Adventures, book review

Believe Me by JP Delaney – book review

believe-me-640x640

Claire Wright is an attractive young British woman with aspirations to becoming a successful actress in the US. She is obliged to succeed in the States rather than return to the UK (for reasons that become apparent during the course of the book), but Claire has no Green Card. However, an opportunity presents itself to help her subsidise her acting career – some work for a divorce attorney. But the job is a queasy one: she is to act as a honey trap for errant husbands.

Claire sees it as an extension of her acting career; she is a woman of seductive charms, and men fall like nine pins before her. But then she encounters Patrick Fogler, whose wife, Stella, she has already met. He is an academic with an almost obsessive predilection for the erotic poems of Charles Baudelaire. Patrick resists Claire’s attempt at seduction, but later the same evening, his wife is discovered savagely murdered in a hotel room (Delaney has based elements of the plot on a real-life entrapment case involving a brutal murderer).

I subscribe to Audible so listened to this book while I made curtains and I could not stop listening – it took about a day and a half – where I think I was barely breathing! I even managed a pile of ironing as I had finished the curtains before finishing this book.

I loved The Girl Before so I was eagerly awaiting the publication of this new novel and what a rollercoaster it is. If you loved, Gone Girl or Girl on the Train then this is along the same lines although in a league of its own!

Delaney keeps the pace up -right though the novel, it is suffocating, intense and dark – Claire is flawed, but above all, she is a survivor. She does what she needs to do to get by, and isn’t that what we all do?

Set in New York but with a central English Character is delightful change, I can relate to Claire – in many ways – the way she evolves to fit in. We all play roles, especially women –  wife, lover, daughter, employee,  which one is the real us?  Delaney uses this theme to explore it to deeper, darker depths.

I love the way psychology is also exposed for its overly simplistic blanket approach – the connection with BDSM and sexual violence is explored and dismissed. Delaney gives us much more of a subtle exploration of human psychology that is masterful in its unravelling.

I had heard the name, Bau de Larre before but I began to wonder if I might read some of his poetry when the characters were quoting it, but then I was afraid to!

I am in awe of this writer, his tales are masterful – engaging, breathtaking and thrilling.  The perfect wife. another of his novels is on my wish list… but need my heart rate to recover before I go on another breathtaking adventure.

 

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Adventures, baking, book review, Books, gardening, home baking, second hand bookshops

New shoes, veg plot, book reviews, my Sunday Sevens – 16th September

I can wear shoes again!

September and new shoes seem to be forever connected in my memory! Not only did I spend my childhood years proudly walking along pavements enjoying the September sunshine with new shoes but then went through my years of parenting subjecting my children to the same pleasure!

I will admit, like a lot of women, I have so many shoes – most of them of the high heeled beautiful but cruelly uncomfortable variety. One of the lovely things about getting older is that you get a little wiser – so I find myself buying ‘comfortable shoes’ but that doesn’t necessarily mean they can’t be fun!

My new shoes are momentous -because it is the first pair I have been able to wear since my major foot surgery! I cannot tell you how joyous it feels to wear shoes again –  I am beginning to get my life back! Not only that – I am enjoying long hot showers where I am not dangling one cling film wrapped foot out of the way of the water! Simple pleasures indeed.

On a practical level – these shoes from Gracosy are sublime – the soul is so cushioned my feet just sink in – no uncomfortable jarring. On a sustainable level, my last pair of clogs lasted me over ten years and were regrettably thrown away a few months ago, when the sole finally wore though. I like clogs because they are so easy to slip on and off. I did see my foot consultant this week with a little trepidation –  he thoroughly approved of them!  If you fancy a pair of your own you can buy them from Amazon.

 

Tea Time

The Bake off is back – I do love watching it – I think Channel 4 have done a good job of continuing the format well. I do admire the bakers – it is hard enough baking but under those conditions – they are inspirational!

I adore toasted tea cakes – but since discovering I have a dairy intolerance I have been a little scared of eating things – so I decided to try Paul Hollywood’s recipe for hot cross buns – and oh my goodness they are delicious! Of course I just added currants to the recipe rather than the crosses and drizzled them with warmed honey rather than sugar syrup. Luckily replacing cows milk and butter with Goats Milk and butter has improved my health! I am not sure if you can see – but the butter was melting on the tea cake when I took this photo – they were still scrumptiously warm from the oven!

little cinnamon buns

E is not a fan of currants – he seems to only tolerate them in Christmas pudding, so I used half the recipe to make cinnamon buns – rolling the dough like a Swiss roll with a mixture of cinnamon, mixed spice, brown sugar and toasted hazelnuts. I put it in a cake tin to rise and this is how it turned out! It was a huge success!

I did not take any pictures of the second batch to show you – the whole process went really well until the baking – where I managed to burn the whole batch and sadly had to resign all the hard work to the bin! I have the attention span of a gnat… I cannot count the number of times the smoke detector has reminded me that I have something cooking – so I have now invented a rule – I never leave the kitchen when something is baking or boiling – our diet has improved from carbon to edible!

Veg Italia book review

I have been pescatarian for over a year –  an interesting journey full of – if I am being entirely honest, an experiment in inedible food. When I was first trying to discover what food was causing problems – I tried lots of vegan recipes – they were expensive and quite frankly, inedible. I don’t want to eat another meal with sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes. (White potatoes cause arthritis)  I can’t bring myself to eat any more peanut butter – (Veganism seems to use it for everything!) I cannot swallow anything made with ‘wheat free flour’ – it dries my mouth out, my body simply can’t physically swallow it!

So I have relaxed a little – I am not completely free of migraines but I am having them less. My arthritis symptoms have also reduced – but there is good research about the Mediterranean diet is healthy. A ninety nine year old I knew told me his lack of arthritis was down to having olive oil every day – he was walking proof in my mind and at 99 he had been around longer than any of our so called experts! – I am moving away from the ‘alternative’ foods and more about cooking from scratch.

I bought Gino’s Veg Italia recipe book secondhand – what a refreshingly delight it is! every recipe is tantalisingly tempting. We have had an excellent week – home made pizza, creamy mushroom gnocchi and roasted vegetables. (I think, my rule about not leaving the kitchen has improved my results immensely!) Thankfully the recipes are easy to follow and don’t require a whole heap of gadgetry and tins and jars of stuff! I’ve tried gnocchi before – (with sweet potatoes – too sweet) but Gino’s recipe was simple, created not only edible but delicious food! There is a recipe for home made pasta that doesn’t require a pasta machine or slavish dedication to duty!

A little piece of heaven

If you want to know what your heart’s desire is, notice that gut wrenching stab of jealousy next time because it guides you to what is missing in your life. It is more authentic than the fleeting desire to make origami napkins from your Pinterest feed.

I will admit to having pangs of envy – when I have seen posts of home grown vegetables. I have pined for outdoor space since I moved a couple of years ago. It is odd though, how I got so focussed on my dream of having a garden of my own that it is easy to overlook what is just round the corner. This little plot of land is in a neglected part of the grounds where I live. No-one loves it and while it might be very overgrown and sloping, it catches a lot of sun. So  I can’t tell you how excited I am to be able to grow our own veg!

September might not be the best month to begin – but I noticed a dark patch under large trees that barely gets any light – might just be the ideal spot for a mushroom patch,  we are just coming into mushroom season. Ever since I went on a camping trip with a Bear Grills guy who took us to pick field mushrooms for breakfast – I have longed to repeat the process. Those mushrooms felt like food from the Gods, not just because they were fresh but because they were the work of my own hands!

The Law of Angels book review

Oh joy of joys to discover a new author and a while new series of books! I purchased Law of Angels by Cassandra Clark from a charity shop while we were on holiday in Porlock Vale. The mix of historical medieval fiction – a daring nun, mystery and suspense was a temptation I could not resist! How glad I am that I give in easily to temptation – especially in book form – this was a pleasure to read! Little did I realise that this is the third in the series – but the story holds its own.

Cassandra immerses you in medieval society much easier than all the historical books I have been ploughing through recently. Set in York during the days running up to the Corpus Christi – I felt I was discovering more about the period while being thoroughly entertained.  A nun might seem an odd choice for a gun-ho sleuth but it was quite a liberating role in the 13th Century. Hildergard is her own woman, I liked her as a character – she is just really nosy if I am honest a bit of a Jane Marple with a little more daring do! Hildergard’s home is burnt to the ground, she is kidnapped twice,  ends up close to two terrorist bombings, and still manages to save York’s Mayor from being blown up. Its all well told with enough action and pace that kept the pages turning well past 10 o’clock!  (with my attention span that is praise indeed!) In order to avoid the usual book hangover, I ordered the first in the series when I was just over half way through.

I am determined to read more – I just have to gag the Calvinistic Shrew Mildred,  my inner critic,   nagging me that reading is time wasting… I should be doing so many other things.

It is reading before going to sleep that has really helped with my insomnia – so I am truly thankful to Cassandra Clark!

 

 

Adventures

A simpler life

My first post 7 years ago!

Fred the Needle

After a year of living with friends, it was so wonderfully finally to move into my own little home, I was so excited to have my own kitchen again. It really did surprise me what a simple pleasure it is to cut with my favourite knife, or to have my own cake tins, or saucepans. I had never really given any of those things much thought before, but having spent a year struggling with blunt knives, saucepans that only seemed to burn food and a cooker where I continually switched on the wrong ring it was a true delight to be cooking with gas! 

I realised that I was downsizing, the small two bed flat was a quarter of the size of the four-bed detached house I had left behind, optimistically, I thought that I would only bring the contents of my studio, bedroom and a couple of items of…

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Decluttering, heart and home

Autumn – letting go … why reducing your stash might increase your creativity

 

Sunday sevens - playful

We live in a time of peace and plenty, thankfully. I can buy not only what I need, but every whim and want is just a click away.  The downside is that I no longer have to problem solve, fix or make do, but hold on –  isn’t necessity the mother of invention?

We are born creators, great if you were living hand to mouth or living during the war but it comes with problems in our modern world. My creative imagination wreaks havoc not just with my crafting,  but with spending.  I get carried away at supermarkets so much so that I avoid them. I know a week later and I am throwing out rotting vegetables that never materialised into the hearty soup of my imagination as I zipped up and down the aisles one idea after another. Craft stuff doesn’t have an expiry date.

My creativity drives a lot of buying because I need to pursue an idea – but when you are really creative, one idea spins on to the next and before I realise I am looking at a mountain of stuff.

I felt stuck recently – uninspired and uncreative. I haven’t been idle though – being at home all day, has made me realise that I need to get my house in order! I won’t share my shame… the craft room was an utter shambles and not functional – littered with boxes and items stacked up high. My sewing machine lost among an assemblage of… stuff!  I had to wipe dust off the cover! But I am being honest with you about my creativity because its time blogging was about honesty and not just the illusion of perfection I felt obligated to maintain.

Quote of the week

Autumn is the perfect time, after all aren’t the trees getting ready to let go and do it in the most spectacular style?  Sorting through my stash slowly and methodically –  has been a bitter sweet experience. There have been half completed projects that I have thrown out, partly because they haven’t worked or that they just don’t inspire me to continue. Sometimes that idea has come from a Pinterest pin – or a magazine article but what I discovered going through my piles of UFOs is that it was those projects I most regretted.

It has been challenging, because I have been confronted a whole pile of failure – not to mention the cost of materials involved – laid to waste.

It isn’t easy to confront your own impulsive buying and creative projects that have ended up disasters. To open up yet another plastic bag of half completed stitchery – that seems beyond redemption, but it is worth doing.  Disposing of these items is cathartic, my creative space is no longer plagued by ghosts of projects past.

There is a lesson I have learned since having my own studio space

shops are not the best place for creativity to flourish

When I had my first studio – I wanted it to be my very own store, where everything I needed to create would be right at hand – but that was a mistake.

  • I ended up focussing more on acquiring than I did on creativity.
  • As the stuff piled up – I had less time for creating because I had to keep on re-organising my space.
  • All that stuff became oppressive – the project inspiration seemed to evaporate as a new idea or a Pinterest pin, seemed more exciting.
  • My bookshelves groaned as more books and ideas were added including more ideas.
  • I spent all my spare time stocking my shelves little realising I was actually putting off being creative.

The reality struck me that I was surrounded by broken promises and my sanctuary became full of ghosts which filled me with shame.

Each project was a promise – time for me to express myself, time to be creative – but each time a project was snuffed in a bag, or hidden away in boxes, I was actually breaking my own promise to myself that one day I would be give myself permission to sit down and create.

So these ideas have re-surfaced, uncovered among other debris – and they rise up to challenge me – are you actually going to do this?

I cannot ignore that I am floating in the wide river of consumerism that surrounds me, it is our modern world – we can’t escape it. Beyond the frenzy of buying I was raising my eyes and wondering what is going to happen when we discover our resources are finite.  Nor can I ignore the pictures of the debris floating in our oceans.

Will we look back at this time and see all the waste for what it is?

There is a little stand outside my front door where people donate things they no longer need and it is rare that I walk past without looking. Perhaps this desire to make something beautiful out of objects that would end up landfill is my own small way of saving the planet, giving purpose to my creativity by re-inventing something to being useful again. From now on, when I take or buy something – I label it with an expiry date. If I haven’t done it by then, then it is time to let go.

I’ve unearthed  a thick stainless steel tray, scratched and boring – in my minds eye, would look beautiful decorated in barge painting – I see it  all pastel greens, pinks, yellows and blues. I have to admit, my barge painting skills are definitely not up to the standard of my imagination, but I can give it a try. It has an expiry date of the 30th September!

Letting go – is liberating, not having these unfinished projects lurking like ghosts – clears the space and frees up the mental chatter to begin anew.

 

you have to begin with a blank page

Every artist begins with a blank canvass; what I discovered is that to be creative you just need a clear space on a table – not a whole room or a studio or a library, just enough space to be. It’s something I had forgotten – when I had kids growing up – I made a little space here and there. I dreamed of having a whole room for years and after having a whole room for years – I know it doesn’t make you any more productive.

Letting go makes so much more sense doesn’t it?

Having my creative space back has lifted my spirits, having tools in one place has meant I save time and money –  I don’t spend ages looking for it – and I will be honest here, looking for it meant confronting a heap of stuff – so clicking to ‘buy one’ always seemed the better option. It is why I have a pot full of scissors!

Projects grouped by subject has re-connected the inspiration – I have unearthed beautiful fabrics, re-united inspirational images and patterns that have been stacked away out of sight. I have found all my scissors, needles, seam rippers (I could never find one when I needed one!) spools and spools of thread in bright shades of the rainbow – there is a basket of wool in colours that make my heart sing.

I have challenged myself to make something out of all the items in my stash – before moving on to new things. Isn’t necessity the mother of invention?

I have promises to keep and long evenings to relish; winter is coming, but Autumn is the ripe time for letting go.

 

Adventures, changing seasons, heart and home, home, home baking, home making., seasonal, seasonal food, seasons

Ode to Autumn – why we need to celebrate more

summer into autumn

I don’t know about you, but September is a reflective time for me. Our modern lives of electricity makes dark evenings bright and stocked supermarket shelves make the concept of harvest bizarre,  seasons and the rhythms of nature a distant irrelevant echo of the past.

Yet, there is a value in connecting with the changing seasons –  without these feasts and marking of change, every day ends up being a bland unremarkable section of time – and we begin to wonder where the days, months or years have gone.

In order to separate time,  our brains need to put down markers and it only does that when we step beyond the routine or automatic functioning.  It is why, as adults, time seems to slip by un-noticed and yet as children it seemed to last forever – our childhood memories are filled with seasons and celebrations, long summer holidays, Birthday celebrations and Christmases.

We need to fill our adult lives with variety and celebration,  the difficulty is that our culture has so few celebrations. In the Christian tradition the celebration of St Michael falls late in September and gives us Michelmas – but like all things Christian they created many festivals on those of older faiths but they all seem to share this theme for taking stock, giving thanks and preparing for winter.

Haust is the Old Norse word for Autumn or Fall, a time for giving thanks for the year’s harvest as well as bidding farewell to the long days and warmth of the Summer and welcoming the long nights of the Winter. At this time of the year the daylight and darkness are in balance once again before the dark takes over, so this is a transition point to reflect on what has been accomplished and what is yet to come.

We are looking forward to celebrating at an Autumn festival later this month, at an Ancient Farm in the Meon Valley. I think it should offer the best opportunity to feel connected with the past and enjoy a feast with others.

In the last few years, September has seen the trees hold on to their green leaves well into October, so change is gradual.  I have seen a lot of blackberries ripe for picking – it has always been a delightful pleasure – but I haven’t been able to this year because my foot is still healing.

We have spent a couple of cosy evenings watching flames flicker from our little fire, turning on lights a little earlier each day, Autumn is meekly creeping into our lives.

This time offers a gentle releasing of all things external,  outdoor adventures to retreat into the cosiness of home. An invitation to reflect and assess what is needed and what is no longer serving us – winter is coming.

Sunday sevens - playful

Spring and Autumn are times of transition – both come with a sense of change in the air that inspires me to re-evaluate my nest. I have found myself dealing into drawers and wardrobes – nooks and crannies. A good few trips to the dump has worked wonders.

Change invites creativity, I am planning some new decorations for our little twinkly tree – it has been the only light on the last few evenings, sitting under the glow as the darkness descends – it feels magical.

Autumn is a time for hygge, warm blankets to snuggle around me during the long evenings – recipes that call for more comfort  – stews and soups, apples and spices, books to be read on rainy afternoons – but before that can begin – I need to clear space.

Spring fever has begun… why isn’t there a Autumn fever?