"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
"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
"She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain." ~ Louisa May Alcott

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Winter's Tale

A Winter's Tale by Trisha Ashley will be of interest to those liking a read about garden restoration, old medieval houses, Shakespeare, witchcraft or just light romance.

Sophy Winter has just been displaced after her job as housekeeper and PA to a lady in a large country estate in Scotland ends only to find she has inherited her own grandfather's country house Winter's End. Her grandfather had placed the estate in debt and allowed the house to deteriorate as he fulfilled his passion to restore the medieval gardens to their former glory. Sophy arrives at the ancestral home after having left with her mother as a little girl only to find that her heart is at Winter's End. Now she must battle the costs of keeping up an old home as well as her newly found cousin Jack's desire to inherit the house along with the title which was passed to him. Sophy has once again started seeing Alys' presence in the house as she had when she was a little girl. But Alys is not an imaginary friend of childhood...she is Sophy's relative from the past who might be the key to Winter's End's future...

I enjoyed this book although I found the last third of the book begun to drag a little. I was sorry that it did not go more into detail of certain areas (sorry but giving details would spoil the plot) as it all came to a pinnacle and ended rather quickly. That being said, it is an enjoyable light read that will bring you through a winter's day.

 Knot garden at Hatfield House

This book did make me want to look into more books about knot gardens. I am going to do a little research to find any other books with knot gardens as the theme.

Happy reading!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Coddled eggs on a rainy Sunday

There is nothing better on a rainy Sunday morning than twisting open the top of an egg coddler and tucking in with a piece of hot buttered toast to the side. If you have never seen a coddler, they are porcelain egg cups with a silver lid as mine shown below. You can buy them in two sizes. I have two small and two large ones. The small ones have only room for the egg and a little cream while the large ones give you space to be creative.

Coddled eggs are something that you can use your imagination with. Here is the way I prepared them on this particular Sunday morning...

Coddled eggs with Alsace sausage
2 large egg coddlers
2 large fresh eggs
grated cheese
1 thin slice of Alscace sausage (cervelat), chopped (use a piece of sandwich salami if you cannot get cervelat)
cream or half and half

Butter the inside of the coddler. Place a little of the chopped sausage in the bottom of the coddler topped with about a teaspoon of cheese. Now break the egg into the coddler. Add more sausage and cheese on top of the egg. Pour about a teaspoon of cream over the top and screw on the lid. Place the egg coddler into a pan of boiling water which comes to half way up the coddler. Simmer with lid askew for 5 to 6 minutes. Enjoy!

***  I will show you another way to create coddled eggs for those unable to get an egg coddler in my next post. ***

Bon appitit or eet smakelijk!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Candy Country and How They Ran Away


The black and white print is from the cover of these two children's stories by Louisa May Alcott. Both seem to have a moral to teach children. I was able to download this small book for free on my Kindle...

The Candy Country is about Lily who takes her mother's big red umbrella and ends up blown into Candy country. She finds herself going on more adventures through a land of gingerbread, cakes and cookies until ending up enjoying the land of wholesome bread. Her adventures teach her to become a good housekeeper and enjoy sweet only at Christmas time.

Book quote:
“I’ll live here, and eat candy all day long, with no tiresome school or patchwork to spoil my fun,” said Lily.


How They Ran Away is about Tommy and Billy who decide one day to go off into the woods be become hunters. They have adventures along the way but find they are very much lost and separated from each other in the end.

Book quote:
“Yes, it winds right up the mountain; but we’d better not keep to it, or some one will see us and take us back. We are going to be real hunters and have adventures; so we must get lost, and find our way by the sun and the stars,” answered Tommy, who had read so many Boys’ Books his little head was a jumble of Texan Rangers, African Explorers, and Buffalo Bills; and he burned to outdo them all.

This year I am planning on reading a number of Louisa May Alcott books or biographies. I thought it would be fun to focus on her this year. My first two short stories were fun and easy reads for an afternoon's enjoyment.

Happy reading!

Monday, January 16, 2012

"Arretjescake" or chocolate butter-biscuit cake

This incredible chocolate delight is an old Dutch treat. It is something that Jos asks me to make at times. It is very simple to put together and requires no baking. Just mix the ingredients and allow to set in the fridge overnight.

Arretjescake or chocolate butter-biscuit cake
100gr (1/2 cup) sugar
100gr (1/2 cup) butter
1/2 package of crushed Maria biscuits (use a cheap plain cookie for this if you cannot get these cookies)
25gr (3 tablespoons) cocoa
1 package of vanilla sugar (7gr) or a drop of vanilla 
1 egg

Mix the cocoa, vanilla sugar and sugar together in a pan. Now add the butter and place on low heat to melt the butter while mixing well. Once the sugar is dissolved in the mixture, add a beaten egg and the cookies which have been crushed. 

Line a half loaf pan with cling wrap. This step is important and cannot be skipped. You will not be able to take the cake out of the pan without the cling wrap. Spread the chocolate biscuit mix into the pan and allow to sit in the fridge overnight. 

Carefully pull out the cake (it is hard to get out but I slip a butter knife along the edges carefully first, slightly lifting). Now slice this cake and serve. This is not a recipe for dieters but it sometimes a good thing to indulge in really good chocolate desserts. 

** If you would like to make this cake in a regular size loaf pan, just double my recipe. **

The "arretjescake" was named after a Dutch cartoon figure "Arretje Nof" shown in the photo below. He was also used in butter ads for the company NOF. This cake is simple but very delicious and impresses whenever served. 

Bon appetit or eet smakelijk!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Sarny...A Life Remembered

I started this book (Sarny...A Life Remembered by Gary Paulsen) out not thinking I was going to like but I really did. It is the continuation of the book Nightjohn. I cannot help thinking I wish I had the first book to have read before this one. But in the end, I am touched by this story of a slave woman named Sarny.

Her story is about the end of slavery and how she set out to find her two children who were sold away from her. In her struggle to get to New Orleans where her children were, she sees the brutality of the battlefields and meets up with Miss Laura. At first, she is simply working for Miss Laura but she befriends this unique woman who changes her life. She finds her true mission in life is teaching other black people to read and write. She dedicates her life to that mission.

A truly touching read...

Saturday, January 7, 2012

A Weekend with Mr. Darcy

A Weekend With Mr Darcy

My first book for 2012 was a romance of Austenian proportions which I thoroughly enjoyed. I listened to the audiobook read by Victoria Brazier. The book A Weekend with Mr. Darcy is the first in an Austen addicts trilogy written by Victoria Connelly.

Katherine Roberts and Robyn Love are both attending a Jane Austen conference at Purley Hall. Katherine is hoping her friend Lorna Warwick will also be there. Instead she meets the handsome Warwick Lawton and has fallen in love. Robyn is trying to no avail to escape her schooltime love Jace who decides to take her to the conference. The conference becomes a time of romance and intrigue fit for a Jane Austen novel with each woman encountering their own Mr. Darcy.

This is a fun and light book with a true Austen-like happy ending. I can recommend this one. Especially with Valentine's Day just around the corner, it would be a perfect read.

Happy reading!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Smoked Salmon Rillette and Pickled Cucumber

I love Food Network UK. I watched it quite a bit in December and when I saw Jun Tanaka make this recipe, I knew it would be the perfect thing to make over the holidays. It is easy to make and just delicious.

Smoked Salmon Rillette
200g poached fresh salmon fillet flaked (flake this in fairly large chunks)
200g smoked salmon chopped
1 tbsp mayonnaise
3 tbsp crème fraiche
1 tsp creamed horseradish
½ lemon juice
Pinch cayenne pepper
1 tbsp chopped chives
½ tbsp chopped dill (I used top quality dried as I could not get fresh dill)

In a large bowl mix all the ingredients for the salmon rillette and season with salt. Smooth the surface of the rillette with the back of a spoon. Place in the fridge until ready to serve.

Pickled Cucumbers
½ cucumber peeled and finely sliced in the length not using the seeds
200ml white wine vinegar
75g sugar

To pickle the cucumber, warm the vinegar and sugar until the sugar dissolves. When cool add the cucumber slices. Leave in the liquid for one hour.

To serve, place a few slices of pickled cucumber on the rillette on toast.

Bon appetit or eet smakelijk!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

Looking out into the coming winter and looking forward to a start of a new year of books and good food. This is a window in a museum that I went to last year with a friend. We do not have this perfect winter scene this year so far here in Holland but winter is still here and I am hoping for a little snow before the season is over. What is better than curling up with a good book and a warm quilt while smelling a hot soup or stew on the stove top? Pure bliss!

My reading goals went well this year. I read more books than I ordered this year which really made me happy. I love to stitch, quilt and crochet which cuts into my reading time but I cannot complain this year. Well, except that I did not meet a couple of my handwork goals instead...grins. Here is my list of books read in 2011...

The Christmas Tree by Julie Salamon
Mary's Son: A Tale of Christmas by Darryl Nyznyk
I Saw Three Ships by Elizabeth Goudge
The Sacrifice by Beverly Lewis
Mistletoe Murder by Leslie Meier
Bess's Log Cabin Quilt by D. Anne Love /reread
Behind the Attic Wall by Sylvia Cassedy
Daily Life in a Victorian House by Laura Wilson
Summer of Roses by Luanne Rice
Murder is Binding by Lorna Barrett
The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted by Bridget Asher
Linnets and Valerians by Elizabeth Goudge
Key Lime Pie Murder by Joanne Fluke
The Summer Season by Julia Williams
The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte by Syrie James
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson
A Common Life by Jan Karon
Beach Roses by Jean Stone
The Other Side of the Dale by Gervase Phinn
The Olive Farm by Carol Drinkwater
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (audiobook)
The Frozen Lake by Elizabeth Edmondson
The Christmas Mouse by Miss Read (audiobook)
Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
A Moment of Silence or The Observations of Miss Dido Kent by Miss Anna Dean
The Doll's House by Rumer Godden
The Blue Door by Ann Rinaldi
No Holly for Miss Quinn by Miss Read (audiobook)
Broken Days by Ann Rinaldi
A Stitch in Time by Ann Rinaldi
Birch Hollow Schoolmarm by Carrie Bender
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
Apricots at Midnight by Adele Geras
Wedding Ring by Emilie Richards
A Basket of Flowers by Christoph Von Schmid
Twelve Days of Christmas by Trisha Ashley

My favorite read of this year was The Frozen Lake by Elizabeth Edmondson. I would highly recommend this one if you are looking for good titles to read in 2012.

Happy New Year to you all!

Happy reading!