Friday 31 January 2014

Book Review: While the Sands Whisper

This is a copy of a review I put on Amazon. If you'd like to get a review copy of a book of your choice, go to the Story Cartel website.

While the Sands Whisper 
by Linda Ruth Horowitz

In this book we have a narrator who is coming to terms with a choice she made many years ago to save her sanity, but which meant sacrificing her family life and love and left her alone and lonely. To compensate for this she roams the world as a photographer, documenting the lives of others in different countries. With her family living in Israel, she spends time in Sinai and is entranced by the desert area, finding love again among the Bedouin race, but against the background of suspicion of her activities by the authorities, and some unsavoury activities pursued by her Bedouin friends, which put her in great danger.

The author says the book is fiction plus autobiography. She is herself a well-travelled and successful photographer. Her knowledge of her craft comes across well in the book as does her undoubted passion for the area and people she is writing about.  The pace of the story varies and includes flashbacks. Some of these go right back to the narrator’s childhood association with American gangsters, which seems to make some of the Bedouin acceptable to her despite their criminal activity.

If you like adventure travel stories in which you learn how other people live, this book is for you. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and found it hard to put down because the story’s twists were hard to predict. My only complaint is that I didn’t find the ending very satisfying, although I can’t imagine where else it could go. I’m wondering whether Ms Horowitz now has a sequel up her sleeve.

Wednesday 29 January 2014

Sandstorm on the Beach

We didn't get to Old Harry on Saturday which  I reported in another post that I had hoped to do. The weather was dry, but we thought underfoot would be a bit too sticky after all the rain. I didn't fancy having to scrub even more mud than usual off jade on our return. She wouldn't have appreciated it either.

Instead we parked at Sandbanks again and went on the beach. We only walked the beach half way though because the wind was behind us and  the sand was blown into streams ahead of us. It stayed fairly close to the ground, at just about Jades' height actually. She still enjoyed chasing stones and digging them in and out  of the s and on the ground, but we didn't rate the idea of turning to walk back into the wind. Most of those sand streamers would have blown straight into Jade's eyes, and we wouldn't have escaped unscathed either.

So we trudged up to the Sandbanks Hotel and out to the road so we could walk back on the harbourside of the peninsula. Even here the wind nearly took our breath away and my ears started to ache as I hadn't brought a hat and my hood was blown straight back off my head.

The photo was taken on a calmer day from the path alongside the harbour, looking towards Brownsea Island. which sits opposite the entrance to the harbour.

Monday 27 January 2014

A Work Manifesto

I was invited to share this, and thought I would as it's very relevant to my semi-retired working life.You can see where I got it from here.

Friday 24 January 2014

A Walk to Old Harry

I've just put a comment on Sharkbyte's blog to the effect that it's good to have something to look forward to. As I mentioned in another post, while the the dreary weather continues this January, I  have my two special trips to look forward to.

Meanwhile, the weather forecast indicates that tomorrow could be a less wet day, so I shall try to persuade my hubby that we should take Jade farther afield. Perhaps we could take the chain ferry from Poole to Studland and trek out to the Old Harry Rocks.

this pic is by Malc McDonald from Wikimedia Commons

This one by Lewis Clarke I cropped a bit

Jade and I both need to lose some weight, hubby does too really. These days Jade is quite lazy and mostly stays close to me when we go out, so if I don't go far she doesn't either, and I think she really needs more exercise. When I do my Rosemary Conley aerobics along with an ancient video, she sits around looking quite bemused and obviously thinking I am bonkers. Hope we can do this longer walk and that it encourages Jade to run around and explore. I'll report next week.

Wednesday 22 January 2014

Soon it Will Be Spring

It will soon be snowdrop time again. I took these pictures at Kingston Lacey three years ago. Hope we can get  to view these lovely carpets of snowdrops again this year, but I'm not sure if the National Trust allows dogs into that area of the estate.

Monday 20 January 2014

The Beach in January

I took this picture of Sandbanks beach early in 2012. Imagine all that empty, sandy space filled with people and dogs of every description. That's what it was like yesterday afternoon when we took Jade for her walk there. I've never seen it so full of dog walkers.

Because it was the first day of half-way-decent weather for over a week, everyone had the same idea. Jade was a bit bemused by all the people and stuck fairly close to me instead of running around as much she usually does on the beach. It did make a nice change to be able to walk by the sea without getting soaked by the precipitation though.

Friday 17 January 2014

Holidays to Come

I've lived in a number of locations in the south of England, and tried to get the best out of all of them. Now I love living in Poole, but believe I'll always think of Torquay as home. It's where I was born and brought up and I have to get back there at some point each year.

This year, when the schools break up in July I'm going to share a holiday house with my daughter, granddaughter and friends who often come along on our breaks. Hubby may come for part of the week as well.  It's a dog friendly one so we may take one or both dogs.

We've been trawling the internet for suitable properties and finally decided on one today. Normally I'd just stay with my sister who still lives there, but she's not too well and I don't want to give her extra work. She and bro-in-law can come and have some meals with us this year. It's something to look forward to, as well as my short break in Venice at the end of March, which is to be a birthday treat. Aren't I the lucky one?

Wednesday 15 January 2014

Diabetes Hits

It’s official. I have diabetes 2 along with my high blood pressure. This is all wrong. My lifestyle isn’t that bad. I know I sit at the computer for about 6 hours a day, but that is broken up by dog walks and an exercise video. I know I’m a bit over weight and love my food, but I do try to eat sensibly and get my 5 a day.

However, the blood tests don’t lie, and I have been feeling pretty exhausted lately. The doc sent me to a diabetes clinic this morning where I am to be educated about it. Not much in today’s session was new to me except being told that a) I can still eat SOME chocolate and b) the reason a meal doesn’t always satisfy me is because  when you have diabetes it takes longer for your brain to realise the tummy is full. I didn’t know that before.

Anyway that, followed by searching the shops for some new curtains, took up the whole of my morning.  Jade wasn’t happy because first I didn’t have time to throw her science diet nuts around for her to retrieve, and then she was driven off and away from me at the hospital, with a sad little face peering at me through the car window. She didn’t eat her nuts until her playtime after lunch.

I did manage to get an article written this afternoon, which was just as well because the deadline for that one is tomorrow. And I have scheduled in another of those horrible landing pages to write this evening. I’m off to make a salad now.

Monday 13 January 2014

Weather Again - Good and Bad

The weather outside is so horrible, I decided to remind myself of one of our lovely sunny holidays. This little beach is in Minorca on the side of the sea's inlet to Mahon harbour and across from the town near the huge fortification of La Mola.

We were lucky not to get soaked when we went to our own little beach on our dog walk this afternoon. it wasn't raining but was very windy and cold, so we were well wrapped up. Jade enjoyed herself chasing pebbles I threw for her, then digging them into the sand and out again. As we returned to the car park, the rain started. Bad luck for the next lot of dog walkers just arriving. "We always pick the wrong time to come," one of them said.

Friday 10 January 2014

The Robin Makes our Day

This morning it was dry here up to lunchtime, with little bursts of sunshine. Then rain dampened our spirits somewhat. But we wrapped ourselves up and found it had stopped when we stepped out to walk Jade along Holes Bay On the way back we heard a burst of beautiful birdsong from above our heads. We looked up and there was a tiny robin perched on a skimpy branch and singing it's little heart out. Made us think that spring must be just around the corner.

I got this pic by Paul Dickson from Wikimedia Commons. This robin looks all puffed up as they do sometimes. Ours today looked a lot leaner, but that didn't stop his song.

Wednesday 8 January 2014

Art of the Floods

This photo from Wikimedia Commons is by Basher Eyre, and depicts The Ark After the Flood in a stained glass window at the catholic church of St Thomas in Emsworth, Hampshire.

It seems particularly apt at the moment since most people in the UK are surrounded by flood water as I write. I wonder what has been happening to all the animals out there. Some of the waters have receded a bit today. We had a dry morning here, but when it was time to take Jade out after lunch the rain started again and we had a rather wet tramp around Hamworthy Park.

At least the tide and the waves were not too high for us to walk along the promenade in front of the beach huts, as it had been on my last two visits with Jade. Then we would have been soaked with spray if not washed over the sea wall in our normally calm area inside Poole Harbour. Now I can hear rain lashing against my office window once again so those unfortunate enough to be already flooded are going to see the waters rising again.

We've also been hearing about the extreme cold temperatures in parts of the US, so I do hope all my readers and virtual friends are safe.

Monday 6 January 2014

My Life by Jade: Showers

I’m not very happy right now. The weather has been so wet with storms and showers that some days I haven’t even felt like going out for our afternoon walks. Yesterday I refused to get down from my cosy spot on the sofa and my family just went to the shops without me. A bit later on, when the rain had mostly stopped, I did have to go out but it was just round the block with mummy so I could do what I had to on the grass verges.

Today we did go to the park after lunch and it wasn’t raining but it was so windy mummy and I nearly got blown over, and we could see the sea spray coming up over the promenade so we didn’t go that way. The grass was all squelchy and muddy and just too tempting, so I hung back and my family didn’t see me lie down and roll until they turned around to look for me and see what I was up to.

 Well! You’d have thought I was a real criminal, the way they treated me after that. At home I was bundled into the shower to get wet all over again, and mummy scrubbed me and rinsed me and then did it all over again. Then I got scrubbed with towels and had hot air blown all over me, while mummy complained that she should really be getting on with her work.

Eventually she tucked me into my bed with yet another towel round me, but my ears are definitely still wet and uncomfortable. Why she couldn’t just brush the mud off when it dried, I’ll never know. I can’t believe they don’t like the way I smell.

Friday 3 January 2014

Sian’s Plan

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Sian’s Plan for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

I love reading recipes in books and magazines as well as in food blogs and websites. The ones I fancy get copied, clipped out or printed. A few of them are used but they all end up in a pile sitting and waiting to be organised and filed. I intended to put it on my list of New Year resolutions for 2014. Not sure about that now, though, as I’ve found a website with a somewhat different perspective that I’d like to share with you – Sian’s Plan.  I’ve tried out some of the recipes and found them really simple and good to eat.

We had chicken fajitas on Monday.  The recipe used fresh chicken, but I followed it with leftover cooked chicken, and it was pretty good.
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On Tuesday we had the Sian version of pasta bolognese, and I followed her tip to add some spinach at the end of the cooking time and stir until it was wilted. We also like to add some Italian cheese to our pasta dishes.
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Then on Wednesday I made potato wedges and home-made fish fingers. I cooked them both in the oven, adding the fish at the right time so they would both be ready together. This recipe used semolina instead of breadcrumbs in the coating, which was easier and something new for me which worked really well.

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The website was set up by Sian Breslin, who is a mother of three – now grown up – as well as a home economist and founder of Sian’s Cookery School. She also writes some interesting blog posts at Huffington Post.

How her site is different is that it helps you to quickly plan up to a week’s menus, and then automatically generates a shopping list for it, so you can get all the ingredients together in one hit, either by shopping online or going to your usual store, list in hand, having deleted the items you already have in your store cupboard.

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The recipes provided are colour coded according to the time they take to prepare and cook and whether they use leftovers.
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Most recipes are for four portions, but those that take longer to prepare are for 8 and are freezable, so that half can be used another day. You can always adapt them to your own needs when you come to do the cooking. As there is now only hubby with me on most days, I can use just half the amounts stated. I wish I’d had Sian’s Plan available when my children were small and I was working full time while trying to run the house and give them healthy food every day. For busy parents with this kind of lifestyle, Sian’s Plan could be a lifeline.

Sian believes that, if you buy online via the site, you could save yourself 7.5 hours of shopping and save time in the kitchen each week.  All the recipes are healthy  - low in fat, sugar and salt, with healthy cooking methods. You’ll also save money by eliminating or reducing the amount of food you throw away, so you are pretty well bound to recoup the small cost of subscribing to the plan. You can pay monthly, quarterly or annually. At the moment, and up to the end of January, there is a special offer of 25% off the quarterly plan.

What you get for your subscription is
·         your personal kitchen hub with a meal planner for up to 7 days onto which you drag and drop your selected recipes
·         access to over 200 recipes and around 40 for using up leftovers
·         ability to add your own recipes if you wish
·         an automatically generated shopping list that you can edit for printing or online shopping from the site
·         a weekly newsletter and online support and help.

To benefit from the current offer, you just have to enter the code JANPLAN on the payment page. Will you be taking advantage of it?

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