These two.

This moment has come around so fast. In retrospect. It's always the way, isn't it? The days are long but the years are short.

Both my children are now school-age, and we're processing what that means. No big realisation has hit me (yet) that those baby days are long gone. No tears have been shed. No nostalgic outpouring of regret or sorrow or even relief. It is what it is - two boys, both in varying degrees of shabby school uniform, skip down the road to school with their book bags, accepting of what this now means to them individually, together, and to the four of us as a family.

The cobbled-together childcare arrangements are on hold until the school holidays and routine is resumed. It feels good.

Yesterday, faced with a full 12 hours of solo parenting, we piled into the car and headed to the cinema for The Boxtrolls, followed by a (shh) happy meal, a run about, then a trip to the Affordable Art Fair, and finally supper at Wagamama. Mainly, the kids were super sweet and kind to each other (and to me), and a good day was had. If this is what the weekends bring, this school lark can stay.

Joining in with Jodi's 52 project

Forbidden fruit

The garden is dominated by the most beautiful fig tree. In winter, its silvery, bare branches look as though they'll never come back to life, but they always do. The tree's fruit never ripens - something to do with pollination - but it does provide shade and secret hiding places in summer. And, at this time of year, when its enormous leaves begin to yellow and fall, the air is filled with essence of fig. It is something else.

A friend came over last week and we wandered out the back. Fig is one of her favourites and she held a fallen leaf up to her face, inhaling deeply. As much as I'd love to loiter in the garden surrounded by that figgy fragrance, it will soon be gone for another year, making this selection of fruity treats very necessary purchases.

Clockwise from top-left:
1. If you can't afford the jumper - REALLY want the jumper - the Bella Freud Fig Leaf and Tomato candle iconis a vaguely close second. Ish.
SpaceNK, £38.
2. 'Musky, green fig leaves swaying in the warm evening air...' - oh, go on then.
Fig Fiction Classic Soap, & Other Stories, £4.
3. Italian fig jam, made with figs, sugar and lemon juice. Swoon!
Carluccio's, £7.95.
4. 'A dramatic composition focused on the idea of a ripe, sweet, shapeless mass of fruit, an unruly and intense savour' - I'm desperate to try Pulp by Byredo.
Liberty London, £88.
5. Porridge with chocolate and fig? That's some kinda WOW breakfast.
Harvey Nichols, £5.95.
6. ... and let's finish breakfast with these Sea Salted Caramels Spiced Figs.
Harvey Nichols, £13.95.
7. Fruity shower gel isn't my style, but this Korres version has the scent of freshly cut figs.
Liberty London, £8.
8. Good old Diptyque, they know how it's done.
Figuier Room Spray, SpaceNK, £36.
9. I tried this Ortigia range out in a little shop in Frome when we visited At the Chapel last year. It is divine.
Fico d'India Bath Oil, Liberty London, £30.

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New uniform

So there's a nip in the air and all that autumn jazz, and I could go on about light and leaves but I'm really not a fan. I suppose I'm just not ready to say goodbye to summer - a summer I barely had as I worked most of it, only spending nine days with the kids - and certainly not ready to say goodbye to the sun on my skin, and walking between house and garden with no discernible change in temperature, and the sandals I fell in love with and wore every day since June.

But say goodbye I must, and if there's a sure way to convince me to move on then it's with new clothes. The kids have a new school uniform this month, so it's only fair that I have a new school run uniform, right? (Before you go thinking I'm one of those mums, I'm really not. I just need no excuse to buy myself something nice.) This season I'm after the softest jumpers. The poppiest colours. The chicest dresses.

The latest collection from Hush is totally floating my boat. A black knitted bomber jacket worn over a loose knit, soft grey jumper, teamed with a black pencil skirt? Teeny, weeny pine cone earrings? A canary yellow scarf teamed with a classic black dress? A felted dress in the most perfect of blues - mallard? I'm on it. All of it.

What do you think of this pretty new collection?

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Five reads for September

It's been five months since I wrote a five reads post. Whoops. It's not that I haven't been reading in that almost-half-a-year, just that I've neglected certain areas of my blog. That makes it okay, then.

I have been reading - I HAVE! - and have discovered some cracking reads over the summer, making this post a particularly easy one to write. Actually? It was tricky to narrow down my discoveries to just five, but as it's well beyond the beginning of the month I can always leave a few for October.

1. A Modern Way to Eat

This is a spectacular book. On my kitchen shelf there are two types of cookbook: the decadent, delicious, special treat recipe books, and the rather stiff, healthy books whose pages speak of privation. Not any more. A Modern Way to Eat brilliantly blends nutritious eating with astonishing flavour, making it my ideal cookbook. Really, you have to try it. I did that thing where I looked through and put a little scrap of paper in between the pages of each recipe I plan to make until I realised there were scraps of paper in between every page. Last week, we tried dhal with crispy sweet potato and quick coconut chutney; tonight, we ate speedy sweet potato quesadillas; and tomorrow it'll be lentils and beets with salsa verde. All incredible.

2. Lionheart 5

Confession time: I wrote a piece for this issue of Lionheart (as I did for 3 and 4) - it's one of my very favourite mags. This issue is themed around Home and is jam-packed with brilliant contributions, from Lianne Buiting of The Pippa and Ike Show, to Hannah Bullivant of Seeds and Stitches, to my dear pal and colleague, Lara Watson of Mollie Makes.

3. Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life

Described as 'a meditation on reality and opportunity', Missing Out looks at the gap between the life we live and the life we thought we'd be living. Gulp. So much of the media with which we surround ourselves now is about the ways people present themselves, making it too easy to compare and contrast and to find one's own life falling short of expectation. This book is about examining the life we didn't choose, and what it says about the one we did.

4. Kinfolk Volume 13

It's that time again - another issue of Kinfolk. This is where I would normally describe it as the most perfect magazine, but this time the theme is Imperfect. Celebrating 'the holes in our socks, our scorched attempts at marmalade making and all the bad haircuts we've had over the years', this issue is about as perfectly imperfect as Kinfolk could ever get. And kind of fits with read number 3, too.

5. Take My Advice: Letters to the Next Generation from People Who Know a Thing or Two

This is just the kind of book I LOVE: snippets of wisdom from some amazing people, such as Quentin Crisp, Cindy Sherman, William S. Burroughs, Katharine Hepburn and Bette Davis. Each chapter resonates with the voice of its author, varying so much in length, tone, and, of course, advice. The sort of book I wish I'd read when I was younger. Also, where else would the words of Bettie Page sit alongside those of Alain de Botton? Exactly.

What are you reading this month?


A: Super helpful big kid. When not trying to jump to the moon, he keeps a close eye on his brother in the park.
T: Noodles are his favourite. Always wolfs every last mouthful.

It's been a rather embarrassing seven weeks since I last posted a weekly picture of my children. Well, all I can say is that we've had a hectic summer and, sometimes, something's got to give. With just ten days left of the school holidays, the last bank holiday of the summer looming plus that hint of autumn in the air, I'm feeling a little melancholy. There's nothing like a bit of a shift about when the gloom hits, and this weekend we've tidied, cleaned and sorted ready for the weeks ahead. New school year = mini new year, and therefore new starts a-plenty. Might even go stationery shopping next week for a real hit of shiny September-ness...

Joining in with Jodi's 52 project

Just So 2014

'I want to stay here for the rest of my life', I heard a small child say as we left Just So Festival on Sunday evening. And who could blame him? He'd just experienced the time of his life, no doubt. As had the rest of us.

From the minute we arrived (after the most hideous journey of gridlock/are we there yet?/backseat whistling), we had wall-to-wall fun - without the walls. Not exactly a camping pro - I may be a romantic but I never relish the idea of sleeping under the stars - we pitched up with our friends Kat, Lori, Heather, and Sarah-Lou, and got stuck into a weekend of magical adventures.

The kids got lost in the excitement of it all: rumpusing in the forest, sandcastles next to a pirate ship, Ukrainian gypsy bands, magic, dancing at the Northern Soul disco, big top skills, staying up and watching Charlie & the Chocolate Factory and Bugsy Malone, whispering secrets in the tent late into the night.

The best part? Just how sweet the kids were together, with each other and their new friends. Given acres to roam, small people with whom to roam, and more freedom than they've ever had before, those boys of mine were as happy as I've ever seen them.

We were kindly invited to the festival by the organisers of Just So, and we're incredibly grateful. Thank you Rowan and Sarah - you are AMAZING!

In the sky

Today is the beginning of Bristol's annual Balloon Fiesta, a tradition that sees hundreds of hot air balloons rise high in the sky above the city.

As a child, the Balloon Fiesta loomed large over our summer, a focal point for fun and excitement. We'd watch them glide by from the flat roof of our childhood home, sometimes waving (slowly, with both hands), or alerted to their presence by the urgent whoosh of the gas filling the material. Each of us had our favourite balloon, those special shapes being the most thrilling of all.

There was that one year a balloon crash-landed on the zebra crossing near my house and we all rushed out as we saw it lose height. Down, down it came, our small, wide eyes incredulous as the basket bumped to the ground. My dad photographed the scene, the pictures later making the local paper.

And there was that time my primary school teacher asked me what my father did for a living. Not having the slightest clue, I made up what I really wanted him to do: hot air balloon pilot. In Bristol, that's not so far-fetched.

And there was that time last year we got the kids up early to climb to the top of the hill in the park, packed breakfasts by our sides, to watch those quiet giants rise up into the sky over our heads in the pale, milky dawn.

And there were endless times we'd just go to Ashton Court and sit on the grass and watch. Much like this video of just such a time, shot in the early eighties (I'd guess 1984 or thereabouts - I think I must be about eight years old). Only of interest (probably) to people who know us or balloon enthusiasts. But, hey, this is Bristol. There's a fair chance of a few of both out there.

Just So 2014

This morning, our tickets to Just So 2014 arrived, causing much excitement. We chatted about last year's festival, flicked through the programme, and debated our choice of tribe.

Arthur had so much to say about it all that I thought it might be good to do a little Q&A with him. Over to Arthur...

What did you like most about last year's festival? 

I liked the music and the disco. And I loved staying up late! I like that there are no rules at a festival. I liked making the fairy houses and the acrobats in the trees. The pirate area was fun and exciting.

Did you enjoy camping?

Yes. It felt quite nice to sleep out of home and to have some fun hearing all the animals outside. It was cosy in the tent.

What are you looking forward to doing at Just So this year?

I can't wait to see Arthur's Dream Boat. I missed the Gruffalo in the woods last year so I'm looking forward to finding him.

Are we going Friday, Saturday AND Sunday? Yeah? YEAH!

What tribe shall we choose this year - lions, foxes, frogs, stags, owls or fish?

I don't know. I think Ted would like to be a lion.


If you'd like to see more from the festival, have a look at the post from last year or watch the video below. And book your tickets now as they're selling fast. See you there!

Image: Just So/Tell Tale Hearts & In Situ Circus with the Wind & the Sun

ctrl b

About six months ago, I got my first tattoo.

For years, I'd thought about having one, never sure what to choose, never quite brave enough. When I changed career it felt right to mark this immense turning point in some way, and one day I woke up brave. I chose a symbol that's been in my life for as long as I can remember, one that reminds me of my childhood, and that has relevance to my new work.

I booked the appointment. I told no one. I went alone, nervous but excited. It hurt, but not as much as I'd expected. What surprised me was how fast the tattooist worked; it was all over in about five minutes.

I lived with it for months, just a black outline on my arm. Not particularly loud or conspicuous, it sometimes surprised me; I'd forget it was there.

Last week, I went to have it changed, filled in, made bold. That hurt a lot more than the first time, and took longer, but it was still not an intolerable pain.

Since then, more people have spotted it and commented. Perhaps because it's bigger and darker, perhaps because it's summer and I don't have it covered up - who knows? Most people are curious about the symbol and what it means. Some want to know if I think I'll regret it, most of all my mother.

'You'll regret that when you're in the old people's home,' she said to me on Monday. Perhaps she's right... The way I see it, if I make it to an old people's home I will have a. retired (unlikely, given my poor pension provision), and b. not died young. Both of these things should and would make me lucky and happy, as would memories of a life well lived. If I'm moping around there, regretting my tattoo, please remind me what's important.

Please remind me I was bold.


I've lived in Bristol pretty much my whole life, centrally, close to the heart of this city of beauty and grime, of wealth and extreme poverty, of utter delights and contradictions. Memories of Kingsdown, my childhood hood, are of a creative enclave perched on top of the hill, the smoke and colour and messy charm of Bristol spilling out before us in a jumbled, thrilling expanse.

This was back at the start of Thatcher's reign. The St Paul's Riots took place when I was three-and-a-half and I remember clearly the feeling of that neighbourhood being one of notoriety and danger. Driving through was a necessity, getting us from home to the bottom of the motorway and out to the rest of the country, and I would peer out of the window, fascinated by the people and the places I saw as we whizzed past.

St Pauls still thrills, on no weekend more than carnival weekend. Heading down at midday to catch the procession of kids from local schools dressed up, alongside bands and dancers, the kids were awestruck at the sights but most of all the sounds. Loud samba bands and passers-by blowing whistles were deemed 'too noisy!' by both, until they got their hands on a whistle of their own.

Heading down to the main stage, through the stalls and food sellers, slices of watermelon and cans of Red Stripe along every street, you could see a kind of mesmerised delight in their eyes, both boys enjoying the music and the excitement of the new.

One of my children enjoyed himself far more than the other (regular readers will be able to work out which one I'm talking about!), and I caught a glimpse of what might be when T's energy is channelled in positive ways. Is this wayward child of mine harbouring a major creative spark? Reckon he could be a performer. Actually, what am I saying? Already is.


A: 'I've got a good idea! HOT DOGS!' (Merci, Muppets)
T: Growing, growing, growing, into the light

It's been weeks since I last posted a set of 52 portraits. Not really sure why; perhaps a bit of the not sharing thing I was going on about the other day, or maybe just a reluctance to post portraits that aren't beautiful, just to make the set (we've got enough of that with the Panini World Cup stickers at the moment). Anyway, these pics made me happy, and so here they are.

We've already made good use of the longest day of the year; this morning's activities include plenty of toast and honey (and a quadruple espresso), making a cuddly toy hospital, adding to my midsummer Spotify playlist, and swaying in the hammock with the new issue of Lionheart (more about this another day).

And tomorrow? A lie in, followed by a barbecue in the park with friends - ones who make me laugh 'til it hurts.

Enjoy this precious solstice weekend.

Looking out, looking in

There are times when it feels right to write and there are times when it does not.

A couple of weeks back, we spent seven days in France. Likely to be our one holiday of the year, we did all the holiday-ish things you'd expect: sun, barbecue, sea, ice cream, pool, repeat.

Ordinarily, I would have been snapping away, taking photograph after photograph both for the family album and for here. A few days into the holiday, I realised I just wasn't taking pictures in the way I normally do. And that realisation didn't prompt me to try harder.

Instead, the few pics I took were of views: from the beach; from a house we visited; the most incredible view; and the blue, blue sky. Looking out.

The looking in? Well, we did family stuff. Made memories that no one else knows about. Memories just for us.

Not everything needs to be shared.

(But if you really, REALLY want to see where we went and what we did, it's more or less the same thing we did last year, and the year before, and the places we went then. We're a bit dull like that.)

Bristol 07 / Beetlegeuse

As kids, my brother and I were OBSESSED with Beetlejuice. Actually, I think I might be obsessed with it still.

And so are the Food and Theatre Company, who are putting on a one night only evening of innovative performance, fine dining, and foodie fun. Journey from the Maitland’s house, to the Corridor of Lost souls, to the Waiting room of the Afterlife; with live music and adventurous food, this is going to be a truly interactive experience. Cannot wait.

Beetlegeuse takes place on 14 June 2014, 6.45-11pm, at a secret location in central Bristol.

Full price tickets cost £30 (group discounts available for 6 or more), available from the Food and Theatre Company website.

Just don't say it three times!

A new outlook

I am obsessed with Scandi dramas like The Killing, Borgen and The Bridge, not just for the brilliant plots, the writing, and the acting, but also for the glimpse into the super stylish world of Danish and Swedish design.

For a while now, I've wanted to recreate the beautiful glass shelves that sat across the Birk Larsen's kitchen windows, thinking they'd be the perfect place for beautiful crockery, glassware, and a few herbs and houseplants. And here they are: two glass shelves spanning two of the four windows in the kitchen. I love them for their practicality, clean look, and for a bit of added privacy they offer.

Got a new little nook of your own? You have one day left to blog about it for the Mollie Makes summer homestyle competition - read all about it here! The winner's photograph will appear in Mollie Makes 43.


Bristol's hidden gems

Bristol is full of hidden gems. Regular readers will know that I have a series of posts dedicated to showcasing my favourite haunts, but here’s a round-up of my current faves:

The food here is utter perfection, and it turns me into the greediest girl going. I would eat and eat and never stop, given the chance, so it’s lucky this place is so packed you have to call weeks ahead to get a table. Proper Spanish tapas, wall-to-wall cava, and a buzzy bar make Bravas my number one place to eat in Bristol.

Royal Fort Gardens
As a child, I played in these gardens, owned by the University of Bristol, in all seasons. I have strong memories of sledging down the slope, narrowly avoiding the iced-over pond at the bottom, and there are albums full of photographs of my brother and I playing in the brick-lined sculpture park tucked away around the back. With beautiful Baroque, Palladian and Rococco buildings rising up at the top of the hill, it’s a truly charming refuge at the heart of the city.

The Old Bookshop
Cocktails in a cosy, converted bookshop? These are not words to say lightly to a boozy, bookish type. The Old Bookshop offers guaranteed good times: a short but exciting food menu, ace tunes, great drinks, and a jolly vibe makes for one helluva night.

You can tell everything about a deli by its range of olives and cakes, I reckon, and Papadeli scores tops on both. The staff are amazingly knowledgeable and friendly, the shop and cafes (there are two) are fresh and bright, and the food – the food! – is proper picnic perfection.

Something Else
For anyone who’s ever dreamed of owning a shop, Something Else is equal parts heaven and hell. Heaven, as it’s everything you’d want a shop to be, and hell, because you didn’t get there first. Packed with independent magazines, artworks, interesting stationery, and cool bits and bobs, Something Else is run by supercool couple, Sidonie and Kyle, who also run their graphic design business (Something Good) from the other side of the counter.

This place is so new I haven’t yet visited! But it’s on my list, as it’s the newest neighbourhood restaurant on my patch. Pared back décor caught my attention each time I walked past during its development, and a simple menu in the window has whetted my appetite enough to book a table in the next couple of weeks. I will report back!

Stylist and Links of London asked me to share my hidden gems of Bristol as part of their Hidden Gems campaign - add your own hidden gem for your chance to win £1000 of Links of London jewellery. The rules are simple:
1. Take a photo or write about your favourite place to go in your city
2. Upload it to Twitter @Links_of_London or Instagram @linksoflondon
3. Hashtag your post #linkshiddengems

Written in association with Links of London;
as usual, all words are my own.

Blogtacular 2014

All images above courtesy of Mollie Makes

Now that I'm back from my days in the book promotion wilderness, I've got a lot of catching up to do. So much has happened these past few weeks, not least of which was Blogtacular.

Oh em gee, it truly was BLOGTACULAR!

A highlight for me was Kat Molesworth (one of the two Kat-monikered powerhouses behind Blogtacular) in her closing speech, swallowing back the tears as she told the audience of a dream she had - an actual asleep dream - back in May 2013 about an awesome blog conference called Blogtacular. When she woke, she was furious for days that it wasn't real. So, she called t'other Kat, suggested they make it real, and Kat agreed. How amazing are those two women? I find myself constantly impressed and taken aback by their chutzpah, dedication, and hard work. They are an inspiration.

To the weekend itself - well, what blogger wouldn't want to be in a room with 200 other bloggers, all of whom know the truly rewarding and life changing power of self-publishing? It felt like a life-changing moment; that energy was palpable. A highlight was Anne Ditmeyer of Pret-a-Voyager confirming something I knew all along when she said 'bloggers are awesome. If they don’t know how to do something they’ll learn it.' THAT x a million.

The other highlight was hanging out with my Mollie Makes ladies. We shared a dorm room and it felt just like a school trip; we had the best fun. Here we are hanging out with Joy Cho of Oh Joy!

(Thanks to Mollie Makes for the image)

Oh, and how could I forget Xanthe Berkeley's photo walk? Who knew that all it would take was bloggers, balloons, and Mayfair to completely change the way I take photographs forever? The colours were something else.

Yep. Blogtacular, alright.

Have a look at the highlights video below for a taste of what happened, and sign up for a virtual conference ticket here where you can view all but three of the workshops and speakers.

Blogtacular 2014 from Kat Molesworth on Vimeo.
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