An autumnal life update

Ahhh, autumn. It’s my very favourite season. There’s a lot going on at the moment…

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I took this photo a year ago- I still love the pretty colours…

Work is busy- it’s not unusual at the moment to be spending most of Sunday marking. In fact, I had to pre-warn my Year 11 students that I couldn’t guarantee that D hadn’t sneaked some Thomas and Friends stickers into their books (he loves stickers, like me and saw me sticking comment stickers in books.) Luckily, there were no hidden Percy stickers, although there were a few disappointed GCSE students.

Speaking of D:

Bakers gonna bake bake bake

Bakers gonna bake bake bake

This chap turns TWO next Thursday. I cannot, for the life of me, believe how quickly this has come round. We’re spending a lot of time baking at the moment (the new kitchen is a really good place for baking) and the above photo was taken as we were making brownies for Benn’s grandad’s birthday. I’m thinking I need to buy him an apron- Thomas, naturally!

Also, remember how I used to run a blog of vintage photos? Well, I bought my first photo in ages. It’s labelled ‘Four Sisters, Christmas 1929′. I am debating whether or not to breathe new life into Ladies in Monochrome, but I don’t have a printer or scanner at the moment, so it’ll be on hold for a while…

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At the weekend, we’re off up north to meet my new nephew and so my family can see D before his birthday. Half term starts on Friday and there’ll be no rest for the wicked. However, I do intend to take advantage of the nights drawing in, if only to get more wear out of my slippers!

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The Snow Child- Eowyn Ivey*

The Snow Child (Oct)

You know how sometimes, you read a review of a book in the paper or whatever and think, ‘Eh, not for me’? I’d felt the same about The Snow Child when it was first released a couple of years ago. It was nominated for various prizes and just didn’t grab me in the same way as many other books at the time.

When it came up on Bookbridgr, though, I changed my mind. I liked the idea of a story set in the desolate north of Alaska in the 1920s and the promise of a modern fairytale. Because that’s what The Snow Child is; it’s based on an old Russian fairy story about an old, childless couple who make a girl out of snow.

The couple in the novel are middle-aged and homesteading in Alaska is their last-ditch attempt to do something wonderful with their lives. Alas, they find Alaska beautiful, brutal and disappointing, until their own snow child, a girl called Faina arrives. Like the snow, she arrives every winter and leaves in the spring. You’re never quite sure if she’s real or just imagined by the protagonists. The novel has a touch of magic and fantasy about it, but with just enough ‘realness’ to keep the reader grounded.

I loved this book. The prose- especially the descriptive passages- were beautifully written and made me yearn for the kind of snowy winter that brings huge snowflakes and bitterly cold days. It’s definitely a novel to consider as we move into the colder months. It’s  book that will stay with me for a very long time.

*Sent for review

Pretty Honest- Sali Hughes

I’m going to start with a bit of a disclaimer- I am a MASSIVE Sali Hughes fangirl and have been since she started writing her weekly column for the Guardian. It’s because of Sali that I got into lipstick and I credit her for my makeup obsession. So of course I bought her book.

Pretty Honest: The Straight-talking Beauty Companion (Oct)

What I love about this book is that it’s not a simple ‘how-to’ book; Sali talks passionately about beauty, skincare and self-esteem with wit and friendliness. I wish this book had been around when I was a teenager and when I was getting ready to get married (there are helpful chapters on both), as it’s almost like having a friend talk you through everything from hair to how to deal with pushy sales assistants.

The photos inside are chic, without being intimidating. As I read the book and looked at the pictures, I found myself nodding my head and making a mental note of things I wanted to buy or needed to change.

And don’t think that the products and brands recommended in here are super pricey, either. Sali recommends a range of brands, from the familiar ones you’d recognise to the more expensive ones you might not. I think it’s this acknowledgement that super luxury doesn’t always mean that it’s the best is why Sali is so trusted in the beauty world.

I warn you though, it’s not unusual to spend quite a long time buying flannels after reading this. Or was that just me?

 

Bluebird Tea Co. Mocha Chai*

Bluebird were kind enough to send me their new autumn teas to try (heads up: Parma Violet is GORGEOUS). One of the teas is a Mocha Chai. As I’m allergic to coffee, I thought I would send it on to my friend Nadine in Germany, as she loves both tea AND coffee. We regularly swap tea (the local post office doesn’t bother to ask what I’m sending any more) and I thought she’d be the perfect guinea pig/reviewer for this. Read on to find out what she thought…

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It is a kind of blustery autumn evening in Germany and that means ideal tea weather. When Steph asked me if I’d like to review a tea for her blog I was intrigued. Mocha Chai…. Tea and coffee in one drink. Normally that ends up as a culinary nightmare, like when you mixed up the coffee and tea thermos again or the horrible attempts to use tea pads/pods in coffee makers. But in chai, yes, maybe.

The tea is really pretty with several coffee beans scattered throughout. The spicy aroma dominates though, there is no actual coffee scent. It is a strong scent of overall spices and maybe a hint of mocha.
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I followed the instructions and brewed for four minutes, sweetened it with some brown sugar and added milk. While brewing the spices and tea were the strongest aromas, the coffee was there but in the background and in a good way.

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It is lovely! It is chai, it is a bit of coffee and it works wonderfully well together. The balance is right, I had maybe one coffee bean per cup and since we’re talking whole beans it is definitely NOT coffee. And definitely something to enjoy on cold blustery evenings. Paired with some gingerbread it is a treat.

 

*Sent for review

Ravenscourt Apothecary’s Oats and Rosehips facial scrub soap

It’s no secret that some days I put a LOT of crap on my face- skincare, makeup etc. Sometimes, though, I just want something simple and gentle to make my skin feel good. On days when I’ve been barefaced, I like to use Ravenscourt’s Apothecary‘s Oats and Rosehips facial scrub soap. It’s a simple soap that does exactly what it says on the tin!

What I love about the soap is that it feels SO gentle on my skin. The ingredients are vegan and incredibly simple. The oats are small and my skin is soft and smooth after using it. Also, the stationery geek inside me REALLY loved the wax seal on the wrapper. Such a small thing made the whole product feel more luxurious.

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Like me, Tanya (the founder of Ravenscourt Apothecary) is a tea and literature fan- so when I stumbled upon her Etsy shop I was instantly hooked and made my way to her actual webshop for a good old browse. I settled on this soap as a try out and I’m massively pleased with it; my skin doesn’t feel tight or dry and just what it needs on a ‘down day’. I’m really looking forward to trying more from Tanya’s range.

£4 for a huge 130g bar. You can buy it here.

The Crimson Ribbon- Katherine Clements*

The Crimson Ribbon (Sept)

The English Civil War is not one of my favourite periods to read fiction about (I was possibly scarred by trying to teach Witch Child to Year 8 one year and I’m not sure who was more bored- me or the kids…) but I have been intrigued by this novel since its publication earlier this year. It came up on Bookbridgr and I requested a copy.

It’s brilliant. I loved it.

The main characters can be a bit annoyingly short sighted occasionally and there is a twist that I spotted, but I don’t care. This book is beautifully written and really evokes the period. In short, it’s really good historical literature.

A young girl, Ruth, sees her mother lynched as a witch and has to flee her household to escape repercussions. It just happens that she’s a maid in the household of Oliver Cromwell. She ends up in the house of Lizzie Poole, a beautiful and slightly dangerous young woman who leads Ruth down a very strange and possibly treacherous path. Throw in the execution of Charles I, religious unrest and the burgeoning success of the printing press and you have a cracking read. I couldn’t put it down and I reckon it would make an excellent film.

You should totally read it.

*Sent for review

Zombies, Run! 5k: Week 7

Image: New Scientist

Image: New Scientist

This week was a struggle; I’m currently off training for a week as I’ve developed shin splints. Brilliant. Week 7 was the week that really did it for my legs, I think. In some ways, it was easier than week 6 (more walking) and I did manage to complete the week’s training, but the pain was getting worse. I spent most of one workout walking and feeling wretched because of this. I’m going to see how I feel after a week off- but I’m slightly gutted, as I was planning on doing my first park run this weekend.

I wasn’t gutted when Benn got caught in a downpour this morning though.

Total distance: 16.59km

Total time: 2:32:53