Thursday, March 29, 2012

March Book Club

We had the most wonderful book club this week! Firstly we had an amazing venue - we usually meet at our homes but for a change we had book club in the Donkin Coffee shop which adjoins the lighthouse. The Donkin Reserve in Port Elizabeth has recently been cleaned up as part of the NM inner city development and forms part of an art route. It was a perfect evening for sitting under the stars in the shadow of this majestic building drinking up the views and catching up on each others news.The Fact that we were dressed up as characters from Alice in Wonderland added something to the occasion.....and attracted some interesting looks from passers-by!

Shakespeare's Sisters can be counted on to arrive in style. This is our very own Cheshire Cat!
She was joined by The Queen on Hearts, two White Rabbits and a Mad Hatter!

The Alice in Wonderland theme was due to the fact that two of our books had rabbits in the title and the third had the name Alice! The table was set out with wacky teapots, lacy cloths, cake stands and the most delicious food that shouted "Eat Me"
Last months choices were discussed as we handed back our books. Left Neglected by Lisa Genova was given a 5 and we highly recommend it. It's the story of a high flying career woman who suffers brain damage as the result of a car accident and tells the story of how she, her husband and young family cope with the differences this has made in their lives. Well researched, well written and a thought provoking read!
Cocktail hour under the Tree of Forgetfulness was also enjoyed and scored highly. It is the latest book by Alexander Fuller and a memoir of her early childhood growing up in Rhodesia (as Zimbabwe was named then) and the exploits of a wacky mother. We just love her style of writing.

This months book buys are :- The Hare with Amber Eyes; When God was a Rabbit; Still Alice (Lisa Genova's first book), The Kashmir Shawl and Garlic and Sapphires. (A review of these will follow this post).
This last book is by a food critic who worked for The New York Times. If she had been with us on Tuesday, she would have had lots of good things to say about the 'eats'. They were simply divine!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Farewell our Elephant Whisperer

I was really saddened to hear the news that Lawrence Anthony,the author of the Elephant Whisperer had died suddenly at the beginning of this March. His son Dylan wrote how the elephants came to say their goodbyes to him.
"For 12 hours the huge beasts slowly made their way through the Zululand bush until they reached the house of the man they loved – to say good-bye."  That, according to the son of conservationist and adventurer Lawrence Anthony, who passed away while on a business trip to Johannesburg last Friday, was the profoundly moving sight at Thula Thula Private Reserve this week. Dubbed ‘the elephant whisperer’ for his unique ability to calm traumatised elephants and herds, Anthony became a legend when it came to light that he had rescued animals from the Baghdad Zoo during the Iraqi invasion. There are two elephant herds at Thula Thula. According to his son Dylan, both herds arrived at the house after Anthony’s death.  “They had not visited the house for a year-and-a-half and it must have taken them about 12 hours to make the journey,” said Dylan. The first herd arrived on Sunday and the second herd, a day later. ‘They all hung around for about two days before making their way back into the bush,” said Dylan. Yesterday family and close friends gathered at Thula Thula for a private memorial service, following a public service held at Moses Mabhida Stadium on Thursday. Anthony, in a collaboration with his brother-in-law, former Durban journalist Graham Spence, wrote the book “Babylon’s Ark”, which details his unorthodox rescue of animals from Baghdad Zoo. The pair also co-authored “The Elephant Whisperer”, which tells of Anthony’s techniques in communicating with elephants.

Having been at the frontline in the war against rhino poaching in Africa, when he died Anthony was in the process of launching a third book (also co-authored with Spence), “The Last Rhinos”, which tells of his exploits deep in the Congo jungle.
Having enjoyed the Elephant Whisperer and Babylon's Ark, I am really looking forward to reading The Last Rhinos.


Friday, March 16, 2012

What is it about bookshops and airports? No matter if you have a book in your bag and are halfway through reading it, the Exclusive Books bookshop at the airport is like a magnet and you are pulled towards that pile of irresistible pages! The shops are aways in a small space and incredibly difficult to navigate with your luggage and other traveller's suitcases are just waiting for you to trip over them - but none the less - no journey is complete without a browse in a bookshop.
Yesterday, I browsed but I was pleased with myself for packing my Kindle as a two hour delay meant that I finished one book and started another great read by one of my favourites Marlena De Blasi - this time the setting is Sicily, in a magnificent if somewhat ruined castle in the mountains where she stumbles upon Tosca, the patroness of the villa and her story. Only writing of this brilliance can make time travel without effort, and before I knew it we were boarding! Thanks to Marlena I was transported from OT airport to the mountains of Sicily and thanks to BA who gave me time to get stuck into my new book!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Curiouser and Curiouser

My bookclub choices for March include a book with Alice in the title and two other books with bunny connections so it seems pretty obvious to go with an Alice in Wonderland theme. I am looking forward to seeing what my whacky friends will come up with for attire and apart from serving the wine in teapots, the eats will be pretty curious too!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Wise Words - Book Quotes

Here are some of my favourite quotations about books.

Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers. ~Charles W. Eliot

I find television to be very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go in the other room and read a book. ~Groucho Marx

A book is like a garden carried in the pocket. ~Chinese Proverb

A dirty book is rarely dusty. ~Author Unknown

You know you've read a good book when you turn the last page and feel a little as if you have lost a friend. ~Paul Sweeney

Good friends, good books and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life. ~Mark Twain

Book lovers never go to bed alone. ~Author Unknown

Medicine for the soul. ~Inscription over the door of the Library at Thebes

To read without reflecting is like eating without digesting. ~Edmund Burke

A house without books is like a room without windows. ~Heinrich Mann

Never judge a book by its movie. ~J.W. Eagan

Books are a uniquely portable magic. ~Stephen King

Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body. ~Richard Steele, Tatler, 1710

Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested. ~Francis Bacon

No person who can read is ever successful at cleaning out an attic. ~Ann Landers

To read a book for the first time is to make an acquaintance with a new friend; to read it for a second time is to meet an old one. ~Chinese Saying

Never lend books, for no one ever returns them; the only books I have in my library are books that other folks have lent me. ~Anatole France

Americans like fat books and thin women. ~Russell Baker

Do you have a favourite?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Night Circus

I have just finished reading this book and enjoyed it immensely. Every page conjures up an image not dissimilar to a Harry Potter set, weaving the magic, illusion and wonderment of a Victorian Circus which appears at night and disappears by dawn and makes you question whether the circus itself is real or imaginary. The black and white tents of the Le Cirque Des Reves sets the stage for a challenge between two highly gifted sorcerers who are being used as puppets to settle an old score of ancient times. If you are imaginative, enjoy being whisked away into a fantasy world and enjoy romance - yes a love story is woven between the pages - then you will love this. It has all the makings of a movie to be enjoyed by Twilight and Harry Potterians and its not surprising that it has already been adapted for the big screen. For book fans  it is written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Book Club Pavlova

There are those amongst us who set themselves on a pedestal and let the world believe that they are incredibly special and skillful and talented - they protect their power by creating an highly decorative illusion.
Each January as the world welcomes the new year and we bravely decide what we are going to stop doing - smoking, eating, drinking and what we are going to start doing - eat salad, change jobs, study quantum physics! I set myself a number of challenges including a culinary one. I have in the past challenged myself to make fragrant Thai food, spicy Indian curries, complicated pastries and to be braver with vegetables.

A couple of years ago, the challenge was to make a Pavlova - a larger than life, flamboyant and decadent dessert that always makes an impressive entrance when served. I googled, researched and studied as I usually do when I set out to do something that requires skill and discovered that the Pavlova is an impostor. Its just a simple combination of sugar and egg white with a dash of cornflour and vinegar - its a sweet reminder that to be impressive you don't have to be complicated. Some things are not as they seem and when you scratch the surface they crumble and disintegrate till you are left with nothing ...but egg on your face!

Here's the pavlova recipe that I use to make an entrance at bookclub - it often recieves spontaneous round of applause but sadly there is never enough for an encore!

6 egg whites, 350g of Castor sugar, 2tsp of vinegar, 1/2 tsp of vanilla essence, 2tsp of cornfour.

Preheat the oven to 150C. Prepare a silicone baking mat or line a baking tray with silicone baking paper.

Separate the egg whites and beat them with an electric mixer until they form soft peaks. Gradually add the sugar - a little at a time - into the egg whites. Add the veinegar, vanilla and cornflour and whisk in. Spread in a circle onto the baking sheet building the sides up slightly higher and place in the centre of the oven. Reduce the heat to 140C and bake for 1 1/2 hours. Leave to cool in the oven.

Decorate with whipped cream, fruit and drizzle with melted chocolate! Enjoy the compliments!