Zero to Hero Day 4: Explore the neighbourhood

I found the Zero to Hero Day 4 assignment overwhelming. There are so many great blogs to read and follow, on all manner of topics. What am I going to give up so I can spend more time reading blogs?

But I have followed through on the how-to with regard to the reader, and practised following individual blogs and tags (topics).

I may manage reading and following by reviewing my reading list periodically. A bit like I re-stack the books in my TBR pile next to the bed.

Daily Prompt: Call Me Ishmael

“In the early and uncommitted hours of a bright summer’s morning, shaded by a prim row of poplars.”

This is the beginning of Fast Ed Halmagyi’s The Food Clock. Today’s Daily Prompt says: “Take the first sentence from your favorite book and make it the first sentence of your post.”

You might think this is a strange sentence to begin a cook book, and you’re probably right. But it is a wonderful start to the accompanying novella that is interspersed throughout the book.

I read a lot, and my tastes are somewhat eclectic, so I am not able to pick a favourite book. However, my favourite at the moment is ‘The Food Clock’. My good friend DB gave it to me, he said, to thank me for dinner the previous weekend as he cannot return the favour.

The recipes are organised into 16 chapters following seasons of food availability from “hot o’clock” (summer) through to “warm o’clock” (spring), including ‘quarter past’, ‘half past’, and ‘quarter to’ o’clocks. The photographs are definitely food pornography and these are tempered with graphics and illustrations to give the book a worn albeit glossy feel – complete with red wine glass stains.

So far I have made:

  • Rhubarb Pudding
  • Chocolate Almond Pinwheels
  • Chicken with Black Olives and Oregano

And, I am making the Red Onion & Lentil Soup tonight.

All dishes that I have made have been superb, so much so they have been repeated over and over. Which is funny because the inside fly-leaf reads “Most of us cook the same few dishes over and over again because we′re busy and have lost our connection to the changes of the seasons”. I think it is going to be difficult to try all the recipes, without getting stuck on some of them 🙂

I took the rather heavy book on holiday with me, planning to read the novella from beginning to end. But we ended up having a rather active and full-on time away, that I only read the prologue and first chapter. It is the story of Henri Petit-Pois who is somewhat reflective while working in his garden, shopping for ingredients, and preparing food for himself and guests. Perfect for a holiday read, but it is definitely the wrong format to read in bed, on a plane, or on the beach!

What is great about the book, is that it is about eating seasonally which is what I try to do to keep my food miles down.

pickled cabbage

H gave me Stephanie Alexander’s Kitchen Garden Companion for Christmas. It is similar to the Cook’s Companion (which I already own), except that it has a section at the beginning of each chapter how to plant, grow, and cultivate each of the plant ingredients.

I wanted the book because I saw it as a way of knowing what what was in season, and considering what to grow in the garden, and how many plants.

When Red Cabbage is in season and plentiful, I usually make a couple of batches of pickled red cabbage. In the ‘Kitchen Garden Companion’, it says that you can grow cabbage all year round in hot and temperate climates. But it looks like I will have to sort out the water issue first, as I have read that they need a lot of water.

decluttering and letting go

The De-clutter 52 Things in 52 weeks Challenge

I wouldn’t call myself a hoarder, but I definitely have ‘stuff’ that is not loved or used – too much in fact! Well, not according to some people I know, but it is a personal decision and I consider what I have is far more than I want.

I have been flying on and off since April 2008. Looking at all my stuff, you would probably say ‘off’. But while I know I may not have ‘put away’, ‘give away’, or ‘throw away’ as much as I would have liked, I know that I have not recently brought into my home anything, and resisted most strongly when other people want to give me their stuff.

This Christmas New Year period I had two weeks holiday and decided the main task that I wanted to do was to begin to declutter. Note, the word ‘begin’, because even I know that realistically I could not declutter over two weeks.

I started by gathering together the pile of diaries and calendars (1999, 2005-2010) and spent a week going through them all and noting in a personal journal and 2011 desk diary any achievements and experiences where I could improve. This not only decluttered the physical diaries, but decluttered my mind.

I plan to follow FlyLady’s How to Declutter, i.e. set a timer for 15 minutes and ‘put away’, ‘throw away’, or ‘give away’ during that time. Also, I picked up a copy of Corinne Grant’s Lessons in Letting Go before the holidays which gave me some perspective to the task that I was about to begin.

During decluttering I came across The Organised Housewife with a number of posts related to organising and decluttering. The “The De-clutter ’52 Things in 52 weeks’ Challenge” is appealing because the number 52 makes decluttering my home sound so easy. Fifty two weeks in a year, one declutter a week, I can do that!

July to November reading

July through November I did not read as much as I usually do. This may have been due to the increased amount and different type of reading that was required for one of my university units. Also, I found I was just too tired to read before sleeping, which is when I do most of my recreational or reading for pleasure.

However, I still managed to read the following, not necessarily in this order:

All of which will be wild released over the coming week as I feel I have some serious BookCrossing to catch up on.

Most of the books were obtained through the local library as discards or donated to raise funds for the local library or from Grandad’s box of books.

Currently making my way through Moran v Moran. Definitely not something to read between mandatory or necessary reading for research and study. The book was donated to the library fundraiser and has newspaper cuttings inserted as bookmarks, and various sentences underlined. Definitely will look at some ‘lighter’ reading after this one.

June reads

Except ‘Breath’, I obtained all this month’s reads from the discard shelf at the local library. I also tended to choose the books that I knew H would not want to read so that I could wild release them when I had finished.

Candelo by Georgia Blain was a library discard that I obtained for a few cents. The story revolves around a family holiday at Candelo and the events that lead from there to continue to effect the parties involved. The story is narrated by Ursula, the middle sister of the family as she manages her current life situation in relation to that of the past.

Breath by Tim Winton I read almost in two sittings. The pace is such that you have to remember to draw breath yourself. It could be a simplistic coming of age story about two boys, but it is made more interesting by the narrator. The narrator is one of the boys, who now as an adult is reflecting on his boyhood after attending the scene of an attempted suicide as a paramedic.

Girl from the South by Joanna Trollope is a beach novel, but a welcome distraction after completing my literary review for uni. I found the contrast between London and Charleston vivid, particularly between family and their relationships. Sometimes it is difficult to not assume that two English speaking countries are going to be similar. It is a story about four characters who for different reasons are at turning points in their own lives, or because of the lives of others. Little resolution with aplomb, and a lot of life is messy.

The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella challenges the corporate world with domesticity. It got me wondering how many people that do not have the life skills to look after themselves without the assistance of other people or organisations. The novel was romp through mistaken identity and domestic faux pas.

Kiss the Girls by James Patterson was not a book that I particularly enjoyed reading. The crimes are horrific but clever, the detective work relies on a break-through, and there is a love interest. Fortunately it was easy to read over two days to get to the end.

Altar Ego by Kathy Lette was published ten years ago, which is about the time I stopped frequent spending my $24.95 on new releases. Instead, I’m pleased I was able to give the library fifty cents to read the book now. I feel that the screed on the back cover makes the novel appear to be more interesting than it is. And while I know that this is the purpose of the back cover, I think it was better written and more interesting than the pages between the covers.

All in all, a bit of pulp fiction for the month.

May reads

Three of the books I read this month I obtained from the local library. However, they were library discards or books that people had donated in order for the library to do some fundraising. So it has being costing me money to go to the library 🙂

  • The Falls by Ian Rankin is a DI Rebus and DC Clarke investigation of a missing student. In additiion to the usual plodding, the story includes an online game with the Quizmaster, except the clues are cryptic and in real life.
  • This Reader’s Digest Select Editions included The King of Torts by John Grisham, A Week in Winter by Marcia Willett, and The Last Detective by Robert Crais, and Eat Cake by Jeanne Ray. All are authors that I don’t usually seek out, but I enjoyed the medley of this digest. The King of Torts was predictable in part, and The Last Detective a little pedestrian. I enjoyed most A Week in Winter and Eat Cake. Both could be described as women’s fiction, but the characters were developed and their relationships formed the story. The two cake recipes at the end of Eat Cake: Almond Apricot Pound Cake with Amaretto and Sweet Potato Bundt Cake with a Spiked Sugar Glaze sound glorious. I think I will copy them before wild releasing this book.
  • Tom, Dick and Debbie Harry by Jessica Adams was definitely cringe material. The story is centred around a wedding in a rural town in Tasmania, Australia. It is described as ‘a hilarious romp’, and it certainly is a light read, funny in parts, but not hilarious.
  • The Ghost Writer by John Harwood I picked up at The Coop Bookshop sale because it was set in Australia and the UK. It is a story within a story within a story. Parts of a manuscript are set in different type and form part of and become the story. A good creepy read.

I’m looking forward to some wild releasing once I have finished my literature review for uni.