Monday, November 30, 2020

This Week I....

What I'm Reading

See my excuse below as to why I am not reading much. In theory I am still listening to Christmas at the Island Hotel by Jenny Colgan but the reality is that I think that I listened to maybe 10 minutes in the last two weeks.

I did actually finish a book last week and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was called The Flip Side by James Bailey, an English author, but since finishing this one, I haven't actually picked up another book. It's not like I don't have things to read. Like all of us, I have a lot.

What I'm Watching

At the end of every working week I am so exhausted that just veging in front of the TV is just about all Ican do. This weekend the main thing I watched was Virgin River season 2. I have to say it feels like we are a long way from the books now, but it is still watchable. The only thing with these series is the cliffhanger ending. I know it is to grab people but when you don't know if there is even going to be a another series they are a bit irritating.

I did also watch My Christmas Love tonight. It has been a tough day at work and so this Christmassy romancey Hallmark movie hit the spot for me!


I mentioned in my Weekend Cooking post that work is hammering me to the point that I have barely been able to pick up my laptop to post, let alone to read. I am hoping that changes over the next few weeks. I've gone from reading ten books in October to only reading three in November. And I haven't even looked at any of my study tutorials at all in that time. Time to get back to working on worklife balance I guess.

We are very fortunate that life is pretty much getting back to normal. We are now at a month without any new coronavirus cases here in Melbourne. We are even planning a road trip early in January. Let's hope that this trip goes to plan. This year we had five trips planned. The first one was in February and we did do that one, which feels like so long ago, but every subsequent trip since then was cancelled.

I do have big news tomorrow here on the blog, but I have to keep it quiet until then but here's a sneak peek

Posts from the last week

Vintage Weekend Cooking: Saved by Cake by Marian Keyes
Weekend Cooking: What I Baked in November

I've linked this post to It's Monday, what are you reading? as hosted by Book Date

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Weekend Cooking: What I Baked in November

Last month when I posted about what I had baked during October, I mentioned that I hadn't been cooking as much and it's fair to say that is true for November as well. One reason is lockdown fatigue but the main reason is really because work is really kicking my butt and has been for the last couple of months. Over the last month it's got to the point that I don't even pick up my laptop after work to write or read other people's blogs or even read a book because I am  working late nearly every night and then I am so tired.

The other thing I have mentioned for the last couple of months is about how to challenge myself. On this front, I think November was a good month, because, whilst I only made a couple of things, they were both things that had several different components. Don't get me wrong, the individual components weren't particulary difficult but it does take a little bit of time to put it all together.

The first thing I made was the Chocolate Caramel Flan which I shared the recipe for a couple of weeks ago.

I loved this recipe - and I am thinking that this might be our Christmas dessert because if we add strawberries, raspberries and blueberries into the middle it would be quite festive.  We could also do something with the base to add in some spices, or make  a gingerbread flavoured cake. It's a definite possibility.

The other thing that I made was an absolutely amazing, as in a-maz-ing, lemon meringue cheesecake. This wasn't the original plan but Robert a recipe for a lemon slice type thing called Lemon Lush that included ingredients like fresh whisk and lemon pudding mix which we don't get here. So I went searching until I found this recipe at Love Life and Sugar.

Making this also gave us a reason to go and buy a blowtorch so that we could do the toasty bit on the meringue. 

I will definitely be making this one again, although I have learnt that I need to start this one early in the morning rather than in the afternoon as it was torture having to wait for it to set overnight.

Weekly dinners:

Saturday: Pork schnitzel with chips
Sunday: Grilled cheese on toast
Monday: Steak egg and chiips
Tuesday: Burgers
Wednesday: Chicken skewers, baked potato and salad
Thursday: Corn cakes, baked beans, tomato peach and ricotta salad
Friday: Fish and chips (takeaway Friday)

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Vintage Weekend Cooking: Saved by Cake by Marian Keyes

This week I have finished an Aussie rural romance book called Wildflower Ridge by Maya Linnell. This is my first book by this author, and in fact was her debut novel, but I have been following her on Instagram for a while now. 

Like me, Maya loves baking, so it wasn't really a surprise to see baking mentioned more than once in this book, but I was surprised when I saw Marian Keyes' cookbook Saved by Cake mentioned. It has spurred me to reshare my thoughts about the book which I originally posted in 2012. The funny thing is all through this post I say that I am going to buy this book, and yet, I never actually did. Bad fan! And now, I wouldn't mind Red Velvet Cheesecake cupcakes.



Can you remember the last time you laughed out loud when reading a cookbook? Admittedly when I am looking for a new cookbook it isn't at the top of my list of priorities, but it is an added bonus when it happens.

Irish author Marian Keyes has been a best selling fiction author for years but this book, Saved by Cake, is her first foray into writing a cookbook. As a reader, I hope that this isn't the last time she does so. As a fan, I really hope that she doesn't find herself in the same place as she was when she starting her cake making journey.

The title of this book is not just a fun title, it is a description of the role that cake played in Marian Keyes life. A couple of years ago Keyes found herself suffering with severe depression. In the introduction she talks about her depression and how baking gave her a lifeline. At one point she says "To be perfectly blunt about it, my choice sometimes is: I can kill myself or I can make a dozen cupcakes. Right so, I'll do the cupcakes and I can kill myself tomorrow." Keyes acknowledges that baking may not be the thing that saves everyone, but for her it was the thing that helped her be able to face one day at time. She went from not even owning a cake tin to having a Drawer of Dreams and so many cookie cutters. If you watch either of the videos that I have linked to above you will be able to see how much joy this new hobby that is turned into something much more has given her, which can only be  a good thing right?

I know that I said that this was laugh out loud funny but so far it doesn't sound terribly cheery but if you have read any of Marian Keyes novels, you know that she is not afraid to mix up important issues into humourous situations and her voice comes through loud and clear in this collection.  Even within the recipe you can feel her excitement and pride with the comments that are scattered through the instructions. For example, in the recipe for Lemon Curd and Pistachio Pinwheels one of the paragraphs is "When you take the pinwheels out of the oven, prepare to be amazed. They will look so professional and impressive and totally different from the last time you saw them."

In another example, in the recipe for Lebkuchen Hearts, when talking about the equipment needed - "Finally, as these are Lebkuchen hearts, you'll need some sort of heart-shaped cookie cutter. If you don't have any, you could try freestyling it with a sharp knife. Or you could simply use a different shaped cutter and change the name of the cookie to - oh, just off the top of my head - Lebkuchen Shoes. or Lebkuchen Handbags." You just know that she has done this herself before!

The recipes range from quite simple classics, where Keyes has had to resist the urge to mess around too much with the tried and tested, to more unusual recipes like a Balsamic, Black Pepper and Chocolate cake that she recommends be served with mascarpone cheese, fresh basil and balsamic vinegar which she admits sounds unusual but "at least I am not advocating anchovies".

The book is divided into sections which focus on classics, cupcakes, cheesecakes, liquid cakes, pastry, meringues and macaroons, biscuits and cookies, fruit and veg and chocolate and there is a good mix of easier and more difficult recipes in each section.

I got this book from my local library, and it is obvious that others before me have actually cooked from it, as I fully intend to do. One of the previous borrowers even left a few post it notes marking the recipes that they found particularly of interest. Their choices included Three Milks Cake, Mam's Apple Tart, Sean's Rosemary Truffles and Individual Chocolate Lava Cakes. To that list, I would add my own choices of Chocolate Cheesecake Cupcakes and Red Velvet Swirl Cupcakes (for which I have included both the recipe and the video of Marian Keyes making them) below. I left the post it notes in the book for the next library patron to discover too. I wonder how long they will last in there until someone takes them out.

I wouldn't have necessarily said that I was more interested in sweet themed cookbooks than savoury, but when I buy this, and I will be buying it, it will be the third such cookbook this year (I have talked about the other two here and here). They are all different in tone and content but I can see myself cooking from them all quite regularly going forward.

Red Velvet Cupcake Swirls

For the red velvet layer 

110g butter
170g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
40g cocoa powder
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon red food colouring
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
2 eggs
160g self raising flour

For the cream cheese layer 

200g cream cheese
1 egg
40g caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


Line a 12 hole cupcake tray with paper cases and pre-heat your oven to 170°C/325°F/gas 3. 

First, make the cream cheese layer by beating the cream cheese with the egg, sugar and vanilla extract. Keep it standing by. 

Make the red velvet mix by melting the butter. Put into a bowl with the sugar and beat well. Next - in this exact order! Something to do with chemical jiggery-pokery that I can't explain, but must be observed - add the vanilla extract, the cocoa powder, the salt, the food colouring and the vinegar, beating between each addition.

In a separate bowl, beat your eggs in a separate bowl and then add to the butter/cocoa mix. Sieve in the flour and fold through. 

Divide most of the mix among the paper cases, reserving perhaps a fifth, then dollop a lump of cream cheese mix onto each paper case on top of the red velvet mix. Then divide the remaining red velvet mix into the paper cases, on top of the cream cheese mix. 

Now, swirl. You can use a cocktail stick, but I used a bamboo skewer - something with a bit of length is nice because you can get right down into the red velvet mix and dredge up its murky depths - and twirl until the red and white mixes are beautifully striped. this is an extremely enjoyable exercise, so enjoyable that I never want to stop, but I must because if I don't, the two mixes will become one and the whole thing will be pointless.

Bake for 17 to 20 minutes. Cool fully on a wire rack.

You can watch Marian make these delicious sounding cupcakes in the video below:

    Saturday, November 21, 2020

    Weekend Cooking: National Fairy Bread Day

    Today I am going to be posting about an Australlian culinary classic that doesn't necessarily make much sense to other nationalities (except maybe Dutch people, but more on that lately). The reason for posting about this today.....Tuesday is National Fairy Bread day.

    In my last job I was known as the queen of fairy bread, a title which came about because of a joke. One of the things that I miss about working at home is the opportunity for shared morning teas, or taking your baking treats into work, so you don't have to eat at all. It was something that we definitely loved at my old job. And it wasn't only the actual morning tea to look forward to, there was also the pre morning tea conversation where we all talk about what we might make!

    During one of these pre-event conversations, we were all talking about what we would bring, and I jokingly suggested I would bring fairy bread, which once upon a time was staple of an Australian kids party. Once we had explained to the people who didn't grow up here and then reassured them that it is actually really good, the idea took hold and I decided to actually do it.

    What I didn't expect was the reaction from people when they saw it on the table. There were several IT guys who were VERY excited that there was fairy bread on the table, and it made lots of people smile, to the point that I ended up taking it for shared morning teas several times (hence my honorary title) and then felt the need to say, you know I can actually cook right?

    So, what actually is fairy bread? Firstly let me be very clear here - there is little to no nutritional goodness in this! 

    Fairy bread is very easy to make, but you can still get it wrong.

    Firstly, you start with the freshest sliced white bread you can find. If you are making it for yourself at home it's fine to use supermarket sliced bread, but if you are taking it to a special occasion then it involves a trip to the local bakery to buy a freshly baked loaf.

    Secondly, you spread a nice even layer of margarine on those bread slices - not butter because you don't want to tear those nice soft slices of bread.

    Then you take hundreds and thousands and generously shake them all over the bread. The challenge is to get it mostly on the bread and not all over your bench tops, floor etc, because you can still be finding those suckers a week later if you aren't careful. 

    Now, for some people you can apparently put sprinkles on but for me it has to be hundreds and thousands. Also, save your fancy sprinkles for cupcakes because this is not the time for them. Just your run of the mill store bought do the job. 

    What's the difference between sprinkles and hundreds and thousands? The picture below are sprinkles, and the picture above is fairy bread with hundreds and thousands on - so the difference is one is lines and the other is balls.

    The final step is to cut the bread into quarters - triangles only. Never squares. Squares just don't look right, or taste right for that matter.

    I mentioned that the Dutch might understand fairy bread a bit more than other nationalities. This is because they have something that is kind of next level sprinkles, called vruchten hagel. Vruchten hagel are sprinkles that come in a variety of flavours including milk and dark chocolate, fruits of the forest and aniseed. There could be other flavours but those are the ones that I know of.

    My husband, who is really my Dutch boy as both of his parents emigrated to South Africa from the Netherlands, before he, in turn emigrated to Australia (luckily for me!), buys a box of these whenever he can. 

    He often has these on toast for breakfast - sacrilege - see the first step above!!

    Happy National Fairy Bread day on Tuesday!

    Weekly dinners:

    Saturday: Eggplant Moussake
    Sunday: Porchetta, Fennel, Rachicchio and Orange Salad
    Monday: Steak,mushrooms, peas, broccoli
    Tuesday: Cauliflower Fried Rice with Chicken
    Wednesday: Pasta Carbonara
    Thursday: Chicken stir fry
    Friday: Roast beef and gravy rolls

    Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page.

    Wednesday, November 18, 2020

    Blog Tour: The Lost Village by Daniella Sacerdoti

    I know if you take a look back through my blog archives you could be left thinking that I have no other aspirations other than to go back to France and to read all the books set in France, all of the time. Whilst that could be true, I am more of an equal opportunity reader and so I am happy to read books with other settings. And so it was that I jumped at the chance to read this book, set in a small Italian village. I am really glad that I did.

    Luce Nardini (pronounced Lu-chay) is suffering from empty nest syndrome. She split up from her husband Ethan several years before, and now her son Eli has moved from Seattle to New York to go to college.  Feeling adrift from family, Luce decides that now is the time to track down her Italian family, despite knowing that her mother would forbid it, if she knew. Luce's mother, Angelina, had not had any contact with her family back in Italy for many years, and would never talk about why that was. 

    When Luce finds a small clue as to where her family might have come from, she uses Facebook to connect with her younger cousin Mathilde who had no idea that Luce existed. Within a short time, Luce has made the decision to go to Italy and find out, once and for all, who she is and where she comes from.

    Whilst Mathilde is very excited to welcome Luce, the two cousins are apprehensive about the reception that she will get when she meets her elderly grandmother for the first time, not to mention her uncle. Nonna is more than pleased to meet her, but her uncle is incredibly hostile. What could possibly have happened to have completely destroyed this family so irrevocably.

    Slowly, her Nonna tells her about what happened in the small village during the war, about blackshirts and partisan rebels, about giving birth to her daughter in the woods. However, before the truth about the family secrets can be fully revealed, the village of Boscanero is hit by a massive earthquake. Now, the past doesn't matter so much as surviving. Lives are lost, others are changed irrevocably, and for Luce, the truth about what, or who, really matters becomes much clearer.

    The descriptions of the village were very good. I could feel what it must have been like to be sitting in the village on a warm summer night. It definitely made me wish I could be there, at least before the quake. I thought the scenes after the earthquake were particulary well done. The panic, the despair, the dust and the loss were superbly written. 

    The author made some different decisions from what you would nomally expect to see in a novel of this type. It is refreshing when an author surprises you! 

    The subtitle for this novel is "an emotional World War Two historical romance set in Italy" (at least it is on the Goodreads entry) but I am not sure that is 100% correct because it doesn't convey the action that the story tells, right up to the very unexpected ending. There is an undertone of romance, sure, but for me it wasn't the main element.

    What I am sure of is that I need to read more from this author as soon as possible!

    Rating 4.5/5

    Thanks to the publisher, Bookouture, for a review copy of this book.

    Book Description:
    1945, Italy. Two sisters give birth to two little girls on the same night, huddled under blankets, deep in the black woods that surround the village of Bosconero. They hold their babies close as footsteps approach. If they make even the slightest sound, the German soldiers will find them…

    2006. Luce Nardini searches the cobbled streets of a remote Italian village for a house with a faded blue door. Since her only child left home, and with her estranged husband more distant than ever, she’s been completely untethered. Discovering why her mother cut all contact with her family and the village she loved feels like Luce’s last hope at understanding who she is.

    Inside the house, she’s relieved to find the grandmother she never knew living out her final days. With a longing look at an ornate wooden box on her nightstand, her grandmother is just beginning to tell the heart-wrenching story of a little village ravaged by war, and why Luce’s mother swore never to return, when then the unthinkable happens: an earth-shattering disaster that shakes the little village of Bosconero to its core.

    Feeling more lost than ever before, Luce fears that the secrets of her past have been buried forever. Her only hope is to win back the trust of the small community and find her grandmother’s little wooden box amongst the rubble of the village.

    But will the surprise arrival of the husband she thought she’d lost help sew Luce’s family back together, or tear it apart for good? And will anything have prepared her for the devastating betrayal she finds hidden inside the box…?

    An unputdownable historical novel about the secrets we keep to protect the ones we love by the author of million-copy Amazon No 1. bestseller, Watch Over Me. Perfect for anyone who loves Fiona Valpy, Lily Graham or The Letter by Kathryn Hughes.  

    Author Bio:

    Daniela Sacerdoti is the author of the bestselling Glen Avich series which has sold over one million copies in ebook to date, Sacerdoti’s debut novel Watch Over Me was named the eighth bestselling Kindle book of all time in 2015, when she was also ranked as the eleventh top-selling Kindle author. She lives in a small village in the middle of nowhere, with her Scottish husband, two children, a Cocker spaniel and a foundling kitten (who was definitely a witch in a past life).

    Buy Links:

    Monday, November 16, 2020

    This week.....

    I'm reading....

    I haven't listened to much of my audiobook over the last week, but I am still determined to listen to it, because I am enjoying it when I do get to it because I do enjoy Jenny Colgan's books, and this one, Christmas at the Island Hotel, is festive to boot. Let's hope I get it finished by Christmas!

    Tomorrow I am going to be posting a review for a book that I thoroughly enjoyed, The Lost Village by Daniela Sacerdoti.

    I am currently reading an Aussie rural romance called Wildflower Ridge by Maya Linnell. Whilst I haven't read this author before, I do really enjoy her Instagram feed which features lots of baking as well as books! I have a few days before I have my next must read book, so I am hoping to fit this one in, and then get back to the review.

    I'm watching....

    We took Friday off, so I could have done anything. We started with a delicious breakfast, and then, well then I spent the rest of the day watching Dash and Lily on Netflix! And I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed it! Once again, it is another festive treat, but this time with the added bonus of New York! I spent the first couple of episodes saying we've been there, and we've been there. My husband then moved into the other room to do whatever he was doing. Not sure why!!

    We then watched the first episode of season 2 of American Gods. You can't really get much different but still...


    We are now up to our 17th day of having no new cases of Covid19 and no new deaths - affectionately known here as double donuts. We are gradually starting to catch up with friends we haven't seen since the beginning of the year, heading to the hardware store and IKEA, but still all while still masked up. I know we have to wear the mask but I am glad to take it off once we get back in the car.

    In bad news, there is a new outbreak in Adelaide at the moment which may impact my family's plans for Christmas but we will see how that all plays out over the coming weeks. Right now, any plans are up in the air.

    Posts from the last week

    Blog Tour: From a Paris Balcony by Ella Carey
    Weekend Cooking: Chocolate Caramel Flan

    I've linked this post to It's Monday, what are you reading? as hosted by Book Date

    Saturday, November 14, 2020

    Weekend Cooking: Chocolate Caramel Flan

    When I posted about salted caramel last week, I did so without having any intention of sharing this recipe, but then I made it, and I can't not share it because it was so, so, so good! Yes, that good!

    As I mentioned last week, this recipe is from Great British Bake Off  series 6 winner Nadiya Hussein. I hadn't actually tried any of her recipes before, but if this one is anything to go by, then I will definitely be searching out more of her recipes, particularly her baking recipes. There are a number here that I think look very tasty!

    This recipe says to use a jar of store bought caramel sauce but I actually made the recipe from last week, and it was the perfect amount.

    This was such a big hit! I took this to my sister's for dinner with her family and even the kids all loved it which was kind of surprising. I was nervous that it wouldn't be set when I went to turn it out to serve, but I needn't have been worried. The base cake was delicious, the creme caramel was perfectly set, and I will be making it again! In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if I am requested to make it again several times.

    Chocolate Caramel Flan

    For the cake
    150g/5½oz unsalted butter, softened, plus extra melted butter for greasing
    190g/6½oz soft brown sugar
    1 free-range egg
    1 tbsp vanilla extract
    200g/7oz plain flour, sifted, plus extra for dusting
    30g/1oz cocoa powder
    1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
    1 tsp baking powder
    3 tbsp coffee granules
    230ml/8fl oz full-fat milk

    For the crème caramel
    600ml/20fl oz evaporated milk
    397g tin condensed milk
    4 free-range eggs
    1 tsp vanilla bean paste
    Pinch of salt

    Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/Gas 4. Grease and lightly flour a 23cm/9in Bundt tin. Find a roasting tin big enough to hold the Bundt tin comfortably and deep enough for water to come two-thirds of the way up the side of the Bundt tin. Pop a tea towel in the base of the roasting tin.

    To make the caramel layer, put the salted caramel in a microwaveable dish and warm for about 20 seconds or just long enough to make it runny. Pour into the base of the Bundt tin, avoiding drips on the sides. Tap on the worktop to level the surface.

    To make the cake layer, whisk the butter and sugar in a bowl until really light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla extract and mix to combine.

    In a separate bowl, add the flour, cocoa, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder and mix thoroughly.

    Spoon the coffee into a small bowl, add a few tablespoons of the milk and heat for a few seconds in the microwave or in a small saucepan on a medium heat, until the coffee has dissolved. Pour the coffee into the remaining milk and stir through.

    Sift a third of the flour mixture into the butter mixture and fold in with a large metal spoon. Fold in a third of the coffee-flavoured milk, then repeat until all the flour and milk has been mixed in and is smooth.

    Spoon the cake mixture over the salted caramel in the tin, tap the tin on the work surface to remove any bubbles and make sure the top is level. Put the Bundt tin in the centre of the roasting tin.

    To make the crème caramel, mix the evaporated milk, condensed milk, eggs, vanilla and salt in a food processor until smooth. Pour over the back of a spoon, over the top of the cake batter.

    Have a jug of hot water ready. Put the roasting tin with the Bundt tin into the oven. Before you close the door, pour the water straight onto the tea towel in the roasting tin, making sure the water reaches at least two-thirds of the way up the side of the Bundt tin.

    Bake for 1 hour and don’t be tempted to open the oven. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for another hour. Flip over onto a serving dish, cut into slices and serve.

    Weekly dinners:

    Saturday: Chicken parma and chips
    Sunday: Roast lamb dinner (family dinner)
    Monday: Chicken a la king
    Tuesday: Thai Pork Burgers
    Wednesday: Pork Nachos
    Thursday: Sticky chicken drumsticks with rice
    Friday: Patatas Bravas, Chicken, Potato, Chorizo

    Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page.

    Thursday, November 12, 2020

    Blog Tour: From A Paris Balcony by Ella Carey

    When we first meet Sarah West it is 2015 and she has lost both of her parents and her marriage over the previous year, leaving her devastated and emotionally brittle. She find a green box at the bottom of her father's wardrobe, which contains just one object - a letter written by famous courtesan Marthe de Florian. In it, Marthe is writing to Henry Duval, advising him to flee Paris following the untimely death of his wife, Louisa West. It has long been said that Louisa had committed suicide by leaping from a balcony in Paris in the midst of a party. When Sarah reads the letter it is clear that there is more to the story, so she decides to travel to Paris to find out what really happened.

    Several years before, Marthe's Parisian apartment was opened (which forms part of the story in the first book of this loosely connected trilogy) and is now occasionally available to rent. Sarah decides that she wants to stay in the apartment in the hope that she might find some more clues. The only problem is, the apartment already has a tenant, so if she is going to stay there, she will have to share the space with French artist Laurent. Sarah decides that her need to search for clues is more important than any uncomfortableness relating to sharing the apartment with a complete stranger, especially someone who has a reputation for being a bit temperamental.

    In the past story of the dual storyline, Louisa is a young American woman who is sent to England in the 1890s. She seemingly lives the dream in that she catches the eye of the aristocratic heir to an earldom, Henry Duval, and ends up marrying him. But for Louisa, this is not quite a fairytale. 

    Louisa is a modern, opinionated woman who is taking a keen interest in the fledgling suffragette movement, and believes that she can use her new position to support the movement, but this will be frowned upon by the whole family, with the exception of her husband's younger brother Charlie.

    As for Henry, he wants to spend all of his time partying hard in Paris, where he consorts with actresses, prostitutes, and courtesans, and he wants his wife to stay away, away from his world.

    Sarah's search for clues takes her to the Duval family estate, Ashworth, where Sarah hopes to find the final clues in Louisa's story, and in her own as well. I did have to read the final explanations a little confusing so I had to read it a couple of times until I got it. Not sure if that was just me or not though.

    It was interesting to see how three worlds converge in Louisa's life. She marries into the very structured, aristocratic world where there are rules for every situation, especially if you are a woman. There is the world of the suffragettes, where Louisa and others like Emmeline Pankhurst are fighting for the right of every woman to be able to make their own choices in life, and then there is the Paris world that her husband loves so much, where yes, a woman can, if she's lucky and successful, make a lot of herself, but in the case of the courtesan it is often at the behest of the men that provide the jewels, apartments, favours that fund the lifestyle.

    I have enjoyed my time reading this trilogy.

    This read counts for both the Australian Women Writers Challenge and the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.

    Thanks to the publisher, Bookouture, for the review copy via Netgalley

    Book Description:

    The small green chest was concealed at the back of her father’s wardrobe. Its hinges were made of brass that must once have shone, but now the surface was roughened and dull. As she opened the lock, there was only one thing inside: a letter, postmarked 1895, Paris.

    England, 1895. Louisa West, a young beauty from Boston, looks like she has it all: a handsome husband, she is lady of Ashworth Manor and one day she’ll be a duchess. But in truth, her life is falling apart. Louisa’s honeymoon is barely over when her husband deserts her, leaving her devastated and alone. She flees to Paris, longing to escape her grief, but finds only tragedy…

    Boston, 2015. Life hasn’t been kind to Sarah West. In one year, she has lost both her parents and her marriage. After her father’s death, Sarah is sorting through his belongings when she finds a letter about her mysterious ancestor, Louisa. There have always been whispers in the family about Louisa’s suicide—from a high balcony in Paris—but as Sarah reads, she starts to question everything she was told. Desperate to leave her broken heart behind, she books a trip to Paris to find out more…

    When Sarah arrives in the city of lights, the cobbled streets of Montmartre and the river Seine at twilight make her heart sing. Then, on the bookshelf of a beautiful Paris apartment, hidden inside the yellowing pages of an old novel, she finds a note about Louisa which shatters Sarah’s understanding of her family’s past. Did Louisa really throw herself from a Paris balcony? And when Sarah uncovers the truth, will it change everything about her future?

    An utterly captivating and emotional historical novel from bestselling author Ella Carey that will transport you to Paris at its most glamorous. From a Paris Balcony will have fans of Rhys Bowen, Fiona Valpy and My Name is Eva totally gripped!

    Author Bio:

    Ella Carey is the international bestselling author of The Things We Don’t Say, Secret Shores, From a Paris Balcony, The House by the Lake, and Paris Time Capsule. Her books have been published in over fourteen languages, in twelve countries, and have been shortlisted for ARRA awards. A Francophile who has long been fascinated by secret histories set in Europe’s entrancing past, Ella has degrees in music, nineteenth-century women’s fiction, and modern European history. She lives in Melbourne with her two children and two Italian greyhounds who are constantly mistaken for whippets.

    Ella loves to connect with her readers regularly through her facebook page and on her website.

    Buy Links:


    Monday, November 09, 2020

    This Week....


    Normally I start with what I am reading and watching,  and then work my way up to life, but I am thinking this week is a good week so let's start there.

    Not only is there the news out of America, a lot of our COVID restrictions have been lifted. We can now go wherever we like in our state, and hopefully it won't be too long before we can even go into other states. We have a road trip pretty much planned, we are just waiting for when the announcements are made! 

    It is also warming up here, so the sun is shining, we can go wherever we like, we can go to cafes and in theory to the movies in a few weeks. However, there are still restrictions on how many people can be at a cafe so it's not guaranteed to get in when you want but it's a start right.

    Yesterday, we went to the local mansion which includes the State Rose Garden which was a lovely day out, but I did walk a whole lot more than I am used to these days!

    I'm reading...

    I haven't yet made any more progress on my audiobook, which is a bit disappointing as I was enjoying it, but my brain is full at the moment. 

    I am reading From a Paris Balcony by Ella Carey, which is the third story by Ella Carey set around an abandoned apartment that was opened after 70 years, revealing the secrets within!

    I'm watching....

    I am not sure what it going on with me. I have watched two holiday themed movies this week. I don't generally do Christmas movies, but it seems like I am slowly coming around to them, maybe because Christmas doesn't feel as hard as it always used to.

    Firstly I watched The Holidate which was funny enough to laugh out loud in parts, but I would say it was an average movie.

    I also watched The Mistetoe Promise, which was possibly a bit better than average. 

    We also have finished watching another season of Schitt's Creek. I think we will end up trying to watching another series this week.

    Sunday, November 08, 2020

    Six degrees of Separation: Ready Player One to The Island of Sea Women

    Welcome to this month's edition of Six Degrees of Separation, which is a monthly meme hosted by Kate from Books Are My Favourite and Best.  The idea is to start with a specific book and make a series of links from one book to the next using whatever link you can find and see where you end up after six links.  I am also linking this post up with The Sunday Salon, hosted by Deb at Readerbuzz.

    This month's Six Degrees is a bit different. Rather than everyone starting with the same book, we all start with the book that we finished with in a previous edition. I chose to use last months. For me, that means starting with Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.

    I was debating about whether doing a straight forward list of numbers as a theme, but in the end I decided to be a little more random, and not go with a theme of any kind

    The Exiles by Christina Baker Kline  - My first link uses the name Cline, despite the fact that it is spelt differently. 

    The Bakers Daughter by Sarah McCoy - I have long been a fan of WWII fiction, and this is one that I read and loved years ago. The word Baker is the link here.

    The Clockmakers Daughter by Kate Morton - From The Baker's Daughter to The Clockmaker's Daughter.

    The Deadly Hours - This is a short story collection that followes a cursed watch through the centuries, the connection here being timepieces.

    The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley - One of the authors in The Deadly Hours is Susanna Kearsley, so I thought I would share the first book I read by her, and still one of my absolute favourites. I am kind of surprised to see that I have never used a Susanna Kearsley book before in Six Degrees. An oversight on my part for sure.

    The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See - The connection here is the Sea, although the two seas in question are very far apart. This book is about a group of women divers in Korea, whereas The Winter Sea is set in Scotland!

    From a fantasy world in the future to  female divers in Korea  - that's quite a journey.

    Next month's starting point is Are You There God, It's Me Margaret by Judy Blume. I have already started working on my theme, one of which might start with from the line in the book being "I must, I must increase my bust!" but I am not sure how far I can go down that path and keep it clean! lol

    Saturday, November 07, 2020

    Weekend Cooking: Salted Caramel

    It's funny how a flavour can grow on you. A few years ago now, salted caramel started appearing in all sorts of different places - in cakes, ice cream, as flavours inside biscuits and cookies and more, having not really been a thing, or not being a thing I had previous noticed.

    When it comes to trends, I am often a little slow in trying things for the first time, and this isn't only in food. Remember when ballet flats first came into fashion for shoes. I resisted them for a good two or three years before I bought my first pair, and then went oh I like these, and that was pretty much the end for any kind of heels. Comfy shoes for the win! Anyway, back to caramel.

    It took me a while to get the salted caramel thing. I mean, what could be so good about it. Well, it turns out I was wrong. The first time I remember trying it was at a foodie festival where I had a little teaser taste and, oh my goodness,  it was so good. From there I bought a jar of fancy salted caramel sauce and would have it on ice cream. That was obviously pre husband days because it is now very rare for us  to have ice cream in the house because he doesn't like it. We are a whipped cream house now.

    I have made a few salted caramel creations over the years. Firstly , I made a sponge roll that was filled with salted caramel cream, where you made your own caramel!

    I've also made Salted Caramel and Vanilla Baked Cheescake - so good.

    I've also made poo emoji cupcakes. That wasn't what they were meant to be but it is what some unkind souls dubbed them. They were topped with a salted caramel buttercream frosting.

    This weekend I am going to be trying out a new recipe which is called Chocolate Caramel Flan. It is a chocolate cake base, with a creme brulee style filling and a salted caramel sauce. The interesting thing about this recipe is that it is not dismilar in concept to the self saucing pudding recipe I shared a couple of weeks ago. You put the salted caramel in the bottom of a bundt tin, you put the cake mixture on top and then your put the creme caramel mix on top of that, but when you cook it the cake rises to the top with the creme brulee in the middle. Hopefully it works because the pictures look amazing.

    It is actually a recipe from one of the Great British Bake Off alumni Nadiya Hussain. It's curious because of all the winners or contestants of GBBO, Nadiya is probably the one that I have seen the most post Bake Off. I have watched parts of her TV shows and last night she was even on one of the British TVcomedy panel shows we like to watch. I saw this recipe because one of my friends in the UK posted about making it and my instant thought was that I wanted to try it too.

    I'll let you know how it goes.

    Today though I thought I would share the recipe that I used when I first made Salted Caramel.  It was so good.

    Salted Caramel Sauce

    105 grams sugar
    1 tspn sea salt flakes
    75ml thickened cream
    1/2 tpsn water
    40 grams butter

    Chop butter into small cubes. In a small saucepan, add the sugar and water. Heat on medium-high heat. When the sugar starts to melt, stir constantly until it turns to a deep amber colour. Add the butter and quickly mix.

    Once the butter has melted, turn heat to low and slowly whisk in the cream. Remove from heat and add salt. Set aside to cool for 10 miutes, then refrigerate.

    Simple right?

    Do you like salted caramel? Do you like to make it yourself? What's your favourite way to have it? How do you say it? Do you say caramel (as in carrot and then rhyming with parallel) or do you say caramel like you are saying car?

    Weekly Dinners

    Saturday: Crumbed pork chops with mash, beans and mushroom sauce
    Sunday: Spaghetti Bolognaise
    Monday: Chicken Tikka Masala with Rice
    Tuesday: Warm beef salad with beetroot and potatoes
    Wednesday: Chicken Tikka Pizza
    Thursday: Sausages and mash
    Friday: Pulled pork burger with chips (takeaway Friday)

    Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page.


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