Monday, August 14, 2017

Book 73: The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman

Last in the trilogy, which I've been re-reading. Reminded once again of how excellent these books are. Brilliantly constructed world, great characters, compelling plot, not to mention a strong argument against organised religion at the same time as being an even stronger argument towards individual morality and responsibility to the rest of the world... 

Dinner, 14/8/17: Stuffed Marrow

Originally, I had planned something else with the turkey mince that this recipe uses, but then we went to Garsons Farm (a pick-your-own place) last week, and I couldn't resist buying a couple of marrows. (This only used one of them; not sure what I'll do with the other one. Maybe spiralise it.)  So I stuffed it with turkey mince, cooked with herbs and tomatoes; there's a cheesy breadcrumb crust on top. Really tasty, though I think I'd definitely peel the marrow next time as the skins were a little tough.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Book 72: The Subtle Knife, Philip Pullman (re-read)

Second in the Dark Materials trilogy, which I am re-reading. Still excellent.

Dinner, 1/8/17: Pasta Bake (Alex cooking)

Earlier this year I threatened my family with the idea that I wasn't going to plan meals, shop, or cook in August. I'm not sticking to this, but I am requiring a lot more involvement from them, so this was Alex's contribution to our "Everyone Does More Cooking and Stuff in the Summer" movement. (Love the catchy title!)

Friday, August 11, 2017

Dinner, 11/8/17: Cauliflower Cheese, sauteed potatoes (Geoff cooking)

Not normally a dish you'd choose in August, perhaps, but although the weather is somewhat better than it was, we are not in the midst of a heatwave, so a little cauliflower cheese is just the thing. Especially when someone else is cooking it...

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Dinner, 10/8/17: Corn on the Cob; Chicken Soup

Forgot to take a photo of the soup - the corn came from the Pick-Your-Own place (Garsons Farm), so it was actually growing in a field until about 11am. A very nice first course before our soup.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Book 71: Northern Lights by Philip Pullman (re-read)

For some reason I got a craving to re-read these; I think it's because I read an article about his new book set in this world coming out soon. Anyway, still excellent, even on a third read through; expect the other two shortly!

Dinner, 9/9/17: Spaghetti Pomodoro (Gino D'Acampo)

A very simple pasta with tomato and basil sauce. We also had some garlic bread from the freezer, but this one is about as simple as it gets. You can, of course, grate lashings of Parmesan over it, if you so wish.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Monday, August 07, 2017

Book 70: Sense & Sensibility, Jane Austen (re-read)

Technically, this is a re-read, though I haven't read it in years. It's not my favourite (Persuasion) but it's certainly well above my least favourite (Emma). And as usual, parts of it are very funny. Glad to have re-visited it.

Dinner, 7/8/17: Pork and Veg Stir Fry

Served with rice (not shown).  I had some pork fillet in the freezer from something, so this was an exercise in using it up, along with whatever veg was either in the fridge (carrots, yellow pepper) or readily accessible at our local shop (courgette, chard, chilis). Along with some oyster sauce from the cupboard and some soy sauce and rice. Easy.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Dinner, 6/8/17: Roast Belly Pork, Roast Potatoes, Pak Choi

This small roast was from the farmers market, and was very tasty. There was gravy, too, but I seem to have photographed my plate pre-gravy, rather than post. And there was blackberry ice cream for dessert, but no photo of that.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

Blackberry Cobbler

Gorgeous - really nice use for blackberries, great recipe from

Dinner, 5/8/17: Pea and New Potato Curry

We like the taste of this, but the potatoes cooked very unevenly, with some done and some virtually raw. This despite lots of stirring, etc. Strange.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Dinner, 3/8/17: Fajitas!

The usual assortment of fajita fillings, except this time I added some spicy tofu to the mix as well (which was really tasty) to cater for a vegan friend of Olivia's, who was eating with us (most of the rest is vegan-accessible as well, except the chicken, cheese and sour cream)...

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

When in Amsterdam...

take a canal tour. 

Doesn't really show in this photo, but you can see down through about 7 bridges in a straight line down this canal.

Book 69: The Summer Book by Tove Jansson

I was only familiar with Tove Jansson as a children's author (creator of the Moomins) but apparently, she wrote a number of books for adults, including this one, which is a small, quirky story of the relationship between a child and her elderly grandmother, mostly following the death of the child's mother. It takes place on a small island in Finland in a number of summers (the time telling is non-linear) and it's a lovely picture of a place, a time, a relationship. It's apparently a Scandinavian classic and I can see why - I can imagine re-reading this many times over the course of a life, when you want to dip into that world.

Books in

Two different books by Dutch authors, in translation, from two different bookshops in Amsterdam. One right around the corner from our hotel, which looked like a great bookshop.  When I brought the book to the counter (The Tea Lords) he said "It's a Dutch classic."  Good, I said, that's what I wanted!

NDSM Wharf, Amsterdam

This morning, we went across the harbour to check out the NDSM wharf, an area now developed into artist studios, some housing, outdoor art projects, etc,  as well as a festival venue, from a previously disused industrial area - a former shipping wharf. There were a lot of decorated containers around, as well as other industrial things like cranes, warehouses, etc. 

This warehouse was full of art, art spaces, studios, intsallments, etc.

Also nearby, some houses made out of shipping containers.

And this was docked nearby - a boat hotel. You can even stay inside the huge letters on top. Crazy!

July Round up


  • 31st: K & O away in Amsterdam
  • 30th: K & O away in Amsterdam
  • 29th: K & O away in Amsterdam
  • 28th: K & O away in Amsterdam
  • 27th: K & O away in Amsterdam
  • 26th: Penne alla Arrabiata, Garlic Bread (Sarah cooking)
  • 25th: Fend for yourself
  • 24th: Sausages, Carrots, Potatoes
  • 23rd: Potato, mozzarella & spring onion tart
  • 22nd: Chili chicken noodle stir fry
  • 21st: Spag bol (leftovers; K out)
  • 20th: Fend for yourself
  • 19th: Vegan Chili with Quinoa
  • 18th: Carrot & Potato Tart
  • 17th: Leek Fritters, Salad, Potatoes
  • 16th: Baked Green Eggs
  • 15th: Chicken Jalfrezi
  • 14th: Fend for yourself
  • 13th: Cheeseburger Quesadillas
  • 12th: Asparagus & Broccoli Soup
  • 11th: Spaghetti with peas, mint & crispy bacon (Sarah cooking)
  • 10th: Indoor Picnic, part 2
  • 9th: Indoor Picnic
  • 8th: out to dinner after band concert
  • 7th: Fish fingers & chips
  • 6th: Fend for yourself
  • 5th: Pasta with pesto, peas & courgettes
  • 4th: Hot Dogs, Potato Wedges, Corn on the Cob
  • 3rd: Spicy Chicken with Peanuts and Green Beans
  • 2nd: Hot & Sour Soup
  • 1st: Spag bol (Geoff cooking, K& O away)

Monday, July 31, 2017

Book progress update - July

At the start of the year, I set a few reading goals, with the overall aim of trying to make my way through books I've had for a while and haven't read, and trying not to acquire too many new books. The goals were:
  1. Read at least 100 books in 2017 (approximately 2 per week; hopefully I can accomplish this)
  2. Buy/acquire fewer books each month than I remove from my TBR shelf/list
  3. Read or otherwise get rid of at least 1 of the books I've had since before 2015 (there were 4 on the list at the start of the year) and at least three of the books I  bought during 2015 (12 on the list)
They are (fairly) reasonable goals, which shouldn't stress me too much. In theory.

In January:  books read: 8; list reduced by: 2; pre-2015 reduction: 0; 2015 reduction: 1
In February: books read: 12; list reduced by: 11; pre-2015 reduction: 0; 2015 reduction: 1
In March: books read: 8; list increased by: 1;  pre-2015 reduction: 0; 2015 reduction: 0
In April: books read: 10; list increased by: 8; pre-2015 reduction: 1; 2015 reduction: 3
In May: books read, 14; list reduced by: 1; pre-2015 reduction: 0; 2015 reduction: 3
In June: books read, 9; list reduced by: 3; pre-2015 reduction: 0; 2015 reduction: 0

Here is July's tally:
  • I abandoned one book from my list which I started back in June  (The Music of the Spheres by Elizabeth Redfern)
  • I read 3 books from my list (Emma by Alexander McCall Smith, Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler, The House at the Edge of the World by Julia Rochester)
  • I read two books which someone else in the house owned (Ink by Alice Broadway, The Fault in our Stars by John Green)
  • I re-read one book in a series I've been going back through (Acqua Alta by Donna Leon)
  • I re-read a book which I already owned (The Gift Shop by Charlotte Armstrong)
  • I bought four books in Waterstones in Nottingham, 4 books in Waterstones in Wimbledon and one book in a charity shop

July goal progress:
  1. books read: 7 of 39 books 
  2. books removed from list: 4; books added: 9; net result +5
  3. books read/removed from list from before 2015: 0 of 3;  from 2015: 1 of 4

Here's the updated list of Books to Read in 2017.  There were 46 books at the beginning of January, and now there are 43 (but a lot of them are different! (Books acquired in 2017  are underlined and a quick look below shows that only 15 books are left on the list from last year or before)).
  1. Peter Ackroyd, Hawksmoor (charity shop, April 2017)
  2. Charlie Jane Anders, All the Birds in the Sky (charity shop, October 2016)
  3. Elizabeth Aston, Mr Darcy's Daughters (from Taffy's house in Florida, April 2017)
  4. Susan Barker, The Incarnations (charity shop, July 2016)
  5. Philip Baruth, The Brothers Boswell (Waterstones Canterbury bargain bin, July 2015)
  6. Mikhail Bulgokov, The Master and Margarita (charity shop, April 2017)
  7. Jessie Burton, The Muse (Waitrose, January 2017)
  8. Joanna Cannon, The Trouble with Goats and Sheep (Mother's Day 2017)
  9. Becky Chambers, The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet (Book People, May 2017)
  10. Tracy Chevalier, At the Edge of the Orchard  (Waterstones Piccadilly, April 2017)
  11. Chris Cleave, Everyone Brave is Forgiven (Mother's Day, 2017)
  12. Emma Donohue, The Wonder (Waterstones Nottingham, July 2017)
  13. Emma Donohue, The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits (charity shop, July 2017)
  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. Anne Frank, Diary of a Young Girl (Waterstones Wimbledon, July 2017)
  16. 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...) *
  17. Elizabeth Gaskell, North and South (2014)*
  18. Linda Grant, The Dark Circle (Waterstones Nottingham, July 2017)
  19. Mark Haddon (Introduction), Experiences at the Edge of Consciousness (Waterstones Piccadilly, April 2017)
  20. Siri Hustvedt, A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women (Waterstones Wimbledon, July 2017)
  21. John Irving, Avenue of Mysteries  (Waterstones Piccadilly, April 2017)
  22. Tove Jansson, The Summer Book (Waterstones Wimbledon, July 2017)
  23. Lynn Knight, The Button Box  (Waterstones Piccadilly, April 2017)
  24. Neil MacGregor, Germany: Memories of  a Nation (birthday present, Nov 2016)
  25. Rebecca MacKenzie, In a Land of Paper Gods (Christmas Present, 2016)
  26. Alice Mattison, The Book Borrower (Used Book Depot, Vero Beach, April 2017)
  27. Elizabeth McKenzie, The Portable Veblen (Mother's Day, 2017)
  28. Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian (charity table, Wetland Centre, May 2015)
  29. Magnus Mills, The Restraint of Beasts (Abe Books, May 2017)
  30. Kiran Millweed Hargrave, The Girl of Ink and Stars (Waterstones Wimbledon, April 2017)
  31. Alice Munro, Runaway (Waterstones Piccadilly, March 2016)
  32. Patrick Ness, More than This  (Waterstones Piccadilly, April 2017)
  33. Flannery O'Connor, Complete Stories (charity shop, December 2015)
  34. Michael Ondaatje, Divisadero (charity shop , April 2017)
  35. Orhan Pamuk. A Strangeness in Mind (Christmas present 2016)
  36. Sara Perry, The Essex Serpent (Waterstones Nottingham, July 2017)
  37. Natasha Pulley, The Watchmaker of Filigree Street (Waterstones Wimbledon, December 2016)
  38. Anna Richards, Little Gods (pound shop, November 2016)
  39. Gregory David Roberts, Shantaram (Abe Books, July 2016)
  40. Marcus Sedgewick, The Foreshadowing  (Waterstones Piccadilly, April 2017)
  41. Jane Smiley, Early Warning (Abe Books, May 2017)
  42. Elizabeth Strout, My Name is Lucy Barton (Waterstones Nottingham, July 2017)
  43. Sally Vickers, Cousins (Waterstones Wimbledon, July 2017)

More photos from Amsterdam

 View from inside the Rembrandt house museum.

Reconstruction of Rembrandt's collection of interesting things

Poffertjes-puffy little Dutch pancakes

The "brown cafe" where we stopped for a drink near the end of our bike tour

Piet, our guide

Olivia and her bike

The New church (I think)