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What a treat for a warm and sunny Monday… lunch on Orrery‘s newly designed South-facing Summer terrace, up on the top of a converted stable block, overlooking St Marylebone Church gardens in the heart of Marylebone Village…

A shirt dress with pockets – am in heaven. This is the Dolly Stripe Dress from Monsoon.

I wore a Monsoon dress that’s an update from one of their styles that I wore to death last Summer. Three-quarter length sleeves, light cotton, big pockets and front button fastening. Tick tick tick tick. TICK.

The sommelier was excellent and knew exactly what would complement the dishes we’d selected.

Marylebone is packed to the hilt with foodie wonderfulness and Orrery (a clockwork model of the solar system) fits in just perfectly. In fact, it’s rather a beacon of gastronomic delight, welcoming folk who arrive on Marylebone High Street who have hopped off the tube at Baker Street…

Terrance Conran opened Orrery in 1997 and over twenty years later, it is still serving the most divine French cuisine over crisp white tablecloths and silverware. But it’s not stuffy. And it’s not pretentious. It is light and pretty and I felt very comfortable indeed.

The lavender smelled amazing…

The gorgeous Summer terrace is a collaboration with Moët & Chandon and L’Artisan Parfumeur and is lined with groves of lavender, rosemary and olive trees…  The terrace windows are shared with the Conran store, so not only were we spoilt with the fragrant plants around us, but we could dribble over chairs we were lusting after as well…

The bread was freshly baked and still warm and fluffy… the butter was at the perfect temperature for spreading (tricky on a hot day) and the gazpacho was absolutely excellent. We knew we were in for a treat.

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I’ve always loved markets – loved loved loved – and the rise of Farmer’s Markets in London brings me huge happiness. My local Farmer’s Market in Walthamstow is on Sundays in the town centre and I am down there most weeks, picking up bits and pieces for the week ahead.

I love asparagus…

Meal planning is not something I’m particularly good at but something I am determined to get better at, to save money and reduce my waste. And writing out my shopping list before heading out to the market definitely saves me pennies as it means I’m far less likely to come home with a delicious loaf of crusty bread and three fairy cakes for supper. (It’s happened).

I love the atmosphere around the market – there’s music, there’s tea and cake and the farmers are there, selling their wares, smiling, chatting… people become familiar, names are recalled and food favourites are remembered… “No tomatoes this week, love?”

Herbal Haven are always at the market and sell every herb you can possibly imagine… and then some more…
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London is full to the brim of hidden gems. Shops and cafes that are tucked away and surprise you when you stumble across them by accident…. and of course the streets, buildings and landscapes of this city. I love exploring and discovering new spots and cobbles I’ve not walked on before…

I was recently exploring the area around one of Barratt London’s properties, Landmark Place. I ducked into a number of independent retailers for coffee and a mooch and also explored the other hidden gems – churches, streets, corners of the river…

Sharing with you these new discoveries is something I’ve always loved to do and celebrating Independent London is something I’ve been doing ever since I started my blog nearly 12 (TWELVE?!) years ago. 

In a time where we can all buy online and often find things cheaper from companies who can buy products in huge quantities, it’s more important than ever to support our local businesses and keep the high street, and the community that thrives off it, busy and alive!

I’m thrilled to be working with Barratt London, who have launched their very own awards to celebrate London’s hidden gems… and yours truly is going to be a judge! (Don’t think I get a wig, but still! I’m a judge!) 

They’re hunting for restaurants, boutiques, book shops, bars and special venues – no matter how small or off the beaten track, you name it, they want to know about it.

The award categories
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(Following on from Part 1…) Homebase had absolutely everything I needed to complete my garden transformation and take it from Muddy Mucky Mess to Summer Haven – I was in my element strolling the aisles and picking out bits and pieces for the newest room of our house.

It was always so important to us to think of the garden as a room and not just ‘space’ at the back of the house. We wanted to really LIVE in our garden – eat, entertain, read, play… and snooze ;) And I had all of this in mind when I was picking out our furniture and accessories…

I love the two zones we’ve created – by splitting up the garden in this way, we made it look and feel so much larger! (I thought it was going to have the opposite affect so I was pleasantly surprised!) Montilla Steel 6 Seater Rectangular Garden Furniture Set Our colour palette was grey, white and natural, and this furniture fitted our scheme perfectly. These Homebase throws have kept us cosy the last couple of evenings…

Eating brunch in our garden on a Summer’s morning is a long held dream of mine – ever since we moved in to our Walthamstow house 3 years ago. So picking out dining furniture was a big moment for me! And having chairs with actual cushions feels like such a luxury…

We’ve created different areas and corners in our garden and I love the two little lounge set ups we have behind our dining area and by the lawn. It’s somewhere new to sit, right by the newly planted rose bush, which is due to flower any day now… (she says… fingers crossed…) and where we can sip a drink and watch Izzy toddle about, which is due to happen any day now… (she says, fingers crossed…)

Bamboo Stacking Chairs Finding all the finishing touches was really fun – candles, throws, cushions… everything I needed to turn our garden into a proper room… this is the Citronella Outdoor Candle
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Having completed our extensive side return renovations, we realised that we’d been bitten by the home improvement bug HARD. However, with our previous renovations came a fast decreasing bank account, so we took a small breather (and had a baby) while we saved our pennies in order to do our garden.

You may remember our garden when we first moved in… and if you don’t, it was 75% pond. We had a few feet of patio by the house – enough for a small table and chairs, then POND and behind POND was unusable garden – a huge pile of earth and rubble and mess.

A pond is beautiful, but it’s a terrifying thing to have around with a toddler… especially a pond that takes up most of the garden. So, while we were doing our side return extension, we decided to take full advantage of the builders and all their tools and got them to fill in the pond. So for the past year we’ve been living with a massive muddy mess in the garden… but all the while, plotting and planning how we would make it the most beautiful space at the back of our very special house.

Our filled-in pond

We always knew that we wanted to have an outdoor space that was an extension of our home… another room, another space to live. We wanted to create a garden that was liveable in, even when the sun wasn’t blazing… and our list was long…

Somewhere to sip a coffee, read a book, do some work, have a snooze… somewhere for Izzy to play, some lawn for toddling on, space for a paddling pool…. We wanted a tree! We wanted a shed! We wanted to dine outside with friends and family. Somewhere for grandparents to sit while little ones played. Somewhere for curling up and hiding away… a place for Izzy to explore. A place for me to laze about in and hopefully potter about and learn a bit about gardening…

Prepared and ready for the big redesign!

We set about Pinterest, trying to find small London gardens that achieved all of this and we really struggled to find examples where there was patio or decking AND lawn in a small space… but we knew we wanted a lawn as nothing beats that feeling of fresh grass beneath your toes in the Summer… and we wanted a soft landing for our growing human. 

We found a few pics that we used for inspiration to build a mood board for our amazing and local garden designer, Alexa, which had elements we loved and often elements we didn’t… so with the board came a host of notes – “we love these colours, but ignore that bench” etc. (Poor Alexa!) She took it all in her stride and off she went to beaver away on creating some designs for us…all hand drawn and ever so pretty…

We had our first meeting in the Autumn last year and the landscapers – again, local chaps called Green Man Landscaping – began work in November. We were scuppered by the weather for a few weeks but they worked tirelessly in the rain to get the garden ready for the first round of planting.

Decking going in…

An electrician popped in to put in some outside lighting (he drilled through our water pipe the weekend before Christmas. We had no hot water. It’s not a fun story. But, it’s a bit funny) and all the lighting he implemented was to complement various elements of the garden – again, it had all been thought through and everyone was working to Alexa’s plan.

The plumber popped in to move our water tap from the side of the house to the side of the decking… (and he popped in again the weekend before Christmas to fix our pipe and give us hot water. We gave him chocolate and wine).

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If you haven’t heard of The Real Flower Company, please allow me to introduce. They create luxury bouquets created from exquisitely scented roses, English flowers, herbs and foliage grown on English and Fairtrade sustainable farms.

Since 1995 when founding director, Rosebie Morton first started growing scented garden roses in the walled garden at her family farm in Hampshire, the team at The Real Flower Company has stuck to its guns and continue to bring the most exquisite natural roses, flowers, herbs and foliage into the floristry and cut flower market… and I was lucky enough to receive one of the most beautiful bouquets they’ve ever designed…

To celebrate their 20th Anniversary and also the first time they exhibited at RHS Chelsea Flower Show in the Great Pavilion, head florist Jay Archer collaborated with her team to design this absolutely stunning bouquet, named the ‘Chelsea Flower Show English Garden Bouquet‘.

Inspiration came from from their award-winning sustainable farm in Hampshire and their florists selected some of their favourite blooms to highlight the very best of the seasons offerings… and wowee did they smell divine… 

The scent of this bouquet took me massively by surprise – I could smell them before I opened the box, and once they were in the vase I could smell the blooms upstairs even though they were in my kitchen!

I’ve since discovered why their aroma was so powerful! New modern cut roses feature any trace of scent. This is because most commercially grown flowers have had their scent gene genetically removed to increase their durability and longevity. In contrast, The Real Flower Company is passionate about restoring the growing of exquisitely scented roses and flowers, just as nature intended. So these stunning blooms have their scent gene firmly intact and I can vouch for this ten-fold!

Over the years, and much trial and error, Rosebie Morton has searched for, curated and now grows the world’s finest selection of scented cut roses that as well as being beautiful, boast an exquisite variety of scents.

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The bouquet is bursting with the most beautiful blooms – peonies, stunningly scented garden roses such as cream Yves Piaget, Caramel Antike, Romantic Antike and David Austin Juliet, aromatic English herbs such as mint and sage and the freshest seasonal flowers including sweet peas and sweet rocket… totally heavenly.

A big thank you to The Real Flower Company for this absolutely gorgeous bouquet and for making my kitchen (and house!) smell like Summer… what a total treat.

This bouquet was a gift and all thoughts and opinions are my own

This post contains affiliate links

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There was a point a few months ago were we were wondering if we’d ever go abroad again. Isabelle had such a tough beginning – we all did – and for many months it just wasn’t possible to go anywhere outside of the UK… in fact, driving around the country was proving difficult enough! So many different types of medication and special formula and the hundreds of muslins and countless changes of clothes that used to follow us around so obediently… we needed a bigger car.

Feeding Isabelle on the floor of Gibraltar airport… we’d made it!

Then, all of a sudden, she was more robust. She had kicked the reflux and was a transformed little girl. So last month, just before Izzy turned one, we flew to Spain to stay at the very special Casa la Siesta, a hotel with the word ‘nap’ actually In Its Name. On this alone we were sold (and it certainly came through for us on that as well – we all slept amazingly well)… but also for its phrase – ‘Rural Luxury’. Yes Please.

Casa la Siesta is the most stunning boutique hotel tucked away in the Cadiz countryside, in Vejer de la Frontera.

A few days before we left, Izzy started teething – she was miserable, had a constant fever and had pretty much stopped eating. I was absolutely dreading our holiday. Surely it was going to be a disaster!

But then, the day of departure came and it looked as though she’d turned a bit of a corner. Her fever was down, she’d drunk some milk in the morning and wasn’t TOTALLY distraught. She fell asleep in the taxi on the way to the airport, we went through security and then she fell asleep in departures… she had another snooze on the plane and then fell asleep in the taxi to Casa la Siesta. She was properly recovering and getting happier by the minute… things were looking up and I was beginning to relax…

I played their piano a few times – it had a lovely tone…
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Can you believe that it’s over a year since Izzy was born? Can you can you can you? I can’t. I mean, of course I can. But I can’t. It makes no sense. I feel as though I have morphed into so many different versions of myself over the past year, that I didn’t know which side was up sometimes… and the version of me that couldn’t imagine ever sleeping again seems a million miles away from the version of me now, which is much like the version of me BI (Before Isabelle)…

I recognise myself again. Properly. I have time to shave my legs again. And I have two eyebrows again. Somewhere between May 4th 2018 and now, I lost my mind, found it, realised I hadn’t found it and wondered if I ever had a mind at all… and then all of a sudden, she’s sleeping and she’s eating and she’s laughing and pulling faces and splashing about in a paddling pool and I could HIGH FIVE EVERYONE IN THE STREET. But I don’t because they’ll think I’ve lost my mind again. But I haven’t. I have my mind. Intact,

Last week, we took the gigantic step as a family to welcome a childminder into our the fold for one day a week. ONE WHOLE DAY. And Izzy loves her. And so I love her. And you should love her. She’s like a Fairy Godmother and she has no clue what a huge deal she is in our lives and I am certain she has a magic wand secreted about her person because Izzy sleeps in the buggy when she’s with her. I repeat. Izzy sleeps in the buggy. #magic

I’m out! I’m out! I’m out! The stunning entrance hall at Brown’s Hotel The gorgeous oak panelled room where we had tea. Just beautiful and a secret slice of London… Beautiful floral installations bedecked the piano and the whole hotel…

Last week was the first time I left Isabelle with the FG (Fairy Godmother) and as much as I could have just laid down on the sofa, eaten B (biscuits) and S (slept)… I didn’t. I decided to celebrate this extraordinary milestone and accepted an invitation to try a very special afternoon tea, celebrating the Chelsea Flower Show at Brown’s Hotel in Mayfair. Lucky, lucky me.

‘Brown’s Bespoke Blend’ by Ormonde Jayne Brown’s Bespoke Blend by Ormonde Jayne’s London studio and celebrates spring, summer fruits, berries, tea notes, bluebells and hyacinth.  

Each tea stand features a beautiful complimentary bottle of bespoke Ormonde Jayne perfume, called Brown’s Bespoke Blend, which we could take home… as if we weren’t feeling spoilt enough already…

Skirt | Sandals Guests can also enjoy a glass of champagne or a non-alcoholic ‘Lavender Me’ cocktail containing fresh lavender sugar, garnished with an edible flower surrounded by petit posies designed by in-house florist, Ellie Hartley Flowers.

I took with me my lovely chum Isla, who was as mesmerised as me by the stunning hotel and its incredibly rich and sparkling history. Brown’s is London’s first hotel and opened its doors in 1837. Over the years it has welcomed royalty and writers, Pulitzer Prize and Oscar winners, musicians and scientists, explorers and politicians… and it has also played a part in history on a global scale, including being the site of the first telephone call in London made by its inventor, Alexander Graham Bell! Mark Twain famously visited in 1907 and Rudyard Kipling wrote The Jungle Book from his room where he stayed – now called The Kipling Suite. Through it all Brown’s and its staff remained discrete, protecting the privacy of its guests, with some details of its history only recently coming to light…

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If you haven’t heard of Poppy Loves Book Club, where have you been?! I started the book club a few years ago and now has over 4000 members – we read one book a month and all come together online (on the last Wednesday of every month) to discuss it.. often with the author!

I now have an amazing team helping me at Poppy Loves Book Club, and they are all literary loving gorgeous gals who love love LOVE all things books! So when Citroën offered to loan us a car for a Bookstagram Roadtrip to Hay-on-Wye, we couldn’t refuse!

The girls collected the car from the heart of Notting Hill – easy to spot! Morgan at the wheel and Annabel snapping half-selfies

If you aren’t already familiar with Hay, it’s a gorgeous magical, historical book town – full to the brim of all kinds of book shops. (And cake shops). (And ice cream shops). And once a year there is a big Instagram meet up for book lovers – #BookstagramHay. Literary lovers flock in and bookish events pop up in a myriad of venues all over the town. There are readings, workshops and author events in bookshops, cafes, B&Bs, parks and even boats… and Poppy Loves Book Club headed there last month to join in the fun and accepted the most glorious invitation from the fantastic B&B Radnor House, to stay with them for the duration.

Sadly I wasn’t able to go (Isabelle!) but I followed along on the Poppy Loves Book Club instagram stories and lived vicariously through Annabel, Morgan and Fran. Whom, it seemed, might never have come home, if it weren’t for the fact that we had to return the car…

A picture from the ConnectedCam! TRACTOR! (Snapped on the ConnectedCam) Arriving at Hay… (Snapped on the ConnectedCam)

Citroën had loaned us their spangly new Citroën C3, which has their very clever ConnectedCam integrated, so the girls were able to snap photos as they drove all the way from Notting Hill, London, to Hay-on-Wye… and you can see a few of these pics above. Citroën’s ConnectedCam is a HD camera fitted behind the rear view mirror of the car that enabled us to safely take pictures and videos of our journey. With a single click, we could take a photo or video and share it on social media or email it immediately. Very handy indeed.

The car itself was incredibly smart but also perfect for a girls roadtrip! Fancy pants keyless entry (twit twoo!) made the car feel extremely safe and secure… it was roomy and comfortable and with plenty of boot space to chuck in all the clobber (and there was some clobber!) belonging to these literary lasses. Whatsmore, you could certainly see them coming! They must have had the shiniest car on the road!

The girls could charge their phones on the road, play podcasts and their own music…the touchscreen meant that being DJ was fun and easy (love making playlists for road trips!) and the Sat Nav took the team to the door of their home for the weekend – Radnor House in Hay – and they arrived fresh as daisies thanks to their very relaxed journey.

Radnor House

Radnor House, run by wife and husband, Julia and David, is situated right in the heart of Hay-on-Wye. The house is a wonderfully restored Grade 2 listed building, and was once the Botanical Bookshop and an old Post Office… so its knee deep in Hay heritage, which we absolutely loved.

They have 3 individually styled rooms, all ensuite and all with a lovely feel to them. It was such a warm and cosy place to stay… and with the endless free (FREE!) cake everyday, the girls were in their element. The location of Radnor House is spectacular and if you are thinking of attending the Hay Festival, or just visiting this gorgeous historic town, they’d be a terrific place to stay as they also hold all kinds of creative, bookish and artisan events there…do book fast though as they get full very quickly.

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Photography has become such an integral part of, not only my personal, but also my professional life. I always had a suspicion that it might. I can’t remember the last time I went anywhere without a camera… and from the age of 13 I was never without my OM10 manual camera that my dad had given me.

Pockets bulging with film and the thrill of dropping them off at the local chemist and then the waiting… 6 days I think it was… before I could collect them. Then I’d inevitably discard about 60% of the photographs before gently sticking the others in a carefully curated album. (A ritual I’ve lost but need to regain asap).

Never without food.

Today photography is different. It’s immediate, it’s in my phone, it’s sharable and it’s editable at the touch of many a button. For a while I resisted the change. I wanted the click and clunk of my camera. I missed the messiness and I longed for the nostalgia of the process… but slowly, slowly, I came around to the digital age and now I couldn’t be more in love with it. 

However, the whizz bang cleverness of digital photography is nothing without the camera, and this is why I want to introduce you to my new favourite photography chum – the Olympus E-M10 MKIII. And before I go any further you should know that you can get 20% off this camera, and any other camera for that matter, when you buy in the Olympus web shop, using the code POPPY20. True story.

I love this camera for a number of reasons, but I want to start with the way it looks, because its retro-ness alone beings me so much joy. It reminds me of my old manual Olympus and that in turn evokes memories from happy times and oodles of nostalgia.

Now, the lens. I’m using the 45mm lens with this camera and it’s fab. It’s dinky, it’s fast and with an f stop of 1.8 I have been able to get some lovely shots with a beautiful bokeh effect behind my subject. It’s been great for snapping Izzy close up as I LOVE HER LITTLE FACE!! Sadly I can’t show that face to you but trust me – she’s a lickle pickle. Oh! And you can get this lens FOR FREE at the moment, if you buy any E-M10 MKIII Kit – this offer is available until the end of May, so wik wik wik!

The camera is lightweight, gorgeous and small, so it’s not a huge decision to take it with us wherever we go. On the contrary, it always comes along for the fun – it’s part of the family and is so easy to use for both me and LM. So we can both take family snapshots, which we can both be in when using the remote control function… and I know we’ll treasure these spontaneous family snaps for years to come. 

I LOVE that fact that..

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