Category Archives: Lifestyle

Home Notes for June

June mantelpiece

Every summer I fall in love with my home all over again. 

As the days get warmer it takes on a new lease of life. A fresh personality. Every time I throw open a door or window a bit of magic happens. It’s like the house is stretching out its limbs and letting out a big breath it’s been holding for months.

David Austin rose, the Albrighton Rambler

I’m spending more and more time outdoors and the garden feels like an extension of the house. We worked hard last year – planting roses and putting up a new shed. This year the hard work is paying dividends. The rambling roses are well and truly rambling and make me smile each time I pass. As do my cats, who are certainly adding a whole new element to the garden this year.

Cat on a fence post

I’ve planted a section of summer plants, including cosmos, sweet peas, nigella and dahlias – which are starting to bloom alongside my established plants.

My garden in June

I can’t wait to see how everything changes and develops over the summer.

My garden in June

Indoors, we’re enjoying our newly painted hall and landing – and we’re very slowly hanging our pictures back up. It’s taking ages because we’re having new things framed, old things re-framed and generally re-jigging things. Which takes forever, but is very satisfying.

Re-framing pictures

Remember those bits of wrapping paper I mentioned a couple of months ago? I ordered them, and they’re framed and ready to go. They work brilliantly in the frames from IKEA and totally prove that interesting pictures don’t have to cost the earth.

Framed wrapping paper

A word of warning though. The IKEA frames are very flimsy. They’re fine with a £3 piece of wrapping paper, but I wouldn’t trust them with anything really special. We’re sending those things off to be framed by a local professional – which is actually less expensive than you’d think. Especially when you consider the quality of bespoke frames. For us, we’re usually talking about £30-£50 per picture.

Lighter, brighter days are also inspiring me to re-arrange things that have sat still for far too long. Last week I cleared all the clutter from the mantel piece in our study, and replaced it with a simple, seasonal display. The result is refreshing, which is what I need in the room where I sit and write.

Peonies in a marmalade jar

What’s been on my interiors radar this month?

First up, this beautiful screen print by Jacqueline Coley. I’ve been admiring it for a while and I’d like it very much!

Image by Jacqueline Coley

I have also fallen in love with this fluffy chair from Maison du Monde. There’s a matching bench too.

Image by Mason du Monde

What are your home notes this month?

Home Etc

Get your taste buds in a twist with NEW Super Sour Yoyos from BEAR!

Super Sour BEAR Yo You

This year we’re part of BEAR’s Happy by Nature team. So far, it’s been a blast. My boys have loved BEAR goodies ever since they were toddlers – especially the pure fruit Yoyos. So being part of the team is basically their most favourite job in the whole world, and mine too.

There was much excitement when we opened our latest delivery from The BEAR Cave – a box full of new Super Sour Yoyos. The little fruit rolls have gone psychedelic!

BEAR sent us a fun roulette wheel to play with, which we set up for some after school fun. We mixed up original pure fruit Yoyos with the new super sour versions for a bit of tongue-twisting fun.

Bear super sour fruit Yo You

We love the flavour of the normal Yoyos, but these are something else! Super zingy, in an excitingly fruity way.

After the first taste my eight-year-old announced that these are the best things BEAR have EVER made. That’s high praise indeed, BEAR. They both then proceeded to cheat so the arrow only landed on the super sour ones!

Usually when my children like something like this, it’s full of nasties. As you’d expect, this isn’t the case with BEAR’s Super Sour Yo-Yos. They are just the same as non sour Yoyos, just whole fruit and veg gently baked with no added sugar – but this time with the clever addition of a hefty squeeze of lemon. Each one contains the same natural sugars as an apple, are one of your five a day and are packed full of natural fibre. They get something yummy as a treat, and I don’t have to feel guilty.

They’re a super-cool snack to take on a day out. The flavour and packaging are really ace, particularly for slightly older children who relish trying new things.

BEAR Super sour fruit Yo You

They’re also perfect for introducing your little toddler cubs to exciting new tastes. I’ve always found young children really like sour fruits like lemons – give it go, you’ll be surprised.

And you know what else is great? They’ve still got collector’s cards in them, this year they’re all about BEAR’s Super Secret Spy Adventures!

BEAR super sour Yo You

Again, perfect for my busy little BEARS, who are already eagerly collecting their ‘bearcodes’ to send off to Agent BEAR for a free Spy Kit.

You can find out more about Agent BEAR and his Super Sour Yoyos here.

 This is a sponsored post written in collaboration with BEAR

 

My bank holiday manifesto

Bowl of roses

It’s been a week of two halves.

On the one hand, we’ve had the hottest weather of the year so far. We’ve unpacked our favourite summer clothes, lit our barbecues and enjoyed the happy-making feeling of warm sunshine.

But, in the background there’s been a lot of sadness too. On a personal level, I lost my much-loved grandma  – and on a collective level we’ve all been left reeling from the horrible events in Manchester. This week has had a slightly unreal quality and the Whitsun bank holiday (plus half-term) have crept up on me. Writing about fashion and days out feels trivial. It’s hard, and it’s easy to lose your desire to write.

But I woke this morning with a determination to grab the long weekend with both hands. My manifesto for the weekend is the antithesis of all the other manifestos around at the moment . It’s simple, happy and positive:

Sit on the grass with my children and chat about life, the universe and anything in between

Drink fizzy wine in my garden and watch the sun go down

Pack up at least one picnic, and aim to eat every meal outdoors

Light the barbecue at least once

Water my plants and pick my beautiful roses

Learn to use my new coffee machine

Hold hands, cuddle and make eye-contact with the people who matter most

That’s my manifesto. What’s yours?

Beauty favourites for May

Now I’m in my thirties my beauty routine needs an extra helping hand. I used to wear hardly any makeup, but motherhood and age have taken their toll. Barely there now looks barely decent!

But that doesn’t mean I don’t still crave the fresh-faced look. I’ve never liked lots of foundation, and I’m not ready to start just yet. So I’ve been trying a tinted base coat instead (which basically means a tinted moisturiser). I’ve invested in this one by Liz Earle. It’s my first foray into her make-up, and I’m impressed. It’s very light and I put it on over my daily moisturiser. It creates a nice base for my blusher, concealer and BB powder to sit on and really evens out my skin tone. It makes me look subtly better – like I’ve had a great night’s sleep!

I’ve always been afraid of tinted moisturisers – wouldn’t they make my combination skin even greasier? I’ve been using this one for a couple of months now and I haven’t noticed any real difference. So I’ll be sticking with this clever base, which also has a SPF. When the weather’s hotter I might mix a little stronger sun block into it for extra protection.

I’d also really recommend Liz Earle’s concealer too. It works really well with the skin tint to cover blemishes and redness.

I’ve already mentioned my combination skin. It seems to be getting worse as I get older and my pores are getting bigger (and more blocked!). I’ve read about the benefits of Origins Clear Improvement clay mask on numerous occasions and I’ve finally invested in some. It’s not cheap – my purchase was made during a prosecco-fueled shopping spree at the airport.

Origins face mask

I’ve been using it for a few weeks now and I’m beginning to see improvements. I’m also trying to be good about not poking and squeezing my pores too much as I’m sure this makes them worse. I’m using it weekly, followed by those sticky pore strips a few days later.

Now, let’s talk about hair. Mine is thick, wavy and coloured. Conventional shampoos do very little for it. I’ve been reading about the co-washing trend for a while and recently took the plunge. I’m using Lush’s Avocado Co-Wash, which looks disconcertingly like a piece of cheese, but smells like heaven.

Lush Avocado Co-Wash

It’s completely different to normal shampoo. I take a little piece and rub it into a lather in my hands, then work it through my hair. It’s a very different way to wash your hair. You don’t get that squeaky clean feeling – instead my hair feels soft and moisturised and much less frizzy and fluffy. My hair is very thick, so it can take this. I imagine if you had fine hair, it would feel unbearably greasy.

It’s hard to explain, but I prefer my hair this way. It retains more of its natural oils, but it still feels clean. My hair also smells amazing after I’ve used it! If you have very thick hair give it a go. It’s quite expensive but, the lovely girls in the Cambridge Lush gave me a small piece to try for free before I committed to buying a big piece. Their customer service is great, I’m always really impressed.

Have you tried anything new lately? I’d love to hear about your new finds! 

And one last thing…It would totally make my day (year?) if some of you lovely people would like to nominate me in the Inspire category of the Britmum’s Brilliance in Blogging Awards 2017! 

Three things I’m loving this week

English peonies

The second week of May has been a bit hit and miss, hasn’t it? At the start of the week the weather was still disappointingly chilly, and the news is so hopelessly gloomy (the image of Teresa May driving the country over a cliff springs to mind).

Anyway, you have to find your happiness where you can, don’t you? The other Ms May, pulled her socks up by the middle of week and gave us a few days of warm sunshine. So, I’ve been smiling whenever I can and enjoying these simple pleasures:

Finally getting to wear a new pair of sandals

The first day of sandals always feels the start of good things to come. I always go to my local New Look every spring and choose something new – they do the best range of affordable sandals and never disappoint! Here’s this year’s choice! I’ve just seen online that they’re also available in shiny pink and blue. Very tempting.

Silver sandals

Going crazy for peonies

I love watching the seasons change through flowers. I always buy mine from the market every Thursday and it’s always a pleasure going along to see what’s new. This week I bought my first bunch of English peonies and have eagerly followed their progress – from tight, enigmatic buds to a puddle of petals on the table.

English peonies

Eating asparagus from Norfolk

Another simple pleasure provided by the market. I recommend it with a poached egg and smoked mackerel for a delicious lunch! Like the peonies, enjoy it while you can.

Norfolk asparagus

What else have I loved?

Listening to this album by Flo Morrissey and Matthew E. White on repeat.

Reading The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild

Watching the second series of Versailles on BBC2. Guilty pleasure.

What have you been loving this week?

And one last thing…It would totally make my day (year?) if some of you lovely people would like to nominate me in the Inspire category of the Britmum’s Brilliance in Blogging Awards 2017!

How to be a hothouse flower: your guide to the tropical trend

Tropical trend by H&M

Image c/o H&M

The tropical trend is huge right now.  Look carefully and you’ll see it everywhere – on cushions, prints and even trousers!

Worried it’s all a bit naff? Think again. The time around the tropical trend is very grown up. It’s all leafy palms, rich greens, hot house flowers and luxurious gold accessories.

More of a wallflower than a hot house flower? Here’s my easy guide to all things tropical. 

The great thing about new trends is that you don’t have to completely immerse yourself in them (unless you want to). You might not want your living room to look like a rainforest, but how about giving it a subtle update with bright botanical prints? Choose a few inexpensive, key pieces and you can instantly update the feel of your home.

Let’s begin in the living room. Textiles, especially cushions, are a great place to start. H&M Home have a fabulous range of tropical cushion covers at the moment. I don’t think you need to look anywhere else! To keep things feeling relaxed, mix your bright cushions with neutral throws and simple jute rugs and baskets.

Tropical cushion covers

Clockwise, from top left: Tropical leaf, £8.99 / Banana print, £8.99 / Monkey, £8.99 / Green leaf, £3.99 – all by H&M

Once you’ve got a few cushions, add a touch of (affordable) luxury with gold accessories and even a cheeky parrot or two. One new piece on its own will look a bit lost. Choose a few objects to create a fresh story within your room.

Tropical accessories

Ceramic parrot jar, £29.99, Rockett St George / Wine rack, £45, Oliver Bonas / Pineapple candle in a jar, £4.99, H&M / Photo holders, £7.50, Oliver Bonas

The next step is houseplants – preferably several! Try creating a little jungle in one corner of the room using beautiful palms in pots and baskets. Or, if you want something faux, there’s a great selection of everlasting plants out there. But remember, something real will always make your room look and feel better. Real plants actually filter the air, and most don’t need too much care beyond the occasional water – promise! I never need much of an excuse to add another to my collection.

Faux plant, £7.99, New Look / Large gold planter, £17.99, H&M / Large silver planter, £17.99, H&M / Faux pineapple leaf plant, £5.99, New Look

The bedroom is also a wonderful place to embrace the tropical trend. Try bright bed linen, which is an inexpensive way to transport your room (temporarily) to the tropics. Again, keep things grounded with natural baskets and rugs.

Tropical Bedroom

Duvet cover, £19.99, H&M / Sea grass Basket, £19, Oliver Bonas / Candle holder, £12.99, H&M / Jute rug, £34.99, H&M

What do you think of the tropical trend? Love it loathe it? 

The pleated skirt of dreams revisited

Primark pleated skirt

A month ago I wrote a post about the pink pleated skirt of my dreams. It’s so good, I’ve since bought it in two more colours!

It’s probably breaking some kind of blogger etiquette to write about the same thing twice, but I can’t resist sharing this skirt with you again. Simply because it’s such so perfect and versatile. The kind of clever buy that I know will carry on being useful until autumn. And all for £8.

Pleated skirt + tee + denim jacket = my easy-peasy new uniform

Primark pleated skirt

Unusually for Primark, it’s a really good fit. Especially if you’re (like me) a pear shape. You’d think a pleated skirt would be unflattering, but I find it skims over my tummy and hips, and accentuates my waist. The fabric is also key to its appeal – soft jersey, which is practical and informal.

These skirts were back in stock in my local Primark last week and I snapped up a khaki green and a soft blue. I tried about a million other things on, but these skirts still came out tops. They’re a hidden gem that’s worth investing in – even if it means you have to go and rummage in your local store!

Primark pleated skirt

Have you got one of these skirts? How do you like to style it?

#OnePerfectThing in April

Spring Posy

Perfection often feels out of reach. But however imperfect you’re finding life, you can make an effort to find #OnePerfectThing. Something which makes you pause, smile and feel thankful.

#OnePerfectThing is a community I started on Instagram last May. I started it as a little project to remind myself to feel happy every day. And I’m so happy it’s inspiring others to look for the little happy moment in life too!

April was a month of blossom, mini eggs and flowers from the garden. The weather didn’t always behave, but we had some really gorgeous days and hardly any April showers. I love the way that the colour palette changes with every month. April was full of pinks, purples and blues – cherry blossom, tulips and forget-me-nots.

There’s been a lot of grumbling about Instagram lately. Mainly, about how it’s losing the authentic, friendly feeling it once had – that algorithms are crushing the natural camaraderie of the space. I agree with this in some ways, but it’s still possible for us to enjoy creating our own little communities within it. So let’s keep on sharing what we love.

Here are my favourites from April!

#OnePerfectThing in April

Top row, left to right: @analima236 / @thelinencloud  / @margotgoodlife

Middle row: @georgia_coote / @amy_liz / @sallytangle

Bottom row: @mrs.a.king / @whenlovelookslikelaughter / @lindyann38

 

Three things I’m loving this week

Crab apple blossom

According to the weather man on my radio this morning the weather this week is going to feel more like January than late April. The news is pretty dreary too. Whatever. My internal barometer is still firmly set to spring.

So, let’s not talk weather or politics (for now), let’s embrace the sweetness and light. 

T-shirts that do the talking

I haven’t worn a slogan t-shirt since the 1990s. And until recently I wasn’t in a hurry to wear one again. But there’s no denying they’re having a bit of a thing at the moment. I snapped up this gorgeous grey t-shirt from Joanie Clothing, which is perfect for spring. It makes me think of coffee, pancakes and sunny weekend mornings.

Joanie clothing t shirt

Fresh new scent

While I was (child-free) at the airport the other week I bought a bottle of Earl Grey and Cucumber cologne from Jo Malone. It’s really fresh and summery – sweet, but not cloying. It’s quite light, so I’m enjoying squirting clouds of it over myself at every opportunity. I prefer the smaller size bottles as I can never commit to choosing a huge bottle.

Jo Malone Earl grey and cucumber cologne

The sweetness of apple blossom

The cherry blossom may be blowing off the trees, but the fun isn’t over yet. Now it’s the turn of all the apple blossom. It doesn’t just look splendid, it smells it too. Go sniff a branch, it’s the essence of spring.

Apple blossom

What are you loving this week?

Life lately: punting, a mini-break and chocolate

Spring flowers

Well, that’s the Easter holidays done and dusted! The children had two and bit weeks off school – which was just the right length of time for them to relax and spread their wings, without getting too fed up.

At the start of the holidays the weather was unusually warm and delightful. In Britain we’re trained from birth to make the most of every scrap of decent weather. As soon as the warm weather starts, everything shifts up into such a happy gear. People are smiling, the birds sing, barbecues are lit. I love it!

Ely is beautiful in the sunshine, but Cambridge is even better. We couldn’t resist heading over there for some punting in the sun.

Punting in Cambridge

Despite being Cambridgeshire born and bred, I’m still a newcomer to punting. Luckily, Mr Marmalade isn’t, so he was our punting chauffeur for the day. Blue skies, blossom, old buildings – heaven, as far as I’m concerned! You can hire a self-punt by the hour, or why not take a tour instead?

The River Cam

After we’d finished on the water, we headed straight into Fitzbillies on Bridge Street for some delicious coffee and lunch.

Fitzbililes, Cambridge

We then pottered about in the warm sunshine, admiring the blue sky and blossom – and wishing we had a spare million tucked away to buy a beautiful house in the city.

Cambridge cherry blossom

Later in the holiday we went away without the children for a couple of days on the Isle of Man. We don’t go away without them very often, so it was nice to just relax and be free from all our usual routines. Which mainly meant eating, drinking and going for a few walks.

Port Erin, Isle of Man

Our favourite walk was in Port Erin, hiking up to Bradda Head. At the start it was all wild garlic and bluebells.

Wild Garlic

By the time we reached the top we were floating in the clouds (let’s not talk about the rain).

Bradda Head

The Easter weekend rounded off the holidays with chocolate and roast dinners. The warm weather had disappeared by this point, but none of us wanted to stop being outside. So time was spent sowing seeds and visiting the plant nursery – all accompanied by coffee and chocolate eggs!

Easter eggs

And now the boys are back to school. Well, one is. The other is off on a school residential trip until tomorrow. I’m getting my work back on track and starting running and eating healthily again (the downside of eating too many Easter eggs).

Actually, I’m glad of the running, as it feels like a positive way to leap into the new term and all the new adventures it’ll bring.

Running through blossom

I hope you had a lovely Easter too. I’d love to hear about what you’ve been up to!