Saturday, October 31, 2015

Book Plan Update - October

At the start of 2015, 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)
  • In September, I didn't read very much - I did read a couple of longish books, but I've just been so busy that not much reading got done (4 titles removed, 4 titles added: net result +/- 0)
Perhaps October will fare better: 
  • I  read 6 titles  from my list (Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey, The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle, Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi, A Cold Day for Murder by Dana Stabenow, Hanging by a Thread by Monica Ferris, The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness)
  • I read one book which I borrowed from my classroom's Book Corner (Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card)
  • I re-read one book I've had for ages in a series I'm going through again before giving them to the charity shop (Hocus by Jan Burke)
  • I removed two titles from my list -  books I started but didn't really fancy (My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin,  An Atlas of Impossible Longing by Anuradha Roy)
  • I bought four books in the Waterstones in Reading (The Storied Life of A J Firky by Gabrielle Zevin,  Some Luck by Jane Smiley,  The Bees by Liliane Paul,  The Enchanted by Rene Denfield)
  • I bought two books in a shop in Bloomsbury (Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle, A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler)
  • I bought one used book from AbeBooks online (Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card)
October's tally is therefore...
books read: 8
titles removed: 8,  titles added: 7 ; net result -1

Here's the updated list of Books to Read in 2015.  There are now 45 books on the list, with 2 months to go. Even if I quit my job and just read, I'm not sure I could get through that! However, there are only 12 books on the list which were there at the start of the year  [Books with an asterisk], so despite the acquisition of new books, I've done pretty well getting through ones I already owned. And the total number of books on the list is down as well, which is good.
  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. Orson Scott Card, Speaker for the Dead (AbeBooks, October 2015)
  8. Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone (this one would be a re-read) *
  9. Arthur Conan Doyle, Adventure of Sherlock Holmes (World of Books, October 2015)
  10. Rene Denfield, The Enchanted (Waterstones Reading, October 2015)
  11. Anthony Doerr, All the Light we Cannot See (Big Waterstones, August 2015)
  12. Jeffrey Eugenides, The Virgin Suicides (Waterstones Kingston, March 2015)
  13. Hans Fallada, Alone in Berlin (car boot sale, Bristol, Sept 2015)
  14. Nathan Filer, The Shock of the Fall (charity shop, August 2015)
  15. 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...) *
  16. E M Forster, Howards End (late 2014) *
  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. Smith Henderson, Fourth of July Creek (Big Waterstones, August 2015)
  22. Alice Hoffman, The Museum of Extraordinary Things (Waterstones online, April 2015)
  23. Anjali Joseph, Saraswati Park *
  24. Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian (charity table, Wetland Centre, May 2015)
  25. 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)
  26. Tom McNeal, Goodnight, Nebraska (AbeBooks, March 2015)
  27. Kim Newman, An English Ghost Story (The Last Bookshop, Brisol, Sept 2015)
  28. David Nicholls, Us (Waterstones Durham, August 2015)
  29. Kate O'Brien, The Land of Spices *
  30. Liliane Paul, The Bees (Waterstones Reading, October 2015)
  31. Peter Robinson, Abbatoir Blues (charity shop, August 2015)
  32. Carlos Ruiz Zafon, The Prisoner of Heaven (charity shop, August 2015)
  33. Simon Sebag Montefiore, One Night in Winter (Waterstones Piccadilly, not sure of date) *
  34. Jane Smiley, Some Luck (Waterstones Reading, October 2015)
  35. Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Barnes & Noble (in MD), Summer 2013 - a re-read, as I read it when a teen) *
  36. Dana Stabenow, Play with Fire (charity shop, August 2015)
  37. Andrew Taylor, The Anatomy of Ghosts (passed on from Geoff, April 2015)
  38. Rosie Thomas, The Illusionists (WH Smith, May 2015)
  39. Rose Tremaine, Merivel (Birthday, 2014) *
  40. Anne Tyler, A Spool of Blue Thread (World of Books, October 2015)
  41. Barry Unsworth, The Ruby in her Navel  *
  42. William Wharton, Birdy (The Last Bookshop, Bristol, Sept 2015)
  43. Niall Williams, Only Say the Word (charity shop, August 2015)
  44. Gabrielle Zevin, The Storied Life of A J Firky (Waterstones Reading, October 2015)

October Meal Round Up


  • 31st: Oriental Chicken and Noodle Broth
  • 30th: K, G, O out
  • 29th: K, S, A out
  • 28th: Goats Cheese and Pesto Canneloni
  • 27th: Quinoa Cakes with Salbitxada sauce
  • 26th: Everyone find your own
  • 25th: Fajitas
  • 24th: Spicy Salmon with Coriander Mash
  • 23rd: Kung pao prawns & sugar snap peas
  • 22nd: Fend for yourself
  • 21st: Cottage Pie, cabbage
  • 20th: Chicken Korma with courgettes (freezer)
  • 19th: Pasta with sausage sauce
  • 18th: Steak & Mushroom Pie, Beetroot tops, new potatoes; cheesecake
  • 17th: Sausages, Jacket Potato, Roasted Beetroot
  • 16th: Leftovers
  • 15th: Everyone find your own
  • 14th: Pork Cordon Bleu, Broccoli, New Potatoes
  • 13th: Pasta and Lentil Bake
  • 12th: Chicken and Olive Casserole, rice
  • 11th: Beef and Aubergine tagine, cous cous
  • 10th: Greek frittata, salad, bread
  • 9th: Goat Cheese & Courgette pizza
  • 8th: Lamb cutlets, cabbage, mash (G cooking, K & S out)
  • 7th: Salmon, peas, new potatoes
  • 6th: Cauliflower & Broccoli Cheese
  • 5th: Pasta Bolognese (from freezer)
  • 4th: Out for Sarah's Official Birthday Dinner
  • 3rd: Sausages, Mash, Peas (G cooking, K, S away)
  • 2nd: Chicken Korma
  • 1st: Everyone fend for yourself

Spiced Apple Sauce Cake

Another (belated) birthday choice from Olivia - this was lovely - very moist and tasty. I didn't make the icing from the recipe as I had some vanilla/cream cheese type icing in the cupboard already, but same basic principle...

Dinner, 31/10/15: Oriental Chicken Noodle Soup

A belated birthday meal for Olivia, who wasn't home for her birthday (school trip to Germany and Poland). She chose this oriental noodle soup, which was very nice...

Pumpkins at the ready!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Books in

So there I was, innocently walking down a street in London today, when a bookshop jumped out at me...  Actually,  only two of the books came from that shop; the Orson Scott Card (which is the second book in the Ender's Game series) I ordered  from Abe Books (used) after enjoying the first one. But it was waiting in the mail when I got home.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Dinner, 27/10/15: Quinoa Cakes with Salbitxada Sauce

This is a Yotam Ottolenghi recipe (it's in the cookbook Plenty More), and is one of those that it's hard to know if it will work until you try it - we've had a couple of dishes using quinoa, and it's definitely one of those foods that works when the texture is right and is boring when it's not.  This one was a keeper though - really yummy (though I used spring onions instead of wild garlic) and with great texture. The small bits of onion and chili in the cake were really important for texture, as was the initial frying (rather than just cooking them all the way in the oven).  The sauce was super, as well. A winner!

Book 102: Hocus by Jan Burke

A re-read of this crime novel (but it was long enough ago that I didn't remember the details). Well constructed and well-paced. It's not a whodunnit so much as a thriller, as we know much of what's happening while it's going on (not all the strands, but many of them), but I enjoyed reading it again.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Book 101: The Crane Wife, Patrick Ness

This is a sort of modern fable or fairy tale, well written and interesting in the modern aspect of the story, but with the oddness of a fairy tale lurking dangerously in the background.  A quick read, but really enjoyable.

Dinner, 25/10/15: Fajitas

Fajitas is always a popular dinner in our house, and it seemed called for when a neighbour going off on holiday brought me a bag of perishables, including 5 peppers...

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Dinner, 24/10/15: Spiced Salmon with Coriander mash & Courgettes

This was a really nice way of doing salmon. We all liked the mash as well, though  Alex & Sarah both say they prefer plain mash...

Book 100: Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

Given how much SF/Fantasy I read, it's probably surprising that I've never read this before. It's always been on my "must get around to reading" list, and when I saw a copy in my class's book corner at school, I had to borrow it and read it. Great stuff, as well. One or two issues with it, perhaps, but on the whole, excellent SF and a strong recommendation to those who have enjoyed recent dystopic series, such as Hunger Games or Maze Runner.  Now to find the next one in the series...

Friday, October 23, 2015

Dinner, 23/10/15: Kung Pao Prawns & Sugar Snap Peas

A nice quick dinner, taking advantage of the fact that none of the kids were home (Alex likes prawns; the girls not so much). Added sugar snaps to give some veg - very nice!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Dinner, 21/10/15: Cottage Pie, Cabbage

Geoff cooking tonight - one of the lovely things about him working from home most days is that once a week or so, I come home to a dinner which is already made!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Dinner, 19/10/15: Pasta with Sausge Sauce

Used the leftover sausages from Saturday to make ahead a sauce for pasta - used yoghurt, which didn't work that well as it separated when heating. Next time I will stick to creme fraiche... But it was still a nice, quick meal that would work on one of our busy evenings...

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Dinner, 18/10/15: Steak & Mushroom Pie, Beetroot tops, New Potatoes; Cheesecake

We aim to have the birthday boy (or girl) choose the meal, when at all possible (when birthdays fall in the week, it can't always happen). Geoff's birthday was today, and he wanted a steak & mushroom pie, so that's what he got. Yum, if I do say so myself! I use the Hairy Bikers' recipe for this pie (and indeed, most pies - they make excellent pies). The cheesecake is a Good Food magazine recipe, which is essentially a slight variation on my mother's classic - the main difference being the addition of a little sour cream to the body of the cheesecake as well as the topping.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Dinner, 17/10/15: Sausages, Roast Beetroot, Jacket Potatoes

Made it to the farmers' market today for the first time in ages, so both the sausages and the beetroot are from there... Tomorrow there will be beetroot stems & greens with dinner to use up that part of the veg. Yum!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Book 99: Hanging by a Thread by Monica Ferris

I read some of this series a while back and I don't think this was one that I'd read before; I don't remember the plot. It was a cute, cosy mystery, just what I was in the mood for at the time, though I did figure out (pretty much) whodunnit and how fairly early on. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Book 98: A Cold Day for Murder, Dana Stabenow

I read this years ago, and when I saw it in a charity shop recently, decided to have another read of it. A well-constructed mystery with some interesting characters, set in the Alaskan wilderness (mostly). I'll probably keep an eye out for others of the series to read again, if I see them in charity shops. I can't remember how far through the series I got, but I know I've seen some around lately, so I'm guessing they were recently reissued in a matching set by some company like the Book People, which probably means they should be readily available for picking up cheaply.

Dinner, 14/10/15: Pork Cordon Bleu, Broccoli, New Potatoes

A very retro dish, but extremely tasty. We'll repeat this, for sure.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Dinner, 13/10/15: Pasta and Lentil Bake

Another bake ahead. We thought this lacked flavour a bit, a fact which we remedied with the judicious use of one (or more) from our range of hot sauce bottles (Olivia is a bit of an addict and likes to collect different ones). It was also a little dry, but that is easily sorted by adding a little more tomato if I make it again.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Dinner, 12/10/15: Chicken and Olive Casserole

By the time I got home, there wasn't a lot of this left, though there was enough for a bit for dinner with some leftover pasta (Geoff made rice for everyone else, but there wasn't any left).  And a little bit for lunch one day in the week...  This was supposed to have capers in it, too, but didn't because when I went to add them, I found that the part jar I had in the fridge had fermented. Eww. 

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Book 97: The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle

Believe it or not, I'd never until now actually read any Sherlock Holmes (except pastiches). It's so much a part of our culture that I am familiar with most of the stories, but in terms of the actual books, nope...  Partly this is because I've never been a huge fan of short stories (though I think I may be beginning to come around on that), and I think there are only four full-length Holmes tales, this being one of them. That said, I'd probably read other Holmes, even short stories, as I found this very enjoyable, even knowing quite a bit about the plot in advance.  I picked this one up in a charity shop (not this cover, unfortunately, but I couldn't find the cover of the edition I have - there are hundreds of editions!) and decided to give it a go. I probably won't buy other ones new, but if I see them lurking around in charity shops, I might well pick them up.

Dinner, 11/10/15: Beef and Aubergine Tagine

When we had this before, I had made a note to add some of the veg part way through, and put in more lemons. I tried that this time, and I'd add that if I do it again, the veg needs to be added even closer to the finish time - like maybe only for the last hour. It was still very good, it just didn't add much in terms of texture...  Nice to have a slow cooker meal on the go, especially as I cooked two other meals for the fridge for Monday and Tuesday, because time will be tight on those days...

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Dinner, 10/10/15: Greek Frittata

This was lovely, and very easy. A good one to save away for a weeknight supper in future, for sure!

From the Moosewood Restaurant Cookbook. The first cookbook I ever owned (as a teen) was a Moosewood cookbook, a gift from a cousin. Not sure where that book is now, as I don't seem to have it any more. But when I found one in a charity shop recently, I jumped at the chance to acquire a newer one, with colourful pictures!

Friday, October 09, 2015

Dinner, 9/10/15: Courgette and Goat Cheese Pizza

Everyone loved this. Griddling the courgette slices (I sliced them really thin, with a mandolin) made sure they weren't too moist. Yum.

The recipe is from a book called Take One Veg, by the marvellously named Georgina Fuggle. I didn't use her pizza dough recipe, just my standard one. And I used bought passata.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Dinner, 7/10/15: Salmon, Peas, New Potatoes

(and yes, a few broad beans thrown in as well, because we didn't have that many peas in the freezer)

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Dinner, 6/10/15: Broccoli and Cauliflower Cheese (with Bread)

Made this one at the weekend, so it only needed to be popped into the oven on the day - with our busy schedules, this is something we're doing more of. As Sarah and I are both doing a class at the gym on Tuesdays for a few weeks, this was particularly suitable for dinner, as I could easily heat a bit up when we got back from that...

Sunday, October 04, 2015

(Official) Birthday dinner

Official dinner, that is, not official birthday - she's not the queen... We went out to Jamie's Kingston, which was very nice. Good, solid, Italian food at moderate prices. I've never eaten in this high-end chain before, and it was definitely an experience I'd repeat. Can't remember exactly what everyone had, though we shared a "plank" of antipasti... I had fritto misto (fried fresh seafood) as did Geoff and a polenta cake for pudding. Alex had some sort of savoury pancake thing with spinach, Olivia had gnocchi, Sarah had slow-cooked duck leg. Everyone else had pudding as well, but I don't remember them all. There was definitely tiramisu involved somewhere...  Still a bit freaky to have an 18 year old, even with a week to get used to it!

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Book 96: Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey

Read most of this in a single day (aided by a train journey, but it was very readable as well). Told from the point of view of Maud, an eldery woman who is losing her memory to dementia, this is the story of Maud's friend, Elizabeth, who seems to be missing - and no one is doing anything. Of course, it's more complicated than that, and tied up in Maud's concern for Elizabeth is her memory of her own sister disappearing in postwar Britain around seventy years before. The writing is really wonderful - painfully like what it must be like to be inside the mind of someone whose memory is beginning to degenerate - the episodes from the past are clear and vivid; present day varies from complete haze to moments of extreme lucidity - and the stories - both the older plot line and the present day one are just right. A super book. 

Books in

Every time Sarah and I visit a new city to look at a university, we seem to end up in bookshops. Not a problem, in theory, but of course, it's virtually impossible to visit a bookshop without buying books... Here are a few from Reading. The Bees is one which has been on my list, and it was on the BOGOHP table - Sarah wanted a different one with that sticker, so it worked out well.  The Jane Smiley, I couldn't really resist as it was part of a Books for Syria promotion - authors and publishers had donated some books to the cause and 100 per cent of the cover price was going to Syria. Seemed churlish not to buy one, and this was the only one I fancied that I hadn't already read (there were only ten or so choices). 

Friday, October 02, 2015

Dinner, 2/10/15: Chicken Korma with courgettes

This is a family favourite - it's from the cookbook 200 Low Fat Meals by Judith Wills and is a nice, low-fat (but still creamy) chicken korma. I made extra this time for the freezer for one of our difficult nights...