Thursday, 31 August 2017

August roundup and September preview

It's been a quiet August for us here in Torquay. Apart from the Bank Holiday Weekend it was a pretty grey and rainy one as well. We did have visitors - hello Marta and Chris! - but didn't travel anywhere which is a first for us for ages. A whole month in one place! No wonder I'm fidgety!

Rainbow necklace
by Mixko 
This time did give me time to launch into a new blogging project that I have been considering for a while. I love promoting handmade and crafted items such as those in my regular Top Five Etsy Finds posts. I wanted a dedicated home to showcase pieces I love and this is now realised on Artisan Rainbow! Homewares, jewellery, anything with vivid colours might turn up here. I post one item a day from red on Mondays to purple on Fridays with a weekly Sunday Rainbow. I'm having great fun putting these posts together! The most viewed item so far is this pretty rainbow ribbon necklace.

I experimented with more vegan and vegetarian cookery, partly in response to Plastic Free July because I am now hyper aware of how much single use plastic packaging we buy. It's certainly made an impact on our grocery bill and the amount of landfill waste we create. I was already pretty smug that our non-recyclables only filled a single 15 litre bin bag each fortnight. Now we've managed to make one last over three weeks. Yay us! I blogged a few recipes that turned out particularly well - Cauliflower Couscous was one - and am looking forward to more creative concoctions throughout the Autumn! My Lentil Beanburgers recipe was the second most popular Stephanie Jane post in August, only just pipped at the post by a bakerdays cake giveaway. I suppose free cake would be more tempting! Congrats to winner Sam in Chigwell!

Lentil Beanburgers 

Now I am looking forward to our imminent city break trio - Prague, Vienna and Budapest in September. I've not visited any of these cities before so am excited to experience them. If only the current Brexit shambles hadn't reduced our currency's relative value so drastically! Typical political short-sightedness. We've got lots ideas for places to see, streets to stroll and local delicacies to eat. If you've got any must-see suggestions, do Comment them below! My next Stephanie Jane post will come from Prague ...

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

A Month in Books - August 2017


I was approached by another bookseller in August so you will now also see Wordery as a choice for purchasing books reviewed on Literary Flits. Wordery was established by five friends in 2012. They believed that online retail had diminished the enjoyment of buying books so they decided to recapture its spirit with an ambitious venture to establish an alternative online bookshop. I love their ethos and am impressed with the variety of books available. Wordery's prices are good too and they offer free shipping to anywhere in the world!

The immediate upshot of this blogwise is changes to my 'Where to buy this book' links. Instead of choosing up to four retailers for each book, I will now link to as many of the ten I promote as have stock at the time of writing. Hopefully this wider choice will appeal to my readers!

I completed two reading challenges in August. Firstly my third year of the Goodreads / BookCrossing Decade Challenge for which I read these books:

1903 - The Story of My Life by Helen Keller
1914 - Rosshalde by Hermann Hesse
1929 - The Last September by Elizabeth Bowen
1938 - The Fashion in Shrouds by Margery Allingham
1940 - The Rights of Man by H G Wells
1959 - Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
1963 - The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
1974 - Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said by Philip K Dick
1987 - The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera
1996 - Berta La Larga by Cuca Canals
2001 - There Were Many Horses by Luiz Ruffato
2015 - Pierced by the Sun by Laura Esquivel


I also took part in an informal reading challenge set up by Olivia of Olivia's Catastrophe. The idea was simply to read an average of 50 pages a day throughout August. I managed 112 pages-a-day average and read 17 books in total! Scroll down to find my reviews and my Book of the Month.


Guest reviews

Literary Flits hosted one Guest Review this month. If you have an indie author, small press or global literature book review that you would like to share please do get in touch.


Jade by Rose Montague reviewed by C H Clepitt

Abebooks

Alibris

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Kobo

Smashwords

Speedyhen

The Book Depository

Waterstones

Wordery

Read author C H Clepitt's book review on Literary Flits


Spotlights

Do also get in touch if you want a Spotlight post. Further details through This Link. You could win a Spotlight by following me and retweeting my pinned tweet on Twitter! July's winner was Lynne Morley who chose to promote her ancestral biography Finding Thomas Dames.


Finding Thomas Dames by Lynne Morley

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Waterstones

Wordery

Read the original post on Literary Flits



The Woodlands Series Box Set by Lauren Nicolle Taylor + Giveaway

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Wordery

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Crescent Calling by Axelle Chandler + Giveaway

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Wordery

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Amnesty (Amnesia #2) by Cambria Hebert + Giveaway

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Wordery

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The Invitation: To Journey Through a Conscious Mind by Tyfany Janee + Giveaway

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Read the original post on Literary Flits


My reviews


Goblin by Ever Dundas


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A macabre novel of abandonment and loss, unreliable memory and the fragility of the human mind. It jumps netween its two time periods, confusingly at first, as the elderly incarnation of Goblin attempts to unravel and understand the events in her childhood that drove her to the edge of insanity. She is a compelling character, all the more so as I began to understand her past tragedies, and her inventiveness meant I could never quite believe everything she told me.

Read my original book review on Literary Flits



Midwinter Break by Bernard MacLaverty

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I loved this novel! MacLaverty has written a sensitive, thoughtful portrayal of Stella and Gerry's relationship, the deep cracks in which are exposed during a long weekend holiday in Amsterdam. I visited the city at the same time of year, maybe a decade ago now, so enjoyed MacLaverty's evocative descriptions. I remember the bitter cold and cosy restaurants, the fearless cyclists and the strange mist of an evening that lingers over the canals.
My Book of the Month!

Read my original book review on Literary Flits



Rusticles by Rebecca Gransden + Giveaway

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Rusticles is an eerie collection of eleven short stories all set in or around a town named Hilligoss. Through each of the tales we catch glimpses of its people and the darker side of life there. Gransden has a talent for evoking places, expertly presenting ordinary scenes, but then just twisting them enough to result in a recognisable yet unnerving situations.

Read my original book review on Literary Flits



Three Hours Past Midnight by Tony Knighton

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A breathtaking ride through the muggy streets of a Philadelphia night, Three Hours Past Midnight is an atmospheric and exciting thriller. Narrated by our anti-hero, a violent thief, the story follows his attempts to discover who set up him and his recently deceased partner before he too ceases breathing. This is classic crime writing with a powerful sense of its location.

Read my original book review on Literary Flits



Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan

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I can imagine how shocking Bonjour Tristesse must have been to a 1950s audience, but I don't think that it has dated well. Its reputation means I am glad to have finally read this novella, but to the claims for its brilliance that usually centre around Sagan only having been seventeen when she wrote this I would reply that yes, that shows!

Read my original book review on Literary Flits



31 Day Plastic-Free Living Challenge by Lindsay Miles

Buy directly from the author

Having already read Lindsay Miles' free eguide Enough Is Enough, I was aware of the overall ideas included in Miles' 31 Day Plastic-Free Living Challenge. The latter is a great little book for more specific inspiration.

Read my original book review on Literary Flits



Body And Soul by Roddy Murray

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A macho adventure novel revolving around science fiction themes. The book was diverting, but wasn't really to my taste.

Read my original book review on Literary Flits



Mind Verses by Deena Mehjabeen + Giveaway

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Kobo FREE

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Waterstones

Wordery


Deena Mehjabeen writes intense personal poetry exploring her life, family and romantic relationships, yet manages to make her poems universal. Despite Bangladesh being five thousand miles from Britain, its culture very different, I could easily identify with Mehjabeen's grief and longing, anger and love.

Read my original book review on Literary Flits



Child Of Tibet by Soname Yangchen with Vicki MacKenzie

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Child Of Tibet is an inspiring autobiography, an uplifting tale of one woman's unceasing attempts to make a better life for herself in the face of extreme circumstances.

Read my original book review on Literary Flits



City Folk and Country Folk by Sofia Khvoshchinskaya

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A lovely comedy of class, manners and snobbery, I think City Folk And Country Folk should appeal to Jane Austen fans the world over. Khvoshchinskaya's writing, especially her dialogue, is wonderfully modern in style, sharp and vivacious, and her wickedly well observed characters are tremendous fun to spend time with.

Read my original book review on Literary Flits



The Story Of My Life by Helen Keller

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For a woman to go to college at all in the early 1900s was achievement enough that a memoir of her struggle to get there would be of interest to me. When I think that Helen Keller was also deaf and blind, her determination becomes all the more incredible. An inspirational memoir.

Read my original book review on Literary Flits



Forbidden Fruit by Stanley Gazemba

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Gazemba provides us with a striking portrait of rural Kenyan village life in this novel. Following his cast of landowners and villagers through their days allowed me to understand and empathise with them - as well as reinforcing my desire to only ever buy FairTrade tea.

Read my original book review on Literary Flits



The Second Deadly Sin by Asa Larsson

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The Second Deadly Sin is an entirely self-contained Rebecka Martinsson crime story and a thrilling one at that. Larsson grabbed my attention from the first pages and hardly let up until the end.

Read my original book review on Literary Flits



The Art Of Hiding by Amanda Prowse

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I struggled to review The Art Of Hiding, so much so that I postponed putting my words out there for three days running while I attempted to coherently marshall my thoughts. On the one hand, Prowse's writing is - as always - immensely readable, but this novel felt too superficial and formulaic for me.

Read my original book review on Literary Flits



The Sin Of Choice (Part 1) by Paul Rudiak

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Set mostly in affluent middle-class Cheshire, The Sin Of Choice is a crime novel, but (for Part 1 at least) far from the usual genre offerings. Rudiak's central character, lawyer Peter Thornton, doesn't rush around one step ahead of the police, gunwaving and unearthing serial killers. Instead he is grappling with the implications of a terminal medical diagnosis and most of the book depicts his and his family's attempts to come to terms with the news. I liked Rudiak's in depth character portrayals - although frequently not the characters themselves!

Read my original book review on Literary Flits



Murder In Montego Bay by Paula Lennon

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I have only previously read one Jamaican novel, A Brief History Of Seven Killings, and although this book also revolves around murder, it provides a very different perspective on island life. Lennon sets her tale within the grossly underfunded Jamaican police service and I appreciated that her team of detectives really are portrayed as a team. Their leader, Preddy, does have shades of the dysfunctional-older-detective-against-the-world crime fiction cliche, but at least he isn't an alcoholic who never eats!

Read my original book review on Literary Flits



Ghettoside by Jill Leovy

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Read my original book review on Literary Flits

True to close the month and I was impressed by Leovy's thoughtful and thought-provoking reportage on black homicide in south Los Angeles.


That's it for this month and I know I have already got some great books lined up for review in September including C H Clepitt's new novel, Everything Is Better With A Cape. Keep up daily on Literary Flits or I will see you here at the end of the month for another round up.

Don't forget the Giveaways!

Thursday, 24 August 2017

I joined #Kiva 5 years ago today!

and they just emailed me a cake to celebrate!


Isn't that cute!

I was amazed that my first Kiva loan was so long ago. Doesn't time fly when you're not paying attention? In the intervening years since August 25th 2012 when I lent my first $25 to Yaneth in Peru

I have lent out $4625


to 185 women entrepreneurs


in 70 different countries!


I think that's certainly a cause for celebration. Thank you to everyone who's given me Kiva cards for birthday and christmas presents. I look forward to my next five Kiva years!

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

#TreatYourself - special offers that caught my eye

Jacaranda hampers in the India Jane sale 
A taste of luxury to launch August's Treat Yourself roundup! If you didn't blow every penny on your holidays, take advantage of discounts of up to 75% in the India Jane sale. This London homewares retailer specialises in decorative and functional items including an amazing range of photograph frames and gorgeous fabric cushions. I love this pair of Jacaranda storage hampers. They are handmade in Indonesia using the traditional method of interweaving cane and hand-tied leather hinges provide durability. The hampers are currently reduced from £149 to just £59, but be quick. At the time of writing there were only twenty pairs left!

Over at Emma Bridgewater, we can get 50% off their entire seasonal Summer Cherries range. There are mugs, bowls, plates, a large teapot and even a tea towel to fill our kitchens with summer colour all year round! The 1/2 pint mug pictured below is reduced from £19.95 to £9.95. I am tempted to snap up a couple of the French bowls to replace our ancient porridge bowls.

50% off Summer Cherries at Emma Bridgewater 

Celtic Serape less than 1/2 price
at Museum Selection 
I know it's August and allegedly still the height of summer, but there's been a distinct autumnal feel here in Torquay recently. Fortunately I can wrap warm up courtesy of the Museum Selection sale which has up to 65% off gorgeous clothing including a rich red Elizabethan style cardigan - perfect for Philippa Gregory fans! My favourite of the historically themed range is this teal Celtic Knotwork Serape. The striking design is inspired by Celtic illumination and stone carvings. The intertwined patterns of never-ending lines appealed to the Celts, symbolising their ideas of eternal life. The serape is now reduced to £29.99 from £69.99.

I love Bluebell Creations' delicate papercut art and think the small framed quotes would make perfect gifts, especially because we can get 10% off across the store until the end of August. Simply use the discount code SUMMER17 at checkout. This lovely friend frame reads 'Friends Forever' and the wording has been hand cut from cream hammered paper using a scalpel. The papercut then floats over a pink feathery patterned background, creating little shadows when the light hits it. The papercut then has two pink sparkly hearts next to it, to give it that extra bit of girly sparkle.

10% off papercut art at Bluebell Creations 
Staying with paper for my fifth and final treat, I love the vibrant colours in these word art greetings cards by Josie Gledhill Design. Each card is available individually or Josie offers the multipack pictured below with one each of her Hello, Good Luck, Thank You, and Happy Birthday cards. I thought these were already very reasonably priced at £5 for the set, but we can get an extra 20% off across the Josie Gledhill Design shop by using the discount code YAYSALE17. Best hurry before everything sells out!

20% off stationery at Josie Gledhill Design 

Happy bargain hunting!

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Introducing Artisan Rainbow!

You must all know by now that I love handmade and artisan crafted items and I am sure that many of you do too because my Top Five Etsy Finds posts are always amongst my most popular!

I will keep posting those monthly Top Fives, but wanted a space to showcase a wider variety of items more frequently. I decided on another blog and Artisan Rainbow is the result!

There I will blog handmade and artisan crafted items of all colours of the rainbow including homewares, jewellery, clothing and art. The only prerequisite is that everything must be an item I would love to purchase myself (if only I had the figure / budget / space!)

I hope you love discovering these beautiful items as much as I will love showing them to you!

Here is Artisan Rainbow's first week:

Monday 

Tuesday 

Wednesday 

Thursday 

Friday 


Saturday 

Sunday (preview!) 

And if you spot something you think I should feature on Artisan Rainbow, drop me the link in the Comments!

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Chickpea Cauliflower Couscous recipe

Chickpea Cauliflower Couscous 
Since discovering the quick lunch wonder that is Cauliflower Steaks I have also been searching out a delicious way to use up the rest of a cauliflower. I think I've now found the answer with cauliflower couscous. It's still amazing to me that a take-it-or-leave-it vegetable for me, one that I always used to consider pretty bland unless it was doused in a rich cheese sauce, is actually delicious when it is cooked in any way other than boiling it!

This Chickpea Cauliflower Couscous recipe is vaguely based around the Turkey Tagine recipe I blogged years ago (I think my photography has improved!). This version is vegan and doesn't actually use a tagine. The ingredients below made enough for two generous portions.

Ingredients:
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
1/2 onion, diced
1 garlic clove, diced
1/3 ish of a cauliflower
Pinch of saffron
1/4 tsp piri piri
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground ginger
Salt and black pepper
400g tin of chickpeas, drained (reserve the liquid!)
20 green olives, halved
100ml water
Lemon juice
1/2 tsp bajan spice

First I diced the onion and garlic and set them to cook until softened in a largish saucepan with the rapeseed oil.

Blitzed cauliflower 
I struggle to wait long enough for onion to soften properly - impatient, me?! - but hate crunchy onion when it shouldn't be so have found that giving myself other things to do in the meantime is a good idea. For this meal, I tore the cauliflower florets into small enough pieces to blitz in my Mini Chopper (new toy, love it!). It needed two batches and the resulting raw cauliflower did look surprising like a pale cooked couscous.

Setting the cauliflower aside, I also opened the chickpeas tin and drained its liquid into a jar for later. I've recently learned that chickpea water is called aquafaba and is supposed to be an amazing egg substitute in baking. I'll let you know .... !


Back to the now-softened onion, I added a good pinch of saffron, the piri piri, coriander, cumin, ginger, salt pepper and stirred them all in. I went easy on the salt at this stage because I didn't know how much would come from the olives during cooking. I cooked this mix for a minute or so, then added the chickpeas, olives, water and lemon juice.

Stirring again to thoroughly mix, I brought the liquid up to a simmer then put a lid on the saucepan, turned the heat right down and left it all to gently bubble away for about 15 minutes. In hindsight 10 minutes would have been enough! The chickpeas were now soft, but fortunately not disintegrating!

I added the cauliflower, stirring thoroughly again, turned the heat off and replaced the lid, and left the cauliflower couscous to cook in the steam and juice of everything else for about 20-25 minutes.

Tasting just before serving I added a little more salt and a 1/2 tsp of Bajan spice blend for warmth of flavour. I served my Chickpea Cauliflower Couscous onto a warmed plate and enjoyed eating every mouthful!

Although I was very pleased with how this dish turned out, I would make a couple of changes when I cook it again. I think cinnamon would be better than ginger in the spice mix, or I might add ginger and cinnamon early on and dispense with the Bajan spice at the end. I would also add more colour alongside the olives as, while the meal was tasty, it doesn't look exciting. I do like colourful food! Perhaps a handful of peas or chopped red pepper would jazz it up? Suggestions welcome!

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Receiving a Brilliant Boyfriend bakerdays cake + #Giveaway!

brilliant boyfriend bakerdays cake 
A dismal Torquay summer day was brightened up for us last week by the welcome arrival of a bakerdays letterbox cake!

If you haven't heard about these before, it's a real cake, fully iced, yet slim enough to fit though a standard UK letterbox.

The perfect surprise gift?

Well, when bakerdays offered me the chance to find out, I was more than happy to accept!

The toughest part of the bakerdays experience is choosing which cake to send! Firstly did I want traditional sponge, lovely lemon drizzle, half chocolate half sponge, or rich chocolate chip? I chose the lovely lemon drizzle. Then I spent ages debating designs. I knew the cake would be on its way but Dave didn't so I wanted artwork that would fun for him. I think there are hundreds of options available plus, to add even more choices, I could have uploaded my own photographs! Eventually I settle on the Brilliant Boyfriend design because it sums up pretty much what I wanted to say.


Our cake's arrival was a great success!

Brought in our regular post delivery by a rained-upon postman, it was packed in an unassuming brown cardboard box. I loved the contrast when we opened that to reveal the bright cake, complete with a little card and a mini celebration bag including candles, balloons and a party blower! Dave's face lit up and I was delighted too!

So, how was the cake itself? Well, it didn't last long so that's always a good sign! It arrived in perfect condition and, had I not known it was posted, I never would have guessed. The icing cleverly holds the cake fast to a board and the outer box is sturdy so absolutely no dents which I had been a little concerned about. The icing was bright white with sharply defined, boldly coloured printing which looked good enough to eat! The sponge was moist and tasted freshly baked with a light lemon flavour. Perhaps the texture was less sticky than I would expect from a lemon drizzle cake, but then they aren't usually swathed in royal icing so that made up for it! We got eight little portions from our cake.

Impatient fingers poised for more cake! 

I was impressed with bakerdays packaging. As already mentioned, the cardboard box is sturdy and also recyclable. The cake board, card and enclosed paperwork are, of course, also recyclable and the packaging peanuts are the cornstarch ones which dissolve completely in water. I will pass the celebration bag on so all we were left with for landfill was a small perforated plastic bag that had enclosed the cake. Well done bakerdays!


If you want to try out a bakerdays letterbox cake for yourself, enter the Giveaway below for a chance to win one!


The Giveaway is open to UK entrants ONLY. It opened at 8am on the 15th August and closes at midnight on the 28th August. I will email the winner on the 29th and they have 48 hours to reply with their details which I will pass on to bakerdays.