The Big Spring List

It’s that time again, when I start to enjoy Spring and getting the most out of the season. Spring has to be my absolute favourite time of year, not least because it’s my birthday! Every year I make a list of experiences and goals to make sure I enjoy the longer days, better light and everything springing to life around me.

I’d love to hear what you have planned in the coming months and what you do to celebrate the arrival of spring?

Here are the things I’ll be ticking off my list this year…

    • Curate a wall of art to finish my dining room in soothing and of-­‐the-­‐moment greens and blues.
    • Set some time aside to design our garden and outdoor space, including the deck that is yet to be installed.

    • Instead of using Spring flowers, for a change I’m going to use brightly coloured fruits to provide splashes of colour around the house in glass vases and crisp white ceramic dishes.
    • I’ll be trying to make my diet healthier with creative salads (particularly as the kitchen will be out of action!) Plan a trip to the Lake District to get some fresh air and enjoy the daffodils in Wordsworth country
    • Florals are so big in interiors this year that I’ll be looking for other ways to incorporate them, perhaps with prints or floral fabrics.

    • Play around with new manicure ideas for spring colour and fun even when the weather’s not so bright outside ;)
    • Make the most of time with Pete as a couple, before the baby arrives, with plenty of date nights.

  • Lastly, I need to turn my attention to the nursery and start getting it all sorted. I’m planning a colour filled room with restful corners and details to balance out the brights.

So readers, what are your plans? Do share your own spring list in the comments box!

Love,
Rebecca
xo

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Girl about Town: Chocolate walking tour of London

Easter weekend is on the way. I am excited for three reasons:

1) Two free days off work! Oh how I need the sleep.

2) Family time! In my house, Easter is like Christmas we gather, we play games, we (even in adulthood) hunt out eggs and we dine en masse.

3) Gluttony! If you’ve been abstaining from treats and indulgences for Lent, Sunday is the day it all comes to an end (just to clarify, I have abstained from nothing this year, I’ve been a glutton throughout Lent. My bad).

In light of this list, Rebecca thought I should tell you about something that combined all three, in particular a chocolate walking tour of London, that I did with my family over a chilled weekend the end of last summer. I booked it through Great British Tours with a 50% voucher from one of those well known discount sites (either the pink or the green, I don’t recall) which made it very reasonable indeed. During the tour we visited some of my favourite chocolateries (where we had tastings and were entitled to a discount on most purchases), wandered through Soho at a leisurely pace soaking up the atmosphere and we found a couple of hidden gems that I’ll definitely be re-visiting.

The meeting point was the Algerian Coffee Store on Old Compton Street where our guide greeted us with a large cup of chocolate coated coffee beans and a gigantic grin – imagine if your job was to wander the streets of London eating free chocolate? I’d grin a lot too!

First stop was Hotel Chocolat where we bought chilli hot chocolate powder and tested out their new line of chocolate themed toiletries…

…then on to Paul A. Young where the team introduced us to unusual recipes such as limoncello and cucumber, pink guava and lychee, goats cheese, rosemary and lemon and Marmite truffles and where we also sampled their delicious Aztec hot chocolate…

… a quick pit stop at Freggo to refresh the palate with some Malbec and berries sorbet (new fave thing ever!)…

…a browse around the sweet counter (and a quick dash to the loo) at Fortnum and Mason…

… a brief history lesson about the birth of the truffle at Prestat and sampled some boozy treats…

…all ending up at Charbonnel et Walker where I stuffed my face with my favourite violet and rose crèmes (apparently also the Queen’s!).

All in all a fun filled day!

Great British Tours do some other interesting walking tours including a cupcake and macaroon tour which I have my eye on for my next free weekend…

Victoria x

PS! Find Victoria over on her blog Sugar Plum Slipper or on twitter @VictoriaHale.

The Quick and Easy Kitchen

In the not too distant future (ideally it was supposed to be yesterday but we are having some, ahem, issues with the structural engineer,) our kitchen is being ripped out. Because of the nature of the building work that needs to go on in the kitchen – we’re not just putting a lot of glass in to the external walls but taking a chimney breast out too that the current kitchen is in front of, the kitchen isn’t a simple in-out job and we will be kitchen-less for probably 6 weeks. To say I’m dreading it is an understatement.


Baked Ziti by Damn Delicious

In fact we won’t be fully kitchen-less and we are very lucky, because we are going to try and essentially rig up a lot of the appliances downstairs in the cellar. There is plumbing down there so fingers crossed we will have a sink, and the fridge, freezer and oven will all just plug in. We have a camping gas stove we can use but it won’t be ideal so I don’t want to cook much on it and we won’t have much in the way of worktop prep space at all. As a result meals will be makeshift. Of course I’m sure there will be a few takeaways and meals out locally but because I’m pregnant I don’t ideally want to be eating processed food every night, I do enough of that as it is! Given that this is all emptying the coffers, keeping costs down will be better too.


BLT bowl by The Londoner

So I need your help readers. I have already been cooking ahead to put meals in the freezer and we have portions of chilli, spaghetti bolognese, lasagne and fish pie stacked up. What I now need are ideas for quick simple fresh food that I can make with the minimum of washing up (the dishwasher won’t be re-installed downstairs,) fuss or prep space. Healthy recipes would be a bonus too to balance out anything we eat out. I was thinking of things like a chicken salad with a pre-cooked supermarket chicken and I’m really hoping you guys can suggest some recipes or meals that will help me out over the next couple of months.

Any ideas?

Love,
Rebecca
xo

Feeling Blue…

Despite the fact that our new kitchen is still several weeks off being usable, I have already found myself thinking about the finishing touches. Aside from the pretty things, on a more practical level I want to add to our current dinner service.

We currently have 2 sets of plates and bowls, our wedding set of Sophie Conran for Portmerion table and serve ware in a ten person setting, and a bog standard square white set for 4 that was from John Lewis. The idea is that we use the set of four day to day so the wedding set doesn’t get hammered, but so we don’t end up saving the Portmerion for absolute best if there are ever more than just the two of us, we get out the good stuff.

Restoration tableware, John Lewis // Indigo Dinner plate, M&S // Indigo serving bowl, M&S // Lascari Stoneware, Anthropologie //Coastal Tableware, John Lewis // 12 Piece lombard dining set, M&S // Denby Bloom Stoneware, Debenhams //Jardin des Plants dinnerware, Anthropologie

In reality, with Francesca being with us, we have used the Portmerion a lot more and it has made me realise that when we are a family of 3, with regular visitors, we are going to need more of the everyday stuff to avoid using the Sophie Conan every day. I prefer seeing my food against white plates, but because our island eating area will be white I like the idea of a bit of contrast. Given my current obsession with blue, I thought a slim blue rimmed set would be nice. There are so many blue and white sets around right now however that a pick and mix, mix and match would be easy to do if you were so inclined and very stylish.

So readers, what do you think? Are you fans of white plates or do you like a bit of contrast on your dinner table?

Love,
Rebecca
xo

Blueberry Hummingbird Cake

April is my birthday month and so I feel inclined towards celebrating cake in all of it’s forms today. This one is a favourite recipe of mine from the first Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook and a slice even features on the cover. The reason that I like it is that it is huge – this is the perfect cake to have for a party or to take to work as it will easily feed 20. It’s light and moist and delicious. A total winner and it’s easy to make to boot.


Images copyright Lawson Photography

As you can see the images here were taken during the shoot at my old house before we moved, by the lovely Pete and Laura Lawson – thanks guys!

Blueberry cake – Adapted from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook
Preheat oven to 170C fan

350g butter, unsalted, room temp
350g caster sugar
6 eggs
1tsp vanilla extract
1 lemon zested
450g plain flour
2 tbsp of baking powder plus 1tsp
270ml soured cream

250g blueberries plus extra to decorate
1 quanitity of cream cheese frosting
(300g icing sugar, 50g unsalted butter, 125g cream cheese)
loosened with 30ml of soured cream and 20ml of lemon juice

25cm ring mould, greased and lined


Images copyright Lawson Photography

1. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy
2.Add eggs, one at a time
3.Beat in vanilla, lemon zest, flour and baking powder
4.Add soured cream and beat until combined, gently stir in blueberries
5.Fill your tin and smooth surface over with a knife
6.Bake for 40-50 mins until the crust is golden brown and the sponge springs back.


Images copyright Lawson Photography

7.Leave to cool in the mould for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a wired rack, removing the paper.
8.When the cake is cool, pour the icing mix over the top and sprinkle with blueberries.


Images copyright Lawson Photography

Definitely give it a try readers, it is soooo good!

Love,
Rebecca
xo

PS Thanks for bearing with me this week – we are back in the bedroom!!! I’m still getting sorted but hope to be back next week with my usual schedule.

Sneak Peek: Bedroom in progress

Right now, things are BUSY. I hope you will excuse the lighter than normal schedule and bear with me while I get straight again. Meanwhile, I thought I would tell you what the hold up is…

Last Tuesday we caved and chose to get the bedroom walls lined with lining paper to give a perfect finish for painting. We had previously paid for them to be skimmed (lesson learned!) but cracks started to appear, which is inevitable in old houses and likely to only get worse as we shake it all again with the kitchen building work. We are so desperate to get back in there that we have since been flat out painting it. Everything needed doing and there was considerable prep work prior to actually getting on with the painting – ceiling, coving, woodwork, windows, doors and the walls, plus it’s not a small room so it has been an all consuming task each night after work and poor Pete has taken the brunt of it while I was at a hen party this weekend. (To be fair he is on the corresponding stag soon too!)

We are so close now but had to knuckle down and get it all done as the skirtings were last and had to be done before the carpet was delivered tomorrow. Now the end is in sight but the rest of the house is a mess, work has kicked up a gear, I have written work due for a course I am currently on, and the kitchen needs emptying before work starts in there. And at 24 weeks, I haven’t made time to do a single bit of exercise, which I feel pretty rubbish about.

So I need a few days to recharge and get sorted. Thanks for understanding.

Love,
Rebecca
xo

Trash T.V.

Time for a bit of guilty pleasures talk over here. Why not eh?

So, I watch pretty much no TV. I always have some American Drama on the go, Greys Anatomy being my preference, but that weekly slot is almost the only thing I bother with. Except my guilty pleasure. In addition to my ‘quality drama’ – hey it’s all relative here people, I also like a bit of trash tv on the side.

Historically it was Gossip girl, which I was borderline obsessed with, and currently it’s Nashville. It needs to be full of gorgeous glamorous types, a hot male lead or two doesn’t go amiss and a salacious storyline. Most importantly, I don’t need amazing writing, it’s all about the fluff. I just stick it on record and dip in and out when I get home on those days when I all I can do is collapse on the sofa and mourn the absence of a wine glass in hand. ;)

So today, I want to hear what your guilty pleasure is and what I should be watching?

Love,
Rebecca
xo

The Changing shape of Pregnancy (Dressing for the first 4-5 months)

One of the things that has taken me most by surprise during pregnancy has been the way I have changed shape. Right from the off I looked pregnant and when I broke the news to my colleagues at 11 weeks, nearly all of them said that they had already guessed. This sounds unbelievable and it certainly wasn’t ‘baby’, but bloat, as my digestive system was well and truly out of sorts for those first 10-12 weeks. Because I’m relatively slim (although I was heavier than I like to be at the time of finding out I was pregnant,) I expected to develop quite a neat, low down bump and that completely influenced my expectations of what I would be wearing. I imagined that I would keep wearing many of the dresses that I favour in a loose shift style from the likes of Whistles and Warehouse and that many tops and jumpers would still fit. I even thought I might be able to wear the waist accentuating styles that always tend to sit a bit high on me anyway as the bump would come from below. (I can hear those of you who have been pregnant chortling now!)

The reality has been totally different, as rather than developing that ‘low down’ bump I imagined, my whole tummy has come out at once, right from the top. I’ve always suffered from bloating and I suppose as my pelvis has become otherwise occupied my bowels have been pushed up. That has actually changed again in the last week or two as it’s coming out slightly more at the bottom now but either way I am W-I-D-E from the side! The other thing that took me by surprise was my boobs. They ballooned before I even knew I was pregnant and just kept going. Pre-pregnancy I was a 32C-D but I’ve gone up at least two cup sizes and my back size has gone up one too. As a result those cute shift styles look like more of a tent. All in all, quite a change and that’s why I wanted to share these pictures that show my body changing too. I can’t quite believe how slim I look in this first photo and how huge by comparison now!

I know lots of people can’t stand the idea of weighing themselves when pregnant, but it kind of fascinated me. I’m not fixated by numbers on the scales anyway and knew my shape was about to change so didn’t really fear it. Healthy weight gain ranges from 25 – 35lbs (1st 11 – 2st 7lbs) in pregnancy so I accepted that it was going to happen. I did worry in the first 12 weeks because I ate for England, partly to abate any mild nausea I got and partly because I was just hungry like I have never been before! When you receive those helpful weekly updates telling you ‘your baby weighs 40grams’ and/or is the size of a blueberry, you kind of know you shouldn’t be gaining weight at that stage! In the end I put about 4lbs on in the first trimester (although with the bloating it felt like much more,) and now at almost 24 weeks I’ve gained 11 lbs, so the rest of my body hasn’t changed a lot, bearing in mind that I was heavier when I got pregnant than I like to be. I really should have been more careful I guess, for health reasons more than anything, but I’m happy with the gain so far and if I had ballooned I would have tried to moderate my eating habits or make them healthier.

Getting back to the clothes side of things however, I thought I would review the things I bought in early pregnancy and how I have changed dressing for my new and slightly different shape. ;)

  1. Work has been the biggest problem as I wear a pair of Whistles navy ankle length tailored trousers day in day out. They fitted up to about 14 weeks then just got plain uncomfortable and I found jersey skirts to be a godsend. I purchased one from Dorothy Perkins and a maternity style from ASOS but to be honest the normal one is more than adequate as it’s a good length and just pulls up over the bump.
  2. The next purchase was my maternity jeans from H&M which have been a total godsend. Because I’m pregnant at this time of year I chose a dark distressed wash that I could dress up or down with a view to buying a second, perhaps coloured pair later in the year (which I’m looking for now,) that are more appropriate for summer.
  3. Totally not fashion related but I bought this water bottle from Primark as I was so thirsty initially and of course it’s always good to drink more water. A Bargain £1.50 in their fitness section.
  4. At 18 weeks I went on a hen do and needed something for the evening. I wasn’t yet looking totally convincingly pregnant, although it was clear if you knew me, so I opted for a looser style with this ASOS dress in a size up (12)
  5. I have continued to wear several loose blouse styles with my tube skirt as they look fine but  v-necks are a bit more risqué due to my enhanced bust so these H&M Vests are essential for modesty in the workplace!
  6. My biggest problem during those few awkward weeks before my bump really popped out convincingly was that my boobs were so big that the looser styles I favoured made me look like a house. As soon as I could get away with it, I switched to bodycon styles which made me look more obviously pregnant but also made me feel less enormous in general. I bought this Topshop maternity dress for evenings (quite short!) and another striped one which you can see me wearing here.
  7. I also bought this Joules dress very early on as it concealed my expanding waist (or so I thought) at work before I was ready to share the news.

I hope you guys have found this interesting reading. Pregnancy is the most amazing thing our bodies can do, but despite my admiration for my own body and it’s capabilities, I still don’t recognise it sometimes. As relaxed as I am about changing shape it has been a big adjustment and dressing my new shape has been hard so I’d love to hear any thoughts you have on what I have shared, your experiences and tips of dressing for pregnancy style in the first 4 months.

Love,
Rebecca
xo

Triple Temptation: Spring Palettes


Bobbi Brown // Nars // No.7

Every spring I’m tempted by the prettiest make up palettes that come out and look simply beautiful along with adding a bit of spring brightening sunshine to your make up look. Sometimes I feel like these are a bit of a folly but I have some lovely ones that I have used incessantly. As long as you pick colours that suit you it can be a hard working bit of kit. These are all brightening or blush compacts so likely to be the most useful of the possibilities out there and make a perfect spring treat for yourself or a gift for a friend.

Love,
Rebecca
xo

Spring nesting…


Coral Paisley Jacquard bedspread – Zara Home

I’ve always been a fan of white bedding but at this time of year I’m always drawn to the pretty brights available in bedding sets. Everywhere I turn the patterns and prints are spectacular, especially the range of glorious florals that make perfect spring-summer sleeping sense.

I thought I would round up some of my favourites and see what you guys think?

Clockwise from tope L: Peach Georgette bedding set, Matthew Williamson at Debenhams // Overscale floral bedset, M&S // Alimar (pink floral) bedding from Debenhams // Summer Floral Bedset, M&S // Charlottenburg, Designers Guild // Wild Coast bedlinen, M&S

Of course, it requires quite a neutral room to pull off such a block statement of colour and pattern but if you already have that in place then it is such a cost effective way to update your space and make a massive impact. I’m particularly drawn to the blues I’m seeing in various prints…

Clockwise from tope L: Scion Shibori bedlinen from John Lewis // Bluebellgray abstract petals bedding from John Lewis // Blue Chroma bedlinen, Sheridan at Debenhams // Asilah blue bedlinen, Debenhams

What do you think readers? Are you tempted or are you still sticking with white?

Love,
Rebecca
xo