Taylor Swift/The Civil Wars

This hauntingly beautiful song is very different to anything she has sung before. It features the twice-Grammy nominated duo, The Civil Wars, who wrote the song with Swift for the upcoming movie, The Hunger Games. I don’t know anything about The Hunger Games but I like this song!

Go have a listen!

Safe & Sound by Taylor Swift ft. The Civil Wars (video linked from YouTube – no copyright infringement intended)

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Happy Holidays!

I hope everyone is having a wonderful Christmas Day. Or, if you don’t celebrate Christmas, Happy Holidays!

Christmas snow globe

Public domain image sourced from Christmas Decorations by Jiří Hodaň

I know that my blog posts have been few and far between during the past couple months but I am planning many more for 2012!

What books have you most enjoyed in 2011?

We are nearing the end of 2011 and so it’s time for all the usual ‘best (fill in the blank) of 2011’ lists. The best movies, best books, the coolest gadgets, the most outrageous celebrity news etc. You get the idea!

So I thought I would join the party and share the books which I have enjoyed reading most in 2011.

Taking the #1 place is The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai. I found this wonderful début novel by chance and it is a fantastic read. It’s set in a small town in Missouri and is about a children’s librarian, Lucy. When one of her frequent library visitors, 10-year-old Ian, runs away from his home (and his overbearing parents) and hides in the library, “Lucy allows herself to be hijacked by Ian. The odd pair embarks on a crazy road trip from Missouri to Vermont, with ferrets, an inconvenient boyfriend, and upsetting family history thrown in their path” (quote from back cover blurb). It’s one of those books where you have to allow your imagination to step in and take over as the author uses a fair amount of artistic license but it is an endearingly quirky story. I highly recommend it.

#2: The Help by Kathryn Stockett. I thought that this was a 2011 release and I was surprised to learn that it was actually published in 2009. There is a lot of hype surrounding the book at the moment but I guess that’s partly fueled by the recent movie adaptation. I am currently half-way through my first read of The Help and it is so well-written. If you haven’t read it yet, you should!

#3: The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe. This novel is set in New York City during the 1950s, following the stories of four young women who work at a publishing company. Although it was written in the 1950s, it still feels very relevant today and is an excellent read.

If you’ve read anything great this year, please let me know about it by leaving a comment on this post. Suggestions for my (ever-growing!) list of books to read are always appreciated.

Happy December!

It is slightly freaky how the year has gone so quickly and that it is December 1st already! Time to light the Advent candle at the dinner table tonight.

Advent candle


When I think of December, for some reason the lines from Emily Brontë’s poem, Remembrance, come to mind. I love these two lines in particular:

“Cold in the earth–and fifteen wild Decembers

From those brown hills, have melted into spring”

There is such a raw beauty about Emily Brontë”s poems and I sometimes think that her poetry is overlooked as when her name is mentioned, most people instantly think of her most famous work, Wuthering Heights.

Happy December!

Advent wreath public domain image sourced from http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=70&picture=advent-wreath by Petr Kratochvil

What I’m listening to this weekend

I went to see Twilight: Breaking Dawn part 1 yesterday. Yes, yes I know. I can’t believe I’m actually admitting it here. But the soundtracks to all the Twilight movies are actually very good. They showcase a whole bunch of great indie bands which, without Twilight, I would probably not have discovered.

From Breaking Dawn: part 1

 

What I would rather be doing now

All my plans for today went out the window this morning when I had to sort out my car insurance which meant that for most of the day, I was on the phone or the internet. In one word: stressful!

 What I would rather be doing now is enjoying the glorious October weather and watching the sun rise like this:

October dawn

And breathe in the air of misty October mornings:

Morning

And then watch the gorgeous colors as the sun goes down:

Sunset

It’s started getting darker and the nights are really lengthening now as we head towards winter.

Baking: apple crisp

This recipe is great for this time of year because it’s apple season! 

I used apples from my own orchard for this recipe. They were windfalls, blown down by some strong winds which we had a couple of weeks back, and so it was necessary to cut out the bruised and damaged parts. Therefore I can’t give an exact measurement for the amount of apples you will need to use as the measurement I give in the ingredient list below is based on peeled and chopped apples. 

Apples from the orchard

 

It is my own recipe and the ingredient quantities are approximate. So if you find that the topping is too dry, add more margarine or if your apple mixture isn’t sweet enough, add more sugar. Some people say that baking is a fine art and it is true that in some recipes it is vitally important to use exactly the right quantities but in a rustic, traditional recipe like this it doesn’t matter so much if the ingredient quantities are more approximate than accurate. Just use common sense and you will be rewarded with a deliciously sweet treat!

INGREDIENTS

For the apple sauce:

7 cups/700 g chopped tart apple pieces

2 cups/100 g brown unrefined sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

For the topping:

1.5 cups/170 g all-purpose flour (I used a mixture of brown and white flour)

Two-thirds cup/85 g brown sugar

1/2 cup/50 g rolled oats

1/2 cup margarine

 

Method:

1. Peel the apples and chop them into approx. 2 inch pieces.

2. Cook the apples in a saucepan on a medium heat until they are like an applesauce with a few soft chunks of apple in the mixture.  This should take about 20 – 25 minutes. Mix the sugar and cinnamon into the apples when they are nearly cooked. The apples shouldn’t stick to the pan when cooking as long as you check them and stir them often, and lower the temperature if necessary. If they do stick, add a very small amount of water and stir.

3. Now that you have the apple sauce prepared, pre-heat the oven to 350F/180C. I use a convection oven and have to adjust oven temperatures but if you use a regular oven, pre-heat it to 390F/200C.

4. While the oven is heating up, prepare the topping for the apple crisp. Stir the flour, oats, cinnamon and sugar in a bowl, mixing well. Then add the margarine. Using your fingertips, mix the margarine into the flour mixture until crumbly.

5. Pour the apples into a large baking dish and evenly sprinkle with the topping mixture.

6. Bake in the oven for approx. 25 minutes or until the topping is golden brown and crunchy.

7.  Serve warm or cold, whichever you prefer. I like it warm served with crème fraîche or ice cream. But it is very tasty served cold for breakfast too! 

Enjoy!

A yummy serving of apple crisp!

As always, if you have any questions or comments about this recipe or anything on the blog, let me know.

Twilight: Breaking Dawn trailer 2

Another trailer arrived for the upcoming movie, Breaking Dawn: Part 1. If you don’t want to know what happens in Breaking Dawn, the trailer shows quite a lot of the story, so look away now if you don’t want spoilers. So far, it looks pretty faithful to the book which is good because I think it’s a mistake when film-makers choose to stray from the original plot line.  More drama, more hype, more melodramatic tension… but I am looking forward to it!

 

 

Video sourced from YouTube. This clip is the property of Summit Entertainment. I do not own the copyright or any rights to this trailer whatsoever.

Music: “Holocene” by Bon Iver

For this weekend’s tune, I decided to share a beautiful song and a beautiful music video with you.

This music video was filmed in Iceland and the peacefulness of the scenery really blends with the song. Bon Iver (derived from bon hiver, which is French for “have a good winter”, according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bon_Iver) is an indie folk band and although not all of their tracks are my kind of music, I heard this song playing on the radio and love it.

(video embedded from the official Bon Iver YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/boniver)