This time last year, we were just beginning to get everything ready for Charlie to go to university. He was delighted to be offered a place at Leicester, and we were slowly ticking off items from the ‘to do’ list, from sorting out a student bank account, to shopping for bedlinen and essentials for his new uni accommodation. Making the leap from living at home is a huge undertaking and can be a really stressful time for even the most confident teenager. Student accommodation provider, Unite Students has recently released The Leap – a report about the challenges involved in making the transition to uni, and providing tips for making the leap to university from a range of experts, parents and students.
12 years, though. 12 whole years! I can’t actually believe it’s been that long since I sat at my enormous, clunky computer in that little house down a long drive in County Dublin and listened to it making that weird, warbly dial-up sound connecting to our bloody awful internet connection. They say the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step and for me, my journey really began when I started writing down my thoughts about moving our young family to Ireland. This led on to being a part of the very early blogging community in Ireland, and from there – well, you know the rest! And what better way to celebrate with you than with cake and sprinkles, and to give you, dearest reader, the most precious of gifts: the best vanilla cupcake recipe I own!
If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that I’m incredibly interested in sustainability. Whether that means committing to preserving our natural resources and lessening our individual environmental impact by eating less meat, doing my bit to save our planet by working towards ditching the single use plastics (sorry, favourite takeaway, your plastic containers mean that we won’t use you), or just committing to reusing and recycling as much as possible in our day to day family life and trying to reduce the amount of waste we create. Of course, one of the best ways to work towards zero waste is to sell your unwanted items, be they clothes, furniture, cars, or anything else, online. It’s a great way to save money and then, of course, you can purchase something to replace it feeling completely guilt-free. It’s a win/win way to live more sustainably. I wish I’d known then what I know now, though. I’m definitely going to give it a go a lot more often, and it’s all thanks to some top tips for buying and selling on Gumtree that I’ve learned.
Whenever I’m away on a cruise ship, the saddest thing for me is seeing all the plastic floating in the sea. I think as a whole, the cruise industry needs to work much harder to become more sustainable and eco-conscious. This goes for the airline industry too, whose overuse of plastic cups, bottles and straws always frustrates me on flights. On a recent cruise I was on, a plastic bottle of water was handed to each passenger on disembarkation at every port, and my request to refill my reusable water bottle at the bar was refused. When I persisted, the barman opened aplastic bottle of water and poured it into mine. Hmmmm. So what can we do to live more sustainably? Well of course, we can recycle as much as possible (I spend my life fishing recycling out of the bin because the boys seem incapable of grasping what’s recyclable), but I’d like to go further and have been doing a bit of research about the sorts of things that are available. So for this week’s wishlist, I’ve gathered 10 ways to live a more sustainable life:
You know Mr E, he loves a bit of upcycling. Now the wall has been taking down between the kitchen and the dining room, I’ve obviously lost all the kitchen cupboards that were on that wall. Hence, I’m always complaining about not having enough storage in the kitchen, so wasn’t at all surprised when he appeared one night with his latest Ebay find: a tall, pine unit with a cupboard and lots of shelves. It looked absolutely perfect, the only problem was that it was a pretty hideous shade of orange. As we discussed colours, I mentioned that I’d seen some really dark grey interior finishes recently, and that I really wanted shades of granite and khaki for the kitchen, with accents of copper that have been dominating my Pinterest for a while now.
Picture the scene: it’s Friday night, we’ve both had a hectic week and we’re slumped, finally, in front of the TV, bra off (me), joggers on (him), and both boys out with friends. It’s the perfect opportunity for us to head out to dinner together, just the two of us. We discuss options and various restaurants we quite fancy, but it would mean getting dressed and putting make up on and driving/taxis and whatever and there’s a good film we both fancy on the telly, and delicious wine in the rack. What to do? We don’t have the luxury of many takeaways that deliver here, plus that option can be expensive (and frankly not always great), and although I love to cook, sometimes the thought of getting creative in the kitchen when I just want to chat and sip wine with Jim while we catch up after a busy week means I’d love an easier, but still delicious alternative. This week we’ve been trying The Supper Club range, a collection of premium luxury ready meals new to Sainsbury’s, so we popped the Red Thai Chicken Curry in the oven instead.
Are we allowed to talk about spring yet? I’m SO ready. I’m one of those people who loves to have something to look forward to, and at the moment, it’s new buds on the trees, longer days, beams of sunlight shining through the window, and maybe even a little bit of spring cleaning. To inspire us, I’ve chosen a few fresh new interior pieces from M&S in a pretty palette of blue and white, which should help to cheer up even the most miserable of January mornings!
Welcome to the first weekend wishlist of 2018! I’m in a positive frame of mind at the moment, and I have loads of plans for updating our home. I want to create a cosy, calm home that’s a retreat for us all – first order of the day will be a massive declutter (that goes for my wardrobe too – more of this later), and then maybe a fresh coat of paint (I’m thinking about saying goodbye to the blue wall in the kitchen and replacing it with a more stylish Scandi-inspired grey), as well as repainting the chairs in more muted tones. I want our home to be enhanced with fresh greenery, pale wood, clean lines, soft textures and elegant functional furniture (I’m after a perfect, mid-century inspired chair for an empty corner in the lounge at the moment). Here are a few of the Scandi inspired home updates that I’ve got in mind:
I really enjoy writing this round-up post – traditionally my last one before Christmas. I probably say more or less the same thing every year (don’t panic! It’s just a big roast dinner), but as usual, remember that it’s your Christmas too. Grab a few willing helpers to make some Christmas cookies, or whip up some of my perfect frozen whipped cream hot chocolate and have a little prep-party on Christmas Eve (it’s amazing how much you can get done the night before). Need a little inspiration? Read on for my top tips and recipes for Christmas dinner and beyond: fresh ideas, old favourites and more!
I’m obsessed with everything Scandinavian (some of you may know that I’ve just written the recipes and contributed some of the food photography for a book called Nordic Style for Viking Cruises along with Liz Jarvis and Sara Malm – super proud!). I especially love how the Scandinavians do Christmas, and, knowing that Homesense often have extra special bits and pieces from around the globe, I headed to my nearest store to find some inspiration for a Scandi Christmas, and a few bits for some special Scandi Christmas cookies.
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:
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…
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:
You know that I’m a complete Halloween addict. I love all the little bits and bobs that come out around this time of year, and yesterday I was nosing around John Lewis, intending to buy a few baking bits to make my spiced chocolate skeleton gingerbread men (more of these in a second). They have some absolutely gorgeous gifts, decorations and treats for Halloween this year and I ended up buying rather a lot of that stuff too (I mean, mini pumpkin fairy lights, come on!).
Since arriving back from Orlando on Thursday, we’ve really noticed how autumnal it seems to have become in just that short period. Our gorgeous parrotia tree, experiencing its first autumn in the garden, is now aflame with orange, coral and red, showing off its glorious, glowing colours every time I’m at the kitchen sink, and there’s a new nip in the air that I’m certain wasn’t there when we left. Still, I’m happy to be spending a few days snuggling at home before I jet off on my next adventure, and top of my weekend wishlist are some delicious, autumnal interiors: scented candles, soft throws, plump cushions and more (I need all the comfort after the trauma of waving Charlie off to university). Here are a few bits I’m loving right now:
- Weekend wishlist: new season trends are landing! August 11, 2018
- Houses and scare zones at Halloween Horror Nights 2018 August 10, 2018
- Our tips for making the leap to university August 9, 2018
- Cruising with friends: our P&O Cruises Oceana adventure August 7, 2018
- Weekend wishlist: REN skincare deals and discount codes August 4, 2018