The Syndicate for #BriFri


I have long been a fan of Anthony Andrews so when I saw he was in this mini series called The Syndicate, I had to get it from my library.  It’s 6 episodes total, 1 hour for each episode.

There were evidently two seasons prior to this one but you don’t need to see each season in order to follow along.  For a full summery of this show click HERE.

Basically, each season focuses on lottery winners, how their lives change and a bit of drama and mystery thrown in..  It’s a drama and we very much enjoyed it.  In All or Nothing we meet Lord Hazelwood (Anthony Andrews) and the small staff of Hazelwood Estate.  There was a large staff on this gorgeous estate but due to deepening debt, the staff is down to six people.

These six are loyal to Lord Hazelwood, a very down to earth fellow but Hazelwood’s wife and step-son seem to plot against him to sell the estate.  This changes quickly when the 6 staff members win the lottery.

The estate is stunning as are the landscaped grounds.  It’s filmed in the coastal town of Scarborough.  In real life Hazlewood Manor  is actually Bramham Park country house, located near Wetherby and Leeds in West Yorkshire.

It’s a good drama and I will certainly try and find the first two seasons.  Mark Addy stars in one of those seasons.  I liked him in The Full Monty as well as Game of Thrones.  This is another excellent show from Acorn TV.

Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday.  

Join in!  You don’t need to post on Fridays, just link up at her site on Fridays.


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


Outlander Kitchen – an exciting cookbook for fans of the Outlander series!


I remember picking up the paperback novel Outlander by Diana Gabaldon from the library’s sale table.  Historical fiction, a bit of time travel and a venue in the  Scottish Highlands had me very interested.  As with many Gabaldon fans, I fell in love with the series.  This was my first book by this author.

The books are great but I must admit I wasn’t a big fan of the TV show.   The actor playing Jamie just isn’t right (for me). Yes, I know I am in the minority regarding the actor playing Jamie but….it just doesn’t work for me.

Still….being a fan of this series I knew I had to check out this new cookbook, Outlander Kitchen by Theresa Carle- Sanders.  I am pleased to say this book is fantastic-  a wonderful gift for the Outlander fan.  Christmas is coming up so, keep that in mind.

Each recipe is preceded by a passage from one of the books (see below) and the photo of the pastry or dish and full recipe. This is enjoyable to read through without a thought to which of these recipes you want to try.


The forward on this book is also interesting to read.  It describes how our author came to find her passion in the kitchen after enduring a series of less-than-satisfying jobs.  Many times I admit to scanning the beginnings with the dedications and thoughts.  This one had me reading each and every paragraph.  Interesting.

This photo was too good for me to exclude.  She has a shiba inu, a breed I adore!  Shibas are certainly not for the first time dog owner, too big a challenge, but I am fascinated with the breed.  We still miss our Kobe who left us too soon but Aja, our 14 year old cream shiba, still rules the house.  Ok, more pup info than I needed to share here….couldn’t resist.


One of the recipes I wanted to try was a simple one, Mrs. FitzGibbons’s Overnight Parritch.  This oatmeal breakfast figures prominently in the books and it seems they have it for breakfast quite a bit.

Tradionally made from oatmeal and stirred with a spurtle (clockwise, to keep the devil away).  Parritch, or porridge, evolved from pottage, a thick vegetable and grain stew that served as the mainstay of the European diet until the seventeenth century.

1 cup steel-cut oats

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups milk

2 teaspoons butter

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Just before you go to bed bring 1 cup water to boil in covered pot.  Stir in the oats and salt, cover the pot, turn off heat, and leave it overnight.  I did this but took the pot off the burner altogether.

In the morning, add the milk and butter and bring to a boil.  Reduce flame to low and simmer gently until tender, about 15 minutes.  Stir occasionally.


This isn’t an exceptional recipe and one I could have made without the overnight steeping.  It was a great breakfast though.  We added cinnamon and honey to our bowls and had a rib-sticking breakfast.  Perfect for staving off all the sweets everyone brought in to work, I wasn’t the least tempted as I had a good breakfast.


There are scores of other wonderful recipes and of course, excerpts from the books.  This one gets an A+    🙂

To check out the author’s website click HERE.

Adding my review to Goodreads, and linking up with Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking Series as well as Joy for her British Friday series.

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. 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. For more information, see the welcome post.

Strange Affair by Peter Robinson

strangeEach time I read a DCI Banks novel I think I will jump right to the next one. I love this guy! But then I realize I will be caught up and have to wait for the next publication so I am slowly savoring each novel, reading something else in between these books. It’s great that Peter Robinson writes these novels in real time. When I started with Gallows View (Book #1) Alan Banks had just moved to Yorkshire, his children were in school, he was in a happy marriage and his career was on the right path.

I just finished Strange Affair (Book #15) and so much has changed. Banks is, naturally, older and has had some boost in rank. His kids are grown and one is in college. It’s been nice reading along watching the progressions.

Strange Affair starts off with a woman driving away from London, obviously frightened for her life as she expresses she will be safe in just a few hours. Before you get too many pages into the book she is found dead, still in her vehicle, with a single gunshot wound to her head. Her purse and cell phone are missing but in her back pocket is a hastily written note with Alan Banks’ name and address.

Banks can’t be located because he has driven off to London in search of his brother Roy. A day earlier Roy called Banks and left a voice message that he was in danger and he needed help. When big brother Alan couldn’t reach Roy he decided to drive to London. He didn’t tell anyone about Roy’s call and he didn’t call in to the police station to let them know he’d be gone. With the discovery of a dead woman who was headed toward Banks’ Yorkshire address and him now missing, the Eastvale police have him as an unofficial suspect.

Most of this story line takes place in London. We alternate between Banks looking for his brother and DI Annie Cabbot looking into the murder of the young woman. Not too far into the book you see they are connected, both the murder and Roy’s disappearance. You also see a more reflective side of Alan Banks as he’s working though his depression over a house fire (Book # 14) and him getting to know more about his brother.

There are 22 DCI Banks books currently published. I will be on to #16 soon and once I catch up, I will one of the eager fans waiting for the next publication.

For my representative meal I made a chicken, sausage, potato and tomato bake.  Wine was the choice of drink as DCI Banks is off his whiskey for a while.

Recipe may be found at Squirrel Head Manor…. HERE.


Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday
The British Book Challenge at The Overflowing Library

Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking Series

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Scarlet Feather is the featured book at Cook the Books

scarletFeatherMaeve Binchy was a wonderful storyteller.  She could weave a plot with so many characters, all their lives intersecting with one another and yet, you wouldn’t be confused about what was going on in their lives. It was a sad day when she died.  Ireland lost a treasure.

I have read every single book Binchy has published. Scarlet Feather wasn’t my favorite of her books but I  did like the story line and the characters.  Well, most of the characters.

Cathy’s husband was certainly not a likable guy. You wondered how that marriage could work out as Neil never put Cathy first.

Now, Cathy and Tom have a natural friendship and great chemistry. From the beginning I was wondering why they weren’t a couple instead of Cathy being married to Neil and Tom living with Marcella. They support each other, work hard to make their business a success and share love and friendship with many friends. If you read Tara Road (another fat book I loved by Binchy) you’ll remember some of those characters – they have parts in this book as well.

I think one thing I love about this book (and most of her other books) is the portrayal of the average person. Who hasn’t had frustrations with their parents or disagreements with a mother-in-law (don’t get me started). It’s not a detective story or a thriller where sensational things happen. It’s a tale you can immerse yourself in as you can see some of those things happening to you. It’s everyday life.

The book is summarized on the Cook the Books site so I won’t go into details about that. Plus I won’t give spoilers.

So much food is mentioned in this book but that’s to be expected since our main characters own a catering company. We have vegetables and lamb bone for soup, Wicklow Lamb, Irish Salmon, loads of lobster and mussels, rich Chocolate Cake, fruit pavlova, vegetarian goulash and I could go on and on.

My representative dish is going to be a Landlocked Paella. Not your traditional seafood Paella because we have overloaded on salmon lately. Needed a break from the sea.


For the recipe and my I Heart Cooking linkup please visit my food blog, Squirrel Head Manor.


It’s been fun revisiting this book. This novel is the selection at Cook the Books, hosted this by Claudia this time. Thanks to Claudia who writes at Honey from the Rock for choosing a Binchy novel.

There is still time to hook up if you want to participate. The info may be found HERE.


Also linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday and Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking Series.


James Herriot’s Yorkshire

yorkshire If you are a fan of BBC or Masterpiece Theater you may have watched a season or two of All Creatures Great and Small.

The wholesome G-rated shows were inspired by James Herriot’s books. I have read all of his books and enjoyed each and every one. He brought the story to life and I could clearly picture the scenes in Yorkshire as he dealt with his patients – cows, sheep, bulls, dogs and you name it.

We actually named our son Tristan after Tristan Farnon from the books. Yeah……we are big fans!

This book – James Herriot’s Yorkshire – is also written by James Herriot (his real name is James Alfred Wight) and it is a wonderful compilation of photos and stories about the Yorkshire dales. The town of Darrowby in his fictional works is actually Thirsk. That is where he practiced veterinary medicine along with Sigried and Tristan Farnon (Donald and Brian Sinclair). Herriot may be surprised that his books are still so popular today as well as the number of visitors he attracted to the area.


This book is copyrighted 1979 and is one of the original printings purchased in England. I treasure this book. I’ve read that people who travel to Yorkshire with the specific intent of visiting the area Herriot lived bring this book along and it’s an invaluable asset. If you like rural areas and have a plan to hike about in Yorkshire, this book is for you. Flip through and enjoy stories and photos about small villages, ruins and history.


Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday and Kirsty at The Overflowing Library for the British Book Challenge


Aftermath, book #12 in the Inspector Banks series by Peter Robinson

aftermathAftermath is the 12th book in the DCI Banks series. As a big fan of this series and of police procedurals I have to say this one was grittier than most of his previous books. Obviously there is a murder to investigate in the Yorkshire Dales setting, that’s a standard, but the crimes in this book were horrendous.

We are looking at a serial killer and the victims are young women, all in their late teens. The story is unfolded in graphic detail manner, focusing on a serial killer, a rapist all the while linking in sub stories about child abuse, sexual exploitation and domestic violence. As I said, this book was darker than any of the others but in my opinion, well written.

One of the sub plots is about Detective Sargent Janet Taylor. She and her partner Dennis respond to a domestic violence call. It is here the story begins when they enter a home, find Lucy Payne, the wife, knocked out, splayed out on the floor with blood on her head. The detectives proceed to check the house, head into the basement where they find a naked girl tied to a bed, strangled and quite dead. At that point they are attacked by the abusive husband, Terry Payne. As he wields a machete and cuts Dennis down, Janet thrashes him with her police baton, finally subduing him and handcuffing him to a handrail in the basement.

As you read on there is an excessive violence case considered on DS Taylor. She was defending her partner, defending her own life – but she must have brought that baton down on Payne one too many times. As someone who works in law enforcement I did not like the way that story line was heading but, that is my personal opinion.

Another sub plot revolves around Maggie Forest. She is the one who called the police when she heard Lucy Payne scream. She is also a victim of domestic violence, living temporarily in England while she escapes her abusive husband back in Toronto. Her point of view is to protect Lucy from the press as she sees her as a victim. But could Lucy have been living in that house and not know her husband was keeping young women captive? Is she part of the killings too?

From the start of this series I have watched Alan Banks grow in his job, watched his children grew up, his wife becoming distant and how our committed copper handled his professional and personal life. This is by far his most salacious book in the series.

Now, I have my opinions about things that I felt were not resolved but those will be spoilers if you have not read this book. If you have read it please write me so I can share a few of those unresolved story lines and get your opinion.

Will I read more? Absolutely! I love Alan Banks and enjoy all the musical references as well as food references in the books. As a matter of fact I have already downloaded book 13 to my Kindle. More later………………

Linking up with Joy’s British Isles Friday and Kirsty at The Overflowing Library for the British Book Challenge