Ideal Home Show 2015, London

I’ve not been that impressed, to be honest, by the two home shows I’ve been to so far, Interiors UK and Grand Designs Live. However (third time lucky?) this one was better.

The Ideal Home Show has just finished a two-week stint at Olympia London, and we went along one rainy weekend.

Two things have disappointed me about the big shows I’ve been to before. First, they were largely about selling when I wanted to be inspired, and second, there was very little there that was new to me, or unique.

Ideal Home Show Olympia London 2015

Ideal Home Show Olympia LondonThe Ideal Home Show improved on that because amid all the usual stalls it had show homes, rooms and gardens set up to give you ideas for looks you could take back to your own four walls. Read More →

What I wore: spring accessories

A few days ago I was invited by McArthur Glen Designer Outlets to go along to their York outlet and pick out some key spring accessories.

If you’re not familiar, McArthur Glen is a brilliant invention for mere mortals like me who have a normal-sized budget. I can’t justify splashing out hundreds of pounds on labelled gear but it doesn’t mean that I don’t yearn for the quality of something designer-made and that special feeling when you wear it.

At the York outlet there are some of the world’s top brands like Boss, Calvin Klein, Michael Kors and Ralph Lauren alongside high-end high street names like French Connection, The Kooples, Jaeger and LK Bennett.

Outlet prices are up to 60% lower year-round, which means big savings when ticket prices can be in the hundreds. And if you call in to the customer service centre when you arrive, you can get a privilege card that entitles you to a further 10% of most full-price items on the day of your visit.

If you feel like taking your wardrobe more upmarket with a designer label, accessories often give better cost-per-wear and they’re also a really good way of giving a nod to a new season trend without diving in head first and wearing it head to toe.

What I wore in Todmorden, West Yorkshire. Spring accessories with McArthur Glen. Blue jeans, leatherr biker jacket, baby pink leather Ted Baker bag, Osprey seventies paisley patterned scarf, grey T-shirt, lace-up flat shoes

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Rad Studio, Saltaire

Just before Christmas I went to a fab little workshop where I made these origami diamond decorations.

The workshop was the first held at Rad Studio in Saltaire, West Yorkshire, and it was perfect – we learned a unique crafty project, beer and buns were served and it cost just £8.

Also perfect is this shop’s stock. I’m pretty tired of all the things I see on the high street and Rad Studio is jam packed full of stuff you just don’t see around these parts.

After my visit I was dying to pick the brains of its owner Alexandra (Ali) Radcliffe. I wanted to know about her inspiration, what shapes her tastes and how she had grown the courage to set up shop on her own before she hit 30.

Rad Studio shop, Saltaire, West Yorkshire

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My top 10 DIY blogs

I love a DIY project, as most of you will know by now.

It’s the thing that got me into blogs, and blogging, in the first place. The brilliant, crafty people out there, who regularly show the world how to make something that looks like it cost more than £100 with nothing more than a free afternoon and a trip to their local DIY store or haberdashery shop.

My DIY tutorials are some of my favourite things to write and post, and though I haven’t had as much time for crafting recently because of the house renovation, it doesn’t mean I’m not collecting ideas on ‘projects to do one day’. And that list just keeps on growing.

Here are my top sources of inspiration – my 10 favourite DIY bloggers.

The Lovely Drawer

It was probably the beautiful photography and impeccable interior tastes of Teri from the The Lovely Drawer that drew me in. She’s one of my favourite DIYers because her projects are simple, affordable and effective.

Best recent project: no sew geometric cushion

The Lovely Drawer no sew geometric cushion

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New kitchen shelves

After our hectic year last year, we’re still on a bit of a go slow with the house renovation and seem to have little motivation for doing any DIY.

But that doesn’t mean there’s been no progress, because the other day my lovely dad came round to fit some new shelves in the kitchen :)

Because of awkward slopes and corners, we had a bit of empty space between wall cabinets. These gaps are now filled with oak open shelves for cookbooks and pretty accessories.

Ikea Veddinge grey kitchen with oak worktop and open shelves

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Lambert’s Yard, Leeds

A little while ago, before the juicing and yoga event in the same building, I took the opportunity to have a good look around Lambert’s Yard.

Interested by its ethos of supporting new designers, I’d been looking for a chance to go inside since its launch in November 2014.

Housed in a collection of old buildings on Lower Briggate in Leeds, Lambert’s Yard describes itself as a concept store and creative event space. But there’s much more going on besides.

It first opened in winter 2013 as a pop-up shop and exhibition space, with its mission being to allow access to the previously disused building and support independent fashion and lifestyle designers. The aim was to establish Leeds as an international centre for independent design and manufacture.

After the final stage in its development, it opened its doors for good in the autumn.

The store – and its online shop – stocks both emerging and established designers in an ever-changing, curated collection of brands not available elsewhere in the city.

New designer fashion at Lambert's Yard Leeds Read More →

Renne Jewellery

With Mother’s Day on Sunday, what better time to share this story of a mum and daughter who recently launched their first jewellery collection.

Helen and Annie Rennison have always shared a passion for design and creativity and Renné Jewellery was born in early 2014. They’d been unable to find UK stockists of the old, characterful jewellery they were drawn to, so decided to make their own.Helen and Annie Rennison of Renne JewelleryEach piece of jewellery is a joint effort, handcrafted in their workshop near Richmond, North Yorkshire. They work mainly with sterling silver and semi-precious stones and their collection is inspired by childhood memories, family adventures and the rolling countryside around their home.

The mum-daughter duo say the fusion of their tastes results in jewellery that can be worn by women of all ages.

But what is it like to live and work together full-time? Read More →

Two years on from diagnosis

I’ve shared a couple of posts on this blog about one of my best friends Emma, whose son (and my godson) Freddie has a rare liver disease. She hopes that by talking about her situation she might help other parents thrown into the dark, frightening world of childhood illness.

Personally, I just think her story is an inspiring one that deserves to be shared, and not least because £36,000 has been raised in Freddie’s name in two years. They’re aiming for more with a summer ball this year.

Here, Emma talks about the second year after her son’s dreaded diagnosis.


It’s the 4th of March. Which is not only my fantastic father-in-law’s 70th birthday, it’s also two years to the day my then six-month-old baby was diagnosed with a life-threatening liver disease.

If you’ve followed our story then you will have read the piece I wrote a year after Freddie was diagnosed. It was my honest account of the first year of living with liver disease.

Writing that piece was cathartic. It off-loaded my heavy heart of everything it was carrying and cleansed my head of the confusing thoughts I was holding onto.

But the 12 months after that first anniversary may have been my hardest, because I would say I reached breaking point.

From the moment Freddie was born we’ve been on a roller coaster. One that seemed to have a never-ending bump in the track.

From him being born in September 2012 to his fifth month of life we had endless tests and scans, and a biopsy, then he was diagnosed, referred for naso-gastric feeding which quickly led to a gastrostomy tube being inserted under general anaesthetic.

His kidneys started leaking salt so he needed sodium added to his feeds. We found blood in his nappy so had to dial 999. We had unexpected stays in hospital after test results. This is only what I can remember.

The year it got serious

But 2014 was the year that things got really serious. Freddie’s condition and quality of life was worsening. My husband Phil and I saw it first hand and dealt with it every day and night.

In August 2014, when I could see his symptoms worsening weekly, I had a teary conversation with Freddie’s fantastic dietitian, Kirsten. She listened sympathetically as I cried down the phone and told her all my fears and anxieties. His skin itch from his poor bile flow was making him inconsolable and his body was being taken over by xanthomas.

Soon after, we had an appointment with the consultants. I usually go into Freddie’s appointments one step ahead of everybody, prepared for what they’re going to tell us.

But on this occasion I hadn’t done my homework.

We were told Freddie’s symptoms were now classed as ‘severe’ and he couldn’t continue with such a poor quality of life. That gave us two options: a ‘biliary diversion’ or a liver transplant (a transplant was the last option).

The biliary diversion was a six or seven hour operation involving Freddie being cut open and re-plumbed in order to drain from his body the bile that was causing him such deterioration and discomfort. There was no guarantee it would work and there were cases where it hadn’t.

Rock bottom

When the consultant explained the operation I wept. I wept for days after that too. It was the point I hit rock bottom.

I really didn’t want him to go through the operation but I didn’t have much choice. That’s a hard thing to comprehend for your baby.

I had struggled through the previous 18 months of Freddie’s illness, cried a lot and talked loads but I had come to a point of being able to cope with it all.

But hearing a consultant discuss the next process in order to make your seriously sick 23-month-old baby more comfortable was the point I lost all focus.

I hated what he and we were being faced with. I’d had enough now. I wanted out. Read More →

Weekend in London: Sunday

[This is part two of my weekend in London with Superbreak. If you missed part one, catch up here!]

We’d had a full day on Saturday, and felt pretty exhausted (in that good, satisfied way) when we got into bed at around midnight.

At The Cavendish, we didn’t have to check out until 1pm and they served breakfast until noon. This was our kind of place! Knowing we needed rest, we didn’t set an alarm and said we’d sleep in if we needed to.

In the end – as is usual – our stomachs were our wake up call and we went for breakfast around 9am. We’d had a good night’s sleep by then anyway. The bed was comfy and we’d barely heard a noise outside, even though it was Saturday night and we were just a few minutes walk from the hustle and bustle of the Haymarket.

Now, we place a lot of importance on breakfast. And this could have been one of the best hotel breakfasts we’d ever had. Fresh fruit, then smoked salmon, full English, toast and pastries… well, let’s just say we made the most.

Now fully replenished and wanting to use the rest of our time well we checked out at about 10am, leaving our suitcase with the hotel.

Tower of London

I’ve never been to the Tower of London before. Rather than ‘a tower’ it’s actually more like a little walled village, a fascinating enclave with lots of different buildings making up its whole. The Queen’s Crown Jewels are, of course, its most famous inhabitants but there are actually about 300 people who live and work there as well.

Your entry ticket does include a 60-minute guided tour with a Beefeater but we prefer to freestyle rather than be part of a group.

As well as seeing the jewels (no photography allowed, unfortunately) you should do the wall walk, because the Tower is the perfect place to admire the unique way the London skyline effortlessly juxtaposes old and new. The Tower of London was established by William the Conqueror in 1066, but now it sits closely and happily alongside such modern architecture as The Shard, the ‘gherkin’, the ‘walkie-talkie’ and the ‘cheese grater’.

Also interesting is the Royal Beasts exhibition, which tells the story of the animals that lived at the Tower for 600 years. Exotic animals were often given as gifts and used for entertainment in what became known as the Royal Menagerie. King Henry III’s polar bear would be tied to a long rope so it could go fishing in the Thames! The wire mesh sculptures are by artist Kendra Haste.

Tower of London Read More →

Weekend in London: Saturday

Sometimes, I pinch myself about the great opportunities this blog brings.

One such time came when Superbreak invited me to spend a weekend in London trying out some of the tours and experiences they offer.

I go down to London quite regularly for work and to see my brother, and my husband lived there for seven years. We feel we ‘know’ London, yet there are many places that would top tourists’ lists that we’ve never been near.

So we decided to spend the weekend acting like new visitors, packing in some of the most famous sights and taking a couple of days seeing our beautiful capital city through their eyes. And London didn’t let us down.

Vintage London bus tour

Saturday began at sunrise to catch an open-top vintage London bus leaving Victoria at 8am. If you prefer a lie-in you can opt for the 1pm departure, but we wanted to get as much as we could out of our day.

As we boarded, the outside temperature was about 3°C but we went up to the top deck because, after all, that’s what tourists would do. Wearing thermals and hats, we felt OK, if not warm. Until the bus set off and the wind chill kicked in!

Yes, it was cold, but what a view. So often in London – in fact any city – you’re too focused on where you’re going to look up at the historic buildings and impressive architecture that is just all over the place in Britain. Being 12 feet up gives you a totally different perspective and being away from the crowded pavements is a much more civilised way of getting round London’s main tourist attractions.

Vintage London red double decker open top bus Read More →

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