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Book Review: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Making time to read a book when you have two young children and a husband to satisfy can be a tall order. I can’t honestly remember the last time I read a book cover to cover but it was definitely pre-children and that’s at least 4 years ago. ‘The New Contented Little Baby Book’ by Gina Ford doesn’t really count and to be honest neither of my children really fit her routines but that’s a whole other book review.

At the beginning of 2013 I decided that I was going to read a minimum of four books in the year. Now I know that doesn’t sound like a lot but I wanted this to be a New Year’s resolution that I could actually achieve.

The question was, what book should I read first to wet my appetite for reading? Quite often there is a post on Wokingham Gossip Girls for book recommendations and one book kept coming up time and again, ‘Me Before You’ by Jojo Moyes. To be honest, I didn’t know the subject matter before reading the book but was prepared for a romantic weepy.

Me before you

In an nutshell, the book is a girl meets boy story but with a lot more depth and intrigue and an ending that will leave you heartbroken. The story starts with Louisa Clark (Lou) losing her job in a café. She has limited qualifications so when she heads down to the Job Centre, she is offered various positions which for one reason or another are unsuitable. Finally her advisor recommends a job as a care assistant and although reluctant, she is eventually hired as a carer for Will Traynor who became a quadraplegic after a road accident two years previously. What Lou doesn’t know is that Will has told his parents that in 6 months time he is to end his life at Dignatus. His quality of life is poor and he is a shadow of his former self. His natural instinct is to push people away and despite his best efforts, Lou is undeterred. When she learns of his plan she sets out to prove that life is still worth living and in the process falls in love with him.

This book kept me on the edge of my seat throughout and made me question my own views on euthanasia. A thoroughly good read, beautifully and sensitively written which I would highly recommend.

What books would you recommend?

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‘Tis the season to get cooking

This year I wanted to put my mark on Christmas and make as many homemade things as I could think of with the able assistance of the little lady. I left out fudge and didn’t leave myself sufficient time to make a Christmas cake this year so I have something to post about next year!

My homemade Christmas started with chutney and where best to start the search for a recipe than Netmums

Chutney – this sweet chutney in my opinion was the perfect accompaniment to our first course pâté dish on Christmas Day. The husband did not agree as it contained raisins but more for the rest of us!

Gingerbread biscuits – I had intended to make reindeer Gingerbread biscuits as I had seen in a post on Wokingham Gossip Girls but I could not find a gingerbread man cutter (you turn a gingerbread man upside down for the desired effect) for love or money and so resorted to star and heart cutouts with decorative icing. We made the biscuits a couple of weeks in advance and froze them but had I known that they were quite so easy to make, I suspect they would have tasted better fresh.

Peppermint creams – again we made these in advance (no requirement for freezing, just to be left in a sealed bag) and given their simplicity, I would definitely only make them a day or two early in future.

Christmas cupcakes – these were made using a simple fairy cake recipe and the icing was simply buttercream mixed with red/green food colouring for that extra festive feel.

Pavlova & Trifle – I was determined that we, or more to the point I, was going to make a Christmas dessert or two from scratch so I turned to the most reliable source Delia Smith for my pavlova. The pavlova was absolutely scrumptious and surprisingly easy to make. The trifle looked good, however it completely lacked flavour so I have uploaded a piccie but have omitted the recipe for this one. I was quick to admit the blandness of the flavour so as to avoid any awkward and less than truthful exclamations of how ‘delicious’ it was!

If you have any festive recipes that I could try for next year, please feel free to post your recipe/link below!

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Counting down to Christmas

I was hoping to be writing today as one proud Mummy beaming at her daughter’s first ballet show but a vomiting and diarrhoea bug put paid to that so instead we move onto the festive season.

For me December 1st marks the start of this, where we clamber in the loft for the Christmas box and deck the halls (can it really be a year since we last did this?). I usually make the unspoken promise to myself that no Christmas songs will come out of my mouth until this day but as we were driving along with ‘Do they know it’s Christmas time’ blaring out of the radio last weekend, my lips felt a distinct tingle and I couldn’t help the notes that bellowed out (those that know me, know I can’t sing).

Anyway I digress. I had intended to avoid buying chocolate advent calendars for the children this year, as we do have a fabric Father Christmas stocking come advent calendar, where we could put our own treats in each pocket. When Andy pointed out that doing this times two would cost more than two chocolate advent calendars, particularly from Poundland, I bowed into pressure and made what I considered at the time a necessary purchase. If only today’s post on Wokingham Gossip Girls had come a week earlier. One of the gals was asking for suggestions for a note for each day with Christmassy things to do for the children. One lady said that there are some great ideas on Pinterest which I have recently started using (I fear another time suck), so inspired, I logged in and have come up with the following notes that the children will hopefully enjoy ‘reading’ (neither can read yet at Age 4 & 1). Perhaps this will become a new Popple Christmas tradition.

Christmas Advent Activities

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I pledge allegiance to my hair

In my post entitled ‘9 years of matrimony and it’s time for a change’ –, I said that I was in need of a mini-makeover. Last week it was time to tackle my hair. I posted on Wokingham Gossip Girls requesting recommendations for a hairdresser who specialised in curly hair, as I was determined to embrace my naturally curly locks.

It was 9.45am in the morning when I entered the hairdresser with an over-tired young Master Popple. I sat down in the chair, the hairdresser came over and said ‘what can I do for you today?’ I explained my history of bad hair days and that I was looking for a manageable curly hairstyle that I could wear down . I promise I used the word ‘curly’. The hairdresser talked about trimming the ends off. I said my husband wouldn’t even notice I’d been to the hairdressers. She said ‘we could take it a bit shorter and I’ll smooth it out for you’, at which point words failed me. This was the moment where I was supposed to say ‘but I want a curly down style’, but no, the allure of smooth, straight locks once again rendered me mute.

45 minutes and many tears later (from the boy) and my smooth, straight hairstyle was complete.

Straight hair

Straight hair

I was delighted and decided that I would not be washing my hair again until it started to itch. 3 days later and the inevitable happened. Hair washed and I decided that I would see what the curly downstyle looked like. Needless to say there is no photographic evidence of the bush. The only thing that could save my hair now was product so a quick trip to Boots and a selection of shampoos, conditioners and the obligatory 3 Day Straight™ Semi-Permanent Styling Spray from the John Frieda range and I was ready to reinstate my straight hair. And the ghds have made a return from the wilderness too. Next step, Brazilian Blowdry?

So my pledge to my hair is to maintain a straight style unless attending an 70s/80s fancy dress party. How long will this last?

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Centre position, you’ve got to be kidding me?

On more than one occasion in my life I have regretted not being able to speak up. I was one of the shy kids at school. The one who would be bursting to say something, only to be rendered mute by a sudden rush of adrenaline and then a few minutes later find myself beaten to the post by the kid that did speak up. I thought that I had put those days behind me but inside I am still that painfully shy girl and as I entered the inside of a school gym last week, for my first netball session in over half my life, I found myself regressing back to the girl of old.

School Sports Hall - Netball Court

Over the years I have often thought about playing netball again, not because I was some hotshot because I wasn’t, but perhaps to put to bed my regret of not playing in my secondary school team. At primary school I had played in the centre position in the ‘A’ team but when I progressed to secondary school, the competition was a lot fiercer and I didn’t get picked for their ‘A’ team. I decided that if I wasn’t going to get in the ‘A’ team, then I wasn’t going to play in the ‘B’ team either. It was a definite ‘cut off your nose to spite your face’ moment. There have been other opportunities to play over the years but I was always afraid it would be a bit too serious and I would be outclassed.

So cue a casual post on Wokingham Gossip Girls a couple of months ago from someone wanting to hear from ladies ‘who have played netball, maybe not since school but enjoyed it’. This was the kick that I had been waiting for. A lot has changed since school, mainly, I’m a bit (make that a lot) older, perhaps a little wiser and undoubtedly less fit but one thing hasn’t changed and that’s the rules of netball. Warm up over and we were being encouraged to pick a position off the floor. ‘Don’t be shy ladies’ hollered the coach. In my mind, I was thinking go ‘Wing Attack’ but shy I was and what was left, the dreaded ‘Centre’ position. Fine when you’re an elastic youngster who can cover the whole court without the threat of a stitch ensuing. By week 2 I had learnt my lesson and in true ‘I Did It Mummy’ style, I spoke with my feet and was the first to lurch forward to pick up the ‘Wing Attack’ position!

Any local ladies fancy joining me? Just to let you know that ‘Wing Attack’ is now taken!

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