Tuesday, 30 November 2010


A short month, but long enough for me to get quite overdrawn, due to Christmas shopping and car tax/service/insurance.
Started going to swim training sessions with Oxford tri
Discovered that I like nutella even more than peanut butter.
Discovered that I can eat a whole jar of nutella in one go after a swim session.
Decided on my next swim challenge.
Made pecan pie.
LOVED the ballet Sylvia
Learning to play the piano again
Made the first batch of Christmas shortbread
Survived the chaos at work when the students occupied one of the buildings...
Enjoyed listening to the Advent Carol Service from St. John's Cambridge on Radio 3, so much so that I listened to it all over again the next day.
Lit my advent candle.

In December I'm looking forward to:
A swim coaching session and having my front crawl videoed!
My advent tea party
Going to see The snowman for the third time and the Christmas lights
(as well as some bookshopping)
Taking K's nieces to the ballet again
Some time off work doing nothing

The start of the Christmas baking

My friend's husband visited at the weekend, and, as it was the first weekend of Advent, it provided me with an excuse to bake the first batch of Christmas shortbread of 2010. As you can see, I made stars, snowmen and Christmas trees on this occasion (I have quite an extensive collection of Christmas cutters). I asked my friend what sort of cake her husband likes to eat, and the answer was either lemon drizzle or anything coffee flavoured, so I whipped up a batch of coffee and walnut cakes to go on the cakestand.

More extensive Christmas baking will follow, after I hold my advent teaparty next weekend...

Friday, 26 November 2010

Teach us to sit still (Parks)

I apologise for the lack of book-related posts recently; I feel a lot more motivated in the craft-cooking direction at the moment, particularly as Christmas approaches and I am keen to share the things that I am making (or perhaps that should be show off!!, although I do get ideas from seeing other people's blogs and hope that I also provide some inspiration). I've also taken up serious Swim Training, going along to two fitness swims with the Oxford Triathlon Club a week at the moment, which does eat into my free time and makes me extra tired (and extra extra hungry) - I'm hoping to do a couple of Big Swims next year (even bigger than last year's swim) to raise money for Macmillan and Mind in memory of two people important to K and myself who won't be around to celebrate our wedding with us next year (and also because K has got a place to do L'etape (a stage of the Tour De France open to amateurs) in July and I'll feel a bit left out if I don't have my own event to train for! I'm also trying to complete an assignment for the management course that I've been doing this term (performance objectives anyone?!). Amid all this excitement, not to mention the excitement of the occupation of one of the reading rooms that I supervise at work by fee-protesting students, my stomach flared up badly this week (I think partly due to the large amount of food that I had to consume post-swimming on Monday) and I spent an evening confined to the sofa watching TV.

One book I have read in the last few days that has really resonated with me is Teach us to sit still by Tim Parks. Unlike the rest of his books which are novels, this is an account of his attempt to come to terms with chronic illness. He suffered from a complex set of pains in the groin/prostate area which the doctors were unable to attribute to any cause and thus give him any meaningful diagnosis and treatment. The tests show that there is nothing wrong with him, which is good, but it means that he has to go home and live with the condition. I empathised so much - I have had so many tests done on my stomach, and I am apparently healthy, yet I still have to live with episodes of excruciating pain that don't seem connected to anything at all. So much of it sounded familiar - the exasperation of family members, the days when he could barely walk, the trying to get on with work and life... The last third of the book provides some optimism as Parks takes up meditation and finds some relief from his pain - it isn't something he finds natural but it does help. Something perhaps that I need to learn to do. I realise, writing this, after the first paragraph, that I do have a tendency to fill my days, to try to achieve - even when I am trying to take it easy, I am found on the sofa reading books and wondering whether to blog about them, texting/emailing my friends, or doing cross stitches.

Food for thought definitely, and a book to be recommended to anyone who has chronic pain which cannot be relieved, if just for the hopeful thought that even when things seem hopeless, there may be a possibility out there which is beyond the scope of the medical establishment. Perhaps I need someone to teach me to be still.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Christmas cards 2 (preparing for Christmas 5)

I've made a number of Christmas tree cross stitch Christmas cards - this design is surprisingly simple and can be completed in a couple of hours, and I managed to do 6 of them! The design came from a little kit that I bought at Hobbycraft, but then I used some of my own cottons to make some more, and then bought cards at Hobbycraft to present them in. The bear card also came from a kit but was a little bit more time consuming, so I only did one of those. I hope that people will appreciate the effort put into a cross stitch Christmas card, although the other ones that I have made have been much more labour intensive! More on those next week...

Monday, 22 November 2010

In which pictures of cake are sadly absent

As the title suggests, no pretty pictures of cake this week. I apologise. I've had a couple of bakings to post about but no accompanying pictures for a variety of reasons (greed, disaster, and not-yet-finished).

Greed: The ginger cake that I made sadly disappeared before I got any pictures. This was partly because it had to be left for a couple of days to "mature" before eating (how hard is that?!), and I somehow forgot that it had not been photographed. The recipe came from the Camper Van Cookbook and was pronounced extremely good; perhaps because there was far more sugar and treacle in the recipe than anything else!

Disaster: I really wish I'd taken some pictures of Saturday's disaster which had me in tears and doubting my baking abilities. I decided to make the toffee apple cake that Cornflower blogged to accompany the reading of Elizabeth Taylor's A game of hide and seek as it sounded lovely. I decided to make a round version, rather than a loaf version, but made a bad decision in choice of tin and put it in one that was far too small. The cake overflowed, somewhat akin to a volcano, but fortunately onto a baking tray in the bottom of the oven rather than onto the oven itself. Cake mixture adhered all round the side of the tin and the cake had to be cut out. The resultant mess was apparently exceptionally tasty, and K even ate the overflowings with his coffee, but it was a mess and I was too embarassed to photograph it (but I do wish I'd got a picture of it in the oven to send to Cake Wrecks).

Not-yet-finished: Our Christmas cake is currently wrapped in foil; it's a vegan recipe from Fiona Cairn's book Bake and Decorate which I have de-glutenised, substituting a mix of ground almonds, rice flour and buckwheat flour for the wheat. It needs to be left to mature, and then to decorate, at which point I'll share some pictures. I'm not sure we're big enough fans of Christmas cake to manage to eat a WHOLE one but I did want to practice sugarpasting, and we're planning to make some model penguins to go on top.

This week marks the start of seasonal baking as we have a friend coming round for tea and cake on Saturday, acting as santa between me and a friend who is too poorly to travel - if I can't see her, it's the next best thing to see her husband, and as a thank you I shall ply him with the first batch of shortbread of the season, assuming I can find my Christmas cutters. The following week is my annual Advent Tea Party so I shall be making some goodies for that, and K is wondering about making a gingerbread house again. Watch this space!

Friday, 19 November 2010

The gowk storm

The gowk storm was another of the Canongate Classics that I was sent to have a look at (to recap - Canongate have made available quite a lot of their backlisted classics list through a new print on demand/ebook service). The title intrigued me; what was a gowk storm? It turns out to be an old name for an unseasonal snowfall in early Spring or a storm that brings trouble to people - as I read the book I saw that that title was apt.

This 1930s book tells the story of three sisters, Lisbet, who narrates the book, and her older sisters Julia and Emmy. The three live in a Scottish manse and tells the story of the girls and their relationships. Both of the older two fall in love with unsuitable men; Emmy falls in love with her best friend's fiance, Julia with a Roman Catholic. I was interested in the way that these women's lives were constrained by the restrictions placed on them by the society in which they lived; while we today have freedom almost to pursue relationships with who we like, this is a relatively recent ideal.

Both tragic and romantic, but beautifully told, I was gripped from start to finish, and agree that it deserves its place as among the canon of Scottish literary classics. As I've said before, very glad that Canongate are getting books which might pass the mainstream by out there.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Christmas cards 1 (preparing for Christmas 4)

This year, partly for reasons of economy, and partly because I've really got into doing crafty things over the last six months, I decided to make my own Christmas cards. Earlier in the year, I decided to do some cross stitch cards for "special" cards, for close family members - if I had started in January, I might have had time to do cross stitch cards for everyone I know, but with over 60 cards to send, I think I would have got a little frustrated stitching the same Christmas tree over and over again. I have done a number of cross stitch cards of different designs, which will feature in posts over the coming Thursdays (I think there may be 4 Christmas card posts if that is not too tedious!), but today I want to show off the bulk of my cards, which I even got K to help making! It was very simple idea, and very cheap, although I did end up with a bright green thumb and index finger. I bought 50 blank cards on ebay, a bottle of green spray paint and found a Christmas tree stencil via google. I combined these three things, having covered the sitting room with newspaper, and here is the result!

Now I just need to start writing them!

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Christmas book recommendations

I had such an overwhelming response on my post last week about Christmas books, prompted by the addition of a beautiful copy of Dicken's Christmas books to my library, that I thought it was probably worth highlighting everyone's responses in a separate post; like me, many of you enjoy festive reading so I thought that the recommendations should be shared. Vivienne over at Serendipity has had a similar idea and has put together a more comprehensive list of recommendations so do pop over and check that out.

This isn't by any means a definitive list, but some of people's favourites that were mentioned in the comments on my last post, and at the end I've added a section on baking!

Several people mentioned The man who invented Christmas, which is apparently a very readable biography of Dickens, by Andrew Billen. I'll definitely be getting that from the library, although I am intrigued to see that it has been classified as a children's book.

Another book I'll be getting out of the library is The Virago Book of Christmas which is an anthology of writings about Christmas by over 50 woman, including many famous names. It sounds like it could be something that I might want to dip into on each day of advent.

Other recommendations included some of my favourite Christmas reads - Miss Read's Country Christmas, The Tailor of Gloucester (Beatrix Potter) and A child's Christmas in Wales (Dylan Thomas). Two other children's book favourites are Jo of the Chalet School which has a lovely description of an Austrian Christmas, and Helen Craig's Angelina's Christmas which has glorious illustrations of the dancing mouse.

Some recommendations I had not heard of:
A Christmas memory (Truman Capote)
Mr Ive's Christmas (Oscar Hijuelos)
A redbird Christmas (Fannie Flagg)
Christmas holiday (Somerset Maugham)

but I had already got my eye on some of Sharon Owen's books - gentle chick-lit. I enjoyed an Amanda Brookfield with a Christmas theme last year, although I can't remember the title, and Alison Penton-Harper's Housewife on top was an amusing read last year.

Of course baking is an important part of Christmas; my favourite Christmas baking book is probably the Nigella Christmas book which I was given last year as a leaving present from my job - my mincemeat and Christmas chutney is Nigella this year, and last year I made wonderful orange and cranberry Christmas morning muffins. I had Delia's Happy Christmas out of the library last week, and it was a bit of a disappointment - to be honest, I could tell that the book was never going to do it for me as soon as I saw all of the comprehensive lists and plans at the front. As someone who comes from a very small family (only ever 3 of us for Christmas), who has spent the last two Christmases away, and will probably be spending Christmas with someone else's family, although I did once cook a Christmas dinner, the main bit of cooking that I do over Christmas is yummy baking. Even if I did have to "do" Christmas it would be all about the baking for me. So my other favourite Christmas book which I had from the library earlier this year but had to purchase is Linda Collister's Christmas treats which I'm sure I'll be sharing creations from soon. I believe the Hairy Bikers have a new book this Christmas and I might be interested to see that as they have done some interesting baking bits in the past.

Thanks for all of your suggestions, and I hope that you find this post interesting! I'll be writing nearer the time about the pile of un-Christmassy books that I hope to indulge myself in over the period.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Peanut butter cupcakes from the Primrose Bakery book

Regular readers will know that cupcakes are not something I'm usually interested in baking - give me the simpler, more homely fairy cake anyday. But occasionally a recipe will take my fancy, and given the love for peanut butter that I've developed over the summer (and which has been responsible for giving me my figure back) I quite fancied trying these. I've had Cupcakes from the Primrose Bakery book for a while, but this is the first thing I've made from it - the cake is a regular cupcake mixture (using milk as well as butter/milk/sugar) but with dark brown sugar and peanut butter to give it a toffeey, peanutty taste. The frosting is milk chocolate - literally just dairy milk mixed with a little cream and butter. The book suggested decorating with peanut butter chips, but I didn't have any of those, so used some chocolate vermicelli instead.

Unfortunately I have identified that it seem to be either wheat or gluten which is the main culprit evil good for me (and not so much dairy); I had a nibble of these before we had sussed this out and they were seriously YUM so I will have to find a way of de-wheatizing them. Still, K was quite happy to finish them off!

Monday, 15 November 2010

Library loot

K and I had an outing to Thame on Saturday. It was principally to have a nice afternoon out and to go to a cookshop to try to replace my pink silicon baking sheet (NB - while they are oven proof, they are not grill proof)...unfortunately they only had red ones, which I was not willing to buy. We picked up some goodies in Waitrose (gluten free chocolate croissants and almond tarts for me, a bottle of Porter and a jar of Chai Latte powder for him), popped into Oxfam where I picked up an original green VMC edition of Rosamund Lehman's short stories - too lovely to resist even though I'm trying so hard not to spend money, but the highlight of our afternoon out was the visit to the new library, which opened in July.

I didn't take my camera as I wasn't anticipating things being so exciting, but here is a picture from the library website. I always like visiting other libraries, partly because they have different book stock (of which more below), partly because the layout of smaller libraries tends to encourage me to browse more widely, but also because with my librarian's hat on I love to see how things are done, even though I no longer work in the public sector.

The library itself was very new and shiny, but lost points immediately for not having a staff desk visible when entering. We had some books to return (Oxfordshire lets you return books anywhere) and couldn't see where to do it. It then transpired that you could use the self-issue machines to do this; fair enough, but the library needs to make it clearer, because if someone trained in libraries can't figure out what to do, then it's unrealistic to expect other people to. There was lots of curvy shelving, which made it a little difficult to find the sequences of books - I struggled to find the start of the fiction, but there was a coffee machine upstairs and plenty of comfy seating. The most exciting bit was taking the books out - I'd identified the self issue machine by this point, and started scanning my books as I sometimes do at the main library, when the books suddenly started to appear on the screen without me scanning them! Being a librarian-type, I realised that they had RFID tags in the books (or radio frequency identification for the uninitiated...). This means that you just have to scan your card, and then put your books on a special spot on the counter, and the books are automatically added to your record. Clever! Despite having worked in libraries for over a decade (eek!), I had never actually seen this in action before (well, it is a relatively new technology) But again, I couldn't see any signs about this - I think it could have been confusing without my library background!

The most entertaining bit of the trip was K and I fighting over the remaining spaces on our cards. We use our cards interchangeably, or rather, I use his card as well as mine, which means we can take out up to 40 books between us, or rather, I can stack up books at home. I've been on a bit of a chick-lit binge recently:
and with other books that I've taken out, we were only able to choose 8 books to take home with us. K looked so wistfully at me that although I could have taken armfuls home with me, that for once he ended up taking home as many books as me... Mine weren't terribly exciting, but here are his:
So there we go, a successful afternoon out and a chance for me to indulge my library geek.

Friday, 12 November 2010

A childhood in Scotland (Miller)

The first of the Canongate Classics that I picked up is A childhood in Scotland by Christian Miller. What an absorbing book it was, and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading period autobiographies - it's only 98 pages long but incredibly rewarding.

Christian Miller tells us about her upbringing in the 1920s; living in a castle - an aristocratic existence, but one which was nevertheless impoverished. As the youngest of six, she would sit with her family around the dinner table wondering how the odd number of potatoes would be divided up and whether or not she would go hungry. She seems to have had a somewhat sad life - distant parents, left to the care of servants and only allowed to read if she couldn't find something "more useful" to do.

Juxtabook has written a lovely review of this book, where she compares Miller's experiences to those of the Mitford children, and I'm inclined to agree - if you were fascinated by Hons and Rebels then you are likely to enjoy this lesser known book too. Although at times it put me in mind of I capture the castle too. And you can read a review by Cornflower here.

I am now very much looking forward to reading my other two Canongate Classics. Thank you Andrea for letting me have this!

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Christmas chutney (preparing for Christmas 3)

Following on from the success of the mincemeat making that I wrote about the other week, this weekend I returned to Nigella, this time to her Christmas book, and decided to make Christmas chutney. I'd spotted Christmas chutney in Marks and Spencers earlier in the week; we had it last year and it enlivened our usual cheese sandwiches a treat, but it was a little pricey and I didn't have room in my shopping bag that day. So when I saw Nigella's recipe and realised that I had ALL of the ingredients already in my cupboard, I thought I should give it a go.

And here it is!

It's similar to this recipe, I can't find the one I used online, but mine involved some dates, orange juice and zest, and frozen rather than dried cranberries. Although masked by a strong smell of vinegar, it did have a lovely Christmassy smell whilst boiling. I only made a half quantity but still got 6 jars out of it. Unfortunately the chutney has to mature for 2 months (made it just in the nick of time) so I hope it tastes ok. Or it will be back to Marks and Spencers.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Christmas is coming...

I know I've written about Christmas already several times from the point of view of my preparations, but it feels a little like Christmas is coming early as I have had several parcels of books from publishers recently (see my post about the Canongate classics last week), but the books I've recieved this week have a Christmas connection, and would also make wonderful Christmas presents!

These beautiful books are White's pocket classics - hardback editions of 9 classic novels, but at a bargain £6.99. What particularly interested me apart from their lovely presentation was that each of the editions contains an introduction by a bestselling author - the list includes Jacqueline Wilson, Victoria Hislop, Kate Atkinson, Kate Moss, Michael Morpurgo, Ian Rankin and several others. The books also include a readers guide by the lady who edits the book reviews of Waterstone's Books Quarterly.

I asked to recieve The Christmas books by Charles Dickens, which contains A Christmas Carol, which I am familiar with, and four other tales - The chimes, The cricket on the hearth, The battle of life and The haunted man. I didn't know this, but apparently Dickens Christmas stories were so influential in the Victorian period that they made a big contribution to the creation of the concept of Christmas - I suppose many of our essential elements of Christmas do date back to the Victorian era, so I am very much looking forward to re-reading A Christmas Carol, and encountering the other stories this Christmas.

I also asked which book Jacqueline Wilson had introduced as I've been reading some of her children's books of late, and wasn't too surprised when I heard that it was Jane Eyre, as it is one of the books that she talks about reading in her autobiography Jackie Daydream. Ceri, who contacted me, kindly offered to include a copy of Jane Eyre too, and although I've read Jane Eyre many many times, it will be interesting to see what Wilson has to say about it.

Thank you very much to Ceri Maxwell for contacting me and offering me these books to write about on my blog.

Back to talking of Christmas reading, I'm starting to amass a stack of books to read over the festive period, and making a list of books that I want to reserve at the library, mainly books which I have been particularly looking forward to and want to have the time to savour. But I'm always on the look out for especially good books set at Christmas time - I love Miss Read's A country Christmas (though I was disappointed by the ghost written Christmas at Thrush Green last year) and Jostein Gaarder's Christmas mystery is definitely due a re-read this year. Does anyone have any good recommendations for books with a Christmas setting?

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Pastry and pecan pie

Following the success of the quiche made with my very own homemade pastry, I was persuaded to make K a pecan pie. This time I made a rich sweet shortcrust pastry, adding icing sugar and egg, and then a pecan pie filing using a Mary Berry recipe. It tasted a bit eggy on the day it was made, but the flavours melded, and it was pronounced preferable to my Bakewell tart, which surprised me as that is always enthusiastically recieved.

Quiche has been made two more times since the first, with different fillings, all being equally successful. Here is the latest - asparagus, tomato and goats cheese....

Monday, 8 November 2010


At the weekend we had a wonderful outing to the Royal Opera House to see the ballet Sylvia. The tickets were my birthday present to K (perhaps it was a bit of a cheat since I knew that I would equally enjoy the occasion), and since I came up with the idea a little late, I had missed the opening of booking and had to buy rather more expensive tickets than I would usually. This meant that we were sitting in the stalls, but not just in the stalls, three rows from the front, which was fantastic. My only quibble was that we were slightly below the level of the stage, so I couldn't quite see the tips of the ballerina's toes when they went up en pointe, but it meant that we could really appreciate the height that the dancers gained when they leapt around the stage.

Like most ballets, the plot is very simple, along the lines of boy meets girl, and they get together. Unlike most ballets, where the girl is usually delighted to have met a boy, Sylvia at the start is feisty and not terribly interested in the opposite sex. Set in the world of mythology, in a forest where creatures dance in worship of Eros, Sylvia is a huntress, and arrives on scene to mock him. Aminta, who has already fallen for Sylvia, is hiding, but when Sylvia tries to shoot Eros, he intervenes and is shot himself. Eros then shoots at Sylvia. Sylvia regrets shooting Aminta, but finds herself carried off by Orion, another hunter. Aminta is revived by Eros, but Sylvia has disappeared. In the second act, Orion tries to make Sylvia fall in love with him, by plying her with expensive jewellery. She grieves for Aminta, but then Eros appears, showing her a vision of him, and helps her escape. In the third act, they are reunited and get together. (I found this a little disappointing given Sylvia's independence in the first act).

The dancing was beautiful, the costumes were lovely, and the music, by Delibes, was also good, so it was an absolutely wonderful trip.

I have a bit of a ballet "thing" going on at the moment, so have been borrowing DVDs from the library and rereading my Lorna Hill books, so it was very good to go and see a live ballet. I also have three more ballet trips to look forward to before the end of January, so I will hopefully be writing about those too if people are interested.

In other news, Christmas cross stitching continues apace and have been doing some "The snowman" decoupage cards - I can't wait to get these finished and show them off - watch this space.

PS: Picture taken from the ROH website.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Canongate Classics

Regular readers will know that one of my genres of books is the republication of "neglected" or "forgotten" books, which have been brought out of obscurity by kindly publishers. You'll know about my love of Persephone books, Greyladies, Girls gone by publishing, Fidra, Bloomsbury Group...

I was thus very excited to get an email from Canongate last week with the subject line "Classic titles saved from obscurity with digital publicaiton". Canongate are making available over 100 of their Canonongate classic titles on "print on demand" or "ebooks" in an attempt to "combat the long-running problem of slow running books going out of print". The titles will be available via a dedicated shop at the Book Depository.

I know very little of Scottish literature, although I recognised many names from the list that was sent to me - Margaret Oliphant, Naomi Mitchison, Rebecca West, Robert Louis Stevenson...

...so I am excited that Canongate sent me 3 of the titles that appealed to me (I chose purely on title). Here they are, and I hope to be telling you more about them in the next month!

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Operation Christmas (preparing for Christmas 2)

I've decided that the various domestic arts projects that I am doing at the moment should all be written about under the heading of "Preparing for Christmas"...

"Operation Christmas" doesn't refer to the preparations for Christmas in my flathold, although it could well do, but instead to a charity Christmas project which I've found out about just in the nick of time. Operation Christmas Child sends shoeboxes filled with toys and basic toiletries to orphans and vulnerable children living overseas - it started 20 years ago sending to Romania, and now sends to a number of other countries in need. My parents used to organise a church event to send boxes off as part of this when I was growing up, but I had completely forgotten about the scheme until I saw various mentions on twitter and facebook. I was a little frustrated as I would have loved to have organised a collection of shoeboxes at work, and will try to get myself organised to do it next year, but I am in the middle of filling a shoebox myself. After all, I may be trying to keep costs to a minimum this year, but I have still spent far more on people who will have far more spent on them than the children who will be receiving shoeboxes. The principle is very simple - find a shoe box and cover it with Christmas paper, choose sex, and age-group of the child, and then buy some small gifts to fill it with, ideally a mix of hygiene items, toys and educational items, such as pens. They don't have to be expensive and there are plenty of ideas on the site. Once filled, you take it along to a local collection point (several shoe shops in Oxford are participating) and drop it off with a £2.50 donation towards the cost of transporting it to wherever it will go. I would defy anyone not to be moved by the video of children opening their boxes here. The deadline for drop-offs is 18th November, so those in the UK still have time to fill a box too...

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

A discovery in the pages of an old notebook

I have been using a notebook to record my reading since 2003 - it's nearly full now, but when I turned over to start a new page last week, I found a list of "All time great books" which I had compiled and written down in beautifully neat pencil writing. There's no date on it, but judging by the books included, I think it was written in late 2005 or early 2006, after I left university and started working.

I thought I'd share the list - I've *'d the ones that would still make it onto my All Time Great Books list - it's a crude list, but it certainly includes many of the books that have stayed with me. And at the end I've added a few more... An interesting piece of personal history anyway!

* Diary of a nobody (George and Weedon Grosssmith)
All quiet on the Western Front (Erich Maria Remarqe)
* Hons and Rebels (Jessica Mitford)
Enduring love (Ian McEwan)
Small Talk (Naomi Mitchison)
* Brideshead revisited (Evelyn Waugh)
* Rebecca (Daphne Du Maurier)
* Birdsong (Sebastien Faulks)
* Vanishing Cornwall (Daphne Du Maurier)
* Charlotte Grey (Sebastien Faulks)
* The little friend (Donna Tartt)
* Poisonwood bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
* Picnic at hanging rock (Joan Lindsay)
* The Bell Jar (Sylvia Plath)
* L Shaped Room trilogy (Lynne Reid Banks)
* Autumn Term (Antonia Forest)
Metroland (Julian Barnes)
The Queen and I (Sue Townsend)
* Lark Rise to Candleford (Flora Thompson)
* Everyday Stalinism (Sheila Fitzpatrick)
* One pair of feet (Monica Dickens)
* Testament of Youth (Vera Brittain)
* THe classic slum (Robert Roberts)
* Frost in May (Antonia White)
The road to Wigan Pier (George Orwell)
* Sunbathing in the rain (Gwyneth Lewis)
To kill a mockingbird (Harper Lee)
Disgrace (JM Coetzee)
* The enchanted places (Christopher Milne)
* Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)

Today I might add:
The enchanted April (Elizabeth Von Arnim)
The music room (William Fiennes)
Nella Last's War (Nella Last) and Nella Last's Peace
The gentle art of domesticity (Jane Brocket)
Bake and decorate (Fiona Cairns)

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Back to the Great British Book of Baking

I mentioned when I first wrote about the Great British Book of Baking that there were many more recipes that I wanted to try - here's a couple more.

Firstly, Chocolate Shortbread:

This is literally just a regular shortbread recipe, with a proportion of the flour replaced with cocoa - which I think makes a nice change. It smells amazing!

And secondly, Mark's Marmalade Loaf:

Stunning colours and absolutely stunning smell. What is interesting about this loaf is that the flavours and scent really intensified after 24 hours, which made me wonder about whether some of the contestants lost out a bit, having to present their cakes immediately after baking. Technically this wasn't really a marmalade loaf, it was really a spiced, nutty loaf with marmalade glaze. I think another time I'd improve it with at least some zested orange, if not some marmalade, or a layer of marmalade in the middle.

I've also been enjoying the blogs of a couple of the contests - particularly Ruth Clemens at The Pink Whisk - and ED, who won, at The boy who bakes.

Monday, 1 November 2010

September and October reading

I never got around to posting my reading from September, so here's a bumper 2 month post. Again, it hasn't been a hugely vintage time for reading - I've read a lot more Babysitters Club books and reacquainted myself with Jacqueline Wilson, I've continued to read a random selection of non fiction from the library. I have now read over 800 books this year... Probably the highlights of the last 2 months were discovering Wilkie Collins, the latest Shopaholic book by Sophie Kinsella and also an incredibly well written, "Little black dress" book, called The Chalet Girl by Kate Lace. It was also the month where I got into audiobooks for the first time and I enjoyed baking from The Great British Book of Baking. Although I got a copy of a book that I have been looking forward to for sometime, I have still yet to read it (Nella Last in the 1950's)

I have no specific plans for November - my TBR is down to 10 items, most of which I'm saving for Christmas, so it will be a case of what I can lay my hands on at the library. I have quite a long "wish list" at the library (a new function on the catalogue where you can make a note of books that you want to borrow), but as most of them are in high demand or at other branches, it will depend on how many spare 85p's I have...

So here's the list - my codes are C = childrens, AB = autobiography, NF = non fiction, RR = reread.

White tiger Adiga, Arund
Claudia and the great search Martin, Ann C
Ways with noodles Wagamama NF
Mallory hates boys (and gym) Martin, Ann C
Truth, dare or promise ed, Heron, Liz AB
Storm in a teacup Cavendish, Lucy
Claudia's friend Martin, Ann C
Arthur Ransome and Captain Flint's Trunk Hardyment, Christina NF RR
First term at Cottisford Smith, Liz C
Six ponies Pullein-Thompson, Jo C
Hand that first held mine O'Farrell, Maggie
Haweswater Hall, Sarah
Favourite Lakeland Recipes
The doctor's children Elder, Josep
Damaris dances Oxenham, E.J. C
Welcome to life De Smith, Alice
South of the lights Huth, Angela
Judy the guide EBD C
More about Maddy Hill, Lorna C
Still Alice Genova, Lisa
Sophie is seven Smith, Dick King C
Swimming Keegan, Nicola
Stacey and the mystery of Stoneybrook Martin, Ann C
A cautious approrach Middleton, Stanley
Wedding Survival Guide Taylor, Kate NF
Mary Anne's Makeover Martin, Ann C
Dawn's family feud Martin, Ann C
Desert of the heart Rule, Jane VMC
Claudia and the perfect boy Martin, Ann C
healthy eating for kids Bean, Anita NF
Mallory Pike, no.1 fan Martin, Ann C
Easy to make Christmas Good housekeeping NF
Kristy and Mr Mum Martin, Ann C
10 reasons not to fall in love Green, Linda
Singled out Nicolson, Virginia NF
Peter and Paul Scarlett, Susan
School by the river EBD C
The way we were Noble, Elizabeth
Summer camp Jones, Allan Frewin C
A married woman Kapur, Manja
Charm of North Cornwall Drew, Allan NF
Jessi and the trouble maker Martin, Ann C
Mary Reilly Martin, Valerie
Kristy and the nasty nappies Martin, Ann C
News where you are O'Flynn, Catherine
Skate school Woodward, Kay C
That uncertain feeling Amis, Kingsley
Claudia and the first thanksgiving Martin, Ann C
Business as usual Jane Oliver
Up and down Jeffers, Oliver C
Arthur Ransome and the world of S + A Wardale, Arthur NF
My sister Jodie Wilson, Jacqueline C
Secret life of France Wadham, Lucy NF
Do you come here often? Potter, Alexandra C
Family life made easy Saunders, Grace NF
Woman who painted her dreams Dewar, Islar
Parent trouble Jones, Allan Frewin C
CS reunion EBD C RR
Abby's lucky thirteen Martin, Ann C
Dead secret Collins, Wilkie
Passion flower Ure, Jean C
Mini shopaholic Kinsella, Sophie
Cooking for girls
Confetti confidential McQueen, Holly
Secret life of Bletchley Park
Kristy and the worst kid ever Martin, Ann C
A very private eye Pym, Barbara AB RR
The chalet girl Lace, Kate
My animal life Gee, Maggie AB
On thin ice Woodward, Kay C
Dawn (California Diaries) Martin, Ann C
WI Complete Christmas Cook, Sian NF
Kristy and the copycat Martin, Ann C
Great veg challenge Hume, Charlotte NF
Giving up the ghost Mantel, Hilary AB RR
Louisa the ballerina Geras, Adele C
Honourable estate Brittain, Vera VMC
Every woman's guide to digestive health Felaney, Jill NF
Summer of the bear Pollen, Bella
Stacey's crush Martin, Ann C
Passing on Lively, Penelope
Mary Anne and Miss Priss Martin, Ann C
Whoopie pie book Ptak, Clare NF
Perfect proposal Fforde, Katie
Christmas treats Collister, Linda NF
Cake decorating tricks McMahon, Sue NF
Legacy of Cain Collins, Wilkie
Ghost light O'Connor, Joseph
Behind the scenes at the museum of baked beans Davies, Hunter NF
Ice lolly Ure, Jean C
Ella at the wells Hills, Lorna C
Beach hits Green, Rod NF
Grey skies, green waves Anderson, Tom NF
Service of clouds Hill, Susan
Jessi's horrible prank Martin, Ann C
Mary Anne breaks the rules Martin, Ann C
School dinners Thom, Becky NF
Starring Tracey Beaker Wilson, Jacqueline C
Maggie (California Diaries) Martin, Ann C
Light years Gee, Maggie
Clean break Wilson, Jacqueline C
The haunted hotel Collins, Wilkie
They were sisters Whipple, Dorothy P RR
Midnight Wilson, Jacqueline C
Family roundabout Crompton, Richmal P RR
Stacey's choice Martin, Ann C
Girls guide to being a boss
Stacey's broken heart Martin, Ann C