Book Review The Magician’s Apprentice Trudi Canavan

There’s something innately magical about picking up a massive hard back book to read.  Feeling the weight of the book in your hands, turning over the pages, the smell of the paper.   Soaking up the words creates its own spell that weaves inside your head conjuring up images, smells and feelings of love, fear and laughter.  A talented author is not just a writer, but a true sorcerer who can place you right inside their world.  You’re not simply reading the words, you’re living everything that the characters are experiencing. 

I’ve not come across Trudi Canavan before, and so when I saw a few of her works in my local library, I was intrigued.  Rather than picking up the Black Magician Trilogy, I opted for the book that was noted as being a prequal to her earlier works.  If I was going to immerse myself in this world, I wanted to start at the very beginning.  So, taking up The Magician’s Apprentice, I checked it out.  At 588 pages long, it seemed to be long enough to immerse a new-comer to this world as deeply as possible.   

Settling down, I readied myself for a long, immersive read into a brand new (to me) world of politics, intrigue, magic, heroic acts, villainous acts and a war of epic proportions.  I wasn’t disappointed. 

Canavan writes with a beautiful passion that pulls you into her characters lives so completely.  You laugh when there’s something humorous, you cry when something disastrous happens.  You sit on edge when she has built up an element of suspense, and gasp in shock when she takes you down a twisting turn you never saw coming. 

Although there are occasionally some aspects of The Magician’s Apprentice which could be a little long and where it would appear to be nothing much happening, the prequal is still an amazing read.  Canavan has not just created a new world, she’s created new creatures, new languages, new mythologies and histories.  It takes an incredibly talented author to submerge a reader, so completely, that they understand the new world they’re in without questioning what they’re reading is unusual to real life.  A reader should be drenched head to foot to see everything the author sees, and Canavan not just managed that, she excelled. 

The Magician’s Apprentice is most definitely worth a read – pick it up from your local library or buy it from your local bookshop.  If you prefer to read on an electronic device, it can be purchased for Kindle here.

TFtH

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Fingerless Sock Mittens

Now, although my little office is complete, it does get really rather cold in there.  There isn’t enough room for a storage heater, and my wonderful heated blanket can only do so much.  I need something for my hands.  Something that will keep them warm while still allowing me to type.  Aha!  Fingerless gloves.  Quick browse on my ever wonderful aide to all things impulse buys, Amazon, only to find they’re quite expensive.  I mean, I know £15 isn’t that expensive, but mid month – with bills to still come out, it is.  I sit and brood for a few moments, before a wonderful idea lands in my over active brain.  A quick dash upstairs and I’m back with my scissors and needle and thread.

A few years ago, Dids bought me some novelty socks with spaces for my toes in them.  I love them, but since putting weight on, my feet have become too swollen to wear them comfortably.  Instead of them residing sadly in my drawer, waiting for the time when my feet won’t be swollen, I decided to put them to some use.  Their relatively small size isn’t a problem for my hands – which are surprisingly small. 

So, I start by cutting the tips off the toe spaces and the bottom of another pair of socks I never wear.
I hem the other pair and then attach them to the back of the long, stripy socks.
I pull some colourful wool through the tip of the mitts and to the loose end of them. 
I attach a button to the arm of the striped glove, and one to the palm. 

That easy. 

These pretty much, cost me nothing.  I had all the equipment needed, and they took around 30 minutes of work.  I’ve got a pair of fingerless gloves that turn into mittens that no one else has.  Swish, eh? 

TFtH

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Office Space

In the Hollow, we have a tiny little space underneath the stairs.  It’s been used for many things over the years – a sewing space, a mini studio, a dumping area.  For most of the nine years we’ve lived here, it has honestly been a dumping area.  The kids fed up with a toy?  Cupboard under the stairs.  Boxes?  Cupboard under the stairs.  A load of mad stuff from when I’m on one of my hyper episodes that I’ll never use again?  You got it.  The cupboard under the stairs. 

It was bare.
The office space in September.

Every now and then, I’ll decide it needs clearing out.  I’ve been aiming to clear it out this time for around a year, but for what ever reason, just never got around to it.  We finally got there just before the kids went back to school.  My initial aim was to make it a homework space for the three of them, but they don’t seem to be interested and prefer to get their homework done either in their bedroom or in the living room.  Pre-teen will occasionally come in and play games on his laptop, but not very often.

Anyway, for some reason, today I decided I wanted to do a bit more tidying in the tiny space.  Sort out my ridiculous amount of pens.  Sort out my adult colouring books.  Put a poster up.  Just, make it usable.  So, I sat myself in the chair, grabbed a note pad and started checking the pens.   Three hours later, I emerged, impressed with myself for making more space than before.  The homework space which was pretty much unused was transformed into my cosy, comfortable, bright office.  I’ve got pens and pencils in easy reach; I have notebooks stacked neatly and notepads within easy reach.  I have a nook for the laptop when not in use and space for me to write by hand when I’m not in the coffee shop.   Headphones are nearby for when I’m reviewing and life is pretty cute in here, I’m not going to lie.  I can now even prop up the large note books I use to jot my first draft to transcribe to the laptop easier. 

My new workspace, complete with a bright and colourful poster!

I’ve not got any photos of when the office resembled Monica’s closet, but here are a couple of the way we’re looking now. 

I mean, I even made room for wrapping paper. That’s impressive.

TFtH

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Cold Brew

When I was pregnant with teenager and I got a cough and cold (or even the ‘flu), I made my own mad little remedy.  It was nothing much, but it helped sooth my throat and made me feel a little bit better.  I always made my own as I wasn’t able to have the traditional mug of lemsip which used to be my cold and cough staple.  I couldn’t have the extra paracetamol that was in the concoction. 

I still make it now, for the whole family, whenever we feel under the weather.  And, as Stitch is currently sounding more like Mini Mouse than her usual self, she’s asked if I can rustle some up for her.  Which made me think, aha, I’ll pop it on the blog!   

So, here is my under the weather remedy. 

Ingredients

A 2 litre bottle of lemonade.
2 cinnamon sticks
1 tablespoon honey
1 fresh lemon, cut into eighths
1 fresh lime, cut into eighths
1 fresh orange, cut into eighths
1 cup of mead (optional)

Method
Pour the lemonade (and mead, if using) into a large pan (a heavy bottomed stock pan is the best), add the honey, cinnamon sticks and fruit to the lemonade.  Boil for around two or three minutes, stirring regularly before turning down to a simmer.  With a ladle, transfer some of the liquid into a mug and let cool to a temperature you can drink from.  Keep the rest of the liquid in an airtight flask. 

The mead is optional, but if you have got it, I highly recommend adding this honey based liquor to the brew. 

TFtH

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Attic Attack – Lostalgia EP Review.

This review was originally posted on ON! In Barnsley, October issue and can be viewed here with the music from Attic Attack.  The review was written by myself.  

Attic Attack style themselves as blending alternative rock with indie music and blues to bring about their own take on modern day rock’n’roll and their brand new EP Lostalgia is surely the best way to find out if this is true.  If you haven’t managed to catch them live, that is.  They’ve performed many local South Yorkshire festivals over the summer period, including Live In Barnsley and Coalfields.  Neither of which I was able to attend.  However, I do know that Attic Attack are garnering a buzz around them and I can’t wait to find out if it’s deserved. 

The opening song of the EP – P.Y.M.W.Y.M.I – starts with a heady, bluesy guitar which is soon joined by a whirling organ.  The beat has a groove to it which I can’t help bopping my head in time with.  The deep, slightly moody vocals kick in and I’m gripped.  Although there’s something in the back of my mind telling me I’ve heard a similar tone before.  Just before we’re catapulted into the chorus amid repeated shouts of ‘come on’, I get it.  There’s distinct tones of The Black Keys’ Gold on the Ceiling – which, in this case, is not a bad thing.  Not a bad thing, at all.    As the song continues, I’m also deeply reminded of Alex Turner’s Rockabilly phase – and pouting, strutting and leather jackets explode in my minds eye.  I’m gripped. 

FLOW starts with an immediate riff, that again, has a bluesy feel to it.  When the lyrics kick in, they’re sung with an earworm like melody, in which the singer describes the one girl he’s always fantasised about.  This time, I’m reminded of a little known band from the 90’s called Electrasy.  It’s an almost poppy sound but with heavy guitar undertones which drag you away from dancing to pogoing and I can imagine it’s a huge crowd pleaser when played live.  It’s easy to sing along to, even if it’s the first time you’ve heard the song. 

Reverie is different yet again, with an almost classical indie opening riff.  Bright guitars jangle with the low thrum of the bass line promising something excellent that will make your whole body throb along.  The riff continues in this vein for 40 or so seconds, the bass is having a really odd effect on my body – I’m tensing; waiting for something to happen.  Each time the bar renews, I get more tense.  By the time another bright guitar joins with a solo, I’m coiled, like a spring.  Something needs to happen in this song that fits my expectations of brilliance.  And soon. 
When the lyrics finally kick in, I unfurl in a state of slight disappointment.  They’re country and ballad like.  It’s certainly unexpected – but kind of anti climatic following the slow, building promise of the intro and the bass.  It’s not until around the 3 minute 15 second mark that I finally get the euphoria that was promised.  The song picks up pace, the guitars become fuller and bolder and the wind is finally in my hair.  It’s a slow builder, yes.  But, my word, it’s worth persisting with it.  Even it’s just for that short build.

FACE then starts with a dirty, fuzzy lead that has a tone of Enter Sandman about it.  The vocals are bright but fitting in with the chord progress.  The chorus then brings a brightness to the track which makes it truly unique to my ears – but with backing vocals that remind me ever so slightly of Primal Scream.  Maybe that’s kind of what they’re going for here; Metallica come Primal Scream mash up – guitars that will melt your face off and have you moshing in the filthiest of mosh pits, coupled with a chorus of Indie club proportions. 

In all, Attic Attack’s debut offering is one heck of an eclectic journey towards the darker edge of the alternative genre.  Their bluesy, country and edge of metal mashing up with indie tones is delightful. 

Lostalgia is available to download now across multiple platforms. You can follow Attic Attack on their Facebook Page

TFtH

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Papergang by Ohh Deer – Octobers Box

There was a time when I used to sit and wait for the postman with something verging on fear.  I had to be there when the post arrived and check it immediately.  It wasn’t a case of OCD, I just believed that bad news would come in the post if I wasn’t there in time to check it.  I used to dread holidays because of it and would only venture out on day trips only on Sundays, or if the post had already arrived.  I don’t know how I used to cope when I was at work; I suppose not being at home waiting with bated breath for impending doom helped. 

In time, I got over my weird fear – and now I actually look forward to receiving post.  Mainly because I have a couple of subscription boxes, and their arrival always puts a smile on my face.   Today’s post, was a lovely box from Papergang by Ohh Deer and Octobers offering is all about Mental Wellness. 

Although the box was somewhat soggy on arrival, the inside was as beautiful as the last few boxes.  Lovingly wrapped in a bright orange tissue came an adorable Happiness Journal, four coloured pens (with a brush tip and fine tip), six scratch off postcards, a huge poster and the usual blank dated calendar postcard.  The poster has a lovely design, left colourless for one to colour in themselves and the journal came with a sheet of inspirational stickers. 

The October Papergang Box by Ohh Deer

I love stationery – being the type of person who loves to craft – which is why I started subscribing to the Papergang box.  So far, I’ve not been disappointed – and I’m already looking forward to Novembers’ offering. 

If you would like to try out the Papergang Subscription Box by Ohh Deer, click here to use my referral code *

TFtH

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*By using my referral code, I do not receive any monetary gain – I may however receive one free box which will be used to review Papergang.

Recipe – Earthy Corned Beef Hash

As we are in autumn, there is nothing which quite warms my cockles like a good, old fashioned Corned Beef Hash.  I can hear you all going “ewww” at the back, there, but honestly, this Corned Beef Hash is stunning and simple.  It can be thrown in the slow cooker and left all day while you’re at work with minimal prep time. 

Ingredients
1 tin of Corned Beef
1 tin of peeled plum tomatoes (chopped or unchopped)
1 carton passata
1 tin of marrowfat peas
1 punnet of baby tomatoes
1 stick of celery
2 large carrots
1 red onion
1 packet of diced white onion (frozen)
1 pepper (deseeded)
1 tsp tomato puree
1 tsp turmeric (optional)
1 tsp paprika (optional)
1 pinch mild chilli powder (optional)
1 beef stock cube or pot
Salt and pepper to taste
1 pinch of frozen thyme and rosemary (optional)
1 bay leaf (optional)
water

Method

Add around a teaspoon of tomato puree to the slow cooker, then remove the corned beef from it’s tin, chop into cubes and place in the slow cooker. 
Place the fresh veg into a food processor (you will need to peel and chop the onion in half) and whizz on full power until the veg is in tiny pieces.  This is an excellent way to get fussy eaters to eat their vegetables without even realising it.    Empty the chopped vegetables into the slow cooker. 
Open a tin of tomatoes and empty into the slow cooker, rinsing the tin with water and emptying that into the slow cooker too.   Pour in the passata and add more cold water if needed.   Add the spices (I use a teaspoon of turmeric and paprika and a bay leaf to give a lovely earthy taste and a pinch of mild chilli powder for a touch of heat) and the stock cube or pot.  Add the marrowfat peas and frozen onions before leaving on a low setting for a few hours.   
Around an hour before serving, add a teaspoon of frozen rosemary and thyme and season liberally with salt and pepper.  Turn up to high and leave. 
Serve with lightly spiced roasted potatoes (or wedges), dumplings and Yorkshire puddings in a bowl. 
An earthy, steaming hot stew to wipe away the cold. 

TFtH

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Ah, Autumn.

PSL – From Starbucks.

There’s no other season which fills my heart with joy quite like Autumn.  There’s that amazing autumnal smell – you know, that one which promises the cold in the air but teases you with the delicious promise of wood burning, treacle, melt in the mouth stews and a slight hint of cinnamon?  The mornings are cold – but they don’t yet have that neck breaking danger of winter.  The evenings are filled with the scary but fun films for Halloween and then, the warmth of bonfires.   You can dress up in warm sweaters, pullovers and cardigans, wear knee high boots and chunky blanket scarves, wear the cute pinafore dresses and coats with a fake fur collar.   You can drink Pumpkin Spiced Lattes and light many candles to help bring those dark nights in. 

The clocks go back, railway track, it’s that time of year again (lyrics from Local Boy in the Photograph, Stereophonics).

Ahhhh, Autumn. 

It’s honestly such a shame that every autumn, I’m stuck at home, wrapped in a blanket with a box of tissues by my side.  And my inhaler.   Every autumn, all I have to do is look at a flight of stairs and I’m having an asthma attack.  My nose is clogged up, my eyes are watering and I’m coughing like I will never have a voice left.   It’s not the ‘flu, not yet.   But you can pretty much guarantee, that if I don’t get my flu jab, it will quickly turn into it. 

An example of my cold supplies from a couple of years ago.

Every morning during the season, I will browse my Facebook memories, waiting for that day when the cold had set in.  A clock will then start ticking in my brain, quietly at first, until the day before this years cold finally sets in well and true.  At that point, it will start ticking like the clock on the TV Series 24.  Instead of Jack Bower racing the clock though, there’s me.  Doing everything I can to defer the coming doom – and then when there’s a few hours left and it’s inevitable that I can not out run it, preparing myself for what’s about to happen.  Which usually consists of finding my cosiest blanket, marking out my space on the sofa, working out what to binge watch on TV and ensuring I have enough tissues, orange juice, lip balm and moisturiser for the coming event.  Oh, and snacks.  Preferably cheese and onion crisps and chocolate. 

This year, I’m kind of on the verge of being poorly.  I’ve got the precluding headache, the aches and pains and the blocked nose.  My throat is sore, and my glands are up.  My temperature hasn’t started it’s usual Everestian climb, but it feels as though it’s about to arrive at base camp.  I’m drowsy, having had a couple of day time naps and going to sleep way before Dids heads off to work.  I’m also waking up at the crack of dawn. 

Anyway, as much I adore autumn – my word – I sometimes hate it, too. 

TFtH

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Drugstore Makeup Day

This morning dawned dull and dreary.  My hair was what can only be described as a mad frizz ball from the depths of hell.  My face is blotchy and red and my eyes have darker circles than the blackest hole you can imagine. 

Only one thing for it, makeup.  After straightening my hair with the trusty GHD’s, that is. 

An Alarming close up of my eye.

Now, as I was getting my makeup ready, I had an idea.  The blog, I thought.  Why not do today’s makeup as a test – give it a go with affordable, drug store makeup.  Blog about how well it goes on, how much the entire amount of makeup I’ve used costs and finally, how long it stays on my face.  Today (again, I’m writing this way in advance of being published), I’m going to be in the radio studio, which gets incredibly warm – and I’ve got a guest in.  I’ll possibly be dancing around, eating, drinking and doing a fair amount of talking.  I will also probably be touching my face a fair bit – which is something I do when I’m nervous.  I also need to use my phone, so need to take note of how much foundation ends up on the screen. 

The myriad of products used.

So, to begin.  The makeup I’ve used for today is all under £10 per item – excluding mascara, as I only have one.   Below is the list of makeup, and the cost of each item.   
Revolution Pro Blur Stick Primer – £10 (available from Superdrug, Revolution Beauty, Beauty Bay)
Makeup Obsession Eyebrow Pomade Medium Brown – £6 (available from Boots,)
Makeup Revolution Conceal and Define Concealer C0, C1 – £4 (as above outlets and asos)
Revolution X Jack Eye Shadow Palette – £10 (as above outlets – for each other Revolution product unless stated otherwise)
Revolution Extra Base Corrector Palette – £6 (Only on Revolution Beauty)
Revolution Pro Foundation Drops (Illuminating) – £7 (Except asos)
Revolution Pro Camouflage Foundation (F4) – £7 (Except asos)
MUA Pro Base Foundation – £4 (available from Superdrug, MUA Store)
Revolution Renaissance Flick Eyeliner Pen – £5 (Except asos)
STYL Banana Powder (free gift with Betty Box)
Revolution THE ONE Contour Stick – £5 (Out of Stock)
I Heart Revolution Summer of Love Bronzer – £4.99 (Only at Revolution Beauty and Superdrug)
Sleek Makeup Blush Trio – £9.99 (available from Superdrug, Boots, ASOS, Look Fantastic and Sleek direct – but is more expensive from there)
Revolution Beauty Platinum Ingot Highlighter – £4 (Only at Revolution Beauty)
I Heart Revolution Multi Lip Liner Nudes – £5 (Revolution Beauty and Superdrug)
Revolution Pro Supreme Matt Lip Pigment Visionary – £4 (Except Asos)
Revolution Setting Spray – £5

My Face, Freshly Made Up.

The only item of makeup I’m going to allow myself to top up will be the lipstick – because that’s what I would do anyway.  Even high end lipstick has a tendency to wear off your lips through out the day.  I’ll make a note of how many times I have to top up. 

So, it’s the end of the day, and my makeup is still pretty much in place.  I can’t really see that many patchy areas.  It’s been a very trying day as well – the equipment in the studio was not working properly, which caused me to have a mini meltdown (click here to see what happened) and I know I actually broke into a stress induced sweat at least once, maybe twice.  So, considering that, it’s actually done incredibly well to stay on my face. 
I topped my lipstick up twice, once before I left home and then again in the loos near the studio.  It actually held up quite well, all things considered.  I smoke and there wasn’t too much residue on the butt of the cigarette; I had a very creamy Pumpkin Spiced Latte, and again I didn’t leave too much of a lipstick stain on the lip of the cup.  Not too shabby. 

Look, it had been a long, trying day, OK?

The cloth I use to take makeup off is pleasingly covered – I say pleasingly because I can see that most of the makeup genuinely stayed put.  I prefer to use a reusable cloth when I can as it’s better for the environment than one use wipes or cotton pads.  This cloth only needs water and bam, the makeup is gone.  It can then be washed on a normal low heat wash in a washing machine and is perfectly clean.  I would recommend everyone who wears makeup to get one.  They’re amazing for the environment, they’re easy to use, they’re reusable and they’re incredibly soft on the skin. 

How much makeup came off my face!

In all, today was a great makeup day.  I was told that I do not look the age I am (by a freaking celebrity, too!) and that is always a boost for ones confidence.  The makeup stayed on all day and performed incredibly well.  I admit, I didn’t expect it to last as long as it did, as I was using budget makeup – but I have a feeling that it goes to show a little goes a long, long way.  Stay tuned over the coming weeks to see how my Drugstore Day fares compared to a day of High End makeup and Mid Price Range. 

TFtH

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