Friday, March 31, 2017

Books & Reading, March 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 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 January:  books read: 8, list reduced by: 2; pre-2015 reduction: 0; pre-2016 reduction: 1
In February: books read: 12. list reduced by: 11; pre-2015 reduction: 0; pre-2016 reduction: 1

Here's what happened in March:
  • I re-read three books we have in the house already (Graceling, Fire, Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore)
  • I read 2 books from my list (Paper and Fire by Rachel Caine, A Year of Marvellous Ways by Sarah Winman)
  • I read one children's book from school which my class is going to be using as a text next half term (The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DeCamilio)
  • I read one book already owned by someone else in my house (Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick)
  • I read one book in the house which wasn't on my list (Kidnapped by Jan Burke)
  • I got three books as presents for Mother's Day (The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon, The Portable Veblen by Elzabeth McKenzie, Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave)

March goal progress:
  1. books read: 8 of 80 books 
  2. books removed from list: 2; books added: 3 ; net result  +1
  3. books read/removed from list from before 2015: 0 of 4;  from before 2016: 0 of 10

Here's the updated list of Books to Read in 2017.  There were 46 books at the beginning of January, and now there are 33.
  1. Charlie Jane Anders, All the Birds in the Sky (charity shop, October 2016)
  2. Leigh Bardugo, Crooked Kingdom (Waterstones Wimbledon, February 2017)
  3. Susan Barker, The Incarnations (charity shop, July 2016)
  4. Philip Baruth, The Brothers Boswell (Waterstones Canterbury bargain bin, July 2015)
  5. Jessie Burton, The Muse (Waitrose, January 2017)
  6. Joanna Cannon, The Trouble with Goats and Sheep (Mother's Day 2017)
  7. Chris Cleave, Everyone Brave is Forgiven (Mother's Day, 2017)
  8. Wilkie Collins, The Haunted Hotel (birthday present, November 2015)
  9. Anthony Doerr, About Grace (Waterstones Piccadilly, July 2016)
  10. Arthur Conan Doyle, Adventure of Sherlock Holmes (World of Books, October 2015)
  11. 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...) *
  12. 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...) *
  13. Elizabeth Gaskell, North and South (2014)*
  14. Kate Grenville, The Lieutenant (charity shop, December 2015)
  15. Antonia Hodgkin, The Devil in the Marshalsea (charity shop, May 2016)
  16. Neil MacGregor, Germany: Memories of  a Nation (birthday present, Nov 2016)
  17. Rebecca MacKenzie, In a Land of Paper Gods (Christmas Present, 2016)
  18. Elizabeth McKenzie, The Portable Veblen (Mother's Day, 2017)
  19. Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian (charity table, Wetland Centre, May 2015)
  20. Philipp Meyer, American Rust (charity shop, December 2015)
  21. Alice Munro, Runaway (Waterstones Piccadilly, March 2016)
  22. Flannery O'Connor, Complete Stories (charity shop, December 2015)
  23. Orhan Pamuk. A Strangeness in Mind (Christmas present 2016)
  24. Natasha Pulley, The Watchmaker of Filigree Street (Waterstones Wimbledon, December 2016)
  25. Elizabeth Redfern, The Music of the Spheres  (charity shop, December 2015)
  26. Anna Richards, Little Gods (pound shop, November 2016)
  27. Gregory David Roberts, Shantaram (Abe Books, July 2016)
  28. Hannah Rothschild, The Improbability of Love (charity shop, October 2016)
  29. Caterina Ingleman Sanders, The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules (charity shop, October 2016)
  30. Jane Smiley, Some Luck (Waterstones Reading, October 2015)
  31. Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Barnes & Noble (in MD), Summer 2013 - a re-read, as I read it when a teen) *
  32. M L Stedman, The Light Between Oceans (Waterstones Wimbledon, December 2016)
  33. Rose Tremain, Tresspass (charity shop, December 2015)

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Dinner, 30/3/17: Chicken escallopes, shoestring potatoes, green beans

Chicken escallopes are always a favourite - I don't make them all that often because they are a bit time consuming. But the kids pitched in tonight, and for once there were no after-school activities so we had a bit more time. I was fairly exhausted as things had been extra busy at school, with OFSTED inspectors in. Consequently, I forgot to take a photo of the goat's cheese canneloni we had on Tuesday (I didn't get home until 8), and on Wednesday, we abandoned any plans to cook and got fish & chips (Geoff's idea - bless him). Tomorrow night I'm out as well, so there's not been a lot of cooking this week, all told.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Book 28: Kidnapped, Jan Burke

I don't have this marked down anywhere as having read it before, though it does seem vaguely familair, so it's possible I have - I've read most of the series. It's a good series, despite the somewhat implausible nature of some of the plots (but that's mystery/crime fiction for you). 

Dinner, 27/3/17: Chickpea, Potato & Spinach Curry

Here's one that we have a lot (for us) - easy, tasty. Usually supplemented with flatbreads from our local shop, if they have fresh ones.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Dinner, 26/3/17: Shepherd's Pie, Leeks

Mother's Day also means no cooking for me - don't get me wrong, I enjoy cooking, but it's nice to have a day off...

Books in

Most present-giving occasions in our house involve books; Mother's Day is no exception. Here's what I got this year. 

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Book 27: The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick

I've not seen the film of this, so I can't make any direct comparisons; from what I've read about the film, I think they changed it a fair amount. I thought this was an enjoyable book, though I can't say any of the characters are particularly appealing (not because of the mental illness, but because outside of that, their worldview and mine is pretty different). But I thought it was an interesting portrayal of mental illness, and authentic feeling, at least in my limited experience. 

Dinner, 25/3/17: Spiralized Sweet Potato Carbonara (Spiralize Every Day)

This recipe uses spiralized sweet potato with a carbonara type sauce. I liked it, though it wouldn't replace carbonara with pasta on a permanent basis. The sweet potato noodles were steamed, possibly for a little too long, but the flavour combination worked well.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Book 26: The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, Kate DiCamillo (children's)

This is a children's book and is the next book we are reading as a class, basing our work for the next half term on. I wanted to read it in advance so I'd know the story, as I'm not always in the classroom when the text is being read to the children. If you don't know the story, it's hard to support them!  Anyway, it's a lovely story, though I think much of it will go over the heads of some of my 7 & 8 year olds, and it's quite sad in places. It will be interesting to see what they get from it!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Dinner, 22/3/17: Spaghetti with Bacon, Peas and Parmesan (Waitrose Magazine)

A nice easy mid-week supper. The peas are partly blended up to make a kind of pesto, and partly left whole. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Dinner, 21/3/17: Winter Vegetable Broth with Haricot Beans and Chorizo (Darina Allen)

Soup. It's hard to photograph to look appealing, but it tastes nice...

Monday, March 20, 2017

Book 25: A Year of Marvellous Ways by Sarah Winman

I really enjoyed this novel, with its lyrical writing and magical realism. It's a lovely story of relationships, of all sorts, including perhaps our relationship with our own minds & hearts. An unlikely cast of characters all around works well to keep you interested, and the writing is lovely.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Dinner, 19/3/17: Pork Paprikash (I love my Slow Cooker, by Sara Lewis)

Some prep work to do before chucking it in the slow cooker, but not more than half an hour or so, and the result was terrific. And because it was only Geoff, Alex & me for dinner, there's another batch in the freezer for another dinner as well...

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Dinner, 18/3/17: Salmon Teriyaki with Courgette & Sesame Noodles (Spiralize Every Day)

Another winner. Really convinced about spiralised courgettes - they work so well.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Dinner, 17/3/17: Potato & Pesto Pizzas (Good Food magazine)

Pretty much what it says. the crust here is made from  a packet of ciabatta bread mix, so it's very light and airy. Topping is pesto, potatoes, mozzarella. The rocket is only added after cooking.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Book 24: Paper and Fire by Rachel Caine

Second in the Great Library series, and a compelling addition to the first one. Looking forward to seeing how the series is resolved; can't quite imagine what exactly will happen.

Dinner, 15/3/17: Chicken Curry, Okra (Geoff cooking)

Geoff often makes a curry when it's his turn to cook - always comes out nicely as well. This was no exception.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Dinner, 13/3/17: Enchiladas (Hairy Bikers - Hairy Dieters book)

Excellent enchiladas, yum!  Sarah made these, as she's here until tomorrow. And lots of raw veggies to go with them. 

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Dinner, 12/3/17: Roast Pork, Roast Potatoes, Stuffing, Roast Parsnips, Cabbage

Sarah was home for a few days, and requested a roast dinner, so we were happy to oblige. 

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Dinner, 11/3/17: Oriental Chicken and Noodle Soup (Itsu cookbook)

This is Itsu's "classic chicken and noodle soup" - it was nice, quite a good basic oriental style chicken and noodle soup.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Dinner, 10/3/17: Tagliatelli with Sausage and Porcini Mushrooms (Gino's Pasta, Gino D'Acampo)

The sauce involves sausagemeat, leeks, rosemary, cream, white wine. What's not to like?

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Dinner, 8/3/17: Vegetable Stir Fry with Noodles

A standby, no recipe. Whatever veg I have or buy, with noodles (sometimes rice). And usually some nuts or tofu - in this case, peanuts.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Dinner, 7/3/17: Herby Butterbean Broth (Tesco Vegetarian Magazine)

This is a recipe I've had for years and years, but it's a good standby soup. Easy, quick, cheap, tasty. This time it had cannelini beans as I didn't have a tin of butterbeans. Alex made it start to finish, no input. (One of the positive sides of having 3 teenagers is that there are so many people in the house who can potentially cook dinner on busy nights!) 

Monday, March 06, 2017

Dinner, 6/3/17: Pea, creme fraiche and mint gnocchi (Take one Veg, Georgina Fuggle)

Served this with a crunchy salad to offset the soft richness of the gnocchi. This worked well - I made it in advance on the weekend so it could just be popped in the oven on Monday and it was good. Creamy and not too stodgy (always a risk with gnocchi, I think). 

Book 23: This isn't the sort of thing that happens to someone like you, Jon McGregor

This is actually a collection of short stories, loosely related in some cases, set in a similar scene, with a few details building as the stories progress. I used to really dislike short stories - my feeling being that if I liked characters I wanted as much time with them as possible, but they are beginning to grow on me in my old age. Not sure if that's because there are a lot more instances of the interconnected-might-almost-be-a-novel sort of stories or whether my own tastes are changing, but I did enjoy these. Perhaps not quite as much as If No One Speaks of Remarkable Things, which I thought was super, but still, a very good read.

I actually included this in my February reads as I started it in February and thought I'd finish it right at the beginning of March, but I got sidetracked by re-reading something else and didn't finish until around the 6th. However, I'm going to leave it in the February list because then I don't have to edit the picture collage! It doesn't really matter to anyone but me, I suspect - after all, no one else knows if I'm telling the truth about when I finish a book - or, I dare say, cares!

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Dinner, 5/3/17: Asian Steamed Chicken Dumplings (Spiralise every day)

This was amazing, The little chicken dumplings (meatballs really) were very nice and the spiralised veg was fantastic.

Saturday, March 04, 2017

Book 22: Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore (re-read)

The final in the series. I'd forgotten how much meatier this one is than the other two, in some ways. It's longer, but it also deals more with a lot of ethical issues - a strong finish for sure.

Dinner, 4/3/17: Red Lentil & Spinach Lasagne (Aine Carlin)

This is from the cookbook Keep it Vegan, though it's not vegan, because I made normal bechamel sauce, not the soya version in the book. However, if you wanted to, you could easily make the soya bechamel sauce, and the whole thing would be vegan. It's probably the first lasagne I've ever made which didn't have cheese in it, and actually, it works fine. Very tasty.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Book 21: Fire by Kristin Cashore (re-read)

Second in the series, the back-story of part of the first book. Still excellent on re-reading.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Book 20: Graceling by Kristin Cashore (re-read)

Can't remember what prompted me to re-read this series, but for whatever reason, I really felt like a nice meaty fantasy series I could get my teeth into. I read this 3 or 4 years ago so they were due for a re-read, and they still held up, despite some foreknowledge of the plot.

Dinner, 1/3/17: One pan spicy rice; curried okra

The rice we've had lots of times before - quick, easy and tasty. The okra was a nice accompaniment (for me & Geoff - not so much the kids!)

February Roundup


  • 28th: Cauliflower & Vintage Cheddar Soup
  • 27th: Pasta with sweet potato, potato & bacon
  • 26th: Beef stew
  • 25th: Cauliflower "steaks" with Chimichurri, spicy wedges
  • 24th: G & K out - anniversary (Sticks & Sushi)
  • 23rd: Fend for yourself
  • 22nd: Jacket Potatoes with Toppings
  • 21st: Leftover chicken, etc
  • 20th: Sausage & Rocket Linguine
  • 19th: Roast Chicken, roast potatoes, cabbage
  • 18th: Vegetable Biryani
  • 17th: Dinner out (Cambridge)
  • 16th: Macaroni with Minced Meat and Onions
  • 15th: Sweet and Sour Pork with Daikon Noodles
  • 14th: Potato and Cauliflower Curry
  • 13th: Crusted Pumpkin Wedges, salads
  • 12th: Mediterranean Stuffed Peppers
  • 11th: Thai Chicken and Aubergine Curry
  • 10th: Omelette, oven chips
  • 9th: Fend for yourself
  • 8th: Cheeseburger Quesadillas
  • 7th: Pasta Bake with Meatballs
  • 6th: Macaroni Cheese
  • 5th: Cheat's Sausage Cassoulet
  • 4th: Out to dinner (Alex's birthday)
  • 3rd: Courgette & Feta Risotto
  • 2nd: Fend for yourself
  • 1st: Stir Fried Veg with Noodles