Review: Spectre

It wouldn’t be me if I wasn’t getting excited her about Bond, and the latest release Spectre is no exception – Pete and I went last night for a long awaited date night to Pizza Express and then onto the film which was lovely in itself, but Spectre… Wow.

The reviews have been mostly great and it is (as always) an amazingly entertaining watch, but I will say, it’s not perhaps as good as some of the others. I think Craig is the best bond ever and I hope he will do more, but there was a strong sense throughout that it was his last.

In some ways it felt like quite a departure from the usual format – there were references to Bonds past throughout the film and a few nods to classic bond with the odd cheesy moment, but it was the theme of bringing together all of Craigs recent Bonds (and their villains) that gave it an almost sequel like quality.

That said, Craig still plays a deliciously flawed Bond. There is a true sense of his fear in this one and also a little more weakness over women, more like we saw in Casino Royale and his love affair with Vesper Lynd. There are also truly cringe worthy moments of violence and cruelty where he appears at once unstoppable, but also on the brink of human defeat.

As always the cars are spectacular, the big set piece scenes are awesome, (although I enjoyed the car chase around the Vatican much more than the much discussed opening Day of the Dead opening scene,) and the women of Bond just get better and better. Monica Bellucci’s part really isn’t anything to write home about and perhaps a bit too classic (helpless female womanised by Bond) for my taste but Madelaine Swan’s character is much more interesting and kick-ass. ;)

So readers, have you seen it? Are you going? I’m giving it 5 stars, even though its not quite as epic as Craigs other Bonds, it was still amazing and I’d watch it again any day of the week! Go go go!


The 5 best books for babies…

I love reading to Bea and whilst our evening routine doesn’t always involve a story at the moment we do read to her every day, if not several times. We have done this since she was tiny, when it was really more for us than for her, so this is a little list of the best books we found for the first 12 months and I’d love to hear if you have any to add for that specific period.

Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes

“But the next baby born was truly divine, a sweet little child who was mine, all mine.”

My mum bought this for Bea when she was born, it is such a cute story and I loved reading it to her, in much the same way people enjoy ‘Guess how much I love you’.


One of my favourite books from childhood, I loved reading this to Bea for nostalgic reasons but it’s also one she can interact with by turning the (board) pages and I imagine will grow with her. We even ended up walking around when she’s tired or sad sing songing away, ‘Here’s a little baby one, two, three, carried in her mummy’s arms, what does she see…’ – and now it’s one of the staple gifts I buy for new babies.

That’s Not My Puppy

This was given to us by a friend with 2 kids who clearly knew what she was doing when she bought it! It became the first book that Bea really enjoyed and interacted with due to the touchy feely  panels on every page and with it’s sturdy board pages was also the book she learned to turn pages with herself. We now have Thats’s not my … Monkey, Owl, Kitten and Robot – just for a bit of non-stereotypical reading material ;)

I’d Know You Anywhere, My Love

There are things about you quite unlike any other. Things always known by your father or mother. So if you decide to be different one day, no worries…I’d know you anyway.

Totally schmaltzy in a way only a parent will appreciate ;) this was the first book that I personally ever bought for Bea. We bought it in the US on holiday and as such it is by an American Author, and refers to some unusual animals like the ‘blue footed booby.’ The illustrations are beautiful and it’s just a story I really love reading to her. It also has side notes encouraging children to make the actions for certain animals that we leave out now but will be great later on. I always think of this one as ‘our’ book and it’s another great one for a gift as it’s not that common over here.

The Snail and the Whale

This is the tale of a tiny snail and a great big grey blue hump backed whale…

Overtaking The Gruffalo in our affections comes this Julia Donaldson book about a snail who hitches a ride sightseeing around the world on a whales tail. It has wonderful alliteration and is quite a tongue twister to read but I love books that sing song and rhyme as you read them so I enjoy it and it never fails to settle eea down as a result too. This is a good one for the parent to enjoy reading as much as the child – no matter the age and its long enough to wind down with before bed.

This is just a selection of our personal favourites and is by no means exhaustive. Which books are your favourites for under ones? 

Love, Rebecca


Art Amateur…

I love art. Despite that, many of the walls in our home are still blank, simply out of my inability to pull the plug and purchase something to decorate them with. I hope in future we will have some spare cash to invest in beautiful limited editions or even some original prints and that stops me spending money on lovely prints now sometimes, despite there being so many out there.

‘You are my Happiness’ – Yvonne Coomber

When we renovated the lounge we really had a mind-block about what to put on the walls. It’s not a casual room, although the curtains keep it a bit less formal, (as do the constantly scattered toys on the floor nowadays!) so my usual choice of fun prints wasn’t quite right and my go to for simpler rooms of photographic prints or black and white prints wasn’t right in a room with so much colour.

For my birthday Pete bought me this Yvonne Coomber Limited edition print and it’s absolutely perfect for the space. We discovered her work at the Scarlet Hotel in Cornwall on our first anniversary and have many a time considered splashing out on an original. The prices have doubled since we started looking at them and realistically we’re not yet at the stage we should spend the money on one anyway, so I was thrilled with this. For all the reasons above, I never would have bought it myself, but it’s made me realise we should have done it sooner!

It made me wonder, have you ever spent a bit more on a piece of special art? Or if you haven’t is there something you always wish you had bought or would like to in future?


Found: Hannah Carding Prints

We went to visit friends in Bristol this weekend and my friend Caroline (who has excellent taste in art,) had just bought three prints which I was really taken with. The colours were so vibrant in real life and a little quirky.

It turned out they were by a friend of hers, Hannah Carding, and available on Etsy.

Fun fact of the day: The collective noun for a group of ladybirds is a ‘loveliness’.

How’s that for a lovely start to the week?


PS I like the tea towels too…

Girl About Town: Grimm Tales

Philip Pullman’s Grimm Tales: An immersive fairytale

Last year I went to see The Drowned Man and I found a new love for “interactive”, “immersive” theatre, so I’ve been on the look out for other similar experiences since. When the email about Philip Pullman’s Grimm Tales popped in to my inbox I snapped up some tickets.

Adapted and directed by Philip Pullman, he of His Dark Materials genius, coupled with my love of fairy tales in their original (i.e. not Disney-fied) form, my interest was piqued.

The teaser asks: “do you dare experience these infamous fairy tales, no longer bound to their pages but trailing your footsteps, breathing softly down your neck and unravelling in wonder before your eyes”… yes I did dare. But I did take my mum with me in case I got scared.

It wasn’t as creepy or as scary as I had hoped, but I suppose they are stories intended for children. They chose some of the lesser-known tales from the Brothers Grimm, which I think were some of the less grim tales (you see what I did there?), but I understand we can’t have the characters chopping off their toes to fit in to shoes or eyes being pecked by birds, that would be a very, erm, different experience, and not one I’d be reviewing here!

I did love the way that the small cast of actors brought some life and edge to characters we generally only see through Disney-tinted glassed these days. I think what impressed me the most, however, were the gorgeously freaky sets. Walls covered in aging maps, annotated with snippets of information about well known fairy tale locations (Grandma’s house, the wishing well…) and a red string trail pinned between them. Rooms filled with spinning wheels piled on top of each other, some of them still spinning. A bar area crammed with crates of shiny, juicy, enticing red apples. Corridors and staircases lined with pictures that dare you to look twice, and often you’d wish you didn’t…

It’s been extended to April, so you can grab tickets here

Victoria x

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

Found: Dot & Fox Print shop

Today it’s just a brief post to share a fab find I made over the weekend, Dot & Fox Print Shop. Set up by Joanna Brown, the shop is named after her son Beau Fox, (born shortly before Bea) and Dot, the daughter she sadly lost in pregnancy. The prints in the shop were taken as she walked in her local area following that loss, then the shop set up while she was on bed rest awaiting Beau. Although I follow Joanna on Instagram I didn’t know about her shop and so when I stumbled across it at the weekend I had to share it with you all. I’m always looking for prints for our house and am currently obsessed with photographic art so these are right up my street.

BOOM Neon pink A3 print

I can just imagine this huge neon print in our bedroom, and I LOVE this A1 giant print inside what looks like a botanic gardens glasshouse.

Urban Jungle A1 print

These two are particularly beautiful, almost like still life oil paintings, there’s so much texture…

Don’t tell the others but you are my favourite‘ and ‘Oh so quiet‘ Ltd edition prints.

I hope you like them readers – Joanna also donates 5% to Tommys charity for every print sold if you are interested. It’s always a bonus to support a good cause whilst shopping ;) Do click over to the Dot & Fox Print Shop and have a look around – these are just my favourites.


Reviewed: Modern Country

I’m a massive fan of interiors inspiration books and so I was happy to receive Modern Country for review recently. Normally I wouldn’t classify my style as ‘country’ at all, but if you feel the same definitely don’t let this put you off exploring this gorgeous collection of stunning homes.

I was really pleasantly surprised to find a collection of homes that ranged from eclectic to modern to rustic, salvage and industrial takes on relaxed country style.

It’s a perfect gift for those interiors lovers you may know and the publishers have arranged a special offer for you all…

Reader Offer:
To order Modern Country at the discounted price of £24.00 including p&p* (RRP: £30.00), telephone 01903 828503 or email and quote the offer code APG217.
*UK ONLY – Please add £2.50 if ordering from overseas.

It’s definitely worth a look! Have a great weekend readers!


Modern Country is published by Jacqui Small (@JacquiSmallPub)

The Honourable Woman

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Have you seen it?

The other day my friend asked me if I was watching The Honourable Woman. She sold it as ‘similar to Homeland’ and told me to check it out on iPlayer (episodes 1-7 are available for just over a week now so get there quick!) and so Pete and I sat down to watch it one afternoon while he was on paternity leave.

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Oh. My. Goodness. I was hooked before the first episode was even half through! Similar to Homeland in the sense of having spies, terrorism and secret loyalties at its heart it is also helped along by a stellar female cast taking powerful roles with a wardrobe to match, (hello Maggie,) and lots of clever political dialogue. Its also incredibly timely as it centres around the age old conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis.

I’m probably very late to the party on this one, but if you haven’t heard of it or watched it, it’s totally worth binge watching before it’s gone! Have you seen it? Did you love it?

Oh and no spoilers please! I’m only 2 episodes in ;)


Florence’s Book club

Welcome to another book club – it’s been a while since we have shared some good reads and I’ll be reading with particular interest today, particularly in the comments as I’m going away soon and could do with some holiday reading. :) Thank you to Alexa and Victoria for providing the reviews this month and do let me know if you have any great reads we should be sharing soon – just send an email to me with a short review.

Longbourn by Jo Baker

My name is Victoria and I am a Pride and Prejudice addict. I’ve read the book countless times. I own the 90s BBC series on VHS, DVD and have it saved on my Sky+ for emergency Jane Austen watching. The recent Keira Knightley version continues to grow on me after a number of re-watches and I’ve also dabbled with the “sequels”, but remain largely disappointed. (As an aside, thoughts on Death at Pemberley this Christmas?)

So it’ll be no surprise that, while searching for some literary escapism on the shelves of my local bookstore, I was hooked by a quote on the back cover of Longbourn by Jo Baker:

“If Elizabeth Bennet had the washing of her own petticoats,’ Sarah thought, ‘she would be more careful not to tramp through muddy fields.’”

This isn’t a sequel where we follow the characters in to the next step of their lives, although there is a little glimpse of life post Lizzie-Darcy nuptials. Nor is it a re-telling of the original from a different perspective, though we do see a lot of behind-the-scenes action around the key events of the original tale. It’s actually a parallel story about the servants at Longbourn, in particular Sarah the housemaid, and their lives, loves, worries, woes and the secrets they hide.

P&P fans should, however, read with caution. The author takes some liberties with one or two of our favourite characters with a shocking-ish plot twist or two (I guessed, not sure if I liked), we see very little of Darcy and Bingley and far too much of the dastardly Wickham and, be warned, as you follow Sarah’s story your love for Miss Lizzie may start to wane just a little.

My main criticism would be that there was a little bit too much back-story devoted to life outside of Longbourn for one particular character where I lost interest slightly but overall, for P&P fans I’d recommend this as a good light read.

- Victoria

Dominion – CJ Sansom

What if Churchill hadn’t become Prime Minister in 1940? Set in 1952, Dominion works on that idea and gives an alternative history of what could have happened if Britain had surrendered to Nazi Germany in 1940 and instead become, in essence, a Nazi satellite state. Within a few chapters of the book, Britain is a place where press, radio, speech and the streets are controlled by the state and subject to violent police and sometimes Gestapo rule and where there is an ever increasing move towards anti-Semitism.

The story focuses on David Fitzgerald, a disillusioned civil servant who becomes a spy for the resistance and is tasked with helping an old university friend escape a mental hospital with a secret that could change the balance of power all the while keeping his actions secret from his wife.

Interwoven with actual events and real people, it’s an incredibly thought provoking book about one of the many alternatives to what could have happened if Britain hadn’t continued the war effort. It’s part spy thriller, part love story, but also part what could have happened. Maybe it’s coming from a Jewish family, or some of the current rhetoric from certain political parties but it really made me think about undercurrents of thought that sit in society and can easily come to be accepted and mainstream beliefs.

The Fault in Our Stars – John Green

I’d recommend you start this book with a lot of tissues close by. And also probably some chocolate to hand. The Fault in our Stars tells the story of Hazel, a 16 year old cancer patient who attends a support group (somewhat unwillingly) and meets August Waters, a 17 year old amputee and ex basketball player.

It’s billed as a young adult book but I don’t think anyone would struggle to relate to the characters or the experiences through the book which although ultimately are a story about death, actually are more about life and living and taking chances. John Green writes beautifully and has a way of making you feel for all the characters from Hazel’s parents to Hazel and Augustus themselves, without making you feel pity. And don’t worry; some bits will make you laugh as well as cry.

- Alexa

Have you read anything good lately readers?