Tuesday, March 27, 2012

In My Kitchen: March 2012...

You can tell autumn has come to the Flinders because in my kitchen there are pumpkins, and delicious, warming foods like this roasted pumpkin risotto:

1kg butternut pumpkin, peeled & cut into 1" pieces
7 cups vegetable stock
1/2 brown onion, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 1/2 cups arborio (risotto) rice
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
30g butter
2 tspn dried parsley flakes
1/3 cup fresh chives, finely chopped
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 200*C. Chop pumpkin, drizzle with olive oil and roast for 30 minutes or until tender.
Bring stock to boil in a saucepan then reduce heat to a simmer.
Heat some oil in a large saucepan and sautee onion and garlic until tender. Add rice and cook for a further 2 minutes, stirring consistently.
Add stock to rice one ladel at a time, stirring with a wooden spoon until absorbed. Continue adding stock until rice is tender but still firm (will take around 30 minutes), stirring consistently.
Then stir in parmesan cheese, butter, parsley and chives. Gently stir in the roasted pumpkin.
Serve immediately (enough for 4).

Keep any remaining risotto in an air tight container in the fridge for up to three days. Leftovers can be used to make patties (crumbed and fried - great on the BBQ), or as filling for stuffed capsicums or zucchinis (corgettes).

What's been cooking in your kitchen this month?

In My Kitchen is a monthly feature hosted by Fig Jam & Lime Cordial.
To take part, simply make a blog post and link back to Fig Jam & Lime Cordial.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Monday Mail Out: To Russia, With Love...

[Pink carnation in bloom]

Saturday morning we woke to rain. It was silent, misty rain; the kind that is so fine it doesn't make a noise but you can feel it gently falling when you stand out in it. The kind of rain that makes everything damp but doesn't leave puddles.

It rained all morning. The carnations loved it.

[Yulia's letter and my reply]

And so did I.

It wasn't too cold, so I sat outside under the veranda and wrote my penpal Yulia in Russia, watching the gentle rain fall over the back garden until it finally dissipated when the sun started breaking through around noon.

Written correspondence has been a hobby of mine for a long time, & Monday Mail Out is a weekly feature whereby I can share my love for the lost art of letter writing. I hope my experiences will encourage others to send out letters on Monday too, and have them rediscover the joy of sending and receiving mail. If you have a blog, feel free to join in.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Monday, March 19, 2012

Monday Mail Out: Solitary, Shiny & Handmade.

Today's  outgoing: A solitary letter to Raquel in Sweden, sent in a handmade envelope.

I enjoy sourcing papers of different textures, colours and designs for making envelopes, since colourful, interesting mail is such a simple way to brighten someone's day.

Written correspondence has been a hobby of mine for a long time, & Monday Mail Out is a weekly feature whereby I can share my love for the lost art of letter writing. I hope my experiences will encourage others to send out letters on Monday too, and have them rediscover the joy of sending and receiving mail. If you have a blog, feel free to join in.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar by Suzanne Joinson.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It is the 1920s and Evangeline English, her sister Lizzie, and their missionary leader, Millicent, have travelled to Turkestan with plans of converting the local Muslim population to Christianity. However, Evangeline has no real interest or intention in establishing a mission or in converting "the heathens". Rather, Evangeline has secret plans to write a travel guide based on what she sees and experiences in Kashgar.

It is also present day London, and Frieda is a modern-world professional stuck in an unproductive relationship with a selfish married man; and Tayeb is an "illegal" from Yemen who finds himself homeless and sleeping in the corridor outside Frieda's apartment. The two form an unlikely friendship and together they go about investigating the origins of a mysterious inheritance, of which Frieda has found herself unwillingly in possession.

A Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar is split between two periods, 1920s Turkestan and modern London, and is, ultimately, three stories in one: Evangeline, Frieda and Tayeb. Having said that, however, it was Evangeline's story that is the basis for the novel as a whole, and the one that I personally found the most interesting.

The manner in which the novel is written, with each individual component consistently interrupting the others, made it feel disjointed and the characters distant. It is assumed that the three central characters must be connected in some way, but this only starts to become clear after two thirds of the novel has been read. There are also too many random, insignificant ramblings, where the story veers off on tangents, more often than not right in the middle of a really interesting piece. I found this frustrating.

Overall, I found Evangeline's story to be the most interesting of the three; the events surrounding her time in Kashgar are the reason I kept reading until the end, and I would have been perfectly content had this novel been her story alone.

Advanced Review Copy through NetGalley. Many thanks to the publisher, Bloomsbury, for allowing me to read and review this novel prior to official publication.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

(Long) Weekending...

[A fascinating read!]

Well, it was back to work today after an extended long weekend. It was my birthday on Friday (I turned one-and-thirty) so I took the day off work and spent it getting in some (long overdue) retail therapy.

It was a relatively quiet day, which suited me fine, and I received some wonderful, useful gifts. I am of the opinion that how well someone knows you is revealed in their choice of gift. My Ma gave me Rhonda Hetzel's  Down to Earth (picture above), which I'd been eyeing off since its release. I am really enjoying the read: Rhonda's transformation from consumerist to simple life advocate is truly fascinating. I highly recommend visiting her blog; it has been a favourite of mine since day dot.

[Silver Victorian Earrings]

These silver, Victorian antique earrings (in the Art Nouveau style) were a gift from my dearest friend, Laura, who collects antique jewellery and decided to help me start my own collection with my very first piece. I spent a fair portion of the long weekend admiring antique jewellery online, and I can feel a new obsession brewing just beneath the surface...

[Note pads from Nicola]

Nicola surprised me with some stationery for my birthday, which I put to good use over the weekend when I wrote some letters. It was almost as if she had read my mind and discovered that I was getting drastically low on stationery supplies!

[Nicola's letter and my reply]

Of course, with it being a public holiday yesterday, the mail didn't go out until this morning (hense the absence of a "Monday Mail Out" post). This week letters are on their way to StoneZebra (USA), Claire (Wales), and Nicola (Australia).

[Today's outgoing mail]

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sunday Scrapbook #10...

This is how our dining room table looks at the moment, since I decided to start a new scrapbooking project yesterday.

I like to have all my scrapbooking ephemera, card stock, brads, stampers, stickers etc spread out before me so that I can see all the options I have as I work on each page.

The table will stay this way until I have finished the current project: The chaos is a great motivator!

This is the front page for my new project, an album of favourite photos and keepsakes from our holiday to Melbourne and New Zealand last year. So far, I have completed 9 sheets, although I expect that by the time I am done the album will consist of 20 pages in total (that's 40 separate sheets).

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

All Together Dead by Charlaine Harris...

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"Both Eric and Bill had had my blood, and I theirs. For the first time, I understood there was a real connection. Didn't I see the two of them as more human than vampire? Didn't they have the power to wound me more than any others? It wasn't only my past relationships with the two that kept me tied to them. It was the blood exchange. Maybe because of my unusal heritage, they couldn't order me around. They didn't have mind control over me, and they couldn't read my thoughts; and I couldn't do any of those things to them. But we did share a tie. How often had I heard their lives humming away in the background, without realizing what I was listening to?"

All Together Dead by Charlaine Harris is the seventh book in the Southern Vampire series, and continues the story of Bon Temps barmaid and telepath, Sookie Stackhouse. In this novel, Sookie is preparing for the long-planned (and much dreaded) Vampire Summit, to which she must attend in the service of the Queen of Louisiana. It is post-Hurricane Katrina, and the world is one where countless vampires have been displaced, and as such the Vampire Summit is considered to be more important than ever.

Many high-ranked vampires are in attendance, including Eric, the Vampire Sherriff of Area 5, and Bill, Sookie's ex who is also in the Queen of Louisiana's employment. Also at the Summit is Sookie's current beau, Quinn the Weretiger, who works for the company responsible for putting the whole shebang together. Sookie hopes that since she and Quinn will both be at the Summit there may be the opportunity for a bit of romance, but as is always the case for Sookie, nothing ends up going to plan. So, when all hell breaks loose, Sookie and fellow telepath Barry (from book 2) make the selfless decision to risk exposure and use their mind-reading abilities to save the lives of humans, vampires and shifters alike from a catastophic event of gigantic proportions.

However, inbetween saving all these lives, All Together Dead sees a change in the relationship between Sookie and Quinn, when hidden family secrets are finally revealed. Sookie also begins to realise the extent and importance of her relationships with the vampires Eric and Bill, and when it comes to Eric, she is helpless to prevent it from developing further. To survive, Sookie must choose the lesser of two evils.

Packed full of action and fast-paced drama, All Together Dead is yet another of Harris' fun and easy-to-read instalments that leaves you totally craving more.


Monday, March 5, 2012

Monday Mail Out: Swedish Simplicity.

Sometimes the best surprises are the most simple:
A letter from my penpal, Ulrika in Sweden, with photos of her garden, a postcard and a cassette tape (remember those?) in English and Swedish.

A good mail day.

Written correspondence has been a hobby of mine for a long time, & Monday Mail Out is a weekly feature whereby I can share my love for the lost art of letter writing. I hope my experiences will encourage others to send out letters on Monday too, and have them rediscover the joy of sending and receiving mail. If you have a blog, feel free to join in.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

In the Garden: When the Bubble Bursts...

[Damp nights and dewey mornings]

Well, it rained.

Granted, our 45mm is somewhat meagre compared to the rainfall received by others in the district, but beggars can't be choosers, so I won't complain!

[A wheelbarrow of weeds]

I have been itching to get out into the garden and pull weeds for weeks, but the ground has been so dry that the damned things wouldn't budge.

Now that the soil is moist and soft they are pulling free nice and easily, making me a happy gardener indeed.

[Potted perennials]

I'm still unsure if I should plant the perennials I've grown from piece now, or if I should wait until spring?

Decisions, decisions!

[One bed in the veggie patch]

We are still picking capsicums, carrots and spinach, but the seedlings I planted a few weeks ago are coming along nicely too: Pumpkin, cauliflower, eggplant, beets, leeks, and pak choy.

But I've had to cut back the nasturtiums in the veggie patch again. They work wonders with keeping the bugs at bay, but seemingly overnight can expand and multiply to the point where the other plants are lost beneath them (especially after a good, soaking rain)!