Sunday, November 4, 2012

Zoo City: Smart, Vivid Alt-History

Zoo CityZoo City by Lauren Beukes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fresh metaphors, an atypical heroine, and a Sloth. Add a setting of alt-universe modern-day Johannesburg and situations that you don't see coming. This book has action, a bit of blood magic, moral dilemmas, and a protagonist with a very clear voice. The writing is so vivid, you'll find yourself wanting to read some passages aloud, or at least highlight them to savour them later. If you like urban fantasy or alt-history you'll probably like it, but it's impossible to cram it into a single genre. It's smarter than the average urban fantasy novel, and social issues give it depth without seeming contrived.

I probably wouldn't have picked this book up on my own, but it was part of the Humble Bundle, and I'm glad I read it. Beukes is an author to watch.

View all my reviews

Thursday, October 18, 2012

My Drunk Kitchen Hilarity

So, I've been amusing myself (and hopefully my sister, to whom I sent these links and quotes) by watching eps of My Drunk Kitchen on YouTube. I pass on the drunken, hilarious goodness to you.

Meat Pie

So now you have a thing, that is kinda somewhere between a stew and a mess...
Don't knead your dough too much, 'cause that leads to co-dependancy.
My pie crust looks like vegeta.



Toast
I like my cheese like I like my women - mature, yet mellow.
Marmite is not like Nutella.
These beans smell like...sad ketchup.
On my arm, whatever. On my boobs? Ooh, I'm into it.



Onion Rings
Oh, now the fumes are trapped in the goggles with my eyes!
Sometimes I worry if I'll make it to 50.
Make your own tiny sweaty hot pocket of humid!


Friday, September 28, 2012

Straight Locks and Fave Makeup


I had my hair cut two weeks ago (by yet another new hairdresser - sigh. Why can't I find a good one that doesn't cost the earth?) and today was the first chance I had to try my straightener out on the new 'do. It's a Remington Hot Pink and I'd recommend it to anyone who doesn't want to shell out for a GHD. Seriously girls, I have better things to spend my money on.


I've even managed to wave and curl my hair with my Remington, and it has a variable heat setting. I just spray on Schwarzkopf Heidi Klum heat protectant and set it to 200. My hair is medium length and medium thickness, and it doesn't take long at all.

Since my hair was all done up with no place to go on a Thursday night, I figured I'd put on some makeup and take some photos for a blog entry.


My makeup favourites:

Maybelline Moisture Extreme Lipstick (G80 - Sweet Ginger, discontinued)
Australis Fresh & Flawless Pressed Powder (Deep Natural)
CoverGirl Lash Blast Volume Mascara (Very Black)
Clinique Kohl Shaper for Eyes (04 - Black Coffee)
Rimmel Stay Matte foundation (103 - True Ivory)
Rimmel Powder Blush (101 - Pink Sugar)
Kleancolor Eyeshadow (Rainbow Palette)





















I love that lipstick so much - it's a perfect shade of pink for me, it has a faint glimmer, it's moisturising, has SPF 15, and it isn't sticky. I tracked down two more sticks on ebay, so I won't run out for a little while, at least. Darn companies discontinuing my favourite.

Kleancolor is really cheap. Really. So I don't use it every day, and it won't last unless I use a primer. Still, there are so many colours in the palette, and they're shimmery! Lash Blast has been my favourite mascara for awhile now. I don't even bother with double coats or curling; it's perfect for daytime. Add a little black-brown liner, and my eyes are set to glam.

If I want extra drama, I use Maybelline EyeStudio black gel liner (not pictured) and a small, angled brush by EcoTools to apply. EcoTools is also my go-to for a foundation brush, which is how I apply my foundation. In the summer, I switch to Maybelline SuperStay liquid foundation (in Sand Beige), which holds up better in the humidity. The Australis powder keeps it all in place, and is a great price.

What beauty products are your favourites? Do you stick to air-dry, blow-dry, or use a styler?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Lemon Blueberry Poppyseed Muffins

These muffins graced my table on Monday morning, and they were just the thing to start the week. Joy the Baker has an excellent food blog, so if you haven't already checked it out, I suggest you bookmark it for later :)

I knew I wanted blueberry muffins, and wondered if there were any online recipes that incorporated poppyseeds, since I had some in the cupboard. Joy's Lemon Blueberry Poppyseed Muffins to the rescue! I even had a lemon sitting in my fruit bowl, but it was a bit sad, and didn't give me a great deal of zest, so I upped the lemon flavour in the recipe by adding a squeeze of the juice.

The only persnickity bit was browning the butter. I don't know if it's because I used frozen blueberries, but my batter was very heavy - it clumped into my muffin cups, rather than poured. If this happens to you, do not overmix the batter. Do not. These muffins came out with a lovely crispy crust, even though I skipped the crumble topping.

I shared two with the owners of our local cafe, who are practically friends after two years of seeing Mr J and I. They asked if I could make more to sell them for the cafe, and declared them to be among the best muffins they'd ever eaten! Since my kitchen will never be commercially certified, though, I just pointed them to the recipe.

Happy baking!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Regency Poke Bonnet, Step by Step


Mr J and I attended a Regency-themed event at the Abbey Museum this past weekend, the Picnic at Pemberley. For the uninitiated, Pemberley is the impressive home of Mr Darcy in the novel Pride & Prejudice. Author Jane Austen lived in the Georgian era (1740-1830), which included the short but influential Regency period (1812-1820).

Depending on who you ask, the Regency period may have lasted longer. Essentially, though, imagine English lords and ladies, tea, balls, rides in Hyde Park, tea, shiny Hessian boots and tight pants for the gentlemen, gambling, military men, duels, untitled ladies trying to land a Duke, tea, hand-delivered correspondence, chaperones, empire waisted gowns, gloves and hats for every occasion, and more tea.

To look the part of a genteel young lady (though at my age, were I not married, I would be considered a spinster!) I knew I would need gloves, a hat, and a simple gown. It's been years since I've sewn anything, so I ordered a handmade dress from Etsy. A vintage shop around the corner had a lovely selection of gloves that fit, and I chose a bone-coloured pair with a little embroidery and a scalloped edge.

The hat was a good deal more trouble. I couldn't find anything that was the shape I wanted, and there wasn't time to ship another international order. I found some tutorials online but they weren't quite what I wanted. And so, dear Reader, I shopped for a straw hat I could alter into a poke bonnet. Here is the $15 sun hat I purchased from Big W (similar to Kmart or Target) - it's a braided straw number, with a lot of material to work with, and quite flexible.


The crown was the right size to sit far back on my head, touching the nape of my neck comfortably, so I just had to alter the brim. At first, I thought about cutting the back out and sewing the braided straw, but I was afraid it would unravel. I unpicked the raffia-like straw "thread" until I had a long rope, which took about an hour in total.




I had planned to use the straw to put the hat back together, but I didn't have a suitable needle, so I went with a pale yellow thread I'd purchased to do some mending. I began to put the brim back together, but in a different shape. The back of the hat, between my ears, had just one row of braid. This would exaggerate the wide, high front brim.


I sewed. I shaped. I stitched. I followed the angle of the braid where possible, and tried not to break the straw by shoving my needle through. There was a lot of eyeballing and checking how it looked on my head as I figured out how to shape the brim.


I ducked the braid over or under the original back brim, stacking it on top of itself, with a gradual curve towards and away from the back.  Sometimes the braids were half on top of each other, and sometimes they were side by side.


The shape was starting to come together, and I had four lines of braid in the front of the bonnet. I added  trim for effect. But... it wasn't quite big enough. I went around one more time.


I had about two feet of braid left over when I was done, so I bravely snipped the rope on an angle, and sewed the braid against the inside of the hat. Then it was time for the fun part - ribbon and flowers!

To save myself worrying that a breeze or a dance would knock the ribbon askew, I made a few running stitches in matching thread to hold it down. The flowers are just fabric ones on green wire, which I poked through holes in the straw, being lazy and folding the ends under the hatband. And it was complete!

Mr J and I had been watching the BBC version of Pride & Prejudice, and he was helpfully hemming my dress. Judging by the running time of the movie, plus time spent earlier in the week, my hat took about eight hours to make. Trim cost $4 for ribbon and another $4 for flowers, so it was a lot cheaper than purchasing a ready-made one, and I am very happy with the end result.

Here I am, enjoying my bonnet at the picnic! It was fabulous. Regency-attired folk everywhere, tea, lawn games, country dancing, a five-gun salute, a duel, music, a Language of the Fan class, Maypole dancing, and mingling with our hosts, Mr Darcy and Mr Bennet.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Chugga Chugga to the Ekka!

I was a nervous wreck on Sunday morning as I prepped for the Ekka (which is some kind of short form of "Exhibition"). What to wear, what to pack, how to get there? I'd been told there would be masses of people at the Showgrounds. The Queensland tradition includes fair rides, animals on show, edible and wearable goods for sale, fairy floss (cotton candy), dagwood dogs (corn dogs), and the iconic Ekka Strawberry Sundae (left). It tastes a lot better than it looks. Also -- the $5 bag of cotton candy may not look like much next to the $10 bucket, but once you get it home, it's more than enough sugar.


When Jody and I finally got to the train station, the railway staff were very helpful. We were finally on our way, and the wait was worth it... we got to ride on a steam train! My Grampa loves steam trains, and my Grampa is awesome, so I love steam trains too :)


video


My beginner hip hop class was performing on one of the stages, and although I was sure the crowd would be friendly, we'd only been learning the two routines for three weeks. The emcee called our group to the stage 10 minutes early, so we missed the essential walk-through before going on. Eeeek! I fumbled a couple of steps and turned the wrong way once, but I wasn't the only one. I'm still glad I got up there, and overall, our group looked pretty good.

We started out old-school with Run DMC's "It's Like That," then continued with T-Pain. I was a bit shocked that the audience got into it - some of the crowd squealed when they heard, "Turn all the lights on!"

In case you don't believe me... I'm in the black hoodie and shiny pants :)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Brownies with PB icing

Today, @klfair came over for an afternoon of blogging and brownies. One of our mutual Twitter acquaintances tweeted a photo of a peanut butter Twix bar yesterday, and I haven't been able to get that  devastating combination off my mind: peanut butter and chocolate.

My usual brownie pick is Alice Medrich's Cocoa Brownies, but they are too rich and sinful to add anything else, and always come out thin and fudgy. What you really need is a cake-y brownie to stand up to the peanut butter icing. Boxed brownies work well for this, but I'd purchased cocoa powder and eggs earlier this week, so I searched for a recipe.

Alton Brown's Cocoa Brownies looked like a winner... until we weighed the butter. The recipe called for 8 ounces. That's nearly an entire 250g stick! We backed off.

Everyday Brownies by Nigella Lawson was our next find. Comparing the amount of butter here to the Alice Medrich recipe, it seemed more...reasonable? Each calls for about 140g, or 5 ounces. Also in its favour, Nigella's brownies use 4 eggs, and I had already beaten four in preparation for the discarded Alton Brown recipe.

We mixed everything together and debated over the tinfoil in the brownie tin. In the end, we sprayed the foil with canola before putting the batter in, and that seemed to work. Make sure you overlap the sides of the tray so you can lift out the brownies when they're done.

I chopped six squares of Plaistowe premium dark chocolate, very small - it sort of made shavings on its own - and that was the last ingredient to go into the saucepan. I've never made brownie batter in a saucepan before. Into the oven they went... Once the brownies have cooled, you can mix up the peanut butter icing. I've been doing this for years with my mom and sister in Canada, but it seems Australia is not as "into" the peanut butter and chocolate combo. For shame!

There is a recipe here for PB icing (butter optional, in my opinion). I used smooth but ran out, and added about two tablespoons of crunchy, which accounts for the bumps you see in the photo. (Do not use natural peanut butter.)
If you want to be extra decadent, melt some chocolate and fling it across the frosted brownies.

So! Now that @klfair and I have done the hard work of choosing recipes for you - go forth and bake!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Family Secrets and Fairytales

The Forgotten GardenThe Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

4 1/2 stars (spoiler-free review)

I am a great lover of readable historical fiction, and I also love grown-up fairytales. The Forgotten Garden has so many elements that make it lighter than its 547 pages would suggest. There are fairytales woven throughout the book, beautifully written scenes and settings, shifts in time and place, and family secrets revealed. Yet more secrets and things that have been "forgotten" reveal themselves as well.

Morton's writing is deft, with characters who aren't entirely good or evil; although I wanted to unravel the protagonists' stories from each of the time periods, I didn't find myself skipping over the antagonists' narratives. Each character is interesting and you can imagine that they have a backstory, and have not been created simply to wind a plot around.

The Forgotten Garden manages to be atmospheric, intelligent, and intimate, with the shadow of a family mystery thrumming at its heart.


View all my reviews

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Conversions, Tries, and Colours

I've said it before -- I'm not sporty. I am not the ideal person to live-tweet State of Origin, Game 3. But Jody thinks I'm funny, and most of my Canuck friends are not on Twitter, so... here are my random thoughts. To get you up to speed (at least, as much as I am):
  • There are 3 kinds of rugby/football in Australia. I've been here nearly four years and still can't really tell what the difference is:
  • NRL: National Rugby League; AFL: Australian Football League; Aussie Rules, aka "footy."
    Confusingly, "the footy" can be used to describe any? So yes, I'm still confused.
  • State of Origin happens once a year and is a battle between New South Wales and Queensland. QLD has won for the past 6 years. The internet tells me Origin is rugby league.

Queensland player Petero Civenoceva takes the ball up during State of Origin 3 (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)


I'm so glad they colour-code the teams.

Really? People actually say, "Go the Maroons?" and for NSW, "Go the Blues?"

The other chant is "QUEEEEENSLAAAAANDERRRRR!" I prefer this.

There's a NSW player named Tony whose nickname is T-Rex. He has excessively bright boots -  fluorescent. I approve.

Dang, these men are in good shape.

Dogpile!

That guy just picked up the other guy by the crotch. Is that legal?

A guy had 20 stitches put in his head, but don't worry -- he put on headgear and got back out there.

52,437 spectators - 60 people short of a full stadium.

One of my friends has noted that a NSW player has a rose tattoo on his bum.

I guess that's why the posts are padded? Ouch.

Oh! One of them is losing his shorts...

And that's it! A one-point field goal has won Queensland the match, 21-20. Go the Maroons! ahem.


[Abridged conversation between sports reporter, Lockyer - aka Locky - and a QLD player]

Reporter: "Mate, how was that?"

Player: "Unbelievable, mate, unbelievable."

Reporter: "How is this crowd?"

Player: "Unbelievable, mate, unbelievable."

Reporter: "Well done, mate."

Player:  "Thanks, mate."


Afterward, Jody picks up his untouched wine glass.
Jody: I think we're supposed to drink beer, not wine.
Me: At least I'm drinking mine. And anyway, it's maroon wine!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Lilac care package

Just a few days ago, I was looking at someone's nail-art blog, and they had some polishes by Essie. And then... as if she had known I was wishing for a bottle... my sister sent one to me by mail from Canada!


"Lilacism" by Essie (shade 304)

Essie polish is definitely not a one-coat wonder, but the formula's not bad.  I much prefer it with a topcoat, because the finish is very matte.  I don't have many pastels in my collection at the moment, and Lilacism is a lovely shade, though with the blue undertones I wouldn't say it's a true lilac.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Almond Asparagus Quinoa


Ingredients

1 cup quinoa, rinsed well
1/3 cup almonds, roughly chopped
2 bunches baby asparagus
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/3 cup craisins
1       tablespoon lemon juice

Optional: Salt and pepper, fresh parsley

Total time: 30 minutes
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Yield: 6 servings

Loosely adapted from FoodNetwork.com recipe by Ellie Krieger

Directions

Place the quinoa in a saucepan and cook over medium heat until toasted, about 2 minutes. Add 1 3/4 cups water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, until the liquid is absorbed, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let sit, covered, about 2 minutes.

Meanwhile, toast the almond pieces in a skillet over medium-high heat, stirring, until golden, about 3 minutes; transfer to a plate. Add the olive oil and garlic to the skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring, until golden, about 2 minutes. Transfer the garlic to the plate, reserving the oil.

Cut the baby asparagus into small pieces, leaving the heads of the spears intact. Add to the skillet and cook for two minutes, while the quinoa is removed from heat.

Fluff the quinoa with a fork. Add the almonds, garlic, lemon juice, asparagus (with any remaining oil) and craisins, and toss. Season with salt and pepper and add chopped fresh parsley if desired.


I substituted many ingredients for what I had in the cupboard, and added baby asparagus that I hadn't managed to eat since market day. The results were delicious, and the birthday girl was happy I'd brought something vegan to her backyard party! This dish tastes great hot or cold.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Almost-firsts

Wednesday was a big day of almost-firsts. In the morning, I went to my first yoga class in *cough* four years. I haven't been since moving to Australia, but my neighbourhood/suburb has more than its share of yoga studios. At 9am I looked up the studios near me, and found a 90-minute, $12 beginner session starting at 9:30. I packed a bag and got there just in time, and it was excellent.

We "ohmmmed" in what sounded like harmony. I only had my form corrected once, in cat pose. The only time I felt fully ridiculous was when we did alternate nostril breathing. I mean, really - you cross your index and middle fingers and put them on your third eye, which leaves your ring finger free to block one nostril and your thumb to block the other. I caught the eye of the girl next to me and it was clear she was also trying not to giggle.

Our instructor, Dan, used the "correct" term to explain the other type of breathing we learned - it meant, using the muscles you'd use to clear your throat. But the correct term didn't mean anything to me, so I was glad when he added, "Some yogis call it Darth Vader breathing." Aha! I can do that.

The best part of the class was definitely the relaxation at the end - once again, the "correct" term is beyond me. Dan got up very quietly while the rest of us were resting on our backs, eyes closed. I heard music, and after a moment, realised it was live. Not only was Dan singing to us, he was accompanying himself on his guitar! And it was great. Live music for a cool-down in yoga class was definitely a first.



This post is interrupted by a photo of my new shoes, which I purchased on Wednesday - but they are not an almost-first. Aren't they cute? I love the cutouts. They're mostly for work (the six weeks I have left, anyway) and I can see myself wearing them with a favourite casual dress as well.





My evening brought another almost-first: driving lessons! I drove a teeny tiny bit in Canada but never liked it, and I still recall how shaky my legs were after my first lesson. At one point a well-meaning guy friend tried to teach me how to drive his truck (sorry about the gear box, Brhett) and a short-lived boyfriend tried once too, in a department store parking lot. Both lessons ended in frustration and were never repeated.

Since Jody and I bought a little manual hatchback ('08 Toyota Yaris) in February and I applied for a Queensland learners license, last night was our first chance to take me out to practice. Since I've never successfully driven a stick shift, and never driven on the left side of the road, we knew we couldn't just start by driving to somewhere. So we found a deserted stretch of straight road along the river, and I practiced starting. Shifting into first. Applying gas and shifting into second, then gearing down and coming to a stop. Reversing. Of course I stalled, but it wasn't as terrifying as my first-ever lesson. Jody explained things when I asked, and otherwise said very little, to allow me time to think. Almost-first lesson with a gear shift? Success!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Shiny Silver Nails

While I was in Melbourne for a conference in February, I picked up a bottle of polish that was temptingly placed on the counter at the pharmacy. It was red-dot discounted to $5! It is grandly called "Your Majesty" and is shade 239 - an opaque silver - in Rimmel's I Love Lasting Finish range.

Question is, why did I wait so long to try it out? The easy answer is that I've been working and studying for the past six weeks. Other than that, I just wasn't feeling the metallic vibe, I guess. It's a great colour, and it went on quite easily. You could get away with one thick coat but I did two thin coats, with a clear undercoat. I painted my fingers and toes with it, and it looks great! The finish is quite strong in colour, with a faint glimmer. Another blogger says there's a "glitter bomb" when you remove this shade.

I went to a hen's night on Saturday, and painted my nails in the morning before going to work. (Canadians and Americans would say stagette or bachelorette, but the bride-to-be here in Australia dislikes those terms. Hen parties are the standard term in Britain and Australia.) I nearly wore a short lavender dress with silver sequins on it, but changed my mind two hours before the party and went for a little black dress with silver thread on the bodice.

Fortunately the nails worked with my second choice, too, and I think the colour works well on shorter nails, so there's some good news for you ladies who have to type! I really hope the red dot sale doesn't mean this colour is discontinued, because I really like wearing it. My past experience with Rimmel Lasting Finish is 3-4 days before I notice any chips on the tips of my nails.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Vintage Video

It was a rainy night, and I felt like popcorn and a movie. I picked out a bunch on the 5 DVDs for $8 deal at our local rental place, from Tangled to Supernatural, but it was an Indiana Jones kind of night.

After we finished watching Temple of Doom (I'd forgotten how much screaming there was), Jody turned to me and said, "You must have had these in Canada."

"Yes, but they were on video." For some reason this got a huge laugh out of Jody. "What?" I demanded. "They're old movies!"

"You're old." A pause. "I never had any tapes."

Me: "That's ridiculous. Why not?"

Jody: "I never really had TV."

Me: "You're old!"


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Fussy Coffee Cake

Occasionally, the only cure for what ails me is to spend time in the kitchen. I desperately wanted coffee cake, but I didn't want the temptation of an entire cake in the house either... so Tuesday morning, when I didn't work until ten, I made The Joy of Baking's coffee cake and brought it into work. On the bus, I might add, still in its springform pan, in a cloth bag.

Be forewarned, this is a bit of a fussy cake to prepare on a workday morning. I used three bowls and just over half an hour to mix everything together. Whether that's because I was sleepy, or it was a new-to-me recipe, or I had a husband running around me making coffee, I don't know.

In any case, it's best suited to brunch or a weekend afternoon tea. My mom makes a fabulous one but I wasn't sure I could wait to get the recipe from her. I've never made one with chocolate chips in it before - usually just nuts and brown sugar, or alternatively, blueberries - but it was nice for a change. I had to sub in a few teaspoons of cornflour to make up for the lack of cake flour in Australia, but it worked. I had a rather fluffy cake with a beautiful streusel.

Here is a snapshot of the reactions:

"It's still warm!"

"It looks so professional."

"Could I have the recipe? This is the best cake I've had in years!"

"What is it? Is there coffee in it?"

"Are those chocolate chips?"

And finally: [Groan] [Nom nom] [more happy groaning]

Monday, March 5, 2012

An Angel with Purpose

Unearthly (Unearthly, #1)Unearthly by Cynthia Hand
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It was a tossup between three and four stars for Unearthly, and I've gone with 4 for the following reasons:
1) I'm an adult, and if I were a young adult I would rate it 4 stars
2) It was superior to the other YA angel story I read recently, Halo by A. Adornetto.
3) It wasn't predictable, and I want to read the sequel
4) The writing was good, the main characters actually had some character, and the romance didn't make me want to switch off my Kindle in disgust.

The main character, Clara Gardner, is one-fourth angel, and as she matures on Earth, she must discover her "purpose." Clara rises to the challenge, learns to trust in her abilities even when she doesn't understand them, and doesn't just wait around for things to happen. I found it fun but not laugh out loud funny. Still, quite an enjoyable read, with room for development, and it moved at a good pace.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Happy Heart Day!

Here is my Valentine's Day outfit... with new little shoes! I bought them on sale in Melbourne. The pendant I'm wearing is a Murano glass heart.


And here is a cupcake. I hope all my readers had a lovely day with someone special!





Jody and I went out for dinner on the 13th (and had a whole bottle of bubbly, wheeee!) because on the 14th we were busy buying a car! Whoa! It's like all our Valentine's Days came at once. Better than flowers, really, and it will last much longer. Now we can get out of the city for a romantic weekend!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Strawberry Shopping Surprise

After my first shift at the public library for my practicum, I wandered through a nearby mall. I found strawberry shortcake bubble bath and a 20 SPF lip balm. I was about to leave when a bottle of pink nail polish caught my eye. It was out of place, sitting there all by itself. Rimmel! And pink! Strawberry Fizz, to be precise, and the label said I Love Fruities. Into the shopping basket it went.

I put it on my fingernails last night and found a surprise: it's called "Fruities" because it has a fruity scent when it dries! So today I will have strawberry nails. I wonder how long the scent will last?


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

I beg your indulgence

Gentle reader, I must beg your indulgence, as I have been remiss in writing to you. I fear I am not quite myself; indeed, I do not feel at all "the thing." I shall not be indisposed for long, as I have procured a tisane and a medicinal boiled sweet to soothe my cynanche.

I have been grateful for the work of Ms. Georgette Heyer, who kept me company to-day, and also for correspondence from my dearest friend.


This week, I am participating in a silly blog challenge with a handful of other librarians. Our aim is to write five blog posts in the style of Jane Austen. You can follow them here:
@KRidwyn, blogging at Hmmmm
@Girlwithshoess, blogging at Justgirlwithshoes
@jobeaz, blogging at Macaronic
@kalgrl, blogging at Feral Librarian Tales

#blog5daysAustenese

Monday, January 16, 2012

An Evening Musicale

I vow, there is little I like more than music, particularly of an evening when the rain persists; reading, naturally, brings me equal joy, but to-night I am happily ensconced in my sitting-room, listening to the pianoforte. Should one be fortunate enough to host a gathering of musically gifted neighbours, an evening can be passed quite amicably; I myself am regarded as the skilled musician in my family, and am rarely treated to performances by my good husband, yet he finds the music of others to be very agreeable. He persists in rearranging our furniture and his various apparatus, so as to achieve the most pleasing sound.

I know with certainty that my life is enriched by the beauty of music, and I find I am content to hear it, though I cannot see those who are so accomplished at their instruments. When I depart my humble estate, particularly when I choose to exert myself for a period of time, as I did this evening, I often include the following item in my reticule, so that I may continue to listen when I am not at home.



I cannot tell you how it delights me to own such a diminutive and clever article - why, it is as though I have brought with me the whole of the county! and each neighbour plays so exquisitely! and only the pieces that I want most to hear! - how marvellous.

Your's, etc.,

Julia

This week, I am participating in a silly blog challenge with a handful of other librarians. You can follow them here:


@KRidwyn, blogging at Hmmmm
@Girlwithshoess, blogging at Justgirlwithshoes
@jobeaz, blogging at Macaronic
@kalgrl, blogging at Feral Librarian Tales

Our aim is to write five blog posts in the style of Jane Austen. I think what I will find most difficult, is writing in first person, without the aid of dialogue. Austen's style (to me, at least) is most evident in her characters' speech, and my blog tends to be first-person accounts. We are meant to write about topics we normally would choose, too, so this will be interesting! #blog5daysAustenese


Edit: it killed me to leave that apostrophe in Your's, but examples of that usage are all over Pride & Prejudice.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

From the Oven

Using a slightly-tweaked recipe I found here (more puree, less sugar, added ground cloves), I made pumpkin pies for Christmas, and another two today:

Last night I baked a longtime favourite (previously blogged here) and was rather pleased with how it turned out. I added a few walnuts on top before baking, which made this banana bread look even tastier.

My little camera is missing so unfortunately the above are just phone pics.

Also from my kitchen this week:

An easy simmer sauce curry with beef, bell peppers, carrots & onion with couscous as an accompaniment to Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

Banana, mango & orange smoothies

M&M cookies

Meat loaf

BBQ'd Chicken Kebabs with bell peppers & mushrooms, marinated in teriyaki, lime, and ginger

A reprise of fish tacos will be tonight's dinner. Friday night we ordered my favourite pizza from Pizza Capers, New Orleans - cajun-spiced chicken with mushrooms and thin slices of potato, drizzled with sweet chili sauce and sour cream. Yummm. A girl can't cook all the time! :)

What have you been cooking lately? Is there anything you're dying to make? On my list are:

John Willoughby's Tagine-Style Lamb Stew
Lentil Soup with Caraway and Minted Yogurt
Honey Thyme Pork Roast
White Chocolate & Passionfruit Layer Cake

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A Christmas Sendoff for Elena & Clay

Hidden (Women of the Otherworld)Hidden by Kelley Armstrong
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This novella was a welcome "tie-up-loose-ends" sort of story for Armstrong's fans of Clay and Elena. I've read most of Armstrong's novels but her werewolf ones have been my favourite. After the prologue, the story picks up in Elena's voice, pitch-perfect. Yes, she's older now (41) and has four year old twins with Clay, but she's still Elena, and now that she's Alpha-elect, the political stakes are higher.

Armstrong could have just made a warm, fuzzy, feel-good story about the holidays, but it wouldn't have felt right. Fans will be pleased to see Clay and Elena doing what they do best - researching, tracking, and keeping the Pack safe - while spending Christmas with their kids, who haven't been told Mommy and Daddy are wolves. Elena and Clay's past issues and the challenges of parenthood are deftly worked into the story, resulting in a satisfying and fun read.

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