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.

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

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


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

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

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

Blackcurrant Gin Fizz

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

lemon and honey for gin fizz cocktail


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


Blackberry Gin Fizz Cocktail with Appletiser Blackcurrant and Apple2

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

The Giveaway

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

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


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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms and Conditions

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


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

Style Challenge – The Perfect Picnic



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

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


Setting the scene

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


Setting the Scene for the Perfect Picnic


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


A wicker picnic basket makes for the perfect picnic situation


Displaying your picnic wares

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

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


Perfect Picnicware from Wayfair and Olpro


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



Gimme Shelter

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


Pop Up Beach Hut


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

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





What to eat?

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


Great ideas for easy picnic snacks


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

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


Watermelon makes a fun picnic treat!


Finding the perfect spot

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


Style Challenge

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

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

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


The Giveaway

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

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

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

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

a Rafflecopter giveaway


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

Terms and Conditions

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

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

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

Garden Makeover Reveal: Money Supermarket Balance Transfer Your Life

A sunny Saturday morning in Staffordshire, June 28th…

Money Supermarket Garden Makeover



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



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

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

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

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

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


About Philips Oakes White Garden Design

Money Supermarket Garden Makeover

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


The hammock

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



Sinking a trampoline

Sinking a Trampoline Money Supermarket GArden Makeover - 7

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


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

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

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


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

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

Healthy Journey: Spiralizers, Smoothies and my Raw Cacao Experience


Green Smoothie


It is really hard to know what to eat for the best isn’t it? I have certainly learnt a lot in the last 3 months, good and bad, so I thought it might be time to share. I met Jenny from Find Your Healthy when I travelled to Kenya in February, she is a healthy living coach, but also works for Comic Relief, she really helped me to get back onto a super healthy veggie diet again.

Over the last few months I have learnt loads of great tricks to keep my eating healthy, I’ve shared some at the bottom of this post. I am wary of using particular ways to describe the way I have been eating, as I have gradually learnt that it is about working out what your body needs, not being a slave to that diet everyone is suddenly talking about.

At the moment smoothies are my favourite easy breakfast, oatcakes and nuts great snacks. I have a collection of tasty salads and omelettes to fling together for lunch. I have chillis, stews and curries for dinner with brown rice, which I can have for lunch the next day. The first few food orders took a lot of thinking through, but ordering it all online meant it was all there ready and waiting. And now I can just repeat the order in 5 minutes.

After a magic few weeks of completely pure eating (mainly veggies, berries, brown rice, nuts, eggs)  I felt amazing, my will power was incredible, but I’ve since noticed how easy it is to fall off the wagon once I allowed even the smallest amount of white bread or sugar back in (last night at the school summer fair for example).

But the bones of a really healthy way of eating are there, and I feel like I know exactly how and when to reign any indulgence back in and it is much harder to indulge. I also feel pretty pants when I eat anything really processed or sugary which helps me keep on track. It was a big commitment and at first I was very grumpy that I was giving up so many things, but once I saw the positives – balance, energy, weight loss, great tasting food I realised I wasn’t actually missing out at all.

I’m also running 2-3 times a week to train for a half marathon, which helps, but I am realising food has the biggest impact on weight loss.

Going back to basics really helped me work out what foods agree with me. I’ve added back in a little bit of cheese: sheep’s cheese (feta and Halloumi) seems to suit me more than cows milk cheeses, the thought of cows milk makes me a bit sick now, strange but true. I don’t feel like I am missing out any more, when I do have a treat it is a healthy one or a smaller one. I have a cheat meal a week, if I feel like it, and feel pretty physically rubbish afterwards, so it feels less and less like a treat.

I gave up caffeine which was a headache for a few days, but now I don’t miss tea at all, the thought makes me feel a bit sick which I didn’t expect. Hot water and lemon with a pinch of cayenne pepper has more of a kick.

My family are getting used to my way of eating and we are adapting recipes to suit everyone. Mr A loves the Thai curry we have been making. My daughter loves the chilli. We’re spending lots on fruit, but I am happily reminded that my son will willingly watch television munching a box of blueberries.

After losing over a stone eating healthy stuff in its natural state, a few people suggested I  try out some Deliciously Ella’s recipes. I saw Ella speak at Britmums last month,  I think it is brilliant how she has healed herself from severe illness using natural foods. I love many of the ideas in her book and her zest for fresh and nurturing ingredients jumps off the page and helps you dive in.

Before I go any further, it isn’t all plain sailing, I have to share my raw cacao experience. I have real reservations about raw cacao which is used in a lot of healthy eating recipes at the moment. After a week of snacking on these Almond and Cacao bites from Deliciously Ella I was feeling far from myself – shaky, anxious, tearful and physically exhausted – I had to turn back from my normal three times a week morning run, it was like someone had completely drained my batteries.




I woke in the night feeling strange and unable to sleep, a spot of googling revealed lots of anecdotes describing some disturbing side effects from raw cacao, exactly like the ones I experienced. I found a video where the person who was largely responsible for first promoting it as a health food had backtracked and questioned it’s properties.

In its native communities the seed is not eaten, just the fruit, animals won’t touch it,  it can kill them. As a dog owner, I already knew that chocolate can kill dogs, but is loved by humans, so I was sceptical about the animal comparison, but then I read that the natives only use it as an ingredient in a psychedelic brew, or in medical emergencies. I think there is so much to be said for trusting the locals here.

The more I read the less it seemed like a health food. It could be toxic, and many of the symptoms suggest it is a powerful, potentially mind altering stimulant, and is very addictive.  It was interesting to talk about this on facebook, people were divided, some people had experienced dizziness or palpitations after consuming it, others no symptoms. I know I won’t be touching it again and I don’t think it should be presented as a health food in cook books, people need to be better informed about this ‘superfood’.

There are a lot of books around that present whole new way of eating, written by ordinary people who have no nutritional qualifications. I am not saying this is a bad thing, because their methods clearly work for lots of people. But if I have learnt anything from my health food journey it is that you have to listen to your own body, and how different things make you feel, you need to trust yourself, rather than follow one path completely. I’ve gathered some brilliant recipes from lots of different places, which I will start to share here too, as people have been asking me.

So back to the best bits of Deliciously Ella, I  really enjoyed this superfood bread, slathered in hummus, although unless you are gluten intolerant, or seriously looking to pack a nutritional punch with every meal, sourcing all the ingredients might be a little off putting. Once you have them though, you can keep on making this really healthy and satisfying loaf.




Having excluded lots of foods from my diet a few months ago, and reintroduced them slowly, including gluten, I am pretty sure I don’t have a problem with gluten. However, I have learnt a lot about bread production from my Dad who devised gluten free products as a food scientist, so I eat less bread and when I do I try to choose high quality wholemeal bread or make my own, rather than sliced bread or white bread. My body loved this loaf.


Green Smoothie


What I absolutely loved from Deliciously Ella was a banana, date and spinach smoothie, and a couple of people have already let me know they love it too. It is a banana, two dates, almond milk ( I am sure milk or water would be fine here too), a bit of almond butter (which sounds weird but is just like peanut butter made with almonds, for the uninitiated) and spinach. I decided to use three cubes of frozen spinach which was very refreshing and much less spinachy. Also great if, like me, you end up with a half eaten decomposing bag of good intentions when you buy fresh spinach. Today I made it with pear instead of banana and it was just as yummy. Alison, from Not Another Mummy Blog told me to add oats too, that’s breakfast sorted.




After getting loads of use out of the blender, I treated myself to a spiralizer.  I know I am late to the party, but I don’t think I am the only one, judging from the comments on the A Residence facebook page when I shared this picture. I love courgette spaghetti, it makes amazingly satisfying spirals which taste great and hold their shape just like pasta. This wasn’t my best attempt, but still, you get the idea. It is a really quick and easy substitute when everyone else has pasta. I even managed to sneak a few spirals in everyone else’s bowl.

So that’s an update on my journey so far, I will share some more recipes very soon, to be honest the best thing is lots of what I eat is about putting things together, rather than cooking lots from scratch, concoctions, rather than recipes.

Foods I wouldn’t be without on this journey:

Lemon and cayenne pepper in hot water for brekkie instead of tea. Medjool Dates for sweetness, Avocado for fatty creaminess, Eggs for versatility, feta and grilled halloumi for saltiness, herbs for flavour, frozen berries and spinach for easy smoothies, frozen chopped onions and spinach for super fast omelettes (for when all that stands between you and starting dinner is chopping an onion), oatcakes for handy snacks and bread substitute, almond butter and almond milk to add to smoothies, bananas for pancakes (with egg and vanilla), sweet potato for roasting and mashing or putting with feta on salad, artichokes and sun dried tomatoes for brightening up salads.


What are you enjoying healthy food wise at the moment? Any sites, books or recipes you recommend?

At Home Last Month – June



June was a month of small victories. I bought a pencil sharpener, every home with colouring pencils, or even just pencils should have one. I love pencils because I have a paper diary and I like to be able to rub things out when I put them in the wrong place. The kids love having sharp pencils and I feel like one small corner of the house is a bit more sorted. Sometimes little things are big things.

Which leads me onto goals. I often find this time of year feels like the end of the year for me, rather than December, it must be all those years of teaching I did, but also having school aged kids. I used Tony Rubbins Massive Action Plan template to start thinking up some new goals for myself ready for September. I’m only able to make small steps at this time of the year, although I am making big leaps in my half marathon training, but having the summer to mull on your goals is always good.




I loved August’s Psychologies magazine, it had some great ways to get more done in less time, and to move ideas on. I love my job, but anyone who is self employed and works from home knows keeping motivated and juggling home and work can be tough.




I loved helping out with my sister in law’s garden this month too. Money Supermarket offered me a small budget to help a friend or family member knock something off their to do list. It was incredible to work on this as a team, with Phillipa Oakes White garden design. The grown ups got stuck in digging and catching up, while the kids played in the garden and swung in the hammock WayfairUK sent to try out. I can’t wait to share the video, hopefully later this week. I’ve asked Phillipa to look at our garden and I am really excited she has said she can.




I don’t know if you have ever had tea in the bath, either as a grown up, or made it for a child, but after a long, late day gardening it went down a treat for all involved. They even washed the bowls up themselves!




The kitchen is feeling super homely, with the addition of these red dining chairs from Wayfair. Very Van Gogh. They go really well with the red bench I painted. My husband’s cousin visited from Norway and said how homely the house felt, we’ve never quite been able to contain the clutter, and I despair frequently of the mess, but homely is exactly how I want people to feel in our home, so it was lovely to hear it, and a great end to the kitchen makeover.




What have you been up to in the last month?

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

My Home Rocks at A Residence

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

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!

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