A country bike ride and a bit of thinking time

Pashley sonnet on a country bike ride

I don’t normally write about politics on this blog, but even I can’t avoid it today. I woke up on Friday morning feeling shocked with the result of the EU referendum. I wasn’t a fervent supporter of either side. My strongest feelings during the whole conflicting, bewildering campaign, was that I didn’t feel in any way qualified to make a decision of such magnitude. Voting Remain was the only option for me.

I thought it’d be close, but I hope it’d be in the other direction. Ever since the result I’ve felt shocked and confused. There’s only so much time you can spend reading about it before your head feels like it’s ready to implode.

A country bike ride was the perfect antidote. James and I rode from Ely to Coveney along a quiet country road. The flat, fenland landscape is ideal for cycling and you’re surrounded on all sides by cow parsley and fields of lush green crops. Ely Cathedral rises like a beacon in the distance.

Pashley sonnet on a country bike ride

My new Pashley bike was a dream to ride – so smooth and comfortable. I love the way I can sit upright while I’m riding it.  This is a must for me with a bad back and I’ve struggled on other bikes where you can’t maintain an upright position. We cycled nine miles, but I didn’t feel any discomfort the next day – which is a first for me and must owe a lot to the lovely saddle.

Pashley sonnet on a country bike ride

Whizzing down quiet country lanes was a great time to think and talk. Not just about the big issues, but also about things closer to home. I’ve spent a lot of time lately feeling like I’m not achieving as much as I should be – trying to run a home, a business and a blog and not really succeeding at any of them. But a pep talk in the sunshine with the breeze in my hair has given me a little boost.

And as for the current state of this country? I think it’s going to take a bit more than a pep talk to sort that mess out.

Subscribe today!

If you're not already a subscriber to Marmalade Pie, please sign up. You'll get all my new posts by e-mail as soon as they appear.

 

Three things I’m loving this week…

H&M dress and roses

A new dress… This dress caught my eye in H&M last week. I love the print and the loose, trapeze style shape of the dress. At £14.99 I snapped it up immediately and have barely taken it off since! It’ll be great for hot weather, but is also working well with leggings and cardigans in this weirdly unpredictable weather we’re having. Find it here.

H&M dress

My new bicycle… I’ve always wanted a proper town bike with a basket and now I’ve got one. It’s a dream to ride and has the best bell I’ve ever heard. It’s a Pashley Sonnet from Rutland Cycles and I’ll be writing a proper post all about it soon!

Pashley Sonnet

Budget beauty buys… I read this article on The Pool the other day all about Impulse body sprays. Remember those? They were a staple of my early teen years. Impulse O2 was the scent of the school changing room. It had been a very long time since I’d even thought about using them, but reading Lizzie Ostrom’s article made me desperate to try the Why Not? fragrance she mentioned. I had a very nostalgic trip into Superdrug and bought a can. It’s actually quite nice (citrussy and a bit masculine) and the cool whooshy spray took me right back to the nineties. For 98p (on special offer) it really is a case of Why Not?

Impulse Why Not?

Subscribe today!

If you're not already a subscriber to Marmalade Pie, please sign up. You'll get all my new posts by e-mail as soon as they appear.

Things to do on a rainy afternoon: watch The Wizard of Oz

Widescreen-Cornfield-lg

Rainy afternoons. We’ve had rather a lot of them lately.

Watching a family film together with a bucket of popcorn is a simple and easy way to pass the time. The hard bit is finding something you can all agree on watching. Once you’ve watched Star Wars and Frozen a million times, it’s great to turn back to some old classics that your children might not have seen yet – they might not be keen initially, but persevere.

On one particularly wet Sunday we all watched The Wizard of Oz together for the first time.

I’m not sure there’s a better film for a miserably wet afternoon. The grey skies outside were mirrored by the black and white beginning of the film. The drama of the tornado played out as the rain lashes down on our window. Then comes the glorious burst into technicolour, where everything sparkles and glitters.

The yellow brick road, the ruby slippers, ding dong the witch is dead…it’s all so familiar to us.  It’s easy to forget that some lucky small people have never seen it before. It was like nothings they’d watched before, and they were well and truly captivated.

wizard-of-oz-updated-1

It was the first time I’d watched it since I was a child, and I was surprised by how exciting I found it too. Despite being over seventy years old, the film doesn’t feel dated – in fact, its age only increases the wonder for me.

In the best spirit of classic children’s films, it’s not overtly for boys or girls and there’s plenty to appeal to both. The pace is fast, the songs are brilliant and there’s a healthy dose of the absurd. The flying monkeys and cackling witches are probably going to be a bit frightening for anyone under five, though.

I’ve honestly never known a film to prompt so many questions from my boys. We’re still talking about it a week on – particularly about the wizard, and the fact that the characters didn’t really need him after all. Basically, that everything they ever needed was there in their hearts already.

And the songs…we’re all been singing and humming those as we’ve waded through the rain this last week. I’ve never known the boys sing so much.

So, give it go next time you’re sheltering from the rain. Sometimes the oldies are the best.

Subscribe today!

If you're not already a subscriber to Marmalade Pie, please sign up. You'll get all my new posts by e-mail as soon as they appear.

 

Everything stops for tea

Vintage tea party

It’s a very good English custom

Though the weather be cold or hot

When you need a little pick-up, you’ll find a little tea cup

Will always hit the spot

In our house, everything really does stop for tea. Usually it’s a cup of builder’s, but on a sunny day it’s great to get the teapot out and make a little more effort and have proper afternoon tea in the garden.

Vintage tea party

When I do afternoon tea I always end up going down the vintage, mismatched china route. I just can’t help myself. For me, tea in the garden makes me think of my favourite era, the 1930s. Pretty floral cups and saucers, deckchairs on the lawn and little dainty cakes.

I like the tea to be something special – loose leaf in a pot. My favourite blend is smoky Russian Caravan, with just a dash of milk. Although Earl Grey is pretty great too.

Vintage tea party in the garden

It’s a chance to get out the cake stand and fill it with pretty offerings. Tomato sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and some little cakes (French Fancies always go down well here).

Vintage afternoon tea

I can lean back in my deckchair in the sunshine and pretend that I’m having a genteel time, even though the small people are probably squabbling over who sits in the other deckchair and gulping down fairy cakes in one mouthful.

Really, though, I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Liberty print mini crackers / Bird bunting / Spring posy necklace / Bracelet

Subscribe today!

If you're not already a subscriber to Marmalade Pie, please sign up. You'll get all my new posts by e-mail as soon as they appear.

Stripes were made for summer

Stripy summer dresses

Stripes were made for summer and summer was made for stripes. Especially when they’re on dresses.

Every year, without fail, I’m there in my Breton t shirt – pairing it with jeans, pretty skirts, dungarees… but stripy dresses are a new one for me. Aren’t horizontal stripes supposed to be a bad thing?

If you’re feeling scared of stripes, then the trick is to go for soft, washed out ones rather than broad, bold ones. Thin, subtle stripes are so laid back, and there’s just something about them that makes me think of ice creams in the park.

I really love this dress from Gap, with its faded, barely there stripes. It’s pretty, fresh and flattering. It’s in the sale now but it’s still available in limited sizes if you’re quick!

Marmalade Pie stripy summer dresses and lemon necklace

Here are some more of my favourite faded stripy dresses in the shops right now…

Stripy summer dresses

Clockwise from left: Sleeveless dress by Seasalt, £65 / Pinafore dress by New Look, £24.99 / Jersey dress by Zara, £12.99

My sandals in the above photos are available here and the Lemon necklace is available from my online shop.

Marmalade Pie Lemon necklace

Subscribe today!

If you're not already a subscriber to Marmalade Pie, please sign up. You'll get all my new posts by e-mail as soon as they appear.

A very royal birthday and a special treat!

Marmalade Pie Bento lunchbox

Over in my shop, our summer collection has everything you need to make your days colourful and fun – from lunch boxes and bunting, to pretty jewellery and scarves.

To celebrate the Queen’s official birthday, and the start of summer, I’ll pop a free pocket notebook in with all orders placed this weekend.

Marmalade Pie pocket notebooks

Are you doing anything special to celebrate the Queen’s official 90th birthday this weekend? We’re planning tea, cake and a spot of bunting!



Brown paper packages tied up with string

Brown Paper Packages

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woollen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favourite things!

I can never resist a brown paper parcel tied up with string. Functional, yet pretty; the perfect backdrop to ribbons and gift tags… Funnily enough it was my husband who first introduced me to wrapping things in brown paper. It was always his failsafe option for wrapping presents, and now it’s mine too.

Brown paper packages

So, I was intrigued when Brown Paper Packages got to in touch to ask me if I’d like to try out one of their seasonal gift wrapping boxes. Each subscription box contains paper, tags, decorations and cards.

Brown paper packages

I really liked the idea of this as I’m always that person who forgets to buy birthday cards until the last minute. And despite my previously mentioned love of brown paper, I invariably end up with only dinosaur or Hello Kitty wrapping paper left in the cupboard. A box delivered to your home containing everything you’ll need to wrap five gifts is perfect for the absent minded.

Hayley, who runs Brown Paper Packages, says she loves spending time making sure her wrapping is as beautiful as the gift inside. Each of her wrapping boxes will always include paper, tags and seasonal decorations and five cards with envelopes. Your first box will also include double sided tape and some gift wrapping tips to help get you started.

Brown Paper Packages

My summer box was a delight to unpack – as soon as I opened it the smell of lavender filled the room!

Brown Paper Packages

Brown Paper Packages wrapping boxes are available as a subscription, or you can purchase them individually each season. Click here to find out more about what’s inside. 

I’m delighted to offer three lucky readers the chance to win a Brown Paper Packages box!

Just enter my simple competition below. UK entrants only please. Boxes will be sent out directly by Brown Paper Packages.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Adding depth and interest to a long garden

Trellis and rambling rose

If you live in an old terraced house, then you probably have a narrow garden like us. We’re lucky as our garden is also very long – so there’s plenty of space for plants, games and sheds. But it can all get a bit boring sometimes – all those straight lines and nowhere to hide.

But change is afoot in our garden. Nothing too dramatic, but after not doing much to it for the last five years (other than plant different annuals each year) we’re making these simple, but effective changes…

Light

Woodland wildflower meadow

Our garden is quite shady down one side. An abundance of evergreen shrubs and ivy, plus a woeful lack of pruning by us, had led to a bit of a dark, tunnel-like effect. We’ve cut everything back a lot, and removed some things entirely. This has created lots of light and had made everything look wider and brighter.

We still have a shady side of the garden, but this has really developed since we planted our wild woodland meadow last year. What used to be a dark, ivy covered patch is now a mixture of long grasses and wild flowers. At the moment there are lots of red campions, Jack-in-the-hedge and geraniums, plus we’ve just planted some foxgloves. I’ve already noticed more butterflies this year.

Dividing the space

Metal rose arch and trellis

To move away from the straight up and down appearance of our garden, we’ve divided off the end of the garden with a beautiful new rose arch and some homemade trellis. You’d think that dividing up a narrow garden would make it feel smaller, but the opposite is true.

The arch has made it feel more spacious and interesting, while still allowing lots of light into the garden. And there’s something a bit romantic about an arch – even when it doesn’t have much growing up it yet!

We’ve planted two rambling roses on either side of the arch and I’m hoping they’ll eventually scramble all over it. I’m impatient already for how pretty it will look one day (although I’m already having rose anxiety!).

Generous Planting

Flower bed

When you have a small garden it’s tempting to think that you need to keep your flower beds quite small – especially when you have children playing out there. However, our narrow little flower beds looked really mean – running down the sides of the garden in straight lines with a few plants dotted about. I’ve always wanted to have the space to plant things in groups, to create a more dramatic effect.

Allium

We’ve  now widened our main flower border. We’ve expanded it outwards by about a foot, dug it over, and planted lots of new perennial plants – delphiniums, geraniums, salvia and lavender, plus some annuals like cosmos and larkspur.

Geranium

Creating a wider bed, with a gentle curve, has actually made the garden feel wider and we’re not missing the space. I can’t wait to see it all develop over the summer.

Quick growing climbers to soften the hard edges

Honeysuckle

There’s an awful lot of fence in our garden. To disguise the boringness of it all, we’ve planted some quick growing climbers.

By the house we have two honeysuckles which are growing visibly every day. Further down we have planted a purple solanum to climb up our new trellis. This grew very quickly in our old garden, so I’m hoping the same will be true again.

Solanum

I’ll be sharing more with you over the summer – including new raised beds! 

Subscribe today!

If you're not already a subscriber to Marmalade Pie, please sign up. You'll get all my new posts by e-mail as soon as they appear.

Home Etc

My matcha challenge

Matcha challenge

Have you heard of matcha powder?

No? I hadn’t either until Tea Pigs invited me to take part in their 14 day matcha challenge.

Matcha is basically a super-concentrated green tea powder. When you drink a cup of green tea you’re just drinking an infusion of the leaves. Matcha powder, on the other hand, is the whole tea leaf, ground to a very fine powder and much stronger. So when you dissolve it in a liquid,  you’re drinking a very strong green tea packed with antioxidants and nutrients.

648x648.fit.matcha_group_web

Image courtesy of Tea Pigs

I have to confess, I’ve never been a big fan of green tea – I’m a black tea lover, and I struggle with the green taste. But, this challenge appealed to me. Mostly because matcha is supposedly a bit of a wonder product.

Why is it so wonderful? It’s supposed to give you energy, lots of it. And vitality. And with the energy and vitality, comes calmness. The opposite of coffee, then. Energy and poise. That’s the claim anyway.

How did I drink mine? Tea pigs send me a brilliant starter kit with some powder, a measuring spoon and a whisk, plus a ready-made matcha drink. Their suggestion is to mix half a teaspoon of the powder with a small amount of water and drink it as a small shot.

Matcha

The powder dissolved very easily, but my goodness it was intense. A very strong, grassy taste. Doable, but not very pleasant. Unless you really like the taste of green tea.

Undeterred, I tried again the next day. This time though, I mixed a small amount in with a fruity smoothie. This worked quite well, but I found that the taste still came through very strongly, and there was a lot more to drink.

Fruit matcha smoothie

After reading a bit of advice online, I decided to try mixing the powder with milk and a little honey instead. The difference is incredible. 

Obviously, you wouldn’t normally dream of having milk with green tea, but somehow with the matcha powder it really works. It seems to neutralise the strong flavour and tone everything down a bit.

In it’s simplest form, I just whizz a little cold milk and honey with a spoonful of the powder in a small glass and down it. It’s quick, easy and pleasant.

Matcha with milk

My absolute favourite way to drink it  is to mix it into a smoothie with yogurt, fruit and oats. I blend together a little sweetened vanilla yoghurt, a handful of oats, blueberries and a touch of water in my Nutribullet. It’s delicious.

Oat, yoghurt, berry and matcha smoothie

And what about the benefits?

I like coffee, and it’s traditionally what I turn to for elevenses. For two weeks I tried matcha in the mid morning – sometimes instead of coffee, sometimes as well.

I love coffee while I’m drinking it – the smell, the comfort, the taste. But for me, it’s only really energising while I’m drinking it.

With the matcha, the energising effect came after drinking it. I can’t claim that it was dramatic, but I definitely noticed that my concentration was sharper. When writing, words flowed more easily and quickly and there was a definite feeling of calm focus. This also extended itself to more mundane things, like cooking and tidying.

Will I continue drinking it? Yes, I will, but perhaps not every day. It’s been a week since I finished my two-week challenge. Since then, some days I’ve fancied matcha, some days I haven’t.

I worry slightly that it’s probably not a great idea to drink coffee and matcha too close together –  that’s a lot of caffeine. Some mornings, I just fancy coffee more, and end up forgetting about the matcha. But other days (especially when it’s warm and the sun’s shining) a fruity, oaty hit of matcha is just perfect.

I think it comes down to what sort of pick-me-up you fancy on any given day. A warm, comforting, bowl of coffee – sipped while you work. Or, a quick hit of matcha – with zen-like properties that last longer, but are less instantly gratifying.

Have you tried matcha? What do you think?

Tea pigs matcha power is available here.

Tea pigs kindly invited me to take part in their matcha challenge but all words, thoughts and photographs (unless otherwise stated) are my own. 

#OnePerfectThing in May

Pink vase

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.

Earlier in the month I started my new hashtag #OnePerfectThing over on Instagram. It’s all about capturing a little moment of your day – a small piece of perfection. This might be a cup of tea in the sunshine or a new pair of shoes. It’s all about taking the time to step back and appreciate the little things.

I’m so thrilled that so many of you have joined in and I’ve loved seeing your photos.

Here are some of my favourites:

OnePerfectThingMay

Top row, left to right: @mummyspooner, @three_sons_later, @pushingthemoon

Middle row, left to right: @jennyseaves, @sallytangle, @tobyandroo

Bottom row: left to right: @helloitsgemma, @someone_s_mum, @trot_a_mouse

And my absolute favourite of the month is this photo taken by Fionnuala of Three Sons Later of some pretty eggs from her new hens.

eggs

The image summed up everything about #OnePerfectThing and this little present from my shop will be winging its way to Fionnuala soon.

Bird bottle stopper

Thank you all so much for taking part, I’m looking forward to seeing you next month for #OnePerfectThing in June.

Subscribe today!

If you're not already a subscriber to Marmalade Pie, please sign up. You'll get all my new posts by e-mail as soon as they appear.