A mum and a wife and sometimes just me

Monday 15 February 2010

Summer Reading

So it was only with the intent of returning some books that I went to the library last week. As usual I linger and look at the books. I usually have an idea of the book that I am looking for but this day it was pretty much free for all. At times like this I have a look see what the librarian is recommending me today, after all who doesn't enjoy discovering new authors. I could not tell you what attracted me to 'Reading in Bed' by Sue Gee. It appeared to slot perfectly into that category I like to call light summer reading. Never mind that when I pick it up the librarian notices and says 'That's a very good read', 'Well I hope you enjoy it anyway', well I guess that means Gee's novel is coming home with me then.

It would only be fair to say that it was an enjoyable read. A quickly unfolding story that I raced through in two days. Identifying with the characters quite easily it kept me entertained. A rather dramatic story of family, life long friendships, sex, love and marriage (are you getting the picture here) and then a rather strange mad (or should I be saying eccentric) cousin whose behaviour rapidly deteriorates as the novel progresses!

Ah well there is never anything really wrong for me when it comes to taking a break with some summer reading.

Sunday 14 February 2010

Valentine Special

Yes I know there are those who are against the whole commercialisation of love for one day and say we should love each other the same everyday. Yet I admit I LOVE to have the excuse to get my husband to spoil me for a day! And what better way than making me a huge pot of chilli to enjoy with a big bag of chips and a bottle of wine. It was extra special to come home to after a hard day at work!

Now I would love to share this fantastic recipe with you as hubby is the 'Chilli King' but unfortunately he tells me it is a secret! A secret filled with lots of LOVE.

Happy Valentines Day!

Wednesday 10 February 2010

The Sea or the Mountains?

That is the question!

So as 'seasoned' travellers (well working on being one anyway), Alberto and I like to consider where we would  have our holiday home, like we can afford it! But if we could where would we choose, the mountains or by the sea? Both we obviously enjoy, both have there positive points with very few negatives.

We have recently really enjoyed living so close to the water. In the evenings sometimes we hear the big bull horn of the cruise ship leaving and just smile to ourselves, its just 'kinda cool'. There is nothing like a beach day to leave all your thoughts behind you. Lazing on the sand with the sun on your back, long walks on the beach with the sound of crashing waves, eating fresh fish with a glass of wine. Hey, I grew up on a small island so I guess you would think that the beach is somehow a part of me.

Hubby has always loved the mountains, so as soon as we met he was teaching me how to ski, one of the things he has professed that he lives for. I have experienced the mountains in both the summer and the winter and both times have been breathtaking. I remember opening the curtains for the first time from our rented apartment and seeing this glorious view while having a cup of coffee and reading my book, the words are lacking to describe the moment. Freezing while watching the sunset on the snow over the mountains is magical.

For us the mountains have won us over. We will never say no to a beach holiday but the mountains peace has captured us.

Monday 8 February 2010

What is it about Libraries?

Could it be that they are the home to one of my favourite things...Books?  I have found myself reflecting on the question a lot quite recently. It is probably because having a local library has only just recently become very important to me. It was with dismay that I arrived in New Zealand only to realise how expensive it was to buy books here. I have always liked to physically own the books that I read so that made borrowing the books really difficult for me. Actually as I borrow the books at the minute they remain on a list for a bulk buy when I return to the UK! So I have found myself a lot in my local library recently. When I enter I just can't help but linger and am actually usually dumbfounded at all the other people who do the same. It is like some great secret has been reveiled to me. Local libraries are not this intimidating quiet space either and there is something social about sitting with others and reading or spending time on the computer.

Are you ready for the advertisment? Your local library has so much to offer and you don't have to go just to borrow a book! It opens doors to new worlds and ideas, it has been very useful in helping us discover New Zealand, there magazines, CDs, DVDs, its got activities for children and I can browse through recipe books just to fine one recipe to take home with me and it lets you print documents if you don't have a printer at home! Okay I think I have made my point.

If I am lucky I leave my local library with only a hand full of books which I often forget I only have a limited time in which to read all of them.

Sunday 7 February 2010

A letter to a son

I have just finished reading 'Gilead' by Marilynne Robinson and to say I enjoyed it is an understatement. Often when I find an author that I like I forge ahead and make my way through all their books if possible (a slight 'autistic' tendency, who knows?). After reading Marilynne's latest novel 'Home' while on holiday in Italy, I was very pleased to be able to request 'Gilead' from the local library here in Parnell, as the same characters appeared in both novels. It is not often that I can say that all the books of the novelist then live up to my expectations after the first one I have read. It seems though that Marilynne will have to try a lot harder to disappoint me as I have now requested her first novel  'Housekeeping' from the library.

Robinson's 'Gilead' is the winner of the 2005 Pulitzer prize for fiction and for me obviously deservedly so. It's a story without chapters with hidden stories that kept me reading. It made me wonder how I would even begin to write a reflection on my life and quite honestly is it really worth it. Sometimes it appeared as a story about growing old. How others perceptions of us change or is it really how our perceptions of others changes?  It tells the story of family history, relationships and friends. Religion is a theme that rears its head, as the voice is of a Congregationalist minister John Ames, yet it did not overwhelm or scare me rather than asking for a slight reflection on the experience of it in America.

The real beauty for me of the novel though was in the simple beauty of the language used. Maybe it comes from the genuine love and adoration even that a father has for his son. It was a book that more needed to be savoured than enjoyed. So much so that it cost me an extra 60 cents as it was late back to the library.

A life in writing: Marilynne Robinson, Interview by Emma Brockes, The Guardian

Thursday 4 February 2010

Reinstating Pizza night

It was not oh so long ago when I lived in Glasgow that we used to try and have a pizza night once a week. The aim being really not to have to cook too much and have a few beers while chillaxing in front of the TV. Wednesday nights in Auckland now suddenly have a lot to offer. It starts with Masterchef NZ, then Lie to Me and finishes with Law and Order SUV. So I have decided to reinstate pizza night. Of course the question remains if I am every allowed to cheat and get take away pizza or if it always has to be homemade.

My home made pizza has certainly developed over the years. My first was in Glasgow when we had just moved in and I was cooking as many different things as I could think of. I never thought of using a rolling pin until hubby came home to rescue me, thank goodness! Then of course I made the mistake of making one pizza for the two of us thinking that would be enough. Being married to a man who was raised in Italy changes they way one cooks a lot. Anyway I have finally got a recipe that pretty much works for me everytime... 

Pizza for 2:

Pizza Dough:
375g Plain flour
Yeast (1 satchet or just under 1tbsp depending on its form)
1 cup warm water
2 tbsp olive oil (optional)

I personally think passata and mozzarella and onions are a must but anything after that depends either on what is available or what we are feeling for. Personal favourites include tuna, aubergine (baked first in the oven), peppers and pepperoni! 

Mix all the dry ingredients, make a hole and add the water. I mix with a spoon until it starts clumping together and then get my hands in there to help it form into a ball. Then I knead until my hands start getting tired. Please note that you can probably find official advice on the best way to  knead if you really want :) Then leave it to do it's business (rise) for at least an 1hr but 2 hours is definitely the best. If it is in a warm place it does it's business even better (rise!). I usually turn on the oven to preheat for while before putting the pizzas in.

Well you have waited the 2 hours or longer if you had to. Roll out the dough and yes do not be ashamed of using a rolling pin, and size is up to you or how well the dough has risen. Spread on the passata and add the cheese and then your toppings of choice, onions usually go on last. If you are lucky you have the fancy pizza trays otherwise place them on baking paper. Put them relatively low in the oven but not the lowest rung as it might burn and they usually take about 15 to 20 minutes.

Ecco Fatto!

Monday 1 February 2010

Feed the birds

or not as the case may be....but certainly there is no experience in New Zealand that does not include birds of varying shapes and sizes. OK so you expect them when you head to the park but additionally expect to find them along with any activity that includes food. These birds don't just hang about either but get up close and personal with you and your food whether you have finished or not. Public notice at picnic sites should read: NEVER LEAVE FOOD UNATTENDED. Crazy people actually intentionally feed these animals!
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