Friends of Ham and Shears Yard

Recently, we’ve got into a bit of a rut going out in Leeds.

It’s not something my friends and I do all the time, being in our 30s and having responsibilities like bills and babies. But it just so happened that I had plans to go out in the city for two Saturdays on the trot.

On our last few visits – drawn in by the bright lights, fancy cocktails and swanky décor – we’ve tended to spend a lot of time eating and drinking at Trinity Leeds. But on the first Saturday of the two, my love affair with the new shopping centre well and truly began to wane.

We started at The Botanist, which was crammed. We took the lift to the top of the centre and Angelica, full of people seeing and being seen, where I waited a good 10 or 15 minutes to get served then handed over £24 for three mojitos so overflowing with ice and mint they were difficult to drink without first making a mess of the floor. After that it was The Alchemist, where we queued outside and then queued inside for good measure. We left without even getting a drink, the prospect of which seemed distant with two barmen serving some of the most complicated cocktails available in Yorkshire, and anyway the A3-sized drinks menu overwhelmed me.

So the second Saturday I went out I wanted something different. Feeling fed up with Trinity, and having done all the Call Lane bars to death, we started at Friends of Ham, which is in a convenient spot just as you leave Leeds train station. It fulfilled perfectly my need for something less corporate and more cosy. If you’re a vegetarian you might not appreciate all the meat on show but the name of the place should have given you fair warning.

It looks a bit like a narrow deli from the street but it’s cavernous downstairs, and the atmosphere is warm and down to earth.

Friends of Ham, Leeds

Friends of Ham, Leeds

We toyed with the idea of eating there but I had my heart set on Shears Yard and I’m glad I stuck to my guns. Having read many great reports, it’s somewhere I’ll definitely go back to.

Inside, the skylights flood the tall room with light, over exposed beams, minimalist beech furniture, bare brick walls and industrial-style filament bulbs hanging from long cords. It’s relaxed, not showy, it has what it needs and not much more. And the food is really, really good.

Shears Yard, Leeds

Shears Yard, Leeds

Shears Yard, Leeds

Shears Yard, Leeds

Shears Yard, Leeds

We started with bread and whipped truffle butter, then I had a main of roasted sea bass fillet, smoked haddock and potato chowder, chive oil and pickled scallions (£14.50). My friend chose local corn fed chicken breast and wing, with a crab and lobster fritter, sweetcorn and chorizo salsa and lobster mayonnaise (£14.95). I’m afraid I didn’t take note of exactly what was in the dessert we shared, but it was divine. Its base was a Malteser mousse and the popcorn crackers were delicious (though probably frowned upon by dentists).

It was fairly empty when we arrived in the early evening but by the time we finished our two courses it had filled up a lot. We finished our wine over a long chat in the bar area and before we knew it, it was getting late. We had a quick drink across the road at Calls Landing before jumping on the train. We ran out of time but we’d planned on spending an hour or two around Granary Wharf, another place I like but don’t go enough.

So, Leeds redeemed itself. Where are your favourite places to go?

DIY 1st birthday photo frame

Recently the daughter of one of my best friends celebrated a big milestone – her first birthday!

My DIY gift to her was this: a pretty boxed frame showing month-by-month how she’s grown. Don’t you think it’s amazing to see, during those precious early months of life, how much children change and grow from scrunched-up newborns into little people with personalities and and whole catalogue of facial expressions?

With digital photography most of us print off and display images less, and it can be easy to forget to look back on those special moments as life flies by.  This frame now sits proudly above her cot and I hope it’ll become a memento she and her parents will continue to treasure.

DIY first birthday gift: month-by-month photo frame |

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What to do in Ilkley?

Some of my girls and I have recently booked to spend another weekend holed up in a cabin in the Yorkshire countryside this summer.

You might have read that we did the same thing last year, and it was idyllic.

I mean, it rained the whole time, but that kind of made it more fun… Nothing could ruin the view over the wildflower meadow, a few glasses of fizz made hot tubbing on the terrace in drizzle a lot more bearable and there were few things more funny last year than six highly educated women trying to light a disposable barbecue. Let’s just say, we had to employ bingo cards and Ann Summers mouse mats.

Last year we stayed at Keldy Forest, near Pickering and this year we’re going to Faweather Grange, not far from Ilkley.

We’ll probably spend at least a day in the town, so I’m looking for your help on what to see and do.

Toast House – spotted recently on blog powerhouse Remodelista – looks to me like a tea-and-cake-break must. I noticed the eclectic décor first: white walls under industrial modern and vintage objects. But the food sounds great too, with all dishes made on the premises behind a recycled wood counter. As their name suggests, toast is the main ingredient but the combinations sound anything but dull. Start with toast and toppings like mackerel pâté and sweet onion marmalade and brie, before going on to the desserts, including banoffee pie on toast and brioche with homemade ice cream.

Remodelista’s blog post took me to Kickcan and Conkers, a blog written by Deb, a lovely “Yorkshire lass” living in the south of France. (I know, I’m riddled with envy too). She recommends the cappucino, salt caramel flapjacks, winter carrot cake, and courgette and coconut cake.

Then a few days ago, Jen instagrammed that it was the most gorgeous café she’s ever been in.

Toast House cafe, Ilkley, Yorkshire |

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Living room design ideas

Pretty soon, we’ll be ready to start work on destroying renovating the downstairs of our house. So my head is currently whizzing with ideas about how I’d like the living room and kitchen diner to look.

Certainly for the lounge, my Pinterest board tells me I’m usually drawn to neutral floors and walls with standout accessories.

Dark sofas with colourful style via Apartment Therapy

(via Apartment Therapy)

Scandinavian meets southwest via SF Girl by Bay

(via SF Girl By Bay)

I don’t know whether the style I tend to like has a name, or how to describe it. I recognise bohemian, Scandinavian, US, British, mid-century and modern influences in there. And the bold, colourful looks I like on the internet will get watered down before they enter my home because, well, I’m not that brave.

Look Again are running a competition on the theme ‘Refresh rather than relocate’, and have invited bloggers to show how they’d revamp a room using their homewares on a £750 budget. So I decided to play around with some ideas for furniture and accent pieces I’d like to see in my living room. I could win my choices which would be ace! Read More →

Highstreet Outlet

A little while ago, I was introduced to Highstreet Outlet.

It’s an online store selling brands like Zara, Topshop, Boden, Dorothy Perkins and Monsoon for a fraction of the price products sell for in the shops. And a lot of it is current season!

Highstreet Outlet kindly let me choose a couple of items for review.

This lemon yellow embellished shoulder jumper from Topshop shot immediately to the top of my favourite jumper list – and there’s some competition these days, I can tell you. (Has anyone else’s sweater collection multiplied faster than gremlins this autumn/winter?)

Topshop embellished shoulder yellow jumper.jpg

It’s been admired by friends and work colleagues and I’ve taken great pleasure (Yorkshirewoman that I am) in telling them although it’s selling right now on the high street for £46, it’s available here for just £18.50. Read More →

Bo Carter: ‘Forgotten Leeds’

In the couple of years I’ve been writing this blog, Bo Carter‘s name has cropped up several times as one of the leading lights in Leeds fashion.

She was born in Poland, had a spell in Holland, but moved to the UK 14 years ago and now calls Yorkshire home.

“I would definitely call myself Cosmopolitan,” she told me. “I love travelling, discovering and learning new cultures and getting to know people from different parts of the world.

“However Leeds has become my home and when I started my experiments with fashion it was in this city, with this culture and with people of Leeds. I fell in love and I do feel much attached to this place.”

Bo has shared with me her new collection, captured in this recent photoshoot called ‘Forgotten Leeds’.

She said: “We wanted to discover the hidden, forgotten spots of Leeds. There is lots happening lately in Leeds, lots of changes, new independent business trying to break through and make themselves visible while big investors are coming and shaking the city.

“This is all very positive and it’s exciting to see what the next few months are going to bring. But Leeds has got so much history, the architecture of this city is amazing and sometimes I feel it’s getting missed and slowly forgotten with the big new things.

“When me and Steve [shoot photographer and Bo's boyfriend Steve Gabbett] went to rec some locations we were spoiled for choice and we knew straight away that one day was not going to be enough to show all the great spots, so we had be selective.”

I love the wearability of Bo’s designs and the slightly gritty backdrop of this shoot, with its chipped paint, moss-covered brick and flyposters. These streets are where you find Leeds’ character, learn about its history and look into its heart and soul – not in its shiny new shopping centres and skyscrapers.

Bo Carter fashion boutique 'Forgotten Leeds' photoshoot | Read More →

Yorkshire Three Peaks

A few weeks ago, you might have read this moving account by one of my best friends Emma about living with a child with a serious illness.

Her 18-month-old son Freddie, my godson, has chronic liver disease.

Emma talked about how one of the ways she and her family have coped since the diagnosis has been to fundraise for the Children’s Liver Disease Foundation (CLDF).

They started with the aim of raising a few hundred pounds but this brave little guy inspires everyone so much that that target was smashed in no time. A year on, their new target is £20,000 and they’re well on the way to achieving it.

I’ll be one of 30 walking the Yorkshire Three Peaks for the fund in May.

The other day, I joined part of the group for my first training session when we did the first section: an 11-mile walk taking in the peak of Pen-y-ghent and finishing at the Ribblehead viaduct at the foot of Whernside.

The landscapes were stunning but I’m not going to lie, I found it tougher than I thought. I regard myself as reasonably fit, but you can’t prepare for scrambling up rocky hillsides or being pelted with hail as you come down the other side.

I ached for days after but with every difficult step we thought of Freddie, who has endured countless needles, examinations, scans, operations and drugs since being four weeks old.

That’s why we’re heading out again this weekend, to tackle the next 14 miles and climb the next two peaks, Whernside and Ingleborough. On the day, we’ll be aiming climb all three peaks and cover 26 miles in under 12 hours.

The money raised for CLDF will help them carry out research into childhood liver disease, support children living with the disease and their families and provide equipment for the three specialist units in England.

Please donate to the fund if you can: Thank you x

Yorkshire Three Peaks: Pen-y-ghent | Read More →

Advintageous vintage fair

I didn’t keep quiet about how much I loved the Advintageous vintage fair when it came to Wakefield last spring.

It brought a usually tired and quiet shopping centre to life with dancing, foot-tapping, victory rolls and red lipstick.

So I was keen to go back this year and, as luck would have it (or perhaps good planning!) it fell on Mother’s Day, so I took my mum for a browse after our delicious afternoon tea.

I am in no way a vintage purist, or even much of an enthusiast: I have the odd item in my house and wardrobe. But I love going to fairs like this because I find it fascinating to peer at these items from decades ago, and wonder at the hands that have held them and the lives they were a part of.

This particular fair is special because it comes with a smile guaranteed. It combines vintage sellers with singers, dancers and hairdressers, and every so often you will pass a huddle of people who could have stepped right out of the 1940s: military uniforms, trilbys, braces, wingtips, polka dots, tea dresses, turn-ups, head scarves, mary janes. I thought they looked fantastic.

Advintageous Spring Vintage fair, Ridings Centre, Wakefield | Read More →

Mother’s Day afternoon tea

I hope you all had a lovely Mother’s Day yesterday.

I took my mum for afternoon tea at a gorgeous tea room that opened a few months ago in Wakefield. Marmalade on the Square is housed in a rather fabulous three storey corner building that is more than 100 years old. Inside it’s prettily decked out with shabby chic furniture and vintage crockery.

Marmalade on the Square tea room Wakefield | Read More →

DIY ‘home sweet home’ banner

Hillarys Blinds are running a brilliant competition at the moment and this DIY fabric banner is my entry.

Bloggers could choose from four fabrics from Hillarys’ new Country Retreat range - I chose the pretty painterly ‘Calluna’ - and we received a square metre for a craft project. That’s not all: the winner gets £1,000! Told you it was good.

There are some great bloggers taking part so I don’t expect to win but I really enjoyed thinking about how best to use the fabric, and finally creating the banner wall art I’ve been wanting to make for ages.

DIY Home Sweet Home fabric banner | Read More →

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