At My French Table by Jane Webster – Review

The book - At My French Table by Jane Webster

The book – At My French Table by Jane Webster

I picked this memoir, biography, auto-biography, (whatever you want to call it) up from my local library.  I love reading other people’s stories and they’re even better if they involve food and travel, two of my favourite things!

This is the first story and book of Jane Webster and her love of France, a big move she made with her family to immerse herself into the French culture, namely in a village in Normandy called Bosgouet and more precisely Chateau de Bosgouet.  It is a truly lovely book with photos, recipes and stories leading us on the journey of Jane Webster and her family, their decision to move to France, buy a Chateau and set up a Bed & Breakfast/Cooking School. And after my first flick through the pages it really did make me want to both cook some of the recipes in the book and travel to see this part of the world!  I have done some of the cooking but the trip will have to wait a little bit longer!

Cheese Sables - A great party or picnic food

Cheese Sables – A great party or picnic food

My interest was piqued from Le debut (The beginning) and held my interest throughout as it wasn’t just their story but the story of this French region, the story of a much neglected chateau and of course a story of food!  Hushed tales of World War 2 German Officers hiding in a cellar room in the chateau that may have a hidden passageway dating from the sixteenth century is just one of the titbits you will find!  I love these tales!

Jane shares her tales of the hard work taken to get this chateau cleaned up, fixed up and ready for use, hiring staff, getting the children settled into school, visa complications.  It is a book full of challenges, joy, fun, food, family, beauty and of course all the markets and architecture you can imagine!  The Norman Table (page 69) says it all. ‘Normandy is not a place you come to diet.’  That sounds like my kind of place!

YUM. A French Bakery. I can Taste it!

YUM. A French Bakery. I can Taste it!

Reading this wonderful book always made me hungry.  Hungry for good food, hungry for adventure, hungry for travel and hungry for life!  And this is what a good book should bring to you.  It is also quite light-hearted.  On page 72 is a great description of the local butcher and his wife, sharing with ‘the strange Australian’ the preparation of some fresh milk fed veal and how to cook it to perfection.  The French seem to have no problems sharing hints, tips and recipes with those that are interested and I think that is great!

The descriptiveness of the events within this book had me picturing them in my mind too.  I could see the family (and friends) sitting outside around the big, solid stone table which was brought over from Melbourne as well as eating a ‘typical’ French breakfast of croissants (YUM!).  I am there, right there with them.

Honey and Lavender Madeleine Cakes  minus the Lavender

Honey and Lavender Madeleine Cakes minus the Lavender

Interspersed throughout the book are narratives about subjects such as finding the right fireplaces (to replace the 10 original ones that were stolen from the house), A French Easter, Petanque, Cheese, Fleur de sel, and more, each page with its story on that particular subject, each fascinating and fun.  And then there are the recipes!  Oh how I love recipes.

Each recipe has a little description or story and the pictures, good enough to eat.  So of course I had to try just a few.  My partner and I were planning a picnic and what better reason to try the Cheese Sables (pg 92) and the Honey and Lavender Madeleine Cakes (pg 106), minus the lavender as I just don’t like lavender at all!  Perfect finger food and both recipes turned out a treat.  A meal of baked salmon and vegetables called for the Stuffed Tomatoes (pg 162) and they worked perfectly with our meal.  And a couple of cool autumn nights sang out for warming soups and pies so I tried the Classic French Onion Soup (pg 278) and Chicken and Leek Pie (pg 236).  All I can say is each and every recipe took me on my own little trip to France and I loved them. Can’t wait to try some more.

Chicken and Leek Pie

Chicken and Leek Pie

Life in Bosgouet, as Jane has said, is simplistic and relaxed, life revolves around the outdoors, fresh air and fresh produce, sharing food and wine with family and friends, and the markets.  This reminds me of days gone by as we used to live a simple life with less processed foods, our fruit and veg still had dirt on them and we loved to be outdoors.  This is how life should be.

Enfin (at last)!  And finally we come to the end, The French Table is up and running, a business idea has now become a reality for Jane Webster and her family.  This is one place I need to put on my Bucket List!  And one book you need to read if like me you are obsessed with food and travel.

Classic French Onion Soup

Classic French Onion Soup

Just to make everyone hungry I want to share with you a passage on page 138 where Jane talks about the ripeness of Camembert.  ‘When Camembert is young it is quite firm and crumbly, but as the cheese ages inside its supple crust it becomes viscous and velvety.’  Now if that doesn’t make you hungry to read this book then I don’t know what will!

Jane Webster has written two more books which I haven’t read yet.  Her second book and a continuation of At My French Table is French Ties: Love, Life and Recipes and her third book is French House Chic.  I look forward to reading Jane’s second book and trying some more of her recipes and I promise I will share this experience with you when I do.

One of the many wonderful and colourful photos in At My French Table

One of the many wonderful and colourful photos in At My French Table

Enjoy! Eat, drink, read, travel and be merry.

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Vietnam – Colourful, Happy, Exciting!

The streets of Hanoi, Vietnam.

The streets of Hanoi, Vietnam.

Last year Wayne and I decided we wanted to visit Vietnam and Cambodia (we had only ever heard great things from others who had travelled there).  We tossed up ideas as we wanted to see as much as we could but being in a foreign country we weren’t sure if we should travel on our own or do a tour.  We decided an organised tour would be the best choice due to the language and customs barriers, the horror of driving on the roads and where to eat and stay safely.

Armed with numerous brochures and of course the internet the planning started, lists were made, ideas thrown around and in the end it was decided we would do the tour with TravelMarvel, all up travelling for 27 days and covering two countries.  And what a trip it was!

I won’t bore you with the travel details to and from as this is never very exciting so will start from our arrival in Hanoi, Vietnam. Also I will share our trip in blocks so as not to over-tax you with an abundance of information and photos.  And there are a lot of photos!

Our first guide Tea (yes we had numerous guides along the way) was waiting for us at the airport, taking us directly to our hotel in Hanoi (Movenpick Hotel) while chatting to us about points of interest and things we could do in our free time.  The drive into town was an experience we will never forget.  The traffic, the scooters, the honking but even more than that the electrical wiring hanging from every pole and building was a nightmare.  We weren’t sure whether we should be worried or just fascinated by this tangle of wires hanging overhead.  We were told that when something goes wrong with the power in Hanoi (and Vietnam) they never know which wire is the cause so they just add another wire and reconnect the homes/buildings which have been affected.  Now that really is scary!

Take a look at the electricl wiring! Hanoi, Vietnam

Take a look at the electricl wiring! Hanoi, Vietnam

Arriving at our hotel we were seated, brought either cool or warm face washers, a cool or warm drink, even a small snack while we waited for our guide to check us in.  We soon realised this would happen at each destination and I must say ‘That is what I call service”.

Tea advised us of ideas on how to spend our afternoon and what the plan was for dinner and the next morning for our trip to Sapa.  All checked in with map in hand we braved the streets of Hanoi, crossing roads just as we were advised and we actually did it! Even got used to it!

Hoa Lo Prison Entrance Hanoi

Hoa Lo Prison Entrance otherwise know as the Hanoi Hilton. Hanoi, Vietnam

We found our way to Hoa Lo Prison (http://hoalo.vn/), better known as the Hanoi Hilton (the name given by US Prisoner’s of War).  This prison has a long and varied history from being built by the French starting in 1886 (where the name Maison Centrale came from) to its final demise and demolishment in the 1990’s to what remains now, the gatehouse, the history and so many stories to be told!

Security at Hoa Lo Prison Hanoi

Security at Hoa Lo Prison Hanoi. Broken Shards of glass!

Used by the French to imprison Vietnamese prisoners and then by the North Vietnamese to imprison the American POW’s it houses a guillotine used by the French as well an American Flight Suit worn by (Senator) John McCain, photos and even a sewer which was used as an escape route in 1945.  Most of the museum is dedicated to the French Colonial Period and when the Americans were prisoners.

The sewer which was used as an escape route Hoa Lo Prison Hanoi

The sewer which was used as an escape route. Hoa Lo Prison, Hanoi

It is very interesting and worth a visit.  The price to enter was 30000VND for an adult and is open every day from 8am to 5pm.

A view to the courtyard Hoa Lo Prison Hanoi

A view to the courtyard in Hoa Lo Prison. Hanoi, Vietnam

After a long flight and an afternoon of history we returned to the hotel, had an ice cold beer (and you need that after a hot walk on the streets of Hanoi!) and a great dinner, then it was off to bed for us!  Ready for an early start and a long drive to Sapa.

The drive to Sapa was yet another experience we will never forget especially once we got off the freeway and onto the mountain road. We were traveling in a four wheel drive (with the driver and our guide), all around us was continual honking, cars, trucks, buses and scooters coming and going from whichever way and every way! They tooted so the other drivers knew where they were and/or where they were coming from! Madness. We had buses overtaking us on windy roads and I am convinced there are no road rules in Vietnam.  Wayne described the traffic as being like “Rafferty’s Rules”.

A view from BB Hotel Sapa

Welcome to Sapa, Vietnam

But the scenery was fantastic. We were driving through mountainous areas, rice paddy fields a major part of the landscape (No rice growing at this time of year) and green rolling hills.  There are huts, communities, shops (everyone has a shop in front of their home) and people sitting, chatting, smoking and drinking tea everywhere.

Sapa itself is quite small and only a tiny bit cleaner than Hanoi.  There is still a hustle and bustle on the streets, our hotel (BB Hotel) being right in amongst it all and a great spot for watching this world go by. The hotel is great, the staff wonderful and the breakfast was one of the best of all the hotels.  Oh and the rooftop bar wasn’t too shabby either, happy hour beers costing us very little.

Rooftop Bar on a beautiful afternoon in Sapa

The Rooftop Bar at BB Hotel on a beautiful afternoon in Sapa.

Our afternoon was our own so we decided to visit Fansipan, the highest peak in Indonesia reaching 3,143m.  And to get to this amazing mountain we would need to ride a funicular to the cable car station and the cable car to Fansipan Station.  Now this cable car (Sunworld Fansipan Legend) is a three wire cable system and at 1,410m is the highest in the world, at 6.3km it is the longest in the world and holds a record in the Guiness Book of World Records for both as well as being the most modern three wire cable car system in the world.  The ride to the top takes about 15 minutes and even though there was some fog and cloud cover (which seemed to be the norm in Sapa) the views were spectacular and the fact that you were floating above it all was amazing.  It is a must see.

Once at the top, even though we were somewhat fogged in, we managed to see glimpses of pagodas, temples, bells, Buddha statues and more fog.  Unfortunately we didn’t get to the top (due to the weather) but what we did see was something to behold, savour and engage in.  We will have to go back just to get to the top I think!

Sunworld Fansipan Legend (https://fansipanlegend.sunworld.vn/) is open Monday to Thursday and Sunday from 7.30am to 5pm and Friday to Saturday from 7am to 6pm.  The cost to ride the Funicular was 50,000VND and the Cable Car was an additional 700,000VND.

A view from the cable car Fansipan Sapa

Rice paddy fields as seen from the cable car. Sunworld Fansipan Legend. Sapa, Vietnam

Above the clouds Fansipan Sapa

A view in the clouds from the cable car at Fansipan, Sapa.

It was a wonderful afternoon which saw us also wander the streets of Sapa before being taken by our guide Tea to dinner at a local Vietnamese Restaurant.  It was amazing or maybe just a maze to get there and we would have never found our way home.  Up this street, down that one, an alley, trundling over roads that had been dug up, waiting to fall through!  It was different but the food was good (not great) and we enjoyed eating various and different Vietnamese meals, some we knew, some we didn’t.  We topped off the night with a drink at the Roof Top Bar at BB Hotel, watching the craziness of the streets below as the fog drifted in and out.  It was a sight!

Day 3 saw us heading to a local village just outside Sapa (Ma Tra Black Hmong Village) which would lead us to the local school.  We were dropped off for a 30 minute walk through the village, huts and vegetable plots on either side of the road, rice fields, rolling hills and peace.  It was so quiet.  We were allowed to enter the home of a local family which was very basic, dark and smoky.  So different to what we are used to but normal for this village.  There was dried corn cobs hanging from the rafters and no windows but it would have been very draughty and cold in the winter.

Local villagers selling souvenirs in Sapa

Local villagers selling souvenirs in Sapa.

On our walk we were followed by a few of the village womenfolk, dressed in their native clothes, very bright and colourful.  Funny though as they all had mobile phones and they would ding and ring as we walked along the road. At the school we were entertained by the children singing and dancing and the little ones across the road were eating their lunches and cleaning up before heading home.  For such young children they were all well behaved, helping dish up and pass along each bowl of food, (though one little boy did have a habit of sticking his finger in each bowl as it went past him) then cleaning up and putting away chairs and tables before heading home for the day.

Upon leaving the school the women who had walked with us wanted us to buy souvenirs from them and became quite curt when we didn’t buy anything.  The problem being is that the items are mass produced (so not handmade or true local crafted items) and you can buy them anywhere.  The same happens walking down the street and even when you head out of your hotel each day.  The locals love to talk to you, ask where you are from and have a chat but you do need to be mindful and it is advised not to buy from children or give children money as they should be in school and this encourages them to skip school which is not good for them.

Holy Rosary Church in Sapa

Holy Rosary Church in Sapa.

Back into Sapa and it was lunch then a walking tour with our guide around the Township of Sapa where Tea told us stories, pointed out places of interest and then we all went for a pot of tea at the Roof Top Bar.  Wayne and I spent the afternoon walking around Sapa Lake before a quiet night and our journey back to Hanoi to catch up with the newcomers of our tour group.

Sapa Lake

The mountains over looking Sapa Lake.

And before I finish this very short portion of our journey I want to say that Vietnam, even after a few short days, is very different from home.  The people are wonderful, friendly and ready for a chat, the infrastructure is horrendous, there is no such thing as OH&S (we saw a labourer breaking up a slab of concrete to get the reinforcing steel from it wearing thongs (flip flops) and men hanging off poles and buildings with no harness), and they all know where Australia is!

We learned the locals (all over Vietnam) eat anything, as one of our guides said, “Anything that moves except cars and scooters they will eat it!” and we saw raw meat (including hearts) on roadside tables and some of the beef eaten is actually buffalo and as our guide said, ‘If it’s chewy it’s Beefallo!”.

Our Vietnamese word for the first part of our journey is Xin Chao – pronounced Sin Chow and means Hello.

I shall return soon with the next portion of our journey and hope you have enjoyed it so far. Stay Tuned!

Leaving Sapa

The view from the road. A beautiful but crazy drive from Sapa to Hanoi.

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls

Are you ready for a cuppa and a treat?!

Are you ready for a cuppa and a treat?!

Makes approx. 12-14 Balls

Ingredients:

  • 80 grams Almond Meal
  • 7 Medjool Dates, halved and seeds removed
  • 3 tablespoons Crunchy Peanut Butter
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa
  • Zest of ½ orange
  • 1 tablespoon juice from the orange
Great ingredients make great snacks.

Great ingredients make great snacks.

Method:

Place all the ingredients into a food processor and pulse until they come together.  You don’t want the mixture to be too wet or too dry so check the mixture to make sure it can easily be rolled into balls.

Ready to blend!

Ready to blend!

Roll into 12- 14 balls (about a heaped tablespoon each).  Now you can have some fun by rolling them into whatever you like.  Some ground almond meal, desiccated or flaked coconut, cocoa or chopped nuts.

Don't forget the cocoa!

Don’t forget the cocoa!

Chill to set and then enjoy.

Hints:

Medjool dates are plumper and juicier dates and are great for this recipe.

You can use any nut butter you like, play around with flavours, try almond butter, cashew butter, any butter!  You choose.

Balls ready for rolling in the topping of your choice.

Balls ready for rolling in the topping of your choice.

I like my mixture to be a little moist as the almond meal tends to absorb any moisture once they are made and set (not enough moisture and the balls can become too dry).

You can also use different nut meals for a different flavour as well.

With Wayne being diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes and both of us in need of losing a little bit of weight we wanted something fun and tasty from time to time with a cup of tea and these work a treat.

Another thing we do so much more of these days is reading the labels when shopping. So make sure you read the label and only use nut butters with no added sugar (as many of the popular brands do have sugar in them).

The mixture done. I love that there are still pieces of nut showing through.

The mixture done. I love that there are still pieces of nut showing through.

When you pulse the mixture it is nice not to over mix it.   I love a bit of texture, a few of the nut bits from the peanut butter showing through but you can use smooth peanut butter if you like to give it a silky smooth finish.

Have fun with it and enjoy.  They are great with a cup of tea! YUM!

Rolled in cocoa, coconut, almond meal and slivered almonds. Nice!

Rolled in cocoa, coconut, almond meal and slivered almonds. NIce!

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New year, new ideas, new foods and better health.

Hello and Happy New Year to all my loyal followers, friends and family.

Well what a year 2018 was!  It started out with my partner, Wayne dealing with a few health problems, one being a Type 2 Diabetes diagnoses.  And although we have always eaten a fairly healthy diet there is always room for improvement and room for us to lose a few kilos in the process!  So last year (2018) was all about getting healthier but still living life and having fun.

When Wayne was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes I did a lot of research, reading, learning, listening and experimenting.  And as much as it was fun it was a bit mind boggling to work out what was right, wrong, good, bad and everything in-between! But all the hard work has paid off and Wayne is well, healthy and loving life.

Healthy and Wholemeal!  So much you can make that is tasty and good for you.

Healthy and Wholemeal! So much you can make that is tasty and good for you.

Having read so many books one that sticks in my mind, which I read just recently, was Deliciously Ella, The Plant Based Cookbook.  Although we love our meat, seafood and chicken and we will not be giving it up anytime soon we love our vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, pulses and grains as well.  So incorporating more of these into our diet with just a little bit less of the animal protein can’t hurt.

And in this book Ella makes a point of telling us all to adapt not just her ideas and recipes but all ideas and recipes to fit into your lifestyle and taste.  On page 19 of this book she states ‘There is no one-size-fits all’ and I have always believed this and lived by this motto.  Why would I eat something I don’t like just because it is supposed to be healthy?  There are many other things I like that are healthy so why can’t I use/eat them?  So if I see a recipe I really like but there is one or two ingredients I don’t like or don’t use (I don’t see the point in buying a special ingredient, that costs a fortune, if you use it once and the rest goes to waste!) I will put my thinking cap on and adapt that recipe to what I like or have in my kitchen.  It’s not hard and it makes cooking fun as you get to experiment.

We love food, We love travel. So what better presents could you get for Christmas!

We love food, We love travel. So what better presents could you get for Christmas!

And that leads me on to the new trend these days of waste, single use plastics, recycling, etc.  I am all for doing my bit to keep this world spinning and keeping it clean and tidy, so I have started adapting my way of thinking to incorporate some new products and ideas for shopping, storage and wrapping food.  We have no food scraps as such as they all get fed to the critters who come to visit us each day.  I still use cling wrap but not as much as I have started using reusable covers on the bowls of food and leftovers in the fridge.  I have for a long time used calico shopping bags and always have some handy cotton bags in my purse for retail shopping. And the list can and will go on as I try new and inventive products, some good and some not so good.

Great good for the planet presents for our house, shopping and lunching!

Great for the planet presents for our house, shopping and lunching!

So as you can see it has been a busy year in the Donna and Wayne household and we have been having some fun with new recipes, old recipes being updated, trying new things and best of all we had a great overseas trip to Vietnam and Cambodia to end our year.  More on that soon!

I am back, I am blogging again and this year I want to share with you some of the books I have read, the food I have made, the trips we have made and the stories of our lives in general.  I hope you will continue following our journey and enjoying our stories.

Thank you all for staying with me and Happy 2019 to you all.

Tea.  Full of good for you antioxidants, tastes great and keeps you warm. More great presents!

Tea. Full of good for you antioxidants, tastes great and keeps you warm. More great presents!

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CHOCOLATE WALNUT BROWNIES

Oven Temperature degrees Celsius       170

Makes approx. 12 squares

Ingredients:

  • 125 grams butter
  • 75 grams dark chocolate chopped/broken
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup plain flour
  • 100 grams walnuts, chopped

Method:

Line an 18cm square pan with baking paper and set aside while also preheating your oven to 170 degrees Celsius.

Place the butter and chocolate in a medium size saucepan, over a low heat melt and stir until it is well combined.  Remove the pan from the heat and add the sugar.  Stir until well combined then add the vanilla and eggs stirring continually until combined.

Be careful not to over beat at any stage, use a gentle stirring motion.  Stir in the flour and walnuts until just combined (making sure the flour is completely incorporated).

Carefully spread the mixture into your lined tin, making sure it is evenly distributed.  Bake for approx. 20-25 minutes making sure you keep a close eye on it so you don’t overcook the brownies.

Remove from the oven when cooked through but still fudgy.  Leave to cool before lifting out of the pan and cutting into squares.

Hints:

You can use any nuts you like in this recipe, the choice is yours.

This brownie should be fudgy and always has a crisp edge to it.

You can dust with icing sugar or make a chocolate buttercream icing as well.

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SMALL GREAT THINGS IN ONE BIG BOOK!

Jodi Picoult – Small Great Things

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

Last week I finished reading a wonderful book.  When we think about the troubles we have on this earth in this day and age it makes you wonder whether we have progressed at all or do we still live in the past, never to learn the lessons from lives endured!

I must say I am a great fan of Jodi Picoult, her books are always well researched and full of insight into the problems faced by many.  In Small Great Things she has excelled yet again.  A book full of thought provoking moments told in the words of three very different people.

This book is about race, society, class and humanity.

This is the story of Ruth Jefferson, a very experienced Labour and Delivery nurse who has spent her whole life becoming the person she thinks she should be.  She is African American.  Then there is Turk Bauer a white supremacist, married with a baby on the way and Kennedy McQuarrie, a public defender overrun by work in the court system but also somewhat privileged in her lifestyle.

All of these lives will entwine in a way you would never want.  And racism bares its ugly head yet again.  Has the African American Labour and Delivery nurse with so many years’ experience really made an error in judgement?  Does Kennedy McQuarrie take on the case for all the right reasons and can the human race really be so racist and narrow minded when it comes to people of different nationalities?  Yes all this and more!

Stage One – Early Labour                                                                                        

Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.

Benjamin Franklin

 

One of the ‘Stages’ of this great book!

This sums it all up and as you read this tiny little quote at the beginning of this book you just know this story will tug at your heart strings.  And it does on so many levels.  From the start you get a picture of Ruth’s life as a youngster and again at differing stages of her life.  She was born from a wonderful mother, went through trials and tribulations but came out the other side with a loving family and a good job.

Ruth is an excellent nurse doing as she would normally do on any given day when a newborn comes on the scene in the maternity ward.  But Turk and his wife Brittany don’t want their baby treated by a woman of colour.  It is against their beliefs.  Ruth is given another patient and the day continues.  But this is not the end of the story, it is just the beginning.  The Bauer baby dies but is anyone at fault?

But when it all goes horribly wrong Ruth is faced with a murder trial, a white public defender, a son who becomes confused with life, a sister who just wants to draw the race card and the racist couple whose baby died supposedly at the hands of Ruth Jefferson.  As the trial proceeds relationships change.  Ruth has to learn to trust her lawyer, Kennedy McQuarrie, who in turn has to learn about the life of an African American woman and her family.  Kennedy also comes to realise the reason she took the case at the beginning ends up being different than how she feels at the end.

And Turk Bauer, the husband, the dad, the white supremacist.  He wants nothing to do with the African American nurse who is assigned to look after his wife and baby and he lets the hospital know his feelings.  With his views and his tattoos you wouldn’t really expect anything different and even from the start most people would have a feeling of dislike for this person.  This is how he and Brittany were brought up.  Don’t they know better?  Maybe not!

Nothing quite like a great book and a cup of tea!

Your feelings will come to the surface, there will be anger, annoyance, disbelief.  How can people feel hatred towards others just because of their skin colour.  This should not happen but we know it does.  A death has occurred but is it murder?  This will be decided in the trial, a trial that brings many emotions and feelings to the surface, brings people together, breaks people apart and brings with it all the problems our society tries to hide away, swept under the carpet..

Small Great Things is a well written book, you can’t read it without feeling remorse, regret, anxiety.  It is a story that makes you think about your own life and the people around you.  How do you treat others, those that are different from you, that have different views, ideas and beliefs?  How can we change people’s way of thinking and how can we all live as one and be happy and caring?  Is it too big of an ask?  This is a story about people and Jodi Picoult is in no way telling us she knows what it feels like being discriminated against for the colour of your skin or being a skin head who is filled with hatred for anyone who isn’t white but she has done her homework and she tells the story well.

Throughout this novel we learn about each of the characters, their lives, their upbringings and there ethics.  This helps us to cope with the storyline and the subject but also helps us to feel!

One of my favourite quotes came on page 342, during the trial when a colleague of Ruth’s is on the stand.  Things happen (I don’t want to give too much away) and Ruth starts thinking about the truth.  “There is no such thing as a fact.  There is only how you saw the fact, in a given moment.”  This is so poignant as we all see things differently but this can have an effect on the outcome of events such as a trial for murder.

This is a great novel, a great story, written by a great author.  I truly recommend you read it.  It will bring out every emotion and feeling you have ever felt but best of all it makes you think!

” If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.” – Dr. Martin Luther King

Make sure you read all the extras as there is some great information there.

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Whangarei, New Zealand! First stop on a wonderful trip.

Mapping our travels.

New Zealand. The land of the Long White Cloud. Mountains, snow, waterfalls, bushwalks, wine, food and beauty.  So much to see and do yet so little time!  And in that little time we had we saw so much yet so little.  It was a wonderful trip and we can’t wait to go back and explore more.  And now as promised I want to share some stories and photos of this trip with you.

Wayne and I spent four weeks traveling around New Zealand, we hired a car and drove around, stopping where we liked, bypassing places that just weren’t what we wanted.  We steered clear of most major cities as we enjoy the open roads, fresh air and quiet.  We started on the North Island and after two weeks we moved on to the South Island and the contrast of the two islands is amazingly gorgeous!  I must say I enjoyed the North Island more but have found through talking to other travellers and friends many seem to like the South Island with all its mountains and adventure.  Nothing wrong with that as all of New Zealand is glorious and beautiful, fun and exciting.

The beauty of Whangarei Falls.

With luggage in car and maps in hand (yes we are still a bit old school and love a good map to guide us) we head north from Auckland making our leisurely way to Paihia our eyes scanning the landscape for places to stop, walks to do and places to eat.  You just never know what you’re going to find once you’re on the road as they don’t tell you everything in the tourist brochures, you really do need to get out there and explore.  The only problem is if you are like Wayne and I you just keep finding more and more fun, interesting, beautiful and exciting things to see and do!

Having driven through Orewa (where Wayne was so disappointed with the tole tunnel.  He thought it was going to be a long tunnel but alas it was short and sweet… ) Puhoi, Warkworth and Wellsford, and Mangawhai our first stop ended up being Whangarei.

A view along Town Basin, Whangarei.

Now there’s a funny story here!  We planned to drive straight to Pahia on our first day but with traffic and scenic drives we decided to stay the night in Whangarei.  We parked the car, found a tourist information centre and asked about accommodation for the night.  The lady who served us was very nice and asked if we were looking for accommodation in ‘Fongaray’ in her very New Zealand accent.  Wayne and I must have looked stunned and stupid as we had no idea what she was talking about until it finally dawned on us she was talking about Whangarei.  We later learned a little bit about the pronunciation of words and use of vowels in New Zealand so didn’t get caught out quite so much for the rest of the trip!

The view over Whangarei from the Mt Parihaka Scenic Reserve.

After all that confusion we were booked and settled into a hotel for the night with a million brochures in hand.  We decide on Parihaka Scenic Reserve and the summit for our afternoon jaunt.  We head up the hill to the lookout which overlooks Whangarei and the Hatea River.  With the sun shining over the river and the whitest of clouds hanging over the town you could see forever.

This mount we were on, Mt Parihaka, is an eroded volcanic cone which rises 241m above sea level and was once the site of the largest Maori Pa or fortified village in New Zealand .  It is also home to the World War II War Memorial commemorating New Zealanders who died in the war.

WW II Memorial at Mt Parihaka Scenic Reserve.

Back down to earth and having driven for the better part of the day we decided it was time to chill a bit.  We wondered around Quayside at the town basin, looked in a few shops and decided where we should have dinner.  Town Basin and Quayside sits on the river’s edge, a quaint place with boardwalks, a marina, shops and eateries.  Behind we also found the Clapham’s Clock Museum but unfortunately didn’t have enough time to check it out… Maybe next time!  But we did see the sun dial which is believed to be the biggest in the Southern Hemisphere with a 22m hand that is rather fascinating and huge!

Dinner at The Quay on Quayside was relaxing and enjoyable with great food and good prices.  We had a lovely walk from our hotel along the river front and after dinner we were ready for a good sleep to revive us for more exploring in the morning.

The Boardwalk at AH Reed Memorial Park.

Up early and off to AH Reed Memorial Park for a ‘Walk in the Treetops’ among the kauri trees some up to 500 years old.  The park is named after Alfred Hamish Reed who was an author, publisher and lover of long walks, the environment and Kauri trees.

Watch out for the roots.

There is an excellent boardwalk and pathway, some littered with roots trying to find their way to who knows where, winding through beautiful greenery, ferns and even the Wai Koromiko Stream which meanders along beside you as you stroll through wonderful natural bushland and of course never ever forget those Kauri trees soring far above your head reaching for the sun!

Waikoromiko AH Reed Memorial Park.

What a way to spend the morning.  Now to top that what would we do?  Well you can’t beat a waterfall!  Onward and upward to Whangarei Falls.  This 26m high waterfall is something not to be missed.  As you drive into the carpark it is only a short walk to the top of the falls but there is a longer loop walk to the bottom and back to the top again.  Make sure you do the loop walk, it is a fairly easy walk and is well worth it as you can enjoy the waterfall from different vantage points as well as enjoying a bush walk in surrounds that are synonymous with New Zealand.

A cascade of water flowing over the mossy green rocks at Whangarei Falls.

It is said Whangarei Falls is the most photogenic waterfall in New Zealand and I can see why.  The power of the water tumbling over the basalt cliffs, the green mossy rocks shining at the top of the falls, the lush green surrounds making you feel as if you are in the middle of an oasis.  It really is a lovely, pretty picture of nature in this wonderful country. The sounds of the white water falling into a simple quiet pool then eventually trickling along, taking it’s time to get to its next destination.  I don’t know about you but this is what I love about travel.  Nature at its best.

Across the pond to Whangarei Falls.

There are numerous walks in and around Whangarei which Wayne and I hope to tackle one day soon.  We are awaiting the completion of the new runway at Hobart Airport which, fingers crossed, may take us direct to at least one New Zealand port.  What more can I say but we will go back to check out some of the walking tracks, waterfalls and of course food, wine and beer!  But for now it is off to Paihia so stay tuned!

And if you are interested and want more detail on Whangarei make sure you check out the links below.

Whangarei Township

AH Reed Memorial Park

The magnificent Kauri trees in AH Reed Memorial Park.

Whangarei Falls

A view from the top! Whangarei Falls.

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An update on my reviews page! I am now going to review all books and any books!

That’s a lot of cookbooks!

As you all know I have a massive passion for food, cooking and travel.  I love anything and everything to do with food, cooking and travel but I also have a passion for reading and books, any books and all books.  My partner Wayne can attest to that as he is always asking me when I’m going to find the time to read them all!  And let me tell you I have quite a few.  Between the cookbooks, novels, memoirs, travel and reference books I could easily fill a library or even start one.

This got me thinking.  I have named my blog A Roaming Appetite as I love travel (roaming) and food (appetite).  But you can have an appetite for anything really, can’t you?  Well if that’s the case why not incorporate my love of books and reading into my blog.  So I have now expanded my cookbook reviews to include all books and even magazines.  This will now include any type of book review from cookbooks, magazines and travel guides to novels and even reference books.

Books even in the wine rack.

I am currently reading SMALL GREAT THINGS by Jodi Picoult but at the same time I am reading a few books about writing memoirs.  So I always have some form of reading material on the go and I hope to share some of my finds with you.

As most people who love reading will know we all have a favourite genre and/or author(s) and I am no exception.  I love Jodi Picoult and have read a number of her novels.  I also like Philippa Gregory, Dan Brown, JRR Tolkien, JK Rowlings and anything to do with the Diary of Anne Frank.  I love historical novels, memoirs, biographies, autobiographies, anything that can and will intrigue me and get my mind working and of course anything written about food, travel and life!  As long as it is interesting and enjoyable I will read it!  Oh and I love a good classic!

I have been lucky enough lately to have won numerous books, some of which I would never have thought of reading.  I’m glad that I have had the opportunity to expand my reading repertoire as I have found new authors and styles/genres of books I may have never read.  Some are first time writers and some have been around for a very long time.  But all are fantastic and I must say that holding a book in your hand and reading the words as the jump off the page is an experience everyone should try.

Some of the many books I have won.

If like me you have an imagination that runs wild you will find as you are reading a book a movie actually appears in your mind, you see the characters, you see the locations, the backdrops, the props, all the colours of a great story.  I even find myself reading in the language or accent of the book (although if I had to read it aloud the accent would sound quite hilarious to everyone listening!).

Isn’t this what makes reading such a joy?  You can tell your own story through the story in the book, you have to think about what is happening, how you feel about it and what the outcome might be.  Sometimes you are right and sometimes you are completely off track but you are always thinking.  Reading is good for the brain and good for the soul.

More Books!

So stay tuned as I tweak my blog and review my first novel (I have reviewed cookbooks already) which of course will be SMALL GREAT THINGS.  I hope you enjoy my reviews as much as I enjoy reading the books and then sharing my thoughts with you.

And always remember what Dr Seuss says:

The more that you read,                                                                                                                         the more things you will know.                                                                                                             The more that you learn,                                                                                                                         the more places you’ll go.

                

Coffee table books. Gotta have some of them!

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VISIT THE ADEAIDE CENTRAL MARKET FOR FOOD, FUN AND AN EXPERIENCE YOU WILL NEVER FORGET

The beauty of the Central Market Facade.

Wayne and I have been living in Hobart for 7 years now and we really do love it here.  Having moved from Adelaide seven years ago we now call Hobart home.  But as with any place you’ve lived, and if you’ve traveled and moved house as much as I have in my life, you find there are things you do miss from your previous home town/state.

I miss the Adelaide Central Market.  I believe they are the best fresh food markets in Australia.  So much to choose from, every type of food item you can image from nearly everywhere in the world.  It really is your one shop stop in Adelaide.   Most people say to us ‘How is that possible?  Tassie is supposed to have some of the best produce in Australia.’  Well yes.  I believe this but unfortunately the best of everything seems to go either interstate, overseas or to the restaurants.   And although we do have small markets scattered throughout Tasmania there is nothing quite like the Adelaide Central Market anywhere in Tasmania.

Look at all those chillies.

So why do I love and miss this iconic market so much?  With so many different nationalities residing in Adelaide, sharing their recipes and traditions, this is the place that represents Australia’s multiculturalism.  The range of produce and ingredients will amaze and excite you.  From the moment you enter this market you experience the sights, sounds and smells associated with these cultures, making you want to buy everything then go home to cook, cook, cook!  This really is a place for anyone fascinated by food, people and history.  A place no local or tourist should miss.  A display of colour, nationality, sound and smell.

There’s also great history behind the market.  Adelaide Central Market dates back to 1869, when a small group of market gardeners broke free of the East End market area to establish their own market.  They settled on a site between Grote and Gouger Streets which they named City Market.  The official opening was on January 22, 1870 which then led to the City Market being a hub for trading direct to consumers.  Over the next 130 years this market evolved from one shed housing 87 carts to the multi- level red brick building used today.  There are now shops, stalls, cafes, arcades and a 1000 space carpark all under the one roof.  And to top it all off it is the biggest fresh produce market in the southern hemisphere.

The Adelaide Central Market – An Icon.

Today you can still see the beautiful facades on Grote Street dating back to 1900 and Gouger Street dating back to 1906.  Great plans were drawn up for this building with gas lighting eventually being replaced by electricity and external shops lining the street.  Then along came the arcade with work commencing in 1915.  More shops!  Businesses then moved into the area to capitalise on the trade in the area and the market continued to expand through many ups and downs to bring us to the wonderful market we have today.

For most of us the appeal of the market is to be able to shop for an incredible array of fresh produce, cheese, meats, breads, cakes and watching the characters of the market while you stop for a coffee or lunch before returning to shop for delights from around the world or from just around the corner.  It is a rainbow of colour, a symphony of sound and the nose tingles with the aromas of fresh brewed coffee and fresh baked bread.

Some food, a coffee and maybe some lunch!

With so many stalls and shops on offer I will share some of my favourites with you.  First would have to be Charlesworth Nuts (www.charlesworthnuts.com.au), a third generation family owed company.  In 1934, Herb Charlesworth bought this small fruit and nut stall in the market as an interest for his wife Doris.  Over the years the stall doubled in size and the Charlesworth family went on to open numerous stores throughout South Australia.  Their success comes from the fact that they use only the highest quality fruit and nuts, of which approximately 85% are sourced from within Australia.

The wonders of the Central Market.

Another well-known Adelaide icon and favourite of mine is Haigh’s Chocolates (www.haighschocolates.com.au), who have been known for their wonderful, rich, smooth and creamy chocolate since 1915.  This fourth generation family owned and run business still has complete control over the making of their chocolate, from the sourcing of the cocoa beans to the selling of the chocolate itself.  With over 250 varieties to choose from and the knowledge that many of these have won awards, you could spend all day in their Market Arcade shop trying to choose.

You will eventually come across House of Organics selling fresh fruit and vegetables.  Their labelling system makes it easy to distinguish which foods are 100% organic (chemical free), 50/50 (chemical free or minimal spraying) and generic (some chemicals used under stringent regulations).  At Lucia’s Fine Foods you’ll find a showcase of new and exciting products including olive oils, breads, Italian foods and pastas.  The Mushroom House has a large selection of every mushroom imaginable.  The Yoghurt Shop has the creamiest yoghurt ever.  Smelly Cheese and Say Cheese can supply everything you need for that all important cheese platter you want to have on the weekend and the T-bar is you place to go for fine teas and of course all the paraphernalia you need to make a great pot of tea!

Ahhh! Cheese, cheese and more cheese!

But if you are in the market for the best meat products and smallgoods head to Barossa Fine Foods (www.barossafinefoods.com.au).   Franz and Barbara Knoll from Barossa Fine Foods stock a diverse range of smallgoods and meats which include free range and organic products.  Again this is a family run business and over the years they have won numerous awards for their wonderful and tasty products.

And the list goes on and the shops continue up and down every aisle, down every arcade and in every nook and cranny!  Many stalls and stores have been around for years and most Adeladians would be able to recommend their favourites and share a story or two I’m sure.

So many shops and stalls to choose from.

Some of you may be lucky enough to leave without spending too much money, but I really doubt it.  It’s just too hard to resist such temptations when you are tantalised by the sights, smells, sounds and atmosphere of the biggest fresh produce market in the southern hemisphere.  You can see why this could be the most visited place in Adelaide with over 8.5 million visitors every year.  Hey everyone has to eat so there is some attraction!

One of the many stalls full of goodies.

So please make sure you visit Central Market which is located between Grote and Gouger Streets in Adelaide.  It’s easily accessible by bus or tram and there is plenty of parking available in the Central Market car park.  If you wish to take a tour of the market, taste a few of the goodies, meet some of the local and hear a few good stories check out www.centralmarkettour.com or www.topfoodandwinetours.com.au.  If you just want to check it out for yourself the market is open:

  • Tuesday 7am to 5.30pm
  • Wednesday 9am to 5.30pm (limited stalls open)
  • Thursday 9am to 5.30pm
  • Friday 7am to 9pm
  • Saturday 7am to 3pm

Also check out their website for all the up to date news and happenings along with more information on the history of this Adelaide Icon.  www.adelaidecentralmarket.com.au. You may just go for an hour but I bet you will spend the whole day.  And one thing’s for sure….  You won’t go home hungry!

The Central Market

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Docklands Lotus – Great location but the beauty of the Lotus just didn’t shine through.

Docklands Lotus

Docklands Lotus

Recently on a visit to Melbourne Wayne and I decided to stay at the Docklands rather than in the city.  We had arrived in Melbourne from Hobart late Australia Day morning and after a casual stroll to get acquainted with the area we decided as the Australia Day celebrations were centred around the Docklands area we would stay in the area for dinner.  With so many restaurants and cafes to choose from we decided to go to Docklands Lotus for some Chinese.

Docklands Lotus is situated just around the corner from our accommodation, along the waterfront, and is quite a large restaurant.  We didn’t have a reservation but had no problem getting a table.  We were seated near the front door and close to the window so we could see the hustle bustle of the Docklands while we ate.

Once seated (staff members were not that interested or happy to be there) we ordered drinks and were presented with a bowl of Prawn Crackers.  I myself don’t like these but Wayne said they were tasty and crunchy and went well with his beer.  So sipping our drinks while watching the world go by we decided on a few dishes to share, trying to keep some variety in what we chose.  As you would expect from a Chinese restaurant there was way too much to choose from.  I would prefer a menu where the dishes are fewer and made to a higher standard.

A Beer and Crackers!

A Beer and Crackers!

To start we had the Prawn and Sesame Toasts.  They arrived, two on a plate with a little carrot and some dipping sauce.  They were hot and crunchy with small chunks of prawn meat but unfortunately the bread was greasy and the flavours were a bit bland.  The dipping sauce was your normal, typical, sweet, salty and sour combo but nothing spectacular.

Prawn Toast

Prawn Toast

We then ordered two mains and some plain rice to be served all together, for sharing.  But alas, they all came out at different times.  First we were served the Seafood and Vegetable Combo which included squid, prawns, celery, baby corn, broccoli and zucchini.  This was very bland and pale with no real seasoning but the seafood was cooked well and was very tender.

Seafood and Veg

Seafood and Veg

The rice finally arrived then the Pepper Beef Fillet which was a seared piece of beef fillet brought to the table on a sizzling plate surrounded by yet more broccoli.  When the wait staff placed the plate on the table she then poured over the pepper gravy which provided a hint of theatre to the evening.

The theatre of it all! The sauce is on!

The theatre of it all! The sauce is on!

The beef was hot and tender, the pepper gravy spicy and chunky with diced onion and red and green capsicum.  We even dipped some of our seafood into the sauce which added some heat and flavour to an otherwise boring dish.

Sizzling Pepper Steak

Sizzling Pepper Steak

Overall the meal was average and the prices much the same.  It is not somewhere I would go again or recommend to family or friends.  The location is great but again the service lacked friendliness and helpfulness which should go hand in hand with good food.

We did have a good laugh though as we were seated near the fish tanks which were full to the brim with crabs and lobster.  We kept checking to see if they were all alive.  They were stacked one on top of the other and there wasn’t much movement from within.  Hmmm!  Not sure I would buy crab or lobster there!

Docklands Lotus                                                                                                                                        12-16 New Quay Promenade                                                                                                                  Docklands Vic 3008                                                                                                                                03 9939 5952

 

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