Author Archives: marmaladepie

What kind of mum are you?

Marmalade Pie: What kind of mum are you?

What kind of mum am I? It depends what day of the week you ask me. Sometimes I’m the super-patient mum who will play a five hour game of Monopoly. And sometimes I’m the grumpy mum who stomps around the house snapping at people to pick their coats up off the hall floor.

Mostly, though, I’m a fairly laid back mum. Because the one thing that 9 years of motherhood has taught me is that’s there’s no point in over thinking parenting. Most of us are making it up as we go along – no matter how pulled together we might look at the school gates.

SunLife recently got in touch to tell me about a new quiz they’ve created for Mother’s Day. I was intrigued to see how I’d come out. Would I really be as relaxed as I think I am?

So, I took the test (don’t worry it’s multiple choice, you don’t have to think too hard) and I came out as an Organic Mum. Which is less about healthy snacks, and more about taking an organic, open-minded approach to parenthood.

Marmalade Pie: What kind of mum are you?

Which makes me happy – because it’s exactly what I hope I am. Now, I bet you’re dying to know what the quiz told me, aren’t you?

I’m open-minded

I’d agree with that. But it wasn’t always true. Parenthood has actually taught me to be far more open-minded than ever before. That’s because our children like to surprise us. Any parent will tell you that children have incredibly strong opinions about everything under the sun – and changing their minds about things isn’t easy. So, you learn to be open-minded. Just because you gave birth to someone, doesn’t mean they always have to agree with you. Although obviously it’s nice when they do…

I have an artistic mind and I’m always ready to show my emotions in front of my kids

True. I’ll always be more of a dreamer than a planner. I prefer to learn things as I go along – even if that sometimes means I mess up. And I’m not afraid to show my emotions. Not to extremes, perhaps, but it’s OK to admit that you’re feeling sad and worried about things. Or to explain that their behaviour has made you angry. I just try to make sure I keep things measured and calm. The tantrum years taught me that losing my temper only makes things worse.

Marmalade Pie: What kind of mum are you?

I’m good at giving advice

Well, I think I am, although I’m not entirely sure my children agree. I generally think that if I repeat my pearls of wisdom often enough they’ll sink in – despite the eye-rolling. Usually, the best thing and only thing you can do is to be there to talk and listen when your child needs to. We always eat our meals together and talk about our day – and there are always chances to talk on the school run or at bedtime.

Live and learn is the way you live your life and want your kids to live theirs

I love this. As I said earlier, I definitely parent in the moment. I tend not to worry too much about the challenges to come, but to focus on making the most of where we’re at now. Some wise person once told me that “everything is phase”. As soon as you get good at something, the stakes are changed. And as soon as one child is happy, the other is sad. That’s life – and all you can do is learn to be the best parent you can be – with your children, your life and your character.

Are you a mum? Why not pop over and take the quiz and then come back and tell me what you got? I’d love to know!

Marmalade Pie: What kind of mum are you?

This post was sponsored by SunLife

Checkmate, winter!

Checked coat and slogan t shirt

So, March arrived, but so did the snow. Winter wasn’t quite ready to leave us yet – and it’s been more stalemate than checkmate. But now, finally, temperatures are on the up.

Winter’s had its last gasp and we’re officially in transition. Which basically means you’ll spend the next couple of months taking off first scarf, then your coat…then putting them both back on again. The weather’s fickle, so you need to be clever to outwit it.

Remember those checked coats we talked about in the autumn? Well, they’re just as big for spring – and just as useful. A lightweight checked coat strikes just the right balance between winter and spring. 

Here are my favourite ways to wear mine…

With a cute slogan tee

Apple tee, £12.99, New Look / Coat, past season New Look (similar here) / Jeans, £26, Nasty Gal / Brogues, past season Moshulu (similar here)

Classic checked coat

Layered up with a soft scarf on colder days

Coat, past season New Look (similar here) / Jeans, £26, Nasty Gal / Scarf, old (similar here).

Keeping it simple with grey knitwear and boots

Coat, past season New Look (similar here) / Jeans, £26, Nasty Gal / Boots, old (similar here) / Bag, £7, Peacocks

Checkmate, winter! It’s downhill all the way now to Spring.*

Checkmate, winter!

*May regret saying that.

What My Girlfriends Told Me

What My Girlfriends Told Me

Female friendship – what does it mean to you? For me, it’s a support network who are there whenever you need them. Whether you have hundreds of friends, or just a handful, I think we’d all agree that the bond that ties this network together is talking.

Illustrator and storyteller Sonja Bajic has spent a lifetime collecting these woman-to-woman pearls of wisdom. And now, she has sketched these precious anecdotes out into a beautifully illustrated book, What My Girlfriends Told Me. 

What My Girlfriends Told Me

You know that buzzing feeling you get after having coffee with a friend who really gets you? That’s what Sonja has captured in the illustrated pages of her book. Some of the advice comes from her own network of friends, and some are little snippets she’s overhead while on her travels.

Sonja Bajic

Sonja at her desk

Do it for the story

Originally from Serbia, Sonja travelled from country to country before settling in Paris. She was always a visitor, and on her travels she learnt to tune into her surroundings. “You learn to watch and listen,” says Sonja. “I often decide to walk without headphones in order to hear the sounds of the city”.

“I trained myself to always search for colour schemes, textures, whimsical shapes, sudden emotional blasts, calming sounds, birds I’ve never seen before, interestingly dressed people, words of support.”

Flick open Sonja’s book at random and you’ll find a little bit of wisdom on each page. Each one is like a jigsaw piece – it stands alone, but is also part of the larger story of our lives.

What My Girlfriends Told Me

What My Girlfriends Told Me reminds us that our friend’s are here to reassure us and remind us that everything usually turns out OK.

Every page in Sonja’s book has a face. Just like our real friends, some look happy, others a bit cross – and they’ve all got their own little bit of advice to offer.

We all have friends we turn to for different things – relationship advice, childcare or a place to stay. We might not get a specific answer, but we’ll feel reassured and grounded.

Sonja agrees: “My friends tell me to believe in myself and that everything will be okay in the end”

What My Girlfriends Told Me

Sonja’s message is simple: women should support each other though words. 

“Words are soothing and encouraging,” writes Sonja. “Right words in the right moment can kill days of heartache. Right advice in the right moment can save you so much trouble…I am hoping these words will give you, too, a small – but often very needed – push.”

What My Girlfriends Told Me

Celebrate small victories  

One of my favourite quotes from Sonja’s book is “Not everything is super interesting. Life is full of filler stories.”

It’s those little filler moments that help form the rich fabric of our lives. In amongst all the big things in life, there are the simple everyday things. They deserve to be cherished too.

“I’m all about celebrating small victories too!” says Sonja. “At the moment it’s so cold in Paris and I am enjoying a lot of big cups of chai and matcha latte. I found a small misplaced succulent in September and I took it home and put it in a pot. It finally started progressing and growing last week! A book about genius of David Hockney called “Bigger Message”. Lou Reed’s song “That Magic Moment” that is on repeat these days. People who are not afraid to commit to things. Watercolours. Sunny -2C days.”

What My Girlfriends Told Me

“Life is like an improvised play. Nobody tells you what to do.”

But we can still find comfort in the secret of our friendships – however old or new.

What My Girlfriends Told Me is a tribute to all women. Sonja’s friends come from five different continents and prove that female friendship knows no bounds.

What My Girlfriends Told Me

What My Girlfriends Told Me is published today by September Books. To get a copy click here.

How can we be more scandi?

Be more scandi

Scandi. Short for Scandinavian, it’s become a catch-all term for the achingly cool world of sheepskins, blonde wood, coffee and cinnamon buns. And I’m all in.

So, imagine how delighted I was when I found out that my DNA is actually 13% Scandinavian? It was thanks to one of those do-it-yourself Ancestry testing kits. And it was a life-affirming moment, let me tell you. Never mind, the boring bits about England, Wales and Ireland – becausewowI’m part-scandi.

I’m excited, because who doesn’t want to be a bit more scandi? They seem to have life sorted. Countless surveys have proven the Scandinavian countries amongst the happiest in the world. Maybe it’s in the DNA, or maybe they’re just clever?

Lizzie Woodman

Not lucky enough to be descended from marauding Vikings? Don’t worry, you can still learn from them. There’s even a little collection of hard-to-pronounce words to help you. Come on, let’s decipher them together….

Let’s start with lykke. 

Lykke (pronounced luu-kah) is the Danish word for happiness and good fortune.  A big part of this is about reciprocal happiness. Lykke is about being a kind and generous person. You’re creating your little fire of happiness that will not only warm you, but everyone around you. So, next time you invite friends round – invite someone new along too. Smile and say hello to those strangers you see every day on your way to work. Spread the happiness.

Cinnamon bun and coffee

Lagome, aka getting the balance right

Lagome is the Swedish concept of “just enough”. It’s about moderation – whether it’s in the office, at home or during your weekly shop. In Britain we’re notorious for having a very poor work/life balance. We stay far later in the office than our Scandi counterparts, and when we get home we spend too much time staring at our phone screens. This year, why not try to achieve a better balance? Cut down on that late-night email scrolling, and make an effort to be present in the moment. Spend more time doing the simple things that make you happy – like talking a walk with friends or making a proper cup of coffee – rather than throwing cash away on quick fixes you think will make you more content.

coffee

Take a refresher course in hygge

Hygge (pronounced hue-guh) is the Danish concept of cosiness. I wrote about at length earlier in the year, but it’s still as relevant now as ever. Life can be dreary at times, and we all need a bit of comfort. Hygge is about making the best of these situations – battening down the hatches and creating a safe, happy place to weather the storm. This might be lighting your candles and burrowing into your favourite blanket – or eating Heinz tomato soup when you’ve got a cold. Whatever makes you feel content and cosy, that’s your hygge moment.

Now, if you want to be even more scandi try one of these…

Read The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell. One Englishwoman’s tale of moving to Denmark. Read it in a weekend and you’ll laugh out loud and feel like an expert on scandi life.

Make some cinnamon buns… Because if you want to be more scandi you need to learn to make something like this. It’s a great way to while away a Sunday afternoon. I like Nigella’s recipe, which you can find here.

Go to IKEA… and buy a sheepskin rug and a new cushion. It’ll definitely make you feel more hygge. Although remember the concept of lagome and leave while your sanity is still intact.

Three things I’m loving this week

Heather McLennan Cushion from Contempo Stirling

Well hello! Things have been a bit quiet around here thanks to a combination of half-term and flu. But I’m pleased to say I’m back – and I have some lovely things to share with you this week…

Heather McLennan Cushion from Contempo Stirling

A beautifully Scottish cushion… I live in flat Fenland which is a very long way from the rugged beauty to be found north of the border. So I was delighted when Contempo got in touch asking me if I’d like to try one of their gorgeous cushions featuring the designs of Heather McLennan. The jewel-bright colours are simply stunning – it’s a little bit of Scotland in my sitting room. And, even more excitingly, it’s made from sumptuous vegan suede which feels so luxurious! Click here to view the full range of Heather’s cushions, which are available exclusively online from Contempo, an independent shop in Stirling.

Heather McLennan Cushion from Contempo Stirling

Cold cures have also been on my mind this week… I put out a plea for remedies on my social media and received so many replies. Top of the list were the traditional hot lemon, ginger and honey – plus a rather more exciting beetroot and ginger smoothie. I’m officially sick of germs so I’m hoping that drinking my body weight in the above will see me through to the spring.

Cold remedies and Oh Comely magazine

Spring blooms to beat the decidedly un-springlike weather… The weather has been gross this week – we’re talking non-stock mizzling drizzle. You’ve got to find comfort where you can. For me that’s a carpet of purple blooms on the first sunny day in at least a hundred years.

Purple spring blooms

A big thank you to Contempo Stirling who sponsored this post. Ongoing support from lovely brands big and small makes this blog possible. 

 

Working 9-3: my freelance style

Joanie Peggy checked trouser

It’s a myth that all freelancers work in their pyjamas. Ok, sometimes we do – but mostly we just want clothes that are flexible. I fit my work in around the school run – so my working hours are 9-3. During that time I need an outfit that’ll take me from the school run to my home office – via client meetings and a bit of coffee shop hot-desking.

Joanie Peggy checked trouser

Right now I have a nice little formula going on: smart trousers, a simple knit and a camel coat. It’s a look that can take me everywhere, whilst also passing the school-run test. This basically means: can you wear it while balancing a combination of lunchboxes and papier-mache lighthouses in your arms? If the answer’s yes, then it’s a winner.

Joanie Peggy checked trouser

One of my favourite brands, Joanie, have recently launched a new workwear collection – and it’s gorgeous. It’s a wardrobe fit for Mad Men’s Joan Holloway in all her gorgeousness – full of cute dresses, trousers and tops. Now, I’m clearly no Joan – but I couldn’t wait to try a bit of this retro-inspired collection.

Joanie Peggy checked trouser

I chose these checked trousers because I knew they’d fit perfectly into my 9-3 freelance style. Why? Well, they’re low-key – but they’ve got that subtle style and sass that I just love. The fabric is soft and stretchy so they’re comfortable and practical at home – but they also looked pulled-together and smart for work meetings. Perfection!

Joanie Peggy checked trouser

I wear: Peggy checked trousers, £32, c/o Joanie / Loafers, £22.99, New Look

Bag, £19.99, New Look / Sunglasses, £2.50, Peacocks  / Coat (old), ASOS

 

5 low-key ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day

Letterbox flowers by Interflora

Love it or hate it, it’s Valentine’s Day this week. I’m somewhere in the middle. We don’t push the boat out with a fanfare of trumpets and confetti – but I do like to do a bit of low-key celebrating.

Here are my five favourite ways to have a super relaxed Valentine’s Day…

Buy yourself some flowers. Chances are, he’ll forget – so why not treat yourself? And while you’re at it, buy some for a friend too. I’ve recently tried letterbox flowers for the first time. Such a cool idea and I still can’t believe it’s possible. This sweet letterbox-friendly bouquet by Interflora will brighten someone’s day.

Go for a bracing walk on the beach, followed by fish and chips. After ten years of marriage, my husband and I don’t tend to gush sweet nothings. When we get time together on our own, we usually spend time thrashing out the big things happening in our lives. Talking’s easier when you’re walking – and a problem shared is a problem halved. And few things are more romantic than sharing a bag of chips by the sea.

Search for some snowdrops. They’re at the their best around Valentine’s Day. I always think they’re a really romantic flower – so pretty and elegant. Finding a patch is like finding treasure. Warm up afterwards with tea and cake.

Enjoy a yummy meal at home. And feel smug that you haven’t forked out for a romantic dinner in a restaurant. According to a survey by HelloFresh, 70% of us are planning to do just that this Valentine’s Day. Steak and chips is the nation’s favourite. It’s a favourite in this house too – always cooked by my husband and always accompanied by a romantic cloud of smoke.

Watch something you’ll both enjoy. Ok, maybe that’s easier said than done. Rom coms are probably out – although, surprisingly, I did manage to persuade my husband to watch When Harry Met Sally recently and he actually admitted to enjoying it. Mostly though, the only things we’ll agree to watch together are Game of Thrones, Stranger Things or Father Ted.

What are your low-key Valentine’s Day favourites?

This post was a sponsored post in association with HelloFresh

Let’s celebrate February

Big bunch of daffodils

Ever since the start of February I’ve been feeling a bit meh. And that’s because it’s a bit of a drab month, isn’t it? Not so long ago, frost and snow thrilled us – now we just want to be done with it. We’re all on permanent spring-watch. The seasons, however, can’t keep up with our impatience.

It’s tempting to wish February away. The shop shelves – and our hearts – may be full of spring blooms and floaty dresses but we have to accept that it’s still winter. No amount of wishful thinking is going to change that. And by focusing all out attention on spring, we’re forgetting to notice the little things that make February a great month.

Let’s celebrate February for what it is.

Ladybird things to look for in winter book

Chase the sparking frost. February is the end of winter – and there’s no denying it can be bleak at times. There’s mud everywhere and it’s still freezing most of the time. But why not stop and appreciate the beauty of winter for a little longer? When we get the first frosts in the autumn, I can’t get enough of it. For the rest of this month, I’m going to carry on appreciating their beauty. Make the most of crunching through silvery grass and run your fingers over a frost-glittered branch. This is seasonal magic and it’s fleeting – don’t forget to appreciate it before it vanishes again.

Daffodils in Emma Bridgewater jug

Listen to the birds. Have you noticed what’s changed over the last couple of weeks? It’s the birdsong. I can hear them in my garden and even when I’m walking along busy roads in the morning – it’s a uniquely optimistic sound on a bitterly cold day. Try taking your headphones out on your morning commute – or look out for chatty robins and blackbirds in your garden.

Seek out the winter blooms. February is the time for pearly-white snowdrops and bright yellow aconites – plus, you might even find some early daffodils. Go for a walk and seek out this winter treasure. It’ll lift your heart. And don’t just think of these blooms as a sign of the spring to come – think of them as a parting gift from the departing winter.

Snowdrops at Anglesey Abbey

That precious extra daylight. Another source of wonder in February is the gradual return of daylight. This week I could still see blue sky at 5pm, and it was a wondrous sight. Start gradually coming out of your evening hibernation – go out for an afternoon walk and relish this extra time.

Buds on branches. Look on bare branches right now and you’ll see some buds forming. It’s exciting to see this sign of things to come, and it’s a useful metaphor for life. It takes me a while to come out of my winter shell – and truth be told, I’m probably not quite ready for full-on spring yet. I like the idea of slowly unfurling over the next couple of months – gradually getting more active and optimistic as the days go by.

Winter Coffee

And finally, eat pancakes. Because how can you hate a month that has a whole day devoted to pancakes, lemon and sugar?

Writing this post has re-ignited my enthusiasm for February. I’m going to appreciate it for what it is – not as the start of spring, but as a month full of sweet parting gifts from winter. 

Can you wear mom jeans if you’re a mum?

Mom jeans by Nasty Gal

I’ve been pondering this question ever since ‘mom’ jeans started appearing in the shops a few years ago. Of course, mums come in all shapes, sizes and ages – but for me personally, being a mum means that my bum, legs and sticky-out tum will probably never be what they once were.

That’s ok most of the time, but I tend to avoid anything that might be a little, well, unflattering. And mom jeans have always fallen in that category. They’re short in the leg, high-waisted and slightly baggy on the thigh – and sometimes they’re even stonewashed. Weird combo, you might say. And, you’re right. They are exactly the kind of jeans my mum wore in the eighties and nineties.

Can a mum wear mom jeans?

For this reason (sorry, mum) I’ve always avoided them like the plague – oh, and the fact that they only seem to work on lithe 18 year-olds. But this spring, they’re still on-trend. People my age, who are actually mums, are wearing them. It’s been long enough now that even I can’t deny their existence any longer.

It’s time to see if this mum can pull off dressing like a 1980s mom.

Can a mum wear mom jeans?

I have chosen this pair from Nasty Gal (I know, my least likely place to shop, but they were on offer). First thoughts on trying them on: wow, I can do them up. Followed by: yay, my tummy doesn’t look too bad, although they make those child-bearing hips look quite solid… But on the whole, I like them – especially the dark colour and the unfinished hems. Plus, the tight, nipped-in waist feels feminine and flattering.

Mom jeans by Nasty Gal

As I have a sticky-out tummy, so there’s no way I’d wear these jeans with a short, tight top on it’s own. In coat weather, this is balanced out with a longer jacket – making me feel taller and leaner. A loose blazer also helps keep things looking balanced. In warmer weather, it’ll be loose shirts and tees.

So, the verdict is: yes, this mum can wear them. But she does have reservations. They’re not the easiest shape to wear and it’s taken me a while to find a pair I like. If they make you feel great, wear them – if not, don’t be ashamed to swerve this trend entirely. But they’re worth a try, if only for the nostalgia fest.

Can a mum wear mom jeans?

I wear: Jeans, £25, Nasty Gal – I’m wearing a medium / Striped tee, £11.99, New Look 

Black handbag (in first photo), £7 and Sunglasses, £2.50 are both recent buys in the Peacocks sale. 

Blazer (H&M), Checked Coat (New Look), Boots (New Look), Red bag (Mango) are all past seasons. 

 

4 simple life lessons we can all learn from Millennials

Fluffy teddy coat

I’m 34 this year. Which makes me a millennial. We’re the children of the baby boomers, born in the eighties and becoming young adults around the time of the new millennium.

It’s a term that’s often bandied about with a fair bit of eye-rolling and negativity. You probably know the cliches by now. We can’t afford to pay off our student debts because we spend all our money on avocados. We’re impatient and emotionally needy.

But let’s stop the eye-rolling for a moment. There are a lot of useful life lessons we can all learn from the cliches associated with my generation. And it’s not just how to find the perfectly ripe avocado.

Fluffy teddy coat

We can all learn from this mindset. And I include myself here, because I’ve always been a bit of a young fogey at heart.

Millennials like to live in the moment. We might be attached to our phones, but that doesn’t mean we’re stuck at home. My generation loves to embrace live events and festivals – rather than sitting at the sidelines. It’s FOMO, or fear of missing out – but it’s also that in a life lived through our screens, spontaneity is still prized. I’m trying to embrace this as much as I can because life’s too short to sit at home every night.

Be more millennial: buy tickets to a gig or event

Sobriety and moderation. Have you noticed the shift? Binge drinking has (mostly) had it’s day. Drinking is almost beginning to feel old-fashioned. The role models have changed – these days we’re valuing wellness and health more than ever. Moderation isn’t just socially acceptable, it’s encouraged.  You don’t have to give up any time soon, but how about taking a break every now and again?

Be more millennial: only drink at weekends

Location over property. For older generations, it was often the size your home that mattered more than it’s location. Square footage was prized, and moving out from a town to village, where you’d get more for your money, was the norm. Maybe it’s FOMO again, but millennials don’t always want the dream house if it means living in the middle of nowhere. We’d rather be somewhere busy and bustling – where things are happening and community is prized. It’s a shift – and it’s making city life more appealing than ever.

Be more millennial: go on a mini-break to the centre of busy, busting city. Experience having everything on your doorstep.

Freedom from the job for life. The demise of the stable job for life is often seen as a bad thing. And sometimes it is. But millennials are discovering that this social shift has many positives too. Once upon a time, you were expected to train for something in life – then stick to it. These days it’s increasingly common to keep on evolving and changing as we grow older. Millennials are often seen as flaky for their desire to switch careers and retrain – but let’s celebrate it. My generation will be working for longer than any other – so why not make it more interesting?

Be more millennial: sign up for that course you’ve always wanted to try. Be open to new ideas, it’s never too late to try something new.

So, it’s time to stop beating ourselves up for being millennial. There’s a lot to love: openness, exploration and moderation. Sure, we have our problems – but so does every generation. If you look closely, there’s a lot to be valued. What would you add to the list?

Making coffee in a duralex glass