2, 4, 6, 8…

I’ve been thinking about appreciation a lot recently.

As we move through life we care about different things to varying degrees. What once seemed like the main priority, the crux of your life might, in ten years, become insignificant. School worries are replaced with university issues that are subsumed by work stress – until you start a family. As a kid I appreciated rolling pennies down the shopping centre and chasing after them. These days I appreciate a decent gin bar. In amongst all that change some things are constant and we must find the time to always be grateful for those things, those people, the good times.

If we are lucky, we have people around us who make it worthwhile getting out of bed every day. People who put a smile on our faces and hold the pieces of ourselves together when times get tough. Friends, family, colleagues, in all walks of life there are people we must remember to appreciate.

A simple thank you.

Making them a cup of tea.

A hug.

It costs nothing to show how grateful we are and it means the world to be told. In the paraphrased words of Beyoncé, no one wants to feel like they’re being walked all over.

Who do you appreciate? Be sure to let them know.


How things change

When I was a child, there were about three things that were guaranteed to put a smile on my chubby little face.

I liked to play Let’s Pretend with my big brother. You know the game, right? It always starts with a sentence that goes something like “Let’s Pretend aliens are attacking and I’m Ace Ventura and you’re Lara Croft and we have to save the day.” or “Let’s Pretend dinosaurs have moved into the back garden and we want to make friends. I’ll be Indiana Jones, who do you want to be?” (I invariably chose to be Lara Croft because a) I’m unimaginative b) I liked to play the training levels of the PC game rather too much and c) she kicks arse.)

I also loved waking up before everyone else on a Saturday morning, when the house was eerily silent, and reading in bed. I’ve always devoured books, since I first learned to read, but there was something special about that witching hour – probably 7-8am – before mum got up to put the kettle on and my brother got up to watch TV, it was like the whole world belonged to me, and was offering up this peaceful time to indulge in a good book.

And finally, one of my favourite things ever, as a little girl, was to get my mum to draw a princess for me to colour in. Each time she would put pen to paper with the caveat “You know I can’t really draw” but she would always oblige and I would insist she add frills to the dress and a crown to her head before furiously scribbling with pens and crayons that culminated in a myriad of variations on a theme.

Those were the things that determined whether I’d had a particularly good day from circa 1993 to 2003 (in varying degrees, as you can imagine). You might not be surprised to hear that only one of those joys has persisted into adult life, and even that has evolved slightly. (No, I don’t ask my mum to draw princess for me, or play pretend with my brother anymore.) Saturday mornings are now sacrosanct and preserved for my once-a-week lie-in. But I still like to steal any moment when I’m home alone to read in the silence, with a hot cup of tea and my favourite blanket.

Recently I’ve been thinking about how the things that make us happy can change over time. Obviously the difference between child and adulthood is quite stark but since I’ve been back in my hometown there are other things I’ve rediscovered that I didn’t even know I’d lost.

Certain people, certain hobbies and a different quality of life have lifted me, and I didn’t even know I was being held down.

The biggest thing, though, is that I’ve rediscovered my love of learning. For years now I haven’t pushed myself academically, I haven’t stretched those little brain cells of mine. I didn’t realise that the niggling frustrations I was feeling were all because of that, until a few weeks ago. I made a decision, started doing something about it, and I feel so much better.

Since the end of September, I’ve been studying an MA in Contemporary Literature. It’s been harder than I anticipated. So far we’ve focused on Critical Theory (not my strongest suit) and it’s been quite a transition to force myself to concentrate on something fully once I get home from work.

But do you know what? Since I’ve been studying again, I’ve also been writing again, knitting again (after a few months’ break – can you believe?) and even cross stitching again. It’s as though I’ve put my brain into a different gear and now it can handle a whole heck of a lot more.

I love it.


I don’t know about you, but I love a surprise.

I like bumping into friends I haven’t seen in years. I like appearing at my parents’ house when they aren’t expecting me. I like coming home to find a melon on the kitchen counter with a note stuck on it saying ‘We didn’t have a vase, so I bought you this instead of flowers’.

But more than that, I like going into something with absolutely no expectations and coming out utterly blown away. That’s the best kind of surprise, and that’s exactly what happened to me last night.

As I may have mentioned before, To Kill a Mockingbird is my favourite book of all time. So when a play of the book was on at my local theatre, I wrangled together a bunch of my family to come and see it with me. We knew nothing about the adaptation or the theatre company, we just went along to see what they were up to.


(Photo courtesy of atgtickets.com)

There’s a lot of content in Mockingbird. A lot of complicated characters who you only come to understand little by little as you progress through the book. The plot is packed with events and issues and poignant moments and all-in-all, there’s a lot to take from those 300-odd pages and whittle down into a stage show. I had some reservations about how it would translate and I really didn’t know what to expect.

It was such a beautiful surprise.

The cast members were incredible, switching between narrator-roles and characters with ease, picking up and dropping the Deep South drawl immaculately and those children. Oh my goodness. They have a bright future.


(Photo courtesy of atgtickets.com)

A lot of thought and care has clearly been given to this play, and it’s obvious that Christopher Sergel, who adapted it for the stage, has real reverence for the book and Harper Lee’s use of language. The speech was lifted directly from the original text, and huge chunks of the narration were read aloud. It was so, so faithful. There were a few school groups in the audience and I think this production will have really helped them. This play brings to life the aspects of Mockingbird that are easily lost when you concentrate too hard; the humour, the sensitivity and the humanity.

I came out of the theatre last night feeling so many things in a really intense way. It was the same feeling I have whenever I finish reading the book; elated by the experience of it and bereft that it’s over.

The play is on in MK until Saturday, and then moves on to Richmond, so if you get the chance, see it.

You can thank me later.

Food time: Mediterranean wraps

Happy Monday, beautiful people!

Today, I have something a little bit different, and a big bit exciting to share.

Today, I have a recipe for you. Well, I call it a recipe to make it sound swanky, it’s more of a lunch idea.


(Action wrap shot. Photo by me.)

How does a Mediterranean wrap sound to you? Yummy, right? It features healthy veg and halloumi cheese and it’s super easy. It’s quite cheap too, which is always nice.

There are a couple of things to watch out for: halloumi is addictive. There will be some snaffly bits. You must do your best not to snaffle them, because if you manage not to, one batch of cooking can last you almost a week of lunches. And that little bit of genius is worth the restraint. (I think. I didn’t manage it, myself. I had to have crumpets for lunch, instead, for a couple of days. Quel domage…)


(Halloumi, YUM. Photo by me.)

So here you go…

Mediterranean wraps (makes 4 servings)

You will need:

  • 1 aubergine (or egg plant for any American readers)
  • 2 courgettes (or zucchini for any American readers)
  • Olive oil
  • Lemon juice
  • Dried thyme
  • Crushed chilli flakes
  • 1 block of halloumi
  • 4 wraps
  • Sweet chilli sauce

Preheat the oven to 150ºC (ish, none of this needs to be precise).

Slice your aubergine and courgette thinly and scatter on baking trays.

Sprinkle olive oil, lemon, thyme and chilli flakes over the vegetables. I wasn’t specific with quantities, you don’t need to be either, just go wild.

Bake the veggies for 15-20 minutes, or until they are looking a bit juicy/gnarly/crispy (mine were all of the above).

Meanwhile, drain your halloumi and pat it dry. Slice it into 5mm thick slices and fry in a dry pan on the hob. If more liquid comes out during cooking, soak it up with some kitchen roll and chuck that goo away. We want our cheese toasty.

When the underside is mottled orangey brown, flip each piece of halloumi. Remove from the heat when both sides are equally toasty and scrummy.

Whack your wrap on a plate. Layer up the courgette and aubergine (I did courgette, aubergine, courgette but it’s not exactly a science) and then put a few slices of cheese on top. I like having an extra slice at the bottom so the last mouthful is super cheesy. Drizzle with sweet chille sauce, wrap and EAT.


(Neat stacking. About the only thing I do neatly. Photo by me.)

The veg makes it fresh and zingy, the cheese adds some salt and protein and the sauce gives it some kick. Perfect lunch? I think so.

Top tip: if you put all of the fillings in the middle at the top you can do the nappy fold and keep all of your fillings safely inside the wrap. Yes I just said ‘nappy’ while talking about food. It’s ok, you will survive.

Until next time, amigos!

Lulamae Barnes

I was going to share a post with you yesterday, but something got in the way. It was one of those days. Truman Capote put it best in Breakfast at Tiffany’s:

“You know those days when you’ve got the mean reds? …the mean reds are horrible. You’re afraid and you sweat like hell, but you don’t know what you’re afraid of. Except something bad is going to happen, only you don’t know what it is.”

Yesterday was a mean reds kind of day. Unlike Holly Golightly, I don’t have any particular place that I go to make me feel better. So, I just rode it out.

Today is better. And you know what else? Today is World Book Day.

I didn’t actually realise today was the day until I saw a post by blueeggsandtea on Instagram. You might find that odd for a book lover, but it’s just because, for me, every day is book day.

Anyway, I thought I’d have a bit of waffle about books, in honour of their Great Day, and fittingly enough, I’d like to specifically talk about Breakfast at Tiffany’s.


Have you read this classic? If not, do it now. You will thank me for it later.

I’ve said before what a babe Truman Capote is. His way with words is delicious and his characters are so captivating. Throughout this novella I was simultaneously falling in love with/infuriated by/utterly obsessed with Holly Golightly. She’s the kind of character you hate to love, who gets on your nerves and yet makes your soul sing. And one of the amazing things is that we all know people like that in real life, too. Capote puts a magnifying glass on the truth of life and makes you feel it so intensely that you can’t help but sit up and think “Oh yeah, that’s like so-and-so”. Genius.


(Photo by Irving Penn, 1979)

“You can’t give your heart to a wild thing.”

And yet that’s exactly what Capote makes you do.

Have you seen the film adaptation? Yeah I thought you might have. It’s good, but it’s nowhere near as good as the book. Audrey Hepburn is her usual gorgeous, wonderful self, but she makes Holly so whimsical, so innocent, in a way that’s just not apparent in the book. Capote’s Holly knows exactly what she’s doing to the people around her; she embodies the wild thing while Audrey only plays at it. And Mickey Rooney as Mr Yunioshi? Good lord, so racist…

If I could have my way on this World Book Day I would be curled up on the sofa with an endless stream of tea, a huge box of chocolates and this glorious piece of literature. I wouldn’t get up until I’d read the whole thing in one sitting, and my life would be enriched for the experience.

Needless to say, I can’t have my way (damn work!) but if any of you could do it for me, I would be so grateful.

Until next time you beauts.

“If you let yourself love a wild thing. You’ll end up looking at the sky.”


Isn’t it funny how it takes ages to get settled into a new home? I say ‘funny’ but I actually mean ‘infuriating’. While I’m not the tidiest of people, I do like everything to have its proper place, so that on the odd occasions when I do put everything away, there is somewhere for each of my possessions to go. Looking back, it took almost two years for that to happen in Bath, so I shouldn’t be bothered that it hasn’t happened in the month we’ve been back in MK (yeah, it’s been a month! How??)

But I am. I am bothered.

We’ve done well, I will admit, and most rooms are pretty much there, but I have learned that no matter what your intentions, a second bedroom will always be a dumping ground if there isn’t a person to occupy it. There isn’t an extra person in our home (and there won’t be one anytime soon) so for now, it is the place I shut the door on to forget about mess.

I have, however, managed to make the living room feel lived in. By which I mean, I have completely taken over parts of it. Hey, a girl needs her girly space, amiright?

First came the picture window.


(It’s surprisingly hard to take a photo of a window…photo by me.)

This window is ever so slightly higher than the others in the flat and it’s quite a lot smaller. I don’t know if it’s technically called a picture window, but it makes the view out of it look like a framed picture, so that’s what I call it.


(I love the different colours in glass. Photo by me.)

These bottles were saved from the wedding, almost two years ago now! Remember how we used them for centrepieces, with handmade flowers peeking out? Well, the flowers all found good homes with the wedding guests, but the bottles sat forlornly overlooked in my parents house. Until now! I filled them with sweetheart roses (£3.50 for a dozen – bargain!) and they look very lovely indeed.


(See? Gorge. Photo by me.)

I also had to have a little nod to my obsession with all things French. When I was working in Bristol, I found this amazing French shop called Bonjour People in St James Arcade. It’s filled with authentic French food and drink, lovingly handmade accessories and crazy bits for the home like this:


It is a cabane mouchette – a house for a little fly! The whole thing is made by hand and I just think it’s so whimsical and delightful. Alongside the wall sticker that reads “mon coin de ciel” (this is my part of the sky) the whole scene is complete.

But it’s not the only part of the room that’s been Lizzie-fied.


(Work in progress. Photo by me.)

This is my gallery wall. It’s a collection of postcards and awesome things I’ve found on Pinterest. It’s all just stuck up with blu-tak, so I can move things around, change up the graphics and generally tweak it until I’m happy. It’s amazing how many free printables there are out there. Check out these, these and this!

All of that is lovely, right?

Thanks, so glad you think so.

But it’s not the best bit. My pride and joy is my bureau…


(Ignore the mess around it, just look at the pretty! Photo by me.)

Over 200 hundred years old, this gorgeous antique was a gift from Steven two Christmases ago and I have finally been reunited with it. There was nowhere for it to go in the Bath flat, so my parents were looking after it. Let me just tell you, it works perfectly in the new flat and it means I get to work here:


(Yes, I tidied it before the photo, what do you take me for? Photo by me.)

So it might be slow going, but we are nesting, bedding down in this lovely new home. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a second bedroom to conquer!

Be still, my beating heart

Last Tuesday I got some news. To most people it wouldn’t be earth shattering news, but to me it was huge. I was just about to go out and I got a notification on my phone to tell me that my brother-in-law had shared something with me on Facebook. At that point I had no idea that it would be so important to me.

Generally, I’m not a person of certainties. I don’t have a favourite food or restaurant. I don’t have a favourite band or singer. I don’t think I have a favourite colour but the prevalence of purple in my wardrobe does undermine that slightly. However there is one thing I absolutely know to be true: my favourite book is To Kill A Mockingbird, the one and only book to come from the mind of Harper Lee.

The one and only book until now.

Because last week it was announced that Go Set A Watchman, a second book by Lee, is going to be published 14 July 2015. It was actually Lee’s first novel, written about Scout as an adult in New York, but the publishers enjoyed the flashbacks to Scout’s childhood so much that they asked her to write about that instead, and so Mockingbird was born. Lee didn’t think the manuscript of Watchman had survived until the publishers discovered it paperclipped to a copy of Mockingbird.

How much more wonderful could literature get? The beautiful piece of artistry that is Mockingbird, the sumptuous evocative text that says, in such simple terms, such big things that make you feel so deeply, will be alone no more.

When I read that piece of news I did a happy dance in my living room. No jokes.

There has been some controversy surrounding the news. People are worried that Lee, who is a very private person has been coerced into publishing Watchman. These people think it’s too much of a coincidence that Lee’s sister, who was her lawyer and protector, died just two months before the announcement of this new book.

The statements from Lee herself have seemed to be joyful and in control. She has said that she is thrilled they found the manuscript, and has asked people she trusts whether they think it is worth publishing (to many a resounding ‘yes’, of course).

People have even questioned if Watchman will stand up to the quality of Mockingbird, without the input of the latter’s editor, who was supposedly influential in making it the piece of literature it is today. But is that the point? Surely, this is about sharing Lee’s talent and her original intention for the story of Scout? It is naïve to think that without the very same editor Watchman won’t be a good piece of literature. There is more to a book than that. There are plenty of talented editors, and more importantly, it is Lee’s way with the written word that we have all fallen in love with and that we are all thrilled to be getting another dose of. We should not be comparing the two books, we should be grateful that we are allowed to lose ourselves once more in the delightful prose of Harper Lee.

I am uneasy with the idea that this wonderful woman, made vulnerable through the loss of her sister, could have been forced into something she was unhappy or uncomfortable with. But equally, I think it is sad that we are so cynical as to jump immediately to negative conclusions when such fantastic news is presented to us. In the wake of stories that tell us about murder, death and wrongful imprisonment, can’t we be glad that this book will be published?

It’s taken me over a week to write this post because I wanted to think about exactly what this news means to me, and how I want to take it – which evidence I believe and how I should feel. I am torn, but for me it’s all about the books. If something beautiful, poignant and meaningful has been written, it should be published and made available to as many people as possible. I choose to believe that it isn’t about profit margins and sales figures but about sharing a story that was meant to be heard. In the end, I pre-ordered my copy and I wait with bated breath to read Go Set A Watchman.

Welcome back Harper, we’ve missed you.