Free Floral Phone Wallpaper • British Flowers

Hellooooo! Happy summer everyone!

Ok so I am not really on the biggest go slow like this blog would have you believe. I am madly working behind the scenes, racing to meetings in Bristol with my development hat on and photoshoots with snow and baubles. But I miss the blog and am planning a major holiday love affair with blogging when I head to Spain for 2 weeks with my boys without Rich on the 1st August. Roll on evenings with a glass of sangria, aftersun smelling boys in a Queen size bed they will undoubtedly share with their soft touch mama, and a mammoth catch up on posts that have spent 6 months or more in draft.

I came home from a shoot today with handfuls of flowers from a charity roadside stall I spotted on the way back from Devon and felt inspired to give you something back. For still checking in.

So here is a brand new set of free floral phone backgrounds for you to download. From my neighbour's flower patch, from my country garden and from the roadside jam jars I stumbled across on my way back home today.

Download one or download them all. Have fun. Just click on the image to download it to your phone. 

Don't forget to check out my other free downloads if you are a floral fan

How is it nearly the end of July? I am not in any way ready to be 35 next month!!!!

Me and Mine - A Family Portrait Project June

I have never ever in 3 years been quite as dramatically late with my monthly Me and Mine post and it's a horrible feeling that has eaten away at me all week. The whole point of the Me and Mine posts is to nudge us all to capture a family moment and for us June has been full of them.  

This week we've given Ollie an early birthday to remember, a whole weekend with almost all the people he loves and time stopped for everything else. So I hope my co hosts, who I have spectacularly let down this month, will forgive me for being so dreadfully behind. 

It's like I have two worlds. One when I am in amongst the blogging community and then one I drive home from the station or from the motorway and weave my way down the country lanes and the world slows down. It's like having the best of everything, even if sometimes, like this month, blogging has meant more time with people than writing about people, if that makes any sense! I came home from a press day in London on Wednesday and felt giddy from seeing friendly faces, high from conversations that sparked a hundred ideas. 

I've had some incredible experiences in the last few months. A weekend at Sisterhood with the most inspiring group of women I have ever had the pleasure of sitting around a camp fire with, a day with one of my absolute favourites and her new tiny Lucy at Blogtacular and an evening celebrating the amazingly talented people who continue to make blogging a profession to be proud of and the most remarkable hobby which connects ordinary people together in an extraordinary way. I may not have come home with an award at the Brilliance in Blogging Awards but I wouldn't have missed hearing my name called out and cheering for every single one of the bloggers illuminated on the big screen.

Each of those times deserves to be written about so for my Me and Mine I wanted to share a special day from June, when our sleepy village became washed in red, white and blue.

There's a lot of love for the Royals in this village, especially for Her Majesty. We had commemorative mugs, bunting that's been stored in garages and lofts since the Royal wedding and the 80th Birthday celebrations. As you drove through you couldn't help but be washed in a wave of patriotism and absolute pride for the collective spirit of a community. Flowers grown in gardens for the small glass jars on the tables, china plates bursting with cup cakes and generous smears of clotted cream sandwiched between pastry and strawberries.

In cities, in schools, in churches, in sports centres and in streets there was this incredible sense of belonging and togetherness. The exact same feeling I have when I stand in a room of bloggers.

Here are mine. My two little kings who lap up everything life has to offer them. On Thursday they break up for the summer and as much as I imagined I would be dreading it, I actually can't wait for them to have a rest. Ollie is falling asleep in the car on the way home and although he's grown up so much since starting school, he's still so small when I look back at his nodding head and droopy mouth in the car seat, snoring away. I want them to have the carefree school holidays you read about in Enid Blyton books. To pack picnics, ride bikes, see friends, go to bed with grass stained feet. 

I feel like I don't see them. Everyday is a race against the clock, a battle to get dressed, frustrations over school socks that ruck up in their scuffed black shoes that are destined for the bin on Thursday evening! To give them later bedtimes, pj days and ice creams that melt down their wrists. Well, if we get any sun that is!

We have booked a special family holiday and leave on Saturday for a week in Rhodes with Mark Warner. We loved it so much last year, felt totally spoilt and honoured representing them as family ambassadors with a week in Kos at the Lakitira resort, that we booked to go this year in an unofficial capacity!

Time is the most precious thing we have. I listened to Lisa Congdon speak at Blogtacular and felt like she was talking just to me. She had this incredible way of resonating with the whole room and hearing how her success story had times of great stress on her relationships, her health made me realise that it's more important to keep in mind the reason we work and blog and take a moment to breathe when you need one. That you can get on and off this crazy ride, without a fear of slipping off a hamster wheel and not being able to get back on.

Take time to live well.

Happy July everyone, we are ready for the next adventure!


Share your Me and Mine with Lucy, Katie, Jenny, Alex, Fritha and me. Pop over and see what their broods have all been up to last month.

6 ways to makeover an unloved conservatory with Thomas Sanderson

I love our house. Love it love it, lemon love it. But, if I had a magic wand, I would wave it frantically over the conservatory at the back of the house. 

I have never ever been a fan of conservatories, too hot in the summer, too cold in the winter and I always find they are full of strange furniture you wouldn't see anywhere else but these indoor greenhouses. That we are pre conditioned to exclusively furnish them with uncomfortable rattan seats and look at the room through a closed door 99% of the year. 

But having finally lived with one, I can't believe I am going to say this, I'm not sure I could live without it and I find myself saving vintage wicker seats to my wish list Pinterest board. Imagine a blogger and photographers dream space for photos, what would it look like? A light filled room all year round with walls to prop tables against and beautiful even light at 6am in the morning through to dinner time in the summer. Our conservatory has been my life saviour over the last 18 months. A home studio to dress and rearrange for different mini shoots combined with an extra room for the boys to use as a playroom. The space is so flexible and has so much potential we just need a way to transform it into a dream room. 

I had the pleasure of meeting Thomas Sanderson at the Ideal Home Show a while ago and realised that there are so many ways I can bring ours back to life. 

I just wish we could paint it, re roof it, change the doors and the window handles... you name it - I'd like to change it. The mahogany stain is so out of character with the rest of the house, and I dream of the day far into the future when I take this exact photo but instead there's a beautiful orangery staring back at me.

Because it turns out, that I do in fact love the principle of a conservatory or garden room, I'm just not so in love with ours right now. And I am sure I am not the only one who wishes I had a fairy godmother who could cast some magic over this unloved shell.

So what can we do?!

I've found 6 ways to make the most of your conservatory, to give it a new lease of life and make it into a dream room. 

1. Instant update with New Blinds

I talk with friends who say the same. "It's a sauna in the summer and a freezer in the winter!" It's silly really because there are clever people out there who can help and ta day! An extra room in your house you can use 365 days of the year.

I had no idea about the range that is available now. Forget the old fashioned styles you'd have seen at your parent's houses in the early 90's there's a wealth of styles, finishes and colours for every taste.

These Duette® Energy Smart blinds put our old ones to shame. Not only do they help to relate and control the temperature but the clever double layered fabric design also absorbs noise. The honeycomb design has a special coating on the window side to help improve energy efficiency even further. Ours can feel like the sky is falling down during a heavy rain shower and I can't hear myself think let alone take a phone call - the impact of the raindrops on the ceiling feels like you are in a tropical thunderstorm, without the beach in the distance! 

2. Fill it with things you want to look at

It sounds like a obvious statement doesn't it? But so often I see conservatories that are the forgotten room, a little souless and almost like the after thought. Odd furniture, obligatory plant, rooms that don't scream come and sit in me! I feel so inspired when I am surrounded by the things I love. Artwork I've collected over the years, cushions that I've bought year after year that fill the sofas, but our conservatory is filled with random bits of furniture and hasn't had the same sort of TLC we are giving the rest of the house. 

I love how this room is decorated with precious possessions and this photo taken by Natalie Jeffcott makes me want to lean into the screen and thumb through all those book pages and peer at what is under those glass bell jars. 

If your space is full of you, your things, your most loved things I guarantee you will want to spend more time there. 

3. Embrace Shutters

I long for shutters, with the same longing I feel for an ice cold cocktail on a balmy summer's evening. I must have visited an old french house at some point in my life and had the image of these beautiful window finishes etched into my subconscious. Because every time I pass a house with shutters I have to stop and let out a gentle sigh. And try and sneak a cheeky photo.

Beautiful and practical - a winning combination! I can't imagine there is a window these shutters couldn't fit with a bespoke and ready made service to choose from. I felt the PVCu engineered samples and was so impressed with the finish, if we were keeping our conservatory indefinitely I would blanket every window with them.

 

4. Say Hello To New Flooring

We have a sorry looking carpet in our conservatory that dogs and boys have trampled all over, not wiping their feet or their paws and a wet start to this summer means it is almost crying out to be replaced. A new floor can instantly lift the whole feel of a room and I adore this bold use of patterned tiles in Ulises and Melissa's modern sun room

We went for something similar in a blue colour way for the downstairs cloakroom but I hadn't thought about covering a much larger space with such a statement print. It's a treat for your eyes and the light bouncing from the walls and ceilings makes it shine brightly. I love the subtle colours they chose letting the heavy terracotta pots and house plants bring a natural colour palette into the room.

We have chosen these Fired Earth tiles for our ensuite but how spectacular would they look in the conservatory?!

5. Paint the house walls

I had never really thought about the idea of making the wall of the house adjoining the conservatory into a feature. Now we are in a listed house so we might not get away with such a bold statement but I think the idea of choosing a colour and making a feature out of the brickwork or stone is a fabulous one!

This modern glass extension by Sigmar in London features a contrasting charcoal grey wall that compliments the dark radiator and window frames perfectly.

And it could work perfectly in any sized conservatory or sunroom, you could even repaint the wall as the seasons change.

I would kill for a white brick wall to shoot against! You can also easily add a false stud wall in front of the fabric of the building itself and paint that. 

Making a feature wall gives you so many decorating options. 

6. Give it a right good clean

I hold my hands up. I have no idea what our conservatory looks like when it's sparkling clean, because in 18 months we have never really touched it on the outside. What we need to do is book a conservatory valet and I bet it would be a revelation. To have the handles and hinges properly checked and repaired, to have the guttering professionally cleaned and the roof panels meticulously washed and scrubbed would absolutely make a difference to the whole look and feel of the space. 

So what would you do with your conservatory? Or are you thinking of adding one to your home? My ideal garden room would have a window seat around the base of the brickwork and an open plan space which lead onto the kitchen. Hues of calming green, stripped wood flooring and a day bed. Just pass me a cup of tea and a magazine now could you?! 

In collaboration with Thomas Sanderson

Festival Party Inspiration • Livestock Festival 2016

There's so many reasons I adore Ollie, my smallest boy, but reason 47956398 has got to be the day he asked for a festival birthday party.

In his whole life he's only ever had one experience of a proper festival at Livestock in Longdon last year. Not quite the tiniest dancing around the hay bales but definitely one of the most enthusiastic! I'd always had in my mind that festivals would be difficult with children, but I couldn't have been more wrong. The scale of some of the huge events totally overwhelms me but our day up in Gloucestershire was the perfect introduction. 

Decked out in our brightest colourful clothes we headed north for a day of music, good food and entertainment for the boys. I'd read up online beforehand about the children's tents and was so impressed at how they had been so well thought of. A science demonstration, animals to pet and learn about and the highlight for Ollie - a circus skills area. His little determination trying to balance the diabolo under his chin made my heart melt.

We timed our day trip perfectly, heading up for the last day of the festival on the Sunday. The staff seemed relaxed, a mix of pride that the event had gone so well and relief that it was drawing to a close, there was banter at the bars and you could see they had worked their socks off for days. We found it far less busy than we expected which was a good thing as I know our boys would have been overwhelmed in a huge crowd. We whipped around every section of the kid's tents, barely keeping up with our excitable boys who were desperate to try it all!

Face painting, pottery, crafts, a science demonstration - you name it we did it! They LOVED the circus skills area as did Rich and I wandered off for 15 minutes to snap some photos and people watch. There was a complete mix of families, couples lying on picnic blankets with their heads resting on a hay bale, groups of younger music fans, retired seasoned festival goers and everything in between. It really made us smile seeing this eclectic group come together, dancing, cheering and clinking plastic cups full of cider. 

I think we managed to eat everything on offer that day, mooching from the pulled pork stand to the Mexican burritos and stopping to pick up a pizza for the boys which they balanced on their knees, pausing every 3 minutes to run and jump around to the band. There was plenty of choice and everything was really reasonable, and by the end of the day you could feel that sense of real achievement around the field. 

We sauntered back to the car park, passed the circus entertainers leap frogging each other and the bouncy castles who were getting ready to head home. It was a wonderful whirlwind of a day and we couldn't have asked for sunnier skies. 

A perfect start to a new love.

The only slight downside with festival weekends is it's like the weather just knows you want it to be dry and sends you all the rain it has stored up in the clouds for winter. I'm hoping that we get a gorgeous day like our visit to Livestock last year!

We've managed to sort a disco dome bouncy castle, I've found a DJ who isn't afraid of setting up under the pergola and I've briefed all the mums and dads on the colour run finale! Now you see why we need sunshine! I love the rainbow colour theme and now need to think just how much bunting I need to make and buy to bring a multi colour extravaganza to the garden! 

I'm thinking hot dogs and burgers, a make shift cheeky bar for the grown ups and party bags stuffed with temporary tattoos and wristbands. I think I love the planning as much as the party itself! Come and follow my Pinterest board to see what crazy ideas I have in mind...

If you are local to Gloucestershire and are looking for a great day out as a family or a group of friends wanting to camp at a festival over the weekend then check out the ticket details for this year's Livestock. This year it's like a blast from my pre teen past. Jason Donovan and Chesney Hawkes are playing! I guarantee the whole of Tewkesbury will be able to hear the crowd singing "I am the one and only!"

We were given tickets to Livestock 2015 and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. 

Jet Set Sail • Celebrity Cruises • Barcelona

There have been a handful of times in my life when I have felt like a very important person. Swishing around like a princess in an ivory wedding dress, even as I got out of the car to droplets of rain outside the church, I felt like someone very special as I lifted the tulle netting underneath the skirt and gathered it up into my arms. I can remember walking down the steps built into the rocks at The Cliff restaurant in Barbados on a pre baby holiday, passing Gary Linekar on the stairs and gasped when I saw the flaming torches lighting up the beautifully laid tables over looking the Stingrays gliding through the lapping shore. I can vividly remember thinking wow, I feel so lucky to be here. And stepping out of the taxi to the private jet terminal at Stansted Airport a few weeks ago set the tone for another special experience. 

I'd been invited to join the inaugural Jet Set Sail flight to Barcelona with Celebrity Cruises, a brand new initiative to start your holiday with Celebrity as you mean to go on. There was a sense of calmness and measured excitement given the early hour, with everyone almost gliding around the plush carpet and holding glasses of Prosecco in their hands. No harsh "Bing bong flight number..." announcements over the tannoy making you wince at 6am, just an array of smiling faces, elegantly dressed Celebrity staff gently asking if the soon to be cruisers needed any help with their hand luggage or paperwork. There were no frantic dashes to the check in desk, no other halves waiting anxiously at the terminal doors looking out for their partners who had taken the car to the airport parking, everyone had driven right up to the hanger, parked and breezed onto the red carpet. Literally.

The trouble is when you know this is how you can travel, it makes you never want to go back! No long queues at security, streams of people corralled towards the scanners like sheep about to be dipped, no trek to the departure gate which you just know always happens to be the furthest away leaving you a little breathless when you hand over your boarding card. Oh no, this is the way to travel and for much less than you'd think. 

I am a girl with impossibly high expectations and the difference between the private jet terminal and the norm that I have experienced was quite remarkable. There was plenty of seating in the contemporarily decorated departures lounge, magazines and papers to read, a mezzanine level for those wanting a quieter space and spotlessly clean floors with coffee, tea and pastries on tap for anyone feeling peckish before a two course breakfast on board. People pottered up to the refreshments bar and could help themselves or be served by one of the well presented terminal staff. 

One of my favourite things about airports is people watching and I loved looking around at groups of friends chinking their glasses of bubbly toasting the beginning of their holiday and others thumbing their slightly dog eared brochures from their hand luggage, that have obviously been excitedly flicked through over the last few months.

The very best thing for me about jetting off from the private terminal is the difference in time. No two hour mooch at what feels like the crack of sparrows around half empty shops, meandering in a sort of zombie like state looking for mints and a bottle of water to fling in your handbag, that's already stuffed with expensive children's magazines that come with an unnecessarily large free plastic toy, just a very civilised hour from arriving to boarding the aeroplane. 

I was in a lovely group of travel bloggers and cruise journalists and we hung back letting the other passengers embark the plane first and settled into our seats. There's allocated seating so no jostling or splitting families, 31 inch rows of seats slightly larger than your standard economy flight and a bottle of water on the seat waiting for you. Aeroplane food can be notoriously bad, especially scrambled eggs I find, but the breakfast was delicious and before I remembered to reach for my camera I'd eaten the lot! 

The flight to Barcelona felt quick and easy and as we all chatted non stop throughout the flight, I had to admit that I'd never really considered a cruise holiday before and felt a little intimidated by this great hunk of metal on the sea.

Luckily the Celebrity team from the Marketing Department who joined us for the trip are the experts in the cruise way of life and instantly put me at ease. To be honest I had never stood next to a ship, only ever seen them in photos or online and heard about what they are like inside from family who regularly book. We landed in almost the same soggy weather I'd been drenched in on our wedding day but our great British spirit wasn't to be dampened and we oohed and aahed through the coach windows as we headed to the port.

It sounds like an obvious thing to say but the ship was vast. It made me feel like a tiny ant scuttling along the rope line to the security point at the entrance to the ship. As you stand on the dock and crane your neck backwards to take in every floor right to the top of the open deck, it makes you feel almost childlike, and I instantly remembered that feeling of being dwarfed by the giant sixth formers at school. 

There was a dedicated queuing system for those who had booked the Jet Set Sail experience as as our line tootled past the other passengers one remarked in jest that they had picked the wrong queue, to which I explained that we had arrived in style from Stansted and she elbowed her husband and said next time we need to book that. You can board the ship for most of the day before the 4pm sailing time. But I suspect the dreadful weather meant that more passengers chose to arrive a little earlier rather than stop for lunch in Barcelona en route and we all made our way through the gift shop and supplies stands to the gangway.

Celebrity Cruises Jet Set Sail 1.jpg

We waited at one of the crew boarding points and it was fascinating to see the change over in staff as we cleared security with the personnel on duty. It's a multicultural word on board, so many languages, ages and loyal staff who have worked on the Celebrity liners for years. The staff fly into Barcelona which is the home of the Equinox when not at sea from all over the world. The operation beneath the cabins is extraordinary. I got a very sneak peek on a whistle stop tour of the main facilities on board at the staff quarters and you cannot believe the hustle and bustle compared to the more serene atmosphere in the rest of the ship. Luggage trolleys on auto drive delivering thousands of suitcases to individual cabins, crisp white polo shirts darting in and out of doorways in contrast to the soft music transcending throughout the upper decks with the glass elevators giving you a real sense of scale as you hop between levels. 

The main atrium is grand but not gaudy and the ship in it's entirety was elegantly decorated with each bar, restaurant and lounge area having it's own unique identity. The sound of the musicians flooded the main staircase and you couldn't help but stop to take in the beautiful orchestral music. 

The upside to a rainy departure day is that everyone mills about inside. It was heart warming to see couples sat with their feet up, paper or book in hand, drink resting on the table beside them, tiny droplets of condensation from the freezing cold ice slowly dripping down the side of the tumbler. People relaxing. Friends at the bar, perched on bar stools exchanging banter with the barmen and watching their cocktail shaking and making skills.

We headed straight to the Luminae restaurant for lunch which is open for Suite Class passengers, which was much smaller than I expected. In a good way! I was under the impression that cruise ships is all about scale and size and it was a pleasant surprise to sit in a much more intimate setting. It's fine dining that fills you up. Exquisitely presented dishes from an ample choice of menu and the simple white decor had a romantic and serene feel about it. All three courses were delicious, the portions were very generous and we passed around dishes to snap our blog photos. We raised glasses full of wine to a happy 24 hours and spent the next hour learning more about what life is like on board.    

The challenge with just 24 hours from start to finish is that we wanted to see as much as possible in as short a time as possible! And a few of us who hadn't been on board the Equinox before whizzed through the main decks led by the Marketing Director who knew every inch of the ship and put passengers at ease with welcoming hellos and good afternoons as we raced through the lounges, main restaurant, lawn club and spa.

There was a ripple of excitement and anticipation, you could tell those who were seasoned cruisers who had settled into life at sea within minutes and those who were getting more familiar with the ship's layout and flicking through the on board guides, discussing the first stop. We snuck into the theatre where a guide to all the destinations on the cruise was being held and walked at pace through the casino, slipped around the back of the jaw dropping glass wine rack, the highlight of the main dining room, which offers flexible dining options from 6pm to 9.30pm. It was good to know that you could chose whether you wanted to share a table or whether you preferred to eat just with your travel companion something I assumed was just a given. That shared tables were standard cruise practise. But you could see people making friends in those first few hours and why the split level dining area works so well. 

There are times when you wish it was sunny and times when it's quite handy it's not and for me heading out to view the pool ad jacuzzi area was one of those. The fierce rain meant the pools were empty and I got to capture just how beautifully laid out the loungers are, the perfect symmetry in design and I loved wandering down into the indoor pool and spa seeing the uniform X's on the wooden loungers. There's almost military perfectionism and style to the pool areas and passengers were already taking full advantage of the Canyon Ranch spa with acupuncture treatments to one side and massages to another. It made you want to strip to your bathers and join them!

Dotted around the indoor pool are heavenly pods and hammocks overlooking the ocean. Room for two, a good book with a glass of something at the ready. It was something out of a picture perfect glossy brochure except it was real. And I kept thinking about the lucky people who would be whiling away a few dreamy hours gently rocking as the ship powers through the waves of the Mediterranean. 

Celebrity Cruises Jet Set Sail 14.jpg

I managed to see the bright lights of the on board nightclub, get a proper look at the children's club areas which were immaculately clean and well designed for the different age groups. Quite frankly they would be as spoilt in the kid's club as you would be having dinner by yourselves!

We all met back at the gangway and gathered our overnight bags to head into the city. I had grand plans to take in as many of the streets and sights of Barcelona as possible that afternoon but the weather had other ideas. And it actually worked brilliantly. Because instead of everyone splitting up and heading in different directions we all sat in the hotel bar for the next 4 hours, chatting, laughing and getting to know each other over Barcelona's best G&Ts. I got to really pick their brains about what makes a Celebrity Cruise different to their competitors and why people travel with them over and over again. 

The team were so open to our feedback from our early morning flight and I got this overwhelming sense of pride from the manager behind the whole Jet Set Sail vision and execution. They have worked hard to get to know their customer so well, they want to offer unrivalled customer service and I felt it in spades. 

The drive to hone the service so it works like clockwork and each passenger gets the sense of their modern luxury ethos from the moment their holiday starts as they empty their suitcases from the boot of the car. 

We waved a number of the Celebrity team goodbye who were catching the last flight home to London and had an hour as the rain eased off to take a stroll through the streets near to the hotel before changing and heading off for a wonderful dinner at a renowned local restaurant. Sometimes you just click with people and that evening I felt as though I was among very old friends.

We woke up bright and early to rays of sunshine and I darted up to the rooftop to snap the incredible view of the city. Barcelona has a magical almost mystical charm at that time in the morning. It was so quiet it felt as though the electricity of the cosmopolitan city had been dialled down to zero before 8 am. There was a smell of Jasmine in the air, shadows on the deck and I could hardly bring myself to leave, wishing I had time for a quick swim but the taxi was waiting to take us back to the airport. 

 

I kept thinking on the flight home that it hadn't felt like I was on a ship, as silly as that must sound to read. It felt like you were in a new town that just so happened to be floating on water. I hadn't appreciated the mix of people on board, the opportunity that a cruise gives you to take in so many different destinations in just one trip, until I actually saw it for myself. I may or may not have fallen in love with the idea of the Adriatic holiday! Seeing the ship with my own eyes made me realise how much Rich and I would love the cruise experience, the world class food, the quality entertainment and facilities that evoke a more intimate Las Vegas hotel and the like minded passengers with a passion for travelling in contemporary opulence. 

It's the people that make the Celebrity experience, little touches that make you feel more welcome which assure you that you are going to be well looked after, the modern luxury that starts from the moment you drive up to the private terminal.  

You can find Celebrity at Taste of London this weekend so if you are visiting make sure you stop by at their Lawn Club. 

Check out all the current offers on board the Equinox. Prices start at £599 per person for an interior cabin setting sail from Barcelona on 25th June 2016. 

Thank you to Celebrity Cruises and their team for the very kind invitation to Jet Sail Sail to Barcelona for an eye opening 24 hour experience.