Category Archives: books

Baking with Tracey

Yesterday I decided to bake red velvet cupcakes. I have a new recipe book – Bake, by Alison Thompson – and decided that I should test it out.

Here is what you’ll need for the cake.

Ingredients
250g (9oz) unsalted butter (softened)
600g (1lb 5oz) caster sugar
4 eggs
100g (3 1/2oz) cocoa (unsweetened)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
80ml (3 fl oz) liquid red food colouring
400ml (13 1/2 fl oz) buttermilk
600g (1lb 5 oz) plain (all purpose) flour
2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
1 tablespoon white vinegar

Preheat oven to 160C or 320F. Line 2 8 inch round cake pans with baking paper.

Using your paddle attachment on the mixer, beat the butter and sugar on high speed for 5 minutes, until pale and creamy. Add eggs one at a time, beating between additions.

RedVelvet01

In a small bowl, combine the cocoa, vanilla and red food colouring (I ran out of red so had to substitute 30ml of rose pink, it still turned out fine), then add this to the butter mixture.

RedVelvet03

Mix on low speed to combine well. Add half the buttermilk and half the flour (sifted), mix on low speed, and the rest of the buttermilk and flour, mix on low speed until all combined. Add the bicarb soda and vinegar, beat on medium speed for 2 minutes (make sure you scrape down the sides of the bowl).

RedVelvet02

RedVelvet04

Divide the mixture evenly between the two cake tins, and bake for approximately 45 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Mine took about 65 minutes to be properly cooked. Cool in tin for 30 minutes, then turn onto wire rack to cool completely.

To make cupcakes, spoon mixture evenly into 24 cupcake papers in a muffin tray. Bake for about 20 minutes.

RedVelvet05

For the Cream Cheese Frosting, you will need 2 quantities of this:

Ingredients
125g (4 1/2oz) unsalted butter, softened
250g (9oz) cream cheese, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
600g (1lb 5oz) pure icing sugar

RedVelvet06

Put butter, cream cheese and vanilla extract in a bowl, sift icing sugar in, beat with paddle attachment on low speed until combined, then on high speed for two minutes.

You can either split the whole cakes into layers and fill each layer with cream cheese frosting, then cover the whole cake with it, or ice the cupcakes individually.

RedVelvet07

My cake is only two layers because I used half the mixture to make the cupcakes.

RedVelvet08

 

Reading

I do a lot of reading. I love reading. I love it so much I became a qualified librarian so I could be around books all the time. When I applied to University, I had to do an interview with the head of the department and he asked me why I wanted to become a librarian. I said it was because I loved reading, and he told me that wasn’t enough. I think the fact that I then said, “and I’m obsessively organised and if something doesn’t have a number, I’ll give it one” clinched the deal for me.

Anyway I have been reading a few blog posts (okay, it was really just one, but it was a big one!) about reading. I’m not a snob, I’ll do my reading electronically to satisfy my cravings. You know I have a Kindle. You might know I have an iPad, and I have the iBook app loaded on it. What you might not know is that I read at least 50 25 okay it’s really 60 blogs a day as well.  Some are famous the world over (although not loved the world over), some are universally loved,  and others seem to attract only one reader (often me).  A recent post on MamaMia (I don’t read it often but when I do I often spend an hour or so going through the archives) sparked a conversation about which books people are currently reading.

Believe it or not, I am not currently reading anything.  Well, unless you include The Jungle Books by Rudyard Kipling but since I read that years ago I don’t think it counts.  But what is on the list (or in the pile, if we are talking about physical books, as opposed to electronic versions)?

  • Dog Boy by Eva Hornung (hard copy).  I bought this AGES ago and haven’t picked it up yet.  I hope it’s a good one.
  • The Vancouver Stories, by various (hard copy).  That Various is a busy person, writing so many things!  Just kidding.  The manager of the hotel we stayed at in Vancouver gave it to me as a gift.  That was in October 2008.  Oops.
  • Two Caravans by Marina Lewycka (hard copy).  I read her first novel, A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, and was very entertained.  I hope this one is as good.
  • Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift (kindle).  I have seen the movies but never read the book.
  • Caught Stealing and Already Dead, both by Charlie Huston (kindle).  No idea what they’re like, Amazon recommended them based on my other purchases and I was in a frenzy of book buying.  I hope they’re good.
  • Bad Debts by Peter Temple (kindle).  According to my mother, an Australian author who writes great crime novels.  She better be right about that!
  • The Book of Joe by Jonathon Tropper (hard copy).  I read How To Talk To a Widower while we were in New Zealand last year and loved it.  Fingers crossed for this one.

And those are just the ones I can remember.  In fact, I had to log in to my Amazon account to find out what I’d purchased that I hadn’t already read.  There are many more in the Kindle but I’ve already read them.

The best book I’ve read this year so far?  I Am Ozzy by Ozzy Osbourne.  Or The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson.  It’s hard to pick my favourite because they were so different.  But the Ozzy Osbourne book was surprisingly entertaining.

I have not picked up a book to read since we got home from Russia.  I might have to remedy that this weekend.

Monday Movie Review

It’s been a busy weekend in Tracey land and I am very tired.  Just as well Monday morning isn’t too busy this week.

On Saturday I went with some friends to have lunch at the new house of one of the girls.  In the country.  One hour’s drive from me.  It was nice but why in god’s name anyone would want to live that far from civilisation is beyond me.  And the children of one of the friends were there.  They are exhausting and I did not have as good a time as I would have if they weren’t there.  I don’t have children for a good reason: I don’t like them.

Anyhow, we left home at 11am and got back at 6pm and I was exhausted.

Sunday morning the boy and I went for a trip to Borders to buy some books.  Here is my pile:

Books

You may be wondering why I haven’t read Bridget Jones’s Diary before.  Well, I have.  I loaned the book to someone and never got it back.  It’s one of my favourite books, WAY better than the movie (someone, please just stop Renee Zellweger from ever “acting” again and I will be happy) and I am going to enjoy re-reading it over my christmas break.

I have read another of Marina Lewycka’s books, A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, and thoroughly enjoyed it, so I’m looking forward to that one.  Janet Evanovich writes greatly entertaining and silly books about a female bounty hunter in New Jersey; perfect christmas break reading.  I think the Eva Hornung book came out some time ago but I just noticed it and I’ll let you know what I think.

So after the excitement of getting all those books (plus a cookbook as a christmas present for one of my friends) the boy couldn’t find the book he wanted (something about visual design of information, buggered if I know what he’s on about) so we had a coffee and went home.

Then I headed out again to meet a friend for dinner and a movie.  We saw New Moon.  And we went to the gold class cinema which is definitely the way to go.  I have long legs and it’s nice to have a seat where you have enough leg room.  And they bring you food if you ask.  My friend did order a glass of wine and a coffee before the movie, to be brought in at specified intervals, but they never showed up so she complained and got her money back.

The movie?  Was okay.  Maybe I’m getting a bit old but the teen angsty Edward really annoys me, and he needs to turn his head sometimes or else he’s going to get a crick in his neck.  Bella is a self absorbed whiney angsty girl.  I can’t wait til they grow up and get over themselves.  I think that happened in book four.  So I’ll look forward to the movie version of that one.  Still, this movie was way better than 2012, and if you liked the book a lot you probably would enjoy the movie.

After all this we met another friend for dinner at Borsch, Vodka and Tears, a “modern Polish” restaurant.  My whole family is Polish so I’m well aware of what Polish food is; stodgy and tasty!  Anyway after a vodka cocktail which contained any number of tasty ingredients that I can’t remember now, we had delicious food and it was very very good.  I’ll have to tell my parents about this place; I’m sure they’d like it too.

And now it’s Monday morning and really, can I just go back to bed please?

Books, books and more books

Because I am having a quiet week I have been trawling through the archives of some of the blogs I read regularly.  I came across this meme (from ages ago) on Jan’s blog and thought I would give it a whirl here.

1. Do you remember learning how to read?  How old were you?

I don’t particularly remember learning to read, I just know I launched into it with great enthusiasm.  I was probably four at the time.  I remember having the mumps when I was quite young and my mother brought home a copy of The Teddy Bear’s Picnic for me and I loved it and read it over and over.  The Famous Five were my absolute favourite books, and I loved Noddy and Big Ears at an early age.  I often wish I had kept my copies of all those classics, but I gave them to my much younger cousin when she was the right age and I don’t think she kept them after reading them.

2. What do you find most challenging to read?

Biographies, unless the person is exceptionally interesting, and historical books,  because I just find them tedious.  I read to be entertained.  I’m not much into science fiction either.

3. What are your library habits?

I am a librarian by training.  I have excellent library habits.  When I was younger and couldn’t afford to buy books I would borrow a dozen at a time from the library.  I haven’t set foot in a library in years now.  I love to buy books and read them again and again if I enjoy them.

4. Have your library habits changed since you were younger?

Yes very much so.  I never borrow anything any more.  My excuse is I spent years working in libraries, so I don’t feel like visiting one now.  It’s a good story and I’m sticking to it.

5. How has blogging changed your reading life?

Yes indeed!  I read a lot of blogs now!  The thing that hasn’t changed is the number of books I still read.  I love to read for entertainment and I am always looking out for great books to read.  I’ll always listen to others recommendations too.  Deb recommended The Time Traveller’s Wife to me and whilst it is not a book I would have picked up myself, I bought and and read it and enjoyed it a lot.  Except the ending 🙂  Someone recommended Snow Falling on Cedars to me many years ago, so I borrowed it from that person and hated every page.  I stopped reading at about page 100 because it was doing my head in.

6. What percentage of your books do you get from new book shops, secondhand book shops, the library, online exchange sites, online retailers, other?

All my books come from new bookshops.  I only rarely buy from online retailers if there’s something I can’t find in a bookshop in Australia.

7. How often do you read a book and review it on your blog? What are your reasons for blogging about a book?

I don’t often review the books I read on my blog because I am not good at giving a short synopsis of a story before giving my opinion.  So a review from me would only include my opinion of the book, and give you NO clue about the actual story.  Having said that, I have talked about The Time Traveller’s Wife in recent times, but if you go and look at that review, I think you’ll agree it was fairly useless to anyone hoping to find out what the book was about 🙂  Because I don’t usually read “serious” books, I guess I think people wouldn’t be interested in my opinion of the latest Clive Cussler novel anyway.  And I’m okay with that.

8. What are your pet peeves about the way people treat books?

People who fold down page corners.  Use a bookmark, for crying out loud!

9. Do you ever read for pleasure at work?

Sadly, no.  I work in the environmental field and there is no pleasurable reading to be had.  It’s mostly doom and gloom.

10. When you give people books as gifts, how do you decide what to give them?

I’d probably ask what they like to read, any favourite authors, styles, something they’ve heard about and might be interested in.  I wouldn’t like it if someone picked a random book for me without knowing my tastes, so I wouldn’t do that to someone else.

Stuff

Thanks everyone for coming over to my new home to say hello. I really wanted to separate my blog life from Huffle’s, and I wanted to be able to do a bit more with the look and feel of this blog, which is still a work in progress. Like a decent header – I still have to make one of those. Soon 🙂

Barb wanted to know if the Boy, my partner and my husband are all the same person. Yes they are! His parents always call him boy, and my father always refers to him as the boy, and he didn’t want me to put his name on the interwebs, so sometimes I call him any one of those things. He is one person though 🙂

I’ve spent this morning updating software on my iPhone and iPod Touch, and putting new songs on all four iPods. No, I don’t have any idea why I need four iPods either.

Penny and Valerie, Milky Ways are called Three Musketeers over your way. I can send you some of ours if you like 🙂

I had a really crappy day at work on Friday. Nothing that will bother me next week when I go back, but I plan to eat chocolate and read my books this weekend as respite. Speaking of books, I’ve now read As You Do by Richard Hammond, and started on Thanks For The Mammaries, which is an anthology and a fundraiser for Breast Cancer research. So I’m doing my bit for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

How annoying is Ben Stiller? Seriously.

Book Review

As mentioned on the weekend, I bought a stack of books to read (and one cookbook). The book I chose to read first was The Time Traveler’s Wife (is it just me or do they spell Traveller wrong in America? Anyway…).

So I started reading it Sunday night, read a bit more Monday night, then Tuesday night, then I finished it this evening.

Mind you, last night I was accused of not reading fast enough. Didn’t know I was on a schedule. I was told that I wasn’t reading as fast as usual, and that he watches how fast I am reading. I didn’t know reading was a spectator sport!

Back to the book. I liked it, the concept was unusual which is always a nice change, but I have to say I did not like the ending. I know I know, it shouldn’t always be sweetness and light but dammit! I read to be entertained and I want to be happy when I’m done. Actually, the ending kind of ruined the book for me.

I will say I could totally picture Eric Bana as Henry, and I think he will be very good in the movie, but I won’t be going to see it.

So should you read it? Yes… probably.

Book thingy

1. One book that changed your life: You know, I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that changed my life. I read to be entertained and I read a LOT of books. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee meant a lot to me though.

2. One book that you’ve read more than once: All the Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis. And The Hobbit by JRR Tolkein.

3. One book you’d want on a desert island: 1,000 Places to see before you die (I’m an optimist!).

4. One book that made you laugh: Catch 22 by Joseph Heller. I had to physically put it down in order to stop laughing.

5. One book that made you cry: Marley and Me by John Grogan. Balled my eyes out when I finished it.

6. One book that you wish had been written: The User Guide to a certain ex-boyfriend of mine.

7. One book you wish had never been written: Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson. A book that so many people said I should read, and I couldn’t finish it. I hated every word I read.

8. One book you’re currently reading: White Teeth by Zadie Smith.

9. One book you’ve been meaning to read: I started reading Nelson Mandela’s autobiography (Long Walk to Freedom) years ago and found it really hard going. I should finish it one day.

Books

I was reading another blog recently and came across this list of books. I don’t know where it’s from or what it represents but I liked the idea… and realised I had read a lot more on the list than I first thought.

Look at the list of books below.
*Bold the ones you’ve read
*Italicize the ones you want to read
*leave blank the ones that you aren’t interested in.

1.The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown)
2.Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
3.To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
4. Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell)

5. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Tolkien)

6. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien)

7. The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (Tolkien)

8. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)
9. Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
10.A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)
11.Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Rowling)
12.Angels and Demons (Dan Brown)
13.Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Rowling)

14. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)

16.Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Rowling)

17. Fall on Your Knees(Ann-Marie MacDonald)
18. The Stand (Stephen King)
19. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban(Rowling)

20. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
21. The Hobbit (Tolkien)

22. The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
23. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
24. The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)
25. Life of Pi (Yann Martel)

26. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
27. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
28. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis)
29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
30. Tuesdays with Morrie(Mitch Albom)
31. Dune (Frank Herbert)
32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)
33. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)
34. 1984 (Orwell)
35. The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)
36. The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
37. The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)
38. I Know This Much is True(Wally Lamb)
39. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)
40. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)
41. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel)
42. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
43. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella)
44. The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom)
45. Bible (not in it’s entirety)
46. Anna Karenina (Tolstoy)

47. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
48. Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt)
49. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
50. She’s Come Undone (Wally Lamb)
51. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
52. A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens)
53. Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card)
54. Great Expectations (Dickens)
55. The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)
56. The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)
57. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling)
58. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough)

59. The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)
60. The Time Traveller’s Wife (Audrew Niffenegger)
61. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
62. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)
63. War and Peace (Tolstoy)
64. Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice)

65. Fifth Business (Robertson Davis)
66. One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
67. The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants (Ann Brashares)
68. Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)
69. Les Miserables (Hugo)
70. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
71. Bridget Jones’ Diary (Fielding)
72. Love in the Time of Cholera (Marquez)
73. Shogun (James Clavell)
74. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
75. The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
76. The Summer Tree (Guy Gavriel Kay)
77. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
78. The World According To Garp (John Irving)
79. The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)
80. Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White)
81. Not Wanted On The Voyage (Timothy Findley)
82. Of Mice And Men (Steinbeck)
83. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)
84. Wizard’s First Rule (Terry Goodkind)
85. Emma (Jane Austen)
86. Watership Down(Richard Adams)
87. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
88. The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields)
89. Blindness (Jose Saramago)
90. Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer)
91. In The Skin Of A Lion (Ondaatje)
92. Lord of the Flies (Golding)
93. The Good Earth(Pearl S. Buck)
94. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
95. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)
96. The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)

97. White Oleander (Janet Fitch)
98. A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)
99. The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)
100.Ulysses (James Joyce)

So I have managed to read 40% of this list. That’s not a bad effort. I guess I should consider reading some that I haven’t considered yet. I haven’t bothered to italicise the ones I want to read because I’ll never get that organised.