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And by that I mean the best value, hugely expensive doesn’t always mean the best and the cheapest can often mean a false economy if you have to replace purchases all the time because the quality is poor.

Yes I’m talking about washing machines. Not lipstick, or shoes or serum that will simultaneously shrink pores, make fine lines disappear and make you glow like JLo (is there such a thing? – if there is by all means let me know) but my all time favourite household appliance.

I enjoy doing the laundry. Honestly – always have. There is something distinctly methodical and relaxing about the process, from separating the colours and whites and darks, to hanging everything out to dry to putting everything away in its rightful place. It gives my day structure and routine, and with a 10 weeks old baby and a four year old who is seemingly always covered in paint or glitter or both, I have washing to do EVERY day. Mostly several times a day.

In our previous home we had a Hotpoint, it was towards the lower end of the scale price wise and although it wasn’t the fanciest in terms of functionality (there wasn’t a hand wash cycle which was an arse) it gave us 10 solid years of clean. At a decade old it decided enough was enough and simply stopped working thus we decided it was time for a shiny new replacement.

Having had such a positive experience with Hotpoint we invested in the same brand again – this time a washer dryer. I’m not going to mince my words, it’s been shite since day one. I never feel anything is rinsed properly. I don’t feel stains are removed as well as they were using our old machine. I simply don’t use the drying function at all because it gives off an unpleasant burn-y scent that lingers for days. I find myself washing pieces twice, putting on an extra rinse and spin and still not being happy with the results.

Recently I noticed some garments were covered in strange black flinty-looking bits that would disintegrate upon touch, most peculiar. My Mother-in-law came to the rescue and suggested it was to do with a build up of residue inside the rubber lip that sits in front of the main drum and dutifully removed it all with a damp cloth. The fact this could even happen made me feel queasy, the smell of the residue was very much reminiscent of dirty river water – and who wants an appliance that’s supposed to clean stuff perfumed with L’eau de pond?

Alas, the removal of the sludge didn’t solve the issue so a Hotpoint engineer was called to investigate. Apparently we need to descale our washing machine every month. And if you don’t, old washing powder, grime and bacteria will build up behind the drum and be thrown into your lovely clean soapy load willy nilly as soon as it begins to spin. James and I do descale, but perhaps only twice a year if I was to hazard a guess, it’s just not something on our regular chore “to do list”.

Black bits fix aside, I’ve gone from feeling vaguely resentful towards our current machine to really no longer wanting it in the house at all, it just doesn’t live up to my expectations of what I feel is more than achievable, ie thoroughy clean laundry. Yet I admittedly desperately need it until I can find a suitable alternative.

It’s a toxic relationship. And I do admit to giving it a jolly good kick in the door when I have been particularly pissed off with its obvious disregard for my delicates.

So, what is the best washing machine? My sister has recently bought a Samsung Ecobubble which she rates very highly and my Mum has always raved about the very spendy Miele washing machines which literally last a lifetime apparently. I have of course read all sorts of reviews but I would be really interested to see what washing machine you own and whether you and he/she are friends.

I’m looking for preferably a large load capacity (9kg) an A+++ efficiency rating, reliability (!) and a proper hand wash cycle

Yes this is a post about my requirement for a decent washing machine. This is my life now.

The post What Is The Best Washing Machine? appeared first on Rock My Style | UK Daily Lifestyle Blog.

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You might remember a couple of my previous posts from earlier in the year where I waffled on about my inability to keep on top of the housework and how I’d lost my motivation to work out after getting off to a good start with yoganuary in January. I’m here to update you on how I’m getting on and guys, I have cracked the secret to getting my mojo back. Changing focus. Scrapping multi-tasking. Giving everything it’s own time.

I’d had a bit of a rough couple of weeks. Sleep deprivation getting on top of me and generally feeling a bit useless that I wasn’t getting anywhere with well, anything and feeling stressed that my workload was really starting to pile up and I couldn’t focus on anything. I have a couple of businesses and I was constantly checking email… Constantly. And I’d be reading one email whilst working on another project and then stressing over the email I’d read and not able to put it to the back of my mind until I’d actioned it. It was all a big mess.

So I decided to make a plan. Why was I trying to do a million things at once and being super unproductive? Meaning I was having to work more (and later) evenings to be on top of everything and meanwhile, the housework still wasn’t getting done and my energy was plummeting.

So one Sunday I decided to make a change. I sat down with a pad and paper and I made a plan. It would consist of me figuring out what I needed to do each day and setting a time for each of those activities. I’m very lucky being self-employed in that I can write my own schedule. And it has made such a huge difference. I am three weeks into my new routine now and I feel so much better. I have become way more productive and although the sleep deprivation is still killer, I am starting to feel glimmers of having more energy and my usual 3 o’clock slump isn’t as savage as it was.

So what does it look like? A little something like this:

Monday
8:30am – 9am – Drop boys at school/nursery
9:15am – Gym
10:30am – Housework (bathrooms)
11:00am – Work (business 1)
3:30pm – Work (business 2)
5:00pm – Collect boys
8:00pm – Work (whichever business needs more time)

Tuesday
8:30 – 9am – Drop boys at school/nursery
9:15am – Gym
10:30am – Housework (bedrooms)
11:00am – Work (business 1)
3:00pm – Break
3:15pm – Collect Leo
8:00pm – Work (business 2)

I have a day off on a Wednesday which I spend with my little one and then Thursday looks very similar to Tuesday (although in terms of working out I swim when Leo has his swimming lesson. I figured I was sat there for half an hour twiddling my thumbs when now I’m getting a good 20 minute workout and more importantly a lovely ten minutes in the sauna) and then Friday is a day off. I’m picking up the odd few hours of work at the weekends as I’m now dedicating some work time to, wait for it… Myself! But I’m happy with that to be feeling better and less stressed. I’ve also left myself the option to go to the gym over the weekend too if I need a little ‘time out’.

This simple act of giving everything it’s own time allocation has really changed everything. Lots of you recommended that I look at The Organised Mum Method when it came to housework and so I have adopted her half an hour a day rule. It is working so well. So thank you so much for bringing it to my attention.

How are you getting on with your work life balance? Do you tend to try and multi-task too often and then end up getting nothing done? Or do you have a routine that works for you?

The post Changing Focus appeared first on Rock My Style | UK Daily Lifestyle Blog.

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I bought Lyra a little yellow M&S raincoat complete with rainclouds and colourful raindrops around this time last year. I remember Rich baulking at the price (£36…not actually that unreasonable…eye roll!) but she has had so much wear out of it that even he has to admit now that it was an excellent buy. So when I noticed this season’s version I thought it was only right that I came on here and raved about it.

The yellow version was brilliant because it managed to somehow fit Lyra perfectly for a year, despite her having a growth spurt. What I love most about it is the fact that it’s so distinctive: we went to Eurodisney recently and I knew that if we happened to get separated from Lyra I would be able to spot her yellow jacket a mile off.

I picked up the rainbows version when I was in M&S last week and it’s just as pretty and even more practical, due to the fact that this one has both an inner and outer jacket. It’s waterproof, wipe-cleanable, and perfect for travelling in: the inner jacket is padded so can be scrunched up and used as a pillow.

The rest of Lyra’s wardrobe/dream wardrobe is looking just as colourful…

Summer Dresses

Lyra and I are both big fans of the Little Bird range at Mothercare. They’re a little pricier than your supermarket buys/H and M but the quality is brilliant and the designs are always so eye-catching and different from anything else on the high street. This Little Bird dress is great for twirling in apparently. This Mothercare dress is super reasonable, and this M&S frock is both sweet and stylish. I like the fact that with these kind of dresses, they can be worn as tops over leggings when they’re too short to be dresses.

  • M&S Cotton Dress
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  • Mothercare Rainbow Dress
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  • Little Bird Sundress
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Summer Sandals

The sandals that we’ve bought for Lyra year in, year out are the Star Games sandals from Clarks. They’re perfect for the park (bendy enough to be worn on climbing frames), and for the pool as they’re waterproof. Lyra calls them her ‘swimming shoes’. I’ve just picked up a red pair for Jenson. I’ve also heard excellent things about the Salt Water Swimmer sandals (also waterproof and helloooo rose gold!). The Boden fruity sandals in the header (with a lemon on the right foot and a strawberry on the left!) are cute as a button, and you’re probably also going to want to know about that jungle print dress.

  • Salt Water Rose Gold Sandals
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  • Clarks Surfing Moon
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  • Boden Holiday Sandals
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Cover-Ups

The snuggliest hoodie that Lyra owns is this flamingo number. It washes really well and most importantly – in her eyes – it’s PINK. At the risk of sounding like a four year old girl myself, I think this unicorn hoody is ace … and the beautiful embroidered details on this cardie are just the sweetest.

  • Next Flamingo Hoody
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  • Next Rainbow Grid Cardie
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  • Next Unicorn Hoody
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Party Dresses

The party frock that Lyra’s been donning to her friends’ birthday dos this spring is this Multi Spot dress from Next. It’s the best because it’s capable of disguising blobs of face paint, smears of jam, blobs of cake, and all other party-food-messiness. (But it’s not just for parties. She was even painting in it this weekend). And how blinking’ gorgeous is the selection of party dresses at Boden at the moment? I’ve included two below but could quite easily have picked ten.

  • Boden Twirly Dress
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  • Boden Fifties Striped Dress
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  • Next Multi-Spot Dress
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Have you bought any bright bits for your kiddos recently?

What’s the best piece of clothing you’ve ever bought for your little ones?

The post The Perfect Little Girls’ Spring/Summer Jacket {And Some Other Rainbow Brights for Your Littles} appeared first on Rock My Style | UK Daily Lifestyle Blog.

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Kate and Will got married not long after James and I. I was still basking in a post-wedding euphoria and couldn’t get enough of the Royal wedding. We spent the day in the capital celebrating with a bevvy of friends, drinking prosecco at a street party on Columbia Road.

Unless you’ve been living without WiFi access for the last six months, you’ll know Prince Harry will be marrying Meghan Markle this Saturday and I have to say I’m just as excited about the proceedings as I was about his older brother’s. I’ve even gone so far as to buy some bunting to deck out my living room. I’m hosting a brunch for a few close friends and have raided every pound shop in the land for anything with a union flag on it.
Working in the wedding industry the team at Rock My Towers obviously have a vested interest in the Royal nuptials and we’ve been ever so slightly over enthusiastic as all the details have been revealed. (Check out Fern’s recent RMW post if you don’t believe me.) What will she wear? What florals will she choose? Who will walk her down the aisle? And to the last point came the most recent news that Meghan’s dad will no longer be attending the big day. You can say what you like about Meghan (and many people have) but knowing how stressful the week before a wedding can be, I really felt for her reading about her dad’s humiliating paparazzi shot debacle. Most girls have to worry about whether their dress fits, if their roses will be in full bloom or if the weather forecast is looking good. Poor Megs has to deal with her family history splashed about the press, and the knowledge one of loved ones isn’t going to be there on her wedding day.
A couple of weeks before the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge got hitched I remember being at a work event near Westminster Abbey and staring up in awe at the building. I know I felt nervous before my aisle walk into a room filled with my nearest and dearest but to have to do it under the scrutiny of the world’s media must be absolutely terrifying. Particularly when they’re waiting for you to fail.
I’ve read so many reports which suggest the marriage is doomed from the beginning. Did anyone else read the piece in The Independent citing Professor Nicholas Wolfinger from University of Utah? He claims the odds of divorcing declines for newlyweds in the late twenties and early thirties but then rises again as the age of newlyweds increases to mid-to-late thirties, putting Meghan at prime age to become a divorcee once again. The sad fact is that 50% of marriages do end in divorce and a staggering 67% of second marriages come to an end too. But still the hopeless romantic in me holds on to their fairy tale.
While Kate may have been in our hearts for many years before she got to wear that sapphire ring and a sell-out navy wrap dress, Meghan has seemingly bowled in from nowhere with a chic blow-dry and a penchant for casual wear. I like to believe she genuinely wants to do some good in this world, and she was well on her way to doing this before she met the sixth in line to the throne. Personally, I wouldn’t care if I had a potential hand in Prince Harry’s estimated £28 million fortune, there’s no way you’d get me signing my life away to the Royal family. I mean, have you seen The Crown?!
I, along with the rest of the team will be rooting for the happy couple on Saturday and hope they get their happily ever after.

If you’re married, what’s the most stressful thing that happened before your wedding and how did you deal with it? Are you going to be watching the wedding on Saturday or have you got other plans? If you’re not interested in the Royal family then perhaps you can suggest some vegan sandwich fillings instead. Currently my friend is going to have an empty plate at my celebration brunch….

The post Why We’re Rooting For The Royal Couple appeared first on Rock My Style | UK Daily Lifestyle Blog.

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Rich and I currently have a bet on. He doesn’t think I can makeover the kitchen by the end of the year. And considering we are nearly halfway through 2018 I need to get my skates on if I don’t want to end up £50 down come Christmas.

The ‘look’ I’m going for is traditional meets contemporary. I would love the finished result to be elegant, timeless, and classic, and modern yet rustic. This may sound ridiculous but the inspiration for the kitchen is the TV cupboard in the below photo, which is in the open-plan section of the other end of the room to the kitchen. The TV cupboard has a Shaker-style frame, simple black knobs and manages to be contemporary but rustic all at the same time: I don’t even mind that the paint is chipping off the top, thanks to all the plastic toys that get flung at it. I’m hoping that if I keep this piece of furniture in mind when making decisions about the makeover I will end up with a kitchen that I love as much as the other end of the room.

Read on to hear about all of the different components of the kitchen and my grand plans…

The Worktops

Back in January I blogged about whether oak worktops were worth the hassle. Well after months of deliberating and taking into account all your comments I decided that…dun dun dunnnn….oak worktops are NOT worth the hassle and that silestone worktops (a type of quartz) in ‘Lagoon’ are the way forward. It’s beautiful, stylish, and practical. The Amtico tiles which currently adorn our kitchen floor aren’t dissimilar to the appearance of Lagoon silestone so I’m assured that the colour and pattern will work in the space.

  • Green, gold and grey kitchen with quartz worktops
    Source: deVOL

  • Sleek worktops and black matte taps
    Source: Design Love Fest

  • Silestone worktops in 'Lagoon'
    Source: deVOL

  • Contemporary kitchen with silestone worktops in 'Lagoon'
    Source: Trendenser

  • Grey kitchen cupboards, brass knobs and silestone lagoon worktops
    Source: deVOL

The Flooring

Seeing as I’ve decided against oak worktops, I’m going to need to add warmth into the room elsewhere, and one of the ways I’m hoping to achieve this is by replacing our current ‘ceramic frost’ Amtico tiles with some different Amtico floor tiles in an oak shade, laid in a herringbone pattern. We’ve got Amtico Spacia in American Oak in our hallway, so if we use similar floor tiles in the kitchen this should create a nice sense of flow from room to room.

  • French Oak herringbone floor
    Source: Trunk Surfaces

  • Industrial kitchen with oak herringbone floor and deep blue cupboards
    Source: Contemporary Lighting

  • Navy deVOL kitchen with oak parquet flooring
    Source: deVOL

  • Rustic traditional kitchen with parquet wooden floors and statement lighting
    Source: deVOL

  • Rustic mezzanine kitchen with oak herringbone floor
    Source: deVOL

  • Two tone kitchen with navy and grey cupboards, copper statement lighting and wooden parquet floor
    Source: deVOL

  • Whitewashed parquet flooring
    Source: Bodie and Fou

The Window Dressing

Another way of adding warmth will be through the window dressing…and because of the busy-ness of the parquet and the marble-like features of silestone I’m thinking something very simple and unfussy and neutral. I like the look of rattan blinds but Rich tells me they remind him of the kitchen blinds he had when he was a student, so we may just go for simple linen roman blinds.

The Kitchen Hardware

This is the one area where I’m still undecided. Which I guess is good, because it’s a relatively simple one to change? The instagrammer in me is very taken by the matte black hardware and taps that are all the rage at the moment, particularly in bathrooms, but the traditionalist in me is saying, “Don’t give in to the trend! You’ll be kicking yourself a couple of years down the line! Stick to nickel or brass or something timeless!”. I’m also slightly concerned that matte black taps will be hard to keep clean from watermarks.

All I do know is that the shiny silver bar handles are going to be replaced with something simple, understated and matte/brushed.

  • Brass sink with brushed chrome taps
    Source: www.kbhsnedkeri.dk

  • Matte black taps
    Source: Stylecaster

  • Aged brass taps
    Source: Humphrey Munson Kitchens

  • Matte black kitchen hardware and taps
    Source: The Design Chaser

The Kitchen Cupboards

To save on costs we’re going to paint our existing cupboards. As you can see from the header image of Wit and Delight’s fabulous kitchen and the deVOL Coach House kitchen I’d love a two-tone kitchen, with either navy and white, or navy and grey, (see my Howdens post for even more inspo of the navy variety), but as the room is too blinking dark to be able to handle the likes of Pantry Blue and Manor House Gray I’m going to have to stick with white. The little TV cupboard I mentioned above was painted in F&B All White, so I reckon it’s a shade that’ll work well in the space.

The Splashbacks

We’ve been in our house three years now and STILL haven’t got splashback tiles. This kills me daily and I’ve been tempted to tile the whole area myself just so I’m no longer scrubbing grease splatters off the white walls! I’m going to go for simple white subway tiles and grey grout.

  • White, navy and oak kitchen with white subway tiles
    Source: Look Linger Love

  • White subway tiles with grey grout
    Source: One Kings Lane

  • Grey and white kitchen with square white tile splashbacks
    Source: Loombrand

  • Inky blue kitchen with white subway tiles
    Source: The Shaker Kitchen

  • Monochrome kitchen with bevelled edge white gloss subway tiles
    Source: Remodeldecor

  • White subway tile splashbacks
    Source: www.thenew.nz

  • White subway tiles with white grout
    Source: deVOL

The Accessories

I know what you’re thinking…there’s a whole lotta white going on in this kitchen. Which is where the accessories, plants and cookbooks come in. I’m going to put up a couple of shelves in the spot where the larder is now (the larder is going to be re-homed in our garage), and upon those shelves I will be propping all the pretty teapots, chopping boards, kitchen scales, glassware, stoneware, books, plants, and of course my black watering can (which H&M now do in sage green peeps!).

As ever, I’d love to hear your thoughts, advice and stories about your own room makeovers. What are your projects for summer 2018?

Do you have matte black hardware/taps and is it hard to keep clean?

Does anyone have silestone in ‘Lagoon’ and would you recommend?

The post Kitchen Makeover Inspiration {Traditional Meets Contemporary} appeared first on Rock My Style | UK Daily Lifestyle Blog.

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As I write this, I’m sitting in the airport alone. ALONE. No child to herd away from the toy section, no inevitably slinging a Trunki over my shoulder, no plotting toilet timings and best of all… No need to constantly entertain a small person.

I have a cup of tea and I’m gloriously people watching for an hour before my flight. I could almost stay right here for three days and be content. The reason I’m jetting off solo is that a friend is hosting a weekend long women’s retreat at her house. Complete with yoga, meditation and of course, a hot tub. Being rather heavily pregnant I debated about whether or not to make the trip, but Gavin’s words of wisdom gave me the push “Darlin, you’re about to become a mother of two and the new baby is going to be attached to you for at least a year. I think you should go.”

As I booked my flights, a touch of the good old Mama Guilt hit me about leaving my brood for three whole days. I went on a trip to Prague for five days back in December and whilst I had a ball, by the end of it, I missed my boys sorely. After giving myself a good talking to and realising the rarity of the opportunity, I have (mostly) shaken off said case of the guilts and I’m basking in the solo travel life.

When Ethan was just born, a dear friend of mine at the time gave me some health and wellness coaching. She convinced me that for one night a week, I was to put baby to bed and focus on doing something purely pleasurable for myself (that didn’t involve slumping exhausted in front of the TV next to Gavin looking longingly at each other but unable to communicate, like a couple of beached seals). Fancy chocolates, a great book, eating dinner alfresco. Something that would make me feel like myself again amongst the new motherhood haze. Together, my friend and I chose Wednesday nights and nicknamed it ‘Midweek Me Time’. Each Wednesday for a while thereafter, I would receive a text from my friend reminding me of my commitment to myself.

So I sit here indulging in some serious me time and thinking of that friend. With Ethan being four now, me time is a little easier to come by, although still considered a luxury. But I know that’s all going to change real soon with baby number two.

There’s something that happened when I scrambled my DNA with my husband and create these little marvellous beings. A part of me became (whining voice optional) “Muuuuuummmmm”. And while that part doesn’t want to be anywhere else in this world… The other part of me, the one who wore leather jackets, carried a handbag without snacks and wipes in it, felt sexy on a dance floor and could burn both money and time like it was nothing… She’s still a little bit lost about what her place is in all of this.

Like most things, it’s all temporary. And there is something wonderful about the glow I get from alone time now, compared to how flippantly I treated it before kids. I mean, what did I do with all that time?!

If any of you are stuck in the glorious, frustrating, hilarious, exhausting tango of family life, do you have any Me Time scheduled to look forward to?

How do you fit in time to just be yourself?

The post Midweek Me Time appeared first on Rock My Style | UK Daily Lifestyle Blog.

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Other than a short trip to France later this month to see my father-in-law we weren’t planning on any holidays this year. Last week I had a brief hiatus in my morning sickness and started to hatch a plan for a three night trip to Europe sometime in June. Now the symptoms have come back with a vengeance I’m not sure how realistic it’ll be but I thought I’d do some research anyway.

We’re looking for a location around three hours from London with a shortish transfer time. It’s not going to be too active an affair instead it would be far more relaxing to spend some time chilling out. We wouldn’t mind soaking in a bit of culture while we’re there and dining in a bit of luxury.

Sóller, Majorca

First potential location is Majorca, and more specifically Sóller where I know Charlotte has visited before.
Travel Time From London Around 2 hours 45 minutes
Distinguishing Features Lemon and orange groves surrounded by mountain terrain and dense woodland
Highlights

  • The buzzing main square of Plaza de la Constitución with heaps of bars and cafes
  • The quaint and quirky Sóller tram travelling from town to port
  • Boat trips along the rugged coastline to Sa Calobra, where it’s a short walk to the spectacular deep canyon on the Torrent de Parei
  • Relaxing amongst the flora and fauna of Jardi Botanic de Sóller
  • Porto, Portugal

    Last year we had an epic time in Lisbon and on our way back from an afternoon at the LX Factory our taxi driver raved about Porto, Portugal’s second city which was also mentioned by a few readers too.
    Travel Time From London Around 2 hours 15 minutes
    Distinguishing Features Porto provides architectural wonders, a quaint old town with cobbled streets, stunning vistas and beautiful beaches
    Highlights

  • Wander by the cafes and restaurants next to the River Douro
  • Admire the baroque São Francisco church 
  • Visit the Mercado do Bolhão, a lively market selling fresh produce
  • Climb the landmark Clérigos tower for a bird’s-eye view of the city’s red roofs and hills. (I’m getting the impression Porto is as hilly as Lisbon!)
  • Drop into the neo-Gothic Lello Bookshop (a favourite of JK Rowling’s apparently)
  • Take in a tour of the port wine lodges
  • Hop on a boat ride and visit one the palm lines beaches
  • Paris, France

    I’m lucky enough to have visited Paris many times. The familiarity of the place is comforting but I’m wondering if we should spread our wings a little.
    Travel Time From London Flight Time 1 hour 15 minutes, Eurostar 2 hours 15 minutes.
    Distinguishing Features Ooh la la! It’s Paris! Stunning buildings with balconies aplenty, culture, history and apparently the most romantic place on Earth.
    Highlights

  • Take a trip down the Seine (previously we’ve just used the water taxi)
  • Dine on a rooftop terrace taking in a Parisian vista
  • Kick back in the Jardin du Luxembourg for a snooze in the sun
  • Take a stroll around Versaille
  • Eat crossiants 24 hours a day
  • Picnic in Parc de la Turlure with a view of the mighty Sacré Coeur
  • Rent a rowing boat in the Bois de Boulogne and relax out on the water
  • Any other recommendations for a cheeky three day break not too far from home? Where are your favourite places in Europe to spend a long weekend?

    The post A Three Day European Break appeared first on Rock My Style | UK Daily Lifestyle Blog.

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    It’s not often that I find myself in London these days, but when I do, I try and squeeze in a little trip to & Other Stories. They do THE most gorgeous summery dresses. Like the one I’m wearing in the header above. Which jumped out at me and told me to buy it when I was in London last week. So I did. But it was £49 well spent because it’s turning out to be the most versatile piece in my wardrobe.

    I love its flared sleeves, the cinch-me-in tie-waist detail, and the floatiness of the material. (It’s 100% cotton, so will be comfortable on even the hottest of days). I love the busy-ness of the pattern which means that if I have to use the skirt as a tissue for Jenson’s nose (true story), or if Lyra wipes chocolatey fingers on me, it’s not the end of the world. I love the fact that it feels a little bit vintage. But the thing I love most about it is the tropical print. Every time I open my wardrobe and catch a glimpse of it, it makes me so happy.

    It is so colourful and summery that it goes with everything in my wardrobe and can be worn with sliders, flip flops, trainers, heels, leggings, tights, denim shirt, denim jacket, leather jacket, khaki shackett…you get the picture. Here’s how I’m going to style it over the summer.

    For Cocktails

    Cocktails call for a riot of colour and all the sequins. The List’s Laura pointed Team Rock My in the direction of these sequin mules from Topshop which are the same jewel tones as the flecks of colour in the frock, and how versatile is this gold clutch? I have a yellow Whistles clutch which I’m kicking myself for not wearing (clutching?!) for the photos as it picks out the yellow floral on the dress so beautifully.

    • & Other Stories Tropical Print Dress
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    • Topshop Sequin Mules
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    • Whistles Clutch
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    On the Beach

    As you can see from the slider, this frock goes best with sandals. (I didn’t use that particular photo as the header because of my awkward I-hate-having-my-photo-taken face!). Throw it over a bikini and wear with sandals and clashing stripes to the beach. Or treat yourself to the swimsuit or kaftan dress version.

    • Accessorize Beach Bag
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    • & Other Stories Tropical Print Swimsuit
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    • & Other Stories Tropical Print Kaftan
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    In The Office

    When I used to work in an office I didn’t like having my arms on show, but I reckon I’d be happy wearing this to work because it has the subtlest of flared sleeves. The vibrancy of the colours work well with corporate black, or if you work in an office where the dress code is slightly more relaxed, wear with a boyfriend blazer and loafers.

    • Boden Loafers
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    • Asos Boyfriend Blazer
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    • & Other Stories Tropical Print Dress
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    To a Wedding

    If I were to wear this dress to a wedding this summer I’d be teaming it with black rattan accessories such as this cross-body bag and these uber-cool – but probably still comfy? – rope wedges. Now I just need a summer wedding to go to. Harry and Megan? Pretty please?

    • Topshop Rope Wedges
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    • & Other Stories Tropical Print Dress
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    • Topshop Circle Cross-Body Bag
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    Down The Pub

    My FAVOURITE way to wear this dress. With Supergas and a biker jacket. You look like you’ve made a bit of an effort, and you’ve got the practicality of having something warm for when the sun goes down. (Or you could just go for the t shirt version. Which I am trying very hard not to buy).

    • Superga Trainers
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    • Asos Leather-Look Jacket
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    • & Other Stories Tropical Print Tee
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    And for those new mamas who commented on Becky’s excellent Summer Capsule Wardrobe post requesting an article about what to wear in the summer post-baby, you’ll be pleased to hear that it’s both breastfeeding friendly (it buttons all the way down) and loose and flowy, so kind on post-partum tums. It’s my friend’s birthday next month (she’s breastfeeding her little one) and I’m going to go halves on the dress with another mate for her birthday present.

    Which shops do you make a beeline for when you’re in London? Have you been treating yourself to any frocks recently?

    The post The Most Versatile Dress of the Summer {And How to Style it} appeared first on Rock My Style | UK Daily Lifestyle Blog.

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    What a glorious bank holiday weekend we had! I don’t know about you but as soon as the sun shines the barbecue is on at our house. Al fresco dining brings me utter joy. A big jug of iced water (with a cool beer to chase) and all the barbie classics make for perfect summer dining in my book. So I thought today we could chat all things BBQ essentials.

    I’m always amazed at how much food our circular 18 inch BBQ manages to cook. A couple of weekends ago we had 3 sets of neighbours over (so that was 6 extra adults and 3 extra kiddies mouths to feed) and it managed perfectly with a steady stream of food coming off it to satisfy everyone. We have a classic charcoal barbecue though I’ve recently been made aware of their high carbon footprint. The fuel is often taken from non-sustainable hardwood sources and so we’re considering a change to gas. I will miss the smokey flavour from a charcoal grill although I have seen that you can buy smoke boxes for gas BBQs to try and achieve a similar taste. I guess gas is much more convenient too, there’s no real waiting time for it to get up to temperature and unlike charcoal it won’t lose its heat quickly. Have you switched from charcoal to gas? Or has anyone tried the solar grills which are a much more eco-friendly option? Did you find it more expensive to run? The ease of cleaning a gas BBQ does massively appeal to me though because what a nightmare it can be to scrub those 18 inches!

    So what about the essentials. What do you need for the perfect BBQ? Once you’ve read all of today’s comments about types of BBQs people have you can choose the ideal one for you. You can then get the right fuel, be it your charcoal, fire lighters or your gas. Now there’s even the solar powered option too. Most BBQs come with a bunch of utensils but my top four recommendations are a sturdy set of tongs and a spatula, a grill basket and a BBQ brush for cleaning (this one has excellent reviews). We also use an electronic instant read meat thermometer. I’m always very conscious of making sure any meat is thoroughly cooked through and because of the nature of the BBQ it can appear more cooked than it is from it’s lovely charred outside so using this thermometer gives real peace of mind that you aren’t serving anything undercooked.

    There are two ways of approaching the food you cook on your barbie – a little bit of everything or a more put together meal. We tend to do a bit of both. With a big gathering, everyone brings a bottle and a choice of meat. That way you usually end up with agreat selection of meats. Which is great and often leads to epic gluttony but once in a while, I love that. For a smaller BBQ we tend to stick to one, sometimes two types of meat and treat it like a ‘normal’ dinner. Without fail whatever the meat it is always accompanied by a big bowl of crunchy salad, rice, wedges (because one carb option is obviously not enough) and then a selection of smaller accompaniments (coleslaw, couscous, potato salad etc) and of course, all the necessary sauces.

    What about if you have a non meat eater in your midst? You obviously can’t cook their veggie burger on the same grill that you’ve just disintegrated your pork loin on. But what you could do is get a disposable BBQ for them. They cost about £4 and that way they still get the same smokey flavour but obviously then there’s all the waste. Alternatively I use my oven grill on a high setting to try and emulate the barbecue heat intensity.

    You’ll need somewhere to sit. You can find some great tips from Lauren’s post a few weeks ago about how to get garden ready for Spring. There is such a choice of outdoor furniture it can be really difficult to know where to start but my advice would be to go with a size of table and number of chairs that would be used most frequently (a rectangular shape table might give more actual table space that a round one as we have recently discovered) and then perhaps get yourself an additional folding table for when guests come and a couple of foldable chairs that way you’re not taking up any unnecessary space day to day. We also love a picnic blanket for the kiddos and their friends. A waterproof backed one is great for if the ground is a little damp. We also have a couple of giant beanbags because sometimes there’s no better place to eat your burger than in the comfort of a beanbag.

    And the most important ingredient for a successful barbecue is of course, the people you’re sharing it with. There’s nothing like getting some good summer tunes on, cooking up a storm (and playing burnt-sausage-roulette) and chatting and laughing with your nearest and dearest.

    What else do we need to know to have the perfect summer BBQ? Please let us know as always.

    {PIN THE ESSENTIALS}

    The post BBQ Essentials appeared first on Rock My Style | UK Daily Lifestyle Blog.

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    Birmingham gets a bad rep, but as my adopted city it’s dear to my heart. I went to uni here, met Rich here, and both my kids were born here. (Well Lyra was born at City Hospital, and Jenson was born at Warwick, a stone’s throw away). I’ve now lived here longer than I’ve lived anywhere else.

    With Lyra I had a year off on maternity leave, so we did our fair share of baby clubs and mama meet-ups. Now she’s four, and now that we have her one-year-old brother in tow, I’m constantly on the lookout for fun things to do with kids in the local area. Hopefully the ideas below will give you some inspiration if you live nearby and have exhausted your local playgrounds/soft play areas/cafes, or it might even inspire you to have a little day trip out to Brum?!…

    {The New Mums}

    Up until recently, one of the things I missed about being footloose and kid-free was being able to go to the cinema. Not any more! Enter THE BABY CLUB at the Everyman Cinema in The Mailbox. It’s a film screening of one of the new releases which takes place every Tuesday morning, and it’s aimed specifically at mums/dads and babies. (The first time I went to an Everyman was when I was 25 years old and staying with my best mate in London for the weekend. Being able to watch the latest releases whilst tucking into posh pizza and carrot cake and sipping cocktails, curled up on snuggly velvet sofas? I thought it was the height of sophistication. And little did I know that ten years later I would be crawling around after a baby in an Everyman Cinema).

    The mojito may have been replaced with a hot chocolate (for the £11.50 Baby Club ticket price you also get a hot drink and a slice of cake), but the novelty of being able to go to the cinema again is amazing, and the knowledge that your baby won’t disturb anyone is even better.

    Did I mention they do cake?

    {The Nature-Loving Mums}

    The Midlands area may not have beaches but what it DOES have is miles upon miles of stunning countryside. And the bee-you-tiful Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Lickey Hills are also great for a ramble, and the trails at Cannock Chase are perfect for kids of bike-riding age.

    We became National Trust members in October, so it’s just typical that we had what seemed like the longest winter ever and hardly wanted to explore our local NT properties. We have however managed to venture out to Hanbury Hall and Baddesley Clinton, where there’s a fab new natural play trail hidden away in the woodland next to the manor house (follow the animal sculptures).

    {The Foodie Mums}

    I have banged on about my love of Eggs Benedict on RMS before, so I’m obviously going to love a family-friendly café which serves a savoury muffin and poached egg as part of their all-day brunch menu. The Lounges cafes started off in Bristol and are clearly doing ok for themselves as there are now 85 branches across the UK including several in and around Birmingham, and a new one in Solihull. Although it’s a chain, the Lounges cafes feel like independent little coffee shops, what with their quirky décor and relaxed vibe. They’re nice and roomy for pushchairs, so perfect for an NCT meet up, and usually have a little pile of books and toys to keep the toddlers happy. And how cool is this?… If you download the Secret DJ app you can even control the music. I am not going to tell Lyra this. We will end up listening to Hakuna Matata whilst chowing down on our Eggs Benny.

    {The Skint Mums}

    Old Rectory Farm is a bit of a hidden gem and it’s completely free. As well as the farm animals, playground and tearoom, there’s also a short, pushchair-friendly walk along a stream to a special viewing point where you can watch the planes taking off from Birmingham airport.

    When it comes to parks, the playground in the village of Broadway has got to be one of the best ever, and it’s in the most beautiful location. Shirley Park has good facilities (and it’s around the corner from Desco Lounge – see Foodie Mums above). And LONG MAY THIS BEAUT WEATHER CONTINUE so we can make the most of the little swimming pool and water/sandpit at the playground in the centre of Stratford-Upon-Avon.

    {The Mums with the Kids of All Ages}

    Next on my List-of-places-to-take-the-kids is the Children’s Play Village in Warwick. There are kid-sized pretend shops, hairdressers, a doctor’s surgery, a tea room…there’s even a mini campsite. It looks to be so well planned, with a baby area right in the middle of the ‘village’. I’ve not yet visited – I had planned to take the kiddos at Easter but left it to the last minute and it was fully booked – so if you’re interested, make sure you book early.

    I’m also extremely excited for the new Legoland Birmingham to open up its gates this summer.

    So that’s my round up. Did you go to any gems over the Bank Holiday weekend? If you have any more recommendations of places to take the kids in the Midlands area I will love, love, love you forever if you pop them in the comments box below.

    The post Mums In Brum {Stuff To Do With The Kids In Birmingham And Beyond} appeared first on Rock My Style | UK Daily Lifestyle Blog.

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