Book Review: 'Coming Up Roses' by Rachael Lucas

25 May 2015

I am an unashamed fan of all things cosy - bubble baths with flickering candles and the radio turned down low, snuggling down into fresh clean bed linen (thunder and lightning outside, with rain beating against the window as delightful optional extras) and cosying up in a pub of an afternoon reading the paper. I think I now need to add 'curled up reading a new book by Rachael Lucas' to that list. 

I first discovered Rachael Lucas through her blog - Tales From the Village - and her sloe gin recipe in fact, which I still need to try making myself. I've enjoyed reading along over the last few years and then cheering along via Twitter too as she began working on her first novel, Sealed with a Kiss (and the subsequent sealquel), which I loved, and on to eagerly anticipating her newest novel Coming Up Roses. I downloaded it to my Kindle app on Saturday morning and happily had a fairly free weekend in which to devour it.

The 'back of the book blurb' reads as follows:

Would-be gardener Daisy can't believe her luck when her parents announce they're off on a midlife-crisis gap year, leaving her in charge of their gorgeous garden. After a turbulent few months, a spell of quiet in the countryside is just what she needs.

A shoulder to cry on wouldn't go amiss either -  so when Daisy comes across Elaine and Jo, she breathes a sigh of relief. But her new friends are dealing with dramas of their own...

As Daisy wrestles the garden into something resembling order, her feelings for handsome Irishman George, begin to take root. But Daisy's heart's desire - her parents' garden - is under threat, and she is forced to confront nosy neighbours and fight greedy developers. Village life is turning out to be far from peaceful.

I really enjoyed discovering the village of Steeple St John and its residents, through the eyes of heartbroken Daisy as she brings her parents' garden back to its former glory and gradually gets more and more embroiled in village life. Daisy's friendship with Elaine and Jo is a lovingly well-drawn picture of supportive female friendship, and I hope we haven't seen the last of all of these characters - this little village could support a series of novels (hint hint!) There's romance aplenty too and I was rooting for Daisy to work out which chap to choose as soon as I did!

This gorgeously-written novel made me want to up-sticks and move to a little village, and get involved in a fete in some capacity, and it also made me pine for a garden of my very own. Until then though, I'll curl up with this story again and dream of my future cottage. Loved it!

Coeliac Awareness Week (11th - 17th May 2015)

11 May 2015

It's Coeliac Awareness Week from today until 17th May 2015. It seems to me that people's general understanding of gluten, the types of food that it can often appear in and the gluten free diet is improving, however awareness of symptoms and diagnosis still requires help. Coeliac UK has pointed out that approximately 1% of the UK population has Coeliac disease. However, only 24% of those with the condition are medically diagnosed, which means that there are half a million people in the UK who have not been diagnosed as Coeliac but are living with the condition, with all the longterm health risks that may bring.

It's for that reason that Coeliac UK are currently promoting a new two year awareness campaign, focusing on symptoms and diagnosis. They are hoping to reduce the length of time it can take to get a diagnosis (currently an average of 13 years) and reduce misdiagnosis of IBS by 50%. A focus on awareness of symptoms is crucial not just for sufferers themselves but for medical professionals as well.

I was relatively lucky in that my own symptoms seemed to develop very strongly very quickly and I was diagnosed rapidly. 

I was diagnosed Coeliac in August 2011. It did come as a bit of a shock. For a few months leading up to diagnosis, eating bread made me feel nauseous, tired and (progressively) dreadfully ill. It all started during a very busy time in my life though - I was working and studying hard on a law course and put all the strange symptoms I was having down to just being tired and overworked. They were odd symptoms too, especially to have at the same time - aches, pains, tiredness, nausea, horribly painful mouth ulcers, even a strange tingling in my fingers. I seemed to be unwell all the time, had a horrible episode of norovirus that lasted longer than it should have done... I lost weight and felt frustratingly delicate.

But the nausea was only dramatically obvious after eating bread, and even after I finally went to the doctor about it (after I threw up a delicious afternoon tea a few hours later) and he scheduled a blood test to test for Coeliac disease, I'd convinced myself it wasn't that - I wasn't showing any obvious symptoms after eating pasta or couscous or other gluten-filled products. The call from the surgery asking me to come in for an appointment rather than waiting for me to call them was the first clue though! The blood test revealed a clear diagnosis of Coeliac disease but you need to then have an endoscopy to confirm the diagnosis, as a blood test is not always conclusive. The biopsy, on the other hand, enables a sample of the gut to be taken and clearly reveals damage to the lining...which was very damaged in my case. It's very important to keep eating gluten before having the endoscopy, no matter how horrible it's making you feel, as cutting it out beforehand may adversely affect the biopsy results.

If you've recently been diagnosed Coeliac or think you may have Coeliac disease, please don't panic. It can be treated without medication, just by completely cutting gluten out of your diet. Once gluten has been removed from your diet, you will start to feel so much better and the lining of your gut will gradually begin to heal too. There are so many tasty gluten free foods available now and the level of awareness is only improving and can only improve further with Coeliac UK's new campaign - take control of your symptoms and you will feel so much better.

If you've been experiencing any strange symptoms recently, perhaps not just after eating foods containing gluten, have a look at the link to Coeliac UK's campaign here; you can check your symptoms, find out more about a gluten free diet and lifestyle, and discover links to the various companies which are participating in this year's Awareness Week. There's a wonderfully welcoming active online community too - blogging and on Twitter - so you'll never feel alone throughout this journey. It's time to start feeling better!

Three Day Weekend ♥

4 May 2015

Oh my goodness, this three day weekend really couldn't have come at a more perfect time. I changed departments at work on Friday so the few weeks prior to that had been a whirl of trying to get as much as possible finished before drafting memos and handover notes, and then Friday itself meant starting from scratch again. It was a bit of a shock to the system. I left work on Friday evening with the thought of three free days stretching ahead, blissfully empty, and the knowledge that the mister was making homemade burgers for dinner - happy times.

Most of our weekends from now until the wedding are pretty busy and with the last few weeks being quite hectic for both of us, we decided to have a relaxed well as spending some time working on the designs for our invitations and website.

Sunday strolls with this handsome chap.
I woke up on Saturday morning with my usual migraine (sigh) but I didn't mind just taking painkillers and relaxing, safe in the knowledge that I wasn't losing a lot of valuable weekend time. This did the trick and was followed by a lazy breakfast with the papers, before the mister headed to the gym and I cleaned the flat - I do like to start the weekend with a tidy home. We then decided to go into town, wandered around Soho for a while and booked tickets to watch 'The Falling' - set in an English school in 1969, where a fainting epidemic breaks out amongst the students after a tragedy hits. A beautiful, disturbing, well-acted melodrama - I'm still thinking about and digesting it a few days later. Definitely worth watching.

On Sunday morning, I pulled on my wellies and went out for a long walk with my aunt and her gorgeous 10 month old puppy. One day I want to have a pup of my own (black velvet pug please, and yes I already know what he'll be called) but until then I live vicariously through pictures of friends' pups and walks with the very handsome, very naughty Tio. He's such a sociable chap though that I'm able to make friends with lots of other hounds too, including (this weekend's highlight!) a pair of snorting French bulldogs.

London, you're beautiful in the sunshine.
The mister and I went for another walk today, along the river in the sunshine. It seems like a
completely different day as I type this looking out at the rain, but it was so warm this afternoon. We strolled along the river front, looking at some ducks having a snooze on a sunny ledge and little boats zooming along the Thames, before popping in to a pub beer garden to sip cool drinks in the shade. We talked wedding and honeymoon plans, which have really come along over the last few months. Over countless pots of tea this weekend, our invites, RSVPs and the wedding website have started to take shape too. It's all starting to feel more and more, excitingly real and I think it will be even more real when the invites go out. In just over four months time, I'm going to be a Mrs! Jeepers.

On that note, I think it's time for another cup of tea. Well played, long weekend. Same again next week?

National Stationery Week

29 April 2015


So I've just heard that this week is National Stationery Week in the UK. It's not like I really need an excuse to get excited about new stationery but...

I believe that the inspiration behind National Stationery Week (at least, this year) as well as celebrating all things stationery, is to celebrate the power of the written word and to encourage more children to put pen to paper. Don't get me wrong, an email or message from a friend with some news or just saying hello is always exciting, but a handwritten letter or card is infinitely more special. One of my dearest friends (hello Mels!) regularly sends letters and postcards, and their arrival never fails to put a smile on my face...particularly as they have a wonderful knack of arriving after a difficult day at work! I keep them all and am amassing quite a collection of memories and words to look back on and treasure.

A handwritten letter always makes me think of one glorious summer holiday while I was at school. It was very early in the holiday and I was spending the day at my Granddad's house, where my brother and I would always go while Mum was at work. I didn't want to go outside (too hot!), there was nothing on TV (snore!) and I didn't want to start my homework (that's what the last weekend before school is for!) I decided to write a letter to my best friends - twins - and the three of us were inseparable at school, which swiftly turned into a flurry of exchanged correspondence over the course of the summer. In an age before mobile phones, non-cordless landlines meant that phone calls to friends involved sitting in the hall whispering into the mouthpiece while various family members hovered nearby. These letters exchanged over the summer holiday were full of the snippets of news and secrets that could never be uttered aloud. By the end of the summer holiday, I had a little pile of envelopes which I still have - treasured memories of a summer before the years when we would hop on a train and go into town, just to sit around in cafes or endlessly browse the same shops.

One of my New Year's resolutions this year was to send more letters and so far, I've sent the grand total of ONE. Oh dear. I've sent a few cards and we're currently working on the designs for our wedding invitations, so that'll mean a lot of post to be sent out, but somehow I don't think that's quite the same! So this weekend, a three day weekend (bliss!), I'm determined to evoke a little bit of that summer (too many!) years ago - to put pen to paper and write a few letters to  some friends.

Happy National Stationery Week :)

So it's been a while...

27 April 2015

I doubt anyone noticed I was gone but I really did miss my little corner of the Internet! My faithful old laptop gave up the ghost last year and I muddled along without it for as long as I could but this weekend, after some chats with the mister, I decided to splash out on a shiny new one. Unexcitingly, it was work that swung the decision - I really do need to work from home sometimes and as the mister does freelance work from time to time, I can't rely on his laptop whenever I need to.

But now I have a shiny new toy (eep!) and I'm so excited about all the planning, researching and blogging opportunities it brings...and work too, of course. Ahem.

It's good to be back!

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