Category Archives: Lifestyle

The Weekend Edit: things to do, wear, see and eat

Yellow dress and blossom

Hello weekend, I’m definitely ready for you.

We’ve all been gritting our teeth through all the rain recently so a bit of spring warmth is most definitely in order. And bang on cue, the weather is supposed to be glorious this weekend. Need some inspiration? Here’s some simple ideas…

Make breakfast muffins. I love pancakes, but they’re time-consuming and a bit messy. Fruity breakfast muffins are the perfect alternative for lazy weekend breakfasts and brunch. They’re delicious and simple – and you can make them in advance. If you don’t already have a favourite recipe, then I recommend this book. It’s a classic and you’ll soon be making perfect muffins.

Breakfast muffins

Nice weather means new clothes. It’s been so hot this week that I’ve even been testing out some new summer dresses. Not quite ready for that yet? A great transitional piece right now is a pair of light-weight, loose trousers. I’m particularly loving these stripy ones by H&M.

Stripy trousers

Pick up a book. And then read it, preferably with a cup of coffee in the sunshine. I go through spurts of discovering new authors, and then pausing to re-discover things I’ve read before. Right now, I’m revisiting the novels of Mary Wesley. I read them all a decade ago, and I’m loving returning to them now – a little older and wiser. I’ve just finished An Imaginative Experience, which was excellent and perfectly off-beat – which was Mary Wesley’s speciality.

Be a blossom tourist. Soft, blousy flowers and blue sky are such a happy combination. Go seek it out. You don’t have to go anywhere fancy to find blossom. Just take a walk around your local streets. Magnolia is at it’s best right now – catch it now before it all disappears!

Magnolia in bloom

Pack away your winter wardrobe. I love delving in the boxes under my bed and re-discovering all the pretty spring clothes I’ve forgotten about. This weekend, I’m going to try and shift things round and bag up all my thick winter clothes. Make sure everything’s clean before you pack it away, and always remember to include some moth repellents to protect your nice knitwear.

Spring clothes flat-lay

Easy TV. Not sure if it’s spring, or a response to life being busy – but right now I’m all about the comfort tv. The boys and I have been re-watching old episodes of Escape to the Chateau. It’s dreamy and amusing – and it makes me wish we could up sticks and do something similar. If you fancy some drama, I’d also recommend the Welsh BBC drama, Keeping Faith. It’s one of best things I’ve seen this year.

Blossom and Avocados

What’s on your list this weekend? 

 

 

Wear yellow, be happy

Marks and Spencer yellow dress

Yellow. It’s a mood-boosting colour. Cheery yellow flowers, runny egg yolks and a sunshine-coloured new dress – they all make me happy.

As soon as I spotted this dress by Marks and Spencer I knew it was for me. It’s just the right shade of yellow – not too bright, not too mustardy. It’s perfect.

Marks and Spencer yellow dress

It also feels really rather nice on – light, floaty and gratifyingly figure-skimming. Which is just what you need for those spring days when you’re starting to emerge from your safe cocoon of winter layers. It’s also made of that seventies cheesecloth fabric which I love because it doesn’t crease.

Marks and Spencer yellow dress

My shoes are also by Marks and Spencer. Lilac is one of the colours of the year, and they make sure the dress feels very 2018.

Marks and Spencer yellow dress

Can a dress make you happy? Well, this one certainly has that effect on me. Maybe it’s the holidays vibes, or the fancy sleeves. Whatever it is, it works.

Marks and Spencer yellow dress

I wear: yellow dress in a roomy size 10, £39.50, Marks and Spencer

 Jacket in size 10, £69, Fat Face / Shoes in a generous size 6, £35, Marks and Spencer

A basket for every day of the week

Summer baskets

I’ve always loved baskets. So imagine how happy I am that they’re this summer’s must have accessory? They’re everywhere and available in every shape imaginable. It’s possible to have a different one for every day of the week – plus a few to spare!

To help you find the best of the best, I’ve created an edited collection of my favourite baskets and string bags.

First up, the classic market bag. Perfect for holidays, trips to your local market, swimming pool…the list is endless. You need at least one of these in your life.

Classic market bag

Clockwise from top left: natural straw tote, £32, Next / long-handled basket, £28, Not on the High Street / coast path basket, £27.50, Seasalt / round handle basket, £29.99, Zara

The round straw bag. Eminently chic and very photogenic. For instant glamour, wear anywhere from St Tropez to St. Ives. It also looks pretty good worn to your local supermarket.

Round basket bags

Clockwise from top left: circle tote bag, £30, Topshop / woven circle bag, £68, Rock n Rose / red circle bag, £39.99, Mango / circle bag with tassel, £29.99, Zara

The humble string bag is back! Another long-term favourite of mine. A bit seventies, a bit granny-chic – and actually very useful. The classic kind screw up in your bag and expand to fit all your shopping – and I love these grown-up handbag versions too.

String bags

Clockwise from top left: mauve bag, £14, Rock n Rose / Red string shopper, £22, Topshop / Natural bag, £29, Weald Store / blue string shopper, £29.99, Zara

The embellished basket. Because in 2018, embellishment is king. You need one of these for your holiday this summer – and for days when you need a little sunshine in your life!

Embellished baskets

Clockwise from top left: monkey bag, £28, Topshop / pom pom clutch, £28, Next / zig-zag bag, £29, Topshop / Floral bag, £49.99, Zara

Summer baskets

The only tough bit now is deciding which one to buy!

Living more thoughtfully: loose tea

Living more thoughtfully: loose tea

Teabags. They’re not as simple as we thought. 

I’ve been putting them in my compostable waste for years and always thought they were pretty harmless. Sadly, it turns out things are more complicated. That’s because tea bags are glued together with plastic. It stops them falling apart, but it also stops them biodegrading fully. Some teabags contain as much as 25% polypropylene.

For me, the humble teabag is yet another unsettling reminder that I’m using too much plastic. Not because I need it, but because it’s convenient. Because no one actually needs a strong tea bag glued together with plastic, do they? Its nice, yes. And it’s convenient. But is it essential to human life?

Living more thoughtfully: loose tea

People have been drinking tea for a long time. The tea bag is a relative newcomer in comparison, but over the last fifty years or so it’s almost completely replaced loose tea. Like buying meat in neat, hygienic packets or soap in plastic dispensers – it’s quick, easy and we’ve got used to it.

But our simple and convenient lifestyle has consequences. Most of us have known this for a while, and it’s getting harder to brush it under the carpet. I was genuinely shocked when I heard that there is plastic in teabags. And I bet quite a few of you were too. Shock is good, because it forces us to change our habits.

And that’s why I’ve swapped my teabags for loose tea.

Living more thoughtfully: loose tea

It’s no good me telling you that using loose tea is going to save the world. It isn’t. But if enough of us make small changes it does make a collective difference. It’ll cut down on the plastic that has been contaminating waste. And it’ll send a to tea companies that we’re not happy.

Drinking loose leaf tea takes a bit of getting used to. It helps to invest in a few useful things before you start. I have a teapot with a removable metal tea filter and I have several smaller metal filters with are the right size to sit in a mug. When I’m done, I bang the tea out into my compost bin.

It’s messier and it’s drippier. But it has one big compensation: it tastes better. It’s a bit of a revelation, to be honest. I used to only drink loose tea on high days and holidays. Now, it’s my everyday staple and I don’t know why I allowed myself to be conned into drinking such bad tea for so long.

Living more thoughtfully: loose tea

There are, however, a few problems with loose tea. Some are easier to solve than others.

Mess. I don’t mind it, but it’s not for everyone. I can’t see it taking off in the average office anytime soon, for example. Which is why it’s so important that  tea companies make a commitment to making their teabags plastic free.

Cost. As it became less common, it was inevitable that loose tea would morph into a luxury product. That’s how I’ve always seen it. It is possible to buy affordable loose tea in bulk, but you’ll probably have to do it online. I order mine from Tugboat teas, whose English breakfast blend is delicious and affordable. I buy it in 500g bags and I’ve worked out that it costs me about 7p a cup. In comparison, my usual Yorkshire gold cost me about 3p a cup. So, there’s a difference. But it’s not bad when you consider just how much better it tastes.

Packaging. Buying loose tea is great, but it comes with its own packaging. And it’s not the friendliest. The bags I buy online are paper pouches lined with foil. I can’t put them with my recyclable waste, but I can post them back to the Tugboat teas who will have their own recycling scheme. It’s not ideal. I’m working on finding a local source of affordable loose tea where I can take my own container along and have the tea weighed directly into it.

Teapigs tea

Don’t want to give up tea bags?

You’ll be pleased to hear that lots of tea companies, like PG Tips and the Co-op, have pledged to go plastic free. And some brands are already doing it. Teapigs are a great example of a company who are getting it right.

I’ve lived without tea bags for a couple of months now and I wouldn’t go back. My next challenge is milk bottles! 

 

 

10 things to do on a rainy Easter weekend

10 things to do on a rainy Easter weekend

This Easter, the weather isn’t planning on playing ball. I have all my fingers and toes crossed that the forecast improves, but right now I’m looking at four solid days of rain. Which is disappointing. It’s ok to be British and moan about it for a while. But when you’re ready, here are my best ideas for beating the wet-weather blues.

Stay indoors and eat chocolate. I won’t judge you if this is how you choose to spend your Easter weekend. It’s an enormously tempting prospect and at least part of our weekend will be spent like this. Ideally with a Harry Potter film or a good book.

Organise an indoor egg hunt. Avoid the usual free-for-all searches that are so easy in a garden. Instead, create an indoor treasure hunt with clues or riddles to follow. Keep the momentum going with a few treats along the way.

Bake an Easter classic. Try making your own hot cross buns or a classic Simnel cake. Nigella has good recipes for both. Or if all else fails, hurl together some cornflakes, melted chocolate and mini eggs.

Hot Cross Buns

Get out for a walk anyway. Because you won’t actually melt in the rain, will you? Just one word of advice, go somewhere interesting. No one wants to trudge along a dyke in the rain (we have a lot of those in the Fens). Choose a hill, the seaside or somewhere with a fun trail to follow.

Go to a museum or gallery. Try something new or an old favourite. The newly re-opened Kettles Yard in Cambridge is top of my list.

Try indoor climbing. My family adores Clip ‘n Climb – who have centres all over the country. It’s an easy, safe and fun way to experience climbing walls. Adults and children share the same walls and it’s a great way to burn off some chocolate.

Make your table pretty. There’s something irresistibly charming about spring flowers and Easter decorations. Make the effort to dress your table with pretty china, sprigs of blossom and those adorable little fluffy chicks.

Decorating your table for Easter

An old-fashioned board game. My children are now old enough to play classics like Monopoly. These old games still have a real charm – and I’m both delighted and surprised that my Minecraft loving children agree.

Take a screen break. When you’re trapped indoors it’s very tempting to spend hours scrolling though your phone. Do it for a bit, but promise me you’ll take a break too? Pick up that book or magazine you’ve been meaning to read and enjoy it without digital distractions.

Garden in your head. It might be too wet and muddy to do any spring planting, but you can still dream. Buy some seeds and think of summer days.

Cup of coffee and an Easter egg

What are your favourite ways to beat the wet weather blues?

My spring interiors edit – with Sainsbury’s

Sainsbury Home Cushions

Beautiful homewares with my weekly shop? Yes please, Sainsbury’s. Every time I’m there doing my shopping something catches my eye. They’ve got all the bases covered – whether you’re kitting out your first home, looking for the latest interiors trends or just popping a nice scented candle in your trolley. 

With spring in the air I’ve been itching to give my sitting room a seasonal update. Luckily it’s fairly easy to ring the changes without doing anything drastic. Accessories are key. We can’t all change our furniture and sofas every year, but we can pick up little pieces which will instantly update our homes.

Sainsbury's Home faux succulents

At Sainsbury’s these accessories are beautifully designed, affordable and as easy to buy as a bag of doughnuts.

I like to start a seasonal update with cushions and throws. I’m always drawn to neutral greys and mustard yellows, so the Helsinki collection was exactly what I was looking for.

Sainsbury's home Helsinki cushions

I chose a large grey cushion, a throw and a smaller crewel-work cushion. I love the unexpected pop of navy.

Sainsbury's home Helsinki cushions

Once I’ve updated my cushions and throws, I like to look for a few on-trend decorative accessories to instantly update the feel of my room. This trio of faux succulents in concrete-effect pots are a brilliantly low-maintenance way to tap into the trend for houseplants and greenery. They look amazingly realistic!

Sainsbury's Home faux succulents

I don’t own any large vases. I tend to use jugs and jam jars, so there was a real gap in my home for a proper, grown-up vase. This bowl shaped vase feels so sophisticated. All for £6.

Sainsbury's glass bowl vase

Small changes, big difference. And all as easy as pie. 

Thank you to Sainsbury’s for gifting me the items mentioned in this post. Where possible I have linked to products online, but all are available in store now.

Hello British Summer Time + why every mouse needs to roar sometimes

New Look yellow shirt

I normally whinge about the clocks going forward. Because who actually likes losing an hour of their weekend? Well, me, it turns out. It means entering British Summer Time – which feels just as good as it sounds.

New Look yellow shirt and M&S shoes

I’m celebrating with some new spring buys. This yellow shirt by New Look is not only cute with jeans, it’ll also be the perfect cover-up to wear with sleeveless summer dresses if, like me, you don’t like your upper arms. And the shoes? Soft leather pumps by Marks and Spencer – available in a variety of ice cream shades – and as comfortable as walking on fluffy clouds.

New Look yellow shirt

All in all, it’s very nice. Which allows me to neatly segue into the next part of this blog post – my niggling fear that I’m too nice. 

Don’t get me wrong. I’ll always think it’s important to be nice and kind. But I sometimes I feel I take it too far. I’m that mousey person who writes a vaguely opinionated tweet and then has to delete it five minutes later when someone disagrees with me. I’m also the person who hates to tell people what I’m really thinking.

Sometimes being too nice can backfire on you. This weekend, I had a little revelation. I’ve been left feeling really unsettled by the collapse of our house move, and unable to work out why I can’t move on. And I think this is mostly because I’ve just been too nice and calm about the whole thing. I haven’t always been so reasonable: the old me would have wept and gnashed her teeth until everyone was sick of her. And eventually, I’d have felt better for it – but in the process I’d make everyone around me miserable.

New Look yellow shirt

So life, motherhood and the universe have all taught me that’s it’s easier to be nice and avoid confrontational tantrums.

You can have too much of a good thing. I’m starting to realise though I need to allow myself to feel angry about things that go wrong – and to not be afraid to talk about them. I like to write about the sugar-coated version bits of my life: fashion, beauty, lifestyle, happiness. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for a bit more honesty in amongst the prettiness.

Being nice doesn’t make you weak – but burying your true feelings probably will. So, I’m going to be a little braver. Clichéd as it sounds, the mouse needs to roar sometimes. 

New Look yellow shirt and M&S shoes

I wear: Shirt, £15.99, New Look / Jeans, £25, Nasty Gal

Shoes, £35, Marks and Spencer / Bag, £29.99, Zara

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