Thoroughly Nourished Finds: June Edition

Hello folks and happy Friday!

better when you're laughing

It’s been a long while since I’ve shared the things that have kept me entertained, inspired, hungry, lusting-after. Let’s have a quick list for Friday, shall we?

  • Instead of their special day being ruined by a nearby bushfire this couple’s photographer captured perfect photos using the bruised sky as a backdrop. Stunning.
  • [You can look away now Mum] Chris and I are thinking of doing this on a holiday soon! We both had this on our bucket lists and are now seriously considering a trip down south and a cruise out into the Great Australian Bite so that we can share this experience.
  • I love this patterned platter and I can imagine using it to serve delicious tapas to my friends while we are all lounging on the deck of our new house
  • Sometimes I want to have something in the fridge for lunch that is easily assembled the night before. This beetroot salad recipe from Clementine Daily can be done while making dinner and then grabbed while I’m on my way out the door.
  • I listen to these ladies all day long at work to keep me mentally stimulated while I’m looking at spreadsheets and typing letters. Also, they’re funny feisty feminists and I like that.
  • Chris is a massive hot dog fan (I think most dudes are?) and I can only imagine his delight over homemade Soft Pretzel Hot Dog Rolls from Jennifer’s recipe.
  • On an Amy’s appetite note: I was interested to see this post from The Kitchn on how to make baked tofu. I see some tofu-featuring salads in my near future.
  • Added to my reading list lately: ‘Hard Choices‘ by Hillary Rodham Clinton; ‘The Conversations: 66 Reasons to Start Talking‘ by Olivia Fane; ‘The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories‘ by Marina Keegan; and ‘Blossoms and Shadows‘ by Lian Hearn (finally).
  • These Homemade Choco Tacos remind me of an ice cream that was available for a really short time at the school tuckshop when I was in high school. Need.Them.Back.
  • I love browsing maps, and these 40 maps of America that explain food culture are really interesting. I’d love to see an Aussie version.

Tell me, what have you been reading on the interwebs lately? Or, any book recommendations?

On My Shelf – The Summer Reading List

This summer, in between training for a half marathon and eating delicious things, I read a lot of books. A close approximation of one of my personal heavens includes a pile of books to read, a couch large enough for napping between chapters, and a cup of tea that never gets cold or empty. So, this summer, which also included my other personal heaven of going to the beach with Chris, also included a lot of books. May I present the latest (irregular) edition of ‘On My Shelf’ – The Summer Reading List.

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

Although I have not read any of Hemingway’s works, this fictional look into his character by way of his first wife and their courtship, marriage, and downfall, was illuminating of the man behind the myth. Hadley Hemingway is a believable character and I was instantly sympathetic to her voice. Be prepared to be swept into the Hemingways’ jazz age social circles, world travels, and their tragedy. Highly recommended.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Open the pages of The Night Circus and be swept into the fantastical and phantasmal black and white world of circus life. This story of a deadly competition between two old rivals, and the young lives that it will affect until their end, is full of imagery that will leap of the page and linger long after you close the covers. I was enchanted by Erin Morgernstern’s ability to conjure a circus inside my mind and have me invested in the outcomes of the characters at the same time. This novel is both plot and character driven and oh how I would love to see a film version one day!

Big Brother by Lionel Shriver

This was the first book I downloaded and read on the iPad Chris bought me for Christmas. It deals with a topic pertinent to today’s society and the current obesity crisis, and views it all from a very personal angle. I don’t know whether I really enjoyed the storyline and I found some of the characters (in fact nearly all of them) quite detestable, but I enjoyed the writing itself. There is a twist in the plot line that annoyed me, and I finished the book feeling empty and starved for a reasonable solution to the characters’ problems rather than the seemingly quick wrap up offered by Ms Shriver.

The Dinner by Herman Koch

I had a similar problem with the characters in this book as I did with those in Big Brother: I found myself unable to relate to them, or even to be sympathetic to their circumstances. The characters in this book seemed spoiled and self indulged and the problems they faced rose out of their own inability to face up to reality. The concept of ‘The Dinner’ is that all the characters know each other intimately but still bear secrets that could destroy the other’s lives and one night, the night of the dinner in question, this becomes reality. I just couldn’t completely buy into the situation the characters faced and their reactions.

Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight

This book is sad, sad but worthwhile reading. This is Ms McCreight’s first novel and I can’t wait to see what she writes next. The story of Kate and her daughter Amelia starts with Amelia’s apparent suicide. As Kate is trying to resolve the ending of her daughter’s life she receives an anonymous text that leads her to believe that something even darker took place that day. Kate is unrelenting in her search for the truth, and this well written first novel takes you along for the ride willingly. Recommended read.

The Wedding Dress by Rachel Hauck

After the last three serious books I needed something lighter and ‘The Wedding Dress’ fit the bill perfectly. A little bit preachy in parts, if you ignore these it makes a delightfully light romantic fiction with a bit of a ghost story thrown in. A good bedside table book for when the world is a little too complicated and your fiction needs to be simple and sweet.

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

I devoured this book in a record eight hours. I started while I was eating breakfast and finished as I was going for a ride on the stationary bike to make up for my lack of movement. I was lost in the world of the uber rich Nicholas Young and his complicated crazy family and the middle class Rachel Chu. There is a love story here, several in fact, and also tales of family, loyalty, and what people who have piles of money actually do with it all. Keeping track of all the characters can be a little difficult but Kwan provides family trees to help. The dialogue is what sparkles here, the story feels as if you are overhearing pieces of gossip and family stories from people you would be fascinated to know, but relieved that you weren’t related to. Recommended read.

The Theory of Opposites by Allison Winn Scotch

This book is part love story, part coming of age, and part self help. Willa Chandler has spent her whole life being told who and what she is and following a path of least resistance and most reliability. When her husband proposes that they spend two months apart Willa is confronted with other opportunities that will have her considering what could be possible if she directs her own path and takes her life into her own hands. Good inspirational stuff wrapped in an easy to read package. Perfect beach reading.

A Watershed Year by Susan Schoenberger

Another woman in her thirties facing a coming-of-age test. Lucy is lonely and love lost when her best friend Harlan dies. She never professed her love to him and now regrets what they could have had. Harlan speaks to her from beyond the grave with emails he set up before he died. Over the year following his death Lucy learns how to bring love into her life and how to hold onto second chances and new beginnings. Another good beach read.

After all this fiction, I am now on a non-fiction bent. My bedside table currently holds copies of ‘Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital‘ by Sheri Fink, ‘The Body Book‘ by Cameron Diaz, and ‘Blue Plate Special: An Autobiography of My Appetites‘ by Kate Christensen. Reviews of those to come. Hopefully in a more regular fashion.

Tell me dear reader, what are you reading? Any recommendations? Have you read any of these books?

Gratitude List – Week Four

Do you ever fear a week coming? Are you afraid of the calendar flicking over to the combination of day, month, year that heralds an event that in your mind will be a trial, a test and measure of some part of your personality? This week brought four days that were a combination of ensuring everything was in its place, all parties were well fed and coffee-d and all feathers were soothed, and enjoyable evening events. I was certainly glad that I had a long weekend to look forward to, hence the late posting of this list while I enjoy a Monday that came without an early rising.

Here I present the Thoroughly Nourished Gratitude List 2014 Week Four:

Monday: I was grateful to start the week with an early sunrise run, and this afternoon Chris turned up at my house to surprise me!

Tuesday: This week was filled with big meetings and I was super grateful for all the help from my colleagues to get everything organised and cleaned up at the end of the day.

Wednesday: Sometimes I feel like I am more productive the more I have to do. This morning I managed to fit in a ride on the stationary bike while reading a few chapters of an intriguing new book (Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink), and this afternoon I was on overdrive: a few more kilometres on the bike, baking a cake for the cafe I supply sometimes, making dinner for the family, and then a grown-up meeting after the plates had been cleared. I was grateful at full and fast-paced my life can be sometimes, and equally grateful for the quiet time when I finally fell into bed that night.

bike time

Thursday: Another day of meetings at work, but today I had an exciting evening to look forward to. Chris and I finished work and headed into town to see Jimmy Carr perform and have dinner at one of our favourite restaurants. I was so grateful for the laughter. The biggest gratitude of the day is that I received news that my friend who has lymphoma doesn’t have to start treatment yet. Her cancer seems to be contained and all of her biochemistry is normal. They need to monitor her closely but her prospects are even better than her doctor had hoped. She may never have to undergo treatment. I am so grateful.

photo 2 (3) photo 1 (6)

Friday: Today the meetings finished early and my friend and I snuck out for lunch outside the office. A treat at the end of the week. After work I was grateful for hopping on the treadmill for the longest run I have done since the race (9.3km) and then I got to spend the evening with my sister! We had sushi for dinner and watched a film while snacking on some chocolate and talking about some pretty powerful life stuff. Grateful for the time with one of my best friends.

photo 3 (1)

Saturday: We finally made it back to our girl’s Saturday morning tradition of coffee and breakfast at the farmers market! Coffee, chocolate banana bread, and a haul of fresh fruit and vegetables was a great start to the weekend. Chris and I spent the remainder of the day watching movies, napping and recovering from the week. I am grateful for such a soul nourishing day.

photo 4 (2)

Sunday: Today I got to see nearly all of my favourite people! I started the day with a great workout and then I met up with my friends Josie and Caroline for some much overdue girl talk; then it was off to the cinema to see Saving Mr Banks (highly recommended) with my grandmother, my sister, and my Mum; and I finished off the day with a family dinner with Casey, Shane (super proud of your uni achievements Shane), Chris, Mum and Dad. I was grateful to catch up with so many inspirational people who nourish my heart daily.

photo 2 (4)

The week ahead looks a little quieter, but in everyday somewhere there is something to be grateful for. Something that reminds you that the smallest, simplest acts of kindness or grace are the real meaning of life and love.

Tell me, dear reader, what are you grateful for this week?

Those doughnuts you see above? They will also feature on the blog this week: gluten free, low fat, and delicious they are a crowd pleaser. Watch this space!

On My Shelf – Catch Up Edition

It has been far, far too long since I have shared an ‘On My Shelf’ post with you all.

There have been many books in the intervening months. Perhaps not as many as I would like, but I am a slower reader. I prefer to linger on the page and really soak in the story, the characters, and even just the words themselves before moving onto the next chapter.

The highlights for me over the past few months have been:

Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth

Rapunzel reimagined with all the classic ingredients combined into a fresh new take on an old tale. I was so captivated by this fairy adaptation that one morning after a run I sat in a kitchen chair, unmoving, and finished it. When I looked up three hours had passed! Kate Forsyth weaves this story through Renaissance Italy and Revolutionary France, and despite the fantastical elements you are able to believe in the story and its place in history. Highly recommended.

Labyrinth by Kate Mosse

Oh Kate Mosse, can I be you when I grow up? Far better than the supermodel, this Kate Mosse is a bestselling author, playwright, co-founder of the Women’s Prize for Fiction, teaches, and is a wife and mother too! Labyrinth is the first in her three part ‘Languedoc’ series. All of the books feature a timeline that weaves between modern day and the Languedoc region in the past. This first one features Dr Alice Tanner, who discovers two skeletons whilst on an archaeological dig in France. This discovery triggers a chain of events that has deep dark ties to the past, and dire consequences for the future. Kate Mosse writes a good old fashioned adventure story laced with history and a sprinkling of romance.

White Jacket Required: A Culinary Coming of Age Story by Jenna Weber

I am a huge fan of Jenna’s blog: Eat, Live, Run, and so I couldn’t believe that it took me so long to read her book. As a young woman still searching for the real purpose of my life (ah yes, mid-twenties quarter life crisis in full effect) I empathised with Jenna’s journey to culinary school and the amazing adventures that awaited her outside the kitchen doors. White Jack Required is an intimate look into the life of one of my favourite bloggers, and she doesn’t hold much back at all. Keep the tissues handy for this one readers.

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

‘It’s dark,’ my little sister said when I loaned her this one to read ‘dark and delicious.’ In summary The Shining Girls sounds like science fiction, but it is more of a psychological thriller. This novel about a time-travelling Depression-era serial killer and the girl who got away and grew up waiting for her chance to hunt him down. Tightly written and told through the viewpoint of several different characters The Shining Girls will have you gripping the pages until you turn the very last one.

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

This book has been on my ‘to read’ list since I attended a panel featuring the beautiful Eowyn Ivey at the Brisbane Writer’s Festival last year. I am so happy that I finally picked it up. I devoured it over a weekend, and it only left me hungry for more from this author. The Snow Child tells the story of a married couple who have moved to Alaska to begin their life over again. Unable to have a child of their own they are just searching for something more in their life to fill the hole in their hearts. One wintry Alaskan night in the middle of a snow storm a little girl appears. She comes inside and so starts a new, wild, hope, disaster, and miracle filled journey for the characters. With the central themes of family, wishes, and the miracles of life, The Snow Child would be a perfect holiday season read.

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Another story about second chances. Only this time the protagonist, Ursula Todd, is given more than a second chance. Ursula is given the gift or curse of starting her life over and over again from the very beginning until she gets it right. Ursula is born just before the First World War and has come of age when the Second comes around. Every choice she makes, every road she takes has consequences that she must live with, until her next second chance comes around. I have been wrapped up tightly in this story for the past couple of nights, and it has me thinking about how we never know what big waves the small ripples our lives will cause.

So, dear readers, what have books have you been keeping company with lately? What’s next on your list? I am jumping back into some Kate Forsyth with ‘Wild Girl’ – a tale about the woman who inspired The Brothers Grimm, and maybe even wrote some of the stories…

Gratitude List Week Twenty-Two

I am afraid this week I have been a little, well, needy. Just a little whiny and in need of coddling and cuddling and soothing. The thing I am most grateful for this week is the people in my life, especially my wonderful Chris who took care of me so well, and just makes everything awesome. We are living busy, beautiful, hectic lives and I wouldn’t have it any other way. With him walking by my side no matter how busy the day or how late the hour, I am grateful for this glorious journey we are on.

So, I present the twenty-second weekly Nourished Life Gratitude List:

Monday: My Dad. Over the weekend he built sturdy wonderful steps to make it easier for me to get to my car in the morning, and this morning he snuck the rest of the corn chips into my lunchbox – thanks Dada.

Tuesday: Grateful for Chris taking care of me when I wasn’t feeling well: tucking me into bed for a post-work nap, buying dinner, and putting on my favourite TV shows. Just examples of the countless little things he does that make me so thankful to have him in my life.

morning run

Wednesday: Even though he had a long day at work Chris came to the gym with me and then we had our Wednesday ritual dinner of baked beans. Also, listened to an awesome podcast from Michael Pollan at the London School of Economics – ‘Cooking as a Political Act.‘ I can’t wait to read his latest work: ‘Cooked‘. And, I baked Mars Bar Muffins for Chris’s work. Yes, yes, I will share very soon.

Thursday: Chris and I spent the evening together wandering around the shopping centre and indulging in some consumerism. It was fun, and he bought me sushi for dinner.

Friday: Pre-work snuggles, awesome post-work long run, and a night spent baking some gorgeous bright pink cupcakes for a little girl’s birthday party. Oh, and my boss gave me an early mark this afternoon!

Lily's birthday cakes

Saturday: Chris and I caught up with some friends at a birthday party (more cupcakes made for a different birthday girl) and even though it was a late, late night, (and I’m a complete Nana with my 10pm bedtime), we had a lot of fun and I can’t wait to catch up with them all again.

Kristy's cupcakes

Sunday: What would the world be without Sunday snuggles? A much poorer place indeed. Chris and I spent a lazy Sunday watching movies, I baked some breakfast bread and we just enjoyed some slow moments before the start of another action-packed week.

This next week will bring more catch-ups with friends, some long runs (the days are slowly getting longer), and of course, some baking! I hope you all have a great Monday, wherever you are.

Tell me, dear readers, what are you most grateful for this week?

Writing: The Dragon of Creativity

Over the past six months I have been interning at a not-for-profit writer’s organisation. I have absolutely loved my time there and I am sad that I only have two weeks left with a great team and helping out with whatever tasks they have thrown my way.
One of the best things about this internship, other than getting some valuable industry experience for my master’s degree, has been just spending time around other writers – people who are passionate about the craft of writing, and the beauty of words and story.

I come from a family and group of friends who value books. I grew up in a house where the walls are covered in bookshelves, and there isn’t a room that isn’t decorated with some sort of published material. My Mum and Dad have always used words like ‘facetious’ (OED: Treating serious issues with deliberately inappropriate humour; flippant.) and obtuse (OED: annoyingly insensitive or slow to understand) even when we were too little to understand, let alone spell, these words. They fostered in me a love of the depth and breadth of the English language, and to this day I love to use words to illustrate my experience of the world we live in. I see no point in playing down a well-rounded vocabulary, or ignoring a word because it might make you sound like you swallowed a dictionary. Some days you aren’t merely happy you are jubilant or ecstatic; other days sad isn’t going to cut it because really you are just melancholy, or you have really descended into depression and become disconsolate.
These words have purpose, they came about for a reason, and that is to express how we feel, what we see, what we think. So use your words.

I loved words. I love to sing them and speak them and even now, I must admit, I have fallen into the joy of writing them. 

Anne Rice

While I have been interning I felt like I have found another tribe I belong to – alongside my running tribe, my baking tribe, my blogging tribe, my English murder mystery TV show tribe. I feel that I have found a creative tribe: people who love words and storytelling and believe in the power of being able to write and create worlds and characters and then send that out into the great published void for others to enjoy.

When I went back to study last year I woke the sleeping dragon of creativity that had been dormant within me for some time. Now, she is hungry. Everything is a possible story. Every landscape begs to be populated with characters or stripped down to its essence and rebuilt as something entirely new. I feel the buds of new beginnings, stories to be told, growing beneath my fingertips or at the blunted tip of my pencil. I have spoken about my deeply-held desire to be a writer, no not just a writer: a storyteller, a dream-weaver, someone who plucks possibilities from the air and creates something, someone, entirely new with only the border of a page to limit me.

My long-term, one day, maybe someday, dream is to write full-time. For now I know every writer must serve their apprenticeship. There must be time to chip away at the coalface and haul up buckets of rough stone before you reach the diamonds concealed below. I am at peace with this. I feel the need to write, to be creative running through my veins, but I am a willing apprentice.

What would I write? Oh, everything: fantastical stories of human courage and magic; romance and reality and the power of love over everything else; cookbooks and food memoir and enchantment of the simplest dish; perhaps a screenplay one day…who knows.

The main point is to not wait until that one day, maybe someday, to start writing today. The point is to write now; to stretch my creative muscles and build their strength just as I strengthen my body while training for half marathons; to use my grey matter to help those story buds to mature and burst into beautiful bloom on the page. My goal is to write every day. Write something: a blog post, a recipe, part of one of the stories I am working on. My major goal is to hand in a manuscript by March next year. My goal is to be creative because chaining down the dragon that lives inside me is futile. She must roar, breathe her creative fire, and devour what she sees, and bring to life the stories that live inside.

Those who fear the imagination condemn it: something childish, they say, something monsterish, misbegotten. Not all of us dream awake. But those of us who do have no choice.

Patricia A. McKillip

Nourished Mind: On My Shelf Autumn Edition

You would think that someone who wants to be a writer, someone who studies writing, editing, and publishing, and lives in constant threat of a pile of books crashing onto her bed in the middle of the night, you would think that someone would get through a whole pile of books in a three month period.

That someone is me, and as I reflect over my ‘read’ pile for autumn I realise that my ‘to be read’ pile has grown at a disproportionate rate. I have to say it: I am a book-buying addict. I can’t help myself. Every time I walk past a second hand book shop the musk and vanillin smell draws me in. I can’t say no, and I never stop at just one. When there are books available for purchase, and I have to choose between books and food, well…even for a very hungry caterpillar like me the choice isn’t hard. I have filled the shelves in my room, and my collection has overflowed onto the floor. I am never without a stash in my handbag, car, gym bag, desk. If I don’t get my fix for a while I become distracted, my mind focused only on acquiring the next hit.

“Hello, my name is Amy, and I am a book-buying addict.”

(Hint: your line is…)

Over the last three months, in addition to reading papers for university and countless amazing blog entries and probably more Tweets than a healthy person should, I have managed to read, and complete a few books as well adding to the pile. So, here were my picks for autumn 2013.

Never Stop Believing by Sally Obermeder. Published by Allen & Unwin, 2013.

Sally’s story captured my heart from the moment Matt White first announced on Today Tonight that Sally was battling breast cancer. I followed the news of her story, and when she released her book I bought a copy on the first day I found one. I devoured the whole thing in about two days. I cried, I laughed. My heart tingled with warmth and went stone cold when I imagined the unhappy endings her story could have had. This is one that I recommend to any woman, or anyone who’s life has been touched by breast cancer. Sally’s voice is friendly and easy to read, and her story, although extraordinary in parts is really the story of someone who strove hard to achieve her dreams and fought back from the edge of the abyss. Keep the tissue box close for this one. Sally also curates a fantastic life, style, and celebrity news blog called Swiish.

A Clash of Kings (A Song of Ice and Fire: Book Two) by George R.R. Martin. Published by Bantam, 2000.

After receiving A Game of Thrones for Valentine’s Day, and falling completely in love with the epic nature of Martin’s writing and the world he has built, I had to buy the second book. Even though it is slow going and I have the attention span of a gnat so I am still devouring this book, bite by bite. Martin creates a world that draws you in, grand in scale but with human emotion that is easy to identify with, this is storytelling. I can almost imagine sitting around a fire listening to the bards of old recount this tale night after night while rapt audiences look on. I am so glad that there are five more books in the series! 

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life From Someone Who’s Been There by Cheryl Strayed. Published by Vintage, 2012.

I am fearful of trying to put words to this beautiful little book. I find it is best enjoyed in small amounts. This book is a selection of columns written for the ‘Dear Sugar’ section of ‘The Rumpus’ (check it our here). Each column offers a point of view or way of thinking about something that causes me to sit back and consider my own view of the world. There is great wisdom and compassion (and sometimes a wise and compassionate reality check) in the way Cheryl Strayed addresses each troubled soul. This is a volume to keep on your bookshelf and turn to in times of doubt or grief or when you need a sweet voice to remind you that we are all responsible for our own happiness and the turns our life takes are, for the most part, in our hands.

So, those are the books that I have finished (or mostly finished) over the past three months since my last ‘On the Shelf’ post. What’s filling my bedside table currently?

  • The Art of Romance Writing by Valerie Parv. This one is to help me with my goal of completing a romantic fiction manuscript by my 27th birthday – I have exactly 297 days remaining on my countdown!
  • Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. I discovered this during my weekly BBC Radio 4 binge (podcast here) and then I heard another interview on Radio National, which caused me to spend my entire lunchtime one day reading the free chapter available on Amazon. I then messaged my favourite independent bookseller and ordered my copy. Now it sits beside my bed, ready to be cracked open very soon.
  • The Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth. I am super-excited that Kate is coming along to the Writing Races I run every Wednesday night as part of my internship at The Australian Writer’s Marketplace. I am also super-excited to read this re-telling of the true tale of the Grimm brothers and the girl who grew up to marry Willhelm Grimm.
  • Yesterday I also visited the library and picked up two new cosy mysteries for a quick read in between more serious works: Witches Bane by Susan Wittig Albert, and Alpine for You by Maddy Hunter – oh how I do love a cosy.

And, I think that’s about it. Of course, it isn’t nearly a comprehensive list of the sentences and words that have enchanted and entranced me over the past season, but these printed and bound works are a good selection. Now, I’m off to do some writing of my own, and then a little Friday night reading.

Tell me, dear reader, what have you been reading in autumn? Anyone else a George R.R. Martin fan, or a Dear Sugar follower?

Nourished Life Gratitude List Week Three

I often struggle with my life when I feel that normalcy is beginning to creep in; when I sense that cobwebs, and dear god – a schedule- has started to grow. This week was full of different jobs, different houses, a great number of workouts (five!) and some wonderful lunches. I have a lot to be grateful for in my life.

University life.

University life.

And thus, this week’s Nourished Life Gratitude List:

Monday: A refreshing Pop Pilates workout after my run was a strong start to the week.

Tuesday: An unexpected and delightful visit from my grandmother.

Wednesday: The best post-work nap ever that fuelled a great writing binge – 775 words!

Thursday: Company during my run.

Just a Thursday afternoon

Just a Thursday afternoon.

Friday: Listening to the inspiring words of Maya Angelou while spending quality time in the kitchen.

Saturday: A truly golden day. Great run, listening to Neil deGrasse Tyson (StarTalk Radio) while spending time with my sweetheart, all clear from the doctor (thyroid and iron back on track), and a wonderful evening in the company of friends.

Sunday: A peaceful Sunday morning reading my book (A Clash of Kings) with my favourite reading buddy – and great news from my Aussie Runner Goddesses Jenelle and Kate about their adventures at The Canberra Marathon weekend.

This week has been busy and beautiful, and the coming week promises much of the same. Monday also marks the start of my serious training for the Gold Coast Half Marathon, which is only twelve weeks away! I can’t wait to get back into training now that my lungs are being friendly again. Amongst my university assignments I’m also hoping to get some more personal writing done, and of course, keep myself busy in the kitchen – I still owe you all a family dinner recipe!

Tell me, dear reader, what are you most grateful for over the last week?

Nourished Mind: On My Shelf in 2013

It’s been a while since my last bookshelf post so I thought now, with the early onslaught of wintery weather here in Brisbane, it might be an opportune time to share some of the best reads that have featured on my night stand or in my beach bag over the past couple of months.

My Berlin Kitchen: A Love Story with Recipes by Luisa Weiss (published by Viking Adult, 2012)

Luisa has the most beautiful blog at ‘The Wednesday Chef’ where she shares stories of her peripatetic early life and her family life now in Berlin. Reading ‘My Berlin Kitchen’ is like peaking into someone’s diary at different stages of their life, and watching a woman grow into her own soul. As the title states this is a love story, and Luisa’s has a wonderfully happy ending – filled with mouthwatering food of course. I savoured every page of this book. Now I’m just trying to figure out the right occasion to pull out her recipe for jam doughnuts – who am I kidding? Do you really need an occasion for doughnuts.

The Sprouted Kitchen: A Tastier Take on Whole Foods by Sara Forte. Photographed by Hugh Forte (published by Ten Speed Press, 2012).

I am a Sprouted Kitchen blog junkie. I will gladly admit to spending hours reading through posts that I have read before. Sara lures you to her kitchen table with tales of life and food and Hugh supplies delightful photos to accompany his wife’s words. I read this volume cover to cover when it arrived on my doorstep last year. One of my favourite recipes so far is toasted millet with arugula, quick pickled onions and goat cheese, and I can’t wait to make a winter supper featuring the braised white beans and leeks.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan (published by Penguin, 2007)

A classic that I am ashamed to admit that I hadn’t read yet. Michael Pollan’s ‘In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto‘ was the book that changed my shopping habits from supermarket to farmer’s market, which has become such an important and enriching weekly ritual. The Omnivore’s Dilemma is divided into three main sections where Pollan traces his meal from paddock (be that an industrial corn field, a large-scale organic production, a pasture where everything is connected, or a forest field) to plate and accounts for the costs, both moral and environmental, along the way. A must-read for those who are endlessly curious about our food systems, or just want to think a little more deeply about the eternal question: what’s for dinner?

A Game of Throne: Book One of ‘A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin (published by Bantam Books, 1996)

I’m only two-hundred pages into this first tome in a series of seven, but I am already in love with Martin’s depth of description and the way he weaves the stories of multiple characters across a vast world into a tangled-yet-intimate epic. This is the book that I have been needing for a long time; a juicy epic fantasy that I can’t put down. Thank you for a perfect Valentine’s Day present Chris.

In other book related news, I have just started my internship with the Australian Writer’s Marketplace at The Queensland Writer’s Centre! I am so lucky to be spending the next six months dabbling in the real world of writing and authors. I can’t wait to see what I’ll learn.

Queensland State Library

Queensland State Library

So dear reader, what is sitting on your bedside table at the moment, or keeping you company on your commute?

Nourished Mind: On my shelf in November

One of my favourite things about summer holidays is the promise of a large stack of books and hours to fill lost within their pages. I have an ambitiously long reading list for this summer, too long in fact to really share, or even commit to paper. I have years worth of must-buy best-sellers to catch up on, classics to study to plumb gaps in my modern education, and non-fiction titles to stretch my science-minded brain in different directions.

Here are some of the titles that have filled my first month of summer:

The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister (published by HarperCollins, 2009)

The hard, round cake of chocolate was wrapped in yellow plastic with red stripes, shiny and dark when she opened it. The chocolate made a rough sound as it brushed across the fine section of the grater, falling in soft clouds onto the counter, releasing a scent of back rooms filled with bittersweet chocolate and old love letters, the bottom drawers of antique desks and the last leaves of autumn, almonds and cinnamon and sugar. (p.36)

Erica Bauermeister weaves this enchanting story of ordinary people with tales of their time in the kitchen, and what food represents in their lives. Each character’s journey surrounds an essential ingredients: chocolate, apples, ripe summer tomatoes; more importantly each character’s journey leads them to the most essential ingredient of all: love.

A Homemade Life: stories and recipes from my kitchen table by Molly Wizenberg (published by Simon & Schuster, 2009)

The first book by the wonderful Molly Wizenberg has been acclaimed in all corners for good reason: this memoir begins at the kitchen table and I truly felt like one of the family because Molly weaves each chapter’s tale as though she is regaling a friend over a cup of coffee and a slice of cake, or sustaining them with hope in the face of hurt through a winter dinner of butternut soup. I cried, I laughed, and I grew hungrier and hungrier with each page.

Year of Wonders: a novel of the plague by Geraldine Brooks (published by HarperCollins, 2001)

Cold, dark and lonely landscapes filled my mind when I read Geraldine Brooks’ novel of a small English countryside village during the plague. Isolating themselves by choice to avoid infecting the surrounding towns, the community must learn to live, and to die, with only each other for solace. Anna Frith is an unlikely heroine, but one you will soon grow to love as she grows, and survives through her ‘year of wonders’.

A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy, Book One) by Deborah Harkness (published by Headline, 2011)

I could tell you that my absence from the virtual world has been caused by the fact that I am in the midst of wedding celebration madness twice over (both my best friends are getting married in December!), and that I am up to my elbows in butter, flour, and sugar (I know, poor me…), and both of these excuses would be honest; however, a lot of the blame also falls on this book. I was immediately caught up in the story of Diana Bishop – academic, witch, rower, and tea drinker – and Matthew – scientist, vampire, and oenophile. Magic, science, history, and love course through their journey to save an ancient manuscript whose echoes threaten their future together. I dare you not to get lost in the pages of this one – and oh! it’s the first of a trilogy…

Tell me, dear reader, what books are you lost in at the moment? Are you a fiction devotee? Any particular genre? or are you a non-fiction junkie? Any specific topics?