Molly&Mavis – Losing the Inspiration

When I first started this particular blog, I wrote a post about my creative inspiration and where the name came from.  Molly was my gorgeous Cocker Spaniel between 18 months and 12 years old.  She was our first real family pet that I remember.  She was beautiful and loving but was more for my mum and dad than for me.  Mavis were partners in crime.  Maisy, our little yappy Yorkie and Javis, the class clown of Cocker Spaniels.  He was my little brother, and my boy.  Molly passed away when I was 12, Maisy in November 2016 and 8 months later, we’ve lost Jarvis too.  He died last week of Canine Lymphoma, which we had no idea he was suffering with until the week prior.

As sombre as is the start of this blog post, the rest of it is filled with memories and love and pictures of Molly&Mavis, some of the best inspiration I could have been given.  Losing a pet can be as hard as losing a relative.  They become your life and you become theirs.  We spend so much of our time with them, devote so much of our lives to them and love you receieve in return is something kind of wonderful.

I’ve been lucky to grow up with animals from being a baby and it’s been one of the best things my parents could have given me.  My pets have taught me to have patience (you need it at those testing puppy stages!), to look after something (living!), to love (there really was nothing like Jarvis’) to have commitment to something (from being a tot) and discipline (both for me and the dogs!).  They’ve made me howl with laughter through the years, Jarvis in particular, and cry in pain (Molly once got in the way of hot coffe, my dad and my back!) and sadness (in losing them).  Having a pet is time consuming, it’s expensive and it’s hard work, but man it’s worth it.  If you have the time, and make sure you do, to commit to something as special as an animal, do it.  Give them all the love you have because in return man really does get a best friend.

Molly&Mavis might have chased a ball off in to the doggy afterlife, but we will continue to make them proud in writing, creating and making.  I might even have to start a sideline project after our rescue cats Lancelot&Walter…Watch this space.

x

p.s. Please, please, please get pets responsibly.  They deserve love and attention, don’t take something on without reading up about it first.  Too many pets end up in rescue centres because people don’t have the time.  Think long and hard about this commitment first.

Wedding Do’s and Don’ts Part 2: The Big Day

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Five weeks have passed since I became a ‘Mrs’.  Life has gone back to normal, though I’m still being asked, ‘How’s married life?’…Truth be told, it’s exactly the same as non-married life, which, as my fellow recently married friend pointed out at the weekend, can only be a good thing.  We’ve been together for seven years and lived together for four years, so we’re quite used to habits, lifestyles and irritations.  I make it sound dull and boring, but after the past few months, this is exactly what I needed, but that’s not to say that the big day wasn’t truly the best day of our lives so far.

The day started with a downpour, which is apparently lucky, and being woken up by my parent’s one year old cat, Lancelot.  I was surprisingly calm the whole day, that’s not to say that I didn’t get irritable and stressed the night before, but I surprised myself, never mind everyone else.  I learned a lot about myself during this process and if I could roll it all up in to my ‘Top Ten – Do’s and Don’ts’ this is what I would tell you…

10 – Be Prepared

My husband (naww!) proposed to me 18 months before the big day arrived and boy was I happy to wait.  The longer we waited to get hitched, the longer I had to plan.  I knew I was going to be hard work at some stages, largely down to my anxiety, but also down to the simple fact that I’m a complete control freak (see The Planning Stages).  However, when it came down to the day, the service and the reception, it absolutely played in our favour.  All we could do was relax.  Everyone knew where to be, where to go, what to do and what we wanted.  By the morning of, it was completely out of my hands and, having planned everything so far ahead, I knew I’d thought of everything.  It gave me a chance to take it all in and be prepared for anything out of the ordinary.

9 – If you like Pina Coladas and getting caught in the rain…

If it rains, who cares.  I thought it would be the be all and end all of my day, but it really wasn’t.  At times it was heavy and at others we could sit in the sunshine.  Get your photographer (whether professional or not – like ours!) to turn your pictures in to black and white pieces that Ansel Adams would be proud of.  It doesn’t dampen anyone’s mood, spirit or enjoyment of the day.  I didn’t see any one of our guests without a smile throughout the whole day, rain or shine.  Your day will be perfect whatever the weather and is what you make it!

Do a B*Witched and blame it on the weather man 😉

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One of many black and white shots, courtesy of my big brother

8 – Don’t get caught up trying to keep your dress sparkling ivory!

If I could do any part of the day again it would be to get ready, with my hair all done up and put that dress on again.  It was just perfect.  It made me feel like a queen for a day.  It wasn’t over the top, in fact quite the opposite, but it was the most magical thing I’ve ever put on.  I was so scared of the rain ruining it, mud getting on the bottom and getting something spilled on it.  When I spotted that our environmentally friendly confetti was marking it blue, pink and purple, I nearly died.  Then I thought of looking at it afterwards and remembering everyone throwing the confetti, the rain, the brollies and laughing.  I had many a bride at the wedding and they told me to relax, get it dry-cleaned if I needed to and to just enjoy the day without worrying about the dress.  I did and I’m glad I did.

I can’t wait to have it tailored in to something else so that I can wear it again.

7 – Do try and thank as many people as you can…

Sounds obvious and boring for the bride and groom but it means so much to everyone.  Make time for your guests, don’t stress about not getting through everyone, but make an effort to speak to as many people as you can.  I did this whilst they changed the room from day to disco, get a drink, sit down and have a natter.  Don’t like a song that’s on?  Grab someone and say thank you.  For us, it was more about the distance people had traveled to be with us and them having spent money to be there.  They deserved to be acknowledged and after all, the people there really make your day special, so take some time and pull up a chair.

6 – Get some comfy night-time sneaks!

On of the best decisions I made was to buy some converse to go underneath my dress.  Whether I was to have a long or short dress, I decided I was going to do this from the proposal.  I had the most gorgeous Dorothy-esque, blue Irregular Choice heels for the daytime, but I wanted to enjoy the evening blister, pain and height free.  I searched high and low for the perfect pale blue to match my colour scheme and there they were – on sale at Schuh!  I changed just after the meal and I saw dancing right through to midnight. An irregular choice, but a perfect schuh!

5 – Stop worrying about everyone else – they’re having a great time

I worried whether people liked the food, if my vegetarian and pescetarian could eat what I’d picked, I worried that the kids didn’t have enough, that people thought my desert of wedding cupcakes and ice cream were cheap…stop it!  Worry not.  If you enjoy your food, your desert and everyone looks like they’re eating, they’re probably happy and that’s all that matters.  Our food was unbelievable, I’d never tasted tomato soup like it and everyone told me to stop worrying and bothering them – I became more of an annoyance than I did a caring host.  Sit down, shut up and enjoy the grub!

 

4 – Whilst we’re talking about food…remember to eat!

Even if you’re not hungry, sit down and eat something.  I had gin coming to me in bucket loads and a new husband who didn’t want to have to carry his wife up two flights of very steep stairs.  He reminded me to get something off the buffet later in the evening and made sure I ate my dinner earlier in the day.  The best advice regarding alcohol that I can give is to take it in moderation, don’t mix too much and make sure something is there to soak it up.  You want to remember this day for the rest of your life – you’ve spent a small fortune after all.

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As a side note, the first dance is both terrible but lovely, choose a song you love – even if you don’t want to dance you can sing your way through it

 

3 – Remember to thank your parents and in-laws

I could not have done this without my parents and in-laws.  My mum and dad truly are the most caring, loving and thoughtful pair I could ever have wished for and I really do know how lucky I am.  They did so much for us in the run up and on the day of the wedding.  They had the time of their lives and if I could do it all again it would simply be to see how happy they were throughout the whole day.  The didn’t stop smiling.  Equally, my mother and father-in law are very special people.  They accepted me for all my quirks from day one and helped us so much with keeping me calm, family matters and the day itself.  They are wonderful people.  Make sure you say thank you.  I still don’t feel like I said it enough to people, but I know they know how much they mean to me.  Tell them you love them, you can’t do that enough.

2 – Talk to your other half at dinner because that’s the only time you’ll see them

Mildly joking, but in all seriousness you really don’t see eachother all that much.  People kept telling us to take five minutes for eachother but, with everything going on, it’s nigh on impossible.  We spent as much time as we could together, but it still wasn’t enough.  That doesn’t mean to say I regret not spending every waking minute with him, we were having a ball and it made the following day more special as we had so much to talk, think and reminisce about!  You’ve got the rest of your lives to talk, tell them that you love them and go and dance with your friends – he/she will join you when they’re ready to.

1 – Don’t be sad when it’s over

You have nothing to be sad about.  The day is essentially a big party, but the real deal is spending the rest of your lives together.  I had a moment or two when I felt a bit empty, when I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with my time, but then I thought of all the exciting things coming our way.  We went on a mini-moon which eased us in to married life, we have a trip to Vietnam coming up in August and we’re talking about buying our very own house, doggy and thinking about a family in future.  We’re 26 years old with a whole life ahead of us and that’s really very exciting!

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Mid photo shoot 😉

 

Take a step back, take it in and have the most amazing day.

 Mrs Walker x

Wedding Do’s and Don’ts Part 1: The Planning Stages…

Becoming the new Mrs Walker

It’s been five whole months since I last posted, which is largely down the fact that I’ve had my head and hands in all things weddings.  It’s been a tough few months, although we’ve been engaged for 18, it seems like these last five or six have been the hardest.

This blog post is a helpful ‘do’s and don’t’ from the planning stages from a self confessed control freak!

First things first…

DO:  Compromise…

We’ve had to do this quite a lot.  Although we’re very similar in terms of our futures and likes and dislikes, we’re very different in terms of where we wanted to get married and how.  My family now live in North Wales, which seemed an idyllic place to wed, but this also meant Simon’s family having to travel and pay to stay, so we compromised on the service and decided to marry in a Church.  My mum’s side of the family (though mostly now passed) were Catholic, as are Simon’s family, but we stopped going a long time ago.  I was quite happy to marry wherever we could, but we knew a Church would mean a lot to my in-laws and would be a beautiful setting, so we decided on a Catholic Church in a lovely Welsh village.  For the reception, I had only one place in mind…

Maenan Abbey - Country House Hotel and Restaurant

Picture can be found on www.maenanabbey.co.uk

DON’T: Underestimate how hard it is to get married…

There are tonnes of things to think about and people to appease.  Make a list of everything you need to do before rushing head first in to wedding mode.  Google, ask friends and family and the Church (if marrying here) what you need to do.  We had a nightmare because we were marrying out of our Parish, check this list out:

  1. Get permission from Parish Priest in Manchester to marry outside of the Parish
  2. Get permission from the Parish Priest in Llanrwst, Wales to say he was happy to marry us
  3. Book the registrar with Conwy Council
  4. Meet with each Priest as a couple
  5. Do a ‘Marriage Preparation’ course in February 2017 – this was every Thursday evening in a Church in Failsworth (not even our Parish!) for an hour – give or take!  Each week was themed by Mike and Shirley (a model couple – they were amazing) and the Priest at the Church.  Luckily, we weren’t alone and were with about 10 different couples
  6. Be interviewed by our Parish Priest – separately and together to show him that we were committed to eachother and not under pressure
  7. Fill in paperwork with the Priest
  8. Ask for letters of freedom from:
    • Our current Parish
    • The Parish that each of us were baptised in, as well as our Baptism certificates
    • Each Parish that we’d lived in from being 16 years old…
  9. The original Priest from Wales since retired, so we had to visit the new Priest
  10. After number 9, we had to arrange two, yes – I said two, wedding rehearsals!

And that was all in between, finding, booking and paying for the reception venue, which was slick, easy and a dream in comparison!

DO: Ask for help!

Being a control freak, this was really difficult.  I don’t like to ask for help, but my other half knows me so well that he can sense when I’m ‘in trouble’.  When I let him in to help, he came up with incredible ideas.  He organised a theme, thought about things we could do to emphasise the theme (which was literature) and helped me design favours and decorations – it was brilliant!

My mum and dad know me so well that they just didn’t ask and did.  My dad booked the cars for me and also organised a bus for extra guests – transport was organised.  My fiances parents were great in helping us speak to the Churches and organise permission etc.

Having help in those little areas meant a lot!  If you don’t want people to help with the specifics like design and making, just get them to help with admin and the more mundane tasks.  A problem shared is a problem halved and all that!

DON’T: Let someone else’s problem with YOUR day affect YOU…

Everyone told me – you can’t please everyone.

I was adamant that I would be pleasing everyone, but oh no, everyone has an idea of how YOU should do YOUR day.  Put it this way, if someone tries to make your wedding day or plan more difficult and more stressful, they aren’t worth the hassle.  We had family fall outs, strong words said and people crying over what now seems like a ridiculous matter in the grand scheme of things.  As much as I love everyone that is coming to the day, I would have been quite happy with us, our parents and our dogs…maybe even just us and the dogs – I mean just look at those little faces!!

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My little bro Jarvis the Cocker Spaniel

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Si’s little sis; Cara the Collie

At the end of the day, the day is yours and no one elses.  The day is for the two of you to marry – the party is a plus but people forget this – you and your partner are the most important people on that day and no one should make you feel any less.

DO: Have fun whilst you’re still engaged and planning…

I’m tired and I’ve been up to my eyeballs in stress at times, but I’ll really miss all of the build up.  I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself to be honest!  It’s taken up so much of my mental space for 18 months, it’s strange to think what I’ll fill my time with, but it has been so enjoyable and that’s because we’ve made an effort to make it so.

A lot of our day is ‘hand/home made’.  We don’t have a photographer or a DJ, so we’ve had to think about playlists and pictures.  We’ve made our save the dates, invitations, table plans, table decorations, favours, button holes, boquets, baskets and head dresses.  I really have saved a fortune, and knowing that we’ve put all of this effort in to our special day, makes it all the more special.  I’m a creative soul at the best of times, so I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a glue gun and fake flowers, but I really threw myself in to it and we’ve saved at least £10,000 in the process, if not more.

Things might not have cost the earth, but they look perfect and we’ve had fun – I couldn’t ask for more.

DON’T: Lose yourself in stress…

I’m four days away from the big day and I feel more calm that I ever have.  I made a million lists and a million more, but now I just can’t do any more.  I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I can’t do anything else, we’re too late now and I know it’ll be perfect.  A work colleague gave me some fab advice – if something goes wrong on the day, or you realise you didn’t bring something or make something you wanted to – who cares, no one will know!

A couple of years ago I was diagnosed with severe anxiety and depression, so I’ve had to be really aware of that and of how I’ve felt and make myself ask for help when I need it.  My other half can tell from one look or word when I’m at my worst, so I’m very lucky to have the support from him that I do, but I don’t like to open up or tell people off my own back.  I get compared to the furry monster book from Harry Potter….

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Image belongs to Warner Bros. found via http://www.thesnitch.co.uk

But I’ve learnt that you have to ask for help and share the load and if you can’t ask your future husband or wife – who can you ask?

So Saturday is the BIG day.  I can’t wait and I’m really excited, so this is Part 1: Planning in the bag.

Next time – Part 2: The Big Day and the final part of the trilogy – Part 3: The Minimoon…

Wish me luck….

xox

My Week with Joe Wicks…

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Don’t be getting jealous girls, this blog post isn’t quite what it says on the tin!

Nope, I haven’t physically spent a week and a half with Joe Wicks (a.k.a. The Body Coach), but mentally I have!  You’ll recall that last week I wrote a blog post all about starting my new year with his January Bootcamp and food plans to see if this could help me on my way to loving my bod, gaining some muscles and inspiring me to try exercising at home.  So far?  SO GREAT!

I feel fresher, I felt less bloated, I feel inspired to get up in the morning.  I like food, I look forward to eating and I feel like I might actually see some improvement come January 31st! A few girls at work are also doing the plan and exercise, which is really helping to keep me motivated – support really is key.

So this blog post is an update on my week, I’ll show you what I’ve eaten and I’ll be honest! And I’ll tell you when I’ve exercised!  I might even post my before pics (if I’m feeling brave by the end of the post – but I’ll warn you first don’t worry!)

So here goes – please don’t judge…eek:

This is week one, you can see that I started off a little rocky and I still haven’t been perfect.  I went to  a friend’s house for tea on Friday with Simon and I was a little bit naughty, eating a few more carbs than planned, and some cheesecake – woops.  However, I avoided wine and drank diet bitter lemon (mmm!) and made sure I did some HIIT that morning and the Saturday morning too.

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So far, I feel like I’ve been better in week 2:

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I’ve tried to keep carbs to a minimum, but sometimes I need something a little extra in the mornings to keep me going.  To counteract this, I make sure I limit them during the day and make sure I do some HIIT in the evenings, if I haven’t already done it in the morning.  I’ve turned down wine AND whisky this week whilst watching The Godfather and I intend to lay off the alcohol.

My drinking water has really improved too – I try to drink as much as I can at work.  It gets me up from my desk and keeps me going during the day!

All of the HIIT sessions I have done have been Joe’s.  If it says I’ve done HIIT in the mornings, I’ve done his live 6:30am sessions.  In the evenings, I’ve found his live sessions on Facebook and streamed them and in between, I’ve repeated some too.  I must say, I love working out at home.  The thought that I could potentially save an extra £30 a month instead of spending it on the gym is exciting – but I’m going to see how this month goes first before getting ahead of myself.

I feel stronger in my arms – even my press ups are getting better – and I’ve never ached so much in my life – ouch!

I don’t think I’m quite brave enough to post my pics just yet – but I promise to do a before and after at the end of  January to see if there has been any change!

I will fit in to my wedding dress and feel like a toned and fabulous bride…bring it on.

128 days and counting.

x

Homemade Tomato Soup Recipe

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Impromptu blog post, but I had to share something that I discovered today – I can make a bangin’ tom soup!  It’s super easy and I thought since many of us are on a bit of a health kick, it would be a great one to share.

I got up and did my Body Coach workout this morning and realised I hadn’t had time to prepare anything for my dinner last night.  I treated myself to a Nutribullet at the weekend (the BEST blender ever!) and tested a couple of smoothies, but thought I’d give some soup a whirl.

I had a packet of 6 tomatoes in the fridge from an online order that I knew wouldn’t get eaten and grabbed whatever else I thought might work…

Here’s the recipe:

  • 4 Plum Tomatoes (sliced)
  • 1 Red Pepper (diced)
  • Vegetable Stock Cube
  • Tsp Sugar
  • 2 Garlic Cloves
  • Tsp Tomato Puree
  • Tsp Oregano
  • A drop of single cream
  • Salt and pepper to season
  1. Slice the tomato and pepper and place in a pan
  2. Sprinkle the sugar over the toms and cover with boiling water
  3. Add the garlic, stock cube, puree and seasonings and give it a good stir
  4. At this point, bring it to the boil and as the water gets aggressive, bring the heat down to medium and cover with a lid
  5. Here’s where I went for a shower and brushed my teeth, so leave it for a good 10 minutes
  6. Give it another good stir and bring it off the heat and let it cool
  7. Drizzle in a little single cream (as much or as little as you like – I just used a little to thicken it)
  8. Pop it in the blender until it’s as smooth as you want it to be
  9. I took it to work in a smoothie flask and put it in the microwave for 2 and half minutes
  10. Sit and enjoy!

I hope you like it – let me know if you give it a try.

x

The Body Coach: Should We Believe the Hype?

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A couple of years ago I started working with a personal trainer at Pure Gym in Ancoats, Manchester.  I wanted to be stronger and vary my workouts.  It was one of the best decisions I ever made.  I had tonnes of energy, I was getting stronger, I could run further and I was seeing a huge difference…until I had another accident.  I have something called ‘hypermobility’, where my joints are a little different to other people’s and I’m basically very bendy.  I tend to fall over quite a lot and my joints can just give way.  They hyper-extend past the usual angle that yours might.  I didn’t know about it until I was 17 and had already gone through years of being ‘clumsy’.  Anyway, two years ago this March (I can’t believe it was that long ago!), I was burpee-ing away (technical term) and landed on my right ankle, instead of my foot.  I was in agony, I thought I’d broken my ankle – it swelled to the size of my head – I couldn’t walk for a month and I wasn’t back to the gym for some time.  I’d crushed, torn and sprained my ligaments and awakened an old injury I got playing netball.  Since then, I’ve gym hopped and tried a few different things.  For the past year, I’ve been a member of Anytime Fitness and have worked with a new PT for 6 months or so.  It’s been much better, but I’m still feeling a little uninspired.  Enter The Body Coach.

I’ve been a fan of Joe Wicks’ recipe books since his first (Leanin15) was released in Christmas last year.  The food is simple and easy to make and tastes delicious (especially the chicken pie!).  I hadn’t tried any of his workouts before, but when I heard about his January boot camp I was intrigued.  Joe said he was going to run three 20 minute workouts live on Facebook each week – Monday, Wednesday and Friday – at 6:30am.  Too early, you say?  I get up for the gym around 5:30/45 if I go in a morning, so this was going to give me an extra half hour in bed (as you work from wherever you like) and the opportunity to do it in the evenings if I wanted (as the workouts save on his wall), giving me more time before bed to relax.  What’s the catch?  There really isn’t one.

Finally, here is a guy who tells me that I’m allowed to eat butter and avocados without dying of heart disease, who doesn’t scrimp on portion sizes and doesn’t shame you for not being able to keep up.  Joe’s 2 workouts this week have left me out of breath, sweating my…behind off, and unable to move too quickly in the following days (I’m so achey today!).  I’m more than impressed.

I’m following his cycle 1 plan of carb vs. reduced carb meals…here’s how it works:

  • Exercise days:
    1 carb meal and 2 reduced carb meals, with 2 snacks during the day
  • Rest days:
    3 reduced carb meals (like today!), with 2 snacks

I love carbs, so today has been difficult, I’ve had a smoothie (which you should only have sparingly), salmon and veg for dinner and I’m eating out tonight – nightmare – not really.  I’m just going to be sensible!

So far, I feel good.  The HIIT training is hard, but rewarding and the food tastes great and not unlike what I usually eat.  I’m excited (weirdo!) for tomorrow’s session and I’m looking forward to seeing more results.  If this works out it might save me £30 a month on the gym and that only means more money for the wedding and Vietnam!

I’ll keep you updated with my progress throughout January, but right now, I’d say Joe Wicks is more than worth the hype!

x

Check out his website, where you can sign up for the 90 day SSS plan: https://www.thebodycoach.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JoeWicksTheBodyCoach/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/thebodycoach

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thebodycoach/?hl=en

My Books of 2016

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I’ve always loved to read books.  Over Christmas I was talking to my Papa about parents reading to their children and sadly it seems that many people don’t do this anymore.  One of my favourite memories as a little girl was my dad reading The Chronicles of Narnia to me (still some of my favourite books!).  I have a really vivid memory of my dad reading the chapter when Aslan sacrifices himself (I was about 3, so you can imagine why).  I’m really grateful to my parents for introducing me to books at such a young age – I think it had a lot to do with my final choice of degree when I was 21 – English at Manchester Metropolitan!

The only problem I had with my degree is that, for many months after graduating, I found it really difficult to pick up a book.  I hadn’t fallen out of love with reading, but I just didn’t have the attention span for it, so I went on a “reading holiday”.  It’s only recently that I’ve got back in to reading.  I keep reminding myself of that feeling when I finish a book, like I’ve accomplished something or that there’s something missing now that I don’t have those characters to read about anymore.

I read for fun and I like to take my time and lose myself in a book.  I don’t read too fast and, because of that, I haven’t read as many books as I would have liked to this year.  I’m quite adamant that there are so many books I want to read and so little time, that if I don’t like what I’m reading, I will stop.  I don’t mind being beaten by a book.  I don’t like to waste time on something that I’m not enjoying – if 2016 has taught me anything, it’s that life is too short.

So here’s a list of what I’ve read, how many stars I would give it out of 5 and a little snippet of what’s it about and what I thought – I hope you end up trying some of them!

1. The Axeman’s Jazz – Ray Celestin

This was a wonderful choice of Christmas present by my brother-in-law and sister-in-law.  I’m a sucker for a good murder/whodunit/detective novel, combine this with somewhere like New Orleans and set it in 1919 and I am there.  The police force, the mafia and Sherlock Holmes fan, Ida, are all working with one common goal – to find the Axeman murderer.  The book was gripping throughout and the characters were really interesting – particularly Michael and Luca, but I did feel a sense of anti-climax when reaching the finale.  Taking the novel as a whole, I really enjoyed the setting and the characters and so gave the book 3/5 stars on Goodreads.

2. Me Before You – Jojo Moyles

We all know the story, girl meets boy, they don’t like each other, they fall in love, something goes wrong.  It was predictable, cheesy and a bit over the top and maybe even a bit uncomfortable in parts, but it was what I needed at the time.  Easy to read, quick and enjoyable if that’s what you’re after.  A good trashy tale.  Again, given that it wasn’t exactly the most well written tale but what I needed…3 out of 5 stars (although now looking back, more inclined to go 2.5)

3. Brooklyn – Colm Toibin

Easily one of my favourites this year.  This book follows Eilis, a young Irish girl who leaves her sister and mother at home to start a new life in Brooklyn.  Sponsored by Father Flood, Eilis moves to what others refer to as a ‘home from home’, and lives in Mrs Kehoe’s boarding house with a number of other girls.  It’s a tale of growing up in a new place and adjusting to those things life throws at you.  The characters are easy to fall in love with (you’ll find yourself in Eilis’ predicament when it comes to the fellas!) and the story is one to lose yourself in – especially if you love New York and the surroundings like I do.  I absolutely raved about this book and originally gave it 5/5 but I think I’ll go with 4.5 now, just in case there’s a special something waiting on a bookshelf somewhere.  Perfect read for a holiday or a nice quick read.

4. Black-Eyed Susans – Julia Heaberlin

Black-Eyed Susans was another serial killer, crime novel – there’s a theme here isn’t there?  It promised to be gripping and intriguing, and don’t get me wrong, it was but it was also really predictable.  At first there were lots of twists and turns and the character I thought was the murderer changed a number of times.  However, half way through, I had them.  At times the main protagonist was a tad whiny, but I really liked the jumping backwards and forwards, the flashbacks and history of what had happened to her.  Another 3 stars for me, and I’d stick with that too.

5. The Martian – Andy Weir

This took me an age to read, not because I didn’t want to read it, but something was holding me back.  The beginning is great, I had to give myself a break in the middle and, as soon as I felt refreshed, I picked it up again and LOVED IT!  It was so worth continuing with.  The narrative is witty, laugh out loud funny at times and breathtaking in others.  I’d seen the film before reading the book (which must have added to the time spent reading since I knew what would happen) but that didn’t stop me enjoying it.  It really is brilliant and one of my favourite books of 2016. 4/5 stars after finishing it and I’d absolutely stick to that!

6. Reasons to Stay Alive – Matt Haig

Okay, so a little different from the other books I’ve read.  I thought it would help to read about other people’s struggles with anxiety and depression and Matt Haig has certainly dealt with that.  It’s a brave account of his life and how he put himself back together with the help of his family and different techniques.  It was honest and it was nice to feel that what I felt was justified and I wasn’t just going ‘crazy’!  By the end, I was ready to put it down and gave it 3/5.  Brave and bold.

7. The Girl with all the Gifts – M.R. Carey

Without a doubt one of my favourite books I’ve read in a long time.  I don’t want to say too much and give the narrative away, but there are many twists, turns and heart-stopping moments.  As a debut, it’s gripping and I went straight out and bought M.R. Carey’s second novel.  It was fantastic but then I got to the final chapters and felt a little let down, which stopped me giving 5 stars (my rating: 4/5).  Please don’t let this put you off and read it for yourself – I just wouldn’t advise watching the new film, now that was a let down.

Finished 01.01.2017 (so officially counting towards my 2017 Goodreads Reading Challenge!) – The Girls – Emma Cline

I LOVED this book, I read it relatively quickly and enjoyed every page.  Based on Charles Manson and the ‘Manson Family’ from the 1960s, The Girls follows Evie in a non linear narrative, which switches between her life now and her life as a fourteen year old girl.  I really enjoyed the backwards and forwards between her ‘lives’, it was fluid and I couldn’t wait to get to the next section to see how she was handling and hanging on.  The whole story of Charles Manson and his ‘family’ fascinates me, as it’s so far from what I know and understand of people, so I found the flashbacks to 1969 more intriguing, which may sound a bit sadistic to some people.  A solid 4/5 stars for me.

Ongoing – Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen

So far, so good, but what else would you expect from The Boss?

Here’s to another year of enjoyable reading!  I’ve moved on to Fellside, M.R. Carey’s follow up to The Girl with all the Gifts, and so far it’s dark, tense and absolutely brilliant. He’s a great storyteller!

Let me know what you’re reading – I love to find new authors and books.

x

Molly&Mavis – Who inspired me to be creative

who-inspires-your-creativity

Molly&Mavis is my (Meg) creative outlet.  It started a couple of years ago as ‘Strawberry.Lily’ as space for me to breathe outside of work and university.  Over the past 26 years, I think I’ve been very lucky in having a balanced mind between creativity and academia.  I have a Bachelor’s degree in English that I couldn’t be more proud of and I love to learn and, perhaps weirdly, love writing essays!  On the other hand, I love being creative, whether that’s in my down time to relax, creatively revising, creating presentations and infographics at work or designing something for a present.  As I mentioned in my first post, I felt disconnected to Strawberry.Lily and I didn’t really know how to market it, but recently with a name change and a new logo and blog, I’m feeling really positive and very motivated – but it didn’t come without a little sadness…

maisyandjarv

Maisy (left) and Jarvis (right)

For months I’ve been trying to think of a new name for my venture.  I toyed with flowers, fruits and animals, and last week I finally settled on pets.  I’m a big animal lover and in the Adams’ household we’ve always been blessed with dogs.  When I was 18 months old, and believe it or not this was my very first memory, we went to pick Molly, our Blue Roan Cocker Spaniel, up from the breeders.  She was an absolute dream for 10 years until she passed away – hence one half of our fabulous new name.  The second part of our name comes from a more recent time.  Twelve long years ago we picked up a Yorkshire Terrier named Maisy, something different for us, as my Mum and I had only ever grown up with Cocker Spaniels.  Maisy was so small and didn’t grow much at all, she was yappy, but she had a great character and we have lots of memories with her.  Unfortunately, on November 5th this year, she had a stroke and we had to have her put down.  We were devastated, but none more so than our other six year old boy, Jarvis (another Blue Roan Cocker).  Maisy and Javis have been best friends ever since they met six years ago.  They shared a bed, shared walks and shared their toys.  They were a funny pair and never answered to their own names when outside, we had to call them in by the name Mavis – and so Molly&Mavis seemed the perfect family name.

 

I’m very lucky to have a creative family influence.  My Dad has a flair for art, though to look at him you really wouldn’t know!  He has a great hand and eye for detail with drawings and paintings.  He’s currently building a train set and surrounding village to keep him occupied in his retirement.  This artistic flair seemed to be handed down to my big brother, although I haven’t seen him pick up a pencil in a few years!  However, the most creative member of my family has to come from my Mum’s side.  Sadly no longer with us, but absolutely still around somewhere, Sheila Mazzina was my Grandma and what a woman she was.

meandsheilaMembers of my family say I’m her doppleganger, lots of people who knew her (and there were plenty) say I remind them of her, and her own daughter – my Mum – says that I look more like her every time she see’s me!  And what a compliment it is to be compared to her.  From a young age I remember baking jam tarts with her, sitting in her sewing room and playing with all of her threads and wool.  She taught me to knit, to do a basic stitch and encouraged me to be different with my fashion choices (which I ran with – see the picture!)  She made her own clothes, she made my teddies clothes and she was easily the best person that ever graced
this planet.  Sadly, it’s been 15 years since she was able to share any creative knowledge with me, but everything she did pass on – whether it be skills, flair, drive and ideas – has stuck with me.  I can’t say thank you now, but I hope she knows just how influential she has been on every aspect of my life.

meandjarv

Me and Jarv having a heart to heart

 

me

Thanks to my Mum for never letting me forget about some of my fashion choices…

So to Molly, Maisy, Jarvis and Grandma Sheila – thank you for inspiring the creation and love that I now have for Molly&Mavis.

x

p.s. Molly wasn’t deliberately left out of the pictures, we had her back in a day without social media and smartphones!

From Strawberry.Lily to Molly&Mavis est.2016

Welcome to my very first blog post as Molly&Mavis!

This is a really exciting time for me, I’ve decided to become more productive and enter in to a world of creativity by really engaging in my arts and crafts projects.  I used to call my business Strawberry.Lily Studios, but recently felt really disconnected to this and decided a full brand change needed to happen.  Molly&Mavis is named after three of my childhood and family pets, Molly and Maisy (sadly no longer with us) and Jarvis (the family trouble maker).  As you can imagine, I feel somewhat more connected to this name and a more at home.

My blog is going to be full of my arts and crafts projects and others that I’ve seen, so if you want to write and share – let me know!  I’d love to hear about your crafty projects, fashion, food – anything – it would be great to engage with other people.  Hopefully you might find something that inspires you through a tutorial or blog post.  My views are my own, but I’d love to hear yours, so feel free to comment.

I’ve always been creative, whether that’s my dress sense (my mum says I’m ‘quirky’), my drawing and painting, or my projects such as Christmas decorations and gifts.  It’s a way for me to wind down and forget about my day job in market research.  I have mixed severe anxiety and depression, so this is a fab way for me to take time out to look after myself and a rewarding break from every day, I love seeing a creation come to life!  Crafting for me works better than talking, so I knit, glue and cut out until I feel calm and satisfied.

I’m also getting married in May 2017 – if I haven’t told you already (I must have told everyone that I’ve met) – and as you can probably tell, I’m a tad excited.  We don’t have a big budget and much of our stationery, decorations and favours will be made by me, so watch out for a sneaky preview of some of those bits and pieces over the next 6 months.

Check out my Facebook page and my Etsy shop – the links are on my ‘About Me’ page.  If there is anything that you’d like to see me make, send me a challenge and I’ll see what I can do.

I look forward to writing, teaching and speaking to you all!

Bye for now,

Meg