Tuesday, 30 January 2018

January Reads



I can't believe January is almost over. It feels like only yesterday I was making my New Years Resolutions whilst eating Christmas leftovers. One of my big resolutions this year was to read more. I tend to say this every year but this year I really wanted to make it a priority. Studying Creative Writing at university I have been encouraged to read as much as I possibly can and the majority of authors I have met have always given the same advice on reading when it comes to writing - it is imperative that you read widely as it will really improve your own writing. I also just find I feel much happier and much calmer when I take time out to read as well as learning more about all sorts of things.

I started off well with my 2018 reading challenge and managed to read four books all of which have been sitting on my bookshelf for a while now. Another resolution was to buy less books and read more of the ones I already own as well as using my library as much as I can. I wanted to share more books on this little blog and seeing as it is National Storytelling Week it seemed fitting to do a monthly round up of my reads.



Stately Pursuits - Katie Fforde

I started off the year with a nice easy romantic read. I've been a big fan of Katie Fforde for years and years, she was one of the first authors that really inspired me to write romantic fiction and I always go back to her books time and time again. This book I'd picked up in a charity shop a few years ago and it has been sitting on my shelf gathering dust since then. It was the perfect gentle read to help me relax in the evenings after a busy day writing. Stately Pursuits follows the story of Hetty Longden, a woman in her early 20s going through her first ever heart break. Within a day she loses her love and her job and has nowhere to turn until her Mother decides to volunteer her to take care of a distant relatives crumbling stately home. She soon finds herself joining the village's fight to save the estate and fight off the heirs plans to bull-dose their piece of history. This book is the perfect romantic escape during these darker months.

Home for Good - Krish Kandiah

This book I have been meaning to read for a while. I bought it almost three years ago at my first ever Christian convention but once again left it sitting on the shelf. For a while now I have felt a call to be a foster mum one day and I was really interested to read a book from a Christian perspective. This book was absolutely fantastic. It was incredibly informative and really helped to lay out exactly what a foster parent would be taking on and what the process would be like. It also really helped to encourage and challenge me that as Christians we should really be involving ourselves and our churches in the fostering crisis we currently have in this country (over 8000 children are currently in need of a foster home). If you're thinking about fostering or have never thought about it before I would really recommend this book. It will make you think about things in a totally different way and look at fostering and adoption from a biblical perspective. It was such a great read and I'm already recommending it to as many friends at church as I can.

Appleby Farm - Cathy Bramley

Another lovely easy romance book to take my away from this cold miserable January weather. This was a super market buy a while ago and I had planned to take it on holiday with me last year but a different book took my attention instead. I was actually really pleased I decided to pick this book up as it was exactly what I needed. Incredibly uplifting and fun this book tells the story of Freya, a woman in her late 20s who is starting to feel after years of travelling maybe it's time to put down some roots. Just as she is about to make a real go of her life working in the cafe just round the corner from Ivy Allotments and throw herself into her new romance, she gets a call from her Aunt and Uncle in Cumbria. Their farm is financial trouble and Freya quickly travels up to help out. Full of beautiful Lake District scenery, laughter and a romance this book is a great escape for the next few months of cold weather.

A Cornish Stranger - Liz Fenwick

After booking a holiday to Cornwall this summer I picked out this book from my shelf to get me in the mood. Full of beautiful imagery, suspense and romance this book was another great escape for January and had me practically packing my boat shoes for June already. This book follows the story of famous artist and recluse Jaunty and her Granddaughter Gabriella. At the age of 93 Jaunty is becoming increasingly frail and Gabe decides she to move into the little cabin on Frenchman's Creek in Cornwall, where Jaunty lives, to take care of her. Jaunty is haunted by the events of her past and is determined to write them all down before it is too late. Gabe however is determined to forget the traumatic experience in her past and carry on with her life. All is well until one night during a storm Gabe heroically saves a strange man from drowning. It took me a little while to get into this book but I'm glad I persevered. If you're looking for a romance with a little more bite to it I would really recommend this book.

And there you have it. I'm really looking forward to reading lots in February and would love any recommendations anyone has. Let me know what you've been reading in the comments below!

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Monday, 22 January 2018

A Cotswold Road Trip

On our actual anniversary we decided we'd like to do a little road trip through the Cotswold villages and stop for a wander around some of the ones I hadn't been to. We started off in Broadway for a little mooch around the shops (and a quick look at the Joules sale!)  









 We then moved on to Lower Slaughter, a place I have seen much of on instagram. It turns out January is a great time to visit as, although it is busy all the year round, it wasn't too packed full of tourists and we were able to have a quiet little trundle around some of the pretty streets and have a look at a few of the beautiful houses.








 We then stopped for a quick bite to eat at a pub in Bourton on the Water before making our way over to Bibury to see the famous Arlington Row. We had a lovely walk along the row of houses and up the hill into the village.


 




It was a lovely quiet day exploring before driving back to Oxford to snuggle on the sofa and watch La La Land - a perfect end to our first anniversary.  

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Friday, 19 January 2018

The Forest of Dean

To start off out little weekend away we decided to go for a walk in the Forest of Dean. I'd been wanting to visit the Forest of Dean for a while now, often seeing it on instagram accounts I follow and on British travel blogs, so when I saw that we were only 35 minutes drive I thought it would be the perfect place for a cold winter walk and a picnic in the car. 



We were very lucky to be greeted by these porky fellas on our arrival. We couldn't believe that four wild boar were just hanging about the car park snuffling in the ground for their dinner. They were obviously used to the sound of cars and people as they seemed completely unfazed by the fact they were by a road and by the many people stopping to take snaps of them. 





We started our walk through a small arboretum but as usual we decided to look for a quieter part of the forest to explore and were soon trundling down a near empty track. 










We were then greeted by one of the most amazing sights I have ever seen. Walking across our quiet track through the forest, just a few metres ahead of us were a herd of red deer. There were about 8-10 of them slowly crossing in front of us. If you look carefully in the photo below you can just about see one of them staring straight at us. We then carefully and quietly walked down the path in search of them and were soon able to find them all grazing in the forest not too far away. We watched as majestic stags with huge antlers gracefully wandered through the trees. They stayed there for about 10 minutes often looking back at us to see if we would come any closer. It was one of the most magical things I have ever seen. 



If you look carefully in the photo below you can make out a stag staring at us through the trees. His Antlers were just amazing! 

 


It was such a lovely walk and a great start to our weekend. I'd really love to go back to the Forest of Dean in the summer when it will be a bit more green and see if we can spot anymore wildlife. 


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Wednesday, 17 January 2018

A Lovers Hideaway

As you may have read in my last post, Russell and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary on Sunday. We had talked for a while about going away for it but with budgets being a little tight we weren't quite sure what we could afford. We decided to look on Air BnB, having never booked an Air BnB before I was a little apprehensive but others had convinced me it was a great way of finding a unique and slightly cheaper holiday. We had decided we'd like a little country getaway and in an area not too far from Oxford as we only wanted to go for a night or two. I soon stumbled upon this gorgeous little shepherds hut in Gloucestershire and with great reviews and pretty pictures I booked it straight away.  





We arrived late on the Friday night and were completely blown away by how cosy and homely this little space was. Every little detail of the decor had been carefully thought out from the super soft bedding down to the stylish and meticulously clean ensuite. Although small, it was bigger than expected and perfect for a romantic weekend away. Jess, the owner, had gone out of her way to make it special with the latest country lifestyle magazines, hot chocolate and chocolate bars, scones with jam and cream, prosecco, hot drinks and granola for the morning. We had everything we could possibly need including a microwave, fridge, kettle and toaster. We soon settled down to watch movies on Netflix with a microwave meal before sleeping.  





We had such a lovely relaxing stay and enjoyed sampling one of the local pubs just a mile down the road on the Saturday evening. It was exactly the type of getaway we were looking for an a great first experience of Air BnB for me. I am really hoping to go back one day and will definitely look again on Air BnB for our holidays. 



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Sunday, 14 January 2018

One Year

One whole year. It seems so strange remembering a time when I wasn't Russells wife, it feels so long ago and so alien and yet this year has gone incredibly fast. Being married to Russell is the most wonderful thing I have ever experienced and without going too gushy on you all I wanted to compile a first year post to remember a few of the highlights of our first year of marriage. 






Our first year of marriage started off amazingly with what I always describe as the best week of my life - our honeymoon. We stayed in a beautiful cottage in the middle of nowhere in the Lake District and had the most wonderful time. We went on walks through the beautiful countryside, we ate lots of yummy food, we slept for 12 hours a night and spent our evenings curled up in front of the log burner reading or watching a movie. It was such a beautiful beginning to our marriage. 





One of the big highlights of our first year definitely has to be getting the chance to celebrate our wedding all over again with my lovely residents. I used to work in a care home for the elderly doing activities and so many of the residents had expressed a wish to see my wedding photos and be involved in our plans and so Russell and I dressed in our wedding clothes went around the care home to say hello to all my friends. My Mum also had another smaller, less grand cake made so we could all have a slice of that together.  






Spring seemed to come around very fast and we were soon enjoying warm sunny weather in Oxford. We got in a lot of lovely walks in the sunshine, enjoying the spring flowers and chatting about nothing and everything as we went. We spent Easter and my birthday in Scotland and on the way down stopped for a few days in York with Russells sister. We fell totally in love with the city and started to wonder if the beautiful cobbled streets, stunning old buildings and and gorgeous Yorkshire countryside could be a place to call home one day. 


We also enjoyed the beautiful wedding of our friends whilst in Yorkshire, the first wedding of three this year where we would dance the night away together remembering our own special day. 






Our summer was full to the brim with sunny days, country walks and lots of good food. We enjoyed evening picnics by the river Thames before taking a dip in the pleasantly cool waters. We attended many a food festival in Oxfordshire and relished in the fact so much of our relationship revolves around a love of food! We also got to visit the famous confetti flower fields and lavender fields in Evesham, a gorgeously beautiful sight which I can't wait to revisit. We also enjoyed a lovely week away with Russells family and friends at Refuel Festival up in Fochabers Scotland. 




We learnt more about each others hobbies and passions over the year as Russell took me to many a car show and told me more about whisky and cigars. I in turn encouraged him to read more and we enjoyed seeing an open air production of a Twelfth Night at the Bodleian in Oxford (Russells first experience of Shakespeare on the stage!)



We also made the effort to learn to love and appreciate the city we live in a bit more. It was a hard choice not to move to Yorkshire, where we feel we truly belong, but we have really tried to get to know Oxford a bit better. Despite being ridiculously expensive it is rather beautiful and has a lot to offer.  







The summer soon ended and Russell entered his final term at university. It was an exciting time for both of us as we looked forward to the new opportunities open to Russell. We enjoyed many country walks at National Trusts and Blenheim Palace, taking time to appreciate the stunning colours of autumn and appreciate the last few weeks of university life. We also undertook a sponsored walk in aid of the Alzheimer's Society and in support of my wonderful Nana, it was quite an amazing experience and I hope we can do something similar together again. I had a lovely two weeks off work in October which were mainly spent catching up on uni and reading, but we managed a few trips out in between Russell working on his dissertation, including a trip to Jane Austen's House where we dressed as Darcy and Elizabeth. 




December was quite a busy and stressful month with Russell's final university deadlines and dissertation hand in as well as his search for a job to start in Jan. My knee condition also became a lot worse due to the cold weather and I was forced to stop working but as always, through it all we still had fun times. We enjoyed the few days of thick snow in Oxford taking walks round our local neighbourhood and visiting Blenheim Palace for some amazing photos in the snow. We also managed to fit in a few Christmassy activities including the amazing Christmas food market at Waddesdon Manor.   




We spent Christmas with Russells family this year (my first year away from my own family) and I enjoyed getting to join in with some new traditions such as Christmas Eve lunch out and a torchlight boxing day walk. 

It has been a truly wonderful year of marriage. I have been blessed with the kindest and most loving man and I often find myself wondering how I got this lucky. 2017 was a very hard year for me and I honestly couldn't have gotten through it without his continued love and support. I know at times, I was absolute hell to live with and yet never for a moment did he not take the best care of me that he could. We still have so much to learn and although it hasn't always been easy being married is truly wonderful. I am loving doing life with him by my side and  I can't wait to see what adventures year two has in store for us. 







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