Books to Read on a Plane, or a Train, or an Automobile

We are doing a bit of travelling at the moment! As you read this we are getting ready to make our way to Philadelphia to meet up with some dear friends. I find travelling to be a great time to really sink my teeth into a new read or an old favourite. I love hanging out in airport bookshops while I’m waiting for a flight. If you are planning a getaway you might want to pick up a new read yourself (my current plane read: The Girl with All the Gifts). Here are some of my top recommendations for books to read on a plane, or in a train, or anywhere you might find yourself in-transit. I’ve divided them into my own whimsical categories, of course.

Tell me a tale: cracking good reads with a hint of magical realism.the wild girl

Fantastical Fantasybook of life

Non-Fiction Fanciesbrain that changes

Airport Favourites walk in the woods

Tell me dear reader what are your favourite books for when you are travelling?

My other dirty secret: when I’m flying is the only time I let myself buy a stack of magazines. My usual picks: Scientific American, Time, Outdoor Magazine, Saveur, Bon Appetit, Cooking Light. And sometimes, People….

Cookbook Wish List

I have a cookbook obsession. I’m not ashamed to admit it. Put pretty photos of food, lots of luscious food words, and sprinkle it with recipes onto some pages and I become entranced. Cookbooks are the reason I love blogs, and blogging. The book never ends; there is always a new post to read from one of my favourites.

But the original obsession remains. We have teetering towers of cookbooks in a pile in nearly every room of the house – kitchen, bedroom, spare bedroom (currently functioning as a library/wardrobe), dining room… The list goes on. Nothing comforts me, or excites me, as much as flipping through the pages of a cookbook – a new discovery or an old friend. I dream about meals I’ll cook when we move into our new house and can entertain our friends (our current house is a leeeetle too small); I get inspired to create recipes for the blog; or I just lose myself in the perfectly placed lettuce leaves or stacks of cookies. It’s my happy place.

So here is my current cookbook lust list – watch out credit card! (sorry Chris…)

Flavor Flours – Alice Medrich 

Alice Medrich - Flavour FloursAlice is one of my heroes. Each of her cookbooks is a masterful study of the subject she chooses, and I am so glad that her latest cookbook is focuses on all the flours I love to cook with! Recipes like ‘Brown Rice Sponge Cake with Three Milks’; ‘Buckwheat Sour Cream Souffles with Honey’; ‘Hazelnut Layer Cake with Dark Chocolate Frosting and Blackberry Preserves’; and ‘Nibbly Walnut Shorties’ have me hoping this book will be on my bookshelf very soon!

Baking Chez Moi: Recipes From My Paris Home to Your Home Anywhere – Dorie Greenspan

Dorie Greenspan - Baking Chez MoiA Sunday in Paris with Dorie would be a dream come true for me. I have pored over ‘Baking: From My Home to Yours‘ so many times that I feel like I could be right at home helping Dorie make sables, or Katherine Hepburn Brownies. But, alas, I think I’m going to have to make do with baking a ‘Sunday in Paris Chocolate Cake’ to eat while reading her latest masterpiece, or perhaps whip up a batch of ‘Chocolate-Covered Toffee Breakups’, or share a ‘Berry and Pistachio Gratin’ with friends and create my own Paris moment.

Gluten-Free Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day – Jeff Hertzberg, MD and Zoë François

Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois - Gluten Free Artisan BreadOh, bread. It’s not that I miss you everyday, but on a Sunday morning I would love a thick, yeasty slice cut fresh from a steaming loaf and spread generously with butter and jam, gold and scarlet bleeding down into fluffy white; or a luxuriously seeded wedge to pair with cheese and soup for a midwinter’s feast. Ah. Now, thanks to the genius pair behind the Bread 5-Minutes a Day series of books, we gluten-free peoples can live our bready dreams again. Also, gluten free Brioche filled with Chocolate Ganache – take me there.

The Einkorn Cookbook – Shanna and Tim Mallon

Shanna and Tim Mallon - The Einkorn CookbookShanna and Tim are the gorgeous couple behind the beautifully written and photographed website ‘Food Loves Writing‘ and this is their first cookbook (they are currently also working on a little Mallon to join the family!). Although I can’t eat einkorn, I am always looking for alternative grains to feed my friends and family and I just know they will love recipes in this book ranging from Cannoli Cupcakes to Lamb-Stuffed Peppers.

A Change of Appetite – Diana Henry

Diana Henry - A Change of AppetiteI love Diana Henry’s cookbooks they are filled with gorgeous photos and the recipes are saturated with flavour, but sometimes they can be a little too heavy for our hotter climates and my skinny jeans/bikini. This book is filled with what Nigella Lawson has deemed ‘templefood’ – a lighter, more wholegrain, more Thoroughly Nourished kitchen way of eating. I already love the cover of the book (artichoke art always gets me) and I can tell I am going to love the book with recipes like: ‘Red Lentil and Carrot Kofte’; ‘Berry and Hibiscus Sorbet’; and ‘Bulgarian Griddled Courgettes and Aubergines with Tarator’. Definitely a must for the Thoroughly Nourished Life kitchen.

At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen: Celebrating the Art of Eating Well – Amy Chaplin

At Home in the Wholefood Kitchen - Amy ChaplinAmy Chaplin is a vegetarian chef (and an ex-pat Aussie!) and this book is both an education and a celebration of the bounty a vegetarian diet offers. I can’t wait to try ‘Roasted Fall Vegetable and Cannellini Bean Stew’; or ‘Curried Socca with Cilantro Coconut Chutney’; or the decadent ‘Dark Chocolate Truffle Tart with Brazil Nut Crust’. Another must for my bookshelf – soon!

Flourless: Recipes for Naturally Gluten-Free Desserts – Nicole Spiridakis 

Nicole Spiridakis - Flourless

As you know, this blog focuses on gluten free baking using naturally gluten free flours rather than commercially-made gluten free flour. This book from Nicole Spiridakis (the talented writer behind the blog Cucina Nicolina) is centred on that very same ideal: using naturally gluten free flours to create stunning, tasty desserts for sensitive tummies. Nicole supplies such treats as: ‘Mexican Hot Chocolate Cake with Milk Chocolate Buttercream Frosting’ and ‘Salt-Dusted Lavender-Lemon Cookies’. Someone pass me my apron and some butter – stat!

There are so many more cookbooks that I am excited about, but these are the top on my list at the moment. I can’t wait to move into our new house and add them to my bookshelves (I’m going to have a special cookbook bookcase near the kitchen!) and then get cooking, sharing, and enjoying all the delights they have to offer.

Tell me, what is your favourite ever cookbook? One you are itching to get your hands on?

On My Shelf – Give Me a Good Story

I don’t belong to a formal book club, although it is certainly something I know I would enjoy, but I am lucky enough to be surrounded by people who love to read, and who love to talk about books and reading. There is a vulnerability in recommending books to other people, or in sharing your favourite books; a window to your innermost soul is opened when someone cracks the pages of a book you identify with and cherish so much that it has become a part of your own story. Here’s a peek at what’s been part of my story over the past two months.

The Bronze Horseman Trilogy
(The Bronze Horseman, The Bridge to Holy Cross, and The Summer Garden) by Paullina Simons

Bronze Horseman Trilogy

These books were recommended to my by my friend Jess (to distinguish her from sister Jess) and as soon as I had read the first chapter I was hooked! I read the first in the trilogy over the weekend. I don’t think Chris managed to rouse me from my reading chair except to go for a walk and eat something between reading sessions. The Bronze Horseman Trilogy tells the sweeping love story of Tatiana and Alexander: lovers under the most unfortunate circumstances. Over the course of these three books Tatiana and Alexander experience challenges, hard ships, and moments of joy against the backdrop of any ever changing world. From frozen Russia to the plains of Arizona to the jungles of Vietnam these novels keep the pace up. I really enjoyed following these lovers from the first buds of love through to a decades-long marriage. If you love a good love story with strong writing then I highly recommend The Bronze Horseman Trilogy.


The Husband’s Secret
by Liane Moriarty

husbands secret

The first chapter of this promises an intriguing story and strong characters, so I downloaded it onto my iPad one afternoon and prepared myself for a good lazy weekend of reading. It was awful. I still read the whole thing as I am not very good at giving up and I was hoping that it would redeem itself. No such luck. I can’t even think of one good thing to say. Such a shame as there isn’t much women’s literature set in Australian towns that I recognise, and this book shows people in the worst light at every opportunity. Sorry Liane Moriarty, but I can’t recommend this one.

The Hundred Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais

hundred foot journey

I saw The Hundred Foot Journey film with the women in my family, and as soon as we stepped out of the theater I purchased the book. I was in love with the imagery of food, and how exactly the right combination of flavours and textures can sweep you back to the past or propel you forward to new adventures. The storyline of the movie and book diverge in some points, but I believe that you can enjoy each for it’s own merits. The book is a quick read, but despite its brevity (it’s only 270 pages) you feel the heft of a deep, rich story that travels from India to France and flavours the present day with the spice of the past. It’s about taking chances, making choices, but never losing sight of who you are. For food lovers everywhere I highly recommend The Hundred Foot Journey.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

rebecca

The title may say romantic suspense, but if you are looking for true romance then this is not the book for you. I am not trying to ‘classics bash’ but even taking into consideration the time period in which this is set (early 20th century) the romance is hard to find. The suspense element is mild but present, but what makes it all worthwhile are the descriptions of Manderley and the creepy Mrs Danvers. If you have a dark and stormy day to spare ‘Rebecca’ isn’t a bad way to wile away some time.

The Gold Finch by Donna Tartt

the goldfinch

I am not trying to get into the popular crowd when I say this: I loved ‘The Goldfinch’ and I totally believe that it deserved the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (or should that be finch-ion?). This is a long book, but there is real story here, and characters who grow and develop and are flawed and truly human. Donna Tartt has created a world that you can dive into and spend hours in. Theo is a sympathetic and flawed narrator whose voice it is pleasant to spend hours with. I binge read this book in sessions. I couldn’t just pick it up and flick through a few pages: it had me up at all hours of the night just needing to finish the chapter. If you are looking for a book to read over the summer break then I highly recommend The Goldfinch.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

the help

I read this book over three sleepless nights and one very lazy Sunday (don’t worry Mum I remembered to put on pants – proof) and I wish Kathryn Stockett had written a thousand more books (this is her only one so far) because I wanted to live with the voices of the women in this book for the rest of my reading life. By now I’m sure many of you have read the book or seen the film, but for those who haven’t. This is the story, mainly, of three women (and many surrounding characters) living in Jackson, Mississippi in the early 1960’s. The times they were changing, but not in Jackson so Skeeter Phelan decides to write about just that. She didn’t know what gifts embarking on this writing project would bring, nor would she know the costs to herself and those around her. Remarkable. On my shelf of all time favourites and most highly recommended.

Tell me dear reader, what have you been reading at the moment? Any books on your Summer (or Winter) Reading list yet? Any authors you wish had written a thousand more books?

I have a whole Pinterest board of Books Worth Reading! Some I’ve read, some are on my never-ending To Read list – come and see what’s on the list!

On My Shelf – Reading Appetite Regained

I am always reading something. I have always been that way. Ever since I was privy to the magic of letters transfigured into words, sound, meaning and understanding I have been a lover of books and reading. Sometimes, however, I stray from the path of literature and I voraciously consume other content: magazines, blogs, photographs. Lately I have regained my appetite for literature and I have been eating up book after book. Here are my latest reads and my thoughts on each. If you have read any of these, let me know what you thought in the comments below, or tell me what you are reading lately.

Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital 

Sheri Fink (Crown, 2013)

five days at memorial

 

This book follows the journey of the staff and patients at New Orlean’s Memorial Hospital as Hurricane Katrina rages and the flood waters rise. So many things went wrong with disaster management and after the storm clears questions arise about decisions made by the hospital staff. While the content is sad, I enjoyed Fink’s writing style and the amount of detail she weaves into her story. She has certainly done her research, and while we will never know the whole truth this book is an interesting look at what happens to humanity when life hangs in the balance. The whole end section of this book is full of references if you wish to continue your reading about the events surrounding the hospital and investigation.

 

Quiet: The Power of Introverts 

Susan Cain (Broadway Books, 2013)

quiet

This book explained so many aspects of my own personality to me! I have always felt like an introvert, but then I have no problem sharing my innermost thoughts with the right people. Susan Cain’s ‘Quiet’ illuminated the spectrum of introversion and extroversion and the traits that may be present in both. Now I understand why I hunger for ‘real conversation’ and need time alone to recharge. I highly recommend this book if you want to gain insight into your own personality, and also relationships with those around you who may be similar, or lie on the opposite end of the spectrum.

 

Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow

Peter Hoeg (translated, 1995, Delta)

smilla

 

I cannot decide whether I enjoyed or endured this story. It took me forever to finally reach the end and I was left with the feeling that I hadn’t quite understood the larger themes Hoeg was trying to convey through the story of the strange Smilla. Some of his descriptive devices are enjoyable, but overall I felt like I was viewing the deeper meaning through a snowstorm.

 

The Bell Jar

Sylvia Plath (1963, reprinted by Faber & Faber)

the bell jar

I loved this book. I have written before about episodes of mild depression that I have experienced in the past, and the descriptions offered by Esther about the feeling of being inside a bell jar while life continues its hustle and bustle around spoke to my experiences precisely. More than that this story is about coming of age as a woman in a time where there are so many options open for you to pursue, and the pressure to choose your life path so early in life. I would highly recommend this to senior high school students or university students and anyone who is standing at the crossroads trapped in their own bell jar.

 

March

Geraldine Brooks (2006, Penguin)

march

 

Little Women‘ was one of my favourite books as a child and young adult, and Geraldine Brooks is my favourite author, so I cannot believe that it took me so long to finally pick up this volume. Rarely do I sit still for long stretches of time, but I finished this book over a weekend in large greedy gobbles. Against a backdrop of the American Civil War, March is a story about love, honour, family and the scars that our past choices leave on our conscious. I cannot recommend this book highly enough, and I don’t have to, the folks at the Pulitzer Prizes awarded it winner status in 2006.

 

The Language of Flowers

Vanessa Diffenbaugh (2011, Ballantine Books)

language of flowers

I struggled with the main character Victoria throughout this entire book; however, I think this may have been the author’s intention so that you could feel the inner conflict that haunts Victoria until nearly the end. As a flower lover (as you have probably garnered if you follow me on Instagram) I found the information about floral meanings interesting and the way Victoria uses flowers and bouquets to express the feelings she cannot speak aloud. This book swept me into its story and I didn’t want it to end. I do hope that Diffenbaugh continues to write because I really enjoyed her style.

That’s all folks! Right now I am deeply involved in ‘The Bronze Horseman‘, which was recommended to me by my friend Jess. I’m blaming her for the circles under my eyes because I cannot put this book down.

Tell me dear readers, what are you reading at the moment? Any opinions on the books I have been reading recently? Also, you can now find me on Good Reads if you’d like.

Happy reading.

On My Shelf – The Summer Reading List

This summer, in between training for a half marathon and eating delicious things, I read a lot of books. A close approximation of one of my personal heavens includes a pile of books to read, a couch large enough for napping between chapters, and a cup of tea that never gets cold or empty. So, this summer, which also included my other personal heaven of going to the beach with Chris, also included a lot of books. May I present the latest (irregular) edition of ‘On My Shelf’ – The Summer Reading List.

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

Although I have not read any of Hemingway’s works, this fictional look into his character by way of his first wife and their courtship, marriage, and downfall, was illuminating of the man behind the myth. Hadley Hemingway is a believable character and I was instantly sympathetic to her voice. Be prepared to be swept into the Hemingways’ jazz age social circles, world travels, and their tragedy. Highly recommended.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Open the pages of The Night Circus and be swept into the fantastical and phantasmal black and white world of circus life. This story of a deadly competition between two old rivals, and the young lives that it will affect until their end, is full of imagery that will leap of the page and linger long after you close the covers. I was enchanted by Erin Morgernstern’s ability to conjure a circus inside my mind and have me invested in the outcomes of the characters at the same time. This novel is both plot and character driven and oh how I would love to see a film version one day!

Big Brother by Lionel Shriver

This was the first book I downloaded and read on the iPad Chris bought me for Christmas. It deals with a topic pertinent to today’s society and the current obesity crisis, and views it all from a very personal angle. I don’t know whether I really enjoyed the storyline and I found some of the characters (in fact nearly all of them) quite detestable, but I enjoyed the writing itself. There is a twist in the plot line that annoyed me, and I finished the book feeling empty and starved for a reasonable solution to the characters’ problems rather than the seemingly quick wrap up offered by Ms Shriver.

The Dinner by Herman Koch

I had a similar problem with the characters in this book as I did with those in Big Brother: I found myself unable to relate to them, or even to be sympathetic to their circumstances. The characters in this book seemed spoiled and self indulged and the problems they faced rose out of their own inability to face up to reality. The concept of ‘The Dinner’ is that all the characters know each other intimately but still bear secrets that could destroy the other’s lives and one night, the night of the dinner in question, this becomes reality. I just couldn’t completely buy into the situation the characters faced and their reactions.

Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight

This book is sad, sad but worthwhile reading. This is Ms McCreight’s first novel and I can’t wait to see what she writes next. The story of Kate and her daughter Amelia starts with Amelia’s apparent suicide. As Kate is trying to resolve the ending of her daughter’s life she receives an anonymous text that leads her to believe that something even darker took place that day. Kate is unrelenting in her search for the truth, and this well written first novel takes you along for the ride willingly. Recommended read.

The Wedding Dress by Rachel Hauck

After the last three serious books I needed something lighter and ‘The Wedding Dress’ fit the bill perfectly. A little bit preachy in parts, if you ignore these it makes a delightfully light romantic fiction with a bit of a ghost story thrown in. A good bedside table book for when the world is a little too complicated and your fiction needs to be simple and sweet.

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

I devoured this book in a record eight hours. I started while I was eating breakfast and finished as I was going for a ride on the stationary bike to make up for my lack of movement. I was lost in the world of the uber rich Nicholas Young and his complicated crazy family and the middle class Rachel Chu. There is a love story here, several in fact, and also tales of family, loyalty, and what people who have piles of money actually do with it all. Keeping track of all the characters can be a little difficult but Kwan provides family trees to help. The dialogue is what sparkles here, the story feels as if you are overhearing pieces of gossip and family stories from people you would be fascinated to know, but relieved that you weren’t related to. Recommended read.

The Theory of Opposites by Allison Winn Scotch

This book is part love story, part coming of age, and part self help. Willa Chandler has spent her whole life being told who and what she is and following a path of least resistance and most reliability. When her husband proposes that they spend two months apart Willa is confronted with other opportunities that will have her considering what could be possible if she directs her own path and takes her life into her own hands. Good inspirational stuff wrapped in an easy to read package. Perfect beach reading.

A Watershed Year by Susan Schoenberger

Another woman in her thirties facing a coming-of-age test. Lucy is lonely and love lost when her best friend Harlan dies. She never professed her love to him and now regrets what they could have had. Harlan speaks to her from beyond the grave with emails he set up before he died. Over the year following his death Lucy learns how to bring love into her life and how to hold onto second chances and new beginnings. Another good beach read.

After all this fiction, I am now on a non-fiction bent. My bedside table currently holds copies of ‘Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital‘ by Sheri Fink, ‘The Body Book‘ by Cameron Diaz, and ‘Blue Plate Special: An Autobiography of My Appetites‘ by Kate Christensen. Reviews of those to come. Hopefully in a more regular fashion.

Tell me dear reader, what are you reading? Any recommendations? Have you read any of these books?

On My Shelf – Catch Up Edition

It has been far, far too long since I have shared an ‘On My Shelf’ post with you all.

There have been many books in the intervening months. Perhaps not as many as I would like, but I am a slower reader. I prefer to linger on the page and really soak in the story, the characters, and even just the words themselves before moving onto the next chapter.

The highlights for me over the past few months have been:

Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth

Rapunzel reimagined with all the classic ingredients combined into a fresh new take on an old tale. I was so captivated by this fairy adaptation that one morning after a run I sat in a kitchen chair, unmoving, and finished it. When I looked up three hours had passed! Kate Forsyth weaves this story through Renaissance Italy and Revolutionary France, and despite the fantastical elements you are able to believe in the story and its place in history. Highly recommended.

Labyrinth by Kate Mosse

Oh Kate Mosse, can I be you when I grow up? Far better than the supermodel, this Kate Mosse is a bestselling author, playwright, co-founder of the Women’s Prize for Fiction, teaches, and is a wife and mother too! Labyrinth is the first in her three part ‘Languedoc’ series. All of the books feature a timeline that weaves between modern day and the Languedoc region in the past. This first one features Dr Alice Tanner, who discovers two skeletons whilst on an archaeological dig in France. This discovery triggers a chain of events that has deep dark ties to the past, and dire consequences for the future. Kate Mosse writes a good old fashioned adventure story laced with history and a sprinkling of romance.

White Jacket Required: A Culinary Coming of Age Story by Jenna Weber

I am a huge fan of Jenna’s blog: Eat, Live, Run, and so I couldn’t believe that it took me so long to read her book. As a young woman still searching for the real purpose of my life (ah yes, mid-twenties quarter life crisis in full effect) I empathised with Jenna’s journey to culinary school and the amazing adventures that awaited her outside the kitchen doors. White Jack Required is an intimate look into the life of one of my favourite bloggers, and she doesn’t hold much back at all. Keep the tissues handy for this one readers.

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

‘It’s dark,’ my little sister said when I loaned her this one to read ‘dark and delicious.’ In summary The Shining Girls sounds like science fiction, but it is more of a psychological thriller. This novel about a time-travelling Depression-era serial killer and the girl who got away and grew up waiting for her chance to hunt him down. Tightly written and told through the viewpoint of several different characters The Shining Girls will have you gripping the pages until you turn the very last one.

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

This book has been on my ‘to read’ list since I attended a panel featuring the beautiful Eowyn Ivey at the Brisbane Writer’s Festival last year. I am so happy that I finally picked it up. I devoured it over a weekend, and it only left me hungry for more from this author. The Snow Child tells the story of a married couple who have moved to Alaska to begin their life over again. Unable to have a child of their own they are just searching for something more in their life to fill the hole in their hearts. One wintry Alaskan night in the middle of a snow storm a little girl appears. She comes inside and so starts a new, wild, hope, disaster, and miracle filled journey for the characters. With the central themes of family, wishes, and the miracles of life, The Snow Child would be a perfect holiday season read.

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Another story about second chances. Only this time the protagonist, Ursula Todd, is given more than a second chance. Ursula is given the gift or curse of starting her life over and over again from the very beginning until she gets it right. Ursula is born just before the First World War and has come of age when the Second comes around. Every choice she makes, every road she takes has consequences that she must live with, until her next second chance comes around. I have been wrapped up tightly in this story for the past couple of nights, and it has me thinking about how we never know what big waves the small ripples our lives will cause.

So, dear readers, what have books have you been keeping company with lately? What’s next on your list? I am jumping back into some Kate Forsyth with ‘Wild Girl’ – a tale about the woman who inspired The Brothers Grimm, and maybe even wrote some of the stories…

Brain Food Friday

Friday is here again! With two big deadlines at work this week life has been about writing, editing, proofreading, editing again, and more proofreading. So, there hasn’t been a lot of time for taking photos of food! I am hoping to do some food-type nourishing over the weekend – Father’s Day is always a great time to conjure a deliciously decadent breakfast for my hardworking and big-hearted Dad, which I will share the results of next week (after the ‘official taste testers’ have deemed it suitable for the blog).

Between draining my brain with misplaced “‘that’s and ‘which’s”, and fighting to align columns correctly I have made time to nourish it with some interesting reading (the second-best type of lunchtime refuelling). I thought that this Friday afternoon I would share some of these links with you in case you are in want of good weekend reading, you know, when the newspaper just isn’t enough.

Planting more of these on the weekend

Planting more of these on the weekend

Our Brisbane winter season ended very abruptly last week and we are now well into strong spring weather, which of course has me thinking about summer and in particular – summer produce! While my family doesn’t belong to a CSA we do shop for our fruit and vegetables at the local farmer’s market and strawberry farm. Some weeks I buy way too much and I hate wasting produce that people have worked so hard to grow. This Greatist article on using up summer vegetables is sure to come in handy over the next few months.

While we are on the subject of summer food, Martha Stewart is supplying tantalising summer grilling recipes to my inbox in quantities that have me itching to break out the barbecue and big jugs of sangria already. This French potato salad from Martha is particularly calling my name – I love with Dijon mustard.

As a late-comer to my own Arts degree, I can see the intrinsic worth this field of study has had in my own life, so I was reassured to read articles railing against the current decline in universities offering English majors. I particularly loved Adam Gopnik’s article and this line

‘We cannot merely produce goods and services as efficiently as we can, sell them to each other as cheaply as possible, and die. Some idea of symbolic purpose, of pleasure-seeking rather than rent seeking, of Doing Something Else, is essential to human existence.’

I truly believe that we are not whole as people, as nations, as a species unless we have something to offer one another, and ourselves, apart from the material. Christina Paxson offers more on the economic case for the humanities and in the summary of her article talks about Horace Mann

‘Horace Mann, trained in the humanities, was instrumental in creating the public school system of the United States. He knew that a broad, secular education, open to all, was one of the foundations of our democracy, and that is was impossible to expect meaningful citizenship without offering people the tools to inform themselves about all of the great questions of life.’

To be truly human, to be truly fulfilled and willing and able to reach out in service and stand up to fight, we must be trained in how to question, and how to think.

(source - Taste.com)

(source – Taste.com)

And finally, just one more food link. This bright and beautiful Mint and Chilli Haloumi with Roast Vegetable Salad (see that photo above – yum!) caught my eye yesterday. Perfect for putting some spring into the end of winter’s produce.

Tell me, dear readers, how will you be nourishing yourself this weekend?
In addition to father’s day there are movie and dinner dates planned, and some running – it’s nearly training season again!

Happy Friday everyone.

Nourished Mind: On My Shelf Autumn Edition

You would think that someone who wants to be a writer, someone who studies writing, editing, and publishing, and lives in constant threat of a pile of books crashing onto her bed in the middle of the night, you would think that someone would get through a whole pile of books in a three month period.

That someone is me, and as I reflect over my ‘read’ pile for autumn I realise that my ‘to be read’ pile has grown at a disproportionate rate. I have to say it: I am a book-buying addict. I can’t help myself. Every time I walk past a second hand book shop the musk and vanillin smell draws me in. I can’t say no, and I never stop at just one. When there are books available for purchase, and I have to choose between books and food, well…even for a very hungry caterpillar like me the choice isn’t hard. I have filled the shelves in my room, and my collection has overflowed onto the floor. I am never without a stash in my handbag, car, gym bag, desk. If I don’t get my fix for a while I become distracted, my mind focused only on acquiring the next hit.

“Hello, my name is Amy, and I am a book-buying addict.”

(Hint: your line is…)

Over the last three months, in addition to reading papers for university and countless amazing blog entries and probably more Tweets than a healthy person should, I have managed to read, and complete a few books as well adding to the pile. So, here were my picks for autumn 2013.

Never Stop Believing by Sally Obermeder. Published by Allen & Unwin, 2013.

Sally’s story captured my heart from the moment Matt White first announced on Today Tonight that Sally was battling breast cancer. I followed the news of her story, and when she released her book I bought a copy on the first day I found one. I devoured the whole thing in about two days. I cried, I laughed. My heart tingled with warmth and went stone cold when I imagined the unhappy endings her story could have had. This is one that I recommend to any woman, or anyone who’s life has been touched by breast cancer. Sally’s voice is friendly and easy to read, and her story, although extraordinary in parts is really the story of someone who strove hard to achieve her dreams and fought back from the edge of the abyss. Keep the tissue box close for this one. Sally also curates a fantastic life, style, and celebrity news blog called Swiish.

A Clash of Kings (A Song of Ice and Fire: Book Two) by George R.R. Martin. Published by Bantam, 2000.

After receiving A Game of Thrones for Valentine’s Day, and falling completely in love with the epic nature of Martin’s writing and the world he has built, I had to buy the second book. Even though it is slow going and I have the attention span of a gnat so I am still devouring this book, bite by bite. Martin creates a world that draws you in, grand in scale but with human emotion that is easy to identify with, this is storytelling. I can almost imagine sitting around a fire listening to the bards of old recount this tale night after night while rapt audiences look on. I am so glad that there are five more books in the series! 

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life From Someone Who’s Been There by Cheryl Strayed. Published by Vintage, 2012.

I am fearful of trying to put words to this beautiful little book. I find it is best enjoyed in small amounts. This book is a selection of columns written for the ‘Dear Sugar’ section of ‘The Rumpus’ (check it our here). Each column offers a point of view or way of thinking about something that causes me to sit back and consider my own view of the world. There is great wisdom and compassion (and sometimes a wise and compassionate reality check) in the way Cheryl Strayed addresses each troubled soul. This is a volume to keep on your bookshelf and turn to in times of doubt or grief or when you need a sweet voice to remind you that we are all responsible for our own happiness and the turns our life takes are, for the most part, in our hands.

So, those are the books that I have finished (or mostly finished) over the past three months since my last ‘On the Shelf’ post. What’s filling my bedside table currently?

  • The Art of Romance Writing by Valerie Parv. This one is to help me with my goal of completing a romantic fiction manuscript by my 27th birthday – I have exactly 297 days remaining on my countdown!
  • Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. I discovered this during my weekly BBC Radio 4 binge (podcast here) and then I heard another interview on Radio National, which caused me to spend my entire lunchtime one day reading the free chapter available on Amazon. I then messaged my favourite independent bookseller and ordered my copy. Now it sits beside my bed, ready to be cracked open very soon.
  • The Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth. I am super-excited that Kate is coming along to the Writing Races I run every Wednesday night as part of my internship at The Australian Writer’s Marketplace. I am also super-excited to read this re-telling of the true tale of the Grimm brothers and the girl who grew up to marry Willhelm Grimm.
  • Yesterday I also visited the library and picked up two new cosy mysteries for a quick read in between more serious works: Witches Bane by Susan Wittig Albert, and Alpine for You by Maddy Hunter – oh how I do love a cosy.

And, I think that’s about it. Of course, it isn’t nearly a comprehensive list of the sentences and words that have enchanted and entranced me over the past season, but these printed and bound works are a good selection. Now, I’m off to do some writing of my own, and then a little Friday night reading.

Tell me, dear reader, what have you been reading in autumn? Anyone else a George R.R. Martin fan, or a Dear Sugar follower?

Autumn Approaches

The roses are throwing out their end-of-summer blooms; the sun sinks below the horizon earlier; the air carries a crisper note of leaves on the turn, ripe pears and apples, and cooler nights to come.
Autumn has always been my favourite season of the year. It starts with an unfair advantage because my birthday is at the start, but the appeal goes beyond that. Autumn is the time when the universe changes its paint palette and sweeps a swathe of golds, amber, and scarlet over the dark wet green of late summer. The earth’s bounty is most plentiful in autumn. In this part of the world summer fruits are harvested well into march and mild temperatures mean a wide array of produce throughout the season. Autumn is best for running: not too cold, nor too hot, and the falling leaves crunch so satisfactorily under foot.

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Memories from last Autumn

Cooking:

Roasted Eggplant Salad with Smoked Almonds & Goat Cheese (source)

Roasted Eggplant Salad with Smoked Almonds & Goat Cheese (source)

Things to do:

  • To keep my hands warm on long autumn walks (and bike rides!) these are so cute!
  • Things to make my winter garden sing! Beetroot, carrots, and beans would fit in my kitchen garden. Perhaps some sunflowers too.
  • Boots to keep my toes warm this winter – maybe these?
  • A pretty autumn picnic amongst the trees.

Moving:

  • I don’t know what we’ve gotten ourselves into, but this should come in handy when Chris and I line up at Tough Mudder in August…
  • Training for the Gold Coast Half Marathon and taking it s-l-o-w-l-y as I work through this asthma thing
  • I did my first Blogilates workout on Monday, and I loved it! Can’t wait to integrate this into my training regime on a more regular basis.

Thinking:

I know, I seem to love lists, but I promise you all tomorrow I will return with a delightful Gluten-free Spiced Carrot Loaf (perfect for a weekend breakfast), and on Saturday a warming dinner for these cooler nights and a rally to gather your family around the table.

Tell me dear readers, anything on your Autumn To Do List? Anything you’ve been reading or listening to lately?

Nourished Mind: On My Shelf in 2013

It’s been a while since my last bookshelf post so I thought now, with the early onslaught of wintery weather here in Brisbane, it might be an opportune time to share some of the best reads that have featured on my night stand or in my beach bag over the past couple of months.

My Berlin Kitchen: A Love Story with Recipes by Luisa Weiss (published by Viking Adult, 2012)

Luisa has the most beautiful blog at ‘The Wednesday Chef’ where she shares stories of her peripatetic early life and her family life now in Berlin. Reading ‘My Berlin Kitchen’ is like peaking into someone’s diary at different stages of their life, and watching a woman grow into her own soul. As the title states this is a love story, and Luisa’s has a wonderfully happy ending – filled with mouthwatering food of course. I savoured every page of this book. Now I’m just trying to figure out the right occasion to pull out her recipe for jam doughnuts – who am I kidding? Do you really need an occasion for doughnuts.

The Sprouted Kitchen: A Tastier Take on Whole Foods by Sara Forte. Photographed by Hugh Forte (published by Ten Speed Press, 2012).

I am a Sprouted Kitchen blog junkie. I will gladly admit to spending hours reading through posts that I have read before. Sara lures you to her kitchen table with tales of life and food and Hugh supplies delightful photos to accompany his wife’s words. I read this volume cover to cover when it arrived on my doorstep last year. One of my favourite recipes so far is toasted millet with arugula, quick pickled onions and goat cheese, and I can’t wait to make a winter supper featuring the braised white beans and leeks.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan (published by Penguin, 2007)

A classic that I am ashamed to admit that I hadn’t read yet. Michael Pollan’s ‘In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto‘ was the book that changed my shopping habits from supermarket to farmer’s market, which has become such an important and enriching weekly ritual. The Omnivore’s Dilemma is divided into three main sections where Pollan traces his meal from paddock (be that an industrial corn field, a large-scale organic production, a pasture where everything is connected, or a forest field) to plate and accounts for the costs, both moral and environmental, along the way. A must-read for those who are endlessly curious about our food systems, or just want to think a little more deeply about the eternal question: what’s for dinner?

A Game of Throne: Book One of ‘A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin (published by Bantam Books, 1996)

I’m only two-hundred pages into this first tome in a series of seven, but I am already in love with Martin’s depth of description and the way he weaves the stories of multiple characters across a vast world into a tangled-yet-intimate epic. This is the book that I have been needing for a long time; a juicy epic fantasy that I can’t put down. Thank you for a perfect Valentine’s Day present Chris.

In other book related news, I have just started my internship with the Australian Writer’s Marketplace at The Queensland Writer’s Centre! I am so lucky to be spending the next six months dabbling in the real world of writing and authors. I can’t wait to see what I’ll learn.

Queensland State Library

Queensland State Library

So dear reader, what is sitting on your bedside table at the moment, or keeping you company on your commute?