Bernard Cornwell | Harlequin

July 31, 2016

"The wheel of fortune that had once raised her so high had taken her into the utter depths."

Holy muck on a cracker, this book will chew you up, spit you out and have you begging for a fairy tale. I have NEVER been so gripped with a narrative as I was when reading Harlequin by Bernard Cornwell. I'm on a bit of a Cornwell mission at the moment. This is the third book by him that I have read, I was expecting good things and got GREAT things!

So the story goes like this...
Thomas of Hookton is the bastard son of a priest. His father is raising him to go into the church but Thomas wants nothing more than to be an archer and spends all his spare time practising archery and learning to make bows from his grandfather.
Thomas' father has always been very secretive about his history and who his family are, even keeping it a secret from Thomas. The only thing that he has left from his past is a holy relic, the lance that St George famously killed the dragon with. It is always displayed proudly on the church wall, being taken down every year or so for dusting.
One evening, Thomas is charged with guarding this priceless relic when suddenly strangers from France attack Hookton! Well...strangers to everyone except Thomas' father! Duh duh duuuuuh!!!
The reader reads on as The Priest is brutally murdered by a man known to us only as The Harlequin who then steals this precious relic and reveals that he is a relation of the Priest. This all goes on without Thomas' knowledge so he vows to avenge his father and reclaim the lance, completely oblivious to the fact that he is searching for his own family.
He goes to France and becomes an archer in the English army during the 100 year war (basically a battle for the throne of France, lasted a long time).
Without giving too much away, Thomas makes friends, makes enemies, has lovers, fights in battles and generally has an adventurous time. In the end, we find out that this is about so much more than just a lance. It is an incredible tale! And it's just the first!!!!!!!!!!! Harlequin is the first in a trilogy called The Grail Quest. I cannot wait to get started on Vagabond which is the next book in the trilogy.

Thomas is a really complex character. He would not be able to go on this journey if he hadn't been raised by his father. His father's schooling means that he is learned and well spoken in French and Latin as well as English which helps him no end. He is a perfectionist, spending weeks making his bow perfect and unique to him. He is chivalrous and will put his life on the line for those that he cares about. He is so smart and can read situations perfectly. His battle tactics are sought after by many a higher man than himself. And he quickly is given his own band of archers to lead.

Again, something I always love reading about in Cornwell's books is about period weapons. Medieval weapons are absolutely freaking awesome. The canon, the bows, the crossbows, the different sword types. All things that I love reading about. In fact, halfway through the book I stopped and had a massive argument with my OH about why I would rather be an archer than a crossbowman. Crossbows although they pack a punch, are difficult in a war situation because they take so long to load. An archer can shoot 6 or 7 arrows in the same time it takes a crossbowman to winch back his crossbow and load it. They are also kind of stuck in one area, whereas archers are more mobile. I know which one I'd prefer.

Something I didn't know before reading this book, did you know that Harlequin comes from the french word Hellequin meaning "devil's horseman"? I love stuff like that! It makes the word Harlequin sound so much more formidable to me.

I cannot express enough how much I loved this book. Get it, read it.
I will say though, as per usual, it is very graphic. If raping, pillaging and dying war horses offend you then this book probably isn't for you.

Who else has read this book? Let me know what you think!
Click here to buy the book on amazon

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Prawns in Garlic Butter with Samphire | Recipe

July 29, 2016
Good morning folks! Another recipe for you today.
Some of you may never have heard of samphire. Samphire is a plant associated with the coast and grows on rocks. It's kind of like a seaweed I suppose but it doesn't grow in the sea. It is very good for you but can be incredibly salty (as one would expect from a coastal plant). It goes really well with fish of all sorts and can be added to salads.
This is a really quick and easy recipe that you can throw together of an evening when you can't be bothered to do anything fancy.

This recipe serves two.


  • 225g peeled and cooked jumbo king prawns
  • 140g butter
  • 150g green beans
  • 115g samphire
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 sprigs parsley
  • olive oil


  • Put the butter in a skillet and put over a medium heat. While the butter is melting, peel and crush your garlic and add to the skillet. Chop your parsley and add to the skillet.
  • Put your prawns into the skillet and cook in the butter for five minutes or until the prawns are heated through, stirring regularly.
  • Cut the ends off your green beans. Put your samphire and green beans into a small wok or pan and stir fry with a drizzle of olive oil for a few minutes, just to heat them up.
  • Spoon the samphire and green beans onto two plates and place the king prawns on top. Drizzle the garlic butter over the top of it all.
  • If you have the energy, I like to serve this with roasted sweet potato.
  • Enjoy!

Let me know if you make this, tag me, tweet me, link me etc. I'd love to know how yours turns out!

The Five-a-Day Challenge

July 27, 2016
Good Day my friends!

Today I am going to introduce you to my new challenge. I know you all kept up with The Water Challenge that I've been doing over the past month. (If not, click here). I am feeling so much better for the amount of water that I've been drinking. Seriously, try it.

Picture Credit

For the next month, my challenge will be to get all of my five portions of fruit and veg per day. Now I am not some junk food nut that never touches a vegetable. I do enjoy fruit and vegetables on a daily basis. However I am quite haphazard with the amount of fruit and veg that I eat. Some days it will just be a banana with breakfast. Some days it will be a full on veg fest with every meal. I aim to make my fruit and veg intake more consistent and a part of my everyday routine.

So what are the benefits to eating enough fruit and veg every day?

  • They contain essential nutrients and minerals that you can't get from grains or meat. Things like vitamin C and potassium for example. 
  • They keep your digestive system in good working order. If you don't get enough fruit and veg in your diet, you can suffer from constipation and are at higher risk of bowel cancer.
  • They reduce your risk of heart disease and cancers.
  • Common infections such as the common cold are far less likely if you get your five portions of fruit and veg a day. Particularly things like raspberries and blueberries. (I really REALLY hate colds, so this is like the biggest plus side for me!)
  • It is thought that there is a link between eating fresh berries every day and growing new brain cells which can reduce the risk of brain disease such as Alzheimer's.
  • Eating fewer than a portion and a half of vegetables a day increases your risk of cataracts which is a major cause of blindness.
Plus, there are individual properties to certain fruit and veg that are so important to us! For example did you know that tomatoes are an essential source of lycopene which aids in strengthening bones? Forget milk, tomatoes are where it's at! 

Picture Credit

Did you know that onions are a fantastic source of polyphenols? Polyphenols are micro nutrients which aid in the lowering of the risk of certain cancers and heart disease. 

Did you know that steamed kale is proven to aid in the reduction of cholesterol? 

So really, it's very important and there are so many ways in which you can incorporate fruit and veg into your diet. Juice, smoothies, frozen veg, canned veg, smoothies all count towards your five a day. Your five a day should be a variety of different things because different items will contain different nutrients. For example, eating five bananas will not count as your five a day.
But I could put a cup of blueberries on my cereal which counts, or I could add a tomato into a sandwich which would count.

So what does count as a portion? Approximately 80g of a fruit or veg. For example:
  • A slice of melon
  • 7 strawberries
  • 1 apple
  • seven cherry tomatoes
  • three tablespoons of kidney beans
  • three heaped spoon fulls of cooked vegetables such as carrots or peas.
  • 1 glass of juice

For more information on your five-a-day, click here.

Over the next month I will be updating you with food diaries, ups and downs and basically everything to do with my journey of eating my five a day. In theory this should be easy...but it's still going to be a habit that I'll have to push myself into . I made myself drink two litres of water a day, I can do this.

So do you remember the smoothie recipe I posted last week? That counts as two of my five a day right there! This is going to be a sinch...

Has anyone else undertaken a challenge like this?
Let me know in the comments!

Bernard Cornwell | Stonehenge

July 25, 2016
A circle of chalk, a ring of stone and a house of arches to call the far gods home.

I have recently got into Bernard Cornwell's books. The first one I read, Azincourt, I really enjoyed. You can read my review of that here. I also enjoyed this one but did find it a little more difficult to get into that Azincourt. Bernard Cornwell writes historical novels based on his own research and interpretations.

Now one of the great things about writing about a time period 4000 years ago is that nobody really knows what was going on then so it is really open to interpretation. There are loads of different theories, some of them more likely than the others. Cornwell writes his own interpretation of how these Bronze aged people lived, why they built this temple that is still inspiring awe today and most importantly how it was built. How it was built really is one of the things that everyone thinks about and Cornwell gives a very plausible explanation.

The story follows the main character Saban through his ordeals to become a man, several marriages, trials and tribulations with various family members and ultimately masterminding the building of Stonehenge. He is a believable character which I can definitely get on board with. There are some characters that I really disliked such as Lengar, Saban's older brother, who kills their father and declares himself chief of Ratharryn. I also sincerely dislike Aurenna as a character, one of Saban's wives, who becomes obsessed with devoting herself to one god or another and completely forgets about her family commitments.

Although there was plenty of fighting scenes within the book, I don't feel like Cornwell did them justice in this particular book. Cornwell writes some epic, bloody, gory battles but I suppose this book was supposed to be more about the building of the temple than the battles. Fair enough, it's his book. Something that I always love though, is learning about weapons from various time periods. This at least is one of the things that we can be certain about as these weapons are actual artifacts that have been found on Bronze age sites. The stranger that was killed by Lengar at the beginning of the book for example and his little wrist cuff thingy to protect his wrist from his bow string was actually found, which is pretty cool. Jewellery, tools and cooking utensils are all accurate, which is great. Well done Cornwell.

I really enjoy reading about paganism. In my eyes, worshipping the sun and the moon makes a lot more sense than worshipping a god that listens to our prayers and tells us how to live. I'm not dissing God in anyway, but I just know that if I had to choose a faith, I would go with something that gives thanks to tangible things in the natural world rather than a spirit who may or may not be there. But maybe you could argue that god created all these things so we're all essentially worshipping the same thing? But that's a different discussion altogether. We know that bronze age peoples had an amazing understanding of the sun and the moon cycles. Cornwell's interpretation of why Stonehenge was built marks this.

It was interesting to hear Cornwell's interpretation of how women would have been portrayed in this time period. Do we have any proof that women would have been seen as lower class citizens? In Stonehenge, Cornwell seems to suggest that this is the case. Women are raped, beaten, tied up and kept as slaves and it is openly discussed that their role is to serve men. Even to the point where they talk about the moon goddess Lahanna having to be subservient to Slaol the sun god. I don't think you should speak about a goddess like that. Just saying.

The time scale of Stonehenge being built is something that is up for debate. There are lots of different bits of evidence to suggest different time periods...but were these added before or after the actual temple? Cornwell seems to think that it could have been built over the span of a man's life. I'd like to think that the person who thought of the design of Stonehenge saw it finished.

Overall I would recommend this book, but don't expect a thrilling rollercoaster ride like some of Cornwell's other books. It is a slow, moving story of determination, betrayal, love and war. Also, if you are particular fond of animals and a bit squeamish...I would probably skip this. A lot of sacrifice happens and goading of oxen. A lot of sacrifice. But the gods want what the gods want!

Was Stonehenge built in a lifetime? Did they move the stones using boats and sledges? Did bronze age people have ceremonies such as marriage? We can only theorise...

Has anyone else read this book? Discuss!
Click here to buy Stonehenge by Bernard Cornwell

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On Being a Puppy Mummy| Bosun's First Birthday

July 24, 2016
On Monday 18th July, our Labrador Bosun turned one year old. I'm astounded he made it this far, with the amount of times he's fallen down the stairs, fallen off the sofa and tripped over his own feet chasing a ball. But he's made it. It's been hard work. Never having raised a puppy before, this experience has been a real eye opener.

The journey started when we went to go and visit a breeder on 29th August 2015 to pick our puppy. We'd done so much research ahead of time, reading countless books and asking so many people how they chose their puppies...and everyone's advice was conflicting. We went in there thinking that we want a dog with a sort of...medium energy. We didn't want the puppy that came rushing over to us immediately, and we didn't want the puppy that hid at the back. Well, with all this in mind, we were met by a huge bundle of fluffy, puppy love going in all directions and basically all our thoughts went out the window. How I didn't just take them all home on that day...I don't know. We knew that we wanted a yellow boy and there were three of those to choose from. Quite honestly...Bosun chose us. We were sitting down in the pen playing with these three puppies trying to figure out which one we had the best bond with, when Bosun just crawled onto my lap and decided to go to sleep right there on my legs. I looked at Rick and was like..."this is him, this is our boy". So we paid our deposit, left a toy for him to play with so that he could bring it home when we picked him up, gave him some final snuggles before we left and went home to buy every thing a puppy could possibly need.

Normally puppies get brought home at eight weeks, but we had to wait until eleven weeks because that's when I finished work for the season and had lots of spare time for him. I don't think it's fair to bring home a brand new pup when you don't have time for them. Rick drove home, and I sat on the back seat with Bosun on my lap sleeping the whole way. It was a three hour journey and I had loads of towels prepared because we'd heard horror stories of how pups throw up on their first car journey. I was worried over nothing, he was a perfect passenger and only stood up once to turn around. I will just also say that this is THE one and only time we've allowed him to travel on the back seat and that's only because it was his first ever car journey. After that, he was in the boot.

We got home and I put him on the ground in the garden so that he could have a wee and it was just the cutest thing. He didn't really know what to do because he'd never been outside of his breeder's garden before so really was just following me around. I was secretly really pleased that he'd already latched on to me as a sort of parent figure. So I took him onto the grass to explore and he went for his first little weewee in his new home. I started his toilet training right there and then and gave him the biggest fuss in the world for weeing outside. (I'll write a post on toilet training at a later date)

We went into the house and introduced him one room at a time. He was a typical puppy and just exploring everything which we were pleased about, we wanted him to feel like this was his home. He had fun playing with some of his new toys, rolling on his new bed and just generally getting to know his surroundings. After an hour of exploring, he was tired (puppies get tired very easily) and he laid down on Rick's lap for a nap. I remember Rick was watching a Rugby match on the television and kept waking up this poor puppy by shouting at Referee's decisions.

That first night was one of the most difficult nights of my life. All the books say start as you mean to go on with regards to sleeping arrangements, don't be tempted to let him sleep in your bed on the first night because you feel sorry for him. We had always intended to crate train our dog, and for those of you that are gasping and shouting "how can you put your dog in a cage?", it's not a cage, it's a crate. It's positive in lots of ways if used correctly, he gets his own space, helps with toilet training and also helps if you ever have to leave him at the vets. (I'll write a post on crate training at a later date too). All the books said that your puppy will cry like a banshee when you leave him for the night, be strong and don't be tempted to comfort him. If you go and comfort him when he cries, all you teach him is that he can get his own way by crying. So we let him out for a late night wee at 11pm, put him in his crate, gave him a treat, and went to bed. We'd set an alarm for 2am to let him out for a wee at night (you can't expect a young pup to hold his bladder all night). But, we basically didn't sleep for like an hour, he cried like the devil. We live in a really remote place and I was really concerned that a few of our neighbours would hear him (they assured me they didn't). Nothing could have prepared me for how bad I felt. His first night in a strange place, being left in the dark by himself...but we were strong. We let him out for a wee at 2am, 5am and then got up at 7.30am. No weewees in his crate, and he survived.  The nights got easier, after 3 or 4 nights he didn't cry any more because he got used to the place and knew that we'd always come back, he wasn't completely by himself.

Deciding what to feed him was another big decision. When he arrived, he was already being fed Iams puppy by the breeder so we decided to keep him on the same food for the time being. We bought a bag which lasted something like a month? I can't remember, but then we needed to decide what to put him on next. I really liked the idea of the raw diet, lots of working dogs get fed raw and there are so many benefits to it. You can see my blog post on raw feeding here. It explains everything. Turns out, Iams is actually packed with sugar so a lot of the bouncing off the walls crazy behaviour that I thought was just puppy-hood disappeared when we switched to raw. We started him off on mince-chicken as it is easy to digest and then experimented with lots of different things and do you know what? He has not refused a single thing. Venison, pigeon, rabbit, fish, beef, lamb, pork, eggs...basically anything.

Although he didn't start formal gundog training until approx. 6 months old, we started basic manners from the moment he arrived home...and training a labrador is easy...just use food. We taught him sit the day after we got him. He will do anything for a treat. We taught him to be steady for his dinner, which means that he sits and doesn't move a muscle towards his bowl until I say "get on". We started recall training (which started off really well, had a rocky period and is getting back on track now). Teaching him to be steady to his dinner also taught him stay. So we had some basics nailed within the first few months which was fantastic. We're not after having a rock-steady field trial champion, we want a dog that comes back when he's called and brings back a pigeon without eating it.

He's made loads of friends in the village. We knew it was important to socialise him as soon as we could. So as soon as he'd had his second round of jabs, we introduced him to some of the neighbours dogs. He hasn't acted aggressive towards any other dogs which is a good sign and is more than happy to play chase, He used to do this really cute little thing where he'd wave his paws in the air like a ninja. (he doesn't do that any more, booo!) His absolute best friend is one of the farm collies called Roly. When the farm dogs go by in the morning doing their work, Bo sits at the gate waiting so that he can say hello to Roly. It's adorable.

One day when we were out walking, Bosun chased some sheep. This was something that I was adamant I never wanted my dog to do. In my eyes this is the absolute epitome of bad dog owner-ship and completely unacceptable. I wrote a blog post on walking with your dog in the countryside, you can read that here. I didn't know what to do, I grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and told him in no-uncertain terms that I was unhappy with his behaviour but it was too late, he'd already had his fun and I knew he would do it again if I didn't do something about it. I talked to the shepherdess (Roly's mummy) about what she would do. She has been absolutely fantastic. I'm very lucky to know the person responsible for the sheep around here, I wouldn't recommend you try this without permission from the land/stock owner. We introduced him to a flock of twenty rams. Now rams don't run away from little labradors so this was a fantastic step forward. They didn't hurt him or anything like that, they just stared at him. This unnerved him and he came back to me. We then started exposing him to different situations with sheep and he slowly lost his excitement for sheep chasing. The shepherdess assures me that he is not a sheep worrier and that it's just puppy excitement at this stage. Cool!

We have had so many ups and downs with this dog. Like when he first started going shooting with Rick and learned to be quiet and steady so as not to scare off the animals. And then he promptly chewed some of the skirting boards. Then he learned to swim! Then he destroyed the front door mat. He chews stones, he chases flies, he makes us laugh and he makes us shout and wave our arms in despair. But we wouldn't change him for anything.

Now that he's a year old, we're going to start perfecting his retrieve training and hopefully training out the last of the bad manners that are left!
I hope you've enjoyed reading about our first year together.

My July Wish List

July 22, 2016

Hello Gang!
Today I have got for you a list of some of the things that I've spotted and REALLY REALLY want!! If I had a money tree...oh boy.
I know you'll fall in love with these too.

Leggings \\ Sports Bra \\ T-shirt \\ Hat \\ Boots

I hope everybody has had a fantastic week and has an equally fantastic weekend. Is summer here to stay for a while? I'm not so convinced...
That's me

The Water Challenge | Four Weeks On

July 20, 2016
Picture Credit

Well folks, I have done it. I have come to the end of my month-long water challenge. And do you knot what? It really wasn't that difficult. There's me labelling it as a "challenge" but after a week it really did just become a habit and I really didn't need to write myself little notes any more. So I am very, very proud of myself and I am actually now drinking more water per day than Rick. He used to be so smug about how he'd drink loads of water and I didn't. Who's laughing now?! Hmmm?!

I jest...we're not that competitive...

The dark circles are not completely gone from under my eyes. This is one of the things that I was looking forward to the most, but it hasn't happened. They have certainly reduced, I'll give them that. Maybe there's another change I need to make for helping to rid me of these! I'll do some research...

Rick says that I definitely appear more alert than I did a while back. There could be many contributing factors to this, but I'd like to think that the intake of more water has helped my brain function!

I don't have to use lip balm anywhere near as much I used to. I used to get quite a lot of dry skin on my lips, and that has significantly reduced.

So what have I learned from my challenge?

  • Water is so much more important to us than I have ever previously thought. The changes that I have seen over the past month have basically told me that I was severely dehydrated. How was I still functioning despite depriving my brain of this essential liquid? We all get by just about because there is water in fruit, tea and other every day things that we consume; we don't consume anywhere near the amount that we need to thrive from these things. I am now consuming more than two litres of water daily and I can immediately tell the difference if I forget to drink water for a couple of hours. That's how quickly it happens.
  • Listen to your body! Your body is screaming out, telling you what it needs. Certain signs tell you that you are not drinking enough and you need to listen to them. Dark circles under your eyes, headaches, dizziness, sleepiness can all be signs that you are dehydrated. Drinking water is not difficult or time consuming, Just do it!
  • Drinking a lot of water is stereotypically seen as a "fitness type thing". When telling certain people that I was aiming to drink more water, one of the responses I got several times was "oh right, are you on some health kick or something?". I hate that! Drinking more water should not be something that you do on a health kick, or something that fitness people do. Drinking enough water should be a part of every day life. It's something we should instil in our children. It's sad that it has this kind of "only for fit people" stigma attached to it.
Well I hope that I have inspired more than one of you to take up drinking more water. I'm very lucky to have a goal to aim towards which is motivating me in my life changes. The key is choosing short-term realistic goals and not beating yourself up if you fall short in some cases. Remember that you are doing it for you.

Next week I will be introducing my next challenge!

Until then...

Super Easy Breakfast Smoothie | Recipe

July 18, 2016

Nothing is more delicious first thing in the morning than a smoothie. Smoothies are so versatile. You can literally whack anything you have in the fridge in a blender and call it a smoothie. As well as breakfast, they also make great snacks.

I thought I would share with you today this super quick and easy recipe for a healthy, fruity smoothie. It is very delicious and more-ish!

I like to use frozen berries because you can stock pile them. I find that if you stock up on fresh fruit, you have to use it all really quickly otherwise it goes bad. Frozen fruit is the answer!


  • 2 cups semi-skimmed milk
  • 1 cup frozen summer berries
  • 1 ripe banana 
  • 2 tablespoons runny honey
  • mint (for garnish)


  • Chuck all the ingredients in your blender and whizz away! Serve in a stylish glass, with a long spoon and a fresh leaf of mint to garnish.
I like my smoothies quite chunky so I only blitz it for a few moments, but I know some of you do like smooth smoothies. Blitz it until it is to your taste basically!

Have a great week!
And do let me know if you try this smoothie, tag me, link me, comment me etc etc

This Country Girl's Outfit

July 17, 2016
Hope everyone's having a good Sunday and enjoying the weather wherever you may be. Apparently there's a hot spell about to grace the UK. I'll believe that when I see it.

I have an outfit post for you today...

This is pretty much my standard look if I'm going out to the pub in the evening for a meal, or to a country show or to some sort of day time event. I have so many nice shirts, I love them. This is such an easy look to pull off, literally anyone can do it on any budget.

The shirt I am wearing here is the Schoffel Suffolk Shirt. I have always found that schoffel make shirts that are a really good fit for a womanly figure. They take into account that some of us do have boobs and make sure the shirt is long enough to accommodate them.

Also, as per usual with my outfit posts, my hair is out of control. Can anyone recommend a good hair dresser in the North-east? Thanks.

Hope you all enjoy the rest of your weekend!

My Summer Etsy Favourites

July 15, 2016
So I am a massive fan of small businesses. I really enjoy buying jewellery, beauty products, books, clothing and whatever else I can get my hands on from small personal businesses. I feel so much better knowing that where possible, I am helping somebody put food on their family's table rather than helping to grow an empire and buy someone their third yacht.

Etsy is a fantastic place for people to run their home businesses. I have done it a few times, and have made various crochet items to sell on Etsy, it earned me a bit of pocket money which I was happy with. So today I am sharing with you a few of my favourites on Etsy for this summer.

Vintage Kitchen Jar//£16.00//SW4Interiors

Disney Style Hair Bows//£3.50//MooreMickeys

Reclaimed Wood Clipboard Picture Frames//£12.00//Pobishop

Floral Summer Dress//£35.00//Luminia

Harris Tweed Handbag//£60.00//Juniper Bags Cornwall

Polymer Clay Garden Snails//£4.95//HandmadebyMamas

100% British Wool Crochet Afghan//£379.00//Blueberry Barn UK

Chicken Cushion//£15.00//Molly Felicity Designs

Gold Leaf Earrings//£23.12//KarenJaneGems

There are some incredibly clever and creative people out there designing and selling things. Support our local businesses people!
What do you think of these beautiful finds?

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