Monday, 31 December 2012

best books we read in 2012

we read quite a lot in 2012  how do we do it? we are geniuses that's how.
these are the best books we read in 2012 (here's the link to last year's winners - best books 2011)

this is what i imagine i look like when i read....

Sian's best books of 2012

1. Little Miss Strange by Joanna Rose 
 -loved this novel set in 70s Denver. it had a great atmosphere and great characters too -
i love you Jimmy Henry!

2. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
- John Green is so great and I think this is his greatest.
a super funny super sad novel about cancer.

3. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail by Cheryl Strayed
-a memoir about hiking as well as about loss and reading and meeting new people and making peace with oneself. really wonderful.

4. We have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
ahh, the great Shirley Jackson!! I very much love her work
this is creepy, claustrophobic and odd with lots of wonderful imagery.
it's a story about two sisters who live quite isolated lives in a big house with their uncle after the tragic death of their parents, aunt and brother.

5. Girls to the Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl by Sara Marcus
- this history of riot grrrl turned out to be hugely inspiring! made me want to write a zine and start a band... (neither of which i did)

6. Vali Myers by Gianni Menichetti
-this is a fantastic memoir about the artist Vali Myers written by her long term
 partner and 'slave' Gianni Menichetti.
Myers is such an original, inspiring woman with a fascinating life - she and gianni lived so simply with a huge family of animals, including beautiful foxes.

7.Chi's Sweet Home by Kanata Konami
- cute as pie graphic novel about a kitten called chi. I read five of these books and will be reading the next four in 2013...

8. Winter Journal by Paul Auster
- I am a huge fan of Auster's novels, and was equally impressed by this memoir of his which concerns itself with aging, family, life and death.

9.  Inferno: A Poet's Novel by Eileen Myles
- Eileen Myles should be super famous as she is such a great writer, but also quite a strange writer... which is probably why she's not super famous....
sort of a memoir, sort of a novel, kinda like a more underground 'Just Kids'

10.  Cassandra at the Wedding by Dorothy Baker
- New York Review Books have not let me down this year - another goody from their classics list...
originally published in 1962, this is a novel about twin girls, one of whom is getting married.
smart, funny and charming. a right old treat.

bert in city lights in san francisco

Bert's best books of 2012

1.  On the Road (original scroll) by Jack Kerouac
-I thought it was about time I read the original scroll, what with the movie coming out this year..this is the book that changed my life when I was 15, and it was just as great as I remembered.  I'm a fool for the Beats.

2.  The Dark Philosophers by Gwyn Thomas
-I loved this collection of three novellas from the 40's, set around the Welsh valleys and full of grim poverty, snappy lines and black humour...good to read something from around these parts.

3.  Dare Me by Megan Abbott
-Criminy, what a treat! Virgin Suicides meets Mean Girls meets Black Swan, with cheerleaders.

4. Winter Journal by Paul Auster
-We both love the Auster. 

5. This Place on 3rd Avenue by John McNulty
-Stories about gin-mills, bartenders, cab drivers and hangovers from that great era of writing from The New Yorker, the 30s and 40s.  Charming, unpretentious and tender. 

6.  Platte River by Rick Bass
-Like Hemingway falling asleep in the tub.  Homely, dreamy and fable-like.   

7.  Tomboy by Hal Ellson
-Classic trashy delinquent 50s pulp for cool kids.  Lots of smoking cigarettes, sitting on stoops and carving initials into each others arms.

8.  The Trees The Trees by Heather Christle
-I love Heather Christle!  She writes little poems with good titles that feel really new and unexpected and beautiful. 

9.  Austin Osman Spare by Phil Baker
-Super-fascinating biography of long lost Cockney visionary artist and occultist Austin Spare.  Evokes a Dickensian London of poverty, gothic horror and buxom landladies.     

10. The Walking Away World by Kenneth Patchen
-Patchen's 'picture-poems' are kind of adorable and disturbing at the same time.  Most of them feature animals, people, or these flea-like ink-splodge creatures that sometimes look happy or maybe frightening, accompanied by a few words, like 'Let us rejoice, then, remembering all the grand (but deserved) things that somehow never managed to come our way' - which is a good sentiment to end the year with.
Kenneth Patchen picture-poem. nice huh?

one of the reasons why i've read so many books may be the fact that
 i got obsessed with 'chi's sweet home'...

bert claims that this is why he didn't read as many books as me this year - he was reading with sadie and he had to wait for her to turn the pages...

head over to goodreads if you want to know what else we've been reading. have you read any of our favourites? what was the best book you read this year and what are you hoping to read next year?

i've linked up to click clack gorilla's blog hop too!

what we did in 2012

I am far too lazy to go through my blog and pick out the 'best posts' of the year... so these are the highlights and lowlights that i can remember.....
happy new year!!! thank you for being my blog buddies!
    not a good one of me but bert looks lovely and i was laughing because we were pretending to sign the register
    in the conservatory of flowers.
    visiting there was my most favourite thing we did in san francisco
  • getting married... me and bert got married in august with just two witnesses and it was nice.
  • going to san francisco - it was our honeymoon. we loved it. we bought books and cds , went to art galleries, walked in the park, wandered around and ate amazing vegan food and it was sunny and we wanted to stay there forever
  • staying with our gorgeous friends nancy and roy in san francisco and and also meeting up with  the equally wonderful tom, mike and kent
  • sadie-cat got a new bed
  • me and my friend Rhys met up for cups of tea/beer/movies
  • my friend got a new kidney! (that's a biggy right? it's only just happened too...)
  • we watched lots of great box sets - buffy, charmed, bored to death, ghost hunters, streets of san francisco, the rockford files (the last two are more bert)
  • i made cake and bought a bundt pan
  • my firends Jackie and Ben got married
  • did lots of craftivism type things
  • meeting up with our families, having my parents over for dinner and seeing my sweet nieces
  • sewed, cooked, ate, watched movies, listened to music and read

  • sadie-cat had some skin condition and had to go to the vet - no one enjoyed that (well, i enjoyed going to the vet as i hadn't been before, sadie was scared)
  • i had eustachian tube dysfunction a lot this year - it's actually just a blocked ear that kind of just needs to pop... every time i have a cold i get it. it makes me grumpy. i have it right now.
  • i read candide- i didn't like it
  • i also read 50 shades of grey, i didn't like that either
  • i had shingles. and i read 50 shades of grey while i had shingles
  • ergh - planetariums!! we tried to go to one in san francisco but i felt so claustrophobic in it i felt i was going to have a panic attack. i was AMAZED no one else felt the same. i lasted about five minutes.
and i can't think of anything else. all in all a good year I think you'll all agree.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

new (to me) music

Tsu Shi Ma Mi Re
Tea Time Ska
Rum Hee
Shugo Tokumaru

some new-to-me music!
the top one is from a cd that bert bought for me for christmas....
and the second one is what he nearly bought me for christmas... which I then went and bought anyway.
well, actually, I was so in love I bought two of his albums. As bert says (and other people online too), he's like a japanese Sufjan Stevens (which reminds me -did anyone buy the new sufjan album? it was sold out in our local record store.. but we have it on order).

but, back to Tsu Shi Ma Mi Re...
they are an all girl group from Japan
they are AMAZING!
and their lyrics are great too...
on Pregnant Fantasy (the cd I've got) they include notes to each song,
 here's the notes for 'Tea Time Ska':

'My boy-friend drops across my home for the first time. But, today is sunday.  My daddy stays home and meets my boy-friend!  I'm nervous all the day.  I make ready Japanese tea, which my daddy taught me how to prepare.
This song is about Japanese tea.  This song is about girl's love emotion. And, this song is about father's kindness to his daughter. Let's dance a ska! I shout Japanese popular teas in a loud voice.  For example, 'Nama-cha', 'Soukenbi-cha' and so on.'

from a little searching online both bands seem to be known in America... I'd never heard of either here in the UK though... do you know them? do you like them? do you know of any similar bands?
did you get any music in your christmas stocking?

Thursday, 27 December 2012

vegan vanilla whoopie pies

i've never eaten  whoopie pies before, and wasn't really sure what they were.
and I have made them far too big too - i'll remember that for next time, for there will be a next time, as they are delicious!
first of all you make the batter and then put little piles of the batter on lined baking trays (making sure that you make an even number)
when they are cool you then pipe some vanilla buttercream icing on the flat side of one of the cookie/cakes and squish another one on top. and that is it!

I used Doron Petersan's recipe from her amazing  book 'Sticky Fingers' Sweets: 100 Super-Secret Vegan Recipes'.
Am not sure if I'm allowed to copy her recipe here... and really, you probably need the book!
but anyways.. this is pretty much what you do (I'm cutting it down a bit...)

batter for the cookies
2 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda (that's bicarbonate of soda if you are in the UK)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup margarine (Doron recommends Earth balance but as far as I know you can't get it in the UK, my favourite is Vitalite)
1 cup brown sugar
11/2 teaspoons egg replacer
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup soy milk (I used almond)

Vanilla Filling
here Doron says to use 1/4 cup and 2 tablespoons of vegetable shortening and 2 tablespoons of vegan margarine. I just used 1/4 cup and 4 tablespoons of vitalite
11/2 cups powdered sugar/icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 to 1 tablespoon soymilk as needed (I used about 1/2 tablespoon of almond milk)

  • heat the oven to 350F which is 176 centigrade, tho I went for 200centigrade which is pretty much what temp I cook everything on
  • line your trays with parchment paper
  • in a large bowl cream the margarine and sugar until light and fluffy
  • mix the egg replacer and water then add to the butter mixture along with the vanilla extract.
  • in another bowl sieve the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt
  • alternate between adding the flour mixture and the soy milk to the butter/sugar mixture and combine well. (doren is using a mixer but I don't have one)
  • using an ice cream scoop, scoop mounds of dough (20 for large or 40 for small pies... as already mentioned I made mine too big so only ended up scooping 14 cookies, therefore making 7 pies) on to the trays
  • bake until the cookies puff up and the edges are golden and a toothpick inserted into the center of a cookie comes out clean. It takes about 17-19 minutes and you need to turn the trays round half way through.
  • let cool completely on the pans while you make the filling. (i've only just read this bit... I let them cool on a wire rack)
  • to assemble: fill a pastry bag with the filling, pipe a large dollop on the flat side of one of the cookies and top with another cookie like a sandwich.
(to make the filling, it's just the usual buttercream - sieve icing sugar on to margarine and stir (or use a mixer) until combined and fluffy, add extract and milk )

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

what we wore - christmas day

hey! happy christmas!
we hope you had a good day!
this is what we wore on christmas day....
I look slightly crazed in this photo... but lets focus on my vintage crochet shawl!
Bert gave me it for Christmas and I love it so.
He bought it from Libertines Vintage
and he also bought me this gorgeous necklace.
I also wore a Roots and Feather necklace on our wedding day.
Laura (who makes these lovely necklaces) blogs here
that coffee has a dash of amaretto in....
my dress is from topshop but I can't find an image of it online....
bert is wearing his christmas gift too - a tshirt from balcony shirts 
that says 'Milton Keynes - City of Dreams' on it.
(and in case this makes no sense, milton keynes is a place in buckinghamshire,
about 45 miles north-west of london. I just googled that.
bert is from there... his parents moved there from Italy in the 1970s...
just in case you feel the need to know about bert's heritage)
his trousers are from Pop Boutique although they aren't listed on the website anymore
Sadie is wearing antlers

Monday, 24 December 2012

i'm a piece!

christmas dinner

this is what we ate last year.
i think it's mushroom and chestnut pie.
which we will be having again this year!
along with stuffing, red cabbage, hedgehog potatoes, roast parsnip
and brussel sprouts.
what will you be having?

Sunday, 23 December 2012

around the house... nearly christmas...

this is me! pretty happy! you'd never guess from this that i had the snuffles and a blocked ear!
bravely i go on.
poor bert is in work... he only has two days off for christmas, so I've been doing the shopping and cooking.

I also made vanilla cupcakes for the winter solstice....

and chocolate bundt cake
a little christmas scene on top of our dvd player...
our amazing himalayan salt lamp which we put on everyday - it's so beautiful!

a sleeping sadie.
she's not sleeping now tho... she keeps burrowing into things and sniffing at all the presents.
she's trouble.

i took part in a christmas swap - this is one of the gorgeous things i got...
will do a proper post about it soon.

Bert picked up these amazing curtains. they look about more or less the right size for our kitchen.
I think making curtains is a bit beyond me, so am going to enlist my aunt for that one.

and a cute owl mug!
the last thing we need are new mugs, but when they are this cute...

Thursday, 20 December 2012

a 1940s christmas

that's winston churchill's grandson getting a gift. santa on the left obv.

english children making paper chains in 1944

a christmas tea party in brighton.

christmas day 1940 in london.

I started collecting some images on pinterest about 1940s christmas for work as I wanted to make some historically accurate christmas decorations.
as it happens, handmade christmas decorations don't seem to change much over the years - it's all about paper chains and lanterns from pretty early on.
still, the picutres are amazing - the ones above where people are celebrating christmas in shelters are heartbreaking.

Monday, 17 December 2012

christmas decorations and some tudor food.

I made a few felt decorations - the star is for bert, that's why it says 'bert' on it....
we were sewing these as part of the art activities in work... it's nice to have some sewing for older children and adults...

these images are from a couple of weeks ago when my friend sara was talking to visitors at the museum where we work about wintery foods from the Tudor period.

that's an orange tart on the right there...
she also made a rice pudding with suet. ew.
I just have a few more days of work until Christmas break.
I'm looking forward to cooking, reading, watching christmas movies and maybe some craft.
what have you been up to? making orange tarts maybe?
(also wanted to add that I met Anna from goldlion the other day in work - she came with her lovely daughter to make some christmassy things with us! her work is so beautiful - go and look at her blog!. )
am linking up with lakota too!

Thursday, 13 December 2012

a dream deferred

A Dream Deferred
by Langston Hughes

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

I love this poem by Langston Hughes... it was quoted in a book called 'the women of brewster place' by gloria naylor which I've just finished reading.
I particularly like the image of  crusting and sugaring over.



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