Category Archives: Tips and Trends

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

#70Things Inspirational and Arty this Summer


If plonking the kids in front of Mister Maker is as close to art appreciation as you’ve gotten this Summer, check out the fab list that Arts Council England has compiled to celebrate their 70th year – all activities listed are affordable and fun, suitable for families and will banish boredom faster than you can shake a paintbrush.

maybe your lunch sculpture will be better than this...?
maybe your lunch sculpture will be better than this…?

Ideas include making a sculpture from your lunch or making a playlist for your loved one, taking a selfie in the style of the Mona Lisa or ballet dancing to ‘Thriller’…

See the full list of activities here – you’re encouraged to used the hashtag #70things to celebrate your creativity…

#MummyHacks: what to do when your hands smell of poo…

OK, we have no shame – we’ve all been there, right? You’ve had to give your child a particularly ‘enthusiastic’ botty wipe and the offending brown (or green) matter ended up all over your hands. You’ve scrubbed with antibacterial soap, rubbed on some gel maybe… You can still smell it…

Fear not, here’s a great little #MummyHack:

SM writer shares: “to get rid of the poo smell just rub a slice of lemon over the offending area – super quick and it works on vomit odour or after chopping garlic and onions too …”

Just don’t use the lemon from your G&T… 😉

Ten Minutes with…Designer Celia Sawyer

Celia Sawyer, mother of two and founder of the exclusive Knightsbridge interior design company ‘Celia Sawyer Luxury Interiors’, has a client list that reads like the back pages of Tatler.

She shares her tips with us on how to create a chic and impressive outdoor space for Summer entertaining…

“First and foremost, selecting the right furniture is essential. What type of look are you trying to create? Modern, boho, white-washed beach haven, country, trendy, eco, the list goes on…

Half Moon sofa from Moda

I personally like using dark or grey rattan juxtaposed against contemporary, crisp, white cushions to create impact. Seating is incredibly important as your outdoor space is to enjoy so you want your friends, family and guests to indulge and be comfortable.  I LOVE glamorous day beds (think St Tropez beach party) and if you have the room I recommend you invest. Sky Line are masters of such furniture; beautiful yet natural shapes and gorgeous colours, you can’t go wrong with a day bed.

Skyline Day Bed

Outdoor fireplaces are having their moment. You can revamp your garden or terrace into a cool hub by making the fireplace your central feature. I know people who have used old bricks to build the fireplace meaning its recycled and put sand on the floor to create a truly unique space. If building a fireplace is too much invest in a fire pit. Nothing beats sitting round the warmth of a fire after dinner.

Maisons du Mode outdoor cushions

Alfresco dining is something we all love to do. Those long summer evenings that glow and seem to go on forever. Purchase a dining table and chairs, again in rattan or metal, over anything plastic and cheap looking – you may as well get this right first time. I have opted for a simple black rattan set with glass table top but dress the area up with an interesting centerpiece and cushions to add some interest and depth. Give it a go.

Inspiring outdoor kitchens are extremely du jour, especially in the Caribbean and United States. Clay or brick kitchens that blend into the surrounding natural environment can be simply stunning. The advantage of creating an outdoor kitchen means the hosting (and mess that goes with it) is kept out of your main residence; something I know my clients find attractive! In this space add a large mirror as it reflects the light and is more inviting. There are some fantastic outdoor mirrors around with thick, rustic frames. Alternatively, over-sized French clocks are extremely popular and add a little character, creating the feeling of being outside with the comfort of being indoors.

Clock by BellaHome

As you begin to revamp your outdoor space you will seriously think about colours. Earthy colours and décor is a must; ochres and greens, taupe’s and greys, to keep things natural, then add stainless steel appliances for that raw, industrial touch and inject colour through one item alone. Within your seating area add a great coffee table; something natural looking, maybe a bit of driftwood or an oak table to add some charm; a nod to Mother Nature herself. Invest in some lanterns that are suitable for outdoors as these can act as the perfect accessories. I put flameless candles inside mine which are ideal as they are battery operated so not only are they safe but they don’t go out should there be a breeze. Being outside in the candlelight is really special.

On the subject of lighting, I love using illuminous pots to really dress up outdoor spaces.  There’s a great company called 8 seasons-design who are a fine example of these; their Shining Pot Collection includes numerous different shapes and sizes which glow and look fantastic on terraces or by a pool. The pots look smart with greenery and the shining globe, cube and even drinks-cooler are super stylish too.

Lastly, outdoor bars are the ultimate cool. I have one at my home and it gets so much use throughout summer. They’re actually fairly simple to build, source wood to keep costs down and as long as you have a flat surface, fridge and some bar stools you are ready to entertain. One of the best additions to my garden.”

Follow Celia @CeliaSawyerTV

Summer holiday booking tips from Momondo

Starting to think about Summer holidays? Booking for a family is obviously fraught with its own issues (will there be a travel cot, will we struggle with the buggy up a billion stairs? etc) but being stung for un-necessary costs need not be one of them.

The nice people at momondo have put together a few tips based on their extensive research of travel stats. According to them, “The price of a hotel room always goes up and down. Seasons, popular events in a destination and the time of booking are all essential factors to bear in mind, which influence price. Costs of hotels can vary dramatically and there is potentially a lot of cash to save by paying attention to a few aspects that are essential to hoteliers, when they set their rates.”

And they’ve also put together a handy chart showing peak times in key cities.

And momondo have a few tips on getting the best flight deals too:

  • Book your trip 53 days in advance to get the cheapest tickets – and you can achieve average savings of 26%
  • Tickets are generally most expensive on the day of departure
  • Evening departures between the hours of 6pm and 12am typically offer the cheapest fares
  • It is usually more expensive to fly in the morning and midday, before 3pm
  • A Tuesday is generally the cheapest day to fly
  • Saturday is routinely the most expensive day of the week to fly

Get more advice and compare rates at momondo. is a free, independent and global travel search site that compares billions of prices on flights, hotels, car hire and holiday rental.

Beautiful Family Portraits

If the classic mugshot (or white fluffy rug shot) achieved by your child’s school photographer doesn’t make enough of a statement for the bedroom wall (or the annual family Christmas card) it might be time to call in the uber-professionals.

image: Rachel Simoneau

Not content with simply waving a teddy and snapping your offspring, London based photographic studio Mud & Glitter offer a consultation with their Creative Director, plus hair and make up – not to mention they have Erin Petson as artist-in-residence to create beautiful backdrops (Erin’s past clients include Victoria Beckham and Stella McCartney to name but two).

images: Clare Bowes
images: Clare Bowes

DUGGIES-25 copy

Stylish Northerners might like to check out Clare Bowes Photo, who produced over 150 celebrity photoshoots in her role at Heat Magazine before relocating to Gosforth. Preferring ‘child-led’ shoots, she creates enchanting portraits that let one’s child’s character shine.

Or if you simply want a few tips on taking more engaging snaps yourself, iPhonePhotographyschool suggests using ‘burst mode’ to capture action shots…