Do you work in your pyjamas?

I often think we’ve been so slow to offer home working as a real alternative to commuting to an office.

Usually those thoughts come to me when I’m on my 30-40 minute each way journey to and from work. On the occasional bad day I add up in my head all the time I’ve spent commuting in my 13 years of working so far then think about all the things I could have achieved while behind a wheel simply getting from A to B. Volunteering for a charity, reading classic literature, watching silly videos on YouTube.

As a society we have developed technology which means there are practically no limits to the ways we can communicate, and most tasks can be executed equally well whether behind a desk or atop a mountain. It does seem madness that despite this, more than half the population are thrown out onto the street at exactly the same time, twice a day, with all the environmental and economic impact that has.

I am not a morning person, so usually I’m thankful of the half hour driving to properly wake up and come round. It’s not completely wasted as I listen to the day’s news, which is an important part of my job.

I like working around other people, so don’t think I’d want to work from home full-time, but I do think that there are times when it would make me more productive. I’d gain time from starting work straight away instead of deciding what to wear, putting on make-up, straightening my hair and travelling. And working home would give me the peace and quiet to concentrate and write well that can be difficult to find in a busy office that is open to the public.

I do most of my blogging at weekends and often look forward to this time. By then, I’ve usually had ideas for things I want to write buzzing around my head for days so will get cracking first thing in the morning. That’s the beauty of blogging I guess. It’s a whole lot easier if you’re in the right frame of mind, so you often just have to grasp the nettle if you’re in the zone. If that’s in bed still in pyjamas, so be it! (If you’re interested in my blogging process, I’ll be telling you more about it next week when I’m taking part in a ‘blog hop’).

Homeworking Axa Business Pyjamas competition

Depending on what else I have planned over a weekend, this is how I might start a Saturday or Sunday when I have time aside to blog. I might ease myself in gently by doing some admin and reading and replying to emails, or just open up a new blog post straight away if the thoughts are swarming in my head. After an hour or two, I’ll probably have breakfast and get dressed, but by then I already feel like I’ve made a good start.

Insurance company Axa say 4.2 million people in the UK who run their business from home. They’re running a competition to win an iPad mini just for snapping a selfie of you homeworking in your pyjamas. Be quick though it closes tomorrow!

Do you work from home or would you want to?

*written in association with Axa, but content all my own

Kitchen update/summer ready

We’re kind of wishing we’d started our downstairs renovation earlier, because the new layout and especially the new French doors have made such a difference to the light in the kitchen/dining area.

It would have been glorious in this beautiful weather to enjoy our evening meals with the wide double doors thrown open and the sun streaming in.

Instead, we’re having to make do with spending a few minutes standing and admiring the changes over a cool evening drink before resorting to eating upstairs with plates on our laps.

Want a sneaky peek of progress so far? Promise you’ll ignore the dirty, patchy walls and holes in the floor and ceiling? OK.

House renovation - kitchen, dining room, living room House renovation - kitchen, dining room, living room

This is the view from the living room. Remember we’ve created a separate lounge where before we had a through lounge/dining room and separate kitchen? The idea is that the new double doors from the lounge line up with the exterior ones in the dining area which we hope will pull light into the whole of the downstairs and let us see the garden from the living room.

We’ve been working on the downstairs for two months, and my husband assures me we are now just two or three weeks away from being able to get the plasterer in, which means soon after that we can start putting our new kitchen together and stop living upstairs. It’s been fine, most of the time, but is starting to feel pretty claustrophobic, especially after weeks of warm weather.

There’s a – ahem – slight problem with the doors at the moment in that they open out onto a five foot drop. Our whole plot slopes from front to back, and from side to side, which is going to make next year – the year of fixing the outside – interesting.

Still, we’ve got some exciting plans and are really looking forward to getting stuck in (albeit after a bit of a break after doing this little lot). I think the new back doors will make a huge difference to the way we can live in the house and encourage us to use the outside as extra living space routinely. If money was no object and we had a wider opening I’d have liked to put bifolding doors in. I know, I have shared my love for doors like this before.

I realise not everyone’s house will be undergoing as drastic change as ours is, swapping a window for doors. But there are some small changes you can make so your home feels sunnier and more summer ready.

1. Have your windows cleaned. I finally persuaded my husband to let me get the local window cleaner in – he’s a do it yourself way or no way kind of guy – and it’s made such a difference. I dread to think how many years it’s been since they were last cleaned. Decades, possibly. All this sun shows up every mark and speck of dirt, but clean glass makes a room instantly brighter.

2. Pick some fresh flowers. I’m always amazed by the beautiful things some of my favourite bloggers (like Jen, whose blooms are below) have growing in their garden. If, like me, your garden is a pit of weeds – albeit a promising one – fake it by picking up a rustic bunch from your local florist. If you have plants, make sure they aren’t too exposed to sunlight and keep them well watered.

Home grown flowers, from Little Birdie

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3. Spruce up the outside. Tidy the garage and shed so the table, chairs and barbecue are easy to get to. Sweep and clean up the decking or patio, touch up paint where you need to and maybe make some new upholstery for your outdoor furniture. I’m a bit obsessed with this tropical print fabric for my future outside benches. Do I order it even though making the bench cushions is a good year away?

Wood deck with glass roof and greenery

4. Swap out winter clothes. If you haven’t already, move thick winter coats, woolly jumpers and big boots out of your wardrobe and move in your summer dresses. Need a wardrobe clear out? Read my top tips.

Have you done anything differently at home because of the warm, sunny weather we’re being blessed with?

*written in collaboration with Express Bifolding Doors but content all my own and honest

Raithwaite Hall afternoon tea

For the last stop on our mini-tour of England, we headed up the Yorkshire coast from Scarborough to just past Whitby.

I’d been invited to sample afternoon tea at Raithwaite Hall. They’ve just hired Heidi Stevens, a former pastry chef on Sir Richard Branson’s private resort Necker Island, where she created the afternoon tea menu for Hollywood A-listers paying $64,000 a night.

A tempting invitation I’m sure you’ll agree, and I’m always happy to spend time at Sandsend, a pretty enclave which has happy memories for me. We got there a bit early, so spent an hour just sitting on a bench looking out to sea.

Afternoon tea Raithwaite Hall near Whitby North Yorkshire Afternoon tea Raithwaite Hall near Whitby North Yorkshire Afternoon tea Raithwaite Hall near Whitby North Yorkshire Afternoon tea Raithwaite Hall near Whitby North Yorkshire

Once at Raithwaite, the event was a little slow in getting going but it gave us time to enjoy a Pimms in the blazing sunshine, listening to the pianist and overlooking the pristine gardens.

When afternoon tea was served, Heidi’s experience and expertise was clear to see, with the delicate servings of food immaculately presented and deliciously light.

We started with smoked salmon and cucumber and crème fraiche sandwiches, then moved onto French macaroons, dark chocolate and Cointreau cake, eclairs with star anise creme and scones with Yorkshire clotted cream and organic strawberry preserve.

Afternoon tea Raithwaite Hall near Whitby North Yorkshire Afternoon tea Raithwaite Hall near Whitby North Yorkshire Afternoon tea Raithwaite Hall near Whitby North Yorkshire Afternoon tea Raithwaite Hall near Whitby North Yorkshire Afternoon tea Raithwaite Hall near Whitby North Yorkshire Afternoon tea Raithwaite Hall near Whitby North Yorkshire Afternoon tea Raithwaite Hall near Whitby North Yorkshire Afternoon tea Raithwaite Hall near Whitby North Yorkshire Afternoon tea Raithwaite Hall near Whitby North Yorkshire Afternoon tea Raithwaite Hall near Whitby North Yorkshire Afternoon tea Raithwaite Hall near Whitby North Yorkshire Afternoon tea Raithwaite Hall near Whitby North Yorkshire

Afternoon tea at Raithwaite costs £21 (£30 with champagne), £1 of which goes to the Prince’s Trust.

Ox Pasture Hall hotel

After a week’s camping, culminating in a hard night’s partying, we were ready for four walls and a roof, a bath and a proper bed.

It wasn’t time for home yet, but lucky for us we had been invited to stay at Ox Pasture Hall, a country hotel set in the North York Moors National Park, just a couple of miles from Scarborough.

Review: Ox Pasture Hall hotel and wedding venue, near Scarborough, North York Moors National Park, North Yorkshire

Review: Ox Pasture Hall hotel and wedding venue, near Scarborough, North York Moors National Park, North Yorkshire Review: Ox Pasture Hall hotel and wedding venue, near Scarborough, North York Moors National Park, North Yorkshire Read More →

Grassington Festival

After a couple of days in London, we jumped back in the car and headed back up north for our annual festival weekend.

Although on the same weekend as the world’s most famous festival at Worthy Farm, we were going to Grassington, not Glastonbury.

Still, there were fields and live music, and with my wristband on I could nearly pretend I was there.

By now – well we were back in Yorkshire – the temperature had dropped slightly so I wore jeans and a vest topped off with this pretty boho paisley-print kimono. I could get away with my nude chunky strap sandals because the ground was baked and dry but I wouldn’t advise anything but wellies at any of the big festivals which have a much higher footfall.

Grassington Festival fashion: New Look paisley print kimono Read More →

Ask Her Friends blogger panel

For the third and final time, I’m sharing the month’s Ask Her Friends blogger panel picks.

Remember, this is where Ask Her Friends calls on its panel of bloggers to pick out their best things on site. I’ve loved being a part of it and was always spoilt for choice when trying to select just four or five favourites.

The best thing about it is, you can win a £50 voucher simply by taking a look and voting for your favourite set. Apparently the last two months have been close calls so go on, hop on over and vote for me and let’s see if we can both be winners!

Here’s what I picked this month. The work being done on my kitchen has been at the forefront of my mind – or rather, how it will look when it’s all finished and I’ve added all the decorative touches I want – and I kind of fell instantly in love with the giraffe dipping bowl! Isn’t it sweet?

Ask Her Friends blogger panel July

1. Five Star Boutique Holiday in Turkey by Secret Escapes; 2. Ride My Bike Print by Old English Company; 3. Mulberry Domerivet Glossy Goat Leather Wallet by The Collection; 4. Silly Slogan Tea Towel by The Joy of Ex Foundation; 5. Giraffe Oink Dipping Dish by Yas-Ming Ceramics

Summer wish list

So summer is being pretty kind to us Brits this year, no?

How have you been spending these sunny days? As you know, I’ve been away camping and we’ve been busy making progress with the house renovation.

I’ve been going out more than usual after work, the snatched hours of evening sun making up for all the time lost inside earning a living.

I’m hoping to soon get to try a few new Leeds food joints I’ve heard good things about – (all the Bs!) Bundobust (check out Amy’s write-up of the preview night I’m sad I couldn’t make), Byron (the building looks stunning, as Emma agreed when she ate there) and Bird and Beast. I was a bit gutted I couldn’t get to last weekend’s Belgrave Music Hall monthly street feast and arts market – hopefully next time.

I’ve discovered Aldi’s version of Pimms is just as good as the real thing, and I’ve finally found a bit more time for reading. If you’re looking for a new novel, see if you fancy The Best Thing That Never Happened to Me, co-authored by my friend Jimmy. His dating blog used to crack me up and the first few pages of his début book haven’t disappointed.

It goes without saying Le Tour de Yorkshire a few days ago was incredible – one of our region’s proudest ever moments? – and I’m sure I’ll get into the Commonwealth Games when they start in Glasgow next week (although I am a bit upset with Scotland that they might leave us). That said, we’re thinking of squeezing in a sneaky trip to Edinburgh Fringe in August, when I also have a weekend in London booked and a couple of days set aside for spending with the girls drinking cocktails.

Husband and I have got some time off work booked in early September, so I’m hoping the fine weather lasts for some weeks yet.

I’ve started buying a few bits and pieces that I’ll share with you soon for my kitchen and living room – heavily inspired by Jen’s insight into how she decorates her rented house – for that moment that seems forever away when the rooms will be finished. In the meantime, want to see what I’m fancying adding to my wardrobe?

Summer 2014 wish list - Topshop, Marc Jacobs, Whistles, Zara, Asos, Stuart Weitzman, Alphabet Bags

 // 1 leaf print midi skirt, £38, Topshop / 2 Marc by Marc Jacobs ‘Baker’ leather strap watch, £108.34, Nordstrom / 3 striped logo sweat, £75, Whistles / 4 jewel earrings, £9.99, Zara / 5 zig zag rope necklace, £14.50, Topshop / 6 Orelia arrow stud earring, £12, Asos / 7 cyclist eyelet trainer, £175, Stuart Weitzman at Harrods / 8 Alphabet Bags ‘Take the scenic route’ travel pouch, £20 //

PS just taking a short refresher break from telling you about my recent travels, back on that soon…

*written in collaboration with Harrods but content all my own and honest

What I wore: floral trousers

After just a handful of days in Norfolk, several weeks of solid toil at work and at home were forgotten and we were completely relaxed. Unfortunately, our zen-like state was about to change.

Our next stop was London and driving into the capital would send our stress levels soaring – albeit for a very good reason. My brother and his wife have just had a baby and we were about to meet her for the first time. He’s my only sibling and his daughter Elsie is the first of our nuclear family’s next generation. Just five days old when I first held her, I was spellbound. She’s utterly beautiful as you can see in this photo I tweeted.

Anyway, back to the fashion. If you’re in south London I’d really recommend a trip to Eltham Palace, where I snapped these outfit shots in the immaculate grounds. It’s actually a former family home built by the wealthy Courthalds next to the remains of Eltham Palace – where Henry VIII spent some of his childhood – and it’s a wonderful example of 1930s art deco architecture and décor. I was fascinated by tales of their pet lemur and decadent interwar parties.

Floral trousers at Eltham Palace London Read More →

Colourful Norfolk

We’ve just taken two weeks off work, when we planned to have a few days away camping and make some progress on the kitchen renovation.

Unusually, wall-to-wall sunshine was predicted from day 1. We toyed with the idea of going away a few days earlier and for longer than planned. Pros of doing this = we could enjoy the sun. Cons = we won’t have a working kitchen for weeks yet.

With little deliberating, we went early. First stop was Norfolk, our first ever visit. And isn’t she pretty?

Cromer, Norfolk Read More →

Cabins and Covet, Ilkley

So, over the last few weeks I’ve had quite a lot of days and breaks away during various trips around Britain.

I’m very behind with telling you about these places, so I’m afraid over the next few days you might feel like you’re being taken on a whirlwind tour of the country.

Today we’re going back in time to about a month ago (*slapping of blogger wrists*) when I spent a blissed-out weekend in a log cabin with some of my best girls. We stayed at Faweather Grange, a smattering of cabins set in farmland not far from Ilkley. I mentioned this trip a few weeks ago and you came up with some excellent suggestions for ways we could spend our time in this well-heeled West Yorkshire town.

Unfortunately we were greeted with non-stop torrential rain on the day we’d planned to spend in Ilkley, so called short our time there. I made sure to visit Covet, which a few of you suggested, and it turns out you knew exactly what I would like. What a truly lovely shop!

Covet, Ilkley Read More →

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