Why I Heart Spring…

1. Daffodils. daffsThey are by far my favourite flower. Great big trumpeting bursts of yellow. I love them. I used to row when I was younger and I remember one day passing all these beautiful daffodils on the river bank and then from a distance watching two people run down and pick them all! When we came back there were none left. It was so sad.
But I think it’s what made me love them so much and appreciate a bunch when I see them in the park – unpicked.

2. Ducklingwatch! I get quite transfixed by the little ducklings round the pond – and really protective. I always do a quick count to check that they’re still OK and no foxes have got them!ducklings

3. The luxury of not having to carry gloves, a hat and a scarf – just an umbrella!

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4. The magnolia tree I can see from my bedroom window. I watch the buds get bigger as winter fades and spring begins.

5. The smell in the air when you step outside in the morning. It’s the scent of bright sunshine meets cool dawn and green leaves. The drawback is that it always makes me feel like I’m going to school.

Let me know what I’ve missed? And what you love…

 

Dreaming of Declutter

For the last few months I’ve been lost in a book bubble. Every spare working hour has been spent writing. And while I love it, when it gets difficult I tend to fantasise about what I’ll do when the book is done and the bubble bursts and I’m freeeeee! This time I’ve been obsessing about decluttering. It started when I read an article about Marie Kondo and her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organising.

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Kondo’s mantra of only keeping things that bring you joy and her technique of folding clothes has lit a little fire of obsession in my brain. So when I was stuck on a particularly tricky part of my book revisions I took a break and refolded everything in my drawers. I was a folding demon! And am now an upright fold and stacker – my clothes are arranged like a filing cabinet. It’s life altering… Why did I not do this earlier? You can see everything (I found tops I’d forgotten I owned), you can fit more in so you don’t have to ram it all down to shut the drawer and nothing really gets creased. I’m a folding Konvert.

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So next up is the rest of the flat. Not the folding but the bringing of joy bit. Room by room everything is going to have to prove its worth. I’m particularly looking forward to the storage cupboard which has become one of those places to shove something with half closed eyes and hope everything else doesn’t collapse on top of you. It most certainly doesn’t bring me joy. I can sense the stuff in there quaking in its boots, praying the book never gets finished.

My clutter shouldn’t worry too much though, I’m pretty sure that as soon as the book is done, and I have the time to do it, decluttering will hold much less appeal!

#CHRISTMAS

It’s all go on the Christmas front, so I thought I’d give you a quick update. The latest Cherry Pie Island book, Four Weddings and a White Christmas, is available to download now http://amzn.to/1MXpMP4 and is brimming with all things Christmas. In it we meet cool single-mum Hannah and fiery, kinda moody chef Harry and watch as they (somewhat reluctantly) get to know one another over the course of four very different weddings. It’s funny, flirty, packed full of romance and, of course, there’s heaps of snow! I hope you’ll love it (whether you have or haven’t read the previous Cherry Pie books).

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And then, super excitingly, there’s The Little Christmas Kitchen which is now available in shiny, sparkly paperback from all the major supermarkets, WHSmith and Amazon http://amzn.to/1LS2Z6p. This is a standalone Christmas book following the lives of estranged sisters Ella and Maddy as they life-swap for the festive season. One leaves her high-flying London life behind in favour of The Little Greek Kitchen run by her mother on the island of Corfu. The other leaves idyllic island life and heads to the big city ready to make her mark on the world. But a big fat festive life-swap isn’t as easy as it sounds! As the sisters trade one kitchen for another, it suddenly seems that their recipes for a perfect Christmas might be missing a crucial ingredient: each other.

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I LOVE Christmas. And I LOVE Christmas books. I really hope you love these books as much as I loved writing them. Let me know either here or on Twitter @JenOliverBooks.

And for anyone who wants to know a bit more about my Christmas – all its traditions and my fave things – as well as all things writing, below is an interview I gave for @UKCarina. Enjoy! And 100% let me know whatever you want to share about your Christmas – the traditions, the songs, the smells, the tastes. Let’s get festive!

Tell us what your average writing day is like? 

  • I divide my time between writing and my day job depending on deadlines. If it’s a writing day then I will either be making notes and plans in my notebook for that story or working on the draft on my laptop. Since having my son my time to write and work has become very defined – I’ve lost the luxury of procrastination! Although I do still find the time to find the perfect notebooks! 😉

Where do you write?

  • I write at my desk in my flat with the door shut so I’m completely cocooned. If I’m making story notes though I tend to go out to a cafe for a change of scene or go for a walk if I’m stuck on something. I come up with ideas on long car journeys talking to my husband or on the phone to my mum or when I’m trying to convince my toddler to nap or while I’m in the bath!

This is your third Christmas story and as ever the food on the Christmas table is really important. What’s on your Christmas menu?

– We have a really traditional Christmas menu – turkey, Brussels sprouts, roast potatoes, stuffing, Christmas pudding etc – and, similar to Harry’s dad in Four Weddings and a White Christmas, if it’s messed with there are tantrums!

We see The Dandelion Café is being decorated with all sorts of retro ornaments for a Kitschmas wedding! Do you go all out with Christmas decorations or is it minimalist chic?

  • Decorations are a massive part of Christmas for me. I used to love it when my mum had decked out our house with garlands of holly and ivy growing up – it meant Christmas had truly begun. And I try to carry on that tradition in my place. Last year I strung lots of tiny multi-coloured baubles to brown garden string and hung them along the walls of my living room – for something so easy to create the look is really effective. I also bought some beautiful vintage silver glass ornaments from a car boot sale but I put them in the bottom of the buggy and then forgot they were there when I folded it down – they shattered everywhere, I was gutted! This year though I have a whole bag of new decs that I bought in the January sale last year – I can’t wait to get them out and admire them.

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In the story all of Hannah’s family gather in the morning to open stockings. What are your Christmas rituals?

– Well I stole the one for Hannah’s family from my own! We always opened our stockings together as a family and, if we’re all staying in the same place, still get them. Me and my sisters make ones for my mum and dad and they make them for us. We sit round the fire in the morning with cups of tea and see what little gifts we’ve been given.

Harry walks New York at Christmas – have you got any favourite places to go at Christmas time?

– I love the Southbank at Christmas. It’s all-out festive with markets, mulled wine and carols. We also try and go to the Scandinavian Christmas Fair in Rotherhithe every year – it’s well worth a visit because it’s just so Christmassy and you can buy all sorts of different foods, wines and gifts. I love it. http://www.scanevents.co.uk/christmasmarket/partners.html

Christmas every day or sunny summer holiday? 

– Both but only once a year. The anticipation is 90% of the fun.

What’s the best thing about Christmas?

– The build up. I like the shopping for presents, the get-togethers with friends, the family catch-ups, the skating rinks and all the little things that take you by surprise – last year there was a Christmas evening in the high street near us with real live reindeer!

What’s your favourite Christmas smell?

– Walking into the house the day after the Christmas tree has gone up. The surprise of the scent of pine is like a shot of Christmas adrenaline.

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Give us a Christmas memory that makes you smile?

– When I was about ten my older sister bet me that I couldn’t wait till after lunch to open my presents (up till that point I’d spent every Christmas morning hurrying people through breakfast so we could open the gifts). Since then it’s become a family tradition to wait till after lunch for present opening.

What is your favourite Christmas film? 

– Either Home Alone or It’s a Wonderful Life. Although the year before last we went to see Cinema Paradiso at the cinema a couple of nights before Christmas and now it fills me with Christmas nostalgia. I also have a soft spot for Mrs Miracle with Dawson from Dawson’s Creek in it.

Favourite Christmas song?

  • It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas sung by Dean Martin.

Is it better to give or receive?

– I love buying presents – it’s one of my favourite things. There’s nothing better than nailing the perfect present for someone and then seeing the look on their face when they open it.

What’s the last thing you snapped on your phone?

– A screen shot of my book The Grand Reopening of Dandelion Cafe at #5 in the Kindle chart and a video of my son laughing so hard he has to lie down.

What was the last book you read?

The Ice Twins. I was home alone and completely spooked.

Which piece of wisdom do you live by?

– The less time I have the more likely I am to get it done!

Pinterest

For every book I write I tend to spend a day or two procrastinating on Pinterest first. If you find yourself at a loose end, pop over and have a look, then let me know if you agree with my choices! https://www.pinterest.com/JennyOliverBks/

What’s funny is how characters develop in my head as I get further into the story and planning. Sometimes I’ll go back to the mood board and think ‘really’ that was who I picked as inspiration! Other times I’m amazed that I got it so bang on. The whole exercise is probably just an excuse to look at lovely pictures of houses, cafes, clothes and gorgeous men instead of taking the leap and writing the first line of the book. Enjoy x

Sunny Spain

I’ve just come back from two weeks in Spain. We flew to Barcelona and then drove up the coast staying in four different places – a campsite in Tossa de Mar, an apartment in Sa Tuna, a little villa in the middle of nowhere near Cistella and then finally a hotel in Sitges. It was amazing! So many different things to see, beautiful beaches, boiling weather and the most incredible food – from plates of mouthwatering tapas to fish flame-grilled moments after being caught.

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But wow…a holiday with a one and a half year old! Times have definitely changed. Ridiculously (in retrospect) I took four books with me and only read half of one. I know now that I should have used my easyJet luggage allowance for toys rather than reading material.

I’ll admit that I’m used to holidays lying on my towel in the sand reading, maybe having a swim and then perhaps a little snooze followed by a coffee or a cold beer. This did not happen on this holiday! Yet the thing was, once I finally accepted that this type of holiday was to be shelved for a few years at least, I realised that the beach had so much more to offer! I’d forgotten how satisfying it is to make a sandcastle (even if it’s pushed to the ground a moment later), to dig a hole and watch it fill with water, to find shells and sea-glass, hear pebbles plop into the water, splash in puddles left by the sea and sit wrapped in towels after swimming eating cheese and ham sandwiches and sandy crisps.

And there’s nowhere better to be with a babe than Spain! They love them! It was so nice. And there’s a playground on every corner so it’s a toddler’s paradise.

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So while holidays may have changed for a while (and coming home is actually quite a relief!) I am a bucket and spade convert. What I have sacrificed in books I have more than made up for with sand castles, ice creams, chasing butterflies, swings and seesaws and Peppa Pig stickers.

There’s nothing like sticky little ice-cream hands covered in sand and suntan lotion! Bring on the next holiday I say 😉

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Hurray for Autumn

I love September.

  1. It’s my birthday month and I still have a childish excitement for celebrations, presents and chocolate cake.
  2. I tend to go on holiday in September – catching the tail end of the European summer, resolutely dressed in my shorts and flipflops as the locals don their wooly jumpers and winter boots.
  3. I’ve never been able to shake that new start, back to work feeling that came with going back to school.

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Granted this latter point hasn’t always been a positive. I dreaded the day my mum would take us to WHSmiths to stock up on stationary and a new pencil case, if we were lucky, for the forthcoming term. But nowadays I quite like it. I like the idea that the sun is taking a bit of a rest. I can relax and get down to things without the constant feeling that I’m missing out on the glorious weather, the frolicking get-togethers, the ice creams, the lazy lounging about and the general everyday excitement that goes hand in hand with summertime. I can say – thanks very much Summer, it’s been fun, everyone says you’ve been a bit rubbish this year but I feel like I got my fair share of rays, now let’s hand over to Autumn. I can get my duvet back. I can feel a bit chilly as I get into bed. I can put my boots on, dust off my coat and find my scarf. It’s time for stews and red wine, fires in pubs and dark, cosy evenings. It’s X-Factor and long, bonfire-scented walks, splashing in puddles and falling leaves. Gone is the ‘I should be outside’ guilt, replaced by the ‘hurray I’m indoors’ delight. I can cosy on down to my computer, be hugely productive and let a million and one ideas swirl around in my head.

It’s not January, for me, that the year starts, that everything begins again, but September. Autumn. The summer madness drifts away. The cool air brings with it fresh starts, infinite possibilities and the brilliant excuse to buy a new notebook!

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