Friday, May 27, 2011

On My Mind: Food! Glorious Food!

Having spent most of this week laid up with the pesky 'flu, these pasties (made fresh today and packed full of veggie goodness) are on my mind - now that I'm starting to feel better and my appetite is returning!


This is a Friday photo feature from Down to Earth that anyone with a blog can join. It opens the door to us sharing our lives through these photos and gives us all a new way to discover each other, and maybe form new friendships. Your photo should show something at home that you're thinking about TODAY.

To take part, all you have to do is post a photo, write a short caption explaining it, and link it back to Down to Earth. Please write a new post, don't link to an older one. When your photo is published, go to Down to Earth and add a comment , with a link to your blog photo.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Etsy Swoon: Sage & Mage

One of my favourite Etsy shops, Sage & Mage is based in Melbourne, Australia, and makes a wide range of aromatherapy products, natural perfumes, skincare products, teas, and jewellery.

If you're looking to spoil yourself, then I highly recommend you check out Sage & Mage and try some of their handmade goodies. They are AMAZING! So amazing, in fact, that I thought I should share with you some of my favourite purchases to date. 


I had my latest order arrive in yesterday's post: The hand/body butter and lip balm as a gift for my mum, and some Divinity perfume mist all for myself (which I must say does smell rather divine).

If you have a favourite Etsy shop, or a favourite place to buy handmade online, please feel free to share them in the comments.

Please note: I receive no benefits or discounts for promoting this shop. I just love it so much I want to share its goodness.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Georgiana Darcy's Diary by Anna Elliott

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


"The fact is, that you were sick of civility, of deference, of officious attention. You were disgusted with the women who were always speaking, and looking, and thinking for your approbation alone. I roused, and interested you, because I was so unlike them."
- Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen

Had Jane Austen taken the minor character of Georgiana Darcy, younger sister to Fitzwilliam Darcy in Pride and Prejudice and filled her out with thoughts, opinions and substance, it would not have surprised me in the least had her sentiments of possible suitors been much the same as Elizabeth Bennet's surmisation of Darcy's feelings of his own (above) at the end of Pride & Prejudice.

Georgiana Darcy's Diary begins in the Spring of 1814, a pastime that Georgiana takes in response to the aggravation and boredom she feels at her Aunt de Bourgh's insistence on finding her a suitable, reputable husband. Georgiana is 18 years old, and Pemberley, the home that she shares with her brother and his wife Elizabeth, is bustling with guests, most of whom have been invited by Aunt de Bourgh to rustle for Georgiana's hand in marriage.

But Georgiana Darcy doesn't want to marry just anyone, and she certainly isn't going to marry someone who has no interest in her save for her fortune. Georgiana wants the romantic dream that her brother Fitzwilliam and his wife Elizabeth found in each other, yet she fears the man she is in love with will not feel the same of her.

Georgiana starts out as a shy and insecure girl not quite ready to step into womanhood. However, as the story develops so does Georgiana: Through her associations with the Pemberley guests, Georgiana becomes more open, more confident, and more certain of what it is she wants, and more determined to secure it. Finding her own voice she is able to move on from her indiscretion with George Wickham; helps her sickly cousin Anne discover life and love; stands up to her demanding Aunt de Bourgh; and at the end of the story declares herself a woman who has found her perfect gentleman.

It is interesting that at times throughout the story, the author elected to have the characters do things, or speak of certain topics that did not fit my perception of Jane Austen's England. In fact, some things I felt would have been considered unseemly to say and/or do during that era, and aren't necessarily what I would have expected Jane Austen to write at all. However, that didn't make the story any less enjoyable for me, as they were still in keeping with the personalities of the characters that Austen had created, and didn't deviate so much that it became entirely unbelievable. The fact that Elliott decided to write the story in the form of a diary allowed Georgiana's character to be more unrestrained in what she chose to write about, and her opinions may actually reflect those that many girls the same age and of the same class had at that time, but never got to speak about.

A common mistake that I often make is to compare the author of Austen sequels to Austen herself. I had to remind myself that Anna Elliott is not Jane Austen, and it would be unfair if I were to try and compare Elliott's style to Austen's: Even Elliott acknowledges this in the author's note at the beginning of the book where she writes, "I can't begin to match Jane Austen's immortal writing style, and wouldn't even pretend to try".

In writing Georgiana Darcy's Diary, Anna Elliott has taken an important yet undeveloped character from Austen's masterpiece and given her those sentiments I would have expected her to have had Austen developed the character more herself. A quick read, Georgiana Darcy's Diary was a fun Regency romance that left me smiling, just as Austen's Pride & Prejudice has done so many times before.

Friday, May 20, 2011

This Moment: Bailey-dog...

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savour and remember.

From SouleMama.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A single rose can be my garden...

In our part of the world, June is the month for planting roses (or, at least, this is what my trusty Yates' Garden Guide tells me).

I want a garden with roses.

At the moment the only rose we have is a standard white in the front yard that we never see in bloom because we're never out the front and it gets forgotten. So, this coming June I am going to risk moving it whilst it is dormant to the back yard, and cross all fingers and toes for its survival.

We're also going to plant a selection of other rose bushes to keep it company. Last weekend whilst the weather was good, we got outside, allocated a spot in the garden and dug through some organic matter in preparation for the roses. Actually, if I am truthful, SJ did the digging and the preparing, whilst I stood by and (helpfully) pointed and gave instructions.

I've no idea how the roses will fare, but we've tried to select a location that will give them enough light without them getting burnt to a crisp during the peak of summer. But I still don't know which varieties to get and where to get them from: Some further research is in order, and I suspect a rose-hunting trip to Adelaide will be taken sometime next month when the patch is ready for planting.

So, who knows the secret to growing beautiful roses? I suspect they'll need quite a bit of attention, but having said that I'm sure the work is worth it just to see those stunning blooms!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Son of the Shadows by Juliet Marillier

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Juliet Marillier is fast becoming one of my all-time favourite story-tellers. Son of the Shadows is the second book of 5 (soon to be 6) in Marillier's Sevenwaters series. In a setting where history, folklore and magic are brilliantly intertwined, Marillier tells the story of the children of Sorcha, the heroine of Daughter of the Forest, whose bravery and determination saved her brothers and her home from the enchantment of an evil sorceress.

As a result of Sorcha's achievements, her children - Niamh, Sean and Liadan - are able to enjoy a life of relative peace and security in the family forest of Sevenwaters. However, the shadow of past events cannot be shaken, and the fear of a great evil remains.

Strange happenings are taking place outside the forest, where the Painted Man and his band of outlaws are men-for-hire, but the rumours say they are more beast than human.

Then Niamh, eldest daughter of Sorcha and Red, falls in love with a man she cannot have, and is taken from Sevenwaters and forced into a marriage of alliance with the son of a neighbouring King. At the same time, Liadan finds herself face-to-face with the Painted Man and his men, but rather than being afraid she sees this band as misunderstood souls and kindred spirits.

This fateful encounter with the Painted Man gains the attention of the Fair Folk and the Old Ones, and sparks concerns about the return of that great evil. This association is also set to reveal to Liadan and her family lost secrets from a forgotten past.

It is these events that begin a chain reaction which threatens the peace and security the children of Sevenwaters have known all their lives. Niamh, Sean and Liadan are suddenly forced into adulthood, where adult challenges must be faced and adult decisions made in order to protect their loved ones and their home from the danger that is lurking outside the forest. Liadan, the youngest and wisest of the three, rejects the influence of the Fair Folk and leaves the forest against their advice to do what she feels in necessary to save herself and her family from the impending chaos and darkness.

Brilliantly written, Marillier easily draws you into her magical world of Sevenwaters.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Winter Warmers: Veg & Lentil Soup

It has certainly started to feel like winter these past few days. Our combustion heating has remained alight non-stop for this last week, and as the days get shorter I find myself gravitating more and more towards the kitchen in order to make warming soups, breads and puddings.

This vegetable and lentil soup recipe is a variation of a recipe by Australian cooking extraordinare, Donna Hay - and it's delicious, of course!

Veg & Lentil Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 gloves garlic, crushed
1/4 cup fresh lemon thyme
1 carrot, grated
1 parsnip, grated
1 zucchini, grated
4oz dry red lentils
400g diced or crushed tin tomatoes
1L vegetable stock
Parmesan cheese to serve

1. Place oil, onion and garlic in a large saucepan and sautee until tender, then add lemon thyme and cook for a further 30 seconds to release the flavour.

2. Add carrot, parsnip and zucchini to pan and sautee for a further two minutes, then add lentils and stir through so they are completely covered in the oil.

3. Pour in crushed tomatoes and vegetable stock, then bring to the boil. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer. Place lid on pan and allow to cook for a further 30 minutes, or until vegetables and lentils are tender.

4. Allow to cool slightly and then blend either all or half of soup before reheating to serving temperature.

5. Serve topped with grated parmesan cheese and warm crusty bread.

Serves 4.

Friday, May 6, 2011

On My Mind: The Light of Letters.

"And none will hear the postman's knock without a quickening of the heart. For who can bear to feel himself forgotten?" - W. H. Auden

This somewhat intimidating pile of letters is on my mind this Friday.

Now they are sorted I can start writing my replies, which can be quite a slow process considering I write all my mail by hand - Computers are for blogging, pens are for corresponding!

This is a Friday photo feature from Down to Earth that anyone with a blog can join. It opens the door to us sharing our lives through these photos and gives us all a new way to discover each other, and maybe form new friendships. Your photo should show something at home that you're thinking about TODAY.

To take part, all you have to do is post a photo, write a short caption explaining it, and link it back to Down to Earth. Please write a new post, don't link to an older one. When your photo is published, go to Down to Earth and add a comment , with a link to your blog photo.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Smuggled by Christina Shea

SmuggledSmuggled by Christina Shea

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Smuggled is a beautiful, inspiring novel set predominantly in post-WWII Romania and Hungary. It tells the story of Eva Farkas, who is smuggled out of Hungary and away from the Nazis as a five-year-old during WWII. Across the border in rural Romania she is renamed Anca Balaj and raised by her Uncle and Aunt. After spending most of her life as Romanian Anca, she eventually returns to Hungary after the fall of the Soviet Union to reclaim her identity as Eva.

Forced to hide Eva Farkas for almost half a century, Anca Balaj becomes a survivor: She survives the war, the Nazis and the Communists who took her family, and a string of interesting, greedy men, who are for Anca simply a means to an end. As the pages of history turn, Anca's circumstances rob her of the chance to find lasting happiness: Fleeting moments of joy seemingly always end in tragedy. She lives in the moment, taking each day as it comes, yet despite this she is never selfish or cruel. Anca is admirable in the face of adversity, consistently showing compassion and kindness.

It is when she returns to Hungary in her middle age as Eva Farkas that her life is transformed. No longer relying on others for her survival, Eva's fear of having lived her life as a hidden Jew with fake Romanian papers finally subsides, and she is free to face the new world with hope. Eva is not Anca: Eva is a Jew and proclaims it. Eva is Hungarian by birth and admits it. Eva is proud of her heritage and her history, and through this recognition she is finally able to leave Anca behind and move forward in true love and happiness.

**Received as an ARC through NetGalley. Many thanks to the author and the publisher for allowing me to read and review this novel: It is a wonderfully heart-warming story.

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