Summer Reading ❤️

This year has been quite a bitty one for me reading-wise so far – not necessarily in a bad way, there’s been lots going on to keep me busy and lots of stopping and starting with books that I’ve eventually got to the end of and enjoyed as much as if I’d raced through them. But this summer with some time off and some wonderful weather I’ve finally enjoyed a few books both powered through and taken at a slow steady pace. As the holidays draw to a close, thought I would round up the books I’ve read in these lovely summery months.

📖 Meet You By Hachiko ~ Loren Greene 📖

This was the first book I read when the nights turned lighter, longer and got so very much warmer for us here than we’re used to. Sitting out late on the longest night of the year, as the sun set, I finished this enjoyable young adult book about a teenage friendship and the journey it leads its characters on. This was the first book I have downloaded and read after stumbling across Voracious Readers Only, so a huge thank you to @voraciousreadersonly and Loren Greene for a complimentary copy of the book in return for an honest review.

Dotting between the narratives of Grace – a quiet senior high schooler in Newfoundland, Canada, longing to be able to stretch her wings and explore her passions more; and Kana – at the same stage in Japanese schooling, living and studying in Tokyo and struggling under the pressure of exam deadlines and academic future; it tells the story of how the girls’ shared love for Japanese fashion draws them together across the continents and sets them on a path together.

This book had a lovely feel to it – never having been to either Canada or Japan it was an interesting insight into the cultures in both countries that I thoroughly enjoyed – especially the elements around Christmas and New Year which I always love in any book and which were fascinating in their contrasts. One of the things that was really remarkable about this book though was that even though these cultures were so different to my own and to each other there was something very recognisable in the angst of the relationships, studying and coming of age of the characters regardless of location, as the author tapped beautifully into the universal experience of teenage life.

I really enjoyed this book, it was light and entertaining and for all the characters’ flawed navigating of these tricky years I found myself rooting for them so much as they found their way amidst the pressures around them. A nostalgic and engaging read about the universal struggles of coming of age with lovely insights into life in both Newfoundland and Tokyo.

📖 The Village Green Bookshop ~ Rachael Lucas 📖

I bought this book as a summer read before a couple of weekends off – started it on one and finished it a couple of weeks later on another – enjoying the lovely leisurely holiday feeling and becoming lost in the beautiful fictional Cotswolds village of Little Maudsley. ❤️ – And there couldn’t have been a more perfect backdrop to draw such a lovely warming story to a close than when I stepped outside in our own little village to the most beautiful sunset to read the last pages.

More and more these days I’m drawn to books that are cosy and uplifting, loving the gentle security of a book without too much darkness or focus on difficult topics, and this was just such a simply lovely book. Following Hannah, a stay-at-home mum to teenage Ben, as she takes on a small village book shop and finds how much she enjoys finding her feet in a whole new world just for her, it is a gently-paced feel-good story – and a very romantic one too, as former footballer Jake Lovatt, the village’s celebrity resident, finds his own place among the thatched cottages, book clubs and floral-lined streets, drawing closer to both Hannah and Ben.

The descriptions of the village and the larger towns around were absolutely beautiful too – it took me right back to a holiday in that very area almost a decade ago and made me really want to revisit all the prettiness of the Cotswold villages. This turned out to be the second book set in the same world, The Telephone Box Library being the first, and I’d really like to read that now and more by Rachael Lucas too as I really enjoyed her writing both in its descriptions of the beautiful places around and its journeying of the engaging characters through this lovely story. 💜

📖 A Little Princess ~ Frances Hodgson Burnett 📖


Just over a year ago I re-read The Secret Garden for the first time since childhood, in doing so re-discovering all its old magic ❤️ – and I had wanted to come back to A Little Princess ever since, which I had only a hazy memory of. Picking up the same copy as I read back then, I have so enjoyed journeying back into the world of the remarkable Sara Crewe, finding her adjusting to her new life at a boarding school in London after her years of comfortable family living in India.

I don’t remember ever fully realising just how much there was for me to love in Sara when I read this as a child. Not being at all swept up in dresses and Princess-like things, I think I may not have found Sara very relatable back then; but if so I really couldn’t have been more wrong. From her passionate assertion that “stories are for everyone”, her confession – despite her usually cheerful disposition – that “never did she find anything so difficult as to keep her temper when suddenly disturbed while absorbed in a book – those who are fond of books know the irritation”; to her befriending of Melchisidec the rat (“he is just like a person”) and her declaring on rescuing the monkey from the cold, kissing him happily “Oh I do love little animal things!” Sara Crewe was a girl after my own heart, then and now.

As her story unfolds, her capacity to transform her world simply with her imagination is both inspiring and heart-rending, re-writing sad situations into fairy tales for herself – and so often too for those close to her – Lottie, Becky, Ermengarde – desperate to lift their spirits.

It’s only a few months since I read L.M. Montgomery’s The Story Girl for the first time, and I could see such similarities between Sara and the Story Girl (herself another Sara) in the transforming nature of their sparks of creativity on their own lives and those of their peers.

Sara Crewe is a wonderful heroine, her story a moving and powerful one; and I’m so glad I’ve revisited this. I loved being lost in the corridors of the old school building with all its atmosphere, and flying through the pages desperate for an upturn in Sara’s luck. ❤️

📖Ruby Ferguson & the Jill Books ~ Jane Badger 📖

I stumbled across @janebadger.books a few years ago when tracking down some old pony books, a site I was very glad to see dedicated to bringing some old classics, so many of which I’d loved, back into print. This however is one of Jane’s own books, on the subject of Ruby Ferguson, who wrote the “Jill books”, some of my very very favourites. ❤️

I thoroughly enjoyed this fascinating and in-depth exploration of this classic series, definitely a must-read for any fan of them! It was wonderful to have a chance to relive so much of the inimitable Jill Crewe, her two ponies Black Boy and Rapide and her friends, family and neighbours in the little village of Chatton. ❤️

The publishing history in particular was so interesting – shedding light on so many things I’ve wondered over the years like the quirk of Jill’s first pony, Black Boy, being depicted in some editions as black and some piebald – and discussing the artwork and printing changes in editions through the years. Several covers were included in the book, letting me find out more about the 1970s Knight series that most of my books are from, picked up from a second hand book shop – though I do have one in the older 1960s Armada – but best of all following a link from the eBook to a more detailed article on the website I was also able to find for the first time since childhood the cover of the 1990s edition of Jill’s Gymkhana – not a classic but my first introduction to these incredible books, and just took me right back to a pony-loving birthday morning unwrapping it. ❤️

Full of affection for a wonderful character and wonderful series, this is just a lovely read for any fan of Jill.

📖 Persuasion ~ Jane Austen 📖

At the beginning of August I spent a lovely week slowly enjoying a relaxed re-read of what I’m almost 100% sure is my very favourite Jane Austen novel (though might have to read Sense & Sensibility and Pride & Prejudice again just to be sure!!). I could never tire of reading any of these novels, and of the trademark moving, enrapturing writing I love so much, but there’s always been something I’ve loved most of all about Anne Elliot. ❤️

She is older than some if not all of Austen’s other heroines as the novel opens, having had eight years go by since she first came of age and had her engagement with Captain Wentworth, now long since in the past. I love that Anne knows herself well, and the steadiness and confidence that brings with it despite the constraints of the time on a woman in her situation. As the story unfolds it’s so clear what an anchor in her family and circle she is – most especially with Mary, who I also love for being the most wonderful outlet for Austen’s humour, Mary’s letters and monologues making me laugh so much. Anne is impossible not to root for, and Captain Wentworth too, as he comes back into Anne’s life after a period of separation, though less known, is a wonderful character. I just really love this romantic, sweeping story and I’m so glad to have re-read it for the first time in a few years now and loved it just as much. I don’t want to spoil for anyone who hasn’t read and might but also read for the most truly wonderful letter ever written. ❤️

I think I last read this when I was at uni studying these novels and loving every minute – I’m now looking forward to getting to do just a little of that again as have just had the loveliest birthday present of being able to join the Jane Austen society so looking forward to lots of reading and learning this year! I loved being lost in Anne’s circle and following this beautiful story unfolding again.

📖 The Authenticity Project ~ Clare Pooley 📖

This uplifting novel follows six main characters – local cafe owner Monica, elderly former artist Julian, recovering addict Hazard, struggling new mother Alice, easy-going traveler Riley and retired volunteer Lizzie – as they intertwine with each other and come to influence each other’s lives as they do.

Julian’s attempt to break out of the loneliness and invisibility he feels in his older age by leaving a notebook in Monica’s cafe, writing some of his own hidden truths within it and encouraging others to do the same, provides the catalyst for this story unfolding – taking some sometimes quite unexpected turns as it does.

Clare Pooley’s The Authenticity Project is written with compassion and great insight (she is also the author of The Sober Diaries, a memoir of her own struggle with addiction and many of the issues the intricately drawn characters encounter). I bought this book, billed on its 2020 release as the heart-warming read we all need right now, during our final stint of lockdown life earlier this year. Warm and engaging from the off, it cheered me up back then just to have it on the to-read pile and to have flipped through the first few pages, but it was just the last couple of weeks that I came to settle down to read it properly and I enjoyed it just as much as a gently thought-provoking but hope-filled summer read as I would have as a much-needed lockdown escape.

And last but absolutely not least couldn’t finish a round up of summer reading without a mention of my two little mini readers who have been the main activity of my summer! Reading with my littlest, loving lift-the-flap books and short books with good rhythm (Peepo, Feminist Baby, Oh Dear! and Dear Zoo taking the top spots ❤️), and my slightly bigger little, enjoying longer books now. Last year we read The Owl Who Was Afraid of The Dark by Jill Tomlinson together, such an utterly perfect book and one I remember discovering myself and loved discovering again with my daughter; – and this summer we have been loving another of her books, The Cat Who Wanted To Go Home. I love taking it chapter by chapter and enjoying the story unfolding together, it’s wonderful seeing the magic of stories capturing the next generation. ❤️

Hope you are all well and all enjoying August rumbling towards September. Have a lovely week.

Sunny farm days, growing kittens and back to some travel adventures… summertime begins ❤️

We’ve been lucky to have some wonderful warm weather here the last few weeks and have all been enjoying moving into summertime. It makes such a big difference to see the sun shining after what seems to have been a long winter and it’s wonderful that it’s gone hand in hand with the easing up of Covid restrictions to let us get out more places, and spend some time with family and friends. Last week I took the most wonderful trip with my mum and the kids up north, just all in a day, but it felt like a few days away by the time we were done – up to my uncle’s in Kirkmichael for a lovely visit, making a big loop and stopping off in Blairgowrie and Pitlochry as well as enjoying all the countryside and villages along the way. It was absolutely wonderful to be back in some favourite places again that I haven’t seen in so long and to spend some wonderful long time with family in such a relaxed way.

And this weekend in fact too we’re doing a trip not just for a day but our first overnight since our littlest was born 14 months ago, again enjoying time with family then too, and are so looking forward to the novelty of it!

As part of our trip we are also going to visit our soon to be new kittens, who are 6 weeks old today and growing well. Their breeder has been so lovely sending us photos and videos of them growing and changing and it’s going to be so lovely when we get them home to have had such a lovely insight into their early days.

Kittens at 4 weeks

One of the most absolutely fascinating things about their early days that’s developed more over the past couple of weeks, is that there are actually two cats with kittens in the home at the moment, born 7 days apart, and although the mother cats were originally each given their own space, they have chosen to raise the kittens together, and form a shared group between them. It’s incredible in the videos we’ve seen watching the two litters of kittens interacting with each other – the others so much bigger than those of ‘our’ litter, the mum of ours being a very petite black cat and the mum of the others a much larger ginger. The kittens will go to either mother even for milk and one will watch and look after all the kittens together while the other goes out. It’s really incredible to see the way they’ve organised themselves in such a similar way to big cats in the wild, and just lovely to observe.

Kittens at 6 weeks, and other litter at 7, with our lovely mum cuddling up with them all

I’m so looking forward to getting to meet them all this weekend and to bringing our two home in just a few weeks. Still reading around the clock on best care in the meantime and the catio project is underway too!

As part of our getting ready for the little ones coming I was doing some organising of our old small pet cages out in the shed – we are planning to use one of our larger rat cages as an “outer” cage for little Sandy hamster, so he can stay in his own environment in the kitchen where he likes to watch the world go by but be extra secure from any feline attention! Having a clear out of the rest of the cages and going to send them to the lady who runs the Hamster Rescue where Sandy originally came from so gave me a lovely chance to speak to her for the first time in a while. Had sent her a photo of Sandy and only when we were chatting about how he looked for his age, – and when I looked back at the photo I’d sent her of a young Sandy first settling in with us – did I realise how much he had changed! Such a little elderly gentleman these days!! She also mentioned his date of birth was down as 3rd March 2019, something I’d not realised before – we were giving him an approximate birthday mid-month! – so now he can definitely enjoy a monthly fuss right on time! 🥰

Sandy in July 2019 & May 2021

For Charmer the new season is definitely here, bringing with it the world of fly sprays, rugs and summer field maintenance. He’s in a lovely routine of taking a long lie in the morning before I bring him in for his breakfast and his fieldmate’s owners pop him back out after a couple of hours respite in the stable, and every morning just now I am finding him very relaxed in his field. ❤️

Been spending a couple of evenings at the old ragworting, and it’s actually been so lovely. Because I’m often at the farm in the mornings just now and because Charmer is all taken care of early doors, it is lovely to have the chance to just be in the field with him watching him graze and just co-existing. That’s always one of my favourite things to do especially at this time of year.

De-ragworting begins

Charmer is doing really well at the moment all-round. Got his new shoes again this week and he’s sound and happy… possibly edging towards being put on a diet shortly! But that’s quite a good problem to have, just really pleased he’s kept condition coming out of winter, and enjoying him enjoying this new season.

New shoes day
Summer nights ❤️

We are all really enjoying the good weather here and the beginnings of summer time.. hope you are all well and getting to do a little of the same! Have a lovely weekend x

Holidaying at Home

The last little while has been our summer holiday, with my husband off work for two lovely weeks. We originally had a caravan holiday booked (pre-lockdown!!) for what would have been our first trip away together as a family of four. We had planned to go to Haggerston Castle near Berwick on Tweed for a week, with another to enjoy back at home too. As it happened of course our travels were cancelled, and so we settled ourselves to a holiday at home, with a plan to take a first holiday away again in October instead, when things are a little more settled!

We have had the most wonderful couple of weeks – we always do enjoy time at home as part of our time off, have done even before the kids came along, as it’s always lovely to relax in our own space too. This year more than ever, with our freedom just beginning to open up to us again, it was wonderful to have the time to enjoy things close by and explore our local area even more. We took long rambles in the woods, following trails and finding animal footprints; had picnics by the sea; a good explore of every park we could find – it was wonderful to have the chance to see so much on our doorstep especially after missing it all the last few months!

We took a drive one day to the Kelpies in Falkirk, always an absolute favourite place of ours to visit, walking through the Helix park, spotting wildflowers and ducks on the pond, meandering along the canal side, and standing under the majestic Kelpies – loving seeing the girls gazing up at them, the littlest one’s eyes wide as she took them (and everything else!) in for the first time.

One of the added benefits of being at home was being able to meet with friends and family, and really enjoying time with them with no rush or schedule – and Charmer too of course, who was able to be part of our days – my little stable helper loving it!

It’s been a wonderful couple of weeks – despite being based at home (a “pretend holiday house” to our imaginative two-year-old) and only little drives in the car (our “pretend camper van”❤️) it really felt like our first holiday all together and we have all enjoyed our time.

Hope all reading are keeping well! Have a lovely weekend x

Pony diaries: Summertime ☀️

We’ve definitely transitioned from spring well and truly into summer here, and all the usual summertime pony adventures have begun, from ragworting to sunny hacking.

Despite loving autumn and winter so much, and definitely with horses too (the routine of nights in, wrapped-up hacks, hot chocolates in the barn ❤️); there is something so special for me every year about summer at the farm. This is the time of year I first got Charmer, and a life with horses came alive for me. The smell of citronella in the air, the dry ground in the fields and the spray of a hose to cool down – it all reminds me so much of that magical time and I love it just as much all these years on.

Summer does keep us on our toes too, Charmer in a variety of different fly rugs and masks, and all the sprays and bottles of the season tried and tested we try to keep his sweet itch at bay and enjoy the sunshine.

This year he’s done very well for the most part, although he did have terrible itch on his face a month or so ago that saw him with a lockdown vet visit and a steroid cream which thankfully cleared it right up as quickly as it came – he’s some boy for just going crazy itching now and then so had lost a lot of the hair on his face practically overnight, but thankfully the cream did a wonderful job of healing it up in no time, and with a good mix of barrier creams, sprays, rugs and fly tags we’ve managed the rest of the summer so far no problems at all – particularly enjoying his latest fly rug (which the toddler definitely loves!!!).

We’ve managed out for a couple of little early morning wanders now and it’s been absolutely wonderful to be back in the saddle and to take in the beautiful views we’re lucky to have around us through my favourite pair of floppy black ears. ❤️

For his part, Charmer seems to be enjoying being back to our adventures just as much as me and it’s been lovely exploring with him.

Of course it’s not always sunny in these parts, even in what’s been an incredible spring and summer so far; and I’m writing this this morning from the barn with my morning coffee and book, the rain pelting off the barn roof with a steady rhythm and a very wet and bedraggled pony munching his breakfast very gratefully! I do really love these moments too though in the midst of warmer days; and whatever the weather, it’s a wonderful time of year with my boy. ❤️

Have a good weekend all! X

Summertime adventures ☀️🔥💙

The last couple of weeks have brought with them a change in the weather, lightning splitting across the sky and cutting through the bubble of heat that had dominated the summer so far. Week after week of unbroken sunshine and dry weather, temperatures always in the mid to high 20s, gave way first to the heavy relief of lashing rain, and later to a steadier coolness, swirling some of the earliest leaves off the trees.

This is the first time I seem to have found the time and space in a while to take stock and catch up on what’s been a long and lovely summer. We had a holiday at the beginning of July – our first family break away, up north for a few nights to a little cottage where we happily self-catered, keeping everything relatively routine for the little one; had lovely long walks, in woods, along riversides and in pretty towns; woke to ducks waddling past the door in the mornings, coming to say hello; and enjoyed family firsts at swingparks and the swimming pool, all thoroughly enjoying the time together.

The summer has been a truly beautiful one and both while we were away and back home, we have had so many gorgeous days and sunny adventures.

Beautiful discoveries on summer walks

The pets have been doing fine – Jasper & Jet have been with us over a whole year now – we brought them home on 26th July last year to keep old man Perry company. I still remember so clearly driving them home and nervously doing the introductions, which were one of our most successful ever thanks to all three boys’ lovely natures. They’ve changed and mellowed a lot more even over that time, the bright-eyed and curious newcomers evolving into the two dumplings that are cuddling in of an evening this summer, so chilled out and so familiar. ❤

Jasper & Jet joining the family, July 2017

They had their first holiday too when we went away, as we had them booked in with a local pet boarder for the first time – I’ve never done that before with any of the little ones as we used to be just round the corner from my parents so the pets could just stay home, ably looked after by my dad. Last year we were due to board for the first time but I chickened out at the last minute due to so many ongoing needs the boys at the time had – and we ended up taking Reuben, Perry and Marley on holiday with us, a wonderful experience in itself. Jasper & Jet seemed to get on really well though at their holiday home. Dropping them off and picking them up was plain sailing, they enjoyed their adventures – and it was so lovely to have them home again when we all returned!

It’s been a horse-aversary this month too, celebrating 18 years with Charmer. It feels like such a huge spanning of time all of a sudden and it really is, been so lucky to have his company for almost two decades now. He’s been weathering the summer relatively well, with all its usual challenges – keeping him not too fat and not too thin, battling flies and midges, de-ragworting and keeping water and shade close by.. the usual fun! Overall though seems to have been enjoying it and been less plagued by midges than last year actually, so been able to enjoy some fly rug-free days with the sun on his back.

The extreme heat in the last few weeks has meant him sometimes needing to come in for periods during the day – which has brought me to the farm mid-day with my daughter in tow, the necessity giving me the push I needed to have the confidence to look after them both at once. He is just wonderful with her, affording the pram or sling the care he doesn’t bother to extend to me!!.. where he would happily give me a shove to get to where he’d prefer to be he’s always cautious, always watching and looking out for the baby. In the shade of the barn, now that she’s a little bigger, we’ve been able to spend a little bit of quiet time with her out of her pram or carrier and it’s been absolutely lovely to see her curiosity, his patience and them both getting to know each other. ❤

It’s been a really lovely summer – days long and warm and light lingering late. Outside, we’ve been enjoying watching the season roll on as the fields are farmed around us, the nesting sparrows coming and going, our resident robin in the garden, and the starlings that swoop around the village en masse – which I know will be coming to descend on us very soon as the berries on our rowan trees are reddening and almost ripe, and last year the starlings just went crazy for them – looking forward to seeing it again!

In the evenings, we’ve been treated almost every night to the most beautiful display from the bats who live nearby, swooping and gliding in the dusk. I absolutely love to just stand out in the garden as night falls and enjoy them passing by, they fly so very close but with such precision they never touch, they’re such amazing animals.

Hope you are all well and will hopefully write again sooner! Have a good week all. X