Tuesday, 31 December 2013

2013 ---> 2014


So this year has been one of mammoth highs and lows for me. I can't honestly say that I will be happy to see the back of it because it will forever be the last time I got to spend time with my Dad, but I will be happy to say bye bye to all of the negativity that has come with it.
I am not one for believing that 13 is an unlucky number, but it definitely hasn't been lucky for me and my friends and family.
Despite this, I thought I would look to a few positives for the year that has gone by, and share a few of my favourite pictures.

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I read 66 books this year, I didn't reach my target by a long shot but I feel very accomplished at having managed to read so many.
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I managed to review 32 books! That is a big achievement for me, I have been reading and reading and adding books to my list, but in the past couple of years I haven't really made such a huge effort to review those books, that I managed to review 32 books in one year feels like such an achievement, and I hope to continue with those reviews into 2014.

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oldhallI made a real go of The Librarian. I loved having my old blogs, but if I am honest they never felt like they were really very me, my life isn't all about books, or all about beauty, and I think combining them into The Librarian was the best thing I have ever done. It has given me a new lease of life when it comes to blogging.
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I learnt new skills. Part and parcel of changing my blog was also in learning how to make it look and feel how I wanted it to. I have recently taken on teaching myself how to use a camera properly, without the auto mode! And I learnt how to mow the lawn just like my Dad liked it. I found that being out of education for an extended period has made me appreciate learning so much more, and now I am a huge advocate of lifelong learning, I feel like I should say to my old lecturers "I GET IT!"
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I got my almost dream job. I have been working towards being a real life librarian for many years, and this year I finally got a permanent position helping people with their quest for information. There is a lot of negative stuff going on with that right now, but I am choosing to look to the positive, I got there! A little later than planned, but I got there.

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snow

I learnt to appreciate the little things. Part of turning this online space into a "lifestyle" blog, was because I wanted to showcase experiences as well as things. The loss of my Dad earlier this year made me realise that I wish I had more memories, more snapshots, and more appreciation for everything I have, so this year I have tried to go on more days out, walks through the countryside, and general life living. I have also a huge appreciation for my family and friends, our extended family has become much closer this past year, and I genuinely feel like I have a great support network that I maybe hadn't realised I had before.

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And lastly, this is a terribly materialistic one, but I finally own a Mulberry bag! I am planning on doing a post about this going into greater detail, but I have lusted after one ever since an old friend walked into our uni class with one and I saw the little tree 7 years ago. I always told myself I would get one when I earn more in a month than it costs to buy one, so I did. I am probably far too proud of it!

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So what about 2014?

Well I am going to do a few things differently, I am not going to set myself a reading challenge goal, and instead simply read books that I want to read, when I want to read them. I don't want to be thinking about how many I have read as a target, but rather as an accomplishment, so my Goodreads target for 2014 will be 1 book, which I am pretty sure I will manage.

I am hoping to make an effort to take a lot more photographs this year documenting my adventures, I have taken some pictures that I truly love in the past year and hope to add to my collection in the next, especially as I have just received a new camera!

My main goal for 2014 though is to stress less. This year has been hard, emotionally I have been through the wringer, but I want to try and get back to enjoying life and making the most of it without worrying what if. Life is for living, and then for blogging, of course!

Have a very Happy New Year everyone! Lets make it a great one :)





Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Merry Christmas and Book Review! ★★★★★

Hello all!

Merry Christmas!

I hope you are all having a great day and have been enjoying the festivities. I am greatly looking forward to Downton on the telly this evening, accompanied by the mountain of puddings we have in the fridge and this champagne cocktail from The Londoner that we are going to give a go.

I thought I would still post a book review today as I have fallen behind in the midst of the holiday run up (it is a busy time as I am sure you will all understand) and I have been wanting to review this particular book for a while, so if you fancy a bit of classic Christmas to have a read of over the next few days, give this one a go.

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The timeless tale of Ebenezer Scrooge, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens tells of his journey from Christmas humbug to generous friend and colleague, the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future help a miserable old man open up his heart to the joys of christmas and learn the error of his ways and how to share with those around him.

I find it hard to review classics, because lets be honest, I don't want to be the one who just doesn't "get" certain classic authors, but if I am honest I really don't enjoy many of them. One particular author whom I have always struggled with is one Mister Dickens, studying Great Expectations completely put me off him as an author and although I often try to get into his novels I find I really cannot read them. One day I will accomplish them, maybe when I have less books to read that I consider to be more interesting.

For now though the only Dickens that I can easily read and regularly do is A Christmas Carol. I generally read this story once a year around the holidays in order to take some time to relax, it is so well known to me (and I imagine to most of yourselves, be it through muppet renditions or a more traditional version) that I find I do not have to focus particularly hard on what is going on. There is a distinct lack of Dickensian waffle (as I like to call it) and the story is so heartfelt and warming that by the end I feel all warm and fuzzy.

My particular edition (which I have had a few years now) comes in at just under 130 pages including illustrations, and I can often read this in one sitting during an evening winding down. It is perfect for after the presents and dinner but before Downton comes on, or for a boxing day when you still feel a bit too full but aren't ready to get out of the house to work any of it off yet.

If you fancy being reminded about what is really important at Christmas time, after the shine of new gifts has worn off, I highly recommend giving this a read. And then if you are so inclined, watching the Muppets version straight afterwards.

 ★★★★★

P.S. I always think a book that you are planning to read a few times should be a nice copy, so here, here, here, here and here are a few of my favourite copies for if you can't get your hands on the Acorn Press edition.


Friday, 20 December 2013

Book Review: The Five People You Meet in Heaven ★★★★

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Eddie can see his death coming, an elderly maintenance worker at an amusement park, Eddie leaps to save the life of a little girl after a broken down roller coaster loses its grip on one of its carts. Mitch Albom describes how Eddie goes to heaven, where he discovers that before reaching your own perfect heaven you must first travel through five other heavens, where the inhabitants will show you the poignant moments of your life and the effect you have had, the lessons you should have learnt.

I was excited to read The Five People You Meet in Heaven because the concept just seems so interesting to me. I had never read any of Albom's other books despite hearing so many wonderful things about them, but I love books that question preconceptions about life after death and come up with different ways that it could work so I went with the reviews and grabbed it from the shelf.

This book is an incredibly quick read both because it isn't particularly long and also because it is so compelling a topic, the wonder surrounding the idea that five people would be waiting to tell you your own story when you die is so thought provoking. I read this in July, so I was bound to be more interested in this book than usual having recently lost my Dad very suddenly, but I think it is such an interesting concept that anyone who can think a little outside the box will have their interest piqued by it. While reading I wondered who my five people may be when I reach my own end, and whose life I may help to explain for them.

The story really is quite sad to read because Eddie believes that so little of his life had any meaning, he had so little confidence in his own impact on the world and in reading it becomes clear that he touched many lives even if only a small way. It warms the heart to think that we may all have inadvertently made someone else's life that much more important.

An emotional and thought provoking read, this is definitely worth picking up if you want your brain to start ticking while you read.

★★★★

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Cinnamon Rolls

I am a big food person, I love to flip through cook books and drool over food pictures on blogs. One of the main types of recipe I look at is cake. I am a cake person, I just can't help it, there is something about how squidgey and yummy cake is.

There is a certain type of American cake that I have always admired and wished I could try and that is the humble Cinnamon Roll. Soft, sweet and full of spice, I have always thought that they looked absolutely delicious. Here is the UK we don't generally have cinnamon rolls in the form that seems most popular across the pond, here the closest we get seems to be a danish or a belgian bun. I wasn't going to let that deprive me of trying out these sweet treats though and I went on the hunt for a recipe.

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Cinnamon rolls, though I call them cake, are actually dough based, that means yeast, and that right there is why it took me so long to make a batch of these. I have always thought of dough as being tricky. I really shouldn't do as I am a bit of a pizza aficionado but I shy away from other kinds. I spent quite a long time comparing recipes and deciding which would be the best to try to make first. I settled on a simple one, all american in its simple flavours (no complicated extras) and one which looked like it would be relatively quick without ridiculously long rising times.

I eventually settled on this one from Sally's Baking Addiction. She calls them easy, and I have to admit they were exactly that. I managed to make this batch while I was between turns of my Cronuts, they were that quick! Sally has been very helpful and converted the measures from cups into metric for us Brits, it saved me doing a lot of scooping and measuring, so thank you for that, but I have also weighed a couple of the remaining volume measures to make it easier.

For the rolls themselves you will need:
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  • 345g Plain Flour
  • 50g Granulated Sugar
  • 1tsp Salt
  • 7g Quick Rise Yeast (1 Sachet)
  • 120ml Water
  • 60ml Milk
  • 40g Unsalted Butter
  • 1 Large Egg

And for the filling:

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  • 45g Softened Unsalted Butter
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons Ground Cinnamon
  • 50g Granulated Sugar
(though I did not use all of this)


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To make the dough, start by setting aside 75g of flour into a separate bowl.

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Take the rest of your dry ingredients and add them into a large mixing bowl.

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First the flour, then sugar,

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Add in the yeast and then the salt.

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Mix together with your hands until all ingredients are evenly distributed.

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Next take your wet ingredients and in a separate bowl begin to add the butter, milk and water together.

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Then put the bowl in the microwave and heat in small increments on low until the butter is melted and mixed into the milk and water. Make sure the mixture is hot to touch, but does not burn.

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Pour the wet into the dry and begin to stir together.

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Add the egg and continue to stir.

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Add small amounts of the reserved flour until the dough comes together and begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl as you mix and has an elasticity to it.

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Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and get your hands mucky! It is time to do some kneading!

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Knead for 3-4 minutes until the dough is smooth, then place in a lightly greased bowl to rest for 10 minutes.

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While that is resting, mix together your cinnamon and sugar in a bowl, and make sure your butter is room temperature, suitable for spreading.

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After your 10 minutes of resting the dough, roll it out into a large rectangle. The recipe states that it should be 14x8 inches, but personally I think you can judge it better by depth and mine was about a half a centimetre thick.

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Spread the softened butter all over the top of the dough, making sure to go to the edges. Sprinkle the butter with the cinnamon sugar, being as liberal as you desire. I didn't use all of mine up but would maybe be a bit more generous next time. Even if you think there is a lot on there, after cooking it may not be as strong as you think so I would recommend adding a little more than you would naturally be inclined to add.

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Once coated, you can begin rolling. Lift the long edge of the dough nearest to you and begin to roll it over itself. Try to keep it fairly tight but don't squeeze.

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Chop your cinnamon sausage into 11 pieces, or more if you are after smaller rolls.

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Lightly butter a baking dish and place the rolls inside, and then set them aside to rise. To help mine rise I turned on the oven to the first gas mark and let it warm up. Then turned it off before putting the rolls in and setting the timer. You can let them rise in any warm dry place though if you have a particular favourite.

Make sure to leave room between them as in the 60-90 minutes they take to rise they will go from this:

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To this!

cina28Then when they were ready to cook (doubled in size) I just turned the oven back on again and up to 190 degrees C/ Gas Mark 5 and baked them for 25 minutes.

I should have listened to Sally's recipe and covered them with foil to prevent over browning as our oven has been on the blink lately, but I didn't so they are a deeper shade than I had originally wanted, but they actually added an additional texture which only added to the enjoyment when eating them.

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Pour over a little glaze made from a bit of icing sugar, milk and whatever flavouring you like (I went with good old vanilla) and watch it sink in.

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On top they are toasty brown and the sugar has given them a crispness, but lift them out of the pan and underneath they are fluffy clouds of yumminess.

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If you are anything like me you won't be able to resist an extra drizzle of glaze.

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They were absolutely delicious, and really so easy to make, I highly recommend giving them a go yourself.

These are definitely going to be a new staple in our household!


Sunday, 15 December 2013

This Week



I thought I would try and do these summing up posts every so often that I have seen other bloggers do. Sometimes you just need to tell people how your week has been, so here we go! This week...
  • Mince pies consumed: 3 (I imagine this will be significantly higher next week!)
  • Last Sunday we celebrated a good friend's birthday at the pub with a great meal and even better chatter. Note to self, recreate the chicken stuffed with cranberry and brie!
  • The middle of the week has been really very stressful, at work we are all now officially at risk of redundancy, so it has been a week of paperwork, forms, meetings and the like, which isn't exactly fun in the run up to christmas, but has to be done. 
  • On the plus side, we had our work christmas do on Friday, which was fun, I really do love socialising with the ladies, after having a pretty difficult week emotionally going out for dinner with everyone really lifted my spirits.
  • I may have convinced a few people to head to Chatsworth with my last post, the power of a good photograph!
  • I spent this evening with family regaling over old stories and new and toasting to my Dad with some of the last cans of beer he bought. It was his last haul and it was nice to share it amongst ourselves while we all had a good belly laugh and tried to see the bright side of what will be a hard few weeks to come.
  • I finished wrapping the last christmas present I needed to on Thursday, and feel really proud of myself for being so organised. I have gone a little ribbon crazy but I think they all look pretty and I want to take pictures of them all before they get ripped open.

How has your week been?

Monday, 9 December 2013

Christmas Gift Guide for Book Lovers

So I am a little late to the party with this gift guide, but I still wanted to post one just in case any of you are stuck for ideas for fellow book lovers. Some of these items I already have, some of them I would love, I think they are all fab!


giftguide

1. Book Rest Lamp - £31.99 from I Want One of Those
I first saw this a while ago online and decided that I have to have one, I am a sucker for just shoving my book on my bedside table when I go to sleep, without marking my page! This would at least remind me where I fell asleep (plus it looks like a little house, which is cute!)

2. Yes I'm Actually Reading This! Bookmark Pad - £3.29 from the Book Depository
I received these last year and they are very handy for when people like to get judge about which books you read, also great for jotting down notes while reading!

3. Scrabble Magnetic Fridge Tiles - £7.95 from I Want One of Those
Something I will definitely be purchasing as soon as I own a fridge, who wouldn't love making up words with Scrabble tiles?!

4. Book Rest Toilet Roll Holder - £25 from The Literary Gift Company
A strange one, but for a new home owner or generally someone who has a place to put this, I think this is a fab little item for the bathroom. I would keep an amusing book there for anyone to read while they were on the loo!

5. KleverCase E-reader cover - £32 from KleverCase
I have this exact case for my Kobo, the design pictures is a beautiful cover for To Kill a Mockingbird, and you can have these personalised with a note on the inside cover. A very special present indeed!

6. Out Of Print Book Cover Tee - £Various from Truffle Shuffle
I have been after one of these for so long! Recently I was pointed to Truffle Shuffle as a stockist but I still haven't got myself one. One day, one day!

7. Moleskine Book Journal - £9.71 from The Book Depository
I have a very battered one of these from last year which I loved using, I have now moved on to a Filofax because I read so much I want to be able to add more titles in, but for a moderate reader this is perfect for keeping a record of your book reviews.

8. The Really Tiny Book Light - £9.25 from Amazon (or most good bookstores)
I have a bright pink one of these and it is by far the best book light I have used, it has a white LED light which is nice and bright yet easy on the eyes. Certainly makes for less eye strain when reading in low light, and it comes with an adaptor for your ereader.

9. Librarian Badge - £3.95 from The Literary Gift Company (though I have seen these in Waterstone's too)
Now obviously this one is something I definitely want to get my hands on (and have considered purchasing from the actual library supplies place before) but anyone with a personal library would surely love to be deemed the librarian?


What are you buying the book lovers in your life this year?