Thursday, February 25, 2010

I'm afraid it has come to this...

I didnt want to do it. I believe in free speech and freedom of expression and all that jazz, but I really feel I had to get on top of it before it gets completely out of hand.

I have become a "censor": I have had to change my settings so that I can moderate all comments left by people here at my blog.

I hate it.
I hate it because I love to blog and it makes me so happy to receive all the wonderful comments I get on my entries.
I hate it because I didnt want to make it difficult or confusing for those people visiting my blog and leaving legitimate comments for me.
I hate it because I didnt want to create extra work for myself.
I hate that I have had to take this action to prevent one little weasel with far too much time on their hands from leaving their inappropriate comments with their inappropriate links on my blog.
I hate to think that the actions of one person might offend the few wonderful souls who take an honest interest in what I write and take time out in their busy lives to visit my blog, and that it might prevent them from coming back.

So, yes. I have had to go down the path of comment censorship. But I assure everyone who leaves a legitimate comment will see it appear on my blog as soon as I've approved it, which I will endeavour to do first thing each morning. I can only apologise for the delay this will cause and thank you for your understanding.

And thanks to everyone for stopping by, as well. I really do appreciate it.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Pagan's Crusade

Title: Pagan's Crusade
Author: Catherine Jinks
Category: YA Historical Fiction

Pagan's Crusade is the first of five books in the Pagan Chronicles series by Australian author, Catherine Jinks. These were my favourite books when I was a teenager, and I remember reading the first three over a single weekend whilst visiting my grandparents when I was about 15 years old.

It was this book and series that introduced me to the wonderful world of history and historical-fiction. It was the series that began an obsession with the Middle Ages, the Crusades and the Cathars, an obsession that has continued to this day.

Pagan's Crusade is set in Jerusalem during the 12th Century, and the main character, Pagan Kidrouk, is 16 years old and an orphan. After he flees the monastry in which he was raised, he resorts to a life of petty crime to survive, before joining the Order of the Templar Knights as a squire to Lord Roland. Jerusalem is a dangerous and hostile place to be, and soon enough Saladin and his army are making their way through the Holyland with the aim of re-capturing Jerusalem from the Christians. It is at this time that Pagan and the people around him are forced to decide where their loyalties lie.

This was an enjoyable re-read, and I wasnt disappointed by it at all. I was a little worried I would be, but I knew this was a book for "young adults" and each paragraph reminded me of the sheer joy I felt reading this for the first time as a teen. I couldnt stop myself from giggling at the teen-esque jokes, either. An adult reading this novel for the first time would have to read it with the frame-of-mind of a teenager, otherwise it may seem somewhat simplified and a little flat. Pretend you're 15 y.o if you plan on reading this one!

I highly recommend this book to both girls and boys aged between 14 and 17 years. It's just so much fun (and so much cooler than Harry Potter)!

The other books in the series are: Pagan in Exile, Pagan's Vows, Pagan's Scribe, and Pagan's Daughter. I'm hoping to read them all this year.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Vegetable & Noodle Stir-fry

2 tbsp peanut oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 medium green capsicum (bell pepper), chopped
1 medium red capsicum (bell pepper), chopped
1 pak choy, cut in strips
1 small zucchini (courgette), sliced
1 cup green beans/sno-peas, chopped
1 carrot, cut into matchsticks
Broccoli florets (as much as you desire)
2 tspn light brown sugar
2 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 cup liquid vegetable stock
salt a pepper
Asian noodles (udon, rice, or hokkein noodles)

1. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Add chopped pak choy, zucchini, beans, carrot and broccoli and let boil for 30 seconds. Drain well.
2. In a wok or large frying pan add peanut oil and heat until almost smoking. Add onion and garlic and stir-fry for 1 minute.
3. Add capsicum and remaining veg. Stir-fry for 30 seconds.
4. Add sugar, soy sauce, stock and salt and pepper (to taste) and stir through vegetables.
5. Put noodles in a bowl and pour over boiling water. Let sit for 1 minute. Drain well. Add noodles to veg and stir through, then serve whilst hot.

Serves 2 -4 adults (depending on how much of the noodles you add).

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Jane Austen Reading Challenge!

"The person, whether it be a gentleman or a lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid"- Jane Austen

I just couldnt help myself, could I? I stumble across a Jane Austen reading challenge and I simply must take part!

This reading challenge runs from 1 January 2010 until 31 December 2010, and although being an avid Jane Austen fan, I will be undertaking the challenge as a Newbie reader, meaning I have to read at least 4 books: 2 by Jane Austen and 2 re-writes/prequels/sequels etc. I figure I should be able to squeeze these in somewhere amongst all the other books I plan on reading this year.

The books I plan on reading for this challenge are:
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen **COMPLETED**
Lady Susan/The Watsons/Sandition by Jane Austen **COMPLETED**
Darcy & Anne by Judith Brocklehurst **COMPLETED**
Mr Darcy Takes a Wife by Linda Berdoll **ABANDONED**

If you're interested in taking part as well, simply head over to The Life (and Lies) of an Inanimate Flying Object to get all the particulars of the challenge and to sign up. If you've not read Jane Austen before, then this is a great challenge to get you started!

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Book Review + a Giveaway!

Title: The Perfect Heresy
Author: Stephen O'Shea
Category: History (non-fiction)
Format: Paperback, 352 pages
Published: UK, 2001

"How many armed knights you'd have seen there, how many good shields cleft, what ribs laid bare, legs smashed and arms cut off, chests torn apart, helmets cracked open, flesh hacked, heads cut in two, what blood spilled, what severed fists, how many men fighting and others struggling to carry away one they'd seen fall! Such wounds, such injuries they suffered, that they strewed the battlefield with white and red". - An eyewitness account to the Battle of Toulouse, 1217

The Perfect Heresy: The Revolutionary Life and Death of the Medieval Cathars is a splendid historical look at the 13th Century Crusade and Inquisition undertaken by the Catholic Church to rid the Languedoc of the Cathars.

The Cathars were a dualist Christian faith popular amongst the people of the Languedoc for their pious lifestyle of poverty, tolerance and spiritual guidance. They preached against the material world, and outwardly expressed their disapproval of the wealth accrued by the Catholic Church.

The Cathars were a truly amazing and resilient people, yet the indiscriminate force beared down on the people of the Languedoc by the Crusaders, combined with the cunning of the Inquisitors eventually saw the Cathar faith disappear and be relegated to the pages of history.

Stephen O'Shea's description of the events that took place during the this period of history are brilliant and read like a novel. Never does it feel like an academic textbook. O'Shea's determination to get the Cathar story right is evident from the first page to the last, and he goes to great lengths to debunk the myths about the Cathars that surfaced during the Victorian Era, were mis-used and abused by the Nazis, and embellished by the hippies in the latter half of the 20th Century.

The story of the Cathars is one of violence, persecution, determination, and above all else: faith. It also acts as a reminder of "the dangers of the absolute", and is definitely a book that everyone should have taking pride of place on their bookshelf. It is that brilliant!

Ever since I'd first heard of the Cathars nearly 15 years ago, I've been searching for a book of this calibre to read. It took 2 years for me to track down a copy, so when I finally found a supplier I couldnt help myself and I ordered more than one.

So, that means I have a brand new copy of this book that I am just ITCHING to giveaway!

Each legitimate comment received on my blog or at my livejournal between now and the 9 March 2010 will go into the draw.

If you want to double your chances at winning, comment and then promote this giveaway at your blog, and I'll put your name into the draw twice (you'll have to let me know you're promoting it, though).

After the 9 March 2010, I will randomly select the winner.

This giveaway is open to anyone from anywhere, domestic and international.

Good luck!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Busy about the house...

[ Living Room in a shambles, but it's okay because we have new ceiling fans!]

[ New light fittings: No more living in the "dark ages" for us!]

[Our home was built sometime between 1892 and 1900. That makes it a late-Victorian/early-Edwardian/Federation-cusp home. There are different toggle switches available for each of these, but in the end we decided upon copper Edwardian toggles for the light switches]

[A pile of old wiring and piping]

[ The old ceramic fuse-box and the beginnings of a new back wall]

[The new, up-to-standard fuse-box and the new wall almost complete]

[SJ's dad flushing the new wall and finishing the cornice ]

It's been just over a year now since we purchased our little stone cottage in the Ranges.

We got off to a slow start with our planned improvements, but the past few months have been rather busy for us.
Between October and December 2009 we had a complete overhaul of the electrics, which had to be done before we could move onto the more enjoyable aspects of DIY renovations.

Once the electrician finished we put in a new wall of gyprock and new cornice in the back room to hide the patchy stone wall that was the original back of the house. It is ready now to be painted, which will happen when the weather cools.

We are focusing on one room at a time, in an attempt to create as little disturbance to our lives as possible. These days we are focused on the main bedroom: plastering, patching, stripping and sanding in preparation for re-painting. The weather since Christmas has been rather hot, so we have only been able to do work on the odd day here and there when we get a cool reprieve.

The living room is currently doubling-up as our bedroom, which is turning out to be an inconvenience more often than not, so we hope to have the main bedroom completed by Easter at the latest. Fingers-crossed!

[An empty main bedroom, plastered and patched...

...and waiting for someone to start stripping back the skirtings, ceiling, window and door frames.]

Thursday, February 4, 2010

A Jane Austen Giveaway!

"Silly things do cease to be silly if they are done by sensible people in an impudent way." - Emma

You may well be aware of this already, but I love Jane Austen. It probably comes as no surprise then that when I discovered Shelly over at Tea Time was hosting a giveaway for a brand-new copy of the novel Emma, I just had to tell everyone about it!

I quite enjoy spoiling friends and complete strangers with books, so I think it is wonderfully generous of Shelly to share with one lucky person this great story.

If you would like a chance to win yourself a copy of this book, all you have to do is visit Shelly's blog and leave a comment. She will announce the winner in due course, but hurry: It could be soon!
EDIT: Giveaway ends 28 February 2010, with the winner announced 1 March 2010. Good luck!
From the blurb:
Beautiful, clever, rich - and single - Emma Woodhouse is perfectly content with her life and see no need for either love or marriage. Nothing, however, delights her more than interfering in the romantic lives of others. But when she ignores the warnings of her good friend Mr Knightley and attempts to arrange a suitable match for her protegee Harriet Smith, her carefully laid plans soon unravel and have consequences that she never expected. With its imperfect but charming heroine and its witty and subtle exploration of relationships, Emma is often seen as Jane Austen's most flawless work.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Rain is grace...

Rain is grace; rain is the sky condescending to the earth; without rain, there would be no life. - John Updike

With all the heat we've suffered since November, I had been eagerly awaiting April, the traditional month for the first rain storms heading into Winter. As it turns out, I didnt need to wait that long, as for the second time in a week it has rained: Beautiful, glorious, refreshing rain!

There isnt anything more revitalising than a rain storm in the middle of Summer, especially in our part of the world. No one wishes for hot, dry days of 43*C, but everybody hopes for a bit of rain every now and again...

That has to be truth no matter where you live.