Monday 2 October 2023

A Look At My 2023 Goodreads Challenge

 Gone are the days where I used to get through 100 books a year. Looking back, I genuinely don't know how I ever did that and I'm sure I did it at least 2 years in a row too. I used to love nothing more than getting stuck into a good book but over the last year or so in particular, I've massively struggled with it. I went into 2023 with the challenge of reading a book a month, so 12 by the end of the year obviously. Right now I'm just ahead so I thought I'd do a little roundup of what I've read so far this year, a bit of a throwback post as I used to these almost monthly!All Your Perfects - Colleen Hoover

When I'm in a bit of a reading slump, I find books by Colleen Hoover to be the perfect choice. They're always such an easy read and I tend to get through them ridiculously fast. I've read quite a few of hers now but the first of 2023 was All Your Perfects. This follows Quinn and Graham's troubled marriage and their quest to repair it. Memories, mistakes and secrets have built up over the years but promises from the past could be the one thing that saves them. I gave this 4 stars as it wasn't my favourite of Colleen's but still a great story that had me hooked.

Taste: My Life Through Food - Stanley Tucci

I don't know about you but I love Stanley Tucci. His films, his Instagram, he just seems like such a nice person 😂 Taste is a memoir of life in and out of the kitchen. Stanley talks about his life before films like The Devil Wears Prada which turned him into a bit of a household name, the highs and lows of acting and family life and he also shares some of his own recipes which I'm still yet to try out. It was just a really charming read and I love that there was a bit of everything in it!

London Block By Block - Cierra Block

I got this for Christmas last year and I was so excited to start it. It's a great guide to all things London and it's illustrated beautifully! Cierra literally goes block by block and talks all things Notting Hill, Chelsea, Piccadilly and so much more. Each section has a list of must see things and there are some dedicated sections like top London bakeries to visit, restaurants etc. Just a really cool little guide that I know I'll come back to before a trip!

Just Got Real - Jane Fallon

I've read quite a few books from Jane Fallon now, in fact she's one of the authors I used to absolutely love when I was in my major reading phases a few years ago. I picked up Just Got Real earlier this year and it was another enjoyable read. This book is about Joni who meets Ant via a dating app and neither of them are being entirely honest about who they are. Despite this they start a relationship and all is well until Joni discovers Ant is still on the app and has several other women in his life. I love how normal Jane's books are, they don't feel super far fetched and always keep me guessing how they're going to end and this was no different.

November 9 - Colleen Hoover

The second Colleen Hoover book of the year so far and I doubt it'll be the last. This follows Fallon and Ben who meet on Fallon's last day in LA before she heads off on a cross country move. After a great day together, they plan to meet up every year on November 9th and they do but then one day Fallon discovers Ben has actually used her eventful life as inspiration for his novel. Was anything between them ever real or has he been fabricating something for the perfect story? I really enjoyed this and it was another of Colleen's books that I just didn't want to put down.

One True Loves - Taylor Jenkins Reid

I actually watched the film adaptation of this starring Simu Liu and Phillipa Soo first, which I loved, before I read the book but I don't think that would have made a difference to how I felt about it. I loved both and the book has actually become the only one so far this year to get 5 stars from me. One True Loves follows Emma who is married to her high school sweetheart Jesse who later goes missing one day and is suspected dead. Years go by and Emma has no choice but to move on. She reconnects with an old friend called Sam and eventually they fall in love. Happy at her second chance at love and life, she never expects Jesse to one day turn up at her door but he does. Who is actually her one true love and where do they all go from here? I just love how this was written. I felt I could really imagine what Emma was going through and put myself in her position and I cared for all of the characters. This is a close second favourite of mine from Taylor Jenkins Reid, only beaten by the greatness that is The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo.

Only Love Can Hurt Like This - Paige Toon

If you've been around since pretty much the start of my blog, you'll know my love for Paige Toon. I've read every book of hers so far and always have the latest release on pre-order so it was no different with Only Love Can Hurt Like This. We start by meeting Wren who has just realised her fiance is in love with someone else. On the other side of the world we have Anders who lost his wife 4 years ago and is struggling to move on. Wren decides to spend the summer with her dad on his farm in Indiana, hoping it will help her heal but when she meets Anders there, both of their worlds are turned upside down. As always with books by Paige though, someone has a big secret and it could have serious implications for everyone involved. I gave this 4 stars as it was another beautifully written, emotional book from Paige that I found myself racing through.

Happiness For Beginners - Carole Matthews

Carole Matthews is another author that I went through a real phase with and I've definitely read the majority of her books. Some of my favourites being The Chocolate Lovers series! Happiness For Beginners had been on my list for a long time but I'm going to be honest, it wasn't a favourite of mine. Molly Baker lives on a farm and is surrounded by pretty much every animal you could imagine. She has turned it into an alternative school for kids who struggle to thrive in mainstream education and this is where she meets Shelby, someone so far removed from a life like hers, when he enrols his son Lucas. Despite their differences, there's something there between them, could this be the start of something special? This was an easy read with lots of little happy moments but I just didn't find myself hooked by the story.

So that's where I'm at so far with my 2023 Goodreads challenge. My current read is None Of This Is True by Lisa Jewell so I'd love to know your thoughts if you've read it! Hopefully I'll be back at the end of the year with a few more books to talk about, I have a huge pile growing in my office just waiting to be read!

What's been your favourite book of the year so far?

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Monday 3 July 2023

A Weekend In Amsterdam

 Just a casual 3 months? since my last blog post... I wanted to share our recent trip to Amsterdam. I mentioned in my last few posts, blogging has taken a backseat for me over the past year or so but every so often I still want to pop up when I actually have something worth sharing. This blog has been a big part of my life for a long time now and I still want to keep it going in some way. Our long-awaited trip to Amsterdam was something I knew I wanted to share so I hope you enjoy reading about it!Amsterdam had been on our travel list for quite some time and it was one of the places we were thinking of going for our honeymoon in 2018 but we settled on Paris eventually. Since then we got Bear which put a stop to trips abroad for a while then covid hit which delayed things even more and after that, we were just enjoying going on trips as a family and exploring more of the UK. We decided at the start of 2023 though, this was the year we really wanted to get abroad again though and Amsterdam was pretty much at the top of our list again. As always, I did so much research in the run up the trip, I just love finding out as much as I can and we settled on staying in Zaandam, a city just outside the centre of Amsterdam. It probably worked out a little bit cheaper staying there and getting the train into Amsterdam each day but to be honest the best thing about it was seeing another area of Amsterdam which we probably wouldn't have ventured out too in this trip otherwise and it was stunning! Zaandam genuinely doesn't even look real, it's like something from a movie set, a lot of buildings are very Wes Anderson like so if you're a fan of that, I'm sure you'll get what I mean by the photos. We spent our first evening just walking around exploring and taking photos and it was just a lovely start to the trip.Our next day was one of two full days where we could head into the centre of Amsterdam with no major plan aside from a few places dotted around I'd made note of and just explore. We got out nice & early and headed straight along through the centre until we found Melly's Cookies, a really cute little cafe which did a delicious mocha and the yummiest caramel filled cookie. I wish we'd had chance to go back as they had so much I wanted to try. We then did lots of walking around the canals, strolled upto Anne Frank's House and then spontaneously hopped on one of the canal cruises. I am SO glad we did this. I find a boat tour or bus tour in a new city is just such a great way to get some basic information about the place, see things you probably wouldn't have otherwise and also have some much needed chill time for an hour or so. We did so much walking that first day that by the time we got on the boat, I was so happy to just sit for a little bit and our tour guide was great.After that it was time for lunch and of course TikTok had me hooked me in with all of the Amsterdam food recommendations, one of the main ones being Fabel Friet. It was super busy but worth the wait. The fries were topped with parmesan cheese and we got mayo on one and spicy mayo on the other but they had such a huge range of sauce to choose from, I think they'd be something for everyone. We then headed to Van Stapele to pick up some of their amazing cookies. They only do one flavour and that's all they need as they do it so well, we very nearly went back to bring some home.After that it was just an afternoon walking around the city (some of it in mad rain) stopping for stroopwaffle, souvenirs and other bits and bobs and despite how tired we were at the end of it, I'm glad we saw how much we did on the first day.Our next day was a bit more chilled as we'd already seen so much but as we were blessed with really good weather that day, it was nice to just do some sightseeing with no real plan. We started with a trip to the Tony's Chocolonely store in Dam Square. It's only small but it's full of pretty much every flavour chocolate you could want and we definitely bought ourselves some to bring home. One of the main places I really wanted to visit whilst in Amsterdam was Winkel43 for their famous Apple Pie. I'm not kidding when I say this has been on my travel bucketlist for years. I absolutely love any kind of Apple Pie and this has the best reviews and has done for years. We expected it to be busy, especially with it being a weekend, and it was but so worth queuing. The apple pie exceeded all expectations, the pastry was incredible, the apple was soft but not mushy, the cinnamon flavour was lovely and the cream on top went with it perfectly. I'd go back in a heartbeat for another slice.With it being a Saturday, it turns out there was a market on nearby and this had some real hidden gems. Lovely bits of clothing, gorgeous souvenirs, baked goods, hot food. A must visit if you get chance.I didn't end up taking tons more photos that day as I was just enjoying walking around taking it all in but one place I still have to mention is Flo's Deli where we went for lunch. OMG the best bagel I have ever had in my life. I can't and probably won't stop thinking about it.After a bit more exploring we headed back to the hotel for the evening to get ready for our flight home the next day. The following morning we had one last look at Zaandam before getting the train to the airport and then before we knew it we were back in Manchester and driving home. 

I'm not a huge fan of flying and this was my first time on a plane in I don't even know how many years so I'm glad I managed to overcome my anxiety about it and go on a trip I'd wanted to go on for such a long time. I'm not sure I'll be wanting to fly everywhere all of a sudden but I'm definitely thinking about where we could go next as we have so many city breaks in mind for the future.If you're thinking about a trip to Amsterdam, I couldn't recommend it enough. There's definitely lots we still have to see that we just didn't prioritise this time so it's just an excuse to go back in a few years I think! I couldn't get over how beautiful the city was, the houses are just extraordinary and I keep thinking back to it, wishing it hadn't been over so quickly but that's always the way with holidays isn't it.

I'd love to know if you've been to Amsterdam and if you have any recommendations for our next visit?

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Tuesday 27 June 2023

Unleash Your Inner Chef: Top 9 Cooking Games for Android

Looking to unleash your inner culinary genius? With the advancement of technology, you no longer need to spend hours in the kitchen to sharpen your cooking skills. Thanks to cooking games for Android, you can now whip up delectable dishes and become a virtual master chef right from the comfort of your own smartphone or tablet. Whether you're a seasoned cook or just starting out, these games offer a fun and interactive way to learn new recipes, experiment with ingredients and challenge your friends to cooking competitions. From time management games that put your multitasking skills to the test, to realistic cooking simulations that allow your to slice, dice and sauté with precision, there is a cooking game for every taste.
In this article, we've rounded up the top 9 cooking games for Android that will satisfy your appetite for culinary adventure. So, grab your virtual apron and get ready to cook up a storm!

Top 9 Cooking Games For Android

Cooking Fever
Cooking Fever is a time management game where you can cook a variety of dishes in different restaurants. From fast food joints to fancy restaurants, you'll have the opportunity to test your cooking skills and serve hungry customers. The game features over 400 levels and offers a wide range of ingredients and cooking equipment to unlock.

Cooking Slots - Run Restaurant
Are you a fan of both slots and cooking games? Wouldn't you just love to find a game that combines the two gaming experiences? Well 'Cooking Slots - Run Restaurant' is a new slots gameplay that offers just that. It is an amazing slots game that can bring you a wonderful real slots experience with an awesome cooking-themed features. All you need is to spin the lucky wheel and collect coins. If you want to check more fruit and food slot games, visit the Lottoland lottery and casino website, where you can find an array of such games.

Food Truck Chef
In Food Truck Chef, you'll be running your own food truck and serving customers with delicious street food. The game offers a variety of cuisines and locations, allowing you to explore different flavours and ingredients. With over 700 levels and a challenging gameplay, Food Truck Chef is sure to keep you entertained for hours.

Cooking Diary
Cooking Diary is a restaurant management game where you can build and customise your own restaurant empire. From designing the interior to hiring staff and creating a menu, you'll have full control over your restaurant. The game also features a wide range of recipes to master and offers regular updates with new content.

World Chef
World Chef is a social restaurant management game where you can create and run your own international restaurant. You'll be responsible for hiring and training staff, designing the menu and serving customers from all around the world. The game also allows you to visit and interact with other players' restaurants, adding a social element to the gameplay.

Cooking Dash
In Cooking Dash, you'll be helping Flo, the famous TV chef, to serve customers in her restaurant. The game offers a variety of fast-paced levels and challenging tasks, including cooking, serving and managing customer satisfaction. With its interesting gameplay and engaging storyline, Cooking Dash is a must-play for cooking game fans.

Cooking Mama
Cooking Mama is a classic cooking game that has been popular on various platforms for years. In this game you'll be following Mama's instructions to prepare a variety of dishes. The game features a wide range of recipes and cooking techniques and the intuitive controls make it easy for anyone to play.

Star Chef
Star Chef is a cooking and restaurant management game that allows you to create and customise your own gourmet restaurant. You'll be responsible for every aspect of the restaurant, from hiring staff to designing the menu and cooking delicious dishes. The game also offers a variety of cooking challenges and competitions to test your skills.

Cooking in the Kitchen
Cooking in the Kitchen is a fun and interactive cooking game for kids. In this game, you'll be following step-by-step instructions to prepare a variety of dishes. The game features colourful graphics and easy controls, making it suitable for young children who are just starting to learn about cooking.

Cooking game challenges and missions
One of the exciting aspects of cooking games is the challenge they offer. Many cooking games feature a variety of challenges and missions that you need to complete in order to progress in the game. These challenges can range from cooking a specific dish within a time limit, to serving a certain number of customers, or even competing in cooking competitions against other players.

Completing these challenges not only adds a sense of accomplishment but also allows you to earn rewards and unlock new levels, recipes and equipment. The challenges in cooking games are designed to test your cooking skills, time management, and decision-making abilities, providing a fun and engaging experience. 

In addition to the main challenges, many cooking games also offer bonus missions or mini-games that provide additional opportunities for gameplay. These can include activities such as decorating cakes, running a food truck, or participating in special events. These bonus missions add variety to the gameplay and allow you to explore different aspects of the culinary world.

Conclusion and final thoughts
Cooking games for Android offer a fun and interactive way to unleash your inner chef. Whether you're a passionate foodie or just looking for a way to relax and unwind, these games provide a range of benefits, from learning new recipes and cooking techniques to improving your time management and multitasking skills. With a wide variety of games available, you can choose one that suits your taste and skill level.

*This is a collaborative post

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Tuesday 7 February 2023

Meet Paddington!

 Well, Hi! It's been a little while again. I think my last post was in July 2022 and whilst I knew my full time blogging days were behind me, I had hoped I might try and get a few posts up before the end of the year but clearly that didn't happen. In some ways loads of things have happened since then and in other ways, there isn't a huge amount of difference. One big thing that has happened since I last blogged though is that we got another dog. Meet Paddington!As I'm sure you know, we already have our Bear who is about to turn 4 this month! We've wanted to get him a brother or sister for a long time and once we moved into our house, it was only a matter of time. We first met Paddington in the summer of 2022 and he came home in September. He's a cockapoo so has bundles of energy, too much sometimes and he's already over 6 months old!I'm gonna be honest, everyone on social media shows how getting a second dog is the most perfect thing and how the older dog just takes to the puppy and it's all wonderful but that wasn't really the case for us. Of course, we loved him from the moment we met him but Bear has taken a little while to get used to having another dog around the house. Even now, while he loves playing with Paddington and when he's in a really good mood will snuggle upto him (usually in the car), we're still not quite at the OMG BEST BUDS stage. Not everyday at least. Paddington adores him but Bear is so used to being an only dog, sometimes I think he's just waiting for him to go home. That being said, he'd miss him if he wasn't around, I just know it. That might all sound quite negative but I think it's important to be honest & I wish I'd seen more chat like this from other dog parents. Paddington is part of the pack now and we wouldn't change him for anything but it's been hard and I think it's okay to acknowledge that!We were both as ready as we were going to be to enter the puppy stage again but it's not until you're actually back in it, you realise how hard it was the first time round. Luckily as we've done it before we've been so much better at certain things like training and setting certain boundaries straight away that we didn't with Bear. Whilst we absolutely won't be doing this again for a good few years (if not longer.. as much as I'd love a house full of dogs) I do think we'll only learn even more each time & get more and more confident.

I don't really think there's loads more to say about Paddington at the moment but I just thought it was about time I introduce him properly! He is such a character and wouldn't harm a soul, I still can't believe he's ours after wanting another dog for so long. I'd love to know if you've got a second dog at any point and how you found it?I have the best intentions to get back to blogging occasionally so hopefully I'll stick to it this time. We have some fun trips to London planned so I'd love to document those and we're also off to Amsterdam in a few months so I know that's the sort of post I'll love to look back on in the future!

Hopefully speak to you soon! x

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