The Olive Farm. {An Irish woman starring in a BBC production landing in France. Very International.}

Expatriates-in-paradise genre – One of my favorites!

I have long been a fan of Irish actress Carol Drinkwater. She was my favorite Helen in the series All Creatures Great and Small, a series I very much enjoyed.  That’s where we got our son’s name, from the character Tristan Farnon.  She left that series in 1985.

When I read the books, after seeing some of the BBC television shows, it was her voice I heard when Helen was speaking.

When Carol wrote The Olive Farm  I was delighted to learn it would be a trilogy. Combining a favorite genre (expat-lit genre) with Drinkwater’s writing style makes for a winning combo. This is the first book in her bestselling trilogy, all of it set on her Provencal olive farm.

Carol met her husband Michel while they were involved in making a movie in Australia . He proposed to her on the first date and they married four years later.  Eventually they bought this gorgeous ruin of a villa built in 1904, located in Provence . The villa is named Appassionata – meaning passion – and very appropriate for Carol and Michel as they fall heels over ears in love with the place.

“I am in the south of France , gazing at the not-so-distant Mediterranean , falling in love with an abandoned olive farm,” Carol Drinkwater writes. “The property, once stylish and now little better than a ruin, is for sale with ten acres of land.”

After investing all the money she has they are able to move into their new home, devoid of electricity and water. French law is a different animal altogether from British and American laws as Carol learns while sifting through the endless paperwork and awaiting the many appointments to sign one or two papers. Finally, Appassionata is theirs!

Carol, Michel and his teen aged daughters Clarice and Vanessa arrive one extremely hot afternoon, with the promise of a swim in the pool. Alas….no water and the pool is a pit of sticks and branches. Carol struggles to make it a positive experience and tries to speak her limited French to the girls. The stepdaughters can speak English but make Carol work at communicating. Eventually they become a close knit family….. along with a number of stray dogs and good friends among the local citizenry.

The experiences she writes about were fascinating to me and she clearly has a better work ethic than I do. Restoring an old villa like that is hard work. HARD work! They uncovered ancient Roman looking steps and tiles. They found some of their olive trees were over 500 years old…’s an expat’s dream IF you don’t mind hard work – both physically and culturally.

Carol took language classes to improve her French, quickly becoming fluent. An engaging book about France , olive harvesting, conquering cultural barriers and love. Above alllove.

If you like the works of Peter Mayle and Frances Mayes I feel certain you would enjoy Carol’s musings about Appasionata and her love of southern France .

To learn more, check out the links below:

Carol Drinkwater
Home Hunts
It Shouldn’t Happen to an Olive Farmer!

Food: Caponata and Tahini Hummus on toasted baguette

The inspired dishes from this book include eggplants, caponata and tapenade. The little bites of appetizers you might enjoy sitting in the shade of Carol Drinkwater’s patio, the hot breeze licking your cheek as you sip an ice cold glass of white wine and nibble bruschetta.

Eggplants from the southern Mediterranean area would have a different taste from what I can lay hands on in Northern Florida but….still a wonderful treat.

An Irish woman starring in a BBC production landing in France.  Very International.

Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday


Dinner with Edward for Cook the Books!

dinnerSuch an enjoyable book by Isabel Vincent –  It’s about love, friendship, understanding with a bonus of fantastic menus.    I’m sorry I didn’t read it sooner when bookish friends were writing about it.

The first chapter is sorrowful as Edward is sitting by his wife’s bedside, listening to her sing and then telling him he may not end his life when she dies,  it would be the end of the family.  How would Edward deal with his grief? What is their backstory, this loving couple who can’t imagine a life without the other in this world?

Edward meets his daughter’s friend, Isabel Vincent, and they forge a great friendship. Both are going through an emotional time in their lives but this friendship is exactly what they both need. It was wonderful to read about their interactions and their special dinners.

Each chapter begins with a menu. It’s the meal Edward would be preparing for Isabel and each meal is exceptional. Chapter one starts us with Grilled Sirloin Steak, Sauce Bourguignonn, New Potatoes, Chocolate Souffle and Malbec.

One day Isabel is walking off the elevator to Edward’s apartment and she “immediately  inhaled cinnamon, sugar and baked apples.” She felt a rush of happiness.  What a lovely aroma to be greeted with and I would also be happy to know I could indulge in an apple galette later in the evening.  So much food and wine and cocktails!  Initially I was going to make the Apple Galette but then the lure of his crab cake dinner roped me in.

My recipe is an adaption of one from the Cheesecake Factory.  A restaurant I have never been in but have heard they serve some good crab cakes. These are loaded with chunks of crab, fresh red bell pepper and green scallions. We also enjoyed cheese grits, steamed broccoli and and a few glasses of Chardonnay.

This book is a lovely tribute, well documented by award winning investigative journalist Isabel Vincent.  Thank you to Claudia who writes at Honey from the Rock for suggesting this book.  Thanks also to Debra at Eliot’s Eats for my book 🙂

Linking up with Cook the Books and Briciole’s Novel Food and Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking Series.
cookthebooks novelFood

Agatha Raisin – The books and the TV series

M.C. Beaton writes two series – 27 books so far in the Agatha Raisin series and 33 books in the Hamish MacBeth series. For years I have been enjoying the Agatha Raisin books but I am no where near caught up to her exploits.

I was delighted to see Acorn TV produced a television series based on the books. There is already a long running series for Hamish MacBeth starring Robert Carlyle, but I haven’t gottern interested in that one as of yet.

agathaRaisin So, how do the Agatha Raisin books compare to the TV show? From the first two episodes they actually follow the plot well.  The physical differences are quite different for me but then, we all get certain ideas as to what a book character looks like as we read.

TV Agatha is much prettier and more physically fit than the book version.  Also, the TV character James Lacey (a romantic interest of Agatha’s) is younger and quite dishy, in my opinion.  Overall the plot does follow the books and I hope they continue with the series.

There was a TV series on back in the 1990’s called Murder, She Wrote.  Jessica Fletcher was the amateur sleuth, using her charm and persistance to solve crimes.  This is rather an English version of that old show but with a Bridget Jones’ twist to our main character.  If you like mysteries and love to see the English countryside, this is a show I think you would enjoy.

There is a YouTube video at the bottom of this post if you’d like to get a preview of the show. I love the scenery!

Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday


Reader’s Workout

I’m over the head cold and that’s a mighty nice feeling.  Do you remember the first day you can breathe properly after a cold departs?  It’s a lovely feeling.  But all that recovery time led me to a smaller number of miles walked and few steps.


This past week’s FitBit report has me at 26 miles. that is 13 miles less than the week before.  This week I am improved in the steps.  Trying to eat better and get ready for my annual physical this week.  It sure would be nice to get on the scale and hear I lost weight and that my cholesterol isn’t as high as before.  Benefits of walking and eating well!

On The Menu

Grilled fish and baked sweet potato
Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie
Eggplant Parmesan
Chinese Takeaway
Landlocked Paella

How did you do this week?

Check out Readers’ Workout at Joy’s Book Blog!


Harvest: Unexpected Projects Using 47 Extraordinary Garden Plants


Harvest is a beautifully photographed book.  It’s quite useful too, not just your run of the mill coffee table book.

Advertised as:

“A beautifully photographed, gift-worthy guide to growing, harvesting, and utilizing 47 unexpected garden plants to make organic pantry staples, fragrances, floral arrangements, beverages, cocktails, beauty products, bridal gifts, and more.”

 While it’s a lovely book but I will freely admit to being a lazy person and so, the projects within are more than I would personally take on. Lots of DIY projects which include everything from recipes, to flower arrangements, making tea, flavorings, dyes (for fabric) and even facial cream.

You have plants normally associated with a home garden, the purpose of which is to eat the produce.  This book explains how to do so much more with the plants.  If I were living the pioneer woman life (no, not like Ree Drummond) then this would be a go-to book …..if I were crafty.

More info

Author Bio

  • I received this book from the Blogging for Books program. I was not compensated and all opinions are my own.

The Martian starring Matt Damon. A look at the movie and the book

food-n-flix-march-2017  A couple of years ago I read The Martian by Andy Weir.  My review (if you’d like to revisit it) is HERE.  Loved the book and will probably reread it again one day.

Well, as I was surfing around a few days ago I came across the movie being featured at Food ‘n Flix.  I knew I wanted to participate as that is one great movie.  Have you seen it?  So entertaining.

I must confess to liking the book a little bit more but the movie pretty much followed with the exception of the ending.  I wish they had spent more time with Watney traversing the craters, trying to get to his destination.  Also, the interactions with the crew were so much more detailed.


But – I am not dissing this movie!  It was phenomenal.  Matt Damon was a perfect fit for the character Mark Watney and he played that role so well. Ridley Scott as director insured it would be a blockbuster.

After being left for dead Watney, being an engineer and scientist, looked at his situation pragmatically but also with humor.  I liked that – facing an almost certain death on Mars yet his smart ass personality still shines.

Watney:   “Actually, I was the very lowest ranked member of the crew. I would only be “in command” if I were the only remaining person.”
What do you know? I’m in command

Once NASA realizes he is alive they worry about his physical and mental well-being as they have no way to contact him.

He’s stuck out there. He thinks he’s totally alone and that we all gave up on him. What kind of effect does that have on a man’s psychology?” He turned back to Venkat. “I wonder what he’s thinking right now.

And then you see what is going on with Watney:
LOG ENTRY: SOL 61 “How come Aquaman can control whales? They’re mammals! Makes no sense.”


I can’t wait till I have grandchildren. When I was younger, I had to walk to the rim of a crater. Uphill! In an EVA suit! On Mars, ya little shit! Ya hear me? Mars!

You have science, you have humor, compassion as well as respect for what he is dealing with in a way most people just couldn’t handle.  I would curl in a ball, rocking and hoping death wouldn’t be painful.  But I am not a botanist, an engineer or a NASA qualified astronaut.  Someone intelligent enough to break down a problem and , in Mark’s words, Science the shit out it!

This movie is an excellent choice for a Food ‘n Flix feature.  You may not think there is much in the way of food, except the potatoes of course.  But with the space packaged foods and the Thanksgiving feast included you will hear mentions of Beef Stroganoff, spaghetti, sweet and sour chicken and stew.  Ketchup is mentioned quite a bit too 🙂

On those lines I wanted to make something with a tomato base but not a spaghetti dish.  I’ve had lots of pasta on our menus lately.  Eggplant Parmesan was the dish I decided upon.  It uses a tomato based sauce so, that’s what I brought to the party.

(Recipe at the end)

I am going to try and link this to a new Facebook page I created. New to that business, so we will see, LOL 😬

This month’s hostess at Food ‘n Flix is Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm. Her announcement post is HERE.  Join in if you’d like to watch the movie and conjure up an inspired meal.

Also linking up with Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking Series.


Eggplant Parmesan
Grab the following………..

2 eggplants (aubergines)
Olive oil
Panko breadcrumbs
A beaten Egg and a little bit of milk
2 ½ cups homemade tomato sauce, lots of herbs included
1 pound fresh mozzarella, cut into thin slices
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Skin and slice the eggplants, about 1/4 inch slices. Place them in a collander, salt them, place more layers, salt them. Sit 30 minutes.

Rinse the slices, bread them with Lanka and fry them in oil for just a bit. Now layer your tomato sauce, eggplant slices, cheese and bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

The Forbidden Garden by Ellen Herrick

forbiddengarden  What I liked about this book:

  1.   It’s set in England.  The descriptions of the country estate and the London museums were interesting to me.
  2.   There is a mystery about the failing garden, something about a Kirkwood family curse. The idea if a mystery intrigued me.
  3.   The descriptions of gardening and the ability to grow so many herbs, flowers and vegetables – how I wish I had that talent.
  4.   The cover is colorful and invites you pick the book up for a quick look, especially if you are a sucker for a pretty book cover.
  5. There are passages about food throughout the book. Eggs with chives, Shepherd’s Pie, Roasted chicken with potatoes and veggies….. I prepared a Shepherd’s Pie as my representative dish.  It’s the first meal Andrew prepared for Sorrel Sparrow.

What I didn’t care for:

Unbeknownst to me there was a previous book called The Sparrow Sisters.  When I started reading The Forbidden Garden I felt like I was missing something, a backstory that wasn’t explained by the author.  After looking online I saw there was a previous book.  That would have fleshed out the characters more for me if I’d known and read it first.  Mystery solved.

This book was advertised as “Perfect for fans of Kate Morton and Sarah Jio, comes a lush imaginative novel that takes readers into the heart of a mysterious English country garden.Well……..there is a garden in England and there is a bit of mystery but, not at all like Kate Morton in my opinion.  That may come as a disappointment to some readers if they absolutely love Kate Morton, so I wanted to mention that. The mystery has more to do with enchantment….think about Alice Hoffman books instead.

The allusion to magic had me shrug my shoulders – Meh. Witchcraft wasn’t mentioned but it’s hinted at as an innate magical and mystical ability within each of the Sparrow sisters as they handle the soil in the gardens and make potions.

Predictable ending but that doesn’t always put me off a book.  Sometimes you can figure it out and sometimes it’s obvious who the love interests and culprits will be.

Overall a solid B rating for the writing and descriptive passages.

Here is the vegetarian version of Shepherd’s Pie. Lots of beans and freshly cut vegetables. Now Andrew prepared a version using ground lamb.  We have also done that and it’s quite good.  That recipe may be found HERE.


About the author

Ellen Herrick lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts and a small seaside town very much like Granite Point. She spent nearly ten years in the book publishing business as a publicist before moving to to England where she raised three children and traveled like crazy. After sixteen years in London, it was the ocean that called her home.

  • I won an advanced reader’s copy of this book from LibraryThing.

Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday