Taking Stock

crocus

 

Hey, it’s been a while, I’m sorry you’ve been neglected but it’s been super busy here; each time I’ve tried to write, something else seems to need my instant attention!  Frustrating but true.  So, to get back into the swing of things, I’ve done you a “Taking Stock” post to catch up…

Making: the Everest of ironing bigger!
Cooking: Apricot flapjacks for after school treats
Drinking: Camomile tea
Reading: “A Game For All The Family” by Sophie Hannah
Wanting: The sunshine to hang around
Looking: In need of a haircut
Playing: Old albums on shuffle
Deciding: If I can face the joys of a food shop today
Wishing: The fridge was already full!
Enjoying: New towels – fluffy!
Waiting: For the washing machine to finish
Liking: A line full of clean sheets
Wondering: If I’m turning into a Grandma (see laundry fixation!)
Loving: My snoring pooch keeping my toes warm
Pondering: Where to start!  List done, just need to action…
Considering: A run – preferable to food shop
Buying: Endless food!  Anyone else’s kids always hungry?!
Watching: The Durrells, Marcella, sport if the chaps in my life have the remote!
Hoping: For something nice in the post
Marvelling: At how much mess a boy can create in his bedroom!
Needing: A magic wand (see above)
Questioning: My sanity (always!)
Smelling: Clean
Wearing: Stripes and Cons…old habits die hard
Following: A host of interesting people on Twitter
Noticing: Birdsong is back, hooray!
Knowing: I’m happy
Thinking: Too much, often late at night
Admiring: People with the courage of their convictions
Sorting: Laundry
Bookmarking: Pages I hope to read soon
Coveting: Homes by the sea
Disliking: Mess
Opening: Kitchen cupboards while making a shopping list
Giggling: Often, it’s good for the soul
Feeling: In control (thanks to a restorative break by the sea)
Snacking: On fruit
Helping: My kids with seemingly endless homework
Hearing: Laughter from the garden…they’re probably up to mischief, but happy so…

How about you?  What are you up to?  Let me know x

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New term, fresh starts

image via Pinterest

image via Pinterest

Certainly Autumnal here today, blue skies, bright sunshine, fresh breeze, heavy dew and the unmistakable tang of change in the air.  Seems like the kids have been back at school for longer than two weeks already, rugby training and hockey are back, the slow cooker has been dusted off in anticipation of post chilly touchline lunches and fresh plans are being hatched.

Regular readers will have noticed that Mrs White has been very quiet for a while, she’s super busy, and as such has decided that she cannot commit to writing here too, so Nicholas and White is just Nicholas now.  I’m not planning a rebrand or giving up the blog, but thought I should let you all know what the score was.

Rest assured that Mrs W and I are still the best of friends: no mega fallout, just that old chestnut of family and work lives being busy and time being scarce.  I may well be tapping up some friends for guest posts in the future (consider yourselves on alert people!), but for now, it’s just me and my musings, on here, on Twitter and of course Pinterest too.

A proper post to follow, but thought I’d get this one out there in the meantime.

Love as ever,

Mrs N xx

Whoosh! What was that?

image via Pinterest

image via Pinterest

Most of August apparently!  “Where on earth has this month gone?” I pondered over a cuppa last night?  So, no surprise, I started to make a little list in my head and this is what I came up with:

Fabulous family holiday in Portugal (shan’t make you all hideously jealous but, suffice to say it was brilliant!  If you’re feeling blue, avoid my IG feed) – so good to see my folks, my brother and his little family (all the way from LA).  Mrs W and Co escaped to France and by all accounts had a super time too.

Rugby camp for Miss F & Master W at our local club, run by the lovely Northampton Saints.  Miss F hugely chuffed to be Saintsman of the week for her age group.

Miss L started her own blog (blind leading the blind, but we’re getting there!  Just the endless nagging now for a Pinterest and Instagram account!).

Catching up with the other side of the family for the dunking of the youngest nephew (though courtesy of the chaos that is the M25, we missed the crucial Church part where Mr N was supposed to do the reading!), still, the ‘after party’ was great.

Afternoons spent with lovely friends, eating well, chatting, letting the kids play ’til past their bedtimes.

We’ve spent so much time outside this holidays, in parks, fields and gardens, it has been just perfect: thank you British summer, you’ve been pretty good to us this year!

I’ve read at least three brilliant books (special mention to Gillian Anderson – she of The Fall, Great Expectations and of course X Files – who has a fab thriller out, ‘A Vision of Fire’ which I demolished at speed!) and have filled my reading list courtesy of friends recommendations.

This week has been (reluctantly) focussing on the return to school of the Nicholas clan, with the sewing box coming out, school shoes and new pencil cases being bought, labelling everything that might ever grace a school corridor and realising that, wow, they have grown again and I might need to hit M&S…again!

image via Pinterest

image via Pinterest

All in all, our August has been a time of recharging and reconnecting (slightly hippyish I’ll grant you, but so needed for us as a family), and a little bit of work.

Tell us, what have you lovely lot been up to, we’d love to know!

Love as ever,

Mrs N x

Peekaboo! We’re back!

Oh, hey there, remember us?  Some time bloggers who’ve been a little *ahem* quiet of late?  Well, we’re back!  A touch apprehensive (and with a new look), we’re getting back in the swing of it, so with that in mind, here’s an old favourite, The Book List Post…

waterstones

image via Waterstones

Whilst the kids are climbing on a Saturday morning, aside from watching them dangle off high walls, I’ve decided to take that 90 minutes and spend them on myself, not nip over the road to do a food shop, but to order a coffee and (standard) make a few lists before cracking on with a book.  Mr N chuckles at me most evenings as I have form for smashing myself in the face with a paperback or kindle as I drift off half way through a page (paperback edition of The Goldfinch did me serious snoz damage!!) so I have decided to pick my book up on a Saturday morning instead.  This has some serious non nose related benefits: I am not only reading more than ever – without re reading the same page on umpteen consecutives nights – I have rekindled my love affair with reading after a mini drought, I have had some great recommendations from friends, and I’ve read some things I would not usually have looked at twice in a bookshop but have been passed a copy of and thoroughly enjoyed.  Win win!

Here’s what I’ve recently demolished, with a bit of blurb about each…

bookshelves

image via Pinterest

The Humans by Matt Haig –  After an ‘incident’ one wet Friday night where Professor Andrew Martin is found walking naked through the streets of Cambridge, he is not feeling quite himself.  Even his loving wife and teenage son are repulsive to him. He feels lost amongst a crazy alien species and hates everyone on the planet. Everyone, that is, except Newton, and he’s a dog…

Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel – One snowy night in Toronto famous actor Arthur Leander dies on stage whilst performing the role of a lifetime. That same evening a deadly virus touches down in North America.  The world will never be the same again.

Us by David Nicholls – Douglas Petersen understands his wife’s need to ‘rediscover herself’ now that their son is leaving home. He just thought they’d be doing their rediscovering together.  When Connie announces that she will be leaving, too, he resolves to make their last family holiday into the trip of a lifetime: one that will draw the three of them closer, and win the respect of his son. One that will make Connie fall in love with him all over again.

Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey – Maud is forgetful. She makes a cup of tea and doesn’t remember to drink it. She goes to the shops and forgets why she went. Sometimes her home is unrecognizable – or her daughter Helen seems a total stranger.  But there’s one thing Maud is sure of: her friend Elizabeth is missing. The note in her pocket tells her so. And no matter who tells her to stop going on about it, to leave it alone, to shut up, Maud will get to the bottom of it.

The Miniaturist by Jessie Bruton – Nella Oortman knocks at the door of a grand house in the wealthiest quarter of Amsterdam. She has come from the country to begin a new life as the wife of illustrious merchant trader Johannes Brandt, but instead she is met by his sharp-tongued sister, Marin. Nella is at first mystified by the closed world of the Brandt household, but as she uncovers its secrets she realizes the escalating dangers that await them all. Does the miniaturist hold their fate in her hands? And will she be the key to their salvation or the architect of their downfall?

And my current read…

The Lie by CL Taylor – I know your name’s not really Jane Hughes . . .Jane Hughes has a loving partner, a job in an animal sanctuary and a tiny cottage in rural Wales. Jane Hughes does not really exist. Five years earlier Jane and her then best friends went on holiday but what should have been the trip of a lifetime rapidly descended into a nightmare that claimed the lives of two of the women. Jane has tried to put the past behind her but someone knows the truth about what happened. Someone who won’t stop until they’ve destroyed Jane and everything she loves . . .

So lovely people, whilst I already have ‘All the Light We Cannot See’ by Anthony Doerr and ‘The Girl on the Train’ by Paula Hawkins queuing up on the bedside table, if you have any hot recommendations for us, please do leave them in the comments below or tweet them to us @MrsN_MrsW – we would love some fresh ones to add to the everlong list of reads!

Mrs N x

Tell me, what’s your cooking Kryptonite?

This year, I have decided, will be the year that I conquer my cookery kryptonite.  I can spend many a happy hour pootling in my kitchen baking, steaming, roasting, pan frying, chargrilling and the like, but the one thing guaranteed to rattle me is yeast… or more specifically, dough.  I was taught how to make bread at school (which was pretty easy on reflection considering they were brave enough back in the day not only to allow us access to sharp objects but to let us use pressure cookers and attempt choux pastry too!).  However like many things I learnt at school, post exams, it has been filed away, forgotten in some recess or other of my brain with the other relics like algebra (!) until called back into action in adulthood, usually to help the Junior Ns with their homework.  Some things bounce back super-fast – I can recall most of my English Lit A level quotes – whereas others, for example the past participle and it’s function in Spanish language, two step equations and their ilk are slower to resurface, and then there’s dough, flatly refusing to be recalled and coaxed back into action.

My good Twitter friend and fabulous shopkeeper, Louisa at Sugden and Daughters (do catch up with her fab blog https://sugdenanddaughters.wordpress.com), also had a bit of a bread block until recently; she has just been on a one day sour dough course with the inspiring Vanessa Kimbell (http://www.sourdough.co.uk).  Our back and forth chattering on social media has led to us setting ourselves a little challenge for this year. And lo! Project #12breadChallenge was born! We have decided to conquer dough and bake a different loaf each month, sharing honest snaps of our successes (and flops) on our blogs and Instagram accounts.

So as January draws to a close, I decided soup night at Nicholas Towers would be the night I got started on my first loaf in a very long time.  I chose a focaccia from the Jamie Oliver stable of straight forward ‘super easy’ recipes.  The middle child decided that she had to help too, so was in charge of measuring and a bit of mixology – because ‘I love science and you always say baking is a science Mummy’ (huzzah! She does listen to me… well, where food is concerned, less so with the request to do homework/ chores!).  After much excitement and willing the dough to rise, it did just that! Blow me, I made a focaccia, and a flipping tasty one at that!  Needless to say, Miss N has taken the majority of the credit for the success…and is propping up her bed with loads of recipe books trying to decide what we’ll make next.

get set, go

It’s *just* ingredients, right?

proving

Proving done, now into the oven…

Finished Focaccia!

Finished Rosemary Focaccia!

So dear readers, what’s your cookery kryptonite? Do you have any top tips or fool proof doughy recipes for me to try with my able assistant?

Mrs N x

What’s your manifesto for 2015?

 

positive

image via Pinterest

 

Happy New Year lovely people, we trust this finds you all feeling upbeat and rested?  Here in the UK, unless you’ve had your eyes and ears closed for the last week or so, you cannot fail to have been bombarded on all fronts by all sorts of detoxes/ diets/ cleanses/ fasts/ body blasting/ gym bunny/ ab revealing shenanigans which seem to have been devised to make you feel rubbish about yourself and a total failure.  Often this advice doesn’t even come from nutritionists or qualified PT instructors but the fact that some vague celeb loosely ‘endorses’ it means it must be ace…err, sorry but no.  This time last year, we wrote about our feelings on this very topic and infact re-posted our thoughts earlier this month. (http://t.co/SfaNiGtu5j) So, we are going to buck the trend and publish a little manifesto for 2015.  Here we go, in no particular order…

  • Everyday is a fresh start, so start it with a purpose, even if that purpose is simply to not hit ‘snooze’ or drink an entire mug of tea whilst it’s hot!
  • All bodies are good bodies, look after yours, treat it with kindness, nourish it well and it will look after you: you’re pretty amazing, don’t forget that.
  • Move your body daily, doesn’t have to be a workout, just get out and fill your lungs with fresh air with the added bonus that it will clear your head too.  Choose an exercise format you actually enjoy so that you look forward to it rather than dreading it.
  • Focus on the good, positivity shines out and rubs off on others: ditch the draining negative vibes.
  • Look for the good in others, chuck those compliments around like confetti, everyone needs a lift sometimes.
  • Laugh and smile more – it’s the cheapest medicine (cheesy but true, try it).
  • Ask for, and offer, help.  You may be wonder woman, but even she needs a hand some days.  It’s not a sign of weakness, it’s the polar opposite.
  • Learn to say no.  Don’t be swayed, if you can’t or don’t want to do something, say so: you do not have to justify yourself, you’re a grown up.
  • Cherish your family and friends, an unexpected ‘hello’ text will always bring a smile here, try it, it’s lovely to know someone is thinking of you.
  • Always make time for those who make you feel happy to be alive and are always there when you need picking up off the floor and cheering up.
  • Enjoy the small things like cuddles, good coffee, sunshine, good books, a leisurely soak, an awesome workout…
  • While we love a list here, planning can only take you so far (or waste so much time if you are in full on procrastination mode – coloured pens anyone?!): planning is only effective if it is combined with actually doing!
  • Make time for yourself: it’s not selfish, it is essential.  Choose your ‘recharge’ and action it: reading, yoga, a long bath, a run, crafty pursuits, music….
  • Don’t compare yourself to others, especially online – it’s all curated!  Everyone has foibles and down days, we are unique, embrace your individuality.
  • Go on adventures – not necessarily to far flung places, take yourself back to being a child by exploring your local countryside, reengage with nature, use your imagination.
  • Be grateful for what you have: we all have moments of green eyed envy, but flick on the news and be thankful for the troubles you don’t have.

We would really love your feedback on this – it’s always good to share – will you be taking stock and trying some of these suggestions out? Do you have some you think we should add?  Let us know!

Seasonal change – reasons to embrace Autumn 1, 2, 3…

autumn

  1. It’s pie season – at last! Indulge in some pie loving, savoury or sweet, we’re not fussy!
  2. Warm nights wrapped up in blankets with steaming mugs of tea/ hot chocolate/ mulled cider whatever you fancy and a box set or a magazine.
  3. The return (hopefully!) of decent television after a fair few weeks of meh tv.  Homeland and Downton anyone?
  4. Bountiful hedgerows, get out and forage.  We had a lovely crumble with pears from the garden and blackberries collected on the school run: custard or cream, that’s the question!
  5. Winter duvet time, be gone chilly toes, beds look inviting with thick fluffy duvets and blankets on: perfect excuse to go to bed early with a good book.
  6. Autumn is very much muddy knee season chez Nicholas, however, this opens up a new opportunity for sneaking in a bath or two: Mrs N gets dibs on the first dip in peace, with a cup of tea and lovely bath products whilst the kids watch a bit of TV.  They get round two, posh bath products and clean knees into the bargain – everyone wins!
  7. Unwrapping and airing the winter woolies in anticipation of cooler weather, digging out favourite boots and chasing away the spiders from the welly collection!
  8. It’s still mild out, so get outdoors and see the changes in our landscape.  Revisit childhood by crunching through falling leaves, collecting conkers and berries.  It’s good for the soul.
  9. Spoil yourself by slowing down a bit, you need the rest in the run up to Christmas and all that it entails, be that school carol services, nativity plays, shopping, cooking, cleaning like a mad woman – whatever it means to you and yours, please, slow down and enjoy spending time together…before you know it it will be 2015!!

5 Good Things – scented candles

We love a scented candle here at Nicholas and White and although I tend to burn them pretty much all year round, they come into their own once the air starts feeling that little bit Autumnal.  I never save them for ‘best’ anymore either, yes they’re relatively expensive and considered a treat but if you keep them unlit for years they gather dust and the scent goes so you’ve wasted money.  Light them often and enjoy the scent to lift your mood, relax you or energise you.

Here’s a list of our favourites…(in no particular order!) Plus, they are all British companies too – yay!

Sugden and Daughters – £19.50.  Burn time approx 30 hours

Sugden Candle

It’s hard to choose a fragrance from these beauties but if pushed, I’d say French Chateau – you can buy them here and they have just introduced reed diffusers too.

Neal’s Yard – £29.00.  Burn time approx 45 hours

NYR candle

With three fragrances to choose from depending on your mood.  I love the Balancing candle and they also come in a room spray or reed diffuser.  Available here or from your local NYR consultant

True Grace – £25.00.  Burn time approx 40 hours

True Grace Candle

Another British brand, there again, are lots to choose from but a firm favourite with both myself and Mrs N is the Green Tea & Citrus.  They have a shiny new website too, have a look here

Urban Apothecary – £35.00.  Burn time approx 30 hours

Urban candle

Anything that is inspired by tea is great in my book and how lovely are these tea-cup candles?  The website is all lovely too.

Cowshed – £30.00.  Burn time approx 60 hours

Cowshed Candle

These delicious fragrances are split up into moods so whether you’re feeling lazy, knackered, grumpy or gorgeous, there is something for you!  Made from natural wax with no nasties they last for aaaages too..

So, there’s a few to get you started.  Are you a fan of a scented candle?  Which is your favourite?  Let us know in the comments!

Mrs W xx

Ten tips to get Back To School ready

I always think that September is almost as good as January for getting your head straight and organised for the few months ahead.  I try and use it as a chance to have a good old clean and sort out too – an Autumn instead of Spring clean if you like.

Image from here

Image from here

I’ve been thinking of how to make the start of school as easy as possible and with good habits, we’ll get through to July again with no hassles!

These are in no particular order…

  1. Have a family calendar on the wall, where all the family can see it – Mrs N favours one with multiple columns similar to this… oh, and make sure you write on it!
  2. Plan ahead, make sure there is clean uniform for the next day for the kids each evening and I find it helps to have a brief think about what I’m going to wear too.  Mrs N gets hers to change into home clothes when they get in to save on school uniform panic washing and break the connection with the school day, helping them unwind.
  3. Have a quick glance at the calendar each evening so you know what’s coming up over the next day or so.
  4. Mrs N gave me this tip and it’s a gem.  Have a magazine file for each child and then file away anything that comes home in their box.  Make sure you have a little clear-out periodically or else it can get a little out of hand!
  5. Any letter or party invite that comes home – deal with straight away.  Write the date of event or whatever on the calendar, RSVP and then file away in the box.  Things then *shouldn’t* be forgotten.  Mrs N has a tendency to go overboard and not only put it on the wall calendar, but also in her phone calendar, if it’s an important school letter, she often photographs it so that it doesn’t get swept away in a cleaning frenzy!
  6. School meals menus – deal with these straight away, mark them on the calendar too to avoid phone calls from the school office asking you to pop a lunch up to your poppet!
  7. Have a set time for homework.  I try and get mine to at least make a start on it the day it comes home.  We have a quick snack then sit down at the dining table and crack on.  This completely depends on your child obviously but there’s nothing worse than frantically scribbling something down 5 minutes before it’s due in is there?!  This also leaves your weekends free to be a family without schoolwork encroaching into fun.
  8. I’m lucky as I work from home and am around after school, I know this isn’t practical for all but I try and keep after school clubs to 2 or 3 a week.  This leaves time for them to unwind and get the homework done too and still have some energy in the bank for the weekends.
  9. Mrs N has her three in the routine of putting lunchbox items into the dishwasher as soon as they come in, getting them to do a quick tidy up of their bits before sitting down to tea so that the time after a wash is quiet rather than her frantically tidying up/ ‘recycling’ precious artworks/ homework whilst trying to listen to reading practices.
  10. Have a quick tidy round the house and switch the dishwasher on before you go up to bed – mornings are manic enough, you don’t want to be faced with a sink full of dirty dishes on top…

Here’s to a smooth start to the school year!

We’d love to hear any tips that you have too – leave us a comment!

Mrs W x

Our 9 Best Back to School Picks

Yes, yes, I know – we’re only a few days into August but September will soon roll round and those slightly too big school jumpers and stiff new shoes will soon be out of the wardrobes and on our little darlings.

We’ve been looking at those items that somehow are *needed* each new school year,  pencil cases, bags and lunch boxes.  Just click on the picture to be taken through to the site.

Feldman pencil case

Feldman Pencil Case £5.00 from Blott

Waldo Pancake

Waldo Pancake Kevin Pencil Case £6.50 from John Lewis

abc pencil case

Boutique Green Pencil Case £6.00 from M&S

 

girls herschel

Herschel Settlement Kids Backpack £40.00 from Alphabet Street

 

Navy Satchel

Navy Leather Satchel £43 from Zatchels

 

tartan backpack

Mi-Pac Mini Backpack £24.99 from John Lewis

Pow Lunch Box

POW Lunch Box £10 from John Lewis

Beatbox Lunch Box

Beatbox Lunch Box £6.50 from Paperchase

Gauch Glam Lunch Box

Gaucho Glam Lunch Box £9 from Paperchase

Obviously this is not the be all and end all, there are LOADS of lovely things in the shops right now and fairly reasonably priced too.

Of course, the thing we get most excited about here at Nicholas and White is the joy of a new school calendar!  There’ll be a post to follow soon about getting organised and ready for Back To School.

Hope you’re enjoying summer!

Mrs W xx