Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Book Plan Update - September

Back in January, I  made a plan to try to read through books I owned, and not buy new books until I'd made a substantial reduction in the (unread) books I already had. I've been tracking my progress/recidivism:
  • In January I didn't gain any books, but also didn't remove many titles from my list as I read a lot of library books and had some re-reads. (2 titles removed, 0 added; net result -2)
  • In February, I made bigger inroads in my owned titles (7 titles removed, 1 added; net result -6)
  • In March, well, you win some, you lose some (4 titles removed, 10 titles added; net result +6)
  • In April, better, but not perfect (6 titles removed, 7 added; net result +1)
  • Not too bad in May, either (5 titles removed, 6 added; net result +1)
  • Great inroads in June (11 titles removed, 3 added; net result -8)
  • Well done for July, as well (10 titles removed, 2 added; net result -8)
  • In August, there was a lot of book-buying (8 titles removed, 13 titles added; net result +5)
Let's see what September brings: 
  • I managed to read 4 titles from my list (Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan, Virals by Kathy Reichs, The Resurrectionists by Michael Collins, One Thousand White Women by Jim Fergus)
  • I bought two books in a cheap shop in Bristol (An English Ghost Story by Kim Newman, Birdy by William Wharton) and one book at a car boot sale (Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada)
  • I liberated one book from the parent swap shelf at school (I've donated lots to the shelf in my time) (Hanging by a Thread by Monica Ferris)
  • I read 1 library book this month (Vendetta by Michael Dibdin)
September's tally is therefore...
books read: 5
titles removed: 4,  titles added: 4 ; net result +/-0

Here's the updated list of Books to Read in 2015.  There are now 45 books on the list, with 3 months to go - so that's 15 per month if I buy/receive no more books before the end of the year (unlikely with both a birthday and Christmas to come!). Obviously, that's not going to happen - I only got 5 books read in September and the run up to Christmas is no less busy (though  Valley of Amazement was particularly long, which didn't help). [Books with an asterisk are ones which were on the list at the start of the year.]
  1. Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin (charity shop, March 2015)
  2. Jo Baker, Longbourn (Big Waterstones, August 2015)
  3. Philip Baruth, The Brothers Boswell (Waterstones Canterbury bargain bin, July 2015)
  4. Laura Beatty, Darkling (Big Waterstones, August 2015)
  5. Charlotte Betts, The Apothecary's Daughter (Waterstones Kingston, March 2015)
  6. Stephen Burke, The Good Italian (Fiumicino Airport, July 2015)
  7. Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone (this one would be a re-read) *
  8. Arthur Conan Doyle, The Hound of the Baskervilles *
  9. Anthony Doerr, All the Light we Cannot See (Big Waterstones, August 2015)
  10. Jeffrey Eugenides, The Virgin Suicides (Waterstones Kingston, March 2015)
  11. Hans Fallada, Alone in Berlin (car boot sale, Bristol, Sept 2015)
  12. Monica Ferris, Hanging by a Thread (swap shelf at school, Sept 2015)
  13. Nathan Filer, The Shock of the Fall (charity shop, August 2015)
  14. Ford Maddox Ford, Parade's End (Nov 2012 - birthday present - bought after the BBC adaptation - but I knew I wouldn't read it straight away as I wanted to let time pass from the adaptation.  Enough time has probably passed now...) *
  15. E M Forster, Howards End (late 2014) *
  16. Miles Franklin, My Brilliant Career *
  17. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude (would be a re-read, bought shortly after his death - spring 2014 - as I was reminded how much I enjoyed it and I didn't seem to own a copy - think my old one fell apart, probably...) *
  18. Elizabeth Gaskell, North and South *
  19. Graham Greene, Brighton Rock *
  20. Frances Hardinge, The Lie Tree (Waterstones Durham, August 2015)
  21. Emma, Healey, Elizabeth is Missing (Waterstones Durham, August 2015)
  22. Smith Henderson, Fourth of July Creek (Big Waterstones, August 2015)
  23. Alice Hoffman, The Museum of Extraordinary Things (Waterstones online, June 2015)
  24. Anjali Joseph, Saraswati Park *
  25. Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian (charity table, Wetland Centre, May 2015)
  26. John McGregor, If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things (charity shop, April 2015 - will be a re-read as have read it in (apparently) October 2004 for a book group)
  27. Tom McNeal, Goodnight, Nebraska (AbeBooks, March 2015)
  28. Azar Nafisi, Reading Lolita in Tehran *
  29. Patrick Ness, The Crane Wife (charity shop, April 2015)
  30. Kim Newman, An English Ghost Story (The Last Bookshop, Brisol, Sept 2015)
  31. David Nicholls, Us (Waterstones Durham, August 2015)
  32. Kate O'Brien, The Land of Spices *
  33. Peter Robinson, Abbatoir Blues (charity shop, August 2015)
  34. Anuradha Roy, An Atlas of Impossible Longing (Winter 2013, bought in a cheap shop in Oxford) *
  35. Carlos Ruiz Zafon, The Prisoner of Heaven (charity shop, August 2015)
  36. Simon Sebag Montefiore, One Night in Winter (Waterstones Piccadilly, not sure of date) *
  37. Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Barnes & Noble (in MD), Summer 2013 - a re-read, as I read it when a teen) *
  38. Dana Stabenow, A Cold Day for Murder (charity shop, August 2015)
  39. Dana Stabenow, Play with Fire (charity shop, August 2015)
  40. Andrew Taylor, The Anatomy of Ghosts (passed on from Geoff, April 2015)
  41. Rosie Thomas, The Illusionists (WH Smith, May 2015)
  42. Rose Tremaine, Merivel (Birthday, 2014) *
  43. Barry Unsworth, The Ruby in her Navel  *
  44. William Wharton, Birdy (The Last Bookshop, Bristol, Sept 2015)
  45. Niall Williams, Only Say the Word (charity shop, August 2015)

September round up

It's been a funny month - not nearly as much cooking as I normally do, largely because I've taken on some private tuition work, and this keeps me busy a little later in the afternoon. Between that and the things the kids have to do in the evening, there's not a lot of time for cooking on Monday- Thursday. Thursday was always a no-cooking night because everyone has to be different places at different times, most of them around dinner time - but poor old Monday through Wednesday are going to have to be sorted in other ways.

We've tried a few options, and I suspect it will continue to be a mix of kids cooking, Geoff cooking, pre-cooking and eating leftovers on those days.  Really, it's surprising it's lasted this long, our ability to (most night) eat dinner with most of the family.


  • 30th: Fish fingers & chips (K, O, A only - Alex cooking)
  • 29th: Everyone fend for yourself
  • 28th: Meatballs, salad & chips (kids only, Sarah cooking)
  • 27th: out for Sarah's birthday
  • 26th: Smoked Haddock, baked potatoes, fennel
  • 25th: Filled Pasta Bake
  • 24th: Fend For Yourself Thursday
  • 23rd: Cold Chicken, potatoes and carrots
  • 22nd: Ham & Vegetable Soup
  • 21st: Pasta bake with gammon & peas
  • 20th: Roast Chicken, roast potatoes, cabbage
  • 19th: Spag bol (K, S out; Geoff cooking)
  • 18th: Gammon, Oven Potatoes, Bean & Beetroot (S out)
  • 17th: Bacon, Potato & Onion Casserole (K, S out; Geoff cooking)
  • 16th: Chicken Curry (K, S out; Geoff cooking)
  • 15th: Chili con carne (from freezer)
  • 14th: leftover pasta
  • 13th: leftover Biryani
  • 12th: dinner out (Bristol)
  • 11th: Pea, Bean & Chorizo Pasta
  • 10th: Vegetable Biryani
  • 9th: Butternut squash, thyme, bacon & risotto
  • 8th: Chicken with Green Beans & Potatoes (Sarah cooking)
  • 7th: Pork and Peanut Noodle Stir Fry (Olivia cooking)
  • 6th: Broccoli and Gorgonzola pie
  • 5th: Chili con carne (Geoff cooking)
  • 4th: Mini Toads in the Hole, cabbage
  • 3rd: Leek and rocket soup, biscuits
  • 2nd: Spaghetti with leeks, peas and pesto
  • 1st: Green pork and vegetable curry

Saturday, September 26, 2015

...and then there was cake


Good way to spend one's 18th birthday - with friends at Airhop, a giant trampoline park. This is Sarah's friend Katharine, doing a straddle jump or something like that (she & Sarah both did trampolining at school for a while).  The guys are friends as well, but I only caught Kath mid-jump...

This is Sarah doing a flip from the trampolines into the big pit of foam chunks. 

And here are some of the girls having a go at team dodgeball - on trampolines, of course.

Dinner, 26/9/15: Smoked Haddock, potatoes, fennel

Monday, September 21, 2015

Book 94: One Thousand White Women by Jim Fergus

Once upon a time, a leader of the Cheyenne nation met with Ulysses S Grant and proposed what to him seemed like a highly suitable idea for developing lasting peace between Indians and white people: as children belong to the tribe of their mother, let the US government give the Indians 1000 white women to marry into the Cheyenne nation. Their children will then automatically belong to the white tribe as well as being Indians, and peace will begin to be forged. Of course, the US government said no - but what if they didn't? What if a certain handful of white women were sent west to set up a peace-by-interbreeding programme? What if one of them were the highly literate May Dodd, unfairly incarcerated in an asylum by her posh family for running off to live with her working-class lover?  What if she kept a journal of her time out west? This (entirely fictional) set of journals explores just that situation and does it wonderfully - the story is immediately engaging and I think the author balances very well the way these women might have felt in this scenario - the alienation and even repugnance at times with which the women would have viewed life among the Cheyenne, against the growing sense of place, sympathy and even love that would have developed. A super book.

Dinner, 21/9/15: Pasta Bake with Ham, Cheese & Peas

This was a make-ahead meal - I put it together yesterday, ready to pop in the oven today, which seemed to work out well. And there are leftovers for lunch this week - yay!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Dinner, 18/9/15: Gammon, Oven Potatoes, Beans & Beetroot

What a crazy week - even more than normal...  Several parent info meetings at school have meant I've cooked almost no nights this week, using leftovers and having Geoff cook - I'd post pics of his cooking, but no one remembers to take photos when I'm not here! Anyway, nice to finally have a night in. And lots of leftover gammon for meals in the week - I'm going to do some pre-cooking on Sunday (I'm out all day Saturday on another university visit - almost done with those) to help with stuff during the week... It's going to be a very busy year, chez North.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Book 93: Virals by Kathy Reichs

This was ok - it's a teen/YA novel, with a little forensic science and some crazy viral action in it (you might guess this from the title). Written by the author of the Tempe Brennan series (on which the show Bones is loosely based), it sometimes felt like the author trying to capitalise on the current rage for dystopic YA fiction (not that this was; it's set in the real (more or less) world. But it was entertaining, if a little too teeny for my taste.  I do enjoy a lot of YA fiction, but I thought this was  a little too pitched to the teen market for me - hard to put my finger on it, but it didn't ring as true as some YA fiction does. I probably won't follow up on the rest of the series, but it wasn't bad, just not great either. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Book 92: The Resurrectionists by Michael Collins

I wasn't sure when I began this that I would stick with it, as I found it a little hard to get into the voice of the main character, but actually, this quickly resolved, which is good, as I found I enjoyed the novel quite a bit (if "enjoy" is quite the right word). The blurb on the back of the book tends to approach it from a very thriller/mystery sort of perspective, and though there's some unravelling of the past -and indeed the present- to do, that's not necessarily the gist, but rather the exploration of Frank's life and choices and his relationships with people. Sounds like many other novels, perhaps (not necessarily a bad thing) but added interest here is created because we can't be at all sure whether to trust Frank as a narrator -and an untrustworthy narrator makes for quite an edgy sort of story.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

More books in

Sarah and I were in Bristol this weekend on another university visit - we poked around in Bristol a little yesterday and a bit more today as well as looking at the uni...  The two on the left were from a shop where all books were £3 (2 for £5) - I've actually read Birdy before, ages and ages ago, but don't own a copy, and thought I'd enjoy reading it again.  The one on the right came from a car boot sale we visited briefly this morning.  I think I'm probably pathologically incapable of not buying books. This doesn't bother me. Much.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Dinner, 11/9/15: Pea, Bean and Chorizo Pasta

Another quick and easy weeknight dinner...

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Dinner, 10/9/15: Vegetable Biryani

Something we have quite often - we like it, it's pretty easy to make, and it makes lots, so there are always leftovers, either for lunch or for another dinner - something which will be really useful in the beginning of a busy week. 

Book in

This one was on the parent swap book shelf at school - I am pretty sure I've read it before as I've read quite a few in this series, but it's been so long I don't really remember it if I have read it. Anyway, a nice addition to my collection of quick mystery reads...

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Dinner, 9/9/15: Butternut Squash, Thyme and Bacon Risotto

To be honest, I didn't really follow the recipe much for this - it was just the idea I used, to get rid of the half a squash and four slices of bacon in my fridge...

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Dinner, 6/9/15: Broccoli and Gorgonzola Pie

This is a recipe from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi - one of my favourite vegetarian cookbooks. There are a lot of dishes which take a bit more effort, so they are more weekend cooking than weekday, but that's ok, too. The recipe uses puff pastry, and I had every intention of doing so, but I forgot to buy it and our little local shop didn't have any in stock, so I made shortcrust instead - and it worked just fine. I had meant to take a photo of it one I cut into it, and served it with salad, but I've obviously forgotten that as well. Oh well.  We all really liked it anyway - and the kids didn't even complain that there was blue cheese in it!

Saturday, September 05, 2015

Book 91: The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan

I liked this, though not as much as some of Tan's other novels - it's very different, more epic in scope (and very long), and has quite a lot of sex in it (not surprisingly, for a book about courtesans). As always with her novels, it's very well written, and I assume historically plausible, but there were times when I just wanted a little less detail about the characters' lives and wished the story moved forward in time a little faster.

Dinner, 5/9/15: Chili-con-carne (Geoff cooking)

Sarah and I were away all day at a University Open day, so it was lovely to come home to a dinner which had already been cooked by someone else!  And very tasty it was, as well.

Friday, September 04, 2015

Dinner, 4/9/15: Mini Toads-in-the-hole, cabbage

Aren't they cute? I use a normal Yorkshire pudding batter recipe and make them in muffin tins. The sausages keep the batter from rising quite as much as it might for normal Yorkshire puds, but they are still yummy...

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Dinner, 3/9/15: Leek and Rocket Soup, Biscuits

Back-to-school and cooler weather means we'll be seeing lots of soup...

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Dinner, 1/9/15: Green pork and vegetable curry

The recipe is for a chicken curry,and I've made it before with both chicken and pork (though not together) - it really works nicely, even the parsnips, which might seem a bit unexpected...

August Round Up

What we ate for dinner, AUGUST 2015

  • 31st: Not-a-barbecue at a friend's house
  • 30th: Mexican Bake
  • 29th: Paella style rice with chicken and black olives
  • 28th: Sweet and Sour Chicken Thighs
  • 27th: Lunch out/dinner on train (Durham)
  • 26th: Dinner out (Durham)
  • 25th: Dinner out (Durham)
  • 24th: Panzanella, Lamb Steaks
  • 23rd: Spiced Indian Sweet Potato Wraps
  • 22nd: Vietnamese Pork Salad
  • 21st: Cider, mustard and herb chicken, mash
  • 20th: South Indian Egg Curry
  • 19th: Lunch out with John & Angela
  • 18th: Pesto, Artichoke and Prosciutto Pizza
  • 17th: Filled Pasta Bake (Olivia cooking)
  • 16th: Ribs, Corn, Carrots, Salad
  • 15th: Pork Mince & New Potato Curry (Geoff cooking)
  • 14th: Sticky Citrus Chicken with Carrots and Cashews (Sarah cooking)
  • 13th: Creamy Sausage Pasta
  • 12th: Picnic lunch at Barbon Fells, dinner on the drive home
  • 11th: Lunch out on holiday
  • 10th: Away at a friend's house
  • 9th: Away at a friend's house
  • 8th: Pizza, Salad, Veg (at a friend's house)
  • 7th: Cottage Pie (at a friend's house)
  • 6th: Sausages, Carrots, Potatoes
  • 5th: Chicken, Potatoes, Runner Beans (Sarah cooking)
  • 4th: Chickpea and Spinach Curry
  • 3rd: Leftovers
  • 2nd: Thai Salmon with Stir Fried Veg & Noodles
  • 1st: Courgette & Prawn Curry