Category Archives: Lifestyle


It’s all change!  I have recently started a website and am   s l o w l y   but surely moving the blogs from here across to there.  Huge thanks to Gabriella Buckingham who designed my original logo and Sarah at Studio Spence who has put it all together for me, if you’re looking for a website then do get in touch with Sarah, she’s very clever (and patient!).

The website has been an idea of mine for ages.  Drawing on my many adventures and journeys, shopping experiences and personal recommendations I have brought everything together and popped it all in one place.  It’s where you will find food and drink suggestions, recent book reviews, the Instagram feed, Twitter timelineNellie Pom Poms Facebook status updates, blog and shopping inspiration from some very lovely people and businesses like Common Farm Flowers, Myddfai, Bowlovers, More-Hall, Bodlon, 2 Little Boys, Hunter Gatherer and more!

So, this blog post is short and sweet (much like myself!), but I do hope you will bookmark, sign up to the blog on the website and tell your friends.


Nellie Knows – The Wokingham Paper :8 May 2015


This was previously published in The Wokingham Paper on 8 May 2015


As I have said before I do love May with its Bank Holidays and this past weekend has been a crazily busy weekend not just for us but countless other families as they enjoyed a 3 day weekend. We didn’t get to the May Fayre this year what with one thing or another but I heard it was good and the weather was brilliant. Let’s hope we have a dry spell for the next Bank Holiday and half term! We were glued to the telly on Saturday following the arrival of the new Royal Baby, Princess Charlotte looked so gorgeous in the photos. I’m certainly not broody and I don’t envy anyone who has a newborn with broken nights as I love my sleep so much, but I do love a cuddle with a baby. Thankfully a friend had a baby on Thursday so I can have a cuddle and then hand him back. I try and have an early night at least once a week which is my way of recharging the batteries and also gives me the chance to read without interruption.

I’ve got a massive pile of books to review which include If You Go Away by Adele Parks, Yellow Room by Shelan Rodger, The Silent Hours by Cecsa Major and M. D. Murphy’s Dark River Melody. I love reading and once I get started I struggle to put it down. I’ve thankfully passed my bookworm habits onto my children who all enjoy reading and one of them was the inspiration for the name of a character in Christina Jones’ Love Potions so that book is always going to be special. Whilst sorting out a box that had been in the back of a cupboard until recently I found the Jilly Cooper books we all read at school as teenagers, as well as Shirley Conran’s Lace!

In the garden
A few weeks ago I had great plans for one of my borders but now that everything is flowering I will leave it and just remove the dandelions and nettles, I will have to get to the dandelions before the children do as their seeds are the last thing I want anywhere near my garden! I really do relish being in the garden and like nothing better than a cup of coffee outside first thing, with the lovely weather it has been so nice to sit outside in peace knowing that as soon as someone stirs then the rest of the house will follow. Breakfast is the loudest meal of the day in our house and every week my lot change their mind about what cereal they actually like, but thankfully they all like fruit so we have heaps of it in a bowl as well as frozen blackberries we picked from various hedgerows last autumn which I throw into a smoothie or yoghurt or make into a summer pudding or crumble.

Speaking of hedgerow fruit leads me nicely onto Home Fires and Jambusters, I see that Jambusters by Julie Summers is the No 1 bestseller in Women’s studies on Amazon which makes me hugely proud. We enjoyed the first episode and are looking forward to the next 5 Sunday evenings as the plot unfolds, the cast is amazing and the location is Cheshire where a branch of my family live so I have a certain fondness for it. I’ve recorded The C Word but will have to find the right time to watch it as a friend who had breast cancer now has brain tumours and it will be rather close to home. I don’t watch much telly but I do enjoy watching reruns and films, we watched Paddington at the weekend which was great fun and if you’ve not seen it then I would recommend it!

Last week I wrote that I would be picking up a box of treats from Wellington Farm Shop one of my favourite farm shops, as well as ingredients that I turned into a tasty birthday meal for my husband I also picked up some Spitfire Cheese and some chilli and lime Cheddar, both had a real kick and it’s no surprise that it’s all gone. I really enjoy cooking and when I eat something out I will then recreate it at home. This week it was Mango Curry which was so easy to make. I fried some onions, leeks, garlic and chicken then in a separate bowl mixed Crème fraîche and mango chutney, added them all together and shoved in the oven (which is now working thanks to Kevin of Domestic Appliance Care and Repair) whilst I cooked the rice and prepared a salad. I made a meringue which I bashed up and added some soft fruits to make Eton Mess. I think it’s safe to say that the meal was well received as there were no left overs! On Sunday I made Lamb Curry with a sauce from Mama Eti’s which is an Indonesian street food company run by an old friend from my Holme Grange schooldays, that also went down well and we will be exploring more of the range over the coming months.

The football season is over but that doesn’t stop my girls kicking the ball around whenever they can. My youngest plays for Wokingham and Emmbrook Girls U10s and is taking part in the Futsal tournament next month, having just learnt the rules for football I now have to get my head around a different set of rules! She recently took part in an inter school football tournament playing against some of her Sumas team which was great fun for the girls and her school came 3rd. My husband used to play cricket and has been glued to the cricket on the box, however none of the girls have shown any interest in the game but they could be tempted to join their friends for the Friday Club Evening at Hurst Cricket Club for an early evening drink or something to eat, between 6pm and 830pm which runs until the end of July. Maybe we’ll see you there?


Nellie Knows – The Wokingham Paper – 1 May 2015


This was previously published in The Wokingham Paper on 1 May 2015


I had a proud moment when I saw The Wokingham Paper on sale in so many shops last Friday, thank you to everyone who has bought it and enjoyed my column and all the local news and features. I had an even more proud moment when my youngest’s team, Wokingham and Emmbrook Girls U10, won the cup on Saturday.  I am the least sporty person and have no idea about the rules of football but I can be heard cheering her and her team on, then getting emotional when they win! I do love May with its Bank Holidays and there is so much going on locally that there’s bound to be something for everyone to see it’s going to be a busy weekend but at least we have one extra day and a shorter week afterwards! I am picking up a box of ingredients from Wellington Farm Shop to prepare a feast for my husband’s birthday and will be trying to memorise a recipe to recreate a tasty feast for him as well as a lemon drizzle cake which is by far my favourite cake ever! I’m also going to be proud and quite possibly emotional on Sunday evening when Home Fires is aired on ITV at 9pm, based on the book Jambusters by my cousin Julie Summers it will be fantastic to see it brought to life and as a schoolfriend’s husband is the Executive Producer I imagine she will be equally proud.

Talking of telly on Sunday, I will also be setting my planner to record The C Word which is on BBC 1 and stars the acting genus and national treasure Sheridan Smith. It is the story of Lisa Lynch who recounted her experience of cancer with engaging candour and published a book based on her popular blog. My youngest has chosen to read The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett for a school project so I imagine we will also be watching that over the Bank Holiday. I don’t watch an awful lot of telly but I do enjoy cwtching up with her and watching films I enjoyed as a child.

In the garden
The weather has certainly got me out there and busy in the garden and I have been enjoying the summer opening hours at the tip (8am to 8pm), I’m yet to find the best time to go but queuing for longer than a few minutes isn’t that bad when I get home and see a cleared space ready to plant something inspired by my great friend Georgie Newbery’s book The Flower Farmer’s Year. I was in Wales again at the weekend for the Glanusk Estate Fayre and NGS Open Gardens event and I have made a note to visit gardens when I see the yellow NGS signs to gain inspiration, hints and tips as well as supporting the work of the NGS. The news in Wales has been dominated by the arson attacks which has angered and infuriated me so much that that I wrote a blog about it and I have made sure that our smoke alarms and carbon monoxide monitors are working properly.

Home safety
We have had a disaster in the kitchen, well it’s a disaster for me! I switched the large oven on and it stopped working. Thankfully a friend had hers serviced not so long ago and on her recommendation I called Kevin Harwood of Domestic Appliance Care and Repair who came out to take a look. As the oven is big and cumbersome he sprayed a bit of washing up liquid in front of the legs so that it would move easily without ruining my floor (another helpful hint you will thank me for) and whilst I grimaced at the muck and detritus behind the oven he didn’t flinch. He quickly identified the problem ‘direct short in the terminal block’ and asked if I had smelt smoke. Well, yes but I just assumed it was a neighbouring bonfire. How lucky were we? Kevin said ‘at the first smell of smoke the isolator switch should be switched off, everyone should know where their Isolator switch is for the oven and tell their children’. It got me wondering. My children have now been told.

Food and drink
I popped into Brown Bear Bakery at Holme Grange Craft Village last week and sampled some of their sauces that Michelle had found at the Farm Shop and Deli show. I was bravely saying how much I love spicy food and tried what I can only describe as THE hottest chilli sauce ever, however I did go back a few days later and ordered a bottle of it so I will be trying that our on unsuspecting guests! I’ve also been enjoying Prosecco with a dash of Wiltshire Liqueur’s Blood Orange and can thoroughly recommend that combination! Nice with a bit of cheese, I’m partial to Brie or Goat’s Cheese with Chilli Jam on an Oatcake.

Home improvements
Speaking of guests, they will also enjoy my newly decorated downstairs loo thanks to another local business. I sent a text to 3 plumbers and Dave from Gander Carpentry, Plumbing & Maintenance replied saying yes he could come and quote, would be with me around 130pm. He turned up on time, talked about soft close and dual flush mechanisms, I told him I wanted bog standard (excuse the pun), then he sent a quote and said he could take out the existing loo for me to take to the tip (I’ll be there with garden waste and a loo, look out for me!) and will then be back to fit the new one giving me the chance to decorate with a little bit more space! That’s what I call service!


Nellie Knows : 24 April : The Wokingham Paper


This was previously published in The Wokingham Paper on 24 April 2015


Here we are again! A new weekly paper for Wokingham and it’s all very exciting. As a child I used to read through the local papers and spot people I knew so it’s nice for my children to have the same opportunity although they may gloss over my column!

We’ve just had an enjoyable break from school where we had an amazing week’s skiing in La Rosière, we watched Bradley Wiggins in the Paris Roubaix and had a few sunny days in South Wales, coupled with the school shoe shopping and homework but it’s not long until the next 3 day weekend and then it’s a clear run to half term. However it’s good to be back into the routine of school run and this term I am going to be more on top of the emails that come from school and the letters that often get hidden at the bottom of the book bag.

The summer term is always a fun and busy one, but there is a lot of hard work for the children as well as teachers. This time last year we were stressing over the revision and exam time tables so to have a break from it for a few years is a relief. But after the exams comes the long summer break and if we’re lucky and this glorious weather continues we will have a long hot summer.

Food and drink

As always my thoughts turn to food and what to feed the gannets. With warmer weather and summer months approaching the last thing I want to do is spend hours cooking here and there so I have been cooking for the freezer. There’s nothing worse than opening the freezer and seeing misshapen bags of unidentifiable food and I find the easiest way to fill the freezer is by using the IKEA food bags (other bags are available), filling them and then laying them flat, so instead of a mass of bags you have a neat pile of frozen food. You’ll thank me for this I assure you!

I’ve also been making a variety of barbecue marinades and dips. The regular ones are Tomato (chopped fresh or tinned tomatoes, onion, garlic, honey, Tabasco/dried chilli/fresh chills and Worcestershire Sauce) or Peanut Satay (peanut butter, onion, garlic, honey, Tabasco/dried chilli/fresh chills). Simply soften the onions and garlic, then put the remainder of the ingredients in, boil it up (with peanut butter you’ll need to add water to avoid it drying out), allow to cool and then pop in a freezer bag.

Summer entertaining

We spend lots of time in the garden but the wasps and bees are really annoying. We have lots of honey pots in the garden which are smeared with sticky jam or honey, they are then placed away from where we are eating so we aren’t bothered by them. I picked some more up from Holme Grange Gallery. Another issue is covering food, I’m not a fan of cling film as I always lose the end and tin foil makes my teeth stand on end so I use Bowlovers which are washable, reusable and available from a great website called Hunter Gatherer.


I have recently reviewed A Place Called Winter by Patrick Gale which is an outstanding book, based on the story of the author’s grandfather. I have a massive to be reviewed pile and am looking forward to sinking my teeth into them. I can’t read a book more than once but I can’t part with them either which is great for friends when they are looking for a recommendation as they browse the shelves and gain inspiration. I regularly trot into Bookends in Wokingham or Chapter One in Woodley and tell them what I have been reading so that they can order it in. Funnily enough recently a friend suggested a cook book from which I have made a few dishes and I tweeted Chapter One asking them to order it for me. Within minutes a reply came back saying that they would do. I love social media!


Speaking of books there’s a new series coming to ITV called Home Fires and I will be glued to the telly when it is on as it is based on the book Jambusters by an author called Julie Summers who just so happens to be my cousin. She has a cameo role and I am understandably incredibly proud of her.


On the shopping front Rococo in Bush Walk has had a refit. The shop looks very smart on the outside and is stunning on the inside. I nipped in today just to browse and came out being able to know the time by looking at my wrist and without gazing at my phone! We often pop in to browse and chat, not always buying something but having a good look to gain inspiration for gifts so when the need arises we pop in or my children can make suggestions to the family as to what I have made a fuss of!

I’ve also been to lots of fairs and picked up a pair of mermaid fins at one fair from an exhibitor Crash Bang Kids who sells a great range of swimwear, garden and pool toys.


Solutions, not problems


Like many people my mind is always full, busy, racing and at times overloaded.  It’s full of family, the day to day things, ideas, clock watching, memories, limitations, the weather, problems, recipes, housework, life, wellbeing, health, people and also solutions.  Family and friends ask me for advice, recipes, inspiration, opinions, books, things, stories, a mug of coffee, pocket money, support and solutions.  Strangers make conversation with me in queues or on trains, in passing.  People I don’t know ask me how I am each day.  Social Media is ablaze each day with people who live in my phone some asking if anyone wants a cup of coffee or glass of Prosecco, offering bacon sandwiches or responding to a tweet or status.  People talk and engage each and every day in a variety of different ways.  I talk to the telly from time to time, I listen to the radio and agree, sing along or disagree.

I like being able to offer solutions and I’m known as The Solutioneer, it’s what I do and am good at.  I can moan like the rest of them but I can also offer solutions, they might be bonkers or spot on but I give it thought.  I hate the phrase thinking outside the box or blue sky thinking but when a problem appears I try and remove myself from the immediate and look around to see what resources I can bring to a situation.


This morning on BBC Radio Berkshire Andrew Peach was talking about the closure of Reading Bridge and the impact it will have on everyone who uses it as well as those who don’t use it but will be challenged with the increase of traffic as drivers seek to find a route that doesn’t involve leaving home at 5am or arriving at a destination late.  I phoned in as I normally do and said I had an idea.  As I said some of my ideas are bonkers but some are spot on.  I think my idea was spot on!  The bridge is to be closed as I have said and this is a ridiculous time to do it, it’s exam season and stress levels are high.  So the bridge needs repairing but in this instance the solution is bigger than the problem.  My solution is a simple one – provide shuttle buses either side of the bridge so that those who normally use the bridge can at least cross it by foot and catch a lift the other side.

Some years ago we had roadworks in Wokingham and a friend of mine who regularly used the dug up road was going to be hugely inconvenienced.  She was talking one evening about how she was going to juggle a detour AND get her children to school on time AND get to work with time to spare.  I kindly (stupidly) suggested she dropped her children to me and I would get them there, she needn’t get caught up in the roadworks and we would all have a journey walk to school.  That worked well and everyone got to where they needed to on time, we spent the journey chatting and we were gently exercising.

I’m regularly incensed by drivers and parking around school so decided to look into organising a Walking Bus.  The council did the risk assessment on the route I suggested, I did a parent consultation, sorted routes and rotas, organised everything, involved the press and we set off for our first Walking Bus with a cameraman and journalist.  The children enjoyed it and each time they walked they had a stamp on their card which when full entitled them to a free swim at Carnival Pool.  The council went one step further and allowed the parents using the Walking Bus to meet at the library car park and gave us free parking permits to use whilst the bus was walking.  We were joined by the Police, councillors, teachers and the press – even on that awful day in July 2007 when the heavens opened and we all got soaked!  But we walked in whatever weather, reduced the traffic around school, took gentle exercise, the younger children chatted to the older children, people made friends and stress levels went down.

Years ago a health visitor (HV) was suggesting ways in which to get my non sleeping child to sleep through the night.  I tried every idea thrown at me a warm bath, chamomile or lavender bubble bath, lavender cream on toes/chest/behind ears, warm milk, gentle lighting, calm story before lights out, warm milk and then did controlled crying but ended up exhausted.  I felt like my child had all the control and I did all the crying.  HV asked me if the solution was bigger than the problem to which my reply was a big fat yes, of course it was.  HV kindly suggested that I stopped trying to fix something that was both knackering and exhausting us and fretting our child so I nodded in tearful agreement and thought about it.  I thought about what she said and realised that YES the solution wasn’t working and intact was making the problem worse.  So we stopped with the controlled crying and put said fretful child into our bed where she slept all night.  Result.  Although we had been woken up once and had got out of bed once, as soon as she was in our bed she drifted off to sleep and we slept too.  Waking up after 6 hours sleep to a toothy grin and a gurgle was the bonus.

Sometimes the solution is bigger than the problem or it’s staring at you but you can’t see it, or sometimes the solution is simple yet effective.  Whatever the problem there’s got to be a solution and a solutioneer.