Monday, 18 March 2013

Yurts up at Botelet for 2013 season

I've written many times before of my love of Botelet. Home to the yurt of our honeymoon and the yurt of our first family holiday with the baby, Botelet is my little corner of heaven in Cornwall. I saw today that the yurts are up for the 2013 season and they are taking bookings. Sadly, the baby now moving means we are unable to stay in the yurt this year but I am hoping to book a stay in one of the cotttages instead.

This is glamping at it's best and least pretentious. I really can't recommend more highly.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

life lately... places I have been in London

The Drapers Arms, Islington... this was our first stop of the day, for a lunch which started off as 3 plus baby and ended up as 8. one of those days which just works and people join in. I had a wonderful beetroot and pearl barley risotto which the baby loved so much she ate spoonfuls off my plate. I also had the best latte I've had in a long time. So good, that I had to have another one later on. in fact, the food was universally decried to be excellent and the selection of drinks good too. there was also plenty of room for the baby, and a lovely garden. just right for a rainy Saturday afternoon but, I imagine, lovely in summer too.

the rest of the party decamped to watch the rugby, but, such is the way sometimes with children, Pip refused to sleep in the pub after lunch and so I just couldn't take her to watch rugby over tired but not wanting to settle in her buggy either. so Pip and her godmother and I wondered idly round some of the shops of Islington, trying on a few unflattering dresses in the Whistles sale, testing out some new products in Aesop and fighting amongst the debris in the remainder of the Gap sale.

Duke of Cambridge, Islington, N1 Duke of Cambridge Organic Pub, Islington ... this was our second pub visit of the day; a lovely cosy way to while away a rainy miserable Saturday evening with friends. The Duke of Cambridge is Britain's first (and apparently only) certified organic pub. We sat round a big wooden table and interspersed our Kernal beers with various items from the bar and dinner menus, which are written up on big chalk boards. I'm hesitant to review the food, as such, as I only tried a starter and pudding, but wouldn't have recommended either. that said, the other people in our party enjoyed theirs, and the drinks were excellent. there was also water in pitchers on the bar, which was nice. the nicest things though were the little things; the changing table, highchairs, welcoming to the baby (who we popped into her pram in her pjs after food, and she went to sleep, allowing us to stay for a drink or two) and all the food information.

photo credits:

Drapers Arms here | Duke of Cambridge pub here

Friday, 8 March 2013

Life lately... & Other Stories

Sometimes one just happens to be in the right place. This lunchtime I was walking up Regents Street in the peeing rain, heading for the tube, when I passed & Other Stories, H&M and Cos's bigger designer sister and thought, ooh, I've read about that store in Vogue. I'll pop in and have a look. It seemed quite busy, but it was lunchtime, and it's been a while since I've been shopping on my own in town. I had a quick look round, admired some of the clothes, the dresses, colours, and some of the shoes and leather goods in particular but decided that I must try and abstain from any more purchasing.

In the end, I did buy a pair of black pants (lingerie, not trousers) which look faintly Stella McCartney-esque, like her range for Adidas perhaps, crossed slightly with more risqué styling, sort of black mesh. I can't find them online oddly or I'd share them.

And then, I thought I'd test out a cobalt coloured nail varnish as I love the colour but never want to spend too much on trendy colours. No time to test it yet but I'll report back. The packaging looks nice though, I like the way it looks like paint. And when I went to the till, I was given a free lip gloss as well. Which was a nice surprise. Which is where I found out that the shop had opened about an hour previous.

Which explains the crowds.

So, I thought the pieces were interesting and pretty reasonably priced. Some of the underwear was mor expensive than Cos, and, not quite as nice, but in general there looked to be lots of neutrals and useful wardrobe additions as well as lots of pops of colour including cobalt, neon coral and orange. I was quite taken with some of the brown/tan shoes but sadly the queues for trying them put me off. Another time perhaps.

Worth a visit, I think.

256-258 Regent Street
Near Oxford Circus tube station

Website here

Sunday, 3 March 2013

life lately... places I have been in London

Kipferl @ Camden Passage, Angel

Kipferl (Austrian and Viennese Cafe and Kitchen) Camden Passage, Islington - After a week of my own tonsillitis and then the baby developing her own illness, I was in desperate need of a couple of hours to myself this afternoon. Leaving the baby with her Dad, I popped down to Islington and met my sister and her boyfriend. We were after somewhere to sit down and have a quick chat and we ended up eating wieners with rye and mustard whilst we caught up on the week behind and ahead. They also had a variety of delicious looking cakes, but having made a chocolate and Guinness cake on Friday, I passed.

Goodbye Grey Sky

Raystitch (99 Essex Road) - Raystitch is a haberdashers and cafe set up by Rachel Hart and is just across the road from where I used to go to WI when I used to live in Islington, although it didn't open until 2011. I've been meaning to go there for ages and I finally managed to go today when I realised I had to give back the cot sheets we borrowed when Pip was born and that given I can't find any I like, that I should just make my own. Sadly, or luckily for my bank account, I didn't have much time this afternoon to browse, it was more a case of rush in, find some fabric, have a quick coffee and leave again. They sell all sorts of fabric, haberdashery, my favourite Merchant & Mills supplies and they run all sort of classes. And did I mention they serve coffee. And cake? I will be back.

Photo credits:

Kipferl | Raystitch

Material World (Perri Lewis)

I love to make things, but I rarely buy books about the subject. Beautiful though they often are, they are usually filled with projects that either are impractical or lovely in theory but no one needs. Perri Lewis's Material World: The Modern Craft Bible is a little bit different.

For starters, it's not just about making things. It's full of general guidance, quotes, ideas and techniques. Secondly, it's about a variety of skills - and how to adapt them. Take the quilting chapter for instance; basic guidance and then instructions regarding a chair, but also discusses making quilts and other more utilitarian options. The one thing it's not is a follow by numbers guide. The key to Perri's work is adaptation "I like to think of this as the Jamie Oliver approach to craft. Whack in a bit extra of what you fancy, cut back on elements that you don't like, or don't have handy. Don't fret too much about the rules along the way, so long as what you end up with is perfect for you." which is perfect for me. If I had to follow a project exactly I would never start or finish anything. All my most creative work is when I just sit down and get on with it, experimenting and making it up. That said, having Perri's guide to basic technique and instruction (as well as inspiration) is quite helpful.

I haven't had that much time for crafting recently and barely any time even for reading, but I've enjoyed dipping in and out of this over the past few weeks. I'm not going to lie - I don't have time for a big project at the moment but this book has inspired me to get my sewing machine out and whizz up a couple of (teeny) projects. I even went to a haberdashers today and bought some material to make some cot sheets and bits and pieces for Pip's nursery.

And, and, I got some more Liberty scraps online so I can finally start Pip's quilt. It's not going to be a chair (well, not this incarnation, anyway) but it will be thanks to this book that it finally gets going.


Thanks to Ebury Publishing for the review copy. All words, opinions and half finished projects my own. Find details of my sponsorship policy here.

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Geek Girl (Holly Smale)

Baby Pip (my very own Geek Girl?)
" “My name is Harriet Manners, and I am a geek.”

Harriet Manners knows that a cat has 32 muscles in each ear, a “jiffy” lasts 1/100th of a second, and the average person laughs 15 times per day. She knows that bats always turn left when exiting a cave and that peanuts are one of the ingredients of dynamite.

But she doesn’t know why nobody at school seems to like her.

So when Harriet is spotted by a top model agent, she grabs the chance to reinvent herself. Even if it means stealing her best friend's dream, incurring the wrath of her arch enemy Alexa, and repeatedly humiliating herself in front of impossibly handsome model Nick. Even if it means lying to the people she loves.

Veering from one couture disaster to the next with the help of her overly enthusiastic father and her uber-geeky stalker, Toby, Harriet begins to realise that the world of fashion doesn't seem to like her any more than the real world did.

As her old life starts to fall apart, will Harriet be able to transform herself before she ruins everything?
Geek Girl was one of the reasons that I got to thinking about Young Adult fiction/literature last night. I pre-ordered this book last autumn sometime and it arrived last week, although it's official release date is today. What's that you say? A timely post? Anyhow.
You might have realised I love young adult fiction and, within that, strong female (teenage) characters. It was whilst I was reading Geek Girl that I realised that Harriet Manners is the first teenage character I've encountered who has a mobile (and who lives in this current decade - what *is* it that we are calling it - the 2010s?). This makes Harriet different from any character in any YA book that I've ever read and, I think, why I found it harder to relate to her.
That's not to say I didn't like or even love the book, I did. It's funny, and fast paced and well written and not too predictable. It's just that I can't get over the fact that I didn't recognise Harriet and it made me feel old and out of touch. And also made me a little worried for it will be like when Pip is a teenager. And Harriet's nemesis, Alexa, didn't even seem to be using social media to help enforce Harriet's status as a geek. Goodness knows what she'd have achieved if she did. 
I found Harriet an interesting protagonist. On the one hand, I could see my teenage acquaintances in parts of her, although, strangely, not myself. I wasn't enough of a geek to be a geek and whilst I had friends, no best friend like Harriet. Neither pretty or ugly, I don't think I stood out particularly at school. On the other, as is often the case with teen things these days (don't I sound so like a grandmother) I often can't understand why a character struggles and so on, when it seems they have all the required attributes. That said, she was quite self obsessed - maybe that was the problem!
In the end, I liked that Geek Girl wasn't a simple geek to chic story - there was a lot more to it than that. Complicated relationships that all teenagers suffer; parents, friends, boys. Harriet's 'big moment' didn't really mean anything after all. Or did it? There is a sequel to come, after all.
This was not a sponsored post. I bought my own copy. That said, in the interests of full disclosure, the author is a friend of mine. She didn't ask me to review it; she doesn't even know that I am. What she (hopefully) does know is that if I didn't like it, I would say it and I certainly wouldn't post a review here.

Young Adult Literature with female characters

Whilst reading reviews of something else, I came across a sad statement. It said "It made me jealous of today’s teens who get such high quality literature written for them (it was a leap straight from Sweet Valley High to Jilly Cooper in my day)" Whilst I cannot be sure if we were teenagers at the same time (I was 13 in 1995) I rather felt for the author of a blog who writes about female authors that she seemed to have lacked so much in terms of teenage female role models or specifically young adult literature about female characters. Not that there is anything wrong with SVH or Jilly Cooper. I think I own almost every SVH ever written and just bought all the most recent ebooks as well. 

I read avidly as a teenager and this statement made me try and think back to those books that I loved in those early teenage years. It also doesn't hurt that it's world book day on Friday.

Starting this post was like opening Pandora's box. The more I thought about it, the more books I could remember. This post will go on forever, so I am limiting it and I think it will have to be a reoccuring series. Add your favourites in the comments if you want.

My all time favourite was Rose, in A Little Love Song (Michelle Magorian). That's a book I still re-read to this day and such is my love for this book that my friend arranged for Michelle Magorian to sign a copy of this book for Pip. Set against the backdrop of the Second World War, A Little Love Song is one summer of Rose's life as an evacuee, arriving a schoolgirl, leaving a strong confident woman. She gave me hope that I too would fall in love, but also that I didn't need to. And that I didn't need to change to be grown up and accepted; that by being myself, I'd be ok.

Nancy Blackett in the Swallows and Amazons series (Arthur Ransome) is my longest standing girl crush on a female character. I was 7 when I first read Swallows and Amazons and always wanted to be Nancy. She was a pirate, a sailor, independent, self reliant and the ring leader of all the Swallows and Amazons adventures. She could do everything that John could do, but was also a girl. I dressed up as Nancy Blackett for world book day when I was 10. Nancy is described by Sara Maitland as a childhood role model "who transcended the restriction of femininity without succumbing to the lure of male-identification" and a "hero who had all the characteristics necessary for the job; who lived between the countries of the material and the imaginary" (I realise that Susan does fall neatly into female gender stereotyping in many ways but also without Susan, none of the adventures would ever have gone ahead. Susan knew that the parental figures did not care so much for adventure but did care that one of them could be relied on to ensure everyone went to bed, ate meals and washed. All expeditions require a cook and organiser and in Ransome's case, this happened to be Susan).

Sadie Jackson in Twelfth Day of July (Puffin Teenage Fiction) and the rest of the 'Kevin and Sadie' series (Joan Lingard). Sadie lives in Belfast and is a protestant; she meets and falls in love with Kevin, a catholic. The series follows their relationship from Belfast, London and Liverpool and did a really good job of educating me about the Irish troubles. Sadie was pretty much everything I wasn't as a teenager and I think that's why I found her so fascinating. She wasn't going to let life in Belfast stop her from living; she was sassy and courageous and followed her heart rather than her father's instructions. We read The Twelfth Day of July in the third form perhaps, as part of our English coursework and I then sought out every other book in the series in the library. Partly, I suspect, because the relationship between Kevin and Sadie was at the core of the series and, much like now, I love a good romance. But there was far more to it than that.

Alex in the Alex series (Tessa Duder). Alex was a New Zealand swimming school girl with serious talent, training for and then competing at the 1960 Rome Olympics."I have always known that in another life I was-or will be-a dolphin. I am a pink human, caught in a net of ambition and years of hard work. In a few minutes I will dive into artificially turquoise water waiting at my feet. A minute later I'll either be ecstatic or a failure." (Alex in In Lane Three, Alex Archer). I was reminded of the Alex books when watching the Olympics last summer and have been trying to track them down again to re-read (I didn't own any of them and had to rely on the school library).

Liz in In spite of all terror (Hestor Burton). I could write reams on this book (and did, in my dissertation). Liz  lives with her aunt and her family in East London poverty before being evacuated to Oxfordshire and a relatively wealthy family who really wanted a boy. She is geeky, determined and self sufficient and in the end, she and the family she is evacuated to find peace united in their grief. A common theme to my favourite books was strong female teenagers finding themselves set to a background of war and, as part of that, falling in love. Liz and Ben's love is not graphic like Rose and Alec's is, in A Little Love Song. That was written in the 1990s and shows (in a good way). Liz meanwhile remains in the late 1960s and although younger and chaster, I still wanted to be like Liz and to find but not depend on a man like Ben.

Victoria in Vicarage Family: A Biography of Myself (Noel Streatfeild), Laura in the Laura Ingalls Wilder series, Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, most of the books by Judy Blume, the list is endless. I'm not quite sure where children's literature becomes young adult literature in some places and indeed I think the boundary can be quite blurred but basically anything aimed at 10/12 years to 18 years must be a rough definition.

To be continued...

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

life lately... London Fashion Weekend

just before I succumbed to a nasty bout of what turned out to be tonsillitis and had to essentially retire to bed for four days, I did manage one outing...

London Fashion Weekend is the commercial shopping little sister to the industry show that is London Fashion Week. I say little sister, but sometimes I'm not convinced they are that close. Cousins maybe. I tried explaining how divorced they are to Marto, but he said, clothes, London, same venue, same week. How far apart can they be? Anyway, Pip and I headed down on Friday afternoon to check the place out, courtesy of Propercorn (who make my favourite Sweet & Salty Popcorn) along with my friend Miss L. Sadly our tickets didn't include either a goody bag or entrance to the catwalk events, which was rather a shame, so we wondered around the shopping instead. Pip and I had fun posing with the diet coke hunk, pouting in the Benefit photo booth (and getting a sample of their new mascara to see just what Jo sees in it - I will report back) and eating free yogurt. Maybe it's because I don't have much spare cash, or because my tastes have changed, or because I had a baby with me, but I actually found the show a little disappointing. Whilst Somerset House *is* a beautiful venue, it also has a lot of doorways, which isn't always the most pleasant in a crowd. I also felt that the selection of designers was tired and that they were selling any old stock, rather than this season's wares. It also felt very cliquey and full of people looking like they'd dresses in an effort to be shot for a street style blog photo. Rather false, perhaps. That said, I enjoyed my eyebrow wax and the coffee and chorizo I ate at Fernando & Wells and Somerset House is just stunning.

Propercorn sent me 2 tickets and a bag of my favourite popcorn after I won a competition on their twitter feed. This is not a sponsored post as such although details of my sponsorship policy can be found here 

Photo taken by the Benefit photo booth but I paid for my own eyebrow wax.

Monday, 18 February 2013

life lately... places I have been in London this week

Church of St Bartholomew the Great (2)

St Bartholomew the Great Cloister Cafe, Farringdon I haven't been back to St Bartholomew the Great for years. It was in 2006 that I was a member of the London Lawyer's Chorus and sang in Songs of Praise which was filmed at St Barts. Last week, I took the baby down to Farringdon for a wander round and to check out a pub that a friend was thinking of applying for a job at. After a lunch of 'sliders' in a rather non-baby friendly pub with good music (I think I've been away from the pub scene too long - these appear to be a 'thing') I ended up pushing open the heavy doors of St Barts and heading into the peaceful serenity of the cloisters. The coffee wasn't bad (not brilliant, but I've had worse) the staff friendly and the location, stunning. Again, not the most baby friendly place I've ever been, but they were very welcoming to her, and I could imagine without a baby whiling away a few hours reading and thinking.

Well & Bucket pub

Well and Bucket pub, 143 Bethnal Green Road, Shoreditch - An old Shoreditch pub which is being re-opened by Barworks (no website yet for the pub). I went along to the opening night with a friend (and without the baby, obviously) and enjoyed a couple of margaritas in the basement cocktail bar. I say a couple, but it could have been three. And don't mention the glass of prosecco I drank in the outside smoking area whilst discussing all manner of things with some people we met when it started raining and we all huddled together under the sheltered parts. Obviously it was hard to tell from the opening night whether it will be a success but the place had been nicely done up and the drinks were good. I am told that they will have sliders on their menu come opening. See, sliders really do seem to be a thing.

Juergen Teller

Juergen Teller at the ICA. Juergen Teller is a contemporary photographer and the exhibition 'Woo!' at the ICA is a look through his fashion and commercial work from the 1990s onwards. I love the ICA and how it makes me feel like a little part of the art world, just by drinking coffee in the cafe, as if these sorts of things can be absorbed like osmosis. I especially enjoy people watching and the ICA is an excellent place, full of arty types having important meetings and people admiring the exhibitions. It doesn't feel touristy like some of the larger galleries. I took the baby and met up with one of my favourite ladies (who has finally moved to London) and we enjoyed a mixture of discussing the photographs and watching Pip crawl around the galleries. The image above is one of my favourites from the exhibition, not least because I find it really hard to imagine that those legs really do belong to Victoria Beckham. Teller's work spans the beautiful to the really hard to look at - an uncomfortable use of nudity for nudity sake, rather than for beauty. His own naked form features heavily in the images, often in an interloping sort of way - and the sign on the wall of the gallery could better have read "some images DO NOT feature adult nudity" (and in some cases, I wish they hadn't. I could have done without seeing a 10 foot high full frontal of Vivienne Westwood - not that I can't see his point between the dichotomy of age, beauty and sexuality- it was just one of those photos where I didn't need to see so much of it to get the point). It was a fascinating exhibition and one which I would recommend. I especially liked the way that it challenges the perception of beauty and fashion. And who knew that the Marc Jacobs campaigns pushed that perception so far - these were not images I had seen in Vogue. I must be reading the wrong magazines. (ICA, until 17 March)

Photo credits:
Cloisters cafe from here | Well and Bucket from here | Juergen Teller via here

Sunday, 17 February 2013

life locally... Chriskitch, Muswell Hill

Rare is the day when both Marto and I both separately decide that we want to visit the same cafe on the same day. Independently we had both discovered Chriskitch last week and waited until the weekend so that we could go together. I was keen to try the coffee and cake and admire the vintage furniture; Marto told me that he came across the cafe on the wine forum he frequents and was excited that a chef who had worked with Gordon Ramsey and Alain Ducasse was serving food just down the road from us.

We were not disappointed. We started with cake. Lemon pound cake, to be exact. It was beautiful. I had a nice latte, Marto a mint tea. We were sat at a huge butchers block with vintage school chairs, in the enormous front window, full of light. Under foot, vintage floorboards from a factory in Islington. There were newspapers. (although we had the baby with us, so reading was impossible. but it would have been a lovely place to read, sans bebe). Sugar cubes in vintage tins.

The salads tempted us. A perfectly roasted chicken leg, drizzled with a teeny bit of oil and sprinkled with salt, to serve. A plate of a gorgeous selection of salads, as pretty on the plate as in the mouth. My favourite was leeks, peas, broccoli and samphire but they were all delicious. The chicken leg served with roasted vegetables. Mouthful after mouthful of sweet roasted garlic, pulled out of it's skin, crunchy slightly bitter almost charred lemon and chili falling apart and off the stalk. Roasted red onion. Better even than Marto cooks at home, and that is saying something. It has to be a good restaurant these days for the food to be better than we eat at home.

And then a pudding. How could you not when the owner comes over to discuss the food and recommends the treacle tart to finish. A macchiato and a little bit of chocolate torte with it for Marto (courtesy of Chris, the owner, because as he put it, "you've got to have a little bit chocolate with a macchiato").
7a Tetherdown, Muswell Hill

Monday, 4 February 2013

Yoga, Ballet (and Sweaty Betty)

A Sweaty Betty boutique recently opened just down the road from us. Aside from being one of the few places that makes sports kit that I actually want to wear, I really like their approach to supporting women and the community by running free sports classes. Did you know that? I didn't until I went in when I wanted a swimming costume that I could actually swim in. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the kit not only looks good but also works. Since then I've bought a swimming hat, yoga leggings, yoga bra and yoga vest.

I have done a vinyasa flow yoga class for the past two weeks and almost don't want to tell people about it, because it's first come first served for the places. I hadn't ever fully thought about the fact that yoga is first and foremost about your mind, with the body a pleasing by-product, but the teacher of these classes is great at reminding us. And never before have I needed so much an hour a week to myself, conscious of only my breathing and movement from one position to another. Three classes in (I did another class with the same teacher at the weekend) and the movements already seem more familiar. Interestingly, it seemed harder today. Maybe because I'm more tired.

This month, Sweaty Betty has teamed up with Barrecore to run a month of free classes called Meet me at the barre. As a lover of both ballet and yoga, I can't wait to try this out, although I suspect it will be more exercise than I am used to. I was really excited to see that Sweaty Betty are teaming up with interesting new classes that women are interested in taking, rather than simply pushing a tired format of classes. They also have a new range of ballet/dance clothes in store, which I was pleased about, as I really struggled to find a ballet leotard which fitted my post natal boobs.

This post contains affiliate links although this post was drafted prior to accepting Sweaty Betty as an affiliate. You can read about my affiliate policy here.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Cowshed (and introducing affiliates...)

if you read this on the actual website, as opposed to in an RSS feed, you might have noticed some affiliate images appearing in my right hand side bar. following my decision not to return to my previous job at the end of my maternity leave, I have been attempting to supplement my (non) income through my blog. 

the reality for you the reader is an occasional sponsored post - which I was already doing and you can read about my policy here and my reasoning here - although I do not limit the source of the sponsored posts - and affiliate links.

the companies that I choose to feature using affiliate links are companies that I like and would recommend regardless. basically, I may make a small commission if a product is purchased through the blog. you, the reader, never pay more for a product through an affiliate link.

in order to ensure absolute transparency - and to share products that I like - I am attempting to introduce each new affiliate link. you will see the banner and a link under the 'affiliate' tab in the right hand side bar, which will indicate which companies I have an affiliate relationship with. I find it annoying when other blogs, particularly ones with quite large readership, frequently include links to all sorts of products without being clear whether they are being paid or what the financial relationship is. this is my effort to make sure that I am clear with my readers.

which is where this post about Cowshed comes in. these products are among my very favourite toiletries and I have written before about my love and I am pleased that they are now an affiliate of PF & DR. some of my favourite products are the Organic Facial Oils by Cowshed and the Maternity and Baby at Cowshed. Pip has the entire range of Baby Cow Organics at Cowshed products which she (and we) love too.

I should also add, they do Free Delivery on orders over £55 and they always include a Free Gift with all Cowshed orders. The packaging is eco friendly and the black and white graphic boxes make useful storage (just in case anyone is in to boxes and wrapping as much as I am...)

Saturday, 2 February 2013

on watership down...

we went for a family walk to watership down today, in the beautiful bright clear winter sun. we were with my parents and they very kindly lent me their camera to practice taking some photographs. here are a few that I liked. (I don't really know how to use the camera very well, so bear with me!)

we walked along past a wood and up across the down to an iron age fort. we stopped at the top briefly but it the wind was too chilly to stay for long, so we turned round and retraced our footsteps, our shadows lengthening across the hillside.

(all photos by me - except the pilon and the wheat field at the bottom, which my Dad took, but I liked)

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Before Midnight

I read today that Richard Linklater's film Before Midnight (link contains plot spoilers) premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last weekend. Apparently the sequel was mooted back in the autumn of 2012 as a finished film, but I missed this, only reading about it on A Cup of Jo this afternoon. I can't find any kind of release date but Jo mentions September in the US.

If you haven't seen either of the first two films (Before Sunrise, 1995 & Before Sunset, 2004) you must see them. Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy essentially spend the first two films talking - like you might imagine the most romantic of meetings to be, where the conversation just flows and you don't even notice that it's suddenly dawn. In 1995 they have one night in Vienna; in 2004, they are in Paris for an afternoon. My husband introduced me to the first film whilst we were at university and I am sure that he envisioned falling in love to be a bit like meeting Julie Delpy (which of course it was...!).

I can't wait to see Before Midnight - just don't make the mistake of reading the Guardian review which contains both a massive plot spoiler and is strangely negative amongst a general sea of hugely positive reviews.

Photograph: Despina Spyrou/AP

Monday, 21 January 2013

Ecover Zero (Review)

update - I discovered that you can buy the Ecover Zero washing up liquid at Planet Organic, if you don't fancy buying it online.

You might remember ages ago that I mentioned I'd been sent some Ecover Zero products to review. I know I said I'd write the review in a week or two, but actually, I thought it better to give the products a full test before I gave an opinion.

I was sent the washing up liquid, the washing liquid and fabric conditioner as well as a tea towel and two cloths (the soap and brushes were already on my sink).

Ecover ZERO is Ecover’s new fragrance-free range, "specially crafted to give great washing results while being suitable for sensitive skin".  Ecover says that it is their " first ever range to be awarded with the stamp of approval from Allergy UK".

They have chosen to focus on the core products of Laundry Liquid, Washing Powder, Fabric Conditioner and Washing Up Liquid (I didn't get to test the washing powder) as "these core products tend to be the key culprits for irritating skin and causing allergic reactions".

I especially liked the washing up liquid and we used the whole bottle. We have reverted to the Lemon & Aloe Vera Ecover washing up liquid but purely because I had already bought it prior to the trial. I think I will try and get the Ecover Zero one though next time, as I liked the way that I felt confident using the liquid on all of the baby's paraphernalia, particularly her bottles and cups, as I really don't like the idea of her milk being scented. Aside from no smell, it lathered and behaved in exactly the same way as any other Ecover washing up liquid and went just as far. I particularly like the way that Ecover washing up liquid never feels slimy (and I am happy to use it when camping as I don't worry about chemicals going directly into the water table).

I also really liked the fabric conditioner (technical difficulties withstanding) as my main reason for never using fabric conditioner is the all pervading smell. My towels (for I only use fabric conditioner on towels) came out nice and soft and with not a hint of biscuit. The washing liquid, whilst technically successful in that my clothes were clean, I was less enamoured with, purely for the fact that I do like to have my clothes have a (very) gentle scent, particularly underwear, nappies and anything that one suspects may have come into contact with baby vomit. I find the normal Ecover liquid does a good job of this already. However, if any of my family had any allergy problems or issues with scents at all, then the Ecover Zero liquid would be perfect. Personal preference I guess. I would still recommend it.


(Ecover answers your questions)

Where can I buy Ecover ZERO? 
At the moment you can buy it online at our official retail website, Ecover Direct. We are currently looking at making it available in supermarkets, other online shops and independent stockists too. 

 If it’s fragrance free, what’s that smell? 
What you can smell in our laundry products are the ingredients in it - surfactants that work to get your clothes clean. You should find that the smell completely disappears in the wash. Other “no fragrance” products often add masking agents so you can’t smell the active ingredients but as we wanted this range to be free from any unnecessary ingredients we chose not to use one. 

I received the products from Ecover. You can find further details regarding my sponsorship policy here

Sunday, 20 January 2013

A Year of Doing Good (Judith O'Reilly)

I finished Judith O'Reilly's A Year of Doing Good last night and wanted to come here and write about it before life moved on and I didn't write anything. Light reading it may be, if you follow me on twitter you might have seen me describe it as 'human, honest and humorous'. I started following Judith's blog, Wife In the North, back before I got married or had children but despite, at that time, us being at rather different life stages, I was hooked on her diary accounting her move to Northumberland from London, pregnancy, birth and how she built a community in her new surrounds. She battled with loneliness, depression, anxiety and repeatedly running out of petrol and I could empathise with it all, albeit sometimes retrospectively since reading. The blog became a book, which I bought and read and even return to now and then, which is a mark of something being well written. 

And now, her second book. Funnily enough, I bought it after doing a good deed in a cafe (returning a mobile phone which an elderly couple and their daughter had left behind on the table, leaving my baby in the care of a friend whilst I chased after them. The act reminded me of the book which had been serialised (reviewed? I can't recall) in the Sunday Times over the Christmas period and, having received a book token from my grandparents instead of their usual choice of paperback, and which I had mentally earmarked to buy on its release, I decided to go and buy.

A Year of Doing Good is more than a list of good deeds. It's a sequel to Wife in the North, although I think it would be just as enjoyable without knowing the back story. It is inspiring, as ever since I have tried gone nicer to people and have been doing my best to do a good deed myself every day, or whenever possible, even if small. I particularly liked one scene in which Judith buys a parking ticket for another family and they are then inspired to pay the good turn forward. So I have been smiling at other mothers, holding open doors, asking how people are. I wrote a card to a relative; I rang my mother in law when habitually I would have texted or emailed. I have supported a friend's new business (not just as a good deed but because I love her and her products, but still, it is support). [I have still managed to be very very cross though. And give some companies a piece of my mind. But that's another post]. As Judith discovered, doing good turns doesn't make you a better person. But I am inspired to try. (and might even record them too).

What A Year of Doing Good is, I think, is a reminder, a letter. An insight into a community. A reminder that life isn't always good to us but that a little kindness can go a small way to making a difference to people. One recurring theme through both books is Judith's first born son, a son who died in utero. Through both books she details her grief and how she has come to terms with this. I cannot relate but I think I am not too far off the mark in stating that if I could relate I would find Judith's words helpful.

So, I recommend reading. And being inspired.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

One week in

If you made it to the bottom of my new year post, you might have seen my resolutions. Top of that list was declutter. Properly declutter. As in simplify life. After a lovely afternoon with some of my favourite ladies, one of them sent me the link to a year long project about simplifying life. A 2013 in 2013 declutter challenge. I'm not going to formally participate using their forum, but I am going to record my progress here.

Coincidentally, I had already taken the first step and this lot has already gone to the charity shop. Yes, that is an Ikea bag full of shoes. I'm not exactly sure how many items were in those bags but I think I will count it as 50. I will update my tally throughout the year. (and might even list what I have got rid of - these bags contain shoes, clothes and sheets. We also took Delilah's unused cat basket to the vet for them to use for rescue cats or in their hospital).

I am making an effort to simplify the things I do have, so investing in one nice and beautiful item and having only one, getting rid of the others. So far, Marto has bought me a beautiful Stella McCartney bra for my birthday now that I have stopped breastfeeding. We went to a lovely lingerie boutique and had it properly fitted, which was a treat in itself. I then am going to get rid of all my other ill fitting but I kept them anyway because I didn't have anything else to wear bras. I just need the baby to stop teething and settle to sleep properly so that I have a moment to do that!

So far as my other resolutions are going, My birthday money has been partly spent on some beautiful items to try and assist with three of my resolutions (go to bed earlier, read more, Internet less). I am attempting to make our bedroom a really inviting relaxing space where bedtime will be 10pm. I have bought new (sale) pyjamas, am decluttering the room, have put all my Christmas and birthday books in a pile by my bedside to read and we have managed to get into bed with tea and our book several times already this year.

Lastly, I am attempting to stop procrastinating and actually do things. This morning I changed the address on my vogue subscription. A small thing, but it's been on my mental to do list since we moved last March.