10 easy ways to save water

I’ve always been a bit of a stickler for saving water.

I became even more so last summer when – during the kitchen renovation – we had a water meter fitted. Overnight, it took our water bills down from about £70 a month to less than £20. Result.

Yorkshire Water’s latest water conservation campaign ‘Save a little, save a lot’ is highlighting easy, everyday water-saving habits.

Every household in the region can claim a free water-saving pack, containing tap inserts, a shower regulator, an egg timer and a bag for your cistern. They’re also donating 10p to WaterAid for every pack ordered.

I’ve teamed up with them to make some pledges for ways I’m going to save water – because you can always do more!

1. Always put a full load in the washing machine.10 easy tips for saving water. Yorkshire Water 'save a little, save a lot' water conservation campaign

This can save you up to £15 a year.

2. Only boil the water I need.10 easy tips for saving water. Yorkshire Water 'save a little, save a lot' water conservation campaign

That could save you £7 a year.

3. Spend one minute less in the shower.10 easy tips for saving water. Yorkshire Water 'save a little, save a lot' water conservation campaign

This could be tough, because I love a good, hot, long shower! I now have my four-minute shower timer from my water-saving pack to remind me. This could save £120 a year.

4. Fit a water butt in the garden and use a trigger nozzle on the garden hose.10 easy tips for saving water. Yorkshire Water 'save a little, save a lot' water conservation campaign

Something for the future, as behind this pledge you will see the disaster area work in progress that is our back garden. But combined these two simple measures can save thousands of litres of water a year.

What else could you do?

1. Use a water efficient showerhead. The water-saving pack has a nifty little shower regulator that looks super easy to fit based on this video. However, before you fit it you have to see if it’ll benefit your particular shower by turning the water on and filling a measuring jug for 5 seconds. If the level is over 700 ml, it’s worth it. Mine was about 600ml.

2. Fit a flush saver in your toilet. This unassuming-but-genius little bag that saves 1.2 litres of water every time you flush is also included in the water-saving pack. However you don’t need it if you have a dual flush system, like we have. I think I’m going to pop it in our ancient toilet at work.

3. Fix any dripping taps. I’m lucky I have a clever husband who can fix pretty much anything :)

4. Fit your taps with an aerator, also included in your water-saving pack! Again, this wasn’t suitable for us because in the bathroom we have those fancy waterfall taps and our kitchen tap came with an aerator fitted (good old Ikea – all their taps do). From the video the aerator looks really easy to install too.

5. Turn the tap off when brushing your teeth.

6. Use a washing up bowl instead of rinsing dishes under a running tap.

Lots more tips – and how to request a water-saving pack – here!

Do you have any other ideas for using less water?

*written in collaboration with Yorkshire Water but content and opinions my own

Life lessons from Derren Brown

I’ve been pretty mesmerised by Derren Brown since he hit our TV screens years ago.

So I booked tickets for us to see his latest show ‘Miracle’ at the Grand Opera House in York. Beforehand, I was excited and intrigued: we all know by know what his act usually entails but I didn’t know what he would do, whether I’d be as in awe seeing his act in real life, or whether I’d be dragged up on stage to have my mind ‘read’ with X-ray precision.

As you may know, Derren asks all his audiences (even official reviewers) not to disclose what they see. Most abide by this rule. It doesn’t mean that reviews are uninteresting though – my Twitter friend Katie wrote a review for the blog in 2012 after seeing him in Leeds.

But I don’t want to talk about what he did in his show – although I really did thoroughly enjoy it. I was also struck by the philosophy that ran through it, the message that the whole act was built around.

It seems from the interviews I’ve read about ‘Miracle’ that Derren wanted to say something interesting and worthwhile this time. He’s writing a book on happiness and several things he said are particularly relevant to me just now.

I went home feeling like I’d heard a few important life lessons.

Derren Brown selfie during show at Grand Opera House, York

// image Twitter/Derren Brown //

10 life lessons from Derren Brown

1. You only have control over two things: your own thoughts and your own actions. Worrying about anything else is pointless, and just weighs you down.

2. We alone control our path to happiness.

3. The only real thing is now. The past and the future are just tales you tell yourself, and you can tell yourself a different story about who you are, and a different interpretation of things that have passed and you think are to come.

4. Your experience of life is based on perception and interpretation. You can choose to interpret your life positively, or negatively.

5. Everyone is fighting a battle.

6. You are capable of taking more risks than you think.

7. Your mind is extremely powerful.

8. Some people are more impressionable than others. I’d say I have a healthy scepticism.

9. It’s quite scary how messages can be planted in your brain without you having a clue they’re not home grown. I’ve studied media and communications and been a journalist so I’m aware of the various theories about how we absorb all the stuff we watch and read but I like to think of myself as quite media savvy and clever enough to resist. Not necessarily so.

10. Life is a miracle. It is a miracle that I am me, and you are you, and that we are even here, now.

Have you ever seen Derren Brown live?

Do you agree with any of these life lessons?

Fire Lake Grill House at Radisson Blu, Leeds

The last time I entered the ground floor of the Radisson Blu hotel in Leeds it was to meet family who were staying there for a coffee.

It was a functional foyer; not a place to indulge or linger.

That has certainly changed now. As I stepped back in recently to try out the new Fire Lake Grill House, I struggled to reconcile the past with the present. The restaurant and bar has been given a complete makeover to make it a stand-alone destination.

Fire Lake Grill and cocktail bar at Radisson Blu hotel, Leeds, Yorkshire, UK

Fire Lake opened at the beginning of June, boasting industrial chic décor and several distinct drinking and dining spaces, with cosy booths, bespoke floor tiles and ‘wow factor’ touches like a floor-to-ceiling fire pit and a huge graffiti-ed image of Leeds legend Peter O’Toole.

The Fire Lake concept was born in Minnesota – the land of 10,000 lakes – and Leeds is the first location outside the USA.

It is part of a £3.5m refurb of the hotel which began in January, giving new life to the building which was the Leeds Permanent Building Society from 1843 before being taken over by Radisson Blu in 2002.

Fire Lake Grill and cocktail bar at Radisson Blu hotel, Leeds, Yorkshire, UK Fire Lake Grill and cocktail bar at Radisson Blu hotel, Leeds, Yorkshire, UK Fire Lake Grill and cocktail bar at Radisson Blu hotel, Leeds, Yorkshire, UK Fire Lake Grill and cocktail bar at Radisson Blu hotel, Leeds, Yorkshire, UK Fire Lake Grill and cocktail bar at Radisson Blu hotel, Leeds, Yorkshire, UK Fire Lake Grill and cocktail bar at Radisson Blu hotel, Leeds, Yorkshire, UK

First, we were treated to a glass of prosecco and a Whisky Baht ‘At (for the uninitiated, ‘baht ‘at’ is a well-known Yorkshire phrase meaning ‘without a hat’), a cocktail containing bourbon, honey, bitter and cloudy apple juice. I was sceptical I would enjoy a whisky-based cocktail but it was deliciously fruity and warming and served perfectly in cut crystal.

After that, we’d been promised a chef ‘masterclass’ in which we’d learn how Fire Lake’s dishes are made, and some cooking techniques. Chef Mick Hart had his work cut out teaching me to cook but, despite working in top restaurants around the world he was completely down to earth, had a cracking northern sense of humour and made us see that creating a spectacular dish can be quite straight forward – if you know what you’re doing and the flavours to combine.

Then, we were served what can only be described as a feast. A whole flame-roasted lobster (£34), North Sea prawns (£19), pepper-dusted steak (£16), crispy corn-fed chicken (£14), pulled pork rolls (£12), corn lollipops (£3), Bradford onion bahjis (£3), charred potato mash (£3) and Yorkshire puddings (£3).

It was all outstanding and beautifully presented. Many dishes are wood and flame-cooked, on a Josper, and the new menu has a strong Yorkshire theme with food locally-sourced.

We followed the mains (yes, we had more) with a platter of Yorkshire cheeses (£9), warm doughnuts (£6) and a dessert selection including berry mousse, liquorice ice-cream (you must eat this before you die) and sweet ginger cake.

Fire Lake Grill and cocktail bar at Radisson Blu hotel, Leeds, Yorkshire, UK Fire Lake Grill and cocktail bar at Radisson Blu hotel, Leeds, Yorkshire, UK Fire Lake Grill and cocktail bar at Radisson Blu hotel, Leeds, Yorkshire, UK Fire Lake Grill and cocktail bar at Radisson Blu hotel, Leeds, Yorkshire, UK Fire Lake Grill and cocktail bar at Radisson Blu hotel, Leeds, Yorkshire, UK Fire Lake Grill and cocktail bar at Radisson Blu hotel, Leeds, Yorkshire, UK Fire Lake Grill and cocktail bar at Radisson Blu hotel, Leeds, Yorkshire, UK Fire Lake Grill and cocktail bar at Radisson Blu hotel, Leeds, Yorkshire, UK Fire Lake Grill and cocktail bar at Radisson Blu hotel, Leeds, Yorkshire, UK Fire Lake Grill and cocktail bar at Radisson Blu hotel, Leeds, Yorkshire, UK Fire Lake Grill and cocktail bar at Radisson Blu hotel, Leeds, Yorkshire, UK

I strongly recommend you go and swoon at Radisson’s new look and eat as much from the Fire Lake menu as you can manage.

Has this made you want to make a trip?

The stunning new showroom of interior designer Rachel Usher

Interiors by Rachel Usher showroom at Bawtry, near Doncaster, South Yorkshire

As soon as I walked into Rachel Usher’s new interiors showroom in Bawtry, near Doncaster, South Yorkshire, I sensed something special.

As we talked over a cup of tea, that thing I couldn’t at first put my finger on became clearer.

It wasn’t just Rachel’s passion for design – many people have that – but the clarity of her vision, her determination to see it realised and her love for and belief in design: that beauty and authenticity in a home is not frivolity, it’s something meaningful and worthwhile that helps us lead happier and more fulfilled lives.

Interiors by Rachel Usher showroom at Bawtry, near Doncaster, South Yorkshire

Interiors by Rachel Usher showroom at Bawtry, near Doncaster, South Yorkshire

To me, the 39-year-old seemed born to be creative, a natural, and someone brought to life by design.

So I admit to being slightly taken aback when she told me about her previous career. Read More →

New Quay, Ceridigion, Wales

Boy, were we in need of the break.

In the end, we didn’t need to be away for long. Just a few days, with fresh air, open sky and nothing in particular to do. Just a little time like this – after just one day of lazing and reading in fact – and I felt my body had pretty much reset itself. The last few months at work, full of frenetic activity and frequent anxiety, were a world away.

It was a five hour drive to New Quay on Wales’ Ceredigion coast but worth it. This campsite at Cei-Bach had been recommended to us, and we were pretty much in love from the minute we arrived. It had rather too many caravans for our liking – and they’d nicked all the best pitches – but if you’re after peace and quiet, hidden beaches and mesmerising views then this must be a hard place to beat.

Day two was cloudier so we set about walking a section of the Ceredigion coast path, which is helpfully just a few steps from the campsite. It was really easy to follow the path along the coast to the pretty fishing town of Aberaeron (about 5 miles away).

Ceredigion coastal path, Wales

Read More →

Summer is…

I’m in the middle of two weeks off from work – and I hear I may have dropped on a mini heatwave.

My phone weather forecast is predicting the temperature here will hit a slightly scary 30°C during next week!

We’ve already had a couple of days away camping in Wales, when we walked, watched dolphins from the harbour and I actually had a day of sitting around doing very little (for the first time in months) other than reading and listening to the sea.

I’ll share more on that little trip, but here’s a rather pretty taster.

Ceredigion coastal path

Read More →

Introducing: Object Style

I first met Rachael Adams when she organised Home is in the North in Manchester. I made no secret of how much I enjoyed that event and approved of the friendly, interactive vibe and the brands chosen to be part of it.

A few months ago, Rachael began to post on Twitter and Instagram under a new name. The things she shared were simplistic and beautiful; I often felt like she’d read my mind and interpreted my desires in imagery.

I was intrigued about where it was heading, and finally last month Rachael launched Object Style.

She describes it as a luxury concept store fusing minimalism with femininity. It’s designed by and for creative women; a collective of independent female-led brands that create one-off wares for the home, wardrobe and wedding.

Object Style look book

Read More →

DIY painted sputnik pendant

While our living room has taken shape nicely after the renovation, until recently the ceiling has been quite bare.

That was until a couple of weeks ago, when we added this striking pendant light.

DIY spray painted Wayfair sputnik pendant light

I’ve admired these striking sputnik-style light fittings for some time. They’re easier to find in the US than in the UK, and are usually pretty expensive (starting at a few hundred and going up to a few thousand pounds). I wasn’t sure I could justify the outlay, or that my humble home was fit for a mid-century icon.

But when do-it-yourself-décor guru Kimberley made over an £80 B&Q light fitting with gold spray paint, she planted a seed in my head that has been growing roots for the best part of a year.

So when Wayfair invited me to choose some items that I could give my own DIY touch to, I knew what my first project would be.

This pendant (£84) comes in chrome, and I decided to paint it metallic black. Although I was initially a tad nervous about ruining a perfectly good light, the new colour fits in far better with the rest of our room and I love the finished look. I often just stare at it, admiring it from different angles.

Hop on over to the Wayfair blog for the full, step-by-step DIY, and look out for my other projects coming soon.

What do you think?

Are you a fan of sputnik lights?

Elderflower foraging and meal at Crafthouse Leeds

In all my visits to the bars and eateries of Trinity Leeds, I hadn’t until recently made it to Crafthouse.

I’m pleased that my first visit was such a great one, at the fine dining restaurant’s first elderflower foraging event.

At Crafthouse and its upstairs sister Angelica, elderflower and gooseberry form a large part of the menu in the summer. We were to be served a three course meal inspired by the two, after learning from head pastry chef Stefan Rose how to find, pick and use elderflower.

Elderflower foraging event and meal at Crafthouse Leeds Read More →

Life lately and finding space

My blog has been neglected of late.

Letting go and accepting I wouldn’t update for a few weeks – that I couldn’t – wasn’t easy. I haven’t really had a dry spell since I started blogging more than three years ago.

The first five months of this year have been demanding and non-stop at work, but now the pressure has eased slightly it’s made room in my mind for thoughts like whether I should expect more of myself, in terms of what I do for a living.

I enjoy my job a great deal, most of the time, and it’s often challenging and rewarding. Even so, I’ve been wondering whether there might be something more fulfilling elsewhere, and whether – settled and content as I am – I’m giving my job my all.

Am I being ambitious enough? Would taking a leap be worth the risk? Is it always worth taking a chance, even if it doesn’t work out – because at least you know and you’ve tried?

As some sort of work normality resumed, I’ve had the chance to take some time out and I’ve forced my conscientious little self to take it: hence, the brief blog break.

I love my blog, I love what it brings, and I love that I have a place where I can put my thoughts into some kind of order.

But it will never be my living: I don’t expect it to ever cover my mortgage, and I wouldn’t want it to. So is it right to invest so much time and energy in it, often at the expense of other things that are more important? To give myself additional tasks, pressure, deadlines, responsibilities even after the end of a demanding working week?

Of course, the answer is: everything in moderation. My blog is more than a hobby, but it can never come before my career, my relationships, or my well-being and peace of mind.

I’m pleased to be back here, but I’ve needed the space.

Anderby Creek, Lincolnshire

Read More →

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