Monday, 28 February 2011

Persephone Reading Weekend: The Persephone Oscars

Persephone Reading Weekend is sadly over, but we still have our very own Persephone Oscars left to go.

But before I announce them, I would like to extend some thank yous in a couple of directions.

Firstly, to my wonderful co-host Claire, who has worked extremely hard on the event, and who managed to get round and comment on so many blogs while I was resting my fingers. Claire's enthusiasm makes this event such a pleasure to co-host :)

Secondly, to Nicola Beauman at Persephone books who was incredibly generous with supplying prizes for our competitions, and who continues to support our event.

And thirdly, to all of you - the wonderful readers and participators without whom the event would not have been so much fun. Thank you particularly to those who ran their own generous giveaways.

There have been two comments which particularly stood out among all of those which we have recieved over the past weekend and to which we would like to give honourable mention. This one from Bellezza, onClaire's blog, sums up so well the fantastic sense of community that this event seems to foster:

What I love most about the Persephone Reading Weekend which you cohost is the sense of community it affords as we visit one another and share our love of such outstanding literature. I had not heard of Persephone books until I connected with you, and I can't tell you the joy they have brought me from the Persephone Secret Santa, to adding to my own collection, to finding new books to order from this lovely shop I hope someday to visit in real life.

We were also in fits over Darlene's comment on Claire's Temporarily Missing Competition. In response to the first line:
‘I heard today that Cynthia died, last Friday afternoon at the Ipswich County Hospital, just after a cup of tea.’
Darlene said:
Dying after a cup of tea sounds just about perfect. Imagine the disappointment of dying just as the kettle came to a boil! I’ve given myself the giggles now….

Anyway, what you're all waiting for is the list of winners of our giveaways!

1. The copy of William, randomly drawn from everyone who left links on our blogs is:
2. The first copy of Family Roundabout, randomly drawn from everyone commenting on my welcome post is: Helen from She Reads Novels
3. The second copy of Family Roundabout, randomly drawn from everyone commenting on Claire's welcome post is: Simon T from Stuck in a book
4. The two copies of Still Missing for the winners of Claire's Temporarily Missing competition are: Heather (from library thing) and Cristina from Rochester Reader.
5. The copy of Mariana for the winner of my photo competition is: Clare Wiggins
6. The winner of The classic edition of Miss Pettigrew lives for a day drawn from anyone who as yet does not own a Persephone book is: Christine
7. The winner of the classic edition of Little Boy lost drawn from anyone who was reading their first Persephone book this weekend is: Jo from Jo's Book Journey.

And...the winner of the best post of the weekend, recieving copies of Winds of heaven and There were no windows is...Rebecca, from Rebecca Reads, for her incredibly thoughtful post about Round About A Pound A Week.

To claim your prizes, please make contact with the lovely Claire (claireDOTboyleATgmailDOTcom) as she has all of them at home and has kindly agreed to post them.

Persephone Reading Weekend: Final Roundup

Despite Persephone weekend ending yesterday, a number of people have posted, so there's time for a final roundup - although brief on my part. Stand by for the announcement of the competition winners tonight in our very own Persephone Oscars!

Lifetime reader has read her first Persephone book this weekend - Miss Pettigrew.

Darlene tells us more about the Dorothy Whipple short stories.

Tracey at Book Sanctuary reads Daddy Goes A-Hunting.

Susan from Pages turned talks about Emma Smith and Mrs Oliphant and their books.

Kristin at Bookmarks and Teacups shows us her Persephone collection and also writes about Dimanche and other stories.

Emily writes impressively about Manja

Nat at In Spring it is dawn has been reading her Persephone Secret Santa, Every eye.

Pamela's first Persephone was also Miss Pettigrew.

Under Melbourne Skies posts about Katherine Mansfield's Journal.

Allie at Literary Oddysey read her first Persephone this weekend, and it was Mariana.

Hayley's best laid plans to cook something from one of the Persephone cookery books sadly didn't come to fruition but she talks about a couple of the titles.

Thomas joined in by reading the latest Mrs Oliphant book.

Simon from Savidge Reads read the book that he won last time around, Miss Pettigrew.

Liana at Bookgirl updates us on her progress with Someone at a Distance.

Dolce Belleza features a lovely picture of her reading Fidelity with her cat and hopes to have a review up later in the week.

Fig and thistle joined us by reading Someone at a distance.

The little bookroom has her very own take on my photo competition which I loved!

Virginia, A literary wayfarer, was disappointed ultimately by Lady Rose and Mrs Memmary.

Kate at Make do and Read has been making her way through the wartime diaries Few eggs and no oranges.

Jane at Fleur Fisher reads managed to combine Persephone Reading Weekend with her crime fiction alphabet to read The blank wall.

Michelle who doesn't have a blog shares some of her thoughts on A London Child in the comments on my newcomers post here, and in the same place Susan E writes about Saplings.

Cristina at Rochester Reader shares her initial thoughts on High wages.

Buried in Print read Every eye.

Colleen from Col Reads has been reading Good evening Mrs Craven.

Sasha writes extensively about one of the newest Persephones, The winds of heaven.

Katherine reveals the results of her very generous giveaway. does Frances at Nonsuch book here.

And Donna at Rambling Fancy writes a very kind thank you post, that also mentions one of my very favourite books - Jane Brocket's The gentle art of domesticity... does Audrey at Books as food.

Phew! Thank you everyone for such wonderful enthusiasm! And do check back later - we will be announcing the winners at 8pm GMT...

Persephone Reading Weekend: Photo competition answers

I had a HUGE number of entries for my photo competition which seems to have been very much enjoyed (I shall definitely do this again next time!)...but before I reveal the winners on Monday evening I thought you might like to see the answers :)

1. Saplings
2. Tea with Mr Rochester
3. Few Eggs and No Oranges
4. The Blank Wall
5. To bed with Grand Music

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Persephone Reading Weekend: Sunday roundup

Claire and I are bowled over by the enthusiasm for this year's Persephone fest, and both also hugely touched by the huge numbers of very kind comments on our blogs. The event really does foster a fabulous sense of community worldwide.

After resting my fingers yesterday (but reading the posts on my ipod) I am back with the next roundup for you!

Rebecca Reads provides us with a wonderfully complete review of one of my favourite's; Round About A Pound A week which gives a real insight into early twentieth century British social history. Rebecca didn't have access to any Persephones herself but managed to download this onto her e-reader! Fantastic!

Joan Hunter Dunn's quotes for the day also come from this book which she is really enjoying reading too.

Vivienne at Serendipity shares with us which Persephone books she is currently coveting. and also announces the winner of her very generous giveaway.

Cristina at Rochester Reader talks about the aesthetics of Persephone books; I think she speaks for almost all Persephone fans in finding that a "beautiful Persephone boosts the reading experience".

Sarah read Whipple's Someone at a distance and concluded "The writing is really something out of the ordinary. I feel almost compelled to thank Whipple for stabbing me in the heart…!" - you'll have to read the rest of her review to find out why.

Harriet writes about They knew Mr Knight, describing it as "witty, perceptive, and brilliant in its depiction of people and their complex relationships"

The capricious reader is incredibly enthusiastic about her first Persephone experience (Miss Pettigrew): "And the story! The story! It’s utterly charming! Can I say delightful one more time? Because it IS! It IS delightful! I love it!"

The missing needle found that PRW was happening just as she had concidentally started reading Good evening Mrs Craven. I love those sorts of coincidences!

Karen at Books and Chocolate has read an amazing THREE Persephone books over the weekend; her third was Flush.

Rose joined in by reading Consequences which she describes as "profoundly sad".

Jo at The Book Jotter read The home-maker for the weekend, and today she tells us a bit more about Dorothy Canfield Fisher, the author behind the book which was fascinating!

Poor Nymeth has been struck down with fever and really wanted to review her book; she promises one in due course, but says of The making of marchioness in the meantime: "“Book…good…you…should…read”. Hope you feel better soon!

The Boston Bibliophile mentions that she is reading Reuben Sachs as part of her participation.

Don't forget to catch up with Jodie's live blogging post as she reads her way through Dimanche and other stories.

Please see the comment from Geraldine at the bottom of my "IS this your first time" post yesterday here; Geraldine doesn't have a blog but she joined in by rereading Tell it to a stranger this weekend.

And finally, it must have been known more widely that it was PRW this weekend - The Guardian/Observer chose today to post a list of the 10 best neglected classics. And not just one but TWO Persephone books feature in the list: The blank wall and The Victorian chaise-longue.

I hope I haven't missed anyone out...

There's still time for you to enter the competitions which close at midnight tonight (GMT); shortly after this I'll post the answers to my VERY popular photo competition which so many people have had fun entering. Winners will be announced on Monday evening.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Persephone Reading Weekend: Is it your first time?

If you've missed out on previous Persephone Reading Week excitement then you might be interested in reading some of my posts from before:

A pile of Persephones (May 2009 - the first unofficial Persephone reading week!)
My Persephone Life (August 2009)
My Persephone Reading Life (May 2010)

And here are some Persephone Books reviews from my blog over the last few years to whet your appetite for more...

Fidelity (Glaspell)
Bricks and Mortar (Ashton)
Making conversation (Langford)
They can't ration these/How to run your home without help/Kitchen Essays
Every eye (English)
Marjory Fleming (Malet)
Alas poor lady (Ferguson)
House in the country (Playfair)
Operation Heartbreak (Cooper)
A very great profession (Beaumann)
World that was ours (Bernstein)
Short story collections
Good food on the aga (Heath)
Still missing (Gutcheon)
An interrupted life (Hillesum)
The expendable man (Hughes)
Julian Grenfell (Mosley)
Hopkins Manuscript (Sheriff)

Don't forget, that if you're a Persephone newcomer and reading your first Persephone Book this weekend, you're eligible for a special prize draw - just mention it when you post your review and we'll choose a winner at random!

Friday, 25 February 2011

Persephone Reading Weekend: Roundup #1

Persephone Reading Weekend has got off to an absolutely fantastic start - there have been a huge number of posts already, and so without further ado, it's time for me to share them with you so that you can go round and see what everyone else has been reading and perhaps get some inspiration as to which Persephone Book you want to read next. Don't forget to enter our competitions (my photo competition and Claire's Temporarily Missing competition)

Darlene got a head start with The closed door and other stories and I look forward to seeing her review, and Books as food couldn't resist dipping into The Carlyle's at home.

Inspiration is likely to come from Rachel's post at Book Snob where she provides us with A Persephone for every occasion - a wonderful list of some Persephone books and when you might want to read them.

Joan from Flowers and Stripes gives us some quotes from Miss Buncle's book (which is one of my favourites), which she recieved as part of her Persephone secret santa.

JoAnn has taken her participation to the extreme - she is flying into London tomorrow and will be visiting the Persephone shop!

Sophie from An Embarassment of Frivolities talks about her plans to read the Nemirovsky short stories, and hopes they will provide relief from her wisdom tooth pain. Simon from Savidge Reads has a Persephone ready, and kindly mentions the weekend, as does Thomas from My Porch.

There is a generous giveaway:
Karen from Books and Chocolate is giving away a copy of Fidelity by Susan Glaspell - you need to identify some of the Persephone endpapers.

And there have been lots of reviews (everyone has obviously got ahead with their reading!):
Claire at Captive Reader has read House-bound which she describes as "paint[ing] a fascinating picture of mid-war life, both in terms of daily domestic life and social conventions"
Paperback Reader Claire, my co-host, reprises her review of Still Missing.
Teresa at Shelf-love finds the ideas in the Home-maker still relevant today even though it was written in 1924 but found that it left her feeling rather sad; I recently re-read this one and would certainly agree with her.
Vivienne at Serendipity has read Saplings and finds that Streatfeild's adult novels live up to her memories of Streatfeild's children's books, albeit somewhat darker.
Motheretc has read her very first Persephone book, and it was Making of a marchioness which she "picked up by chance" and thoroughly enjoyed.
Karen at Books and Chocolate knew that she had to read another Whipple for the weekend and read Someone at a distance; although she thinks that endings are not Whipple's strongest point she greatly enjoyed the characterisation and will be forcing this on her mother so that they can discuss it together!

As I said this morning, my fingers are quite sore, so I'm sadly not going to be able to do comments but I am reading and enjoying everyone's posts :)

Claire will have round-ups for you on Saturday, while I rest my fingers, and I will be back on Sunday...Please don't forget to leave links to our welcome posts to ensure that your posts make it into our roundups!

Persephone Reading Weekend: Verity's Photo Competition

Hopefully my competition this time should be a little easier than some of my previous ones (though if you missed out on them last time and fancy some fun - do have a go, and I can supply the answers, just no prizes!).

I post here 5 pictures, each representing a different Persephone book. If you can identify which book they correspond to, then please email the titles to verityDOTormeATgmailDOTcom and I will draw a winner from everyone who gets the most correct.

Persephone Reading Weekend: Welcome

Welcome to the start of Persephone Reading Weekend. Claire and I are very excited to be hosting another blogging extravaganza celebrating our love of the dove-grey covered volumes published by Persephone books. This is the third time that we've run an event and hope that you will have fun joining in, whether it is your first time or third!

The format of the event is simple, in order to participate all you need to do is read a Persephone Book and tell us about it! If you have a blog, you can write a blog post, if you are on librarything, you can review it there, or you could write about it in the comments on this post or on Claire's welcome post. Claire and I will be writing round-up posts at various points over the weekend and to make it easy for us to share all of the posts, if you write a review on a blog, or on librarything, if you could put the link in the comments to either the welcome post on my blog or on Claire's blog. Please feel free to use the button above on your posts!

Nicola from Persephone Books has kindly provided us with a number of seconds to use as prizes over the weekend. There are 10 on offer - here are which ones and how to win them! This is a bit complicated, mainly because there are so many prizes, so bear with me - I thought it was best to have them all written down in one place.

1. First book giveaway: William; to kick off the giveaways, the first ever Persephone book. We will make a random draw from everyone who links to our blogs over the weekend
2 + 3. Roundabout giveaway: Two copies of Family Roundabout are up for grabs - one for people commenting on this welcome post and one for people commenting on Claire's welcome post.
4+5. Favourite post of the weekend. We will be awarding a duo of books to the person who writes our favourite post of the weekend - one of the most recent Persephones, The winds of heaven, along with There were no windows (which is apparently one of Nicola Beauman's favourites!)
6+7. Clare's temporarily missing competition: Claire's competition will be announced later today and there will be two copies of Still missing to be won.
8. Verity's photo competition. At lunchtime I'll be posting my photo quiz with a chance to win a copy of Mariana.
9. New Persephone Reader Giveaway #1. Persephone Classic edition of Miss Pettigrew lives for the day for anyone who doesn't own a Persephone book - details of how to enter coming up on Saturday morning on my blog.
10. New Persephone Reader Giveaway #2. Persephone Classic edition of Little boy lost giveaway, to be drawn from anyone who is reading their first Persephone this weekend (just mention that when you post)

*disclaimer* please note that the books we are giving away are remainder copies so may have some defects - the majority of these are un-noticeable but some are slightly grubby. But they are all in need of a loving home :) Competitions are open internationally, but we will be posting the prizes by the cheapest method available.

We'll also try to get round and visit your blogs - unfortunately I'm not going to be able to do this as much as I would like, as I have been suffering from RSI symptoms in my fingers and am having to limit my typing out of working hours at the moment. It won't stop me reading the posts, but it may stop me commenting - I'm very sorry! I always love how I discover new blogs as part of these events.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Forever friends cards

Back in December when I was busy preparing for Christmas, I also did some non-Christmassy card-making which I didn't get around to blogging about because it didn't fit into all of the Christmas posts that I was writing! I treated myself to a Papercraft magazine in the middle of November because it came with a kit to make some Forever Friends cards (you will by now know my love of the cute little bears). Previously when I have done decoupage, I have pressed shapes out of ready made kits, but these had to be cut out by hand (which was surprisingly relaxing). The kit also came with some coloured papers and suggestions for how to theme them (although I like crafting I am not terribly creative and prefer to do things which involve following instructions) so all I needed to do was supply some blank cards (which I had leftover from my Christmas card making) and some of those little decoupage pads. I was really happy with the results! (I also really enjoyed reading the magazine which had some good ideas for card-making which I may pursue in due course).

Now I need to remember that we have these cards to use rather than buy cards!

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Persephone Reading Weekend: Pre-Weekend Excitement

So many people have been getting excited about the upcoming Persephone Reading Weekend, not just in the comments on Claire and my reminder posts on Sunday, but also posting on their own blogs, so I thought I'd do an advance roundup so that you can all have a look at people's plans as half of the fun of the weekend seems to be in the choosing of books and seeing what other people are reading.

Fleur Fisher has Decisions Decisions...
Cristina at Rochester Reader is Preparing for Persephone
Karen at Books and Chocolate is also making Decisions, decisions! (and is kindly planning a giveaway)
Claire at Captive Reader asks What to read?

And Girl Walks Into a Bookstore is kindly offering a prize copy of the latest Mrs Oliphant book to be published by Persephone books last Autumn; do pop over there and enter, as the competition closes on Saturday!

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Baking from the cupboards 5

I have been baking from the cupboards for OVER A MONTH now - I am feeling quite impressed with myself (and also a little ashamed as how could I have built up such an enormous stash of things?). I gave myself a little reprieve to make sachertorte last week, but that wasn't so very excessive really, as I had apricot jam in the fridge leftover from sticking the marzipan onto my Christmas cake, I needed some double cream to make some more quiche so all that I actually bought was 400g of dark chocolate which came in at only £1.20. As it was a Valentine's Day treat, I think that is quite acceptable!

I wasn't going to mention my disastrous cupboard bake this week, but I think I will as it emphasises the fact that you can't always make cunning substitutions in baking. I wanted to reprise the gluten free apple cake, but halfway through making it I realised that I had run out of baking powder. I did have some bicarbonate of soda, so thought that I would use that instead. Sadly, the two are not interchangeable. Bicarb is four times as strong, and my heavy handed use of it made it absolutely inedible. Even K couldn't eat it :(

Luckily, with my baking from the cupboards mindset on, I managed to salvage the situation so that K could still have some pudding when he got back from his cycling session and finally made my own recipe No-bake-Nutella-chocolate-cheesecakes (and finally, I took a picture that I can show off!). All I did was to bash up two little mini packets of chocolate animal biscuits (leftover from taking K's nieces to the ballet before Christmas) and stir the crumbs into half the amount of melted butter. I put that into the bottom of two Nutella glasses, and then beat some cream cheese with about 1/3 of a small pot of Nutella and spooned it on top (as you can see I didn't do a terribly tidy job). And then I got out my white chocolate stars to decorate it with.

The other cupboard bake that I produced this week were some slightly blobby jam flower biscuits, to use more of the apricot jam that I had rediscovered, and also as I discovered we had some strawberry jam lurking (oh the shame of all of the food that I have accumulated). They weren't quite as successful as the last time I made this recipe, but I put this down to the fact that I used more expensive strawberry jam which I should have sieved as the pieces of fruit made it a little difficult to pipe.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Next World Novella

I am excited to be writing today about the latest novel to be published by Peirene Press, Next World Novella, which came out at the very end of last week on the 18th February. Having been somewhat dilatory in posting about their last book, I was determined to give it a timely mention this time around, not least because I devoured the book almost immediately upon recieving it. But before I start, you should perhaps watch the book's trailer here, how exciting is that?

Last year was Peirene's Year of the woman, this year it is the year of the man. Next world novella, by the German Matthias Politycki, tells the story of a man, Hinrich, going through his wife, Dora's papers after her death. He thought he knew her well, but the more he reads, the more he finds out that actually she has held a very different perspective on their relationship. And so the papers chart the breakdown of their marriage.

If I'm honest, although I found the synopsis intriguing, the book took a little while to draw me in. As I said to Meike [Peirene's founder and director] : "I didn't think I was going to like it, but as I read on I was absolutely captivated and surprised by how it turned out."

It's difficult to say too much more without introducing spoilers, an inevitable difficulty of writing about a novella, but the blend of insights into life after death along with the intertwining of two lives which have been revealed to be more separate than they first appeared made this book Hinrich's discovery and insight into thought about life after death made this book enthralling.

Like last time, I want to draw attention not only to the book but to the team behind it; Peirene Press are the most friendly publishing company I have come across who are developing a real niche for themselves in the market. If you haven't seen their entertaining blog, detailing the adventures of the little nymph who calls the shots at Peirene Towers, then you should definitely check that out too. And they sell sets of their books, and beautiful bags to put them in as well which I think could make excellent presents.

PS: If you are on twitter, @PeireneVoices will be hosting a chat with the author on Tuesday 22nd February, 8-10pm

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Persephone Reading Weekend Reminder

Claire and I have spent considerable time making plans for Persephone Reading Weekend today and we're both getting very excited about it! So this is a little reminder to have your Persephone books at the ready to join in the fun from Friday to next Sunday. Thanks to Nicola at Persephone books we have a total of 10 Persephone books to giveaway in various competitions over the weekend, details to be announced on Friday. No need to sign up :)

PS: As extra enticement for those of you who are new to Persephone, if you don't have any Persephone books yet or have never had the chance to read one, we have a special giveaway that might enable you to join in next time, and we will also be offering a giveaway for anyone who is reading their first Persephone book over the weekend.

Friday, 18 February 2011

How to get 1600+ books into one small flat

Have spent most of my day off tidying my books up - no more are they on their sides or crammed in - I even have growth space! The only books not in the shelves are the TBR, two piles in the third photo.

I did pick up this book at the library today (and am wondering if there'd be a market for K to write a companion volume - Living with a librarian)

Hope I'll get some tips...

Valentine's Day Sachertorte

I mentioned yesterday that I spent my morning off making a sachertorte for a belated Valentine's Day treat. Sachertorte is particularly apt as we will be getting married in Austria this August, and although we will not be going to Vienna, where the original Cafe Sacher is located, we will be spending two days in Salzburg en route to our wedding, and I have found out that there is a branch there!

The original recipe is a closely guarded secret so I had to try to decide what recipe I would use. There are many out there, from complex patisserie style recipes to Delia and Mary Berry versions. In the end, although I was planning to use Delia, I went with the recipe from the Fortnum and Mason afternoon tea book. If I'm honest, it was a lot more effort than the cakes I usually make are - I lost count of the number of mixing bowls I needed to use by the time I had separated eggs, melted chocolate and made the covering. But it was quite special, and my finishing touch was to surround it with some heart shaped fairy lights.

I won't dare to make it again after K has sampled the real thing!

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Valentine's Day cross-stitch

Somehow I managed to complete this cross-stitch, in the evenings sat on the sofa next to K, without him ever looking at it! I gave it to him instead of a card.

The design is actually a wedding sampler, but instead of writing "Our wedding" at the top and putting our names and the date at the bottom, I turned it into a Valentine one (I have another one lined up to do for my wedding!)

I didn't have a chance to bake on Valentine's Day, but I've spent my morning off today making sachertorte - picture to follow!

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Book storage problems part 2

Thank you to everyone who made helpful suggestions re book-storage - I thought rather than replying to the comments, I'd write another post, as they may be helpful ideas for the rest of you (many of whom confessed similar dilemmas), before sharing my answer! The problem has proved only more pressing in the last 24 hours since the arrival of a stash of VMCs...

1. Billy bookcases from Ikea are very popular; I like the idea but I can't afford to replace my existing cases.

2. Install brackets above bookcases - this would work if we weren't renting!

2. Refrain from having children as they are likely to be an exacerbating factor as they accumulate their own books. Luckily I do not have maternal instincts.

3. Culling books. This invariably leads to regret, as several people have admitted. I am quite good about this and do get rid of books that I don't want to keep; unfortunately since discovering the Notting Hill books and comics exchange I invariably end up with as many books as I have got rid of.

4. Boxing up books - putting them into storage, or under the bed. No space under my bed sadly (that is where I keep my shoes), and although we have a storage unit (where K's books are currently housed), I prefer to have my books where I can see them... I do have a catalogue of my books on librarything which helps in the organisation of them.

5. Act as a lending library. I think this suggestion was made in jest, but actually I have resorted lending books to my friends and family, particularly new acquisitions, so that I don't have to find them a home.

6. Store books at your office. I do have 2 shelves under my desk where I often keep books that I am lending people/borrowing from others (Stuck in the book and I regularly use it as our exchange place...); there is potential to extend this but I don't think it would be quite right!! I do have a locker which I could utilise better...

7. Double/triple backing books. Sadly this doesn't work too well on my shelves as they are not very deep, although I do put books which are awaiting culling behind my regular books - it is very difficult to get them out though and as I said above, I do like to have my books on display!

8. Borrow books from the library. I do already do this and borrow books at a rate of knots (I estimate that I take out and return 20 books a week, but I don't have the physical capacity to take anymore, plus there is the availability issue - lots of my VMCs are not available from the library).

Lots of good suggestions - many thanks readers!

So what has my solution been? We identified that if we didn't mind restricting our access to the kitchen slightly, we could replace one of the small bookcases with a tall one (which will also have room for another row of books on the top). It's still in construction here you see, but I have Friday off and hope to rearrange all of my books then!

We also found that if we turned the dining table through 90 degrees, and don't mind sitting side by side staring out of the window while we eat (this may not last, as our 2nd floor flat overlooks a busy road and bus route and I'm not sure how much we'll look like we're in a zoo), there is room to fit in the small bookcase AS WELL. (It obstructs a plug, but hey - who needs to hoover the dining area?!).

Finally, I am bidding on a small revolving bookcase on ebay, which could sit next to the television.

I hope we will have found a house before these things are filled up. K says that if it has a garage he will convert it into a home library for me...

Sunday, 13 February 2011

The problem of book storage

The problem of book storage irks me on a daily basis; it often feels like our small flat is overwhelmed by books, but the problem is always far worse when there isn't enough space to put books away. (The problem of book storage also haunts me at work when the subject librarians ask for more books to be put on the open shelves than there is space for, but that is a separate issue). Since I started reading blogs and blogging my book addiction has run away with me and my flat has more books in it than I am sure the architects would have intended. I must now face facts - we have run out of wall space.

My fiance is collecting me some more shelves from Argos today (isn't that the best Valentine's gift?!) with which we can replace a small set of shelves, which will give me 2 extra shelves to put books on, but given the numbers of books which are sitting on top of books on shelves at the moment, it isn't going to solve the problem. We sadly can't convert any more of the small shelves into tall shelves owing to inconvenient things like light switches and radiators.

I've spent quite a lot of today fruitlessly googling things like "book storage solutions" which made me quite grumpy, because most of the solutions seem to be designed at people with either lots of arty books, or not very many books at all. When you have over 1650 books in a 1.5 bedroom flat you need something serious. Our long-term solution is to buy a house and hopefully we will be doing that at some point in 2011 but I do need something in the interim.

I've known about the Bibliochaise chair (above) for ages, but suspect that it would be far beyond my price range even if I could find out how to get hold of one. Ideally I'd like to find a coffee table that could hold books; although we have run out of wall space we still have some bits of carpet available, and a low level coffee table wouldn't restrict the view from sofa to television...

I've had much fun discussing the options on facebook today; Ikea have been suggested but apart from this there isn't much on offer. The Kindle/e book reader has been mentioned several times; I suppose that might limit future damage but it's not going to help right now! And the culling that I should probably face up to just isn't an option. I have found some second hand rotating book-cases on ebay which sound like a good option, so watch this space and I'll keep you posted...

Baking from the cupboards 4

Baking from the cupboards is proceeding incredibly well; I've still not bought any baking ingredients and I don't think K is at all deprived of baked goodies!

The highlight of this week's baking from the cupboards was my treacle tart. I've never made this before, but it was so easy and oh so frugal as it enabled me to use up the end of the homemade bread that was a bit too tough even for toast - I attacked it with the grater and it made fantastic bread crumbs. And it meant I could make pastry again. The recipe was Mary Berry, but it is no more complicated than a pastry shell, a slightly greater amount of golden syrup than crumbs and some lemon zest/juice.

Of course it was also Valentines Day; I was short of time so I'm afraid K only got some vanilla shortbread hearts but I put them into his lunchbox and I hope that he wasn't too embarassed! I did make some cheesey gluten free hearts too to have as a nibble with dinner that night; unfortunately they resembled cowpats as they did not hold their shape. Not terribly romatic but all using store cupboard ingredients. I had promised myself a reprieve for Valentines Day, and when I have the day off at the end of the week I will be making sachertorte - I can barely wait! I picked up both chocolate and cream for less than £2 so it is hardly extravagent even if it involves a whole box of eggs...(however, this aside I am fully determined to see out this project - I have enough things to bake with for at least another month if not longer!)

Finally, I reprised my mini cheesecakes (and yet again forgot to take a photo); this used up the last of the digestive biscuits (although I have plans for a chocolate version involving some mini chocolate animal biscuits that are languishing in the cupboard...), and the last of the dessicated coconut. I used coconut milk rather than cream to mix with the cream cheese, and topped it with some frozen cherries.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Signs of Spring?

It is getting noticeably lighter in the evenings now (although not quite in the mornings yet), and I smelt hyacinths in Marks and Spencers the other day. I am resisting buying daffodils until it is mid February (they are to me the first signs of Spring but mid January just seems far too early), but I did get some half-price hyacinths last week. These should have pink blooms when they open and I hope they will smell wonderful. My little Christmas tree has sprouted, and it is time to put it into the fridge for 8 weeks - I know that sounds weird, but my guess is that that "forces" a winter. I am a little concerned as quite a big shoot has come up and I don't want to kill it, but I've got plenty of time to have another go if it turns out that I have not had success this time.

What are your signs of Spring?

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Domestic goddess, career woman or both?

The dichotomy or choice between being a domestic goddess or a career woman has been on my mind over the last week for a number of reasons, but although my thoughts are a little half-formed at the moment, I wanted to write about it. My blog probably gives a sense of me as someone who loves her home and enjoys pursuits related to the home - primarily baking (not just one but two sorts of biscuits), but who has dabbled in other domestic arts such as making jam and chutney and mincemeat and who makes her own Christmas cards and cross-stitches. But I recently wrote posts as part of the Library Day in the life project where I detailed some of my professional activities. I'm at the stage in my career at the moment where I can just about manage to balance my life as a professional and my life as a home-maker, but I'm not sure if I would be able to if we lived somewhere that is bigger than our current small flat or if I progressed any further up the career ladder.

I tried to think of role models, particularly in literature as I suppose my world view is generally more affected by the books that I read than by celebrities. But the trouble is that the books seem to reinforce the view that you can't really do both. One of my favourite publishers, Persephone Books, publishes books "by women, for women and about women", but they unashamedly seem to focus on the domestic sphere. Similarly Virago books celebrate women too, but although some of the titles feature women who have careers and do great things, they don't ever do so at the same time as trying to maintain a household and a partner.

I asked my friend Claire (Paperback Reader) if she could think of any examples; she came up with Nigella Lawson - a woman who is held up as an illustration of a domestic goddess, but who is also a career woman, but we decided that she is not an example really at all since her career was made out of pursuing domesticity!

Are there any women in literature who I might be able to emulate? Or somewhere down the line am I going to have to admit that I can't have it all and make a decision between which path I pursue? A better job and Marks and Spencers Ready Meals and predominantly seeing my partner when we are both tired, or deciding that I want to have time to wear my Persephone pinny, bake and blog and look after my partner but accepting that this means I will never reach great heights of salary or importance.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Baking from the cupboards 3

Baking from the cupboards is proceeding along merrily; I don't feel too deprived in trying to make things out of what we have and it is more satisfying somehow than buying ingredients to make recipes that I have just read about. I am amassing a little stash of recipes I want to make when this challenge is over (i.e. when the cupboards are empty, which I am estimating will not be before the beginning of March), but I am having fun using things up from my extraordinarily well-stock cupboards. What have I to show for the last week?

1. CAKE. This week's cake was a new take on lemon drizzle cake. I had an orange that was really quite past its best, so I zested it and added it to a plain sponge mixture. The piece de resistance was the icing which utilised some tropical fruit juice that I had in the fridge (I think the juice contained orange, banana, mango and passionfruit); I just used that to mix my icing sugar and poured it over the top. It was a little different but very tasty!

2. BISCUITS. I was umming and ahhing over what biscuits to make for K to take in his packed lunch this week; obviously it being his first week in a new job, I didn't want to embarass him with cupcakes with sprinkles on or hippopotamus shaped shortbread. Then I read that Saturday was World Nutella Day which coincided with me having read this recipe on Friday. It was a no brainer. The mixture was a little too sticky for me to roll into balls as the recipe instructed so I filled cupcake cases with the mixture. When they came out of the oven I was a little concerned as they were more like cakes than biscuits but as they cooled they crisped up and hardened.
3. QUICHE. Obviously a good way around the baking from the cupboards challenge is meal-baking which is exempt, as while cake isn't quite necessary, dinner certainly is. I learnt to make pastry in my Kenwood mixer earlier this year and there has been no stopping me since. Quiche is such an easy meal - I make a little one and a bigger one, and they feed K for three meals with bread/potatoes and salad. This is the first time that I've attempted a quiche varieyt which was a staple of my childhood dinners - sweetcorn quiche! It sounds weird but sweetcorn combined with a very mild cheese like Cheshire or Lancashire cheese works so well.

4. Pastries. I made danish pastry from scratch over the Christmas holidays and never got around to posting pictures of the almond danishes or the mincemeat puffs that I made with it. It was a lot of effort so I was happy that I could freeze the remainder of the dough to use later on, and I dug it out of the freezer at the weekend. This enabled me to use up a bit more of the Christmas chutney that I made (and which has been languishing somewhat), and combined with goats cheese they were apparently very tasty. I also used some pesto to make some palmiers with it, but unfortunately they all disappeared before I got a picture. The pastry making was a faff but I did feel impressed with myself for doing it.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Save libraries

Saturday was #savelibraries day; I wasn't intending to blog about it, but since it's been mentioned by many of my favourite bloggers I thought I would add a post. Oxfordshire seems to be one of the worst areas threatened by cuts with 20 of the 43 libraries in the county being threatened with closure. There were various read-ins happening, and although I didn't make it to any of them, I did do my bit.

K is starting a new job on Monday near Didcot, and because I like to be able to envisage where he is, he took me over to see the outside of the offices. As we'd never been to Didcot library before, we stopped off there on the way home. "Library tourism" is one of my favourite Saturday afternoon pastimes, partly because it is free, and also because I have a professional interest in seeing different libraries and how they are run. Over the past year, we've visited a number of libraries around Oxfordshire, Thame, Headington, Neithrop, Wantage, Botley, Kidlington and now Didcot. I was really quite impressed by Didcot library which has obviously been recently refurbished; it was smart and clean and tidy, and there was an excellent selection of books. Sadly, my card was almost maxed out already, due to several library trips during hte week, but we had K's ticket and between us took out 17 books, which means that we now have FORTY library books at home. That'll keep me busy for a bit!

Here's my loot - as you can see a nice mix of books, cookery books, a travel guide to Austria (which disappointingly only has a paragraph on the place we're going to for our wedding).

Friday, 4 February 2011

Two little Penguins

A short post today as my wrists and fingers are sore and I'm a little scared that I might be developing RSI. Hopefully resting up over the weekend will help, but I couldn't resist showing off these new little books which I recieved to write about last week. These are Penguin's Mini Modern Classics, which are being released to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Penguin Modern Classics. There are 50 of the titles to collect and they showcase "short" writing from great writers of the last 100 years. I am particularly excited to see Margaret Drabble's The gifts of war because I have read and enjoyed very many of her novels. I have not come across Paul Bowles before but apparently he is "considered one of the most remarkable American authors of the twentieth century" [Amazon]. When I spot these in the shops, I will be on the look out for the Shirley Jackson's The tooth, because I greatly enjoyed both The haunting of Hill House and We have always lived in the castle (both of which were published as Penguin Modern Classics).

Here is the full list:

Hell Screen – Ryunosake Akutagawa
All The Blood Within Me – Kingsley Amis
Some of Us Had Been Threatening Our Friend Colby – Donald Barthelme
The Expelled – Samuel Beckett
Him With His Foot in His Mouth – Saul Bellow
The Widow Ching – Pirate – Jorge Luis Borges
The Delicate Prey – Paul Bowles
The Queen’s Necklace – Italo Calvino
The Adulterous Woman – Albert Camus
Children on Their Birthdays – Truman Capote
Bluebeard – Angela Carter
Killer in the Rain – Raymond Chandler
Red Rose, White Rose – Eileen Chang
The Strange Crime of John Boulnois – G. K. Chesterton
Youth – Joseph Conrad
Romance of the Thin Man and the Fat Lady – Robert Coover
Babette’s Feast – Isak Dinesen
Hassan’s Tower – Margaret Drabble
Short Treatise on the Joys of Morphinism – Hans Fallada
Babylon Revisited – F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Living Daylights – Ian Fleming
The Machine Stops – E. M. Forster
The Tooth – Shirley Jackson
The Beast in the Jungle – Henry James

Canon Alberic’s Scrap-Book – M. R. James
Two Gallants – James Joyce
In the Penal Colony – Franz Kafka
‘They’ – Rudyard Kipling
Odour of Chrysanthemums – D. H. Lawrence
The Magic Paint – Primo Levi
The Colour Out Of Space – H. P. Lovecraft
Lunar Caustic – Malcolm Lowry
Wunderkind – Carson McCullers
Bliss – Katherine Mansfield
Flypaper – Robert Musil
Terra Incognita – Vladimir Nabokov
A Breath of Lucifer – R. K. Narayan
The Cornet-Player Who Betrayed Ireland – Frank O’Connor
The Sexes – Dorothy Parker
Through the Wall – Ludmilla Petrushevskaya
La Grosse Fifi – Jean Rhys
Filboid Studge, the Story of a Mouse That Helped – Saki
The Last Demon – Isaac Bashevis Singer
The Mark-2 Wife – William Trevor
Rich in Russia – John Updike
The Door in the Wall – H. G. Wells
Moon Lake – Eudora Welty
The Crime Wave at Blandings – P. G. Wodehouse
The Lady in the Looking Glass – Virginia Woolf
Chess – Stefan Zweig

Thanks to Ceri from Riot who sent them to me!

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Baking from the cupboards 2

Baking from the cupboards is proceeding rather well. Since the Christmas Pudding Cupcakes there have been four further creations from the things lurking in my cupboard, and there is still plenty of other ingredients to play with (although I am now out of both raisins and sultanas; currants and cranberries and cherries are the only dried fruit that is left).

Firstly: PUDDING. or more specifically toffee, banana, and date pudding.
This was a recipe from a Weightwatchers supplement that came with one of the food magazines that I subscribe too. But I think it was only a weightwatchers recipe if you used low fat marg. (I used butter), and made four puddings with the quantity (I made two...), and used skinny custard. Oh well, I didn't say anything about baking healthily did I?!

These have a little bit of golden syrup at the bottom. You could make them in pudding basins and turn them out but I decided to use my heart shaped dishes. K insisted that I get custard...

Secondly BISCUITS, or more specifically Orange, oat and sultana cookies.
These ARE actually quite healthy as they contain lots of fibre. I spotted this recipe in the February Good Food magazine and was excited as they contained lots of ingredients which I had in - banana, coconut, walnuts... I didn't have an orange, but they still apparently tasted good without. Oh and I had to use raisins instead of sultanas too...

Thirdly, CAKE, or more specifically apple cake, that I posted about on Sunday as part of Virago Reading Week.

Fourthly CHEESECAKE, or more specifically mini no bake lemon cheesecake. I forgot to take a picture of these but I will definitely be making them again as a) there are still more digestive biscuits to use up before they go soggy b) I realised that by using GF biscuits I can make them gluten free for me! (And the cheesey mix was soooooo good that I probably should make it properly into a cheesecake for me rather than eating it on its own)

I am quite enjoying the challenge of using things up - the things that are next in my plans are apple and blackberry crumble or pudding, ditto plums (have jar of plums and blackberries from my friends allotment) or pumpkin pie as I found a tin of pumpkin puree that I'd bought in a fit of enthusiasm one time.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

January Reading

I have been using my Persephone Diary to record my reading thus far in 2011 (as my trusty notebook that had been in use since 2003 was about to run out), and I'm rather enjoying it. It is lovely to see the beautiful endpapers as I jot titles down. I've done well with my reading in 2011 so far; I am back on track with reading "proper" books after my slump into Babysitters Club books last May that I never really recovered from. I am doing pretty well with my Virago Modern Classics reading too, spurred on by Rachel and Carolyn's Virago reading week. Most days I have managed to read two books, though do not be too incredulous, normally this has been one novel and then a childrens book or a cookery book or something like that as a second title.

Here is the full list, copied from my Excel spreadsheet - I have made some slight refinements to my categorisation which I think will help me make better statistics of my reading.- here are the abbreviations:
VMC = Virago Modern Classic
P = Persephone
LBD = Little Black Dress (my current guilty indulgence!)
CB = Cookbook
T = Travel
AB = Autobiography
B = Biography
NF = Non fiction (other than the above categories)
C = Children's
CW = Cornwall related in some way
RR = Reread.

Mystery of Mrs Blencarrow Oliphant, Mrs P
Bid me to live H.D. VMC
Mrs Marridge Project Fisk, Pauline C
Goldengrove Unleaving Walsh, Jill Paton Cw
Christmas at Fairacre Read, Miss RR
Stoner Williams, John

Fortnum and Mason's Afternoon tea
Girl in translation Kowk, Jean

12 days of Christmas Ashley, Trisha

Salem Chapel Oliphant, Mrs VMC
Yes sister, no sister Craig, Jenifer AB
Good daughters Hocking, Mary VMC
Diary of a lady Johnson, Rachel AB
The love boat Lace, Kate LBD
Izzy's war Dewar, Islar

Indifferent heroes Hocking, Mary VMC
The air hostess
The good psychologist

Easy chocolate Marks and Spencers CB
Salzburg: City Guide
Skippy dies Murray, Paul

Word watching Horne, Alex NF
The loved and the envied Bagnold, Enid VMC
Papercraft Marie Claire Ideas NF
Housebound Peck, Winifred P RR
Hidden places of Cornwall
Welcome heroes Hocking, Mary VMC
Seagulls in the attic Hadsworth, Tessa AM CW
The village Laski, Mangerita P RR
Millennium hall Scott, Sarah VMC
Comfort and joy Knight, India

Return to Peyton Place Metalious, Grace

Voices in summer Pilcher, Rosamund

Room Donahue, Emma

Learn to cook wheat, gluten and dairy free Savill, Antoinette CB
Tiny bit of marvellous French, Dawn

Dean's lighthouse adventure Fiddler, Kathleen C
Repeat it today with tears Peile, Anne

Animal instincts Dixon, Nell LBD
Every home needs a balcony Dunn, Raina

Party frock Streatfeild, Noel C RR
Daddy's gone a-hunting Mortimer, Penelope P RR
Pete, Pam and Jim: the investigators Fiddler, Kathleen C
Glitter of Mica Kessoon, Jessie VMC
Noel Streatfeild Bull, Angela B RR
We that were young Rathbone, Irene VMC
Starter marriage Harrison, Kate

Susan Spray Kaye-Smith, Sheila VMC
Barrow Lane Gang Streatfield, Noel C
Growing up gracefully Streatfield, Noel C NF
Christmas cooking with kids Rigg, Annie CB C
Zoe Jewsbury, Geraldine VMC
Seriously good Vickery, Phil CB
Sunlight on a broken column Hosain, Attia VMC
Diary of a medical nobody Lane, Kenneth AB

I feel quite pleased with this start to the year...I am sure the Persephone Diary has made me try hard with my reading :)

And what will I be reading in February?
Here's my stack of chick lit (on the left), slightly more serious reading in the middle, and three books which I have recently acquired. Can't wait to read We had it so good. Oh, and I hope to be reading from my recent haul of Viragos too!