An Interview With… Karen Osman

#Blogtober DAY 9

Karen Osman has written two books which I have previously reviewed on the blog, and loved!  I am really pleased that she has begun writing her next book, find out more in this interview with her, courtesy of Aria, her publishers.

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Tell us more about your latest book, The Home.

My second novel, The Home, is a psychological thriller, set between the 1970s and 1980s, about successful career woman Angela whose memories of an abusive children’s home affect her adult life. The book delves into the darkness of living in a children’s home, casting a shadow over family ties and what it means to belong. Abandoned as a baby, Angela is desperate to escape her supposed refuge, yet despite being adoptedand taken into the hearts of a wealthy couple, the scars of her childhood remain. When Angela discovers the identity of her birth mother Evelyn, their reunion is no fairy tale and as sinister events start to unfold, Evelyn fears she may not survive her daughter’s return.

How did you come up with the plot of the book?

As a mother of two young sons, 2 and 4, I still remember that double-edged maelstrom of emotion of those new-born days – a mix of joy and worry – and it’s been a powerful influence in my writing for my new book, The Home.  At the same time, I was researching about the horrors of children’s homes in the ’60s and ’70s, much of which only came to light many years later. It’s incredibly disturbing that such events could have happened in places which are supposed to protect children. From here, I started to develop the outline of a plot and the character of Angela was born.

Can you tell us more about the characters of Angela and Evelyn?

Angela is ambitious and career driven and the 1980s were an interesting time for women.  On the one hand, Margaret Thatcher was a powerful example of what could be achieved by women, but on the other hand, sexism was very much present. The hardworking personality of Angela is the polar opposite of Evelyn who is content to rely on government support and often plays the role of the victim, abstaining from as much responsibility as she can get away with.

Can you describe The Home in three adjectives?

Chilling, dark, surprising.

What comes to you first – the setting, the characters or some aspect of the story?

When I plan a new book, I usually focus on coming up with the big idea of the plot first. From here, the characters, and the setting follow. I’m a bit of a planner when it comes to novel writing and I try and outline as much of the book as possible. This includes character development, chapter outlines, and narrative arcs. Of course, you can’t plan out everything and I do get a lot of ideas as I’m writing and I enjoy that surprising element of the process.

What is your favourite and least favourite thing about writing?

My favourite part of writing is creating the first and last chapters. These are usually the most exciting for me. I also really love building the narrative. My least favourite part is all the re-reads that are required to make sure the book is as good as it can be!

When did you decide to write and what prompted you to start?

I have always written in some form or another from a very young age. I loved it and it was, and continues to be, a daily part of my life – even on holidays! From a professional perspective, I would say probably in 2011 when I set up my writing business, Travel Ink, in 2011 which provides content services for the travel and tourism industry. I started writing novels in 2016, when I won the Montegrappa Writing Prize for The Good Mother, which then led to a three-book deal.

What is a great book you’ve read recently that you would recommend?

The Woman in the Window by AJ Finn was fantastic. I’ve also just finished Annabel Kantaria’s new book I Know You.

What are you working on next?

I’ve already started writing my third novel, The Perfect Lie, about a lawyer who is representing a young woman who has been raped. As the case develops, the lawyer is reminded of a past she would rather forget and her perfect life starts to unravel.

Hope you enjoyed reading a little more about Karen Osman.  You can check out my reviews of her first two books at the links below.

The Good Mother

The Home

Who are some of your favourite authors?  Let me know in the comments below!

NatalieThe Spoonie Mummy

How To Make The Most Out Of The Summer With A Young Family

With the summer in full swing, we thought we’d take a look at some of the fun activities you could be getting up to with your family. If you’re bored, stressed, or simply don’t know know how to entertain the kids, this article should serve you well!

1. Make healthy summer treats

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The last thing you want to do during the summer months is slave away over a hot stove, but if you want to treat the family to something special, there are lots of options to consider. You could make a delicious fruit dip with cream cheese, marshmallow fluff and orange, or try no-bake bars with granola and a Nutella drizzle. And instead of sugar-filled ice creams, make your own with fruit and natural yoghurt. That way, you’ll know exactly what your youngsters are eating!

2. Book a UK break

If your budget allows, then you may want to consider booking a summer break in one of our nation’s most beautiful destinations. Whether it’s Devon, Cornwall or Somerset, you can find a wide range of large holiday homes to rent for the weekend, and many can be adapted for disabled guests, too. The hardest part about booking a “staycation” is knowing where to go because the United Kingdom is home to some of the world’s most interesting and cultural places. Do your research and you’ll soon find a family-friendly holiday idea that’s within budget.

3. Bring out the paddling pool

With the warmer weather set to last for another couple of weeks, why not have fun with the kids and bring out your paddling pool? Having a good old splash can be great fun, and it means that you can relax with a book and a coffee while supervising your children in the garden. If that’s not an option, you could head to your local swimming pool (most council-run pools offer discounts for parents during the summer months), or spend a day on the beach. Remember to practice good beach safety and teach your children the dangers of swimming in the open sea.

4. Organise a barbecue

If you need an excuse to bring your friends and family together this summer, then consider the idea of organising your own barbecue. Whether you’re a BBQ pro and have the tools and the kit to create delicious steaks and skewers, or you’re more familiar with a disposable BBQ, there’s no excuse not to have fun in the sun and make the most of the summer months. Stock up on drinks, meats, salads and ice creams, and organise a summer afternoon to remember!

5. Remember to use sun cream

If you only take one thing from this article, let it be this! Sun cream is so important in the
summer months, even if you’re only spending an hour or two in your back garden. We’re in a  summer heat wave right now, with temperatures climbing over 30 degrees in some parts of the United Kingdom, so it’s essential that you look after your skin – and your children’s skin, which is more susceptible to burning. Remember to top up every hour or two you’re outside, and avoid the sun during its hottest hours of the day between 10 in the morning and 2 in the afternoon. What are your plans for the summer? Whatever you’re planning on getting up to, have a great time and remember to make the most out of every day – especially while the weather’s nice!

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Guest Post – Zero To Ileo In 4 Months

Good morning and happy Monday!  I am delighted to share a guest post from the lovely Julie today.  Julie looked after me when I was last in hospital for my knee which had locked again.  We got chatting as she saw I had a stoma and she told me about her husband who had just had surgery for an ileostomy himself.  We have kept in touch and Julie messaged me to tell me about the skydive she plans to do to raise money for Crohns & Colitis UK.  She asked if I would like to join her and her friend – unfortunately I am not that brave!  I did want to help her however and am asking  that everyone who can spare some money, support this lovely lady and sponsor her crazy antics!  Her sponsorship link is in the post.

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Zero To Ileo In 4 Months – Think Of The Children!

The few months since October 2017, when my husband was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, have been difficult; sleepless nights, constant trips to the doctors, unexpected stays in hospital and becoming carer to him and his belly butt only being the start of the journey. The disease had quickly established itself, and because of severe flare-ups one after another leading to multiple hospital admissions, and medications being ineffective, the only options was to have emergency major surgery in January 2018. Even surgery isn’t a cure and we still have regular visits to the hospital. Our lives had changed in a relatively short time and we had to find new ways to cope.

When we first heard that the condition was genetic, we tried to find out if any of his family had the disease, perhaps looking for someone to blame for this awful state he was in. It then dawned on me that my daughters had a higher chance of getting the disease, I would hate them to have to go through the same thing and the distress it causes, but I could do nothing to help. Or could I help? I decided the only way I could help was to raise money for research in the hope that if any of my children did get UC, there would be better ways of dealing with it or even a cure.

I looked at various options to raise money and decided that I’d throw myself out of a plane, strapped to a man (hopefully muscular and handsome), and land gracefully with the help of a parachute.

I’m looking forward to it, kind of, I’m actually shitting myself (fitting as it is for ulcerative colitis) but am determined to do it. The date in September is booked, filming arranged, and I have a t shirt and money raising kit from Crohns & Colitis UK. I’ve set up a funding page, donate to Julie’s skydive, and have raised a fair amount in the first three months.

Click here to sponsor Julie’s skydive

All too often, people only think of themselves and the now, how is it going to affect me and what can I do to help myself. But when faced with uncertainty, sometimes we need to look at the future, how others are going to be affected, and what we can do now to help them have a better life.

I met Natalie in the ward on which I work, we chatted and she told me about her blog site. She told me about herself and I discovered she had IBD like my husband. I learned how she coped and was given tips on how I could help my husband. Natalie gave me her contact details and we have been in touch ever since. If I could take one good thing from this disease, it is the lovely people you get to meet, the way they share stories and information, and the support they give each other.

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Please help Julie raise lots of money for CCUK – such a brave lady and a great cause which is close to both our hearts.  It was an absolute pleasure to meet Julie and the care I received from her in hospital was brilliant, her husband is lucky to have someone so caring looking after and supporting him.  If you can’t afford to sponsor, please consider sharing this post so more people can see it.  Every bit of help is much appreciated.

Please let me know in the comments below about your efforts for charity – what are you raising money for and what are you doing?  Would be lovely to help share more and more of these.

nat

Ways To Make Your Favourite Naughty Food Healthy by Guest Blogger Brittnay Sharman

Today I have another guest post, this time written by the lovely Brittnay Sharman.  Brittnay is an Australian who lived in London for two years.  She managed to squeeze in 21 trips to Europe & Africa in that time . She is passionate about her health and her family.  You will find her healthy and delicious recipes on The Nut Butter Hub

nut butter

Ways to Make Your Favourite Naughty Food Healthy

Junk food is great right? It’s scrummy and tasty and moreish, but it’s not always so great for our health. The likes of cheesy pizza, crispy fries and ice cream make it difficult to avoid. Just need to arm yourself with a little bit of knowledge to understand how to tweak  your favourites so you can still enjoy them. Here are some healthier alternatives our favourite comfort food.

Don’t Step Away from The French Fries

The next time you want fries try baking them instead of deep frying them litres of oil. When at home try tossing your sweet potato wedges in a bag with olive oil and semolina. This coating with ensure you get a crispy oven chip every time. You can also try using a healthy oil like coconut to help reduce your cholesterol levels.

Healthy Fried Rice, That Still Tastes like Rice

Rice can be good in moderation however, if you find that when you cook it there is enough for the whole village (and you managed it eat it all) it might be time to find an alternative.

All you need to do is roughly chop your cauliflower and throw in a food processor for a minute.  You will find that the texture is very similar to rice. Use this ‘faux’ rice can be used in any dish where you would have normally used white rice and it tastes just the same. One of our favourites is cauliflower fried rice, the family didn’t even blink an eyelid when I served this one up!

Add Some Smoky Flavours

Smoking food is a simple way of packing loads of flavour into your food. It also adds a great depth to your dishes. You can hot or cold smoke your food to give different depth of flavour. Hot smoking both cooks and flavours your food whereas cold smoking only flavours it

I’m sure we’ve all heard of smoking meat and fish however, using your gas smoker you can also smoke fruit & vegetables. This can open up the world to a new level of tastes! What about smoked garlic or smoked aubergines? You can use different woods to give different smoke flavours or even soak the wood in your wine. You can also add spices and herbs to your smoker to infuse new flavours

Use Healthy Natural Sweeteners

One of the main culprits for making your food unhealthy is sugar. Well, there are lots of things which are naturally, which you can use to replace sugar.

You can use honey, dates, agave or coconut sugar as a replacement for sugar in recipes. Dried fruits like sultanas are a great way of making cereals a bit sweeter and palatable. Bananas are great for making pancakes with, they add a sweetness that is absolutely delicious

Make Your Own Chocolate Bars

If you find you a get a hankering for chocolate, try making it yourself. There is a huge difference between cocoa and cacao, so just by making the conscious decision to use better ingredients will improve your healthy. Cacao powder is packed with nutrients and taste just as good as cocoa. We love making our own truffles, it only takes a few simple ingredients such as coconut oil, cacao powder and sea salt.

Can’t Give Up Mac and Cheese?

Processed pasta is not a good thing to eat on a regular basis. Get rid of boxed mac and cheese and make some at home. You can make a velvety cheese-based sauce with added butternut squash. This sweet taste on mac and cheese is sure to be satisfying.

Take it a step further and replace your high carb noodles with a plant-based pasta made out of chickpeas or legumes. The texture may be a little grainier than regular pasta but it tastes almost the same.  

Educating yourself is crucial when it comes to eating well. Rather than denying yourself or overindulging, just a few tweaks here and there won’t have you missing out on anything. Turn these idea and behaviours in habits to ensure you lead the healthiest lifestyle possible (well still enjoying it)!

 

Easy Ways To Tackle Housekeeping With Kids by Guest Blogger Zowie Ashton

Today I have a special guest post from the lovely Zowie, about how you can tackle the housework with the kids.

zowie~

Zowie is a working mom from London. She knows a thing or two about cleaning, and as a writer, she loves to share her experience when it comes to organising and engaging kids with the chores.

Easy Ways To Tackle Housekeeping With Kids

House maintenance is a full-time job. You may be spending long hours at the office but the domestic chores are always on your to-do list. Trying to keep a home clean while the children are growing up is even harder. It costs you tremendous efforts to get everything in order and it costs them just one move to create a huge mess. Instead of making children part of the problem, why not make them part of the solution? Regardless of their age, every child can do domestic chores. It is always a great idea to involve your kids in house maintenance. This is beneficial not only for you, but for them as well. Presented in an appropriate manner, cleaning can be a great educational activity.

Here are several ways to tackle housekeeping together with your little helpers

Teach your children to clean while they are still young
The sooner you involve your kids in housework the better. Toddlers and small children are easy to trick, while making a teenager clean their room for the first time can be a task with great difficulty for every parent. Yet, don’t get discouraged if you have missed teaching your child to clean earlier. With the right approach, you can turn the situation around. One of the ways to involve your child in housekeeping is to be a good example. Whether it be a toddler or a child, often, sooner or later they will follow your steps.
Schedule regular cleaning sessions and make a cleaning plan in advance
Take your time and create a comprehensive list of the cleaning duties to be covered. Prepare the necessary arsenal and distribute the chores to your kids. Some children are curious and easily get used to new activities.  Others dislike such family responsibilities. If you meet any resistance, let your fancy roam and come up with an amusing cleaning game or a good stimulation.
Keep the cleaning session easy and short
It is very important to give your kids small and easy tasks in the beginning. Increase the difficulty only when they get used to doing the current chores. In this way, the children will get a sense of accomplishment, which will stimulate them to continue participating in house cleaning maintenance. Moreover, short cleaning sessions ensure that kids stay focused. We all know how difficult is to make a child doing one thing for hours!
Make some improvements in your house to stimulate the kids to keep everything in order
Start with decluttering. The fewer objects and unnecessary things you have at home, the smaller the possibility for a mess. Throw away everything that doesn’t serve you and the other members of your family any purpose. You will be really happy to see how much free space you’ve created. Let every object, item and gadget have its own place. In this way, your kids will put any used things back in the cupboards, drawers, etc. Another idea is to place the laundry basket close to the bedrooms. Seeing it will stimulate your children to put their dirty clothes inside, instead of just throwing them on the floor.
Have realistic expectations
Last but not least, I advise you to revise your definition of a clean house! Having kids means putting up with certain things and the condition of your home is one of them. Instead of getting angry that it is not always organised, do your best to teach your children about cleaning. Don’t forget they are also doing their best to help you. Be patient, even if your kids are not getting on very fast.
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I hope you enjoyed this post and you find the tips useful.  Please let me know your strategies for keeping your house organised with the kids around.  I welcome guest posts so please get in touch if you have written something and are interested in me posting it.