Friday, 11 May 2018

Goodreads 2018 Reading Challenge: April

It's been a really good month for my reading challenge as I read two great books, one modern and one classic.

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

This book was not at all what I expected! After reading the blurb I thought it was going to be some easy reading Bridget Jones' Diary type thing about a single girl living a lonely existence until something tips the balance and she falls in love. But it's so far from the superficial book I expected, it's actually a dark story about dealing with trauma and mental health interspersed with some real laugh out loud moments.

I absolutely loved it and constantly felt the need to tell Allan what was happening as if these were people I knew, possibly because there's so much information about Eleanor and the other characters. This could be someone you know, someone you work with, study with, or see regularly at your local corner shop. Everyone has a life and their own struggles and complexities, just like these characters.

I honestly couldn't put this down. There was so much I wanted to know and couldn't wait to find out, and the story was constantly changing direction away from where I expected. Most people I know that have read it love it too, although there are definitely holes that can be picked, but I try not to worry too much about that!

Animal Farm by George Orwell

I'm quite surprised that I haven't read Animal Farm before. I've had it on my shelves for quite a long time and picked it because it was short enough that I could read it on a weekend away at the end of the month.

I decided to go straight to the story, skipping the introduction and notes, as I knew it would be something I would want to research later and I wanted to take it at face value first. Even then it's a timeless story about misuse of power and the lies we tell others and ourselves, and how the best of intentions can easily be corrupted. It says a lot about human nature and I do recognise a few of these creatures!

Fundamentally this is a great, quick read without knowing or understanding the subtext of Orwell's political views.

Have you read any of these? I'd love to know what you thought! Find me on goodreads and let me know what you're reading too!

Monday, 9 April 2018

Goodreads 2018 Reading Challenge: March

Three months in and I'm already slacking! So I took a bit longer than a month to read this book but, where did this month go?!

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

This book left me confused. You know when you finish a book and you close it, but you just feel a bit...shook?

The story itself is about Caraval, an macabre invite-only game where the audience compete for a wish, but nothing is as it seems and the cost for taking part can be high. Two sisters seize the opportunity to escape from their cruel father and win their freedom. I picked it as I was intrigued; it seemed magical and dark and romantic, and it definitely was all of those things. And I really enjoyed the story, the writing was very descriptive and it has this Alice In Wonderland feel to it.

But...the game was confusing and I wasn't really invested in any of the characters. The story had as many twists and turns as the game in it, so even when I thought I'd worked something out the goalposts changed! I think this was why it fell short for me, it lacked a bit of depth because it was always moving on to the next thing.

20th Century Fox have picked up the film rights so we might see it on the big screen and Caraval has the potential to be a great movie. The sequel novel "Legendary" is out in May.

Have you read Caraval? I'd love to know what you thought! Find me on goodreads and let me know what you're reading too!

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Wedding On A Budget: 5 Months To Go!

Only 5 months to go until our big day! I was so excited to hit that 6 months to go milestone and I kind of thought that it would bring on a flurry of activity but we're just too darn organised!

According to our guide list we should be:
- Ordering or making invitations
- Ordering our wedding cake
- Buying shoes and accessories
- Booking hair and makeup
- Buying bridesmaid and flowergirl dresses
- Booking our honeymoon suite

Because we're on a budget, and don't think the majority of people tend to keep them, we decided quite early on that we wouldn't have physical invites for the majority of our guests. Our wedding website Joy has the function to send customisable e-invites with guests rsvps also being digital. We have designed some printable invites to send to those guests who aren't online which is only about 4 families!

Our wedding cakes (yes, plural) have still to be ordered but we're on it, we just need to decide which flavours we want! We've put a poll on our private Facebook page so everyone can have their say!

We bought our bridesmaid and flowergirl dresses ages ago in the sales, and I bought my shoes last month in the sale too. Hair and makeup were booked around that same time. When you're on a budget timing is everything and you've got to grab those bargains while you can!

We won't be staying in a honeymoon suite because we live really close so we're just heading home (my parents have agreed to take the girls) and I quite like the idea of waking up to married life in our own home!

One big thing that did happen this month is that I lost a stone from my engagement ring (that one in the photo above). It was only ever meant to be a temporary one but I loved it because I remember us being newly engaged and picking it out together in Tenerife. Anyway, it was going to cost more to fix than it was worth so we headed to Goldsmiths again (where we got our wedding rings for free!) armed with more Tesco Clubcard vouchers which we've been collecting for two years and bought something similar but of much better quality with a substantial saving!

Otherwise we've been busy catching up with suppliers, speaking to guests to check if they need help booking accommodation and trying to organise transport. Allan's also picked out his outfit and I have no idea what it looks like! Sorsha went along to help but I wanted to keep it as a surprise, I can't wait to see how handsome he looks!

I think the 3 month mark will be a biggie and that's when it'll get really real! Did anyone else feel less busy that they thought they would? Am I just too casual about it all?!

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Goodreads 2018 Reading Challenge: February

This month I've started one book, decided that it's a bit of a thinker, a dip-in-and-out-of type book, so moved onto something completely different!

A Mindfulness Guide For The Frazzled by Ruby Wax

I remember Ruby Wax as a comedian, initially in Girls On Top in the 80s and through all her stand-up and presenting roles. Now she's taken her own experience with depression and her Masters degree in Cognitive Therapy from Oxford and written a book about Mindfulness. I haven't managed to get very far into the book because it keeps making me question things, like "What is my version of happiness?", "How can I deal differently with those situations from my past that mean nothing but appear in my head at 3am?" and "How can I remind myself that I'm content with the majority of areas in my life when I feel like I'm not?". See what I mean? Lots of brainwork going on!

Anyway, so far I'm really enjoying working on my mindfulness but this book will have to be carried over!

The Light Jar by Lisa Thompson

I picked this up just over a week ago because I liked the cover, and then I read the synopsis and was intrigued. It's actually a "young teens" book if we're labeling it and it deals with serious family issues like parents splitting up and abusive relationships in quite a soft, empathetic way that'll help the reader's understanding of them. The story itself is interesting and easy to read and just a really pleasant experience!

Have you read any of these? I'd love to know what you thought! Find me on goodreads and let me know what you're reading too!

Friday, 16 February 2018

The Giant Lanterns Of China At Edinburgh Zoo

Allan and I don't usually give Valentine's Day much thought, but this year it just so happened that Edinburgh Zoo was hosting a Giant Lanterns Of China event and one of the few remaining dates with tickets still available landed right on the 14th February.

I had seen some pictures on Instagram and I'm a sucker for pretty lights, so we bought a couple of tickets (children under 3 go free) and chose the revisit option so we have reduced price tickets to visit the zoo during the day before the end of April.

We packed the girls and lots of cosy clothes in the car and drove down. We had a quick picnic in the car (because the food ain't cheap in there!) and headed in. I was so glad that we picked a quieter day because we managed to view all the lanterns at our own pace and didn't have to squeeze our way in to see them.

Against the dark evening all of the lanterns were amazing, but I especially liked the peacocks, flowers and the dragon. Sorsha loved the lions and zebras. They also had a large area of light depicting the different animals in the Chinese zodiac. Allan is a rooster (which is so accurate!), Willow is a monkey (also very true!), and Sorsha and I are a couple of goats!

My absolute favourite display wasn't a silk lantern at all, it was the Qilins (chee-lins) who were made of thousands of individual glass bottles.

Towards the end there's a stage for regular performances by acrobats including plate-spinning, juggling and...well...acrobats! After standing in the cold for a while we decided to get a couple of hot drinks and dried up cakes in the cafe, hang the cost! Whilst I was at it I threw away some money by buying a spinning top that had lights and music because Willow was mesmerised by it. Needless to say it broke after one use.

Apart from that it was a really good event and the whole family loved it. If you can get tickets (I think only a few dates this month were still available when I checked) it's definitely worth seeing just make sure you wrap up warm!

Friday, 2 February 2018

Goodreads 2018 Reading Challenge: January

At the beginning of this year I set myself the goal of reading a book a month. This doesn't seem like much but I have barely read a cereal box in the last year, let alone a book!  This month I've spent my spare time reading a book rather than my phone and completed two books!

The Image Of You: I Thought I Knew You. But You're A Liar by Adele Parks

This is my first Adele Parks book and I found it really easy to read. Unfortunately I guessed the plot quite early on which spoiled it for me and meant that the middle chapters dragged. But I think the idea of the book is good so if you don't guess the storyline, this should be an enjoyable read.

The Keeper Of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan

This book is a lovely read and so full of charm and detail that I could visualise every detail. I loved the characters and how their stories intertwine, and the stories of all the found items. There's a real romance to this book that made my heart happy.

Find me on goodreads and let me know what you're reading!

Friday, 19 January 2018

♥ This Week's Loves ♥

1. This week my littlest niece turned 1! They had a big family get-together to celebrate and just look at that cake!

2. IT. "But which one?" you may ask, and I will tell you (pretty much spoiler-free I think). I'm a big fan of the original, having watched it on the telly in my youth, and being scared sh*tless because I was just a kid. Having watched both versions recently I can say that I do like the new one but the original has the edge for me. The new Pennywise is a slivery mess with too many teeth and I couldn't understand what he was on about at times, whereas Tim Curry's version was actually a bit endearing with his baggy suit, cute smile and child-like antics. I'd probably go and get a balloon off him, if he offered me one, and that's the whole point isn't it? The new film leaves less to the imagination and is a bit over-the-top to start with, like Richie's jokes, but after a while the Loser's Club has that same feel to it and some of the changes they've made make sense. It'll be interesting to see who they cast as the adults in the second part and what changes they've made to that.

3. We have been passing illness after illness within our little family since early-December, so it felt really good to get outdoors for the first time this year. Unfortunately the next day I had a whopper of a cold, then so did Sorsha, and so the cycle continues.

4. Despite our disease and the cupboards bursting with chocolate I've really been enjoying some healthy food. I'm getting into avocados which is quite new for me!

5. We watched Colossal a few days ago and really liked it! It's such a different story and although it's an action/comedy/sci-fi film it's a great balance.

6. I've been feeling sorry for myself with this latest cold (which I swear is the worst cold I've ever had...probably) that I sought comfort in some Tunnock's Tea Cakes. Sometimes you just need to treat yo'self, even though you've just mentioned healthy eating in the same post. Meh.

How's your week been?

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Wedding On A Budget: 7 Months To Go!

Now that the festivities are over I'm ready to get back into wedding planning mode! I can't believe it's only 7 months away but I'm expecting things to start getting quite busy in the next few months!

Since my last post at 12 months to go (which just shows how time is flying!) here's what's new:

Our Wedding Website

We decided quite early on to have a paperless wedding, meaning that we would contact our guests electronically rather than through the post where possible. After researching some of the website builders available we went with Joy because their designs looked fab and they were more suited to our needs.

It was so easy to set up and it's been so handy for keeping a note of our guests information, itinerary, local hotels, and lots more. Plus there's an app so all the info that our guests need is in their pocket.

Our Facebook Page

We've also been utilising our secret Facebook page to ask for requests for the disco, to get transport organised and get our guests talking before the big day! It's great for getting quick responses and sharing any information which might be helpful but you might not put it on the full website.

My Outfit

I mentioned last time that I'd been wedding dress shopping and have since said "yes" to the dress! There's no way that I could justify spending thousands of pounds on a gown so I headed to a local bridal boutique which sells sample gowns and found one that I love for a few hundred pounds! The dress is in perfect condition and currently doesn't need alterations although any pre-wedding loss/gain may change that!

I also managed to pick up some gorgeous shoes in the January sales which are elegant but so comfortable although they'll probably be kicked off after that first dance anyway!

Wedding Decorations

We had a meeting with our decor supplier recently to get some ideas. There are so many different ideas and trends are changing all the time so it's great that she's flexible and we can chop and change things in the next few months if they're available. Not only did we win a fab deal with her through a Facebook competition, we won another competition too! We won hire of big illuminated "LOVE" letters which was something we'd wanted but we'd decided was over budget! So, along with other bits we've bought, the hall should look amazing!

So that's where we are now! The next things we plan to do are to catchup with our suppliers, Allan needs to try on some kilts and we need to book transport. Am I missing anything?

Friday, 12 January 2018

♥ This Week's Loves ♥

Check me, posting two weeks in a row, must be the New Year!

♥ This Week's Loves ♥ was/is meant to be my regular post about things I've loved over the last week and is usually about stuff I've done but this year is getting off to a slooow start and I'm easing in by doing very little! That will change as I slowly unfurl from my festive cocoon but for now here are some ace things I'm loving this week:


I randomly found out about Lizzo when I was reading an article on "How to create your bridal shop moment with your online bought dress" on Offbeat Bride and now I love her sassy, positive tunes. Feeling good as he-ell!


I've well and truly kicked off my 2018 reading challenge! We took the tv out of the living room at the end of last year and now I can put the kids to bed and chill out, distraction-free on the sofa reading my book. I'll be posting monthly updates on what I've been reading and if it was any good!

My New Mascara

In the sales I treated myself to a dinky little Too Faced Better Than Sex mascara because I'd heard great things about it and it was CHEAP. I've only tried it a few times but it separates my lashes so much better than anything else I've tried recently and I need that help cos my lashes love to clump together and find their own direction when my lash lift is overdue!

Body Fixers

Has anyone else been watching this? I love it, especially when they genuinely help to change someone's life and build their confidence. Some of the stories are so sad and everyone comes out looking so fabulous that I nearly shed a tear for these random strangers! You can catchup on All 4 if you've missed it.

It's Just Kelli

I came across Kelli's YouTube channel when I was researching menstrual cups and she has such a relaxed but informative approach that makes you feel like it's your pal telling you all about it over a cuppa! She has quite a few videos on different sanitary products and other aspects of being a woman too but this is by far her most watched video. PS If you use a menstrual cup or are thinking about it and want to get in touch with me, do! I think I'm gonna go for it!

So those are my loves for this week! What are you loving this week?

Monday, 1 January 2018

My Goals For 2018

Happy New Year!

It's become a tradition of mine to start the new year off with some big plans for the year to come and this year will be no different!

Last year I achieved everything I wanted to but not quite to the level I'd hoped to. I managed to lose a reasonable amount of weight, just not quite as much as I'd hoped. I took my blog back to basics, but didn't actually post anywhere near as much as I wanted to. I did, however, manage to plan most of our wedding, so that was good!

I also went back to work after having our second daughter Willow, we went on our first family holiday abroad, got two new kittens, I hosted four Abzmeet blogger meetups, and watched proudly as my little brother got married!

2018 is going to be just as awesome, because this year I will:

Get Married!

Yes, in August Allan and I are getting married! Although the main things are already organised, I feel I can start planning the detail with the festive season out of the way!

Travel More

Our family trip to Lyon last year reminded me how much I love to travel so this year we have booked our honeymoon and have also planned a trip to Northern Ireland to visit friends. Hopefully we can explore more of Scotland as a family too.

Read At Least One Book A Month

I was given a Kindle Fire for Christmas which suggested I joined Goodreads so I have, and I'm setting myself a target of one book a month for 2018. On paper that sounds like nothing but in reality it has been so long since I took the time to read a book from cover to cover that I'd rather chose an achievable goal.

Sew Something

I want to start putting my sewing machine to good use and this year I'm determined to dust it off and make something, ideally something I can actually wear! I also want to learn how to alter some of the clothes I have, especially some of my vintage finds.

Blog More!

I hardly blogged at all in 2017, partly because I used Instagram a lot more, partly because I lost all motivation and felt that I wasn't doing much worth blogging about. This year I WILL be more motivated and you can expect more posts on all of the above plus days out, our home, regular monthly posts and more about our family life!

So 2018 will be a pretty busy year for me! What are your goals for this year?

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Maira Gall