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.

Favourite Cookbook Shelfie


I am finding myself inspired to cook lots more again, which is a real joy as amid the chaos of daily life, cooking and I fell out of love. I need some help here though, and I find the best way to do it is to ask for inspiration. Please will you tell me about your favourite cook books?

I have been vegetarian since I was ten, so my kids were raised vegetarian. When they started school they began to eat meat and fish. It wasn’t an easy decision, but given my husband eats meat I felt they should be able to choose. I don’t cook any meat, but do the bulk of the cooking, so we look for easy, fail proof cook books that give us both great results, whether meat or veggie.

Some are veggie, some are a mix, hope you like them and I look forward to hearing yours! This is a linky, so do feel free to join up your favourite cookbook shelfie below, I’ve tagged some folks, but please don’t wait to be tagged.

The Bridge Street Vegetarian Cookbook a ringbinder of veggie recipes made for me when I left home, by my Mum, probably my most used cook book to date. Spag bol, chilli, birthday cake, plus how to boil an egg from my Food Scientist Dad, how to make pancakes from my brother, flapjacks from my Aunt, Greek honey cakes from my Greek Aunt and my Grandma’s treacle toffee and pikelets.

Delia’s Vegetarian collection – a bit fiddly, and lots of ingredients, but if you have the time or a special occasion, worth every minute. The cakes are also amazing. Roast veggies, marinaded in a bag is the recipe I go back to every Christmas and for Winter Sunday lunches. The Goats Cheese topped Lentil Shepherd’s Pie is incredible too.

How to be a Domestic Goddess – Mr A bought me this when we first moved in together in Brighton. I assumed it was a joke then, but it really has brought me lots of happy times. I love baking and I love reading Nigella’s books. There’s so much love, of food, friends and family in them. Its grown with me, from making pies for when our friends came over to making nostalgic cupcakes for my kids.

Innocent’s Hungry? – This was bought for Mr A, now that the kids eat meat and fish it is down to him to cook for them when they do. There are some great veggie recipes in here though, which are simple and easy and packed with taste. They really are family friendly recipes.

National Trust Tea Time Treats – I have a penchant for Scones. They are so easy to bake and so satisfying, what more is there to say.

Vegetarian Step by Step – I haven’t used this much, but I think given it is so visual, with images of each step, it would be a great one to work with with kids. I trying to wean mine off baking and onto cooking.

The Soup Bible – Dad bought me this one and it is often found in discount stores, it is an amazing book to have. It is a brilliant way to use up whatever veg we have leftover, or to make use of seasonal veg in new ways.

Sainsburys Vegetarian Cookery – Sarah Brown – This is a bit dated now, Mum bought it in the 80s, but some recipes, like the Nut Roast have stood the test of time. Sarah Brown is an  amazing vegetarian cook.

Jaime Oliver (this one is not as veggie friendly but the first one was better!) – Great for a mixed meat and vegetarian household, Mr A uses his fail proof recipes for meat dishes and I love the veggie side dishes and mezze dishes.

The Wharf Street Vegetarian Cook Book – I think the cafe was in Leeds, its a real wholefood, old school vegetarian cook book, but I love it. Lentil Dahl is a fave.

River Cafe Cook Book Easy – Dad bought us this and it really is a great intro to making simple ingredients taste amazing both for veggies and non veggies.  River Cafe Cook Book Green is perfect for cooking veggies seasonally.

How to Eat – Nigella again! I just love to read this, with sections on everything from dinner parties to weaning and cutting back and dieting, its a great resource.

I would love to see your recipe book shelfie, so I am tagging Emily from A Mummy Too, Becky from A Beautiful Space, Amanda from The Ana Mum Diary, Jen from Love Chic Living, Helen from Actually Mummy, Katie from Mummy and Daddy and Me Makes Three, Alison from Not Another Mummy Blog, Rebecca from Amuse Your Bouche, Annie from Manneskjur and Tanya from Mummy Barrow. Plus anyone else who fancies it!

How to join in

Non bloggers – Please share your #cookbookshelfie with me on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram and I will share them in a post here, (I am @AResidence)

Bloggers – Please link your shelfie up here so we can all get inspired and here, if you fancy is the code for a badge for your post, please tag some more people and let them know they can link them up here:

Badge code:
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How to make S’mores, on the fire pit

how to make s'mores

British sustainable fire wood supplier Certainly Wood sent me a fire starter kit and challenged me to learn how to make S’mores. I have to admit, I am a bit rubbish and always let Mr A build fires, but I love campfire treats, so I figured it was about time I became the fire starter in the family.

I also had had my eye on this Harlin fire pit from Wayfair, I like the idea we could both cook and keep warm with it. I delegated the building though, I can totally do flatpack, but Miss L wanted to bake marble chocolate and lemon cakes and that was more appealing. So the boys put it together, it was an easy job.


Certainly Wood sent me a special kit, with logs and kindling which are dried in a solar powered kiln, and natural firelighters, plus the ingredients for S’mores. It couldn’t be easier to do. Flamers natural firelighters are untreated, wax dipped fine wood shavings. I loved them because they are natural, odourless, easy to light and burn for a longer time.

fire starter kit

I followed the instructions, but I am not sure this is quite what was meant. Mr A promised to remain tight lipped on his fire building secrets as I wanted to do this myself. I should have watched Certainly Wood’s how to light a fire video.

how to make a fire

In the end, with some twiddling I got there, a raging fire. I had some real campfire cooking successes, so I will do another post on what is in the tinfoil and just say that the corn on the cob should have been too – I will know next time!

firepit from wayfair

While the fire pit cooked our main course they played in the garden and I drank cocktails I watched over it. Although, actually, the beauty of fire pit cooking is you can just leave it to get on with it, rather than all the hassle of a BBQ. More on that next post, pudding first!

I love this fire pit, the lid makes it a stylish and safer than an open fire. The removable grill means it is essentially just an outdoor cooker. Its going to be a wonderful way to live outdoors and to elongate the summer!



Rumour has it these were invented by Girl Guides and s’mores is an abbreviation of ‘some more’, because they are so moreish! S’mores are a US/Canadian tradition and August 10th is National S’mores Day in the US!

Ingredients – Biscuits, chocolate, (or chocolate biscuits are a great shortcut) marshmallows (You can get veggie marshmallows these days too).

S’mores are best made when the fire has died back and the embers are still hot. Its so easy, just toast a marshmallow ’til its really gooey, which is why you want the fire to have died back.

Then sandwich the marshmallow between two choccie biccies or between two biscuits and some squares of chocolate, like a big sandwich.


Enjoy! We certainly did.


You can add fruit, like banana, raspberry or strawberry or peanut butter or cinnamon, the s’more is your oyster!

Why not build a S’mores station, with a pot of marshmallows on sticks, a tray of biscuits and fruit?

So there you have it, how to make s’mores! Savoury recipes to follow. What do you like to cook on a campfire?

More info

Certainly Wood makes sure the firewood they source is sustainable, British wood. They fell only the weakest trees in their forests, meaning the other trees can grow stronger and they are constantly replanting trees that then absorb carbon dioxide. All of their electricity is produced using solar panels and biomass, so all of their processing equipment is powered using renewable energy and they burn all their wood waste to create heat to dry the logs. Burning firewood is one way of ensuring we look after the environment. Not only is it carbon-neutral, but all the wood they produce comes from forests within a 100 mile radius.

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

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

Disclosure – This blog is part of Wayfair, the fire pit and fire kit were supplied for review, all opinions my own.

Great Family Garden Ideas

Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 12.30.30

I’ve been making some films for Netmums, for the #MumsTalk series, in this one three mums, Becky from A Beautiful Space Jen from Love Chic Living and I talk about how our gardens grow. There are some great family garden ideas, from gardening with kids, decorating your garden, to creating a grown up sanctuary and kids play area to welcoming wildlife.

It was really lovely to be able to spend some time in other people’s gardens and I came away with lots of simple and actionable ideas. I love Becky’s sanctuary and Jen’s veg garden painted tiles are gorgeous.

What are your favourite family garden ideas? What makes your garden a great space for grown ups and for children?

Linking up with…


iCandy – Pushchairs for the Cool Kids

icandy puchchair design

Chances are if you and your home are stylish, then style is going to factor in your choice of pushchair too. iCandy is the make favoured by new parents looking to drive their own sense of style into the mode of transport they will spend the next few years pushing. iCandy understand style, it’s in their blood, brothers Bradley and Warren Appel absorbed their manufacturing knowledge from their grandfather Charles who founded a fashion company in 1933.

It’s a strange feeling when you finally say goodbye to the pushchair, it becomes such a part of your daily routine, it’s with you nearly every time you leave the house, it’s how you move, it’s where you store things, it’s how you organise life. And most importantly it’s where your baby sleeps, eats, plays and watches the world go by on the move. iCandy uses aeronautical engineering, its designs are streamlined to make its performance effortless.

icandy baby

iCandy is favoured by some of the coolest kids, everyone from Giovanna and Tom Fletcher of McFly, to my good friend J, an old University friend who I met up with recently in Clumber Park.

I asked J for her honest feelings about her iCandy pushchair:

‘It’s lovely looking and very comfy for baby and you feel that yummy mummy pride that you’ve got the ‘it’ pushchair everyone wanted’.

Looking back I remember those days well, why shouldn’t you feel stylish still? I was immediately impressed with J’s red ICandy.  I wished pushchairs had been so cool when It was my turn. It elevates little ones up high, switches round to let them see you or the road and the huge amount of easily accessible storage space in a pushchair that doesn’t take up much pavement space is impressive.

i candy red pushchair

Out and about in parks and on pavements the iCandy seemed to work brilliantly. J’s downside will be familiar to pushchair users: ‘It can be a bit wide for shopping, the back wheels can get stuck in cafes and shops.’ 

However given this is a birth to toddler pushchair, that’s to be expected. You can add a carrycot to this, but when you take it away at 6 months, it is still a lightweight pushchair. Only 8kgs and foldable with one hand.  The price is reasonable too, £110 for a piece of style and functionality.

On another note, while researching this I really enjoyed stumbling on some fascinating stats about Prince George whose birthday was yesterday, and rediscovered the Fletcher’s Buzz to Bump video, so just in case you haven’t seen it, do, it’s lovely!

Have you tried iCandy?

Picture credits: iCandy. Collaborative post.

Through The Keyhole – Stylish with a GSOH


I don’t know about you but I love to look around people’s homes. This is the inspiration behind a new feature on A Residence, Through the Keyhole. The lovely thing about being a blogger is making new friends online, but you don’t always get to meet or do the simple things like pop over for coffee.
Through the Keyhole gives you a chance to do just that, have a sneaky peak inside someone else’s home. Last time we snooped around Dorky Mum‘s art collection.
I’m not going to tell you who’s home we have this week, except to say she is a great writer, she is stylish and has a great sense of humour. I will take you though the keyhole to her blog later if you can’t guess, or if you’re curious, which I am sure after reading this you will be.


I moved into my new house a few months ago and because it’s rented, albeit part furnished, I’ve had to buy a few new key pieces of furniture for the house.  I say ‘had to’ … I ‘wanted to!’  This pale blue chest of drawers was from eBay and as beautiful as it is, the drawers are annoyingly clunky so they’re hard to pull out and push in.  There’s definitely a knack to it!  But it’s SO pretty I can’t bear to part with it.



I’ve finally got a place where I can display just a small amount of my jewellery and you might notice the leopard print make-up bag in the background … I do have a penchant for animal prints, although I’m trying to wean myself off.  There’s also a new bottle of Prada perfume at the front – bought on a recent trip to France!


These ceramic birds are on the wall in my lounge and sit (fly?) above my SMEG fire.  They’re awesome.  They’re so Hilda Ogden (Google it if you’re not old enough to remember her) but a little bit more upmarket (I hope!)  I’d say 90% of the walls in my house are white and these birds add a lovely pop of colour, although unfortunately, the photo doesn’t really do them justice – like all birds, they’re much more beautiful in real life!

old school radiator

I love this old school radiator that’s in the lounge – not only does it get incredibly hot, incredibly quick, but it’s a real statement piece because it’s the first thing you notice when you walk in.  The grey goes with the theme of the room but I’ve tried to add some colour by using pieces like this burgundy footstool.  And if anyone can recognise me by my feet, you definitely win a bonus prize!


Recently, the calm of my serene lounge has been mightily disrupted by the return of a certain family member, as you’ll see by the decks that have suddenly appeared.  He’s a massive fan of music and has DJ’ed whilst he’s been away at Uni but for the love of God I wish he’d keep his stuff in his room.  (In his defence, he’s been relegated to the box room so there’s not a great deal of space!)


I’m a big fan of quirky lampshades and this house has plenty, with this particular one being in the kitchen.  And no, that’s not a dungeon behind you, just some very very unusual wallpaper.


I love that today’s Through the Keyhole oozes home style and a great sense of humour. Have you guessed whose house this is yet? Are you ready to go through the keyhole and find out more?

Okay, time to put you out of your misery, *puts on best Loyd Grossman voice* Who would live in a house like this? Let’s go through the keyhole …just click it.


To take part in Through the Keyhole, please contact me using the links in the sidebar or in my About Me page.

As regular readers will know A Residence is now part of Wayfair, the homes and interiors online store, for more home inspiration, check them out.

Keyhole picture credit

Marbled Chocolate and Lemon Cakes

Marbled chocolate and lemon cakes

My 7yo picked these chocolate and lemon cakes out to make from her set of Usborne recipe cards – they were a really amazing choice. A very grown up cake, but also great fun for kids to make. The beauty is in a cake that you have to ‘ice’ the minute it comes out of the oven. The marbled effect is basically just different melted chocolate buttons swirled together, so very satisfying. We messed up a bit here but I will make sure you don’t.

Lemon and Chocolate cake

The boys were assembling a new fire pit from Wayfair and picnic table - I know, real gender stereotyping, but flat packs drive me crazy – so me and L took some time to enjoy a relaxing Sunday afternoon bake instead.


At 7 she is old enough to take the lead, leaving me time to take photos. She loves seeing her creations on the blog and we all loved eating the results.

Marbled Chocolate and Lemon Cakes

Ingredients: 2 lemons, 3 eggs, 50g butter softened, 250g ricotta cheese (we substituted Greek Yogurt as the 24hr Co-op doesn’t have much call for Ricotta), 175g SR flour, 50g white chocolate buttons/drops and 25g of plain chocolate buttons/drops.

Equipment: Food mixer, metal spoon, greased and parchment lined 20cm/8 inch cake tin, lemon zester or grater, big bowl and small bowl. (The lemon juicer is a red herring)


She grated the two lemons and half her finger, so I took over.


And she whisked three egg whites


Checked the eggs were stiff enough


Next we put the three egg yolks, butter and lemon rind in a big bowl. And the SUGAR, I nearly forgot this, as you can see by the photo!

lemon cakes

More whisking, slowly adding the creme fraiche, or in our case Greek yogurt, as the Coop doesn’t sell ricotta…it worked fine I thought.


Next add the flour, this is where the mixer is replaced by folding with a metal spoon. The wise words of Mrs Burnette my Home Ec teacher flooded my mind and were imparted to my eldest. I spent three happy years baking cakey things in Home Ec at school; bar the odd quiche it was a very sweet affair!


She then added the whisked whites to the batter


And carefully folded them with a metal spoon.


We didn’t have the right size tray, but a spatula helped to keep the mixture to one end of a big tray.


After baking, you need to work fast, first add the white chocolate buttons.


Then the dark. We decided to bake late on a Sunday so the corner shop wasn’t forthcoming with ingredients, so we had milk chocolate lumps. And my family put the whole 100g packet on (give or take the ones they ate),  which meant the marble effect wasn’t as good as it could have been.


I had to almost wrench the spoon off L to stop her completely losing the marble effect, so transfixed was she in making swirls with the back of her spoon.


The finished result was served in the sunshine at the newly erected picnic bench, with raspberries.


From 30 Yummy thing to Bake, a lovely visual collection of recipe cards for kids, by Usbourne. I love the fact the cards make it child friendly and that kids can just take a card to the shops with you when ingredient shopping.

Next time I am hoping we will have some fire pit recipes to share, watch this space!

If you give these chocolate and lemon cakes a whirl let me know how you get on. What have you been baking?

Link up your recipe of the week

Bargain Craft Kits for Kids

Great Summer Craft Kits tested

Summer Holidays are nearly upon us, time to stock up on some craft kits for kids. After taking to the internet last night to try to work out where we are going wrong when it comes to sibling arguments, I came away realising one thing I really need to do is to fill the house with distractions to keep my kids from falling into boredom and agitating each other.

They loved the last craft kits for kids we tested from Baker Ross, they worked a treat. My 5yo was kept really quiet sticking these foam shapes onto a mosaic coaster. They would be a great distraction for a journey, they are pre packed in sets ready to go and weigh next to nothing. Or perhaps a trip out, I am thinking one of those family gatherings in a nice restaurant that goes on just that bit too long for a 5yo. He likes that he can use it – it’s where his bedtime milk goes.


My 7yo got really into decorating her flip flop trinket box with the porcelain pens. She takes after her mum, won’t be long until she has filled it with treasure. I can’t bear the noise of the pens on bare porcelain, but it didn’t bother her in the slightest. Kept her busy for two twenty minute bursts. £4.50 for a box of four, porcelain pens £9.99 a set of ten.


My 5yo couldn’t wait to sew this camper van cushion and with just a little bit of me starting and finishing, he was able to do most of the sewing and loved sticking on the van’s features. My 7yo made a red one and they are both planning to have them on their bunks in our caravan. £4.70 for a pack of two kits and at least half an hour of happiness.

These jumping tubes are so simple, but my goodness they really caught their imaginations, we must have been at the table for half an hour coming up with new ideas. £2.25 for a pack of eight and half an hour’s peace!

I love these wooden sailboat kits, now that has got to be a wonderful way to while away a Summer day.


£2.75 for two, that’s an afternoon with my two sorted! We could set them to sail on the Trent…the boats, not the kids!


We’re heading off to our local Scrapstore too, as my son has a real thing for junk modelling and my daughter loves to explore the treasures and stationary, we came away with paper chase highlighters and Joules diaries last time, for £2 a basket. You can find your local one, using the link above.

Do you have any bargain craft tips? What have you got up your sleeve to soothe fractious kids this Summer? Which of these craft kits for kids do you like?

Top 10 Bee Friendly plants

10 bee friendly plants

We try hard to plant things the bees will enjoy, here are my Top 10 bee friendly plants, with a little dose of nostalgia because these plants hold lovely memories too.

Lavender for its smell. I have memories of running through my mum’s friends Oxfordshire garden as a child and lying in her hammock under the apple trees as wafts of it filled my nose. My mum used to walk my daughter though the garden when she was tiny, singing Lavender’s blue and rubbing the flowers under her nose.


Rosemary is another wonderful one for bees, we have the hugest Rosemary bush that I don’t have the heart to tame, it makes for fabulous BBQ skewers and a wonderful Sunday and Christmas Day roast.

Dad introduced me to Borage and it by far the thing the bees love best. It’s flowers are so delicate, fluffy and fairy like.


Dad also planted the Buddleia and although I took this photo before it bloomed, its an amazing one for bees and butterflies, and dens. I saw our first butterfly last week. I will always love blue and purple flowers best, although we have a white and two purple.


I have a thing for terracotta pots and Geraniums since our tiny first balcony garden on the seafront in Hove back in 2000, I dragged the plants and the compost up the stairs to the balcony for a little splash of colour. You can’t beat that simple combination for bringing an immediate shot of warmth. I had no idea they were good for bees until now. Although bees don’t see red so well, so I plant white and pinks too.



The  Jasmine and honeysuckle fight for space, to attract the bees, go for flowering White Jasmine though.


Roses are another classic for bees.


I would also love to add Foxgloves, Verbena and Teasels because they look incredible, part of winning kids over with plants for me is introducing things with cool structures, which teasels have.  The kids also want Fuchsia, they take me back to my Gran’s garden, like little dancing fairies.

For lots more bee friendly plant ideas I visited this site which has loads of ideas arranged by colour.

What would your top 10 bee friendly plants be?

Linking up with…


Play garden glamping and play tent giveaway

Garden Glamping for kids


Staying out for the Summer

Camp Bestival is one of the highlights of our Summer, my family fell in love with it, it falls on our anniversary and we kind of made a pact to go every year and give the kids the festival experience I loved as a kid.

But if we could I would stay out all Summer. So as soon as I saw this tipi over on Wayfair I fell in love. Why not try a spot of garden glamping?

If you are looking for some garden fun this summer then I have a play tent to giveaway, see the competition below.


Top tips for garden glamping:

I love fleece blankets, great for chilly evenings, lightweight to put in a bag for days out too, easy to wash and quick to dry.

Lanterns, candles with adult supervision make a camp so much more exciting, staying up late is so exciting. Torches and electric lanterns make a safer option.

Create an outdoor play basket with toy binoculars (or even toilet rolls stuck together and painted or a kitchen roll if you are playing pirates), bug hunting gear, bats and balls and bubbles.

Stock up on some garden games Quoits, sand pit, giant 4, giant pick up sticks, croquet, sack racing, giant chess, boules.

Bunting, including these fab Doodle Bunting you can write on, wash and then redesign!


The Giveaway

10 Great Play Tents
For more info on the play tents check out my Polyvore mood board: 10 Great Play Tents by penny-alexander 
To win a play tent of your choice (up to the value of £65), just follow the instructions:

1. The garden glamping giveaway is open A Residence subscribers, so if you haven’t subscribed you can do so here:

Enter your email address:Delivered by FeedBurner


2. Complete the rafflecopter widget, it walks you through what to do, the minimum you need to do is leave a comment on your ideas for garden fun this summer, but there are options for further entries if you want them, and there is more help on rafflecopter if you need it here.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Have a great Summer and I look forward to all the great tips, I will be rounding the best ones up, so bloggers, don’t forget to include your blog link when you comment so I can link to you.

Win competitions at ThePrizeFinder.com – See more at: http://www.theprizefinder.com/content/kids-tipi-play-tent-wayfair#sthash.jdta6RF4.dpuf

House fantasy: Nature in the Home


Bring nature into the home

We went to Clumber Park last weekend, an incredible National Trust place in Nottinghamshire, with my friend from University days and her growing family. It’s a wonderful place to explore and you can read more about it from a family day out point of view over on Little Legacy.


Here on A Residence I want to talk about it from a house fantasy point of view. I talk a lot about how being outside makes me happy, about how if I had a religion it would be nature. So it makes complete sense to me to bring the outside in. It’s been a trend in interiors for ages, but what does it really mean?

At Clumber they playfully switched that trend, inside was out, low and behold we found a chaise lounge in the tree. ‘Is that art then?’ whispered my friend. We giggled nervously. The kids thought it was marvellous, who would live in a tree like that we pondered? A very well to do squirrel with a lot of nuts to crack? A wise and bookish owl in a velvet jacket?


I’ve since found out a previous inhabitant of the property imported some leopards but they were lost at sea, this is a way of remembering them, imagining them sprawled across the branches of the tree, as incongruous in Nottingham as a chaise lounge.

Back to the nature in the home, I think there are two ways to tackle this trend. Firstly there are some amazing, whimsical ideas out there things that just make you smile. Like this Forest Indoor Tree Seat.


I think these vases are perfect for all the little flowers the kids pick up on the way home from school, or for the odd bloom from the garden.


I love the idea of a drift wood mirror, helping me to drift off to sea side places in my mind.


I can’t quite cope with the idea of real antlers, but I love the idea of hanging my jewellery on these Antlers:


The second complimentary way to tackle this trend and to bring fab statements like these to life, is to bring real nature into your home, collect shells, feathers, stones, driftwood – all these make amazing ornaments with a tale to tell too.

For more nature in the home ideas, check out my Pinterest board.

Follow Penny’s board Nature in the home on Pinterest.

Do you have a house fantasy?

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