Saturday, November 30, 2013

Dinner, 30/11/13: Ham and Leek Canneloni (and greens)

Another one we've had before many times. Not hard, and nice and warming. 

Let it snow

Olivia's latest creation - she has the thumbnail painted with snowflakes as well, but it's hard to photograph the fingers and the thumb all together and show the design...  Looking forward to seeing what she does for Christmas...

Friday, November 29, 2013

Dinner, 29/11/13: Chorizo pilaf with okra and tomatoes

Yep, chorizo again - when I planned the soup, turned out chorizo was on sale, 2 for something, so I ended up with extra. Hence the second meal so soon afterwards with chorizo in. Not that I mind...  Anyway, This basic rice dish with chorizo and tomatoes looked good, but I wanted something fresh (and green) to add to it, so I quickly fried up a bit of okra with some fresh tomatoes, and had it alongside - or rather, Geoff and I mixed ours in, and the kids grudgingly ate a small amount of okra next to their pilaf - Alex doesn't mind it so much, so he had a little more than the girls, who just had a  small taste...

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Dinner, 27/11/13: Portugese kale, chorizo and potato soup

This was a great wintery filler soup - warming and hearty. We had it with some bread and all enjoyed it.  This isn't precisely the recipe I used, but it looks similar...

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Dinner, 26/11/13: Wholemeal pasta with broccoli and almonds

This was new to us - and on the whole, excellent. We decided that we like the wholemeal spaghetti in this recipe (I have mixed feelings about wholemeal pasta, in general preferring regular, despite the health benefits of wholegrains - but in some dishes, it really works well. This is one of those.) and the basic flavour combination is good - the broc and almonds go well together. However, it needs a bit more broccoli and also, some more chili in it - not quite spicy enough for us (even Sarah agrees on this point, and she's usually the one who says things are spicy enough). But definitely a keeper. Very quick and easy.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Dinner, 25/11/13: Thai Style Mince with Fragrant Rice (and Green Beans)

We've had this dish many times before, though this is the first time I've added green beans. I will definitely do that again, though for a little less time than I did this time, as they were a tiny bit mushy for my taste...

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Dinner: French Pot Roast Chicken with Thyme and Lemon

This was a lovely way of cooking a pot roast chicken - and easy, too, as it was in the slow-cooker.  The gravy was a lovely lemony sauce - but not too lemony. Definitely one to cook again.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Dinner: Italian Meatballs with Chunky Tomato Sauce

I've cooked this before - it's from the Hairy Bikers' Diet cookbook (The Hairy Dieters) - last time we found the meatballs a little dry, though the sauce was gorgeous.  This time, I took someone's suggestion to add some chopped mushrooms to the meatballs, and this worked well. And the sauce was still gorgeous!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Dinner: Chicken and Chipotle Chili Soup

From the Covent Garden soup book - I get a lot of use out of this book.  This was very nice - wintery and warm. Yum!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Dinner, 19/11/13: Sticky Citrus and Ginger Chicken

Girls cooked tonight!  Now there's a birthday present...

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Dinner, 17/11/13: Lamb steaks, potatoes, green beans

Lamb from the Farmers' Market - when meat is this good, it doesn't need anything else!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Dessert - or what's left of it...

And of course, there has to be dessert. There was pumpkin pie (one of my favourites and very seasonal, so I often have it for my birthday), 

caramel ice cream (essentially vanilla with a tin of Carnation Caramel stirred through)

and as backup (and for the kids later) some iced spice cake.  Mmm.

Birthday feast

It's that time of year again - I like to have friends around for my birthday, and of course, I feed them!

This year we had spinach and potato pastries; courgette, mushroom and mozzarella tart; feta and green bean salad with roast tomatoes; potato and carrot tart

roast vegetable salad; warm bean and leek salad and Asian-style baked onions, potatoes and sweet potatoes.  I've linked to some of the recipes, and included the others below...

Nordic Nail Art

Looks like one of those wintery jumpers!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Dinner, 15/11/13: New Potato and Mince Curry

Something we have quite often. In this instance, Olivia cooked it (mostly). Hoorah for teenagers, at least in some circumstances...

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Monday, November 11, 2013

Dinner, 11/11/13; Fiery Prawn Linguine

Verdict: not very fiery - needed hotter chilis.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Dinner, 6/11/13: Parsnip, Leek and Lemon Soup

As winter draws in, there will be a lot more soup in the North household...

Saturday, November 02, 2013

What I read: Sept & Oct 2013

I haven't stopped reading, but I only read 5 books in September, so  I decided to wait and combine them with my October books. Part of the reason I read little was that of course I had to go back to work, but also, I read two books which were quite long, and that took some time...  Anyway, here's what I thought of them all.

1. The Hour I First Believed,  Wally Lamb. Wally Lamb is the author of one of my favourite all-time books (She's Come Undone) so when I saw this one in a used book shop, I grabbed it. This was one of the long ones, but it was a great story. Reminded me of a kind of John Irving epic (without the wrestling). The story centered on the lives of two people who were (fictional) survivors of the Columbine school shooting - one who actually lived through the event and her husband, who taught at the school, but was out of town on the day due to a funeral.  It was an interesting exploration of the effects that a traumatic event can have on the lives of the people involved - those who lose loved ones, those who survive the event, those who are connected to survivors, and so on. There was lots more to the book, but that's the starting premise. I found the characters well drawn - realistic and flawed but in a way which still drew me to them. And I am reminded that I actually own Lamb's other novel, I Know This Much is True, but have never read it (it's a gigantic hardback and I always forget about it as it's on a different bookcase.  Really must get around to it!)

2. The Cleaner of Chartres, Salley Vickers.  Lots of people have heard of Miss Garnet's Angel, but Vickers has written many other stories, of various styles and subject matters (though all roughly dealing with human relationships). I enjoyed this one more than some of her others (though I haven't disliked any I've read) - perhaps because it's more in my comfort zone and perhaps a little less heavy, despite dealing with some serious issues, than some (e.g. The Other Side of You, which I read earlier this year).

3. Arlington Park, Rachel Cusk. A novel about a number of people who live in a certain neighbourhood, exploring their lives and issues. This was fine, but not one of my favourite reads.

4. Memoirs of a Geisha, Arthur Golden.  This book has been on my shelf for a while - I picked it up at a book sale a year or two ago, and had been reluctant to try it - I think under that principal that when everyone raves about something, maybe it's too good to be true.  However, I finally decided to give it a go, and am glad I did - apparently, it's one of those instances where everyone likes a book simply because it's a really excellent book. If you haven't read this, do try it - it's a super story, and the main character is very engaging. And of course the details of the life of a geisha are very interesting as well, and probably not entirely what you'd expect. (This was the other longish book!)

5.  Moon over Soho, Ben Aaronovitch. And then for something completely different. 2nd book in the Peter Grant, Apprentice Wizard series (not sure if the series is called that - I just tagged it that way) and although perhaps not quite as good as the first (partly due to the effect of knowing what some of the funky twists were likely to involve) still an excellent continuation of the idea (detective story in contemporary London, only with magic thrown in), with great characters, new and old, and a creative plot line. Plus lots of things set up for book 3 and beyond. And I do love the author's tone - very funny, without trying too hard.

6. Sacred Hearts, Sarah Dunant. An historical novel about a girl inside a nunnery in 16th century Italy. I like a good historical novel, and this was.

7. The Sea Change, Joanne Rossiter.  The parallel stories of the life of a young woman victim of a tidal wave (on her honeymoon) and her mother, who was forced to leave the village she loved growing up (taken over by military in the war) examining their unresolved issues both with one another and in other relationships in their lives.  Enjoyed this, though not one of the very top reads.

8. Graceling, Kristin Cashore.  Teen fiction, fantasy. Set in a world where some people are born with special gifts, which set them apart from others, either through the ability itself or through fear and superstition. The main character, Katsa, is graced with the gift of killing.  Also involves some romance and political intrigue. An excellent piece of teen fantasy. Looking forward to the other books set in the same world.

9. Whispers Underground, Ben Aaronovitch. Another in the series above and again, an excellent adventure. My husband is reading these as well, and keeps ordering them from the library, so rather than savour them over time, I am feasting on them more or less all at once.  However, the author has only written four so far, so after we read the next one, we'll have to have a break!

10. Club Dead, Charmaine Harris. 3rd in the Sookie Stackhouse southern vampire series. This is the sort of thing I often read when I want something easy on the brain, but still entertaining.  These amuse me; they're good fun.

11. The Age of Miracles, Karen Thompson Walker. A nice coming-of-age story, with a twist - the earth's rotation is slowing down, and it's causing all kinds of problems. Thought this well written, with a well-thought-out premise and a lot of interesting side issues.

12. The Sunday Philosophy Club, Alexandfer McCall Smith.  Gentle mystery set in Edinburgh. I'd probably read more of these, especially on holiday, etc, where I want something easy-going and not-too-taxing, but still well-written, but I probably won't seek them out. It wasn't  quite as charming as the No 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, but what is...

13. The Three Body Problem, Catherine Shaw. Another mystery. This one historical, and set in late 19th century Cambridge, centering around mathematicians. I have a couple more in this series, which I think I will also enjoy. The mathematics was interesting without being too tiresome or detailed and the characters were pretty solid and didn't feel anachronistic.

Dinner, 2/11/13: Courgette & Mozzarella Tarts

A nice way to use up a bit of pesto, if you have a bit hanging around...  Very quick and easy! And easy to modify a bit to suit your particular needs...  Recipe here

Friday, November 01, 2013

A day with the dreamy spires...

We travelled out to Oxford for the day, to meet up with my brother- and sister- in law. Oxford has the advantage of being lovely, as well as being about halfway between where they live (Leicester) and where we live (London). So we often meet up there...  I used to live in Oxford, many moons ago, in my student days, so I have a great fondness for it.  My sister-in-law hadn't been since she was a teenager, and as she's older than I am, it's been a few years for her!  So we poked around a bit in the morning, then had some lunch, and poked around a bit more in the afternoon. 

I've always loved the covered market - I think this produce stand has been there forever - there was certainly one in the same place when I lived there, and that was nearly 25 years ago. 

And I'm sure the pigeons are simply descendents of the pigeons which always used to hang out there!

I spotted quite a few lovely doors this time around, in addition to more expected attractions, like the Radcliffe Camera, 

...which had been yarn-bombed!

And what's Oxford without a photo with a number of bicycles in it!