Author Archives: marmaladepie

Low-key denim for sunny days

Relaxed summer denim

Do you wear denim all year round? 

Denim on hot days always reminds me of being a teenager – sweltering in thick jeans because you couldn’t imagine being seen in anything else. Too hot, too tight, too stiff. These days my jeans get pushed to the back of the wardrobe in summer time. I like lighter, floatier fabrics.

But I miss my jeans and I’m always looking for an alternative. Step in the Tencel jogger by White Stuff. As soon as I saw them in my local store I knew I had to try them. They look like denim, but feel light, soft and drapey. They’re everything I want a summer jean to be. Loose and low-key, and reminiscent of camping trips and days in the park.

Relaxed summer denim

The denim jogger is a new shape for me. It’s tight on the waist, baggy on the thighs and tapered round the ankle. It’s not the easiest shape to wear, but it’s everywhere this season.

If I’m wearing these trousers my top half has to be close-fitting and minimal. A pretty, floaty top looks unbearably dowdy (on me at least). A basic stripy tee feels more at home, tucked in if you fancy.

Relaxed summer denim

Trousers, £49.95, White Stuff / Tee, £6.99, H&M / Basket, £21, Kosmopolitan

I  know these are going to be my easy-peasy, throw-it-on, trouser of choice this summer. A little bit crumpled, but a whole lot relaxed – just the ticket for school runs, park runs and ice cream runs! 

Beauty favourites for May

Now I’m in my thirties my beauty routine needs an extra helping hand. I used to wear hardly any makeup, but motherhood and age have taken their toll. Barely there now looks barely decent!

But that doesn’t mean I don’t still crave the fresh-faced look. I’ve never liked lots of foundation, and I’m not ready to start just yet. So I’ve been trying a tinted base coat instead (which basically means a tinted moisturiser). I’ve invested in this one by Liz Earle. It’s my first foray into her make-up, and I’m impressed. It’s very light and I put it on over my daily moisturiser. It creates a nice base for my blusher, concealer and BB powder to sit on and really evens out my skin tone. It makes me look subtly better – like I’ve had a great night’s sleep!

I’ve always been afraid of tinted moisturisers – wouldn’t they make my combination skin even greasier? I’ve been using this one for a couple of months now and I haven’t noticed any real difference. So I’ll be sticking with this clever base, which also has a SPF. When the weather’s hotter I might mix a little stronger sun block into it for extra protection.

I’d also really recommend Liz Earle’s concealer too. It works really well with the skin tint to cover blemishes and redness.

I’ve already mentioned my combination skin. It seems to be getting worse as I get older and my pores are getting bigger (and more blocked!). I’ve read about the benefits of Origins Clear Improvement clay mask on numerous occasions and I’ve finally invested in some. It’s not cheap – my purchase was made during a prosecco-fueled shopping spree at the airport.

Origins face mask

I’ve been using it for a few weeks now and I’m beginning to see improvements. I’m also trying to be good about not poking and squeezing my pores too much as I’m sure this makes them worse. I’m using it weekly, followed by those sticky pore strips a few days later.

Now, let’s talk about hair. Mine is thick, wavy and coloured. Conventional shampoos do very little for it. I’ve been reading about the co-washing trend for a while and recently took the plunge. I’m using Lush’s Avocado Co-Wash, which looks disconcertingly like a piece of cheese, but smells like heaven.

Lush Avocado Co-Wash

It’s completely different to normal shampoo. I take a little piece and rub it into a lather in my hands, then work it through my hair. It’s a very different way to wash your hair. You don’t get that squeaky clean feeling – instead my hair feels soft and moisturised and much less frizzy and fluffy. My hair is very thick, so it can take this. I imagine if you had fine hair, it would feel unbearably greasy.

It’s hard to explain, but I prefer my hair this way. It retains more of its natural oils, but it still feels clean. My hair also smells amazing after I’ve used it! If you have very thick hair give it a go. It’s quite expensive but, the lovely girls in the Cambridge Lush gave me a small piece to try for free before I committed to buying a big piece. Their customer service is great, I’m always really impressed.

Have you tried anything new lately? I’d love to hear about your new finds! 

And one last thing…It would totally make my day (year?) if some of you lovely people would like to nominate me in the Inspire category of the Britmum’s Brilliance in Blogging Awards 2017! 

Three things I’m loving this week

English peonies

The second week of May has been a bit hit and miss, hasn’t it? At the start of the week the weather was still disappointingly chilly, and the news is so hopelessly gloomy (the image of Teresa May driving the country over a cliff springs to mind).

Anyway, you have to find your happiness where you can, don’t you? The other Ms May, pulled her socks up by the middle of week and gave us a few days of warm sunshine. So, I’ve been smiling whenever I can and enjoying these simple pleasures:

Finally getting to wear a new pair of sandals

The first day of sandals always feels the start of good things to come. I always go to my local New Look every spring and choose something new – they do the best range of affordable sandals and never disappoint! Here’s this year’s choice! I’ve just seen online that they’re also available in shiny pink and blue. Very tempting.

Silver sandals

Going crazy for peonies

I love watching the seasons change through flowers. I always buy mine from the market every Thursday and it’s always a pleasure going along to see what’s new. This week I bought my first bunch of English peonies and have eagerly followed their progress – from tight, enigmatic buds to a puddle of petals on the table.

English peonies

Eating asparagus from Norfolk

Another simple pleasure provided by the market. I recommend it with a poached egg and smoked mackerel for a delicious lunch! Like the peonies, enjoy it while you can.

Norfolk asparagus

What else have I loved?

Listening to this album by Flo Morrissey and Matthew E. White on repeat.

Reading The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild

Watching the second series of Versailles on BBC2. Guilty pleasure.

What have you been loving this week?

And one last thing…It would totally make my day (year?) if some of you lovely people would like to nominate me in the Inspire category of the Britmum’s Brilliance in Blogging Awards 2017!

After school clubs – what’s your magic number?

After school clubs – what’s your magic number?

Our children spend at least six hours every day in school. We expect them to sit down in a classroom from an early age and learn. And once the school day finishes, the clubs begin.

Why do we do it?

To put it simply, it’s about getting their bums off seats. Sports activities allow our children to let off steam and learn new skills in a safe, structured environment. Social groups, like the Scout movement, encourage independence and ingenuity outside the home.

How much is too much?

Recently, I realised that after-school clubs were starting to dominate our lives. Like a lot families, we’d started off with just one activity per child each week. But this had started to creep up, until we only had Mondays and Fridays free each week. The balance felt wrong.

A quick straw poll amongst my friends told me that we all feel the same. Our older children are doing 2-3 activities per week, our youngest 1-2.

Is that too much? Maybe not if your children are doing their activities at the same time, in the same place. But what if they’re all in different places, at different times? That could mean 4 or 5 different seperate activities to get to each week. It’s a lot of rushing about, not to mention expensive.

Is that ok?

The answer is different for everyone.

For our family, three afternoons full of activities and clubs were too much. We were neglecting some of the other important things in life: meals eaten at the same table, time to read together and complete homework. Calm bedtimes. And most important of all: the chance to relax and just be.

After school clubs: what's your magic number?

How to do you find a balance?

First, prioritise your children’s activities.

Do they really love them all, or is there a sense of obligation? It’s good to teach your children commitment, but equally it’s also nice to allow them room to breathe. Is there one activity where everyone always drags their heels, but you feel you ought to do? Talk about it and reach a compromise.

For us, that was swimming. It’s an important life skill that they need, but they never want to go. We now go on a Sunday morning. I’ve always fought against clubs at weekends, but we’ve all agreed this won’t be forever. Once they’ve learned to swim confidently, they can choose to stop if they like. It eats into the weekend, but we all go together and combine it with a nice lunch in town. They’re learning, but we’re also getting to spend time together as a family – much better than rushed afternoons at the pool.

Remember that clubs get more serious as time goes on

Lots of activities require more commitment from your child as they get older. Football, martial arts and dance often start small, but become full-scale commitments over time. If your child has a passion for something, encourage them, but remember, that other things may have to fall by the wayside.

After school clubs – what’s your magic number?

Team up with other parents

If your children desperately wants to do something, but you can’t make it work with your schedule, team up with other parents. Share lifts, or take it turns to look after younger siblings. If you need to keep costs down, how about meeting up for more informal activities with friends? Football or a scavenger hunt in the park.

Don’t worry about keeping up with the neighbours

Try not to be influenced by what so-and-so’s child is doing. Some families relish being busy all the time, others don’t. Do what works for you as a family, and no one else. If this means teaching your children to swim yourself at weekends, or restricting sports to a casual kick about in the park, then so be it.

Remember that down-time is an important activity in its own right

Never forget that. We expect a lot from our children. It’s essential that they have some time to themselves too. Time to just drift and do exactly what they want (even if that’s nothing). We shouldn’t be micro-managing every aspect of our children’s lives. They have the rest of their lives to be weighed down by schedules and commitments. Give them opportunities, but also give them the precious gift of freedom!

 So, what’s your magic number? I’d love to hear how you make it work. 

 

How to be a hothouse flower: your guide to the tropical trend

Tropical trend by H&M

Image c/o H&M

The tropical trend is huge right now.  Look carefully and you’ll see it everywhere – on cushions, prints and even trousers!

Worried it’s all a bit naff? Think again. The time around the tropical trend is very grown up. It’s all leafy palms, rich greens, hot house flowers and luxurious gold accessories.

More of a wallflower than a hot house flower? Here’s my easy guide to all things tropical. 

The great thing about new trends is that you don’t have to completely immerse yourself in them (unless you want to). You might not want your living room to look like a rainforest, but how about giving it a subtle update with bright botanical prints? Choose a few inexpensive, key pieces and you can instantly update the feel of your home.

Let’s begin in the living room. Textiles, especially cushions, are a great place to start. H&M Home have a fabulous range of tropical cushion covers at the moment. I don’t think you need to look anywhere else! To keep things feeling relaxed, mix your bright cushions with neutral throws and simple jute rugs and baskets.

Tropical cushion covers

Clockwise, from top left: Tropical leaf, £8.99 / Banana print, £8.99 / Monkey, £8.99 / Green leaf, £3.99 – all by H&M

Once you’ve got a few cushions, add a touch of (affordable) luxury with gold accessories and even a cheeky parrot or two. One new piece on its own will look a bit lost. Choose a few objects to create a fresh story within your room.

Tropical accessories

Ceramic parrot jar, £29.99, Rockett St George / Wine rack, £45, Oliver Bonas / Pineapple candle in a jar, £4.99, H&M / Photo holders, £7.50, Oliver Bonas

The next step is houseplants – preferably several! Try creating a little jungle in one corner of the room using beautiful palms in pots and baskets. Or, if you want something faux, there’s a great selection of everlasting plants out there. But remember, something real will always make your room look and feel better. Real plants actually filter the air, and most don’t need too much care beyond the occasional water – promise! I never need much of an excuse to add another to my collection.

Faux plant, £7.99, New Look / Large gold planter, £17.99, H&M / Large silver planter, £17.99, H&M / Faux pineapple leaf plant, £5.99, New Look

The bedroom is also a wonderful place to embrace the tropical trend. Try bright bed linen, which is an inexpensive way to transport your room (temporarily) to the tropics. Again, keep things grounded with natural baskets and rugs.

Tropical Bedroom

Duvet cover, £19.99, H&M / Sea grass Basket, £19, Oliver Bonas / Candle holder, £12.99, H&M / Jute rug, £34.99, H&M

What do you think of the tropical trend? Love it loathe it? 

The pleated skirt of dreams revisited

Primark pleated skirt

A month ago I wrote a post about the pink pleated skirt of my dreams. It’s so good, I’ve since bought it in two more colours!

It’s probably breaking some kind of blogger etiquette to write about the same thing twice, but I can’t resist sharing this skirt with you again. Simply because it’s such so perfect and versatile. The kind of clever buy that I know will carry on being useful until autumn. And all for £8.

Pleated skirt + tee + denim jacket = my easy-peasy new uniform

Primark pleated skirt

Unusually for Primark, it’s a really good fit. Especially if you’re (like me) a pear shape. You’d think a pleated skirt would be unflattering, but I find it skims over my tummy and hips, and accentuates my waist. The fabric is also key to its appeal – soft jersey, which is practical and informal.

These skirts were back in stock in my local Primark last week and I snapped up a khaki green and a soft blue. I tried about a million other things on, but these skirts still came out tops. They’re a hidden gem that’s worth investing in – even if it means you have to go and rummage in your local store!

Primark pleated skirt

Have you got one of these skirts? How do you like to style it?

#OnePerfectThing in April

Spring Posy

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.

#OnePerfectThing is a community I started on Instagram last May. I started it as a little project to remind myself to feel happy every day. And I’m so happy it’s inspiring others to look for the little happy moment in life too!

April was a month of blossom, mini eggs and flowers from the garden. The weather didn’t always behave, but we had some really gorgeous days and hardly any April showers. I love the way that the colour palette changes with every month. April was full of pinks, purples and blues – cherry blossom, tulips and forget-me-nots.

There’s been a lot of grumbling about Instagram lately. Mainly, about how it’s losing the authentic, friendly feeling it once had – that algorithms are crushing the natural camaraderie of the space. I agree with this in some ways, but it’s still possible for us to enjoy creating our own little communities within it. So let’s keep on sharing what we love.

Here are my favourites from April!

#OnePerfectThing in April

Top row, left to right: @analima236 / @thelinencloud  / @margotgoodlife

Middle row: @georgia_coote / @amy_liz / @sallytangle

Bottom row: @mrs.a.king / @whenlovelookslikelaughter / @lindyann38

 

A bunch of May

May Day posies

A bunch of May I have brought you

And at your door it stands.

What does the first of May make you think of? May poles, ribbons and pretty dresses, perhaps? Or maybe it’s the old wives tale about getting up at dawn to wash your face in the morning dew. There are lots of complicated, intertwining traditions, most of which are now long forgotten.

These days, most of us just hope for a day of good weather.

But we can still enjoy May Day in its very simplest form. The desire to celebrate spring and spread some joy never goes out of fashion.

Last year I wrote about May Day traditions, and this year I’m revisiting the subject.

One very sweet May Day tradition from the nineteenth century were the floral garlands made by children. These garlands were carried around the village by children, who would sing and dance at people’s doors.

In Lark Rise to Candleford, Flora Thompson remembers that:

on the last morning of April the children would come to school with bunches, baskets, arms and pinafores full of flowers – every blossom they could find in the fields and hedges or beg from parents or neighbours

These flowers were woven round a wooden, bell shaped structured, carried about on sticks.

May Day posies

I’m not about to resurrect this tradition (although it could be rather lovely if you live in village), but how about talking a little of its spirit and re-interpreting it for today? I love the idea of using flowers to spread a little joy around the neighbourhood.

So, this May Day I’m going to gather flowers and greenery from my garden and make posies. The children are going to help, and we’re going to deliver them to our neighbours. All you need are a few empty jam jars and some gathered blooms and blossom.

May Day posies

Tie on a label and leave one on someone’s doorstep to make them smile! 

If you’d like to share your photos on Instagram please use hashtag #abunchofmay – I’d love to see what you make! 

 

Three things I’m loving this week

Crab apple blossom

According to the weather man on my radio this morning the weather this week is going to feel more like January than late April. The news is pretty dreary too. Whatever. My internal barometer is still firmly set to spring.

So, let’s not talk weather or politics (for now), let’s embrace the sweetness and light. 

T-shirts that do the talking

I haven’t worn a slogan t-shirt since the 1990s. And until recently I wasn’t in a hurry to wear one again. But there’s no denying they’re having a bit of a thing at the moment. I snapped up this gorgeous grey t-shirt from Joanie Clothing, which is perfect for spring. It makes me think of coffee, pancakes and sunny weekend mornings.

Joanie clothing t shirt

Fresh new scent

While I was (child-free) at the airport the other week I bought a bottle of Earl Grey and Cucumber cologne from Jo Malone. It’s really fresh and summery – sweet, but not cloying. It’s quite light, so I’m enjoying squirting clouds of it over myself at every opportunity. I prefer the smaller size bottles as I can never commit to choosing a huge bottle.

Jo Malone Earl grey and cucumber cologne

The sweetness of apple blossom

The cherry blossom may be blowing off the trees, but the fun isn’t over yet. Now it’s the turn of all the apple blossom. It doesn’t just look splendid, it smells it too. Go sniff a branch, it’s the essence of spring.

Apple blossom

What are you loving this week?

Life lately: punting, a mini-break and chocolate

Spring flowers

Well, that’s the Easter holidays done and dusted! The children had two and bit weeks off school – which was just the right length of time for them to relax and spread their wings, without getting too fed up.

At the start of the holidays the weather was unusually warm and delightful. In Britain we’re trained from birth to make the most of every scrap of decent weather. As soon as the warm weather starts, everything shifts up into such a happy gear. People are smiling, the birds sing, barbecues are lit. I love it!

Ely is beautiful in the sunshine, but Cambridge is even better. We couldn’t resist heading over there for some punting in the sun.

Punting in Cambridge

Despite being Cambridgeshire born and bred, I’m still a newcomer to punting. Luckily, Mr Marmalade isn’t, so he was our punting chauffeur for the day. Blue skies, blossom, old buildings – heaven, as far as I’m concerned! You can hire a self-punt by the hour, or why not take a tour instead?

The River Cam

After we’d finished on the water, we headed straight into Fitzbillies on Bridge Street for some delicious coffee and lunch.

Fitzbililes, Cambridge

We then pottered about in the warm sunshine, admiring the blue sky and blossom – and wishing we had a spare million tucked away to buy a beautiful house in the city.

Cambridge cherry blossom

Later in the holiday we went away without the children for a couple of days on the Isle of Man. We don’t go away without them very often, so it was nice to just relax and be free from all our usual routines. Which mainly meant eating, drinking and going for a few walks.

Port Erin, Isle of Man

Our favourite walk was in Port Erin, hiking up to Bradda Head. At the start it was all wild garlic and bluebells.

Wild Garlic

By the time we reached the top we were floating in the clouds (let’s not talk about the rain).

Bradda Head

The Easter weekend rounded off the holidays with chocolate and roast dinners. The warm weather had disappeared by this point, but none of us wanted to stop being outside. So time was spent sowing seeds and visiting the plant nursery – all accompanied by coffee and chocolate eggs!

Easter eggs

And now the boys are back to school. Well, one is. The other is off on a school residential trip until tomorrow. I’m getting my work back on track and starting running and eating healthily again (the downside of eating too many Easter eggs).

Actually, I’m glad of the running, as it feels like a positive way to leap into the new term and all the new adventures it’ll bring.

Running through blossom

I hope you had a lovely Easter too. I’d love to hear about what you’ve been up to!