Book Review – The Little Christmas Kitchen by Jenny Oliver

The Little Christmas Kitchen


I was recommended this over dinner last week and I went in blind, not reading the Amazon blurb (but here it is for you guys!)

“Christmas at the Davenports’ house was always about one thing: food!
But when sisters Ella and Maddy were split up, Ella to live in London with their Dad, and Maddy staying in Greece with their Mum, mince pies lost their magic.
Now, a cheating husband has thrown Ella a curved snowball…and for the first time in years, all she wants is her mum. So she heads back to Greece, where her family’s taverna holds all the promise of home. Meanwhile, waitress Maddy’s dreams of a white Christmas lead her back to London…and her Dad.
But a big fat festive life-swap isn’t as easy as it sounds! And as the sisters trade one kitchen for another, it suddenly seems that among the cinnamon, cranberries and icing sugar, their recipes for a perfect Christmas might be missing a crucial ingredient: each other.”

It’s basically a festive Mamma Mia / Bridget Jones hybrid (although none of the main characters are as annoying as BJ!) It alternates in location between Greece and London with intertwining stories of 2 sisters. The points of reference were bang on for me – I particularly loved the Sweet Valley High reference (I always wanted to be Jessica although was way more Elizabeth – but in my case Elisabeth!!) and TV viewing references to Strictly / XFactor / The Voice – it just all felt totally relevant to me and I loved that!

Now my friends know I am a bit (ok, a lot!) of a pedant – and I noticed a couple of typos – which always makes me cringe a bit – but it didn’t detract from the lovely story.

This is not a highbrow book – but is a perfect easy read, and even got me – self proclaimed grinch – into the festive spirit!

I have already downloaded Jenny Oliver’s other books to read which shows that I enjoyed it. I’d also love to know what happens to the characters next……..

Wicked Wednesday – 12 November 2014

We were having a pre festive season clear out as we do every year – and this involved cleaning out the kitchen cupboards. And then 2 of the 4 children decided to climb into one of them.

Wonder if they could have got out with the childlocks on **I didn’t try**

Cleaning cupboards

This is my entry for Wicked Wednesdays over on BrummyMummyof2’s blog – see what others have posted too!


Book Review – The Paris Time Capsule by Ella Carey

I was recommended this book by a friend (whose judgement I totally trust on books) but had not heard anything else about it – sometimes I think that’s the best way – to go in without any preconceived ideas!

The Paris Time Capsule

I found out afterwards that it was loosely based on a true story – which makes it all the more amazing.

Here’s the Amazon blurb:

“Inspired by the fascinating true story of a treasure filled apartment that was abandoned in Paris for seventy years,The Paris Time Capsule is a blend of romance, history and mystery that will take you on a journey through France, from the charms of Paris to Provence’s delectable vineyards and villages …

In 2010, New York photographer Cat Jordan is fighting against her difficult past. But when a stranger dies in Paris, Cat finds herself the sole inheritor of an apartment in the ninth arrondissement that has been abandoned for seventy years, since its mysterious owner, Madame de Florian, fled on the eve of the Nazi invasion in 1940.

A stash of love letters belonging to the owner’s grandmother, the infamous Belle Epoque courtesan Marthe de Florian, and the appearance of the beautiful and mysterious Isabelle de Florian’s grandson, Loic Archer, leads Cat in search of the reasons why Isabelle kept her Paris apartment a secret until her death, and why she left her entire estate to Cat.

As Cat unravels the story, she too embarks on her own journey, realising that the secrets in the apartment may finally unlock the future…

An enchanting tale, inspired by a fascinating true story, filled with unforgettable characters, each caught in the relentless turmoil of their own generation. Ella Carey’s The Paris Time Capsule will linger in your thoughts long after you have finished it.”

So – it centres around a flat in Paris that has been left exactly as it stood and untouched for 70 years. The central character, Cat, who has been left this by a Frenchwoman she didn’t know, then investigates why. It takes you around different areas of France and really evokes the feelings of the different regions. Yet again I’ve read a book about Paris and France that makes me want to go and visit very soon!

It is beautifully written and flows really well. I have to confess to getting a little confused sometimes about some of the historic characters – but I think that’s more my fault for reading it piecemeal whilst trying to get kids to go to bed rather than giving it my undivided attention (the joy of being a reading Mum!)

Overall, a little gem. Easy to read, beautifully evocative, and really ‘nice’.

Mixing with celebs!!

So – I’m using ‘mixing’ in the very vaguest of senses – more in a ‘spotted / walked past / chatted to briefly’ way – although my husband does still claim to have slept with Baby Spice (I should put in a disclaimer here that we were on a plane from Florida to London and the Bunton / Jones clan were sat by us – and his feet and Emma’s feet were next to each other for the flight home due to the seat configuration – it was nothing more scandalous than that!!)

A few weeks ago we bumped into Billy Idol in a hotel lift in New York, where I proceeded to tell him about my Saturday job in WHSmiths as I hadn’t realised who he was.

Then the other night in London, I had a wardrobe malfunction getting out of a cab – I described it as ‘showing my pants’ – but let’s face it, it was more ‘showing the gusset of my control tights’ – and who should be walking out of the hotel?? Sir Tom Jones. I suspect it’s a sight he hasn’t often seen – as you can see, he had to avert his eyes…….

photo 4

A few years back, when we went to Villa Park regularly, we’d quite often see Fabio Capello (obviously he was coming to watch the opposition players!!).  One game, I was 39 weeks pregnant – and my 5 year old decided he needed a wee during the first half – I had to squeeze past Mr Capello and the look of HORROR on his face was a picture (I did tell him I wasn’t in labour – just taking a small child for a wee)

Why can’t I be cool around famous people?!?  I like to think they appreciate my lack of sucking up and generally making a bit of an idiot of myself???

My nephew and eldest with Mr Capello
My nephew and eldest with Mr Capello

And let’s not get started on the interactions with footballers – I told Stan Collymore I loved him (I don’t – in my defence, I was drunk), some of my colleagues stole feathers off my dress to use as a moustache when we were in a restaurant with Mark Bosnich just after his error of judgement Nazi salute issues – and a wonderful night at Villa Park again where Pontecarloblue declared her undying allegiance to Richard Dunne!!!

There’s also been the whole ‘top 5’ debacle.  This is a reference to the episode of ‘Friends’ where it’s discussed that you can have a ‘Top 5’ that your other half wouldn’t mind you sleeping with. Now this is fine when it’s completely theoretical – but then when you’re staying in a hotel in Dubai and one of your husband’s Top 5 (Myleene Klass) is also there – it’s all a bit too close to home.  I also think she might have had something to say about it should he have told her!! It was just post ‘I’m a Celebrity’ and she looked fabulous by the children’s pool – I felt less fabulous standing near her as our kids played  there too!!

So – does anyone know where Brad Pitt / David Beckham / Rupert Penry-Jones and 2 other lovely blokes that are yet to be decided (these 2 places are on more of a rotational basis – the list isn’t laminated **another Friends reference**) are holidaying this year????





Public toilet woes

No – not in the George Michael sense – but the things I have learnt from nappy changing and toilet training 4 (I know, madness!) small children.

  • Until they try it in person they will not believe the rule ‘don’t go to a public toilet without your shoes on’ – lesson learnt after a wet sock incident whilst out for a pub lunch #grim
  • Whilst gloves that attach to their coat are a good thing for not losing the pesky things, they aren’t so good when small child is wiping their own bottom when out shopping. One wipe with the toilet paper, follow through with the glove for a final polish…….
  • Toilet facilities are always a huge attraction for small children – often multiple times in one trip – particularly on public transport. And when lots of them decide they all need to go on a plane – you can not fit more than 1 adult and 1 child in an airline toilet (how people join the mile high club I will never know!)
  • Other countries aren’t as prolific with ‘baby change’ facilities as the UK. Many a foreign toilet I’ve had to sit on whilst changing a small child on my lap (preferable to kneeling on the floor in a public toilet).
  • No matter what you say, your small child will open the cubicle door whilst you’re still sat there with your trousers around your ankles.
  • The small child will pick when you’re sat in a busy public toilet to ask deep and meaningful questions – my favourite ‘Mummy, why do English people wear poppies and German people not?’ in a public loo at Munich airport one October half term.
  • If it’s not a d&m question – it’s an embarrassing one for the entire queue to hear ‘Mummy, why have you got a nappy stuck in your pants?’ being a classic.
  • All baby changing facilities STINK – no matter what time of the day or night you go in, the bin is always overflowing and the smell is foul. (How people can think these are a suitable place to feed a baby too is beyond me)
  • Just remembered the exception to the last point – the John Lewis parents facilities in Solihull – much more pleasant. However, do remember to fully brief your husband to look at the signs – one side is for breast feeding and the other for bottle feeding – don’t let him automatically go to the side where you’ve always sat to feed when he’s doing a bottle as he will be surrounded by boobs…..
  • A portable potty with a liner (think nappy sack with sanitary towel inside) is a Godsend for when they need the loo somewhere inappropriate (middle of the maze at Blenheim Palace anyone?) However, when they use it to wee like a camel, the poor pad has no chance, and you have an enormous bag of wee to carry around.


So – what public toilet woes have you had???



Spectacular – The Photo Gallery week 207

The theme over on The Sticky Fingers Blog this week for the photo gallery is ‘spectacular’. Which got me to thinking about what photo I could include that summed this up – stunning views, amazing fireworks, fabulous fancy dress – but then this photo popped into my head…..





This is Finlay – a friend of ours who’s 10 years old. Back in June he was admitted to Birmingham Children’s Hospital with a suspected abscess on his brain.  Following brain biopsy surgery he was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour. He had surgery to remove the tumour and has had a course of radiotherapy treatment – which the photo itself shows.  The webbing is a solid mask that holds him completely still on the bed whilst the treatment takes place.  This is spectacular in terms of the amazing work the doctors are doing – and spectacular in terms of Fin being happy for this photo to be shown to people to see what he is going through.  He’s now undergoing a series of chemotherapy and clinical trial treatments to prevent the tumour from coming back.

Whilst going through this the remarkable Fin and his amazing family have been raising funds for Birmingham Children’s Hospital with Fin doing a 2.5km run the other weekend (having taken his 5th day of chemo in the morning before setting off). I am sure he’d appreciate some sponsorship – and you can read about his journey here.

Not sure I can think of anything else that sums up spectacular more appropriately.


Sticky Fingers Photo Gallery

Book Review – Falling by Emma Kavanagh

It appears my love of books has found another source of advanced copies, as I was sent a copy of Falling by Emma Kavanagh to review by the team at Mumsnet Bloggers and Arrow Publishing – ready for the release of the paperback on November 6th 2014.


Here is what Amazon has to say about it:

“A brilliant debut psychological thriller by a former police psychologist. Perfect for fans of Nicci French, Tana French and S. J. Watson.

A plane falls out of the sky. A woman is murdered. Four people all have something to hide.

Jim is a retired police officer, and worried father. His beloved daughter has disappeared and he knows something is wrong.

Tom has woken up to discover that his wife was on the plane and must break the news to their only son.

Cecilia had packed up and left her family. Now she has survived a tragedy, and sees no way out.

Freya is struggling to cope with the loss of her father. But as she delves into his past, she may not like what she finds.

‘Before the plane crash, after the plane crash, such a short amount of time for the world to turn on its head… ‘


When it arrived I was already reading another book and so didn’t start it right away – so had a slight panic when I had a chasing email for the review with only 10 days left before the deadline – but the reviews of the book already on Amazon (the hardback and kindle versions) had it down as a real page turner – so I decided I’d just have to lock the children away for the rest of half term and start reading!!!

Initially I found it a bit confusing as there are lots of intertwined plots (although this could have been because I started reading it whilst trying to get small children to bed – so was interrupted for milk / wees etc!).  I kept having to check with the blurb on the back (the same as the Amazon quote above) as to who was who!  Once I got into it, I agree that it was a real page turner, and I did want to read ‘just one more chapter’ before lights out!

It was also a bit weird having a character that shared my name – you don’t get many Libbys about (Libby in Neighbours and Libby Purves being the exceptions!  In fact many moons ago an audit partner signed me into a client as Libby Purves as he couldn’t remember my surname #randomfact)

I liked the factual-ness of the information in the book (being a fan of police dramas / Silent Witness) which I guess comes from the author’s background.  I also like that there isn’t a set pattern to the chapters – they are seemingly random as to who comes next, not on a regular rotation basis – which is another element of keeping you guessing – but each is written from the viewpoint of one of the individuals involved.  I think that because of this you don’t feel like you get to know – or are fighting for – any single individual and at the end I wasn’t desperate to know what the future held for each of the characters as I often have been with other books.

The final few chapters tie all of the strands of the plot lines together – so you feel like the book has concluded properly.

I think I would describe this as ‘psychological thriller – lite’.  It’s fine, it’s an easy read, it keeps you interested – but it’s not way up there in terms of suspense / drama / ‘reading through your fingers’ that I’ve had with recent books in the same genre such as ‘I Am Pilgrim‘ by Terry Hayes and ‘Pop Goes The Weasel‘by M J Arlidge.

Now slightly concerned that my new source of books might not be quite so forthcoming after this review…………