My weekend has mainly been spent…

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  • Drifting in and out of sleep as I listened to the children playing on the landing outside our bedroom. We held our first ever Christmas party on Friday and some friends had spent the night with their two little ones.
  • Feeling a little hungover. OK, a lot. We’d served pitchers of my favourite Christmas cocktail, Poinsettia, as well as mulled wine and beer. I drank more than my fair share!
  • Lingering beneath the bed covers for as long as possible.
  • Heading downstairs for a medicinal mug of tea.
  • Chatting in the kitchen with our friends while the kids watched cartoons on Netflix.
  • Making bacon and eggs for brunch.
  • Waving our guests off at the door.
  • Slowly putting the house back together.
  • Slipping into the shower.
  • Changing into clean pyjamas.
  • Serving leftover party food for lunch.
  • Collapsing on to the sofa in an exhausted heap.
  • Dozing quietly amidst the warm glow of candles and fairy lights.
  • Enjoying the cosiness of our house on a cold winter’s day.
  • Somehow finding the energy to cook dinner.
  • Pouring myself a glass of Prosecco.
  • Putting two very tired children to bed.
  • Settling down to watch Gone Girl. Fabulous film, we’ve hardly stopped talking about it since. I must read the book.
  • Retreating upstairs to bed.
  • Sleeping in. Mr. LA and the children must have been creeping about the house like mice as I didn’t surface until after 10am. Such a treat.
  • Tucking into a bacon sandwich for breakfast.
  • Pulling on a frock and hurriedly applying my makeup.
  • Seeing Izzy off as she headed to her drama class with Mr. LA.
  • Strolling to the supermarket with Jesse.
  • Talking about shapes all the way there. 2D, 3D, cylinders, hexagons and triangular prisms. His mind is obviously buzzing with everything they teach him at school.
  • Picking up a pizza for lunch.
  • Pottering in the kitchen.
  • Filling the house with the scent of cinnamon and nutmeg as I made roast squash and sweet potato soup for us to enjoy on Christmas Eve.
  • Catching up on laundry.
  • Wrapping presents.
  • Sipping ginger ale and nibbling mince pies.
  • Listening to Jesse as played at being a doctor to all his cuddly toys.
  • Ordering a few last minute presents.
  • Serving up Quick Bean and Lettuce Stew just as the wanderers returned.
  • Coaxing the children into the bath.
  • Reading Jesse a bedtime story.
  • Tapping away on my laptop while Izzy lounges on the sofa nearby, engrossed in her book.
  • Thinking ahead to the busy week I’ve got to get through before I can finally switch off for the holidays.

Love Audrey xxx

Hotel Chocolat Salted Caramel, Pecan and Chocolate Marble Cake

Hotel Chocolat Salted Caramel, Pecan and Chocolate Cake

Although I’ve sampled many of the sweet treats on offer at Hotel Chocolat, I had somehow managed to overlook their intriguing Cocoa Cuisine collection. A celebration of what cocoa and chocolate can contribute in the kitchen, the range includes everything from dips, dressings and desserts to cookies, cakes, cocoa pasta, chocolate spreads and much, much more.

When I was sent a tub of their Salted Caramel and Pecan Chocolate Spread, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it. Kick back, relax, and use a big spoon to eat the whole lot in one sitting. Unfortunately, I had promised them I would do something a little more creative. Hotel Chocolat Salted Caramel, Pecan and Chocolate Cake

So, I dug out my trusty loaf tin, mixed up a basic batter, and produced a marvellous marble cake! Think vanilla infused sponge with mesmerising swirls of salty, sweet and nutty chocolate spread. Are you salivating yet?

The flavours seemed to intensify during baking, resulting in a cake that tasted far more complex than it looked. Hotel Chocolat Salted Caramel, Pecan and Chocolate Cake

You could of course make this with regular chocolate spread or salted caramel, but I’d urge you to at least consider the innovative ingredients on offer at Hotel Chocolat. The combination of flavours elevated this bake from what would otherwise have been a fairly plain cake to something far more impressive.

For obvious reasons, anything from the Cocoa Cuisine collection would also be an ideal Christmas gift for those that enjoy spending time in the kitchen {hint hint}. Did I mention that there’s gin? Hotel Chocolat Salted Caramel, Pecan and Chocolate Cake

Back to the bake. Adapted from an ancient American recipe for pound cake, the method is simple. You layer the batter and the chocolate, swirl them together and slide the pan into the oven for just over an hour. Go on, give it a try.

You will need:

1. Preheat the oven to 160C/gas mark 3. Grease and line a 9×5 loaf tin.

2. Using a handheld or freestanding mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. This should take around 3-5 minutes. In a jug, lightly beat the eggs with the vanilla. In another bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt.

3. Gradually beat the egg mixture into the butter and sugar until fully incorporated. Add the flour mixture in three batches, beating slowly between each addition, until just incorporated. Continue to beat for a further thirty seconds.

4. Spread one third of the batter into the prepared pan, and then carefully spread half the caramel and pecan chocolate on top. Repeat with another third of the batter and the remaining spread. Top with the last of the batter. Lightly swirl the two mixtures together with a knife. A few swipes through the pan should do it, be careful not to over mix.

5. Bake for around 1hour and 15 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for 15 minutes before turning out. The loaf will slice better if you wait for it to cool completely {around 2 hours}, but who’s got time for that? Cut yourself a slightly crumbly piece and enjoy!

Love Audrey xxx

Home Comforts – Decorating with Patience

Decorating with Patience

This time last year, we had just finished painting our hallway. It took an entire weekend and three coats of Little Greene’s Slaked Lime to cover the insipid peach walls we had inherited upon purchasing our house.

I had grand plans to rip up carpets, sand floorboards and ultimately create the kind of entryway I’d always dreamed of, but all we could afford back then was the paint. At the very least, I wanted light, bright walls before Christmas, and that was what I got.

Fast forward 12 months and it’s still all I’ve got. The boring beige carpet endures, and we’re yet to add the finishing touches I feel the space needs. Our hallway is perfectly functional, and most people wouldn’t even notice its shortcomings, but to my eye, it remains frustratingly unfinished. Decorating with Patience

I’m sensible enough to realise the work we’re doing to our home doesn’t even come close to the renovations undertaken by others. Almost everything we’ve tackled has been cosmetic. The place needs a lick of paint and an injection of personality, not major plumbing work and a new roof.

We looked at properties that did need those things. Grimy houses that smelt of damp and decay. A decrepit kitchen from the 1970s and a bathroom that made you feel like someone might have actually died in the tub. We tried to picture ourselves knocking down walls and rebuilding things from scratch, but in the end we knew we’d never make it work, not with two small children and both of us working from home.

For obvious reasons, minor DIY doesn’t carry the same sense of urgency as major renovations. While I seem to be acutely aware of my surroundings, Mr. LA appears oblivious. As long as his basic needs are met {food, running water, TV, bed}, he can live with sickly pale blue walls in the kitchen. Decorating with Patience

Although I appreciate how lucky we are to have a home at all, these words from a recent post on Holly’s Becker’s blog, Decor8, perfectly capture why I have days where all the things we haven’t done yet weigh heavily on my mind.

‘I can’t deal when rooms are upside down or incomplete, this makes me feel chaotic in my head. Can you relate? Home is my sanctuary, my place of love, peace, dreams and aspirations. If it’s a cluttered dump or piled with half-finished projects, I can’t give 100% to my family, friends or job.’

Despite my impatience, the decision to decorate slowly has been a deliberate one. Money, and the desire to avoid debt, plays a big part, but I always wanted this house to be much more considered than our last. I want a mixture of old and new furniture, artwork I adore and storage that meets our needs perfectly. These things take time.

So for now we’ll continue to live without a wardrobe, or even proper desks to work from! I’ll scour eBay for vintage finds and save my pennies for the living room rug we so desperately need. Early in the new year, the kitchen will finally get new tiles and a lick of paint. I’d like to think that by next Christmas our bedroom won’t make me weep with despair.

What do you think about decorating with patience? How do you cope with the chaos of an unfinished home?

Love Audrey xxx

My weekend has mainly been spent…

Franky Shanahan My weekend Love Audrey Family Photo Gallery Wall

  • Waking up as Jesse slid into bed with us.
  • Longing for a little more sleep.
  • Reluctantly heading downstairs.
  • Sipping tea on the sofa.
  • Making porridge for the children’s breakfast.
  • Tucking into a fried egg sandwich.
  • Agonising over the final layout for our family photo gallery wall.
  • Spending almost three hours hanging pictures.
  • Stepping back to admire our handiwork.
  • Shedding a few happy tears. I hadn’t realised just how much I missed having a photograph of my dad on display.
  • Heating up leftovers for lunch.
  • Jumping in the shower.
  • Pulling on my {current} favourite polka dot dress.
  • Applying copious amounts of eye-liner.
  • Slowly walking through the park.
  • Relishing the winter sunshine.
  • Popping inside a nearby church to browse their Christmas craft fair.
  • Treating the children to a bag of roasted chestnuts from a stall outside our local greengrocers.
  • Munching away on them as we wandered back through the park.
  • Pausing to visit the playground.
  • Looking on as the children spun each other round on the roundabout.
  • Snapping photos amidst fallen leaves in the glorious golden light.
  • Retreating back to the house for steaming mugs of hot chocolate and a quick snooze on the sofa.
  • Preparing a vegetarian version of a sausage and cider casserole. Perfect winter fare.
  • Waving off Mr. LA as he headed out to an industry thing.
  • Sitting down to dinner with the kids.
  • Reading Jesse a story and tucking him into bed.
  • Watching the end of Miss Potter with Izzy. I’ll admit the film is pretty awful, but I loved seeing my little girl so enthralled by the story.
  • Pouring myself a glass of wine and snacking on maltesers.
  • Sending Izzy to bed and settling down to an evening of back-to-back 90s rom coms.
  • Waiting up for Mr. LA.
  • Drifting off to sleep a little after midnight.
  • Trying to ignore Jesse when came in around 7am.
  • Giving up and heading downstairs.
  • Sleepily nursing a mug of tea while the children watched The Wizard of Oz.
  • Eating scrambled egg on toast.
  • Lingering in the shower.
  • Slipping on a pair of clean pyjamas.
  • Helping the children fill our new bird feeders with peanuts and suet balls.
  • Smiling as my tiny twitchers parked themselves beside the window, their binoculars poised in anticipation, desperate to catch a glimpse of the birds that will surely flock to our garden as soon as word gets out.
  • Tucking into a fish finger sandwich for lunch.
  • Seeing Izzy off as she headed to her drama class with her dad.
  • Filling the freezer with mince pies. Nigella’s star-topped to be precise.
  • Plotting and planning food and drink for a festive gathering we’re having in a few weeks.
  • Sorting laundry and washing uniform.
  • Joining Jesse in a game of Kerplunk.
  • Snuggling on the sofa for a while.
  • Making roast potatoes to accompany pie and a mountain of green veg.
  • Delivering the meal to the table just as the others arrived.
  • Drowning my food in gravy.
  • Eating too much.
  • Coaxing the children into their PJs.
  • Reading bedtime stories and giving good night kisses.
  • Craving an early night.
  • Planning to park myself on the sofa for the rest of the evening.

Love Audrey xxx

A Dreamy Designer Wish List with Avenue 32

Designer Wish List Avenue 32

Truth be told, I barely spend any money on my own wardrobe these days. The children grow like weeds and I’ve developed something of an addiction to expensive home accessories. Luckily, I bought enough shoes in my 20s to see me through until retirement. I’m only half joking.

Of course, I still enjoy a spot of online window shopping every now and then. My latest sartorial daydream took place on luxury fashion site, Avenue 32, where you can find an exciting collection of emerging design talent from around the world coupled with an enviable portfolio of established, global brands.

I fell hard for this pretty pleated floral skirt from young designer, J.W. Anderson. If it was a little warmer, I’d be tempted to pair it with classic Breton stripes courtesy of Petit Bateau, but the British weather is better suited to Equipment‘s super soft navy cashmere. I love the sweater’s sleek lines against the playful silhouette of the skirt. Perfect for twirling, don’t you think? Elegant red velvet pumps from Italian label, Bionda Castana, complete the look.

Of course, luxury doesn’t come cheap. Time to save a few pennies, or drop a few hints for Santa! Which designer pieces do you dream of waking up to on Christmas morning?

Love Audrey xxx

This is a collaborative post.

My weekend has mainly been spent…

Clifton Suspension Bridge Clifton, Bristol in the autumn Isabel and Jesse Love Audrey, My weekend Clifton Suspension Bridge

  • Begrudgingly allowing Jesse into our bed before 6am.
  • Desperately trying to persuade him to go back to sleep.
  • Listening to him cough and splutter. The poor child has another cold.
  • Creeping downstairs to find my sister was already awake and drinking tea in the kitchen.
  • Popping the kettle on for everyone else.
  • Making pancakes with Mr. LA while the children watched The Little Mermaid with Nicola and her chap, Andrew.
  • Reminiscing about how terrified my sister was of the sea witch as a child.
  • Jumping in the shower and getting dressed for the day.
  • Coaxing the children into their clothes.
  • Stepping out into the rain.
  • Riding the bus into town.
  • Slowly wandering around the German Christmas Market.
  • Deciding it was a little too cold and wet to eat outside.
  • Taking cover in Cabot Circus.
  • Trying on a gorgeous red dress in House of Fraser.
  • Realising I didn’t love it enough to spend £215.
  • Sampling the burgers at recently opened Five Guys. We all enjoyed our meals, especially the fries!
  • Trying on pretty shoes.
  • Deciding to purchase said shoes.
  • Having a complete mental block at the cash desk that left me unable to recall my PIN number.
  • Putting the shoes on hold and hoping for an epiphany.
  • Catching the bus to Clifton.
  • Arriving to find the Downs bathed in the most spectacular golden light.
  • Watching the children clamber around the adventure playground.
  • Crossing Clifton Suspension Bridge.
  • Making our way into the Village.
  • Having a mooch around the shops.
  • Falling in love with Papersmiths. I’ll be back for a proper browse without the children soon!
  • Hopping on the bus and heading home.
  • Checking my PIN number and dashing back to the city centre in my sister’s car.
  • Parking precariously.
  • Hurriedly making my purchase.
  • Arriving home to find Mr. LA had almost finished making dinner.
  • Parading about the house in my shiny new heels. So pretty, so sparkly. {FYI, they come in the most amazing shade of red too. Perfect for tottering about on Christmas morning.}
  • Tucking into Mexican Lasagna.
  • Sending the kids to bed.
  • Sipping cocktails and having a giggle with our guests.
  • Retreating upstairs.
  • Falling asleep almost immediately.
  • Waking up to find a snotty child dozing next to me.
  • Thinking of my dad on what would have been his 60th birthday.
  • Drinking countless cups of tea in an attempt to feel human again.
  • Munching on toast for breakfast.
  • Opting to stay in my PJs all day.
  • Rifling through old photos with my sister.
  • Making pie, smashed carrots and posh peas for lunch.
  • Saying goodbye to our guests.
  • Wishing Brighton wasn’t quite so far away.
  • Sending Mr. LA on a chocolate biscuit run.
  • Gradually putting the house back together.
  • Staying home with Jesse while Izzy headed off to her drama class.
  • Tidying the kitchen and sorting laundry.
  • Ordering a few Christmas gifts online.
  • Snuggling with Jesse on the sofa.
  • Welcoming the others in from the cold.
  • Making scrambled eggs and baked beans for the children’s supper.
  • Lingering in the shower while Mr. LA put the kids to bed.
  • Sitting down with a small glass of wine to write this post.
  • Looking forward to eating the pizzas that are currently warming in the oven.

Love Audrey xxx