To do list update!

So in my attempt to blog more I thought I’d ease myself in slowly and do a little update on how my New year’s To do list is going so far (next week’s blog will be more interesting honest!!!)

*Improve my health, exercise more & massively improve my diet- Hmmmmm well I have bought the plastic takeaway boxes to start meal planning and erm I am making an effort to eat more veg and fruit but sadly cake & chocolate has still been too much a part of my diet. I have also joined the gym and am starting back at my phyio as we have booked skiing for Easter and I want to be fighting fit and have an incredible holiday

*Start learning French- That’s a huge fat nope!

*Use up every arts & craft/science kit- Millie has been doing lots of colouring but haven’t made much of a dent in the arts & craft stuff yet so this weekend on Sunday we’ll be using lots!

*Blog more- I’m writing this now and well… I’m hoping to start blogging once a week….watch this space!

*Do a fun family activity every weekend with the kids- We have some things in the pipeline lined up and on a different note I’ve booked for my Mum and I to do a one day cooking course together that includes Champagne and a cream tea. Very excited!!!

*Reading hour once a week as a family- Yep we actually managed that at the weekend, even if Charlie was face deep in a magazine rather than a book (thankfully it was Kids National Geographic- an awesome pressie for his birthday for 2 good friends, cannot recommend this enough as it’s an ace read for Children!)

*Read more generally- I have really taken this on board and have nearly finished my first book ‘The Museum of Extraordinary Things’ by Alice Hoffman. It’s a love story, a mystery and some history all thrown in together and I’m loving it!

*Be kinder to myself- Also trying to do this more, instead of automatically looking in the mirror and thinking yuck, or disregarding my opinion before I even voice it I am actually trying to find positives in everything

*Once a month (or more!) date night with the Hubs- We’re off for a night away this weekend yippee sooooooo excited as it includes a 7 course meal and bottle of champagne!

*More socialising with friends- Yep last Friday we had friend’s over and laughed lots and this Friday it’s the same. Bring on the Prosecco!!!

*Make more of an effort on my hair/makeup/clothing- Erm nope haven’t done that yet

*More sex…- Not telling!

*And most important of all……worry less & enjoy life more- Having had bad news about several friends’ health before and after Christmas I have realised that all that really matters is that my hubs, the kids and I are happy and healthy! I’m making an effort to spend more time with friends, making plans and being organised so I don’t have last minute worries and panics- leaving me time to enjoy myself!

There we go a little update on how things are going- eeeeek I better start thinking about what to do for next week’s blog.



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2016 I’m Coming At Ya!!!

So it was this time last year I wrote my blog  post about making and breaking New Year resolutions and here I am doing it again. But this time it’s not so much resolutions but a tick list for this year of things I’d love to do or achieve even if it’s only a few times so I can give myself a pat on the back that I can stick to and achieve something! I was inspired by Clemmie’s list (Mother of All Lists) so thought I’d write one of my own.

Here goes:

-Improve my health because this year has been a pants one for me health wise with hip damage and then operation and 2 bouts of flu/virus that mean time off work plus numerous minor ailments like my asthma and eczema bothering me- this then leads me into the next 2 things!

-exercise more, starting with actually doing my physio properly then yoga or Pilates once I’m stronger, adding in longer walks for Archie and then hopefully running again and horse riding by 2017.

-massively improve my diet (meal planning/prepping so Sunday afternoon filled up meaning the rest of the week will hopefully be easier) and definitely eat fewer carbs- I’m a carbs demon and can eat half a loaf of bread in one sitting

– Start learning French as one day we will live in the Alps, walking in the Summer and skiing in the Winter- heaven!

-Use up every arts & craft/science kit the kids have been given for Birthdays/Xmas over the last few years and have fun whilst we’re at it which will also mean clearing much need cupboard/loft/garage space

-Blog more because I love writing and it’s nice having a creative outlet that isn’t linked to work. Whilst I love the shop fashion blogging isn’t really for me as it’s so nice to step away from that- I think lifestyle and family blogging is more up my street!

-Do a fun family activity every weekend with the kids that’s not their existing sport/hobby i.e.: museums/National Trust Days Out/cinema/Theatre/art galleries. This will mean it will actually have been worth me paying out for the family National Trust membership- not just the one trip to Waddesdon manor last Summer!

-Reading hour once a week as a family as we spend far too much time looking at screens and not at pages of paper filled with lovely words

-Read more generally as I love it and miss that “me time” I used to get when I was fully engrossed in a book and could while away the hours in another world

– Be kinder to myself, whilst I may be a harsh critic of others I’m my own worst critic as can think things about myself that leave me in tears (typical Virgo apparently!)!

-Once a month (or more!) date night with the Hubs as a great way to make sure we connect and have time to ourselves

-More socialising with friends as we always enjoy a weekend more when we have a drink & a laugh with friends

-Make more of an effort on my hair/makeup/clothing as my 1 stone weight gain due to hip damage/depression has meant that I look in the mirror and struggle to be kind about myself or say one positive thing- even a slick of lipstick can mean I feel a bit more confident and less harsh about myself

-More sex… self-explanatory really because let’s be honest who doesn’t want more sex?!? It’s good for you, great exercise, brings you closer to your partner and erm well feels good!!!

-And most important of all……worry less & enjoy life more. This has to be my 2016 mantra as getting anxious and upset about the things you can do nothing about is totally pointless! Enjoy and be happy with my lot because I’m one lucky lady with a fab husband, happy and healthy kids, a great job and friends and family I adore. As my gorgeous 8 year old son Charlie says “Mummy we’re very lucky aren’t we because we have a roof over our heads, food to eat and a bed to sleep in” yes Charlie yes we are!

Jen xxx

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Have An Independent Christmas This Year!


OK so it’s that time of year again folks- the time of year where Christmas Carols are in every shop you walk into, your kids are desperate to eat their entire Advent calendars in the first 2 days of the month and I have a good old rant about Independent retail.

I’m sorry I know I sound like a broken record, and you’ve probably read it all before but I’m going to write about it anyway! Why? Well because I’m passionate about it- it’s my livelihood (Coco Marie), my first baby and a huge huge part of my life. That’s not to say I don’t shop/eat/drink at any of the big boys- I like a Costa on a chilly Sunday morning whilst watching my son play football and who can resist the pull of Amazon when you’re as disorganised as I am and buy presents at the extreme last minute! However I also understand the importance of independent retail and the High Street. How it’s the life and soul of local communities and how buying just a small percentage of your Christmas gifts in an Independent store can change the owners day/Christmas from a good one to a bad one!

I think now more than ever it’s important that I write this blog post because this season has a been a tough one, the toughest season in retail I have known in the 10 years we have been open. I’ve never cried so much or had so many sleepless nights and near panic attacks over how tough retail is. You only have to open a newspaper to realise clothing retail is an especially tough industry to be in. When you’re competing against not just the big boys on your own High Street like Whistles, Phase Eight and Joules in Old Amersham but also online retailers such as Amazon and ASOS work life is bound to be tough. In the 10 years we’ve been in business Mum and I have seen more of our brands start selling to huge National Chains or large department store and websites. Whilst a huge proportion of my customers only shop with Independents (or like me much prefer to) no one can resist the pull of Black Friday- this godawful American phenomenon that has been dragged over here by Asda (Walmart). I had customers ringing and asking me to price match left right and centre. Now I of course always like to make our customers happy and where I could do so I did price match. However it’s heartbreaking for us every time we do it! It wouldn’t be so bad if they were asking us to price match another Independent but it’s when we are phoned and asked if we’ll price match John Lewis, Fenwicks or ASOS that it really hurts. A £100 sale to them is nothing, a mere drop in the Ocean, but a £100 sale to us can turn a bad day of sales into a good one. What a lot of people aren’t aware of is that these companies will be making more money from the same item that we sell. They will of course benefit from economies of scale as they will buy hundreds of a style of watch or scarf where we only buy 3 or 4. So where we pay £30 for something they’ll pay £25, therefore at full price they will have a better margin than us and even on Black Friday they will have a better margin than us. Then there’s the fact that they will nearly always be at the top of google as they have a whole office (or more) of people working just on their website. For us at Coco Marie it’s just little old me that does our website- we work with a lovely small company that hosts our site for us and makes larges changes such as slider banners/new pages etc, but overall just me on my lonesome. Kat who works alongside me in store is utterly fabulous with artwork which has come in handy and she has taken some pressure off by taking on some of the social media so that I can concentrate on the worst part of owning your own business- paperwork! Whether you’re doing well or not there will always be bills to pay, data entry on the Epos to do and emails to answer (up to 80 a day most days- god knows how?!?)

It seems like I’m moaning about all of this but I would say I love my job and I love running my own business. I also really apprecaite that whilst it’s hard for us to price match I do seriously appreciate our customers thinking of us and that they’d rather spend that £100 with us than John lewis so I really don’t mean to sound ungrateful! My apologies if I do.

being an Indie retaiIer I can forgive the paperwork and emails, the late nights and working bank holidays.  My only real bugbear? That people immediately go to the big boys at Christmas. From the first time the darn Coca Cola  “Holidays Are Coming” tune is heard on the TV they go running to John Lewis like a middle class apocalypse is about to happen or bring up their Amazon App on their Ipad and start adding things to their basket like the Internet is about to disappear into the ether.

It’s this time of year I urge you to think about where you shop. You may be an avid online shopper but that doesn’t have to mean you have to be obvious with it- how about getting on Instagram/Twitter or even Google and getting some inspiration from some of us smaller shops. We can offer the same items at the same prices and even offer next day delivery (or free delivery), but we just need you guys to believe in us. I have found some of the most fabulous Independent retailers by taking a look at Instagram and searching hashtags I’m interested in such as #indiexmas or #independentretail . Last year I discovered Roo’s Beach; a wonderful emporium of Fashion and gifts that had newly opened in Porth, Cornwall. I stocked up on Stocking Fillers and fun items for my Hubby and Kids all from the comfort of my arm chair and all with free delivery. I then also discovered Southwood Stores owned by the wonderful Hayley Southwood- her passion and delight at what she does shines through in every photo she posts and I have bought some fab exercise gear, stocking fillers and cards from her that I hadn’t seen anywhere else in the UK. Even the graphics I have used on this post are by a wonderful independent called LH Design– Lola is amazing at hand illustrated cards and artwork and produced this wonderful artwork last year for people to rip it off and take away her logo- soul destroying for small business like her- take a look at her blog post all about it here.

For us this Christmas being a busy and profitable one is crucial. With the rise in popularity of the discount culture we are struggling to compete with the shops around us in Old Amersham. When Whistles have their 30% off Grazia discounts every season we face a few weeks of no one through the door unless we can offer some sort of discount to our customers. Our margins are so teeny compared to any chain store it is extremely heartbreaking for us to try and compete. Many shops such a Viyella and Country Casuals (whilst I get they’re not really out customer base) opened their Old Amersham stores with huge discounts and by all accounts are rarely not in sale. It’s not just us that are struggling, if most of the Indie fashion shops around us are honest they are finding it tough to. Some are lucky to have 20 plus years of customers to keep them going or several other London based locations to prop up a bad day of sales in their Amersham store but ultimately footfall is massively down in our little Market Town. So what do we do about- well I for one am not ready to give up on baby Number 1 Coco Marie! I have lots up my sleeve for our lovely customers including a charity fashion show, pop up shops and more over the coming season but we need you to keep doing what you do wonderful customers and support us and buy from us!

So once again I urge you to think about your local high street over the next few weeks or you’ll start seeing vacant premises a week or two after Christmas and lose those lovely indies you’d pop into occasionally for a unique gift or dress for a party.

With Small Business Saturday fast approaching this weekend is the time to take action and help keep your High Street alive and full of one off shops rather than generic High Street Chains- pop in and chat to the owners, talk to them about why independent retail is important, why they do what they do and you never know you may discover some hidden gems (and exciting presents!) along the way!

Jen xxx

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Home Sweet Home

Now don’t get me wrong I’m a fan of John Lewis as much as the next person- who doesn’t love wandering around the home & garden section imagining you could press reset on your house and kit it out all over again. However when it comes to accessories, artwork & general house completing accoutrements you simply cannot beat checking out your local independent stores. You’ll pick up one offs, unique pieces & something to wow your friends!

Speaking of friend’s mine often ask where we get some of the pieces we have at home & whilst a few of ours are vintage (butterflies in frames- some of which are over 100 years old), I always end up sending them to Great Missenden- it is the best town around when it comes to gorgeous stores. It has a positive plethora of indie home shops bursting with yummy things to add those finishing touches to your boudoir or living room.

Fair Lilly sells hand painted furniture, chalk paints & beautiful glass door/cabinet knobs. I purchased this table from there for my kitchen and whilst they offered to paint it I loved it just as it was rustic & well used. Whilst there I also picked up some fun purple glass knobs for Millie’s cream chest of drawers- she loves purple & anything sparkly so they were of course a hit!

Rustic table with several of my Big Sky purchases visible behind it!

Rustic table with several of my Big Sky purchases visible behind it!

Alphabet Soup is a great place to pick up fun cards, quirky books, jewellery and knick knacks plus some truly awesome artwork. This Bold & Noble print was a gift from my parent’s when we moved back from Cornwall to Bucks and features one of my fave colours- duck egg.

In case we forget where we live?!?

In case we forget where we live?!?

The lovely owner of Alphabet Soup is one extremely talented lady- she can hand cut paper maps and has done an amazing one of Great Missenden that is gorgeous definitely next on my “to buy” list.

Papercut Print of Great Missenden

But hands down my favourite shop in the whole world (other than my own of course!) is Big Sky. You seriously couldn’t meet two more lovely ladies than sisters Kim and Karen. If anyone wants to buy me a Birthday or Christmas gift they know to go here as these guys know exactly what I’ll love. They have the perfect mix of country chic, mild industrial, ethereal floral and luxe cushions to tempt any tastes.

There are too many pieces dotted around the house to show you everything but here are a few of my absolute favourites:

Driftwood heart- a gift from my Husband on our 5th (Wooden) Wedding Anniversary

Driftwood heart- a gift from my Husband on our 5th (Wooden) Wedding Anniversary

Vintage Indian Side table

Vintage Indian Side table

Mini Beast Coasters- I’d seen some on Rockett St George but they were out of stock & knew I’d find some at Blue Sky

turquoise jug

Turquoise jug I use for flowers- kids use for hiding sweet packets in!

No idea where these Flamingo print lampshades & cushions are going yet- but I couldn't resist them!

No idea where these Flamingo print lampshades & cushions are going yet- but I couldn’t resist them!

family pic

Bought by my little Brother & his gorgeous wife for my Birthday- within 5 minutes of this arriving at home we had already filled it with pictures of the kids

Last but not least this retro wooden postcard purchased today (whoops!) for Charlie's bedroom

Last but not least this retro wooden postcard purchased today (whoops!) for Charlie’s bedroom

Whilst they don’t all sell online (Alphabet Soup is the only one) if you are in or near Bucks you’d be mad not to make a visit to Great Missenden! Have the kids with you? Take them to Roald Dahl Museum and then bribe them with a slice of Bogtrotters Chocolate Cake at Cafe Twit for being good in the shops. Out with friends for the day? Book a table at Origins At The White Lion– modern worldwide tapas- the chicken gyoza and tempura vegetables are to die for- I’m drooling just thinking about it, oh and don’t forget to finish off the meal with their white chocolate & pistachio cheesecake on millionaires shortbread base!!!

Pps: I can’t forget Elizabeth Wintgens– they do some amazing framing in there, sell super cute baby gifts (ones baby can NEVER have too many Jelly Cat toys!) but they also sell a fab little range of books. For my husband’s Xmas pressie I found this one “Letters of Note: Correspondence Deserving Of A Wider Audience” featuring a range of unusual or inspiring letters.

A great present for a loved one (or yourself!)

A great present for a loved one (or yourself!)

My favourite 2 are Queen Elizabeth II’s letter to Eisenhower featuring a recipe for drop scones & one from Pete Docter the screenwriter/director of ‘Monster’s Inc’ who even though he was in the middle of making Pixar’s ‘Up’ took the time to write (and illustrate) a letter to a fan- a great gift for a loved one (or to yourself!)

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Knit Happens!

Whoever thought knitting- the hobby of many an octogenarian would suddenly become cool again?!? I certainly didn’t so I was really surprised when on the tube a few months ago I spotted a super trendy hipster knitting & pearling away to her hearts content. Crafting is once again cool and it’s definitely here to stay. Take for instance the recent Pop Up “The Cornershop” in London’s trendy East End. The entire shop was full of hand felted items, from packets of sweets to tampons to the charity tin at the till. The press had a field day and it was featured on blogs, newspapers and websites around the country.

The Daily Mail featured Lucy's Sparrow's project "The Cornershop" made entirely from felt- image from their website, click for original article

The Daily Mail featured Lucy’s Sparrow’s project “The Cornershop” made entirely from felt- image from their website, click for original article

I hadn’t thought much about knitting again until my friend Rachel asked if I’d like to join her at a knitting club that takes place once a month. It’s run by Becks from The Dandy Kid– an uber cool kids lifestyle store in Wendover (with some fab bits for their funky mummas to!) and Hannah, or as she has become known “The Knitting Midwife”.  This has caused some confusion with questions from mine and Rachel’s friends & family such as “well what’s that then?” or “do you have to be pregnant to go along?”-  well erm it’s all in the name really  she’s a midwife who knits and no you don’t have to have a bun in the oven to attend.

Now I’m not at all Arts & Craftsy, I have no natural ability at drawing, stitching, gluing or even stapling so I was pretty nervous to say the least. But off Rach and I toddled to our local wool and craft store Rainbow Silks (in Great Missenden) to buy our weapons of choice. Rachel chose a beautiful thick clean looking pink wool and the most enormous needles you’ve ever seen- I mean seriously you could do some damage with those bad boys! Millie wanted me to knit her a scarf so I chose what looked like a fairly thick slightly fluffy cream wool and some less abnormal sized needles (not the picture below suffice to say!)

Pretty sure Rach's needles were this big!

Pretty sure Rach’s needles were this big!

We’ve been getting teased by our other halves for the last few weeks about getting old and how unsexy knitting was (just wait until we knit some bikinis you two!) which we’ve laughed off, because two hours on a Tuesday evening to ourselves- regardless of the knitting, wine and cake that was on offer sounded like pure bliss.

Rach & me on our hols next year- well OK this is crocheted and she's a Supermodel but you get the picture!

Rach & me on our hols next year- well OK this is crocheted but you get the picture!

We weren’t disappointed- it was held in a lovely café deli in Wendover called Whitewaters and was an intimate group of about 10 of us. They limit the number of beginners and for good reason as poor Hannah seemed to spend the majority of the time helping me undo the mess I made- cack handed doesn’t even begin to describe my knitting style.

We arrived at 8 and paid our £9.50 whilst Becks wrote some fun anecdotal name tags for us with little snippets of information she knew about all of us- mine “Jen- she owns a fab shop in Amersham” and Rachel’s “Rachel- she plays hockey” and so on and so forth around the room. It was a lovely mixture of ladies who either knew one another through school or through links to The Dandy Kid and surrounding shops.  Becks then made tea, coffee, poured wine and water for us and it began. Hannah cast on for us as it was tricky and showed us the basics. As I said I’m no natural and my scarf will be a teensy bit chilly for poor Millie with plenty of dropped stitches and holes- hey ho we’ve all got to start somewhere and multitasking has never been my forte. It was great to see all the different things being made- I was especially impressed with Becks’ jersey knitting


Becks definitely knows a thing or two about knitting!

Becks definitely knows a thing or two about knitting!

One thing that I really loved was chatting to everyone about what they did and how they came to be at the club- from pregnant Mum’s knitting blankets, experienced knitters who’s needles moved so quickly they were a blur and fellow indie business owners and Mum’s needing a bit of time to themselves. It’s so funny  how having moved back to Bucks everyone knows one another in the local area through someone else or a random link. Becks is good friends with a buddy of mine from post natal group, Hannah knitter extraordinaire is the sister of a girl from my year at High School, Anna from Monkey, Floss & Me (a hand painted furniture company) has moved into a friend’s house in the village and I met last year at a kids’ birthday party. Other ladies including Rae from Fabric HQ (a great company selling beautiful fabrics & offering all sorts of great classes locally) & Emma from Emma May Stitching who runs sewing classes at Fabric HQ knew one another from when Fabric HQ was next to the Dandy Kid.

So am I going to be knitting incredible intricate cashmere jumpers for Coco Marie to sell in store…… in one word no! As I’ve said knitting doesn’t come naturally to me but I will certainly relish the challenge to knit even a basic scarf and it sure beats watching rubbish television or spending all evening looking at Facebook etc on my phone! So here’s to new hobbies & new friends and next month’s knit club- after all “What happens At Knitting Club Stays At Knitting Club!”

"The Knitting Midwife" surrounded by her flock (if you'll excuse the pun!)

“The Knitting Midwife” surrounded by her flock (if you’ll excuse the pun!)

Contact Becks at The Dandy Kid for more information on the next Knitting Club (last Tuesday of every month)

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New Years Resolutions and why I will always make them (and inevitably break them!)

Firstly my apologies for not blogging in what feels like forever, I’m still trying to feel confident enough about pressing “post” and think that what I’m writing isn’t complete rubbish. I doubt I’ll ever feel 100% confident in what I’m writing but I have started to feel writing is quite cathartic. So anyway here is my latest post below and fingers crossed they’ll come more regularly in 2015!!!

OK guys you know the drill- drunk and full of fatty delicious party food on New Year’s Eve you slur to your friends all the things you MUST do (and not do) in the impending New Year (my apologies to Adrian, Rachel and Victoria for this Year’s slurring!).  You find an inspirational quote, put it on Facebook/Instagram and any other social networking site you can think of, friends “like” the post and agree they need to do the same. You throw yourself gung ho into your gym regime, healthy eating, keeping a diary, cleaning your house once a week, learning French etc and congratulate yourself for being so bloody brilliant. By the 31st January you have missed a weeks’ worth of cleaning, gym, juicing, learning French  and feel truly rubbish and a complete failure, Oh well you say and go back to the way you were feeling let down but stuffing your face full of takeaways , chocolate and too much caffeine regardless- or is that just me?!?

So if I were to buy into the New Year’s resolution obsession mine would be- exercise more, eat healthily, have more time to myself, get cross with the kids less, have a date night with my husband once a month, get a cleaner, have a better work life balance and make more of an effort to keep in contact with old friends. So it’s a long list of must do’s I know but since having kids and hitting 30 I’ve been ill more times than I care to think. It’s been a few years of chest infections, developing asthma, tonsillitis (at one point 8 times in one year), migraines and depression. Seeing pictures of my toned and seemingly healthy younger self has made me feel even worse about my current weight and health. My depression can mean some days I think I can take on the world so I join the gym or buy a health book and do really well for a fortnight before I go downhill again and have a week or so of panic attacks and feeling like I can’t leave the house apart from school runs. New Years resolutions for a depression/anxiety sufferer can be like kryptonite to Superman- draining and damaging. I want to make them but the fear of not completing the task can be just too great.

I’ve been thinking lots about New Years Resolutions and if I should or shouldn’t make them. I guess what people don’t take into account is for instance with a resolution like keeping in touch with old friends it has to be reciprocated, if they’re not interested in keeping in touch then you’ve already set yourself up for failure. So being realistic has to be part of your New Year plan. If you contact that friend and they don’t seem too bothered you can’t beat yourself up about breaking a resolution. Or date night once a month with your husband- well mine often works an 80 hour week. He’s so exhausted when he’s home he wants a cup of tea and a movie night, plus my parents already help me out loads with childcare whilst I’m at work- asking them at the weekends seems a bit too much. I’ve already set myself up for a fall there. So instead I could say a special night once a month- whether it be a lovely home cooked meal where we eat at the table together, a night at the cinema with friends. It’s not a failure that we didn’t get a posh night out together on our own but a positive we spent any time together!!!

OK so I’m blethering but I think what I’m trying to say is whilst I will have every intention of keeping to my New Years resolutions, I also have to give myself a break as life can sometimes get in the way. So if I don’t make it to the gym 3 times a week but only once then I shouldn’t see this as a negative but a positive I even made it there once.

If I were to pick one resolution that is really important to me it would be to get fit and healthy. I was inspired after seeing a pic of Katie from Mummydaddyme on Instagram. She looks so fabulous after a year of exercise and healthy eating. I always looked at these before and after pics and think they’re selling us something (call me a cynic!) as they are usually linked to some powder or new book about to be launched! Hers is fabulous and I hope in a Year’s time I can do the same before and after picture and feel like I have accomplished something.

However I also think being kinder to ourselves should be part of the resolution. We are already under enough pressure nowadays. With the cost of living being so high a huge proportion of Mums (me included) need to go back to work full time to provide for their families. Magazines tell us we can do everything and I think that is unfair- you cannot do everything it is simply impossible! You cannot be a full time Mum AND work full time, be a sex goddess in the bedroom and keep an immaculate house, host dinner parties every weekend and get up early to take the kids to all of their activities and parties! Something has got to give and it’s the immense pressure women are under these days to be perfect (and it’s often sadly from one another not the males of our species!) that I think contributes to why depression is on the rise. With the expectations put on Women nowadays it is easy to understand why more and more of us feel we’re just not good enough.

So after all of my blethering what is the point I’m trying to make? Well OK here is my resolution this year- be kinder to myself. By this I mean that whilst I always want to go to the gym, home cook every meal, spend more time with family and friends etc if I don’t get to tick all of these boxes then I’m not going to hate myself for it. Every time I even manage one of these I’m going to pat myself on the back and say well done Jen- you work full time, have a young family and a husband that (feels like) is rarely at home, if you manage to put one load of washing on a day on top of working full time and taking care of the kids you’ve done well.

So here’s to you 2015 and all of those small achievements it will bring (although a rocking hot bod would be brilliant too!!!)

Jen x

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Why you should shop independent and/or shop locally this Christmas!

So I’m going to have a little rant here sorry guys! This has all come about after hearing about the 100th person tell me they have either done all their Christmas shopping online or done all of it in a large department store who shall not be named. It suddenly got to me earlier today when I realised I didn’t have a single day off before Christmas and was working so hard in my little independent boutique to keep our head above water, pay our bills and basically stay open in an unstable retail environment. Now should be the time of year with crowds on the streets, people walking around with arms full of bags, Christmas music pumping from every shop and the tills ringing. Things aren’t horrendous for us by any means but being in the fashion business and retail generally it’s a tough old slog at the moment and it seems the great British public on the whole would rather buy their gifts all under one roof or all from one website (who shall also not be named but are in my bad books as all of a sudden have started selling fashion as well as books/DVD’s etc!).

I’m urging you to please think about small businesses this Christmas- those independents on your local high streets, or artisan companies, or those that go to farmers markets/fetes and even small businesses online. Why you say? Well just think about a huge High Street name, the one with an enormous marketing budget that creates a Christmas advert every year that inevitably makes you well up and get all nostalgic, not naming names but you know who I mean! Imagine going in there and doing all of your Christmas shopping under one roof- how much would you spend £100- £600 or even more? It will be busy (really busy!), parking will be awful and it will inevitably be a stressful experience. Now your money will make little difference to their profit at the end of the day, if you decide not to buy that £300 stereo oh well someone else in the queue will. Now think about spending that money on your local high street- how much of a difference a £300 sale would make to an independent business like mine (Coco Marie Boutique) or those local to you. It would pay their staff for the day, or their rates for the week. The staff would talk to you, spend time with you, gift wrap (free of charge!) for you, put things aside so you could make up your mind and help you choose individual gifts for your loved ones. 

Information I have taken from the Independent Retailer Month website says: “The results of research about the value of £1 spent locally were compelling, sufficient to convince most people that when they shop locally they are genuinely having a positive impact on their community! For every £1 spent locally around 50p – 70p of that money recirculates back into the local economy. For the same £1 spent out of town or online only 5p trickles back to the local community. When people appreciate the impact that their choice of where to spend can have we believe that more people will make more effort to spend more with local independent businesses”

Please think about putting at least some of your Christmas budget back into your local community by supporting small local businesses as it makes a huge difference to them. It would be churlish of me to say don’t spend anything with the chains and I’d be lying if I said I never bought from them. However owning a family run small business and knowing the story behind those along Old Amersham’s High Street has made me realise there are faces to every Independent business. There are stories as to why they were set up and to speak to the owners and see their passion for what they do is truly inspiring. I know I for one would much rather get one to one service, a friendly smile, presents that are unusual and unique and know that I was helping out a fellow Independent this Christmas than queue for an out of town retail business and fight with the crowds. Shopping independent doesn’t mean paying more, (at Coco Marie we price match for our customers) but it does mean putting money back into your local community, keeping High Street trade alive and potentially making someone’s day with that big purchase of yours this Christmas!!!

OK rant over 😉

Hand lettered artwork by Lola Hoad designs

Hand lettered artwork by Lola Hoad designs

ps. a huge thank you to Lola Hoad Design for this fabulous artwork she produced free of charge (if you use it at all please name her in your Facebook post/blog/Instagram etc so she gets credit for all of her hard work)

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Wedding dresses, William Blake & my Grandad

I’ve felt a bit of writers block this last week- silly I know I’ve only just started blogging and my brain is ceasing up already. However when tidying my house (a rarity I can tell you!) I found this print

Tyger Tyger by Paul Peter Piech

Tyger Tyger by Paul Peter Piech

My Mum & Dad got it me for my birthday this year (well mainly my Mum). My Husband knew how important it was to me and had carefully popped it behind a cupboard so the kids or Archie our enormous Bassett hound didn’t trample over it before we had a chance to frame it.

It’s amazing how simple things can evoke such strong emotions in you- a smell can take you back to specific moment in time and leave you elated or sad. The smell of Lily of The Valley or Old Spice reminds me of my Grandparents on my Mum’s side- I was only little when my Grandfather died but walking past anyone wearing Old Spice stops me in my tracks and I’m right back at 5 years year old sitting on his lap listening to his funny stories and songs.

In the same way I find a piece of music or poetry can do this. My Mum recently dragged me along (I’m not even joking I was being a miserable moo that day) to the V & A Museum to see their wedding dress exhibition. Now if there’s one thing my friends know about me it’s that I am not at all girly. Whilst they were happy to spend hours trying on dresses, table planning, making favours and generally planning their weddings- I was not. Part of this was that I was pregnant, feeling sick and tired but to be fair I’m just not that girl that fantasised about their wedding from a young age. I may be high maintenance in some aspects of my life but when it came to our wedding I was very chilled out! Anyhow I digress- so having been dragged to the V & A I then spent the next few hours really really loving what I saw. The history of the wedding dress was laid out in front of us and seeing the progression through the last few hundred years was fascinating (I apologised to Mum afterwards for being such a misery). My favourite section was upstairs where they showed some celeb dresses including those belonging to Kate Moss, Gwen Stefani and the controversial backless Bruce Oldfield one Lisa Butcher wore to her fated wedding to Marco Pierre White.

After spending an hour or so walking around the exhibition we then went along to the preview of Horst: Photographer of Style. We are both members of the Museum so we could get first a look at the exhibition and we weren’t disappointed. Whilst he is most famous for his Vogue covers I have to say some of my favourite photos were those he took whilst travelling around the Middle East. I studied English & Classical Civilisation at University and seeing the stills of ancient ruins of Persepolis really took my breath away. It is often the unexpected that can be the most beautiful and here we were expecting all fashion photography but there was so much more.

Ruins of the palace at Persepolis 1949, picture from the V&A website

Ruins of the palace at Persepolis 1949, picture from the V&A website

By this point we were running out of time, we wanted to take a good look around Disobedient Objects but it was getting really busy and School pick up time was looming so instead we went straight to the gift shop. I picked up a great mug for my husband that had me in fits of laughter after a recent conversation (I think we’d had a glass of wine or 5!) about what we thought Swan would taste like- chicken, goose or duck- don’t judge us!

The mug that made me laugh out loud!

The mug that made me laugh out loud!

It was whilst looking around the gift shop at the prints on the wall my eyes happened across the aforementioned print. I froze- my eyes flitting across the writing but knowing the words by heart I didn’t really need to read them at all. My Mum looked at me wondering what on earth was going on as I burst into tears in the middle of the crowded gift shop. “Erm my darling are you ok? What’s the matter?” she said concerned. I explained why the print had caused me to sob like a child, which then set my Mum off- we’re quite an emotional family!

Tyger Tyger Print by  Paul Peter Piech.

Tyger Tyger Print by Paul Peter Piech.

When I was younger my Father travelled a fair amount around Europe and to the US on business. Very occasionally my Mum would go with him, never for more than a few days and never more than twice a year. It was then that we would stay with my Grandparents, my Father’s Mum and Dad or Gorge and Read as we affectionately call them (that’s another story!). It was always fun for us- Gorge would make the most delicious fudge that was so gooey it would coat your mouth in all its glorious sugariness and if we were lucky we would go out for a curry at their local Indian restaurant where my Grandfather would delight the owner by speaking to him in Gujarati for hours on end. It was on one of those stays that it so happened to coincide with poetry week at school. Our headmistress loved poetry and every pupil in the school would have to learn a selected poem and recite it to her in front of the rest of their class- nerve wracking but a great lesson in public speaking and I thank her for that. That particular year I was about 8 years old and we had to learn the William Blake poem (so here we get eventually to the crux of my story) ‘The Tyger’. My grandfather loved poetry and instilled a great love for literature in me at a young age. Now he wasn’t a patient man and at times could be utterly terrifying if you did something he thought naughty but he sat there every evening and listened to me recite that poem until I had it word perfect. I must have read it aloud 30 or more times and he didn’t move from that spot every evening until I was happy I had it perfected.

My Granddad the day of my wedding

My Granddad the day of my wedding

All of this had come back to me in that split second I saw the print and emotion overcame me. My Grandad died from cancer a few months before I gave birth to our son Charlie. He made it to our wedding a few months earlier and had tears of joy in his eyes as my Husband announced in his speech we wanted to name our son after him. I know he would have loved to have met my children and see us teaching them the same lessons he instilled in my Father and my Father in me growing up and he would adore the inquisitiveness of his great Grandson and name sake and his great Grandaughter . So this blog is dedicated to you Read, thank you- I know my kids would have loved you the way I did.

Charlie & Millie

Charlie & Millie

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All About A Little Bit Country

So blogging is pretty much entirely new to me other than the odd blog for work. However for work it seems easier as the shop/our stock can be the focus. I didn’t know where to start and remembered that when my friends and I first got our own email addresses- around about the time we did our A-Levels (so a fair while ago!) we would send one another these questionnaires asking random questions. I thought it was a fun way to start my foray into blogging so I googled one and here we go, a little more information about me:

*Who would you want with you if you were stranded on a deserted island?

My family! Cheesy I know but time with my husband and children is cherished as he works such long hours

My munchkins Charlie & Millie

*If you could do anything you wanted right now, what would it be?

Move to the French Alps and start a luxury chalet rental business. Total pipe dream I know but both of us love skiing more than a beach holiday.

*If money was no object, what would you do all day?

Ski, ski and then ski again!

Me & Charlie (at 5 years old) after his first blue run!

*Where do you most want to travel, but have never been?

Canada- my Dad was born on the East coast and of my best friends has just moved to Whistler; her photos blow me away and make me mega jealous!

 *What is your favourite memory?

If any of you have ever had a truly unhappy child, whether it be from being bullied, feeling self-conscious or just generally unhappy in their surroundings, you’ll know that as a parent it is truly the worst feeling. When my son Charlie started school he went from being a cheerful, chatty, cuddly young boy to a sullen and tearful child who refused to tell me about his day. My husband and I spoke to the school and seemingly nothing was wrong but after a very hard decision and lots of number crunching we decided to move him to a different school where many of his friends from nursery had gone. That first day I picked him up he skipped out of school, beaming and chatting and telling me about his friends and how much fun he had. The sense of relief and joy I had that day will stay with me forever, knowing we’d made the right decision and having our happy chatty little man back meant everything to us. His beaming face that day is my favourite memory.

 *Who is your favourite author?

My friend Paul recommended Neil Gaiman and I’m hooked- I loved “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” and I’m currently reading “American Gods”.

*What is your favourite book?

Without a doubt “The Night Circus” by Erin Morgenstern.  I couldn’t put it down; the story was so compelling, I felt like I was there watching everything unfold right in front of me

The Night Circus UK

Magic, mystery, love & a mysterious circus- what more could you want from a book?!?

*What was your favourite activity in gym class?

I always loved dodge ball or netball although I have to admit I’m not at all sporty now (well apart from skiing- but I guess gravity helps!)

*What has been your biggest challenge?

Motherhood without a doubt, the fear of failure- failing as a parent, failing your children, just failing! I don’t think this will ever change and I have to remind myself that my husband and I are doing our absolute best and that we have two happy, healthy and bright children


Me & the munchkins in the “hot water bottle” at Center Parcs last year

*What is your biggest success up until now?

I guess also Motherhood- looking at Charlie & Millie and seeing their interest in learning about the World, passion for literature and their sense of humour- a great combination of both my Hubby and I (if I do say so myself!).

 *What does your perfect day look like?

A lie in until at least 8am, then cooking pancakes for us all for breakfast, taking the dog for a long walk at Coombe Hill (the views are phenomenal across the Vale), back home for a cup of tea before heading to my parent’s house, along with my brother & his wife, for us all to have a roast dinner. After several glasses of bubbles and a yummy roast later back home for a family movie snuggle on the sofa and a chilled out evening- heaven.


Archie as a pup

*University or life experience, which do you feel best prepares you for life?

I kind of did both- I tried Uni twice and it just wasn’t for me, I loved working and earning money and at the time had had enough of a formal learning format. Once I left Uni my (now) husband and I moved down to Cornwall. I put together a business plan and set up Coco Marie with my Mum. The experience I gained from this far outweighs anything I learnt whilst at Uni. Everyone is different though and I know my husband who did his degree through the Open University always regrets not studying at University.

 *What is the one thing that should be taught in school that isn’t already?

Budgeting, saving and how not to get into debt. I remember a major credit card company being at Fresher’s Week getting people to sign up for their credit card and you’d get a free popcorn maker and cinema tickets- utterly disgusting if you ask me. Scarily it worked and half my hall walked away having signed themselves up in under a minute!

 *If you were to create a piece of art, what would the subject be?

The workings of my brain- it’d be a massive squiggly mess- I flit from one thing to the next and I can start a conversation and end up somewhere completely different a minute later. I think it would be a mixed media piece involving cooked spaghetti to best describe the mad inner workings of my mind!

 *What one thing would you change if you had to do it over?

I would stop my Husband and I from buying a house in Cornwall, it was the biggest mistake we ever made, we bought it at a peak price and a few months later the financial crash happened- we hadn’t fixed our mortgage rate, couldn’t sell our house when we moved back “up country” and ended up selling it for a huge amount less than we’d paid for it- big mistake!

 *If you could go back in time, what year would you travel to?

The mid 60’s- era of the Mod’s and Rockers- I love the style, the scooters and the music


Are you a mod or a rocker?

 *What does your life say about you?

That when I’m truly passionate about something I will fight for it tooth and nail.

 *How would your friends describe you?

Talkative, hyperactive, sensitive and (hopefully) someone they can talk to when they’re having a tough time.

So folks that’s about it- a sneak peak into the mind and life of moi- Jen or “A Little Bit Country” as a friend of a friend once described me!

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