Monkey World • A Special First Birthday

The Easter bank holiday weekend started with a bang for us with a visit to Monkey World in Dorset to celebrate our sweet niece's 1st Birthday!

I can still vividly remember seeing her come into the world and that's a precious moment I will never forget!

Yasmin lu - you are a delight and the closest thing I have to a daughter of my own.

I love you. Lots and lots.

Monkey World
Monkey World
Monkey World
Monkey World
Monkey World
Cake Smash

Roll on the flamingo party next week!

Have a wonderful Easter everyone. I am having a little break with friends at our flat in Southbourne and will have a monster photo post coming next week! 

Easter Tree Decorations

An Easter tree, an Easter tree?!!! Yes, yes, this may sound like a silly concept but I LOVE it! It's actually a Swedish tradition called a Paskris. 

But I am all for any excuse for seasonal decor and when you can buy teeny tiny wooden egg decorations why not?!

But the thought of getting out the Christmas twigs just didn't seem right so I created a living tree from foraging in the back garden!

I cut off a couple of branches from a large shrub and used an old plant pot that has lovely grape hyacinth coming into bloom. Leave enough "stem" on your branch pieces for them to poke far enough into the plant pot.

Then get decorating! The kids will love it and it brightens up your home.

I made a couple of ideas too. Seriously easy and you can get them out every Easter.

Moss Bunnies

Easter Decorations

Super sweet! All you need is some florist's fake moss and some cardboard decorations. I bought these bunny shapes in The Range. You could use real moss but then they wouldn't keep year on year!

Using a sharp pen knife cut through the edges of the cardboard and peel back the top layer. Remove the cardboard insert and stuff with moss. Pack it tightly so it doesn't spring back out. I safely cut the cardboard but let the boys help with the stuffing!

Easter Decorations

Watercolour Feathers

I bought a basic watercolour set the other week as I want to make some DIY photography backdrops. Plus I've always loved the way watercolours blend into each other and would love to learn how to use them properly. But for now, in a busy week, a simple and quick idea is to paint feathers! 

Watercolour craft

You get a subtle ombre effect by adding more paint to the base of the feather then using a touch of water and dragging your brush towards the tip.

Watercolour craft

And with the little wooden decorations I spied in Waitrose the other day (seriously it's dangerous for me to even get a pint of milk in there - far too many lovely things) we have  pretty and colourful Spring decor in the living room.

easter tree.jpg
Easter Tree
Easter Tree
Spring Flowers

I popped the boys' paper eggs under the tree and they are so excited for Easter day to see what's inside.

Fancy making your own Easter tree?! Or am I just loopy?!

Have a peek at some other ideas you may have missed from last year too.

Life Lately Podcast • Episode 7 • A Change Is As Good As A Rest

Helloooo lovelies! A week that started with disaster has turned out quite nicely.

Let's have a catch up.

SHOW NOTES:

Capture by Lucy

More balance means more boys, happy boys. Put your hands up if you love the holidays?!

A few behind the scenes...

book shoot
book shoot
book shoot

Turns out you can do both, more work and more play! Just have to be really really organised!

Capture by Lucy

As I type this I am raising a cup of tea to a wonderful Easter break for everyone, let's hope for more of this sunny weather the UK has been basking in for the last few days, it almost feels like Summer is on its way. Cheers!

Oh and I didn't mention the house hunt this week as it's currently hopeless – although we've decided to offer a £500 finder's fee for anyone who can broker a private sale for us! What do you think? Good idea?

Linking up with #theordinarymoments, #whatsthestory, #magicmoments

Cake Boss Buddy • A workshop with the master

Blogging is brilliant.

It's brilliant because it brings communities together, raises thousands for charity, develops life long friendships and brings you opportunities you'd only dream of!

And.... it brought me to Buddy.

Buddy Cake Boss

Oh what a night! Kirsten and I have been giddy for a couple of weeks, my sister was livid as was my brother and sister in law in New Jersey who adore his show Cake Boss! If you haven't seen it you are one of the few, his shows are televised in 190 countries! 

Cake Boss
Cake Boss

I had no idea what to expect from an international celebrity. But he surpassed all expectations.

Charming, witty, informal, welcoming (He kissed us all on two cheeks asking "This is what you do in England right?!") and led the most informal workshop, bouncing questions back and forwards between bloggers, journalists and television network staff, who were all as giddy as we were.

Cake Boss
Cake Boss

Buddy is passionate about creating a legacy and it was his strong sense of family that was so overwhelming. He wants a successful empire but he wants a clean, family, wholesome empire. One which will inspire generations to bake.

He calls it "Empowering the home baker." 

Buddy had both the men and women captivated in the basement kitchen of L'Atelier des Chefs in London's Mayfair. I was impressed with his sincerity and the way in which he openly discussed his own ups and downs and family heartbreak. This isn't a skill he has mastered, it's his natural charm.

Cake Boss Workshop
Cake Boss
Cake Boss

We were all invited as part of a promotional event for his new line of bakeware. A HUGE new line of everything you could possibly ever want or need. But there were moments when you forgot he had a new line to sell. There were no figures or statistics, no hard sell, just banter. 

There were bloggers, bakers and writers and it was wonderful to meet Caroline too! 

But what I noticed was how classic the styling of the new collection was. With a reputation for creating enormous, extravagant cakes and even covering a whole car in fondant icing once, I had imagined the packaging, colours and patterns to have a show business quality to them. But no. Beautifully packaged, timeless products and pretty decorations. Feminine colour palette but the metal bakeware and gadgets have a strong unisex feel which I can see men and women alike snapping up as soon as they hit UK stores. If you can't wait until then you can purchase the range on Amazon.

Cake Boss Workshop

Thanks to the official TLC photographer for providing the image of me icing my "marble" creation. Eek!

Cake Boss Workshop
Cake Boss
Cake Boss

We were all sent home with a marvellous goodie bag full of treats to try and watch, apron and books including The Cake Decorating Bible by Juliet Sear, Cake Boss' ambassador in the UK. And Kirsten won the prize for the best decorated cake! Go Kirsten! 

Thank you to Porter Marketing for such a brilliant invitation.

And don't forget to watch the new series of Cake Boss on TLC on Fridays at 9pm.

And if you haven't yet nominated your favourite blogs for the BritMums Brilliance in Blogging Awards (yes I know - it's blog awards season!) today is your last chance!

You don't have to submit links to everything just the blog website links you love. 

Of course I'd be thrilled to be nominated this year so if you think I deserve a place in the shortlist you can nominate HERE.

Easter Bento Babies

Welcome to another month of beautiful Bento!

It was great to see so many link up last month and I feel inspired by all the different ideas.

The best thing about Bento is you can be as creative as you want or as time allows.

You don’t HAVE to be a creative genius, just empty packets! How hard is that?

Have you seen the cute divider plates? Start there. Bento is all about thinking about the way we present our food. So instead of a plate of foil and plastic wrapping, let your children really see what feast they have before them. 

We can all work up to Hello Kitty figures made from seaweed and rice!

I am a busy parent and I have no time to have to use tweezers in order to create a masterpiece, but I do have time to separate. Use silicon cups in a shallow lunch box to stop them rattling around, or lidded pots or even better as it’s Easter time, refillable eggs! There are also loads of different lunch boxes available which have pre divided plastic sections.

Easter Bento Idea

The boys helped me choose the ingredients for these ideas and then proceeded to eat everything like a tasting platter! Sammy’s eyes were as wide as the eye picks when he saw it all come out to the table, and that is my biggest inspiration for making meal times more fun.

Easter Bento Idea

 

And if you don’t think your children may appreciate the extra effort think about whether little things make a difference to you, in terms of presentation. I have no idea why but when I eat a sandwich that has been cut into triangles it just feels nicer than in squares and a cup of tea just feels more special, when the tea bag comes with a string in a little envelope of it’s own?! Am I mad?!

Last year’s Easter Bento Babies was full of colour and this year is no different!

5 ideas to get you through a holiday week.

Easter Bento Idea

Fresh coconut/Scotch egg/Pepperarmi/Pasta/Pistachio nuts/Blueberries

Easter Bento Idea

Sweetcorn rings/Bruschetta and hummus/Dried cranberries/Chunks of ham/Cocoa Snack bar/Kiwi and grapes

Easter Bento Idea

Pretzel mix/Strawberries/Green pepper,Cold noodles/Almonds and a chocolate egg/Babybel cheese

Easter Bento Idea

Salami/Yoghurt/Cucumber/Mango/Japanese crackers/Boiled egg

Easter Bento Idea

Pumpkin seeds, yoghurt covered strawberries, cashew nuts and cranberries/Carrot and mini sweet corns with a salsa dip/Pineapple and dried pear/Sweet treat/Fruit puree and bunny biscuits/Scotch pancake

It’s a hard job expanding your children’s palettes. But it’s even harder if we never try. It’s easy to get into a routine and I’m often guilty of serving the same 5 dinners on rotation, in amongst a few dinners that go ping. I’ve got into a bad habit of using lunch time to experiment and then it’s the same old spag bol or mince related dinner on the menu! 

Easter Bento Idea

I watched a BritMums video hangout the other day and was amazed at the kinds of meals the bloggers were talking about, that they serve to their families. There’s no reason why we can’t challenge their taste buds with flavour and spice and I am going to attempt a few new dishes over the Easter holidays to add to our family repertoire. 

Any suggestions?! 

Join in and share the love of Bento! Link up your lovely lunches and snack teas and let's all inspire each other. It's not about what looks the most fancy it's about sharing ideas to get our little ones eating better!

Linking up with #TastyTuesdays, #recipeoftheweek, Share with Me and Eats Amazing

Life Lately Podcast • Episode 6 • Opportunity Knocks

Hello hello!

It's been a whirlwind couple of weeks preparing for the Easter holidays and having the boys at home for 2 weeks. I have been working my cherry print socks off, been chained to the laptop, much to the despair of my husband, and in an attempt to rectify a home/life balance have been a bit quieter lately on the blog.

I even had a day off everything on Friday and had a girly day of lunch, shopping and non stop gas bagging with a lady I wish I lived closer to. If you are a blogger you will find it hard to believe that Katie and I managed to get through a 2 hour lunch without sending a single tweet! But as we don't get many opportunities to see each other we made the absolute most of it!

Mummy Daddy Me

BUT, I am bursting with ideas so watch out for a nice steady stream of things to make and hopefully some pretty things to inspire you. 

So we have have lots to catch up on....

Show notes:

Do you ever get weeks like this, when it seems like one opportunity leads to another, then another?

It's times like this that you need to focus on the good bits to get you through the hard bits!

Here are a few snaps from behind the scenes at the photo shoot. A couple I borrowed from the very lovely Ruth and a few final shots mixed in. The shoot was for a social media campaign for  a successful Functional Medicine Doctor In London and I had the pleasure of working with a premier Paleo chef, Pete.

The trick of this shoot was to create a bank of images that could be used in different seasons and for different campaigns. So each dish had to have several styles to convey the different times you might eat it and create atmosphere. Which meant lots of props! 

One of the best things was seeing all my charity shop bargains come to life. 

food photography
eggs
broccoli recipe
food props
Paleo breakfast
dr mouton functional medicine 9.jpg
food styling
Fresh eggs
paleo lunch
quinoa recipe
Seeds
pale fish recipe
food styling
paleo pancakes
food styling
broccoli recipe
Ruth Walters
cherry tomatoes
food photography
Fresh fruit
Eggs
green smoothie
food photography props
Fish recipe
green smoothie
food photography

I love how much we smiled through this shoot!

These were genuinely happy faces!

And speaking of happy, since I reactivated my Instagram account I have never felt more creative or inspired. And I had a thought this morning about creating a rainy day book of photos. Most of the photos you see on my Instagram account are taken on my iPhone and although they may not be perfectly crisp, I think it would make a sweet book of inspiration to cheer me up in stressful times. I need to dig out my little Selphy photo printer!

Happy week everyone, what ever you do, do it with pride, a smile and record it in some small way. 

These are the good times.

Linking up with #whatsthestory, #magicmoments, #magpiemonday

Chocolate Free Easter Gift

I love the idea of giving little Easter gifts to the boys that don't have to feature chocolate!

They will be spoilt by family with Easter eggs, chocolate bunnies, chicks and we seem to have an endless pack of mini eggs in the house, (How is anyone meant to resist the little boxes?!) not to mention all the lovely treats they had in the last week of term at school. Competition prizes and chocolate rewards are fab but when I spied these old fashioned paper eggs in the local garden centre it gave me an idea.

Paper Easter Eggs

Did you ever have one of these as a child? I am hoping we can start a little tradition and keep them for every Easter.

Easter Gift Idea

All you need is the egg, some tissue paper to keep your surprise from rattling around too much and a small gift.

Small Play Farm

I thought this tiny farm set was so sweet and as they are complete magpies and constantly collect baskets of curious tiny things from around the house to play with, I know these little figures will inspire hours of imaginative play.

chocolate free easter gift 6.jpg

Line your egg, add your gift and an extra length of ribbon if you fancy!

Chocolate Free Easter Gift

Will you give Easter presents?! My brother's mother in law in America makes up the most incredible Easter gift baskets for each of them! Like Christmas - amazing!

Chocolate Free Easter Gift

Woolley Grange Hotel Photo Shoot

I am been spoilt with work recently. Hence the lack of blog posts!

Today I have been on a nutritional journey, working (if you can really call it that - it was far too much fun) with a talented multitasker Ruth on a promotional shoot for a London based Doctor, specialising in Functional Medicine. But more on that later in the week.

I felt like I've been on a journey because I learnt more about what what eat and what is best for us in a day, than I have for a long time. Yes of course I know I need to eat more fruit and veg but the secret is to know which fruits and veg we should all really be eating!

I'll post some photos, and some behind the scenes of my organised chaos, but first I want to share some of the images I took for a seriously wonderful luxury family hotel Woolley Grange.

Woolley Grange
Fresh fruit
Smocked salmon bagels
Juice bar
Chocolate Muffins

Can you even begin to imagine how hungry you feel after photographing a breakfast service?!

I realised on the shoot that my focus is always on the detail. A focus on the little things you might overlook or forget to appreciate at the time. And I feel it's always my job, as a photographer (yikes I am only just getting used to saying this out loud) to make sure it's those sentimental and special details that I capture.

The baby cup nestled in amongst the plastic and glass, the incredible attention to detail from the talented chef and the hotel team. Each plate carefully placed on the enormous wooden dresser with pride, the sun streaming into the orangery, lighting up the fruit bowl like an encore on a theatre stage, each table adorned with a milk bottle of flowers cut fresh from the hotel gardens.

There is something I found so enchanting about the walled gardens. Fresh home grown produce available to buy for a few pennies and served for a happy couple's wedding breakfast!

Spring bulbs
Woolley Grange Hotel
Woolley Grange
Potatoes
Home grown salad
Woolley Grange
Fresh eggs
Chicken
Wedding breakfast

It was beyond lovely working with Kirsten aka The Little Wedding Helper and Ruth, capturing different things but working together.

photo shoot

I couldn't resist taking a few snaps of the wedding set up though!

Pink wedding flowers
Wedding chair flowers
Pink wedding flowers
pink wedding flowers
Wedding chair flowers

It was a pleasure working at Woolley Grange, and I hope I will be able to share some more details of what it feels to stay there sometime soon.

Woolley Grange Hotel
wooden wendy house
Woolley Grange Hotel
Woolley Grange Hotel
joules welly boots
Woolley Incidentals 4.jpg
Cocktail recipes
Woolley Grange

Like a home away from home, but the nicest home you could go to!

I feel like the luckiest working girl in the world at the moment!

But tomorrow I am off to Bath for some fun, and no doubt some blog chat with a special friend :)

Chocolate Free Creme Eggs

It only seems right to post a joke idea for Easter on April Fools day.

creme egg recipe

All you need is a hard boiled egg, a good splash of brown food colouring and a glass of warm water.

Creme Egg Recipe

Soak your egg overnight for a deep brown colour. Remember to put it in the fridge!

creme egg recipe

Perfect for lunch boxes or snack teas.

Reckon they will fool the boys?!

Creme eggs

Me and Mine - A Family Portrait Project March 14

I have failed this month. 

Completely and utterly failed at the challenge of capturing a family photo, just once, in a whole month.

Out of the 3500 odd photos I have taken for work and pleasure not one has featured the four of us. 

There was no moment in March where all four of us were in front of a camera. It just didn't feel right this month, forcing us all to rush a "Me and Mine" photo. Picking a picture perfect spot, setting up the tripod, cajoling the boys and my husband to pose for a snap. Ironic after last month's team effort!

Capture by Lucy
Capture by Lucy
Capture by Lucy

And then I realised maybe it was fate. Because in the last month we have been helping another family with a special project, very close to our hearts. And it's them that need the spotlight this time, not us.

Brain Cancer Charity

If you are a regular reader, you will know that in August last year my cousin's little boy was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumour. He was 4. I have mentioned Skye a few times on this blog and as you read this, Sammy and I are on the way to spend a day in Oxford with him and his family, celebrating my cousin's birthday. 

They will be allowed home from hospital for just a few precious hours.

This has been the pattern all week, after a 5 week stint in isolation for high dose chemotherapy. Sally and I keep in touch by email, and often around midnight when she finally has a moment of quiet. Caring for Skye is a 24 hour job and how she is coping with just a few hours sleep a night astounds me.

The happy family photo of them lying on a beach was taken almost exactly this time last year when they were lucky enough to enjoy a 3 month period of travelling across the world.

They are a happy family going through horrendous pain. Every moment is precious and tomorrow, Skye will undergo a scan to determine whether the high dose treatment has been successful. 

In amongst the severe anxiety, round the clock care and juggling their 2 year old youngest son Jesse, they have focussed on something positive. They have set up Blue Skye Thinking, to raise awareness and funds for research into treatment for childhood brain cancers.

There is so much we take for granted. That our children will start school, get married have babies. Live a happily ever after life we show them in fairytales and Disney films. 

Skye has shown and continues to show a fighting spirit and strength of 10 men. There is no doubt in his mind he will get better and this is one of the millions of reasons we all love him so much.

blue skye thinking

If you have a minute have a read about Skye's story and their blog features the painful, but incredibly eloquent letters by email we have all been receiving as family and friends.

If you use Twitter please can you take a second to follow them @BlueSkyeThink. Consider it your good deed of the day!

Now go and have a peek at a lovely family over on Chloe's blog. Two ridiculously gorgeous brothers to get broody over! 

dear beautiful