The Vanishing Twin Syndrome

vanishing twin syndrome
An ultrasound photo of identical twins at 12 weeks

A few years ago I read in a Dr. Ruth type column about a woman who was having twins and then the one baby just disappeared. I never heard of this before, so I went onto a medical site to find out more. Apart from being told to see a doctor immediately – I was not pregnant! – I was given the information I needed.

Apparently, it is quite common in multiple pregnancies for one fetus to be ‘absorbed’ back into the mother’s body. Here is the link to an excellent article about the causes and effects of the vanishing twin syndrome: http://americanpregnancy.org/multiples/vanishing-twin-syndrome/

So, why am I telling you this?

Reading about the vanishing twin syndrome made me think about the psychological adjustment of the surviving twin. We all know how close twins, especially identical twins, are to each other. Research has shown that twins feel each others’ emotions, etc etc, and if one should die, the remaining twin suffers more than when a non-twin sibling dies. But what about if one twin dies invitro, like in the vanishing twin syndrome? Would the survivor later in life ‘feel’ the loss of the twin who died before birth?

How does this all tie in?

I explored this concept in my Moragh Saga trilogy. In book 1, A Convenient Marriage, Nicole is a handful at the best of times, but a lot of her behavior can be attributed to the inexplicable ‘sadness’ she often suffers from. Something vital seems to be missing in her life, and she tries to fill the void by any means possible – partying too hard, men, drugs – until inevitably she falls pregnant by a man other than her fiancé.

But the vanishing syndrome had a devastating effect on her mother, Moragh, too. She couldn’t deal with the idea of one of her babies dying inside her, and she blamed the survivor, Nicole, for it. It became impossible for Moragh to bond with her living child. Even after her death, Moragh haunts her daughter in nightmares Nicole suffers from in times of stress.

When her fiancé, Joshua, out of the blue brings a complete stranger home as his wife, Nicole’s stress levels went through the roof, and her nightmares takes on a whole new dimension. Only then her father tells her she started life as part of a twin, and that the other baby died before birth – Nicole is the survivor of the vanishing twin syndrome. 

And Beyond?

Nicole’s story continues in book 2, Poppet Nicole. Having been thwarted by Joshua, and then promptly disinherited in favor of Joshua when both her parents die suddenly and unexpectedly, leaving her a penniless orphan.

She wants revenge for what Joshua has done to her, and she has to reclaim the inheritance she has been brought up to expect. And then Ned, the father of her unborn child, returns to the scene.

Desperately in love with Ned and carrying his child, she demands that Joshua marry her for her to reclaim her inheritance. She has no regard for his brand new marriage, because she doesn’t believe he is really married, anyway.

The question is, how far will Nicole go to get her own way? For how long will Ned stand by while she tries to ruin another man’s life?

A Convenient Marriage-spooky paranormal romance

You can find A Convenient Marriage here: http://tinyurl.com/zsy7ktw

Poppet Nicole - spooky paranormal romance

And pre-order Poppet Nicole here: https://tinyurl.com/y32d6p3l

Poppet Nicole will be released on June 13, 2019

The Traditional South African Melktert

The melktert (milk tart) is traditionally South African. The Dutch settlers in the Cape in the 1600s brought the recipe with them. It is made of a sweet pastry crust, filled with a creamy custard, sprinkled with cinnamon, which was introduced to South Africa by Javanese slaves. The tart is served sliced, chilled or room temperature.


Ingredients

Milk-Tart-Recipe-8850

Pastry:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 125g butter
  • pinch of salt

Filling:

  • 4 ½ cups milk
  • 2 ½ tbsp cornflour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 ½ tbsp flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • a big spoon of butter

Instructions

Pastry:

  • Cream butter and sugar well together and add the egg, before beating well.
  • Add all other ingredients – making a stiff dough.
  • Press into one or two round cake tins/pie dishes.
  • Bake blind for 15 minutes at 180°C (use wax paper to cover the pastry and place dry beans/rice over the paper to weight the pastry down). Then remove the paper and beans/rice and bake for an additional 5 minutes until light brown.

Filling:

  1. Bring milk to a gentle boil.
  2. Beat eggs well and add sugar, flour, cornflour and salt.
  3. Mix well.
  4. Pour boiling milk into the mixture and stir well.
  5. Return to stove and stir for 10-12 minutes on medium heat until the mixture thickens.
  6. Add butter and vanilla essence and mix through, then pour into cooked shell.
  7. Allow to cool in the fridge (you do not need to cook the tart any further)
  8. To decorate, sprinkle with cinnamon.

Recipes from my Books


Beef Bourguignon Recipe
Recipe - Beef-Bourguignon
Beef Bourguignon appears in Runaway Couple, book 1 in Bridesmaids, Weddings & Honeymoons

Prep: 15 min
Cook: 3 hr 45 min


Ingredients


Marinade:
5 cloves garlic, smashed
3 fresh bay leaves
2 carrots, peeled and halved
2 ribs celery, halved
1 large onion, peeled and quartered
One 750-ml bottle red wine, such as Burgundy
4 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1-inch chunks
Stew:
Extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
8 ounces slab bacon, cut into lardons
1 pound cremini or white button mushrooms, quartered
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 ribs celery, cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 large onion, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/4 cup tomato paste
3 to 4 cups beef stock
3 fresh bay leaves
1 bundle fresh thyme
1 pound red bliss potatoes, quartered
1/2 bunch fresh chives, finely chopped, for garnish
Crusty bread, for serving


Directions

For the marinade: Combine the garlic, bay leaves, carrots, celery, onions and wine in a large bowl or container. Add the beef; cover and let sit in the refrigerator at least 4 hours or overnight. (This is a really important step: it makes a huge flavor difference.)

For the stew: Remove the beef from the marinade. Strain the veggies and bay leaves from the marinade and discard. Reserve 2 cups of the marinade.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Coat a large, wide pan or Dutch oven with olive oil and bring to medium-high heat. Sprinkle the beef with salt and toss with the flour; don’t flour the beef until you’re ready to brown it. Add the flour-coated beef to the hot pan, but be sure to not crowd the pan; you will need to work in four batches. Brown the meat well on all sides, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from the pan to a baking sheet.

After the first two batches, deglaze the pot with 1/2 cup of the reserved marinade, scraping up any browned bits. Drain the liquid into a small bowl. Add more olive oil to the pan to coat and cook the remaining two batches of meat. Add the meat to the baking sheet. Deglaze the pan with 1/2 cup marinade, scraping up any browned bits.

For the marinade: Combine the garlic, bay leaves, carrots, celery, onions and wine in a large bowl or container. Add the beef; cover and let sit in the refrigerator at least 4 hours or overnight. (This is a really important step: it makes a huge flavor difference.)

For the stew: Remove the beef from the marinade. Strain the veggies and bay leaves from the marinade and discard. Reserve 2 cups of the marinade.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Coat a large, wide pan or Dutch oven with olive oil and bring to medium-high heat. Sprinkle the beef with salt and toss with the flour; don’t flour the beef until you’re ready to brown it. Add the flour-coated beef to the hot pan, but be sure to not crowd the pan; you will need to work in four batches. Brown the meat well on all sides, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from the pan to a baking sheet.

After the first two batches, deglaze the pot with 1/2 cup of the reserved marinade, scraping up any browned bits. Drain the liquid into a small bowl. Add more olive oil to the pan to coat and cook the remaining two batches of meat. Add the meat to the baking sheet. Deglaze the pan with 1/2 cup marinade, scraping up any browned bits.

Fry the bacon until brown and crispy, about 5 minutes. Toss in the mushrooms, carrots, celery, garlic and onions, and season with salt. Cook until the mixture starts to soften and becomes very aromatic, about 10 minutes, before adding the tomato paste. Simmer to 2 minutes. Add the remaining 1 cup marinade and deglaze the pan, stirring up any browned bits, 1 minute then add the beef. Stir to combine and cook until the wine has reduced by half, 1 to 2 minutes. Add enough of the beef stock to just cover the surface of the beef. Toss in the bay leaves and thyme bundle. Cover the pan, bring the liquid to a boil and put in the oven.

Cook the beef for 2 hours. Add the potatoes and simmer for another hour. Cover the pot with the lid and put the stew back in the oven to cook for an additional hour.

Remove the pot from the oven and skim off any excess grease from the surface of the stew. Garnish with the chives and serve with crusty bread to sop up all the sauce.

https://mailchi.mp/ee37cddc7750/runaway_couple

Traditions and Superstitions

Bridesmaids, Wedding & Honeymoons Series

The idea for my series on the theme of bridesmaids, weddings, and honeymoons was sparked by the notion that some women are doomed to be bridesmaids, and never to be brides themselves.

My beautiful daughter, Muriel, on her wedding day

This might be true for some women, but as weddings are one of those places where the potential for new romances to blossom is really strong, others might find that bit of folklore to be incorrect. At weddings, love seems to be in the air and cupid is a very busy boy under such circumstances.

Weddings have always been an important event on the social calendar. It is the perfect time to get re-acquainted with family and friends and to meet new people.

Many traditions have been attached to weddings over the years. In some cases, the logic behind the tradition has been lost, but it is interesting how many are still being used today.

Old Wives’ Tales

It is said that if the bride cries on her wedding day, she won’t cry again in her marriage. And rain on the wedding day is supposed to predict many children. Candles blown out by the wind during the wedding ceremony is supposed to bring very bad luck, because somebody is going to cause trouble. Eloise can vouch for this, because all the candles in the chapel blew out, and look at the trouble she had afterwards.

Another old wives’ tale is that if the younger of two sisters marry first, the older sister must dance barefoot at the wedding if she wants to find a husband of her own.

The woman who catches the bride’s bouquet and the man the garter when tossed will be the next to get married. Traditionally, the unmarried man who catches the garter must place it on the leg of the unmarried woman who catches the bouquet.

And another tradition attempting to predict the next wedding is the one about the maid of honor and the best man going off together after the wedding. Marcus played heavily on this one to turn Piper’s head.

The rings have been the focus of attention in that if it is dropped before it is placed on the finger, the person who dropped it will be the first of the couple to die.

The rhyme, something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a silver sixpence in her shoe, dates from Victorian times but the traditions behind it is even older still. Something old has the continuation of the family in mind. Something new was a symbol for prosperity and good luck. The item that was borrowed is supposed to be something that brought happiness to another married person. Blue is the symbol of purity, modesty, fidelity and love. And the sixpence in her shoe meant that the bride would never be without.

And these are but a few.

Check out the Bridesmaids, Weddings & Honeymoons series here: https://tinyurl.com/yyc5os7k

Misty Mountain Hotel

        In the Bridesmaids, Weddings & Honeymoons series, the wedding takes The Lodge - Peter Sandgroundplace in a haunted hotel in a remote, mountainous area in the Cape Province of South Africa. Misty mountains surrounds the hotel, and winding dirt roads is the only way to reach it.

Continue reading “Misty Mountain Hotel”

Marrying for Convenience?

5 Handicaps that put a spoke in from the beginning

Generally, when two people decide to get hitched for a reason other than love, they already know each other, presumably they already like each other, and each of the bring into the marriage something that the other want. As this is not a love match to start with, there is nonetheless the hope, and the possibility, that they might come to mean something more to each other in time. But at best, marrying for a convenience is dicey, as it could be a beneficial partnership, or it could turn into a   living hell.
So, in A Convenient Marriage, as the title implies, a couple does it because it is convenient for them. But these two were handicapped more that most in similar situations. 
  • In the first place, neither of them believed that the marriage would be ‘real’, because, as they both had an agenda of their own, it was supposed to be a temporary affair and easy to undo. The convenience was that they each needed something from each other – and it wasn’t s.e.x.
  • Secondly, and this was their own fault, they never met each other in person beforehand, so they didn’t have the opportunity to discuss what they each were after, until they were already married. They were complete strangers to each other.
  • Thirdly, they didn’t reckon with the undue influence Holly became the victim of from the moment she accepted Joshua’s proposal, and it would be only after the wedding that she discovered why she was being followed around by a ghost.
  • And in the forth place, they forgot that they wouldn’t be isolated in this, but that their families and friends all would influence their relationship, just as family and friends normally do.
  • And saving the best for last, to be convincing as a couple and achieve what they set out to do, they had to pretend like they never have before, and they had to pretend to be, well, in love.

This was a huge slice of cake they served each other. Could they do it?

A Convenient Marriage is open for pre-order at an early-bird price until October 13, 2016 here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01K2002AK#nav-subnav .

Along Came a Spider

Does the arachnophobia in you allow you to
acknowledge
just how delicate the spider is? 
If a spider were to fall, it would probably die.
But while the thought of walking through a cobweb fills us with
creepiness,
the web of the spider has though the ages been usefull.
Beautiful as it is,  the association to the web of the universe is inevitable,
 and healing and what is hidden follows

A Convenient Marriage – Moragh Saga 1

The idea of two complete strangers getting hitched has always intrigued me, for one simple reason—why would they do such a thing? Could such a relationship succeed? By successful relationship, I understand not only the longevity of the marriage…but is it possible for the participants to actually fall in love with each other in such a strange arrangement? I write romance, after all, and love is found in the most unexpected places.
A Convenient Marriage grew over a number of years. The basic story was simple—a divorcee with two children, an ex-husband being difficult over visitation, as well as a fiancée unable to commit. Holly’s friends suggested that she needed a new husband, placing an advert in the paper for one behind her back. Joshua was struck by a simple plan when he saw the ad and responded to it. Boring stuff, huh?
The problem was motivation. Why would Holly marry a man she’d never met, and why would Joshua respond to an ad for a husband, then actually propose to a woman he had never clapped eyes on? So, in came the dawdling fiancée, Nicole. Both Holly and Joshua were justified in not planning the marriage to be a real one, because they each had an agenda of their own, but Nicole was the injured party. For their plan to succeed, they had to marry—the real kind, down to that all-important piece of paper married—and they had to seem to be totally in love with each other. Holly needed to be married to take her ex on for custody of her children, while if Joshua wanted to motivate his reluctant fiancée into church, he had to be off limits to Nicole. That would make him very attractive to her again, and maybe she would even set a date for their wedding.
And here comes the ‘but’. Holly and Joshua’s plans go awry from the moment they meet on the steps of the chapel where their fake marriage is to take place, when both recognize the immediate attraction. Back at Joshua’s wine estate—yes, he is a rich landowner where Holly expected him to be a pauper—Holly meets Joshua’s mother, his brother and sister-in-law, and Nicole, the fiancée, who found out about Joshua’s duplicity in a room full of people. No one can blame Nicole for being a tad upset. Or can they? To add to Holly’s woes, she seems to have acquired a ‘ghost’ demanding she tell a story.
Amidst Nicole’s shenanigans, Joshua’s mother’s disapproval, Holly’s ex’s aggression, and the ghost following Holly around, will these two accomplish what they set out to do? Or will life get in the way?
Joshua’s and Holly’s journey through the uncharted seas of a blind marriage, where no rules apply, is a stormy one.

A Convenient Marriage is open for pre-order at an early-bird price until October 13, 2016 here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01K2002AK#nav-subnav