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.

Superhero Bedroom Update

superhero bedroom


Ah the sleep of the summer holidays! Just two more to go…

Mr G’s room was in need of a bit of an update this summer. It’s a mammoth task as he hasn’t got to the stage where he can rationalise or part with stuff easily – his sister seemed to suddenly do it around 6/7 – so his room is a real explosion of treasures, lego, toys and random finds.

The main thing was to replace the traffic themed wall stickers he had had since he was tiny.  We went for a superhero bedroom update, with a twist. We ordered an army net of the the internet, an Incredible hulk lamp and some wall art from Wayfair. The Hulk Tales to Astonish Plaque looks great next to this Hulk nightlight. Wayfair’s range of Hulk wall art is pretty incredible!

Mr G chose the wall art himself, but we did try and lead him towards wall art that would last him a long time – choices that will still be cool when he is a teenager. The Batman Wanted wall art looks great above his desk, next to a little Batman canvas he already had. There is a huge choice of cool Batman wall art at Wayfair.


Superhero Children's Bedroom Ideas

As you can see, his room is generally a bit of a mess, he’s a 6yo boy and I really don’t believe in overstyling kids’ rooms for makeover pieces, I like to keep it real. But what you see is that the camo net, incredible hulk light and wall art creates a focal point and pulls your eye away from the mess on the floor.

Now when I walk past I think ‘cool’ instead of ‘really must tidy up’.

Superhero Children's Bedroom Ideas

We’ve also added more shelves, including a printer’s block for tiny treasures, a big shelf we took out of the hallway, which is perfect for his lego, and a large book shelf Mr A wasn’t using in his office. The extra storage is really helping to reduce the amount of stuff on the floor too.

Next step is to replace his bedding and get some curtains. I am looking to find something that isn’t all out cheesy superhero.  I want something, like the wall art, that he can grow up for a good few years with and that won’t clash with what is already there. Any ideas on colours? Let me know if you’ve spotted anything.

I spotted this Comic Book Strip Cushion while browsing, great for a superhero bedroom update, new in at Wayfair, and there are lots more to choose from.



7 magical ways to live at home like you do on holiday

Mark Warner Levante - Pancakes

Pancakes at Mark Warner Levante Beach resort, Rhodes


The first thing we did yesterday was make pancakes for breakfast. It was the kids’ idea and it really was a lovely way to recreate the pancake station at Levante and the crepes we ate in Paris. Yes we’re back from a summer of magical travel blogging adventures, first Levante, Rhodes with Mark Warner Holidays, a 10th wedding anniversary at Holbeck Ghyll Hotel in the Lake District and then Camping La Croix du Vieux Pont in France with Canvas Holidays*. If you need a good pancake recipe I have two, including the egg and banana healthy version too.


pancakes levante

L enjoying Pancakes at Mark Warner


It got me thinking, there must be other ways to recreate that holiday feeling at home, how can we live at home like you do on holiday?  My first thought after a holiday is always to try and get everything done at once, I was so fed up when I lost the kids’  uniform order I had nearly done on my phone on our first night back, but in some ways I’m glad I lost it – it prompted me to unwind more slowly and keep hold of some of the holiday habits that made me happy.



Cocktail hour

Summer Breeze at Levante


Why not recreate your favourite drink to bring some instant warmth to life back at home? Mine would be a Summer Breeze just as I drank by the pool bar in Levante, Rhodes, as sun slid into the sea and the kids took their last jumps into the pool.  Or a Mai Tai sipped on the terrace, overlooking the pool as we wound down after a day’s watersport or swimming, waiting for the feast that is the Levante buffet to unfold. Or a dash of cassis syrup in white wine, as I drank when we visited my cousin who lives in France. Her husband used to be a chef, I loved that as we got close to dinner being ready they would press an aperitif into our hands and offer round some snacks – crisps, almonds, melon. Starting dinner like this was such a lovely ritual.



Cook something you loved

Apple Torte - there was no stopping Mr A tucking in if this was served for Kid's Teatime at Mark Warner

Apple Torte – there was no stopping Mr A tucking in too if this was served for Kid’s Teatime at Mark Warner


Find the recipe for that dish you loved on holiday. I’m cheeky and always ask the chef if I really fall in love with something. Whether it’s old fashioned Devon scones, Greek Salad or baked camembert, discovering new food can be one of the best things about a holiday. I brought some lovely Greek recipes back from Mark Warner Levante, where the food was incredible, and I can’t wait to try and recreate them here. I’m also on the hunt for a Tarte Provencale recipe after eating an incredible one in a cafe in Paris. Last year I recreated the food we ate at Corfu Club and the courgette and feta crustless quiche is still one of my favourite dishes.

French Breakfast is one I want to recreate at home at the weekend.


French breakfast at Canvas holidays

French breakfast from the bakery at our Canvas holidays campsite



Fresh sheets

Relaxing in the suite at Levante

Relaxing in the suite at Levante


You can’t beat the feeling of crisp white sheets after a day in the sunshine. Being your own housekeeping department again is less fun, but having freshly laundered sheets reminds you just how wonderful clean sheets or a new duvet cover can be. Coming home to your own bed after a holiday can be a treat, especially if you have spent anytime in a tent, I really missed Camp Bestival and camping this year.



A magical vista

View over Windermere from Holbeck Ghyll Hotel

View over Windermere from Holbeck Ghyll Hotel


I often find myself missing the sea or stunning views when I come home. Seeking out the amazing views near to you that you can reach quickly can help, mine is a hill top a short car journey away, or the sun setting over the river which I can reach by foot. An open window, just a for a few minutes at the start of the day, or a cup of tea in the garden, bare feet on the grass, if the weather permits, before the world wakes up, can help recreate the same feeling of waking up to a new world.


Feeling on top of the world, my favourite hill top in Nottingham.

Feeling on top of the world, my favourite hill top in Nottingham.



Watch the sunrise

sunrise  levante

Sunrise at Levante


Getting up early to see the sunrise, taking a siesta, watching the sunset, marking the evening with a shower and a change of clothes. They may not be practical everyday, but why not try to cultivate some of those holiday habits now and then?



Permission to relax

Create a distraction free reading sanctuary or place to lounge – whether it is a lounger in the garden or a corner of the living room, why not spend some time creating a corner to truly relax in? We spend more time idly reading on holiday,  give yourself space to do that at home too. I am giving away a Swing Seat on the blog, which can go inside or out – that would be my ideal retreat.


Have you got any other ways to live at home like you do on holiday?


*We were guests of Mark Warner and Canvas holidays.

Recipe – Strawberries & Cream Picnic Pots

strawberry picnic pots


Summer seems to be fading fast but these mouth watering deserts created by Helen of The Crazy Kitchen  are the perfect pudding to capture the last sweet moments of summer, and to remind us that we’re still in August. If the sun reappears they are also perfect for a picnic. Over to Helen…

My Mum used to make a similar [but larger] version of this summer mousse-like dessert on a regular basis. It would be one of those ‘wow’ moments when it was presented on the dinner table, and we never tired of it. Of course, it could be quite a messy business if you took a whole cream pie on a picnic, but making individual desserts in lidded jam jars takes care of both the transporting and serving – just remember to pack the spoons.


strawberry picnic pots

If you prefer, you could replace the strawberries with raspberries, oranges, mango or pineapple.
This will make 4 good sized desserts in 400ml jars similar to these Wayfair preserving jars, and takes just minutes to prepare.


Strawberries & Cream Picnic Pots – 4 servings

1 sachet of vegetarian strawberry jelly granules/crystals

125ml boiling water

200ml double cream

100ml Greek yogurt

150g strawberries

8 shortbread fingers



Add the jelly granules to a small jug

Pour 125ml of boiling water into the jug, and stir continuously until dissolved

Set the jelly aside to cool for 5 minutes

Pour the cream and yogurt into a large bowl

Gradually add the jelly, whisking as you pour, until the jelly is fully combined

Set 4 strawberries aside, and then hull and coursely chop the remainder

Gently stir the chopped strawberries into the jelly & cream mixture and place in the fridge for 20 minutes, or freezer for 10 minutes (if you’re impatient like me)

Remove the bowl from the fridge & stir gently to disperse the strawberries evenly – the mixture should hold the strawberries now, if they sink to the bottom return to the fridge for another 5 minutes

Crush 2 shortbread fingers and place the crumbs in the bottom of a jar, and repeat for the remaining jars

Spoon the creamy mixture onto the shortbread crumbs, and return to the fridge until completely set

Before serving, place a strawberry on the top of each dessert


strawberry picnic 2


Thrifty and easy ways to update a kitchen

Thrifty and easy ways to update a kitchen


Cupcake storage jarRed kitchen binToaster SaucepansWall art and Display rack

Today’s post on thrifty interiors comes from money saving expert Emma at Mum’s Savvy Savings, I have a couple of lovely guest posters for you to look forward to, while I am on holiday.

Getting bored or tired with your home interiors doesn’t mean everything needs to be replaced and it can be easy to give a room a makeover on any budget if you know the tricks.  The kitchen is especially easy to update without ripping out the units and taking on a second mortgage to pay for it.  For many a new kitchen is a very big expense and something we only dream of, but you can update the room for much less than you probably think.

Injecting some colour with a few key accessories will transform a room and in this post I am going to show you just how you can achieve a new look on a minimal budget.  My mantra is ‘to live more thrifty life does not mean going without’ and therefore to live by this I just try to make smarter consumer choices.  I will keep an eye on trends or styles I like and then look at how I can recreate it within my price range.  Again for me personally being thrifty does not mean opting for the cheapest but rather I am looking for where I can get better value for my money.

WayfairUK has a huge kitchen department and it was easy to pull together some key colourful pieces that would add a splash of colour to my worktops which are a neutral colour.  Bold primary colours will draw the eye and can make a impressive impact with only a few pieces.  If using bold colours less can often be more as you don’t want to make the room too busy for the eye.  Bold splashes of colour can be used well in smaller or large kitchens.  A colourful bin in a utility room also pulls the two spaces together and stops the utility looking like a dumping ground that you shut the door on.  Firstly I spotted the wall art which acts as a back drop for any colours you add.  The shapes reminded of Orla Keily products which I like.

The toaster adds to the colour splash in the kitchen but will also complement the new saucepans as both are stainless steel.  Shiny new saucepans will immediately update a kitchen and make it feel new and the impressive sale price of just £71.99 from £242 should have you smiling too!

The display rack is perfect for both storage and adding a focal point, you could use coloured plates you already own.  Along with this if you have a shelf in your kitchen you can get the Douwe Egberts limited edition coffee jars which have been designed by Orla Keily.  These look great on the shelf with some kitchen utensils in or some pretty garden flowers.  These jars make a great feature and cost nothing more than the usual coffee jars from the usual supermarkets.

Thrifty and easy ways to update a kitchen


Lastly I can’t finish without sharing the bargain of the month I spotted.  The cupcake storage jar is reduced from £28.14 to just £9.22 and all kitchens need somewhere to store cakes made lovingly by their children over the school holidays.

So there you have my tips on how to update a kitchen on a budget. What room in your house would you most like to give a thrifty makeover to?

Don’t be afraid of colours – carnival inspired interiors

notting hill carnival


With Notting Hill Carnival on the horizon, it’s time to think about how to hang on to the last colourful blasts of summer. When I lived in London it always signalled the end of the school summer holidays, a last long weekend before returning to teaching in September.

Apart from looking at carnival inspired interiors today, I’ve also got an amazing item to give away, so one lucky winner can create their own home carnival corner.


Tips for using bright colours at home


Inspired by Notting Hill Carnival I’ve been on the hunt for more zesty, bright and oh-so-full-of-the-joys blasts of colour for the home.  I’ve also taken inspiration from the colourful streets of Notting Hill.


Notting Hill Portabello Road


What’s your favourite colourful item at home? I love our red chairs which I shared last month, they’ve definitely encouraged us to add more colour to our home. Our Moroccan theme, in what was the playroom and is now a family den, also brings some great colour.

My favourite find has to be this Hammock Heaven hanging seat which comes in a great range of colours and can be hung inside or out. It’s the perfect way to hang on the carefree days of summer. And yes, this is what I have to give away today. Long live summer!


Hammock for indoors or out



Tips for using bright colours at home


Bring some colour into your home with interiors inspired by the colours of Notting Hill Carnival


If you are nervous about colour start small or with one piece and build up over time. Just like with clothes, as you gradually introduce more and more colour you will become more comfortable and confident.

Rugs are a fun way to introduce carnival inspired interiors and quickly update a room.

New cushions are a fun and cheap way to introduce a blast of colour into a space.

Coffee tables are a way to sneak in some colour, this vibrant purple side table can be toned up or down with coordinating or clashing mats, coasters or ornaments. Go for creams to calm, blacks to create a more sophisticated look or clashing colours for fun.

Occasional chairs are a fun way to create a colourful corner or summery retreat, without taking over a whole room. Create a home office you want to work in with a lime swivel desk chair, this blue rattan chair would look fab in a conservatory with floral cushions, and the Purple chair could smoulder in a corner of the living room, all three are available in different colour ways.

Dining chairs are another great way to introduce colour, go for a chair with different colour way options to brighten a kitchen, like the yellow Angel L dining chair below. The kitchen is another area where it’s really easy to experiment with colour, I love this purple kettle.

Light fittings can also be a fun place to play, this yellow pendant light would bring a blast of sunshine into a kitchen.


Notting Hill is also known for its feathers, so apart from carnival inspired interiors, check out my feathery finds too!

What’s the most colourful thing in your home?


The Giveaway

To win a hammock swing seat, just tell me what your favourite colourful item at home is and complete the rafflecopter. Check out the desk give-away too.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms and Conditions

There is one prize of a Hammock Heaven Hanging Chair. 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 Brabantia.
Closing date for entries is 31/8/2015
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.
Entry to this confirms that participants have read, understood and agree to be bound by these Terms and Conditions.

Image Credits  – Shutterstock Notting Hill housesEvocation Images / Shutterstock.com Evocation Images / Shutterstock.com

ThePrizeFinder – See more at: http://www.theprizefinder.com/content/hammock-heaven-swing-seat#sthash.I03iindQ.dpuf

Creating a homework space they’ll want to work in


When I was a teenager I still had balloon wallpaper from when I was 7, so my friends and I gradually turned the balloons into faces, and everyone who visited wrote me messages and life advice on the wall. Eventually I stripped the wallpaper and painted the walls white, but how I missed the messages.

Something about this desk wallpaper took me back there. I spotted it on Pinterest and tracked it back to My Attic, do go and read about the story behind it. Maarj is a fellow nominee in the Amara Interior Blog Awards. Have you voted for A Residence, or My Attic yet? Please do, it only takes a second.

I love the ‘Get off the Internet’ especially,  I need that one most of all. But all of the quotes are really inspiring and empowering.

With my ex teacher hat on today, I thought I would share my top tips for creating a homework space today, I also have a fab desk to giveaway from Wayfair.


pallet desk


I love this crate desk, loads of room to spread out, store stuff and pretty achievable on a budget. My grocer said he could get me these style crates for £30 each, they aren’t as cheap as you think, but they are well made. Wayfair also have these great crates, I am using the large rustic ones in open shelving in the kitchen to house kitchen items that don’t fit well in cupboards. Love the map too, perfect for inspiring a geographer.




Pegboard is a really versatile way of organising things, if you have a young person who is great at keeping things neat and tidy, and someone handy enough to help them put it together.  Perfect for an upcoming artist or designer maybe? This is the gorgeous desk of Mandy at Fabric Paper Glue. It makes me want to sit down and start something!




I love this industrial look at The Inspired Room, do check out the whole room tour for more great ideas. I think the shelving on a desk is a great idea for keeping a desk clutter free.




When there isn’t room for a desk a wall mounted hideaway desk could be a great solution.

If you have a large table kids can use that is also used for other things, or you want younger kids to work at the kitchen table so you can support them, why not have a ‘homework station’ a tray with all the things they need to hand that can easily be moved on and off the table to a shelf when not in use? I love this mini homework station from The House of Smiths. we have a similar one with jam jars full of pencils in the kitchen.


Back to School Homework Station - Krylon Mystery Box Challenge - thehouseofsmiths-1.com


Creating a homework space they will want to work in

Designing kids’ homework spaces can be lots of fun, but it really doesn’t have to cost a lot of money either – young people are often naturally expressive and creative and find ways to make their mark. The main thing is to have a quiet, comfortable, well lit and tidy space and a place for them to keep things safe, especially if they share the area with other family members, or the space is used for other things.

Make it somewhere that’s stamped with their identity, somewhere they have ownership of and feel proud of.  Mostly, somewhere they want to be.

Spend some time together planning it, get them to sketch their ideas, make a Pinterest board or  find pictures from magazines or google.

One of the biggest things parents can help with is learning how to organise, helping young people to create a system that works by questioning what they need to store, remember and find easily. Skills we take for granted as adults, but massively important studying success skills.

Create room to keep things organised. Look at what they have to juggle then decide together what would be useful. If they don’t have desk drawers, shelves with cheap storage boxes or shoe boxes they have covered in wrapping paper can make a big difference.

A pinboard, magnetic whiteboard or even a string with pegs on can be a great way to keep important papers and timetables in their eye line.

Make sure stationary items are stocked up and they have somewhere to keep these things together, away from siblings who might borrow them. There’s nothing worse than wasting time trying to find glue, scissors, pencil sharpener or highlighters.

A clock is a great idea, so that time doesn’t run away with them. I love this one for its clear design, but also the date display.

Invest in a good desk lampFairy lights or table lamps can add extra warmth.

Desk chairs are the one thing it is worth spending money on, you want them to be able to sit really comfortably!

Remind them it is important to take breaks away from their desk, a chill out area can be a great thing, or a walk to the kitchen for a snack break.

An egg timer can be a really useful way to train the brain to work in short spurts, after 30 mins we start to loose interest, but we work more effectively under a little pressure, so a timer can help to maximise each section of time.


Need more desk inspiration?

Lots more ideas on my Pinterest board, are you following me over there?

Follow Penny Alexander’s board Homework Desk on Pinterest.


The giveaway

Desk and Lamp giveaway


I have one Marconie writing desk and a Leitmotiv desk lamp from WayfairUK to giveaway. They mix and match in loads of great colour combinations and would make a great start to a homework area. Why not check out the Hammock Heaven Swing Seat give away too, its all about injecting some carnival colour into a room and would be perfect for a chill out zone.

Just leave a comment telling me your top desk organisation tip, and follow the rafflecopter to register you entry and take advantage of more entry options.


a Rafflecopter giveaway



There is one prize of a Desk and Desk lamp as described in the blog post. 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.
Closing date for entries is 31/8/2015
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
Entry to this confirms that participants have read, understood and agree to be bound by these Terms and Conditions.

ThePrizeFinder – See more at: http://www.theprizefinder.com/content/desk-and-dek-lamo#sthash.WVADvEp1.dpuf

Super healthy easy summer meals



Sometimes in Summer I need a reminder of how to eat well at home. Running round after kids and juggling work and fitting in holidays, lots of picnics, take aways, eating out and holiday treats can take their toll.

These are some of my favourite healthy easy summer meals, some of them adapt well for kids like mine, who don’t eat everything grown ups do, where they don’t I’ve suggested some simple alternatives.


Healthy easy summer meals

Summer means meal times often go to pot so Egg and banana pancakes with soya yogurt and defrosted frozen berries is a great brunch. Yes this is really healthy, as the pancakes are just egg and banana (get the recipe) and the best bit is the kids love them too!


egg and banana pancakes


Omelette with onions, peppers, spinach feta cheese. I even keep chopped onions and spinach in the freezer for especially quick emergency omelettes. Sauteing left over extra jacket potato or sweet potato pieces works really well too and the kids love a potato omelette.




Bits and Bobs.  For me that is leftovers on salad – asparagus, sauted courgette and onion, roasted veggies, ratauoullie and a dollop of hummus. The kids aren’t as keen, but with a bits and bobs meal we just pull it all out the fridge and let them create something they enjoy.




Roasted veggies with or without halloumi is another of my favourite meals that needs little input and is great for leftovers.  Great to whack in if you have the oven on anyway – for kids’ fish fingers, a roast or jackets.

Aubergine slices grilled or a sweet potato roasted and mashed, with Kale baked for 10 mins til crisp. Super virtuous and unlikely to be eaten by kids, but they will eat a brown rice salad with some drained sweetcorn and quickly cooked frozen peas.

kale and aubergine

Spiralised courgette with tomato sauce, so quick. Kids have  spaghetti, so an easy meal to split.


Do check out my spicy sweet potato hash with avocado side too!

spicy sweet potato hash with baked egg

Or super fast veggie burgers, which are good fun to make with kids who like squishing the burgers

homemade veggie burger


Others I have yet to photograph

Crudites, pitta and hummus

Stir Fry – all the family choose some of their favourite veggies, store fry in coconut oil for flavour and serve with brown rice. Simple but oh so tasty. Sometimes I add garlic, chilli and ginger and soya sauce, sometimes the veggies speak for themselves!

Avocado and cottage cheese with salad.

Feta, butternut squash salad –  Cubes of butternut squash or sweet potato steamed or if you have time roasted and served with feta and salad. I love this!

Grilled halloumi salad. Mmmmm.

Boiled egg and soliders


Those are my favourite quick and healthy summer meals. What do you love to eat in the summer?

Feather Your Nest – Find of the Week

Feather Photo Wallpaper by Federkern at WayfairUK

As I type this the dawn chorus is in full flight, with my kids on school holidays I am up with the lark to write, although here in suburban Nottingham it is more often the relentless chattering of a tiding of magpies. If you can’t beat them join them, so inspired by the dawn chorus,  I’ve picked out some stylish feather interiors.

Let your interiors fly with these feathery friends. Pictured above is Federkern Photo Wallpaper an imaginative way to create a feathery feature wall in your home.

Below lots more feather interiors pictures, wall art, cushions, mugs and rugs guaranteed to help your home take flight. I have my beady eye on the peacock feather rug. You?

What birds do you have in your garden?

Feathered Home Accessories

1. Graham and Brown Feathered Friends Photo Frame  2. Artist Lane Feather Shield by Ayarti Wall Art

3. Feathers Cushion Cover  4. Birds of a Feather Bird Stickers by The Binary

5. Buttercup of London Scandi 10cm Fine Bone China Feathers Mug  6. Safavieh Gregory Peacock Feather Hand Tufted Rug  7. Esprit Home Feather Beige Green Novelty Rug (also available in rich red and silver).

Making my own bottle of gin at 45 Gin School

45 gin school - 6


We arrive in a deserted farm yard in woody, rural Leicestershire, we stand at the door slightly nervously as it opens from within and we are ushered inside. The smell of gin hits us as soon as we step inside, herbal, floral and fruity, my mind whirs trying to name the scents. Across the room copper pot stills glint enticingly, the room is set out like an old fashioned science lab, each station neatly lined up with pyrex jugs, notepads and scales. The neatness and shininess of it all captures me instantly, it promises a night of alchemy and old school fun.


45 gin school - 3


A gin cocktail is placed in my hand and there’s a warm welcome from all the team. As I sip a perfectly chilled Tom Collins, Master Distiller Jamie Baxter introduces me to Bessy. I am stunned by her beauty, gorgeous copper tones, she radiates sparkle. There’s something deliciously vintage and exotic about her, like something out of a Sci Fi film.

‘She’s like something out of a Jules Verne novel isn’t she?’, volunteers Jamie.


I had the ultimate experience for a gin lover on Tuesday night. I spent the evening with Amanda from The Ana Mum Diary and several other lovely local, but new to me, bloggers, distilling my own bottle of gin at 45 Gin School, also the home of the distillery of Burleigh’s gin.


45 gin school - 2


Resident Master Distiller Jamie Baxter gave us a grand tour, introduced us to Messy Bessy, she’s the incredibly beautiful 450 litre copper pot still Burleigh’s use to distill their gin.


45 gin school - 1


Jamie then talked us through the process of distilling gin. He even let us fully explore the unique botanical ingredients that make up Burleigh’s Gin, before letting us loose to make our own, with as much or as little guidance as we wanted. While our gin distilled, he gave us a fascinating history of gin.

I had so much fun making this video, and that’s not just the gin talking! Although the one bit where I do talk is proof that I had enjoyed a couple of cocktails already…



I knew I loved gin, but I had no idea how much fun could be had blending my own choice of the botanicals to make it unique. Gins can be spicy floral, herbal, and i was soon in heaven sniffing different herb and spice extracts.  It was like wine tasting, I now know why I prefer one gin over another.  Or perfume creating, I made a bottle of gin that absolutely tells a story of my loves. I have to leave it to settle for a couple of weeks, but I can’t wait to taste it!


45 gin school - 7

Fancy Gin School?

You can book your gin experience here, I highly recommend it, few gin schools allow you to make your own bottle of gin from scratch, the team are so friendly, the cocktails top notch and Jamie is full of fascinating information about gin, whether it is the production, the history, the taste, or the culture of gin production that fascinates you most.

As we left Jamie was telling us about a bar he would visit in London the next day, who stock Burleighs –  the name escapes me, but you have to pretend to need a detective to get in. Just one of many anecdotes that had my brain buzzing over the evening.

Gin school is open to individuals, groups, hen dos and corporate groups, and is suitable for all abilities, from novices to those who want to set up a distillery. It was great to have a lab partner in crime! To book in for Gin School or find out more, go here.


45 gin school - 4

Music Credit – Messy Bessy

6 creative playhouse ideas



I was a child of the 80s, I have such vivid memories of marching up the cul-de-sac I grew up on, to my friend Laura’s house, my little wendy house tucked under my arm, all set for another long summer day of setting up camp.

This week 6yo Mr G was gutted to discover I had given our wendy house away. I’m first to admit my attempts to clear the clutter of long forgotten toys are occasionally premature, and result in pangs of guilt and replacement purchases. As I type this, my Dad and son are camped out in the garden in the pop up tent we found to replace it. You really can’t beat a tent, a den or a hideout to prolong kid’s outdoor play, but you can think outside the toy box a little….


A long term investment


i remember reading once that rather than buying a playhouse, you should buy a shed, kids quickly outgrow playhouses, but they don’t outgrow wanting a den, a space to chill, or craving privacy from the rest of the family. A summer house is a multi functional space that many members of the family can use over time. A wise investment. Wayfair have a fab range of styles of shed. I love this one.


The real deal

4 Person Rapid Tent


For slightly older kids a real tent is the perfect solution. It is something to grow up with, giving them a more independent experience when you camp as a family and a tent to use when they are old enough to camp alone, meanwhile they also get to play out the authentic camping experience at home. You can get a 2 man pop up tent for only £23 currently, easy enough for a 6 year old to put up alone, or pictured above is a slightly larger 4 man tent.


For the playhouse purist


I love this little wigwam, it is just one of many I have eyed up at Wayfair. It makes me terribly nostalgic for my childhood, I think it reminds me of an old duvet or pyjamas, I think many a happy childhood memory could be made here.



For the Modernist

At £692 the Hobikken playhouse is an investment, but if you want to retain a stylish modern home, whilst gaining the largest floorspace on the indoor playhouse market, this could be your ideal play home.




For those with a wild imagination

I love this play garage playhouse, the attention to detail and fabric make it so pleasing to the eye, unlike the polyester one I had as a kid. There are all sorts of lovely themes, I picked out garage, but what about pirates, fairy princesses, a barn or a beach shack?


Play Garage Playhouse

Trampoline Tent

Another way to incorporate a den into the garden is to buy a trampoline tent, they make less of an eye sore of trampolines, provide shade and double up as a den. Drag some cushions and sleeping bags out and camp out on your very own bouncy bed!




And of course, you can’t beat a blanket over the washing airer, washing line, picnic table, or whatever you have to hand.

When did you last play in a den? I should go and see how Dad and Mr G are getting on…

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