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Book Review - The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches

Hello friends,

I absolutely love reading, and have been a book lover and collector for most of my life. Some of my earliest memories as a child are of my mum taking me to a local library, or of us going into town for the day, just so I could pick up a copy of the latest book in whatever series I was currently obsessed with. And pretty much nothing has changed in the many years since then.

There is nothing better on a cold and rainy autumnal day, than to curl up with a cup of tea and a good book, and reading the afternoon away. But that all came to a jarring halt last year when I unfortunately had a run of very bad books I didn't want to finish. My reading bug flew away, never to be seen again, and instead I turned to reading numerous emagazines from the library, or wasting way too much time on Instagram...

My reading bug miraculously returned though, when I came across Alexandra Roselyn's BookTube channel. She is very much into the adult fantasy, cozy, and romance genres, along with middle-grade and YA books. The books that she loves and reads are very similar to my own tastes, and it wasn't very long at all (perhaps minutes) before I had a huge lists of books I wanted to read, especially in the Cozy Fantasy genre.

One of the books she suggested was the cozy fantasy novel, The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna. She had me at the words witchy, cozy, fantasy, and romance.

It was mere moments later that an e-version of the book was downloaded onto my iPad. And I devoured the novel in only a couple of days, loving every single second of it.

Here's the blurb for The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches:

"A warm and uplifting novel about an isolated witch whose opportunity to embrace a quirky new family--and a new love--changes the course of her life.

As one of the few witches in Britain, Mika Moon knows she has to hide her magic, keep her head down, and stay away from other witches so their powers don't mingle and draw attention. And as an orphan who lost her parents at a young age and was raised by strangers, she's used to being alone and she follows the rules...with one exception: an online account, where she posts videos pretending to be a witch. She thinks no one will take it seriously.

But someone does. An unexpected message arrives, begging her to travel to the remote and mysterious Nowhere House to teach three young witches how to control their magic. It breaks all of the rules, but Mika goes anyway, and is immediately tangled up in the lives and secrets of not only her three charges, but also an absent archaeologist, a retired actor, two long-suffering caretakers, and...Jamie. The handsome and prickly librarian of Nowhere House would do anything to protect the children, and as far as he's concerned, a stranger like Mika is a threat. An irritatingly appealing threat.

As Mika begins to find her place at Nowhere House, the thought of belonging somewhere begins to feel like a real possibility. But magic isn't the only danger in the world, and when a threat comes knocking at their door, Mika will need to decide whether to risk everything to protect a found family she didn't know she was looking for..."

I loved the main character Mika Moon, a witch who was brought to Britain from India when she became an orphan shortly after her birth. She was adopted by another witch, but was raised by a number of strangers until she was an adult, and has been all alone for most of her life, apart from her much-loved companion, a super cute golden retriever called Circe. You can't help but feel for Mika, and admire her, as she struggles to live the lonely path of a solitary witch.

To banish her loneliness and connect with others, Mika runs a Youtube channel where she pretends to be a real "witch", and posts witchy content online to the masses. She is a ray of sunshine in the dark, and people are drawn to her, including an elderly man who claims to know who she really is–a real life witch. He begs for her help in teaching three young witches to control their magic, and she can't resist breaking the rules of her being a solitary witch, in order to help the young girls while living in a remote home in the English countryside.

Mika becomes tangled up in the lives of her three challenging, but delightful charges, their wonderfully quirky cast of caretakers, and the surly, yet hot Irish librarian called Jamie, who is the grumpiness to her sunshine. She finds him hard to resist. Many hi jinks occur as the book continues on, along with lots of witchy goodness, and both laughter and tears. As the story unfolds, and Mika finds her place, and her home at Nowhere cottage, she begins to believe that maybe, just maybe it might be possible to not be alone anymore. But life is complicated, and not just because of all the magic swirling around them. There are secrets to be uncovered, and not all of them are pleasant...

As much as I want to share more of the book with you, I don't want to spoil the story. But there are a number of great quotes in the novel, and this one is my favorite, and is said by Jamie, the hunky and grumpy Irish librarian to Mika:

“It’s not always enough to go looking for the place we belong...Sometimes we need to make that place.”
― Sangu Mandanna, The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches.

This quote pretty much sums up the heart of the book, sometimes you have to make the place and family you belong to.

The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches is everything you're hoping for in a book if you're after a cozy fantasy novel that is heartwarming and uplifting, and has a diverse and inclusive cast of quirky characters that you will adore. I really loved the found family trope, along with the magical witchy aspects. If you used to be a fan of the book series that can no longer be named, and have a magical shaped hole in your heart, this may be the book to soothe you. It has a very similar feel to the novel The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune, which I also adore. Comparing the book to movies, it definitely has Practical Magic and Kiki's Delivery Service vibes.

In terms of the romance plot, in general it is sweet. There is only one sex scene, and it isn't too explicit, it fits in perfect with the rest of the book, and doesn't distract from it.

Coming into the autumn and winter season in the Southern Hemisphere, The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches will be the perfect book to curl up with in front of a fire while drinking a mug of hot chocolate, as it is set during this time.

I have a habit of trying to borrow a book from our local library first, and if that isn't possible, to buy an ebook copy of a novel. Only if I absolutely have fallen in love with a book, and know that I will reread the novel over and over, will I then go and spend more money on buying a paperback copy of a book. I loved The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches so much, that I bought a paperback copy of my very own. I hope to reread it soon, when we go on holiday, so I can enjoy the book again during autumn.

Have a wonderful day,


Want to discuss my post? Feel free to chat with me on Instagram or Mastodon.

From Seed to Harvest - A tale of this year's tomatoes

Hello friends,

Back in early September 2022, I had a hope as I do every year, that the tomato seedlings I was sowing into seed raising mix would grow strong and healthy, and would provide us with food over the summer, and then into autumn and winter as well.

Every year when the Kings Seeds catalogue arrives, I open it with glee, pouring through the pages, and circling all the many seeds I wish to purchase. My particular favorites are tomatoes, and I love to grow a wide variety for both eating fresh, and in cooking.

The tomatoes I chose to sow for the 2022/2023 growing season were:

  • Tomato Juane Flamme (Orange, very tasty)
  • Tomato Andy's Red F1
  • Tomato Grosse Lisse (Beefsteak)
  • Tomato Pomodoro (Cherry)
  • Tomato Thessalonki (Beefsteak)
  • Tomato Andiamo F1(Italian Cooking variety)
  • Tomato Cocktail True Red F1 (Cocktail)

With all the many tomato seeds sown in domed seedling trays they were safely placed in the dining room in the sun, and close to the warmth of our woodburner.

In very early October, the seedlings that had come up were transferred into bigger, single pots, and transferred out into my glasshouse so they could continue growing.

We installed my glasshouse when we moved back home to Dunedin in 2019. It's an Allen Christie Regal Glasshouse, it's 2.4 m wide by 3.6 m long, and is zinc-alum coated with automatic vent openers. It really isn't possible to grow plants like tomatoes, cucumbers, basil, capsicums and chilli peppers in Dunedin without a glasshouse, so while we were house hunting we made sure our new home would have space for a glasshouse.

At the end of the first week of October, Dunedin got a snow warning. I wasn't overly optimistic that it would snow, but I didn't have a choice but to transfer all my seedlings that were in the glasshouse, into our spare bedroom for safety. If it did snow, the snow part wasn't what I was worried about, it was the frosts that would follow the snow that would kill all my seedlings off...

Well, it started snowing the next morning. And the snow stuck around all day, with numerous snow showers off and on between sunny spells. I was very grateful for having brought all my precious tomato seedlings inside...

And when we woke up the next morning, we had 8 cm of snow on the ground.

It was like a winter wonderland, except, it was the middle of spring, and we never usually get snow this late at this time of the year. But at least my tomato seedlings were safe and warm, all tucked up in our spare bedroom. The snow slowly melted that day, and after a couple of frosts, normal spring weather returned to Dunedin.

My tomato plants were transferred into their final positions in the glasshouse, along with cucumber, basil, and capsicum and chilli plants.

It didn't take too much time before my tomato plants reached for the sky thanks to the warmth of the glasshouse, and by the first week of December, the first flowers had appeared.

Tomatoes began forming, and ripening, and on Boxing Day, our first ripened tomato (a Juane Flamme) was harvested.

As per my usual tradition, the first tomato is always eaten on some fresh, hot toast, with just a sprinkling of salt on top. It was delicious.

We're now into peak tomato harvesting season, and while some tomatoes are eaten fresh, most are frozen away to be used later. Later on in the season, some of the frozen tomatoes will be made into Tomato, Capsicum and Lime soup, and also turned into tomato sauce. I'll share both recipes with you when it is time to make them.

There really is so much to do in the vegetable garden at this time of the year, I really should get into the garden and harvest some more now...

Have a wonderful day,


Want to discuss my post? Feel free to chat with me on Instagram or Mastodon.

Foraging for Alder Cones

Hello friends,

Today's adventure was a neighborhood walk to a nearby stand of Alder trees (Alnus glutinosa) on public land, so I could forage some female Alder cones to use in natural dyeing later on in the year.

With my trusty wicker basket in hand, I wandered off down the street...

It didn't take me long to arrive at the stand of Alder trees I was hoping would contain many fallen Alder cones.

And I was in luck, thankfully. After weeks and weeks of hot, dry weather with little to no wind, Dunedin's weather has reverted back to cooler temperatures, rain showers, and gusts today. The grass on public land was absolutely littered in good quality Alder cones, so I got to work.

It didn't take me long to fill up my basket with cones, I barely made a dent in the thousands scattered all over the grass.

And after a quick peek across the road to notice a stand of Eucalyptus trees also on public land, I made a note on my phone to come back and forage for those next week, and then headed off back home via a local park. It's a pretty, small park with lots of deciduous trees that will have a brilliant display of autumnal colors in a month or so. I'll have go back in early April to take some photos.

But to my surprise, I was shocked to see a mother duck, and her four very small ducklings outside a home that backs onto the park. It is very late in summer now for such small ducklings. They were very cute, and it was nice seeing them so close. But I left the park soon after, so that the mother duck wouldn't have to worry about my presence anymore.

I scurried back home between rain showers, and then laid out the Alder cones to dry out. I'll store them away once I'm sure they're completely dry, and later on in the year I'll post my next adventure of dyeing with them.

Have a wonderful day,


Want to discuss my post? Feel free to chat with me on Instagram or Mastodon.

A Secondhand Treasure

Hello friends,

I've wanted a Le Creuset pumpkin casserole dish for a couple of years.

They are completely adorable, and are totally in line with my Cottagecore aesthetic, but I could never justify paying that much one for one, let alone the many I dreamed of having, just so I could decorate our dining room in autumn. So for the longest time my wish to own one has been in vain...

Until yesterday...when I was out shopping for my mother's birthday present, and I spotted something in a nearby secondhand hospice shop. Sitting all alone on the bottom shelf of the kitchen section, was a ceramic ware pumpkin.

I picked it up straight away, terrified that someone else would spot this treasure, and take it away from me. It was love at first sight. And before you could even blink, I was up at the counter paying a grand total of NZ$6 for the joy of taking my pumpkin home.

It didn't matter that there was a slight crack in the bottom, it was perfect just the way it was. When I arrived home and proudly showed hubby my prize, he just shook his head, probably very happy I no longer have a Le Creuset pumpkin casserole dish in my sights.

For now it sits pride of place on our dining table, and it makes me smile every time I walk past it.

Have a wonderful day.


Want to discuss my post? Feel free to chat with me on Instagram or Mastodon.

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