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.

Britmums, Summer Reads by Bloggers and a Travel Award

Group of bloggers 2 at BiBs party

Katy Hill – Blogger, Radio and TV Presenter, Penny Alexander from A Residence, Fiona from Coombe Mill Blog and Farm Holidays, Sarah from Grenglish, Alison from Not Another Mummy Blog and Helen from Actually Mummy. Caroline Jones Photography / BritMums.


I was really excited to be able to attend Britmums Live this year, it is a gathering of around 600 bloggers. I picked up loads of new ideas for A Residence, both from the sessions and from chatting to other bloggers.  There was less of a writing focus this year, and lots more on social media – let’s face it there are so many to keep up with these days –  but there also seems to have been a book explosion amongst my blogging friends who have been quietly working away at novel writing. So I thought today I would also share that love and let you know about some great reads written by people from the blogging community.

It was really magical to be part of the blogging community in real life for a weekend. I think it is so very important to forge connections offline. Everyone I met agreed it is a little overwhelming, but I felt this year there was lots of time for proper catching up with people whose blogs I have followed for years, as well as those who I have yet to read. People were happy to be in the moment and enjoy the chat, and in the long breaks and mingling time, I learnt as much from conversing with other bloggers as I did in the sessions.


BiBs party garden shot

Garden party mingling. Caroline Jones Photography / BritMums.


I had a lovely lazy brunch beforehand with event sponsor Mark Warner Holidays, who also invited along some of my longest known blogging buddies, plus a couple of people I have been meaning to meet – a perfect start. Foxlow in Stoke Newington was a real find, I am seriously going to have to recreate this mouth wateringly awesome brunch on the blog, and find out how to mix a Mimosa or two…I had sweet potato hash with eggs and an avocado, lime, chilli side. Mari had a breakfast steak and eggs, and Polly from Mark Warner had Eggs Benedict.


Brunch at Foxlow


Blogs really are an amazing launchpad for so many things. Last year with several others I spoke to the Financial Times about our blogging journeys and I led a session about my journey with blogging and WayfairUK. This year it was really inspiring to just observe, listen and soak up the atmosphere. I was so excited to see the progress my fellow bloggers have made, the amazing things they have done to change the world, the creative energy they have, and the projects they have pioneered.

We even broke a Guinness World Record for the most people wrapped up in toilet roll as mummies. A great way to get to know @zeitmygeist and @itsmostlyokay in real life!


BiBS Jen Carol Sus Guinness

Britmums Founders Jen and Susanna with Carole Smillie. Caroline Jones Photography / BritMums.


So blogging and books, let me share some success stories!


Survival of the Ginnest

Aimee Horton and I met at Britmums two years ago, both nervously clutching a pitch to share with a Literary Agent. Having both received good feedback, we discussed setting up a facebook group to inspire Bloggers and Writers. Aimme stuck to it and wrote and published the very witty Surivial of the Ginnest. It has been lovely to hear snippets of her progress behind the scenes via the group. My book is still to be penned, (Penny pun intended), but seeing this lot inspires me to open that door again!


Survival of the Ginnest,” published by Velvet Morning Press.  It is a very witty take on new mumdom, and I love the savvy way Aimee uses facebook status updates to tell the tale. Like Bridget Jones kept score in her diary, Dottie’s struggle with facebook updates and motherhood immediately gain your affections.

Meet Dottie Harris. Dottie spent her late 20s working her way up the career ladder, but things are about to change. In this modern-day diary, Dottie, after announcing her pregnancy, turns to social networking to build a new social life. She quickly begins to rely on it—along with gin—as a way to reach out and remind herself of the funny side of the frustrations of motherhood.



Getting Over Jessie Franklin

BiBs group hug 3

Helen from A Crazy Kitchen won the Food Blogging Award, Ali Clifford spoke about social media management (with Maggy from Red Ted Art), and Stephanie Chapman wrote a book in the last year!  Caroline Jones Photography / BritMums.


That’s Stephanie Chapman on the right above, author of Getting Over Jesse Franklin which is on my Summer reads list, because blogger Becky, from Baby Budgeting tells me it is amazing:

Getting Over Jesse Franklin is one of those books that when you have finished reading you want all your mates to read because it’s so fab and you want to be able to chat about all the characters. Particularly the very handsome Jesse…


What happens when you find your 90’s boyband crush on Facebook, and then add him?

Years ago, Cassie loved Jesse. But he was the bass player in her favourite band and didn’t know she even existed. Fourteen years on, the band has broken up and she’s found him on Facebook, and it turns out that after finally meeting in London, he quite likes her, too. Their relationship quickly intensifies and Cassie and Jesse find themselves in a long distance relationship spanning five thousand miles. But just as she’s beginning to think all her dreams have come true, a misunderstanding tears them apart and as she tries to piece her life back together in London, Jesse is planning a way to win her back with the help of her best friend… and a ukulele.



I used to be cool…now I wee when I sneeze

Earlier in the year, I quite literally bounced into Lexy Ellis on a trampoline, high in the Tree Top Nets at Brockhole in the Lake District, which seemed fitting giving Lexy’s ability to bounce back from tough times, and her incredibly buoyant wit.

She’s won many awards for her blog writing about PND and has been pegged by The Guardian as ‘the one to watch’.  I used to be cool…now I wee when I sneeze is a new hilariously funny and deeply moving memoir about dealing with mental illness while still reeling from the magic of giving birth.  Proceeds from this go to MIND and Time to Change, so fire up your Kindle!

From accidentally breastfeeding the dog to romantic laxatives, therapy and beyond, this is an honest, very relatable and sometimes quite unsettling tale of woe, set in the wilderness of what was meant to be a year spent relaxing, with a baby.  A must read for anybody who likes laughing and also think’s they may be suffering, or have ever suffered with with Post Natal Depression. 



Coming Up Roses

Last year in Corfu I read Rachel Lucas’ first book, somehow she seems to have penned two more, highly industrious. I will be making space in my case for Coming Up Roses, as Sealed With a Kiss was the perfect chick lit recipe for me, down to earth, witty and full of delicious escapism to a Scottish Isle. I can’t wait to find out where Rachel has set Coming Up Roses.


A charming novel from the bestselling author of Sealed with a Kiss, blooming with humour and romance! Perfect for fans of Carole Matthews and Katie Fforde.


Brands at Britmums

It was lovely to talk travel with Mark Warner, Costa Brava Tourism and of course to catch up with the Carnival  team. We were their first funnest family and I was excited to see the team again and hear they are searching for five families to work with on their cruise holidays! Once I got past eyeing up the stripy tops, I learnt that Joules have some exciting plans to work with bloggers, and Merci Maman gave away these sweet keep sake bracelets, do check out their personalised bracelets, we reviewed one here.


joules carnival merci mamam


One last piece of great news from Britmums, the travel site I co-edit Space in Your Case won an award. Plus I just heard A Residence has been nominated in the Amara Interior Blog Awards again this year, for Best Organisation Blog, we loved the awards last year!



Alison from Not Another Mummy Blog, Yours Truly clutching the glass award, not pretending to be a cat, Katie from Mummy Daddy Me, Helen from Actually Mummy


Thanks to all at Britmums for bringing blogging to real life again for a weekend.


#MyHomeRocks: Making Spaces Edgy

Gold and Black head plant pots


I am really excited to have a My Home Rocks home that was featured in the Sunday Times recently, you saw it here first though right?



We’ve been in our home for 2.5 years now. It is a modest 3 bed semi and we’ve worked hard on making it ours. It reflects my love of mid century and contemporary design mixed in with some traditional features.

Our living room has a bold off-black feature wall, giving this traditional space a real edge.

living room with bold off-black feature wall

The exposed brick inside the fireplace was hidden and blending in with the existing wall colour. By painting the surrounding wall black it brought the brick to life. The black makes the artwork really pop and the warmth of the oak furniture stops the room from feeling stark or too monochrome.

The black feature wall makes the artwork really pop and the warmth of the oak furniture stops the room from feeling stark or too monochrome.

I have a slight obsession with skulls and creepy things. My Skull cushions and my doll head planters were added to “punk” up the room a little. It’s a very grown up space, so these just add a bit of quirk and personality.

Skull Cushion

Gold and Black head plant pots

The open plan kitchen/dining room was a big project we did last year. We took the dividing wall down and reconfigured the entire space. It changed the way we used our home as a family and we now spend most of our time in here.

White and Blue Kitchen

The dining room chimney breast wall is my favourite feature in the whole house. The existing wallpaper was stripped and left this distressed plastered wall (which if you look closely you can see Superman flying and a Scottie dog.) We love it, but a lot of people still ask us when we’re going to paint it. Always makes me smile. Definitely a Marmite wall.

dining room chimney breast wall - distressed plastered wall

We have a lot of art in the house which I find is a really good way of adding something of yourself to a home. Our kitchen, although all whites and neutrals has plenty of colour added through books, accessories and artwork. Easy to change if you’re a colour changing fanatic (like me).

I’ve always wanted a bedroom big enough to have an armchair. This chair with its mid-century style wooden frame is perfect for keeping the space open. The feature wall behind the bed is slate and the light fitting is styled with a nod to Mr Messy.

Bedroom with armchair


The feature wall behind the bed is slate and the light fitting is styled with a nod to Mr Messy.

Combining traditional with more quirky contemporary elements and mixing high street with more hard to find items can really lift the overall look of a room. Find ways to add your personality to a space so it reflects you and what you love.


Who is behind today’s My Home Rocks?

I’m know I am really inspired by this home,  I love the top tip about mixing it up, so it really is time to meet the home owner. Karen is the interior designer behind Making Spaces – affordable, achievable interior design goodness and creative home solutions by the red-headed perfectionist. She is a mum of two, to a son and Chooch the cat.

For more great home inspirations, check out Karen’s blog, follow her on facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


Get the Making Spaces Look From Wayfair


Making Spaces Picks from Wayfair

Clockwise from top right:

Graham and Brown Midnight Skulls Flock Wallpaper, Emilio 3 Seater Sofa, 3 piece side table set, Graduate Collection Cushion2 Drawer Sideboard

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

Find of the Week: Unique Wedding Gifts

Unique Wedding Gifts



If you are looking for something a little unique, quirky, unforgettable or unusual as a wedding gift, then let me suggest….

1. The perfect little token to accompany a gift voucher or money gift Art Hearts Demdaco Mr and Mrs-Ornament

2. They will never forget who bought them this! We Love Cushions Pets Rock from Takkoda Mr and Mrs Cushion 

3. How about somewhere pretty to display the wedding or honeymoon photos? All Home Love Heart Photo Frame

4. Chateau Chic Filigree Cake Stand Perfect for weddings with bake offs – a rising trend!

5. This Illuminated Canvas Mr & Mrs Poster On Canvas will make the newly weds home rock!

6. There is nothing more romantic than roasting chestnuts and marshmallows by the fire, create some winter proof love and romance with this Victor Chestnut Roaster and Toasting Fork.

7. I love Bookishly frames, there is one for every occasion, but I love “Reader, I Married Him” from Jane Eyre for weddings.

8. Add Kahil Gibran’s poem ‘On Marriage’ to the gift tag ‘Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf’ and you have the perfect symbolic gift. Mazali Couple Bread Knife

9. Dassie Digi Cut “mr&mrs” Wall art – guaranteed to take pride of place on the mantlepiece, shelf or bedside table. Married people secretly love a visual reminder!

Have you got any weddings to attend this year? Are you getting married?  It’s a quiet year on the wedding front for us, so I will have to hear all about your plans instead!

Mr McGregor’s Garden at the World of Beatrix Potter

World of Beatrix Potter Mr McGregors Garden


Irresistible isn’t it, that gate? I can see exactly why Peter Rabbit ducked under it! We spent an afternoon visiting Mr McGregor’s Garden at the World of Beatrix Potter, in the Lake District. It won a gold at Chelsea last year – of course.

When we visited, ironically the garden had experienced some real rabbit visitors, and as a result the tea room was out of lettuce. I kid you not.


World of Beatrix Potter Mr McGregors Garden


It is actually built on a small roof terrace, overlooking a busy Lake District village street, but it is magical how they have achieved the sense of a cottage garden! I love that Mr McGregor’s tools are left as if he has just popped to the greenhouse for something.


World of Beatrix Potter Mr McGregors Garden


I love the mischievous creatures hiding. Indoors there are beautiful three dimensional models inspired by Potter’s illustrations, good to see some crept outdoors.


World of Beatrix Potter Mr McGregors Garden - 10


The little blue jacket we all know so well!


World of Beatrix Potter Mr McGregors Garden


With its shiny buttons.


World of Beatrix Potter Mr McGregors Garden


The greenhouse looks as if someone could be working there. Like stepping into the story.


World of Beatrix Potter Mr McGregors Garden


World of Beatrix Potter Mr McGregors Garden - 04


I love that mentions of plants in the books inspired the garden…


World of Beatrix Potter Mr McGregors Garden


Small but perfectly formed, and full of charm and life, I am not surprised it achieved gold!


World of Beatrix Potter - 6


A few shots from indoors, as it is impossibly sweet and I have to share.


World of Beatrix Potter - 4 World of Beatrix Potter - 3 World of Beatrix Potter - 2


The model of Hill Top, Beatrix Potter’s home, which you can also visit, with it’s own lovely little garden.


World of Beatrix Potter Hill Top


It’s an attraction you can linger in, or whizz through on route to your next adventure. I thought it was really enchanting!


World of Beatrix Potter Mr McGregors Garden


More information here: World of Beatrix Potter

You may also be in time for my garden give-away with WayfairUK and Dickies workwear.

Joining in with more lovely gardens at How Does Your Garden Grow, click the badge to visit:


Meet the Blogger – Britmums Live 2015

MAx and Penny


Apologies to non blogging readers, but this weekend I am off to a blogging conference to learn even more about blogging. It is customary to share a little introduction to yourself – non blogging readers will find this behind the scenes update either bewildering or mildly intriguing!

Penny Alexander

A Residence (that’s this one!), Parentshaped, Space in Your Case

Twitter ID:


Long and brown


Is this your first blogging conference?
It is my fourth Britmums. In the last few years I have spoken, won awards, delivered a blog post at the blogger’s keynote, been a butterfly and helped brands on stalls. I am really looking forward to just chilling at this one, saying that I have a list of sessions I want to go to and people I want to catch up with. I really love meeting new people too.

Are you attending both days?
Absolutely, I love the buzz of Friday, the glamour of the awards and the relaxed, community atmosphere on Saturday.

What are you most looking forward to at BritMums Live 2015?
It is lovely to see people in the flesh you chat to online and meet new people too, I always leave happy and inspired.

Regardless of whether we win or not, I am thrilled Space in Your Case, the travel site I co-edit with Katie, Alison and Helen is a finalist in travel. So I just want to mark the journey so far with these girls, over something cold and fizzy.

I’ve lost a stone since this picture too, through eating well and running, hence I feel I can nominate myself as Sporty Space.


Scary Space (only because a collaborative travel site was her idea), Sporty Space, Baby Space and Posh Space aka Alison, Penny, Katie and Helen

What are you wearing?
No idea, just something comfortable. I’m still straggling a Summer and Winter wardrobe at the moment – weird weather!

What do you hope to gain from BritMums Live 2015?

Of course first and foremost, it is the people I want to see! Blogging is all about being part of a community of bloggers and social media users, sharing ideas and debating things.

I will be honest, I have felt a little disconnected from the community and I am starting to feel reconnected as I plan for this event. Blogging in lots of niches – across homes, interiors, gardens, food, family, parenting and travel can make me a little dizzy sometimes. But I wouldn’t have it any other way, I’m too easily bored to stick with one niche and love learning about new ideas, tips and trends that start in different niches.

Social media has become more challenging and all encompassing since I started with a simple blog and facebook all those years ago. So Social Media Organisation is on my list as a session. I am also going to the Pinterest session, when I called this blog A Residence I didn’t realise I would end up with so many offers to write about homes, and eventually moving in to a home store, here at Wayfair UK, Pinterest has been a great tool for inspiration, and sharing blog posts.

I’m also keen to learn more about You Tube and Great Graphics. I can tinker with Picmonkey or Picassa for hours – I would love an expert to give me some tips on making them look just right!
I am really looking forward to meeting up with Mark Warner and Costa Brava, and finding out about the other brands exhibiting. Some of the most amazing relationships with travel brands started at Britmums for me.

Do you have any tips to pass on to others who may not have been before?

I wrote these tips 2 years ago, when I was in the welcoming group, the ‘butterflies’. Always introduce yourself, it makes it so much easier! Take breaks, networking is tiring and take some snacks to get you through on Friday!

Hope to see some of you there on Friday!

Bringing sexy back to the garden and a giveaway



Mr A tells me I look hot wielding an electric hedge trimmer, and I mean hot in a sexy, not an overheated way. Perhaps Mr A is just flattering me because he doesn’t want to do it himself, but in my book, there is nothing more satisfying than meaty garden jobs, power tools rock. I secretly love mowing the lawn too, I complain a lot as I do it, woe betide anyone who sets foot on the grass while I am mowing, but between you and me, there’s a lot of pleasure to be had from gardening’s tougher jobs.




Since I invested in the right tools for the job, gardening has got so much easier. I also relish getting rid of brambles and taming the Laurel tree offshoots with the long armed pruning shears, or a lopper – as I believe is the technical name – great stress relief.

So I think today’s garden giveaway in partnership with Dickies workwear is pretty damn hot! Dickies have donated the women’s work boots and trousers you see below. Wayfair have added the gardener’s apron (tools in pocket not included) and the pruning set.


Garden Gear


So now you, or the woman in your life who loves to get dirty in the garden, can be all kitted out for some more serious garden activity.

The synthetic fur lined Rigger boots will keep you snug in Autumn, in sizes 3-12, or you can find the unlined version in sizes 6-12. They have metal toe caps to protect your feet, perfect if you get distracted while digging, as I often do.

The Eisenhower Ladies Trouser, comes with multiple pockets and padded knees, and is specially fitted to the female form. Look good, keep track of your stuff and protect your knees.

This Am-tech 3 piece pruning set is the right colour not to get lost in the garden. This set includes pruner, garden shears and lopper.

I really like this Fallen Fruits Lady Apron, (yes, that’s what it is really called), because let’s face it, although most the time no-one is watching me garden, it doesn’t mean I don’t want to look good. Plus on a practical level, I am always losing stuff.

To enter, just complete the rafflecopter below, I look forward to hearing all about the garden jobs you find most satisfying, may that question not open up a can of worms!


Image credits – woman with watering can and woman mowing lawn via Shutterstock.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms and Conditions

There is one prize of a Dickies Boots, Trousers, Pruning set and Lady Apron. The prize is non-transferable and no cash alternative is offered.
Open to UK residents aged 18 and over, excluding employees and relatives of Wayfair and A Residence and Dickies.
Closing date for entries is 30/6/2015
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 Dickies.
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/gardening-tools-apron-trousers-and-boots#sthash.rOQK71U1.dpuf

Travel: Getting Foxy At Fox Barn, Lake District with Sykes Cottages

Staying with Sykes Cottage at Fox Barn, Staveley, Lake District


Over the half term break we stayed in a gorgeous, cosy, river-side cottage called Fox Barn in the Lake District, courtesy of Sykes Cottages.


Fox Barn


There were some very special fox decor touches, and it really made me think about the idea of exploring a cheeky little theme throughout your house, particularly if your house has a name you can expand on. If your house doesn’t have a name, it could be something you love, a plant that is a big feature in the garden, a local feature, your street name, an in joke you have as a family, a favourite holiday spot.


Staying with Sykes Cottage at Fox Barn, Staveley, Lake District


Fox Barn had two lovely themes, foxes and the Lake District. There were some stunning local photos by a local photographer. Local views, or views of places you love to spend time in, are another good way to make you feel at home or rooted to a place I think.


Staying with Sykes Cottage at Fox Barn, Staveley, Lake District


Fox Barn is a cosy two bed ground floor cottage that worked really well for us, the perfect base to crash after a long day adventuring.  It is really comfortable, very well equipped and dog-friendly.

The handbooks the owners have prepared are chock full of tips for things to do, detailed maps for walks, places to eat and there is even a whole folder for dog friendly places and walks – there are very few places you can’t take your dog in the Lakes. The owners were fab, and even left us some local produce and dog treats as a welcome, they also called to check we had everything we needed and to offer some more bespoke ideas for things to do – lovely touches.


fox barn


There was a cupboard full of games, which my kids loved exploring, and the chalk board was a big hit and became a daily space for doodles about our adventures. Having a small but fairly open plan space made it really easy to relax when in the cottage, yet we could spread out into bedrooms if we wanted some peace.


Sykes Cottage Fox Barn, Staveley, Lake District - 1


It was hard to leave the beds, they were really comfortable, which is vital if you are walking or adventuring all day.




One of the most exciting things about arriving at Fox Barn was discovering it is located on a lovely lane by the river, just a quarter of a mile from some great eateries in Staveley village, via a pretty stroll along the river. There is a small unenclosed area patio area with a BBQ overlooking the lane – however, we were too busy exploring the Lakes to need a garden!


Staying with Sykes Cottage at Fox Barn, Staveley, Lake District


The quiet road soon becomes a path, Staveley makes a really peaceful, un-touristy base, yet is only 15 minutes from Windermere where most of our activities took place.


Staying with Sykes Cottage at Fox Barn, Staveley, Lake District


Of course we had to stop for some playing in the river…the cottage came with fishing nets, a very exciting discovery!


Staying with Sykes Cottage at Fox Barn, Staveley, Lake District


The only downsides are Fox Barn is a flat, so you may get some noise from above, and if you are really, really fussy about interiors, the artex wallpaper might grate a little.

Fox Barn is immaculately presented however, very clean and comfortable, has a newly installed modern kitchen and bathroom, stylish furniture, with lovely quirky decor touches. It’s hard to do justice to a place in photos on a cottage booking site, and it wasn’t Mr A’s first choice initially (he wanted the cottage on a hill with a 4 acre garden, but it was too far out of the Lake District and he hadn’t quite grasped the enormity of my plans for getting out in the countryside – we just didn’t need a garden), but having experienced it, we would absolutely return and recommend this as a fabulous base.

The kids liked the park and we did a couple of stunning local walks, both from the cottage door.


Overlooking Staveley


The best bit was being able to go out the door, walk 10 minutes and be able to get this kind of perspective on the world.


Overlooking Staveley


For more ideas on things to do while staying in the Lakes, check out my Awesome Family Adventures on Space in Your Case or get feel for the Lake District as a whole, and see the moments I will never forget on Parentshaped.

For handpicked holiday cottages like this across the UK, visit Sykes Cottages. Fox Barn is here.


Things to do in Staveley

We loved Staveley it is a lovely peaceful village with some great places to eat if you are a bit of a foodie, you will love it. Our top things to do locally, all within 10 minutes walk:

We loved popping into Staveley for local produce – bread from artisan bakery More? and award winning beer from the Hawkshead Brewery.

Eat at Wilf’s Cafe – it’s an institution in the area for good reason. Great veggie options, food for hungry walkers and cyclists, brekkies and cakes in a really gorgeous riverside setting.

Have a Starly’s Curry – only open on Thurs, Fri, Sat this tiny curry house makes some big flavours. We had a take away and games night at the cottage – yum!

The Eagle and Child does excellent food and is a stunning pub which people travel to eat at. Great veggie and kids meals too.

Don’t be fooled, the Post Office/Newsagents is actually a Tardis, with everything from gifts, to dog bones, to boiled sweets in jars to freshly made sandwiches. The Spar also has most things you need. We also stopped at the Booths on the way out of Windermere to stock up.


Get Foxy at Wayfair

I found myself looking for Foxes, so much so that when I spoke to the cottage owner on the phone, I mentioned I had seen the perfect cushion in a gift shop locally. When I got home I was still hunting foxes, in an absolutely humane way of course – here are my favourites from Wayfair…

Foxy Decor


2 Fox Trot Art Print 3 Balbosar Cushion 4 Big Fox Art Print  5 Fantastic Mr Fox Mug 6&8 Belgian Tapestries Cushions 7 Geometric Fox

A Nation of Gardeners – but what are they thinking?



Sometimes, when people leave comments on the blog, I think to myself that they would make a lovely blog post. For my last garden competition, I asked the question ‘What’s happening in your garden?’ I loved reading all the comments, so many different snippets of stories of gardening life across the UK. Which got me thinking, what if I put some of them together in a post, with some pictures?

You can almost hear it, see it, smell it and imagine it, gardens up and down the UK buzzing with activity…


I always love getting out there and getting my hands dirty. I always feel better after! Claudia

We’ve just bought a house with a garden (we don’t have one at the moment) – very excited! Sarah

Waiting for the bluebells to die away so that I can get the Asters in that I grew from seed. My Livingstone daisies are looking a treat – such beautiful colours. Maggie




I’m clearing a large area of moss infested lawn and sowing lots of wildflower seeds. Plus nearly filled my vegetable patch – just the cucumbers and cucamelons to plant out when the nights are warmer. Sue

I am busy painting my fence in Heritage Blue. Looks great! Once complete, I will attach my hanging baskets. Bring on the Summer! Tracey

A bit of gentle pruning with the power saw… David

Battling bravely against the endless hordes of the dandelion army … Rich




We love mud kitchens, they just have to be rotated yearly in our garden. One year, they nearly dug under the neighbour’s fence. Katie

We made it wildlife friendly, Charlie dug a hole and buried an old washing up bowl covered the sides with rocks and now has a mini pond. He’s hoping for frogs! But so far only millipedes! We also painted shells, stones and golf balls with acrylic paints to hide in the flower beds. I love wild flowers and can’t wait for ours to take. Joanne




Veg are out, flowers planted but weeds are back. I am also doing a daily slug/snail hunt! Anna

Loosing the war against slugs and snails! Helen




I’m ridiculously excited as my garden is no bigger than a modest patio but I’m digging over a small area for which I have big plans. It may well qualify for a record for the most plants planted in the smallest area. But I know what I want and I’m going to fit everything in – somehow – and make sure that all the plants thrive so both the family and wildlife can enjoy it. Susan

I’ve just picked some fresh spinach from my veggie garden for our dinner. Beats shop bought any day. Celia




Potted up the cucumbers I sowed. Hope these ones survive, this is the third attempt…previously the cats and the dogs ate them!  Hayley

It’s our first year with a veggie patch..so far we have planted carrots, potatoes, beetroot, bean and courgettes. Toni

My daughter is 2 so we are just planting dwarf beans, tomatoes, spinach and strawberries on our veg ladder (container garden) Angela




I have planted up my herbs, green beans and tomatoes, the sunflowers are well on their way and at the weekend I did all my baskets, tubs and troughs. Karen

Here in Scotland you really can’t plant anything until the very end of May as night frosts and cold days are still common. It annoys me that garden centres sell bedding plants from April, a good marketing ploy as the plants are likely to die and then you have to buy more ! Karen

In our community garden, in Bethnal green, we are busy planting hedging, seeds for vegetables and planning our big lunch event. Ben




Watching the wisteria bloom. Ruth

I was helping my mum to dead-head the flowers… Very satisfying. Emily

Hopefully relaxing with a drink. Tracey


I’m with you Tracey, I raise my glass in a toast to the Gardener’s of the UK!

I hope some of these mini stories resonated with you? If you haven’t already told me, do: What’s happening in your garden?


If you are in need of anything to furnish your outdoor living space, a gentle reminder that Wayfair.co.uk have a Garden department and daily sales.

Style challenge: Gorgeous Printable Planning Tools

menu planning prinatable in frame with dry wipe marker - 1

Make your favourite printable organisation tools reusable with a frame and dry wipe marker.


The Post Office Shop challenged me and three other home and interiors bloggers – Becky from Thrifty Home, Amanda from The Ana Mum Diary and Jen from Love Chic Living –  to come up with clever ways to use your home printer. Knowing the others would come up with some amazingly creative, stylish and heartfelt ideas – do check them out via their links above – I have attempted to wrack my brains for a slightly different tack. I want to share some stylish organisation ideas.


Stylish Time Mangement printables you need in your life


I’ve been trying to get myself and our home more organised, those who now me know that that perfectionism/procrastination combination can be a killer.  One thing I have really been focussing on, and reading up on, is time management. I was getting  tired of seeing the same of things still on my to do list, and of feeling like my goals, dreams and plans to really move me where I want to be, kept getting put on a back burner. If you recognise any of those feelings, you might like some of these tools, plus they look stylish too.


To do lists

Making a really huge to do list is cathartic, getting it down on paper helps. But…you need to break that list down somehow, or it overwhelms you. A distant, but gorgeous relative of mine happens to be a designer with a whole collection of gorgeous printable planning tools, finding her printable shop has really helped me organise different areas of my life.


I use Alexia Claire’s printables to plan the content for my blogs and my daily to do list. I do a monthly plan for the blog and then look at it each Monday to work out what posts need writing and when. The family planner set is great for anyone who has more than one project or person to juggle! having a planner with multiple columns for each day is great for me  when I am planning content over more than one blog or over social media.


Start the day with 20 minutes planning

The time you spend planning your day at the beginning of each day, or at the end of the previous day is well worth it. If your brain knows what it is doing when, it doesn’t waste energy panicking, worrying and stays more focussed. Although, I am trying to allow some less scheduled time too, as I also know I am a rebel who gets bored of a  schedule!


Take the day holistically, think positives!

When I need to be really on task I like a daily planner, with lots of room to focus. Alexia’s Daily Planner takes the day holistically  – including exercise, food, three positive things (at the bottom so cut out of the pic below) as well as a to do list. It’s also great for reminding you that health is important. Plus it looks great!



Analyse your to do list

If I don’t look at the tasks on my long to do list objectively, then I just end up leaping from one to the next and worrying about things which actually aren’t important, while spending ages on things that really don’t help me get where I need to be at the end of the day. To do this I am trying to use the Urgent Important Matrix…


Urgent or Important?

Look at the tasks you have to do objectively using the matrix below.



If something is urgent and important, we get it done, but It is very easy to get bogged down in urgent not important tasks i.e. people interrupting you to do stuff for them, and even non urgent,  not important tasks i.e. procrastination, checking facebook, leaving the tasks that are important, but not urgent for another day. Sadly often these are important but not urgent tasks are the ones that involve meeting our dreams and goals, or truly moving us forward.

Sometimes I divide my tasks up like this, but what I find quickest, is to have this printed out and near my desk as a reminder. Then when I am ordering my to do list into daily chunks, I can allocate set amounts of time to things.

I am hoping the number of urgent things will fall as I get more organised, leaving me more time to crack on with the more important things in life. Reading a book in the sunshine over my lunch break?

Take a break

Even though my working days are short, because I pick up the kids at 3.30, I am trying to take a break at lunch. Your brain needs that time. I do  some of my exercise during this time too or walk the dog – some of my best ideas come to me while running, having a shower or walking the dog. It helps to prompt your brain though, so I try to do my to do list first thing, so my brain can solve problems while I am doing other things.


Meal Planning

Alexia does weekly meal plans (for when I am really on fire) and I like the addition of the shopping list so you can keep track of things as they run out through the week, ready for next week’s plan. For the minimalists, OllieBird also has a very simple but lovely kitchen themed meal planner here, which you could frame and then use with a dry wipe marker.

menu planning prinatable in frame with dry wipe marker - 2


Health and Fitness Planning

My exercise always goes in my diary too as a plan. If I miss a slot then I try not to beat myself up, but instead I replan the slot I missed somewhere else in the week. Exercise makes me work faster and better, so I remind myself of that when I feel guilty for not being sat at my desk.

I’m currently embarking on my training for a half marathon, so I have also been looking at Alexia’s Health and Fitness planner.

Food diaries can be really useful tools when you are trying a new way of eating or trying to control what you eat. I like this food diary and often print out several copies to stick on the fridge.


Making your favourite printables reusable

Once you find a printable you like, you start to worry about wasting paper, which is why I like the idea of framing some of my favourite tried and tested printables to use with a dry wipe marker. It doesn’t work for everything, sometimes you need the paper to hand. But it worked well for the Olliebird meal planner, and now I just need to find a friend with a laminator, to laminate Alexia’s daily planner.

Do check out what the other’s came up with, and head to the Post Office Shop to stock up on stationary, printers and printer ink!

Travel: Home from Home – The Crown Hotel, Wells-Next-The-Sea, North Norfolk

The Crown Hotel Wells next the sea iphone - 1


I love finding a home from home. The Crown Hotel Wells Next the Sea, North Norfolk has to be one of the best hotels we have stayed in, in terms of its dog and family friendliness, as well as all the boxes it ticks for grown ups too. The decor is gorgeous, it feels like staying in a country home, it is a real luxury treat, yet kids and dogs are warmly welcomed. Visitors without dogs or children are also very welcome and if you dropped in for a romantic weekend as a couple, you would feel equally at ease; it is a great space for accommodating different guest needs, with lots of peaceful nooks and crannies.

The recent refurbishment of this old coaching inn is very clever, our family room was a home from home, rather than a sofa bed for the kids, or paying for a second, and often very expensive adjoining room, there was a little kids’ room behind our bedroom. I say little, it had a single bed and bunk beds, so could accommodate a family of five, six with a camp bed or travel cot. So while the kids do what kids do in hotel rooms (jump, leap and generally get over excited) you can do the same, but in the peace of your own super luxury quarters.


The Crown Hotel Wells - 2


The decor is gorgeous here, and there’s plenty of it to take inspiration from – plump cushions, tapestry on the walls, antique and vintage style furniture. Max the dog photobombed this shot, but it was the gorgeous chair and silver mirror I was trying to show you.


The Crown Hotel Wells next the sea iphone - 4


And I wanted to give you a sense of the wallpaper, lots of layers and textures make the rooms feel really grand and sumptuous. Sage and purple is a really calming colour scheme, but it is kept from feeling too sleepy by pops of red antique leather chair, the ornate silver mirror and light fittings.

There is an enticing view over out to Wells, over stunningly coloured lichen on the rocks, suggestive of the sea, which is only a 10 minute stroll away. We absolutely loved North Norfolk, I will leave you with some links to ‘what to do’ posts later, but there are stunning swathes of unspoilt beach, great food, beautiful villages and chances to get close to nature calling you. It’s an absolutely wonderful part of the world to retreat to. The Crown Hotel really tops all that natural majesty.


The Crown Hotel Wells next the sea iphone - 5


The bathroom was lovely and spacious, I liked the way the window had been turned into a mirror and the gorgeous roll top bath was the perfect way to finish a day of walking and exploring North Norfolk – one day my house will have one too! There’s a shower unit too, tucked out of sight.


The Crown Hotel Wells next the sea - 7


Lucky Max got his own bed, next to the radiator, some doggy biscuits and his own towel, which after a few muddy walks, he needed.


The Crown Hotel Wells next the sea - 2


There were lovely treats for us too, tea, coffee, hot chocolate and flapjacks!


The Crown Hotel Wells next the sea iphone - 2


There is even a thermos in case you want to take a warming drink on a brisk sea walk with you!


The Crown Hotel Wells - 1


We loved that the dining room was full of books. Kids’ books as well as grown ups’ books. I think books really make you feel at home. There was even a wicker basket of baby and toddler toys at breakfast time.


The Crown Hotel Wells - 5


The children were the only ones in the restaurant when we dined, but were treated really brilliantly by the staff, like mini adults. It was fascinating to see how well they responded to that, they even tried some new foods. The food was as incredible as it sounds on the locally sourced and seasonal menu.

Dogs are welcome in the less formal, but just as enticing bar area, which also has larger tables for dining. I love that shabby chic chest, there’s a lovely nautical feel to this room, you could imagine the characters who might have travelled through when it was a coaching inn.


The Crown Hotel Wells - 6


I will leave you with the willow pattern breakfast tea cups, which again, with the lovely pine tables, made me feel very at home, admittedly they are nothing like my home, but they reminded me of my Grandmother’s home, which is a very good home feeling indeed.

I think that hits the nail on the head of what I liked most about The Crown: it feels lived in, like staying with a really grown up relative, who has invested in great antiques, classic and comfortable furniture, plus has the time and life experience to layer together lots of lovely home inspiration with pieces that tell a story. Oh, and did I mention they happen to live by the most stunning stretch of British coastline too?


The Crown Hotel Wells next the sea iphone - 6

Get the look!

Inspiration for the home is everywhere, here are some of my favourite picks from Wayfair.co.uk, inspired by our stay at the Crown Hotel, Wells-next-the-sea.

Crown Hotel Wells

Clockwise from top left: D and J Simmons Berkley MirrorAncient Marnier Vintage Studded Leather Chair, Urban Designs table lampOceans Apart Recycled Trunk Chest.


Need to know

The Crown Hotel, Wells-next-the-sea, North Norfolk

This was part of a review weekend organised on behalf of Visit North Norfolk. You can see what we got up to in North Norfolk, when we weren’t being spoilt rotten at The Crown here, here and here.

Older Posts     |