Friday, 14 June 2019

My Smoko Break

What do you do when you realise you should cut back on sugar before all your teeth fall out? Me - I make a batch of muffins of the banana and chocolate chip variety.

I work in a public library and I was shelving some books a few weeks back in our extensive recipe book collection and this book My Smoko Break by Hayley Maudsley caught my eye.

This book brings together more than 200 of Hayley's recipes. Hayley has a Facebook page called My Smoko Break which has more than 120,000 followers. Flicking through her book what drew me in was her stories about life as a mum living in rural Queensland, Australia which are scattered through the book in between her recipes.

Most times it's the photographs of the dishes of food that make me pick up a recipe book but there are no pictures or images in this book and I reckon it works. There's a lot of colour in Hayley's storytelling, her handy tips and tricks as well as her recipes. The book features recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as smoko, dessert, special occasions and cooking with kids.

I have a stack of recipe books at home and MasterChef Australia is my absolute favourite TV show. I'm often asked by my nearest and dearest why I don't use those recipe books more, why I can't cook like the contestants on said cooking show or like my sisters who are both amazing cooks. My answer is four-fold 1) There are too many ingredients, 2) The dishes look too difficult 3) They take too long to prepare and 4) Fear it won't turn out right.

The recipes in My Smoko Break look relatively easy and I tested one by making a batch of banana and chocolate chip muffins. Easy as! Delicious too! I think I'm going to try the Chicken Curry in the Slow Cooker recipe next!

Friday, 12 April 2019

The Boy Without Love.... And the Farm That Saved Him

Have you ever been reading a book and part of you thinks I just can't read this anymore but the other half of you thinks I really need to read this book?

I have just finished reading The Boy Without Love.... And The Farm That Saved Him and talk about a confronting read.

I stumbled across English author Simon Dawson's books Pigs in Clover and Sty's The Limit a couple of years ago in the library I work at. I wasn't working at the library then but the covers of the books and the synopsis on each made me want to read them. Those two books talk of his and wife Debbie's life moving from the city to become self sufficient on a smallholding aka lifestyle block in North Devon. He has pigs and sheep, two great Danes, a hilarious friend called Ziggy and is good at drinking wine and cooking delicious food. I absolutely LOVED both books. I love his writing style and laughed a lot reading them so I couldn't wait for this book's release. As soon as it was available, I bought it online.

I was hoping for another humourous book but this third book is not funny. To be honest it's one of the saddest books I've read. It's a book about Dawson's childhood, the rejection he felt by a mother who told him she didn't love him and the abuse he suffered. I cried several times reading this book. I almost couldn't finish it but I kept being pulled back to read it.

Although it's hard to read, there are lighter chapters in which he talks about life on his farm too and how his wife and beautiful pets and animals have, as the book title suggests, saved him.
It takes a very brave person to get their thoughts down in such a clear and readable way as Dawson has done in this book.

Definitely four out of five stars for this moving read.

FOOTNOTE: This book does come with a warning from Dawson of some rather graphic language.

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Granny McFlitter - A Country Yarn

Granny McFlitter is back! And she is more adorable than ever, knitting, knitting and knitting some more. Nothing is going to stop her knitting - not even a rather large bull.

I loved the first Granny McFlitter book Granny McFlitter The Champion Knitter. Now New Zealand author Heather Haylock and illustrator Lael Chisholm have joined forces for this second instalment Granny McFlitter A Country Yarn.

In this book Granny McFlitter is showing off her knitted vegetables at the A&P Show. To those outside of New Zealand reading this an A&P Show is an agricultural show. Granny McFlitter is sitting back enjoying a pot of tea when a bull escapes. Granny McFlitter comes to the rescue with her knitting skills but there is a little bit more to this story.

Some of the items Granny McFlitter knits are amazing. Have you ever seen a knitted pavlova, lamington, fudge or even a gate.

The illustrations in this book are again absolutely delightful and it is hard to believe that the illustrator is only in her early 20s.

I just love the poetic writing style of the author, who is a teacher aide in a primary school.

If you haven't met Granny McFlitter yet, you need to - she's adorable. Looking forward to reading more of her knitting adventures in the future. 

Saturday, 2 March 2019

What You Wish For

Praise again for Catherine Robertson. She'd have to be one of my favourite New Zealand fiction writers and she has done it again with this fantastic book.

What You Wish For follows on from her book Gabriel's Bay and features many of the same characters with a few new and rather eccentric ones including a recluse who plays Scrabble and doesn't have much of a wardrobe, added into the mix.There are a lot of characters but I loved how Robertson listed all of the characters and gave a brief description of each at the start of this book. While the first Gabriel's Bay book featured a dog, this one features a moose - an animal you wouldn't normally see in New Zealand.  

This book is again set in the fictitious New Zealand town of Gabriel's Bay. There are several story lines moving throughout the book with each chapter written through the eyes of a different character - a style similar to the first book - a style I really like.

I don't want to give too many of the details or the storylines of the book away but I could really relate to the character Patricia - a woman who couldn't have children but then offers respite care for a boy who she forms a bond with and to whom she finds it very difficult to say goodbye. Hats off to anyone who offers respite care or fosters children. I don't think I could do it.

I bought this book within days of its release early in January as I couldn't wait to read it. In some ways I think I enjoyed this book more than the first. Hopeful for a third instalment of life in Gabriel's Bay.


Friday, 4 January 2019

Bookish Resolutions - 2019

It's a new year and with that comes new goals and resolutions. I don't have a huge number of personal ones except for maybe buy a new car to replace my 1997 Toyota Corolla which has seen better days, do a bit of work on our house (that's more my husband's domain - he's way more practical than me. My painting skills leave a lot to be desired too),  celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary, work my way towards completing my studies and enjoy life.

But here's seven bookish resolutions I've set for myself for 2019!

  1. SET a reading challenge on one of my favourite websites Goodreads but don't bust a gut to achieve it. It's good to read for enjoyment's sake not for reaching a goal's sake. I've set the number of books I want to read this year quite low. Some have set a goal of reading 100 books or 200 books or even 50 books and some achieve that. I know I won't. It's good to have a record of what you read but it doesn't really matter at the end of the day if you achieve the goal of reading a certain number of books each year. Does it?
  2. BE more selective about the books I buy! Hello I work in a public library and have access to thousands of books, most of which are free. Last year I bought a number of books I thought I wanted to read and when I sat down to read them, they weren't that good and I ended up donating them to charity.
  3. WAIT until I find some really good books to spend book vouchers I received for my birthday and Christmas on rather than spending them on something I will end up not reading.
  4. TRY reading different genres. I say that but it probably won't happen as there are particular genres I like. Fantasy, crime, young adult and graphic novels aren't those for me and that's okay.
  5. READ an Ebook, try an audiobook and read more children's books. Have you seen the amazing array of books out there for kids and they are gorgeous. Personally, I'm looking forward to reading more of the adventures of Granny McFlitter the Champion Knitter.
  6. MAKE a bit more time for reading - eek I already probably spend too much time reading.
  7. MOST IMPORTANT - have fun reading and if I don't like a book put it down and find something else! Life's too short to read books you don't enjoy!  
Happy reading in 2019 everyone!

Thursday, 3 January 2019


Let me start off by saying I don't follow American politics. I live on the other side of the world for starters and I'm not a Barack Obama supporter, Donald Trump supporter nor a fan of Hillary Clinton.

However, after watching an interesting documentary about Michelle Obama which coincided with the release of her book Becoming, I really wanted to read it.

The book is split into three parts - before she met Barack Obama, when she met Barack and then life in the White House as the First Lady. The book only dwells on politics in small doses. It's more about Michelle Obama's own story growing up in Chicago, her relationship with her parents and older brother, some of the losses she experienced as a young woman, studying at Harvard, becoming a lawyer and meeting Barack. The book covers her life as wife to Barack and mother to their two children Malia and Sasha before combining that with being the First Lady.

The book delves into her thoughts and feelings dealing with the pros and cons of being married to the president, how she viewed life in the White House, the intense security, the programs she got involved in and her own emotions dealing with tragedies such as the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting and other shootings, visiting seriously injured soldiers, meeting Nelson Mandela and spending time with the Queen.  

One part of this book which stood out to me was when Michelle Obama visited a wounded soldier at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and was greeted by the following message on the door of his room.
If you are coming into this room with sorrow or to feel sorry for my wounds, go elsewhere. The wounds I received, I got in a job I love, doing it for people I love, supporting the freedom of a country I deeply love. I am incredibly tough and will make a full recovery.''

The book is long but it kept me interested to the end - an ending in which Michelle Obama reveals her own plans for life after the White House.

Highly recommended reading!

Sunday, 2 December 2018

Best Fiction For 2018 - A Month of Sundays

If you were asked to pick a book you've read that tells others a bit about you, what would you choose?

I have a few I could think of and one of those may be this book A Month of Sundays by Australian author and journalist Liz Byrski. 

Byrski has written a lot of fiction and this one caught my eye when I saw the bookshelves on its cover, read the synopsis and the author's letter at the start about how much she wanted to write a book about books. 

A Month of Sundays tells the story of four retired/soon-to-be-retired women, who have met for more  than 10 years as part of an online book club. They've never met in person until one of the women suggests they do so. She invites them to help her house-sit in the Blue Mountains for a month. They're each asked to bring a book which will teach the others more about her. They have a week to read each of the respective books chosen while also spending time getting to know each other. Each Sunday they discuss one of the books.

I loved the portrayal of each of the four women and their past and present stories. Each is dealing with different issues - sickness, business ventures, approval of others and family relationships - to name a few. 

I couldn't put this book down. It is easily the best piece of fiction I've read in 2018.