Thursday, 18 December 2014

Let it go

There was a time when I used to be a bit precious about The Tree. It had to be the bushiest, biggest, most Christmasy tree I could find. Then, decorating it, white lights only. Pretty, co-ordinated decorations. Nothing too gaudy or clashing.

And then I had kids.

This year, the boys decorated our tree. (Kindly sent to us by Pines and Needles, this lovely Nordman Fir shouldn't drop its needles which is a blessing.) They went nuts with the decorations, putting everything they could find on there, including their own homemade cardboard alien decos.

I confess to a small amount of rearrangement once they were in bed, mainly to ensure this year's new arrivals - the most exquisite handmade ceramic decorations from iamsjm* and a burnished wooden letter 'L' from Anthropologie icon- were safely up high.

But other than that? It feels like the year when I have to park my expectations and let it go.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Bloggers Foot: A reflexology review and giveaway

Pity the poor feet of the blogger. Always being photographed in different shoes, different locations. Instagrammed to within an inch of their little toes. Being centre stage can take its toll on the condition of the blogger’s feet, making it extra important to keep heels buffed and toes polished at all times - you never know when those Saltwater sandals will need to make an appearance.

But how do you keep feet happy and healthy? I’ve tried reflexology once before, when pregnant and feeling particularly sorry for myself. It was a relaxing experience, but any kind of sitting down at that stage in the game - even a trip to the dentist - felt like the biggest treat imaginable. Last month I was offered a reflexology treatment from Bristol-based reflexologist, Victoria Davidson of Green Orchid Therapies, and there was no way I was going to say no.

Slotted between my yoga class and my shrink on what I named Chakra Tuesday, the session was a hugely calming hour in what had been a frenzied week. I arrived at The Practice Rooms in Clifton Village, where Victoria introduced herself and made me feel at home in the large, peaceful room. Candles were burning, music played quietly in the background, and the air was perfumed with essential oils.

After a chat about my general health, I hopped up onto the bed where Victoria offered me a warm lavender wrap for my neck. Victoria then cleansed my weary feet with tea tree oil, and began the treatment. Using a reflexology wax made from vitamin E, beeswax and olive oil, Victoria’s technique involves a rhythmic sweeping motion across the foot and toes, resulting in serious relaxation. I tried so hard to keep awake but, deeply calm, I nodded off for a minute or two.

The pressure on the feet was just right - I like a firm massage at the best of times - and there were a couple of moments when I realised these feet of mine had not had any attention whatsoever in years, indicated by the twinges I felt as they came back to life under Victoria’s soothing strokes. The session passed quickly (always the sign of a blooming good treatment) and I was sorry to reach the end.

If you’d like a similar treatment from Victoria, you’re in luck - I am giving away two Green Orchid Therapies reflexology treatments. Just complete your details below to be in with a chance of winning. Winners must be able to travel to Bristol for their treatment, or can give as a gift certificate - the perfect Christmas present.

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OFFER: If you'd like to book a reflexology treatment with Victoria of Green Orchid Therapies, just mention Oyster & Pearl for £5 off your treatment.

Thanks to Victoria for my free treatment. All words, thoughts and images are my own.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

New Year's Eve: an Anthropologie giveaway

Long gone are the days of going out for New Year's Eve. Forget expensive nights spent drunk on pricey booze and expectation - instead, we batten the hatches, hunker down, and make our own fun at home.

Let's get into our pyjamas while the sun is setting, light candles that smell of mulling spices. Bake cakes and cookies to snack on in front of a roaring fire. A midnight feast - the best midnight of the year - all cwtched up together in one big bed, reading chapters of classic stories aloud and making up our own with hand puppets. Hot chocolate for the kids, a dark and stormy for the grown ups.

We have everything we need.

GIVEAWAY: Oyster & Pearl has teamed up with Anthropologie to offer one reader a £50 gift card. Just head over to their site to vote for staying in or going out, then enter your details below.

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Monday, 8 December 2014

Five reads for December

Nancy Mitford, photographed by Cecil Beaton

1. Christmas Pudding

For years, I have adored the Mitfords for their eccentric aristocratic lifestyle, their beauty, and their wit. But, far from being a superficial affection, the things I love most about them are their intelligence and talent. Nancy Mitford's Love in a Cold Climateand The Pursuit of Loveare old favourites, so much so that I packed them in my hospital bag when going in to have my second child - picture me serenely reading as the contractions came and went, without so much as a glimmer of pain showing across my bespectacled face. (That did not happen, by the way. What on earth was I thinking?)

But I have yet to read Christmas Pudding. Recommended by a friend, this is - surely - the perfect festive read.

2. The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis

This book was a birthday present last week. The kind giver told me that a flick through the pages in the bookshop reminded him of my writing. What a lovely thing to say! Fascinating to see your work through someone else's eyes.

3. The Flavour Thesaurus

What if flavours were like words? What if you could unpick them, use the theory of each component part to make an edible sentence no one has ever come up with before? This book is the perfect gift for anyone wanting to broaden their culinary horizons or those who like to invent. I used it loads when developing the recipes for my book.

4. They F*** You Up: How to Survive Family Life

I have always loved that Larkin poem. And I'm a big fan of Oliver James's column in the Guardian, too. This book is such an illuminator; not designed to make family strife worse, instead James gives fascinating examples of various scenarios illustrated by stories of people in the public eye. Particularly interesting is the case study of Woody Allen. The implications of this book are a little frightening, though, and I have been thinking hard about my own kids and their upbringing. Painful but necessary.

5. The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook

Oh em gee! A cookbook by the lover of Gertrude Stein, describing meals in Paris in the 1920s with Ernest Hemingway and Pablo Picasso? It's like Midnight in Paris brought to life. How did I not know about this?

What are you reading at the mo?

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