Saturday, June 17, 2017

Dinner, 17/6/17: Homemade pizzas

Olivia and I were out today at a university open day (Sarah is in Bulgaria on holiday; Geoff is in Switzerland at a conference), so I wanted something fairly easy for dinner - Alex put the pizza dough on when we were partway home, and it was ready when we got here. After that, it's just a matter of assembly (this one has no tomato sauce, just chili oil, garlic, some meat and cheese) and cooking and then relaxing in the sunshine with your yummy pizza!

Book 60: Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

This is the second in a duology (first was Six of Crows) I started a while back. When I picked up the first one, I didn't realise there was another trilogy of books set in the same world, so I went back and read those in the intervening space, to get a better understanding of the world. It's not essential, but I'd recommend the trilogy first if you are going to look into the Grisha world. I really enjoyed all five of these, despite reading them in an odd order. It was an interesting premise for a Fantasy world, and I do think that YA writing is very strong these days - makes me wish I was a YA again - ok, not really. Just makes me wish we had books like this in the days when I was. I love the outcasts and rebels in this pair of books and overall, probably like them better than the Grisha trilogy, which is a bit more serious.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Dinner, 16/6/17: Roasted Cauliflower & Chickpease with harrisa & spinach couscous (

This is a recipe I've cooked a few times before, and each time I've made a few alterations; we really like this variation, so it might stick. I accidentally dumped the couscous into the pan with the harissa onions, because I was talking while cooking, but it worked brilliantly.  Cauliflower is such an underrated vegetable and can be cooked in so many ways. With this one, I also roast the chopped up stems and leaves of the cauliflower and add them to the finished dish.  Vegan if you don't sprinkle the feta on it (if the couscous is vegan).

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Dinner, 14/6/17: Red Kidney Bean & Green Bean Curry (Hairy Bikers)

The Hairy Bikers' latest cookbook is not only a "diet" book, but also, vegetarian. Some of the stuff looks pretty promising. This was great.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Dinner, 13/6/17: Tahini & Honey Chicken and Paprika Potatoes (John Whaite)

This is actually a photo from the last time we had this, as I wasn't home, and Alex forgot to photograph his creation - he cooked. We did the marinade on the chicken the night before, and the rest was easy assemblage on the day. Very nice. And easy!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Dinner, 12/6/17: Pasta with Pesto & Veg

This was a using up leftover bits kind of dinner - the pesto was in the freezer from a previous meal; the broccoli and asparagus were both extra bits from previous dinners. Win-win. 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Book 59: About Grace by Anthony Doerr

I picked this up because I read and really enjoyed All The Light We Cannot See by the same author. This is his first novel, and although I thought it was a bit of a slow starter, it was actually quite a strong story with a compelling plot and characters. It lacked that special bit of magic that made All The Light... such an amazing story,  but then again, so do 99 per cent of books written. 

Dinner, 11/6/17: Steak, Asparagus, New Potatoes

The steak was on sale, the asparagus was new season, the potatoes were Jersey Royal. What more is there to say?

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Book 58: The Moon-Spinners by Mary Stewart (re-read)

...and here's the last Stewart re-read, at least for the present. I like this one a lot, though not quite as much as my very favourite few. But it's still a nice, satisfying old friend to visit.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Book 57: Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart (re-read)

Whenever I re-read a Mary Stewart, I usually end up reading several of them. This is one I hadn't revisited in a while, so I enjoyed that, though I admit, it's not one of my very favourites.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Dinner, 6/6/17: Mexican Bean and Tortilla Bake

Another quick meal - Sarah cooking again tonight to help me out on busy weekdays, as she's a lady of leisure at the moment. 

Monday, June 05, 2017

Book 56: Madam, will you talk by Mary Stewart (re-read)

Mary Stewart is another favourite author I turn to when I want something comforting and not to challenging to my tired brain. This is, possibly, my favourite (though perhaps not; it's hard to be certain). 

Dinner, 5/6/17: Lemon, chicken and artichoke pasta

Quick pasta dish using the leftover chicken from last night's roast.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Dinner, 4/6/17: Roast Chicken, roast potatoes, carrots, cabbage

Sunday roast. Not that we have one every Sunday by any means, but sometimes we do. Today was one of those times!

Book 55: Dawn's Early Light by Elswyth Thane (re-read)

Read this one a number of times before; it's the first of a series of historical novels, following a group of families through American (and English) history, mostly during times of war. This one is set during the American Revolution. Always enjoyable.

Friday, June 02, 2017

Book 54: The Light Between Oceans, M L Stedman

This is quite well known and popular at the moment, I think - been made into a film, perhaps? It was enjoyable, though I didn't think it was quite as amazing as it has been hyped up to be. Finished it in a tea shop in Exeter, and left it on their community bookcase!

Book 53: The Bargain, Mary Jo Putney

Found this in the bookcase in the hotel we've been staying in, in Exeter. Decided that I needed something relatively mindless to occupy myself while Olivia did some maths revision; my other book was enjoyable, but a little serious for late in the evening. I'm sure I've read this before, though it's not noted down, but Putney is usually fairly reliable among romance authors, so it's not a big deal to read it again.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

May Roundup

What was for DINNER, MAY 2017

  • 31st: Grilled Halloumi with Lentil & Beetroot Salad
  • 30th: Sweet Potato Saag Aloo
  • 29th: Middle Eastern Chicken Flatbreads, Cauliflower Salad
  • 28th: leftovers
  • 27th: BBQ at Jane's
  • 26th: Homemade pizzas
  • 25th: Fend for yourself Thursday
  • 24th: Sausage & Rocket Pasta (Sarah)
  • 23rd: Chinese takeaway
  • 22nd: Fajitas
  • 21st: Hot dogs, chips, salad
  • 20th: Lunch out at Wisley with family
  • 19th: Cauliflower Steaks
  • 18th: Fend for yourself Thursday
  • 17th: Fend for yourself Wednesday (last minute meeting)
  • 16th: Bang Bang Chicken
  • 15th: Broccoli Pesto Pasta
  • 14th: Sausages, oven potatoes, green beans
  • 13th: Ribs, Jacket Potatoes, Asparagus
  • 12th: Asian Steamed Chicken Dumplings
  • 11th: Fend for yourself Thursday
  • 10th: Pasta with tomatoes and black olives (Sarah cooking)
  • 9th: Mac & Cheese with Spinach & Bacon
  • 8th: Courgette & Red Pesto Pizza
  • 7th: Bombay Potato Fritatta
  • 6th: Tacos
  • 5th: Sticky Sesame Chicken, Pak Choi
  • 4th: Fend for yourself Thursday
  • 3rd: Pasta with Rocket & Walnut Pesto
  • 2nd: Asparagus and Potato Chowder
  • 1st: Chicken, Courgette & Potato Tray Bake

Book 52: Three Bedrooms, One Corpse by Charlaine Harris

Third in this series - apparently I have read these before, but again, no memory whatever of this one. It's not a highly memorable story, I suppose, though the author is good - I've read lots of her things before, and the story is enjoyable. Weird! I counted this one as a May read as I read all but a few chapters last night...

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Books and Reading, May 2017

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

So, was May any different?:
  • I read one book already owned by someone in the house (Chaplin & Company by Mave Fellows)
  • I read four books from my list (The Devil in the Marshalsea by Antonia Hodgkin, Some Luck by Jane Smiley, The Haunted Hotel by Wilkie Collins, The Lieutenant by Kate Grenville), three of which were bought/acquired in 2015, which is great, as I wanted to read/remove at least 3 from 2015, and with these ones, have managed 8 so far. 
  • I read four books which were in the house but not on my list (Dead in the Water by Ann Granger, Real Murders, A Bone to Pick & Three Bedrooms, One Corpse by Charlaine Harris)
  • I re-read five books which I already owned (The Burning LampThe Heroine's Sister and The Belchamber Scandal by Frances Murray, The Chocolate Cobweb by Charlotte Armstrong, The Tightrope Walker by Dorothy Gilman)
  • I bought one book from Abe Books on recommendation from my cousin (The Restraint of Beasts by Magnus Mills) and one because it was the second in a trilogy where I enjoyed the first (Early Warning by Jane Smiley)
  • I bought 4 books (three are part of a set and came together) from The Book People to help make an order up to the price of free shipping. I've actually read them all already in May (the Charlaine Harris), but they wouldn't have gone on the list because crime fiction doesn't, usually. (It's my list, I can play by my rules, even if they are a bit odd!) The other, I was attracted to because of the title (The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet)

May goal progress:
  1. books read: 14 of 62 books 
  2. books removed from list: 4; books added: 3 ; net result -1
  3. books read/removed from list from before 2015: 0 of 3;  from 2015: 3 of 7

Here's the updated list of Books to Read in 2017.  There were 46 books at the beginning of January, and now there are 40 (but a lot of them are different! (Books acquired in 2017 underlined)).
  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. Leigh Bardugo, Crooked Kingdom (Waterstones Wimbledon, February 2017)
  5. Susan Barker, The Incarnations (charity shop, July 2016)
  6. Philip Baruth, The Brothers Boswell (Waterstones Canterbury bargain bin, July 2015)
  7. Mikhail Bulgokov, The Master and Margarita (charity shop, April 2017)
  8. Jessie Burton, The Muse (Waitrose, January 2017)
  9. Joanna Cannon, The Trouble with Goats and Sheep (Mother's Day 2017)
  10. Becky Chambers, The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet (Book People, May 2017)
  11. Tracy Chevalier, At the Edge of the Orchard  (Waterstones Piccadilly, April 2017)
  12. Chris Cleave, Everyone Brave is Forgiven (Mother's Day, 2017)
  13. Anthony Doerr, About Grace (Waterstones Piccadilly, July 2016)
  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. 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...) *
  16. Elizabeth Gaskell, North and South (2014)*
  17. Mark Haddon (Introduction), Experiences at the Edge of Consciousness (Waterstones Piccadilly, April 2017)
  18. John Irving, Avenue of Mysteries  (Waterstones Piccadilly, April 2017)
  19. Lynn Knight, The Button Box  (Waterstones Piccadilly, April 2017)
  20. Alexander MacColl Smith, Emma (charity shop, April 2017)
  21. Neil MacGregor, Germany: Memories of  a Nation (birthday present, Nov 2016)
  22. Rebecca MacKenzie, In a Land of Paper Gods (Christmas Present, 2016)
  23. Alice Mattison, The Book Borrower (Used Book Depot, Vero Beach, April 2017)
  24. Elizabeth McKenzie, The Portable Veblen (Mother's Day, 2017)
  25. Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian (charity table, Wetland Centre, May 2015)
  26. Magnus Mills, The Restraint of Beasts (Abe Books, May 2017)
  27. Kiran Millweed Hargrave, The Girl of Ink and Stars (Waterstones Wimbledon, April 2017)
  28. Alice Munro, Runaway (Waterstones Piccadilly, March 2016)
  29. Patrick Ness, More than This  (Waterstones Piccadilly, April 2017)
  30. Flannery O'Connor, Complete Stories (charity shop, December 2015)
  31. Michael Ondaatje, Divisadero (charity shop , April 2017)
  32. Orhan Pamuk. A Strangeness in Mind (Christmas present 2016)
  33. Natasha Pulley, The Watchmaker of Filigree Street (Waterstones Wimbledon, December 2016)
  34. Elizabeth Redfern, The Music of the Spheres  (charity shop, December 2015)
  35. Anna Richards, Little Gods (pound shop, November 2016)
  36. Julia Rochester, The House at the Edge of the World (charity shop, April 2017)
  37. Gregory David Roberts, Shantaram (Abe Books, July 2016)
  38. Marcus Sedgewick, The Foreshadowing  (Waterstones Piccadilly, April 2017)
  39. Jane Smiley, Early Warning (Abe Books, May 2017)
  40. M L Stedman, The Light Between Oceans (Waterstones Wimbledon, December 2016)

Dinner, 31/5/17: Grilled Halloumi with Lentil & Beetroot Salad (Good Food)

Yum. I made (American) biscuits to go with this as the local shop was out of their homemade flatbreads. But it was fine.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Book 51: The Belchamber Scandal, Frances Murray

Another re-read (this one I remember!), Frances Murray writes very good historical romances; I always enjoy revisiting her heroines.

Dinner, 30/5/17: Sweet Potato Saag Aloo (Hairy Dieters)

From another new cookbook (raided the Book People's £5 cookbook section recently) - Hairy Bikers are always reliable and it's always nice to have another decent veggie cookbook.  I thought this dish was great - I'm a fan of sweet potatoes. Not everyone else in the house likes them as much, though this dish went down well.  We especially liked the raw chilis on top - added a nice crunch.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Dinner, 29/5/17: Chicken "pizzas" with cauliflower salad (Rawia Bishara)

These are from a new cookbook, and we really enjoyed the middle-eastern spiced chicken dish served on flatbreads. The cauliflower was a good basic idea, but there was too much tahini sauce - it overpowered the other flavours. I'd do it again, but just use substantially less sauce...

Book 50: A Bone to Pick, Charlaine Harris

Second in the series, an entertaining read for a few hours on a lazy holiday day... Apparently, I have also read this one before, but again, no memory of it at all. (According to my notes, it was Sept 1999, so perhaps it was baby brain which causes me not to remember it as that was just a few weeks before Olivia was born!)

May Declutter: Final day: 17 items, 292 total.

Well, I looked around for more stuff to declutter, but didn't really find anything else - short of clearing out the shed, which isn't that bad anyway, but which I can't really face until the weather gets better and I have more time or clearing out the loft (which again, we did a couple of years ago, so it's not actually that bad), there's not a lot more to be done. I did help Alex cull through his bookshelves and get rid of some books he won't read again for whatever reason. A few are going to school, a few to a friend with a younger son, a few to the charity shop. 

Still, it's been a good clear out - nearly 300 items got rid of, and actually, it's really more than that because I counted things like a set of pens as one, not 12.. I'm sure I'll have a go at this again next year, though who knows if I'll make it through the whole month - maybe I'll take a different approach like a drawer or cupboard a day or something!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Book 49: The Heroine's Sister by Frances Murray

Another re-read - really love this one. The story is fun, and it's set in Venice, which is always a plus for me.

Book 48: Real Murders by Charlaine Harris

Apparently, according to my records on Goodreads, I've read this before in 1999. However, I didn't remember it at all - not even that vaguely familiar sort of feeling you get when you can't remember the details but the characters seem kind of fuzzy in the back of your mind.  Anyway, it was a fairly cute cozy mystery, and while I probably won't devour the series, the three I have just acquired will certainly get read. Probably this week as it's just the sort of thing I'm in the mood for!

Book 47: The Chocolate Cobweb by Charlotte Armstrong

Another in my quick re-reads; I still enjoy the story in this one, but I'd forgotten just how melodramatic it is. It's also a bit dated in style. Still, fun for a couple of hours in the sunshine.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Book 46: The Tightrope Walker by Dorothy Gilman

Another in my series of quick re-reads; I haven't read this one in quite a while; I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed it.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Book 45: The Burning Lamp by Frances Murray (re-read)

Somewhat tired from (specifically) my Year 3 sleepover, and (more generally) a busy half-term at school, I decided to turn to some old favourites in historical romance and suspense - this is the first in a handful of re-reads coming up; I'm really in the mood for something enjoyable and not too challenging...

Dinner, 26/5/17: Homemade Pizzas

For once, only made two pizzas - Geoff is away, Olivia is at a friend's house, and Sarah and I had lunch at Nando's, so we shared one (the half with jalapenos on it is mine...). Alex, of course, still had one to himself!

Book 44: The Lieutenant by Kate Grenville

An interesting story about a young astronomer who travels to Australia with an early convict settlement and makes friends with an aboriginal girl. Based on a true story (though perhaps loosely), a very readable exploration of early relationships between the British and the native Australians. 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

May Declutter, Day 23: 23 items, 275 total.

As promised, more of Sarah's clothes which either don't fit, she doesn't wear, or in a few cases, which have holes in places which aren't easily mended. Also, a few books from Alex's room, as his shelves are getting full and a shirt of mine which got stained with pen in the wash - I bought it in the sale last summer and have only worn it a couple of times because I'm never really sure if I like it or not. Guess that's a dilemma solved!

Monday, May 22, 2017

May Declutter, Day 22: 22 items, 253 total.

I found a stash of cross stitch patterns which I have stitched, which I hadn't yet got rid of - not sure if I will try to list them on eBay, for virtually no cost (or profits to charity?) or simply send them to a charity shop. But they will go soon. Otherwise, some old tea towels for scouts, some old tea (solid as a rock) for the bin, a colouring book for Year 6, a book for the charity shop and some clothes from Sarah's drawers which she doesn't wear (more of those coming up soon - we had a clear out of most of her drawers...)

Dinner, 22/5/17: Fajitas

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Book 43: Dead in the Water by Ann Granger

I've read a couple of different series by Ann Granger - the Mitchell & Markby books (not all of them, but quite a few) and the Fran Varady books (ditto) - I don't think this one lived up to either of those series, but it was ok. 

Dinner, 21/5/17: Hot Dogs, wedges, salad

World's most exciting dinner! But Olivia is out, Geoff is away and Sarah, Alex and I didn't feel like anything requiring effort.

May Declutter, Day 21: 21 items, 231 total

Another mixed bag (as is increasingly the case): a DVD we watched but won't watch again, a very old train pass photo, a bunch of extraneous cables and corded mice (we all use cordless now, or track pads), my favourite boots, where the zip is now broken beyond repair (sob) and I can't find anyone to fix it. Some cross stitch patterns I'm done with, a bunch of pens, and some paper I don't need - going in the recycle/to school/bin.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Books in

This is a set of three mysteries (the Aurora Teagarden series) and one other book with an awesome title. These were ordered as part of a Book People (discount book company in the UK) order which also included a couple of cookbooks - you get free shipping if you spend a certain amount and the mysteries were £3 for all three. They won't go on my TBR list, as they are mysteries, which I get through very quickly.

May Declutter, Day 20: 20 items, 210 total

A real mixed bag today - some socks I never wear, a few bath bombs, etc, some cookbooks I don't really use (I only ever cook one recipe from the Gary Rhodes; I just photocopied that one. The other two came from charity shops in the first place, but I never use them.) - some various computery things, including a bunch of instruction manuals for phones we don't have, etc. Some empty phone boxes, headphones with only one working ear, and other things. It's amazing what you don't get rid of!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Book 42: The Haunted Hotel by Wilkie Collins

This was enjoyable, but not a patch on either The Moonstone (my favourite) or The Woman in White. It was set in Venice, which appeals to me, but actually, not a lot is really made of the Venetian setting, which seems a bit of a waste, in my opinion!

May declutter, day 19: 19 items, 190 total

Things from various sources today - some top trumps cards (charity shop), books (charity shop/my classroom at school) a couple of old flannels, three glasses cases (two with glasses no longer wearable by the person for whom they were prescribed, one empty but too small to fit anyone's glasses), an empty watch box, a couple of other things.

Dinner, 19/5/17: Cauliflower Steaks with Chimichurri Sauce (Niomi Smart)

We had this before and really enjoyed it - it was time for a revisit. I originally had planned it earlier in the week, then got held up at work due to a meeting, so it got bumped. Definitely one for our repertoire.