For the love of libraries!

book1“UK Libraries Are Closing at an Astonishing Rate”book 2

Libraries lose a quarter of staff as hundreds close”

You might have seen these headlines in the news this week. The nostalgic, book loving part of me is saddened by this news. The more modern, kindle owning part of me is not surprised by this news. The need for access to free books for a set time period vastly decreases as books become cheaper to own and easier to store on devices such as the Kindle.

Alongside this news the BBC ran an article entitled; Stories from the bookshelves: What does your library mean to you?. That was an easy one for me to answer.

My love of books is equal in all forms; digital, hardback, and paperback. However I have always dreamed of having a room in my house shelved from floor to ceiling, crammed full of books; my very own library. As a child and young adult, the library was heaven to me. A complete treasure chest of stories just waiting to be read. I would walk into a library and feel like the characters were calling me, willing me to pick the book that contained them and let them tell me their story. I was filled with energy, and could spend hours (if allowed) trawling all the book titles, shelf after shelf. Then the challenge of shortlisting the 10 I could have that fortnight; man that was hard!
I used to visit two libraries, both very different, but both just as magical to me.
 Central Library The first was my local library; Central Library in Scunthorpe. A modern building, although not the most charming from the outside. A windowless prison for literature, I used to think. It was my job to set them free! I spent hours and hours here, whenever I could. I loved being surrounded by the books, the smell of them and the excitement of what adventures I would unveil when I opened the front cover. There was honestly nowhere I was happier when I was young.
I used to spend a week or two every year visiting my grandparents and cousins, in the summer holidays, in Brighouse, West Yorkshire. Here I was lucky enough to visit the library too. It was a ten minute walk across a playing field from my Nan and Grandad’s house. My cousins and I would walk there with my Grandad.
1024px-Brighouse_library_022Originally a house called The Rydings built in 1841 by John Brooke, a local mill owner. It was converted into a free library in 1898, for Queen Victoria’s Jubilee, and has been ever since. We would sit in the bay window reading books while Grandad walked to dog in the library grounds. My cousin takes her own boys there today.
However not all children will be this lucky, as more and more libraries close. Not just a home for books that everyone could access but quite often, libraries are at the heart of a community, providing a meeting point for people, a space to hold events. If there is not demand for a pure library service, and other venues provide the community meeting point, then their closure is inevitable. In a society where technology is so accessible, and these days children can use a touch screen phone, or tablet before they even begin to learn how to read, it is understandable why books are becoming more and more obsolete.
On the plus side, I found some communities that still value a good book and the spirit of sharing such a thing. This is Blagdon library!
blagdon library
Book lovers and library fans, there is hope yet. Perhaps the classic community library is a dying breed but this converted telephone box really depicts a true passion for literature that cannot be suppressed!

Natasha vs The Yorkshire 3 Peaks

It is official, I am now a fully paid up participant in the British Heart Foundation Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge! Here is a rather optimistic looking explorer version of me from a hill walk in Scotland a year ago…

NwalkHopefully I am still this cheery after the 3 peaks!

As I mentioned in an earlier post I am undertaking this challenge in memory of my Grandad and Aunty who we tragically lost over the last 18 months.

Pre-training training is well underway and it is safe to say at this moment in time I am petrified and excited but mostly petrified. Scared of both the physical and mental challenge; climbing three rather large hills, walking constantly for a long period of time and the pressure of making sure I do it in under 12 hours.

After the obvious aim of raising money for this amazing charity, I am really looking to make my family proud. Here are some pictures of those people I will be thinking about as I take on the hills!

nng wedding nig

Ideally, I wanted to do this for my Nanna (the beautiful lady on the red sofa in the picture above); to show her how much we love her and feel the pain of her losing her husband and her daughter to heart disease. Unfortunately she passed away before I even got to tell her my plans. In some ways I am even more determined to take on this challenge now.

So here is the shamless plug to my just giving page; https://www.justgiving.com/Natasha-Owen2016 

Any donations will be so gratefully appreciated and knowing I have your support will keep me motivated in my endeavour.  I will be keeping a training diary through this journey, and I hope it might inspire you to take on a challenge and reap the rewards!

Wish me luck I am going to need it!

Nxx

Great British Seaside Adventures

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside…at very specific times of the year! From beach huts and holiday camps, to lidos and entertainment filled piers, the Great British seaside has been a holiday destination for many since the 1900’s. It is less of an attraction today with travelling abroad being so easy, and in all honesty, I do not have fond childhood memories of the seaside.

My early memories were of summer days in crowded towns, lots of over excited people, laden down with enough equipment to build a new home on the beach. I didn’t like sand; sitting on it, playing in it, the feeling of it on your feet (even after wiping them) when you put your socks or shoes back on, and that grimy feeling it left on your skin. The sea was not a place I wanted to spend any time at all and I was more of a reader than a child who wanted to play with a ball, or in a boat, or any sort of game in general. Then there was all the queuing; for food, for a bus, in the car to get parked, even for the toilet. Overall it was quite a stressful experience for me, and I don’t ever remember a day at the beach where we were not all exhausted, stressed and grouchy when we were leaving for home.

However, the seaside in the winter, now that is a beautiful, peaceful and even romantic place! In my early teens we would go to Blackpool in the Autumn to see the Illuminations. We would have a weekend of windy beach walks, fish and chips for lunch, visiting the Blackpool Tower and wandering up and down the promenade in the evenings to see all the light displays.  I genuinely found the whole experience quite charming, I understand you might have another opinion of this famous seaside town…

In my adult life I found that winter at the seaside was still a place close to my heart. Walking along bleak, wet and windy beaches, watching the choppy waves crash on the shore, climbing cliff tops and cosying up in a little cafe with a hot chocolate, or with a a nice glass of wine in front of a roaring fire in a pub, you really cannot beat it! I have always been a fan of the North East coast from Northumberland down to Yorkshire there are some real beauty spots.

Filey is a wonderful small coastal town in North Yorkshire. It has a small arcade for some classic seaside fun, and a very pretty promenade if you prefer to stay off the beach entirely. In the past 18 months, we have stayed just a little further down the beach, about a mile away from the main town at the White House (http://fileywhitehouse.com/home.html).

c4u_25066-1This majestic, three floored house was the home of Billy Butlin (owner of the Butlins Holiday Camps). This kind of accommodation really does it for me, having a little biut of history with it. The house has fantastic views and with 8 bedrooms split into two apartments, it is the perfect location for my rowdy family (or a group of friends). If the mile walk to Filey seems a little off putting, there are amenities at the Primrose Valley to keep you going; Starbucks, a convenience store, a couple of pubs and restaurants! But you cannot beat being straight onto the beach within seconds for a walk on a cold winter morning, the sharp wind hitting your face and clearing away those cobwebs.

Recently we visited Weston Super Mare. Since our relocation to the South West, our favourite haunts are a little bit too far away! I was pleasantly surprised by the town and the beach. Admittedly we went a little before the peak season will start but the place was very peaceful with a little bustling activity. We had an early morning walk along the beach at the South end (away from the main town) and then had a little wander onto the pier and Knightstone Island area. We even got a glimpse of the last remaining part of the recent Banksy exhibition; Dismaland, in the shape of a giant multicoloured windmill!  20160326_09400320160326_11410820160326_100747After a long, cold walk we had a yummy breakfast at Stones Cafe on Knightstone Island and headed home just as the predicted Easter holiday traffic arrived!

So all in all I have grown to love the Great British seaside, albeit at a very specific time of year.

Feel free to recommend some coastal adventures and I am sure I will keep you updated with mine.

 

Nxx

 

What does Easter mean to you?

easter

So here we are, that exciting day before the beginning of a four day weekend. I don’t know about you but our office is a bubbly, cheerful, jolly delight this morning (demob happy my other half calls it). There is nothing quite like the sense of unity that surrounds a holiday that everyone gets to take!

It got me thinking about what Easter means to us. I do not consider myself to be a supporter or believer in any particular religion. I was brought up to understand and respect all religions, but by default was more exposed to the Christian faith during my childhood. I know from a religious perspective the meaning of Easter, but in  today’s society, what do we really associate this time of year with? Is it the chocolate eggs that adorn the supermarket shelves from the 26th December the previous year? Or the signs of new life appearing all around us? For many it is very much a religious celebration and mark of respect, which is both important and a wonderful tradition.

For me Easter represents the end of Winter and the beginning of Spring/ Summer. Longer days, more time outside, fresh food ideas, and more adventures to be had! I love spring flowers,  all the colour, and the general feeling of more energy all around me. For me, it is also a great time to catch up with family and friends, and take stock of how lucky we are to have fabulous people in our lives.

So however you are spending this valuable four day weekend, I hope you enjoy it! Me? Well there will be some home improvement, lots of cooking, lots of walking and my first alcoholic drink in a month to enjoy.

Happy Easter everyone

Nxx

 

easter2

To breakfast or not to breakfast? That is the question!

There are regularly articles in the media that seem to present an ever changing picture of research as to whether or not having breakfast is good or bad for us. I don’t know about you but my thought process around this debate goes like this…am I hungry? Yes, have some breakfast. Or, no, wait until I am hungry then!

I would say 95% of the time; I have breakfast within an hour of waking up. I love breakfast! Typically I was fond of a carb heavy breakfast; cereal, toast, or pastries. Ultimately I know these are things that are not filling for long enough, but we all have our vices don’t we? At the weekend I call it brunch, because we tend to eat a bit later and it is usually a larger meal (eggs of some sort, full English, etc).

Recently I have become a bit calorie conscious (perpetual on-off dieter that I am). With a holiday coming up in ten weeks and getting the usual bikini body fear, I have been exploring breakfast foods that are tasty, nutritious but also filling without breaking the calorie bank before the day has even begun.

A few months ago I tried Starbucks’ Bircher Muesli. I had not heard of it before, but it looked delicious. My instincts were correct; it was yummy and surprisingly filling for what looked like a small pot.

The guys at mixmyown.com say that the traditional recipe for bircher muesli is pretty simple and consists of key ingredients of rolled oats, milk, apple and lemon juice. Once this combination has soaked overnight you can add any additional ingredients you fancy.

Now this tasty dish might be a revelation to me but has actually been around since the 1900’s. It was developed by a Swiss physician (Maximilian Bircher- Benner) as a healthy breakfast for his patients.

As delicious as the Starbucks pot was, it is not exactly cost effective to be having one every day, so I decided to make my own. I quickly realised there is no hard and fast recipe, but the principle of soaking the oats overnight was the main requirement.

After much experimenting I have found my Bircher Muesli mojo. It ticks all the boxes for me for being simple to make, not time consuming, cheap but still nutritious and filling. Here is my recipe;

 Natasha’s Bircher Muesli (base ingredients make 2 portions, toppings are based on one portion)

Roughly 200 calories per portion

Base Ingredients

50g porridge oats

150ml water (you can use milk, almond milk, coconut water if you prefer, I stick to water)

1 apple grated

Sprinkle of cinnamon to taste

 

Topping

Drizzle of honey

1tbsp Greek yogurt

Handful of berries (I use frozen ones, just remember to defrost the night before)

 

Method

  1. Mix base ingredients in a bowl and leave in the fridge overnight
  2. In the morning mix half the base ingredients with the yogurt and honey (leave other half of the oats in the fridge for the next day)
  3. Sprinkle with fruit and devour!

Do not be fooled into thinking this is similar to instant flavoured porridge that might seem more convenient. Unlike the recipe above, these instant porridges contain a lot of sugar, and although the stated calorie count might be lower (or similar), they are empty calories that won’t keep you as full for as long. Plus, they actually end up being quite expensive.  They are usually on some sort of offer, do not let that fool you, they tend to average costing  about £1.50 per pot. Arguably this is cheaper than the Starbucks muesli pot (£2.35), but my muesli recipe above works out at just under 70p per portion and takes a maximum of 10 minutes preparation time (5 minutes at night and 5 minutes each morning). Winner!

I constantly modify the recipe, you can add more or less water depending on how thick you prefer the texture. You can also experiment with different fruits on top, or perhaps dried fruit, nuts or if you want something more indulgent maybe chocolate chips or crumbled biscuit.

Give it a go, you won’t be sorry!

Pop back and check out more food related posts under the Hearty Recipes and Food Adventures tag.

Nxx

 

My love affair….with books!

Books, stories, reading, where do I even start? I love books! I am not fussy, I will give any genre a go. Fundamentally I enjoy immersing myself into a world created by another person.  This love affair began at an early age, as long as I can remember, reading has been my favourite pastime. When I read I am relaxed, comfortable and secure. Where all else can fail, a book won’t let me down!

Book shops and libraries are my safe haven, my treasure chest and my ultimate escape place. As a child, with a two week holiday around the corner, I would visit the library and take out ten books (it was the maximum back then) in preparation. Generally with two weeks on my hands, I would read all those books and then be begging someone else for another one. Reading is my all consuming addiction!

During my years at university, I found reading for fun became less and less as the world of textbooks, essays and research took over. However the desire was still there and over the past decade my child like obsession with reading has crept up on me again. I am never without a book in my bag wherever I go, and will use any spare time I have to read.

Consequently this means I like to talk about books rather a lot. So I am channelling this into some light feel book reviews. So if you are a bookworm and looking for some recommendations look out for more posts under the Literary Adventures and Hearty Stories tag in the categories menu (right hand banner). Feel free to send me your recommendations or views on books too.

 

Nxx

Up-cycling adventure!

Ladies and gents, as a linguist I find new words, modified words, and language evolution in general fascinating. I don’t always agree with new terms or phrases but I appreciate the way in which the human mind, and social culture create innovative ways to communicate, and spread them like wildfire.

One term I rather enjoy, for it’s meaning and as an activity is Up-cycling. The concept of not simply recycling but improving the item you have found a use for.

Around 10 months ago we moved from Aberdeen to North East Somerset. From a tiny, first floor flat in the city centre to a converted barn in the middle of a field. It has been a refreshing change of pace and lifestyle for us, that included for the first time, our own outdoor space and generally a more spacious home.

Fairly soon up- cycling became our thing, albeit in a modest way. We were both a little put off by the seemingly extortionate prices of what are fairly simple items of furniture. We started to explore furniture reclamation shops around Bristol. The Reclaimers of Gloucester Road was a particular treasure trove, check out their page here. Aside from the hours of fun discovering some fascinating items, such as these retro ovens, we actually found some useful items that we could make into what we really wanted, within our own capabilities!

oven 1oven 2

Our latest venture was a wine rack. We have been searching for months for a nice wine rack. Not being fans of the more modern conceptual models, and the classic versions still attached to a hefty price tag, we were on the verge of giving up. We were actually on the hunt for an old sideboard, but came across a sad looking wine rack at the Bristol Wood Recycling Project. It was in need of some TLC, but at a fiver, if it we didn’t get a good result, it was worth the risk. Check out the before and after pics below!

take 3 take 2take threeHow fab is that? Now, I cannot take credit for any more than contributing to the vision, the hard work was all the hubby. It was a case of a clean, sand down and a good spray paint. It holds 48 bottles of the good stuff, so the next challenge is to fill it…which I sure my husband will agree is more my area of expertise!

 

Nxx

 

 

A big thank you DaddyGadget!

Before I get into a posting frenzy, I need to say a huge thank you to my cousin-in-law… that’s what you call your cousin’s husband isn’t it?! Without his technical genius, this website would not exist, and be, in my opinion rather fabulous.

Ben Speer aka the founder of http://daddygadget.co.uk has been there through the good and bad times with our family and is a great friend to Tom and I. Check out his site, it is full of fun, interesting, and very helpful information on all things from being a parent to latest technology reviews!

The Yorkshire Three Peaks- What am I letting myself in for?

As I have already mentioned, I love walking, but I am no rambler- extraordinaire! I like the countryside and I definitely love Yorkshire. So when I saw that the British Heart Foundation (BHF) run an event to do the challenge, I thought perfect! A challenge I can get stuck into and hopefully really enjoy.

But what am I really letting myself in for? I like walking out in the North East Somerset countryside, where we currently live. It is moderately hilly, but on the whole not that strenuous. I quite enjoyed the odd hill walk in Scotland (Glenlivet Estate, Bennachie) during our time living in Aberdeen. Surely this is just a longer version of that right?

3-Peaks-map2

Take One: Here is the route, doesn’t it look idyllic? I am a particular fan of the beer locations en route!

 

hill_profile

Take Two: Here is the route in gradients. Yep, that’s over 25 miles of hill walking, climbing to heights between 600- 800ft, not once, not twice but thrice!!!

I have talked myself out of doing this on numerous occasions. Eventually I came to the realisation I needed a plan. Fail to plan is planning to fail and all that! Now it is safe to say I am not in my fittest, finest form. I am a perpetual on-off exerciser, who enjoys her food (good or bad) and her wine. Not exactly the epitome of a seasoned hill walker. The BHF helpfully provide a walking training programme, for the ten week build up to the event. So from now until 18th April it is Operation Get Fit. The programme requires me to walk six out of seven days each week, right now that seems a little daunting. So begins morning gym sessions, and evenings of yoga in the garden (I am pretty sure if you make it sound charming it is?) before the hard work begins.

 

Pop back to see how I am getting on!

 

Nxx

 

Embarking on Hearty Adventures

1901942_10201617622746870_1193704339_nSo here I am, ones of my dreams becoming a reality, creating a forum for my writing. What spurred me on, you might ask?

Have you ever found yourself thinking of all the things you want to do, or say, or experience and realised that the day to day life you have built seems to be getting in the way? I certainly did. Don’t get me wrong, I am not unhappy with my life, but routine and habits  since embarking on my first taste of adulthood, have increasingly taken priority.

Over the last 18 months, I have experienced some milestones in my life; getting engaged and married to my best friend, and the man I could not imagine my life without. These are experiences filled with happiness, excitement, laughter and romance. I consider myself a very lucky person.

At the same time, I experienced my first real sense of loss. I had counted myself extremely lucky to get to the age of 27 without ever having had to attend a funeral. What I did not realise, is that age does not prepare you to cope with the loss of a loved one. Consequently losing three very dear people, very quickly; my Grandad, followed 10 months later, very unexpectedly by my Aunty and by the end of 2015 I lost my Nanna, was a level of sadness I could not cope with. It has been an incredibly hard year for my whole family. We now find ourselves grieving with three times the pain.

It made me, as it does with many people, evaluate my life. Everything from my health, sense of well being, career and all my relationships have gone under the internal microscope. Thankfully, the outcomes were all of a positive nature. It’s time to stop existing and start living a fuller, more meaningful life.

In times of incredible sadness you turn to the things that can give you that instant feeling of happiness be it temporary or permanent. My permanent happiness is my relationship with my husband, my family and those I can truly call a friend.

My temporary happiness comes in many forms. I find I most naturally reach for a book to bury myself in a different world for a while, or plan new meals I could cook for anyone brave enough to sample them. Latterly if I can’t clear my head, the perfect medicine for me, is a nice walk. The one dream I was keen to pursue but did not feel confident about was writing.

After much thought and planning, I realised I could combine some of my favourite things; the outcome being the creation of Hearty Adventures. The idea of blogging predominantly came from my decision to complete a fundraising event for the British Heart Foundation and wanting to document my progress. I have decided to take on the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge in July 2016. This really ticks a lot of boxes for me; walking, a challenging, and raising money for a deserving charity now close to my own heart.

I soon realised that Hearty Adventures was more than that for me. When I got to thinking how I had come up with the name (other than it’s obvious links to a heart charity and a walking/ climbing challenge) I decided that writing about what you love is possibly the best way to find your voice.

Hearty Adventures quite simply are experiences, discoveries and events that make you feel good; motivated, happy, warm inside with a sense of achievement. So here you will find musings on my adventures, my books, my cooking and anything that gives me that hearty feeling. Feel free to join me and tell me your passions, or your advice and recommendations on things I should be experiencing!

Nxx