Thursday 30 December 2021

What I Read In September, October, November & December

 I have been so behind with blogging recently so this post is literally months later than I planned! I still wanted to share it before I talk my favourite books of the year and set myself a new Goodreads challenge. Luckily there aren't loads of books to talk about since my last reading roundup so it won't take too long to get through! Here are the books I read in September, October, November and December.

Eight Perfect Hours by Lia Louis - ⭐⭐⭐

It was in 2020 I think that I first read a book by Lia Louis, that being Dear Emmie Blue and I really did enjoy it. I was so excited for her new release Eight Perfect Hours so I grabbed it as soon as I saw it was on one of the kindle deals recently. On a snowy evening in March, Noelle finds herself stranded after a blizzard closes off the roads. All seems lost until she sees Sam Attwood, a handsome American stranger who is also stuck on the road with no-one for company. They find themselves stuck for eight perfect hours and at the end of that, neither of them want to say goodbye. Eventually parting, they both face facts, they'll never see each other again but maybe fate has other plans.... I'm glad I've got to read another book by Lia Louis as I find her writing style just flows really well and it always hooks me in but I can't say I loved this. It was sweet but I wouldn't be in a rush to read it again.

Baby It's Cold Outside by Emily Bell - ⭐⭐⭐⭐
This was such a lovely book and exactly the sort of thing that I needed. I read it all in about a day which in the past when I was reading all the time was a regular thing but not this year so that shows how much I enjoyed it. Baby It's Cold Outside follows Norah who faces Christmas alone contemplating the mad idea of trying to reconnect with someone she met ten years ago. All those years ago on a trip to Italy, she met & fell for Andrew but since then life has got in the way and they've not seen each other since. They planned that if they were both single on Christmas Eve 2019, they would meet in Dublin. Norah has nothing to lose but will Andrew be there? And even if he is, has she actually been missing out on someone a little closer to home? This was very predictable at times but I didn't even care, I just found it a really easy read and it made me feel all festive!

Worst Idea Ever by Jane Fallon - ⭐⭐⭐⭐
I find books by Jane Fallon so easy to read and I always tend to really enjoy them for that reason. When I've been in a slump with reading or just can't decide what to go for next, a book like Worst Idea Ever usually really gets me stuck in again. This is one of Jane's latest books and probably my favourite one from her so far. Worst Idea Ever is about best friends Georgia and Lydia. Best friends tell each other everything don't they? When Lydia's online business starts to struggle, Georgia wants to help her. Setting up a fake Twitter account do so, she hopes moral support from a potential new customer may give Lydia a boost. But then Lydia starts telling her new internet friend things about Georgia and Georgia realises maybe she's got herself in too deep. Can their friendship come back from this? This is definitely one of those books that you know from the beginning the characters have created an absolute mess and it's almost hard to read at times because of it but there's a lot of humour too and I really liked Georgia and her husband as characters.

The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney - ⭐⭐⭐⭐
This had been on my to read list for a long time so when the trailer for the TV adaptation was released, I knew it was finally time. When I can I like to read the book before seeing the show or movie if one has been made and I'm glad I did that with this. The Girl Before follows Emma and Jane. Two women in different years but in the same house. The first tenant Emma needs a new start. A house she can feel safe in after a break-in. One Folgate Street seems perfect. But there are rules. The landlord won't allow books, photos, clutter or personal effects. The house is intended to transform the occupant and that's exactly what it does to Emma. Years later Jane is the newest tenant. All seems too good to be true and she soon learns it is. She discovers how much she looks like the previous tenant and how similar they were but will she have the same tragic fate? This was such a good psychological thriller and I couldn't put it down. Loved the short, snappy chapters and it was so easy to flick from one persons perspective to another. I thought the TV adaptation was brilliant too. 

So that's finally a roundup of my final few books of the year! Not as many as I hoped but I think I know now not to aim so high with my reading challenge in 2022.

I'd love to know if you've read any of these books?

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Monday 25 October 2021

Can Some Food and Drinks Wrinkle Your Skin Permanently?

 *This is a collaborative post

Can the food that we eat and the drinks we consume contribute to wrinkled skin? Unfortunately, the answer is yes, poor dietary habits and wrinkles are linked in several direct and indirect ways. Wrinkles, fine lines and other signs of premature aging are often brought on by conditions such as obesity, malnutrition, poor hydration and mineral imbalances, among others. Although an unhealthy diet is not the only reason why people suffer from conditions that lead to premature aging, it is certainly one of the primary contributors. Scientists have identified various food and drinks directly linked to premature aging and we are about to warn you against some of the most harmful ones next.

Alcohol: A Leading Cause of Premature Aging
Most of us know how we look in the morning after a night of heavy drinking, so this one is quite self-explanatory! Although we tend to believe that those effects will always be temporary like they are now, that is not true. Frequent (weekly/biweekly) binge drinking sessions and excessive consumption of alcohol on a regular bases are both related to permanent wrinkles and other signs of premature aging. The negative effects of alcohol are brought on via constant but mild dehydration and skin inflammation. While some of the skin damage if irreversible without medical aesthetics treatment procedures, detoxed alcoholics can regain at least a portion of their original glamour with a healthy lifestyle and diet.

Refined Sugar: Sweetened Beverages & Food
When consumed regularly and in excess for a long time, refined sugar can become a cause for serious health concerns, addiction and of course, symptoms of premature aging. To get a better understanding of how excess sugar consumption is often responsible for wrinkles, fine lines and other dermatological health issues, just go through the following:

- Excess sugar availability creates glycotoxins, aka Advanced Glycation End products (AGEs)

- Glycotoxins break down collagen via oxidation, creating gaps between the fibres

- These gaps show up on the skin surface as wrinkles and lines

- Broken fibres leave the skin more prone to sun damage, which leads to a depending of existing wrinkles, as well as the formation of new ones

- AGEs are also linked to diabetes, a disease that damages the entire body from the inside

Are Your Wrinkles Reversible?
Thanks to technological advancements made in the field of medical aesthetics, PICO Clinics assures us that not only is it possible to reverse untimely wrinkles, but even natural, age-induced wrinkles can be reversed at their clinic. The clinic in London also specialises in treating lines (face, neck, forehead, etc) with the same technology. Since every human's skin is different, book an appointment with them first to know more.

Avoid adding sugar to your coffee/tea and reduce your consumption of artificially sweetened beverages (soda, refined fruit juice, cold coffee, etc). To avoid glycotoxins in particular, you will need to reduce your consumption of heat-processed sugar, dairy and meat products. As far as alcohol is concerned, it's better to practise the rule of portion control. Irrespective of the frequency, always keep your number of drinks per session low (1-3).

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Monday 18 October 2021

London September 2021 - River Cruise, & Juliet, Pretty Woman & More

 Hi, it's been a long time again hasn't it?! I was very unsure whether to even write this post actually as blogging just isn't at the forefront of my mind anymore but I still love looking back on old posts, especially more personal ones like this so even though it's taken a little while, I still wanted to write this. About 18 months later than planned, George and I finally got to go on the London trip we had planned and it was so worth the wait. When we first went in lockdown we all naively believed it really might just be 3 weeks and part of me really clung onto the hope that our April 2020 city break would still go ahead but clearly it didn't and it kept getting pushed back and pushed back. Luckily after re-arranging about a million times, September 2021 was the lucky month.We ended up going for 3 nights which was perfect as by the end of it my feet were absolutely dead and I don't think could have walked any further but it also meant we got to see so much and really take our time. There wasn't really any time to do anything on the first evening due to when we arrived but we gained an extra morning so the next day we got out early and headed to Borough Market. This is one of our fave places in London and we always end up making a visit. To be honest it was a little disappointing this time though. Maybe it's just the after effects of Covid still? There were far less stalls than usual, a lot of the ones that were there were quite samey and it just didn't have the same atmosphere it normally does. That being said we did try some amazing food, the main thing being a Moong Dal Dosa from Horn OK Please. This is honestly one of the best things I've ever eaten and I would happily go back again just for that.That afternoon we had booked to go on the London Eye River Cruise. This ended up being absolutely brilliant and I'd do it again in a heartbeat. It's only about 40 minutes long which I think is perfect really as you see so much but it doesn't drag. It starts at the London Eye and takes you along the River Thames showing some of London's most famous landmarks like the Houses of Parliament, St Paul's Cathedral, Shakespeare's Globe, Tower Bridge and lots more. The tour guide really knew her stuff and was funny too and we both left having really enjoyed ourselves. The weather wasn't amazing that day but luckily the rain held off for the boat trip and London is beautiful regardless so it was nice to just sit and take it all in. Tickets are about £13pp and I couldn't recommend it enough.That evening after a stop at Whole Foods and Creme Cookies, we finally got to see our first theatre show in almost 2 years. I was lucky enough to be invited to see & Juliet when it was first showing in Manchester in 2019 (you can find my blog post on it here) and it was obviously one of the shows we were supposed to see last year as it had transferred to the West End. It was completely worth the wait. I think it's possibly my new favourite musical as I'd go back and see it again and again. The cast are just insanely talented, the music is incredible, the set, just everything about it. The atmosphere was on another level and it just felt really special being back in a theatre. The next day started by venturing out to Notting Hill which is one of my fave places in London. Maybe because I've watched Paddington and Nothing Hill so much. It's just such a calm place, or at least it has been whenever we've been and there always seems to be something new. We had to pop into the actual Notting Hill Bookshop while we were there and I loved the idea of their 'Blind Date With A Book'. We both picked one up and I can't wait to read mine, it's an author I've not heard of before so it's such a fab way to discover books you might never have picked up before!We then went to Old Spitalfields Market for the first time and I can see this becoming a new regular spot of ours when in London. The most incredible food, we were absolutely spoilt for choice. 

That evening after a wander around Covent Garden, one of the most beautiful places in London, we went to see Pretty Woman the musical. Pretty Woman is my all time favourite film so I was super excited to see this. Again, it was just lovely to be sat in a theatre, there really is no feeling like it. It was so nice to hear all of the famous lines from the film and the cast again were amazing. Bob Harms who we actually saw in Come From Away a few years ago, steals the show but Aimie Atkinson, Danny Mac and Rachael Wooding aswell as the whole ensemble are just brilliant. The more I think about it, the more I just want to go back and see it again.I think both & Juliet and Pretty Woman were the perfect shows as our first ones back after Covid and lockdowns etc. I think everyone just appreciates everything so much more than before so the atmosphere is only even better, you could even tell the casts in both shows are just happy to be back doing their job! 

Like with any trip, it went too fast and I already miss it but luckily we'll be back in December so it's not too long to wait. I love London all year round but when the Christmas markets are on and everywhere is just so festive, it's only even better so I'm so excited. 

Where's your favourite place in London?

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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!

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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Wednesday 14 April 2021

Create Your Own Signature Style With These Accessories

 This article is published in collaboration with Media Buzzer

We all know just how important accessories are when it comes to what we wear. Rather than following trends seen on social media, you can create your very own style, one that suits you down to the ground. Here is a list of must-have accessories if you want to forge your way into the fashion stakes.

Image Source: Pixabay

Range of Bangles
If you shop for silver jewellery online, you get top quality pieces at affordable prices; someone has to pay for the plush retail premises and shopping online is 15-20% cheaper. Bangles can be mixed and that could be one of your trademarks, with superb sterling silver hand-crafted bangles in a range of combinations.


Your choice of bag says a lot about you and whether a chic laptop case for business, or the backpack for hiking, choose your bags wisely. Have at least 1 designer bag for those formal events and then add to your collection whenever you are in need of a suitable bag. Search online for bag inspiration and you won't be disappointed.

Layered Necklaces

Why not be the girl that always wears an interesting selection on necklaces? Check out the many fashion websites online where you can see many stacked necklaces and chunky silver necklaces for women. There are no hard and fast rules regarding wearing multiple necklaces. It won't take you long to amass a collection of varying length necklaces if you shop for sterling silver jewellery online, and make sure the pieces are hand-crafted and carry the 92.5 stamp.

Image Source: Unsplash

You could go sporty and wear some bright Nike or Adidas, wearing neon-coloured shoelaces of odd colours, which is guaranteed to get you noticed. Many women make a strong fashion statement with their footwear and the great thing about online shopping is the variety, which means you can easily find a pair of shoes that turn the eye.

Device Holder
Every woman of today should have their digital device at hand, with a leather smartphone and a sleek iPad case, for those occasions when you need to work. These valuable devices demand good protection. They are also great fashion accessories and with online solutions, you can order suitable device carriers.


Image Source: Unsplash

These are ideal when the temperature is still on the low side, plus they can be worn in many ways. You could have a range of printed scarves in various colours and that would quickly become an item that people identified with you. Search online for an amazing selection of fashion scarves and shawls, which are great in the Spring and Autumn.

Once you have a firm idea of the look you are trying to create, spend some time thinking about all of the above. Slowly but surely, you can set your own signature style that will identify with you. Don't be afraid to experiment when doing this and with some feedback from a good friend, you can set your own trends.

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Monday 5 April 2021

What I Read In March

 Anyone else think the months are flying by?! I can't quite believe we're already in April and it's time to talk about the books I read in March. It genuinely feels like a few days ago when I was talking about books from February. I can't say I'm sad that the days seem to be going by quite quickly at the moment though. I mentioned last month how much I struggled with the latest lockdown and now we're officially out of it (I think?) and better times are coming, it feels like a weight has been lifted. I'm definitely not reading at the speed I was last year just because I've been so busy with Bear's Brownies and More and generally life has been a little stressful so it just hasn't been on my radar but there's still loads of time to reach my goal for the year. In March I managed to read 5 books so here's what I thought of them!collage of book covers

My Sweet Revenge by Jane Fallon - ⭐⭐⭐
It had been quite a while since I'd last read a Jane Fallon book and after becoming really picky with thrillers which is one of my fave genres, I thought I'd go for something completely different and also from an author I always enjoy. My Sweet Revenge follows Paula who wants to make her husband fall back in love with her. She's discovered he's been having an affair so goes on a mission to revamp herself, so when she confronts him, he'll realise what he's lost. While this wasn't my fave book by Jane, it did give me the reading bug back a little. It was such an easy read and I loved how snappy the chapters were, nothing felt like it was dragging and there was a good twist towards the end which I didn't expect! I didn't initially like that she set out to lose weight and change herself for a man but I do think as the book goes on and she gains confidence that it does become more about her finding herself which I liked.

If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane - ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Ahh I really enjoyed this! I've read a few books by Mhairi McFarlane before, my favourite being You Had Me At Hello so I had just been waiting for this to be on offer on Kindle. If I Never Met You is about Laurie and Jamie, who to all of their work colleagues look madly in love. The reality is though that it's all staged. Laurie has just been dumped by Dan, her boyfriend of 18 years who she'll still have to work with & she wants revenge. Jamie is after a promotion and knows how much the bosses admire Laurie. Why not join forces? The rules are set via email, the photos are staged but over time do the feelings become real? I loved the tension between Laurie and Jamie almost instantly and whilst it might have been quite predictable how it would end, I still loved it. I felt Laurie's pain when Dan quickly moves on & she felt like a character I could really root for. I hope there's a short story follow up one day as I'd love to know what happens to Laurie and Jamie next.

The Perfect Nanny by Karen Clarke & Amanda Brittany* - ⭐⭐⭐
The first thriller of March and I really enjoyed it. The Perfect Nanny follows Sophy, a new mother whose struggling with looking after her nine month old, an overbearing mother in law and feeling like she's lost herself since becoming a mother. After bumping into Liv at a mother and baby group who offers her services as a nanny, Sophie is relieved. The thing is Liv has a secret. For years she has been convinced Sophy is responsible for her brother's death many years ago and now she's found her, she's going to make her pay. As Liv starts to work for Sophy though, has she actually got it all wrong? I have read books quite similar to this before so parts of it were quite predictable but overall it did keep me guessing throughout. I liked that we hear from both Sophy and Liv throughout and all of the characters were quite complex so I was never quite sure who to trust. I enjoyed the twists that are revealed towards the end too!

The Catch by T.M. Logan - ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
This is the second book I've read by T.M. Logan. I read his previous book The Holiday a while ago and to be honest I wasn't that impressed so I wasn't sure if this would end up being similar. It was SO different though and for that reason so much better and it's become my second 5 star book of the year. I've been so picky with thrillers recently but this was genuinely tense, kept me guessing throughout and had some really interesting characters involved. The Catch is about Ed's quest to figure out who his daughter's fiance Ryan really is. From the moment he meets Ryan, he's suspicious and knows that something is not quite right. Everyone else thinks Ed is just being an overprotective dad so the more he digs into Ryan's past, the more he pushes everyone else away. Has Ed got it all wrong or is Ryan actually dangerous? and who will come out top in the end? This was just everything you want in a psychological thriller. As soon as you think you trust a character, the next minute something happens that completely changes your opinion. The setting of the Peak District was perfect too & I could picture everything so clearly and the writing itself just flowed perfectly. When I read The Holiday, I thought the writing was a bit clunky and I just couldn't comfortably sit and read a lot of it in one go but I could with this. A really brilliant book.

The Shape Of Us by Drew Davies - ⭐⭐
The Shape Of Us is about several different characters all going about their day in London whose lives end up colliding in ways they never expected. Daisy, rushing to work is almost knocked over by a cyclist who then asks for her number. Jojo, a woman in her sixties is desperately trying to win her husband back from his mistress. Adam lies to his housemate every day since losing his job. Dylan has an illness which means he can't leave his home, but it hasn't stopped him falling in love. These four strangers have one thing in common, they're looking for love and totally hopeless at it. But could that all change? This started off really well and I quite quickly became really invested in Daisy's story and her chapters were the ones I always ended up looking forward to. About a quarter of the way in though I felt like the pace really changed and I found it a bit of a slog to get through after that. There are so many characters throughout that it became a bit too complicated trying to keep track of who was who and how they were connected. I'm glad I finally read this as it's been on my list for a while but it didn't blow me away.

A bit of a disappointing end to the month but overall quite a good month for books! My first five star book in a while and a nice variety which kept things interesting. I'd love to know if you've read any of these books or if you have any recommendations?

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Tuesday 23 March 2021

How To Display Antiques In A Modern Home

 This article is published in collaboration with Media Buzzer
Image Source: Unsplash

Many people assume that displaying antiques in a modern home requires a lot of space and money, but this couldn't be further from the truth. All you need is a little creativity to find ways to display your antiques tastefully, so they fit well in the modern environment within which you live. Below are some tips to help you get started, which can help turn your modern house into a home full of personality, and antiques.

Have A Plan
The first thing that you will need to do is create a plan for how you will display your antique collection. It is worth taking time to plan the display of your antiques, and the more planning you do and creative thinking, the better the result will look. You can get a lot of inspiration online and even by visiting various antique shops, giving you ideas of how you can replicate the look in your home.

Less Is More
Rather than displaying all your antiques in one room with no actual theme, you are better to show them off and create focal points in your room. You can put on display some of the best items in your home and have these on your fireplace, bookshelf or table. You will want to avoid having too much on display which can make your home seem like an antique store, and you will also want to have a theme for each room you are displaying your antiques.

Image Source: Pixabay

Give Each Room A Theme
If you have an eclectic collection of antiques, rather than displaying them all, you will want to give each room in your home a theme and try and stick with it. If you have an office or library, this can be an excellent place to display books and one of those vintage furniture for sale online. If you have kitchen-related antiques, you can consider displaying these in your kitchen. However, as there is a lot of heat and moisture in your kitchen, you will need to be careful about the antiques you have here, and it is the same with your bathroom.

Purchase An Antique Cabinet
You can also consider buying yourself an antique display cabinet which will be the perfect place to showcase your collection in your home. A search of the antique dealers in your local area will show plenty of choices when looking for a suitable cabinet. You will want to ensure that everything you display in your cabinet follows a theme to make it seem in place and at home displaying your antiques. You can select a cabinet that matches the decor of your home, and it can also be a beautiful antique in itself which makes for the ideal place to show off more antiques.

Image Source: Unsplash

With some creativity and careful planning, you can have the modern and the old embraced in your home and display your antique collection with pride. Take your time in planning your display, and do not be afraid to try new things, and with a bit of patience and luck, you can transform the way your home looks and feels. You can proudly display your antiques for everyone to enjoy who visits your house and make it feel like a loving home.

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Wednesday 17 March 2021

Lockdown Favourites - The BEST waffles, Firefly Lane, Small Businesses & More

 It's been a few weeks but I'm back with another post and today it's all about my lockdown favourites! It's been such a long time since I last shared a favourites post and gone are the days where I would post them every month but there's quite a few things I've been absolutely loving over the last few weeks whilst we've been in lockdown that I wanted to talk to you about!

The BEST waffles
It's really been the little things that have got me through this latest lockdown. Saturday night date nights where we'll cook a really nice meal and watch a film (or The Masked Singer, I was obsessed). Winter walks with Bear. A special breakfast. There's been so little to look forward to that it really made me appreciate the things I probably wouldn't think much of otherwise. Last year we found this amazing cafe on one of our walks with Bear and ever since we have become regulars. I can't wait for the day we can sit inside rather than having to get takeaway but regardless the food is just incredible. Every so often we'll grab breakfast and a hot chocolate and my current fave of theirs is the waffles. Just look at them. I think about them most days.

Small Businesses
I've bought from so many small businesses since I opened Bear's Brownies and More so it felt right I share some of them with you! I think having my own small business means I've really noticed how much I was shopping with bigger companies and it's not that I've stopped completely but for Christmas and any events since, I've been shopping small and I can't see myself stopping. There are SO many amazing small businesses out there and I'd support them all if I could. I know just how much 1 sale can completely turn your day around. Some of my fave small businesses to support recently have been Molly Catherine Designs for the most beautiful bookmarks, cards, prints and notebooks. PercyandBream for homemade dog treats. We bought some for Bear's birthday recently as they can be personalised and he loved them! DragonflyByNicki for face masks, dog bandanas and more. Bear loves his Star Wars bandana that he proudly wore on his birthday walk. SunshineSurprisesUK for brilliant cards for all events. Both George and I have bought from them several times! Fab for fans of musicals, Gavin and Stacey, Schitt's Creek and Bridgerton just to name a few things. SiobhanPrints for musical prints, custom prints, stickers and more. Finally, KilnersKreations has become a go to of mine recently for Bear. They sell an amazing range of dog toys aswell as bows, treat bags and lots more.

Firefly Lane
This is a pretty new addition to Netflix and quite quickly it received so much praise online so of course I was drawn in and had to know what the hype was about. This is based on a book of the same name by Kristin Hannah and it stars Katherine Heigl and Sarah Chalke as Tully and Kate. Tully and Kate first meet when they're teenagers on Firefly Lane and quite quickly they become inseparable. This follows the ups and downs of their friendships and relationships over 30 years. I found this such an easy watch and I just hope they do another series. I loved the characters and I thought Katherine Heigl in particular was brilliant. It's easily a show you could sit and binge-watch all in one go!

Line of Duty
Another show that I've been absolutely loving is Line of Duty. We've watched it all before but in the run up to the new series which starts later this week we've re-watched from Series 2 onwards and it's been such a good distraction from everything that's been going on. I think it's one of the best dramas out there and even though I've seen all of the episodes before, it does feel like with each re-watch you discover things you didn't notice before. The cast are fab and Martin Compston, Vicky McClure and Adrian Dunbar are just amazing as Steve, Kate and Ted. I cannot wait for series 6.

Bear's Birthday
It was Bear's birthday in February and I can't quite believe he's 2 already. Of course he was completely spoilt and I went over the top in every way for him. We took him for a long walk, popped into Pets At Home where he picked a new toy and some treats and he also had presents to unwrap afterwards which he has shown very little interest in since, of course. He's definitely a spoilt pup but I don't care, he gets me through some really tough days and I genuinely don't know what we would do without him. It blows my mind how long ago it feels when we first met him at 3 weeks and now he's this 2 year old dog with the funniest/craziest personality. Just love him so much.

Mowgli Nights
As I mentioned at the start of this post, Saturday nights have become date nights at home and it's really given us something to look forward to each week. Each weekend we'll cook a really nice meal and make a bit more effort and more often than not it's ended up being something from the Mowgli Cookbook by Nisha Katona. I know I've said it so many times but we first visited Mowgli in Oxford last year and ever since I've just become obsessed with all of the food. George got me the recipe book for Christmas and we're working our way through them all. My fave so far is the Angry Chicken Rotis with spicy curry potatoes but the Butter Chicken recipe is out of this world too. I couldn't recommend the book enough if you want to try out some new meals this year. 

Taylor Swift
Finally, I have become a bit of a Taylor Swift fan girl this lockdown. I know I'm so late to the party but I've finally discovered the greatness that is Folklore and Evermore. I just didn't really give either of them a chance when they were first released, I've always loved the older stuff from Taylor but a few months ago I properly listened to all of the songs and wow. I'm pretty sure my Spotify wrapped this year will just be Taylor Swift. 

So that's some of the things that have got me through this latest (& hopefully last) lockdown! You might have noticed that blog posts are very few and far between at the moment and I am hoping to continue posting once a week but I do keep getting that niggling feeling that my time blogging is coming to an end. Opening Bear's Brownies & More has just given me something else to focus on and sometimes blogging can feel like a bit of a chore now which I don't want. I want to love it and only ever post when I want to. So, if there doesn't seem to be much of a schedule around here anymore, that's why! It's been a tough few months for all of us so maybe that's been contributing more than I realised. 

Have you found yourself struggling with blogging recently too? How have you found this lockdown?

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