issue lol) spread mud throughout the house on more than one occasion. Lucky she is cute!

Of course it is inevitable with all the toys in the house they will both always want the same one.

As it is getting to the end of the year, I am starting to contemplate what my blogging might look next year, so I have been thinking about Weekend Cooking. I love posting something foodie every week, whether it be book reviews, recipes, movie chat or whatever, and I already have a number of posts lined up for next year.  I also really enjoy hosting Weekend Cooking but I thought I would ask what other people might like to see out of Weekend Cooking. If you have any ideas I would love to hear them. Otherwise, if people are happy for things to continue as they are that's cool too! If you want to email me rather than commenting, then my email is ozdiamondlil @ gmail dot com.

I am sharing this post with In My Kitchen hosted at Sherry's Pickings.

Weekly meals

Saturday -  Out
Sunday -  Pork, mash, broccoli and gravy
Monday - Beef and Broccoli Noodles
Tuesday - Tuna Pasta Bake
Wednesday - Tuna Pasta Bake
Thursday - Beef Pepper Pot Pie
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, December 01, 2023

Historical Fiction Reading Challenge - December Linky


And so we come to the last month of the 2023 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge!

I have been thinking about next year's challenge and the sign up post will be up within the next couple of days, and I will add a post for you to add any wrap up posts shortly after. If you have any suggestions for next years challenge I would love to hear them so please leave a comment.

I am looking forward to reading more of your reviews throughout the coming month! I am sure there is going to be a lot of great historical fiction discovered and shared with fellow HF lovers during the coming month and beyond! 

If you haven't already signed up, it's not too late (but it nearly is!) The 2023 sign up post is here.

Just to recap what participants need to know. At the beginning of each month I will put up a post which will have a Mr Linky embedded into it for you to add your link.

Please remember...

  • add the link(s) of your review(s) including your name and book title to the Mister Linky we’ll be adding to our monthly post (please, do not add your blog link, but the correct address that will guide us directly to your review). A direct link to your Goodreads review is also acceptable
  • any kind of historical fiction is accepted (fantasy, young adult, graphic novels...). If you aren't sure if your book counts as historical fiction, check out this definition.
  • if you have time, have a look some of the other links that are present. You never know when you will discover new blogs or books!
I have created a group on Facebook which you can find here and don't forget to use the #histficreadingchallenge hashtag on the socials.

Let the reading begin!!

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Top Ten Tuesday: Books set in kitchens



Welcome to this week's edition of Top Ten Tuesday which is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week's theme is Books Set In X (Pick a setting and share books that are all set there. This could be a specific continent or country, a state, in outer space, underwater, on a ship or boat, at the beach, etc.) I am choosing to do books set in and around kitchens, so could feature cafe owners, cooks and more!

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus - a scientist becomes a TV cooking show host. (my review)

The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan - Four home cooks compete for the chance to co-host (my review)

The City Bakers Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller - A pastry chef flees Boston after a culinary disaster and finds herself in small town Vermont (my review)

Celebrations in Bellbird Bay by Maggie Christensen - Sandy, the main character in this book, owns a baking and catering business (my review)

Finding Family at the Cornish Cove by Kim Nash - Gemma is running the local cafe in this book set in Cornwall (my review)

The Enchanted Garden Cafe by Abigail Drake  - This cafe is run by a character called Fiona and is located in Pittsburgh. (my review)

Love and Saffron by Kim Fay - This is a story of inter-generational friendship that formed from a mutual love of food (my review)

Sweet Bean Paste by Durian Sukegawa - Another story of inter-generational friendship set in a cafe that only sells doriyaki. My review for this one will be posted in January.

Battle Royal by Lucy Parker - Two bakers compete for the opportunity to cook for a royal wedding.

Finding Love at the Christmas Market by Jo Thomas - Connie loves baking, and is looking for love online which leads her to a German Christmas market.

Where did your list take you this week?

Saturday, November 25, 2023

Weekend Cooking/Cook the Books: The City Baker's Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller

This book the current selection for Cook the Books. It's not one I remember hearing about before but I read it while I was on holidays and I thoroughly enjoyed it. With some books you know from the first chapter that it is your kind of book, and this was one of those books.

Olivia Rawlings is a talented pastry chef, but she does have other talents too, specifically for getting herself into troublesome situations that she then runs away from. The book opens when she accidentally sets fire to the restaurant she works at while carrying a Bombe Alaska.  Thankfully she knows that she can run to her friend's home in a small town in Vermont, which will allow her lay low until the dust settles.

Once there she begins working at the Sugar Maple Inn, where her boss, Margaret, is a very opinionated woman with extremely high standards and very little warmth. Livvy needs the work and a place to live so she accepts the role regardless of the challenges that she knows she will face. Fortunately, other people in the town are more welcoming.

The food descriptions in this book were amazing! I often found myself wishing I was able to eat the food that was being described. It's not only about food though. There is lots of music, a story of found family, and yes, a touch of romance!  One of the things that surprised me was the reference to a version of square dancing which took me back to my childhood years. My parents were square dance callers and they ran clubs. As an aside, I can't quite believe that it has taken me 18 years of blogging to mention that! 

Livvy was a good character despite her tendency to run whenever the going got tough. I love the relationships that she build with some of the older characters in the novel.

This was Louise Miller's first novel and I am excited to read more from her, especially if the future books have a foodie feel to them too!

One of the big components of the book is that the owner of the inn, Margaret, wants to her pastry chef to be able to bake the perfect apple pie so that she can win the local baking competition, especially in the face of her lifelong feud with one of the other contestants.

When I was thinking about what to make it seems obvious that the best recipe to cook would be apple pie, but that wasn't really ap-peel-ing to me (see what I did there!). There was even a recipe for apple pie included in the book. I did, however, still intend to do something inspired by apple pie so I went looking for some recipes using that as my search term. I did look at some really very fancy Apple Pie Cakes but I must confess I have lost my confidence in making really complicated cakes. I should challenge myself to do something complicated again but not when I just got off a plane. It needed to be something simple this time.

 If you break down the components of an apple pie, there is pastry, apple filling with cinnamon notes and then it is served with cream. So instead of apple pies, I bring you Apple Turnovers. I sort of took inspiration from a few different recipes for making this

Apple Turnovers

4 Granny Smith apples, peeled and dices into small cubes
2 tsp cornflour
1 tspn cinnamon
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch salt
2 square puff pastry sheets 
1 egg , whisked

Put apples in a large saucepan and then toss with cornflour and the add the rest of the filling ingredients. Cook on medium to medium-high heat, stirring regularly, for 5 minutes. Apple should be softened and the sauce slightly thickened.

Spread the filling on a large plate then let it cool completely

Preheat oven to 200°C/400°F (180°C fan).

Line a large cutting board  with baking paper.

Allow the pastry sheets to thaw slightly and then cut into 4 squares (approximiately 12.5cm). Brush 2 edges with egg, then pile filling on the egg brushed side. 

Fold over, seal with fork dipped in flour (prevents sticking to pastry) and then place on the paper lined cutting board.

Refrigerate for 20 minutes 

Slide the paper with the turnovers on it onto a large baking tray. Brush turnovers with egg. Pierce a couple of times with a knife and then bake for 25 minutes or until golden.

Serve warm with whipped cream or fill with stabilised whip cream once cool, if you can wait that long.

These were delicious. The only thing was that my frozen pastry was a bit old and so there were parts that were a bit dry. Next time we buy some pastry I will make some of these again with fresh pastry.

The next selection for Cook the Books is Under Cooked by Dan Ahdoot. I will also be sharing this review with Foodie Reads hosted at Based on a True Story.

Weekly meals

Saturday -  
Sunday -  Apple Turnovers
Monday - 
Tuesday - Mexican Chicken and Rice
Wednesday - One Pan Butter Chicken
Thursday - Out
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

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Sunday Salon: Historical Fiction Reading Challenge Statistics - September and October

Each month I share the statistics for the previous month for the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge,although I didn't get to do the September statistics last month as I was on holidays. So today, I am sharing the statistics for both September and October. I always find it interesting to see what are the books that people are reading and reviewing! 


In terms of the books, September was a good month for reviews with 84 reviews linked up for the challenge, shared by 19 participants, which is a 20 more than were reviewed in September last year.  There were 81 individual titles reviewed, written by 78 different authors. There were 7 reviewers who reviewed 5 or more books each this month. Thank you to everyone who shared their links whether it be 9 or just 1. 

Let's move onto the books. There were 2 books that were reviewed twice during September. They were:

A Lady's Guide to Scandal by Sophie Irwin was reviewed by both Helen at She Reads Novels and at Staircase Wit.

Mrs Porter Calling by A J Pearce was reviewed at Staircase Wit and at The Chocolate Lady's Book Review blog.

In addition, there were 3 authors who had multiple books reviewed. 

They were Agatha Christie whose books Murder on the Orient Express and Appointment with Death were reviewed by Shellie from Shellie Loves Books.

Susan at Reading World reviewed Beloved and Lost Lover by Mary Lancaster 

Christopher Morley's books Parnassus on Wheels and The Haunted Bookshop were reviewed at Belle's Library.

It probably worked out quite well that I have combined the statistics for these two months.  There were 34 individual titles reviewed, written by 33 different authors in October. There were 3 reviewers who reviewed 5 or more books in October.   However, there were no books reviewed more than once, and the only author who had more than one book reviewed was Agatha Christie. Her book Black Coffee was reviewed by Shellie at Shellie Loves Books and Halloween Party was reviewed at Laura's Reviews.

My thoughts are very much turning towards next year's challenge. My plan is to put the December linky up on 1 December as usual, and then the sign up post for the 2024 challenge will be up within a couple of days. I will also put up a linky to enable to link up any wrap ups for the 2023 challenge to be shared.

Are you starting to think about your reading challenges in 2024. I hope you will consider joining the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.

Saturday, November 18, 2023

Weekend Cooking: What We Ate on Holidays - PNW and San Francisco

And so we come to the last part of our trip. Our first week was in Hawaii, then we went to Canada, and then we visited a town called Bellingham in the Pacific North West and San Francisco.

We went to Bellingham to meet up with some friends who I originally met online in an author forum nearly 20 years ago. The author lives in the city and so we were able to meet up with her for coffee and then on the Saturday night we cooked dinner for her. It was very cool. Guess what we forgot to do though...take photos! The menu took a lot of negotiations as we needed to take into considerations food allergies, likes and dislikes but we got there in the end.  Roast chicken (using this recipe) plus roasted vegetables including rainbow baby potatoes, carrots, onion, served with salad and seriously good gravy. We then had a gluten free apple grunt with whipped cream,whipped by my husband by hand hence why he was inducted into the girls weekend with a whisk! It is something that happens every time we get together. It definitely impresses the girls every time. At home, he uses a hand held mixer. It was a delicious meal.

On one of the days my husband went off to the Boeing factory, and we decided we wanted to see some nature so we took a drive towards Mt Baker, which was just over an hour away from where we were staying. It was absolutely gorgeous, and I got to walk on snow and touch it, much to my husband's annoyance. When we went to Europe at Christmas time he was really hoping for snow and we got none, and then he missed this view as well.

We then travelled to San Francisco, and what is one thing that you need to eat in SF? Seafood chowder which we had for lunch on the first day and fordinner on the last day before we got on the plane to come home. We were staying down in the Fisherman's Wharf area so we had to go to the famous Boudin bakery.

In between those two meals, there were a few other highlights

Whilst this is the third time that I have spent time in San Francisco, I had never been to Alcatraz, so that was the first thing that we booked for this holiday, even before we had booked flights or accommodation. Of course, I was interested in the kitchen. Below is the menu for the last meal that was ever served at Alcatraz. It was a very interesting place to visit, and we also got to see some whales out in the bay.

On another day we went on a wine tasting tour to Sonoma and Napa Valleys, with a stop at Muir Woods and then lunch in the town of Sonoma. It was a great day. I didn't love the wines but the wineries were lovely, the last one in particular.

On our final day we wanted to just wander around a couple of different parts of the city. The first was to walk through Chinatown. It was pretty early so there wasn't a lot open. After that we chose to go and wander through Golden Gate Park, and we spent some time in the Japanese Garden. It is such a peaceful and beautiful place.

We decided to stop and have tea in the gardens. We chose karage chicken, Japanese cookies and  Doriyaki which I was very excited to try after reading a book called Sweet As not too long ago. I have the review for that book scheduled for January.

And so, we come to the end of our travels for this time. Time to start seriously planning our next big trip, which won't be until August next year, although I wouldn't mind sneaking a quick trip in but I am not sure my husband is convinced on that!

Weekly meals

Saturday -  Away
Sunday -  Steak, baked potato and salad
Monday - 
Tuesday - Pork Nachos
Wednesday - take away
Thursday - OUt for dinner
Friday - Green Curry Chicken Pie

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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