summer fun

5 tips for surviving the school summer holidays

So the kids are breaking up (or have broken up) from school and now the loooong summer stretches ahead.  My two seem to have been off for weeks already (both have done exams and have been on study leave since May – happily they both have part time jobs which at least keep them occupied some of the time).  So whether you’re embracing this time with your children, or dreading it, you’ll still have between a month and six weeks of time to fill and there’s nothing worse than bored kids. So how can you keep the kids entertained?  Here are my top 5 tips for surviving the school summer holidays:

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Yumi dress cropped

Dresses for people who really don’t suit dresses

So recently me and the Mr were out shopping.  He’s actually one of those men that’s really good at shopping.  He’s not a ‘stand outside the shop looking awkward’ kind of man, he’s a ‘get stuck in and have a rummage’ one.  He has an opinion.  He’ll tell you if he thinks something suits me (not that I always take his advice, obviously) and he’ll also be honest if something doesn’t (brutally, occasionally – he’s been known to make me cry, but that was years ago, he’s learned to be a bit more tactful these days).

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SP68 Arianna Occhipinti

A secret wine tasting and some fab new wine discoveries

My brother is really into his wine.  He’s a serious collector and really knows his stuff. He’s introduced me to some amazing wines and we’re always telling each other about our new wine discoveries.

We decided to get together for a bit of a ‘wine-off’ with Big Bro and his wife picking some wines, then me and Mr English picking some wines, and decided to make it a bit more tricky by agreeing to cover the labels.

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The H of BF

The House of Bodily Fluids

So I wrote a while back about our house dilemma: stay here or move to pastures new.  We’ve been looking around for a while, and a house in the same village we currently live caught our eye.  And kept catching our eye.  It was in an area that we quite like, a nice size… but there it was, every time we did an internet search – that same house.  It didn’t sell. And in a buoyant market that seemed a little odd. Read more

ClearLift at Disappear Ltd

A facelift in a lunchtime with ClearLift

At the end of May, I undertook a little facial maintenance with my lovely laser therapist, Melissa at Disappear Ltd in Milton Keynes.  Melissa is removing my hideous tattoo, and I’ve become a bit obsessed with all the other little bits and bobs she does there for skin rejuvenation.  I started with a session of Meso Vytal micro needling. One month on, and with two very sunny weeks in Florida and the Caribbean in between, I’m still pretty pleased with the results.  I found the Meso Vytal very good for evening out my skin tone (I have quite a lot of Melasma – skin pigmentation, especially across my forehead), and with daily application of a good quality sunblock, I was feeling good about my skin.  Good enough, I told her, to go without foundation ALL THE TIME – unheard of for me.

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I’ve written before about how hard it can be to see your children growing up before your eyes, and before you can blink.  My curly blonde babies are now strapping lads, taller than both me and their Dad, but honestly?  I don’t feel sad.

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Wren Kitchens cream gloss with Mali wenge gloss

New kitchen? Don’t mind if I do.

We’ve got loads going on here at English Towers at the moment.  There’s possibly a move on the cards (New, New English Towers?), or possibly the chance to refurbish the current English Towers.  Whichever way, I’ve absolutely set my heart on a new kitchen.  My Pinterest board for kitchens is getting bigger and bigger, and there are bits of magazines everywhere.

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Michelin’s new Road Usage Lab

Being a mum of teenagers is challenging for a number of reasons, but one of the biggest is letting them out into the big wide world in their first car.  We decided that we would trade in my bigger car for a smaller, newer car that I could share with Sam, purely because we wanted him to be driving the best car that we could possibly afford, with as many safety features and airbags as possible.  I guess there are always sacrifices you make for your kids and mine is to drive around in a little 1.0L car – a small price to pay for a bit of peace of mind!

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Me and the Daddy

Thanks, Dad…

…for passing on your love of wine, for sunny holidays, belly laughs, bonfires, crisps and coke in the car, donkey rides, planes, puppies and kittens, restaurants, Christmas lights, theatre and pantomimes, gardening, The Jungle Book, cash (lots of cash), for choosing the boys as your best man and chief usher (for being the best Grandad generally), for reluctant hugs, naughty words, more belly laughs, wiping the odd tear away, Mateus Rosé, smelly cheese, awful sandals, ‘Land of Hope and Glory’, papas arugadas, roses, the nuns on the travelator (still makes me cry with laughter), filthy jokes, scribbled postcards, still being called ‘Titch’ when I wasn’t remotely titchy any more, the Royal Tournament, for never giving up on me and always being my proud, Disreputable Dad.

Happy Fathers’ Day x

M&S Summer of Flavour

Marks and Spencer new store opening and Summer of Flavour

We’re so lucky where we live to have an amazing choice of food shops – I shop all over the place: our lovely local farm shop, several different supermarkets and sometimes at a local, but quite small M&S Simply Food.  We love M&S food and wine, and we often pop in, especially if I’m going to be away, to stock the boys up on their pizzas, which are amazing, and their meatball pasta sauce, amongst other things.  Plus, of course, I need to keep myself stocked up with Penny Pigs.  My fave.

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Spring beef and borlotti bean stew

Spring braised beef, with borlotti beans and red wine

I still feel the urge to cook a ‘proper’ Sunday lunch, even though a full on roast dinner seems a bit at odds with the time of year (although it seems to have done nothing but rain recently).  This tomato-based braised beef feels a bit lighter than my normal beef stew and dumplings, especially with the addition of some spring greens just before the end of cooking.

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Frosty lemon gin and tonic

The frosty lemon gin and tonic

Our day in Barcelona still rates as one of my very favourite travel experiences.  We’ve earmarked it for a return journey very soon, but until then, every time there’s a sunny day, my mind races back to the gorgeous restaurant at the very top of the Arenas shopping centre (the old bullring) where we sat and had enormous buckets of gin and tonic with scoops of sharp lemon sorbet.

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John Lewis Longstock steamer chair

My home buying wishlist: lazy days, barbecues, twinkly lights and laughter

Mr English and I are currently house hunting.  We spent this weekend in a blur of visits, offers, exhilaration, anticipation, despair and frustration.  We are the classic home buying couple, with me dreamily imagining candles on fireplaces and fairy lights draped across gardens, and him pacing out the sizes of rooms and eyeing up double glazing and central heating (I suspect it’s just as well that one of us is practical).

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baguette pizza

Lazy suppers: baguette pizzas

I have two basic default settings in the kitchen.  The first is ‘all out go-for-it’ where I can throw myself with abandon into making a big roast dinner or a cake with lots of different elements.  The other is ‘nah, can’t be bothered’, which usually coincides with days when I’ve been really busy working or testing recipes and I’ve just had too much kitchen time.

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Dad selfie

Birthday week

Forty four.


So in honour of this momentous number, I decided that I should have a birthday week (what? it’s a thing) of fun, celebrations, yummy food and seeing the people I love.  7 happy days to celebrate.  Here are some of the things that have happened so far.  My Disreputable Dad’s first ever selfie – at 78! (above)…

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Styling Ladies Day at the Grand National

The Grand National is fast approaching, which means it will soon be Ladies Day: my favourite time of year to do some serious fashiony people watching and gaze (sometimes in wonder and – let’s face it – sometimes in horror) at the outfits on display.  Sadly I won’t be attending but the lovely chaps at Bookmakers asked me how I would have styled my day and – anything for a bit of online window shopping – I was happy to oblige!

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