Easy midweek recipe: Old El Paso “Stand & Stuff” soft vegetarian tacos #tacotuesday

We’re big fans of easy mid-week meals in our family, particularly as we both work out of the house full-time and Pip doesn’t get picked up until 6pm. Although she does have tea at 5pm at pre-school, we do like to try and sit down to eat as a family, and have come to accept that to achieve this, mid-week meals need to be fast to compile. We also try to eat a vegetarian meal a few times a week.

We get a veg box from Riverford* delivered on a Tuesday, so this vegetarian taco meal is a perfect Tuesday night feast. I was invited by Old El Paso to go to a cookery school, Food at 52, to learn how to make them, and they were so tasty, I wanted to share the recipe.

The beauty of this recipe is that there really are no set amounts or even contents – that said, as the combination we learnt at Food at 52 is not one I would have thought of personally but I thought it was delicious, I thought I’d share!

Ingredients for vegetarian tacos including sweet potato, onion, courgette, red pepper, kidney beans, Old El Paso taco shells.

Ingredients for vegetarian tacos including sweet potato, onion, courgette, red pepper, kidney beans, Old El Paso taco shells.

Click through for the recipe

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Examining the Dyson V6.

Dyson: An impressive British technology company (& a review of the Dyson V6 total clean)

Why I like Dyson, like their cordless technology, particularly the Dyson V6 total clean, and some thoughts on education, particularly in relation to technology and STEM subjects, and The James Dyson Foundation.

Blogging in action. Filming the Dyson V6  in action at the #nocordsattached event.

Blogging in action. Filming the Dyson V6 in action at the #nocordsattached event.

I often think about Pip and her future; I don’t think I would be a good parent if I didn’t, so I don’t think it’s an unusual position. However, I feel particularly responsible that I need to ensure that she has all the foundation or building block skills to be able to follow whatever life direction she chooses.

There’s the obvious ones – reading, writing, core academic subjects – some of which we can start with at home, and some of which we will influence by our educational choices for her. Then there are things like the value of money, economics, languages, technology, coding, musical knowledge – reading music and playing, as well as an appreciation for listening – politics, social skills, confidence, caring for others, cooking and so the list goes.

I wonder if part of the reason I worry about this is because as a girl I perceive she *may* end up being guided towards a more caring and arts based career (and therefore it be traditionally lower paid – though that’s a post for another time) if we don’t not only reiterate the possibilities but actively seek to promote more STEM type, problem solving, logical skill sets.

It was therefore with interest that I heard about the James Dyson Foundation when I attended an event at the Dyson showroom in Kensington recently. Obviously I was ostensibly there to hear about the new Dyson cordless vacuum cleaners (and I’ve become rather a Dyson convert – more on that later in the post – in the process) but it was some of the wider issues that I found most compelling.

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Snow, swans and getting hygge (or, my desire to be cosy & some news)

Something told the wild geese
It was time to go,
Though the fields lay golden
Something whispered, “snow.”

Leaves were green and stirring,
Berries, luster-glossed,
But beneath warm feathers
Something cautioned, “frost.”

All the sagging orchards
Steamed with amber spice,
But each wild breast stiffened
At remembered ice.

Something told the wild geese
It was time to fly,
Summer sun was on their wings,
Winter in their cry.

~Something Told the Wild Geese, Rachel Field

This is one of my favourite poems, and I’m sure I’ve posted it before. It’s what always comes to mind at this time of year, and what sprang to mind immediately earlier when I read that folklore has it that we are due a harsh winter this year, as the arrival of Siberian swans in Britain is the earliest for 50 years, and other early arrivals have heralded particular chilly winters. (I know, swans and geese are not the same).

The imagery of the wheat fields, frost and migrating birds, combined with the golden sunlight of this time of year and the clocks going back seems to conspire in my brain to mean that I am massively craving time to be peaceful and cosy and hunker down at home with my family. I can’t seem to find enough time to enjoy snugging up at home, candles lit, fire on, and enjoying simple things such as drinking coffee, playing games with Pip, even doing the odd jigsaw as a family. I’ve made no secret of my love of Denmark and I wish we had a word for it like the Danes do (you’ve probably read a bit about the concept of hygge recently if you read any of the same mainstream press that I do).

I’ve started thinking about how we will celebrate the various of the celebrations that occur between now and January, booking tickets to various festive things, and even thinking about what to wear and wanting to buy new slippers. I also desperately want to go back to Denmark – we went in December of 2013 and June of this year.

I’ve been reading Helen Russell’s The Year of Living Danishly: Uncovering the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country after a recommendation from Nicki (which was where I no doubt got the geese into my head too) and massively enjoying realising that the cosiness I crave is actually a *thing* and that it is achievable. It’s not just the hormone rush of the second trimester (see, I told you I had news!) but an actual, genuine, thing, that was first documented in 18th-century in Denmark). Finally, a reason for all those candles, blankets and other things essential to being cosy – although, strictly speaking, hygge is about appreciating low-cost things, not a justification for spending a week’s wage in Diptyque, wonderful as they smell.

I’ll be back with a full review when I’ve finished it…

PS. I realised I hadn’t shared any of the photos – they are still on my camera I think, but I found these on my phone of hygge in June. (And the amazing light in Snekkersten, just north of Copenhagen).




My all-American plaid dream with #landsendstylestudio

I love this time of year. The air getting crisper, the nights drawing in. There’s a definite place in my heart for summer, but I also secretly love it when the clocks go back and we have gorgeous golden afternoons and long dark cosy winter evenings. (I can take or leave January through to April though).

This week leading up to Halloween and then in the period leading up to Christmas, I always somehow think of American brands. In the novels I used to read as a teenager Halloween and Thanksgiving were both big holidays – and because we lived in California for a couple of years when I was growing up and celebrated them both – I am quite fond of the festivities of this time of year too. Add in the British bonfire night and there’s any number of reasons (well, 3, at least) for getting together as a family for a cosy festive night.landsend1













I guess the American bit of the celebration makes me crave that wholesome American look – plaid shirts, boots, jeans, proper outerwear and good knitwear and hats/gloves/scarves. I waited *ages* for some American brands to be available easily in the UK (J.Crew, West Elm etc) but what I hadn’t realised was we already had one; a genuine, designed in the US but available for UK money, right here, since the 1990s. I knew the brand, I just didn’t realise it was American; Lands’ End.
















That’s right. Lands’ End is an authentic American brand, established in the US in 1963, specialising in outerwear, knitwear and with a real focus on customer centricity, selling all-American casual and heritage influenced clothing, right here in the UK, and I didn’t realise. (Yes, that’s me with the crap hair-do below admiring the amazing plaid shirts. I am so getting one for the Christmas period). I was invited with some other bloggers to visit their HQ and ask their design and marketing teams questions about the brand and product, as well as eat cake.

Lands End Blogger Day, September 2015

Lands End Blogger Day, September 2015

I also rather liked this faux-fur snood as you can see below (this plaid scarf would fit the bill too) and I have been very much enjoying wearing on my commute to work the leather gloves with cashmere lining that I was gifted by Lands’ End. I also really want to get a proper American heritage tote bag, perfect for avoiding that new 5p bag charge.

Lands End Blogger Day, September 2015

Lands End Blogger Day, September 2015

The other thing I was rather taken with was the outerwear, particularly the children’s outerwear. High spec, incredibly so, but also really good value for money. (The childrenswear in general is great – perhaps this is where all the American families get their matching shirts and pyjamas from?! but the outerwear stood out particularly).

Lands End Blogger Day, September 2015

Lands End Blogger Day, September 2015

We were shown all the features of the various jackets, which include fleece linings, snow cuffs and “grow-a-long” extendable sleeves which can give an extra 3.5cm to extend the wear of the jacket, as well as catering for a variety of cold sounding temperatures. These coats are not just designed for UK weather – they are designed for kids that live in Wisconsin, where it gets pretty damn chilly (have you read Laura Ingalls Wilder?) so these aren’t just nice looking coats, they are the real deal, but not at the price point I expected. The squall jacket, for example, is designed for temperatures down to -20C, so more than sufficient for a UK winter, but is only £60. You can see me above, asking questions, including about the boy/girl differences (colours only, fit is the same) and why the iron knee jeans are only marketed to boys (they had them for girls too originally, but they didn’t sell).

Lands End Blogger Day, September 2015

Lands End Blogger Day, September 2015

Lands’ End have kindly offered me and my readers a 30% discount until midnight on 31 October 2015. Just enter LESTYLE at the checkout (full T&C’s below). I am sorry this only gives you a week left to shop – there is a reason for my lack of posts recently. All will be revealed very soon… :)

Thanks to Lands’ End who invited Pip, Marto and me to their UK HQ in Oakham for cakes, a chat and then a lovely boat ride on Rutland Water, which those that follow me on Instagram will have seen back in September. I wasn’t paid for this post but were given a generous gift from Lands’ End which included a Squall Jacket for Pip, and gloves and a throw for me. 

T&C: 30% discount applies to Lands’ End products only. Orders must be placed before 23:59 on Saturday 31st October 2015. Discount will be applied where the code LESTYLE is entered correctly. Not to be used in conjunction with any other offer. Cannot be exchanged for cash, used to purchase Gift Vouchers, concession items or other Lands’ End services such as monogramming or gift boxing. Cannot be redeemed against any items previously ordered or purchased from Lands’ End. Will be applied pro-rata across all discounted items in your basket (for example, if you buy 3 items worth £10, you will be discounted £3.33 on each item)

Sleep tips


I am still alive, I promise, and will be back soon at the weekend with some posts about what I have been up to – life has been exceedingly busy! Who knew that working full time, having a three year old and trying to keep up with real life could be so time consuming. Still, I think now the summer holidays are over we are getting back into the swing of the routine a little, and may actually have one or two weekends at home.

I’m just popping in tonight to say hello though, as I did finally have part of an evening to myself, that I’ve written a little on sleep tips over at Love Boo. I will try and do some kind of longer follow up post here too on sleep as the workshop I mentioned in the post I found to be extremely helpful, and we made progress without having to resort to crying it out. So, there is hope!

Also, I bought a ticket to Blogfest – is anyone else going?

Blouse c/o Mamas & Papas Liberty collection 

#SaveSyriasChildren: Please don’t choose apathy

It could have been my child

It could have been my child #SaveSyriasChildren

Much like many people, the growing, escalating, refugee crisis has been hovering in the periphery of my conscious for weeks. I’ve read articles, signed petitions and debated with my husband, family and friends/colleagues as to what we should be doing personally, as a community, as a country, politically and otherwise. There is no easy answer; and I’ve been particularly disheartened to see the articles saying we shouldn’t give any more assistance; when I’ve encountered frankly disgusting comments on Facebook suggesting that what we need to do is tighten our borders more, to close the Eurostar and Eurotunnel, or that parents were responsible for, even caused, their children’s death and suffering through greed not need or desperation.

It bothers me that it took a shocking photo of a drowned child to turn the media tide, for people to be galavanised in a way that they weren’t last week, but I also accept that is how things work sometimes. Momentum gathers, and at least now movement might start to be made. Perhaps everyone was as paralysed by apathy as I was; deeply upset but unsure what could be done in real terms to assist.

“The U.N. estimates that 7.6 million [Syrian] people are internally displaced. When you also consider refugees, more than half of the country’s pre-war population of 23 million is in need of urgent humanitarian assistance, whether they still remain in the country or have escaped across the borders… the U.N. predicts there could be 4.27 million Syrian refugees by the end of 2015″ {source}

This campaign, of course, is not really an answer either, but, it is something. I’ve joined together with parent bloggers across the UK to say please don’t turn a blind eye. Do something to help. Anything. Whatever you decide, don’t choose apathy. #SaveSyriasChildren‬.

TEXT 70008 and the word SYRIA to donate £5 | Web donations can be made here.

Save The Children’s terms and conditions can be found here.

Life lately… {musings on hidden costs}


Can it really be more than a month than I posted? Seems to be somewhat of a refrain, these days. I’ve a whole list of things I want to write about but at the moment they don’t seem to be getting beyond that. I wish we’d been busy doing all sorts of interesting things but aside from a couple of interesting outings and a weekend sailing in Cornwall last week (which I might blog about one day) we’ve actually been rather more tied up with family, funerals and a rather scary episode with Pip in hospital a couple of weeks ago when she was treated for (what turned out not to be) meningitis. We’d been out for our anniversary, came back around 12.30am to a worryingly high temperature-d Pip. To cut a long story short, we ended up in A&E on very little sleep, and lets just say this – it was probably hard to work out which of us was requiring medical attention in the taxi on the way to the hospital…

When not hugely busy with all sorts of things we continue our musings as to whether we should try and buy a house. Or, rather, flat. I wouldn’t be surprised if a parking space is all we can manage once we take into account everything that we need to consider costs wise.

The flat a couple of doors down the road is on the market for £535,000. That’s a lot of money for a technically 2 bed property, even if it is in zone 3. The afore-mentioned funeral has led to a possible potential source of deposit, so conversation has taken a slightly more interesting turn but one of the myriad things that worries me about committing to somewhere we are fully and totally responsible for financially is the hidden costs. Surveyors in the first instance, but then all sorts of problems that whilst might be covered by insurance, would also be costly and annoying to fix. We had a flood in our cellar a while ago and it occurred to me just how annoying paying for the replacement of pipes and in due course, relaying the floor will be. We also haven’t had live TV since April. I’m pretty sure the problem is with the external aerial not our internal equipment but it hasn’t bothered me enough to call the Landlord to sort the problem, yet. If we owned the place though, that would be entirely our problem.

The upside to owning of course would be that I could garden properly. We’ve done our best with our small space this year, and it looks like the tomatoes, radishes and sweet peas might actually start bearing something worth picking. The roses we brought in remembrance of each of our grandmothers have also been doing well. In fact, even the rose which my grandmother sent me as a bare root and I have managed to grow into a plant bore one rose, and now, another.

So, decisions, decisions, but it’s not all bad in this little rented place. Maybe we will stay put a little longer.

Photo by me – Regent’s Park Rose Garden – Father’s Day. Post in conjunction with L&G.

Release the bressure

It’s such a middle class, first world, privileged thing to get worked up about, isn’t it. “Mums Feel Intense Pressure To Breastfeed And It’s Been Dubbed ‘The Bressure’” screamed the Huff Post this week. Leaving aside the irritant that everything has to have its own name, I just find it sad that we are still defining our choices in relation to those made by other people.

That said, I have written a bit about breastfeeding before and interestingly, reading back, I see that I wrote about feeling some pressure to breastfeed – from the midwives, I hasten to add, not social media or other mothers. BUT, I would caveat, I am in the exact demographic that I think this campaign is tapping into: middle class and educated, living in a more well off area in a first world country. In other words, in (relative) privilege; lucky to have access to a good diet, clean water and choice.

I did breastfeed. I also bottle fed. I looked through photos and I could find one or two of feeding but not a huge number and the ones that I did find were by and large taken by other people. Just like nappy changing. I rather viewed both as essential rather than photo worthy, although they do feature, just as my own food sometimes features in my photographs and on social media.

IMG_6043Screenshot 2015-05-31 18.38.51

Apparently 2000 mums were interviewed for the campaign. I’d love to see the demographic range. I really think that has a lot to do with expectations; there are still a lot of people living in relative poverty and it is my understanding (especially things like this project) that breastfeeding rates are lower in those areas. I didn’t agree with that campaign either, by the way. I think each woman is entitled to make her own choice about her own body, and paying someone to make a different choice is at the very least patronising, and arguably, tantamount to blackmail.

I do agree with the idea that we shouldn’t be putting mums under pressure, though – I just don’t think making statements such as “most mothers desperately want to breastfeed – but not all can” is either helpful or accurate. In fact, I would argue that this campaign is adding to the pressure, especially when even women supposedly supporting the idea that there is too much pressure say things like “most people know that breast is best and would like to breastfeed their child, but for many reasons they just can’t manage it” (comment from the Huff Post articles comments). I’m not even sure that breast *is* really best – we don’t have randomised trials; groups are self selecting and I’ve not read that babies who are formula fed, for whatever reason, fare worse on average than breastfed babies, not in this country, at any rate.

Even the word “manage” has implications of failure. Personally, I felt I wasn’t up to “managing”, if we’re going to use that word, the logistics of bottle feeding. I was entirely ambivalent about feeding. Pip happened to take to breastfeeding, by luck rather than design, and as she did, it saved me the bother of having to get up in the night and make up formula. But had I been presented with a different set of circumstances, I would have happily not had to be the only one who could do the feeding and have no control over my own body for six months. I certainly didn’t look at photos on Instagram and feel some kind of pressure – or no more than I look at the kitchens of people who live in nice houses and think “that must be nice”.

I also wonder how much of this so called ‘bressure” is a privileged circular self-serving argument; we didn’t realise that we were supposed to feel a pressure from photographs of other people eating until we were told other people did, and we didn’t want to miss out, so we started feeling it too. And as we have money and time and choice, we were able to join in those thoughts. A bit of a ‘bitch eating crackers’ type situation (where once someone does something that you find irritating, the proportion of things they do that you find irritating increases exponentially), if you will?

There is no right answer. How can there be one “right choice” when we all have different needs and bodies? If we accept that, we can then move away from the idea that if we don’t make that same choice, (or can’t, or don’t “manage”) then we’ve failed. Surely we need to release the “bressure” and rather embrace the concept of making our own decisions on our own merits.

Life lately…bits and pieces from May

Do you ever half start writing a post in your head but before you can get to the computer (or should that be “umpewter” as Pip calls it) the post has vanished? I’ve been trying to catch up here with some of the things we’ve been up to recently, but, suddenly it’s nearly June and summer has started and there are a million things to do with living actual life that means very few of them seem to ever make it to the blog. (you can follow me on Instagram if you do like to keep relatively up to date btw).

Anyway, Pip and I managed to go to the opening of KuPP in Paddington a few weeks ago. We (I) like all things scandinavian related, and we also particularly like going out for breakfast. I’ve been trying to take a few random days holiday to spend with her, so we went to KuPP for a quick re-fuel by the boats before heading to the station to get a train to see a friend. The coffee was great, the decor was one of my favourite colours, the staff were lovely and they served pancakes. What’s not to like!?

photo (2)IMG_1419    IMG_1418IMG_1415

Other things we’ve been doing recently have included a trip to Cornwall, balancing lots of work with a spate of toddler illness and I’ve even managed to read a couple of books on my kindle on the commute. Presently, I’m attempting to (re)read To Kill a Mockingbird – I was convinced I’d read it, but I don’t think I can have done. English degree? Hah. I’ve been trying to follow along with the chapters suggested, but #sorrynotsorry I went away on a hen party and haven’t caught up. Find out more on the Twitter feed or search #TKAM.


I’ve also managed to start a mammoth declutter and have some thoughts on how getting agitated about how and what you feed your child is such a privileged middle class first world problem that we need to get a sense of perspective and stop being so effing smug. Maybe I’ll be back again in a few months to share :)

What to buy the #royalbaby: Don’t buy her flowers

I don’t think I’ve made any secrecy of my like of Kate Middleton. We’re the same age (3 days apart) and she comes from a village near the town where I grew up. I feel some kind of affinity towards her, which is clearly ridiculous. It shouldn’t come as any surprise therefore that I spent a fair bit of time glued to an app called Periscope at the weekend, watching the #royalbaby story unfold. (I like Max Foster of CNN by the way – find him here).

I’ll come back to my thoughts on Kate and that photo and parenting another time. My pressing question today is what do you buy a new mum on the birth of her baby? Especially, when, like Kate, she’s probably got all the baby kit already, particularly if the baby is a second child. Several of my friends have had babies recently and although I do eventually send something for the baby in due course, after the birth, in my mind, the present is for mum. Everyone else spoils the baby; I would have loved it had someone bring a present for me.

So, I’ve made an effort to give my friends nice things – scarves, nice toiletries, that kind of thing. Wouldn’t it be handy though, if you could order them from one place, have them nicely packaged and delivered. As easy as flowers, but in all honesty, probably more welcome. Steph had the same idea and she set up Don’t Buy Her Flowers


The premise is simple – flowers are nice, but the average mum receives loads of flowers. (I did, and they’re lovely, but you kind of want them one at a time, not all at once). These packages that Steph has put together mean you can easily give a lovely treat, which doesn’t have to be used or even dealt with straight away. I imagine you eat the chocolate pretty sharpish though… You can even add Cook vouchers to the parcel; a sort of modern equivalent of taking round a home cooked meal. Bonus; they can choose what they actually want to eat, and you don’t have to worry about getting your oven dish back.

Two packages (one wrapped)

Each parcel comes beautifully wrapped. I tested the service, and the parcel was delivered promptly to my chosen new mum and she texted me to say that it made her day and was “just what I needed”. I chose the magazine and the scarf and Steph did the rest. Between us, we created an excellent present!

Care package packaged 3


Steph also writes a blog called Sisterhood (and all that) which is worth a read.

Don’t Buy Her Flowers prices normally start from £21. Steph is having some family time this week so all orders made Monday to Thursday will receive a £4 discount and be dispatched Saturday 16th May. I wasn’t paid for this post, but I was offered a package to review which I had sent to a friend with a new baby.

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