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Modern VegetarianI am not a vegetarian but we enjoy vegetarian food and usually eat vegetarian meals several times a week. I am always on the lookout for new recipes so was keen to check out The Modern Vegetarian by Maria Elia.


This is an attractive book and it is a useful size. There is one recipe per page and most are accompanied by a full page colour photo. The recipes are easy to follow and most of the ingredients are readily available in New Zealand. Maria has obviously been influenced by the cooking of a number of cultures but has then given things her own particular touch. Many of the recipes sound like dishes that would be listed on the menu of a fancy restaurant – Dukkah-Rolled Soft-Boiled Eggs with Chickpea Puree; Chilli and Rosemary Aubergine Parcels with Smokey Mash; Mushroom, Beetroot, Mozzarella with a Lentil Cartouche – but although this book would suit someone who has some cooking experience, the recipes are not particularly complicated.
With most recipe books I borrow, there are usually only a dozen or so recipes that I can be bothered copying them out, but I think I may have to ask for this book for my birthday as almost every recipe sets my tastebuds tingling. So far I have tried 2 – Sweetcorn Polenta with Asparagus and Shiitake Mushrooms and Banana Baklava Spring Roll with Greek Yoghurt. Both were delicious and I will make them again.




When I got to work yesterday I discovered several large piles of new books on the counter for me to use to top up the new book display. One was Divine Cupcakes by Tamara Jane. On the front was a picture of a beautiful cupcake with a rose on top. Given my current obsession with cake and roses, I had to have a look. The book starts with the cupcake recipes (all yummy-sounding and beautifully illustrated), then moves onto toppings and frostings (a great selection) and finally decorations (easy and beautiful). It was while I was reading the ‘toppings’ section that I had a eureka moment (or should that be ‘an eureka’?). The recipe for ganache had 2 variations – one for dark chocolate ganache and one for white chocolate ganache. And, surprise, surprise – the white chocolate ganache had a much higher ratio of  chocolate to cream. No wonder I always have trouble with my white chocolate ganache being too runny. I have been using the wrong recipe!

Armed with this new information I set to work to make another trial wedding cake tier. Following the recipe in the book resulted in a ganache of just the right texture and I was very pleased with the final result.

On Saturday it will be the real thing and I am feeling much more confident now. Watch this space!

bookClick is a book with a difference – ten well-known authors collaborated to write a book with proceeds going to Amnesty International. I picked it up to look at when things were quiet on the desk when I was working in the children’s section of the library. I enjoyed the first chapter, so took it home so I could finish it.

In the first chapter we meet Maggie (and Jason) whose grandfather, Gee, has just died. Gee was a famous photographer (hence the title “Click”) and he left his grandchildren a present each. Jason’s present is a collection of photos whilst Maggie’s is a both a present and a puzzle. It consists of a wooden box with 7 smaller boxes inside, each of which contains a shell. The second chapter tells the story of how Gee was given one of the shells so I expected the rest of the book to be the stories behind the other shells. I was wrong. Instead we learn more about Jason and then meet up with Maggie again when she is older. The story takes various directions depending on the author of a particular chapter and some were more successful than others. Although I enjoyed the first half of the book, I found the later chapters less satisfactory and at the end I still wanted to know the stories of the other shells. This is more like a collection of related short stories than 10 chapters that make up a whole story and I wonder how much collaboration there was between the different authors.

For last week’s Storytellers’ group I volunteered to search out all the resources in Tauranga Library and tell people about them. I also threw in some useful web resources. This is what I came up with:



book 1
Keepers of the story : oral traditions in religionby Megan McKenna
Megan McKenna is a storyteller with a PhD in theology. She looks at the place of story in religion and illustrates this with reference to many stories form different religious faiths.

Mythology : The illustrated anthology of world myth and storytelling
Contains many stories from all over the world.

book 4Brave tales : developing literacy through storytelling by Will Coleman
This book is written for teachers to help them develop their pupils’ story writing by way of telling traditional tales. However it has information that is applicable to storytelling in any arena including a method of learning stories and of adapting traditional tales. Contains a CD of the author telling a story.

The art of storytelling for teachers and pupils : using stories to develop literacy in primary classroomsby Elizabeth Grudgeon
Although an interesting read this book has less to offer the non-teacher storyteller than the one by Will Coleman

book 6Storytelling with dolls by Elinor Pearce Bailey
A fascinating book about telling the story of Jack in the Beanstalk using ‘dolls’. Two doll-makers with their own unique take on the story, each make a set of props to tell the story. Instructions are provided for the props and tips on storytelling with props.


The power of the story : touching the lives of listeners by Rob Harley
Written from a Christian point of view, this book is about using stories to inspire and change lives. Not much practical information on storytelling

book7Anyone can tell a story : Bob Hartman’s guide to storytelling by Bob Hartman
A good practical guide to storytelling.  Contains a selection of stories, some biblical, many not.


book 5

Storytelling with children by Nancy Mellon
This book is written for parents who want to tell stories to their children but contains a wealth of ideas and techniques that would be universally applicable.



Handbook of the NZ Guild of Storytellers, Nga Kaikorero Purakau o Aotearoa (Inc)by Annette Knowler
The first half of this booklet contains information about the New Zealand Guild of Storytellers but the second half has useful information for storytellers.

book 3Shake-it-up tales!: stories to sing, dance, drum, and act out by Margaret Read MacDonald
A selection of stories that include audience participation.



The story-telbook 2ler’s start-up book : finding, learning, performing, and using folktales by Margaret Read MacDonald
A comprehensive book covering how to find stories, how to learn stories, how to perform stories, how to structure a storytelling session and using storytelling in the classroom. It includes 12 stories and each chapter has a bibliography of useful books and articles.


Websites– The New Zealand Guild of Storytellers website. Online copies of the magazine, tips for tellers, story of the month.– Articles on storytelling, podcasts of storytellers and stories. – An archive of stories arranged by category – A good article on how to become a storyteller – Interesting articles about storytelling from magazines and newspapers – A directory of useful storytelling websites

I managed to find a rubber chicken in the pet section of a variety store but didn’t have much luck tracking down plastic vegetables for the Stone Soup story. I thought about buying some of the modelling clay that dries hard but then I remembered salt-dough. For the first Christmas after I was married I made lots of salt dough ornaments for our Christmas tree – hearts, stars and candy canes. Later on I bought some Christmas cookie cutters and made more decorations – angels, Santas, bells, stars etc. Thirty years later, some are still surviving although others have absorbed moisture and crumbled or been chewed by our dogs. While my children were at Playcentre we would make salt-dough ornaments there each year. It has been 10 years since our Playcentre days so I 1853687294_01__SX140_SY225_SCLZZZZZZZ_thought I’d better look for a book to refresh my memory. I found Dough Craft in a Weekend in the library and it even had instructions on how to make some vegetables. I made a carrot and leek following their instructions but then I was on my own. The parsnip was pretty much the same as the carrot but longer and thinner at the end. The celery was pretty easy – I rolled a log and then indented it with a pencil – but I wasn’t particularly happy with my onion. I still had some dough left so made salt and pepper pots, some mushrooms (from the book) and a head of garlic. I baked them overnight and then for a few hours more the next day. Finally I painted them and sprayed them with polyurethane. I’m quite pleased with how they turned out although the dough was too soft so they ended up flat on the back.

saltdough vegetables

saltdough vegetables


I belong to a recently formed storytellers group and did my first public storytelling last Thursday. It had been arranged several weeks before that I and 2 other members of the storytellers group would tell stories at a local old folk’s home.  Since our telling would be on the day before Good Friday I thought that stories with an Easter theme would be appropriate. The one that came immediately to mind was the story of how the donkey got his cross. Then I wondered about Faberge eggs and whether there was a story there that I could tell. I looked in the library catalogue and found a book – Faberge’s Eggs . It looked pretty interesting so I took it out.

The day before the telling, I was reasonable happy with the donkey story (which was a pared down version of this one) but still hadn’t even begun to think about a Faberge story. Although the book I was reading was very interesting, it was a bit short on the personal detail that makes for an interesting story. I almost decided to can the Faberge story but then it came to me out of the blue. I decided to tell the story of the first Faberge egg and present it as a traditional ‘fairytale’.

Although I had the rough outline in my head and the opening phrase worked out – “A long time ago in a country far away, there was a ruler who had a problem” – I didn’t actually tell the story before it was the real thing on the Thursday.  It went really well. I enjoyed telling the story and the residents seemed to enjoy it too. I stuck pretty much to the facts but imagined some personal details and tried not to give away the fact that I was talking about Faberge and the Russian royal family until right at the end.

That evening when I told my family what had been doing, my son asked, “what is a Faberge Egg?” I said I could tell him the story but he wasn’t interested.  A pity – I was dying to tell it again.

Two days later I finished reading Faberge’s Eggs.It was a great book.  As well as telling the story of the eggs, it also helped remind me of the Russian history I learnt at school and traced what had happened to the eggs since the Russian revolution. My only criticism is the scarcity of photos. It would have been great to have a photo of each of the eggs interleaved with the story of its creation. There are no photos of some of the eggs but by searching the Internet I found pictures of many of them including the one at the top which is of the first Faberge egg. I also found lots of extra information about some of the eggs.

I was showing a patron where to find the books on birthday cakes when I spotted an useful looking title – Wedding Cakes You Can Make by Dede Wilson.

076455719x_01__sx140_sclzzzzzzz_I took it home and read it that evening. The first half of the book, entitled Everything You Need to Know about Making a Wedding Cake, contains all sorts of useful information – equipment needed, how many people a particular sized cake serves, how much batter is needed to fill each size pan, ingredient tips, cooking tips, how to assemble your cake, how to support tiers of cake, how much filling and icing you need, how to ice the cake, how to transport it and how to cut it. This section really lived to its title with very clear, comprehensive instructions and handy charts and easy-to-refer-to coloured blocks of text.

The second half of the book contains the recipes. Whilst traditionally New Zealand wedding cakes have been similar to Christmas cakes i.e. fruit cakes with royal icing, American wedding cakes are obvious;y very different. There is not a single fruit cake recipes and most of the cakes are iced with buttercream. Instead these wedding cakes are made up of several tiers of cake with each tier consisting of 4 cake halves layered with a filling of some sort. They sound delicious – Lemon Blackberry cake, Marzipan and Orange Essensia cake, Hazelnut Praline and Apricot cake, Brown Sugar, Pecan and Peaches cake . . .  Unfortunately none of the recipes were egg-free and even the buttercream contained some egg white.

I gave the book to the happy couple to look at for some design ideas and, of course, they liked the most difficult cake in the book that has white chocolate plastic roses on it.

Chocolate-Covered Cherry Cake from Wedding Cakes You can Make

Chocolate-Covered Cherry Cake from Wedding Cakes You can Make

I won’t use Dede’s cake or icing recipes since they contain egg, instead I will use an eggless chocolate recipe  and use white chocolate ganache for the filling and the icing. The good thing about the chocolate roses is that they can be made in advance so I will have plenty of time to practise making them. Today I ordered some of the essential equipment – 2 icing spatulas, a rose petal/leaf cutter and a leaf veiner. I am also watching an auction for a Lazy Susan which will hopefully work out cheaper than the cake decorating turntables that are available.

data-smogThis book is on the recommended reading list for the paper, Information Issues,  I am doing through the Open Polytechnic this semester. I wouldn’t normally post about a ‘text book’ on this blog but it is so readable, relevant  and thought-provoking that I think it deserves a wider readership.

David Shenk  examines the darker side of the proliferation of information technology that has characterised the last few decades. Information is becoming more plentiful and more easily accessible.  According to Shenk “it is estimated that one weekday edition of today’s New York Times contains more information than the average person  in 17th century England was likely to come across in an entire liftime.” However, it is possible to have too much of a good thing. An overload of information can lead to a type of Attention Deficit Disorder that is characterised by an inability to focus on one thing for more than a few minutes. Other effects of information overload include: increased cardiovascular stress, weakened vision, confusion, frustration, impaired judgement, decreased benevolence, inability to make reasoned decisions and overconfidence.

Although the amount of information available has increased tremendously, people’s knowledge has not increased. Simply throwing information at people is not enough. Education needs to impart values and critical thinking rather than just information. I (with my librarian’s hat on) believe that librarians have a critical role to play in teaching people how to evaluate the information they find on-line. With so much information available it becomes almost impossible to make considered decisions. This is particularly noticeable in the health field where it seems new studies are continually disproving the findings of previous studies. Red wine is good for you! the headlines trumpet, but a couple of months later, there is a reversal and now it is found to be bad. With so much information, no one can be a Renaissance man (or woman) any more, instead people are experts in very narrow fields and the rest of us need to rely on these experts for advice. If the experts disagree (and they often do) what are we to do?

This trend towards specialisation means that society becomes increasingly fragmented. People tend to move in their own little circles mixing with people very like themselves and when they meet someone from a different sphere – may find that they have very little in common to talk about, very little shared understanding. This rings warning bells for the future of democracy.

People are hardwired to like story as a way of making sense of things and certainly stories are easier to remember than facts and figures. Studies show that if people are given facts or figures that support a particular conclusion and a story that supports the opposite conclusion, they will believe the story rather than the facts. The facts can be repeated over and over again but  it is hard to defeat the power of a good story – the kind of story that spreads like wildfire via the Internet as everyone forwards it on to all their contacts without checking its truth.

Shenk believes that journalists are necessary to gather, sift and evaluate information and present us with reasoned, balanced, in-depth stories (I don’t see much of that happening in the Bay of Plenty Times!) and worries that they are being bypassed by the proliferation of newsfeeds, infomercials and advertorials.

This book isn’t all doom and gloom though. Shenk lists a number of ways to reduce the data smog including, turning the TV off, avoiding ‘news-nuggets’, leaving the pager/cell phone behind, limiting e-mail, reducing junk mail/e-mail, resisting advertising, filtering e-mails, not forwarding urban legend e-mails, not adding to the data-smog and taking ‘data fasts’.

Well worth reading.


I have, for no particular reason, long been interested in autism and have read a number of books by and/or about people with autism. I am also a dog lover so when I saw A friend like Henry: the remarkable true story of an autistic boy and the dog that unlocked his world sitting on the shelf at the library, I had to get it out despite already having a few books waiting to be read. I started it at 6am this morning and was very reluctant to put it down and go to work. I read it during my breaks and then sat down and finished it when I got home. This is a fantastic story that regularly had me in tears as well as rejoicing with Nuala and her family. Henry, a Golden Retriever, doesn’t make his appearance till halfway through the book, but the first section is important to set the scene and show how bad things were before his advent. Although the family encountered some helpful professionals, on the whole they didn’t get the support they needed, to the extent that on one occasion Nuala almost committed suicide. Henry made an enormous difference to Dale but it was really Nuala and Jamie’s use of Henry that enabled Dale to improve to the extent that he can live a nearly normal live. Very inspirational.

I have always been a bookworm and have learnt over the years that I need to exercise some self-discipline if I want to get things done. So now, I read nonfiction for most of the year and have an annual splurge on fiction during the summer holidays. As good and interesting as many nonfiction books are, I don’t find myself staying up too late reading them or reading them when I should really be doing something else. Fiction, on the other hand, can snare me and make me incapable of thinking of, or doing, anything else and then leaving me in a daze when it is finished. An unputdownable book draws you into its world and makes you care about its characters but precisely how it does this – I’m not sure. Obviously the characters need to be believable but the setting and situation don’t. Some unputdownable books are completely realistic but I have found some fantasy and science fiction to be equally unputdownable. My first (remembered) experience of an unputdownable book was The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. My mother was reading it to me, a chapter a night, but when it got to Aslan being killed we couldn’t just stop there but had to read the next chapter as well.
All year, I note down book titles that friends have recommended or that I have read reviews of or that have caught my eye in a book shop or library. Then, once the bustle of Christmas is past, I head to the library to see what I can find. I have read 18 novels (and some recipe books) since Christmas and whilst all of them were enjoyable only a couple were of the unputdownable kind. One of these was The Lollipop Shoes by Joanne Harris. It is the sequel to Chocolat, following the exploits of Vianne and Anouk in Paris. They have changed their names, and their charactors as well apparently. Vianne has abandoned her magic (but not the chocolate) and seems ready to settle for a boring life with a boring man. Things are stirred up by the arrival of a woman, Zozie, who is on the run and wants to steal Vianne’s identity. This book was published as The Girl with no Shadow in some countries.
Although I have seen the movie of Chocolat several times and even attended a church study group on it, I haven’t read the book. It is definitely now on my ‘to read’ list along with the rest of Joanne Harris’ books. My library didn’t have any copies of Chocolat immediately available but I was able to borrow Five Quarters of the Orange. I will need to get a move on and read it as the study notes for the paper I am doing this semester arrived a couple of days ago – the end of the holidays are in sight!

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