Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Autumnal Baking

Wednesday 18th October

Nothing beats a bit of seasonal baking, especially in the form of cupcakes, blondies, and cookies. These are my own recipes so don't forget to credit me if you use these!


Maple Syrup and Bacon Cupcakes


Ingredients:

For the cupcakes -
200g self-raising flour
200g butter
200g caster sugar
4 eggs
Maple syrup

For the icing:
Maple syrup
3-4 strips of bacon
140g butter
280g icing sugar

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celcius.
  • Cream the caster sugar and butter together and add a tablespoon of maple syrup.
  • Add the flour and eggs slowly, whisking all the while.
  • Add 2-3 tablespoons of maple syrup depending on preference.
  • Place just over a tablespoon per cupcake cake into a prepared cupcake tray.
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until well risen and golden.
  • Cook the bacon (I prefer mine crispy!)
  • Add butter and a tablespoon of maple syrup to a bowl.
  • Slowly add the icing sugar and mix well.
  • Once the buttercream is mixed add more maple syrup if preferred.


Salted Caramel and Chocolate Chip Blondies


Ingredients:

150g butter
450g light brown sugar
2 eggs
3 teaspoons of salted caramel flavour
250g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Pinch of salt
100g white chocolate chips
100g milk chocolate chips
50g cooking chocolate (to drizzle on top after blondies are cooked)


Method:


  • Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celcius.
  • Melt butter, take off heat, and mix with sugar.
  • Add the eggs, salted caramel, and the rest of the ingredients except the chocolate chips.
  • Add half of each chocolate chips to mixing bowl and stir well.
  • Place mixture in a pre-greased baking tray, and sprinkle the remaining chocolate chips on top.
  • Bake for 20 minutes. Once cooked, place on cooling rack.
  • While the blondies are cooling, melt the last chocolate. 
  • Once the blondies are cooled, use a wooden spoon to drizzle over the top of the blondies.



Pumpkin and Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients:

200g white chocolate chips
300g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp salt
125g butter
300g caster sugar
250g pumpkin puree (either premade or leftover from your pumpkins!)
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla


Method:


  • Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celcius
  •  Cream butter and sugar together.
  • Add pumpkin, egg, and vanilla to mixture. Stir well.
  • Add dry ingredients.
  • Place a walnut sized amount of mixture onto a pre-greased tray.
  • Bake for 12-15 minutes.



Happy baking!


Sunday, 15 October 2017

Q&A - Interviewing a fellow blogger

Sunday 15th October

For this post I thought I'd give the reins over to fellow blogger It's All Zara where I've asked her some questions to get to know her. So, here we go!



Hey! Thank you so much for agreeing to take part in my blog. Could you tell us a little about yourself?
Hello! Well I am a 21 (almost 22, my birthday is October 5th) year old vegan blogger, gym fanatic and medical science student! That’s quite a lot going on isn’t it? 

I love your twitter name (Avocadhoe), it really made me chuckle! How long have you been vegan? 
Thank you, I though of the username randomly one day in the bath of all places, isn’t that funny? I have actually been vegan just over 4 months. Time has flown! 

What made you want to become vegan?
What made me go vegan was the fact that I’d already gone vegetarian due to a lack of dislike for meat and I researched veganism and decided it would be for me! Dairy makes me very bloated, sick and spotty and as soon as I cut it out I felt a tremendous improvement in my health. I also disagreed with the treatment of animals in the food industry as well as the environmental impact of dairy and meat diets. 

What are your five favourite things about autumn?
My five favourite things about autumn? Oh where do I start I just did a blog post on this haha. Well I love the overall time of year and how nature turns to the colourful end of its cycle, my birthday is in autumn so that’s always fun, bonfire night and Halloween are another favourite of mine, I get super excited for Christmas and I also love the cosy atmosphere of nights in with hot tea and movies in autumn! 

Is autumn your favourite season? If not, which is?
Autumn is tied with my favourite season with Summer! I do love the autumn feel but the hot sun, long days and gorgeous weather appeals to my Italian side very very well! 

What's your favourite holiday of the year?
My favourite holiday has got to be Christmas, it’s just always been a time of year I’ve enjoyed and I love celebrating with my loved ones. 

How long have you been blogging for?
I started blogging January 2nd so almost a year but not quite! It’s gone rather fast I think... 

What made you want to start blogging?
I started blogging because I saw another persons blog on my timeline and I thought “hey that looks fun and I love writing! Maybe I should give it a go”. 

Advice for new bloggers?
New bloggers; be yourself and be as creative as you want! Your blog is your art and your personal space, be respectful to other bloggers but have fun tapping into your creative persona. 

Out of cooking, beauty, health and fitness, and food which would you give up blogging about?
I would probably give up the odd food posts and just stick to recipes and cooking because that’s what I do the least and I can carry on blogging about recipes for those interested! 

Reading or writing?
I would say writing; I’ve always loved writing essays, poetry and articles so yeah writing, sorry book fans! 

Baking or cooking?
Baking! Give me all the baked goods! 

Tea or coffee?
Tea, I like coffee but I’m just a tea person at heart. 

Favourite author?
My favourite author? Actually I’m gonna say Jaqueline Wilson because her books helped me grow up seeing a different perspective through every story and she’s written lots of books all kinds of people can relate to. 

Favourite character from a book? 
Tracy Beaker, she’s a little madam but she’s funny, fiery and independent - she’s a younger me! 

Favourite film would have to be Rocky movies, Stallone is my male idol. 

Favourite food would be a tie between risotto and pizza I think. The Italian side definitely won that one! 

Biscuits or cake?
Biscuits for sure, I don’t like cake that much unless I make it. 

A place you’d most like to visit?
I’d love to go back to my village in Italy to see my elderly relatives one last time because they are getting older each day and with me living in England a lot of them haven’t seen me for a long time. 

Favourite animal?
Gosh that’s hard I love all animals! I would a dog or a cow, they’re both cute and very clever. 

If you could have dinner with anyone (alive or dead) who would it be with and what would you have to eat?
If I could have dinner with anyone it would be Lady Gaga, I love her and if she still has her meat dress she can bring her own dinner (unless she’d be happy to eat vegan food). 

A message for anyone reading this blog post?
For anyone reading this blog post, first of all hello and thank you for reading these questions and answers about me. If you don’t know me well already then please know I am very approachable, will chat to anyone and will always lend a helping hand where I can! Thank you for giving me this opportunity I’m delighted to have joined in!




Thank you so much, Zara, for answering these questions! 


You can find Zara on twitter: itsallzara 
Or on her blog: itsallzara

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Autumn Crafts

Wednesday 11th October


Just in case you haven't guessed autumn is my favourite season and I love everything about it. One of my favourite things is being able to wrap up warm under loads of layers, particularly knitwear! Knitting is a brilliant pastime and it really gets me in an autumnal mood. For today's blog post I'm going to share a selection of knitting patterns that I've created as well as two of my favourite knitting patterns for you to try!


Boot Toppers

I have three different patterns for knitting boot toppers; stockinette stitch, ribbed and stockinette stitch, and moss stitch.
You will need double knitting (DK) weight yarn and 4.5 mm knitting needles. My personal preference for yarn is sirdar country style yarn.


Method 1; Stockinette)

Cast on 60 stitches.
Knit one row.
Purl one row.
Repeat for 30 rows.
Cast off.
Bind edges together.


Method 2; Ribbed and stockinette)
(You will need 4mm and 4.5mm knitting needles for this)

Cast on 64 stitches using 4mm knitting needles.
K1, P1 for 8 rows.
Switch to 4.5mm knitting needles.
Knit 1 row.
Purl 1 row.
Repeat for 14 rows.
Switch back to 4mm knitting needles.
K1, P1 for 8 rows.
Cast off.
Bind edges together.


Method 3; Moss stitch)

Cast on 60 stitches
K1, P1
P1, K1
Repeat these two rows for 30 rows.
Cast off.
Bind edges together.



Burnt Orange Moss Stitch Snood

For this snuggly snood I use 10mm knitting needles and burnt orange Cygnet yarn.

Cast on 24 stitches.
K1, P1
P1, K1
Repeat until snood measures 30 inches.
Cast off.
Bind edges together.


Two of my favourite knitting patterns are:

https://www.flaxandtwine.com/2013/12/tasseled-garter-stitch-color-block-scarf-pattern-a-quick-cozy-knit-gift/


http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/campus-striped-slouchy-beanie-knit-round


Happy knitting!







Sunday, 8 October 2017

Autumn Fashion

Sunday 8th October


As I said in my previous post I love autumn and everything about it. This post is about my autumn fashion; while I was planning it, I was unsure whether I wanted to talk about all the autumnal clothes I own or just share my new autumnal clothing. As this weekend drew closer I decided to share my favourite autumnal clothing old and new. For the new clothes I've bought I'll add the link below the photo.

(I've cropped my face out of these photos because I looked really rough). Most of my clothes here are from New Look as it's my favourite shop due to its affordability and the accuracy of their sizes.



Outfit 1: 


White v-neck top (New Look), red pinafore dress (Primark), black tights, and brown brogues (Primark).



Outfit 2:


Shirt dress (New Look) and thigh-high boots (New Look)



Outfit 3:


Faux leather jacket (Select), tartan skirt (New Look) and western ankle boots (New Look)



Outfit 4:



Faux leather jacket (Select), tartan skirt (New Look) and western ankle boots (New Look)



Outfit 5:


Dress (Primark) and shoes (New Look)



Outfit 6:


Grey blazer (Primark), white v-neck shirt (New Look), leather look skirt (New Look), and ankle boots (Primark)



Outfit 7:



Burgundy cropped jumper (Primark), high waist Yazmin jeans (New Look), and ankle boots (New Look)



Outift 8


Black ribbed jumper (New Look), red check shirt (New Look), and blue high waist Yazmin jeans (New Look), and ankle boots (New Look)



Outfit 9:


Faux leather jacket (Select), tartan dress (Select), and ankle boots (New Look)




My autumnal fashion is all sorted; I've still got lots of jumpers, check shirts, and ankle boots that aren't pictured as well as several autumnal lipsticks! 

Hope you enjoyed reading this post and happy October!
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Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Autumnal Reading/October Giveaway

Wednesday 4th October

Like I've said in a previous post about autumn, it's the perfect season to snuggle up in bed with a blanket, a cup of tea, and a good book. But with all the wonderful books in the world how do you choose which ones to read? To want to spend those long evenings reading you need the perfect book so I've compiled a list of the books I think are perfect autumnal reads.


Harry Potter series by JK Rowling.




Nothing sets up a good autumnal reading session like the start of a fantasy series. The first one (Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone) is perfect for so many reasons, one of which is Harry's adventure at Hogwarts starts on September 1st. There is a great build up before that, but once Harry arrives at Hogwarts the reader follows his adventures across the year. It's easy to read the first three books within a few days, and the rest will take only a little bit longer to read. Theoretically, you could complete the series by Christmas!



The All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness.




Another great fantasy series; this one is more adult than Harry Potter. A Discovery of Witches, the first in the series, is based around Diana Bishop who calls up a bewitched alchemy manuscript during her research. She encounters daemons, witches, and vampires while trying to discover why the manuscript appeared to her. It's a mature vampire novel with a believable romantic thread. The description of Oxford has a real autumnal feel to it, which is why it's so perfect to read in autumn. There are three books in the series, and a TV adaptation is currently being filmed.



Dracula by Bram Stoker.




What book is more autumnal than a vampire horror story? This book really gets me in the mood for Halloween, set against the scary, mysterious backdrop of Whitby. Everyone has an opinion of Dracula; not everyone likes it, but I think that is due to the epistolary form of the novel, which isn't to everyone's tastes. Epistolary novels are difficult to perfect, but it works well with Dracula due to the complex characters within its pages as it allows the reader to delve into their minds and see the novel from their perspective.




Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë.



You can't be a classic romance and Jane Eyre is one of the best romances in the world. I read this novel in two days when I received my first copy and I absolutely adored it. Jane Eyre is an inspiring character, one that was lightyears ahead of her time and one whose quotes I still recite and live by to this day!



The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien.





What a better novel to read in the autumn than an epic fantasy adventure? I love The Lord of the Rings but the Hobbit is by far my favourite of the series. I saw the movies of Lord of the Rings long before I read the books and I was always fascinated by how Bilbo got the ring; I was never satisfied by the way it's shown in the movies. Smaug the dragon is one of my favourite characters due to how cunning and intelligent he is. You can read The Hobbit as a standalone novel, which not only adds to its charm but proves what a fantastic author J.R.R Tolkien is as it's difficult to write the first novel of a series that can be read as a standalone book.



The Turn of the Screw by Henry James.




One of the creepiest horror novels I've ever read. Ghost stories aren't always my cup of tea but I really liked the way Henry James wrote this novel. I read this novel as part of my gothic Literature module at university and it was one of five books that made me fall in love with the gothic genre.



The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson




RLS is one of my favourite authors because he chooses a theme/plot so simple but creates something extraordinary from it. It's a gothic novel, but it is one of those gothic novels that will scare you because it's so close to reality. RLS shows the true duality of "man" that taught me we all have good and evil inside of us but we choose which side we reveal. It's a short novel, one that will take you a long autumnal evening to read; definitely one for reading around Halloween!



Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee.



I've associate cider with autumn since I found out what cider is, and this novel always puts me in an autumnal mood. I love this book as it's a sweet, easy read that's perfect for a rainy day in bed.



See Me by Nicholas Sparks.




I love a good romantic thriller and this one ticks all the boxes. Nicholas Sparks never disappoints me and I loved the unpredictability of this novel; it's one that will keep you hooked from start to finish.




Twitter Giveaways:

I've decided to run a giveaway once a month via my twitter. The giveaway will be young adult books; these are the books that are up for grabs:


  • The Book Thief by Marcus Zurak
  • One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus 
  • Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman
  • Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas
  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
  • Looking for Alaska by John Green
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  • Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
  • Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine l'Engle 
  • Spellbook of the Lost and Found by Möira Fowley-Doyle
  • The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness.

On the 9th of every month at 7pm I'll be hosting the giveaway. All you need to do is to like the tweet about the giveaway, retweet it quoting what book you want, and follow my account for the chance to get your hands on the novel of your choosing. 
The winner will be announced on the 10th of each month at 7pm.
First giveaway starts on Monday 9th - twitter account is sunflower blog twitter

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Autumn

Sunday 1st October

It's finally autumn, aka, the best season of the year! Here's a list of what I love most about autumn:


1. The fashion:
My wardrobe is full of ankle boots, jumpers, and knitted accessories; I love being all snug! I practically live in jeans, jumpers, and boots until it is far too hot to survive a day wearing all the layers. Every time the sun comes out in the spring/summer I cry a little inside as I realise I can't wear jumpers or boots unless I want to overheat. I've got a huge collection of jumpers and cardigans I love living in and I can't wait to wear them.

2. Reading:
Autumn is the time of year where all I want to do is to snuggle up in bed with a blanket, cup of tea, and a good book. There are loads of excellent books to read in the autumn, and these long, chilly evenings give us the perfect excuse to blow off any plans we might have and delve into a good book. I'm currently compiling a list of books to read in autumn, so look out for it!

3. The weather:
My favourite weather is when it's bright sunshine but it's freezing cold, with the added bonus of a mist. This comes from that scene in Pride and Prejudice when Mr Darcy is walking across the field towards Lizzie and the weather is sunny but cold with a glorious mist. That's the weather I love! I also adore the snow, but I don't like being out when it's snowing. I like it after it's snowed! Weirdly enough, I'm one of those people who love being in the rain. Obviously, I don't like it when I'm caught in the rain unprepared and I get soaked, but I like being wrapped up and under an umbrella going for a walk in the rain.

4. Themed drinks:
Coffee shops are amazing during autumn/winter for their menus! Gingerbread, toffee, mint chocolate, all these glorious flavours that appear during these two seasons. Going into a coffee shop after being out in the cold and getting yourself a gingerbread latte is one of my little pick-me-ups. I'm also a sucker for a pumpkin spiced latte!

5. Halloween:
Not only do I adore dressing up, but everything about Halloween is wonderful. Halloween parties, trick or treating (I don't think it's begging and I don't want to debate this!), Halloween films, and Halloween special episodes. Brooklyn 99 always do an amazing Halloween episode (every time I type Halloween, I'm doing it in the voice of Captain Holt on board the party bus in S2!). Last year I dressed up as a pirate; I need to start thinking of what I'll dress as this year! I'd love to dress up as Wonder Woman, but so far I haven't got any party plans.

6. Firework night:
I haven't been to a firework display in years and I am determined to go to one this year. Playing with sparklers is good fun, and for me, there's something quite romantic about a firework display.

7. Wrapping up warm:
This is similar to jumpers and boots, but for this, I'm talking about a number of layers I can put on my bed. I sleep with about 7 layers (not in summer when it's boiling hot, mind!); I've got a huge kingsize knitted blanket (that I made), a fluffy pink blanket, two patchwork quilts (made by me!), my duvet, and then two throws. My bed is really cosy in the autumn/winter and I'm waiting for that first chilly night so I can have all my layers back on the bed!

8. Pumpkins:
Pumpkin carving is a brilliant autumnal activity, and this year I'll be going one better; Emily and I are going pumpkin picking at a local farm! Once I've got my pumpkin and I've carved it, I'll be using the pumpkin insides in some of my autumnal treats. 


What to look out for this month in my blog:

- My autumn wardrobe
- Books to read this autumn
- October giveaways
- Pumpkins; what to make once you've carved it!
- Autumnal knitting
- Halloween favourites

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Things That Have Made Me Happy This Month

Wednesday 27th September


September, to most people, is just another month in the year, but for those of us who work in education, September is the start of a new academic year. It's a busy month where everyone is just trying to adjust to being back at work after a 6-week vacation for the summer holidays. This year I got a new class and it's been a bit of a rollercoaster trying to adjust while getting to know my new class. I am quite drained of energy when I get home, but I didn't want to look back over this month as being stressful and energy-draining. I wanted to look back over September as a happy month, full of amazing memories I'll treasure for years to come.




1) Going to a Star Wars exhibition:
As a "massive Star Wars nerd," as I have been dubbed as at work, it was incredible to see the costumes and the props up close. The detail that went into designing everything in the movies is
beyond fascinating. I always wondered what happened to props, costumes, and concept art after the movies have finished, and I'm glad exhibitions such as these open because it gives the fans a chance to get up close and personal behind the scenes of the movies.







2) I finished knitting my first cable knit scarf: 
I've been wanting to knit a cable knit scarf since I first learnt to knit about five years ago, but I've struggled to find a pattern I liked. I fell in love with a knitting pattern in a book that's been collecting dust for years. I've had loads of compliments on my scarf, and all I need now is for it to be cold enough so I can rock it!











3) I got my blog back up and running:
I started my blog over a year ago and I let it slip because I struggled to find the motivation to write. I just sat down one day and planned all my blog posts from now until August 2018, and I've even upped my blog days from one day a week to two days a week! I can't wait for October and December; I've got loads of themed posts to write, including my favourite Halloween movies, the best Christmas recipes, and autumnal fashion.










4) I started a YouTube channel:

I had a channel about four years ago but it wasn't brilliant, and after I booked tickets to the Star Wars exhibition I had a sudden inspiration to start a YouTube channel. When I went to the Star Wars exhibition I filmed my entire day and once I'd edited it into a vlog, I was so proud of what I had made. Having my first vlog about a day to London was the perfect way to start my channel because London is my favourite city in the whole world. I'm now about three videos on and I've had nothing but positive feedback which has made me so happy!





5) Movie night in with Toni:
We had a really lovely night in one Saturday during the middle of September where we watched Moana, ate snacks, and Toni did my nails (Nails by Toni Marie Instagram / Nails by Toni Marie facebook). After not seeing each other properly during the summer holidays it was lovely to spend some time together doing what we love; laying in bed, eating food, and watching a Disney movie. A brilliant night ended with Toni driving me home in our Harry Potter PJs!





6) Wonder Woman novel:
Leigh Bardugo's novel Warbringer has been in my sights for months since it was announced, and I squealed with excitement when I finally received my copy; limited edition and signed! Wonder Woman is my favourite superhero and thanks to Gal Gadot's amazing portrayal of her, she's been reborn into the 21st century as a badass, compassionate, superhero, who fell in love with a guy who is literally boyfriend goals (if someone finds me a Steve Trevor you will be rewarded generously).






7) I got to catch up with my work besties:
I hadn't seen Emily and Toni together properly since before the start of the summer,
and the other day we stayed behind after work to have our nails done, a cup of tea, and a long, overdue catch-up.









8) I went to the Royal Observatory:
I've wanted to go to the Observatory for years and I was so excited when I finally went. I stood on the Meridian line, I saw the Camera Obscura, and I saw an incredible show about solar superstorms at the London Planetarium (it was narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch, which was amazing). After studying at Greenwich for three years I never went to the Observatory or any of the other tourist attractions in Greenwich. Greenwich is my favourite part of London, and I've been back there twice this month which was wonderful.




9) Seeing IT and pranking each other:
Toni, Emily, and I went to see IT the other weekend, which resulted in a couple of days of pranking each other.
The movie itself was amazing, I actually preferred it to the original, purely because the way they filmed; the film focused on the characters as children. This allowed enough tension and horror to keep you interested and gave way to a promising sequel when the characters return to Derry as adults.
The next day at work Emily distracted me so Toni could put a red balloon in the cupboard in my classroom; she only stapled it to the shelf which made me want to get even. When I get even, I go much harder! I found some invisible string in my bedroom and I went into school earlier so I could attach the string to the balloon and then attached it to the threshold of the science cupboard. It looked like it was floating, and it got a brilliant reaction from Toni (she was terrified!) Nice try, T!


10) Getting a video of my Pops talking about his life:
My Nanny came over and gave us a copy of an interview my great granddad (Pops) did about fifteen years ago, and it was emotional, to say the least. I hadn't heard my Pops' voice in years, and it was just as I'd remembered. Listening to my Pops talking about his life was fascinating; I had no idea about half the experiences my Pops had lived through, and it was interesting to hear all about his life. I learnt some things I didn't know about him, and even though he's not with us anymore, I felt like it brought me closer to him.

Doing this list has made me realise September hasn't been a completely stressful month, and it's made me realise how often I focus on the negatives rather than the positives. I have had a good month, and it's made me excited for what October has to bring!

How has your September been?

Sunday, 24 September 2017

September Reading

Sunday 24th September

I've been back at work for 3 weeks and I haven't been able to do as much reading as I did over the summer. This post is about the books I've bought this month and the books I'm currently reading.



Books I've bought:


1) The Officer's Lover, by Pam Jenoff

"Ten years ago Jordan Weiss suffered the devastating death of her boyfriend Jared, a gifted rower at Cambridge. Since then her work as an intelligence officer has taken her to the world's hot spots where she has faced terrible dangers. However, it's the thought of returning to England that haunts her the most.
When a twist of fate sends Jordan back to London, she and rakish agent Sebastian Hodges are assigned to an investigation into mafia activities that quickly throws them into a whirlwind drama of lies, cover-ups, and corruption. Who can Jordan trust? As she desperately tries to pull the pieces together, secrets start to emerge that are strangely connected to her past and will ultimately shape the course of her future."

2) The Winter Guest, Pam Jenoff
"Twins Helena and Ruth Nowak have always been the closest of sisters. Staunch allies in the constant struggle to protect their impoverished family during the brutal war in Poland, there is nothing that can break their bond.
Then Helena discovers an Allied paratrooper, wounded but alive - and risking the safety of herself and her family, she chooses to hide Sam, who is a Jew. Now her loyalties are torn, sparking jealousy in Ruth and an act of betrayal that endangers them all and sets in motion events that will reverberate for decades to come."

3) Keeping My Sisters' Secrets, Beezy Marsh

"Eva, Peggy, and Kathleen were sisters born into a close-knit working-class family, living in a tiny terraced house in a street so rough the police would only walk down it in pairs. As they grew up between the wars, they dreamed of escaping their father's anger and the struggle of daily life in Waterloo.
Peggy was a studious and principled girl so appalled by conditions in the factories that she became a Communist. Beautiful Kathleen with a voice like silk, experienced tragedy too young and was destined to have her heart broken time and time again. Feisty Eva became a thief as a child so she could help their mother put food on the table - and never lost her rebellious streak.
As the years passed, the sisters stayed together, sharing each other's lives, supporting each other through hard times and protecting each other by whatever means necessary. Keeping My Sisters' Secrets is the rich, moving story of their fight to survive through decades of social upheaval - their love for each other the one constant in a changing world."


 4) Dancing at the Victory Cafe, Leah Fleming

"When Isobel Morton takes over the cafe in Lichfield's market square, she had big plans. Soon renamed the Victory Cafe, with a menu that delights despite rations, the girls who work at the Vic are swept away by Belle's lust for life.
Amongst the regular customers is a trio of soldiers from the nearby American base and waitress Dorrie Goodman soon befriends them, learning about jazz and romance in the process. But the stifling morality of a Midlands town in the forties cannot accommodate such a friendship; jealousy, hatred, and the weight of public disapproval combine to precipitate a tragedy.
It is not until many years after the war that friendship and reconciliation can begin to heal the wounds of the past..."


5) Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte
"Passionate, poetic, and revolutionary, Jane Eyre is a novel of naked emotional power. Its story of a defiant, fiercely intelligent woman who refuses to accept her appointed place in society - and instead finds love on her own terms - has become famous as one of the greatest romances ever written, but it is also a brooding Gothic mystery, a profound depiction of character and a transformative work of the imagination."


6) The Ambassador's Daughter, Pam Jenoff
"Brought to the peace conference by her German diplomat father, Margot resents being trapped in Paris where she is still looked upon as the enemy. Yet returning to Berlin means a life with the wounded fiancé is barely knows. 

Torn between duty and the desire to be free, Margot strikes up unlikely alliances; with Krysia, a musician who protects a secret; and with Georg, the handsome, damaged naval officer who makes Margot question where her true loyalties should lie.
Against the backdrop of one of the most significant events of the century, a delicate web of lies obscures the line between the casualties of war and of the heart, making trust a luxury that no one can afford."

7) Dangerous Crossing, Rachel Rhys
"England, September 1939. Lily Shepherd boards a cruise liner for a new life in Australia and is plunged into a world of cocktails, jazz, and glamorous friends. But as the sun beats down, poisonous secrets begin to surface. Suddenly Lily finds herself trapped with nowhere to go...
Australia, six weeks later. The world is at war, the cruise liner docks, and a beautiful young woman is escorted onto a dry land with handcuffs.
What has she done?"

8) Before it Rains, Dinah Jefferies
"1930, Rajputana, India. Since her husband's death, 28-year-old photojournalist Eliza's only companion has been her camera. When the British Government send her to an Indian princely state to photograph the royal family, she's determined to make a name for herself.
But when Eliza arrives at the palace she meets Jay, the Prince's handsome, brooding brother. While Eliza awakens Jay to the poverty of his people, he awakens her to the injustices of British rule. Soon Jay and Eliza find they have more in common than they think. But their families - and society - think otherwise. Eventually, they will have to make a choice between doing what's expected, or following their hearts..."

9) Everyone Brave is Forgiven, Chris Cleave
"When war is declared, Mary defies her family to protect the children her country would rather forget. 
Tom refuses to sign up for a conflict he doesn't believe in.
Alistair answers the call of duty, but can't silence his heart.
Could you dare to fall in love while the world around you is falling apart?"

10) Dark Places, Gillian Flynn
"Libby Day was just seven years old when her evidence put her fifteen-year-old brother behind bars. 
Since then, she has been drifting. But when she's contacted by a group who are convinced of Ben's innocence, Libby starts to ask questions she never dared to before. Was the voice she heard her brother's? Ben was a misfit in their small town, but was he capable of murder? Are there secrets to uncover at the family farm or is Libby deluding herself because she wants her brother back?
She begins to realise that everyone in her family had something to hide that day... especially Ben. Now, twenty-four years later, the truth is going to be even harder to find.
Who did massacre the Day family?

11) A Hidden Affair, Pam Jenoff
This is the sequel to The Officer's Lover and the blurb contains spoilers.

12) The Orphan's Tale, Pam Jenoff
"In Nazi-occupied Holland, seventeen-year-old Noa saves a baby from a train bound for the concentration camps, fleeing with him into the snowy wilderness.
Passing through the woods is a German circus - a troupe of waifs and strays, led by the infamous err Neuroff. They agree to help Noa and the baby. 
On one condition.
To earn her keep, Noa must master the flying trapeze - under the tutorage of the mysterious aerialist, Astrid. Soaring high above the crowds, Noa and Astrid must learn to trust one another - or plummet. But, as war closes in, Noa will learn that loyalty can be the most dangerous trait of all."

13) The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas.
"Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed."

14) The English Girl, Margaret Leroy.
"When seventeen-year-old Stella Whittaker is offered the chance to study at the Academy of Music in Vienna it's a dream come true, made possible by old family friends Rainer and Marthe Krause who offer her a place to live.
Seduced by the elegant beauty of the city, Stella explores the magnificent palaces, gardens and fashionable coffee houses, and after a chance meeting in an art gallery, falls in love with Harri Reznik, a young Jewish doctor.
But as the threat of war casts a dark shadow over Europe, Stella soon discovers that both the household where she lives and the city she has come to call home, are not as welcoming as they once seemed. And at the dawn of this terrifying new world, no one is safe."

15) The Returning Tide, Liz Fenwick.
"In wartime Cornwall, 1943, a story between two sisters begins - the story of Adele and Amelia and the heart-breaking betrayal that will divide them forever.
Decades later, as the generations gather for a wedding at the rambling family home on the Cornish cliffs, the effects of one reckless act still echo..."

16) The Human Universe, Brian Cox.
"Human Universe tackles some of the greatest questions that humans have asked to try and understand the very nature of ourselves and the Universe we live in. Through the endless leaps of human minds, it explores the extraordinary depth of our knowledge today and where our curiosity may lead us in the future. With groundbreaking insight, it reveals how time, physics, and chemistry came together to create a creature that can wonder at its own existence, blessed with an unquenchable thirst to discover not just where it came from, but how it can think, where it is going, and if it is alone."

17) Wonder Woman: Warbringer, Leigh Bardugo.
"Diana is desperate to prove herself to her warrior sisters. But when the opportunity comes, she throws away her chance at glory and breaks Amazon law to save a mere mortal, Alia Keralis. With this single heroic act, Diana may have just doomed the world.
Alia is a Warbringer - a descendant of the infamous Helen of Troy, fated to bring about an age of bloodshed and misery. Diana and Alia will face an army of enemies, mortal and divine, determined to destroy or possesses the Warbringer. 
To save the world, they must stand side by side against the tide of war. 



Currently reading:




A Brief Affair, Margaret Leroy:
"September 1940. England is at war and London has become a fragile home for widowed Livia Ripley and her two young daughters. So when Livia meets charismatic publisher, Hugo, she is hopeful her life is about to change for the better. Before it can, the wail of the siren heralds the arrival of the Luftwaffe. 
As the raids intensify, Livia volunteers to be a warden at the invitation of enigmatic Justin. It's during these dangerous nights that she experiences the true reality of war - a great contrast from the afternoons of cocktails and comfort spent with Hugo. Opening her eyes to the difficult task ahead, Livia must discover an inner strength that will help her save those she loves.



I'm also currently reading:

- The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas
- The Things We Cherished, Pam Jenoff
- The Spiderwick Chronicles: Field Guide, Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black.
- Dark Places, Gillian Flynn.

Most of the books I've bought are historic romances, which will be part of my research for my novel. Pam Jenoff is quickly becoming one of my favourite authors, as you can probably tell by the fact several of the books I bought this month are written by her. I also highly recommend checking out Margaret Leroy's novels.

My GoodReads challenge says I'm 3 books behind scheduele - I've read 18/30 books for this year's challenge and I'm determined to beat that. I'm gutted I haven't had as much time to read, which has been my own fault as I didn't organise my evenings as well as I'd have liked. Still, I'm 3 months away from the end of the year and I've still got loads of time left to finish my reading challenge. 

What books have you bought and/or enjoyed reading this month?



Wednesday, 20 September 2017

How I Keep Organised

Wednesday 20th September


I work between 30-35 hours a week at my job as a teaching assistant at a secondary school, and I still find time for running a blog and a vlog simultaneously, writing and planning two novels, reading, knitting, and going to the gym whilst enjoying a fulfilling social life and having adventures. So how do I do it?

Journalling. 
That's my secret answer. I know it's not exactly a huge revelation; it's kinda old fashioned but it works for me. I get everything written down so I know exactly what I need to do each day, and because I think notebooks and journals are really precious (so precious I have to buy a new notebook for each new project I start). I think once something's written down it's set in stone and you can't change your mind. It also goes back to my love of writing; I will always choose to handwrite something over typing it (except, obviously, my blog!)



My diary:

My diary is just a £10 one from WHSmith and it's amazing. It's one that has a day per page and it fits everything I need in it. I tried bullet journalling but it was too much effort to draw everything out when I can just use a diary that has everything already set out. On my diary page, I have my lessons for the day, any social activities, the name of my blog post (if it's blog day), and then my gym workout. I also tend to staple/clip things into my diary, and I've decorated the edges with washi tape to make it look nicer.










These are typical diary pages:





Typical week:


My week looks like this:

Monday - Friday: Work
Wednesday & Sunday: Blog
Friday: Vlog
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday: Gym


Everything in the diary is colour coded and/or highlighted:


(I am so much like Monica Geller, it's unbelievable).


Blog:
I've upped my blog days from just Sundays to Sundays and Wednesdays because I planned all my blog posts for every Sunday until August 2018 and I realised I had so much I wanted to write about. It's going to be a mixture of general lifestyle posts and getting to know me as well as knitting tutorials, Q&As, guest posts, and giveaways. I'm looking to do one giveaway a month (retweets to win) where the winner will get a book, 1-2 Q&As a month, and a guest post. 


Vlog:
Fridays are vlog days, but I can't always guarantee they'll be up by 8pm. (If you have me on Snapchat you'll be familiar with my Friday night freakouts as I try to understand modern technology). My vlogs are usually about my adventures, but there will also be some baking videos and knitting tutorials. Subscribe to my YouTube channel and drop me a comment when you've done so and I can subscribe back.

Gym:
My gym days are Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. I've made myself an intense 10-week training programme focusing on building my upper body strength. I have really strong leg muscles but weak upper body strength. I do also need to work on my cardio as well, but building up my muscles is definitely more of a priority. 

Writing:
Writing is a huge part of my life and I doubt that will ever change. Finding time to write can be a challenge, especially as I have a hectic job that usually requires all my patience and brain power. I usually have a cup of tea as soon as I get in and after about an hour I'm ready to write. I have a funny feeling I may have to dedicate a day to do my writing (either my blog or my novel or both) or else I won't be able to maintain two blog days or keep on target for my novel writing!

Reading:
Reading is the only way I know how to relax before I go to sleep. It might be just a page, or it could be a few chapters, but no matter what I always read before bed, usually accompanied by a cup of tea. A cup of tea is a perfect way to end my day; it doesn't matter what time I get home, I will always stay up to have that last cup of tea and to read that last chapter before I can't possibly keep my eyes open any longer.

Knitting:
Knitting is one of those things I do while watching a film or a TV show on Netflix; I find it impossible to just watch something so I have to keep myself busy. Knitting is the perfect activity to do while watching a film/TV show because it's calming, easy, and it keeps me occupied. I've been knitting for about 5 years now, and I've become skilled enough I can knit without looking, or knit whilst watching a film or reading a book or sometimes both! 

Social life:
As for my social life, I like to keep my weekends for one day of adventures/activities and one day for relaxing. I usually like to plan a day out on Saturday, leaving my Sundays free to relax before another week at work. I usually like to go to London for adventures as London is my happy place, and there are always new places to explore. My favourite place to explore in London is Greenwich; it's the most beautiful part of London. 



I'm not one of those people who can just sit around and do nothing. I have to keep busy but I also need to allow myself time to relax and unwind. It's taken a while to get organised and into a routine, so I'm beyond happy I finally got here!

What are some of the ways you keep organised? Any tips you'd like to share? Let me know in the comments! 


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Sunday, 17 September 2017

Writing

Sunday 17th September


This post is about my writing. I've been writing stories for as long as I can remember; it's something that's deeply embedded in my personality. I'm currently working on two projects; a historic romance, and a fantasy fiction, and in this blog post I will be discussing how I get ready to write, how I write, and advice for writing novels.


Getting ready for writing:

- Getting cosy
Knitted cardigan, thick leggings, baggy t-shirt, and fluffy socks; the ultimate writing dress code. I need to be comfy when I write, and I can't get comfy in jeans (despite wearing them all the time), but I also need to get out of my pjs. I can't write in my pjs because that's too comfy, if that makes sense? If I'm in my pjs then all I want to do is just chill out in bed with a book and a cup of tea. Being in a pair of leggings and a baggy top is enough to be relaxed without losing all motivation!

- The perfect cup of tea
PG tips, a dash of soy milk, and one and a half teaspoons of sugar.

- Snacks
Everyone needs snacks while writing, but what snacks are the best? Sweet popcorn, oreos, chocolate (dairy free, of course), hula hoops, party rings, etc. anything that I can just nibble on.

- The right environment
There are three different environments I like writing in: my dining room, my bedroom, and Starbucks. My dining room is probably the best because I can have the whole room and the huge table to myself, it's near the kitchen, and it means I get exercise when I have to go to the loo upstairs! My bedroom is super cosy (if I do say so myself) and sometimes I just like to snuggle under the covers and do some writing. Admittedly, it's not great because it can stump my motivation, but also I get pins and needles! Starbucks is a great place to write because it means I get out the house and I can get a decent cup of coffee. It allows zero distraction, and the chairs are really comfy.

- Timing
When I'm writing, whether it's creative or academic, it's vital I get a break. A habit I developed from my days of studying (GCSEs, A-Levels, and university) was to write for 30 minutes then have a 10 minute break. After a while I tend to get so involved in my writing it will go from 30 minutes to 45 minutes, and sometimes I'll be writing for an hour before I want to stop for a break. It's important to have a break, but if you're on a writing roll after having your 30 minutes writing/10 minutes break, there should be no stopping you; when your brain runs out of ideas and you hit writer's block, that's when you need a break.

- Music:
Music is a huge part of my life; I can't go a day without listening to music. When I write I have to listen to movie soundtracks because if I listen to any other genre I will end up singing along, especially if I'm listening to country music! The different paces of music within the soundtrack inspire and influence me; fast pace songs help with action scenes, slow paced songs help with sad scenes (usually a death/dying scene) and/or they can help with romantic scenes, and upbeat songs help with comedic scenes sassy dialogue. If I've hit writer's block I like to just listen to the song and try and visualise different scenes that can happen if this were the soundtrack to that scene.


Writing-help books:

I could easily lie and say "Oh I don't need any help with planning, I know exactly what I'm doing" but I can't. It's not easy to plan a novel. What's easy is coming up with an idea; the difficult part is turning that seed into a beautiful flower that will bloom into a fantastic tale full of twists, turns, intriguing characters, interesting plot lines, and enough action to keep the reader glued to the pages. Writing is a skill, and one you must excel at in order to get ahead.

The books I used for my writing are:

- Writing Fiction for Dummies
- Writing a Romance Novel for Dummies
- A Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction; Philip Athans
- First Draft in 30 Days; Karen Wiesner
- On Writing; Stephen King

These books are absolutely fantastic for writing help, they offer the basic structure and advice you need to be able to start your writing. Once you have the structure, you are then able to start piecing together your plans into categories to help you order your work.

Writing romance fiction:

I'm currently writing a historic romance novel based in WW2, and here's my advice for how to structure your planning if you're looking to write a novel of a similar genre.

- Research
Historic novels require a lot of research about the era you are writing in. You need to make sure you know as much that is relevant about the time period you're setting your novel in to avoid any historic inaccuracies, because these will be picked up!

- Plot
You've got your beginning, middle, and end, but you also need to ensure every action has a reaction and it gets resolved. A good tip to remember is to add a new action before the previous one has been resolved. Keep your readers on their toes!

- Characters
Go in detail with your main characters (protagonists, antagonists, etc), and then do a simple character profile for the minor characters who don't appear too much in the book.

- Draft
Time to get writing!


Writing fantasy fiction:

I'm also writing a fantasy fiction series alongside my historic romance novel, which requires so much planning and research. It'll probably take me at least the next five years to plan it properly before I can even think about writing my first draft!

- Research
Similar to the research for historic romance novels, but this time you need to go into much more detail if you are making up your own world, which is what I'm doing.

- Plot
I think it's more important to think about your plot before you create your world because it'll make it easier for you to know which parts of your world you need to include as parts of the plot and which parts are just mentioned or the characters pass through them.

- Setting
This is the part where you either plan your setting, or you begin to create your own world!

- Characters
Once you've decided on your setting, now you get to create your characters. Remember to think about the different cultural groups, and us all of your research to help you.

- Draft
Put pen to paper or fingers to the keys and away you go!



So there you go, this is how I prepare for my writing. I hope this had been somewhat either entertaining, informing, or helpful. Maybe all three? Do you have any writing rituals or ways to plan your writing?
Drop me a comment!

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Vlog

Sunday 10th September


Exciting news: I've started a YouTube channel! I am so excited to share this with you and I cannot wait to hear what you guys think of it. My first two videos are already uploaded, the first is my little introduction and the second is a vlog about my London adventure with my sister where we went to the Star Wars Identities exhibition at the O2.

YouTube channel:

YouTube Channel


Introduction to my YouTube channel:

Intro


London Adventure:

London Adventure



Check it out, and drop me a comment/like and please subscribe. Comment when you're done and I promise to subscribe to your channel! Thanks guys!