Harry Potter Halloween Giveaway!

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Happy Halloween everyone!  To celebrate one of my favourite holidays, I am marking the occasion by holding a Harry Potter themed giveaway over on my Instagram!  You can win everything featured, which includes:

  • Two Harry Potter necklaces by the fabulous @fangirlpixiejar
  • A set of spellbinding pencils by @neonarcade87
  • A set of three stickers by @chloefaedesigns including this adorable little Niffler.
  • Two enamel pin badges by @patronuspins
  • A magnetic Hagrid book mark by @craftybabas
  • Three pairs of Harry Potter bed socks from Primark
  • A wood burned Harry Potter book mark

To find out how to win all of these magical goodies, head to my Instagram and follow the instructions under the post!  Good luck everyone!

My Once Upon A Book Box Has Arrived!

book box

Hello readers!  It’s almost the weekend, which is awesome enough, but today I got the best book mail ever!  Not only is it the first book box I have ever received, it is the ‘Once Upon a Book Box’, which has the most amazing concept.  If you are unfamiliar with this amazing company, it works like this…not only do you get a fabulous new book, hand picked by the Once Upon team, but you get a selection of gifts, all individually and uniquely wrapped, with a page number on them.  When you reach the page number in question, you open your gift.  Each gift is tailored to the book, and to that specific point in the book, so it creates a completely immersive experience.  Great idea right?

Plus it gets better…the book is a spooky read, perfect for Halloween!  The book in question is, ‘The End of Temperance Dare’ by Wendy Webb.  What’s it about I hear you say?

When Eleanor Harper becomes the director of a renowned artists’ retreat, she knows nothing of Cliffside Manor’s dark past as a tuberculosis sanatorium, a “waiting room for death.” After years of covering murder and violence as a crime reporter, Eleanor hopes that being around artists and writers in this new job will be a peaceful retreat for her as much as for them.
But from her first fog-filled moments on the manor’s grounds, Eleanor is seized by a sense of impending doom and realizes there’s more to the institution than its reputation of being a haven for creativity. After the arrival of the new fellows–including the intriguing, handsome photographer Richard Banks–she begins to suspect that her predecessor chose the group with a dangerous purpose in mind. As the chilling mysteries of Cliffside Manor unravel and the eerie sins of the past are exposed, Eleanor must fight to save the fellows–and herself–from sinister forces.

I cannot wait to get stuck in!  If you fancy giving this amazing book box ago, you can get 10% off by using my exclusive discount code MARIE10.  To celebrate getting to rep for this awesome company, I have written a story inspired by the box itself, which will be released in two parts over the coming weeks!  It’s my take on a traditional fairy tale, in which a mysterious box transports our young heroine to a strange and dangerous land, where she must face challenges armed only with the gifts inside the box, and her own strength!  Follow me on Instagram, to see each gift being unveiled, and check back here in a few weeks to get a full review of the book, as well as the Once Upon a Book Club Box itself.

In the mean time, have a great weekend!

The Walking Dead: The Official Cookbook and Survival Guide review.

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Happy almost Halloween readers!  I love this time of year…pumpkin carving, trick or treating and all things horror!!  And in the spirit of that, tonights blog post is a review of ‘The Walking Dead: the Official Cookbook and Survival Guide.’  That’s right…the people over at AMC and cooking writer extraordinaire Lauren Wilson, have collaborated to bring you the ultimate guide on how to survive a plague of Walkers, along with some recipes to prepare for your fellow survivors!  This book has it all, a how to guide on hunting, fishing and gathering, what essentials you need to keep handy in the event of a zombie apocalypse (or any apocalypse for that matter) and of course recipes inspired by the show and its characters.  But how do those recipes taste?  After all, if it’s the end of the modern world, you need to find home comforts when you can, right?  I decided to try one out for myself and give my official verdict.

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To me, Halloween is synonymous with apple pie.  Every year since I can remember, my mum would make an apple pie, and place coins inside for us to find.  So, when I found the recipe for ‘Maggie’s formless apple pies’ I knew I needed to try them.  The recipe is inspired by season 7, episode ‘Hearts still beating’ when a pregnant Maggie was presented an apple pie by the people of Hilltop as a thank you.  To make it even more apocalypse friendly, this recipe is for ‘forkless’ apple pies, so you can eat them without a fork, say while running from a pack of hungry Walkers.

wd4I am not the most skilled baker in the world; that being said, I found the step by step instructions easy to follow.  In line with the theme of the book, the list of ingredients for this recipe doesn’t involve anything exotic or rare, just things you probably already have knocking about in your cupboards.  I also appreciated that the recipe was done in an almost ‘real time’ way, i.e. as opposed to simply telling you what you needed to mix and how long to cook it for, it told you when to begin each stage, and in what order, to help save on time.

wd5

Once cooked, I taste tested them myself, along with my hubby and our little girl, and it was yummy noises all round…a unanimous ten out of ten and a resounding success (even if I do say so myself).  I don’t normally add any spices to my apple pie (that may shock some people, but I am following my Grandmother’s recipe) but I loved the taste of these, and think the addition of the various spices really added to the moreishness of the flavours.  Overall, I can’t fault it!  It was an easy to read, easy to complete recipe with clear instructions and most importantly, it tasted delicious!  Having a flick through it, there are definitely a bunch more recipes I want to try, and having read the survival guide chapters, I am now tempted to start hoarding bottled water and create my own bug out bag…because you never know, right?  Especially the way the world is going these days!

If you are a fan of the show, then you simply need to own this.  It is the ultimate piece of wd6fan merchandise, and would make a fantastic Christmas present or stocking filler.  It is chock full of recipes, both sweet and savoury, like ‘Dixon’s deer stew,’ ‘Foraged berry cobbler’ and ‘Carl’s biscuits’ and even includes a moonshine and cocktail chapter at the back (because in the event of the dead rising up and trying to eat our flesh, I am pretty sure we would all need a drink).

Halloween is Coming: How to become your favourite Literary characters for Halloween.

As Old Hallows Eve nears, the pressure to create an awesome Halloween look begins to build!  Now, I don’t know about you guys, but I really resent spending a fortune on some cheaply made costume I will only wear once!  So in that spirit, I have corroborated with my amazingly talented friend Rachel Henry, to produce some badass Halloween makeup looks, and since I am a total book nerd, and this is a writing and reading blog, each look will be based on some of my favourite literary characters.  Now I know what you’re thinking…”I don’t have a professional make up artist friend to do my makeup!  I can’t do that!”  But Rachel being the genius she is, has used widely available and more importantly cheap items to create the looks, and we will be providing you with a step by step guide, pictures and all, so you can definitely do this at home.

white witch completeLast time, we went full on horror, and recreated the distinct and terrifying look of Pennywise the clown.  This time, we thought we would do something a little prettier, but just as nasty (because Halloween is all about the villains right?), and have re-created The Snow Queen of Hans Christian Anderson fame, or if you prefer, The White Witch from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.  Either way, she is one cold bitch!

The Snow Queen/The White Witch
First of all, we decided that she should look like an incredibly pale and cold blooded woman, not pure white like a clown or ghost, so Rachel used a foundation much paler than my own skin tone and simply covered my entire face, including my eyebrows.  Because they are quite dark, she also used a little white face paint to pale them down even further.  She then sealed the make up with a pale white powder, but you could use a little talc.

Next, she worked on the eyes, using a few different shades of blue to create the tone and white witch 2look we wanted.  Instead of painting one thick layer of blue, try building up lots of thin layers of different colours, using the darker blues on the outside of the eyes and the paler blues on the inside corners.  It’s basically like a smoky eye effect, except with blue tones.  She also used blue eyeliner along the lash line.  Finally, she used a mascara brush dipped in the same white face paint as before, and put it on my upper and lower lashes to improvise white mascara.

Rachel then used white eye shadow to highlight my cheek bones, brow bones, cupid’s bow and the centre of my nose.  Next she used blue eyeshadow, the same as used on my eyes, to low light under my cheekbones and along my hair line.  Think contouring, but with blue instead of skin tones!

white witch 3Next the fun bit…glitter!! Rachel used Helen E Glitter glue to stick the glitter to my face, highlighting above and below my eyes.  If you don’t want to spend the money, you could use water soluble PVA glue (which dries clear) or even a clear mascara or lip gloss- something sticky and clear basically!

For the lips, Rachel used a blue lipstick, and added a little black at the corners and a bit of the lipstick mixed with the white face paint in the middle of my lips, to create an ombre look.  If you don’t want to buy a blue lippy for the sake of one night, you could use the same blue eyeshadows as before and seal with a clear lip gloss.  This would also providewhite-witch-4.jpg
the sticky surface you need to stick on some more of that glitter…because you can never have too much glitter right?  Never!!

I had some stick on pearls for crafting and letter writing, so we added a few of these around the eyes to add texture.  You could go mad if you like, sticking jewels or sequins, whatever you have lying about the house…the sky is the limit!  Eye lash glue or water soluble PVA are both cheap and easy ways to stick little bits like this to your face.  Stick it on and see what it looks like…it’s no big deal to remove them and move them around again.  Have fun with it and let your imagination run wild.

white witch eyes
Finally, I used standard dry shampoo to add a grey/white tint to my hair as well as a bit of volume and texture.  Again, you could go nuts here…white hair spray paints are available for very little money, or talcum powder is also great.

In lieu of a crown, I used a necklace I own, and pinned it into place like a head piece and then topped it off with a jewelled head band.  I then grabbed every shiny silver necklace I owned and layered it up with a blue dress.  This is my improvised costume…the point is to use bits you already own or things you can borrow from others so go as subtle or as big as you want!  Experiment…you could use a fur blanket to create a cape or even buy a cheap wedding dress from a charity/thrift store!  Use your imagination and bring the Queen to life your way!

white witch complete 2

white witch and rach

 

 

If you are as impressed with Rachel’s work as much as me, then head to her Instagram for more inspiration, both for Halloween as well as day to day looks! And don’t forget to give her a follow!!

 

The Essex Serpent: A Book Review.

Good Evening fellow book worms!  I hope you have had a great weekend!  For tonight’s blog post, I will be reviewing The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry.  So, for those of you who haven’t heard of it, what’s it about?  Let’s roll out the trusty blurb…

essexLondon 1893.  When Cora Seaborne’s husband dies, she steps into her new life as a widow with as much relief as sadness: her marriage was not a happy one, and she never suited the role of society wife.  Accompanied by her son Francis- a curious obsessive boy- she leaves town for Essex, where she hopes fresh air and open space will provide the refuge they need.

When they take lodgings in Colchester, rumours reach them from further up the estuary that the mythical Essex Serpent, once said to roam the marshes claiming human lives, has returned to the coastal parish of Aldwinter.  Cora, a keen amateur  naturalist with no patience for religion or superstition, is immediately enthralled, convinced that what the local people think is a magical beast may be a previously undiscovered species.  As she sets out on its trail, she is introduced to William Ransome, Aldwinter’s vicar.

Like Cora, Will is deeply suspicious of the rumours, but he thinks they are founded on moral panic, a flight from real faith.  As he tries to calm his parishioners, he and Cora strike up an intense relationship, and although they agree on absolutely nothing, they find themselves inexorably drawn together and torn apart, eventually changing each other’s lives in a way entirely unexpected.

First, let me start off by stating the obvious…if you aren’t a fan of classic literature, then this book isn’t for you.  Sarah Perry’s beautiful use of language and the entire style and tone of the book, means it could easily have been written in the days of Bronte and Dickens.  It is a Victorian novel through and through, from its emphasis on class, propriety and wealth, to the character’s attempts to subdue their passions, this is very much a book in the old style.  And yet, Perry cleverly manages to deal with issues which are just as relevant today as they were a century ago- advancing medicine and the moral questions it raises, how the wealthy treat the poor, Religion and superstition and science battling for supremacy and mass hysteria.  Look beyond the classic style writing and setting, and you see the world hasn’t changed all that much.

Perry has a beautiful way with words.  She paints the Essex country side so vividly in your mind, that you can almost smell the saltings as you read.  Each character is incredibly well developed and fleshed out, and the story line, whilst not exactly action packed, keeps you returning to the pages, hungry for more.  The question of the existence of the Essex serpent is the thread running throughout the book, tying the other storylines together, like the blossoming love between Cora Seaborne and Will Ransome, and the unrequited love of Dr Luke Garrett.  However, this book is a slow burner.  For those of you who seek something filled with intrigue and action, this book is not for you, its pace running in tandem with its small village setting of Aldwinter.  Whilst the characters themselves are changed, sometimes profoundly, by the book’s end, everything seems to continue on as it had before, which some readers may find frustrating.  I understand the need to have endings tied up neatly in bows, with love conquering all and people finding their happy ever afters, however life is rarely plays out so simplistically, and often, a happy ending may not be the obvious one.

Overall, I enjoyed the book, and would recommend it to anyone who favours their books with a taste of the old.

If you found this review helpful, I am now on Good reads, so find me and friend me for more of the same!  Have you read this book?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

 

 

Why me?: A short story.

Hey readers!  I hope you are having a better weekend than myself…I haven’t been very well, and neither has my little one, so it has sucked a bit to be honest.  Tonights short story reflects my current mood…you know when you are having one of those days, where everything seems to go wrong?  Well the main character certainly does.  For this latest edition of my collaborative series, ‘Inspired’, I got to work with the lovely Irem Sysmanturk.  Irem is an artist and photographer, currently studying art at university in Vancouver.  If you love her work as much as I do, you can check out more on her Instagram.  Happy reading!!

Why me?

Have you ever just had one of those days? One where a seemingly endless parade of disappointments and pieces of bad news fly at you from all directions, when every corner turned presents another reason to scream at the heavens in vein, ‘Why me?’ Well, today has been one of those days.

It started as soon as I awoke. My alarm didn’t go off, my phone having decided to simply give up the ghost and transform into a useless lump of plastic, a paperweight with no paper to weigh down, a piece of garbage. Finding myself frantically changing, my hair and makeup done in such a slap dash manner, I resembled a Picasso painting by the end, I somehow managed to end up wearing two completely different black boots. Worse still, it wasn’t even me who noticed this mistake, but my colleague, the perfect and constantly glowing Emily, who pointed it out, giggling. I have never wanted to disappear more than I did in that moment, pretending to laugh it off, all the while wishing with every fibre of my being that I would suddenly and inexplicably develop the ability to become invisible.

Work has been a nightmare, with one complaining customer after another, yelling at me, belittling me, treating me like dirt, and for what? Too much foam, getting almond milk instead of soy? If I didn’t have bills to pay, and require sustenance to survive, I would throw their over priced, over foamed coffees right in their stuck up faces! But I do have bills, and I do need to eat, and so I apologise through gritted teeth and smile and nod and pretend I’m not dying inside.

By closing time, I’m exhausted, a blister forming on my wrong shoed right foot, and what I suspect may be a third degree burn on my left forearm, the product of a wayward cup of green tea. I check my watch as I switch off the lights, and impatiently wait for the worlds slowest shutter to make it’s way down, realising, as it begins to rain, that I have missed the last bus. Why me?

why me? imageOf course, I forgot my umbrella in my rush this morning, so I trudge on, wet hair sticking to my face, right foot limping, left arm throbbing, trying to distract myself from the forty-five minute walk ahead. I’m about ten minutes away and soaked to the bone when I hear it, quiet at first, but more insistent the closer I get, a tiny whimper from a nearby skip. I think about ignoring it, but something in the tone, the panic of it, makes me look inside. There, in a cardboard box now limp and buckled with water, is a small puppy, scrambling with all it’s might to get up the side, unable to find footing on the smooth metal edge of the skip. I look around, futilely for an owner, never really expecting to find one.

As I contemplate what to do (should I call the RSPCA? The Pound?), it tilts it’s head to one side, brown eyes wide, tongue lolling, and wags it’s tail, as if it is making the decision for me. Before I have time to work out logistics, it’s inside my satchel, head poking out, it’s tiny, warm tongue lapping at my burning arm as I hold the bag steady.

Now, sitting in my living room, we are surveying each other, figuring each other out. He’s a he (I checked subtly, I didn’t want to embarrass him, or myself for that matter), and he is no breed I’ve ever seen before. He is covered in wiry, ginger hair, with two white front legs, like he’s wearing furry socks, and he stares at me, unblinking, head occasionally shifting from one side to the other.

I have no idea what to do. I have never owned a dog, and frankly, given my track record with gold fish I never considered getting one. They are harder to look after, and cannot be flushed when one forgets to feed them for a week. But here he is, this tiny, furry thing, suddenly dependant on me.

“Do you want something to eat?”

He stares at me, and I wonder if he speaks english. I mean, it’s rude of me to assume, in today’s multicultural society, isn’t it? So I mime eating, moving my hand to my mouth, biting the invisible food, chewing, swallowing, rubbing my tummy, each movement exaggerated and ridiculous. I even throw in a yummy noise for good measure, like I’m part of some absurd play, yet he continues to stare at me, bewildered. I give up, deciding communication isn’t possible, and search my cupboards for something I think a dog might be interested in. I settle on the packet of pre-cooked chicken I have to make my meagre packed lunches with, which seems to be the right choice, as it’s gone in seconds. After a bowl of water is also accepted gratefully, I begin to think I might be getting the hang of it, when it lifts a little leg and provides it’s own fluid, all over my living room rug. I had no idea something so small could produce so much liquid.

Exasperated, I put my head in my hands and say out loud, “Why me?” I hear a little bark, and peer through my hands. It’s closer now, it’s tail wagging emphatically. I’m confused as to why this exclamation of my general dissatisfaction with life would amuse the animal, so I repeat,

“Why me?’ Again, it barks, this time closing the distance completely, to climb onto my knee and lap at my face with it’s tiny velvety tongue. It’s breathe is warm and comforting on my face, and I can feel it’s tiny heart beating as I rub it’s little belly. I laugh, despite myself, “Why me? Why me?” speaking in that weird baby voice that all adults use with small children for no reason at all. I pick him up and hold him face height, his tiny body warm and soft in my hands, his tail still wagging between my fingers.

“It suits you, wymie, that’s what I’ll call you.”

He approves, his tail wagging faster.

“I guess I have a dog now.”

He nuzzles on to my lap, yawns widely, his tongue curling out, and immediately falls asleep, his head resting on my arm. But I’ve forgotten about the pain now, and the bitchy customers and my still wet hair, because I have a dog now. I have a dog and wymie has a human. I guess it wasn’t such a bad day after all.

 

Halloween is Coming: How to Become Your Favourite Literary Horror Characters.

It’s October guys, and that can only mean one thing…HALLOWEEN!  I adore this time of year.  I love horror movies and dressing up, I love carving pumpkins and scrunching my way through fallen leaves, and I love the change in the weather, as it cools down, the air filling with the sweet smell of peat fires.  What’s not to love?

To celebrate all things Halloween, I will be collaborating with a very talented make up artist and dear friend of mine, Rachel Henry.  Rachel has had a life long obsession with make up, and recently decided to turn that passion into a business.  She completed the foundation makeup course at Ciara Daly’s school, and is currently completing a VTCT level 3 in fashion and photographic make up…in other words, she knows her stuff!  You can check out more of her work on her Instagram.  She plans on doing special effects makeup down the line, so she jumped at the chance to collaborate with me on this project.

Each week in October, we will be bringing you a different makeup look, in the style of your favourite literary horror characters!  And because we love you guys so much, we will include a step by step guide, so you can recreate the looks at home!  So dig those costumes out of storage, and get ready to scare your friends!

IT

it makeup 6There are so many great Horror books, and scary literary characters to choose from, it’s hard to choose which ones to do!  But our first choice was easy.  Stephen King is a staple of literary Horror.  His books, and the subsequent movie adaptations, are a must at Halloween and are enjoyed by people of all ages and all backgrounds.  The most recent adaptation to screen was of course the smash hit ‘IT’ (which I really enjoyed by the way). The clown is an iconic image, and is one which plays on all of our childhood fears.  It is also a look which can be easily recreated at home, by even the most novice make up artist!  Rachel made sure to use things readily available and cheap, so anyone can create this look, so why not give it a try?

We wanted to hide my own eyebrows and also create some big arch style brows for IT, It makeup 4similar to the new movie adaptation.  But how did we do that I hear you ask?  Well, this is going to sound crazy, but we used cotton pads and water soluble PVA glue.  I know what you’re thinking…putting glue on my face?  Are you insane?  But as long as you use the water soluble stuff, you will be fine.  Once it’s dry it peels right off, and it didn’t hurt in any way or remove any hairs, it just came off.  Remember when you were a little kid, and you were given a pot of glue to craft with, but instead you painted it all over your hand and peeled it off again…it’s the same thing!  We cut a round cotton pad in half, the kind you take your makeup off with, and used the glue to attach it over my brows.  Once it was wet with the glue, Rachel was able to mould it into the shape we wanted.  For something so simple and cheap, we think it looks great!

 

It makeup 5Next, using the ordinary white face paints you can buy in stores, paint your face entirely.  We needed two layers of the paint to get it as white as we wanted.  Just be careful when painting around your eyes.

 

 

Once the white paint was dry, Rachel used ordinary black eyeshadow and eyeliner to paint around my eyes, and create that dead eyed stare IT you have seen glaring from the movie posters.  At this point, you resemble a B movie zombie, but trust us!

Rachel also used black eyeliner pencil to draw some ‘cracks’ along my forehead, which she then blended slightly, before using a brush to put a light dust of the same black eyeshadow on certain points on my face…think where you would normally contour, like under the cheekbones and at either side of your nose.  Using the same eyeliner pencil, she drew on my new eyebrows, first tracing it lightly to get the shape she wanted, before thickening it up and blending it slightly to soften the edges.

Finally, it was time for the best part, and IT’s signature…the red paint.

Rachel just usedIt makeup 3 red lipstick and a lip brush to paint my lips and nose.  IT’s lips are quite large, so she over-exagerated the size of mine, painting above and below my natural lip line.  She used a red lip liner pencil to trace out the red lines from my lips, and ‘through’ my eyes, before filling them in with the same lipstick.  Once you reach this stage, you can go ahead and keep adding any little touches you like.  Rachel, for example, used a black eyeliner to outline my lips lightly, to really emphasise their shape, and also lightly dusted the cotton pads with black powder so it got into the cracks and really emphasised those brows.

Finally, I didn’t want to purchase an expensive costume and wig.  The whole point of this was to make it cheap and easy to create, so I bought a cheap red wig from a local store.  Believe it or not, the wig was a long straight one with a fringe…not very clown like, but Rachel back brushed it and pinned it into the shape you see using bobby pins.  The only clown wigs I could find cheap, were those comedy, curly style ones, and let’s face it, those are not even slightly scary and would definitely have ruined the image.  I bought some red ribbon from a haberdashery and we just tied it around my neck and then made bow after bow after bow, to create this ‘ruff’ look.  We pinned the edges up using more bobby pins.

And voila!  I think the finished look is really effective and instantly recognisable…perfect for any Halloween party, or if you just feel like terrifying your neighbours and friends!

IT makeup

 

it makeup 7

I would just like to thank Rachel for collaborating with me on this project!  You are super talented!  If you guys feel inspired by this and end up recreating any of our looks, I would love it if you tagged us so we can see the results!