There’s a standard phrase in our house: ‘I want to move to Marlow!’. It’s uttered every time we see something fabulous happening in this lovely little Buckinghamshire town. We go as much as we can, but it’s an hour from us (though actually, right next to where Mr E works). It’s gorgeous in the summer, and magical in the winter. I’ve even earmarked my perfect house on West Street (you don’t even want to know how much it is). This weekend, we were lucky enough to be invited to the launch evening of The Pop-Up Festival, a unique pop up cinema experience combined with delicious food from the fabulous Tom Kerridge. I’d heard all about the Gourmet Picture Company as my lovely mate Amanda from Online Stylist attended one last summer at Chewton Glen. It looked absolutely gorgeous, so I was so excited to see how the Gourmet Picture Company would keep us all warm and cosy in December!
One of the best parts of Christmas for me is choosing all the lovely wrapping paper and cards. For some people, obviously I’ll just choose the ‘robin in snow’ variety, but for my friends and family, I’m always looking for great quality, quirky cards and wrapping with a bit of a cheeky edge – and I’ve definitely found it in Love Layla Designs, a fab, family-run small business from Yorkshire who have the most original tongue in cheek, fun Christmas designs. For this weekend’s wishlist, step away from the boring snow scene and come and discover some of my favourite Love Layla Designs:
Recently, an enormous box arrived at English Towers with a lovely note from the folks at Kenwood: ‘we know you love cooking, so would you like this beautiful Kenwood Chef Elite?’ Seriously generous, right? But I didn’t rush to open it, because, well, I’ve got a mixer already that I’ve had for ages and love, and on the box it looks all complicated and new-fangled, not homely and quirky like mine. Not wanting to seem ungrateful, though, and because everyone kept complaining that there was a huge box on the kitchen floor, I opened it up and popped it onto the kitchen counter. Well. Cue choirs of angels singing and all that jazz, because this thing is beautiful. Seriously, I sent a pic to Mr E and he replied ‘erm, wow. It really goes in our kitchen’. To give it a thorough test, though, and make sure it has brains as well as beauty, I attempted some Christmas crumble muffins with my sleek and shiny new baby. Here’s how I got on:
So after focusing on the lovely ladies, next up is my Christmas gift guide for the boys. I always find Mr E really hard to buy for, as if he wants something, he tends to just go and get it. Plus, if you ask him, he always says ‘buy me a jumper’. Trouble is, he tells this to his Mum and everyone else that buys him a present too. I find the best way to combat this is to have a list on my iPhone notes of anything he mentions during the year. The boys, on the other hand, never fail to provide Santa with the biggest list possible to choose from, but I like to treat them with small, unexpected bits and pieces so there are still a few surprises. So whether you’re looking for your grown up kids, Dad, uncles or your significant other, I’ve had a look around the shops – I hope this provides some inspiration for Christmas gifts for the man in your life – for every budget!
So here’s the first of a little series of gift guides. This one is Christmas gifting for her and, ok, I’ll admit it. I do kind of use these gift guides as a little Christmas wishlist for Mr E and the boys. Let’s face it, if they can open the blog and see something beautiful here to buy me, plus I get to share my ideas with you as shopping inspiration, it’s a win/win. Talking of gifts, I was recently asked by the lovely Sam over at I’m Sam Squire to contribute an idea for his Hopeless Man’s Gift Guide (his words not mine), and, as always, I shared my favourite gifting advice: if you haven’t been asked for something specific, it’s best to choose something that’s beautiful and useable (or indeed edible). So if you’re not exactly certain about the taste of the lady in question, it’s a good tip to stick to something like deliciously scented candles (see my guide to festive candles here), or bath and body products (and definitely not lingerie if you even remotely have to guess the size).
Have you worked out your personal style? It’s a tough one. I think by now, in my mid-forties, I’ve kind of sorted out roughly what suits me and what doesn’t: I like a mostly minimalist style in a palette of grey, black and white, and I tend to stick to classic styles, with the odd bit of leopard thrown in for good measure. What if, though, you could have access to your own personal stylist? Would you be interested in maybe shaking up your look? I’d love to be braver, especially at Christmas! I was intrigued and delighted to be invited to try Tuesday from M&S, a new, free, personal styling service that aims to provide style inspiration (with no obligation to buy).
You all know that I love everything to do with Christmas, and once the lights have been switched on in London, I’m always desperate to take a trip to go and see them. Mr E works really hard and we don’t get much opportunity to do things as a family, so I thought we’d plan a lovely festive trip up to London on the train to go and see the lights (and maybe grab some dinner and a cocktail or two) while we’re there. While we were planning our trip, I thought it would be a good opportunity to try Trainline’s new Price Prediction tool to get the best possible ticket price. Here’s how we got on.
You know that friend: she always looks amazing, even just in jeans, and of course she has a lovely, welcoming home, a gorgeous wardrobe and impeccable taste, and that all just makes festive pressie buying a bit – well – difficult! I came across this very dilemma recently when the lovely chaps at John Lewis asked if I’d like to do a pressie swap with the effortlessly stylish Sara, who writes the beautiful lifestyle blog, Notes from a Stylist. I mean, ARGH! Luckily, not only is Sara very lovely and friendly, but it turns out we also have lots in common: teenage kids, yummy food (bring on the roast dinners), a love of interiors, stationery, twinkly things, beautiful flowers and lovely smells. Of course, there are also things we don’t have in common: mostly the fact that I have no style whatsoever, which is why I was reading her blog and following her in the first place – to pick up some tips. So how on earth do you choose festive gifts for a stylish friend? Well…
So that’s it, Alcohol Awareness week is over, and I promised to tell you about how I got on with my challenge to stick to the recommended weekly guidelines: that’s 14 units a week, spread across the week, evenly over three or more days with a couple of alcohol free days. I continued to keep a track of my units with the help of the Drinkaware app, and alongside it, kept a diary of what I had to drink and the circumstances in which I was drinking. Here are a few things I learned:
I adore candles. When I’m writing, I’ll often have a scented candle lit next to me while I type. I find it quite soothing and I love filling the room with delicious scent, although I’ve had to stop leaving them lit around the house (let’s not mention that time I turned the entire downstairs loo black by leaving a Halloween Yankee Candle burning all night – yes, it had to be redecorated). You know I love everything about the autumn, and I always get excited to see beautiful new scented Christmas candles appearing online and in the shops. Here are a few of my favourites:
So last week I told you a little about my relationship with alcohol, and my Drinkaware challenge during Alcohol Awareness Week to stick to the recommended weekly guidelines: that’s 14 units a week, spread across the week, evenly over three or more days with a couple of alcohol free days. Last week, I also kept an alcohol diary, with the help of the Drinkaware app (and the notes on my phone to record the actual circumstances). Here’s how I got on:
It’s that time of year when we all seem to be more susceptible to colds and sniffles. Of course, there are obvious things we should do to avoid catching other people’s colds, like washing our hands, keeping surfaces clean (especially if you have kids who seem bring everything back from school (remember those door handles!) and avoiding touching our faces. If the worst comes to the worst, though, and you find yourself battling the common cold, what should you do? Here are my top tips, shared in partnership with family favourite decongestant oil brand, Olbas:
I adore winter dressing! No worries about whether you’re showing knobbly knees or less-than-perfect upper arms: it’s all about snuggly jumpers, soft textures, boots and tights. Hurrah! Some of my favourite outfits recently have been deliciously easy and wintery: a soft, bronze pleated skirt with a black roll neck jumper and boots, and leather leggings teamed with a crisp, white shirt and a slouchy grey jumper (and topped off with a gorgeous black teddy bear coat). For me, it seems so much less complicated to put together a great outfit at this time of year. I love hush for good quality, wearable style, and the new hush winter 17 collection has some delicious pieces. Here are some of my favourites:
How’s your relationship with alcohol? I’d say that mine’s… complicated. When we were younger, I was always the one who would volunteer to drive. I’m naturally quite chatty and happy, and it didn’t occur to me that I needed to drink alcohol to have a good time, therefore I was generally the designated driver, and happy enough with it. Now, we don’t tend to go out much, so our drinking is done at home, and this has increased steadily over time. Add to this the fact that we really love our wine, to the point that I write about it and we even invest in it, and you’ll see why our alcohol consumption has steadily grown. Next week, 13th to 19th November is Alcohol Awareness Week, and I’ve been thinking a little bit about how (and why) I drink. It’s been an interesting time…
One year, when the kids were small and we were still living in Ireland, our whole family came over to spend Christmas with us. I remember it as the most magical time: loads of fun and laughter, walks to the pub snuggled up in hats and scarves, the kids opening their presents together on Christmas morning… Years later, we still talk about our lovely family Christmas together, and one of the things we’ve considered is renting a cosy cottage somewhere and decamping as a family for the festive period. I’m thinking The Holiday but with considerably more people. So why am I hankering after getting away from it all? Well, here are five great reasons why we should all be having a cosy cottage Christmas:
How do you feel about cooking the Christmas dinner? I absolutely love having Christmas at home and I’m never happier than when I’m in the kitchen (made even nicer now we’ve knocked the wall down to the dining room so everyone can chat and mingle together). We’ve gone out on Christmas Day before, but we all prefer to be at home so we can relax and have a drink (and also, eating out is expensive – I’ve had a couple of emails from local pubs and restaurants advertising Christmas lunch menus, and they’re all around the £60 – £75 per person mark). I do know, though, that even if you love to cook, Christmas dinner is a big undertaking: there’s all the planning and shopping, and you might already have lots to do with buying gifts, maybe getting ready to have relatives to stay. I was pretty interested, then, when recipe box company HelloFresh got in touch and asked if I’d like to try the HelloFresh Christmas Box. Here’s how I got on.
- Entertaining over Christmas: my festive pie December 12, 2017
- A night out at the Gourmet Picture Company, Marlow December 10, 2017
- Weekend wishlist: festive fun with Love Layla Designs December 9, 2017
- Christmas crumble muffins with the Kenwood Chef Elite December 7, 2017
- Christmas gifts for the man in your life December 6, 2017