Author Archives: marmaladepie

Home Notes for January

Home notes in January

January is a classic time for re-think your home. Maybe someone bought you a trendy book on de-cluttering for Christmas. Or perhaps clearing away the Christmas decorations has inspired a new-found minimalism. Whatever the reason, a new year is a great time to clear up, clear out and find bold new inspiration.

I’m starting with de-cluttering. We’ve donated bag and bags of things to charity, and I’m not missing all the things I packed away to make room for the Christmas decorations. I’m going to think long and hard about how many of my supposedly precious possessions I really need to keep.

White hyacinths

I’m filling my tidier rooms with fresh blooms and indoor bulbs. White hyacinths are my favourites – although I can’t stand their cloying scent. I can live with the smell though, as I love the classic purity of them. Try removing them from the soil and putting in jam jars around your home. They just need a little water for their roots.

White hyacinths

Tulips seem to be around really early this year. And I’m happy to snap up armfuls of these pastel-coloured beauties. They’ve got to be one of the most cheerful blooms on the planet.

Yellow tulips

I’m also on the look out for new houseplants to add to my collection. Creating an indoor jungle is still very much a thing in 2018, and is part of the larger trend for maximalism.

Image: IKEA

Maximalism? Weren’t we just talking about minimalism? Well, yes, but 2018 is also the going to be another year for big, bold designs – think clashing wallpapers, palm-print chairs and dark indigo walls. To embrace this style, I think you need to first take a minimalist approach and thin out your possessions. That way, you can embrace statement designs without your home feeling like a chaotic mis-match.

What’s caught my eye?

I’d love some armchairs in bold colours and interesting designs. I don’t have any space in my current house, but if I lived somewhere bigger I’d create a reading are with bookshelves and a couple of quirky armchairs. These two from IKEA very much fit the bill.

IKEA armchairs

Yellow chair, £179, IKEA / Rocking chair, £150, IKEA

Antique shops are also a great place to find interesting designs. A great thing to look for are chests and blanket boxes. I’m always staggered by how expensive new versions of these cost on the high street. Buy a vintage one and you’ll get something that’s solid and full of character. I stumbled across this chest recently for £100 in a local antiques centre and I was very tempted.

Antique chest

What are you planning for your home this year?

Three trends to cheer you up this January 

The classic beret

Ah, January. The month of gloomy days, diets and back-to-work blues. Let’s face it, we all need a boost right now. And what better way to do it than with fashion? Ideally, you want something that’ll give you a spring in your step, without spending too much.

Here are three sweet little ways to inject a bit of fun and happiness back into your wardrobe this January…

The classic beret: for jaunty days and rainy days. The humble beret is back and just as cute as ever. Right now, all the best people are wearing them. It’s more sophisticated than the bobble hat – and it has just the right amount of jaunty oo la la. I bet you have one lurking somewhere, don’t you? I’ve rescued mine from the children’s dressing up box and it’s not going back any time soon.

Three trends to try this January

Beret with bow, £12, ASOS / Fawn wool beret, £10, ASOS

 Rust wool beret, £9.99, New Look

Slogan sweaters. Because novelty jumpers aren’t just for Christmas. January can suffer from being a bit too serious at times. Cheer things up with a jolly new top that’ll make you smile every time you look in the mirror. Joanie and Next have a great selection right now.

Three trends to try this January

Red stripe jumper, £20, Next / Sunshine jumper, £35, Joanie / Funday jumper, £28, Next

Frontier Florals. A little bit Little House on the Prairie, and a little bit vintage Laura Ashley. Ditzy florals, frills and bows – it’s a sure-fire way to beat the gloom. Wear with a light-weight polo, tights and boots now, and on its own in spring. Your beret will probably go with it too.

Three trends to try this January

Blue floral dress, £49, Topshop / Floral dress with black bow, £29.99, Zara

 Floral dress with gathered neck, £29, Zara

Which trends are you loving right now?

The classic beret

5 reasons you should keep your fairy lights up all winter

5 Reasons you should keep your fairy lights up all winter

Christmas has come to an end. But we don’t have to banish al the glitter and light from our homes just when we need it most. Here’s 5 reasons why it’s absolutely ok to keep your fairy lights up all winter. 

It’s natural to crave light. Why deny yourself this simple pleasure? There’s a sense of joy and hopefulness in a string of fairy lights, whatever the time of year.

Dull corner of your home? Fill it with fairy lights. Or more specifically, jam jars and vases full of battery-powered lights. These cheery pools of light will warm up even the dreariest room.

Create a little ritual. Christmas is full of these – coming home and switching on your tree lights is such a soothing thing. You might not have your tree anymore, but you can still continue this ritual in January. Get home, and switch on your strings of fairy lights straight away – it’s balm for the soul on dark winter days.

Twinkly white lights perfectly compliment the freshness of green shoots, indoor bulbs and fresh new flowers. Arrange fairy lights behind a vase of flowers to make it glow.

And finally, because it’s the perfect way to start the year as you mean to go on. Don’t be apologetic or try to please others. Put two fingers up at Winter. If you want to keep up your fairy lights until Spring, then do it.

5 Reasons you should keep your fairy lights up all winter

#OnePerfectThing in December

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.

I’m writing this post as the light fades on the last day of the year. Life has its ups and downs – but through it all the #OnePerfectThing gallery on Instagram has been a wonderful  outpost of happiness.

The seasons ebb and flow but your enthusiasm never fades. Thank you to everyone who has been part of this hashtag community in 2017!

Here are my favourites from December…

#OnePerfectThing in December

Top row, left to right: @sophiewarrensmith / @home.corner.stories / @katiebettyj

Middle row: @prats2007 / @capturebykaye / @georgia_coote

Bottom row: @happygoluckycat / @sallytangle / @mrs.a.king

A very happy new year to you all! 

A very Merry Christmas…

Gathering greenery for Christmas

The Christmas tree is up, the house is twinkling and excitement levels are high. We’ve got a jar full of shiny chocolates and enough sparkling wine to see me through to the New Year. Tomorrow is Christmas Eve and I’m just about ready. Or as ready as I’ll ever be.

Gathering greenery for Christmas

We’ll be having a simple Christmas spent with our family. We don’t do fancy. It’s just a lovely jumble of traditions that we all hold dear.

All that remains is to wish you all a very Merry Christmas! 

Victorian Christmas card

D is for Den – with BEAR Paws

D is for Den - with BEAR Paws

Winter is tough when you’re a kid. There’s Christmas to look forward to, and the occasional snow flurry – but the days are dark and cold. This Thursday is the shortest day of the year – just seven hours and 40 minutes of daylight.

Inevitably, we all end up staying indoors a lot. Which is great if you’re an adult embracing all things hygge, less so if you’re a small person with a lot of energy. Last weekend, after a week cooped up in indoors at school, my two boys were desperate for fresh air and exercise.

D is for Den - with BEAR Paws

Even though they need the exercise, it can still be hard to get children outdoors when it’s freezing cold – they need a bit of purpose, or a specific activity. So, we opened a new box of yummy BEAR Paws and pulled out a handful of their nature-themed activity cards. First on the pile was D for Den making.

D is for Den - with BEAR Paws

As soon as we saw it, we all thought of the same thing – the den building area at Wicken Fen. It’s one of our favourite places – quiet, simple and full of the best materials to make a top-notch den.

D is for Den - with BEAR Paws

When we arrived at 3 o’clock, the light was already beginning to fade. It was a race against time to complete their dens. The boys, fuelled by their favourite Arctic BEAR Paws, threw themselves into the important business of building barricades, patching up thatch and preparing for the arrival of the barbarians.

D is for Den - with BEAR Paws

They worked on their den until the sun went down. Then it was time to pack up and head home. We were only out for an hour or so, but time is a precious commodity when the days are so short.

D is for Den - with BEAR Paws

In winter, you have to be spontaneous and grab hold of simple pleasures when you can. And this weekend, that simple pleasure was sitting in a makeshift hut eating BEAR Paws as the sun went down.

D is for Den - with BEAR Paws

We’ve had a fabulous time being part of the BEAR team in 2017. BEAR Paws are definitely my boys’ favourites. They’re a seriously tasty fruit snack, which are baked into fun little paw shapes. As you’d expect, there’s no added nonsense – just 100% pure fruit!


How to gift wrap like a pro!

Emily Bradley, Bear Cub Creative: tips for wrapping

My friend Emily is a whizz at wrapping. She used to be a visual stylist at Fortnum and Mason – one day her duties would be creating beautiful window displays, the next she’d be wrapping Christmas presents for the Queen’s ladies-in-waiting. It’s little wonder she’s got an eye for detail.

Emily Bradley, Bear Cub Creative: tips for wrapping

This year I decided it was time to brush up on my wrapping skills. Naturally, the first person I thought of was Emily. She’s now helping small businesses with all their styling needs – so I made sure I was next in line. Want to learn the secrets of great wrapping too? Step this way…

What will you need?

Good, thick paper – Emily likes the old-fashioned brown kind.

A decent pair of scissors

Double-sided sticky tape

Ribbons, tags and greenery to decorate

Emily Bradley, Bear Cub Creative: tips for wrapping

Take your time and get things right

1. Lay your present on a sheet of paper and get a feel for its size – you’ll need a lot less paper than you think.

2. Pull the top of your paper forward over your box.

3. Fold the edge over the side of the box by about an inch.

4. Press down firmly to create a defined fold line. Repeat for the other edges.

Emily Bradley, Bear Cub Creative: tips for wrapping

Be precise. It’s a bit like origami

5. Unfold your paper. Your folded lines show you how long your piece of paper needs to be. Now you need to work out how wide it needs to be. Use a pencil to mark out the edge of your box on the paper, then add an extra allowance for the sides of the box. Make sure there’s just enough to cover the ends.

6. Cut out your piece of paper. It won’t look like much when you’re used to wasting as much paper as I do.

7. Now you’re ready to wrap. Lay your box back on your paper, carefully matching the fold lines. Place a piece of double-side tape on the top edge. Roll your parcel up towards this top edge and stick down as neatly as possible – ideally so it lines up one of your edges.

8. Neatly fold the ends of your parcel. Attach three pieces of double-sided tape to hold in place securely.

Now you know the basics, here’s the fun bit: making those neat parcels look pretty! 

First up, here’s a simple way to add greenery to your parcel:

Use a pencil to mark out the edge of your box on the paper, then add an extra allowance for the sides of the box. Make sure there's just enough to cover the ends of the box.

1. Take a piece of ivy and attach a small piece of double-sided tape to the stem. Trim it until it’s roughly the same size as the ivy stem.

2. Stick to your ribbon.

3. Attach an extra decoration to a piece of florist’s wire. Try pinecones or nuts.

4. Wrap the florists wire around the ribbon and twist to secure. Flatten the ends of the wire neatly under your ribbon.

Emily Bradley, Bear Cub Creative: tips for wrapping

Next, we created this beautifully traditional design with velvet ribbon and thistles fit for a Scottish castle… 

Emily Bradley, Bear Cub Creative: tips for wrapping

Emily Bradley, Bear Cub Creative: tips for wrapping

1. Start by attaching your ribbon. don’t worry about twisting and knotting – just use your trusty double-sided tape.

2. Secure the ends of the ribbon on the bottom of your parcel.

3. Twist florist’s wire around a small bunch of thistles, or greenery.

4. Attach to your ribbon using the wire, twisting and hiding ends.

5. Create a decorative bow to hide the wire. Cut a length of ribbon and pinch into a bow shape.

6. Hold this shape in place with wire – leaving the ends long. Add a small piece of ribbon to create the illusion of a bow. Fix in place with a piece of double-sided tape.

7. Use the long ends of wire to secure your ribbon to the parcel.

8. Trim the ends of your ribbon at a neat angle.

Feeling inspired? Here are some other ideas…

Add a hint of luxury with copper…

Emily Bradley, Bear Cub Creative: tips for wrapping

Create a gorgeous children’s gift with a blackboard pen and felt shapes…

Emily Bradley, Bear Cub Creative: tips for wrapping

I love all of Emily’s ideas and I’m feeling inspired to tackle my own pile of wrapping! They’ll be no excuses for wonky corners and torn paper this year…

A big thank you to Emily Bradley of Bear Cub Creative for her help with this post. Emily is available for window dressing, product styling, shop layouts, training and event styling.


Some festive things I’m loving this week

This was the last full week of school and work before Christmas. How did that happen? It’s been so busy. We’ve seen a ballet, listened to Norwegian folk music and generally put our festive hats on. Here’s what else I’ve been loving this week…

Snow! I have to mention it. Last weekend we had proper snow in the UK and it even stuck around for a few days. Sunday was a dream-day. We made the most of it and raced out with our sledge as soon as we’d eaten breakfast. Our local park was transformed into a winter wonderland and the whole city was looking gorgeous and sugar-coated. Some brave stall holders were gathered in town for the Sunday market. We made the spontaneous decision to buy our Christmas tree from one of the stalls and pulled it home on our little red sledge! And it’s not often you can say that, is it?


Christmas at Kiehl’s. A couple of weeks ago I went to a lovely Christmas event at the Kiehl’s store in Cambridge. I’m new to this skincare brand, so this was the perfect introduction. They do Christmas particularly well – with beautifully designed seasonal packaging and skin treats galore. While there I invested in some pretty soap and came away with a big bag of samples to work my way through. So far, I’ve fallen in love with the Midnight Recovery Oil and the turmeric and cranberry seed face mask.

Christmas at Kiehl's

A bit of fluff. While out Christmas shopping this week I did a little bit of self-gifting. This furry scarf is a fabulous Primark find and is yours for the princely sum of £8. It’s the perfect thing to smarten yourself up on a festive walk.

Faux fur scarf from Primark

My first mince pie of the year. It always tastes the sweetest. Not sure how I held out so long. I’m a stickler for tradition, I suppose. I’m also a stickler for all-butter pastry and a boozy filling.

Mince pie

A crate of clementines. These beauties came from our local market. I can’t decide what’s nicest: the oranges, or the cute little crate? Either way, it’s just another one of those little December pleasures.

Wooden crate of clementines

What are you loving this week?

An indie wish list: your guide to the best independent shops this Christmas

An indie gift list

Buy independent this Christmas and you’ll be supporting small businesses up and down the country. 

I love the big high-street stores as much as the next girl, but they’re not where I look for beautiful and unusual Christmas presents. Instead, I like to delve into the world of small indies. Thanks to online shopping, it’s now easier than ever to discover these  artisan businesses.

And, luckily for you, I’ve made it even easier by compiling this list of my favourites. Enjoy!

Soap Folk Winter Skin Box

Soap Folk: for natural beauty treats

Treat someone to Soap Folk’s Winter Skin Collection, £30. It contains one of their gorgeous wrapped soaps, a jar of chamomile rescue balm and a bottle of beautifully scented safflower and rosehip bath oil. All their products are made in small batches in the beautiful Gloucestershire countryside. They’re are as kind to the environment as they are to your skin. No time to wrap? Luckily, this collection comes in a beautiful gift box which can go straight under the tree.

Winter Skin Collection box by Soap Folk

The Printed Peanut: for gorgeous paper goods

I discovered Louise Lockhart’s The Printed Peanut through Instagram. Her bright, retro designs are perfect for children and adults alike. I’ve bought her Paper Doll and the Playing with Food activity book for the children in my life – and her affordable art prints and postcards make perfect little gifts for family and friends. All Louise’s homewares are designed and made in the UK.

Paper Doll, £5.95 / Coffee Pot print, £10 /Playing With Food Activity Book, £12.95

Paper Dolls House, £10 – all by The Printed Peanut 

Gourmet Brownie: For a sumptuous foodie treat

This family bakery, based in Ely, makes the most incredible brownies. Their Christmas Brownie Box, £28, is the perfect way to send someone some festive love! Each box contains eight delicious Christmas-inspired flavours. I can vouch for their deliciousness.

Jeff Josephinefor beautiful ceramics to treasure

This is an indie shop I return to again and again. Sophie Elm is an illustrator, surface pattern designer and ceramicist. Her shop is stocked with beautiful ceramics and delightful prints. Invest in one of her Christmas decorations for your tree – or find someone a gift that they’ll treasure for years to come.

Jeff Josephine Christmas gifts

Vegetable Garden print, £38 / Set of Garden Decorations, £30

Ceramic Decorations, £14 each / Radish Pot, £48 – all by Jeff Josephine

Melin Tregwynt: for the best Welsh blankets 

This little woollen mill, deep in the heart of rural Pembrokeshire, makes the most beautiful and useful things. A welsh blanket is a family heirloom in the making – why not treat someone this Christmas? Or if your purse won’t stretch that far, they also do a lovely range of more affordable accessories like purses and cushions.

Melin Tregwynt homewares

Knot Garden Throw, £149 / Vintage Rose wrist bag, £30

St David’s Flag throw, £149 / Knot Garden Purse, from £22 – all by Melin Tregwynt

There are so many wonderful small independent shops to discover this Christmas. I hope I’ve inspired you to visit some of them! I’d love to hear about your favourites too. 

A big thank you to Soap Folk who sent me their Winter Skin kit as a gift. 

Fabulous done properly: an interview with Skye McGuinness of Thyme on St Mary’s

Skye McGuinness at Thyme on St Mary's

Ely is an unassuming kind of place. But underneath its quiet exterior, there’s a vibrant sense of creativity hiding in plain sight. It’s right there, ready to be discovered. As part of a new series I want to find more of this hidden talent – to find out what makes these people tick and to share their stories with you. 

My first subject is Skye McGuinness – the owner of Ely’s newest florist, Thyme on St Mary’s. I met Skye at a Christmas fair two weeks ago and knew immediately that I wanted to interview her. She’s one of those people who radiates energy and is a perfect person to kick off this new series.

Skye McGuinness at Thyme on St Mary's

Skye is originally from Sydney, but settled with her family in Cambridgeshire five years ago.  She’s new to flowers, having previously worked in advertising and marketing. But you wouldn’t know it. That’s because she has vision and passion.

Over the last year, Skye and her team of talented florists have created one of Ely’s most exciting new shops. Stepping through the doors of this beautiful double-fronted building is surprising, and wonderful.

Amy at Thyme on St Mary's

One side of the shop bustles with early morning orders and a huge work table is covered with newly delivered blooms. The other side of is calm and still – with an inviting table and chairs. Just like the doll’s house in the window, this florist is picture perfect.

Why did Skye choose floristry? “Ely is such a friendly place. It’s full of newcomers and I found it incredibly easy to slot in,” she explains. “I wanted to give something back to the city that has made me and my family feel so welcome”.

Skye McGuinness at Thyme on St Mary's

Chatting to other mothers and new friends, it dawned on Skye that Ely needed an inspiring new destination. A place to buy beautiful flowers, but also a creative hub. “I’ve found so much local talent hidden away,” explains Skye. “It was important to me to create a unique place where this creativity would feel welcome”.

Skye McGuinness at Thyme on St Mary's

Skye is one of those vibrant people who seems to bring out the best in people – I can’t think of a better person to help Ely come out its shell. Over the last year she has found local talent and nurtured it. Most importantly there’s her team of brilliant florists – but there’s also the local flower farms who supply the shop and the Fenland artisan who makes her baskets.

The shop’s first year has been a learning curve and it’s helped Skye define her vision for Thyme on St Mary’s. Recently her dream of turning the shop into a local hub of creativity is coming to life though a new series of workshops – everything from festive wreath-making to flower-crown making and hen-parties.

Skye McGuinness at Thyme on St Mary's

December was a lovely time to visit the shop, which was full of winter blooms and swags of greenery. I couldn’t resist asking Amy, one of Skye’s florists, about her favourite looks for Christmas. “I’m loving the classic Victorian look,” Amy tells me. “Choose natural greenery, feathers and red ribbons, but give it a modern twist with a hint of copper.”

Skye McGuinness at Thyme on St Mary's

Right now the shop is busy making wreaths and beautiful winter bouquets. But Skye is already thinking ahead to next year. She’s making plans with her local suppliers and dreaming of working with more brides to create beautifully bespoke wedding flowers.

If Skye could sum up her vision in three words it would be “fabulous done properly”. And I couldn’t agree more.

Know a great place to visit in Ely or Cambridge? I’m gathering more ideas for this series and I’d love to hear your suggestions.