Sunday, June 28, 2015

Links of the Week | 28th June 2015

I loved this piece from Sali Hughes on how culling the rubbish friends from your life is sometimes the best thing you can do

How scrum-diddly-umptious does this tabbouleh look?

This piece from Meg Fee on the need for gun control in America was a delicious blend of personal and political essay.

I'm a sucker for these watercolour doodles

These 6 totally achievable and realistic things to do if you want to achieve your goals are the perfect motivational boost.

A herbed summer squash bake recipe, yummmmm.

Lily Melrose (Llymlrs) on why she chose to back out of a lucrative book deal.   It's a bit old but highlights the importance of maintaining your integrity over $$

So #IBW2015 has come to an end, and I would love to know how you got on! 

Did you visit any independent bookstores? Let me know in the comments!


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Amanda White's English Writers' Houses

The artist Amanda White has created a stunning collection of cut paper collages depicting well known English writers’ houses. Using old magazines, she has created images of the homes of likes of Beatrix Potter, Virginia Woolf, Keats, Lord Byron, Charles Dickens (and many more). Each image is a unique blend of patterns and intricate details as she carefully captures the place our favourite writers would have called home.

Beatrix Potter | Hill Top Farm

Jane and Cassandra Austen

The Brontes | Haworth Parsonage

John Keats | Wentworth House

Lord Byron

Thomas Hardy

Virginia Woolf | Monks House

William Wordsworth | Dove Cottage

How perfect would these be as a gift for a book-lover in your life?  I'm still trying to decide which one my favourite is, I think Beatrix Potter may be it (for now, anyway....).  This is just a handful of the designs which Amanda White has created, you can view the rest of her collection here.


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Charing Cross Road Bookshops | London

If you hadn't already heard, this week is Independent Booksellers Week (#IBW2015 for those of you on Twitter).  Sadly there aren't any independent bookshops near me, I've spoken about this here, so I decided to hit the tourist hotspots of London in a bid to encourage those of you visiting the city this summer to pop in and have a browse! Charing Cross Road is moments away from Leicester Square tube station (be sure to pick the right exit though!) and is called the "literary artery" of London by TimeOut magazine.  It's easy to see why, with soooo many bookshops dotted along the road with various themes and specialties. 

Any Amount of Books

With a selection of books for you to browse on the street, this is a honey-trap for book-lovers.  Their website can be found here.  For me, this is the kind of bookshop which will ensure that companies like Amazon will never wholly dominate the bookselling market.  There are all kinds of books crammed in there and it allows you to spend your time browsing to find something you never would've read otherwise.  Internet bookshops are great when you know exactly what you want, but bookshops like this are perfect for treating yourself to discovering some brilliant new reads.

Henry Pordes Books

As you can see on the photo above, these bookshops are within a stone's throw of each other.  Henry Pordes Books has a website which you can check out here.  They specialise in antiquarian books, with a huge selection for you to peruse through.  They also have selections of art, literature, science, medicine and history books too!  It is a family run business, currently being run by Henry's son-in-law.

Koenig Books

This is the perfect bookshop for all you interested in art, photography or architecture.  It's also just really visually pleasing, opting for a minimal selection of eye-catching books over shoving books anywhere and everywhere.  This works well with the number of art-history books they stock as it allows you to take the time to browse and it is easier for you to find something that catches your eye.  It is a German-owned independent bookshop with other branches in London art galleries with its hub being based in Cologne.

Quinto and Francis Edwards Booksellers 

According to their website (which you can find here), they've just replenished their stock of secondhand books.  Which accounts for their brilliant selection.  Honestly, I could happily spend hours / a lot of money in here!

You can tell from the photos how busy this street is (I had a fun time waiting for a lull in the foot traffic which rarely happened).  It is super easy to find and in the centre of London.  If you decide to check them out, do let me know how you get on! 

// Will you be visiting any independent bookshops this week?  
// Are there many based near where you live?  
// Let me know in the comments!


Sunday, June 21, 2015

Links of the Week | 21st June 2015

I enjoyed reading this piece which highlights the need for diversity in books by Nikesh Shukla

This frozen chocolate cream recipe looks delicious (and it was also thought up whilst exploring in Antarctica - not something you say everyday ;) )

These tips for self-care are interesting, inviting you to be a little kinder to yourself (can never be a bad thing).

Summer weather is perfect for salads, and this recipe for grilled apricot, corn and arugula (rocket leaves in the uk) salad with pistachios looks delicious!

This reading guide for summer has given me several books to check out (like I needed the encouragement!) and got me wondering about which books i'll be reading this summer.

#IBW2015 starts this week.  For all the info, see here.  I'll be checking out some independent bookshops this week + will be sharing them with you guys, of course!

What have you been reading this week? (Leave the links below in the comments!)  Will you be taking part in #IBW2015?  Let me know how you get on if you do!


Thursday, June 18, 2015

Salmon, Watercress and Dill Quiche

Homemade quiche couldn't be more different than the pre-made supermarket ones.  Eaten warm from the oven it is melt-in-the-mouth delicious.  It's a perfect summertime dish, eaten alongside some salad or as part of a picnic.


Readymade shortcrust pastry
50g watercress
200g smoked salmon
1 tbsp finely chopped dill
4 eggs
300ml milk
100ml single cream

Step one - the pastry:

If you’re making the pastry yourself, here’s a helpful recipe to follow.  I, however, am a firm believer in pre-made pastry + so step one for me largely involved unwrapping the pastry and rolling it out a little bit thinner (should be as thick as a £1 coin).

Heat the oven to 200C/180C fan.  Place the pastry into your dish, lining it with parchment paper.  Fill with baking beans and pop into the oven for 15 mins before removing the beads and paper and bake for a further 5 mins.    Turn the oven down to 160C/140C fan.  

Step two - the fillings:

Prepare the watercress by removing the bigger stems and rinsing under cold water.  Place the leaves, still wet, into a saucepan and heat for a few moments before running under cold water once more.  Meanwhile, pop the salmon in the oven for approx. 15 mins 
Whisk the eggs, milk and cream.  Finely chop the dill and add to the egg mix.  When the salmon and watercress are ready, line them in the bottom of the pastry before adding the egg mix on top.  (Pour in the egg mixture slowly; making sure that the mixture doesn’t overflow out of the case.)

Step three - pop it in the oven:

Place into the oven and bake for 25 mins or until it sets.  There should be a slight wobble in the centre.  


Step four - serve + enjoy!

Pour in the egg mixture slowly; making sure that the mixture doesn’t overflow out of the case.

If you don't fancy a big quiche, you could always make mini-quiches which will remove the faff of slicing your quiche when you're enjoying the picnic in the sunshine!

Bon Appetit!




Monday, June 15, 2015

I am! by John Clare

I am!

J O H N  C L A R E

I am—yet what I am none cares or knows;
My friends forsake me like a memory lost:
I am the self-consumer of my woes—
They rise and vanish in oblivious host,
Like shadows in love’s frenzied stifled throes
And yet I am, and live—like vapours tossed

Into the nothingness of scorn and noise,
Into the living sea of waking dreams,
Where there is neither sense of life or joys,
But the vast shipwreck of my life’s esteems;
Even the dearest that I loved the best
Are strange—nay, rather, stranger than the rest.

I long for scenes where man hath never trod
A place where woman never smiled or wept
There to abide with my Creator, God,
And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept,
Untroubling and untroubled where I lie
The grass below—above the vaulted sky.


This poem will forever remind me of my English teacher, Mrs Clegg, who had such a gentle soul; when she read poems aloud to us she would get lost in the words. I remember being in the classroom, listening to her read this poem to us when she made a small squeak. She was crying. "This always makes me cry," she said.


Sunday, June 14, 2015

Links of the Week | 14th June 2015

I loved this post on growing your own plants.  I'm in the process of making my own vegetable patch + trying to "grow my own", so it's nice to see others are feeling similarly green-fingered!

These underrated books have gotten me thinking that I should branch out + be a bit braver with my reading choices (especially since I've only read one!)

It seems the blogging world has gone off to have amazing adventures + left me to read their posts at home, clutching a cup of tea for warmth in the English "sunshine".  I'm not bitter, honest... I'd just like to go to Mykonos, Santorini or Antigua please!

These burger recipes had me drooling over my keyboard.  YUM.

If you're in the States, please read Kristin Valdez Quade's work.  I've read some of her work on The New Yorker, but am (not so) patiently waiting for her to be published in the UK.

And finally, I have some exciting news to share....

The Independent Bookshop week is from 20th – 27th June.  If you're unsure of your nearest independent bookshop, you can check out the event website with lots of events + details here. Of course, there will be lots of exciting stuff happening on social media to document this, including:


The first is #indiebookaday.  Share a photo + mini-blurb about each book you post on Instagram or Twitter to match each daily theme.


The second is #bookshopcrawl.  If you decide to visit lots of different independent bookshops throughout the week, document it!  Whether you choose to make a film, live-tweet your day, or write a blog post you can share it with the event organisers and be in with a chance of winning national book tokens and the IBW Book Award Shortlist.  Once you're done, send a link over to Kara Rennie between Saturday 20th June and Wednesday 1st July.


The organisers have challenged book-lovers to pop into their local independent bookshop and to #giveabook.  That means finding the perfect read for your mum, colleague, best friend, or a total stranger; whoever you decide to gift with a new and exciting read. Bookshops will have special postcards for you to fill out and share on social media using the hashtag.


There’s also a chance to win book bundles throughout the week by sharing your #bookshopselfie on Twitter or Instagram; keep your eyes peeled for updates from the @booksaremybag team for details of the winners + to increase your chance to getting some fantastic new reads!

Of course, be sure to check back here where I shall be sharing my foray into the independent bookshops in my area!  Will you be taking part?  I'd love to hear how you get on if you do. 

What have you been reading this week?  Leave some links below in the comments.


Friday, June 12, 2015

Minaret by Leila Aboulela

A divided story 

It is divided between continents, between times, and between Najwa's life before and after she reverted to Islam. The book opens with Najwa's current life, based in London she tells the reader that she has "come down in the world", and that this is her chance to start over. This is because her previous life in Sudan came to an abrupt end. She grew up wealthy and privileged as the daughter of a political adviser; she was oblivious to the political and economic state of her country. Her connection to Europe was one of privilege; privilege that ended abruptly when the government was overthrown, her father arrested during the night, and her family forced to flee to London. The city was no longer welcoming to Najwa and her family. All of their assets had been frozen during her father's trial; they had nothing.

Najwa has no choice: she must get a job, but her choice of employment is limited as she was forced to leave her education behind her in Sudan. Finding solace in her increasing visits to her local mosque, Najwa's faith deepens and grows. Islam reminds her of a home she was wrenched from. It becomes her new home, offering friendship and employment through the likeminded people she meets there. She works as a nanny, moving from family to family having given up on having children of her own. Her faith draws her to the younger brother of her employer as they bond over their shared beliefs and values. However, as their relationship deepens, Najwa is forced to confront the life she thought she had left behind.

Aboulela’s influences 

It is a novel about growing up. It is about being forced to leave your country and start your life over again and all of the worries and strains that situation brings. It is also a novel about love and family. As Najwa and Tamar's relationship grows, so does her ability to confront her past. Leila Aboulela has described the influence of novels like Jane Eyre and Rebecca on her writing. (Although, both novels having fairly similar plots in my opinion!) Her thoughts on Jane Eyre interested me though because she talks about the inherent Christianity in the novel; how Jane's faith acts upon her character and her actions. I think recent adaptations of Jane Eyre have shied away from this element of the novel and have opted for a racier take on forbidden love as we take it for granted that it would be illegal for Rochester to have two wives, the same can't be said for a Muslim reader. I say this both to highlight the prominence of Christianity in our most popular books and to encourage those readers who may be put off by the prevalence of Islam in the novel.

An interesting insight 

Despite the prominence of images of veiled women accompanying news pieces in the media there are relatively few accounts or stories of their experiences. And I think that this novel may be a good place to start. It offers an insight into the life of a Muslim woman in Britain. The community spirit she experiences at her mosque, the friendships she gains, and the prejudice she has to overcome when she wears the hijab. Whilst this is a vital (and interesting) element of the novel, I do think that reducing it to a novel purely about Islam does it a disservice. Aboulela doesn't lecture the reader about the virtues of Islam; she presents the story of a Muslim woman navigating London and love. It is an easy to read, enjoyable and educating story which I recommend you try.


Sunday, June 7, 2015

Links of the Week | 7th June 2015

If you're looking for different bookshops to visit there is a selection here of my favourite collections.

The Secret History is one of my favourite books, so this sounds ideal for me.

I have been daydreaming about making one (or several) of Ruby Tandoh's (a contestant on the Great British Bake Off) summer quiche recipes.

'The Book Journal' has me wanting to read The Infidel Stain.

There's a cool new app which lets you browse Amazon but then gives you the option to purchase your book from a local store.

These grilled peaches look delicious, and a perfect recipe to try over the summer.

I love the photography / quote combination on BookSwept, especially when Mrs Dalloway is involved.

This week I have been reading The Art of Baking Blind by Sarah Vaughan.  What about you?

What have you been reading this week?  Leave the links below in the comments.

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