Saturday, 30 April 2016

Ten of the Best #43


Hello everyone. And welcome to ANOTHER long weekend. So glad you stopped by. We don't have a Monday on Monday. Isn't that a great feeling? And the party starts now. With a catch up of those posts you didn't have time for during the week. The long articles, the video clips that you couldn't view in that meeting, because you were supposed to be concentrating, and you were hoping no one realised how bored you were. Well, I've collected my ten favourites. Just click the pictures for the links.

I hope you find something that you haven't seen before, something interesting and something that is fun to watch. 

Let's start with Suzelle. Some of her DIY specials are not as funny as others. This is short, and so sweet - featuring bananas, caramel, popcorn and Jan-Hendrik. Enjoy.




While we are on the subject of DIY -this little clip just cracked me up - how to open a beer with just a cucumber...




Did you know that pianist's brains were different from everyone else's?

Friday, 29 April 2016

Friday Book - Fortune's Rocks




The Friday 56 is hosted by Freda’s VoiceGrab a book, any book. Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader (If you have to improvise, that's ok.) Find any sentence, (or few, just don't spoil it).

This week I'm featuring

FORTUNE'S ROCKS BY ANITA SHREVE

Here's my P56:
"Olympia takes a chair near the proceedings and watches Haskell work. And as she watches, she discovers that a dream creates a nonexistent intimacy, that one feels, all the next day after the dream, as though certain words have been said and actions taken which have not. So the object of the dream feels familiar, when, in fact,  no familiarity exists at all."


It has been a while since I have read an Anita Shreve. I hope I love this one as much as I have enjoyed her other books, which I read a long time ago. Sometimes when I return to an author I read years ago, they are not as good as I remember, because I’ve read so much since then, and maybe grown up a bit?

BookBeginnings is hosted by Rose City Reader. To participate, share the opening lines and your thoughts about a book you're reading, or about to.


Beginning:


In the time it takes for her to walk from the bathhouse at the seawall of Fortune’s Rocks, where she has left her boots and has discreetly pulled off her stockings, to the waterline along which the sea continually licks the pink and silver sand, she learns about desire.

Here's the cover.




This is another one I picked up at a second-hand book shop for a song! I love it when that happens. And I can hear the ocean as I write - love that too. Perfect timing!


Tell me what you're reading, and I'll pay you a visit. Happy reading everyone.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

A Possible Life by Sebastian Faulks


The sub-title of this is “A novel in 5 love stories”, and there seems to be a lot of heated debate about whether this is a novel or five short stories. 

To me, that never mattered (except that it clearly only counts as one book on Goodreads, sigh). I haven't read Sebastian Faulks before, despite many recommendations.
I disliked the first story. It felt told so many times. I didn't like the gruesome details, nor the protagonist. I nearly gave up on the book completely. Then I met Billy Webb. I loved him. Sadly, he only lived for 40 pages. The third story was mildly interesting, the fourth completely forgettable, and the last was great.
The constant worry plaguing me through the book was - “this is well written, and is clearly an accomplished author, what if I don't ‘get it’?” I’m still not completely sure I did.
I did enjoy the writing, and I could see the threads through the stories, which were pleasant. I also thought each story well told - a good thing that each didn't have to take 300 pages. I also liked the quotables - like: 
“If not just the brain but the quirks that made the individual were composed of recycled matter only, it was hard to be sure where the edges of one such being ended and another person began.”

A pleasant and diverting observation on life, humanity, love, sorrow, loss and connection. I’m on holiday and enjoying reading just for reading’s sake. I may have been less patient if this hadn't been a holiday read.

And how gorgeous is that cover?

3 stars

ISBN: 9780805097306

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Natalie cooks

I'm so excited. I have a guest post this week. Natalie, who blogs on Natalie Thinks, offered to write this one. She is well qualified - to cook and to choose the wines - she runs a BnB in the beautiful Magaliesburg, which you can see here.

Enough from me, here's the cooking post, from Natalie. Enjoy, it's perfect for a holiday, especially one called Freedom Day!

Doing nothing but looking busy – Osso Bucco with Risotto

Do you feel like doing basically nothing for 45 minutes while drinking two glasses of wine? Of course you do!  Well my friend, Osso Bucco is the dish for you..
Traditionally made with veal shanks, this is an easy but slow cooked meal.  It’s an Italian (Milanese) dish and can also be done with Beef shin which makes it very affordable.  And that’s how it all started for me.  Have you seen that Woolworths sells their meat at 30% off when it’s reached its sell by date?  Mmm, Osso Bucco, I thought; I have never cooked it, but I have eaten it out a few times and it’s delicious, and I remember my Dad cooked it once, so how hard can it be?  Not hard at all, it turns out!
You can google several easy recipes, I used www.allrecipes.com/recipe/87389/traditional-osso-buco/ 
Basically you braise the meat, add onions, garlic, carrot and wine and then a tin of tomatoes and beef stock and simmer for an hour and a half – what could be easier?  Especially if you can get someone else to chop the onions and carrots.  I got my daughter to do that part.
So you see, you had to open a bottle of white wine (there are red wine versions if you prefer) to use 2/3 of a cup; mine looked like it needed a bit more to deglaze the pan, so I used a whole cup.  Which left basically two glasses to consume while I made the risotto.  Ok, if you’re young and child-free then maybe you can share the second glass with your partner.  
So your marrow boned meat is bubbling away in its juices, now you start your risotto, which is also super easy, just time-consuming, hence the wine and you know, pull up a stool to the stove if you need to. 

Simply fry two cups of risotto rice (Arborio) in a mixture of butter and olive oil and then slowly add vegetable or chicken stock until cooked.  The recipe is on the packet.  Yes you should start with chopped onions but we already have them in the Osso Bucco, so I settled for a teaspoon of crushed garlic.  Yes from a bottle, you don’t seriously think I’m going to do the whole peeling and chopping number?  But be my guest.  Once the rice is all coated in oil and garlic, you can add a half glass of wine to get it going.  Yes to the rice.  Of course you can have some!  Have a little pot of stock (use whatever stock you like) simmering next to your rice and then add one soup spoon at a time until absorbed.  Add, stir, add, stir, drink wine, 45 minutes, very mindless, very therapeutic.  Not for a week night, right? You don’t want kids around asking for help on homework.  Sunday night is good.
Your rice is ready when it’s no longer chalky to taste.  You can add a bit of cream, butter, lemon juice, parmesan, salt and pepper – whatever you fancy.  I added a bit of thyme but I usually only add those others when I serve the Risotto all by itself, but since this is just accompanying the shins with their own sauce I don’t think you need to get too fancy.  
Ideally Risotto should be served as soon as it’s done else it goes a little porridgy, but you know what?  This is not a five star restaurant!  So, when the rice is done, cover and turn off the heat and then when your osso bucco is almost falling off the bone, you can dish up and serve.  Mine was delicious!


And of course the wine reminded me of this old classic… 
Happy cooking and drinking, everyone.



Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Love and Wine by Paula Marais

A few years ago, a reader declared she would read only novels written by South Africans and set in South Africa for a year. I always admire people who have these brave reading missions. I know I couldn't do it. What if I (gasp) stopped reading because (heart palpitation) it wasn't fun anymore?

This book made me want to abandon writers from countries abroad. It is that good. 

Love and Wine is set in our fairest Cape of Good Hope. The novel is as beautiful as the setting.

Helen Shaw is an artist, come to recover from life and a bad relationship in Uncle Alec’s sea-facing cottage on the craggy Atlantic side of the peninsula. She swims in the icy ocean, coffees in the quaint bistro and walks the dog with a friend on the beach. 


Helen ventures out and meets Max, a wine farmer from Franschhoek, and it isn't long before Helen is found there - painting the  picturesque scenery and sipping the glossy red wines. 

I loved the vivd imagery, the dark secrets haunting everyone, the fullness of life and love, each soul tinged with pain, broken in some form, yet reaching out in the hope of connection and healing.

This is perfect for book clubs. It is rich in beauty, yet has caverns of mystery you will want to explore. I’m no sommelier, but if you give me a glass of red that I love, I’m torn between savouring it slowly and gulping it greedily, so you refill my glass. This is that book.

Paula Marais, can you please stop your life and write some more to keep me reading? About 80 books should do - for a year. I’m off to dig out The Punishment and Shadow Self in the meantime.
5 stars

ISBN: 9780992215545

Monday, 25 April 2016

Monday Motivation #11

The weak morning sun glinted off the surface of the steely Seine. My feet pounded the pavement, and I sighed in satisfaction, the biggest decision facing me whether to descend and run at the water’s edge, or stay where the sights were. I loved it all - the arcs of the bridges, the gardens, the architecture.

I also loved the freedom - an escape in the wee hours, no one awake - with just my shoes, the city and me, to bask in the Parisian sights before the tourists. My plan was to run towards the Eiffel tower, cross the river there and return down the opposite bank of the river.

What a rookie I turned out to be. Somehow losing all sense of direction under the precision and symmetry of the Eiffel, it was 15 minutes later when I realised that I hadn't only crossed the river, I had managed to keep running in the same direction, which meant i was looping around into the more industrial part of Paris. No map, no French, no phone and no money, my previously celebrated freedom started to feel a little silly.

The happy ending was I found my way, and the only price was an unintended long run on a day when we also mounted the Eiffel on foot. 

But the sense of being able to “just run” was amazing. Even when I was lost. If you’ve got the time, change your route - go down a road you haven’t tried, take in an extra few blocks. Better still, lose the watch, and just run until you’ve had enough. It’s bliss.

“But what about the music?” I hear you ask. You’ve been here before. Well, I’ll spare you “Lost in France” and leave you with Lost Boy by Troye Sivan. Because everyone should get a little lost sometimes. It can be fun.

So go get runnin', won't you hurry?
While it's light out, while it's early
Before I start to miss any part of this
And change my mind, whatever


Saturday, 23 April 2016

Ten of the best #42



Hey hey hey. It's time to  kick back and check out what has been happening on social media this week. And boy has it been busy. Here are the ten posts I enjoyed most.


I've been following the Rhodes protests with great personal interest. My daughter is there. A lot has been said about rape culture and how it has affected women, Charlene Smith, a respected rape survivor and counsellor has come out against the protesters and publishers of the list of alleged rapists, saying they have stooped to the level of the rapists. Others have taken her on, saying that in a struggle, tactics are not always completely ethical. And then Charlene has responded. Hmm, makes one think. Click the picture for the link to the debate. And let me know what your stance is? Leave a comment below.



Ironically, since you may have read some dodgy posts on the weekly ten of the best, this one will help you filter out all the nonsense. No, of course I don't filter any articles - this is for entertainment value. Not everything is true. Kate Sidley wrote an excellent article, entitled "I'm sorry, that's just bull#@$%" Click the pink moon. Because it's real.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Friday Books

Each Friday, I participate in two blog linkups
Add capti

The Friday 56 is hosted by Freda’s VoiceGrab a book, any book. Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader (If you have to improvise, that's ok.) Find any sentence, (or few, just don't spoil it).

This week I'm featuring A Great Deliverance by Elizabeth George.

Here's my P56:
"I feel as if we have been going round in circles for hours," St James remarked, stretching.
"That's because we have," she teased. "Just two hours from the station, Deborah. A wonderful drive."

This dialogue is between two of the minor characters, on their wedding night. She is driving, and they get lost, because he is navigating. 

BookBeginnings is hosted by Rose City Reader. To participate, share the opening lines and your thoughts about a book you're reading, or about to.




Beginning:

It was a solecism of the very worst kind. He sneezed loudly, wetly, and quite unforgivably into the woman's face.

If you're anything like me, you love learning new words - solecism means "a breach of good manners; a piece of incorrect behavior". 

A Great Deliverance is the first in the Inspector Lynley series by Elizabeth George. My friend has recommended these books to me, so when I saw number one in a second hand bookstore at R35 (or $2), I couldn't resist.

I loved it. Will write a review next week, but it had an engaging plot, wonderful characters, and written in 1989, it has stood the test of time too. Here's the cover.




Tell me what you're reading, and I'll pay you a visit. Happy reading everyone.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Night Road by Kristin Hannah


I have a hit and miss relationship with Kristin Hannah. I loved The Nightingale. I didn't enjoy Between Sisters all that much. But this one, I have to say, was a hit.

It starts with no small degree of predictability. Rich kids - Mia and Zach - are twins, with a helicopter parent for a mother. Lexie is the orphan with an unmentionable past, living with her great aunt in a trailer, but attending the same school as the twins. Here goes, I think - besties with the twins, even though one of them is a loner, the other a "pop" - mom won't let her in, blah blah blah.

But it surprised me. It didn't go like that at all. And then, the last third of the book had me. Completely. I read compulsively, between my tears and gasps, and found it to be heartening and satisfying.

Some of the characters were a little overdone. Others too good to be true. The messages about friendship, true love and teenage drinking were also a bit much. But there was something in this book that was special. A warmth and realness of humanity that gets us through bad times. A redemptive element that spoke to me. 

A great emotional read.

4 stars

ISBN: 9780312364434

You may also enjoy The girls by Lisa Jewell or Big little lies by Liane Moriarty


Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Good old favourites #15

I haven't felt up to posting a recipe for a while. When you are not eating much yourself, you don't feel like advertising food choices to others, I've discovered. 

However, there was one thing I could eat, and it always made me feel much better, even when I was at my worst. Broth. And I was fortunate enough to have a really good friend make me some home made beef broth, which I think was instrumental in the healing process.

What do you mean you've never made broth? It takes a while, but it is as easy as throwing things in a pot and cooking the goodness out of them. Literally. 

I have a few recipes that I'll post links to, but if you make beef or chicken broth, you can keep it in the fridge for a few days, or freeze it and use it when you need it.

This is certainly a case where home made is so much better than store bought - the cubes and powders are not good for us. Read here why Broth is Beautiful.

Here is the method and recipe for beef broth - click the picture.



And chicken broth - Nigella's version is good, but I couldn't find it online - Sarah Wilson's is similar.



So what can you do with it? Here are my favourite uses.

1. Just heat it and sip it. It's great in place of a caffeinated drink, and will fill you up, late afternoon, when you have the munchies.
2. Use as a base for any soup - dilute with water if the flavour is too strong for you.
3. Gravy - add a thickening agent, like flour or maizena, and yum.
4. Stroganoff - here's my recipe.
5. Instead of stir frying vegetables in oil or butter, use a little stock - way healthier.

Have you made broth? What else do you use it for?

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Icarus by Deon Meyer




If you read a lot, and your preference is for crime and mystery, featuring strong characters and a psychological element, you will read novels set everywhere from Ireland to Cleveland, Chicago to Turkey. It is good to come home. Deon Meyer has done it again. Made me feel happy to be a South African. Delighted that there are authors who have lived here who can tell a story so well, where the setting is familiar, the dialogue rings true, and the characters may live next door.

Monday, 18 April 2016

Monday Motivation #10


Good morning! It's Monday again, and that time of the week you may need a little motivation to get you going. I know I do. That's why we turn to music. It inspires us to get moving, and moving is good.

As the weather in the Southern Hemisphere starts to get cooler in the mornings, getting out of bed is that much more difficult. No excuses for anyone else.

Sometimes it is better to not overthink exercising. Just start the process. (Insert slogan from your favourite sporting shoes/apparel here). Put on the outfit, don the shoes, have the morning beverage, and get out there, before you can convince yourself that there are plenty of other things that you could do with your time. Like more sleep, for instance.

Even better if you only really "wake up" when it's all over. Hence my choice of music - It's Avicii - Wake me up (when it's all over). I've chosen an instrumental version though, because I think it's awesome. Enjoy - and if you are outdoors, please open the eyes enough that you don't get knocked over by the aggressive driver trying to get to the office first today.




Saturday, 16 April 2016

Ten of the Best #41

It's been a wonderful week. I've been walking at an unspoilt part of SA's Eastern Cape coast, with no technology, no wifi, very little phone signal and had an absolute blast. Of course I've also had a grumpy teen, and a busy husband. Some of that has been pure bliss.

But the wifi is back, just in time for this week's roundup of all that was good on my social media feeds. On a Saturday morning, the wifi is at its strongest, the teens are at their sleepiest, I've done my research. And we are awake. Time to catch up on all that we missed that was funny, or just a good read on our social media.

Here they are then, in no particular order. Hope you find something that you haven't seen.

Let's start with the reaction to Zuma's speech on the 1st April. Real South Africans in their real lounges, watching and responding. Which one is you? Did you say any of the same things? This is a fun watch.



From the title, you may think this is educational - how animals eat their food. It's not. Educational, that is. Unless you want to learn about a boy's sense of humour.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Friday 56 and Book Beginnings


The Friday 56 is hosted by Freda’s VoiceGrab a book, any book. Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader (If you have to improvise, that's ok.) Find any sentence, (or few, just don't spoil it)

Between you and me by Lisa Hall


Here's my P56

SAL
Stretching, I yawn and close my eyes. Despite feeling so tired, I know I won't be able to go back to sleep. Maggie is beginning to stir next door, little shuffling noises coming from her room as she fidgets in bed, and it won’t be long before she is up and ready for another day.


BookBeginnings is a weekly meme, hosted by Rose City Reader. To participate, share the opening lines and your thoughts about a book you're reading, or about to.



Beginning:
SAL
The first time you hit me it was a shock, but not a surprise. Surely this is the natural progression of things? Starting with he little things, like wanting to know where I’ve been, who I’ve spoken to, escalating to a little push her, and a shove there, until now, when a slap almost feels like a reward - and I’m thankful that it wasn't something worse, that there are no bones broken this time.

Told from two points of view - Charlie’s and Sal's, this is a story about domestic violence, how it affects relationships and how complicated and difficult it is to deal with and end. What I loved about the telling of it was how relatable it is. You find yourself hearing yourself or your other half, and then you stop, horrified. Is that where this could go? Are we capable of that?

Maggie is their small daughter, and you find yourself worrying about her too. And the family, and the neighbours, and just about everyone. This is a page turner of note, and has a wonderful twist towards the end. I thoroughly enjoyed it.


Here’s my review - no spoilers. 



Tell me what you're reading, and I'll pay you a friendly visit. Happy reading everyone.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

The Big Short by Michael Lewis

I have been wanting to read this book for a while. When I saw the movie was out, I moved it up in my pile of "to read" so that I could finish it before the movie - it's important, that.

Alas, the movie came and went, and I was lying in bed ill, with no desire to see it anymore. I'll have to catch the DVD on an evening when the whole family has other plans, because none of them will join me.

But what about the book? Well, The Big Short is the story behind, or inside, if you like, the Global Financial Crisis (GFC). It tells what happened, who did what, how fortunes were made and lost, and explains how the US housing market fits in, how all the complex financial instruments were constructed and how they worked.

Michael Lewis is gifted at telling stories. I reviewed Flash Boys last year, and it got 5 stars. I loved it. He understands that even non fiction has to have character development and a plot. There is lots of dialogue and that makes the reader engage with the story. I think non fiction should read like a novel, but be (almost completely) true. 

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Avenue of Mysteries by John Irving

I love most things John Irving. Avenue of Mysteries is fairly typical Irving-fare. 

If you're new to this author, you can expect delightful descriptions of quirky characters, who do things that are unexpected. You will often smile, definitely gasp, and shake your head at least a few times. It's fun and entertaining.

Avenue of Mysteries does not disappoint on any of those aspects. Juan Diego is both a fourteen year old boy, growing up on a dump in Mexico and an older man, taking a trip to the Phillipines. His memories collide with his current journey, and we discover what has made him what he is - his mind-reading, but un-understandable sister, the devout catholics around him who influence him, and of course the prostitutes, drug dealers, circus performers and a doctor and some professors and writers who are one and all part-fascinating, a little weird, and definitely lovable.

I enjoyed most of this book. However, towards the end, I found myself skimming to finish it, and it was a bit of a let-down. An interesting portrait of dreams and reality, truth and mystery, judgement and mercy, memories and experiences remains in my mind, and I'm not sorry I read it.

3 stars

ISBN: 9781451664164

You may also enjoy: Some Luck by Jane Smiley or A spool of blue thread by Anne Tyler or Three Daughters by Consuelo Saah Baehr.

Monday, 11 April 2016

Monday Motivation #9

On Mondays, we find some music to start our day on the right footing - especially those of us who are going for a run, or a walk. Music gets us going, and up and ready for the week.

Is it just me, or are there songs that form a little soundtrack to your life? The backdrop to what is going on, with the repeat function switched on, so that it doesn't matter what you are doing, you are singing in your head. Loudly.

It's not just when you hear a song and can't stop repeating it. It's also when something happens, that makes you think of a song, and you sing it - hopefully not aloud - because it is so relevant. Maybe some examples will help. Bear with me, some of these are old - my music heritage is mostly from the 80s.

Smooth Operator - by Sade - sung to the back of the person who just schmoozed his/her way into the conversation and managed to be witty, clever and convincing and leave without really saying anything.

Shout, shout let it all out  - by Tears for Fears. I have often sung this one when someone makes me so angry I want to scream - Come on, I'm talking to you, Come on!

Ok - here's a more recent one  - Taylor Swift's songs are often appropriate - how about "I knew you were trouble when you walked in."? Work for anyone in your life?

You probably don't know the song I've picked today. For a number of reasons, however, it has been in my head for the last week. It fits with so many things happening right now for me.

It's called "You can go" by David Meece. Yes, it's from the 80s, and David Meece is a Christian artist.

I've been singing this catchy tune to Jacob Zuma for a while - works for me. Also, after not being able to get out and exercise, I now can, so I sing it to myself too. And I'm going away - it's our annual break, and we will be at the coast. Yay!

The bonus is that the song starts with one of Bach's Two Part Inventions (number 13), played on a synthesizer.  I love it, even if you roll our eyes at me. The live version was terrible, so here's the music - no video, just the pic. Tell me if you love it/hate it.

And what are you singing to yourself this week?


Happy running.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

You can go now



There have been so many calls for Zuma to resign, I thought I'd summarise them, in words and pictures. Tells a story, this does. 



And this is apart from the damning findings of our Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela, and the fabulous unambiguous vindication delivered by 11 unanimous judges on the 31st March.



The calls started with a letter to Zuma from Ahmed Kathrada on the 31st March before the April Fool’s speech. Click the picture for his letter.




Friday, 8 April 2016

Ten of the Best #40

Welcome to the wonderful weekend, people. How do I know it's going to be wonderful? A couple of reasons (and when I say couple, I don't mean two, I mean a few more):

I am feeling so much better. After some nasty and better-not-described ailments. 

It was Book Club this week, which means I got four lovely books to take away with me.

And yes, we are about to go away. So I'm looking forward to some lovely down-time at the sea.

Before that though, we've got the wonderful weekend ahead. And some reading and watching off our (well my, to be honest) social media feeds.

Here's what you need to do. Creep quietly into the kitchen, so as not to wake the wifi-hogging teens. Make yourself a cup of tea. Crawl back under the comfy duvet and snuggle in for the entertaining and newsy articles and clips I've collected. Oh, and you may recognize some that you've shared with me - thank you very much, you made my week that much more enjoyable.

And for your added viewing pleasure, it's a Zuma-free zone. I may blog about that later this weekend, but right here, on this post - he has fallen. So has Trump. We are sick of the both of them.

Ok, let's get to it, shall we?

Two identical twins. Both want to lose weight. One stops eating carbs (including sugar), the other stops eating fat. Guess what happened? Or read it by clicking the picture, Very interesting.


.
It’s official. I love mash ups. I think I may have used that line here before.