Tuesday 25 December 2012

An American/Australian Christmas

Other North Americans or I suppose anyone from the northern hemisphere will understand when I say Christmas in (Australia) the summer is very hard to get used to.  The days are too long to put up lights so things look a bit bare. Especially when I grew up in a town in mid west America and the houses were lit up like the houses in Chevy Chase's movie Christmas Vacation.

I have gotten over the fact we don't have many lights if any and I am even used to having Christmas in summer, as strange as it feels at times. But I never got used to not having American food for Christmas.

So this year we are having an American Christmas with food I have found at USA foods.com  in Melbourne.

Yesterday I made an enormous pumpkin pie. Americans don't eat pumpkins, the vegetables,  as Australians do. And no the pumpkins that Australians eat are not the jack-o-lantern pumpkins. They are an entirely different variety and quite like a big squash.  They taste differently but are very good. There is also butternut pumpkin. But I digress. Americans eat pumpkin pie using Libby's pie mix from a tin. I know, I know, I have heard it all before but I grew up on this stuff and I love it. Must be the cinnamon and nutmeg that is in it. Today a couple of our Aussie friends are having it. Wonder what they'll think of it.

My "American Pumpkin Pie" 

We'll also have a ham smothered in cloves and pineapple slices. American potato salad which has mayonnaise and mustard in it along with some paprika over the top for a bit of colour with the potatoes and eggs. There will also be sweet potato casserole and of course cranberry sauce, not the berries but the gelled sauce.  Before anyone goes 'ew' or 'ug'  just remember some of your own memories of things you ate as a child and see if you could talk to someone else in another country about it without having to answer their odd looks. That is the fun of multi-culturism.

Our neighbour across the street also gave us 500 grams (1 lb) of sour cherries from her tree. Not the type of cherries I happily pop into my mouth as they are too tart.  I dug out some of my old cook books. It seems most of the recipes for pies are anything other than cherries and not wanting to make another pie crust I looked for a cake recipe.

Using a tin can to cut out round biscuits (American
biscuits are more like flat scones- they are not cookies)
Check out the size of those pancakes on the right.
I have a lot of cookbooks but my favourite cookbooks have always been those from the deep south of the USA.  As much as I love Asian food of all sorts and Turkish food and African food and the Australian staple of meat and three veg, nothing is such a comfort as the cooking of the deep south of the U.S.A.  I am referring to the 'real' cooking of the deep south before things came out of freezers, ready made, processed or tinned.

The book I pulled out was Fannie Flagg's Original Whistle Stop Cafe Cookbook- featuring Fried Green Tomatoes, Southern Barbecue, Banana Split Pie and other wonderful things like Southern Fried Chicken, grits and okra.

An old ice cream parlour. I can only
imagine how good that home made
ice cream would have been.

This book came out after the movie,  "Fried Green Tomatoes" with the wonderful late Jessica Tandy and Kathy Bates.

The food featured in the film always looked so delicious with their big pots of mashed potatoes and bbq and everything else that would have been good in a southern diner.

Although I didn't find the cherry cake recipe I wanted in this book I did spend a bit of time enjoying the old black and white photos of the food, kitchens and people as well as reading the wonderful recipes.  It is one of those books if I were to ever do one of those cook book challenges where you blog about a recipe of the day this would be the book I chose. However I would no doubt double in size, at least and my cholesterol levels would look like a basketball score at the league finals.

Instead I decided to share this book with you instead of actually eating too much from it.
When looking up the dessert section I thoroughly enjoyed the excerpt about Christmas fruit cakes.  I have never been a big fan of Christmas fruit cakes but I have over the years become used to them a bit more.  I can now eat a bit of one and quite enjoy it, if it is moist and I have a nice cup of coffee or tea.  But this paragraph had me laughing out loud.

"There are no fruitcake recipes in this book. That's for a very sound nutritional reason. I hate fruitcake. I have been and continue to be tortured and tormented with fruitcakes every Christmas. Friends that I adore send me a fruitcake every year and I am running out of people to give them to. My mailman won't take them anymore. He says he'd rather have cash. So would I.  I am beginning to wonder if my friends are sending fruitcakes that someone sends them. Maybe there are only about ten fruitcakes in the world and they are just being sent all over the country like a fruitcake chain letter. Anyhow, I can see no purpose whatsoever for the stuff except for target practice or home insulation."

I hope everyone enjoys a bit of 'home made' comfort food today.  What is your own comfort food?

Wednesday 19 December 2012

Dear Travellin'Penguin: A letter to my friends.

Dear Travellin' Penguin and any readers out there,

First to Travellin Penguin.
Travellin'  Penguin
You were an idea I had of a little Penguin character I could bring to life and give adventures to through books, travel, music, theatre and life in general. You were to be based on the Penguin Logo but would change a bit over time as we all do.  At first I wasn't sure how you looked or what your character would develop into.

I continued to think about you as I read your old Penguin books you are related to. I knew your personality and character would develop in my mind.  The first guy I put up there with Karl and Anna just wasn't quite you. So I gave you a makeover based on your Penguin books ancestors.

I knew you liked adventures and action more than anything else.  I  knew you would bush walk, play music and travel to distant places both now, in the past and maybe into the future.

I knew the only way you could have these great experiences was to immerse you into the books I read, the books I talk about and the books I look forward to.

Next to the Readers out there:
As I review my first year of blogging and head into 2013 I think I will keep you here.  I find as I am living my own life, riding my big scooter, looking for old Penguin books, travelling with my family and friends, sorting out my own thoughts you live in a creative part of my mind.

As you mainly come to life through the books I read I will try to give you as many new things to do through my own reading and life experiences as I can.  I like the idea of a small imaginary Penguin friend listening to the tales of the past, the present and the future. It appeals to the child in me.

As an example in the photos below, I think we can see how you have grown during the year among the vast experiences you have had so far.

If young people or those who don't read much read this blog :   I would hope they can see how their own lives can be transformed through the really great fun of reading.  If you aren't a good reader or a fast reader just keep reading. It's the only thing you need to do to get better. Turn off the mindless t.v. programs and get a book.  American sitcoms may have their place in the world but books have so much more to give you.

Use your own imagination to experience all of the adventures and knowledge that are found in books.  It is one thing in life that can be followed that will never have an end.  You will never read all of the books, hear all of the ideas, meet all of the characters that are in those pages but you sure will learn a lot. And you don't have to have a lot of money either.

You'll learn how to do things you didn't know how, you'll meet people you love, hate, or laugh with. You'll think about new ideas that never occurred before.  You may even become more tolerant of the world.  This is what our little Travellin' Penguin is about. You can also travel anywhere in the world during any year that ever was or is to be.

As for myself I hope I get a few more followers next year though when I really think about it I only  really do this for my own pleasure. But it is fun to share life's experiences with others and make new friends.

The blog is such great fun. It keeps me focused and structures more of my own goals for reading the books I have always wanted to read but with such a terrible habit of procrastination I didn't get around to.  But knowing I have to get Travellin' Penguin up there and make sure he continues to live I remain focused and accomplish my own goals so much easier. It is kind of like clapping to keep Tinkerbell alive.

All the best for the upcoming holidays to everyone who has followed our little fella below and I hope you enjoy his travels through 2013.   I have enjoyed all of your blogs very much and have been inspired by them. I have also developed an enormous list of books that are now in my most amazing TBR pile.

I am now going to have a break and will return in early January.  Travellin' Penguin and I have Christmas things to do with family and friends and will give our full attention to that now. We also have some books to read.

All the best to everyone and do drop in and say hello when you can. You are always welcome.  I have enjoyed meeting those visitors of 2012 and some have turned into friends. I look forward to making new 'book mates' in 2013.   Pam and Travellin'Penguin

See you in January. Below are some of the experiences our little Penguin had this past year.

Tuesday 18 December 2012

Lola Bensky by Lily Brett - A Review

I haven't read any of Lily Brett's previous books but my husband has and he has always enjoyed them. So when she was a guest author at our local bookshop one evening we took advantage of it and went to see her.  Lily Brett, an Australian born to parents who survived the holocaust, later immigrating to Australia is a speaker with a great sense of humour. Her humour also comes across in Lola's dialogue. Also Lily Brett has suffered herself being the daughter of death camp survivors and all other family members of her parents perished.   Lola Bensky is in the same position. Lola spends a good amount of time in New York City. Lily Brett has lived in New York City now for a couple of decades.

The book begins when Lola as a 19 year old in 1960's London has the enviable job of interviewing the important rock stars of the day. I think this part of the  book was my favourite. Lola is fat, a fact her mother never lets her forget, she is clumsy, she lacks direction, but she has an incisive mind and the questions she asks the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Mick Jagger, Mama Cass and Cher, to name a few, are a bit deeper than the normal celebrity type questions they seem used to. They remember her when they run into her during subsequent festivals and events.

Lola is like a breath of fresh air. Throughout the book though there lies a most unmistakeable thread of sadness and horror related to the experiences her parents have survived and the profound impact it has on Lola, loving her parents yet quite distanced from them as they can never truly recover from their own lives during WWII in Auschwitz.

I found Lily Brett's writing also concise, laced with humour and the characters well developed. The conversations between Lola and her parents are thought provoking and having lived through the 60's I enjoyed revisiting the music rock stars of the day.

Although the book is semi autobiographical, as Lily Brett also got her start in the job market as a journalist interviewing celebrities when she was young. She also is familiar with the anguish of having parents who suffered so much in the past. She is able to recount what life is like for the children of holocaust survivors.  It is something I haven't normally thought much about.  There is a great deal of insight into the entire experience without being morbid or maudlin.

Lola is a complex character and one I would love to be friends.  Although much of her life is spent as being quite insecure, I don't think she is anymore insecure than a lot of young adults are and as she ages into her 60's through the book she experiences many changes through maturation readers can relate to. I would definitely recommend this book.

Friday 14 December 2012

The Twelve Days of Penguins- Ho Ho Ho

The Twelve Days of Christmas Penguins

This Christmas post is dedicated to my dear friend/little sister Kate who loans me her children so I enjoy Christmas as they do.
Best bookshop in Hobart for new books.

On The First Day of Christmas
My True Love Gave to Me
A Pen—guin from a Book Store  (practise that, you'll get the rhythm)

On the Second Day of Christmas
My True Love Gave to Me
Two Special Penguins  
and a Pen—guin from a Book Store

On the Third Day of Christmas, my true love gave to me
Three Puffin Pet Books, 
Two  Special Penguins and a Pen—guin from a Book Store

On the Fourth Day of Christmas My True Love Gave to me
Four Illustrated Classics, 
Three Puffin Pet Books, Two Special Penguins and a Pen—guin from a Book Store

On the Fifth Day of Christmas My True Love Gave to Me
Five King Penguins........
Four Illustrated Classics, Three Puffin Pet Books, Two Special Penguins........
And a Pen—guin from a Booooooookkkk Store

There's always someone around
here to put their nose in my business.

On The Sixth Day of Christmas My True Love Gave to Me
Six Penguin Pencils
Five King Penguins......
Four Illustrated Classics, Three Puffin Pet Books, Two Special Penguins...
And a Penguin from a Book Store

Do I look like a bookshelf??

On the Seventh Day of Christmas My True Love Gave to me
Seven Cerise Penguins
Six Penguin Pencils, Five King Penguins.... Four Illustrated Classics, Three Puffin Pet Books, Two Special Penguins...and A Penguin from a Book Store

On the Eighth Day of Christmas My True Love Gave to Me
Eight Very old Pelicans, Seven Cerise Penguins,  Six Penguin Pencils,
Five King Penguins...
Four Illustrated Classics, Three Puffin Pet Books, Two Special Penguins
And a Pen-guin from a Book Store

On the Ninth Day of Christmas my True love Gave to me
Nine Penguin Poets, 
eight very old Pelicans, seven cerise Penguins, six Penguin Pencils, five King Penguins....
Four Illustrated Classics, Three Puffin Pet books, Two Special Penguins and a
Pen-guin from a Book Store

On the tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me
Ten Penguin Logos, Nine Penguin Poets, eight very old Pelicans, seven cerise Penguins, six Penguin Pencils, five King Penguins.
Four Illustrated Classics, Three Puffin Pet books, Two Special Penguins and a
Pen—guin from a Book Store.

On the eleventh day of Christmas My true Love gave to me
Eleven crime penguins, 
ten Penguin Logos, nine Penguin Poets, eight very old Pelicans, seven cerise Penguins, six Penguin pencils, five King Penguins.....
Four Illustrated Classics, Three Puffin Pet books, Two special Penguins and a
Pen—guin from a Book Store

On the Twelvth Day of Christmas my true love gave to me
Twelve big new bookshelves, eleven crime penguins, ten Penguin Logos, nine Penguin Poets, eight very old Pelicans, seven cerise Penguins, six Penguin Pencils, five King Penguins....
Four Illustrated Classics, Three Puffin Pet books, Two special Penguins and a Pen—guin from a Book Store....

I hope everyone has a very happy and safe Christmas season and if you aren't of a faith that celebrates Christmas I hope whatever faith you believe or none, that you too have an enjoyable happy season. May we all be generous and kind to one another in 2013.

Monday 10 December 2012

Monday Mania- A Bit of a Catch Up

The past week has been pretty much an assortment of puzzles, bike rides, Penguin collecting and reading.

The puzzle was a 1000 piece jigsaw of USA national parks my sister gave me awhile back. I finally pulled it out of the closet and put it together.  I find assembling jigsaws a good thing to do while listening to an audio book.

I am currently listening to the completely unabridged audio book of Moby Dick.  So far I am enjoying it but am only on chapter 10.  It has a lot of humour in it that surprised me. For some reason I didn't think of it as being very funny in parts but it is. But it is getting a bit more serious now as he has just launched out to sea. Lots left to yet happen.

I finished a 'fluffy" crime novel, Bones are Forever by Kathy Reichs.  I began reading her books years ago when she published her first novel, Deja Dead in 1997.    Her character Temperance Brennan is an American forensic anthropologist who spends a great deal of time between crime labs in North Carolina, USA and Montreal, Canada.  I particularly enjoy the time when she is in Montreal as it is such an interesting city.

I recently read a review from someone who stated if you want to learn about a locale's geography be sure to read crime books located in the area. This story takes place, for the most part in Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories of north-western Canada and I found the characters, especially their names fun and interesting.  This town is a bit out of her mainstream locations.  I think most crime books are written to a formula and although this one was a bit predictable I still enjoyed the people and the places.  However she generally has a bit more about her character's personal life regarding her grown daughter and her on again/off again love interest. Not much in this book about either of them this time and I found I missed that.  But a quick entertaining read and better than anything that was on t.v. that night. There actually is a television series based on her books but I never watch it. I can't tolerate American mainstream television.

The next book I read was a vintage Penguin from my collection called The Lost Stradivarius by J. Meade Falkner.  It was originally published in 1895 and Penguin Books published it as book number 487 in 1946, just after World War II.

The story is narrated by Sophia Maltravers who was the sister to her late brother, John Maltravers, who was father to her nephew, Sir Edward Maltravers, upon the death of his father. (Wow! say that fast three times!)  It was his wish that his son Edward knew about certain events which occurred in his last years upon Edward coming of age.

Her story begins of a young John who is an Oxford student of music who discovers every time he plays a particular piece of music, The Gagliarda (Italian) that a wicker chair in his student room creaks and moves a bit. His friend, Mr. Gaskell who accompanies him on the piano is also shown the creaking and movement of the chair when he arrives to play.  They play other music but the 'ghost'  only seems to be interested in this one piece of music.

Running parallel to this tale the young John is also quite taken by Constance Temple, a young woman he eventually marries.

However nothing is ever simple in an old Penguin book and we find John becoming more and more obsessed with the mysterious Gagliarda and the ghost. It isn't long before he actually sees the man who appears from making sounds to an appearance as he disappears through a wall one evening.

One day John is rearranging his student room and moves a book case finding an old door in the wall. Upon opening the door he finds a very old Stradivarius violin that we eventually learn was one of the very first ones ever made and it was made for an ancestor of Constance, a man known as Adrian Temple.

There is a large portrait of Adrian Temple with music written on a scroll in the background that John discovers is in fact the Gagliarda.

As our story continues John becomes more and more obsessed with the late Adrian Temple, so much in fact he travels to Italy, buys a villa and from there the story completely unwinds into total silliness.

He discards everything important in his life and leaves behind family members who love him but are completely unable to connect with this poor shell of a man who has become insane with his obsession of Adrian Temple.

I found this story quite entertaining and enjoyed reading it because although I thought I could predict what would happen I was never completely sure.  The characters were well described to the point I'd know them if I ran into them on the street. At times I had to flip back a few pages to see that what was being described as happening actually was the case. The section where he is living in Italy became a bit confused but was easily sorted upon revisiting a couple of pages. I enjoyed this book but then I am easily able to suspend all belief when reading most things and it was necessary to do this with this book.

Upon finding Adrian's final resting place in Italy that just happens to be in the villa John bought, he speaks to his visiting sister:
"He described it,"my brother continued, "as a long hall with an arcade of arches running down one side, of the fantastic Gothic of the Renaissance. At the end was a gallery or balcony for the musicians, which on its front carried a coat of arms." I remembered this perfectly (from the portrait of Adrian Temple back in England)  and told John so, adding that the shield bore a cherub's head fanning three lilies on a golden field.  

"It is strange," John went on, "that the description of a scene which our friend thought a mere effort of his own imagination has impressed itself so deeply on both our minds. But the picture which he drew was more than a fancy, for we are at this minute in the very hall of his dream. 

My final book of the week I finished up with was a very light silly romance from the Virgin River series by Robyn Carr. I read somewhere in a blog that somebody (sorry I forget) enjoyed this series so I checked it out from the library.  It takes place in the mountainous area of redwood trees in northern California. I immediately enjoyed the location very  much and the people are all likeable, the men are perfect, even the crooks have a moral code and all the women become friends who are supportive of everyone. It is a story of a practising nurse/midwife living in Los Angeles who finds herself suddenly widowed as her husband has inadvertently walked in on an armed robbery in a local convenience store and been shot to death. 
Taking her grief she flees to a remote area in the mountains to work with a cranky old doctor who doesn't want her there and falls in love with the local bartender. And so it goes.  It was fun to read it in the mornings when waking up too early and not wanting to get out of bed yet.  Everyone in it makes you feel good and therefore starting the day knowing the world is all right. I don't think though I could bear to read the entire series in what I think may be 5 books all located in this same area. 

Well that is my week of activity having finished up the weekend with a 300 kms motorbike ride to the central highlands of Tasmania in strong winds with the Ulysses Motorbike club I belong to. It was a beautiful day with good friends, who all support each other and everyone is a really nice person. Oh no, did I just describe Virgin River?? Anyway that is an account of some of the good things that happened during the week. So on we go to the next.

Saturday 8 December 2012

Am Updating Penguin Hunter II

Yes I am reading quite a bit and yes I have even read an old Vintage Penguin book that I have half a post written about. It just isn't ready to put up yet.

Today I am even visiting a local market after receiving an email from one of the stall holders there he has a few Penguins for me. So will see what he has later today.

The reason I can't concentrate to blog is because I have been shopping this week. Big time shopping? Well, no not a house. But a new Penguin Hunting Scooter.

I have had my eye on this scooter since it first arrived in Australia in July this year from Italy.  I can only describe it as one cool bike.  I can't concentrate reading this week or writing because all I can do is day dream about my rides up the east coast to look for Penguins on this bike.  I have a list of bookshops written out of all second hand places that may have old Penguins lurking on the shelves in the state. There are several in the northwest of the state.

But my focus is more on the riding and less on the reading. After all it is going to be hot today and summer is now here and I just want to be on the road, with the smell of gum trees, hay and farms on the wind, the absolutely stunning Tasmanian landscape and a new more powerful, than I have, but not by much scooter.  So bear with me while I get over this huge bunch of endorphins in my brain and await the arrival of my Christmas present this year.
Here is the link if there are any motorbike (scooter) riding readers out there.


Aprilia SR Max 300 Scooter- fully automatic