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If you’re on Instagram you’ve probably heard of the monthly #photoaday meme in which people daily post a picture inspired by a list of tags. I tried it once, but couldn’t keep up.

Yesterday I found out that The Estella Society -a reading playground built by book bloggers- is hosting something alike in March: a Bookish Photo a Day. I love the idea! So I jumped in right where we are, in week #2.

Curious about my contributions? View them on Statigram (hashtag #EstellaGram)!

Is anyone else playing along?

Sunday Salon logoThe Sunday Salon is a virtual gathering of booklovers on the web, blogging about bookish things of the past week, visiting each others weblogs, and oh — reading books of course ;)

Modern Moroccan Cinnamon-scented Chickpea & Lentil Soup

After keeping myself on a leash for a while I finally joined Swap-bot late last year. I already told you about some food-related swaps in my previous Weekend Cooking post. Today I want to talk about another one: the Cookbook Challenge #1, hosted by Carmen of the Gastronomery Group. Like many of us she has several under-used cookbooks and she wants to tackle them with the help of fellow swappers. She made the challenge vegan-friendly so of course I had to join — never mind that I have a pile of books of my own… ;)

For this first ‘cookalong’ Carmen chose some recipes out of Modern Moroccan by Ghillie Basan and posted them on the group blog. The idea was for us to choose one recipe, test it, document it and send the (virtual) results to our swap partners; in my case our hostess herself. So Carmen, here’s my pick!

Cinnamon-scented chickpea and lentil soup

Serves 4-5.

Ingredients

Preparing Modern Moroccan Cinnamon-scented Chickpea & Lentil Soup

Don’t let the long list scare you: it’s not as much as it seems and most of these ingredients are fairly common in a foodie household. If you look at the preparations you’ll see this recipe is a breeze!

  • 1.5-2 tbsp olive oil (see my tweak among the modifications below)
  • 1 onion, halved and sliced
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger (djahé)
  • 1/4 tsp ground turmeric (kunjit)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • pinch of saffron threads
  • 400 gr can of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tsp sugar (I used raw cane sugar)
  • 80 gr brown or green lentils, washed (I used Puy lentils)
  • 950 ml vegetable stock or boiling water & 2 bouillon cubes
  • 400 gr can cooked chickpeas (265 gr drained)
  • 150 gr cooked broad beans (I used 175 gr frozen peas)
  • small bunch of fresh cilantro, chopped
  • small bunch of fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • salt ‘n pepper to taste

Preparation

Chopping cilantro & flatleaf parsley for Modern Moroccan Cinnamon-scented Chickpea & Lentil Soup

  1. Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the onions until soft.
  2. Stir in the spices (ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, saffron), tomatoes and sugar.
  3. Add the lentils and pour in the vegetable stock or water and stock cubes.
  4. Bring to a boil, lower heat, cover and simmer for about 25 minutes or until the lentils are tender (check the instructions on the package).
  5. Stir in the cooked chickpeas and beans and bring back to boil, cover again and simmer for another 10-15 minutes.
  6. Mix in the fresh herbs and season to taste.

Serve hot!

Modern Moroccan Cinnamon-scented Chickpea & Lentil Soup

Mr Gnoe and me enjoyed this soup on a cold February night accompanied by (store-bought) bake-off buns and couscous salad.

Couscous Salad

The result?

I only made half of the original recipe on the Gastronomery Cookbook Challenge #1 page and that was amply sufficient for four diners. Especially served with accompaniments like ours. This soup is already plant-based (and chock-full of proteins!) so no veganizing was needed, but still the recipe got slightly tweaked.

  • I took the easy route and used a 400 grams can of chickpeas (= 265 grams drained) instead of dried beans that would have needed to be soaked overnight.
  • Dried broad beans are not commonly available over here (although it’s not impossible to get them in a city like Utrecht) so I had wanted to use frozen but forgot to add them to my grocery list. So I took 175 grams garden peas from my freezer stash instead. Together with the chickpeas that roughly summed up the 400 grams of cooked beans I needed.
  • I made vegetable stock with one bouillon cube instead of two and spiced it up with salt and pepper at the end. I’m still not sure whether I’d use two cubes anyway next time… (if there is a next time?)
  • I didn’t use olive oil for frying the onions but used leftover sunflower oil from a jar of sundried tomatoes in oil.
  • The original recipe said to fry the onions for about 15 minutes… It took me 2-3 to get them soft. ;) If you’re supposed to caramelize the onions then 10-15 minutes would be right but it just says “until soft” so I believe the time publicized to be an errata.
  • I added one celery stalk, just because it was lying around in the fridge. Not necessary at all.

Has the Jury reached its verdict?

This chickpea-lentil soup is certainly a hearty dish, but it didn’t tickle my taste buds. I’ve had bean and lentil soups before, some of which were much more special.

I couldn’t discern a specific Moroccan flavour and I don’t think using broad beans would’ve changed that. Do you? Maybe adding a spice blend like ras el hanout would be a good idea; there’s a recipe for that in the book -and on the Gastronomery blog- as well. But I also just can’t appreciate the combination of multiple legumes: lentils and chickpeas and peas. I do like vegan harira (Moroccan/Algerian chickpea-lentil soup), but this modern version is too much of a mismatch mishmash for me.

So. If you’ve had these kinds of soups before, this recipe is not very exciting. But if you haven’t – this is a good place to start! Common ingredients and little work bring a filling winter stew to the table.

Further ruminations

Blogging pal Uniflame also participated in Cookbook Challenge #1 and got me for a swap partner. She tried the Casablancan couscous with roasted summer veggies and shared her version of the recipe on She Likes Bento. In winter I regularly make oven-roasted root vegetables but I always forget to do something alike in summer. Gotta remember!

February has been a super busy month so I didn’t get around to cooking two other recipes from Modern Moroccan that I like. So there are still a vegan version of grilled sweet zucchini with spices and harissa on the menu.

Now if you feel like trying another Moroccan soup, how about this sesame soup recipe I posted before?

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Join Beth Fish’s weekend cooking with a food-related post!

Beth Fish Weekend Cooking logo

The Sunday Salon is a virtual gathering of book lovers on the web, blogging about bookish things of the past week, visiting each others weblogs, and oh — reading books of course ;)

Last November -that’s almost a year ago indeed- Annemieke from Rozemarijn kookt asked on Twitter who would like to receive her copy of A Vegan Taste of Greece, by Linda Majzlik. Of course I was interested and she kindly sent me the book. Shame on me that I didn’t cook from it until a couple of weeks back!

Now why did I finally pick it up?

Cookbook Challenge ButtonWell.. There’s a PPK Cookbook Challenge on the Post Punk Kitchen forum. A vegan cookbook is chosen each week, and if you don’t have that particular book you can choose another from your shelves. This event coincides with Uniflame’s Cookbook Challenge on She Likes Bento. The difference between the two?

  • PPK: any (vegan) book will do if you don’t have the designated title but you’ll need make at least three recipes from it.
  • She Likes Bento: there’s no set amount of recipes to try (just one will do) but you have to choose an unused or hardly touched cookery book.

Conclusion: I’m making it harder on myself by combining the two. What else is new? ;)

A Vegan Taste of Greece by Linda Majzlik

Cover A Vegan Taste of GreeceA Vegan Taste of Greece was the only vegan cookbook I own from which I hadn’t tried a single recipe — so there really was no other first choice possible.

After a short introduction on the origin of Greek food and its place in society, A Vegan Taste of Greece starts with an alphabetical list of a regular pantry, often including nutritional info. Nice! The rest of the book is divided into chapters focussing on different courses: mezedes, soups, main courses, vegetables, grain accompaniments, salads, sauces and dressings, breads, desserts and baking.

I’ve made 4 recipes from 3 different sections: a main course, grain accompaniment and two salads, one green and one legume (bean). Each recipe indicates the amount of servings; mostly four but since it’s just the two of us here at Graasland, I usually made half of it.

Main course: Briami

Greek Briami, Turkish rice with chickpeas, cumin spiced quick bread and avocado salad

Greek Briami, Turkish rice with chickpeas, cumin spiced quick bread and avocado salad

Briami is a vegetable casserole containing potatoes, courgette, red pepper, mushrooms, onion, tomatoes and a selection of herbs & spices like fennel seeds, rosemary and thyme. Wine and lemon juice provide additional liquid. The dish is finished off with olives and vegan cheese, for which I used a combination of faux parmezan and ‘rawmezan’ (a mix of ground nuts & ‘nooch‘, aka nutritional yeast). Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Despite of all the flavourful ingredients I found the briami rather bland. :( It could have used more sauce and even then I’m not sure it would be really good. Maybe my expectations were too high? Mr Gnoe thought it was okay.

It’s an easy recipe to make but it does take some time preparing because of all the ingredients required. And then it has to go into the oven for about an hour. Oven dishes that can be prepared in advance are great when having guests for dinner, but I don’t think I would dare serve this. Don’t want to confirm a possible prejudice that vegan food is tasteless! ;)

Grain accompaniment: Minted bulgar with leeks

Leek bulghhur with seitan stroganoff

Seitan stroganoff with minted leek bulghur

The bulghur was… nice, but once more a bit dull. Admittedly I forgot to garnish with fresh mint. But I could hardly taste the dried peppermint that was also in it, and the leeks were so overcooked that they’d lost most of their flavour. I like leek, so it was another disappointment. I would consider making this again though: as an idea it’s more exciting than just wheat, it’s easy to make and a great way to add more vegetables to a meal. Next time I’d bake the veg separately until just done and combine everything at the end. It was a good combo with the seitan stroganoff though!

Green salad: fennel and avocado

Greek fennel salad with avocado

Greek fennel salad with watercress & avocado

I’ve got this surprisingly good fennel-tomato salad recipe and avocado is one of my favourite fruits, so I was eager to try a Greek recipe combining them. The biggest differences between the two are that the fennel is cooked first in the new recipe and it doesn’t have basil & black olives but watercress (and avocado) instead.

You can probably guess by now… Another flavourless dish. I expect Mediterranean food to be tasty! Furthermore, all ingredients were soft (not to say mushy) and I rather like a crunchy salad. My ideas for improvement? Keep the fennel raw, add olives & basil and maybe a little ouzo or other anise-flavoured drink. Of course having alcohol with your meal decreases the body’s ability to absorb vitamins, but sometimes there’s something to say for taste too. ;) But to be honest, I think I’ll stick with my regular fennel salad recipe.

Bean salad: chickpea

Greek chickpea salad

Chickpea salad

The last recipe, chickpea salad, was a small hit — the best of the bunch anyway. Especially considering it’s rather basic: a mix of cooked garbanzos, cucumber, a variety of peppers, red onion, black olives and a dressing made of skinned and finely chopped tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, crushed garlic, fresh thyme and black pepper. I added a little salt as a flavour enhancer too. Yes, I will make this salad again when I have an open can of chickpeas!

The verdict

It will come as no surprise that I’m not really enthusiastic about A Vegan Taste of Greece. I’m considering discarding it, but first I’d like to try some recipes from other sections, like…

  • A mezé ~ walnut-stuffed mushrooms? Yellow split-pea spread fava? Courgette critters? Or jumping into the deep end with gyros made from scratch, finally using that bag of seitan starter I purchased?
  • Dessert ~ baked nectarines or orange glazed peach slices, almond & apricot pastries… They make my mouth water. :) But all require the purchase of a new ingredient: orange flower water.
  • Baked goods ~ sesame cookies, almond cakes, semolina & lemon slices… No? ;)
  • And the baked beetroot in the vegetable chapter sounds like good too.

So there’s more to explore before the curtain falls. I’d like to try one each from the categories above before my final judgement. Still, there’s a whole series of A Vegan Taste of… (France, India, East Africa, et cetera) by Linda Majzlik. Getting me to try another would require a copy to literally fall into my hands again.

I hardly dare finish with one more flaw of the book.. :\ I think it’s partly a regional problem and doesn’t apply to Americans. MANY of the recipes use vegan cheese or yoghurt. I haven’t been able to find a good cheese substitute and feel reluctant to buy and use the varieties available here. In the US there’s Dayia… Reviews are raving so I’d love to get my hands on that!

And soygurt… It lacks the sour freshness of its animal equivalent, which cannot be fully compensated by adding (extra) lemon. I just purchased a tub though, so I do plan on trying one of the recipes containing yofu too.

To be continued?

If you’ve got one of Majzlik’s books I’d love to hear you think!

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Join Beth Fish’s Weekend Cooking with a food-related post!

The Sunday Salon is a virtual gathering of book lovers on the web, blogging about bookish things of the past week, visiting each others weblogs, and oh — reading books of course ;)

Months ago, it must have been somewhere in spring, I suddenly had enough. I haven’t told you (really didn’t mean to keep it a secret! ;) but I quit all the challenges I’d subscribed to for 2012. Just like that, cold turkey, after having been an addict for years! ;)

Cookbook Challenge Button

Then came October… autumn. And Uniflame announced a two-month Cookbook Challenge inspiring people to cook from under-used cookbooks — who doesn’t have some of those hanging around? Of course I had to join. :) So Gnoe’s back in business!


Since it’s VeganMoFo this month, I’ll concentrate on vegan cookbooks. Starting of with A Vegan Taste of Greece by Linda Majzlik, that was passed on to me earlier this year — and until now I hadn’t tried a single recipe. I’ll probably share my experiences with the book next Sunday Salon.

Cover Vegan Taste of Greece (Linda Majzlik)

Other vegan cookbooks on my shelf that qualify:

  • Non-fish-a-licious and
  • (maybe) Lisette in Luilekkerland, both by Lisette Kramer.

Vegetarian nominees:

  • Yogi food (Jet Eikelboom & Seth Jansen),
  • The Art of Tofu (Akasha Richmond),
  • Living Among Meat Eaters (Carol J. Adams),
  • Koken in McDonald’s kitchen (Andy McDonald).

One omni cookbook that I’ve had for two decades, haven’t cooked from and still fail at getting rid of: Aan tafel met Yvonne Keuls, a collection of family recipes from Yvonne Keuls, a Dutch writer with Indonesian roots.

Which cookbooks have you hardly used?

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Join Beth Fish’s Weekend Cooking with a food-related post!

Beth Fish Weekend Cooking logo

Evernote LogoDo you know the Evernote Food app? I’m creating a food photo diary with it — easy and fun! I only wish I could also edit entries in the equally handy all-round Evernote application, but maybe I’m missing something obvious?

On Saturday May 19th Evernote organized its first ever Evernote cook-along. ‘Chef’ Lauren Atkins provided us with the task to make crêpes.

You all know how I love challenges — and food! So I decided to take this up, even though I hadn’t baked any crêpes since going ExtraVeganza over a year ago… Pancakes? Yes. Crêpes? No. And I really even don’t like pancakes that much, but I just LUUUURV crêpes!

Het Grote Vegetarische KookboekSo the first question to tackle was: sweet or savoury?

As we had no dinner plans yet (and would be hiking during lunchtime), I chose the latter and picked Asian style rice crêpes with a mushroom-tofu filling.

It actually proved to be quite the dare! I had to adapt a basic vegan sweet crêpe recipe and combine it with the savoury dairy mushroom-tofu one from my vegetarian cookbook Het Grote Vegetarische Kookboek (p.138). Not a smart project to take on for a first attempt… So how did it turn out???

Rice Crêpes with Tofu-Mushroom Filling

Vegan crêpes for the Evernote Cook-along

Serves 2 (4 pieces).

I started out with this vegan crêpe recipe in my Vegweb iPhone app (substituting vanilla for a pinch of salt): whisking 1 cup of all-purpose flour (about 150 grams) with 1 1/2 cup rice milk (350 ml) and 2 heaped teaspoons of No-egg with 4 tablespoons of water mixed beforehand (note that the ratio for 2 ‘eggs’ is different from Ener-G egg-replacer). Adding 2 tbsp of sunflower oil and a pinch of salt.

I then continued putting additional ingredients in the batter that the non-vegan recipe in my cookbook called for: 1 tbsp kecap manis, 1 tbsp chopped cilantro, 50 grams of cooked rice (a combination of red, black and unpolished) and a mix of chopped and stir-fried fresh ginger (2 cm), 1 chilli pepper and 1 green onion.

Cooking rice

Cooking rice in the morning

You’ll have to cook the rice in advance or -preferably- use leftovers!

Each pancake was baked for about 3 minutes on one side and 1 more after having flipped them over.

The filling consisted of 100 grams of tofu sautéed for about 5 minutes in a combination of sunflower & sesame oil, then adding 150 grams mixed mushrooms, a clove of garlic (crushed), 1 tsp of white miso, 1 tbsp kecap manis and 1/2 tbsp lime juice, stirring for about 1 more minute.

Result

Vegan crêpes for the Evernote Cook-along

We had a great dinner! Two crêpes each plus a large portion of salad.

I’ll admit the recipe needs a little tweaking because the pancakes were difficult to flip over — and stay in one piece at the same time. ;) My batter was probably a bit too thin from adding the extra ingredients. Next time I’ll adjust the amount of ‘milk’ accordingly and/or add some cornstarch.

Or maybe… I should just make sure to have a foolproof vegan crêpe recipe first?! Off to make some crêpes for lunch!!!

Here’s how the meal looks in Evernote…

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Join Beth Fish’s Weekend Cooking with a food-related post!

Beth Fish Weekend Cooking logo

This week’s theme on the Bento Blog Network is Alternative Boxes: anything that wasn’t meant to be a bento converted to a lunch, snack, dinner or breakfast carrier.

Alternative Bento (02-05-2012)

Finding something to hold dry foods is not much of a problem; take for example the ‘nut case’ ;) I used for this Arigato Bento. Bringing wet foods provides more of a challenge.

But I found something — pretty obvious really: a mason jar! I would have preferred to use my Bonne Maman jam jar, but it holds our current batch of home-made veganaise so I picked another from my pantry — which was a little bigger anyway. :) This one previously held soup from De Soepfabriek.

Alternative Bento #183

I had just the right food to fill up this alternative bento! Layered from top to bottom:

  • cucumber & chives
  • leftover chackchouka (Moroccan ratatouille made of roasted peppers and tomato)
  • slices of pickled lemon and black olives (picture of the work in progress)
  • leftover Moroccan spinach
  • couscous with golden raisins, paprika, cumin and cinnamon
  • wonderful lentil soup that Mr Gnoe whipped up on Queen’s Day from red lentils, tomato paste, white wine, red bell pepper, leek, onion and garlic

You can have a closer look of the Moroccan B-day buffet leftovers in my “Bring Your Own” Bento.

A great advantage of using a glass jar as container is that it can be put in the microwave to heat up your lunch (without the lid of course). On the downside: there are probably types of food that won’t work layered like this. Yet that isn’t a problem today. :)

And that’s not all! I used a sakura body butter container from The Body Shop to bring some additions to my meal. There’s a picture of its previous life in the Hello Japan! post about My Sakura Collection (upper right corner of the first photo). Of course it was thoroughly cleaned and I soaked it in lemon juice to neutralize smell. Then I lined it with wax paper so that there’s no contact between food and container anyway.

Alternative Bento sidedishes

The box holds:

  • bruscetta (made of leftover baguette bread)
  • radishes
  • parsley
  • pistachios

Alternative Bento (02-05-2012)

This office bento for Wednesday May 2nd contains mostly leftovers and stash, except for the couscous which was done in under 5 minutes: mixing grains with spices and a handful of raisins, pouring over the boiling water and 4 minutes of waiting (which have been put to good use ;).

Now I hope this lunch is a lesson to all persons thinking that one needs to have a real box before you can start bento-ing. You really don’t! Check out the other submissions for even more alternative ideas.

Bento of the Week banner

Themes for the upcoming two weeks are:

  • No Cheese
  • Leftovers

For me that’ll be no challenge at all. ;)

My previous Sunday Salon was all about reading challenges. There are of course the usual suspects — but also a desire to discover new horizons.

I stated I had room for just the one more… Well, I changed my mind. ;) If I’m going to get out of my comfort zone I shouldn’t just explore different genres but also new challenges! The result: I went totally overboard and joined almost all of the ones I contemplated — and the one I had forgotten to mention in the first place. ;)

This is my admission post for three of the reading challenges. Hop to the bottom of this post for my current read.

Eclectic Reader Challenge

With its obligation to read 12 books from different categories –several of which I would never pick by myself– The Eclectic Reader Challenge on Book’d Out is quite the dare for me. And worth a try! Here’s a list of the genres.

  1. Literary Fiction
  2. Crime/Mystery Fiction
    On the shelf: This Body of Death (Elizabeth George)
  3. Romantic Fiction
    On the shelf: Oryx and Crake (Margaret Atwood)?
    Possibly: Verwante stemmen / An Equal Music (Vikram Seth)?
  4. Historical Fiction ✔
    Read: Dromen van China / The China Lover (Ian Buruma)
  5. Young Adult
    On the shelf: The Graveyard Book (Neil Gaiman)
  6. Fantasy
    On the shelf: The WeeFree Men (Terry Pratchett)
  7. Science Fiction
    On the shelf: Oryx and Crake (Margaret Atwood)
  8. Non Fiction
    On the shelf: Met bonzend hart; brieven aan Hella S. Haasse / ‘Letters to Hella S. Haasse‘ (Willem Nijholt; memoir)
  9. Horror
    Wishlist: Out (Natsuo Kirino)
  10. Thriller /Suspense
  11. Classic
    On the shelf: The Moonstone (Wilkie Collins)
  12. Your favourite genre

To some of these genres I already added a book but as you have learnt today: anything can change!

Historical Fiction Challenge

Historical Fiction Challenge 2012 button landscape

I don’t read many historical novels. One could possibly argue Bandoen-Bandung and Kandy from F. Springer belong to this genre, or Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet On The Western Front. If not, then I haven’t read any historical fiction in 2011 and we’d have to go back to mid 2010 when I read The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, a very enjoyable novel by David Mitchell.

High time for the Historical Fiction Challenge on Historical Tapestry! The easiest level seems to be tailor-made for me: ‘Out of My Comfortzone’ = 2 books. Looks doable as I’m currently reading a historical novel by Ian Buruma: The China Lover! That leaves eleven months to find another one.

My online bookgroup the Boekgrrls have Hella Haasse’s De heren van de thee (The Tea Lords) planned for March. But that’ll be a reread for me so I may need to find something else. I recently bought Mevrouw Couperus (Mrs Couperus), a novel about the spouse of the late 19th, early 20th Century author Louis Couperus, by Sophie Zijlstra. But there are also great reports out about The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern?! :)

Nordic Challenge 2012

Nordic Challenge button

My sister-in-law recently moved to Denmark with her husband and kids. I’m not much familiar with Scandinavian authors yet so it’s good news that Zommie from Reading in the North decided to host another Nordic Challenge! I’d love to explore the Nordic countries in literature as well as in real life.

There seem to be no set levels so I will read at least one book, but hope to do better than that! I spotted a Danish novel on Mt. TBR: De vrouw en de aap (The Woman and the Ape) by Peter Høeg. And I may also try that new mystery writer my mother-in-law discovered, whatshisname… :)

Now don’t tell anyone because we haven’t really decided yet, but Mr Gnoe and I are considering doing a class about Scandinavian movies!

I have no idea if I’ll cope with all my challenges this year: January is halfway done and so far I still have to finish my first book! ;) But I won’t put too much weight on them. Reading should be fun, and so do challenges!

Currently reading

Cover Dromen van China / The China Lover (Ian Buruma)I just told you I still have to finish my first book of 2012: The China Lover by Ian Buruma. The author was born in the Netherlands and I’m reading the Dutch translation, Dromen van China, but was surprised to see it’d originally been written in English.

It’s a novel in three parts, all set in different time periods, having seperate main characters. Connecting these stories is Yamaguchi Yoshiko a.k.a. Ri Koran/Li Xianglan, a Manchurian born Japanese movie star. She’s never the narrator, always an admired ‘object’, but does get to have her say as she’s met in person by all three protagonists.

For me, part of the attraction of this book is that it shows how film is used (and experienced) in different ways through history.

I’ve been wanting to read it for ages (it has been gathering dust on my shelves) and I’m thankful to the Chinese Literature Challenge for finally getting me to pick it up. Even better: now I can add it to both my Historical Fiction and Eclectic Reader Challenge lists! I’m almost done reading so I’ll tell you more about it later!

Sunday Salon logoThe Sunday Salon is a virtual gathering of booklovers on the web, blogging about bookish things of the past week, visiting each others weblogs, and oh — reading books of course ;)

Sunday Salon logoThe Sunday Salon is a virtual gathering of booklovers on the web, blogging about bookish things of the past week, visiting each others weblogs, and oh — reading books of course ;)

This second Sunday Salon of 2012 is about the year’s reading challenges. I’ve subscribed to some — and am still thinking about others. That’s okay, as I don’t like to be straightjacketed too soon. ;) The challenges of 2011 will get their own collective wrap-up post.

2012 reading challenges (so far)

I’ll be certainly doing the following challenges this year.

Chinese Literature Challenge (hosted by Chinoiseries)

Chinese Literature Challenge button

I’m not sure whether this really counts as a 2012 challenge because it started in February ’11 and ends later this month (January 23rd). But I’m reading for the challenge as we speak (The China Lover by Ian Buruma, in Dutch) so why exclude it from my list?

What’s in a Name Challenge #5 (at Beth Fish reads)

What's in a name challenge #5 button

My fourth time participating in this fun challenge. Speaking about random choices… See what’s it all about in my admittance post!

Murakami Reading Challenge 2012 (continued by In Spring it is the Dawn)

I was glad to learn tanabata decided to continue the Murakami Reading Challenge into 2012! There are a still a few books by the author that I haven’t got around to (and as you know I mean to read all of them) so why not herd with the others? Setting the goal low this time at 3 books (level Sheep Man).

Japanese Literature Challenge #6 (starting in June this year, hosted by Dolce Bellezza)

I always join the Japanese Literature Challenge and 2012 will be no different. If Bellezza decides to host it again that is… Let’s wait and see! Requirements are low: I’ll just need to read one book. That’s good as I do want to read some JLit again this year. But it can’t be as much as last year or I’ll fail at my wish to explore new reading areas.

As a matter of fact, the Japanese Literary Challenge #5 still continues until the end of this month!

Japanese Literature Challenge #5 logo

Now I quickly need to find the time to update my challenge page and sidebar!

Reading challenges I’m considering

Although I like reading challenges because of the ‘random’ way they help me pick books of my shelf, I can’t handle too many of them. I just don’t read as much as others (under 40 books a year), nor review as much. And I get stressed easily. ;) I’d say about 5 is doable — but still a challenge. :) With the ones I already commited to that leaves room for er… one more. :\

So I’m looking for a challenge that doesn’t prescribe too many books (gotta leave some room for ‘free’ choices) and where reviewing is not compulsory. Also, I mostly want to choose unread books that I already own or can borrow.

Having that said, I decided I’d like to get out of my comfort zone more. I’ll embrace any challenge helping me do that!

So here are the ones that appeal to me.

Foodies Read 2 (from Joyfully Retired)

Foodies Read 2 buttonI participated in the first Foodies Reading Challenge. How could I not?

Pro: how can I not join this challenge again? I’m a reading foodie!

Contra: I didn’t manage to write about some of my books last year (wrap-up post coming) and reviewing is sorta mandatory. Then again, I post about food anyway and want to share some thoughts on cookbooks. It’s a must!

Eclectic Reader Challenge (on Book’d Out)

Pro: 12 different genres to read from; some comfortable but most of them are not. ;)

Contra: 12 books (for one challenge only) is about 1/3 of what I read a year! And reviewing is obligatory. Of course overlapping with other challenges/readalongs is possible and I could revert to mini reviews. That some of the genres, like YA and fantasy, REALLY don’t attract me — well, that’s what I was asking for, right? I may be pleasantly surprised… and might actually have some fitting titles on my shelf!

South Asian challenge (hosted by S.Krishna)

Pro: I’ve read plenty of Japanese literature and some Chinese and Indonesia related, but how about that other part of Asia? I think I’m only familiar with the work of Nadeem Aslam — one of my favourite authors!!! That’s a recommendation to try more from the area, right?

Contra: I don’t think I own any books that fit this challenge. :( *Mutters “out of my reading nook, new explorations…”*

Historical Fiction Challenge (set at Historical Tapestry)

Historical Fiction Challenge 2012 button landscapePro: the lowest level (2 books) is called ‘Out of My Comfort Zone’. ;) Every once in a while I read an historical fiction novel, but not every year and certainly not multiple books. One of my choices could overlap with the Eclectic Reader Challenge.

Contra: how much of a challenge is this really?

Are you doing some of the above? Are you maybe hosting an interesting challenge? I welcome any suggestions you may have!

Get read-y for 2012 banner

Now that December has arrived and I had a good and hard look at my reading challenges, it seems like the right moment to add another on the brink of the new year… Am I crazy? I assure you I’m not. ;)

Loving Books’ Get Read-y for 2012 Challenge is meant to help me get the books read I already wanted to finish!

Here’s my TBR pile for the rest of the year…

XY, by Sandro Veronesi. It’s the December read for my online book group, the Boekgrrls. I’m currently halfway this intriguing novel — giving me lots to think about!

Kandy, by the recently deceased F. Springer. A friend is visiting her place of birth, Sri Lanka, starting December 9th. Would love to read this book while she’s there!

I promised Elsje to buddy read Haruki Murakami’s The Elephant Vanishes before the end of the year. Have to make good on my promise! This collection of short stories will also count for the Haruki Murakami Reading Challenge and Japanese Literature Challenge #5.

Ian Buruma’s Dromen van China (The China Lover). The book I pledged to read for the Chinese Literature Challenge. Come on… I need to read just one book for this challenge. Host Chinoiseries cheered me on so I can’t let her down!

These three books are absolute MUSTS for me. Then there’s a few more I’d love to finish before the year is over. To begin with, these 3 are not enough for the 6 I need to accomplish my +11 in 2011 challenge, in which I try to read 11 more books than I did last year. Also, I’m currently 2 books short for the What’s in a name challenge #4. So, here’s what I’d further LIKE to read this month… (though I already know I will never manage to ;)

Kokoro, by Natsume Soseki. I had wanted to join in the Japanese Literature Book Group read of October & November, but missed out. As the book is on my shelf (and ‘just’ 254 pages long) I may be able to submit a late contribution?!

Cover The Moonstone (Wilkie Collins)The Moonstone (Wilkie Collins) for the JEWEL/STONE categorie in the What’s in a name challenge.

Cover Vernon God Little (DBC Pierre)DBC Pierre’s Vernon God Little for the SIZE categorie in the What’s in a name challenge, or Little Bee by Chris Cleeve which I borrowed from Elsje and should be returned to its lawful owner. But that would be a good one for next year’s CREEPY CRAWLIES as well.. ;)

Of course I may just cheat to get to my goal of 40 books in in the +11 challenge and pick up some shorties as the month comes to an end… Cover Slaap / Sleep (Murakami)Like the most recent Dutch publication of a Murakami novel: Slaap (Sleep). ;)

You can still sign-up for the Get Read-y for 2012 challenge!

Sunday Salon logo

The Sunday Salon is a virtual gathering of booklovers on the web, blogging about bookish things of the past week, visiting each others weblogs, and oh — reading books of course ;)

I love reading challenges. Not that I need any, but I like how they tend to shuffle my reading pile. Still, after feeling overwhelmed in 2010 I decided to be very careful with challenges in 2011. So I accepted only five! #goodgrrl :)

What’s the status now that December is around the corner? Am I getting stressed like last year? Do I feel accomplished? Need to get my act together and READ?

Completed 2011 reading challenges

Before I go any further I humbly bow my head and confess that even though I’ve read all the books I commited to for the following three challenges, I reviewed hardly any. 2011 has not been a great year of blogging for me. But as we’re talking reading challenges, I’ll consider my missions accomplished!

HARUKI MURAKAMI READING CHALLENGE

Murakami Challenge 2011 cover button

For the Haruki Murakami Reading Challenge I chose level TORU (named after our dear friend from The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, the first Murakami novel I ever laid my hands on). That means reading 5 books by the master (here’s my admission post). So far I’ve read 6 (!) and I plan to read one more before the year has ended — ask Elsje if you don’t believe me. ;) If I live up to my promiss that collection of short stories will lift me to the level of Nakata (from Kafka on the Shore).

Books read:

Hear the Wind Sing
Pinball, 1973
Underground
1q84 Boek 1
1q84 Boek 2
1q84 Boek 3

And yes, the Dutch translation of 1Q84 was published in three seperate volumes, coming out in June 2010 and April 2011. Also, the title is deliberately written with a lower case ‘Q’ because it much resembles a ’9′. I like that and have no idea why it should be different in the Japanese original and English version. Us Dutchies are pedantic. ;)

Last week Elsje and I went to a lecture about Haruki Murakami by translator Luc Van Haute in Leiden’s Sieboldhuis. He explained to us how the often stated opinion that Murakami’s novels are not typically Japanese is just plain wrong. It was fun — I have a huge reading list of Japanese authors to follow up ;) — and we also got to see the Hello Kitty exhibition and meet ennazussuzanne and Seraphine, who surprised us with the gift of an origami bookmark! Aw, that’ll come to good use when reading… JLit!

JAPANESE LITERATURE CHALLENGE #5

Japanese Literature Challenge #5 logo

The fifth Japanese Literature Challenge only started in June and runs to February, but on October 1st I had already finished the 6 books I commited to. That day I turned over the last page of 1Q84 Book 3. As I still plan to read Sōseki’s Kokoro for the Japanese Literature Book Group (I’m late, I’m late, I’m late!), and Murakami’s The Elephant Vanishes together with Elsje, I’ll probably up my level by the end of January 2012.

Books read:

The Woman in the Dunes ~ Kobo Abe
Underground ~ Haruki Murakami
Thousand Cranes ~ Yasunari Kawabata
1q84 Boek 1 ~ Haruki Murakami
1q84 Boek 2 ~ Haruki Murakami
1q84 Boek 3 ~ Haruki Murakami

FOODIES READING CHALLENGE

Foodie's Reading Challenge 2011 button

In the Foodies reading Challenge I cowardly safely labeled myself a NIBBLER, going for 1 to 3 books (admission post). So far I’ve read 5, and –YAY– even reviewed two!

Books read:

World Food Café
La Dolce Vegan!
Bento Box in the Heartland
Verraad, verleiding en verzoening
Vegan Family Meals

I hope I can find the time and energy to write some more reviews!

Unfinished business

But I’m not there yet. With only five weeks to go I need to finish two more challenges… Will I be able to do it???

CHINESE LITERATURE CHALLENGE

Chinese Literature Challenge button

I was half a year late in joining the Chinese Literature Challenge and I full-heartedly use that as an excuse for why I haven’t reached my goal of 1 book yet. ;) Here’s what I plan to read. Cheer me on and maybe I’ll be able to cross of this challenge before the year has passed!

WHAT’S IN A NAME CHALLENGE #4

What's in a Name Challenge #4 button (2011)

The What’s in a name challenge is always one of my favourites. It’s a thrill to pick your next book just based on a random word in the title. Call me crazy. ;) Alas, this year I’m having trouble finishing: even though I read several more than one fitting titles for four of the six categories, two are still open!

Books read:

Categorie NUMBERS
Pinball, 1973 ~ Haruki Murakami
2666 ~ Roberto Bolaño
1q84 ~ Haruki Murakami

Categorie TRAVEL/MOVEMENT
Travels in the Scriptorium ~ Paul Auster
I’ll Steal You Away ~ Niccolò Ammaniti
Model Flying ~ Marcel Möring

Categorie EVIL
Poelie the Terrible ~ Frans Pointl
Crime School ~ Carol O’Connell

Categorie LIFE STAGE
Bento Box in the Heartland: My Japanese Girlhood in Whitebread America ~ Linda Furiya

Still hoping to get around to:

Categorie JEWEL/GEM
The Moonstone ~ Wilkie Collins

Categorie SIZE
Vernon God Little ~ DBC Pierre

BTW you can always follow my progress on the special Challenge page on Graasland!

What’s new for 2012?

2012 is more than a month away but I have already lined up some reading plans. Wanna know what they are?

WHAT’S IN A NAME CHALLENGE #5

What's in a name challenge #5 button

Of course I can’t resist participating in the new What’s in a name challenge. I must say that I never buy or borrow books specifically for this challenge — picking titles that are already on Mt TBR, or have been on my wishlist for quite some time, is part of the fun. So what are the categories for 2012 and which books fit the bill?

  • A book with a topographical feature (land formation) in the title
    Choosing from: Last Night in Twisted River, Sunset Park, Lunar Park, The Street of a Thousand Blossoms
  • A book with something you’d see in the sky in the title
    Choosing from: The Moonstone, Sunset Park, Lunar Park, A Ride in the Neon Sun, Noorderzon (sun), Dead Air, Star of the Sea
  • A book with a creepy crawly in the title
    Choosing from: Little Bee, Een tafel vol vlinders (‘A table loaded with butterflies‘)
  • A book with a type of house in the title
    Choosing from: The Graveyard Book, Black Box, Het huis op de plantage (‘House on the plantation‘)
  • A book with something you’d carry in your pocket, purse, or backpack in the title
    Choosing from: Dreaming Water, Water for ElephantsMet bonzend hart : brieven aan Hella S. Haasse (‘With a throbbing heart: letters to Hella S. Haasse‘) [open to suggestions]
  • A book with a something you’d find on a calendar in the title
    Choosing from: The Eigth Day, Silence in October, Nocturnes

Don’t you think I have a whole lot of books available just to pick from? :))

THE SAVAGE DETECTIVES GROUP READ

Let me state first that I haven’t commited to the following task yet. I’m only considering it! Caravana de Recuerdos hosts a Roberto Bolaño The Savage Detectives readalong in January. I have the book on my shelf — it was a recommendation by the great author Kazuo Ishiguro — and I guess now is as good as ever. Especially since I didn’t much appreciate Bolaño’s 2666, which I read together with Leeswammes & Co. earlier this year. I’d better say it’s now.. or never!

Are you making plans for 2012 yet?
Looking back on your accomplishments for 2011?
I’d love to know!

Sunday Salon logoThe Sunday Salon is a virtual gathering of booklovers on the web, blogging about bookish things of the past week, visiting each others weblogs, and oh — reading books of course ;)

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