The blog

British mummy blogger and travel blogger

Tips for attracting wildlife to your garden

We spent most of last weekend in the garden, trying to tackle weeds but also as part of our 30 green… [more]

Tips for attracting wildlife to your garden Tips for attracting wildlife to your garden

2 days in Lyon

So the past two weeks have basically been a French fortnight. First I was in Avignon, and then last week,… [more]

2 days in Lyon 2 days in Lyon

The Message and White Lines

I'll let you in to a little secret. Tara Lara and I are *practically* the same age. So when she asked… [more]

The Message and White Lines The Message and White Lines

My vlog review of the Carnival Breeze family experience

Now, you'll have to ignore the fact that my skin looks rather shiny in this video; just bear in mind… [more]

My vlog review of the Carnival Breeze family experience My vlog review of the Carnival Breeze family experience

Kate and Wills and in praise of the baby-free break

Honestly, you'd think the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge had done something *really* terrible the way… [more]

Kate and Wills and in praise of the baby-free break Kate and Wills and in praise of the baby-free break

Win The Muppets Character Encyclopedia

As you know we're huge fans of The Muppets in this house and can't wait to see the new movie, The Muppets:… [more]

Win The Muppets Character Encyclopedia Win The Muppets Character Encyclopedia

Tips for attracting wildlife to your garden

We spent most of last weekend in the garden, trying to tackle weeds but also as part of our 30 green days challenge trying to make the garden more attractive to wildlife.

squirrelFoxes, squirrels and birds already hang out in our garden (in fact sometimes I feel a bit like Snow White) but I’m very keen that we make it a haven for butterflies, bees and ladybirds. So after doing lots of research, here are some tips for attracting wildlife to your garden:

Ladybirds are a brilliant form of natural pest control because they eat aphids, and help pollinate plants. Like many gardens around the UK we’ve had issues with the *wrong* kind of ladybirds (the Harlequin Ladybird). Why does it matter? Well, Harlequins can actually move in to your house, bite you *shudder* and worst of all, eat native ladybirds. (TIP: if you don’t know what they look like, they usually have 15-21 spots on their back.)

The best way to attract native, seven-spot or two-spot ladybirds to your garden is to plant the kind of flowers they like, including dill, thyme and daisies.

Butterflies also help pollinate flowers and with moths provide natural pest control; their presence is an indication of a healthy environment and healthy ecosystem. The best way to attract them is to plant buddleia (butterfly bush), lavender and oregano.

And we’re really keen to get more bees in the garden. Bees are also natural pollinators, particularly of wildflowers which are essential to the food chain: but did you know that they’re estimated to contribute over £400million to the UK economy*, through the pollination of commercial crops such as tomatoes, peas, apples and strawberries? Bees really matter.

bee houseFortunately there are easy things you can do to help attract bees to the garden, including planting inexpensive and easy-to-grow flowers such as sweet peas and geraniums. We also invested in a little bee house (£12) which we’ve hung from one of the pear trees. We can’t wait to see if any bees decide to move in. Watch this space.

Remember, one simple act each day can inspire a lifetime of green habits. Watch out for the hashtag #30greendays for more ideas and tips.

*source: bumblebeeconservation.org

Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner

As you’ve probably deduced from the title of this post, this is, really, an ode to London. I’m fiercely proud of the fact that I’m a Londoner, born and raised in SW London; I spent my teenage years hanging on the King’s Road, Chelsea, where I now work, and I have a knowledge of short cuts to rival any cabbie.

Westminster and the London EyeAnd I’m also fiercely proud of the fact that my son is a Londoner, born and raised here too. I love that so many people from all different backgrounds live here; the culture, heritage and history; the breathtaking views from the river and incredible architecture. I never, ever get tired of it, and even though I travel a lot I’m always happy to come home.

Sometimes, I do fantasise about what it would be like to move to the seaside, but the truth is I can’t really imagine living anywhere else. I’d miss it too much.

So this is my post for my beautiful city, London, for Tara’s gallery. The theme this week is ‘a favourite place.’ Well apart from this photo, which I snapped from the top of a London bus last week, I’ve put together a little slide show – some of these photos you may have seen before, some are new, because you never run out of photo opportunities in London. I hope you like it.

Nominate a green charity to win 6000 pounds

Recycling-30-Green-DaysThis week, as part of my 30 Green Days Challenge, I’ve been thinking a lot about how much food we throw away as a family. (Admittedly this was worse when No 1 Son was small, and used to squirt blackcurrant all over his food when he was fed up of eating it, but even now we do waste a fair bit.)

Of course, we’re not alone. In fact, in the UK, we throw away almost 7 MILLION TONNES of food and drink from our homes every year. That’s shocking, isn’t it? Particularly when you realise that if we stopped wasting food, there would be huge benefits to the planet – the equivalent of taking one in four cars off the road, in fact.

It’s made me resolve to ensure we waste less food as a family, so from now on I’m going to be really strict about what I’m buying: no more picking up bits and pieces here and there and then forgetting all about them or ordering takeaways because I can’t be bothered to cook and throwing away fresh food. We’re going to have a meal plan and stick to it. And plan in the takeaways.

I’m also trying to make sure we recycle as much as possible. I only found out recently, for example, that you can recycle empty aerosol cans. As a family we’ve resolved to make sure we’re recycling 80% of our household rubbish, and something I’m seriously considering right now is getting a compost heap to take care of the food waste. We used to have one of these when I was growing up as a kid and I can definitely see the benefit now I’m thinking more about how much we throw away.

I’d love to know how much you recycle – and if you have any tips for composting, do let me know.

And meanwhile here’s some really exciting news. SC Johnson have agreed to give £6000 to a British environmental charity, chosen by me. That’s right, £6000. I KNOW. Isn’t it AMAZING? I feel like Oprah, or something. But I do need your help to find a suitable charity to receive the award.

All you have to do to nominate a deserving charity is leave a comment below telling me why you think they should get the funds, giving me as much detail as you can about their work, and their website. This is your chance to really shout about a green charity you feel does great work and could do with an extra £6000. It could be a conservation charity that is helping to protect endangered British wildlife; a woodland charity; or one that encourages people to live a more sustainable life. There are so many brilliant environmental charities to choose from – the only stipulation is it must be a British charity, working in Britain (not overseas), and it must be registered (this will be verified).

Entries close at midday on April 28. I’ll be choosing the winning charity with the help of a representative from SC Johnson. The usual The Mum Blog competition rules apply.

And don’t forget, keep looking out for the hashtag #30GreenDays on twitter to pick up eco-friendly tips.

My best travel photograph

Back in January I wrote a post called ‘My Best Travel Photography so far‘; at the time, I think it probably was. But then I went to Norway and took this photo of a spectacular sunset….

Norwegian sky….which I think is probably one of the best photographs I’ve taken so far (absolutely no filter, the colours were really like that).

Governor's Beach Grand TurkAnd in February I took this photo on Governor’s Beach in Grand Turk, which is pretty cool – it makes me long to be on that beach…

Oresund BridgeBut if I look back at the photographs I’ve taken so far, then I think this one, of the Øresund Bridge between Sweden and Denmark is still my favourite (if you’ve ever watched The Bridge, you’ll know it as the um, Bridge), and I think probably my best travel photograph to date. I love how the bridge silhouetted against the night sky makes it look almost black and white. It feels like a ‘proper’ travel photograph. But most of all I’m proud of it because I know what it took to take it – I had to lean over the side of our ship’s balcony in the dark.

*This is my entry for the Gallery – the theme this week is ‘A photo I’m proud of’.

My 30 Green Days challenge

30GD-logo-for-releaseWhen you’re a parent you feel a sense of responsibility not just to your family but to the world your children are growing up in; you want to help create a better environment for your offspring and for generations to come. Which is why I’ve agreed to become one of the SC Johnson bloggers and take on their 30 Green Days Challenge.

The idea is that we try to make one small positive change every day, because that one simple act can inspire a lifetime of great green habits. We’re quite an environmentally-conscious family anyway, but there’s always something more you can be doing, right?

For example, this week I was going to have my hair Brazilian blow-dried. The idea of having beautifully soft, straight hair for about six months with no need for straightening is incredibly appealing. But I’ve decided not to have this done because the treatment isn’t so great for the environment, and so yesterday I cancelled the appointment. I’ll just have to put up with being frizzy in the rain (and humidity).

Earth Hour 2014On Saturday night, instead of having Earth Hour, we had Earth Evening; we turned off all the lights and sat in the dark for about three hours. It was actually a lot of fun and more than a little spooky (particularly when the dog started barking at something unseen in the garden).

tulipsI try to encourage ladybirds to chase away the greenfly in the garden by planting out lots of tulips, which apparently they’re very attracted to.

I’m also encouraging Ben, who is 10, to really think about what he’s throwing away, and recycle as much as possible instead of just putting everything into the bin; while I’m insisting No 1 Son remembers to switch off the games console at night.

And at work I’m trying not to print out stuff I don’t actually need a physical copy of; so I’m saving electricity and paper.

I really hope you’ll join me for the 30 Days Green Challenge – watch this space because later this week I’ll be revealing how you can nominate your favourite green charity to receive a fantastic donation, courtesy of SC Johnson. And do look out for the hashtag #30GreenDays on twitter.

My French selfie

So it’s been a few weeks since I’ve managed to make The Gallery, mostly because I’ve been in France. In fact, when the theme for this week’s Gallery popped up on my twitter feed I was in Lyon, strolling around in the spring sunshine, wearing my lovely pink coat for the first time and my sunglasses, natch, and just about to go and eat my entire week’s calories in crepes. The theme was ‘What I’m Doing Right Now’, based on the instagram hashtag #widrn. (I much prefer this hashtag to #latergram, which to me seems a little, erm, after the event.)

Liz JarvisHere you go then, my French selfie. What I was doing right now, last week, when I read the instructions for the Gallery. Pay attention there at the back.

2 days in Lyon

LyonSo the past two weeks have basically been a French fortnight. First I was in Avignon, and then last week, I spent two days in Lyon. It wasn’t enough.

The RhôneHow have I never visited this city before? It’s absolutely glorious. From the stunning buildings that line the banks of the Rhône to the wonderful boulevards, it’s made for strolling around in the spring sunshine.  Magnolia treestatue Lyon

Water tower LyonLyon’s population is 20% students, which gives it a laidback vibe, and there’s lots of bars and art all over the city.

Paul Bocuse culinary schoolWe experienced art of a different kind, though, at the Paul Bocuse culinary school, founded by the legendary Michelin-starred chef.

Crêpe SuzetteWe were taught how to cook proper Crêpe Suzette, which is actually INCREDIBLY complicated and involves lots of preparation; and then of course we got to eat them. Oh my goodness they were delicious.

Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At night Lyon is spectacular. The Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière is the most extraordinary building, set high above the city…

Lyon at night…and from here you get the most amazing views…

La Tour Métallique…it’s also where you can see Lyon’s very own Tour Eiffel, La Tour Métallique.

Rhône at nightWhat a fabulous city. We only had a small taste of Lyon (and Lyonnaise cuisine) but I definitely want to return.

Salon review: Nails & Brows

There are so many nail and eyebrow bars around now that a salon offering both beauty treatments (plus eyelash tinting) is a natural progression. Nails & Brows in Mayfair is the brainchild of Sherrille Riley, a former Elizabeth Arden Red Door and Harrods beauty therapist. She really knows her stuff, and her staff have been trained to her very high standards.

Nails & Brows salonThe ambience in the salon reminded me a little of the spa at the Sanderson Hotel; it’s all white and calming with glamorous touches like jam jars of hand-tied flowers from Wild at Heart and complimentary pretty glittery cup cakes; this is very much a girly beauty haven.

tinted eyelashes and shaped eyebrows

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sherrille herself did my eyelash tint and brows. I’ve had my eyelashes tinted many times but I usually do get that slightly stingy feeling towards the end; not this time. Sherrille applied the tint very gently, and when the tint was removed 10 minutes later my eyes weren’t streaming or sore: I just had lovely dark lashes. She then assessed my brows (which makes a change from my local threading salon, where they usually just get stuck in without even looking), before expertly threading and shaping my brows. I was absolutely delighted with the results, which I think you’ll agree look completely natural (this is a no-make up selfie).

IBX nail repair treatmentAfterwards I decided to opt for an IBX Repair nail treatment. My nails aren’t in *that* bad a state but they could certainly use a little TLC. The beautician applied a coat of the polish which she then dried with a small hand-drier; I then had to place my hands under the LED light to dry. The process is then repeated about three times, and it takes about 10 minutes, but the results speak for themselves: my nails look and feel much healthier and stronger. Other treatments on offer include gel polishes and shellac but all treatments are for natural nails, which is refreshing. They also offer pedicures and waxing.

I walked out of the salon feeling as though I’d just been properly pampered. If you’re looking for a beauty salon in the heart of central London to take care of your nails, eyelashes and eyebrows then I can’t recommend Nails & Brows highly enough. I’ll definitely be back.

*Nails & Brows, 31 Berkeley Street, Mayfair. 020 7499 5245. Treatments start at £15.

2 Days in Avignon

AvignonSo last week I spent a few days in the French city of Avignon; it was a work trip but I managed to see quite a lot of the city. And what an enchanting place it is, with its medieval walls bathed in sunlight and cobbled streets (sadly it wasn’t very sunny when we were exploring).

Notre Dame des DomsWe went on a walking tour of the city, and among the architectural delights was the cathedral, the Notre Dame des Doms, with its gilded statue of Our Lady watching over the city…

Palais des Papes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and the Palais des Papes (Papal Palace) is equally spectacular…

Avignon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…and even though it was a misty day, the views of the city from the cathedral gardens were breathtaking…

Avignon demonstration

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…but what I really loved about Avignon is that despite its storybook/Fable II type appearance, it was a proper working city, full of life. The day we were there there was a demonstration taking place because of the lack of jobs…

French cheese

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

..and we spent quite a bit of time in the indoor market, Les Halles, where there were tempting stalls selling everything from cheese…

Fish Avignon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…to fish…

tulips

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…and flowers…

…we didn’t have much opportunity to speak French, but took to saying ‘pff’ and shrugging our shoulders in that Gallic style…

the Rhône.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

..and flowing outside the city, the Rhône river was absolutely beautiful, so calming (and who doesn’t remember the words to Sur le pont d’Avignon…)

sunny and windy in Avignon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…it was very sunny, and also windy; as one of my friends said, this photo sums up ‘sunny and windy’ perfectly.

Sunset at Pont du Gard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We also got to visit the amazing Pont du Gard, 40 minutes from Avignon, which is an ancient Roman aqueduct bridge and well worth seeing.

On the way to the airport I had a conversation with my cab driver who was an elderly French woman in what can only be described as pitifully bad schoolgirl French; it was like being driven by my mother, but with no arguments involved. How refreshing though, to have a cab driver who is an elderly woman. I can’t imagine that ever happening here.

I absolutely fell in love with Avignon, and would love the chance to go back. And hopefully speak better French next time.

Help kids discover their family First World War heroes

When No 1 Son was starting to learn about the First World War at school he came home one day with the inevitable question: “did we have any family members who fought in the War, Mum?”

I knew, of course, that neither of my grandfathers had fought in the First World War because they were too young; but what I did know from my work on the paternal side of our family tree was that there was a possibility that some of our male ancestors may have fought in the First World War. Unfortunately there was no one for me to ask – and this is why the internet is SO awesome, because by doing some googling I discovered that there’s a site called the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. And on here, you can type in the names of relatives and if there’s a record of them having died in the First or Second World War, it will find them – and tell you where and when they died, and where they’re buried (or marked on a memorial).

Lijssenthoek Military CemeterySo what No 1 Son and I discovered was that we had not one, but two relatives, cousins of my paternal grandmother’s, who died in the First World War. One, Harold Clinkard, died near Ypres in the Battle of Mount Sorrel, serving in the Canadian Infantry (this led me to discover that he had been a ‘British Home Child’, one of the children who were shipped overseas supposedly for a better life, but often with disastrous results). He was 21 when he was killed, and is buried at Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery.

Thiepval MemorialAnd Harold’s cousin, also confusingly called Harold Clinkard, had died in the Battle of the Somme, aged 22, and was commemorated at the Thiepval Memorial in Northern France.

Discovering these stories (along with Horrible Histories, of course) helped bring the First World War to life for our son; and then his dad decided to take him to both Thiepval and Lijssenthoek so they could find our relatives’ names and pay their respects. They both said it was an incredibly moving experience and one they will remember always.

poppyAnd of course the sad reality is that nearly all families have First World War heroes, whose stories are waiting to be discovered. Lest we forget.

 

 

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