Wednesday, 19 March 2014

The Book Thief: A review

After reading The Book Thief I've noticed that I, too, am haunted by words. They follow me. I edit them at work, I read them at home and I write them in secret places. Haunted may not be the word as it connotes a negative influence so I like to think of being overwhelmed by words, in awe of them even. It's as if there are too many words for one human.

Some adults are childlike when reading; we get obsessed with the reality of it. I read the last half of The Book Thief in two evenings. It's a quick read due to the chapter progression and fast pace. I actually burst into tears at one point. Books that make me swell in my stomach or give me that overriding feeling of being completely emerged are the ones I want to read over and over. It doesn't happen often but when you get that sort of book, you'll know what I mean. That's what we're doing as adult readers; we're on the hunt for that feeling of 'yeah, this is epic' or 'yep, this is the one'. I could compare it to a split second of love. That's why we're all hooked.

I was expecting Liesel to turn into a influential speaker at the end: a powerful force in Nazi-Germany's history. Even if a book is fiction, I still like to believe that the characters are built on reality. A story has to be believable and to me, this one was. Liesel has to be a character who changed the world slightly, not entirely. I was half-expecting Liesel to fight off Hitler single handedly (like Max imagines down in the basement), but she didn't. She did more than that. She saved her life by writing. Words saved her life. They literally sheltered her from harm.

With Death being the narrator, it added an edge. It showed the true horror of war, the true pain of dying, but it also changed the image I have of death. I know Death as the hooded character from many Hallowe'en costumes, and he is the object of nightmares, but he's never had a personality. He's never had a voice. By giving Death life, Zusak has created hope to the suffering. Light souls being lifted by Death is what people are scared of. He's tried to take the shock out of life by giving us hope in Death. A very clever move, Mr. Zusak.

On a more personal level, by reading Leisel's journey, it's helped me to understand my own expectations. I've grown up thinking I'll save the world somehow. But I've never known how. Liesel has reminded me that it's the little things in life are what it's all about. It's about savouring acts of kindness. It's about appreciating the water and food we have so readily available. All my other worries then seem to be not so important anymore. I constantly think what I'm doing isn't enough, that I'm always striving for ways of being better. I've learnt there's no need to strive so hard and put all this pressure on myself. I'll get there in the end. Everyone saves the world, even if it's just a tiny bit at a time.

On a separate note, spring seems to be bringing a strange mood into the Preston household. I think it's the sign of old flowers dying and new buds opening. It is the time of change and growth. It feels strange but great; like a new world is opening.

ZP x

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Holiday food: Australia

The one thing I remember from the Australian restaurant menus is 'salt and pepper squid' and 'schnitzels'. We learnt that the Italians and the Greeks were the first to bring restaurant dining in Australia (correct me if I'm wrong) and you can see both cuisines everywhere. Of course, there were the usual burger joints that you get worldwide but there's no need for them when there's some great local places nearby.

I also loved the fact that there were salad bars as fast food outlets. I picked up on the fact that their lifestyle is definitely more healthier than ours. We saw hundreds of people running by the beach, there were people exercising everywhere and to be externally beautiful was top of the list in a lot of people's eyes. In comparison, in the UK there are hardly any healthy, fast food restaurants. I think this is a huge gap in the UK market. Burger chains have only just started selling salads on their 'menus' but they are a pathetic attempt and the burger still reigns as champion. We need fast, healthy food that packs a punch. We need it soon and I can feel it coming.

Going back to the food of kangaroo land, there were also big Asian influences from the surrounding Asian countries. We loved the noodle bars and there were plenty of sushi places like those cropping up in the West.

To the left is when we had some awesome (and very cheap) instant noodles on the table full of doodles from travellers at the Sydney Harbour hostel. It was the most amazing hostel I've been to...big recommendations to fellow travellers out there!

To the right, we stopped at a local noodle bar just off the beach at Bondi Beach and had laksa soup and chicken and mushroom coconut milk curry. It was beautiful. We went back to our Bondi beach hostel and collapsed in the heat. That was the night before Valentines Day.

The next morning, on Valentines, we woke and went down to the Lamrock cafe for pancakes, eggs and iced coffees. Perfect.

 I couldn't forget to mention that they love their local produce, especially in the smaller cities such as Perth. When we were there, we stayed with family relatives in Baldivis, and had local honey for breakfast and we also ate vegemite for the first time on toast. We were amazed that the honey not only said what honey it was but also what tree it came from. Amazing. All we get here is 'Oxfordshire honey'.

When the rain came, we had movie days and we had a lush day in Cronulla with snacks including Tim Tams, lollies, jaffas, popcorn,  and cheezels. Yum. The photo right is making homemade schnitzels in Wollongong.

 Of course, there was fresh fruit everywhere for most breakfasts. Loved this.
Then, of course, there were the BBQ's. Snaggers or snags (sausages to us Brits) and beef steak were mainly cooked on the barbie. Also, in Bowral on the farm, there were beef joints cooked and served with salad and baked potatoes in cheese and cream and onions (similar to my dauphinoise potatoes). They cooked as much as they could on the BBQ, it was the central family social party starter. It was the hub to the outside parties, it was the focal point of the evening (apart from the delicious beer, obviously!).

One last thing is not only did they love their food but they loved their drink. Ted (Tooheys Extra Dry) was popular as well as Corona (like it is here). Wine was obviously amazing and great value. I spotted some pale ale in bars but not the dark ale or stout that you get here (my Dad defo wouldn't be able to drink there!) as well as cider being introduced over there due to the influence of the Brits.

All I can say is that it was a yummy holiday!

ZP x

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Back in my kitchen and happy to be home: Australia, you were amazing!

G'day everyone!

I'm back from Australia and here are the best pics from the month away. It was truly the best holiday I've ever been on and to be part of my cousin's special day was something I'll never forget. Thanks to all my family for the amazing hospitality. It was amazing to meet new family over in Perth - it's amazing where family adventures can take you! I'll be back soon everyone!

I'm already back in my kitchen and I'm happy to be back where all my cupboard essentials are. Home is where the condiments are! Over the past week since being back in England, I have really struggled with jet lag. I've been falling asleep at 7pm and waking very early in the morning, but finally, I seem to have got back to normal.

I've forgotten how I like cold mornings in England and how subtly beautiful the country is. We don't need crystal blue waters or 40 degree heat to be a great country. We've got history, frosty mornings and pubs. I've learnt that we, as a nation, are far too uptight and opinionated. We don't let go of negative emotions which, in the end, let our problems drain the life out of us. We are also crazy for road rage. Chill out and go on the back road. Don't let things affect you and enjoy every frosty morning.

We don't need the sun to be happy so I'll leave you with a small sign of spring to brighten your day. The changing of seasons is what we need to cherish the most:


I'll be posting more about the food we experienced over there very soon!

ZP x