October 07, 2016

Katy by Jacqueline Wilson

This book review is inevitably going to contain SPOILERS. Of this book (KATY by Jacqueline Wilson) and the original WHAT KATY DID by Susan Coolidge. 

The picture takes you to Amazon

I was trying to describe What Katy Did to someone last week. 

"Spoilers much?" 

Well... I'd like to see him describe What Katy Did without explaining she fell off the swing. 

"I think it even says it on the cover." I pointed out. I checked. It did. 

Added to that I don't think I have ever known of one single copy of What Katy Did without it containing a picture of Katy on her swing. I mean, lets face it, it's not just grown-up readers of What Katy Did who find it predictable. I think I was about ten or eleven the first time I read it; and I think I knew pretty much THE ENTIRE plot line by the end of the first page. 

If anyone's ever read Heidi, you know girls in classics generally don't stay confined to their wheelchairs forever. Medical miracles seem to happen a lot to little girls in old books. I'm not complaining; I like a good happy ending. 

What Katy Did, is an excellent example, of how it's not the destination that matters, its the journey. 

The first time I read it, I could have probably looked at the cover, read the blurb, maybe the first page for assurance, and then blagged to anyone that I had read it. I didn't need to REALLY read it. I already knew what happened.

But that's okay. I liked reading What Katy Did. As an eleven year old, and when I read it last month. I'm kind of glad I used my Waterstones rewards to 'buy' it, because I'll probably enjoy reading it again sometime. 

It doesn't matter that it has a totally transparent plot. That is not the point of that book. 

That is even more so with Katy, the 'modern version', by the author of Tracy Beaker Jacqueline Wilson. 

I just checked my version of What Katy Did and the library copy of Katy. Katy is just over twice the size of What Katy Did. Thats a lot more story to tell. 

If What Katy Did is about the journey, Katy is about the trek, the hike, the expedition. 

What Katy Did is lovely little book about a colourful character who has an accident, learns to be a good person despite her hardships, and then is 'rewarded for her good behaviour' almost. 

It's a classic for a reason, it's AWESOME. 

Katy is not a lovely little book. It's, like you would expect from Jacqueline Wilson, a slightly more true-to-life version. But don't worry, this Katy still gets her happy ending, even if she isn't 'fixed.'

Katy is a real life girl. She has real life brothers and sisters, and has a stepmother instead of an overly pious aunt. Helen isn't a cousin she's never met, she's one of her Dad's patients. She's much more fleshed out than the original Katy. So are her friends, her brothers and sisters. Her life is a lot more fleshed out. Her Dad is a lot more present. She IS Katy. Just a Katy from the 21st Century - and so there is a lot more to her than can be expected from a book written in the 19th Century. 

At first, I did feel like Katy was just What Katy Did rewritten, the details and the settings changed. Basically, What Katy Did 'modernised' to try and convince reluctant readers that classics are good. For the first few chapters, there really is no difference in the story. It is purely a modernized version of the original. 

But then you realize it's not quite, there are little details that are added. I guess now Katy has more to loose, you see more of her life. More of her feelings towards Izzie; there is a reason why she is so detested which gives Katy more to overcome than is the case of just a nuisance Aunt who thrives on neatness. There's a fallout with Cecy. There's a few more characters, in Eva and Ryan. 

There's a story before the fall, instead of the content of the book before the fall being there solely to lead up to that point. There is also a better lead up to Katy's fall, with her bad day being more than just a bit of contrariness, but full of fully formed emotions. 

And then here, is the bit where Katy really comes into a life of it's own, as Katy follows a more realistic path. Katy spends weeks in hospital, not at home surrounded by her family. There is uncertainty and ambulances and surgery. 

And there's the knowledge that she isn't going to walk again. 

And that's fine - that's what this book is about. It's about a girl who falls of a rope swing and damages her spine, not a girl for whom a miracle worked a couple of years later. 

Katy spends a lot of time in hospital, and although I've never been in anything like as horrific as Katy's situation, I have been in hospital (and for more than an overnight stay) and I have to say, it's pretty spot on (although I never had any visiting hours, that did strike me a UTTERLY bizarre. I didn't realize those existed for Childrens/Young Adult wards. Well... I'm very lucky I guess.) Toast late at night while chatting to a nurse? Totally... People having bad days? Oh yes. Not eating/hungry/want to stay in bed/want to be anywhere other than bed/nice nurses/not that great nurses/awkward friends/too enthusiastic family/missing family. It was all there. And friendships. I'm glad Dexter is there, because there are times that no one can understand you and be there for you more than the person in the bed next to you (or bay next to you.) 

But the book really comes into its own when Katy is let out of hospital. It starts with that first journey home, with the struggle that is getting home, and the worry that hometime, after all that longing, came just a bit too soon. 

For the 19th Century Katy, staying in bed (or a reclining chair) for two years was totally fine. 

But this is not the 19th Century. We're gonna need a wheelchair (or two). Although I do kind of wish Katy had had a little more struggle with hers. It would have made me feel a bit better about the fact I never really did learn to push myself... This Katy had to learn to get in and out of cars, finding the right clothes (and shoes), getting on buses, not being able to get up stairs (if you become unable to walk overnight, your house doesn't suddenly turn into a bungalow. TRUST ME.) 

She had to deal with the range of reactions from other people. The whole range. People being wary of her, people treating her like she was mentally incapable (and just incapable altogether.) Of people who she barely knew before hand suddenly becoming her supposed best friend. People who try and fit her into socioty by ignoring her wheelchair, and people who try and be too accommodating. But also those who just get it right. 

I think the bit I liked best was the bit where Katy went back to school. And not just the school of pain, but a real, mainstream, not accessible school. With teachers and other pupils. And all the struggles that come with starting a new school plus a load of extra ones. Even being allowed to go to school was a challenge for Katy, and I think my favorite scene in the whole book was the high five between Katy and Dad after wearing down the headteacher into letting her attend. 

This book, is all about a girl called Katy, who falls of a rope swing, and then learns that being in a wheelchair does not stop her having a life, and doesn't mean she has to hide in her bedroom for the next forever. She faces challenges, some set by herself, some set by society, and she does it all as a fully fleshed character with a range of emotions. But it's not a gloomy book, its not depressing. Its a true to life account of how a girl, and her family, OVERCOME those challenges. 

I love What Katy Did and always well. I think Katy is amazing. Do I have a favorite? Not really. They're both awesome books, but in very different ways. They're written 150(ish) years apart, for different audiences, and in the way, they're very different books. Each special in its own way. I'm also not sure which one I would suggest to be read first. I guess that would depend on you (or the child as both books intended audience is). What Katy Did is half the size, so although Katy did take me longer to read, it's a modern book and so is a 'quicker', 'easier' read, so they probably even out in difficulty. 

They're both good books, and both definitely deserve their place in the 'read' list. A modernization of a classic is, like a movie adaptation, terrifying to lovers of the original. But What Katy Did lovers need not fear, Jacqueline Wilson has definitely done Katy proud. 

Also, can I just say, if I grow up to be Miss Lambert, that's perfectly fine with me. 

September 26, 2016

Plum Chia Jam

More P fun today. 

This time we're doing something fun with plums. 

Cause plums are the perfect P fruit. Pears are great, but you cant make jam with them. Or can you? Any jam aficionados got any thoughts on that? I love peaches, but not everyone likes the fuzzy skin. Pineapples are great, but slicing them makes my hands hurt (seriously, it makes them red and itchy. The price you have to pay for essential vitamins.) 

Also - I had plums. That made them especially great. 

I didn't fancy crumble (well, I always love crumble, I just didn't fancy turning the oven on and making my room all hot to make crumble). 

So I made jam. 

Also - I like jam. I dont like all the sugar in jam. 

Making my own jam is a great remedy for that. 

Also little Tesco don't sell plum jam. Plum jam is the best. (after grape jelly, damson jam, blueberry jam, and the jam you lick out of jam tarts before leaving the pastry.)

And I've just been informed by one of the girls in my Senior Section Unit that under water hockey is a thing. I know. Who knew. 

So this recipe is based on the berry chia jam from Deliciously Ella's first cookbook, although most chia jam recipes that I've seen in various places have been pretty much alike. I've given instructions for cooking in a small slow cooker though, because I was too busy doing other things to cook it on the stovetop where stirring is required. 

So this was supposed to be a super-quick-not-much-writting post while I download a program I need to do my homework. Hence I didn't have much planned to say, I thought Id just give a brief intro and a recipe. However I underestimated how long it would the program would take to download, and so I've babbled a bit. 

Plum Chia Jam

Makes 1 jar

Based on the recipe from Deliciously Ella

  • About 1 pound plums, washed, de-stoned and chopped into small pieces
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • 2 Tablespoons chia seeds

  • Place the plums in a small (about 1.5 litre / 6 pint) slow cooker with the honey. Stir well. 
  • Cook on low for about 1-2 hours
  • Add the chia seeds and stir in well, making sure none are stuck to the sides, then continue cooking for 2-4 hours.
  • Remove from the slow cooker and leave to cool (the jam will continue to thicken as it cools.) 
  • This jam can either be frozen or is should last about a week in the fridge. I've just finished mine off on day eight and it was fine, but I'd be wary of keeping it much longer. 
Note: There are seeds in this jam. If you're new to chia jam, you might want to start with something like a raspberry version where you'd expect the seeds. 

September 25, 2016


Quite often, I get that look from my friends when they're questioning your sanity. Like when you tell them your favorite food is apples (whats wrong with that?) or that you've never watched The Lion King (I know exactly what's wrong with that) or when they find out that you read stuff in French for fun. 

The last couple of weeks, I've been on a real badge kick - I've been trying to get as many clauses for Girlguiding badges done as possible before going back to uni this week. (So yes, there is a posiblity I should be studying right now. Who cares?) This flurry of activity has, I'm not going to lie, gotten me several more of those looks recently. 

Learn the Nato Phonetic Alphabet? Check 

Read The Magical Faraway Tree books? Check. 

Made Cupcakes I wont eat? Check 

So, there is this badge celebrating the letter P, and how All The Best Things in Life Are P. 

Why P - I still haven't QUITE got the bottom of that. But there are going to be a few more P related posts to come and so maybe by the end of them I'll have worked it out. If so- I promise I'll tell you. 

Pancakes begin with P. 

And you have to admit, pancakes are pretty perfect. 

But I awoke on a Sunday morning (involving a long story about how forgetting my library card RUINED my plans for the weekend and so I had Saturday morning pancakes on Sunday), and I decided that I wasn't going to be happy with just any old pancakes. 

I wanted P pancakes. 

And so ensued the persuance of P provisions to make purely P pancakes. 

And what ensued may be one of the most peculiar pancakes to ever prevail. 

And yes - I did get my Thesaurus out to write this post. Did you predict properly? 

Polenta, Pear and Pineapple Pancakes (vegan)

  • 5 Tablespoons Polenta (cornmeal)
  • 1/4 cup plain flour (I used fine wholewheat) 
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder 
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped dried pineapple 
  • 1 Tablespoon ground flaxseeds (linseeds) mixed with 3 Tablespoons water
  • 1/2 cup milk of choice 
  • 1 pear, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1-2 teaspoon blackstrap molasses (or British treacle) 
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon coconut oil 
  • coconut oil/cooking spray/vegan spread to cook (I used Flora Freedom) 

  • Make the 'flax egg' by mixing the ground flax with water
  • 'Sour' the milk by combining it with the Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Mix together the polenta, plain flour, baking powder and chopped dried pineapple. 
  • After the flax egg and milk have been sitting for about 10 minutes, combine along with the coconut oil and molasses. 
  • Mix wet into dry and stir until just combined. Fold in chopped pear. 
  • Heat a frying pan over a medium high heat with cooking fat. When the pan and fat are hot, add 1/4 cup batter to the pan. It should start sizzling. Cook for about 5 minutes on one side, before flipping over and cooking on the other side. Repeat with the remaining batter. These pancakes are still quite delicate when half - cooked, so a lot of care needs to be taken when flipping. Or be content with pancake scramble. 

September 08, 2016

Owl Cupcakes

Looks aren't everything. As is (quite clearly) evident. 

This is not the best looking owl cupcake that I have ever seen. If you want to look at beautiful pictures of gorgeously decorated professionally done pictures of owl cupcakes - Google it. Or check Pinterest. Its up to you. 

But are those amazingly awesome cupcakes vegan? 

Nope. See - I win there. 

That's not to say that vegan cupcakes can't look as good as professionally done ones - that's too say that vegan cupcakes can't look as good as professionally done ones WHEN I (with my un-superior skills) MAKE THEM. 

But hey - who cares what they look like - right? 

But I'm gonna let you into a little secret. I don't actually like cake. So when I'm trying to do a Girlguiding UK Challenge Badge (these are 'fun' badges created by different units, usually to raise money for that unit) and one of the things you need to do is to make a cupcake look like an owl - 

a) I am not going to get a load of stuff in that I don't eat to make them. I already had everything I needed to make these cupcakes in my cupboard apart from the icing sugar. (admittedly it was a fluke that I had the Skittles candy, but it doesn't change the fact that I still had it in my cupboard.) 

b) I am not going to make a whole batch. Cause why would I? 

It was pretty easy to 'just make these vegan'. To be honest - it didn't really require any special thinking - currently 99% of the food I own is vegan (I can only think of one thing in my cupboards which isn't) and so it really was just a case of pulling it out the cupboards. But in case you need a little inspiration (or want to follow what you think is an actually achievable owl cupcake decorating tutorial - not that I don't think you're capable of achieving greatness, I just like to think that I'm not the only one who's decorating skills are questionable.), here's how I made them. 

What you need: 

  • 1 cupcake (I used the Single Lady Cupcake from Chocolate Covered Katie) 
  • About a Tablespoon of chocolate icing - I made mine by mixing 1T cocoa powder, 2T icing sugar and then adding water by the 1/2 teaspoon till it was spreadable but not too runny. In the picture above the icing is thicker, but it was the best way to photograph it. 
  • 1 orange/yellow Skittle candy or similar
  • 2 dairy-free white chocolate and 2 dairy-free milk chocolate buttons (I got mine from Tesco) 
  • A small amount of icing in a color of your choice. I chose pink because - why not. I made this simply by mixing a spoonful of icing sugar, some pink food colouring and about 1/4 teaspoon of water. Remember to go slow when adding the water. You don't want it so thin that it will spread uncontrollably. 

Now can we take a moment to appreciate that Skittles (in the UK at least) are now vegan. 
I know. 
It's great. 

Okay, so back to business:

  • Spread the chocolate icing over the top edge of the cupcake. 
  • Place a small dot of coloured icing on the centre of the the bottom (flat side) of the white chocolate button - I used a cocktail stick to do this. 
  • Press the Skittle candy sideways into the centre of the cake. 
  • Place the white chocolate buttons on either side of the 'beak' 
  • Press two milk chocolate buttons sideways into the cake above the 'eyes' to make the 'ears'. 
  • Feeding to poor, unsuspecting friend because you don't like cake is an optional step, but one that I find ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY