Cherry-Pistachio Tea Cakes

So when reading, especially Jane Austen, it is always nice to pair it with something. Of course tea:

But while on a literary adventure, it is always nice to have something to eat to sustain you in your “travels”.

So here is a delicious recipe borrowed from my sister blog MysteriousEats.wordpress.com

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 Cup of Pistachios
  • 1/3 Cup of Flour
  • 1 Teaspoon of Baking Powder
  • 1/4 Teaspoon of Salt
  • 2/3 Cup of Powdered Sugar, plus more for dusting
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 6 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, Melted
  • 12-24 Medium Cherries with Stems

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.
  3. Pulse the pistachios, flour, baking powder, and salt in a food processor or blender until finely grounded.
  4. Whisk the powdered sugar and eggs in a large bowl, then whisk in the pistachio mixture until just combined.
  5. Stir in the melted butter until just incorporated.
  6. Spoon 2 tablespoons of batter into each muffin cup.
  7. Bake until slightly puffed and just beginning to set, about 8 minutes.
  8. Place 1 or 2 cherries in the center of each cake and continue baking until the cakes feel springy and the edges are lightly browned, 10-12 minutes.
  9. Transfer to a rack and let cool 10 minutes in the pan, then remove from pan to cool completely.
  10. Dust with powdered sugar.

Thoughts After Baking:

It did not come out well…

Fresh cherries are not in season, so I substituted with frozen.

I should not have done that…they made too much liquid…it just did not work…

I will keep my tea cakes, and as soon as fresh cherries are in season I will remake this and give you an update.

For more recipes, go to How to Make a London Fog

Suspense & Sensibility (Or First Impressions Revisited)

Suspense and Sensibility (Or First Impressions Revisited) [Mr. and Mrs Darcy Mystery #2] by Carrie Bebris

So a while back I reviewed a Jane Austen mystery, Pride and Prescience (Or a Truth Universally Acknowledged).  I enjoyed  the first book, although I did solve the mystery quickly, but it was very well written and worth reading.

So while the first book focused only on Pride & Prejudice characters (and ones she made up) this one combines P&P with Sense and Sensibility.

A mashup

Sense and Sensibility actually takes place in the 1790s, twenty years before Pride and Prejudice. All the characters have been aged accordingly so they match up with the Pride and Prejudice ones. It can be a bit confusing when the characters are no longer how they were in their book.  To make it less confusing, I will give a brief reminder of the plot of Sense & Sensibility.

So the Dashwood family:

The estate of Norland belongs to Old Mr. Dashwood. When he was sick he was visited by his family and found young Henry Dashwood, John’s son, to be just so adorable that he entailed it to the men in his family. After he died Mr. Henry Dashwood, the elder, ended up dying and the estate passed over his second wife and daughters going to his son John, (which would ultimately go to his son, young Henry.)

John promised his father to help his sisters, but with an ambitious wife; that quickly ended.

John’s wife is horrible, just evil. Fanny, the demon wife, convinces John to give no money to the sisters as they really “are not his siblings”. She then rearranges the whole household and makes life unbearable for all.

John also has an incredibly bratty son, Henry:

When Fanny’s brother visits, she sees that he and Elinor like each other, but as Elinor is too poor for her soon to be wealthy brother Edward, she ends that immediately. The second Dashwood family all move from their home to renting out Barton’s Cottage, owned by Sir John Middleton, Mrs. Dashwood’s cousin.

They spend a lot of time with Sir John, as he constantly invites them over so that they can eat well, as money is extremely tight. Eventually after all kinds of twists and turns, the two eldest girls marry the men of their dreams and the story ends happily. If you haven’t read it you should.

**Spoilers**

So Mr. Darcy, Elizabeth, Georgiana, and Kitty are all heading to London for a “London Season” as they are husband hunting for Kitty. They are invited to Sir John’s where they meet him and his wife (sadly I think Mrs. Jennings the mother-in-law has passed on) and their now adult children. Also there is the young Mr. Henry Dashwood, who is now no longer a boy, but a young man in his twenties. He meets Kitty and immediately finds her to be a fantastic partner, good conversationalist, and all around enjoys her company.

Only one problem, he thought she was Georgiana Darcy.

The next day it seems as if all the men were only interested in Georgiana, not Kitty, as she is going to bring an extremely large dowry.

Except for Mr. Henry Dashwood. After he discovered his blunder, he still spent the night with Kitty and fell for her. That works perfectly with Kitty as she has fallen head over heels for him.

While everyone finds him agreeable, and Elizabeth definitely thinks that he will be a good match for Kitty; Mr. Darcy thinks of him as a fop and a dandy wanting Kitty with someone who has more brains.

He goes to talk to Henry, and discovers that his lack of business isn’t from him not caring, but from not being instructed on how to run an estate. It turns out that his parents sent him away to school immediately and he has spent hardly any time with family or at Norland. However, he is eager to learn and Darcy soon takes him under his wing.

Henry has won over the whole family, but soon Fanny arrives to meet Kitty.

Here I am!

Fanny does not like Kitty as she is too poor and would rather spear Georgiana with her impressive dowry. But Henry will not be deterred, as he invites them to his 21st birthday and proposes to Kitty.

Everything seems to be going well, until Henry finds an old strange mirror and a painting of his notorious great-great uncle Sir Francis Dashwood. Soon after Henry starts acting completely different-gambling nonstop, drinking, carousing with all women (married and single of every class). What could have happened to him to make him so much worse than his nefarious relation? Could he be possessed?

So what did I think? Did I like it?

No

I thought this book ran into a few problems and wasn’t as good as the first one.

1) Henry Dashwod was too likable.

So when you read Sense and Sensibility, you don’t like Henry. He is a total brat and completely annoying.

But in this book they made him tooo likable. This caused problems as that reading about his possession made it sad because you knew it wasn’t him, and this poor guy has lost everything.

Secondly, because he is so likable, you know that he isn’t the one doing all these horrible things and that something has caused him to have a personality shift. It wasn’t a real mystery, like in the first novel, as you weren’t sure if Caroline was hypnotized or going insane.

2) No Mystery

In the first book, Caroline starts acting weird after she was married. This makes us wonder is someone making her act this way like in Gaslight or is she actually going crazy?

Crazy eyes

Secondly, there are a multitude of suspects:

  1. Mr. Kendall– He could be trying to kill the Bingleys because of the money he feels that he has been cheated out of. He also could be trying to get rid of Caroline because of his daughter being thrown over. Remember, his daughter was with Caroline when her horse bolted.
  2. Mr. Hurst– If his debts are as extremely high as Elizabeth suspects, he might be trying to kill his relations off for money.
  3. Professor Randolph– Professor Randolph has been drifting from place to place as most don’t feel his studies are legitimate. Now that Caroline is crazy, he has room and board as the prime caretaker for Caroline. Maybe he is making her seem crazy, and could even be trying to make it look as if she set the fire, to only further cement Mr. Parrish’s need of him.
  4.  Mr. Parrish- He only married Caroline for her money and is trying to remove her from the picture. He is supposed to be extremely wealthy, but for some people what they have is never enough. Besides, he could be lying about how wealthy he is, or have hidden debt that they don’t know about.

In this however, we immediately know that Henry is being possessed as the writer gives it away in the beginning introduction and the back of the novel. Instead we are just waiting for events to unfold.

Yeah, I don’t like those kind of mysteries. That’s how Death Comes to Pemberley was (the book, not the TV miniseries. The miniseries is better.)

3) Hardly Any Elinor, Marianne, Colonel Brandon, or Edward In It

I’m sorry but I don’t know why they were missing so much in this novel. We LOVE this characters so if we are reading something to so with Sense and Sensibility we want to have then in the book. It was a crime to not have very much of them.

4) Supernatural Seems Like an Afterthought

This is a supernatural mystery (not Supernatural) but it takes a long time for the characters to reach that point and even evoke in anything. Professor Randolph is there for a second, and then the weirdest thing-the ever staunchly “realistic” Darcy decides to do battle with the demon mirror? I don’t know, it just seemed hastily thrown in, instead of carefully worked like in the previous book.

So we will see what the next book holds. Will it get better? Or worse?

There is one question though that this book presented that I think is worth mulling over. Who should Georgiana marry?

So I started thinking, out of all the non-attached Austen men, who would be the best match for Georgiana (yes I know the author might just make a new character like P.D. James did, but forget that lets focus on what Austen made.)? I narrowed it down to three characters who I think might work.

3) Colonel Fitzwilliam from Pride & Prejudice

Pros: Known Georgiana a long time, is kind, caring, funny, amiable, etc.

Cons: Is like a brother to Georgiana, she might not be able to see past that. She might also think he is too old (which he isn’t).

For more on Colonel Fitzwilliam, go to A Murder Has Been Committed on Your Property: Death Comes to Pemberley, Episode One (2013)

2) James Morland from Northanger Abbey

Pros: James is a kind, compassionate, caring, and hardworking guy. He has studied constantly and will soon be taking his orders to become a minister. He is a kind older brother and has many traits, in that respect, shared with her brother. Educated, well read, etc.

Cons: Not from a wealthy family, but still does alright; naive, and like Bingley, more easily persuaded.

1) Lieutenant William Price from Mansfield Park

This is actually my top pick, I think they would be good for each other. I just see them as being a great couple, him so sweet and gentle with fragile temperaments. Georgiana needing someone who can be kind and caring.

Pros: Kind, caring, compassionate, honest, and hardworking.

Cons: While his mother came from a high class family, she married down (although that wouldn’t really matter to Georgiana.) He is in the navy a peon, but he does get a great commission through Fanny’s connection to Henry Crawford.

For more on Lt. William Price, go to Let’s Hear it For the Boys

For more by Carrie Bebris, go to Pride & Prescience (Or a Truth Universally Acknowledged)

For more on Pride & Prejudice, go to Too Pretty

For more on Sense and Sensibility, go to What Would Jane Do?: Quips and Wisdom from Jane Austen

For more Pride & Prejudice variations, go to Whether Presentable or Not, I Love Spending Time With You: Episode Four, Pride and Prejudice (1995)

For more Sense and Sensibility variations, go to Baby Jane Austen

For more Jane Austen mysteries, go to Midnight in Austenland

For more books based on Jane Austen, go to Pride & Prejudice & Zombies

An Explosive Trip

So I don’t know about you but I used to love to fly. I thought it was so cool going up in the air, having the little snacks, and arriving at your destination in less time than it would take to drive. I used to love it.

That was before 9/11. After that flying was no longer fun.

Yes it is long lines, long security protocol, you have to remove shoes and sweaters, it takes forever, etc. It is just not a good thing at all.

What makes it even worse is the new X-ray machine. Every time I go through it I get pulled to the side as they find “something.” They bring their little metal detector and what does it turn out to be? My zipper.

If your giant x-ray machine can’t tell a zipper how can I trust it to find a real threat? It is so infuriating that we have to go through all these long procedures and they don’t even work!

And every time I go they check my bag. Yes the “random” checks are every single time I fly.

Seriously

The last time was the worst. I went through and they had to check my bag, again.

AGAIN!

They stopped me because my toothpaste was “too big”. The worker pulled it out and checked it, squeezing it to make sure that it really was toothpaste. He saw that it was indeed toothpaste, and not any kind, the expensive enamel one. Thanks a lot.

argh

He then checked my hands for bomb residue, which they tested negative (as they do every time!) I guess I just look like a terrorist as they feel the need to take me aside EVERY TIME! Seriously I don’t know why they would pick on me so, I mean most people think I’m a child. You think that my baby face would actually help me in this situation instead of always working against me.

They then went on to use a tool that is a long shaft of metal with a hook on the end and used it to root around my suitcase and remove everything from it.

DO YOU KNOW HOW LONG IT TOOK ME TO PACK MY CARRYON PERFECTLY?

And if that isn’t bad enough, it is so embarrassing to have your underwear and bras, and other clothes out for everyone to see. Sometimes even falling on the ground and you have to wait for the okay before you are allowed to touch anything.

So embarrassed

So they found nothing (of course, as I am not a terrorist). But then they expected me to pick up and pack my belongings in two seconds and move on. Like seriously, they were barking at me as I tried to refit everything in, which is no easy task.

I’m trying to do my best.

It was not a fun experience at all.

I don’t really blame the people as they are doing their jobs, but I just feel like this system isn’t working. I don’t know how to fix it either. All I can say is that it has deterred me from flying for a while as I am not anxious to go through that rigmarole again.

What can I say?

 For more scenes of my everyday life, go to Eye Guess I Won’t Be Seeing You

Book Club Picks: The Secret Of Chimneys

So remember when I said I started a book club?

Well the first book we choose to read was The Secret of Chimneys by Agatha Christie.

I love this book, but sadly very few have ever heard of it, let alone read it.

So when I brought out three suggestions for us to choose from-The Westing Game, The Looking Glass Wars, and The Secret of Chimneys I was ecstatic they choose Chimneys as it would finally give me people to talk about it with!

As I already reviewed it in December, as part of my 30 day challenge, I will only give a quick review here.

Anthony Cade is working in Africa when he happens among his old friend Jimmy McGrath. Jimmy has been hired to deliver a manuscript in London, and has some letters he wants to return to a woman who was blackmailed, but can’t do either as he has a mining deal set up. Anthony goes in his place and discovers that everyone from Parliament, to rebels, nationalists called the Red Hand, and more are after that script. It appears he really got himself stuck in the middle of a serious mire.

What have I gotten myself into?

He prepares to return the letters to a Mrs. Virginia Revel, to stop her blackmailing, but they get stolen and he sets out to try and help her.

Just another thing to get involved with.

Meanwhile, politician George Lomax is worried that some old secrets, especially those of a missing jewel, will come to light with the publication of the memoirs. He enlists the Lord Caterham to use the stately home of Chimneys as a place to secure an oil deal, and weasel the memoirs out of McGrath. He also engages the assistance of his beautiful, charming, cousin-Mrs. Virginia Revel, a widow.

As Virginia prepares from the weekend, she is blackmailed by a waiter who has letters with her signature, but ones she did not write. Weird.

She agrees to meet with the blackmailer again, only to find him dead in her house.

Not sure what to do, she asks a veteran she spotted on the sidewalk selling tracts to help her. He checks out the scene; deduces that someone is trying to keep her from Chimneys for some nefarious reason, recognizes the blackmailer as the thief of the letter, and helps remove the body. Who is this man? Why, Anthony Cade.

Virginia heads on to Chimneys to help smooth things over with McGrath and Prince Michael, the one brokering the oil deal.

That night, Anthony follows a note he found in the dead waiter’s pocket and heads to Chimneys. Exactly at the time specified he hears a shot. Who has been murdered? Who in the house is the murderer? Will they find the missing jewels? And who is this Anthony Cade?

So I don’t want to give the whole book away as you should really read it yourself. Instead I am going to go over our discussion, but there will be some spoilers.

**Spoiler Warning**

So the book contains 5 different plots

  1. The Memoirs of Count Stylpitch
    1. Everyone is afraid of what they might say and reveal to the world. All are after it to publish, surppress, discover, etc.
  2. The Blackmail of Virginia Revel
    1. Anthony is given letters written to a lover by a “Virginia Revel”. He hopes to return them, but they are stolen by a waiter who tries to use them to blackmail her.
    2. But in the end, it turns out that they are not really written by Virginia Revel at all, but someone is using her name.
  3. Vying for the Throne
    1. After the King and Queen of Herzoslovakia were assassinated, this left an empty hole on the throne. Prince Michael is a cousin to the deceased King and wants to become next to rule, but there is his cousin Nicholas who has a stronger tie and is in America who is also after the throne.
    2. But is his cousin really alive, or is this an impostor? And what about the revolutionaries who want no king?
  4. Missing Jewels
    1. Before Lord Caterham’s brother died, he had all the responsibilities of the land and parliament. He used to bring all kinds of officials to his home, Chimneys, and the King and Queen of Herzoslovakia stayed there, the Queen hiding the crown jewels that she stole somewhere on the property. They have been looking for them for years, but now hopefully Count Stiplych’s memiors will give them great clues to find the hiding place.
  5. Murder of Prince Michael
    1. Michael is shot in the night, but whodunit? With a household full of people there are plenty of suspects.

Something Agatha Christie always likes to stress in her books is how we never know people we meet, only what they tell us about them. When you meet someone for the first time and they tell you their history, you take it as is, never questioning them, but in reality they could be anyone. This is stressed in this book as well as their are numerous multiple identities. While all present themselves as something, a few characters hide who they really are:

  • Two characters are actually a prince
  • One is  a thief
  • One is a Pinkerton agent
  • One is an actress

Virginia is an amazing woman. She is living in the 1920s, but she does what she wants, refuses marriage for single life, assists in hunting down the murderer, is intelligent, capable, collected etc. She’s nobody’s fool.

“Why?’

‘I beg your pardon?’

‘I said why? You don’t boom the real English gentlewoman with every stray Canadian who sets foot upon our shores. What is the deep idea, George? To put it  vulgarly, what do you get out of it?’

‘I cannot see that that concerns you, Virginia.’

‘I couldn’t possibly go out for an evening and fascinate, unless I knew all the whys and wherefores.”

Virginia is a strong character who us not afraid to be feminine as well. I just love her.

And then Anthony Cade. Anthony is amazing. You just can’t help liking the man.

For more on The Secret of Chimneys, go to There Wouldn’t Be Any Difficulty in Finding a King: The Secret of Chimneys

For more Agatha Christie, go to With a Little Luck of the Irish: 17 More Irish Heroes

For more on my book club, go to I Started a Book Club

For more mysteries, go to Someone is Killing By Copying Old Murders!: Real Murders

Too Pretty

Too Pretty by Andrea Grigg

Gabrielle “Ellie” Paxton is has had to deal with constant criticisms, stereotyping, refused from certain circles, rumors, bad mouthing and unfair firings all because she is-too pretty.

In fact she has just lost her job, is always mistreated by her aunt, and her latest boyfriend just wanted to date her because he wanted to brag about being with her.

Everyone

She goes to her cousin’s congratulation party and meets a handsome guy named Nathaniel. He is interesting, a good listener, well off, and seems perfect. But too bad he doesn’t seem interested in her, she will probably never see him again, and her ex-boyfriend just mauled her and caused her to decide to stop dating men for a year.

Her aunt causes a giant scene and Ellie has enough!

After praying about it, she decides it is time to move from her small town to the big city of Sydney (Australia).

But even though it feels as if God is pushing her in that direction, things don’t seem to be going as she hoped. She is able to meet up with her old friend Annabel, but after she puts out massive amounts of resumes, but  nothing comes of it. Will she be able to make it work?

Annabel is from the same small town as her, and the two went through some rough times before they settled into the confident secure women they are today. Annabel has started dating a very kind and wonderful man who turns out to be extremely wealthy. He has a great family and friends, one of which turns out to be the tall, dark, brooding Nathaniel. As they continue to spend time together, will Ellie keep to her vow of no men?

So what does this have to do with this blog? Why am I reviewing it? Because this is a rewrite of Pride & Prejudice.

Yes, this is another rewrite of Jane Austen. How do I know? Let’s count it down.

A) Gabrielle “Ellie” is like Elizabeth “Lizzie”.

I know that sounds like a stretch, but that is just the first thing. There is more.

B) An Evil Aunt

While in this version the evil one is is Ellie’s aunt (the Elizabeth) instead of the Darcy character the aunt is still the same. She is demanding, rude, cruel, critical, and just all around one of the most awful characters in this.

C) Tall, Dark, and Brooding

Nathaniel is Mr. Darcy. He’s tall, handsome, brooding, rich, etc-all the same qualities. He also doesn’t like to dance, takes a long time to warm up, likes the girl before anyone else realizes it, etc.

D) Best Friend Marrying a Nice Wealthy Guy

So Jane Bennet’s character is taken by Ellie’s best friend Annabel. While Annabel has a past, she is now kind, caring, compassionate, sweet, and thinks the best of everyone. She also manages to score an equally sweet guy, Theo, who turns out to be rich! A real Mr. Bingley, if you know what I mean.

E) Theo has a Mean Girl Sister, Just like Mr. Bingley

While in Pride & Prejudice, Caroline doesn’t like the Bennets because of their class, her main issue is that Elizabeth throws a wrench in her plans to snag Mr. Darcy. In Too Pretty, Alicia likes Annabel and welcomes her into the family, but she hates Ellie. She instantly picks up on Nate’s interest of Ellie and tries all she can to get rid of her as she has been after him for a long time.

F) After They Spend Extended Time Together They Discover Their True Feelings

In P&P Jane becomes sick and Elizabeth travels out to help take care of her. She stays there for weeks, and here is where Mr. Darcy starts to fall for her. In Too Pretty, staying weeks in our modern age wouldn’t work; so instead Ellie is invited for a long weekend and the two realize their feelings for each other.

 G) The Author Mentions Pride & Prejudice Again and Again

She first mentions it when they go to the ball, later there is the whole hand flexing thing from the 2005 film version, and the characters even watch the film. It is clear that this was what inspired the author in writing this book.

So yes, while this isn’t a clear remake of the original book, you can clearly see that the author was greatly inspired by Pride & Prejudice.

But What Did I think of the Book?

I didn’t like it.

The story really fell apart for me because of two things:

1) Going On and On About Ellie Being Too Pretty

So the book starts off with Ellie going on with how she is mistreated because she is too pretty. People think she’s some dumb blonde, want to use her, women mistreat her, people talk bad about her; and on and on.

What jerks

You feel for Ellie, but then she doesn’t stop talking about it. She goes on, and on, and on, and on.

Blah, blah

I get what she is saying, but her continually going on about how beautiful she is chapter after chapter makes it really difficult to not get annoyed. When I was a teenager and suffered from acne, I tried everything to get rid of it, tons of products and nothing worked. When I finally went to a dermatologist I discovered I was allergic to salicylic acid. It is a rare allergy and left scars on my face. I never leave without make up as I don’t like the way I look. So reading about how hard Ellie’s life is because she has a perfect figure, skin, etc-I just can’t feel sorry for her. I would happily trade in an instant.

And that is the problem. Most of the people who read this are going to have some body issue so hearing again and again how she is gorgeous but hates it, doesn’t endear her to the reader.

2) Pretending to Be Someone They Are Not to Get Something and It All Blows Up in Their Face.

This book takes part in one of the worst clichés in books, film, and TV. The character decides to dress up and pretend to be someone else. And what happens in the end? It all comes out and blows up in their face.

It is really dumb, I mean come on what did you think was going to happen? Ugh! I can’t stand it.

Seriously

Yep, those two things killed it for me. I would pass this book on by if I were you.

For more on Pride & Prejudice, go to What Would Jane Do?: Quips and Wisdom from Jane Austen

For more Pride & Prejudice variations, go to Whether Presentable or Not, I Love Spending Time With You: Episode Four, Pride and Prejudice (1995)

For more books based on Jane Austen, go to Pride & Prejudice & Zombies

For more Australian Austen works, go to The Austen Series: Amanda

For more on May Vanderbilt, go to A Fashion Statement