Thursday, 18 September 2014

Review: Pet Shop Bowl

Pet Treats


When Pet Shop Bowl got in touch recently and asked us to test some of their products, I first checked that the furry crew were up for it.

What would we have to do? they asked (in their usual meowing/barking kind of fashion).

Eat, I replied.

We're in!

Our parcel arrived a few days later (I say "our" parcel but it was actually addressed to Rude Boy, Izzy, Suki, Barley and Jager, which I thought was a nice touch) and we unpacked it to find a variety of food and treats.  It turned out that as well as eating, there would also be a bit of playing going on ... and I'd barely opened the box before Mr Melvis grabbed the Jolly Moggy Laser Cat Toy that had been included for our little feline ladies.  I had planned on taking photos of all of the products before they were used, but this is all I was left with as Mr M inserted the batteries in record time and proceeded to whip the cats up into a frenzy courtesy of a little red dot ...


Jolly Moggy Laser Cat Toy

Monday, 15 September 2014

Post Pals Christmas Schemes 2014

Send a Smile this Festive Season


You may have "heard" me mention Post Pals before.  It's a small charity that Izzy and I volunteer for regularly, with the aim of brightening the lives of both sick children and their siblings

Whilst Post Pals actively encourage the sending of letters, cards and small gifts to the "Pals" on their website throughout the year, in the run up to Christmas they launch two very special schemes.

The Reindeer Scheme


A Reindeer is someone who is assigned a Pal and their siblings and sends 9 cards during the month of December, one from each reindeer, talking from the reindeers perspective i.e. talking about the sleigh getting full, getting ready for the big night, loving carrots being left out etc. It is not only fun for the children receiving the cards, but also for the volunteers getting to do imaginative writing. In the past one girl believed the reindeer wrote to them as she helped look after her disabled brother. Another little boy was very relieved as Father Christmas definitely knew he was in hospital so wouldn’t be missed out.

I have joined in the reindeer scheme twice and it's lots of fun once your imagination is running wild.  Reindeer Games, Pin the Carrot on the Snowman, dancing to Jingle Bells, trial sleigh runs, polishing Rudolph's nose, wrapping presents ... there are lots of antics for the reindeer to get up to!  You can include reindeer jokes and poems

Reindeer Joke

If you would like to volunteer to be a reindeer please send an email to Maria (the "Head Reindeer"). 

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Love The Little Things Week 37

Love Learning


My favourite weekly link up - Love The Little Things is a weekly feature hosted by But Why Mummy Why, in which we take a moment to appreciate the little moments of joy we've experience over the past 7 days.

Read


This week I read You're The One That I Want by Giovanna Fletcher.


I also received my subscription copies of Prima Magazine and Homemaker Magazine in the post and found the perfect Christmas cake to make this year!

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Book Review: Ivy Lane Summer: Part 2

New Girl on the Plot


Ivy Lane Summer: Part 2 by Cathy Bramley

Ivy Lane Summer Review
Romance ripens at Ivy Lane...

Tilly Parker is feeling happier than she has done since her life completely changed a year ago, though she's still keeping some secrets to herself.

As she flourishes under the summer sun, she attracts the attention of not one, but two suitors. Excitement reaches fever pitch at Ivy Lane as a TV crew descends to capture life inside a modern-day allotment, bringing out the best (new wellies and lipstick) and the worst (parsnip rivalry) in them all.

The Annual Show marks the end of summer and the end of filming, but is Tilly ready for romance - and if so, who will be the pick of the bunch?


Back in the spring, Tilly arrived in a new town, escaping from her mysterious past. Following on from the initial instalment of Ivy Lane, the story continues as summer arrives, bringing with it warmth, growth ... and a TV crew.

The Ivy Lane allotments have been chosen to be featured in a Green Fingers documentary, and the director wants new girl on the plot, Tilly to be the star of the show. Tilly's not keen to be centre stage, as her past remains a mystery and she doesn't want it creeping up on her.

All of the characters from Spring are back and we learn more about each of them as the daily events on around the allotment are caught on camera throughout the summer months. Despite her messy hair and muddy knees, Tilly finds herself with not one, but two admirers but she's unsure if she's ready to move on.

As the Annual Show creeps closer, there is light, camera and lots of action. It's hard to believe just what Cathy Bramley can fit into 100 pages. Whilst there are some hints towards Tilly's big secret, we're left with another cliffhanger ending as we head into Autumn …

My Rating 5/5 - Filled with action, romance and secrets, Part 2 of Cathy Bramley's Ivy Lane series keeps you on your toes.  Tilly continues to be a fabulous leading lady, growing along with her crops and slowly letting her new friends into her life.  The ending guarantees you'll be rushing off to read Autumn straight away.

Ivy Lane is a serialized novel told in four parts - taking you from spring to summer, autumn to winter - which tell a charming, light-hearted and moving story you won't want to put down. 

Each of the books in the series are 99p or less (and I know how you love those Kindle Bargains!)
 




Autumn Review coming soon! x

Friday, 12 September 2014

Kindle Bargains #9

The Most Wonderful Time of the Week


Kindle Bargains Friday is upon us and I have a whole weekend of leg resting and reading ahead (hopefully).  All of these books are currently 99p or less, but be quick before the price jumps up!



Thursday, 11 September 2014

Months Old - The Quadruple Centenarian

Months of the Years


Yesterday, a girl at work was asked how old her daughter is.  15 months, she replied.

And I thought, Why don't you just say she's 1?

So I asked my friend why people age children in months as opposed to years and he said it's because of development, a 23 month old baby is further advanced that a 13 month old, despite them both being one year old.

And I thought, Well, I'm still developing ... I'm making a patchwork quilt, don't you know!

Then I wondered, when do we stop being aged in months?

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Getting on my (trapped) nerve ...

Queen of Pain


Two weeks and six days ago, I had a bit of a pain in my leg.  I assumed I'd slept funny, or stepped funny and pulled something and it would sort itself out.  Unfortunately it didn't and almost three weeks later, I'm in agony despite some pretty strong painkillers from the doctor.

Small, every day tasks are now completely painful to undertake - filling the dog water bowl, going to the loo, standing up, picking up dog poop.  One morning last week, I walked around for half an hour with just one sock on.  It's safe to say my trapped nerve is getting on my nerves!

I have thankfully worked out a technique to completing one of these daily tasks in a pain free fashion.  I now fill the dog water bowl by pouring the water from a plastic bottle. No stooping for me, and Izzy gets her own personal waterfall which she thinks is amazing. Winner.

Oh, and I get Mr M to pick up the dog poop ... double winner!

My crafty cat, Suki (old and wise) has obviously noticed my decreased mobility and has made it her mission to torment me.  She now knocks things off the kitchen worktop down onto the floor.  Then sits, silently laughing in a feline fashion when I can't pick it up.  

Just look at those evil eyes!

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Love The Little Things Week 36

Love Sundays


My favourite weekly link up - Love The Little Things is a weekly feature hosted by But Why Mummy Why, in which we take a moment to appreciate the little moments of joy we've experience over the past 7 days.

Read


This week I've worked 45 hours, had a doctors appointment, muchos pain in my leg and therefore found very little time to read (boo!) but I did start the latest installment of Ivy Lane (Part 3: Autumn) and it's only a teeny book so shouldn't take me long to finish.


Friday, 5 September 2014

Kindle Bargains #8

Reading Recovery


My poorly leg has gotten worse, so it's a doctors visit for me today no doubt followed by some excessive resting ... which means lots of reading, yippee!  If you're also due some reading time, why not check out this week's Kindle Bargains - these books are all 99p or less, for now! Be quick, as the prices can creep up without warning.

You can view all of this week's Kindle Bargains on one handy Amazon wish list

Kindle Bargains #8

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Guest Post & Giveaway - The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar

How Does a Novelist Simulate a Lost Religion?


Guest Post By Kim Rendfeld

One of my challenges in writing The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar was portraying the pagan religion my heroine, Leova, practiced in the eighth century. The Church, with aid from Charlemagne, did everything it could to obliterate something it considered devil worship. The Saxons themselves did not have a written language as we know it.

As much as I enjoy Wagner’s Ring Cycle and its Teutonic gods, the composer, like any artist, was more concerned with the storylines for his opera rather than remaining true to ancestral beliefs. The Norse gods, although similar, come from a different culture.

So what is a novelist to do? Search for clues.

Oddly enough, the Saxons’ enemies give us some hints. From Frankish sources, we learn that in 772 Charlemagne order the destruction of the Irminsul, a pillar sacred to the pagans. We don’t know what it was made of or if there was only one, but it was important enough to include in the royal annals.

Charlemagne’s first Saxon capitulary, written around 782, has more nuggets as it reveals what the Church did not want the new converts to do. Burning a dead body was a capital offense, as was killing a priest, refusing baptism, raping the daughter of a lord, setting fire to a church, human sacrifice, and cannibalism.

Much of what the capitulary specifies was a real cause for concern. Frankish annals constantly complain about Saxons breaking their baptismal oaths, burning churches, and killing indiscriminately.

Another source I turned to was Beowulf, created sometime between the seventh and 10th centuries by an anonymous poet of a similar ethnicity as the Continental Saxons. Although the monster Grendel and his nameless mother are descendants of Cain, the poem has many pagan references such as images of boars on warriors’ helmets and pyres and barrows for the dead. Because of the poem, I understood my characters’ deep desire to avenge the wrong done to them was not only personal but cultural.

In addition, I did some research on the gods the Anglo-Saxons worshipped, read folk tales, and consulted Jacob Grimm’s Teutonic Mythology.

What emerged in my mind was a pantheon of gods, among them Wodan, the war god to whom the Saxons sacrificed war captives; Mother Holle and her hall in the afterlife; Tiwaz, the god of justice; Erda, a goddess of fertility; and Donar and his storms.

Despite all my research, the decisions I made about how to portray the Continental Saxons’ religion amount to my best guess, as you will see in this excerpt from The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar, when my heroine, Leova, is fleeing her home ahead of the Frankish invasion.

Leova and Sunwynn took three sheepskin cloaks from the pegs on the wall and picked up their sacks. For a moment, Leova hesitated and turned back for a last look at Derwine. Despite her terror, she did not want to leave him.

“Go!” Derwine yelled. “Leave now!”

Leova swallowed her tears and held her burden more tightly as she and Sunwynn stepped into the hot, dusty chaos of the road. Surrounded by screams and wails, Leova looked to her left and gazed down at the Irminsul, standing tall near the drought-shrunken Diemel River. As long as the oaken pillar stood with its treasure, the gods would favor the Saxon peoples. Leova made out the warriors kneeling before the Irminsul, vowing to sacrifice the first captives and booty they won in battle. Her gaze traveled up the pillar’s great length to the top, where it divided itself into two bent branches and the idol of Wodan stood.

An invading army would take the steep, winding dirt road connecting the river below to the fortress and village at the top of the high hill. Turning instead to their right, Leova and Sunwynn barreled out of their village, downhill past the fields of parched barley and rye toward the forest.

Lower lip trembling, Sunwynn asked, “The gods will protect us, won’t they?”

“Of course, they will.” Leova tried to keep her voice steady. “The gods protect their people.”

Kim Rendfeld is the author of The Cross and the Dragon (2012, Fireship Press) and The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar (August 28, 2014, Fireship Press). 

To read the first chapters of either novel or learn more about Kim, visit kimrendfeld.com

You’re also welcome to visit her blog Outtakes of a Historical Novelist, like her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter, or email her.

Can love triumph over war?  

772 AD: Charlemagne’s battles in Saxony have left Leova with nothing but her two children, Deorlaf and Sunwynn. Her beloved husband died in combat. Her faith lies shattered in the ashes of Irminsul, the Pillar of Heaven. The relatives obligated to   defend her and her family sell them into slavery instead.   

In Francia, Leova is resolved to protect her son and daughter, even if it means sacrificing her own honor. Her determination only grows stronger as Sunwynn blossoms into a beautiful young woman attracting the lust of a cruel master, and Deorlaf becomes a headstrong man willing to brave starvation and demons to free   his family. Yet Leova’s most difficult dilemma comes in the form of a Frankish friend, Hugh. He saves Deorlaf from a fanatical Saxon and is Sunwynn’s champion - but he   is the warrior who slew Leova’s husband.  

Set against a backdrop of historic events, including the destruction of the Irminsul, The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar explores faith, friendship, and justice. This companion to Kim Rendfeld’s acclaimed The Cross and the Dragon tells the story of an ordinary family in extraordinary circumstances.

Advance Praise for The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar

“Carolingian Europe comes alive in Kim Rendfeld’s sweeping story of family and hope, set against the Saxon Wars. Her transportive and triumphant novel immerses us in an eighth century world that feels both mystical and starkly real.”  - Jessica Brockmole, author of Letters from Skye

“A captivating historical filled with rich detail, compelling characters, and a well-paced plot that keeps the pages turning to its very satisfying end. A true delight for fans of historical fiction. I couldn’t put it down.” - Susan Spann, author of the Shinobi Mysteries

“The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar is refreshingly set in a less familiar medieval period – soon after Charlemagne has conquered a portion of today’s Germany and its people. The characters are refreshing also, common folk instead of the lords and ladies who are the usual inhabitants of historical novels, and how they adjust to their new condition is fascinating. Altogether, this book was absorbing from start to finish.” - Roberta Gellis, author of The Roselynde Chronicles.

 

Giveaway


For your chance to win a copy of The Ashes of Heaven's Pillar, simply complete the Rafflecopter below.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Sewing: Doing as my Nanna (possibly) did

The Old Fashioned Way


This morning, having woken early with Mr M's alarm and before I had to go to work, I wrote a post about how I couldn't achieve what I wanted to due to a lack of funds.

It went something like this ...

Back in June, as a little birthday treat, I used my overtime money to buy myself a snazzy new sewing machine.  I had visions of sewing wonderful things, of becoming a gifted seamstress.  

Then came the point of deciding what to sew and there wasn't an awful lot that sprang to mind.  I made a few peg bags (only one for myself, there's still room on the line for clothes!), and a few little drawstring bags in practice for Christmas gift wrapping alternatives.  There wasn't really anything else I needed and I didn't really want to spend money on fabric and time on sewing things I didn't need.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Love The Little Things Week 35

Late Love


A little later than usual (other people will be writing their week 36 lists by now!), but we can't be perfect all of the time ;D

My favourite weekly link up - Love The Little Things is a weekly feature hosted by But Why Mummy Why, in which we take a moment to appreciate the little moments of joy we've experience over the past 7 days.

Read


This week I've been reading, Carry On, Warrior by Glennon Melton after discovering her blog, Momastery earlier this week (someone shared Glennon's wonderful post Give Me Gratitude or Give Me Debt - Momastery and I was hooked).  The book is amazing and I'm loving reading it, but this episode of Friends keeps appearing in my head  ...


Sunday, 31 August 2014

31/31 The Best Thing About August

Month End


It's the last day of the month and therefore the last day of the Blog Every Day in August Challenge!

31.  Best thing about this month?

There's a been a few best things for me in August ~

  • I managed to complete every topic in the Blog Every Day in August challenge! Yay!
  • I met some wonderful people during the blogging challenge!
  • My dental treatment was completed after 3 stressful months.
  • I had 11 days off work and took part in some excessive lounging.
The Best Thing About August
  •  I won £500!
  • We went on a day trip to Whitby.
  • We celebrated Mr M's Nana's 100th birthday.
  • The X Factor started!
Big thanks to Emma @ Outmumbered for organising the challenge, I'm looking forward to the next one!

Saturday, 30 August 2014

30/31 - My earliest memory.

Looking Back


It's the penultimate topic of August's Blogging Challenge ...

30.  Your earliest memory.

Way back in 1984, my Aunt and Uncle ran a pub in Richmond.  I have no idea what it was called but I know it was on an old, cobbled street and it had it's own little playground outside and I used to play with a girl called Heather.



Oh, and it was once the setting for the TV movie A Woman Of Substance, starring Liam Neeson and Yours Truly*!

* I may or may not have been left on the cutting room floor (!)



29/31 - 5 Things I Couldn't Live Without

I Can't Live, If Living Is Without You


Yes, I realise it's Day 30 and I'm a little late so I'll be doubling up today! I've done pretty well so far ... ;D

29.  5 things you can't live without.

Pets - I look around my house sometimes, at the little furry tumble weeds blowing across the kitchen floor, the scratched wallpaper in the living room, the chewed DVD cases, the peeling sofa and the hairy cushions and I imagine how lovely my house would look if I didn't have pets.  But that's all it would be, a lovely house ... It wouldn't be a home.

5 things I can't live without - Pets


Chocolate - I've tried.  Those were the worst 3 hours of my life.

Books - For fun, for learning, for creating - I use books in all aspects of my life and it would be a pretty dull existence without them.

My Mobile - I left it at home once, I felt like I'd lost a limb! 

Laughter - Sometimes I'm almost certain this is the only thing that gets me to the end of a day.  Laughter is definitely the best medicine! (or is that chocolate ....)


Friday, 29 August 2014

Kindle Bargains #7

Bag a Bargain


It's that time of the week again, lovely Friday - home of the Kindle Bargains!

As always, these books are currently 99p or less but you might have to be quick with your one click to bag them for these low prices!

For the first time ever, you can view all of this week's Kindle Bargains in one handy Amazon shopping list!


Kindle Bargains

Thursday, 28 August 2014

28/31 - What Inspires Me

Daily Inspiration


Wow, how quick has August gone?  Just when I thought I had this daily blogging challenge thing down to a t, we go and get given a topic that stumped me a little.

28.  Who or what is your biggest source of inspiration?

I literally can't answer this question with one who or what.  I find new inspiration every day.  I don't look for it, you understand but every day it's there, waiting for me in the strangest of places.

Like, this morning when I awake at 04:30, partly due to the current bout of sciatica in my right leg but more likely due to the fact I drank a Wkd before bed and desperately needed a wee.  By the time I'd managed to clamber out of bed, stand for a few minutes willing away the pain in my you may need a wee but just try walking to the bathroom on me leg, hobble to the bathroom, painstakingly balance on the toilet and hobble back to the bedroom, tell the dog he really should've gone to the toilet before bed as I advised and under no circumstances are we going to the back garden at 04:44 in the morning, rolled into bed, got my leg into a comfortable position and closed my eyes, I'd been awake for nigh on 20 minutes and there was no chance I was going to get back to sleep.

You're probably wondering where the hell I found inspiration in that.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

27/31 - Have you overcome something difficult?

Hard Times


Day 27 of the Blog Every Day in August challenge and things just got serious ...

27.  Have you overcome something difficult?

I thought about telling you about some of the lower points of my life, but I'm in quite a good mood and didn't want to ruin it ... I'm also watching The Great British Bake Off ... so I decided that instead I'd talk about CAKE!

There was a time, not so long ago when I moved house.  It was a stressful week, we moved on the Monday and come the weekend there'd been lots of tears.

But that's not the thing I overcame.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014