31 Dec 2020

2020: Reflections & Favourite Photos

2020 Highlights

I’m a sucker for reflecting and planning at this time of year, but planning for 2021 is frustratingly impossible right now and I’ve had a real urge to ignore any kinds of reflections on 2020; my first instinct is to not focus on the tattered plans and memories that should have been or the mental health that deteriorated. Why relive the cancelled Christmas, two lockdowns, three cancelled holidays, four cancelled weddings, the abundance of anxiety, frustration, so many different kinds of grief and – if we’re honest – boredom?

Inevitably though, I started going through my photos from the last 12 months and, whilst there were a lot less than 2019, I was surprised by how many happy moments there were. So, despite my resistance, I ended up reflecting and looking back anyway. 

I could only briefly bring myself to look at plans I wrote at the beginning of the year but it appears my thoughts for 2020 included travel, an alien amount of social engagements, more time dedicated to calmness and less time on my phone. Needless to say, none of this happened. There was a lot of ‘just surviving is enough’ stuff circulated online this year and yet I’ve noticed rather a lot of lists-of-achievements doing the rounds on social media in the last couple of weeks. People who achieved all their goals for the year or people who just managed to achieve a lot in general, all regardless of Covid. And hey, great to celebrate achievements and all that. But if you need to hear it: I have no idea what I’ve achieved this year unless you count lying in a heap as an achievement. 

But even when everything felt really, really dismal, there were shiny, joyous moments: sunshiny walks, happy days at the beach, jumping in ballpools, seeing our favourite band live, a stay in the Hoxton Hotel, my best pal asking me to be his best wo-man, a brand new kitchen, restoring my Grandad’s chair and all the work and love we have poured into our house, blossom trees, so much baking and cooking, video calls with my girls, celebrating our first wedding anniversary in lockdown, two summer trips to London filled with cats, babies, good food and favourite friends, a stag do, glamping in Norfolk, stargazing and BBQs and firepits, mini breaks in the Cotswolds & Cambridge, savouring the moments where we could see family & friends in person, pink cotton cloud skies, the most beautiful actual real-life wedding, pub gardens, baby cuddles, hot chocolates and twinkly fairy lights. 

This year, more than ever, I have appreciated that people are more important than anything else no matter what latest achievement or goal society pushes upon us. I have appreciated the importance of the little things, of the hug and the tiny gestures and little parcels in the post from friends. I have appreciated sunshine and the seaside and the therapy of kneading dough in a way I have never done before. I have appreciated my lovely home and my bloody marvellous husband. 

I’m also proud of the work we’ve done on our house, proud of friendships maintained despite a year apart, proud of working in a role and for an organisation that supports the NHS and improves patient care, proud of finally nailing the perfect bread loaf (it really is the small things), proud of not losing our damn minds. And proud of all key workers who have kept us all going despite a shit government. I bow down to you. 

Looking through those photos, I remembered that we survived and there were many moments of joy so I pulled out all the photos that made me smile from each month of this crap year and put them altogether and that is what I am going to choose to remember and focus on. 

2020 photos

2020 photos

2020 photos

2020 photos

2020 photos

2020 photos

2020 photos

2020 photos

2020 photos

2020 photos

2020 photos

2020 photos

Happy new year all, and here's to an improved 2021 x 

6 Dec 2020

The Books I Read In Autumn

The Books I Read In Autumn

As I write this, the fog is thick and heavy outside and the house smells of orange chocolate cookies recently baked. It feels the perfect setting to write about cosying up with a good book. Here’s what I’ve been reading recently:

Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld 

“The margin between staying and leaving was so thin; really, it could have gone either way.”

What if Hillary Rodham had never married Bill Clinton? The ‘what ifs’ are enough to write an entire book. I found the first section of this a tad slow and occasionally annoying (mostly cos Bill comes across like a right prick and you were desperately hoping she’d leave him) but the final two thirds pacey and addictive. A fascinating reimagining of how history could have gone. 

Blurb: Smart, diligent, and a bit plain, that's the general consensus. Then Hillary goes to college, and her star rises. At Yale Law School, she continues to be a leader- and catches the eye of driven, handsome and charismatic Bill. But when he asks her to marry him, Hillary gives him a firm No. How might things have turned out for them, for America, for the world itself, if Hillary Rodham had really turned down Bill Clinton?

Olive by Emma Gannon

“You must remember that no decision is ever really the wrong decision. Because it’s the decision you made at the time. Respect your past self and her choices.”

Probably the first book I have ever read about a woman contemplating the decision to not have children. Which makes it an important one in my eyes as I think the discussion should be much more open. But I also loved that it’s about life-long female friendships and maintaining these friendships even when life takes you in all sorts of different directions. Really enjoyed this one. 

Blurb: Moving, memorable and a mirror for anyone at a crossroads, Olive has a little bit of all of us. Told with great warmth and nostalgia, this is a modern tale about the obstacle course of adulthood, milestone decisions and the ‘taboo’ about choosing not to have children.

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

“Aim to be the truest version of you. Embrace that you-ness. Endorse it. Love it. Work hard at it. And don’t give a second thought when people mock it or ridicule it. Most gossip is envy in disguise.” 

I have yet to find anything that Matt Haig has written that I don’t love. This book appears to start out very grim with an attempted suicide but do bear with because it’s actually a safe and cosy book, filled with messages of hope intertwined with a magical plot. One to be re-read for sure. 

Blurb: Between life and death there is a library. When Nora Seed finds herself in the Midnight Library, she has a chance to make things right. Up until now, her life has been full of misery and regret. She feels she has let everyone down, including herself. But things are about to change. The books in the Midnight Library enable Nora to live as if she had done things differently. With the help of an old friend, she can now undo every one of her regrets as she tries to work out her perfect life. But things aren't always what she imagined they'd be, and soon her choices place the library and herself in extreme danger. Before time runs out, she must answer the ultimate question: what is the best way to live?

Books I Read In Autumn

Troubled Blood by Robert Galbraith 

“After a brief hesitation, the doctor accepted Strike’s proffered hand, and as the two men shook, Robin wondered how aware men were of the power dynamics that played out between them, while women stood watching.”

The fifth outing of Robin & Strike and potentially my favourite yet? And the longest one yet but that doesn’t bother me as I’m a fan of the detail and the richly woven characters. Also totally hooked by the will-they-won’t-they storyline. I raced through this (and probably strained my wrist because holding up 942 pages is a work out!). 

Blurb: Private Detective Cormoran Strike is visiting his family in Cornwall when he is approached by a woman asking for help finding her mother, Margot Bamborough - who went missing in mysterious circumstances in 1974. Strike has never tackled a cold case before, let alone one forty years old. But despite the slim chance of success, he is intrigued and takes it on; adding to the long list of cases that he and his partner in the agency, Robin Ellacott, are currently working on. And Robin herself is also juggling a messy divorce and unwanted male attention, as well as battling her own feelings about Strike. As Strike and Robin investigate Margot's disappearance, they come up against a fiendishly complex case with leads that include tarot cards, a psychopathic serial killer and witnesses who cannot all be trusted. And they learn that even cases decades old can prove to be deadly . . .

Hollowpox by Jessica Townsend

“The thing about numpties, Mog, is that they can always find plenty of other numpties to believe their numpty nonsense. You know what they say: you’re never more than six feet away from a numpty.”

The long-awaited third book in the Nevermoor series and it was just as brilliant as the first two. I like how it’s growing up with the main character, getting a little darker and tackling bigger issues as she gets older. Also felt very 2020 for the focus to be on a virus causing havoc and the city going into lockdown… If you haven’t read this series and are a fan of magical worlds with big cats, wonderous cities and an abundance of Christmas, then this is definitely one for you. 

Blurb: Morrigan Crow is determined, daring and ready for a new challenge: to step into her destiny as a Wundersmith, master the mysterious Wretched Arts, and control the power that threatens to consume her. She and her friends are proud to be in their second year of attendance at the magical Wundrous Society, and together they can face anything. But a strange illness has taken hold of Nevermoor, turning its peaceable Wunimals into mindless, vicious unnimals on the hunt. As victims of the Hollowpox multiply, panic spreads. And with the city she loves in a state of fear, Morrigan quickly realises it is up to her to find a cure for the Hollowpox, even if it will put her - and the rest of Nevermoor - in more danger than ever before...

Books I Read In Autumn

The Switch by Beth O’Leary

“That’s the way with old friends. You understand each other, even when there’s not enough words out there for everything that should be said.”

Sometimes, you just need a book that feels like a warm hug. Books that are very readable with loveable characters, scenes that make me chuckle and a happy ending. And that is Beth O’Leary’s books all over. I loved The Flatshare so much that I actually avoided reading this for a while for fear of it not living up. But I needn’t have worried, this was a joy to read. 

Blurb: Ordered to take a two-month sabbatical after blowing a big presentation at work, Leena escapes to her grandmother Eileen's house for some overdue rest. Newly single and about to turn eighty, Eileen would like a second chance at love. But her tiny Yorkshire village doesn't offer many eligible gentlemen... So Leena proposes a solution: a two-month swap. Eileen can live in London and look for love, and Leena will look after everything in rural Yorkshire. But with a rabble of unruly OAPs to contend with, as well as the annoyingly perfect - and distractingly handsome - local schoolteacher, Leena learns that switching lives isn't straightforward. Back in London, Eileen is a huge hit with her new neighbours, and with the online dating scene. But is her perfect match nearer to home than she first thought?

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

“The sun is up, the skies are blue, and murder is in the air.”

Quintessentially British, charming and a little bit silly; I’d say this book just about lives up to the hype. The concept is joyful and there are some genuine laugh-out-loud moments. I’d argue it’s probably ever so slightly too long but I’d still highly recommend it. Am excited it’s going to be a series and will eagerly be awaiting the sequel. 

Blurb: In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet up once a week to investigate unsolved murders. But when a brutal killing takes place on their very doorstep, the Thursday Murder Club find themselves in the middle of their first live case. Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron might be pushing eighty but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves. Can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer before it's too late?

Books I Read In Autumn

Our Stop by Laura Jane Williams

“Today was the first day of The New Routine to Change Her Life, and The New Routine to Change Her Life meant catching the train on time.”

This is a romcom which I can’t say I’m big reader of but I was just craving something light when I picked this up in paperback. Yes there were moments of cheesiness and I can’t say I loved the main characters but if you’re looking for a funny, modern day rom com with realistic female characters, this will do the trick. 

Blurb: Nadia gets the 7.30 train every morning without fail. Well, except if she oversleeps or wakes up at her friend Emma’s after too much wine. Daniel really does get the 7.30 train every morning, which is easy because he hasn’t been able to sleep properly since his dad died. One morning, Nadia’s eye catches sight of a post in the daily paper: To the cute girl with the coffee stains on her dress. I’m the guy who’s always standing near the doors… Drink sometime? So begins a not-quite-romance of near-misses, true love, and the power of the written word.

The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley

“The truth often isn’t pretty. It’s not aspirational. It doesn’t fit neatly into a little square on Instagram.”

This is a lovely, gentle read which you can just imagine becoming a Richard Curtis film. Told from the perspectives of six strangers who seem like they would make the most unlikely of friends, the story explores when it means to be your true self and the idea that it’s never too late to be 100% you. The perfect story if you want something soft and comforting with flawed but loveable characters.

Blurb: Julian Jessop is tired of hiding the deep loneliness he feels. So he begins The Authenticity Project - a small green notebook containing the truth about his life. Leaving the notebook on a table in his friendly neighbourhood café, Julian never expects Monica, the owner, to track him down after finding it. Or that she'll be inspired to write down her own story. Little do they realise that such small acts of honesty hold the power to impact all those who discover the notebook and change their lives completely.

Happy reading x

3 Dec 2020

Little Festive Things To Do At Home

Festive Things To Do At Home

I made the mistake of reading through a couple of old blog posts from this time of year. Full of Christmas markets and pubs and friends and all the London lights. Man we didn’t know how lucky we had it did we?

Lockdown lifted yesterday but the majority of us are just being thrown into another version of it and it’s even more depressing in December. In order to keep things magical and sparkly and not descend into a Scrooge-like grump because what the hell was this year, our tree went up at the weekend and I’ve had Christmas music on repeat. I’ve also made myself a bucket-list of little festive things that I can do mostly at home throughout December to keep me feeling joyful despite all the restrictions in place. 

So, aside from playing Christmas tunes loudly and gazing at the tree twinkling in the corner, here’s the little festive things I’m going to be doing throughout the final month of the year: 

Open the advent calendar

A chocolate with breakfast every morning, what joy 

Delve into the under-the-tree chocolate tin

We’ve gone for Lindor this year and I’m not sure they are going to last very long…

Light a Christmas candle

Yankee Christmas Cookie is my fave at this time of year. 

Bake festive goodies

It’s not December without Christmas-themed baking! Chocolate orange cookies, gingerbread, something with cinnamon… The house is gonna smell divine

Go Christmas shopping

Whilst we will be limiting what we do out and about ahead of seeing family over Christmas, we are going to head into Cambridge early December for lunch and Christmas shopping. Am hoping Cambridge is looking all cute and festive, and I will be all excited because I’m out the damn house

Write Christmas cards

It’ll be nice to handwrite messages to people I’ve not seen much this year. 

Cook a mini Christmas dinner

Because there should never just be the one Christmas dinner during December. 

Make a Festive sandwich

With the leftovers from the Christmas dinner!

Make/buy a festive hot chocolate

If it’s not topped with a pile of cream and marshmallows, it’s not right. 

Have a cheeky Baileys

Or two… or three… 

Add the 2020 decorations to the tree

We buy a new decoration each every year and we’ve just ordered some very-2020 ones from Etsy. Excited for them to arrive so we can add them to the tree as a nod to this bizarre year. 

Read a Christmas book

“T’was the night before Christmas…” 

Have the first mince pie of the year

I always hold out for Gary’s homemade ones. 

Have a bath with a Christmas bath bomb from Lush

All the scents, all the sparkles.

Pick some charities to give to over the festive season

Tis the season to be kind & generous. 

Paint nails a festive colour

I’m thinking sparkly ruby red and sparkly emerald green.

Try the Tony’s Chocolonely festive chocolate

Milk gingerbread or dark mint candy cane?

Don the Christmas jumper 


Make a festive cocktail 

I might save this one for New Year – the Christmas BBC good food magazine had a whole section on festive cocktails to make at home! 

Watch some Christmas films, old & new

On my oldie list this year: Home Alone, The Polar Express, Arthur Christmas

On my newbie list: The Prom, Last Christmas, Happiest Season. GIVE ME ALL THE CHEESINESS.

Wrap presents for family & friends

Whilst listening to Christmas music to really make you feel like a festive elf. 

Go see the neighbourhood Christmas lights

One of the things that makes me feel the most Christmassy – I like doing it both at home and wherever I’m staying over Christmas – and it’s totally free/safe. 

Put up the family Christmas tree

A family tradition that we’re holding out until Christmas Eve this year thanks to restrictions. But it will make the night before Christmas even more of a festive joy. 


It’s been a hell of a year but knowing we’ve got a few days with immediate family over the festive period is what I’m living for right now. 

2 Dec 2020

The November Highlights

November highlights

Ah Lockdown 2.0. Just like last time only with less novelty, less patience, less sunshiny walks. Yeaaaah, the less we linger on it, the better I say. Needless to say, this will probably be a short one which is ironic given this month lasted approx. 2000 years.  

Out & About

We had a couple of riverside walks complete with takeaway hot chocolate but otherwise: nowhere. No one. NADA. 

Watching / Reading /Listening 

I mean, it’s gotta be The Crown right? I practically had a count down to 15 November, I was so excited. And oh my what a series. The shots, the fashion, the acting; it really is like the most decadent soap opera. Even with attempts not to binge, we’d polished off 10 episodes in less than a week. And so now the wait begins again. 

A belly full of food

Reader, I bought a pasta machine. We made ravioli. It was delicious

Show & Tell 

This is somewhat niche but the Waitrose freesia & pear bubble bath smells exactly like the Jo Malone English Pear & Freesia perfume, which is what I wore on my wedding day and one of my favourite smells. Only the bubble bath costs three quid. 

Told you it was niche. It’s been a long lockdown. 

Tiny, happy moments 

It’s rather a large moment but bloody hell, Joe Biden beat Donald Trump in the US elections. FINALLY SOME GOOD NEWS. 

In tiny, happy moments closer to home, I caught a gorgeous sunset when I nipped out for my daily walk the other day. I hadn’t managed to get out before 4 and was a bit down about the fact that I’d barely seen any daylight – but I was magically rewarded for it.