Monday, December 24, 2012

The Broke and the Bookish Secret Santa Haul

Just a really quick post to showoff thank my wonderful Secret Santa, Shelleyrae from Book'd Out. Not only did taking part in this secret santa mean I got post (the best!!) BUT I now have my very own copy of David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas and Ursula Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness. Shelleyrae was also generous enough to include the cutest little Christmas card, a bookmark AND two packs of the most irresistibly scented tea! I've been absolutely spoiled, and I hope you've all been equally spoiled with your secret santa or Christmas presents!
I think Sweet Dee was attracted by the tea scent!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas Baking: Reindeer Cookies

Recipe time again! This week is a nice and simple recipe that's a bunch of fun. They're Rudolf the Reindeer!! These would be perfect to make if you happen to have kids or are babysitting for young ones, they're easier than anything I've baked recently, taste amazing, and look cute as a button! I wouldn't go so far as to say these are healthy, but with the coconut, wheat germ and wholemeal flour they could be much worse, so they have that going for them as well!

Reindeer Cookies:*


90g (3 ounces) butter (room temp)
1 egg (room temp)
1/2 cup (110g) brown sugar
1/3 cup (25g) desiccated coconut
1/3 cup (35g) wheat germ
2/3 cup (100g) wholemeal plain (all purpose) flour
1/3 cup (50g) self raising flour
1/2 tsp mixed spice
chocolate chips
choc orange balls


1. Beat butter, egg and sugar until combined.
2. Stir in coconut, wheat germ, and sifted flours and spice.
3. Enclose dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
4. Roll dough between baking paper until 5mm thick. place on a tray and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
5. Preheat over to 180 deg C/350 deg F
6. Use a round cutter to cut the dough.
7. Place rounds on the tray about 5cm apart and decorate with pretzels for antlers and choc chips for eyes and mouth.
8. Bake for approx 10-15 minutes.
9. Once removed press a choc orange ball down firmly as the nose.

Top Tips: 

*This could really be done with any biscuit recipe, so if this recipe doesn't jump out at you then make whatever recipe you prefer!
*The cookbook suggested sticking these on popsicle sticks, which would be inserted prior to cooking,  but I didn't really see the point. It would be good for kids though.
*You wouldn't have to keep this to reindeer alone, add some white icing as a beard, and raspberry jam as a hat and you could have santa, or decorate them like Christmas baubles, or cut them into christmas tree or star shapes instead.

*This recipe comes from the Women's Weekly Christmas Baking cookbook.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Book Review: Ad Nomad by Eric Jay Sonnenschein

Ad Nomad

Written by: Eric Jay Sonnenschein

Published: 2012

Synopsis: In Ad Nomad, the Case Histories of Dane Bacchus, we enter the world of pharmaceutical advertising, where corrupt and ingenious creative minds market powerful medicines and sophisticated devices with more flair and guile than is used in promoting corn flakes, cars, and mouthwash. In these pages, you will find driven account people, maniacal creative directors, art directors and copywriters pushed to the brink of mental mayhem. Ad Nomad is a coming of age novel about a second-career seeker that describes the quest for self-actualization and the struggle for survival with muckraking naturalism and surreal humor.

In Australia there s a series of shows named Gruen (insert various second title here), which looks at advertising through the eyes of advertisers. It's fascinating to watch a panel of copywriters de-construct election campaigns, publicity spin, and the latest coke ad - and disagree so often! And while I wouldn't be in a rush to join the profession (unless in was Mad Men era minus the misogyny and racism) it's become something of a budding interest of mine. So imagine my delight when Eric Jay Sonnenschein asked if I'd read and review his book Ad Nomad - which is all about advertising and provides a not-so-pretty glimpse into the realities of that world.

Ad Nomad is a BIG book, like, 600 pages big, and while I think this is probably enough to put a few of you off I'm going to talk you down off that cliff and explain why the size isn't really an issue, and why you should perhaps in actual fact give this book a go. This book is split up rather neatly into 7 sections, all of which read almost like individual little books. There is most definitely a larger story that binds them all together, the story of Dane Bacchus entering a late-in-life career change into advertising and trying to keep from leaping off tall buildings as a result, but each section deals with a period in Dane's life post-career change. Section one is his hunt to re-educate and find the elusive advertising job, part 2 is his first job, part 3 is his second job and so on. So even though you have 600 pages of Dane Bacchus to explore, there isn't really that overbearing feeling of "oh my god, this book is monstrous and is going to devour my soul before I devour it". Which is good. But in the end, what is 600 pages if the book is well written and interesting? Exactly.

Dane Bacchus is an interesting character and I think I kind of hate him! Although I commend him for being proactive and deciding on a career change at 44, his ego is so large (and yet his self-esteem is so low) that it seems like the only way he would have been happy from the get-go is if he'd been offered a job as CEO, and even then I'm not so sure he'd really be satisfied. Dane spent his first career teaching at a university and struggling to make it as an author. Needless to say he never had success with either, or at least, not the sort of success that brings in enough money to support your wife and daughter. Once he decides on advertising (known to make people money, but also be creative) he struggles between his low self-esteem (can he keep his family fed?) and his ego (MY idea is the right idea, even if this is only my second day) and becomes almost unbearable. He questions everyone's expertise, argues over content, and locks horns over people's personality traits or quirks. At times Dane is completely in the right and I would be cheering him on when he finally stood up to the big-shot copywriters or the pretentious art director, but more often than not the disagreements came from his own insecurities or issues of ego. Now, I may have hated him a little as a person, but I loved him as a character. His fallibilities are, as always, interesting to read, especially when the novel is as much a character study as this one is.

As for the actual plot of the book, it may leave you feeling rather depressed. There is no glamour, no quick fixes and while Dane does a pretty decent job working his way up the advertising ladder it's filled with hard work, long hours and the animosity of clients and co-workers alike. It gels very well with the impression I've always been given that advertising is a finnicky career, and the reality that Sonnenschein imbues in this book is at times both hilarious and upsetting. Along with Dane's persistent search for the ad that will make him famous, this book touches on the minutia of office life - leaking air-conditioning, pervasive cigarette smoke, strokes in toilets, and the variety of characters which can be found in any work environment- the co-workers who gossip and spread rumours behind your back, the boss who hates you for no discernible reason, the lay-about, the old-timer, and the person with the inappropriate crush. You can change the career and go up a pay-grade or two, but at the end of the day a job is a job, and those tedious details will follow you everywhere. Which is not to say that no job can give you fulfilment, but if you expect your career to change your life you will likely find that reality hits hard.

Sonnenschein is a strong writer, and Ad Nomad is extremely well-written. At times the names of characters border on the ridiculous (Buzz Dingblatz for instance) and Dane's ego actually becomes unbearable (an issue with porn for instance) but the humour, insight into the industry and interesting questions raised around creativity and creativity in a business setting are strong enough to let those smaller issues slide. So don't let the size hold you back, take it one section at a time and be sure to report back on how you felt about Dane and his quest for ultimate creative control.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Monday Links

1. Sleepy Sweet Dee                                                                       2. Shoulder Sweet Dee
*Look!!! I got a kitten! She's called Sweet Dee and she's amazing and cute and I kinda want to just eat her up completly.

*The best typos and errors made by media outlets this year (Via The Atlantic Wire)

*Ever wondered what advice you'd be given if you were dating in the 1930s? Here's my personal favourite "remember that women are like flowers, a little squeezing makes them the more fragrant" - be sure to read the rest, they're brilliant in their awfulness (Via Huffington Post)

*Buzzfeed compiled a list of writer-ly and reader-ly people's top 2012 books. I added at least three new books to my Goodreads TBR! (Via Buzzfeed)

*So Lena Dunham's book proposal leaked, and Gawker posted it for all to see. Then Dunham set her lawyer on them, so they got catty and it's fabulous. [You may not enjoy this if you think Lena Dunham is everything she thinks she is] (Via Gawker)

*Here's a novel idea... bad reviews = good for authors? Or at the very least, grassroots criticism is happening people, so deal with it. (Via Huffington Post)

*Because I love Christmas, here are 49 recipes that taste like Christmas....they're basically all peppemint-centric but yummmm (Via Buzzfeed)

3. Tom, Sweet Dee and Me                                                     4. Halting my attempts at work 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Christmas Baking: Santa Hat and Christmas Tree Brownies

 Santa Hat and Christmas Tree Brownies:

I think these my be my favourite ever cake decorating attempts! Look at how cute they are! And sooooo easy! I challenge you to find anyone who would not smile or go "ohhhhh" upon being presented with one of these! While I will be providing you with recipes for triple choc brownies and two types of icing, they are by no means the only option available. Perhaps little carrot cakes with cream cheese frosting for the Christmas trees, and red velvet for the Santa hats? And you can always go a step further and make a little fondant star for the Christmas tree, or little royal icing baubles. Knock yourself out basically!

First, some decorating tips. For both of these you'll need an icing bag, but don't fear if you don't have one! All you need is a zip-lock sandwich bag. Fill the sandwich bag about 3/4 full with the icing, close the zip and then snip one of the corners. And you're done!! Now, I went one step further, I had a bunch of icing bag tips for the different icing shapes, and I used some sticky tape to tape them onto the bags. This is especially important, I think, for the Christmas tree, because you want those nice looking tufts of branches (I used the small star shape). Although you can use a bamboo kebab stick if you don't have any icing tips.

The Santa Hats are pretty self explanatory, but I'll do a run down for you anyway.

1. Cover the cooled brownies in the white chocolate cream. It's rich, so be careful how thick you apply it.
2. Cut the leafy tip off a strawberry and place it in the middle of the iced brownie.
3. Use your sandwich bag full of icing to top the strawberry with a ball of icing, and add another ring around the base to make it look more like a hat.
4. Voila!!

The Christmas trees look a little tricky, but they need no expertise and barely any patience. Maybe not kid-proof, but damn close!
1. Ice the cooled brownies with a layer of green buttercream.
2. Place a strawberry upright in the middle of the brownie.
3. Grabbing your icing bag, go around the base of the strawberry in small bursts of icing. Continue all the way around, and then go up and start another ring.
4. Once you've done the top, go around and fill any patches you might have left.
5. Using the yellow buttercream, squeeze a small burst at the tip of the tree.
6. Decorate the tree with whatever you like. I used small edible silver balls to look like baubles and twinkly lights, but you could use tic-tacs, small candies, 100s and 1000s, or roll your own baubles out of royal icing.
7. Doneski!

That's it! That's all there is to it, they're a tiny bit fiddly, but I find it easier if you make yourself a cake decorating stand (I just piled tupperware containers on top of each other with a plate on top) so it's you don't have to bend down too awkwardly.

Triple Chocolate Brownies: 
125g butter, melted
200g dark eating chocolate, melted (can be substituted for 1.5 tbsp cocoa powder)
1/2 cup (110g) caster sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/4 cup (185g)plain flour
150g white chocolate, chopped
100g milk eating chocolate, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 180 Deg C (160 Deg C fan forced)
2. Combine ingredients in a large bowl.
3. Spread brownie mixture into greased pan/muffin tray/and bake for between 25 - 35 minutes

*Because I knew I wanted to make these individual decorated brownies, I grabbed a muffin tray and lined each hole with a cupcake liner. However if you have a deep cookie cutter, or are handy with a knife, you could cook them in a regular brownie pan. The muffin tray option will cook quicker though, so keep an eye on that.
*If you don't like one of these chocolates, or prefer milk to white, don't worry about swapping around the quantities. Make them the way you like them, I can guarantee they'll taste delicious either way.

125g butter, softened
1tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup (240g) icing sugar
2 tbsp milk
Yellow and Green food colouring

1. Beat butter and extract until as white as possible.
2. Add half the sifted icing sugar and the milk gradually while beating continuously.
3. Add remaining sugar and beat until combined.
4. Remove a small amount, 2-4 tbsp depending on how many cakes you intend to make.
5. Add 2-3 drops of yellow colouring and mix until combined. Put it in the fridge until you need it.
6. Add green food colouring to the remaining buttercream and mix it in. For the green of my tree I used about 1.5 caps.

*Mine came out a pretty bright green, which I love, but I think it could look amazing in a really dark green. Simply use more food colouring.
*Powdered food colour creates much more vibrant colours than the liquid style at the supermaket, but they do tend to cost more.
*If you don't want it too sweet, halve the vanilla extract.

White Chocolate Cream:
120ml thickened cream
150g white chocolate, chopped finely
1 vanilla bean, split

1. Put chocolate in a small bowl, and place a strainer over the top.
2. Place cream in a small saucepan with the split vanilla bean over a low heat.
3. Bring just to the boil.
4. Pour boiling into the strainer and over the chocolate.
5. Mix constantly until the chocolate has completely melted.
6. Put the bowl into the fridge and leave to cool, preferably over night but for at least 4 hours.
7. When it's time to decorate whip the mixture like you would regular cream.

*The smaller the chocolate is diced, the quicker it will melt and the less you'll strain your arm!
*If you haven't cooked with vanilla beans before, when you cut a split in the bean use the edge of the knife to run down the bean and collect all the tasty deliciousness inside. Add that to the cream along with the bean.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

End of Year Book Survey

I gave up my monthly wrap-up posts around June because I didn't feel like I was achieving enough to document it, but now I'm kinda glad because it means I can take part in Jamie's End of Year Book Survey.

So here's a bunch of questions about the books I read this year, the bookish and bloggy things I did, and a couple of things I want to do for next year. Enjoy!

Best in Books 2012

1. Best Book You Read In 2012? (You can break it down by genre if you want)

 Dracula by Bram Stoker,
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel.

A definite tie. They're completely different books, but both were phenomenal reads and ones that I had put off reading for ages. If you've been umming and ahhhing about either, stop it, just read them!

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn't?

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

While I really liked the series overall, I was really disappointed with the first book in the series. I think it was mostly because of how similar it was to Battle Royale, but it was probably also because of how hyped it was by everyone. Everyone should still read it, but yeah, little disappointed.

3. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2012?

Gerald's Game by Stephen King

This was one of the King books I picked up at a book sale, but had never really heard anything about. I ended up freaking loving it (except the ending) and was so relieved to see King write a nuanced and realistic female character for once.

4. Book you recommended to people most in 2012?

The Game of Thrones Series by George R. R. Martin


5. Best series you discovered in 2012?

 Locke and Key by Joe Hill (words) Gabriel Rodriguez (art)

This series, you guys, is so god damn good. It is so well-structured, well-written and well-crafted. I am exploding with excitement for the final installment. So good. Seriously.

6. Favorite new authors you discovered in 2012?

Joe Hill (Locke and Key), Cormac McCarthy (The Road), Yuvi Zalkow (A Brilliant Novel in the Works) and Hilary Mantel (Wolf Hall).

7. Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you?

Zoo City - Lauren Beukes

The dystopian nature of this book is definitely in my comfort zone, but the YA focus and general style of book definitely isn't one I usually choose for myself. It definitely had its problems, but I really enjoyed it for the most part.

8. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2012?

The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

While I had problems with the series and wasn't enthralled with the first book I read them all in a single weekend while I back home in Cairns. If that doesn't equal thrilling and unputdownable then I don't what would!

9. Book You Read In 2012 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year:

Locke and Key by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2012?

11. Most memorable character in 2012?

Carrie (in Carrie by Stephen King)

She's such an interesting and tortured character. I love her.

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2012?

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

This book is hauntingly beautiful. It's very dark and extremely grim, but the language is transcendent.

13. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2012?

A Brilliant Novel in the Works by Yuvi Zaklow
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

ABNitW in regards to emotionally chewing me up and spitting me out and Wolf Hall for reigniting a passion of mine for history.

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2012 to finally read?

Carrie by Stephen King
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
Dracula by Bram Stoker

But seriously, most of them?! Too many books, too little time!

15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2012?

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2012?

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel -longest at 651 pages
The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett -shortest at 120 pages  (excluding comics)

17. Book That Had A Scene In It That Had You Reeling And Dying To Talk To Somebody About It? (a WTF moment, an epic revelation, a steamy kiss, etc. etc.) Be careful of spoilers!

The Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins

I'm pretty sure there were some MAJOR scenes in all three books that made me go WTF, OMG, ALL MY CREYS, and SERIOUSLY?!

18. Favorite Relationship From A Book You Read In 2012 (be it romantic, friendship, etc).

Locke and Key by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez

The family dynamic between the Lockes, and the friends that they make are warm, real and complex. Love them.

19. Favorite Book You Read in 2012 From An Author You Read Previously

The Running Man by Stephen King

This book probably ties it with Carrie as my favourite Stephen King book of the year. Really solid story, epic adventure and so much darkness and anger.

20. Best Book You Read That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else:

American Vampire by Scott Snyder, Rafael Albuquerque and Stephen King (issue one only)

Tom came home with the first trade and was like "Kayleigh, you need to read this. It's Scott Snyder, Stephen King and has awesome non-Twilight-y vampires" He could have just said Stephen King, but whatever I read it and I loved the whole thing.

Book Blogging/Reading Life in 2012 

1. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2012?

There are a couple. I love that Gabe is finally back and blogging, but I've been a fan of hers for ages. I also really enjoy the blogs of Annabel Smith and Reading Rambo, and a bunch more but it's hard to remember when I started following everyone!

2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2012?

It's probably a tie between my review of The Road by Cormac McCarthy and Ugly to Start With by John Michael Cummings. They were two of my favourite reads this year, and I loved trying to get under the skin of the text and really bring the story to life in my review.

3. Best discussion you had on your blog?

The Hunger Games posts probably elicited the most discussion on the blog, and it was always interesting to see how differently people came at the series. But one of my favourites was probably a little one-sided. It was my "7 Ways to Keep Reading While You're Writing a PhD Thesis" and it was very carthartic to work through it all and sort out my work/reading balance.

4. Most thought-provoking review or discussion you read on somebody else’s blog?

Hmmmm, maybe when I spruiked Hunter S. Thompson to absolutely everyone on Laura's (Devouring Texts) blog? Or some of the more social issue related discussion over at Gabe's two blogs (Gabriel Reads and The Mind of Gabe).

5. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?

The Brisbane Writer's Festival is always a highlight, and this year was no different. I got to meet a bunch of authors, bookish volunteers, and see some fascinating talks and presentations.

6. Best moment of book blogging in 2012?

Working out how to balance it with my post-grad studies. It seems like such a small thing, but for awhile there I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to read enough to continue my blog, so it's amazing to be able to do both.

7. Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?

Probably my Hunger Games posts for the three books and the film. I loved writing them, and I loved the mini-discussions in the comments sections.

8. Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?

Can I say all of them? I really want to get to a point where there is more content in the comments than in the reviews. I want to start conversations and debates and really tease apart the book in question - that's something I'll work on for next year.

I was also quote proud of my "Trying to make sense of the book blogger 'verse" post, since it helped me really work through a few issues I was having with the book blog world. So a few more page views would have been nice :)

9. Best bookish discovery (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?

All the bookish etsy stores, I have so many pretty prints, cards, jewellery and paraphernalia in my favourites - I might explode if I don't buy something soon! Seriously, just search for your favourite book/author/film on etsy and you will find the most amazing arts and crafts celebrating them!

10. Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?

Only my Goodreads Books in 2012 challenge. I actually beat my set amount several times and kept raising it. My other two challenges were pretty sad attempts!

Looking Ahead

1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2012 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2013?

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

I will get to this one day!!

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2013?

Gun Machine by Warren Ellis

Warren Ellis is a literary god.

3. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging In 2013?

Gain a bigger readership and have larger discussions on my posts. I want a sense of community!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Film Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Released: 2012

Directed by: Stephen Chbosky

Starring: Logan Lerman,
Emma Watson
Ezra Miller

Synopsis: see book review.


To me, the film version of The Perks of Being a Wallflower was everything the book failed to be. It took the same coming of age story and stream-lined it, aged the protagonist Charlie, and set it all to the perfect soundtrack . By the final half an hour I was so invested in the characters that I was constantly wiping my eyes and trying hard not to sob out loud. I wasn't the only one either, the two girls behind me were openly bawling their eyes out, and a girl in front of me summed up the film during the credits by saying, "Jesus that was sad, good though!"

Fans of the book, don't stress. The film follows the same basic plot as the book. Charlie (played fantastically by Logan Lerman) is still a quiet, awkward boy embarking on his first year of high school. The first friends he makes (outside of his awesome English teacher played by Paul Rudd) are still Patrick (Ezra Miller) and Sam (Emma Watson), and the ending is just as emotional, if not more so, than it was in the book.

What changes is that Charlie no longer seems so much younger than the others. Yes, he's clearly more awkward, naive and innocent than his new friends, but it felt natural for the friendship to grow beyond the older sibling protective dynamic. More importantly, it made it much less weird and awkward that the love interests that blossom, blossom.

 With Sam and Patrick, as well as the rest of the gang, Charlie gets to experience all of the wonders that awaits the odd and eccentric kids at school. We get to see them perform as Rocky Horror plays on the movie screen behind them, we watch Charlie get his first taste of weed, we become infinite with the three of them as they drive through the tunnel. Everything you loved in the book is made visceral and real in the film - it breathes life into a story that, for me, was always slightly lacking that special something.

We also get to see the slow disintegration of Charlie, something which is far darker and more intense in the film than it was in the book. Because the film isn't the same epistolary style (although there is narration in the form of letters from time to time) we see Charlie outside of how Charlie sees himself. We see him struggle to make friends, and then struggle to keep them. We get to experience the absolute lows, and we see the flash of a brief memory that's slowly working its way to the front of Charlie's mind. It becomes far more visceral, and the stakes seem so much greater than they ever did in the book. There's one particular scene towards the end that is so intense that if the movie up until that point had been rubbish it would have been completely redeemed. It's all due to Logan Lerman's phenomenal performance, not only in that scene, but throughout the movie to that point. I'm really looking forward to seeing where that kid goes next.

Because the director of the film is also the book's author, there is very little excluded from the book or added to the film that doesn't make complete sense. Chbosky has had enough time to percolate over that gem of a book and tease out the bits that didn't work, or refine the areas that did. It also means that the vision of the film is so clear. He understands the book and Charlie because he created them, so he knows the exact right song or costume or house- because he was instilling the book with all of these elements long, long ago. And the film does have that perfect little time-capsule feel - a snapshot of a year that Charlie will never forget, or the perfect seasonal mix-tape with The Smith's Sleep on it at least twice.

So regardless of whether you've read the book or not, or even if you liked the book or not, make sure you see this film at the cinema and be sure to take A LOT of tissues with you, because otherwise you'll walk out with tears and snot messing your face up big time.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Monday Links

*I've really been digging the Hawkeye Inititive that's been going on this last week or so. Basically artists have redrawn comic covers exchanging the female for the male character Hawkeye. It's an eye-opener, and here are some of the best. (Via Uproxx)

*I love my books, and I love my shelves - even if they are messy as hell. If you're looking for a present for a bookshelf lover like myself, maybe check out these custom book shelf pictures (Via Ideal Bookshelf)

*More baking goods from me, German gingerbread this time! (via Me)

*Ever Imagined what it'd be like if the artist Norman Rockwell painted the masked inhabitants of Gotham City? No? Well too bad, because I have a link for it anyway! (Via Buzzfeed)

*Has everyone discovered the magic that is Jon Hamm? God I hope so. Anyway, you can now buy a Jon Hamm colouring book. Of course. (Via Incredible Things)

Friday, December 7, 2012

Christmas Baking: Pfeffernussen

Second in my Christmas baking series is again from my Women's Weekly cookbook, and again, yummmmmmmmm. Pfeffernussen are a German biscuit that are a variation of gingerbread. I'm constantly on the lookout for the perfect gingerbread recipe and this is my latest attempt. I'm not sure if this will stay my go to recipe, but it's definitely up there as one of the tastiest spiced biscuits I've ever made/eaten and also one of the most straight-forward and simple to make. I think these would make a perfect gift, packed into a jar with a bit of ribbon around the top, or in a larger collection of different types of gingerbread packaged into a rustic box. Mine didn't come out quite as hard as they're supposed to, but I'm not sure if that was a fault in the recipe or the fact that I'm baking in summer weather with really high humidity levels, so if you test this out let me know how you go!



125g (4 ounces) butter
3/4 cup (165g) brown sugar
1/3 cup (125g) molasses
1 egg
2 1/3 cup (350g) plain (all purpose) flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon finely grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground clove
1/4 tsp finely ground black pepper
1/4 tsp bicarb soda (baking soda)
1/2 cup (55g) icing (confectioner's) sugar


1. Preheat oven to 160 deg C/325 deg F
2. Chop butter and melt in a saucepan over low heat. Add sugar and molasses and stir until combined.
3. transfer to a large bowl and let it cool for 10-15 minutes.
4. Stir in egg, then sifted flour, spices and bicarb soda.
5. Roll into balls and place on baking trays about 3cm apart. Bake for 15 minutes until biscuits are firm to touch.
6. stand biscuits for 10 minutes to cool, and then toss biscuits in icing sugar until completely coated.

Top Tips:

*Molasses can be substituted with treacle.
*These biscuits are supposed to be quite hard for the first day or two after baking, perfect for dipping into coffee or tea.
*I like my gingerbread or spice biscuits to be quite spice-y, and this recipe is a little on the mild side. So if you want to up the spices a bit, I think that'd be a brilliant idea.
*Make sure the mixture is quite cool when you go to roll it into balls and bake, because it'll be very sticky otherwise.

*This recipe comes from the Women's Weekly Christmas Baking Cookbook.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

2013 Book Challenges

It's that time of year again folks!!

I did pretty poorly this year with my challenges, really, really badly actually. So this time I'm going to go in a different direction. Rather than take on a bunch of challenges and then feel terrible  when I fail to succeed with any of them, I'm going to take on only two challenges and then take part in more read-a-longs,  and read-a-thons. I think that'll work better for me since I'll know at the time of read-a-long sign-up if I have the time and energy, so my chance of success is wayyyyyy up. It'll also give me a chance to get to know with a few more of the bloggers out there!

So on to the challenges that I am taking part in. ...

2013 Reading Challenge

Hosted by: Goodreads 

Timeframe: 1st of Jan - 31st of Dec 2013

Goal: 75 books

Why This One: I've done this one each year I've been blogging. I'm reading anyway, so why not tally them up for a challenge? This is the only one I always manage to succeed with (and more often blitz completely), so it's a good one for my ego!

Eclectic Reader Challenge

Hoted by: Book'd Out

Timeframe: 1st of Jan - 31st of Dec 2013

Goal: 12 books from 12 different genres

Why This One: This one has a specific goal (1 new genre each month) but it still has enough freedom that I can pick and choose titles that appeal to me. I'm hoping this will be enough variety to keep me on track all year. Plus, it'll be fun to move outside my comfort zone.

Crafty Christmas Ideas and Links

I have always enjoyed crafting my own Christmas decorations or gifts, so here are a list of awesome Christmas craft ideas that are amazing, creative, fun, and potentially great gifts. Have fun!

1. Wall Pocket Advent Calendar. It's probably a little to late to try and get this made for this Christmas, but I absolutely love how this project looks and it reminds me of the (much smaller scale) calendar my mum made for our family, which used to house milky ways, skittles and bouncy balls on each day leading up to Christmas. I'm definitely going to make this one next year though, I think it could be a lovely new tradition to start up.  (Via The Crafty Crow)

2. Rolled Paper Ornaments. These look a little trickier, but the effect is sensational. If you have the patience and the skill, these could be a real winner. (Via Paper Plate and Plane)

3. Book Page Flower Ornament. I know some of you wince every time I mention a craft idea that involves cutting up books, but seriously these look wonderful. Although they aren't particularly christmas-y, not all decorations have to be your typical angel, bell or santa! (Via  Under the Table and Dreaming)

4. 49 DIY card ideas. There are some really great ideas here (the photobooth ones are my favourite) that if I hadn't already sent out my cards I'd be doing right now. Whether you like to stamp, sew, craft, cook there is an idea for you! (Via Buzzfeed)

5. Hot Cocoa tree ornament. Possibly one of the cutest gift ideas I've ever seen. I've always loved the gifts of cocoa or cookie recipes layered in a jar ready for use, but this one really hits another level! Placing the cocoa in a transparent tree ornament with a little snowman? To die for! Just a pity the humidity would never allow me to try this one out :( (Via Lucy at Craftberry Bush)

6. Origami Garland. This particular tutorial could be replicated as is, or you could do your own thing and take the stars and make them into single decorations to hang from the tree or window, or into long sweeping garlands draped across doorways or mantels. The possibilities are endless! (Via Cee Lew)

7. Recycled CD Holiday Ornament. For those of you who like to recycle and reuse old items, this one would be perfect! Again, it's more a guide to show you the possibilities, but whether you replicate their idea specifically, or do your own thing I'm sure it'd look a treat. (Via Fave Crafts)

8. 33 Creative Ornament ideas.  Some of these are dead easy, some look like they need high levels of patience and skill, but either way they'd make gorgeous additions to any tree or home. (Via Buzzfeed)

9.  Christmas Carol Ornament. This pretty silver ornament uses sheet music to create a personalised decoration, but you could just as easily use a book, or even a comic for something a little brighter and wilder. This one is quite similar to the tutorial I'm going to put up soon, so I think I'll try this one out since it'll match so well with my other homemade decorations! (Via Fave Crafts)

10. Mosaic Decoration. I have my own bauble DIY coming up, but I had to share this one too because they look amazing. In fact, these could easily be made on a larger scale and used as decorations throughout the year if you really wanted. Match them to your Christmas colour scheme, or make them in your family/friend's favourite colour as a personalised gift.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

The Perks of Being a Wallflower 
Written by: Stephen Chbosky

Published: 1999

Synopsis: Charlie is a freshman. And while he's not the biggest geek in the school, he is by no means popular. Shy, introspective, intelligent beyond his years yet socially awkward, he is a wallflower, caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it. Charlie is attempting to navigate his way through uncharted territory: the world of first dates and mixed tapes, family dramas and new friends; the world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite. But Charlie can't stay on the sideline forever. Standing on the fringes of life offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor.


I only decided to read this book because of how much I loved the film (I know, shock, horror, sacrilige!). I had always heard praise for it, and I even recommended it to my mum when she was looking for a book to buy my sister (who loved it as well) but I never felt a desire to read it, or to even know much about it. I knew it was a coming of age story, that it was about a "wallflower" and that it was a little darker than your typical teenage story, but still, it never pulled me in. And now that I've seen the film (which I loved) and read the book...well, I could have gone without reading the book. That isn't to say the book is bad, just that I found the film to be far, far better. I'll get into more of that in my review of the film, so forget about that for the moment and I'll discuss the book beloved seemingly by everyone.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a fairly typical coming of age story told in the epistolary style. Each "chapter" is a letter from Charlie, the protagonist, to an unnamed friend. Because the recipient doesn't know Charlie or any of the people involved (though perhaps could, if the right details were provided) the letters are unabashedly personal and read more like a journal, but unlike a journal these "can't be found". Which is pretty clever if you ask me. Especially considering Charlie discusses love, and friends, and drinking, and taking drugs, and masturbation, and depression and homosexuality and a bunch of other things 15 year olds don't typically wish to discuss with their parents.

Throughout the book Charlie writes essays for his English teacher about the books he's given, and at time it feels like the letters are another form of essay. He's always present, but also always slightly removed from it all, as though he's discussing his life as if it were a book he'd read, or a film he'd watched. It's an interesting element of the book, but also links into my biggest problem, Charlie himself. Charlie experienced some pretty intense emotional trauma early in life, and it's something that continually haunts him and threatens to tear his life apart. Because of this trauma, Charlie isn't a normal boy. He's quiet, reserved, emotional (OMG SO MANY TEARS) and it seems that the events of his youth stunted his mental and emotional self. This is where my problem is, because of the emotional turbulence (I guess?) he doesn't seem like a 15 year old. The writing style and comprehension of this supposedly 15 year seems much closer, in my opinion, to that of a 10 year old. Furthermore, he seems to have absolutely no self-awareness, no filter system and a very surgical way of looking at life. He reminded me a lot of Christopher in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, not so obviously autistic, but also not a normal* (though traumatised) 15 year old. It just didn't gel for me, especially when a good part of the book involves his English teacher giving him A's and encouraging him to do his own reading and essay writing at home and complimenting him on his natural writing talent. That just didn't come across to me in the letters, they were clumsy, and child-like and not at all like the short stories or essays my advanced English class were writing at his age. I do think that this was the fault of Stephen Chbosky not knowing quite how to write a 15 year old character who was supposed to be naive and troubled. Maybe he was too old at the time of writing the book (he was 29 when it was published), or maybe it's because his education is in filmic writing but whatever the reason, the character of Charlie just doesn't sit right for me.

Okay, now that I've gotten past my major issue with the novel I can focus more on the rest of the book, and the bits that did work. As I said before, it's a fairly typical coming of age tale. Charlie has to navigate through his first of year of high school, which is hard enough already, while still coming to terms with the death of his best friend Michael and dealing with puberty and making new friends and experiencing the highs and lows of the dating world. It's turbulent, cringe-worthy at times, and completely relateable. I mean, I know I had life wayyyyyy easier than poor Charlie (or any of the characters to be honest) but I still get the anxiety, fear and apprehension that comes with trying to work out that difficult path between child- and adult-hood. As he begins to become friends with a group of seniors it becomes clear that Charlie isn't the only person to suffer great loss or trauma and it affected them all deeply and shaped their characters, but it seems to shake Charlie's world to an extent that he can't move past. From early on in the book we're aware that Charlie's best friend committed suicide the year before, and that he struggled a great deal after the death of his aunt, but there are greater depths that are revealed as the book continues, and perhaps it wasn't so much these particular events but something about Charlie which made these events so monumental and hard to get past. In the final letter we find the missing puzzle piece, and he, Charlie, begins to make more sense.

While Charlie is clearly the focus of the novel, his new best friends Sam and Patrick are fascinating in their own particular ways. Sam, the victim of sexual abuse as a child, is always falling in love with the wrong guys, is loud and gregarious, while also battling with crippling self-esteem issues. Her step-brother Patrick is outgoing and the life of the party, but he's also secretly dating and in love with the star quarterback who refuses to come out of the closet. It's for Patrick I feel for the most, being different and being in love are both hard enough in high school, but to have to hide your reason for happiness because that person is ashamed and afraid? I don't even know how you do that, it would be earth shattering, every single day. The other smaller characters, Mary Elizabeth, Alice, Bob,  Bill; they all have their moments in the sun, and they all play an extremely important role in helping Charlie develop and mature both as a teenager and as someone struggling with a dark past. It's the camaraderie of this group of misfits and wallflowers that makes the book interesting and heart warming, even though I have a hard time accepting that a group of seniors would openly accept a freshman into their permanent circle of friends, especially one who seems so much younger than 15. However, to be fair, the group does seem to have a certain level of protective older brother/sister - younger brother feelings, especially since Charlie is able to open to these older brothers and sisters in a way he could never truly open up to his own brother and sister.

This book covers a tumultuous year filled with fun and and risk-taking and lows and emotional breakdowns and foot-in-mouth-moments, and it does a lot of this really well. But the clumsy first person narration (though I loved the letters themselves) really made it hard for me to love this book, or to really feel any of the moments which were supposed to rock me to my core. I really, really, really wanted to love this book, and while I admire what Stephen Chbosky was trying to do, and there are some great parts to it, I'm just feeling incredibly disappointed.

*I don't like to use the word normal there, but I'm not sure how else to convey it. Sorry guys.

Top 10 Tuesday: Dear Santa...

Top 10 Tuesday is hosted over at The Broke and The Bookish.

This week: 10 books I wouldn't mind santa leaving under the tree.

Guys, I love Christmas. There's a growing malaise amongst my friends where it just isn't cool to be over excited about gifts and biscuits and roast dinner and santa hats and tacky Christmas music.

Me too Doctor, me too!

Bah Humbug, I say!! Christmas is wonderful, and while I love giving gifts (finding that perfect gift is one of the best feelings) I don't mind receiving a  present or two either! So here's my list - mum, dad, Tom -- are you guys paying attention?

1. Bring Up the Bodies - Hilary Mantel
A month or so ago I read the huuuuuge Wolf Hall which proceeds this new release and loved it. This one isn't quite as terrifying in size, so I highly doubt it'll take me a full year to get to this one if I am lucky enough to be gifted it.

2. Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
The conceit of a book spanning multiple generations and centuries and intersecting stories is right up my alley.

3. Animal Farm - George Orwell
Hi, my name is Kayleigh, I'm a book blogger and I've never read Animal Farm. *Hi Kayleigh* It's about time I rectify this issue right?

4. The Casual Vacancy - J.K Rowling
Because duh, J.K Rowling!

5. Book of Lost Things - John Connolly
I was captured by the cover of this book at the bookstore a year or so ago, but I've never gotten around to buying myself a copy. Santa, please?

6. The Sea is my Brother - Jack Kerouac
As a Kerouac fan it's a real embarrassment that I never picked this one up, no time like the present though right? (see what a did there, heyyy hey!!)

7. Big Fish - Daniel Wallace
I fell in love with the film adaptation (hello Ewan McGregor!!) and didn't discover it was based off of a book until a couple of years ago. I can't wait to read the magic that the film produced.

8. Skag Boys - Irvine Welsh
I've read Trainspotting, I've read Porno, and I loved them both. It's time to round out the trilogy.

9. Pnin - Vladimir Nabokov
I've always wanted to read more Nabokov, and Pnin always caught my eye. A beautiful old edition would be a welcome addition until my Christmas tree.

10. The Left Hand of Darkness - Ursula Le Guin
I've always loved science fiction and fantasy, but I've never really explored the genres at length. Le Guin seems to be almost a god amongst fans, so I think it's remiss of me to not have read her so far.

And if I can get in a sneaky number 11, I'd ask Santa for a slightly larger, non-book present under my Christmas tree...

Because...why not?!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Monday Links

*^Books! Papercraft! The making of Penguins Christmas gift campaign!

*Matthew Dunckley on racism, politics, and "illegal" refugees and taking a stand. (Via The Anti Bogan)

*Stephen King's Under the Dome is being made into a TV show! I haven't read this one yet, but I don't care, I'm excited about anything King related!! (Via Uproxx)

*The internet went crazy last week when early set shots from Catching Fire were released. Can't blame them though, I'M SO EXCITED! (via Parachutes from Panem)

*Ellie over at Curiousity Killed the Bookworm collated all the publisher advent events for you. Go make the most of them! (Via Curiosity Killed the Bookworm)

*I shared a recipe for the most delicious shortbread last week, and if you haven't tried to make it yourself yet you're CRAZY (Via ME!)

*I've shared the link to Literally Unbelievable before, but here's a quiz of 'Real or Onion'?  Some are quite surprising, let me know what score you get! [I got 14/20] (Via Buzzfeed)


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