Monday, 31 December 2012

Let's drink champagne and dance on the table

I can't believe it's the last day of 2012. Wow. We're spending this evening with very dear friends, laughing, dancing and drinking copious amounts of champagne.

Whatever you do, have a fabulous night. Goodbye 2012! Can't wait to see what 2013 has in store...


Saturday, 29 December 2012


We're slowly emerging from the Christmas fog, after what feels like days and days of eating, drinking and making merry. Christmas was spent with both sides of the family over two days, and was a laid-back affair after a great build-up. Despite much excitement, the kids slept until a perfectly reasonable 7am on Christmas Day, which began with stockings for them and Bellinis for us. 

I have felt overwhelmingly lucky this year and so grateful for all we have - wonderful friends and family, our home, enough to eat, lovely presents. Christmas morning epitomised this, and was therefore tinged with sadness when I thought about those less fortunate, particularly the 75,000 children who were homeless this Christmas. I know cash is always short at the end of December but Shelter is an excellent cause should you find a bob or two behind the sofa.

Christmas Day was mainly spent at my parents' house. My mum has set the Christmas bar impossibly high with the surprise snow machine she'd borrowed and set up in the garden. The kids were pretty impressed. Plus it made a welcome change from this incessant rain. We ate delicious food, drank wine and rum and sloe gin, and unwrapped some fabulous presents, one of my favourites being a 1930s crystal wine glass from my beau. 

But now I feel like a Christmas pudding - round and boozy - and it's time to put on the brakes. Post-Christmas bootcamp was tough, and I did my first Bikram yoga session. Blimey, that's tough! How was your Christmas? And do you have any New Year's Resolutions?

Monday, 24 December 2012

It's Chrrrrrrrriiiiiiisssssstmmmmmaaaasssssssssss!

The presents are wrapped. 
The halls are decked. 
The cards are sent. 
The trees are lit. 
The Radio Times is circled.
The food is bought and made. 
The fire is laid. 

I think it's safe to say we're ready. 

Over the next few days we're looking forward to some fun and laughter with family and friends, as I'm sure you are too. Films. Relaxing. Lovely meals. Singing along to bad Christmas music (I love Christmas music!). I can't wait. Feels very deserved this year.

Have a very Merry Christmas! 


Thursday, 20 December 2012

A Christmas play

Image: Matt Collins

When I was small we went to the theatre every year around Christmas. My parents felt strongly it was an essential part of the festivities and, although my brother and I would resist, the minute those house lights went down and the play began we were captivated. My kids are no different. Bristol Old Vic sent us tickets for their latest show, Hey Diddle Diddle. Designed for young audiences (3-6 years old), the show is a performed by just three actors all of whom act, dance, sing and play various musical instruments. As well as the eponymous nursery rhyme, many more classics are included but interpreted beautifully and naturally.

The kids were mesmerised, especially T whose face was a picture - all anticipation and delight. I won't spoil all the surprises as its definitely worth a trip but I will say that my favourite moment was the Owl and the Pussycat - fur coats, face paint and piano accordion. Magic.

Hey Diddle Diddle is on at Bristol Old Vic until 5 January 2013 - find out more.

Here's the trailer:

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Bloggers day out

Although I've been writing a blog for years, I've only recently found the amazing community of fellow bloggers out there. Through the blog, plus Instagram and Twitter, I've met some lovely, like-minded souls and it was about time we met each other in real life.

So on Sunday I went to meet my 'imaginary friends' - people I'd only met on the internet. That sounds weirder than it was. Within minutes we all began chatting like we'd known each other for years. It was all rather lovely - chatting and window-shopping in Bath, lunch and more talking, staring in wonderment at one of the most glorious bakeries I've ever seen, and a mooch about in Toast (whose Christmas decorations feature in the pics above - aren't they something?).

Meet my new friends: Little Green Shed, Bradshaw & Sons, Bristol Parenting Cafe, (half of) Nimble Fingers and Steady Eyebrows, Housewife Confidential, and Natalie's Kitchen Secrets.

Isn't the internet BRILLIANT?

Monday, 17 December 2012

Learning from Kids

Today my image is featured on Trula Kids advent calendar which is rather lovely - 24 images representing ways in which we learn from our children. 

There are some lovely bloggers contributing to this - people like A Merry Mishap, Kickcan & Conkers, Le Dans La, Little Green Shed, Mrs Eliot Books - so make sure you go and have a look.

8 sleeps!


Saturday, 15 December 2012

On a cold and frosty morning...

I’m not an outdoors type. Never have been. Give me a centrally-heated house, a roaring fire, cuddled up under a blanket and I’m happy. So when the Lido invited me for a spa day in December, I wasn’t quite sure what I was letting myself in for. As Mark Thwaites, Lido Manager, says himself: ‘the Lido isn’t like other spas. People come here expecting a warm, indoor pool, loungers around the edge, and they get this’.

Yes. ‘This’ - the outdoor pool thing. I’ve done swimming in the rain, but what about frost?  I’ve always looked at those pictures of Icelandic hot springs and thought they look so pretty but I couldn’t imagine it being a particularly pleasant experience – all icy shores and steamy water.  The day we spent at the Lido at the beginning of December measured a brisk 5 degrees. The pool is solar-heated, but without much sun about at this time of year, the water temperature was a chilly 19 degrees.

So we sat in the warm, cozy café-bar and ate breakfast – sourdough toast and homemade jam for him, fruit toast and maple butter for me, coffee times two. Life these days means we’re always running late, always hectic, always a whirlwind - after dropping the kids with my parents for the day, we needed to decompress. Sitting in tranquil silence with your loved one, a perfect breakfast, the sound of the lapping water outside. I could get used to this.

I’ve had massages for years but never a Lomi Lomi – the traditional massage of Hawaii, no less, which “brings together the warm spirit of these incredible tropical islands with a deep massage that feels ‘to the bone’’’, according to the treatment description. I’d woken up the day before with an ache in my lower back, and therapist Claire’s expertise sorted it out in an hour in what is one of the best massages I’ve ever had. The oils used in the treatment are part of the Lido’s new range of spa products, years in the making and completely bespoke. We came out red-cheeked, smoothed, fragrant and relaxed, and were directed to the tea room – comfy chairs, blankets, complimentary tea, and magazines – where we came back to reality at our own pace.  

Post-massage, we met up with Mark for a tour and a chat about the ethos of the Lido. He explained that the water contains minimal amounts of chlorine, but to maintain these levels bathers must be scrupulously clean before entering the water. What better way to encourage extensive scrubbing than to provide top quality spa products free of charge? Mark and his team went to a Somerset apothecary to develop their own bespoke range along the same lines as the Lido kitchen, which meant knowing the provenance of each ingredient that goes into the final product. Alongside the Purifying body wash (containing cleansing cypress, lime and grapefruit to ensure squeaky-clean swimmers), another body wash is supplied for the post-pool shower: Rose Geranium body wash, with clary sage and chamomile to hydrate the skin. And to top it off, a Refreshing shampoo completes the trilogy, incorporating chamomile, lemon and lavender. The products contain no animal products or chemical nasties, and I was impressed by the quality of the ingredients, the blend of the essential oils which permeate the whole building, even recognisable from the street if the wind blows in the right direction. I struggled with the pumps in a couple of the showers, making it tricky to get enough product for my hair, but this was a minor niggle.

We followed Mark’s suggestion to bathe in the Nordic fashion (Mark’s mother is Finnish and the Lido’s owner is Swedish, so this is authentic advice) – shower, swim, steam room, swim, steam room, swim, sauna, swim, sauna, one last swim, then the hot tub. Oh, and I forgot the cold water bucket. Post steam/sauna, pre swim. Each time, literally a bucket of cold water tipped over your head from a height. Brrrr….

But, actually, it was fantastic. Invigorating. Refreshing. When I first entered the pool it felt shockingly cold, and to save face I decided I would do two lengths before getting out. But the chill of the pool subsided before those two lengths were up, and I stayed in for many more. The transfer from pool to steam room was pretty parky but the warmth of the steam room felt even more welcome to my goose-pimpled skin. Our final plunge into the hot tub was delicious – bath-water warm, bubbly and relaxing. We felt exhilarated and a huge sense of achievement.

After one final shower, squeaky clean and weary, we got dressed and headed for the restaurant for a late lunch. To start, we chose deep-fried aubergine with goats curd, oregano, chilli and honey. This was one of the lightest dishes I’ve ever eaten, and, despite not being a huge fan of aubergine, it was soft and delicious, enhanced by the earthiness of the honey and the zip of chilli. To follow, we ate butternut squash manti with sweet tomato sauce, pine nuts, yoghurt, brown butter and confit egg yolk. Manti is a kind of middle-eastern stuffed pasta, and the little parcels were full of flavor, contrasting well with the rich sauce, soft egg and crunchy nuts. We finished with dessert – Ben ate salted caramel chocolate tart and I chose chocolate and stout ice-cream. The meal was spectacular, faultless, and the contrast between warming Mediterranean flavours followed by cold ice cream was thoroughly amazing. Chilli meets chilly - extremes of temperature - much like the day itself.


Full day spa packages include a 1-hour treatment, breakfast, lunch, soft drinks, and full use of the facilities, and cost £115. For seasonal promotions (including the British Winter Swim &Lunch for £30), visit the Lido website or Facebook page, and follow the Lido on Twitter.

Lido Spa products are currently available to buy from the Lido in Bristol and will be available online in 2013. The range includes three types of body wash products, hand wash, hand lotion, hair care and scented candles. Lido Spa has its own Facebook page.

Lido spa bottle shots: Lido Bristol
All other shots: Lottie Storey/Oyster & Pearl


Friday, 14 December 2012

The cake

This year, I'm spending half my Christmas with my husband's family, none of whom like Christmas cake. Nor dried fruit in any form. Weirdos. I have such fond and clear memories of the cake my grandma made each year. The rock-hard royal icing, decorated with the same little trees, reindeer and sleigh every year. I didn't much care for the cake, instead eating the marzipan and icing on its own.

So I'm thinking of making a cake that goes a little off piste. Luckily, I've found plenty. This little lot all look pretty special, don't you think? 

Clockwise from top right: clementine cake, lemon bundt with pistachios, what looks like a Guinness cake, spiced cranberry bundt, a perfect white iced cake (what's inside?) decorated with chocolate trees, rum and prune cake with caramel, the blingiest cake in the world, cinnamon buns, and a chocolate brownie mousse cake. Phew. 

What would you choose? Or is it tradition all the way in your family?


Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Precious {Christmas} things: a series

via here 

We've got our precious Christmas things out of the attic - the shiny baubles, the homemade garlands and stockings. And we've made a start...

This year, our house will be a bit of a split-personality Christmas. We have the tree up now in the dining room, decorated brightly and colourfully. Plus a second tiny tree in the living room (a space now made child-proof), dressed in a slightly more stylish fashion. I'll photograph them soon.

I'm looking forward to the evenings this week as they are uncharacteristically quiet. I plan to write Christmas cards, hang the last of the decorations, to look forward to 2013 with this workbook, finish my online shopping, and to make a wreath and a garland. Like this one:

Has Christmas arrived at your house?

Monday, 10 December 2012

Snapshot: It's beginning...

A few snaps from the weekend which, now I view them together, all seem to feature fire and/or circles:
1 & 2. The lantern parade - a procession of children lighting the way with homemade lanterns, culminating in a hot air balloon glow, a choir and plenty of food and drink. My boys made theirs using battery operated fairy lights squeezed into old plastic bottles covered with tissue paper and ribbons. It was a sight to behold.
3. The brazier used to heat hot toddies made from 12-year-old organic whisky bDà Mhìle - at Antlers Winter Shop launch.
4. The kids painting salt dough decorations.
5. The tree, taken by A.
6. It's beginning to smell a lot like Christmas...
7. Tangled. Every year.


Sunday, 9 December 2012

On ageing

Last week I celebrated my birthday. My father kindly described my age as 40 with a 10% discount. I don't think I have quite come to terms with how old that feels, I'm not really sure how I've reached this point. I demand a re-count.

The day itself was less eventful than the preceding weekend - I was woken by A next to my bed wielding a glow-stick and telling me to come down. I had a lovely breakfast with the boys and opened my presents. Lucky girl, my dear husband framed a few of the old photographs we unearthed last week and these were my favourite presents. I was also given a couple of Donna Wilson pieces, two cookery books I've coveted for a long time, a jar of homemade granola, a vintage metal polar bear, a set of juicy-coloured melamine egg cups, Mad Men series 5, a necklace, flowers, and lots more. Spoilt rotten.

The previous Sunday we went for lunch at my parents. The rather boozy and delicious meal culminated in games as organised by A: 'parsle parsle', musical statues and musical bumps. Well, I think bootcamp is knocked off the top spot - musical bumps is the toughest exercise there is. At this ripe old age, it's a long way down (and back up again). And we picked the fastest songs we could think of, and danced like 5-year-olds at the school disco (by which I mean moving every limb as quickly as possible). To mark the occasion, I have made a musical bumps playlist. It may need to come with a warning...


Tuesday, 4 December 2012

▲ The Tree ▲

I had it all planned. We'd hop in the car, first thing, and head to the Christmas tree farm. The kids would run and frolic in the field, we'd find the perfect tall, green tree. Ben would chop it down. I'd take beautiful photographs. It'd be a memory to treasure, the beginning of a new Christmas tradition.

Best laid plans, and all that... What actually happened was we set off late, rushing and unprepared. Hurriedly arrived just as the kids were getting hungry. I'd left my camera behind. Small people whinged. Actually, big people did too. We couldn't find 'our' tree. Words were exchanged. Eventually we found ourselves at the pre-cut tree section, holding up trees for inspection - 'too big', 'too small', 'too spindly', 'too pale'. I discovered an inner fussiness I'd never before known. A tree was impulse-purchased, some mistletoe too. I now have tree anxiety - is it the right tree? Who cares. Said tree is now in the garden, still in its stocking. It won't go up until the weekend.

But I did manage to take these snaps with my phone, which I consider to be a silver lining. They aren't the joyous, fun pictures I'd planned. They are bleak, simple, ever so slightly Dansk. I like them very much.

Sunday, 2 December 2012


I love December. All that complaining I did about autumn? Not the case with this season.

The excitement in the air combined with the chilly weather. The countdown to Christmas (which begins only after my birthday - tomorrow!). The decorations. The lights. The parties. The food. The drinks (I love mulled wine, all those delicious spices). The traditions. The tree.

It's a cliche but I really do understand the point of Christmas so much more now I can see it through the eyes of my kids. They could not be more excited. And I love being able to provide exciting experience that will become lasting memories - ice skating, hot chocolate, tree-buying (not so much the decorating - that's my favourite bit), new pyjamas on Christmas Eve, panto, films, spending time with family, stockings, gingerbread houses. All that stuff is what it's all about. 

What do you love about December? Any scrooges out there?


Thursday, 29 November 2012

Project Simplify: Declutter diary – days 3 & 4

After a strong start to the week, things inevitably slowed down. Wednesday was marred by the addition of a builder and a toddler – each tricky to deal with but together a bit of a nightmare. And so we did what we could, taking it in turns to finish of bits and bobs here and there in the kids’ bedrooms. Tiny vests and long johns have been arranged. But it was not very satisfying, if I’m honest.

Thursday was a little better – I tackled the bathroom and chucked out all those little sample size bottles of shampoo and body lotion I’ve been incessantly collecting over the years. I know! Ridiculous. I found new storage for the kids’ bath toys, the hot water bottles, the piles of magazines. I stripped the window sills of clutter, moved the plants around, pottered a lot. So then the upstairs was DONE. Finished. Amazing.

I say finished, but I mean that I now know everything we have upstairs and where it’s located. What isn’t finished is the enormous pile of stuff we’ve yet to eBay, or the photographs yet to catalogue, or the art waiting to go to the framers, or a few shelves and hooks that need to be hung on walls.

Nearly there…

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Precious things: a series

Yesterday I went up to London with my father on a special secret mission. As well as seeing Bronze at the Royal Academy, I persuaded my pa to go to Anthropologie with me. Look at all those wonderful things! I bought a little ceramic dish designed like a farmer's market box, a lovely ceramic reindeer tree decoration, and a pair of reading glasses (I fear I have reached the point where readers will become an increasingly necessary accessory). 

Ah, so many beautiful things... Amazing scents inspired by public gardens. Beautiful salt cellar and mason jar snow-globes. A fabulous fringed scarf. This lovely dress. The new book by Tessa Kiros. I was tempted by a copy of Kinfolk, too - have you read it?

It's made me simultaneously panicky and thrilled at the prospect of Christmas. How do you feel? Are you excited? Ready?!


Sunday, 25 November 2012

Snapshot: A Welsh castle adventure

Last weekend we made the most of the sunshine and headed to the countryside. My brother told us about Raglan Castle in Monmouthshire: 'exactly tumbledown enough, but still looks like a toy castle', he described. He was right. The boys loved it, and the foam swords we bought them were the best £6 we've ever spent (although I'm regretting the purchase slightly now I've been on the receiving end of a few sharp lunges).

We scaled the turret to dizzying heights, we picnicked where the great hall would've been, we pretended to be prisoners captured in the dungeons. We didn't, however, re-enact the scene from the Led Zeppelin film, The Song Remains the Same, filmed at Raglan in the 1970s. Instead of prog rock, we headed west with Neil Young and Kate Bush, and came back over the bridge with the Fleet Foxes.

It was a brilliant day, bright blue skies and proper, old-fashioned fun.
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