City vs country swaps: Pilates

As promised, here is the first in a series of ‘city vs. country swaps’. was born after I was inspired to find a balance between my love of country life but also city-style living. These ‘swaps’ will be all about finding ways to get my city-living fixes (and vices) in my new country surroundings… first up: Pilates.

Mr. Joseph Pilates himself

So, I’ve written a couple of posts on my love of Pilates, specifically reformer bed classes at Ten and Bootcamp in Notting Hill. My thrice weekly habit kept my weight steady, my back pain free and my limbs strong and lean. God I miss those classes.

Until spring I had been attending mat-based classes, locally in Devon. However, what with my new job in Bristol and the stress of the last few months I admit, they’ve fallen by the wayside.

In the past I have also extolled the virtues of the Yoga app by Viaden Mobile. You can punch in either the amount of time you have, or a specific practice you want to do (sun salutation, meditation, Ashtanga etc), then up pops a ready-made asana (set of poses). I love that it’s there, portable, in my pocket. I’ve used it in hotel rooms all over the place, as well as in the garden at home.

My new fitness fix however, is Pilates Anytime. It’s a subscription site (although they do offer a generous 15 day free trial) and for £12/month you get access to a HUGE library of Pilates videos. Genius huh? I guess it is used as a resource for instructors too as there are lots of reformer classes which obviously, unless you happen to have a £3k reformer bed in your spare bedroom, aren’t going to be relevant. Saying that, it’s not only mat-based Pilates on offer, there are Barre classes, yoga and meditation too. Ranging from a quick 10-mins to a full hour.

Here’s a screen grab – I simply searched for popular mat-based classes at level 1. All the videos are filmed in HD so are nice and clear. I’ve done a couple (they all do seem to be US instructors) and love the fact that you can pick a different method, teacher or style at each session. Yes, I’ve bought fitness DVDs in the past but always ditched them after a couple of months as I’ve got bored of the routine or irritated by the instructor after the 100th rerun!

Cost-wise, it’s a no brainer. Reformer classes are anywhere from £20-£30 an hour and at £12 a month that’s one, maybe two mat-based classes.

For some yes, the motivation to actually log-on and do the classes will be the issue, hence the preference for classes or a personal trainer to kick their butt into action, but for me as a busy working mum, the fact I have a whole library of classes I can ‘attend’ at home, whenever suits me or whenever I have a spare half hour, is brilliant.

Yes, I still miss my ‘power hour’ reformer classes, but until they reach the sleepy Shires, this is the next best thing.

COMPETITION – Win a framed print from – UPDATED

UPDATE///// I’ve had a few emails from readers saying their comments haven’t got through so I’ve decided to extend the competition for another week. If your comment doesn’t show below immediately, saying ‘awaiting moderation’ then please simply drop me a line at and I will add your entry manually. Good luck!’s first competition! And it’s an amazing one.

I’ve written before about my obsession with pictures – photography, prints, original artworks – I don’t think there is a square foot left without a thick black frame hanging from it in our new house.

And the company fuelling my habit? – if there is a photograph or painting they don’t stock in their online gallery then well, it’s not worth having. From vintage advertising posters from the Twenties, to Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, via an exclusive collection of National Geographic photography and children’s illustrations. It’s brilliant.

It gets a major thumbs up from me on two fronts: 1/ it’s cataloging system – you can search by artist, subject, genre and even colour 2/ the genius framing system. Pick your mount, frame and see an e-fit of how your final picture will look before you buy. The frames are good quality and even come with the necessary hanging fixtures.

And you lucky reader are getting the chance to win this beautiful, ethereal piece of artwork worth £119 (framed as pictured) FOR FREE! Courtesy of the generous chaps at

Parrot Tulips II
framed size 86x109cm
£119.99 (as framed)

Here’s what to do:

Head over to and have a rummage. Pick an artwork you like and leave a link to it in the comment box below and tell me why you like it. Don’t worry, I’m not looking for long winded art critiques here – a simple, ‘it makes me smile’ will do. I’ve made a Pinterest board of my top favourites if you need some inspiration.

Then next Friday I will pick a winner and update this post! Hurrah!

Good luck!

CF x

T&Cs: The winner will be notified by email after the closing date. A UK mainland postal address will be required to send the artwork to. The artwork is framed as shown. No other artworks are available as a form of substitution.

Great ‘go-to’ UK sites for last-minute present buying

This year I’ve tried to buy all our presents in our local town and from surrounding markets and farm shops. Becoming shop owners this year, it has become even more important to us to support local enterprise and make it our everyday standpoint rather than a token gesture as a nod to the ‘buying local’ zeitgeist. We all bemoan the demise of the UK High Street but they’re not tourist attractions; we need to be crossing the threshold weekly, spending our money and making the most of having specialists in each field (butchers, bakers, delicatessens, florists…) to glean inspiration and knowledge from, especially at this time of year. We are lucky that we have an independent department store in the main square (here it is with its festive lights on), plus great little boutiques, delis and an amazing family-run toy store.

In a similar vein, I thought it would be a good time to nudge you in the direction of a few independent online businesses that, although not ‘local’, all pay their UK taxes, supporting our economy. Don’t worry, I’m not about to produce a soapbox, I just figure that everyone has gifts to buy at this time of year; why not buy them from independent, UK businesses?

Here’s my top 5 online gift ideas:

Cox & CoxI’ve ordered many a Christmas gift here over the years and I cannot fault them for quirky, old-fashioned, good-quality design. They’ve even got a sale on at the moment. The children’s section is particularly great for the little people in your life.

Neom – The beauty editor’s luxury organic brand of choice. Men: If you give a lady in your life one of these candles this Christmas (or indeed the bath oils, body creams or scrubs) I can guarantee you a happy response. I genuinely think a whiff of the Harmonise blend of Pine, Eucalyptus and cedarwood could combat SADS this January. Love, love, love this brand.

Noble MacMillanFor photo albums and 2013 diaries this Kensington-based company is all that is great and good about UK Heritage companies. Their back-story is incredible and the quality and service (have your gift embossed for a truly personalised gift) top-notch. I like to think their albums are the ones that your grandchildren will be flicking through in 50 years time.

PickettMy rule of thumb on gift buying for those ‘people who have everything’ is to get them a really, really good version of something they use everyday. I fell in love with Trevor Pickett’s Burlington Arcade based leather good company when I edited The Mayfair Resident and it it perfect for handcrafted, heirloom leather goods. Whether your budget stretches to a keyring in beautiful leather or a phenomenal British-made Scrabble board
this is the absolutely polar-opposite of disposable, Christmas consumerism.

The Calm Gallery – I wrote about The Calm Gallery (previously known as the Keep Calm Gallery) a while ago and I do still think it it one of the best edits of prints I’ve come across – I’d be happy to unwrap this one, or this one. There are even tea towels now for the Domestic Goddesses in your life.

Instead of posting presents to far-flung friends and relatives why not google their local deli and get a hamper made up for them to pick up on Christmas Eve? or take a look on The Good Spa Guide and find a great local spa to them and book an indulgent treatment. Gifts don’t have to be wrappable, they just have to show thought and, in my opinion, be a decadent treat that someone wouldn’t buy for themselves.

Happy shopping!


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