House tour: the nursery

When I first started thinking about how to decorate the nursery I thought I’d choose a monochrome or neutral scheme, but in fact we went for a colourful room – and I love it.

It was about a year ago that I shared some ideas on how I was thinking of decorating the nursery at that time. I was favouring muted shades, pastels or perhaps monochrome, and although I mentioned that I liked animals I was thinking of a woodland theme.

Of course, we didn’t know whether we were going to have a boy or a girl so all my design ideas were gender neutral – though in the end we didn’t get round to decorating until after he was born.

As my due date got closer I started thinking more about what my baby might like in his or her room, rather than what I might like. Then I spotted this Animal Magic wallpaper by Scion, and I loved the bold, colourful design featuring more than a dozen different zoo animals.

Colourful animal Scandi unisex nursery | Angel In The North Colourful animal Scandi unisex nursery | Angel In The North

It is a small room (2m x 2.4m) so, as well as considering the overall look, I spent a lot of time thinking about the layout so that we could maximise storage without it looking too cluttered.

I bought some new things for the room, but re-used furniture as well. We had an old Ikea Hemnes wood three-drawer chest which we repainted white with blue drawer knobs. It was just the right height to serve as a changing table when he was a new born.

The Mamas and Papas cot bed was donated by a friend, and I asked my dad to make some drawers to fit underneath. My dad also made the toy box that fits perfectly at the end of the cot.

There’s no room for a wardrobe, so I used the space above the stairs for open shelves and clothes rails. They’re all Ikea – white Ekby Hemnes shelves with beech Ekby Valter brackets and Bygel rails (I’m not sure they’re available any more), which I spray painted in Rustoleum Mode ‘celeste’, left over from this project.

Colourful animal Scandi unisex nursery | Angel In The North

Colourful animal Scandi unisex nursery | Angel In The North

Colourful animal Scandi unisex nursery | Angel In The North Colourful animal Scandi unisex nursery | Angel In The North Colourful animal Scandi unisex nursery | Angel In The North Round the corner there’s a shallow wall-mounted Ikea Besta cupboard where I store toiletries, medicines, spare packs of wipes and other practical items. It makes good use of the space behind the door and above the radiator which might otherwise have been wasted.

My sister-in-law made the colourful dinosaur bunting, and the floating shelf and Ikea Besta boxes provide more handy storage for towels, muslins and nappies. The vintage suitcase stores keepsakes.

Colourful animal Scandi unisex nursery | Angel In The North Colourful animal Scandi unisex nursery | Angel In The North

I also have a Scandi-style grey rocking chair that I got from Achica. I wasn’t sure I’d have room for a chair but this one is compact and comfy and has proven to be an essential.

The round, jute triangle rug is by Ferm Living from Cloudberry Living.

Colourful animal Scandi unisex nursery | Angel In The North

Colourful animal Scandi unisex nursery | Angel In The North

Colourful animal Scandi unisex nursery | Angel In The North Colourful animal Scandi unisex nursery | Angel In The NorthThis is the safari musical mobile by Red Kite and the cot sheet is from Mothercare. The seagrass basket is from Ikea and is a good place to throw odds and ends I don’t know where else to put!

I’d love to know what you think of our colourful, animal-themed nursery.

10 good things about going back to work after maternity leave

I can’t quite believe it, but my maternity leave is over and I go back to work next week.

Nine, glorious months with my baby, gone – almost in a flash.

‘Sh*t got real’ about going back about a month ago, when I went in to talk to my boss and set a return date. At that point I was feeling very negative about it; I just couldn’t imagine only being able to see Sam’s face for a couple of hours a day, four days a week. I wasn’t ready and I didn’t want it to happen.

Baby feet

The trouble is, I’ve loved my maternity leave. I timed it perfectly, giving birth just at the start of spring, and I’ve had no shortage of things to do and lovely people to do them with throughout the sunnier months.

Sam’s been like a tiny best friend, always by my side, and watching him grow and develop and learn things has been incredible. I can recall only a handful of times when I’ve felt bored. Of course, there was the travelling too – which was probably the best month of my life.

But I like my job, and for personal and financial reasons I want to go back to work. I’m feeling more prepared for it now, and to help me get over the final small hump of dread, I decided to put together a (slightly tongue-in-cheek) list.

10 reasons why it will be good to go back to work after maternity leave

  1. I can stop feeling guilty for looking at a screen, because there won’t be a little person around who ought to be getting my attention. It will be my actual job to sit at a desk and look at a screen all day. I will be able to see a task through from the beginning to the end without having to break off because someone yells at me.
  2. I can work my brain again. The other day I couldn’t for the life in me add 48 + 24, to work out how many hours there are in three days.
  3. I’ll be able to pop to the shop for a few bits and pieces without first calculating the time since someone’s last meal or nap, and from that how hungry/tired/grumpy they are likely to be at our arrival and departure time.
  4. There won’t be crap all over the floor wherever I walk.
  5. I’ll be able to go to the toilet whenever I want, not just when I can’t hold it in any longer. I won’t have to rush what I do in there, in case someone has managed to get themselves into danger in the 30 seconds since they were left alone.
  6. I won’t have to wrestle several times a day with a small person who is determined to get somewhere – anywhere – that is not the changing mat.
  7. I won’t have to sing Twinkle Twinkle on loop before slowly, gingerly putting someone down in their cot, only for them to react like I’ve laid them in a bed of nails, so I have to pick them up again and start from step 1 until he concurs he’s knackered and it’s nap time. And I won’t have to repeat this process three times a day.
  8. If I want, I can take an hour to eat lunch. Of course, having lunch often takes an hour now, but that includes coaxing someone else to eat, the deployment of various entertainment and distraction techniques, between mouthfuls me shovelling in crackers with peanut butter or the scraps he won’t eat, picking up most of the food he’s been given off the floor and trying to wipe his face while he blows raspberries and reacts like I’m doing it with a scouring pad not a baby wipe.
  9. I can carry around a nice, normal-sized bag, rather than one stuffed with nappies, wipes, spare clothes, food and toys.
  10. I will miss him. Like mad. Every minute of every day that I am away from him. But this will make me appreciate every minute I get to spend with him, probably more than I do now.

Autumn walk at Swinsty Reservoir, North Yorkshire

While summer will never stop being my favourite season, you can’t beat the colour show that nature puts on in autumn.

It was a pretty spectacular sight on a recent walk around Swinsty Reservoir in North Yorkshire. Even on a slightly grey November day you could see every shade of brown, yellow, orange, gold and green.

Swinsty Reservoir, North Yorkshire | Angel In The North

Swinsty Reservoir is owned by Yorkshire Water, who look after 72,000 acres of countryside in the region. They’re keen for people to use and explore it, so they invited me to review one of their walks.

There are plenty of ideas for days out on Yorkshire Water’s website – cycling, fishing, sailing and horse-riding, as well as walking. There are maps of routes free to download, with helpful difficulty ratings.

It’s a 3-mile walk around Swinsty Reservoir in the stunning Washburn Valley between Harrogate and Skipton. It uses minor roads and tracks as well as a good, wide path so is accessible for people with prams or in wheelchairs.

Swinsty Reservoir is adjacent to Fewston Reservoir which is also a lovely walk of about 5 miles. You could do both if you were feeling particularly energetic!

Swinsty Reservoir, North Yorkshire | Angel In The North Swinsty Reservoir, North Yorkshire | Angel In The North Swinsty Reservoir, North Yorkshire | Angel In The North Swinsty Reservoir, North Yorkshire | Angel In The North Swinsty Reservoir, North Yorkshire | Angel In The North

The two reservoirs are served by a good-sized car park (on the A59 between Harrogate and Skipton; nearest postcode LS21 2NP) with toilets, information and picnic benches.

We’ve only walked here mid-week when it’s been easy to park and there have been a handful of other walkers – enough for a few friendly greetings but still very peaceful. I imagine it gets busier at weekends.

A few steps out of the car park brings you to the start of the walk and the embankment provides good views of both reservoirs. Once you’ve crossed the embankment it’s easy to find the footpaths circling each reservoir.

There are also benches as you walk round the reservoir, many remembering loved ones. I love to read things like that and think about what the people they’re in memory of might have been like. Of course, we loved the one that said ‘Thank You Sam’, because we thank our boy every day for coming into our lives :)

Swinsty Reservoir, North Yorkshire | Angel In The North Swinsty Reservoir, North Yorkshire | Angel In The North Swinsty Reservoir, North Yorkshire | Angel In The North Swinsty Reservoir, North Yorkshire | Angel In The North Swinsty Reservoir, North Yorkshire | Angel In The North Swinsty Reservoir, North Yorkshire | Angel In The North Swinsty Reservoir, North Yorkshire | Angel In The North Swinsty Reservoir, North Yorkshire | Angel In The North Swinsty Reservoir, North Yorkshire | Angel In The North Swinsty Reservoir, North Yorkshire | Angel In The North Swinsty Reservoir, North Yorkshire | Angel In The North Swinsty Reservoir, North Yorkshire | Angel In The North

The walk is graded as easy which is fair I think; it’s nice and flat and the paths are good. But it’s still a decent challenge and it certainly blew off the cobwebs – we did the walk the morning after a large meal and several glasses of wine celebrating my husband’s birthday!

Another beauty of walks like this is you don’t really have to worry about bringing a map or getting lost or how you’re going to cross that field of bulls. It’s a very straightforward, relaxing walk but no less beautiful than more complicated alternatives.

Eight months on: what kind of parents are we?

Before our baby arrived, we spent a lot of time thinking and talking about the type of parents we thought we would be, and wanted to be.

It’s safe to say we both doubted ourselves. At times we thought we might be clueless, or somehow fall short. Looking back, I think this meant that we were already better parents than we realised. It’s probably healthy to be self-critical as you embark on the most important job you’ll ever do.

Sam is only eight months old, so there’s a long way to go yet. But I’ve been thinking about the job we’ve done so far, because the end of an era is looming – I return to work this month. I’ve cut my hours down slightly and I’ll be working four days a week.

So it’s the end of our uninterrupted mum-and-baby time together, and the beginning of juggling work with motherhood. Maybe I’ll talk to you a bit more about how I’m feeling about that, but for the time being I’m focusing on enjoying the last couple of weeks of maternity leave.

Parenting - eight month old update | Angel In The North

A whole eight months old

The personality traits he’s showing already make us proud. He’s smiley, calm (unless hungry or tired), curious, wilful and determined. The words other people most often use to describe him are “content” or “chilled-out.”

He’s strong, and seems to like exploring, discovering and doing things for himself. When we went to the Yorkshire Dales recently for my husband’s birthday, an elderly couple took one look at Sam and declared that he would be the “next Bear Grylls.”

He doesn’t particularly like sitting up, but he does like chewing bag straps and looking at his hands. He loves puréed chicken curry, but clamps his lips shut at the sight of scrambled egg.

His second tooth is on the way, he’s crawling and can pull himself up to standing. I take him swimming and to music and craft classes.

What kind of parents are we?

Parenting - eight month old update | Angel In The NorthI feel I can say with confidence that – so far at least – we’re good parents. Sam is our number one priority, and we surround him with love and security. We work together and make decisions together.

Recently Hallmark got in touch asking me to nominate someone special to receive a gift box – and it had to be my husband.

My OH gets up in the night if he needs to, and first thing in the morning. He rushes to pick Sam up and hug him as soon as he gets home after work. He does his share of feeding, playing and nappy changing.

He does all these things without being asked to, or expecting praise. He calls himself ‘well-trained’, but he’s not – he just does it because he loves us.

He works so hard – in his job, on our house renovation and now as a dad. He doesn’t often treat himself and doesn’t want expensive things.

I know this does not make him some kind of Man-God – he does what dads should do – but it is worth commenting on because, unfortunately in the 21st century, some men still don’t pull their weight and do regard parenting as primarily a job for mums.

He’s going to look after Sam one day a week while I’m at work. He usually works weekends, so while I regret we won’t have that typical weekend family time, I’m happy for him and Sam that they’ll get this weekly one-on-one time with each other.

When I asked him how he was planning to spend his days with Sam, he said he’d go to a museum, or to the beach. Slightly unrealistic, you might reasonably say, to do those things every week, but the fact he wants to show his son these places and that he’s thoroughly excited about doing so makes him a brilliant dad already.

So, along with the night away (the three of us – he wouldn’t have it any other way) at The Fountaine Inn in the Dales, the gift box – with cards, a balloon, fancy wrapping and a cake – went to him.

hallmark-at-tesco-2 hallmark-at-tesco-1

All these items are available in Tesco, where Hallmark cards are now being stocked too – including Tesco in Barnsley, South Yorkshire. So if there’s a special occasion coming up, you can pick up everything you need with your weekly shop.

If you’re a parent, how did you find the first few months of your baby’s life?

Do you have any advice for us for the future, or for me as I return to work?

20 tips for travelling with a baby

In his first six months my baby has been to nine countries, travelled roughly 6,000 miles and spent around 50 nights away from his own home (though always with us).

We’ve stayed in a cottage in Yorkshire, been camping in Wales and in Dorset and most recently took a month-long road trip round Europe where we visited France, Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Italy and Switzerland.

When you have a baby every trip away needs some thought, but obviously that last holiday took the most planning: we were away for 30 nights, slept in 13 different places, covered thousands of miles and spent a lot of time on the road. When we set off, our baby Sam was five months old.

So when Expedia got in touch and asked me to share some travel tips, I thought it might be useful to talk about what how we made travelling with a baby easier and safer, some of the things we took with us and what we learned along the way.

20 tips for going travelling with a baby | Angel In The North Continue reading “20 tips for travelling with a baby”

Anthropologie at Victoria Gate, Leeds

Much of the buzz around the opening of the new shopping centre in Leeds, Victoria Gate, has been about the city finally getting a John Lewis.

But personally I was just as excited to see the centre’s other stores open, like Cos, & Other Stories and Anthropologie.

On the day Victoria Gate opened last month, I was invited to Anthropologie’s launch party. I found the two-storey shop was a feast for fans of bohemian style, with bags of fashion, jewellery and home extras.

I photographed basically everything – I couldn’t help it!

New Anthropologie store, Victoria Gate shopping centre, Leeds | Angel In The North New Anthropologie store, Victoria Gate shopping centre, Leeds | Angel In The North New Anthropologie store, Victoria Gate shopping centre, Leeds | Angel In The North New Anthropologie store, Victoria Gate shopping centre, Leeds | Angel In The North New Anthropologie store, Victoria Gate shopping centre, Leeds | Angel In The North

It’s probably the perfect time to experience Anthropologie with winter approaching. The store is rich with textures: faux fur, wool, jewel embellishments, embroidery, colourful velvet and metallics. They are experts in monogrammed products, which have to be the perfect gifts for Christmas. Continue reading “Anthropologie at Victoria Gate, Leeds”

Object store, Chorlton, Manchester

A couple of weeks ago, I woke up and decided I wanted to spend a day in Chorlton (just outside Manchester). I blame the launch of a cool new store, Object, for convincing me it was somewhere I had to visit. I enlisted a friend who lives in Manchester, and off we went.

Chorlton is not glamorously-named, but I found it’s a great place for  wandering in and out of independent shops and there are plenty of options for eating and coffee.

Unfortunately we decided to go on a Monday, when some shops – including Object – close, but I’ve been sent a few snaps of the new store so I can take you inside anyway.

You may have read my post last year about the launch of Object Style online. Owner Rachael described it as a luxury concept store fusing minimalism and femininity.

Now Rachael has teamed up with her husband Alex Otterwell to launch the shop in Chorlton and as well as selling womenswear and homewares, they’re stocking menswear too. As with the online store, there’s a strong focus on season-less and transitional clothing; “think every-wear for every-day”, say the couple.

Object, which opened in September, will also hold evening workshops, including ring-making, macrame and visual story-telling.

Object concept shop, Chorlton, Manchester, UK | Angel In The North

Continue reading “Object store, Chorlton, Manchester”

Europe road trip week 4: Italy and France

As we began week 4 of our month travelling in Europe, there was no denying that we were on our way home. We were heading north through Italy having driven in a big (slightly wonky) horseshoe through the continent.

We had mixed feelings. We were looking forward to getting our baby son home to his own house and bed (and not having to share a room with him!): we hoped being home would help him sleep as some nights while we were away he woke up almost every hour. (He finally started sleeping through a couple of nights after we got back, at almost six months old *air punch*).

But I felt quite overwhelmed with how good the experience of us travelling together as a family had been. It had been good, as in fun, and we’d seen fascinating places, and it had been good for all of our relationships with each other.

It had made us look at things, and plan changes for the better and I didn’t want us to forget these resolutions as we returned to normal life. So I was sad about our month away coming to an end, because I didn’t want the memory-making to stop and I didn’t want us to go back to old habits when all the distractions of home life were to hand.

Lanzo d’Intelvi, northern Italy

We used AirBnB again to book our accommodation in this mountain town just at the Swiss border, between Lake Lugano and Lake Como.

The drive to it was hair-raising: the sharpest and steepest hairpin turns either of us had ever experienced and streets so narrow we had to tuck in our car’s wing mirrors to get through.

But the views were remarkable. We had the top floor of a large family home, with a balcony looking onto layers of mountains. Our host hardly spoke any English, and us hardly any Italian, but we got by using gestures, an iPhone and ready smiles.

AirBnB apartment, Lanzo d'Intelvi, near Lake Como, Italy | Angel In The North

We needed to go to the shop for a few essentials (= wine) but had found the drive there so stressful we were reluctant to get back in the car again. After a few deep breaths we plucked up the courage, and when we knew what to expect it didn’t seem quite as bad. By the end of our three nights there we’d actually grown quite used to the roads and very fond of our temporary home.

Lake Como, Italy

One of our two days in Lanzo d’Intelvi was taken up with trying to buy a new car tyre (don’t ask why it took a full day…). But on the second day we drove down the mountainside to the iconic Lake Como. Continue reading “Europe road trip week 4: Italy and France”

Europe road trip week 3: Italy

At the beginning of the third week of our month travelling in Europe, and after a week in Croatia, we took the overnight ferry from Split to Ancona on the east coast of Italy.

We were itching to get to Italy – for the food, mostly – but also to soak up the country’s rich history and culture.

As if put there to get us into the mood, there was a large group of nuns and monks on the boat and we were already witnessing Italians’ famous love for family and babies. Men and women talked to us and cooed at our little one in their language, undeterred by our blank faces and total lack of understanding.

We arrived in port at around 7am and set off towards our first destination, driving over immense viaducts and through countless tunnels.

Serramonacesca, Abruzzo region, Italy

It was our sixth wedding anniversary on the day we arrived in Italy, and I had this romantic notion that sleeping in a bell tent in the countryside would be the perfect way to spend it.

Full of positivity and with prosecco at the ready, we arrived at Kokopelli Camping, a small campsite run by a British couple who moved to Italy to embrace their love of the outdoors. They were incredibly generous with their time and have brought some brilliant ideas to their campsite, to help visitors help them live a self-sufficient, minimal impact lifestyle. They keep chickens so there are often fresh eggs for breakfast and grow tomatoes and herbs which you can help yourself to – perfect for cooking that traditional Italian pasta sauce.

It was so quiet here people talked in hushed tones – refreshing after the ‘f**k you all I’m on holiday’ attitude we’d found at the last campsite. The only sounds were those of nature, the church bells and a couple of wild dogs howling in the nearby town.

Bell tent camping, Kokopelli Camping, Serramonacesca, Italy | Angel In The North Bell tent camping, Kokopelli Camping, Serramonacesca, Italy | Angel In The North

Unfortunately at night it felt a little like we were enduring a ‘bushtucker trial’ in the celebrity jungle. Our wedding anniversary night was always going to be more crowded than usual with our baby there – but we hadn’t counted on lizards and cockroaches and quite so many crawling and buzzing insects joining the party. Continue reading “Europe road trip week 3: Italy”

European road trip week 2: Croatia

In the first week of our month-long road trip round Europe, we had driven through five countries: England, France, Germany, Austria and Slovenia. It had been busy, but brilliant, and tiring at times.

At the beginning of the second week, we were about to hit our sixth country – Croatia – where we were due to stay for a week. We were looking forward to settling into a place and parking the car up for a few days.

Trogir, Croatia

We’d booked a chalet tent at Camping Belvedere near Trogir on Croatia’s southern Dalmatian coast. Up to now we’d stayed in hotels or guest houses, but being away for a month we had to find cheaper accommodation for the bulk of the stay.

Camping like this cost about £20-30 a night, and we also saved on the cost of meals because we now had cooking facilities. The previous week we’d been spending £100-200 a day on an overnight stay and meal out.

The tent comes with beds and cooking facilities so it also meant we didn’t have to cart our camping gear across Europe. We did take some of our own things in case of emergencies: our gas stove and a kettle so we could always make milk for Sam, even on the road; a sheet and a duvet; torches; and some basic crockery and cutlery.

Our first impression was that the campsite had great facilites – the usual washrooms plus bar, restaurant, swimming pools and a supermarket – and a stunning coastal location with great views of Trogir and nearby islands. We had a couple of days’ sunbathing and swimming in the sea, and even a cocktail or two at the bar which overlooked the Adriatic.

Unfortunately our stay here was spoilt by other campers – some making a lot of noise outside until the early hours of the morning. Continue reading “European road trip week 2: Croatia”

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