How to prepare for party season

December 24, 2016

The run-up to Christmas, for me, used to be all about going to parties (many of them work-related). These days, because Oscar’s birthday falls in December (and because this year I am taking over Christmas dinner for the first time), it’s the month in which I turn into a slightly crazed event planner. It’s a job I force upon myself, but I can’t help it – I love planning celebrations and the rush of seeing my ideas work out (I don’t like to think about the alternative…). In case you’re planning any parties this festive season, here are my tips for making sure a party goes to plan.


Make lists

And lists of your lists. I normally need a master list of everything I plan to cook at the party, then spin-off lists telling me what I need to buy for each recipe, when I need to make each thing, and exactly when I need to defrost/cook/assemble everything on the day. The same goes for entertainment, decorations and music (and, to some extent, guests). For birthdays, I also make lists of who brought which present so that I can send thank you cards afterwards.

Allow time for the odd catastrophe

This year, I decorated Oscar’s fire engine birthday cake and left it in a cake box in the coldest room of the house (the hall)… only to discover the next day that it had been turned on its side by my husband searching for his keys. Luckily I had a spare hour to touch up the cake before our guests arrived – and maybe it wouldn’t even have happened if I had been slightly less organised about the whole thing… but I can guarantee something else unforeseen would have tried to rain on the parade.

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How to cycle like a local in Amsterdam

November 22, 2016

Until I visited Amsterdam for the first time earlier this year, I hadn’t realised that London wasn’t the ‘cycling city’ then mayor Boris Johnson had talked it up as being. Yes, the capital has come a long way in terms of its relationship with cyclists, but I’m not sure how anyone can paint a few parts of the road blue and grandly proclaim them ‘cycling superhighways’ knowing that just 50 minutes’ flight away there’s a country where two-wheelers are the kings of the road, with their own roundabouts, traffic lights and segregated lanes. (Then again, if anyone has the nerve to do so, it’s the man who boarded the ‘Brexit battle bus’ and backed up Nigel Farage’s claim that we were sending hundreds of millions of pounds to the EU each week… grr). But back to bikes.

Cycling in Amsterdam is almost compulsory – and unlike in London, it’s a way of life, not a smug lifestyle choice or a manifestation of a mid-life crisis (in fact, I haven’t seen a single MAMIL since I’ve arrived). It’s so much part of the mindset here that even Oscar has started parking his tricycle a la Netherlands…

How to cycle like a local in Amsterdam |

But despite Holland’s proximity to Britain, the Dutch cycling code is about as far from our customs as it is possible to get. I mean, they don’t ride penny farthings backwards down the street in Amsterdam or anything, but there are quite a few practices here that, if not adopted, will instantly mark you out as a foreign cyclist. Here are the native rules of the road that I’ve managed to glean so far:

Never, ever wear a helmet…

I was quite fond of my BMX-style helmet which – as London helmet style standards go – I thought was pretty cool (lime-green colour excepted). Wanting to set a good example to Oscar, I diligently continued to wear it when cycling around my new city. For the first couple of weeks at least… I have never turned so many heads as I did wearing that helmet in Amsterdam; when a group of teenage girls openly laughed at me, I knew I was on the brink of succumbing to peer pressure – at 35. 

How to cycle like a local in Amsterdam |

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Beauty and Style

Autumn capsule refresh

November 10, 2016

I wanted to check in and chat capsule wardrobes. In case you’re wondering, I am still doing my capsule wardrobe and still loving it! I feel like I totally smashed it with the clothes I bought for my summer capsule (check them out here) and so doing the capsule this summer has been really fun. Three capsules in, I wanted to share a couple of thoughts with you.

Autumn capsule wardrobe Continue Reading…


Our flat in Amsterdam

October 20, 2016

One of the best things about our move to Amsterdam so far has been the flat we’re renting here – I just love it! And it’s a good job: since I’m working more from home now, I’m going to be spending a LOT of time in it…

When we agreed to move, we decided to throw caution to the wind by spending a big chunk of our income on a flat that had enough space for visitors, and was central enough for people to want to visit. We also figured that if we were going to move to Amsterdam, we might as well pay for the experience of actually living right in the thick of it, rather than in some well-connected but anonymous suburb. This apartment is just off Vondelpark so everything is on our doorstep. It’s insane!

As soon as we walked into this flat I knew I wanted to live here. Luckily, we were the first couple to view it, so we could snap it up. Another good thing was that all of the flats we viewed were the same (eye-watering) price (renting here is comparable to London), which meant we were able to discount cost in favour of more touchy-feely reasons for choosing this place (yay!).

First things first: we’re up on the third and fourth floors, so there are a LOT of (very steep) stairs before you even get to our front door, and then two more flights before you reach the living area, which is right at the top of the building.

Our flat in Amsterdam |

Our flat in Amsterdam |

It’s like having a built-in gym – a big change from our ground-floor flat in London, which contained a grand total of two steps. Between scooting up and down stairs all day and cycling everywhere, I’m willing to bet that the Dutch have the most toned bums and thighs in Europe…

Anyway, it’s worth the climb to get to the living area: it’s open plan with loads of light and a lovely flow – there’s also a terrace (come summer, you’ll find me up here working-slash-sunbathing)…

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Hello from Amsterdam!

October 9, 2016

Neither Rachel nor I really saw it coming, but this is the year we both moved countries with our families – she to Gran Canaria and me to the Netherlands. The irony is that Rachel is living on the island where I lived after meeting Juan, while we have moved to the location that she and Pete were considering before the job offer in the Canaries came through.

Hello from Amsterdam! |

This decision happened fairly suddenly for us, too. Juan and I had been talking for months about moving within London, because by that stage even I had accepted that we had outgrown our 1.5-bed flat in Peckham. The trouble was, we couldn’t afford to stay in the same area (we wouldn’t be able to buy the flat we technically own if we had to get a mortgage now, let alone somewhere bigger). So, after drawing up a list of potential new neighbourhoods, we half-heartedly visited each for a Sunday recce. But nowhere excited us (me) in the same way as our home turf; plus, the houses we could afford there were hardly bigger than what we have, and those extra two-dozen square feet would have stretched us to our financial limit. Factor in the tedium and stress of competing for properties within desirable catchment areas and you can probably understand why we were at a stalemate with our London move.

Meanwhile, every couple of months, Juan was travelling to Amsterdam for work – and seeing its potential for an existence with (gasp!) more work/life balance. When he suggested asking his company for a transfer to the Amsterdam office, I told him to go for it, feeling secretly confident that his bosses wouldn’t approve the request. I enjoyed about a month of not having to endure serious talks about moving house, and burying my head beneath the foundations of the one we were living in, free once more to ignore the fact that anything I ever wanted to use was always behind/under/on top of at least three other things, like a giant game of Jenga; free to continue kidding myself that my whole London set-up was simplicity itself.

Then, one summer afternoon, Juan called me to tell me about the offer his company had made him, which was better than he had been expecting… And just like that, I had to get used to the idea of leaving London and moving to a country where I know no one.

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Our flat in Las Palmas

September 22, 2016

When we arrived in Gran Canaria, we had a holiday flat booked for two weeks and no idea where we were going after that! Everyone told us that the property market in Las Palmas moves quickly and so we expected (hoped!) to find a place in that time.

Pete was brilliant and got on the case straightaway, scouring property sites and calling estate agents in Spanish. We also quickly realised how hard it is to get anything done with two kids in tow – we traipsed to several viewings stuffing bread sticks in their mouths in a bid to keep them quiet!

Our holiday rental had an open plan kitchen/living room and the two bedrooms were directly off it, which meant once the kids were in bed we felt like we had to creep around so as not to wake them up. In a way, it was a good experience for us as we knew we’d need more space than that and a better layout – and I was keen to have room for visitors.

When we walked into our flat after a week’s worth of looking, we both knew it was a serious contender. It’s large and bright, reasonably modern inside and features refreshingly un-hideous furniture (a rarity in Las Palmas it seems). We moved in a few days later.  Having spent at least 3 years gutting and redecorating our flat in London, it was so nice to just move into this place and feel settled straightaway (after a short trip to Ikea…). If you fancy having a peek around, here are some pictures below. Continue Reading…


Moving to Gran Canaria

August 22, 2016

If you follow me on Instagram, then you will know that last week I moved to Gran Canaria with Pete and the two boys (along with 12 suitcases, a bike, a car seat, a travel cot and a buggy…). If you don’t follow me on Instagram, you’re probably thinking, ‘What the?!?!’ – which is fair enough.

Before we left, I joked with Rose that I needed to write an FAQ for all our friends, as they kept asking the same questions. So even though it’s a bit late, I thought I’d bring you all up to date on the why and how of us moving to Gran Canaria.

Las Canteras beach


Pete is a teacher and was looking for a new job. Teaching is a bit funny as most new jobs are for a September start, so you pretty much get one chance a year to find a new job. Nothing that interesting was coming up in the UK, so we talked vaguely about looking abroad. Before I go on, I think I need to emphasise here how unadventurous I am. I never went travelling when I was younger and even though I like nice holidays, I also really really like staying at home on the sofa. So while I wasn’t super-keen on the idea of living abroad, it seemed fine to just ‘have a look’.

Then, this job in Gran Canaria came up so we turned to Nicky and Juan (who met in Gran Canaria and lived there for two years – Juan is from there, actually) for their opinion and they said we should go for it. It was pretty surreal when Pete got the call offering him the job, especially as we’d never visited before, but we didn’t have much time to stress about it and figured it’s one of those things you just have to say yes to, right? Right?!!

What’s the job?

Pete is going to be teaching at a British school – that means the children are all taught in English and they do English qualifications so it won’t be too much of an adjustment for him, although the students will mostly be Spanish kids. I’m freelance at the moment and can work remotely so I plan to get a desk in a co-working space.

What about the children?

Pete’s school starts at age three, so George will start there in September (sob!) and we’ve found a nice nursery for Thomas. Childcare is sooo cheap here (well, for an ex-pat anyway)! Thomas will be in full-time nursery (although I plan to pick him up early) so I want to take the opportunity to scale up my work (and take lunch breaks by the sea).

Can you speak Spanish?

Un poquito… Pete and I had been doing a combination of Michel Thomas and Duolingo (both of which I recommend). Pete was a bit further ahead than me and is also totally shameless when it comes to trying to speak Spanish – and he’s doing surprisingly well! He’s even managed to call Spanish estate agents and arrange viewings. I, on the other hand, am a bit further behind and honestly, trying to speak what little Spanish I know is so far out of my comfort zone that I’m finding it difficult. But I’m getting there! Obviously lots of people speak at least some English here, and I’m sure we could get away without really learning any Spanish while we’re here. We’ve spoken to a few teachers at his school who’ve been here for years and barely speak any, but we’re both keen to learn.

What did you do with all your stuff?

We’re renting out our flat in London, so we left all of our furniture behind. After much research, I decided the cheapest and easiest way to bring everything else over was on the flight with us. Between the four of us, we could carry 12 suitcases on our Easyjet flight! A few months ago we started the great de-clutter project, which basically involved sorting through everything we owned and deciding whether we wanted to take it, leave it behind or get rid of it. I figured that if we weren’t going to need something in the next two years, there had to be a good reason to keep it, so in the end I managed to keep the stuff we left behind to quite a reasonably restrained amount. There’s just one cupboard under the stairs in our flat that’s absolutely stuffed. We took about a million bags to the charity shop and I eBayed anything I thought might make money (with mixed results). In the end, we were right up to our limit of 12 suitcases x 20kg which is 240kg – nearly a quarter of a tonne!

How did you physically move it all?

Haha, I’m not sure! We had our luggage collected and taken to the airport by airportr (which is a fantastic service) and Pete’s dad came to the airport to help us actually check it all in. At the other end, we found a porter in the baggage reclaim area who helped us get it all out (while everyone stared at us) and we were met by someone from Pete’s school who had arranged several taxis to transport it all. I’m not going to lie that that, on top of a four-hour flight, made it a looooong day, but we survived without any major catastrophes (just a few tantrums). We were just relieved that all our bags made it through.

Where will you live?

We’re currently working on this. The rental market in Gran Canaria moves very quickly so places often come onto the market ready to move into. The school has rented a holiday apartment for us for a couple of weeks while we look for somewhere. We know that we want to live in the capital, Las Palmas, we want to be close to the beach and we want enough room for all the visitors we hope to have. I think I’ll write about this more when we’ve actually found a place!

Phew! Have I missed anything? Oh yes, Nicky’s moving, too – to Amsterdam. But I’ll let her fill you in on that…

What do you think? Are you secretly jealous or is this your worst nightmare?

P.S. A Kent getaway for the whole family, the perfect holiday and Airbnb tips.

Beauty and Style

A cure for acne that is free and simple

July 19, 2016

Those of you who know me IRL might recall that I have never had an easy relationship with my skin. I’m not talking about out-and-out chronic acne; more a misery of my own making. Basically, I hit puberty, discovered the sordid pleasure of squeezing blackheads, and never looked back – as a teenager, whole hours were spent peering into a magnifying mirror at close range, expunging gunge, then realising the extent of my self harm and panicking. I would dunk my face in a sinkful of cold water, or call to my brother for ‘Ice!’ like an extra on Casualty, or even resort to leaving the house with my hair swept right across my face. It was not pretty. Eventually, the Pill helped.

Everyone used to reassure me that at some point, my skin would clear up – but through my twenties, and both during and after pregnancy, the spots just wouldn’t die. However, for the past few months, and through no real effort on my part, I’ve noticed that my skin has – finally – started to look and feel miles better. It’s taken me a few months to trust that this is not just a phase, but now I am beginning to believe that, wrinkles and future degeneration aside, my skin and I might be over the worst.A free and simple skincare solution |

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Beauty and Style

Summer capsule buys

July 7, 2016

I started my summer capsule a couple of weeks ago and so far I’m absolutely loving it. Like I said in that post, I think I’m getting better at this whole ‘buying clothes that I actually like and that suit my lifestyle’ business with every capsule. Because I’m totally in love with everything I bought, I thought I’d do a little recap for you here:

summer_buys Continue Reading…