Lemony goodness

A long time ago, I used to have a blog called Cooking with Caitie which started because my daughter was mad for anything cooking or baking related.  She was super cute too, and as I was working on my family recipe book (which is still not finished), I started documenting our adventures in the kitchen.

It’s hard work though, especially when you’re a working parent like I am.  We only had time to potter in the kitchen on the weekends, and I’d forget to take photos or forget to update the blog, and eventually it fell by the wayside as so many blogs do.

Caitie still loves cooking and baking though.  She’s 12 now, and has just started taking on the role of making the weekday dinners.  I usually get home after 6:30pm and while my husband might be home a little earlier than that, he usually disappears into his study to do more work (he runs his own business).  Having Caitie make the weekday dinners is a huge help, but it does require some pre-planning.  I try to always keep mince (ground beef) in the freezer, because that’s an easy one for her to make nachos or spag bol with.  Today I went out and bought a roast chicken for her to do tomorrow night.  A couple of days ago she made One Pot Cheesy Italian Pasta Chicken, from The Slow Roasted Italian which turned out brilliantly.  My husband and son had second helpings, and I had some for lunch the next day.  It was easy for her to make, filling and yum.  What more can you ask for?

On the weekends we try and experiment a little if we have time.  Last Sunday we made slow cooker cabbage rolls which were a sad fail.  They were really mushy (to the point where I couldn’t take them individually out of the slow cooker, I just had to serve scoopfuls) and exceedingly bland.  Tonight we’re making Chicken Lettuce Cups and Easy Pad Thai from Epicurious which I’m looking forward to trying.

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Kat from Bad Mum Cooking had an overload of citrus fruit, and I ended up with a couple of supermarket bags of lemons.  I decided to take Caitie up to my mother’s to make some lemony things, and we stopped in at my dad’s house to drop off some of Kat’s kimchi to him (more on kimchi in another post!), only to be told he had excess lemons too.  His lemons were small but super juicy, and Caitie and I picked a whole ‘nother bag full from his tree.  Now, what were we going to do with three bags of lemons?!

I wanted to make some of Mum’s famous lemon drink.  It’s in the family recipe book for a reason!  She was given the recipe by the Plunket lady when we were very small children.  We were living on the farm then, and had a small orchard, so I imagine lemons were fairly easy to come by.  The recipe makes a very sweet concentrate that you then dilute to taste with water.  Mum says she used to make it during shearing season for the men shearing the sheep, as it was very refreshing.

DSC_0007

DSC_0010

So Mum made the lemon drink, which we separated into two bottles, one for her to keep and one for me to take home.  While she was doing that, Caitie made lemon and coconut biscuits using a Chelsea Sugar recipe.  They were really hard to put on the tray without getting them overly warm from our hands, but Caitie did a good job.  Next time I think we’ll freeze the dough into a roll, then just slice off portions to put on the baking tray.  They were delicious though, very moreish.

DSC_0021

DSC_0048

I was busy making lemon curd, which used a recipe I found back when I was doing that old Cooking with Caitie blog.  It’s from Kitchen Alchemy, and I’ve used the recipe multiple times and it always turns out perfectly.

DSC_0043

And after the drink was made, Mum and Caitie made a lemon cheesecake, and Mum’s Cointreau-infused citrus salad to go with it.  Mum said the cheesecake didn’t transport well, as she’s made it a few times, so we took our portion home ‘deconstructed’ and had deconstructed cheesecake with alcoholic citrus salad on the side.  Well, the kids obviously didn’t have the alcoholic part, they just had cheesecake.  It was really yum.

DSC_0055

DSC_0019

2017-08-06_20-03-51_725

On the way home from Mum’s, I stopped by Kat’s house and left a jar of lemon curd and a container of lemon coconut biscuits on her doorstep to say thank you for the lemons. She said she enjoyed both.

For dinner we had lemon fish, with leek rice risotto.

2017-08-06_19-03-19_810
So overall, a very productive, albeit lemony, day! We ended up with lemon drink, lemon and coconut biscuits, lemon curd, lemon cheesecake, citrus salad, and lemon fish with leek risotto. Yum!

If anyone wants any of the non-linked recipes, just let me know in the comments.

An interview with author Hadiqa Inam

Do you consider English a first language or a second?
I am an ESL. I was born in Pakistan and my mother tongue and first language is Urdu. Whenever I am not on WDC, the language that not only I but majority uses is a mixture of both English and Urdu. Many of the English words have found a way into our daily life conversations making it easy to understand what the other person is saying more efficiently. However, on WDC, I speak and write only in English because there are hardly any Urdu speakers here, except for one whom I met a month ago on WDC.

Do you write in both Urdu and English? If so, do you find your writing changes from one language to another?
I write mainly in English because writing in Urdu is a very difficult task and a challenge I found myself unable to do. Sure I can write a letter or a short story in Urdu, that’s easy but the poetry is where I can’t even attempt without getting proper classes first. Urdu literature poetry has nothing like ‘free verse,’ there are so many tools, so many techniques and requirements and forms. Another obstacle I find in Urdu is the limited vocabulary I have. The vocabulary used in Urdu poetry is beyond one’s imagination and I bet there isn’t one person who knows all the words of Urdu.

Hence, I have written poetry and short stories only in English.

Do you write differently when you’re writing for an international audience than for a Pakistani audience?
Absolutely, without a doubt! When I know I am addressing an audience of Pakistan, I automatically turn to things I feel very deeply about and things that affect me of my society so that others can understand and perhaps ‘come to life’ and try to make a change, bring a difference. For example, I was representing my country, Pakistan, on an online WDC contest and I knew I had to write something that was related to my country. For that purpose, I evoked emotions about social evils and religious views of the Pakistani people. Surely if Pakistanis read it, they would be influenced differently and more as compared to the international audience. For some reason when your mind senses you are writing for your own country, it turns to the matters about the country that disturbs or inspires the poet.

You’re young. Do you think that is an advantage or a disadvantage when it comes to your writing?
Yes, surely. I believe that it’s fortunate that I started writing at a young age. I have lot of time, hopefully, to write, expand my horizon and experiment with new forms and techniques and learn something new every day along the way. Being young has it’s advantage when it comes to everything. ‘Young’ means young blood, new thoughts, new ideas, concepts, different perspectives, different analysis of the same situation and most importantly, the liveliness and rawness of the emotions found in the youth.

I agree that we, the youth, are inexperienced, there are so many things we don’t know but there is an addition to the ‘idea pool’ in the society, I remember five years ago when I got a review for my poem and the reviewer had mentioned the term ‘stanza’ and I had absolutely no idea what it was! The reviewer was kind enough to explain it to me and send me links of more poetry terms.

Young or not, every individual brings something unique to writing. So, my being young adds an advantage for me too.

You’ve tried your hand at poetry, short stories and novels. Do you have a favourite format?
This is a nice question. Hmm, if I have to choose between all the formats I have written, I’d say poetry is my favourite format. Poetry is easy and almost everyone can write it and have a take on it. Poetry has no limits, you can write free verse, rhyming couplet, quatrain and so many different invented and conventional forms of poetry! Any idea, any thought, any feeling can be expressed in poetry in just a few words.

Poetry are brilliantly powerful and influencing. A haiku is a three line poem, what could be in it? You’d be absolutely amazed to find the depth in it! When I finish writing a haiku, or any poem for instance, and go back to read it, hell sometimes I lose myself and wonder what did I create and how!

Time stood still the moment we saw
just the two of us in each other.
Fingers interlocked. Souls connected.
Such perfection; beautiful fairytale. I love you.

White wrinkles and pigmentation;
the cruel signs of time.
What improbable thought it was,
the idea of mere separation. Why?

Eternity – the time for us
yet it was proven so wrong.
There you lay, pallid, drained.
Unrecognisable. Incognito. Who are you?

Taken away unceremoniously,
without a warning, my hand
slipped through yours.
You never held on. I lost you.

The woman in the mirror, disheveled
hair with grief etched on her face. Screams fill
the silent nights; hands roam to find
the lost source of comfort. Where did you go?

A shard in my stomach that never
leaves. Choking the breath from my
body. Broken into pieces what was whole.
Emptiness where there was peace. I need you.

Unbearable suffering. Then I see you,
a hand on my shoulder, wearing the
brilliant smile you stole my heart with.
Just a gentle touch I needed. You have me.

The support it gives me
is a new light born within.
You never left me. The face
I see in the mirror is half you, half me.

The tides shall come and leave.
The strength in me drains as
the burden of life without you falls
upon my soul. Be brave, love. You can do it.

Assassin.
Keeper.
Lover.
Keeper.
Departed.
Yet you still remain
the light in my sea of storms.

My Light in the Storm, by Hadiqa Inam

What genres do you write in? Do you have a favourite?
I write poetry and short stories in different genres. I have noticed that I don’t write in the same genre for stories and poetry. When it comes to poems, I write mostly in Romance, Emotional, Personal Experience, Loss or Tragedy, Family, Dark and Psychology. However, on the other hand, when it comes to writing stories, I write in Horror, Dark, Romance and Fantasy. Sure there are some similar genres between my poems and stories but genres like Fantasy and Horror are ones that I use only in my short stories.

My personal favourite is Historical Romance. For years, I have been in love with historical romance and been reading so many books about it too. The entire era, the setting, the sophisticated people, manners, the dresses, the concept of romance, everything is perfect and I absolutely love it. Other than this, my favourite genre is fantasy mixed with romance. I don’t like ‘romance’ as the sole and main genre of anything, I’d prefer it to be mixed with some other genre. For example, I enjoy reading and watching fantasy movies where romance develops as a secondary genre but I dislike watching purely romantic movies or books. Same is the case when I am writing something of my own.

Are there any genres you’re afraid to try, or struggle to write in?
Historical Romance. There are so many things that I don’t know how worked and happened in the past so I can’t really attempt Historical Romance. Being an ESL, I have no idea what many of the dresses the women and men used to wear were called back in those days. I have learned a lot reading historical romance novels but still there are a lot of things I don’t know and I cannot attempt writing on historical romance unless I know about them to bring the realistic touch in it. Besides, I myself wouldn’t see the story from my eyes as it should be supposed to in those days.

I have written drafts of so many story and novel ideas and plots pertaining to Historical romance but the reason I am afraid to attempt is my lack of knowledge on the topic. I do hope to rectify that. I have followed some of the authors whose historical romance novels I have read and I even chatted with one of them and she was very nice to send me some articles and useful links to learn about the historian era and the way things were done.

Do you read in the same genres that you write in?
Most of the time, yes. I read romance, fantasy, supernatural, mystery/detective, dark, horror and family.

How do you choose which book to read next?
I pick the next book to read by the genre and then by the blurb.

What inspires you? Where do you get your ideas from?
I have a very long answer for this but I’ll try to keep it short.

1. For me, anything around me that inspires me, gets me into thinking or in an emotional state, strayed from the equilibrium be it happiness or sadness, gets me writing.

2. I watch many English movies as well as TV seasons and read lots of novels. I have a very special gift of being a good observer. All of these combined inspire me to write, get new ideas.

3. When my muse has abandoned me or when I don’t have much time to get something written, I randomly find writing prompts either on the contests on WDC or search on Google. Among the results I find, those that really strike me and makes me say ‘Yes, I want to write something on it!” I copy and paste them into a notebook to get something written on them when I get time.

4. It happened once but it did that I read a beautiful, impressive poem on WDC (written by Norb Aikin) and after reading it, I was so awestruck that I wanted to write something along the same lines and I did write something and was very happy with it!

5. I have a very active imagination and every now and then, when I am lying waiting to fall asleep or sitting idle, I make up scenes in my own mind inspired by fantasy and other movies or books I have read. Sometimes, I draw a completely new setting in my mind and use some characters from movies or books I have read or watched to make a story and create conflicts, villains, relationships, how he/she speaks etc. I love this part of my day. I usually do this when I am on the bed to sleep or when I am coming back home from my classes so on my drive back, I imagine scenarios and stories. It gives me a lot of ideas and exciting plots!

Scotty, a good chum of mine here, always says, “Be a man enough to never fall in love. If you do, you’ll forever become a fool in love.” Everybody laughs, including him, but we all notice the tear that always slides down his left eye when he prays before going to bed and looks at an old photograph. Everyone here has his own story. Painful in their own ways but I try not to think of it in that way. I mean, a husband and wife should have a break from each other.

After all, wives don’t like the mess their husbands make and the husbands don’t like the scowl on their pretty wives’ faces. Husbands would like to, every once in a while, sleep on at least half of the bed, if not on the full bed. And wives, oh boy, the list of things they would die to get done when their husbands are gone like your weird spa treatments, skin care packages, body tanning and don’t even get me started on shopping. Who’s going to stop them from shopping! Man, it’s their independence day!
Dear Laurel, by Hadiqa Inam

Do you have a favourite author? Or perhaps an author you view as an inspiration?
Yes! I absolutely love Susan Ee and her trilogy. I used to hate apocalyptic movies, stories and novels. Hers was the first that I started reading and I fell in love with it immediately! It had the fantasy element with romance, both of my favourites, so I had to read it and I am so glad I did! I definitely see her as an inspiration because of the idea she brought forward, something new to me and I enjoyed it. It has allowed me to explore further possibilities in the fantasy genre mixed with real life to some extent.

What is your purpose in writing? Do you aspire to be published?
I write because I feel so happy writing, I want to share that with others. Writing brings great joy to me, and we all know how excellent of an outlet it is for the emotions and the human mind to relax. I write to complete torn lines and distorted images, plots that come to my mind and give them a complete beginning, middle, ending, characters and voices. I love bringing my creations and ideas to life through words.

I started writing because it was something completely new to me and in Pakistan, let me say that literature and writing stories and poetry in English is not very common and not everyone does it. I got started into writing when I read Shakespeare’s abridged versions in sixth grade and when my English teacher used to give the students a line or a theme and asked us to write a story on. Ever since then, I found my love in writing and have been writing since then.

Sometimes, I want to approach the audience, to make social awareness or inform others about something and for that purpose, I write. At other times, I write because I feel like it, when something is disturbing me mentally or affecting me deeply.

Published? Um, it would be nice to get published but that is not my primary focus. Being a full time student and aspiring to pursue in medical career, that is my main focus. Writing is more than a hobby, a part of life, but I won’t stress about getting published. I have been published twice in international magazine “The Literary Hatchet.” Every now and then, I read what I have written, select the best ones according to my opinion and then send them out to magazines. At the moment, I have three poetry submissions that are ‘in-progress.’ So I’ll definitely try to get published but if it doesn’t happen, there’s no stress or tension to get it done by any means.

If you’re on Writing.com, you can check out Hadiqa’s writing portfolio there, or you can visit her book review blog here on WordPress, Date night with Books.

Was it Tiny?

The conversation moseyed to
Marmite and Button and Tiny.
(Was it Tiny?)

A faded memory of green cat eyes glaring…
but not a real memory,
just a photograph
that could have been a memory
but wasn’t.

Dad reminds Lynda of riding her bike,
reluctant passenger neatly tucked in a wicker basket
(which mouse?)
until a wee escapee came too close
to the rubber that one time.

Hugged, the way only a small child can,
life literally squeezed out.
Poor Marmite.
(Was it Marmite?)

And still a memory,
that isn’t a memory,
of a white cat,
with a hungry stare,
and a mouse,
that’s no longer there.

Murphy’s Aurora

Apparently New Zealand is in the middle of a ‘super massive’ Aurora. The Aurora Australis, or Southern Lights, are supposed to be the brightest they’ve been in two years. Photographing the Aurora is one of the items on my photography bucket list, so when they said that visibility would be better from the east coast, I headed to my mother and sister’s house. They live about an hour away from me, on the east coast, whereas I’m on the west coast.

I headed up straight after work, and while Mum was making dinner, I did some research on how to photograph Aurora. I found this article really useful.

My mother and sister had a yoga class to go to after dinner, so I sat and read my book while I waited for them. When they came back they informed me that the cloud cover hadn’t dispersed as predicted, and so we might not be able to get a clean shot. I figured I might as well make the most of the two-hour round trip, so I suggested we head out and take some photos of the Auckland city lights at night. Well, we set up our tripods and snapped some shots, but the wind kept buffeting our cameras and ruining the shots. Then it started to rain.  It clearly wasn’t meant to be.

As it turns out, we were never going to see the Aurora. Firstly, it was only going to be visible ‘as far north as Wairarapa’. Ugh. That’s nearly 8 hours’ drive south of me. Secondly, there was a full moon. Thirdly, it was delayed and didn’t arrive until 6am which means it was only there at daylight when no one could see it anyway.

My sister was laughing at me, and pointed out that I had driven all that way to read my book in their house while they went to yoga. #fail

Then, in the way of Murphy’s Law, the motorway was closed for roadworks and it took me longer to get home than it should have. *facepalm*

I’d say that the moral of the story is to do your research first before leaping into action, which would have saved me the trip, but I actually don’t agree with that sentiment. Yeah, if you’re spending a lot of time or money on something, definitely do your research first. But spontaneity has its place. So, it cost me a couple of hours of my time. No big deal. We had a laugh, and learned some stuff.

My kids love it when my husband and I surprise them with spontaneous silliness, like driving to Pokeno (an hour’s drive) for an ice cream, or deciding that each person in the car in turn can decide which direction we turn at the next intersection. Ha ha, that last one saw us driving in circles around Blockhouse Bay. The kids thought it was hilarious though.

While I was at Mum’s, she asked me what I was reading at the moment. We share an Amazon account, as we both read romance ebooks. She reads more historical romance than I do, and she doesn’t read my m/m books, but there’s a lot of overlap. Anyway, I said I was in the middle of a m/m book (Found At The Bookstore by Christi Snow) and she said she was reading a Lori Foster book. She’d read When You Dare, the first book in the Edge of Honor series, then moved on to Bare It All, which is the second in the Love Undercover series. I asked her why she wasn’t reading them in order, and she said that because it wasn’t obvious by the title, she had no way of knowing the reading order. So I looked them up on Lori Foster’s website and made a list for Mum of the correct reading order for the two series. I also thought she might like the Buckhorn Brothers series, so I wrote down the order for that one too. So see, I did accomplish something. Ha ha!

Fire in the skies of Mordor


Fire in the skies of Mordor @nick_crarer

A post shared by New Zealand (@travelnewzealand) on Aug 17, 2017 at 10:44pm PDT

The cool, dim morning strikes a
contrast with the sear and sizzle
of dragon’s fire as darkened hills
are highlighted by the flames of
gold and tangerine that lick the
underside of the heavy swathe
of dark smoke that stretches as
far as mere mortals can see.

A novel present

It’s September, and I am making plans for Christmas.  Ha ha!  Yeah, that’s pretty typical of me.  I’m the kind of person who buys gifts throughout the year to spread the cost and take advantage of sales.  My children’s birthdays are in the middle of the year, so the first half of the year I buy birthday presents and the second half of the year I buy Christmas presents.

This year we’re not buying Christmas presents.  We’re saving to go overseas next year for my sister’s wedding, so if they do get anything, it’s going to be passports.  And next year for their birthdays they’ll get plane tickets.  Which is more than enough, right?  But Christmas is a big deal in our family, and I have an idea…

In 2012 I did National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), where you’re challenged to write a 50,000 word novel in a single month.  It was madness, but I managed to write 30,000 words of a children’s fantasy novel.  It stars my children, my nephew and my godchildren, and a variety of mythical creatures.  The plan was to write a story that would challenge my children’s reading abilities while still being appropriate for their age and maturity.  See, my kids are both ‘gifted’, particularly in English, and both have reading levels well in advance of their peers.  This made it hard to find books that were at or slightly above their reading level but not too advanced in subject matter (such as sex or violence).  So my plan was to write something that used big words, was educational to an extent (my son was obsessed with mythical creatures at the time), but didn’t contain any material that wasn’t suitable for their level of maturity.

I intended to give it to my kids as a gift, but I never finished it.  Each year I’d remember about it, but I’d procrastinate and not get it done.  The kids in the story are 11 and 7 years old, and my kids are now 16 and 12. *Facepalm* Still, I want to finish it, and the sooner I give it to them, the better. I mean, better at 16 and 12 than 32 and 28, right? *Laugh*

I’m going to handwrite the story into journals, one each for my kids and my nephew.  See, the story centers around a handwritten journal, so it seems apt. To encourage me to stop procrastinating, on Friday I bought three journals.

img_0861

I think they’ll make neat Christmas presents.  Can you tell which one is for my daughter?  Ha ha!

I’ve written eight chapters so far (on the computer), but in the story the kids are trying to work out how many more adventures they can go on before the journal is full.  So I think I should handwrite in the completed chapters and adapt the story so that it ends at the end of the journal.  The worst thing would be if it was half a dozen pages too long for a single journal!

So yep, that’s what I’m working on at the moment. The first chapter is about a taniwha, which is a dragon unique to New Zealand where we live.