What I’ve Read: June and July 2019

It’s not been a brilliant couple of months for getting the TBR lists down because the library re-opened and although it’s not as big as it used to be, it’s still the library!

The Blade Itself: The First Law Book One – Joe Abercrombie

This was on the Kindle TBR and I enjoyed it but then it kind of stopped. I know it’s part of a trilogy but it set everything up and then stopped, I still have very little idea where it is going, I did try to see if I could get the second book at the library but I’m not sure I want to spent another £14 finding out what happens!

Superfan – Sarina Bowen

Sarina Bowen, I liked it, the story has been hinted at in the other Brooklyn Bruisers books and it made me happy to be in a world that I know nothing about. I did like that the heroine although was having issues with her career, she was the one with the money and that although she’s loved up and working on her issues she still has them!

Teach Me – Oliva Dade

Hurrah for a 40 something couple, who have been through the mill. I liked that even though the hero could be bitter, he wasn’t nasty about his ex wife and that his relationship with his daughter was such that she could see where he hurt and adjust, even though Dad wasn’t saying anything. While I understood the heroine, it took me longer to warm to her but I did love the competence porn. She was good at her job and respected for it, even if she was distant from the staff. Overall, it was lovely and once they had overcome their issues a HEA ensued…

The Ingredients of Us – Jennifer Gold

This was a free Kindle book of the month and I’m glad it was free because I didn’t like it at all. I didn’t like the structure of the story, generally jumping back and forward has to have a point and honesty I couldn’t see it. I also didn’t like anyone in the book, so I didn’t care…

Say No to the Duke – Eloisa James

Another Eloisa James, I love the way James’ books always end with lots of children but I also really love that this book has an aunt who is amazing! Because spinster aunts are amazing and one day my nephews will get it!! The only tiny problem I have with this book is the PTSD, did soldiers get in in the Revolutionary War, probably, but I’m not sure that the emotions and feelings about it she ascribes to the upper classes are of the time but it’s a romance not a history book and I did enjoy it.

Gilded Cage (The Dark Gifts Trilogy 1) – Vic James

This was a Kindle free book that’s been sitting in the TBR list for a while. It’s an interesting setting. Basically an alternate Britain where a magic class of people are the aristocracy that deposed Charles I and set up a state where they are the only ones with power and very ungifted person has to do 10 years as a slave. And that is how the world and the economy runs and it’s as horrific as you’d expect. I enjoyed it enough to buy the rest of the trilogy and will probably get around to them next month.

War of the Wolf – Bernard Cornwall

So I was in the library picking up a book I had on hold and there this was in the recently arrived books. I love this series, with the improbably aged Uhtred and you can see how much and how little the world is changing and how the idea of an England is taking shape. Uhtred is going to be the oldest man alive in England by the time the books are done!

The Cruel Prince – Holly Black

This was also on the display shelf in the library, I love Holly Black and I loved this. How do you hold on to yourself in a world where nothing is human and how do you survive? Can you without losing something vital? I really like that Jude decides to win power, not love. I have the second book on hold already..

The Obelisk Gate – N.K. Jemisin

This was the book I had on hold, I loved it. I liked the idea but also the way the story is told. It’s not until you read something that isn’t automatically based in white, western culture that you realise that not everything has to be. I really enjoyed this and have the last one on hold at the library!

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Monday Miscellany: Too hot to do anything

Happy Monday! Last week we had a mini heatwave, it was intense, it was 37C in my house on Thursday, I took many coldish baths and sat in front of fan. It’s calmed down now and thank God. So we are still going to hell in a handcart but I’m with Dante, hell is cold…

So aside from the heat, it was a fairly average week, work, I saw Kathy, Adam and children on Wednesday night when I went to pick some shelves and Kathy and the children again early Thursday morning for a plot tour. The kids were so funny, trying to work out what they could pick and identifying (or not) what was growing!

Friday was a day off and a much needed haircut! My hair is back to looking good again and what magic is it that I look less grey after a haircut even though I don’t colour it anymore? Also I swear my teeth look more wonky as I get older!

On Saturday Ma and I went to the theatre. We saw The Lehman Trilogy and if theatre is your thing, this is worth seeing, three actors being technically and emotionally brilliant! Even if we were in the gods and the ice cream was nearly a fiver!Afterwards we had dinner at Brasserie Zedel and the pinkest napkins that ever were!Sunday was a day for allotment and laundry. Awesome and busy. The plot is green after all the heat and then the rain and the shed is tidy!This week is my last week before a week off and the first week of a new boss, or at least a new person to look after. So make sure everything is handed over, tidy the flat before the family arrive for lunch next Sunday, allotment tidy on Saturday, and pack for going to Newcastle on Monday and having birthday fun!

What is everyone else up to?


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Sunday Music: Lazy Sunday Afternoon – The Small Faces

I know loads of people who have birthdays today. One of them is my Uncle Ian.

This always reminds of Ian, I have no idea why…

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Recommendations: Superdrug Naturally Radiant Range

I recently changed up my skincare, usually I’m very loyal to the products I use (and for the record this picture is how I’d like to look every day but often don’t!) but my skin has always been a reflection of my health generally and my menstrual health in particular. I’m well and truly into peri-menopausal territory nowadays and it was really showing on my face and in the increasing greyness of my hair. (I’ve stopped dying it because I’m hopeful that I’ll end up with the beautiful grey hair that my aunt Jude has and not the salt and pepper that my mum has and loathes! As my dad and my aunt had the same colouring, I have the same colouring that dad had and he wasn’t particularly grey when he died, I live in hope!)

It was time to change up my skincare to adjust to the new reality. I’ve already talked about the Glycolic Toner in this range, which had helped some but I felt that I needed to change up my cleanser. I’d been using the Waitrose Baby Bottom Butter or the Waitrose Pure Hydration Hot Cloth Cleanser for years but I think maybe they’re too heavy for my face nowadays. I don’t know, I do know that my skin didn’t feel great anymore and I didn’t like it!Generally, when people talk about hot cloth cleansers, they give two recommendations, the Liz Earle Cleanse and Polish which I’ve used before and like but is expensive or the Superdrug Vitamin E Hot Cloth Cleanser which stings my face, I’ve tried it in both the normal skin and the dry/sensitive iterations but both of them sting. I’ve been aware that my face is just weird, I still recall a Clarins cleanser and toner that turned my face tomato red whereas I love the lotus oil and it’s perfect on my skin. I’ve given up trying to work it out, I just go with what doesn’t sting!

Anyway, I digress. I already use the toner and I’ve been using the Superdrug Naturally Radiant Glycolic Overnight Peel, once a week for years, so I decided to give the Hot Cloth Cleanser in the range a go and it was a revelation, the tiny spots I’d been getting under my nose disappeared and my skin just felt better.Because all of the products are priced at £5.99 and are so often on either buy one get one free or half price, it’s much easier to buy something to try, recently I’ve started using the Brightening Micro Polish once a week and the radiance balm, adding it to my foundation to lighten it up a bit and that’s all pretty good too.

Go forth and play with skincare, if that’s your thing!

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Friday Links: A cabinet of dunces and the morally ambiguous

Happy Friday! Well folks, it’s happened, Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson is Prime Minister and has appointed a cabinet. God help the country. And a good time to remind you of this.

Here are this week’s links…

John Marsden on the ‘toxic’ parenting pandemic: ‘I’ve never seen this level of anxiety’ It’s interesting, we develop resilience through failure and coping when things go horribly wrong. We learn that we can cope, we can try again and we can move forward. If we never have the opportunity to learn that in small ways, we’ll have no ability to cope with the big stuff. When I was a kid and I told my mum I was worried about something, for all her ‘Cruella DeVille’ tendencies, Ma didn’t ever tell me she would make it all better, because sometimes it wouldn’t. She would listen, she would offer strategies, she would help if necessary by talking to teachers etc but most of all she let me know that it was ok to feel like I felt but that she was confident in my ability to cope with it. Obviously there were times when her job was to go to the school and sort it out but I recall it happening a couple of times generally when there was bullying, I didn’t consider myself a bullied child, I didn’t care enough about what others thought, so if there were whispers and being called posh (we weren’t) then that didn’t worry me, I had books and the library. However, there were two physical incidents, when I was 11 I got hit around the head for refusing to move out of someone’s way so they could do something horrible to them, it was brave I just didn’t think it was on (and actually I didn’t tell Ma about that, someone else did) and when I was 14 or so, a boy punched me when he called me names and I retorted and other people laughed at him(I am my mother’s daughter after all!) what I actually remember about that was thinking that he’d learned that from his dad. Anyway there was blood on my uniform and I couldn’t wear my uniform jumper the next day so I didn’t and there was a strongly worded note to my form tutor and a call. He got suspended. After the call. This is a massive digression, basically the job of a parent is to make themselves redundant, which Ma did because I can cope with most things.

What Happens When Queer Eye’s Experts Get Personal. Unexpectedly, I really like Queer Eye, I don’t like reality TV generally but when I was ill over Christmas, I really enjoyed it. I just like them because yeah they are completely over the top, but they are often right and they are really nice about it. I’m less enthralled by the cooking section because my experience of being in a pit is that what you need isn’t one dish, it’s a couple of foundational recipes and/or techniques that you can use for lots of things (and wow I didn’t realise I’d thought about it that hard!). I read something else recently about the joy of it being in seeing men do the emotional work that women often do and how refreshing it was to see men who touch one another which is also one of those things that I didn’t think about until I did. I really enjoy their kindness, to others and themselves, even though they have reasons not to be kind…

They Tried to Start a Church Without God. For a While, It Worked. Having belonged to Church and secular communities, what strikes me here as the thing that Sunday Assembly needs is purpose. It could be helping others, it could be evangelical atheism but you need a reason to belong. For me God was never the issue and the reason I have been more removed from Grace is that I don’t feel a part of its purpose all that much anymore (fresh expressions) because I found Mass meaningful and that wasn’t why I moved to Grace. The other piece of that was wanting to explore faith and I’ve found that difficult with other members of Grace because of the pressure of services and the real difference from where my faith journey started and my attitude. The secular community I feel like a member of is at the allotments and there the purpose is about our plots and loving and preserving the space for the gardeners of the future. At some point if you don’t/can’t see the point of the purpose, you leave!

Labour still doesn’t take the threat of Boris Johnson seriously. Labour doesn’t seem to take anything outside of the Labour Party seriously. Expelling Alistair Campbell but having to be harried into not reinstated Chris Williamson. I supported Jeremy Corbyn and I feel sure that he’s a decent guy but he’s useless as a leader and I do feel that he needs to get it together or leave it to someone who can do it because even given the disadvantage of a right wing media, he’s doing poorly…

Mystery of Chedworth’s 1,800-year-old Roman glass shard solved

The English Job by Jack Straw review – portrait of Iran’s fixation with Britain. I don’t know nearly enough about Iran but I do know that they have a vision of the UK as strong and meddling and as a world superpower that isn’t shared by anyone else except Boris and Brexiteers.

Boris Johnson, the prime minister? I’m sorry to say that I’m partly to blame. Well I’m not, I’ve been saying the man was a ignorant clown since he ran for mayor. I was ashamed then and I’m ashamed now and I didn’t do it.

Boris Johnson Has Prepared His Entire Life for This. Is He Ready?. Yes he’s ready to be Prime Minister. The real question is will he put in the work required to do the job well and perhaps be unpopular in the process. Empirical knowledge teaches us that he is not.

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Preserving: Cocktail Cherries

I love cherries in all forms but especially cocktail cherries. Ages ago, I started making my own and while it’s been a while since I’ve mentioned it here, I have perfected my method recipe to make it easier, so it’s time to share again.

I make enough to last the year for me and have some to give away. A bottle of whiskey makes 5 to 6 500ml jars. I start off with 2kg of cherries but more than a few of them get eaten on the way, so I would estimate that just under 1.5kg made it into the jars! I give you the recipe per 500g of cherries and you can scale up as needed


  • Cloves
  • Nutmeg
  • Cinnamon stick
  • Cherries
  • Whiskey
  • Cointreau or triple sec
  • Water
  • Sugar


  1. Wash your cherries and destalk them.
  2. Dry and discard any that are spotty or mouldy or openly split.
  3. Stuff your cherries into the sterilised jars with half a cinnamon stick and a clove
  4. In a pan add 1 cup of whiskey, three tablespoons of Cointreau, half a cup of sugar, half a cup of water and a grating of nutmeg.
  5. Heat until the pan until the sugar has dissolved and then pour into the jars until the cherries are covered.
  6. Put the lids on the jars and then leave in a dark cupboard for 6 weeks.

I find that the cherries keep without any problems in the cupboard for at least a year (they don’t last the year) and while I tend to hot water bath tomatoes, I don’t do that to these or to jam. I do keep them in the fridge once I’ve opened them though. If you are worried about hygiene you should keep them in the fridge and use them within 3 months. Alternatively there is a recipe onFoodie with Family that does something similar and has canning instructions.

Once the cherries are done, I either make a syrup from the juice by adding a bit more sugar and boiling it down or I make a drink with it and soda water.

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Allotment Adventures: A Tidy Up

I love to read Allan Jenkins’ Sunday column in the Observer about his allotment. This week, in one of the comments, someone talks about this time of year and the garden’s descent into chaos. While the plot isn’t actually in chaos, just yet, July and August are busy times. If May is the ‘plant all the things’ month, July and August are the months where often you have to choose between watering, harvesting and weeding and come to the conclusion that there is no time for all of it. We are almost at that stage on the plot and have the added task of keeping Joe’s quarter plot tidy (the rest of his plot is behind some loganberries and it feels intrusive to weed there, but we have permission for the other bit!)

When I first got the plot, I knew that I was going to garden in beds and I knew that I wasn’t going to dig the entire plot over every year. I’m not fit enough and even if I was I don’t have the time. So I accidently became no dig, Joe is an old fashioned gardener who digs his plot over every year which works for him but the weeds are immense compared to our plot.  That’s not to say we don’t have weeds, but we have them mostly in the paths.Some annual weeds come up in the beds but they are easily dealt with and the only real problem we’ve had has been with the old raspberries, which have been sprouting up everywhere, paths and beds. However, we’ve been diligently pulling them up and for the moment, they’ve stopped although I don’t think we’ve seen the last of them. We do have a bit of a patchwork situation with regards to the weed fabric the wood chip covers up, I wouldn’t do it again but under the wood chip paths, we have some biodegradable weed fabric, some plastic weed fabric and some bare earth. Which means we have different types of weeds on the paths depending what’s underneath them. Over the black plastic the wood chip breaks down into a great growing medium, so we get lots of annual weeds and the occasional self-seeded squash (yes I am going to leave it and see what it does!). In the other areas as the woodchip layer decomposes, we have both annual weeds that are harder to remove and the perennial nasties like bindweed.Our method for both types is the same. Pull them out put more wood chip down. Fortunately, there had been two wood chip deliveries in the past couple of weeks and a downpour on Friday. So first job on Friday night was to clear Joe’s space, which includes the courgette corridor. There is a big area of unplanted soil which we cleared of weeds so I’m going to ask Joe if I can plant the bunch (40) of cabbages, calabrese and cauliflowers that came with my kale, I don’t have room for them and don’t like seeing empty space, it also gives me reason for keeping up with the weeds at that end under control and Joe likes cabbages and cauliflowers so it’s a win/win.On Saturday we did a lot of work on our plot. Harvesting, obvs. Out total courgette count is at 36, (since the 3rd July) and one crookneck but this does include the pick I did while watering on Tuesday. The yellow ones are currently doing better than the green ones and some of the fruits developing aren’t germinating or are and then dying off, which on absolutely no evidence, I’m blaming the bitey ants…We only have a couple of more weeks of beetroot yet and we’re not going to get around to a second sowing this year because there’s no room! There is currently lots of lettuce but again I need to sow some more because in the mini heat wave we’re having this week, I think it’s going to bolt!

Although they aren’t nearly ready, we have tomatoes, which makes me so happy!We also have calendula floweringWe’re a couple of weeks away from french beans, the autumn raspberries are beginning to set fruit and I took the first plums yesterday, I forgot to put a grease band around the tree in spring (again) and we’re in an off year for the tree but there are certainly enough for plum gin. The squashes are all doing well, the butternuts are way behind and just starting to flower but the Georgia candy roaster, the ukichi kuri and the burgess butternut have all set some fruit and by some I mean we have about 20 squash, so it’s all good. We’ve hit the time of year where spring and early summer veg has slowed down but we’re a bit away from all the late summer harvests, which is fine.Then we weeded and woodchipped most of the plot. We didn’t get to all of it, I went back on Sunday morning and did a bit more but still didn’t get it all done but I did get all the fruit beds (raspberries, blackcurrant and boysenberry) and reserved some for the gooseberries too. If there is more there at the weekend, I’ll finish it off.Other than weeding, I got all the kale planted out. We have 10 cavolo nero, plants and 5 curly kale plants (the only ones that survived my neglect in the spring!) While I was doing that Ma sowed the borlotti beans in the three sisters bed, yes it’s late but that does seem to be the theme of my years.I also picked some flowers which made me really happy, although I think the time for sweet peas to come up has come, there were bugs all over them, some greenfly and some pollen beetles. I love sweetpeas but I’m pretty ruthless about them, we took one set down already and it’s time to take down the others. Ma also sowed some dill in amongst the baby cukes (this is dill that we allowed to go to seed last year – one of the few places I managed to save seed!).

So to future planning.

The big task for next week is the shed, which has become Mum’s domain and is very messy and not my fault, I’m not allowed in there! We’re at that stage when everything has to be taken out, it has to be cleaned and then we need to put things back in so we can reach them. Some friends are gifting me a set of shelves they don’t want and I’m going to pick them up before the weekend, which I’m hopeful will help.I need to find homes for the leeks, the ammi visnaga, the brassicas which I’m hoping we can put in on Joe’s empty space. I also need to take out the sweet peas and pull out the spinach that hasn’t grown enough to harvest any. I want to sow some fennel there and see if it does any better. I also need to get to sowing the chard (really, really need to do it now). I’d like to finish with the wood chip if we can.

Tasks not for this week but in the next month are finding a spot for autumn/winter lettuces that can sit under a cloche when it gets cold. And thinking about any other autumn/winter planting. We were very lucky that we had some extra space from Joe this year as we have too much we, ok I, wanted to grow, even though we had extra space, so I’ll have to give that due consideration for planning over winter!

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