Our bedroom is a mess. In fact, it’s such a mess that I no longer feel I can yell at the boys to clean up their bedrooms – ours is almost as bad as theirs. Bedrooms should be a retreat – a comfy oasis of calm to escape your busy day. Our is so chaotic, it’s actually worse than staying downstairs and suffering the ongoing building work!
Sam came home from uni the other day and completely randomly had a craving for loaded potato skins. They’re not something I ever cook, but I had a go and wow, they’re pretty moreish. I can see them being our Saturday evening TV viewing snackage of choice from now on. Here’s how I did it:
So it looks like the messy bit of the kitchen/dining room refurb (the wall smashing bit) might be happening soon. Next up, when we can afford it, will be planning the actual kitchen. But what do I really love? I looked at my Pinterest, and in my cupboards. I wandered around my kitchen, really trying to notice everything, I jotted down any themes, or things that seem to catch my eye frequently. And here’s what I noticed:
So I’m off on my travels again this week. First, to Texas (I KNOW!) to have a nose around, and then joining the beautiful Carnival Freedom to be whisked off to various places including Grand Cayman, Jamaica, and Cozumel, Mexico. I promise it’s work (I know you don’t believe me) and lucky Charlie gets to accompany me as it’s the Easter holidays.
And so to packing. I’m determined to become more clever at the dreaded packing. I always end up taking loads of things that don’t go with each other, or don’t even get worn. What a waste. Ages ago, I had my ‘colours done’ and the lady told me to stick to the softer versions of colours (so instead of black, grey and instead of navy, softer blues, plus peach instead of pink, etc, etc) and I’m only now really learning to wear those colours, and realise that she was right, they do suit me.
I’m also trying to remember that it’s NOT A CRIME to wear a dress more than once at dinner, for example, but maybe change up the shoes or the accessories (especially important on a longer trip like this one).
Here’s what I’m thinking of taking:
hush’s boyfriend jeans – soft, comfy, loose and perfect for travelling…
… although I might splash out on some new Converse. I quite like these charcoal ones (charcoal’s neutral, right?):
For everyday wear, you can’t beat denim shorts, and again I’ve gone for the hush ones as they’re just the right amount of loose, just the right amount of worn-in, with no baggy bottom and a turned up hem that stays up:
And because I’m just IN LOVE with this gorgeous print, I’ll be throwing a pair of these soft tropical print loose shorts in too. They have a really comfy, wide smocked waist and are perfect to throw on before heading to the beach (I love the trousers too but it seems so does everyone else as there’s a bit of a wait):
For t-shirts, I love Gap stripy t-shirts, the soft cotton slub hush ones, and I’m also a bit obsessed with these soft tees from New Look that have a split back with a chiffon layer underneath. They drape beautifully and are an absolute bargain – just slightly more interesting than a normal tee (nice bit of bum cover if you’re self conscious too):
I’m still obsessed with everything Allium B and will be taking the superbly fitted and incredibly flattering Eliza dress with me (there’s something about the cut of these that is both figure hugging, flattering AND comfy – how do they do it?):
By the way, if you’re also a fan, I have an exclusive Allium B 20% off discount just for you. Just add the code: ENGLISHMUM at checkout to get the discount!
Sticking with the blues, I’m adding this soft, easy to wear Fat Face Tenby dress (mine’s actually in the Batik print – you can see the print here on their lovely, inspirational ‘Love Blue‘ page):
Shoes-wise, I have a pair of metallic go-with-everything wedges. Mine are last season from Boden, but very similar to these:
And continuing with my obsession with all things metallic, I’ll also be packing these ridiculously comfy and utterly beach-blingy Carvela espadrilles:
I’ll be adding my old faithful Birkenstocks, sunglasses, my super-flattering Boden Sorrento swimsuit (eagerly awaiting the new hush beachwear too) and a hat. Oh, and my last airport purchase, this lovely soft beach cover up from Accessorize, which is the most beautiful sea green colour, and squishes easily into the corner of a beachbag:
What do you think? Did I miss anything? Will I survive for ten days (I AM packing underwear and toiletries too)? Keep an eye on my social media to find out! x
The Channel Islands, closer to France than they are the UK, yet a part of Great Britain, are interesting for a number of reasons. There are eight inhabited islands in the archipelago, but tourism is mainly focused on Jersey, Guernsey, Sark, Helm and Alderney. Each island provides a charming, laid back holiday option. The mixture of French and British culture is captivating and the islands have some truly captivating scenery.
Here are a few facts about the islands which are worth knowing before you plan your trip:
Colourful Telephone Boxes and Post Boxes
One sign that you are no longer on the mainland is the presence of the identical classic British telephone and post boxes painted royal blue on the island of Guernsey.
The 1.5 mile long island of Herm has a ban on cars and bicycles. This adds to the quaint unpolluted atmosphere of the place.
Jersey Legal System
Jersey famously has it’s own legal system. With influences from French civil law, English common law and Norman customary law it is an interesting mix which represents the island’s rich history.
The Nazi Occupation
The darkest period of that history would possibly be the wartime years of 1940 to 1945 when the Channel Islands were occupied by the Nazi forces. The islands, demilitarised as deemed without strategic importance, were invaded by German planes which bombed harbours in Guernsey and Jersey. The island’s Jewish population were deported, many of whom died in concentration camps.
Dark Skies Status
Sark celebrated being the first island in the world to be given ‘Dark Sky Status’ in 2011. Visitors to the tiny island can enjoy black skies unimpeded by light pollution to get excellent views of the stars at night. This is great for the island’s tourism industry as visitors now have a reason to visit during the wintry months rather than only when it is warmer.
Residents of Alderney have the questionable privilege of being handed some rather strange nicknames over the island’s history. Traditionally named vaques (after the cows) and also lapins (on account of the many rabbits on the islands) while the ones which the residents assumingly prefer is Ridunians from the islands Latin name Riduna.
Exile in Guernsey: Victor Hugo
One of literature’s most celebrated authors, Victor Hugo made Guernsey his home for 15 years when he was in exile from his homeland. Les Miserables and a host of other famous titles were written during this stay and it is said that you can read his and his lover Juliet Drouet’s initials engraved somewhere in the granite walls of Victoria Tower.
The Channel Islands make for great holiday destinations which do not cost a fortune. UK Breakaways run regular trips to Guernsey and Jersey. Many people also enjoy island-hopping and seeing what the majority of the islands have to offer.
So this is fun – especially if you’re as obsessed by toast as we are. Teenagers seem to have a special affinity with toast and I’ll often pass one of the boys on the stairs carrying a teetering pile of buttered toast (and Marmite, for preference), mentally waving goodbye to yet another plate that could potentially fester in his bedroom until it’s unearthed at my next mucking out session.
Back to toast, though, Breville have joined up with Warburtons to launch a ‘bespoke’ toaster, which is a perfect fit for the Warburton’s Toastie loaf. It’s specially designed (the bread slots are both deeper and wider) to toast the entire piece of bread right up to the top, which means no more flabby strips at the top of your slice of toast.
Breville have even made this lovely video, just in case you’re not 100% clear:
There are two toasters in the range: a 2 slice and a 4 slice, and they actually look really stylish too, with a stainless steel finish, variable browning controls and a very clever ‘lift and look’ facility that means you can have a peep at your toast without cancelling the cycle (which always leads to putting it back in and burning it). Add to this all sorts of defrost/reheat and mid-cycle functions and it’s a pretty good all rounder. Oh, and you don’t HAVE to buy Warburtons if you don’t want to. But then, it’s a perfect fit, so why wouldn’t you?!
This clever toaster is now available at Breville.co.uk and Amazon, priced £34.99 for the 2 slice or £59.99 for the 4 slice. I think they’re quite cool (well, hot!).
If you’ve ever thought of booking a holiday with a big group, either for a family get together, or with a group of friends, it can all seem a bit daunting. Villa holidays are ideal for larger groups – sharing the cost means that you can book something bigger and more special, and more importantly, unlike with a hotel, you can have the entire place to yourselves. Oliver’s Travels asked me for my top tips for choosing and booking a villa for a group holiday:
Happy Easter! I hope the Easter Bunny made it to your house, and that you’re enjoying a quality long weekend with friends and family. Our own bunny visited and deposited some treats on my newly painted fireplace!
As far as I’m concerned, Easter is all about the roast lamb (and the hot cross buns, obviously). At English Towers we like ours fragrant, slow roasted and literally falling away from the bone. I’m a bit obsessed with Moroccan spices at the moment, and the earthy warmth of cumin, coriander and garlic go beautifully with the meltingly tender lamb. Ideally, I’d pair it with the startlingly un-Moroccan dauphinoise potatoes (I know, but I just like the combination) but the boys insist on roasties, so I’m outvoted.
You will need:
1 whole leg of lamb
For the spice paste:
3 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
Bring your lamb leg out of the fridge about an hour before you want to start cooking, to bring it up to room temperature. Stab it all over with a sharp knife (this is very therapeutic), then when you’re ready to cook, preheat your oven on a high heat – as high as it will go – and get on with making the spice paste.
Grind the garlic cloves, cumin, coriander, salt, pepper and lemon zest with a pestle and mortar, then when it’s basically a paste, add the lemon juice. Finish with a big slug of rapeseed oil. Place the lamb in a roasting tray and smooth over the spice paste.
Swish the 250ml of water around the mortar to pick up any leftover spice paste, then pour this liquid into the bottom of the roasting tray. Completely cover with foil, folding it right over the edges of the tray to make a tight seal.
As soon as you put the lamb in, reduce the temperature to 160 degrees C/gas 3, then just leave it alone 4 or 5 hours (as long as it’s well sealed, it will keep moist). When it’s ready, reserve somewhere warm while you make the gravy.
Bung the roasting tray on the hob (you can pour off some of the fat if there’s a lot), then sprinkle over a tablespoonful of plain flour. Stir it around with a wooden spoon, then slowly add in 500ml stock, bubbling away and scraping at the bottom of the tin. Then you can transfer to a saucepan and reduce until the gravy has thickened slightly – season to taste, although it shouldn’t need it!
Instead of carving, it’s really best to just pull this apart, discarding the really fatty bits, then sharing out the lovely, soft, wonderfully scented chunks of lamb.
To complement our lamb, we went with a smooth Lindeman’s Bin 45 Cabernet Sauvignon, filled with blackcurrant flavours
If you’re lucky enough to have some left over, try making a pilaf (this one’s chicken but easily adjusted to accommodate leftover roasted lamb. Heaven.
Not being one to moan (ahem) I’m trying to remain chipper, but HOW DIFFICULT is it to get a builder to come and do work on your house? Our kitchen/diner plans have completely stalled as the builder we thought was the best one is really busy (and also much more expensive than the others). I understand the whole paying more to get good quality thing, but it seems everyone else does too as he’s rather in demand.
As usual, while I should be working, I’m actually internet shopping but this time it’s because there are loads of mid-season sales and lovely new pieces about.
So, Grandad English has a biiiiig birthday coming up. I won’t mention it otherwise I might get one of his customary ALL IN CAPITALS emails (he’s a regular reader). Thoughts have naturally turned to an epic pressie to celebrate the big day – maybe a joint one between us all. And of course, being me, the first thing I thought of was that old thing about life experiences and not things – snapshots, not stuff.
So last week I was lucky enough to be invited to the gala celebrations on board P & O Cruises’ gorgeous new flagship, the £500 million super-liner, Britannia. The ship is breathtaking. From the Union Flag on her bow, to the stunning three floor atrium featuring the most incredible chandelier you’ve ever seen, she’s a modern miracle.
So last night, I was invited to join the great and the good of the cruise industry at Ham Yard Hotel for the CLIA UK & Ireland Cruise Journalism Awards. The CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association) is the main hub of the cruise industry in the UK and Ireland, bringing together cruise lines and travel agents, and basically promoting cruising to the wider population.
It’s been really nice to see the sun this weekend, hasn’t it? If it’s made you crave a bit of sunshine, I’ve got just the thing. I’ve teamed up with MyFerryLink, the newest operator on the Dover-Calais route, to provide you with everything you’ll possibly need for a fantastic weekend (or midweek) break to France – a stay in the gorgeous Dolce Chantilly hotel, including breakfast, a family ticket to fabulous Park Astérix theme park where you can spend the day whizzing around on coasters, splashing around on water rides, and watching amazing live shows, and a return Dover-Calais crossing with MyFerryLink to get you there in style!
So this week, I was lucky enough to head up to London to the very stylish hush homewear offices to rummage through their gorgeous new spring/summer 2015 collection AND to sneak a top secret look at their high summer beachwear collection (their first ever foray into swimwear) – more of this soon! I adore hush. I love that fact that the clothes are beautiful and comfortable, plus on-trend without trying too hard. I think as you grow up, you feel more comfortable finding your own style, rather than slavishly following fashion. I always find that hush clothing really reflects this philosophy.
Port Canaveral, Disney Cruise Line’s home port in Florida, is based about an hour from Walt Disney World Resort (you can book transfers when you book your Disney cruise, and if you’re going straight from Orlando Airport to your Disney ship, your luggage will be whisked straight to the ship while you board one of Disney’s Magical Express coaches).