Book Club Spin -Part 2

I was reading Simon’s post today from Stuck in a Book and he introduced Rick McDonnell who presents on You Tube as Book Tube Spin. I went and had a look and it is a very easy challenge. You pick 20 books from your TBR shelf, list them and on 31 January Rick will announce a number and you have two months to read your book. Two months is quite a while so I thought I’d join. I am already devoting time to my TBR shelf so I thought I would put up four posts this week of five books each that I am choosing for my spin.

UK- England

6. English author Jeanette Winterson’s book Frankissstein. I chose this book as my mood was taking me to books outside of the usual genre I read. I have not read much transexual lit or fantasy lit and this sounded so unusual I was attracted by it.

As Brexit grips Britain, Ry, a young transgender doctor, is falling in love. The object of their misguided affection: the celebrated AI-specialist, Professor Victor Stein. Meanwhile, Ron Lord, just divorced and living with his Mum again, is set to make his fortune with a new generation of sex dolls for lonely men everywhere.

Ranging from 1816, when 19 year old Mary Shelley pens her radical first novel, to a cryonics facility in present day Arizona where the dead wait to return to life, Frankissstein shows us how much closer we are to the future than we realise.

Australian

7. Australia Charlotte Wood’s The Natural Way of Things. I recently read and enjoyed her book The Weekend. This has been on my shelf for quite some time and though I realise it is much different to The Weekend I wanted to polish it off.

The blurb: Two Women awaken from a drugged sleep to find themselves imprisoned in a broken down property in the middle of a desert. Strangers to each other, they have no idea where they are or how they came to be there with eight other girls, forced to wear strange uniforms, their heads shaved, guarded by two insept yet vicious armed jailers and a ‘nurse’.

…….the girls can only rescue themselves.

UK Ireland

8. This is Happiness by Irish writer, Niall Williams. I picked this book up at the beginning of the Covid lockdowns. Many people at this time gravitated towards books about the natural world and the cover drew me in. Though this tale seems to be more of a coming of age tale I think I’ll enjoy the location.

The blurb: After dropping out of the seminary, 17 year old Noel Crowe finds himself back in Faha, a small Irish parish where nothing ever changes, including the ever falling rain. But one morning the rain stops and news reaches the parish- electricity is finally arriving. With it comes a lodger to Noel’s home, Christy McMahon. Though he can’t explain it, Noel knows right then: something has changed.

Australian

9. I chose this next Australian tale as I love these yellow Text Classic books. I have read several and enjoyed them all. They are reasonably priced lovely books and this one remains unread.

The Long Prospect by Elizabeth Harrower. It states: Growing up neglected in a boarding house, 12 year old Emily meets Max, a middle aged scientist who encourages her intellectual interests. For this innocent friendship Emily faces scandal, snobbery and psychological torment from her elders. Sharply observed and darkly funny, The Long Prospect confirmed Elizabeth Harrower, author of the Watch Tower, as one of Australia’s most important writers.

Australian

10. Number 10 is a dog story. I hope it isn’t too sad. No explanation why I chose this is needed. Love Clancy: A Dog’s Letters Home by Richard Glover, Australian radio presenter, journalist and author.

Human beings often write about their dogs, but the dogs don’t usually get a right of reply. In this book Richard Glover has collated the letters sent by Clancy to his parents in the bush. They are a young dog’s musings about the oddities of human behaviour, life in the big city and his own attempts to fit in.

It goes from puppyhood, trips, adventures, songs, trials, all told with a dog’s deep wisdom when it comes to what is important in life. (paraphrasing back cover blurb).

Book Tube Spin- Part 1

I was reading Simon’s post today from Stuck in a Book and he introduced Rick McDonnell who presents on You Tube as Book Tube Spin. I went and had a look and it is a very easy challenge. You pick 20 books from your TBR shelf, list them and on 31 January Rick will announce a number and you have two months to read your book. Two months is quite a while so I thought I’d join. I am already devoting time to my TBR shelf so I thought I would put up four posts this week of five books each that I am choosing for my spin.

It is a way to share some of the lovely books on my shelf and remind myself they are there. I have had a good look and many of the books are Australian authors which I really want to read. Then a threw in a few others that are of interest but I don’t know much about. They were gifts or recommendations from other people or I simply loved the cover and it drew me in. So Part 1- Here we go.

Australian Fiction
  • 1. Flames by Robbie Arnott. This Tasmanian author has received quite a bit of publicity about his first book. From the blurb: A young man named Levi McAllister decides to build a coffin for his sister, Charlotte- who promptly runs for her life. A water rat swims upriver in quest of the cloud god. A fisherman hunts for tuna in partnership with a seal. a father takes form from fire.

I put off getting this book because the premise sounded so weird frankly but reviews have been positive and fun and I do need to read outside of what I normally pick. I’ll give this a try.

Russian Fiction

2. Alina Bronsky writer of The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine. When Rosa discovers that her 17 yr old daughter “stupid Sulfia” is pregnant by an unknown man she does everything to thwart the pregnance, employing a variety of folkloric home rememdies. Despite her best efforts the baby, Aminat, is born later at the Soviet Birthing Center.

This is a Russian tale of an “uproariously dysfunctional family that bind mother, daughter and grandmother into the fray.” It sounds fun and interesting and I love the cover.

Spanish

3. Nada by Carmen Laforet. I don’t remember how I came by this book. Eighteen year old Andrea moves to Barcelona to stay with relatives she has not seen in years while she pursues her dream of studying at university. Arriving in the dead of night she discovers not the independence she craves, bt a crumbling apartment and an eccentric collection of misfits whose psychological ruin and violent behaviour echoes that of the recent civil war.

Sounds an interesting Spanish tale.

Australian Indigenous

Too Much Lip by Melissa Lucashenko. This Australian novel has been listed for many awards here and I have read quite a few reviews in posts online. The blurb states: Wise cracking Kerry Salter has spent a lifetime avoiding two things- her hometown and prison. But now her Pop is dying and she’s an inch away from the lockup so she heads south on a stolen Harley.

She plans to spend 24 hours, tops, over the border. She quickly discovers though, that Bundjalung country has a funny way of grabbing on to people. Old family wounds open as the Salters fight to stop the development of their beloved river. The unexpected arrival on the scene of a good looking dugai fella intent on loving her up only adds to more trouble- but then trouble is Kerry’s middle name.

Australian Fiction

Number 5 is Robbie Arnott’s second book The Rain Heron. I attended the launch of this book last year as one of Fuller’s book store events. Ren lives alone on the remote frontier of a country devastated by a coup. High on the forested slopes, she survives by hunting and trading- and forgetting. But when a young soldier comes to the mountains in search of a local myth, Ren is inexorably drawn into her impossible mission. This is their story. Bits of fantasy and imagination drew me into this plus the enthusiasm of the people attending the book launch.

Happy Times

Two books and a puppy!

👀 A Real Book

Leaving the best until last.

I have begun an interesting biography called Notes From A Young Black Chef by Kwame Onwuachi. Alfred Knopf publisher. 2019.

I am reading this because I have become much more enthusiastic cooking not having to cook in a kitchen out of the dark ages. I have also been watching cooking shows on tv. Repeat series of the Great British Bake off and travels with Rick Stein. Not to mention a copy of Two Fat Ladies vintage cookbook I found in the tip shop. I loved them. I will probably settle down before long but for now I am enjoying many food related tasks.

Kwame Onwuachi is the executive chef at Kith and Kin and owner of the Philly Wing Fry franchise in Washington D.C. He was born on Long Island and raised in NY City, Nigeria and Louisiana. He was first exposed to cooking by his mother, in the family’s modest Bronx apartment and he took that spark of passion and turned it into a career. From toiling in the bowels of oil cleanup ships to working at some of the best restaurants in the world, he has seen and lived his fair share of diversity. This is his story.

He trained at the Culinary Institute of America and has opened five restaurants before turning 30. He has a twitter account: @ChefKwame and an Instagram account: @bastedmind

The author of this book is Joshua David Stein who is a Brooklyn based author and journalist. He was a restaurant critic for the New York Observer and has been a food columnist for The Village Voice. This book is also available on audio. (inside back flap)

👀 👀 Audio

The book I’m listening to currently on audio is Twyla Tharp- The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life. Simon and Schuster; Illustrated edition 2008.

I have chosen this book because after a break from my photography because of the distractions of ill health (all better now), Christmas and all the events in the United States (also all better now) I needed to get my mojo back. Our photography club is meeting again face to face as we are currently Covid free in our state and several excursions in interesting places coming up. This book talks about the way to develop more creativity in all the arts and encourages the reader to establish the routines to be productive in ones chosen field. The author gives several examples of well known dancers, artists and writers in their routines and how productive they become as a result of them. I know…. common sense….but it is nice to have a coach when working alone with any endeavour. It will also encourage me to be more consistent with my journaling and attemps at drawing.

She is one of the world’s leading creative artists, choreographers and creator of the Broadway show, Movin’ Out. She is a well known American dancer, choreographer and author who lives and works in NY city.n In 1966 she formed the company Twyla Tharp Dance. Her work often uses classical music, jazz and contemporary pop music. From 1971 to 1988 she toured extensively around the world performing original works.

The focus of her work and book is going through the painful first steps of scratching for ideas, finding the spine of your work and getting out of ruts and into productive grooves. The wide open realm of possibilities can be energizing and she explains how to take a deep breath and begin. (paraphrasing from Amazon and Wikipedia)

I have always enjoyed book that are related to New York City so to have two on the go at once is great fun.

👀 👀 👀 Personal Journal– Now for the good news. (I think.)

Dolly. Born 27 November, 2020 Pug/Maltese/Toy Poodle……I know.

Meet Ollie’s new little sister…. Dolly. Since we lost our beloved little Molly, Ollie has been at loose ends. He walks around eating stuff that makes him sick, sleeps too much and generally is not himself. He has not been well and has just had xrays and an ultrasound that is backing up his illness that is still being investigated.

We brought Dolly home yesterday. Yesterday was her 8 weeks old birthday. She is a mixture of (get this) pug, maltese and toy poodle. As we get to know her we can see a lot of pug in her (without the flat nose that causes respiratory problems in some breeds). She has a little toy poodle/maltese face with the squatty body and curled up tail of a pug. She is a little feminist, not letting Ollie boss her around as he has tried to do. When that didn’t work, he has now taken all his tennis balls in the front yard and hidden them in the bushes and in the house he has hidden his favourite toys next to bookshelves and behind furniture. It has been very funny to watch. He has that “only child” syndrome. Like a couple of toddlers. We are seeing a new side to him.

Ollie Meets Dolly for the first time.

As we are probably not travelling anywhere for any length of time this year we have lots of time to train her during her first year and to give Ollie a job which he needs. I think most dogs need a job to keep them focused and stop them eating all manner of things they find in the yard. The laughs just keep on coming watching the interaction of these two. As for our indoor cats, they have just rolled their eyes, looked at each other, sighed….’Another puppy!’ and moved on to their daily routines.

What a week it has been. This coming week has the builder coming back and painting our laundry room and before too long installing the kitchen floor to finish off the new kitchen.

I have a couple of friends dropping by to visit Ollie and Dolly and sharing a cup of tea or coffee. Ollie has a vet appointment to continue his diagnosis and treatment and I will take Dolly along to get her checked out as I always do with a new dog. I imagine she will be the last puppy we get in our lifetime as we are not getting any younger and we will go into “older age” together.

They better not forget about me !

As they say in an Olympic year- “Let the games begin!’

Grandma Schavey’s Prune Cake

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about my grandmother’s cook book I have. You can see that post here. It actually belonged to my maternal great grandmother whom I’ve never met. She passed it on to her daughter in law, my maternal grandmother. Somehow my paternal grandmother ended up writing a recipe or two in it and then my father’s sister (my Aunt Bea) gave the book to me. I have no idea of how it transferred between all of these women on both sides of the family but I am happy to have it.

In the back was a hand written recipe from my mother’s mother, my Grandma Schavey. (Schavey is a German name. She had Scandinavian blood in her as she was a Petersen but her husband was German.)

I have been curious about this recipe for some time. So I decided it is just too windy and rainy to go outdoors this week and I am tired of sitting still reading. Not in the mood for much else so I decided to make the prune cake.

I am not a baker (from scratch). Growing up in America most people just use mixes in a box. Also this recipe only has the ingredients listed and no directions. However I have watched a zillion episodes of the Great British Bake Off which I love and I thought I could figure out a cake. No temperatures are given for anything either so I guess I had my own Great Tasmanian Bake Off.

Note: should read baking SODA.

I cooked the prunes on the stove top in a little bit of water until they were really soft and falling apart. Use pitted prunes as you don’t want to be messing around with pits.

I put all the wet ingredients in one bowl and stirred them up well. Then I put all the dry ingredients in another bowl. I then got the mixer out and slowly added the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients while mixing them all together. I greased the pans with Crisco which I get from USA Foods.com as I will never get used to baking paper but you can decide how you do that.

I baked it for 20 minutes in a fan forced oven at 170. I should probably have lowered the temperature a bit, maybe to 160 and taken longer but it did come out pretty good. One side of it was slightly darker on top than the other but I’m sure that is my fan oven. I will never get used to a fan forced oven but not much I can do about it.

The Final Product

I had Mr. Penguin taste it with his afternoon cup of coffee and he thought it was really good. However I could give him slop and he would tell me it was very good so I tasted it myself. I LOVED it. It has a. nice taste of prune and if you enjoy prunes you will like it. However I have no idea how I am going to go tomorrow after eating all of those prunes so I think I shall start out slowly with a smaller piece.

It would be lovely with some whipped cream or vanilla ice cream with it, neither of which I have. So it will be a plain old prune cake for today.

Let me know if you try this but I would certainly recommend it and it really was easy as.

READY – SET – BAKE

Another Monday Morning

Ok. Where are we walking to now?

It’s been a fairly uneventful week around here so I did get some reading finished up. Our photography club starts up meetings this coming week so working on a couple of photos for the digital challenges. Ollie is also doing better and has a quick checkup on Thursday at the vet’s to see if his ear infection has cleared. We have had a day at the beach so he is happy. Our weather is spring like and you’d have no idea it is actually summer. Cool days and quite windy. The clouds are good for photography but not much else as every time I decide to take the camera out for a walk the rain comes pouring down or the wind is gale force.

I could not stop diving into this book. It requires a deep dive.

So let’s get started with the books. The first book I finished was Robert MacFarlane’s book Underland: A Deep Time Journey. This was a five star read for me. I really enjoyed it. The blurb from Good Reads states:

In Underland, Robert Macfarlane (British) delivers an epic exploration of the Earth’s underworlds as they exist in myth, literature, memory, and the land itself. Traveling through the dizzying expanse of geologic time—from prehistoric art in Norwegian sea caves, to the blue depths of the Greenland ice cap, to a deep-sunk “hiding place” where nuclear waste will be stored for 100,000 years to come—Underland takes us on an extraordinary journey into our relationship with darkness, burial, and what lies beneath the surface of both place and mind.

Global in its geography and written with great lyricism, Underland speaks powerfully to our present moment. At once ancient and urgent, this is a book that will change the way you see the world.

Yes, it sounds dry but I assure you it is anything but. It had so much information of which I knew nothing about, it had suspense, it had calm, isolation and beauty. It really does let you see our earth in an entirely different light and I really loved it. It is a book I would consider reading again.

The second book I finished this week was Away With the Penguins by Hazel Prior. This is what I call a fluffy book. Fluffy books are books that are comforting, easy reading and entertaining. They don’t require a lot of brain power.

Not for serious readers but great for a bit of fluff. It does have a good environmental messages though.

The story goes:

Veronica McCreedy is about to have the journey of a lifetime . . .

Veronica McCreedy lives in a mansion by the sea in Scotland. She loves a nice cup of Darjeeling tea whilst watching a good wildlife documentary. And she’s never seen without her ruby-red lipstick.

Although these days Veronica is rarely seen by anyone because, at 85, her days are spent mostly at home, alone.

She can be found either collecting litter from the beach (‘people who litter the countryside should be shot’), trying to locate her glasses (‘someone must have moved them’) or shouting
instructions to her assistant, Eileen (‘Eileen, door!’).

Veronica doesn’t have family or friends nearby. Not that she knows about, anyway . . . And she has no idea where she’s going to leave her considerable wealth when she dies.

But today . . . today Veronica is going to make a decision that will change all of this. (Good Reads)

I didn’t like Veronica at first when I began this book. Did not like her at all. But I don’t think you are supposed to. Then I learned about her life. She lives in Scotland and her memories go back to World War II. I almost gave this book up until….. things began to happen.

Did I mention she ends up in Antarctica?

It was fun and I know I will remember the characters for a very long time as they were very well developed. The book is one that gets much better as the writer gets more and more into it.

*********************************************************

I now have letters of author initials M and P completed in my TBR Author Alphabet challenge. Time to pick another random choice from the TBR.

Our photo club challenge has us choosing two photos we took in 2020 and ones we thought were pretty good. These are my two entires. The Waterfront is my favourite of the two but I’m entering the Covid sign one as I think it is important and it documents 2020.

A Sign of the Times

Hobart, Tasmania- Waterfront at Night

My new year now begins Thursday here which is the Wednesday inauguration day of Joe Biden in the U.S. I will be watching it. I will again be thankful Trump is going to be gone and I will then focus on everything else in life besides politics and Covid which have been all consuming. We are fortunate in Tasmania as we have not had any cases in the community for months now. I’m not sure when vaccinations will be available here but I have heard murmurs of March. Who knows? I do think of those in other countries who are doing it so tough. My heart goes out to you. Stay well.

I’ll be back soon.

Simply Sunday

author unknown

I’m not going to go into the events of the U.S. this week as we are all aware of them. But I admit it did take away from reading time as I was glued to the tv for a good couple of days and still checking. Not much is happening over the weekend but Monday over there may well pick up again. Will this presidency ever end??

I did manage to finish the book The Weekend by Charlotte Wood. I also listened to her on a podcast taped from last year’s Sydney Writer’s Festival on line where she talked about this book and a performance she saw at the Sydney Belvoir Theatre about Virginia Woolf. The Sydney Writer’s festival podcasts can be listened to on most podcast apps. I use Podbean.

I enjoyed The Weekend. A quick recap. The story is about three friends in their 70s who meet at the home of a friend, Sylvie who recently died, in order to clean out her house. Wendy who is one of the friends brings her 17 year old dog, Finn, with her which really gets up Jude’s nose. Adele is the third friend. She is mourning old age and her past life as a well known actress and her long term relationship with a married man that just doesn’t add up to what she would like.

The weekend shares the interactions between the women, their pasts, coping with aging, thinking about death all the while as they try and organise the emptying of this house. The dog, Finn, seems to be a metaphor for aging and impending death. The women’s relationship to the dog plays quite a large part of the story.

What I liked the most is the realness of the characters. They all have their strengths and their flaws. They get annoyed with each other yet they still retain their loyalty to each other when needed. At times I disliked all of them individually and other times I admired them. I liked the writing in the book most of the time. I’ve not read anything else by Charlotte Wood but I do have her previous book, The Natural Way of Things which won the 2016 Stella Prize and was long listed for the Miles Franklin award. It is on my shelf unread. I understand it is a much different book to the Weekend.

This week I will begin a library book I picked up on Friday. Ann Patchett’s The Dutch House. I listened to the podcast Divine in that featured Ann Patchett’s books. I enjoy the broadcasts about books by these two friends. They always make me laugh.

I have only ever read State of Wonder by this author and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I am looking forward to this book too.

Next, I will pull a book off my shelves in my TBR – Author Alphabet challenge. I was going to begin with the letter A and work my way to Z, one book at a time but I have decided to now randomly select an author’s initial and select my book that way.

*****************************************************

What else has been happening lately? As if an attempted American coup, a gutted kitchen, builders in the house, a radical surgery and recovery, Christmas and our lovely dog Molly dying wasn’t enough over the past two months…Ollie came down with a very inflamed bowel, some bleeding and a massive ear infection. He was full of beans jumping around one day and suddenly he was off his food and we couldn’t wake him up for much more than a few moments. Of course, like everything, it happened on a weekend but fortunately being Friday night, the vet did get him in Saturday morning, where he spent the day being x-rayed, poked and prodded. He had the first bad day of his lifetime.

Ollie at the dog beach awhile ago.

We were worried he had swallowed a foreign object and might need surgery. So far that doesn’t seem to be the case and he seems to be responding well to antibiotics and some prescription food he is not too thrilled about. We were worried about him though. His ear is also being treated. If we could only get him to stop eating potting soil, lizard tails, snails and possum poo I think he would be better off. If anyone knows how to do that please leave your message in the comments. below.

On a brighter note I am out of my six weeks of not being able to drive and I actually did a 5 km walk the other day and feel quite good.

I’ve decided the new year for us will begin on the 21 January when the world might change a bit for the better. Now if we could only understand why the Australian Prime Minister won’t condemn what has happened in America.

No, I’ll leave that alone for now.

I hope everyone has been safe and well and doing some things that cause happiness amongst the turmoil of the world. More later….

2021 is finally underway…

I think I have my thoughts organised around my book challenges this year enough so I can say it out loud.

2021- Stay focused

First off will I say no challenges ahead of time except to read my TBR books and library copies? However, I guess my TBR is a challenge. I am going to follow blogger Book Snob and begin reading them alphabetically by author. I need to not just read the books I am always drawn to on my shelves but to get the impulse buys I thought I’d love, then lost the mood. How many of those do we own?

Right now, I’m reading Charlotte Wood’s The Weekend. Three women in their 70s gather at their friend’s place for a weekend to clean it out after she dies. Throw in a very old arthritic, incontinent dog and the dynamics should be interesting.

I know I am probably the last reader to dig into this popular Austraian book. I’ve heard so much about it. I’m not far into it but I am enjoying the writing. I have no idea how these three women and Finn the dog are going to cope in this run down house of their friend without killing each other. For friends of long standing they sure have a go at each other behind their backs. So far it is Finn, the dog I’m enjoying the most. But it is pulling me into the story and I am looking forward to seeing how they all cope.

Once finished I will begin other books. I want to have an essay or short story read of the day. So that will be one book on the go. I will either start with Chekhov’s short stories or The Bookseller’s Tale by Martin Latham. I might rotate between them as I am looking forward to both of them.

I will also get one book at a time from the library. There are so many books I discover through fellow bloggers but I don’t want to purchase those books. I have my own extensive library but I feel it is important to always support the library and even if I don’t get to all the books I place on hold, I want to contribute to their usage statistics. I don’t trust government funding for libraries. Fortunately our library seems to be well supported and in safe hands but one just never knows.

I also have photography and magazine articles to read. I regularly read Photography magazines from the library online, own a subscription to the Monthly and Australian Book Review magazines, not to mention Womankind. I can stick those in a bag and read them while waiting for appointments or the bus.

Did I mention kindle books and the audible books I listen to nightly? Or the bookish podcasts and author interviews? (sigh)

So there you have it.

My baseline goal is to read 50 pages per day from one of the above challenges. I should not call them challenges as that is the fastest way I know of to fall off the wagon, so to speak. Anyway, that’s the plan and we’ll see how we go. I won’t mention my daily journal writing and learning to draw book. I’m making myself laugh now.

Other catch up news is both good and also sad. The good news is my health is finally settling down after major surgery. I will pass the five week mark on Thursday and can start driving again soon. Feeling better but probably won’t be fully recovered until end of January or February. I can start taking longer walks and need to get Ollie to the beach again. I’m sure he misses it but you wouldn’t know it.

The sad news is we had to euthanise our old dog Molly. She would have been 16 in March. She had a bad fall and ruptured her cruciate ligament. We knew she couldn’t have surgery at her age and with her very advanced arthritis complicating matters we would not have put her through that. She had an extremely peaceful end with both of us with her and knew no anxiety. She was more than ready to go. I like to think of her running with her old mates Odie who we lost to cancer last year and Wally who died 4 years ago of old age. I will put another bell in the maple tree for her, next to Odie and Wally’s bell. Ollie hasn’t indicated he misses her but then again he is such a little narcissist it is hard to tell. Our old cat, Uncle Buck, seems to know she is gone though. They were great mates for the last 14 years.

Our lovely three friends are all together again and their bells ring gently in the wind. L-R Odie, 2019; Molly 2021; Wally 2016.

Well, enough of that and forward we move. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens politically in America the month of January then I’m going to forget all about it and concentrate on Australia!!

Stay well my friends, especially those of you in North America and the UK. I think of you daily and am saddened by what is happening in both countries. Just stay safe. Think medical and not political. Enough said.

Until next time…

My first book finished this year.

(Yes I did begin it the end of last year but hey! I’m done now and I’m counting it.)

Happy New Year everyone. I won’t even mention our previous year. I know how everyone feels about it. Moving forward….

I just finished listening to almost 20 hours of a travel book by Alastair Humphreys. It is described as:

At the age of 24, Alastair Humphreys set off to try to cycle round the world. By the time he arrived back home, four years later, he had ridden 46,000 miles (74.000kms). across five continents on a budget of just £7,000. 

From frozen Siberia tundra to the jungles of central Africa, Alastair recounts his extraordinary adventures in two parts – Moods of Future Joys and Thunder & Sunshine – brought together in audiobook for the first time. 

Alastair lives in the U.K. He had finished university, had a young woman he loved but he was restless. He didn’t want an office job though he had very lucrative offers with secure employment guaranteed. He decided to take his 7000 pounds and ride around the world. It was the summer of 2001. He had no mobile phone, gps or any of the other technology we use so readily these days. His plan was to go from the UK to Europe, eastward through Iran, Afghanistan, to Asia, Japan, Australia, South America, the United States. He planned on being away for four years.

However, after he started out 9/11 happened in the U.S.A. and once he arrived in Turkey he was advised to not go through Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan. Instead he went to northern Africa, beginning in Egypt and south to Cape Town, South Africa along the western African coast. From there he went to Patagonia in South America and rode north to Alaska. He then rode through Japan, Russia and westward back to Europe.

He lived on bread and jam and spent next to nothing. This is his story of hardship, severe loneliness (lots of tears), contrasting poverty and wealth, beauty and ugliness in the surrounding areas. He learned a lot and realised how privileged his life was. I’m glad I listened to the audible version as I find first person travel books the most enjoyable in this format.

It took me awhile to warm to him. The first couple of hours he carried on ad nauseum about his crying jags, missing his girlfriend, how out of shape he was, how he didn’t know why he was doing this. He hated it, he wanted to go home.

I almost gave up but still had about 17 hours to go. As I couldn’t sleep one night I set the timer on audible for 30 minutes hoping I would fall asleep. Once he took the focus off his emotional needs and began realising where he was and how much he was enjoying himself, in spite of his reservations it picked up.

To get from one continent to another he bummed rides on yachts and container ships. He was very tenacious and embraced the people no matter where he was. Some of the accommodation he stayed in made my hair curl. Filth, overflowing squat toilets, bedbugs. He rode across Siberia in the winter in deep snow. I don’t know how he managed it but he did. He had friends that flew in to various places and rode with him in certain places and then they would leave.

I have read a lot of travel writing and I think this must be the most arduous trip I have been on vicariously with anyone. But he did it. He finished when everyone said he wouldn’t. I won’t say anymore than that.

He was a good narrator and I really enjoyed his descriptions of the families he stayed with, the places he slept, ate and visited. Little snippets of history popped up here and there but not enough to make me yawn. I don’t read travel writing for extensive history. Instead I want to hear about the day to day logistics of what one does, eats and who they meet. This did not let me down.

It is the closest I can get at the moment of travelling myself.

Now going into 2021 I think I’ve had enough travel writing for awhile. This book wore me out and I’m looking foward to getting into some other books and activities. More on that soon.

I have been reading other books, mainly dipping in and out of several but more on that another time.

All the best for 2021 and I look forward to seeing what everyone gets up to this year with their books,challenges, lives. Stay well and maybe we’ll all get back to normal before too long.

Always the optimist !!

Boxing Day 2020-Bookish Cooking

Well Christmas day is truly over here in Tasmania until next year. I have spent the morning having a couple of boiled eggs, toast and watching an old series of The Great British Bake Off. I haven’t seen all of them so nice to watch them and the old ones I have seen my memory is such I don’t remember who won so it is all new again.

Today they were featuring recipes from the Victorian Era. Series 5 or 6, can’t remember. They did a quick historical segment on Mrs Beeton and her cookbooks from the 1800s (of which she only ever cooked one recipe) that has been in print for more than 150 years. Evidently (which I did not know) she was brought into her husband’s publishing arena as a new 21 year old bride and was asked to do a column. She could not bake but she did publish a column on how to make a particular type of cake (sponge I think) and she forgot the flour so of course it was a flop. She did print a recipe of hers, the one and only accordng to Mrs Beeton’s biographer on this program, called Mrs Beeton’s Useful Soup for Benevolent Times. Recipe here. Evidently she was very good at editing so instead of creating recipes she researched old recipes she could find previously to her lifetime and published them. A quite resourceful woman it seems.

That got me thinking about an old cookbook my aunt gave me years ago before she died. It was a cookbook she got from her mother (my father’s mother) and it actually belonged to my mother’s grandmother (my great grandmother). There are recipes in it handwritten in the margins and inside covers from both paternal and maternal grandmothers. The book is a first edition published in 1913. It is called Fifty-Two Sunday Dinners by Mrs. Elizabeth O. Hiller. The price was $1.00 US and was marketed by the Cottelene company. Cottolene was a shortening or lard substitute.

Mrs. Hiller actually has a Wikipedia page and it states, Elizabeth O. Hiller (circa 1856 – August 14, 1941) was a prominent early twentieth-century American author of cookbooks and a professor of culinary arts. You can see all of her published books here.

The introduction of the book states: “Years ago nothing but butter or lard were used for shortening and frying: today the visible supply of these two products is insufficient to supply the demand, taking into consideration the amount of butter required for table use. Furthermore, as the demand increased it out grew the supply of butter and lard, with the result that prices were materially advanced; and, incidentally, the quality has been lowered. Naturally, under such conditions scores of substitutes have been offered as shortening and frying mediums- some meritorious, but mostly inferior” (introduction, 1913).

Grandma Schavey’s Prune Cake
This recipe is on the back cover of the book. I notice all writing was in pencil and the books is covered in stains so was obviously used a lot.

It continues on, discussing the merits of this product. Americans now use the vegetable shortening Crisco quite a bit while baking or frying. When I moved to Australia in 1988, I had a difficult time not having access to Crisco as Americans regularly used. Southern Fried Chicken is ONLY excellent when fried in Crisco which is a vegetable shortening with the more solid consistency of lard. It is also used to rub onto baking pans of cakes and pies so the batter doesn’t stick. Everyone here seems to use a baking paper. I was not used to that. They also used a slab of butter or margarine to grease their pans.

Michigan is a big corn growing state. This recipe from the Detroit newspaper for Corn Oysters was tucked into the book. 1925.

Anyway- I digress. I don’t have many items from my grandmothers, both of whom I loved dearly and I never knew my great grandmother. I do treasure this book though I am unlikely to ever cook one of these full recipes for Sunday dinner as they are loaded with lard (or Cottolene) and salt, and the recipes are pages long. I thought I would share this today in view of holiday spirit and a coming new year. I could do a Julie and Julia project such as was the film when a character named Julie spends one year cooking her way through Julia Child’s French Cookbook. This also gives me a way here to document this lovely old book in our current times. I do love looking through it and perhaps could try one or two vegetable dishes or cakes or pies. (By the way I now have a small can of Crisco I get from USA Foods.com in Melbourne and I also have baking paper).

I had to share this advertisement. It is on the reverse side of the Corn Oyster recipe. Love the hair on the child.

I will caption the photos of what this book contains and share a couple of the hum drum Sunday dinner menus with you. Such a gift it was from my aunt (my father’s sister.) Everyone now is gone on both sides of the family so it is even more valuable for nostalgic perusing.

This 21 st birthday card from my maternal grandmother to my mother was also tucked into the book. The year would have been 1947, about two months before my mother married my father.
This is the note inside the birthday card for my mother, Sally.

I hope you have enjoyed this little historical journey into a small part of my family history. I think for 2021 I will make an effort to cook and share some of the recipes with you.

Read on for a list of a couple of the Sunday menus. Remember, these recipes are just for a non-event Sunday, not a special occasion or holiday. (So much work!!!). I picked a couple of menus at random.

NB: As this book was published in 1913, before WWI and the great depression of the 1930s, people must have been quite well off if there were to cook these menus or they had staff to do it. Families were bigger in those days than they are now and the resources used to go into these meals must have been many. I think members in my family back then would have simply picked and chosen what they wanted to cook individually as I might do in 2021 to carry on a tradition.

WINTER

*************************************************************

SPRING

*************************************************************

SUMMER

*************************************************************

AUTUMN

WOW! I’m stuffed !

A Cool Summer’s Day Christmas

Photo: Shutter Stock

Having grown up in the state of Michigan in the USA, I will never get used to Christmas in summer. We have lived here more than 30 years now and it still seems strange to not have a myriad of lights everywhere (as our summer days are long) and snow covered trees and bushes. However I cannot complain about our weather although summer heat has still not kicked off. 18 degrees C today (64F or thereabouts).

We have some lovely food in the fridge for a later dinner, a new kitchen instead of gifts and many books waiting to be read. Our cats have been chasing each other through the house. Ollie is running around the backyard looking through his fence crack for the neighbour’s cat, Stanley and old Molly is waiting for her heart and arthritis medication before her doggie breakfast.

Photo Source: tdls.com

I finished the Ann Cleeves book I mentioned previously and the Gifts of Reading also. I will now pass those on as they won’t need to live here anymore so they will be released into the wild.

I will start a new novel in the next day or two and I have a new book of essays I began today. I will mention that today. It is called In the Kitchen: Essays on food and life. Published 2020 by Daunt books it consists of 13 essays by a variety of authors. Here is the inside cover’s blurb:

Food can embody our personal histories as well as wider cultural histories. But what are the stories we tell ourselves about the kitchen, and how do we first come to it? How do the cookbooks we read influence us? Can cooking be a tool for connection in the kitchen and outside it?

I love this brightly coloured cover.

In these thirteen original essays, writers consider the subjects of cooking and eating and how they shape our lives, and the possibilities and limitations the kitchen poses. Rachel Roddy traces her life through the cookers she has known; Rebecca May Johnson considers the radical potential of finger food; Ruby Tandoh discovers other definitions of sweetness; Yemisi Aribisala remembers a love affair in which food failed as a language; and Julia Turshen considers food’s ties to a community.

In the Kitchen brings together thirteen contemporary writers who brilliantly capture their experiences in the kitchen and beyond.

I have read the first essay by the food writer Rachel Roddy who lives in Rome. She recalls the 20 cookers she has known throughout her life, where she was living, what she was doing and their idiosyncrasies. They varied in use from disconcerting gas leaks, collectible old Agas, bum warmers and overheated kitchens. It was a fun read of how life can be measured by our appliances in a kitchen, which I have never really thought of much. I have not lived with 20 cookers in my lifetime and I doubt I could remember many of the ones I did live with except to say they were all electric.

I am sure I will enjoy the rest of this book through my daily reading of these little gems of wisdom and history.

I can’t believe I have traded in my motorbike for a new stove. You just never know the direction life may take.

I will now leave you to enjoy the rest of your day and happy thoughts to each of you whether you have a large Christmas (I hope not too large) or a quiet, more melancholy one of which I think might be quite prevalent this year

As our relatives are all spread out between the USA and Canada, ours will be quiet but it will be contented with what is going on today and I must say I am really looking forward to January when I hope to be seeing Trump being dragged out of the white house on 20th. Put him on a horse and slap it on the rump and watch it run off (like in the cowboy movies of the 1950s I grew up on.) It is good to have things to look forward to.

May we all do things in 2021 that keep us healthy, make us happy and move us forward as humanity and keep our earth, flora and fauna happy too.

Hope you all get a book for Christmas.