Tuesday 26 April 2016

Reading - April 2016

Since I started reading regularly again, back in 2012, I've found that the speed at which I read books has increased year on year. I now seem to be able to get through about four books each month, and that's how many I've read again in April.

Three Act Tragedy was my Agatha Christie read this month. It took me a while to get in to this book as I found it a little difficult to keep track of who was who, but once I did, I enjoyed it. I did have an inkling of who the murderer was this time and I was right. I must be starting to get in the mindset of Agatha herself, or maybe not, I'm sure it was just a lucky guess.

Have you ever read a book that left you unsure of whether you enjoyed it or not? I feel like that about The Liar's Chair by Rebecca Whitney. The story certainly kept me interested and I really wanted to keep reading to find out what happened, so does this mean that I enjoyed it? Perhaps I've got this feeling because I just didn't like the characters, there wasn't one in the whole book that I warmed to. Or perhaps it's because it's not the type of book I'd ordinarily read, it's quite dark and a little unsettling. The jury's out, why not read it yourself and let me know what you think.

I've read very mixed reviews of The Ice Twins by S K Tremayne so I was interested to see what I thought of it myself. Well, to put it bluntly, I found it long and drawn out and I really wanted to give the mother a slap, she was just so slack. She had all these doubts in her mind about what really happened the day one of her twin daughters died, so why didn't she just ask the surviving twin? It could have all been over in a couple of chapters. And don't get me started on the father. I persevered with this book till the end but I really wished I'd been reading something better.

As I've said before, I find Amanda Prowse books a bit hit and miss, some I've really enjoyed and some just haven't done it for me. I'm afraid The Christmas Cafe is probably the Amanda Prowse book I've least enjoyed. I found the first three quarters of the book totally boring and then all of a sudden, it sprung to life and I enjoyed the last quarter. I just wish the first part had been as good as the last.

I think these reviews show that it's been a funny kind of month where my reading has been concerned, a bit hit and miss but that's the thing with books, you don't know whether you're going to enjoy them or not. I'm looking forward to seeing what May brings.

Friday 22 April 2016

Yucky Ducky

I've been wanting to try duck for ages, I'm a big fan of Masterchef, we're half way through the new series, and it's a regular dish on many of the contestant's menus. I think it always looks very appetising. When Mick popped in to the supermarket on Wednesday to pick up a few bits, he saw this duck crown reduced to £3.50 and knowing that I wanted to give duck a go, brought it home with him.

I cooked it last night, it was very easy as you just pop it in the oven in the bag it comes in for an hour and a half and then leave to rest. After eating one slice, I couldn't manage another mouthful. I'm really not very fussy when it comes to meat, our whole family are big meat eaters and I enjoy things such as liver and kidneys which many people won't touch, but I just don't like the flavour of duck at all. It's very hard to describe other than saying it's very rich. Eleanor didn't like it either and left hers too. Mick did eat what was on his plate but wasn't keen. If we'd been eating beef he'd have polished off the leftovers from the other two plates but he didn't bother. Needless to say, Archie had a lovely meal last night.

I think I'm better off sticking with what I know, and how's this for a bargain? Four turkey breast steaks for the grand sum of 4p. Another bargain which Mick picked up a couple of weeks ago.

I've trained him well.

Wednesday 20 April 2016

I'm At It Again

I don't know how many times I say I've stopped buying magazines and then an offer comes along which tempts me. The latest one which came up is three issues of Let's Knit for £6. I couldn't resist.

Considering that one issue of this magazine is usually £5.99 I don't think £6 for three is bad at all, it's the equivalent of buy one get two free. Of course, I'll cancel the membership before they take any further payments.

I haven't read it yet but I've had a flick through and there's some good features including some sock patterns which I might have a go at.

There's usually a free gift included with these type of magazines. The one which was included this month is a pattern booklet and four balls of yarn which is enough to knit each of the five animals.

Paula Pig is cute so I might start with her.

How about you, do you subscribe to any magazines? Do you take up offers like I do? Can you resist popping magazines in your trolley when you go shopping? I'd love to know if you have any favourites.

Sunday 17 April 2016

Joyful World - April

I thought I was going to have January completed to show you this month but I've just realised that I've missed the white stitches which fill the boxes on the border. Never mind, I'll get that bit done and then it will be fully complete.

I can't say that I enjoyed doing the eyelet stitch underneath the fox, in fact, my stitches have pulled the fabric a little out of shape. I shall leave it be though, I doubt that I'd do any better even if I unpicked it and started again.

So, I'm just about ready to start February now and I'm thoroughly enjoying it. I love how the picture builds up stitch by stitch. I had so much trouble working with such a large piece of fabric when I first started but I'm finding it much easier now, I suppose it was just a case of getting used to it.

Thursday 14 April 2016

Ribbit Ribbit

We got the first lot of potatoes in to buckets at the weekend, we're growing Arran Pilot and Anya again this year. Mick went off to fetch the watering can to give them a good water and this is what he found.

There was a bit of water in the bottom and a frog had jumped in. Not only did we find the frog but there was also some frogspawn.

We've got a teeny tiny pond in the garden and though there's often frogs in it, there's never been any frogspawn. They obviously prefer our watering cans because when Mick looked in the second one we've got there was a frog in there too.

We carefully tipped both frogs and the frogspawn in to the little pond, I'm sure they'll be much happier in there than in a watering can. When I looked yesterday, the frogs has been busy, not only was there the frogspawn we'd emptied in from the watering can, there were fresh clumps too. You can see some here right on the surface of the water and if you look closely, there's some submerged too right by the side of it.

I'm not sure that this clump on the side of the pond is going to make it though. I tried to slide it in to the water but it's well and truly stuck to the plastic lip of the pond.

Perhaps we'll get some tadpoles this year.

Monday 11 April 2016

Chicken Caprese

I often see recipes in magazines, on television or on blogs which look really good and I think I'll give them a try myself but in reality, I'm not very adventurous in the kitchen so I end up sticking with things I know. One blog I read regularly which has some wonderful recipes is The Low Carb Diabetic. Now I'm not a diabetic and I don't follow a low carb diet but the recipes which Jan posts are always very tempting and look delicious, and of course, you can add carbs if you want to.

I remember Jan posting a Chicken Caprese recipe quite a while ago now. I popped the post into my favourites and as usual, there it languished, that was until she mentioned the recipe again last week which gave me a nudge. It's such an easy recipe so I don't know why I hadn't got round to trying it. Anyway, I thought it was about time I did so I gave it a go.

The recipe calls for boneless, skinless chicken thighs but I had some chicken breasts in the freezer so I thought I'd use those instead. I just adjusted the cooking time as the breasts were much bigger than thighs would have been. I started off by sprinkling the chicken with salt and pepper and then searing them in a frying pan in a little olive oil.

They were then arranged in a glass baking dish, covered in foil and baked in the oven for about twenty minutes. This stage isn't included in the recipe but as the breasts were quite large, it ensured that they were cooked through, I'd have missed out this stage had I been using thighs.

After twenty minutes, I removed the foil, topped each breast with mozzarella and slices of tomato and then returned to the oven uncovered. After a further thirty minutes I removed them from the oven. The cheese was melted and the chicken thoroughly cooked through.

I popped them under the grill for about three minutes to brown the top of the cheese then sprinkled them with fresh basil.

Here they are all plated up, served with new potatoes which have been drizzled with butter, and green beans.

It's such a simple recipe but tastes absolutely delicious and I can see it becoming a regular favourite. I don't often buy tomatoes from the supermarket, they just don't seem to have any taste eaten raw when you compare them to home grown tomatoes, but cooked is another matter, the tangy tomatoey taste mixed with the cheese and chicken is yummy and though Mick and Eleanor don't usually eat tomatoes at all, they actually cleared their plates. We all enjoyed it very much indeed. If you'd like to have a go yourself, and I can definitely recommend you do, you'll find the recipe on Jan's Chicken Caprese ... Mama Mia It Sure Tastes Great! post. Thank you, Jan, for the inspiration.

Thursday 7 April 2016

Red Lion

I've just realised that I haven't yet shown you my amaryllis bloom. This is the variety Red Lion, as you can see it has stunning bright red flowers.

It produced four flowers on the first stem but they're just starting to wither now. These photos were taken about ten days ago and since then, this second bud has grown some more and has now started to open.

They're stunning plants and definitely worth growing for their big impact blooms.

Monday 4 April 2016

Packed Away

I had every intention of putting in lots of work on my Spice Of Life Crochet Along blanket this month but the cross stitch bug has taken a firm hold and crochet is playing second fiddle to it. I've decided to pack it away for a while until the mood takes me again.

Here you can see it in my work basket with my Granny Stripe blanket which I started in January 2015. I didn't get very far with that one before I started on other things so that's two blankets waiting to be completed. They'll get done eventually.

I'm joining in with Jennifer's Winter Project Link Party over on her Thistlebear blog. This is the last instalment of the link party, now that we've entered spring. Thank you for hosting it, Jennifer, I've enjoyed visiting the other participants over winter to see what they've been working on and I've made some new blogging buddies too.