Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak

I'm a big fan of audiobooks, and when I saw that the author, Markus Zusak narrated Bridge of Clay, I was sold. 

Having enjoyed The Book Thief - maybe not as much as others did (but tbh, some really gushed about that book) I felt I was in safe hands, and started, and started and started a third time.

Seriously, this isn't easy to get into.

The writing is beautiful, but there are these clangers dropped in, that make you wonder - what on earth? Like who is the murderer, who is writing the story, all these animals, all these boys and how come all the chaos and confusion in their home? Patience is required. I did wonder a few times, whether I would remember the things I didn't know for long enough, when the reveal came, would I care? The stunning prose helps you persevere and recall though - here's a well quoted excerpt.

"PENELOPE


Once, in the tide of Dunbar past – long before kitchens and boys, and murderers and mules – there was a many-named woman. And what a woman she was.
First, of course, the name she was born with: Penelope Lesciuszko.
Then the one christened at her piano: the Mistake Maker.
Her factory name was Penny Lessing.
Her unfortunate, self-proclaimed nickname was the Broken-Nosed Bride.
And last, the name she died with: Penny Dunbar.
Quite fittingly, she had travelled from a place that was best described by a certain phrase in the books she was raised on.
She came from a watery wilderness."

If you, like me, can persevere, you will be rewarded with the most wonderful depiction of a household of rough-and-tumble boys. Boys who had to grow up too quickly, boys who know how to fend for themselves and each other. Here's some more...

“He, as much as anyone, knows who and why and what we are:

A family of ramshackle tragedy.

A comic book kapow of boys and blood and beasts.”

The five Dunbar boys grow up - apparently in Australia. They have a mule, a pigeon, a cat, a dog, but there are no parents, not much school, but plenty of training, fighting and drinking. The history and backstory of Mom and Dad are filled in, slowly, like the colours in a painting revealing more with every page. And when the clangers come together, in all their mystery and awkwardness, and ugliness and truth, you may weep a little. Last quote: 

"When I asked if I might run with him, he'd shrugged and we soon became:
It was training, it was escaping.
It was perfect pain and happiness."

A wonderful heartwarming and heartbreaking, character-driven book, with larger than life scenes that will stay with you for a long time.

4 stars

ISBN:9780385614290

More books.

Monday, 26 November 2018

In your dreams

Good morning all my fellow exercisers. What's up today?


Struggling to get your shoes on and go this morning? Me too. My usual partners-in-crime have deserted me, and a strange cloudy coolness seems to have settled over beautiful Jozi this morning - lulling me into thinking - "tut tut, it looks like rain" (which the weather app vehemently denies, so I should go anyway), and I'm stuck in between the putting on of shoes and the making of another cuppa - whereupon I shall surely abandon the shoes and the run and get back into bed.


So before I do, I'm sharing a song I listened to on the radio again yesterday, and it reminded me what a beautiful voice, lovely melodies and uplifting lyrics can do for a mood. And while I do, I'm looking outside, and I'm thinking how gorgeous our city is, even in its cloudy coolness.

The song is by Vicky Sampson - Arikan Dream. Here it is.

All I want is for our heartbeats to be beating just as one,
To silence the confusion
Then the pain and the illusion will disappear again
And we will never run, Cause

In my Afrikan Dream, there’s a new tomorrow
My Afrikan Dream is a dream that we can follow
And though it would seem my hope’s an illusion
My Afrikan Dream is an end to the confusion

Mawetbu we Afrika (Africans)
Nine kusasa Elittlbe (You have a bright future)
Igugu e Afrika (Pride of Africa)
Sizoni landela ma Afrika (We shall follow you Africans)
Siyayibona Intlanzi (We can see the future)
Ukukbanya Kwentokozo (The light of joy)
Iguguletbu le Afrika (Afrikan pride)
Ukupbela Kwenkinga Zonke (The end of all tribulation)


And now, despite the unfortunate lyrics - "And we will never run", I'm going. Because all this remembering has reminded me how much I love this time of day, the opportunity to hear the birds close up, and to connect with nature and God and start the day and the week the way I love to.

Join me?

Saturday, 24 November 2018

Ten of the Best #142


It's been a while, hasn't it? Which means I have a great deal to share - all the best clips and articles from your timelines...

ICYMI - Trump said RAKING the forest floors would have prevented the fires in California. Yes, he truly did (see first link), and this Finish videographer responded (second). Hilarious.





Staying with men who think they know everything about raking, pregnancy, and other stuff they don't actually do in real life, ignore the headline - this is about the onslaught on women's rights in the US continuing. Speaking of which, have you seen Birthright: A War Story? It's on Showmax, and quite the horror movie of our times.



Project Flamingo doing great things in SA for the breast cancer surgery backlog. Bravo to all concerned.




A fascinating response to #stayinyourlane from the NRA (National Rifle Association) in the US from doctors - who say #thisisourlane.



This was for those students awaiting the release of A-level results, but it works for matriculants in SA too...




What did you do on Black Friday? Stayed at home? Well done.



The perfect Mum, until I had kids. Amen sista!



Rosina Kaseke singing a Zulu version of Sheeran’s ‘Perfect’ is, well, perfect.


Meet Graeme and Betty - still cycling after over 60 years. 




I know this is long, but I loved it. Julia Dreyfuss's acceptance speech of the Mark Twain award for comedy. Laugh till you cry, why don't you?


More funny women - Michelle Obama and Ellen signing Michelle's book, Becoming.


The Lion King Trailer is gold, pure gold.


That's eleven folks, and I feel like I've just started.

Time to enjoy this beautiful weekend of ours - make it a great one.

Last Ten of the Best.

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Veggie Cottage Pie

Veggie Cottage Pie

This is a U-cook vegetarian option from a few months ago. I can never find these recipes online, so I'm posting them here. They're great - healthy and tasty, and if you'd like to sign up (they deliver all the ingredients for 3 meals for portion sizes of your choice on a Monday) you can find them on ucook.co.za.

1200g SweetPotato 
240g Cooked Lentils 
240g Chickpeas
4 Garlic Clove

2 Onion
40g Ginger
2 Chillies
800g Cooked Chopped 
Tomato 
200ml Coconut Milk
240g Peas
10g Fresh Basil 

80g Rocket

Spice Mix
20ml Brown Sugar
8ml Turmeric
6ml Medium Curry Powder

6ml Ground Cumin


Preheat your oven to 200°C. Ready a tinfoil-lined baking tray. Rinse, dry and peel sweet potatoes and cut into bite-sized cubes. Spread out in an even layer on your baking tray, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper, toss to coat. Add a splash of water (about 60ml) and cover your dish with a tinfoil lid. In a hot oven, pop the sweet potato in to bake for 25-30 minutes, until cooked through. 

Finely dice onions. Peel and grate  ginger and garlic. Drain the chickpeas and lentils. Deseed and finely slice chillies.

Place a saucepan over a medium-high heat with some cooking oil. When hot, add your ginger, garlic, onion and chilli, stir to coat and season with some salt. Fry for 4-6 minutes until turning golden. Add the Spice Mix, stir to combine and fry for 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Then add  cooked chopped tomatoes, cook for 8-12 minutes. Add  drained lentils, chickpeas and coconut milk. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer. When simmering, reduce heat and let simmer for 12-15 minutes, until reduced slightly. Taste to test and season further. Lastly add your peas.

Once the sweet potatoes have softened, remove from the oven and add to a bowl. Mash with a masher or the back of a fork. You could use a splash of milk, a drizzle of olive oil or a knob of butter to help make it a smooth mixture – the choice is yours! Taste to test and season with salt and pepper.

To an ovenproof dish, spread out the lentil-chickpea mixture and top with the sweet potato mash. Spread it out with a fork creating classic cottage lines in the mash. Place into your oven to bake until the filling is heated through and turning golden, about 5-10 minutes. Turn the oven onto grill to lightly colour the top of the cottage pie – this should take about 3-5 minutes. 

Rinse and dry your rocket and basil. Place your rocket and basil leaves into a bowl and dress with some olive oil and salt.

Serve and enjoy.

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Unpresidented by Paige Nick


It's 2020, former President Jeremiah Gejeyishwebisa Muza is refusing to be called the former President. That's because he is about to become "King of the World" or some other form of supreme ruler. He has been released from prison on bail because he has an ingrown toenail, his now-derelict homestead houses the only two wives he has left, and a down-and-out journalist, who must write a story on J Muza within 30 days.

The countdown begins, and the lies start to escalate, Muza's already dire situation becomes direr as staff abandon the sinking ship, and his schemes to rule the world become more desperate and diabolical.

Paige Nick is funny. But that's not the best thing about this book - there is a LOL moment on nearly every page. The best thing about this book is the uncanny accuracy with which she gets South Africa, its leaders and capturers and all of us. It's jaw-droppingly spot on - and, do recall that this was written before the ex-President became the ex-President. He was still in charge.

It's a clever book, and filled with gems of good storytelling, characters that burst off the pages and into your lounge, and scenes that resonated with me. It's also "he-he-he" slightly cringeworthy, because hey, if you've ever lived in SA and tell me you have never cringed at some of the silly stuff we do, then I don't believe you.

A witty, quick and amusing read.

4 stars.

ISBN:9780620749220

Monday, 19 November 2018

Another Day in Paradise

Morning all.

Every time we go out for a walk, or a run, we find ourselves saying - oh look, another perfect day.

And the only blight on this morning's perfection was a fierce rumbling little thunderstorm that came just as we wanted to go, but hey, we're flexible.


As I type, the sun is streaming, the sky is blue, and there will be that cool freshness in the warmth as we go. We'll gaze in wonder at the greenery - the dark ivy rambling up the crisp grey bark, the luscious pale green lawns and the brightness of the light on the jasmine bushes. I can't wait.

I am extremely aware that, in other parts of the world today, it's probably raining, or even maybe snowing, or cold and damp and dreary.


But hey, why let the weather hold you back? It's that time of year when we just want to run a bit faster, a bit further, see if we can achieve a little more for ourselves, and I just know we can. And wherever you are, if you're healthy and able to exercise, you have a little piece of paradise right there.



So if my pictures and words haven't encouraged you to put on your trainers yet, here's some music. It's Phil Collins - Another Day in Paradise. Of course it is.




She calls out to the man on the street
"Sir, can you help me?
It's cold and I've nowhere to sleep
Is there somewhere you can tell me?"


He walks on, doesn't look back
He pretends he can't hear her
He starts to whistle as he crosses the street
She's embarrassed to be there

Oh, think twice, it's just another day for
For you and me in paradise
Oh, think twice, it's just another day
For you, you and me in paradise
Just think about it


Have fun out there.

Thursday, 15 November 2018

Trust Women by Rebecca Todd Peters

Trust Women: A Progressive Christian Argument for Reproductive Justice

There was so much about this book that appealed to me. Firstly, the author - Rebecca Todd Peters, is a Presbyterian minister and social ethicist, and I reasoned she would be a person I could relate to on this subject matter. Secondly, the title - it seems to me that a lot of the people we listen to about abortion have more testosterone than estrogen. And thirdly, the context - I'd just finished Jodi Picoult's "A Spark of Light" and was feeling the need (also given the current debate in the US and across the globe) for something more factual.

Here's the premise : "Roughly one-third of US women will have an abortion by age forty-five, and fifty to sixty percent of the women who have abortions were using birth control during the month they got pregnant. Yet women who have abortions are routinely shamed and judged, and safe and affordable access to abortion is under relentless assault, with the most devastating impact on poor women and women of colour." The author goes on to argue that "... this shaming and judging reflects deep, often unspoken patriarchal and racist assumptions about women and women's sexual activity. These assumptions are at the heart of what she calls the justification framework, which governs our public debate about abortion, and disrupts our ability to have authentic public discussions about the health and well-being of women and their families."

What I didn't bargain for was the personal stories that were shared - which were deeply insightful and impactful; her views, which presumably in her world are more than a little controversial, and her courage in sharing not only her stories, but her journey, which was helpful in terms of conversations to have around this important topic.

What I was left with was the conviction that however you view this issue, stealing agency from the people most affected by these laws and arguments - the pregnant women, is morally wrong and there is no good reason to do so. The fact that this disenfranchised group have been treated so poorly by society - especially when there is a sperm that has 'triggered' the pregnancy, the source of which has long moved on and very seldom bears any consequences makes the imposition of judgement and "rules", when each situation is deeply personal and profoundly different, at best silly, and at worst, heaping coals upon pain and struggle.

Sometimes the text  was very repetitive,  but the facts, figures and observations were challenging and persuasive.

4 stars

ISBN: 9780807069981

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Halloumi Tabbouleh

Another U-Cook vegetarian option we loved two weeks ago. So delicious. And I reckon if you replace the Halloumi with Tofu, or something similar, you'll have a great vegan dish. Yummy. (Find the original recipe on Ucook.co.za)

What you need


600g Cauliflower Florets
240g Chickpeas
280g Baby Tomatoes
200g Cucumber
2 Baby onion
10g Fresh Parsley
15g Fresh Mint
3 Garlic Clove
5ml Smoked Paprika
2 Lemon 320g
Halloumi 60g
Baby Spinach
50ml Harissa Paste
25ml Honey


Drain chickpeas. Quarter the baby tomatoes. Finely dice your cucumber. Finely dice your onions. Rinse your baby spinach. Chop your parsley and mint. Peel and grate garlic. Zest up lemons. Slice  halloumi into roughly 1cm thick slices. Grate the cauliflower on the largest side of your grater to get cauliflower rice. Alternatively, you can simply chop it up for a more rustic approach (cook a bit longer).

Add a drizzle of oil and knob of butter. to a large pan over medium heat. Add the paprika, onion, cauliflower, drained chickpeas, and a generous pinch of salt. Sauté until the cauliflower is cooked but still crunchy, about 5-7 minutes, shifting occasionally. Remove it from the pan when it is ready, and place it into a serving bowl. Wipe pan, if you think you need to. (Note - I think we left the chickpeas out of this, and included them in the salad below - was delicious that way too.)

In a bowl, add the baby spinach (roughy sliced or torn), tomato, cucumber, herbs, some seasoning, the lemon zest, and a drizzle of olive oil.

In a small bowl, combine the Sweet Harissa with some fresh lemon juice, 45ml of olive oil, and a generous pinch of salt. Mix to combine, adding more lemon juice if required.

Return your pan back over a medium heat with a drizzle of oil. Once the pan is hot, add the halloumi slices until evenly golden on both sides, about 1-2 minutes per side. Remove the halloumi and place on a paper towel to catch any excess oil.

Combine the tomato and cucumber salad with the cauli and chickpea salad. Drizzle over the harissa dressing. Mix to combine and season further to taste. Plate it up, top with the grilled halloumi, and get munching.

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

The Clockmaker's Daughter by Kate Morton

Kate Morton has been on my reading list every year since I discovered her, in 2013 - when I read The Forgotten Garden. Those were the days before spreadsheets tallied all the books I'd read, and certainly before book reviews on my blog. "...be warned, it is a long girly indulgence!" I gushed on my Goodreads review. Yes (sigh) - with the exclamation mark.

And look how pretty this one is. And it's long, but that didn't scare me. I'm used to that from Ms. Morton.

So, it's fair to say that I'm a fan. And also that I was predisposed to love this. 

The Clockmaker's Daughter is about so many people, so many stories, so many memories from Birchwood Manor that it's difficult to keep track. It starts off in present time with Elodie Winslow, a young archivist, who comes across some interesting sketches in a sketchbook in a satchel, with links to that house, etched in her own memories from stories told by her late mother. She visits Great Uncle Tip, who clearly knows more than he's telling. However, there is also a link to the Magenta Brotherhood - a group of artists centered around Edward Radcliffe, who took a summer at Birchwood Manor in 1862 where there was a death and a disappearance of the Radcliffe Blue - a diamond pendant.       


It took me about 200 pages to start getting into it. So many stories, none of which really grabbed me. When Ada Lovegrove - a little girl growing up with her Shashi in India arrived at Birchwood Manor, I started being interested. 

And then it wasn't difficult. There is so much atmosphere in Kate Morton's novels. Magical, nostalgic transportational writing that immerses you in a place, which is where you want to live while you read. Happily, this was present in this book. Beautiful prose, wonderful scenery, settings steeped in history and loveliness.

I struggled to keep track of who was who and what they were doing - I had to check back a few times, and I couldn't work out if it was my memory, or maybe that I didn't care all that much - I suspect the latter.

A complicated, ultimately satisfying plot, but it could have done with a good edit - there was just too much to keep track of, and some story elements that were unnecessary.

A ramble in an English country manor and its grounds that took longer than it should have. Pleasant and slightly diverting, but difficult to be passionate about - it was just too long.

3 stars

ISBN: 9781451649390

You may also enjoy The Lake House by Kate Morton.

More books.

Saturday, 10 November 2018

Ten of the Best #141


Hello all you people - it's been quite a week. So much stuff to share - all of which you shared first with me. Thank you, it's been fun catching up.


James recaps the US elections...click one of the best Zapiros ever for the highlights.



Iceland releases an ad that is banned, so they remove it. But you can access it on Youtube. Gosh I wonder how many views it'll get now?




The letter to the bank we all wish we'd written. By this 86 year old woman.



Man meets his daughter's heart. 


Finland abolishes school subjects.

Beautiful Jozi photos.



Jennifer Lawrence snorts at Jack Whitehead's toilet humour on The Graham Norton Show.


Dear Comrade Malusi Gigaba, Honourable Upstanding Member, Minister of Affairs, Fighter of Tourism, Epitome of Sartorial Elegance... Ben Trovato writes. Zapiro sketches, again.



Love the music, love the conductor, love the audience's involvement, love the passion in the orchestra - Gustavo Dudamel conducts West Side Story's Mambo by Bernstein.


Some international award winning photos from Siena. 


And that's your Ten for this week. Hope you've had as much fun as me, enjoy the weekend.

Last week.