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.


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


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.

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 
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.


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?

Friday 9 November 2018

Friday Books - A Spark of Light

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.

Jodi Picoult tackles abortion, abortion laws, pro-life and pro-choice views and even patriarchy and gun violence in this book, by focussing on a shooting at a women's reproductive health clinic in Mississippi. It's inspired me to read so much more about the subject - although I know these have always been hotly debated by many, I had no idea how different abortion laws were in different countries, nor how they had evolved over the decades.

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

Here's page 56 of A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult .

What has been especially interesting is how much the abortion debate has been entered into by men, who although they cannot bear children, and while a number of women find themselves thinking this way (of an abortion) because men have walked away from parental responsibilities, somehow it is acceptable for them to make decisions on behalf of those same women, and over time we women have robbed them of moral agency in this issue.

On a more trivial note - which cover? Mine looks like the first, but I'm leaning towards preferring the second - the colours are so pretty.

I have done a review, for those of you who're interested to read further.

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

Thursday 8 November 2018

Emma by Jane Austen

So many people and things about this production of Emma endeared it to me before I even started it. Reviewers I trust awarded it lots of stars, the vocal cast are highly rated, and the story is one of my all time favourites. 

I started on a car trip (as one does) and was instantly captivated by Emma Thompson's narration. She is delightfully quirky, without seeming to try too hard, and this sets the tone for the other voices - all perfectly cast, and pitch-perfect. You can sense the personal enjoyment they experienced, as well as the fact that they respect each others' talent and support it.

Emma Woodhouse, the young lady that Jane Austen created - "a heroine whom no one but myself will much like" turned out to be very well loved by many. In the first sentence, she introduces the title character as "Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich." She also has a penchant for meddling - or matchmaking, as she calls it, and thinks she is very good at it. She lives alone with her father, who is way too indulgent, and she cares for him. Mr Knightley, her one friend who is always painfully honest with her, doesn't fail to point out the errors of her meddling manners, and as she fails to match Harriet with Mr Elton, herself with Frank, Jane with Mr Dixon, he has a lot to work on.

I thoroughly enjoyed the scenes portrayed in the village of Highbury - it was reminiscent of the radio serials I used to listen to as a child with our family's domestic helper every day during the school holidays. I loved the drama, the music, the sound effects, and it is such a good way of bringing a story to life while still including the reader's imagination in the process. There were a few instances where the background clinking and tick-tocking of the grandfather's clock were more annoying then enhancing, but they were minor irritations.

4 stars

Wednesday 7 November 2018

Goat's Cheese and Mushroom 'Risotto'

Another U-Cook special

Goat's Cheese and Mushroom 'Risotto'

2 Onions
3 Cloves garlic
200g peas
20ml dried thyme
200g spinach
200ml yoghurt
40g green leaves (rocket is good)
35ml vegetable stock
500g mixed mushrooms
100g goat's cheese
130ml white wine
400ml red quinoa


Boil the kettle, peel and grate garlic, finely dice onion and place your stock in a bowl and add 1100ml of boiling water and stir. Rinse and drain quinoa.

Place a deep saucepan (that has a lid) over a medium heat. Add a drizzle of olive oil and some butter. Saute onion for 5 minutes. Add garlic, half the thyme and salt and pepper. Fry for 2 minutes. Add wine and simmer for 2 minutes.

Add quinoa and stock to saucepan. Simmer for 25 minutes, stirring frequently. Adjust water content if necessary (add if it boils away, and increase heat if there is any liquid left over).

Roughly slice mushrooms. Fry them in a pan with olive oil and remaining thyme for 8 minutes. Season with salt and set aside.

Rinse and drain green leaves, season and toss in olive oil.

Add goat's cheese and yoghurt to risotto (leaving some cheese for garnish). Stir. Add peas and spinach and pop lid on to aid wilting. Add mushrooms and stir to combine. 

Dish up risotto, add cheese and dress with greens.

You may also enjoy Gnocchi Parmigiana

Tuesday 6 November 2018

A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult

Jodi Picoult tackles abortion, abortion laws, pro-life and pro-choice views and even patriarchy and gun violence in this book, by focussing on a shooting at a women's reproductive health clinic in Mississippi. In the style to which we have become accustomed, she illustrates how “Laws are black and white. The lives of women are a thousand shades of gray.” 

Told in hourly segments, moving backwards through time (which was an interesting device, but I'm not sure it served the story, except for the author to show off a bit - that she can tell a story like this and keep the reader's attention is quite a feat in itself), we meet Wren and her aunt, Wren's father, who is part of the police presence outside and the one communicating with the killer - George Goddard. There's also Louie, the pro-life doctor who also wants women to have safe abortion treatment and care, Izzie, the nurse, and the pro-life protester - all trapped inside. Then there was the parallel story of Beth, which I found disjointed and a bit thrown in for effect.

“Coal, with time and heat and pressure, will always become a diamond. But if you were freezing to death, which would you consider the gem?” 

The juxtaposition of pro-life anger with a gun in the hands of the killer was fascinating - 

“this was indeed some crazy world, where the waiting period to get an abortion was longer than the waiting period to get a gun.” 

You'll have your thoughts challenged in this one, no matter which side of the debate(s) you find yourselves upon. And you'll also enjoy the journey. 

“We are all drowning slowly in the tide of our opinions, oblivious that we are taking on water every time we open our mouths.” 

I especially loved the author's notes, which showed how much research goes into a book like this, and how to transform black and white markings on a white surface into an impassioned plea for humanity, morality and more agency for women in the choices they make, especially when those choices will affect the rest of their lives.

4 stars.

ISBN: 9781444788136

You may also enjoy Jodi Picoult's Small Great Things. Or what about Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate?

More books....

Monday 5 November 2018

Take it easy

Good morning all you bright sparks - up early to exercise. I'm done with my walk, and it was a good one today. And I'm wondering what music I feel like today?

And it struck me - at this busy frenetic time of year what we all need.

To take it easy. If you're running well, do it. Enjoy every second. If you're walking, take in the sights, the sounds, the smells, the feels. The one thing we don't need more of today is stress or any kind of pressure. And our exercise should be a respite from the busy-ness not adding to our woes. 

And if while you're doing this, you get a surge of energy, and you want to kill the last few kilometres, or you take a deep breath, and decide to walk another block, I say go for it. But do it because you can, and you want to, not because you're making yourself, or pushing on through the pain to get to another horrid and harsh goal. 

So today's tune? Well here're the lyrics - do you remember it? 

Relax, take it easy

For there is nothing that we can do
Relax, take it easy
Blame it on me or blame it on you

It's from 2007, believe it or not - here's Mika, with the music video. 

Enjoy your workout, your Monday, your week. 

Saturday 3 November 2018

Ten of the Best #140

What an interesting week it's been. As seen on all your social media posts. 

Did you all see the rain and flooding in Venice? Here's a BBC report and an entertaining video showing how in this particular restaurant, the show must go on.

In other news, James Delaney and Thulani Nkomo, who started the project to revive The Wilds in Jozi have been recognised for their work.

The stories told by Neanderthal teeth...I loved this one.

Friday 2 November 2018

Friday Books - Transcription by Kate Atkinson

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.

This is one I've just put down, finished - I loved it. Juliet Armstrong works for the BBC in the 1950s on  Children's Hour, but ten years ago, she was a spy in London in WWII - transcribing conversations on her trusty typewriter. 

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

Here's page 56 of Transcription by Kate Atkinson.

I wanted to give you a feel for how the transcriptions were written in the book - so I took a picture (I'm not the world's best photographer - forgive all the shadows). It shows the transcription by Juliet of the conversation between the spy and the unwitting informers.

I have done a review, for those of you who're interested to read further.

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