Chinese New Year dinner party

Where have the last couple of weeks gone? Life has been bright around here – solo steps being taken (the little one), a new job started, friends seen, projects organised, muffins baked, a new game…

So I thought I’d pop by today to share a quick project I did on Saturday morning. We had invited friends over for a Chinese new year dinner party. I visited the oriental food shop in our town for the first time and it was the loveliest experience, the lady was so friendly and helpful. We served duck and pancakes for starters, followed by slow cooker Honey Sesame Chicken, and then finished up with some sweet nibbles from the shop, mainly picked up because I thought it would be fun to get people to guess their names and what was in them – “Peanut Dainties” and “Green Tea Mochi”.

Each course was followed by a quick (sometimes tenuously) Chinese themed game. It was so lovely to squeeze eight of us around the table and spend the evening enjoying ourselves. Something to build on if I remember my one little word!

IMG_5950To make it a Dinner Party rather than just a dinner, I put out some candles, napkins and these place cards. I already had the cards from a family gathering last year, and used my new watercolours to do some little pictures on each one. It took about an hour to do all eight, and some people took theirs home (no higher compliment!), so I just had these five left to photograph this morning. It was such a fun little project, and I am filled with respect for the people who did the originals – after a few failed attempts at replicating these I decided plants were easier than fish!

Reading lately – February 2015

My efforts to bring reading back into life have been going well. In the last month I’ve enjoyed…

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

I liked this book a lot. The writing is good and doesn’t get in the way of the story. The characters are complicated, their depths explored but never completely opened to the reader. There are secrets, some of which are revealed and others that remain hidden. There are mysteries and twists I saw coming, and some that took me by surprise. The lady who sold me the book in Waterstones gave it a glowing recommendation, and the man next to her behind the counter recommended The Bees so that is next on my wish list.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

This is a beautiful story about a man, a life, his wife, their marriage, friendships long and fleeting, walking, England, acceptance…the list goes on and on. Harold is a wonderful character who goes from passive despair to determined hope. One day he receives a letter telling him that an old friend is dying. He sets out to post his reply and keeps walking. Rachel Joyce has also written a follow up about the woman he walks towards – The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy – so that is also on my list.

imageTooth and Nail by Ian Rankin

I am a big fan of mysteries so enjoyed this book from that point of view. I’d not read any of Rankin’s work before but it was lying around the house so I gave it a go. It’s a bit graphic and dark for my tastes, but it was a good story and a satisfying ending. The detective, Rebus, isn’t perfect but he’s very likeable and Rankin is an engaging writer.

The Awakening of Miss Prim by Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera (translated by Sonia Soto)

I’m undecided about this novel. I’m pretty sure I won’t read it again but I did like it. I just wanted and expected to like it more. For me there wasn’t quite enough action, and a bit too much philosophical discussion – but that is exactly the problem I think the community featured have identified in the modern world. The main character, Miss Prim is supposed to be educated and sensible but seemed to flit around, constantly being unsettled and flustered by the views and ideas of those around her. She takes herself very seriously and while tolerant, seems determined not to be persuaded by any one else’s viewpoint. I think if you enjoyed Sophie’s World this might be something you enjoy, and for that reason I’ll be passing it on to my sister. It’s also worth noting that it has been translated – it’s well done but it also reminded me of The Elegance of the Hedgehog. That too contained a bit too much philosophy and too little action for my liking – but again, if you enjoyed it, maybe it is worth giving The Awakening of Miss Prim a try.

Let me know if you’ve read any of these if you’d like, I’d love to hear another perspective on them.