Wednesday, 17 December 2014

2015 challenge: Back to the Classics

Well, this challenge was also too tempting to resist! After I got the first taste of making lists with intended reading from O, here's another one that whetted my appetite:

Karen is hosting the 2015 Back to Classics challenge, and I'm still cautious and have (only) indicated 7 categories for which I intend to read books - obviously, if all goes well, there will be more:

  1. A Classic by a Woman Author: The Tennant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë
  2. A Very Long Classic Novel:   The Moonstone by W. Collins
  3. A Classic Novella: The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells
  4. A Classic with a Person's Name in the Title: Lady Chatterley's Lover by D. H. Lawrence
  5. A Humorous or Satirical Classic:Thank you, Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse
  6. A Classic Children's Book: Charlotte's Web by E.B.White
  7. A Classic Play: A Streetcar Named Desire, by Tennessee Williams

One other category I'm interested in is the Forgotten Classic, and here I want to go through my Persephone catalogue to see which title could entice me...

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

2015 challenge: Reading England

 It's time I got my blog mojo back, and there is no better way to ease this transition than a challenge!  
The fact that a reading list has been prepared in advance, plus the feeling of actually achieving a goal are beneficial (at least for me):  without further ado, my first challenge for 2015:  Reading England!
Hosted by O at Behold the Stars, the goal is to travel around England by reading novels (English or not) set in the various counties.  O has been kind enough to already provide a list with some of the more known books and which counties they refer to (including some counties I've never heard of...) so this should make my research easy.

I will not be very ambitious though:  I'm going for level 2, meaning 4-6 books.  I figured that it's better to aim low and get there than not.  This is the list with my intended reading:

  • The Tennant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë (Cumbria)
  • Lady Chatterley's Lover by D. H. Lawrence (Nottinghamshire)
  • The Moonstone by W. Collins (Yorkshire)
  • Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon (Essex)
  • Thank you, Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse (Dorset)
  • The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells (Sussex)

Here's looking at 2015 with a fresh look!  I'll also be interested in learning about each of the counties I'm visiting, so as to better get into the spirit of the novel describing it.  Double the fun...

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Cooking: Baby shower

Potluck dinners are the type of gatherings I love to go to, one, because they highlight the convivial spirit and two, because they give me a good excuse to cook up something new and exciting!  When my friend Jessi gathered us all girls around for a baby shower I went to my trusted Pinterest trying to find some new recipes. Here's what I came up with...

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Cover her face, by P.D. James

I started reading P.D. James fairly recently, when a colleague de-cluttered her house and gave me a box full of books, including several by this author.  I knew the name, but had failed up to that point to read anything relevant (plus, for some reason I always mistook her for A.S. Byatt, but that's another story altogether..).

So,  following the announcement of her death, I thought it proper to write down my thoughts on the first experience I had with P.D. James:  Cover her face, the first of the Adam Dalgliesh Mysteries.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Cooking: Thanksgiving potluck

No, I'm not American but yes, I love all types of celebrations -- they always provide the right setting for a gathering, for meeting old and new, for putting the blandness of everyday life aside for a few hours of laughter, joy and insanity!  On this particular occasion, there was also a good reason to actually agree with the theme of the evening:  we should all have something to be thankful for:  our families, our friends, our health...

My friend Jessi, Über-mistress of ceremonies, was the proper person to undertake the extreme task of gathering close to 30 people for a Thanksgiving dinner:  just looking at the quantity of meat was enough to scare even the toughest male contender among the guests ...  The rest of the meal, however, was actually potluck:  from all corners of the world, but with a distinct American flavour, several side dishes provided the perfect background in honour of the Bird!  My contribution:  something with corn and something with pumpkin as per instructions - and I complied:

Creamy cheesy corn bake
(adapted from FiveheartHome)

300gr cream cheese
4 tbsp butter
1/3 cup milk
2x400gr cans crispy corn 
150g diced antipasti peppers
1 heaped tbsp wholegrain mustard
salt/pepper to taste

150g shredded cheddar cheese

Heat the oven at 180 degrees C fan.  Over low-medium heat, slowly melt the butter in a deep casserole (I like using as few utensils as possible).  Remove from stove.  Add cream cheese, milk, corn, peppers, mustard and stir.  Add salt/pepper to taste.  Pour in oven dish and sprinkle with cheddar.  Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the topping is golden brown... Delish warm or cold!

Pumpkin cream cheese truffles
(adapted from Erin's Food files)

For the filling:
120g white chocolate chunks
200g digestive cookie crumbs

250g pumpkin purée
2 tbsp confectioners' sugar
1 tsp vanilla paste
200g cream cheese
pinch of salt

For the coating:
500g white chocolate chunks

(Almost) no cooking required:

For the filling:
In a bain-marie, slowly melt the chunks.  Remove from stove (I used only this bowl to prepare everything).  In the bowl, add the crumbs, the pumpkin purée, the sugar, the vanilla paste and the cream cheese.  Stir well and add the pinch of salt.  Form in little balls and place in a lined cookie sheet.  Leave in refrigerator until hardened (I did this in the morning before work, and left them in the fridge until my lunch break).  

Now for the coating:
Again, in a bain-marie, melt the chocolate chunks.  The original recipe calls for dipping the pumpkin balls in the mixture.  I did not dare - what I did instead was to pour spoonfuls of the chocolate goodness over the balls, trying to cover them as much as possible.  Leave once more in the fridge until the chocolate is hardened (at least 2 hours).  

I think the result was not bad at all...


Why this Thanksgiving dinner was special:  good friends (old and new) all around, celebrating the arrival of two babies, meeting two pairs of parents, there to (help and) share the joy across the tables and -- putting everything into perspective, realising what is important in life and concentrating on this.  Thanks Jessi for a unforgettable celebration!

This post is my entry into Weekend Cooking, a weekly event hosted by Beth Fish ReadsFor more information, see the welcome post.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Again, a book that I would probably never have read were it not for my book club:  Americanah, a present-day story about growing up without prospects, about how enchanting certain parts of the world may seem, of how race is indeed an issue among us whether we like it or not, and finally, about how blogging may keep people sane (yes...)

I was hesitant to start this book because of the horror stories I've read over time about people forced to seek (political) refuge in new, strange countries and the sacrifices and ordeals they go through for a better life.  

Monday, 8 September 2014

The Return, by Victoria Hislop

I got "The Return" by V. Hislop as a summer present. At 500 pages, I was slightly intimidated whether I would be able to finish it during my holidays. In addition, I was cautious about the content, as I had not really liked her first book "The Island". But then I was intrigued: reading the back cover, I read that the storyline included Spain's Franco and the story of a family during this difficult time…

Friday, 29 August 2014

Cooking: 3-veg and halloumi bake

no meat in sight...
(In lieu of an introduction: There are plenty of documentaries on TV showing the risk to the food supply if we continue to eat meat at the rate we do. While I don't intend (yet) to become vegetarian/vegan, I am conscious of the unsustainability of eating meat (and to a certain extent dairy products, for that matter) at the current rate. During a recent such episode shown on BBC, I was appaled to see in real terms (i.e. in actual meat mass) how much we consume on average. The conclusion, to which I fully agree, is straight-forward: the only sustainable solution requires a large reduction in the quantity of meat we consume. Eating less meat will put less pressure on the planet, is more healthy and will also promote a better farming system - improved animal well-being, and less but better-quality meat for the carnivores among us.)

All this to say that I've been trying more and more meatless recipes to reach this decrease in my own consumption of meat: I give you a heart-warming, vegetable-packed, rough but oh, so tasty bake! 

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Moby Dick: A whale of a readalong!

Yep, I have to drag myself back into the art of reading and writing about it -- plus, I've wanted to read Moby Dick for a very long time.  No time like the present, and RoofBeamReader's invitation was hard to resist.

For my reading, I plan to use two modes:  my wonderful hard-bound copy purchased at the well-known English bookstore Shakespeare and Company in Paris, that's bound to bring back happy memories of a spectacular bookstore and a well-read personnel, ready to help with all types of requests...

and ...

The podcasts from Moby Dick Big Read, which, back in 2012, I would religiously wait for to download because I worried they would disappear.  Fear not, the site still exists and it is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to hear beautiful voices read each chapter (and marvel at the artistic interpretations).  I plan to use these podcasts on my daily walks and hope that the combination of listening and reading brings me to the 15 pages per day RoofBeamReader suggests...

Join the readalong - a great way to start the summer!

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

The Making of a Marchioness, by Frances Hodgson Burnett

I'm always amazed at how some of the themes currently at the height of interest were also touched upon by classic books. Case in question The Making of a Marchioness, by Frances Hodgson Burnett.  Written in 1901, it talks of financial peril, marriage of convenience and death plots for inheritance purposes...  
I came upon it  having watched "The making of a Lady" (I assume because the title of Marchioness is not well-known), a slightly rom-com set in a Victorian context - easy for a gentle afternoon watching, while knitting / cross-stitching / petting your cat, or whatever Victorians would do in the afternoon...

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Recipe: grilled vegetable quiche

While I am an absolute carnivore, there are times I yearn for an abundance of vegetables.  
I will then go through phases of "vegetarianism", where I (re) discover the tastes and smells and colours of the vegetable family.  In such cases, it's always good to have a good source of inspiration:  in my case, it's Yotam Ottolenghi and his book "Plenty".  
Plenty recipes to choose from, but this vegetable quiche is one of my favourite staples.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Youth, by Isaak Asimov

Coming back from London on a Saturday evening, the world quietens down on board the Eurostar train.  People close their eyes, contemplate the events of the day, and try to enjoy the peace around them.  This is a time when I enjoy a good read: nothing too elaborate or big - just simple, good writing and a reasonable length to last the journey.

Such a read is Youth, by Isaak Asimov.  Written in the 1950s, it is of the futuristic genre but with no fanfare.  It rather reminded me of the Twilight Zone programme that I so enjoyed in my own youth...

The plot is fairly straightforward:  life in a distant future, where our present and recent past is considered as the "beforethewars" era (I really enjoyed that word, nothing fancy but leaving so much to the imagination...).  The main characters involve two scientists, who try to take up contact with aliens in a foreign planet, with the view to take up trade relations. Already I'm amazed at the little bits of wisdom that I read in between this simple story:
... was it reasonable to destroy almost all their tremendous civilization in atomic warfare over causes our historians can no longer accurately determine?

With them, we get to see their respective sons, longing for a future of their own, preferably in a circus.  They in turn discover some uncommon-looking creatures they think could be their ticket into this wonderful life - so they keep them in a cage and try to take good care of them.

The book is short and more than enough for the 2-hour travel to Brussels.  I really enjoyed the language used, but also some of the messages used.  While waiting for a signal from the aliens, the two scientists start debating about whether the aliens could in fact be hostile.  The pessimist of the two explains why he sees things this way:

The world has been at peace too long.  We are losing a healthy sense of suspicion

Linking it with the Twilight Zone, I came to a point where the twists are non-ending - who's watching whom here:  the scientists the children, the children the little creatures, or the children the scientists who are in truth the little creatures?  One can come to their proper interpretation of the story, but one thing is certain:  for such a tiny size, this book certainly stayed in my mind long after I had read it...   



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