Glittery jumpers – and why we’re our own worst critics

La Redoute glittery winter jumper

This was only supposed to be a post about glittery jumpers. But one of the best things about blogging – and being your own editor – is that you can go off course and write about things that really matter to you. Not that glittery jumpers don’t matter, clearly they do.

I bought this particular jumper because it felt like the kind of thing I’d need this winter. It’s yellow and grey, which I love, and it also sports a large tinsel stripe. Because we all need a glittery go-faster stripe in November, don’t we? I know I do.

 La Redoute glittery winter jumper

I took these photos on a drizzly day when I was feeling decidedly under-the-weather. Dressing to match my cup of lemon Lepsip felt like the only solution. A jumper like this is warm and cosy – a walking duvet – but it also has the potential to let you fake it till you make it. Like painting on a smile.

No one will notice you feel ill, because they’ll be too distracted by the tinsel on your front. Or if they do, they’ll still admire your cheerful taste in jumpers. It’s tempting to hide away when you feel under-par, but try the opposite and you might actually feel a bit better for it.

Which got me thinking about how we’re always worrying about what other people think, when really we’re our own worst critics.

We all have things we don’t like about our appearance. When you write a blog and take a lot of photos of yourself you get used to niggling feelings of doubt. I have a long list, but mostly I worry about my teeth and my wonky eyes. My eyes, the legacy of a severe childhood squint, rarely face in the same direction in photos. But after two corrective surgeries, they’re probably not going to get any better. And they’re really not that bad, they probably just give me a permanently quizzical look.

My teeth are my other weakness. A childhood accident left me missing one front tooth. I now have a crown there and it’s an unappealing shade of greige.  As a child I used to hate how it looked enough to put my hand over my mouth every time I laughed. It’s only recently that I’ve felt brave enough to even smile with my mouth open.

La Redoute glittery winter jumper

We say horrible things to ourselves that we’d never dream of saying to other people.

In my head I regularly call myself fat, squinty-eyed and generally hideous. This isn’t a pity-party – I’m not looking for praise, or flattery. What I’m trying to say is that the best way to combat these uneasy feelings is to accept your imperfections for what they are. To own them, in Millenial-speak. We all have a story to tell, and our little scars and imperfections make it worth telling. Oh, and you’re almost certainly the only one who notices them anyway.

I’m not a model or a cardboard cut-out, I’m just a normal woman who likes glittery jumpers. And that’s ok.

two-tone glitter jumper

I wear: Jumper, £39, La Redoute / Jeans, £14, Peacocks /

Boots, £29.50, Marks and Spencer / Coat, White Stuff (past season)

Home Notes for November

Home Notes for November

The nights are dark and the heating’s on – it’s time to hibernate. Hygge, cosy – call it what you like. November calls for comfort and warmth. 

I’m slowly adding lots of comforting touches to my home. Candles are hugely important and lighting them in the evening is a nice little ritual. This woodland animal candle by Sainsbury’s is very pretty.

Sainsbury's woodland animal candle

I’ve also stocked up on this set of three robin candles which have a light, festive scent. Once they’re burnt out, I’ll use them for tea lights. You can split the set up and use for secret Santa or teacher presents come Christmas.

Robin candles by Sainsbury's

Once upon a time, I only bought plain white bed linen. Then I discovered the inexpensive designs by George Home. They’re an affordable way to give your bedroom a seasonal update – and, considering the price, they feel surprisingly good. This year, I’ve chosen this Scandi-inspired wintry set.

Scandi inspired winter bedding by George Home

I love choosing seasonal flowers. This month I’m buying a lot of eucalyptus. Its subtle colour and elegant leaves not only look beautiful, they also smell amazing. Arrange a big bunch in a jar…

Big bunch of Eucalyptus

Or mix in with other flowers for smaller displays…

Carnations and eucalyptus

What else am I loving this month? Dunelm currently has some beautiful – but affordable – homewares. Here are my favourites…

Dunelm A/W17

Hare bedding, £25-£33 / Oak Leaf cushion, £18 / Set of four woodland plates, £10 / Gorse cushion, £14

What does your home look like in November?

Home Etc

Three things I’m loving this week – the Cambridge edition

Cambridge bicycle

This week’s Three Things list is a little different to usual. It’s focused on one of my favourite cities, Cambridge. It’s a great place for an autumnal day trip – whether you want to find delicious food, cultural delights or start some early Christmas shopping. Here are a few things in the city that I’m loving right now.

Chelsea Buns at Fitzbillies

Fitzbililes has been a Cambridge institution for a long time. Their Chelsea buns are famous. My husband remembers his fellow students buying them on the way to lectures twenty years ago – and they’re still just as delicious.

Chelsea buns at Fitzbillies

Cambridge always manages to be one of the coldest places on the planet at this time of year. So, if you’re planning a trip to the city you need somewhere to hunker down and drink good coffee and eat a sticky bun. Choose between the original location on Trumpington Street, or the slightly more informal cafe on Bridge Street – where you can sit in the window and watch the punts come and go. They also sell wonderful picnics for taking punting.

Find Fitzbillies at 52 Trumpington St and 36 Bridge St.

Fitzbillies on Bridge Street

The new menu at Pint Shop

Pint Shop is a relative newcomer to Cambridge, but it has quickly become an institution too. And deservedly so. It’s the perfect place for an informal, but utterly delicious meal in the city. It’s housed in a beautiful old building – E.M Forster once lived there – which has been simply restored.

Pint Shop, Cambridge

The upstairs dining rooms are light, airy and always bustling with life. Every item on the menu is basically delicious, but my favourites are their cheese and meat platters and hot scotch eggs. Oh, and their ever-changing selection of beer and gin is fabulous.

Find Pint Shop at 10 Peas Hill.

Pint Shop, Cambridge

Ark

An emporium of wonderful gifts. I’ve been shopping there for many years, and it’s always one of the first places I start my Christmas shopping. It’s always a riot of colour – perfect for magpies like me.

Ark, Cambridge

I like to buy stocking fillers for my boys and gorgeous treats for the rest of the family. It’s very difficult to leave Ark empty handed!

Find Ark at 1-2 Peas Hill.

Ark, Cambridge

There’s so much to love in Cambridge. I think I’ll have to be back soon with a considerably longer list! 

 

10 self-care tips for autumn and winter

Pink waxflowers in old glass jar

We all deserve extra care and attention during the winter months. Now it’s November, the days are getting ever shorter, and colder. Sometimes its easy to forget what daylight looks like – and it can feel like we’re running on empty.

Before winter takes hold, spare a moment to take stock and create a care plan for your mind, body and soul. Here’s my list…

Dispirited after a long, cold day? There’s no cure like a hot bath. Although it’s nice to start collecting a store of lovely bath products, ultimately it doesn’t really matter what you put in it – it’s the hot water that’s the tonic. And bath’s aren’t just for evenings. If you find it hard to jump in the shower on a cold morning, try a bath instead. You might need to get up a little earlier, but it’s worth it. A 15 minute bath is such a gentle and soothing way to start your day.

Walk or cycle as much as you. Fresh air is always a cure for the blues. Sitting in stuffy cars, buses and trains create a lot of mental cobwebs. Blow them away by walking and cycling whenever you can. Try swapping unnecessary five-minute car journeys with a walk.

Remember to eat well. It’s easy to eat healthily in the summer. In winter, not so much. The lure of comforting, stodgey food is just so tempting. I’ve said it before, and I’m going to say it again: soup is the answer to your problems. It’s easy, low-carb and nutritious. Make a big pan of simple vegetable soup and freeze into small portions. If you have a microwave at work, take it with you in one of these cute travel mugs.

Tea and flowers

Eating outdoors is something that gives me so much pleasure over the warmer months. Don’t give up just because it’s cold outside. You just need to rethink things a bit. Drink a cup of coffee while walking round your garden or stroll through town with a bag of hot, salty chips – they’re simple pleasures that’ll warm your heart.

Indulge in the nicest winter hat and gloves you can find. It’ll make stepping out of the door in the mornings the much easier. Choosing a new set is always one of my favourite autumn pleasures. Don’t let your scarves and hats be apologetic – wear things that make you smile, inside and out.

Look after your hands. Cold winds, hand-washing and central heating take their toll on our hands. If I’m not careful mine end up dry, cracked and bleeding by the end of November. This year I’m determined to take better care of them. Use gentle soaps and remember to moisturise as much as you can. I’ve been using the hand therapy by Crabtree and Evelyn for the last 15 years – it’s always my first port of call. This goat milk and oat version, with its sweet lavender infused scent, is my current favourite.

Crabtree and Evelyn Hand Therapy Goats Milk

And while we’re at it, remember to look after your hair too. It’s easy to forget, but our hair bears the brunt of the cold weather too. Indulge in lots of moisturising treatments (maybe while in your bath?) to keep it looking its best. I would love to try this hair and scalp treatment by Kiehls which sounds like it could be a lifesaver.

Write a gratitude diary. It doesn’t need to be much – and you don’t even need to write it down. Just take the time to think of one thing you’re grateful each day – or just something that made you happy. I’m going to be trying this with my children this winter.

Gratitude journal

Take up a craft. I’d recommend crochet. I find making endless granny squares a deeply soothing winter activity. I can keep one eye on the telly, and fiddle away. It’s nice to have a sense of purpose and something to show for all those evenings spent indoors.

Put down your phone, and read an actual book. Force itchy fingers and an impatient mind to slow down with a good book. Books are something to invest your time in – a slow-burn pleasure that has absolutely nothing to with instant gratification. Losing yourself in the pages of your book will give your brain time to recharge.

Tea and an autumn book

What’s on your winter self-care list?

Thank you to Crabtree and Evelyn for sending me their Goat Milk and Oat hand range to try out. 

 

#OnePerfectThing in October

#OnePerfectThing in October

Perfection often feels out of reach. But however imperfect you’re finding life, you can make an effort to find #OnePerfectThing. Something which makes you pause, smile and feel thankful.

October – it’s the showstopper of autumn. Everything’s at its best. Fiercely beautiful leaves, glorious bursts of colour – and a whisper of warmth still in the air. An average autumn day can’t always live up to this promise, but luckily October is a generous month. No matter how dull and grey things might feel, there’s always one perfect thing to treasure.

This month the #OnePerfectThing gallery on Instagram has been full of these little treasures. Everything from heart-shaped leaves, lighting a new candle to the first frost-tinged leaves. Here are my favourites…

#OnePerfectThing in October

Top row: @mrs.a.king / @amy_liz / @georgia_coote

Middle row: @home.corner.stories / @acupfullofglitter / @katybettyj

Bottom row: @mamarillon / @bubbablueandme / @ohIdoapologise

 I can’t wait to see all your #OnePerfectThing moments in November. Keep sharing and tell your friends! 

My autumn bookshelf

What's on my autumn reading list

Do you read different books in different seasons? I know I do. When the temperature dips, I like to lose myself in a cosy, welcoming read. Something that’ll still make my brain tick, but that’ll also soothe me when I need it.

What are my favourites right now?

What's on my autumn reading list

If you want to lose yourself, try Man at the Helm by Nina Stibbe. This captivating novel is the best thing I’ve read in ages. It’s the story of being a divorcée in an English village in the 1970s – all told from the perspective of nine-year-old Lizzie. It’s funny, sad and and gently though-provoking. I couldn’t put it down.

What's on my autumn reading list

In need of comfort? Discover the books of Rachael Lucas. Her romantic novels are great when you want an undemanding read, with a bit of pluck. I loved Sealed with a Kiss, and it’s mini sequel, Sealed with a Christmas Kiss. Kate runs away to work as odd-job girl on a remote Scottish island and meet a cast of charming, well-written characters. It reminds me of Katie Fforde, whose books I also love. I’m currently reading Wildflower Bay, which is proving just as good as the others. Perfect for a cosy weekend.

What's on my autumn reading list

Rediscover a classic. Autumn is the perfect time to delve into an old favourite by a classic author. It’s been a while since I re-read a Jane Austen novel, so I’ve kicked things off with a beautiful new edition of Northanger Abbey by the Folio Society. I read a lot of e-books, and when I do buy a book I want it to be really special. This beautifully illustrated edition fits the bill. Northanger Abbey is one of Austen’s less popular novels, but give it a go. It’s a knowing pastiche on the gothic romance and gallops along at great pace. The thing I love about Austen is that her books always feel timelessly fresh and vibrant. Perfect for candle-lit nights.

Northanger Abbey, Folio Society edition

If you want to laugh, try Hot Mess by Lucy Vine. I heard a podcast with Lucy and loved the concept of her debut novel. It’s billed as a new Bridget Jones for the Tinder generation. It was funny and had a pleasingly happy and satisfying ending,

Also worth a mention are the Cornish Café books by Philippa Ashley – a slightly silly modern interpretation of Poldark that kept me smiling while I was recovering from surgery. Perfect under-the-weather reading.

My love affair with Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series also continues. I’ve just finished book 7 – these long historical novels aren’t to everyone’s taste. If I’m honest, they’re bit of a slog at times – but I’m so invested with the characters that I can’t turn away now.

Northanger Abbey, Folio Society edition

What have you been reading lately?

Thank you to the Folio Society for sending me a copy of Northanger Abbey to review. 

Starting my journey back to fitness after back surgery

Succulent

In August I had surgery on my back to repair a prolapsed disk. Although I’ve suffered with back problems for about seven years, the surgery wasn’t planned and it was a shock. It was one of life’s little curveballs, and it forced me to stop pretending everything was ok. After a couple of months of rest, I can live my day-to-day life without too much pain, but I’m frustrated my own physical weakness.

After a day of walking to school and working from home, I’m shattered and my back is stiff and achey. It’s a constant reminder that while I’m not in acute pain, I still have a lot of work to do before I can truly feel fit and well again. It’s time to step things up and get back to where I want to be. I can’t rush things, but it’s important to motivate myself. I need a plan, some new gym kit and a set of simple goals to achieve.

My back surgery recovery plan

I’m hoping that if I actually write my plan out here, in public, it’ll help motivate me to actually achieve it. Here’s what I’m planning:

Daily physio exercises at home. My commitment to this has been patchy over the last eight weeks. I try, but often forget – especially when I’m busy with work or the children. These simple exercises, prescribed by my physio, will form the basis of my recovery. I know this, and I need to stop being flaky. I’m adding it to my daily to-do list and will resort to an adult sticker chart if necessary.

Walking in autumn

Dust down my bike. I’m finally allowed to get back on two wheels, which is exciting as I’ve really missed it. I’m starting with one short bike ride a week. Hopefully, with time, we can get back to cycling to school most mornings.

Cat and bike

Swimming. I’m not a big fan, but everyone agrees it’s a fantastic way to recover from an injury. I’m planning on starting with one short swim every week – probably just about 10 minutes and see how it goes. This is probably the hardest of my goals, so I’m going to allow myself the chance to skip it if I’ve had a really busy week. It’s important not to push things too hard to begin with.

Invest in some lovely new gear. If I can motivate myself with a bit of shopping, then so be it. I’m not doing anything too strenuous, but it’d be nice to have some faintly sporty to do it in. I love the athleisure range at Jack Wills – especially, this gorgeous high-necked sweatshirt. It’d look gorgeous with black leggings, on the school run or riding my bike. Maybe it could be the goal at the end of my adult sticker chart?

Remembering to eat well. Crucial to recovery. My go-to is soup, soup and more soup. It’s healthy and nutritious.  I usually just chuck in everything I can find leftover in my fridge, but I’d like to be more adventurous. The soup section of the BBC Good Food website has some gorgeous ideas.

If you too are recovering from a discectomy, I’d really recommend this NHS leaflet which has useful information on exercise and recovery.

I’d love to hear more about your current fitness goals, especially if you’re recovering from an injury too. It’s a frustrating time, but I really need to put on my positive pants and start things moving. 

This post contains a sponsored link to Jack Wills

Finding the perfect embroidered jumper

Marmalade Pie: Mango embroidered jumper

We’ve got used to the idea of buying festive jumpers, but a special autumnal jumper is just as important. It needs to be a bit of show-stopper – and it can also afford to be a bit whimsical. Step, forward the embroidered jumper. 

I think I’ve found the perfect one. It’s by Mango and has all the right ingredients to be an autumn classic.

Marmalade Pie: Mango embroidered jumper

First, and most importantly, it has a cosy, comfortable feeling. An ideal jumper needs to be warm, but not too thick – and it can never be itchy. Although wool is lovely, I tend to look for something with a mix of acrylic and natural fibres as it’s just easier (and less itchy) all round. A funnel neck is my favourite style, because it’s cosy but less hot than a thick polo.

A gorgeous, eye-catching design. Some people like jumpers with dogs or slogans, but I prefer to add personality with texture and colour. An embroidered jumper is the perfect way to do this. The bright, folk-inspired embroidery on my jumper is the perfect way to brighten dull days and evoke all the right kind of happy, cosy feelings.

Marmalade Pie: Mango embroidered jumper

A nod to the past. I love my favourite jumpers to have a sense of heritage – chunky cables and fair isle prints will always be timeless classics. Embroidered jumpers have that too. The bold folk-art inspired embroidery on my jumper evokes images of Tyrolean jumpers from 1930s skiing holidays.

Image via Pinterest

A hint of the festive charm. If you’re clever, your embroidered jumper will also see you through the festive season. Avoid pink colours, and choose red and green designs like mine. A much better investment that the inevitable reindeers and snowmen.

My beautiful jumper costs £35.99 and is also available in navy:

Mango embroidered jumper

Like what you see? Here are some more favourites…

Marmalade Pie: Embroidered jumpers

Clockwise from top left: Cross stitch jumper, £27.99, New Look / Floral front jumper, £29.99, Zara

Navy floral jumper, £29.99, Zara / All over floral jumper, £34.99, New Look

 

Marmalade Pie: Mango embroidered jumper

I also wear: Checked coat, £39.99, New Look / Shawl, £4, Ikea

Our spooktacular half-term with BEAR

BEAR Claws Halloween

My boys were very excited when a very special letter landed on our doorstep. It was an invitation to the BEAR Claws Halloween party. This invite gave them the opportunity to combine two of their favourite things: going to London and eating BEAR Claws. Oh, and the most exciting thing of all? BEAR himself would be there to enjoy the fun too!

So, in the middle of half-term, we boarded a train to London armed with a map to the Deep Dark Woods (aka the Whole Foods Market on Kensington High Street). There followed three hours of magical mayhem with BEAR and his team – plus a little help from the children’s entertainers Sharky and George.

BEAR Claws Halloween

My youngest was truly enchanted by his BEAR hug and hasn’t stopped talking about it since. My eldest relished the chance to dance and craft non-stop for several hours.

BEAR claws Halloween party

And I enjoyed meeting the talented illustrator Katie Abey – who was there to help us all capture a bit of Halloween magic on paper. My little monsters also couldn’t resist the amazing face (and hand) painting on offer.

BEAR Halloween party

Back home, we were surprised by another delivery from BEAR. This time it was a box of super-glittery craft supplies, and enough yummy BEAR claws to keep my boys quiet for some time.

Sparkly pumpkins with BEAR

I’m always delighted when kind people send easy crafts for my children to do while I drink coffee. Our parcels contained everything we needed to make some awesome glittery pumpkins.

Glittery pumpkins

Take a miniature munchkin and drizzle with PVA glue – then sprinkle with glitter. Make your creations extra scary by adding some of the glow in the dark trick or treat stickers currently free in limited edition Halloween packs of BEAR Claws.

Glittery pumpkins

BEAR Claws are fruity little monster body parts made from 100% pure fruit and vegetables. They’re super yummy and the perfect healthier alternative to sweets this Halloween. Limited edition packs of BEAR Claws are in supermarkets now, ready for trick or treating fun!

BEAR claws

Getting creative with your spooky BEAR stickers? Share your creations on social media with #ClawsHalloween… 

This is sponsored post written as part of our ongoing partnership with BEAR. 

What’s your dream pet?

Tabby cat

What makes a dream pet? Ask different people and you get a different answer. For some, it’s the comfort and companionship. Others like the fresh air and exercise of a daily dog walk. Or maybe, it’s the thrill of the exotic.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, then you’ll know that I’ve always been a dog person. I grew up with them and I always saw a dog in my future. It was the dream.

Life doesn’t always work out the way you planned though, does it? At the age of 33, I realised that I’ve been a closet cat lady all along. Which has been something of a surprise for me, but makes sense for a lot of reasons.

It’s taught me that it’s possible to find your dream pet in the unlikeliest of places.

When Pet Plan got in touch recently and asked my eldest son to design his dream pet I fully expected him to come up with a fun feline creation. But, no, he designed a whale!

Dream Pets Campaign by Pet Plan

I shouldn’t have been surprised really. He’s always had a fascination for aquatic creatures. Sadly, fish tanks and lively cats aren’t the best combination. And I think we’d struggle to fit a whale in the house anyway. But luckily, Pet Plan were able to wave their magic wand and bring his creation to life on a more manageable scale!

Pet Plan Dream Pets

Whaley, is a super-cuddly creature who is enjoying life in the top bunk. He’s very easy to look after, and manages to get away with living on dry land most of the time. His favourite food is pizza.

Pet Plan Dream Pets

Gabriel says, “Whales are cool and you can ride on them. When I sleep at night I cuddle him and dream about going on adventures together.”

Which is what all of us want from a pet, isn’t it? Comfort and fun.

What I’ve realised it that it doesn’t really matter what kind of pet you have – it’s how it makes you feel that counts. Whether it’s a stick insect or a cuddly whale, if it makes you happy then it’s a winner.

This post was commissioned by Pet Insurance from Pet Plan.