Saturday, 27 September 2014


12 Must-Read Books with Talking Animals

12 Must-Read Books with Talking AnimalsOur selection of the best books starring talking animals. If you feel we’ve missed something, let us know in the comments below.
The Last Wild
In a world where animals are slowly fading into extinction, twelve-year-old Kester Jaynes feels as if he hardly exists either. He’s been locked away in a home for troubled children and is unable to speak a word.
Then one night, a flock of talking pigeons and a bossy cockroach come to help him escape, and he discovers that he “can” speak–to them. And the animals need him.
Only Kester, with the aid of a stubborn, curious girl named Polly, can help them survive.

As the inhabitants of Redwall Abbey bask in the glorious Summer of the Late Rose, all is quiet and peaceful. But things are not as they seem. Cluny the Scourge–the evil one-eyed rat warlord, is ell-bent on destroying the tranquility as he prepares to fight a bloody battle for the ownership of Redwall. This dazzling story in the Redwall series is packed with all the wit, wisdom, humor, and blood-curdling adventure of the other books in the collection, but has the added bonus of taking the reader right back to the heart and soul of Redwall Abbey and the characters who live there.

The Capture
Deep in the forest of Tyto, the Barn Owls dwell. Soren is born into their tranquil kingdom. But evil lurks in the owl world. First eggs begin to mysteriously disappear from their nests, then Soren himself is captured by a part of strange yellow-eyed owls. He finds himself in a dark and forbidding canyon. It’s called an orphanage, the St. Aegolius Academy for Orphaned Owls, but Soren knows it’s something worse. Within his gizzard, the hope for escape remains alive, no matter how many rules, punishments, and sleepless days he faces at St. Aggie’s. He and his best friend, Gylfie, know the only way out of this place is to do something they have never done before: fly.

Mrs Frisby
Mrs. Frisby, a widowed mouse with four small children, must move her family to their summer quarters immediately, or face almost certain death.
But her youngest son, Timothy, lies ill with pneumonia and must not be moved. Fortunately, she encounters the rats of NIMH. They are an extraordinary breed of highly intelligent creatures, who come up with a brilliant solution to her dilemma!

Stuart Little
Stuart Little is a shy, philosophical little mouse with a big heart and a taste for adventure. In spite of his diminutive stature, barely two inches tall, Stuart sets forth into the world wtih some mighty big plans: to ride a Fifth Avenue bus, to win a sailboat race in Central Park, and to teach school for a day. But Stuart’s greatest adventure begins when he decides to find his best friend, Margalo, a pretty little bird who once lived in a Boston fern in the Littles’ house in New York City. Climbing into his tiny car, Stuart hits the open road, sure he’s heading in the right direction, only to find himself in for a big surprise.

The Jungle Book
In the jungles of India, a pack of wolves discover a young boy. They name the boy Mowgli and protect him against dangers, including Shere Kan, the most savage tiger in the jungle.
As Mowgli grows up, he learns the ways of the jungle from Bagheera the panther, the wise bear, Baloo, and other animals. Soon, he must decide whether to remain among beasts or embrace his own kind.

Watership Down
A phenomenal worldwide bestseller for over thirty years, Richard Adams’sWatership Down is a timeless classic and one of the most beloved novels of all time. Set in England’s Downs, a once idyllic rural landscape, this stirring tale of adventure, courage and survival follows a band of very special creatures on their flight from the intrusion of man and the certain destruction of their home. Led by a stouthearted pair of brothers, they journey forth from their native Sandleford Warren through the harrowing trials posed by predators and adversaries, to a mysterious promised land and a more perfect society.

The Wind in the Willws
The Wind in the Willows features the adventures of woodland residents Mole, Ratty, and Badger as they rescue their friend Toad from escapades with coach-houses, motor-cars, and washer-women, finally helping him vanquish the stoats and weasels who have captured Toad Hall.
Since its beginning as a series of stories told to Kenneth Grahame’s young son, the Wind in the Willows has become one of the best-loved children’s books of all time.

Fantastic Mr Fox
Nobody outfoxes Fantastic Mr. Fox!
Someone’s been stealing from the three meanest farmers around, and they know the identity of the thief—it’s Fantastic Mr. Fox! Working alone they could never catch him; but now fat Boggis, squat Bunce, and skinny Bean have joined forces, and they have Mr. Fox and his family surrounded. What they don’t know is that they’re not dealing with just any fox—Mr. Fox would rather die than surrender. Only the most fantastic plan can save him now.

Animal Farm
Animal Farm is the remarkable allegory of a downtrodden society of overworked, mistreated animals, and their quest to create a paradise of progress, justice, and equality is one of the most scathing satires ever published.
As we witness the rise and bloody fall of the revolutionary animals, we begin to recognize the seeds of totalitarianism in the most idealistic organization; and in our most charismatic leaders, the souls of our cruelest oppressors.

Charlotte’s Web
This is the story of a little girl named Fern who loved a little pig named Wilbur—and of Wilbur’s dear friend Charlotte A. Cavatica, a beautiful large grey spider who lived with Wilbur in the barn. With the help of Templeton, the rat who never did anything for anybody unless there was something in it for him, and by a wonderfully clever plan of her own, Charlotte saved the life of Wilbur, who by this time had grown up to quite a pig.
It’s gone on to become one of the most beloved children’s books of all time.

Winnie the Pooh by AA Milne
The four Pooh books created by A. A. Milne and Ernest H. Shepard have long been cherished by children and adults.
These stories – starring the round, endearing Bear of Little Brain and his friends Piglet, Eeyore, Christopher Robin, and others – are as popular today as when they first enchanted readers more than seventy years ago. The adventures of Christopher Robin and his friends, in which Pooh Bear uses a balloon to get honey, Piglet meets a Heffalump, and Eeyore has a birthday.

If you’re a dog lover, you’ve got to check out the photography of 17-year-old photographerJessica Trinh. Her two main photo subjects are her two dogs: a Golden Retriever named Chuppy and an Australian Shepherd named Daisy. Over the past few years, Trinh has captured hundreds of beautiful and creative portraits of her furry happy-go-lucky friends, aided by her keen eye for spotting gorgeous lighting and happy expressions. We dare you not to smile as you look through the images in this post.

Trinh writes,
Ever since I set my hands on a camera, I knew I had unlocked a new dimension. One where you can expand your imagination and run for endless miles. Photography makes you look at things differently. You notice rain drops and the way the sun kisses the Earth. You breath in every moment of your life. You love to live and live to love. There is no time to waste because there is an urgency to capture each loving gesture, smile, and laugh in both humans and animals. Then every photograph becomes timeless and you smile, knowing that you hold a few split seconds in your hands. I live in a box called a camera with the lens as my window and everyday I sit on my couch watching the world outside through a different perspective. No worries, my dogs are right beside me looking at it the same way.
For more of these photographs, head on over to Trinh’s Flickr photostream. Watch out though: you might spend hours and hours falling more and more in love with her dogs (and her photography).

Update: Trinh has informed us that the 8th photo in this set, the one with the butterfly, is actually a digital composite.

Image credits: Photographs by Jessica Trinh and used with permission

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

20 Amazing Books to Read, Starting Now.

Via on Dec 18, 2013
book pages reading

Snuggle up with a good book (or a nice e-reader) and get lost in a different world.

I’ve loved reading ever since I was a small child and when I was growing up, my favorite places to go were the library and the bookstore. I’m constantly on the hunt for new, exciting reading material and I don’t limit myself to any one type of book. If it’s good, I’ll read it. Nothing is off limits because a great author can make any topic exciting and compelling.
I urge you to take some quiet time to relax and enjoy more books or to try reading something different from your usual preferred genre.
I’ve created an excellent list to help you out. There’s something for everyone—fiction, non-fictionmemoir, humor, food, thrillers, romance and even young adult.
1. The Signature of All Things—Elizabeth Gilbert.
Don’t limit Gilbert to Eat, Pray, Love. She’s a brilliant novelist and a master storyteller. This magnificently rich novel is filled with adventure and vivid imagery. I loved it so much that I got into a funk when it was over because I hated to see it end.
2. Crescent—Diana Abu-Jaber.
A fairy-tale, a love story, a war story and a story about lots of delicious food. Set in Los Angeles and the Middle East, this book will make you fall in love and it will make you hungry. Simply enchanting.
3. Holy Cow!: An Indian Adventure—Sarah MacDonald.
A memoir about an Australian journalist who moves to India for true love and decides to explore the country and the many religious beliefs it is home to. Fascinating, hilarious and enlightening.
4. David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants—Malcolm Gladwell.
Gladwell is one of those writers who can truly make anything interesting and his way of presenting facts and telling stories will force you to unexpectedly rethink how you view the world. Challenge your perceptions about disadvantages in his latest.
5. Dad is Fat—Jim Gaffigan.
Comedian and father of five Gaffigan has written a must-read for anyone with kids. Also makes a great gift for parents.
6. Sharp Objects: A Novel—Gillian Flynn.
Flynn is famous for her thriller Gone Girl, but check out her earlier novel, a darker, creepier tale of a serial killer targeting children in a small, Missouri town and the reporter with a haunted past who comes home to cover the story. Terrifying, but I could not put it down.
7. The Magicians—Lev Grossman.
It’s like Harry Potter crossed with Narnia for grown-ups with lots of sex, drinking, drugs, tattoos and violence. Pure genius.
8. Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passions and Purpose—Tony Hsieh.
Written by the CEO and founder of Zappos, this is no ordinary business book. It’s a great story. Uplifting, inspiring and innovative.
9. Damn You, Autocorrect!  Awesomely Embarrassing Text Messages You Didn’t Mean to Send—Jillian Madison.
I woke my daughter up from laughing at this book. I also may or may not have actually peed my pants because I laughed so hard.
10. Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi: My Humble Quest to Heal My Colitis, Calm My ADD and Find the Key to Happiness—Brian Leaf.
A funny memoir, packed with wisdom, quirky anecdotes and tons of pop culture references as one man journeys toward enlightenment and sometimes the bathroom.
11. Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity—Katherine Boo.
Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Boo brings humanity and soul to the people who dwell in the unimaginable squalor of the slums of Mumbai. This book, which reads like a novel, is beautifully written and will stay with you long after you’ve closed the cover.
12. Chaos Walking Series—Patrick Ness.
These books, not quite your typical, young adult, dystopian novels, were recommend to me by a college professor. If you liked The Hunger Games, this series must be next on your list.
13. Baby Catcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife—Peggy Vincent.
Vincent, mother of three herself, writes this memoir about her nearly fifty years as a midwife in the Bay Area. Her stories are fascinating, outrageous, joyful and heartbreaking and will change the way you think about childbirth.
14. Life After Life: A Novel—Kate Atkinson.
A complex, dreamy, literary novel about a woman born in 1910 who dies repeatedly and is reborn back into her own life, each time living longer and longer as the second World War draws near. Soon it becomes apparent that this woman, Ursula, may be able to change the destiny of the world.
15. The World’s Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette’s, Faith, Strength and the Power of Family—Josh Hanagarne.
A true, feel-good book. Hanagarne, a librarian at the Salt Lake City Library who suffers from the most severe form of Tourette’s, writes about his struggles to overcome his condition through books, love, weight-lifting, extreme exercise, family and faith. You’ll love it.
16. Amateur Night at the Bubblegum Kittikat: A Memoir—Victoria Fedden.
What happens when the ultimate good girl goes to work at a strip club in an attempt to make over her life and herself after the worst break-up of all time? Hilarity ensues and life lessons are learned in this true story by yours truly.
17. Life of Pi—Yann Martel.
A gorgeous novel that will make you question everything and feel better for doing so. This is one of my all-time favorite books. Mystical and awe-inspiring.
18. One Hundred Years of Solitude—Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
This is the best book I have ever read. Period. Nobel Prizer winner, Garcia Marquez creates an family epic of magical realism set in an enchanted village in the Colombian jungle.
19. Coming Clean: A Memoir—Kimberly Rae Miller.
The daughter of hoarders comes to terms with her upbringing in this beautiful, redemptive and brutally honest memoir. The best part is that this is ultimately a story of forgiveness and loving one’s family members when that’s not always the easiest thing to do. Fans of The Glass Castle will really enjoy this.
20. How to Cook Everything—Mark Bittman.
This is the only cookbook you’ll ever need. The simplicity of the recipes and prose is downright poetic and the food is good. Really good. As a bonus, get this book with The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America’s Most Imaginative Chefs, by Page and Dornenburg. I could flip through both of these books for hours and they make perfect holiday gifts for foodies, novice chefs or yourself, of course.
I could honestly go on and on, but I’d rather hear from you! Please use the comments to share your opinions and ideas and of course your favorite reads.

Relephant Reads:

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Monday, 22 September 2014

To My Lover.

Via on Nov 21, 2013


Relephant reads:

This is my armor, that I will lay gently beside us as we wrap ourselves in egyptian cotton and keep each other warm.

This is my heart that wonders if it can be brave enough to come out and play with you. I have put it back together with duct tape and honey. It seems to be beating regularly. I promise to check it on a consistent basis.
These are my lips that miss your touch; your hands that graze against my cheek, like the first time an artist’s brush kisses the canvas.
This is my smile….the one that has been hidden away in the bottom drawer of my antique dresser. I’m not sure how you found it under all my crumpled t-shirts.
This is my ego that I am surrendering to, just for tonight…just long enough to type these words. I am tempted to surrender tomorrow as well.
These are the stars that I lay beneath in the cold for no other reason than I know that you are under them too.
Thank you for your arms that wrap around me your affections when indentations shadowed in type are not enough. Shamefully, I crave that more often than I will tell you. I fear that your touch will remain part of my tainted rem sleep.
Thank you for kissing me in places that do not know shadows or light…the places where band-aids won’t stick. Thank you for seeing my body as beautiful and something to be cherished. Thank you for allowing me to know yours.
Thank you for your humor that envelops me…your moves…your beautifully maniacal crazy moves.
You are as bold as I am brazen.
Thank you for your words that show me that there is still good out there, and for the ones that make me blush even when it makes my cheeks hurt. Thank you for making the silence comfortable.
Thank you for your patience and for your kindness that forbears my unease.
Although I have no void that needs to be filled with lawfully adoring stares, I am grateful for you.

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Sunday, 21 September 2014

Barking Blondes: ACCESS ALL AREAS FOR DOGS!!!!

Joanne Good and Anna Webb
Barking Blondes Access all area 201x300 Barking Blondes: ACCESS ALL AREAS FOR DOGS!!!!Busy old week this week. The new season of ITV’s Alan Titchmarsh show has kicked off and we are lucky enough to be joining it as Pet Experts for a third season.
Monday found the two of us, with our seasoned performers Molly and Matilda, strutting our stuff through the corridors of ITV studios. The girls were wagging their tails with excitement and as with any working environment when a dog appears, chaos and smiles were in abundance. The crew absolutely loved their breaks from routine, to pat and indulge the girls who reciprocated by wagging their tails and bouncing up and down.
You should have seen the look on Coleen Nolan’s face when the lift doors opened to reveal two bull breeds on the way to Make Up.  Wonderful Kay Adams was in the dressing room next door preparing to debate a news item on the show but as a dog lover spent most of the time with us….indulging the pooches.
Live TV is always nerve-racking but somehow we get it easier…because whatever the audience may think of us (and our outfits)…the dogs are the ice breakers. They may or may not have been on their best behavior, barking at the cherry picker camera, blowing off by Alan’s chair and dragging a startled comedian (Alan Davies) onto the set, but they were always forgiven.
And last Monday, for us, with our dogs, the best place in the world was sharing the Green Room with a forever nimble Cannon And Ball! They were everything we wanted them to be. Massive dog lovers…when one ( don’t know which) tripped over Matilda ..instead of questioning why there was a dog in the room…he fell to the floor to apologise to her and poured out tons of affection.  She was in her element. Long live show biz!
Saturday afternoon found us signing our books in Horsham Library.  This was to celebrate twenty years in their new building. Apart from assistance dogs, no other pets have ever been permitted into this municipal and very popular library.
Books and dogs, what better combination! Judging by the expression of the faces of the children arriving to return or borrow books, maybe the local authority should relax the rules.  Not even those seated and reading silently raised an eyebrow when Matilda broke away to do a circuit through the aisles of books.
Thursday and it was our final The Barking Hour outside broadcast of the summer, in the Piazza outside BBC New Broadcasting House. The show is dedicated to dogs and despite not being able to take them into our studio…….they are made more than welcome outside.
It’s an opportunity for listeners to join us with their four legged friends and for BBC staff to burst into smiles at the sight of such mayhem. Again, how wonderful would it be if this happened more regularly.
Or maybe not. Perhaps it’s the novelty of finding dogs in ITV corridors, BBC spaces and urban libraries that makes it so special.? I wonder, if they had access all areas all of the time, maybe we dog lovers would get as exasperated by them a we do of  ourselves?
Somewhere you WILL find lots of dogs this weekend is THE NATIONAL PET SHOW in Birmingham N.E.C. We will be there judging Super Dogs with Molly and Matilda.
Make sure you come and say hello, it’s allowed .
Barking Blondes by Jo Good & Anna Webb, published by Hamlyn, £

Awesomely Delicious Quinoa Tabbouleh. {Vegan, Gluten Free Recipe}

Via on Sep 16, 2014

Everything in this recipe is good for you—and I mean really, really good for you.

Quinoa is a gluten free grain, and although it is technically a seed, we can cook it and eat it just like the traditional bulgar wheat used in tabbouleh. It is also rich in fiber and minerals like magnesium. It even counts as a complete protein, so it’s great for vegans! All of the herbs and vegetables that round out this recipe are packed with phytonutrients and, of course, packed with flavor too!
Here’s what you’ll need for this awesome Middle Eastern salad: (serves 6-8)
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 2 average sized tomatoes, diced
  • 1 small cucumber, diced
  • 1 small bunch of green onions, sliced finely
  • 2/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped finely
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint, chopped finely
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp dried ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp coriander
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • salt to taste
From here, the assembly is incredibly easy.
Just make sure you’ve got your cooked quinoa and all the other ingredients chopped, and then toss them together with all of the spices and herbs. Drizzle with the olive oil and lemon juice and then wait. Refrigerate it for at least an hour so all the flavors to really get to know each other.
And there you have it, an awesome, nutritious dish bursting with flavor!
Enjoy thoroughly! Your body and your taste buds will thank you.

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