Where in the world is…

IMAG0930What can I say? May just blew right by. But I have a gorgeous new nephew. He’s perfect and tiny and seeing DD hold him was just precious. 

I’ve been battling with some raging hives recently, which has also kept me off the radar. I don’t know if they are a side effect of my hideous hayfever, or another symptom of coeliac disease kicking my arse, but I can tell you, I’m fed up. On a good day, my face is sore and dry. On a bad day, which is more frequent, I feel like I’ve burnt my skin and then had the remnants exfoliated. It’s especially agonising around my eyelids, which makes blinking 15,000 times a day a real effing pain. So I’m trying a combination of natural and chemical remedies based on the severity of the symptoms every day. I’m now acutely aware of my face, which is hilarious because I’ve never placed a lot of value on it. The height of make-up for me is mascara AND lipstick, which I definitely can’t wear now – so I’m walking around like the victim of a bad facial, exuding a gentle whiff of antiseptic steroid cream. Dead sexy! 

Given the facial situation, I’ve been staying indoors as much as I can toIMG_20160531_200714 avoid pollen and pollution – bonus time to read a lot more and learn a new craft: crochet! I’m on the simple stitch, straight line game, and feel confident that I will have a lap blanket by this winter, in multi-coloured stripes. Woop! Silver linings and all that.

I’m now waiting for Me Before You to appear in the cinema tomorrow. I loved the book by Jojo Moyes, both laughed and cried through it, and I’m desperately hoping that the movie does it justice. There’s been a media shitstorm around the whole Dignitas issue, and I’m keen to see how the movie tackles it. It’s a divisive topic, but I believe it can be handled well.

And on a really joyful note, the broad beans & sweet peas DD planted have not just survived, but thrived, under my ministrations! The broad beans are still too tiny to eat, but they are growing every day. My toxic thumbs may be a thing of the past, folks!

How about you? Is it spring where you are? How’s your hayfever? What are you reading?






Quality Time Away

I’ve been away from the blog, spending quality time with my loved ones. It is exactly what I needed.

DD got a pile of books for Christmas, and she has been most diligent at turning her TBR pile into her Read-That pile. One book really gripped her and she was desperate for me to read it, and I am so glad she got her way.

This book is amazing. Just delightful. Realistic, yet hopeful. Factual about Ireland in the 19th century, yet not fatalistic or political.

I love discussing it with DD after I had finished. We talked about the characters and how the author set the tone, from Ireland to the New World. We talked politics. DD is an expat third culture kid, so this story especially appealed to her. I think she really identified with the protagonist. The experience brought us together in a way I couldn’t have imagined, and I can’t wait to read another book ‘together’.

I’ve also been busy at work, but good busy. The magazine is going from strength to strength and it’s heartening to see my efforts yield tangible results. Somewhere in the recesses of my mind, I was afraid that the team would eventually show their ‘true colours’ – that people couldn’t really be that nice. I am delighted to announce that I was WRONG. It’s a real joy to be able to enjoy what I do, even on a bad day. I am well aware of how lucky I am.


One of my favourite covers – the February 2016 issue – it soothes me every time I look at it, which is several times a day.


Some of my favourite books … the #shelfie is for a work project. Which books would make your #shelfie?


It’s daffodil season again! We had a delivery of narcissii from the Scilly Isles to the office, and their scent was a glorious welcome to work every morning. Which flowers say spring to you?


Adult colouring me happy!

The lovely Pens have been put to good use. One did roll through the slats in the decking, but favourite husband came to the rescue and it is back safe with its 11 colours in arms.






it's not about neatness, fer sure!

Any other recommendations for colouring books or Downloads? The book I’m using was a fiver on Amazon. Score!

Teaser Tuesday: Dream Land

It was meant to be like coming home…

Safi wondered if he knew that she wanted a story to fill the cold space inside her and make her feel homey as his stories always did, because he’d been telling them to her for as long as she could remember. She smiled at him, a smile that felt a bit wobbly.

For all her 12 years, Safinar’s parents have dreamed of returning to Grandpa’s native village in Crimea from exile in Uzbekistan. But exchanging their sunny, sprawling home for a tent in a squalid camp is more like a nightmare.

Written mostly from Safi’s sensitive pre-teen perspective, this book is an exploration in identity & culture, and how these can hold a family together and tear it apart. I am halfway through and absolutely gripped by this compelling tale about the Crimean Tatars’ struggle to reclaim the land from which they were exiled in the Second World War.

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by A Daily Rhythm, and open to all.

Teaser Tuesday: Disgrace

Off the back of my Ruby Red teaser last Tuesday, it’s time for another South African author (and Nobel Prize-winner):


Disgrace (1999), by J. M. Coetzee, winner of the Booker prize

Set in post-apartheid South Africa, Disgrace is a damning and honest portrait of a country struggling to come to terms with its salvation and ruin. It explores the power play between the subduers and the subjugated, although there is no clear protagonist or antagonist. It explores shame, and the space women occupy. The book has taken me through a range of emotions, and I highly recommend it for a summer read (you’re going to need the sunshine to counterbalance the material!).

Teaser Tuesday: Ruby Red

So many books, so little time! 

Jay from Running In My Head is a regular teaser! Now before y’all go getting hot under the collar, Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by A Daily Rhythm, and open to all. Open a random page of a book you are currently reading, and share a few sentences from that page. But make sure you don’t share any spoilers!

I am deeply riveted by the writing, and the history, behind Ruby Red:

‘Instead, they stab the hand that shows the truth. No, sir. Until we can unite brother to brother, until we can snuff out the burning jealousy that destroys when one of us rises from the filthy ashes -‘ Julian ran his hand slowly along the jagged scar that ran the length of his forearm – ‘then, sir, we will be ready for change.’

Do I need some Bloglovin’?

I don’t know. Do I? Do I need to link up with Bloglovin’, too? Or is it just one more site to monitor? Lovers and haters, I need to hear from you.

Otherwise, it’s been a lazy old week. It’s half-term in the UK, which means the children are off from school, so I’ve been spending time with my all-time-favourite lady. We’ve gone out to lunch, we’ve watched movies, we’ve hung out at Camden Market, and we’ve bought all her teachers gifts in anticipation of the end-of-school-year next month. Go us!! (She’s having a bit of a sulk now because clearly, we’ve had TOO much fun, and we need some balance). We’re going to see Tomorrowland with her Breton Bestie tomorrow – I can’t wait! Oh, and I finished reading The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne.

It was delicious. Heart-breaking and beautiful and so well-observed. I fell in love with Bruno, I could almost picture myself in his head. John Boyne has done an amazing job of exploring the relationships, the beliefs and the conflicts through the eyes of a young child.

Childhood is measured out by sounds and smells and sights, before the dark hour of reason grows.

~John Betjeman

Some reviewers complained that the child was too naive, but remember, this young boy played on the streets with his friends, he wasn’t watching TV and being bombarded by media the way our children are today. His constant mispronunciation of certain places and names added to the charm. There was no overt violence, but enough language and expression to ensure understanding. I watched the movie, but the book is better. I was sobbing at the end. For the loss of innocence. For the sins of the father being visited upon the son. For the absolute senseless waste. 

If you haven’t already read it, go buy it now. If you have read it, what do you think? Good, bad or indifferent? Any other John Boyne books I should read?

Celebrating 100 posts, 1000 likes and 1000 tweets

It has been a crazy old weekend. The Follow Friday post resulted in so much feedback into Saturday, I had a hard time keeping up on my phone. We were out in the countryside and the only way to get a proper signal was to balance on one leg and dangle my arm out the window!

Today, I’ve logged back onto my laptop and discovered (since 19 January this year) I’ve written 100 posts, received 1000 likes, and tweeted 1000 times. So today’s post is a round-up-best-of-Petal-and-Mortar bonanza.

I suppose a good place to start is with my intro to motherhood. Then read about some setbacks on the road to recovery. Read my open letter to the Duchess of Cambridge and her new daughter. Maybe bake a batch of peanut butter cookies, or tahini cookies, before you settle down to read. Enjoy some of my attempts at photography, such as BlissConnect and Oddities. If you’re looking for books to read this summer, I can highly recommend Maine and The Lemon Grove. Laugh along at my daughter’s thoughts. Get swept up in the excitement backstage. Make some carrot cake. You’ll need a sugar rush to get you through grief, rage, panic attacks and social phobia.

If you’ve enjoyed the ride so far, follow my blog for more adventures, or come say Hæ/hej/hello on Twitter (@petalandmortar). Also, check out the fellow bloggers who like and follow my posts. They’re pretty awesome, too!