February 2013

Books read in February:

  1. The Broken Kingdoms. N. K. Jemisin.
  2. The Great Gatsby. F. Scott Fitzgerald.
  3. Legend. Marie Lu.

Three novels read in a short month AND while being busy! Hooray! The best new read was Legend, which I will review on Sunday.

Snowdrops at Cambo

IMG_8089For 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.¬† ūüôā

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.

IMG_8115IMG_8083   IMG_8105

Dark chocolate pudding

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

  • 100g Bourneville dark chocolate (or any dark chocolate)
  • 150ml double cream
  • a handful of chocolate chips

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.

The Great Gatsby

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.’

the great gatsbyThat 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.

Veg and chili stir-fry

IMG_8055

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)

Serves 3

  • Olive oil
  • Thumb-sized piece¬†root ginger, peeled and sliced into strips
  • 3 red¬†chilies, finely sliced
  • 1/2 head¬†broccoli, cut into small florets and stem cut into pieces
  • 3 parsnips, cut into strips
  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • 4 Tbs dry sherry
  • 2 Tbs dark soy sauce
  1. Heat 1 Tbs oil in a wok until very hot and stir-fry the ginger and chili for 30 seconds. Add the veg and a splash of water, cover and cook for 2-3 minutes.
  2. Add the sherry and soy sauce and cook for a further 3 minutes.

Seriously, it’s that quick. Serve with rice and enjoy!

The Broken Kingdoms

Opening line: ‘I remember that it was midmorning.’

thebrokenkingdomsThe 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.