Soup and a good book.

I have forsworn cake for lent. It’s not that I am worried about my eventual entry through the gates of heaven (though it could be a tight squeeze) but that I am concerned with the close-fitting nature of my jeans.

I have tried re-introducing the family to salads but the family was having none of it. They complained vociferously and informed me that it’s still too chilly for cold dinners. They have a point. It is surely the season for soup.

Aztec Soup

For my March edition of Cooking the Books, I have devised the ultimate soup recipe. It was almost too easy this time. The book, Umami by Laia Jufresa, practically spelled out the recipe to me. It all came together like some sort of literary magic.

 Find the review and the recipe for Aztec soup here.

Today is World Book Day. Small Girl is very excited about finally qualifying for a free book voucher and I’m happy to have an excuse for a bookshop outing. The books look great this year. Take a look at the list on WorldBookDay.com. I won’t be able to resist the Famous Five stories and I suspect Small Girl will want the one about underpants.The gallery of World Book Day doodles by well known illustrators is also well worth a look.

I like lists. I am a maker of lists and a dedicated ticker of lists. Best of all the lists, of course, are book lists and there are some fantastic book lists out there. If the internet had been invented just for the book lists it would have been worth it. These are some of my favourites:
The Agnes Reading List. I’m blowing my own trumpet here since I compiled this list of books for teenage girls. My all-time most loved books are on this list.
The Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge. Rory Gilmore is one extremely well-read young (and fictional, by the way) lady. These are all the books she reads or mentions over the seven seasons of The Gilmore Girls. You can tick the books you’ve read on this VERY good list (SO satisfying, I’m at 64 of the 339 books).
The Guardian’s list of 100 best novels ever written in English is a SERIOUS list, developed over two years by Robert McCrum. It’s compiled in chronological order. I’ve read 25 which is hardly very impressive.
The 100 Best Children’s Books from Time.com is a thing of beauty. I could flick through this quite contentedly all day long.
The 25 greatest cookbooks of all time is calling to me. So much temptation. The only one of these I own is Moro. My birthday is coming up soon…hello, family…can you hear me? Hint, hint, etc.
My favourite cookbooks are listed here.
Barack Obama’s Reading List: The 79 books recommended by a very bookish president during his time in office.
J.K Rowling’s Reading List: The books which have most influenced the world’s most successful author.

If you don’t find what you’re looking for in any of those lists you could take a glance through the books I’ve read since starting this blog in May 2015.
I hope you find a book you love today.

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Jammy Out!

Laura Ingalls Wilder.

I’ve been fairly up to my eyeballs in books lately and, to be perfectly honest, I couldn’t be happier. Husband’s phrase of the week has been,‘you are SO jammy!’ which roughly translates from Corkonian to English as, ‘how did you get so lucky, getting paid to read the books you love!’

He’s right, of course, and I can hardly believe it myself. The latest development has been the delivery of some Advance Reading Copies from Penguin and Vintage which had me dancing reels around the kitchen table with excitement. You never saw anybody get so excited about a book lacking its proper cover!

My balancing act now will be to keep up with the list of classics I am determined to read, which won’t necessarily bring any income but will surely feed my soul, while producing timely reviews of new releases. On top of that, I have a tiny seed of an idea germinating in my head which is, I think, a good idea but would involve a mountain of reading….waahhhh… I need an extra brain.

I am loving it though, every second!

I love the variety of books I’m reading. I must credit my Middle Girl, a voracious reader, for recommending some excellent children’s books. She is a great fan of Jacqueline Wilson and it’s easy to see why. Clover Moon is a historical drama suitable for children of around 9-12 years old. You can read the full review here.

Clover Moon by Jacqueline Wilson

I bought The One Memory of Flora Banks for Teenage Daughter but, such was the hype, I read it myself first. Like all YA fiction, it’s an easy read. I was a little disappointed but I suppose that’s the danger of believing the hype. My full review is here.The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr

Belgravia by Julian Fellowes was a Christmas gift to myself. This type of book is a real guilty pleasure for me. I know it’s not making me a better person but it’s so nice to sink into a really comfortable, unchallenging and entertaining book. I have found that it can be almost impossible to find easy books that are also well written. This is a good one. The full review is here.Belgravia by Julian Fellowes

Both Husband and I read Alain de Botton‘s The Course of Love. It cut uncomfortably close to the bone and came close to causing a riot (not the good kind)in our bedroom. I would recommend it wholeheartedly for anyone searching for a deeper understanding of marital relationships. Full review is here.The Course of Love by Alain de Botton.

One final reminder: if you are looking for a bookish Valentine’s gift or a seductive Valentine’s dessert, look no further than Les Liaisons Dangereuses. Review plus recipe here.

Coeurs a la Creme and Les Liaisons Dangereuses.

I get a kick out of putting the photos together. I wish I had a little more skill but I’m learning on the job. The light levels have been abysmal lately which doesn’t help.

I’m not a great fan of yellow/orange but these colours seem to be popping up all around me. I ordered some yarn online (I never learn) which I thought would be cream (it was labelled buttermilk) but it is quite definitely yellow.

I’m reading The Rituals of Dinner by Margaret Visser, an absolutely fascinating book, and reading By the Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder to the Small Girl at bedtime. Bizarrely, both Clover Moon and Silver Lake feature the dire effects of Scarlet Fever reminding me again how grateful I am to Alexander Fleming!

Our telly went on the blink last week and we spent several hours playing Bananagrams…if you haven’t tried it, you should!Laura Ingalls Wilder.

That’s all for now. I’ll be painting pantry shelves all weekend so stand by for the big reveal!

Yep, life these days is pretty jammy, or, to give it the strictly correct Cork phraseology: Jammy Out!

Have a great weekend.

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The Midnight Gang Might Cure You.

Review: David Walliams. The Midnight Gang.

If my instagram feed is anything to go by, it would seem that there are quite a few poorly children propped up on pillows out there. We have been battling bugs here too, nothing serious but enough to make some of us feel quite sorry for ourselves. You might not believe me but I am here today to testify that this book really did make me feel better, much better.

I picked up The Midnight Gang after teatime and kept reading into the night to the very last page. It is that good.

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My eleven-year-old daughter knows good books. I have learned to trust that when she leaves a book on my bedside table with a quiet recommendation that I should read it, I should read it. Previous gems have included R.J. Palacio’s Wonder and Lois Lowry’s The Giver both of which are the kind of book that have the power to make you a better person. Having read all of David Walliams’ previous books, I was prepared for  The Midnight Gang to be an altogether rowdier kettle of fish…Click here to read on.

Knitting Mum and the Great Slytherin Defection.

Knitting pattern for Slytherin scarf.

 

We have a defector in our midst. Middle Daughter, heretofore a stalwart Gryffindor, has taken a shine to Scorpius Malfoy and requested a transfer to Slytherin.

In considering this, I have realised that my lovely baby girl was born (in April, 2005) into a house deeply engrossed in all things Potter. We were already six books, three movies and seven gazillion pieces of Lego deep.

The Half-Blood Prince was released in July of that year and I have the warmest memories of spending two whole days seated on our back porch, nursing the babe in arms while reading. Life does not get better than that.

Anyway, it dawned on me that, even though Middle Daughter imbibed Potter with her mother’s milk, The Cursed Child was the first book which  she could call her own. I pre-ordered it from Waterstones in her name and she was allowed to read it first. Oh how she LOVED knowing what happened while the rest of us killed time with bated breath. In as much as any of us can own any book, she owns that one.

Her request for a Slytherin scarf was a treat for me…an excuse to indulge in some yarn shopping, faff about with possible designs and then relax into easy-peasy knitting.

I made a Gryffindor scarf a couple of years ago but, as a last-minute Halloween costume request, it was a rush job of super-chunky garter stitch in unpleasant (I’m being generous there) yarn.

This Slytherin scarf, by contrast, was a labour of love. I ordered Sylecraft Special DK, which is unbeatable for colour choice and value for money, from Wool Warehouse.

This one is definitely not just for Halloween. Middle Girl has been wearing it with swagger. It even looks terrific with her school uniform which includes a bottle green jacket. Happy Girl, Happy Mum.

Knitting pattern for Slytherin scarf.

You can find my pattern, for completely free, and read the knitty-gritty details here. I’ve also included suggestions for the other house colours.

Slytherin scarf with knitting pattern.

This one is dedicated to Alan Rickman, greatest of Slytherin alumni, who melted my heart, always.

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A Feast of Pure Imagination.

I have become slightly obsessed with the food I read about in books. I have a notion that it is as honest a peek into the author’s mind as we are likely to get. There can be no food in a book that isn’t, in some way, autobiographical. What follows is an article I wrote (and cooked) for Bookwitty on the subject of food in children’s literature:

‘The high tea that awaited them was truly magnificent. A huge ham gleaming as pink as Timmy’s tongue; a salad fit for a king. In fact, as Dick said, fit for several kings, it was so enormous. It had in it everything that anyone could possibly want. “Lettuce, tomatoes, onions, radishes, mustard and cress, carrot grated up – that is carrot, isn’t it, Mrs. Penruthlan?” said Dick. “And lashings of hard-boiled eggs.” There was an enormous tureen of new potatoes, all gleaming with melted butter, scattered with parsley. There was a big bottle of home-made salad cream. “Look at that cream cheese, too,” marveled Dick, quite overcome. “And that fruit cake. And are those drop-scones, or what? Are we supposed to have something of everything, Mrs Penruthlan?” Enid Blyton.

Children’s books are jam-packed, stuffed to the gills with food. The smallest toddlers begin their bookish adventures with The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Each Peach Pear Plum, a Big Pancake, an Enormous Turnips and an unstoppable Magic Porridge Pot.Roald Dahl holds young readers in thrall with a Giant Peach and a Chocolate Factory.Paddington, Pooh and Bilbo Baggins all call halt for elevenses be it marmalade sandwiches or hunny with condensed milk (hold the bread). Julian, Dick, George and Anne have unfathomable appetites for hard-boiled eggs and who could forget Louisa May Alcott‘s Jo, reading and weeping while munching an apple? The fictional store cupboard, it seems, is never bare.

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Given that fictional characters don’t even need to eat, why do they continually snack, forage, feed and feast?

Read on to see what I cooked up…

Harry Potter, The Cursed Dad?

Harry Potter and The Cursed Child, review, J.K. Rowling, Lego Harry Potter, Lego Draco Malfoy, Scorpius Malfoy, Albus Potter,

Here be spoilers (but not big ones ).

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Has ever a book had such a build up? In this household we’ve had seven books, eight  movies, badges, games, colouring books and pencils beyond count, at least five dressing-up costumes (including homemade wands and hand-knit Gryffindor scarves) and one very serious obsession with Alan Rickman. Let’s just say expectations were high. Click here to continue reading…

 

Carrie Bradshaw, part 2.

first professional publication, bookwitty, comfort zone,

Hah, I got you there…you thought you were in for another photo of Yours Truly posing provocatively in a blue paper jumpsuit. Sorry, no.

In fact, I am here at my desk, on this gloriously sunny June morning, to say Thank You.

To all of you who have looked or liked and especially to those who have commented and complimented. You gave me the boost I needed to take a wobbly baby step outside my comfort zone.

first professional publication, bookwitty, comfort zone,

I made an tentative approach to the people at Bookwitty and submitted this little story as, I hoped, a gateway piece. To my surprise and delight, they came back asking for some longer articles.

Bookwitty requested a Q&A format for a piece on Eat Your Books. Waaaaaah! What did that mean? Was I supposed to just contact Eat Your Books and ask to speak to the owner? Errrr, exactly, yes.

So, I did. I made believe I was some sort of proper journalist person. Okay I admit it, I landed on Carrie Bradshaw again. Sadly, still no ostrich feather dress.

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Jane Kelly, the lovely co-founder of Eat Your Books, must surely have suspected that she was in the shaky hands of a rank amateur. She was gracious and kind and, more or less, wrote the whole thing for me. Click here to read my first professional article.

On the crest of a creative wave, I wrote two more articles.

This one about my sourdough bread baking adventure and this one about the SultanaBun Family Summer Holiday Book Club.

If you go directly to the Bookwitty Home Page, you will notice two of my articles right there on the front page!!! My profile and the first article were there yesterday. Heart-thumping stuff, I tell you!

I feel weirdly guilty about cheating my loyal blog readers because these would have been blog posts. Please, please, make the extra click through to Bookwitty, have a read and, if you like them, click the wit it button. As it stands, I have exactly zero readers on Bookwitty so I am relying on you! If I can make a go of this I might just be able to make a contribution to the household finances and feel a whole lot better about myself.

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I’m completely flattened now so I’m going out to bask in the sunshine. The beaches are jammers and we have all stripped to our knickers. Every bed sheet in the country has been washed, our freckles are starting to blend into something approximating a tan and B&Q have sold out of barbecues. The weather has been so fine that pundits are already predicting a baby boom next March. The relationship that we Irish have with the weather is beyond ridiculous.

No links to like this week, other than my own. Now, how cool is that?

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