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 Perfect Situation: Afternoon Tea Offer


A very British ritual, I absolutely love tea and cake served on the kind of plates and china tea cups my Grandma once had. I missed a good friend’s 40th birthday party so we met for tea and cake to celebrate. The Coffee and Walnut cake was incredible. But i also love a Victoria Sponge, a Bakewell tart or a Lemon cake.

I was always a little sad not to have any of my Grandma’s china after she died, but there is also a part of me that thinks we should move with the times. I’ve picked out some of my Wayfair favourites, all modern takes on vintage afternoon tea. Basically anything by Ulster Weavers is beautiful, unusual and guaranteed to become a talking point, once you get past the cake of course!

Follow Penny’s board Afternoon Tea on Pinterest.

Champagne Afternoon Tea Offer

The Cavendish Hotel was a great base after a busy day sightseeing in London, do read more about the decor in the lounge and our experience of staying as a family. A Residence readers can book champagne afternoon tea in the amazing lounge for only £20, normally £30. A perfect way to escape the hustle and bustle of shopping around Picadilly Circus, or to enjoy a break from sightseeing this summer. Just quote A Residence on booking, call 0207 930 2111 or tweet @Cavendish_Hotel and @AResidence.

What do you like for afternoon tea?

House Fantasy: La vita e’ bella


Penny Italy tablecloths

I love Italy, I’ve been to Tuscany, Bologna, Genoa, Venice, Rome, Verona, Lake Garda, Sicily, Milan, Italians always make style and taste appear effortless. So for this week’s house fantasy I went to the wise and wonderful Mari for some input on all things Italian. She lived in Italy for over 20 years and still has family living there. She blogs about here life at Mari’s world and also writes a joint blog Folgaria News with her grown up daughter who lives in Italy.

Mari and I met at a blogging event, and have got to know each other better by climbing Snowdon together and being Panasonic Ambassadors, she even gave me an ironing lesson. We randomly found our caravans next door but one at Camp Bestival, clearly the world wants us to hang out more.

I was intrigued to read that Italy taught Mari ‘that food is the focus of the family, it brings everyone together and is a moment where stories are told, where bonds are strengthened and where laughter happens’ so I was curious to find out what she keeps of Italy in her UK home. Over to Mari:


Mari raising her glass at a wine tasting, she is also a Lindemann’s wine ambassador.

My home is littered with lots of Italian things as it’s such a huge part of my life but when I nailed it down to a few products I came up with:

Tablecloths – because Italy is such an ‘eat together’ nation, where the family sit down and enjoy food together for long periods of time. The table takes on an important part of these regular meetings and one thing that always goes on is a table cloth, even the garden table for eating ‘Al fresco’  - that’s Italian by the way ;) Even garden tables have the oilcloths on them.

Penny Italy art

Art. Wherever you go in Italy you will find lots and lots of art, museums, churches, walls and family homes too. I used to love visiting my friend’s houses so I could see their art and ask where they’d got it, some were inherited, some bought on a holiday and some done by themselves.

Penny Italy whistle from Puglia

Italian Art with a romantic story

Ceramics – yes this piece is broken, it’s been hit by balloons, and a flying fairy so it’s a bit worse for wear these days but I hope to go back one day and replace it. This beautiful object is a whistle, you blow through the top. It has a story as they were traditionally made by a boy to give to his sweetheart as a sign of his undying love and engagement. Isn’t that sweet? I also have LOTS of bowls and platters from Italy, beautifully coloured.

Penny Italy moka and coffee cups

Lastly EVERYONE knows how important coffee is to an Italian and when you visit someone’s home they will make a moka and serve the coffee in these little espresso cups.

Thank you Mari!

I love the simplicity, the beauty and the colour of Italian homewares, and that they are built to do their job while looking good.

Wayfair have a gorgeous collection of Italian Style Dining table and kitchen ware. From ice cream and expresso makers to ravioli tins and pasta makers, you can really embrace all the amazing things Italy has to offer. Or if you prefer some simpler touches, how about a tablecloth, this is by Woven Magic, a parmesan grater, a bread basket, an oil can drizzler, Alessi heart shaped ice cream spoons, and a Moka Expresso maker?

Italian Style dining

Do you have any Italian influences in your home? What would your Italian house fantasy involve?

Easy Campfire and Fire Pit Cooking Ideas

fire pit cooking

There’s already a bit of a chill setting into Summer; I am typing this in a jumper. I wanted to master some fire pit cooking to extend our Summer in the garden and to recreate our camping adventures at home.  Fire pit cooking brings a bit of the wild to the garden and best of all, it’s great fun.

I love this particular fire pit we’ve been reviewing, from Wayfair, because it has a shelf above to let you cook things above the heat, the best things to cook are  the things you can wrap up and forget about while you chat or play. That’s the beauty of a campfire or fire pit cooking, compared to slaving over a BBQ. Its’s still great grub too, with a bit of practice I can see my tinfoil parcels getting much more gourmet!


Here are a few simple and satisfying dishes I would recommend for fire pit cooking:


Jacket potatoes – wrap them in foil and stick them in the fire to roast, perfect with some butter and/or grated cheese, maybe chilli once Autumn sets in.

Sausages – wrap them up in foil, pop them on the shelf and let them sizzle. Add some herbs if you are feeling adventurous.

Mushrooms – Wrap in foil parcels, with a splash of oil and some thyme or other herbs from the garden.

Halloumi – I baked mine in tinfoil, but you could also stick it on a skewer above the flames to give it that perfect browned finish.

Baked chocolate bananas – Slice down the the long side of a banana and stick chocolate into the banana then bake in tinfoil. Bliss.

S’mores – biscuity, chocolately marshmallowness, how did I not find these sooner in life? You can find out how we did that here.


how to make s'mores



What do you like to put on a campfire?


Firepits come in all shapes and sizes and even include gel fire pits. Wayfair have dining, cocktail and coffee sized tables with fire pits as well as a simple free standing fire bowl.

The one above is the Wayfair Harlin Small Firepit £149.99. See the full range of fire pits here.

Responsible Rockpooling and Crabbing with Colin the Crab

colin the crab

Ah rockpooling, the stuff of proper childhood Summer holidays. We loved this little book from Gone Crabbing, the Norfolk and Suffolk based company who create British seaside inspired gifts and clothing. I will leave the address below, in case you are visiting!

At this time of year so many kids are rock pooling, so doing so responsibly is an important message to communicate.

The book is a hardback pop up, but the level of text was enough to engage both my 5 and 7 year old, and the story and pop ups made them really take notice and empathise with Colin’s need to stay with his friends, so a perfect book for all ages.

colin the crab responsible rock pooling

We also love Gone Crabbing’s hoodies and t shirts featuring Colin and friends, and reviewed them here and here, so do have a look at them in action by clicking on the links!

A lovely story which teaches kids to respect the creatures they meet at the seaside, one for every summer holiday suitcase I would say.  You can order here.

colin the crab 3

The quirky mug was also welcomed into our collection and the Totally Clawsome lettuce soap smells very crisp and fresh!

Check out this fab and funny and humane How to Go Crabbing Guide

Happy rockpooling!

Gone Crabbing

Do check out the shops if you are in Norfolk or Suffolk! Any rockpooling tips? Mine is this beach. here!

Gone Crabbing, 7 Dalegate Market, Burnham Deepdale, King’s Lynn, Norfolk PE31 8FB phone: 01485 211111

Gone Crabbing, 64 High Street, Southwold, Suffolk, IP18 6DN phone: 01502 722400

How to Katch Up without the whole world seeing


Sometimes you want to take photos of people and not share them with the whole world. If you blog then you have to be a bit creative with it. I came up with a few ideas over a weekend away with my best girlfriends from Uni, they are amazing, beautiful women, but not all keen to be all over the internet. I totally respect that, being mysterious has its allure as you will see.


This was an incredible weekend, I would go so far as to say a retreat, we met at a cottage in Cambridgeshire, with amazing food, drink and company and we didn’t leave once, it was an amazing catch up – we talked and listened, we laughed, cried, hugged, celebrated births and birthdays, commiserated over losses, danced, shared tips, set goals, we put the the world to rights.


I returned a new woman, but more on that in another post, and more of the cottage itself in another post, instead I want to focus on Katch Up. It’s a way to share photos without the whole world seeing. It’s simple to join, it creates a pretty timeline, which I love as it is really Pinteresty.  We stayed in a beautiful cottage which wouldn’t look out of place on Pinterest!

There are all my arty shots, but below that are all my portraits of my stunning friends which I can look back on in years to come. We’ve been friends for nearly 20 years and meeting yearly like this for at least five.

Katch Up

Katch Up

I love that I managed to capture them making Pimms with a tea cup measure!

Now I can add simply add their emails in Katch Up from my email account and easily share all the shots with them. Katch Up is also a really nice way to keep an online scrapbook of my memories. It’s so easy and intuitive to use. So I think even my Dad will like it. More on using it to share my Brother’s wedding shots in another post.

I love the arty shots, I love the glimpses, but I want to see my friends smiley faces too, which is where Katch Up comes in. We have already shared a few pics in our What’s App group, another great way to stay connected, but I think my huge collection of over 100 snaps would take too long to share on What’s App!

Screen Shot 2014-08-13 at 10.41.59

I will leave you with some more shots which I think will make you wish you could see more, of this amazing house and our amazing weekend.

The first thing I saw when I woke up in my perfect cottage bedroom, after a cup of tea and putting the world to rights with my roomy A, was more of the girls having breakfast in the sun.


Later I spied these two chatting from another tea lit window…



And I woke up from my post Pimms and afternoon tea Saturday siesta to hear giggling and people gathering for a BBQ under the trees.



It’s nice to have managed to share some memories really quickly and easily.  And for the recipients to know they can keep going back to them on Katch Up.

Some little windows into my weekend. This is the first time we have got together in the school summer holidays, it made a world of difference to me. Hope you are having a lovely holiday and managing a bit of me time.


Katch Up Giveaway and Premium Membership Offer

I would love you to be able to try Katch Up, it’s free. If you sign up now you could win a family holiday to Martinhal resort Portugal with flights from Monarch, an iPad or a Canon EOS 1200D Camera!


This code unlocks 50% off Premium Membership and can be entered upon registration, or in your account settings if you are already a member of the KatchUp family.

Current and new users should enter the code now. Premium Memberships will be ready by the end of August. Until then users can still upload photos and videos, taking advantage of the huge 1GB of storage available to them for free. Once we have KatchUp Premium up and running, you’ll automatically get an email from our team letting them know they’re ready to upgrade to Premium.

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