Book Review: Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Last year was the first time I read a book by Rainbow Rowell and this is now the third and I have another on my to read book pile. When I like a book I make a mental note of that author to check out their other books. So far I have not been disappointed, I've read Eleanor and Park and Attachments, I enjoyed them both and after reading the last page I finish the book feeling like I learnt a little lesson in life and love. The same happened with Landline. 

Georgie is married to Neal and have two little girls. They met at college, she is a TV writer and Neal looks after their children full time. Just a few days before they leave to visit Neal's family for Christmas Georgie tells him that she can't go. An opportunity arrives with her show and is left with a close deadline. So Neal leaves with the girls for Christmas while Georgie is left wondering if she ruined everything. At her Mother's home is a yellow landline phone in her childhood bedroom where she calls Neal that evening. It connects her with Neal from the past. It's not exactly time travel but Georgie takes this chance to mend her marriage, at least that is what she thinks she is supposed to do.

We learn more and more about their relationship and their life together, the good and the bad. The time physically apart lets Georgie evaluate the person she is and in some way is given a wake up call in the importance of her family and loved ones. Sometimes I think we all find ourselves at a point where we remember to appreciate what we have and who we have in our lives. The daily mundane events can consume us more often than we like but at the heart of it there are other great things that need to be looked after. Whether it is our partners, families or health. We should cherish them. That is what I took from this book. No matter what happens, take a step back and hold onto the most important things to you.
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January Music

It can be a very long month, January, the glitter and sparkle of the lights are gone. The days are still short and the night is long. It feels extra cold when it's windy and raining. A dusting of snow came down on Saturday morning, it made my tired eyes open up bright and wide. For me that is the perk of January. I'm hoping we get more soon this month, just like a child I want to run out of the house and start making foot prints and touching as much snow as I possibly can.

So far this year I have been focusing on (some) of my 2015 goals. I think we are approaching the point where some of us are starting the let them slip a little. I'm trying my best not to, the way I'm looking at it is, if it truly matters to me then I have to be more mindful of it. One step at a time and in time you will be running circles around that goal. For me, it's a good way to keep occupied instead of sitting still and feeling down. Do something good and positive for a little while, you will never regret it and it's not going to make you feel bad or negative.

I've been listening to a mixture of songs lately, some old, some new. It's always good to go back into your music library and re-discover some old favourites that you can sing as loud as you can. I think music is going to be good this year. 2014 had some incredible albums come out like I Never Learn by Lykke Li, Ghost Stories by Coldplay, Ultraviolence by Lana Del Rey X by Ed Sheeran and 1989 by Taylor Swift. I can't wait for Short Movie by Laura Marling and the many others to come.

January Music by Natasha Chan on Grooveshark


Pear & Almond Tart

Every year for Christmas I like to make a dessert, I really don't like Christmas pudding, cake or mince pies. For a few years I used to make a trifle, last year I made a ginger cake and this year my Mum suggested I make a pear and almond tart. I have never made a tart before and I have to say I was quite happy with the way it turned out. As you can see it looks home made but I like the 'rustic' look. I googled a few recipes and this one seemed fairly easy and it did taste pretty good.

For the pears.. 1 vanilla pod (split), 1 cinnamon stick or half a teaspoon of ground cinnamon, 250g caster sugar, 4 pears peeled, halved and cored. 
Pour 300ml of water into a large pan and add the vanilla pod, cinnamon stick and sugar. Bring to the boil, then add the pears and simmer them for 20 minutes. Leave to cool then chop into slices.

For the pastry.. 130g plain flour and extra for dusting, 80g unsalted butter, cut into cubes and left to soften. 30g sugar, 1 egg yolk.
Sift the flour and a pinch of salt, place them on the work surface and make a well in the centre. Add the butter and sugar and gently work together with your fingertips. Add the egg yolk and gradually fold in the flour, adding a few drops of water as you go. When all the flour has been added, shape the dough into a ball but do not overwork it. Wrap the pastry in cling film and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before using. 

For the almond cream.. 125g softened unsalted butter, 125g caster sugar, 125g ground almonds, 3 medium eggs, 2 tablespoons of rum.
Mix the butter and sugar until pale, then add the ground almonds. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, and finally the rum.

Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan. Roll out the pastry on a floured surface to a thickness of about 3mm and use it to line a greased 28cm flan tin. Prick the pastry base with a fork, line it with greaseproof paper and fill with baking beans (or rice/pasta), then bake blind for 20 minutes. Remove the paper and beans and put the pastry back into the oven for another 5 minutes or until the base has cooked but not taken on too much colour. Spoon the almond cream into the tart base, then arrange the sliced, drained pears on top. Bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes. 

I served the tart warm with some almond flakes and vanilla ice cream. Depending on your tastes you can add custard, jam or anything you fancy.


Book Review: Us by David Nicholls

Books about people's lives and relationships are one of my favourites. Finding stories that you feel you can somewhat relate to can sometimes make them more real. This is one of those that you can imagine has actually happened. It's realistic in so many ways and ordinary but touches on so much throughout a man's adult life.

Douglas is a man in his 50's, academic, passionate about science and married to Connie an artist. Their son Albie is leaving home to go to university when Connie tells Douglas that she will be leaving too. Before the departure of two of his loved ones, Douglas is set out to make their last family holiday count, in the hope that it will bring them closer together and make Connie reconsider her decision as well as gaining respect from his son. They set out on their Grand Tour interraling across Europe, following the itinerary Douglas planned with days full of seeing the sights. However, not everything goes to plan.

During their travels we find out more about Douglas and his life with Connie. Piecing together the puzzle of their relationship. From when they first met, to the day they married, to the birth of their children and everything in between. Much like many typical relationships they have their fair share of laughter and heartache. You begin to understand why each person in the family of 3 feel and think the way they do. And another little reminder that not everything lasts forever and sometimes change is the best thing for everyone. Even if it does not feel like it initially. Douglas comes across some interesting characters that help him along the way to accepting what will be.

Us is an all-round good book, you want to know what happens but you can also go a few days or weeks without reading and you can be brought back into the story. From the outside it does seem like a bit of a chick-lit novel but it's written in a more simple matter-of-fact way that can be read by anyone and still be enjoyable.