Recent great reads!

 

I’m renowned for being a bit of a book worm. When I was little I would never be caught trying to watch TV when I should be asleep; I would be caught in bed with my duvet over my head, reading Matilda (or any other Roald Dahl book) with a little flashlight!

Reading for me is just one of the best things in the world – it gives me the ability to escape and enter another world. I tend to read a variety of books – I love a good chick lit, but I also love crime, historical, drama, comedy… Let’s just say I would give anything a whirl!

Recently, I have read some fabulous books that I would like to tell you about and if you’re stuck for something to read, hopefully this will help!

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

This is a gripping, easy to read book that I read in less than two weeks because it had me hooked!

Rachel (the lead character) takes the same train everyday and knows every part of the route and then one day she sees something, something she can’t ignore. You may expect this book to be predictable and perhaps to some degree it is, but it develops and evolves and I really enjoyed reading it.

We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas

This has been nominated for many awards and after reading it, I completely understand why. The story is based around Eileen who comes from a poor area in New York and wants a better life with a big house and a happy family. She then meets a brilliant scientist and begins the life she dreams of but things happen which are out of her control.This is a beautiful, realistic and heart-wrenching book that is full of love and compromise – a truly fantastic read.

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

I had seen this book and thought it looked good but didn’t actually buy it – however, I was lucky enough to be given it as a present and I absolutely loved it! Not a usual ‘safe’ pick that I would buy and this is the reason that I read it last out of these three books, but it turned out to be my favourite!

This book is set in 16th century Amsterdam and is the story of an 18 year old girl who marries a wealthy merchant trader, who lives with his cold and unfriendly sister. Her life dramatically changes from the one she knew and her wedding present, from her husband Johannes Brandt, is a cabinet-sized replica of their home that is created by an elusive miniaturist. These creations somehow mirror future events that no-one could have foreseen… Really enjoyed the story of this book and really felt like I learnt something – extremely well written and a little bit different.

I try to buy the majority of my books online from Waterstones and collect them in-store – I just loving going in to a place full of books, rather than them being posted through my door. Also, I love their recommended books of the month and I always find inspiration for something new to read.

I really hope this recommendations are useful and that you enjoy these books as much as I have!

Rich Chocolate Tart Dessert

Ace1abi:

I saw this and had to repost it! How yummy!

Originally posted on :

This chocolate tart with raspberry chantilly cream and white chocolate sauce might seem daunting on first inspection, but once you break down the recipe you’ll see just how simple it is to knock together and impress dinner party guests!

If you don’t feel up to making the shortcrust pastry yourself, or are just in a rush, you can of course buy your own ready made, making the recipe even easier.

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For the shortcrust pastry, you will need:

225g plain flour, 120g cold cubed butter, 3 egg yolks, 100g caster sugar

Put your flour and butter in a food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles bread crumbs (alternatively, you could rub the butter and flour between your hands in a large mixing bowl, handling as little as possible).

Now, add the egg yolks and sugar and pulse again until the mix comes together (mix the yolks and sugar with a…

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Netflix series that have got me hooked!

With the slightly volatile weather of late, it has been the perfect excuse to close my curtains, put my candles on and snuggle down with my mountain of magazines and watch TV, with a glass of wine, obviously.

I don’t know about you but if I find a series I like (usually on Netflix) I cannot help but binge on it! These have had me glued to the sofa, well until I get cabin fever and have to go out for a walk with the three-dimensional people.

Homeland

This is just addictive – I know that you’ve probably seen it but I just love Brody and Carrie – it’s full of suspense and has a (turbulent) love story, what else do you need?

The Returned

I wasn’t too sure about this when I saw it. Firstly, it sounded a bit scary (I’m a bit of a wuss!) and second of all, Netflix only released one episode a week. After I watched the first episode I was hooked! It’s about a town that has people basically return from the dead, years after they had passed. Now I’m not a sci-fi fan at all so don’t let that put you off. I actually shouted “oh no!” last night when I realised there was no new episode this week as series 1 is over. Can’t wait for series 2!

Jericho

I wasn’t sure what to start watching next and I saw that Red magazine on their website had recommended this series so I thought I would give it a whirl, and I’m glad I did! The star character Jake, returns home for a visit and whilst he is there is a nuclear blast that cuts Jericho off from the outside world. Really enjoyable and addictive – first two series are on Netflix.

Suits

I love this series. No really, I love it. Two very attractive men in suits practising law (one of them illegally), gorgeous and powerful women with fantastic wardrobes, and scandal. What else could you possibly need for an amazing series?

The Killing

This four series show got me good. It’s about a detective who has a past she can’t quite let go of and against her wishes, has to work with a partner to find the killer of a young girl found in the boot of a car. Hard to watch at times but well worth the four seasons.

All of these series are available on Netflix (in the UK) and I hope you enjoy them as much as I have! Any recommendations of what to watch next are always welcome :)

 

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Amazing bluebells at Standish Woods, Stroud

It’s that time of year that the gorgeous bluebells are making their appearance! I’m sure many of you might have seen them around, in people’s garden’s or even in your own, but there are lots of places around the country where you can go and see them in their thousands!

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I saw that the fantastic National Trust actually have a page dedicated to helping you find bluebells near to where you live – click here to have a look to see if there are any near you.

For the past couple of years I have somehow missed out on going to see them, so I have made a conscious effort this year to discover somewhere new in Gloucestershire to find these blue beauties.

Thanks to the National Trust I took a visit to Standish Woods near Stroud, and I was not disappointed! It is a truly beautiful place filled with an unimaginable amount of bluebells, dogs and friendly walkers!

I hope you have gotten chance to enjoy the bluebells this year and don’t forget that they won’t be around for much longer :)

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My New Year’s Resolutions

So how many of you are keeping to your New Year Resolutions? We’re almost four months into 2015, if you can believe it!

Every year I always set myself the task of creating a New Year’s resolution that I promptly forget about by February! However, this year I wanted to actually find something that I could stick to.

I saw the most brilliant picture and decided that I was going to live by this and also to update my blog a little more regularly…

 So far I have updated my blog a little more than I did last year and ticked off a few of things on this list :)

One of my adventures that I particularly enjoyed was a visit to Stonehenge.

Stonehenge It’s a place that has always intrigued me but I’ve never been; I was even more pleasantly surprised to find that it was only an hour and a half from Cheltenham so off we went!

It was a really cold and windy day, but if anything that and the moody sky only added to the magic of Stonehenge. There is a bus that can take you from the entrance to the stone circle, but it is so much better to walk (takes about 15 minutes) and have a little squeal when you can start to see the stones!

Such a brilliant day that will always have a special place in my heart.

There will be many more adventures so I will be sure to keep you updated.

Abi x

Desmond and I

My trip to Cotswold Falconry Centre

It’s getting to that time of year where I am having to use up holiday that I haven’t taken. This pains me as I knew I should have booked that long weekend away to Frigiliana, but fingers crossed I will get around to doing it this year! Especially with the help of Airbnb… Does anyone else seem to accidentally lose a couple of hours creating folders and looking for houses to stay in all round the world?

So in the spirit of actually doing something with my time off, I found myself at Cotswold Falconry Centre, which is located on the site of Batsford Arboretum. Let me tell that you I am a huge fan of all animals, but owls in particular – I just think they are absolutely gorgeous and I’m fascinated by them!

We walked through the reception into the outdoor centre and I was absolutely gobsmacked – there were falcons, hawks, eagles and owls all sat on their perches looking right at us!

Even better we had a flying start for two which meant that I actually got to have these beautiful birds of prey on my arm! I’m not ashamed to admit that when I had hold of the owl, my new friend Desmond, I gave him a little stroke and perhaps also a little kiss :)

Not only did we get to handle them, we went out into a field with a falcon who would fly off and then when the instructor put some food onto your glove, would fly back over, land on your hand and eat the little morsel of food you were holding. It was the most incredible experience, ever!

I was so surprised at the variety of birds they have there, because in truth their website doesn’t do it any justice as they really do have so many birds there for you to see. Never did I imagine that I would be able to handle a bald eagle that went by the name Wootan. He was such a magnificent creature but so unbelievably heavy! My bingo wings had quite a rude awakening!

There were also regular flying displays where the instructor would bring out a variety of birds (owls, hawks, falcons, bigger owls) for us to see them fly. Not only was it amazing to watch but I learnt so much about these animals; a brilliant place to visit as a family or equally with friends.

The staff were lovely and friendly, I really cannot recommend this place highly enough. I genuinely had the best time and I can’t wait to go back! I just hope Desmond remembers me.

 

Desmond and I!

 

True love

Wootan showing off!

In absolute awe of this beautiful creature

Pure shock of someone having a worse hair day than me!

Meet Thumper, who can crush a rabbit skull with his feet. Believe me when I say that his feet are unbelievably strong!

Dave the falcon and I having a moment

Truly an unforgettable experience.

Abi x

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Visiting the snowdrops in Colesbourne, Gloucestershire

For years and years (brilliant band by the way), I’ve wanted to visit Colesbourne Park to see the snowdrops, but somehow in the 10 years that I’ve lived in Cheltenham I’ve not quite managed to make it, until yesterday.

I’ve been missing out.

snowdrops in Colesbourne

All wrapped up (scarf, bobble hat and mittens!) we made our way Colesbourne Park that is around a 15 minute drive outside of Cheltenham and is set in the most beautiful grounds. The estate has a brilliant history which I recommend you read about before you go, complete with a church on the grounds and with the most gorgeous lake that is a brilliant vivid green colour. There is also an opportunity for you to take a walk round to see different areas of the estate, including around the lake, making the visit so much more than just seeing the snowdrop gardens.

Lake at Colesbourne Estate

There are many varieties of snowdrops on display and they were all absolutely gorgeous. Whilst wandering around, we stopped to admire a selection of jams and chutneys and got talking to a lovely lady to whom I expressed my admiration of the snowdrops and how delighted I was to have finally visited. I was also informed by her that if you actually have a little sniff of the snowdrops, they smell like honey – who knew! Little did I know that we were actually having a chinwag with Lady Carolyn Elwes, owner of the estate!

What I think makes this garden so special is its beauty and the fact it’s only open for 5 weekends of the year. Whilst walking round the woodlands in the beautiful sun, with spectacular views it really made me feel like spring is on its way.

The last day its open is Sunday 1st March, so get your skates on and go have a look!

Tip: Get there for around 1pm when it opens as you get a bit more time to enjoy the views without as many people being around.

Happy Halloween!

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You are welcome!

Is it me or does Halloween seem like it’s on steroids this year? I’m not complaining by any means, but looking on Twitter and Facebook it seems like everyone is dressed up – I actually feel a bit left out!

All Hallows Eve is something that is usually celebrated more widely in the States than it is in England, but this year I think we’re stepping up to the mark!

I’ve investigated where Halloween originates from and it is thought that it is of a Christian origin and it’s a celebration dedicated to remembering the dead; including saints and martyrs, focusing on ridiculing death. Nothing surprising there then. What was of interest is that it was encouraged to go without meat on Halloween and it was tradition to eat apples, potato pancakes and drink cider – I could get on board with that.

My Halloween consists of many traditions, with my most important being watching Hocus Pocus! I genuinely love this film (how can you not?) and regardless of how old I get I will always, always watch it, obviously dressed as a witch and sat on my broom.

Have a brilliant Halloween all!

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Autumn’s here – let’s get our cook on!

I mentioned in my earlier post that I feel autumn deserves a whole post dedicated to the food in this season – what am I on about? It needs about 10! There are so many lovely things to cover that we can cook in autumn so I’m going to start with a few of my personal favourites.

I’m a big fan of slow cooking food – what’s better than going for a walk knowing that when you walk back in the house with a red nose and cold face that there is a lovely warm smell to greet you?

Now this recipe may not be that autumnal for you but for me, as soon as it gets colder, this is one of my favourite dishes to cook – may I present to you the hearty jerk chicken with rice & peas. My Nan used to cook the BEST jerk chicken and try as I might, I’ve never quite got it to her standards but this is a pretty good recipe to follow. I add in a tin of chopped tomatoes before the chicken goes in the oven and a little bit of extra water then turn the oven right down to about 160C (fan oven)/gas 4 and cook the chicken for at least 2-3 hours (turning once or twice) because when you go to eat it, the meat just falls off the bone, delicious! It also makes this recipe a little more saucy and less dry, which is how I prefer it. I serve the meal with bowls of greens and cauliflower for everyone to help themselves.

Paste:

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Finished article:

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It getting colder is an excuse for me to eat pasta and one of my favourite dishes is chicken and tarragon pasta – I like this recipe, but I have made a few changes to this one. I roast chicken legs or thighs in the oven (instead of using chicken breasts) for about 45 minutes (covered with tin foil) with a drizzle of olive oil, fresh tarragon and lots of salt and pepper. I am a big fan of spinach but I’m not sure it works that well in this recipe so I substitute it for chestnut mushrooms (cook these in the pan before you make the sauce) then use plenty of salt and pepper to season the sauce. If you’re feeling extra naughty when cooking this dish use double cream instead of single. And finally, use fresh tagliatelle it is just the bomb! I find a nice glass of Malbec goes down a treat with this.

We need to talk about blackberries – they are amazing and I love nothing more than taking a bowl out into the country and picking them until my hands are red! Obviously I pick them above a certain height as I live in fear that a dog might have been there beforehand and cocked his leg…

Now I love pies and crumbles, who doesn’t? But I think this blackberry and apple cake is just yummy! Also, a brilliant time to be cooking with apples as well, so a win, win situation all round.

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It’s official: Onesie season has arrived!

I’m not going to lie, I’ve been waiting for this day for a few weeks now. Officially, autumn started two weeks ago on the 22nd September, but seemingly, no-one told the weather. It’s been glorious and sunny, which is nothing to complain about but I so love the thought of being out in the blustery wind and rain, then getting inside and straight into my onesie!

Although I love the feel of autumn, I’m glad the weather held off this weekend so I could enjoy a few days walking the streets of the buzzing Cheltenham, kicking the leaves around. Cheltenham is a lovely place to be at the moment, as the Literature Festival is on and it really is not to be missed. Here is the festival on Saturday in all its glory.

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And here is another picture I couldn’t resist taking as I walked up the Promenade.

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Sunday was slightly less sunny, but still lovely so what else is there to do but get your trainers on and go for a walk? I decided the best place for us to go would be Leckhampton Hill, as I think it gives some of the best views over Cheltenham and I don’t think you can deny that it looks pretty good.

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I then properly got into the autumn feeling and had a beautiful homemade french onion soup with mature gouda for supper – it was truly yummy and extremely filling.

Did anyone else wake up this morning thinking their alarm clock was broken because it was so dark outside? I’ve been known to do an excellent hippo impression, which consists of me pulling the cover slowly down my face, peeking over the top of it, not liking what I see and then slowly pulling it back over my head. Let’s just say I perfected my impression this morning.

Once out of bed, I had a cup of tea and watched the rain fall thinking, tonight is the night I bring out the onesie :)