Category Archives: Lifestyle

Three things I’m loving this week: the new Ivy Cambridge Brasserie, cute cat collars and the seaside

Pink hyacinths and tulips

It’s officially spring tomorrow, but the weather’s not playing ball is it? Last week I spotted my first blossom…but now there’s snow on the ground again and temperatures are below freezing. Come on spring, it’s time to spring into action! The cold is really getting to me – it’s so suffocating, don’t you think? So, to blow the blues away here are three new discoveries I’ve made recently. They’ve cheered me up, and I hope they’ll inspire you too.

The Ivy Cambridge Brasserie

Breakfast at the new Ivy Brasserie, Cambridge. I love living so close to Cambridge. Mostly because I find its combination of new and old completely irresistible. Amongst all the beautiful colleges and spires, there’s constantly something new popping up. It keeps the city feeling fresh, and means there’s always something new to try.

The Ivy Cambridge Brasserie

The latest newcomer is the Ivy Cambridge Brasserie, on Trinity Street. Its sophisticated blend of Art Deco style and classic service – all with a bright, quirky twist – is a perfect fit for Cambridge. It’s open all day for breakfast, lunch, dinner, afternoon tea, cocktails and anything in between.

The Ivy Cambridge Brasserie

I was lucky enough to get a sneak preview of their breakfast menu and it’s bliss. Fluffy pancakes, perfect Eggs Benedict and shiny silver teapots – it’s quintessentially British and a perfect place to start your day in Cambridge. Worried it’ll be booked up? There’ll always be some tables available on the day – but I’d always recommend booking if you’re making a special trip.

The Ivy Cambridge Brasserie

Kitty-cats with bells around their necks… Mog and Tabby are delighted to have received their first blogger mail. Supakit were kind enough to send the girls some of their super-soft, pastel-coloured Italian leather collars. They’re now undoubtedly the cutest cats in the neighbourhood and make a pleasing jingling sound wherever they go.

Tabby in her Supakit collar

A mini break in Cromer… We’re just back from a short break in this Norfolk seaside town. It’s famous for its crabs, lifeboats and an impressive pier. The weather was arctic, but I fell in love with this quirky little town.

Cromer Pier

It’s full of pastel houses, second-hand bookshops and bakers selling sticky buns as big as your head. Getting away for a couple of nights did us all good and I’d highly recommend it. It doesn’t have to be far from home – Cromer is only a couple of hours away from us and it made such a refreshing change.

Cromer beach

What have you been lovely lately?

Disclosure: Mog and Tabby’s collars were a gift and The Ivy Cambridge Brasserie paid for my breakfast. 

25 years of Cath Kidston

Happy Birthday Cath Kidston!

Can you believe Cath Kidston has been around for 25 years? Cath’s quintessentially British designs are memorable and instantly recognisable – and each one reminds me of a different time from the last two decades.

Cath Kidston has taken me from awkward to teen to thirty-something mum of two. My first purchase? A classic floral book bag. I was 16 and used it to carry my folders to college.

Every piece I’ve bought since then has a special place in my heart. These are my favourites…

Cath Kidston Dressing gowns

The dressing gown that cured homesickness. The summer of 2002. It was a month or so before I left for university. My mum and I took a trip to the Cath Kidston shop at Clarenden Cross. Like most students, my sparse new college room needed some cheering up. It was light blue cotton, covered in those quintessential flowers. That dressing gown is long gone – I wore it until it disintegrated. But I’ll always remember it and how it made me feel a tiny bit less homesick. I don’t have a photo of it – pictured instead is dressing gown number two, from 2006.

Vintage Cath Kidston bag

The bag that made me feel grown up… This bag was an eighteenth birthday present. It was the first proper handbag I owned. It went off to uni with me, and then, after I graduated, accompanied me to my first flat and job in London. It’ll always remind me of those fresh, vibrant days of feeling newly grown-up. And look! It’s still here. These days it rarely leaves the house, but it’s a treasure and I’ll never part with it.

The skirt that reminds me of my Grandma… Another birthday present. A longed for treat when my children were little and money was tight. The first time I wore it I caught it on a door and tore it badly. I was gutted. But luckily, my grandma, who was the most talented seamstress, took it away and worked a miracle. Invisible mending. I don’t think many people can still do that. But she could, and thanks to her magic needle and thread the rip disappeared. She’s gone now – which makes this skirt all more precious. That simple cotton skirt with its secret repair, is a little bit of her. I’ll never part with it

And that’s the magic of Cath Kidston – still going strong at 25 years. What are your memories?

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.


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.

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.