"Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers." ~ Charles W. Eliot
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"This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook - try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun!" ~ Julia Child
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"She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain." ~ Louisa May Alcott

Friday, July 11, 2014

A nice soak, summer reads and ice cream.....

This is a book review with a twist. Do you have a favorite place to read a book? I do...well more than one place really but this one gives me total relaxation. I have a Kindle that I read from but still have a good library full of real books as I love to read in the bathtub where I just finished my latest book yesterday...


My summer reads selection is on my windowsill ...


There is nothing like soaking for a long time in a bubble bath while enjoying a good book...


My latest book was Vivien's Heavenly Ice Cream Shop by Abby Clements. This was the first thing I have read from this author. It is a perfect summer read...light, romantic with drama along the way and full of ice cream. Good thing I was in the bath reading this or I might have reached out for ice cream each time I read a chapter. *grins*

Anna and Imogen are sisters who unexpectly inherit their grandmother's business when she passes away suddenly. Vivien has had an ice cream shop in Brighton for ages. While it used to be a major attraction on the seafront, times have seen this ice cream parlour fall into disrepair. Vivien had been a major force in the lives of Anna and Imo so they decide to forge ahead and revive the shop into an improved retro version of what their grandmother started while bringing it upmarket with innovative ice creams, sorbets and granitas. Anna even goes to Italy to learn from the masters of ice cream. But there are many hurtles to get over when starting up and the sisters need to tap into their fighting spirit to battle on in spite of problems. 

The characters in the book are really wonderful. They are, as in real life, like a mixed box of chocolates that make up a family. Vivien is at the helm and is larger than life. Even though she passes away at the beginning of the story, her spirit is in the ice cream parlour and watching over her granddaughters throughout the book. She helps them to stay focused on the business and find a way to make it work. We meet the entire family when Vivien dies, as we meet Tom and Jan who are the sisters' parents and Uncle Martin and Aunt Francoise. Tom dives into a depression after loosing his mother. He is too busy dealing with his own lost feelings to help his daughter's. But from the beginning, he and Jan show faith in Anna and Imo. 

The sisters are very different from each other in personality. Anna has a steady job and a relationship. She just bought her first home. She has a hobby of loving good food. Imogen however is a restless type. She is in Thailand when her grandmother dies. When she has a dream, she goes after it. Her dream could not be further from ice cream but her love of her family brings her home and keeps her there to help the shop get back on its feet. 

This book is one that makes you cheer to the two sisters. You want them to succeed and life to be good for them. Life is not always black and white and people do impulsive things but it can all come together if you try hard. To me, this was a bit of the theme behind this story. I really enjoyed it. 

Happy reading!
Heidi

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Falling to Pieces


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Falling to Pieces is the first in the quilt shop murder mysteries and my first book by Vannetta Chapman. I already just downloaded the second book to my tablet since I really enjoyed this one.

Callie moves to Shipshewana after her aunt passes away. She intends to sort out her aunt's things and sell her quilt shop, then move on. She meets three Amish women on the first day in the quilt shop. Deborah, one of the woman, convinces her to auction their quilts for them on eBay. Little does Callie know that this will seem to start something ending in murder. Or so it seems. But both Callie and Deborah want to get to the bottom of the truth even putting themselves in the firing line.

I enjoyed the rawness of Callie in this book. She is a widow who is in search of something in life but does not seem sure what. She comes to Shipshewana to simply tie up all life's loose ends for that moment. But a truth in a quilter's life is when you are least searching for the right fabric, you find it. So is the reality of life for Callie too it seems. Her contact with the Amish and Deborah in particular effect her with their warmth. I am looking forward to seeing if the next in this series continues as well as the first book. 

Happy reading!
Heidi

Monday, May 12, 2014

What Would Jane Austen Do?

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What Would Jane Austen Do? by Laurie Brown really deserves 3,5 out of 5 stars. I would like to have given it 4 stars but found two parts a bit inappropriate for the Jane Austen theme. More about that in a moment...

Eleanor arrives in England for a JA conference. When she gets to the hotel, she finds her room has been cancelled instead of rebooked to a single room after the break up of her relationship. The only room left is in the haunted old tower of the hotel. Haunted supposedly by the ghosts of two sisters who used to live in the old manor house during Regency times. Eleanor doesn't believe in ghosts so she accepts the room. But soon she discovers that the ghosts are very real and she agrees to help them change their destiny by going back in time. They even agree to arrange for her to meet Jane Austen herself. Eleanor will agree to anything to get some sleep. 

She awakens to find she really has travelled back in time. She is introduced as the sisters widowed cousin from The Colonies who has come to visit during a house party. 

This book is great fun. Eleanor has to fumble her way through the customs of the time and does it with surprising ease. She is constantly asking herself "What would Jane Austen do?" which gets her through some situations. The book is a humorous and fun referral to many of the stereotypes of JA books. It pulls you in like a JA book where you find yourself wondering if Anne and Captain Wentworth, Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy or Emma and Mr. Knightley will really get together in the end. I enjoyed Eleanor as a heroine who fumbles her way through history.

So why only three stars, you ask?

Unfortunately, there were two scenes in the book which I found went off from being very JA to being (especially chapter 15) simply pornographic. I was really sorry these were put in the book as it brought the book down for me and did nothing to add to the rest of the atmosphere which was spot on. Still, the book was great fun and I would recommend it to any Jane fans out there...well, maybe with skipping a few pages during the two scenes between Eleanor and Lord Shermont.


Happy reading!
Heidi

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Dying in the Wool - A Kate Shackleton Mystery

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In the style of Agatha Christie, this new mystery series (to me) has caught my attention for the atmosphere it creates. Dying in the Wool by Frances Brody takes place in the Yorkshire village of Bridgestead. Kate Shackleton goes to meet up with an old friend. Tabitha will be getting married soon and has one wish. She wants Kate to find her missing father so he can walk her down the aisle. But Joshua Braithwaite disappeared 7 years ago from the mill he owned after having to attempt suicide. Kate loves trying to solve puzzles of missing persons so she takes up this challenge.

I loved many aspects of this book. I love Yorkshire and could imagine so much of the scenes described from my many visits there. The village is fictitious but the feeling of the area very real. I enjoyed Kate and her passion to help others find loved ones stemming from the disappearance of her own husband at the end of WWI. Her sidekick Sykes is a combination of Captain Hastings and Inspector Japp to her Poirot. Kate is only interested in the truth but at what cost to herself?

This is a cozy mystery so the atmosphere itself is a character within the book. This left you remembering the various people met along Kate's path. It is entertaining for that reason alone but as its plot takes a couple of turns along the way, it is also an intriguing mystery story. Looking forward to more...

Happy reading!
Heidi

Monday, March 31, 2014

The Thread

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When I finished the last page, I closed the book and said WOW. I had The Thread by Victoria Hislop in my basket to order for ages but kept thinking I would not like it. How mistaken I was. The fact that is was based in Greece made me leery. I was uncertain I would be able to feel any connection to the story. What I did not know was that this was two love stories wrapped up in one beautiful cover. 

Mitsos is in Greece visiting her grandparents. Katerina and Dimitri begin to tell him the stories of their lives. Their story begins with a great fire in 1917 that virtually destroys Thessaloniki. It is in the midst of this time that Dimitri is born. Five years later, Katerina is separated from her mother and baby sister while fleeing Asia Minor. These two major events alter both the children's lives so that they become linked. It is a tender love story against the backdrop of racial problems, complexity of class and even invasion and occupation during a world war. 

The second love story is one I had no idea about when I bought the book which pulled me so deeply into the story. It is the love of a woman and her needle and thread. This story speaks to me from the very core of who I am as a needlewoman. I loved the descriptions of Katerina's talent with her stitches. I found the special relationship she has with her neighbor Roza heartwarming. She loves to spend time with her stitching away as kindred spirits. The quilts in the story became real to me. I could see them as they were being described. 

I found this book well written with beautiful language of place, people and time. The descriptive passages brought me into the homes while the women worked on their clothes, rugs and embroidery. I could visit the haberdashery with Katerina, walk through the fabric warehouse with Konstantinos or experience the buzz of the busy Moreno tailoring workshop. For the history and romance, this is a wonderful read but, for any who enjoy needlework of any kind, it is a true treat that will leave you wanting to run and pick up your own needle and thread.


Happy reading!
Heidi

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Pasta with cheesy sauce and rocket

Jos and I love pasta dishes. I am always experimenting various combinations. We tried this and it has now become a favorite as it is not only tasty but very easy too. 


Pasta with cheesy sauce and rocket

150 gram corkscrew (fusilli) pasta
handful of thinly sliced sweet red pepper
2 large handfuls of rocket (arugula)
3 thin slices of salami, cut in strips
5 mushrooms, sliced
For the cheesy sauce:
75 gram mascarpone cheese
75 gram Parmasan cheese
1 tablespoon lemon juice
around 4 tablespoons pasta water
freshly ground sea salt and black pepper
dash of red chili flakes
drizzle of virgin olive oil

Cook pasta as directed on package. Save a little of the pasta water for later.

Saute the salami, red pepper and mushrooms in olive oil. Add the pasta and mix thoroughly.

In a bowl, mix the mascarpone, lemon juice and seasonings. Now add enough pasta sauce to make a creamy sauce. Crumble Parmasan flakes into the sauce. Drizzle a little olive oil in the sauce.

Pour the cheesy sauce over the pasta and toss in the rocket. Serve immediately.

Eet smakelijk!
Heidi

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Chicken spread bagel


A friend and I lunch together almost weekly. It is fun to come up with things when it is my turn to make lunch. Recently, I served her this bagel with chicken spread that I had whipped up that morning. It is so good freshly made and was so simple to do. This makes enough for three to four bagels.

Chicken spread bagel
1 boneless and skinless chicken breast
1 spring onion
1/2 stalk of celery
2 to 3 tablespoons of mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon of sharp mustard
drizzle of lemon juice
generous pinch of tarragon
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Poach the chicken breast in vegetable bouillon for 20 minutes. Leave the chicken to cool then slice into bite size chunks. Slice a spring onion and dice the celery. In a medium bowl, mix the mayonnaise, mustard and lemon juice. Now season to taste with the tarragon, salt and pepper. Mix in the chicken breast, spring onion and celery well. You can add a little extra mayonnaise if needed.

Toast a bagel and place a helping of the chicken spread on a bed of baby Romaine lettuce leaves. Garnish with red pepper rings and serve with slicked cucumber and pear on the side.

Eet smakelijk!
Heidi