Month: August 2017

From the Reading Room – Booming Bookazines, New Novels, and Hot-Wired Histories

From the Reading Room – Booming Bookazines, New Novels, and Hot-Wired Histories

Greetings, fellow bookworms! I have a little secret to share. It’s about “The Reading Room.” At nine-years-old, I was introduced to the first novel in a series from one of the world’s greatest thinkers and authors. The book was The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and the author was C.S. Lewis.

From that day until now, I have collected over 1,000 novels, histories, devotionals, biographies, and children’s books. All ultimately resulting in the creation of the Reading Room. And British authors, past and current, have written nearly half of the books included in my library. To share and review them with my friends is my intent.

So, without further ado, allow me to introduce the latest category to Mary Loves the UK: The Reading Room!



What to Read for the Upcoming Quarter

To provide my readers with some topic range within my upcoming blog posts, I have chosen three different reading materials to review within the next three months. These materials include the following:

  • Julian Fellowes’s Belgravia, a historical novel
  • Roy and Lesley Adkins’s Jane Austen’s England – Daily Life in the Georgian and Regency Periods, a history book
  • BBC’s The Essential Doctor Who – Adventures in Space, a bookazine, printed in the UK

 

My Californian readers can find British reading material like these at local bookshops, such as the Avid Reader in Davis, or at club stores, such as Sam’s Club in Vacaville. If anyone has the will to join me in reading one (or all three!) of the above, please do! I would love to review these books and magazines as a group.

How to Join in the Discussions

To join in what I hope will become future book discussions, I recommend that my readers who have any interest follow these steps:

  1. Follow me! Located on the bottom right-hand corner should be buttons where my readers can follow my blog, or me, on social media.
  2. Choose the books of interest. No one needs to read every book with me. But, if any of my readers have a preference in the books listed to read, then please let me know!
  3. Read every blog post on the books. I will attempt to write a thorough review on each chapter or section in the reading materials. Hopefully they will assist my readers in the discussion.
  4. Answer the questions at the end of the blog posts. No one can have a discussion without questions! Therefore, though I cannot promise the best or most essential discussion questions, I will try to include some for every chapter to encourage discussion.

 

Have I managed to pique anyone’s interest? I hope so. Reading these British books is a treat I cannot deny myself, and one which I wish to share. But, please, if anyone has a preference as to which book or bookazine I should start reviewing in the Reading Room, let me know in the comment section below!

Yes, Honey, I’ll Eat ‘After Eight’

Yes, Honey, I’ll Eat ‘After Eight’

Nineteenth century English gentlemen and ladies would sometimes dine at eight o’clock in the evening. (So I say based purely on Jane Austen literature!) The dining time was especially practiced if said gentleman or lady had guests over for dinner.

However, Alex doesn’t expect me to dine late into the evening. He does expect me to eat his share of savory chocolate mints. And teasing me for eating After Eight mints simply makes him laugh!

Who Makes ‘After Eight’ and Where They’re Sold

A treat that stands above the rest.

It’s a crying disappointment how Nestle withholds these savory and mouthwatering chocolate mints from average American grocers. When searching for information on Nestle’s website, I found I had to change my country to “UK and Ireland” in order to simply find the mints!

Nevertheless, all is not lost. After some searching, I found two or three retail grocers who carried After Eight mints. This particular box I found came from – You guessed it! – Cost Plus World Market. This store had it discretely shelved on a lower shelf opposite the popular, worldwide candies. At least, so it was at this particular location in Northern California.

What Nestle Says About These Popular UK Treats

A social treat for family and friends.

Nestle talks about the elegance and savory flavoring of the After Eight mints, of course. But what I found interesting was the predominant ingredients in the mint. These ingredients include dark chocolate, 100% natural peppermint oil, and most unexpected of them all – fondant!

Originally, when Nestle first produced these savory mints, the advertisements appeared on television early after eight o’clock. The product’s design was based on an antique baroque, silver clock, as seen currently on the individual mint covers. And according to Nestle’s statistics, 50% of the mints consumed in the UK are After Eight mints.

What Drew Me To Them – ‘After Eight’ Aesthetics

Whoever designed the packaging, both the box and the individual wrappers, must have done extensive research. Several qualities exist that draw the buyers in:

  • After Eight mints are social mints. Twenty mints are included to share among a group, whether they be family or friends.
  • The outer packaging quietly draws attention to itself, telling us to look at its savory products.
  • Nestle officially labeled the product as ‘After Eight – Mint Chocolaty Thins’ with visually appealing letters.
  • The individual wrappers are – pardon my American vocabulary – thin and crinkly with beautiful golden clock designs.

 

Need I Describe How ‘After Eight’ Mints Taste?

As all the ladies and gentlemen say, “Yum!”

Once I learned about the 100% natural peppermint oil included in the delicacy, I was sold. To taste a smooth, creamy mint sounded like a good reason to stay at home in the evening. And as Alex and I soon learned upon purchasing the product, I was right.

The strong peppermint flavor leaves a strong, but pleasant, aftertaste. One mint satisfies me. Although, Nestle recommends five After Eight mints as a serving size. The portion is up to the consumer, as it always is. Overall, I highly recommend the product.

P.S. Don’t let the price scare you! The eight to nine dollar purchase price are dollars well spent!

HP Sauce, Mushy Peas, and Cromwell Somerdale Cheese Make for One Delicious British-Style Supper

HP Sauce, Mushy Peas, and Cromwell Somerdale Cheese Make for One Delicious British-Style Supper

Cooked and consumed before Alex’s and my wedding, this special supper included several British foods and sauces found at Northern California markets.

“Hold on. Don’t Mushy Peas belong with Bangers & Mash?” asked my loved one. “And shouldn’t we eat the Cromwell Somerdale cheese with the most common British bread?”

Preparing to cook.

“Yes,” I replied. “But we, as nothing but poor and unlucky Americans, need to eat the local beef and the frozen dinner rolls before they go bad.” (In this instance, I was half joking and half serious. I may not be lucky, but God provides me with many blessings.)

And so Alex, my parents, and I ate a sirloin steak dinner with British-style side dishes and sauces. Please allow me to detail the scrumptious meal.

Small Sirloin Steaks Completely Covered in HP Sauce

Sirloin steaks bought from a store fall somewhere between “tasty” and “merely acceptable” most of the time. On this night, Alex and I cooked the evening meal. Later we learned the steaks we served fell right dab in the middle.

Cooking the sirloin steaks and heating the Mushy Peas.

To help flavor everyone’s steak, I placed HP Sauce on the table. Browsing through Cost Plus World Market earlier in the week had enabled me to find this popular British sauce. Squealing with delight, I had snatched it quickly off the shelf.

Before tasting the sauce, I slathered it on my small sirloin. I was sure I would like it, and I was right. To me, who grew up with Worcestershire Sauce and A1 Sauce, it tasted like a mix between these two popular American sauces. How would my UK friends describe this sauce?

Mushy Peas Served as the Required Greens

Earlier in the year, Alex and I had cooked, eaten, and posted about home-cooked British Bangers and Mash. When Alex re-posted the blog post on Facebook, one friend said in mock-outrage, “What about the Mushy Peas?” We were confused.

The main side dishes and sauces for the meal.

So, after a little research, we realized either Heinz Beans or Mushy Peas could serve as a side dish to the popular dish. We decided to try the Mushy Peas, and found them at both Cost Plus World Market and Nugget Markets. If I remember correctly, the product was slightly cheaper at Nugget Markets.

On the night we cooked, I heated the Mushy Peas over the stove-top until the wooden spoon glided through the mush. Serving them in a simple dish, I scooped some unto my dinner plate to try. They tasted like……peas. More accurately, they tasted like my mother’s split-pea soup. Alex enjoyed them, and I found them tolerably good.

Cromwell Somerdale Cheese because We Wanted to Cut the Cheese

Granted, serving cheese as a main side dish seems odd. However, Alex and I had found the cheese section at Nugget Markets. And among this grocer’s cheese selection were many, many imported cheeses, including French, German, Mexican, Irish, Scottish, and British! We had to try some.

Everything else…

After picking through the selection, we settled on the Cromwell Somerdale cheese. This looked particularly good because of the chives and onions within the cheddar cheese. According to a UK website selling the cheese, we should have grilled it. Regardless, Cromwell Somerdale cheese is good straight from the block as well.

Non-Alcoholic British Drinks for an American Soda-Drinking Family

Lastly comes the British beverages we found at Cost Plus World Market. While the store had a large alcoholic beverage selection, my family chooses to abstain from alcohol to prevent giving a bad example to others in our faith. So, I picked up four different flavors of the British soda beverages.

The meal laid out on the table for a scrumptious meal!

Looking at the picture now, I remember that I drank the Fentimans Curiosity Cola while everyone else drank the Barr’s sodas. The predominant feature I remember about the Curiosity Cola was how flat the beverage tasted. Whereas American soda pop has ample amounts of carbonation, this drink had none.

The flavor evades description. Again, I wonder how my British friends would describe the flavor? As for me, I recommend my American readers to go out, buy, and try this mystery drink for themselves!

This likely isn’t a traditional British meal. However, my family and I enjoyed the British flavoring found within the dishes. All it needs is some sort of potato, and it would be a British-style meat and potato supper!