My New Reads

I’ve managed to read a book recently and, as average as that sounds, I’m pretty excited about it! I haven’t read a novel since I was on vacation last year, so it’s a pretty big deal and I’m looking forward to getting back into one of my favourite hobbies over the next few weeks. My first choice will be Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, but I’ve already been looking for my next picks once that one is done. Here are a few that have caught my eye.

New Reads - 23.04.2014

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Aged thirteen, Theo Decker, son of a devoted mother and a reckless, largely absent father, survives an accident that otherwise tears his life apart. Alone and rudderless in New York, he is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. He is tormented by an unbearable longing for his mother, and down the years clings to the thing that most reminds him of her: a small, strangely captivating painting that ultimately draws him into the criminal underworld. As he grows up, Theo learns to glide between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love – and his talisman, the painting, places him at the centre of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle. The Goldfinch is a haunted odyssey through present-day America and a drama of enthralling power. Combining unforgettably vivid characters and thrilling suspense, it is a beautiful, addictive triumph – a sweeping story of loss and obsession, of survival and self-invention, of the deepest mysteries of love, identity and fate.

Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead

A New York Times bestseller and winner of the 2012 Dylan Thomas Prize and 2012 L.A. Times First Novel Prize The Van Meters have gathered at their family retreat on the New England island of Waskeke to celebrate the marriage of daughter Daphne to an impeccably appropriate young man. The weekend is full of lobster and champagne, salt air and practiced bonhomie, but long-buried discontent and simmering lust seep through the cracks in the revelry. Winn Van Meter, father-of-the-bride, has spent his life following the rules of the east coast upper crust, but now, just shy of his sixtieth birthday, he must finally confront his failings, his desires, and his own humanity.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple

Bernadette Fox is notorious. To Elgie Branch, a Microsoft wunderkind, she’s his hilarious, volatile, talented, troubled wife. To fellow mothers at the school gate, she’s a menace. To design experts, she’s a revolutionary architect. And to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, quite simply, mum. Then Bernadette disappears. And Bee must take a trip to the end of the earth to find her. WHERE’D YOU GO, BERNADETTE is a compulsively readable, irresistibly written, deeply touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter’s place in the world.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

‘I’m not good at understanding what other people want.’ ‘Tell me something I don’t know …’ Love isn’t an exact science – but no one told Don Tillman. A thirty-nine-year-old geneticist, Don’s never had a second date. So he devises the Wife Project, a scientific test to find the perfect partner. Enter Rosie – ‘the world’s most incompatible woman’ – throwing Don’s safe, ordered life into chaos. But what is this unsettling, alien emotion he’s feeling?

Fractured by Dani Atkins

What would you do if life gave you a second chance? The night of the accident changed everything…Now, five years on, Rachel’s life is crumbling. She lives alone in a tiny flat, working in a dead-end job, desperate with guilt over her best friend’s death. She would give anything to turn back the clock. But life doesn’t work like that…Does it? The night of the accident was a lucky escape…Now, five years on, Rachel’s life is perfect. She has a wonderful fiance, loving family and friends around her, and the career she always wanted. But why can’t Rachel shake the memory of a very different life? Gripping, romantic and heartbreaking, Fractured is a magical love story that asks: can two different stories lead to the same happy ending?

The Villa by Rosanna Ley

When Tess Angel receives a solicitor’s letter inviting her to claim her inheritance – the Villa Sirena, perched on a clifftop in Sicily – she is stunned. Her only link to the island is through her mother, Flavia, who left Sicily during World War II and cut all contact with her family. Initially resistant to Tess going back to her roots, Flavia realises the secrets from her past are about to be revealed and decides to try to explain her actions. Meanwhile, Tess’ teenage daughter Ginny is stressed by college, by her blooming sexuality and filled with questions that she longs to ask her father, if only she knew where he was.

Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain

North Carolina, 1960. Newlywed Jane Forrester, fresh out of university, is seeking what most other women have shunned: a career. But life as a social worker is far from what she expected. Out amongst the rural Tobacco fields of Grace County, Jane encounters a world of extreme poverty that is far removed from the middle-class life she has grown up with. But worse is still to come. Working with the Hart family and their fifteen-year-old daughter Ivy, it’s not long before Jane uncovers a shocking secret, and is thrust into a moral dilemma that puts her career on the line, threatens to dissolve her marriage, and ultimately, determines the fate of Ivy and her family forever. Soon Jane is forced to take drastic action, and before long, there is no turning back.

Perfect by Rachel Joyce

Summer, 1972: In the claustrophobic heat, eleven-year-old Byron and his friend begin ‘Operation Perfect’, a hapless mission to rescue Byron’s mother from impending crisis. Winter, present day: As frost creeps across the moor, Jim cleans tables in the local cafe, a solitary figure struggling with OCD. His job is a relief from the rituals that govern his nights. Little would seem to connect them except that two seconds can change everything. And if your world can be shattered in an instant, can time also put it right?

Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld

For identical twins, Kate and Violet are about as unlike as two peas from the same pod can be. Except in one respect – they share a hidden gift. But after Kate inadvertently reveals their secret when they are thirteen years old, their lives are set on diverging paths. Twenty years later Kate, a devoted wife and mother, has settled down in the suburbs to raise her two young children. Violet is single, and lives a much more flamboyant and eccentric existence. Then one day Violet ignites a media storm by predicting a major earthquake in the St Louis area where they live. As the day Violet has announced for the earthquake draws nearer, Kate must attempt to reconcile her fraught relationship with her sister, and to face truths about herself she has long tried to deny.

A Family Easter

I’ve been very lucky over the past 10 days, as I’ve been enjoying some time off work and it seemed to have been timed perfectly with the best weather we’ve had in a long time. We enjoyed lots of family time, I’ve managed to do some decorating in our house and I’ve also started wedding dress shopping, so it’s been a pretty amazing bunch of days! However, when it came to going out and about on Easter Sunday, the weather had turned and it was a pretty dark and cold day, culminating with some heavy rain whilst myself and Hana joined our parents to explore one of the pretty towns about a half hour from their house.

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We’d been up to the local castle ruins to take some photos and enjoy some history and not long after we reached the top, the heavens opened and we were completely soaked. Oh well, we still had a great day, and we enjoyed a lovely coffee shop stop for tea and cake.

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I love getting out and about to local villages and towns near where we all live – there are such amazing views to be seen and we’re pretty lucky to live amongst such gorgeous surroundings. And the little bit of rain didn’t dampen our spirits – it was still a change from the freezing weather we were experiencing during Easter Sunday last year, when much of the area we visited was covered in ice.

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Photo Credit: Lucy

Recipe: Harissa Chicken with Roasted Vegetables

Harissa Chicken

This was a tasty dinner that my boy and I enjoyed last week for the first time. Chicken is often the staple of our meals as it’s a meat that we both enjoy, and is also a pretty healthy way to get the protein we all require. Usually we just change up the kind of seasoning we use and the side dishes we cook alongside the main portion of our meal, so this one was a lovely new addition to our rotation. The recipe is adapted from BBC Good Food and serves 2 people.

Ingredients

  • 1 and a half tablespoons harissa paste
  • 1 and a half tablespoons low fat natural yoghurt
  • 2 skinless chicken breasts, slashed
  • 1 white onion, cut into wedges
  • 1 red pepper, cut into wedges
  1. Heat the oven to 200 degrees celcius. Mix 1 tablespoon of the harissa paste with the yoghurt. Rub all over the chicken breasts and set aside to marinate while you prepare the vegetables.
  2. Put the onion and pepper into a roasting tin and toss with the remaining harissa mixed with 1 tablespoon of oil and a little salt and pepper. Roast for 10 minutes.
  3. Remove the vegetables from the oven, add the chicken to the tin and roast for a further 20 to 25 minutes, until the chicken is thoroughly cooked.
  4. Serve with rice.

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Photo Credit: Lucy

Happy Easter

Easter 2014

Whatever you choose to do this Easter Sunday, enjoy it. We’ll be with family and eating some tasty chocolate, so it’s going to be a good day. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Gardener’s paradise

I’ve never been one who’s shown a particular interest in gardening, mostly because while living with my parents, it’s always been very much their domain. However, as the time for me to buy my own home edges ever closer, the idea of having a pretty garden to tend to, is becoming more and more appealing, so with this in mind, I decided to join my mum, dad and nephew in going to a local flower show recently. The weather was perfect for such an outing, with wall-to-wall sunshine for much of the day, so you can only imagine how busy it was, with people making the most of the spring sun.

As well as the stunning displays of flowers, in every colour imaginable, there were also lovely craft stalls selling jewellery, homeware, and various different nick nacks. To top it all off, they had lots of yummy food stalls to help feed all the hungry shoppers, and my mum even treated us to some toffee and honeycomb ice cream to cool us down after all the browsing. My parents picked up some real bargains and I look forward to seeing the new additions in the garden soon.

Easter Ideas: Egg Painted Tote Bag

Egg Painted Tote Bag

I’ve had a go at making printed canvas bags before (here and here), as they are such an easy little DIY project. Those bags were made using transfer paper, my printer and Photoshop, but this one is even more simple, as it’s been made with fabric paint and buttons. It’s just an easy Easter craft that can hold all the little chocolate goodies that we all crave over the holidays, so give it a go.

Supplies

  • A cotton tote bag
  • 2 pieces of white card
  • Fabric paint
  • A selection of buttons
  • Glue and scissors
  1. Make a template by drawing a couple of egg shapes onto a piece of white card and cutting out the centres.
  2. Place the other piece of card inside the tote bag to stop the fabric paint from seeping through to the back.
  3. Place the template on top of the tote bag and paint over the egg shapes with fabric paint using a paint brush. Move the template around and paint as many eggs on as you like.
  4. Leave the paint to dry.
  5. If you want your tote bag to be washable you’ll want to seal on the paint using an iron (follow the individual instructions on your paint).
  6. Glue or sew on a variety of buttons to decorate the eggs and the empty spaces in between (sew them on if you want the bag to be washable, otherwise just use craft paint).
  7. Leave it all to dry before using it to carry around all your Easter goodies.

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Photo Credit: Lucy