Afternoon tea at Betty’s

Review: Lady Betty afternoon tea at Betty's cafe tea rooms, Harrogate, Yorkshire

There can be few better ways to spend a Sunday in Yorkshire than sharing afternoon tea at Betty’s.

Betty’s café tea rooms in Harrogate opened in 1919 and nearly 100 years later the brand is a phenomenon, with every branch marked by a queue of people outside.

I’d been invited to Harrogate to try the Lady Betty champagne afternoon tea, which is served upstairs in the Imperial Room.

Walking in you feel the history and tradition: the pianist playing by candlelight, the immaculate crisp, white table linen, the waitresses in their black and white uniforms. There’s a steady stream of hen parties, but there is still the sense of occasion and decorum there must have been all those years ago.Review: Lady Betty afternoon tea at Betty's cafe tea rooms, Harrogate, Yorkshire Review: Lady Betty afternoon tea at Betty's cafe tea rooms, Harrogate, Yorkshire Read More →

10 reasons to love camping

Camping has become such a big part of our lives, more than I would have ever thought a few years ago

I think some people rule it out without ever doing it, and I understand why. During an ill-fated and ill-equipped camping trip in the New Forest about 10 years ago I vowed never to set foot in a tent again.

Even just after I ventured back in a tent, there was that time we camped in Gower, south Wales, and the wind was so fierce I dreamed I was in a war zone being shot at by fighter jets. The next morning, we woke up to find most of the other campers had scarpered in the middle of the night, and the less lucky ones had had their tents blown away.

With camping, you might have to persevere, and you should certainly invest in some decent kit (having an electric hook-up changed our lives).

We took up camping about four years ago mainly to save money. But the reason we do it has grown deeper roots, and now I think camping will always be a big part of our lives, whatever our budget.

Camping Il Falcone Umbria Italy

Why do I love it so? Read More →

Blog at the Beach with

When I think about what I would do if I had more time or more money, the answer is always travel.


I’ve done pretty well so far – I’ve seen Australia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, America and a lot of Europe. But for the last few years the brakes have been put on the exploring, for financial reasons mainly, and we’ve hardly left the UK. My passport is actually on the verge of expiring… (the shame!)

I always like to share with you my days out, weekends away and camping trips (you’ll find them all here). But it’s not like the adventuring I did in the past and dream of doing again, of throwing on a backpack and spending long enough in a country to feel its heartbeat.

I’m definitely planning on travelling more next year.

There are some bloggers who write about travel all the time, and I met a bunch of them at a recent event in Leeds organised by holiday comparison site

As bloggers that I’ve met go, they were among the most fun and fearless, and committed too – telling me of filling luggage with laptops and cameras and technology to update their readers on the go.

We were all there to listen to three speakers, who gave brilliant talks about different aspects of blogging.

Blog at the Beach event with

Blog at the Beach event with

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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! Read More →

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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