Category Archives: Lifestyle

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

Sailing away from the safe harbour

This January the wind of change has been blowing through my life. For so many of us, the start of a new year is the time we take stock – to re-evaluate, to consider your options and to make new plans.

Sometimes the wind of change can feel scary, and sometimes it can feel exciting. I’m naturally cautious and my initial bubbles of excitement often get weighed down by niggling fears. While talking about this on social media, fellow blogger Gemma, sent me this quote by Mark Twain

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did so. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

This little gem of a quote couldn’t have come at a better time. I’d already earmarked Discover as my word of the year. And here was the invitation I needed to throw caution to the wind and sail away from my safe harbour.

You might be wondering where that wind of change is going to take me. Not very far in physical distance, but a long way in every other sense. Let me explain…

Firstly, we have decided to move house. Nothing is certain yet, but the time feels right. We’ve lived in our house for seven years. Not so long you might think, but a lot has happened in that time.

My children have turned from babies and toddlers into great strapping boys. My husband has changed career. I discovered blogging and began to find myself again after being a stay-at-home mother.

These walls have witnessed so many little milestones during this intense, busy period of our lives. But we’re outgrowing it. It’s going to be hard to say goodbye, but I’m also excited for the new doors that will open along the way. I’ll keep you posted.

What else is changing? I’ve launched my new website for my freelance work. Some of you may already know that I do freelance writing and social media work in Ely and Cambridge – and this is something I want to grow even more in 2018. I feel like I’ve finally found the right job for me – and it sits so well alongside this blog, which I also love.

From now on I’m determined to take every opportunity to “throw off the bow lines.” And last week an opportunity popped up which gave me the opportunity to do just that.

It was an invitation to be interviewed about blogging life by Suzie Thorpe on her live radio show at Cambridge 105. My first reaction was panic – I’ve always been a poor public speaker and worried I’d be incapable of stringing a sentence together.  But to turn down such an exciting opportunity would have been so sad. Luckily for me, my blogger friend Sophie Kate was able to come too – and this gave me the courage I needed to say yes.

Last Friday, we went along to the studio in Cambridge and something of a miracle occurred. Not only did I mange to string a sentence together, I actually enjoyed it and was left wanting more. It helped, of course, that I was talking about blogging – a subject I love. It was such a confidence boost and I was surprised and delighted to discover how good it made me feel. You can listen to a podcast of our interview here.

So, January had very much been a month of discovery. Most of all, I’ve realised that the wind of change I’ve been feeling isn’t a storm I’ve accidently stumbled into, it’s one I’ve created. Deep down I know it’s time for change, and although the way ahead isn’t always clear, I just have to follow my heart.



Living more thoughtfully: let’s bring back soap

Living more thoughtfully: use traditional soap

I still remember the soaps of my childhood – bars of creamy Imperial Leather, the spicy scent of Pear’s and the nostalgic fragrance of Yardley’s Lavender. 

But as I grew up, soaps lost their popularity – being replaced by liquid soaps in plastic bottles and shower gels. And you can see why. Plastic bottles are neat, convenient and hygienic. That was enough to let them win for a while.

I’ve been feeling guilty on a personal level about this plastic consumption for a while – especially all the pieces that go into making a pump bottle of liquid soap. And now it seems to be on the nation’s collective mind too.

We’re all thinking about how to use less plastic. In an ideal world they’d be a weigh and pay shop on every high street – the kind of place you could take your empty bottles to have them refilled. That doesn’t exist yet for most of us.

Living more thoughtfully: use traditional soap

So this year, take matters into your own hands and make one simple but effective change: start using blocks of soap again.

Not keen? I know, I understand. For every memory of sweetly scented lavender soap, there’s another memory of slimy soap sitting in a soggy soap dish. Or the cracked and grimy little specimen in the pub toilets. And it makes your sink messier, I can’t deny it.

But I can live with that. Because I don’t mind having to wipe the soap scum off the sink a bit more often if it means I’m doing the right thing. Sure, a lot of plastic soap containers can be recycled – but it takes a lot of effort and energy to do this. Wouldn’t it be better if the only waste you produced was the paper wrapper from a bar of soap?

Worried about slippery soap in the shower? Try one of these clever little soap bags which help you create a lather and exfoliate your skin at the same time.

I’ve always loved soap, and it truly deserves to stage a comeback. A bar of soap isn’t go to save the world, but it’s a start. 

Living more thoughtfully: use traditional soap




A Very British Hygge

What to look for in winter ladybird book

Hygge is the Danish concept of cosiness. It’s that feeling you get when you find warmth and shelter on a cold day. It’s about closing the curtains on a dreary evening, lighting your candles and burrowing into your favourite blanket. Or spending the afternoon curled by the fire with a new book.

Technically, you’re supposed to pronounce it ‘hue-guh’ – although I’m sure I’m not alone in stubbornly referring to it as ‘higgy’ in the comfort of my own head.

The wind in the willows

The concept of hygge has taken Britain by storm – but I have to confess that I’ve always felt a bit annoyed by it.  Since when do we need lessons from the Danes in how to be cosy? Surely the whole idea of an Englishman and his castle is the very epitome of hygge?

Yes and no

Retreating to your castle and pulling up the drawbridge behind you isn’t exactly a cheerful thought it is? Just look at Brexit. The Danes are the happiest nation on earth. The British are not. Hygge is a big part of that.

Hygge isn’t just about battening down the hatches against the storm, it’s about relishing the warmth and vitality to be found in our hearts – whatever the weather.

A Very British Hygge by Simon Sinclair

Which is where A Very British Hygge by Simon Sinclair fits in. It’s a little book published by Everest, full of clever little reminders that it’s easier than you think to be more hygge…

De-clutter. Let your home tell your story by giving it a chance to breathe. Ask yourself if that dusty pile of magazines or pile of odd socks brings you joy. If the answer’s no, then get rid of them. Your home will feel lighter, and so will you.

…but remember to be kind to yourself. The concept of hygge isn’t about creating a scandi-inspired show home.  Perfection doesn’t guarantee happiness. Accept your home’s limitations – and your own too while you’re at it. Hygge is all about making the best of things.

Make your home comfortable and warm. This isn’t just about cushions and fairy lights, it’s about looking after the practical things. Double-glazed windows, decently fitted doors and insulation – they’re the building blocks you need to create a cosy home.

Be sociable. Don’t shut yourself away just because the weather’s lousy. Our homes come to life when we invite others in. Have friends round for a simple supper, or gather all the family in the sitting room to play a board-game.

Plum & Ashby candle

Make the most of light. When we think about embracing hygge we tend to think imagine candles and lamp light – the epitome of cosiness. But don’t forget to make the most of the natural light you do have. Adding a conservatory or a skylight to your home is a great way to enjoy the sun all year round. Or try putting your favourite armchair next to a bright window. Find the time to sit down there with a cup of tea as often as you can.

How do you get a sense of hygge in your home? I’d love to know. For more information on all things Hygge and to download a free copy of Simon’s book click here. 

This post was a paid commission by Everest.

Home Notes for January

Home notes in January

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

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

White hyacinths

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

White hyacinths

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

Yellow tulips

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

Image: IKEA

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

What’s caught my eye?

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

IKEA armchairs

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

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

Antique chest

What are you planning for your home this year?

Three trends to cheer you up this January 

The classic beret

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

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

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

Three trends to try this January

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

 Rust wool beret, £9.99, New Look

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

Three trends to try this January

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

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

Three trends to try this January

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

 Floral dress with gathered neck, £29, Zara

Which trends are you loving right now?

The classic beret

5 reasons you should keep your fairy lights up all winter

5 Reasons you should keep your fairy lights up all winter

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 Reasons you should keep your fairy lights up all winter

A very Merry Christmas…

Gathering greenery for Christmas

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

Gathering greenery for Christmas

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

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

Victorian Christmas card

D is for Den – with BEAR Paws

D is for Den - with BEAR Paws

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

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

D is for Den - with BEAR Paws

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

D is for Den - with BEAR Paws

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

D is for Den - with BEAR Paws

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

D is for Den - with BEAR Paws

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

D is for Den - with BEAR Paws

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

D is for Den - with BEAR Paws

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


How to gift wrap like a pro!

Emily Bradley, Bear Cub Creative: tips for wrapping

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

Emily Bradley, Bear Cub Creative: tips for wrapping

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

What will you need?

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

A decent pair of scissors

Double-sided sticky tape

Ribbons, tags and greenery to decorate

Emily Bradley, Bear Cub Creative: tips for wrapping

Take your time and get things right

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

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

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

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

Emily Bradley, Bear Cub Creative: tips for wrapping

Be precise. It’s a bit like origami

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Stick to your ribbon.

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

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

Emily Bradley, Bear Cub Creative: tips for wrapping

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

Emily Bradley, Bear Cub Creative: tips for wrapping

Emily Bradley, Bear Cub Creative: tips for wrapping

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feeling inspired? Here are some other ideas…

Add a hint of luxury with copper…

Emily Bradley, Bear Cub Creative: tips for wrapping

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

Emily Bradley, Bear Cub Creative: tips for wrapping

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

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