Friday, 30 May 2014


A few weeks (err, more like six, to be honest) ago, we found ourselves with a beautifully sunny day and no work or school. Whenever we get any free time, I automatically start throwing things into the car for a day trip somewhere; we don't have a camper van or tent, so we have to make the most of our days out. We'd been thinking about going to Winchester for a while; it's not too far away and has plenty of things to see and do, and lots of outside spaces for the kiddos to run around and go nuts.

The weather was absolutely beautiful, and we spent the morning exploring a few of the shops (I disappeared into clothing-and-interior wonder-emporium The Hambledon, and almost didn't come out again. SO. GOOD) and pottering about in a little garden we found at the top of a set of stone steps. There was a large, official looking sign that declared it to be a 'site of tranquility', which meant we almost turned and left - the kiddos are anything but tranquil - but there didn't seem to be anyone else around, so we turned them loose. At the back of the garden was a hedged area, which held a beautiful wildflower bed full of poppies and tulips and about a gazillion types of flower that I didn't even recognise - and to my horror, there was a lady sitting on a bench, reading a newspaper. I started to apologise profusely for the noise, but she reassured me that it was fine, and that she loved to hear children laughing and having fun; pretty nice to hear in an age where we're encouraged to train our kids to be quiet and sit still all the time. Ben and Daisy have impeccable manners, are incredibly friendly and entertaining, and are a joy to be around - but they absolutely will not stay in one place or be quiet; they're the sort of children that are at home racing through the mud or clambering on things. Not a bad thing - we just tend to avoid coffee shops and museums!

We headed to The Pitfield for lunch; I'd turned to Twitter for advice on where to eat if you have children in tow, and this place got a whole load of votes. When we got there, I could see why; as well as selling food, this incredible place was also rammed with traditional homewares, eclectic furnishings and a heap of accessories that made me want to empty my bank account. Vintage tin buckets and planters were stacked teeteringly high, bottles of oils and jars of sauces jostled for space on the shelves, and classic, old-style feather dusters and bottle brushes were squeezed into ceramic pots. I wanted to park my bottom on the nearest chair and never leave. The food was incredibly tasty, and the service was great; the staff really knew their stuff and couldn't do enough to help. If you're in the area, I highly recommend visiting (if only for the amazing red velvet cake *drools*).

With full bellies, we headed back out into the sunshine to walk off our lunches; I spent a lot of time clutching the Husband's arm and shouting, "LOOK AT THAT AMAZING COTTAGE", Daisy had a nap, and Ben was overjoyed to spend a good hour clambering among the ruins of the castle. We piled into the car to head for home tired, considerably poorer but very happy.


Friday, 23 May 2014

Ask Her Friends: summer wishlist

I was pretty pleased to be invited to be part of the Ask Her Friends blogger panel this month; along with some other pretty super bloggers, I was asked to choose our favourite summer inspired items from the site (talk about a difficult choice!), along with our ideal experience from outdoor wonder-site Canopy and Stars. I'm pretty obsessed with all things holiday-related at the moment, from expeditions and outdoor adventures to picnics and lazy afternoons in the sunshine, so I picked a break at Berridon Farm in Devon - rustic safari tents to sleep in, freshly-laid eggs to gather and a nearby stream for paddling, what could be better?

From Top: Bambina Backpack - Beara Beara // Merino Wool Lace Print Scarf - Ella Georgia // Enamel Beakers - Lime Lace //
Ladies and Gentlemen Game - Les Jouets Libres // Berridon Farm in Devon - Canopy and Stars
If you like my set, you can head along to Ask Her Friends to vote, and be in with a chance of winning £50 to put towards your own dream picks. Good luck!


Friday, 16 May 2014

read: living life beautifully

When I last blogged, I had no idea that it would be such a long time until I wrote again - the last month has been a chaos of Easter Holidays and bank holidays, school events, sunshine and gardening (we're aiming to be self-sufficient in vegetables during the summer months, eek), a LOT of work deadlines and tonsillitis (me, ugh). There hasn't been a spare minute to do anything, and on the odd occasion that I did find myself with a free hour, I chose to either spend it with the kiddos or on the sofa, eating things. 

One thing I did manage to do in the depths of illness was read a little; I've discovered a great new gardening magazine called Home Farmer, which is full of growing advice, vegetable tips and recipes (there's a bit about chickens as well, but I skipped that. One day, maybe!), and I've been reading a few books as well. I was lucky enough to be sent a review copy of Living Life Beautifully, which tells the story of the amazing Cabbages and Roses brand; glorious photography combined with some great anecdotes and insider information - what's not to love?

I first discovered Cabbages and Roses when I was given a book called Vintage Crafts for Christmas one year; written by co-founder Christina Strutt, I quickly fell in love with everything from the gentle styling to the delicate fabrics, and have since spent way too many hours poring over the website (the current lookbooks are incredible, check them out!). Think rustic-vintage chic meets rural-heaven, with the most incredibly beautiful yet simple clothes thrown in for good measure; I pretty much just want to climb into the website and live there.

Living Life Beautifully manages to combine two of my favourite book genres; interior inspiration and biography. If I'm really interested in a brand, I want to know everything about them, from how they got going in the first place to how many sugars they have in their tea - it's part fascination, part nosy parker on my part to be honest, and I'm happy to report that this book satisfied all my curiosities about Cabbages and Roses. It starts with a chapter on how the business was born, and meanders through the early years with some fantastic quotes and anecdotes; I thoroughly enjoyed reading about their relaxed approach to setting up a retail company, 'We were muddly, and we certainly had no idea about anything to do with business', and discovering that it really is a family affair - the sons and daughters of both co-founders are heavily involved in various aspects of Cabbages and Roses, from the designing process to the styling and photography.

As much as I enjoyed reading about the company, I have to say that for me, this book was all about the images. Page after page of large, gloriously beautiful photographs of so many different things; hidden corners of the shop itself, inspirational objects and close-ups of the most exquisite fabrics all jostle for space on the deliciously thick pages. After the initial chapter comes, for me, the best bit - home tours of all the key people involved in the business; I'm a huge interiors fan, and automatically gravitate towards anything related to homes, gardens, design and furniture, so to be able to actually see inside the homes of the key people involved in the business was great. Not only did it serve as a huge amount of inspiration (I particularly loved art director Angus's collection of vintage glass bottles, and his plant in an old fire bucket), but it was also great to see exactly how their own styling preferences varied from the way things are done at Cabbages and Roses.

I honestly can't recommend this book enough - I've got a few interiors books, and this is by far my favourite; I've read it from cover to cover, and also picked it up several times since just to flick through when I've had a few minutes. The beauty of it really is that while it tells the story of a business, it also manages to inspire and fire the imagination at the same time - a winning combination in my eyes.

I read most of it parked in my workroom (the conservatory) in the old rocking chair, with a large mug of tea and some rather lovely carnations by my side. Living life beautifully indeed!

Disclosure: I was sent a review copy free-of-charge, however all thoughts and opinions are my own.
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