September 2023

September 2023 - Book Reviews

September 2023 – Book Reviews

Welcome once again to our monthly book reviews blog post. As autumn graces us with its presence, bringing cooler days and crisper nights, there’s no better moment to embrace the warmth of a captivating book. In this month’s edition of “September 2023 – Book Reviews”, we invite you to join us on a literary journey through the pages of the latest reads that have captured our attention. Additionally, we’ll share an honest review of a book that, regrettably, fell short of our expectations. So, grab your cosiest blanket and let’s immerse ourselves in the literary wonders that await. Navigating The September Frenzy September brought about a whirlwind of busyness. Back-to-school to-do lists along with back-to-work nerves, doctor and dentist appointments, my son’s birthday and my daughter embarking on her year-long adventure in Cardiff, coupled with falling prey to the horrid flu, my schedule left me with scarcely a moment to spare. However, during moments of stress and uncertainty reading is what carried me through.  Despite my time constraints and opting for slightly shorter books this month, the sheer joy of reading remained unwavering. There was one book in particular that captivated me for 17 days straight. Omg, what a book! For 17 days I was completely enthralled by the magnificent storytelling. Want to know what book I’m on about? Keep reading!  Now, let’s dive into my September 2023 book reviews: 1. Divine Rivals – Rebecca Ross Synopsis: At the tender age of eighteen, Iris nurtures aspirations of her writing making a meaningful impact someday. In the midst of an epic struggle among deities, she secures a prestigious position at the Oath Gazette, her gateway to influence. However, within the confines of her home, her life is unravelling. Her brother remains unaccounted for on the front lines and her mother grapples with addiction, veiled in a disorienting fog. Night after night, Iris pens heartfelt letters to her absent sibling, never anticipating a response. Yet, these heartfelt missives have found an unexpected recipient, the very last person Iris would confide in—Roman Kitt, her cold and unforgiving rival at the Gazette. Review: If I had to use one single word to describe this story, it would have to be captivating. Loosely set in Edwardian England/ World War 1 era, with a fantasy twist.  Divine Rivals has a timeless feel to it. A tale delicately woven around the ugliness of war, interwoven with the joy of a blossoming romance. Compelling Characters Worth Falling For The characters are so well-developed. Ross’s writing enabled us to see and experience the many layers within each of them, especially Iris and Roman. There was a rawness to them,  a quality that’s challenging to put into words. Flawed yet strong, confident tinged with a hint of self-doubt, and despite their fears, they cling desperately to their frail threads of courage. These characters are perfection as far as book characters go.  A Skillfully Crafted Plot The plot was skillfully crafted and maintained an appropriate pace for a book of this calibre. After all, literary masterpieces cannot and should not be rushed, and, as it turns out, this book is pretty much just that—a masterpiece. As previously mentioned, it took me 17 days to read this book. However, I felt compelled to thoroughly digest every single word on its pages and savour the delight of its exceptional storytelling. One of my favourite aspects was the inclusion of both men and women in the army during their war. Which, as we well know,  back in the WW1 era would have been unheard of.  I appreciate the author’s unique take on the war narrative. Rather than portraying human beings in conflict, tearing the world apart, she introduces the concept of powerful Gods. While I would have liked to witness more of the action on the war front, I understand that doing so might have diminished the focus on the real story and its underlying message. Courage and love will always prevail over fear and greed.  Masterfully Crafted World-Building The world-building was beautifully executed. I am a lover of historical fiction, throw in some fantasy and you have me drooling.  The likes of TV Shows like Downton Abbey or Call The Midwife are some of my all-time favourites, and this book did not disappoint in giving me all the feels. Sometimes an author will try hard to set a book in a certain era but doesn’t really accomplish the desired effect. I must say, this author truly hit the nail right on the head. If you fancy being enchanted by a story that will transport you to another time, featuring relatable characters and a well-paced plot, then I wholeheartedly recommend giving Divine Rivals a try.  The second book, Ruthless Vows is set to be published on 4th January 2024, and I can’t wait to dive back into the tale of Iris and Roman. 2. The Bookstore Sisters – Alice Hoffman Synopsis: An emotionally charged short narrative delving into themes of family, independence, and discovering one’s role in the world. Meet Isabel Gibson, a seasoned practitioner in the art of forgetting. She’s transformed herself into a quintessential New Yorker, severing nearly all ties to her Brinkley’s Island, Maine origins. Her parents are gone, the family bookstore teeters on the brink of financial ruin, and her sister, Sophie, seems irreparably distant. Yet, a cryptic missive materializes in her mailbox, tugging at the threads of her past. After years of relentless pursuit of autonomy, Isabel recoils at the notion of returning to the island. What awaits her there, however, could redefine her trajectory and shatter preconceptions about her family, her homeland, and her very identity. Review: One way to describe this book, aside from its brevity (36 pages) is its charm. When I picked it up I was in need of something short and sweet, with minimal world-building and a single POV. And this book delivered just that. It took me less than an hour to read, and it’s not only well-written but also nicely executed

September 2023 – Book Reviews Read More »

Sunday Roast - A Family Tradition

Sunday Roast – A Family Tradition

There is nothing I love more than gathering around the table with my family for a delicious home-cooked meal.  However, the fast pace we live our lives means that this is not a daily (or indeed a weekly) occurrence.  On weekdays there is always something going on.  We rush home from work and on most days there will be after-school activities we need to get to.  Football practice and matches, swimming practice, cubs and scouts.  By the time we get back home, there is homework to be done and the cooking cannot involve an elaborate meal.  In the week we inevitably eat on the sofa off of a tray.  This is why I love when the weather turns colder and we can finally start looking forward to our delicious Sunday roast meals. For many, the traditional British Sunday roast is more than just a meal. It is a ritual that brings generations together, creating lasting memories and fostering a sense of togetherness. I always remember “helping” my gran make the Sunday roast when I was a little girl.  I have vivid memories of her slow cooking a leg of lamb whilst we watched Formula 1 and me “helping” by acting as the quality controller – yes, trying the food before everyone else.  The best bit was I got the best part of the lamb without giving anybody else a chance and you would always find me hovering around the gravy pan to get first dibs on that too.  A Sunday roast was always a special meal to enjoy as a family and it is still one of my favourite meals. A Glimpse into the Past: The History of Sunday Roasts The tradition of the Sunday roast dates back centuries.  It is believed that the tradition of roast beef on a Sunday stems back to the 15th century under the rule of King Henry VII.  With the King’s guards enjoying a roast beef meal following Church on Sundays they earned the nickname “beefeaters”.  Over time, the practice evolved into a culinary custom that celebrated both food and family. Traditionally, a Sunday roast would be a reflection of the local produce and seasonable ingredients.  Whether the meal would feature beef, lamb, or chicken as the centrepiece was therefore dependent on the time of year.  Accompaniments would also include seasonal vegetables, potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, and gravy. Nowadays though the choice of meat and vegetables usually comes down to personal preference. The Chosen Delight: Pork Roast with all the Trimmings Among the various delectable options available, our family favourite is a mouth-watering pork roast accompanied by an array of tantalising trimmings.  As the rich aroma of roasting pork fills our home, we’re reminded of countless Sundays spent gathering around the dining table. We are not the Brady bunch so some of these memories are good, some are funny and some well, let’s just say that some, like the boys recreating every WWE sequence known to man whilst we are cooking, are best forgotten.  Cooking the perfect Sunday roast takes time and sometimes during this time, it seems as if our boys are engaging in World War III!  Does that ring true with any of you? At our house cooking the Sunday roast is a two-person endeavour.  Dani meticulously prepares, seasons, and roasts the pork to perfection.  He always makes sure that there is crispy crackling and uses the meat’s savoury juices to form the basis of a delicious gravy. But the pork is only the beginning.  No Sunday roast can be complete without delicious accompaniments.  This is where I come in. The Classic Trimmings When you think of a Sunday roast what do you think of?  The meat of course, but golden, crispy Yorkshire puddings, fluffy yet slightly crispy on the outside are a must, right?  Traditionally yorkshire puddings were served as a starter with lots of gravy.  The reason for this of course was that meat was more expensive and by serving the yorkshires first it was hoped that you would be too full to eat too much meat!.  Yorkshire puddings were also only served with beef but nowadays they are served with any roast meal.  Rightfully so in my opinion – I absolutely love Yorkshire puddings! Next are the roasties.  Delicious roasted potatoes with a vibrant medley of seasonal vegetables such as carrots, creamed leeks and parsnips all add to the perfect Sunday family meal. Homemade Bliss Over Dining Out While many establishments offer enticing deals on Sunday roasts we find that nothing can beat our homemade Sunday roast.  The kitchen may be a whirlwind of activity, with pots and pans clattering and surfaces dusted with flour, but the process itself is an opportunity for bonding and collaboration (yes, despite the World War III scenarios I mentioned above!).  Soggy Boiled Vegetables vs. Vibrant Roasted Medley One of the highlights of our homemade Sunday roast lies in the vibrant assortment of vegetables. While dining out often means encountering soggy, over-boiled veggies, our home-cooked feast offers a burst of colours and flavours. Not a boiled vegetable in sight!  Roasting or sauteing the veggies intensifies their natural sweetness creating side dishes that are just as eagerly anticipated as the main roast itself. Our Perfect Sunday Roast Menu To celebrate the end of British Food Fortnight, we share our perfect Sunday roast.  For us, the perfect Sunday roast must include: Roast Pork and Gravy We have been making this delicious roast pork and gravy using Jamie Oliver’s recipe for some time now.  It is absolutely wonderful.  Roast Potatoes It might seem easier to buy some frozen roast potatoes but believe me, it is worth the effort of making your own.   You can do this in a conventional oven or an air fryer.  I have invested in this Ninja Air Fryer for my family and it is becoming a firm favourite. Ingredients Instructions If you would like to make your roast potatoes in an air fryer (definitely healthier as you will not need much oil) follow

Sunday Roast – A Family Tradition Read More »

passport, map, world-2714675.jpg

The Joys and Benefits of Travelling

As we celebrate World Tourism Day, there’s no better time to reflect on the joys and benefits of travelling. Whether it’s discovering new cultures, savouring exotic cuisines, or simply escaping the routine, travel enriches our lives in countless ways. So, close your eyes for a moment and imagine: where would you go if money was no obstacle? It’s a question that can ignite your wanderlust and inspire great adventures. Family Vacation Bucket List This summer my family and I cruised around the Mediterranean.  Cruising is a great way to see snippets of lots of different countries in a short period of time.  You can get a feel for the place and then research it further to return for longer periods for future holidays.  I find that a travel planner such as this one is perfect for keeping track of all your research.  Whilst dining one evening my youngest son told us how much he was enjoying being able to visit so many new countries.  This led us to an interesting conversation where we all came up with the top ten places we want to visit and we now have our very own family vacation bucket list. Travelling as a family allows us to bond over shared experiences and create lasting memories together. This is the Wink family vacation bucket list.  We have ticked off Greece and Croatia after our holiday this year but they are both places we want to explore more fully.  France is also a place we need to revisit as we have only really been to Paris (briefly) and EuroDisney. My Favourite Destination To Date: Lake Tahoe While every destination has its own unique charm, my family and I absolutely adore Lake Tahoe.  During our road trip to the USA’s West Coast last year, Lake Tahoe quickly became one of our favourite places visited to date. Lake Tahoe is truly breathtaking. Its crystal clear, cobalt blue water frames by the Sierra Nevada mountains provide almost 360-degree postcard-worthy views.  Unfortunately, we only had two days to enjoy this stunning piece of the world and it was extremely difficult to leave after such a short period, knowing that there was so much more to see.  We even spent some time thinking about what part of our road trip we could change just to be able to stay longer in this idyllic location.  However, that would have been a logistical nightmare to co-ordinate and we continued with our road trip as originally planned.  Thankfully, the next leg after Lake Tahoe was the equally impressive and peaceful Yosemite National Park. We highly recommend visiting both of these places if you want beautiful vistas and true tranquillity. My whole family agrees that we will most certainly be returning to both Lake Tahoe and Yosemite as soon as possible.   Benefits of Travelling I think that we can all agree that travelling is one of the most enjoyable things we can do.  I mean, who doesn’t like exploring this beautiful planet?  Travelling offers a wide range of benefits, both physical and mental, and can be an enriching and transformative experience. Here’s a list of some of our key joys and benefits of travelling: Bon Voyage Whether you’re a city lover, nature enthusiast, a history buff, or simply seeking relaxation, there’s a travel experience for you.  The key is to plan and most importantly enjoy! Sharing Is Caring: Related Articles You Might Enjoy:

The Joys and Benefits of Travelling Read More »

Following Your Dreams: The Key To A Happy Life

Following Your Dreams: The Key To A Happy Life

On September 25th, we celebrate World Dream Day. In this blog post, we delve into the profound significance of following your dreams, unravelling the transformative power they hold in shaping not only your destiny but also your very identity. Join us in celebrating this wonderful day, and let us embrace our dreams as the compass that can guide us towards a life of fulfilment and meaning. What Are Dreams?  Life is a grand tapestry, and dreams are the threads that weave our unique stories. They are the spark that inspires the fuel for our passion. Our guiding star in a world that grows uglier by the minute. Dreams are the one thing that carries us forward, separating us from the adulting. It enhances our life with purpose and focus, making us feel alive. It gives us hope, even when we feel hopeless. Dreams take us back to the yesteryears when we didn’t know any better before life happened and we had to grow up, leaving behind those dreams that kept us hopeful for a bright future.  Childhood Dreams As a child life felt like a blank canvas of dreams waiting to be painted. My childhood and teen years were spent in faraway lands, dreaming of dragons and magic. Crafting epic heroines and conjuring magical worlds that defied the laws of nature. My imagination knew no boundaries.   My dreams have evolved over the years. I went from wanting to be a teacher to dreaming of becoming the next Whitney Houston or Mariah Carey, and eventually, to aspiring to become a best-selling author. Teaching turned out to be unrealistic for me, as I soon realized I couldn’t handle being surrounded by people for extended periods. Singing was something I truly enjoyed, and I still do to this day, but let’s be realistic – I’m no Whitney Houston. My Biggest Dream The writing dream though, was and still is my most treasured dream. However, no matter how much I used to write, whether in my diary as a little girl, or drafting made-up stories, I never believed I was good enough. I honestly didn’t think I could pull it off.  I grew up in a realist home. My father came from a generation that believed that women belonged in the house, taking care of the husband and the children. Whilst he didn’t exactly wish that for me, he did make it quite clear that all I needed to succeed in life was a job, a home and a husband. And for a while (and by a while, I mean twenty years) that is exactly what I did. Until….I didn’t.   Spreading My Wings and Believing I Could This past year has been one massive lesson. I acquired new skills and learned how to navigate rough waters with grace and a smile on my face, but mostly I learned that I had wings, and I could fly.  Launching The Opinionated Magpies, Lifestyle blog has been a dream come true, as well as a Godsend. It has given me a purpose, even on those days when darkness overshadowed my focus. I came to the profound realization that I could achieve anything I set my mind to. Thus, I embarked on a journey to revive long-forgotten dreams, embracing the opportunity with newfound determination. And although it’s still early days, my dreams are now bigger than ever and my will mightier.  Why It’s Vital To Follow Your Heart Let’s dive into the profound reasons that make chasing your aspirations an essential part of a fulfilling life. 1. Passion Ignites Purpose Allowing yourself to get excited about those forgotten dreams, will bring a new purpose and focus into your life. Remember the excitement when you were a kid? Wouldn’t you want to feel that again? Waking up every day with a fire in your belly.  Feeling so passionate about something, that it doesn’t feel like a chore. In fact, far from it, it becomes an avenue for self-expression and growth. 2. Unleash Your Potential We all possess unique talents and skills. A well of creativity waiting to be unleashed. When you decide to follow your heart and work hard for your dreams, the gateway to your full potential is unlocked. Align your actions with your passions and discover hidden abilities and strengths you never knew existed.  3. Overcoming Obstacles Builds Resilience If I had a penny for every time I shouted out ‘I give up’ whilst designing our website, I would be a millionaire by now. However, I knew my desire to follow my dream was stronger than my frustrations. Failing is part of learning. You will always learn more from failures than from success… least that’s what Ed Sheeran says. I totally agree with him. Pursuing your dreams does not guarantee smooth sailing. On the contrary, challenges and setbacks will always surface. It’s how you deal with them that counts. They will teach you the power of resilience, perseverance, and the art of adaptability. Overcome them and you will grow stronger and more resilient, equipping yourself to face future challenges with confidence.  4. A Life Of Regret vs. A Life Well-Lived As your final days approach, the last thing you’ll wish to confront are regrets. Regrets of missed opportunities, of not living the life you wanted to live, of not living up to your full potential. For me, I rather not have any regrets about not having tried. Following your dreams ensures that you live a life with fewer “what ifs” and more “I’m glad I did”. It’s an insurance policy against the sorrow of missed opportunities. 5. Inspiring Others You might not think so, but there will always be someone who is inspired by your actions. Following your dreams is more than just a personal pursuit; It’s a chance to inspire others, by boldly chasing your aspirations and becoming the living example of what’s possible.  Imagine if your actions encourage those around you to embrace their dreams and strive for their own greatness?? 6. The Joy Of

Following Your Dreams: The Key To A Happy Life Read More »

How To Read More Books

How To Read More Books: Bookworm 101

Would you love to dive into the magical world of books and become an avid reader? Whether you are a complete beginner or looking to rekindle your reading habit, we’ve got you covered! Reading isn’t just a hobby. It’s a delightful journey of the mind. My love of books is as strong as my need for oxygen, and I would love to be able to convince you, dear reader, to share that love. If you want to become a bookworm and learn how to read more books, then keep reading (no pun intended). Let’s explore the benefits of reading and tips on how to read more. Benefits Of Reading My Love Of Books Do you know how certain people are known for a particular trait? Like the person who loves cooking or baking, therefore, every Christmas most of the gifts they receive are cooking-related. Or the car aficionado, who watches all car-related documentaries on TV, or only shares posts about cars on their social media account? There are also those like my husband who loves anything having to do with sports. David loves flicking from one channel to the next, from golf to rugby, to football, to Formula 1. You name it, he knows the scores, he has an opinion.  I am known for my reading obsession. True enough these days I don’t read as much as I used to. Especially since starting this lifestyle blog. However, I still manage to read more than your average Joe. Friends tend to ask me, ‘How do you manage to read so much?’  For starters, my love of reading is my main driving force. It’s this thirst for stories and faraway lands that motivates me to make time every day for reading. A passion that has burned within me since my childhood days. As an adult, it has become a part of my self-care routine. A way to unwind and disconnect from the mundane. Spicing It Up Whilst fantasy books have always been my preferred genre, I have recently expanded my horizons and delved into contemporary fiction, thrillers, historical fiction, and the biggest surprise of them all……romance. This particular genre was one I would avoid at all costs during my twenties and early thirties. I suppose you could say I had lost faith in anything romance-related. All it would accomplish was a significant eye roll. Alas, bang into the middle of my forties, I’ve developed a love for the romance genre. Could it be related to my current personal relationship situation? Maybe! Maybe my husband has worked his magic, making me believe once again in happily ever afters. How To Read More Anyway to the topic at hand. On more than one occasion I have been approached and asked, ‘I would love to read more. How would I go about that?’ I, on the one hand, feel elated that they would come to me for advice. Being an avid reader is not a bad reputation to have I say. The same goes for the never-ending messages asking for recommendations on what to read next. I think it’s fabulous that someone would trust my judgment with their reading TBR. I have a few friends, (one in particular who might go by the name of Kat lol) who actually beg me to NOT recommend any more books because their TBR has grown exponentially and they are afraid they won’t have time in this lifetime to read them all. A sentiment shared by all proud bookworms I’m afraid. So many incredible books, yet so little time. So I’ve put together a collection of suggestions that, in my experience, can be quite beneficial if you’re aiming to read more books. Occasionally, I find myself implementing a few of these, with the ‘Stay Away From Social Media’ tip being particularly effective for me. So without further ado, let’s get to this list then – Bookworm 101: How to read more books: 1. Always Carry A Book With You – Or A Kindle  I mean, it might sound silly and for some, an obvious tip, but it really does put you ahead in your reading marathon. If, like myself, you always carry your Kindle in your bag, you will find that on those occasions when you are waiting in line, instead of checking Facebook reels on your phone, taking out your Kindle and reading is a much better option. It comes in pretty handy when I’m waiting for my dentist or doctor’s appointment, or when I’m in the frontier queue to cross from Gibraltar to Spain or vice versa. I kid you not, sometimes those queues can drag on for an hour if you are lucky. So what better way than to get some reading done?  Do you have a friend who is always late? (Or maybe you are the friend who is always late, hey I’m not judging) Well, I happen to have a few, so again……I might manage only a few pages, but that’s still progress. 2. Squeeze In Some Reading Time In The Morning Or Before Bed Yes I know, morning reading seems like an overwhelming hurdle. Unnecessary stress. However, I always manage half an hour every morning. I have a great morning routine which means I wake up extra early, enjoy some me time, and get some reading done, among other things.  However, most of my reading is done at night. Which can be a good thing, or not depends on how good the book is and how much you value sleep. I have been known to keep turning the pages when really immersed in a story. Which results in feeling extra tired when the morning rolls around, but hey, sometimes it is totally worth it.  Reading just before bed is a better option than scrolling through social media. Trust me. It allows you to switch off and relax, instead of filling your mind with useless information. I can guarantee you will enjoy better sleep quality if you read instead of overstimulating your mind

How To Read More Books: Bookworm 101 Read More »

White Velvet Cake

As I write this blog there is a sweet aroma of vanilla wafting through my kitchen as I make a white velvet cake covered with white chocolate ganache.  I have been planning on making a white chocolate cake in celebration of “White Chocolate Day” for some time so when I learnt that my workplace would be hosting our traditional fundraising “comelona” (or feast) in support of the victims of the recent earthquake in Morocco I decided that it was the perfect time to try out something new. As an Amazon Associate, we earn a commission from qualifying purchases.  Some of the links on this post are affiliate links.  This means that if you click on the link and make a purchase we may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Learn more here. Inspiration Before you first start blogging you can feel that you won’t have enough to have interesting content to post regularly.  When we first started writing we looked at social calendar days for inspiration.  It was a very interesting exercise and you may be surprised to learn that there are literally “celebration days” for practically everything you can think of.  In the US especially there are tons of such “holidays” – especially food holidays!  National Day of Popcorn, Peanut Butter, Pizza.  The list goes on and on and we added many of these days onto our own writing calendars for those times where we need a little more inspiration. National White Chocolate Day National White Chocolate Day, which happens to fall on the 22nd of September, is one of those themes we’ve been thinking of writing about for some time since white chocolate does not tend to be the most popular choice when thinking about chocolate.  In fact, white chocolate sales amount to only 10% of the overall chocolate sales market.  It certainly isn’t my top choice when I think of baking a cake but this month is the time to change that.   White Velvet Cake While many of you may be familiar with the iconic red velvet cake, the lesser-known yet equally delectable white velvet cake deserves its own moment in the spotlight.  Our white velvet and white chocolate ganache cake will certainly give your other chocolate cakes a run for their money and may well become a new family favourite. Ingredients Cooking Instructions Converted? I hope that this blog gives you inspiration to try something new.  Let us know if you have given this recipe a go and whether it now forms part of your baking repertoire. Donate If you would like to make a donation to the Morocco earthquake appeal click here.   Sharing Is Caring: Related Articles You Might Enjoy:

White Velvet Cake Read More »

Autumn Home Decoration Ideas

Whilst in this heat it may still seem like autumn is some time away, the days are already growing shorter.  Soon the air will become crisper and nature will begin its beautiful transformation.  As summer surrenders to autumn, the trees begin to undergo a breathtaking metamorphosis.  Their leaves will change from vibrant greens to a spectacular array of reds, oranges, yellows, and browns. The upcoming weeks are also the perfect time to start making our homes cosy for the colder nights to come.  In this blog post, we’ll explore creative home decoration ideas for autumn that will infuse your home with the rich essence of the season. Is it Autumn or Fall? Well of course there isn’t a “correct” or “incorrect” way to refer to a season. The choice between “autumn” and “fall” will generally come down to cultural and historical contexts, as well as one’s  personal preference. Each term carries its own charm and significance.   In Britain, “autumn,” stemming from the Latin word “autumnus,” is the given name to the season.  But this has not always been so.  In the past both harvest (referring of course to the harvesting of fruit and vegetables which takes place during these months) and fall have also been used.  It was not until the 1600s when British aristocracy and scholars began favouring the word “autumn.”  This choice was likely influenced by the classical languages and their lasting impact on education and literature. On the other side of the Atlantic, in North America, the term “fall” took root. Unlike “autumn,” “fall” does not have a direct classical origin. Instead, it is derived from the Old English word “feallan,” which means “to fall.” This name for the season directly alludes to the phenomenon of leaves falling from trees and the use of “fall” showcases language’s  tendency to describe aspects of the environment in a more direct and pragmatic manner. A Kaleidoscope of Colours Whilst the summer months call for light or bright colours and textures to either keep us cool or embrace the vibrancy of the season, autumn is the time for change.   Snuggle Time As the temperature drops, introduce cosy textures to your living space. Swap lightweight linens for plush throws and replace summery cushions with soft, knitted ones. Earthy tones and warm fabrics create a snug atmosphere that encourages relaxation.   I absolutely love snuggling up under a cosy throw whilst watching my favourite TV shows or reading a good book. This burnt orange, rust coloured throw   with a farmhouse style is perfect for adding both warmth and autumn tones. Add comfort by changing your scatter cushions with a mix of colours and textures.  I love adding some neutral-coloured cushion covers like these. I think these cushion covers are great from autumn all the way through to summer when you will want to move to some lighter materials.  Mix it up with some coloured cushions or some fall text cushions like these. Pumpkin Spice & Everything Nice:  Coffee Table Decor Just after lockdown we gave our living room a total makeover.  Changing the look from traditional, dark Mexican pine to bright, white furniture with clean lines.  I absolutely love this look and it is so easy to change the look further every season simply by changing the accessories.  On our coffee table, I keep a silver tray like this one.  When styling a tray such as this one, be sure to keep to the rule of three.  You should have no more than 3 other accessories on the tray and these should always be of differing heights.  This will create a unified and appealing effect. I like adding a pumpkin spice candle, some textured pumpkins  and finally a wooden plaque to bring it all together. Come Christmas and other holidays or seasons we will change the look simply by changing accessories on the tray.  Gather ‘Round The Dinner Table Keep your dinner table decoration simple so that you don’t need to faff about when you actually want to sit down to dinner,  We love this simple table runner and bring it together with a vase and flowers like these. Golden Glow Your side board is the perfect place to add some light. We are absolutely loving the look of this beautiful fall LED. Finish the look and keep to the rule of three by adding these faux books and decorative pumpkin.  Candles, Blankets and Magic Whilst there are still a few weeks of summer left, I am so looking forward to changing our living room look with these cosy autumn looks.  Hermit mode here I come! Sharing Is Caring: Related Articles You Might Enjoy:

Autumn Home Decoration Ideas Read More »

Get Cosy With These 15 Autumn Reads

Get Cosy With These 15 Autumn Reads

Let’s talk about my favourite season of the year: Autumn. With the leaves transforming into a stunning array of colors, the crisp and invigorating air, and the breathtaking red and orange sunsets, it feels like an invitation to snuggle up on my sofa with a delightful book and a warm cup of tea. Autumn brings along a feeling of fresh starts, providing the perfect opportunity to hit the reset button. Come September, I eagerly reassess my TBR list, ensuring to include some cosy Autumn reads. With this in mind, I have compiled a list of popular books with those cosy Autumn feels I love so much. Let’s get to it then, prepare to get cosy with these 15 Autumn Reads. Top 15 Autumn Reads 1. Mexican Gothic – Silvia Moreno Garcia – (Gothic Fiction) When Noemí Taboada, a well-known socialite, receives an urgent letter from her recently married cousin, asking her for help to escape an unfavourable fate, she wastes no time. She promptly sets off for High Place, an isolated mansion nestled in the Mexican countryside, driven by a determination to unravel the mystery that has gripped her cousin. Catalina, her cousin, has always had a fondness for the dramatic, but her allegations of poisoning by her husband and sightings of restless spirits prove astonishing, even for her. Noemí is undaunted, armed with her formidable strength and intelligence. She faces her cousin’s intimidating yet strangely captivating husband without fear. She’s equally unafraid of his father, an aged patriarch whose fascination with Noemí raises questions. Even the eerie mansion itself, which starts infiltrating Noemí’s dreams with haunting visions of blood and doom, fails to deter her. Her sole confidant in this forbidding estate is the youngest son of the family. He appears timid and kind, offering assistance, but there may be concealed secrets about his family’s past, their once-vast wealth, and a faded mining empire. As Noemí delves deeper into the mysteries of High Place, she uncovers tales of brutality and insanity. Soon, she might discover that escaping this enigmatic residence is a feat far more elusive than she ever imagined. 2. The Forgotten Garden – Kate Morton (Women’s Literacy Fiction) In 1913, on the brink of the First World War, a young girl is discovered, left to her own devices after a hard ocean voyage from England to Australia. Her memories of the journey are limited to the comforting promises of a mysterious woman. A woman she affectionately nicknames the Authoress, who pledged to care for her. Yet, the Authoress has inexplicably vanished. Leap forward to 1975, and Nell, now an elderly woman, embarks on a journey to England in search of the truth about her parentage. Her path guides her to the enchanting Blackhurst Manor in Cornwall. A property once owned by the Mountrachet family. What has prompted Nell’s quest, decades after the fact? Then, in 2005, following Nell’s passing, her granddaughter, Cassandra, unexpectedly inherits Cliff Cottage, nestled within the vast expanse of Blackhurst Manor’s grounds. Among the local community, Cliff Cottage is renowned for guarding the secrets of the ill-fated Mountrachet lineage. However, it is within the walls of this long-neglected cottage and its forgotten garden that Cassandra will ultimately unveil the truth. A truth concealed within the enigmatic history of the family and the heart-wrenching abandonment of young Nell many years ago. 3. The Ex Hex – Erlin Sterling – (Paranormal RomCom) Nine years ago, Vivienne Jones coped with her big breakup like a true witch: drinking vodka, an indulgent bubble bath, and a well-placed curse on her ex. Now, Rhys Penhallow, the ex and charming descendant of Graves Glen’s founders, returns to recharge ley lines and attend the fall festival. But his actions trigger disasters, making Vivi realize her hex wasn’t quite so harmless. The curse affects the town’s magic, causing murderous toys, an angry ghost, and a talkative cat. Vivi and Rhys must unite, overcoming personal issues, to break the curse. Their mission: save the town and Rhys’s life from impending doom. 4. The Guest List – Lucy Foley – (Horror/Suspense) On an island off the Irish coast, the stage is set for the wedding of Jules Keegan and Will Slater – the event of the year. Among the guests are old friends nursing grudges and seemingly happy families hiding jealousies. Thirteen guests gather, but their joy turns to dread when a lifeless body is found after the cutting of the wedding cake. With a fierce storm raging outside, they’re trapped. Each guest has a secret past, a motive. Yet, as the tempest mirrors their inner turmoil, one guest is bound to leave the celebration in a coffin. 5. The Midnight Library – Matt Haig – (Contemporary Fiction) Nora’s life is marked by continuous misfortunes. Yet, on her final earthly night, fate intervenes, and she undergoes a miraculous transformation. She finds herself within the hallowed halls of a mystical library. Within these sacred walls, she faces a unique opportunity: the chance to fix her regrets and explore different lives she could have led. This raises a profound question: In a world of endless choices, what path truly leads to fulfillment? 6. The Familiars – Stacey Halls – (Historical Fiction) At 17, Fleetwood Shuttleworth faces a complex situation. She’s married, expecting her fourth child, but lacks a living heir—a worry that deeply troubles her husband, Richard. An unread letter from her third stillbirth’s overseeing doctor delivers shocking news: another pregnancy might be fatal. Luckily, Fleetwood meets Alice Gray, a young midwife. Alice promises a safe childbirth and defies the doctor’s grim prediction. But Alice gets caught up in witchcraft accusations spreading through the North-West, forcing Fleetwood to risk everything to help her new ally. Yet, beneath Alice’s exterior, there may be secrets. With the looming Lancaster trial and Fleetwood’s advancing pregnancy, their fates intertwine. Time runs out, and danger grows. In their hands lies the truth. Only together can they hope to escape impending peril. 7. The House Of Hollow – Krystal Sutherland- YA

Get Cosy With These 15 Autumn Reads Read More »

blueberry, fruit, sweets-2598341.jpg

No-Bake Cheesecake v Baked – The Battle of the Cheesecakes

As you know doubt know by now if you are a frequent reader of our blogs, I have a helluva sweet tooth.  Giving up desserts is an absolute no no but, who feels like baking in this heat?  No one I imagine, but, when there are so many no-bake desserts available, especially the delectable no-bake cheesecakes, there’s no need to miss out. In this blog post, we’ll explore the key differences between baked and no-bake cheesecakes, and why the latter is the ideal choice for your summer dessert cravings. Plus, we’ve got some delightful no-bake cheesecake recipes that are sure to tickle your taste buds and keep your sweet tooth satisfied all summer long! Baked Cheesecakes Texture Baked cheesecakes have a denser and creamier texture due to the extended baking process. As opposed to no-bake cheesecakes, they usually require eggs, which contribute to a firmer structure. Preparation Preparation: As the name implies, baked cheesecakes are, well…baked.  This is done in a water bath to ensure even cooking and prevent cracks on the surface. Time Baked cheesecakes take longer to prepare and require cooling time before serving, making them less suitable for quick and refreshing summer treats. No-Bake Cheesecakes Texture No-bake cheesecakes have a lighter and silkier texture, often using ingredients like whipped cream or gelatin (although I am not a fan of using gelatin) to achieve a fluffy consistency. Preparation Given that no baking is required, no-bake cheesecakes are quicker and easier to prepare. They are the perfect choice for summer get-togethers and can be quickly put together to satisfy any dessert cravings.  Simply crush the biscuits,  mix the ingredients and let it chill in the refrigerator. Which Is Best? I think that this question is impossible to answer.  It is quite simply a matter of personal taste and preference.  Whilst many scoff at the idea of a no-bake cheesecake for me a no-bake cheesecake hands down wins the battle of the cheesecakes.  I enjoy the lighter taste of the no-bake cheesecake and the fact that I can have a delicious dessert without faffing about with an oven is another major bonus point. Countless Possibilities I’ve made countless cheesecakes over the years and there are countless more recipes that I have saved and ready to try but, how many versions of cheesecake are there?  Whilst I could not find an answer to this question, I did come across a website called  This App claims to be able to generate 64,000 variations of Kosher cheesecake!  That is a lot of options indeed!  The App allows you to select a crust ranging from the traditional Graham Cracker (Digestives for our readers in Europe), vanilla wafer, shortbread or Oreo to the more unusual such as brown butter and sage or Matcha and sesame.    Superfood options such as Acai Berry, quinoa and chia seeds are also offered.  Vegans are also catered for by way of almond flour, date & walnut, oatmeal raisin and banana nut crusts. Filling options include traditional vanilla, boozy options, sweet and savoury combinations such as balsamic and strawberry, fruit and floral flavours such as lavender, rose or hibiscus.  If you like your fillings spicy then perhaps you will enjoy a cardamom & pear cheesecake.  And, if ice cream is more your thing then perhaps a mint chocolate chip cheesecake will be right up your street? I must say that I have not tried any of these options but I will certainly be playing about with the app to see what combinations I can try next. Perfect Light Summer No-Bake Cheesecake Recipes Raspberry Cheesecake Instructions Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake Instructions Tropical Mango Coconut Cheesecake Instructions Count The Memories Not The Calories These are just some of the countless flavour options available when it comes to no-bake cheesecakes. In my opinion, they really make the perfect end to a special summer meal. So, go ahead and indulge in these delightful no-bake cheesecake recipes and count the memories, not the calories!  If chocolate desserts are more your thing check out our summer chocolate desserts here.  Sharing Is Caring: Related Articles You Might Enjoy:

No-Bake Cheesecake v Baked – The Battle of the Cheesecakes Read More »

oktoberfest, beer, woman-3725638.jpg


A few years back Dani and I travelled to the Christmas markets in Munich.  Whilst it was bitterly cold we really enjoyed ourselves.  There are so many beautiful Christmas decorations on offer I really could have spent an absolute fortune!  The food is incredible too and whilst I’m not overly keen on hot dogs the ones in the markets were on another level.  Dani was in absolute heaven!  Hot dogs and beer, what’s not to like in his opinion.  After this experience, Oktoberfest was added to Dani’s travel bucket list. This year, the Oktoberfest celebrations in Munich will take place between September 16th and October 3rd.  But what exactly is Oktoberfest? Origins Oktoberfest as we know is a celebration of Bavarian culture, featuring food, beer, traditional music and dancing.  It stems from similar origins when on October 12th 1810 the whole Munich  was invited to join in the celebration of the nuptials between Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen.  The wedding festivities included a large feast and concluded with horse races which proved so popular they became an annual tradition. Where Will Oktoberfest 2023 Take Place? Today, Oktoberfest is celebrated worldwide.  Cities like Cincinnati, Ohio, and Blumenau, Brazil, hold grand Oktoberfest events.  Even our little Gibraltar joins in the celebrations by showcasing authentic German customs, food, and beer. The original Oktoberfest festivities however take place annually at the Theresienwiese, a huge open area of some 42 hectares which will host around 120,000 seats in 17 different festival halls. Opening Times Tents will open at 9am on the first Saturday of the festival with non-alcoholic drinks being served from 10am.   No beer will be served before this until 12 pm when the mayor shouts “Ozapft is” (meaning “it’s tapped”).  It is this ritual of the tapping of the first beer barrel that marks the official opening of the festival. Weekday opening times are 10 am to 11.30pm and on Saturday, Sundays and public holidays, beer is served from 9am to 11.30pm. Partygoers who want to celebrate for longer should check out the Käfer tent or Kufflers (which serves wheat beer and a large selection of wine).  Both of these close at the later time of 1 a.m. with the last call being at 12.30 am. Please note that some small tents will have slightly earlier closing times (10.30pm or 11.00pm) so be sure to check beforehand.   There is no fee for admission to the Theresienwiese or to the tents however, should you want access to the Oide Wiesen (situated on the south side of the venue) there is an entry fee of 4.00€. When Is The Best Time To Visit? Around six million people visit the festival every year so it is usually busy throughout.  However, check out this barometer when planning your visit to try and minimise wait times.  This barometer shows how busy the Wiesn is expected to be every day and provides an indication only. Events The Oktoberfest festivities kick off with the landlord parade followed by a traditional costume parade.  This is a hugely popular part of the celebrations with over 9,000 participants marching from Maximilianstrasse to Theresienwiese during last year’s festivities. Stands are erected throughout the parade route for spectators to enjoy the show.  Please be aware that although seats are available (prices start from 35.00€) these are not numbered and are available on a first come first served basis. Details about the route, stand locations and ticket prices can be found here.  Oktoberfest Attractions The Munich Oktoberfest has fun activities for adults and children alike. Carousels, water rides, roller coasters, ghost trains, free-fall rides and fun houses.  Ride prices typically range from 3.50€ to 12.00€.   More information on this year’s rides and prices can be found here.  Other than the rides you can also enjoy the booths around the festival.  These include a  photo booth called “Be Marilyn” where you can recreate Marilyn Monroe’s famous white skirt moment from the movie The Seven Year Itch.  If showing off your strength is more your thing, why not try your hand at the strong man challenge at Han Den Lukas? And if shopping is your thing, there are plenty of opportunities to take home a souvenir.  Take your pick from gingerbread hearts (Lebkunchenhez), steins, clothespins,  bird whistles and much much more. Family Time Whilst perhaps not an event that you would typically think of enjoying en famille, there are family-friendly activities at Oktoberfest. The Familienplatzl, located on Street 3/East provides benches and tables where families can relax.  There is also a place to store strollers (at a fee of 3€ and note also that strollers are not permitted in the Wiesen on Saturdays), a separate children’s toilet and a microwave to heat up baby food.  There are also some rides, playing booths and a theatre which shows puppet shows several times a day within the Familienplatzl. You are also permitted to bring your own food to the Familienplatzl to enjoy with a beer purchased at the beer gardens. The official Oktoberfest website recommends visiting during the morning or early afternoon if visiting with children and you should note that there are various age restrictions in place with regards to children: Getting Around The nearest underground stations are Theresienwiese, Bavariaring and Schwanthalerhöhe.  The closest S-Bahn station to the venue is Hackerbrücke  For more information on using public transport during the Oktoberfest festivities, click here. Can’t get to Munich? If your town or city does not join in the Oktoberfest celebrations and you cannot get to Germany to celebrate, why not plan your own Oktoberfest party at home?  It’s easier than you think and you are guaranteed to have a great time. Decorations Transform your home into a Bavarian beer garden with blue and white colours, chequered tablecloths, and banners of German flags. Utilise beer steins, pretzel garlands, and Oktoberfest-themed centrepieces to set the mood.  This party pack would be absolutely perfect for setting the scene.   The pack brings three different banner bunting, a

Oktoberfest Read More »

Optimized by Optimole
Scroll to Top
Verified by MonsterInsights