Wednesday 31 October 2018

Gnocchi Parmigiana

Gnocchi Parmigiana
I'm continuing posting the U-cook vegetarian options that we loved - it's so great to have ingredients delivered on a Monday, and also great ideas for recipes we haven't tried before.

So I don't lose our favourites, I'm sharing 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

2 Onions
40g Grated Parmesan style cheese
20g fresh basil
800g cooked chopped tomato
100g grated Mozzarella
700g Potato Gnocchi
20ml dried Oregano
20 ml vegetable stock
10ml peri peri rub

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and preheat oven to 200 degrees. Dice onions and fry on medium heat for 3-4 minutes, until translucent. Add oregano and stock, tomatoes and 240ml of water and simmer for 10-12 minutes, until thickened, stirring occasionally. Season to tase.

Add gnocchi to boiling water and boil for 2-3 minutes until they float. Drain and set aside.

Place gnocchi in ovenproof dish. Spoon over some of the tomato sauce, scatter some basil leaves and sprinkle parmesan and mozzarella. Repeat until done, ending with cheese and basil on top. Bake for 15 minutes or until cheese has melted and is golden. Serve with green salad.

Last week's Pulled Mushroom Burgers. More Italian - Melanzane alla Parmigiana.

Tuesday 30 October 2018

Transcription by Kate Atkinson

This Goodreads blurb is quite descriptive, and surprisingly, contains not too much detail.

" ‘Think of it as an adventure , Perry had said right at the beginning of all this. And it had seemed like one. A bit of a lark, she had thought. A Girls’ Own adventure.’In 1940, eighteen-year old Juliet Armstrong is reluctantly recruited into the world of espionage. Sent to an obscure department of MI5 tasked with monitoring the comings and goings of British Fascist sympathizers, she discovers the work to be by turns both tedious and terrifying. But after the war has ended, she presumes the events of those years have been relegated to the past for ever.

Ten years later, now a producer at the BBC, Juliet is unexpectedly confronted by figures from her past. A different war is being fought now, on a different battleground, but Juliet finds herself once more under threat. A bill of reckoning is due, and she finally begins to realize that there is no action without consequence."

I listened to half of this Audible book on a long roadtrip, and loved what I heard. Unfortunately, I did doze off twice on the trip, and this is the kind of book in which one cannot do that. Fortunately, my local bookstore had a copy, and so I had to wait until I had a few free hours to skim through and catch up, which I did with relish.

Kate Atkinson's prose is such that you enjoy it more in written form than listened to, but in this case Audible narrator Fenella Woolgar was superb as she brings life to the brilliant dialogue she is supplied - so not much is 'lost' in the listening. I do love the 'from England' narrators - she read with such insight, her accents were en pointe (I loved Godfrey especially) and her delightful subtle wryness a thing of great beauty to absorb. I will be searching out all her other productions and relishing them. Ms. Atkinson's style in this work was to drop little references and clues - to hydrangeas, teacups and the like that link the  different parts together in a way that was smartly done, and I loved all the rhyming words in Juliet's head.

I cannot review this without reference to the controversial ending (without spoilers of course). It seems that those who enjoyed Life after Life (one of Ms Atkinson's others) hated this, and vice versa. I loved Life after Life. And loved this, including the ending. By the time it came, I was completely riveted, and  on working it out found it immensely satisfying.

5 stars

ISBN: 9780385618731

You may also enjoy The Alice Network by Kate Quinn, or The Punishment She Deserves by Elizabeth George.

Saturday 27 October 2018

Ten of the Best #139

I know, I know, I'm late with this today. Lots of reasons, all of which will bore you silly, so we will just get on with it, shall we? All the best and brightest, funnest and fabulousest things shared on your timelines this week. 

Let us begin.

Trump's Twitter Tantrum is quite funny - click the Zapiro cartoon for the thread.

This Twitter thread on the other hand, made me cry

Scary stuff from the NYT - 'Transgender’ Could Be Defined Out of Existence Under Trump Administration.

Lavender's soothing scent... here's the science...

Why is it always ok to move/punish/victimise the abused, instead of the abuser?

This is hilarious - A new Ladybird book.

The new "A star is born" movie - with Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper looks fantastic. Here's one of the many musical numbers.

And here's Harriet, the serenading donkey:

Stephen King sells the rights to a story for just $1. Nice man, that.

Michael Buble in James Carden's carpool karaoke - hot off the press. They sound amazing together - and it's all to support the fight against cancer.

James Capstick-Dale (7) gives an address to noisy students and nails it.

I feel like I've just gotten started, but that's 11/10 already, so here's to enjoying the rest of the weekend. Have a great one and see you next week.

Last week's Ten.

Some more.

Thursday 25 October 2018

The Other Wife by Michael Robotham

Joe O'Loughlin is famous in our home. Well, between my husband and me. And my book club. Because Michael Robotham is one of our favourite authors, and Joe is our very favourite character created by him. (And Ruiz is a close second.)

 'A secret wife. A secret life. A killer who knows.'

Joe is summoned to the hospital with news that his father has been brutally attacked, he has no choice but to ask loads of questions and be completely involved. There is a strange woman crying at his bedside after all, and his wife and other children are still on the way.

Joe finds some help from the delightful Kate (was that her name?) in an otherwise uncooperative - actually downright disapproving - police force.

I think what we love about Joe is how intensely personal every single one of his stories becomes. There is no way he can detach, the murders have a direct impact on all the members of his family. Here his heritage is called into question, and as usual, the pages turn (or hours fly by, if you're listening to the Audible version, like me) with satisfying pace, until the end, when you wish there were perhaps a few (hundred)  more.

I loved this entertaining, plot-twisting thriller.

5 stars


You may also enjoy Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter or The Killing Lessons by Saul Black.

More books.

Wednesday 24 October 2018

Pulled Mushroom Burger

I loved this  U-cook vegetarian option from a few weeks ago - in fact if you use the right mayo and buns, it's vegan. It's been such fun having ingredients delivered on a Monday, and the best is that nothing goes to waste. So I don't lose our favourites, I'm sharing 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

Portion size 4

600g Trumpet mushrooms
100ml barbecue sauce
4 burger buns
120g shredded red cabbage
120g radish
30 ml apple cider vinegar
4g Fresh coriander
8g fresh mint
800g potato
60ml Thai vegan mayo
50 ml siracha

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Rinse and cut potatoes into wedges. Season and place on baking tray drizzling with oil. Toss to coat. Roast for 40 minutes until golden.

Shred the trumpet mushrooms using two forks. They should look like pulled pork. Use one fork to hold in place, and pull long shreds away with other fork. Spread shredded mushroom  about 1cm thick (if too thin it'll dry out) onto another baking tray, season and drizzle oil. Roast for about 20 minutes in same oven as potatoes - give them a shift around when you put the mushrooms in.

Cut radishes into slices, chop mint and coriander and add all to red cabbage in a bowl, combining apple cider vinegar and seasoning. Combine mayo with siracha and mix.

Put mushrooms in a pan and saute for 5-7 minutes - add the barbecue sauce and cook until sticky - about 5 minutes. Use same pan to toast the halved buns (if you'd like), adding a smear of the mayo to the inside, or not.

Assemble by putting mushrooms onto burger buns and top with slaw. Serve with wedges and remaining mayo.


Tuesday 23 October 2018

The Necessary Marriage by Elisa Lodato

What a pretty cover. I love the flowers, the colours, and also the layout of the few words on it. 

Other than seeing that, I knew nothing about The Necessary Marriage, and its author, Elisa Lodato. What a pleasant surprise. It opened as beautifully as the Easter Lilies on its cover, to reveal a depth of emotions, honesty and love that kept me reading, smiling and enjoying it so much.

Jane meets Leonard when she is sixteen and he is her teacher. He is gentle and kind, she's a keen learner, and they fall in love. It's only when they're settled with children that she wonders if settling was such a good idea for her. But Marion and Andrew live next door, with their two boys, their passion - all its heat and fire spilling over into the neat picture of domesticity that Jane is almost holding together.

I don't want to tell you any more, but the story moves its focus around the two families - dealing with happy moments, and deep pain, times of connection and of loss. The writing is nicely done - it flows with the story. 

And yet there was something missing. Towards the end, at the time when I'm usually completely immersed, invested and have no doubts whatsoever, I found the pace slowed, and my connection with the characters waned. Maybe it was me.

Worth the read, nevertheless, it will draw you in and keep you entertained.

3 stars

ISBN: 9781474606370

You may also enjoy The Only Story by Julian Barnes or Watch Me by Jody Gehrman.

Monday 22 October 2018

Girls like us

This morning, I was wondering - where is my inspiration to run going to come from?

It could have been from the Jacarandas in Jozi this time of year - I only have to glance at my phone to see all your lovely pictures of the purple carpets, the purple haze looking down the street, and the wonderful purple rain. 

Or it could have been the fact that outside right now is just the perfect temperature for running - it's got that spark of coolness, with the the sunstreams through the tree branches onto the tarmac, promising warmth when they gently stroke your back later.

But today, it's the music - as it so often is. I'm so enjoying Maroon 5's Girls like You - feat. Cardi B.

I found the clip online, and I love all the energy in this. 

Spent 24 hours, I need more hours with you
You spent the weekend getting even, ooh
We spent the late nights making things right between us
But now it's all good, babe
Roll that Backwood, babe
And play me close

'Cause girls like you run 'round with guys like me
'Til sundown when I come through
I need a girl like you, yeah yeah
Girls like you love fun, and yeah, me too
What I want when I come through
I need a girl like you, yeah yeah

It's clean, fun, and so feminine. And since I run and walk (mainly) with women (there are one or two exceptions), here's a shout out to my favourite girl running friends. You know who you are.

'Cause girls like you run 'round with guys like me
'Til sundown when I come through
I need a girl like you, yeah yeah
Girls like you love fun, and yeah, me too
What I want when I come through
I need a girl like you, yeah yeah

Yeah yeah yeah, yeah yeah yeah
I need a girl like you, yeah yeah
Yeah yeah yeah, yeah yeah yeah
I need a girl like you, yeah yeah
I need a girl like you, yeah yeah
I need a girl like you

Maybe it's 6:45
Maybe I'm barely alive
Maybe you've taken my shit for the last time, yeah
Maybe I know that I'm drunk
Maybe I know you're the one
Maybe you thinking it's better if you drive

Let's do this. As my daughter says - Woman up, it's time to run.

Saturday 20 October 2018

Ten of the Best #138

It's called Ten of the Best, but usually there are more. Things that have interested me that you guys have shared on your Facebook pages, your Twitter feeds, and that are trending on my timelines. I just put them together, and I have a great time doing it. Grab your mug and let's do this.

Trevor on the rigged voting system in Georgia.

Brene Brown - why vulnerability in leadership is essential.

Harry Potter homecoming assembly - these kids are great.

South Africa's Luke Davids won the 100m gold medal at the Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires.

Mattea Goff explains why being a mom is so exhausting - in pictures.

Brother of the year goes to....

Ndlovu Youth Choir and Wouter Kellerman’s cover of Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You”. So so so wonderful. Sign of a good song - that it can be transformed like this.

Our endangered earth...

For doctors, going deeper is a way to combat burnout - this is a fascinating read. I'm sure it's relevant for other professions too.

Oh wow - this is one obituary you need to read. An honest one for Madelyn Linsenmeir. Beautiful.

Meet Chiune Sugihara, who saved countless people with handwritten visas. This is his lovely story.

Reading and vacations... why they're the same, and you should do both. At the sea.

Ok, we're done here. Nothing more to see - move along and have an awesome weekend. Don't forget to check in next week.

Friday 19 October 2018

The Accident by Chris Pavone

This started so well. A manuscript, with a secret that someone famous doesn't want shared is shared with an agent. And then a publisher, and then the agent's assistant is murdered, and then someone else makes an illicit copy, and what is going to happen? 

Is the famous person who doesn't want this published going to murder all who lay eyes on it? Is it going to "go viral"? Is a failing publishing house going to use this as a job-saving income-producing deliverer from the perils of bankruptcy? And who are all these eyes -  by turns researching, stalking, protecting and then running, or defending themselves with deadly precision?

I liked Isabel, the agent, and enjoyed the publishing anecdotes and the tension around how this story could destroy so much, and also - in the way of truth - set others free. Yet, as the pressure built, and the stakes increased, I found the pages turning more slowly, and my head more often inclining to one side - really? Is it that plausible? And they got that upset about that? And so, in the final revelations and consummations, it felt more like a water-logged wrinkled copy than a lit and set the world alight piece of literature.

Still worth the read though, and a diverting (and coincidentally fairly relevant) premise.

3 stars.

ISBN: 9780571298945

You may also enjoy The Killing Lessons by Saul Black, or what about John Grisham's Camino Island?

Thursday 18 October 2018

Melanzane alla Parmigiana

We've been doing the U-cook vegetarian options for the last few weeks. It's been great, and so that I don't lose our favourite recipes, I'm posting them to my blog. 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


1kg aubergine (large is good)
2 chillies
8g fresh basil
4 garlic cloves
2 celery sticks
80g grated parmesan
160g grated mozzarella
800g cooked chopped tomato
2 onions
2g fresh thyme


Pre-heat oven to 220 degrees. Thinly slice aubergines lengthways. Lightly salt and place into a colander to leach out bitter juices. Slice garlic and celery finely. Deseed and slice chillies.

Place saucepan with a glug of olive oil on medium heat. Add onions, celery and sweat for 3-4 minutes until soft and translucent. Add garlic, chili and thyme and cook another 1-2 minutes. Add cooked chopped tomatoes and 200ml water and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir occasionally. Taste and season with salt, pepper and a little xylitol.

Pat aubergine slices dry. Sprinkle with salt and brush oil on both sides and layer in a single layer on baking tray. Roast for 15 minutes (flip over after 8 minute) until soft and turning golden. 

Remove thyme stalks from sauce, and chop basil and add to pan (reserving some leaves). Cover bottom of oven proof dish with thin layer of tomato sauce, then aubergine slices, then a sprinkle of combined mozzarella and parmesan. Continue this process, ending with cheese. Reduce oven heat to 190 degrees and place dish in oven for 10-12 minutes - grill for a golden top, if you'd like, but watch carefully. Top with basil leaves and serve with warm sourdough bread and rocket leaves.


Wednesday 17 October 2018

The Empress of the Seven Hills by Kate Quinn

In book #3 in the Empress of Rome series, Vix is back. For those who haven't read Mistress of Rome and Daughters of Rome, we met Vix's parents in the first, and didn't hear much of him in the second. A gladiator for a father and a Jewish slave girl for a mother, Vix has dabbled in arena sports and women, wine and song, and isn't sure what he wants to be yet. Sabina, on the other hand does. Daughter of Senator Norbanus, she is destined for greatness - especially if she marries well.

But, because it's ancient Rome, of course there are enemies, and plots, and counter-plots, and wars. There are also beautiful cities, lavish celebrations and much philandering, plundering and postulating.

I love Kate Quinn's books, especially this series, and Empress of the Seven Hills does not disappoint. All the ingredients are here and I raced through it. Onwards and upwards to the next one.

4 stars

ISBN: 9780425242025

You may also enjoy The Alice Network by Kate Quinn. or what about Dictator by Robert Harris?

Tuesday 16 October 2018

The Killing Lessons by Saul Black

Rowena Cooper lives with her two children in Colorado, and when two strangers show up in the evening, you know it's not going to end well. But not everything runs as smoothly as the strangers intend, and ten-year-old Nell, injured and terrified, runs to safety, or is that more danger?

Meanwhile Valerie Hart, in San Francisco is feeling quite despondent. Her case, involving a series of murders with bizarre markers left at each scene, is not getting any closer to being solved, and the additional people involved on the case seem to be hindering progress more than helping. The emotional baggage from a past relationship re-entering the crime scene is also not useful.
It's difficult to believe that this is a debut. I loved Nell, Valerie, and even enjoyed getting inside the minds of the murderers. The pages turned at a pleasing pace, all the way through, and the plot had me twisting and turning with it in gleeful anticipation.

A smart, taut, tick-all-the-boxes thriller.

5 stars.


You may also enjoy Snap by Belinda Bauer, Broken Ground by Val McDermid or The Punishment She Deserves by Elizabeth George.

More books.

Monday 15 October 2018


Morning everyone. It's Monday, and the best place to be? No, it's not in bed. It's out there. In the sunshine.

I love getting out and exercising first thing, especially on a Monday. I love the way the coolness embraces my skin, and the sun glints through the trees. I love the rays - the angles and the shine, the soft glow, the radiance of the beautiful light.

There's nothing like it. Or like the feeling when I'm done, and the rest of my week can begin.

There's only one song we're singing  today. It's Mika's We are Golden. 

Running around again
(Running around again)
Running from running

We are not what you think we are
We are golden, we are golden
We are not what you think we are
We are golden, we are golden

Here's the clip, I couldn't watch it - too much Mika on display for me this early in the morning, but listen as you run.

Let's go golden people.

Saturday 13 October 2018

Ten of the Best #137

Hey hey hey, it's finally Saturday. And time, together with great wifi connectivity and speed to catch up on the stuff we missed on social media - you know what I mean. The link you scrolled past in that meeting, the one you couldn't press play on, because you were supposed to be working, and others would have heard you, the many articles you had no time to read, and of course that one you couldn't download, because you have no more data, and you weren't connected to the wifi.

I've collected my favourites, and I'm sharing them with you. It's been quite a week.

My favourite pic is on the right, but scroll down for the clips and articles and music.

Kanye West, Taylor Swift and politics. Catch up with Trev.

I loved this article - "Relax, Ladies. Don’t Be So Uptight. You Know You Want It" by Anastasia Basil, and this quote "She was never famous, just one of many unsung feminists who stuck her hand down the drain and cleared the sludge for the rest of us."

Tuesday 9 October 2018

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

Anna Fox is the Woman in the Window. She lives alone, as we discover quite early on. She is a psychologist, so loves to observe humanity, which she does from her vantage point - she sees infidelity, abuse, deceit, lies - all the evil we try to keep behind closed doors, and shuttered windows.

Anna has agoraphobia - an intense fear and anxiety of being in places where it is hard to escape, or where help might not be available. Agoraphobia usually involves fear of crowds, bridges, or of being outside alone. So she watches old movies, she drinks, she takes her pills and she observes.

It's when a child's life and safety may be at stake that the ante is upped, and she needs for her observations to believed. But can they, given her solitary state, her addictions, and her, well plain weirdness?

I enjoyed this page turner. I liked Anna - even though I did guess most of her story, and I loved the neighbours and finding out more about them.

I am a little tired of the "should we believe her, because she's unreliable?" theme, although its use here is less trite than some others I've read.

All in all, a good psychological thriller, that will keep you entertained and figuring out the truth.

ISBN: 9780062799555

3.5 stars

You may also enjoy Snap by Belinda Bauer, Watch Me by Jody Gerhman, or The Wife between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

Saturday 6 October 2018

Ten of the Best #136

Well, good morning people. I've had a great week - you?

But the weekend is about to get even better - here are all the things on my social media feeds that interested, entertained and made me think this week. Hope you find something you like. If not, keep scrolling, If you do, don't forget to come back for more.

The pic of the week is the one above - we can't stop laughing.

Trevor's not that funny in this clip. But he does show us the amazing insight comedians have into human nature - in this case the dark side. Trump and victimhood. Spot on Trevor.

Trump mocks Christine Blasey Ford, and .... karma's a bitch.

Meanwhile, Melania, oh Melania...

Friday 5 October 2018

Friday Books - The Killing Lessons

Welcome to BookBeginnings and Friday56 -where we share books on Fridays. It's a great way to start the weekend.

Book Beginnings is hosted by Rose City Reader.

 Here's the beginning of the book I'm featuring today.

The instant Rowena Cooper stepped out of her warm cookie-scented kitchen and saw the two men standing in her back hallway, snow melting from the rims of their boots, she knew exactly what this was: her own fault.

I loved that opening - it drew me right in, even though I'm sure it's not her fault. This page-turner of note has me up late at night, willing my eyes to stay open for one more chapter. The link on the cover will take you to the goodreads blurb.

At Freda's Voice, you'll find the Friday56, where the excerpt comes from page 56 or 56% in your Kindle.

Here's an excerpt from page 56 of The Killing Lessons by Saul Black.

Six days had passed. He'd brought no books to read. Reading had gone the way of writing. Reading and writing were proof that you were still interested in the world, still intrigued, still bothered.

The quote is actually on p57, but I loved it so thought I'd cheat - a little. I'm also enjoying the writing - it's not often you want to quote from crime thrillers, but there you are.

What are you reading this weekend? I'd love to visit your blog and check it out.