M Insider: The Monthly Roundup – January Edition

M Insider is a collection of things that at this moment, I think are truly brilliant. It might be a new destination, an ingredient I can’t believe I haven’t cooked with before, or a travel app that has just gone and made life abroad so much easier.

Here’s the second instalment of the M Insider Monthly Roundup, looking back on December 2019.

Morzine – French Ski Town

Often, I tend to dodge the more ‘touristic’ hot spots when it comes to the winter season. By doing this, you share the slopes less, you avoid overpriced passes and you don’t need to worry about expensive accommodation as many smaller resorts tend to be closer to home or reasonably priced.

However that being said, sometimes the cheesy and tourist filled winter villages are the best because they are exactly what you need at the time. We went to Morzine in France for the weekend, and honestly, the buzzing Apres Ski atmosphere, cosy little overpriced cafes and shops selling everything you don’t need, coupled with a stay in an extravagant spa hotels in the mountains really hit the spot.

Asparagus and Lemon Risotto

I am that obsessed with this recipe I have made it three times in the last fortnight. Granted, I have swapped out the asparagus for green beans and Mangetout to give it a bit of variation but honestly, it’s such a winner and so easy to make.

I just love strong, citrusy flavours. So if like me you want a quick but delicious mid-week dinner, look no further than this fantastic risotto recipe.

Embracing Organisation

I used to be a little embarrassed or ashamed of how truly, anally organised I was as a person. I love a planner, preparation is definitely key, and making an itinerary is a true treat.

However I decided that one of my ‘resolutions’ for 2020 was to embrace this quirk, and no longer apologise for wanting to have stuff scheduled or prepared in advance.

Since this year is a big one for us, I have already put in some time to properly plan events such as my husband’s 30th, our two big vacations and our Christmas accommodation (because we’re going away in a big group) and honestly it feels great. If you have a trait you’re forever apologising for because you think others judge you for it, stop. Make 2020 your year of embracing your quirks and making them work for you

Off-Season Travel

Travelling often requires perfect timing if you are going to make the most of your trip. If you want to see the Cherry Blossoms in Japan, you need to head there during a specific two weeks of Spring. If you want guaranteed sun, you need to choose your destination or your departure data wisely based on the location.

With all that in mind, whilst seeing destinations at their sunniest, snowiest or during certain festivals definitely has a lot of benefits, there’s a lot to be said about seeing places when they are classed as ‘off-season’ too. We have started to try and do this a little more, because I think that honestly, you see a completely different side and energy to many destinations when you visit out of their main window.

Venice was magical in December. It was snowy, it was empty and there was something incredible about enjoying a glass of red wine, next to a fire, in this enchanting and artsy city.

Again, the same can be said for Switzerland in the summer rather than its usual winter draw. Vast hiking routes open up, prices are a lot lower, and the wine cellars open. It has so much to offer for a destination people see primarily as a skiing paradise.  

Sex Education Season Two – Netflix

If you’ve not seen season one, well obviously start there. If you have somehow missed that season two is now available as you’ve been living under a rock or weirdly putting off watching it for some reason, end your excuses and start tonight.

It’s just as great as the pilot season, and I could waste away hours envying over Gillian Anderson’s wardrobe and style in the series. No wonder pantsuits are seeing a massive rise in the fashion world right now.

Seedlip Gin (Alcohol Free)

I first had a taste of Seedlip when I was celebrating New Year with friends back home, and looking for something to create delicious mocktails out of during the evening celebrations.

I got a Seedlip pre-mixed gin and tonic can, and honestly, it tastes fantastic and will be something post-pregnancy I keep on drinking to keep a good balance.

The Economist Subscription Packages

There’s so much free content available now online, but sometimes it really is worth paying for that extra long-form analysis, the discoveries into topics you never knew you wanted to learn more about, and the joy of reading something offline whilst tucked up in bed at the end of a long day.

The Economist do a really good subscription deal, especially if it’s your first time trying it. You can get the first twelve weeks for just £12 and it also includes a free gift.

It’s something I treat myself to every year, and look forward to each edition arriving.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo – Taylor Jenkins Reid

What a book. I honestly wish I could perfectly write enough to get you to read it without spoiling it, but I am wary that by doing so I will give important details away that I want you to discover when you lose yourself in this well-written and engrossing novel.

It’s not the typical genre I go for, but it is done so well it easily is one of the best reads I have picked up in the last six months.

If you want a new book, and feel like you can trust in my recommendation, order or borrow a copy today.

Neal’s Yard Sleep Body Butter

This book is incredibly powerful, and really makes you think. With the rising power of technology, we have to make a decision about how we want it to shape our future. Do we allow technology to enrich the few and impoverish the many, or harness it and distribute its benefits? It’s a must-read and it’s pretty hard to put down once you begin.

Social Media Detoxing

Four days ago I embarked on a month long social media detox, and already I am feeling the benefits. So much so, I have asked my husband to post my blog article posts and promotions for me so that I can keep relishing in the offline, switched off bubble I am happily living in right now.

I hope I last the next twenty five days, and the good feeling that comes with being socially ‘detoxed’ continues. For me personally, I wouldn’t have said I was ‘addicted’ to it but I definitely would scroll absentmindedly when bored or waiting for something like a bus every day. It had become a habit, a go to crutch for boredom, and I wanted to break than reliance.

I definitely am missing out on some of the great updates many of my friends and family post on a regular basis, especially with living in a different country to many of them, but those I am super close to send me these via a message or call anyway so honestly it’s not been bad at all.

If you too are feeling the ‘social habit’ where you scroll without realising, you’re posting more than you are experiencing day to day, or you are sharing photos for reasons other than memory capturing and moment savouring, maybe you need a detox too.

What 2020 Travel Trends Will You Be Embracing?

As we move into a new decade, our travel desires and habits are changing to reflect our new desires and wishes when it comes to adventuring and experiencing more of the world. 

Below are some of the key travel trends I think will shape 2020 and the next few years. Do you recognise any of these from what you’ve been looking for personally? Do you disagree with any?

Train and Non-Air Travel

With the growing rise of ‘flight-shame’ and awareness of the environmental impact regular plane travel has on the planet and climate, people are looking for alternative methods of transport when it comes to planning their next adventures.

Because of this, train, boat and car travel will see an increase in popularity as people combine a more eco-friendly way to arrive with a scenic journey to their destination. 

In 2020, we have reached the joint decision to fly for only one ‘long-haul’ trip where we can’t reach the destination by other means, and then continue the rest of our adventures through other modes of transport. It’s not perfect, but it’s a good start and lets us test what travel through different means really looks like. 

We will be embracing bikes, trains and long road trips to see as much as the world on our doorstep as we can. (Although for full disclosure, this excludes required business travel and trips to see family back in the UK seen as we have a new arrival this year that many want to meet.)

Short Breaks

The usual seven or ten day traditional holiday is moving over and making room for the rapid rise in shorter mini-breaks and weekends away. Younger generations are becoming more ‘leave-savvy’ when it comes to using their hard earned vacation days, and want to utilise them to see and experience more places. 

Therefore, we are seeing a rapid rise in three night destination hops rather than the longer week long holiday to disconnect and unwind. For 2020 and beyond, expect to see more people heading off for long weekends three to four times a year than one big all-expenses holiday in the summer.

We have been huge fans of mini-breaks for years’ now, and spend a good few hours every January working out how to best structure our leave to maximise our adventures for the coming year. Add a day onto public holidays, travel when quiet, and make the most of your weekends with amazing experiences to be found just an hour or two away.

Travelling with Pets

According to Mintel, 59% of British consumers now have a pet, and the biggest trend for growth when it comes to ownership is thanks to the younger millennials (21-30) who are now adopting a furry friend at the same time as their parents were choosing to have children. 

With this rise in younger pet households comes the rise in people travelling with their furry companions. Pet friendly hotels, planes and restaurant demand is on the rapid rise. 52% of American millennial pet owners will now take their pet with them if they are away from home for more than two nights. 

For those who find it harder to travel with their pets, such as those with cats, smaller mammals or animals who don’t quite like the journey, there’s also been a boom in services to support this. Sites like Trusted Housesitters have been gaining rapid popularity, and for good reason. 

Some of the best airlines to travel with a pet are JetBlue, Air France and Swiss Airlines according to independent reviews. Plus, the best countries to travel to or live with a dog? France, Switzerland, Italy and Canada top the list thanks to their pet friendly ways of life. 

Our cats love to travel in the car for short trips, but we don’t think they would quite like a longer journey. So we love sites like Trusted Housesitters and local cat friendly hotels for short breaks away or cat sitting support. 

My brother and sister in-law are literally the leaders in travelling with pets. Their dog Hiro has been alongside them as they take a gap year flying with them to Canada, the US, Mexico, Costa Rica and much more.

Ethical Travel

A survey by Sainsbury’s in the summer of 2019 predicted that 25% of Brits would be vegetarian or vegan by 2025. This accounts for the rise in demand for both vegan hotels, and eco-tourism and more ethical travel. 

People are becoming more aware of their travel footprint, choosing to take ‘no-waste’ amenity kits with them on breaks, seeking out vegan or vegetarian hotels to stay in and paying to offset their carbon footprints for each flight, delivery or service they use. 

I love to see it on sites like Viator, where tour companies are now offering more ethical excursions so you can see more of a country without damaging it through your tourist footprint. 

Family Travel

There’s been a huge growth in people travelling and going away with their extended family and it’s something I think will keep being popular for many years to come. 

As more people lead busier lives, or live further away from each other, the chance to all meet up together in an exciting new destination and to make memories as a family is really appealing. 

There’s been a surge in families booking large rentals, such as through sites like AirBnb, and making the most of both their destination but also time at the lodgings together to just relax, reconnect and make lasting memories. 

Detox Holidays

Whilst technology is a great enabler for every day life, often people are looking towards their holidays as a way of escaping the constant buzz and noise of being always connected. 

A lot of ‘technology-free’ retreats, hotels and vacations are popping up which promise a chance for you to truly disconnect for a period of time. An opportunity to go back to basics and enjoy reading, nature, hiking or the sights around you without online distractions. 

Honestly, this is something I want to try more in 2020. Perhaps not at a ‘technology-free’ retreat, but by leaving our phones behind in the hotel safe, the laptops at home, and properly disconnecting when away. We did this in the South of France late last year, to the level that we had several people asking if we had got there safe and everything was okay as they hadn’t seen any updates on our Instagram about being there.

It was a big reality check for us, and needless to say we now put the phones away during the day and only then upload any photos or highlights of the day when back at our hotel in the evening.

Staycations

Tied with the rise in eco-tourism, as well as the desire to discover more about the beautiful sites on your doorstep, there’s no surprise that staycations are seeing a boom in popularity again amongst travellers.

Whether it’s venturing out to discover hidden gems in your own country, or even just getting together a lot of little luxuries for a weekend hidden away at home, a staycation can really help you relax and recharge without having to (a) spend a fortune or (b) travel far. 

With our first child arriving in just a few months, I hope to use 2020 as a chance to explore more locally, giving us the thrill of going away without the stress of flights, travel and paperwork. Camping is a big love of ours, so we hope that this is one way we can achieve this in the summer. 

M Insider: The Monthly Roundup – December Edition

M Insider is a collection of things that at this moment, I think are truly brilliant. It might be a new destination, an ingredient I can’t believe I haven’t cooked with before, or a travel app that has just gone and made life abroad so much easier.

Here’s the second instalment of the M Insider Monthly Roundup, looking back on December 2019.

Zero Waste Travel Kits

When you are heading on a trip, whether it be a short weekend away, day trip for some exploring or a long-haul adventure, make sure you take a zero waste travel kit with you. This doesn’t mean you need to invest in anything new, just bring in your bag a few essentials to help you cut down on waste throughout your trip.

As a minimum, add a reusable water bottle, a good flask, re-sealable bags and a travel straw to your luggage before setting off. If you want to go a little further, invest in a washable wooden cutlery set, and be sure to pack your own toiletries rather than using hotel ones.

Sonia Moer Duvet Covers

We recently replaced both the duvet covers in our apartment for our bed, as well as the guest room. It was out of necessity that we replaced them both, one had a broken zip and one had been seriously cat pawed, so I wanted to invest in something that would last just as long and be comfy too.

After much review sourcing we went for the Sonia Moer covers, and can I just say they are amazing. They are soft, easy to clean and zip fastened for quick sheet changes. I was a little wary at first because of the price point (a lot lower than I have previously spent) but I am really impressed.

Polaroid Mobile Printer

For Christmas my husband got me this fantastic mobile printer, which allows me to print directly from my phone on-the-go. It’s been really good for adding in photos of my bump to my pregnancy journal, and for printing little memories to add to travel scrapbooks and albums. Plus, it’s really tiny, so you can just pop it into your bag and take it with you anywhere.

NordVPN

It always amazes me how few people I know use a VPN when it comes to internet browsing. We have been using one for a long time now, and the best we have experienced so far is NordVPN. It’s because it connects both on our laptops, but also has an app meaning you can log-in and use it via your iPhone and tablet devices as well.

A VPN has many benefits, but the biggest being increasing your online security when using public WiFI networks, remote access of content (for example streaming services we pay for in the UK that we would struggle to watch when travelling) and buying cheaper travel tickets (as flights are priced differently depending on the city you buy them from). 

Vox Videos

These short videos by Vox have recently become my new favourite thing to watch on the go or when relaxing in an evening. Each video is around fifteen minutes long, and they cover a wide range of topics from ‘The Bizarre Physics of Fire Ants’ to ‘Expensive Wine is For Suckers’. An easy way to build your knowledge on things you never knew you needed to know.

See all their videos here

https://www.youtube.com/user/voxdotcom/videos?view=0&sort=p&flow=grid

Olaplex Shampoo

It took me a long time to justify spending over £25 per bottle of shampoo, no matter how many good things I heard about Olaplex. Then one day last summer, I was on a hen do, and one of the girls’ had the most incredible hair in such good condition. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to work out what her secret was based on this post.

I bit the bullet and got the No.3 hair perfector, and the No.5 conditioner. My hair has never been in better condition even with pregnancy hormones and regular blonde dye treatments.

If you are not sure if it’s for you, you can get mini-versions of them online for around £10.

Veganuary

We’ve started this a little later in 2020, as we have been travelling and visiting friends for the first week of the New Year, but now we are back in Switzerland we are both embracing Veganuary again.

What is it? A month where you follow a vegan lifestyle which hopefully inspires you to continue throughout the year, or at least adopt best practices and make positives changes with more conscious choices. You can sign up on their website, and they send you regular updates, motivational tips and recipes to inspire you.

I would recommend anyone starting this also takes a multi-vitamin and a B12 supplement throughout, to help support your body as you discover more about healthy plant based diets.

Falafels

I absolutely love a Falafel, and my favourite recipe is the one from BBC GoodFood below, however I also add in some hot curry powder for an extra kick when making.

They are a great snack, lunch or dinner served with Pitta and salad. Plus, super cheap to make at home.

https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/collection/falafel

The Age of Surveillance Capitalism : The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power – Shoshana Zuboff

This book is incredibly powerful, and really makes you think. With the rising power of technology, we have to make a decision about how we want it to shape our future. Do we allow technology to enrich the few and impoverish the many, or harness it and distribute its benefits? It’s a must-read and it’s pretty hard to put down once you begin.

30 Day Minimalist Challenge

I created my own thirty-day minimalist challenge in 2017, after following a few online versions when I first started to embrace a lifestyle living with less. It contains all the best changes I personally found to be effective when exploring minimalism. If you want to follow this with me, I am starting tomorrow and sharing a challenge a day.

Whilst I can’t promise it will change your life, I can assure you that since living with less I have personally been more productive, happier, achieved more and found a real balance with my anxiety. Minimalism isn’t just about stuff, it’s about addressing everything that adds unnecessary noise and clutter to your life.

Try and stick to the 30 day challenge, or just do a few throughout the course and see if they have an impact.

M Insider: The Monthly Roundup – November Edition

M Insider is a collection of things that at this moment, I think are truly brilliant. It might be a new destination, an ingredient I can’t believe I haven’t cooked with before, or a travel app that has just gone and made life abroad so much easier.

Here’s the second instalment of the M Insider Monthly Roundup, looking back on November 2019.

Longchamp Card Wallet

This year for my birthday, my husband got me this gorgeous new Longchamp card wallet, and I honestly haven’t considered switching back to a bulkier purse since. It fits easily into any bag, clutch or pocket; it holds all the essentials (cards and notes) and has space for a photo or note should you wish to carry one.

It’s the time of year to declutter, and what better way to start than with your wallet that you use every day. Say goodbye to those old and useless loyalty cards, and streamline your purse for 2020 in style. Kyran also switched from a usual wallet to a cardholder after seeing mine in use, so it is also a great gift idea for men too this winter.

Tromso – The Perfect Winter Holiday

Exploring the Arctic Circle, chasing the northern likes, hiking around snowy fjords. Do I really need to go on? We recently got back from our anniversary trip to Tromso and I wholly recommend that anyone who is looking for an incredible winter break this year should book a flight to this northern Nordic destination.

You can fly with Norwegian Airlines directly from many larger airports. Just pack many layers, it’s very cold!

Panasonic Lumix DC-GX 80 Camera

The best camera we own for taking great photos on the go, without having to carry around a bigger DSLR. It’s perfect for travelling, and even allows you to change the lenses depending on your need. We love the phone syncing option that allows us to instantly download images to our smartphones for ease of editing and sharing without cables or internet connection.

There’s a touch screen, great control of manual settings, and it looks gorgeous and retro too.

Christmas Tea

I recently came across this flavour of herbal tea and I am now pretty much obsessed. If you want warmth and comfort in a mug, look no further than this magical blend of spices and flavours.

Vegan Katsu Curry

Katsu curry is one of my all-time favourite dishes. There’s just something comforting about it. I really like this vegan version of the curry, where instead of breaded chicken, you have vegetables under that delicious spicy sauce.

To make it, we add our own twist. Instead of breading whole slices of sweet potato or aubergines, we make vegetable fritters by blending leftover vegetables and seasoning – I think it’s more flavoursome this way. Plus, to make the sauce, invest in the S&B golden curry cubes. We got told in Japan that people always use these rather than making from scratch as they just taste so good and it’s hard to replicate.

There’s a great recipe for it here if you want to try it at home.

Get Your Guide

We love to book a tour or experience whenever we are away, because no matter how much research you do, you really don’t know a place like the locals. Get Your Guide is one of our favourite sites to book these excursions through for several reasons. You can change and cancel bookings up to 24 hours before they start, allowing for great flexibility, there’s loads of great reviews, and the variation of things on offer is amazing.

We’ve booked a cooking class, photography class and local food tour via here all in the last three months. I would really recommend it.

Pocket Yoga App

Yoga is good for your body and your soul, and the best thing about it is that you can pretty much do it anywhere if you have enough space to stretch out.

This is why I love the Pocket Yoga App. It allows me to practice yoga daily wherever I am, which is especially useful when travelling. The app talks you through all the moves, and gives you visual and audio guides to support you. A little bit of yoga goes a long way. It’s been especially good during my pregnancy, so I would recommend this as a great download for any mums to be out there

The Crown – Season Three

I don’t think this needs much of a description, other than just watch it! I absolutely love The Crown series on Netflix and so was super happy when the latest season dropped.

The new cast is great, the plot as always is well-written and it’s a fantastic form of escapism when travelling or winding down for the night.

Brown Paper Wrapping

Forget fancy wrapping, bows and glitter this festive season, and instead opt to wrap your gifts in rustic and more importantly, recyclable brown paper.

A huge majority of wrapping paper actually can’t be recycled due to the coating used, so this year, do the planet a favour and wrap your lovely little bundles of joy in some vintage looking brown paper. There’s some great ideas on Pinterest on how to make it more personal using stamps, or natural decorations if you want to spruce it up a little.

The Uninhabitable Earth – A Story Of The Future

My sister gifted me this fantastic book for my birthday this year and it’s not only an eye-opening read, but also really interesting at the same time.

It’s not a book for the faint hearted, and it doesn’t sugar coat the situation we are really in when it comes to our planet and the future of humanity.

Which is why I think it makes it even more important to grab a copy and give it a read. We have an awful lot to learn from this brilliant Author.  

M Insider: The Monthly Roundup – October Edition

Writing detailed posts on new destination discoveries, long haul travel tips and the perfect minimalist gifts have been my go-to for a long time now. Four years’ ago I started Minimalist Insider as a way to invest in one of the things I love the most. Writing.

I am still pleasantly surprised that people like you keep coming to read my posts, and so I like to keep refreshing the types of content I share, even though the long form articles will always be my bread and butter. Last year, I launched the Extraordinary Ordinary series, and recently I have started to share and publish free travel itineraries based on tried and trusted trips I have taken.

From this month, to celebrate four years’ of writing, I am going to start sharing my M Insider monthly roundups; you guessed it, on a monthly basis.

So what is this new feature, you may ask. Well, worry not reader, I am here enlighten you.

M Insider will be a collection of things that at this moment, I think are truly brilliant. It might be a new destination, an ingredient I can’t believe I haven’t cooked with before, or a travel app that has just gone and made life abroad so much easier.

Don’t worry, you won’t need to read this whole introduction for the following M Insider Monthly Roundups, I promise in future editions to get right to the good stuff you’re here for.

So without further rambling. Here’s the first instalment of the M Insider Monthly Roundup, looking back on October 2019.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

This is a must-read, must-buy for anyone looking for a witty, clever and surprising book. As the days get colder, reading inside snuggled on the sofa becomes a very appealing weekend activity and for that, this novel is the perfect accompaniment. I often enjoy a book, but it takes something incredibly special to fill me with fear as the pages left slowly dwindle and I realise this moment of enjoyment will be over soon. If you read anything this winter, make it this.

Snapseed by Google – Photo editing app

We’ve all been there, in a picturesque moment with the lighting, landscape and weather all aligned, and realised we only have our trusty mobile to hand to snap the shot. Take the photo, follow the rule of thirds and all that jazz, but then later open it in the Snapseed app to refine it before sharing, printing or posting it. It is easy to use, has fantastic features, and best of all, it’s free.

Trusted Housesitters

The best website for people with pets who need reliable and wonderful people to take care of their furry family and home whilst they are away, or for people who love animals and want the perks of free local accommodation for their next trip. It costs £80 a year for membership, but then you have the ability to apply and stay in, or apply for and host, as many sitters or places as you need. I wrote a much longer blog about it all here. But really, if you’ve not checked it out yet, you really should.

Curio Audio News

When you want to keep up with the latest news from reputable sources, but finding and reading them proves time-consuming, you need the Curio app. It lets you listen to audio-snippets of news stories, journalism and cutting edge content from many different publishers such as the Financial Times, Guardian and Monocle. My recent favourite listens have been ‘What We Can Learn From People With Beautiful Minds’ and ‘We Have The Tools and Technology To Work Less and Live Well’. You can download the app and give it a try with ten free listens. Anything more, you do need to subscribe, but I personally think its well worth it. It allows me to keep up to date and discover new things whilst multitasking thanks to it being in audio format.

Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse

This oil is multi-award winning and a firm beauty favourite for a reason. I use it on my skin, my hair and as a fragrance. A little goes a long way so a 100ml bottle lasts me months. It smells divine, and really helps with my naturally dry skin. Moreover, it keeps the humidity at bay for frizz prone hair. Win win.

Red Lentil Soup Recipe 

Nothing says autumn more than a good soup. It’s the season for breaking out the blender and discovering the amazing flavours of a wholesome and hearty broth. One of my personal favourites is a red lentil soup. The Goop recipe here is great as it’s vegan, filling and slightly spiced (I usually add a little more curry powder than the recipe dictates).

https://goop.com/recipes/red-lentil-soup/

Weekend break – Grindelwald

If you want to get away and experience good hikes, cosy chalet restaurants and views you’ll never forget as you stand under the face of the Eiger, then you need to head to Grindelwald. In this cute Swiss town you can embark on endless walks in the mountains, take cable cars up for incredible views at dizzying heights, and also take part in some serious adventure sports if you feel like it.

The nearby Murren and Gimmelwald are also well worth a visit if you have the time, and both are car free towns so make for great outdoor bases away from the bustle of the city.

Perfect Winter Scents – White Company Candles

I have a serious love of White Company homeware. Their bedding is unbelievably soft, their pyjamas cosy and neutral and their candles smell incredible. Which is why every Winter I look forward to lighting their famous Winter Signature candle on a cosy weekend night in. It smells of everything wonderful about this season. Cinnamon, oranges and that smoky wood scent that instantly makes you feel like you are in an old cottage hibernating for the winter. If you are looking for a good gift that keeps on giving this Christmas, look no further (and get one for yourself at the same time!)

https://www.thewhitecompany.com/uk/Winter-Signature-Candle/p/WNDCX?swatch=No+Colour

Chickpea Pasta

A rich pasta dish, with simple flavours, goes a long way. There’s something delicious and comforting about a big pan of rustic ingredients thrown together with a thick sauce and carbs. Recently, I have been making pasta with different variations of the grain. One particular favourite is Chickpea pasta. For those in the UK, Ugo makes some great fresh and stored variations. Oh and as a bonus, Chickpea pasta is usually gluten free and vegan (but check the label just in case). For me, it’s a great alternative to whole-wheat pasta that’s easy on digestion and well-balanced.

Lumley Castle – perfect winter retreat

As the evenings get darker, it’s time to pack a bag and escape for the weekend to an old country house or castle for lazy mornings in four poster beds, delicious classic winter food and drinks by the fire. Lumley Castle in Durham is a great place for all the above. Oh, and it’s dog friendly. The library bar is a great place to unwind and warm up after exploring the grounds and nearby countryside. The restaurant food is fantastic, and you can choose to stay in the old castle itself or the modern courtyard rooms across the way. For the experience you get, I would really say that the hotel is very reasonably priced.

https://www.lumleycastle.com/

Five Books To Kick Start Your 2019

Here’s a selection of my favourite reads from 2019 so far. There’s quite a strong non-fiction theme which I think reflects my current mindset and as-is thought process. Perhaps it’s time to transition into some more fiction and story-telling for Spring. Any good recommendations? Share them below.

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21 Lessons for the 21st Century – Yuval Noah Harari

I have enjoyed both of Harari’s previous editions in this series, Sapiens and Homo Deus, so it’s unsurprising that this was an early first read for me in 2019.

As we move more into the future, the world is becoming more uncertain. Just look at current affairs and news reporting to see that as a whole, we don’t seem to be coping too well with this change in status-quo. If like me, you’re struggling to understand this new polarization and feeling of constant flux that is in the air, this is a really good read to help put it into perspective.

It asks really important questions, and invites you to consider values and culture in an ever-changing world.

This book was not only a source of great insight, but also of comfort.

4/5

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Hello World. How To Be Human In The Age Of The Machine- Hannah Fry

Data is the new oil, and with this, a lot more of our behaviour, personal details, likes, dislikes and needs are being processed every second in the big online world.

As a global data manager, I work regularly on the commercial or operational side of data, when it’s more important to be focused strongly on the human side. Data is impacting us all already, and it’s important for us to know where this will lead in the next two, five or fifty years.

Hannah is a professor in this area, and bring the world of data science, AI and automation to all of us in an accessible and easy to read format.

It’s a fantastic book, and well worth a read, even if it just gets you to reconsider doing one of those online DNA tests or hereditary mapping exercises.

4/5

The New Silk Roads – Peter Frankopan

No image of this one as I lent it to my boss!

This book had me hooked from the first chapter, so much so that my husband was amazed that it made me stay up regularly past my 10pm bedtime (love a good night’s sleep!) to keep reading more of it each night.

Living in the West, it’s very easy to be oblivious to what is currently happening in the East and Africa. Especially with headlines focused mainly on Brexit and Trump’s Wall right now.

It’s entertaining, carefully researched and fascinating. It’s got enough detail to please people looking for hard facts, but then enough light-hearted storytelling to entertain and bring people looking for a lighter introduction to new history on the journey.

Well worth a read.

4.5/5

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In Your Defence – Sarah Langford

Sarah describes, with honesty and great detail, many cases which she has individually worked on during her career as a Barrister in England.

There’s plenty to shock, and several to tug at the heart strings, but what is most surprising is how many of us are unaware of exactly how the law operates in the country we live in, and how just one incident can change your life for good.

She adds in her own insight to each story, whilst also making sure you have enough of both sides of the case to make your own choice about how you feel about the situation at hand.

For me, the way many cases develop, how people plead, and the rules around sentencing made for new learning and understanding.

3/5

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Ghost – James Swallow

The only fiction book on this list, and unfortunately, for me this one wasn’t nearly as good as the other books I have read so far in 2019. I read James’ Nomad, released in 2017, and really enjoyed it, so was keen to pick up this sequel and read it on a long journey I recently took.

Unfortunately it didn’t live up to expectations. The book felt frenzied and the action hard to follow. I was really sad and kept going as I wanted it to be great but I think my expectations left me feeling disappointed.

It’s a good premise, I just think the drama and characters let it down a little.

2/5

 

Five Books You Need On Your Bookshelf This Month

This is what I have been reading in August, and loving so far. Do you have any books you’ve absolutely loved this month? Share them in the comments below and give others inspiration for a good read!

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Afterlight

The sequel to the brilliant Last Light, this book makes you really think about how dependent we are on fuel, technology and modern commodities. Alex Scarrow isn’t afraid to tell it how it is, and doesn’t shy away from some of the more realistic and at times harrowing nature of humans when they’re pushed, tested and left to basically fend for themselves. A good dystopian novel.

3.5/5.

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Unsub

If you’ve seen me in person this month, the chances are I will have been talking your ear off about this book and how you just NEED to read it. One of the best thrillers I have picked up since Silence of the Lambs or Misery. Gripping from the first chapter, I got through it in two days and even woke up early before work on the second day as I couldn’t wait eight more hours to finish it.

5/5

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Crazy Rich Asians

There’s been a lot of hype surrounding this book, and now I have read it, I can see why. It’s witty, the humour is fantastically dry, and I personally really enjoyed the lightness of it. It’s the perfect lazy Sunday or beach read, and it doesn’t take itself too seriously. I instantly purchased the sequel as I find these books to be the perfect light relief after a hard day at work.

3.5/5

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The Lost Girls

If you like true crime, and you want to read about a yet to be solved case, this is the book for you. I personally found the approach and writing style a little different which made it harder for me to get sucked in, however the detail, research and stark reality of the lives of five so different and yet so similar American girls made this book well worth reading.

3/5

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Jungle

A true story, that at times feels totally unbelievable it’s that extraordinary. It’s a book based on the story of Yossi, a backpacker exploring South America who embarks on a once in a lifetime adventure to explore the Amazonian rainforest. It’s gripping, dark in places and really demonstrates the power and will that humans instinctively have to survive.

4/5


 

What do you think of the above? Have you read any of them? Share your thoughts with me below…

Six Brilliant Summer Reads You’ll Love

I will forever be envious of people who can take their time with a book, devouring a chapter at a time and making a real occasion out of reading a new novel. I am also jealous of how much less they probably spend on books if I am going to be entirely honest.

Ever since I can remember I have been an avid, and also frustratingly quick reader. I can digest a book cover to cover in one to two sittings if I am given the time and opportunity. Not skim reading either, I actually take less in if I try to slow down.

Therefore I have quite the library at home (and a well-used, well-worn library card too). One of my biggest pleasures in life is passing on a book to another to enjoy, and having a real good chat about it afterwards.

Discovering an opportunity out of this rather expensive hobby, I have decided to start sharing the books I read, with quick ratings and a really brief synopsis, as if you’re like me, you don’t want to know too much before you get stuck in!

These are all books I have read in June – July.

Happy reading.

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The Gringo Trail – Mark Mann

This diary of an adventure across South America had me laughing out loud (seriously) on the first page. It’s brilliantly written, and manages to be both entertaining and hauntingly dark at the same time. 4/5

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Bear Town – Fredrik Backman

A book that I had passed on to me by my mother-in-law and fellow bookworm. The first book in a while that actually had me questioning the way I look at things throughout, and gave me a lot of food for thought. It follows the day to day lives of a local small town Hockey team, and goes to show, you never really do know your neighbours. 4/5

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Into The Water – Paula Hawkins

The much awaited book from the brilliant Girl on The Train author. It was a great read, with plenty to leave you thinking about and hard to tear away from when real-life is needing your attention. Sadly though, I felt it was much too hyped up and therefore I left feeling a little disappointed. My advice, go in open minded and it could be brilliant. 3/5

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Nomad – James Swallow

It’s a best-seller for a reason. Tense, well-researched and provokes a lot of questions. I wouldn’t say it’s a book I will forever remember, however it’s a great read, especially when travelling. It fully absorbs you and you forget the world around you for a short space of time. 3/5

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Everybody Lies – Seth Stephens Davidowitz

I like to mix up my fiction with a peppering of non-fiction to appease my analytical side of my brain. This book really appealed to me as a data and analytics manager myself, and really opened up my eyes to how our computers really do know more about us as people than we share or tell others. Interesting take on how people portray themselves vs. what they really think (or ask Google). 4/5

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 Miracle in the Andes – Nando Parrado

A true story of existence, endurance and the remarkable instinct of humans to just survive. I personally didn’t know much about the story before opening up and reading, and I would recommend that anyone who picks up this book takes the same approach. I honestly couldn’t believe this was a true story. 4.5/5

Take Control Of Your Mornings

What do you tend to do as soon as you wake up in the morning? Do you immediately start getting ready and then busy about packing lunch for the day, ironing shirts and then fly out the door ready to get to work on time? Does every weekday pretty much feel the same? Same cup of coffee consumed in the same place after your alarm set at the same time each day has startled you out of your slumber?

I guess for the majority of us, that’s the case. In fact, it used to be exactly what I did before I realised the value and importance of having (or actually, not really having) a morning ritual that actually involves some time to prepare myself for the day ahead.

A lot of people I talk to about mornings have the same response.

‘Ugh, I am just not a morning person’

But then they proceed to ask me how I do it, how do I get up early every day?

It’s simple, as soon as I rouse, be it 5am, 6.30am or 7am, I get up. I see this as my body’s natural way of telling me I am well and truly rested, and it’s time to get up and embrace the day. I didn’t find this easy at first, but it quickly became a habit.

Mornings for me mean an opportunity to start my day right, doing something peaceful and productive. As long as I do my morning right, the rest of my day tends to follow in the same fashion.

I don’t keep to a fixed routine and I this is part of the joy of mornings for me.

Let’s take this morning for example.

I was feeling a little more tired than usual this morning so I didn’t get out of bed until 7am. I got up and wandered downstairs and enjoyed 20 minutes solitude with a fresh coffee and a book, I Am Pilgrim (which by the way, is an excellent read!) I then washed, dressed (clothes laid out the night before so that I wouldn’t take up time choosing in the morning) and applied my makeup.

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I spent the last 20 minutes this morning writing this post. However often when I rise at 6 and I have another hour to spare I will do some exercise, perhaps listen to some music or just hang out and play with my cats.

Then I have a nice stroll to work, where I catch up with my husband and think over my plans for the day.

If I do my morning routine right, treating it as a blank canvas to enjoy a hobby or read an article with a cup of coffee, the rest of my day just feels good.

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My cosy morning corner

Plus, it really stops me from leading that ‘busy’ lifestyle we all tend to get caught up in now and then.

Tell me about your morning routine, or start getting up as soon as you are awake (be that by alarm or naturally). I want to hear how you start your day right.

Tomorrow – No spending for 24 hours. 

30 days minimalism