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A Vegetable Cookbook

by Digby Law

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Very little is known about the shy and reclusive Kiwi cook, the late Digby Law, other than he died in 1987 & he loved vegetables. Digby used to spend a lot of his free time working on his father’s vegetable garden – & then cooking or preserving the results!

So many vegetables in this COVID world have been so expensive – I have yet to find my favourite (asparagus) at a price I can afford. But what has been affordable is beetroot – one of my husband’s favourites. & the beetroot (beets to some of you) we have been buying has such a wonderfully earthy taste! I have used Digby’s [book:A Pickle and Chutney Cookbook|9381122] & preserved beetroot three different ways, but we have beetroot coming out of our ears still, so I was looking for ways to serve the beetroot as a vegetable. & any time I experience a vegetable glut, of course I turn to Digby!

I loved his Beetroot and Apple Salad – of course the beetroot bled all over the salad. So it looked – different. However, the caper garnish was a very nice touch! I’ve also made Harvard Beets & Sweet-Sour Beets- the Harvard Beets was the nicer of the two. Next might be Beetroot with Caraway Seeds. Love Caraway.

We have an avocado tree & I don’t usually have any trouble thinking of ways to eat the avos! But this book happened to fall open at the recipe for Avocado Stuffing for Roast Chicken. I just had to try this one.

However – disaster. The two avocados I hid from my husband

set aside for this were bad! I only had one other – very small- ripe avocado. Since I had paid an outrageous price for one tomato I still went ahead.

After stuffing the chicken cavity, I still had enough for what my Canadian mother used to call ‘Dressing.’

So pretty! After cooking in the oven it looked like this;

The chicken stuffing was very nice, but the cooked dressing was really delicious, served cold the next day! I will certainly make again when our own tomatoes are in season.

I’m looking longingly (still) at the asparagus recipes. I’d really like to recreate the soufflé.

Watch this space!


by Becky Manawatu

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I thought I had thought of a wildly original opening for my review – a dictionary definition of Auē.

But a few other Goodreads reviewers have also had the same thought. It is both an expression of both astonishment or distress.

I finished this book last night – & I couldn’t sleep, the story is so powerful & heartbreaking to read. This is the story of two young brothers, trying to make their way in this world as best they can.

This book is 5★ for me because of it’s pure, emotional impact. But this reader doesn’t like multiple POV or ping-pong timelines. & I will say I think there is a fault in these timelines. But flawed or not, nothing literary has hit me as hard as this book in a very long time, so 5★ it is.

I don’t do trigger warnings in my reviews, but I will say if you need them this book won’t be the book for you. So you have been warned.

Further reading.

The Essential Digby Law – over 700 Great Recipes

The Essential Digby Law – Over 700 Great New Zealand Recipes by Digby Law

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I was in full Domestic Goddess mode during Lockdown. While this mostly took the form of manic cleaning, I also made cheeses & did some preserving. Both preserving recipes I got from the internet, & while the sauerkraut was a success, the Spicy Pear & Feijoa Chutney was met with a tepid;

“Very nice, but it’s just not like Digby’s!!”

Yes, it isn’t a Digby but it is still very nice chutney, if a little sweet.

Digby Law was a New Zealand cookbook writer and food columnist. Shy and retiring in nature, very little is known about him other than his love of good food in general, and New Zealand produce in particular.

When his cookbooks went out of print they became very collectable in New Zealand. I made the mistake of loaning Digby’s Digby Law’s Pickle and Chutney Cookbook to a sister-in-law notorious for not returning books loaned to her. She denied ever having been loaned it – of course- and graciously accepts compliments for her version of Digby’s Tomato Oil Pickle with no sense of shame. And I couldn’t get another copy of the book at the time!

Many years later a good friend of Digby’s, Jill Brewis, produced this charmingly illustrated volume. I bought it as soon as I could afford it, but Jill’s idea of essential Digby recipes was different from mine. The Tomato Oil Pickle was missing, as were his best two Lemon Chutneys (Lemon & Raisin and Lemon & Fig) Some Digby’s individual books have fortunately been republished. I bought a Pickle & Chutney Cookbook- and paid retail! I managed to pick up a copy of his Dessert Cookbook from the Op Shop I used to volunteer at. Most of his dessert recipes are a bit too heavy & full of calories for me though. The 70s & 80s are when Kiwis really went all out to support our dairy products. (Jill suggests using the low fat versions of the various dairy products in her introduction to this volume – I might try that!) I look for his Entree Cookbook (not yet on Goodreads) every time I’m in a second hand book shop.

But I have just made Digby’s French Onion Soup. Now there is some serious Seventies retro! It was to die for! And we had his French Fried Onion Rings last night. I substituted panko for regular bread crumbs – I think Digby would have approved. They were light, they were crispy. Next time (& there will be a next time) I will serve them as a starter. This recipe book contains recipes for foods like Hummus that just wouldn’t have been widely known at then. Digby was truly ahead of his time.

I recommend trying to source Digby’s original volumes, but if you can’t get them or have limited shelf space this book is indispensable!

8/7/20 Edited the review for clarity.…

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Reckless Conduct

by Susan Napier

I’m having all sorts of trouble adjusting to the all new improved WordPress. Still, while my country is in lockdown will be a good time to adjust.


“Be kind,” our Prime Minister said as we head into lockdown.

& I’m trying but I just didn’t like this book.

With Corona virus, I was having trouble concentrating & super stressed. I thought a light romance, by one of my two favourite Mills & Boon writers would lighten my mood – but it didn’t.

I’m trying to be fair & I will try to find positives.

The idea – as presented by the not completely accurate blurb – was good. I have been trying to correct Ms Napier’s listings on Goodreads ad this book’s premise sounded fun. It was a variant of blondes have more fun. I wish I had read that book!

Let’s get on with it.

▪ Plotting is normally Ms Napier’s great strength. But this story is awkward, clumsy & just doesn’t hang together well.

▪ I don’t usually like romances that have teens and children as part of the plot. I can let it go if the author has handled it well & Ms Napier has done so in the past. Nicola barely had any personality or presence in the book. She was merely a plot device. Even worse Napier obviously couldn’t think of what to do with the story. Of course Harriet became pregnant. With triplets as a happy ending – and another child on the way? Harriet really wasn’t ever given much chance to shine with her new, brave personality.

▪ Nicola was 15 & without permission from her father, Harriet persuaded Nicola to have her ears pierced. In New Zealand you have to be at least sixteen. I used to have pierced ears myself – loved them. But it is like tattoos & other permanent changes to someone’s appearance- parents should have the final say.There is a fault in the timeline with Nicola at the end of the book as well.

▪ A Napier man will be your Alpha male type. But usually they have a sense of humour and some endearing quirks. Out of the Napier titles I have read, Marcus is the first of her heroes that hasn’t. I disliked him intensely.

I still want to reread my favourite Napier title [book:Sweet Vixen|5461453] but in fairness to this author, I won’t read any of her other works.

Looks like I have outgrown them and I feel like I should apologise for reading this one when I should have realised that.


This Mortal Boy

This Mortal Boy by Fiona Kidman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I wasn’t sure if this book was quite a 5★, but a day later & I’m still thinking about both the book & the subject matter so…

Fiona Kidman is one of New Zealand’s most respected fiction writers. From her bio on Goodreads;

Much of her fiction is focused on how outsiders navigate their way in narrowly conformist society.

Perfect description of this book – & of 1950’s New Zealand society.

Young Irishman Albert “Paddy” Black

emigrates to New Zealand as a “Ten Pound Pom” – an immigrant who receives an assisted passage to New Zealand. Kidman’s interpretation has Black as happy in his new country at first, but he soon becomes homesick and he leaves Lower Hutt & the good friend he has made to chase better pay in our biggest city. Black becomes a caretaker for an inner city boarding house. Johnny McBride (real name Alan Jacques)

Is bigger, meaner & (Black believes) older than Albert, and he forces his way into the boarding house. Things come to a head and after a severe beating at Jacques’ hands & provocation at a milk bar, Black stabs Jacques in the neck. Against the odds, the stabbing proves fatal and Black is arrested.

“This Mortal Boy” is in all kinds of trouble. His new Auckland friends desert him, he is up against prejudice against youth, new immigrants – & the Minister of Justice “Gentleman Jack” Marshall. Marshall was a great contradiction -gentle and charming in his manner, but a hardcore proponent of the death penalty.

I wasn’t around in 1955, but I do remember Marshall from later in his career (He was briefly the New Zealand Prime Minister) as one of the most honorable NZ politicians.

Poor “Paddy” never stood a chance. He was the second to last person hanged in NZ. His death and the cruel way his mother was denied permission to visit NZ to farewell her son, caused an outcry and the death penalty as a punishment for murder was abolished in 1957.

Kidman’s writing style is literary, thoughtful and reflective. She does a good job of showing the contradictions in New Zealand society of the time. I’m not totally convinced by her interpretation of Black’s character, but I was still fascinated.

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Supporting Little Free Libraries

Goodreads this week has been promoting Little Free Libraries which are such a wonderful scheme! We do have an unofficial free library in our small town, but I thought I would visit the nearest official one.

This is a bus stop in the coastal village of Ngarimu Bay.

Gorgeous, right? Not immediately obvious that this is a Little Free Library as well. I drove past it for years without noticing. But when you do…

Cute huh? I found so many good books to pounce on (including the very topical A City Possessed by Lynley Hood) that I forgot about taking photos! But this is one of my donations Moon Over the Alps by the late Essie Summers. it is such a nice community – there is often free fruit or seedlings on the bench seat as well.

Afterwards we went for a walk.

A local artist’s home.
Our local beaches aren’t as grand as the ones on the east coast of the peninsula, but this is still pretty – and deserted!

I’ll show you my “local” next week!

Baches of Raglan

Baches of Raglan

Baches of Raglan by Venetia Sherson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

We have had several holidays in Raglan, both as a family & just my husband & myself, needing a getaway.

Me kayaking when I was younger & slimmer!

The deserted black sand beach

Both pictures taken January or February 2007.

These pictures was taken roughly the same time this book was written by journalism, photography and design students from the Schools of Media Arts and Communication at Wintec. I hope Raglan hasn’t changed too much since those days. Last time, we went it was just yuppified enough – very upmarket & delicious fish & chips, wonderful cafes. But most of the old baches (holiday homes) were still there – even beachfront. & there was still a campground by the water.

The students have done this era proud. It is noticeable that journalist/editor Venetia Sherson’s interview captures more information than the students – but with her experience that is to be expected. I loved seeing the famous spaceship bach again.

Photographer Christine Cornegé

The bach to the right is more typical of the 50s/60s baches I remember fondly from my childhood.

With the photos – they are great, but many are on a double page spread that makes them hard to view.

A loving tribute to a New Zealand that is rapidly vanishing.

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Poūkahangatus by Tayi Tibble

Poūkahangatus by Tayi Tibble

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Poetry (& how a person responds to it) is a very personal thing.

There just might be too much of a generation gap between myself & Ms Tibble for me to really understand/enjoy this collection.

I can appreciate the rich use of language & provocative nature of many of these poems. Some of the descriptions were indeed wonderful.

But Vampires versus Werewolves was just tedious and there were too many prose fragments. Some, but not all of them were poetry differently presented in a different way, but I’m not a fan of fragments. Just padding.

This cover designed by Xoë Hall was just gorgeous & was what made this slim volume jump from the library shelf into my hand.…

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Pamper Me to Hell & Back

Pamper Me to Hell & Back

Pamper Me to Hell & Back by Hera Lindsay Bird

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If I priced per page, this (very) slim volume is the most expensive book I have ever bought!

Totally worth it.

I gave Hera Lindsay Bird 5★, so I can’t rate any higher, but these poems are far more assured & accomplished.

A brilliant work, & since it was published as part of the (British) Laureate’s Choice, already difficult to get hold of in Bird’s native land.

Highly recommended.…

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Building Thames

Building Thames

Building Thames by Althea Baker

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ll bet some of you think that I have nothing better to do all day than hang around Goodreads!

And for the most part you would be right, but one afternoon a month I volunteer at my little town’s local museum. I sit there hoping we will have visitors. It is beyond boring, although it amusing to watch people get as far the doorstep, find there is an admission, & then back off. This is a real shame, as the kauri models of buildings crafted by Ted Egan are really worth the price of admission.

Most Kiwis love and treasure New Zealand kauri and Ted’s models are a homage to long gone buildings.

Most of the miniature buildings are in their own little gallery. There is a map of the old town on the floor.

Thames was originally three settlements – Grahamstown (& from ready this trusty little book I found out this settlement was named after a hotelier of the time) Shortland & the usually ignored Irishtown. It boomed because of goldmining (hard to believe now, but at one stage it was the second largest town in NZ) and had around 130 pubs. (pubs was probably a grand name for some of them, some of them were probably just tents where an enterprising soul sold beer from a flagon!)

Leafing through this little booklet had a tinge of sadness for me. So many of the old buildings were lost to fire – not that surprising, given that so many of them were pubs! But some were also pulled down – only the old clothing factory & one of the pubs since I’ve been here.

This book made me think about my town’s heritage – & in the week before Heritage Week, that is no bad thing.

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