A Good Summer Read.

With summer now just weeks away I thought it might be time to start planning some Summer reads. I always read the most over the summer and love getting lost in a good book during down time while holidaying or travelling.

I’m looking for some recommendations of what to read while road tripping around France this summer or maybe what would be good to listen to on Audible while Maxie chauffeurs me from city to city. ­čĺü­čĆ╗

In exchange here’s my list of must-reads and must haves for your bookshelves!

Us-David Nichols.

I read this on holiday in Sorrento in 2015. It was in the first few weeks of texting Max and I remember spending most of the week lying on a sunbed going from being engrossed in this story to being engrossed in mine and Maxie’s whatsapp conversations. It’s one of the stories that will stay with me forever, its beautifully written and had me crying, laughing and wanting to hug Doug. It’s a story about love but not a love story, more like just a story about life, it’s so relatable and true to life and relationships we’ve all witnessed before. It really is just beautiful. One day by David Nicholls is also one of my favourite stories and I’m currently reading Starter for Ten, but for me Us trumps them all.

The Versions of Us- Laura Barnett.

I picked up this book in a hostel book swap when I was in Perth in 2016 and read it while travelling. Just like Us it’s so relatable and the characters are so absorbing and real I felt like they were my friends. It’s split into three stories, all about the same couple but different versions of where their lives could have taken them if they’d made different choices. All the versions have happy parts and sad times and times you feel like shouting at the book because they’re making the wrong choices. It definitely appeals to my philosophical romantic side of always wondering ‘what if?’. I just absolutely loved this and it’s the perfect holiday read. Such a beautiful and effective way of story telling it kind of had me mad I didn’t have the idea first.

Room- Emma Donoghue.

This is not really light hearted and summery but definitely one of the books everybody needs to read before they die. It’ll have you thinking about it all the time and feeling quite emotional but wow its worth it. I just couldn’t put it down. Must be one of the best books ever written? I won’t say any more. Just read it. Don’t cheat and watch the film, it’s good but not as good. It’s best to watch the film after.

Funny Girl- Nick Hornsby.

I love Nick Hornsby, High Fidelity is another one of my favourites but as a summer read I loved Funny Girl more. It’s set in the 60’s which is perfect, I love anything retro. It’s all about Barbara, a beauty queen who’s dream is to make it in the world of comedy. It’s funny and real and easy to read. A perfect beach read.

Elizabeth is Missing- Emma Healey.

Another book I read while travelling in Oz. I bought this to read on the plane after reading a lot of hype around it. I don’t think it was what I expected but I did love it. It’s very clever and gripping but at the same time not too intense and deep, it’s very cleverly written. If you want a light summer read that’s not a chick-lit, give this one a go!

Paper Towns- John Green.

I think John Green books are meant to teenagers but that doesn’t stop me from loving them a lot. I’ve read them all but think this one grabs the top spot. I read this while living in Italy as a nanny and remember being so hooked I had it in my handbag all the time and was permanently hoping for a free 5 minutes to read a few pages. I think the fact it’s set in Orlando, where I used to live helps a lot, I could picture it all really clearly which made it seem more real and absorbing. The story line is so clever with so many twists and the characters literally have you feeling like they’re your best friends. It’s the right balance of light and funny but also gets you thinking. Definitely worth delving into the teen section of Waterstones to purchase and give a go. Other John Green books I would really recommend are An Abundance of Katherines,Will Grayson, Will Grayson and of course, if you’ve just woken up from a 10 year coma and haven’t read it yet, The Fault in our Stars (maybe not on the beach though, unless you’re open to sobbing like a toddler in public).

Billy and Me- Giovanna Fletcher.

Because I follow her on every media platform, like sooo many people, I feel like Gi is one of my best friends, so when she started releasing books I was straight in there. They really are light-hearted chick-lits at their very best and Billy and Me is my favourite. The easiest books in the world to read, so relatable and perfect for reading on a sun lounger with a cocktail.

Other Books to have on your shelf:

Love Letters of Great Men.

In 2008 I feel very deep into the Sex and the City rabbit hole. I went to see the movie and then spent the rest of the summer watching all the seasons, reading the books, listening to the movie soundtrack and buying all the merch. I was just obsessed and kind of still am. The Love Letters of Great Men book that Carrie borrows from the library in the movie didn’t actually exist until a few months after the film was released. But as soon as it was out, I had it, and read it front to back and back again. Those were the days when I was 16 and full of hope of fairytales and romantic men. It really is a beautiful read and I still pull it out a lot to have a flick through when I’m feeling all soppy and emosh.

The Jane Austen Collection.

I am a Jane Austen nerd. I love them all. They bring out the soppy romantic in me and have me dreaming of living in those simple times. Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility are my favourites, I think I’ve seen every film and TV version of them and are the books I have on my shelf. I’d be lying if I said I’ve read them cover to cover. Jane was quite a wordy writer. But I do like to have a flick through them every now and again to find my favourite quotes.

Parenting the Sh*t out of Life- Mother Pukka and Papa Pukka.

This is my favourite to pick up and read for a giggle but it also has parts that are so moving. I follow both Mother and Papa Pukka on Insta and they really make me laugh. You don’t have to be a parent, or planning a baby, to enjoy this.

Not that Kind of Girl- Lena Dunham.

I don’t think there’s a girl in the world who can’t relate to this memoir. It’s laugh out loud funny. I just love it. I have favourite parts I love to read over and over. It’s life-affirming, hilarious, and just brilliant. I suggest every girl 18-40 reads it at least once. Or about 30 times like me.

On our bookshelves we also have a ridic amount of cookbooks. We are constantly buying cookbooks for eachother and have afternoons where we sit and read them all and put markers on the recipes we’d like to try. I’ll do a cookbook edition of this post in the next few weeks!

I have a thing with children’s book too. I have a whole section of children’s books on my bookshelf. There’s something so wonderful about how simple and magical they can be and I love the beautiful illustrations. Ones with meaning also make lovely presents and keepsakes for a special occasion.

When it comes to buying books I am very passionate about where I buy them from. Although guilty of the occasional quick Amazon prime purchase I do feel a lot better when I’ve bought from a book shop, particularly independent ones. Although more expensive I love to support small businesses and book shops are a dying tradition that we must not lose. There’s something so magic about a good bookshop and gives you a feeling you can never get from ‘adding to basket’ on Amazon.

Let me know your suggestions for what I should be reading this summer. Do I join the Insta hype and read Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine?

Katie x

Gin Connoisseurs, you say?

So it’s finally my summer holidays from work! How exciting! Except, unfortunately not every working adult gets 6 weeks off for summer. My boyfriend being one of them. I’ve quickly got used to waking up when his alarm goes off and smiling smuggly at him from underneath the duvet while he drags himself to the shower. It’s also given me chance to discover this whole new world that exists after 10pm on weekdays, a world which involves a lot of snacking and Louis Theroux documentaries.

Max did manage to get some holidays from work for my first week off which matched up well with his birthday and our 2 year anniversary (I know this isn’t really that significant but I take literally any excuse to celebrate).

We decided to do a little bit of a roadtrip for a mini celebration getaway, I’ve got the roadtrip bug a bit since driving around Australia and New Zealand at the end of last year. We started off just driving to my parents in Yarm and joining them for a celebratory meal out (at what age do you stop optimising every chance of a free meal out?).

The next day we set off to Northumberland, we’d planned to stop here on our way up to Edinburgh. We didn’t really have a plan of what to do in Northumberland we thought we’d wing it which stressed my mum out a lot, she got on her IPad and ┬ágave us loads of options of what to do. We decided to head to a Roman fort on Hadrian’s wall and near our campsite for night.

image

It should have been quite an easy journey except the Northumberland road people (?) chose last week to close every useful road in the region and divert cars on totally unreasonable routes. We (when I say we, I mean Max. I can drive, I would just never ever trust myself to drive his pride and joy. My driving is much more suited to old micras or golf buggys) drove about an hour extra than we were meant to in the pouring rain, but hey, the country views were pretty, if not a bit soggy.

Funnily enough, the sun came out when we eventually got to Housesteads Fort. Me and Max are National Trust members (don’t judge, we are very fun and happening people) which means we got in for free, it’s free English Heritage members too if any readers are English Heritage members. If you like days out it is definitely worth joining one of both of them, you don’t need to use it that many times to get your money’s worth but it gets you free entry/parking to so many nice places around the country. We’re in our second year of being members now and we didn’t use it anywhere near as much as we should’ve last year so this year we’re going to really make a point of going.

 

Housesteads Fort is an old a Roman fort, which now unsurprisingly is just piles of stone. It’s still really pretty and has lovely views over Northumberland. There’s a museum and signs explaining what everything used to be and what it was like living there and it’s all really interesting. Well worth a visit if you’re ever in Northumberland.

That night we stayed in a WigWam at the Wigwam orchard at Northside Farm just outside Horsley. I LOVE camping/Glamping, I think it comes from it being my parents worst nightmare and me being quite naturally rebellious. I just love getting all cosy and passing hours away playing games, doing activities like giant dot to dots and colouring in which you’d never think of doing on an evening at home but you actually really enjoy doing, and straining your eyes trying to read in really poor lighting. I even think I love the running to the loo in the cold and the dark and letting personal hygiene slip a bit. I love camping food and hot chocolates and plastic plates and shivering myself to sleep. We only did one night of it this time but are planning another trip later in the year I’ll no doubt blog about then.

 

The Wigwam Orchard was a great bargain stay in Northumberland, you do need to take your own bedding, cooking utensils, crockery and towels but the wigwams are very sturdy and cosy. There’s a fire pit outside each of them and a microwave and mini fridge inside. They sleep plenty too, I could have slept metres away from Max if I wanted to but I needed him for warmth. There’s a public kitchen and bathrooms to use in the main farm building, just with it being the summer they were full of really excitable kids, which is quite nice but kind of broke the romantic getaway road trip vibe we had going on.

 

The next day we drove to Alnwick to go to Barter Books, a second hand book shop in a converted old railway station. If you love books, you must must go to Barter books. Go tomorrow, go now, stop what you’re doing, call in sick, you all just need to go. It is HEAVEN. It smells like toast and old books, and is so cosy and beautiful. There’s a little train that goes around the top of the shelves, there’s sofas all over encouraging you to sit down and read, there’s book quotes written on boards and cabinets full of rare books and special editions for collectors. They have sections of books on pretty much anything and such a good selection. I managed to find nearly all the books I’ve been eyeing up in Waterstones and on Amazon and for a fraction of the price. I love the idea of second hand books and the thought of someone enjoying them before me and then passing it on.

Theres a cafe in there too and as we’d just come straight from our night in the wigwam we were ready to devour a hot breakfast. It’s all really tasty and you eat in the old station waiting rooms which are really cosy. Honestly couldn’t recommend this place enough, we spent HOURS in there and it’s gone straight up there on my list of favourite places.

image

We then carried on driving upwards to Edinburgh, with a few more diversions and stressed shouts at the SatNav. We got there eventually…

We stayed at the Murrayfield Hotel, a booking we made quite last minute when we bottled staying in the bargain but potentially quite dodgy accommodation I’d originally booked. My original thinking was well if we go cheaper we can spend more on food, drink and shopping and we’ll hardly be there will we? But as it got closer I began to really fancy a treat so we decided to splash out a little and hold back a bit on the shopping (not on the food and drink, you may notice). It’s a very prettily decorated hotel and it did really feel like the treat I felt we needed.

image

Our first night in Edinburgh was Max’s birthday eve so we decided to hit the town and go to some of the reccomendations Max got from his friend who’s from Edinburgh. We started off at a fab pizza place called Civerinos, it’s just off the Royal mile and the pizza is really good, so are the fries and the beer choices. It’s very casual which we liked and you all sit on long tables, potentially next to strangers, and I guess it could get quite snuggly when it’s busy (there is less snuggly outdoor seating or takeaway available, and a couple of tables for groups of 4-6). Some may not like this but we quite enjoyed making friends with the Japanese couple next to us, they even took pictures of us.

 

We then went on a bit of a cocktail tour. ‘Cocktail tour’ is one of my favourite phrases, it’s really just a bar crawl but a bit fancier and you Instagram every drink in every place. We started off at the Dome, I think most people who have been to Edinburgh will have been to the Dome, and if you haven’t you definitely need to call in for a drink. It is BEAUTIFUL, really gorgeous and it feels such a treat to be in there. ┬áDrinks are sensibly priced concidering the setting and cocktails are good but it’s the look of it that’s the real reason to visit.

 

Next, we went to Lucky Liquor Company, a cute quirky little bar we heard about from a friend. The cocktails were really tasty and quirky, if not a little small (very strong though!)

We then walked to Panda and Sons which was definitely our favourite! It’s in a basement underneath a prentend barbers shop and hidden behind a bookcase. It’s all very cosy inside with dimmed lighting, sofas, barber chairs as seats, candles and really great cocktails. We LOVED it,even on a Monday night it was buzzing. There was even a very helpful waiter who helped me cure my cocktail hiccups by making me drink a glass a water upside down with a sharp knife in it, I was a bit bemused but it really did work! Definitely go here if you’re out drinking in Edinburgh or if you need help with chronic hiccups.

The next day was Maxie’s birthday. When it’s my birthday I’m awake at like 6 opening all my cards and presents and ready to totally revel in a day that’s all about me, (actually more than a day, sometimes the whole of April). Boys don’t really do that though do they. I had to wake Max up and pretty much force his pile of presents and cards on him. Once we’d got opening them out of the way we had a full Scottish breakfast and went out for the day.

We started off at the National Gallery at birthday boy’s request, we both do really like a gallery, particularly free ones. Once we’d gone round we went to the gift shop (obviously) where I learnt something about my boyfriend which I never really knew before, he is the only person in the world who can spend longer in a gift shop than me! I’m going to guess at 50 minutes. I read every book on art for children and every story in the kids┬ásection, I touched every postcard, print, flicked through all the big coffee table picture books, smelt some candles, read some books on art and Edinburgh in History while he was still looking at one small section of the art books. But he had a great time and bought some books and it was his birthday, so that’s all what matters. And it probably did me good to experience it the other way round, he’s probably felt like I did a lot of times in Home Sense.

We then had a walk up the Royal mile to see the castle and the 100,000 Spanish and Japanese tourists buying kilts before stopping for a Pret and to pick up a White Company reed diffuser (really funny we ended up walking past there, really did not plan that all).

image

We then headed to Edinburgh Gin Distillery for the afternoon. This sounds quite casual like we just popped in but in reality I had to book it months ago! It was the main thing we’d sorted in advance for our trip and the main reason we were heading to Edinburgh. It certainly did not disappoint, we did the Connoisseur tour and had the best (and tipsiest) afternoon! If you or a loved one loves gin it’s a must do treat!

image

The distillary is in quite a small basement but the design of it is just gorgeous. It starts off with a talk about all the botanicals of gin, where they come from what they do and about the history of gin which is so interesting! I won’t type out the whole story of gin but it really is hilarious, give it a google maybe, or maybe bbc2 will do a little feature on it soon, we really were Lolling! You then get a tour and talk about the gin making process and then the good bit, tasters! They were very generous with tasters (hence the tipsiness). We tried all the different gins they do, all the liqueurs and tried them with different tonics to see what goes best with what. For in between the different tasters they provide a glass of their standard gin with standard fever tree tonic as I guess a bit of a palette cleanser. At this point I was already thinking it has been great value for money and then our tour guide announced get to choose a standard sized bottle of a gin or liqueur to take home. Max chose their Elderflower liqueur, which in the tasting we actually really enjoyed just drinking straight. I chose their Plum And Vanilla liqueur which was so Yum! Saving it for Autumn/Winter/Christmas time when I’m probably going to add it to most things, Prosecco, puddings, cocktails… We then got the nice surprise of having discount in the shop so bought the 2 other flavours of liqueur they do (Rhubarb and Ginger and Raspberry), cos it’s rude not to have the full set and a large bottle of their standard gin. Our already quite impressive alcohol collection is now looking even more so, and luckily it’s my holidays so a midweek G+T is totally acceptable. Honestly couldn’t recommend the Edinburgh Distillary enough, you must go if you love gin and are planning are trip to Edinburgh or even maybe worth just heading to Edinburgh for.

image

 

After the Distillary we went to a great steak restaurant I booked as another birthday treat, it’s called Wildfire and is only a 2 minute walk from the Distillary. I’ve eaten there with my family before and knew Max would love it, really good steaks and mash and chocolate cake which are always winners and definitely needed to soak up all the gin.

We drove straight back to Leeds the next day, this time with no super complicated diversions but with one extended Costa and M+S sandwich stop, has to be done though doesn’t it.

Since we got back I’ve been spending my days doing all those jobs that I’ve spent the last few months putting off until now, I’ve also been trying out some new recipes, zofloring everything and doing quite a lot of crafting (trying to get ahead with Christmas crafts so the flat is going to be humming of cinnamon oil!). We have a new MacBook too (it’s like mine and Max’s first born baby) so going to be blogging a bit more now it’s easier to do so! I’ve also signed up to a bit of nannying for a family friend cos I can’t last 6 weeks away from kids apparently, but so looking forward to it. Hoping for some sunnier days to what we’ve been getting this week so we can spend a lot of time in Roundhay Park, been eyeing up the big climbing frame from my bus to work since March so might finally have an excuse to play!

Thanks for reading, sorry that was a very long one…