Showing posts from March, 2017

Book Challenge 2017: Months 1-3

Every three months, I'll be sharing my progress with the Book Challenge, aiming to read a book a month, one from each of the given categories. I already read a lot, but I thought it would get me to widen my net a little. You can read my selected list in my Book Challenge 2017: My Picks post.

So without futher ado, here are my reads from January, February and March.

January: A collection of short stories
Nocturnes, Kazuo Ishiguro

This is a beautiful gem of a collection, made up of five short stories under an overarching theme of music. In Crooner, a guitarist meets his idol in Venice. Come Rain or Come Shine tells of a friend stuck between a couple whose marriage is deteriorating. Malvern Hills is a story of making fast judgements and having them challenged. Nocturne features a musician recovering from surgery, rediscovering his own sense of self. Finally, Cellists tells of a musician getting to know a man who sits and watches them perform daily in the piazza.

Ishiguro's writin…

The Recipe Post #10: Garlic Courgette Bake with Pasta

One tasty - and very garlicky - meal I made for my mum and I ended up being a bit of an improvisation on the recipe I had found, but it went down a treat.
The original recipe was from the website, and was intended to serve six. Once the chopping was done, there didn't seem to be anywhere near those quantities, so we opted to serve the bake on top of pasta.
The result was a deliciously fresh pasta dish, bursting with tomatoes and full of garlic. 

The ingredients:
Pasta, to serve2 large courgettes, in chunks1 tsp chopped basilsalt and pepper2 large tomatoes, dicedhalf cup Parmesan, shreddedchopped parsley or basil, to topsalt & pepper, to taste

Add the tomatoes, courgettes, parmesan, garlic and basil into a large bowl and mix thoroughly - really get your hands in there.

Pour the contents into a baking dish and bake in the oven for 25 to 35 minutes, depending on how crunchy you want the courgette.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta to pack instructions, as usual.

Put the coo…

Beauty and the Beast

Spoiler alert: I'm joining the ranks of those who love the new Beauty and the Beast film.

I've got to say, after my initial excitement at the announcement a long time ago, I got slightly nervous about this remake. I'm one of millions of girls who adored Beauty and the Beast when I was younger, identifying with Belle's bookish ways and loving every song and dress.

I'm a big fan of the animated film and of the stage musical, so I wasn't quite sure where the new film would fit into that well-crafted world.

Let me dive right in and say that I loved Emma Watson as Belle. When she was first announced, I had my doubts, but after she'd been on screen a few minutes I was sold. I thought her voice suited the songs nicely, she played the part well and she looked absolutely beautiful, too. She also deserves credit for the fact she must have done a lot of her acting to empty screens and empty rooms, such as in the 'Be Our Guest' sequence, but she pulled that off…

Evita, The Lowry

Evita has arrived at The Lowry, and this current tour is unmissable.

I saw the show on tour about five or six years ago and loved it, but last night's production made the first I saw seem like an amateur performance.

The current touring cast give the show a whole new lease of life.

I came away with a whole new appreciation for the show; songs I had never been a huge fan of became some of my favourites, I noticed subtleties in the narrative I've never seen before and the casting was genius.

Evita tells the story of Eva Peron, a working class girl who worked her way up the ranks to become wife of Peron, and First Lady of Argentina.

The role of Eva is therefore an incredibly complex one, beginning as a 15 year-old girl full of dreams, rising to power and eventually meeting her death, due to cancer, at just 33. For an actress this would be impressive, but you've got to then add to that the fact she is a woman who manipulates everything around her, and plans and executes her li…

Down Hall Hotel, Hertfordshire - Escaping Reality

This week we got the hotels booked for our next little adventure, which has set me off daydreaming about other weekend trips away I've had recently. 
It then hit me that I haven't yet shared on here about one of my favourite hotels from last year: Down Hall Hotel.

Set on the border of Hertfordshire and Essex, it's a beautiful country house hotel, in beautiful grounds.

The night away was meant to be an escape from reality, and from the moment we arrived, that's what it was.

On the approach to the hotel you feel like you're hidden away from anyone and anything, making it the perfect site to offer spa breaks. Although we weren't there for the spa on this trip, I'd definitely return for that version of a Down Hall stay.

The break fell in a period during late 2016 when I was really struggling. My depression and anxiety were extremely high, and I was struggling to cope with going through the motions of day-to-day life.

I was quiet, I was withdrawn, and it didn&…

Hedda Gabler, National Theatre Live

This week, I went along to my first National Theatre Live broadcast, and the 'theatre via cinema' experience is definitely one I will be repeating.

On Thursday evening, National Theatre Live beamed out 'Hedda Gabler' to cinemas nationally, and I took up my seat full of anticipation.

I first came across Hedda Gabler while studying GCSE drama, and it's been on my 'need to see' list ever since. Widely agreed to host one of the very best female dramatic leads, the casting of Ruth Wilson in the role had me intrigued and confident it would be an impressive performance of Ibsen's classic.

I wasn't quite sure what to expect from the 'theatre at the cinema' concept, and I think I had assumed a camera would be set up as if you were a member of the audience in the theatre itself.

In fact, the National Theatre Live experience is a completely separate experience all of its own. Yes, there are moments where you see the whole stage and are aware of the liv…

The Recipe Post #9: Sausage and chickpea casserole

One meal that's gone down a treat in our house recently is this sausage casserole, adapted from a recipe on the Delicious Magazine website.

Packed with chickpeas and spinach, too, it's less like a traditional casserole and feels hearty but not too heavy.

The ingredients were:

olive oil (for the pan)2 onions, chopped200ml chicken stock200g spinach6 pork sausages, cut into chunks2 garlic cloves, crushed400g tin chopped tomatoes2 x 400g tins chickpeas, drained

Once you've got the list of ingredients, it's one of those great recipes where you can't really go wrong. Heat the oil and cook off the sausages, then set aside.

Throw the onions into the pan, and once they're on their way add the garlic, and you could throw in some herbs (the original recipe suggests thyme).

Add in the chopped tomatoes, chicken stock, browned sausages and chickpeas. Stir well, bring to a gentle simmer and cool for about 15 minutes until the sauce has reduced and thickened.

Throw in the spina…

Novotel, London Brentford

At the end of January I went for the most wonderful weekend away, staying in London with a day trip to Oxford in the middle.

Part of the reason the weekend was so good was the two nights spent in the Novotel London Brentford hotel, and that's what I'm sharing about today.

I've stayed in a Novotel once before, in Liverpool, which was brilliant, so I had pretty high expectations.

After parking under the building you come up into a beautiful, spacious, high-ceilinged lobby. The design work is quirky, with a large seating/work area, Macs for guests use, and it opened back into the bar and restaurant.

Check-in was quick and easy, with the staff doing everything on iPads, and off we headed to the sixth floor.

The room was spacious and looked and felt brand new. The bed was big and comfortable, with a warm light around the headboard, and there were floor-to-ceiling windows with a sofa placed in front of them.
There was a large desk area and so much storage space.
The standout fea…

Hidden Figures

I finally went to see Hidden Figures this Wednesday, and it did not disappoint.

The trailer had me hooked, and then I heard glowing review after glowing review from so many people I knew.

Hidden Figures has got the perfect ingredients:

a brilliant castbased on true eventsan inspiring, inspirational storyan interesting context - two, in fact. 1960s America in terms of segregation, and 1960s America in terms of the space racegreat characterssome real heartwarming moments.

Hidden Figures tells the story of three African American women who played pivotal roles at NASA during the space program's early beginnings, but whom few people have heard of. Mathematicians, at the beginning of the film the women are 'computers', tucked away in a separate building, and the film tells of their rise through the ranks to fulfill their true potential, despite obstacles that could have held them back.
Set against the backdrop of the American civil rights movement, the film perfectly presented th…