Discovering the Wilds of the Scottish Highlands, Exploring the Applecross Peninsula

Welcome to the first post in my Exploring Applecross series!

The Applecross peninsula is in North West Scotland, only accessible by two roads, and inhabited by only a couple of hundred people. Despite this, it’s one of the most unique and rugged landscapes I have travelled to, with a fascinating and deep routed history which very much still feels alive today when you visit.

In this first  post I share with you; getting to Applecross and venturing up Scotland’s highest road, the beautiful cottage we stayed in, and a first look at the views Applecross Bay has to offer.

Scotland’s Third Highest Road: The Bealach na Bà

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The road is single track, but there are passing places along the way in case you meet another car. You can’t drive at a speed over 30mph, or if the weather conditions are poor. We travelled in a BMW 4×4, so travelling in a large vehicle made the single track element of it even more interesting! It is not advised to drive on the road in a motor home, very large vehicles, or if you are a learner! The road is often closed in the winter months. The road twists and turns through the mountains to 2,054 feet above sea level, and as you can see, the views really are worth it.

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The name of the road is Gaelic for ‘pass of the cattle’. The road was originally built in 1822 and was used as a drovers road to direct cattle from one place to another. The road is engineered similarly to ones in the Alps.

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Cruary: The Cottage Set Amongst the Hills

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This was the beautiful cottage we stayed in, named ‘Cruary’. If you like staying in places with no neighbours anywhere in sight then you would love this cottage! There was nothing but hills and heather behind the house, and the gorgeous view of Applecross Bay that the house looked out on to. This is the spectacular view from the front garden…

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This is another view of the house from behind the house, the building on the left is the shed that also belongs to the owners of ‘Cruary’.

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This is the view from the road before you reach the driveway, the house was only a few minutes drive away from the Applecross Inn, more information and photographs of that famous pub coming in my next Applecross post!

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This was the lovely view from the driveway…

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The first set of buildings you can see across the bay on the left is where the Applecross Inn is located.

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The photo below gives you a feel of the decor in the house, it was very cosy. If you are interested in looking at the house in more detail, there is a link to more information here.

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We spent most of our time in the open plan kitchen of the house as the large glass windows look out on to the bay. The house was built in the 18th century but has been extended since. The house sleeps up to four people, with two bedrooms and one bathroom. The rooms were all very spacious. The house was very well stocked, the kitchen supplies we needed were all there, there was also plenty of items such as towels etc. A great thing that came with the house was a pair of binoculars, it was great being able to use them and look in detail at the wildlife and scenery that surrounded the cottage. There was also a large collection of information books and leaflets on things to do in the area and the history of Applecross. The house is pet friendly too. An important feature of the house is there is no wifi, it was actually really lovely to live without wifi for a week, I read a lot of books during this trip!

Speaking of wildlife, here is one chap who also enjoys making use of Cruary’s garden…

Martin the Pine Marten

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This fellow, who we named Martin during our stay, visited every evening and seemed to be particularly fond of peanut butter on toast. He was very interesting to watch, he seemed to enjoy climbing on our car too!

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There were lots of birds that came to the garden too, as well as a couple of mice who would feed on the birdseed.

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If you look closely, you can see the cottage on the right hand side of this picture, it really shows off ow wonderfully it was located!

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Here is a link to the Applecross peninsula website which has a lot of helpful information if you are thinking of visiting! My next post will have lots of photos and information about things to do when visiting Applecross, including the Applecross Inn, great walks on the beach and the interesting history of the church. Keep an eye out for this post next Saturday!

Also, if you are looking to explore any other areas of Scotland, here is a link to my post all about the gorgeous town of St Andrews. I also have a tourist guide to Edinburgh if city breaks are more your style!

Hope you are having a great day where ever you are in the world,

Mol x

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A Winter’s Week in St Andrews: The Scottish Town That Will Capture Your Heart

Happy Sunday everyone, today’s travel post is all about the incredible town of St Andrews, a perfect destination no matter the weather. My family and I spent a beautiful week staying here, a place we have all loved and have grown up adoring. If you appreciate beaches, harbours, and gorgeous sunsets, all set in a historic and scenic setting, then you will fall in love with St Andrews!

The Castle Sands and Harbour

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The town of St Andrews is on the East coast of Scotland, North of Edinburgh, and about a half hour drive away from the city of Dundee (which is also worth a visit if you are in the area). St Andrews is famous for its golf courses, St Andrews University, and its idyllic coastal setting. The town is perfect for a day trip if you enjoy walking and learning about Scotland’s history, but it also makes a great holiday if want to take a longer trip.

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The house we were staying in was right behind the sea front on North Castle Street, right by ‘The Scores’, the famous street that runs along the St Andrews sea front. Due to being a popular tourist destination, there is a huge variety of accommodation to pick from in St Andrews, from hotels, houses, and bed and breakfasts. We found that staying near the centre was great as we were near to Market Street, this is the high street where there are lots of shops and good places to eat and drink. But we were also very near the beaches and the coastal walks.

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We went for a brisk walk along to the harbour every morning of our trip, the house was also just a couple of minutes walking distance from the harbour, a great place to see the town awakening each morning after the sunrise. Almost every morning we saw herons down on the rocks by the harbour, incredibly majestic animals which were fascinating to watch. My Uncle managed to take this incredible photograph of one of them!

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The photo below shows the coastal path that you can follow right along from the Scores, along side the cliffs to the harbour, there are benches and tourist information boards along the way. It makes a great place to bring a picnic in the summer, but even in winter it was still very enjoyable.

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The West Sands Beach

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The West Sands is just a 15 minute walk from the town centre, and if you’ve seen the film ‘Chariots of Fire’ you will recognise this beach from the opening scene. The beach is about 2 miles long and is very close to the famous ‘Old Course’ which is a very popular tourist destination for golf fans, especially in the summer months. The beach makes a serene and peaceful walk, even if there are other people around it still feels this way. There is parking at the beach, and the golf museum and toilets are also close by.

 

St Andrews Cathedral

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Despite our many trips to St Andrews, we had never visited St Andrews Cathedral, and it was well worth the visit! The cathedral, now in remains, was once Scotland’s biggest cathedral and most important church. The museum has some extremely interesting artefacts and information boards, dating from early medieval times. St Rule’s church (on the cathedral site) is estimated to have been built in 1130, and the cathedral begun in 1160. It was finally complete in 1318, Robert the Bruce was present for this momentous occasion in Scotland’s history.

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Here is a link to the Visit Scotland website which has more information about the cathedral if you are planning a visit. The staff who worked in the museum and gift shop here were also very helpful.

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We climbed to the top of St Rules’ Tower, which can be seen the photo above, it is about 33m tall. It was an extremely narrow and steep climb but the view at the top was certainly worth the hike. You get a panoramic view of the town, and all the way out to sea. The weather was lovely on the day we went so the sun made the view even more glorious. There is a fee to pay in order to visit the cathedral, but it is not expensive, and you can also get a discount if you get a ticket to visit St Andrews Castle which is just down the road.

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The East Sands Beach

The East Sands is also just along from the harbour and is a very short walk from the town centre. You can also get a great view of St Andrews castle from here, and to the West Sands in the distance. This beach is usually quieter due to it being a bit rockier and further from the town centre, so if you want an even more peaceful beach to stop off at and watch the seabirds then this spot is ideal.

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This photo was taken just outside of the house we were staying in and shows St Andrews Castle, we did not visit the castle on this trip but it looks like another great place to go if you are visiting St Andrews. There is more information about the castle on the Visit Scotland website which can be found here.

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Hope you’re having a great day wherever you are in the world, and that you get to experience St Andrews and all it has to offer. Let me know if you have ever visited!

Mol x

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What I Learnt From Volunteering Abroad- Guest Post by Astrid Halliday

Are you someone who aspires to travel or volunteer abroad in the new year of 2019? Today I have a guest post which will hopefully inspire you to do so! Today’s post was written by Astrid Halliday, a budding online journalist.

Astrid loves travelling and especially getting away overseas to help build and develop a community. Volunteering many times with Original Volunteers and also with Habitat For Humanity, she loves sharing her passion and encouraging other to travel in a similar way.

What I Learnt From Volunteering Abroad

Hello readers, my name in Astrid Halliday and I have taken over Molly’s blog today to write a guest post on the lessons I have learnt from volunteering abroad. I have volunteered abroad many times, my love for travel and helping overseas started on my gap year back in 2013. I have gone onto volunteer in many countries all over the world including Ghana, Cambodia, Thailand and Morocco!

I have volunteered many times in many countries and continue to choose this way of travel because I return home a more rounded person having learnt so much. Not only do I learn about myself, but I also learn about others and the world.

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Here are some things that I learnt from volunteering abroad:

Language

Learning some key basic phrases in the local language can get you far! I found that far more useful than “Hello”, “My name is” and “What’s your name” is learning the word for either “Good” or “Beautiful”. People love being praised and receiving compliments. At a restaurant praising the food and meeting a family complimenting their children, it can really open doors.

Locals appreciate foreigners going out of their way to speak the language. Especially useful for volunteers travelling to areas outside of the city where there are fewer locals who speak English. A practice phrase to know is “How much?” you can then get by with using your fingers to work out the amount.

Simple Living

It’s amazing how much we take for granted in the western world. Living simply, even for a short period of time can quickly open our eyes to how luxurious hot showers and flushing toilets are. Although this may be a shock to the system to begin with once you are used to this way of living, it can be fun!

Using a bucket to shower or deciding to hike up a mountain to the waterfall to shower in certainly makes everyday tasks of cleaning, more of an adventure.

I certainly found that once I had returned home I complained less about trivial issues. I was the only one in the house not to complain when the boiler broke leaving us with no hot water, it reminded me of being abroad!

Hidden Talents

Many of my fellow volunteers on projects had hidden talents that they hadn’t realised the unique value of. One volunteer sung to herself around the house and had the voice of an angel and it was suggested she taught some songs to the children and apply for X Factor. Another volunteer was playing with the children doing arts and crafts activities producing masterpieces compared to the rest of us. He never knew he could draw so well, we were all in agreement that his pieces could be put up in a gallery.

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Appreciation Of Education

The school systems in third world countries are known for being bad but you don’t understand how little education many of the children have until you see it with your own eyes: half day schools, extra-large class sizes, unqualified and inexperienced teachers, lack of books, extra ordinary long school holidays, teacher absence due to unreliable public transport, teacher strikes, unaffordable exam fees and much more. The children show a much larger commitment to their education than any children in the UK due to its scarcity. It is not uncommon for children to walk two to three hours each way to attend classes.

I felt immense guilt for the amount of opportunities I passed up on at home, simply because I was feeling lazy or preferred to spend time with my friends, all opportunities that children abroad would’ve grabbed in a heartbeat.

It certainly had a positive effect on my future education career. I found myself putting in much more of an effort, never missing deadlines.

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Try New Foods

Ever since I was little I was particular about what I would eat. In my eyes, a meal wasn’t complete if there was no meat and no side of bread. Whereas when I was volunteering I met a lot of vegetarians and vegans on each project. I assumed that their food would taste bland like cardboard, how wrong was I? After trying meals without meat and even without cheese, I found them surprisingly tasty!

Once I had got the hang of meat free and bread free meals. I looked for opportunities to spend time with local families and eat dinner with them. I learnt that while most families may not be strict vegetarians, meat is so expensive in less developed countries that they simply cannot afford to put it on the table every night. Therefore, mainly eat vegetarian meals.

After returning home from my volunteering I have definitely opened my palate to vegetarian and vegan dishes and saving a lot of money in the process.

Here are some handy resources for volunteering abroad:

SkyScanner

British Travellers Visa Free

Original Volunteers

Fit For Travel

FCO

Currency Converter

Travel Insurance Comparison

Trip Advisor

A big thank you to Astrid for writing this post!

Thanks for reading, hope you are having a great day wherever you are in the world, let us know if you have volunteered anywhere or anywhere you would like to in the future!

Mol  x

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The Book Lover’s Gift Guide 2018

It’s now a month until Christmas,  woohoo!

Are you a book lover in need of a new book, or some new and dazzling suggestions? Or in need of buying a book for someone who already has a fully stacked book shelf of works they have already read? Hopefully this guide will give you some inspiration and a new book idea to buy for someone, or to simply read yourself! It’s split in to a range of genres and ages so there should be something for everyone.

Romance: Me Before You- Jojo Moyes

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A phenomenally touching story. Lou Clark, a small town girl who loses her job and realises her boyfriend is not a man that she in in love with anymore. Her new job introduces her to Will Traynor, who since his motorbike accident, has had no desire to stick around to see what life has to offer. A story of the ups and downs of life and every emotion along the way, Jojo Moyes is a fantastic writer, and really knows how to make you feel a real empathy for the characters and the bittersweet story of how these two characters impact each other’s lives.

Young Adult: Paper Towns- John Green and All the Bright Places- Jennifer Niven

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Both of these books are aimed at young adults but I think anybody of any age would thoroughly enjoy these two!

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All the Bright Places introduces Theodore Finch- a boy who wants to take his own life, and Violet Markey, a girl still grieving over her sister’s death. They meet in an unlikely scenario, on the ledge of the bell tower. A story of two people who can only truly be themselves when they are together, two troubled teenagers who simply need a way to escape the burdens of being alive. Violet soon realises Finch and his feelings are far heavier for him than she ever realised, the story encompasses how far we go for the people we love when they are struggling, it is a deeply sad but incredible book, another one that might make you shed a tear!

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What’s a book post without a classic John Green eh? Paper Towns is another story surrounding two teenagers, Quentin Jacobsen, who has always admired the mysterious Margo Roth Spiegelman from a distance. However after an adventurous night of sneaking out together and gallivanting on an all-night road trip, Margo is missing the next day. Who really is the real Margo?

A very interesting and unpredictable book that you won’t want to put down, another great work by John Green.

Older Children: Running Wild by Micheal Morpurgo and Winterbringers- Gill Arbuthnott

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Michael Morpurgo was my favourite author growing up, you really can’t go wrong with his books. Running Wild entails Will and his family on holiday in Indonesia, that’s when the tsunami hits.  Will is simply enjoying his holiday and experiencing what it’s like to ride an elephant, when the natural disaster occurs, the elephant just keeps running. A beautiful book which is as striking as its cover, very easy to read too if you are buying for children.

Winterbringers, a tale from the town of St Andrews, where a permanent winter is threatened from the Winterbringers, ice creatures and the Winter King and his witches. Josh and Callie must try and stop the Winterbringers for good. A great book for children who want an adventurous plot and a bit of a fantasy element mixed in.

Educational: Prisoners of Geography- Tim Marshall

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An incredibly interesting book if you are interested in countries of the world and the many interesting facts and features they have to offer, most of the facts in here were new to me and I learnt a great deal from this book. A lot of geographical and historical information that makes the political content accessible and much easier to understand and enjoy. It’s divided up in to sections, such as Russia, China, and Western Europe, the maps throughout are also a great and interesting feature of the book.

 

Fiction Based on True Events: Remembrance- Theresa Breslin, Rubies in the Snow- Kate Hubbard, And the Band Played on- Christopher Ward

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Remembrance begins at the start of the First World War, and follows Charlotte, her family, and her friends as they navigate growing up during a time of severe loss and conflict during the war. It’s extremely interesting to hear about the tough nature of nursing the wounded soldiers, and the battles of the Western Front.

Rubies in the Snow, is a fictionalised diary of Anastasia Nicolaevna Romanov, the daughter of the last Tsar of Russia.  In June, 1911, we see a ten year old girl who is enjoying a highly privileged life of dances, eloquent food and ice skating on the lake. We then see a change as Russia falls in to turmoil and her family and their position of power gradually starts to crumble. This book offers a particularly interesting perspective on the last Imperial family of Russia.

And the Band Played On, is an account of the long term impacts of the sinking of the Titanic, a story that goes beyond the loss of the one night tragedy hit. It follows the story of Jock Hume, the 21 year old violinist on the Titanic, and the family he leaves behind whose lives have changed for ever. I highly recommend this book if you are interested not only in the sinking of the Titanic, but how it impacted the every day lives of hundreds of people for many years to come.

Classics

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If you have a serious book lover in your life then why not get them a beautifully covered copy of their favourite classic?  This is my copy of The English Patient, given to me by my English teachers when I finished my A Levels, with a signed message inside which is a lovely touch to a gift if you want to make it extra special. The copies of all the classics in Waterstones have some beautiful covers, they make very classy and special presents if you are looking to spend a little bit more on someone.

Books with a Physical/Mental Health Theme: The Fault in Our Starts- John Green, The Shock of the Fall- Nathan Filer

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Firstly can we appreciate how beautiful the cover is on this book? The Shock of the Fall is a hilarious and yet heart breaking book, Nathan Filer is a qualified mental health nurse and gives a very real and unique account of living with a mental health condition. I won’t give too much away as it is a very unpredictable and shocking read, but I would thoroughly recommend it.

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The No.1 New York Times Best Seller, The Fault in Our Stars. Hazel is terminally ill, and meets the beautiful and sensational Augustus Waters at Cancer Kid Support Group. A journey of love, heart break, and how to be a teenager when you feel like you can’t do anything that other teenagers are doing. A book that will warm your heart as well as breaking it in two.

I hope you found a new book idea you would like for yourself or somebody else!

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Hope you’re having a great day wherever you are in the world,

Mol x

Christmas Gift Guide: Beauty Edition, Festive Gifts for Less than £20!

It’s one of the best times of the year, but I know a lot of people can find the shopping and splurging side of Christmas a bit of a stress. From bath and body, to makeup, this gift guide has got you covered, and most of the gifts are significantly under £20!

HAND CREAM

Cowshed ‘Cow Pat’ Moisturising Hand Cream– (300ml) £17.10

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Hand cream is a fab present idea, great for these colder months of the year. This is a slightly more pricey gift, but if you are looking to treat someone then a very elegant present. I love the Cowshed packaging, it really does make a beautiful present from the neutral design. Grapefruit is the main scent I get from this, I can’t smell the coriander in it so don’t let that put you off if you are not a fan! I’ve actually found this also makes a brilliant body lotion, you get a lot of product too so this may make you feel better about the price!

Shea Butter Hand Cream- Morris & Co.– (100ml) £10

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This one is a good amount of product, but is also not too big if you like carrying hand cream in your bag like I do. The shea butter scent of this is gorgeous, but not too overpowering. The product also comes in a beautiful box with the same print as the product packaging, these small touches make gifts that extra bit more special.

MAKEUP

Gloss Eye palette£8.50 (28 shades)

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With the majority of the shades being shimmers, this palette is perfect for the festive season, there is also a good mixture of warm and cool tones. The pigmentation is fab, and they blend very well. The sleek black packaging with the big mirror is also a bonus.

Sleek Highlighter Palette in ‘Solstice’– £9.99 (four shades)

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Who doesn’t love a good highlight to give you a holiday glow? This palette comes with three powders and one cream formula (the top left in the photograph above). Again, the pigmentation is great, they give you a stunning glow. But if you blend them out (I use a real techniques contour brush or a beauty blender), you can also achieve a more natural look. There is a range of pearly tones, and also a cooler and slightly more rosy tone, I have very pale skin and these all work great for me.  The other shade of this palette ‘Cleopatra’s Kiss’, may may be better if you are buying for someone with darker skin.

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SOAP

Highland Soap Company- Mini Guest Soaps– (35g) £1.95 each (Full sizes are £4.95-100g)

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If you are looking for more of a unique gift, the Highland Soap Company are one of my favourite bath and body brands. My Mum is a huge fan of all their products so stocking up on these each Christmas is an essential! The ranges of scents are extremely unique, such as ‘Scottish Bog Myrtle’, many of them having a Scottish theme due to being a family run business based in the Highlands.

These mini soaps make great stocking fillers, their full sized soaps also last ages and smell divine. Their raspberry lip balm and lemongrass body lotion are also favourites of mine. Their natural soya wax candles also create a fabulous scent for any room.

If ethics and the environment are important to you or who you are buying for then this brand is a great fit. All their products and raw ingredients are cruelty free, vegetarian, and are free of SLS and paraben preservatives. Additionally, materials used are simple and recyclable, even ones used in transit are biodegradable, they use fab objects such as corn husks for this!

Bath House- Pomegranate and Blackberry Soap Bar– (100g) £5

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For the low price of this product, you get a beautifully scented product and extremely luxurious and high quality packaging. The blackberry scent in the soap makes a great warm and winter like fragrance, this would make a great stocking filler too.

NAIL POLISH

Maybelline Color Show Nail Polish– ‘White Splatter’  and ‘Downtown Red’-£3.99

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If you can’t embrace glitter at Christmas then when can you?! This glitter top coat works well over any shade, especially dark berry and forest green colours.  ‘Downtown Red’ is a deep red colour and is also very festive, the two actually go well together too if you want to pair them up! I find these last a while before chipping so these are a great purchase for such a low price.

I hope this gift guide was helpful and gave you some festive inspo, let me know if it did!

Hope you are having a great day wherever you are in the world,

Mol x

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Strong Women of the World- Four Incredible Stories to be Inspired by

As someone who has always had easy access to an education, and growing up in a safe environment, it’s always been important to me to be aware that this is not the case for many people across the world. The four stories below are those of bravery, determination, and the wish to improve the lives for both themselves, and the people around them. They come from women who are alive today, to those who were alive during the period of the Second World War, and those who were alive during the prime of the Civil Rights Movement. Their stories come from North America, The Netherlands, North Korea, and Pakistan. These stories do not become less prevalent as time goes on, they only become more significant. I hope you take something away from each of these incredible stories.

I am Malala– Malala  Yousafzai

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Malala was born in Mingora, Pakistan, on the 12th of July 1997. Her father ran a school for girls in the village they lived in, he was also a teacher. The Taliban rule spread to the Swat Valley, where Malala and her family lived. In 2008, the extremists began to ban things such as playing music, owning a TV, and soon enough, girls were not allowed to go to school.

Malala began speaking out on the behalf of all the other girls who had a right to be educated, this made her a threat to the Taliban and a major target. In October 2012, she was shot in the head and woke up 10 days later in Birmingham, England.

Despite the trauma that Malala experienced, she remains heavily involved in fighting for equality, and now lives with her family in the UK. She is currently studying at the University of Oxford. In 2014, she was the youngest person to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Her book is extremely interesting, especially to hear about what it was like to live under the rule of the Taliban, and to have to watch many of the people and things you love be gradually taken away from you.

The Dairy of a Young Girl– Anne Frank

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I’m sure most people are familiar with the story of Anne Frank, and her book ‘The Diary of a Young Girl’. Anne Frank, her family, and four other of their friends, went in to hiding  in July 1942. Due to being Jewish, they were hiding to escape the Nazi occupation and hid in the back of a warehouse in Amsterdam, in what is known as the ‘Secret Annexe’. Anne’s book is a published edition of the diary that she kept for the two years she was in hiding. Hearing of someone of such a young age, who dreamed of being a published author, tell the story of the struggles of being terrified and stuck in one small place for two years, creates an extremely vivid picture of the horrors of living as a Jew under the rule of the Nazis.

The last entry Anne writes is on the 1st August 1944, they were discovered by the Nazis and arrested on the 4th of August, just three days after the last entry. Anne died in March 1945 in the German concentration camp of Bergen Belsen. She was only fifteen years old.

As well as reading her book, I would highly recommend visiting the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, it is also an incredibly touching experience. Seeing the bookcase that concealed their hiding place for so long, and standing in the small rooms, imagining what Anne and the others felt like, was incredibly sad but an important way of remembering what so many people went through during the Second World War.

My Story Rosa Parks

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Rosa Parks was a black woman, born in Alabama, North America, 1913.

The 1st of December, 1955. On this day, Rosa refused to give up her seat on a segregated bus to a white man, she was arrested for this. This one act of bravery sparked the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott. The boycott began on Monday the 5th of December, this was the day of Parks’ trial, there were over 35,000 flyers created and sent home with black school children, telling their parents of the boycott.

The boycott didn’t end until the 20th of December, when the Supreme Court rules bus segregation as unconstitutional. Parks lost her job and experienced frequent harassment, and became known as the mother of the civil rights movement.

Rosa’s book details her life, and her drive to fight for racial equality.

In Order to Live Yeonmi Park

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Yeonmi Park was just thirteen when her and her family risked their lives by fleeing North Korea. She describes the horrors of living in such an oppressed regime, and the starvation and terror that never leaves. She also tells of her journey across the Gobi desert, her struggles of escaping to China, being separated from her family, and how she ends up in South Korea after all this. I think this resonated me with due to being a similar age to Yeonmi, her story shows incredible resilience and strength.

I hope each of these stories inspires you and that you take something from each of them.

Hope you are having a great day where ever you are in the world,

Mol x

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The Cotswold Lavender Farm

“It always seems to me as if the lavender was a little woman in a green dress, with a lavender bonnet and a white kerchief. She’s one of those strong, sweet, wholesome people, who always rest you, and her sweetness lingers long after she goes away”- Myrtle Reed

Despite the days now being crisp, cold and very autumnal, I think a bit of sunshine and lavender can still be appreciated outside of the summer months. This post is all about the Cotswold Lavender Farm, a brilliant visit which is not too far from where I live.

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The farm is on the outskirts of a small idyllic village called Snowshill (if you get to visit and are new to the area  then there are brown tourist signs with directions). The nearest train station is in Moreton on Marsh, which you can get a taxi from if you are not driving, Moreton is also a lovely place to visit. The farm is also only about two miles from the town of Broadway, which is a gorgeous and very traditional looking Cotswolds town, if you want to combine it to make the most of visiting the beauty of the area. There are directions on their website if you need them too.

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The method used to distil the lavender oil is both a simple and traditional method. The crop is harvested and collected in a trailer. Collected rainwater that is heated to steam is then put into the trailer through pipes. The oil from the lavender evaporates in to the steam due to the intense heat and is then piped in to a condenser, where cold rainwater is then used to return the product to an oil state. After being put in to a separator to divide the water and oil, the oil is then collected.

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The shop and tea room are closed over the winter months, but are certainly worth a visit in the summer, set in a classic stone barn. The online shop is available to use all year round. There is a huge range of lavender products, from the plant itself, to bath and body products, oils, candles, and even lavender chocolate!

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The vibrant purple tones of the lavender have been growing here since 1999. There is an incredible 500,000 plants on this farm alone, and 40 varieties within these. The lavender is cut and the oil distilled on the same day, and is then aged for a year before use.

There is also a variety of wildflowers that appear in the Spring throughout the fields, such as cornflowers and poppies. Chamomile is also a new edition to what is being harvested here, used in tea and similar to lavender, can help you sleep.

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Hope you’re having a great day wherever you are in the world,

Mol x

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An Audience With Simon Reeve- Any Travel Fanatic’s Perfect Evening

“If it’s difficult for you, take things step by step”

If you’ve never watched any of Simon Reeve’s travel programmes, you are majorly missing out. Simon is currently doing a tour around the UK, giving talks about the incredible places he’s visited, people he’s met, and how his career became what it is today. We attended the part of the tour in the Birmingham Town Hall.

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It was incredibly inspiring to hear about the success of someone who worked hard to be where they are today. Having watched Simon Reeve’s travel documentaries for years, I think I subconsciously presumed that he had travelled his whole life, had always known that this was the path he wanted to take. When we see people presenting on our screens, we often don’t think about how perhaps they were not always in their ‘dream job’ from the get go, there is always more work and sides to the story than we think.

The talk began with Simon introducing how he was as a teenager, these years were not easy, having few qualifications and few prospects, growing up in West London was painted as a fairly bleak picture for this point in his life. Hearing him speak about the topic of mental health was also very interesting, despite it also being a sad topic.

Simon then began to explain how he signed up for income support, still being in a very low place at this point. He quoted what the woman at the DSS office had said to him, saying it’s still relevant in his life today…

“If it’s difficult for you, take things step by step”

After hearing this advice, one train ticket and a hire car later he found himself climbing the mountain sides of Glencoe, Scotland, taking it step by step. This was where there seemed to be more of a glimmer of hope, he had completed a journey successfully, he had achieved something.

It wasn’t until Simon was given the job of a post boy for a newspaper, that he began working alongside journalists, some of the jobs he described being given were hilarious, probably not tasks that would be allowed to be given to young people now a days!

He then described how his skills developed and he went on to write a book called ‘The New Jackals’, published in 1998, which at first nobody really paid attention to. But by the time 9/11 happened, he had written the only book in the world about Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda, and soon found himself being asked to be interviewed for American news channels. And in a nutshell, that’s how he got the opportunity  in the future to start his own BBC programmes, looking at modern history and showing the world we live in.

He then went on to show pictures from his travels, food he’d eaten, places he’s had to flea from, even the most comical toilets he’s seen around the world! The stories of the wonderful people he’d met from all corners of the globe were also incredibly moving.

It was interesting to see the case he takes with him on all his trips, and some of the objects he’s been gifted by locals to bring back, from fabrics, to a sword he was given in Borneo.

Hearing about the process of making a documentary was also fascinating, he explained that with his programmes, they are not highly researched or scripted before they go out and make them. No team goes out before it is made to check there is enough opportunities and places for content.

An incredibly enjoyable and inspiring evening, Simon was an incredibly engaging speaker and answered some of the audience’s questions for the last part of the evening. It made me feel more ambitious about pursuing a career in travel journalism and publishing, or perhaps the news. His book is definitely going to be a Christmas present idea!

His most recent programme ‘The Mediterranean with Simon Reeve’ is currently on BBC Two, and is accessible on iPlayer, I thoroughly recommend you watch it if you haven’t already. The journey through the Mediterranean starts in the first programme in Malta, carries on to Southern Italy, and ends in Albania.

Luckily for me, my family and I are actually going to be listening to another great presenter, author and historian very soon! Tomorrow we are heading back to the Birmingham Town Hall, this time to see Neil Oliver, on his tour of the UK with ‘The story of the British Isles in 100 places’. Having a keen interest in coastlines, I am greatly looking forward to this, as Neil is a presenter on BBC 2’s ‘Coasts’ programme. I think this will be another greatly rewarding evening.

Thanks for reading, hope you’re having a great day where ever you are in the world,

Mol x

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My First Visit to Cornwall, Watergate Bay and Swimming in the Atlantic Ocean

Happy Sunday everyone, recently I was lucky enough to head down South to Cornwall for the first time, an area of the country and the British coastline that I’ve always wanted to explore.

I went with fifteen of my friends who I went to school with, before we all headed back to university. We drove down to Newquay and stayed in a gorgeous Air B&B for three nights. The house had everything from a cinema room and pool table, to a jacuzzi, it was a lovely place to call home for a few days. We stayed on the outskirts of Newquay which was a perfect location, far enough so we weren’t right in the centre, but really close to the beaches. We also managed to go outside of the school holidays so we escaped the height of the summer tourist season.

Watergate Bay

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Watergate Bay was about three miles from where we were staying, so it was only about fifteen minutes away by car.

The sunset on this evening was one of the best I’ve seen in the UK, after swimming in the sea and sitting on the beach, we all got fish and chips from the restaurant by the beach and ate whilst watching the sun set over the bay. Also, if you are an avid surfer then this seemed to be a very popular surfing spot!

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Fistral Beach

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Despite the weather being slightly chilly on our first full day, we still wanted to make the most of our holiday, so with body boards and swimming attire, we headed down to Fistral Beach, about a ten minute drive away from our house. This beach was lovely, a long stretch of sand, dramatic and tall waves, there were also places to eat, buy beach and surf stuff and also parking facilities just up the cliff from the beach.

The ocean wasn’t exactly like swimming in the tropics of the Mediterranean, but it wasn’t as cold as I was expecting! We had a great time frolicking in the sea, luckily we had the jacuzzi at the house which we used to warm up in afterwards!

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We also ventured out on a walk round the coastal path, which you can join at whatever point you want to. We walked for about seven miles, we also found a lovely tea room before we did the route back so we were able to enjoy some fab hot chocolates and scones whilst sat outside.

 

Padstow

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We stopped off in Padstow to break up the long journey, this was the most beautiful little seaside town, all the classic Cornish pasty, ice cream and sweet shops. This was the view from the harbour, we sat for a while here just watching the hustle and bustle of people passing by and the boats drifting through the water. I wish I had taken more pictures but unfortunately I was slightly unwell after the long journey!

I would love to know if you’ve ever visited Cornwall and other places that are great to go in the area!

Thanks for reading, hope you’re having a fab day wherever you are in the world,

Mol x

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The Best Desserts and an Autumnal Escape: The Eis Cafe

October is in full swing folks! The leaves are already turning to warmer tones, and everyone just wants to be cosy with a hot beverage and a cosy blanket. Also, is it just me who has more cravings for indulging in some more seasonal treats?

This cafe was a real gem of a find, having heard of the Eis Cafe and seen their incredible desserts on their social medias, me and my house mates ventured out to treat ourselves after a cold autumnal day.

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The vibe of this lovely place was so cosy and autumnal, perfect for this time of year now that the days are getting crisp and colder.

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This was the seating upstairs, the decor was beautifully rustic and again, very autumnal with the warm tones and slightly retro feel.

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The menu was incredible, making it extremely difficult to know what to pick! Their Instagram was a big help as you can see what all the options look like. There was a big selection of treats to choose from, waffles, milkshakes, cookie dough, cakes, ice creams there was also a selection of savoury food too.

This was the amazing selection of ice creams to choose from, I tried the honeycomb with my dessert and it was delicious!

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In the end I went for this marvellous creation… the Waffle Cookie!

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This was a freshly baked waffle with a fresh baked cookie dough, honeycomb ice cream, chocolate sauce, and whipped cream with ginger biscuit crumbs! I think this was hands down the best dessert I have ever had!

My friends had the ‘Sluttty Brownie’ which also looked divine!

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Hope you’re having a fab day wherever you are, and are enjoying all the joys of Autumn so far!

Mol x

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How to Make a Rented Space Feel Like Your Own Home

Going in to my second year of university, I am now living in a furnished, rented house for the upcoming year in the city of Birmingham. It can be tricky to make a rented property feel homely and personal to you, when you are unable to make changes that you may make if you owned the property. For example, not being able to put nails in the walls and changing the paintwork and the furniture. After organising and personalising my space in my university halls last year, and having just done it again in our new house, I’ve found some helpful tricks, both in terms of practical things and more personal things, that can make a rented space feel like your own. Many of these tips are also for rooms that are fairly small, so whether you are just renting, living in a small place, or are a student on a budget, then I hope this is helpful!

Need some practical help?  Command Hooks and Strips

Putting prints, frames or pin boards up on the walls will also make your property more personal to you and your interior style. Command strips are great for putting prints or posters up on the wall if you can’t use nails. Last year in my halls I used Blu Tak to display all my photos, and have again this year. As long as you don’t use loads of it, it shouldn’t leave marks on the wall so this is a good method if you want to do something similar.

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Additionally, even getting some photos or artwork to have similar colours in can make your room look very coordinated. The post cards on the wall above are from Paperchase!

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Command hooks are so handy if you can’t put in hooks or nails and need a fixture to hang things that won’t damage the walls. I have one on the back of my door that hangs my dressing gown and my shoe rack and ones for my jewellery. You can also buy clear ones if you want them to be a very subtle part of the room, they are also handy if you need to string fairly lights through them if you want them.

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Want your home to look put together?  Colour and Furnishings

Getting some of the things in a room to coordinate in colour can really make a space feel put together. The two bedding sets I have are blue and white, I then have a throw and cushions in various shades of blue. On this note getting some cosy soft furnishing like blankets, throws, and cushions for your bed can also make your room look and feel more comfortable, which again will make it seem more homely to you.

In a furnished property with furniture you don’t love?

Put throws and cushions on sofas or arm chairs, get a rug to go under that ghastly coffee table, and a pretty table cloth to cover that dining room table that you would never pick yourself. Get a vase with some flowers in it to put in the kitchen (as a student fake ones will do!). These tips will again make items that you did not pick yourself look like they belong to you, and might make everything match a bit more, as opposed to looking like a house with lots of miscellaneous items.

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The map of the world, displayed above my bed is also predominantly blue to match my bedding, so having one main colour theme makes my bedroom look like everything matches, just as if you owned the property and designed it how you want. This poster was just £3 from Paperchase, they sell a lot of great ones! Even just getting a couple of items in a similar colour palette can make a huge difference. This can also be really cheap and easy to do, for example my makeup brush holders and pen pot are matching with the blue theme, so even just get some of your basic smaller items to match and this will work too.

Need something practical but also aesthetically pleasing? Use light

Again, the lights in some of the rooms in your rented home may not be to your taste. The only light in my room is a bit dingy, if you have this problem try and buy a new light bulb, you could always get a warm coloured one if you want a cosy vibe, or a brighter and cooler toned one if you need it for more practical reasons.

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We are not allowed candles in our house, but definitely get some if you can use them in your property. Alternatively, I have quite a few fake tea lights in my bedroom that I use in the evenings to make my room look a bit more cosy and they do the trick! Fairy lights are also fab for making a room feel a bit more homey, I have some draped them along my bed frame, and along the top of my wardrobe

I also have a desk lamp which makes the room a bit brighter as well. If you work at a desk late in the evening or like to read in the evenings then this is a life saver.

Hope some of these tips were helpful on how to make a rented property feel like your own home!

Thanks for reading, hope you’re having a fab day where ever you are,

Mol x

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Books I Love: Fabulous Fiction, Elegant Classics, and Powerful Poetry

Happy weekend everyone!

Today I am sharing some of the books I have been loving recently, a mixture of fiction, a couple of classics, and even a couple of poetry books! So grab a coffee, you may well find your next favourite book…

The Keeper of Lost Things- Ruth Hogan

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“the wonderful thing about books was that they were films that played inside your head.” 

Anthony Peardew has been collecting items he finds that people have misplaced, in the hope to help and heal the people who have lost something. This all started after Anthony sadly lost his wife. When Anthony passes on, he leaves this task of returning the lost things to his house keeper Laura, who is not having an easy time with life either. The book uses a dual narrative, as well as this story, there is also the secondary story set in the 70’s with the characters Eunice and Bomber. Eunice, working for Bomber in the publishing industry, has a romantic love which can never be returned. How the two narratives are connected becomes clear throughout. The book entails some moving stories of ‘lost things’, the people who become a part of this journey, but also beautiful theme of how there is always more to be found. An incredibly moving debut novel from Ruth Hogan.

Not only was the book deeply moving in parts, but a great balance is created through the fact that the book is also incredibly funny, not many books have ever made me physically laugh out loud! My Auntie, my Mum, and I, all read this in turn on our recent holiday to France, and hearing the occasional fit of laughter from who ever was currently reading the book made it clear that the humour is achieved very well. Sunshine, a nineteen year old girl with Down Syndrome, who befriends the character’s is potentially the most hilarious character I have across from any book. I won’t spoil some of her winning lines but they are remarkable!

Little Women- Louisa May Alcott

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“Be comforted, dear soul! There is always light behind the clouds.” Little Women is one of my Granny’s favourite books. Whilst spending Christmas with her, she told me how she read it over and over when she was a similar age to me, so I thought I should put it on my list of books to read. This was such a lovely and heart warming read. I feel with some classics, they can take a lot of concentration to read (maybe this is just me!), but this one was extremely enjoyable. Set in the idyllic town of Plumfield, during the civil war in New England, the enjoyable tales of the four sisters in the March family still feel relatable to aspects of family life and growing up to this day, even if it is a little different in this modern age.

The lessons the girls learn and problems they face are still relevant today. Reading how their ambitions grow and their character’s develop as they grow up is both rewarding and fascinating, reading almost makes you feel like you are an extra member of the family. You will empathise with Jo and how she struggles to control her anger and her driving ambition to become a published writer, and smile at Meg’s ever kind nature. Watch Amy learn that there is more to life than physical beauty, and admire Beth’s musical talent and warm personality. I think many people will see even just a small part of themselves in all of the March sisters.

A Thousand Splendid Suns- Khaled Hosseini

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“A society has no chance of success if its women are uneducated…”

After reading the Kite Runner last summer, a very moving book, I made it a priority to read some more of Hosseini’s work. A Thousand Splendid Suns was perhaps even more moving. Possibly because this one focuses more on following the journey of two young women.

The book is set in the conflicted capital of Afghanistan, Kabul which is under the authority of the Taliban. The book begins by following the story of Mariam, who at fifteen years old is sent to Kabul to marry Rasheed, a significantly older man who she has never even laid eyes on before. Nearly 20 years later, Mariam befriends a young woman named Laila, who has yet another story of how her life has been thrown in to pieces by the Taliban rule, this is what brings the two women together. The story follows the hardships of living in this oppressed and dangerous environment, but also demonstrates how it brings out the kindness and brave nature in the right people.

Books like these are extremely important to read, because stories like Laila and Mariam’s are going on today, right now. Despite it being fiction, having an insight in to how survival alone is a struggle in other parts of the world make me realise how grateful I am to live in a safe environment, where as a young woman I am able to get an education and feel safe in my home and the streets that surround me. If you read one book from this post, please let it be this one, an incredible read.

“One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs,
Or the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls.” 

The Great Gatsby- F. Scott Fitzgerald

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“They’re a rotten crowd’, I shouted across the lawn. ‘You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together.”

This is probably quite a cliché pick for an English student! I studied this for two years during my A Levels and decided to re-read it so I could purely enjoy it, and not have to study every word I was reading!

This is a very short novel if you need something quick to read. The story follows the narrator Nick Carraway as he is gradually entwined into the lives of some of the richest and most complex characters of 1920’s Long Island in New York. Nick finds him self living next door to the mysterious Gatsby, a millionaire who throws hugely extravagant parties for crowds of people but is rarely seen enjoying them. Just across the bay, lives Nick’s cousin Daisy Buchanan and her arrogant husband Tom Buchanan. Through the perhaps initially nieve eyes of Nick, we learn of the complicated love between Gatsby and Daisy, mixed with the scandals of the elite, and the mask of the riches and pleasures of the jazz age. For such a short novel, Fitzgerald creates such an interesting and dramatic plot. The scenes of 1920’s New York and Gatsby’s lavish parties are extremely vivid and beautifully described, there are some beautiful quotes in the book.

I have now started another Fitzgerald book; ‘Tender is the Night’ so we’ll see of it lives up to Gatsby!

Milk and Honey, and The Sun and her Flowers- Rupi Kaur

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I read each one of these within the day that I bought them! Previously to this, I had appreciated poetry, but apart from studying poetry in GCSE and A Level English, which consisted of Shakespeare and John Donne’s work, I did not used to read it outside of my studies.

But I think for many people who have read these, Rupi Kaur has changed the game when it comes to poetry. Many people think of poems as old fashioned, very long, and perhaps not topics that are relatable, but these books could not be further from that. I read Milk and Honey first, the book is split in to four chapters; the hurting, the loving, the breaking, and the healing. Every poem is beautifully written, the topics and emotions that are covered throughout would resonate with anyone who reads this, some of them made me have tears in my eyes because they were so powerful and raw.

The Sun and her Flowers was equally as brilliant. Each of the chapters are titled from the life cycle of a flower; Wilting, Falling, Rooting, Rising, and Blooming. This again covers a huge range of emotions, from pain, heartbreak, womanhood, sexuality, strength and love. There is also some illustrations incorporated throughout, making the art of the books even more vivid.

Thanks for reading, hope you are having a fab day where ever you are!

Let me know if you have read any excellent books recently?!

Mol x

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