Friday, 27 October 2017

Monthly Reads | October

Christian Book of the Month: The Kill Fee by Fiona Veitch Smith

October has been a surprisingly busy month with not a lot of time for reading lately. Although I started reading a book about fast fashion early in the month I decided it was just a bit too intense for my life at the moment. I was in need of something relaxing and fun that I could just relax into each evening. Fiona Veitch Smith’s Poppy Denby Investigates series is just perfect for exactly that. It was one of the first Christian fiction books I had read and I absolutely loved reading the first instalment and so couldn’t wait to get my hands on the second. Growing up in a conservative Christian household as the minister’s daughter has left Poppy Denby with a serious need for adventure and so when she has the opportunity to live in London with her Aunt she jumps at the chance. Set in the 1920s Poppy enters the world of flappers, jazz and glamour. In the first book of the series Poppy finds herself a job as a journalist for on the local newspapers, in this second edition she is a fully established rising star on the hunt for more sensational stories but once again finds herself wrapped up in mystery. This second book is full of drama, mystery and the glittering world of the Russian aristocracy. Reminiscent of an Agatha Christie novel this book is a great read for anyone looking for a more traditional crime story.  A fun and easy read great for an evening on the sofa or a nice edition to a warming bubble bath on a dark night.

Non-Christian Book of the Month: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

I’m not even sure where to start with this book. Due to its size and my busy schedule it actually took me a few weeks to read this book, normally that would tend to mean I’d get bored of reading it but not this time. I absolutely loved the magical world Sarah J. Maas created in this book and after all the hype from friends who have read the series I wasn’t at all disappointed. Set in a fantasy world split into two realms, that of the Faeries and that of the humans, a young girl called Feyre shoots a wolf in the forest one day in search of food for her family. Unknowingly that single act will change her life forever. Taken away to a magical kingdom, Feyre must pay the price for killing a faerie – an eternity spent in a world where humans do not belong. But the longer she spends with her captor the more she begins to suspect he is hiding something that could change the lives of all she loves back in the human realm. A great book for anyone looking for a fantasy series to dive into over the next few months of colder weather. I can’t wait to pick up the next one in the series.

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Monday, 23 October 2017

Ideas for Celebrating Autumn

Without a doubt autumn is my favourite season. I’m much more of a cold weather kind of person and I love to cosy up in knitted scarfs and boots for walks in crunchy leaves or snuggle up on the sofa in front of the fire with hot chocolate and a book. Mustards, reds and burnt oranges are some of my favourite colours and I love watching as the trees change and the leaves slowly start to drift away and pile up in corners. I look forward to this season all year and I love to make the most of it. I’ve put together a list of ways to celebrate this beautiful season, let me know if you try any of them or have any other ways of celebrating autumn.

Bring the Outside In:

As I mentioned autumn colours are some of my favourite colours so I love to decorate our little flat with seasonal colours. I also love having a little bit of nature inside our home and so tend to decorate with little bits of nature. I like to buy a mix of pumpkins in all different shapes and colours to dot around the house. As Christians, we don’t celebrate Halloween but I love to turn some of these into pretty lanterns with hearts or paint them with lacy patterns. I absolutely love munchkins and find them so cute so I always get a few of these to lay on the window sill too.

Another way we have decorated this year is to collect up lots of shiny conkers and put them in a pretty bowl. I love the way they shine and every time I see them it reminds me of our walks collecting them. A few years ago, I bought some fake autumn coloured leaves and strung them up into a garland which I like to hang up this time of year. I also love to have a seasonal garland on the door or on the table, sometimes I make these myself but this year I have been looking at buying a pre-made dried one. I love the rustic nature of the dried flowers and it looks so pretty as a table centre with a candle in it or hanging on a wall or door.  

Light Time:

This time of year, there is nothing better than making your home as cosy as possible. I love having warm yellow fairy lights strung around the flat along with tea lights and scented candles. There is something so calming about spending an evening by candle light and there is no better time than autumn. As I mentioned above I also love turning pumpkins into pretty tea lights. Try spending an evening entirely lit by candle light, it’s such a relaxing experience and you feel so cosy.

Autumn Walks:

I love being outdoors especially at this time of year, my favourite weather is definitely crisp cold but with a nice golden sun. Try going for a walk in the woods at golden hour enjoying the way the light falls through the trees. This is also a great time to pick up some treasures like conkers and pretty leaves to take home and decorate with. Remember to wrap up warm, part of the joy of these walks is definitely getting to crack out that cosy knitted hat and a pair of super comfy boots.

Get Your Bake On:

Is there anything better than Autumn/Winter food? Root veg, spiced cakes, warming stews and comforting feasts. This is the time to really comfort eat. I love using the darker nights to stay at home and bake a delicious spiced apple cake or ginger bread to eat after a stew or pie full of slow cooked meat and root vegetables. For me this is a great time to experiment and eat as seasonally as possible. Spend an evening in trying a new recipe or even better invite some friends over and make a feast of warming seasonal delights. Trust me, no one will be disappointed.

Dress for It:

I much prefer autumn/winter clothes and I know I am not alone in this one. So many of my friends love this time of year and it feels so wonderful to crack out those ankle boots and cosy jumpers. I love to truly embrace this season choosing to wear mustard and burgundy jumpers along with my aptly named “autumn flower dress”. It might sound a little strange but it can be quite fun to match the colours of nature this time of year.   

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Monday, 16 October 2017

Our Riverford Box

For a while now I have been trying to change our food buying habits so that we can have less of an impact on the environment. We’ve cut down the amount of food we buy in plastic packaging, tried to choose seasonal fruit and veg and only buy exactly what we need. We also tried shopping at farmers markets but found very few in our area and the ones that were around were more artisan food markets and too far out of our price range for a weekly shop. Around that time, we went to the Blenheim Palace Flower Show and met the lovely people from Riverford. I had heard of getting a farm box full of locally sourced organic fruit and veg and had been wanting to try it for a while but honestly didn’t know where to start. The lovely lady at Riverford helped me through all the different options available and we decided to order our first box.

We’ve now been getting a weekly box of meat, fruit and veg for three months and it’s been amazing. Not only is all the produce fresh, organic and the majority locally sourced it also tastes amazing. I have noticed such a difference in the flavour of our meals just by using better quality ingredients. We’ve also really enjoyed getting new and exciting cuts of meat, fruit and veg every week and experimenting with new recipes. Before the summer due to the stresses of university and work I’d got myself in a bit of a meal rut and was just cooking the same meals every week. Now we enjoy looking through recipe books including the ones gifted to us by Riverford and planning our meals ahead. We have had some unusual veg which we haven’t been sure what to do with but the Riverford seasonal cook books have a chapter on most of the veg you can get in the box helping you to learn how to cook it along with a few recipes to put it into.  

I’ve found it so easy to use their website, for the first few weeks we tried different sizes of boxes and bags to see what worked for us. We still like to add things like garlic in every now and again or take the eggs off our weekly order if we don’t fancy them that week. It’s so simple to log on and change things and it only has to be done 48 hours before the box is due to arrive. The box arrives every week on the same day at the same time and for us is just left on our doorstop with the meat in a special cool box to keep it fresh. Its great getting back from work and finding our shopping on our doorstep. We do still go to the supermarket for things like pasta, rice and bread even though Riverford sell most of these things in their deli as it just works best for us.

I also like the way Riverford allows you to pause or cancel orders so easily. Part of the reason we decided to go for Riverford above anyone else was that you aren’t signed up to a subscription, you can cancel at any point or if you’re going away or fancy a break you can pause your orders for as long as you like. You can sign up from nearly everywhere in England as they have farms all over the country so you not only support local farmers but stop food from travelling miles and adding to the impact it has on the environment.

I absolutely love our Riverford box and am so pleased we’ve found an easy and delicious way to source our food more sustainably. If you are looking for a farm box or want to find an easy way to get delicious, local food I would really suggest you try a box.
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Friday, 13 October 2017

What I've Been Listening To

At the beginning of the summer I got myself a new job in the centre of Oxford. Most of you who know Oxford will know that to drive a car into the centre of Oxford and try to park it would be complete madness. There is no such thing as driving into Oxford. So instead of my little red fiat 500 each morning I ride into work on the bus. I thought I would hate this but I am finding I am actually quite enjoying it. I am so lucky to have the bus stops literally outside my home so I only have to leave the house at the last minute and having half an hour to relax, listen to something and watch the morning world go by is actually really nice. It has also meant I've been discovering the wonderful world of audio books and podcasts. I thought I would share with you a few favourite things I've been listening to over the summer.

Journey Women Podcast

I've really been enjoying this new Christian podcast by Hunter Beless over the past few months. I was first drawn to this podcast as one of the episodes was interviewing the editor of Deeply Rooted Magazine, a Christian women's magazine over in America, and I am very interested in writing for a Christian's women's magazines and learning a little bit about starting up your own magazine. It was such an interesting interview and it got me totally hooked. I have now listen to a couple others and would really recommend this. Each episode is about an hour long which is perfect for me as I get 30 mins on the way to work and 30 mins on the way back. The podcast tackles issues like evangelism, living out the gospel, identity and much more. Its designed specifically for women to encourage women in their journey with God and helping them to develop their faith by asking the questions we all want to know the answer to and taking advice and inspiration from each other. Its a great listen, some of the stories will make you laugh others will make you cry but all will help you grow closer to God. What more could you ask for on a Monday morning journey to work?

7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess By Jen Hatmaker

I decided to download a free trial of Audible for my journeys to work and am so glad I did. I have enjoyed two great books so far. This book was recommended to me by a lovely lady I met at Refuel Festival 2017 (A Christian conference in Scotland). I wanted to read more about sustainability from a Christian perspective and this was in the list suggested. Jen Hatmaker tells the interesting story of the 7 months she spent reducing different aspects of her life. In the first chapter she spends a month only eating 7 foods. In the second she only wears 7 pieces of clothing. By doing this she learns what is and isn't essential in her life, she learns to live with little and realises that even living a reduced life she still has so much more than others. She also learns more about God, his plans for her life and family and grows in her dependance on him. Its a great listen and really inspired me to try reducing my own life to see what the effects may be.

She Reads Truth: Holding Tight to Permanent in a World That's Passing Away

I have already mentioned this book in my September reads post so I won't say too much about it now, I suggest you go and read the post to see what I thought about it but I wanted to add it into my list because it was so good. This was the first audiobook I downloaded with Audible and it was perfect for my journey to work those first few weeks. I was struggling with a lot of different feelings and this really helped to put everything into perspective. I also found it so nice to listen to a Christian book each morning. It helped to get my head into gear and set me up for the rest of the day. If like me you struggle to pick up the Christian book over the fiction book in the evening listening each morning to an exert on your way to work can really help to get you in the right place and I've found it's really grown my faith.

How Can It Be - Lauren Daigle

Oh I love this album so much! It's been a favourite of mine for a while but I've really enjoyed listening to it again on my way to work. Lauren is such a talented writer and musician, her voice is beautifully rich and earthy and the lyrics just connect with your soul. Anyone I've shared some of her music with cannot help but fall in love with her. She seems to hit the nail on the head with so many Christian women and I would really suggest you give her album a listen, especially the songs Salt & Light and How Can It Be - these are my favourites but really they are all amazing.

So there you have it, the four things I've been loving listening to on my way to work. I'd love to hear if you guys have any audiobooks, podcasts or music you'd suggest please do leave me a comment below.
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