Tom Fletcher Book Club 2

Bestselling (and current Jones family favourite) children’s author Tom Fletcher is back with his second book club exclusive to WHSmith.

Tom has selected 10 more brilliant books for 7 to 11-year olds to get them excited and inspired to read, by offering a wide variety of titles by both established and debut authors.

When the books arrived both my children (aged 7 and 9) were beyond excited and thrilled that all the books in Tom’s selection were eminently appealing. They couldn’t wait to each choose their first book!

Tom Fletcher Book Club 2

Tom Fletcher Book Club 2


My son, Alex, headed first for The Chocolate Factory Ghost, where at the McBudge Confectionary Company something’s going on. Something suspicious, supernatural… sinister.. Yes, he was instantly gripped and wanted to learn more!

My daughter, Carys, opted for The Travels of Ermine, the story of a small stoat on a big journey around the world who is determined to fill her scrapbook with tales of adventure. Armed with her toolkit and feathered hat, Ermine arrives in New York to stay with Michael Megabucks and his son. She is soon fighting off alligators at Central Park Zoo and outwitting bungling diamond thieves! Carys (who can be quite feisty herself!), was mesmerised!

The Travels of Ermine


The other fantastic titles include:

Iguana Boy Saves the World – Dylan has always wanted a superpower, especially since his brother and sister have got really awesome ones. But when his wish finally comes true, Dylan is royally cheesed off. For Dylan has become … Iguana Boy.

I Swapped My Brother on the Internet – `I can get a new brother? On the internet?’ Jonny muttered. Everyone has dreamed of being able to get rid of their brother or sister at one time or another… For Jonny, the dream is about to become a reality with!

Dave Pigeon – If you can read this, you obviously understand Pigeonese. Therefore you may read the book of Dave Pigeon. Dave Pigeon is the incredibly heroic story of how the bravest pigeon of all pigeonkind defeated Mean Cat.

The Unlikely Adventues of Mabel Jones – When Mabel Jones unknowingly commits ‘The Deed’ she finds herself swiftly bundled into a sack and carried off to the pirate ship the Feroshus Maggot. Crewed by the strangest bunch of pirates you would ever want to meet and captained by the dreaded Idryss Ebeneezer Split, the Feroshus Maggot whisks Mabel Jones off on the adventure of a lifetime.

The Nothing to See Here Hotel – A hotel for magical creatures, where weird is normal for Frankie Banister and his parents who run the hotel. When a goblin messenger arrives, announcing the imminent arrival of the goblin prince Grogbah, Frankie and his family rush into action to get ready for their important guest. However, the Banister family are going to have their work cut out… There’s a demanding prince and his never-ending entourage…

My Magical Life – Eleven-year-old Zach has magical powers, just like everyone in his family, but he’s having trouble harnessing his abilities. To help his powers manifest, Zach’s parents decide that he needs to be around ‘real’ people more. No more homeschooling – it’s time for Zach to enter the scary world of secondary school! But Zach can’t resist a bit of magic…

Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made -The hilarious and ever-optimistic Timmy Failure books are perfect for fans of Wimpy Kid and Big Nate. Meet Timmy Failure, founder of the “best” detective agency in town – Total Failure, Inc. With the help of his polar bear, Total, the clueless, comically self-confident Timmy already has plans for world domination.

Timmy Failure


The 39 Storey Treehouse – Andy and Terry’s have an amazing treehouse which has thirteen new levels! They’ve added a chocolate waterfall you can swim in, a volcano for toasting marshmallows and a bulldozer-battling level. There’s also a baby-dinosaur-petting zoo, a not-very-merry merry-go-round, a boxing elephant called the Trunkinator, an X-ray room, a disco with light-up dance floor, the world’s scariest roller coaster and a top-secret thirty-ninth level which hasn’t even been finished yet!

As you can see, there are so many wonderful reads! What a fantastic selection from Tom Fletcher, and a must-have book club!

Check out what we’re reading on my Instagram feed!

Happy reading!

Carol xxx

The Soap Co: An Ethical Brand

Every so often you find a company with inspirational products and an ethical stance to match. The Soap Co is one such company, and I was thrilled when I found them profiled in a recent copy of The Simple Things magazine.



The Soap Co. is an ethical luxury brand that creates sophisticated body care products to nurture and care for your skin. Based in East London, and with a traditional workshop in the Lake District (I so want to visit!), all their products are handcrafted in the UK by people who are blind, disabled or otherwise disadvantaged.

Their award winning packaging is, quite simply, perfect. It is minimalist, contemporary and environmentally friendly with locally sourced bottles and compostable soap wrappers. They have a very simple and very powerful ‘no compromise’ approach. This means they always strive for perfect products and exceptional customer service. At the core of their company is a desire to take care of their amazing employees who make everything possible.



Building on their commitment to handcraft products in the UK, they use only natural botanicals, nourishing vitamins and pure essentials oils. It goes without saying that there is no animal testing, and no use of parabens. Just like their fabulous branding, their ethics are black and white.

The Soap Co: It’s Black and White

We’ve all started to wake up to the devastating impact our use of plastics is having on our beautiful planet, and The Soap Co are always striving to reduce our impact on the environment. Their ingredients, bottles and labels wherever possible are sourced from UK. They have been inspired by Dame Ellen Macarthur’s Foundation (EMF) and their work to create the Circular Economy 100. Their philosophy, to design with more thought, is at the very core of The Soap Co.



Bottles are made from milk bottles and with a 45% lower environmental impact than regular PET bottles. The packaging film looks and acts like plastic but is made from renewable wood pulp. Sticky labels can all be composted, and their paper is both recycled and recyclable. Their glue is non-toxic and biodegradable. YES, YES, YES!

I have been trying their 100% natural bath and body oil collections. They are made in small batches by hand and are scented with pure botanicals. They lift your mood, detoxify your mind, and renew your emotional and spiritual balance. It’s a dose of pure indulgence, and I wouldn’t be without them now!

Please do pop over to their website, it’s truly inspirational and they have a story to tell! It’s a story worth reading and it deserves to be heard.

Carol xxx

Kitchen Cooker Style from Everhot

Some time ago I wrote a blog post on the gorgeous Teal Range Cooker from Everhot. It’s still an amazing colour and definitely a real statement piece. It’s one of these cookers which sits happily on my wish list! I love the retro yet very contemporary feel, and therein lies the appeal for me! At the moment though I’m rather torn, as Everhot have gone and introduced some new gorgeous colours!

Kitchen Cooker Style from Everhot

Yes, they’ve introduced the NEW Dusky Pink electric range cooker! The colour of country kitchens has continued its renaissance in the past year, and now dusky pink (one of this year’s hottest colour trends) follows the success of the Teal cookers. Here it’s been combined with dark blue, but it would look just a lovely with neutral colours!

Everhot Dusky Pink

If pink isn’t doing it for you, then Everhot’s NEW limited edition colour will make you ‘Fern Green’ with envy! The cooker is fresh, lively and sure to make a statement in your kitchen.

Everhot Fern Green

Everhot’s handbuilt cookers are the most energy efficient heat storage ranges on the market.  Using less than half the energy of comparable range cookers, Everhot cookers gently warm a kitchen using electricity, making them quick to switch on or off. They are easy to install, well suited to running off solar or other forms of renewable energy and, above all, great for cooking. With a wide choice of sizes and models there’s an Everhot to suit every kitchen.  Lower energy bills and the absence of any servicing costs only add to their appeal!

The first Everhot range was built more than 35 years ago at Coaley Mill in Gloucestershire. The aim was to develop an efficient heat storage range which would make use of the water turbine installed by the owner, Ossie Goring.  While Ossie still lives at the mill, his son, Guy, now runs the business. Everhot certainly move with the times though, and their passion for conserving energy has led to the whole company being carbon negative.

My wish list just got longer!


Word of the Year 2018

I am one of those people who find New Years Resolutions extremely difficult to keep! I start with great intentions and real resolve, only to find that once back in my post-Christmas routine other things seem to take priority!

Word of the Year 2018

For two years now I have been using the idea of a word for the year, and I have found this to be a much more powerful concept. By choosing a word for the year ahead I am able to give myself a goal to work towards. As a result I have a definite intention and a way of focusing on how I want the year ahead to flow. It works brilliantly and removes many of the stresses associated with trying to keep and not break New Years Resolutions! This year I’m going to write my word down, put it somewhere obvious and give myself constant little reminders!

I usually find the easiest way to identify a word is to focus on what I want to achieve in the year ahead. I then play around with words which might lead me to achieve my goals. Last year I blogged these few simple steps to help you identify your word and your theme for the year ahead.

What will your word be?


My word for 2018 is ‘be’, or more accurately – just be! As The Red Fairy Project puts it…

Take a few moments today to just be. Breathe, relax and enjoy where you are. Let go of the past, the future, the planning, analysing, controlling and just be at peace. You have what it takes within you, you just have to create space in your day to get into contact with it and quiet the mind.

When you have your chosen word, be sure to share it with me here! I’d love to support you by holding a place on my blog for you this year. What will your Word of the Year 2018 be?


10 Tips to Survive Christmas

The weeks of preparation are finally behind us, and Christmas is here! I’m sure lots of people love Christmas, but for many it can be a time of stress, worry and exhaustion! For my final post before the big day, I thought I’d share some very simple tips to help you survive Christmas… Here goes…

Christmas CAN be fun!


10 Tips to Survive Christmas

  1. Forget ‘perfect’ and focus instead on ‘good enough’. Expectations run high at this time of year, and we unnecessarily put ourselves under immense pressure to be ‘perfect’ and have the perfect Christmas.
  2. Don’t be fooled by social media, pictures of everyone else having a marvellous Christmas are not always what they seem!
  3. Go for a walk, sometimes getting out of the house and exercising is all that’s needed to relieve stress.
  4. Get plenty of sleep – tiredness does nothing other than fray nerves and leave you feeling overwhelmed.
  5. Look ahead – if things are getting tense and difficult, focus on planning a lovely treat for the new year. Set an objective or goal to get you through!
  6. Monitor how much alcohol you drink! It’s lovely to have a festive drink or two, but alcohol can easily affect your mood and inhibitions.
  7. Delegate! Even delegating the simplest tasks can take some of the burden off you!
  8. Take a few minutes out and take time to breathe. Just a few minutes away from the noise and chat can do wonders to recharge batteries. Power naps of 10-15 minutes are great too!
  9. Try to see the funny side – better to laugh than to cry!
  10. Keep everything in perspective, it’s just one day of the year!

Some of these might work better for you than others, but I hope that whatever happens over the next few days, you’ll have a very ‘Merry Christmas’… See you the other side!

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Little Silver Leaf

Well, the Christmas shopping is well underway! Presents are being bought (and hidden!) and cards are being written. We’re writing lots of lists to make sure we don’t forget anything – or anyone! I love this time of year, especially shopping for something special for family and friends.

I’m a stationery addict, and this extends to Christmas cards and gift wrap! So many colours, styles and designs to choose from – it really can be a bit bewildering! Sometimes I think it helps to go with a theme each year, and work to that as a guide. This year ‘handmade’ is a part of my theme, and I’ve extended it to those all-important Christmas cards!

Little Silver Leaf

A couple of months ago I came across Little Silver Leaf, and the designs caught my eye immediately.

Handmade Christmas Cards


Little Silver Leaf is a hand-crafted stationery business based in central Scotland, with a focus on individuality, creativity, and quality. The owner, Karen, is a self-taught designer and maker. From her little studio in central Scotland she produces a growing range of original paper goods, including greetings cards.

I love that she prefers to work with recycled card and paper wherever possible, and her work features her own illustrated embellishments, and hand-painted designs and lettering.

I love all her Christmas cards, the ‘Scottie’ is a real favourite of mine – totally impossible to resist! I’d go so far as to say it’s my favourite card of the year!

Do pop over and take a look at Karen’s new website, it’s full of lots of lovely designs for all those special occasions – not just Christmas!

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Christmas Colour with Kali Stileman

With Christmas fast approaching (yes, I’m finally blogging about Christmas!), my thoughts are turning to Christmas cards. This year I’ve fallen in love with the gorgeous range of Christmas cards by Kali Stileman! I have long been a fan of Kali’s work, I love her bold and fun use of colour, and her distinctive style which sets her apart from so many other designers.

In her varied career Kali has illustrated for the Body Shop, painted murals, taught primary aged children, painted botanical images for a ceramics company and then (when her son began full time school), she started up The Square Card Company which later became Kali Stileman Publishing.



Kali’s children are her greatest inspiration and her fiercest critics, and they have come up with lots of ideas for her over the years!

In recent years Kali has been writing and illustrating books for Random House, designing calendars and family planners for a German company, bag and wrap designs for Glick, a range of wall stickers with Stickerscape, and cushions for ‘We Love Cushions’.

Christmas Colour with Kali Stileman

Kali has a wonderful range of Christmas cards, all fun and brightly coloured – and full of festive cheer! My children love her designs and have recently ‘acquired’ quite a few from my collection which they want to give to family, friends and teachers this Christmas! I think even the annual chore of card writing might be a little more fun for them this year as a result of these lovely designs!

We loved the mini Christmas cards, especially the snowflake and angels designs. Kali also has personalised cards available too, where you can personalise the bubble above the illustration on each card – such a clever idea! You can write your own message, or get Kali’s company to print them out for you!

Personalised Cards


Kali sells her designs through shops, her website and her Not On The High Street shop!

If that wasn’t enough festive fun, she also has some super cool and colourful wrapping paper too!

Happy shopping!

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Bloomsbury Children’s Books – Autumn 2017

Both my 8 and my 6 year old are becoming fluent readers, and recently both have taken a step away from their ‘reading books’ into the world of real literature. They are ready for texts which require more reading stamina.

This is a tricky time as their confidence is riding high and they want to read lengthier books. However, sometimes this results in them becoming a little over ambitious in their choices! I applaud my son’s desire to read the Harry Potter novels, but the simple truth is he’s not quite there yet!

Bloomsbury kindly sent me their new autumn and winter releases, and they are perfect for my children. The text is manageable yet also develops their vocabulary and comprehension as they become immersed in more complex stories.

Here are just a few of their current favourites:

Bloomsbury Children’s Books – Autumn 2017

Witch Snitch

Perfect for Halloween! Tiga and friends are famous throughout Sinkville for their part in the Witch Wars competition. Now they have been asked to make a TV documentary about the most interesting witches in town. Whilst Tiga enjoys making the documentary, she can’t help but feel there’s something going on behind her back …

This is a hilarious companion story to the main Witch Wars series. It is, however, a great standalone title, full of character profiles, facts and activities to give children everything they need to create their very own Witch Wars party.

Click here to order your copy – Witch Snitch: The Inside Scoop on the Witches of Ritzy City (Witch Wars)

On trend witchy mayhem!


Curse of the Werewolf Boy

Sticking with Halloween… Mildew and Sponge don’t think much of Maudlin Towers, the blackened, gloom-laden, gargoyle-infested monstrosity that is their school. But when somebody steals the School Spoon and the teachers threaten to cancel the Christmas holidays until the culprit is found, our heroes must spring into action and solve the crime!

Who is the ghost in the attic? What’s their history teacher doing with a time machine? And why do a crazy bunch of Vikings seem to think Mildew is a werewolf?

Hugely funny, deliciously creepy and action-packed by turns, this brand new series from Chris Priestley is perfect for 8+ readers who like their mysteries with a bit of bite. Fans of Lemony Snicket and Chris Riddell will love Curse of the Werewolf Boy.

Click here to order your copy – Curse of the Werewolf Boy (Maudlin Towers)

An action-packed mystery!


Safari Pug (moving away from Halloween!)

My son is a huge fan of the Pug and Lady Miranda stories! He has both the previous two ‘Pug’ stories and whenever he gets the latest book he has to look and see what the next story to be published will be called!

When Pug and Lady Miranda have a scary run-in with a lion one night (he might be hiding under the bed), Lady M decides Pug needs to face his fears and go on safari. Pug goes a bit wobbly when he finds out he’ll be coming nose to nose with Florence, the rare white lion cub, but he soon realises that lions may not be the most dangerous thing in the wildlife park… Safari Pug didn’t disappoint!

Click here to order your copy – Safari Pug (The Adventures of Pug)

Pug faces his fears!


These books have bought much joy to my children, and their reading journey!

Happy reading!

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Snapshots of Life

The other day I read a lovely article in the John Lewis magazine. India Knight was discussing how she passionately believes you should put the ‘heart’ into the home, especially in this era of minimalism. This is something I constantly struggle with! I want a home which is clean, cool and soothing… Yet I also want to have around me the objects and trinkets which make it a true home. For a long time I thought the two weren’t compatible, and then India’s article got me thinking…

I am a sentimentalist at heart, and I freely confess to collecting and keeping items which resonate with me – a wonky clay pot made by my children, their brightly coloured artwork, my Grandmother’s silver hat pins and silver sugar tongs… None of these items have any real monetary value, yet all are precious in their own ways to me.

I guess what I’m beginning to understand is that less is sometimes more! Minimalism can be the very vehicle which actually allows you to put your heart into your home!

Snapshots of Life

This autumn I’m really focussing on what I can cull (the mundane paraphenalia which I unnecessarily accumulate!) and on making room for those possessions which I can lovingly curate and display. No more dusty boxes under beds, housing treasures which are forgotten but not quite forgotten…

Magical Memories


My goal over the coming months centres on reconnecting with those snapshots of my life represented by items which deserve to be seen and curated in little seasonal displays. Above all they need to be enjoyed! These items really are my treasures, each tells a story and connects me to a time, place or person in my life. All are emotionally nourishing and stand as testaments to the life I have lived.

As India Knight says herself, ‘precious doesn’t even begin to cover it’.

What items will you be displaying and curating this autumn? I’d love to hear from you!

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Visiting Petersham Nurseries Richmond

Well, over the past couple of weeks I’ve been following my own advice, and embracing all the joy that a change of seasons brings with it! I’ve been out and about and we had a wonderful family visit to Petersham Nurseries last weekend!

Petersham Nurseries has long been on my ‘to visit’ list, as I’ve heard nothing but good things from friends! Their website is gloriously tempting, and any business with this quote has to be worth a visit…


Visiting Petersham Nurseries Richmond

Petersham Nurseries is perhaps most well-known to foodies for the Petersham Nurseries Cafe and Teahouse. The food, freshly grown and seasonal, speaks for itself – as do the sometimes super long queues to get into the cafe! The ambience is bustling but relaxed and truly eclectic. I loved the variety of wooden tables, reclaimed chairs and bamboo covered roof.

Despite the long queues, there are plenty of chairs and tables dotted around, both inside and outside the greenhouse. Many of these are cleverly placed amongst huge pots and urns brimming with gorgeous seasonal plants. The tables have smaller glass jars bursting with colour!

The Teahouse is adjacent to the Cafe, and provides a sophisticated yet casual restaurant dining experience.

Nursery and Garden Shop

At the heart of the business is the Nursery and Garden Shop, which stock both familiar and unusual specimens of plants and flowers, alongside beautiful artisan gardening tools and equipment. Everything flows seamlessly, as home and garden become entwined!

The Shop at Richmond is a truly unparalleled lifestyle and homewares shop, selling a diverse, unique and eclectic range of gifts, furniture and antiques. The shop is renowned for its ever-changing selection of chandeliers, glassware, mirrors and antique furniture, sourced locally and internationally.

The displays are truly breathtaking and inspirational too! There really is something for almost everyone!

Due to its’ popularity, Petersham Nurseries gets very busy. With the restaurant and cafe dominating the space, it’s easy to miss the hidden gems on view. Take your time, double check you’ve walked all around and enjoy a true feast for the eyes and the senses!

Finally, parking is very very limited, so use public transport unless you absolutely have to drive!

Happy shopping!

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Embracing the End of Summer

Well September is well and truly underway, and summer feels like a lifetime ago! I don’t know about you, but I always feel that as soon as the September routine kicks in everything which has gone before seems to become a bit of a blur!

I know for some people the end of summer and the beginning of autumn can be a difficult time. It’s not hard to see why – we lose the warmth and daylight hours and for many of us with families, our days return to routine, clock-watching and generally spinning plates!

I personally love this time of year, and try to embrace all that it has to offer. For those of you who are less keen, here’s a few tips on how to ease that transition from summer into autumn and winter…

Embracing the End of Summer


It sounds so simple but remember to savour and enjoy the daylight hours we still have! The nights are definitely drawing in, but make the most of the remaining daylight hours – whether it’s an early evening stroll or simply a quick walk at lunchtime when the weather is nice, get out there! Autumn is renowned for its’ ‘golden light’ – so catch it when you can!

embracing autumn


Embrace the opportunity to get into a new routine, and think critically about how you can plan your week. Learn from past mistakes and see this as a new opportunity to approach your week with a different outlook and different time frames to reduce pressure. What didn’t work last year, and what could de done to improve the way your week flows?

embracing autumn


Autumn has recently be referred to as ‘the new January’. I can see the logic in this. It can feel like a fresh start and an opportunity to look at what you have achieved this year and what you want to achieve during the last part of the year. Don’t beat yourself up about what you haven’t done, celebrate where you are now and plan where you want to be by December.


Every season brings with it a certain necessity to update your home and wardrobe, so embrace that! I’ve just taken lots of pleasure from choosing a new winter coat – in a rich and cosy dark grape shade for something different, and a total contrast to my cream coat of previous years! I’m deliberating on a new shade for my Moshulu slippers too!

At home my light strings and Skye scented candles are really coming into their own, and I love creating a cosy, intimate environment! I’m going to be getting my hygge on too, as soon as opportunity allows!

Whatever your plans this autumn, look for the joy a change of season can bring. If all else fails, at least you can hope for an ‘Indian Summer’!

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The Rattan Revolution

When I think of rattan, I tend to think of decorative items such as baskets and plant containers. More recently rattan has been used for furniture, mainly due to its qualities. it is lightweight, durable, suitable for outdoor use, and (to a certain extent) flexible. Rattan is somewhat similar to bamboo, it accepts paint really well and does not splinter.

Interior designers have used rattan as an established and stylish material to add a natural and slightly rustic look to homes. This autumn it appears that our current love affair with rattan is simply growing stronger!

The Rattan Revolution

Many companies are featuring rattan in their autumn and winter collections, and also being as inventive as possible in the way it is being used. One of my favourite online retailers, Cox and Cox, have introduced a huge range of rattan furniture and decorative items for their new collection. Here are just a few of my favourites:

Rattan Cone Chair

Woven from natural rattan with a strong elegant metal frame, this new Rattan Cone Chair has been updated with a smoother, comfier shape and stronger finish. Perfect for a bedroom, conservatory or study!

Rattan Side Table

This stylish round coffee table is inspired by 70s Scandi, and will add a touch of bohemian style to any living space. Each piece features a flat top with gently curved sides and an open bottom for simplicity. This side table has a natural blonde rattan finish.

Rattan Table Lamp

With a Scandi inspired woven rattan base, this unique table lamp has a simple oval shape and natural cotton shade. It sits beautifully with a natural or white interior.

Rattan Christmas!

Apologies for mentioning Christmas in August, but it seems Cox and Cox are ahead of the game too! This year you can hide away those ugly tree stands with a rattan Christmas tree ring. Made from hand woven split rattan, this simple ring adds the finishing touch to any tree.

This year there’s even ‘faux Rattan’ light up stars made from weatherproof plastic designed to look just like real rattan! This large lit star decoration is perfect for creating a festive outdoor look. Each piece has a metal frame, woven with grey faux rattan and lit with 36 warm white lights.

To conclude, it would appear that every room and season is covered! Will you be joining the rattan revolution this Autumn and Winter?

Happy shopping!

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