Sunday, 17 August 2014

Girl crush

I’ve had a girl crush on Nicole Appleton for forever and I was sold right in to the All Saints attitude, swagger and her superwatt smile quicker than you can ‘Goodbye Liam Gallagher’ when they appeared on the scene all these years ago and made the Spice Girls look like they'd raided the dressing up box.  

I always thought she was far too good for Gallagher.  She’s class in a pair of trainers.  He is the pair of trainers…  I’m so glad she said ‘Never, ever’ to him.  Who would put up with that I ask?  

I heard All Saints playing a set on Chris Evans' show a few months ago and Paulo Nutini dropped in to do his unique brand of what I call ‘octogenarian reggae singer’ music.  I was hoping that Nicole and Paulo would emerge from BBC studios, arm in arm, skipping off into the superstar sunset but sadly, that match does not seem to have been made.  I think they’d be perfect.  If I fail as a PR and writer, I will most definitely be having a go at celebrity matchmaking.  Now there’s a programme ITV.

Anyway, I have always loved the All Saints style.  So much so that when I was carrying my growing bump around nearly 12 years ago (Oh my goodness am I that old? Is the bump that old?), I was doing so in a pair of trainers and Maharishi snopants with little vest.  

Hmm – I wonder where I got that look.  Yes – All Saints.  No ‘mummywear’ for me.  

No – I was rocking the All Saints look right up until day of hospital admission when I swapped my £300 Maharishis for a pair of men’s cargo pants from Gap, because that was the only pair of cargo pants that would fit.  I still laugh at the fact that I took a pair of size 10 jeans with me to wear the next day when I left hospital, with brand new baby and of course a pair of hair straighters so that I would leave hospital with baby looking fabulous.  As I stepped out of Queen Charlotte’s hospital in London, the story could not have been more different..!  Let’s just say the jeans remained in a bag for a few months and the hair straightners became the last thing on the planet I would even have time to look at!  

But anyway, back to my love of All Saints.  Not to be confused with the shop of course, although I do also love All Saints the shop, but also feel now and again when wearing a new purchase that I look a little more like someone from Star Wars than I might want to.

Anyway, really back to All Saints.  They just always look really cool, in great shape, with an understated look and a couple of statements going on but nothing too over the top. Usually on the trainer front. Quite often on the bling front.

Faultless really but if you’re over 30 (and certainly if you’re over 40 like these girls are), may I suggest that you make sure your hair is cut well, groomed, your make up is perfect, nails done and you’re looking good, otherwise in one of these outfits, you might like a crack whore.

For me, my ‘go to’ Nicole Appleton outfit is a pair of black skinnes, my black patent heels, a sheer black top I got in Top Shop 15 years ago (and it’s still my favourite), a black patent cuff bracelet which my beautiful friends Sally and Sharon gave me, little black patent clutch bag and a big, big smile!

Get your Nicole look here:

Zara Collarless Frock Coat - £79.99

LK Bennett Avona Clutch - £95

Tory Burch Skinny Leather Inlay Cuff - £112.15

Zara Varnish Effect Trousers - £35.99

Ladies Dark Side of the Moon T-shirt - £16.99, Sugarbullets.

And do you know what one of the best things about All Saints is?

They are proper women, being girls, without any hint of a duckface pout or poured into ridiculously revealing dress.

Girls in your 20s - take heed.  This is how it's done.  

We look good for us, not the men.


Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Instant comfort...tick!

So I told you I would do it and I did it x 2.

I have my girls coming round Friday for bubbles and gossip and of course, five strong heads and shoulders.  That sounds like a weird game I play at my house.  It's not, but the world is a lighter place when you can laugh about it and share with your girlfriends.  Maybe the odd game of head and shoulders would be good.  Pretty much everything has gone down in this house, including 3am ballet. I was a spectator...

Nigella's Mughlai Chicken on the right, Good Food's Pea & New Potato Curry on the left.

Non-maverick cooking but I do have to say, veggie friend, hold on to your head...


Instant comfort

Some days we all just need a little bit of comfort and consolation for whatever reason - we know the life list.

Life is hard and we all bear a heavy load.  We just have different flavours of cargo.  The quietest people can often be the happiest and most content.  The loudest, funniest and smiliest folk can be the ones in the most pain.  We never really know what's happening in someone's world or head.

There are two things we can do.  Be good to as many people as we can, because really, we don't have a clue what's going on, and be good to ourselves.  We are rarely good to ourselves.  We don't have enough time, we feel guilty, we have too much going on and we end up just giving ourselves the scraps of everything.  No wonder we feel in total disrepair at times.

What use are we to our families, friends, employers and colleagues if we're feeling a bit broken. We all need time to mend and on a rainy day like this, with five headlines of awfulness, it seems like a good day to have a bit of patching ourselves back together time.

Cooking is my 'go to' activity for instant happytime.  Sometimes on a Saturday night I will shun social invitations (yes I will!) in favour of having some 'me' time in the kitchen because life is so busy and sometimes that's the only time I have in the whole week when I know I'm not working, doing school work (not my own obviously...I don't actually go to school although now and again I don't think it would be such a bad idea...), running my child around clubs, keeping up with friends, play dates, shopping blah blah blah.  It helps if what I cook is absolutely delicious but in a way it doesn't really matter as it's the whole pottering thing that ticks the box.

I'm sure there are many people who have eaten in my house and felt I may have been 'pottering' rather than actual 'cooking'.  A dish or two have fallen below my lofty standards due to 'pottering' (replace pottering with 'maverick cooking after a couple of glasses of red wine in the style of Keith Floyd'.

So tonight is definitely going to be a bit of a cosying in night, sticking some music on and pottering in the kitchen with some pots and wooden spoons.

My 'go to' pottering dish is curry because there are lots of stages to it and faffing around opportunities.

This is my favourite to cook.  It's Nigella's Mughlai Chicken.

It is also much, much better than my 'maverick' curries which are likely to blow your head off.


Monday, 11 August 2014


Like countless other people, I have tried the juicing diet and lost pounds and then started eating normally and it all just goes back on again.

I've probably approached juicing in the wrong way, using it as a weight loss tool rather than as part of an overall healthy eating lifestyle.  It really bores me when experts talk about not dieting and just embracing a healthy lifestyle instead, like it's so easy to say "Oh, no thank you to the slice of pizza and glass of Prosecco, I'm quite happy with my bowl of quinoa and green tea".  

It is not easy.  Or maybe it is if you have embraced a healthy eating lifestyle to the point where you would recoil at a big triangle of pizza coming towards you.  I don't think that will ever be me but hey ho.

I love food and I love really good food although I laughed recently at my brother's observation that if we ever go out and too many wines, we spend the next day with terminal hunger and eating processed food which is orange only ie Heinz Tomato soup, cheese toasties, Wotsits...  So - yes, there are times when not such 'good food' can be consumed but I haven't looked at a Wotsit since June.

I love the French lady diet of red wine, coffee, cigarettes, baguettes, butter, cheese, pate and seafood. The French Paradox they call it.  I guess French ladies keep themselves trim by eating only small portions of all of the above, at leisure whereas us Brits tend to scoff.

So anyway, I don't want to swap food for three juices a day for any period of time because I'd be MISERABLE!

But one a day will work for me as it gives me my five a day in a oner, a big energy boost and you do feel rather wholesome and virtuous when you juice.

If you don't know it already, Jason Vale is the God of juicing.  In fact, he has an empire built entirely on juice, with pineapple stilts.

I've done his three day detox, his 7lbs in 7 days and it's all great but I love food and I'm not giving it up so I'll use one of his recipes once a day and grab my bottle in the morning as I run out the door, chasing
the dog around the front garden, set off on the school run and my work commute.

My favourite is the Turbo Express Smoothie.  You can find out what your juice type is here.

And once you're all set with that, you'll probably feel totally guilt free when you enjoy the weekend naughties!

This is my absolute favourite pizza recipe.  I make this every time, it's always a winner, and it's not too unhealthy!

Life is too short not to enjoy small pleasures.

And the Song of the Day is 'Automatic' by the Pointer Sisters, for absolutely no reason at all other than it's rather fabulous and you can't not feel happy listening to this! 

Happy Monday!


Sunday, 10 August 2014

What's your 'back to school'?

I said it a few weeks ago and I can feel it again, the season is starting to change and while most people clasp their hands over their cheeks and shout "Noooo - Nooooo, don't say that!", I really enjoy this time of year.

Throughout the year there seem to be a few 'windows' where one thing becomes another and there are a few weeks that are defined by nothing in particular other than a feeling of something bigger happening.

That for me, is the change in seasons.  I love it.  I always feel that it's nature giving us the opportunity to take stock, reflect, look at what's on the horizon and start getting our ducks in a row for change.

Some people fear change and that's understandable.  Nobody likes to think that their decision might not work out.  I have made countless 'wrong' decisions in my life (including a few biggies...) but they're only wrong if you view them that way.

Life is a journey and we don't hold the map, so we make decisions based on the facts and the situation at any one time.  To move forward in life requires change. An obvious statement but you have to keep on moving.  Life gives us an opportunity to grow every day and amazing things can happen when you're brave and go forward with a strong step.

If you're a parent, you're no doubt getting your child geared up for school (or nursery...or just more coffees and playdates!) and that requires a healthy strong mindset because we are our children's example.

How can we expect our children to have boundless enthusiasm for knuckling down, working hard, embracing change and adapting to new situations if we just kind of slope into Autumn with our 'Right...everything back to normal routine'?

Children don't just get there themselves, they need strong parents setting an example and leading the way with a solid routine, optimism, a 'can do' attitude, endless amounts of support, love, care, empathy, encouragement, patience and of course fun and happiness!

And that's on top of our own jobs.  Life is about to get very full on, so mentally, I'm getting myself ready for 'back to school' so that I can be the best support to my child to help him achieve everything he can and should over the next year.

So, I'm not very good at cutting the mustard when things are a bit chaotic.  I just kind of fumble around in the dark.  An acupuncturist once said to me "Mhairi, your element is metal which means that you can be mercurial and fluid in any situation but once you know what you want your metal changes and you cut it perfectly, like the sharpest knife."  I will always remember that.  It's very true.

When I have all my ducks in a row, I'm perfectly organised and on top of things with a clear head, and everything's in its place,  I feel like I can cut through any challenge.

Knowing that, I have my own 'Back to School' list, as follows:

1.  Continue my home improvements with a deadline of end of August (So far I have painted my entire downstairs, converted my home office into a beautiful guest bedroom, tidied and culled in my son's room and am now at stage where measuring up for carpets.  I am nearly there.)

2.  Continue with my healthy eating and no drinking until I get back into a lovely LK Bennett Size 6  top I have that always made me feel happy and 'me' when I was wearing it.  My deadline is start of October.

3.  Buy child's entire back to school wardrobe, games kits, pencils etc and all labels sewn by a week on Thursday (everything bought - labels currently unsewn but my mum is much better at sewing than I am. Correction.  My mum knows how to sew.  I do not).

4.  Get my business, The Clothes Tree back up and running properly (I just haven't had time over the last two years to do much with the business but I poured so many lovehearts into setting up, it cost me an arm and a leg to do so and I desperately want it to work but it won't unless I make it work).

5.  Get the freezer full of homemade stuff so that meals at night are easy and healthy.

If I can get all that groundwork and prep done, I feel like I'll be setting us up for a good year ahead.  Of course there will be bumps, but if everything's in order and not a chaotic mess, you've got a better chance of surviving the bumps.

Happy back to school!


Saturday, 9 August 2014

Being good

One news report which has hit the headlines globally this week is the story about the commuter in Perth, Australia who slipped as he was boarding his morning train and wedged his leg in the gap.   50 fellow commuters and railway staff teamed up to free his leg by rocking the 90-tonne train carriage.  This example of ‘people power’ was a welcome news addition at time when our daily feed of stories is pretty heavygoing.

Ten minutes later, two collective pushes, the man was freed and we were left with a warm fuzzy feeling that there are still good people in the world, when so much we read in the papers is about human nature at its worst.

Helping people is a failsafe ticket to an instant warm and fuzzy moment.  According to research, we should all devote an optimum time of 100 hours a year to helping others, or two hours a week in order to enrich our lives.

Helping each other instantly makes you feel better about yourself, it connects you with another person – even for just a moment, it improves the life of another, it makes the world a better place and if that kindness is passed on it can multiply and multiply.  A bit like ‘paying something forward’.

There are tonnes of things we can do to help people as part of our day-to-day lives.  Be friendly and thoughtful.  Give people time to talk, and take time to listen.  Give the feeling of always ‘being there’ to friends and family.  Smile.  It might make someone’s day and give them a tummy flip feeling if they’re having a bad day and feeling isolated – like giving a little burst of sunshine. 

Do a small chore for someone else that is easy for you to do and makes a difference to them.  Stop and talk to the person who know is lonely.  Show appreciation, even if it’s a short email to thank someone for doing something nice for you.  Send someone a hug, just because.  Create a little care package for someone you know is finding life very tough right now with cosy comforting things like some soup, chocolate, magazines, bubble bath – things you think they might enjoy.  Donate food to a foodbank.  Donate something you no longer use. 

These are all the small simple things we can do to help people and it doesn’t take much away from our day and of course there are the other ‘bigger’ things we can do, like volunteering for a charity, tutoring, buddying young or vulnerable people, reading to groups of children, visiting the elderly, taking part in outdoor initiatives in your community. 

There are so many things we can all do which we can fit easily into our busy lives.  A report issued last week claims that we spend more time each day on our smart screens than we do sleeping!  So we must all have a little bit of spare time.  

We can all do little things to make things better for everyone and feel better about ourselves.


Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Deliciously Ella

I discovered Ella a few months ago.  I read an interview with her in Red magazine and I fell in love instantly with her whole approach to cooking, eating and living.

She's ridiculously beautiful in the most normal, natural way and she radiates health and happiness.  Her secret?  An overnight swap from refined sugar, gluten, anything processed or refined and meat to a fully vegan lifestyle.

Ella had been diagnosed in 2011 with a relatively rare illness, Postural Tachycardia Syndrome, a disease which breaks down the automatic nervous system.  Bed-ridden for 95% of the time, with chronic pain, suffering from heart palpitations, blackouts, stomach problems and constant headaches, Ella made the decision to find an alternative to conventional medicine and heal herself.

After 18 months on her new diet, she was able to give up her medication and she started sharing her recipes on her blog, Deliciously Ella.

Interest rocketed and after gaining 77,000 Instagram followers in a relatively short space in time, she decided to launch an app to make the recipes more accessible.

The app went to number one in the food and drinks category both in the UK and the US and number five on the whole of the iTunes store.

Her first book 'Deliciously Ella' is available on pre-order now and I'm pretty sure we'll be seeing her on our screens sometime soon.

I love her philosophy of making just one small change a day.  A 100% diet overhaul is too big for anyone to contemplate in a oner but little changes add up to big results.

I think it's worth it.  I became aware a couple of weeks ago that there was probably more nutrition in my superexpensive dog food than there was in my dinner and while I'm not going to deny my Pepper Pup the best I can give her, I'm not going to give myself anything unhealthy or sub-standard just because I'm hungry, tired and can't be bothered.

I want to cook all her recipes - there's nothing here that I wouldn't love to eat.  It's just about getting the right ingredients (and accessibility to the right ingredients), time and planning.

The first recipe I made was a few months ago and I had forgotten all about it until I discovered a little tub of it in my freezer - sheer joy!

I loved making it - it made me feel very wholesome indeed and it tastes totally amazing.

Next one up for me will be the Turmeric and Lentil soup because I love soup pretty much more than any other food.  If I didn't do everything I do, I would probably run a restaurant dedicated entirely to soup and the finest breads to accompany my fine soups!  Another dream...

Love the recipes, love the philosophy and look forward to seeing more of Deliciously Ella.