Sunday, 20 December 2015

Deck the Halls...

Happy Christmas everyone! Thank you for sticking with my new second blog in it's first few months. I'm going to be taking a break now until the New Year (although you can still find me on Made By Mrs M where I'll be blogging on all of my usual days - Monday, Wednesday and Friday - except for Christmas Day itself!).

I thought I'd share some nice festive pictures of my Christmas decorations with you today...

We always have a real tree when we'll be home at Christmas (and we always are nowadays as it's so much easier with the little man). The decorations on our tree are a real mix collected over the past 17 years or so...

If ever we've been away on the run up to Christmas, I like to try and pick up some decorations locally - our tree contains glass baubles from Paris, New York, Berlin, Amsterdam (we also have a nativity set we bought on our honeymoon in Barbados) and more, alongside decorations made by the little man and by me as well as other designer makers. A handful of mass produced ones too to bulk it out (I do like A LOT of baubles!), mostly from Paperchase and IKEA. 

This year I've gone for some real greenery on the mantlepiece - I expect this will be changed a couple of times as bits die off and need to be replaced, but I think it looks pretty.

Hope you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. See you in 2016! 

Sunday, 13 December 2015

The Christmas Jumper

I'm not a fan of Christmas jumpers (unless children are wearing them, in which case that's cute) and I've never owned one myself. I have however just bought myself a Christmas dress! (All images (c) Lindy Bop).

This is the 'Gilda' Green Alpine Print Swing Dress from one of my absolute faves Lindy Bop. Just look at it!!! I conveniently have a belt which matches perfectly and this is what I'll be wearing on Christmas Day.

I've been a fan of Lindy Bop for quite a while (and no, this isn't a sponsored post - I'm just mildly addicted...) - the 50's style of their dresses always appeal to me and they really suit my figure so I just keep going back. I went for the dress above but was also tempted by this one which come as a cute twin set...

On having a browse of their site, I did dissever that they have some really nice Christmas jumpers too (so I may still go back and buy one yet!). Such as this gorgeous red one.

Or a cardi?

And for those of you who have Christmas parties to go to (mine will be me, Ben & Jerry's, wine and White Christmas on the telly), they have proper party frocks.

Be still my beating heart. Perhaps I could wear this while curled up on the sofa with that ice cream? 

Sunday, 6 December 2015

A Weekend in Sheffield

Readers of my other blog and those who are familiar with my work will know that I'm a bit of a fan of Sheffield. My now husband went to University there (20 years ago - eek!) and when we started going out I used to visit every few weeks. Its a place we've popped back to pretty regularly ever since and last weekend we went for our 11th wedding anniversary (which is apparently steel so very apt!).

I thought I'd take the opportunity to share some of my favourite bits should you ever find yourself at a loose end in the Rome of the North (it's built on 7 hills...). Sheffield is in South Yorkshire, right on the edge of the stunning Peak District and it takes 3-4 hours to drive there from London (but there are lots of regular/fast-ish trains nowadays - more than there used to be). It's right in the middle of the country so pretty easy to get to from most places. As with many northern cities it used to be known for it's manufacturing industry and in particular steel production. The city has a compact centre which you can easily walk around (but beware those hills, they're pretty epic), a wonderful friendly atmosphere and lousy weather (do not go to Sheffield for the weather - bring a raincoat and prepare to mourn the loss of your umbrella after the first day!).

On this occasion we arrived shortly before lunch on Saturday and checked into our hotel The Leopold - we've stayed here before, and in my old job I used to send people to stay in this hotel all the time. It's a nice, small hotel which has been open for quite a few years now - still lovely but perhaps in need of a lick of paint. Very comfy bed though so we slept really well.

After checking in we went for a walk to stretch our legs after the long drive - first stop Division Street - lots of small independent shops and bars - the shops themselves may have changed in the last 20 years but otherwise it's pretty much the same as it always was.

I popped in to MoonKo to take a look around - I've been following them online for ages and the shop really is beautiful - lots and lots of Rifle Paper Co. stuff and a whole corner of Donna Wilson alongside lots of smaller local and national designer/makers (I may have gone back after lunch and shopped a little!).

We headed down to the end of the street and had lunch in The Forum - this is one of the first places Mr M took me to on one of my early visits - the food was pretty good then and it still is now. We shared some lovely large tapas style plates and had a glass of wine.

Which fortified us for our post lunch, horizontal rain, march up to Park Hill. Again, if you're familiar with my work you'll know that Park Hill features regularly. This was actually the first time I'd ever walked right up to it. 20 years ago it was a bit of a no go area - it's now a mixture of the redeveloped flats and the derelict old ones - masses of photo opportunities! One day I'll buy a flat here...

After Park Hill we wandered around the shops a little more popping into Birds Yard and the shop at the Millennium Gallery (where they have a great separate room with a pop up fearturing work from upcoming designer/makers too) and hid from the rain in the Winter Garden.

Then back to the hotel for a rest before our night out! We had an early dinner at Marco's New York Italian (a fairly casual restaurant run by Marco Pierre White) then headed back to Division Street for a quick drink in Bungalow and Bears - I like it in here as the crowd is usually a little older (showing my age again!) - and then The Leadmill. The Leadmill is my favourite place in Sheffield - they have the best indie club night I've ever been to and it's been on every Saturday night for as long as I've known about the place. This time it was made even better because we went to see The Enemy first - never seen them before and they were fantastic. We stayed afterwards to have a dance (or as much of a dance as is possible on the world's stickiest dance floor!) and made it back to the hotel at about 1am - which was pretty civilised!

Sunday morning and I had a lie in while Mr M went off to walk up some of those hills! After breakfast we went to see the substation on Charter Row...

Then took a stroll up to the University and the famous Arts Tower - it's the tallest university building in the UK with the largest surviving paternoster lift in the UK. I wasn't brave enough to go in and ask if I could have a ride on the paternoster!

For lunch we went to Piccolinos in Millenium Square where we've been before - a nice Italian restaurant where I filled up on pizza before the long drive home. Really not there for long enough but we still had a lovely weekend!

Are you local or a regular visitor to Sheffield? Anywhere you'd recommend visiting?

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Colouring is for kids too!

We've all got caught up in this colouring books for adults craze (I spoke about it on my other blog here and even shared a sheet of my own - that's the stage we've got to!), but lets not forget books for children as well...

Last Sunday when I was off wearing my Made By Mrs M hat at BUST Craftacular in Bethnal Green, Mr M took the little man next door to the V&A Museum of Childhood. They came back with this beauty.

You can see what the cover looked like before the little man set to work on it here. We're fans of Edward Bawden in this house, so it's rather exciting. The colouring book contains 32 pages of his lino cuts for colouring and it's just gorgeous. It even contains fold down sections and I may have been helping him out a little as well (I haven't taken much persuading - helping him to colour in is much more fun than doing an adults colouring book by myself anyway!). 

The Edward Bawden Colouring Book is available from the V&A for £5.99.

It got me looking out for other nice colouring things for little people and I found this rather fab Colour in London Wall Poster from the Tate Shop and some lovely Christmas cards by Joanne Hawker

Are there any you can recommend? Looking for something nicer than the books you find in toy shops!

Sunday, 22 November 2015


We've just had our 11th wedding anniversary (I know I don't look old enough, cough) and as I've had my annual flick through the photos, I thought I'd share a few here. It was a really really cold day (we'd had snow the day before), but I'd wanted a winter wedding and that was what I got!

The day went really well, with hardly a hitch (aside from the last minute emergency best man replacement!). I think everyone had a good time - we certainly did, and I still think it would be nice to do it every year! Unfortunately this photo of me above is one of the only ones I'm happy with - either my eyes are (unintentionally) half closed, or I'm all shiny, or my teeth look awful (this was pre-train track braces and I really should've had them fixed before the wedding rather than after!), but here are just a few other pics to give you a feel of the day...

Heading into church with Dad

At the altar (we'd paid to have the church heated but by the time I got in it was like a deep freezer in there - my arms had a blue-ish tinge by the end!).

A festive red and green table theme.

The cake (the top tier was re-iced for the little man's christening cake 6 years later - still tasted good!).

I wasn't particularly happy with the photos - our provincial photographer didn't quite get what I wanted - I was after modern and as you can see I didn't get it! We also had to wait 2 years to get the final album, but there you go! 

Now to consider whether I should finally get that dress off to the dry cleaners... 

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Embracing Autumn

Autumn is actually one of my favourite times of year. OK, summer is over (and it really is now we've been back from our nice sunny holiday for a couple of weeks!), it's only going to keep getting darker - for the next few weeks at least - but a combination of beautiful colours, evenings by the fire, and the expectation of Christmas around the corner, all add up to a really good season.

It's in the autumn that I feel I really appreciate where we live. Suburban London has some great parks and we have a lot of trees - these pictures were taken a week or so ago when we went out for an afternoon walk. My neighbour across the road from me has the best tree in her front garden - I'm not sure what it is - but the leaves turn an almost fluorescent orange. It's the view from my desk, and just a few have started to turn as I write this (it also has amazing bright pink blossom in the spring - a type of cherry maybe - she'd better not ever get rid of it!).

I like to take the opportunity to go out for walks while the weather is still relatively mild - we had a really warm week last week but the scarf is back out now (bonfire night was so mild I was almost too hot standing in the park in the dark waiting for the fireworks to start!). We discovered a beautiful, quiet (and very old) graveyard when we were out on our recent walk - there are still quite a few things I've yet to discover in the local area despite living here for 5 years.

Now if you're also a fan of autumn colour, and a walk, there are lots of great places in London and the South East to see it - which should be reaching it's best about now.

One of my favourites is Sheffield Park in Sussex (we used to go here a lot when I was a child and it always makes me think of my grandparents). Here are some pictures I took there when we visited a few years ago...

Other top spots include:

Do you have any autumn colour spots you can recommend near where you live?

Sunday, 8 November 2015

The Sun Shone!

For those of you waiting eagerly (following last Sunday's post) to see if the sun shone on our holiday in Gran Canaria... it did. We arrived to rain but by the next morning the skies were blue and the sun was out!

Lots of beach action took place - we went back to the lovely Puerto de Mogan (check it out - it's super pretty) three times for walks around the harbour and trips to the beach - the bay is sheltered and the sea is shallow so I got to get a really nice swim in.

We also visited Anfi for the first time - a similarly lovely beach (with brilliant sand for sandcastle building) and warm, calm, shallow water for swimming.

Made it to Las Palmas this time too - the capital of the Canary Islands and a rather larger city than I was expecting - home to a really beautiful old town.

We stayed at the Salobre Golf resort for the second year running (neither of us play golf but the villas are lovely, it's really quiet and conveniently located just inland from Maspalomas) where we had our own, heated to bath temperature, pool to splash about in with the little man - plus visits from a friendly black cat!

So I'm now full of empanada, tortilla and wine and rather sad to be back into a grey November! Also time to get back onto the diet wagon before Christmas creeps up on me.... eek! 

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Autumn Sunshine

As you're reading this I will have just got back from a week in Gran Canaria. It will have been warm and sunny (I'm keeping my fingers crossed here - at the time of writing, shortly before we're due to go, the forecast isn't great!).

We've had some nice, sunny, autumn breaks in the Canaries for the past few years, so to get me in the mood I thought I'd share some of the best bits from previous years. I will let you know if we managed to get some warm weather this time!

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Rhubarb and Orange Jam

I have a confession to make. Well, two actually. Here's the big one....

I used to have a fear of rhubarb (so far as I'm aware there is no scientific term for this). I was born in the late 1970s and anyone of a similar age or older may recall the early 1980s BBC adaptation of Day of the Triffids. They looked a bit (at least to my toddler eyes) like giant, terrifying, pieces of rhubarb. Enough said. I refused to touch the stuff or be anywhere near it. Once, back in the days before I was Mrs M, Mr M chased me around the fruit and veg section of Sainsbury's on Clapham High Street with a bunch of rhubarb.

Forward a few years and one of our good friends (who had forgotten about my crazy rhubarb terror) cooked us dinner and presented us with rhubarb for dessert. I reminded him of my fear but said I'd try it anyway, and guess what? It was gorgeous. Hmmmm.

It's taken me a while to get around to the position where I'm willing to have it in my kitchen but the fear has now gone (stick with me please - I can see you edging towards the door...) and I'm now looking for nice things to do with it.

The second confession isn't really as bad... I don't cook (as such, I'll try the odd cake or biscuit recipe and I cook the dinner when I have to). So, this fab recipe for rhubarb and orange jam is from my Mum. It started when I was looking for something to do with rhubarb in the summer and made a compote with orange (yes, I did cook that myself) - Mum's a keen jam maker, as they have heaps of fruit and veg growing in their garden, so she decided to give this a try. It's delish. Here's the recipe...

Rhubarb and Orange Jam

1.4 kg rhubarb (cut up)
1.4 kg sugar (I use granulated)
2 small lemons
2 large oranges

Cut the rhubarb into small pieces and put into a preserving pan with the
sugar. Heat slowly until the sugar is dissolved, stirring all the time.

Add the Lemon juice and finely grated rind, plus the finely grated rind of
the oranges. Boil until the mixture sets when tested, skimming if
necessary. Pour the jam into warm dry jars. Cover at once.

I use the wrinkle test to check that it is set. Teaspoon of mixture onto a
cold plate and check that it wrinkles when it has cooled a bit. Not very
scientific and I am sure there are other methods!

Once you've made the jam you'll be left with the insides of the oranges so why not squeeze them and treat yourself to a fresh orange juice (goes really well alongside the jam on toast too!). 

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Spa Days

I've been a little run down in the last couple of weeks (I've been really busy, but it's also the time of year when all the bugs seem to come out - I have a cold as I type this), so when my friend suggested we have a day at a spa I jumped at the chance. This used to be something we did quite often (mostly in the pre-small boy days but also in the post-small boy, pre self employed days when I had more cash!) and I was in desperate need!

So I sorted out my monstrous feet, made myself spa ready and headed off last weekend. I can assure you that I didn't just lounge around - we spent some time in the gym (my physio has recommended the cross trainer for my bad back so I was straight on there - it worked a treat) and I realised just how much I miss going to the gym (being able to stretch to membership of a nice gym again, and having the time to go are goals which are currently high on my list!). We also swam in a lovely outdoor, heated, saltwater pool; I had my first ever Indian head massage - which was lovely, and then sat in the various steam rooms, lounged around etc until it was time to go home. It was so so nice...

In the treatment waiting area there was a magazine featuring international spas which obviously got me thinking about all the others I'd like to go to! Here are some which sound just wonderful/have been on my list for years.

1. Sandy Lane, Barbados - OK not just for the spa. Sandy Lane is pretty pricey and is somewhere I've always wanted to stay (it's even family friendly so once I get that lottery win, I'm there). We drove past when we went to Barbados but you couldn't see much from the road - the spa is apparently wonderful and, well it's also the Caribbean so what else is there to say?

2. Thalassa Spa, Anassa, Cyprus - this place just looks divine, and again it'll be warm (for most of the year at least). Also closer to home so the relaxation isn't completely undone by the jet lag...

3. Grayshott, Surrey - My friend doesn't want to go here as they don't do wine (not that she has a problem but she does think that a weekend away needs wine - for the most part I do agree!) - I'd like to go for their  7 day health regime programme - so like a detox and exercise and relaxation week - I'd be a new person. This will obviously never happen now that I have a child but a girl can dream!

4. Mandarin Oriental, London - Even closer to home than Grayshott and one for just a day (although I'd love to stay at the Mandarin it's probably a bit too extravagant when I can be home in less than an hour!). A relatively new hotel and a beautiful looking spa. My one Mandarin Oriental experience (in Tokyo) was amazing, so if that was anything to go by this place will be too. 

5. The Over Water Spa, Hilton, Maldives - I'll confess that I really really want to go to the Maldives, and this particular spa does look like paradise - so this might be the next holiday after Sandy Lane once I have that lottery win. Pretty sure I'd never want to leave...

Have you been to any fab spas you'd recommend? I can then add them to my wish list and you never know, I might make it in 20 years time! 

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Sharing the Sloth love...

Happy Sunday folks! The problem with planning to be spontaneous with a blog is that you inevitably end up not blogging... So I've decided to be slightly less spontaneous and aim for a weekly post on a Sunday (as the name of my blog may suggest). Let's see how that goes!

This week I've decided to share my love for an animal which seems to divide people - sloths.

Here's a particularly beautiful example I met earlier this year. And here he is again...

I didn't realise that so many people find sloths a bit creepy (almost as many were put off when I shared my new friend on social media as liked him), but a little browse on Etsy shows that I am definitely not in the minority. Here are just a few sloth related products you can get over there (a search brings up thousands!).

Oh, and here's just one more shot of my friend...

I met my sloth at the Woodside Wildlife & Falconry Centre in Lincolnshire.