Preparing for summer

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What a difference a day makes! Yesterday it felt like we were in mid Autumn and I dressed accordingly, in jeans, boots, jumper and scarf. Today we finally got some sunshine – I wouldn’t exactly call it a scorcher but at least it was warm enough for short sleeves. I might even have got my legs out if I hadn’t been so thoroughly unprepared. The unseasonally cold weather means that I’ve been neglecting to apply my St Tropez fake tan on a regular basis – what’s the point if all you’re wearing is jeans, leggings or black tights?

So tonight as an action-packed but mostly rainy half term draws to a close, I took some time out to have a lovely long bath with a glass of red wine and my book as company. As I am naturally quite pale I usually start my fake tanning process by applying the St Tropez Everyday body moisturiser to gradually build up some colour before switching to the mousse as we get further into summer. As we all know, exfoliating is a must before fake tanning – the few times I have skipped this step I have lived to regret it – and my favourite by far is Flake Away by Soap & Glory (I adore their kitsch packaging and the products are fab too). Finally I gave my nails a couple of coats of the very summery Chanel polish in Riviera. Unfortunately this colour is no longer available to buy as it was a limited edition polish launched in the summer of 2010 (when my daughter was born).

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I couldn’t resist finishing the post with some of the pictures I took of the lovely blooms in my mother-in-law’s garden a couple of weeks ago, when we also saw a rare glimpse of sunshine. Now we’ve had another taste of it, I just want more so fingers crossed for a sunny weekend!

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Liberty ♥ Marc by Marc Jacobs

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It’s a match made in style heaven: Marc by Marc Jacobs and luxury department store Liberty have teamed up to create an exclusive collection of accessories in the iconic Liberty print. As you would expect from such a partnership, the result is nothing short of stunning.

Two classic ditsy floral prints, Emma & Georgina and Wiltshire, have been selected from the Liberty archive of over 40,000 prints to adorn five of the designer’s Pretty Nylon styles: a tote bag, tablet case, mini make-up bag, cosmetics case and backpack. I love both the prints but if pushed I would probably choose Emma & Georgina, which is a mix of two tiny dense floral designs inspired by Liberty’s large collection of Victorian pattern books. I’ve got my eye on the tablet case and the smaller make-up bag – both would be perfect to bring on holidays and weekends away.

The Marc by Marc Jacobs x Liberty collection is now available to buy in store and online exclusively at Liberty.

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Recipe – Simple Banana Bread

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In our house there always seems to be a couple of sad overripe bananas left in the fruit bowl. The children don’t like them when they’re green and won’t even contemplate eating a banana with ‘black bits’ on. However, it’s a different story when they’re baked into a delicious banana bread!

This is a variation of a recipe I found in a magazine a few years ago and have adapted to suit my family’s tastes (ie no sultanas or apple pieces although these can be added if you wish. I sometimes add some chopped up chocolate which always goes down a treat). It really is very simple and the banana bread tastes wonderful eaten warm straight from the oven or toasted with lashings of butter.

220g plain flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

80g caster sugar

75g brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine all of the above in a bowl, make a well in the centre and add:

2 medium eggs

125ml vegetable oil

3 mashed ripe bananas

Pour into a greased 20cm x 10cm loaf tin, sprinkle with brown sugar and bake in a preheated oven at 160c/140c fan/ gas 2 1/2 for 60 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer.

A touch of neon

Blazing hues of orange were all over the Spring/Summer 13 catwalks and while I’m no slave to trends, I do like my wardrobe to at least incorporate a nod to the current season. And let’s face it, after three children I’m unlikely to embrace the bare midriff trend also spotted at the SS13 fashion shows.

I have to confess that I am not entirely comfortable with bright colours, preferring to stick to a more muted palette of black, grey, navy, and white. If I do venture near them I tend to steer away from yellow and orange and choose the colours at the colder end of the spectrum like pink and blue. But comfort zones are there to break out of and this week I’m really tempted by this neon stripe sweater from J. Crew. The orange is brighter in real life than it looks in the picture but combined with the white, the effect is crisp and fresh, especially when teamed with denim. As luck would have it, the sweater is currently on sale on the J.Crew website (link)

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If I was really brave I would crank up the neon look a bit further and add this Comme de Garcons clutch bag and Marc by Marc Jacobs sandals (both from My Wardrobe) to complete the outfit.

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Beauty line-up

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Why, oh why, do all beauty products run out at the same time and with a week to go until payday? Luckily I had some points saved up on my Boots advantage card so I was able to stock up and replenish my bathroom cabinet shelves without too much damage to the bank balance. There is always the temptation to buy cheaper substitutes to see you through until the end of the month but, while there are some great budget beauty buys out there, I’ve learned the hard way that it doesn’t pay to scrimp on the products you really love.

While my favourite hair and skin essentials do chop and change over time, these are some of my current go-to products that make me feel (and hopefully look) fabulous:

1.Kérastase Resistance Ciment Anti-usure conditioner. A nourishing treatment conditioner that’s perfect for dry, highlighted hair like mine.

2. Kérastase Specifique Bain Exfoliant Hydratant shampoo. I have a very dry scalp and my hairdresser recommended this shampoo which has really helped.

3. Super Facialist Neroli Firming Daily Brightening Cleanser by Una Brennan . This cleanser is great value and lives up to its name, making skin look brighter and refreshes.

4. Dr Jart+ Platinum BB Beauty Balm. I was very late to jump on the BB bandwagon but after trying this cream I am definitely a convert. With great coverage and texture, it is easy to apply, lasts all day and has a 30 SPF.

5. Paul Mitchell Forever Blonde Dramatic Repair. Again, this leave-in spray was recommended by my hairdresser and has quickly become a regular fixture in my haircare line-up.

6, 7 and 9. I swear by the day and night Hyaluron Filler creams by Eucerin, the products make a real difference to my skin and don’t break the bank. As an extra bonus, this time a small bottle of serum was included with the night cream.

8. No 7 Lift & Luminate Eye Cream. I only recently started using an eye cream so I can’t say that this one is a firm favourite yet but my initial impression is good. It has a light texture and sinks into the skin quickly.

Date Night ♥

Ready to go out in skirt from H&M, top from Zara, clutch by Mulberry and cuff from H&M (last year)

Ready to go out in skirt from H&M, top from Zara, clutch by Mulberry and cuff from H&M (last year)

After 17 years together (11 of them married), three children and four homes, my husband is still one of my favourite people to spend time with. Of course like all couples we argue (let’s face it family life can be extremely stressful at times) but he still makes me laugh and I value his opinion above pretty much anyone else’s.

But while we’re quite good at giving each other ‘me time’ (to do exercise, see friends etc) and socialising with other people as a couple, it always feels like a bit of an indulgence to book a babysitter just so the two of us ca go out together. Every time we do manage to organise a date night though, I wonder why we don’t do it more often. It doesn’t have to be a big elaborate occasion – this time we just went for a meal at a local restaurant. We had a glass of wine at the pub first followed by a lovely two-course dinner and were home before midnight so I still managed to make it to the gym this morning.

A chilled glass of rose tasted like summer even if the temperature outside was anything but. Chorizo and king prawn skewers with chilli mayo to start followed by chicken saltimbocca with pan fried potatoes and rocket.

A chilled glass of rose tasted like summer even if the temperature outside was anything but. Chorizo and king prawn skewers with chilli mayo to start followed by chicken saltimbocca with pan fried potatoes and rocket.

Currently Coveting # 2

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Hmm, I really thought that by now my wish list would have moved on to summer dresses and sandals but unfortunately the weather here in England is still more akin to October than May. And late May at that – in just over a week it will officially be summer! Anyway, enough about the depressing weather and onto the pieces that have caught my eye this week.

First up is a gorgeous blazer from Whistles which, because it’s made from a heavy jersey fabric, manages to straddle that tricky divide between smart and casual. The Jimmy Jimmy boyfriend skinny jeans by my fave denim brand Paige (available from Shopbop) are a must-have this season and can be teamed with the Breton striped T-shirt by Saint James for J. Crew for a crisp summer look with a touch of French chic. I am slightly obsessed with brightly coloured shoes at the moment and while yellow is a colour I would never wear near my face (unless it is in the palest lemon shade), on a pair of shoes it is perfect. This pair are from Whistles, which also has the same style in a more demure salmon pink or beige. Rose gold makes a change from my usual silver jewellery and the friendship bracelets from Monica Vinader are among the cutest accessories I’ve seen this season.

Start the day with a healthy breakfast – Low carb muesli

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In my opinion breakfast really is the most important meal of the day and I hardly ever skip it. At the moment I am trying to cut down on the carbs in the hope of losing a few pounds. This muesli takes no time at all to make and tastes delicious with some Greek yoghurt and a generous handful of berries. (Original recipe from Swedish website Matplatsen)

Here is the recipe:

100 ml pumpkin seeds
100 ml sunflower seeds
100 ml sesame seeds
100 ml linseeds
100 ml walnuts
100 ml unsalted cashew nuts
100 ml desiccated coconut
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
2 tsps cinnamon
50 ml water
50 ml neutral oil

Mix everything together and spread out on a baking tray. Roast in an oven heated to 200 C for approximately 15 minutes. Stir the mixture regularly and watch it so it doesn’t burn. Store the muesli in an airtight container.

Bedroom makeover

Top row (l-r): Neisha Crosland Pollen wallpaper, Neisha Crosland Merlin wallpaper, Christian Lacroix Air de Paris wallpaper. Middle row: curtains from John Lewis, lamp base and shade from Ikea. Bottom row: Grey cushions from Heal's and white cushion from Day Home

Top row (l-r): Neisha Crosland Pollen wallpaper, Neisha Crosland Merlin wallpaper, Christian Lacroix Air de Paris wallpaper. Middle row: curtains from John Lewis, lamp base and shade from Ikea. Bottom row: Grey cushions from Heal’s and white cushion from Day Home

When we moved into our house just over five years ago we immediately started ripping out carpets, sanding floorboards and painting all the rooms. Funnily enough, deep red carpets paired with lilac or mustard coloured walls weren’t exactly to our taste…

Since then we haven’t done very much to the house apart from adding a laundry room and renovating the bathroom (as we only have one bathroom for five of us it takes quite a beating). The neutral colour palette and stripped wooden floors combo that we have chosen is easy to live with and can easily be updated by changing the curtains, cushions or furnishings. Another reason for not making any major changes is that we are hopefully planning an extension in the not too far future, creating a big open plan kitchen/living area downstairs and converting the loft into a master bedroom with en-suite. However, this is still at least another year down the line and lately I’ve found myself looking at interior magazines and Pintrest boards rather wistfully, wishing that I could incorporate some of the ideas into my own home.

It just so happens that last year we had a leak in our roof which, although it was fixed before Christmas, damaged the ceiling and wall in our bedroom (if you look closely at the picture below you can see the stain on the ceiling in the left hand corner, and the water has also seeped into the wall and marked the wallpaper). Well if you ask me it’s the perfect excuse to redecorate the bedroom and change the look. I still like having a feature wall in there (it’s the only one in the house) as I think it softens the room a bit. The wallpaper we have at the moment is by Neisha Crosland and I really love her designs, including the two in the picture above. I think a grey and white colour scheme would be nice and calm, possibly with a bit of soft pink or lilac thrown in to add a feminine touch. Meanwhile, I’ll carry on surfing the net looking for more inspiration to pin to my boards. The great thing about Pintrest is that you can create your moodboards, chop and change as you like and keep them all in one place. If you want to follow me on Pintrest please click here.

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The Weekend in Pictures

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I kicked off the weekend by having three of my girlfriends over for dinner on Friday night (my husband was at home but decided that it was safer to retreat into the living room rather than join in the girly gossip!). We started with some croustades filled with smoked salmon and a chicken and tarragon mixture, followed by Chilli Corn Carne and finished off with my lemon and white chocolate cake. They very kindly brought me some beautiful flowers that have brightened up the house no end. I also got to use my new placemats from Svenskt Tenn which I love but they make me feel a bit nostalgic as the design depicts a map of my hometown of Stockholm .

Feeling rather delicate on Saturday morning, I went for a long overdue haircut and colour and caught up on some celebrity gossip over a cappuccino . On a whim I asked the hairdresser to put some curls in my hair rather than the usual straight blow dry. I really liked it and have now booked in for another blow dry before one of the parties we’re going to next month.

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This weekend we finally got some sunny weather so off to the garden centre we went on Sunday to buy some flowers to plant in the pots on the terrace. I’m not green-fingered by any stretch of the imagination, but I actually quite enjoyed it and think they turned out pretty good for a complete novice, even if I do say so myself! Now I just have to make sure they stay alive, and with my track record I know that’s the tricky part.

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