Marauders

The parenting update – 10 things I’ve learned about parenting teenagers

I think your parenting style changes as your children go through different life stages.  I’ve been thinking recently about how my parenting has evolved as the boys have moved into their older teens.  Our household has always been pretty laid back, but a few wobbles recently have made me fall back upon the rules that I’ve always leant on to give the boys boundaries.  Here are my current thoughts on my very own ‘best practice’.

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Wholemeal pizza

How to make healthier pizza at home – step by step

So I’m still suffering from hideous jetlag after our recent trip to the Bahamas on the Disney Dream (much more of this coming up).  We got a night flight back from Orlando and it was practically empty, which meant we could all spread out and I spent most of the flight spread out across a row of four seats, snoozing blissfully, and only woke up when they started opening up the blinds and tidying up ready for landing.  Still, I’m now suffering that weirdness that crossing timezones always seems to bring – for me, this means an increase in my usual clumsiness, a general heavy tiredness, and a craving for junk food.

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My savings past, present and future

I’ve never been good with money.  It’s one of the things we’ve tried really hard to talk to the boys about because (and I know you’re not supposed to do this but, hey…) I don’t want them to make the same mistakes we made.

We were married with a child by the time I was 25 and, back then, it was pretty easy to buy a house with two incomes.  It makes me realise just how lucky we were.  My parents were generous with their help and by the time Charlie came along, we’d moved into a bigger house that needed some work and were slowly doing it up.

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Bedroom lamp

Happy February!

I’m SO glad that January’s over.  It’s always such a long, miserable month, and with added cold weather and post-Christmas cashflow it can make you feel really low.

Happily today it’s February! My first trip of the year (on the gorgeous Disney Dream) starts next week so I’ll be getting some sun, and we’re carrying on with a few bits of house refurbishing. It’s amazing how much difference little things make.

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Seven Seas Perfect7

On test: Seven Seas new Perfect7 – the results!

So before Christmas, I told you that I was going to be trying out Seven Seas new Perfect7 Woman – it’s a blend of Omega-3 rich marine oils, and vitamins and minerals especially formulated to provide benefits for women in 7 key areas such as skin, nails and air, as well as supporting hormonal activity, brain function, vision and heart health.  So how did I get on?

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Rosie serving bowl, Anthropologie

Wishlist: kitchen luxe

Happy Monday! Hope yours is going well.  I spent most of the weekend dreaming and drawing and planning (oh and making yummy barbecue pulled chicken too). We’ve been working and saving really hard for our upcoming kitchen refurb and it’s lovely to think that this is the year that we’ll actually be able to start making our dreams become a reality.  I spend so much time in the kitchen, it’s one of the places that I’m really looking forward to starting work on.  We want to knock the wall down between the kitchen and the dining room to recreate a larger, more sociable space – something that really hit home to me during our New Year’s Eve party, when I was stuck at the sink clearing plates between courses, listening to everyone having fun in the next room.

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Habitat sofa

My home wishlist

I can’t believe we’re finally going to refurbish our house!  I’m so excited and seem to be spending hours (okay, more hours than usual) on Pinterest and various home websites, planning and plotting and dreaming about how our home could look.

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Stags Leap Chardonnay

The best of the January sales

Happy Sunday!  I hope you’re having a wonderful weekend.  We’ve mostly slobbed around, eaten cake, signed the contracts ready to exchange on our house (YAY!), splurged in Majestic Wine  (this Stag’s Leap ‘Karia’ Chardonnay was buy two, save £10), stroked our gorgeous little furball family and started prepping for our next painting project: Sam’s bedroom (feature wall dark grey, other walls silvery grey).

I’ve got my first trip coming up very soon, a cruise on the gorgeous Disney Dream – one of my favourite ships, so I thought it would be a good time to stock up on some of the summer stuff that’s inevitably in the sales:

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Sainsbury's #loveyourfreezer banana ice cream

‘Prom night’ purple and Tom and Jerry antics

It’s been a mad week here at English Towers.  The Sainsbury’s #loveyourfreezer campaign has gone live and it’s been really lovely receiving tweets, texts and Facebook messages (and AWFUL screenshots – thanks guys haha) saying ‘ooh, I’ve just seen you on the telly!’.  I’m SO proud of this campaign – Sainsbury’s have been amazingly lovely to work with, and there are loads more exciting things coming up.

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Director Ed watching the action on the monitor

Ooooh I’m on the telly! The new Sainsbury’s ‘Love Your Freezer’ campaign

So by now you might well have seen me on the telly (I KNOW!).  Regular readers will know that I’m a huge freezer fan so I’m delighted to be working with Sainsbury‘s on their ‘love your freezer’ campaign – if you haven’t seen the advert, I’ve got it right here, and it’ll be around on the TV for a while too – I saw it on Channel 4 during Jamie and Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast, which pleased me immensely! Read more

Mechoui lamb

New year, new plans

Happy New Year!  I hope you had a lovely evening with your friends and family (or indeed a quiet one at home).  We had family round and did a huge Middle Eastern feast, with slow roasted Mechoui lamb, minted yogurt, harissa and sweet chilli jam, all stuffed into warmed pittas with red cabbage and salad. So yummy and a great way to feed a crowd.

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Christmas wines

Step by step: how to cook a turkey, stuffing and all the trimmings

IT’S NEARLY HERE!  If you’re hosting Christmas lunch/dinner this year, here is everything you need to do, including lots of tips to make it stress free and ensure you spend your precious time with your family and friends, and not too much chained to the oven!  Remember, don’t panic, and  just think of it as a roast dinner on a slightly larger scale.

Before you start, grab a cuppa and have a read through:

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Asda Extra Special hamper

Asda’s Extra Special Christmas

Lovely Asda sent me a very festive hamper this weekend: not chocolates, or chutney, no, the best kind: MEAT!

Of course, not everyone wants to eat a traditional roast turkey at Christmas, and Asda’s Extra Special range has some stunning alternatives, including an Extra Special rack of venison, and a unique six bird roast, with British turkey, skinless duck fillet, chicken breast, wild pheasant, partridge and pigeon. The thought of these ‘bird within a bird’ roasts sometimes puts me off (how do you cut off the skin and inedible bits of each bird?) but Asda’s chefs have worked hard to create a dish with all the nice edible bits.  It’s covered in a lattice of oak smoked streaky bacon and all you need to do is shove it in the oven. It serves 10 and costs £40 – in store now.

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Hot toddy

The Big Christmas Gift Guide: perfect pressies for pets!

I couldn’t finish off my gift guides without giving a little nod to our furry friends.  It’s been a bit sad at English Towers since little Ninja passed away.  I miss being attacked on the stairs, and slowly but surely the random white hairs are appearing less and less on everything I iron.  Soon I won’t be cursing as I pick them off every item of clothing – and what will I do then?

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Radical Skincare

English Mum’s Big Christmas Gift Guide: pampering pressies!

As a mum (and I speak from experience here), there’s nothing nicer than opening a pressie containing lovely pampering stuff that you might think twice about splashing out on yourself.

In this Big Christmas Gift Guide, I’ve brought together a few lovely treats that will make you, your mum/your wife/your sister feel fabulous, because, hey, they deserve it.

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Lyra and Chas bed

House news – and teenage bedrooms

So things on the house front have moved on AGAIN.  After the third house purchase fell through, I’ve got to be honest, we were pretty despondent.  I’ve never heard of it happening before, but the last one got right to survey and then the survey came in 20k under budget.  Anyone else had any experience of that?

Anyhoo, it’s all change again, because we think we’ve found the perfect house – the one we’re already in!  We’ve got some lovely plans to do the place up – with a spacious kitchen diner instead of our poky kitchen and separate dining room  (more of this later, but my Pinterest page is burgeoning) and new floors and even bathrooms when funds permit.

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Decorations at London Heathrow

Win an overnight hotel stay and airport parking with APH! *closed*

Often, the most stressful part of travel is getting to the airport. On my last trip, the flights were difficult to book and I ended up flying from Heathrow, but returning back to Gatwick.  We always use APH meet and greet parking (I love being met at the airport by someone who whisks your car away leaving you free to walk straight into the airport, then magically returns it just as you walk out again after your trip) so I decided to drive to Heathrow, leave my car, then get an airport coach back from Gatwick on my return.  APH were wonderful, and moved my car to Terminal 5, the nearest terminal, so I had the shortest journey possible to pick up my car again.  I was delighted.

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Luckies of London laptop case

English Mum’s Big Christmas Gift Guide – top treats for teens!

I think teenagers are some of the most difficult people to buy pressies for (difficult all round, but that’s for another day haha).  Thinking creatively about their presents, aside from the never ending list of PS4/Xbox related things occupies quite a lot of my time before Christmas, so I thought I’d share a couple of lovely present ideas with you.

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The Snow Leopard martini

Christmas cocktail fun: the Snow Leopard Conservation Martini

A friend of mine’s got a bit of a thing for premium drinkies and, knowing I feel the same, sent me a bottle of this lovely stuff: Snow Leopard vodka.  This uber cool super-premium vodka was created by Stephen Sparrow, a passionate conservationist and ex-drinks industry expert, who heard about the plight of the Snow Leopards during a trip to the Himalayas.  There are just 5000 of these beautiful big cats left in the wild and Stephen created the Snow Leopard Trust UK with a goal to raise a million dollars a year to save them.

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The Sloane

A Christmas tradition: the Harrods hamper

There’s something delightfully festive about a Harrods Hamper.  Seeing as we’re all getting into the Christmas spirit here at English Towers, I was very excited when Harrods offered us the chance to try one out.  We chose ‘The Sloane‘, and it arrived (you can track your order online, and it arrives within 3-5 working days) well protected and carefully packaged.  The hamper, a glossy square dark brown cane basket with a faux leather embossed lid is huge – rather over huge, if I’m honest, for its contents, which I’d probably describe as all the ingredients for the poshest afternoon tea you’ve had in your entire existence.

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