A Residence Blog

Travel and adventure taking, memory and home making, parenting and play shaking, never faking, tales of family life.

A Residence Blog

Travel and adventure taking, memory and home making, parenting and play shaking, never faking, tales of family life.

The busy person’s guide to keeping friendships alive

The busy person's guide to keeping friendships alive


‘It’s been years!’ she says, and there is a beat, a moment where conversation could go either way. But I start to fire questions, work, kids, other halves and we are soon sprinting across the years, covering ground like shirpas, effortlessly navigating the ravines and carrying the baggage of 20 years of friendship like pros. Before long we have found common ground…we’ve both been dreaming of moving by the sea.


Seeing friends makes you more productive

Last week I met my university friends for a couple of hours while I was in London, visiting the Wayfair UK Offices. I love the peace of working from home, but I find I need to make the extra effort to see people to balance out that time alone. I’ve been thinking a lot about friendship, and how a sudden flurry of catch ups seems to have taken me outside my own head and given me a real burst of contentment and happiness, and how simple it is to organise, no matter how busy I feel. Rather than stopping me from working, seeing friends gave me energy and balance. Rather than taking time out of my ‘busy schedule’, it has given me the energy to get more done.


Could do Better?

I’m not brilliant at keeping in touch these days, I’m slightly worried how any friends reading this might perceive this. Life always seems to have other plans for me and I am always juggling too much. My best friend of nearly 30 years and I can go months and not speak, conversing by brief texts, but see each other and it’s like nothing happened…
Hello Stranger
We need to catch up
Come and See Me?
Around last week in August?
That would be brill.


Making new friends

New friendships have blossomed this year at my running group, conversation quickly shifted from where your kids go to school, to deeper concerns, hopes and fears, as we fill the longer and longer runs as we train together for a half marathon.

Other friendships have been cemented over coffees and cocktails, as ‘work from homer’ you need a local network of likeminded people.

Running and coffee or lunch dates punctuate my work from home week, and always give me new ideas to feed into my work.


Get out, get inspired

Yesterday I put the world to rights in the hot tub, and the conservatory of Eden Hall Spa, with Amanda from the Ana Mum Diary and Becky from A Beautiful Space, we made blogging plans, swapped tips, if only every meeting could take place in a spa, it really was the best place to reflect and I left full of ideas. Being afraid to take time away as a freelancer can be detrimental, I am always reminding myself that some of my best ideas come when dog walking, or when away from my desk, in this case, sitting in a hot tub.


It snowballs

It started with a quick whatsapp message to see who was around the night I was in London. Suddenly my phone seems to be beeping, whatsapp chats are filing moments when I would have aimlessly flicked through facebook. At the same time I text another friend. A message from an old friend I’ve missed pops up on facebook messenger, it’s like the universe has answered. Just a little bit of reaching out goes a long way, and before you know it, it snowballs.

Juggling homes, lives, kids, work can be exhausting, I’m not alone in worrying about friendships, here are some great reflections and tips gathered from other bloggers.


The busy person’s guide to keeping friendships alive

Don’t take it personally when friends aren’t in touch for a long time – life gets busy, but as long as everything is still the same when you get together, then all is well.

Andrea, All you need is love and cake


Show an interest in your friend’s life, even if you are at different points in your life. Don’t ditch them because they’ve had a child and are married, while you’re still partying the night away as a single.

Carolin, Mummy Alarm


Make time for your friends – I’m lucky as my best friend moved in next door to me but before then we used to do tea one night a week without fail.

Cass Frugal Family

I’ve known my BFF since I was 10, I only see her once maybe twice a year. We’re facebook friends but she’s rarely online as she looks after foster kids from broken homes. Her mum lives down the road and her sister I see quite regularly too. But when we get together, it’s like we saw each other last week. We don’t know the ins and outs of each others lives, which is probably why we’ve stayed friends for over 30 years.

Aly Bug, Bird And Bee

My only tip would be that if you’ve not seen a friend for a long time or been in contact and you think it’s been too long, just go ahead and get in touch, chances are they’ve been thinking the same and just let time pass.

Clare, Seasider in the city

I have a friend who I have known since we were teenagers and have been pen pals ever since. The volume of letters has diminished but it’s lovely to write down everything that we have been up to etc like we used to do and received some snail mail

Sarah, Boo Roo and Tigger Too

Accept that your lives will go in opposite directions and you may have differences – especially if one of you is a mum and the other one isn’t. Find your common ground and try to talk mostly about things you’re both interested in.

Donna, Mummy Central

Acknowledge what is happening. State clearly your time is limited now but you still love them to pieces and cherish the time you DO have. That way others won’t think you just don’t care.

Becky, A Beautiful Space

I make a point of sending texts or emails out every 2/3 months and trying to get dates in the diary for a catch up. I suggest morning, lunch or evening choices and follow it through until something is firm. It might sound pushy but I find if I don’t continue everyone forgets as we’re all so busy. It works for me most of the time.

Mari, Mari’s World 

I make my friends a priority. We all have long to do lists and they can get dropped further and further down them as days and weeks and months go by as not as important as other stuff, but, now I make them top priority, make that call, drop that message, meet them for coffee and am always glad to have done so. Life feels more balanced and in control as a result.

Anya, Older Single Mum


Love the Coast? Bring the Seaside Home.

Great British Seaside

I would love to live by the sea, but I am not ready for the upheaval of moving. Recently we visited Brighton, it started a whole discussion about whether to move. I’ve been looking at how to being the seaside home, to land locked Nottingham. I don’t want nautical, I want things that really bring seaside places home.

I studied English Literature along the coast in Hull, not far from Scarborough, the inspiration for Dracula, so reading this makes me want to go back and find out what inspired Stoker. This book art by Bookishly is a quote from Dracula by Bram Stoker,

I remember candy floss the size of my head at Whitby Bay, I was 7 or 8 with no front teeth. Love this retro style Candy Floss maker, to bring the seaside home, just for special occasions mind you! This is guaranteed to make a birthday party, summer garden party an unforgettable experience.

Hours spent at Harlech, in the shadow of real castles,  building sand castles, moats and long drive ways which stretched to the sea.  I love the idea of this collapsable bucket from Wacky Practicals, we are forever buying a new bucket because buckets are a pain to transport. It means more boot space, or more space in your case!

Scarborough again provides the inspiration for this cushion, this time it is the pier.

Do you have a memory of chips on the beach? On our last trip to inland Kent we made a break for the sea, we found the chippy that everyone talks about in Hythe and tucked in, before playing on the groynes. In Blackpool we ate pie and chips in front of the tower after a busy morning in Madame Tussards. The perfect reminder of seaside chips on the beach, this cheeky retro style mug will bring a smile to your lips.

I am forever trying to capture the sea in photos, in brighton recently I captured the kids discovering our old haunts. Throughout his career LS Lowry was overwhelmed by the immensity of the sea and he saw painting it as the major artistic challenge of his life. This limited edition Cushion Cover shows shows sailing boats off the Lancashire coast, where Lowry often spent family holidays.

Do you have a favourite seaside place? I love Dungeness in Kent for its wildness, but I’ve lived in Brighton twice, and visited many times, each time it captures my heart again. Wall art is a lovely way to bring your favourite coastal places home.

You can’t beat a cheeky sailor in stripes, love a good sea pun too!

There’s just one thing left to say, via Leah Flores Photographic Print….

Leah Flores Photographic Print Lets Run Away available at Wayfair UK


The National Trust are asking the public to share why they #lovethecoast, celebrated poet Dr. John Cooper Clarke, has penned the start of a new poem reflecting the nation’s love affair with the coast. The public contributions will complete it, just share your favourite memories using the hashtag #lovethecoast

Breastfeeding Tips by Mums, for Mums

Breastfeeding tips, by mum to mums

In support of World Breastfeeding Week (1-7 August) we’ve gathered together some down to earth and reassuring breastfeeding tips by Mums, for new Mums. Some of the UK’s best parenting bloggers offered to share their breastfeeding tips for home, out and about, and for work; supporting women to combine breastfeeding and work is the focus of this year’s World Breastfeeding Week.

I’ve also designed a little breastfeeding sanctuary, with things to make a corner or two of your home a place to relax and enjoy time with your baby.


Breastfeeding tips by Mums

Always keep a sports bottle of water in places where you sit to feed, I have one in the nursery for middle of the night feeds

A ‘breast vest’ was my best investment, keeps your tummy covered and makes any top into a nursing top.

Polly This Enchanted Pixie

Always check you’ve put your boob away before answering the door to the postman!

Fiona Watch You Grow

Don’t sit down without having your laptop/phone/TV remote to hand! Try to ignore the ‘well meaning advice’ of everyone else, including health professionals, unless there is very clearly a problem. The whole idea of breastfeeding is that your baby and your body will naturally know what to do, so feed when your baby wants feeding and let the rhythm settle naturally. I once heard a health visitor tell the mother of a six week old baby to ‘try to distract her if you’ve fed her within the last three hours or so – you wouldn’t eat a cheese sandwich that often would you?’ It made me scream inside!

Jo Slummy Single Mummy

Find your local breastfeeding support group. Even if no problems crop up, it can be so helpful to connect with other breastfeeding mums. Groups offer an accepting place to get comfortable with breastfeeding in public if you’re not sure about it yet, a place to find evidence-based information or somewhere where you can share stories with other breastfeeding mums and break isolation.

Don’t watch the clock, watch the baby.

Also, keeping a stash of healthy snacks that you can eat one-handed in easy reach can be really useful. I used to get really hungry breastfeeding newborns.

Adele Jarrett-Kerr Circus Queen

Buy a load of cheap Primark/Asda vests, cutting them across the boob area and then wear under your normal clothes. Then you can feed without your tummy on show/getting cold.

Alison Not Another Mummy Blog

Don’t be surprised if your boobs perform differently. You may have one that produces lots of milk and one that just produces. Every woman who breastfeeds is physically different, so remember that a position that works for your tall, slim friend may not work for you if you are small and curvy. Get into audiobooks and/or Desert Island Discs back catalogue for night feeds. I build a nest in the nursery for night feeds with a great chair, low lighting and water/snack supplies, and got out of bed each time. Worked for me. Oh, and breastfeeding makes you smell of a different sweaty scent at first. Don’t be alarmed!

Eleanor The Bristol Parent

Find an appealing breastfeeding bra. I got some rather pretty sheer ones from Top Shop which made the whole thing nicer. Also Lansinoh breast pads, as ones with only one sticky line fall out!

Rachel The Little Pip

Groups are great for support and besides dresses you really don’t need specific breasted feeding tops, any loose top will do. Also in the beginning always have some spare breastpads packed in your bag in case you spring a leak

Don’t listen to what everyone says and don’t stress about any kind of routine, the more relaxed you and your baby are the better.

Laura Side Street Style

Twitter is great on nightfeeds for chatting to other mums and feeling less alone.

Gillian  Baby On Board

Have a bracelet  you can easily swap between wrists to help you remember which side to feed from next time.

Penny, A Residence

Try out the various breastfeeding positions to work out what feels most comfortable for you and your baby. I struggled terribly with cracked nipples initially as the only position I knew of was the cradle hold. I then discovered the rugby ball hold which was a god send! It helped my baby latch on perfectly which finally ended my cracked nipple issue.

Breast milk helps to soothe cracked nipples. Spread a small amount of milk around the affected area and aerate.

A boned breastfeeding cover is a must have for when you’re out and about. It covers you completely and the boning allows you to see your baby feeding which in turns gives your baby comfort. So much better than just a scarf or a muslin.

Karen, Wayfair UK PR Manager

Create A Breastfeeding Sanctuary

Something to keep magazines, books and the remote handy, somewhere to store muslins and breast pads and water on tap.

Create a Breastfeeding Sanctuary Remote Control Organiser, Wicker Storage, Armchair,  PItchersWillow Tree FigurineWater DispenserSide table, Nursing Pillow


Breastfeeding when you have other children

Have a box of toys that are easy for your older child to access, and if necessary play with alone without problems, rotate the toys in the box so it is always a surprise.  I bought a nursing chair second time round and immediately regretted it, you never get to breastfeed in the same place with a toddler running around, and it alienated my oldest. instead, we moved the chair upstairs for night feeds and most the time we made a nest for the three of us on the sofa and had lots of books to read together to hand. It was important to get into a routine that my toddler understood, so I could include and supervise her too.

Penny, A Residence

Sit on the floor to feed (propped up with cushions) so you can play with the first child at the same time.

Gillian Crawshaw  Baby On Board

Breastfeeding  Twins

I found breastfeeding the twins at the same time to be a great time saver, tandem breastfeeding. The trick is to get cushions to help prop the babies up and everything you need to hand for half an hour. Don’t forget to go to the loo before you start!

Mari, Mari’s World


Breastfeeding and returning to work

Remember your rights as a nursing Mum. Your workplace has to accommodate you and many are happy to do so. They often haven’t thought about how to accommodate you so try to think of solutions in advance.

When expressing, tell people what you are doing and why. Don’t be embarrassed. Others are often very understanding of your reasons. I had to continue due to my son’s allergies, so for us it was the right choice.

If you plan to express at work, try to have an extra set of all the necessary equipment already there. If you are lugging it back and forth from home you will inevitably forget some key elements. I forgot the bags once and suffered all day.

Don’t forget to try to maintain the routine of expressing. If you keep missing sessions, it will affect your milk production. Blocking time out in your daily diary may help.

Breastfeed your baby at the start and at the end of the day to enjoy precious time with your baby. Going back to work can feel hard after maternity leave so having that time together will allow for that closeness to continue for you both.

Ushma, Reseach Manager at Brunel University London

Make sure you have a supply of expressed milk in the freezer before going back for your first day (frozen milk last for 3 months) so on your first days you don’t feel under stress that baby hasn’t got your milk. 

baby feeding

Invest in a decent expressing machine – I have the Medela swing which is very good – it can be battery operated too which is handy if you haven’t got a plug near by where you need to express.

Make sure you take a decent supply of bottles with you as your milk will be in more supply without baby there to take feeds! 

Make sure you wear lose clothing, if it’s a hot day a breastfeeding mama will sweat in a whole different way – especially if your boobs are full of milk. 

Louise, Team Lloyd

If you have to go back to work but still keen to breastfeed your baby – electric pumps are the way forward. So much easier, electric pumps allow you to express a good amount of milk for your baby in half the time. I regretted not getting a double pump because when you feed from one breast, the other starts lactating. And as a working Mum, every drop counts!

If you are producing excess milk, express your milk and either freeze it for when you’re out and about or use it in food such as porridge, fruit smoothies etc for your 6 month + baby.

If your baby won’t take a bottle, don’t worry. It’s actually a good thing! After I went back to work my expressed milk was used in meals and given to my baby in a free flowing beaker.

Karen, Wayfair UK PR Manager


Do you have any tips to add?


Picture Credits – Shutterstock – Mother Breastfeeding her little baby girl, Mother feeding baby in nursery, Baby drinking milk.

My Home Rocks: Renovation Bay Bee!

yellow dome lampshade


It really struck me when I put together the products inspired by today’s My Home Rocks, how crisp and zesty the colour scheme is – it really suits a 1960s home, while seeming modern too, but enough from me, meet this month’s guest home!


My Home Rocks because it is full of love and happiness, but also I think My Home Rocks because we have been able to make it into a home that we love.

We moved here about 2.5 years ago and it was like stepping into a 1960’s timewarp, the kitchen was original and the bathroom was completely turquoise and brown, but it was all ours to turn into what we wanted. We have loved being able to transform each room into just what we want.

My favourite room in the house is my bedroom, every house we have lived in we always left our bedroom until last, but it never has been that special. This one I was going to make sure it was special and a room that we could escape to and is just ours.


Main bedroom


Then my next favourite place is my lounge, we had a large stone fireplace with a old gas fire but we transformed it with a solid oak beam and a electric heater which looks like a real log burner. So many people think it is real!


wood burning stove and mirror


Pictures are a very important thing in my home, I love capturing our family and have created a photo wall in the hallway. My visitors also love seeing pictures of us all and when the children were young. The dogs are even featuring in it too!


Simple but Striking Family feature wall-3


Running a house of 5 needs a little bit of organisation, which is why I love my meal planner in the kitchen.


reusable meal planner


Recently we renovated our son’s bedroom, I wanted to push my colour boundaries a bit in his room. So we went for blue, grey and yellow. I could have easily gone for the grey pendant but went for this bright yellow pendant and I so glad I did. He loves his new room and for a pre teen it is a well needed get away space for him.


yellow dome lampshade


Who is behind today’s My Home Rocks?

Stephanie, is a Southampton based wife and Mum of 3 with a love for home interiors and family life.

Renovation Bay-Bee is all about the renovation of Stephanie’s 1960s family home, and lots more.

For more great home inspirations, check out Renovation Bay Bee, follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


Get the Renovation Bay-Bee Look at WayfairUK

My Home Rocks  - Renovation Bay Bee shares her home over on A Residence blog

Valbonne Duvet, Photo FrameEnamel lamp shade, Willow Tree FigurinesChalk Board

To feature your home contact Penny: alexanderresidence@gmail.com

My Home Rocks at A Residence

Travel: Vintage Seaside Wall Art

Highlights of our Weekend in Blackpool  - 10

I smiled when I found some Blackpool vintage seaside wall art over at Wayfair UK. We had an amazing time in Blackpool recently, it has changed and been modernised so much since I visited as a child, but you can still catch so many glimpses of all the eras that went before.

Blackpool Highlights of our Weekend - 06

The beaches are all blue flag, and so clean, the Pleasure Beach is much more organised with lots of new rides, there are amazing sculptures and art installations along the promenade.

Blackpool Highlights of our Weekend - 17

The comedy carpet on the seafront is an amazing piece of interactive public art.

Highlights of our Weekend in Blackpool  - 06

You can still see the traces of Blackpool’s past, the tower was constructed in 1894 and has stunning vintage tiles which remind me of the Edwardian tiles in the bathroom of my old flat in London, so when I saw these vintage Blackpool posters and wall art I had to share them.

Blackpool Vintage Wall Art from Wayfair UK

The 50s style lady in the red costume really encapsulates everything we loved about our visit, the cheeky, slightly dated,  kiss me quick, never ending thrills of Blackpool, you can see it all here, my favourite bit is when Mr G meets Vera Duckworth…

We were guests of Visit Blackpool and The Cliffs Hotel, you can find out all about the amazing attractions we visited and using a Resort Pass to save money here, and The Cliffs family friendly hotel here.

Spicy Sweet Potato Hash with Baked Eggs and Avocado Side



This spicy sweet potato hash is inspired by the incredible brunch I ate last month at Foxlow in Stoke Newington, if you can go do, the food and cocktails were amazing. There is also one in Clerkenwell. I arrived assuming it would be a meaty, fried breakfast fest so I was thrilled to discover this – it was such a taste sensation I had to recreate it.


Brunch at Foxlow


The spicy sweet potato hash I ate was served with kale, but now that kale has had its season, I’ve gone for spinach instead. I couldn’t work out exactly what the seasoning was, but harissa seemed to tick lots of the tastes I remembered, and had a salty, chilli kick that made the kale come alive.


sweet potato hash with baked egg


Spicy Sweet Potato Hash with Baked Eggs

Serves two hungry people, or 4 not so hungry.

Peel and chop two small sweet potatoes, and a red onion, roast them in oil and a teaspoon of harissa until they soften. Meanwhile wilt the spinach or steam the kale in a pan.

Mix it all together in a dish and carefully make dents in the top of the dish to crack an egg into. I cracked four, two per person. You could also make these in individual dishes or large ramekins.

Bake for another 10 mins, check, and bake a little longer if the egg hasn’t set.

Serve with avocado….


Avocado side



Avocado Side

Mash or finely chop the avocado, then sprinkle with lime and blackpepper, and/or a little harissa.

Brunch heaven!


spicy sweet potato hash with baked egg

We had ours served with Mimosas, I will have to work out a recipe for them next.

Puttin’ on the Picnic Ritz

Picnic at Wray Castle Lake District

I don’t know about you but there is often something of a gap between the picnics in my head and picnics in reality. Although, if you read my posts earlier this week, I have vowed to attempt the perfect picnic at least once this year, props a plenty, and I even found my perfect cocktail.

The charm of a tartan rug, the vintage glamour of china teacups, finger sandwiches and scones all neatly laid out in my head like afternoon tea at the Ritz. Children running through fields, taking time to eat while watching butterflies…

In reality it is normally a tuppaware free for all, we all try and keep Max the dog out of the sandwiches, the kids always end up strewing food everywhere and sitting on something messy, like strawberries. Everything is eaten in the wrong order and hastily packed back up with a relived sigh.

You can’t go wrong with something to distract them, while you lay out the picnic to your liking.

Ritz have the perfect distraction, in the newly launched Ritz Crisp & Thin. A Savoury oven baked potato snack with a thin and crispy texture that comes in four tanatalising flavours – Cream Cheese & Onion, Sea Salt & Vinegar, Sea Salt & Black Pepper, and Sweet Red Chilli.

They come in sharing bars and single bags, perfect to add a spot of ritziness to our summer picnics or BBQs. I might drag that old gramophone along to our next picnic after all, I rather like the idea that Ritz Crisp & Thin might make me spontaneously do this:

If you are looking for something to keep all your picnic essentials together, set the tone and create some added glamour, check out my giveaway of picnic goodies, including a 4 person hamper from WayfairUK!

How to progress beyond Gin and Tonic: Blackcurrant Gin Fizz (Giveaway)

Blackberry Gin Fizz Cocktail with Appletiser Blackcurrant and Apple. Just 4 Ingredients


I’m lying on the sun lounger in my garden, sipping a cocktail, watching the bees visiting the clover and feeling less guilty about not mowing the lawn. It’s nearly summer holidays here, but I feel that awful pressure to get stuff done before the kids’s break up. But just like the kids, I need to wind down and my brain has been protesting, so yesterday I caved in….

I think the bees would approve of this cocktail – honeyed fizz with a fruity, brambly kick.

Appletiser launched Apple and Blackcurrant and to celebrate I made Gin Fizz. This is a lovely, refreshing, fruity without being sickly cocktail, so if you’re sickening of Pimms or tiring of G and T, I think this could be your perfect summer drink. The natural sweetness of the Appletiser Apple and Blackcurrant and the honey perfectly balance the bitterness of the gin and lemon.

Blackcurrant Gin Fizz

  • 50ml gin
  • 25ml lemon juice
  • 1 tsp honey
  • Apple and Blackcurrant Appletiser
  1. Fill a tumbler glass with crushed ice
  2. Pour the gin over the top
  3. Mix the lemon and honey together, add to the glass and stir
  4. Top with Apple and Blackcurrant Appletiser
  5. Decorate with a slice of lemon and bramble

lemon and honey for gin fizz cocktail


You could have this as a short drink or a long one. I liked mine over lots of ice, it was a great cooler after gardening. It would make a sophisticated cocktail served over less ice in a martini glass though, which brings me onto the giveaway…


Blackberry Gin Fizz Cocktail with Appletiser Blackcurrant and Apple2

I’ve been admiring the fabulous cocktails over at The Ana Mum Diary too this week, great for gardeners and gin lovers alike.

The Giveaway

Wayfair will send out a set of these stylish Sagaform glasses to the winner. Appletiser will send a couple of bottles of their new flavour Apple and Blackcurrant for you to try, it is really refreshing on it’s own over ice, or in a cocktail.

Stylish martini glasses with different coloured stems, from Sagaform at Wayfair - A Residence Blog


To enter just follow the rafflecopter, and while you are here check out the picnic give-away too!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms and Conditions

There is one prize of a Sagaform 4 piece Martini Glass set from WayfairUk. The prize is non-transferable and no cash alternative is offered. If items are out of stock an alternative will be offered.
Open to UK residents aged 18 and over, excluding employees and relatives of Wayfair and A Residence and AppletiserUK.
Closing date for entries is 12 am 31/7/2015
One entry per person
Entrants must log into rafflecopter and comment on the blog.
Optional entry methods are to follow on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and tweet on Twitter.
The winner will be chosen at random from all valid entries
The winner will be informed within 1 week of the closing date and will need to respond with a postal address within 14 days or a new winner will be chosen
The winner’s name will be available on request
This is a joint promotion between Wayfair and A Residence and Appletiser UK
Entry to this confirms that participants have read, understood and agree to be bound by these Terms and Conditions.


More competitions at ThePrizeFinder – See more at: http://www.theprizefinder.com/content/cocktail-glasses-and-appletiser-blackcurrant#sthash.khSpKaB0.dpuf

Style Challenge – The Perfect Picnic



Today’s style challenge, with three other great home and lifestyle bloggers, is all about alfresco dining, so I have been on a hunt for inspiring items which create the perfect picnic situation. I’ve brought together some scene setting items from home and garden experts Wayfair UK, and some great gear from picnic experts Olpro, who design colourful and technical camping and caravanning gear for the great British outdoors.  I also have some of the items to giveaway, so your perfect picnic is in sight!

I often look at images like this and feel grumpy that my picnics are nothing like this. But it only takes a little bit of effort to transform a picnic into an experience you won’t forget, it really is all about the prep, having the right gear and investing a little bit of time so you can truly relax in style for the rest of the day. We don’t often take the time to do it, but the memories will last a lifetime.


Setting the scene

To set the scene how about cushions, picnic rugs, or I love this floral fleece rug and gorgeous tray tables. What about some lanterns or these LED hanging paper lanterns to take you from stylish daytime picnic or garden party, to an evening gathering? The perfect Summerhouse family cool bag has matching deckchairs.


Setting the Scene for the Perfect Picnic


A traditional picnic hamper is guaranteed to set the scene and once emptied they also make a handy table, just take along a small white cloth to cover.


A wicker picnic basket makes for the perfect picnic situation


Displaying your picnic wares

Olpro asked the public what summed up the Great British Summer when designing their colourful melamine sets, I love the Berrow Hill camping themed set, we had lots of fun with it when camping last year.

How about this enamel picnic set from Wayfair UK for something more vintage? Or the Witley set from Olpro if you prefer something less floral but high on the style stakes?


Perfect Picnicware from Wayfair and Olpro


Always remember a little knife, even better take Olpro’s handy compact chopping board which also doubles as safe storage for your knife. Lightweight bowls are great to empty food into from packets, the Olpro sets come with bowls but you could add this hummingbird salad bowl from Wayfair.



Gimme Shelter

It is absolutely worth thinking about shelter, I can’t think of anything better to retreat from the heat or summer rain than this Olpro pop up beach hut which comes in red, yellow and blue. It only takes 30 seconds to take down, you can watch the video here.


Pop Up Beach Hut


WayfairUK have a great selection of garden gazebos and pagodas if you are looking to create a permanent picnic spot this summer.

To keep the wind at bay at the coast or even on a hilltop, what about an Olpro windbreak? I’ve fallen for this dry stone wall, although I am torn by the picket fence, to match the beach hut, but you can also get one to match the Witley melamine set, or a privet hedge. Great fun for beach, camping or picnic.





What to eat?

Food wise I think simple, and a bit rustic always wins. Good quality ingredients speak for themselves, don’t need much prep and leave more time for picnic presentation.


Great ideas for easy picnic snacks


I love baguettes or home made bread, olives, strawberries, cherry tomatoes, great cheeses, babybels for the kids,  hummus, hard boiled eggs, sausage rolls. Some crisps, maybe some quiche, crudités and dips, slices of cake and lots of summer fruit to finish off. Something cool to drink, or maybe even a summer cocktail.

I like to have something a bit different too! There is something so summery about seeing a child with a slice of watermelon the size of their head, gets messy though so take some wipes, or head for a dip in the sea or river afterwards.


Watermelon makes a fun picnic treat!


Finding the perfect spot

You’ve spent time preparing the perfect picnic, check out these amazing spots to have a picnic, courtesy of Olpro.


Style Challenge

Each month I take part in a style challenge with 3 other home bloggers, the theme this week is ‘alfresco dining’. For more picnic inspiration, check out these great posts on Thrifty Home, Love Chic Living and The Ana Mum Diary.

Who wins this week’s style challenge do you think?

Picnic Perfection - great ideas to transform your picnic to a perfect situation


The Giveaway

To set you on the way to your perfect picnic I have one  4 person picnic hamper thanks to WayfairUK, one Olpro 4 pole windbreak, and one Olpro four person melamine dining set to giveaway.

The winner can choose the 4 pole windbreak and dining set design, but you must let me know exactly which design of each you would like as your prize and why in the comments, you will need to visit the Olpro store using the links above, and choose carefully now!

The simply follow the rafflecopter below to register your entry. Don’t miss my cocktail giveaway!

For discounts and the chance of further prizes via Olpro Picnic Club why not upload your picnic images to the Olpro Picnic Club or tag an instagram photo with #olpropicnicclub?

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Photo credits – 3, 7, 8 – Shutterstock – Picnic with different snacksPicnic with different snacks on a blanket and  Watermelon. 1, 5, 6 Olpro.

Terms and Conditions

There is one prize of a Picnic hamper from Wayfair, Olpro Windbreak and Olpro 4 person tableware set. The prize is non-transferable and no cash alternative is offered. If winner’s choice of items are out of stock an alternative will be offered.
Open to UK residents aged 18 and over, excluding employees and relatives of Wayfair and A Residence and Olpro.
Closing date for entries is 12 am 31/7/2015
One entry per person
Entrants must log into rafflecopter and comment on the blog.
Optional entry methods are to follow on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and tweet on Twitter.
The winner will be chosen at random from all valid entries
The winner will be informed within 1 week of the closing date and will need to respond with a postal address within 14 days or a new winner will be chosen
The winner’s name will be available on request
This is a joint promotion between Wayfair and A Residence and Olpro
Entry to this confirms that participants have read, understood and agree to be bound by these Terms and Conditions.

Olpro Units 4-5, KDO Business Park, Little Witley, Worcestershire, WR6 6LG

Competitions at ThePrizeFinder – See more at: http://www.theprizefinder.com/content/picnic-hamper-windbreak-and-picnic-set#sthash.RJWR37td.dpuf

Garden Makeover Reveal: Money Supermarket Balance Transfer Your Life

A sunny Saturday morning in Staffordshire, June 28th…

Money Supermarket Garden Makeover



I can’t tell you how excited I am about this garden makeover reveal, how amazing it was to work with Money Supermarket on this project to ‘balance transfer your life’ or rather the life of someone very special to me. The medium is the message here, so I am keeping words to a minimum. This was an amazing garden transformation in just a day and the video captures it so well I just grinned watching it, and had a little cry too.  It really is incredible what happens when people work together to clear a job that has been hanging over someone’s head for years, and the best bit is you could nominate someone for this to happen to, more on that later….check this out:



Could you nominate someone for a ‘Balance Transfer Your Life’ project?

Watched this and feel inspired? Anyone can nominate someone for Balance Transfer Your Life. Money Supermarket know all about the burden of the to do list….

When life gets hectic, your mind can become burdened, and it’s easy to let your to-do list build and build. Whether it’s fixing your car or organising a present for your mum, all the little jobs add up, and they can begin to feel like a debt.

It is the same for money and life; a simple credit card balance transfer can take the weight off your shoulders, but we often put off clearing a financial debt too.

If you know someone who deserves a little happiness and peace of mind, then Money Supermarket would love to help them tick off a meaningful task from their to-do list. Simply tweet @MoneySupermkt using #BTYL and let them know who you think should win and why. We’ll choose the most deserving person, and draft in the relevant experts to get the job done (in style). Pop over to Money Supermarket to get more inspiration and see the Terms and Conditions, competition closes 30th August.


About Philips Oakes White Garden Design

Money Supermarket Garden Makeover

Philllipa Oakes White trained in garden design at Reaseheath. Pip is incredible, a real force of creativity and direction, but also strength. She didn’t stop shovelling and digging all day and made it look easy. After working with Pip I immediately decided to ask her to redesign our garden this summer, so I can’t wait to share that with you too.


The hammock

Wayfair UK supplied the hammock, such a great addition to the space and one the children especially loved. We used a wooden post and a tree to hold it up, so even if you don’t have two trees at the right spacing you can still consider one as part of a garden design. As soon as it went up the kids were in it and stayed in chatting, swinging and playing for most of the day.



Sinking a trampoline

Sinking a Trampoline Money Supermarket GArden Makeover - 7

Sinking a trampoline – well worth it to lose the ugly frame and keep the shape of the garden.  It helped that this one was sunk into the space of an old sandpit, which reduced digging slightly. Sadly the trampoline wasn’t quite ready for a bounce at the end of the day, stringing took all afternoon and was a labour of love without the right tools handy. But Annmarie tells me it is in place now and the kids are loving it.


Need some tips on knocking things off your to do list?

You might like this post, I’ve been using the urgent-important matrix recently to better prioritise my time and have found knocking things of my to do list that have been hanging around really makes a difference to my ability to think clearly.

Helps if you can team up with others though, as we discovered. Even if it is a job you have to do on your own, if you team up with a friend and check in with each other on your progress, it can really help.


There were still plants to go in when the fantastic film crew from Captive North had to leave, but with phase one of the garden now complete, I think it’s going to be a great summer for Annmarie and the cousins.

What do you think to the garden? What would you like to knock off your to do list?

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