Monday, 13 September 2021

What I Read In June, July & August

 I didn't plan on leaving it so long since my last blog post but I've just really not felt like writing anything recently and since 2021 started, I've really found myself pulling away from blogging. I don't want to just stop as there are still things I like to share but I do feel very differently about it now and I can't see myself ever going back to blogging several times a week like I used to. One thing I do want to keep up with, even if they are less frequent, is my reading roundups. When I read a lot in one go, I share them monthly but as you might have noticed from the lack of posts, I've really slowed down on the reading front so there's been no books to talk about! I've ended up combining my thoughts on the books I read in June, July and August so here they are.

Last Night by Mhairi McFarlane - ⭐⭐⭐
I find books by Mhairi McFarlane really hit and miss sometimes. I adored You Had Me At Hello and If I Never Met You but then struggled a lot with Don't You Forget About Me and her most recent book, Last Night. I don't think it helped that I was trying to read this as we were in the middle of moving house as it meant I was only ever getting to read little snippets so it was much harder to get into the story and remember what had happened previously. I really liked the premise of this book though. It follows a group of friends Eve, Justin, Susie and Ed. Eve has been secretly in love with Ed for years but has never told him but then one night a tragic accident happens and their lives change forever. I actually went into this convinced I knew what was going to happen but I was wrong and that is one big positive with this book, it completely threw me and I never guessed how it would end. 

Someone I Used To Know by Paige Toon - ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Paige Toon never disappoints. I think there are only one or two of Paige's books that I've given less than 5 stars which is good going for the sheer amount I have read from her. Whilst Someone I Used To Know wasn't my favourite book that's been released so far, there was so much to love about it. This book is about Leah, George and Theo. Then, George is Leah's new foster brother and despite a rocky introduction to the ever growing family, Leah finds herself getting drawn closer to him as time goes on. Theo, the new boy at school that Summer forms a bond with George and Leah that none of them thought would ever be broken. Life doesn't always go to plan though. Now, Leah is back in Yorkshire with a baby girl but Emilie's father Theo isn't with them. George has also just unexpectedly returned. After half a lifetime, can they move on from what happened all those years ago and are the feelings between George and Leah still there? There is always some sort of love triangle in a Paige Toon book so I fully expected that but I didn't find this was as focused on romance as previous books, kind of the only thing that let it down a little. I wanted more from George and Leah when they were younger and then I wanted more when they reconnect all those years later but I think Paige was telling a really important story much more focused on families and fostering and everything that can come with that. I'm sure I'll read this again one day.

Freed (Christian's POV) by E.L. James - ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
I know the Fifty Shades of Grey series isn't to everyone's taste but I personally really enjoy reading the books. I can't say it's the best writing ever but I like the story and I love the characters so I can get past that. I love that E.L. James has released all three books again, this time from Christian's point of view and I've definitely enjoyed them all much more this time round. I find his perspective much more interesting and a little less cringe! I think Freed has become my favourite and I could definitely see myself re-reading it again one day. 

The Marriage by K.L. Slater - ⭐⭐
More often than not I really enjoy books by K.L. Slater. She's one of my go to authors when I feel like reading a thriller so when I spotted The Marriage for 99p on Kindle, I grabbed it. Unfortunately I didn't particularly enjoy this. Bridget lost her son Jesse when he was 18 due to a fight with his best friend Tom. A tragic accident. 10 years on, Bridget has found it in her heart to forgive Tom and they've formed a closer connection than they could have ever imagined. Friends and family can't understand it but Tom and Bridget decide they want to be together and get married. Quite quickly though Tom's mum starts to worry that there's more to it. Has Bridget got an ulterior motive? I kind of went into this with an idea of where it was going to go and it ended up being quite different which I suppose is a positive really but overall the story just fell flat. It didn't seem like a psychological thriller at all!

The Getaway by Isabelle Broom - ⭐⭐⭐⭐
As soon as I read the synopsis for this months ago, before it was released, I knew it would be my sort of book. The Getaway follows newly single Kate as she travels to Croatia to escape her very normal life. She's just been dumped, can't find a job and needs some time to assess what it is she actually wants. It turns out someone else is feeling the same. Alex is different to any other man Kate has ever known but the connection between them is palpable. It wasn't what she planned but could this trip end up changing her life forever? This took me a little while to get into which surprised me but eventually I ended up absolutely loving it and just waiting until I could pick it up again. I thought Kate was really relatable, I liked Alex and I was just rooting for them the whole way through. This has definitely made me want to visit Croatia one day too!

You and Me on Vacation by Emily Henry - ⭐⭐⭐
This was one of those books that seemed to be everywhere last month! Two friends, ten Summer trips, their last chance to fall in love. You and Me on Vacation is about Poppy and Alex. They first met 12 Summers ago. 11 Summers ago they were forced to share a ride home from college and surprisingly by the end of it, a friendship had formed. Each year since then they've gone away but 2 years ago it all went wrong. Trying to reconcile their friendship, Poppy asks Alex to join her on one last trip. This will determine the rest of their lives. I've gotta say I much preferred reading the present chapters rather than the ones set in the past. I know we needed those chapters from previous summers to build up all of the chemistry and the tension but for me nothing could beat the moments when they were back together in the present. This had some amazing moments throughout and I was rooting for Poppy and Alex to finally come clean about their feelings for one another. Whilst overall I didn't absolutely love this, I can see why it's become so popular.

The Mothers by Sarah J.Naughton - ⭐⭐
This has been on my to be read list for absolutely ages but I ended up being really disappointed with it when I finally got round to reading it. The Mothers is about five women who meet at their NCT group. The only thing they have in common is that they're all pregnant. 3 years later though, they've become good friends. Or so we think? Now someone's husband is missing. One of the women knows something but who? This had such a great premise and to be fair it started out really well but eventually it just got confusing. I thought there were too many characters to keep track of and I just found myself having to go back to figure out who was who which isn't really what you want! 

So that's everything I've read over the last few months. Nowhere near as much as I used to be able to get through in a short space of time but life has changed a bit since then and I just can't read book after book like I used to right now! I'd love to know if you've read any of these books, let me know what you thought of them!

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Wednesday, 1 September 2021

The Benefits of Buying Meat Online*

* This is a collaborative post

Online shopping has been growing in popularity for many years now. But for a long time, the only way to buy fresh food online was from larger supermarket chains. When it comes to meat, supermarkets don't always offer the best in quality or range. In the last few years, however, there has been a growing trend for butchers moving into online sales, offering straight to door delivery and selling a huge variety of products, including large meat boxes and alternative meats you certainly wouldn't find in your local supermarket. Despite their growing popularity, many of us are still a little hesitant about buying meat online and especially making large orders. We worry about freshness, quality and cost. The good news is that there's no need to worry. Buying meat online is perfectly safe and usually fantastic value. Here's a look at some of the benefits in more detail.

Saves Time
Whatever you are shopping for, doing it online is easy, quick and convenient. Shopping online means you can search for what you want or quickly browse categories, without having to wander around multiple shops looking for the right thing. The checkout process is quick and easy and you can typically book a delivery slot to suit you.

Saves Money & Helps You to Budget
If you are trying to cut costs or stick to a budget, your food shop is often one of the first things that you should look at changing. Shopping online, for meat or anything else, is a brilliant way to avoid impulse shopping and to monitor your basket total as you add things to it. When you buy meat online, there's never a shock when you get to the checkout and, if you change your mind, you can remove items from your basket without embarrassment.

It's Easy to Find Deals Online
It can also be much easier to find deals online. In store, the offers available can be overwhelming, confusing and sometimes it's hard to figure out where the best value lies. Online, the deals are all laid out for you, helping you to save money and get more for your cash.

Encourages You to Try New Things
One of the best things about using a company like IMS of Smithfield, who are online meat suppliers London, is that it's so easy to try new things. IMS of Smithfield is a premier meat company supplying homes and businesses with a range of high-quality meat and meat boxes. It's easy to browse online, and perhaps take a look at meat that you wouldn't usually buy. This is a great way to expand your diet and try new flavours and recipes.

Meat Boxes are Perfect for Parties
Traditional supermarkets don't cater for large buys. Even your high street butcher probably sells things one at a time. This can make it hard to shop for a large event such as a summer BBQ. Most online suppliers will sell meat boxes, often catering for specific events, like family boxes and BBQ boxes. Everything that you need in one easy order that is delivered straight to your door.

Ordering meat online is incredibly useful whether you are looking for convenience, to save money, or just to expand your diet and try new things.

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Monday, 28 June 2021

A Mid Year Look At My 2021 Goals For The Year

 At the start of 2021, I set myself a few personal goals and a few business goals and like every year, in the Summer, I like to take a look at where I'm at and see if I'm sort of 'on track' to achieve everything I hoped. I definitely didn't set myself as many goals this year as I have in the past just because the last year has been hard for so many of us and who wants all that that extra pressure to achieve loads of stuff? That being said, I do find setting myself little goals really keeps me motivated so I always have a few things in mind. So, here's a mid year look at my 2021 goals for the year. I'd love to know how you're getting on with any goals you set too!

Reach 150 Etsy Sales
I went into 2021 on about 55 sales after opening my shop Bear's Brownies & More in October and I was SO proud of myself for reaching that in just a few months. When I decided to take the plunge and start up my own baking business, I had absolutely no idea how it was going to go. I fully expected I might get a few sales and then it would quickly stop but luckily that didn't happen and that's mainly due to the support I've had from the blogging community. It overwhelms me how kind people can be online who I hardly even know so if that's you and you've contributed in any way, thank you so much! As I didn't know how the shop might go this year, I decided I would aim for reaching 150 sales by the end of the year. I hit that in March! That just makes me so happy and the buzz of getting a sale never goes away. I'm hoping to reach 200 sales now but I might up it at some point if I'm feeling confident! I've definitely noticed sales slowing down a little since lockdown lifted which is understandable, I think so many small businesses are feeling it right now but I'm sure it will pick up again soon.

Reach 1000 Followers on the Bear's Brownies & More Instagram
Another business goal this year is to hit 1000 followers on the Bear's Brownies & More instagram. I'm now on about 730 followers which I'm really pleased with and I'm hopeful I'll reach my goal later in the year. Instagram can be such a pain though so I won't be too disappointed if not, sometimes it seems like you can be doing all the 'right' things and it still won't matter. If you'd like to follow us & see all of our delicious bakes, this is the link to our Insta!

Exercise Regularly
Ahh I can't say this has gone brilliantly so far this year! Last Spring/Summer I got into such a good routine with exercising and eating healthier and I felt brilliant for it when lockdown properly lifted so I really just want to get back to that. I notice a massive difference in my mental health aswell as physical health when I exercise, even if it's just something small so I'm determined to get back into something I enjoy this Summer. To be fair, we did buy a treadmill recently so I have no excuse anymore. Moving house and all of the stress leading upto that this year just got in the way of this goal and I seem to have lost all inspiration for cooking recently but there's still time.

Buy A House
That follows on nicely from my last point, we bought a house! I was very brief about this in my goals post in January as by that point we'd already had an offer accepted and knew we were in the process of buying but I didn't want to jinx anything! I knew buying a house would be stressful but I don't think I quite anticipated just how bad it would be at times. We had SO many delays, we should have been in far earlier than we were but by May we got the keys and I can't quite explain how good it felt to finally step into the house knowing it was ours. I genuinely think this is the happiest we've ever been. Bear absolutely loves it, the living room is my happy place as it's decorated how I always wanted and we have so many exciting plans for it over the next few years. So so proud of us for achieving this.

Read 80 Books
I'm not doing so well with my reading challenge for 2021 I've gotta say. I knew I wasn't likely to read as many books as I have over the last few years due to moving and also because of the shop but I've seriously slacked with it this year. I think I'm about 20 books behind schedule according to goodreads and I can't remember the last time I properly picked up a book and read for a while. I'd still love to read 80 books by the end of the year but if I don't, it really doesn't matter. I want to make sure I'm not just reading for the sake of it and rushing through everything.

So that's a little mid year look at my 2021 goals. Apart from one or two, they're going pretty well I think! I'm really excited to see where I'm at with my business by the end of the year and I also can't wait to keep making this house a home and making little changes in the coming months.

Did you set yourself any goals this year?

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Monday, 7 June 2021

What I Read In April & May

 I've ended up combining April & May's monthly reading roundups as there just wasn't enough to say for April alone, I seriously slacked with reading and for the most part I just couldn't be bothered to pick up a book. There has been a LOT going on recently and to be honest the majority of this year has been quite stressful which has definitely played a part in the lack of reading I've been doing but there was a good reason for it. We moved house! In May we FINALLY got the keys to our new home after first having our offer accepted just before Christmas so it's felt like a lifetime waiting to complete. We had so many delays so week after week I just felt stressed & of course lockdown didn't help but as soon as we got the keys, all of that just went away. I'm hoping I'll get the reading bug back now that stress has gone & Summer is on the way so I just know I'm going to be sat in the garden loads with a book while Bear plays, something I've wanted to do for so long. Anyway, now that's out of the way and hopefully explains a little why things have been a bit all over the place here, let's talk about the books I did manage to read in April and May.

Playing Nice by J.P. Delaney - ⭐⭐⭐
This is the first book I've ever read by J.P. Delaney which is surprising as his books have been recommended so many times! Playing Nice starts when Pete Riley answers his door one morning, not knowing a parent's worst nightmare is about to come true. There stands Miles Lambert, a stranger, who says that Pete's son Theo isn't actually is his son, he is the Lambert's little boy who was switched at birth. Their real son went home with Miles and his wife Lucy. For Pete and Maddie, their life is about to change forever. This was really tense just from the first chapter and I knew that no matter how nice everyone seemed, Pete and Maddie were going to end up with a fight on their hands. I didn't trust Miles from the start but I found all the characters quite complex and like they could be the one hiding something big from everyone else. For the most part I really enjoyed this but towards the end it just lost me a little. The ending was really drawn out and unrealistic.

The Stopover by T.L. Swan - ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
The first five star book of the month! I know books like Fifty Shades of Grey can divide opinion and I would say this is definitely along those lines so I'll keep try and keep this short and sweet but I clearly really enjoyed it! I'd seen this recommended quite a few times recently on Instagram and I was too intrigued to leave it any longer. This starts out with Emily Foster getting bumped up to first class for her flight to New York, something that never happens to a girl like her and that's where she meets Jameson. Sitting next to one another during the flight, they enjoy drinks and find they actually get on really well. Due to bad weather during the flight, they are rerouted to Boston and have the chance to spend the night together. After the best night, they go their separate ways, thinking that was all it was ever meant to be. A year later, Emily now has a job interview in New York and it turns out it's at Jameson's company. He wants to pick up where they left off but Emily has a boyfriend now. Can they resist? I'm so excited to read more from this author in future now.

The Spark by Jules Wake - ⭐⭐⭐
This is a really tricky one to rate, at times it felt like a five star, especially at the beginning but as the book went on, something changed and to be honest I don't know what. Insightful I know. The Spark is about Jess and Sam. As soon as their eyes lock at a party, there's a spark, genuine love at first sight. The issue is Sam is just out of a relationship and his ex Victoria won't back off making the honeymoon period hell. Is love at first sight enough to make this work? There was an obvious connection between Jess and Sam & I loved both characters despite their flaws & the messy way they get together because it just felt very believable. Life isn't always straightforward. At times though it was very predictable & I wish Sam had been a bit more outspoken as it often felt like Jess had to take the brunt of Victoria's pain which was a little unfair. I think if you're after something lighthearted to read this Spring, this is probably something you'd enjoy.

No One Can Change Your Life Except For You by Laura Whitmore - ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I rarely read non-fiction books but Laura Whitmore's brand new book stood out to me for a few reasons. Not gonna lie the gorgeous cover sucked me in and the title but it also seemed like such a positive, uplifting read and that was something I really needed at the time. In this, Laura talks about how we can become our own heroes and create our own dreams after sharing her struggles and experiences with heartbreak, self-doubt, insecurity and more. There's lots of chat around positive affirmations, self-belief and optimism and how all of those things can benefit our lives if we let them. I'm really into manifestation and speaking positive affirmations and I truly believe it's why some things have worked out how they have over the last 6 months so this was kind of just reinforcing a lot of what I've been trying to do anyway. I loved finding out more about Laura and some of the people she looks upto and I think there was a nice balance throughout of chapters about her life aswell as tips on controlling your perspective, trying to have a more optimistic outlook and positive affirmations to use going forward. It left me really empowered to be honest and I can see myself going back to this again and again for several little snippets.

The Doctor by Nikki Sloane - ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Okay I'm going to have to keep my reviews short for the next few because I don't really know what to say other than they're pure smut. Books by Nikki Sloane make Fifty Shades seem tame so that's saying something. The Doctor is the first book in a 3 part series by Nikki and it was definitely my favourite of the three. Cassidy is just home from college for the Summer when she realises her relationship with Preston is going nowhere. After deciding to end things, she realises the connection she has with his father...There's a 20 year age gap but the chemistry is real & can either of them resist? Of course not. I can see why this wouldn't be for everyone but I really enjoyed it. I read it all in about an hour!

The Pool Boy by Nikki Sloane - ⭐⭐⭐
The second in the series by Nikki Sloane and just as risque as The Doctor. Erika has just discovered her husband has been cheating on her for years with his boss and she's decides she's wasted too many years doing what is best for everyone else. She's putting herself first from now on and that means saying yes when she finds herself in a compromising situation with the twenty something pool boy. Whilst I did enjoy this and again found myself reading the whole thing super quickly, I definitely didn't find it quite as intriguing as Nikki's previous book.

The Architect by Nikki Sloane - ⭐⭐
The final book in the series and this was definitely my least favourite. I don't even know how to go about explaining the plot because it's just so crazy. It had moments which I enjoyed and it was nice that characters from previous books turned up at points but overall it was a bit too much for me.

So that's everything I've read over the last two months. I would still love to reach my reading goal of 80 books this year but I'm very behind right now so I have my doubts! I've really missed just sitting and getting properly stuck into a book these last few weeks whilst everything has been a bit mad so I'm looking forward to a bit of calm now.

What books have you read recently?

By the way, after taking much longer than I expected away from my small business to move house, I've finally re-opened the shop today! We still have 7 gorgeous brownies to choose from and we have 15% off all week too so would love it if you felt like treating yourself to a box or spreading the word!

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