Books read in February:
Three novels read in a short month AND while being busy! Hooray! The best new read was Legend, which I will review on Sunday.
For our Monday Adventure, F. and I again went hunting for snow — and found snowdrops. Every spring Cambo Estate has a Snowdrop Festival and every year we each have missed it, so we made a point in going this year on our day off. We had to go soon, I pointed out, because the crocuses were already starting to bloom.
Cambo Estate has lots of woodland paths, a walled garden, and goes right down to the sea. I’ve never been inside the house, but the mansion is used for receptions and a B&B. We spent a couple of hours just wandering around the woodland, following the burn, and even walked across a big sturdy log that bridged the burn. It was some two metres above the water. I felt very brave. 🙂
The snowdrops carpeted the ground like… well, like snow! It was beautiful. I’m so glad we went and that it happened to be a clear, gorgeous, bright and sunny day.
I wanted chocolate pudding. I was feeling picky though, and wanted real chocolate pudding, thick and creamy and American-style. When I searched for chocolate pudding recipes, I kept finding these weird steamed cake things. That’s what the British call ‘chocolate pudding’.
Then I stumbled upon this recipe from Cadbury.
Dark Chocolate Pudding
(Adapted from Cadbury’s Rich Dark Chocolate Pots)
Serves 2-4, depending how greedy you are
1. Melt the Bournville in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Remove from the heat and cool a little.
2. Whip the cream until just starting to thicken then fold in the chocolate.
3. Divide between 4 small ramekins or small glasses. Chill for 1-2 hours. Serve with a sprinkling of chocolate chips.
It’s good chilled, but once it has warmed up a bit it’s heaven. Mm.
Opening line: ‘In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my head ever since.’
That advice, to pause and reflect on the perspective of someone you are about to criticise, is what informs Nick Carraway as an observer-narrator in The Great Gatsby. Nick’s come from the mid-west looking for work in New York as a bonds man. He ends up finding a small place to live on the West Egg on Long Island with millionaires as his neighbours. Across the bay on the East Egg lives his cousin Daisy and her husband, Tom Buchanan. But far more interesting is Nick’s eccentric neighbour: Jay Gatsby, mysterious, aloof, and excessively wealthy. That summer Nick goes along to Gatsby’s wild parties and witnesses the tangling and unraveling of American high society in the 1920s.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is often lauded as the best American novel. I’ve read it for high school and for Civ in undergraduate, and it is a different experience reading it now on my own. Yes, I still caught the themes of industrialization, inventing oneself anew for the American Dream, the stagnation or pollution of human relationships in the post-WWI world, but I also noticed the quieter, more poignant scenes of Gatsby’s and Daisy’s tragic history. A new film adaptation is coming out later this year with Leonardo DiCaprio cast as Gatsby — an excellent choice and I’m eager to see the film when it comes out in May.
Reflections in the sand:
I posted a photo similar to this one, taken from a similar angle, half a year ago. Still, the view is stunning. In the background are snow-covered hills, the tallest of which is Craigowl.
Stir-fry is a quick and easy way to use up a lot of veg. Usually F. makes the stir-fry, since he learned how to make it in the Philippines (just like I’m the one who usually makes Mexican food). This time I wanted to find a recipe that would give us a different sauce, and so I turned to my trusted resource, BBC Good Food.
I chose this recipe to use up the rest of my spring greens, but when I got home I found that they had gone off already. Once again, I altered the recipe and handed the reins to F. thanks to a bad headache. We were both thoroughly impressed with the result, and I claimed it was as good as eating at Wagamama. Try it — you’ll see.
Vegetable and chili stir-fry
(Adapted from BBC Good Food)
Seriously, it’s that quick. Serve with rice and enjoy!
Opening line: ‘I remember that it was midmorning.’
The great city of Sky has become overshadowed by the World Tree. New gods suddenly fill the streets, spreading magic and changing the theology of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms that has remained unchanged for millenia. Oree Shoth, a blind artist, sells souveniers to tourists and pilgrims who come to see the World Tree. One day, Oree takes in a homeless man who needs help. Then someone starts murdering godlings, leaving their bodies mutilated and discarded. Oree’s act of kindness and her strange houseguest drags her into the feuds of the gods themselves.
The Broken Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin is the second in a trilogy, following after The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. Much has changed between the two books due to the ending of the first that I suspect you could read the second book on its own. The backstory of major (divine) events are revealed over the course of the story, allowing the reader to discover the confusing world of the gods and magic along with Oree. I’ve enjoyed both The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and The Broken Kingdoms; Jemisin writes fresh, interesting fantasy. I enjoy it because it is new; this fantasy isn’t derivative of most other high fantasy out there. I look forward to reading the next in the trilogy, The Kingdom of the Gods, and will keep Jemisin’s name on my radar when looking for new books to read.
F. and I went hunting for snow again last Monday and we found it near Pitlochry. We didn’t see much of Pitlochry itself, heading straight to the path that would take us around the base of Ben Vrackie.
There was a lot of snow. It was beautiful, exhausting, and a lot of fun. I kept stopping to look at the snow, the ice, the rocks, the drifts. Such fascinating formations it creates! (Click on photos to enlarge.)
This is Ben Vrackie with Loch a’Choire frozen at its base. We didn’t know how technical it would be in wintry conditions, so we just walked to the loch and then turned back the way we came. The snow was too icy to make snow angels and too soft to try sledding (at least, to try sledding using the plastic bags we brought along). But the drifts were big and deep and fun for jumping in.
On our way back we caught up with an older Scottish couple we had passed earlier in the day. We got to talking and went to Moulin Inn to have hot chocolate and tea by a warm, crackling fire. They asked where I was from, whether I was from Scotland or Holland — and were flabbergasted to hear that I was from Texas! And then, because they were driving to Perth and that’s where our train connection was going to be, they gave us a lift to Perth. Such serendipity!
Today is Ash Wednesday.
Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return. Turn away from sin and follow after Christ.
I have posted in the past about Lent and reasons for celebrating it. It is a time of spiritual discipline and intentionality. This year I am again giving up the computer between 9PM and 9AM. I get too easily distracted by the lure of the Internet — even if there is nothing ‘new’ to read in email or blogs, I will go find something new. I have plenty of things I want to do off the computer, and I need to be far more disciplined regarding my sleep schedule and getting to work early.
This year I have been introduced to the concept of ‘Carbon Fasting’, or going Green for Lent. I’m also going to take a look at these suggestions and see how I can incorporate into my lifestyle the things I’m not doing already. I encourage you to do the same — we are stewards of the earth, after all. Why not take better care of it this Lent?