Adventures, book review, Nature, victorian

Recovery – Time travelling back to Victorian Era

lighter crumble recipe

Oh Autumn days – how I love this time of the year – its time to reach for soft warm socks, thick warm woollens and longer evenings shuttered against blustery rain. It’s a time when we turn home for comfort and rest. Autumn is forever linked with new beginnings and celebrations of the years progress. It has been a very strange year indeed and now it is in it’s final phase!

A dear friend gave me some apples from her tree and I cannot think of anything more delightful than blackberry and apple crumble. Sadly, the blackberry crop was very poor this year, so I resorted to buying some – the ones in the shops were larger but I am not too sure if they had the flavour of the organic hedgerow varieties.

I created an alternative to a traditional wheat based topping – Panko breadcrumbs are rice based, stirred with enough melted butter and coconut oil coat the crumbs. The coconut oil helps with the crispness and the butter gives a lovely flavour, then I added a little soft brown sugar to taste. It is lighter crispy crumble topping, without the wheat belly!

The apples were gently simmered with ground nutmeg, cinnamon and ground cloves with some soft brown sugar to taste. Cloves really bring out the flavour of the apples using ground cloves avoids chewing on a rogue clove – there is usually one that escapes matter how much I look! Using ground clove makes life easy!

I had major surgery again early in September and I am now on the road to recovery, these bright lovelies were delivered to me by a very dear friend and now nearly four weeks later there are some still going strong! I have really enjoyed all the kind wishes, flowers and cards I have received, it is so lovely to have good friends and family.

discovering local walks

As part of my rehab I am taking daily walks – it has been quite an adventure although I have lived in this area for four years – I still found new delightful places by delving down footpaths and across bridges that I had not walked down before. It is sad to leave the dog behind but I am enjoying the gentle exercise and fresh air!

Nature table

Having time to collect leaves and then do little sketches is a wonderful way to spend my recovery. I have been dabbling with my watercolours – it seems now that I finally have the patience for this most delicate medium.

Autumn flowers

There is so many beautiful flowers and plants in season, walking gives you time to slow down and see the world – recovery is giving me the time to live at a slower pace, I am so grateful and I am trying to make the most of it.

It has turned colder now, as I pressed the button on the thermostat to turn on the heating – I was so thankful we live with so many modern conveniences – there is no coal to haul, no fires to lay, no calour gas fire hardly impacting on the chill walls and causing the windows to stream with condensation. I wake up in the morning, unafraid to pull back the covers in the bedroom which already warm with the boiler gently clicking away! It is noticing the simple pleasures that make life worth living.

We watched Elona Holmes on Amazon Prime – which was fun – I think it highlighted the way women were subjugated during the Victorian Era but it was a little bit far fetched. I really enjoyed the film – the story is fast paced and action filled – with a lot of very assertive women. The close relationship between Elona and her mother, (played by Helena Bonham Carter) was beautiful. I really loved the many beautiful costumes Elona wears – and the finishing school looked quite good fun, I would have loved the embroidery lessons! however they were wasted on Elona. I can highly recommend it for a little lighthearted fun. I did read on the internet that there have been statues commissioned of famous sisters of great men – the sister of Charles Dickens has been erected facing him in Portsmouth Guildhall square, Thomas Hardy and Mozart all had very talented sisters – all of whom gave up their talents upon entering marriage, so I am pleased to see these women get their final recognition.

from the BBC – Marian (JESSIE BUCKLEY) – (C) Origin Pictures – Photographer: Steffan Hill

Although for a story that really did highlight the plight of many Victorian women look to the BBCAdaptation of Wilkie Collins the Woman in White (Again on Prime). Not only did the book show how outrageously women were at the mercy of the men in their lives firstly their fathers and then their husbands, but the complex tale is engaging.

Men valued their ‘honour’ above their female offspring’s happiness – luckily Marion Holcombe proved to be a more realistic, assertive woman! Definitely has the edge on Elona Holmes as the tale is more subtle and subversive. The book itself is an epic, but the adaptation was superbly executed – even if I found Charles Dance a little too robust for Mr Fairley, I always imagined a weaker character and Count Fosco in my imagination looked like Hercule Poirot but the adaptation is much better the Italian charmer in the BBC adaptation is far more convincing!.

It is not an easy tale, Victorian women were committed to mental institutions a great deal, if they challenged the patriarchy. Marion Holcombe might challenge the conventions of Victorian Ladies at the time, showing herself to be a wonderful heroine but it is more likely her lack of male family is attributed to her freedom. The BBC adaptation is pretty close to the book! I highly recommend it! And if you fancy a good gothic read with the first investigating detective, then Wilkie Collins other tale ‘The Moonstone’ is one I highly recommend.

As if that wasn’t enough Victorian drama I am also enjoying listening to this audio book, Death at Bishop’s Keep by Robin Paige. Not only is is very well written – it also includes quotations from various Victorian publications at the start of the chapters that give you a background understanding for the particular chapter. For example, there is a domestic servant problem in one of the chapters – having a little outline about Victorian attitudes to domestic staff as an introduction, really helps to understand the plot.

E found book three in the series for me and I am thrilled to discover there are 12 books in the series! If this first one is anything to go by, I shall be time travelling the rest of the year!

ttfn x

Adventures, book review, hand stitched, home sewing, sewing

How was your weekend? …. Monday 3 August.

Stitch meditation

My weekend began on Friday, listening to the marvellous Cathy Hay on Youtube they had lots of videos – CoCoVid, an on-line, interactive event put on by the members of CosTube during the weekend that would have been Costume College there was a fantastic video about having the confidence to dress differently, which you can watch until next weekend. It reminded me of how much I loved to dress up – so I donned my lovely lemon dress beautiful straw hat and went shopping in the local town. It made me feel great.

I am trying to save more this month – however I forgot the Library was opening later and so whiled away the half an hour wait in a charity shop. It is always amazing that when you aren’t looking for things you seem to find some lovely items so that by the end of my twenty minutes I had some well needed new clothes.

The reason this is in the charity shop is that the front section has distorted out of shape leaving the front gaping. So the buttons not only added another element, it fixed the gape!

I also picked up this gorgeous silk monsoon dress which is too big for me – with a few minor adjustments (a bit of hand stitching left to be done) I had managed to alter it to fit .. will show you when it is finished.

I just returned in time to catch Jenny Raymont’s on line class for machine embroidery – it would have been the festival of Quilts this weekend too, so there were quite a few on line courses to choose from. I really enjoyed doing this through zoom, it worked really well and I was still in the comfort of my own home – an introverts delight! I didn’t do the landscape but instead practised some leaves… I have another revamp in mind and wanted to get some practise in.

I have been practising making bricks… bread this one came out really well – there is an real art to getting the bread to rise properly – this is a joy that it came out bread shaped, but it is still heavier than a shop bought loaf.

I picked up these lovelies on the way home from the shops, they fell on my head! There is a plum tree overhanging a garden fence and they are all over the pathway. In no time I had a small bag full and I went home smiling, last week I purchased some exactly the same from a local farm shop.

Despite making over 50 masks, friends and family! – E did not have one and I was wearing a early prototype that didn’t quite work. It was time to make a couple of masks for us – I think the fabric is quite appropriate don’t you think?

Sunday was set aside to make a dress and having seen this book on lovely and grateful’s Blog, I chose to listen to it as I stitched away. It is thought provoking, I had never realised white privilege existed and if nothing else I shall take that away from listening to this, but it is fascinating to see life from another perspective. Listening to this book rather than reading it is like having the author in the room with you, but I found I needed time to absorb the story. I am still going through it slowly, but while it is profound and disturbing, it is hard to find a safe place to explore these discussions. . What this is is a window into the experience of Eddo Lodge and the community around her and how the system has stacked the odds against ethnic people. Yes it includes the story of the slave trade, but recent events race protests that happened in my lifetime, including the Brixton riots, the death of PC Blakelock and the appalling injustice that protected the killers of Steven Lawrence: these things happened in my lifetime and it knocks my faith in the system. It is interesting to hear about someone else’s life experience of living in England, one that varies from my own and one that I can recommend reading.

I live in an area that is 90% white, my own experience of equality and diversity is through workplace training – one course I had to attend in the early 1990s began with a statement -if we were to say anything that was deemed offensive we would be disciplined for it or maybe even lose our jobs. I wish Eddo Lodge had been there instead. There is so much to say about this book, but one of the key things is that finds me in wholehearted agreement with the author is that we are all afraid of discussing this openly, honestly and in public. While fear remains, we are never going to find a way forward.

So what can I do? I can steer a path away from the ethnic bias that is my YouTube channel list, I can move aside to explore other voices and other stories separate from my own. I can strive – not to judge others, be that the person walking towards me on the street or the mother in the supermarket with the screaming toddler.

Here is the finished dress – it is always wonderful to stitch and have something to show at the end of the day. Its the same Kate Dress pattern I have used a lot – the style suits me so well – this time I chose to make a long ankle length version in a drapey stretch cotton.

Have a good week

Adventures, book review

Believe Me by JP Delaney – book review

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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.

 

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, book review, Books, brooch, charity finds, charity shop finds, contentment, craft projects, diets, domesticiy, embellishments, embroidery, felt, food, frill edge crochet, hand made, hand sewing, hand stitched, happiness, health, health foods, healthy, healthy eating, home baking, home made, home made gifts, home sewing, London, making the most of life., novel, reading, recipe, simple pleasures, simplicity, stitching, Sunday Sevens, weekend

Sunday Sevens 19th August – Almond milk, embroidery and black magic

Roses in rose bowl

It has been a busy week and what weather we are having! Sunny days interspersed with rain it is nice to be back to our normal temperatures and see the grass turning green again!  I’ve escaped the four walls nearly every day this week – friends have been so kind to pop by and take me out for a bit. I am walking on crutches so I am somewhat  of a liability – especially as Thursday was raining cats and dogs – but it has been great to catch up with good friends and be a lady who lunches for a while! I have also been showered with more flowers! I bought this rose bowl in a charity shop some years ago – its crystal and was a bargain for about a fiver. I have used it often as it makes displaying flowers so easy as the grid holds the heads nicely.

mini heart brooch pincushion

We had a family gathering recently I wanted to make something to give as well as the usual gift. As she is a stitcher I decided to make a little heart brooch pincushion. I am always losing pins no matter how many pincushions I have scattered around the craft room – so having a little brooch that travels with me, has been very useful. I love this little print and the flower sat so beautifully framed in the pink felt.

brooch pin cushion

Its tiny, only about 4inches by 2 and a half inches but it came out nicely. Ok, I will admit I got carried away with the embroidery bit – I was watching Bletchley and the story tension was building so I was stitching faster! I crocheted a little border round the edge which seemed to finish it off nicely. I do adore Petra Cotton Perle – it is lovely to embroider with. Thankfully the gift was appreciated – which is always a bonus!

make a wish - dandilion embroidery

It is difficult to capture this little embroidery that hangs above this little heart, it is only 2inches – it is a dandelion head worked over fine organza. When I am eating it looks as if I have captured a lovely seed head in a frame, but photographs just don’t seem to come out right.

Dandilion embroidery

Stitching on such a see through background is more difficult and messy than I hoped, and looking so closely at the embroidery – doesn’t really capture how effective it is when viewed from a distance. It took me less than an hour to do but it really does please me.

moon over soho ben aaronovitch

Moon over Soho is the second book from Ben Aaronovitch – I am delighted to see that there are a few more books already out in this Series.  I have become rather fond of DC Grant, – his sardonic humour is delightful, the police procedure and social commentary makes me giggle. Not to mention the mix of the magical in every day cynical London life.

The 1960s planning department of local council whose unofficial motto was Finishing what the Lufftwaffe started…

Some things never change, and a senior police officer doesn’t organise a costly raid and admit to failure, or violating the Magna Carta, until he has done his best to convict somebody of something.

I think this book follows on very well from the first one – and we are now introduced to our ‘modern day Moriarty’ in the form of a Black Magician who managed to escape this time, so I am keen to read the next book. I don’t think it will be long before we see this series televised – it is that good! although they might need some really good special effects to do it justice.

Oh and the little fox brooch was a tiny fabric illustration of the fox cushions I made for my daughter – I could not let it go to waste so I made it into a little brooch. It is lovely to have time to stitch.

almond milk

I made a huge mistake buying some ‘almond milk’ in the supermarket a few weeks back – It was basically water with a hint of almond – I am shocked they can get away with it – the almonds make up less than 5% of of the overall ‘almond milk’ – making it 95% water. So I decided to make some of my own and it is really easy, tastes delicious and is much cheaper.

Simply place a bowl full of almonds (I used the skin on) in water for 24 hours. The nuts plump up and actually taste nicer!

Then add a teaspoon of vanilla extract a couple of dates (to sweeten it a little) your nuts and water to a blender and blend for about a minute. Push through a fine sieve to remove the skins. (I think I might try the almonds without skins next time!)

I found my almond milk was very thick so I did a few more whizzes using the stuff left in the sieve and additional water. It still looked like milk after the third time and my home made milk was more creamy than the shop bought one. It is nice for cereals but I don’t think it would work in coffee or tea!

Sunday Sevens, your week summed up in photographs,  is the brainchild of Nat at Threads and bobbins – you can find her site here.

Have a lovely weekend.

x

 

 

 

Adventures, book groups, book review, Books, self acceptance, self love

Sunday Sevens – book reviews

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I’ve struggled a little with the concept of Sunday Sevens because in all honesty my life is pretty ordinary and not all that exciting, but I enjoy reading other bloggers posts and it is only fair to share. All in all, its been a pretty quiet week – no migraines thankfully! so I thought I would use the opportunity to write a little book review and a few of the simple things that have given me pleasure this week.

 

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Firstly, I am really enjoying this Sencha Sakura Green Tea from Char in Winchester. It is a scented tea – and has a delicate cherry flavour that is simply divine! perfect for Spring.

Rivers of London Book review

I really enjoyed this book! Right from the beginning I felt incredibly sorry for the protagonist – DC Peter Grant – he has a sardonic humour! To quote the blurb… Meet DC Peter Grant he will show you his city. But it’s not the capital that you all see as you make your journey from Tube to Bus, from elephant to castle. It’s a city that under its dark surface is packed full of crime. And of magic. A city that you never expected…

This is a wonderful book, (I am delighted that this is the first in a series) it has been described as Whitechapel mixed with Harry Potter – it is a great imaginative mix. There are the vampires living in a basement, a witness to a murder comes forward .. the only problem is the witness is ‘corporeally challenged’ as in not having a body because he is a ghost. It is a really good read and one that will keep you turning the pages.

Self care revolution

There are so many books on Self Care at the moment – many of which I have passed over because they are pretty thick and to be honest… boring. This one stands out because there is a lot of pictures… and I do love pictures! There is a lot of wisdom in the pages, but it is laid out in such a way that you can take chunks at a time for example there are a couple of yoga poses that could be done before bed. They take ten minutes and it has helped me achieve the desire to do more yoga because its achievable – I found the hour and a half sessions I attended a struggle if I am honest! but ten minutes before bed, four restorative poses – that is achievable!

There are various sections covering all aspects of good living – movement and nutrition, sleep rest and relaxation, coping skills, physical environment, social connections, mood boosters, goal setting and accomplishments and finally values and purpose.

It is written with such honesty, the author was in need herself – and she is honest about her depression which helps. Sometimes self help books are written in such a way that you feel the author has never had a problem – but Suzy Reading is open about her own journey which seems to make the advice more authentic.

The Simple Home Book Review

I had to have this book as a physical book because I bought Rhonda’s simple living on my kindle and really wished I had bought the book. Rhonda gave up the rat race of life.. realised that the key to freedom lay in living simply – within your means and cutting back on all the should haves and must haves. She writes a great blog, down to earth about her life growing their own vegetables and making her own bread. This book is set out in home making areas by season. (although you have to tweak it a little because we are in the northern hemisphere)

A month to month guide to self reliance, productivity and contentment.. With all the talk of financial uncertainty, sky-high property prices – I know this book can help people, you and older, live well in difficult times. There needs to be a way forward that gives ordinary folk the power to choose family and home life instead of intense consumerism and the bleak consequences of it. Living simply can e that way forward.

It is so easy to underestimate just how our lives are tethered to a consumerist culture.. the must have phone upgrades that have us in debt for another couple of years, the lifestyles pumped into our living spaces unconsciously by Television programming as well as advertising. Not to forget that since the introduction of the national curriculum – independent living skills have been virtually eradicated from education – instead of spending 6 weeks a year learning to cook, children spend most of that time designing packaging for their food product – running an imaginary food company. Debt has become a way of living and shopping a way to pass time – made even easier at a click of a button. What we don’t realise is that it takes our lives away, we are selling our time and future for items that really don’t matter. Living within your means without debt – is the way to freedom. Eating food made from scratch – is taking back the control for your health.

ok… rant over. This book is awesome – I am only disappointed that I can’t have chickens anymore!

Paris Undressed Book

In America women save their best lingerie for date night or Valentines day. French women don’t need a special occasion or permission. They resist cookie cutter definitions and labels for love. Why put a quota on pleasure? If lingerie feels good next to your skin, why not wear it as much as possible? Life is the special occasion. Today. Right here. Right now.

We pretty much follow our American cousins when it comes to lingerie – and so lingerie shopping in the UK is very limited. I have to admit I am ashamed of the underwear I reach for every day – its not pretty but it is – thankfully comfortable!

I am certain I am not alone – I have piles of bras that I have worn that have tortured my body until I can bare it no more… it is why I have now taken the sum total of five bra making courses! Yet I the perfect bra seems to elude me! I have a large pile of toile bras that simply don’t fit well either…

But here lies the problem.. French Women spend a lot of money on their lingerie and they have a wide choice of shops to choose from. Here I pick up a £3.00 bra in Sainsbury’s and wonder why the blasted thing is so irritatingly uncomfortable before chucking it on the ever growing pile of torture devices that I hide in overflowing drawers.

Its not just not as simple as Kathryn kemp-Griffin makes out – I’ve visited Agent Provocateur and spent a lot of money on lingerie and yes, you can tell the difference in quality, but sadly, what lingerie manufacturers don’t seem to understand is that women above size 10 would like something beautiful. And yes, women with a cleavage a bit bigger than a D cup would like the same amount of pretty lace and bows that you get on a double AA cup! Why does it all disappear after C I wonder?

ok… yet another rant over.. !

There is a lingerie shop near where I get my hair done… I will make an appointment and let you know how it goes. I really would like to believe that it is as easy as Kathryn kemp-suggests – lots of beautiful lingerie that is comfortable and pleasurable next to the skin!

This book does suggest the holy grail of comfortable underwear exists.. you just have to visit Paris … !

Emotional Sensitivity Book review

This little book rocked my world and has helped me more than all the growing self help books on my shelves. I am an Highly Sensitive Person – its a bit like having extra sensory perception and it does make life incredibly hard sometimes.

I have to admit, there were early chapters in this book that brought tears to my eyes. Imo Lo knows a great deal about her subject – because finally a lot of my painful past not only made more sense but I realised I was not alone – that there are others who also struggle.

There is great practical advice – how to look after yourself, how not to close down and shut off all feeling. Being HSP means that if you sit with an angry person – you feel their anger, their rage, it is uncomfortable – it is painful and it is overwhelming at times. It means you cannot hurt someone – no matter how much they deserve it, without feeling that hurt too. So it makes you very vulnerable – and a target that seems to bring out the bully in a lot of people.

I cannot recommend this book enough – it is practical and offers strategies that give me hope.

Be Gentle to yourself

I have finished another little quilt – these little sewing meditations are soothing and relaxing. You can read about my first little quilt here.

 

Adventures, book review

The Handmaid’s Tale – book review.

 

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I had heard about this book in the 1980s when it was first published, I remember being intrigued by the concept, but I never quite got round to reading it. I caught the first episode of the latest series – and decided to watch no more until I had read the book.

I know its been said many times – the book format gives a richer experience for me, more intimate than watching a TV screen, but I have to admit Elizabeth Moss was a perfect choice for the adaptation.

The Republic of Gilead offers Offred only one function: to breed. If she deviates, she will, like dissenters, be hanged at the wall or sent out to die slowly of radiation sickness. But even a repressive state cannot obliterate desire – neither Offred’s nor that of the two men on which her future hangs. Brilliantly conceived and executed, this powerful evocation of twenty-first century America gives full rein to Margaret Atwood’s devastating irony, wit and astute perception

My respect to Atwood, it is an engaging stifling mesmerising tale – Offred is a survivor, she does not allow herself to think or remember her life before the regime, but it is through the memories that the full story emerges, layer by layer. We go back and forth in time, and the way media is used and manipulated to shape minds, is astounding. Long before sound bites and facebook, it is shocking to see how easily it can all come true.

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When Attwood wrote this book, she was in Germany – Eastern Germany still had repressive regimes and the fear of being arrested for crimes against the state were her inspiration.

Back in the early 1980’s there were no cameras monitoring the streets – no google data collection nor email monitoring. A couple of years ago, a scandal in this country involved under cover policemen living double lives for years with female feminist activists.

“It was after the catastrophe, when they shot the President and machine-gunned the Congress and the army declared a state of emergency. They blamed it on the Islamic fanatics, at the time.

“Keep calm, they said on television. Everything is under control. I was stunned. Everyone was, I know that. It was hard to believe. The entire government, just like that. How did they get in, how did it happen?

“That was when they suspended the Constitution. They said it would be temporary. There wasn’t even any rioting in the streets. People stayed home at night, watching television, looking for some direction. There wasn’t even an enemy you could put your finger on.”

Attwood’s words are chilling – because it seems we have become a society that rarely questions. Our screens are full of celebrities in jungles or dancing, children don’t want to change the world -they want to be famous.

This book has reminded me – of the school child who enjoyed political debates and believed that society needed to change, needed equality – and now, thirty years later the gap between rich and poor is widening again and I wonder where that idealistic teenager went? It feels good to consider something deeper and it is definitely thought provoking.

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If nothing else, this book shows us just how close we are to things tipping the balance and it is scary and frightening. The narrative tension never lets up, there is a pervading fear – that seeps off the page. The suffocating restriction of Offred’s life, where time hangs heavy – but there is nothing else to do but remember.

The ending is a a mark of genius, the epilogue allows us a widening view, and the ability to create our own ending.

Yes, the book does offer a deeper experience, but I will try and catch up with the television series – if nothing else it has created a debate.

Thirty years after publication and it is deservedly on the top sellers list.

 

 

 

 

 

Adventures, book review

The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney – book review

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The blurb….

Emma
Reeling from a traumatic break-in, Emma wants a new place to live. But none of the apartments she sees are affordable or feel safe. Until One Folgate Street. The house is an architectural masterpiece: a minimalist design of pale stone, plate glass, and soaring ceilings. But there are rules. The enigmatic architect who designed the house retains full control: no books, no throw pillows, no photos or clutter or personal effects of any kind. The space is intended to transform its occupant—and it does.

Jane
After a personal tragedy, Jane needs a fresh start. When she finds One Folgate Street she is instantly drawn to the space—and to its aloof but seductive creator. Moving in, Jane soon learns about the untimely death of the home’s previous tenant, a woman similar to Jane in age and appearance. As Jane tries to untangle truth from lies, she unwittingly follows the same patterns, makes the same choices, crosses paths with the same people, and experiences the same terror, as the girl before.

Book Review

 

My review….

Wow! What a read! haven’t enjoyed a book since than Girl on a Train.. this kept me gripped so much that I completed it in 24 hours! I really enjoyed it – the tension continued throughout – and I liked the double narrative – ‘ Then’ – Emma’s story – ‘Now’ Jane’s story. The two women had very distinct personalities; they each went through similar experiences but their reactions were different. One example is the Sushi restaurant they are taken to by Edward – I found I related much more to Jane’s reaction than Emma.

Both women were recovering from a recent trauma – Emma having an intruder in her flat in the middle of the night and Jane – after losing a still birth.

The house appears to offer a place of recovery – the clean lines and uncluttered space is reflective of a monk’s cell – austere but with its own sense of serenity. The technology in the house is designed to intuitively support the needs of the occupants – shower settings are automatically adjusted each time to the person’s preferences.

However, the technology becomes oppressive – Jane finds services are withheld until she completes on going psychological tests – each of the questions are moral debates and add to the tension as the questions become more intrusive. The house also completes health checks and monitors overall wellbeing into a quantifiable score – Jane is expected to adjust to improve her scores.

The book blurb linked this with Girl on a Train (which I also loved) and Fifty Shades of Grey… (which almost put me off – I despised that book because it was so awful!) Yet, Edward Montford is a controlling character – JP Delaney understands dominant controlling behaviour and uses it very effectively. Edward has power – his designs have made him wealthy, he is good looking and he is also a perfectionist – which makes him quite an interesting character. I agree that there are also similarities between Girl on a Train… but I don’t want to spoil the read for you – so I won’t say why here.

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The story unravelled at quite a pace – I loved the way the two characters experiences were similar and the way they engaged in a relationship with Edward – kept the tension. Edward had exacting standards – the conditions of living in the house were a huge list of rules – and the women sought to meet those exacting standards.

The plot twists were interesting – and the tension built nicely – I could not put the book down! The conclusion was satisfying – I won’t say any more as I don’t want to spoil it for you!

The only negative thing I can say about this book is that I hate it when they use Americanisms… this is set in London, the story is English why then, does Jane refer to her bangs rather than her fringe? Surely American readers would be able to look it up – if they don’t know what a fringe is?

J.P Delaney is a skilful writer, although Good Reads describes them as

J. P. Delaney is the pseudonym of a writer who has previously published best-selling fiction under another name.

I also note there is another book written under this name… which is great news! Clicking on Amazon as soon as I have finished this review.

The book is going to made into a film.. please leave it in London not New York like The Girl on the Train… !

Overall – five gold stars – ten out of ten -quite brilliant!

 

book groups, book review, Books

The Dress Shop of Dreams – Menna Van Praag book review

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This is the second book I have read from this author – she creates such cosy worlds full of kind people. The dress shop in question is magical – when a woman tries on one of the beautiful silk dresses – she is clothed in the confidence and beauty to attain her dreams – which mostly revolve around finding love.

This book is about love and loss and finding your way. It is full of kind hearted people who for many reasons are lost. Cora – a scientist has closed off her heart after the tragic death of her parents – begins to remember what happened that night and decides to get to the bottom of the mystery.

Walt – the owner of the nearby bookstore – makes the most delicious cherry pies – has been in love with Cora all his life – but Cora seems immune to his advances. He reads books on the local radio – and his deep voice draws may admiring letters which Walt has no interest in responding to. Dylan – the radio producer begins to write back to some of the ladies – and finds love.

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The shop owner – Etta – who is also Cora’s grandmother – is pining for a lost love years ago – and while she can stitch magic into the dresses that bring out confidence and beauty in every woman – she can’t help herself.

All these lovely broken people – somehow navigate their way through the book to a satisfying ending. This is a tale about love, loss and recovery and finding the courage to love again.

These books are a great escape and enjoyable to read – I intend to read another of her books soon.

Adventures, book groups, book review, Books

Menna Van Praag – Lost Art of Letter writing book review

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I can’t recall how I stumbled across this author, but I am so glad I did, if you enjoyed Chocolat then this author is going to really delight the senses – she writes joyful tales that include just a sprinkling of magic, in the same way that Chocolat does – its believable magic, that hint that somewhere out there is a force for good.

I don’t know about you, but with all that is going on in the world, I find I want to escape into a good book, where people are kind, and there is hope – Menna’s writing is just such an escape and the settings she chooses for her tales are so close to my heart that I find them irresistible.

Letter writing

The Lost Art of Letter Writing begins with a tiny, shop tucked away in the Cambridge, it contains beautiful paper, pens and a magical writing desk. Clara the shop owner walks the streets after closing – observing the inhabitants and then writes them letters of encouragement – these letters give hope or support – what ever she is drawn to write.

However, waiting for her is her own mystery, a discovery of a box of letters that send Clara on an adventure beyond the four walls of the shop. It is not just her story, there is a mix of other stories interwoven – the people Clara sends encouraging letters to – which fragmented the story a little.

However, it is a pleasurable read, one that I could recommend.