Readathon button

We’ve got a little more than an hour to go of the 24 Hour Read-a-Thon but I realised that I no longer feel like reading. So I’m going to quit! I’ve read for an embarrassing total of 3:15 hours (*hides in shame*) but that’s more than I’ve read in a long time and I got halfway The Book of Negroes -a chunkster- so I’ve met my goal. ;)

You can laugh.
You can point your fingers at me.
You may argue that I’m not a worthy readathonner.

BUT I’M HAPPY WITH WHAT I’VE DONE! And I know you’re all nice people and won’t think anything bad of me anyway! :D

A big THANK YOU to the organisers, mini challenge hosts, cheerleaders and all participants who made this spring 2013 read-a-thon possible. I hope to see you all around next fall!

Early End of the Event Meme

  1. Which hour was most daunting for you?
    The first few hours when I had expected to read a lot in one stretch before I needed to go to a birthday party but didn’t . :(
  2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?
    Well, the book I have been reading today is definitely one of those: The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill!
    Another would be Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami or Julian Barnes’ The Sense of an Ending for a shorter novella.
  3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
    Not really, everything runs so smoothly! Except maybe that I don’t like mini challenges that take up a lot of reading time but are too tempting to resist. I’ve had issues with those in previous years and now I tend to ignore the challenges as a whole so I won’t get distracted.
  4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?
    I can’t think of anything that went better than other times!
  5. How many books did you read?
    (*whispers*) Not even one: just the first part of The Book of Negroes; books 1 and 2.
  6. What were the names of the books you read?
    Ha! I already mentioned that several times and I don’t think you want to hear me say it again! LOL
  7. Which book did you enjoy most?
    Well, THAT one. ;)
  8. Which did you enjoy least?
  9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?
  10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?
    Yes please! Looking at my results I shouldn’t challenge myself beyond reading though…

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 ;)

Crazy Comma Momma’s mini challenge for this twentieth hour is writing a haiku about the read-a-thon or the book you’re reading. Poetry is not one of my strong suits but here’s an attempt at a ‘zen moment’ in 5-7-5 syllables. Please don’t laugh! ;)

In bed with the cats
reading The Book of Negroes
– Sunday morning bliss

20130427-164209.jpgBah. So far I’ve only read for a short half hour in The Book of Negroes. I’m enjoying it and would like to read on! But I had some preparations to do for the b-day party (I’m actually on my way to that right now) *and* wanted to go for a run. Hopefully we’ll be home a bit early tonight so I can get some readin’ done before I’m too tired!

Button 24 Hour Read-a-ThonYay, after two-and-a-half years I’m finally participating again in the 24 hour read-a-thon! And I’ve been extremely looking forward to it. :) It was rather difficult to keep the date free since so many activities seem to be planned this weekend, but I was firm and only have a birthday to go to later on.

That’s also why I allowed myself to start an hour earlier than the set time for my zone here in Utrecht: at 13.00 instead of 14.00. And I already know I won’t be reading around the clock but that’s okay: today is meant to get some reading done and I NEED that because I’ve been in some kind of slump and I got this Bookcrossing bookray that I want to get on with – The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill (Het negerboek in Dutch).

Cover Het negerboek / The Nigger Book (Lawrence Hill)

The bookmark you see I cut from a thank-you note card that was sent to me by a swap-bot member.

Delight in the little things

Balou the Bear from Jungle BookCute, isn’t it? That’s a quote by Rudyard Kipling, the author of Jungle Book (who used to be accused of racism but got revalued later on).

I also won’t be blogging, tweeting, FB-ing much today, nor participate in (many) challenges or lose myself otherwise in social media. I may post an occasional update but for me today is meant for reading even though I know the readathon is much about the community as well. A grrl has to set priorities!

Why don’t you follow my example and pick up a book?

Summarizing for the Introductory Questionnaire

  1. What fine part of the world are you reading from today?
    Utrecht – the Netherlands – Europe
  2. Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?
    Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill
  3. Which snack are you most looking forward to?
    None in particular, though I’ll be having a nice mezze dinner at a birthday party with dishes like houmous, pide bread and caponata mmmmm. :)
  4. Tell us a little something about yourself!
    I’m looking forward to having some quality time with da ladies: Juno, Nina and Kuki! Reading and cats go great together! ;)
  5. If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?
    I haven’t participated in the last read-a-thon (as I said at the beginning) but I know from previous ones that social media are majorly distracting!

This office lunch bento no. 208 is in African-Eastern style. I used leftovers from dinner I made following recipes from the Cookbook Challenge #1. Remember I said there were a few more recipes I wanted to try from the Modern Moroccan cookbook? Well, this box contains creamy couscous, agave-roasted courgette and home-made harissa. All delicious. :) Especially the couscous was surprisingly good.

Moroccan Bento (tier 1), 28-03-2013

The other tier is more… fusion. It holds some gherkin and pickled onions, mixed green salad with lemon olives, grapes, pecans, garden cress, fennel and spring onion. There’s onion bhajee with tamarind sauce in the paper cup (Indian takeaway) and a small piece of veggie dog with tomato ketchup.

Some more seedless grapes on the side.

Moroccan Bento (tier 2), 28-03-2013

I haven’t gotten around to blogging much (I’m  spending more time away from the computer these days), and I actually had this lunch on the 28th of March. So far, the first bento of April has still to come. :(

We’re eagerly awaiting spring here so we can celebrate o-hanami in the Japanese cherry blossom garden with our traditional picnic — that should make up for a lot of bentos in one go! ;)

Have you made any bentos lately?

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 ;)

The Ballad of Narayama film posterOn Wednesday I made my first bento in almost two months… I had a movie date in Amsterdam with my friend Loes. We went to a special viewing of the classic 1983 Palm d’Or winner The Ballad of Narayama (Narayama bushikô), a film by Shohei Imamura. Last week was the Dutch première -yes, after 30 years!- and there are only a handful of screenings.

The film tells the story of Orin, a 69 year old woman in a rural hamlet of late-1900s Japan. It’s tradition, or rather law, that inhabitants reaching the age of 70 go to the top of the mountain (Narayama) to commit obasute: death by starvation, to limit the amount of mouths to feed. The eldest son is supposed to carry his mother on his back to her resting place. But Orin is still very strong and healthy…

The Ballad of Narayama is an unusual movie: at the same time pretty much “in your face” as well as burlesque — the latter possibly to soften the hardships of life that are shown. But it’s also something I’ve come across before in Japanese cinema. Isn’t the sometimes caricatural play not reminiscent of kyōgen theatre and kabuki? Anyway, I enjoyed myself regardless of the slow pace. The many images of nature are gorgeous and it’s interesting to witness how life in a poor Japanese country village may have been in another age. I was touched by the way Orin’s son was torn between his unwillingness to let his mom go, and not wanting to shame her by refusing to go along. His difficult journey into the mountains felt like a period of mourning and Orin’s first-born carrying her to her death mirrored the process of her giving birth to him. The cycle of life.

Title roll Ballad of NarayamaThe title of the film refers to a song about Orin’s life stage made up by her grandson in the beginning of the story (wintertime), recurring several times until The End, on the threshold of another winter.

Contemplating this I seem to have a theme going in my life at the moment. My current book is Wild by Cheryl Strayed, relating of her experiences hiking the Pacific Trail Crest (PCT) in her early twenties, a few years after her mother died. I’m totally absorbed in the story and can’t wait to read on.

But first it’s time to get back to the subject of this post. I was travelling to the cinema at dinner time so I’d eaten a hearty lunch earlier that day and made myself a simple dinner bento to have on the train.

Ballad of Narayama Bento (06-03-2013)

From top to bottom

  • Aubergine caviar with corn kernels, Italian crackers and walnut spread.
  • Lemon macadamia cupcake with lemon frosting (recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World), more crackers, dried apricot and baby fig.
  • Cucumber salad with mini plum tomatoes, olives, radishes, chives, a cheezy dressing (recipe from Bryanna Clarke) and hemp seeds sprinkled over.

It was GOOOOD! I hope to have more bentos and nights like this. :)

Submitted to What’s for Lunch Wednesday #145 and Beth Fish’s Weekend Cooking.

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?

– – – – –

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

Beth Fish Weekend Cooking logo

Beth Fish Weekend Cooking logoThis Weekend Cooking post is a hotchpot of food-related topics that have been left stewing the past weeks. I’m focussing on bentos and swaps.

Bentos

Bento making has gotten a bit neglected lately; the following, hastily filled boxes are the only lunches I have to share.

Buckwheat Pancake Bento #205

Buckwheat Pancake Bento #205

Rabbit food:

  • buckwheat pancakes from Vega Dutchie (which I found too gritty, even more when eaten cold like this)
  • cranberries
  • Lithuanian dried plum “cake”
  • treacle for pancakes in the small container
  • cucumber
  • corncob
  • carrot-cabbage salad with walnuts


MiL Bento #206

MiL Bento #206

The brown rice with ratatouille in the round blue thermos is a leftover from dinner at my mother-in-law’s the night before. The small lock & lock box contains red cabbage coleslaw with apple, raisins and an orange dressing. Two sandwiches in the butterfly bag and clementines for dessert.

Swap-botting

I’ve recently discovered swap-bot. What I don’t like about that other random mail-exchange ‘program’ Postcrossing is that I often put a lot of thought in what I write on a card, but get the shortest messages in return. Also, although I receive awesome postcards every once in a while, many people send free ad cards or touristy multi-views, both of which don’t interest me. On Swap-bot on the other hand there’s themes you can choose — and people that really like to write! A trip down memory lane as I was a fervent penpal when I was young. So thanks to Uniflame for reacquainting me with S-B! :)

Now what does this have to do with food? I hear you think. Well, the first two swaps I joined are food ‘n drink-centered.

Tea For You And Tea For Me, What’s Your Resolution?

Tea for You and Tea for Me, What's Your Resolution? swap

For the easy Tea For You And Tea For Me, What’s Your Resolution? trade we had to send three bags of tea to our partner plus a note revealing our resolutions for 2013. I don’t do New Year’s resolutions, but I have things that I’d like to achieve this year concerning my health. So I shared those.

Tea for You and Tea for Me, What's Your Resolution? swap

Now the assignment may originally have been quick and easy, it wasn’t as simple as it seemed… My partner Barsook likes green teas — how was I supposed to choose only three??? So I sent her a whole bunch. :)

Tea for You and Tea for Me, What's Your Resolution? swap

Myself, I was pampered with five teas in a lovely decorated envelope: pure rooibos red tea, earthy vanilla scented rooibos, Tulsi sweet rose, apricot vanilla crème and jasmine green. But I won’t tell what JessicaLynn1978‘s resolution is!

Tea for You and Tea for Me, What's Your Resolution? swap

Lovely Vegan Dinner Recipe Swap

Recipe cards seem to be common in the States, but not here in Holland. I very much like the concept though! So I joined the Lovely Vegan Dinner Recipe Swap in which I had to share a virtual meal via recipes for a starter, main course and dessert. All animal-free. Luckily it was okay to make your own recipe cards as long as they had the standard format of approximately A5. So these are the ones I made for lob.

Recipe cards for Vegan Dinner Recipe swap

The recipes that travelled on these are:

Vegan Dinner Recipe swap

Now I got the most AWESOME package from long-time veggie Seaglass! She put a lot of effort in making my parcel extra special — she’s the sweetest!

Vegan Dinner Recipe Swap package from seaglass

There’s recipes for:

  • vegan ‘blue cheese’ dressing
  • potato, sorrel & watercress soup
  • quinoa salad with tofu
  • tofu with snow peas and lemon lime vinaigrette
  • spicy polenta with chili paste
  • Lisa’s vegan zucchini carrot muffins
  • chocolate upside down pudding cake

I have no idea where to start! :D I guess it won’t be the soup though since I have to find out first where to get sorrel (zuring). Any ideas, Dutchies? Should I just go and pick some in the fields? I’m a little afraid of catching tetanus from dog or fox pee… :\

Seaglass also included some empty recipe cards for me to use and a load mouthwatering vegan candy bars — those are hard to get over here! And a packet of California powdered chili for me to compare to its Dutch counterpart: American recipes containing chili somehow always get too hot; even though I can usually handle heat.

I LOVE the paper Lisa (Seaglass) wrote her letter on: it has a heron! So cute!

That’s it for me now. Do you have some foodie news to share for Weekend Cooking?

I did some extra cleaning for the turn of the year, but that’s not what this post is about.

Maybe you noticed I haven’t been writing much lately; I even stopped (b)logging my weekly vegetable haul. Furthermore, I failed to make photos since December. O_o I guess I fell into some sort of winter slump.

CSA season ended the week before Christmas but there are still many greens left in the fridge… Not that fresh any more. :\ So now that the new year has begun I’m resolved to take up menu planning again — and actually started a few days ago. The pantry and refrigerator need to be emptied of 2012’s remains!

November 2012 CSA vegetables

November 2012 CSA vegetables (week 45-48)

In stock

Veggies

  • Pumpkin
  • Parsnip
  • Potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Leek
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Red cabbage
  • Savoy cabbage
  • Sunchokes
  • Avocados
  • 1/3 courgette
  • Thyme

Leftovers

  • Chilli-tomato sauce
  • Stewed pears (Yogi kookschrift: Bord 1-5)

Other

  • Pickled Seaweed
  • Blue Sheese
  • Tempeh
  • Tofu
  • Open package of silken tofu
  • Open package of soy cream
  • Open package of oat cream

Once we’ve depleted this surplus we’ll get organic Odin vegetables till our local veggies return in May.

Menu plan December 30th 2012 – Januari 2nd 2013

  • Roasted parsnip & carrot salad with thyme (Ecofabulous 151), mashed potatoes with celeriac, Asian “lemon chicken” and stewed pears, red grapefruit for dessert [Sunday]
    Red winter dinner 30-12-2012
  • Tomato soup (freezer stash) and pita bread with bean-corn-avocado salad with leftover chilli-tomato sauce, homemade oliebollen (Ecofabulous 167): traditional New Year’s fritters [Monday]
    Homemade oliebollen on New Year's Eve
  • Spicy red cabbage with tofu and gingerbread… (Ecofabulous 138), mashed potatoes and salad [Tuesday]
  • Microwave teriyaki, yuzu scented winter vegetable tsukemono and Brussels sprouts with sesame [Wednesday]

Further planning will follow on Thursday. Now I’m hopping into the kitchen to cook dinner!

Gnoe goes ExtraVeganza!

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