May Reading


Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots by Jessica Soffer brings together troubled teen Lorca and newly widowed Victoria.

Based in New York, Victoria begins an Iraqi Jewish cooking class to help her loneliness and Lorca signs up looking for a way to cook herself into her mother’s affections.

Through food and cooking Victoria and Luca become friends and the two form an unlikely bond at the most difficult time of their lives…  But could more than just a love of cooking be connecting them?

Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots is a real page turner which will have your mouth watering with the food descriptions. You also can’t help but feel a strong connection with the characters. Easily my favourite book this month.

Jessica Soffer says:

This is a story about accepting the people we love—the people we have to love and the people we choose to love, the families we’re given and the families we make. It’s the story of two women adrift in New York, a widow and an almost-orphan, each searching for someone she’s lost. It’s the story of how, even in moments of grief and darkness, there are joys waiting nearby.  Lorca spends her life poring over cookbooks, making croissants and chocolat chaud, seeking out rare ingredients, all to earn the love of her distracted chef of a mother, who is now packing her off to boarding school. In one last effort to prove herself indispensable, Lorca resolves to track down the recipe for her mother’s ideal meal, an obscure Middle Eastern dish called masgouf.  Victoria, grappling with her husband’s death, has been dreaming of the daughter they gave up forty years ago. An Iraqi Jewish immigrant who used to run a restaurant, she starts teaching cooking lessons; Lorca signs up.  Together, they make cardamom pistachio cookies, baklava, kubba with squash. They also begin to suspect they are connected by more than their love of food. Soon, though, they must reckon with the past, the future, and the truth – whatever it might be. Bukra fil mish mish, the Arabic saying goes. Tomorrow Apricots May Bloom. 

When I met Gary Barlow. Why you should never meet your heroes...


Today is my Gary-versary*, aka the two year anniversary since I met my absolute hero - Gary Barlow, and I thought I'd mark it about by telling you all about the car crash it was.  

We all imagine that when we meet our hero you'd get on so well you'd become best friends. The reality is very different. 

I've met Gary twice now and I wish I could regale you with how we spent time laughing and bantering with each other. Unfortunately we didn't. I messed up. Big time. Twice. 

The first time I met him was in 2006 at his book signing. I queued for seven hours wearing my black Take That t-shirt with Mrs Barlow on the back. In that seven hours I  had plenty of time to think about what was going to happen and how our conversation would go in the short space of time I'd have as he signed my book. 

But as I got to the desk, book in hand I FROZE. Gary asked me my name. I mumbled and after asking three times he finally got that my name was Amy. His security guard pointed out that my Take That t-shirt had Mrs Barlow on the back. 'I wish,' he smiled. 

I burst into tears. Full on sobs. He was still smiling though I am pretty sure he was fumbling under the desk for a panic button. 

He signed my book, it was time to move on. But I was frozen. The security guard had to lead me away. Smooth.  

Fast forward five years to 2011. 

My lovely friend Laura won a competition to go and see Take That during their Progress tour. A good prize in itself - but the cherry on the top was getting to meet the whole band. AND SHE WAS TAKING ME!  

Preparation mode began - new outfit, blow dry and spray tan. 

We travelled up a few days later listening to the new album. I was full of beans. This was my moment! My moment to put right the disaster that was 2006. 

We checked in our bags at the hotel, dolled ourselves up and had a drink for Dutch courage.  

We then began our walk to the stadium, walking alongside thousands of other Take That fans but we were different! We were going to meet them! 

However there was a problem. My liveliness had gone, I could feel myself getting quieter and quieter…. 

We arrived at the stadium and were taken into a small room. 

I sat down. I stood up. I sat down again. Laura was very chilled, chatting away to the six other competition winners. I had sweaty palms and thought I might throw up. 

They filter in. Howard first. Mark second. And then Gary, Jason and Robbie. 

Suddenly Gary was in front of me. Smiling. At me.  

I open my mouth but nothing comes out. 

'What's you name?' Gary asked. 

'Amy,' I stuttered in a voice that wasn't even mine. 

'Emily?' he asked. 

'Amy,' I said, in yet another weird voice. 

'Hi Amy,' he said, leaning in and giving me a kiss.  

I probably hug him for a moment longer than is appropriate, with my eyes closed as I sniff his hair. 

He pulls away and smiles again. 

Now hear would be the point I ask about the tour. Ask about his upcoming gig as a judge on X Factor. Only yet again, I was speechless. 

'Have you come far?' he said. 

'London,' I said. 

'Oh wow. Quite a way,' he said. 

'Are you working tomorrow?' 

'Yes. We have to get the 6am train,' I said. 

So far so SNOOZE. What am I doing? 

There is a little bit of a silence. He is obviously wondering what the hell is wrong with this girl in front of him and I wonder what the hell I am doing. 

Behind me I hear Laura bantering, no FLIRTING, away with Jason. Why can't I be doing that? 

'You're looking good,' I manage to blurt out. 

'Trim. Fit. Buff.' 

He smiles. 

'Thanks,' he says. 

'With the tour and X Factor coming up I've been kept busy. I've lost 16lbs.' 

'You can tell,' I say. 

'You looks trim. Fit. Buff.'

At this point I want to stab myself in the eye.  

Gary is obviously gearing up to move on to speak to the other winners. I've had my chance and I know far too well I've blown it. 

He goes to shake my hand. I grab it. And don't let go. I DON'T LET GO. 

'Er, well I hope you enjoy the show,' he said. The security guard comes over and ushers Gary off for group pictures with the winners. 

Minutes later they leave the room and my chance to make the great impression I most desperately wanted to make doesn't happen. Yet again. 

Though at least I didn't cry this time and have to be escorted away…

Perfect couple award...

*Harriet Thurley coined this phrase. Cheers Hazza. 

Fratelli La Bufala - Pizza makes you beautiful


Pizza and Prosecco are magic words to me so when I was invited to the opening of the second Fratelli La Bufala restaurant in London I was there, appetite at the ready. 

All I knew about the restaurant was it was founded by three brothers from Campania, their buffalo mozzarella was especially flown in from Naples three times a week - and the Neapolitan pizza was top ranked as the best pizza in London. Music to my ears. 

Expectations were high - and I wasn't disappointed. (Warning: this will be a very picture heavy post. Because a picture says a thousand words, right? Drool away.)

The Prosecco flowed and the canapés kept on coming - the bruschetta being possibly the best I've ever tasted. It was so fresh. And I can confirm the Neapolitan pizza lived up to its reputation! And we also had a foodie chat with the very famous chef Aldo Zilli!

Full of delicious canapés we headed downstairs for yet more food. We tasted the famous buffalo mozzarella and it was delicious. You can understand why they fly it in - it certainly wasn't as rubbery as the mozzarella I've tried in other Italian restaurants. The pasta dish was also good.

The came the meat. The buffalo meat. WOW. It's not often I would go to an Italian and order anything other than the pizza - but I would make an exception for this. It was cooked so well it melted in your mouth. Perfect. 

'It's the best thing I've ever tasted!' my friend Elaine said. I couldn't have agreed more. 

Over dinner I heard someone say: 'Pizza makes you beautiful' and I couldn't agree more. I was annoyed that I hadn't thought to title my blog that!

I left happy, tipsy, so full I could barely do my coat up and certain I would be back very soon. 

Fratelli La Bufala, 35-37 Villiers Steet, Charing Cross, WC2N 6ND 

Paper Aeroplanes by Dawn O'Porter


I was really excited when I heard that Dawn O'Porter was writing a book. Even more so when I realised it would be based on two teen girls at school in the 90's. I knew I'd end up identifying with them and I was right. I loved Paper Aeroplanes straightaway. 

The story is based on Renee and Flo, 15-year-old best friends who don't have it easy with difficult home lives and a struggle to fit in at school. Luckily they find each other and through their narrative you go on a journey as they cope with dysfunctional families, exams, boys and bullies. 

I think what is so brilliant about this book is the fact you will easily identify with the awkwardness and  cringe moments throughout. Boys, period mishaps, losing your virginity… It is hard not to feel nostalgic as you read Flo and Renee's adventures and traumas. I was taken right back to my own school days - and it certainly wasn't always great!  

Dawn O'Porter sums up being a teen perfectly in Paper Aeroplanes. A great read. 

Can anything ever be as good as the book?


There is a phrase I use so often that it will probably appear on my grave stone: 'That wasn't as good as the book.' 

I say it a lot and am always met with an eye roll but to be fair, I am right. 

But I put myself through films and TV shows that have come from brilliant books in the hope that I am proved wrong but I rarely am. 

When I heard the The Ice Cream Girls by Dorothy Koomson had been commissioned I was thrilled. It was probably my favourite book of 2010. 

I've loved her books for years. Koomson's writing style is amazing. The story is always a real roller coaster of emotions with a huge twist at the end. 

The Ice Cream Girls follows teens Poppy and Serena who are having an abusive relationship with an older man who is a teacher. 

When he is murdered Poppy is sent to prison for his death though she always maintains her innocence. When she is released after 17 years she hunts Serena down, convinced that she is to blame…

The story goes between the two girls who both claim they are innocent and you are gripped until the truth is revealed. 

I thought ITV would do a good job as they already had a brilliant story and for the first two weeks I did enjoy it. The casting especially was brilliant. 

But then came the finale. I sat down in anticipation of the huge twist that I hadn't seen coming… 

And I really didn't see this ending coming either. ITV had completely changed the ending - and not for the better either. It wasn't believable. It wasn't a better ending. They'd just ruined it. 

I actually switched off before the final part. I didn't want to see their ending play out when the original ending was so, so, SO much better. 

I was annoyed. The book was brilliant and TV producers must have thought so - otherwise why commission it in the first place?

I'm sure I am being a little unfair. A lot of people must have really enjoyed the show (and if they did they should also read the book to compare!) but I know from the reaction on twitter that many didn't. 

Why mess with an already fantastic ending? 

Also what was interesting was what the author, Dorothy Koomson, had to say. You can read that here.

So I've learnt a lesson. Next time a TV show or film is made based on a favourite book I will just refuse to watch. After all, I'm not sure if I've said this already, but TV shows and films are never as good as the book...

Did you enjoy the show? Or hate it as much as I did?