Friday, November 21, 2014

Make Ahead Bread


Make Ahead Bread

By Donna Currie

Published by Taunton Press, Nov 4th, 2014


One of the things which puts so many people off the idea of making bread from scratch at home is the thought of being tied to the kitchen for hours on end while the dough rises, proves then cooks. This is not actually necessary or true, and some of the steps involved can be done in advance, or the process safely interrupted, to fit around the many other demands on the cook's time.



The recipes are fun and varied, including

  • Bacon, Tomato & Cheddar Loaf
  • Oatmeal, Honey & Date Loaf
  • Maple, Bacon & Onion Loaf
  • Savoury Monkey Bread
  • Cinnamon Swirl Loaf
  • Candied Ginger Bread
and a great deal more, including some gluten-free recipes, sourdoughs, rye, buns, breadsticks, sliders, hot dog rolls and hamburger buns, all sorts of flatbreads and pizzas as well as a slew of delicious pastries. I particularly liked the information about using an instant read thermometer to assist in judging when the bread is properly cooked as a guide for novice bread bakers. 

It's a truly lovely book, but sadly, some of the ingredients are certainly not easily available in my part of the UK. Experimentation to find acceptable substitutes may be required :-)


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Monday, November 17, 2014

A Dream of Home



A Dream of Home

By Amy Clipston

Published by Zondervan, Nov 4th, 2014



Madeleine was a military nurse until her pilot fiance died; then she moved into her late grandmother's house in the depths of Amish country, Pennsylvania, to build a new life for herself. She soon discovers that unfortunately she cannot leave her memories and nightmares so easily behind her, and despite having a job working at a nearby hotel and making new friends, her life and heart are still pretty empty.

Her next-door neighbour is a widowed Amish man named Saul Beiler, a skilled cabinet maker who farms and also looks after his delightful young daughter. His past holds many secrets and although he knows his daughter Emma would benefit from a woman's daily influence, he does not feel quite ready to remarry and is certainly not expecting Madeleine and Emma to strike up such a deep and enduring friendship, nor to develop feelings for her himself. Afraid that things are moving too quickly and that Emma is becoming too fond of Madeleine, his attempts to step back from the budding relationship have unexpected results.

This is the latest installment of the "Hearts of the Lancaster Grand Hotel" series and the stories of other characters from the preceding books are cleverly interwoven with Maddy's. Even though she is now living "Englisch" with two of her children and her new husband Trey, Hannah continues to try to rebuild her relationship with Lilian, her daughter who has resolutely chosen to remain Amish. 
Carolyn's wedding to Joshua is imminent yet her fiance is very unhappy about her continuing to work at the Lancaster Grand Hotel in case she too meets an Englischer and leaves the Amish world, just as Hannah did so recently. The Englisch and Amish worlds are closely inter-connected in this book, yet are poles apart. Can they influence each other for the good, or is that asking the impossible?

Enjoyable - although tear-jerking  in places, Amy Clipston continues to weave her magic and slowly things become much clearer for all the characters and giving tantalising hints of what further resolutions might occur in the next book.


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Tweeting Da Vinci


Tweeting Da Vinci

By Ann C. Pizzorusso

Published by Da Vinci Press, Oct 31st, 2014


The title intrigued me greatly, and when I started to read it, so did the contents. Ann Pizzorusso is one of a very rare breed - she is a geologist *and* an Italian Renaissance scholar, and in this book she seamlessly blends the hard science of geology with a fascinating look at how it has affected the structure, landscape, art, literature and life of Italy.

Inspired by the genius of Da Vinci and his remarkable talent of blending inspiration and scientific curiosity, she looks at the Italian world as he would probably have done if he had access to our modern knowledge. The book is beautifully produced and superbly illustrated both with Da Vinci's own artwork as well as photographs, commissioned artwork and maps so an intrepid explorer could use this as a guidebook to exploring some of the lesser known parts of Italy.

From the very tectonic plates underpinning Italy to valleys and volcanoes, ancient roads and temples to radioactive springs and divination by lightning, she looks at an enormous variety of topics  and breadth of Italian history from the ancient Etruscans and Romans right through to the present day.
A truly fascinating chapter is devoted to the geology shown in the two versions of Leonardo Da Vinci's superb "Virgin of the Rocks" and the metals and pigments used in art, but all sorts of fascinating snippets make their way into the book, even including the gems associated with the Apostles of Christ and the astrological signs associated with the Twelve Tribes of Israel.

Intriguing, fascinating and sure to appeal to anyone who loves Italy, history, art or science - a versatile book indeed :-)



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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The School Inspector Calls





The School Inspector Calls

(Book 3 in "A Little Village School" series)

By Gervase Phinn

Published by Hodder, June 2014


This is the third in the series telling the story of  "A Little Village School". The school in question is the village primary school of Barton-in-the Dale, ably run by the new and popular Head, Elisabeth Devine.

 The proposed merger of the neighbouring schools of Barton village and Urebank under Elisabeth's leadership continues to be problematic when Urebank's Head and Deputy Head seem determined to be thoroughly obstructive, uncooperative and difficult, making Elisabeth's task thankless in the extreme.

Concerned and worried, she naturally discusses her troubles with her fiance, Doctor Michael Stirling, only to find that he starts to lose patience when she talks almost constantly about the school and its woes, the most notable being a new and very troubled boy named Robbie who is causing mayhem.  When Robbie's harassed mother chooses the continuation of her marriage over her son and puts him into care Elisabeth is determined not to give up on the child, no matter what, but news of a visit from a School Inspector serves to add to her worries. A possible housing estate being built in the village, the serious illness of Miss Sowerbutts, the previous Headteacher, and the arrival of a mysterious and handsome man staying at Elisabeth's cottage keep the village gossips in a state of ferment - life is never boring in Barton-in-the Dale!

Gervase Phinn is a keen observer of life in his beloved Yorkshire and manages to portray both the beauties of the area and the idiosyncrasies of its inhabitants with unerring accuracy and kindly good humour. His long years of teaching and inspecting schools enables him to portray the anxieties and difficulties as well as the triumphs and joys of teaching, and he is a born storyteller, describing village and school life in loving detail. I'm really looking forward to the fourth book, due in 2015.








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Letters To Auntie Fori



Letters To Auntie Fori
By Martin Gilbert
Published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson (hardback), 2002


I found this book by pure chance when I was searching on Amazon.co.uk for another of Sir Martin Gilbert's historical books. It looked interesting and I have not regretted buying it, despite its size and the space it takes on my desperately overloaded bookshelves! Running to 460 pages in the hardback version, this is a massive book both physically and in its scope as it covers the 5,000 year history of the Jewish people.

Just how the letters to Auntie Fori started is fascinating; Martin Gilbert knew her son from his time at Oxford University and when he visited New Delhi, he was urged to visit Mrs B. K. Nehru, and they became friends.  It was only many, many years later, at Auntie Fori's 90th birthday celebrations in 1998 that she mentioned to him that she was in fact  Hungarian and Jewish herself, though her knowledge of the history  and practice of her faith was very limited as she had not been a particularly observant Jewess in her youth. She wanted to learn more but could not find a book which would tell her exactly what she wanted to know, and so Martin Gilbert began a series of letters - 140 in total - outlining the history of the Jewish people around the world and their religious practices.

Reform Judaism does seem to have been rather skated over lightly, which I found a little surprising, and the actual religious practices of Judaism were only really touched upon, being covered from letter 104 onwards,but I found it all fascinating and read it slowly over a period of months, a few letters at a time. 



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Friday, November 07, 2014

An Amish Second Christmas




An Amish Second Christmas

By Beth Wiseman, Ruth Reid, Kathleen Fuller & Tricia Goyer

Published by Thomas Nelson, October 2014


The feast of Christmas spans two consecutive days in the Amish tradition. The first day is often spent quietly with family, reflecting on the spiritual meaning of Christmas and celebrating at home. The second day, known as Second Christmas, tends to be a more festive time where family and friends visit each other and celebrate.

This collection of novellas by four notable authors of Amish fiction deals with situations where Second Christmas plays a significant part in the storyline.

Initially, it was the striking and very lovely cover which attracted me to the title, but I quickly became engrossed in the joys and tribulations of the characters as they all approach Christmas and Second Christmas with very different life experiences, hopes and fears in their hearts. The stories are very different from each other and serve to complement each other. These have definitely put me in the Christmas spirit and will certainly be regularly read with huge enjoyment!

“When Christmas Comes Again” by Beth Wiseman

Katherine is determined to be strong for her children as they approach their first Christmas without her beloved husband , Elias. When she meets an elderly man who has photographs of Elias, she is intrigued and not a little concerned. The man's stories seem absurd, far-fetched - is he delusional or ill? Or could he actually be telling the truth about who he is and what his career in the Englisch world had been? And how will her children take the revelation about this man? Katherine has no idea that her daughter is hiding secrets of her own.... until Christmas changes everything for their family.


“Her Christmas Pen Pal” by Ruth Reid

Joy  - along with her family and friends - is eagerly  anticipating that her beau, Henry, will at long last be proposing to her. Imagine her shock when he does not, and instead is far more concerned with pursuing another girl. Angry, hurt and bitterly disappointed, Joy pens a letter to her dear cousin and posts it along with samples of her new Christmas cookies, but the parcel and the letter fall into the hands of someone else, who pens a reply to her along with his assessment of her new cookies. An unlikely blind pen-pal friendship develops, and when they meet each other in real life, can their friendship survive let alone blossom? 

“A Gift for Anne Marie” by Kathleen Fuller

Anne-Marie and Nathaniel have been the best of friends since they were kinner in school together, and spend a great deal of their free time together, sharing the same interest and hobbies. When Anne-Marie's best friend expresses her romantic interest in Nathaniel Anne-Marie is quick to disclaim any romantic interest in him, but then starts to feel the pangs of jealousy and to wonder why. 
When her mother divulges a shocking secret - that she is to marry again and move the family away from their home, family and friends -  Anne-Marie faces losing her best friend altogether and permanently. Forced to confront her heart and revise her plans for her future, she is faced with making adult decisions about her childhood friend.


“The Christmas Aprons” by Tricia Goyer

Esther loves her work as a maid, helping new mothers and their babies in the first weeks or even months after the babies' arrivals. She hopes one day to have a family of her very own, to marry a farmer and live a traditional Amish family life. It seems a remote prospect and she feels shy, awkward and unsure of herself or her place in the Amish world. 
When caring for her cousin Hannah in faraway Montana, she is asked to take part in a bake sale; she agrees and is delighted when her mother finally parts with the secret recipe for her renowned Vanilla Crumb Pie. The pie is a runaway success, but Esther is horrified when she finds that it is no ordinary bake sale, but rather a way for Amish bachelors to get to sample the delights of bidding on pies and meeting the girls who bake them....





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