Image of The Husband's Secret book by Liane Moriarty

Liane Moriarty, you may have heard her name but not sure where. Liane is the writer of Big Little Lies, the hit programme on Sky Atlantic starring Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman and Shailene Woodley. Today’s book I am reviewing however, The Husband’s Secret, is a good romance novel but I wouldn’t say as on par with Big Little Lies.

The Husband’s Secret centres around three characters – Cecilia, Tess and Rachel. Cecilia is the wife of John-Paul Fitzpatrick – a successful business man from a successful family and herself is the typical ‘perfect mom’ a successful Tupperware seller (how middle class suburbia is that!?) with the perfect house. Tess is one third of TWF – a marketing agency in Melbourne she co-owns with Will her husband and Felicity her cousin. Rachel the final character works at the Primary School and is still consumed with grief over the murder of her daughter Janie, over twenty years ago. Sounds simple enough but this is where it gets complicated, Tess finds out that Will is having an affair with Felicity so decides to take herself and her son to Sydney where she was brought up.

Rachel at the school is convinced that the new PE teacher at the Primary School, Connor, is her daughter’s murderer. For not other reason than he just seems to be a bit werid. Tess who enrols Liam at the school falls for Connor and decides to have a bit of fun with him. So where does Cecilia fit in? Well Cecilia’s kids go to the same school. Cecilia one day opens up a letter she found from John- Paul address to her and only to be opened when he has died. Cecilia opens it anyway and find’s a confession of Janey’s murder.

Okayyy.

That was the first half the book, the second half deals with Cecilia coping with John-Paul’s confession, Rachel becoming more and more convinced that Connor is the murderer and Tess trying to deal with her emotions over Will now Connor has appeared in her life. A horrid accident happens as well, but I will let you read the book to find out about that!

I had to admit the book took a while to get going and it felt that I was reading three separate stories at first. But it gets so good, especially seeing how Cecilia copes with John-Paul’s confession. The book is set in Australia and I can imagine the book is describes Australian middle class utopia perfectly. Overall as long as you get through the first half and not get bored,

Image of trainers and a grey sports shirt for the marathon

Since the Great North Run ballot has been announced and I got in, I felt it was the right time to talk about my training for my upcoming races this year concluding with the Birmingham International Marathon in October. It will be my first marathon and I decided to undertake the massive challenge as I really wanted to push myself.

The idea to run came in October last year when I completed the Birmingham Half. Unexpectedly I found the half quite easy and it made me think whether I should push and do the full marathon. I had also completed a dualathlon and triathlon through GoTri and this had given me the confidence to push myself. Hence in January I decided to bite the bullet and enter the Birmingham International Marathon, I have no desire to ever do another one, I just want to see how I get on and raise some money at the same time.

My running history

As a kid I was always good at cross country running rather than track, living up to my personal mantra of slow and steady wins the race, and I represented my school in cross country when I was 11. I took up cross country running later in sixth form and I got incredibly fit. I remember in lower sixth I was running every week and I came sixth in the school’s annual cross country run. I didn’t go to cross running in the next year and noticed a massive difference that I actually moved 10 places down to 16th. It was there early on I learnt about the importance of maintaining fitness.

Fast forward 10 years, before last year I wasn’t really a runner I was more of a cyclist. Cycling many miles around Stoke and later South Staffs on the weekends and weekdays in the warmer months. What made me switch to running was that it was quicker not having to get all the equipment ready and also a lot of people I knew had taken up running, mainly by taking part in Park Run. By running it meant I could get involved in the conversations and even enter in races together. My first race was the Manchester 10k and since then I have done the Cannock Chase 10k, Race for Life 5k, Stafford Half, Birmingham International Half Marathon and a couple of virtual 5k runs.

In terms of fitness I have always been fit and I have always kept up with regular exercise since my school days. I aim to exercise at least three times a week but now for the training I have upped it to five times a week.

So why Birmingham?

I did put in for the ballot for the London Marathon but I didn’t get in (surprise, surprise) and I wanted to do a marathon in a place which meant something to me. I had recently started a new job in Birmingham and I live in the West Midlands so felt that to complete a marathon where I live would be ideal. It also means I don’t need to worry about accommodation. As I had ran the half marathon last year, I knew the route would be similar so it feels even more achievable.

So what about training?

I know that to succeed, I need to stick to a regular training schedule. After looking around on Pinterest I found one by Women’s Running, it is a 12 week plan and although the marathon is more than 12 weeks away I thought it would be good to keep me motivated, allows me to see where my weaknesses are and gives me more time to work on them. Also if I felt like having an extra rest day, I could afford too. My training has upped to five days a week which I am not finding to be too much of a massive difference but it is early days!

How is the training going?

I am more or less sticking to schedule, I keep a diary which lists everything that I eat and exercise and I tick off the chart as I go along. I got given for christmas a Garmin vivosmart 3 which has been handy in keeping track of what fitness I do. I have used Strava for a very long time now so I use this as well, I do have an obsession with seeing where I have ran by the red line and seeing if I have beaten my personal records.

I have found it at times to be quite a lonely process, training on my own. I tried joining a run club but they were all faster than me and because I was travelling further for my job, there really wasn’t any point. I am planning to look for run chat groups on twitter to talk about training and keep me motivated.

It is a huge undertaking in terms of time. In the evenings after I have been to work, ran, showered it is pretty much time for bed. I really don’t do much else.

What are you wearing to train?

Since I do quite a lot of sport quite regularly I already had quite a lot of kit. For outdoors I alternate between a small Primark scarf I got years ago to a free buff I got from a mountain bike magazine. I tend to wear an long sleeved top (Aldi do some cheap ones) and a long sleeved cycling top (purely because it is reflective) I alternate between some leggings I got from Nike a few years back and these gymshark ones which are amazing! The best leggings I have ever brought, they fit so well! I recently brought these by gymshark also so cannot wait to try them out! My trainers are Adidas Falcon Elite 3, I brought these ages ago but you can still get them online. I brought them originally as I wanted a trainer that was an ‘all rounder’ as I did a lot of circuit training. They are serving me well but I will invest a pair of running shoes before the marathon as I am taking running more seriously and with the miles I am putting in, the shoes won’t last!

What are your aims for your next three weeks of training?

I aim to have nailed a pretty decent warm up and warm down routine by the time my next blog post goes live. I always skip a warm up in the aim to get outside and get it over with as fast as possible, when I get back I would just quickly stretch, protein shake and then shower and the next few day’s I would really feel it. I am feeling it in my knees more as well. I will also try and make some time to get involved more in chat groups on Twitter. By week six I should have ran 12 miles so it will be interesting to see how well I do. Finally I want to look more into which charity I want to support.

Run Schedule

Sunday 18th March – Stafford Half

Sunday 6th May – Great Birmingham 10k (with team University of Birmingham)

Sunday 9th September – Great North Run

Sunday 14th October – Birmingham International Marathon

Are you doing the Birmingham International or running another marathon, let me know in the comments below!

Woman posing in front of a blossom tree

Veganuary has become really popular at the moment, so many people want to try it either for a healthy diet or for environmental or ethical reasons. My sister, Miranda, has been a vegetarian for years and has been a vegan for a year. Today my post focuses on why Miranda became a vegan and her experience being a vegan.

How long have you been a vegan and what made you make the change

I have been a vegan for coming up to a year now and it was the best decision I have ever made! Not only for my body but for the environment too. Together, we can reduce the amount of animal and animal based produce that is being consumed, in turn reducing the amount of land we use to produce e.g. corn for the cattle to eat and the emissions that are being pumped into the environment.

Documentaries on Netflix opened my eyes to what we are all eating. For example, I did not know that there was a percentage of puss that is allowed to be consumed in our dairy products, I did not know that puss filled cysts were being popped on meat and still being placed on our shelves and tests on meat found that pharmaceutical medications that are being used to prolong animals lives and keep them ‘healthy’ are also found amongst the meats on our shelves, including faecal matter may I add! Who wants to eat that? No wonder why we all feel unwell, sluggish and lethargic!

Not only that, I do not support animal cruelty and the conditions that these animals aren’t kept in to then become our rashers of bacon and beef burgers is disgraceful. Therefore I again, do not and will not eat meat or any product from an animal again.
Eating vegetarian includes products such as egg and milk and as I’ve said above, it’s not good for us and it’s cruel to the animals and therefore I do not eat it.

How hard is it being vegan?

It’s not hard to keep yourself healthy when eating vegan. You can buy good, wholesome products and vegetables from your supermarket that does not break the bank!
Recipes can be as simple or as complicated as you fancy and it’s not as difficult you think to use alternative products in cooking or baking. For example you can use egg replacer for your pancakes and cakes that taste just as good! Granted sometimes you end up spending more on items such as chocolate or toothpaste that’s vegan and cruelty free but it’s so worth it and so empowering that you’re not supporting the unethical production of products.

I can’t lie that at first, I had no idea what I was doing when cooking as I had it in my head that it was a lot tougher to eat vegan than not. However, it’s just as easy and the stereotype that we don’t eat enough or are not healthy as vegans is just daft as we probably have the healthiest diet around and can eat just as much as everyone else!

Have you always been environmentally conscious?

I don’t really know when I became environmentally conscious. I have always enjoyed being outdoors and for example, have always put litter into bins etc. but wouldn’t really say anything significant spurred me into being as how I am today.
Watching documentaries on climate change and where our food comes from certainly changed my thoughts on the world and how fragile, special and unique it is, how everything can be linked (e.g. mass breeding of cattle to produce meat – adds to the issues with global warming and the reduction of natural land that is available), how unhealthy it all can be (poor methods of producing and keeping food and the effects of co2 emissions to our bodies) and finally, just how cruel we are as people to the world and to natural habitats, the wildlife, animals, each other and beyond! Knowing what I know now from that and from what I’ve seen further caused me to be more conscious and protect the earth and ourselves too.

I got involved with the fracking demonstration in Nottingham as just as other happenings in the environment such as the plastic in the oceans, it is a really important issue! Not only from increase in traffic causing more congestion to the roads, to the contamination of water, small tremors, the lighting used during the night confuses nocturnal animals and more!
I do not support this and therefore I play a part when I can in the peaceful protests against this.

Woman and a group of people protesting against fracking

At the moment I’m not a part of any other protests or groups that campaign various issues but I am constantly reading about what’s happening in the world that campaigns against fracking, treatment animals, anti whaling in Japan etc. and to me, that’s just as important as actually participating in demonstrations as it keeps you in the know and it allows you to spread the word to others which in the long run, can educate others of the issues that are occurring in the world and can promote/induce alternative attitudes towards them and thus stand against them for the better.

What would I say to someone who wishes to become vegan or vegetarian?  Go for it! You may find it difficult but gradual change is change for the better and sticking with it until meat and dairy is a thing of the past is so satisfying and empowering! You feel more at one with nature and the earth and it opens your tastebuds to all these flavours and meals you might never have tried or have wanted to try before! Some products (at the moment) do not compare to non vegan products but by trying alternative products you become accustomed to it and what’s to say that these vegan products that are the alternative to meat or dairy products, are how they really should taste!

My final ‘take home’ message is be the change that you want to see. Just because you are one person does not mean that you cannot change anything. Together, we can turn things for the better, not only to the environment, to the treatment of animals, to ourselves but also to the world. It all can link and there is only one earth. We do not live on a stable planet, it is dying, we are all dying and we are destroying our true place called home.

Rebecca running with her dog

I quite like running now. I never was a runner before (I love and still love cycling!) but after going through a lull with cycling earlier on in the year and incorporating Park Run more and more into my fitness regime I decided to enter in a few races. Two races I entered myself in for were virtual runner races.

What is Virtual Runner UK

Virtual Runner UK is a site where you can enter in races and gain medals with part of the proceeds you pay for going towards a charity. Once you enter, you have to email in your result and proof that you ran the distance (proof could be your fitness tracker, Park Run result or Strava) and your medal arrives through the post. You can even print out a bib number and wear it if you want! When you enter your result you can see how other people have done. There are many distances from 5k up to full marathons and I decided to enter in the Run like a Time Lord as part of the money went to the National Autistic Charity and November 5k as part of SBR events. The November 5k medal I will particularly treasure as it is the flag of Lincolnshire and as I am born and bred there it is particularly important to me.

How did I find it

I am quite fit so both races that I entered were 5ks so they were fine. I think if you are starting out these races are perfect because depending on your distance it is a challenge but still achievable. Obviously you miss out on the crowds and the race atmosphere but if you find that intimating, as that atmosphere doesn’t suit everyone, then it is perfect. The medals are lovely as well (although some are a bit tacky!), the races are cheaper to enter then marshalled races because obviously you are not paying for the marshalls etc and the money goes towards charity. The medals came very quickly through the post and the results were verified in less than 24 hours.

Am I entering in any other Virtual Running UK races next year?

No not at the moment, I am thinking about running a marathon next year so to keep my motivation up I may enter in some of the half marathons.

 

Collections of plastic toys and goosebump books with the word friends written on scrabble tiles

I am a collector and I have no shame in it! When I was younger I collected free samples of soaps, shampoos and conditioners and had them in a small bathroom bag that my Uncle gave me for Christmas once (to this day I still don’t know why I collected them). I collected snails when I was ten, materials so I could create lots of arty things, I helped my Dad collect stamps and remember helping him stick them in the stamp book. I used to collect CosmoGirl (remember that magazine!) and ElleGirl when Peaches Geldof used to be a columnist. I slung those out when I left home!

As I got older I collected Sweet Valley High, Point Horror, Point Romance and the Babysitters Club books and amassed a massive collection of the Babysitters and Sweet Valley High books which I still have proudly on display in my spare room. These days the only things I really collect are vintage ladybird books because I like the covers and I am building up a small collection that currently spans two of my top book shelves. It was when I was adding a book to the shelf and I was thinking (I really had time on my hands) why on earth do people collect things?

Psychology of collecting

Well having a Google search on the psychology of collecting, people collect for a variety of reasons- it could be a comfort thing to help people relieve their childhoods, some like the idea of the adventure – I remember collecting Pokemon trading cards and the thrill of finding the Pikachu card or a new Sweet Valley High book. Some people collect because they like to organise, again when I collected Sweet Valley books I would spend hours putting the books in order. The chance of meeting other collectors as well is a plus that other collectors like. I never did that myself.

So what does being a collector mean?

I had to admit before I wrote this blog post I never really thought beyond my collections as being part of my behavioural traits of my personality. I remember the thrill of finding a Sweet Valley High book that I really wanted (this was before I was old enough to use ebay) and it was cheap. I do like order in my life and being fairly in control and I used to be really tidy which reminds me of the time spent ordering my books. I am not too bothered anymore, I just pile the books up on the shelves and I am not as tidy as I used to be.

What do you collect?