My Favourite Autumnal Knits

My Favourite Autumnal Knits

I realise that the title of this blog is probably a bit vague, but I’m not going to lie, I struggle with blog titles. How can I tell you guys that I’m writing a blog on autumnal knitwear for women from the high street, all for under £30, that suit a neutral capsule wardrobe, don’t itch and can work for breastfeeding mamas, in a short sweet title caption? That’s hard man.

I hardly wear knitwear because my skin is so sensitive that it itches with most wool mix fabrics. And, I’m always too hot. Seriously, it’s a genetic thing, I get it from my gran, through my dad and in to me. I’m the sort of person who gets too hot extremely easily and I end up half stripping off in shopping centres as soon as I’m carrying a bag, or a baby, or drinking a coffee. However, when I’m cold, man I’m cold. Nothing heats me up, I get goosebumps and chitter chatter on the sofa, snuggling into Damon who is like my own personal radiator.

So when I do get some knitwear for some warmth in those winter months, I tend to go for Zara’s fine knit waterfall cardis because I can take them on and off with ease, and they never ever itch. But honestly I’m just bored of this monotony now. In autumn and winter I basically live in jeans, a vest top and one of those cardis which is just so samey. So this year I’ve decided to branch out.

I have kept my Hermes delivery guy in business this last month by ordering mounds of jumpers and cardigans. 99% of which have been sent back to store for being too itchy, too heavy, or that weird box shape that only ‘size skinny’ 20 years olds can get away with. Also, I returned anything that was going to be too hard to breastfeed in (my nursing solution is wearing a feeding vest top underneath, and hiding baby under the jumper for a cosy snuggly feed time.

Anyway, here’s my round up of the absolute best, must have knits for this season. And trust me when I say that these have been enough to convert me from a non-knit wearing wool hater, to a snuggled up jumper lover, which is no easy task, so you just need to believe that these knits must be bloody well worth it!

First up is this Bershka beauty, coming in at a steal for only £19.99. This is the softest jumper of everything I’m going to show you and I am absolutely in love with it!

Next we have, well, Next with this ochre cable knit beauty which is only £26. It’s super roomy so I would suggest sizing down. I’m a 10/12 and I got a small.

The detail in this H&M one just makes me so happy! AND it’s only £14.99. Say whaaaatttttt. Go check out the beautiful blush pink one or the practical black.

The first of my Zara faves is this cute little beaded fine knit for only £12.99. The colour is gorgeous and would suit so many different skin tones.

The second Zara fave is this beautiful basic which is so insanely soft, you wouldn’t believe it. And it’s also only £12.99 so a complete bargain.

This boyfriend cardigan from Daisy Street at ASOS has featured on my blog on the High Street’s best leopard print fashion which you can read here.

This Next jumper also features on my last blog post about the high street’s most wearable leopard print fashion, another bargain at only £26.

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Last, but by no means least, I searched high and low for a nice cable knit cream jumper and Pull & Bear won the race with this winner at only £17.99.

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I started out with a mistaken belief that knitwear would be expensive. But it is so easily affordable. Overall I would definitely recommend Bershka for some amazing items that are just amazingly priced.

On another note, please excuse the shameless selfies that went into the creation of this post, ha!

 

High Street Leopard Print Fashion (even for people who don’t wear leopard print)

High Street Leopard Print Fashion (even for people who don’t wear leopard print)

I once had a friend that told me that I couldn’t pull off wearing animal print because I wasn’t sassy enough….more on that story later if you manage to make it to the end of this blog. However, the one accurate thing that she insinuated with this statement is that animal print can be incredibly difficult to wear.

I remember working in Warehouse during my late teens/early twenties while at university and we got into stock a leopard print shift dress with a little peter pan collar on it. You’ve got to bear in mind that this was before Instagram was even a thing, before imagery of iconic styles hit our eyes every single day from all kinds of traditional marketing like magazines as well as influencer campaigns like they do now. And bloody hell this dress would just fly off the rails, we would have people phoning up for it, trying to reserve it, sending stock between stores. My little sister managed to get herself one (she worked at Warehouse too) and I was so jealous because she looked so amazing in it. But when I put it on, it was just wrong, All kinds of wrong. The shape, the fabric, the colour, the length. Nope.

So 10-15 years later, when leopard print began hitting the shelves again as autumn 2018 approached I was a tiny bit hesitant, until I began to explore the options and realised that along with the expansion of fashion marketing to include instagram social media influencing, access to fashion from alternative manufacturers has grown with it making the whole market place boom. And in that kind of environment there is a leopard print solution for everyone.

I have pulled together some of my favourite high street leopard print items and have indicated those that I do actually own as my little collection of all things animal has grown significantly in the last month (as significantly as my maternity pay and breastfeeding requirements can take me). I have also linked every image to their website, so just click on them to be taken to the right place. What’s most important to remember are as follows:

  1. Leopard print does not need to be brown/beige/tan. Look at all of the example options below that are completely different colours like pink, grey or navy. This can help leopard print to tie in with your existing preferred colours in your wardrobe.
  2. You can wear leopard print without having neck to ankle in the stuff. Super scared? Then try a leopard print accessory or logo.
  3. Practice wearing leopard print indoors with a comfy jumper or pyjamas which will get you used to wearing the pattern before braving the outdoors for the world to see.

Also, If you would like to explore finding your own leopard print pieces, then aim to fill your wardrobe with these key items:

  1. A pleated leopard print skirt – a chiffon pleated layer over a plain base
  2. A leopard print jumper – in an iconic colour like naturals, grey or black.
  3. A leopard print scarf – soft touch or woven with fringed edging
  4. A leopard print shirt dress – in a silky or chiffony fabric so it isn’t too hard

 

RI Positive Vibes TShirt
River Island Positive Vibes T Shirt £16
New Look Dress
EMMA OWNS: New Look Dress £24.99
New Look Sweater
New Look Sweater £15.99
New Look Travel Cup
New Look Reusable Travel Cup £6.99
Next Pink Shirt Dress £28
Next Pink Shirt Dress £28
Next Grey Cosy Top
EMMA OWNS: Next Grey Cosy Top £26
Next Pyjamas
Next Soft Pink Long Sleeved Pyjamas £25
zara-scarf.jpg
Zara Soft Touch Scarf £17.99
Zara scrunchies
Zara Scrunchie 2 Pack £3.99

 

So, there you have it. Honestly, I could have gone on for ages with dozens of products for you to peruse. I cannot recommend New Look, ASOS and Next enough for this season’s range of leopard print products. Pop onto their websites and type in ‘leopard’ to the search bar for the full range of options from them. And all at amazing price points.

Now, you may remember I told you at the beginning that I one had a friend who told me I couldn’t pull of wearing animal print because I wasn’t sassy enough?…Well I sassed that girl right out of my life.

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Me wearing my Marks and Spencer Pleated Midi Skirt (£35)

20 Autumn Decor Updates for Under £20

20 Autumn Decor Updates for Under £20

I love Autumn. While most people in the UK are lamenting the loss of summer, those few valuable weeks of sunshine in a climate that is normally featured on the news for its persistent rain, here I am thankful for the break in the heat and enjoying the turn of the season.

I love the colours of autumn: the golds, reds, browns, and oranges warm me down to the depths of my soul. And, although spring is the season of new beginnings, without autumn to clear out the old there would be no new beginnings to enjoy. For me, the breezes that autumn brings blow out the cobwebs and leave me feeling refreshed…especially after what turned out to be one hell of a heatwave this summer.

Autumn also marks the nights drawing in that bit earlier, the perfect excuse to cosy up on the sofa with the people you love, drinking hot chocolate and eating home baking. Without autumn, my addiction to blankets and cushions would be entirely unjustified! AND, as if that’s not enough reasons to love the season already, it is also my birthday in Autumn, around the last weekend of September.

I’m not normally one to follow a trend, however, when the season changes I do tend to make some seasonal updates in our home to accommodate the turn in weather. You may have seen my Bring in Spring Blog Series earlier this year where I shared with you all some of the ways that I get the house ready for the spring months. Today I want to show you how you can get your house autumn ready, and that it does not need to be expensive to do so.

Below you will find 20 ideas that all cost under £20 to bring your home into the autumn months and make it feel warm, cosy and the perfect hygge hideaway from the autumnal weather outside. Most pictures are linked directly to supplier websites if you click them, but if in doubt just ask.

 

Cushion Covers

Swapping out your cushion covers is one of the fastest and cheapest ways to update your spring/summer colours for autumn/winter ones. And I can’t recommend H&M Home enough for availability of cushion covers of all colours and sizes.

  1. Dark Dusty Rose: summer ending does need to mean that all pinks must go. H&M have captured a beautiful shade of dark dusty rose that is a perfect hybrid colour and will see you from summer to autumn with ease.

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    HM Dark Dusty Rose Cushion Cover £3.99
  2. Ochre Yellow: Another colour that is the perfect hybrid as it can be used across all 4 seasons by pairing it with different colours accordingly. Coupled with dark dusty pink and rust tones, ochre yellow is the ideal shade for autumn.

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    H&M Ochre Patterned Cushion Cover £3.99
  3. Velvet: velvet is a warming and luxurious texture that is perfect for autumn thanks to its decadence and cosiness. Pick velvet covers in warm tones for the ultimate autumn style.

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    H&M Gold Velvet Cushion Cover £6.99

 

Throws and Blankets

Autumn and winter are the ideal seasons for cuddling under a blanket on the sofa. I love have lots of blankets around because it saves me needing to have my heating on all of the time helping my purse and helping the planet. I also have blankets in the bedroom for an extra layer at night, which is the perfect solution if you share your bed with someone who likes a different warmth of duvet to you.

4. Rust fleece: This tasseled rust coloured throw I got in TKMaxx and I can’t oversell its quality. It is a heavy fleece throw with gorgeous tassled edging and the colour is simply perfect. As we all know, snooze you lose in TK Maxx and Homesense, so here are another couple of throws from the TK Maxx website just now that are perfect for autumn.

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Rust Coloured TK Maxx Throw £19.99

5. Fluffy: autumn to me is all about warm cosy textures. So aim to mix things up with velvets, weaves and fluffy throws like this one.

TK Maxx Fluffy Blanket £19.99
TK Maxx Fluffy Blanket £19.99

6. Tassles: continuing on the mixed textures theme, consider a tassled trim throw. This one is perfect for the colour lovers amongst you.

TK Maxx Ochre Blanket 2
TK Maxx Ochre Blanket £19.99

 

Dive In

Most cushions on the high street come with a man made fibre filling which is one of the reasons that the shops are able to offer them at such amazing prices. A microfibre filling is less expensive than a feather one. However, only a feather filled cushion can offer you the squidgy comfiness we all want to relax into in the evening. So, I try to swap out all of my fibre filled cushion inners for feather filled ones when money allows.

7. Feathers: Recently I came across an excellent online store called Homescapes which sells feather inners of all shapes and sizes, and at an excellent price point. Not only that, but I paid a few pounds for standard delivery and their service was so efficient that the delivery turned up the very next day! It was amazing.

Homescapes Feather Inner
Homescapes Feather Inner £4.99 50x50cm

 

Flowers and Plants

With summer over, arguably so dies floral season with it. However, there are some seasonal solutions to having flowers and plants in your home. I recommend going faux or dried: in fact dried grasses just scream harvest time to me!

8. Dried Pampas Grass: Through the power of Instagram, I recently came across a beautiful online store called The Little Deer which sells natural products in muted tones, from furniture to beauty items. My favourite item from their store is their dried Pampas Grass.

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Dried Pampas Grass from The Little Deer £14

9. Dried Flowering Cloud Grass: Also from The Little Deer, this grass is perfect for people who have lighter woods in their homes like birch and pine as it tones perfectly. Check out The Little Deer’s website for lots of other dried grasses of all heights and styles, there are so many to choose from depending on your needs.

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The Little Deer flowering grass £8.50

10. Hydrangeas: normally a little pricier than other faux flowers, hydrangeas have a much bigger head on them which explains the price difference. In fact, you only need 3 or 4 stems to completely fill a vase and have it looking full and bushy. Flo and Co Interiors has the best range of autumnal hydrangeas I have seen.

Flo and Co Coffee_Hydrangea
Faux Hydrangea from Flo and Co Interiors £11.95

 

Lighting

If you read my Bring in Spring blog series you will have seen how much I like cool white lightbulbs, or daylight bulbs, and use them all throughout the house in the lighter seasons. Well, although in autumn and winter I still use daylight bulbs in certain places…think bathrooms, dressing table areas etc…now is the time of year when I swap back to warm white light bulbs to create a cosy effect.

11. Warm Bulbs: Value Lights is the most comprehensive website I have found for extremely well priced and variable bulbs of all kinds.

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Value Lights warm soft bulbs from £0.89

12. Exposed bulbs: A current trend I am in love with is for lighting with exposed bulbs. Iconic Lights has a wonderful range of extremely cost lighting solutions and low cost filament bulbs to go with them. I have ordered the Watson concrete and metal lamp for only £9!!!

Watson Table Lamp

 

Scents and Fragrance

Autumn is a treat for the senses and I’ve focussed a lot on the two most obvious senses when it comes to home updates: sight and touch. However, according to studies, smell is the most powerful of the human senses and should therefore not be forgotten when considering bringing your home into the autumn season.

13. Candles: One of my favourite small businesses, which I happened across once again thanks to Instagram, is also very local to me: Orchard Cheshire. They have just launched a series of autumn winter scents including Blackberry and Bay, Damson and Plum, both of which I have ordered. These 300g jars have a massive burn time of around 60 hours and are only £14 each.

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Orchard Cheshire Honey Jar candle £14

14. Autumnal Cooking: Ok, so traditionally you don’t want your home to smell of cooking smells, however, there are a range of amazing Autumnal candles that draw on some of the foods we associate most with this time of year, for example Gingerbread, Maple, Apple and Pumpkin.

Pumpkin Pie Candle Etsy
Lindsey Lucas Candles on Etsy from £5.99

13. Burner oil: I have always had oil burners in my home, but my new favourite thing is my scent mister, a safer and alternative way to spread fragrance. I still use the same oils as a traditional burner though and will never move away from good old Marks & Spencer who can always be relied on to come good at autumn winter time.

refresher burner oil
Refresher Oil from M&S only £6 pack of 2

Wall Decor

One of the fastest ways to refresh a room without digging out a tin of emulsion is to decorate the walls by other means. There are some amazing online retailers of prints and artwork these days, not least Desenio which has one of the largest ranges imaginable.

14. Artwork: One of the amazing things about Desenio is that there is always a discount code to be found on Instagram. Have a look out for their collaborations with Instagram users for codes that can earn you up to 25% off their products. The colours in these prints I have chosen are beautiful for Autumn but will remain neutral and timeless.

15. Frames: My whole life I have only ever used white frames…on everything. If I ever ventured away from white it would only be for the odd photo frame and a white metal like chrome would be the finish I would choose instead. However, I have learned over time that the choice of frame colour can not only frame your art more beautifully, but can also be used to create different moods in a room. For autumn I have added in some natural wood frames for a warmer effect. These ones are from Desenio and start at £3.95 per frame.

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Oak wood frames from Desenio from £3.95

16. Mirrors: provide a reflective surface in room to bounce off any light that does come in, despite the shorter days and darker nights. Furthermore, mirrors reflecting candlelight creates more warmth and cosiness. This one from The Range adds texture and natural tones, perfect for Autumn.

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Round mirror from The Range £12.99

 

Wicker

To be honest I don’t think the season really matters much in this instance as the use of a variety of natural materials in the home is always lovely. However, the colour palette that so many natural materials create lends itself perfectly to Autumn thanks so its shades of brown and warm neutral tones. One such material that is extremely easy to come by and cheap to purchase is wicker.

17. Tray: Perfect for bringing warm drinks and yummy treats to your loved ones in an evening, a wicker tray is a perfect autumn addition. There are a multitude available on the high street, mine is from One World Trading, but simply type into Google to see what options are available to you.IMG_20180916_083029-01

18. Hanging decoration: for door handles, walls, or ceiling, from hooks, pegs, shelf brackets…wicker hearts are charming rustic and easy to find. This one was only a few pounds from B&M Stores.

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Inexpensive hanging decorations are available from BM Stores

 

Warm Metals

Metallic accents not only provide the perfect contrast to natural woods and materials already discussed, but their light reflective surfaces lift autumnal colour palettes and prevent them from being at risk of dullness.

19. Gold:

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Hanging gold leaf from Dunelm Mill £2.50

20. Copper: I cannot big up George at ASDA enough for copper accessories for your home. For a more autumnal look, avoid items with copper and marble which suits the lighter months more and stick to earthier tones, so copper on its own or with woods. These LED candles are ideal for autumn evenings and are a snip at only £9.99 for the set.

Copper LED Candles
Set of 3 copper ombre LED candles £9.99

 

SW Breakfast: Overnight Oats, Tried and Tested

SW Breakfast: Overnight Oats, Tried and Tested

Overnight oats seem to be an “in thing” right now, which sure as hell means that I have never tried them seeing as the closest I get to “being in” is sitting “in” on a Saturday night “in” my pyjamas. However, if you have seen my post ‘SW Breakfast: Baked Oats, Tried and Tested’ then you will know that I’m having a bit of an issue with eating a decent breakfast, and so I’m going to give overnight oats a try, not because I’m hip and trendy but because I need to try something.

As any working parent knows, mornings are bonkers. There is simply never enough time. Our current situation is that we are a family of four: mum (that’s me!), dad, Evie our 2 year old, and George our 3 month old. I am on maternity leave with George, breastfeeding, and still up through the night on average 2 to 3 times (*cough cough, 5 or 6 times!!) to feed him. Damon is working full time, travelling across the North West and beyond on call out as a field service engineer. And Evie goes to nursery three days a week, the other two she is at home with her brother and I.

So mornings are pretty manic and at their most chaotic on the days when Evie is at home with me too. Try showering and getting dressed with a toddler pulling everything out of the drawers, and a baby that seems to demand an endless supply of milk. It’s like they specifically wait for me to be at my most vulnerable before they start acting like crazy people!

It’s on these days that something like overnight oats feels significantly more attractive to me. Prepare them the night before? Yes please! Saves me having to eat a bowl of bran flakes for breakfast yet again? Give it to me! Will fill me up for more than 5 minutes? Hell yes! I have traditionally been of the belief that oats should be eaten nice and warm and sweet in the form of porridge, and overnight oats in comparison looks kind of like sludgey goo, but let’s be honest, nice warm porridge is pure luxury in a house with young kids so lets just embrace the inevitable and go for cold.

Slimming world’s overnight oats recipe is as follows:

Ingredients

  • 40g porridge oats
  • 200g natural low fat yoghurt
  • mixed blueberries, strawberries and raspberries

Layer it up, cover, put in the fridge overnight, and then eat in the morning. Easy. Here’s my first attempt:

Overnight Oats
Overnight Oats following Slimming World’s original recipe

At first glance, it looks ok, and I popped this spoon in my mouth hoping it would also taste ok…nice even! But looks can be deceiving. Is claggy a word? I think it is, not of the Oxford English Dictionary kind, but more dialectal which means some of you may not recognise it. But it is the best word I can think of to describe what overnight oats tastes like. They tasted claggy. Thick, gloopy, sticky, like it was really bloody hard work to chew/suck and swallow them. Maybe this is the point, maybe your jaw burns a hundred calories for every mouthful consumed?!

Claggy Oats
Once stirred through the overnight oats turned into a claggy mess!

So, off to Instagram I went asking for some advice from fellow Slimming Worlders on how to make overnight oats more palatable, and I got some great advice from someone I decided to try for round two.

New overnight oats recipe:

  • 40g oats
  • 4 tbsp Natural yoghurt
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 1 tbsp Agave syrup (or more to taste)
  • all the berries, as before

And here is the result:

Overnight Oats round 2
Overnight oats round 2 with less yoghurt and more milk to make them tastier…I had high hopes

Looks good right? All those berries, the gorgeous little jar they are displayed in, the morning sun coming through the window. What a shame then that they still tasted like wallpaper paste! I am extremely grateful to the kind girl who gave me the tip to swap out some yoghurt for milk, and yes this did actually make them taste slightly less claggy, but still pretty eurgh! I seem to be proving myself right that porridge should be eaten nice and hot and drizzled with honey and an extra splash of cold milk for some looseness and contrast.

So, since then I have also tried swapping out the natural yoghurt for some Raspberry and Cranberry flavour Muller Light which is looser in consistency than natural yoghurt and also less bitter to the taste. I’ve not photographed it for what is the point, it all looks the same. And it sort of tasted the same too…OK it was marginally better again because slightly less claggy and slightly sweeter, but still not great. Ultimately, off all options I would recommend this latter version using a pre-sweetened low fat yoghurt like a Muller Light. However, for this girl, overnight oats are indeed a fad, an “in” thing that I definitely cannot get “in” to.

Ciao bellas.

SW Breakfast: Baked Oats, tried and tested

SW Breakfast: Baked Oats, tried and tested

I hate breakfast! In fact, I take that back. I don’t hate breakfast if I’m in some schmancy hotel with an epic buffet where I can have a 5 course meal and still not be bored…cereal, yoghurt, fruit, waffles, bacon, eggs, pancakes, croissants, toast, jam…doesn’t that all sound absolutely fantastic!? What a terrible bloody shame then that:

a) I not only don’t live in but also never get to go to schmancy hotels

b) I have 2 kids who would disallow me from enjoying said 5 course breakfast, even if I did live in a schmancy hotel, and

c) I am far too rotund to enjoy a 5 course breakfast every morning…or any morning for that matter!

So, I come back to my original statement…I hate breakfast. For months since I had George I have been having a bowl of bran flakes for brekkie. It’s fast, it’s easy, and that fibre can work wonders for a post partum digestive tract (TMI! But you know it’s true!). But not only is a bowl of bran flakes every morning so very boring, it’s also not filling…an hour or two later and I’m cramming a peanut butter sandwich down my throat faster than you can say ‘500 calories’.

But what’s the alternative? Bread is like devil food for anybody trying to lose weight, plus it only tastes good with lashings of butter melting all over it (mmmmm). Clearly I can’t be tucking in to a fry up every morning. And, to make it all a bit more complex I cannot cope with soft eggs…just the thought makes bile rise in my mouth! So what’s left?

In truth, there’s no diet on the planet that suits me as far as breakfast is concerned, but I think I am finding that slimming world is the best of a bad bunch…sorry SW, that’s not much of a compliment for your method, but let’s just blame me and my aversion to eggs if you want given most of your breakfast recipes are egg-based.

So, speaking of egg-based recipes, I thought I would give this one a try first: www.slimmingworld.co.uk/recipes/baked-oats
Ingredients

  • 40g Oats (HEB)
  • 1 tsp sweetener
  • 1 small egg
  • 1/2 pot mullerlight vanilla yoghurt
  • few drops of vanilla essence
  • 100g raspberries

So, I made it and my goodness doesn’t it look damned delicious?!

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Slimming world baked oats

But, it wasn’t totally edible. I think with just a couple of tiny tweaks though it will be perfect. So, next time I will be trying these small variations.

Firstly, rather than 1 small egg, just go straight for a large one. The mixture was a bit dry and made me want to down a glass of water, which coming to think of it, may not be such a bad thing after all given that water is good for you and fills you up. But nevertheless, a large egg I would suggest. Who even buys small eggs anyway? What a waste of grocery budget!

Secondly, don’t put the raspberries in. Raspberries can be lovely and sweet or just a bit tart and mine were a bit tart making the whole thing taste just a bit offputting. If I had the raspberries on the side with the strawberries however I think it would have been much better.

Third, don’t bake it for the 35 minutes Slimming World recommend. Even a fat chicken breast cooks faster than that!! I’m going to try taking mine out at 25 minutes next time, as long as the top is a bit crusty and golden. I reckon judge it by its colour, not by the time that it’s been baking for.

Lastly, add in a bit more sweetener. Might as well make it taste kind of like bread and butter pudding if you can! 🙂 If you don’t do icky fake sweeteners than buy a nice natural one like Agave nectar or Natvia…they are more expensive but totally worth it for their non-carcinogenic properties.

So, there we go, my top tips for Baked Egg success. Now I just need to actually go and do it myself, practice what I preach so to speak. I do promise to share with you the outcome…at least then you will know if my top tips are worth following or if this whole post is just content filler and totally not worth reading! Lol! #keepingitreal
Edit – Baked Oats, Round Two

So, I followed my own advice and amended the recipe as outlaid above. The new ingredients list is:

  • 40g Oats (HEB)
  • 1.5 tsp sweetener
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 pot mullerlight vanilla yoghurt (Iused the one with little flakes of chocolate but I would like to point out this was a total fluke…I promise!)
  • few drops of vanilla essence
  • 100g raspberries and strawberries

I also used a slightly smaller dish, especially given the raspberries were not in the mixture which reduced the overall volume somewhat. Buuutttt, I forgot to reduce the cooking time because I was watching Netflix (sans the chill unfortunately) and clean forgot #priorities !!

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Basically I would recommend that you follow my recipe. The extra sweetener made the dish, and not including the raspberries in the bake but instead eating them cold on the side was much tastier. Is it as good as eating a 5 course buffet breakfast in a fancy hotel? Nope. But it fills a hole and offers a degree of variety over the standard Bran Flakes. Next time I will aim to make it a bit moister (oh, that word! It’s ever so unpopular) using some more yoghurt. And yes, I will probably deliberately get the vanilla with chocolate sprinkles this time!

Moodboard: Scandi nursery in monochrome, mint and mustard

Moodboard: Scandi nursery in monochrome, mint and mustard

How can I be planning and decorating my son’s bedroom already? This is a horrible example of how fast time flies. George is currently just over three months old and sleeping in a bedside crib in our room still, but, if he is anything like his big sister, he will outgrow his bedside crib and be into his own room within the next 5 or 6 weeks. It is simultaneously the saddest and happiest thing to see your child grow and become more independent, but ready or not, I can’t hit pause on his growth curve so I need to get this nursery sorted because George isn’t hanging around waiting on anyone.

With all of the inspiration available to us via Instagram, Pinterest, and the plethora of online shops trading today, it can actually be really difficult defining exactly what you want for any room that you choose to decorate, and George’s nursery has been no exception. For months I have pondered over what I would like, getting myself all confused in the process. I think I always knew I wanted a scandi feel…but did I want woodland, monochrome, adventure? Did I want grey, yellow, blue, or green accents? Do I want wallpaper, wall decals, paint? Honestly, it’s been a bit of a minefield and I realised that I was going to need to make a mood board in order to clarify exactly what I want.

Mint Green and Mustard Yellow

Funnily enough, the thing that ended up helping me define my first accent colour was George’s comforter. I knew I wanted a muslin comforter because the fabric is safest for children from birth and I like to instill good sleep patterns from as early an age as possible, so after some research I eventually picked the Liewood Agnete Cuddle Comforter in Dusty Mint Green.

Liewood comforter
Liewood Agnete Dusty Green Comforter from Scandiborn

And, it was from exploring the Scandiborn website further that accent colour number two cropped up, thanks to this gorgeous little cushion:

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Mustard yellow Fabelab bear cushion from Scandiborn

So, probably not the most traditional of colour combinations, but I like how it clashes. Paired together with a basic monochrome and grey base palette, I think these colours really pop and add some interest. My problem now was that I had a bunny, and a bear, so what overall theme was I going to work towards?

Canadian Woodland

In the UK, when we think of woodland we probably most commonly think of rabbits, squirrels, badgers and deer. But we don’t have that many grizzly bears wandering around…apart from me in the morning after being up all night with the baby! I toyed with the idea of a sort of Never-Never-Land idea and realised that the addition of all those pirates and mermaids was going to confuse me even more, so that was swiftly veto-ed. After all, this room is the size of a postage stamp, there’s only so much stuff I can fit in there.

So, the Canadian Woodland soon became the perfect solution. A lovely mix of the woodland animals we know from the UK, plus a few exciting ones that the kids will recognise from storybooks and Disney movies: raccoons, bears and moose for example.

Wall Decor

Adding blue accessories was a perfect idea

These amazing little wall decals from Scandiborn bring all of the animals in a Canadian wood together perfectly. I couldn’t afford enough to cover a full feature wall though, so, I have decided to use them to decorate the walls of a little over-the-stairs cupboard in George’s room that I’m planning to make in to a cosy reading nook for him. But this leaves me with the problem of how to paint the walls of the room itself to best reflect the theme. I have already undercoated them all in white and am thinking of hand painting some trees onto one of the walls using black and grey paints. Goodness knows how that will work out, but lets just see how it goes and if its a disaster then white emulsion to the rescue!

Natural Wood

In-keeping with the desire to have the room feel Scandinavian (despite the Canadian bears, moose, and raccoons, lol!) I have bought several items in a natural wood finish for adorning the walls and displaying George’s little bits and pieces. These spice racks are from Ikea and I’m sure you have all seen the many ways they are used to display other items for the home. The peg rail and the rabbit mirror are both from H&M Home and were an excellent price and therefore ideal for a cost conscious mum on maternity leave.

Bits and Bobs

I think one of the things that make a room feel special are all of the unnecessary bits and bobs that hang and display and essentially offer no function other than to look pretty. Etsy is an absolute haven for this sort of thing. I have my eye set on a pom pom garland, some fabric letters spelling out George’s name, and lots of cool monochrome artwork for a gallery wall. It would be even better if we could find some mono artwork with accents of mint green or mustard yellow in it. I just need to ensure that the little animals displayed in the artwork don’t venture beyond Canadian woodland animals! Ha!

Furniture

The furniture I selected for the room is actually out of stock now. I got it from Ikea and am still trying to locate the matching wardrobe to complete the set. I opted for traditional white furniture because I figured that no matter what it will always match the decor of any future children that we may end up having…sorry Damon, cover your ears!

I would keep an eye out on the Aldi Special Buys offers if you want white furniture for your nursery: they always have some good items on there and they are very reasonably priced.

The Final Look

My Post

As you can see from this little moodboard, there are a few other items I have either looked at, pinned or ordered for George’s room including this cute canopy. I would love a mint green one, but these canopies are not totally budget friendly, although I am sure worth every penny they cost, they are just hard to afford on a maternity leave income! There is a beautiful dusty mint canopy that matches the Liewood goodies I have bought for George from Scandiborn which is the one I remain lusting after. Maybe Santa can bring it for him 🙂

Iconic Lights and Grillo Designs: collaboration product launch night

Iconic Lights and Grillo Designs: collaboration product launch night

Not in a million years did I ever imagine that a day would come where I would be going to an invite-only exclusive launch event for a line of new interiors products! Never ever! When I set up my interiors account on Instagram last November, and then this blog a few months later, I did so for my own personal outlet and enjoyment. And yet, here I am, with thousands of followers, hundreds of unique visitors a month to my blog, and receiving party invites of this kind! I am one grateful girl.

The invite to the Iconic Lights and Grillo Designs event is the first invite of its kind I have ever received. The event was happening fairly locally to where I live, I am obviously a follower of Medina @ Grillo Designs on Instagram, and Iconic Lights and I had partnered before for a photo shoot opportunity, so all of those things combined to make me the lucky recipient of an invitation. Yippee!

So, a novice at this sort of thing, there then ensued several weeks of uncertainty over what to do and what would happen and I’m very happy to share with you the stupid reality of my experience, for your giggles if nothing else.

The Invite

One day I received a mysterious package in the post. I wasn’t too confused as my internet shopping addiction is well known and documented on Instagram, but I was still racking my brain trying to remember what I had ordered. On opening I found a lovely botanical themed invite and some beautiful little succulents.

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What I failed to realise is that the succulents and moss were intended to be put together into a glass container to create what is called a ‘terrarium’. This was a word which at the time I was completely unfamiliar with until several weeks down the line I saw people posting their own special deliveries on Instagram all styled up and beautiful…but by then it was too late for me: the moss was in the bin, and the succulents were in little pots on a shelf! Ha! #plantlady I am not!

The Build-up

There then ensued several weeks of Instagram stalking to see who else had received an invite and would be going to the event too. Guys, I’m talking interiors Instagram royalty here! Katie from @comedowntothewoods, Justin from @design_at_nineteen, Beth from @bethshehata, Louise from @home.of.four, Ellie from @e.t.shown_home…to name just a few! Eek! And here I am with my little account and my little blog and my tiny-human led home going to be mingling with design led interiors fashionistas!

This was also when I discovered my succulent faux pas, Justin I’m pointing at you here with your beautiful terrarium (there’s that word again). I remember walking into the hall and looking at my little succulents in their little plastic pots and thinking ‘Oooooooooo, that’s what I was suppose to do with the moss’, lol! I should also note that last week I managed to drop two of the succulents, smashing half of their beautiful little petally leaves off, so now I have wonky succulents in silly plastic pots, as if I couldn’t get any more useless!

The Wardrobe Issue

Every girl knows what it’s like trying to pick an outfit for anything…a date, an interview, a wedding, pretty much any event, ever. But, only a breastfeeding mama knows how it feels when you have humungous leaky boobs at the same time. Disaster! Although I wasn’t taking George with me, I did need to have access to the breast-area in order to express them off at some point in the night so they didn’t explode. So I needed to try and look sassy but not over-dressed, with easy access but not slutty, and accommodate the hot muggy weather even though it was also raining! What the hell?! How is this even possible?

I eventually settled on a canary yellow button up dress thinking it would be loose and baggy enough to feel cool despite the humidity. I could not have been more wrong.

Zara dress
Beautiful Zara Button Up Dress

The Wardrobe Issue Continued

My advice to you is never ever have a drastic haircut right before a big event. And that is all there is to be said on the hair issue!

Then there was the yellow dress issue. What a gorgeous dress, I mean look at it. However, what I didn’t realise was that it was made from a fabric that crushes really easily. Add in a delayed train journey, some torrential rain, a traffic jam that resulted in me needing to walk/run most of the way from the train station to the venue, and some hormonal sweats (yes, apparently that is an actual thing for breastfeeding mamas who don’t have their baby with them) and the dress turned into a sodden, wrinkled, limp mess! Disaster! I literally had to go to the toilet and take it off, hang it on the back of the cubicle door and let it dry off for a while as I expressed my sweat-causing boobs into a bottle. It is hands down one of the least elegant, unladylike, depressing things I have ever had to do. But a few proseccos later and I was able to openly laugh about it…my apologies to anyone at the event who really just didn’t want to know (Lee @ Iconic Lights, I am truly sorry).

The Event

Ok, so now that I have overshared quite sufficiently, how about the event itself? Wow! I don’t think I have been anywhere as cool as The Menagerie in Manchester.

 

Jasmine and the team from Iconic Lights had done an amazing job making this uber cool venue even more hip with their own additional decor, and of course, the products of the moment, the lights that we were there to celebrate the launch of.

Who even knew that Instagram selfie photo scenery even existed?! Ok, maybe some of you Instagram die hards did, but I didn’t! I wasn’t quite brave (or dry!) enough to get into the ball bath, but I did stand next to it trying to hide behind some beauties.

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From the front: Laura @lifeonjacklane, Frankie @luckyplot13, Lucy @_itslucy_, your truly, Amy @harrison_nate_and_me

Amy and Lucy were two of the first people I met, standing out in the street in the rain, looking rather lost and trying to work out where to go. They immediately took me under their wing and I was so grateful for the support given my embarrassed frantic state.

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The way Lucy and Amy looked after me is testament to how friendly and supportive the Instagram community is

And the product? Classically Iconic, the products are affordable, well made, modern pieces that can fit into a range of working homes. The range includes a pivoting desk lamp, a matching floor lamp (both available in both grey and black) and an amazing geometric ceiling pendant. They clearly display Medina’s practical style and reflect the functional artistic colour palette of her home. I would be happy and lucky to own one and am now surveying my house trying to work out where I can slide one in without my other half noticing. Although, even if he did notice, the cost is so purse friendly that I’m sure he wouldn’t mind at all!

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Iconic Forton Desk Lamp in Grey by Grillo Designs

I just want to take a moment to thank Medina and Jasmine, and all the team at Iconic Lights for inviting me to come along. I would also like to say a big thank you to the contributors to a gorgeous goody bag full of little lovelies which I had a rummage through on the way home. And lastly, I would like to say thanks to everyone from our Instagram community who made my night so much fun, it was so lovely to put names to faces.

Head to www.iconiclights.co.uk to see the full range of product in the Grillo Designs range and to read more about Medina and her vision for these products.

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Days out with a toddler: summer fun when solo parenting

Days out with a toddler: summer fun when solo parenting

I think the toddler years are tricky ones to manage when it comes to days out and activities. Toddlers need constant stimulation and things to do to help them grow and develop and to prevent them from becoming bored. However, long days and lack of routine can make them equally cranky and difficult. Throw in a bit of potty training, nap times, fussy eating and communication issues and it can be extremely daunting taking your 2 year old out for the day.

I am currently on maternity leave with my 2 year old and a newborn baby, and although I love my kids, I can’t bear the idea of being cooped up indoors with them all day. Even if the Great British weather breaks enough to let us play in the garden, which this year it mercifully has, I still get cabin fever and start climbing my own garden fence in an attempt to escape the monotony of constant “Mummy bounce, NOW! [on the trampoline]”, “NO! No nap time! [with supplementary screams and tears]”, and “Mummy, Peppa Pig on…Mummy, Duggee on…Mummy, Minion on…Now, Mummy, NOW!”.

Of course there are big day out places to go, like Alton Towers (who am I kidding, I actually mean CBeebies Land!), which should not be attempted without back up in the form of anther adult or two. Even a trip to the local swimming baths is too hard for me to manage with a toddler and a newborn without having another adult in tow to help me juggle them. So, what can I do with them both when I am alone on maternity leave while my other half is working? Well, I’ve discovered a few places in the nearby vicinity that I have been to and have thoroughly enjoyed. Although these are near where I live, don’t be disheartened if you are at the other end of the country as I am sure there would be something similar near where you are. What did we do before the days of Google, eh?!

Cholmondley Castle Gardens

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I’m no gardener, and I’m not a sightsee-er. Send me on a city break and I won’t mess around looking at local buildings, I will be online researching the best places to eat and drink (#priorities), but when I went to Cholmondley Castle Gardens I was blown away. I stumbled across the venue through the Facebook Events page as they were hosting a Teddy Bear’s Picnic in the grounds which I thought would be fun for Evie. It was, she really loved it, but so did I. Relaxing in the grounds of a picturesque building, and exploring gardens that are simply stunning was significantly more enjoyable than I imagined.

I packed up a picnic and blanket, popped George in the pram, stuck the potty in the pram basket and voila I was covered for all eventualities. Evie had only been potty trained for a week so it’s scary thinking of going out without a toilet on hand which is why having the pram to discreetly carry the potty for me was the perfect solution.

Cholmondley Castle Gardens, half way between Wrexham and Crewe, has the loveliest little tea room with home made cakes, Snugbury’s ice cream and an extensive lunch menu, so if the weather isn’t so nice there is still a solution for eating and drinking. Parking was a breeze and even on a day like the Sunday I was there with its glorious weather and an event on there was plenty of space for parking and lots of room for managing kids in and out of car seats. The Teddy Bear’s Picnic event was lovely…there were children’s entertainers including Disney character sing alongs, and a Punch and Judy show…Evie’s assessment was “full marks”. Mine was that it would have been lovely to see 2 small additions, firstly a children’s magic show or similar, and secondly a bouncy castle.

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Check out www.cheshiregardens.com for details on all of the gardens in the Cheshire county that you can take the family to. This website has information on the events that are run at these gardens, like the teddy bear’s picnic.

Woore Fruit Farm

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I went online and researched where Evie and I could go strawberry picking and that’s how I came across Woore Fruit Farm. When I got there I wasn’t quite sure I was in the right place until more and more cars started pulling up. I went on a Friday and we were one of the only families with kids there as mainly it was retired couples stocking up on punnets of berries for jam making.

The Farm has all kinds of fruits being grown so we will definitely head back later in the year for apples, as well as another strawberry haul in a few weeks. There is quite a lot of walking for little legs, but Evie managed it, even if we did have a mad dash to the toilet at one point when she decided she needed a wee while in the apple orchard (needless-to-say I had forgotten the potty, but at least there was a toilet with a kiddies stool in the farm building for us to use.)

Evie absolutely loved picking her strawberries, raspberries and tayberries, and I appreciated how patient the staff were when we returned with the piddliest amount of berries which made the free plastic tub they gave us to hold them in hardly worth their while.  But at least I can say with confidence that Evie really did pick all of her own berries! They have a little cafe on site with Snugbury’s ice cream, and prepicked punnets for buying alongside home made juices, cider and other vegetables grown on site. There is also a few garden toys and some chickens, ducks and turkeys in the grounds which delighted the little ones.

Woore fruit farm

I would recommend wearing the baby in a sling rather than pushing the pram which was a little awkward on the land. Also, check out their facebook page before going to ensure there are sufficient crops of berries for picking just in case there have been lots of visitors cleaning the plants out.

Wheelock Hall Farm

 

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Nestled between Crewe and Sandbach, this is another amazing location for a bright day. It doesn’t need to be sunny, or even particularly warm, to be enjoyed. Wheelock has such extensive facilities that Evie once spent a full day here with her Nana, an entire day!!

At Wheelock kids can feed the animals, or simply meet the animals which is what Evie is doing in this photo. There is a large outdoor playpark with all kinds of swings and roundabouts for varying ages. Kids can also explore the cornfields, ride on kiddie tractors, or take advantage of the large indoor soft play. There is a lovely cafe on site and a very big shop selling produce from the farm, locally sourced goods as well as gifts, homeware, stationary…the shop goes on forever with more and more treasure the further in you explore.

Wheelock Farm

Seasonally Wheelock Hall Farm offers additional activities such as pumpkin picking so I would recommend following their facebook page for information on their latest events.

Facebook Events

I was shocked to hear that Damon didn’t know the Facebook Events menu existed. I thought it was just a given that anyone who even occasionally uses Facebook knows it exists. I’m not on Facebook often, I’ve turned into an Instagram fiend as you know, however, I would definitely suggest you explore the Facebook events page regularly to see what’s on in your local area.

You can find the Events menu on the home page just after you log in. It is one of the menu options on the left hand side of your screen. Events can be filtered by theme, location or date and I promise you it will open up a world of possibilities for you and your family to make the most of any family time you have available.

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The Beauty Edit: 5 fast, easy face products for tired and busy ladies

The Beauty Edit: 5 fast, easy face products for tired and busy ladies

I saw a quote recently that simply summed up how I feel about life right now,

I wish I was as tired as I thought I was before I became a mum.’

My intention is not to undermine the daily fatigue that people without kids may feel, but merely to acknowledge my own experience which has taught me that there is no tiredness like new mama tiredness. However, in the dead of night when I am up for the third or fourth time to feed, change and comfort George; when my eyelids are so heavy that I consider the effectiveness of sellotape to keep them open; even while my hands fumble with his nappy, and I struggle to work out what the hell I’m doing, because my brain is so tired that I am genuinely confused about where I am, what day it is, what time it is and what is going on; even in those moments, when George looks up at me with his big blue eyes and smiles it is all so worth it.

George looking at mummy
That look he gives me makes it all worth while

But, for the first couple of months of my maternity leave, getting up and organised in the morning was one task too many for me to manage. Having had an emergency c-section after a long labour, my body felt like it had been hit by a twenty tonne truck. Damon was an absolute God send: he would get up with Evie in the morning and allow me a precious extra hour between the sheets to build up the energy for getting up and facing the day ahead. But, it’s quite amazing how much this change in routine affected me in a way I didn’t anticipate.

Although having an extra hour’s sleep in the morning after a night of almost none to speak of was amazing and probably quite necessary for my mental health, not getting out of bed until Damon left for work in the morning meant that I was stepping out of bed and straight into my mummy shoes. I didn’t have time for a decent shower, and even if I did manage to shower I definitely didn’t get time to blow dry my hair before George or Evie needed me. And I never had the time to put on any make up without it meaning that there was a simultaneous meltdown of some kind happening somewhere in the house…George wanting fed, or Evie wanting Peppa Pig on or needing help to go to the toilet.

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Instareality: this is what I looked like every single day!

Before the kids I might not have been a glam gal all the time, but I would also very rarely be seen out of the house without my lippy on. I took pride in my appearance and, simply put, I loved make-up. I still do. Before you ask, yes, to a degree, wearing make-up does increase my self confidence because it can help to (in my opinion) make me a prettier version of myself…I can hide flaws like blemishes and black bags, I can emphasise the bits of me I like most (my eyes) and distract from the bits I like least (my figure). Therefore, it has been a strange adjustment in my personality and priorities to not take 30 minutes to myself each day in order to blow dry, dress and make myself up for the day. Kids change everything, but I have decided that they don’t need to change me so much that I don’t recognise myself any more.

So, one morning a fortnight ago I decided to try to banish the excessive tiredness just enough to get out of bed half an hour earlier. I have looked out some of the best quick fix products that I have and I have started each morning to try and use these, on their own or in combination with each other, to make me feel just a little bit less lazy and disgusting, and a little bit more like the little miss sassypants I was before I had the children.

George looking at mummy
That look he gives me makes everything worth it!

Now, in my opinion, I still look like myself in this photograph, just a little smoother than in the previous pic in this post. But, even with just a little bit of help, I feel a lot more like myself. And I think that it’s ok to feel a bit more human and a bit less tired when you have a mask of make-up on, but what mama of two has the time to sit for ages applying it? The answer: none. Not unless you have an entourage of nannies to help you out. I used to love sitting putting my make up on for ages at a time in preparation for a night out on the town. But nowadays I need products that I can slap all over my face with as little attention to detail as possible.

So, from one mama to another, or to any lady who also feels an inability or reluctance to spend too long decorating her face in the morning, I thought I would share my products with you. Here I am going to show you the 5 fast, easy to use, amazing products I turn to for rushed mornings getting ready. In this edit I am focussing on face and base products but can share with you eye and lip products in additional posts. Leave me a comment below to note your interest.

Primer: Becca Shimmering Face Perfector

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Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector, Moonstone

I have really oily skin and would NEVER normally choose a shimmering product of any kind as I prefer a matte finish to help combat the oiliness. However, I received a free sample of this product with another purchase and I absolutely fell in love. If you don’t want to wear anything on your skin, wear only this. It blurs imperfections with an almost invisible veil of light reflecting smoothing barely tinted colour and makes your skin less dull, makes you look fresher, more awake, less tired and freekin’ gorgeous! Plus there are 6 shades to choose from – I use moonstone – and you can buy the same travel size I had to save the full investment while you fall in love with it. A must have!

Foundation: Bobbi Brown Skin Weightless Powder Foundation

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Bobbi Brown Skin Weightless Powder Foundation

If you want to have a little more coverage than just the Becca primer, I would recommend this Bobbi Brown foundation. I have lots of foundations, from lots of brands, but I find this one the easiest and fastest to apply. It comes with a sponge which I don’t use, I instead opt for the full coverage brush from Bobbi Brown, and buff it into my skin in small circles. It takes moments and there’s no need to worry about tide marks and blending issues, especially around the eyebrows and hairline. I use colour Sand in winter, and Beige in summer.

Shaping: Charlotte Tilbury Filmstar Bronze and Glow

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Charlotte Tilbury Filmstar Bronze and Glow

I have several bronzers and highlighters but the Charlotte Tilbury option is perfect for mums on the go whose handbag space is limited by lots of nappies and muslin cloths because it is a bronzer and highlighter in one. The tones are nice subtle colours for a daily look with no fuss, and it comes in light, medium and dark so that as many ladies as possible can benefit from using it. I use medium.

Blusher: Chanel Cream Blush

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Chanel Cream Blush, 67 Chamade

Only the tiniest application of this blush gives a beautiful healthy glow when applied directly to the apples of your cheeks. I use a brush for the most perfect finish, although the tips of your fingers will gently flush the skin well if you’re in a rush or don’t have a brush to hand. So you can balance your toddler on one hip and still have enough hands to look ravishing!

Finishing Powder: Nars Light Reflecting Setting Powder

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Nars Light Reflecting Setting Powder

The pièce de résistance of this 5 minute beauty regime is this delectable Nars finishing powder which works magic on the skin. Have you ever heard of beauty bloggers, magazines, or beauty sales people refer to the photo finish effect of some make up products? Well this has it. A fine dusting of this over the face sets your make up and makes your face look absolutely flawless.

Ok, so clearly I need to work on taking a semi decent selfie, but I think there’s a massive, lovely difference with only a few natural looking products (note: I have not done my eyes or brows here). What do you think?