Home Alone, But For How Long?

It turns out Harold had been planning his escape for quite some time.

‘Irreconcilable differences’ – that’s what the papers said.

Harold had taken the kids and not come back. I’m not going to win myself any friends here, but I shocked myself with how little I missed them at first. I called my friend Claire to tell her what happened and she was aghast. “How dare he take your kids?! How dare he walk out on you?”

The words made sense when I heard them, but I couldn’t muster up the vitriol to match her ire. I stopped listening to her after a while and left the phone off the hook. Slowly wandering round the house, I found myself trailing my hands along the pristine walls that we’d had painted just last month. The smiling faces of Alex and Milly looked out at me from the photos that we’d had taken whilst we’d been away in New York.

They were propped up on a park bench somewhere in Hyde Park, the auburn leaves of autumn falling around them. The composition was perfect, the mise en scène – ideal. They were even wearing the cutest matching pom pom bobble hats that I remember buying especially for the shoot – adorable. When I looked a little closer, though there was something a little off about it. Milly and Alex were smiling, cute little rows of milk teeth perfectly white, but there was something wrong with their eyes. They shined, unnaturally, as if they were both on the edge of tears.

The more I explored my own home, the more I started to see the discrepancies between my life and and my home. The kids’ rooms were spotlessly tidy. I breathed in deeply, trying to detect a trace of them, but I all I could smell was fresh paint and varnish.

A vintage rocking horse sat facing the corner of Milly’s room, I remember how she had hated it when we’d put in there. She’d spent hours crying in her cot, telling me through the baby monitor that the horse was watching her. It had cost Harold nearly £600 at an auction, so I wasn’t about to move it out of there.

One day I was taking some photos of the rooms for an abortive home decor blog post when I noticed that she’d turned it round to the face away from her – I remember being proud of her early independence, she wasn’t even 3 yet.

Mine and Harold’s room was perhaps the most eerie. The bed sheets were smoothed down to a tee, it hadn’t been slept in for days. A blast of fresh cotton fragrance blasted me as I walked through the room and irritated my sinuses. Harold had said that the automatic air fresheners were a step too far, but I’d insisted. He said that it masked our own scents that it made him feel like he was living a show room and I remember asking him what was so wrong with that.

I didn’t cry, when I finally made my way back downstairs. There were no histrionics or fretful online shopping sprees. All I could think about was how to get my family back home and convince them that I was worth loving.

Gilmour Girls + Thai Take-Out = Bliss

I’ve got a lot of explaining to do I know.

Last time I left you, I was in the midst of sorting out an almighty breakdown, I’d spent an entire week looking after my darling kids all by myself and I was at my absolute wit’s end.

Thankfully, Harold returned from his business trip and I was able to send him and the kids off to his Mum and Dad’s for the weekend.

I remember just shoving him out the door with the kids’ bags in his hands, Alex and Milly following along. It’s weird, looking back now, I don’t remember packing their bags. All I can recall was slamming the door behind them and just bawling my eyes out.

Well, I did that for about 10 minutes or so, until I remembered that I had a new face mask to try and that there was still a bottle of Prosecco left in the fridge from the party the month before. So I got myself all pampered up and sat down in the front room with the Prosecco, chocolate and a whole season of Gilmour Girls to catch up on.

The sun coming in through the window woke me up at 11. Something didn’t feel quite right, other than the awful headache and whiny chat of Rory and Lorelai, who had been auto-playing through the night. Then I realised that Harold had taken the kids and I had nothing to do all day but nurse my hangover! Sweet, blissful peace and quiet – it was like music to my ears.

I spent that day truly indulging in myself.

I ordered in some delicious Thai food, tried catching up on the Gilmour Girls and promptly fell asleep on the couch again. When I woke up this time, it was the street light outside streaming through the window that woke me up. The Red Thai Curry that I’d been spooning into my mouth had spilled a little onto my dressing gown and the fragrant smell of lemongrass and garlic hung in the air. My hangover had gone, but this time something was definitely not right.

I found my phone between the sofa cushions and saw what was wrong. No messages, no missed calls, no notifications. Nothing from my friends, nothing from my family, nothing from Harold. It had been 24 hours since I’d heard from anyone, or since anyone had heard from me. What was happening?

I threw my dirty dressing gown in the bin and tidied a bit, sipping from the left-over Prosecco bottle as I went. That’s when I noticed the envelope on the kitchen counter. My name was written on it in Harold’s handwriting – a gift maybe? A reward for all my hard work this year? Flights to some where sunny?

My hands trembled as they felt inside the big brown envelope for the contents. I found a thick wad of papers, almost too thick to pull out with one hand and tugged them out onto the counter.

Perhaps it’s the influence of all the American television I’ve watched, but I’d always assumed that it was a legal requirement for divorce papers to be served in person…

Night In With The My Scheming Black Face Mask

 There comes a time for every Mum – when it all gets a bit too much.

Harold was kind enough to bring some lovely Asian Skin Care products back from Taiwan, so I thought I’d open up a bottle of Prosecco and pamper myself silly for a night.

Time for a night in – without the kids.

For someone like me, a pretty much full-time Mum of two, who also writes her own blog, keeps an eye on current fashion events and has a hectic social calendar (with both my own friends and my husband’s) exhaustion can be just around the corner; a big old nervous breakdown is only a couple of toddler tantrums away.

It’s super important to look after yourself: mind, body and soul. Now that we’ve hurtled through this first month of the year, I can just about feel the edges of my sanity start to fray.

It can be really difficult to keep an eye on your personal well-being, especially when you’re booking yourself up all hours of the day with meetings, seeing friends and parenting. Sometimes it can often feel like the days are blending into the nights, until the weeks just feel like one horrendously busy, blurry sideshow that you can barely hold on to. Thanks to my new mindfulness techniques, that Dr. Harwich is teaching me, I’m getting better at noticing when I’m simply stretching myself too far. Dr. Harwich has told me that whenever I feel a bout of nervousness take hold, or even if I feel a little stretched, I should immediately drop all the responsibilities that I have and take some time for myself.

I’d had a particularly busy week last week, what with Alex’s Birthday party as well as the nightmare of Harold being away on business.

For five days I had a nasty glimpse into an alternate timeline where I never got married but still chose to have children. Woken up every morning at the crack of dawn, Harold wasn’t there to feed them, so I had to get their breakfast sorted before mine and make sure that they didn’t make a mess whilst they were eating. Harold usually sorts out feeding times, so it was a bit of a shock at first, I couldn’t believe how difficult they could be! I had to video chat him a couple of times this week just to make sure that I was doing the right thing.

With all the stress of looking after the kids for 5 mornings in a row (a nanny arrives at 10am to relieve me of duty) as well as being away from Harold, I was utterly destroyed when he came back. As soon as he’d got back and unpacked, I loaded the kids into his hands and sent him off to Mum’s for the weekend. When I ushered them out of the front door and locked all the hatches, I leant my back against the door and just bawled my eyes out. It felt so good.

If you’re thinking that I wasted a whole night in just crying then you are wrong!

The My Scheming Black Face Mask is the kind of beauty product that’s really best to try out by yourself. The product isn’t traditionally packaged like a normal cotton mask, instead it comes as a black liquid in a tube. The instructions are super simple, so all I had to was smear it on my face and let the strange liquid harden. Designed to yank out pesky whiteheads and blackheads, the liquid sticks to your skin and forms a hardened plastic-like mask, which you then peel off after half an hour or so. The peeling off procedure is pretty gross (I’m no beauty blogger, so you’ll not get any icky before/after pictures out of me) but I have to admit that I’m pretty pleased with the effects.


My skin looks a lot clearer, any little blackheads have been removed and you can barely even tell that I’ve been crying!

8 Happy Mums, 6 Empty Prosecco Bottles and 1 Filthy Oven

Saturday’s Vegan Feast, in celebration of my best friend Charlie’s 38th 30th Birthday, was an absolute treat.

The prosecco flowed readily, the food (a little bit provided by each guest) was all delicious and my Very Vegan Lemon Drizzle Cake turned out wonderfully! There was, however, one casualty from the day (and I’m not talking about Claire’s little trip after one too many glasses of bubbly!)…

champagne-1033655_1920

As I mentioned, we’d all convened a week prior to figure out what element of the feast we’d be bringing along.

Vegan food naturally lends itself to sumptuous salads, we had half of us knock up 4 different bowls of the green stuff – so we could all stuff ourselves guilt-free. To go with the salads, Claire and Rachel each provided divine home-made vegan flans and quiches. Although we were just entering the cold months of winter, this summery feast was just the thing we all needed. Vibrantly decorated with peppers and rocket, Claire’s Mediterranean flan was delicious – sweet and fruity, using a cunning mixture of chickpea flour, stock, black salt and yeast to replace the egg.

Rachel, the archetypal scatty member of the group, popped round mine an hour before the Birthday girl arrived, to whip up hers in classic, break-neck speed fashion. She’d speedily researched a dairy-free Spinach Quiche the night before and had just enough time to pull it together, before Charl and the rest of the ladies arrived. Her haste caused, how shall we call it…problems.

I’ve spent years cooking in the kitchen with my children.

They’re still only young, so when I get them helping out in the kitchen with me, I always have to take a little breath in and just ignore the mess they are inevitably going to make. I think of myself as a relatively well-tempered person – that being said, I was not prepared for the chaos that woman brought down upon my lovely kitchen.

It’s a good thing we weren’t planning on eating in the kitchen, as I’d have had to offer all the ladies dust sheets to protect their clothes. So wide-spread was the covering of flour, oil, pastry, seeds and herbs – that I had to abandon the idea of getting any of it clean before the party got started. Worst of all, but fortunately out of sight, was the oven. Although Rachel’s quiche turned out wonderfully, there was a slight spilling of the mixture as it entered the hot oven. We panicked when we smelt the burning, but the quiche was absolutely fine; however an even layer of tofu, oil and parsley was baked solidly to the bottom of my beautiful oven.

messy-table-after-bakingweb

Now, I’ve never really been one for cleaning – in fact I detest it.

I think it stems from one of the very first jobs that I took as a teenager, scrubbing dishes in a pub. We had to clean that entire kitchen down every night, it took an age. What made this worse was, every day the chefs would wreck the place – with absolutely no care for how much destruction they caused. Nursing a hefty hangover, I assessed the damage the morning after, whilst Harry was out with the kids (he’d graciously left me ‘in charge’ of cleaning up).  This was not a job that I was willing to tackle.

Cleaning up the house after raucous dinner parties is a pain and not something that I plan on ever doing. Thankfully, I have a raft of solutions at my disposal for such an eventuality. Some of these companies are local, whereas some are spread out nationwide.

I can wholeheartedly recommend every one of them – combined together they’re like a Fairy God Mother’s wand for your house. One swish (a few hours later) and your house is back to normal:

Fantastic Services

[For timely cleaning operations, as cheap as £13p/hr]

fantastic-serv

These guys are always the first people I run to if I’ve got a big party planned. Obviously the parties never get as raucous as our University days, but it’s still a pleasant thought to know that, no matter how much mess you cause, there’ll be someone there in the morning to sort out what’s left behind. They’re London-based, so bad luck if you’re not living in the City (you can call them on this number: 02034043444).


OvenU

[Prices vary depending on level of soiling]

ovenu5

There are OvenU franchises dotted all over the country. They’ve got a high standard for oven cleaning operations, offering either a surface level clean or an entire oven dismantling. For the clean freaks amongst you, it’s best to leave the room when they’re performing the latter – you’ll probably faint at the amount of dirt and grease that’s been lying within your oven. Their website has more info right here: https://www.ovenu.co.uk/reading


Clean That Carpet

[Reasonably priced on area needing cleaning]

cleaning-carpets

Another company that’s local to the London area, these guys are total professionals. Regardless of the severity of the stains, they’ve always turned up trumps for me and have saved me from a couple of serious panic attacks. [You can give them a call on this number here: 02038 374 903, they’ve always got plenty of deals on the go.]


As I’m writing, the home has been restored back to it’s natural state and I’ve still got a blissful 2 hours to enjoy it….before Harry and the kids return to wreck it all. C’est la vie!

A Vegan Birthday Celebration!

2016 has really been the year for Veganism.

With the rise of ancillary social media sites like Instagram and Snapchat, we now live in a society where it’s culturally accepted, if not encouraged, to actively share your lifestyle choices with your network.

vegetables-1620558_1920

A few years ago, the notion of regularly sharing a picture of your dinner online would have been met with ridicule.

Food, for most people, is such a mundane matter that it’s barely worth mentioning. However, the trend has snowballed from a few amateur cooks, with their digital cameras, to an army of eager healthy (and not so healthy) eaters brandishing iPhones, with fully fledged photo editing software.

Leading the masses of culinary enthusiasts are a select group of super bloggers, who have managed to be heard over the noise, by successfully showcasing their talents for free-from, vegan and raw cooking. Seamlessly blending vibrant photography and easy to cook recipes with an aspirational tone – these women have become a powerful voice in the food world, advocating alternative eating practices as a way to defeat debilitating health issues and also lose weight.

I’ve got countless friends who’ve grown attached to the consistent, joyful output from a number of these successful women writers.

Many of them have their own rags-to-riches stories that appeal in their own ways. Angela Liddon (of OhSheGlows fame) struggled with an eating disorder throughout her teenage years, eventually finding catharsis in blogging. Ella Mills (Britain’s own blogging success story who has recently launched her ‘Deliciously Ella’ own food line) suffered with Postural Tachycardia Syndrome for years before miraculously recovering, after changing to a plant-based diet.

Amongst many others, these women have inspired thousands to convert to Veganism. Not only have they removed the social stigma from making such a dramatic lifestyle change, they’ve made it positively fashionable.

birthday-women

One of my best friends, Charlie, is one of these loyal converts.

She has struggled with her weight for years after having her three children, practically back-to-back. Thanks to her super-blogger inspirations, she has managed to shed a tonne of weight and it’s made her much happier for it. Our children made friends in Nursery and that naturally led to us becoming close for the last 7 years or so. It’s been wonderful being able to have a fellow Mother to call in times of crisis – Char’s also helped me out with baby sitting on more than a few occasions.

It’s her 38th birthday this week and the girls are organising a big day out this weekend. We’re dumping our kids on the men (who are going to struggle paying attention to the football when there are 9 toddlers causing havoc around them) and sitting down to a glorious Vegan feast at my place. I’ve been charged with baking her a surprise (Vegan!) cake and have been experimenting all week with a variety of ingredients.

Although I fiddled around with using vegetable/fruit purees for a while, I thought I’d take it back to basics for the biggest flavour hit. In her pre-vegan days Charlie used to love Starbucks’ classic Lemon Drizzle Loaf Cake, I’m going to pay homage to that with a vegan version that should be just as tasty:

Very Vegan Lemon Drizzle Cake

[Will feed between 8-10 hungry Mums…]

For the cake:batter

260g plain flour

2tsp baking powder

good pinch of salt

165 fine caster sugar

2tbsp maple syrup

70ml rapeseed oil

250ml of dairy-alternative milk [soya or almond is fine]cake-mix

2tsp apple cider vinegar

2tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 lemons [for zesting]

For the drizzle:

1 lemon [for juice]butter-pound-cake-780058_1920

2tbsp granulated sugar

Method:

Pre-heat your oven to 180C/Gas 4, then oil your baking tin and line it with grease-proof paper.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a large mixing bowl and mix.

Separately, whisk up the sugar, syrup, oil, milk, vinegar and juice. Stir in the zest.

Combine the dry and wet ingredients, but don’t over stir them.

Tip the mixture into your tin and bake for 40 mins, or until an inserted metal skewer comes out clean.

Whilst you’re waiting, prep the drizzle by stirring together the juice and sugar.

Once the cake is baked, pierce it all over with a tooth pick and evenly cover it in the drizzle.

Leave to cool for a good hour or so, before moving on to a rack to cool properly.


I’m anticipating a fun day this weekend; with lots of prosecco, lovely food and a big smile on Charlie’s face when she sees this beauty!

Black Friday and Cyber Week – Should Have Hidden My Card!

This is a dangerous time of year to be my credit card.

As an ex-corporate marketer, I now help out small businesses with their branding and image, I can only guess how crazy things must have been in the old office last week.

purchasing-689442_1920

For many years, ‘Cyber Monday’ has been the biggest day in the Online Retail industry. Since the popularisation of America’s biggest shopping day, Black Friday, however, there’s been a seismic change in the way shops and online retailers dole out their reductions.

This year, the amount of anticipation for the shopping season has had an unprecedented amount of media coverage. Newspapers, online media outlets and social networks have been alive with chatter, leaving retailers with only one way of responding. Instead of saving their big deals and savings for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, corporate giants like Amazon and Very announced week long sales – capitalising on the attention that they’ve been given.

So this is good news for us shopaholics, right? I mean, more days of sales, equals better deals right?

Well, this year, that might not have actually been the case. The clever clogs over at MoneySavingExpert.com spotted a few examples of tempting Black Friday deals being either cheaper online or simply elsewhere on the High Street. There were also reports of retailers attempting to push low-quality items (cheap wide-screen TVs and white goods are common culprits) into the arms of deal-hungry consumers, let’s hope there aren’t too many disappointed shoppers out there!

There were still some great places to shop this Black Friday season.

The trick with picking out places to shop at is, for me, down to intent. The thousands of eager shoppers that line the streets, come Friday morning, may well be first in line for the retailers’ deals, but they’re also going to be susceptible to buying things they really don’t need. The best thing to do is stay safely wrapped up at home. Staying in and shopping will save you money in the long run, plus it’s just too cold out there now to be jostling with angry shoppers on the High Street.

Although I had really planned on not getting suckered in this year, I still found myself on the sofa with the kids on Friday night, credit card in hand! I did have a limit set, but there were so many lovely deals on – I might have gone a little overboard. Let’s not tell Harry about this – OK?

Here are a few of the deals I picked out on Black Friday, I mostly kept to high-end items to benefit from the biggest savings and guarantee the maximum bang for buck:

Hugo Boss Puffer Jacket

[ Was: £183 Deal Price: £129.10]

puffer-jacketpuffer-jacket-2

Children’s designer outlet, Kathryns (https://www.kathryns.co.uk/) had a very generous 30% discount on all their stock over the Black Friday Weekend, so I made sure to make the most of it by purchasing this classic puffer. It’s a timeless design and, as I bought it a couple of sizes up, it should fit Alex for a few years to come.


Canary All-in-One Home Security Device

[Was: £179 Deal Price: £109]

canary

This was a little bit of an impulse buy. Of course, Harry and I installed a security system into the house as soon as we had the kids, this is just a little bit of added security for when we have babysitters. The Canary is essentially a security hub, with a mini HD camera that records sharp videos whilst remaining discrete. A steal at this price.


The Oh She Glows Cookbook

[Was: £16.99 Deal Price: £16.99]

ohsheglowscookbook

Angela Liddon was the rising star of the food blogging scene this year, with her popular Vegan recipes blowing up Instagram on a regular basis. Her book, gorgeously photographed and well written, would make a great gift for any aspiring vegans – or even a treat for yourself!


OK – so I didn’t go completely nuts, but I still feel a little guilty. At least my boy will be warm for the next few winters and my house will be safe. If I still feel bad, I’m just going to have to console myself with some lovely vegan food!

New York Inspirations & A Lovely New Apron

We’re back from New York –  with more than just a few souvenirs.

 New York is one of those magical places that has the delicious charm of being exactly as is it appears in the Hollywood movies.

new-york-668616_1920

A city that is rarely portrayed without a nod to it’s grubbiness or ongoing homeless crisis, it nevertheless symbolises the pinnacle of the American Dream. Skyscrapers tower above you from all sides, if you don’t stop marvelling at them you’ll find yourself with a crick in the neck!

I’m so glad we took the time to go away together, even if it was just for the weekend. Harold and I met almost ten years ago; both of us well practised singletons, we had to learn how to allocate time to each other. Now, with both kids demanding our attention and work piling up for both of us, I almost feel like we’re back in the noughties again!

Our main purpose of heading out to New York was to spend some good quality time together.

However, in a city like the Big Apple, shopping was always going to make up a good sized portion of our time there. On top of all the major designers, present in Manhattan’s huge shopping district, there are also a giant slew of independent, vintage stores that have got to be explored.

I found this gorgeous retro apron, which reminded me of a picture I’d seen in one of my Mother’s old baking books and just had to have it. At only $10, it’s safe to say that Harry was more than happy to make a gift of it for me. I’ve found recently that I’m getting more joy from clothes and items that have emotional significance, or a sense of nostalgia, than the most expensive off the shelf items. I must be getting older…

retro-1321078_1280

We had a lovely time, getting to know each other again.

I’ll admit that we perhaps didn’t pack as well as we should – it was so cold out that, on the first night, we ended up staying in bed for most of the day! Still, it’s lovely to be back home with the kids again. It was a little difficult wrestling them away from Mum and Dad, I think they’d got a little used to have them around and slipped back into their past lives as parents again.

Harry and I ate like pigs whilst we were out there, but it wasn’t all for nought! With every meal we gorged, I was (mentally) taking notes and inspiration for something to make the kids when I returned home.

The grandeur and decadence in American cuisine is never more present than in their desserts – these brownies are a reworking of a recipe I’ve been developing for a while now, with some Stateside indulgence thrown in for good measure:

States-sized Chocolate Brownies

[Makes 6 BIG servings or 10 modest portions…]

For the Brownies:fudge-brownies-1235430

200g Dark Chocolate [70% minimum]

160g unsalted butter

125g fine caster sugar

2 big eggs, beaten lightly

60g plain flourbrownies-632963_1920

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 standard sized bar of chocolate [Mars, Snickers or any other is fine]

Serve with:brownie-548591_1280

Vanilla Ice Cream

Chocolate Sauce

Banana

Caramel Sauce

Method:

Preheat your oven to 180C/355F/Gas 4 and grease your tin – square or circle is fine.

Melt dark choccy in a bowl above a saucepan, add the butter once it’s melted and stir together.

Grab your bar of chocolate and chop it into small chunks, stir it into the mix and then you’re good to go!

Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, there should be cracks all over the top when it’s done.

Leave it to cool before tipping it out on a wire rack to air out.

Serve warm or cool with any of the above suggestions, I love a big scoop of Vanilla Ice Cream with a decadent pool of Caramel Sauce.


Definitely not something you (or your kids) should be eating everyday, but a perfect way to top an indulgent meal and a real winter warmer, when you serve it hot!

Flying Out To NYC – Airport Parking: Check, Itinerary: Check, Winter Coat: Panic!

Us Mums can often be a conservative bunch.

Regardless of how much money we (or our other halves) make; when you have children, they become the number one priority. So, when the cold weather comes back in around this time of year, we’re often faced with the choice of either fitting out our kids with some brand new woollens (that they probably don’t need) or replacing some of our own sorry pieces of threadbare Winter clothing.

snow-1030928_1920

If your kids are as young as mine (around 2 and 4), the best option for buying them Winter clothes, is to always buy a few sizes up.

If you buy from good retailers, you’ll often find that these items of clothing will last much longer than many of your own clothes. Little ones might well roll around and make up a lot of ground during the Summer months and inside the house, but they’re not going to be anywhere near as active during Winter. Wrap them up in high quality thermals and you won’t have to buy any more for at least a good couple of years.

With your kids’ Winter clothing all wrapped up for a couple of seasons, that leaves you with lots of playing around money to invest in that new Winter coat you’ve been waiting so long for. Now, the kind of coat that you’re going in for will vary depending on where you’re spending your Winter this year – you wouldn’t want to be sporting your brand new woollen Parker at the bar of a Ski Lodge!

This year, Harold and I are taking a brief break from the kids and flying off to New York for a long weekend.

Alex and Milly get to spend some quality time with Mum and Dad, who always love having their grandchildren to stay and we get to have our first romantic getaway for months, in one of the most festive cities on Earth. We leave next weekend and preparations are very nearly complete: we booked a parking space (book early to avoid slumming it and risking your car’s safety!), we’ve got a 3-day itinerary all planned out with Air B’n’B and our bags are nearly packed.

The only thing left for me to buy is a decent, chic Winter coat. Something that I can feel fashionable and warm in, when Harry and I are braving the near-freezing conditions out there.

These are the options that I’ve been considering so far:

Herringbone Column Coat

[from Jigsaw at £298]

coat-2 coat-1

Wool is always a sound option when thinking of Winter. This elegant coat could easily be paired with some smart tailoring – but could just as easily cover a cocktail dress for a Christmas dinner party.


Military Long Coat

[from M&S £125]

coat-3 coat-4

Slightly cheaper, but just as warm, this Wool-blend coat falls slightly longer, so you can pair it with a long skirt or even trousers – definitely a look suitable for a city break.


Parker Coat

[from Whistles at £170]

coat-6 coat-5

There have been rumours that Manchester’s favourite sons, Oasis, will be making a return to the stage once more – why not prepare for the inevitable 90s revival and invest in this essential piece of fashion  suitable for informal getaways only…


I’ve not got very long to figure out what I’m going to be wearing in NYC, but I’m glad that I’ve at least got some good options at my disposal. Any thoughts, to help me out?

Festive Snacks for My Scrooge

Let’s Embrace The Winter Weather, Rather Than Denying It!

We’re well and truly heading into the Christmas Season, so if you’re yet to truly get into the Festive Spirit, then it’s time to have a good hard look at yourself. This year, Harold’s taking an early holiday so that we can prepare the house for one of our biggest Christmas seasons yet.

christmas-cookies-553457_1920

The kids are still a little oblivious and we’re half tempted to keep them that way.

Although I’m a strong believer in celebrating Christmas, and encouraging the anticipation around the season, Harold has never been one for it. Coming from a fairly well-off, yet distant family (he doesn’t mind me saying, really!), the Saxbridges’ Christmas celebrations were terse, cursory affairs that served as a reminder of their emotionally frigid relation to one another.

Before Alex and Milly came along, I used to take Harry to my parents’ for the holidays.

A few days in the glorious countryside of Dorset were always a treat. Yet that sparkle of joy, that only children can provide, was always missing. This year, my parents are coming to stay with us here in Kensington and I’ll, hopefully, be able to show Harold what a real family Christmas feels like.

snow-664482_1920

love the Christmas season.

I love the colours, the feeling of optimism and most of all…the food! During December, we not only get to indulge an extra glass of wine (or two!) during the evening, it’s also socially acceptable to start eating all the foods that we dare not touch throughout the rest of the year. All manners of cheese, chocolates and (of course) loads of baked goods! For that reason alone, I always aim to shift into the Festive Season much sooner than most people.

This Festively Spiced Gingerbread Recipe is easy to do, fun for the kids and will tease even the most stubborn of Scrooges into embracing the Christmas spirit:

Gloriously Spiced Gingerbread

[Makes around 30 or so biscuits – may vary on size of your shapes…]

cookies-1793555_1280For the biscuits:

300g plain flour

1tsp baking powder

1/2tsp salt

1 1/2tsp grated nutmeg

1 1/2tsp ground cloves

2tsp ground cinnamonmezi-1111241_1280

3tsp ground ginger

225g unsalted butter

340g soft brown sugar

1 egg, beaten

75g, crytsal ginger, chopped finely

For the topping:the-gingerbread-1339203_1920

Around 250g icing sugar

Hundreds and thousands

Silver chocolate balls

Any other topping of your choice.

Method:

Firstly, sift all the dry ingredients (safe the spices) together in a mixing bowl,

Give the butter and sugar a good beating, then gradually beat in the egg. Slowly add this mixture to the dry ingredients to make the dough.

Throw the crystallised ginger in and give it a good mix.

Roll out the dough to around 3mm, then sick it in the fridge for a half hour to set.

Now comes the fun part! Grease a tray and grab the kids. You can buy cutters at most superstores, but there are also a ton of other ones online, should you crave something more unique.

Once you’ve got our shapes cut out, stick them in the oven for around 10 minutes – once removed, poke a little hole in each biscuit, so they cool a little quicker on the rack.

When the biscuits have sufficiently cooled, mix up the icing sugar, then go crazy!


As much fun as these gingerbread snacks are to make, I’m sure you’ll enjoy eating them all the more. Here’s hoping they’ll be cheerful enough to get my Harold feeling festive!