Category Archives: Lifestyle

Opposites attract: why I watch Love Island

On paper Love Island is 100% not my type. I’m over thirty and married with two kids. Why would I want to spend eight weeks watching a bunch of fake-tanned, single 20-somethings in a Mallorcan villa? Why indeed. And yet, that old platitude is true: opposites attract.

Why I watch Love Island

The perennial lure of the TV dating show. I’ve always been a sucker for them – from Blind Date to Street Mate, and more recently First Dates and Married at First Sight. It’s gossipy romance at its best. There’s no reality here. Love Island is deeply appealing because the stakes are so stupidly low – even the dramas aren’t really that dramatic. It’s like the chick-lit book you devour on holiday, but can’t be bothered to squeeze back into your suitcase.

It’s shallow and vacuous. And that’s just the way I like it. I enjoy a break from pondering the big questions in life and giving myself the green light to be completed mindless. Forget mortgages and work, Love Island gives me an hour every night to focus on the really important things in life – like ewww, how can the girls bear to wear their bikinis up their bums like that everyday?

Why I watch Love Island

I’m an observer. Watching Love Island is a bit like watching a nature programme, or a documentary about aliens. The contestants’ outlook on life is so far removed from my own. It’s like observing a different species. I’m seriously fascinated by the gradual realisation that most of the girls have had a little surgical cosmetic help,  the hideous array of clothes and the surprising vanity of the boys. I feel no envy or desire to compare myself to them – and, wow, how refreshing is that?

It’s beautifully imperfect. After a while, you stop noticing all the perfectly tanned and toned limbs, the blinding white teeth and the hair extensions. The mask – or should I say hair weave – slips sometimes and you see that most of them are just as imperfect and complicated as the rest of us. Apart from a few exceptions, they’re mostly a likeable bunch – and it’s their personalities that you remember. Well, for five minutes at least.

Why I watch Love Island

Love Island, I’ve given up an hour of my evenings for you for nearly six weeks so far. I’ll keep rolling my eyes at you, but I’m not planning on stopping watching any time soon. And you don’t make me despair and cry like the Handmaid’s Tale, so that’s good.

The Weekend Edit

Boohoo stripy sun dress

Hello weekend, I’m definitely ready for you. It looks like it’s going to be another absolute scorcher. Need some inspiration? Here’s some simple ideas…

Enjoy an open-air event. This weekend we’re off to the Ely Folk Festival for the first time. What am I hoping for? Great music and relaxed summer fun that’ll keep us all happy – plus a few beers and some ice cream. That’s all I ever want from a summer event. In every town, village and city there’s always oodles to do in July – from school fairs to music in the local bandstand. Pack up a picnic and see what you can find!

The Weekend Edit: Peacocks Dress

Wear stripes (again). Don’t tie yourself up in knots planning an outfit for the weekend. Just reach for something stripy and you know you’ll be sorted. I am particularly loving this stripy sun dress from Boohoo. Not my usual shop, but I fell in love with this simple little number. Accessorise with a straw hat/bag and lots of sun cream.

Boohoo stripy sun dress

Keep on ditching those tea bags. Remember I wrote about giving up tea bags a few months ago? Mainly because they contain plastic. Well, it’s still going very well. I couldn’t live without my mug-sized metal filters – easy and mess free, especially when you just want one cup. If you haven’t already got one, maybe now is the time to give it a try? Whittard are now doing a lovely infuser mug with its own filter which is just perfect for their beautiful range of loose summer teas! The Passionfruit and Mango blend is particularly lovely.

Whittards tea filter and Summer loose teas

Lose yourself in a good page-turner. If you’re looking for a good weekend read, or a book for your holiday, I can heartily recommend The Stolen Child by Sanjida Kay. It’s such a gripping story and I read it in one day as I just couldn’t put it down. Compulsive reading. Perfect for an afternoon in a deck chair or on a sun lounger!

The weekend edit

Eat some cherries. Head to your local market and buy a bag of juicy, in season cherries. They’re at their sweet best right now and such a lovely treat. I only ever eat them at this time of year and they’re worth the wait.

Cherries and coffee

A last chance for some boundaries. It’s my last weekend before the school summer holidays start. Soon I’ll be lucky if I can persuade my children to go to bed before 9pm. I’m torn between excitement and fear. I’m still in denial that it’s so close. As usual, I’m hoping to wing it.

Daisy chains

What do you have planned this weekend?

A birthday talisman

Daisy London amethyst pendant

It’s my birthday today. I’m 34. This isn’t a post telling you I’ve got life sussed. Because obviously that’d be a lie. But I do like to think I’ve learnt a few useful things along the way – mostly that life is all about balance. There are good days and bad days, nice bit and nasty bits. But usually life finds its natural balance. And I’m happy with that. 

Sometimes though, for whatever reason, life can get knocked off kilter. And when that happens, this 34 year old often needs to take a refresher course in finding her inner balance. Everyone’s got their own little ways to get back on track. Personally, I like a talisman.

Daisy London amethyst pendant

Don’t worry I’m not about to turn all mystic on you, but I do believe in the power of objects to comfort and reassure. Recently I received an early birthday present from Daisy London – a beautiful amethyst pendant from their Healing Stones collection.

Daisy London amethyst pendant

I’ve always been drawn to amethyst. Mostly because it’s pretty. But, it’s also supposed to do all sorts of other good things like ward off bad energy, improve concentration and get you closer to achieving your positive goals. Now, I don’t know if I can count on all that happening, but I do know that wearing a piece of amethyst next to my heart can remind me that it’s possible.

Daisy London amethyst pendant

Putting on this pretty necklace is enough to give me the little kick I need to remember to get that whole life balance thing right.

Daisy London amethyst pendant

Which means remembering to jump on my bike to clear my head when it’s full of negative thoughts – or taking a hour off to sit amongst some lavender.

Daisy London amethyst pendant

34 years have taught me that life doesn’t have to be complicated if you get the balance right.  

Daisy London amethyst pendant

I wear: 18ct gold plated Amethyst pendant, £85, Daisy London / Dress, £19.99, H&M / Belt, £4.99, H&M / Shoes, £25, Marks and Spencer

Thank you Daisy London for sending this beautiful amethyst pendant to me for my birthday. 

Our night in a Plankbridge shepherd’s hut

Plankbridge shepherd's hut

There’s something so romantic about a shepherd’s hut. It’s a sweet reminder of bygone days that appeals to my instinctive need for simplicity and freedom. After a busy few months of work, we were both ready to escape from reality – if only for a little while. The offer of a night in a shepherd’s hut was like a dream come true. We packed our bags and set off for an adventure in deepest Kent.

Plankbridge shepherd's hut at Elmley nature reserve

Collecting the keys to Samphire

Our destination was Elmley Nature Reserve on the Isle of Sheppey. After a warm welcome, we collected the keys to Samphire, our home for the night. It was specially built by Plankbridge. Their vision is to combine traditional Victorian craftsmanship with modern comfort. Each of their bespoke huts is designed to fit into their location – whether that’s a beautiful nature reserve or a city garden. Elmley is an enigmatic place – when we arrived in the late afternoon the marshlands were bathed in golden light and birds swooped low. Our hut seemed like it was part of the landscape and we immediately felt at home.

Plankbridge shepherd's hut at Elmley nature reserve

Modern luxury and ingenuity meet traditional craftmanship

Behind the stable door lies an enchantingly clever interior. A double bed is tucked into one end, a wood burner in the other. Between the two is a sweet little table and a tiny dresser full of useful things like tea bags, a kettle and a portable stove – plus marshmallows for the fire pit. And hidden away behind a door was a shower, sink and composting loo. The way Plankbridge have fitted so much in the small space is so ingenious and is a real testament to their craftsmanship and imagination. Gabriel Oak would recognise our hut, but it’s no period piece. Everything was bright, simple and comfortable.

Plankbridge shepherd's hut at Elmley nature reserve

Plankbridge shepherd's hut at Elmley nature reserve

A timeless summer night

We spent less than 24 hours at Elmley, but time seemed to stand still. The combination of the long summer night, the charm of the shepherd’s hut and the beauty of the nature reserve was magical. As we drank tea on the steps, we couldn’t believe our luck. We felt such a strong connection to the landscape, yet we were so well protected and comforted by our hut and its thoughtful interior. We ate a simple of dinner of bread and cheese – although you can cook something more elaborate on the stove if you want!

Plankbridge shepherd's hut at Elmley nature reserve

Plankbridge shepherd's hut at Elmley nature reserve

A cosy night’s sleep

There was a chill in the air that night and shutting the door to our cosy hut and climbing into bed was wonderful. Plankbridge insulate their huts with wool, so they’re cool in summer and warm in winter – and the temperature was perfect. We drifted off to sleep in our comfortable bed and slept like logs. We woke early to the blissful sound of birdsong and nothing else. No cars, no beeping alarm clock – nothing. The lovely team at Elmley delivered bacon sandwiches and tea to our door and we ate them in bed with the door flung open.

Plankbridge shepherd's hut at Elmley nature reserve

Plankbridge shepherd's hut at Elmley nature reserve

Can we take it home, please?

We were thoroughly enchanted by our night in Samphire and didn’t want to leave. On a daily basis I’m overwhelmed by the amount of stuff I own and accumulate. Staying in such a simple and beautifully designed space has really got me thinking about decluttering my life, but also how I can eventually own a shepherd’s hut of my own. Plankbridge huts aren’t just for holidays and beautiful settings – you can have one at the end of your garden as an office, spare room or romantic retreat. Cheaper than an extension and no planning permission required, what’s not to love? The saving starts now.

Plankbridge shepherd's hut at Elmley nature reserve

Plankbridge shepherd's hut at Elmley nature reserve

A big thank you to Plankbridge who paid for our stay at Elmley in return for this honest review.

 

 

 

 

 

Liven up your cup – with We Are Little’s coffee

We are Little's flavour infused instant coffee

Making a cup of coffee has always been a little event for me. At about 11am the lure of the kitchen becomes strong. I’ll log out of whatever I’m working on, and turn my attention to my favourite moment of the day: coffee time. 

I recently received a special delivery from We Are Little’s. It was packed full of their exciting range of coffees. Their top-quality instant coffee is made with 100% premium Arabica beans and as well as Colombian Single Origin and Brazil decaf, they specialise in gorgeous flavours like French Vanilla and Swiss Chocolate.

We are Little's flavour infused instant coffee

Everything’s natural, and there’s no added sugar – just great tasting coffee that feels like a treat, but that’s a doddle to make. Livening up your cup has never been easier…

Sticky cinnamon buns and French Vanilla… The soft and sweet flavour of this blend is perfect with my favourite mid-morning treat.

We are Little's vanilla infused instant coffee

Colombian Premium is perfect for life on the go… When I’m in a rush, I want my coffee to be simple, straightforward and have bags of flavour. We Are Little’s classic Colombian blend fits the bill nicely and they even sell a bag to match. The single-orgin beans sourced only from Colombia means this brew packs a real punch!

We are Little's coffee on the go bag

Indulge yourself with Swiss Chocolate… Having the day from hell? Pick yourself up with a cup of We Are Little’s Swiss chocolate infused coffee and the fanciest biscuit you can find the in cupboard.

We are Little's Swiss chocolate infused instant coffee

Lazy breakfast in bed with Rich Hazelnut… Always my favourite bit of the weekend. This full-flavoured blend is perfect with my morning croissant!

We are Little's flavour infused instant coffee

We are Little’s range of instant coffees are available from their own online shop – plus Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and other retailers. They also do flavour-infused ground coffee if that’s more your thing. Try some now to liven up your cup!

We are Little's coffee

This post was commissioned by We are Littles

Things I’ve loved in June

Sunhat and flowers

June has felt short and sweet. I’ve been busy with some big writing projects, so the weeks have flown past. But it hasn’t been all work and no play. Here’s what I’ve been doing, and more importantly loving, this month! 

Blooms from my garden. I’m no expert when it comes to gardening, and my approach is pretty slap-dash. All I really want is somewhere nice to sit and lots of flowers to pick. I’ve had a few set-backs this year – mainly one of my favourite climbing roses randomly dying – but everything is looking pretty cute out there now. My remaining roses are blooming and all the little plants I bought from Sarah Raven are doing well.

English flowers

Riding my bike every day. Pedal power is real. Riding my bike makes me feel happier and healthier. We ride our bikes to school every day and I’ve upgraded and added some panniers for my shopping.

Pashley Bicycle

My new Saltwater Sandals. I finally took the plunge on a pair and now I’m wondering what on earth took me so long? They’re the comfiest pair of sandals and they haven’t rubbed at all. Worried about the US sizes? I ordered mine from FatFace who have already covered them into UK sizes. They feel true to size. After agonising over the colour, I’m delighted to report that the bright red ones go with everything.

Saltwater Sandals

The Gresham House Wellness Spa. One of the things I love most about Cambridge is that new things pop up all the time. The latest is a beautiful new spa hidden away in an old house in the grounds of the Gonville Hotel. It’s a relaxing haven in the city with pretty hotel rooms and  luxurious treatment rooms. I went to the launch a few weeks ago and can’t wait to go back for a treatment – the little taster I had was very tempting!

Summer drinks. Beers in the park. Pimm’s by the river. Aperol Spritz in my garden on a Friday night. Ah, I love the simple pleasures of summer. Just add a pretty dress like this one from Peacocks!

My June was pretty good. How was yours?

Midi skirts and slogan tees

Slogan tees and floral skirts

In summer it feels like the rules change. Fashion becomes playful. On a sunny day things that shouldn’t work, just do. Midi skirts and slogan tees are a classic example. On paper, it shouldn’t work. But it does.

Why does it work? I think it’s partly because opposites attract. And also that slogan tees stop midi skirts looking too old-fashioned – and vice versa, because I don’t want to look like a teenager either.

I wear: tee, New Look (old) / skirt, £24.99, H&M / sandals, £59.50, Saltwater at FatFace

Want to see more? Here are some of my favourites right now!

Slogan tees and midi skirts

I wear: tee, £20, Blossoms Store / skirt, £25, Monki / Sandals as before

Skirt, £24.99, H&M / Tee, £9.99 Mango

Skirt, £30, Monki / Tee, £15.99, Mango

Milk bottle tops and paper bags

Milk in glass bottles

Milk bottle tops and paper bags…iron bedsteads, dirty old rags… Anyone else remember sitting crossed legged on the floor at primary school and singing that song? 

There’s nothing dirty about milk bottle tops these days. In fact, they’re a welcome sign that kerbside deliveries in glass bottles are on the up. We recently signed up, and haven’t looked back.

Milk in glass bottles

There’s something so simple and satisfying about milk in glass bottles. Pressing in the foil tops gives me a nice little reminder of being a child in the 80s, and knowing that the bottles will be trundled back to the depot to be refilled makes me happy.

Yes, it’s a little bit more expensive than walking to the shop to buy it yourself. And, yes, transporting and washing out bottles uses energy too. But surely it’s got to make more sense than single use plastic.

I’m using a local firm, Plumb’s Dairy, who deliver my milk in time for breakfast, three times a week. And get this, they also do orange juice in glass bottles too.

Milk in glass bottles

Paper bags. There’s nothing bad about those either. When I can I like to shop at the local market for my fruit and veg. But when that’s not possible, I’ve taken to using the mushroom bags at the supermarkets for my apples, tomatoes and other loose produce. No one’s told me off yet. It gives me a quiet sense of satisfaction, and stops my peaches getting squished in my bag.

Little by little, I’m trying to live more thoughtfully. How about you?

Milk in glass bottles

Three outfits I’m wearing on repeat

I love it when late spring begins to drift into summer. It’s warm, but not too warm – and I couldn’t be happier. Here are three simple outfits that I’m loving right now.

The maxi skirt. A new shape for me. I always thought I was too short for maxi skirts, but this year they feel right and actually make me feel taller. A simple white tee is all you need to go with it.

White Stuff Maxi skirt

Skirt, £49.95, White Stuff / Top, £8.99, H&M

Sandals, New Look – sold out, but these are similar 

The jumpsuit. Or possibly romper suit. Again, a new shape for me. I asked my seven-year-old if it was cool or ridiculous – or somewhere in between. He choose the latter, and I think he’s probably right. Wearing it on a warm day made me feeling childish and ridiculous in the best possible way. I don’t like my bare shoulders, so I covered them with my favourite yellow shirt.

New Look jumpsuit

Jumpsuit, £24.99, New Look – sold out online, but I bought mine in store

 Yellow shirt, £15.99, New Look

The trousers that feel like PJs. I have found my perfect working-from-home/school run outfit. Pull on these soft trousers and silky shirt and you’re ready to go!

Trousers, £12.99, H&M / Top, £14.99, H&M / Shoes, £25.99, Marks and Spencer / Bag, old

 

Introducing Roo-tid – a new homewares brand made in the UK

Roo-tid fox apron and Victoria sandwich

A move to the New Forest inspired Carly Stalker’s beautiful new range of homewares, Roo-tid. Her aprons, tea towels and bags are bright, bold and whimsical. I’ve been wearing her beautiful Fox apron while baking in my own kitchen and it’s the perfect combination of cute practicality.

I caught up with Carly to find out more about life in the New Forest and to hear more about the inspiration behind her work…

Making new friends

“I live just minutes away from the New Forest in Dorset with my husband and our two naughty house rabbits,” says Carly. “We used to live in a town, but we don’t miss it at all. We’ve replaced the sounds of the bustling streets with chirping birds, buzzing bees and pecking woodpeckers”

The New Forest is a haven for wildlife and Carly soon made friends with her new neighbours. “We spent many months doing up our new home. Every day we saw blue tits, squirrels and even sometimes badgers. We were spending so much time at home that these visitors became like friends with little characters of their own. I looked forward to seeing them and started snapping away with my camera whenever I got the chance!”

Roo-tid fox apron and Victoria sandwich

A new direction

Carly has worked in the design world for many years. Since university she’s worked for a magazine publisher and, more recently, for one of UK’s biggest craft suppliers. In her spare time, she turned a room overlooking the woodland into a craft room. Sketching the animals that pottered into her garden was lovely way to relax.

Carly Stalker, founder of Roo-tid

“As I sketched our new furry friends they seemed to come alive on the page. I wanted to share these little creatures,” explains Carly. “I was ready for a new challenge and my designs gave me the confidence to launch my own homewares business, Roo-tid.”

Bright bold designs made in the UK

Carly launched Roo-tid at the end of the March 2018 and it’s been non-stop ever since. “I design everything myself and everything is printed and made in the UK.” So far, the collection includes foxes, mice, badgers, hedgehogs and birds – all combined with bold and distinctive patterns. There are bags, aprons, cushions and more to choose from. “We want to produce homewares which will brighten your home and be cherished for many years to come. I’m thinking of new designs all the time and can’t wait to expand our range!”

Roo-tid fox apron and Victoria sandwich

Dreams for the future

“We’ve got a busy summer ahead of shows and fairs. As well as building up the Roo-tid range to include ceramics and childrens’ wear, we’d love to see our products stocked in shops up and down the country,” explains Carly.

Roo-tid fox apron and Victoria sandwich

Starting out is always tough, but Carly has a few words of advice for other small start-ups:

“Be kind to yourself, save hard, be patient and plan. The first few months are really, really tough but remember to reward yourself for the little wins. High five yourself, eat chocolate or do a little dance! Don’t let the ‘knocks’ rob you of this, otherwise you’ll forget you’re living the dream!”

Carly Stalker, founder of Roo-tid

Wise words, Carly – we wish you all the best for Roo-tid! 

I wear the Mr Fox apron in all photos, which is available online and costs £26. New customers can get 50% off their first order, find out more here!

Roo-tid Fox apron

This was a sponsored post