Book Review: Amy Snow by Tracy Rees

I can see why Amy Snow is a Richard and Judy bestseller. It is such an enjoyable read; I devoured it in a few days!

What I liked most was that it was a refreshing, modern take on a Victorian novel. It may be set in 1848, but it isn’t bogged down with long descriptive passages or infuriating inequalities. The strongest characters are female, like the fiery, persistent and unstoppable Aurelia and Mrs Riverthorpe. Even Amy, who has grown up in the shadows, has explosive outbursts at injustices dealt to her.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good Dickens, Austen or Gaskell novel. I love the Victorian era and genre. But Amy Snow was so much easier to digest!

At the start, it seems like it’s going to be a tale about Amy’s origins. Abandoned in the snow as a baby, Amy grows up not knowing where she came from or who her parents really are. Instead, the story takes a sudden turn as she receives her first letter from Aurelia – written before she passed away. Aurelia’s plea is for Amy to embrace life outside of Hatfield and to retrace her own steps a few years previous, to begin a journey of discovery.

And so it soon turns into a tale of revelations and relationships. I loved finding out Aurelia’s secrets, the truth unravelling one letter at a time. I was desperate to know more; to know everything. Along with Amy, I anxiously awaited each letter. Amy’s admiration for Aurelia certainly rubbed off on me. I became so invested in Amy’s emotional journey, as well as physical one, that I felt every moment of joy and pain.

Really, it is a tale of self-discovery; it’s about the person Amy is rather than who her parents are. Aurelia gives her the chance to explore different lifestyles and find out what she truly wants. As Amy is exposed to the world outside of Hatfield, she finally stops hiding, worrying, and pretending. She lets her guard down and new friends into her heart. She allows herself new pleasures and eventually learns to leave her bad memories where they belong; in the past.

Her memories, good and bad, drive so much of the storyline; they help piece together Aurelia’s puzzles so Amy can move forward with her quest.

One thing’s for sure, you will not forget the characters in this novel very quickly. They are simply wonderful; from the icy, heartless Mrs Vennaway and the warm, generous Wisters, to the excitable, bounding Henry and the wonderfully outspoken Mrs Riverthorpe. They are spiteful, sassy, kind and adorable. No shades of magnolia here!

Give it a go and see for yourself!

x Morts x

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A guide to: Luxembourg

I have recently returned from a lovely long weekend in Luxembourg.

It was a slightly random choice of holiday (booked by my sister and her friends) but we had a fantastic time! We stayed in a camping and caravan park, about 30 minutes outside of Luxembourg city. Renting a car was essential to take in all of the sights.

What to do in Luxembourg?

1. Nature Trails:

There are tonnes of nature trails to choose from but the Müllerthal Trail was definitely my favourite. It led to a wonderful viewpoint and there was plenty to explore along the way, with caves you could go into and huge rocks you could walk between.  It was pretty humid whilst we were in Luxembourg, so it was nice to escape into the cool forest for a bit. At the bottom of the Müllerthal Trail, you’ll also find the beautiful Schiessentümpel Waterfall. The crooked bridge over the top of the waterfall made me feel like I was suddenly in the Lord of the Rings… like we had stepped right into Rivendell.

There are also caves you can visit in Berdorf. These were carved out in the Middle Ages, so people could use the rock for millstones. One of the caves was converted into an amphitheatre (Amphitheatre Breechkaul) in 1979, and it still used for plays and concerts today.

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2. Medieval Castles:

There are loads of castles in Luxembourg. Over 50 in fact! I had the pleasure of visiting two of these.

My favourite was Beaufort Castle. I fell for it the moment I saw the sun light up it’s sandy exterior. So much of it is still preserved and there are drawings around the castle, showing how it would have looked in medieval times. You can also sample liqueurs on site (cassis and framboise), which pack a serious punch!

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Larochette Castle was also fun to explore. The ruins are set up on the hillside, looking down onto the town of Larochette. The views are fantastic and you are free to scramble around the ruins for as long as you please for the bargain price of €4 per person!

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3. Luxembourg City:

Luxembourg City is a lovely place to wander around, with huge parks, historic buildings and plenty of cafes and restaurants to choose from.

The Notre Dame Cathedral is well worth a visit, with striking turrets like a fairy-tale castle and beautiful stained-glass windows. You can go inside the cathedral for free. The Palace of the Grand Dukes is also impressive, but you can only see it from the outside. There is always a guard on duty, walking back and forth with a stern expression.

It doesn’t take long at all  to walk around the centre of the city (we did it in an afternoon). This is why it often ranks as only the third best thing to do/see in Luxembourg.

One thing you definitely need to know, parking is very limited. We visited the city during working hours on a Friday and all central car parks were full, so we had to drive further out and park in the business district. Also, you have to buy a bus ticket from one of the ticket machines before getting on a bus! We had no idea about this but were luckily let off by a very kind bus driver. There seemed to be buses going in and out of the city pretty regularly which was good.

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All-in-all I was pleasantly surprised by Luxembourg and what it has to offer. It’s definitely more of an active holiday, than relaxing holiday, but it’s an easy place to find your way around – and a beautiful one.

If you’re looking for a low cost holiday Luxembourg is a good shout, as most of the activities are either seriously cheap or free! Eating out was very reasonable too. Do be prepared for fairly slow service though… they are certainly in no rush in Luxembourg!

Enjoy!

x Morts x

 

 

Glastonbury: Survival Guide

Now Glastonbury has suddenly come around, I’m gutted I’m not going this year.

It is by far the best festival I have been to, and the biggest!

Some of you will be preparing to set off in the early hour’s tomorrow morning, or will even be camping out tonight to be first in the queue!

For those of you who are Glasto newbies, here are a few tips on how to survive!

  1. Buy a phone charging block:

You’ll probably use your phone to take photos so it will run out of battery really quickly. A decent phone charging block should give you at least 5 charges worth and see you through the whole time at Glasto. With 170,000 people swarming around, a phone is your best hope of finding friends… especially after queuing for toilet!

  1. Take decent wellies:

You’ll be in these all day, every day, so buying a good pair of wellies and welly socks will save your feet! It might be worth taking extra socks in case it rains loads and they get soaked.

  1. Use a trolley for tinnies:

Invest in an old lady shopping trolley, because you can put all of your cans of cider/beer in this and pull it along… which is so much easier than carrying it! You can’t take glass bottles into Glasto, so make sure you decant any spirits into plastic bottles beforehand too.

  1. Pre-select a camping spot:

Make sure you and your friends decide on a camping spot before you go. I recommend somewhere on a slope so you don’t get flooded if it rains loads. You don’t want to be right next to toilets but not a long walk away either.

  1. Perfect your packing:

To avoid your clothes looking crumpled and creased, roll your clothes up instead of folding them. It is also a useful way to fit more in your bag. Make sure you take clothes you can sit down in easily – you’ll be sat on the floor a lot, so shorts and floaty dresses are a good option!

  1. Arrive early:

Make sure at least one of your festival family squad is arriving early on Wednesday, as you need someone to put the tent up in a decent spot before it all fills up!

  1. Pitch your tent first:

I recommend carrying your tent first and going back for your backpack and supplies once it’s pitched. It’s too heavy to carry everything at once and you might be queuing for hours to get in!

  1. Wash your hair in a bucket:

The queue for showers is ridiculous so instead take a bucket to use to wash your hair. It sounds mad but it’s actually such a good solution and makes you feel fresh and clean. This bucket can double up as a drinks cooler if you fill it with cold water!

  1. Wash your body with shower gel:

This is also going to sounds nuts but using shower gel and face wipes is the best way to get clean! I recommend Aussie Fresh Mate body wash.

  1. Drink vodka and squash:

Vodka and orange squash is the perfect combo for a festival. You can buy a bottle of water, drink some and then fill it with some vodka and squash. It’s the easiest thing to carry around with you and it much cheaper than buying drinks from the vendors.

  1. Don’t rush to leave:

My friends and I left around 12 o’clock on the Monday and the queues out of Glastonbury were still ridiculous. You’re better off sleeping for longer and heading off later in the day, to avoid some of the traffic.

Here’s a quick checklist of essentials to pack:

  • Sleeping bag
  • Blanket
  • Travel pillow
  • Travel tissues
  • Anti-bacterial gel
  • Phone charging block
  • Wellies + welly socks
  • Raincoat
  • Bum bag or backpack
  • Torch
  • Collapsible water container
  • Bucket
  • Snacks (breakfast bars + crisps)
  • Cans of cider or beer (no glass is allowed on site)
  • Drinks pouches (so you can carry spirits with you)
  • Shower gel + face wipes
  • Small mirror

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Embrace the mud and mayhem!

x Morts x

Amazing Seafood Recipes

I’m busy most nights of the week, so quick recipes are essential for me.

Where would I be without BBC Good Food? It is my absolute go-to, especially for healthy, easy mid-week meals!

Here is a list of my 5 current seafood favourites:

  1. Thai Pesto Prawn Noodles:

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https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/thai-pesto-prawn-noodles

This has a wonderful hit of chilli that can always brighten up my day! I like to add mushrooms and red pepper to bulk it out with plenty of veg.

  1. Healthy Fish and Chips:

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https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1500/healthy-fish-and-chips-with-tartare-sauce

I’d never made my own oven chips before but these were delicious! It genuinely felt like I’d been treated to a Friday night takeaway, but without any of the guilt! So easy to pop in the oven too.

  1. Chorizo, New Potato and Haddock one-pot:

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https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/10583/chorizo-new-potato-and-haddock-onepot

Super quick and easy, but full of flavour. If you’re having friends over, this will definitely impress!

  1. Peppered Mackerel Fish Cakes:

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https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/724641/peppered-mackerel-fish-cakes

If you’re a pepper fiend like me, you’ll love these! It doesn’t actually take too long to assemble them and they freeze down really well for another day. I add extra potato than the recipe says, to stretch to more fish cakes.

  1. Prawn and Coconut Laksa:

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https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/12796/prawn-and-coconut-laksa

Comforting and delicious, this spicy soup is the perfect mid-week mood lifter! It’s a healthy option too, especially if you use the low fat coconut milk. I like to add mushrooms, bamboo shoots and water chestnuts to my laksa, to add extra textures and bulk it out.

As you might be able to tell, I love spicy food and seafood.

All of these recipes pack in lots of flavour but without any of the hassle of complicated dishes. They use a few simple ingredients that are so effective!

If you have any good recipes to share, please do, I love a good food recommendation!

x Morts x

 

Girly getaway: Tenerife

I love a weekend away with my girls but we’re always strapped for cash and limited on holiday days from work.

We found that Tenerife is the perfect option for an affordable mini-break.

We went for a long weekend mid-May. As is it low season then, it meant cheap flights and accommodation as well as beautiful sunshine… the perfect combination!

I highly recommend staying at the Regency Country Club. There are a variety of apartments available, from one-bed to four-bed. The rooms were really clean and the service was very good too. We were given a glass of fizz each on arrival which was a nice touch.

The complex itself is only about a 15 minute taxi drive from Playa de las Americas. There is a stunning infinity pool looking out on the sea, with plenty of sunbeds to choose from. There’s also a gym and a crazy golf course on-site.

What to do in Tenerife?

1. Hit the beach:

We spent a day sunbathing on the beach at Playa de Troya which was lovely, but the island has plenty of other beaches to choose from. We had fantastic food and cocktails at Monkey Beach Club, just on the seafront. Apparently it is transformed into an amazing club at night – something I only learned once I was back in the UK!

2. Book a beach club:

I definitely recommend booking a beach club for the day. You can sit and relax on huge sun loungers, with live DJ sets playing and delicious cocktails and food to chose from. Sometimes it’s nice to avoid the sand and just go for a dip in the pool instead!

We went to Kaluna Beach Club and happily soaked up the sun for hours there. We enjoyed strawberry daiquiris, nachos, olives and houmous. You can sit in the pool and look out onto the beach below.

It’s good to book in advance if you’re going in a group, as the beach clubs get busy even in the low season.

3. Sunset Yoga:

Yoga was a really lovely group activity. We booked this in advance too, simply e-mailing a girl that runs a yoga class every week.

This Sunset Yoga  class takes place in La Caleta, just along the coast from Los Cristianos. Everyone assembles on a circular stone platform, right next to the sea. With the sound of the waves and fresh sea breeze, it was the perfect way to relax and watch the sun go down.

[For further information on Sunset Yoga go to:  https://www.myguidetenerife.com/events/sunset-yoga-overlooking-the-ocean]

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4. Go out-out:

A night out in Playa de las Americas is inevitable.

I’ll warn you now, the bars are fairly tacky with cheesy pop music blaring out… but you have to experience it at least once. Most tourists start the night in bars like Linekers and The Anchor and then head on to one of the clubs in the area. It’s not for the fainthearted!

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Life is always better in flip flops! =)

x Morts x

Lion: A Long Way Home (book review)

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I’ve just finished reading Lion: A Long Way Home, by Saroo Brierley, and I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed a book so much.

I became incredibly invested in the outcome of the story.. perhaps because I knew it was a true story.

I actually saw the trailer for the film Lion advertised a few weeks ago in the cinema, and it sparked my interest. Once I looked into it, I discovered the film was based on the book.

It is an honest, gripping retelling of events, with no frills and bows. The flip between the past and present keeps you on tenterhooks, as memories and emotions steer the story.

Saroo Brierley takes us on a journey, his journey, as a five year old boy in India. We know from the off that he was adopted as a young boy, and now lives in Hobart, a city in Tasmania. We also know that he still longs for his hometown and biological family.

At only five years old, Saroo got separated from his older brother, Guddu, and never made it back to his family. Over 20 years later, he begins searching for answers and his hometown.

As Saroo’s obsession to find his home grew, so did mine and I could barely put the book down. I was reading on the train and plane on the way home from Valencia. I became that person that gets irritated at loud conversations or any small interruptions.

I was emotionally invested throughout, anxious for Saroo and for what his story might reveal.

I have always been interested in other cultures… it is one of the things I love most about travelling. I found it fascinating learning about life as a poor family in India, especially seeing things through a child’s eyes.

It is such an inspiring tale, I definitely recommend giving it a go!

x Morts x

 [Photo credit: Saroo Brierley’s Facebook page]

 

Rio by night: Favela Funk

If you’re ever in Rio, I definitely recommend going to the Favela Funk Party.

It takes place every Sunday night, in a nightclub called Castelo das Pedras. It’s located in Jacarepaguá, a suburb home to a mix of affluent neighbourhoods and some of the biggest slums in Rio.

It’s the best place to go to experience local music and dancing. Most hostels arrange trips to the party, and you go in convoy on mini buses.

The nightclub consists of two floors; the first floor is a huge dance floor with a stage at the front and the second floor is home to the bar, toilets and a balcony area. As soon as you enter the club, your eardrums will be hit with the rhythmic drums of the Funk Carioca – a type of Brazilian dance music that originated in the favelas.

The dance floor is a sea of bodies. At the start of the night it is mostly locals dancing, but, as the night goes on, tourists get braver (and more drunk) and soon infiltrate the crowd. Flushed faces and wiggling, shaking bodies. You can feel the heat radiating off of the lights and neighbouring dancers.

The Brazilian girls are fascinating to watch; moving with purpose and confidence. They are fierce, vigorous, inspiring, and certainly the best twerkers I’ve ever seen!

By the end of the night, you’ll be dishevelled, exhausted and giddy. And hungry after dancing like a lunatic! There’s plenty of accommodating food stalls, selling piping hot chicken sticks… the Brazilian equivalent of a kebab.

Happy twerking! 😉

x Morts x

[Photo credit: Chris Westgarth – http://oddsockodd.blogspot.co.uk/%5D