Look Who is Coming to Dinner!

Look Who’s Coming to Dinner

I have written before about this cookbook and how it makes fun of the pretentious while delivering some really good recipes.  On looking through it today for some inspiration I came across this:

This picture accompanied the suggestion that we assemble a nightmare selection of guests for a party.  Thinking about this, my suggestion is:

  • Film star or celebrity
  • Woman CEO of a major company
  • A rising young author- female to balance the gender
  • Repertory actor
  • Accountant
  • Backbencher (for those who don’t know this is a member of the parliament who doesn’t hold a Ministerial portfolio)

The actor, the writer and the star will no doubt have had to starve at times while making their fortune and the rep actor probably is still starving.  So they will be reasonably easy to please.  No doubt the  career woman has” had to fight tooth and claw to establish herself in a man’s world and she’s nobody’s fool” and the accountant probably has an ulcer or is diabetic because of the stresses and strains of his chosen profession.  And the Backbencher is used to being fawned over and eating at Bellamy’s (or the equivalent of the restaurant in the seat of government) so he is likely to be more demanding.

So what would you serve this nightmare group?  Our author suggests two menus but for these disparate and perhaps difficult people I would serve:

Chilled cucumber soup because they would be so busy talking and trying to impress each other that a hot starter would soon get cold.
Roast New Zealand lamb a la Jamie Oliver, French green beans and a large green salad
For dessert, Pavlova (from the bakery of course) with fresh fruit and cream*
Followed by brandy or a liquor of their choice, freshly brewed coffee, cheese selection and crackers.

Hopefully, this will impress the career woman, the accountant and the Backbencher and totally ‘blow the socks off ” the other three.

Image via wikipedia

*Pavlova is a dessert with a meringue base, topped with fresh fruit and fresh cream.  It is the subject of hot arguments between New Zealanders and Australians as to which of them first introduced this dessert.  But we all agree that a well-made Pav takes a lot of beating- excuse the pun!

Then hopefully, they would all make their way home having been thoroughly entertained by the other guests and well fed by me.  Leaving me to clear the table and do the dishes and all those other follow-up chores after a party.

And then hopefully, the next day they will tell their friends –

“I went to a marvellous party,
I must say the fun was intense,
We all had to do
What the people we knew
Would be doing a hundred years hence…”
From I went to a Marvellous Party, 
Sir Noel Coward

JB Looking very pleased with herself afer a successful
dinner party.
Wellington, September 22 ,2022

Reflecting on Reading

It seems that a good part of each day now is spent reading. I always manage to slip some time in for this very pleasant task(?).. And a winter’s Sunday, with nothing planned, is the perfect time to devote a day to reading.

Today I read “The Mist” by Ragnar Jonasson, another writer new to me.  I picked up the book on the way out of the library the other day and I am pleased that I did.  

Jonasson is an Icelandic writer and from Mr Google, I learned “Ragnar is the co-founder of the Reykjavik international crime writing festival Iceland Noir. From the age of 17, Ragnar translated 14 Agatha Christie novels into Icelandic. Ragnar has appeared on festival panels worldwide and lives in Reykjavik. Ragnar has a law degree and works as an investment banker in Reykjavik, in addition to teaching law at Reykjavik University.

“Ragnar is the co-founder of the Reykjavik international crime writing festival Iceland Noir. From the age of 17, Ragnar translated 14 Agatha Christie novels into Icelandic. Ragnar has appeared on festival panels worldwide and lives in Reykjavik. Ragnar has a law degree and works as an investment banker in Reykjavik, in addition to teaching law at Reykjavik University.”

So to the book.  A truly scary story, set in Iceland in the deep midwinter and the author has one (or at least me) panting for what could possibly come next.

If you are into horror and mystery stories, I recommend you get your hands on a copy of this book.

But having read the book I wanted to find out more about this far-off land.

Again, thanks to Google, I found that Iceland is “a Nordic island country in the North Atlantic Ocean and the most sparsely populated country in Europe. Iceland’s capital and largest city is Reykjavík, which (along with its surrounding areas) is home to over 65% of the population.” And in 2020 its population was counted at 366,000 with 237,900 being residents in the capital..

I was particularly interested to note how alike this island is to the island on which I choose to live. For instance, it has a dramatic landscape with volcanoes, geysers, hot springs and lava fields. Massive glaciers are protected in Vatnajökull and Snæfellsjökull national parks.  We have what has been described as one of the most dramatic landscapes in the world. We have mountains, fjords, glaciers, lakes, hot springs, geysers, mud pools national parks, and beaches. 

The population of New Zealand in 2020 was 5.084 million and currently, in Wellington, our capital it is set at 419,000. 

To find out more about Iceland click here.

Postscript – I have reviewed The Mist on my book review blog. Go here http://Booksandmorebooks2017.wordpress.com to read it

So as the sun and the temperature fall on a winter’s Sunday,

Mary Oliver says
Instructions for living a life.
Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.

And Judith Baxter says
Sunsets are the prelude to another beautiful day.
And whatever happens, the sun will rise tomorrow.

JB August 7, 2022
Wellington, NZ

Thoughts for Thursday

“What is it with you and that book?”
Rafael laughed. “We have a personal relationship.” 
Benjamin Alire SáenzAmerican poet, novelist,

and writer of children’s books

Lunch today was cancelled because one friend had a horrible cold and didn’t want to go out nor did she want to give it to us.

So time for me. But where did the three hours I would have spent between leaving home and returning go?

The groceries were delivered bright and early (what a godsend that is to we oldies), and then the FaceTime chat with Chris. We talk twice each week, usually for an hour or so – 10.30 am my time so I have the rest of the day before me; while Chris, some 16 hours behind me, is looking forward to her evening activities.

I had promised myself that I would use this unexpected free day on myself. So I took out my book and continued reading with the sun pouring in the open doors, my Grandson’s cat, Flashcat at my feet and a steaming cup of tea at hand.

Have you discovered Caro Ramsay’s books? Caro is a Scottish mystery writer and we are told “Caro was born in Govan, on Glasgow’s south side. A graduate of the British School of Osteopathy, she runs a large osteopath centre in West Scotland, treating animals and humans, and writes in her spare time.”

So far “in her spare time” she has written 13 books in the Anderson and Costello series, two stand-alone novels and a cookbook. I wonder what I could have achieved in my spare time.

Caro is a member of the Murder Is Everywhere group of mystery writers and it is here that I first met her. Her Anderson and Costello novels are set in Glasgow and as I lived just 8 miles north of Glasgow in a little village called Kirkintilloch (I dare you to try and pronounce that if you are not Scottish) I know most of the places about which she writes. Anderson and Costello are a Detective Inspector and his Detective Sergeant. Caro is obviously on very good terms with her local police because these police procedural novels ring true.

I have started at the beginning of the series Absolution and am now on book three, so there’s a long way to go and many books for me to read. I will, of course, write reviews on my other site, for Goodreads and occasionally on this site.

So I am listening to what David Baldacci says as I sit reading. What a wise man he is!

From Pinterest

So back to Anderson and Costello and until the next time.

JB with Chris in the corner
June 23, 2022

A New Favourite

You will have read Chris’s post How The Light Gets In. I too am a great fan of Louise Penny and her Ganache character and all the other people who live in that lovely little village – Three Pines.

I have read and listened to all her books and am eagerly awaiting the next one. But..

I have now discovered another author who is currently pushing Louise aside to become my favourite. Michael Robotham.

Quite by accident, I came across The Suspect. I was absolutely fascinated by the protagonist Clinical Psychologist, Joe O’Loughlin. In that book, he has just discovered that he has Parkinson’s and is trying to come to grips with it. while helping in a murder investigation he becomes the chief suspect. Fascinating reading. I am about to write a review on one of my other blogs in which I write book reviews. I later discovered this was book one in a nine-book series.

The next book I picked up was The Other Wife. That is reviewed on my other site. This was even more exciting than The Suspect. Totally unputdownable (that word again). That is book nine in the series.

Then on a visit to the library to return the books, I discovered Close Your Eyes. Book eight in the series. As soon as I finish this post I am going to make another cup of tea and sit and finish this book. It’s cold and wet outside today. What an excuse to do nothing.

I am totally in awe of Michael Robotham this Australian author. After many years during which he wrote for newspapers and magazines in Australia, Britain and America, he decided to quit and became a ghostwriter, collaborating with an extensive range of well-known and maybe not so-well-known “politicians, pop stars, psychologists, adventurers and show business personalities to write their autobiographies”.

There is another series which I haven’t looked into yet. The protagonist this time is Cyrus Haven. But that is for another post.

And at the end of his Meet Michael page we read –

Michael lives on Sydney’s northern beaches,
where he thinks dark thoughts in his  ‘cabana of cruelty – 
a name bestowed by his three children (now grown up), who happily poke fun at the man who has fed, clothed and catered to their every expensive whim. Where is the justice?

Back in a couple of days with more meandering through the neighbourhood of this ancient mind.

JB June 19, 2022

Five Word Friday

Come join us in this new challenge. You know what to do. Describe your life now in only Five words and then go on to tell us more. Remember to link back here when you are done. Alternatively, post your thoughts in comments.We would love to hear from you.

My Five Words?

CATE TESTED POSITIVE – SELF ISOLATING

I was at lunch with three friends in one of their houses. It is acceptable to meet in people’s houses during our current Covid rules.

We had just sat down for lunch when I received a text message from my daughter, Cate. Her text – “Don’t panic I just tested positive for COVID. You need to self-isolate for ten days…” So the planned mah jong game with three friends didn’t take place. Hurried lunch finished, I took off for home.

I had planned to go to the garden centre for more plants. Having been away recently for seven days, the indoor plants suffered from the heat and no watering, so that was my plan. Something to put on the back burner for now.

Then various telephone calls. Cancelling hair appointment, audiologist and telling various friends of the news. I also had to cancel an appointment on Monday afternoon with a subcommittee that I am part of. I had to advise the members of our Writing Group that I wouldn’t be there on Monday, and another friend who was to come here for lunch on Tuesday had to be advised. Oh and the library because several of the books I have on loan will reach their return date during the ten days.

I wonder what I will do with all this time I will now have.

 “There’s never enough time to do all the nothing you want.” — “
Calvin and Hobbes” by Bill Watterson

But of course. Think of the hours now available to read those books in my TBR read and on my kindle.

As Bertrand Russel said –

“There are two motives for reading a book; one, that you enjoy it; the other, that you can boast about it .”

And Mary Oliver says –

“Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable.” 


JB March 4, 2022

Sunny Summer Sunday

Just another day on the beautiful Kapiti Coast, north of Wellington.

I am dog sitting, as I told you, and once again the day has been hot, too hot to sit outside with my book and so hot that Daisy was interested in walking only in the shade. So we didn’t go to the beach, preferring the river today.

But after the pooch party on Friday where Daisy did far too much running and chasing, and playing fetch, she spent Friday afternoon and all of Saturday quietly resting. Even “get your collar” evinced no response. But today was different.

I was dictating into my phone a message to my sister in London. At one stage I said”comma” at which Daisy took off and brought her collar to me. I guess one hears what one wants to hear, dog or human, and so a walk was decided upon by my four-legged friend.

Then after the walk we returned for lunch. A quick bite and back to the book I found here and started reading this morning. It’s called the The Night She Disappeared by Lisa Jewell. I have not heard of this author but the comment on the cover from Harlan Coben claims it “Her best thriller yet”. I note she has written 18 other thrillers, so plenty to read as the summer morphs into autumn/fall (as it will) and the days grow shorter, giving plenty of time for reading.

JB February 27, 2022

Not Old Dogs, But Old Books

I have several books passed down to me by my Father. I have written about him on my other blog. Although he left school and any formal learning at 13 to help with the family finances, he never stopped learning.

He ingrained upon his three daughters the idea that learning was the only way to proceed; to get ahead in the world. He bought books, usually second hand, and read to us when we were young and gave them to us to read as we got older.

He was a proud Londoner. In all his 96 years he never wanted to live anywhere but in the East End. And today I will tell you of a couple of books that I have that were his.

One book is called Walking Around London.

‘I have seen the greatest wonder which the world can show to the astonished spirit.  I have seen it and am still astonished – and ever will there remain fixed indelibly on my memory the stone forest of houses, amid which flows the rushing stream of faces of living men with all their varied passions, and all their terrible impulses of love, of hunger and of hatred – I mean London”

These words are shown in the preface of the book and were written by Heinrich Heine, who lived in Craven Street, Strand in 1827.  At that time apparently, London was the largest city in the world and had a population of 1,500,000.

The book takes us on 25 walks around London and reinforces my feeling that I am a Londoner even though I haven’t lived there for more than 50 years.  It appears that the book was published in 1957.  I still lived in London then and that was the year that I married my Dashing Young Scotsman. Nostalgia is alive and well in Wellington, New Zealand today.  So I shall go away and revel in it.

And the second book is Mayhew’s London, one of two books of this title that I hold. The book was first published in 1861 and cost 25 shillings. At the time there were 12 pennies to a shilling and twenty shillings to a pound, so I guess that was a pretty expensive book that time.

This is a fascinating book, filled with illustrations detailing how many made their living at that time.

Sarah the hurdy curdy player; a mudlark; the Jew Old Clothes Man; London costermongers (note costermonger is a street seller of vegetables, fruit etc and were everywhere in Victorian London and other towns. In fact when I was growing up, costers were everywhere, and maybe they still are.

So another busy day comes to an end. Lunch with a fairly new friend, a visit to the doctor to get certificate to renew my driver’s licence, writing a piece for the local paper and then this post. Who said life got easier and less rushed after you retire?

JB February 15, 2022

SIX WORD SATURDAY

Six word Saturday button

For several years on my other site Growing Younger Each Day, along with many other bloggers, I used to write a post each Saturday entitled “Six Word Saturday”. The idea was to describe your life in six words. So each Saturday I would do just that.

I wrote about a Disaster and a Ruined Pot; Sweeping the Patio – Clearing the Leaves; Only Barbecue this Summer with Friends; I asked Is Life Better with a G&T? and also Are We Having Any Fun – No! I even mentioned Trump and his phobia. What is it you ask – Trump’s Phobia is Fear of Sharks,

Unfortunately, Six Word Saturday and it’s originator ceased to be a few years ago.

I obviously enjoyed this challenge as there were so many more Six Word Saturday posts. But one of my favourites was written on June 30, 2012 – Please Do Not Disturb – I’m Reading. I described how it was a miserable winter Saturday and having started a new book in the morning, after lunch I settled down to read more. It was a book by one of my favourite authors, Zoe Sharp.

Have you come across this writer and the protagonist in her first series? Note – in 2012 there was only one series. So, Charlie Fox is the protagonist and on that day I was reading “First Drop” book No 4 in. the series. If you click on the Zoe Sharp link above, you will see how many books she has written since then.

Lee Child has been quoted as saying “If I were a woman, I would be Zoe Sharp . If Jack Reacher were a woman, he would be Charlie Fox.”

As I said, she is a favourite author and I have read and reviewed all of her books.

Harking back to my Six Word Saturday post, if you read the post all through and down to the comments – you will see that Zoe commented a couple of times (blatant self promotion here):

Zoe Sharp | July 5, 2012 at 01:59 

Hi Judith
Thank you so much for a fabulous review of FIRST DROP. I’m delighted

that you enjoyed the book. There is a full list of the Charlie Fox books, in order,
on my website – http://www.zoesharp.com – and I’ve tried to include the order of the books as part of the titles on Amazon. Sorry for the confusion – it’s a long story.
Thank you to everyone who’s commented, too, and I hope you’ll give Charlie a whirl.
Pass on my apologies to Lotte and I hope she enjoyed her belated walk 🙂

Note – Lotte was my little Tibetan Spaniel, my companion and friend.

Perhaps I will continue Six Word Saturday posts, if not every Saturday, maybe some. Something to think about.

“She generally gave herself very good advice,
(though she very seldom followed it).”
Lewis Carroll,’Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland’.

JB January 22, 2022

Sauntering on Sunday

Chris has been busily writing thought provoking posts, while I have been just writing.

So to Sunday; a day for sauntering around.  Saunter – don’t you like that word? 

“I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of Walking,
that is, of taking walks — who had a genius, so to speak, for sauntering,
which word is beautifully derived “from idle people who roved about the country,
in the Middle Ages, and asked charity, under pretense of going a la Sainte Terre, to the Holy Land,
till the children exclaimed, “There goes a Sainte-Terrer,” a Saunterer, a Holy-Lander
David Henry Thoreau. American naturalist, essayist, and philosopher. 1817-1862 

I like Thoreau’s definition of saunter but sadly, all dictionaries and linguists are united in rejecting this notion, but it’s an appealing idea.

I have just returned from brunch with my daughter and her two big, strapping, delightful sons.  They have both been in Wellington this past week as their other grandmother sadly died on the December 30.  After falling, a few days in hospital and a few days at home, she went to sleep one night and didn’t wake up. A shock to her two sons and grandchildren, but what a way to go! 

Of course, the brunch was a happy, cheerful hour or so in the company of three of my favourite people.  One grandson Drew the eldest, is constantly making fun of his Granma in the nicest possible way. We all laugh at his nonsense. He left us for a long walk back over the hills to our home.

Then Jae, the other son, accompanied me to a used bookshop where I purchased a copy of Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook.  This was not what I was looking for in the shop.  However, there was no copy of Marilyn French’s The Women’s Room and the store owner suggested I might like this instead.  The Women’s Room had a major impact on/in my life so many years ago and I really wanted to reread it to discover why.  Instead and in keeping with my determination to support local businesses, in particular book shops, I purchased and will read the Doris Lessing book and continue in my hunt for the other.

Then home again and the first post I read was from Debbie at Domermom.com.  A lovely post about a happy dog.  Of course, this led me directly to thoughts about Lotte my sadly missed, little Tibetan Spaniel.  She was my friend and companion for a short but happy time some years ago.

Then looking back to January 8, 2012 I note that I posted Dancing with Skeletons.  Here I mused about a Creative Writing Course (one of many) that I had attended many years before

One task we were given early in the course was to “Write about your Skeletons”.  We were told we all had them and if we could put them onto paper it would be a good place to start.  We were required to write them down, not type them into the computer.  The tutor reiterated the “known fact”  (well accepted fact) that transferring the words from your mind, through your hand to the page gave them power

Note – Research has shown that hand-writing stimulates a bunch of cells at the base of the brain called the reticular activating system (RAS). The RAS acts as a filter for everything your brain needs to process, giving more importance to the stuff that you’re actively focusing on at the moment—the physical act of writing brings it to the forefront.

This was proven to me in the years that followed, particularly when wearing my Life Coach hat and when running my courses, always encouraging people to do Morning Pages.

Do  you know about Morning Pages? This is the act of writing first thing in the morning. Strictly consciousness writing any and all thoughts that come to mind. I discovered this in the book The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.  It’s a very powerful tool to help you sort out what you want to do and then, how to do it.

And so now, after that long and rambling saunter, there is little else to say – although that’s not true.  I have much more to say, but for another day.

And yet another thought for today

If you don’t like the news, go out and make some of your own.” 
― Wes Nisker author, radio commentator, comedian,
and Buddhist meditation instructor.
1942 –

Waiting for the sun to go down so that the dry garden beds may be watered.

NOTE – This has been republished because in copying from my other blog, I left out a paragraph and it didn’t make sense. So sorry for that.

JB January 9, 2022