Friday, 31 January 2014

Bon's Book Club - January "The Husbands Secret"

I followed all of Bon's reads last year and enjoyed quite a few of them, but I never really participated on my blog as such. So today I'm going to give my first review and get properly involved. I'm really excited about this book as I had read it before Bon announced it as January's book and re-reading it over the last couple of days has been a joy..... so on with my review.

The Husbands Secret - Liane Mortiary

The Husband's Secret is a novel of multiple stories and lives that all entwine in one way or another. This also made for it to be a little confusing especially at the beginning as its  hard to understand why certain things are happening and there are a lot of secondary characters introduced - but stick with it! The author helps you figure it all out through her writing.

This novel really got moving for me about chapter three and four and once that had happened I found I finished it quite quickly. I liked the flawed but interesting characters and the way the story takes twist and turns and then folds back into itself.

Despite the complexities,  it was still a relatively easy read to finish in a short time, a great holiday read methinks! As the tale grows, it becomes more and more interesting  leaving you keen to know what happens in the end. You know sometimes when you get to the end and you can be really disappointed? I was a bit disappointed, i felt the ending didn't do it justice and there were elements like the car accident that I just kind of felt were unnecessary.

Overall, I quite enjoyed it and in a "chick lit" capacity it's a book that I would certainly recommend to others. Once you get in to it, it's relatively easy to get into it and for that reason. I would recommend it as a above average holiday read. Overall I give it a 7/10


(Spoilers in answers. Or at least hints of spoilers.)

+ The book is told from the viewpoint of three women. Which women did you like the most and why? Whom did you dislike the most and why?
Well I am completely different to Bon in this instance! Tess was my favourite and I see a bit of me in her; hopelessly flawed. I get the whole staying and fighting for your marriage but if your husband had said he was in love with your best friend I kind of think that's beyond repair. And yes she may have had a child that could possibly be her flings but hey that's the price of betrayal both hers and her husbands. life is messy. It was quite easy to dislike the other two to be honest, one was the "queen bee" the other a sour old lady but you learn to like them in the end. Kind of. Rachel "The sour old lady" was just a nightmare. Completely agree with Bon here, I just wanted to shake her and say"focus on your son who is alive and loves you!" and at the end I just wanted to punch her in the face for being such an idiot, confession or no confession. Now Celia "the queen bee" I liked the way her life slowly unravelled and her reaction to everything that happened. But I don't know I just couldn't warm to her enough, I couldn't really warm to any of the characters that much although I did want to know what happened to them if that makes sense!

+ What would you have done if you had found out the secret that Celia did? Did you agree with the way she handled it? What is the "right" thing to do in a situation like that?
Gosh, what is the right thing to do in a situation like this? I think that Celia's reaction was very true to her character and it felt like she reacted how she should have. Me?! I would have packed his stuff and kicked him straight to the curve but I'm a girl with no husband and no children and so i can make half hearted comments like that. I love my man a lot and through most things I would be by his side, his biggest fan. But some things are unforgivable.

+ What was the point of the side story with Tess? Do you excuse the way she acted during that week because of the uncertainty in her marriage?
Marriage is sacred, its also a complicated hot mess a lot of the time and everyone is human and everyone makes mistakes. The thing is even though she did something wrong I understood why it happened and how her actions were an accumulation of both her past and the way she had been treated recently by the people she loved the most. I loved Tess, that's all. I think her story was to juxtaposition that of Celia's marriage which seemed so "perfect". Her life was a mess but it was more honest than Celia's mess. Apart from the really dishonest bit at the end when she fails to tell her husband about her fling and subsequent child. But as I said before that's a repercussion of BOTH of their actions and her husband was a bit of a spineless douche!

+ Do you believe the bike accident was adequate "penance" for what John Paul had done?
No because it was not his daughters fault and why should she carry the burden of his penance for rest of her life. I didn't like this twist in the book. It got to me somewhat and it was just a bit annoying if I'm honest.

+ Did you like the resolution of the book? Did you feel there was enough closure?
I did not like the ending, it did not work for me. It just made me think that it was a bit of a cop out and everyones lives could have been so much better! Saying that  It gave me enough closure to finish the book and think "hmmmm what shall I read next" so whilst I liked it, it didn't linger like my favourite books do.
Have you read the book, how did you like it? I'm looking forward to linking up with Bon and seeing whether my opinion is the same or differs to others! Can't wait until next month!

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Wholesome Sluts Pasta aka spaghetti alla puttanesca

Wholesome "Sluts" Pasta!
I'm no quite sure why this is sometimes known as sluts pasta or whores spaghetti (which is the translation of the name of this Italian dish). From my limited research it seems that this dish originated from the Italian street ladies who needed to make something quick before they saw another gentleman caller. Another reason is that is all made from no fresh ingredients so those who make it are slutty lazybones! Whatever the reason its a great name for a lovely simple pasta dish. Sharp and spicy it has a great flavour and it takes no time at all and is made from store cupboard ingredients which makes it a great standby dish. The "wholesome" part of the dish comes from using wholemeal pasta - tenuous link I know! The original version of this recipe calls for a handful of chopped black olives - not my cup of tea but of course you should feel free.....

Wholesome Sluts Pasta aka spaghetti alla puttanesca

1 clove garlic, sliced thinly
½ TSP dried chilli flakes (I used 1 TSP cos I like it hot)
4 - 6 anchovy fillets chopped roughly
2 tbsp olive oil
400g chopped tomatoes
250g dried spaghetti, although any pasta will do
1 DSP capers
Pour the olive oil into a pan and add the garlic, chilli flakes and anchovy fillets and gradually warm over a low heat. Stir as it cooks for five minutes or so until the anchovies start to disintegrate. Turn up the heat, adding the tomatoes. Leave to cook for 20 minutes or so. At the same time cook 250g of pasta. When the sauce is ready, stir in the capers (and olives if you want), then toss with the lightly drained pasta. Its that easy. I served with a simple salad and this recipe makes enough for two.

Whilst making this I listened to Laura White's EP - "What My Mother Taught Me" it's rather good, her voice is all raspy, rough and beautiful.


Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Sunday Walk #2 - London (Thames barrier to Greenwich)

 There are many times that I count my blessings that I live so close to the best capital city in the world, London. Sunday was one of those days. As a shake up in our ordinary routine we decided to do a walk along the Thames. It was a beautiful day and an interesting and exciting walk. Seeing so much of beautiful London Town made my heart happy.
The Thames Barrier
The view ahead of us - Canary Warf in the distance

We started at the Thames Barrier - lots of people think its really ugly but I think it looks pretty cool and it stops London from getting flooded so it's a really important piece of engineering as well. The water looks pretty ugly and brown but apparently The Thames is the cleanest river in Europe and has around 56 species of fish living in it (50 years ago there were none)

 We walked past the O2 and that bought back memories of when we went to see Fleetwood Mac a few months ago.


We walked for 4 1/2 miles until we got to one of my favourite places in London....... Greenwich. Its a great place to go, especially on a Sunday as it's really busy and has a great vibe

Greenwich is also where they filmed a lot of Les Miserables (fun fact)!

There where lots of signs that the river was really high due to all the recent rain. These are the Royal .Steps, usually you can walk down these but the tide completely covered them. These were the Royals own special steps to get to the huge Naval Collage that is situated in Greenwich.

The very impressive Cutty Sark. I love this boat and I always get that "British Pride" thing when I see it, Its a beautiful ship.

We then wandered around the market which is full of lovely street food stands, vintage clothes shops and some funky other stalls, its a great place to be.

We then got the river boat back down the river - I loved getting the boat, it goes so smooth and its nice to sit back and relax. Te boat took us down to Woolwich and so we then had to walk back up the river to the Thames barrier - another two miles or so. It was dark by then so we walked beside the river and saw lots of beautiful lights.

The walk took us all afternoon but then again we stopped in Greenwich and had to wait for boats etc. I think we were both surprised at how quickly we could walk a mile when it was on a flat surface. I loved this walk and we're looking forward to doing some more of the Thames walks later on in the year. 

Thursday, 16 January 2014

A Surprising Dish

Apparently all great chef's have a "signature dish" the one dish above all others. Perhaps If I had a signature dish it would consist of lentils....lentils?! I hear you say. Yup, lentils. It's the dish that whenever I make it, people want the recipe, the one where there they say "My husband doesn't like lentils but he loved this dish", the one that surprises people. I'm kind of relaxed about the ingredients list, I add things to it all the time - any vegetables can be thrown in especially Mediterranean ones. Eat it with some chicken, or a piece of grilled salmon or its fab on its own! Sometimes with the leftovers I just blend it up and add a bit of stock to make a creamy lentil soup which tastes great!

Rachy's Lentils

1-2 onions, chopped (I use red or white)
1 red chilli, finely chopped (use less if you want less heat)
pinch dried red chillies (use more if you have no fresh chillies or just omit completely if you don't want it spicy)!
2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped (again use as much or little as you like)
1 red pepper, chopped
1 -2 carrots, diced
1 stick of celery, finally chopped
around 300g red lentils, rinsed
1 cartoon passata
1TSP paprika
Some stock, I used low sodium vegetable but you can use chicken if you want
Any other vegetables you want - this time I added some diced aubergines and yellow peppers

Put a bit of olive oil in a pan, add the onions, chilli and garlic. Cook for a couple of minutes and add the celery, carrots,  red pepper and any other vegetables you want to add. Cook until softened. Add the lentils and stir for a minute or so. Add the passatta and as much stock as it needs to cover the mixture by about an inch. Leave to simmer, it takes about 30-45 minutes and if you need too you can add more stock.
If you wanted a richer dish add more passatta rather than stock, if you want an even healthier dish add water rather than stock!

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

The Winter Tag

The blogging community is a strange thing, I believe I may have said this before. I still feel I'm circling on the outskirts looking in and still not really connecting even though I'd like too. I think its because I can be flaky with this blog. I pick it up when I have time and neglect it when I don't. Who has time these days. I've made a few friends and my lovely blogger pal Rachel (best name) over at Trying for Sighs has been as lovely as ever and has and nominated me for a little tag. Go check her out; what she does with her outfits amazes me, I wish I could throw an outfit together. I cant.
So here goes my take on the Winter Tag. Grab a Cocoa.
Winter in Paris - C/O my friend Holly currently enjoying her time there
'Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire; it is the time for home' - Edith Sitwell.

The Winter Tag

The rules

Share twelve random facts about yourself
Answer the 12 questions
List 12 bloggers you wish to tag on by letting them know you have nominated them
(I've kind of forgone this part as, like I said I'm still pretty new to this community)!

My 12 Random Facts

1. I have a scar on my knee from when I knelt on garden shears when I was a child. Dumb thing to do.
2. Fleetwood Mac are my favourite ban in the world. Stevie Nicks is my girl crush, Lindsey Buckingham is my crush. Seeing them at the O2 was a highlight of my 2013
3. I talk to myself all the time, especially when I'm food shopping. Its embarrassing but I cant seem to control it.
4. I was single for over a year before I met my love. It was an important time for me to work on myself, work on relationships with my family and family and just take joy in simple things. It made me ready to meet my boyfriend and our relationship is happier and calmer because of it. Being single is fantastic and I wish more girls realised this
5. I am the worlds silliest and craziest dancer. fact. But at least it makes people laugh
6. I would have always said that smoking and drinking alcohol were my vices. But I've given up smoking and I am doing "Dry January" so perhaps they aren't vices at all.... Cheese, Cheese is my vice. What is a life without cheese?
7. I love Prosecco more then Champagne, but I'll take whichever.
8. I love cooking, I love going out for meals, having a menu in front of me makes me happy, feeding people makes me happier
9. I always have my phone on silent even though it drives my friend's batty!
10. Sometimes I walk along the street and I get so happy and excited about my life that I want to start singing and dancing. I watched way to much Disney as a child.
11. I love curling my hair, I hate how long it takes
12. Never thought it would happen but I now love a lot of the things I hated when I was younger - red meat, board games, walks, M&S

The Questions

What are your favourite things about winter?
Being really cold outside and then coming in from the cold and warming up with a snuggle and a cup of licorice tea. Oh and mittens. I love mittens

What is your favourite winter outfit?
Black jeans, stripy black and white top under a long sleeveless black blouse, my grey cape, black pixie boots and woolly hat and mittens
What is your favourite winter food?
Beef bourguignon with buttery mash and glazed carrots (no such luck on my current health kick, but still its my favourite). If I'm being healthy its "Rachy's Lentils" check the recipe out here.
What is your favourite winter drink?
Licorice tea, I'm addicted and its good for you.
How do you like your make up in the winter?
Darker lips and smoky eyes with hints of greens and gold
What are you hoping Santa brings you?
Santa bought me some lovely presents and my lovely man surprised me with a beautiful watch. The boy did good, seriously good
What is your favourite winter scent?
I have to agree with Rachel, it's got to be cinnamon, and oranges
What is your favourite winter memory?
When we have snow. I love the stillness and silence it brings. There is nothing like it. Snow days are great too. Getting a group of friends together all of us walking for a while through the snow and meeting in the cozy warmth of the local pub.
What is your dream way to spend a winters day?
A long country walk, followed by a table full of my friends with me placing steaming dishes of my food in front them, lots of laughter and talking and wine, a huge cheeseboard and then just me and the beau and a sofa snuggle and chat
What are the first three things that remind you of winter?
The chill in the air, the frost on the round and the nights coming sooner
What is your favourite winter song?
Diana Krall "Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas" Every Time.
Finish this sentence.......If I could have one Christmas wish it would be........
Nothing, all is how it should be.
Hoped you enjoyed finding out a bit more about me - tell me about the Winter things you love!
Thanks again Rachel x

Monday, 13 January 2014

Sunday Walk #1: Hever

There is something comforting about routine. Routine can also be boring. In my world full of change and uncertainty, I enjoy the routine of our Sunday hikes. The months have past and we do longer more tricky hikes now, and every minute is happy for me (except when we are at the bottom of a hill and I know a-bit-of-an-out-of-breath struggle is ahead). Being in the beautiful Kent countryside, having the fresh air and enjoying feeling my body respond so positively to the exercise it is getting makes me grateful for where I live and what we have access too. I also treasure the time with my beau, no distractions, just the two of us; him often a few paces ahead and me taking some photos. At times we are having in depth discussions, there are often moments of silence and peace. Sometimes we get lost, but we always find our way home.

One of the beautiful villages we walked past (once we'd finished hiking through woods and fields)
Yesterday we walked in Hever, famous for the castle where Anne Boleyn and Henry 8th met and started an odd sort of courtship. Reminds me that I should really watch the film again, historically inaccurate but Natalie Portman is great in it. We didn't look round the castle, it was closed and I looked around it a long time ago when I was at school and supposed to be doing a project.

Random discovery on our walk - A British institution

We walked about 6 miles in about 2 1/2 hours through a lot of mud. Every walk we go on is muddy at this time of year, thank goodness for a Christmas present of walking boots, the boy knows me so well. Makes me love so much.

On we walked and at the end was a historical pub, and a soda water and a bowl of warming soup next to a roaring fire.  

An unusual vegetable .... And my 2014

.... or Okra if we want to use its correct name.

Okra, or ladies fingers

I love Okra, I often order it when I'm having an Indian takeaway. I am not having takeaways any more. It doesn't fit with the "new year, new me" kind of thing. No processed food, no cheeky cigarette (yeah i do that), more exercise - who am I trying to kid?! I've actually started exercising, no sugars, just good clean food. Maybe this will become a more "healthy" eating blog. Maybe. I've lost 7lbs in two weeks it makes standing on the scales not as scary as it used to be. Add to this dry January. Dry as in no drinking alcohol. I haven't touched a drop since New Years Eve; that in itself is intoxicating. And surprising.
The boyfriend has made a chart - I get a blue dot sticker everyday that I go without booze and every Sunday I get a purple sticker for the weight loss. I'm not sure what that makes us but it works for me, I like seeing progress. Those 12 dots on there this morning made me happy.
Back to Okra. A healthy curry for you to enjoy which is pretty simple to make.

Okra Curry

3 DSP Vegetable oil
125g Okra, cut into pieces
1 onion, sliced thinly
1 green chilli, sliced thinly
1DSP ground coriander
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1" fresh ginger, finely chopped
1DSP Garem Marsala
1TSP Cumin seeds
1TSP Turmeric
1TSP Hot chilli powder (go for mild if you want less of a kick)
300ml water
4 small or 2 large tomatoes, diced

Heat 2DSP of the oil in a wok and add in the Okra, I know this is technically frying but you only use a bit of oil and the rest of the dish is so healthy that this is a small niggle only. Plus you have to fry okra so its not slimy! Cook for around 7-9 minutes and then add the coriander and cook for a further couple of minutes. Take the okra out of the pan and then add the rest of the oil along with the chilli and onion. Cook for a couple of minutes and then add the garlic and ginger. After another few minutes add the rest of the spices and the tomatoes and water and then let it simmer for 10 minutes or so. Stir in the okra and cook for another 5 minutes or so and then its all ready. I served with a baked chicken breast