At the beginning of the month Belle and I ticked off one more item of my list of 50 things to do before 50 when we spent the night on Burgh Island.

That makes it sound a bit like we are Famous Five wannabees, and rowed over to a deserted island to sleep in a cave and watch for smugglers, but it was about as far away from cave camping as you can get. Burgh Island is cut off from the mainland at high tide, but it’s also home to a luxury hotel. Less ginger beer, ham and tomatoes and more champagne on arrival and smoked salmon open sandwiches.

Staying at the Burgh Island Hotel was on my list for multiple reasons. Firstly, it’s a gorgeous art deco building, with lots of original features and furnishings, and that’s one of my favourite periods for architecture.

Burgh Island Hotel

Burgh Island

More exciting though is the Agatha Christie connection. Christie came to Burgh Island regularly to write, and two of her most famous crime novels are set here – And Then There Were None and Evil Under The Sun. The ITV version of Evil Under The Sun is filmed here too, so you can wander around saying things like ‘Oooh this is where they met on the stairs’ and ‘this is the restaurant where Poirot and Hastings have dinner’. It doesn’t get much more exciting than that. View Post


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I am very much the sort of person who takes pleasure in the small things. I will often go to bed and find myself actively looking forward to having a coffee in the garden the next morning, I spot and look at buds on tree branches, I love it when the dog wags her tail in her sleep – that’s the sort of level we’re talking here. It’s one of the things I love about myself as it means I’m very easily pleased and basically a cheap date, which is no bad thing what with the cost of living crisis.

The more I thought about it, the more I realised how many of my small pleasures revolve around food and drink, especially coffee. As a nation we’ve definitely embraced the ‘coffee as a treat’ phenomenon, which is why I think coffee would make an excellent gift this Easter instead of boring old chocolate.

I’m not suggesting just handing over a jar of Tesco’s finest freeze-dried, I’m talking about something a little bit special from The Brew Company.

The Brew Company make premium, speciality coffee, with a focus on sustainability, provenance and an authentic connection with coffee farmers. They choose specialty coffee beans from small independent farm-holders from all over the globe, hand-roasting and slow-crafting them in small batches in their artisan micro-roastery in Middelfart, Denmark.

(And yes, I admit I laughed at the name Middelfart, because Small Pleasures remember.)

The great thing about coffee from The Brew Company is that you can take it anywhere. Their premium coffees come in individual coffeebrewers – patented, portable bags that make your coffee for you, creating an experience somewhere between a cafetiere and a French press. All you have to do is pour hot water into the bag, and bish bash bosh, give it a few minutes for your coffee to brew and you’ve got a premium coffee wherever you happen to be, whether that’s at work or in the middle of a field.

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I was sent a pair of QuietOn 3.1 active noise cancelling sleep earbuds as a gift – all thoughts my own

This week I had a package arrive. I love any kind of package at the best of times, but this one has the potential to change my life. That sounds like a big claim, but if my new QuietOn 3.1 sleep earbuds can improve my sleep then that would be a real game changer for me.

Version 3.1 is QuietOn’s best earbud yet. They are teeny tiny, with a great fit, so good for side sleepers who might find other kinds of earbuds uncomfortable. They have a long battery life and recharge in their own cute little case, so are brilliant for travelling and sleeping on planes or trains.

QuietOn review

Before I had children I used to sleep well. And by well I mean the sleep of a corpse. My mum and sister would often worry I had actually died, as no amount of shaking and shouting would wake me up. I would fall asleep at about 9pm and wake up again 10 hours later.

Then I had children, and it was like a part of my brain sent out a message to the rest of my body saying ‘listen up guys, there’s a kid now, you know what that means don’t you? One ear open at all times. No slacking on the job, you never know when there might be a jaguar lurking behind the bathroom door.’

That was nearly 28 years ago and I reckon I could count on two hands the number of times since then that I’ve slept solidly all the way through the night.


I’m not saying it’s your FAULT exactly if your mum doesn’t sleep well now, but perhaps a pair of QuietOn earbuds could make a thoughtful Mother’s Day gift? View Post


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It’s no secret that I like an outing. My favourite kind of outing involves a little drive, something nice to look at, and a delicious brunch, ideally followed by a small lie down with an Agatha Christie when I get home. What can I say? I’m a simple soul, easy to please.

What I don’t like however is how stupidly expensive everything has got lately. I get it, cost of living crisis and all that, but can a girl not get an eggs florentine for single figures anymore? When you add in children, (mine are 20 and 27 now but I still seem to be the one paying for brunch), even just going out for a coffee and a toasted sandwich feels ridiculously pricey. There must be some ways to save money on family days out, surely?

There are!

There are loads actually, but I’m just going to suggest a few to get you started and then I’ll let you use your initiative on the rest. With the Easter holidays coming up, I’ve picked things that I think suit the spring weather – hopefully you’ll find this useful but feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments.

Look for crossovers

I recently joined the RHS, (I know! And I’m not even retired!), and one of the things I liked was that as well as giving me entry to the RHS gardens, there are loads of partner gardens that offer free entry to RHS members on certain days of the week or times of the year. It’s the same with my Hestercombe Gardens membership – I can use that to get in half price at lots of other local gardens, saving a decent amount of money in the process.

If you’re a member of anything like this it’s worth looking at whether they have any partner offers you can take advantage of. If you don’t have any memberships, are there any worth doing? If you’ve got a few days out planned over Easter and the summer holidays it could be worth investing now in an annual family ticket.

Dogs at Hestercombe

Mako enjoying a day out at Hestercombe

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I once had a boyfriend who wouldn’t so much as order a pizza without spending at least half an hour scouring multiple discount sites for the best deals. Is 25% off orders over £30 better than buy one pizza get a chicken side free? Who knows and honestly, after half an hour, I didn’t care much either.

I admired his philosophy though – why pay full price for something when you don’t have to – I just didn’t enjoy the hassle. If this sounds like you then a service like tastecard could be right up your street. tastecard offers discounts on all sorts of things, from cinema tickets to days out, plus lots of dining discounts at places like Bella Italia, Cafe Rouge and Ask Italian. They also do 50% off pizza delivery from the UK’s biggest names in pizza, so no more wasting precious pizza eating time comparing discount codes.

tastecard is a subscription service but they offer a decent free trial period so you can see if it works for you. The average customer in 2022 saved £23 per meal out, so it feels like it would be money well spent. View Post


Advertisement feature : this post is in conjunction with Boots UK but all thoughts are my own.

What do you think of when you think of a family nowadays? It’s definitely not the traditional mum, dad, two kids and a dog of the 1950s.

For many of us, Mother’s Day raises some interesting questions about what it means to be a mother and, whether or not we have our own biological mothers in our lives, who the people are that represent that safe place. Who are the women in your life that are like mothers to you, the unsung heroes who show you that same unconditional love and support? It could be a friend, an aunt, an older sister – anyone who you know that you can always turn to for words of wisdom and encouragement.

If you’re lucky enough to have people like this in your life, the next question is are you planning to do anything to celebrate them this Mother’s Day? Boots believes that all of the ‘mums’ out there deserve thanks on Mother’s Day. Whoever the mum is in your life, Boots has Mother’s Day presents to suit.

Luxury Mother’s Day gifts

Personally, as much as I’ve enjoyed the homemade cards and ‘breakfasts’ in bed over the years, now I appreciate gifts that are things that I wouldn’t buy for myself, homemade gifts, treats that are maybe a little more than I’d usually spend, or presents that make me feel like I’m being spoilt.

Boots has lots of gifts for mum like this.

Mother's Day gift ideas

Chanel Le Mousse cleanser from Boots

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About 13 years ago I tore a page out of the Guardian weekend magazine and stuck it to my fridge. It was about a man calling himself Barn the Spoon, who lived in the woods, carving spoons, pottering about, and generally seeming to have a lovely time, free from the shackles of capitalism. I admired Barn the Spoon. I wanted a bit of that feeling for myself.

Every time I moved house, I’d take Barn off the fridge and carefully fold him up and then when I unpacked at the other end, back he’d go, reminding me to follow my dreams, even if they didn’t make me a lot of money or involved living in a hut.

Here he is:

Barn the Spoon

Just before Christmas I took Barn off the fridge once more, carefully folded him, and took him to London to a spoon carving workshop. My host? BARN THE SPOON.

I know right? Talk about dreams come true. I added ‘carve a spoon with Barn the Spoon’ to my list of 50 things to do before I’m 50 when I realised that Barn’s own spoon carving dreams had evolved into teaching regular carving workshops, holding a spoon festival – Spoonfest – and even publishing three books all about carving spoons.

I was nervous. When you hold someone up as an inspiration, a model of how you want to shape your own life and ambition, you attach certain feelings and traits to them. They represent something, something that can mean whatever you want it to mean. When you actually meet that person on a cold December Sunday in a city farm in East London, well… there’s scope to be disappointed.  View Post


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Last week I went to some of my favourite nearby gardens, where they also happen to have some chickens. After some searching online, I think they are Golden Sebright chickens, one of the oldest British bantam breeds. Apparently, they were the first poultry breed to have its own specialist club for enthusiasts, and are a largely ornamental chicken. They lay tiny white eggs and are too small to be kept for meat.

I have a lot of respect for a largely ornamental chicken. It’s kind of sassy to say ‘you know, I’m not much use for anything other than being pretty, but keep me anyway.’

Golden sebright chicken

And to be fair to them, they ARE beautiful. I hung out with them for a little while, and they were full of personality.

If I didn’t have three cats and an excitable dog, I could see myself as a backyard chicken kind of a woman. I would go out and sit with them and let them climb into my jumper for a hug and we’d probably chat about our hopes and dreams and boys.

In this post though I want to talk to you about an issue that is impacting backyard bird owners throughout the UK. It’s not ‘which jumper is best to cuddle your chickens in’ – it’s bird flu.

What is bird flu and why do we need to know about it?

Avian influenza, more typically called bird flu, is a disease affecting birds in the poultry industry, backyard birds and wild birds alike. It’s normally a winter disease, peaking between December and February, but in 2022, for the first time ever, there were cases found in wild birds during the summer.

Although there is a very low human health risk associated with bird flu, it can be very harmful to bird populations as well as natural biodiversity more generally. We’re currently experiencing the biggest outbreak of bird flu that we’ve ever seen in the UK and it’s vital that all bird owners understand what they need to do to protect both their own birds and the wider bird population, no matter how few birds they keep.

It’s definitely not all doom and gloom though, and as a bird owner there’s plenty of guidance available to help you. To help keep bird flu under control, a UK-wide Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) was introduced in October 2022. The AIPZ made it a legal requirement for all bird owners to follow some simple rules around biosecurity, including: View Post


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I remember getting a TV in my bedroom for the first time in my teens. I think it must have been from a car boot sale or a house clearance or something, because even by early 90s standards it was ancient. Not quite as ancient as the huge TV my Gran and Grandad had, that had wooden sliding doors, but nearly.

It was a black and white TV. I remember it being small but heavy, cream coloured and boxy. It had a line of dials on the front, one for switching it on and off, one for the volume, and a larger dial for tuning it it. Yep, that’s right, like a radio. Any time I wanted to watch TV I had to work my way through the white noise, trying to find a channel free enough from static to make it bearable.

when should you let a child have a TV in their bedroom

I remember the only channel I could get reliably was S4C – the BBC TV channel broadcast completely in Welsh. I remember one particular night lying in bed, staying awake late to watch snooker, and feeling very sophisticated, even though I couldn’t understand anything being said and had no idea which ball was which.

I’m sure children nowadays would not be so easily thrilled. I’m pretty sure it’s all 4K TVs and live Twitch streaming now. (I’m not entirely sure what live Twitch streaming is, I’ve just heard talk.) View Post


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It’s got to just about that time of the year where I start to look sadly out of my living room window and into my garden, with the air of someone looking at the shell of a burnt out house.

In the summer, I can just about get away with my garden because it looks FULL at least, and I can pretend I have let things become unruly on purpose, in a bid to create a magical, overgrown fairy garden. In the winter, this does not work. In the winter you can see the unpruned shape of things. You get a good view of the dead leaves accumulated throughout the autumn under the once full flowerbeds, and you see THE HOLES.

Oh the holes!

I should tell you that my garden has not always had this post-war trench vibe. A couple of years ago I took pride in my lawn, spent time tending to shrubs, and even spent actual money on a landscaper. You can see the transformation here from prison backyard to tropical paradise.

And then I got a dog. Hello Mako.

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Feature in association with Electrical Safety First

Christmas tree with lights

The tree/house combo I wish was mine

My daughter Bee and my grandson Joey put up their Christmas tree last week. It looks beautiful but, unlike a lot of trees, it has no lights. When I first heard they weren’t having lights I thought they were being a bit over cautious and scrooge-like about the whole thing – is it even Christmas if you’re not watching a cheesy Christmas film and slurping sherry by the light of the Christmas tree?

(Side note: If you like your Christmas films old school then I recommend the 2008 Four Christmases with Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn as an underrated Christmas classic.)

But then Joey’s dad told me about all the firefighters he works with and the number of fires they get called out to where Christmas trees have caught fire and caused huge amounts of damage in literally seconds.

Okay, fine. Not so scrooge maybe.

As unfestive as it may seem, the reality is that we all probably own some kind of piece of electrical equipment that poses a threat and at Christmas especially the risks are higher than ever as we’re all busy buying gifts online. Any kind of electrical item bought through a third party seller could be an accident waiting to happen, including Christmas lights, phone chargers, hairdryers – anything that’s powered by electricity.

So what’s the risk? Surely all electrical equipment has to be safe to be sold? Actually no. While you can go into a traditional high street retailer and feel confident that you’re buying the real deal, online marketplaces such as eBay, Amazon and Wish are not bound by the same laws when it comes to safety. This means you could be buying fakes, or products with sub-standard or counterfeit parts and have no real way of knowing for sure.

Here’s a quick video that explains the problem: View Post


Happy nearly Christmas!

How many mince pies have you eaten so far? I stopped counting after my second box of M&S frangipane topped mince pies, and that was in November, so probably best we don’t talk about it.

Instead, I thought I would spread a little selfless Christmas cheer by hosting a bit of a festive giveaway. This isn’t in anyway endorsed by Marks and Spencer, even though I’ve blathered on about them a lot already, it’s just me buying a voucher, but when I tried to think about a prize that would be both useful but also distinctly treat-like, M&S sprang to mind.

I’m going to run the competition until December 18th, then I will pick a winner straight away, so you’ll then have a whole week to spend it on Christmas dinner, or gifts, or just a trolley full of frangipane mince pies if you like. We won’t know, so we can’t judge. Not that I would judge you for that anyway, as they are really very good mince pies.

I did go on the M&S website in fact, to find a picture of them for you, but when I searched ‘frangipane mince pies’ I got pictures of men in loungewear? Not sure what happened there.

Definitely not frangipane mince pies

Where was I?

Oh yes. View Post


This post is in an advertisement feature in conjunction with Boots UK. All thoughts are my own.

It’s official, Halloween and bonfire night are out the way and in my mind that means one thing – CHRISTMAS!

If you’re a Christmas scrooge type who doesn’t even like to get a whiff of a mince pie before December 23rd then you might want to look away now as I’m going to be taking you on a festive rollercoaster ride of Christmas joy.

Because that’s the thing for me – Christmas isn’t about one day of extravagant gifts and gorging, it’s about a whole festive period of lots of lovely things, little joys that brighten up each day, literally and metaphorically. Christmas for me is the smell of spices and pine trees, meeting up with friends, surrounded by Christmas lights, and getting cosy under blankets watching films about the children of competing Christmas tree farms falling in love and living happily ever after.

That’s not to say I don’t love buying and wrapping presents, in homemade Christmas wrapping paper if I’m feeling extra wholesome, but it’s about everything else besides. It’s also about making those gifts count when money is tight and thinking about how to use gift-giving as a way to create special moments for other people, without breaking the bank. It’s why the new Little Joys Christmas campaign from Boots is perfect for me – meaningful gifts on a budget, that show people you care, whether it’s small secret santa gifts or big presents for under the tree.

No more googling ‘Christmas gifts for him‘ and buying the first golf themed shaving kit that pops up, let’s put some thought into it this year people.

To help you get into the proper Christmas spirit, I’ve pulled together a few ideas for ways to find those little joys at Christmas…

Get yourself an advent calendar

There is no simpler way to make Christmas last a whole month than to buy yourself a decent advent calendar. I know the world has gone a bit crazy with advent calendars lately, but I don’t think you have to open a bottle of craft gin every day, or try a different artisanal bag of pork scratchings – I am a fan of a good old fashioned chocolate advent calendar.

A couple of years ago I got myself a Ferrero Rocher advent calendar and I’m telling you, the Ambassador has it spot on. I’m spoiling myself again this year. Thank you Boots.

Ferrero Rocher advent calendar View Post