Category Archives: Recommended

Learning a new skill at home

Full disclosure, we’ve had about eight goes at writing this introduction. We are living in a crazy time at the moment with many people unwell, everyone in isolation and unable to see extended families or friends. We try as much as we can to look on the bright side and have been heartened to see that our local community is full of kindness where people are helping each other as much as they can. We’re aiming to offer a silver lining too with daily dinner inspiration (there are so many cookbooks on the market that are seriously turning this ‘non cook’ into a wannabe chef! – be sure to follow along on Facebook and Instagram and share your dinner ideas too). 

This week we are all about helping you fill the spare time you have on your hands while we all sit this virus out at home. There are so many things you can learn to do.
We’ve had a little dig around and have found six great new books that will help you broaden your skill sets. What is it you would like to learn?

From Clay to Kiln by Stuart Carey

This one is for these of you that have always wanted to have a go at pottery but perhaps haven’t worked with clay since kindergarten. From Clay to Kiln is a must-have guide for anyone working with ceramics, from absolute beginners, weekend crafters and students, through to practising ceramicists. In this book, Stuart Carey invigorates and encourages you through all stages of the pottery process. Covering all the information you need about tools and materials, he takes you through preparation and hand building, throwing and finishing your vessel, to glazing and firing. You will gain an in-depth knowledge of how clay works and how to apply your skills to the wheel and beyond. With simple step-by-step tutorials, clear visuals and Stuart’s helpful hints and tips, you can jump straight in with confidence and create a piece of pottery that marries beauty, form and function. Including stunningly beautiful photography throughout, this is a book to inspire.

Mend and Patch by Kerstin Neumuller

These are skills that are sadly lacking in our generation but with the times we are in, perhaps will make a resurgence as we all take the pace of life down a little. 

Throwing away holey, yet beloved, clothes can sometimes be one of the saddest things, but what if you were able to fix those holes and extend their life? With Mend and Patch, you can learn to take care of your clothes, mending, patching and repairing so you can cherish all your garments. In the furthest corner of Kerstin and Douglas’s store, Second Sunrise in Stockholm, Kerstin has set up a mending studio and so when it’s quiet in the shop she can sit there by the sewing machine and give a new lease of life to people’s favourite jeans. Some prefer discreet and invisible mendings, others want them to be highly visible and so, with time, mending becomes a part of the history of the clothes and the people who wear them. Mend and Patch arms you with the skills and ideas you need to mend your own clothes, truly making and keeping them your own, whatever the wear and tear. Find out emergency tips for mending in a hurry, enhance your clothes with decorative ‘mends’ and learn to mend for and with different materials, including leather, cotton, wool, silk and of course, denim.

Clean Code by Robert C Martin

Okay, this is something many of us put off. Coding. Sounds tricky. Isn’t really. Well…that’s what we are hoping. Many of our community run their own businesses and websites are (and even more so) going to become an increasingly important component of those. Knowing a little coding will surely be of benefit. Also, this isn’t the newest book (it was published in 2008) but it is an extremely pragmatic method for writing better code from the start, and ultimately producing more robust applications.

Even bad code can function. But if code isn’t clean, it can bring a development organisation to its knees. Every year, countless hours and significant resources are lost because of poorly written code. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Noted software expert Robert C. Martin presents a revolutionary paradigm with Clean Code. Martin has teamed up with his colleagues from Object Mentor to distill their best agile practice of cleaning code “on the fly” into a book that will instil within you the values of a software craftsman and make you a better programmer – but only if you work at it.

Eloquent Ruby by Russ Olsen

Yep, another coding book. It’s an important skill so we thought we’d give you another option. Ruby is the language powering sites including Booko, AirBNB, Shopify and Zendesk. The developer community around Ruby is famously welcoming and inclusive with the community motto derived from demeanor of the language’s chief designer Matz: “Matz is nice and so we are nice”. The language has a focus on developer happiness making it a great place to begin your journey into writing software.

It’s easy to write correct Ruby code, but to gain the fluency needed to write great Ruby code, you must go beyond syntax and absorb the “Ruby way” of thinking and problem solving. In Eloquent Ruby, Russ Olsen helps you write Ruby like true Rubyists do-so you can leverage its immense, surprising power. Olsen draws on years of experience internalizing the Ruby culture and teaching Ruby to other programmers. He guides you to the “Ah Ha!” moments when it suddenly becomes clear why Ruby works the way it does, and how you can take advantage of this language’s elegance and expressiveness. Eloquent Ruby starts small, answering tactical questions focused on a single statement, method, test, or bug. You’ll learn how to write code that actually looks like Ruby (not Java or C#); why Ruby has so many control structures; how to use strings, expressions, and symbols; and what dynamic typing is really good for. Next, the book addresses bigger questions related to building methods and classes. You’ll discover why Ruby classes contain so many tiny methods, when to use operator overloading, and when to avoid it. Olsen explains how to write Ruby code that writes its own code-and why you’ll want to.He concludes with powerful project-level features and techniques ranging from gems to Domain Specific Languages. A part of the renowned Addison-Wesley Professional Ruby Series, Eloquent Ruby will help you “put on your Ruby-colored glasses” and get results that make you a true believer.

Home is Where You Make It: DIY ideas and styling secrets to create a home you love – whether you rent or own by Geneva Vanderzeil

They say home is where the heart is and this little book will help you learn a few skills to make sure that home reflects the personality of the people who live with you. Beautiful and practical DIY projects, styling hacks and design tips for both owners and renters from the founder of one of the world’s most popular lifestyle websites. Add style and individuality to your home with DIY, even when you’re renting. Home Is Where You Make It channels the simplicity and beauty of modern living. This is your room-by-room guide to making and DIY-ing your own place, with hundreds of clever styling hacks, repurposing and up-styling ideas, and easy weekend projects to create the home of your dreams.

Mad About The House: 101 Interior Design Answers by Kate Watson-Smyth

This is Kate’s second book and it is a gold mine of insights and tips from this fabulous writer.

This is a companion to the best-selling book by the founder of the UK’s number 1 interiors blog, this easy-to-use dictionary of interior design answers all those questions you wanted to solve but were afraid to ask. The book begins with the most important questions of all: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? And When? The aim is to answer these before you start any decorating scheme and you will avoid the most common mistakes, save money and, most importantly, create a home that works for you and the people who live there. It is the super-practical guide that allows you to dip in and out so you can solve all your decorating dilemmas.The chapters focus on Walls, Floors, Ceilings, Windows, Doors, Skirtings, Furniture Layout, Lighting, before finally a round-up of Fixtures and Fittings. In addition to the no-nonsense practical answers, there are checklists and step-by-step guides to key decorating challenges – everything from How to Hang Wallpaper, to Arranging a Gallery Wall, and Removing Stains from Carpets and Soft Furnishings. You’ll love Kate’s writing style and if you want to hear more from her you can also check out her podcast with Sophie Robinson here.

Stay Safe and Enjoy!

Dinner Inspo: South

Struggling to come up with dinner ideas? Us too. That’s why we’re sharing a new cookbook each day in April. Today’s dinner inspo book is South. Fried green tomatoes anyone?

What are you cooking tonight?


Book of the Alphabet: T (and U, V, W, X, Y and Z)

On Monday we start a new daily book post (hint: they’ll help you in the kitchen) so today’s your chance to share your favourite book beginning with either T, U, V, W, X, Y or Z.

We have one that starts with T? It’s Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino.

We hope you have enjoyed playing along. Let us know what you’d like us to showcase next in the comments below.


Our newest favourites: science fiction and fantasy novels

Well, 2020 has turned out to be quite the year and we are only in March! The growing interest in Fantasy and Science Fiction books tells us that you’re all looking to escape these crazy times. And you’re in luck. It happens to be Dan’s favourite genre so on top of his list of all time favourites, we have also had a poke around the internet and have found a number of magical books that will transport you and your imagination into another world. The great news is that many of them form a series of books!

The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu

The Three-Body Problem is the first chance for English-speaking readers to experience this multiple award winning phenomenon from China’s most beloved science fiction author, Liu Cixin.

Set against the backdrop of China’s Cultural Revolution, a secret military project sends signals into space to establish contact with aliens. An alien civilisation on the brink of destruction captures the signal and plans to invade Earth. Meanwhile, on Earth, different camps start forming, planning to either welcome the superior beings and help them take over a world seen as corrupt, or to fight against the invasion. The result is a science fiction masterpiece of enormous scope and vision. 

You can view the entires series here.

Dune Chronicles by Frank Herbert

Dune is considered one of the greatest science fiction novels of all time, and Frank Herbert left a lasting legacy to fans and family alike. Brian Herbert – Frank Herbert’s son – and coauthor Kevin J. Anderson have continued the series, keeping the original author’s vision alive and bringing the saga to millions of new readers. 

Melange, or ‘spice’, is the most valuable – and rarest – element in the universe; a drug that does everything from increasing a person’s life-span to making interstellar travel possible. And it can only be found on a single planet: the inhospitable desert world Arrakis. Whoever controls Arrakis controls the spice. And whoever controls the spice controls the universe. When the Emperor transfers stewardship of Arrakis from the noble House Harkonnen to House Atreides, the Harkonnens fight back, murdering Duke Leto Atreides. Paul, his son, and Lady Jessica, his concubine, flee into the desert. On the point of death, they are rescued by a band for Fremen, the native people of Arrakis, who control Arrakis’ second great resource: the giant worms that burrow beneath the burning desert sands. In order to avenge his father and retake Arrakis from the Harkonnens, Paul must earn the trust of the Fremen and lead a tiny army against the innumerable forces aligned against them. And his journey will change the universe. 

You can view the series here.

The Expanse by James S A Covey

Humanity has colonised the planets – interstellar travel is still beyond our reach, but the solar system has become a dense network of colonies. But there are tensions – the mineral-rich outer planets resent their dependence on Earth and Mars and the political and military clout they wield over the Belt and beyond.

Now, when Captain Jim Holden’s ice miner stumbles across a derelict, abandoned ship, he uncovers a secret that threatens to throw the entire system into war. Attacked by a stealth ship belonging to the Mars fleet, Holden must find a way to uncover the motives behind the attack, stop a war and find the truth behind a vast conspiracy that threatens the entire human race. 

You can also watch the series on DVD, Blu-Ray or on Prime.

Culture Series by Iain M Banks

The war raged across the galaxy. Billions had died, billions more were doomed. Moons, planets, the very stars themselves, faced destruction, cold-blooded, brutal, and worse, random. The Idirans fought for their Faith; the Culture for its moral right to exist. Principles were at stake. There could be no surrender. Within the cosmic conflict, an individual crusade. Deep within a fabled labyrinth on a barren world, a Planet of the Dead proscribed to mortals, lay a fugitive Mind. Both the Culture and the Idirans sought it. It was the fate of Horza, the Changer, and his motley crew of unpredictable mercenaries, human and machine, actually to find it, and with it their own destruction. 

The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson

The future is small. The future is nano. Poor little Nell – orphan girl alone and adrift in a future world of Confucian law and neo-Victorian values, nano-machines and walk-in body alteration. Well, not quite alone. Because Nell has a friend, of sorts. A guide, a teacher, an armed and unarmed combat instructor, a book and a computer and a matter compiler: the Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer is all these and much much more. 

Wanderers by Chuck Wendig

Shana wakes up one morning to discover her little sister in the grip of a strange malady. She appears to be sleepwalking. She cannot talk and cannot be woken up. And she is heading with inexorable determination to a destination that only she knows. But Shana and her sister are not alone. Soon they are joined by a flock of sleepwalkers from across America, on the same mysterious journey. And like Shana, there are other “shepherds” who follow the flock to protect their friends and family on the long dark road ahead. For as the sleepwalking phenomenon awakens terror and violence in America, the real danger may not be the epidemic but the fear of it. With society collapsing all around them -and an ultra-violent militia threatening to exterminate them- the fate of the sleepwalkers depends on unraveling the mystery behind the epidemic. The terrifying secret will either tear the nation apart-or bring the survivors together to remake a shattered world.

Enjoy!