Category Archives: Tips and Trends

The Royal Butler’s Guide to Xmas Etiquette…

We’re huge fans of Grant Harrold, The Royal Butler, so thought we’d share his yule rules.

As the ‘Big Day’ approaches, I have compiled my top 24 Etiquette Tips for Christmas. Some of them are old traditional tips, while others have a modern twist, but used as a combination they will hopefully help enhance your Christmas experience.

1. Christmas Social Media:  Dress in something that will not haunt you later on other people’s Facebook pages or social media profiles! Your chum might be sliding down the bannisters in their underpants thinking they are riding Rudolph through a winter wonderland, but please don’t post photographs unless you have their blessing! Avoid Jingle Bells ringtones on your phone, you are not the local shopping centre.

2. The Spirit of Christmas: Show goodwill to others. Take your children to meet Santa Claus. Extend Christmas invitations to all of the family, even if it is like the gathering of the United Nations, stay strong! Allow the children to help decorate the Christmas tree, no matter how unstylish the result may be, it will be a fun experience for one and all.

Ladies and gentlemen, let’s also remember do not rearrange your host’s baubles, once they have been placed on the tree they stay there until the decorations come down.

3. Mulled Wine:  Always make your own or if restricted with time then you can now buy some very good quality mulled wine, but let’s not let the children get hold of this otherwise they may resemble elves from your worst nightmares and not Santa’s little helpers. You can buy non- alcoholic mulled wine, or mull some grape or apple juice.

4. Christmas Wrapping:  Gift wrapping should be an enjoyable experience! Put on some carols and take time and care in doing this, you’re not wrapping a joint of beef in the local butchers!

5. Christmas Jumper Etiquette:  Let’s remember when Aunt Peggy comes around wearing ‘that’ jumper, we still tell her how lovely she is.

6. Christmas Presents: If you want to keep it safe, I recommend giving gifts of scented candles, or a potted plant. A nice bottle of wine or something fizzy never goes amiss. Remember to always show appreciation for a gift. If you don’t like it be prepared to put on an acceptance speech fit for the Academy Awards.

7. Shake, Rattle and Roll:  Remember, we don’t shake presents as you may break a family heirloom. Let’s not forget that it’s better to give than to receive. No matter how much you may disagree with that view, a warm smile and a sweet thank you goes a long way. The other dilemmas with presents are when and if you should re-gift! You don’t want to give your mother-in-law that lovely scarf she gave you last Christmas which has been lurking in your cupboard ever since. Also, remember to take the price tag off the gifts, especially the 99p ones!

8. Christmas Crackers:  Let’s not peek inside, or swap the crackers around. Hosts may know which cracker has the toe clippers inside, so let’s not give these to your brother or sister and keep the silver notepad for yourself! At your Christmas dinner don’t pull the crackers too early, wait until after the starter at least.

9. Christmas Day Etiquette:  Never complain about a family member to others, be it the overbearing mother-in-law or the deaf grandfather who keeps chatting up the new nanny. Ensure the fireside armchairs are left free for the older generation’s post-lunch naps! It is the season for generosity, so make sure you don’t run out of wine or turkey – or party games! If your hosts watch the Queen’s speech then we all enjoy it. Or perhaps you could suggest a Christmas walk?

10. Christmas Drinks Party:  Don’t become intoxicated, remember to behave with grace and decorum. No licking fingers after eating a canapé (and don’t double-dip), we always use a napkin! Keep your glass in your left hand so that you can freely shake hands for introductions. No grabbing at strangers and kissing them under the mistletoe, no matter how gorgeous they are!

11. Be Complimentary:  Remember to compliment your host on their Christmas decorations, even if it is like a scene from A Nightmare Before Christmas, and thank them for inviting you.

12. Carol Singing:  Don’t be rude and remember to embrace this tradition, even if your carol singers sound like the local neighbourhood cats, do cherish the moment. Have a supply of mulled wine and mince pies on offer. If you are doing the singing and knocking on people’s doors, remember that they may have small sleeping children, and some may have dogs or cats that will bark along!

13. Gifts & Thank You’s:  Don’t leave your Christmas thank you letters for longer than two weeks. Write the letter with care and put feeling into it, you’re not writing your weekly shopping list.

14. The Big Day:  Know when you will open presents have a timings plan for the preparation and serving of the main meal, schedule nap times, and if a family fall-out is likely, you may wish to implement an escape plan!

15. Visiting Santa:  Remind your children to say please and thank you, and never ‘I want’. Remind them that if they are rude to Santa, then he may not want to visit them on the 25th!

16. Decorating The House:  Consider spending a day in the great outdoors with the family gathering some holly and ivy, which can be used around picture frames and down the staircase bannister, this looks very effective for a low budget. But remember, we’re not creating The Lost Gardens of Heligan!

17. Christmas House Parties:  Consider your guest list, catering options. and dress codes. If you are hosting a children’s party make sure there are a few adults to supervise. Guests, make sure you have on clean socks with no holes, just in case your host wants all shoes removed.

18. Christmas Rituals:  Always remember Christmas traditions are vital for the perfect Christmas. For example, when the man in the red coat comes to visit, leave a few mince pies and glass of milk for him, or in case he’s having a bad night perhaps a glass of sherry or a dram if you live in Scotland, and let’s not forget a carrot for the reindeers. If we don’t have a fireplace then stockings should be placed on the ends of the bed.

19. Post-Christmas:  During the period between Christmas and New Year, I suggest we regroup, clear up and get ready to start all over again for Hogmanay, or if you are partied out you may prefer to leave the country.

20. Be Prepared:  Always have a good selection of drinks in the cupboard, especially mulled wine ingredients, something fizzy and a selection of non-alcoholic drinks ready for unexpected guests. I would also suggest you keep a supply of canapés and some mince pies in the fridge (or freezer) so you will be a fully prepared host even at short notice.

21. Present Cupboard:  I recommend you accumulating a selection of gifts over the year which you can give anyone should an occasion arise that you unexpectedly require a present. Also, make sure that you always have sellotape, scissors and a selection of wrapping paper.

22. Christmas Cards:  Make preparations for when to send them and to whom. Don’t send cards before the 1st December and post no later than the 21st December. Always put the correct postage stamp on!

23. Smells:  Cooking smells and damp coats aren’t always the most pleasant, so keep some citrus oil and cotton wool balls handy. Just apply a few drops onto the cotton wool and place behind the radiator. This is an excellent aroma for the home at Christmas, and there are plenty of other lovely essential oils available.

24. Merry Christmas!  Enjoy your day, it’s the most wonderful time of the year!

After many requests, Grant Harrold, The Royal Butler has just finished writing a new book, due out in 2018 – For pre-orders, please

Stuart Cauldwell, Head Chef at Roast, shares his tips for perfect spuds and gravy…

Need to pull something spectacular together for relatives tomorrow? Forget the table centrepiece and mood lighting, the trick to making Xmas Dinner perfection is those roast potatoes.

And nobody does them better than Stuart Cauldwell, head chef at Roast Restaurant. But he helpfully shared his secret…

Tips for tasty roast potatoes:

  • After you par boil your potatoes, make sure to fluff them up, as this will release steam, which dries up the potatoes. This is what makes them nice and crunchy on the outside once they are roasted.
  • You can use olive oil to cook the potatoes as a healthier alternative but for the ultimate roastie, goose fat is the best to use, you can get this from your local butcher.
  • For best flavours, always season with rock salt and fresh herbs. Rosemary and thyme complement roasties beautifully.

Tips for a savoury gravy:

• Always use the juices from the meat – this adds a depth of flavour to your gravy. Cook your meat and vegetables together so that the juices from the meat are released into the vegetables as they cook.
• Always caramelise your vegetables before adding wine and stock.
• To thicken, add flour to the vegetables so it forms a paste-like consistency, add the wine before gradually adding the stock to form your required thickness of gravy.

Louisa Grace Interiors Founder Claire McFadyen’s top tips on investing in childproof antiques

We all long for that perfect home balance of modern technology and easy to maintain products but do you find your love for antiques and vintage style can seem too hazardous to indulge in when you have sticky fingered, ball kicking, nail varnish wearing little darlings?!

The big question is – how can you invest in antiques that are childproof in order for you to make the style of family home you crave?  Well, I have been buying, selling and adding antiques and vintage pieces of furniture and accessories to my home for years and I haven’t stopped since having my two daughters, in fact, I think I have embraced it all the more.

Here are my top tips on buying antiques that will survive family life and still give your home the character and beauty you desire.

1 – Remember, antiques may be old but they are not always delicate.  There is a reason they have lasted for possibly hundreds of years and that is because they are well built, crafted from strong materials and made to last.  Make sure the item you are interested in still seems strong and sturdy and you can be sure it will survive family life

2 – Antiques make great storage solutions.  Consider investing in antique and vintage trunks as storage solutions for toys and games.  Once everything is packed away you are left with a beautiful piece of furniture to enjoy.  These are also great heirloom pieces for your children to treasure as they get older.

3 – Treat the item with the correct protection like beeswax or varnish (or both for the best solution of all!)

4 – Don’t be scared to invest in those more delicate items such as mirrors, just make sure they are safely and securely attached to a wall or shelf and out of the reach of little hands.

5 – Finally, buying antiques is also eco-friendly.  You are helping to teach your children that not everything has to be shiny and new.

Visit Louisa Grace Interiors website to find out more.

(Guest post)

Top Tips for Starter Golfers

Golf is a fantastic game to get into from a young age. While it’s generally viewed as a sport for the retired – it is a great way to keep active in your old age after all – there are plenty of benefits for taking up golfing at every age! Only problem is, though, that taking up golfing for the first time can be a bit daunting. After all, there’s so much equipment you’ll need to start up that you probably don’t know where to begin and nobody wants to look like they don’t know what they’re doing!

Well, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Here are some great tips for getting yourself acquainted with the golf course and how not to stick out like a sore thumb on the green.

Dress the Part
Golfing used to be a sport for the elites and while it has certainly toned itself down a lot more you will find that if you turn up to the golf club in the wrong clothes you and your Bermuda shorts will be given your marching orders. Most golf clubs will enforce a strict dress code so it’s good sense to dress in golf-suitable clothing in general to get the most out of your game.

A polo shirt, a pair of golf slacks and a quality pair of golf shoes – Ecco’s should do the trick – will be enough for you to pass the rigorous fashion tests of the golf clubs. Giving you much more time to dedicate to actually becoming good at the sport.

Get Professional Help
It may sound dramatic, but honestly, if you’re anxious about making a fool of yourself when you hit the ball in completely the wrong direction then why not have a look at what local golfing instructors charge near you? Plenty of these will provide courses for beginners so you can get a helping start into the sport and not have to break any bad habits you may pick up by trying to train yourself to play.

If you’re a bit short on cash, then you could always ask a seasoned friend to help you out? Every time you play yourself a game you will get a little better so don’t be disheartened if you’re absolutely rubbish the first time you pick up your club – just keep working at it!

Shop Around for the Right Green
You may want to play in the golf course that’s closest to your home, and that’s fine, but we’d recommend getting a lay of the land before you commit to a membership at a specific course. Plenty of clubs offer a one-day access pass that lets you play on the green for the whole day while taking in some facilities like a driving range – use this as your opportunity to do a bit of scouting and ask yourself ‘can I see myself playing here?’

There are plenty of factors to take in, such as course difficulty, the facilities, the scenery and the general atmosphere at the club. Treat it as if you’re looking for your home away from home and you can’t go wrong!

(guest post)

A Guide to Starting Your Own Nursery

Are you good with kids? Do you think you’re so good with kids that you could look after them full-time? Or have you spent your whole life working in a nursery and are looking for a new challenge? Well, have you ever considered starting up your own nursery?

It may sound like a big step up, but if you’ve got a bit of business sense you can turn a dream of owning your own nursery and working with kids all day into a profitable business that sets children up for a good start in life.

These days, nursery does not just provide childcare, they are so much more than that. Your nursery should be giving children a helpful start in their development by encouraging education and social skills at a young age, but don’t push it too hard – lots of children learn through play and that’s what you should strive to push forward.

Here is some of the best advice we can give you if you’re giving some serious thought to opening your own nursery.

Find the Right Location
Just like looking for a home to buy, you know what they say the most important factor is: location, location, location. Your location needs to be easy to get to, while still cheap enough so you’re not blowing most of your money on your overhead costs. Another huge factor is the size of your building will dictate the number of children you can take in your care – a health and safety risk assessment will need to be made as well as insurance for the property.

Properly Train Yourself (and your staff)
Make sure that you and your staff have all the correct qualifications to ensure they are certified to do their jobs – NVQ’s in childcare, properly CRB checked and a knowledge of paediatric first aid in order to be prepared for every eventuality. Another point to be made here is that there is no better way to ensure a successful business than surrounding yourself with staff who are both passionate and knowledgeable about what they do. Enlist the best for the job and it will pay dividends to your nursery as parents will be more than happy to take their children there.

How To Legitimise Your Nursery
You will need to register yourself with Ofsted so you are legitimised, but don’t worry, they aren’t as strict with nursery’s as they are with schools – just make sure you do your job correctly and effectively so you won’t have any problems. Government guidelines are detailed for the early foundation stage education providers here if you need help into what you need to do.

What Goes on Your ‘Syllabus’
Okay, so you probably won’t have to deal with Ofsted breathing over your shoulder as they ruthlessly scan your syllabus for weak links – but you should still be putting ample attention into what you’re teaching them. As per the guidelines we linked to previously, you should be putting time into teaching your children: personal development (which includes language, creativity and education) and physical development. These are loosely detailed so there is a lot of wiggle room here.

 (guest post)

The Royal Butler’s Guide to Easter Etiquette

Captain of Manners Grant Harrold shared his tips for an impeccably behaved Easter, so we thought we’d post them…

1. Easter gifts: When visiting friends and family, always take a gift over the Easter weekend, but it doesn’t need to be a chocolate egg; why not take a small posy of tulips or some daffodils, or even a scented candle or perhaps think outside the box and give something you have made! Don’t give gifts that might be not appropriate, a chocolate egg is one thing – a live bunny rabbit is another!

2. Easter dining: When planning your Easter meals, always consider your guest dietary requirements, as you don’t want to serve a shell fish soup to someone allergic to shell fish or lamb to a vegetarian. If you are organising an Easter drinks party, make sure you have plenty of canapés and nibbles but lets remember guests, we don’t double dip in anything!

3. Easter Goodwill: Show goodwill to others. Organise an Easter egg hunt for the children, invite the family to yours for Easter, even if it is like the gathering of NATO, stay strong! Allow the children to help organise the events or perhaps get them to lay and decorate the table, no matter how dangerous this idea may sound. Let’s remember, do not play with your host’s eggs, or risk your life by helping yourself to the children’s chocolate.

4. Easter Alcohol: As always make sure you drink responsibly. Don’t risk drinking too much as this can be an unpleasant experience for you and others around you. Do remember to behave with grace and decorum, no licking fingers after eating a canapé, as we always use a napkin! Keep your glass in your left hand so that you can freely shake hands with new introductions.

5. Easter dresscodes: When invited for a meal or just for Easter drinks, please check the dresscode as we don’t want to turn up at cousin Alfred’s black tie dinner in something that resembles a caveman outfit. With respect ladies, no matter how tempting it is to wear a bunny outfit, you don’t want to give other guests the idea that they have entered the home of Hugh Hefner.

6. Easter manners: Never forget our please and thank you’s and show politeness to others. This is not just an Easter rule but something we should consider all year. Always remember, a warm smile and a sweet thank you goes a long way. Also when visiting others be helpful and do what you can to assist but do not be offended if they don’t want help.

7. Easter Services: Please remember when spending time with others this Easter, they may not be religious or have the same beliefs, therefore respect this and don’t be offended if they don’t wish to attend the Sunday church service with you. You could always make a plan for them to go on an Easter walk with the other guests but always plan ahead.

8. Gifts/thank you’s: Don’t leave thank you letters for longer than two weeks. Write the letter with care and put feeling into it. You’re not writing your weekly shopping list or your will, therefore make sure it has feeling and take time to write them. Don’t forget we start the letter with a thank you, then cover the highlights of your experience with the recipient and then you finish with the thank you!

9. Easter decorating the house: A lot of people these days enjoy decorating their homes for Easter, however lets not carried away, keep this simple and straight forward, perhaps a few tulips or if possible daffodils, around the home with the odd chicken but not a live one please.

10. Post Easter: When Easter is over, we thankfully have the summer to look forward to, therefore it will be time to get the BBQ out, buy the sun lotion and get the sunglasses back out. Its a great time to start planning your summer activities as well as the holidays so perhaps consider a few garden parties or summer drink receptions?

 Follow Grant @TheRoyalButler 

Night before Xmas? Get those kids to sleep…

image: Getty

Getting young children into their beds and staying there can challenge parents at the best of times, let alone the night before Christmas. From leaving a carrot for the reindeer, to late night carol singing, there are lots of good reasons that bedtime routines fall into disarray on Christmas Eve.

Here, world sleep expert from the University of Oxford and co-founder of digital sleep improvement programme Sleepio, Professor Colin Espie, has compiled the top 5 tips to get your kids off to sleep before Santa stops by.

1. Be active during the day

There is plenty of evidence that regular exercise can help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep through the night. One Australian study found that every hour a child spends inactive adds three minutes to the time taken to nod off. Take a break from Christmas movies and head to the park to help expend excess energy in good time before bed.

2. Stick to bedtime routines and rituals

A consistent bedtime routine, or a set of specific ‘rituals’ before lights out, will signal that it’s time to sleep. If you’re staying away from home, find ways to recreate parts of the routine, even if they are happening later than usual. Preparing for bed in the same order each night (such as bath, brushing teeth, stories, goodnight hug), will help with readiness for sleep, wherever you are. Even a few days of a consistent schedule should help your child settle in a new location. Bringing familiar bedding, toys and books will help them to relax and feel secure away from home.

3. Act before your child gets overtired

Young children are often reluctant to admit that they’re tired – even more so when the alternative to bed is playing with shiny new toys. Look for signs of sleepiness before your child starts to be overtired, which is often the driver for ‘hyper’ behaviour. Try to start the bedtime routine at a consistent time. If they really don’t feel tired, they can play quietly in their bed or crib with the lights low. If you notice that your child is often overtired at night, experiment by shifting the whole bedtime routine forwards by 15-30 minutes.

4. Give plenty of notice

Give plenty of notice when bedtime is coming up, and then stick to what you’ve said: “In 10 minutes the cartoon will end and it’ll be bath time, and then we’ll have time for two books.” A timer which rings when playtime runs out could be a useful ‘independent’ signal that it’s time for bed. If your child refuses to stay in bed, try to avoid giving extra attention for bad behavior. Be as neutral and uninteresting as you can as you return your child to bed, even if you have to do this a few times. Consistency is key – even at Christmas – to help the whole family sleep well.

5. And if all else fails…

With a house full of guests, your child may understandably feel as though they are missing out on all the excitement by going up to bed. If you’ve followed the tips above and still have a stubborn and weary young one, hanging onto the banisters in slumber-protest: the suggestion that Father Christmas only leaves presents for children who are asleep might just be enough incentive to encourage lights out. At least that’s what the elves told me.

Sleepio is an six-week online sleep programme for adults, clinically proven to help those with long-term sleep problems fall asleep, stay asleep and feel better during the day

Vax’s Top 10 Cleaning Tips for Bank Holiday Summer Parties

Britain’s leading floorcare brand Vax shared their top ten tips for giving one’s home a Bank Holiday spruce up before the invasion of guests.

  1. Add a fresh fragrance
lavender bunch from Cambell's flowers
lavender bunch from Cambell’s flowers

While the garden is naturally fragranced with the scent of perfumed flowers or – perhaps more likely – wet grass, the smell indoors is all up to you. How do you bring the fresh smells of summer into your house? General cleanliness will improve the smell, but as a quick fix add some scented vacuum granules into the dirt bin before vacuum cleaning and they will release a pleasant fragrance as you go. Two birds, one stone!

  1. Think pet

Much as we love them, our favourite bundles of fur – big or small – can create chaos in the home and nothing turns the stomach quite like pet mess. Vacuuming can help get rid of their hair – be sure to pay special attention to the areas that your pets love i.e. their beds, sofas, rugs. Some vacuums come with a special tool for removing pet hair that makes the job easy. Go over your carpets with a vacuum before washing them and they will be even cleaner and fresher, especially if you use a specialist ‘Pet’ Solution to tackle any nasty smells. Don’t forget to give their bowls a clean too.

  1. Make carpets like new

Carpet has a huge impact on the overall appearance of the home. Use an extraction washer like the Vax Dual Power Pro Advance and as well as giving your carpets a thorough, all-over wash, you can get at any tough marks and stains with the Pre-treatment Wand. Powerful extraction means you can do this just a day or so before the party and yours carpets will be dry again before the guests arrive and look like new!

  1. Refresh upholstery
    Love Seat from
    Love Seat from

    Whether you’re entertaining inside or outside, it’s likely friends and family will want soft clean surfaces to sit on. Vax Carpet Washers come with an upholstery tool so you can adapt it to clean sofas, curtains, chairs and more. If you’ve left the cushions on your patio furniture outside in the garden for a while, or there have been some spills on your indoor furniture, this is even more important.

  1. Clean high, clean low, clean in between

The areas at eye-level are the ones your friends are most likely to see but dust can still congregate beneath furniture and up on high shelves. This can cause discomfort to guests who suffer from asthma and dust allergies, so try to focus attention on the less obvious places too. Cordless vacuum cleaners and handhelds are a lifesaver for hard-to-reach zones so getting up high and down low needn’t hurt your back.

  1. Restroom is the best room
Bathroom at Babington House
Bathroom at Babington House

If the home is our castle, the bathroom is our throne room. A mess in here is the biggest  faux-pas. Your guests should feel comfortable whatever room they are in and it’s likely at some point they will all need to visit this one!  Showers, taps and bath tubs will all be sparkling if you use a steam cleaner . From the mirrors, to the windows, to the sinks, to the shower door, steam can help you clean your bathroom and helps eliminate germs as you go!

  1. Pressure wash your garden to perfection

Grime, moss and dirt are unsightly guests at any garden party, but show up uninvited from time to time regardless. The good news is blasting it away with a pressure washer is as satisfying as it is fun (think giant water pistol for cleaning inanimate objects)., You can clean the BBQ, garden furniture, fences, patios, the shed, cars and bikes. Sure you don’t need all of these for your party, but you might just get carried away…

  1. Food preparation areas should be spotless
Noble Isle Willow Song diffuser
Noble Isle Willow Song diffuser

Maybe you’re a host who prefers finger-foods, or perhaps you’re planning on throwing a three course dinner party. Either way your kitchens and serving areas will need to be spick and span! Clean all the surfaces – even the ones you won’t be using like the cooker, as you will still want it to appear clean. Empty the bins and leave something with a light fragrance in these areas beforehand – like a reed diffuser – to make them inviting.

  1. Have an emergency ‘toolkit’ to hand

Where fun is to be had, spills and accidents are always a possibility. Of course you don’t want to spend the whole occasion cleaning- up . Keep it simple and stress free,  make sure you have the right tools for the job.. Keep an emergency ‘toolkit’ to hand a clean sponge, lint roller, dust pan and brush, stain remover, rubber gloves,If required, whip these out, swiftly deal with the mess and you’re done. Back to the party!

10 Mess prevention ahead of time

It’s one thing cleaning up messes after the event but prevention is even better than cure. When it comes to the carpets and upholstery you can help prevent stains from ever happening in the first place! After cleaning, spray some Vax Carpet Guard in the high traffic and problem areas and it will help protect against  stains! That means you can spread your hard work even further.

And there you have it – one squeaky clean home ready for your guests to admire. You’ll soon be throwing parties every weekend just to show it off!

For more info on Vax products go to